amidst a landscape gilded
the youthful dreamer
suspended in a fragile
web of hope
Hunger gnawed, growing increasingly harsh and insistent as hours dragged by. The dish of food remained frustratingly out of reach.
Finn scowled, trying again to rise. This was ridiculous. He didn’t know what she’d done to him, but the old woman was clearly deranged. “If you wish to eat,” she’d said, “use the power of your mind to draw it closer.”
He’d protested such nonsense, but she’d dismissed his objections, claiming he had to have ‘abilities’ to have found her. She’d then rambled about teachers and students before leaving him alone – to starve, it now seemed.
Abilities? He had no abilities! He was just an ordinary bloke unfortunate enough to meet her, and stupid enough to accept her hospitality.
At first he’d tried to leave, but his body had refused his commands. Fear had then overtaken him, gruesome scenarios running through his mind. Finally, defeated, his options depleted, he gave in and humoured her madness. He directed his fear and anger outwards, willing the bowl to move. Emotion overflowed…
The dish smashed to the floor.
Word count: 175
To read the other entries, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.
This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s photo prompt was provided by Artycaptures. Thank you, Artycaptures!
Yesterday I posted a piece of flash fiction for last week’s FFfAW challenge. As I mentioned there, I’d previously written another version that had to be abandoned as it was far too long for the 175 word limit. Well, I’ve decided to share it with you anyway. Technically, it’s still a piece of flash fiction, at 769 words long, so it shouldn’t take too long to read.
Yesterday’s story was from the viewpoint of the knight, Sir Jonin. It might be best if you read that one first. Today’s story is from the viewpoint of his friend Mikael, and hopefully will answer a few of the questions raised by the shorter piece…
The Burden of Truth
“And so we bade farewell to the grateful villagers, and mounted the fey beast, finally setting ourselves towards home.” Sir Jonin’s voice rose and fell dramatically as he neared the end of his tale, his gestures broad and extravagant. The younger knights watched, transfixed. “That it carried two made no difference to the creature. It was so swift, so smooth, we could have been riding the wind itself.”
Mikael gritted his teeth and tuned out his friend’s voice. He’d heard the story – and its multitude of variations – many times before. Each telling set him on edge. Unlike everyone else present, he actually knew the truth in the the tale.
More so than even Jonin.
There were a few undeniable facts, and these were common knowledge: the pair had been missing for several months after the battle of Ebden Moor – presumed dead – only to suddenly reappear, riding together on a mysterious steed that afterwards vanished. Anything beyond these few points was subject to Jonin’s wild imagination, and liable to change with each retelling.
It was the truth that set anxiety clawing at Mikael’s chest.
For the truth was that, whilst Jonin had definitely been present during their adventure all those years earlier, he hadn’t exactly been aware of what was happening. Mikael shuddered. The memory of blood staining his hands as his best friend bled out against the stones would remain with him forever. Jonin had remained blissfully unaware throughout it all.
His friend hadn’t seen how his blood caused the standing stones to glow, opening a gateway into the Shadowlands. He hadn’t seen the way the world shifted, twisting in kaleidoscopic fragments, until the landscape held a faintly alien appearance, and the air shimmered with magic. He hadn’t been witness to Mikael’s desperate pleas for help as he held his dying friend.
Nor had he been witness to the bargain Mikael had struck with the Faerie Lord who’d come to their aid. The other man had only regained awareness as they rode their benefactor’s obviously fey steed back into the mortal realms, the wound in his side healed as if it had never existed.
To them, their magical encounter had spanned mere minutes. For the rest of the world, however, they’d been absent for months. Never one to miss such an opportunity, Jonin had proceeded to fill the missing time with a myriad of imagined adventures – each wilder than the one before.
Mikael leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes as the hubbub of the feast washed over him. Men and women talked and laughed, their antics growing increasingly rowdy as brimming tankards were downed. Faint strains of music barely carried over the chatter. The air was filled with the mingled odours of rich food, wood smoke, and too many unwashed bodies. Jollity held sway.
It had been some time since Mikael had felt like joining in with such revelry. But tonight wasn’t a night when he was free to drown his sorrows – not when he and his young wife were the guests of honour. It was meant to be such a happy occasion. He forced a smile, a laugh, struggling to hold a cheerful mask in place, even as his mind drifted back to that fateful day.
At the time he’d thought the deal to be worth it. He and Jonin were more than just friends, they were brothers in arms. Brothers in everything except blood. He would have given anything to save him. When the Fae had named his price, Mikael hadn’t hesitated before agreeing.
Mikael gazed across the room at his beloved’s glowingly gravid form. She smiled tenderly, rubbing a hand across her stomach.
Now, he wasn’t so sure.
He rose to his feet and hurriedly left the hall, needing to be alone. He couldn’t stand the thought of sitting there a moment longer, faking happiness. Not when he knew that his world would soon shatter. A moment later he heard the sound of heavy footsteps following him.
He halted, closing his eyes. Of course Jonin had followed. Mikael sighed, leaning against a tapestry covered wall as bone deep weariness swamped him. He’d sworn himself to silence, had determined the other man didn’t need to know the price he’d paid. For years he’d kept his vow, whilst the payment remained in some indistinct future. Only now was his certainty wavering.
They’d always had each other’s backs. He wasn’t sure he could face the trials ahead on his own.
But how could he tell his best friend that the price of his recovery had been the life of his first born child?
Word count – 769 words
The Truth in the Tale
Jonin enjoyed telling stories. He couldn’t deny it. As a knight of many years’ service he had numerous exploits to share. But there was one thing everyone wanted to know – what really happened after the Battle of Ebden Moor?
There were only a few known facts. He and Mikael had been missing for months, given up for dead, only to reappear, riding double on a mysterious horse that vanished soon after. Beyond that was… open to interpretation.
And shy of truth.
The truth… was that Jonin knew little more than they. He had no idea where he’d been or what he’d done. One moment he’d been upon a battlefield. The next, a fey beast was carrying him and his closest friend home. And several months had passed.
Mikael, annoyingly, had told him little. He’d claimed Jonin had been wounded, though no sign of injury remained. He’d insisted they’d spent the months travelling, but no memories leant credence to his claim. He’d offered no explanation for the horse.
His audiences didn’t need to know that, however…
Word count: 175 words
To read the other entries, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.
This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Dorothy. Thank you, Dorothy.
As you can possibly tell from how late I’m posting this, I struggled a little with this prompt. It was only once I changed the bike to a horse that I had any idea what to write at all. Unfortunately, the ideas then flowed so thick and fast that writing a story in only 175 words became an absolute nightmare! This is the third one I’ve written. The first is over 700 words, the second nearly 600 and not yet finished!
The 700+ story is more or less complete, and tells Mikael’s side of events. I might post it later…
He’d tried many different jobs over the years – so many, he’d lost track – but nothing had ever inspired him to such passion. Not like this. Standing in the arena, surrounding by screaming fans: he couldn’t imagine a more perfect life.
I’m curious to know what you think the character is doing in the arena. Is he a sports star? A pop idol? Or maybe he’s selling hot dogs in the stands? The perfect life comes in many shapes and forms…
The day had promised so much.
Bright skies and a clear forecast meant their shift at the lifeguard station should have been pleasant – with only the usual idiots and accidents to worry them. The crystalline sea had lapped at the beach as if no dangers lurked in its depths. It was a postcard perfect scene.
But they shouldn’t have been surprised. They’d known to always expect the unexpected.
Perched in their tower, they’d watched the holiday-makers frolic below, chatting idly to pass the time – conversations that fled from memory soon after the words were spoken. Their hands had occasionally touched, sparks flying. After months of unresolved tension, the words had finally been spoken. Tonight would be the night.
Their shift had been nearing its end when the screams began. They hadn’t hesitated before running to help.
Afterwards, only the memory of blood in the water remained, events blurring into an incomprehensible mass. All she knew was they’d gone into the water together. And now she was alone.
But the day had promised so much.
Word count: 175
To read the other stories, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.
This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by TJ Paris. Thank you, TJ.