The Burden of Truth

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…

Knights

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.

But now…

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.

“What’s wrong?”

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

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Six Sentence Story: A Question of Honour

This post is for Ivy Walker’s Six Sentence Story, a flash fiction challenge that I haven’t joined in with before but decided to try out this week. The only rule of the challenge is that you write a story in six sentences – no more and no less – on the given prompt.

This week’s prompt is draw.

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Image from Pixabay

A Question of Honour

“You dishonour yourself and our Order by bringing a female here,” Finnegan snarled, his fingers clenching on his sword hilt.

Mikael continued across the grandiose hall, his arm tightening reassuringly around Lorina’s waist: if Finnegan didn’t ask his reasons, he saw no point in sharing them.

“I demand you face me, Sir – draw your sword!”

Sighing impatiently, Mikael turned to the younger man; the sight of brandished steel set his temper alight. Sweeping his innocent charge behind him he lashed out, hands and feet finding the contact points to weaken and disarm.

“If I had drawn my sword,” he said, touching the tip of the purloined blade to the upstart’s throat before turning away, “you would be dead.”

Word Count: 120 – in 6 sentences.

To read the other entries, click the little blue frog!

linksy

Six-Sentence

 

Sidney the Scaredy Spider

This children’s story (aimed at 5 / 6 year olds) Sidney the Scaredy Spider, is one that I wrote to be told rather than read, but I thought I’d paint a few pictures to go with it and share it here.

Enjoy – and I’d love to know what you think.


 

sidney

 This is Sidney the Spider.

Sidney Spider is very shy and very nervous. He doesn’t like meeting new people or doing new things. He gets scared. That is why he’s known as Scaredy Spider.

 

 

Scaredy Spider lives in a web in the branches of a little bush. He likes living there. No one ever bothers him.

He has to admit, though – sometimes he does get a little bit lonely.

wind blown sidney

But one stormy day the wind blows so strongly that Scaredy Spider’s web is blown right off the little bush and is carried away – with Sidney still on it!

Scaredy Spider clings tightly to his web, trying desperately not to fall off, until finally the wind sets him down in a large garden.

 

Sidney is very scared – what can he do? His web is in pieces and his bush is far away.

He has to build himself a new web – but where?

owl

 

First he sees a tall tree. What a perfect place to live, he thinks, and he scurries up the trunk and begins to spin his web.

“Twit-twoo.” An owl looks down at Sidney. “Hello,” hoots the owl. “My name is Oswald. Are you my new neighbour? I live here in my nest. We can be friends!”

“Eek,” cries Scaredy Spider, and he runs away down the trunk of the tree, too scared to talk to the owl.

 

 

Next Sidney sees a rickety old fence. This is definitely a perfect place to live, he thinks, and he begins to spin his web.

rabbit

Suddenly a rabbit hops out of a hole, it’s nose twitching. “Hello,” says the rabbit. “I’m Ridley. Are you my new neighbour? I live here in my burrow. We can be friends!

“Eek,” cries Scaredy Spider, and he runs away through the grass, too scared to talk to the rabbit.

 

toad

 

After that Sidney sees a drainpipe, dripping water into a big puddle. Here, he thinks, will be a perfect place to live, and he begins to spin his web.

“Ribbit, ribbit.” A toad splashes into the puddle. “Hello,” croaks the toad. “My name is Terrence. Are you my new neighbour? I live here in this puddle. We can be friends!”

“Eek,” cries Scaredy Spider, and he runs away up the drainpipe, too scared to talk to the toad. 

Finally Sidney sees an open window and he enters a room.  No one else is around. No one to scare him. And there, sitting on a table, he sees a blue, pointy thing. A perfect place for me to live, he thinks, and he begins to spin his web.

After that Sidney is so tired that he falls fast asleep. When he wakes up he finds himself looking up at the long beard and kind green eyes of an old wizard.

wizard and hat

 “Hello,” says the wizard, lifting his hat with spider and web. “I’m Old Wizard Woo. Are you living here now? I live here, in this house – and this is my hat. We can be friends!”

Scaredy Spider wants to run away, but there is nowhere he can go. He has to be a brave spider. “Hello,” he squeaks, his voice as wobbly as his legs. “I’m Sidney.”

Old Wizard Woo smiles and Scaredy Spider finds himself smiling back.  He will be lonely no more.

Old Wizard Woo

 

Sidney still lives on Old Wizard Woo’s hat. They are best friends.

Sidney Spider is still very shy and very nervous but when he’s with his friend Wizard Woo he knows that he doesn’t need to be Scaredy Spider any more.

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Story

 

magical sceneStories are the most important thing in my life. It doesn’t really matter to me what form these stories take – written or spoken word, film, television or simply my own imagination – I can lose myself in a story for many very enjoyable hours.

I am not the only person who feels this way – in the words of Phillip Pullman: “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Nor is this a new phenomenon. Stories have been important to societies around the world since words were first developed, far back in our history as a species. This can be clearly seen in the myths, folktales, songs and rhymes which have been carried down from generation to generation.

But why are stories so important to us?

The main answer to this, in my opinion at least, is that stories connect us.

Firstly, they connect us to other people. Stories grant us glimpses into lives which would be otherwise hidden. Each of us exists in our own space; our thoughts are our own, the true detail of our passage through life – our attitudes, feelings, and motives – are known only to ourselves. We can share information with those we encounter by telling them our stories. As a child I used to make up stories about the people who lived in the houses on my street, fascinated by the mysteries of their existence. Through stories we are given a chance to view life through the eyes of characters from all walks of life: rich and powerful, weak and dispossessed, from cultures all around the world and from any period in time into which we care to venture. This allows empathy to be developed and can, in turn, lead to greater understanding and tolerance.

Stories also connect us to our society. Historical stories give us a sense of our roots, both family stories and those of our nation’s past – my own personal favourites (I’m a Nottinghamshire girl through and through!) are the tales of Robin Hood. The content of stories can also connect us to our society by informing us of the beliefs and moral leanings expected of us. Stories can illustrate the difference between right and wrong, with characters’ actions shown in positive or negative light. Religious stories from around the world are the best examples of this but non-religious texts can also be said to reflect and reinforce societal norms.

Finally stories can be said to connect us to our inner selves. When experiencing a story we lose ourselves in our imaginations, we create our own images to fill in the gaps between the words. Long after a story has been told, these images remain in our heads, to be revisited at will. As Deena Metzger says: “When Stories nestle in the body, soul comes forth.”

Stories have always, and will always be important and I’m quite happy for them to remain that way.