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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FFfAW: The Truth in the Tale

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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.

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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…

FFfAW: Waiting for the Light

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Photo prompt © Footy and Foody

Waiting for the Light

Tamrir huddled in the darkness, willing the minutes to slow their passage as he awaited the coming dawn. His sister’s weight pressed reassuringly against his side, and he hugged her close.

The night had been long. Ridiculously so.

“Is it time yet?”

He started, not having realised Ameyi was awake. “Nearly,” he said. “See how the sky’s getting lighter. The sun will be here soon.”

“Do you think it’ll have worked, Tammy?”

A wry smile twisted his lips. “I suppose we’ll know, soon enough.”

“I’m scared.”

He wanted to reassure her, to tell her everything would be fine, but that wasn’t the truth. And they’d made a promise to always be truthful with each other.

“I know. Me too,” he said.

The light was growing steadily brighter. Soon they’d find out, one way or another, whether the injected serum had healed them of their vampiric disease. If it hadn’t…

At least the rising sun would be a beautiful sight, even if it was the last thing they’d ever see.

Word count: 175

To read the other entries or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Footy and Foodie. Thank you!

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FFfAW: The Search

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Photo Prompt © Pamela S. Canepa

The Search

“They were around here somewhere. I swear!” Tynen scrambled recklessly over the rocks ahead, peering into each nook and cranny with almost feverish intensity.

Velana followed at a slower pace, choosing each footstep carefully as she climbed the craggy slope. “No one’s found any in years, Ty. Admit it – you imagined ’em.”

Her brother glared. “No. They were here.”

“Well they ain’t here now.”

“They are. We just need t’ keep looking.”

Velana rolled her eyes but followed Tynen further up the craggy slope. Grandma had told her to follow the brat, so follow him she would.

“I dunno why you’re so bloody excited, anyway,” she said. “It’s just a mushroom-”

Tynen turned, waving his arms extravagantly as he teetered on the edge of a rock. “But it’s not ‘just ‘a mushroom’, Vel! It’s the most delicious mushroom ever. You’ve never tasted anything like Grandma’s mushroom soup!” He returned to his hunt.

Velana shook her head and stomped in his wake.” Food!” she said in disgust. “Why’s it always about the bloody food?”

Word Count: 175

To read the other entries, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Pamela S. Canepa. Thank you, Pamela!

I’ve actually had this written for several days, but I wasn’t sure whether or not to post it. Whilst I like the interplay between the characters (they were very enjoyable to write), I find the story itself just a little ‘blah’. I decided in the end that I may as well post it. I’d love to know what you think.

FFfAW: The Lady’s Advice

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The Lady’s Advice

“You need to hold your head up high, child,” the lady said, lifting Gilli’s chin with elegant fingers. “Keep your spine straight and your shoulders back.”

“I can do that.”

“Act as if nothing anyone says or does bothers you. Confidence is essential. You must remain cool, calm and collected at all times.”

Gilli nodded, repeating the words like a mantra. “Cool, calm and collected.”

A kind smile softened the lady’s face. “Just remember, the Choosing is never wrong, and you’ll be just fine, my dear.”

***

“Cool, calm and collected,” Gilli breathed aloud as she roused herself from trance, the lady’s words continuing to echo in her ears.

On the wall before her, the painting – the only decoration in an otherwise stark room – glowed with an ethereal light, the spirit bound within canvas and paint making her presence clear.

Gilli rose to her feet, wrapping a sense of self-confidence around herself like the royal cloak she would soon don. After all, the lady was correct: she had been Chosen, and the Choosing was never wrong.

Word count: 175

To read the other entries, or to add your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by me.

The picture is a photograph of some of the waxwork figures in Warwick Castle. These depict a dinner party from 1898 that was hosted by Daisy, the Countess of Warwick, and that was attended by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and a young Winston Churchill.

I’m incredibly behind at the moment in both visiting blogs and responding to comments left on my own posts, so I’d like to apologise to everyone who has paid my blog a visit recently. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to improve any time soon. This is because I’m about to move house. My sister and I have been talking about getting a place together for a while now, and we’re finally actually doing so. We get the keys on Wednesday, after which we’ll have a lot of decorating and moving in to do…

FFfAW: Testing Times

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Photo prompt MajesticGoldenRose

Testing Times

Gretnya gripped her husband’s hand, writhing anxiety choking her as the final calf was led into the testing area.

Please, she prayed to any deity listening.

“It’ll be fine,” Brindel said. “This time it’ll have worked, you’ll see.” The tremble in his voice contradicted the confidence of his words. She squeezed his hand tighter.

The strange sickness had swept through the herds with rampant disregard for the livelihoods depending on them. In the space of a month the carcasses had piled high. Two winters later and smoke from the pyres continued to hang, a heavy death cloak, over the plains.

Faced with ruin, many tribesfolk had left, seeking work in the distant towns. The few who remained continued to try every spell known to the mages, desperate to protect the remnants of their herds. Hope lay with the young. Surely something, eventually, would stop the disease from taking hold.

Please, let it be this time, Gretnya prayed.

Finally, the mage emerged from the testing pen. His expression told them more than words ever could.

Word Count: 174

To read other stories, or to submit your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by MajesticGoldenRose. Thank you!

I actually have one word free in my story this week, and I was tempted to put an extra one in the final sentence, before the word ‘expression’. I couldn’t decide which one to use, however – ‘joyous’or ‘stricken’. They leave you with very different endings! In the end I decided to use neither. You can all decide for yourselves whether the results of the test are good or bad.

I hope you liked it.

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TLT: Sweetheart

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Photo prompt © Roman Kraft via Unsplash

He’d seemed like such a sweetheart. He’d brought her flowers, held her hand, and kissed her with a passion that whispered ‘forever’ into her dreams. But then he was gone, leaving nothing but the scattered crumbs of her broken heart in his wake.


This post is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales challenge. This week’s photo prompt is by Roman Kraft via Unsplash.

My internet connection is still practically nonexistent, I’m afraid, so yet again this post has been scheduled while I’m on my lunch break at work. To everyone who has visited, liked, or commented over the past week, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just finding it very hard to return visits and reply to comments at the moment! I do appreciate every one of you. ❤

FFfAW: Puddle Splashing

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Photo prompt Jessica Haines

Puddle Splashing

“What are you doing?”

Mikey pulled a face. What a daft question. “I’m splashing in puddles, of course.” He was tempted to add ‘silly girl’, but Mummy said he should be nice, even when he didn’t want to be.

“Why?”

“Because it’s fun.” He leapt towards the next puddle.

“Can I have a go?”

Sighing, Mikey looked the girl up and down. With her blonde ringlets, frilly white dress, and delicate slippers, she looked like a fairytale princess. “Not dressed like that, you can’t. Ain’t you got any wellies?”

“Wellies?”

He pointed at his own pair, perfect for puddle splashing. The girl shook her head. Mikey wrinkled his nose in thought.

“Well, you could borrow mine. For a while.” He glanced to where flashing lights and a gathering crowd marked the place of his accident. “Just don’t jump in any puddles on the road. A car might hit you. That’s what happened to me.”

“I won’t,” the girl said. “That’s what happened to me, too. Roads are even more horrid now than when I died.”

Word count: 175

To read the other entries, or to add your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for the 100th challenge for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for the Aspiring Writers. Congratulations, PJ, on reaching 100 weeks of this wonderful challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by Jessica Haines. Thank you Jessica. 🙂

This story actually took me by surprise. I intended to write about a child (Mikey) meeting a ghost. I wasn’t expecting them both to be ghosts, but that’s the direction it decided to go. Sorry if it’s a little depressing…

FFfAW: Happy Families

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Photo prompt © Singledust

Happy Families

It was supposed to be a celebration.

David drummed his fingers on the tabletop as his siblings exchanged barbs. Couldn’t they make an effort to get on? Just one evening was all he asked for. But no – they couldn’t even maintain the facade of a happy family for a few hours. He gritted his teeth.

He’d planned the meal so carefully. The table had been booked at their favourite Chinese restaurant – the one they always visited for family occasions – and he’d persuaded everyone to attend. Attendance, though, did not mean cooperation.

Jenny’s hand came to rest upon his, her gentle touch stilling his fingers.

It was his eldest brother who noticed first, falling silent as his gaze fell on the ring. One after another the others followed suit.

“You’re engaged?”

“Yes. But that’s not all.” He placed a hand on Jenny’s still flat stomach, and his family erupted into excited congratulations.

“I don’t know why you were so worried,” Jenny teased.

David rolled his eyes. “How do you feel about our baby being an only child?”

Word count: 175

To read other stories or to add your own, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. These week’s prompt was provided by Singledust. Thank you for a great prompt, Gina!

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WPC: Graceful

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History’s enigmatic weight settles, cloak-like, upon your shoulders as you walk beneath the graceful arches. The weathered stones may be mere remnants of times past, but still they stand, elegant and proud, marking the route along which devout men once walked. As the wind dances around the columns you can almost hear the sound of male voices raised in prayerful song, their worship resonating down through the ages…

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This post is for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is graceful.

The photo was taken at Fountain’s Abbey – the ruins of a Cistercian monastery near Ripon in North Yorkshire. The entire site, built out of richly golden sandstone, is beautiful to photograph, but I found the arched walkways running alongside the nave particularly graceful and attractive.