FFfAW: A Mother’s Grief

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Photo prompt © Jade M. Wong

A Mother’s Grief

“We didn’t do anything to it, Ma,” Aeliene said, a waiver in her voice that broke Shylie’s heart all over again. “We were just playing. It came out of nowhere and attacked us. Baen tried to stop it, but, he… he fell… and… and…”

Shylie gathered her daughter close.

Grief encased her as she beheld the body of her butchered son, leaving her as fragile as eggshells. The slightest movement could cause her to shatter, spilling her emotions out for everyone to see. But beneath the sorrow, anger began to burn.

“Are we going to continue like this?” she demanded, turning to the rest of the tribe, gathered nearby in silent respect. “How many more children must we lose before we do something about these monsters?”

They might be pacifists by nature, but fire smouldered within each and every one of them. Her people spread their wings and gave a mighty roar.

Those puny humans wouldn’t stand a chance. Not now.

For the dragons were going to war.

Word count: 173

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 Jade M. Wong. Thank you, Jade!

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FFfAW: The Name on the Stone

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Photo prompt © Yarnspinner

The Name on the Stone

Kaeri murmured a prayer and dropped the stone into the urn, calmly meeting the gaze of the priest on the temple steps. He watched her with narrowed eyes, his attention unwavering until she moved out of sight.

She’d performed the ritual every day for years. Each stone had borne the same name, inscribed in uneven script: Hoenn – the man who’d caused her life to disintegrate.

But Jia, goddess of the downtrodden, had yet to deliver her promised vengeance.

Unsurprisingly.

Everyone knew it was the priesthood who judged the guilt of those named, choosing the punishments they deemed suitable. Only a few names were ever offered for the divine Lady’s attention. And no matter what crimes lay at his door, their own high priest would never be included in that number.

Kaeri had grown tired of waiting for her prayers to be answered.

Finally unobserved, she entered the temple and began her hunt, dagger concealed in the folds of her skirt. Soon high priest Hoenn’s blood would coat the blade.

Today she’d claim vengeance for herself.

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 Yarnspinner. Thank you, Yarnspinner!

FFfAW: Lessons Learned

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Photo prompt © Artycaptures

Lessons Learned

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.

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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!

 

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

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: Homecoming

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Photo prompt © Majesticgoldenrose

Homecoming

Something was wrong.

Majif  frowned. He’d spent too long evaluating his enemies’ weaknesses to overlook the lack of guards on the gate. He freed his blades, fearing the worst…

Reality outdid expectation.

Within the walls guards and servants alike sprawled in macabre display: blood drenched and staring; throats slashed open. The attack had occurred so swiftly that few weapons had even been drawn.

Caution shifted into desperation. Only a Shadow Warrior could wreak such havoc. And Calina was within. He hurried though the hallways, dread coiling tighter. 

“Majif…” She breathed his name like a prayer. Relief swamped him.

But euphoria shifted to terror as a shadowed figure appeared at her back and a knife pressed against her throat.

“Please, let her go,” he begged. “She’s innocent…”

“So was my family, but you showed them no mercy.”

The blade swiped. Blood gushed, staining his world red as his beloved crumpled. He didn’t see her killer move, but he felt no urge to fight as cold steel touched his throat, biting deep.

Without Calina, life wasn’t worth living.

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 Majesticgoldenrose. Thank you for a great prompt!

 

FFfAW: Greeting the Four

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Photo prompt © Yarnspinner

Greeting the Four

The seats had been placed with utmost precision: north, south, east and west, each one carefully aligned. Veraen nodded in satisfaction.

“Anything else, Sir?” his assistant – Jaeden? Jened? – said, and he gestured in dismissal, shooing the man out of the sacred space. He’d spent too long in preparation to let the bumbling fool ruin things for him.

He alone would greet the Four.

Veraen recited the invocation with practiced ease, excitement growing as power gathered. Figures began to coalesce, unbounded energy taking humanoid form. He fell to his knees as four sets of eyes turned upon him. Four voices spoke in unison.

“How dare you?”

What? No! That wasn’t right! He tried to speak, but no words emerged. He tried to move, but his limbs were weighted, immovable.

“Greetings, Great Ones,” his assistant – Joren, he now recalled – said. “May I approach?”

As Joren strode past he dropped a page before Veraen’s frozen form. Instructions to avoid insulting the Four filled the sheet. The torn edge and Joren’s smirk told him exactly why he’d never seen the page before…

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 Yarnspinner. Thank you, Yarnspinner!

It seems like forever since I last wrote a piece of flash fiction – though its actually only a little over a month. That month, however, has been insanely busy. I’m now living in a house in Lincoln (UK) with my sister and my teenage nephew, rather than in the village with my parents. Luckily, for a countryside loving girl like me, we’re right on the edge of a green stretch, with fields and woods only a few minutes walk away, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m in the middle if a city. I’ll try to share some pictures soon!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story. Hopefully it doesn’t feel too rushed – it was originally over 300 words long, so a lot had to be cut out of 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…

TLT: Visions of Unicorns

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Photo prompt © Fleur Treuniet via Unsplash

She loved to watch the unicorns as they took their ease amidst the meadow flowers. They shimmered with an allure that drew her eyes time and again. And if no one else could see them – well, that was their problem, really, not hers.


This post is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales. This week’s prompt is by Fleur Treuniet, via Unsplash.

 

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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