A Letter from the Past

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A Letter from the Past

Emmaline hummed softly as she lifted the bundle of pages from the shelf, instinctively weaving magic to ensure the fragile sheets remained intact as she transferred them to the desk. Dust puthered in the air. She turned her face into her cowl, avoiding breathing in the muck with practiced ease. The archive had been neglected for far too long. Many of the documents within were threatening disintegration, whilst others had faded beyond legibility. It was a situation that put her talents to good use.

Even before she’d lost Raen, she’d been fascinated by the historical records that mouldered within the dimly-lit rooms. After her husband’s disappearance she’d allowed her work to consume her days – leaving only when her eyes grew too weary to read and her mind too weary for thought.

With deft movements, and a few more woven spells, she opened the bundle and spread the pages before her. Only to stop, confused, by the array of life-like images revealed. She frowned. That couldn’t be right. From the condition of the items, and the appearances of the captured people within them, she’d have said they were hundreds of years old. But as far as she knew, the magical weaving used to create such images had only recently been developed. Her husband’s friend, Hendin, had spent over a decade developing the pattern for such captures. She’d never heard of anything similar existing in the past.

One page, covered in writing, stood out from the others. She lifted it free, curious to discover whether an explanation was contained within the faded text. It was possible, she supposed, that another person might have developed such a weaving, only for it to be lost to history. And if they had, then any pictures they’d captured would be invaluable sources of historical information.

The last thing she expected to see was a letter addressed to herself, written in a familiar, elegant script. Her hands began to shake. She dropped the page back to the desk, staring in breathless shock. She’d long since given up hope of ever seeing that handwriting again.

“Raen,” she breathed. Tears filled her eyes as she ran trembling fingers over the sheet. How could this be…? She bit her lip, blinking away tears, and began to read.

My dearest Emmaline,

I can only pray that this letter is someday reaching you, and that I have not been absent from your life for too long. My circumstances at present are unusual to say the least. My intention is to place this missive, and an accompanying set of captured images, within the city archive, as I know that your recent studies have led you to shelves there that have been untouched for centuries. If fortune smiles upon me, no other hands will touch these papers between them leaving mine and reaching yours.

Fortune, however, has not been smiling upon me of late.

As you know, my own studies have been in the development of weavings through which we might observe the history of our land. My intention was to simply observe reflections of events upon the mirror glass. If only that was all I achieved. Somehow I have managed to transfer myself into the very history that I wished to observe. Unfortunately I am not entirely certain as to the exact time I am in. Nor do I know how to make my way home. I have already tried to recreate in reverse the weaving that led to my current circumstance. I have not yet been successful, though I will endeavour to continue my efforts.

My darling, I can only wonder how long it has taken you to find these pages. For myself, I have been here for a span of mere hours, but I know only too well that days, weeks, months, maybe even years, might have passed since I vanished from your life. If you have ever cared for me as deeply as I care for you, I pray that you take the images I’ve captured to Professor Kalaen, as well as to anyone else you know of who might be able to help. Kalaen’s research has always followed along similar lines to mine. I’m certain he will not have hesitated to make use of my notes in my absence. If anyone can work out how I moved through time, it will be him. I am hopeful that if you can pinpoint the exact date I am in, a way could be found to bring me home.

The images I have captured are views of the people I have seen around me today. Hendin will be pleased to know that his technique works, though I’m not certain as to how the pictures will survive the passage of years. I know that I am at least five, possibly six or seven, centuries prior to our own time. The University has not yet been built. I would guess that the language being spoken is Old Ilraian. There is little influence of the Jakrian tongue, which also places me before the Imperial Conquest. This is not a time period I have studied in any depth. I am currently hoping that you know of at least one person within the University with the knowledge to discover the exact date from the images.

I place my fate within your hands, my love,

Eternally yours,

Raen Ki Masrah

Emmaline dropped the page back to the table, her hand lifting to cover her mouth as shock and hope warred in her. For over nearly seven years she had wondered. Was he dead? Had he left her for another? No trace of him had ever been found. No explanation for his disappearance. Now…

Now the possibility that she could maybe see him again was more than she could stand.

Excitement thrummed through her, setting her pulse racing as she gathered the pages and hurried out if the archive. Raen had suggested she find Professor Kalaen. She didn’t plan to waste another minute before doing so.

TBC

This story was originally intended to be just a short piece of flash, simply an accompaniment to the pictures from the Lincoln Joust that I attended during the summer. Somehow it managed to take on a life of its own!

I’ll try not to take too long before posting the next segment. Unfortunately, I’m not the quickest writer in the world, and I tend to edit multiple times (and that’s an understatement) before I’m happy for anything to be read by anyone else. Part two may be up sometime in the next week, but I’m not promising anything!

I hope you enjoyed the read.

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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!

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!