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!

 

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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: 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.

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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FFfAW: The End?

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Photo prompt © Shivangi Singh

The End?

“It’s finally over.” Jonin’s voice held a mixture of relief and sorrow as he gazed at the courtyard below.

Helleni hummed her agreement. Leaning into his embrace, she watched in satisfaction as the final cobble was laid. Only they and the workmen were aware of the crypt hidden beneath the stones – and no word of it would be spoken. She’d make sure of that.

The past five years had been filled with turmoil, as Fenrin sought to claim his brother’s throne. He’d used every scrap of dark energy at his disposal to remove Jonin from power. Not even death had halted his quest.

“He won’t escape now,” Helleni reassured. “The crystal will hold him for hundreds of years. We’re safe.”

“Because of you, my love.”

She smiled as Jonin’s lips met hers in a tender caress. With every kiss, further tendrils of control tangled his heart.

Once, Fenrin had promised her power. He’d promised her influence. Eventually, she’d grown weary of waiting.

Now she knew – if she wanted power, she had to take it for herself.

Word Count: 175 words

To read other stories, 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 provide by Shivangi Singh. Thank you Shivangi!

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Toadstools

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If you hear merriment

echoing enticingly

amidst lengthening shadows,

strands of beguilement entwining your

senses whilst sunbeams scatter like

raindrops upon fertile soil,

 look carefully: there you’ll find

ephemeral shelters emerging

for other-wordly festivities

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I photographed a lot of toadstools around the meadow and in the little wooded area during September. As I had a few too many to include in the Changing Seasons post, I thought I’d share them with you today, instead.

I hope you like them.

FFfAW: Susceptible

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Photo prompt – Joy Pixley

Susceptible

Willow spotted the pair long before they reached her. The man was perfect, open minded and curious. The woman was more… problematic. She exuded confidence, carrying a fixed world-view that prevented any tampering to her thoughts.

But the man was too good to ignore.

“Come,” she whispered into his mind. “This way.”

He stopped, his vacant gaze turning towards the doorway where Willow glowed enticingly. The woman continued on, unaware of her companion’s distraction.

“Follow me.”

The woman’s frantic voice drifted from below as Willow led him steadily higher, but it was distant, unable to infringe on the enthrallment entwining his thoughts. Soon they’d reach the portal. Soon she’d be able to return home.

“Come closer.” She ignored the approaching footfalls. “Quickly.”

“James!” The woman pounded into sight. Cursing, she dragged him away from the banister onto which he’d climbed. “What the hell are you doing?”

Willow’s hopes disintegrated along with her hold on the man’s mind.

“I… I don’t know,” he said.

The shaken pair retreated. The portal continued to drift in mid-air, demanding blood.

Word Count: 175

To read the other entries, 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 Joy Pixley. Thank you, Joy

FFfAW: Captivated

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Captivated

Raedan’s hands clenched around the gift box as he listened to the announcement. Lady Seleste had chosen her suitor.

And it wasn’t him.

Everyone else faded into insignificance as she glided across the hall. With each tilt of her head, each flash of a smile, she set his senses reeling. She’d captivated him from the first. Now he had one final chance…

“A gift, my lady.” He knelt as she passed.

He didn’t see her companion until a masculine hand intercepted the box and flipped it open. His protest died in his throat as he looked into a familiar face. He wanted to flee – knew he should flee – but his body refused to obey.

“So this is the man who thinks to own me?” Seleste’s disgust burned.

“Indeed.” The treacherous wizard at her side lifted the gem he’d enchanted for Raedan free. “This stone was intended to control you.” He pinned the delicate confection into her hair. “Instead it will control him. My wedding gift to you, my love.”

Unable to do otherwise, Raedan followed in their wake.

Word Count: 175

To read the other entries, click the little blue frog.wpImg


This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. This week’s photo prompt was provided by Jade M. Wong. Thank you Jade!