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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TLT: The Flying Banana

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Photo Prompt – © Wolf Shram

Each weekend they’d piled into the backseat, little ones on older siblings laps, ready for an adventure. It had been part of their family: the Flying Banana, the greatest car in the world. Which was why, despite being told it was only good for the scrapheap, the rusting wreck continued to sit in their garage – some day the banana would fly again.


This post is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales.

For anyone who’s curious, the name ‘Flying Banana’ was the nickname my grandad gave his bright yellow car, back when my mum was young. When I was little we had a car we called Brown Cow, which all six of us kids would sit in the back of. It was a bit of a shock to us when the rear seat-belt law was introduced!

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!

TLT: Boxed

A photo by Steven Wei. unsplash.com/photos/g-AklIvI1aI

Photo Prompt – © Steven Wei

She’d always said that she wouldn’t be put in a box and forced into conformity, that she wouldn’t follow their indifferent society’s path, only to be left feeling stifled and unfulfilled. So how had she come to this? She turned away from the window, from the view of coffin like apartments, and began to pack her bags – it was time to start again.


This post is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales. As I was writing this I had the words of a song by Newton Faulkner going around in my head, so I thought I’d share it with you.

FFfAW: Wisps of Gold

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Photo prompt – © Phylor

Wisps of Gold

Emily stood beside the piled leaves, peering around the garden for any that might have escaped her notice. It had taken far longer than she’d expected to scrape the mound together, each breeze threatening to undo her work, but she’d been determined to gather every golden scrap she could find.

“Well?” she called. “How’s that?”

A pale face peered from the darkness of the barn. An arm stretched out, finger pointing. “You missed some.”

Mummy would have been cross if she’d heard Emily’s words as she turned and saw the scatter of leaves newly tossed over the grass. “Damn wind – leave my leaves alone!” she shouted at the sky. As if in defiance, a fresh gust sent Emily running again.

She returned the final armful to the pile, and, grinning excitedly, ran back to her new friend. “Come on. Quick!”

With a whoop the pair dashed over the lawn, leaping into the crunchy heap in a shower of laughter, setting golden wisps to flight. Bathed in sunlight, Emily’s companion smiled.

And faded from sight.

Word Count: 175

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

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This post is for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s photo prompt was provide by Phylor. Thank you Phylor!

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CB&W: Trees

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They huddle beneath the sheltering branches, hidden from view by tangled growth. Soon they’ll have to move – their pursuers won’t have given up so easily – but for now they sleep in restless slumber, recovering their strength for the struggle ahead. Their dreams are haunted by dark figures who laugh as blood cascades over a barren landscape.

The spirit of the oak tree cradles them close, concealing their presence from any who might continue to search. Each anxious whimper is hushed by the whisper of wind through leaves; each fear is soothed as the oak’s indomitable strength, drawn from the depths of the earth, pours through them.

They’ll awaken refreshed and renewed, their hearts filled with all the courage and determination they’ll need to complete their quest.

Their benefactor’s role will pass unnoticed.


This post is for Cee’s Black and White Challenge. This week’s theme is trees.

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TLT: All the Time in the World

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Photo Prompt – © Rachel Crowe

She’d always complained that there weren’t enough hours in the day as she dashed from task to task, her to-do list never shrinking. Then fateful words caused her world to shatter. Suddenly she had all the time she’d ever needed, but nothing could fill the interminable hours as they dragged on into an increasingly bleak future.


This post is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales challenge.

I thought I’d leave it up to you to decide what the ‘fateful words’ are about – maybe the death of a child or a partner, the loss of a hard-worked for career, or maybe something else…

FFfAW: Seven PM

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Photo Prompt

Seven PM

Edmund stood on the shoreline. Waiting. It was something he was good at.

As a child he’d waited for his father, watching the ticking clock. At seven pm, daily, the man would hear the governess’ report, granting him a fragment of his time: a smile, a question, a word of praise… if the report was fair. On days when he’d displeased the woman, the attention would be far less pleasant: a reprimand, a strike of the cane, a reminder of their family name.

He glanced at the watch. Not much longer, now.

Over the years, his resentment had grown. The gift of a pocket-watch on his sixteenth birthday had epitomised every wasted moment. His anger had exploded at the sight of the timepiece. The heavy gift-box had become an instrument of death as he’d swung it at his father’s head. The chain had wrapped easily around his fleeing governess’ throat.

As the watch indicated seven pm, he placed it neatly onto the stones of the beach – a monument to a wasted life.

And he walked into the sea.

Word Count: 175

To read other entries, click the little blue frogwpImg


This post is for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a flash fiction challenge run by Priceless Joy that asks us to write a story of 100-175 words based on the provided photo prompt. This week’s picture was provided by me.

For anyone that’s interested, the watch in the picture is actually a necklace that belongs to my sister. It’s a lot smaller than it looks in the photo – less than two centimeters in diameter. She bought it in Whitby when we were on holiday there a few years ago. I couldn’t resist borrowing it for a few photographs when we were sitting on the beach later that day.

I hope you enjoyed the story. It’s rather darker than most I write so I’d love to know what people think of it. It was originally meant to be the background for a ghost story, but unfortunately I couldn’t fit the whole thing into the word limit. This one had to be chiselled out of a much larger piece. That does mean, of course, that I now have another 350 word story ready for inclusion in a flash fiction collection. Yay!

TLT: Tools of the Trade

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Photo Prompt © Ashim D’Silva

He’d collected many tools of the trade over the years, as he moved from job to job in search of a career that fulfilled him. Each time he’d thought he’d found it, thought that this time he’d be happy – only for boredom to soon set in. But this time… this time would be different.


This post is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales.