Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge: Love’s Breath & Sorrow’s Retort

There are fools, and then there are fools in love. Give me the normal fools, for love makes the foolish more so. Who am I to speak such words of sanity amidst the worship our society heaps upon fleeting ephemera?

My name is Emerald. No other moniker required or desired.

For years, I have watched the besotted flock to my door in search of just a taste of that phantasmal creature known as “love.” From the meanest beggars to the bluest-blooded, they all come. To one and all, I give it to them.

But it costs, as everything does. That is one thing the poets and minstrels rarely make plain. I am neither, so I am free with the truth. As I’m not one to make claims without justification, I will give you a tale.

It will cost, however. The price is for you to decide.

My story starts as so many others do:

Once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden. She wandered the village with gay abandon, her smile straightening the backs of peasants bent from toiling in the fields and reddening the cheeks of the eldest widow jealous of those enjoying what time stole from them. Promised to God, her habit brought peace and comfort to the poor villagers.

One day, a prince rode through and spied her skipping about her devotional duties. Eros, always the trickster and bitter at the old gods usurpation, fired his arrow straight to the royal heart, but left her untouched.

The smitten lord spent months in the village, trying to woo the fair nun. Roses by the thousands were delivered to the nunnery, with promises of riches, lands, and titles. He declared the day he first laid eyes on her a holiday. He followed her on her duties with knee ever-ready to bend, only to rebuffed at every turn by her sweet, “I am promised to God, my lord.”

Despondency and desperation go hand-in-hand. When word reached him of a hedge-witch who specialized in potions that melted the hardest hearts, he rode three days and three nights through the Dark Forest. Bandits, ogres, and goblins fell before his blade on his perilous journey, until he reached a small hovel in the middle of the forest.

Fearless, he strode inside with nary a knock and pronounced, “I am searching for the witch! Come out in the name of the Prince!”

A young woman with ancient eyes glided out of nowhere, greeting the royal with an equal’s nod. “Highness. What may I do for you?”

“I need a potion to make the woman I love love me in return. I will pay anything!”

A gleam entered those aged eyes, a warning the smitten prince failed to recognize. “And the woman does what?”

“What does it matter? Make your potion and name your price!”

She clucked her tongue and shook her head. “Magic is delicate, milord. A happily married woman would be much more difficult to enchant than say…an orphan girl with no family. I need to know so I can adjust the spell accordingly.”

The prince ground his teeth, but spat out, “A nun.”

A slender eyebrow raised. “Ah. Well, that will take a strong potion indeed.” She clapped her hands and smiled. “Very well. Bring me that cauldron over there and do exactly as I say.” Her smile grew wider. “Payment we shall discuss…later.”

Once the prince set the cauldron on her table, she poured a cup of water in it and grabbed several vials. “Essence of baby’s laughter,” she muttered as she poured the contents of the vial. “Mist of a rainbow and a unicorn’s tears of joy. The breath of true love’s first kiss.”

She glanced at the prince and handed him an empty vial. “Prick your finger and squeeze ten drops of blood into that.”

The prince grew suspicious, but did as bade. She poured the crimson drops into her concoction and stirred. She lowered a flask into the cauldron. “This potion is potent. Let the contents breath under the light of a full moon, then pour the remains into a cup of rose tea. Have her drink, and she shall be yours.”

The prince snatched the flask from her and hurried back to the village, forgetting about asking about her payment in his haste. He followed the witch’s instructions, and wooed the peasant nun. She broke her vows and traveled to the palace with the prince. They married in a ceremony celebrated by the whole kingdom.

Time passed, as it does, and the new princess found herself lost amid the castle manners and intrigues. She knew nothing of the world in which she found herself. The prince’s ardor for the simple young woman faded, sated now that he’d acquired that denied to him. The couple, married during the throes of passion, found little in common.

The prince’s attentions wandered and, like a rose cut from the stem, the former nun soon wilted from neglect. She withdrew from to her parlor, barred from the outside and the people she’d once served, and alone except for when her husband tried for an heir.

The king passed and the prince became ruler of the land. His wife, barren and faded, but devoted by spell to her husband became queen. So the unhappy couple stayed for several years, the new king searching for any reason to divorce the peasant he married, but foiled by her unwavering fidelity toward him.

One day, the witch, untouched by the years, came before the king. “It is time for my payment, lord.”

The king dismissed his court except for three guards. “I have a new deal for you, witch.” He gestured and the guards grabbed the witch’s arms. “Create a potion that will kill my wife, so I may marry someone of breeding. Do this, and I won’t have you executed for witchery.”

The witch grinned and the temperature of the room dropped. “Of course, my lord. If I may have a place to work?”

“Take her to the dungeon. She can work there.” The guards led the witch to the bowels of the castle, and she did not resist their rough handling.

Once ensconced within her cell, she told one guard she needed a cauldron. He left, but a different man returned with her request. She asked for water from another guard, and a different man brought her a pitcher of water. The two new guards turned on the third guard who carried the king’s secret and killed him.

The witch laughed and set about her task. She pulled various vials out of her dress and added them to a new spell. “Echo of traitor’s promise, a serpent’s tongue, some tears of a fallen angel, and…” She pulled out one last vial, remnants of the former prince’s blood used for the original potion, and stirred it in. When finished, she dipped in a flask and handed it to the guard. “Give this to the king and let him know he must bury it with a freshly hanged murderer for seven days. Then he need merely baste the queen’s dinner meat with it, and he shall have his reward.”

The king followed her instructions, hanging the guard who brought the witch’s potion and burying the flask with him. A week later, the king desecrated the grave to retrieve the flask and finish his heinous undertaking. He smeared the witch’s cocktail on his wife’s dinner and dismissed the servants to deliver it to her room himself.

He watched as she at, an unaccustomed smile creasing his features despite his revulsion at her doe-eyed looks of love she lavished on him. She finished and stood, falling upon her bed as dizziness engulfed her. He rose from his seat and tossed her into a semblance of repose. Once he finished, he readied to call the guard, but her eyes snapped open in fury, startling him.

He backed away, but she stalked him across the room, picking up the knife from her dinner remains. With a speed and strength unexpected from so small a frame, she pounced upon her former false-love. The knife rose and fell over and over.

He never had time to scream.

In the dungeon, the witch cackled and disappeared…

So ends my tale. I’m sure disbelief will be your reaction, visions of fairy tales with happy endings smothering the truth of the events.

So be it, for I am not one to force my views upon anyone. Believe what you wish, it makes no difference to me.

As for the price…payment will be discussed.

Later.

***

For Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge over at terribleminds. This week the challenge is to create a cocktail, give it a name (to be used in the title), and incorporate it in a way vital to the story. This week he’s giving us 2,000 words to tell the story. Check it out and give it a try!

Hope you enjoy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Chain Writing Game 6: The Wall – ep. 13

Episode 13

“Uh…I,” Jadir stuttered as his body reacted to Eliya. He backed up and tripped over his feet, tumbling to the ground. “I’m…flattered, but I love another woman. Her name’s Camilla.”

Eliya’s face turned quizzical, then frowned. “You think I wanted to mate with you?” She chuckled. “This is just how my people dress. There’s not much use for…coverings,” she gestured at Jadir’s clothes, “that hinder movement and catch on branches. In fact…” She pulled a blade from a thigh-sheath and strode forward. “…some of that needs to go.”

Jadir flushed, but allowed her to cut his clothes to shreds.

Chain Writing game

I’m not against romance, I swear. It just seemed like a good part to highlight cultural differences (yeah, that’s the ticket) between Jadir and Eliya with a little misunderstanding. Will love grow between the soft, citified Jadir and jungle survivor Eliya? That’s entirely up to YOU. Join in the Chain Writing Game and add your own 100-word contribution to the story. It’s unlimited entries (we go to 30 total) and you only have to wait until three others go before you post after your first.

Hope you enjoy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

CWG 6: The Wall – Ep. 3

Jadir smacked into the wall with thud and rebounded backwards, landing on his ass with head pounding. “Ladder,” he muttered.

He stumbled over to a shed and borrowed a ladder. His weaving steps brought him back to the wall and he placed his way over down with exaggerated care. “That’s better,” he slurred.

He climbed the ladder to the top and looked out at the forbidding forest. The twisted branches and deep shadows shook his liquid courage, and he turned to climb back down. Alcohol, being the Great Unbalancer, caused him to lose focus and he tumbled down outside safety.

Chain Writing game

 

Welcome to week 6 of Chain Writing Game! This week we have a mystery/adventure that will unfold in 100-word chunks. Who are the authors? You are! Kerrie Salsac gives us a short piece of fiction to start, then anyone who wishes can add on and help bring the story to life. There are now unlimited entries, but you still have to wait for three others to post after your first entry before going again.

Join in the fun. We go until the challenge closes or there are 30 entries. Then Kerrie wraps it all up in a nice bow (pdf or ebook form) for easy perusal.

Hope you enjoy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Flash! Friday Vol. 2-8: Promise Kept

Car wreck, ca 1920. Public domain photo.

Car wreck, ca 1920. Public domain photo.

Josephine puttered through the door of her daughter’s house, widow’s black draped on frail shoulders tired of sorrow and empty platitudes. Her grand-kids played in blissful silence. She knew their grandfather sat in their minds as a stranger’s face, rarely seen and not to be mourned by innocence.

The phone rang and rang. She let it go in her desire to evade the well-meaning well-wishers that plagued her.

“Ma! Could you get that, please?” her daughter, Kelly, shouted.

She sighed and picked up the old-fashioned corded phone. “Hello?”

“Joey? It’s me. There was an accident, but I’m all right. I’ll see you soon, love.”

She gasped and dropped the phone. Kelly ran in at the clatter to see what happened. “Ma?”

Josephine looked at her with tears in eyes. “He always told me he’d let me know he was okay if anything happened.”

She buried her face in her daughter’s shoulder. “Whatever his faults, he kept his promises. Remember that.”

Word Count: 160

For Flash! Friday – Vol. 2 – 8. The prompt this week is the photo above. There is an extra element, called the Dragon’s Bidding, that needs to be incorporated into the story. This week’s Bidding:

PhoneCall

Rules of the challenge:

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Sunday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word unless that is specified).

Hope you enjoy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn