Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 38

Welcome! Thank you for taking the time to join us at this fun little to-the-death-contest, no pressure or anything, isn’t that a relief, whew. Haha, just kidding. Many of our writers survive the battle and live to flaunt their scars the next week.  No, I don’t have stats. No, I don’t have anything personal against stats; I would use them if I had any. Yes, I am fond of stats — well, in moderation. Oh. No, I did not intend to mock stats. No, I would not like to be reported to the Writing Contest Committee’s Subcommittee on Stats and Percentages, thank you for asking. 

OK, wait, where were we?! OH. Welcome! Rescue me from my sleep deprivation and write us a story or two, won’t you? We’re delighted you’re here.

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DC2Arriving via hilariously distinguished St. Bernard and terrifyingly beautiful sky dragon (I’ll leave you to sort out which captain is riding which beast) is Dragon Team Five, the magnificently talented duo of Foy S. Iver and Holly Geely. Holly’s always on the lookout for mold-breaking characters, while Foy seeks ground-breaking plot paths. Sounds like a lot of breakage, doesn’t it? But ohh, you know this week’s going to be GOOD with Team Five in command!     

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.  

* Today’s required word count: 300 +/- 25 words  (275 min – 325 max words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (this week 275 – 325 words, excluding title/byline), the two story elements you based your story on, and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new or forgetful, be sure to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday.

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 Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.

AND HERE IS YOUR NOVEL PROMPT:

This week’s novel inspiration, from one fellowship to another: Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s celebrated trilogy of a little hobbit who saves Middle Earth from a great dark lord by friendship, cunning, and sacrifice.

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content AND please do not use copyrighted characters). 

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific)
Character (choose one): an uncrowned king, an ordinary person tangled in epic events, an immortal sacrificing immortality for love’s sake, a wizard battling a higher-ranked wizard, a princess disguised as a soldier, a humble gardener
Theme (choose one): good triumphs over evil, courage, power of friendship, beauty cannot last
Setting (choose one): long road en route to a volcano, a beautiful forest

OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story):

Mt. Teide: the conic-point that meets the skies. CC2.0 pic by Julie Ann Johnson.

Mt. Teide: the conic-point that meets the skies. CC2.0 pic by Julie Ann Johnson.

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111 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 38

  1. Seeds of Change
    346 words
    uncrowned king
    good triumphs over evil
    friendship

    Alexander felt the weight of the sword when he lifted it. Bending over his dead father, unclenching the stiff fingers– removing the ruby signet ring–freeing the hilt of the sword. There was no time for tears. He was the King of Elandria. Kings don’t cry.

    The crown was gone, of course. The marauding Vongans had taken everything of value in the chests and vaults. Kings don’t fight in crowns, Alexander thought bitterly. They fight for them.

    His mother had been spared; her body still breathed life. But she stared from sightless eyes, seeing things he didn’t want to know. The holy women had taken her away to rest with them. He was glad.

    How did one win a kingdom back? The men who limped and crawled out of the shadows looked at him with hungry faces. He could hear the weeping everywhere. Women mourning the dead, blood being scrubbed from the stone floors, washed from the battlements. The Vongans had taken everything they could find—stores of grain, chickens, pigs, even the seeds for the next season’s crops.

    All his people could plant was bodies. What crop would that yield but hatred, a desire for revenge?

    He heard Aribous before he saw him. The gnarled wizard seemed to grow from the stones of the floor like a weathered tree. Improbable. Needing nothing to survive.

    “You have much work to do, King Alexander,” said Aribous. “And so do I.”

    “There is nothing here for you, wizard.”

    “You and I are here. That is something.”

    “How can I feed my people?”

    Aribous laughed. “Do you know so little of my powers? You have a mage for an ally, my son. Your father would not let me help him. He lies dead now. You have but to let me do what I do.”

    “Father said magic brings nothing but evil.”

    “Evil magic brings evil.” Aribous raised his wand and pointed it at the dead king. Seeds rained down, burying the fallen monarch.. A mountain of seed to plant.

    “Good magic brings good,” said the wizard. “See?”

  2. Title: Our Names, Forever Burning
    Character: An Uncrowned King
    Theme: Courage
    Word Count: 325
    Full Post: https://marshalhopalop.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/flash-friday-our-names-forever-burning/

    We lost twenty gallant men in our escape from the capital; I knew them all by name. Our prince rode well through it all. But his chainmail was damaged and he slumped like a willow.

    Prince Armand Hannabelle the 2nd of Kingdom on the Mont, Westernmost Kingdom under Heaven and Gods, rode into a nameless village under cover of nightfall. There were twenty of us knights left. Twenty to fend off a kingdom. A dozen peasant boys pledged in an ignorant hurry to join us.

    In a nearby glade, my prince wept quietly. Yet he stood stately and proud in the red of the coming dawn.

    “My lord,” I said. “Your father’s host is almost upon us.”

    Prince Armand sighed. The sword he held was far too heavy for him. “What chances do we have?”

    “Even with the peasants? Pitiful. At best.”

    “Perhaps this is justice,” he said. “My sins are riding to meet me. And their claws are long and steel. Armand the Kinslayer. That’s how they’ll know me. Are they wrong, Sir Armand?”

    “Right or wrong, for good or evil,” I said, “I am your noble knight.”

    My prince looked at me, his eyes tired.

    “They are not wrong,” I sighed. “Your brother is dead by my hand your word. History will never understand what you did.”

    “Nonsense,” he said. “I sold my brother’s life so I might buy his crown. I fear that history will never forget what I did.”

    There was a rustling in the bushes. I turned to see a peasant boy standing there, his eyes full of disbelief, fear.

    “Don’t you want the chance to die for something, boy?” I asked. He just stared at me, glass-eyed like a dog. “Your prince needs knights by his side. Where will you be when the battle is joined?”

    He tightened his grip on his sad little pitchfork.

    “Good,” I said. “We’ll burn away the stains in our pasts with our glory.”

  3. Character: a humble gardener
    Setting: long road en route to a volcano
    325 farmers
    @bilmelaterplea

    Silas’s Quest

    I have no idea how long the journey might take. Elspeth encourages me not to set out without a great deal more thought.

    “You are not young anymore, Silas. This valley has been your whole life, our whole life. I worry you may never return.”

    I take her face in my hands, gently stroke her soft cheeks, brush her still dark hair from her eyes kiss her brow, and try to reassure her.

    “I have tilled this land for 40 years, my love. And learned how to grow food from my father for another fifteen. I want our children and their children to continue to embrace this land, love it and nurture it as we always have. Simon and Jebel have learned well. I feel comforted that they will care for the land in my absence.”

    She is not convinced, and clutches my hands, not only to keep me from my quest, but also to retain the good life we have together.

    “We live in volatile times, Elspeth. Life is not as settled elsewhere as it is here. His Lordship believes that the Warriors of Noremac, those who live in the valley beneath the Pmurtdlanod Volcano, can be shown an agrarian way. A contingent of farmers, travelling in concert, carrying only the implements of food production, a peace convoy of men of the earth; we might change the world, create furrowed and fertile soil from a bloodied earth.”

    She is still darkly saddened. There is nothing I can say to bring comfort to her. There are risks. The Warriors of Noremac have lived under the temperamental watch of Pmurtdlanod for generations. Death by molten fire and crashing rocks has always been their grim legacy. I have my doubts that mercenaries will ever put down their swords and pick up plows.

    Elspeth and I spend the night wrapped in tight embrace.

    At dawn, our farmer’s brigade begins the long journey to an uncertain destiny.

  4. Setting: a beautiful forest
    Courage
    (323)
    @Viking_Ma

    The Glen of Light

    Alice wandered, singing. The woods were deep and quiet, wet underfoot. The sun never quite pierced through the thick green canopy, allowing the things that flourished in dark and damp to grow unchecked. She crushed toadstools and dripping lichen, and centipedes and woodlice skittered across her toes. Bulbous spiders dropped low to reach their feet out to her hair, which sparkled with dew.
    With every tread that carried her further from the glen, her singing quietened a touch. Mother would be pleased, but why did her own heart quail? Unconsciously, she slowed, and began to waver. Maybe go back… and just peep into the soft grasses…
    No! She bit her lip to galvanize her spirit. One spider reached her, and walked along the tiny path of her parting. She scratched at it, the egg-filled body splitting under her fingers and smearing her hair with gluey innards.
    The sight of a cluster of sweating yellow toadstools brought her to a sudden halt. Why was everything rotten here? Why was it suppurating and foul? She chewed a finger, thinking hard.
    The forest was telling her to stop, to reconsider. Her heart beat faster. Resolutely, she turned around and faced the past, looking back through the trees. To that place where destiny had been so forcefully changed.
    She sang again. ‘What’s done must be undone.’ Her feet set out, this time moving her back along to a different outcome. It was terrifying, but to her heart it felt the right choice.
    Gasping back a sob, Alice began to stumble, to run along the slimy forest floor. The path was tricky, and confusing. Would she ever find the glen again?
    With a final twist and turn, there it was. The only sunny spot, filled with a rioting rainbow of wildflowers. Her eyes cast about, panic tightening her chest, when she spotted it. The basket was still there, a tiny pink hand reaching up toward a blue butterfly.

    • Nice story, Carolyn. I hope she didn’t chew the finger she squished the icky spider with! Eww . . . I’m glad she went back for her baby!

  5. @AvLaidlaw
    320 Words
    Character – Princess disguised as a soldier
    Theme – Beauty cannot last

    Rabbit Stew

    The other women are suspicious. As the political officer reads communiques from the revolutionary council, the women in the platoon glance sidelong at Natasha, at her hands. Slender and lily-white. She balls them into fists and rams them into her stolen tunic. Once they were kissed by elegant noblemen, a tickle from their moustaches against her delicate skin, during balls where diamonds glittered like the souls of saints. Now the ballrooms and palaces burn as the revolution spreads like a canker, no country for a young woman while soldiers march hot-blooded and damned from the killing. She hid her amber hair under a cap, pulled on a louse-ridden uniform to hide among the enemy. But she can’t do anything about her hands.

    The Sergeant grabs Natasha by the arm and pulls her into the copse turning copper and ghostly in the autumnal mists. She is a tall woman, a scar running over one eye down her cheek, twisting her lips into a sneer. She stormed the Winter Palace, they said, and strangled a cossack. “Can you skin a rabbit?” She throws a brace of rabbit corpses at Natasha’s feet. Their soft brown eyes stare reproachfully. “Didn’t think so, Princess.”

    Natasha backs away, across the dead leaves, squeezes up against the trunk of a birch tree. Sergeant laughs. “Knew right away. See, I’ve known your sort before. Fine gentlemen on a hunting trip every summer. Now I wasn’t as pretty as you, but fair enough and these gentlemen did what they wanted with me then called me a whore and spat on me. They had the law, the fat magistrates, on their side. So I stopped them only way I knew.” She ran her nail-bitten finger down her scar. “Didn’t want to look at me after this. Beauty can’t last, not in this world.”

    Sergeant picked up a rabbit. “I’ll show you how it’s done. Time to get your hands dirty.”

  6. @DHartleyWriter
    Trails
    320 words
    Character: A humble gardener
    Theme: Good triumphs over evil

    Trails

    The slugs made an outline of a body with their trails. I mopped it up and put down pellets.

    The next day, the pellets dodged, the outline was back. And, around the perimeter of the patio, a cordon of dew-drenched web. The scene glistened in the dawn light. I felt sick. I snapped the webs, scrubbed away the body and covered the slabs in salt.

    As the afternoon waned I lurked in the window and peered out. I watched ants clear away the salt grains while snails settled in to mark evidence. Ladybirds clustered where the blood had splattered and butterflies fluttered at dust to find fingerprints. The cordon reappeared, thicker this time, and I spotted a triumphant beetle hoist an errant hair then stash it in his thorax before scuttling away. Wasps set up a nest on the shed wall and patrolled. Passing bees rubbernecked and were buzzed off; no news for the hive, not yet.

    As night fell, out came the slugs. Eight fat smears of viscera, they pulsed from every crack and hole and mulched together into one squelching mass. The blob retraced the drawing: the back first, then the head with the snout of the mouth, then the chest and the four legs, and the final curve of the tail. The ladybirds fluttered by the neck and slowly pooled out. The wasps landed and closed their wings, the snails stayed in their shells. I watched the slugs bleed back into the shadows and stared, and stared, and stared at the scene until it became too dark to see.

    As I turned from the window I saw the jitter of a spider shoot from darkness to darkness across the floor. A moth settled on the lamp and dimmed the room. Somewhere by the bed, a hornet buzzed. I felt hollow. I felt weak.

    I knelt down, put my hands on my head, closed my eyes and waited.

  7. @AvLaidlaw
    321 Words
    Conflict – Woman vs Man
    Character – Wizard* battling a higher ranked wizard (* if it wasn’t for those pesky gender stereotypes)

    Respect

    Here comes Johnny Big-Beard again, splashing through the mud in his robes covered in sequins and clutching his staff that he claims has been handed down by a mystic brotherhood through umpteen generations when I know for a fact he bought it from the wood-turner in the next village. There’s a little cantrip to keep the sequins sparkly and the mud off his robes. Flashy. Typical wizard.

    Lorenzo the Wise, Archmage of the Ninth Order.

    Now I’m just as magical as him, reckon eleventh or twelfth order easy. Only I can’t call myself mage or wizard on account of being born a girl. I’m stuck with Witch. Now Witch might bring to mind some withered old hag, or dark haired temptress prancing around in the nuddy under the silvery full moon. Well you can get that out your head – especially the “in the nuddy” bit, thank you. I’m a respectable middle-age. No wrinkles you can see. And if I ever felt a bit temptressy, that’s long behind me.

    A respectable Witch in respectable black, helping babies into and the old out of the world. Meanwhile Archmage Sparkly over there is recruiting the latest bunch of heroes to go on a quest after the latest evil Dark Lord… Every bloody summer it’s the same. Some knocked-kneed whey-faced kid in armour two sizes too big for him and holding a sword he can barely lift, ready to follow some mumbo-jumbo prophecy muttered by a guy in a pointy hat. You’d think they’d be out of Dark Lords by now.

    Nothing to be done… Unless I happen to whisper an invocation to Hecate under my breath, just absent minded like. And there he goes, Lorenzo the Wise trips up in the air then lands flat on his face, right in the puddle. Like to see the cantrip that’ll keep that mud off.

    Said I was a respectable Witch. Never said anything about good.

  8. TRANSPORT TO TRANSPORT

    * * *

    Brian S Creek
    297 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDogs

    character – ordinary person in epic event
    theme – good over evil

    * * *

    THE ABACUS SHACKLE

    For eleven years, Fred Babington had helped run Magnus Transport. Each day Fred grew frustrated with the company’s lack of modern thinking as each day his boss stubbornly clung to the abacus, to the pen, to the past.

    Fred began to browse job sites, knowing his only way up would be to start again somewhere else.

    And then one day Fred’s boss had a heart attack and Fred was promoted to manager. The company was catapulted into the modern era and things started to look up.

    THE TWO COMPANIES

    For three years, Fred Babington had run Magnus Transport. His modern thinking had paved the way for great success and the company was number one in the region. Fred and his team left no technological trick unturned to make the company efficient and effective.

    But success attracted the envious eyes of Prime Logistics, the nation’s best transport company. They saw the threat and swooped in with a merger that was swift and brutal. Many of Fred’s colleagues lost their jobs that week; a redundancy package in one hand, a box full of belongings in the other.

    FRAUD WITH DANGER

    For six months, Fred Babington had worked for Magnus Transport (t/a Prime Logistics). He’d kept his head down and done his best to make himself invaluable. Other, smaller, transport companies were being absorbed into the monster that was Prime Logistics and Fred began to wonder where it would stop.

    But then one day, when updating accounts spreadsheets, he spotted something small, something odd, something wrong.

    The tax scandal made headline news. So did Fred. He also made money from articles and interviews. Soon he had enough money that he could have started up his own transport company if he so choose.

    So one day he did.

  9. Name: @dazmb
    Words: 294
    Elements: Gardener (Farmer) / Courage

    Title: A Summer of Courage

    The sun always rises at 6am.

    I prepare tea for my husband and then clean the utensils. When I take tea I know it will give me strength. I like to sit for a moment and feel the warmth of its blend flowing into my body.

    My husband moves to turn on the radio, but I stay his hand. There is nothing to say and nothing that I want to hear today.

    I sit next to him. Take his hand in a moment of silence.

    “Come” he says finally, “today is just another, day.” and then smiling “Have courage.”

    We step out into the early sunlight. The terraces snake their way into the distance. It is the start of the rainy season. Soon the clouds will roll over the green edges of the valley and the rain will fall, in a sharp torrent, before moving on.

    There is work to be done harvesting, but even so, we pause for a moment, bask in the sun’s fleeting warmth.

    Imani is up already up. She is tall and fine featured. Although we own our own land separately, we pool our harvests at market time.

    She bends to kiss me.

    ‘Sister’

    ‘It is not too late for you to…’

    ‘Shh…’ she puts a finger to my lips. ‘I am not afraid of these children high on their agati. Now let us tend our crops together, live our lives as we always have done.’

    In the end, we were lucky.

    For three months I never turned on the radio, convinced each morning might be our last.

    But the murderous screams of “inyenzi!” never made their way up into our valley.

    Eventually our fear passed with the rainy season.

    And all the while, everyday, the sun rose at 6am.

  10. She’s The Man – Princess disguised as a soldier, man vs man.

    He minds his own business as he feels eyes stalk him through the trees. Orana starts as another man crosses his path. The Warren is usually so calm, yet today, a rowdy band of yobs has claimed it as their own, since the local bus stop is police taped off.

    Orana sidesteps these youths, and they follow him. Names start to trickle like an insult stream from them, and Orana feels his anger rising. He focuses on the path ahead and calms himself with thoughts of the gentle breeze and, oh look! A family of rabbits dart in their burrows as the squawking of a flock of teenage morons disturbs their dinner.

    Flop. Orana falls onto his face, shoved from behind to the dusty trail. The ruffians have issued a challenge. Orana rises to his feet, picks out the offender from his slightly terrified sniggering, and steps forward.
    “You pushed me,” Orana states calmly. The boy is pushed forward by his allies. He raises his fists, looking pitiful and small. Orana punches him in the face, and watches the spurt of blood gush from the boy’s nose and down his chin. The boy starts crying.

    The group surrounds Orana and, one at a time, he strikes them down, watching their courage fade into shame. Orana stands in the centre of a circle of defeated brats.
    “Mate, we was only, like, messing, with ya”, sniffles the instigator.
    “Yeah, come on dude, that weren’t cool, beatin’ on us like that”, chimes in his associate.
    Orana giggles and the group look confused. Then, realisation dawns on their puny faces.
    “Wait, you ain’t no man!” they say. Orana shakes his head at them.
    “I am more of a man than any of you shall ever be.” He adjusts his binder and continues on his walk.

    302 words

  11. The Best Life

    Flashes of chemical smells, sharp, demanding, manufactured, defined her every day.
    A pinch, the burn, another injection done.
    “You look exquisite, my dear,” her mother told her.
    Her mother could have been her sister. Equally smooth faces mirrored each other, pink, glowing, plump and fresh.
    They were never sick, soiled, or old. “Or happy,” she thought, when her mother pointed this out.
    Sterile marble floors and sterile marble walls gave way only to sterile tile and metal, housed in a city of sterile concrete. How impossible smooth and sharp everything was.
    “But you’ll live forever, my dear.”
    And what a terrible thought that was.

    She didn’t know what contraband was until she saw it. She had thought only sickness and aging were banned from within her walls.
    But then she smelled something with a tang that held no trace of metal. It carried sunlight and whispers of things unknown. She followed the smell around a corner and found a woman slicing into a the flesh of a yellow oval.
    “What is that?” she asked.
    The woman jumped and then shushed her.
    “It’s called a limon. They grow outside the city. Things from outside the walls are forbidden here.”
    The words “grow” and “outside the city” clamored in her head while she inhaled the living scent of the limon.
    If someone got the limon in, someone could get her out.

    In the middle of the forest she lived in a small domed house. The ceiling made of wide honeycombed glass panes that framed the stars at night, and opened to allow the sweet, fragrant breeze in during the day.
    Her hands grew roses, basil, lillies, sage, and sunflowers.
    Her face grew wrinkles, mostly from smiling in the sun.
    She tasted oranges plucked by her own hand, and smelled a world created in dirt and rain.
    She finally found the opulence her mother had always described, trading all of one kind for another.

    @CaseyCaseRose
    321 words
    An immortal sacrificing immortality for love’s sake
    A beautiful forest

  12. @colin_d_smith
    Word Count: 320
    Prompts: A beautiful forest and a humble gardener
    Title: “My Handsome Gardener”

    How I loved my walks. “Nature rambles” we used to call them. I can’t have been more than fifteen, sixteen. Sometimes I’d walk with friends, sometimes alone, barefoot in a summer dress that flapped around my legs. I swear I could feel each blade of grass against the soles of my feet. How alive I felt! A gentle breeze across my face as refreshing as a cool shower, the smell of dandelions and daisies, honeysuckle and hay.

    That’s when I first saw you. Did you see me that first time I crossed the manor grounds? There you were in your sweaty shirt, weeding his lordships garden, or pushing the mower. I would wave to you, and sometimes you would nod your head, and maybe I would catch a hint of a smile, or not. I remember walking that way with boys, whoever was my flavor of the month. What can I say? I was pretty, and enjoyed the attention. Maybe they noticed how I always looked for you, and maybe they felt the sweat on my palms when I saw you, or the flutter of my pulse when your blue eyes met mine. Maybe that’s why they didn’t last.

    Remember our first walk? It was in this forest, in the spring, when the trees were full of life, and our hearts were full of love. And it was beside this tree you got down on one knee and offered me your life, forever. The clouds parted, and a shaft of sun hit you like a spotlight. How those diamonds sparkled, like the tears in our eyes.

    You told me then I was beautiful. And you never stopped, even when I became grey and wrinkled. You said my beauty was just veiled, like the forest in winter. I’ll never forget those words. They were among your last.

    Rest peacefully here under our tree, my handsome gardener. I’ll be with you soon.

  13. conflict: man vs. man
    character: humble gardener
    theme: power of friendship
    setting: a beautiful forest

    QUALITY OVER QUANTITY (325 words)

    It was an improbable place for a farm, if one could call it a farm, but it had served Jake well for many years, as it had his father, and his father before that. The plot was far up the southern facing slope of Weatherhead Hollow. There was a small log cabin, a cozy one room affair with a thatched roof which had sheltered the occupants for generations like a shaggy but reliable umbrella.

    The Norden clan produced exceptional fruits and vegetables. Two rows of apple trees stretched across the upper section, followed next by rows of grapes that had become known in the valley as Norden Sweets because of their unique syrupy juice which tasted like a cross between marigold honey and lemon balm. The rest of the large garden contained some of the best watermelon, tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers and carrots that anyone had ever seen. People would purchase the produce at a humble farmstand the family maintained at the edge of the dirt road that led to the small hamlet of Guilford.

    All had changed two years ago when a marketplace was created at the town center. Many growers would bring their various goods to the central location and the Norden farmstand became less and less popular. One man could not compete with the convenience of one-stop shopping.

    One morning Jake was met by his friend who lived on the other side of the hollow. The man explained that his son had married and left their farm, leaving a horse that he could not take care of. He offered Jake the horse and a small wooden cart in exchange for a weekly supply of food.

    Jake’s old customers were thrilled to see his exceptional produce at the Guilford marketplace. Word spread quickly and he was able to earn enough money that summer to build a larger cabin at Weatherhead Hollow, just in time for the birth of his new baby boy.

  14. http://rightplacerighttim.com
    http://twitter.com/tim_kimber

    Conflict: man vs man
    Character: an ordinary person tangled in epic events

    Defender of the Corn (324 words)

    Matthis woke to the thump of the planet’s heartbeat. It rumbled though the earth, shaking his sod house. Daub dropped from the rafters over his bed, soiling his sheets. It was not yet dawn. Had it been, he’d have risen to plough the fields still damp with morning dew.

    Instead, this rhythmic pounding threatened to level his house. He tore the bed sheets aside and pulled a sheepskin cloak over his undergarments.

    Thump, thump, thump.

    Matthis burst from his house. His land (as far as a peasant might lay claim to the land he toils) was swarming with soldiers. Their unified step quaked the ground.

    “Oi!” Matthis cried, waving his sickle. “You bloody bastards! What are ye doin’?”

    As though bidden, a horseman galloped forward. “Hail King Anders,” he said from his mount.

    “Oh, bloody… Hail!”

    “Hector the Unworthy marches against your monarch to seize the crown. Tell me, peon, is there fresh water on these lands, that might quench the thirst of Anders’ soldiery?”

    “No!”

    The horseman frowned. “The King himself requests…”

    “I don’t care what ‘e requests! Bloody kings. Not a one of ‘em knows ‘bout tending land. Your stupid army is murdering my corn!”

    “You’ll be compensated of…”

    “Compensated?! He’ll ‘ave to compensate his own table; there shan’t be food for it come winter. Not from me – nor any other poor bastard whose land you go traipsing over.”

    The horseman dismounted, unsheathing his sword. “Tell me where I may find fresh water or I will run you through!”

    “Go ahead! I’m ruined anyway.”

    “Now listen! I am the King’s vassal, the leader of his armies and his most trusted counsellor. I pay you great compliment in addressing you at all!”

    “Oh… bollocks!”

    “Insolent knave!” He raised his sword. “Traitor!”

    Metal slashed the air, and the rusty taste of blood erupted in a cloud. Poor Matthis – he pulled his sickle from the throat of the lord and stumbled backwards.

    “Oh, bloody Hail…”

  15. The Seven

    The forest crept forward, thorny vines choking the pathways and drawing a mournful veil across the clearing, enfolding the sleeping Princess. The Seven waited, silently hoping, but the darkness was too great and, one by one, they slipped away.

    Happiness could not linger in such a place. The forest was beautiful when beheld by the Princess, but with her eyes forever closed, what place had joy and laughter? With a resigned sigh, Happiness was the first to fall, and Seven became Six.

    The weeds grew thicker, the canopy lower, more oppressive. Even the smallest creature could not enter the clearing, and without the gaze of another to hide from, what use was Shame?

    So the Six became Five.

    Intelligence and Foolishness were next to leave. Hand in hand, indistinguishable, arguing about the best direction to choose, they pushed into the brush and were gone.

    All that remained were Illness, Weariness and Anger, the perfect companions as night fell heavily across the forest. Illness looked upon the sleeping Princess and felt sure that he alone would succeed, but with a bestial roar and a swift pickaxe blow, Anger turned the Three into Two.

    Anger and Weariness saw out the light in silent battle. As Weariness took hold, Anger rallied, but even Anger must fade eventually.

    And so Two became One.

    And finally, as the first rays of dawn struggled to pierce the sepulchral glade, Weariness lay down his stocking-capped head and entered that final sleep.

    None.

    The Princess slept through the day, faint breaths barely stirring the ivy which wound around her, and it seemed that she might sleep for evermore.

    Then a figure slipped into the clearing, torn and ragged, bathed in blood that was not only his own.

    He hauled himself onto the bier, closed his eyes and gently kissed her ruby lips. Snow White stirred from her slumbers, looked for her Prince, then smiled at her Foolishness.

    “Not so Dopey after all then?”

    325 words
    A beautiful forest / man vs man (vs man vs man vs man etc….)
    @Karl_A_Russell

  16. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 325
    Story Elements: Character/Theme

    Earthbound

    She arrives every morning, emerging from a cloud of steam like a nymph who rides the sun’s rays. She never says a word as she steps off the train, but the coins that clink into my cup weave their spell across my dirty canvas, and I know who she is.

    She is an angel, my seraph.

    A smile will shatter her face, and darkness will drown her eyes, but I know, I know, that if once we speak, if once our words dance across the station platform, partners in a mortal waltz, she will brush past the whisper of wings soft as velvet. She’ll enter a world of dirt and grit—a fallen angel undeserving of her fate.

    So when she passes me and her coins join my few, I seal my lips. I release my dreams and let her soar on her wings beyond the mortals that clog her way. She glances back, once, before she slides into the familiar press of world-bound pedestrians whose blind eyes cannot see her light.

    Months pass, cold closes in. Worn flannel cages my arms, and chapped skin colors the holes in my gloves. Every morning, my seraph emerges from the steam, unhappiness scribing a story in her forehead’s lines. My heart bleeds to know the dark spot in her peerless heaven.

    One day, she doesn’t come.

    Her train arrives and departs, and its steam taints the platform with disappointment. I stand and stumble across the brick tiles to the track, staring after Tartarus’ behemoth as it disappears around the curve.

    Despair drowns hope, darkness quenches light. I’ve longed to fly, but earth chains my feet. In the still tick of a worldly second, I’ve lost an eternity of dreams.

    My shoulders slump beneath mortality’s weight. I turn away, but she stands in my path, a happier tale tracing the smile on her lips.

    “I’m Sara,” she says, and her hand bridges the gap between human and divine.

    • I love how you can interweave the magic and the mundane. This could as easily be straight fiction (and the magic is all in the mind of the MC) as it could be urban fantasy–and it plays just as wonderfully either way.

  17. Delia and the Dragon
    306 words
    theme (good vs. evil) and setting (volcano)

    Delia crouched behind a rock, her bare feet tucked beneath purloined trousers.

    “What about Delia?” Maxwell asked Bando. “She won’t be pleased to have been left home.”

    “Delia! Always trying to fill a man’s shoes! The only way to save the village is to slay the dragon, and dragon-slaying is men’s work. Delia’s safe at home, knitting, or whatever it is girls do.”

    Delia shifted. Her knitting needles clacked in her rucksack. She froze, hoping they had not heard.

    “Your sister won’t be content with that.” Maxwell said. “She says we must befriend the dragon—”

    “What girlish nonsense! She doesn’t understand the danger. The dragon commands the volcano, and so the dragon must die.”

    *************

    Noxious vapors emanated from the dragon’s den: sulphur and reptilian musk.

    Bando unsheathed his sword. Maxwell gripped a dagger, preparing to excise the dragon’s dangerous tongue. Dragons’ voices brought out the darker secrets in men’s hearts.

    Delia hid in the shrubberies. As the men taunted the beast to get it to emerge, she withdrew needles and spool.

    The dragon’s sibilant, magic-laced voice echoed from the cavern maw, “Wwwhat do you wish?”

    Bando answered, “We wish to…save…no! G—glory! We wish to win glory! To be world-renowned dragon-slayers!”

    The dragon hissed. “You dare to threaten me? I can destroy everything you love.”

    Delia’s needles clacked; magic burst from the complex patterns taking form in her yarn.

    Bando lifted his weapon. “Prepare to die, Beast.”

    Lava lurched beneath the earth.

    Delia knitted frantically. Why did they not understand? Without the dragon’s intervention, humankind would be entirely vulnerable to the random vagaries of plate tectonics.

    The magic of her knitting spun out, silencing boasts and threats of men and dragon.

    She stepped from her hiding place. “There is another way. Humans and dragons do not have to be enemies. We can work together…”

  18. (278 words)
    @elaine173marie
    Theme: Courage
    Character.

    The Journey

    Tall. 206 bones. 14 percent body fat.
    Hips that carry the sword her mother gave her. Waist. Eyes as swift as grey wing against grey sky. Breasts. Long legs, their curve an indication of the taut and efficient muscle beneath. Lips that pack a punch. Long nimble fingers to catch food for fuel. Toned. Strong shoulders carrying the weight of change.
    Woman.

    She runs at a steady pace. Rhythm, not speed, makes her arrival inevitable, her feet drum out a relentless beat on the solid ground. She counts the blistering, hot pains as they shoot up her calves, each one a step closer; each one a step further away. 

    The long way round the water.

    Thump. Thump. Thump.The tic toc of her feet message the forest tracks, the winding pathways, the narrow roads.
    She is coming. She is coming.

    It is the guard upon the door that sees her, no more than a speck of movement at first. She must continue.

    ‘Halt!’
    She is motion. She is unsure if she can stop.
    ‘Halt. D’ye hear!’
    She begins to ease off, slows, still walking though.
    ‘Let me see your master!’ she shouts.
    ‘A woman’s voice? What is it you come for? A decoy? Tread carefully. We will show no mercy.’
    Still she approaches.
    ‘Do me one service! I beg you.’ Tell your master Miranda is here. She came alone on foot. He will know what that means.’

    She forced herself to rest where she stood. The first pause since mortal flesh formed on immortal scale. The first since leaving the water womb that for all time would preserve her kind.

    ‘Miranda?’ He trembled from his voice down.
    ‘Yes, My Love.’

    • Ah! Please lovely Dragon Lady, would you take out the speech mark between
      you and Tell. Thanks! Lots of choccy good stuff on its way.

  19. Corona dignitatis senectus…
    by Joey To

    “The goblins can reverse time.”

    Those words swept through town with passion like lava from Mt Senectus. Or more like beer from tap.

    “When did they work that out?” asked Jack as he sharpened the tivandium blade.

    Mick grunted. “Last Monday.”

    “Would that be actual last Monday or last Monday after they reversed time?”

    Mick knitted his brow… “Hey, hear ’bout the latest sighting of the princess?”

    Jack huffed. “Meh… rumors.”

    A goblin lady in a pink dress carrying a small case stood at the foundry’s entrance.

    She patted the case with a practiced grin. “You interested in the latest range of GobPowder? Extracted from the newly dug mines of Senectus, guaranteed to knock twenty years off your face. Or wherever you put it.”

    Jack raised an eyebrow. “Toxic much?!”

    “Tested it on wild skunks. They were fine. Then we ate them. And I’m fine too. Nearby towns bought a ton.”

    Then she opened the case and whipped out a vial. “A free sample for any female clients you may—”

    A teenage girl donning a long rugged coat strode in. Jack grabbed the tivandium sword, darted over—any excuse to get away from hawkers—and handed her the weapon. She unsheathed it and scanned it tip to hilt, the blade glinting from the firelight.

    “Tivandium… so rare…” mumbled the goblinette. Then she offered the vial to the girl. “Say, like to try some? It’s free.”

    The girl smiled. “Perhaps another time.”

    The goblinette squinted, then hurled the vial at the stone floor. It shattered with a puff… the powder shimmered when it touched the girl’s skin.

    “Finally found ya, Princess Witch Killer!”

    Then the saleslady was gracefully skewered. Jack and Mick exchanged glances, then shot their hands up.

    “Didn’t see anything,” cried Jack. “And Your Highness is beautiful you don’t need makeup not even when you’re old and we hate sorcery too.”

    Mick nodded vigorously.

    The princess smirked, dropped ten gold coins and left.

    Word Count: 325
    Character: a princess disguised as a soldier
    Conflict: man v man
    Theme: beauty cannot last

    The title is taken from the Book of Proverbs 16:31.
    Latin: “Corona dignitatis senectus, quae in viis justitiae reperietur.”
    English: “Old age is a crown of dignity, when it is found in the ways of justice.”

    Website: http://www.joeytoey.com/

  20. Name: @dazmb
    Words: 325
    Elements: Man v wife v kids / Wizardary

    Title: Car journey

    Rain beat heavily on the windscreen.

    Thing 1. “Are we nearly there, yet?”

    “No. We’ve still got a long way to go”

    The sound of territorial scuffling recommenced on the back seat.

    “At what age do you think children actually stop asking that question?” He asked his wife rather too pointedly.

    “Don’t you get snippy with me” she retorted. “This wasn’t my idea”.

    “Oh sure, make this about my parents” he snapped back.

    “Well, I’m just saying, it’d be a lot easier if they’d come and stayed with us”.

    The sullen drone of the motorway.

    Thing 2. “Daaaad”.

    “What?”

    “I’m feeling sick”

    “Well, I’m driving, so talk to your mother”

    “Oh for God’s sake, just wind the window down and get some fresh air…”

    The wipers swept, back and forth.

    In the rear view mirror I saw an arm fly across the back seat.

    “Ow. What was that for?”

    “Shut the window, I’m cold”

    “No, I’m feeling sick”

    “Do it”

    “No”

    “Do it or I’ll hit you again”

    “Will you two just STOP IT!” in a voice so loud he even shocked himself.

    “I have had enough. One more word. Just one more word. I’ll…I’ll…well, I’ll make the rain stop and you two disappear”

    “What?” Thing 1 and Thing 2 were united in their derision “You can’t do that…”

    “In 3…in 2…in 1” he sunk his head into his scrunched up shoulders and breathed out his magic word.
    The rain stopped.

    Only for a second, but the incessant hammering on the roof yielded long enough for him to see a wide eyed look of incredulity spread on his children’s faces.”

    “Believe me now?” he smiled grimly. “Now, if I hear so much as a peep out of either one of you, I’m going to make you both disappear. Got it?”

    “Yes, dad”, overawed.

    He looked at his smiling wife.

    “Still got it babe”

    In the rear view mirror the flyover bridge receded into the distance…

  21. A New Battle, on an Ancient Battlefield
    @CharlesWShort
    323 words
    Conflict: man vs. man
    Theme: Good triumphs over evil

    The citizenry had never known peace.

    The soldiers didn’t remember who they were fighting for.

    The commanders lived for the battle.

    The enemy demanded the king step down, and daily more of his own people agreed. He knew this would condemn them all to slavery. But, he would never deny his throne. He was the king and could be nothing else.

    —–

    Joshua arrived at the front, hidden amid the day’s reinforcements. His commanders asked him to defend a stronghold. He refused. It had not been built at the king’s command, required massive resources, and had no strategic value.

    The angry commanders ordered him to the front, to the location of the fiercest fighting. The commanders hoped he would die there.

    Joshua returned from the position followed by many men, including several deserters who had fought with the enemy. The commanders were livid, asserting those soldiers were traitors worthy of death. Joshua proclaimed those men were more pleasing to the king than the commanders. Joshua said the commanders were also traitors.

    —–

    Joshua was charged with treason. The trial was an unholy spectacle, and both sides quit fighting to watch. Joshua was condemned to death, and at the execution the enemy lines celebrated. The commanders didn’t understand why.

    —–

    After a few days two weary armies prepared to resume an endless battle. Troops on each side of the battlefield waited for the command to charge. They were interrupted by a solitary soldier riding between them.

    It was Joshua. He called together all who were loyal to the king, no matter which side they were from. He had paid the price for treason, those who loved the king could return.

    In the hours that followed, the lines were redrawn. Commanders who had served the battle
    instead of the king, were now with the enemy. Joshua, the king’s son, took command of the king’s armies.

    The battle was still eternal, but now they remembered who they fought for.

  22. Chosen: Setting (forest) and Theme (good triumphs over evil)
    Words:325
    @CarinMarais  

    The Last Song of Winter  

    The oldest of them still remembered the long winter that lasted thrice as long as it should have. They remembered the wolves and the starvation, the battles and the bloodstained snow. It took three winters to find spring after she had been stolen by the ice spirits. The guardians swore that it would never happen again.  
    Down in the valleys the souls of new trees would be kept safe within the houses until spring, but here on the slopes the old souls all stood vigil together. Another gust of winter wind tugged at the Tree Guardians clothes where he guarded the tree.  A banner the colour of new spring leaves fluttered from the spear he held in his frozen hands. He had passed long nights like this while the sky danced with flames of green and purple. The guardian closed his eyes as the sky came alive and the trees began to sing. It was the song of winter, all echoes and humming.  

     The song stopped abruptly, voices replaced by the creaking of dying wood.  

    When he opened his eyes the ice spirits were standing in front of him. He lunged with the spear as fast as he could, but they were fierce fighters. He fought them, shouting curses between his calls for help.  

    With the last of his strength he speared the final ice spirit before it could reach the tree, then stumbled backward, falling between the tangled roots. He could feel the life seeping from him into the frozen ground with every heartbeat. The trees howled a lament for him.  

    He heard the tree behind him break and managed to turn his head towards the sound. A young woman stepped from within, dressed in the green of early spring, her hair as white as blossoms. The trees around him quickened to life and sprouted bright green foliage. He smiled even as he felt the darkness take him.  

    Spring had come early this year.

  23. The Road to Fumidor
    @voimaoy
    321 words

    road to a volcano
    courage
    wizard v. wizard
    ordinary person/epic events

    Day after day, the volcano Fumidor grew more restless. Ash rained down on the terraced rice fields. The farmers begged Grandfather Ando for rain.

    One afternoon, a wizard woman came to the village. She said her name was Uma, and she was looking for Grandfather Ando.

    “He’s out.” the girl said. “Can I help you?” She invited Uma inside.

    “We travelled together many years ago,” Uma explained. “Didn’t he tell you?”

    “My grandfather is retired.” The girl said. “He doesn’t speak of the past much. What brings you here, today?”

    “Uma!” Grandfather Ando thundered into the room. “You look old. How are you?”

    “I am old. And so are you. But retirement seems to suit you.”

    “Ha, ha, just like the old days. Come, sit. Let’s tell stories.”

    “Ando, you know why I’m here, don’t you?”

    His hand barely shook as he poured the tea. “I can’t imagine.”

    “Oh, I think you can,” Uma reached for the teacup. Her eyes flashed. “Where is it?”

    “I don’t have it!” He scattered the tea things. The girl rushed to pick up the broken pieces.

    Uma grabbed the string around his neck. “You’re wearing it!”

    “Please stop,” the girl begged. “What is this about?”

    “Your grandfather is a wizard,” Uma said. “Once we charmed the volcano, and he stole its heart. For years, there was peace in the land. But now, the volcano is restless. We have to give it back.”

    “Is this what you want?” Ando held out the string, on which hung an obsidian pendant. “It’s nothing. A souvenir of our adventures.”

    “It is the heart. Return it.”

    “I am old. I can’t go.”

    “I will go,” the girl said.

    On the side of the road were skulls and prayer stones left by those who had gone before. The girl added a pebble to the pile.

    “Safe journeys,” Ando whispered. In the distance, the volcano Fumidor glowed like an orange red eye.

  24. When A Story Writes Itself

    berrymichael@gmail.com
    WC: 325
    Conflict: man vs. man
    Character: a wizard battling a higher-ranked wizard.

    “Middlearthians, listen up,” Grey-guy yelled. “The idea for this Monday’s dragon contest is Flash Friday. They are writing about us, so we’ll write about them. The winner of this Monday’s challenge will be the same person who wins the Flash Friday contest, so make sure the person you pick has the story that, no matter how loosely connected to us, is unbeatable.”

    “I get to write the story written by the pink haired girl,” Whitewiz shouted in excitement. Grey-guy clicked his tongue.
    “No, you won’t,” he said.
    “Yes, I will.”
    “Over my dead body,” Grey-guy stated.
    “Alright then,” Whitewiz replied. He stretched out his arm: magically taking Grey-guy’s staff.
    “Blasted magic, not again!” Grey-guy cursed while he pulled a Colt 45 out of his sleeve. Taking aim at the two staffs, he fired. “Your staffs are broken, Whitewiz, so sit down and shut the Mordoor up.” Grumbling, he did as he was told.
    “The reason why you won’t is because you can’t. She’s one of the judges.”

    “What about the lady with the French name none of us can pronounce correctly?” Pipet asked.
    “She’s a judge too, genius.” Doedoe gave a depressed sigh.
    “Who then can be our protagonist?”
    “The maker of shoes, River Dude, Purple Shirt from Briton,” Grey-guy listed, “if you think really hard, Doedoe you might come up with a few yourself.” Sighing again, Doedoe turned to Tam.
    “Oh Tam, I feel like I’m becoming clinically depressed again, would you write both out stories?”
    “Yes, Mr. Doedoe sir,” Tam complied, almost too eagerly.
    For a while, everyone sat and wrote their stories except for the judges Grey-guy and Gladgirl. Slowly, each story was submitted. Grey-guy and Gladgirl read the stories and consulted each other.
    “Everyone in the other world wrote some pretty fly tales,” stated Gladgirl. “But, I think we have a winner.” Nodding, Gray-Guy stood to make the announcement.
    “After careful deliberation, we can say the winner of Flash Friday is…”

  25. Legend (321 Words)

    Man on an Epic Quest
    Courage

    @sarahcain78

    “This is what is known. In the beginning, there was the Old Father, a mighty god who formed the heavens and earth from his ever-burning forge. He took the Moon as his wife, and she bore him dozens of children. But these Young Gods grew envious of their father. They conspired against him and threw him into his forge. The Old Father became the Sun while their Mother wept, and her tears became the stars.

    “The Young Gods came down to the world and unleashed great misery and sorrow. They spawned witchery and chaos. Beasts and monsters were born in this time, the worst of which were dragons.

    “People suffered for centuries in this age of darkness until a great hero emerged: Lorgar the Red, a giant of a man who was strong as the mountains. Lorgar set out to free the world of the Young Gods.

    “The Young Gods sent their favorite dragon, Mathruul, to kill Lorgar, but he slayed the beast with his bare hands and fashioned a greatsword from Mathruul’s bones and teeth.

    “When the Young Gods heard of Mathruul’s death, their chieftain, Draitho, challenged Lorgar to single combat. They fought for a whole day and night before Lorgar triumphed. With Draitho dead, the Young Gods cowered in fear. As they begged for mercy, Lorgar killed them with one stroke of his mighty sword.

    “When the spirit of the Old Father saw this hero, he made Lorgar the Red a god.”

    The young one gasped. “Is it true, grandfather? Did Lorgar really kill Mathruul and use his bones to make a mighty sword?”

    “Come with me, Beathrag. Look out over the bay, and tell me what you see.”

    “I see a great carving of Mathruul guarding the bay.”

    The old dragon patted his grandson’s head. “Human’s tell these stories to make themselves feel like dragons. We are the eldest. We were first, and we shall be the last.

  26. Tinder | Box

    @making_fiction

    Character: An immortal sacrificing immortality for love’s sake

    Theme: Courage

    Words 316 (minus the lines)

     

    __________________

    |     Photo redacted   |

    __________________

     

    Flash_Tiger, 35, 100 feet away

    Flash_Tiger is an animal (of the dance floor). He prowls the dark spaces throwing random shapes into the mix on the way to the vending machines in the gents. He avoids the light – he’s not vampire; although, for the right lady, he might reveal his veneers and nibble her neck. His Ferrari is a Toyota. His penthouse is his mum’s loft. He drinks from a goldfish bowl at the bar. On his profile he’s something he’s not. At the moment, he’s immortal, but if he’s going to get anywhere he’ll need to give it up. His lover will have to see him for who he really is. He’s looking at his phone app right now and can see he’s been liked by…

     

    __________________

    |     Photo redacted   |

    __________________

    Cougar_shark, 55, 100 feet away

    Cougar_shark is bored. Her husband is an IT geek. She’s fed up lying in bed as he watches the game and if he’s feeling frisky he might build some Minecraft. This new age of location-based dating is the best thing she’s done in ages. Someone nearby has liked her profile. He looks like he’ll do. She’ll take what she needs from him and move on. But online, her picture is over a decade old, her lines and body are not what they were. At the moment she’s untouchable, almost immortal, if she is to fulfill her needs she’ll need to give this up.

     

    __________________

    |     Photo redacted   |

    __________________

    Hubbie_at_home, 55, 100 feet away and closing

    Cougar_shark’s husband is bored. He’s in a fake marriage. When he was younger he felt forced to conform; it’s a story as old as time. But with new technology comes new opportunities. He’s here to make sure she’s busy. He has other plans later and other phone apps to explore. He’s immortal in his current life but will need to be vulnerable and give up everything for love.

  27. POWER PLAY

    * * *

    Brian S Creek
    301 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    Conflict – man vs man
    Theme – courage

    * * *

    I left my village more than a year ago.

    I trekked through mighty forests, over treacherous mountains, and crossed the Felistas Sea.

    I lost friends. I lost parts of myself.

    All to save the world.

    Now here I stand, on the steps of Mount Chaost. Before me stands my old friend, the Grand Wizard Le’eck. Turned dark by a forbidden magic, he threatens every living being in the land. Using the energy of the volcano we stand on, he aims to access a power not meant for our kind, one that will consume all who stand before him.

    I cannot flee. The future depends on it.

    “You are foolish,” he roars over the thunderous cacophony of the unstable mountain. “It is too late to stop me now.”

    “Le’eck, my friend,” I beg. “There must still be a part of you in there, a part that knows this is wrong?”

    “You cling to a past that can no longer be.” He smiles then, and I realise that my friend is truly gone. “You will be the first to feel my fury.”

    He unleashes a bolt of energy but I press the stick left and manage to dodge.

    Frustrated, he claps his hands together and hits me with a shockwave. I tap A and manage to hold fast through it.

    His energy is momentarily sapped, the full power of the fiery mountain not yet transferred. Knowing I don’t have much time, I make my attack.

    I select the Angelic Blade using D-Down. Holding the Right Trigger to lock on, I charge at him. He looks up but I’m already too close. I double tap B and leap into the air, bringing the blade down fast.

    His health bar drops a little. My XP increases.

    I smile.

    And then the power goes out.

    Dammit!

    • Great job Brian, I really enjoyed how you brought the expereince of a video game to life. It was a unique take on the prompt. Now it’s off for a little Call of Duty (lol).

  28. Cider Light (or Why iCider could be the next big/small thing)
    A.J. Walker

    Character: humble gardener
    Setting: long road en route to a volcano

    Roman looked at the bulging haversack wondering if it was enough. He’d never been away for more than a day before and that had always been visiting relatives. This hiking game was beyond his experience.

    Peter hefted it across his shoulder nodding sagely; though at 15 he had even less experience than Roman.

    “You’ll be fine with the weight.” Peter said.

    Roman’s face didn’t display his concern; he was worried he didn’t have enough cider.

    He looked back at the list: sandwiches, cooked sausages (6 varieties), apples, apple juice, cider. Spare trousers, spare shirt, spare underwear, three pairs of socks, a pair of mittens, a spare hat. Tick- tick- tick.

    He briefly considered losing some socks and the spare underwear to make room for another bottle of cider.

    “Thanks Peter. Pass it here.”

    He pulled both straps tight across his shoulders. It really was heavy, but once he’d started the essential fluids he knew it would soon become unreassuringly light.

    He picked up the long sack containing the tools for the job: a trowel, a spare trowel (you could never have too many), a fork, twelve empty pots, loose bags, notebook, sketchbook and pencils. Tick- tick- tick. Flagon of cider. No tick (he was in denial about having it; hoping to surprise himself later).

    Outside Mount Black grumbled ominously, seemingly angrier than it had ever been – it could blow any day. Peter was so proud of Roman especially now he was going on this quest to rescue the mythic Dragon’s Breath orchids.

    “Sure I’ll find them.” said Roman. “Assuming they really exist.”

    “Gotta try. You couldn’t live with yourself if you didn’t.”

    “I’m sure I could. But my garden would welcome something new.”

    “And something the Jones’ don’t have.” said Peter.

    “Aye. Very insightful.”

    He poured Peter a tot of last year’s perry and one for himself.

    “To the quest!”

    “And to finding an inn on the way back. You’re way light on the cider.”

    (325 words)
    @zevonesque

  29. Themes: wizard battling, power and man vs man (there was a volcano, it got cut)

    @bardbotherer

    The Mage
    Aidonos was tired.
    He felt fatigue in a way that transcended physical weariness, instead bore directly to his heart, his core, his soul. He no longer cared about the blood on his hands, the gore and viscera that clung to the remnants of his once fine battle robes.
    He closed his eyes and breathed in the stench of the battlefield, squaring his shoulders for one last effort.
    Aidonos had only been unshackled for a short time; his wrists still bore the scars of the iron bolt driven through his skin to disrupt the flow of energy that now coursed limply through his body. When he had first been freed, the rush had almost caused him to faint. Then the power had sung in his veins, a seductive song of strength. Now… it was all that was keeping him going.
    How great to finally be allowed his birth right. His name would sound for a thousand years in the taverns and corners of the realm – like Eirdoren or Lorth. He, Aidonos, an outsider, would be a hero… The irony almost made him smile.
    His eyes snapped open. Ahead lay slaughter; men dying in the name of freedom, or tyranny. Flashes of magical light flared among the clusters of combatants.
    He shot forward, borne on tendrils of power lancing across the field. He landed in the midst of the troops, his enemy ahead. Summoning his power he framed the spell in his mind, shaping the magic and giving it form. As he gathered the energy time seemed to slow, seconds cruelly elongated and realisation dawned. This was no mere wizard. This was dark and twisted and above all strong in a way he could never be. It was him. It was Scawrath…
    The attack hit him before he could react, slamming into him with a force beyond reckoning. The mumbled incantation died on his lips and the feeling of weariness abated as he hit the ground.

    324 words

  30. The King Who Wears No Crown

    As I walk in the shadow of the king, I tend his garden. I slip among the trees, sometimes dancing on the wind. None sees me, but all feel me.

    The king likes the garden unspoiled, as it has been for a millennium. He prefers the natural order of things. He calls it the sanctuary of the living, even though death is always part of life. The king understands that the garden has a cycle of life, death and rebirth. He respects the cycle.

    Men do not.

    The king has heard the cries of the trees torn from the ground and dismembered. Men cut down the trees in their prime and rip them to pieces. Men burn them and live in buildings made from their skeletons.

    He has tasted tears of the creatures chased from the sanctuary in fear for their life. Men pursue them relentlessly. He has felt the final heartbeat of the ones that could not escape. The ones slaughtered for their flesh and skin. Men rob the young of a future and the old of a peaceful ending.

    When man pushes the king too far he will defend his garden through its destruction. His scorching anger will overflow and destroy those who have desecrated the sanctuary of the living. Their flesh will burn and fall from their bones. Their charred remains will feed the garden as it grows again. I will tend to the young sprouts and give the king a new garden, more brilliant and beautiful than the last. I will weep for the innocent creatures that suffered the king’s fiery wrath, enshrining their bones and singing to their souls.

    As death is part of life, sacrifice is part of victory. The king is always victorious.

    The mountain may not wear a crown, but not all kings need such a pittance. Once again, man has encroached, and soon, I will have a new garden to tend.

    320 words
    Characters: humble gardener/uncrowned king
    Setting: beautiful forest

  31. What Really Happened (For I Was There, Have Evidence To Doubt Me Do You?)
    @drmagoo
    323 words
    Story Elements: Character – an ordinary person tangled in epic events and Setting – a beautiful forest

    Fladnag said to Oblib “A ring have I, want it do you?” But Oblib liked candy, not rings, so he gived his ring to his niece Odorf who promptly swallowed it, thinking that, as with all things, her uncle had given her candy. Candy it was not, but large was her esophagus, and the ring splashed with great fervor and giggling into Odorfruin, the belly of fire. For Odorf ate all things, candy and rings and scotch bonnet peppers and the wax that cheese is wrapped in, and she never had as much as a urpy tummy after a snack or a meal. Her belly was larger than most, a sign of great fortune in Slightly-Left-of-Middle Earth, and she was sought after by the most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.

    Fladnag’s ring was magic, though, and caused a cacophony of light to circle the land. For when it was forged by Noruas on his morning show, “Live from Mordor,” it was designed to do two things – bring them all and in the darkness bind them, whatever that meant, and to make beings tall and short emit colorful smoke rings from their posterior after ingestion. The latter came as quite the surprise for Odorf, and she ran over the hill and under the hill, many, many leagues as the Cro flies, leaving a rainbow trail behind her. She only stopped, as one would know if one was smart, for mushrooms and lembas sandwiches and a mug of Barleywine.

    Bomb Tommydil caught sight of Slightly-Left-of-Middle Earth’s most desirable woman running through his beee-utyful forest and fell deeply in smit. Married they were, under the boughs of a great willow tree, and after they were married they made Merry, if you know what I mean, and then one day Odorf passed the ring, and there it passed out of the knowledge of men and elves and other things everywhere. Except me, because I’m telling you this story.

  32. Character: Uncrowned King
    Conflict: Man vs Man
    Words: 325
    @KarenGr4y
    There is no real title for this snippet, it is part of a flashback from ‘The Highland Queen’ – Book 4 of ‘The Saga of Thistles and Roses’ ( http://thistlesandroses.co.uk ).

    So for Now I’ll just call it…
    “Journey Home”

    Henry sat as close to the coach window as he could get. He may have been tall for his age but still had to stretch to catch a glimpse of the world outside.

    Rolling fields and the occasional farm dotted on the landscape became bustling town, which in turn became the outskirts of the city of Lunnainn. Henry slipped from the bench and stood on his tiptoes to try for a better view.

    ‘Be a good boy, Henry and sit down please,’ his minder said.

    Today he had an elderly gentleman watching over him. The man wore a funny looking wig and frilly shirt under his smart dress coat.

    Henry wasn’t sure why he couldn’t just have travelled on his own, or with his mother. He may only have been little but he wasn’t frightened of being alone.

    ‘But I want to see. I’ve never been to the city before.’

    The man’s amused grunt drew his attention and he cast him a sideward glance.

    ‘You were born in this city, child.’

    ‘I was?’ he asked, looking toward his escort who nodded.

    Henry turned back to the window just in time to see the metropolitan grey turn to lush green of an enormous park. There was a huge pond and fountain, which had him scrambling up onto the bench to get a better look — and then he saw it. Gleaming golden gates surrounding a monumental structure that took his breath away.

    ‘What’s that place?’ he asked, turning to see his attendant eyeing him with speculation in his hazel eyes.

    ‘That, Henry, is Buckingham Palace,’ he paused as though uncertain, then added, ‘where you were born.’

    Henry just blinked at him, unsure how to respond. He was both excited by the prospect and confused. ‘Where’s my mother?’

    ‘She is being taken to the infirmary to receive the proper care that her condition requires.’

    ‘Is that where we’re going?’

    ‘No, Henry. We are going to meet your father.’

  33. Idyll

    323 words

    Elements: setting (beautiful forest) and theme (beauty cannot last) plus conflict

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDogs

    Speckled gold broke through the canopy, scattering its glitter on the forest floor. Manea made her way cautiously through the undergrowth. She had never been allowed out during the daytime. She crept silently, not wanting to disturb the creatures that still slept. Then she laughed. It didn’t matter how much noise she made. They would be sleeping for as long as she wanted.

    A voice called from somewhere. “Manea, Manea. Where are you?”

    Damn. Melinoe had found her. She waited for her sister to appear. “Does Mother know you’re out?” she asked sweetly.

    Melinoe stepped out into the clearing, a broad smirk on her face. “She had a busy night.”

    “At least she spared this place,” said Manea, looking around her.

    “Don’t tell me you like it!” said Melinoe. “It’s all green and gold and fresh and … ugh … what is that?”

    A rose by any other name …” Manea did not warn her about the thorns.

    “Ouch!”

    Manea chuckled. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

    “What’s this? Quoting dead poets? Well, at least he’s dead. Mother would approve of that.”

    “True. Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye …

    “Stop with the Shakespeare.”

    “Well do you know anything more appropriate to our surroundings?”

    All places are alike, and every earth is fit for burial?”

    “Aah, Marlowe. Now Mother does have a soft spot for him. Anyone who makes a pact with the Devil is alright by her.”

    Manea thought about her Mother, Death herself, and examined their surroundings through new eyes … and realised this was place was not beautiful. Her true idyll was one wrought from the passions of man; the fires of fanaticism, the zealots with the bombs, from hate and madness. But soon this forest would be perfect, it would die eventually; even now she could smell her own perfume, the scent of decay contaminating everything. She breathed in deeply. It was time to go.

  34. The Little Garden
    308 words
    character- humble gardener
    theme beauty can’t last

    The Little Garden
    Arnie Humbold paused his hoeing to mop his brow. His red spotted handkerchief dripped with the sweat of an autumn day’s toil, but the labour was worth it. Arnie’s little garden was the talk of the village; his rhododendrons had placed first at the flower show last summer and his cauliflowers were snapped up by the bushel every market-day. The village doctor came to Arnie each week for various medicinal herbs and plants. His little garden could be called a ‘riot of colour’ from the first day of spring through to the first chill of winter.
    Arnie had never been a boastful man, but there were those who suspected more than green fingers were involved; those who envied his success and wanted to know his secret. Spiteful people who couldn’t put the effort into their own ventures and resented him for it. Arnie knew there was no secret, no magic ingredient to his little garden. Just a well-planned year of maintenance and pruning, and a healthy respect for Mother Nature, he called it whenever people asked. He tended his little garden with the same love he had tended upon his late wife, nurturing the saplings and sprouts as if they were his own children.
    Agnes could have any, bless her heart. Not that she didn’t want kids, just her body wasn’t strong enough. So Arnie made his little garden the nursery she always dreamed of; the soil was so fertile and the buds grew so strong. Agnes had loved sitting in the rose arbour of a summer’s eve, wrapped in the fragrance of their botanical offspring, until Death had come for her. Now Death would come for his little ones, his nursery, and his garden. A year of careful planning and hard labour gone in the chill of the frost. The blink of an eye.

  35. Nothing Gold Can Stay
    324 words
    @drmagoo
    Story elements: Theme: beauty cannot last, Setting: a beautiful forest

    Marl’s wife held the squalling bundle of rags to her breast, but she was no match for a man who spent every day at the forge. At the first sight of his daughter’s perfect, radiant face, his oak-like legs turned to pudding. Marl was an ugly man, with mismatched eyes and too many teeth. He expected to live for many years. His wife had been sought after by the king, so misshapen and horrific was her mien, but she fell for the man with too many teeth and a gentle touch. That their daughter was such a beauty was not only unlikely, it was impossible.

    She was a sickly child, with a smile that dazzled and a cough that sounded a deep rumble of mucus and wheeze. Marl wanted to hate her, for why should a man love someone who would be taken from him so quickly, but she was impossible to hate. When he held her, the night was never cold, and the wolf at the door was never hungry. As the summer turned to fall, Marl began to hope that she would defy her nature, but her smile was too sweet to last long, and the day came that he and his wife stood at the center of the dead forest next to the pile of freshly-turned earth. They said their words, he turned back to his forge and she returned to the never-ending chores of a woman.
    The winter was brutal, and despite all the nights they lay together, Marl and his wife’s love failed to kindle in her belly. They’d had their chance at parenthood, but they knew their legacy was to only be death.

    Under the snow, protected from the wind, their daughter’s body went back to the earth, changing it. Out of death comes life. Out of barren ground comes one green shoot, then two. And when the birds returned in the spring, boughs of beauty welcomed them.

  36. A KILLING

    “Where are you my pretty?” Stav is on a quest. He shambles along, muttering to himself.

    All he needs is just one chance at that precious golden shot. “Sorted for life,” he calls it.

    “You’re going the wrong way,” a scooter buzzes in, begins to keep pace with him. Stav glances at the driver and the pillion rider, grunting in disgust he keeps walking. He holds his competition in deep contempt.

    “Wrong way Gollllllummmmmmmm,” losing interest they zoom off, jockeying and revving through the crowds.

    Stav cripples on. It suits his purpose for them to think he is lost. He bears what he thinks of as his war wounds stoically: the fall from a tree five years ago, that guard who had thrown him against a wall, the epic flight over a car bonnet. All part of the life.

    It is a long walk to The Volcano. He can see the lights burning in the distance, unmistakable.

    He’d had a tip-off. Time, place – guaranteed. The source had not introduced himself, but Stav had suspected an insider.

    Finally, in place, he burrows into his old jerkin – dark, stiff with stains, its voluminous pockets hold everything he needs.

    A dull roar rumbles in the distance. It is beginning.

    A car, moving fast, glides in. Stav is ready. Aims. Here she is. Mascara plastered down her cheeks, shorts hanging off her hip bones, hair skewwhiff. Stav shoots. Kalashnikov flash bulbs erupt.

    He fancies that in that moment, she is looking right at him, not just the flashes, full eye contact.

    Not waiting until after she has been bundled into the side-door of the venue, he runs, already speed dialling on his phone.

    Later, after that private performance, after the furore, and the fallout; when she went back to black and only ashes were left to rain down, Stav, with that very last photo of her, made his killing.

    Setting: long road en route to a volcano
    Conflict: man vs man
    Words: 317
    @feclarkart

    • It took me about halfway to understand what was going on and reading it a second time brought clarity. I’d really dig reading a whole story from the point of view of a paparazzi, cool story!

  37. Geratric Battle
    @MadilynQuinn
    character & theme
    306 words

    “With age comes wrinkles!” Finlay thundered, flicking his wrist at his opponent. A spattering of silver squeezed out from his fingertips.

    Adam gasped, clutching at his face where the magical face-lift melted away like a hard candy left out in the sun. The ravines and caverns around his eyes deepened as he grimaced. He muttered under his breath.

    A metal clap whizzed out from under Finlay’s cloak, flicking off a stone column and over the side of the tower. Another followed as the great expanse of his middle flooded through the gaps of his corset.

    “How dare you!” Finlay roared as he stomped a foot, his belly trembling, and a crack tore through the floor. A wisp of a shadow crawled out, rushing the distance between the two wizards to snatch the elder’s wig away.

    Moonlight glinted off Adam’s bald spot and the wind whisked the hair away as the shadow dissipated. Finlay convulsed with laughter and missed Adam’s muttered incantation: “But you cannot see, old man.”

    His eyes widened as cataracts curled over them; the day became night. Finlay went to one knee.

    “I am too powerful, you fool!” Adam laughed to the sky, but a sudden coughing fit jerked his body. Gasping, he sunk to the ground.

    “Adam?” Finlay swung his arms in front of him. “Are you OK? Where are you?” He tripped, toppling to one side like a fell tree. The crack sent a shock of pain from his mouth.

    “Did you just… break something?” Adam’s voice was weak, but amused.

    “Of course not!” Finlay rolled onto his back head facing skyward. “Truce?”

    Adam snorted. “For now.” Groaning to his feet, he held nudged Finlay with his foot and guided the younger man’s hand to his. He helped him up and the two shuffled to the stairs, looking very much their age.

  38. Lightening Trumps Fire

    “I am the most powerful wizard of all time!” Gillgenmorf shouted as a crowd of villagers gathered around him. “My staff carries the power of dragons. I control fire so hot it’ll melt flesh from bone.”

    The crowd grew silent as Gillgenmorf rambled on.

    “Yes, the power of dragons, you should be in awe of me. I have defeated witches, goblins, trolls, giants and grumpkins. None have stood against the power of fire!”

    The crowd whispered nervously as Gillgenmorf paced back and forth. After a few moments he stopped and raised his arms above his head, his staff pointed towards the sky.

    “Bow down to me!” Gillgenmorf shouted as black clouds began to form and the sky grew angry.

    “No, I shall not bow to you.”

    Gillgenmorf stood amused as the knight, Sir Harrington, emerged from the crowd.

    “Ha,” Gillgenmorf snorted with derision, “that suit of armor shall be your oven as I cook you alive.”

    Sir Harrington only managed to take a couple steps forward before fire from Gillgenmorf’s staff engulfed him. He screamed in agony as his flesh roasted and blood boiled. Falling to his knees, Sir Harrington became a grotesque statue of blackened, smoldering armour dripping with blood.

    “Do you not see,” Gillgenmorf cried as he raised his arms above his head and pointed his staff towards the sky again. “Nobody can stand against me; you will bow to me and serve me!”

    Overhead the black clouds became thicker. Thunder rumbled and lightening flashed across the sky.

    “Bow…” was all Gillgenmorf managed to say before he disappeared in a brilliant flash of lightening.

    At the back of the crowd, an old man with a hunched back and a warped staff stood unnoticed. He chuckled as he looked at the pile of ash that was Gillgenmorf. When one on the village children asked him why he was laughing, the old man smiled and patted the child’s head

    “Because,” he replied, “lightening trumps fire.”

    325 words
    Conflict: man v man
    Theme: good triumphs over evil

  39. @OpheliaLeong
    Setting: A beautiful forest
    Character: An immortal forsaking his immortality for love
    325 words

    Breen’s Wish

    Breen walked through the forest, fingers lightly skimming the moss-covered trees. He was so deep in thought that he didn’t even notice the crimson butterflies that landed on his cloak. His thoughts were taken up by Amelia.
    Kind, generous, and thoughtful, she made his fellow mischievous Faeries look like naughty children. Most Fae spent their entire immortal lives with the idea that humans were full of base desires that they never took the time to befriend any. But Breen had.
    “My son.”
    Breen looked up as Oberon walked out from the curling limbs of an oak tree, his eyes glinting gold.
    “Father, I have something to tell you.”
    “I know what you are about to say. The forest sees and hears much that interests me.”
    “Then I won’t waste time explaining myself. I wish to be human. I want to spend my life with Amelia.”
    Oberon circled Breen; his rich brown hair was pulled back and he wore a simple circlet of rowan berries.
    “Humans don’t age gracefully, Breen. In the years to come, you will see your skin shriveling up like a wrinkled apple. Your limbs will twist and break like those of an old oak tree. Your wife will lose her beauty like a rose withering away in winter.”
    He stopped and looked deep into Breen’s blue eyes. “That is not what I envisioned for you, son of mine. Prince of the Fae.”
    “You have other sons,” Breen whispered.
    Oberon sighed. “None as curious as you.”
    “Father, all that you have described shows Nature going full course. The circle completes itself. We Fae help it along, but now I want to be on the other side. With Amelia.”
    Oberon lifted his circlet and placed it upon Breen’s brow.
    “Take this crown and find Amelia. Wear it all through the night, and in the morning you will find yourself changed.” He placed a kiss upon Breen’s brow and walked deeper into the sun-dappled forest.

  40. Should have put a ring on it…

    In the endless forest, a fair maiden was going about her day. As she skipped along a glint of metal caught her eye. She stooped to retrieve the simple black ring from the ground. A powerful urge commanded her to slip it onto her finger. The moment she did, a ghastly wraith appeared. It’s voice was hollow and low, “Mortal, you have awoken the Sorcerer of Darkness from eternal damnation. This ring now binds us as one.”

    The maiden stared at her hand, “Wait, is this yours? And you’re giving it to me?”
    “That is correct. It forms an eternal bond that cannot be broken.”
    She giggled and jumped up and down, “Well this is certainly unusual, but I will!”

    The wraith scratched his bony head, “Will what?”
    “Marry you of course silly. I wondered when my Prince Charming would arrive. You’re not what I was expecting, but I suppose in this day and age a maiden has to be open minded.”

    “Quiet foolish woman, you are not my bride, you’re my slave. You will do my evil bidding!”
    “I see we’re going to have to work on your old fashioned values! We should get on the phone immediately and book the dwarven fortress for next summer, a venue like that will be in high demand. Also we should talk about surnames. I’m not partial to being Mrs. Darkness. Perhaps we could hyphenate? How do you feel about being the Sorcerer of Jones-Darkness?”

    “What? No! Why isn’t this working? You’re supposed to succumb to my will.”
    “No will is strong enough to deter me from my dream wedding, you should learn to compromise. Now let’s talk menu. Chicken or fish?”

    The wraith groaned. There really wasn’t much choice. It was this or the fires of hell. He vanished in a cloud of acrid smoke.

    His fiancee called after him, “I hope you’ve gone to the jewellery store, this ring is missing some bling…”

    324 words
    @todayschapter
    Themes: an ordinary person tangled in epic events, good triumphs over evil

  41. “The Hero”
    by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
    Story Elements: Character (an ordinary person tangled in epic events), Theme (courage)
    Word count: 323 words

    A hero? Bullshit.

    I’m just a guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time. And a guy who, almost a year removed from that day, still wakes in a lake of my own sweat at least once a week. With the anniversary approaching, I imagine the local paper will seek me out, sit me down at a coffeeshop, and make me die through the day all over again.

    I was walking home after my shift at the diner. A whim of providence killed the wind. If it hadn’t, I never would have heard her.

    “Somebody help me.”

    It was easy to find her. I followed the skid marks off the road, through the trees, to the pond. Only the roof of the car remained visible. I dove in. Through the rear window, cracked open just a bit, I saw two desperate doe eyes. The water was lapping at her chin, and ready to drink the rest of her.

    “Don’t worry, I said. “I’ll get you out of there.”

    “I’m scared,” was all she said.

    “I don’t blame you. What’s your name?”

    “Pamela.”

    “Everything will be fine, Pamela.” I tried to open the door. It wouldn’t budge, which I expected. “Close your eyes a minute, Pamela.” I grabbed the luggage rack, and managed to build up enough force to kick out the window. I reached in, took hold of her collar, and yanked her out just as the car sank to the bottom.

    When we got to the shore, the EMS was waiting.

    So, am I hero? They asked me that back then. They’ll ask me again now. And I’ll answer with words that have plagued me, gnawed at me, for nearly a year.

    “To that girl, to 14-year-old Pamela Akers, I guess I am a hero. But a real hero would’ve realized she was in the back seat, and thought to get the driver, her mother, out too.”

  42. @PattyannMc
    WC: 324
    Theme: Courage
    Conflict: Man VS Monsters and Leprechaun

    The Leprechaun’s Lair

    Near the Volcano in the Obscure Forest, alone and armed only with my hoe, I stumbled into a patch of Dandelions. Thousands of tiny faeries resembling crystalline-feathered umbrellas startled me, twirling in my face, squeaking in teensy voices that I’ve injured them. I begged their pardon, meaning no ill.

    Eyeing me, they asked of my journey.

    “I’ve heard that in the Leprechauns’ cauldron of gold under the Volcano, there’s a magical gold medallion, which brings healing. I, Dáire am on a quest to save my little Laoise who is dying.”

    Upon hearing my tale, they offered aid.

    Journeying together through murky bogs, their crystal lights shedding the path in the dark, we encountered a sea creature hiding nearby. Its enormous body covered with sharp poisonous bristles, twitched towards me. Its bulbous pulsating eyes targeted my legs, tripping me with razor-edged fins as I squeezed against a rock wall, attempting avoidance, the creatures’ bristles at the ready to sting. As I fell, the faeries covered the bristles, protecting me. Wretchedly, many perished.

    After many weeks’ journey and scuffles, at the rim of the Volcano, I wove heavy vines together, gathered nearby, and dropped them down the throat, making my way to its belly, the faeries once again, illuminating my progress.

    The faeries explored darkened labyrinths to find the greedy Leprechaun, and while waiting, walking boulders with arms flailing, attacked me, flinging rocks. Fear caused my heart to palpitate, muscles straining. I swung and hacked them apart with my hoe. Flying prehistoric monsters dived from above; my hoe put to good use once more, feathers flying everywhere.

    Entering the Leprechauns lair, he flung a fistful of magic at me! A ball exploded into purple flames almost alighting me. I heaved my hoe, striking his top-hatted head. After he fell, I sifted through the cauldron for many days, finally finding the medallion. Holding it high, and copiously thanking the faeries, I knew my little Laoise would live.

  43. A Butterfly in Brooklyn

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    A thick green forest flushed with bleeding maples and sturdy oak surrounded a small cabin.

    His nose was large and hooked with deep-set blue-green eyes. His hair looked like a squirrels nest. His body was strong with muscular arms and legs. A hat perched on his head with a small compartment for specimen’s he gathered while walking in the woods. He was at his writing desk trying to articulate the nature in his heart and the state of society and where it was heading. What impact could an artist really have? His pencil, made by his family company, traveled like a locomotive across the tracks of paper. 1854.

    Walden Pond, in Concord Massachusetts, was stretched out in moonlight like a giant pearl around the neck of a beautiful woman. Henry David Thoreau walked the shore with a sturdy gait that crossed lines of illumination with shadowy intent. He was the eccentric in town and had no children or wife. His one book sold very little. His passion traversed his eyes in the form of a lone flower dipping its color into the crystal clear pond water.

    Desire was hard to tame. Having studied religion and philosophy he knew Buddha’s belief; it was the origin of all pain. Balance and simplicity were needed. But desire lingered like a carved insistence upon the soul. So using language, he turned against the machine of civilization and toward nature’s love sonnet of light; he may not have been wearing a crown but he knew where the throne was.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    In a city, isolated by poverty and gunshot, a teen boy found a copy of Walden discarded in a garbage can and brought it home to read. And indeed the artist was a butterfly, and the movement of heart wings could cause a volcano to erupt, more than a hundred and fifty years later, in the mind of a boy as far away as Brooklyn. The pages fluttered in the breeze.

    (Good triumphs over evil / an uncrowned king)

    325 words

  44. “A Daughters Revenge”
    Word count: 323
    Character: Princess disguised as a soldier
    Setting: beautiful forest

    Thea ripped her sword from its sheath. All she received was a chuckle from the man, hidden in the shadows.
    “A knight, my dear Thea? I could barely recognize you.”
    Thea grimaced, her short hair in her face as she stared at him, his voice making her blood boil. It was her father, the king, smiling at her as she stood in the small opening. She couldn’t see him, as he was in the shadows when the rest of the opening was painted in blue hues from the moonlight. She kept her sword pointed at him.
    “I won’t fight you, for a woman shouldn’t be brandishing a sword.” He spoke again, though he made no move to put his broadsword away.
    “Then this should be an easy kill.” Thea finally spoke, setting her stance.
    He laughed this time. “What, are you going to kill me? Kill your father?”
    With no hesitation Thea lept forward and easily drove her sword into his stomach, his back crashing against the thick tree behind him. He let out a painful gasp as she spat in his face.
    “I’ve been waiting for my chance to end your life, father. You never had a care for me, I was only an unnecessary step between you and the son you wanted. Would you be proud of my knighthood if I was born a son? I could care lesser then you cared about me.” She twisted the sword into him, feeling the satisfying crack of the blade slicing into his spine.
    He couldn’t speak, as blood flooded his mouth and nose. His sword fell heavily , and she pulled back, ripping the sword from his stomach. The tree, the ground, and Thea herself was bloody. In her opinion, the forest known for its everlasting beauty never looked more beautiful.

  45. In the Clear
    291 words
    Character: An ordinary person tangled in epic events.
    Setting: Long road en route to a volcano.
    [No Twitter Handle]

    It’s been a long and difficult trip, but I now stand by the volcano. I gently close my eyes and take in a deep breath, savoring the moment. I’m here!

    It hasn’t been an easy path. I began my journey aimless and unhappy, and of course there were also repressed past traumas. I finally recovered and cleared those memories, with the help of my Case Supervisor and others. And I’ll admit that the trip was pretty expensive. I went though my substantial inheritance surprisingly quickly, and the journey took me from mansion to rooming house. Worst of all I had to leave my family and friends behind, but what good are relationships if you’re preclear? But now it’s all clear, because I’m clear. There’s meaning and mission hidden beneath the volcano.

    The sea voyage was among the most difficult parts of the journey. I was treated pretty harshly, doing lowly jobs for nothing, living in dark and dank conditions. But I understood the dedicated Org crew didn’t just have me to worry about. We had the world, the universe! Would even a billion years be enough time for us to defeat evil?

    The noise here is deafening, and the smell acrid, but I’ll get used to it.

    It’s time to take the leap.

    I turn to someone walking away from dirty tools on a nearby beat-up picnic table. “Would you like a stress test? Would you like to read this book? It’ll change your life. It did mine!” I flashed the sacred text, the volcano erupting on the cover.

    “Screw you, you brainwashed moron,” the suppressive snarls as he pushes the book into my face.

    No problem. I smile with anticipation. There are plenty of more wogs at the flea market.

  46. The Red’s War; A Misguided Spade
    _____________________________

    Caspious was digging his weapon of choice into the ground. “Are you at war with those buggers again?” Istar teased, looking past him, her angelic figure sauntering up the path.

    “Aren’t I always fighting one vile enemy or another?” Caspious spat. But as he faced her, Caspious softened adoringly; innocently. “I hope you get used this–to me.”

    He was tan, scientific and kind. Istar sighed. If only he was a smidgen more . . . obliging. When Caspious cared, his royal magic pierced all barriers; everything he caressed bloomed.

    Everything not hidden by her facade, at least.

    Istar scanned the treeline nervously. She couldn’t delay. “Sweet, the Syscans, surely you’ve heard. Without assistance they’ll die. Although they’re few, however distant and lowly, they’re still your subjects! You’re needed now! I need you now!” But that last sentence never actually left Istar’s tongue.

    Caspious was glad he turned from her mesmerizing eyes, resenting that Istar had opened this Pandora’s Box again. It had almost been their honeymoon’s undoing months ago. Wait–how long ago had that been, now?

    The Heir shelved his lovely bride’s humming into its own compartment, focusing on the soil sifting through his fingers. He crunched what was left in his palm, imagining it was the worms he despised.

    Istar watched Caspious wane as she pleaded one last time. Maybe if he knew the truth of her past, he would reconsider his indifference.

    As Caspious often said (one of his gardening maxims), “One can’t unhinge the fly from the web.” And neither could she release her tongue from its curse, so frigidly bestowed on her, when torn from her family, discharged to the Castle by the Syscan Reds.

    The Reds had spent their patience.

    In a rare moment of honesty, Istar breathed “I love you,” startling Capious from his vegetation. But then she turned away quickly, hearing only the thump, rather than seeing his head roll too, as it joined his trowel on the garden plot.

    ___________________

    Word Count: 325
    @AverageAdvocate
    Conflict: Man vs. Man; Character: Uncrowned king & humble gardener
    ____________________

  47. Themes: Wizard battling higher ranking wizard, courage
    Word count: 321
    @bloggingbaker

    The Last Trick

    While her little fingers reached up to touch his white beard, Lindy’s pudgy legs danced in the air.

    “That boy needs a vowel in his name,” Mercator grumbled. “Even that gray fellow with the pointy hat had vowels. That fellow from…”

    He looked at Lindy as she lay on her back. She didn’t answer him. Her little mouth smiled as her eyes remained fixated on his beard.

    “That middle place,” Mercator continued. “Mirth? Girth? It’s on the tip of my tongue. What was that place?”

    Lindy laughed.

    “Laughing at your senile great grandfather, I see.” Mercator laughed and softly clapped his hands together. A small cloud in the shape of a horse sprang from his fingertips. Lindy’s green eyes followed the horse as it galloped across her bed and then vanished under a blanket.

    “MckWffth,” he said. “That’s the boy’s actual name. Bad name. Good magic. Very good.”

    Lindy stared up her great grandfather and cooed.

    “Yes, he’s that good. It’s like every spell I learned when I was ten, he knew it at age five. And he does them better than I ever did.”

    Mercator sat back in his chair and watched Lindy wriggle.

    “He’s challenged me, you know.” From inside his cloak he produced a pipe, and with a snap of his finger, he produced tobacco and a flame. Swirling smoke created shapes familiar to him, but he couldn’t say what they were.

    “Mercator the Spellinator. That’s what they once called me. I made the crops grow. I kept the evil away. I once…” he said, beginning to laugh, “I once did something that was so amazing.”

    Lindy gurgled.

    “And now I can’t remember what it was,” he said as he reached out to caress her cheek. “And sometimes I can’t even remember your…”

    A single tear moved down his face and into his beard.

    “I know it’s time,” he said. “Time to let go.”

    Lindy smiled and waved.

  48. Emily Clayton
    @emilyiswriting
    Elements: conflict and theme
    324 words

    The Whiskers, the Beaks, and the Plants of the Forest

    The door was locked, and the lights were out. Odostemon Owl was not at home.

    Ruellia Raccoon tossed a fearful glance at Verbena Vole. “It’s getting dark. We’ll never find our way home now.” Although Ruellia was a raccoon, she was ever so fearful of the dark.

    Deinandra Duck fanned her tail feathers and quacked. “Is that why you brought us to the woods? To scare us? Fat lot you know. I’m not afraid of the dark.”

    Verbena stamped her tiny foot. “No! Yes.”

    “Well, which is it?” Deinandra loved the way the air hissed through her beak and echoed in the evening lull.

    “He’s away,” Verbena said. “I brought you here to help me.”

    “An adventure! Oh, I love those. Will it involve swords and death howls?” Deinandra’s head bobbed with excitement.

    “Or handsome heroes at a castle? Indoors, safe from harm?”

    Deinandra snorted. “Don’t be daft, Ruellia. Too many fairy stories.”

    Verbena pulled a bobby pin from her smock and fiddled with the door. It clicked and swung open. “After you, ladies.”

    Pitter patter on the packed earth floor. Verbena shone the light around. Clocks stood packed against the walls, some ticking, some broken.

    “We need to find my grandfather’s watch,” Verbena said. “Gold. Short chain. He took it.”

    Deinandra grabbed a jewelled dagger. “Ha! Got my sword!”

    They searched through the piles, pushing aside anything larger than a thimble.

    Gold, on a short chain. Verbena reached out, feeling the cool kiss on her brown velvet hand. “Success!”

    Lights flooded the hall. “Whoooo’s there?”

    “Quick, girls!” Deinandra said. “Make a run for it!”

    In a flurry of feathers, fur, and ringed tails, the three friends bolted for the door. Deinandra swung her dagger, quacking and hissing with all her might.

    Odostemon Owl couldn’t guess the identity of his evening visitors, but he kept the bobby pin, making it part of a scary tale to frighten the young owlets pretending to sleep upstairs.

  49. Character: an immortal sacrificing immortality for love’s sake
    Setting: long road en route to a volcano
    315 words
    @ecjlewis

    FOR LOVE OF THE EARTH

    “You. I’m talking to you! Reckless infants, lying around dying everywhere. Get up!”

    Chloe gave a kick of her rugged boot to the figure huddled on the blackened earth. She coughed in the ash-filled air, and grimaced, eying the volcano belching fumes in the distance.

    “Get up, I said.” She gave another kick. The figure groaned and shifted. Then, taking an age for each tiny movement, it became a young man, pushing himself up onto his knees. He rubbed his limbs to ease their stiffness and shivered, even as his ragged clothing still smoked. He looked about at the scorched landscape, at his unblemished skin, bewildered.

    “What…but the wizard…I was―”

    “Never mind that. You humans and your wizards, always squabbling over power that isn’t rightly yours. Look what you’ve done now, eh? Trying to control the very earth!” She jabbed a finger towards the volcano.

    “I’m not a wizard,” the lad mumbled. But his hand crept up to an intricately woven reed orb that hung around his neck.

    “Ah yes,” Chloe said, “I thought I’d left that somewhere. No wonder your village was always such an agricultural wonder. Bet you never questioned it, did you? Idiot mayflies.”

    She reached down and touched the orb, feather-light. Suddenly, over the thick odours of burning and decay, there came the sweetness of young grass after soft spring rain. A gentle glow came from inside the orb. She withdrew her hand and the scent and light faded.

    “I should let you destroy each other,” she said to herself. “Solve the problem. But you’d take the earth with you.” Her eyes narrowed in pain, and she wiped a palm across her forehead. She turned to leave.

    “Wait! But you’re…you’re an immortal. You can help me!”

    Chloe stopped. Her back to him, bent and frail, she said, “I’ve done all I can. I’m no immortal. Not anymore. It’s up to you.”

  50. To Accept What Cannot Change
    317 Words
    Character – Immortal sacrificing mortality for Love
    Them – Courage
    @mishmhem
    #Flashdogs

    I watch, I wait— but always it is the same.

    Acrid smoke surrounds me, clings to the back of my throat and I am neither safe, not burned. The flames consume everything and everyone until I am alone, for I alone cannot burn.

    My heart is like the tinder – dry and easy to ignite. I am the flame: you the moth. We have done this dance a million times, and each time I feel the fires burn.

    I want to want you, I want to be wanted, but something is always there to remind me that we cannot be. The fire is only a healer when it is guided and you refuse to decide. You say the choice is mine but I cannot let go.

    I hold on, afraid to leave, but you are always there for me, calling me… daring me. I wait, and each time the fire burns, I am drawn closer to the truth closer to you.

    Light, dark— you cannot have one without the other, but dark can not withstand light and light is swallowed by the dark. I wish I had the strength to believe but one look I know it has been there all along.

    The question is the answer, and I am the only one who can decide. You would have me stay, but I long to go where you go, I need to learn what you learn, and the only way that can happen is for me to stop being me… and become something far greater.

    Alone I am nothing. A vision of that which no one wishes to be seen: a secret in the dark. I am eternal, yet bound and that is no way to spend eternity.

    Give me permission to breathe the finite… and let go of this silly game. Ask, and I am yours for as long as my courage holds and we are free.

  51. “Death By Acme”
    by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
    Story Elements: Character (a humble gardener), Theme (good triumphs over evil)
    Word count: 305 words

    He appeared in my sights, steadily looming larger as the distance between us shrank. His manner, his stride exuded pure confidence. One might even say cockiness. Deservedly so. For he knew he would get what he wanted. He always did. Though my trusty shotgun lay by my side, I realized it would be useless against him. He was damned near immortal.

    Watching him approach, I got a sense of how Lee’s Army must have felt during the waning days of the War, retreating in fear as Sherman’s troops advanced, knowing there wasn’t a damn thing they could do.

    Looking at him, at his diminutive stature, I couldn’t help but wonder. How? How did he do it? How did he survive so many attempts on his life with nary a scratch, while those who opposed him fell like little yellow birds in a coal mine? His mere presence here meant the others had failed. And I realized that I was our last line of defense. I, a simple gardener, was all that stood between him and our food stores.

    He hopped over the fence with ease, and plucked a luscious Daucus Carota from the ground. He consumed it with a greedy gusto, before looking at me with animated eyes.

    “What’s u–”

    Click!

    Shotgun, handgun, rifle, knife, garrote, bear trap, dynamite, hole painted on the ground. It didn’t matter. No tactic, no weapon employed by those who had gone before me seemed capable of killing him.

    But that Acme Land Mine sure did the trick.

    After the smoke cleared, the air smelled of hasenpfeffer, a dish my master – the king – loved. Collecting the smoldering pieces of that wascally wabbit, I smiled and said, “Merle Fudd, you have managed to do something amazing. Something that Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, and your brother Elmer never could.”

  52. Homo Ultima
    314 words, @pmcolt
    character (humble gardener) and setting (beautiful forest)

    One final stroll through the garden. Solomon knew his would be the last footsteps to tread these grounds. And the beauty of this forest merited a last farewell. Once, a billion years ago, there were others. Humankind spread like a weed. Relentless and unstoppable, they subdued the Earth. But time waits not for man.

    Solomon followed the time-worn stone footpath along the creek to the clearing. He knew every sparrow, every blade of grass in this hundred acre nature preserve. Since time immemorial, since the Sun was yellow and the days were short, he had tended the plants and cared for the animals.

    High overhead, the immense red Sun hovered motionless, as it had for at least forty million years. The blue force barrier held in the atmosphere from the vacuum outside, shielded this Eden from the scorching Sun, and gave the appearance of a cloudless day.

    All the others passed beyond the barrier, into the vacuum beyond. Accident and grief claimed a victim every few millennia. Mostly, though, it was the ceaseless boredom of the passing eons that led them to trade the dullness of immortality for the serenity of the grave. Now there were none but he. Homo ultima. The final human.

    From bright blue, the barrier faded to dim indigo. No violent gale came: only a controlled release of atmosphere across the long-barren surface of the aged Earth. Birdsong faded away. The leaves of the mighty oak trees began to curl. The grass withered; flowers bowed to the inevitable.

    Solomon resolved that his death would not be like the others’. His would not be an act of despair or grief, but love. Not love for any individual, but love for the universe itself. As the barrier faded to black, the grotesque red Sun was joined by countless diamonds in the sky: stars unseen for ages.
    “We have been apart too long.”

  53. @GeoffHolme
    #FlashDogs
    Word Count: A pitiful 184 (started too late…)
    Character : an ordinary person tangled in epic events
    Setting: long road en route to a volcano

    An Excellent Adventure

    “…For we travel in search of an arcane blossom, the Volcano Orchid, a rare and delicate flower, the colour of lapis lazuli, which may be found only in the dark, enchanted forest of Eel-eye Jar Wood, which lies in the argentine mountains beyond the sacred valley which lies before us.”

    Sacred valley? Who are you trying to kid, Ron?

    You insolent cur! I begin to regret taking on someone of the lowly status of Bubo Baggage as my apprentice in this epic quest. Why do you address me thus, surly dog?

    Duh! Because it’s your real name? We’ve known each other since I found you concussed on the platform at King’s Cross Station.

    {You can’t…} The words you utter are false, deceitful! I am the mighty wizard, Sirian Makkellin, keeper of…”

    “Cut the crap, Ron! I’m taking the folding map of Muggle Earth, the scale model plaster figurines and the Dice of Destiny, and I’m going home.”

    “Why? We haven’t finished the game.”

    “Mum said I should be back in time for lunch; we’re having mac ‘n’ cheese. Besides, I’m bored of The Rhynx.”

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