Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 43

Howdoo, and welcome to Flash! Friday! So often on Fridays it feels like the past week was ridiculously amazing, and this week is no exception. So many hysterical Douglas Adams-inspired tales last Friday — what a romp. And then did you read the #Spotlight interview with editor/publisher/writer/speaker Lisa Crayton? Loved her solid tips on publishing, on diversity, and even on making writerly dreams come true. Read it if you haven’t already. Bookmark it so you can come back and read it again (I did!).

Last week also witnessed the launch of our first-ever episode of #Pyro. I really loved reading the story and so many helpful, specific thoughts on it. What a great forum for practicing critiques — and for learning to accept critiques in humility and good humor. 😀 We’re going to keep running the Saturday #Pyro challenge, so please email in your stories (flash pieces under 500 words), with a note that it’s for #Pyro, if you’re game for a shot at being critiqued. And thank you!

Last: hard to believe, but we’re just a couple months away from our annual #Flashversary contest (prizes! everybody put on your googly eyes!) and brand new judge panel. I’ll open up applications later on in October to serve in the first part of Year Four, so keep your eyes peeled! And you can read all about FF judging here. Thanks (in advance)! 

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DC2Speaking of starting fires, who better to judge today’s round than Dragon Team Six judge and last week’s champ Steph Ellis and her partner-in-flame Josh Bertetta. Glad to have y’all back; with Steph’s penchant for hints of mystery and darkness and Josh’s love for what’s simmering below the surface (and a bangup unexpected ending), we are in for an adventure, every last one of us! PS. However, if the adventure comes in the form of a moving, hungry forest, RUN.        

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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:  200 words +/- 5 (195 – 205 words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (min 195, max 205 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:

From Douglas Adams to… Shakespeare! And not just any Shakespeare, but the violent, tragic tale that is Macbeth, the story of the Scottish general whose ambitions, willingness to shed blood, and (even more ruthless) wife successfully achieve (albeit temporarily) the royal throne prophesied for him.

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 remember please do not use copyrighted characters). 

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific, even though pretty much all the women in this play DIE)
Character (choose at least one): an ambitious general, an overly ambitious wife, a soothsayer, a doomed king, a drunk porter
Theme (choose one): ambition, dangers of power, fate vs free will
Setting (choose one): a battlefield; a castle; a cavern; a mysterious forest 

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

Inverness Constabulary Dog Handlers.

Inverness Constabulary Dog Handlers, 1969. CC2.0 photo by Dave Conner.

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111 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 43

  1. Two Old Top Dogs of War
    Theme: the dangers of power
    Setting: a castle
    200 words, @pmcolt

    Swords drawn, armor polished, we face off across the manicured lawn. Two sovereigns who each would rule the world. Today that quest will end for one of us.

    From a ragtag band of savages, I built an empire. Armed with a machete, i hewed paths through dense jungles. I turned game trails through mythic woodland into cobblestone roads. Always on the move, searching, conquering.

    Move. Countermove. At every turn I find her waiting. My equal and opposite: if I am king, then she is my queen, and I her most reviled foe.

    The castle walls stand stout against the onslaught of her armies. With chisel and hammer I cut these stones, then mortared into place. These walls have served me well. Every day I sat upon a gilded throne, plotting to outflank her. Each night I payed tribute in her temple, then prayed that her ambitions would not spell my doom.

    In her eyes, I see something familiar. Fatigue. Despair. Like all great sins, our lust for power imprisons us. Today, thrust willy-nilly into battle, the quest will end for one of us. Swords drawn, we face off across the lawn. Two sovereigns who rule the world, but not ourselves.

  2. The Fog and Filthy Air

    Through the clanging of the iron,
    and the coming of the storm,
    Oh, the wailing and the crying
    of the forsaken and forlorn.
    Will you watch my kingdom crumble?
    Will you turn away in dread
    as we flail away and stumble
    o’re the bodies of the dead?
    Has your allegiance been discarded?
    Have you repulsed your pledge?
    Have I so easily been bartered,
    Driven to the bloody edge?
    Have you denied your precious King
    in hopes you might purloin the throne,
    paw at the treacherous brass ring
    as if it were a mangy buried bone?

    We have spent the long night waiting,
    battle ready, warriors poised and firm,
    soldiers silent, memories of lovers mating
    soothes the sorrow; keep the body warm.
    The morning mist scuttles overland
    disguised as the devil dogs of war;
    Howling, keen for the blood of man,
    settling an ancient blood-lust score.

    “My General,” I hear her scurrilous moan,
    “have you dispatched my redundant Lord?”
    He withdraws his blade from my mortal zone
    and says, “His blood is upon my sword.”
    “At last,” she cries, “I am my own Queen.
    and you will rule at my side.”
    “And I,” I gasp, “for all I’ve been,
    a King; a Cuckold, I am died.”

    205 acts of treachery
    @billmelaterplea
    Character(s): An ambitious General; an overly ambitious wife; a doomed King
    Setting: A Battlefield

  3. LONG LIVE THE KING

    * * *

    Brian S Creek
    199 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    Character – A doomed king
    Setting – A castle

    * * *

    I wish I’d stayed dead the first time.
    My reign had ended and the world was finished with me, yet I managed to buy more time.
    I could have spent it better.
    The sounds of distant battle threaten to flood the throne room. My people fight for me, fight for their flag. At least that’s what they think. I am as foolish now as I was then. Greed governs kingdoms, sheds blood, destroys lives. And I am the greediest King of all.
    I look back now and see clearly the flaws of my character. I see now that the second chance gifted to me only inflated my ego, tricked me into thoughts of invincibility and Godhood.
    The throne room doors open and he enters. He cares nothing for the war that rages on outside. No, his conflict is with me, and me alone. The shadowy figure approaching wants only one thing; the soul I promised him upon my first death.
    I stand, chin up, determined to have some dignity in my final moments. He steps forward, reaching out with aged hand, and slowly I feel something slowly tearing inside me.
    200 years to the day.
    Long lived the king.

  4. @Viking_Ma
    Ambitious wife
    A battlefield/mysterious forest
    (204)

    Plum PIe

    You can do it, Bob!
    But Gertie…
    When I said yes to you at that altar I said yes to a winner, Bob, not some weak snivelling loser.
    But Gertie…
    I’m telling you clear, Bob, get those plums or I’ll leave you and find a better man
    But Gertie…I can’t reach them.
    I Want Plum Pie.
    Gertie! They’re out of my reach
    Short arms. I should’ve listened to my mother. Useless.
    Why don’t you try and get them? If you’re so able.
    I would, if you’d get your sorry lump of bulk out of my way
    Bloody woman. Here’s your damned plums
    Oooh you evil swine. I’ll never get that purple out of my new hat band.
    Put that stick down woman!
    Always. Letting. Me. Down. I. HATE YOU
    Stop! Stop! Ouch Ow
    You’ll feel this stick in your ear
    NOOOOO!

    Bob?

    Wake up, Bob… I’m going to bake plum pie for dinner. It’s our favourite?
    Just like the one we had at our wedding feast, so golden and sticky; remember, darling?

    Oh Bob…you make me so angry, my love. You frustrate… why is there plum juice dripping from your nose? It’s staining your lovely silver whiskers.

    Oh Bob, what have I done?

  5. @KarenGr4y
    205 words
    Conflict: Men vs Thespians
    Theme: Fate vs Free will

    This is Theatre

    ‘Watch, Kate,’ her King said. ‘I want you to see.’

    Below, one of the actresses was on her knees crying — holding the hand of a headless corpse whose blood was soaking into her bright yellow skirts.

    The Elite laughed as a more senior guard lifted the severed head and inspected it with morbid curiosity, neither moved nor disturbed by the act.

    ‘You know him, Jones?’ one of the others called.

    Jones looked back toward the group, grinned and then held the head aloft. ‘Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well,’ he declared before he threw the head into the group of actors who scattered like a colourful flock of birds all shrieking in distress.

    Her master let out the odd wicked chuckle in response to chants of, ‘To be, or not to be?’ and ‘Is this a dagger I see before me?’ along with appropriate killing blows. Kate forced herself to watch as women were given the choice between poison or a blade, and commanded to act out suicide scenes from the famous plays as they ended their own lives.

    Her King leaned close raising her level of discomfort. ‘Now this is theatre, wouldn’t you say, Kate?’

    No, this is a massacre. ‘Yes… Your Majesty.’

  6. Drat. Could the amazing Dragon mistress please add a little space between this and is in my third last line please, I accidently deleted the space.
    Pretty please with a cherry on top, and whipped cream, and sprinkles?

  7. The Wyrd Sisters, Three

    “Come, new king, take a dram with us.” The wyrd sister’s chorus rings through the moonless night.

    The king advances up the hill, until there, in the firelight, he looms before the trinity.

    A sudden gale rages back down the hillside, screams of terror echo. Then, silence.

    “You came alone, then,” for alone he is now.

    “Damn you foul creatures!” the king rages.

    “Bubble, bubble.” The sister at the cauldron chants, “Bubble, bubble.”

    “Giant’s shadow, casts down the hillside,” the second sister points a crooked finger. “Yet, here, such a small man. Come, take some time away from your dogs of war.”

    “You summoned me and I came. Delay me not. The fate of my kingdom rests on my dagger.”

    “Feast of fire,” stirring the cauldron, “Feast of fire.”

    “Are we not part of your kingdom? New. King. Sir? Winter comes, fierce. We are hungry.”

    “Magic yourselves some meat, you infernal three.”

    “You would renege on your promise, sir?”

    The king draws his blade, and roars “I made no promise to a witch!”

    The third sister floats behind the raging king. Her sulphurous fumes engulf. All goes to black.

    “Gristle, gristle,” the cauldron keeper chants the next day, “Summon me no more regality.”

    203 words
    Conflict: man vs. man (woman)
    Character: a doomed king
    @feclarkart

  8. A man’s home is his castle
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    203 words
    Conflict and setting

    The mist hung over the vale with the tenacity of the skin on a cold rice pudding. Duncan reckoned he’d never seem such a miserable, murderous bunch in his life. His blood ran to ice in his veins. He wondered why he stayed in such a god forsaken place, but then where else would he go?

    ‘Yer might as well be away with yer,’ he called out with all the ferocity he could summon. ‘Yer no getting in.’

    The leader stepped out from the crowd. He was as round as he was tall. His nose shone like a beacon against the curtain of grey drizzle that was now adding its own foreboding melancholy to the wretched scene. ‘Come on Duncan, yer know it’s only a matter of time.’ His words were greeted by muffled murmurings of agreement.

    Duncan stood tall and defiant, one man against many, but this was his home and therefore his castle and no one was going to Lord it over him. ‘I dinna care, Cuthbert. This is my place, my rules.’

    Cuthbert turned to the others who shook their heads in disbelief. ‘Come on be reasonable man.’

    ‘I’ve told you before Cuthbert, my pub disnae open afore eleven o’clock.’

  9. @bex_spence
    Setting & character
    200 words

    That Scottish one….

    Another school play, another tragedy. Tim had been the school porter for over twenty years now. Watched the children, the teachers, watched them come and go, watched multiple variations of that play. That goddamn play.

    This one really took the biscuit though, a bunch of year elevens out in the forest. Lighting rigged to trees, the stage standing unevenly in the marshy ground. Rope cordoned off the area. The fog pulled in and Tim took a sip from his flask. The brandy ran warm through his blood. He felt his cheeks flush, and was glad of the soft cloak the fog formed. Glad of the vague disguise.

    He walked to the stage, listened to the kids on stage, budding actors, booming voices. He sipped once more, recapped his flask and shouted up to them ‘Hey, Macbeth’.

    The boy turned, looked down from his podium. ‘Shut up, don’t say that, you’ll ruin it. Don’t you know?’
    Tim smiled, they were always like this, always the same. ‘Ten minutes, then we let the audience through’

    Walking away he turned to his flask. A crack and a scream, another fall. It was the same each year he sipped his drink and kept walking.

  10. Alliances
    204 Words
    Character and Theme

    “You know what to say?”
    He shrank beneath her stare, blinking up through thick glasses and managing a nod.
    “Are you sure?”
    Lensed eyes bulged bullfrog wide. “Sure.”
    She studied him a moment longer. “It’s all about being on the winning side,” she said. “You need to make sure our colours are pinned to the right mast.”
    He’d heard it a lot.
    She took a slow breath. “God, I wish I could do this myself. Do you need telling again just how much we have to lose?”
    She licked a finger and smoothed one of his eyebrows.
    Two O’clock. It was time to do it.
    He pushed to his feet, feeling the weight of the chain around his shoulders more than ever and heaving against the heavy oak doors to the chamber. She found her seat in the public gallery, never taking her eyes from him.
    The Clerk read through the minutes of the previous meeting. Apologies for absence were heard.
    She willed them on. Minute by tooth-grinding minute, until –
    “Item number two hundred and twenty six. The Mayor’s Award for the Best Kept Garden in the Village.”
    She felt her stomach tighten and, despite trying not to, edged forward in her seat.

  11. @AvLaidlaw
    195 Words
    Character – Ambitious General
    Theme – Fate vs Free Will

    The General and the Sea

    The wind lacerates the grey skies as I trudge along the beach, the salt in the spindrift scourging the blood on my hands.

    Among the flotsam of the broken ships lies another corpse, pale, bleached of life, its fingers clawed for the final despairing fight. A chill pierces deep into my flesh as I remember the boy’s face laughing in the firelight with his friends last night. Now the ivory visage is one of ten thousand masks left discarded on the shingle, the actor long departed from the stage.

    They gave us an Earth to conquer. Those shadow-touched oracles handed us the Earth. And so my army followed me, me in sun-dazzled armour, under standards billowing with the breath of glory. All my bonnie boys marching to war with the pride of their fathers and the kiss of their lovers on their virgin cheeks. How could we stop when we reached the ends of the Earth?

    The waves break over the shore and rattle the shingle like bones. I trudge on to the next corpse with feeble hope that I will see anything other than death.

    The oceans are ceaseless and not bound by fate.

  12. [b]Title: Progress[/b]
    Word Count = 200
    Conflict: (wo)man v (wo)man
    Character: an overly ambitious wife
    Setting: a cavern

    The old static caravan is being eaten away by mold. Large greeny blue patches cover the once white outside. Any closer and Melanie would be able to smell the stink. “Have they not moved yet? Is the million not enough?”
    Donald shook his head.
    “Then get the boys up to bring that disgusting hovel down tonight.”
    “I wouldn’t. The locals say – ”
    “The locals say they are witches. They are nothing of the sort. They are three mouthy crows who don’t like progress. Who are happy to watch their community die because we aren’t offering the right kind of jobs. So get rid of them. Tonight!” She stormed off to her Land Rover. Mud fills the tire tread and speckled the paint work. It had been clean this morning. The Land Rover roars into life scattering the wildlife.
    Mist turns the world into two tones of grey, cloud and tarmac. She hates the country and its people. Try to do something nice, to help and all they do is hate you. She misses the city, her city and all the life that is there.
    A flesh of brown, brakes screech, metal on stag, antlers on window, into window, into her.

  13. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 201
    Story Elements: Character (overly ambitious wife)/Theme (ambition)

    Priorities

    The coins fall through my fingers like glinting rain, the smooth clinks salve for the fractured slices of my conscience.

    “How long?” he asks.

    The last coin glances off the edge of the chest.

    “Since the beginning.”

    His silence settles a steel blanket across my back. I stretch a hand toward him, false comfort in my touch.

    He doesn’t move. “It was never me.”

    “No.” The word is rusty, jagged with guilt. It coppers my insides, layering the vows I’d spoken so long ago. “It was never you.”

    His mouth is granite, a mere slit through which my escape wisps after twenty-three years of fake platitudes. “Then go.”

    He’s gone, an ephemeral ghost of the life I might have had… but I chose otherwise.

    I kneel again before my idol, caressing the scepter of my ambitions. My desire had only ever been for riches, and on this altar of coins, I have sacrificed love, family, contentment.

    The box scrapes across the floor, heavy with the weight of betrayal. I heft it into my arms and stagger from the room. Some people worship gods of love and protection. Me? I genuflect on the altar of wealth.

  14. @AvLaidlaw
    205 Words
    Conflict – Woman vs Woman
    Theme – Ambition

    And The Award Goes To…

    Now Mary Postlethwaite would not cast aspersions against Agnes Wicklow even if the local kids did call her a witch. But you had to admit a faint whiff of sulphur about how every year Agnes won the Village Show’s ribbon for plumpest chicken.

    Really, plumpest chicken! You wouldn’t think feckless Agnes had the wherewithal to raise the scrawniest squab. But not this year. Oh no. This year the ribbon was going to a decent, God-fearing woman.

    Mary fed her girls – a dozen fine Dorkings – grain and potato and bacon fat and anything else fattening. The girls ate it up, growing plumper and pumper until they couldn’t walk but only loll around in their coop. Whenever Mary saw Agnes, she smiled a thin smile and asked “so how are your chicks doing?”

    On the morning of the village show, Mary was so excited that she rushed out of the house still in her nightdress, flashing her ankles to all and sundry.

    And stopped dead outside the coop.

    A suspiciously fox shaped hole in the fence. The coop door flapping open although she locked it religiously every night. A cloud of silver feathers floating in the breeze.

    All her pretty chickens! At one fell swoop!

  15. For Everything an Appointed Time

    “Hamish!”

    “Dougal, come in. You’ll have had your tea.”

    
“Aye. Well, no. A wee dram wid be guid though.”

    “Och, and I just finished the last. Here hae a glass of water.”

    “Aye. Your hospitality’s unparalleled, as ever.”

    “Kind of ye to say so, Dougal. Now, whit brings you oot at this hour?”


    “Did you no hear the rammie frae the castle?”

    “I heard nothing, practicing the pipes.”

    “Are ye sure ye dinnae hae a wee nip o’ the uisge beatha? I’m sair fecht and it’s a nasty tale to tell. Is that no a bottle keekin’ oot from ahent yon family bible.”

    
“Whit? Oh. Aye. Here, let me get ye a thimble, and just tell me your haverings.”

    “Ye may be playing the pipes in the morn. But it’ll be a sad lament. The Laird’s deed.”


    “Whit?”

    
“Aye. Dodo deed.”

    “How?”

    “It wis the evil witch-“

    “I didnae ken his mither-in-law wis here!”

    “No, not her, the forest hag. She killed him stone deed.”

    “But why?”


    “Here, let me do the whisky, your hands frozen and it’s not pouring.”

    “It’s pouring fine. Now tell.”

    “It wis something tae dae wi’ a prophecy aboot herbs.”

    “Oh?”

    “ Aye, it wis his thyme.”

    203 words
    Elements: Character – Soothsayer & Drunk Porter; Setting – Castle.
    @clivetern

    nb* – see below for a non colloquial version:

    “Hamish!”
    “Dougal, come in. You’ll have had your tea.”
“Yes. Well, no. A wee dram would be good though.”
    “Oh, and I just finished the last. Here have a glass of water.”
    “Thanks. Your hospitality’s unparalleled, as ever.”
    “Kind of you to say so, Dougal. Now, what brings you out at this hour?”
“Did you hear the ructions from the castle?”
    “I heard nothing, I’ve been practicing the bagpipes.”
    “Are you sure you don’t have a small drink of whisky? I’m tired and it’s a nasty tale to tell. Is that a bottle behind your family bible.”
“What? Oh. yes. Here, let me get a small glass, and you tell me the news.”
    “You may be playing the pipes in the morning. But it’ll be a sad lament. The Lord’s dead.”
“What?”
“Yes. Dead as a dodo.
    “How?”
    “It was the evil witch-“
    “I didn’t know his mother-in-law was here!”
    “No, not her, the witch who lives in the forest. She killed him stone dead.”
    “But why?”
“Here, let me do the whisky, your hands frozen and it’s not pouring.”
    “It’s pouring fine. Now tell.”
    “It was something to do with a prophecy about herbs.”
    “ Oh?’
    “ Yes, it was his thyme.”

  16. May I replace the earlier version with this, please?

    All in the Head
    (197 words)
    battlefield, man versus man.

    Noise. White. Then pain- I haven’t talked right since.
    The other men who fight, they know I’m not the same. But the scars can’t be seen by the medical man; they’re hidden in the place where thoughts are made, so I stay here in this forgotten hell. Killing. A killer.
    I can’t find the right words for what I want to say. I know I am a person who fights for a land, for a people. But right now, I can’t tell you the name for that.
    I don’t know if I want to go back, anyway.
    What would I call my girl, if I can’t remember her name?
    I used to be quite good with the talk. I was quick, made the other men laugh. Not now, now, it takes me forever just to tell them I’m taking a … piss.
    They joke, say I can’t be the man who looks out to see what’s coming. They say we’d all be dead by the time I gave them the word. That’s funny, since I use so many words.
    So I’m staying here trying to make sense; in this stained place, where the outsides turn the colour of men’s insides.

  17. Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble
    By: Allison K. Garcia, 205 words, Character and Setting, @ATheWriter

    Dry leaves crunched under my feet. The air was still, thick with fog. One sliver of moon illumined our path.
    “The forest is very quiet.” Fear choked my words.
    Her wild, white hair shone in the dim moonlight, one jagged tooth stuck out as she grinned. “Soon, one long-awaited will arrive.”
    The ingredients had been gathered, the process near completion. We stepped up to the broken-down cottage, smoke rising from holes in the roof. We knocked. Paused. And knocked twice more.
    Someone cracked open the door. One blood-shot eye squinted at us and nodded us in.
    Cane tapping on the wooden floor, she hobbled to the table and peered at the liquid. “It is ready,” she croaked.
    I let out a slow, silent stream of air. Soon all our problems would be resolved. Just this once and life could return to normal. Then I would never have to see these people again.
    A sharp pain. Fire rushed through my body. Everything went black.
    When I awoke, I was alone and everything I had worked for was gone.
    Someone banged on the door. “Police!”
    A trap. And I fell right into it.
    It wasn’t simple, safe like on TV… No, I got 10 years. Manufacturing methamphetamines.

  18. I’d Like to Thank the Academy
    205 words
    overly ambitious wife/ambition
    @terry_jenn

    “You didn’t thank me.”
    “Huh?”
    “Tonight, when you accepted your award…you forgot to mention me…”
    “Oh my…you’re right…”
    “It’s all over Twitter…that and speculation about how much plastic surgery I’ve gotten…”
    “Babe…I’m so sorry…”
    “Every member of the Academy that I abhor that I spent hours with, campaigning for you..every audition I helped you prepare for…every script I read…every year I put off starting my career…and you don’t mention me in the greatest moment of your career…you thanked the craft services people for goodness sake…do you know how humiliating this is?!”
    “Honey, what can I do to make this right? I’ll do anything?”
    “I want Cleopatra.”
    “What?! The role is already cast. It’s been cast for months!”
    “Un-cast it. You’re directing and producing. I want it. It’s my time now.”
    He sighed deeply. She knew what he was thinking. She wasn’t the right look, age, or a bankable name. But he’d do it. He had no choice. She was the brains of this operation. He slid across the backseat and kissed her forehead.
    “I’ll make it happen. I promise.”
    She squeezed his hand. “Thank you, my love.”
    Of course he’d forgotten she’d written his acceptance speech.

  19. Love and War
    @voimaoy
    200 words
    fate v. free will
    ambitious general/soothsayer

    I was born with moonstones for eyes, my fate to see the futures. I have predicted battles and glory. Worlds have fallen at his feet. Isn’t he the greatest warrior of our people? Why does he question me now?

    He wants to know what to make of this world of waters and forests–and its emissary with alien eyes, a woman who speaks of peace.

    “Should I marry her or kill her,” he asks over blood wine.

    One choice leads to conquest, the other to alliance. I see uncertainty.

    “Do you love her?”

    “Is that part of your equations? She is lovely and persuasive.”

    He looks at me as one would look at a faithful dog. He forgets that I have teeth and claws. I see no further need of me.

    “The choice is yours, my general.”

    “Ha! What general would I be without you.”

    His words stroke my feelings, and for a moment there is peace between us. But I see it must not be.

    “You should go to her, and speak of these things.”

    “Ha! Are you saying I’m free?”

    “Are any of us free?”

    I consider a fate not fixed, but fluid. The future a moving wave.

  20. Grain Will Grow
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    200 words
    man vs. man, soothsayer & doomed king characters, ambition/fate vs. free will, castle & forest settings

    Prince Vildis was born on a night of lightning and wildfire. The soothsayer drawing his star-chart watched from the castle windows as oaks and broom burned in the surrounding forest. She whispered, “Stars, hide your fires. Let no light see my black and deep desires.” Aloud, she said, “If he lives, this child will bring death and ruin to his family.”

    The stars did not lie.

    The King handed Vildis to the soothsayer. “Kill him quietly, my sister.” He had always relied on her for his dirtiest work. With three sons already, he did not rue the loss of this fourth.

    Fool, thought the soothsayer as she took Vildis into the night. You cannot escape what the stars ordain.

    The soothsayer knew better. She had been a cursed child, too, cursed to lose a queendom to the preferred male heir.

    Curses burned lives as wildfire burned trees, leaving black scars.

    She took the babe to her cottage, picking through blackened trees and ashen air. “Here, my nephew, my boy.” She set Vildis beside her alembic. “Here I will teach you all I know of plants and poison. Here you will learn how to bring down my brother and avenge me.”

  21. The Love Ballad of Carbon 14

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

    The cross was made of metal and gleamed like a million silver cross-hairs aimed at the heart of the desert sun. The man left to rust had carried the cross more than a hundred miles; his form scored with dents as he wore a crown of an electromagnetic field.

    There was a huge crowd. It was a globally televised event.”The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Someone held a sign that said. They were immediately shot with gun control laws that did not exist. There was no protection from nonexistent laws.

    He had talked about how we were all connected whether machine or man, that we all had the spark of the divine and that we all contained Carbon 14; he had started a cult of love and peace.

    Nails shot through palms as electric tear light dripped from the strict manicure of his eyes. “We are made of the stuff of stars!” He exclaimed. He was raised on the cross. Practically born there. A sky of faith to inherit.

    When he died all the phones took pictures simultaneously sounding like a large machine turning away with a dusty chant.

    Then they went to commercial.

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

    (205 words)
    A doomed king/the dangers of power

  22. By Any Other Name, Thou Art Still a Cheater
    @hollygeely
    203 words
    Elements: conflict (man vs. man, in the most literal sense), setting: a castle

    JERRY enters. He’s wearing ridiculous puffy shorts and one of those frilly neck things. He holds a plastic sword. Behind him is MARK, who looks tired and disheveled.

    JERRY: Hark! A sound, from yonder puce-coloured castle!

    MARK: That’s my house, Jerry.

    JERRY: Call mine Shakespearean name, good Cheerio!

    MARK: It’s not Shakespearean. You’re insulting Italian names.

    JERRY: Ah, Good Cheerio; good you are not; nay, you do philander. So sayeth these photographs. Call me Honeycombio.

    MARK – er – CHEERIO is upset.

    CHEERIO: I’ll pay for the photos. I’m not playing your stupid game.

    HONYCOMBIO: Ah, a light! Could it be the object of my affection?

    SARAH walks onto the balcony above.

    SARAH: My castle is so lonely without the company of my beloved Honycombio!

    HONYCOMBIO: Oatmealio, look to me below!

    CHEERIO, MARK, WHATEVER: That’s my wife! You’re having an affair with my wife!

    HONYCOMBIO: The lesson learned is one of truth, perhaps also of sorrow; if you cheat upon your spouse, their faithfulness I’ll borrow.

    HONYCOMBIO climbs up, takes SARAH/OATMEALIO in his arms, and goes inside.

    MARK: This night has been revealing and most of it appalls; I’ll rhyme the way I feel, and end this by saying “Balls!”

    The curtain drops.
    THE END

  23. Death Always Catches You By Surprise
    @doctorentropy2
    200 Words
    Elements: Soothsayer, Fate vs Free Will, A Castle

    Ed sat uncomfortably in an orange plastic chair as the technician slid two pieces of white paper across the table.

    “The one on the left is the when, and the one on the right is the how.”

    He opened the left one first. It simply read ‘3.8.25.’

    “Nobody except for you knows your results. Don’t share them with anybody else.”

    His wife found him later that night in the backyard. He was hiding in the bouncy castle for tomorrow’s birthday party.

    “Did you get it done?”

    “Yep.”

    “So what did it say?”

    “You know what it said.”

    For a moment, the pair just stared at each other. For the first time in many years, they really felt a connection.

    “You shouldn’t have come home, Ed.”

    “I didn’t have a choice. There’s no escaping your fate.”

    The fight over whether the technology violated the basic tenets of the human experience would rage on for many years. Most viewed it as unnatural. For Ed, knowing, not knowing, it didn’t really matter. Even when it’s expected, death always catches you by surprise.

    Ed’s final words to her were, “I knew it would be you, even before I looked at the results.”

    • Quite nice. It seems you’ve written a character who almost wishes to be out of the life that is burdened with a loveless marriage.

    • This is a fascinating concept and almost too big for a flash story. There’s a good short story here at least.
      You’ve done well to deliver it with such a tight word count, although on the first read, I would have removed the exposition paragraph (the fight over technology..), now I’ve read it a couple of times I can’t see how you would manage without it.
      Interesting! If you develop this one further, please let me know.

  24. @betsystreeter
    203 Words
    Themes: I’ll be honest, I really struggle with these prompts. I always write my way away from the story elements, and so I’m pretty sure I never write anything that qualifies. You could say this is man v man plus ambition, I suppose. I just try to use this as an exercise to write something people will be intrigued by or enjoy, since I never do seem to get it “right” with regard to the requirements.

    Lady M

    The queen kneels at center stage.

    The Doctor and the Gentlewoman cower in the wings, mute, their lines forgotten.

    Hands scraping together, the only sound to disturb the air until the queen speaks, almost to herself: “Who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him.”

    The audience, flash-frozen in their seats, fix their every eye on the hunched figure encircled by a lone spotlight, her matted wet and bloody hair covering her face, strands of it pulsing in and out as she breathes.

    This is the end. The stage a cliff, the edge of an abyss. This fiction, this fourth wall, annihilated before hundreds of oblivious faces. The show is over.

    The queen turns, her burning eyes find the Doctor in the wings. “Go to, go to, you have known what you should not.” Her mouth twists into a grin.

    Without looking she gropes with her left hand, finding the bag there. She heaves it aloft and holds it high, heavy, soaked with blood. What was a prop for a later scene, now a person and a drama collapsing in on itself into this final moment.

    Backstage a body lies amongst black curtains and coiled ropes, headless.

  25. Reblogged this on Chica Creativa and commented:
    Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble
    By: Allison K. Garcia, 205 words, Character and Setting, @ATheWriter

    Dry leaves crunched under my feet. The air was still, thick with fog. One sliver of moon illumined our path.
    “The forest is very quiet.” Fear choked my words.
    Her wild, white hair shone in the dim moonlight, one jagged tooth stuck out as she grinned. “Soon, one long-awaited will arrive.”
    The ingredients had been gathered, the process near completion. We stepped up to the broken-down cottage, smoke rising from holes in the roof. We knocked. Paused. And knocked twice more.
    Someone cracked open the door. One blood-shot eye squinted at us and nodded us in.
    Cane tapping on the wooden floor, she hobbled to the table and peered at the liquid. “It is ready,” she croaked.
    I let out a slow, silent stream of air. Soon all our problems would be resolved. Just this once and life could return to normal. Then I would never have to see these people again.
    A sharp pain. Fire rushed through my body. Everything went black.
    When I awoke, I was alone and everything I had worked for was gone.
    Someone banged on the door. “Police!”
    A trap. And I fell right into it.
    It wasn’t simple, safe like on TV… No, I got 10 years. Manufacturing methamphetamines.

  26. @KarenGr4y
    Conflict: Man vs man
    Character: a doomed king
    Setting: a castle
    204 little words of Scottish history. The real story behind the famous play.

    Title: Dawn of the Red King

    Laird Mac Fhionnlaigh paced — his world in turmoil. ‘What threat do I possess, Gruoch?’

    ‘None, my love.’

    ‘Then why? My cousin has surely gone mad, for his actions are not of his right mind.’

    ‘He thinks you want his throne.’

    ‘Nay, wife. I doona.’

    ‘Well, he, is certain you do.’

    Nay. I want only to support him.’

    Gruoch placed her hand on his cheek, ‘He seeks to destroy you, husband.’

    Lughlagh sat sullen by the window watching the smoke rise from fires set by their would-be murderers.

    Laird Mac Fhionnlaigh looked from his son to his wife and resigned himself to the path that fate had presented him. ‘My cousin leaves me no choice. It shall come to blows before he passes Bothnagowan; and it will not be I who is laid low.’

    ‘Your victory is assured, my love, for you command all his army. They will rejoice and name you King.’

    ‘Aye, though the title be won by blood.’

    ‘Then you shall be the Rí Deircc. And remembered for years to come.’

    He gave her a weak smile and a smart nod. He didn’t want this. Turning, he strode for the door.

    ‘Fight well, Macbeth,’ Gruoch called after him. ‘And return a King.’

      • Thanks very much. I always did prefer the history to the fiction.

        Duncan was much younger when he died than he was in the play. He became paranoid about his cousin Macbeth who at the time was the power behind the throne. He feared Macbeth wanted the crown for himself. He had already tried to have him poisoned and when that didn’t work he attacked him at his home in Moray.

        Macbeth killed Duncan in battle at Bothnagowan and was dubbed “Rí Deircc” – the Red King. Bothnagowan (no longer named) is just down from Elgin, and is where King Duncan was apparently buried. Little bit of history for you. I find it fascinating and I’m so pleased you like my little fictionalised snapshot 🙂

  27. Joint Accounts

    @making_fiction

    Conflict: Man vs man. Theme: Fate vs Free will

    205 words

     

    Before they were born, their fates were decided.

    A life to be spent together. Trying to be apart.

    Muffled groans, shuffled movements, the sour taste of embryonic liquid confinement. At this stage they were already reliant on each other—already competing for shared attention.

    When one became two, they were forever the same, destined to be something less than themselves.

    Behold the joyous wonder of all who see them. How beloved and blessed they are.

    For the beauty of the double cot, the double buggy, the identical dresses, pretty silken hair ribbons. Joint birthday cakes, always with the same number of candles, same day, same friends. Shared wishes through closed eyes before joint breath extinguishes them.

    Nether will ever admit what they wished for.

    And when they have had enough, when they require a moment of freedom, a silent scream of rebellion, “Were is your twin sister?” they are asked.

    And when one changes, the other follows suit. For to be too different for too long is painful. It is the rusty amputation of healthy limbs.

    They like the same boys, who only seem interested in cheating on one with the other.

    It is easier to be alone.

    But they can never be truly alone.

  28. 198 words
    @jujitsuelf

    character – doomed king, setting – castle (tower)

    A Lonely King

    Howls echoed across the battlefield, followed by the harsh screams of dying men. It was time.

    High in his tower, the king wet his lips as the brave blue line of his infantry wavered, parted and broke. A flicker of bright flame rose and fell, sparing none, slicing through armour and flesh with cold indifference. Only one being wielded a sword like that.

    The stone windowsill was rough and familiar beneath the king’s trembling hands. How often he had stared out at this very view, doomed to wait alone until a worthy consort came to liberate him. Legends told that a princess had been imprisoned there once, a girl with abnormally long hair and a dream of being rescued by a handsome prince. The king snorted. Handsome princes did not exist and kings could be usurped by their treacherous advisors.

    “My Lord!” a voice like a thousand shrieking gulls hailed him. “Are you weary of your lonely prison?”

    Yes, he was. But could he bear the price of freedom? Could he stand alongside she who wielded that terrible bright sword?

    A glance around his hated room hardened his resolve.

    “Come up, my Lady,” he called. “I am ready.”

  29. Observations and Wishes
    Word Count: 205
    Character: An ambitious general
    Setting: A battlefield
    [No Twitter Handle]

    There are no battlefields anymore; you call them battlespaces, encompassing the Heavens and all beneath it.
    And you have no sons and daughters in the fight, you have boots on the ground. As though automatons tread towards their doom with neither hope nor fear.
    You still have generals, though. Those ambitious men (mostly still) writing their fame with the blood of children;
    Youths made the red mist of memory at a 2,000 meter slant range.
    You’ll win. It’s hard to hold a weapon when your cradling your lifeless child.
    And when the conflict, or campaign, or action (don’t ever call it slaughter) ceases,
    Medals for all! Especially those great generals, fearless before the danger of eyestrain or paper cut.
    Best selling memoirs to write, listing leadership principles but omitting details about those once led,
    Now cut free to wander from hospital, to street, and back again.
    The war itself relegated to discussion boards filled with battle porn and arguments over obscure weapons nomenclature.
    The general — wouldn’t he make a great CEO? Perhaps a greater President? Politics is war, Clausewitz counseled. Rally all to the patriotic banner; be merciless to the enemy.
    I hope he hears the screams of my child when he’s alone at night.

  30. Words: 202
    Chosen: Character (doomed king), Theme (fate vs free will)
    @CarinMarais

    One Last Battle

    The soothsayer had been right all along, the king thought and watched as the dragon died. He felt his own lifeblood drain from him; watched as both dragon and human blood seeped into the scorched soil. It would not be long now. His knees buckled and he fell on the red battlefield with his stained and broken blade next to him. One doom he’d swore would not come true was to die with the wretched thing in his hands. He would die released from bloodshed and the curse haunting him his entire life.

    No funeral pyre would be made for the king – the soothsayer had foretold that the king would rise again when the time came and the kingdom was about to fall into ruin. Dirges floated up into the sky instead of pyre smoke, mingled with the prayers of those who now saw the truth of the soothsayer’s words and knew that a new war was upon them.

    The young queen cried and folded the king’s cold hand around the hilt of a new sword. Outside they handed the soothsayer a drink laced with sleep poison. Someone had to guard the king. Someone had to wake him when the time came.

  31. Camelot Falls 

    He didn’t sleep much anymore; an hour on the jet, another in the limo, then another scotch and a handful of pep pills to keep him on his feet for another round of dead-eyed handshakes and kissing babies. 

    Kissing ass. 

    He stood at the window, watching the sun rise over the city, scanning the windows of the towers opposite, looking for some sign of movement. They were out there somewhere, counting down to the day and the hour and the minute, just as it had been foretold. 

    This day.

    He drained his glass, crunched an ice cube between his teeth, thought again and again and again of how he might get out, but to no avail. He was no more the master of this ship than the faceless assassin. He’d had a good run, saved the world and slept with the most beautiful woman in it, given his people something to believe in. Hell, he’d promised them the moon. 

    And it all came down to this; The most powerful man in the world, standing in his underwear, getting drunk and watching the Dallas dawn. 

    The Secret Service man knocked softly on the hotel room door. 

    “The car’s ready, Mister President.” 

    He smiled.

    Poured another drink. 

    205 words
    A doomed king / fate or free will
    @Karl_A_Russell

  32. Words:200
    Chosen: Character (soothsayer), Theme (fate vs free will)
    @CarinMarais

    The Cup Before Me

    I see a cup before me filled with blood red wine, sweetened with sleep poison. In the end I would be the one chosen to guard the king’s tomb for an eternity. I who knew of his death at the claws and fire of a dragon the day he was born. I who warned him when he turned into a man. I who knew that this day, too, would come. I who knew that life for me would mean an age locked inside a tomb with a king sleeping in his death-bower on a bed of gold.
    As fate had foretold herself, as is already woven into the tapestry of all things, I take the wine and drink it.
    The queen looks on with red-rimmed eyes as I am led inside the tomb with its countless riches. They have prepared a seat for me next to my king. I would watch him for an age filled with wars and winters and weeping until the world could take no more. Until the earth itself cried out as it was drenched in blood. Only then would I wake the king.
    I who knew that this was my fate all along.

  33. Search Engine History
    (198 words @elaine173marie
    Man versus man/ Ambitious wife)

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    The Art of the Apology.
    Stain Remover- Helpful Tips.

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    When the Workplace becomes a Battlefield.
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    Forecasts.

  34. Phantom Queens

    “Choose, Macha!” Nemain said, clipped. “Before they go bad; if you want one.” Her dark eyes surveyed the littered field of staring sightless, swarmed by crows.

    “She does,” Badh replied. “At least, I think so. It’s hard to tell.” Her dishevelled hair hid her expression.

    “For you,” her sister said. “Quiet. I’m thinking.”

    Badh hmphed.

    “That one.” Macha pointed a stained nail. “I’ll crown him ‘n be done.” Crouching, long hair touching the floor, she dipped her fingers into a soldier’s breast cavity, smearing her hands with blood. Turning to the other corpse, she began daubing across his forehead.

    “You know he won’t last,” Nemain said.

    “It’ll give you something t’do, then, won’t it?” Macha looked up briefly.

    “Soon, I’d reckon. You never pick the freshest,” Nemain added.

    “He’s a kingly aspect,” Macha said, eyes distant.

    “Which one is he?” Badh asked. “I’ve lost track.”

    “No matter,” Nemain responded. “Your job’s done now. I’ll yell when we need you.”

    “Won’t you just?” Badh said, expression kindling, then subsiding.

    “He’s stirring,” Nemain observed, rolling her eyes, before turning to her other sister. “Let’s away.” She paused. “New body will be needed shortly. We’ll wage war for it. Call bodies to us. Survival soon dictates our choices.”

    @FallIntoFiction

    Character: a doomed king
    Setting: a battlefield

  35. “Events Triggered”
    by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
    Story Elements: Conflict; Character (which one is a surprise)
    Word count: 205

    It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Of course, when naïveté and firearms are thrown together, things rarely go as planned.

    For years, my husband begged me to come along on a hunting trip, despite my professed incompetence – no, clumsiness – with guns. Finally I tired of the badgering and relented.

    He decided I should learn “in the field,” rather than on a shooting range. He tried to coach me, to reassure me. But my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. The second I pulled the trigger, we both realized this whole thing had been one big mistake.

    Screaming for help was no use. Couldn’t call 911, either. Zero bars.

    Then the other hunter stumbled upon us. He saw my husband lying there, bleeding. “Let me get help,” he said, pulling out a satellite phone. The bullet between his eyes made me a double murderer. I hated taking an innocent, but he would have ruined my plan, my perfect plan. I should be living the life of a rich widow now. No, it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

    “Does the condemned have any other last words?” the warden asked.

    “Yes,” I said. “Please tell your executioners to hit my heart. Quick deaths are so much more humane.”

  36. The Proposal
    Evan Montegarde

    Character: An ambitious General
    Setting: A mysterious forest
    202 words

    No army had ever traversed the dark, inky depths of the Foraois Dhraíochta. Within lay the Realm of the Fay and madness drove even the best disciplined knight to flee if escape was to be their luck.

    I walked straight in, my sword left behind sheathed upon my horse; no mortal weapon would be of use.

    The massive ancient trees enveloped me and the bright noon sun became a trickle of lonely golden light.

    “Who goes upon my way?” The wind through the trees echoed.

    “I, King Edward does so, looking for you.”

    Then she was there before me, a beauty in the most enchanting and feral manner possible; leaves upon her long golden tresses and vines encircling her tight verdant gown. She was the spirit of the forest.

    “And why should I let you pass?”

    “Because I hold the power of the axe and saw madam and I will chop this wood to stumps by daybreak if need be. But I have a question for you?

    “Yes?”

    Dropping to one knee I said, “Will you marry me?”

    The wind in the forest abruptly stopped. Her incandescent smile told me I’d live to see our unearthly children reign supreme upon two worlds.

  37. Our King in the North
    A.J. Walker

    Jeremy looked down at the man by his feet, he appeared to be rubbing his eyes in vain attempt to find himself somewhere else. He evidently caught sight of Jeremy; for he spoke.

    “Hello my man. I’m not sure what’s happened. I remember a pub, meeting the man with the tickets. I was quite happy about that then… well it’s a bit of a blur.”

    Jeremy nodded. “Och aye Jimmy. Always the same.”

    “It’s King, Mark King.” said Mark.

    “Pleasure sire.”

    “So where’s the rave then?” Mark said, proffering his ticket.

    “Difficult font to read. Especially in this light.”

    Mark peered into the gloom. “Yes, it is dark. What is this place?”

    “This is a cavern. Tends to be dark. All the time.”

    “Ah!”

    “Ah indeed. Now back to this font. Can you see the long curl of this here?” He pointed to the ticket.

    Mark nodded. “Yes, very pretty.”

    “That too. But mainly it’s a ‘G’ sire. In front of the rave bit. You get my drift? You appear to have today’s lucky ticket.”

    Mark scratched his head, noticing a distinct lack of music and lightheartedness.

    “Not sure about this humour, it’s my first time up north.”

    “I think you’ll find it’s your last.”

    ——

    @zevonesque
    #FlashDogs

    Character: a doomed King
    Setting: a cavern

  38. @firdausp
    (205 words)
    Men will be men

    The train came to a stop on some obscure station, not a regular stop.
    ‘Her chance!’
    It was three in the morning. A cold wintry wind blew in as she opened the door of the carriage. The suitcase was heavy.
    ‘Fatso!’
    She climbed down onto the platform with the suitcase. She would have left it right there when she saw a porter coming towards her. He was drunk.
    ‘Just the man’
    “Bhaiyya, take this suitcase to the exit, I’ll follow with my other luggage,” she slapped a five hundred rupee note in his hand.
    “Yes madam,” he slurred, delighted at the over payment. Picking up the suitcase, he staggered to the exit.
    She climbed back into the train.
    ‘Rich, fat husband taken care of.’
    She smiled then noticed a fellow passenger near the door looking at her, puzzled.
    “You left your suitcase at the station?” He said as the train began to move.
    He eyed the red streak on the floor.
    ‘Damn! The plastic bag must have leaked.’
    “You mind if I smoke?” Her eyes dark midnight pools, face a beautiful, innocent mask.
    Five minutes later she came back to her berth wiping her mouth.
    ‘Bad breath, ughh. Though he did fly well. Aah men!’

    Man vs woman
    Ambitious wife/ drunk porter

  39. Your Future in a Soup
    A.J. Walker

    Queen Eurwen was the dog’s doo-dahs (according to Eurwen), but she still occasionally needed reassurance which was why she found herself at the old crone’s house on the outskirts of nowhere (or a little bit beyond it).

    “So soothsayer I have passed you the things you’ve asked for including the gold of course. What can you tell me of my King’s future?”

    The crone smiled. “He has a long and illustrious future on the throne. He wins many battles and the kingdom becomes larger and more glorious than ever before. He is a good king.”

    Eurwen smiled. “Good. And what of me? How many children do we have?” She wanted to ask how many shoes, but that could wait.

    “The King has many sons my Queen and he is happy with his wife.”

    “Thank you, this is great news.”

    “But to answer your question, you have no children.”

    “Eh?”

    “The Queen I see him with is not you my lady.”

    Eurwen nearly choked.

    “What? What happens?”

    The crone looked into the cauldron, which was also cooking her dinner (she could multi task with the best of them).

    “Put it this way I wouldn’t make any plans beyond next Tuesday.”

    “Shit!”

    “Ain’t that the sooth.”

    _____

    @zevonesque
    #FlashDogs
    an ambitious wife
    a soothsayer
    (205 words)

  40. Fortunate

    The fortune teller gazed into the crystal ball, “You’ll win a great battle and become king.”
    The general smiled, then paused, “Wait, if you already know that I win does that mean I’m not victorious due to my strategic prowess?”
    “Not at all, your fate is yours to control.”
    “If my fortune is mine to control, how can you see it?”

    The fortune teller paused. Normally people just wanted to hear how great everything would be. She wasn’t expecting to defend herself. She may have skimmed over a few of the chapters in her correspondence course. She thought for a moment and said, “Your victory is certain, but how you achieve it is entirely up to you.”
    “Hold on a minute, if my victory is guaranteed then why should I show up at all?”
    The fortune teller decided to cut her losses, “Yes indeed, don’t fight, that’s a sure path to victory.”

    At the battle the next day, the opposing commander stared at the empty field across from him, “Guess they aren’t showing up?”
    The soldiers, hungover, rowdy, and spoiling for a fight, decided that each other would be suitable substitutes for the enemy.

    And that is how the fortune teller became the king’s soothsayer.

    205 words
    http://www.todayschapter.com
    Themes: A soothsayer and fate vs free will

  41. Stars, Hide Your Fires
    @rowdy_phantom
    203 words
    Elements: setting (battlefield), character (soothsayer and an ambitious general); theme (fate vs. free will)

    Explosions carve out rifts in the evening sky. The battle, to a civilian, seems evenly matched in chaos. The pull of the general’s jaw, though, tells another story. Our side is losing.

    Hunkered in the corner of the pavilion, I whirr the deck between my hands. The stutter of their shuffle soothes me.

    “What’s our status?” the general demands. I sprawl the cards. He draws. I know what it will be before he slaps it down.

    The Cauldron Sea

    His smile hardens. He zeroes in on the ship, tattered and tossed, but still afloat. He doesn’t notice holes gnawed into the hull.

    “What course of action will lead to victory?”

    He draws again.

    The Restless Wood.

    Furtive figures skulk among the branches. A shroud of storm obscures the sun.

    “Subterfuge,” we say together.

    What he doesn’t see is that victory by treachery is a precarious one at best. A castle built atop kindling.

    “And what of my fortunes?”

    He reaches, and I clutch his wrist. “Not that one.”

    The Bloodied Crown.

    His victory. His treacherous ascendancy. Prolonged war.

    I slide another forward. “This one.”

    My pulse chases fear through my veins. For the first time, I have no idea what card it is.

  42. “Collections”
    by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
    Story Elements: Character (a drunk porter); Theme (fate vs free will)
    Word count: 198

    Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there,
    i’ the name of Beelzebub?

    I rehearse my favorite Shakespearean line as I push my luck down the street in a rickety shopping cart. The daily migration of empty human casing scurrying through life circumnavigates around me. Insanity, I have found, is a comforting buffer against humanity.

    I derive a certain twisted amusement from watching them, and contemplating the inherent irony in knowing that they prefer their lives, their demons over mine. The devil you know, I suppose.

    I collect whatever tickles my fancy. One man’s trash is another man’s pleasure. Into my cart go the unpunished good deed. The occasional good intention, which comes in handy, as my road desperately needs paving.

    And souls. The people in this city rarely use them, and won’t miss them.

    Until Judgment Day.

    But by then, it will be too late.

    Knock, knock! Who’s there, in the other
    devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator…

    Faith is a funny thing. People ignore it, then manage to lose it, like spare change in the couch cushions. They vow to find it. Some day. But the devil is in the details.

    And walking down the street in their midst.

  43. Title: “Once More Unto the Breach”
    Word Count: 198
    Prompts: A doomed king; a battlefield
    Twitter: @colin_d_smith

    The king sat in his chambers, turning the hem of his shirt in his fingers. He could hear the battle cries coming from outside. The enemy was at the gate, and it was his task to face them down. He rose from his chair and began to pace up and down, his mind racing to find a way out, some kind of armistice to appease all parties. He had done that with his parents, with his younger siblings, and with his wife. That’s what made him the courageous leader his became.

    The king swallowed hard and wiped a tear from his eye. Then, with his head sagging against his chest, he opened the door and entered the fray.

    There was silence when he walked onto the field of battle. The king gritted his teeth, determined not to show fear. The enemy arrayed before him exuded intimidation, daring him on.

    He raised his head to meet his foe, eye to eye.

    He drew a deep breath.

    “Shakespeare,” he began. “Get out your copies of Macbeth.”

    The rumble of grudging compliance filled the room. The king smiled, enjoying the momentary victory.

    But it was only nine o’clock. It wouldn’t last.

  44. @ceckybonway
    201 words
    Conflict and Character

    When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go

    *hiccup*
    -Are you kidding me! You’re three sheets again?
    -I don’t know what’cher talkin’ about. I *hic* am jusss fine. SShhhh. Master won’t fin- *hic* find out. I just needed a, a, a smackerel of a night cap.

    I had no choice. If the Mistress caught even a hint of the devil’s juice on his breath, we would both be fired, then hanged.

    -Hey, *hic* where’re we goin’? I need to be here to open the door for Lady Valerie.
    -She’s already here. You let here in not 20 minutes ago.
    -I *hic* did? I did! Right!
    -But we must clean Master’s throne before the night’s out. And look, here we are at his Throne Room.
    -*hic* This looks a bit off.
    -That’s because you’re off.
    -Why’s it so dark?
    -Your eyes are closed.
    -Funny, they don’t feel closed. *hiccup* It smells in here, too.
    -Stop whining. I left some sponges at the base. Lean down and grab them so we can get started.

    Taking advantage of his bent position, I made quick work of drowning him in the Servant’s bathroom. Nobody will have trouble believing he drank himself to death in here. Who knew murder could be such a relief?

  45. Citizen King
    ~~~~~~~~

    The hillside in leaning light wore a castle like a crown on a head brushed with fields and silver flowing streams. Inside a golden pulse of dreams hovered above the brow of an uncertain horizon.

    Xanadu flush with all the luxuries of this life but it also contained a long stretch of echos of those crushed on the way to the top. Italian sculptures and carved terrace with a pool tide tilted with ivory and gold. Inside, masterpieces curling walls with master strokes. A tiger took long strides on the grounds like a flame devouring airs.

    He sat alone. Without friends. He took no prisoners so was a captive of his own design. The sound of parties long gone. All lovers departed. No more armies. No more worlds to conquer. The only perfume was memory and its pleasant aroma of an insatiable abracadabra.

    He went to a screening room to watch a film of his life. It projected against a large wall. The images flickered shadow and light. The credits rolled as an epitaph on gilded stone.

    And all he wanted was innocence returned. A hillside of white. A sled that could fly like a snow angel around the cold contours of his blackened heart.

    (205 words)
    A castle/a doomed king

  46. THE FORETELLING
    DJ Chapman
    WC = 202, Character: a drunk, Setting: a cavern

    “Oy, me stomach’s aflame, and the heavens have chosen to open upon this poor soused, hatless head.”

    “The caves will do fer the night. Now If I can only find ‘em among God’s damp curtains. There seems to be the same veil of confusion throughout this fair kingdom.”

    “Ahg! The rain does reveal the mud afoot. May the roof over my king leak, too. For his halls are indeed slippery with the same dirt upon which I tread.”

    “The caves! Finally. Hark, there be light and a soul cooking in the shadows afar beneath the rock.”

    “She who stirs does chant. Seems she sees the sludge, the silt of treachery and murder. Our king will receive his due for misdeeds, for deception and for hatred toward family and serfs. And I am made messenger by the cook’s glinty gaze.”

    “My stupor abates, no film in the eye, as the spell has been cast, and I know my path toward righting the injustices endured.

    “I, the village drunk, shall change the course of the kingdom, but no prize will I take. Only the knowledge that a cavernous depth of wrongdoing will be shifted into the light. And paths of mud will become stable.”

  47. @rowdy_phantom
    Setting (castle, sort of), Conflict, Theme (fate vs. free will)
    205 words

    Golden Lantern Foreboding

    The automaton waved its bangled arm. Scratchy murmurs spilled from the fortune-telling booth speakers.

    The extent of Wonderful Castle’s wonder, Lori thought, hugging herself deeper into his coat. “What’s it say?”

    James grinned, handing over the slip . “Fortune by Yoda.”

    “The silver leaves in wind sweep to golden lantern batter.”

    An infant shrieking, red starfish handprints on dove-grey shag–what’s going on?—the echoes of rage: If I can’t have… ricochet from the walls, she toys with, marbles indented with familiar brown circles, my brown eyes…

    Lori stumbled. Fear clawed her stomach to shreds.
    James steadied her. “Lors?”
    She pulled away. “Let me try.”

    “Importance in one leaf is not. Upon the tree gaze.”

    Gunshot echoes, infant wails where hands appear, heft her with you’re safe, we all have brown eyes, relief, I’m not dead, stubborn stains in the nail beds, we’ll get through…

    Swallowing nausea, Lori moved closer to James. “My mighty oak,” she purred, cramming her fear deep into the abyss. His arm slung across her shoulders, a temporary prison.

    She embraced him, but her arms found the baby girl she’d someday lift from the gore. For her sake, the silver leaves could batter their worst. She resolved to shine through it.

  48. Title: Long, Long Life
    Character: A Doomed King
    Setting: A Castle
    Word Count: 205
    Webpage: https://marshalhopalop.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/flash-friday-long-long-life/

    What happened to Don McClean and dinner with the family?

    I think I saw them walk out hand-in-hand with my 14 year-old daughter and her 17 year-old boyfriend. She told me she’d be spending the night at his house, my castle. She came home to visit once in a when she decided to stay the night for the rest of her life.

    My son was texting before I could dial a cell phone. He’d always be looking down at his screen, talking to somebody he doesn’t want me to see. When I was young, your neighborhood was your world and everyone knew each other. Now the whole world is at your fingers and is stealing conversations with my kids that I’ve never had.

    Many dying years later, my son married to the man on the other side of that phone. I wasn’t even invited. “Too conservative and old-fashioned,” my son labeled me. I cried myself into a waking nightmare of an empty nest.

    Elvis died on the throne, I always say. He won’t be the only king to die there. Every time the clock’s hand ticks, it slaps me in the face. I can feel my own life drain away like a thermometer in winter.

  49. Woman’s Intuition
    202 words
    @JamieRHersh
    man v man, setting: Castle

    Each of my daughter’s suitors had sipped at least once. It was time.
    I stood. The chatter stopped. Katerina circled the table like a nervous cat.
    “Gentlemen,” I began, “My wife, Katerina, claims that one of you intends not to marry Philomena, but, instead, has been sent here by the Prince of Rhojanda, to murder me and this very night, and to take my throne by force.
    “Good sirs,” I continued, “I apologize, but the wine has been drugged.”
    The men looked at me with uncomprehending eyes; the effects of the polluted cocktails were beginning to manifest. One by one, the suitors’ heads thumped to the table.
    All but the head of Nathaniel Blake.
    “I am known to be a man of exceptional constitution,” he explained.
    “Sir,” I replied, “the ability to survive a dose of sleeping potion that large indicates an enormous tolerance for the drug, built up intentionally, over time, in training for service to the King of Rhojanda. You are his assassin.”
    Blake leapt to his feet and outed a dagger, but, as he poised to throw it at me, Katerina ran him through from behind with her sword.
    Katerina smiled. Her lips formed silent words.
    “Told you so.”

  50. The Bounty of War
    205 words
    Theme: Fate vs Free Will/Battlefield
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs

    “I have seen the mountains laid low and the waters of the deep run dry. I have learned that in sight, there is no hope, and in hope, no sight.

    “The world is in shadow, not as it is, but as it will be. For in the end the darkness takes the stage, and we are left in the wings.”

    The seers words are etched upon my mind, and I would leave for wanting but I cannot stay. As I don my armor, and prepare for what is to come I cannot help but reflect upon her words.

    The black cloak of night is draped upon my shoulders, but is the velvet hope of another day, or the sackcloth of ash that is to be my banner?

    War is the crossing of two edged swords, but signs and portents are double edged meaning nothing until it is too late.

    You, who have been my squire, my trusted friend. You would be at my side if you could, but now you lay at my feet, lost to all but ash. I would ask you if I could, but I think you would tell me the same.

    For life is for the living, and I’m already cold.

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