Oldest Life Lessons: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Oldest Life Lessons

It seemed like just a few days ago I was sitting, well, all right, fidgeting, in the seat my young pupil was in. Might have been the same exact stool.
I watched him as I settled. Ten years old. Brown mop of hair hanging in his eyes. Flirting with the girl beside him, though I suspect they didn’t realize it was flirting. I’ll have to tell the Ward of Novices about that but not right now. Let them enjoy their little moment.
I tapped my cane on the stone floor and the children turned, reluctantly as I remember my time, to face me. I looked into all of their shining faces. Bored already, a good number of them. The girl, though, what was her name? Oh yes, Naiomi. And the boy, Azri, both looked expectant. I nodded. We could tell, who will be a good mage and who just average, even though the novices were in their second year. The ones who actually listened. They would be great.
This year was no different. I was just a middling-mage myself. I was one of the ones already bored. But no matter. I am good enough to teach the young ones. And too old, really, for anything else.
I had my dreams, of course. I’d be a great mage and save the Emperor from some dastardly dragon or an evil demon. That never came to pass. First of all, because dastardly dragons and evil demons are few and far between. Most often the problems are so common that even my middling powers could handle them. But secondly, the really hard problems are for these, Naiomi and Azri, who had the power and the education to handle them.
I sighed and began the class on basic spells. I’d given this class for the last fifty-three years. I could keep up a running internal dialog while I gave them the class. Mostly, though, I wondered where my life had gone? What did I have to show for it besides a handful at best of great mages and a few hundred average ones?
What would these bright young faces before me think if they knew how their lives would turn out? Most of them would be sent to small towns and villages to help the councils keep the peace and handle any sicknesses that might emerge. Lives of drudgery, really, and no family of their own to ease their loneliness. No children, unless you count the ones in our classes, to leave a legacy for.
I drew my shawl around me as we discussed what makes a good spell. I’d been getting colder and colder for more than a year now. Just winter coming on, I told myself. And age, of course. No getting around that.
I was lucky. After doing a few stints with various mages in villages and towns, I was called back to Castle Porta to teach. Life here was more comfortable. The food was better and came reliably. I still remember the year I was with Mage Selean in the village called Thorson. Snow drifted to the eaves and even the wood had to be rationed. Many elderly and young died from the cold or starvation or both. No. I enjoyed my three meals a day, thank you very much. And a hot tea whenever I wanted to send my intern for it.
That’s a good life lesson. Don’t be in a situation where you’re freezing or starving. The children were startled at my wheezing snort. I covered it quickly as a sneeze and they settled back down. We finished the class with a simple spell. One each of us learned in our turn. It was also a sorter. The children who couldn’t manage the spell were sent back to their villages. Or if they were smart or talented in some other way, we kept them on. After all, much has to be done to keep a castle running that doesn’t need magic.
When I released them, the children leapt from their stools as though a wolf were after them. I sat, slumping. Resting. You’d think their energy would feed mine but no. Another lesson. They suck the energy right away. I rested, half-dozing. My intern, Katarina, woke me with a hand on my shoulder. “Master Wheren?”
I gave myself a shake as I woke. “Yes. Yes. I’m awake.”
She helped me to my rooms. Had me sit in front of the fire and brought me tea. I woke again in bed.
Drean stood next to the bed. The old mage raised an eyebrow. “With us still, I see.”
“And why is the castle healer at my bedside?” I looked around my bedroom. “And where is Katarina?”
“I sent her for tea. And I’m here because she couldn’t wake you.”
I struggled to sit up. Embarrassingly, he helped me. “I can do it.” I slapped at his arms as he helped me.
“I know. Just thought a helping hand would be welcome.”
“Hmph.” I pulled the bedding up to my chin as Katarina arrived with a tray.
“Master!” Her face lit up as she put the tray on the table. “I’m so glad.”
Later, I watched her sleep in the chair beside my bed. The fireplace was burning very low. Probably close to dawn. She was so young. Given me as a nurse more than for what I could teach her. I sighed. Again. Too much sighing lately. I tucked my hands under the blankets. I was too cold, but I settled into the pillows and closed my eyes. The last life lesson, I suppose. At least I wasn’t alone.

The Mighty Five: Friday Flash Story



The old woman stirred her fire and dropped another piece of wood on top. The sparks danced up the chimney like demented fireflies.

“Granny, tell the story.”

Elsa wiped her rheumy eyes; of course the grandchildren would want to hear about her adventures. She nodded and hobbled back to her rocker. Shifting the chair so she could face both them and the fire, Elsa’s heart filled with love for the sweet girls cuddled together under a blanket on the bench, ready for a bedtime story.

“It was long ago,” she began, “when my eyes were clear and I moved like a gazelle across the land.”

“You were Elsa the Archer, one of the Mighty Five,” Corrine piped in.

“I was, though you’d never think so to see me today.” Elsa smiled at her oldest grand-daughter. It’s not the children’s fault I’ve grown so old. “It was before your mother was borne when Ragnar the Bold and I took on the evil marshal who was running roughshod over the shire.”

“Then Steven the Red, Dale Strongarm and Jamie the Bull joined you,” Denise, the younger girl added.

“Indeed they did. And we fought Marshal Eggleston with everything we had.” Elsa’s mind flashed to their first fight against the marshal’s men. “The first fight was later called the battle of the ford. The marshal had put a gate on either side of the ford.”

“To collect a tax!” Corrine called out.

“He did. Coming or going, it made no difference to the marshal. While he filled his coffers with our coppers and silvers the people of the Shire grew poorer and poorer. Something had to be done.”

“So Ragnar the Bold devised a plan,” Denise shouted.

Elsa chuckled. “He did. The five of us marched up to the ford, the marshal’s men lounged in their place, calling out that the fee to cross was two coppers. They stood up as we approached, the foul men calling out lewd invitations to me.

“Grandpa Ragnar didn’t like it,” Corrine noted.

“He did not but he kept his temper.” Elsa smiled as she remembered how much she admired her new husband for his control. “Ragnar stepped up to the man in charge as I stood back and the others spread out across the road. Ragnar told the man that we wanted to cross. The soldiers laughed. The head soldier said, ‘When we get the coppers, clod. Two for each of you to cross, though, for the woman, we’ll allow you to pass for free.’ I could see Ragnar grip his stave until his knuckles turned white. I pulled set my arrow and pulled my bow. Ragnar told them he would not pay.”

The girls stared at their grandmother with rapt attention.

“You will pay or turn around, peasant. The soldiers from the other side of the ford were listening to their comrade. Ragnar raised his stave. I’ll give you this if you don’t let us pass. The marshal’s men pulled their swords as the others on the other side began to cross. Ragnar swung back and hit the lead man with his stave. Then it was chaos. I pulled my bow but the men were too close together for me to shoot.”

“You were very brave, Grandma,” little Denise’s eyes shone. Elsa thought about how terrified she’d been. “Perhaps, little one. So your grandfather was in the fight of his life, his stave against swords. Steven, Jamie and Dale were also fighting hard. The five soldiers from the other side of the ford were nearly at the fight. I had to stop them or my friends would be outnumbered two to one and them with swords and armor.”

“You shot them!” Corrine said.

“I did.” Elsa’s stomach churned at the memory of the sound of her arrows slamming into the soldier’s chests but she didn’t stop firing until all five of them were down, screaming and writhing on the ground. She swallowed. “That gave Ragnar and our friends the time they needed to overcome the soldiers.”

“You saved the day, Grandma.” Denise grinned.

“I suppose so. That’s what the people cheered later as we went from town to town.”

“You were a hero,” Corrine nodded.

Elsa never felt like a hero. She had only wanted to raise children and work the farm. “Perhaps. As any man or woman is who fights for what they believe.” She shook off the memories of long ago. Ragnar had been dead these last ten years. “Time for bed, little ones. Enough of ancient stories.”

The girls unwrapped from their blanket, Corrine bringing it with her to their bed in the loft. Elsa tucked them in. “Sleep well.” She kissed each of them on the forehead.

“I’m going to be a hero someday,” Corrine said.

“Me, too,” Denise chimed in.

Elsa shuddered with the memories of all of the battles she’d fought in. “Dream of peace, girls. Being a hero is over-rated.”

Back in her chair she stared into the fire. All of that blood and death and for what? The King sent a new marshal and order was restored but it didn’t last. The old King died and the prince became king. Things became worse than ever.

She tossed another stick on the fire and picked up her knitting. The girls grew so fast new socks were needed every three months. Rumor had it that a new band was fighting back. The Protectors people were calling them. Elsa wished them well. If they lived through it they’d need help to bury the bad memories and live their lives in peace. She hoped they’d find it.



The End

937 Words

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Gar’dyne’s Revelation: Flash Fiction Story, Christmas

Young Mage by hokunin at DeviantArt.com

Young Mage by hokunin at DeviantArt.com

Prince Gar’dyne pulled off his battle helmet and wiped the sweat. From just after sunrise until now, just before sunset, he’d wielded his battle sword in a bloody swath across the hell hounds and gremlins of the evil wizard, Anrak. They were victorious; he and his battle-scarred battalion, but he had no joy. The wizard had escaped and his battalion was cut to a third of its previous power.

His lieutenant, Yawo, his first cousin from his mother’s side, rode up beside him. “The wizard vanished into a cloud, sire, taking a guard with him. The evilest of the lot, as far as our scouts can tell.”

Gar’dyne pulled his canteen from his hip and drained the last of the well-watered wine. Every muscle in his body screamed but he only had a few cuts, so he hid his exhaustion. “The conjuror has caused great havoc, cousin. Have the seers a destination for the craven?”

“No, Lord. Their cauldrons provide only smoke and confusion.”

Gar’dyne grunted. That was usual in his experience. He’d have the whole lot of seers beheaded and start over. The wizard had power, the seer’s not as much. But his mother favored them so he held his tongue. “Find the damned wizard. Someone must be able to track the stench of his magical passing.”

After his tour of the wounded and prayers over the dead, Gar’dyne retired to his command tent where his servants had prepared a bath and a simple supper. He was scooping the soldier’s portion of grits and bacon with a square of corn bread when his staff entered the tent.

“Sire,” Yawo dipped his head. “We have a seer with news.”

Gar’dyne scraped the last of the gruel from the wooden bowl with the cornbread and chewed while he thought. “A seer actually saw something?”

Yawo dipped his head. The rest of the staff shifted uneasily. Gar’dyne had made his feelings about seers well known. The prince leaned back in his camp chair. Time to put the staff at ease. If the seer knew something, well and good. Best to keep the staff open minded. “Bring the seer.”

Yawo snapped his fingers and the tent flap opened. A young woman entered. Dressed as a peasant, an un-dyed woolen gown reached to her ankles with an apron of un-dyed linen, she caught his attention with a curtain of glossy blond hair that fell to her waist. Her eyes were downcast.

Gar’dyne had to catch his breath. “Speak, maiden seer, what have you for your prince.”

He watched her swallow. She’s nervous! “Tell, maiden,” he said in a softer tone. “Tell your prince your vision.”

She glanced up through thick lashes. “A babe, highness. The evil one has tracked a babe, destined to save the world.”

Gar’dyne blinked. He was so tired and now a riddle. His wrath against the seers was renewed. “That’s it? A baby?” He scrubbed a hand across his bearded face. “What’s that to my king?’

The girl slipped to her knees and he saw that she quivered as she dropped her head to the carpets strewn across the floor of his tent. He did his best to control his anger at the stupid wench. “Rise, girl. Explain.”

Tears glistened in her eyes making him feel even more a callous clod.

“Sire. Rescue the babe and win freedom from the wizard and his minions for the rest of time.”

And in front of the entire staff. Damn Yawo for not dealing with this slip of a girl in private. “Where is this babe?”

“A day’s march, Sire. The wizard is already there. The family resists.”

Gar’dyne wanted more than anything to sleep. “Yawo, Generals, form up. We march on this mud-hole of a town.”

The staff hustled out. Yawo took the girl by the elbow.

“Hold, cousin.”

The girl turned back to him.

“If you are wrong, I’ll have you flayed in the town square.”

She paled but nodded. Gar’dyne signaled for them to leave.

At dawn they arrived at the mud-walled village the girl had seen. The wizard’s soldiers surrounded the town. Gar’dyne wondered how the peasants had held off the wizard when his own troops had been mowed down the day before. He deployed his troops and had the wench brought up beside him.

“Girl, how do we win?”

“The babe will win, Sire. You will press the attack.”

He glared at her and she shrank into the saddle of the pony she rode. He felt both an ogre and a fool. “Yawo, deploy the men. Attack at each gate. Beat the evil scum back whatever the cost.”

Yawo nodded and spurred his horse. The girl hung her head.

“Have you always had visions?”

“Yes, Sire.” Eyes on the ground she patted the pony she rode and it ceased it’s stamping.

He sighed. From his hilltop vantage he could watch his troops. A horn blew and his troops attacked. He ground his teeth at the first contact. The gremlins and hell hounds savaged what was left of his battalion. Then, sun beams broke through the sullen clouds. Puffs of smoke arose whenever the beams hit the wizard’s army. Gar’dyne blinked. His soldiers were winning!

He and his guard raced down the hillside. Sword swinging, he cleared a path through the town to the stable where the girl directed him. He dismounted his foam-flecked horse and strode inside.

There, a baby lay in a horse manger. Mages surrounded the babe and the parents. They knelt. “Sire. We’ve been waiting.”

Gar’dyne approached the manger. The baby, wrapped in homespun wool, smiled up at him. The girl beside him dropped to her knees. Exhaustion and worry melted from him. Gar’dyne knelt on one knee, his sword point to the ground in front of him and bowed his head. His father would want to know his seer’s predictions had come true. The savior was born.



The End

983 Words

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Colony Princess: Flash Fiction Friday Story

1308160316_phoenix_by_o_eternal_o-d242bq2 via DeviantArt.com

1308160316_phoenix_by_o_eternal_o-d242bq2 via DeviantArt.com

Rose Apfel gazed out over the colony from her fourth-story apartment balcony window. “You can do it,” her father, King Stone Apfel had told her. “It’s the best, least dangerous planet our people have ever found. The top predator is a half-inch spider. It isn’t even toxic.”

So she had agreed. The ship arrived five years ago with four hundred colonists. Those were the prep team. They built housing and labs and civic buildings and parks and squares and farms. A year later came the second wave, scientists and mathematicians, astronomers and some entertainment crafts. In the third year came teachers and entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and craftsmen. Those were busy, glorious years full of thoughts of the future.

Then last year came the dragons. They flew overhead eating the stock, burning the apartments, houses, stores and civic buildings. Oh, they ate the native animal life, large, bovine and lizard-like creatures all of whom were vegetarian. But they relished the imported livestock. The price of meat, dairy and leather skyrocketed. The price of grain and vegetables rose through the roof. Rose sighed. A year of predation and now, she had to make some very hard choices. A gong sounded. Time to go down to her cabinet meeting.

Seated at the head of the table, Rose listened to a long list of problems. Worst was the loss of communications. The dragons had burned the communications towers for the fifth time in a year. They just couldn’t get word through to her father on their home planet. She drummed her fingers on the highly polished wooden table. “Two things.” She looked around the table. “I can see that everyone is working as hard as they can.”

The tiny complement cheered the glum group staring back at her. “Unfortunately that is not enough. We need to work smarter. No one has yet determined where these dragons have come from and why they’re here now. I want one captured and studied.”

Every man and woman slumped in their seat. “Second. We implement rationing immediately. Palace residents, included.” Her prime minister paled. His girth displayed his love of banquets.

A week later, word was sent that they had captured a dragon. She went immediately to the science labs, re-built underground after the above ground buildings were destroyed shortly after the dragons emerged. The dragon was in a fire-proof transparent walled cage. Her breath caught in her throat at her first sight of it. Emerald green scales glittered with silver highlights on the edges. Rose tinted the dragon’s spine from the top of its head to the tip of its tail. “It’s beautiful!”

“Indeed, Princess.” The lead scientist, River Aspen, stood, hands behind his back in front of the cage. “We rendered the beast unconscious, My Lady, and drew blood and other fluids. The test results are that the creature’s biology is consistent with that of this planet. What we cannot know at this point, is why in the fifteen years between the initial study of the planet and our settlement, that these creatures were never discovered.”

Rose nodded. That was the main question. “Some sort of cyclical life-cycle?”

“That is the only explanation, Princess.” Scientist Aspen turned at a movement of the dragon. “Ah. This is why we called you. The dragon is awaking.”

“You used fireproof glass?” Rose eyed the cage enclosure as the dragon stirred.

“Oh, yes, Princess. And triple strength walls.”

Reassured, the Princess watched as the roomful of scientists monitored the screens showing the dragon’s heart rate and other medical or biological functions. A speaker system let them hear the dragon as it woke from the sedatives. It opened its eyes after rumbles, mumbles and snorts, scrambling to its feet and falling against the walls. It chirruped and growled, shaking its head.

“Its trying to clear the sedative fog,” Rose said.

“Typical behavior, Princess, for any creature after sedation.”

Gaining strength, it roared at the scientists and tried to blow flame but coughed instead. It seemed to glare at them then proceeded to investigate every inch of the cell. It came back to the window and roared again.

The princess walked to the window and gazed at the creature. It bent its head down and looked back at her with golden eyes. “Scientist Aspen, do you have a translator installed in the creature’s cell?”

The scientist’s mouth dropped open. “Why, no, Princess. It’s an animal.”

She put her hand up to the glass. The dragon did the same, it’s huge clawed foot dwarfing her hand on the other side of the glass. “So are we. Set it up immediately.”

While the scientists worked on setting up the translator, Rose took her mid-day tea in a chair in front of the cage. Water and a small raw roast were placed in the cage and the dragon ate with her.

Aspen hurried to her when her tea was finished. “It’s installed, Princess.”

She stood up and faced the cage. She bowed. “Dragon. I’m Princess Rose Apfel, leader of this colony we call Gamilios. What is your name?”

The dragon chirruped, hissed and growled. “The translator is working on the language, Princess.”

“Our months are Wasardi, Hori, Shami, Tre, Kaloc, Arac, Hekani, Areg, Kani, Mareri, Margac and Hrotic. We count zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and we use a base ten for our mathematics. We eat meat as well as vegetables and grain. We come from a planet many light years away. We call this sun Shahova and this planet, Ardes.”

She could hear the speaker within the cage hissing and chirruping. The dragon spoke, “I’m Beroan, mother of Nesenth, who are you?”

The Princess curtsied. “I’m Princess Rose, leader of this colony. I think we have much to talk about, Beroan.”

A year later, they held a joint celebration of the birth of cooperation between two cultures. The Gamilosians raised enough food for the dragons, and the dragons could visit the stars.


The End

995 Words

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