A couple of weeks ago, I invited Fatma Alici to play a little game of writing tag with me. I gave her some prompts and she picked the following:
“After a thousand years of darkness, he will come.”
From this prompt we both wrote a story. Mine is below, and Fatma’s can be found over on her site here. Please take a look, review if you like, and feel free to start your very own game of Take Two Tag if the idea interests you. ‘Guidelines’ can be found here.
For anybody interested, the initial prompt was from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, an excellent animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. I rate it highly.
Now that it’s time to Tag a new person, I was going to try to entice Rebekah Spark away from her novel-writing. However, Fatma beat me to tagging Rebekah, so I’ll save her for another round. Instead, I will tag Mozette with a choice of the following prompts:
1: A tragic expedition
2: Shadows in the mirror
3: The unexpected windfall
If you’re interested in writing a flash fiction for one of these prompts, Mozette, just let me know which you want, and your preferred deadline, and we’ll meet up after to compare notes!
“I hate you.”
Adain looked at me with those damned calm eyes, and they twinkled.
“I really mean it. I actually hate you.”
One corner of his dry lips quirked up into a half-smile. “What do they have you doing today?”
“I’m to start my day naming several babes, of course.”
He nodded sagely, and it was a wonder his head didn’t roll off its twiggy neck and onto the floor. “Of course.”
I sighed, sank down onto the throne and swept at some mote of dust on my robes. “After that, I have to attend a banquet.”
“Where you’ll no doubt be toasted several times and have to suffer the affections of many beautiful, buxom women grateful merely to be allowed to dine in the same room as your auspicious self?”
“You see what I have to put up with?” I growled. “The fathers are the worst. ‘Oh, my daughter is so fair and virtuous, please look first to her when considering your marriage.’”
“The burden of leadership. It’s good that they want to see you happy.”
“They don’t want to see me happy.” Even to my own ears I sounded petulant, but I couldn’t help it. The feeling gnawed inside me, pulsing, growing, until I gave in to the violent urge. I tore the luxurious fox fur mantle from my shoulders and threw it down onto the floor. There, I gave it a stern glaring. “All they care for is themselves. They want to be seen with me. They want their daughters to be wed to me. They want their grandsons to be strong and strapping, just like me.”
“Well, you are the Dawnbringer,” Adain pointed out.
“Don’t call me that,” I snapped, a little too harshly. “Not you. Or do you want me to tell them the truth?”
My idle threat rolled off my brother like water from a duck’s back. Instead of replying, he limped to the mantle of fine fox fur and stooped down to collect it in his left hand. His right hand, gnarled and twisted as an old oak branch, was clasped reflexively to his chest in unending spasm.
“Here, let’s get this back on you,” he said.
At the sight of him trying to straighten the heavy cloak with only one hand to work with, something softened inside my chest. The anger and resentment melted to nothingness, and I knelt before him, allowing him to drape the mantle over my shoulders more easily. He carried a heavy enough burden without having to pick up my unwanted toys.
“Where would I be without you?” I mused quietly. “Where would any of us be?”
“You do yourself an injustice, brother.” He rested his good hand atop my shoulder. To an outsider looking in on our tableau, we must have seemed an odd sight; me, the saviour of our people, kneeling humbly before the wizened cripple. “You saved us. All of us. Spirits know, you saved me more times than I can count. I’d be dead a thousand times over, if not for you. Every time I stumbled, you caught me before I could fall. When food was scarce, you made sure I always had a fair share. When the Overseer wanted to put me to death because I couldn’t haul a full load of ore, you stepped in front of the sword meant for me.”
I looked up into my brother’s face and saw his eyes soft and moist, echoing the adoration of our people—only this time, tempered by love. He, too, saw me as a hero and saviour, and not for an instant did he begrudge me the praise that belonged rightfully to him. But that was Adain; where I was strong in body, he was strong in mind and spirit. I had stood in front of the sword meant for my brother. I had taken it from the hands of the executioner. But he had been the one to know what to do with it. He was the one who saw beyond the moment I lived in. Too clever by half, my brother.
“I tell you what,” I said, laying my hand on my brother’s and rising, “I’ll find a wife. But I’ll make sure she has a sister. A nice one. Pretty, but not too pretty that she’s arrogant about it. A sister who can look past your physical frailties and see man behind them. The hero that I see every time I look at him. What do you say to that?”
“I’d say you have a long search ahead of you, brother.”
“We’ll see.” I sighed as Adain’s hand fell away from my shoulder. It was almost time to perform my duties again. To wear the robes of a King and pretend to be one. To pretend that I actually had any idea about what I was supposed to be doing, how I was supposed to be ruling. “The first boy-child I name today, I am naming after you.”
Adain’s face wrinkled into a frown of disdain which perfectly matched my own. In our faces, at least, our twindom showed. Those who saw me tower over Adain’s crippled frame never believed we had been pushed out of the same womb only minutes apart. “Must you?”
“I must. Now, don’t argue with your King.”
He laughed, a carefree sound which echoed around the grand chamber and lifted my spirits on ephemeral wings. “See, I knew it was only a matter of time before you would become comfortable bossing me around.”
“Speaking of which, you’ll have tomorrow’s speeches done by the time I get back from the banquet, won’t you?”
He gave low bow, a flourish of an imaginary cloak. “Of course, your Highness.”
“And the plans for the sewer dredging will be—?”
“On your desk by the end of the day.”
“Good. Now, regarding that boundary dispute between Lord Coppice and Lord Kennery…”
“I already have the clerks looking back through the records and a surveyor out at the site examining the historical markers.”
I couldn’t stop the smile from tugging at my lips. “It’s a good job one of us has a head for rulership. Between us, we almost make an acceptable king.”
“Almost,” he agreed. “Now, be off. Your subjects await your ruling.”
I gave him a bow and swept out of the room, the echo of my footsteps following close. As I passed through the antechamber, the sharp grey eyes of Alusius Farseer watched me from his portrait, hawkishly judging my every movement.
What would this long-dead Seer make of his own prophecy? He’d seen the invasion before it had happened. Seen in his mind’s eye how our people would suffer. Seen, and then prophesied that a thousand years after our enslavement, a saviour would come.
Dawnbringer, they call me. Lord of Light. Redeemer. Hero. Alusius Farseer had been right. A saviour had come. I’d taken the weapon of our enemy and turned it against them. But my people would never know the truth. Perhaps that was why Alusius hadn’t named his saviour. Perhaps he, too, had known that my people would never follow a cripple.