It’s picture flash fiction Monday. And wow… lookie what the image is this month. It’s so pretty. I’d love to have one of these in my house, or in the yard—reflecting sunlight. But alas, I’ve got nothing people. And the dog would probably use it as a toy, anyway.
So I’ll have to be content with just writing my tale. I know the past two images were part of a continuing story. And honestly, I’d thought about revisiting my favourite college kids, but…this image ties in nicely with my upcoming Serial…what will undoubtedly be an obscenely long novel—I’m predicting 100K. It’s titled… RED SKY DAWNING. It’s a fantasy adventure story with a theme of enemies to lovers. I have a couple of partners in crime that are going to be joining me with their own amazing stories—but that’s for later.
For now, I’m going to offer you a short prequel of sorts. A glimpse at a moment in the hero’s life long before he becomes the focus of my book. I hope you enjoy it…
Rylan stood outside the worn tent, feet braced apart, arms crossed on his chest, staring at the tattered flaps that snapped in the late evening breeze. Shadows played inside the small space, glimpses of flickering candlelight visible between the fluttering pieces of canvas.
Garreth slapped him on the shoulder, stepping up beside him. “Ah, come on, Rylan. It’s all in good fun.”
Rylan glared at his friend. “If you’re so enthusiastic, be my guest.” He waved at the opening. “Have the old witch read your fortune because I already know my future.”
“Do you, now? And what’s that? That you’ll be king? Find yourself a pretty maiden and make a few heirs to the throne?”
Rylan firmed his jaw, ignoring the flash of power beneath his flesh. Garreth was just trying to lighten the mood. Give Rylan something other than war and battles to focus on. Perhaps a glimmer of hope.
He held his magic in check, glancing at the tent. “We both know maidens and heirs aren’t in my future. Blood. Death. A kingdom with little hope of ever seeing peace—those are what lie in store for me.”
“There’s more to life than fighting your father’s battles, Rylan. You’ve done nothing but train and wage war since you were old enough to hold a sword. Since your magic gave your father a far more powerful weapon than he ever imaged.” Garreth placed his hand on Rylan’s shoulder. “Maybe it’s time to consider ending this fight with Aldhaven. Find a way to do what Roan never could.”
“And what’s that, Garreth? Win?”
Rylan scoffed, breaking his friend’s hold and taking a few heavy steps away. “Peace? They raid our lands, pillage our towns. They kill women and children alike over a patch of earth that barely grows enough food to feed a family, let alone a village. Don’t you think my father would make peace if there was peace to be found?”
“We do the same to them. Kill them just as swiftly, as indiscriminately. Over that same piece of parched ground. My sword bears as much innocent blood as any Ravendale soldier. Maybe more.” Garreth paced over to stand next to him. “Tell me. Do you even know why we’re at war? Does anyone even remember?”
Rylan held Garreth’s gaze, the truth of the man’s words settling hard in his gut. How many times had he pondered that very question? Asked his father—King Roan—what stood between them and a world without bloodshed?
Rylan ran a hand through his hair. “What would you have me do? I’m not king. Not yet.” He snorted. “Chances are, I’ll give my life for Ravendale long before I sit on any throne.”
“Make Aldhaven an offer. A show of good faith. Give them a reason to want to end this war as much as we do.”
“And what shall I give them? My life? Yours? My father’s crown?” Rylan shook his head. “I’ve heard the rumours, same as you. They say King Arglwydd merely sits on a pedestal like a puppet on a string. Controlled by a sorcerer whose magic is equalled only by his thirst for more power.” His shoulders drooped, the sheer weight of the knowledge draining his strength. “We both know there’s no reasoning with men like that.”
“Then be the kind of man that dares them to walk away. To decline your offering. I’ll stand beside you. Every warrior you’ve ever accompanied into battle will stand beside you. You’re more than our prince. You know that.”
Rylan scrubbed his hand down his face, giving Garreth a smile as he laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “And here I thought you wanted me to seek my fortune? If this is what the witch will tell me, I don’t think I want to venture inside.”
Garreth slapped him on the back. “You’re just afraid she might tell you, you’ll live long enough to have a woman rule over you. That the mighty Rylan—heir to the throne of Ravendale—will be struck down by love, not a blade.”
“There are a number of possible futures in store for me, my friend, but love isn’t be one of them. That I’m certain of. My father’s already had my fortune read by every gypsy in the kingdom.”
“Then this one won’t come as a surprise.” Garreth motioned to the flap. “Need I remind you that you lost our bet three moons ago. I will consider that debt paid if you simply go inside. Give the lady a chance to see something new.”
“If it’ll stop this endless chattering, it’ll be worth hearing my dismal fortune yet again.”
Rylan ignored the smug grin Garreth flashed him as he strode toward the tent, brushing aside the flaps in one quick motion before entering the dim interior. Coloured scarves hung around the perimeter of the small space, creating a rainbow of speckled dots across the ground. Candles bathed the area in a soft glow, the scent of sage and jasmine heavy in the air. He looked over his shoulder when the flaps snapped behind him, fluttering a few more times before suddenly stilling—the beige cloth hanging limp in the doorway.
“Come in, Prince Rylan. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Rylan snapped his head around, staring at the beautiful woman standing beside a small, round table. Golden hair hung down to her waist, her green eyes sparkling amidst the shadows.
She motioned to a chair angled in front of the table. “Please. Sit.”
He covered half the distance, still gawking at her. “How do you know my name?”
“You’re the Prince of Ravendale. Everyone knows your name.”
“Not this close to the border. Most people wouldn’t give me a second look.” He frowned. “But you’re…”
“What?” She smiled. “Not what you expected?” She moved gracefully to the chair opposite the one she’d offered him. “Would it ease your mind if I were older? If my hair was a dingy shade of grey? If my skin showed signs of experience—of days spent labouring in the fields? Does my appearance unnerve you, My Prince?”
“This has nothing to do with your appearance and everything to do with the fact you claim to be a witch.”
She laughed, the lilting sound oddly relaxing. “I believe the word you seek is seer. I’ve never claimed to be a witch. I don’t possess magic in the way you do. Mine is the gift of sight.”
“And that precludes you from being a witch, how, exactly?”
“Are you so hardened that you can only see the world in black and white?” She motioned to the chair again. “We both know your curiosity outweighs your hesitation. So please…sit.”
Rylan eyed her for several heartbeats, glaring at the doorway when he heard Garreth mumble something about paying his debt through the flaps of the tent, before continuing over to the seat. He pulled it out, scanning the room once more then sliding onto the hard wood. The legs creaked as he shifted forward, placing his elbows on the woven cloth covering the surface of the table. His gaze focused on the large, crystal orb centered on the fabric, a multitude of colours swirled through the glass.
She joined him, studying him in return. Her gaze felt strangely intimate, as if she could somehow see inside him. A frown curved her lips, her brows furrowing. “You carry a heavy burden, young Prince.”
He didn’t reply, wondering if this was the best she could do.
She nodded toward the ball. “You don’t believe I can see your future, do you?”
“I believe you want me to believe you can.”
“You think all you have before you is death. Blood to be spilled on the battlefield. Your blood.”
He grinned, wrapping one arm around the back of the chair as he leaned against it. “I’m a warrior. That’s to be expected.”
“And you believe this is where you’ll die? On the battlefield, serving your father—your kingdom?”
“Even if it had not been foretold by countless seers, such as yourself, my future holds no mysteries, madam. No one wins every battle.”
“What if I were to tell you, they were wrong? That they couldn’t possibly foresee what your future holds because it becomes a black mist within the ball?”
“A black mist?” He edged toward her. “Is that not my death?”
“It symbolizes change. The end of one life but the beginning of another.”
“Must you speak in riddles?”
She shrugged, waving her fingers over the smooth glass. A white cloud stirred within the crystal, swirling like a building storm. She hovered over the ball, gaze fixed within it debts. “So much pain. So much suffering.”
Rylan squared his shoulders. He knew how this story ended. Had been told it numerous times. Why Garreth seemed to think Rylan would get a different version mystified him. He was a warrior. He’d die in battle.
The woman gasped as pure, golden light burst from the orb, filling the room with an angelic glow. Heat warmed his skin, stirring his cock beneath his breeches until it sat hard and heavy against his stomach.
Rylan pushed to his feet, drawing his sword as the light gathered strength, curling around him like a loving caress. His skin prickled in response, the image of a woman wavering in his mind before quickly vanishing. The light dimmed, turning to orange before slowly fading, nothing but the ghostly echo of his name ringing in his ears. He spun around, searching the small space before settling his gaze on the woman. Sweat beaded her brow, dark circles smudging the flesh beneath her eyes.
He stormed to the table, grabbing her by the collar. “What foul sorcery do you practice, witch? What do you hope to gain by lying to me?”
The woman’s breath raked across his wrist, the harsh sound catching him by surprise. Rylan released her, uncertainty building in his muscles.
She took a few laboured gasps before finally lifting her gaze to his. Tears shone in her eyes, her obvious pain etched in the fine lines around her mouth. “It cannot be.”
He huffed, rounding the table—grasping her arm and lifting her to her feet. “What? What did you see?”
She stared at him, eyes rounded in horror, mouth slightly open.
He gave her a firm shake. “Speak, seer. What did you see?”
“Light. Pure, light unlike any I’ve ever seen. It’s…inside her.”
The woman sobbed, tugging against his hold. “I must go. It’s not safe…”
“Tell me what you saw, witch, or I’ll strike you down.”
The woman looked up at him, all traces of smugness gone. “I saw a woman…standing beside you. Her arm marked by the gods, themselves. She’s…”
Rylan shook her again. “She’s what?”
“The answer. To everything.” She leaned in close. “To you.”
And that’s it for me, folks. My introduction into my serial… I can’t wait to show off the cover I made and start in on this new adventure. I hope you’ll join me alternating Mondays starting soon. It promises to be a fun ride.
Now dash off and visit the other ladies. See what they came up with this month.