This year, I decided to take part in all (or as many as I can) flash fiction challenges hosted by Chuck Wendig over at terribleminds.com. The first challenge of this year was titled ‘Who the F*ck is my D&D Character?’. The premise was simple – generate a random character at the eponymous website, then write a 1000 words of fiction inspired by the prompt.
To enter the challenge, we could observe the prompt religiously, partially, or use it for inspiration. I took a middle ground between the last two, I think.
My D&D character result was: A suspicious gnome wizard from a village without a tavern who always keeps their promises.
Result? The following story (which was also first fiction of 2015, so whoo!). Like with many of my short stories, it feels almost like a novel synopsis, and would benefit from a bigger wordcount (currently 989). But for now, feast your eyes on…
Field on the Marsh
They called this village Field on the Marsh. Back in the day, travelers would ask whatever happened to the marsh. Nowadays, were any travelers still inclined to pass this way, they would ask whatever happened to the field. Very few were so inclined. It saved me a world of hassle having to answer the question.
She stood at the crossroads, shielding her eyes against the cruel wind that flapped and flattened her cloak. To her right lay the rotted husk of the village. To her left, a dirt path led to my shack. She turned left.
I stepped inside the shack, took the kettle from the hearth, and poured hot water into two mugs. On a day this cold, some hospitality would not be amiss.
The door creaked, letting the young woman in. I nodded my head and gestured at the table. She sat down across from me and warmed her hands on the steaming mug, but waited for me to start on my own tea before taking a cautious drink.
“You’ve had it before? It’s uncommon for anyone outside of these parts to know this taste.”
“My mother is… was from around here.” She wrapped her hands around the mug again. On her left hand, the index, middle, and ring finger on her left hand were all the same length. The tea turned bitter in my stomach, as if brewed for hours instead of minutes.
“What is your name, child?”
“What do you seek here, Blake?”
“Peace for my family.”
“There is no peace to be found here. This is a place of death. Return home. Don’t leave your mother to mourn you.”
Blake shook her head, ashen hair falling onto her forehead. “My mother passed on. My own mourning is done. It is time for me to set both myself and this village free of the curse.”
“What curse is that?”
“Do you know nothing of the place where you perched your hut, hermit?” Blake jutted her chin forward as if to stab me. “Do you even know what happened to the field that gave this village its name?”
“Forgive my ignorance, Blake. Would you enlighten an old man?”
Blake’s mouth softened. She took a swig of the cloudberry leaf tea and spoke.
“This village was once home to a benevolent wizard whose magic dried the marsh and blessed the ground for people to till. Stories say that he even charmed the winds to settle and the clouds to part, so the crops were safe and warmed by the sun. The tribute he asked in return was fair, and Field on the Marsh prospered. Or so my mother told me.”
“She told you the truth.” I nodded. “I caught glimpses of this village in its heyday. Its market truly was a sight to see. Did she also tell you what evil befell this place?”
“Love.” The word fell heavy as lead from Blake’s lips. “The wizard had a son. Heaven knows where from, because no wizard had ever taken a wife. Rumor had it, he sired the child by spells alone, to continue his magical studies after he was gone. But as the boy grew into a man, his love for spellcraft waned by the day, and gave way to love for a woman. The tavern master’s beautiful daughter. Catherine. My mother.”
Blake shot me a look as she uttered the last two words. I fashioned my face into an expression of earnest surprise that appeared to satisfy her.
“Knowing that my grandfather would never allow them to be together, my parents tried to elope,” she continued. “But the wizard appeared before them as soon as they set foot outside of the village, and told my father to return home, or else he would strike his bride down. A fight broke out, and…” Blake shook her head. “My mother said she remembered little, only that my father fought bravely and saved her life, at the cost of his own. She fled to save herself… and her unborn child. Me.”
“Did the wizard not follow her?”
“His body was destroyed. As it died, all protective spells he had cast on the village fell apart. But his soul survives, tethered to this place, forever drawing life from it, living off old magic spells – until someone of his blood strikes him down. I’m the last of his line. So here I am.”
“Choosing to waste your life, battling a curse you can walk away from?”
Blake’s grey eyes narrowed. “My mother lived her life in fear. My father died with honor. I know which one of their lives was not wasted. Thank you for the tea, hermit. I must be on my way.”
The creaky door swung, letting out Blake and what little warmth the shack had left. Alone again, I shook my shirt sleeves back to look at my hands. The right one, with nothing out of the ordinary. The left one, with three fingers all the same length. A small deformity, inherited from my own father.
Catherine had always found it endearing. She said it made sure she would never mistake my hands for anyone’s. But I could wager that she grew to hate that defect when she saw her child born with a reminder of the man who had failed her.
It was not Catherine that fled from the wizard that night. It was I. After Catherine’s dagger pierced my father’s heart, I had to cast a spell to banish his spirit. I never cast it.
Now Blake was here to follow in the footsteps of the father she never had. A brave man who died with honor. Invented by Catherine to ease her daughter’s lonely childhood.
The spell I had never cast had been burning my mind for twenty years now. As I stepped outside, into the freezing wind, it burned hotter than ever before. I caught up with Blake at the crossroads.
Check this out, the awesome Emmi Bat, my other artistic half, sketched Blake and the yet-unnamed protagonist. I imagine this happens soon after the story ending above.