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Masie and Richard

This is for the Midweek Flash Challenge at http://purplequeennl.blogspot.co.uk and you can follow Miranda Kate on twitter @PurpleQueenNL.

If this gets proof red in the next week it will be a miracle.


Well well well, the old crown and the book. I knew I’d left them somewhere. Masie will be pleased. This is a find.

“Masie, look what I’ve found!” he called down from the loft, waving the battered old circlet in the hatch. She looked up.

“That’s nice dear. What is it?”

“The old crown!” Masie squinted up and then reached into her pinny pocket for her glasses, peering through them owlishly before unfolding them and putting them on. “Well pass it down!” She reached up. Richard, the man in the loft, passed it down.

“Careful with it, you know what happens.” He warned.

“I know very well what happened before, you old coot! It’s no good without the book!” She turned the thing in her hands, looking at it with amazement. Richard tutted a little, and she looked up at him, he would never normally show any sign of impatience.

“That’s what I saying,” a hint of exasperation entered his voice. “I’ve found them both, they were right here, together!” Masie clutched the crown and swiftly put it behind her back.

“Don’t you bring that thing near it! You know what happened last time,” she snapped.

“Oh Masie, you have to invoke it.” Richard called down.

“Not always, not always!” she said, threatening to dislodge her dentures in her excitement. She took a brief moment to settle things down.

“Don’t you miss it?” Asked Richard. He poked his head out of the hatch. “All the adventure?”

“Not a bit of it!” But behind her back, Masie’s fingers traced out the little ruby crudely set in the centre.

“Didn’t you have a good time?” Richard pulled his head back up into the loft and shuffled about where Masie couldn’t see.

“Of course I did,” she began. “I know what you’re doing you old goat!” she shouted up at Richard. “You think a little trip down memory lane will be just the ticket, don’t you?” She waved the thing at him angrily. “Well I’m on to you Richard Cadwallader! You get down here this instant and forget about your crazy ideas. We’ve got grand-kids to worry about, and Meg and James will be home soon, they’ve nearly got that mortgage arranged, we can finally get the house to ourselves again. I can get my sewing room back.” But she gripped the crown tightly. She knew it was delicate, not what it seemed.

Richard poked his head out again, book in one hand, an old leather-bound thing with illuminated pages, heavier than it looked, and with the weight of curses and blessing upon it.

Richard opened his mouth to say something, but gasped in surprise instead as the wood splintered under his hand. Masie saw it all, as if in slow motion, the book passing the threshold, the old curse taking effect and aging the wood to dryness. It was this that splintered under Richard’s hand and removed his support completely, shooting him downwards out of the loft as if catapulted.

Masie saw his head hit the ground at the bottom of the ladder and heard the snap of his neck, sounding like the twang of an arbalest. He didn’t move, but she could see him breathing.

“Sorry.” He whispered. “Can’t seem to feel anything.” Somehow the book had landed on his chest. She leaned over him, tears flowing.

“Richard, oh Richard! What have you done you old fool? You know you can’t have the book without the crown. Oh, my Richard. What am I going to do?” He looked at her. Very faintly he said,

“Hobbs.” She stopped crying immediately and stared down at him as he took his last breath. Snatching up the book and turning pages, she didn’t even see the ruby begin to glow on the little crown as she snapped it on to her head and gripped her husband’s hand tightly. The booked opened to a richly decorated page she recognised, even after all this time, and she began to read a strange language. In less than a minute she was finished, and the landing and the house was empty.

Another minute passed, and the front door banged open.

“Strange,” said a voice, “James the door’s off the latch.” The woman looked about. “Mum, Dad?” She searched the downstairs, fruitlessly, and bustled upstairs. Seeing the loft, she investigated, with equal results.

“The car’s here, darling.” Called up the man’s voice.

“Yes, I saw.” Said Meg, picking up a splinter of wood. “They can’t be far.”

Piece of Cake

Kadon the Mage raised his hand up to the approaching army.  Out of respect and fear for Kadon’s enormous reputation, the army, the entire army, apart from a few slow people at the very back, stopped.  There was a clatter as the slow people crashed into the ranks preceding them.

Kadon put his hand down, and looked at it, richly gloved and tasselled.  Look at him now, dressed in his finest mage robes, purple and yellow, with the ermine trim at the top, and what would turn out, sometime later to be cat trim, at the bottom.  The King rode up behind him, looking a bit more royal and a bit less like a strutting peacock.  He looked down at the powerful mage examining closely the palm of his hand.

“I haven’t bloody done anything yet.”  The King’s horse was a bit restless, and the large man brought the great stallion under control with a sharp tug on the reins.

“Goddamn, George, don’t pull so hard.  I’m sorry that I fidgeted, I got bit by a damn fly.”

“Alright, sorry Ced.  I felt like you were going to throw me.”  The horse rolled his eyes and flattened his ears.

“I will bloody throw you if you jerk around like that.”  George sighed and put his fingers on the bridge of his nose.

“Do you mind if I get off?”

“No, please help yourself, get on, get off, whatever.  You’re the King, I’m at your disposal,”  said the horse, sarcastically.  “Do get some steps before you try and mount up, won’t you?”  The King looked back towards a short but substantial wooden ladder was being manoeuvred towards him for that eventuality by two bored looked but husky soldiers working their way through the heavily armed crowd.  He got down from the animal with some difficulty.  “Have a doughnut while you’re down there, go on,” continued the horse.

“Come on, Ced, allow me some dignity in front of the men,” George pleaded, quietly.  “How am I supposed to inspire them to victory if you’re berating me?”

“Alright, King.”  He snorted.  “Why don’t you talk to Kadon while I get a rub down?”

The King pointedly looked at what was, in theory, shortly to be the field of battle, the assembled armies with their, swords, spears, shields and pennants.  He had with him perhaps ten thousand men, the entire standing army, and he estimated, they faced about that many across two hundred yards of cleared field.

“Why don’t you do that?”  And nodding, he saw the beginnings of men servicing the horse by removing all the gubbins of King transport and setting about the animal with lambswool gloves.

In a moment the King stood beside Kadon, the greatest mage of his and any other kingdom.  The man was still examining his palm closely.  He shoved his hand behind his back hastily as the King confronted him.

“Er, I’m not noticing a great deal of zapping, kerspatting and general decimation of the enemy.  You were supposed to make a large hole and give us the advantage.”

“Yes, King, I was supposed to do that.”  The hand remained steadfastly concealed behind the brightly coloured mage.

“Yes.”  The King paused a moment, waiting for Kadon to fill in the gap, but he seemed disinclined to do so.  “So, as I understand it, you’re supposed to raise up your right hand and decimate the enemy, and raise up your left hand and heal up any who get injured, if they’re not killed outright.  That’s how it works isn’t it?”

“Oh yes, my King.  That’s how it works, generally speaking.”  The King looked at his man, the greatest of mages.  The greatest of mages kept his hand behind his back.

“And we’re having this war now because your opposite number is pregnant, and can’t use her powers to counteract yours, because she’s on what did you call it, ‘maternity leave.’”

“That’s right, King.”  The King looked the greatest of mages, with no equal while his opposite number was on maternity leave, and in any event styled herself a witch, and decided to take a different tack.

“How are the wife and kids?”

“Oh fine, fine.  Yes, doing well.  Clarice is with child again.”

“Pregnant, you can say the word, she’s not going to explode.”

“Yes, pregnant again.  Hurrah.”

“And the six…”

“Seven.”

“…seven children, how are they?”

“Oh yes, fine, fine.  Yes, doing well, the littlest is in school now too.”  The King was very proud of school, educating the populace.

It was about this time that a rider arrived from across the field, and got down off his horse.  He strode confidently up to the King and Mage, but the King held a finger out to halt the man.

“And another thing this chap’s just reminded me, next time you feel like getting me any sort of talking animal for a gift, please consult with me first, right?”

“Yes, O my King.”  Said Kadon.  “The Mrs King thought it would be alright.”

“Yes, well Queen Jasmine doesn’t ride, and despite her vast wisdom in so many other areas, she doesn’t have to put up with Ced’s tongue.”

“Yes, my King.”  The King turned the chap who had ridden across the field, and found that on closer inspection, it was a young woman clad plainly in brown leather and some chainmail.  She didn’t look pleased.

“Are we warring or what?” She said with considerable asperity.  The King put his fingers to the bridge of his nose again, and tried to massage the rapidly assembling headache away.

“Diplomacy having failed, Madam,” he began, but he was immediately interrupted.

“Don’t you Madam me you, old buffer!  Do I look old enough to be Madamed?  If you’re going to be all formal and talk like something out of a bloody romance you might as well get it right.  It’s ‘Princess’” she made the quote marks, “Fiona.”  All the army nearest took a step back, making a great clop on the ground as they moved in unison, not intentionally.

“Ah, I do apologise Mad… Miss… Your Imperial highness.  May I offer you the hospitality of my tent?”

“I have no intention of being taken prisoner,” replied the Princess, laying her hand obviously on her sword.  The assembled men who could see took another step back.  “What the hell is wrong with your army?”

“My army is made up of the finest of men and women I assure you, and taking you prisoner is last thing on my mind I assure you.  Even were we to battle, you and I we would not subject you to the indignities of a cell, you would be returned to your father.”  And to emphasise his point he laid his hand on the pommel of his large sword.

Or rather he would have laid it on the pommel of his large sword if, he realised at just that moment, he had not left it mounted on Ced the horse and now it lay amongst the detritus of his mounted equipment while Ced was being rubbed down after a strenuous three hundred yards walking.

“I rather fear you have the advantage of me, Your Imperial Highness.

“Just Princess Fiona will do.  How do you even run a kingdom?”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“You’re completely incompetent!”  The king looked shocked.

“That’s a very rude thing to say to a king you know.”

“Gosh is it?  You’re a blithering idiot.  I’m not fighting you.”

“Well I say!  I’m rather well defended here you know.”  And he looked around pointedly at the army surrounding him.  This would have had a rather better effect on the young woman if every face had not managed to be turned away and studiously occupied with, straps, clouds, armour polishing, shoelace tying or pretty much anything else that several hundred people could find to occupy themselves with while not meeting each other’s eyes.

“I’ve got a powerful Mage?”  The king ventured.  Kadon looked up, hastily putting his hand behind his back again now that he’d become the subject of the king’s attention.  The king looked at him and rolled his eyes meaningfully.

“Bit of a problem right there, King.  Got your healing up right here, no problem.  Friends, enemies, whatever you like, no problem.”  He waved the heavily tattooed implement of healing, to wit his left hand up in the air for the King and princess to see.

“Yes, I see that.  And the smiting?”  The great Kadon managed to look sheepish.

“Ah well yes.  So, the thing is, O King, you know I’m a bit of a heavy sleeper, right?”  he paused.  The king rolled his hand around indicating that the great man should continue.  “And you know that my littlest started school, learning to read and write and that?”  he stopped again.

“Yes, do get on with it Kadon.  What’s the problem?”  Kadon showed him, and consequently the Princess as well.

On his intricately patterned palm, a child’s writing in heavy black, indelible ink said “I love you, daddy.”  The king resumed once more the slight grip of his fingers upon the bridge of his nose and massaged this for a moment.

“I see.”

“Sorry King.  Just found out.”

“Right.”  The sound of a sword being drawn was very much in evidence.

“I’m pretty sure such valuable information can’t be allowed to get back to the enemy, so you’ll have to kill me and I’m going to take as many of you with me as I can.”  The Princess said, waving the sword in a low circle.  “What, what did you say before Kadon?”

“My daughter wrote on my smiting hand.”

“No, before that.”

“My other hand is alright.  I can heal everyone up.”  The sword stopped moving.

“What was that about enemies?”

“The King said I had to heal anyone up.  Being as your mage…”

“Witch.”

“…witch is on maternity leave.  Said it wasn’t on, having her off duty and leaving people with chopped off limbs and that.”

“But we’re at war man!”

“Well, yes, war’s been declared.”  Said the King.

“…”  The princess opened and closed her mouth a few times.  She sheathed her sword.  She looked about at the all the gathered army, looking about busily.

“I’ve just got to run an errand,” she said.  “Then I think I’ll take that cup of tea, in your tent.  Maybe with a piece of cake?”

Flood

This is for the Midweek Flash Challenge at http://purplequeennl.blogspot.co.uk and you can follow Miranda Kate on twitter @PurpleQueenNL.

As usual it will take me a couple of days to proofread it.


It was much higher than I thought it needed to be by metres, as much as I thought I could predict, I wasn’t ready for this.  It was little window, a mirror really, I say was, I really mean is a little mirror, though painted by a talented hand.   What it reflects, it’s not what it is a in front of it, now in the now, but some time hence, and I thought it was high enough in my little tower.  I couldn’t have known, we couldn’t know, right?

There were things we got right, and things we got wrong.  The strange admixture of science and magic, the old wooden frame with strange properties, the glass taken from the old deposit, that pool in the crypt, and the inscription, promising to show what the world would become.

We see it, Jem and I.  We thought it would be so good, a shining city of golden opportunity, our shabby apartment the remains of the fortunes we squandered on it.  Word got out about the strangeness, we ran.  The government chased us, we ran.  Dark business tried to find us, we ran and ran and ran and eventually the glass was ours and the numbers were on our side and bought the apartment, and then the others via a shell corporation and mounted it here in the highest spot and uncrated it.

Jem was the first to see.  Her shock left that imprint as the water poured in.  We tried to block it up, the water poured in.  We poured concrete over it, the water poured in.  We blew it up, the water poured in, and had no effect at all on the frame, or the painting.

We can pass into it, just, but we float in the freezing water for a bit in fear of our lives, the thin rope that attaches us to home.  Sometimes the big waves come and flood the whole room, not long before the city of New York notices how much water, salt-water, we’re draining out of this place.

Now we’ve seen it, there is some effect that has fixed the other side in place.  No matter how we move it or tilt it, water keeps slopping over the frame.  The bonus is that we were able to move it nearer the basement, nearer the drain.

We know it’s the future.  We tested.  The water is different, the radioactivity is different.  It’s greater, a lot.  There’s been a war, or at least some nukes fired where ever this is.  It’s no alien, we saw sharks and a whale.  There was a light oh the horizon once, but it disappeared.

The water keeps coming, and that’s not the worst of it.

We’re not stupid.  Reckless, but not stupid, we went diving.  It was hard, stuffing the dingy through the hole, that handprint still showing even right up close before we pass through, friends instructing us, then and for weeks beforehand, though they didn’t believe why until we showed them.  We went deeper than we wanted, than we really should have.  That fear of getting, what do they call it?  The Bends, little bubbles of oxygen in the blood.  Kills you, if you’re not careful.

We saw where we’d opened the crate, the apartments.  We saw, below, in the picture, where the picture was, below, there were the apartments, the rest of New York.  Flooded.  We’re a hundred feet up here.  We couldn’t tell properly but the apartments looked the same to me, we couldn’t get inside, but they looked the same, a hundred feet below us, where we opened it.

It’s got to be soon then, right?  It can’t be far away, whatever it is that happens.  We don’t know how far into the future the mirror painting is looking, because it’s all water from here.  There are no clues apart from the radioactivity.  That’s a lot of rain falling in the distance.  Did we cause it?  Is that it?  Does our looking make it happen?  Is this water slopping in fifty gallons a minute the start? Do we start the flood?

Do we?

I say, we warn someone.  I keep saying it, but Jem asks who will believe us?

And it’s no-one, they know something is up, but not this, not like this.

We’re gone; if you find this, get to high ground, really high ground, far away.

God Speed.