Before I present this fortnight’s story, I’d like to tell you all some exciting (to me, at least) news. My eldest daughter has decided to become a writer!

To support and encourage her endeavors, I’ve decided to post HER work instead of mine once a month, give or take. I hope you’ll come and check it out.

In the meantime, I offer you a flash fiction that originally appeared as a scene in my second novel. Sadly, the novel won’t ever make it into the public eye, but I do have some fondness for certain scenes.  This is one of my favorites (even if the writing is only so-so).

“Your Majesties, my Lords,” began Leon, “Prince Jaak will be fourteen next month. As you all know, fourteen is the traditional age at which the princes of Dragonia embark on their first quest.”

Queen Meli shut her eyes and tried not to groan out loud. Although she’d been mentally preparing herself for it all week, this was not going to be an easy meeting. She wished Marcus were still alive to handle it himself.

“Before his death, our beloved King purchased a few perils for prince Jaak to overcome. Your Majesty, would you care to present the documents yourself?”

Meli had forgotten about the receipts clutched tightly in her hands. “Oh, um, yes, Sir Leon. Thank you.” She cleared her throat to give herself a moment to collect her courage. “I have several receipts here. The oldest receipt is for a Trained Dragon from the Howlers Guild.”

The gathered lords murmured in delight and approval, quietly praising Marcus’ forethought on the matter.

“His majesty reserved a ten thousand year old male that gives a level  four fight guaranteed to cause,” Meli faltered for the tiniest moment, “painful but perfectly survivable injuries, provided prince Jaak is an above average fighter for his age and has no apparent conditions that would contraindicate fierce battle.”

She looked to the Combat Master for confirmation. After his brief nod, she went on, “It is guaranteed to provide four to six hours of said level of combat and to be bred with no fewer than four but not more than seven vulnerable spots, at least one of which is clearly visible in daylight. The dragon is also guaranteed not to cause fatal injuries by biting, breathing fire, slashing with its tail, or by any other means common to dragons although any or all of the aforementioned behaviors may be displayed at a non-fatal level to provide the desired level of combat.”

There. That was the worst of it. The other receipts wouldn’t be quite so difficult to read. “Let’s see, we have various items of light weight quest armor, a new horse trained to carry a wounded rider home without direction, a Fatal Riddle posed by an actor named Mystico, a-”

“If I may, Your Majesty?” interrupted one of Marcus’ numerous cousins.

Meli knew that, as queen, she really should have scolded him, scathingly, but she liked this particular lord, so she let it slide with a curt nod of her head.  “I know this Mystico fellow. Will his assistant provide hints?”

Meli scanned the receipt, “Yes. Marcus purchased the Deluxe Service. It includes up to five subtle hints.”

“And, forgive me, Your Majesty, but as I say, I’ve met this Mystico. If our young prince is not clever enough to solve the riddle…?”

Meli glared at Lord Whatever-His-Name-Was. Why couldn’t she ever remember their names? It would be useful to remember who she ought to torment.

The man bowed apologetically. “That is, I am sure His Highness is clever enough under normal circumstances, but perchance he was hit on the head not too long before this riddle is posed? It can be rather difficult to find one’s way to the nearest tree, let alone solve a riddle.”

Meli’s stomach turned at the thought of Jaak being hit so hard on the head. She swallowed the nausea and looked back at the receipt. “If the prince does not solve the riddle he will be shot with a Sedative Dart and given the opportunity to find an antidote before he falls asleep.”

“Ah, very good. Just checking. Thank you for humoring me, Your Majesty.”

Meli bowed her head graciously before going on. “Let’s see, there is also a receipt for a Coincidental Traveling Companion who will teach Jaak tracking, wilderness survival, and espionage skills. Aaaand… Ah! Here’s the receipt for one quarter ounce of Water from the Fountain of Youth in an Extra Fragile Crystal Vial.”

Meli smiled brightly as she dropped the receipts on the table. “Well, as you can all plainly see, our Dearly Departed King has left only the route for the journey and the selection of the Deathly Ill Loved One to our imaginations.”

“Excuse me, your Majesty, but is not there another receipt?”

Meli scowled at Lord In-Need-Of-Public-Humiliation, as she decided to call him from now on. She handed the last receipt to Leon.

“One Damsel In Distress,” he read. “The package includes Feminine Wiles, Opportune Moments guaranteed to be interrupted within three minutes, and one Passionate Farewell Kiss.”

Several of the lords smiled knowingly. Much, much too knowingly.

Meli snatched the receipt back. “I think we can dismiss the Damsel. The Dragon will be dangerous enough. Now, who wants to play the Deathly Ill Loved One? ”

After a tediously long meeting, it was settled that Meli would play deathly ill for a week or so while Leon predicted doom and behaved like an insane man. Lord In-Need-Of-Public-Humiliation would suggest to Jaak that he visit the White Fairy in order to seek her counsel, and the White Fairy graciously agreed to send Jaak on his way after the water.

Village Market

Village Market with the Quack (I’m not kidding. That’s its real title.)
Cornelis Bega, 1654-58