Welcome to Story Time Saturday!
These are flash fiction stories. My word count goal is no more than 1,000 words each story. I’ll show you the prompt, the story, and a teaser graphic.
Here is this week’s:
“The Key to the Kingdom”
Once there were two brothers—one loved by all who met him and the other scorned by nearly everyone who crossed his path. Both brothers were heirs to the throne in their kingdom. Phoenix, of average height with dark, wavy hair, was the brother of light and goodness. He possessed great powers. Whenever he used his magic Phoenix radiated gold from his smoke-gray eyes down his muscular frame.
As a teen, Phoenix listened to the requests of those who lived in the village. He made a solemn vow that the day he becomes king, he’d make sure none of his subject longed for anything. That day was rapidly approaching.
Griffith, the older brother, hardly resembled Phoenix. He was sleek and angular with black straight hair and black eyes. The subjects of the kingdom despised him and he they. His darkness followed him wherever he went like a woolen blanket. Wickedness filled his every thought. Griffith had no plans to do anything for the villagers. Whining and complaining irritated him.
As the boys grew into young men, their powers increased as well along with their animosity for each other. Their behavior annoyed the king, their father. So, King Byron sent the brothers on a quest to rescue Lady Gwendolyn, their cousin. It would be a dangerous journey. As long as they worked together, though, they would succeed.
Griffith shrugs off his cloak and leans against the damp cave wall. He casts a dark look my way, and then closes his black eyes.
I rub my hands over my arms. “How can you sleep?”
“Easy. Close your eyes and mouth,” he snaps. “Works every time.”
I bunch up my outer garment and shove it beneath my head. Griffith is so irritating. “That’s not what I meant.” I have a sneaky suspicion our father created this quest thinking we’d learn to get along. I don’t think it’s going to work. “Why do you have to be such an ass?”
“Why do you have to be anything?” Griffith snarls and turns away from me, his tunic lifting up in the back.
Right before I close my eyes, I see the edge of something hideous on Griffith’s lower back. “Griffith?”
“What Phoenix?” he asks sharply.
I ignore his nasty tone. It’s not like I haven’t heard it before. “What’s that on your back?”
Slowly, my brother sits up. He avoids making eye contact with me. “It’s nothing.”
“That’s an awful big nothing,” I point out.
“You really are a pain in my ass.” He tugs the tunic over his head and turns his back to me.
An intricate grayish web covers his back. The gnarled texture reminds me of tentacles reaching into the dark. It stretches from one shoulder to the other, snakes down his spine, and disappears around his side. “How the hell did that happen?”
Griffith pulls his shirt back on. He leans against the wall, pulling his legs up, and rests his elbows on his knees. “It’s my curse.”
“What do you mean?”
He sighs. “My magic is painful for me to use. Every time I do, it leaves a mark on my skin.”
“You have more?” I know nothing about his type of magic. Griffith and I have never shared anything more than an angry word—a lot more since our mother’s death. He was her favorite. Griffith has grown more argumentative since her demise.
A shadow crosses his face. “I take it you don’t have any.”
“No, I don’t. My magic doesn’t hurt me.” On the contrary, my magic strengthens me every time I use it, but I don’t abuse the gift. I recognize it for what it is and do not tempt the gods.
I move over to Griffith’s side of the cave. My brother side-glances. I point toward a meager pile of sticks in a corner and move toward the center of the space. A flick of my wrist and a fireball ignites a flame. Soon the chill in the air dissipates. Now, I think I understand why we haven’t had some basic necessities—food, proper shelter, heat—since we left home two days ago.
“Show off,” Griffith mumbles and rubs his hands together. “Thanks.”
Wow. My brother just thanked me. Maybe we can find a way to get along. At least until we rescue Lady Gwendolyn. “You’re welcome. You know if you ask, I’d gladly provide whatever we need.”
“Do you think I want to lean on you like some sniffling female?” Griffith’s voice deepens.
“It’s not leaning. You’re my brother.” Despite our petty differences, I do love him. Our mother died six months ago. Father is aging poorly. Griffith and I need each other. If he ascends the throne before me, my knowledge would help him.
“Since when has that mattered to you? I’m next in line to the throne, but you’ll be the next king,” he rasps.
“That won’t happen, Griffith. I’m not ready for the throne,” I lie. I’ve been ready for over a year. I’ve learned everything I need to know about the kingdom, Father’s holdings, and matters of court. “Why do you call your condition a curse?”
Griffith pulls his cloak around him. “When I first learned about my powers, Mother told me about the curse. It was something we shared.”
My eyes widen. “I never saw those markings on her skin.”
“You wouldn’t have. The few scars she bore were hidden. Mother refrained from using her magic. She knew what it could do to her.”
I know I shouldn’t ask, but curiosity kills me. “So, why do you use it?”
“Why shouldn’t I?” His fist shakes.
“Only a fool would continue to do that which hurts him.”
“And only a fool, dear brother, would turn his back on such power,” he shouts.
My brother’s sharp-angled face tightens. His neck cords as his mouth curls with dislike. The stone walls reverberate around us. “I use my magic because I can.”
His image slowly fades out leaving me alone in the cave.