Flash Fiction Challenge: Loose Ends

Macrocosm
This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: RANDOM FLICKR PHOTO CHALLENGE at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Wow, it’s been almost three months since I’ve done a proper one of these. A little rusty, but fun, and introduces two characters that have been around in the back of my head for a while. Hope you enjoy! –FY

“Do you have it?”

The tall man sat next to the Broker without asking permission. She eyed him as best she could under the dangling hood of her cloak. Boots caked in drying mud adorned his feet, likely the source of the smell that announced his presence. Thick trousers and a patched woolen tunic stretched tightly over his well muscled frame. She caught a glimpse of his face reflected in his ale mug. He’d changed since last they’d spoke. The scruff on his face now resembled an actual beard. So young, pretending to be so much older. His eyes sunk deeper into the growing dark circles beneath them. So tired.

“Keep your voice down, Kensley.”

Kensley glanced around the tavern. The Broker knew what he would see. Herself, her silent companion in full black plate mail, and a barman cleaning a glass with his back turned to them, the bar room was empty. “Why bother? No one here will betray us.”

“Ears always listen. Mouths always speak. Do well to remember that in your coming revolution.”

“You try my patientence, crone.” Kensley paused, distracted by the faint hissing that came from the helmet of her silent companion. “Do you have it?”

The Broker slide a small wooden box on the table. “The price has gone up.”

“Again?”

“There were,” a spasm of pain rattled her arm,’”complications.”

Kensley lowered his head. “How many men did you lose?”

The Broker lowered her shaking arm beneath the table. “I lost enough. The price is now thirty thousand imperial.”

“That’s a significant increase.”

“You’re paying for significant power.”

Kensley stood to paced around the room. “No. I’ll only pay ten thousand, as we agreed.”

The Broker motioned to her companion. They started to rise. “Very well. Another buyer will be found.”

“Wait. Fine. Twenty. We can meet halfway.”

She sat back in the seat. “Twenty nine. Take the deal. Negotiate no further.”

“Ok, how about twenty five? You still come out fifteen thousand ahead, and I get to keep some dignity.”

“Thirty.”

Kensley ran his hand through his hair, pulling the shag at the base of his neck. “That’s not how negotiation works.”

The Broker let a half smile dance on her lips. “Thirty five.”

Kensley slammed his fist on the table. “I don’t have that!”

“But you have thirty.”

Kensley sagged. “Yes.”

“Then take the deal, or not. Quit wasting my time.”

Kensley paced the length of the bar several times. He reached into his shirt several times. He reached for the box once.

“Is it really a piece of her power?” he said, fingers outstretched.

The Broker slid the lid back. Inside the black velvet lined box sat a crystalline blue orb, etched with intricate designs.  “A Tatter. The same source of power as the Empress. Frozen. Ingestible. As promised.”

Kensley sighed heavily. He pulled a large pouch from his tunic and tossed it on the table with a heavy thud. Another two smaller pouches joined it, followed by several handfuls of lose coin. “Thirty thousand. A year’s worth of taxes for this province. Every coin to my name. All worth it for the power to fight the Tyrant.”

She pushed the box towards him careful not to touch the orb with her hands. “Do not forget the price.”

“I gave you all the money I have.”

“Not my price. The price it,” she pointed to the blue orb, “will demand of you.”

“I will pay anything for the chance to strike her down and free my people. Nothing and no one will stop me.” A jagged smile cut across his face. “I begin my hunt at daybreak.”

“Of course. A pleasure doing business with you.” The Broker said the last of those words to empty air. Kensley had already vanished with his prize.

She accepted her companion’s offer of aid in collecting the money and carrying it to their carriage around back. Safely inside she removed the heavy cloak and retrieved her jeweled circlet of office. Her companion removed her helmet, revealing a lined face surrounded by close cropped brown hair with hints of grey, a faint smile on her face. The Broker, no Emilia now, glared at her.

“Mother! You nearly gave us away by laughing.”

“I couldn’t help it. I can’t believe he called you a crone. You’re barely thirty.”

“I can’t blame him.” Emilia, brushing away the last vestiges of her black market persona, frowned at her brittle white hair and her wrinkled hands. “If you don’t mind my asking, why give him that power? He did not lie. He intends to confront you as soon as he can find you.”

“Because thirty thousand imperials can buy mercenaries and weapons. Because a war would inflict terrible atrocities on my people, on my land. Because I might be able to convince him to join us once I’ve beaten him.”

“And if he kills you?”

“I imagine I won’t be terribly concerned with anything.”

“Mother!”

The Empress held up her hands placatingly. “Fine, fine. If he kills me, the Empire falls. Don’t worry, I’m not so old and frail that I can’t take one warrior on my own.”

Emilia knew that her mother felt confident about the fight, at least. “What of Governor Dimval?”

“We managed to recover the stolen taxes, so he shall keep his head.”

“Allowing failure to go unpunished? All the other tyrants will be disappointed in you.”

“Next time he won’t be so lucky.” The Empress tapped on the roof of the carriage. “Driver! Take us back to the Traveling Court. I’ve got to prepare for company.”

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6 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Loose Ends

  1. A tasty vignette. Strong dialogue and characterisation and I like how the story can be appreciated as a standalone, yet is clearly part of a more extensive tale. A bit of trimming could be done by removing a couple of ‘ing’ words and passive voice. Also, you could trim the character descriptions down to the bare essential(s) that indicate their character. But, hey, for a quick outflow of creative energy, this is pretty well polished. Now I need to turn my attention to the picture inspiration I have chosen.

    Like

    • Thanks! For the kind words as well as the criticism. I normally spend a few days working on challenges, but since I’m trying to keep focus on the novel re-write, I posted a rougher draft. One of my goals is to improve my writing enough to prevent those pesky mistakes in the first go, and knowing where I need work is a great help. Look forward to reading yours once you’ve posted it.

      Like

  2. Fantastic blend of fantasy and reality! I’m so curious to read more. Tell me more about the Empress and the orb/Tatter and gah! This is very frustrating.

    P.S. Love the photo you chose. Great job on all counts!

    Like

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