CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Kathleen Collins
Welcome to day two of our annual flash fiction event! Today we host a “new to Coastal Magic” author, Kathleen Collins. I can’t wait to meet her in February, and I really enjoyed her short story for this week!
Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)
Here’s the image that inspired her story…
Deep in the forgotten forests of Pynilyre sat a grand castle. In the center of that castle a stone throne rose in front of a wall of colored glass. A small table had been sat up on the floor in front of the throne. A petite figure dressed in red reclined in one of the chairs, sipping burgundy wine and running her eyes over the stained glass, watching the figures move on the surface.
The Wall, as it was known, wasn’t a decorative piece. It was a living history of their people. The origins had been lost to time but the prevailing rumor was that when the castle was built it had simply grown into place overnight. Anytime a major event happened, it was recorded on The Wall for all to see. Right now, Queen Neecole was watching a battle take place in shards of colored glass. Days ago, she had sent her armies and her best general south to defend their borders from the goblin horde.
“Your majesty?” a voice called from the doorway.
Neecole raised her hand to signal the visitor to approach as she recognized the voice of her favorite advisor. “What is it, Minok?” she asked when he stood beside her.
“You’ve been in here since the armies left.” His fingers tapped nervously on his thighs. “Don’t you think you should give the vigil a rest, or perhaps at least take audiences with some of the people waiting to see you?”
She pursed her lips and looked away from the images long enough to glance up at Minok briefly. “And why should I?”
He cleared his throat. “This constant diligence gives the impression that you question whether our forces will be victorious.”
“I don’t question whether or not our army will defeat the horde. Of course they will. I merely want to know who will return to us when it’s over.” Unfortunately for the queen, her best general also happened to be her husband, the king. She leaned back in her chair and laid a hand on her swollen belly. “He must return to us, Minok. I could not stand for it to be any other way.”
Minok watched her for a moment then took the empty seat on the other side of the table. “I’ll have dinner brought to us.”
Sometime in the middle of the night a heavy hand fell on the queen’s shoulder. She groaned at the intrusion into her slumber. The hand shook her gently. “My queen?”
She blinked open bleary eyes as Minok’s voice penetrated. “What is it?”
“They’ve stopped,” he said, his voice low.
Neecole sat up, slowly and rubbed at her shoulders. Sleeping hunched over a table had not done her pregnant back any good. She blinked at The Wall but couldn’t make out the entirety of the new picture. Hoisting herself up, she made her way up the stairs to look at the new images that had taken shape. There the horde was fleeing the battle field, here were her armies standing triumphant and in the middle was a crown resting on a pool of blood.
The queen’s heart stopped beating for a moment as she took in the implications of what this meant. Her beloved husband had fallen on the field. She cried out and fell to her knees, arms wrapped around her stomach as if trying to protect her unborn child from the truth. At some point she felt hands lifting her to her feet and she was led to her bed.
For days she stayed cocooned in her covers crying and screaming prayers to every ancestor she could think of, begging for The Wall to be wrong though it never had been before. On the evening of the third day, Minok appeared with her robe and coaxed her to come with him. “There is something you need to see,” was all he would tell her.
So, broken heart and all, she let him help her to her feet and wrap the robe around her shoulders. He led her to the throne room where she kept her eyes turned from the wall of glass. He turned her to face it with two hands on her shoulders. Squeezing her shoulders in support he said, “Just look.”
Neecole turned to look at all the horrible shards of glass again. There was the goblin horde fleeing the battlefield. Here was her army standing triumphant. And in the middle was a pool of blood with no crown resting upon it. She gasped and her hand flew to her mouth. How could this be? “When did this change?”
“I don’t know. I came to get you as soon as I noticed. “
The heavy door at the far end of the throne room creaked open and they both turned toward the sound.
“Neecole?” a worn, haggard voice called. The king had returned.