I have fallen behind with my flash fiction writing lately. Well the latest challenge by Chuck Wendig from Terribleminds.com was enough to stir me from my dilatory slumber. He provided us with a link that sent us off to a Fantasy Character concept generator. With one click of a button, five fantasy concepts were generated. All I had to do was choose one of them and then use it for the basis of a 1000 word piece of flash fiction.
Out of the five concepts I had, I chose…
“an ensorcelled errand boy is trying to rid herself of a curse.”
Hope you enjoy it, but if you think there are ways it can be improved, please let me know in the comments. I’m still learning.
Flash Fiction: True Wealth
Byzan was born into a privileged life, for the first part of his life he wanted for nothing. His parents, Lord and Lady Yorrick were rich landowner’s. They owned a large house, with many servants paid to do exactly what they wanted, and they were severely punished if they refused. The rich idolised them and the poor despised them.
It was Byzan’s sixteenth birthday, and a large party had been arranged to celebrate. All the young lords and ladies had been invited. It was the event of the year, tables overflowed with food and wine and his pile of presents stopped just short of the ceiling. It was the biggest event of Byzan’s life, until he opened his presents.
He opened gifts of silk clothes, gold jewellery, and antique weapons, but there was one present, the present with the red wrapping paper that had something far more sinister inside.
Byzan pulled the black ribbon from the gift, the box opened with a flash and an odd herbal smell wafted from the box, but was otherwise empty. The crowd went momentarily silent, before cheering in wonder at the spectacle of what they had witnessed. Byzan laughed, but he was unsure what to make of the strange gift.
The next present was a shining golden sword, encrusted with rubies. Byzan picked it up, instantly the gold started to fade, and the ruby’s dulled. The sword in his hand became rusted iron. He ran his finger down the blunt blade, a shard of rust cut his skin. When he rubbed his finger on his silk shirt, the purple silk faded, and the fine cloth became rough and ragged.
Panic filled Byzan, he ran about the room in desperation. Everything he touched became old and worthless. The books and paintings crumbled to dust, tapestries grew mildew, the fine food rotted on the table, and the red wine turned to thick, green, stagnant water.
Over the next few years Lord and Lady Yorrick sank everything they had into finding a cure for their son’s curse, closing off parts of their house, and selling their belongings as they paid for every cure from every wise-man and merchant from far and wide, but nothing cured him. Between Byzan’s curse and the Yorrick’s spending, they were all soon reduced to poverty and forced to work in the fields for only a few coins a week, These paid for a room they had to share with three other people. The shame and ignominy of their new status grew like an illness inside of them, and it wasn’t long before they started to resent Byzan. Soon they hated their son so much they could no longer stand to look at him. He reminded them of everything they had once been, everything they had lost, so the told him to leave the town.
Byzan wandered the countryside, not knowing what to do. He’d lost everything, his house, his money, his family; he had nothing. Then the heavens opened and rain poured down, soaking the despairing Byzan. On the horizon he saw a stone house with a rickety straw roof, and a small, unkempt garden. He watched the house, an old woman shuffled out of the front door.
‘Oh, hello there young man.’ She said ‘My word, you’re soaked. You’d better come in and dry off.’
‘I can’t, I’ll destroy every bit of wealth you have.’
The old woman chuckled to herself ‘Wealth? I don’t have any wealth’ She beckoned inside with her hand ‘Come in, or you’ll catch your death.’
As the tea brewed, Byzan explained his situation to the old woman. He explained about his curse, and how he had been kicked out by his family. The old woman sipped on her tea and only looked to be half listening to him.
‘Well, you must stay here with me then.’
‘but I can’t give you anything for your hospitality.’
‘Oh I think you can. There are things to be done around here. You stay here and help me, and I’ll make sure you’re taken care of. I’m too old to get on that roof for a start.’
So that’s what he did, over the next few days he fixed the holes in the roof, tended to the garden and weeded the path. At the end of every day she had a warm meal and a comfy bed waiting for him. Days became weeks; and Byzan found that there were plenty of other people nearby who needed errands running. He obliged with every request but he insisted that he was only paid in food or services and that everything he earned should be given to the old woman. He wouldn’t accept any payment for himself.
Every day Byzan went to the neighboring villages offering his services for anything they would be willing to give him in exchange. He worked in fields for a bag of flour or a jug of milk; he helped blacksmiths in exchange for new tools or the repair of his old ones. He worked hard every day and gave everything he had been given to the old woman. The two of them lived happily, not worrying about money or wealth but knowing they had everything they would ever need.
Years passed, and the old woman’s strength began to desert her. As her time grew to an end, she asked to speak to Byzan one last time.
‘I need you to know something?’ she said holding his hand. ‘It’s about the curse.’
Byzan smiled at her. ‘I haven’t thought about that for a long time. What is it?’
‘It was me. I sent that gift. I cursed you.’
Byzan looked angry, then he laughed ‘I know’.
‘I’ve known for a while.’ He said still smiling.
The old woman tried to lean forward. ‘Really? How?’
‘There’s a plant in your garden that smells exactly like the red present that cursed me. ‘
‘You are too young to remember me, but I have always known you. I couldn’t let you turn into your parents. You needed to be saved. I’m so sorry, you must hate me for what I’ve done.’
Byzan held the old woman’s hand tightly, and smiled at her. You showed me that wealth is not about owning gold or wearing silks. It is about being content and happy; it’s about showing kindness and compassion to others. I cannot hate the person who saved my life. Thank you.’
The old woman smiled and slowly closed her eyes.