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Fantasy

King Patrick the Great lay on the grass, the blood stain on his green tunic growing. His brother, Prince Alexander of no formal title, was watching the stain when he felt the king’s eyes. 


“Yes, it’s your baby brother - back from the grave.” When they last saw each other, the king’s hair was a bright yellow, but it was now greyed. Even the prince’s black hair turned salt and pepper. “I’ve always wondered what you thought killed me - outlaws or your assassins?” 


The king closed his eyes. It took him a minute to open them again. There wasn’t a soul within miles per his idiotic design, which made sense in a narrow view, when he had only considered the thrill of seeing his mistress. 


Alexander leaned over him, whispering unnecessarily. “You’d thought I’d die because the forest doesn’t allow magic, but see, I’ve learned how to use peasant weapons.” He waved the wooden-handled knife back and forth, getting a drop of blood on his black cloak. It was quickly lost in the cloth's color, nestled between the burn marks. 


The prince patted the king’s shoulder. “I don’t know why you thought you had to kill me. I never thought about killing you. In fact, some Umbrons had to convince me. They’ll be dancing and pulling out the good mead when they find out you're dead.” 


The king gasped and fought for air. 


“Well, I don’t really have anything else to say, but ‘a silent death is a lonely death’, so the saying goes.” He looked around the field, but there was nothing of interest there. “Uh, well, thanks for being infertile. I really owe you one for that.” 


With a rattle, King Patrick died. 


Alexander held his breath, but the tears still fell from his wet eyes. His breath turned raspy and he kept gasping for air because he kept forgetting to breathe. “I didn’t want to kill you, Pat. You didn’t give me much choice.” Alexander kissed his forehead, already growing cold, and stood up as king. 


-


King Patrick’s thick, oak desk stood on a dais in the center of the stone hall. The candles were positioned to keep him illuminated and his crown shined among his blonde locks. He sat back on his more practical throne and watched the gaggle of courtiers slipping out of the room. 


Alexander came stumbling in, his arms full of scrolls and books and papers, stacked about about a hand high. Patrick looked at his clear desk: he had already signed everything and the courtiers had taken all the papers away. What in the world could possibly be the use of all of those pages in his brother’s arms?


“Brother.” The king's voice boomed and echoed around the stone hall. He was accustomed to speaking first.  


There was no desk for Alexander to lay his scrolls, so he awkwardly bent over to set them on the stone floor. “Pat, I’m glad you reached out. There has been a breakthrough on merchant guild taxation law that should -”


Patrick waived a hand and the prince knew his words were dismissed. “That’s not why I summoned you. I have something bigger for you than taxation law.”  


His brother stood silent, waiting. He spent his three years after university on the subject, so this was going to be really good or, rather, continue to show his brother’s lack of understanding of the law’s delight.   


“I needed you to go to Umbron Woods and put the outlaws to rest.” 


Alex admitted to himself that this would, for his person, be bigger than the law, but probably a lot smaller for his brain. Patrick had never wanted anything like that for him before. “When you say ‘put to rest’, do you mean kill?”


The king sighed and stood up. “I mean handle in a military fashion which - yes - might mean bloodshed. But Alex, this is what you are made for!” King Patrick slowly walked down the dais. “You are our prince. With your magic, the outlaws should be a piece of mutton pie.” 


The prince began counting on his fingers. “Of the last five royals you sent there, four were killed and Bernard has never quite been the same.” 


He waved his dismissive hand again, reaching his brother. He placed that same hand on Alex’s shoulder to emphasize his next point. “They weren’t princes.” 


Alex chewed his lip and creased his eyebrows. “Is this about Merida?” 


Without a second thought, King Patrick slapped his brother, right hand to right cheek. “You refer to her as Queen.” 


“Is this about Queen Merida?” Alex wasn’t sure when he grew so confident, but maybe it was the adrenaline pumping through his veins after being slapped. Or maybe it was the image of Merida, crying alone in the garden. He had only asked her what was the matter, but she begged him to go away before anyone saw them together. Turns out, she was right.


The king, however, was the one red in the face. “No. This is about your duty to your king. We have a traitorous infestation. Are you saying no to me?” 


Prince Alexander looked his brother in the eye. “How many men will I have?” 


“Your guards. With your magic, as I said, it should be mutton pie.” 


The prince nodded. It was as he suspected: a real mission would have soldiers. “As you wish.” 


-


Merida and Alex stood in the training field, preparing for tomorrow’s exam. She wore a long red dress that shifted back and forth in the wind. Her black hair was tied up in a tight braid and she stood, arms crossed, evaluating Alex. 


Alex was muttering something and marking different points on the sand. “Trying to get the right geometries!” he shouted as he drew a large triangle. 


“Alex, you are shooting fire at me. That shouldn’t require math.” She assumed. His math had outpaced her understanding. 


“But you are going to fight back. I need to be ready for your counterattack.” 


“Come on, Alex,” she moaned for the millionth time. He never left his head unless someone grabbed him and shook him. She thought this was why he was constantly late - he spent too much time away from proper shakers.


He looked up, his face registering her impatience. “Yes, yes, you’re right.” From his hand, he formed a large ball of fire, singeing his tunic. It was red and orange, relatively low heat, and had a loose rotation. With a cough, which was either his tell or he couldn’t help himself from warning Merida, he threw the fireball, rippling across the field, warping the air with its heat, heading straight for her. 


Merida lifted her arms and pulled on the wind. The hair on her arms began to tingle. She called harder, offering that she’d be extra good if the wind could come. Her braid lifted, becoming parallel to the ground, and her dress rose, revealing a patch of tan skin above her boots. The wind blew everything eastward, including the fireball. It missed her by a foot and a half. 


“Nice try!” she shouted. 


After an hour, they felt ready for anything the tutor could throw at them. Merida’s red dress was singed and would be sent to the tailors. Alex’s hair was standing straight-up like it hadn’t been washed in days. They sat on a log, drinking a pale green liquid that rumor said restored magic. It tasted sour which suited Merida. Both of them watched a couple of first years battling, one used water and the other earth. 


“Patrick invited me to a ball.” 


Alex wondered what was the correct response. On his fingertips, he could feel the little balls of fire forming, spinning slowly. They were each the size of a flax seed. 


The silence grew long enough that Merida filled it. “It doesn’t mean anything. You don’t need to worry about it.” 


“Why doesn’t it mean anything?” The fires kept rotating and his eyes stayed locked on the first years’ battle. Earth was winning.  


She scoffed. “Like the future king would actually want me. He’s just using me to make someone jealous.” 


Like she knew he got lost in thought and forgot to act, he knew she couldn’t picture herself. She couldn’t see the shine in her eyes of ability, the humor that curled her lips into a constant smirk, or even understand that physically, she was very, very attractive. The fires dissipated. “My brother doesn’t do pity invites or try to trick people into jealousy - that would lessen his worth.” 


Merida turned towards him. “What’s he like? How much dancing should I prepare for?” 


Alex ran his hands through his hair. “Merida, he’s our future king: what he’s like is a bit full of himself.” 


She hit his shoulder playfully. “I don’t think it's proper to talk about your brother that way.” 


“I am only preparing you. The best way I’ve learned to deal with him is simply to get him talking about himself and then zone out. In an hour or two, he’ll finish and you can go on about your day.” 


She laughed. 


Alex closed his eyes to better record the sound. She wasn’t the first friend to be pulled into Patrick’s orbit. Maybe one of the closer ones, but better not to focus on that. The heir-apparent walls would eventually come and he’d be stuck on the outside. Better to start the mental records while he still could. 


-


Two boys sat with their nursemaid supposedly watching. She was knitting a new blanket since the younger one, only five, had burnt his to a crisp. The older one, ten, had scared the little one while he slept and only came away safely because he was impenetrable to magic. Royals were an odd lot. But, then again, all kids were basically the same. At the moment, they sat on the floor, drawing a rudimentary dragon and a very complicated castle.  


To confirm their normalcy, the older one stole the younger’s paper, having grown bored. 


“Give it back, Pat!” Allie cried. Patrick ran circles around him, shoving the paper into his face and then pulling it away before his brother could grab it. “Please!”


“No,” he laughed, running round and round. Eventually, Allie sniffed like he was about to start crying. That would cause the nursemaid to look up.


Patrick stopped his circles. “Stop your sniffling, you are only the spare.” 


“What’s a spare?” Little Allie had never heard that word. He took one last sniff. 


“It’s an extra.” 


“What’s an extra?” Allie stood up, excited by the potential of a new game. 


Patrick sighed and gave his brother a small push. “You know nothing, Allie. A spare or an extra is like something you don’t have to have, but you do have in case something goes bad with the thing you do have to have. Like, you know how your favorite stuffed animal is Flopsy? But you also have Pumpkin in case Flopsy were to get lost or something? You’re a Pumpkin.” 


Allie scratched his chin. “I don’t mind being Pumpkin. She is a great horse.” The dragon he was drawing she helped vanquish on one of her many adventures.  


Patrick rolled his eyes. “You’re supposed to ask who is Flopsy.” 


“Sure. Who’s Flopsy?” 


“I’m Flopsy: I’m the heir!” 


Allie nodded. This was pretty similar to how most of his older brother stories went. ‘Who’s the greatest? Me!’ One day he’d remember and answer correctly. For now, he was wondering if he could get the nursemaid’s attention because he was pretty sure it was snack time. 


“I don’t think you are following me, Allie. I’m the heir; I’m important. I’m going to get to run the kingdom and do whatever I want when I grow up.” 


“Oh, what do I get to do when I grow up?” 


“Nothing: you’re the spare! Get it?” 


Allie nodded. He hoped the snack today was mutton pie.  


April 13, 2021 23:01

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3 comments

Claire Lindsey
04:39 Apr 16, 2021

I’m enjoying seeing what people wrote for this prompt! This story is gripping. It fills in just enough detail to make the world and the characters feel real, but gives the reader enough room to make our own connections and fill in some things. I liked how the more we learn about Patrick, the more we realize he was not cut out to be king. A couple small edits to consider: “Brother.” His voice boomed (Consider clarifying who’s speaking here. It a bit ambiguous on a first glance) The prince nodded, as he suspected. (Possibly clarify here, ...

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H Bolton
19:28 Apr 16, 2021

Thank you! Thank you! Also, congratulations on your well deserved shortlisting. :) Fully agree with all of your suggestions and have made some small edits to the second scene.

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H Bolton
16:05 Apr 15, 2021

Please let me know if there is anything I can improve! Really appreciate your feedback :)

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