Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
The Lake of Shades, Part Three
They began their march toward Dinas Gwyn. The spirit-people drifted tirelessly without food or water. Borugon and Rothfort, on the other hand, required both in addition to rest. Brin found food for himself, but the supplies Rothfort and Borugon brought with them into this desolation were running low. Rothfort wrestled day and night with Borugon’s insistence that he was of the line of the royal magi. He had been born to peasants and a peasant he remained.
He also wrestled with Borugon’s claim that the queen was the head of the Dark Council and not a member of the royal family. But Rothfort reluctantly conceded that the condition of the city and the realm were not what one would expect of benevolent rulers. If she and the Dark Council were milking the population of its meager wealth, both had to go. But they needed more of an army than the walking dead who were once princes, princesses, counts, and ladies. The royal guard would be a dominant force, but Rothfort feared they would not be enough. Their hearts were toward the rest they deserved after their long a captivity. Anyone who organized a revolt would need warriors who had a personal stake in overthrowing the Dark Council and the queen.
Borugon developed a test to prove whether or not Rothfort had the powers of the Magi. He stood the would-be king on a hilltop in the barren wilderness awaiting his instructions.
“Rothfort.” The magus paced along the foot of the hill. “Every wizard of our society has an animal spirit guide. It is time for you to call yours into service. If the spirit guide comes, we will know the truth.”
“And when this animal fails to appear, what then, Borugon?” He did his best to remain the skeptic.
“Calm your spirit, Rothfort. Clear your mind of everything except to call your spirit guide. Call loudly with the voice of your mind only in the name of the last legitimate ruler of the great city.”
“His mind was anything but uncluttered. He lifted his closed eyes toward the sky mists. A warm breeze caressed his face. He called out as Borugon had instructed. He heard the muffled voices of the spirit people as they drew near to see what Borugon and he were doing.
“He calls his guide.” The spirit-king stood with Borugon. It was strange to Rothfort that he sensed the king’s presence. He opened his eyes long enough to see the magus and the spirit together, still at the base of the hill. He closed his eyes to resume calling for his spirit guide.
“I am with you, my son.” The voice of the spirit-king whispered into his ear.
“Why do you call me your son? Is it for the sake of politeness or is there another reason?”
“Though many times removed, it is true; you are my son. Silence now. Your guide approaches.”
Rothfort’s eyes remained closed. He was afraid. But of what? Of a small spirit in the form of a small animal sent to give guidance to this small man? The voices of the spirits rose in excitement, but he kept his eyes closed and continued calling. He felt a puff of wind as though someone had waved a fan in front of his face.
“Your Highness, I have answered your call.”
The voice was in his head, not his ears. It felt and sounded familiar, but he could have sworn he had never heard it before. He would have remembered a voice so rich with passion and confidence. He opened his eyes. The eagle had returned. His mind went back to his childhood where he stood with his father in a meadow. His mother was nearby picking flowers. Look, Da, look up in the sky. An eagle, Da, an eagle.” His father scanned the sky but finally said that he could see no eagle. Ma came to them. She looked up and immediately pointed. “There it is. I see the eagle, Rothfort. I see it.” And so Rothfort conceded, this royalty and power had come to him through his mother. “Was it you my mother and I saw in the sky when I was a child?”
“It was. I’ve kept watch over you all these years.”
“Will you be with me always?”
“Until the end of our days and beyond, I will serve you, counsel you and protect you. We are two individuals, but one entity, inseparable.”
“What sign can you give that will prove this is all more than one of my dreams?”
“Forests, lakes, and streams once covered the wasteland that now surrounds us. Wildlife thrived here. It was a hunting ground for your ancestors.”
“What happened to such a paradise?”
“It was cursed by the Dark Council after the coup so that your people would not have it as a resource. Instead of turning to the great wilderness for their needs, the people were forced to accept the meager provisions of the Dark Council, though, at the time, they did not know about the coup. They thought the royal family ruled. Dark magic has removed all of this from every peasant's memory. You have the power to restore what once was.”
“But how? I know nothing of such things.”
“I possess the knowledge, and we are one.”
Rothfort’s mind overflowed with the memories of his ancestors. He saw this land as it had been. The contrast brought tears that rolled down his dust-coated cheeks. He saw the queen, standing on this very hill, surrounded by the beauty. With raised hands, she turned and turned, speaking words He did not understand. Then it was gone. In an instant, the forests fell, rivers and lakes dried up, vegetation withered, animals died. “What is stopping us from restoring the land now?”
“The source of the Dark magic must first be destroyed.”
“Yes, they all must die or be sent into permanent exile far away.”
“Borugon says I have powers.”
“Now that we are united, you do have such powers.”
“I would have an oasis in the midst of this devastation as a sign of what will be.”
“Make it so.”
Rothfort raised his hands as he had seen the false queen do in his vision. He turned, and words came from his mouth that he did not understand. In his mind, He saw a spring welling up from the ground. Trees drove upward out of the gravel and stone. Plants of every kind blossomed and bloomed. Birds sang in the trees, and a doe with her fawn drank from the deep, clear, cold pool. The spirit people, now in physical bodies, ran to the oasis as if to prove to its maker that his creation was real.
“Now do you believe?” Borugon stood at his side.
“How can I not?”
“Then let us sit in your creation with the spirit-king and our spirit guides to plan the downfall of the Dark Council.”