Sunday, February 5, 2012

F3 Cycle 66 "Here Be Dragons"

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: Write a fantasy fiction piece using these words: Forest, Fortress, Flying, Forever, and Brimstone.
Word limit: 1,500
Deadline: Wednesday, February 8th at 9:00 pm ET

The king sat at his writing table lost in his own thoughts while staring at the flames dancing in the nearby hearth. Cloaked in fine robes he did not feel the cold wind blowing in from the ocean outside his window nor did he truly realize that the aides and scribes that assisted him in his duties had long since excused themselves from his presence. Before leaving his private study, each had left their strips of parchment involving the business of the realm on his desk but the distraught man simply had no interest in the tasks arrayed before him.

Hours had passed since he had given into his despair shutting out all around him but the sound of the ornate door to his private study opening pulled him back to reality. Apprehension and fear froze the king in place as watched a group of priests and the kingdom’s remaining Healer walk into the room. Three of the priests were dressed in white linen togas while wearing the medallions of their office unfortunately making them almost equal in power to the king himself. The Healer was dressed in sensible, heavy woolen robes, like the king, in an attempt to deal with the cold weather.

Still in the hallway stood two of priests of the warrior caste, clad in armor and armed with swords and spears. A clear affront and not so vague threat to the king since none of his own guards were nearby. On instinct, the king stood and tucked his hands deep into the opposite sleeves of his robes feeling for the knives strapped to his forearms.

The Healer’s grim look confirmed the king’s worst fears while the smug expressions on the faces of the priests meant they had finally outmaneuvered the him. Standing just inches apart from the priests and the lone Healer, the king resisted the urge to unleash his knives and slash their throats. He knew the priestly warriors in the hall would kill him within seconds but at least he would die a satisfying death.

“There is nothing else I can do for your son King Adzell,” the Healer said clearly upset, “the dark spirits possessing your son have spread all through his body.”

“None of your Atlantean magic retains any power?” The king asked struggling with the news that his only son was going to die.

“No sire,” the Healer said heavily, “and it was never magical, it was methods and procedures that since the destruction of the islands of Atlantis just do not work anymore.”

“And what of you priests,” the king asked turning his attention to those that wished only to usurp his power and return to the old pagan ways, “can you do nothing to help my son?”

The oldest priest stepped forward, “Sire, you have offended the gods with your stubborn refusal to not accept our council. We have valiantly tried to save your son but the gods now wish you to suffer.”

“Then what good are all your magic potions and spells,” King Adzell said stepping forward and ripping off the medallions the brave priest was wearing. True to their training the warriors in the hall reacted quickly by drawing their swords and coming to the aid of the senior priest. In response Adzell quickly drew one of the sharp daggers hidden in his cloak, grabbed the priest by the head with his other arm, and positioned the tip of his weapon at the base of the neck.

Surprisingly, the priest raised his hand signaling his warriors to stop. “Everyone, we will leave the king in peace as of right now, the kingdom will not be served by the spilling of his blood.”

The huge warriors instantly listened and withdrew outside the room along with the other priests. Feeling the danger had passed Adzell released the priest who instead of retreating himself just turned around to face him again. “Your Highness, we have won the long struggle that started with your great-grandfather, you will either forever accept that we are the earthly representatives of the true gods or when your son dies leaving you without an heir, will pick the next king. The choice is yours.” With that, the priest retrieved his medallions from the floor, gave the Healer a look of disgust, and walked out of the room.

“Walk with me Healer,” Adzell said as he moved outside his study to the private overlook facing the ocean. They stood there silently watching the raging ocean crash against the cliffs while a curious moon hung the sky and looked down upon them. “How long does my son have?” Adzell suddenly asked the Healer breaking his silence.

“Unless there is a miracle he will be dead in eight months with him painfully confined to his bed for the last two.”

“There might be just enough time,” the King Adzell of the city of Ker-Ys wordlessly responded more to the moon in the sky than the Healer beside him as the cold winds blew around him. Adzell’s mind drifted off into space again leaving him to wonder how it all could have gone so wrong.

Three centuries before Adzell was born, the Atlanteans arrived in Europa with promises of raising all people out of the darkness of ignorance and poverty. Their special magic was strong and they freely shared it with everyone. Some, like the priests in Ker-Ys, resisted feeling their position of authority and privileges were threatened but they had no way to counter the power of Atlantis.

With nothing and no one able to oppose what the Atlanteans wished to do their greatest and most powerful enemy proved to be their own selves. As the years passed the Atlanteans became arrogant and prideful abandoning their original goals for a decadent lifestyle with the people they were suppose to bring out of darkness becoming unwilling subjects of their empire. Any city or village that refused to do the bidding of mighty Atlantis would soon feel the fury of flying dragons that would spout fire and brimstone upon the surface of the earth, laying waste to all that opposed them.

The Atlantean Empire ended during the lifetime of Adzell’s great-grandfather. Those that raised them to their position of power became dissatisfied with how they were using it and struck them down in the space of a day nearly wiping them off the face of the earth. In Adzell’s time only whispers of isolated Atlantean outposts scattered across the globe remained.

The vacuum created after the elimination of Atlantis allowed for a resurgence of those wishing for a return to the old ways of superstition and ignorance. Over the centuries they had hid in the shadows clinging to what they could just waiting for a chance to regain their power. Some like Adzell’s great-grandfather attempted to keep the spirit of Atlantean knowledge and methods alive but without their support, the old ways slowly reclaimed their position in human affairs.

Returning to the here and now Adzell turned to the Healer. “Do you know enough of the Atlantean texts to use it to heal my son?”

“Yes sire, I am fully trained but like I have told you the items I use are old and have long since lost their power.”

“Never mind that,” Adzell said, “make my son ready for travel and tell no one. Prepare yourself for a long journey but take only what you absolutely need, we sail before the sun rises in the morning. I know of a place where we may well find working Atlantean magic.”

As the Healer left, Adzell called the Captain of his guard and told him to gather all the gold he could and his most trusted men and their wives and children. True to his word, as the sun rose Adzell, his son, the Healer, a full squad of guards, and as many people they could bring along were sailing south watching the city of Ker-Ys disappear behind them.

They sailed south, stopping at small cities along the way to purchase supplies telling no one they encountered of their origins or the reason for their journey. Sailing past the entrance to the Lesser Sea, they entered the mysterious regions of the Aethiopian Ocean where myth overwhelmed fact. The region so terrified the crew of the vessel Adzell and his people sailed he was constantly working to prevent them from mutinying. After several weeks, Adzell was greatly relieved to see their destination appear on the horizon. Ahead of them lay several huge islands, lush with vegetation and looking like just the place for and advanced race of people to claim as their own.

“What were these islands to the Atlanteans?” The Healer asked Adzell as they stood of the bow of the ship.

“They were the site of a working military fortress and cultural outpost. When their home islands disappeared, my great-grandfather ordered expeditions to see what remained of the lands under their control. My grandfather found a self-sufficient Atlantean colony here. The survivors welcomed my grandfather upon arrival but asked him never to speak of them when he returned home. ”

Adzell and his people sailed around the islands but found no sign of them being inhabited. Having given up so much and traveled so far Adzell had the ship dock at the port of the main island and with his guards began searching for working Atlantean magic. Within days of their landing the Healer had located the main complex devoted to curing the sick and injured.

True to his word, the Healer proved adept at reading the Atlantean texts and figured out how to use the lost magic. With the devices he needed properly energized the Healer cured Adzell’s son changing the corrupted parts of his body back to what they should be.

Much to Adzell’s surprise he soon realized how mistaken he was concerning the working of Atlantean items. They were highly complex machines far removed from the simple water wheels and cloth looms his own people used to make their lives easier but machines nonetheless. The biggest surprise came with the discovery of Atlantean dragons lacking only the power to carry them back to Ker-Ys allowing them to end the tyranny of the priests.

“Sire,” the Healer said as the Adzell gazed at the inert but workable machines, “I know enough now to have the dragons recharged within a week. We can all return home allowing you to usher in another period of reason and logic all through Europa and the world like the Atlanteans were originally tasked to do.”

“No Healer,” Adzell said finally making up his mind, “these machines will be destroyed and we will stay here and make these islands our own. Long ago, the Atlanteans warned my great-grandfather that the world was getting warmer and that eventually the sea would flood our city and all the lands surrounding it. As much as it pains me to leave so many innocents behind, let the priests have their watery grave.”

“We could resettle on higher ground my king and proceed from there; surely you do not want to condemn all people to a life of ignorance and superstition.”

The king smiled touching the side of the strange flying craft. “Healer that is my very point, I fear this temptation of ultimate power and figure that while we might start out with good intentions we would ultimately share the same fate as the Atlanteans. It is far better we just make our lives here and allow the world to work at its own pace without our interference.”

Finally satisfied with King Adzell’s answers the Healer left him to his thoughts, there was simply so much to read and learn here on these islands they were beginning to call home. 

(Author's note: Many of the strange words and places mentioned in this story come from ancient history or legend. I imagine the location of the Atlantean colony Adzell found as the Canary Islands, just to let everyone know. I am also working off the Arthur C. Clarke quote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. So if you want to split hairs this isn't really fantasy but very loose science fiction. Finally, excuse the many typos I am sure are lurking all through this insane grouping of words. Its been a busy weekend and my writing time has often been counted in single-digit minutes rather than any sustained concentrated effort.)


Akelamalu said...

What a wise King!

Great story Beach. :)

Windsmoke. said...

Well written indeed. King Adzell was very smart deciding to settle on another island knowing that his enemies back home will eventually drown when sea levels rise :-).

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu and Windsmoke: Thanks you guys!

Charu said...

Great story! Is the short fiction competition for everyone to participate in or just for yourself?

Suzan said...

Have you been awarded the Greatest Fiction writer in BlogWorld prize yet?

Of course, Newt's in contention too.

Love ya,


Randal Graves said...

Give up all that power? The King would make an awful pretzeldent. Good stuff, sir.

John McElveen said...



Cloudia said...

Flying fortress. . .
What evocative words,
you've drained their juice fully!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

Joyce said...

How does that saying go? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions... Something like that. Your King was wise beyond measure. In that case, it seemed a good idea to clean house and begin again with a clean slate. Love this world and characters you've created. Beautifully done!

Flannery Alden Jenny Shaw said...

The beginning of this story was very intense and moody. I really liked the way the king reacted to the situation with the priests.

I got the feeling part way in that we were dealing with technology as opposed to magic. I liked the way you handled this.

The brightness of the ending stood out in contrast to the darkness of the beginning. This was a fine tale.

Thank you, Beach!

Jason Carney said...

Really liked this! You make the civilization come to life; and the tension between logic and superstition is played out here quite well. Thanks!

Pixel Peeper said...

You have such a wonderful imagination and gift for story telling!

Beach Bum said...

Charu: Friday Flash Fiction is open to everyone, just follow the link at the top of the post over to the site and jump in.

Suzan: Damn that bastard Newty, he ruined serious talk about a moonbase for years. Personally, I think the dude is an alien to begin with and his current wife a poorly engineered robot.

Randal: LOL!!!
That was the fantasy angle.

John: Thanks John, I'm surprised my kids left me alone long enough to write.

Cloudia: Thanks a bunch!

Joyce: After several days I reread it and now see several things I could have done to make it better.

Flannery: Thanks! I could have done a little more with the beginning. Wanted to mention something about the ice age but I cut it out because of length.

Jason: Thanks! Wanted to play with Arthur C Clarke's quote about advanced science being scene as magic for a while. This prompt worked very well for that.

Pixel: Might puff this one up a little if I find time. There were a few things I cut because I was over the word limit.

Sue H said...

Liked the analogy of advanced technology described as 'magic'. I suppose if you transported back in time you'd be burnt at the stake as a witch for using a 'magical' talking device that summoned up all manner of voices...(aka - a mobile phone)

Also like the notion that technology may be our downfall (hmmmm, reminds me of watching Terminator Salvation on DVD last night!)

As ever, Beach, you paint a wide and evocative canvas with your words! :-)

goatman said...

I am not good at assignments, gave that up after college, but your story is very appealing.

Red Nomad OZ said...

Your apologies are SO not required! As a writer who deals with the actual and real in a utilitatian kind of way, I'm in awe of your imagination and scope! Have a great weekend, my friend!

Ingrid K. V. Hardy said...

Epic...! By the way, that Arthur C Clarke quote is one of my all time favorites. Love the atlantean aspect. this has been brewing in your mind for a while, hasn't it?

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