Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flash Fiction Friday--I Am Going to Miss You

This week's Wendig challenge was another random title quest, but a little different.  We were directed to go to Pandora or whatever and pick a song title at random (I assume those places can do that for you).  Since I don't use any of those sites, I went to my collection of CDs, closed my eyes, and reached out and grabbed a disk.  Then I closed them again and pointed at the list on the back, and there was my title.  Not as random as it might have been, but it did the job.  I got "I Am Going to Miss You" by Laura Love, from the album "Fourteen Days." I did NOT look at the liner notes to see what the story of the song might be, and I've never listened to it enough to remember.  Though now that I've written the story I might put it on.

The title at first made me think horror, but everyone at Terrible Minds is doing that, and it's really not my thing.  So here's another bit of mostly light fantasy.

I Am Going to Miss You

Lady Knight Farinia thought about the mission she faced, as she saddled her destrier and buckled on sword and shield.  She let her squire stow her lance in the boot by her stirrup.

Once a week for a year Farinia had ridden forth from the castle to meet Biter in single combat—if combat with something that had three heads and two tails could ever be called “single.”  That Farinia was still alive was a testament to her skill as a knight.  That Biter was still alive was proof of the near-impossibility of the task she had been set, for no better knight graced the kingdom.  Every time she went out to try the monster, usually soon after her third cup of coffee on Monday morning, she expected it to be her last.  She spent the weekends griping to the other knights about it—why did she have to go, how come no one else got sent, and what difference did any of it make anyway?  Couldn’t they just leave the creature alone?

But on those Monday mornings, she knew she was alive as she did at no other time.  Only those who were alive could be so certain that they were about to become dead.

Farinia ran a last weapons check.  Sword: honed to a perfect edge.  Shield: polished.  Lance: newly-tipped.  And last, something new.  A little bag of powder hung at her belt, a potion guaranteed to give her a few minutes of redoubled strength, perhaps enough to finally finish the job.  Everything was in place.

Farinia took a deep breath, mounted up with a boost from her squire—even chain mail was heavy and flexed poorly, making mounting a chore—and accepted a bow and quiver from the armorer.

“Right, then, Lady Knight!  Return with your shield or on it!”

“Do be quiet, Sedwick,” Farinia rebuked the over-eager squire.  “If I am defeated, I won’t come back on my shield.  I’ll come back as a little pile of monster dung, and you know it.”

Sedwick dug a toe in the dust.  “Yeah, I know, Lady Knight.  But that doesn’t sound so encouraging.  ‘Come back victor or monster dung!’ just doesn’t have the right ring.”

Farinia couldn’t help herself.  She laughed, and armed with laughter and the potion at her belt, she felt this might be the time.  “Biter, you’re mine, you evil beast!”

In the darkest part of the forest, the monster known as Biter stirred in its sleep.  She was coming.  It could feel her.   Biter stood, and stretched, and prepared for battle.  With this knight, there was always the chance that the battle could be their last. 

They always met in the same spot, a clearing not far from Biter’s cave.  Years of combats with a series of knights had gradually enlarged and smoothed the open ground until it was as large and perfect as the jousting yard at the palace.

Farinia drew up in the middle of the clearing and whistled shrilly.  Then she called out, “Biter!  Come forth and meet your doom!”  Her hand drifted down toward the pouch at her belt, then away.  Not yet.  It felt like cheating, that magic potion.  Her own strength and skill had kept her alive so many times, even if they hadn’t yet sufficed to slay the beast.  Perhaps this would be the time.  If not, the magic was always there.

Biter emerged from its cave, nodding all three heads and swishing both tails menacingly from side to side.  “We meet again, Lady Knight.”  The creature had a surprisingly high, cultured voice.  Farinia always felt it would be more fitting if it bellowed in a deep, coarse tone, or even stuck with savage, bestial growls.  Instead, Biter spoke in a voice that reminded her painfully of the etiquette teacher who had taught all the pages to bow to ladies and wait at table.  The sound of that voice had driven her into a frenzy as a page, and did so now as a grown knight.

Battle was joined.  The fight raged about the clearing for two hours, while the sun rose high and hot, and Farinia began to wish she hadn’t drunk that third cup of coffee.  At last, as deep down she’d known she would, she reached for the pouch at her belt.  Her right hand pulled it free and loosened the drawstrings, while her left continued to make her sword sing a deadly song of war and destruction, keeping the monster at bay.

Farinia tipped the contents of the pouch into her mouth. . .

. . . And began to cough.  The powder wouldn’t be swallowed, but dusted everything from eyeballs to lungs in a choking cloud.  In a panic, she dropped her sword and groped for her flask.  Clumsy fingers knocked it from her saddle.

Biter watched for a moment until, her eyes streaming and coughs unabated, Farinia tried to turn her horse and run.  Then Biter reached out and took her from her mount with a single blow of the left tail.  Placing a huge paw on the heaving chest, it stood until the coughing, and all motion, had ceased.  Then it took the first bite.  Savoring the always-delectable mixture of human and steel, Biter paused.  No other knight for centuries had been such fun.

“I’m going to miss you.”  The words were muffled as it took a second mouthful.  Farinia’s shield lay nearby, waiting.

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