Flash Fiction Friday: The Steel Life-Goblet

Polished steel gleamed as bright as a newly forged sword untouched by blood or rust. Perfect in symmetry and artistry, the Goblet was the clan lord’s most prized possession, worth more money than what every person in his domain could produce in a year put together. It was an heirloom passed down from generation to generation, never aging, immutable in shine and shape no matter how many times wine filled it or it tumbled to the floor from clumsy hands.

It was said the goblet had been forged by the gods themselves long ago, that they had imbued it with life, so that any who drank from its brim would have their lives extended. And so it seemed to be true, for the lords of this clan had lived longer than any of the men around them for centuries on end. Many had come seeking to take a single sip from the shining steel vessel, to beg a favor of the clan lord, so they too could enjoy years beyond what had been preordained for them.

None ever touched it. No outsider’s lips sullied the purity of the Goblet. For if ever more than one man in a lifetime drank from the cup, both would die within minutes, their lives curtailed like a bad play. What could grant life could also bring death, a death as swift and certain as a blow from a sword—a secret known only to the clan which owned it.

Serrick stood before the Goblet on its stand, looking uneasily at his distorted reflection. “Father, you mustn’t do this. Killing the other clan lords will only worsen the war and bring unnecessary suffering to the people.”

“Don’t speak of things you don’t yet understand, boy,” his father said. “When I am gone and the weight of this domain falls on your shoulders, you will understand why I must do this. Why I must see the other clan lords dead in one fell swoop, and all will fear the power of our clan and pay obeisance to us.”

“The war has clouded your judgment. What makes you think the heirs will not just as swiftly take their lords’ place and renew their fight against us?”

“Their heirs shall be there, too. They shall all taste death. The heirs of all the clans, save you, my boy. And you shall rise above all the others while the clans struggle for power within themselves—and you will unite them all. You will be king. There will be peace at last.”

“Peace cannot come through deception, nor the dishonorable slaughter you plan.”

His father wheeled around. “You dare to call me dishonorable?” He slapped Serrick smartly on the face. “Watch your tongue. Everything I do, I do for honor, for our people. Now. Bring the Goblet. The other clan lords and their heirs await us in the hall below.” His father chuckled. “If only they knew what awaited them.”

Serrick gritted his teeth and did as his father said. Once they reached the hall, his father’s voice boomed off the ceiling.

“Fellow lords! We are gathered here to negotiate peace between our clans at last. As a show of good faith, my son and I will share the blessings of the Life-Goblet with you.” He clapped his hands. “Steward! Bring wine.”

Serrick watched through narrowed eyes as the steward filled the Goblet with blood-red wine. He wanted peace. He wanted his clan to maintain its sovereignty, and for the other clans to stop warring.

But not like this. Not through deception and usurpation.

He held the Goblet steady as the steward filled it, knowing what he must do.

“Now, my prized son,” his father said. “Pass the Goblet around the room.”

Serrick closed his eyes. “No, Father.” He raised the brim to his lips and drew a deep draught of the heady red wine. He dashed the rest to the ground. The Goblet hit the stone with a cold ring.

His father let out a roar of rage. “Serrick! What have you done?”

“Listen, fellow lords!” Serrick cried. “This cup holds only death for you. My father would have you murdered all. But I have taken this sword of death upon myself. Bring peace to these lands, brothers—but let no more blood be shed. You may think me a liar, but when my body lies cold upon these stones, perhaps you will believe me. The Goblet itself is poison, the cause of generations of war. Will you perpetuate it? Will you…will you…” The world around him grew blurry and dim as he watched his father fall to the floor, livid with rage even in death. “Will you…end…this…”

All went black.

The other clan lords and their heirs stood by, watching with horror as Serrick’s lifeless body fell to the ground. For a moment, none moved, staring at each other with shock in their miens. But then their eyes drifted to the Life-Goblet. Surely all that had happened was that the wine was poisoned. Surely the cup maintained its power.

The Goblet merely lay upon the floor as the lords drew their blades and began to fight over it, this piece of polished steel, gleaming as bright as a newly forged sword untouched by blood or rust.


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Goblet image courtesy of Firkin on openclipart.org.

 

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Flash Fiction Friday: Sea and Lord

High on a cliff the castle loomed, overlooking the foamy green sea.  Lord Mortan stood before the wide window facing the sea, gazing down at the tool of his justice. Sharp rocks filled the turbulent water around the base of the cliff like a hungry maw. Decaying bodies lay on some of the rocks, more fortunate to have met a sudden end than those who had fallen straight into the sea, doomed to die in the horrors of drowning.

His rise to power had come at the cost of many lives, and he would continue to sacrifice as many as were necessary to maintain his position. He turned around as the sound of jangling chains filled the throne room. His guards flanked an old man whose wild white hair was tinged with green, as though moldy. The old man’s unkempt beard reached down to his chest.

Mortan climbed the rostrum, sat upon the ornate throne, and looked down with narrowed eyes upon the old man. “Who is this you bring before me?”

“A malcontent who spreads dissent among your people, my lord,” one of the guards said. He jerked on the chain, forcing the old man to his knees. “He is called Orsair, and he incites rebellion, saying it is the will of the Holy Sea.”

Orsair knelt on the hard stony floor of the throne room, clutching at the chain around his neck and staring at Lord Mortan with rage-filled deep green eyes.

“Do the same with him as the others,” Mortan said, giving a dismissive wave. He rose from the throne and walked back to the window overlooking the sea as the guards began to drag the old man away.

Orsair spat on the floor. “You may be lord of this castle, Mortan, but heed my warning. The Sea has spoken—he shall stand no more innocent blood. You are an abomination to him. He does not abide tyrants!”

“Silence!” Mortan wheeled around. “You are just like the rest of the vile dissidents, except you come here claiming to be some kind of prophet of the will of the Sea.”

“Doubt my claim at your own peril. How many dozens of men, women, and children have you cast from the cliff into the Sea, bound and weighted with stones? Do you think the Sea will stand for such wanton killing?”

“Each man, woman, or child I have tossed into the Sea has earned such a death. The Sea is the bringer of justice, and he has brought justice to those who oppose my divinely foretold reign here.”

“There is nothing divine in your reign,” Orsair said. “Sky and Sea abhor you. You rightly say the Sea is the bringer of justice. Repent and leave this place, lest he visit justice upon your head!”

Mortan motioned to the guards. “Take him away. Cast him into the Sea he so foolishly believes he speaks for.”

“You will pay, Mortan!” Orsair shouted. “You will pay for innocent blood with your own!”

The echoes of Orsair’s voice faded as the guards dragged him away. Mortan looked out the window, waiting to see the mad old man fall to his death. His wait was not long; the guards brought the still-raving lunatic to the edge of the cliff, bound tight in chains. Mortan clenched his jaw, bracing himself for the all-consuming thrill of watching his opposition be destroyed.

The guards shoved Orsair over the edge, and he plummeted down, sinking beneath the foamy green waves.

Mortan closed his eyes as a shiver of exhilaration shot along his spine. “All the power of Sky and Sea has been appointed to me, old fool.” He laughed. “None shall triumph over me, least of all a madman!” He opened his eyes again, looking down at the majesty of the sea, the majesty of his vindication.

Dark clouds bloomed in the sky, blocking out all the sun’s light.  Lightning split the sky in two. Thunder roared through the air. Wind bellowed. Waves crashed wildly against the cliff in a frenzy. Higher and higher they climbed, spraying spume and salt through the air.

Heart racing, Mortan took a step back from the window. Within moments, the sea splashed so high it poured through the window. He turned and ran from the throne room, each panicked footstep raising his fear. Another wave surged through the window, and a tendril of water like rope shot forth, looping around Mortan’s neck. He could not even scream as the wave pulled him back out through the window, swallowed whole by the hungry sea that pulled him down into the rocky maw at the cliff’s base.  He struggled against the water, but it pulled him deeper and deeper. Lungs burning with agony, he could hold his breath no more. Cold salty water filled his lungs as he sank to the bottom to join all those he had killed.

Sated, the sea calmed.

Orsair stood on one of the rocks, free of chains and swathed in sea-green robes blowing in the wind like waves. “I warned you I do not abide tyrants.”


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Image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via PublicDomainPictures.net

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