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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Flash Fiction Friday: The Dreaming Mask

Beauty itself.

Nothing else more aptly described the mask hanging on the wall in the Intergalactic Museum in the Ancient Arts section. Crafted by an ancient people indigenous to the Andromeda Galaxy and once held as one of their most sacred artifacts, it had finally come to rest here, vacuum-sealed behind thick unbreakable glass where nothing so unholy as dust or museum patrons could touch it.

Every hour, every day, hundreds of people of varying species milled through the museum, pausing for a moment to admire the breath-taking beauty of the mask. Deep blue-green, it shimmered with a different hue depending on what angle one viewed it from. Graceful feather-like decorations surrounded the eyes in a soft, purple halo, and purple and white gems sparkled on the forehead and cheeks. A mouth could not be found in the mask, however, for this species-the only telepathic race known in intergalactic history—did not have mouths. A placard explaining as much, as well as explaining how the race died out much like Ancient Earth’s Mayan people, hung next to the display.

A S’iovnen woman of the Triangulum Galaxy stood before the display, one hand on her chin, her three other arms folded across her chest. Something about the mask—labeled in Universal as “The Dreaming Mask”—held her so entranced she did not move on with the rest of her tour group. She had been staring at it for so long she did not even realize it until all six of her eyes stung from dryness. As she blinked and the mask flickered in and out of sight, the shimmering hues shifted in a full spectrum of color, ranging all the way from infrared to ultraviolet. Shocked, the woman squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. When she opened them again, the mask had returned its usual resplendent blue-green.

She shook her head, realizing that she needed to catch up to the rest of her group. She read Universal and spoke a little of it, but found it almost impossible to understand when others spoke it. Losing her group entirely would put her in an inconvenient predicament, to say the least. She hurried down the museum hall, finally catching up to the other S’iovnen tourists in the Milky Way portion of the ancient arts section.

As she tried to focus on the display which compared Alpha-Centauri arts to Terran arts, she found herself becoming drowsy. The world cycled through the spectrum of color in pulses like her heartbeat. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she tumbled over backwards, barely aware of the gasps and cries rising around her. A foreign voice danced through her mind in cadence with the shifting colors, musical and soothing. It blocked out all the other sounds flickering at the last surface of her consciousness.

Everything was color—beautiful, bright, pure color. The colors were musical notes. They were soft breaths of wind. They were the fresh earthy smell of the world before a rainstorm; they were raindrops against a windowsill. They splayed and danced and swirled, each one carrying meaning just beyond reach.

She felt. She saw. She existed in a way she had never existed before.

Slowly,the woman’s eyes rolled open again, rising to consciousness like a diver to the surface of a turbulent sea. She found herself surrounded by Terrans in medical dress. One of them said something in Universal, which she could not quite understand. The colors danced through her perception one last time like a lover’s farewell.

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Do you speak Universal?” one of the doctors asked.

“I saw,” she said, the words slipping from her tongue before she even realized it.

“What did you see?”

She closed her eyes and slipped back into her native tongue:

“Beauty itself.”

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Creative Commons image courtesy of Karen Arnold through PublicDomainPictures.net.

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