Posts Tagged ‘#FlashFriday’

DSC_0152 - Copy“That was delicious.” Isabelle McNair placed her cutlery carefully on the empty plate and peered around the flat. “Should I call for a servant?”

“You’d be lucky.” Dirk Dynamo leaned back and lit a cigar off a wall mounted gas lamp. “Once they’ve experienced a couple of Tim’s inventions going wrong, staff never stick around.”

“I’m afraid Dirk’s right.” Blaze-Simms grinned as he looked at his guests. “But I have turned the problem into a solution.”

He took a box from the bureau behind him and pushed a button on the top. With a hiss of steam, a mechanical arm extended from the cabinet and took hold of the nearest plate. More followed it, grabbing wine glasses, leftover pudding and empty plates.

Isabelle applauded. It was one of the most marvellous machines she had ever seen.

“Wait for it…” Dirk raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know what you-” Blaze-Simms was cut short by a crash of shattering glass as the port decanter exploded in the device’s grip. His face fell. “Oh dear.”

He pressed the button, and then another one next to it, but the machine kept going. A frantic look spread across Blaze-Simms’s face as the machine flung a chair across the room and then grabbed hold of the table.

“I’ve got this.” Dirk stood. “Where’s the power source?”

“Steam engine in the linen closet.” Blaze-Simms kept hitting buttons to no effect. “There’s a pipe feeding into the left side of the machine.”

Dirk leapt toward the pipe and the steam trickling from its joints. But as he vaulted forward the machine lifted the table, swung it like a cricket bat and knocked Dirk flying. The window exploded as he hit it and went tumbling into the street.

“Are you alright, Mr Dynamo?” Isabelle shouted, her heart racing in alarm.

“I’ll live.” The distant reply was almost a groan. “Ain’t gettin’ back up the stairs anytime soon though.”

“Then I’ll deal with this.” Isabelle glared at the machine. She was not going to let a glorified cupboard be the ruin of her. “Sir Timothy, how can I-”

The machine swung the table and Isabelle darted back, dragging Blaze-Simms with her into the corner of the room. Half a dozen mechanical arms were flailing around, turning the whole space into a whirl of deadly, determined metal.

“Terribly sorry.” Blaze-Simms had a screwdriver in his hand and was fiddling with the control box. “I overlooked certain limitations that would have told it what wasn’t mess.” He ducked as one of the arms tried to grab his collar. “I’ll remember next time.”

“Lets worry about getting through this time.” Isabelle looked around. There was almost nothing left in the room around them, and five out of six arms were busy yanking books off of shelves, trying to cram them into the same recess as the dirty dishes. Just one hovered in front of her like a snake, its pincered end snapping open and shut, ready to tidy her away the moment she came near.

“Dash it all, this isn’t working.” Blaze-Simms frowned in exasperation at the controller.

“Then maybe this will.” Isabelle grabbed the controller and waved it in front of the arm, then flung it on the floor a few feet away. As the arm reached down to tidy the mess, she darted past it. The others turned to stop her as she stood by the side of the cabinet and the hissing metal pipe. One lunged down and she leapt out of its way. The pincers slammed into the pipe, which burst open, filling the room with steam.

Its power cut off, the tidying machine ground to a halt, limbs crashing down on the floor.

Isabelle righted a toppled chair and sat down, fighting the trembling that now threatened to take over.

“Maybe if I pay more I could find a tolerant cleaner,” Blaze-Simms said from the far corner of the room.

“Maybe,” Isabelle said. “Or maybe you could just learn to wash the dishes.”

* * *

This brief story is set after Suits and Sewers, the second book in my Epiphany Club series, available now on Amazon and Smashwords. If you enjoyed this then you might like to give that a read, or to start with the first book, Guns and Guano, which is free on Amazon and Smashwords.

If you’d like to receive stories straight to your inbox every Friday then just sign up to my mailing list, and get another free book while you’re about it.

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Mud and Brass - High Resolution - Version 2The mirror was buried deep, and Fred had to pull hard to drag it out of the mud. His fingertips throbbed as he grasped its edge and pulled it up against the resistance of riverside silt.

“Come on!” Polly’s scarred face was wide with alarm. “Smog’s comin’ in, we’ve got to go.”

“Not yet.” The mirror came free with a sucking sound. He slid it in among the dials, gears and cables in his sack.

“Smog’ll kill you!” The ribs of her chest showed beneath her ragged dress.

“So will hunger.”

She didn’t reply, just turned and ran after the rest of the mudlarks.

Fred reached back down, pulled out a flywheel, a strip of canvas, a handful of smaller gears. The hard edges hurt hands swollen and made soft by damp, but he kept going until his sack was full. At last he stood and swung the weight of his findings over his shoulder.

Around him, the Mercers’ factories towered above dense grey-green fog. As he strode from the riverbank up toward the streets, his eyes watered and his throat stung.

The cobbled streets were deserted, doors locked against the smog or anyone desperate enough to be out in it. Fred’s footsteps echoed off grey stone and red brick as he walked away from the factory district and its gear-strewn mud, toward the slums around the edge of the city. He’d waited longer than he should have done, and the smog was becoming dangerously thick, the chemicals from factory fumes stinging his exposed skin. Coughing and spluttering, he had to pause and catch his breath.

Desperation took hold. If the smog grew any denser it would kill him. The sack was slowing him down, but without it what would he have to sell, how would he eat tonight?

He swung the sack around, feeling the burden of its weight. But he had known whole weeks without food, curled over with the cramps of hunger, and could not bear that again.

In desperation he started hammering on doors, but each time angry voices yelled at him to go away. Swinging the bag over his shoulder, eyes watering with fear as well as pain, he stumbled on.

The fog congealed around him like tar. His skin was burning, and when he coughed he tasted blood. Doorways were invisible, the end of the street a distant dream. Only the vague shapes of aristocratic homes were visible, towering through the haze high above his head.

Stumbling to his knees, weak from lack of air, he looked up into that grey sky, where sunlight and clean air hung far beyond his desperate reach. A distant, forbidden realm of the rich and powerful. For him to go there was to face imprisonment or worse.

But what could be worse than death?

With trembling hands he pulled a cable from his sack and tied a loop in the end. Something protruded from the side of a building four floors above, and he flung the loop at that. It fell back useless to the ground. Blood misting his breath, he flung it again and again, until finally it caught.

His face felt like it was being pressed into a fire, and he could barely see through the blurring of his eyes. But he tied his sack to the end of the cable and climbed.

The top of the cable was hooked around a protruding drainpipe. He paused there, pulled the sack up behind him, then flung the cable up again and continued his ascent. Each time he stopped the air was a little clearer, his breathing a little easier, the pain a little less. At last he emerged into sunshine and lay back on a tiled roof thirty storeys above the smog-clogged streets.

Opening the sack to stow away the cable, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mud-smeared mirror. His face was burned all over, skin peeling away.

Fred smiled at the scarred vision. He could make it home with the wealth he had found. He would survive.

* * *

A couple of weeks ago Scott A. Butler wrote a glowing review of my story ‘Mud and Brass’, in which he said he’d like to read more set in that world. Ever keen to give readers what they want, I wrote this story. While it doesn’t revisit the characters, it does take us back to that setting. If you enjoy this then you might want to check out ‘Mud and Brass’, which is free on Amazon and Smashwords.

rosesEvery day for a month, as she walked through the palace gardens, Lady Elana looked up at the high balcony where Prince Novak sat, his handsome face as pale and sorrowful as old bones. She had read the books of poetry he wrote before his mother’s death, and so knew that there was joy and beauty in him, such joy and beauty that it had captured her own heart. But she had come to court too late to meet the man with whose words she had fallen in love. Now he sat alone behind locked doors and his father’s guards, slumped in sorrow.

Elana was determined to change that.

It took her weeks to identify the brief moment each day when the guards did not watch the wall below the balcony. She waited another month for the perfect blue rose to emerge in the garden, just as it had in Novak’s poetry. At last her moment came.

She plucked the rose, grasped it between her teeth and scrambled up the ivy. Stone scraped her knuckles red raw, and thorns drew blood from her lips, but at last she reached the top and held out the flower to Prince Novak.

“I found beauty amid brambles.” She recited the first line of her favourite verse, and the smallest of smiles flickered at his mouth.

“What is this?” The King was furious as he stomped out onto the balcony. “I keep my son here to protect him from harlots like you, preying upon his weakness as you scrabble to become queen. I will have none of it!”

“Please.” Elana trembled as she bowed low before the King. “Please, I just want to make him happy. The flower made him smile. Surely that is worth something?”

The King looked at his son, and for a moment his expression softened.

It was only a moment.

“Any courtly lady can make a young man smile,” he growled. “It is what you are trained for. Make me smile, and then I will let you see him again.”

#

Every day for a month, Elena was allowed into the King’s presence and given one chance to make him smile. At first she sang songs and told jokes, but his expression remained stern. Then she tried stories of glory and heroism, which she had been told he loved in his youth, but still no smile. She brought bouquets of flowers, fine artworks, beautiful and exotic birds, but not a hint of happiness touched the King’s lips.

Determined to succeed, Elena learnt new skills. Every month for a year she would dedicate herself to a new entertainment, perfecting some display before bringing it before the King. She became an acrobat, an illusionist, a high wire ballerina. Courtiers were dazzled by the spectacle of her displays, but the King continued to glare.

At last came the day when Elena could do nothing more. Every muscle ached from endless training. All her money was gone, spent on experts and tutors. So many crafts filled her mind, ideas and information cramming up against each other, that she could barely sleep at night from keeping them all in.

She bowed low before the King, her last threadbare gown sweeping the floor.

“I have failed, your majesty,” she said. “I am penniless, and must now leave court. But if my example inspires another, and one day they make Novak happy, then every moment of this has been worthwhile.”

With all the dignity she could muster, she turned to walk away.

“Wait.” The King’s voice was soft.

Elena turned to see a tear rolling from the corner of his eye.

“It amazes me,” he said. “That you could care for my son so much that after all this you are happy just knowing that he is too.”

He waved to one of his guards.

“Take her to Prince Novak.” At last a smile appeared on the King’s face.

#

Every day for a month, Elena visited Prince Novak on his balcony. They read stories, admired the garden, and wrote poetry together. Slowly but surely, the Prince’s smile returned. It became fixed forever when, the very next year, they were wed.

* * *

After enjoying my fantasy story ‘The Wizard’s Tower’, Joanna challenged me to write a story in which a female suitor must prove her worthiness for a sheltered man, the reversal of the usual roles. This is the result. I hope you enjoy it, and if you’d like to receive a story each week directly to your inbox then please sign up for my mailing list.

As an added bonus, fellow writer Steve Cook has recorded an audio version of one of my previous stories, steampunk adventure ‘A Flash of Power’. He’s done a great job, full of sound effects and enthusiasm, and you can listen to that here.

From A Foreign Shore - High ResolutionOlivia pushed her cart down the track, feeling each stone beneath her feet. Up ahead was a small lowland town, the sort where people kept their voices quiet and did what their lord told them. Hardly a place to start a revolution, but maybe one more she could connect in to the cause.

There was a wooden palisade around town, charred and battered by an English raiding party. No-one stopped Olivia as she walked in and set up shop in the muddy square, pulling out needles and thread, hammer and rivets, all the tools of the cobbler’s trade.

“What’s this then?” The man striding toward her was tall and stern, flanked by a pair of guards in chainmail. She knew him by reputation.

“Lord Fraser.” She bowed her head deferentially. “I’m just a cobbler on my way to Edinburgh. Hoped to drum up business here on the way.”

“What kind of Cobbler wears no shoes?” He glared at her bare feet.

“A poor one.” She didn’t say where her money had gone. Depending on his views, that could get her arrested.

Olivia’s stomach tightened as one of the guards leaned over her cart and start peering into bags. If he found her Bible, that one precious object on which she’s spent all her money, and if he realised it was a translation…

Fighting the trembling in her hands, she tore her eyes away from the cart and looked up at Lord Fraser. She took a deep breath. Perhaps she would get lucky, and he would be the contact she needed. Perhaps he’d have her locked up. But if he was going to find out anyway then better to stand by her belief than to try to weasel out of it.

“You’ll want to see this.” She rose, reached past the guard and took out the Bible. Heart racing, she handed it to Fraser.

“I see.” His voice was icy cold as he turned the page and saw it was printed in Scots rather than Latin. “Another Protestant plotter.” He slammed the book shut and glared at her. “The last thing this country needs is more plots.”

“The last thing this country needs is foreigners trying to tell us how to live.” Barely able to believe that she was talking to a lord this way, blocking out the terrified voice of panic in her mind, she nodded toward the town’s damaged defences. “Whether they’re Protestants or the Pope.”

Lord Fraser’s guards had closed in on her. One of them grabbed her arm. But then Fraser held up a hand and the man released her.

“This I should confiscate.” He held up the Bible. “But I also think it’s time I had my boots mended. And there’s no law against us talking while you do that.” He placed the Bible in the cart. “Let’s hope I don’t forget that when we’re done. Now, about my boots…”

* * *

The more I read about the 16th century the more fascinating it is to me. I’ve recently been doing some freelance work relating to Scotland in this period, which is where the subject of this week’s story comes from. Maybe another day I’ll write a story about a Catholic in the period, to balance things out a little.

This one’s for Olivia Berrier, who recently wrote a lovely review of my history and alternate history collection From a Foreign Shore on her blog. Please go check it out, and if you like what you read then you can get From a Foreign Shore for free today and all this weekend via Amazon.

And as always, if you enjoyed this story then please share the link or leave a comment below.

Riding The Mainspring - High Resolution“Excuse me.” Isabelle strode across the yard of the stable, skirts held up out of the manure that littered the place. “I would like to speak with the manager.”

“That’s me.” The man had the narrow smile of a nervous weasel and a thin moustache that had never been in style. “Thomas Nathaniel Watkins, Speedy London Carriages, at your service.”

He extended a bony hand, which Isabelle reluctantly shook. Just because she was angry was no reason to abandon good manners.

“I wish to complain.” She stared Watkins in the eye. “Yesterday I hired one of your carriages for an important meeting. The horse died on route, and had clearly been in terrible condition before that. It delayed my journey and meant I missed my appointment with the Crown Prince of Blutagest.”

“Sorry about that, miss.” Watkins chewed on the corner of his lip. “What do you want from me?”

“It’s Mrs, not Miss,” Isabelle said. “Mrs McNair. What I want is an apology and some compensation.”

“Did the driver charge you?”

“He paid me back twice over, but that is hardly commensurate with-”

“Then you’ve been compensated.” Watkins bobbed his head and turned away. “Excuse me, I’ve work to do.”

He walked into the stables and Isabelle stomped after him. How dare this wretched man ignore her concerns?

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the gloom inside, and so to make sense of what she saw. Horses were lined up in thin spaces separated by metal bars. Pipes descended from the ceiling into each of their mouths, and some sort of grey slop was being pumped from a machine by the wall. There were blisters on their lips where the pipes entered. When one of the horses tried to step back, a lever swung down from the ceiling and lashed it across the rear. Several of the horses had red welts on their flanks.

“What is this?” She choked on the words, her own concerns all but forgotten at the appalling sight.

“This is how we get the speedy in Speedy London Carriages.” Watkins stroked one of the pipes. “Special diet and mechanical conditioning.” He frowned at her. “Why are you still here?”

Isabelle took a deep breath, not the most pleasant experience in a cramped room full of frightened horses, and turned her glare back on the man.

“I want…” The thought slipped from her mind as the lash descended across another of the horses. “That is I demand…”

It was no good. She couldn’t even string her thoughts together in here. Perhaps that was Watkins’ intent, the odious little man. She had to take this outside.

No. The thought stopped her as she turned toward the door. If the problem was this place, then the solution was not to run from it. Not with so much suffering on display.

“I want you stop this barbarity at once.” She pointed to the horses.

Watkins’ laughter sounded almost as unpleasant as the horses’ pain.

“I own these nags,” he said. “You can’t tell me what to do. In fact…” He grabbed her arm and started dragging her out into the yard. “You can’t be here. This is private property.”

The pain of his fingers digging into Isabelle’s arm was nothing next to the distress she felt at leaving the horses to suffer, or her indignation at being treated this way. But now her passions didn’t block her thoughts, they fuelled them.

“It is private property, isn’t it?” She dug her heels in, no easy feat on manure-smeared cobbles, bringing them both to a halt. “And this whole area is owned by the Duke of Kent, so you must lease from him. I wonder what he would say about letting you continue, if I told him about today.”

Watkins chewed at his lip again, eyes narrowing as he stared at her.

“You don’t know the Duke of Kent,” he muttered.

“Short man, balding a little, dab hand at cribbage.” Isabelle raised her eyebrow. “And he loves horses.”

Watkins looked from her to the stables and then back again.

“Fine.” His shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry you were delayed. Let me get my bookkeeper and we’ll talk compensation.”

“And no more machines for the horses,” Isabelle said.

“You’ll ruin me, woman!”

“Not as much as losing your lease will.”

“Fine.” Now it was Watkins’ turn to look indignant. “Not that it’s your business, but no more machines for the horses. Now will you just go away and leave me in peace?”

“Of course. I’ll come back tomorrow for my compensation.” Isabelle smiled and turned to walk away, then looked back one last time toward the odious Watkins. “And to see how much better you’re caring for your horses.”

* * *

Isabelle McNair is one of the stars of my steampunk adventure Guns and Guano, available as an ebook on most platforms, including Amazon. It’s free most places, and the sequel Suits and Sewers will be out very soon.

This particular story was inspired by reading a post on hollyiblogs, which cited an estimate that 3,000 horses a week died in London in the 1880s. It made me wonder about the lives and deaths of those horses, many of them worked to death as beasts of burden in an increasingly crowded and alienating urban environment. We often talk about the human cost of progress, but there are other sad costs too.

And if you thought this was worth reading, there’s more where it came from – my steampunk anthology Riding the Mainspring is free to anyone signing up to my mailing list. Why not enjoy some more tales of strange gadgets and Victorian life, all for a couple of clicks of the mouse.

By Sword, Stave or Stylus - High ResolutionDetective Shadowvalt curled his tail up beneath him and pulled the hood of his jacket forward, covering his horns. He didn’t like to leave his trenchcoat behind, but at least he could still smoke while undercover. Lighting a cigarette, he enjoyed the smooth, sulphurous taste. He was sure the cigarettes tasted better in Hell.

Shoulders hunched, he stayed with the dozen lost souls walking through the barbed gates of the warehouse, past the watch demons guarding the place. Even before they crossed the yard, he could tell by the smell that this was it, the centre of the supposed people smuggling ring. There was an acrid tinge in the air, the smell of fallen spirits being consumed for others’ purposes.

Still following the damned, he walked through the double doors of the warehouse proper. At the far end a yellow demon with six tentacles stood by a stone gate. The air in the portal glowed blue with arcane power as a soul stepped in and vanished.

Seeing what was really happening made this all the more sickening. There were scores of mortals here, and they probably all thought they’d bought a way to freedom.

That was it. Probable cause to raid the place. He needed to fetch backup.

Shadowvalt turned and bumped into one of the watch demons.

“Not this way.” The demon blinked six of its eyes. Others emerged on writhing stalks, peering under Shadowvalt’s hood. “Hey, you’re not a mortal. You’re a-”

Shadowvalt flicked his cigarette into the demon’s face. It yelped and jumped back as he flung back his hood and pulled out his badge. “Police. Nobody move.”

The watch demon grabbed at Shadowvalt. He punched it in its sensitive, eye-covered head, sending it slumping to the ground in shock and pain.

“You want out of here?” the yellow demon bellowed, gesturing toward the portal. “Kill him!”

The lost souls, still bearing the marks of their deaths as well as their eternal torments, looked at each other in confusion. They’d probably never been told to attack a demon before. But they were desperate, and Shadowvalt new all too well what desperation could achieve.

They advanced toward him, fists clenched, eyes wide.

“Stop!” he bellowed. “You’ve been tricked. That’s not a portal out of Hell. It’s a construct to turn souls into power. They’re going to kill you.”

“Why should we believe you?” The soul who spoke had burns across half her face.

“Because this is a battery factory.” Shadowvalt pointed to the wires leading away from the portal, ending in a charger against the far wall. “What do you think we use down here, Duracell?”

They looked back toward the yellow demon. Clearly a specialist in technical arcana rather than convincing lies, it hesitated too long. Some of the souls sank to the floor in despair, while others rushed at the demon in rage.

They’d never win the fight, but it was enough. With everybody distracted, Shadowvalt stepped outside and over to the gates. He waved down the road, toward the abandoned building where his backup was waiting. Uniformed constables poured down the street toward him, horn tips gleaming, as the burned woman came up beside him.

“It’s not fair.” She spat the words. “All we wanted was to escape torment.”

“If you’d acted fairly you wouldn’t be here.” Shadowvalt lit a cigarette. After a moment’s hesitation he offered her one. “Just be glad I didn’t leave you to walk through the portal. I’d say justice has been served.”

* * *

You can read two more of demon detective Shadowvalt’s cases in my fantasy anthology By Sword, Stave or Stylus, which is free as an ebook on Amazon until Tuesday. You can also read another flash story about him here.

If you enjoyed this story then please share it – the more people read it the better. And feel to share your opinions below, as well as any ideas for future flash Friday stories.

Picture by Ed Alkema via Flickr creative commons

Picture by Ed Alkema via Flickr creative commons

The ditch below the town walls was a dense stew of mud and blood. The remains of the fallen protruded from the filthy mass of wet straw which bridged the gap – pale fingers outstretched as if digging their way out of Hell. Sir Richard de Motley couldn’t remember the name of the town – something unpronounceably French – but he was determined that those men’s sacrifice should not be in vain.

“Onward!” He charged gloriously toward the wall, shield in one hand, one end of a ladder in the other. Arrows whistled down around him and the small band of brave men who had chosen, despite the caution of their commanders, to follow him in his assault.

“Bad idea.” Adam, Sir Richard’s squire, helped him raise his ladder, one end sinking into the mud, the other resting against the battlements above their heads. “This is all a terrible idea.”

As more ladders were raised, the first of the men fell, skewered by arrows or struck down by rocks. Sir Richard raised his shield to protect his head and began climbing as fast as any man could while wearing chainmail.

Amid the screams and thuds of falling bodies, Sir Richard heard a clang and a curse as a crossbow bolt skimmed Adam’s pot helmet.

“Can’t we come up with something smarter?” the squire pleaded. “I know you like charging in, but-“

Sir Richard ignored him and leapt over the battlements, knocking a Frenchman from the wall as he landed. He drew his sword and parried a blow, then began to advance along the wall, cutting down his enemies while more followers reached the battlements behind him.

Now that he was up here he could see defenders in the streets below, hurrying toward them from the fighting on the far side of town. Soon his band would be completely outnumbered – a perfect opportunity for great deeds of heroism.

“To the citadel!” he exclaimed, pointing toward the fortress at the heart of town.

Two English soldiers fell from the walls as arrows rained down. The men were not following him toward the enemy with the eagerness he had expected. What was the matter with them?

“Perhaps the gatehouse?” Adam pointed toward a pair of towers two hundred yards along the wall. “We could let the rest of the army in.”

“And give them all the glory?” Sir Richard scoffed.

“And ensure that they owe you every one of their victories.” Adam was glancing around anxiously, fingers white around his halberd.

Sir Richard thought of the whole army cheering his name.

“To the gatehouse!” He turned and charged back along the wall.

With enthusiastic cries the men followed him, archers pausing to provide cover as they left behind mass of enemies now ascending the walls.

The door to the gatehouse was solid and bolted from within. It held firm as Sir Richard slammed his shoulder against it. Rocks again fell upon him and his men – less men than he remembered – and the floor was slick with blood. Boiling oil hit the man beside him, who stumbled screaming and fell from the battlements.

“This is…” Sir Richard didn’t have a word for what he was feeling. It was cold and heavy in his stomach, and drained away the thoughts of glory that had spurred him on.

“Terrifying?” Adam’s halberd was covered in blood, as was his face. It was impossible to tell how much was his.

But fear was not for Sir Richard. Of that much he was sure, no matter what this feeling was.

With a great cry, the enemy soldiers charged toward them along the wall, and Sir Richard felt his spirits rise again. A blocked door was a hindrance, but war, war was glorious.

“Huzzah!” He rushed past his men and met the enemy head on. He hacked one man’s head from his body, knocked another off the wall with his shield, ran the third one through. Faced with his sudden, furious onslaught, and with no way around him, the enemy hesitated.

Sir Richard grinned, passed his shield to Adam and grabbed a two-handed mallet dropped by one of the enemy. As both sides stood uncertain, he raced back along the wall, swinging the mallet with all his might.

The gatehouse door gave way beneath the blow, flying back with an almighty crash. The two men inside took one look at the furiously grinning and blood-soaked Sir Richard. Then they ran, leaving the windlass that operated the gates unattended.

“Adam!” Sir Richard bellowed, turning to rejoin the fighting on the walls. “Open the gates.”

“Yes, Sir Richard!” Emerging from the melee with unseemly haste, Adam set to the mechanism.

Shield and sword once again filling his hands with their familiar shape, Sir Richard marched out onto the balcony, through pools of blood and across scattered bodies.

Just as he’d expected – a glorious day.

* * *

If you enjoyed this, you can read more of the adventures of Sir Richard de Motley in my collection of short stories, By Sword, Stave or Stylus, in which the bold knight faces a strange cult, a flock of sheep, monsters lurking in the French forest, and the disdain of many smarter men. And if you enjoy any of these Friday flash stories, do please share them with your friends.