Saturday, August 6, 2022

Flash Fiction Challenge

My response to Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge, using all three images...


Kylwyn locked the apartment door and set the bar across. Moving to the windows, he secured the shutters and, confident that they were immovable, he exhaled. From his satchel, he produced the scroll case. Carefully, oh so carefully, he withdrew the parchment therein and, savoring the moment, rolled it out on the bed before him. With the utmost delicacy, he used the last of his red ink to scratch in a small box, connecting it to two other locations and labeling it with his slender, fine script. It was, he was proud to say, the script of an elf.

He let the moment linger. He stared into the hearth, which he now knew was a gateway into the Everburning Wood. Only those who had accessed the Mad Scribe’s Sanctum had encountered such knowledge; only they knew how to step into the wood.

He knew. He knew many things.

He exhaled and returned to the parchment. There, before him, was revealed at long, long last a complete map of the primary underchambers that connected the underbelly of the great City of Jythra. From the Burial Vaults of the Serpent King through the Hall of Tomes and even past the Obelisk of Jyth itself, he could see it all. The delicate threads that tied the city together were now his to pull. He considered, with a mixture of joy and a growing tiredness, that he was, even after all this time, still the first to discover how the lifeblood of the city flowed. Among fifty thousand, he was the only one who could drop into a sewer drain in Cobbler’s Alley and emerge at the foot of the Library of Vash. Only he knew how to use the Tellis Gate, and its sundry hidden tunnels, to access the North Spires. 

Kylwyn admired the map for several minutes. Then, he resumed unpacking his satchel. He pulled forth the Mask of Hermaphros. Infiltrating this cult had taken months, and the mask itself had required painstaking exactitude, and no shortage of coin, to craft - but it had been worth it. Those cultists were able to share the final answers he had sought, once he had proven himself as worthy to join them. He set the mask on the bed beside the map, the only witness he could allow to this victory.

Next, he found a small, timeworn journal in the deeper folds of his satchel. Kylwyn reviewed the last several entries. It had taken him fifty-seven years and one day to complete this map. Fifty-seven years and one day of exploring and spelunking and near-death experiences had granted him an unheralded understanding of the veins and capillaries that both united and separated all of Jythra. He reviewed the intricate notes, the vast theories, the magical incantations that had driven his journey these last few decades.

Fifty-seven years. Kylwyn set that journal upon the map, now finding a second journal in the bottom of his satchel. This one was much more slender. Only four pages had been used. For the first time in decades, he looked at these. Page one had reported the task had taken him seventy-eight years, forty-two days. Page two reported sixty-three years and nine days. Page three reported sixty-one years and two hundred days. He now completed page four, smiling wide.   

He fixed this moment in his mind. It had been nearly six decades in the offing. Tonight, he would allow himself to revel. He would drink and dance and laugh in the glow of a knowledge that only he possessed. 

Tomorrow, he would start again. He would rise at dawn, pay visit to the priestesses of Ura the goddess of memory, and donate the thirty silver coins required to have this memory magically removed. Then, he would begin his quest again. This time, perhaps, he could beat fifty years. 

He admired the delicate contours of the mask one last time before setting it into the hearth, allowing the Everburning Wood to claim it. After its last ashes had drifted into the swirling smoke and into the unending beyond, he turned back to the map and the journal with his notes. He now began to tear them into thin strips before slowly, delicately, letting the Everburning Wood claim them as well.

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