It’s this week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds, and this time I not only managed to get it just under the 1,000 word limit, I referenced all five (!!!) prompts he offered this time around. The only thing more fun than writing these is reading the entries of others, so please check them all out, and please enjoy this offering.

“Who then,” he said, his voice trailing off into a high, wheezing pitch, barely heard above the tavern noise, “shall we enlist?” Being introspective by nature – quiet, reserved – the druid had the habit of, after particularly long discussions, speaking quietly. Being a gnome as well, barely able to see over the table, made hearing him all the more challenging.

“The Derilecto Twins,” she said, smiling and leaning forward. It was a question, but only barely asked as one. Unlike his quiet, tinny pitch, her voice was a smooth, lower octave, seamless, a heavy wind across the grassy plain, a bedtime story in the lamplight.

He chuckled lightly and grabbed the stein with both hands, drinking deep before speaking again.

“You are kidding, of course,” he said.

The warlock shrugged, her dark eyes glimmering in the poorly lit tavern.

“They are capable, competent spellcasters. They are good fighters as well. Daermayr Derilecto is as good with a knife as any we’ve ever known. It is a job for three, but four couldn’t hurt. Why not?”

“Because,” the gnome said, louder, now, “they robbed you blind last time! And it was her brother, Draymoor Derilecto, who was good with the blade. Daermayer uses the bow.”

“If I recall, it was you they robbed, Erwin.”

“Eveiverra, be serious,” the gnome pleaded. “Besides, the last I heard, the Derilecto twins were in an oubliette, somewhere in the Northern Kingdoms…”

“King Bragdormere of the Icesword Coast,” she said, looking down. They both remained silent for a moment in the din of the busy tavern, for the rumor of King Bragdormere’s cruelty preceded him.

“H’monapterra,” the beautiful warlock shrugged, looking off into the distance as she uttered the name under her breath.

The gnome, feeding a tiny piece of horsebread to the small bat under his blue cap, nearly came out his seat.

“Shh! Eveiverra! Do not even speak that name! Certainly not here,” he said, looking to his left, then his right. At the table closest to the door were four burly men, already drunk and telling stories of the War of One Thousand Years. To their right was a long table seating more than a dozen. Dwarves, elves, men, halflings all talked over one another and drank, celebrating. They cackled and harassed the waitress every time she brought more steins of beer to the table, which was often. At the head of the table sat a man in a purple robe and vestments, quiet, with a long, brown beard. He smoked a pipe, and Eveiverra felt a fleeting annoyance that she could not quite make out his face through the smoke.

“Besides,” Erwin said, lowering his voice again, “she is more than ten day’s ride south, maybe more.”

“The Bee Princess would help us, Erwin,” she said, sipping her drink. “You know that.”

The druid gnome sighed, slumping even lower on his wooden stool.

“Yes,” he conceded. “She has as much right to hate Nezzur the Fleshflayer as the Kingdom of the Six.”

Eveiverra and Erwin sat and drank in silence for some time.

It was Erwin who spoke again first.

“The Blood Poppy Fairy, then,” he said in his quiet way.

Eveiverra scrunched her nose in distaste.

“Did we leave on good terms with the Blood Poppy Fairy?”

Erwin shrugged, sighed, and whispered under his breath, “I, for one, thought we’d been properly warned…”

“What’s that?” said Eveiverra, sitting up straight.

“Oh, nothing,” said Erwin, quickly feeding another piece of bread to Ebony the bat.

“The Lost City of Fire,” said the beautiful warlock, more into the contents of her glass than to the druid across from her.

“Such strange magic there,” he said, almost choking on the words. The vessels that had been conjured by a amateur with the Great Talisman had not yet visited the rest of the Thunderlight Kingdom, and whether you were man or elf, ogre or goblin, or a beast of any sort, there was general agreement that it was best that the towering visitors from another plane seemed content in the forever burning of the Lost City of Fire.

They sat silently for a very long time. The travelers next to them had quieted down having had their fill of beer, wine, and mead. The old man at the far end of the table was still lost behind the smoke of his pipe.

“Well,” said Erwin, finally sitting up and taking the last sip of his honey wine. “We cannot do it alone. The job requires a third. And a third of some abundance of skill, and no small amount of magical power. We are both thinking the same thing, of this I am sure. So let me be the first to give it voice.”

He drew in a deep breath, then let it out. Eveiverra knew what he was going to say, but let him speak, anyway.

“The Queen of Swords,” the gnome said, and, as he spoke the last of it, smiled, almost as if in relief.

“The Queen of Swords,” repeated Eveiverra in a whisper. Then, nodding her head once in affirmation and standing rather suddenly, “Will we be able to wake her?”

“Of course,” said Erwin, who also stood, albeit more slowly, “won’t you be able to wake her?”

“My pact is with the Goddess of Sleep and Dreams! You know that. Waking is not my specialty.”

“Well,” he said, as they began to make their way through the crowd to the door, “It’s hardly mine, Eveiverra. At any rate, I have some ideas.”

“Does it involve H’monapterra?”

Erwin laughed as they walked out the doorway and into the star-filled night.

“No. But we may have to pay a visit to the Icesword Coast and King Bragdormere’s dungeon…”

The warlock could be heard to groan. It was a sound that traveled all the way back beyond the drunken travelers, and the keen ears of the wizard at the head of the table.