It’s Just a Game – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Iain Kelly:


And this is my story:

It’s Just a Game

Twelve-year-old Aelric made his first move and glared across the hnefatafl board at his burly opponent: the brute whose marauding band had seized his father’s village.

A yellow-toothed grin creased Halvar’s face. “Don’t look so glum, boy. It’s just a game.’

Aelric stayed mute, contemplating how best to move his knights to capture his cocksure opponent’s white king and claim the victory. For Halvar had vowed to Aelric’s father: ‘We’ll leave your village, Wulfgar, when one of your people can beat me at hnefatafl.’

Many games had been played and lost, and now all hope rested with Aelric…

‘It’s just a game, Halvar,’ he said as he finally took the white king. Halvar’s outraged face turned puce, but he kept his word and his thieving band left the village that day.

Wulfgar hoisted Aelric onto a table and raised his ale mug. ‘To the hnefatafl champion of Wessex!’ he yelled and grinned at his son. ‘Good thing we didn’t tell Halvar you haven’t been beaten by anyone in the kingdom since you were eight.’

Word Count: 175


If you’d like to read other stories, or add one yourself, click on the little blue frog:

A Word about Hnefatafl…


Hnefatafl. Author Andreas Zautner. Public Domain

Hnefatafl – also known as ‘King’s Table’ – was a common board game for two people played by the Vikings. It soon spread to all the lands where the Vikings travelled, however, including Britain, Ireland and Lapland. In Old Norse, the word tafl means ‘table’ or ‘board’. The game is not the same as chess, although it is played on a chequered board. Henefatafl involves two unequal sides: the smaller ‘kings’ side of 12, initially positioned in the centre of the board, and the opposing 24 knights set out against the four sides.

The object of the game is for the king to escape. If he reaches one of the four corners he wins the game. If the attackers manage to capture him – by the strategic movement of players – the attackers win.


This is the first time I’ve been on my blog for almost four weeks. We’ve had a lot of family issues to deal with, including serious ill health of a family member. Consequently my blogging, and writing in general, has been ‘on hold’. I hope to back again soon

About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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53 Responses to It’s Just a Game – FFfAW

  1. excellent Millie as always and thanks for the info re the game as well. I am behind as well so take your time!

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Cybele, and thank you for the nice comment. I feel a bit like a stranger on WordPress at the moment but I’m sure I’ll get back into the swing of things soon. I hope you are all settled in your new house by now. I’ve missed reading your lovely mystical stories.

  2. Michael says:

    I should have known your story would come with a fascinating history lesson, thanks for that millie I do enjoy your posts…

  3. Hemangini says:

    wow beautiful story. loved it.

  4. I hope everything is ok now in your family!
    Another excellent story! 😊

  5. irinadim says:

    Good to hear from you, Millie. Interesting historical story! Hope all your family issues are resolved soon. Best wishes 🙂 Irina

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Irina. I’m a stranger on WP nowadays and feel totally out of touch with everyone. As you know well enough, sometimes life and family have to come first and I just needed to take a little time out. Writing has been the last thing on my mind f or a while and I really need to get back to it.
      I hope you are both well and enjoying the spring. It will s soon be high s summer for you! 😃

  6. Iain Kelly says:

    Great story. Glad you included the explanation – at first I thought it was made up! Sounds like an intriguing game to learn more about.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks Iain. I thought I’d better include the explanation because the name hnefatafl does sound very made up! It was the most popular game in Britain and Scandinavia for some 400 years, I believe. The Vikings had a lot of different tafl (table/board) games.

  7. Joy Pixley says:

    Good to see you back, Millie; I’m sorry to hear about the family illness and other issues, and hope that things are looking better now.

    I was really rooting for Aelric, and was so happy to see him win — I really need happy-ending stories today. I also thought the game was fictional at first, so I’m so glad you included the mini-history on it! It’s so interesting to see different games people have made up with just a checkered square and pieces of two colors. I stayed deliberately vague in my story about what game they were playing, but if it comes up again, I might make up some rules.

    • milliethom says:

      It’s always useful to have a collection of games and pastimes to draw on for a book, in my experience. I researched several Viking and Anglo Saxon pastimes for my books. In your case, you could just have some made-up ones, and their rules, to draw on.
      Hope you’re feeling better today, Joy. I can only assume the election result is what’s making you feel so low. I felt in a similar way after our Brexit result. We just have to live with these things, unfortunately.
      It’s my sister whose health we’re all very worried about, as I’ve just explained in a reply to PJ. She’s got pneumonia on top of everything else right now and is in Intensive Care. Thanks for the kind wishes.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Yes, the election was very much an “American Brexit” for at least half the country. I am optimistic we will soldier on, though. I hope your sister recovers soon, it sounds very stressful for all of you.

        The challenge I have with making up games is that pretty much all the games that make sense have already been made! At least that’s true for the one simple enough to bother explaining in a book, much less a short story. For now I think it’s fine to merely suggest something about how the game is played (e.g., cards, tiles, dice) and whether it’s considered simple fun or highly strategic. That said, it would be fun to just mention a game in one story and have it keep coming up in other places…

  8. I love this Millie! It really pulled me into the story and I loved the ending! Wonderful! I am so sorry to hear about the ill health of your family member and I do hope this person is well very soon!

  9. draliman says:

    Yay Aelric! I’m glad Halvar kept his word rather than striking him down 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, that was probably pushing things a bit on my behalf. Halvar would more than likely ‘knocked his block off’ (as we say up here in the wild and woolly North!). 😀

  10. Antonia says:

    Haha, I love the twist Millie! I love what you came up with.

  11. I love this very much!

  12. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    Looking for a writing challenge? Check this blogger’s post out and how to take part! 🙂 -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here. Please visit their blog.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks for this, Jason. 🙂 I haven’t been on my blog for a few weeks and need to get back into the swing of things. I hope you are well an your writing is growing into that first book!

  13. Aquileana says:

    Excellent…. I guess there are many analogies between chess and war, at least from a strategic point of view… Very well written dear MIllie… And I liked how things turnt out for Aelric. His father should have been so proud of him! 😉 sending all my best wishes!.

  14. Hi Millie,
    I did notice your absence, Millie and hoped all way well. Family is the priority, even over blogging!
    I do hope your sister recovers quickly. Pneumonia is dangerous, so I do hope for the best. Your story is, as usual, excellent. I loved the quirky contrast between – it’s only a game and the threat of the destruction of the village… this really got my interest. Interestingly, my son used to play this game (he also was a chess champion), with the Viking re-enactment club here. He came close to beating their champion! (but didn’t) – I think it is a fun game, well this and chess too!

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Amanda, Yes, it seems ages since we chatted. I’ve had so much going on here, even before Linda became so ill. I’ve been quite depressed for weeks (something unusual for me) for a number of reasons, and couldn’t face writing posts or chatting to people. We heard today that Linda seems to have taken a little turn for the better, thank goodness, but she’s still a very sick lady.
      Enough said of all that! I’m trying to think positively now. Thank you for liking my story. I’m impressed to hear that your son not only plays hnefatafl, but is very good at it. I’ve never actually seen it played, other than in snippets from documentaries and such like.
      I’m trying to get back to visiting people’s posts now, but I can’t hope to catch up with all I’ve missed. I actually feel much happier now I’ve connected with people again.

      • I am sorry to hear you have been down Millie. Blogging is great therapy but I do understand that you don’t feel up to it atm. Everyone had their tipping point where they can no longer be as strong as they usually are. Our emotional energy becomes so low it is hard to feel any motivation at all. I hope you are ferling better soon. Spoil yourself a little with special treats and do the things you really like to do!! Please yourself for a while!!! You have my email if you want to message me. Take care

      • milliethom says:

        Thanks again, Amanda -and I know you’d offer a great ‘listening ear’ if I emailed you. I’ve never actually been depressed before and I don’t like it one bit!

      • It isn’t fun for anyone! And it is hard to change the mindset when it is really deep. It is good to try to do some little thing each day no matter how crappy one might feel. I hope it passes quickly.

  15. I have also been away from WordPress for a few weeks. A body can only keep so much going at the same time. I miss you though, and decided to check on you this evening. The board game post is fascinating!

    • milliethom says:

      Last time we chatted, Dinata, you were still recovering from that awful bug you had for so long. I really hope that’s all behind you now and you’re building yourself up again. I’m dying to know what’s happening with your book, and whether it’s published yet. I’m sure I’ll find out once I hop over to read some of your recent posts. Lovely to hear from you.

  16. Singledust says:

    Just so lovely to read a story from you MillieThom! i too have been away from WP for a few months and just back into it slowly, like you family issues always take centre stage. I cheated and scrolled to the bottom to read your write up on this ancient board game, so clever to connect history to this prompt. good to have you back again! the father was a smart man to set up the wager as he knew his son’s skill and keep him till the last!

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Gina. Yes, it takes a bit of doing to get back into the routine of writing and posting when you’ve been off the blog for a while. I clicked publish for this story very hesitantly! I agree, family issues must always come first and I’ve been very wrapped up in things for a while.
      Thank you for the nice words about my story. I thought of hnefatafl as soon as I saw the chess game. I’ve done a lot of research about Viking board games for my books. The little boy in the photo looks so sweet.

  17. michael1148humphris says:

    Really loved your historical tale. Family is so important.

  18. Ameena k.g says:

    Haha, a little secret once in a while doesn’t hurt. And aerlick did his people proud. I enjoyed reading this. 🙂

  19. milliethom says:

    Thanks, Ameena. 🙂 Yes, this secret was one worth keeping from the invaders. Vikings prided themselves on being honorable men, so Halvar kept his word. 🙂

  20. inesephoto says:

    Millie, I do hope your sister is getting better.
    Learned a lot again, as always 🙂

  21. Norma says:

    I hope everything and everyone in your family is fine now Millie.
    It does look similar to chess, but with explanation turns out to be so different. A game of vikings, would have to be fun and strategic unlike the chess which is strategic and can be fun only to some.

    • milliethom says:

      The Vikings were very keen on games and sports. They had several different board games as well as some games without boards, like knucklebones, which was similar to the game we used to call ‘jacks’. My sister’s health problems seem to be slowly improving, thanks Norma. She gave us quite a scare.

      • Norma says:

        Has been a long time Millie and so good to hear from you. I’m relieved that everything is ok now. Sending lots of wishes and prayers for her speedy recovery. 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        Thanks, Norma. I’ll pop over to your blog over the next day or so. My sister is out of hospital now, after giving us all the scare of our lives. She was in there for six weeks and her consultant says it will be another 3-6 months before she’s fully recovered from her ordeal. I’m so glad things are getting better, though.

      • Norma says:

        Oh my God! that’s a long time. I hope she gets well soon. And I’m happy that things are getting better for you. Take care, Millie. ^_^

      • milliethom says:

        Thanks, Norma. Things seem to be on the up! Positivity is the ‘in’ word from now on. Take care, too. 😀

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