Conflicting Interests – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writer is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

Here’s this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Louise at The Storyteller’s Abode.

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And this is my story . . .

Conflicting Interests

‘I’ll go ahead of you,’ Alf insisted as they waited to board the pleasure-cruiser, ‘so I can help you across the gangplank. Don’t want you overboard, especially in December.’

Edna scowled and stepped in front of him as the queue moved aboard. ‘I might be getting on, but I’m not incapable,’ she retorted, eyeing the roped-off steps to the open-air upper deck. ‘I wanted to sit up there … better views.’

‘Too cold,’ Alf replied, pushing her inside towards two vacant seats. ‘Get in first, next to the window, Edna. Views’ll be good and we’ll be nice and warm – not like them idiots Christmas shopping out in the city.’

‘Which is where I’d be if you hadn’t booked this cruise!’

Edna grumbled on until they disembarked, when her face lit up. ‘Now let’s get to the more enjoyable job of shopping.’

Alf sighed. Edna had made it impossible for him to see the sights, and now he’d be dragged round the crowded shops, loaded up with bulging bags…

His grumbling continued until they got home.

Word Count: 175

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An Inappropriate Reply – 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 Louise. Thank you, Lou!

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And this is my story:

An Inappropriate Reply

Quentin stormed into the morning room and thrust the letter into his wife’s hands. Amelia shifted in her chair, avoiding his outraged glare. The note-paper was all too familiar.

‘Where did you find it?’ Such a mundane question, yet she could think of nothing appropriate to say.

‘That’s irrelevant!’ Quentin snapped, pacing the floor. ‘After twenty-three years of marriage, you owe me a plausible explanation. I was bound to realise soon enough.’

Amelia stared at the letter, grasping for explanations. She’d never kept secrets from Quentin before. ‘James made me promise not to tell you until –’

‘Until it was too late for me to stop him…!’

‘At twenty-one, James has every right to enlist in Kitchener’s army, Quentin. Our son knows what he’s doing.’ Unshed tears suddenly welled. ‘But I can’t bear the thought of him in Normandy. He could be killed, or wounded and–’

Quentin knelt to comfort her. ‘We’ll need to be extremely brave for just a few months, my love. They say this war will be over by Christmas…’

Word Count: 174

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A Note about WW1 and Lord Kitchener’s Recruitment Campaigns:

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Kitchener World War 1 Recruitment poster. Date:1914 Author: Arthur Leete (1882-1933). Public Domain.

When war broke out in August 1914, it became clear that the British Army needed far more men than the numbers already recruited in the regular army. The war minister at the time, Lord Kitchener, began a campaign to urge men aged between 19 and 30 to (voluntarily} join up. Three weeks later, the upper age limit was raised to 35. By mid-September, over 500,000 men had volunteered – and over a million by January 1915.

Many officials in both the military and the government initially believed that the war with Germany would be ‘over by Christmas’. But Lord Kitchener was unconvinced. Needless to say, as war dragged on, eventually to last four long years, concerns over the provision of manpower led to again altering the recruitment ages, this time for men between 18 and 50. During this time, many young men (250, 000 of them in Britain) found little difficulty in falsifying their age. There are stories of boys as young as 15 – a few even younger – joining up, until eventual conscription in March 1916 made it more difficult for them to do so.

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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:

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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

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A Word about Hnefatafl…

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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.

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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

A Lesson Learned – 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 100-150 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 Maria at Doodles and Scribbles. Thank you, Maria!

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And this is my story:

A Lesson Learned

Maisie scuttled down the back stairs towards the Hall’s large kitchens, her heart thumping. To be late on her first day could lose her the job before it even started.

The kitchen went quiet as she entered. Mrs Bridges glowered, pointing at the clock that registered nine minutes past six. ‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ Maisie croaked, ‘but my alarm–’

‘Hold your tongue, girl, or you’ll be out that door!’ Cook’s ample bosom heaved. ‘Start making amends by scrubbing down the shelves and restacking them.’

Maisie gazed at the huge shelves along two of the walls, all packed solid with foodstuffs, condiments and spices. It would take hours to do what Cook ordered…

The smell of the Middleton family breakfast cooking, followed by listening to the domestic staff enjoying theirs, was agony. But Maisie continued to scrub and stack until satisfied everything was done.

Mrs Bridges grinned as she inspected Maisie’s work. ‘You’re not short on elbow grease, I’ll give you that, girl. Lesson learned?’

Maise nodded.

‘Good. Now… bacon and eggs do for you?’

 Word Count: 175

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Nighttime Adventure – 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 Joy Pixley. Thank you, Joy!

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And this is my story:

Nighttime Adventure

Urging him to silence, Edeline clasped Robert’s small hand as they crept down the dimly-lit stairs. It had been easy to persuade the boy to join her on a nighttime adventure. Even little princes loved adventures.

She smiled to herself, imagining Jerald’s face when he realised his son was gone. She’d been careful with her plans, so no one could have guessed. And tonight, when they snored like hogs after too much banqueting wine, those plans would be fulfilled.

‘See, our transport awaits,’ she said, as they left the palace grounds. Excited, Robert sped ahead… just as King Jerald stepped out of the carriage and guards seized Edeline’s arms.

‘No sister, you will not be holding my son to ransom! I’ve known of your lover’s desire for my throne for some time and I’ve paid trusted retainers to become my eyes and ears. Besides, Robert chatters incessantly to our loyal old nurse…

‘Enjoy your adventure in my dungeon with your lover,’ he added, hoisting Robert onto his shoulders. ‘The rats will keep you company’.

Word Count: 174

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A Secret Shared – 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 Jade.M. Wong

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And this is my story:

A Secret Shared

The emir’s eyes narrowed against the dazzling glow of the diamond proffered on the palm held out before him; a jewel of such majesty it would stand preeminent in his collection. Muhammad’s wealth was as renowned as the might of his emirate.

And wealth had bought him that power.

Muhammad’s control was absolute: his executions struck terror in men’s hearts. Many attempted to gain his favour; only a few succeeded.

He pointed a long-nailed finger at the low-born cradling the diamond and curled it slowly back. ‘You found this gem in a cave, you say?’ he whispered, shielding his words from attendants’ ears.

‘Deep inside the cliffs, Eminence,’ Aasif whispered back, nodding. ‘Legends say countless more adorn the tunnels beyond, but my torch was burning low, so I ventured no further.’

Muhammad licked his greedy lips. ‘This cave’s whereabouts…?

Aasif duly replied and Muhammad gestured to his guards before whispering, ‘Reflect on the folly of sharing secrets with strangers before your execution at dawn. But be assured, Aasif, this secret is safe with me.’

Word Count: 174

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Golden-hued Days of Autumn – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks that we write a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with this 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 Phylor.

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And this is my story:

Golden-hued Days of Autumn

The shed at the bottom of the garden was Marigold’s very favourite place, her retreat when others got her down. They simply didn’t understand her and her brother, Perkin, was forever on her case.

‘Why can’t you be like the rest of us and enjoy being who we are?’ he’d yelled, the last time they’d disagreed. ‘You always have to be different!’

Their intolerance upset Marigold because she really didn’t know why she was different. It wasn’t because she revered the beautiful Earth – all her people did that. So it must be because she’d enjoyed the company of mortals over the years.

The mellowing of summer’s radiance into the golden-hued days of autumn always left Marigold in pensive mood. It was hard to watch her human friends gradually age and die, whilst she and her kind enjoyed lives of eternal summertime.

She flapped her faery wings, hoping she’d meet them again one day. But until that time, she’d flutter round the garden and help the next generation of humans appreciate the glorious world around them.  

Word Count: 175

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Softie – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks that we write a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with this 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 Louise at thestorytellersabode:

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And this is my story:

Softie

Twelve-year-old Charlie braced himself against the biting February wind, scouring the beach as he walked. Dad would wallop him if he didn’t find any coal washed up on the morning’s tide. Mum needed whatever he fetched to supplement the spindly sticks they collected.

The shiny object suddenly caught Charlie’s eye, just nestling amongst the colourful pebbles.

‘You’ve found it!’ a girlish voice squealed as he picked it up. ‘Mum was heartbroken when she lost it yesterday. She’s had it for twenty years. See, the date she got it’s on the back: nineteen fourteen. And you found it…’

Charlie scrutinised the expensive-looking watch. Dad’d be pleased to have it to sell – but furious if he learnt Charlie’d just given it away.

‘Finders keepers,’ he retorted. ‘That makes it mine!’

The girl’s tears flowed and he thrust her the watch. Dad had always called him ‘Softie’…

Eighty-two-year-old Alice laid the flowers on Charlie’s grave, fingering her mother’s watch. Memories of the day she’d met her Softie were never too far away, and she’d meet him again, very soon.

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Word Count: 176

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My story about collecting lumps of coal on the beach may seem far-fetched to many people, but that’s just what many poor families had to do in earlier times. I was basing the story on my dad’s early life in the seaside town of Southport in Lancashire (a very sandy beach, with sand dunes – and not the pebbly beach in Louise’s photo, which I’ll leave her to talk about). He was born in 1922, and times were hard.

The coal would mostly have been carried down in the rivers from the Lancashire coalfield and out into the Irish Sea. The incoming tide would then wash some of it up onto the beach – where poor families made good use of it.

How Charlie and Alice met in this story was not how my mum and dad (Millie and Thomas) met. At the time when my dad was collecting coal on the beach, my mum was happily growing up eighteen miles away, in Liverpool – until the heavy bombing of that city during WW2 took her to Southport. My home town.

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Plenty of Open Space – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks that we write a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. . If you’d like to join in with this 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 Louise at thestorytellersabode:

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And this is my story:

Plenty of Open Space

Bernie could never have enjoyed a life of affluence on what they paid him as a gardener, and he’d wanted much more in life than working on some lord’s estate. Looking back, he could see he’d set his sights too high. Tending gardens had been a peaceful job after all, and the fresh air and open space had been good for the soul.

Temptation had just got the better of him and he’d fallen in with the wrong crowd. The robbery had cost him ten years of his life, as well as the girl he’d planned to marry. He’d been on his own after that all right, with no hope of any job after his release.

‘Gov’nor wants t’ see you,’ the prison officer had said, throwing back the cell door. ‘He’s an offer for you…’

Bernie hoed round the flower beds, his memories of his years ‘inside’ fading. He was gardener at the Gov’s big house now, with a regular income and plenty of open space.

But his girl had long since gone.

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Word Count: 175

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Refuge – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks that we write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the link above to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by T.J. Paris:

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And this is my story:

Refuge

Sure-footed as a cat, Edana led the villagers up the craggy slope, the pale glow from her lantern their only light in the darkness. Homesteads smouldered across the valley below, the legacy of ravaging armies bound for the citadel. And once the sun coloured the eastern skies, the slaughter would continue.

But the chieftain’s daughter had vowed to keep her people safe…

Screened by a rockfall, the entrance to her secret cave beckoned. Tielenth had promised to withdraw to the maze of tunnels behind and would only appear if she called. Whilst he was Edana’s protector, her people would flee from his terrible presence. For Tielenth was the Lord of Fire and could scour them from the Earth with his fiery breath.

Edana drew comfort in knowing that, should she ask, the great dragon would not hesitate in taking flight and annihilating the savage foe.

As she entered the cave the draught from the swishing tail as it vanished into the tunnels extinguished the tiny lantern flame.

It would be a long, dark night.

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Word Count: 174

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