Fiction Friday 002 — “The Magic Returns”

So, I don’t know how many of these I’ll have, but, occasionally, when the mood strikes me, I’ll post a flash story on (some) Fridays for the enjoyment of them wanting to dip their toes in my fiction.

Today, I give you a story based on a scene. Wait . . . no; it’s a scene that (might) inspire a story.

Let me back up for a moment and point you to THIS<<link post. I’ll spare you having to actually click on the link and go to the post (FSM forbid!) by posting one of the streams of consciousness scenes I wrote for the post (hint: the post is about how a writer — me — gets his ideas). In it, I mention that I had a scene in mind and I just start writing it . . . and this is what I wrote at the time (April 2016; also this is the edited version — because I’m a better (!) writer now).

At the height of the battle, Valora stopped, letting her arms fall to her sides after embedding her sword into the granite boulder at her feet. Her adversaries did not rush in, instead, pulling back. The scene was repeated with each of the other four paladins. 

From atop the cliff, the old wizard watched the now silent battlefield below, watched the five circles of empty space forming around his pupils, watched as each began walking toward the setting sun, a path opening in the ranks ahead of them and closing behind them as they passed.

He could see the five swords embedded in the ground and continued watching as the paladins drop their scabbards, their fighting tunics, and last, their personal sigils, ripping them from the chains around their necks and letting them fall to the ground. 

Each discarded item stood at the center of their own empty spaces as no enemy soldiers dared go near them. The old wizard knew each item would remain there for many years, untouched, and knew that, for now, magic had left this world. He turned and began his long journey in the opposite direction.

That’s what I wrote, tweaked a bit since the original was written on the fly (you can see the original and the edits in the post). Again, it’s a scene I imagined without context and prior to having an idea for a story. Often, writing out a scene prompts me to see a hint of a story, and it often kickstarts the creative process. A number of my short stories are the results of similar scenes expanded into larger concepts.

Well, that was four years ago . . . and I’ve done nothing with it. In part, it’s because it reads more like an ending than a beginning. In fact, that could be the ending scene of a story or book.

But, now, let me take that vision of mine and rewrite it as the beginning of a possible story.

The Magic Returns

Copyright 2022 — E. J. D’Alise (1,100 words – about a 5 minutes read)

Bob stopped, a curious expression smoothing his normally visible laugh lines before morphing into intense concentration, his eyes closing and his brow furrowing.

“Bob,” his boss called out.  

“BOB!” his boss yelled, walking toward the old man standing completely still as if made of marble.

Stopping in front of Bob, he grasped Bob’s shoulder, intending to express his displeasure with a small shove and a talking-to, but, instead, he fell silent. His hand might as well have tried to shove a statue. He lightly poked at Bob’s chest, again registering how solid it felt.

Getting closer to Bob’s face, he was startled when the eyes opened, and Bob shook himself as if awakening from sleep.

Seeing his boss in front of him, Bob smiled, removed his apron, gave it to his boss, and, stepping around him, headed for the door.

“Where are you going?” his boss yelled out. “Come back here, Bob, or you’ll lose this job!”

“I quit,” Bob said without stopping, “and my name isn’t Bob.”

In seconds, the old man not named Bob was out the door.

~ 0 ~

Anna was almost home, but waves of nausea mounted stronger attacks with each step she took. Stopping in front of her apartment building, she supported herself by grasping the wrought iron fence even as the strongest wave yet hit her full force. Doubling up, Anna went through the motion of vomiting, but nothing came up. Her legs wobbled, and she would have fallen but for the arms that suddenly were there to support her. The last thing she saw before passing out was a pair of feet.

~ 0 ~

Beth woke with a start, taking a huge breath and sitting upright. She looked at the unfamiliar surroundings before focusing on the other two people in the room; a young woman in one corner and a vaguely familiar old man sitting on the sofa along the wall.

Confused, she looked down at herself. Her last memory was that of a strong wave of nausea making her lose control of her car, crashing through the guardrail, and plunging to the river below. Wait … an additional — if incredible — memory of the car door opening and someone pulling her out of the car just before she passed out. The last thing Anna remembered was watching the car plunge into the water below her.

~ 0 ~

Carol grabbed the signpost and held it tight, determined to stay upright as she closed her eyes and fought the strong retching urge. As one wave passed, she felt another mounting and opened her eyes. None of the people paid her any attention. No … to her left, three people stared at her intently; an old man, and two young women. She wanted to speak but couldn’t.

They approached, and the old man spoke as he reached for her.

“Don’t worry; we got you. Just let go.”

Carol’s last sight before passing out was her hand losing the grip on the metal pole … and the indentations her fingers had left where she had gripped the pole.

~ 0 ~

Donna reached for the bench at the bus stop and supported herself as she sat and closed her eyes. The visions she’d been having were becoming more intrusive, interfering with her perception and making it unsafe for her to interact with her surroundings.

Fantastical images of aerial battles and of armies marching into melees between humanoids and demons fighting with conventional weapons … and, within those battles, five figures wielding weapons made of light fought against monsters wielding disturbingly dark weapons.

She’d considered seeing doctors, but something held her back — something besides the implausibility of explaining these visions.

The scenes were brutal, made all the more so by the absence of sound from the open mouths of combatants dying in anguish.

This vision was the longest so far, and her mind’s eye drifted to a lone figure on the bluff overlooking the battlefield. An old man stood there, watching the battle below — and then the vision faded.

When Donna opened her eyes, the same old man stood in front of her. Flanked by three young women, his outstretched hand offered something she immediately recognized, memories of time long-past flooding back. With a sad smile, she nodded and reached for the offering.

~ 0 ~   

Emma sat with her feet dangling over the bluff’s edge overlooking an expansive field. The swirling breeze moved the long grass, the ripples giving it the impression of being alive. But Emma saw past the tranquil scene to a time long ago when war cries, screams of anger and agony, and the overpowering smell of the spilled blood tinging the ground filled the air and one’s senses.

Her memory shifted in perspective, and she was down there, wielding Valora, its brilliance blinding, even when engulfed by the weapons of her foes. Demons, casting dark forces, were kept at bay thanks to Valora’s implacable energy and the strength of her armor. She fought, mindful of the humans around her battling hordes of lesser demon beasts, valiantly employing swords, pikes, and maces. And, she sensed the comforting presence of the other four paladins, her companions in arms, themselves engaged against the dark forces of the enemy.

And then, she remembered feeling the tugging. It slowed her movements and the movements of her foes. She embedded Valora in the granite below her feet as her foes retreated, turned into mere wisps of swirling gray smoke, and dispersed in the breeze. The now silent battlefield had the five paladins surrounded by empty space bounded by humans who looked at them in awe.

Without saying a word, the paladins walked toward the setting sun, discarding their scabbards, armor, fighting tunics, and their sigils, ripping them from the chain around their necks and letting them fall to the ground.

Each item stood at the center of its own empty space as no humans dared go near them. They would remain undisturbed for as long as magic was gone from this world.

Emma dismissed her memories with a sigh, stood, turned, and waited for the approaching figures to reach her. The four young women stopped in a semi-circle around Emma as the old wizard approached her. They looked at each other in silence for a few seconds before Emma spoke.

“Again?” she asked.

“Again,” the old wizard replied.

Emma extended her arm, and the old wizard dropped her sigil in her open hand.  

“I am Valora,” Emma said, “and I am ready.”

After exchanging hugs, the group made their way down to their awaiting weapons and armor, for the magic had returned, and there was work to do.

The End (?)

So, this is somewhat stand-alone. Meaning, it hints at stuff to come, but it could just as well stop here because it tells you what the conflict will be. Overall, to me, it feels well-rounded, a bit more complete, and with interesting characters and hints of interesting things.

I have a vague idea of what path I might send these characters on, but if I stopped here, it would be OK with me.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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