|A Writer’s Cramp story (24 hours/1,000 words or less)
Prompt: Use the words: fawning sycophant in your piece.
Promises Not Desired
My entrance into the king’s tent brought the usual fanfare -- a trumpet blared, four guards raised their swords, nodded for me to enter, two folded in behind me. The king’s pet dog yapped twice, then tried to attack my ankles. I ignored all of it, went straight to the great throne, bowed low.
“Thank you, oh, great and wondrous one, ruler of all that eyes can partake, tongues can give witness to, ears
can . . .”
“Silence. I do not need another fawning sycophant. Get to the point Wizard. What is your wish?”
Not the best of beginnings, but I swept my hand into a really dramatic low bow, one that touched the burgundy red carpet imported specially for the king’s tented throne room, then continued the arch into the air to release a rain of golden yellow rose petals from my right sleeve.
“Wonderful,” the king said with a smile on his face. He clapped loudly at the display of magic – a simple parlor trick for warlocks like me.
The scent of roses pillowed out, aerated the room. The king inhaled deeply, then smiled an even bigger smile to let me know how much the fragrance pleased him.
Then he unfurled his legs, stood up to greet me, an honor rarely bestowed.
Again my head bent, my eyes dropped to the floor, but I continued to watch him through partially closed lashes, a trick most of my coven knew well.
“Come now. Tell me what you wish. Ask it,” the king said, still cordial, although the steel in his eyes harbored hints of suspicion even at his friendliest.
I looked up, let worry spread across my face. “My liege, I beg your leniency. I have felt an urgent calling from my home. I am needed -- some emergency they cannot deal with. May I have your permission to leave for a bit? I will return the moment I’ve rectified the . . .”
The king straightened, his eyes turned dark. “Depart? What is this? Am I not as important as your wife’s household problem?”
Anger rushed through me. I knew I treaded rocky ground. Snakes hissed, daggers waited, for the merest whisper of the king’s command -- except he needed me, wouldn’t want to do away with his army’s powerful warlock.
“Forgive me, Sire, but it is not my wife who battles troubles. Another has need of my presence at home.”
“Ah,” the king said, then nodded as if he knew not only the problem but exactly who had done the calling. “You have a daughter, do you not? A young, unmarried daughter. Is she the one who needs you?”
How had he guessed? How had he discovered the presence of my only child? I’d attempted to keep that secret.
“Yes, my liege. You are correct, as always. My child, a witch child. She has called to me.”
“Then you must go."
My head shot up, so surprised was I by his leave, my face must have shown everything.
“Only . . .” he said.
“Only I must have some assurance you will return. A gift of some kind. A promise.”
“My king, I give you my vow that I’ll return the moment . . .”
“No. Not enough. You have a child, a daughter. I’m sure you value her greatly. I have sons, five of them. Daughters are much more useful, don’t you think? So good for cementing friendships, for making solid connections between people.”
I saw it all in his eyes. His plans for me, for my daughter. A blizzard descended over my mind, swirled me with confusion. I hunted for a safe path out, but saw only storms ahead.
When only honesty will serve, then the truth must lead one out, a saying among our coven. I must use the maxim despite revealing more than I wished to tell.
“My liege, my daughter is a witch. Coven rules prevent forced betrothals.”
“Of course,” he said, but I saw no understanding in his eyes. He merely played with me, tied me into knots with his kingly web.
“Well then, we will let her choose. But choose she must. Not my oldest son, of course. But one of the others. It would please me if she favored my youngest, a handsome lad . . . an intelligent young man. I’m sure she will like him best.”
Jessica, my witch wife will not be pleased with what has befallen us. She pleaded with me not to go to the king, but I told her that to volunteer was better than to be taken captive. The king wanted a warlock. I was the most powerful. Inevitable.
And now that king demands more. My daughter must live in his castle for three months. Her choice of whom to love, whom to marry, but she must wed one.
Poor child. My eyes weep at her loss of freedom -- life in a castle, far from her coven.
My wife will say this happened because I went to the king to ask for leave, but not so. I read my daughter’s fate in his eyes, the decision already made. King Tarrad plays chess with lives -- like all kings.
I thought about telling him that Jezebel’s innocence had been stolen. Not important in the witch world, but among men . . . I do not know what the king would say then. One should never buck the plans of a king. Like scorpions, they sting with little provocation.
My horse carries me over the miles with an escort around me, to guard me as well as insure my obedience.
They are not needed for the latter purpose. My word is my bond.
Besides, I’m no longer resistant to the king’s plan. Last night in my tent, I spun magic. In the flames of a candle I saw my daughter’s future. Love awaits her there. The goddess weaves spells even among humans. I cannot read the magic with exactness, but I saw the path. My daughter must journey into the king's lair.