Tonight, We Will Not Die — Ralph and the Prince Part II

Back by popular demand is Part II of a story I wrote last week, “Into the Night”.
If you missed it, you can read it here.  Or read on.

Ralph had lost track of time. Every muscle in his body screamed. He struggled to maintain his precarious position on the horse’s back while keeping the Prince’s unconscious form from tumbling to the ground. The black stallion broke his pace and Ralph allowed him to have his head. They both needed the break.

The punishing ride slowed to a steady stride, and he shrugged his shoulders, allowing himself to relax. Stretching, he felt blood seep into hands numb from holding the reins in a death grip. The horse blew air through his nostrils and Ralph copied the animal’s actions. As his mind cleared, he counted. Three times they had completed a circuit. Moving at the fastest pace he dared, he alternated from a canter to a trot and a walk, conserving their strength.

Deciding he could use the exercise; he slid his right leg around and jumped to the ground. He landed hard on stiff legs, and stumbled, clinging to the saddle and the prince so he wouldn’t fall. He cursed, forcing his limbs to move.

“Where are we?” The Prince’s voice was groggy, muffled in the horse’s mane.

“We should be getting close,” Ralph lied.

The Prince lifted his head, turning it towards Ralph, but the movement made him heave the contents of his stomach. Ralph jumped to the side to avoid the worst of it. He dug into his pocket, retrieved a handkerchief and wiped the prince’s mouth.

“What happened to you?” Ralph asked.

The Prince shifted his position again, rising a little higher in the saddle.

“Sirona said they poisoned me…”

“Sirona was with you?”

“Yes, she gave me something,” he said fumbling at the pouch strapped to his side. It was clear the effort was too much from him and Ralph stepped closer.

“May, I?”

The Prince dropped his hand and nodded.

“The note,” he whispered. He slumped over the horse’s neck again and his eyes closed.

Ralph steadied him, then undid the pouch’s buckled closure and fished out the folded parchment. He could feel the seal as he turned it in his hand. He glanced at the prince who was once again unconscious and wondered if he should try to wake him. Sighing, Ralph figured given their circumstances he could beg for forgiveness later. If the prince lived.

His decision made, he squinted at the letter and almost dropped it. Glowing above the Prince’s wax seal was his name.

“Well, all right, then.”

He cracked it open and unfolded his message. As he pressed back the folds, glittering sparks escaped. They coalesced into a ball, hovering over the sheet of paper. Their amber glow provided enough illumination for him to read the delicate handwriting.

 

Ralph,

With luck, you have found the Prince. If he still lives, then the elixir I administered is slowing the poison, but his life hangs in the balance.  You must reach D’ArtAnna as quickly as possible. I have enchanted the Lucciola to guide you to her. I estimate he only has a few hours.  

Our enemies are strong, and they are everywhere. Sir Felton and Jean-Christophe were dead when I found the Prince. Trust no one, dearest Ralph.

Keep yourself alive and Save our beloved Prince,

Sirona

 

He refolded the message, and the Lucciola rose, floating forward to hover above the stallion’s head. With a trembling hand, he jammed the paper into his pocket and mounted.

Sir Felton and Jean-Christophe were the bravest fighters in the Kingdom and Ralph wasn’t a match for either man, even on his best day.

“Dead,” the Lucciola bounced in the air at the sound of his voice.

“Ok, you. Lead the way,” he said. Resuming his place behind the prince, he placed his hand on the royal black cloak.

“I promise you. Tonight, we will not die.”

The stallion shook, and with a prancing step, he followed the Lucciola. They proceed along the forest trail as dawn’s first tendrils filtered through the branches. Ralph urged the horse to move faster.

“Tonight, we should be fine. It’s tomorrow I’m not so sure about.”

__________________________________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

 

Red Light Rescue – Flash Fiction Challenge

Title: Red Light Rescue
Source:  Flash Fiction Challenge
Prompt: Write a story that includes a sweet jam.
Word count:  99 words

sea of red lights in New York

Photo by Jan K on Unsplash

I volunteered, although it was the last thing I wanted to do.

She waited outside her brownstone, with her carryon balanced atop her suitcase. I double-parked while the cabbie honked, cursing me, as he squeezed his way past.

“You’re late,” she said, and I stuffed the luggage in the trunk.

“You said six, it’s a quarter to.”

She ignored me and got in the car.

Rush hour in New York, made worse by some hidden force, gave me an opportunity. My one last chance.

The traffic jam was sweet, providing the salve we needed to mend our strained relationship.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Message Decoded – 3 Line Tales

From Sonya’s 3LineTales at Only100Words.
You can find the original prompt here. Thank you, Sonya

photo by Leon Bublitz via Unsplash

The victim wrote the answers on the wall, numbers hiding their meaning in plain sight.

Detective Alvarez didn’t need a decoder ring to solve the case that eluded his peers.

Peace, peace, marijuana, Satan and sex, were the smoking guns leading directly to the guilty party.

______________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Loving A Classic – Weekend Writing Prompt

Title: Loving A Classic
Source:  Weekend Writing Prompt #119 – Tinker
Objective: Write a poem or piece of prose in exactly 75 words.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 1963 'split window' in Amsterdam

Photo by Marc Kleen on Unsplash

My baby needed work, but the estimate made me cringe.

“It ain’t worth it. Ya wanna sell?” The office manager was all about dollars and cents. There was never any doubt, whatever the price I would gladly pay.

The mechanic smiled, happy to tinker with her engine.

“You don’t see these anymore,” he said, looking at me, he understood our connection.

“Don’t you worry. I’ll treat her like my own. She’ll be good as new.”

__________________________________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Brave Enough – Thursday Threads

Touching the scar on my arm, I let my finger trace the line.

The diner reeks of nostalgia, the linoleum is worn, but the coffee in the battered cream-colored cup is hot and strong. I sip, watching the two uniforms place their order and adjust their stools at the counter.

The glass door opens, the bell tinkles merrily, and he walks toward me, pausing, he towers over me, but I stand my ground. He sits in the booth. The table separated us, and he leans forward, reaching for my hands. I pull back, plaster my spine against the vinyl seat, ramrod straight, and drop my fists into my lap. But I won’t look away.

I had forgotten his eyes were blue. If I could forget that, perhaps I can leave behind the rest. Memories flash, slashing red and deep. Tear-stained faces, broken promises, and outright lies will forever live encased by walls.

He says he loves me, and he needs me. He can’t go on without me. The begging begins with words so often repeated that I no longer require the script. I have heard it all before.

“I don’t hate you, it’s just… I don’t need you anymore,” my voice sounds distant, flat and cold.

He speaks from far away, and my ears grow deaf.

“There’s nothing left to say. I won’t go back.”

My bill is paid, the time is now, and I rise. The uniforms nod as I stroll by, and I step through the open door.

__________________________________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Wiser Now – 100 Word Wednesday

Title: Wiser Now
Source:  100 Word Wednesday: Week 133
Word count: 100 words

Image by Bikurgurl

They always ask how it began. Three guys with garage band mania, copying guitar licks and belting it out until the chords cracked. Arms locked, we were in it together, working for our break.

Running on the edge of the world, we chased empty promises of happiness. Seduced by the money, and rock n roll fame, they said the fabric that binds, was the gag on our dreams. It broke our bond.

Every man for himself, the road got tough, an F’ed up free for all.

Ditching superficial words, daring to swim in deep water, we found the true reward.

__________________________________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Midnight Nightmare – Flash Fiction

Written for BrewNSpew Café Writing Prompt
Thanks, Eugenia.

I must sleep. It’s been hours, days, and yet it terrifies me. Sitting on the edge of my crumpled bed, I grasp my head in my hands. Alone in the dark, I’ve barred the doors, checked them twice, and my mind says I am safe. It tells me to relax, find my pillow, close my eyes, and fall asleep.

I listen to my good advice, lie down, exhale, and breathe deeply. It lasts until I begin to toss and turn, and my legs tangle in the sheets.  I reach for gossamer bindings that dissolve as I touch them, releasing me so I can stand and walk toward my bedroom door. I step outside.

Fog, mist, vapors rise, obscuring my vision of the road and the black leafless trees. Animal eyes wink in the distance, judging me, hunting me. I try to run, but it paralyzes me, unable to move, it forced me to face the terror.

Somewhere an engine revs, a menacing growl that vibrates through my body. Moments pass, I hyperventilate as claws sink into my skin. I scream. Eyes bulging, I stare into wicked orbs.

Midnight regards me, annoyed, she shifts and yawns, stretching her mouth wide.  Parked on my chest, my black cat purrs and I swear she smiles an evil smile.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

The Aftermath – Friday Fictioneers

Title: The Aftermath
Source:  Friday Fictioneers sponsored by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple
Word count: 100 words

demolished-purple-tent on driveway with grills

PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields

Jan checked the canopy’s weights. Taylor was getting ice, and she needed to light the grills for the neighborhood barbeque

Taylor’s truck sped toward her, bouncing over the curb, he spilled from his seat before it stopped moving.

“Get inside,” he yelled. As he pointed to the sky, sirens screamed.

“Tornado.”

They raced ahead of the monstrous roar to huddled in the basement.

At the “All Clear” they emerged. The fickle funnel wrecked devastation on the opposite side of the street while their property remained unscathed.

“I’m going to help,” Taylor said.

“I’ll start the grills. They’ll need to eat.”

________________________________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Vagabond Shoes – 100 Word Wednesday

Title: Vagabond Shoes
Source:  100 Word Wednesday: Week 126
Word count: 100 words

Image by Spencer Davis

Nina paced, flitting from the window to the deck. A massive cruise ship slid across the water and Nina sighed. Cannes was diverting, Marco was a fabulous host, and the season was ending.

“Time for a new beginning,” she said.

An hour later, her suitcase rolling behind her, as she checked her phone for directions to the audition. Seventeen days to Port Canaveral promised stops in Barcelona, Lisbon, Ponte something, and her next adventure.

In exchange for four hours of Vegas-style dancing in the Stardust Theater, they offered crew’s quarters and pocket change. Nina threw her hat into the ring.

__________________________________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Into the Night – Flash Fiction

Ralph’s legs burned. He clutched his ribcage and rubbed the twitching muscle which begged him to stop. The intercept lay two hundred yards ahead. Holding the flaming torch higher he inhaled, hardened his resolve and pushed himself forward.

His blood beat in his ears and he struggled to quiet his breathing. He slowed, as he approached the archway. Moving with caution, he allowed the flames to illuminate his surroundings and he checked the shadows. No one lurked, no sign of ambush. Beyond the opening was a solid wall, his choice was to turn north or south. His torch showed nothing but an empty corridor running in both directions.

“Am I too late?” he wondered.

Somewhere water dripped, creating a steady cadence that echoed in the dark tunnel. Ralph leaned forward. He twisted his head to the right, extended his left arm to push the sputtering light as far from his ears as he could manage. He strained to decipher the second sound hidden in the reverberations. It was almost imperceptible, but there was the sound of a slow plodding horse.

“We’re in a race against time. Why would he move so slowly? Was it someone else? A trap?”

The flame crackled and sputtered. It had served its purpose, and he extinguished it. His eyes adjusted to the darkness, and he listened again. It was difficult to figure the direction of travel, but the footfalls grew clearer, getting closer. If it was the prince, he would approach from the south. Ralph moved to the right side of the arch hidden from whoever approached but granting him an unobstructed view of the corridor.

He waited, as the steady trod advanced toward him.

A tall black stallion proceeded into the intersection, carrying a large dark bundle. Ralph stepped around the archway and peered into the darkness. Nothing and no one followed. He clicked softly.

“Whoa, boy,” he said. The horse snorted and stopped.

As he moved closer, he could tell it wasn’t a pack, but a man strapped to the horse’s back. Ralph made soothing sounds, reached for the bridle and led the stallion into the shadows. He patted its neck and turned his attention to the rider. The man’s black cloak bore the royal crest. He lifted his head twisting his face towards him.

“My Prince?”

His eyelids fluttered, and he struggled to focus.

“Ralph,” he said, “Ralph, we must hurry. No time to….”

He didn’t wait to hear more. He mounted, situating himself behind the slumped form, his feet found the stirrups and he grabbed the reins.

“Yah,” he called as he leaned over the prince’s body. The horse jolted forward, and they raced into the night.

__________________________________________

Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer