This piece of flash fiction exists because I wished to take a short break from my main work in progress, and it is technically Friday, so I figured it could be a FridayFlash story. To make things interesting, I asked the #amwriting community to throw some plot points at me, and I would write the story (in under and hour) incorporating those plot points as I went.
The plot points were; A flash flood from @Erynn. A princess who is actually a prince in drag from @LilDannyTaylor. And Irony from @tamiveldura.
I hoped to write it in under an hour… I missed that by about four minutes, but this also means the story is unedited and un-revised. You have been warned.
Prince Fillion surveyed his kingdom, and resisted the urge to put quotation marks around it. It was a hamlet, truth be told, but the Harpers had ruled as monarchs for hundreds of years, and, despite their kingdom being slowly stolen away from them bit by bit, nobody ever felt it necessary to actually take the crown. None of this history mattered to the prince, though, only that he stood to inherit a kingdom so small that he could walk across it in under an hour.
Of course, what Calgrens Keep lacked for in size, it completely failed to make up for in content. There were precisely three high points within Prince Fillion’s lands, one of which being his home, the small fortress that the surrounding lands were named for. The other two consisted of a lively structure that served the purposes of an inn, coach house and whore house all under one roof, and a dam. The dam was impressive in an “only interesting to dam-builders” kind of way, but it wasn’t the kind of thing you spent more than five minutes looking at before you decided you’d seen enough. The Pit, however, almost made up for the rest.
Calgrens Keep straddled the Great Road like an uneasy rider, and as a result, was often packed with travellers, messengers, passing adventurers and other wandering types. This, in turn, attracted musicians, performers and ladies of negotiable favour, seeking to ply their trade, and the presence of those attracted even more customers, who would go out of their way to visit the famous inn.
Prince Fillion Harper could not go to The Pit, however. Not for fun, at least. His father had sent him down with a small retinue of men to arrest a man accused of fondling the kings turnips once. Fillion had originally thought that “fondling the kings turnips” must be a euphemism for something, and resolved to put absolutely no effort into working out what. It wasn’t until he had arrived at the inn in all his regal glory that he found out that “fondling the kings turnips” meant exactly what it said, and that the king had conspired with the accused man as a jape to lighten the dull Calgren nights. Still, what Prince Fillion couldn’t do, Princess Gilly could!
‘It doesn’t matter,’ Master Eamon said, waving his tankard airily, and sloshing ale over all near in the process, ‘the dam is in need of repair. You see how much your precious gold is worth to you when the dam bursts and your hovel is underwater!’
Torman Calhide frowned. He didn’t like his house being referred to as a hovel, but he let it pass; the ale was on his friend again. Instead he said, ‘If the dam is in such dire need of repair, why not fix it for free?’
‘A splendid idea,’ Eamon said, ‘and my young ‘prentice and I would gladly do so, ‘sept we still need materials, and workers, and that doesn’t come for free.’
Torman sighed. The dam had once been a major water source for the entire kingdom, and, as such, had been maintained by the crown. These days, the kingdom was small enough to get by on a small well and a brace of buckets, and the dam was maintained by whosoever took it upon themselves to maintain it. It would have been more prudent to tear the damn dam down and let the river Eaght flow unhindered, but the one off cost of such a venture was enough to convince all and sundry that it would be better to just maintain it for a recurring but considerably smaller cost. The trouble was, as time went on, people began to baulk at paying even that cost.
Torman fidgeted uncomfortably, hoping the old mason would change the subject himself, when a tall, finely dressed woman stepped into the inn. Tonight will be the night, Torman vowed to himself. Focusing on Master Eamon he said, ‘I shall donate fifty silver to the maintenance of the dam,’ he said, ‘but now, if you’ll excuse me,’ and he swept away from Master Eamon’s protests.
He caught the princess by the arm, and felt a familiar rush as she gave a surprised squeak, and then girlish sigh when she realised who had grasped her. She was tall, and not beautiful in the traditional sense; handsome more than pretty, and had a slim, lean body and flowing golden locks. She dressed these assets in an emerald green dress, a dainty silver crown set with sapphires, and, despite her height, she wore high heeled shoes, the pointed heel of which had a reputation all of its own in The Pit.
‘Master Torman,’ said the princess, ‘you gave me a fright.’
‘There’s nothing to be afraid of, Gilly.’
‘Princess Gilly,’ she corrected with mock sternness.
‘My apologies, your highness,’ Torman said, bowing his head graciously. Princess Gilly was, in fact, Gilly Sanders, a common daughter of a farmer, Torman knew. Everyone had different ways of keeping the tedium at bay, and hers was to dress up in finery and visit The Pit as Princess Gilly. Men would often slip her a few coins to sit with them and, of course, drinks were provided. She could never have lived off her royal takings, but she generally earned enough to make it worth her while. The past month, however, almost all of her earnings had come from Torman.
‘Gilly,’ he said solemnly after placing a cup of wine in her hand, ‘will you accompany me on a short walk? I have something I wish to ask you.’
And inside his pocket, he fingered the wedding ring that he had had made earlier that day.
Prince Fillion cursed himself.
He’d known for some time that he was becoming too comfortable in Princess Gilly’s clothes, but he always told himself he’d stop soon. He knew what Torman wanted to ask him. Even if he hadn’t know the man for the better part of a month now, it wouldn’t have taken a mind reader to learn of the man’s intentions. Revealing himself was not an option, though, and a flat out refusal would seem out of character. Still, Fillion did have a small backup, though he had never intended to use it to escape a marriage proposal. He would miss Gilly, though.
‘Meet me at the dam,’ he breathed, effecting his most seductive girls voice, ‘we’ll talk there,’ and he drained his cup of wine and left.
Hidden in a small depression at the base of the dam was an emergency stash of princely clothes that Fillion had prepared, should he ever need to become a prince at short notice. The damn was little more than a minutes walk from The Pit, so it didn’t take Fillion long to reach it. The heels were the first things to go. Ripping them off, he hurled them upwards over the twelve feet high stone wall that was the dam. The dress would be difficult throw, and would raise questions when it was floating on the lake beyond, so he stuffed it back into the depression and resolved to deal with it later.
As laced up his boots, he reflected rather sadly that he was a man again, and that he would always be such, unless he was prepared to travel some distance to find an inn where he wouldn’t be recognised.
Something wet fell on the back of his neck.
He looked up, and saw a fine stream of water leaking from a small hole in the dam. Curiously, he put hie finger against it to stop the flow. He looked around for a stick or small, pointed stone that he might use to plug the hole, but saw nothing.
As a crack began to form out from his finger, a thought occurred to Fillion. The high heels. They would have fit that hole.
And then the crack spread. Damn, Prince Fillion thought.
September 9, 2011