flash fiction by Jason Allard
* * *
The lunar conjunction. The black spot. The time for the airing of
Klaes followed Rokus, his second, to Blenheim's inner courtyard. He
wondered what Seit would chose for weapons. It could conceivably be
something like poetry or knowledge of obscure facts. Klaes was quite
certain of his victory in such circumstances. He was a little less sure
if it came to fisticuffs or swords. That's why he'd picked Rokus as his
Of course, they were the last to arrive. The dueling ground was near
the edge of the lake the king had built to reflect the glory of his
grand palace. Siet was already there, standing next to a dark giant of
a man. He wore a smug smirk that was even more annoying than usual.
Eleni was not there. If she'd only choose his suit over Siet's, all
this could be avoided. She could also choose to snub them both. Even
that would be preferable to her accepting Siet's proposal.
Standing a little distance apart from the others was the Judge. Draped
as they were in dark robes, and wearing the judicial mask, Klaes could
only guess as to whether it was a man or a woman presiding over the
affair. The case the Judge held was too small for swords. Daggers
"I was beginning to think you'd decided to forfeit," Siet said.
Klaes shook his head. "If all I accomplish to die, proving my love to
her, then so be it. I will not back down."
Siet sketched a bow and gestured the Judge who stepped forward.
"As the challenged, Seit von Marius, chose the weapon," the Judge said.
The mask made their voice scratchy and gravelly. It hardly sounded
human. The Judge lifted the case, then opened it. "The chosen weapon
is pistols. Full revolvers, to be fired once at twenty paces, then at
your discretion as the distance is closed."
Klaes nodded. Not what he had expected at all. He and Seit stepped
forward at the same time to claim their weapons. The gun was
surprisingly heavy, and the mouth of the barrel looked like a dark
"If you fail to walk forward after your first shot, should you still be
capable of such movement, you will forfeit the duel. Should all
ammunition be expended, with no blood drawn, then it ends in a draw.
Victory goes to the one who first draws blood."
The duelist stepped to the marked positions. The Judge lifted their
arm. Klaes pointed the pistol at Siet. As the Judge's arm fell, he
pulled the trigger. At first he thought the gun had exploded. Through
the smoke, he could see Siet rushing towards him, firing a second and
third shot. Klaes could feel their passing. He started forward, firing
again. A small spray of crimson erupted from Siet's shoulder, but the
man kept coming. He fired again.
Klaes felt like he'd been punched in the stomach. He looked down,
seeing the gushing flow of bright, arterial blood. He looked up to see
Siet nearly upon him, firing again and again, emptying his revolver.
The last bullet plowed into Klaes's thigh, knocking him down.
He hit the ground hard, and rolled onto his back. Siet stood over him,
drawing back his leg to kick.
But I won, Klaes thought. He struggled to lift the revolver. He pulled
the trigger, and the recoil ripped the weapon from his hand. Siet sank
to his knees, then toppled over. The top of head having opened like a
tulip in full bloom.
As the darkness closed in, Klaes saw the Judge tear off their mask. His
eyes met Eleni's.
She picked up his pistol and knelt beside him, lifting to her temple as
the other rushed towards them. By tonight, there would be two caste
statues draped with the red scarves of mourning.
flash fiction by Rabbit (caudelac)
"Where are we?"
Sidney Godolphin turned away from the tall window to offer a bemused
raise of the eyebrow to his diminutive (from the periwig down, anyway)
"S'trewth John, we're at home, o'course."
"Yes, but Sidney…" John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough's voice was
possessed of a certain high nasality that assumed Olympian peaks when
concerned or impatient, "…you'll not but have noticed that there are
severe mountains about from this window, which were not there before,
nor the like of which seen in all England?"
"It has not escaped me, God's Fish!" his expansive friend conceded,
folding his hands across his rather mountainous belly.
"Nor that the sky, formerly uni-luneral, is now possessed of two
bright moons, as full as the Queen's girdle?"
The Earl of Godolphin did not seem inclined to give an opinion or
express any in any royal undergarments; nonetheless a nod of
acquiescence was impossible to avoid.
"S'wounds, that too seems t'have come t' pass, by Jove!" Godolphin
"But what does it mean, Sidney!? Is it some diabolical plot of the
French Louis to destroy us and drive us mad?" John fretted and tugged
at his wig, "Sarah will know, undoubtedly. Oh why am I not with the
"Sarah?" Godolphin blinked, squinting through the window, "Ah, M'dear
John, speakin' of m'good lady Duchess, did she have herself a new
statue commissioned for one of the south towers?"
"What? Who, Sarah? But the cost… she'd countenance that for none but
Her Majesty, you know that Sid…" He froze midsentence, following
Godolphin's gaze and the now pointless direction 'there, with the red
It was a perfect likeness of Marlborough's good lady wife, frozen in
an attitude of hauteur atop the building's crown. Her marble chin
turned up defiantly towards the waxen moons, and by her side the
philosophers of Rome and Greece kept eternal council. About her pale,
hard shoulders, a red stole fluttered, bright as her temper and as
lively; the only remnant of life remaining to the cold and perfect
form in the twilit sky.
"What brave new world is this…?" murmured Godolphin, but unheard. His
friend the duke stood as marble himself, posed and transfixed at the
window, delicate hand caught in the heavy drape. And it seemed to him
that she had never seemed so beautiful as this moment, captured in
grace and time, beneath the moons so thick and full as lover's
promise, above the alien world.
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