Casimund is the exiled elf high-prince of the Golden City, sent away for treason and love. To return he must do away with the one who exiled him.
“The only way out is the way you came in.”
Casimund, elf high-prince of the Golden City and exile these three years from family and throne, sharpened his knifeblade. The edge sparked in the flame of the marsin-bowl lamp, light glinting on the glassy cave-walls. The faint crash of distant waves were an echo of his trial.
“Lord Casimund, you are guilty of treason for your union with humankind. Your doom is exile in the Far Islands.” The judge snapped the black stick of doom into Casimund’s hand. The sentence was final, his own anger fixed. Casimund had snapped that doomstick himself, sending foes to death or exile. No doomstick would mete the judge; Casimund was cold with fury.
The two pieces were behind him now, in the store-spot. Mercy on Gladre was slow starvation; judgment was death by unquenched hope.
He drew a heliogram with the broken doomstick, lit the tallow candle, and chanted.
Abromax appeared as green lines in the darkness. “My lord Casimund. What has summoned me?”
“As ever, the maiden Allesand, who beckons me in dreams to home and child. Tell me, in your night wanderings, have you seen the Council’s eyes? Will they allow my return?”
“My vision is not to the future. That is hidden from all save the Great One. We content ourselves with power over sky and water only.”
“Was I right to woo and wed?”
“Acts completed judge and cannot be broken. But the heart rules with power will itself cannot break.” The mage faded.
Casimund erased the heliogram, snuffed the candle, and took up his rough bow. He would hunt today again for the cold season ahead.
Fish and fowl were in abundance, and island freshwater streams eased thirst. But none would see or praise his deeds or gain his wrath. Another notch the morrow in exile, thinking of Allesand and their half-breed manchild and elven-son, and of the judge who sundered them.
Unbidden Abromax appeared. “My lord Casimund, news. A sea-boat from the Golden City drifts in the swampy marge. There is naught but sand and shells within; mayhap it means your returning. We must leave at once. Carry knife and candle and doomstick. Follow, my lord, to the marges.”
The day’s journey through thicket, waste, and forest brought him to gray marge-land. The light of Twen, moon of Gladre, opened the path before him.
“We are close now. Let patience guide you.”
In the distance lay a white boat on the sand.
Abromax spoke. “Ahead is danger far beyond the trap of mud and slash of thorns. Hold your knife close and your nerves closer. One final gift and way from exile: a termagant stone. Near your heart it will guide your unerring way home. Lose it and in the Far Islands dwell until doom is done.”
The stone was warm. A bird on wing in a dark sky; flecks of gold were stars and a white stone was the moon Twen.
The boat held shells and sand, but unsaid by Abromax was a bundle of linen and rope.
He took loosened the bonds, then opened the linen to reveal a body curled in slumber.
He looked in. His father’s sleeping face caught the blue light of Twen.
The last sight of his father came upon him: the last words, exile; the last act, the doomstick’s thunder.
His own knife warmed his hand, the moonlight glimmering the edge.
“Where am I?”
Casimund drew back. “In loneliness. What brought you here, stranger?”
“I know not. I fell asleep by wife and hearth. Now I find myself in the night. What are you, fellow?”
“I am no one.”
“Your voice–it is familiar. Do I–did I–know you?”
“No. I am an exile.”
“Your voice is of someone lost to me. He was no one, a betrayer. None mourn his passing.”
The waves washed the silence of the rocky beach.
The familiar roar of his father’s voice rose. “The doomstick for his betrayal!”
“You are with me, stranger, now in exile until you die of despair. Your doom without doomstick.”
There was silence, then a sob. “Kill me now. I cannot bear to be apart from all who love me. I have lost everything, even one I cannot name.”
The termagant stone burned against his heart. His father lay helpless before him.
The knife came down in a quick slash.
“You are free of all bonds. Free of despair and danger. Return in peace to your family.”
He took his father’s hand, opened it, and placed the termagant stone in the palm. “Go now, stranger. The stone will guide you.”
His father’s head rose up. The light of Twen lit his doomed son.
Casimund pushed the boat into the sea and stood in the waves to watch him go into the night and darkness.
He awoke from his slumber on the beach. The broken doomstick was in his hand.
“My lord Casimund, fair morning to you.”
“Fair travels to you, Abromax. He who pronounced my doom has called my name. What madness is this? Is my exile over?”
“No. Your exile lies within you, high elf and wanderer. Your doom and end are your own choosing.”
“Doomsticks broken can be restored. A judge may pardon. A son can forgive. You must return as son and high prince and father. Thrust the doomstick into the candle.”
Abromax began to chant:
Say the words of doom’s unraveling,
Fortune’s lost and home’s returning,
King and elf and child restoring
Father, son, and kingdom gathering.
Fog and sand swirled around. Choked by dust, he cried out and fell as darkness overcame him.
The fair Allesand greeted him. “Welcome, husband and high prince!”
He shook his head to clear the fog. “Allesand!”
Laughter of a young boy stopped him. In the doorway Nurse held the hand of their half-breed heir.
Over the doorway were the words in elvish script: “The only way out is the way you came in.”
by Stephen J. Matlock, Featured Author Published with permission
This is a flash fiction short story written for the NYCMidnight contest. We get a prompt and must write 1000 words in 48 hours, and we must fit the story to the genre, location, and necessary prop. For this story, the genre was fantasy, the location was a deserted island, and the prop was a candle. -SJM