As mentioned last week, Chuck Wendig invited us to provide three word titles from which he’d select ten for us to pick from for our 1000 words this week. The (awesome) winning selections were (with owners):
- All Flags Fall (lbstribling)
- The Gallows Girls (travishall)
- Discount Skin Ticket (boydstun215)
- The Last American (mags)
- Guppy Must Die (jeanette hubbard)
- Omen of Seven (stella winters)
- Not Tonight, Honey (squeg)
- One Fell Swoop (kaitlyn)
- Not Today, Satan (momgoth)
- Long Way Home (alisa russell)
I’d like to write to at least four of those, so I decided to start at the top. Thank you, L B Stribling.
All Flags Fall
Hector cheered and waved his red banner. The noise rolled from the back of the square as Ludo left the dais. The hubbub died, and people shuffled off towards the tavern, their homes, or, for some, to their jobs. Hector held the red cloth and wondered what it really meant. It was pretty, but did following Ludo from castle to castle, waving the red banner like the others, get him anywhere?
He sniffed back his contempt for the locals, those with jobs, homes, and families. He thought them stupid. All the people he’d known who had homes had been keen to see the back of him. His father said he was a troublemaker, and cuffed him round the ear. When Hector cuffed him back, there had been a fight with blood and hair flying, and Hector had been run out of town.
He’d heard Ludo at a market somewhere in the north, surprised that the new ruler of White Horse Castle would have the nerve to speak of such things in another king’s castle. Work the land for the benefit of all. Protect the weak and lonely. Share in the harvests equally. No special treatment for royal birth. He’d followed him to the next market, which wasn’t in a castle, and discovered more people there agreed. The king in the nearest castle did nothing for them. Later he met people who resented their king for making their lives a misery, and he repeated what Ludo had said.
Hector thought of the misery in his own life, and decided that Ludo was right: the kings must go. The people should rule. People who agreed with him and Ludo, not who agreed with his father. What did a simple carpenter know, anyway?
“Went well today,” said a guy he’d seen many times. He wore a patch over one eye.
“How did you get that?” Hector waved at the patch.
“Oh, just a little accident when we was at sea. Block swung back and hit me. Should’ve ducked. You bin with us a while now.”
Hector nodded. “All summer.”
“You comin’ to White Horse for the winter, then?”
“If you’re in.”
Hector thought for a millisecond; a place in a castle for the winter or roam the wilds? “I’m in.”
The summer inhabitants of White Horse Castle might have stocked up sufficiently for the winter, but the arrival of nearly a hundred extra mouths strained the grain store. By February it was down to sweepings.
“Right, me hearties!” Ludo had an effortless roar. “We’ve managed frugally so far, but now we need some generosity from our friends and neighbours. Who’s going to do some fetching and carrying for us?”
Hector was in, of course.
It was a long way overnight, across the Downs to the west, slipping down frozen valleys to the outskirts of Bridleport. Patch led the way to some barns at the edge of the town. Reminding everyone to keep dead silent, they formed a chain, and passed out bags of food, grain and stored vegetables, one to another until Patch whispered “Enough,” and everyone hurried up the hill again, picking up as much as they could carry as they went past their pile of gains. Hector struggled under the two sacks he was carrying, until another guy, Gus, came to his aid. They each carried one and pulled a third between them till they got home.
A hot breakfast awaited all the ‘liberation party’ and then they slunk off to bed.
That set the pattern until the spring. Liberation parties went further afield, often travelling in the day then resting up near their target until early the next morning. By April, the grass was growing enough for food shortages to be over, but Hector heard Ludo talking about a ‘more organised response’ the following winter.
“Right, me hearties,” came the call a few weeks later. “It’s time to be on the road, but this year you’re going to do the recruiting with Patch here.”
There was some muttering among the crowd at the front.
“I know, I know, you like it when I lead you, my golden tongue and all that, but Patch will do well. We need people to know we’re all behind them. They don’t need to join us, they can do things thesselves. And to help them, I’m going to appoint bo’suns among you, so you can stay behind when there are people who want to join us, so they can start their own clans against the oppression of the kings. You ready for that?”
Hector said nothing. He wanted to fight oppression, but he didn’t want to lead anyone.
“You want to be a bo’sun?” he asked Gus, who was leaning against the wall chewing a piece of hay.
“Not me, mate. I’m more of an action type.”
Patch came through the crowd, tapping some people on the shoulder and sending them over to the tavern. He stopped in front of Hector and Gus. “You wanna be bo’suns?”
“Nah,” said Gus. Hector shook his head.
“Thought not. We got a job for you, though. See Clarissa over there? She’s got some stuff for you.”
Hector and Gus exchanged glances as Patch left them. Clarissa? She was some sort of herbalist, always playing around with pots and potions.
“Er, hi.” Gus leant against the opening to her workshop and looked in.
“You come to learn the business?”
“What business, exactly?” Hector doubted whether he’d learn anything from a witch.
“Explosives. How to make them, where to use them for maximum effect.” She licked her lips as she stressed the last two words.
Gus and Hector learnt everything she had to teach them.
Sometimes afterwards, Hector would look at his old red banner and sigh. What he was doing didn’t need a red banner any more. Where he was going would make all flags fall. Every castle in the land. No towers, no flagpoles, no flags, no kings, no oppression.
© J M Pett 2017
Picture of White Horse Castle copyright the author, from Willoughby the Narrator, due April 2017.