Sometimes, things just come together with no advanced planning or scheduling. I like to call these moments gifts from the writing gods. And the month of June here on Flash Fiction Fridays is one such gift. Each of these flash pieces harkens back to childhood, whether through old bedtime stories or mythical beasts of imagination.
Today, June comes to a close with a fable by Margaret Lake. Enjoy.
Mordaunt and the Dove
By Margaret Lake
Mordaunt leaned on the mossy bank of a shallow stream, tapping the sides of his scruffy boots together.
“Pennyfeather, old girl, it’s the end of the road.”
The chestnut tossed her head, snorting her disagreement.
The faded paint on the side of his creaky, wooden caravan read, “Mordaunt Telracs, Singer of Ballads, Teller of Fortunes, Maker of Most Effective Love Potions.” All gone. Gone with Fayri, his beautiful white dove whose arrival had nurtured his meager talent for casting his mind into the future. Mordaunt had no idea why she had come to neither him nor why she left.
Fayri would not be coming back and it was time to seek employment. Mordaunt shuddered at the thought. Maybe he should think about this some more before committing such a rash act.
“What say you, my friend? Shall I find a field that needs plowing? Wood chopping? Water hauling?”
Pennyfeather ignored him to watch a chattering squirrel.
“Alright, then!” Mordaunt shouted, jumping to his feet. “Tell me what I should do.”
Hands on hips, Mordaunt glared at her until she dropped her head, nudging him gently.
“Sorry, old friend. Shouldn’t take it out on you.”
Mordaunt threw himself on the ground as Pennyfeather bumped him again, blowing her soft breath in his ear.
“That tickles!” he laughed.
Pennyfeather took Mordaunt’s ear gently between her lips, blowing the mists from his memory.
“Pennyfeather!” he cried, sinking limply to the ground and, for the first time, his mind sped into the past instead of the future; to this day a year ago.
Mordaunt had set up at the Iveston Fair one fine spring day. Many young girls came to him, wanting their fortunes or seeking a love potion. Fayri sat on his shoulder as always.
Lulled by the sweet cooing in his ear, Mordaunt was able to open his mind to the future to find those few bright, shining moments that would make his patrons happy.
Then he remembered. The witch, Grizelda. Dug out of his memory by Pennyfeather’s command.
She circled the fairgrounds, holding a carved, oak staff. Stopping in front of Mordaunt, she leaned into him, long, black hair curling over half-naked breasts, tongue snaking over fleshy red lips.
Fayri flapped her wings furiously, shrieking her rage.
“Send the bird away,” Grizelda whispered. “I would taste the delights of your body.”
Grizelda moved closer and Mordaunt felt burning eyes penetrate his soul. “Send the bird away and lie with me.”
Dark passions took over his will, and he carelessly brushed Fayri off his shoulder. Giving Grizelda his hand, he let her lead him away.
The next thing he knew, he was on the seat of his wagon with no memory of how he had gotten there. But now he knew all. He had traded Fayri and his gift to lie with the witch.
Burying his face in his hands, Mordaunt wept for all he had lost.
“What shall I do, Pennyfeather?” he groaned in despair. “I left my home to seek my fortune long ago, abandoning all who loved me.”
Pennyfeather tossed her dark mane, neighing loudly.
He followed her gaze, his eyes now clear of the witch’s spell, and saw his old home across the stream. Was his family still there? Would they welcome him back?
Mordaunt saw a new wing added to the cottage and men moving through the fields.
When he pulled up to the door, a young boy came out to take Pennyfeather, shouting as he ran.
“I’m afraid you have mistaken me for someone else, child.”
The boy grinned, pointing to the name painted on the wagon.
“You’ve heard my name?” Mordaunt whispered. Maybe he hadn’t been forgotten?
Mordaunt turned at the blessed sound of his mother’s voice. She was older, but the years seemed to melt away with her joy.
“Mother!” he cried, taking her in his arms. “And Father?”
But Mordaunt didn’t wait for his father to come out. He crossed the threshold to lay his hands on his father’s frail shoulders.
“So I see, lad, so I see,” the old man replied, ducking his head to hide his tears.
“We must celebrate!” the old man cried. “Whiskey, boy, quickly.”
“And cakes! Mordaunt looks half starved,” his mother ordered.
Mordaunt sat at table with his parents for the first time in many years, but it felt as if he’d never left. Still, he wondered at their increased fortunes. Considering the frailty of his parents, they could not have done it alone.
“What’s been happening here? Everything seems changed.”
The old couple exchanged a look, and with a nod from her husband, Mordaunt’s mother told the tale.
“A cousin came to visit.”
To steal my inheritance, he thought. But now he understood how selfishness had made him lose everything.
“Turned out by an older brother and looking for a place to settle.”
“Bad business,” the old man interrupted, sipping his whiskey.
“This cousin has done well by you.”
“Oh, yes!” she exclaimed. “What we would have done …”
“Without me here to help. I understand, mother,” he assured her, grasping her hands.
“No, I don’t think you do,” the old man interrupted again. “Your cousin wouldn’t hear of us turning over the farm, but insisted we wait for your return. We finally settled on a year to the day of the agreement. Today, in fact.”
“But I can’t take what I have not earned!” Mordaunt cried. “I must work; earn my keep.”
“I’m very glad to hear that, Cousin,” a silvery voice called from the doorway.
“Ah, there you are, girl,” the old man beamed. “Come meet you’re …”
“… distant cousin,” she replied with a light laugh.
Why did that voice sound so familiar? Mordaunt turned slowly to see a girl, tall and slender, with moonbeam-pale hair framing her face in feathery wisps.
“Son, meet Fay,” the old man said.
“Fay …,” Mordaunt whispered. And all became clear … or did it?
Historical fiction and romance author Margaret Lake has written thirteen novels. Her latest is The Professor and the Bootlegger. To learn more about Margaret, please visit her website.