Here is the first in what will hopefully be many flash fiction stories. You can find the challenge at http://www.terribleminds.com. Enjoy!
Dermot leapt over the summit edge and finally looked upon the two skulls that had previously been the heads of the King and Queen of the first ruling Royal family. He turned to Serena, pulling herself to the summit on hands and knees. He started unfurling the scroll that had led them here while he waited for her to recover on the ground.
“So,” she sighed. “Now all you have to do is pick one.”
“The correct one,” Dermot grinned as he waved the scroll in front of her face. Taking a deep breath she nodded and rubbed her side.
“You’re really not worried that anyone who has tried to pick …went mad?”
“That’s why you’re here. So come on.” He clapped his hands. “Shouldn’t you be looking for clues?”
“Give ‘er a chance!” said a distinctly female voice. Serena sat upright. They looked around but seeing no one else in the darkness looked at each other. “Ain’t you here looking for us?” The pair looked at the plinth that housed the skulls. “There we go, lovies,” said the voice. “I’m the one on the right.” Serena swallowed to stop the squeek that rose inside her as she realised she wasn’t hearing with her ears. It was as if the voice were speaking directly into her mind.
“Your right…or ours,” she asked breathlessly. Dermot narrowed his eyes at her. She bit her lip and shrugged. He frowned and turned to face the skulls.
“Does it really matter?” came a male voice. Serena got up and stood next to Dermot at the plinth. She leaned forward and gave a small delighted laugh.
“May I ask, are you the King and Queen?” Dermot put his hand on her arm and gave her a shake.
“Don’t speak to them. They’re cursed objects.”
“‘Scuse me, we’re magical,” replied the female skull. “And your girl’s not the first to giggle when she realises she’s talking to a bone.” The skull cackled as the other voice made a disgusted noise.
“You make that bloody joke all the time.”
“It’s always new to the people who come ‘ere.” she replied sniffily.
“It’s a bad joke.”
“Never ‘ad a problem with my jokes before. A few ‘undred years in a cave and you’re all ‘you’re not funny’ and ‘none of ‘em like your jokes’. Makes me wonder why I stay with you.”
“You don’t ‘ave a choice.”
Serena was grinning as she looked back over at Dermot who had moved to the edge of the summit. When she came over he gripped her upper arm and pulled her closer.
“It’s a trick,” he whispered. “Listen to how they speak, they can’t be the King and Queen. It’s some sort of…”
“Trick?” Dermot nodded. Serena shook her arm to loosen his hold. “There’s a reason you brought an expert on the first Royal family.” She pointed at the scroll. “That prophecy says whoever brings the bones of the first ruler to the citadel will become the next monarch. Now you told me you wanted my help to become that monarch. Let me do my job.” She marched the few steps back to the skulls who were still talking. “Your Majesties, could I ask you a few questions?” They stopped and Serena felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise.
“You may,” said the female voice.
“Where were you born?”
“I was born in the a village called Mosson in Carinda province. My husband ‘ere was from two towns away. We met when I was taken by slavers to the market there. He bought me.” Serena walked around the plinth as she listened.
“So how did he end up you husband?” Dermot made an impatient noise. Serena held up one finger.
“Romantic sod fell in love wi’ me.”
“You were a looker,” he joined in. “Why’d you think I bought you in the first place?” Both laughed.
“And whose idea was it to take the kingdom and become ruler?”
“Well it was somethin’ we sort of…had to do.” he replied. “I ‘ad the power to free a slave but not to marry one. Not by law. So I started gettin’ in fights with anyone who said I couldn’t do what I wanted. An’ it went from there.”
“Told you he was a romantic,” the Queen whispered. Serena chuckled, looking up just as Dermot strode toward the plinth and handed Serena the scroll.
“I’m ready to choose.”
“No, wait-!” She reached to stop him but Dermot had already set his hands on the skull of the King. His whole body went stiff, his face went slack and the focus left his eyes. She ran to catch him as he crumpled and they landed on the ground awkwardly. She called his name and checked if he was alive. She thought he was talking but when she listened he was uttering nonsense.
“Oh lovey, I’m so sorry.” The Queen said.
“Did the cave close behind you when you entered?” the King asked. Serena choked out a yes.
“You’ll have to choose then,” the Queen said. “It’s the only way out.”
“I know,” Serena said shakily. She stood and brushed herself off.
“Did you love him very much?”
“What?” Serena looked down at Dermot. “No. Not at all. But he was the first person who had listened to my theory. The only one willing to help me see if it was true.” She gave a bitter laugh. “Of course, he was hoping to get something out of it too.” She walked over to the skulls.
“Don’t be scared.” The Queen said. “We’ll talk to you. Keep you company.” Serena looked confused for a moment then smiled.
“What most people don’t do is look at the back of the plinth. It has an inscription,” she whispered.
“Does it now,” said the Queen but her tone didn’t seem surprised.
“‘As in life so shall they be in Death. As one.’” Serena placed her hands on the two skulls.