Flash Fiction Challenge, this week from Chuck Wendig…

From the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig comes this week’s Flash Fiction challenge: a story of no more than 1000 words, incorporating the following three random sentences.

“The borderlands expire thanks to the hundred violins.”

“A poetic pattern retains inertia.”

“The criminal disappears after the inventor.”

Here goes…

It was a study in contrasts. Lord Felwin se Vaan, a man born to one of the purest noble lines and a knight of the Emperor’s own Praetorian elite, dressed in a uniform of vibrant crimson, pressed so cleanly, so tightly that he looked more toy than soldier…though nothing could be further from the truth. Before him, the sneak-thief, Rawley, a bastard-born son of the gutter, his greying robes disheveled and sooty, and only newly returned to him. The latter rubbed his wrists gingerly, massaging the lingering ache of the manacles from which he’d so recently been freed. Lord Felwin regarded him with a cold, cautious stare, then handed him a small bundle of similarly colored cloth. The rogue took them, rolled them open, and regarded the pair of blackened daggers that they held.

“Remember,” Lord se Vaan said, his voice crisp with authority, “the nature of your parole. You are to find the artificer, Taalien Kreg. You are to retrieve from him the schematics from his…device. And you are to silence the creation of any further constructs of their nature.”

Rawley flipped the daggers deftly, caught them, and made them vanish from sight. To Lord se Vaan’s right, a wizened, wrinkled old man gasped. The rogue smiled.

“Right. And you remember your promise. My crimes wiped clean. My debts paid full. My freedom guaranteed.”

Felwin nodded sharply. The rogue bowed, and took his leave. The old man, Master Daen of the Artificer’s League, sighed.

“And thus,” he spoke, his voice dry and raspy, and colored with no small amount of regret, “the criminal disappears after the inventor.”

Lord se Vaan turned and regarded the old artificer, one of his Emperor’s most trusted advisors.

“You  think I am wrong to do this? You think there is a better way?”

“Taalien is a brilliant creator, my lord.”

“A brilliant creator?” Felwin cried out. “A brilliant destroyer! Gods be merciful, Daen, have you seen the men that return from the havoc your ‘creator’ has wrecked? The borderlands expire thanks to the hundred violins! A hundred VIOLINS! What madness drives a man to make warfare with such a thing as sound?”

The old master shrugged.

“A poetic pattern retains inertia. Its waves carry, grow, amplify. In the grasp of a musician, these waves rise and fall, make beautiful sounds of questionable use. In the hands of a genius though…”

His words trailed off, and over them, outside, separated from them by not just walls of stone and sand, but miles of terrain and air, the horrid wailing of Taalien’s creation could still be heard.

“Your words border on treachery,” Felwin warned. Again, the master shrugged.

“If acknowledgement of genius is treachery, then I willingly condemn myself every day. That said, genius is no excuse for wickedness. No, Lord se Vaan…I cannot think of a better way. Trust in me, I have tried. Taalien was a brilliant student. Hmmm…yes, even my superior in intellect. But he must be stopped. I question only your choice of instruments, my lord. This Rawley…what makes you think him trustworthy?”

“I have my reasons.”

Silence then, save for the distant wailing of the sonic weapon, the hundred violins and their damnable, impenetrable shield. The master nodded, turned, and took his leave. Felwin stood there, silent, alone.

Rawley would succeed. He had to. He alone knew the passages well enough, beneath the keep in which Taalien had walled himself. He alone could move with the silence and deadliness this act would require. He alone carried the fate of the empire on his sneaking shoulders.

“Speed of the Gods,” Felwin whispered, “little brother.”

Beyond, the violins wailed.

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