Why Grandma, What A Big Mace You Have – Flash Fiction Piece
Friday again, and time for another Chuck Wendig Flash-Fiction challenge. This week we visited a fantasy character generator and selected one of the five sentences generated to base a story on. I decided to be contrary and incorporated elements of all five into a single 996-word story.
And as for the story, I give you:
Why Grandma, What A Big Mace You Have
The heat was intense. I could feel my skin blistering, the fire building inside my plate-mail armour. Though I couldn’t see my hair, I knew from the acrid smell filtering down through my helm that it wasn’t faring any better than my skin.
“We’ll halt here for five minutes, take a breather and have a drink.”
I stopped walking immediately, casting my silent mental thanks at the old lady who led us. Her cheeks were a mixture of red from the heat and black from crawling through narrow tunnels, her curly dark grey hair was frazzled and dry, and her blue eyes—a milky cataract film covering them—were beginning to water. But there was still a spring in her step which I admired; she alone seemed unphased by the toil of this quest.
With unspoken relief I removed my heavy steel helm, relishing the freshness of the hot air. Grandma—for that was the only name she had furnished us with—grinned at me. She put down the heavy mace she carried easily over one shoulder, resting it against the tunnel wall, and rapped on my chest-plate with her gnarled, arthritic knuckles.
“Bet you wish you hadn’t brought that along with you, eh, tin-man? You look like a baked potato… almost as wrinkled as me!” She cackled at her own joke.
I didn’t dignify that with a response, because she was right. This was my first adventure, and I knew, just as everybody knew, that a knight who goes on a quest to fight a dragon has to go wearing full armour and riding a gleaming white horse.
My gleaming white horse had died of colic two days into our journey, and inside the confines of the dragon’s lair, heated by its deep, heavy breaths, my armour was acting as a sort of mobile aga. In fact, I probably would have been more comfortable in an aga; none of the stories about knights and dragons ever mentioned the fact that plate-mail weighed about a hundred and eighty pounds and it chafed something dreadful.
I took out my canteen and took a few sips of warm water which tasted suspiciously of sulphur. And as I drank, I glanced around at my companions, all of us hired by Grandma to help her complete her quest. Nyla, despite being a thief, was surprisingly honest about her motives. She wasn’t here for dragon-treasure or glory; this was merely a waypoint on her true quest to find the Labyrinth of Insanity. It was the ultimate proving ground for a person looking to take the title of Master Thief, which was currently held by a man named Moffat. He’d gone into the labyrinth thirty years earlier and come out gibbering about flying squirrels. He hadn’t been right in the head ever since, but Nyla was more confident about her own chances.
The situation between Uther, the burly, loin-cloth wearing barbarian from the Black-foot clan, and Brevik, his young warrior-in-training, was a little more complex. They were both here to prove themselves to their desired mate. What they didn’t realise was that they both wanted the same woman – Rilva, chieftan-daughter of the Red-fox tribe. I foresaw violence in both men’s future, when they found out. Hopefully that wouldn’t be until we were on our way home.
Last was Kiran’Timal’Plox, a brilliant sorcerer from the faraway land of Minn. Spirits from the demon-realm walked in his footprints, hounding him constantly, trying to lure him over to ‘their side.’ It was only through sheer force of will and strength of character that he was able to keep them from touching him and claiming his soul.
We’d had another companion, early in our quest. William had been a plain and simple wood-cutter, and was Grandma’s unofficial protector. He’d died three days ago, sacrificing himself to the hungry mountain-giants so the rest of us could escape into the dragon’s lair.
I heard footsteps approach, and looked up to see Nyla standing in front of Grandma, a determined expression on her delicate face.
“I need to know,” she said firmly. “Why?”
I felt the whole group hold its breath. One of the terms of our employment with Grandma was that we didn’t ask why she was so determined to undertake this insane quest. In fact, it was the prime rule. And Nyla had just broken it.
Grandma merely looked at Nyla in silence for a moment. And when the moment began to stretch out, Nyla shifted uncomfortably, her dark eyes glancing from side to side as she checked her escape routes. Unfortunately for her, there were none.
“Do you know how I got this?” Grandma asked softly, gesturing to her wolf-hide jerkin. Nyla shook her head. “I had a granddaughter, once. Red was her name. And the fool girl led a wolf to my house.” She patted the mace as it leant against the cave wall. “Luckily, I was prepared. You don’t raise six daughters and two sons without knowing how to take care of yourself and your family. But from that moment, I got the bug.”
“The bug?” Uther asked, deference in his voice. He’d seen Grandma use her mace to split ork-skulls barely a week hence.
“The hunting bug!” she old woman said. “Wolves, mountain lions, forest-eagles… even slew myself a manticore, six months ago. But I’m not as young as I used to be. I have a sickness which is slowly killing me, and I know my time grows short. This is to be my last hunt. A dragon-head will look nice mounted on my cottage wall, pride of place above the mantle, and the treasure-hoard will see my family right for generations.”
She picked up her mace, hefting it over her shoulder, and rapped on my armour again.
“Come on, tin-man.” Her nick-name for me, but she meant it fondly; since William’s sacrifice, she’d nominated me her new protector. “We’ve got a dragon to meet.”