New Flash Fiction Challenge found here:

The Challenge?

To choose five of these ten random words and incorporate them into a single piece of flash fiction.

The words: Whalebone, Foxglove, Djinn, Orphan, Lollipop, Casket, Hermit, Hound, Acid, Topaz. I chose my five (and hinted at three more) and this is what I came up with.

The Hermit

The boy walked the trail up what the villagers called Bent Top Mountain, although it was no more a mountain than he was a man, bundled in a stolen blanket. He sucked at a stolen candy to keep his mouth moist in the dry winter air for he had no water or skin with which to carry it in. He wished he had something for his eyes. The cold dried them until they felt like stones in their sockets. But wishing would come later.

He was going to see the hermit.

He guessed that no one knew for sure why the man was a hermit as most of the villagers gave different reasons for it. One said he was horribly burned. Another that he was crazy with sickness. And, yet another said he was a murderer and hiding from justice. If someone asked the boy why he thought the man was a hermit, he would suggest that it was to keep away from villagers and their tall tales. But who was going to ask a boy?

The boy heard a noise and he stopped to listen for what it could have been. The wind died down a bit, besides he thought it may be something else. Something just as alive as the wind, but more dangerous. The wind would roar, but this was more of a growl. Looking into the trees, he only saw the wood and snow that one would expect to see on a cold winter day on a path such as this. He started forward once more.

It wasn’t long before the trees grew scarce and the path widened to reveal stony ground and rock formations all along it. Within an the hour, he reached the hermit’s cave. When he approached he heard rustling in the brush again. This time, a large hound walked out and approached him.

The beast stood almost as tall as the boy, its red eyes almost meeting his own. The boy tried to hold his fear like his breath and met the creature’s gaze. The beast moved slowly, sniffed at the boys collar through the blanket, lowered its head, did the same to his crotch, then his feet. Raising its head again to meet the boy’s eyes, it licked at his chin, then walked into the cave.

The boy stood outside for a moment before following, trying to peer into the dark depths. It revealed nothing. His arm moved beneath his cloak as he checked for the knife in his belt. Finding it, he stepped into the cave.

Darkness surrounded him deeper than night, and he put his hands out in front of him. There was no sign or sound of the hound he followed.

“Hello?” he called out.

There was light. It didn’t brighten the cave gradually as if a torch approached. It was just there. The boy was surprised that he didn’t have to guard his eyes against the sudden brightness. His eyes were already adjusted. He didn’t see the hound that had met him at the mouth of the cave, but thought he felt it watching him.

The cave was warm too. There was no sign of the cold from the outside. The boy looked down at the fire that blazed a few feet from him and removed the blanket. He sat next to the fire, placed his hands out to warm them, not knowing why. Just as his eyes had adjusted to the light, his skin was already warm as if he’d been in the cave for hours.

He didn’t call out again. The strangeness of all this seemed to have stolen his voice. Or at least his willingness to speak. He was content to wait. He figured that was the point. There was a fire with a log on each side for sitting. He was doing exactly what he thought was expected of him. He was patient.

He didn’t need to exercise this long, for soon he heard the unmistakable shuffle of someone moving toward him with a walking stick.

He saw his eyes first. They caught the light of the fire and shone in the darkness. When he emerged into full view, he was nothing like the boy expected. He wasn’t dressed in rags, but in clothes the boy did not recognize. Blue trousers of some strange material. His shirt looked to be of similar material, but less heavy with silvery buttons down the front.  The hermit was wearing a hat with very little brim. It was covered in designs of flames and a horse with wheels where the legs should be. There were words in a language the boy didn’t recognize.

“What?” the hermit said.

“Hello,” the boy said. “I’m Benjamin.”

“I don’t care. What do you want?”

“I was told you had a Djinn. That for a price, you’d allow it to be used.”

“‘Course,” the hermit said, and sat on the other log. There was a strap draped across his chest with a large bag attached to it. He opened the bag and reached inside.

The boy’s hand found the handle of his knife.

The hermit pulled a box out that was in the shape of a casket, its top encrusted with shining stones. For a casket, it was small. But for something that would hold a Djinn, it looked big.

“Three questions,” the hermit said. “You answer truthfully, you get the Djinn. You don’t …” He didn’t add more, but there was a darkness in his eyes that made the boy squeeze his blade’s handle.

The boy nodded. The hermit nodded back.

“Where’re your parents?” the hermit asked.

“Dead,” Benjamin answered, never letting his eyes waver from the hermit’s.

“Okay, orphan. How did you find me?”

“A man named Kent from Del Rey.”

The hermit smiled a mouthful of very white teeth. “And what’re you to do with the Djinn?”

It was the boy’s turn to smile. “I’m going to avenge my parents.” His eyes narrowed, he squeezed the blade handle tighter.



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