FLASH FICTION DUEL – FARMER’S DAUGHTER AND NINJA

The sun set over a frostbitten coffee saloon, and I stared her in the eye. Her finger twitched over the SHIFT key. Mine found familiar notches above F and J.

It really is super-friggin’-awesome.
Recursion not included.

Then the call rang out. We both typed furiously.

Heidi and I went on a date last night. At Starbucks, I put my super-friggin’-awesome Christmas present (which I used to type this) through the paces in a writing contest against my word-hobbyist wife.

I used an iPad app, Inspiro (which is also pretty cool) to generate a random scenario, which we used as a prompt to write a flash fiction story in a half hour.

The prompt:

A FARMER’S DAUGHTER SPREADS THE ASHES OF A NINJA.

Our results were wildly different, and I think both were pretty successful. If you feel inspired by the prompt, write a quick story and link to it. There are so many great ways to take this.

Here are the stories, for your amusement and consideration.

Ladies first.

— — — — —
SHADOW OF THE LIGHT 
by Heidi Stoffel 

Katja lifted one tired hand from the cliff face in front of her and struggled to find a new handhold in the sheer face of the mountian before her. She grunted as she felt the sharp rock cut yet another slice in her already battered hands. The top of the cliff face loomed only ten feet above her, but that ten feet felt insurmountable to her battered body.

As she steadied her right foot in yet another indent, Katja sighed and wondered for the thousanth time why it was she who was chosen for this task. The miles had fallen beneath her feet until she barely recalled the way home to her father’s farm. How she missed the quiet cooing of the Roc as they settled down to sleep in the aviaries and the clattering roar of the gryffons as they frolliced in the fields. The gryffons she helped raise were some of the best to be found in the seven kingdoms, her father had taught her well. But most off all she missed her poor father. It was fall, he must be tending their fields even now. How would he manage with her on the quest set before her and her brother, Kale, drafted to the Dark King’s army. Her mother had left them several winters before, unable to take the loss of her youngest to the wild boars that roamed the forest nearby.

Katja’s feet found solid ground at last and she paused her assent long enough to readust the straps on her overlaiden backpack. Then she continued, always onward, never stopping for more than a day, The third of seven groves was before her, barely three hours distance.

Finally she pulled her battered body up and over the incline onto the top of the towering platau upon which the third grove grew. She quickly drew the urn from the bag as she sat, giving her muscles their much needed break. The dark obsidian urn, which had formed simultaniously upon the death of it’s occupant, glowed with a soft purple light pulsing gently toward her destination. Wiping the dust from her climb from it’s surface, Katja turned her recently turned eagle sharp eyes toward the villiage she knew must lie along her path. Seeing no activity, she placed the urn back upon her pack reverently. As she stood her muscles protested, exhausted from their long exersion. Katja could not oblige them with their well deserved rest until after she spread the ashes in the grove mere hours away. She has spent far too much time at the last villiage and has wrongly estimated the time necessary to climb the cliffs behind her. She had not known the Autumn King’s propensity for the abrupt angles and heavily wooded forests.

The revered Anatolia had greatly stressed the importance of the days of the spreading. If Katja did not succeed she would not gain all the power of her predecesor, and the Five Kingdoms of Light would fall to the Dark King and his minion, the Summer King. Katja would not be able to save the lives of her brother and friends who had been pressed into their services or those of her father and the remaining free people of the Light. Winter, Autumn, Spring, Light, and Water were on the verge of collapse under the merciless pounding of the Dark and Summer Kings’ Armies. Were Katja to fail all the kingdoms would fall into permanent darkness and heat as the dark kingdoms already were.

Katja still wondered why she had been chosen, a young farmer’s daughter of little importance. What would the great ninjas want from her? What made her worthy of Anatolia’s sacrifice? She who had never born a lick of power or magic her entire life. A dwarf had never been honored by the ninjas, asked to join their ranks as one of the five. None had ever been deemed worthy before. Katja had initially felt crushed under the pressure, but time had lessened the pressure as she had had little contance with the world since the great ninja’s death.

Katja wiped the sweat from her brow and looked for a path around the small villiage that inevitably loomed before her, she had little time for the plesantries required of a visiting trainee. There would be time for that soon, once she had completed her task. Picking a path, she next check the sun, just under an hour left before the deadline. She picked up the pace and quickly moved into the thick golden woods before her.

The glow of the urn increased as she neared the sacred grove until the purple light nearly obscured the bright gold of the trees around her. Katja dreaded the travel into the dark kingdoms with this glowing urn. It would give her away more quickly than anything she could do on her own.

She spotted the grove before her, it looked much as the other did. Thick trunked trees rose up in a cresent shape surrounding a small clearing where grew the sacred Nightleas Flowers of the Ninjas. Only a true ninja could touch them without dying. Katja had yet to try her hand at it, not truely believing she was meant to be a part of the group. The trees glowed a soft purple in responce to the urn. Katja hurried knowing that soon the glow would fade and and darken, the power gone.

Katja felt rather than saw the creature that dropped down upon her with a hiss. She pulled free the thin sword given her by the dead ninja who’s ashes she caried and quickly flipped out of the way, softly dropping the pack, allowing her to move more freely. She gasped in surprise as the black cobra of the Dark Kingdom lunged at her exposed throat. Jerking backwards into a roll, Katja pulled up her sword and quickly tried to score upon the dark scaly body. She used her small size to her advantage, making herself into as small of a target as she could. They danced in a circle the cobra and her striking and defending. Katja did not allow herself to think about the dark poison that reportedly did not kill you, but rather petrified you so the snake could more easily devour you, taking weeks to finish the task all while keeping you alive in unspoken agony. She watched for her opening as she had learned from the first spreding, where the knowledge of the ninja sword was made known to her and quickly striked drawing dark, gleaming blood from the cobra’s throat. It struck at her a few more times before finally dying. Katja quickly applied the lesson of the second grove and arranged the snake for burrial, honoring it as a worthy foe, saying the anchient prayer over it:

May the Lady of Light use you, most honored foe, for her bidding.
I regret the loss of life necessary in this most dark moment,
but now may you begin your journey into the light of our mistress.
Long may her beauty reign and her mercy fall upon us, the least of her servants.

Then Katja cleaned her sword and harvested a fang from the snake, adding it’s streangth to her own. Then she grabbed her bag quickly storing the fang and ran to the clearing.

She unclasped the lid to the strongly glowing urn and quickly drew out a small handful of the Ninja Anatolia, and spread it softly over the beautiful white Naightleas Flowers, which glowed even brighter until the light filled Katja’s vison.

Then knowledge began to pour into her mind, passing on the knowldege of those who came before.

— — — — —

I think her story is pretty badass. After reading it, she informed me that she had come up with a rather sizable backstory in the two minutes of prep time afforded us. Heidi is really good at the epic-level story thinking.

Below is my offering, which you will find to be an entirely different tack.

— — — — —

ASHEN SHADOW 
by Jonathan Stoffel 

“You’re a fool, Belinda,” the farmer mutters.

“Please, Daddy, show some respect,” Belinda replies, stroking the top of the jar, gentle as she knew the man must have been.

“I am not so inclined,” her father says. “I’ve got to deal with my burned barn and you’re here holding some cockamamie funeral service.”

Belinda huffs and shakes her head, blonde pigtails bobbing about her flushed cheeks. “Did I act this way when we said goodbye to Mother?”

The farmer scratches at his gray stubble then mops a handkerchief across his shiny bald head. “Of course you didn’t, Be. That’s because your mother actually existed.”

The wind picks up, sweeping Belinda toward the lake. Is this the right time to do it? she wonders. The breeze brings the scent of charred wood, a reminder of the terrible conflagration which nearly took her life.

“Of course he exists,” Belinda says with a sad smile. It shortly turns into a scowl. “He’s why I didn’t die in that fire!”

“Honey, despite what you think you saw–“

“I didn’t see anything!” Belinda cuts in.

The old man holds up a consilatory hand. “Of course, Be, of course. Despite what you DIDN’T see, ninjas don’t really exist.”

“You don’t know, Daddy. You’ve always lived on this farm.”

Her father hooks his thumbs into his overalls. “Now that just ain’t true. I spent a year with your great uncle Roberto in the city.”

Belinda rolls her eyes. “Dad, if there were ninjas in the city, do you really think you’d have seen it?”

The farmer grimaces, hand finding its way back to his chin, and a thought strikes him. “If they can’t be seen, then how do they shave? Can’t see ’em in a mirror either, I wager.”

“Stars, Daddy, they’re not vampires.” Belinda shakes her head.

“Van… fires?”

“And they can be seen when they want to.”

“But–“

Belinda holds up a hand to shush him, a gesture she picked up from her mother. It’s just as effective as when his wife used to do it. The farmer closes his eyes and sighs as his daughter places the urn down on the beach.

“You told me at Aunt Carol’s funeral,” she says slowly, “that tain’t right to argue when we’re honoring the dead.”

The two stand above the contained ashes and say nothing for several long moments.

“Could you say something, Daddy? In memory of him.”

“Belinda, I didn’t know him and–“

“Daddy, he SAVED me.”

Under his breath, the farmer mutters, “He ‘saved’ your galdurn puppy dog, and kept you from runnin’ in like a fool after it.” The old man clears his throat and clasps hands behind his back.

“Mister, uh, Ninja sir,” he starts. “I owe you a debt of gratitude. You, er, kept my only daughter safe…” The farmer sneaks a glance at his misty-eyed daughter to confirm he’s on the right track. “…and you saved her poor puppy from the barn. Thank you.”

“Say somethin’ about his sacrifice,” Belinda hisses, presumably whispering so the ashes wouldn’t hear.

“Ah, of course, of course.” The farmer coughs. “Your, uh, sacrifice–“

“And honor. Say honor!”

“Look, it’s my funeral speech, okay? Yes, your sacrifice and honor mean the world to me, and we’ll cherish your memory forever and ever.” Turning to his daughter, he throws up his hands. “Good enough?”

“It will have to do,” Belinda replies wistfully and sweeps toward the urn as the breeze picks up again.

With a murmured thank you, Belinda opens the jar and spreads its ashen contents out over the lake.

The cloud of gray spreads over the water and ever-so-slowly dissipates into the daylight.

The farmer spies a tear slipping down his daughter’s cheek and rolls his eyes.

“Time to go, Be. There’s a lot to do.”

Father takes daughter by the arm and leads her toward the farmhouse.

“I think he really cared about me, Daddy.”

The farmer stretches his neck around and, facing the lake, suddenly spies what looks like a dark-dressed figure standing facing him, stony and silent.

In an instant, the figure seems to nod. The farmer blinks, and the shadow is gone.

He sweeps the lakeshore and sees nothing. There couldn’t have been…

“I think you’re right, Be,” he murmurs. “I think you’re right.”

— — — — —

I had a lot of fun writing this. The idea sprang forth as an amusing story revolving around the farmer’s daughter falling in love with a ninja she had never seen, but I couldn’t think of a way to do this well.

Again, I am interested to see any other takes on this prompt.

Heidi says we will likely do this a few times a month, so look forward to more duels forthcoming.

Mostly unrelated:

You’re out of your element!

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