Flash Fiction Challenge: Good vs. Evil

This week’s challenge was to write a story about good versus evil. I always liked the idea of flipping this idea on its head, that the duality depends entirely on who is telling the story. This idea was rambling around in my head all week, but I wasn’t ready to put it down until now. Fair warning, I was in a bit of a mood when it eventually hit the keyboard. Anyway, I hope you like it.

“And here is the noble prince, come to slay the evil witch,” Natalyne drawled. She sprawled in her chair, one leg draped over the chair arm. She took a large swallow of whatever was in the goblet in her hand, then waved it in the prince’s direction. “To win the hand of the fair and beautiful princess, no doubt.”

Castain took a step towards the dias, hand on his sword. “You must pay for what you have done. For the spell you cast upon her and her family.”

“Yes. I must pay,” she replied, taking another long sip. Then she reached for the jug on the table beside her and refilled her cup, then another one. “Pardon my manners, my prince, would you like some wine?” she asked, holding the cup out to him.

“Are you mad? I’m not here for a drink,” he snapped, pulling out his sword as he took another step, then another.

“Pity. Well, perhaps you’ll want one later.” Natalyne set the cup back on the table. “You know, after you have killed me.” She leaned back further in her chair, sliding one arm to rest on the chair back.

“Are you not going to fight me?” asked Castain, as he lowered his sword, confused. He sensed she was trying to trick him. There was a tension to her relaxed pose, as if she were a cat toying with a mouse before she pounced.

“Why should I bother?” She pulled her arm down and lazily smoothed the skirts of her scarlet gown, leaning forward so that her breasts strained against the bodice. “The fairy stories you were told at your nursemaid’s breast were so very simple. The witch in those tales is just evil for its own sake, never because she has been wronged. She could not possibly have a reason, other than discord. She is ever the deceiver, never the deceived. Isn’t that right, sweet prince?”

“I—I don’t—”

“Let me tell you a little story, my sweet prince.” Nalalyne leaned back again, taking large swallows of wine as she spoke. “Once upon a time, a woman lived in a little village, just outside the walls of a great and splendid kingdom. She was a wise-woman, skilled in the making of poultices and potions, in the healing arts, and a midwife to many of the other women in the village. After a time, her skills in these things reached the ears of the king, and he invited her to work for him as a healer. His wife, you see, had been trying for many months to give him a son and heir, but she was unable to get with child. ‘Give me a son,’ he said, ‘and I will give you anything you desire.’ So the woman made a potion, gave it to the queen, and before long, she was pregnant. They were both overjoyed, and heaped their thanks upon the woman, as well as promises of riches. Too bad you cannot live on promises, however. When the seers revealed to the king that the babe was a girl, and not the son he desired so much, he cast the woman out as a witch. He told her that if she ever darkened the door of his castle again, she would be put to death.”

“That’s not true! The king is a just ruler. You’re trying to trick me into feeling sorry for you.” He raised his sword again. The witch raised her hand, lazily, languidly, flicked her fingers down, and the sword fell from the prince’s hand, clanking on the stone floor.

“I don’t want your pity, sweet prince. That innocent wise-woman has been dead and gone for some time, poisoned by the bitter pill of revenge into the witch you see before you. Even at your sword point, I will not repent what I have done.” Natalyne stood then, purposefully, deliberately stepping down from the dias. “But I want you to know, to really know, the great and just king you work for. I want you to know that he is a promise-breaker, and a liar, and if you shackle yourself to him through his daughter, and you displease him in any way, he will have no compunction about putting you to death.”

The witch glided along the floor, picked up Castain’s sword and, swinging it as if it were made of feathers instead of steel, placed in back in his hand. The prince stared at it as if he had never held it in his hand before, then looked at her, uncertainty mixing with the horror in his eyes. Natalyne drew closer to him, until she was near enough for him to kiss her, his breathing becoming ragged. She reached down, grasped the blade and brought the point of it up to her neck, pressing her chest against his, so that he could feel her heartbeat against his own.

“You think you know everything there is to know about good and evil, sweet prince,” she whispered. “If you are so sure, drive your sword through my throat. Do your duty, avenge your princess, and live out your days with her, happily ever after.”

“I—” Castain closed his eyes.

“Or, leave here, get back on your horse, and find your own destiny. Live in the world, gather experience, find a woman who is strong and smart and worthy of your devotion. Not some fragile bird in need of rescue.” She reached up and traced the prince’s lips with her fingers. “Then again, you could always stay here and I could teach you a thing or two.”

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