Friday, September 17, 2010

Merph's Fog

My #fridayflash and this week's entry in the writer's weights exercise. The challenge: write a scene of 1000 words or less that includes a contagonist. The theme: lightning.

Whitey yipped as the last foggy tendrils drifting over Lake Mallarin burned away in the weak sun. Merph tousled his companion's black-and-white fur. "Yes, time to finish this." He strapped the canvas bag over his back, the powder jars tinkling, and pushed the rowboat into the water. He leapt at the last second to avoid touching the water. The powders might have drifted. He caught Whitey, falling to the wooden seat, and watched as the ripples of the boat expanded across the clear water to shatter the smooth reflection of snow cresting the tips of the three towers, Tre Kronor.

Merph's arms ached. He was old, but had a little life left he reminded himself. He leaned into the oars wishing he hadn't had to knock Nils, the king's captain, into the brackish water when they'd seeded his powders under the moonlight before morning brought fog. Now he had to row back towards the northern island and Mortok's sleeping army. His fingers blistered. Water drip-dropped into the sea. Whitey looked at him as if to say, _Stop pitying yourself, old man._

Merph beached the boat onto the island's coast where Mortok's army held their siege. He'd have one more use for the boat, after he'd visited the commander's tent. Whitey wagged his tail and Merph scruffed the dog's neck.

"No barking," said Merph. "Don't want to wake them up."

One of Mortok's soldiers sprawled across the black and gray stones that poked through the shallow earth here in the north. Glad that the powder-laced fog had done its job, Merph stepped over the guard's extended arm. A camp full of snores. Merph had worked hard to create the powder and smiled as he surveyed its handiwork. He recalled sitting with the King yesterday. The man had wanted to attack with his men. Would have if not for the powder being Merph's. Whitey kept him honest, reminding him that somethings you didn't do. Besides, you couldn't kill quietly. Mortok had too many men.

Mortok's flag flew from his commander's tent just beyond the next tent and Whitey stopped to growl, a soft noise in the back of the dog's throat.

Merph crouched beside the dog. "I've got to do this," he whispered.

A man cried from a tent. His arm slapped against the side as he turned over. Just a soldier's dreams.

When Merph stood, Whitey jumped and caught the corner of Merph's coat in his jaw. "What's gotten into you?" Silence as Merph stared into the dog's eyes. A boot heel echoed and the dog pulled him into a narrow place, full of shadows. The fog should have affected everyone. The soldier stopped, stared between the tents and then about-faced and returned the other direction. Merph blinked and rubbed his eyes. What was Nils doing here? Merph had last seen Nils when the captain had tried to stop Merph from poisoning the sea and Merph had pushed the soldier over Whitey's back to fall into the water. The weight of the man's armor should've drowned him.

Merph pawed through his canvas bag to find a reddish brown powder. He unscrewed the cap sprinkling grains into his palm and then added another white powder. He closed his fist and shouldered the bag.

As Merph rounded the edge of the tent, Nils walked towards him. The captain stopped, placed a hand on his sword, and waited for Merph.

Merph opened his hand, exposing the grains of powder. The captain stopped and lifted his hand off his sword. Merph nodded. "A little wisdom."

The captain stepped forward his hands held out to his sides. "You should not do this. It is wrong."

Merph wondered how quickly Nils could draw his sword. He counted his heartbeats as he sidestepped towards Mortok's tent. "Look around you. An army brought here to create wars. Is that right?"

"Power against power, a tool. Not what you're doing, a knife in the dark."

Whitey pushed against the back of Merph's knees and twisted to sit beside his right foot. "The sun shines on us, no darkness here."

"Only because you ensorcelled them with your sleeping powders."

Merph realized that Nils was trying to delay. Merph held up his hand. "No closer. Should this powder strike the ground, lightning bolts will seek those nearby."

The captain stepped forward.

At least the man was brave, thought Merph. "The bolts will also kill those in the tents --"

"Enough of this," chuckled a man's voice from behind Merph. A wind battered Merph's face. Feathered dander tickled his nose and he sneezed. The grains of powder in his hand disappeared on the winds and he looked up to see two ghostly shapes fly away. The ravens, Huginn and Muninn. "No more treachery."

The captain drew his sword and pulled Merph against him. In the opening of the commander's tent stood a man with one eye clouded white and the other one staring darkly. Merph swallowed. He'd warned the king he couldn't guarantee success. Wasn't his fault when the king's man, Nils, had turned traitor. Merph struggled, but he was an old man and no match for the captain. Whitey barked.

"Take them outside the camp. Kill them." Mortok turned and retreated back into his tent.

The captain cut the straps off the canvas bag and tied Merph's hands behind his back and pushed him through the camp. Merph tried to catch Whitey's eyes. He wanted the dog to knock the man over, scattering the powders in his bag hoping that the confusion would let them escape. But, the dog walked alongside and sniffed the ground.

Outside the camp, Nils pushed Merph away and he fell to the ground. "Flee."

Merph looked at Nils. "Why?"

"Like I said. You don't kill a man with a knife in the dark."

Whitey licked Merph's face. "My powders, they take a long time to mix."

"Good. You can't always get what you want. Now, get away before I change my mind."


  1. Nice magical spy story. Covert magic! I like it. Merph needs to take Whitey and retire someplace sunny now.

    Enjoyed this story!

  2. I like the idea of covert magic here.

  3. @Gracie, thanks. I like the idea of them vacationing someplace south. I'm sure Merph will find something to grumble about when he gets there.

    @John, thanks. I still need to work on the limitations of Merph's powders, but this is a world I find intriguing.

  4. Interesting story and world. I hope you write more about it. I want to see not only the limits but the powers of these powders.

  5. @vandamir, Thanks. I'd meant to tag this with Merph. I have one other flash written with Merph and his powders here.

  6. I was worried something might happen to the dog but I'm glad they both got away in the end.

  7. I'm with Icy...worried about Whitey! :)

  8. I enjoyed this return to the world of Whitey and Merph... but it feels incomplete, like the end of the story here is yet to be told...

  9. This felt like it could be a longer work to me also. I liked the idea of the magical powder.

  10. I really like this world you've created.

  11. Icy, Laura, you're giving me some evil ideas for future scenes.

    Stephen, GP, there is more here working to get out. However, I should improve the closing of these teasers. Thanks, for the comments.

    Ganymeder, glad you are enjoying the world.

  12. Cool story! As others have said, it's a neat world you've created.