A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words is a monthly feature that allows us to write flash fiction using the same photo prompt.
Kicking the balled-up scrap of metal across the fallow field, Lin found herself in a particularly perturbed state. If that bastard would just admit he fucked up, everything would be fine. Instead, Lin wandered the rolling, rocky countryside of Loch Lomond to escape the very real reality an exclusive group of people faced.
She sighed, running her fingers through her shoulder-length hair, giving a sharp tug when she reached the ends. Why that motley bunch thinks I’ll be able to fix this, I have no idea. There’s no fixing misplaced pride.
She hitched up the airy muslin skirt she wore to climb through the split-rail fencing surrounding the property, leapt a ditch, and scrambled up an embankment. Her boots crunched the gravel of the seldom-used road as she made her way to the abandoned barn where she’d agreed to meet with thirteen college graduates pursuing various endeavors.
Outsiders looking at the eclectic crew would never identify the common thread winding through their lives and Lin still didn’t understand how they’d all become so tight-knit during their shared time at Oxford.
Actually, she did. Their ancestry. Each of them was directly descended from the Knights of the Round Table from Arthurian legend–as close as anyone could figure, anyway. And Lin? She was of Merlin’s lineage.
The dilapidated barn may have been from the Dark Ages. But, standing like sentries outside were three SUVs of various expensive makes and models.
Last to arrive. Just like I’d planned. Lin wasn’t looking forward to this little rendezvous. She actually was dreading it. As the professor for their freshman composition course, Lin had roped the baker’s dozen into the creative writing club. She’d promised they’d develop skills that would help them in any major they’d choose.
She hadn’t been lying.
While their professions varied from assistant to the chief controlling officer of a multi-billion dollar corporation to modern dancer, Lin had mentored each of them through resume writing, literature courses, and research papers. Mostly, though, she’d been one of them.
No one understood–save the diverse group waiting for her in the barn–what it meant to have the blood of one of history’s most revered characters running through their veins. The responsibility was heady and overwhelming.
But, that’s not why they were meeting in this death trap very far off the beaten path.
Arthur Pendragon had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had no idea what it meant to have to work. His father, Udolf, was a prominent politician and young Arthur aspired to follow in his footsteps. Not usually a problem…except when the experiences of one’s ancestors were an ever-present monkey one’s shoulder. Present-day Arthur had attended cocktail hour at an upscale lounge with fifty or so of his closest business associates. Unfortunately, the man’s namesake chose that evening to batter his modern counterpart with memories from days long past.
It probably wasn’t bad when the original Arthur trotted through memories of parties and feasts. It became an issue when battles and less than savory acts were brought to the forefront. Arthur–present day–failed to notice the signs and didn’t excuse himself from the soiree.
A dire miscalculation.
From what Lin had gathered from Arthur and the rest, Arthur had nearly slain his very own dragon–his boss.
As Lin slid between the swollen door and the strangely-angled frame, she felt thirteen alert pairs of eyes on her. A collective sigh escaped the group and silence blanketed the interior of the unused stable.
“Lin. Thanks so much for coming,” Lance said. His swarthy good looks betrayed his heritage–from the line of Lancelot.
Lin pinned her gaze on Arthur as she spoke. “When you called, I had to come. We have an…issue.”
Mutters of agreement rose from around the small clutch.
“I was there, Lin. Art’s working for Martin Fay–you heard, didn’t you?–and the attack was savage. What do we know about Fay’s lineage?” Tristan asked. She bit her lip nervously and tears welled. Tris’ parents hadn’t been terribly creative in naming her–but she was the first female to be named Tristan after the knight from her lines.
Grant–a descendant of Geraint–pulled Tris into his arms as she began to weep.
“Art definitely fucked up there,” Percy mumbled. His family history traced back to Percival of the Round Table.
“It doesn’t matter. We just need to figure out how to get fifty people to forget Arthur attacked Fay. That part should be relatively simple–the how–but getting everyone in the same place may be more of a challenge depending on how shit-faced everyone was by the time Pendragon decided to put on a show.” Lin was frustrated. They’d planned for a situation exactly like this for nearly a half decade. It wasn’t long, but they’d thought they’d planned for every contingency.
Apparently, they hadn’t. And, judging from the glares pointed toward Arthur, the others were pissed for potentially outing their little secret. Or getting Arthur a Silver Streak to the psych ward.
“Well, if no one else is going to come out and say it, I guess I’ll have to.” Betty, from the line of Bedivere, said, “You broke the Code of Chivalry, Arthur. You know we can’t just let it go. For centuries our families have been upholding the code and you–or past you–nearly fucked it up for all of us.”
“Jesus. It wasn’t like I swiped a horse and rode in on it challenging everyone to joust.” Arthur rolled his eyes.
“Stop being a dick. You fucked up. Own that shit and we can move on.” Gavin was a man of few words, as it is hypothesized Gawain was.
“Gavin is right. I have everything I need for the spell, but I’ll only be able to cast this one once. It can cause brain damage in both the caster and the castee if it’s used more. Have you come up with a plan to get everyone from Happy Hour in the same room again?” Lin pictured the page from her grimoire as she pinned Arthur with her stare.
Kay, in her soft voice, said, “We were thinking about putting together a costume ball for charity.”
“We still need to figure out which charity, but we thought the costumes would hide those who didn’t respond to the mass memory wipe.” Harris–relative of Gaheris–mentioned.
He was right. The costumes would help hide delayed reactions.
“It’s Autism awareness month. Let’s use that for the charity–and it’s timely. We can get the fundraiser organized and hold it next week.” Gareth’s ancestor, Ruth, was logical and was excellent at planning things with minimal direction.
And Laura–from the line of Lamorak–interjected, “Let’s make it steampunk. We can offer up prizes for the best steampunk version of modern characters and come up with a list of other categories.” Her eyes shifted nervously from one person to the next. “Or not. It’s a little off-the-wall.”
A slow grin spread across Borris’ face. “No. That’s perfect. It’s unexpected and isn’t the fairy tale-type of costume party they’re holding lately, due to the Beauty and the Beast revival.” Coming from the bloodlines of Bors the Younger, Borris definitely played the role of impish younger sibling well. Even within current company. He never backed down from a challenge.
Kay stepped forward and threaded her fingers through Borris’. Her voice resonated off the bare beams of the barn. “It really doesn’t matter what we do. We just need to get this shit taken care of.” Her parents–like Tristan’s–hadn’t been terribly creative, either.
Pushing himself off the interior wall adjacent to a stall, their modern-day Galahad–Harold–sauntered to the center of the small circle. “After we have this issue resolved, how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again?”
“Easy,” Lin said. “Stick with the plan. And if you’re having a lot of interaction with your ancestor, maybe try to get one of the others to tag along in social situations–especially when alcohol is involved.” The ingestion of liquor seemed to make it easier for their namesakes to come to the forefront. Lin had only experienced Merlin’s presence a handful of times. The first was during her rebellious high school days.
She’d been at an outdoor party during summer. A huge gathering of people had overtaken a quiet wood, and bass beats pounded off tree trunks and silenced wildlife–likely scared them away. After several shots of tequila with beer chasers–maybe a kegstand or two–Merlin made his first appearance.
It was fortunate he’d shown up, too. Tyler Jones, player extraordinaire, had been getting a little handsy and the situation could’ve gone south without Merlin’s intervention. Poor Tyler–he ended up with some lasting reminders of that night when the fire had a rogue branch of red-hot embers fly into him. He spent a couple weeks in the hospital and ended up with several skin grafts.
Merlin had chuckled over that. Scolded the shit out of Tyler. Took everything Lin had in her to not voice his words–the archaic speech patterns would’ve surely landed her a one-way ticket to ostracisation for the rest of her high school years.
“Let’s plan this Autism benefit for Saturday night. That gives us two days to pull this off. How do you think we’ll best deliver the spell? I can make a tincture to go in drinks or make it airborn–I can even make it touch-based, but I’d only have about thirty minutes to make contact with everyone who needs to forget. Thoughts?”
“Whatever you think best. We just need this clusterfuck cleaned up.” Harold stepped closer and cupped Lin’s cheek. He smelled like dark beer, Irish whiskey, and fresh moss–but in a good way. “I think you and I should do a Star Wars theme, though. Rey and Kylo Ren.”
Words escaped Lin. All she could sense was Harold and a trickle of anticipation crept up her spine. She held his eyes with her own as she said, “Kissing cousins?” She waggled her brows and stepped back.
No way am I falling for the charms of a modern-day Galahad.
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