Flash: Forget Kindness

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash (color adjusted by Erin Penn)

The pastoral setting, complete with sheep and cattle munching the summer grass on the rolling hills in between small wooded areas was completed by children running and tumbling over each other like a pack of puppies, laughing. In the distance, a wall city, no doubt home to the boys stood sentry over their play though they have ranged far from their home.

Between the range and the hills, no bow shot would save them from the two pale ghosts watching them from the forest’s abrupt edge when the pastures and fields ended and the wild woods began. The parents of the children, nobles and commoners both judging by the clothing, did not yet need the woods for their fires and the land for their animals. But later, in the fall, more would be cut back. In the meantime, the forest and its guardians watched.

The watchers’ eyes danced over the double handful of children so far from the safety of the walled city, howling like a pack of wolves, chasing one boy slightly ahead of the rest. The couple was not pleased to see a pack hunting in their territory.

The lead boy was dirtier than the pack members and younger than most of his pursuers. His rough-spun clothes had a slightly different cut indicating maybe one of the lesser religions or an immigrant child, the watchers weren’t familiar with the intricate strata of the city-born but could pick out an outsider easily. After all, those are the best prey as this pack had discovered.

All kinds of boys chased, with clothing from fine to sturdy. In the middle ran a tireless child with long silken hair flowing behind him, the pure white a beacon among the humans. Silks and jeweled colors as well as location in the pack indicate his status. Also among the pack were two golden-tressed children, with hair not quite as inhumanly straight as the pure-bred elf, their skin not as pale and lacking the inner glow of natural magik. Their clothing not quite as fine. One ran toward the front of the group, nearly too old to be part of this hunt, his longer strides leading the way. The other lagged in the back egging on the others, yellow eyes wild with the pleasure of pursuit.

The watchers also had white hair and untannable skin, their slanted yellow eyes noting the three pack members related to their race. All of them were older than the watchers by several years.

The elder of the two asked, “Shall we intervene sister?”

“Yes, let’s,” she answered, lifting the camouflage cloak’s hood over the leaves mingling with her braids. Together they moved quietly, invisibly, using their magiks to dampen their natural glow, appearing little more than branches moving in the wind with an occasional flash of white sunlight dappling the green and brown.

The hounds had ran down the fox and encircled the defeated bloody boy. Several pack members threw small stones with practiced accuracy. Other closed to kick and punch. The mob roared insults as damaging as their fists, laughing as both hit and wounded. They hid their actions in the shadows of the trees out of sight of the city.

Suddenly among them appeared the watchers, now actors.

“Go away.” The noble elf, sneered at his younger woodland cousins. “This has nothing to do with the likes of you. Return to your trees.”

“No.” The woodland-raised boy responded without inflection. He raised his hand, his cloak and linen shirt falling back along his pale arm. Dropping the glamour hiding his glow, the hand flared, freezing the tormentors in place.

He looked at the beaten boy shivering in the center of the lot, unfurling from his fetal position to find out why the kicking had stopped. The youngster held his ribs on the left side. Seeing the two wood elves and his frozen harassers, he scuttled back as best he could until he bumped up against one of the pack. His eyes darted between the blond noble spawn and the barbaric wizard, clearly trying to figure out which was the biggest threat.

The male wood elf, just two years older than the prey, made the decision easier. He showed his teeth, the pointed canines of a meat eater. “Run while you can.”

The lad scrambled, stood, and ran further into the woods, as though those would provide safety from what he left behind.

When the crashing sounds of the panicked animal faded, the wood elf turned his attention to the crowd he held motionless. “Now for those who would hunt in our woods–”

“No brother, let me. I’ve never had a kill.” His younger sister interrupted, her lilting soft voice carrying like a hawk screech through the company.

Her brother shuddered but pulled back the death magik he had been preparing. His sister was stronger and far more dangerous than him, but not yet come fully into her own. Of the two, she would be ruler and he follower. Up until now he had mentored her, but today, it seemed, would be the day she would come into her own.

First blood.

The enemies which chased them aged her quicker than they knew; they would come to regret that when the pair returned to home and reclaimed their birthrights.

“Cover our tracks,” she ordered without a second thought, already the leader. He bowed his head to her will and slipped off as she raised her hand and took over the spell holding the youths as though she cast it herself.

The dethroned elf queen, not yet eight, but the bloodline of dozen queens from Under-the-Hill ran through her veins, walked among the human and the elven children. Offspring of those who had forsaken the traditions. Even the purebred elf, son of the city’s sovereign and half-way through his studies could not displace the magik holding him. Her will held them all.

“You are killers like us. I can see,” her eyes raked like claws over them, “two spirits clinging to you. Their blood never leaving where it had been spilled, biding their time. It has now arrived.”

The second son of the local king and his courtier sycophants struggled harder, sweat beading on their brows. She released the tightness of the bonds so their struggle would be visible to the others. The rest of the pack’s eyes grew white with fear when they realized not even the most powerful among them could escape what was to come.

“The tongue torments, the body attacks, and the fist and feet deliver pain, so it was done to others. So shall it be returned in full to each involved. Let those who suffered pay back the torments, attacks, and pain.” The young girls’ words growled like angry bear and screamed like an eagle half a second before and after her spoken sounds. At the end of the spell, she slashed her hand down releasing the pack from stasis.

Pain and fear dropped them to their knees.

“For your age, a kindness. Not everyone will dies here.” She smiled with her canines showing as the screams started. “Only if you killed, you will die.”

“No, no, I’ve never killed anyone.” The noble with the blond hair who ran in the back of the group twisted in pain, begging.

She glided to where he lay. “Then you are the worst coward of the pack. Killing by using others.” Bruises started forming on his lightly tanned skin, and his screams start in earnest. “If your pack spirit has delivered pain, your fist and tongue remember and so shall it be done.”

She inhaled deeply, then sealed the spell so none could stop it. “By my will.”

The screams ripped the throats of the boys into shreds. None would ever speak again if they managed to survive.

Only one child did not scream, but he stared. How he stared.

The soon-to-be baptized killer slipped among the rolling bodies like a lady at a ball swishing through a crowd. She stood beside the six-year old when he managed to whisper, “What’s happening?”

She glanced down at where he sat, trembling – a year and an eternity stood between them in age. Within her the queens woke, their spirits clinging to their blood centuries after their death. “You should choose your companions more wisely. Today you would have been a killer. Instead a spirit of retribution stole out of the woods; that is all you will remember.”

She touched his forehead. “Now run, and no one but you will ever know you were here.”

The boy ran and ran. Through the gates and to his guildman father’s home to hide in the workroom the rest of the day, week, month, and year. He never left the city walls again.


The prey stopped running, listening to the faroff screams. Lost, gulping air against an ancient oak, tears streaming through the blood marring his face.

Behind him a silent ghost stepped out of the shadow and touches his shoulder. The glow of magik flowed over the hand into the boy’s body healing and into his mind to hide the actions of two children who would not be found yet. “Run home child, the woods kept you safe today. Forget its kindness because it may not happen ever again.”

(words 1550; first published 3/29/2020)