Each month I will write an original short story (around 1000 words) based on a prompt from one of you. Today’s story ended up being a bit longer, so you’ll get it over a couple months. The prompt is “Blind” by Mary Meyer. Thank you Mary!
Trouble has a scent. It’s something between fear and pride, with a huge helping of stupidity.
I rose from my bed of straw as Trouble limped into the stables. The night was near its middle and cool summer air filled with the snuffles of fifty sleeping horses.
It was my night to keep guard over the king’s horses, though the other stable hands laughed that the only thing a blind boy could do was yell for help. I gripped my staff. I could do more than that, especially when the intruder’s perfume pinpointed his spot as much as his uneven gait.
I stepped to block his way, hefting my stick. “Prince Felipe, go back to bed.”
He yelped, then cursed. “Don’t spook me, Leo! It’s bad enough that you do it in the daytime, but in the pitch black of night. You’re certain you can’t see in the dark?”
I snorted but didn’t lower my staff. “Of course I see in the dark. I see with my ears and nose. And I see you are up to no good. Go back to bed.”
He shifted his feet. “Look, I just want to see the fortune teller before she leaves. But I have to do it without my father knowing. He doesn’t like her.” He leaned closer to me. “They say she has magic to heal. That she could heal my foot. You should come too. Maybe she can give you your sight back.”
I snorted again, though his words scratched at an old desire. I hadn’t seen the world in ten years, not since Prince Felipe and I were five and foolishly played with fire in an abandoned building. Felipe claimed I saved his life, though all I did was push him in front of me as I ran from the flames. A falling beam took my sight and crippled his foot. Despite that, the king kept me—an orphan—as a servant and Felipe clung to me like I was his only friend. He certainly was my only one.
“Come on,” he coaxed. “Don’t you want to see again?”
I’d heard of the fortuneteller, too. She’d healed Duke Alfonso’s gout and Lady Lucia’s madness. Maybe she could help. Though she charged three large golds. I barely had a copper to my name.
As if he could hear my thoughts, he placed a hand on my shoulder. “I’ll pay for both of us.”
I blew out my breath. It wasn’t like we’d get in worse trouble than for our other antics, and perhaps we’d both be whole again. “We have to be back before sunrise.”
“I knew I could count on you!” His voice bounced off the stable’s walls.
I saddled one horse while Felipe fumbled to saddle another. “Let me do that,” I said. “You can’t see what you are doing.”
“So you can see in the dark.” He chuckled as he stepped aside. “Soon you’ll be able to see in the light too.”
Hopefully, that was true. It was enough to risk the king’s anger again.
The cool summer night caressed my face as my horse followed Felipe’s from the stable. Snores met us at the servant’s gate. “What did you do to the guard?” I asked.
Felipe coughed. “He likes his wine. Wasn’t my fault he drank so much it.”
The scents of the village assaulted us outside the castle wall. It was a different strong than the manure of the stable. Emptied chamber pots, rotting cabbage cores, and smoky dinners lingering from a hundred cottages. Then the scent of jasmine mingled with it.
“Felipe, must you carry perfume with you everywhere?” I asked.
“Only where things stink.”
“Good thing you are a prince and not a spy. You’d never be able to sneak around with that potent scent.”
“Your nose is too sensitive for your own good.”
“At least I can handle the scents of the real world, instead of covering them up.”
We laughed until a dog barked, then hushed until the town scents faded into pine and damp leaves. Feathery fir bows brushed against my arms as the path narrowed. Then it widened again. An old voice welcomed and beckoned us to dismount. “I foresaw your coming, Prince Felipe.”
Canvas brushed against my arm as we entered an incense stifling tent. I knelt beside Felipe. Could she truly heal us?
“Stretch out your foot,” the fortuneteller intoned, “and close your eyes as I apply the healing balm.” Her voice turned toward me. “Close your eyes too, young man.”
I opened my mouth when Felipe elbowed me. “Just close your eyes, Leo.”
I grinned and closed my eyes.
She chanted in a strange language, and the incense intensified. I yawned and shook my head. If I wasn’t careful, I’d sleep through her healing of Felipe.
A faint breeze shifted the incense, and the grass rustled behind me. A sour smell. A rapid breath. I jumped to my feet and swung around with raised fists. One fist glanced off a bony shoulder.
Felipe gasped. But it wasn’t him I struck. He had more muscle than that.
“Put down your hands, boy,” said the fortuneteller. “I don’t want my grandson to accidentally nick the prince’s neck.”
I sat with a thump. The scent of trouble tainted the air—fear, pride, and stupidity—it was me. I should have stopped Felipe, but instead I came with him, and now he was a prisoner. I had to free him. But how? If I could see, I could fight the captor. The bony shoulder bespoke of a weak foe. But I couldn’t chance hurting Felipe. I cursed. Wrinkled hands bound my ankles and wrists, then tied a blindfold. The last was an unnecessary insult.
“Prince Felipe,” I asked. “Are you hurt?”
“No.” His voice was thick with anger, but not pain.
“Enough talking,” said the fortuneteller. “Your future depends on how quickly you walk.”
“You will release me.” Felipe demanded.
“The only release you get is to your father’s enemy. He’ll do what he will with you.”
“My father will find us and when he does, he will kill you.”
The old woman laughed. “Then you will die too. We’ll slit your throat before we let you go back to the king. The only way you’ll live is if you travel to the border quicker than the king.”
Felipe spoke through gritted teeth. “If you need speed, then let my servant go.”
“Can’t have him telling everyone where we went. He comes too.”
“Tell everyone one?” Felipe laughed tightly. “He can’t even tell you where we are now. He’s blind. He’ll slow us down.”
“That so?” It was a male voice, reedy and barely deep enough to be an adult—the fortune teller’s grandson. The voice drew closer and the sour stench of alcohol blew in my face as a finger shifted the blindfold off my eyes. “Open your eyes, boy.”
I opened them.
A breath of movement swiped inches in front of me. The man whistled. “Either he’s blind or has steel cold nerves. Didn’t even blink when I almost gouged an eye.”
I shivered. They didn’t care about either of us.
“So this is the boy that crippled your foot.” The fortune teller cackled, and she drew closer to me. “I should thank you, boy. The prince wouldn’t have come to find me without you. And now you can die for him. We’ll let you go when we are deep in the forest.”
The rest of the story will be in the February newsletter (unless you truly need to know before then–if so, email me and I’ll send you the rest).
If you want a story based on your suggestion, here is what you do: send a one word to one sentence prompt to my email at email@example.com with the subject line “short story prompt”. Please also include the name you’d like to be used to acknowledge your contribution, if I use your prompt.
The prompts can be almost anything (as long as you keep it clean). I will choose between the prompts and write a story (around 1000 words) which will be included in the next newsletter. I will also mail a signed copy of the short story to the person whose prompt I used.
I’m excited to see what prompts you send and to create a story inspired by you! If your friends would be interested in the short story a month, here’s the newsletter signup.