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January 14, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge – Roll For Title

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 2:52 pm

It’s time for another Flash Fiction Challenge and really, it’s been far too long since I did one. The challenge is as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here. I got 9 and 4 on my RNG which got me the title ‘The Cartographer’s Vault’. The ‘the’ was optional. This is what I got out of it.

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The door opened and a man stepped into the small, dimly lit shop, which smelled of curry and broth. The woman behind the desk put down her soup bowl and gave him a wide smile, showing teeth that were surprisingly white, not to mention numerous, for such an old, weathered face. She leaned forward over the desk, showing off arms on which the sagging skin was covered with faded tattoos. “How may I help you, young man?”
The man had short blond hair, a neatly trimmed beard and blue eyes which were currently blinking rapidly, trying to adjust to the gloom. He bent his head politely. “Mistress, I’ve come for a map.”
The woman’s grin widened, showing off a gold tooth. “You’ve certainly come to the right place.” She made a gesture with her hands indicating the maps pinned to the walls all around them and rolled up and stacked in boxed on the floor. “You have the look of an air ship captain. Perhaps looking for something to help you navigate an unfamiliar sky, yes?”
He shook his head, a tiny smile playing on his lips. “No. Though you are right about me being a captain. But I have the maps I need, for now. I am looking for something a bit more special.”
The old woman’s face became shrewd. “A treasure hunter, then? Well, follow me.” She grabbed a lantern, and hobbled over to a door, producing a large key ring from her belt, while she walked. She selected a big iron key and unlocked the door with it. The key, the lock and the hinges on the door all looked rusty, but the key turned smoothly enough and the door slid open with barely a sound. There had been a time when the door had opened slowly and creakingly, but that was some years ago. For one thing it had been almost impossible to make it seem like the door was very rarely opened, when in truth she had treasure hunters dropping in several times a month. And secondly, with her back not being what it used to be, in was just getting to hard to open.
She stepped first into the room, the man following in her footsteps. The vault was even smaller than the shop, but much more packed. All the walls were covered with shelves and there were boxes on the floor in the middle of the room. Every available surface was packed with maps. Most were scroll, but some were just folded. A few were stitched together into books. Some didn’t even look like maps but were wooden cubes with odd markings.
The woman made another grand gesture with her hands, which made the lantern swing wildly and shadows dance on the walls and turned towards the man. “In here are maps of everything. Maps of places that are, that have been and that will be. Even quite a few maps of places that will never be. Now, what do you need?”
“I need a map that can show me the way to the Land of the Dead.”
The old woman’s smile disappeared and was replaced by an expression like she had just smelled something unpleasant. “Oh, you’re one of them,” she said flatly. “Off to tear a sweetheart from Death’s clutches? Although, you don’t look like the romantic type. A friend then? A sibling?”
The man shook his head once more, with the same small smile. “No. I want to find a man I killed.”
“Why do I get the feeling, that you’re not filled with remorse and looking for a way to undo your misdeed?”
“You are vise.”
“Vise enough to recognize trouble when it rears its ugly head. I don’t want to know anymore. Take your map and be gone.” Without even looking, she reached into one of the shelves and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. She practically shoved it into his hands and yet, when he took it, there was a moment where she held onto it, as if her fingers were refusing to let go.
He bowed his head. “Thank you, mistress.”
She scoffed. “Save your thanks. Soon enough you’ll be cursing this map and me and everyone else who had a part in your endeavor, down to the merchant who sold you your walking boots.”
He looked up at her, an expression of genuine perplexion on his face. “Walking boots?”
“To get to the Land of the Dead you have to cross the desert of salt, on foot. And that’s just the beginning. But it’s all in the map and now you have it.”
“We haven’t even discussed payment yet.”
“Consider it a gift. And now I would really like to finish my lunch, if you don’t mind.” She shooed him up the stairs and out, despite his objections.
When she had closed the door firmly behind him, she returned to her desk and picked up her soup bowl again. She took a sip and noticed with a grimace that it had gotten cold in the meanwhile. She shook her head at the folly of young men these days and at the folly of young women fifty years ago, when she had drawn a map to a place, that should much rather have been lost forever.

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