Flash Lit Challenge: The Predetermined Path

It was late, and the inn’s smoky common room had mostly emptied out. Edric drained his mug and considered going to bed.

The innkeeper—a brawny, smiling man who had introduced himself earlier as Noah—approached with a pitcher.

“Another, my lord?” he asked.

Edric winced and held out his mug. “Don’t My Lord me. Please, call me Edric. One last pint, then I’m for bed.” He hesitated. “Join me?” The road had been long and lonely.

The man shrugged and sat. “Sure. Pint’s on the house if you have a good story.”

Edric took a long pull of the rich brown ale. “Yeah, I have a story.”

He began: “Once there was a totally inadequate prince.”

Noah looked him up and down. “Inadequate? Said who?”

“Hush now, let me tell it.” And he did.

He told how the role of prince fit him like a poorly-made jacket; how unlike his brothers, he preferred the stables to the throne room and felt more at home mending tack with the grooms than dancing with the fine ladies of the court. How the king despaired of his son, and often told him so.

When word came of a princess captured by a fearsome beast, the king declared that his son must undertake her rescue. He would vanquish the beast, woo the princess, and bring her home to wife, thus proving his princely worth.

The prince thought that all sounded awful, but hated disappointing his father. So he went.

“Did he vanquish the beast?” asked the innkeeper.

Edric laughed. “The beast was the princess herself, under an enchantment. He managed to break it, and once that was done, she thanked him and left. So he started toward home, never stopping until he reached a fine inn at a crossroads with a very accommodating innkeeper.”

Noah, who had been drinking straight from the pitcher, raised it in salute. “How did he break the enchantment?”

“I’d rather not talk about it,” said Edric. His mug was empty again. “What about you? What’s your story?”

“Oh, nothing so exciting. My father was a farmer. My brothers left to seek their fortunes when they came of age, but I decided to let fortune find me. I never cared for adventure.”

“Adventure is overrated,” said Edric. “It’s exhausting. Gives you saddle sores.”

Noah grinned. “True, but I love stories of others’ adventures. When my father died, I sold the farm and built this inn.” His kind blue eyes twinkled, and his boot slid along Edric’s under the table. “You know,” he said, “I could use a new stable manager.”

Edric’s eyes had gone glassy. “Is that so?”

Noah suggested they discuss the matter upstairs and they did, at great length.

Later, as they lay in the warm darkness, arms and legs tangled together in Noah’s bed, Edric laughed.

“What’s so funny?” asked Noah against his sweaty neck.

“I just realized,” said Edric, running his fingers through Noah’s soft ginger beard. “My name means fortune. And I’ve found you.”


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