Winner of the April Flash Contest & possible basis for a new novel?
Jeff opened his eyes and blinked a few times to clear the crustiness. With a sleep-addled brain he took in his surroundings, and it was only after the third pass over the walls and furniture that he realised he was not in the room where he’d gone to bed.
“What the…” he murmured.
“Ah, so he finally wakes,” a bemused male voice spoke on his left.
“About time,” a female voice added on his right.
Jeff blinked again and turned his head first to one, and then the other. Both shared the same blond hair and green eyes, both with the same dry expression. She was leaning back against the wall in a green dress belted at the waist, spinning a knife in her hands; he was standing with his arms crossed in matching tunic and hose. They both look very familiar, but he had no idea who they were.
“Oh look, he’s confused,” the woman said.
“Shocking,” the man answered.
“Who are you?” Jeff demanded, sitting up and pulling the sheets to his chest as if they would protect him.
“I’m not sure whether we should be offended or unsurprised that you don’t recognize us,” the man said.
“Obviously, though, we’ve found the problem,” the woman grimaced. “After all, no one should know us better than you, Jeff.”
“What problem? What are you talking about? Who are you people?”
The other two exchanged a glance and stared back at him, resignation on their faces, predicting his reaction. “Jasmine and Jared of House Feldall,” the woman answered.
Jeff laughed. “Nice. I don’t know who planned this, but they cast you well.” Some practical joke. Was it April Fools? He threw back the covers and his feet hit dirt floor. He frowned. The joke should have ended at these two, but…he turned to inspect the bedframe.
“Walnut with painted ivy engraving,” Jared said, bored. “We don’t have time for you to figure it out. We need to talk.”
“Impossible. We get it,” Jasmine finished.
“Your characters, we know. You are in Andvell. No, this is not a dream. No, you’re not crazy. Maggie summoned you and we were asked to talk to you.”
“Maggie,” Jeff mumbled, picturing the wizened crone he had created who served as the House’s enchantress. He dropped back on the bed. This was insane. But the ewer on the dresser with the braided pattern, just as he described it. This was too elaborate for a joke – the entire scene was the guest bedroom of Evensong. “Let’s pretend for a moment I buy this. What did you want to talk about? Rafe giving you trouble?” He posed the question with a laugh, but Jasmine’s reaction cut the smile from his face.
“Rafe is hardly the problem,” Jasmine replied, cutting to the heart of the matter. She pushed away from the wall and pulled up a chair. “The problem is your plot. It makes no sense. A year ago, Jared and I killed Raul and the whole village celebrated that he was gone for good. Now he suddenly has a son we need to contend with? He never had a son.”
“And now we’re being pushed to kill this boy, but so far Rafe has done nothing but pace around Fort Artura. What is our motivation other than his blood?”
“Then there’s Christoph. The blacksmith? He woke up the other day with complete archery training and wants to know why he needs a bow.”
Jasmine caught Jeff’s eye. “Look, we know you’re trying hard, but this isn’t going well. It’s like you’re making things up as they go along without any reference to what came before. We’ve put up with the story so far, but you crossed the line with my marrying Corey. Four months ago I was engaged to Brady. I like Brady. Corey smells of cheese. You said that.”
Jeff gathered his thoughts, overwhelmed. “I was writing based on reader suggestion. They wanted a little more drama, more twists and surprises. They liked Raul as a villain and were upset when he died.” Frustration and irritation bubbled in Jeff’s chest. How dare his own characters argue with him?
“Readers will only get you so far, Jeff,” Jasmine soothed. “All of them want something different. All we want is for our lives to be consistent. We don’t enjoy surprises that come out of nowhere.”
Jeff’s shoulders slumped. He’d been stuck for a few days on a reason for the Feldall siblings to go after Rafe, so he knew these two were right.
“We’re only trying to help,” Jared said. “But if you could throw me Tania’s way….And I wouldn’t mind a new sword.”
“Don’t be greedy,” Jasmine scolded her brother. “I’d be happy if our enemy was someone worth fighting. And if I didn’t have to marry Corey.”
Jeff ran his hand through his hair, thinking. “Maybe Rafe could be Raul’s…disciple? Someone he mentored? Either out for revenge or to fill the power vacuum?”
“Better,” Jared nodded.
“And maybe you marry Corey, but since you’re away from home most of the time…” Jeff continued, encouraged.
“No.” Jasmine left no room for discussion.
Jeff sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Fine. I’ll figure something out.”
“Good,” Jared approved. “Now come on. Tania cooked up some venison this morning.”
Jeff’s eyebrows rose. “Tania cooks?”
Jared’s eyebrow rose. “She’s only the best in the province.”
Jeff shook his head again. How was there so much he didn’t know about the people he had created? Inwardly he groaned. This would mean rewrites.