Prompt #4: The Warning – 501 Prompts

The Prompt

She doesn’t know why he can read the runes.
In: 5000 Writing Prompts by Bryn Donovan

My Story

Last night strange runes had appeared on the outer palace wall, right above the entrance gate. By the time the palace guard had noticed it, the whole city was already gossiping about it. There had been no other topic on the market that day. Out of curiosity, Shelay decided to take a detour on her way home to see it with her own eyes. Her little brother Toni complained, but she held his hand firm and forced him to keep up with her.

A huge crowd had gathered in front of the palace gate. The guard had formed a protective circle to keep the people at bay and to give their scholars room. Collectively, they were scratching their heads in ignorance.
The king was standing among them.

“I don’t care what it says! I want to know who did it!” he screamed. His head was a bright red from all the shouting. His right eye twitched nervously. Shelay saw him for the first time and thought him an ugly man. Must be why he never leaves the palace, she thought.

“Yes, my king.”, answered the head scholar and bowed so deep that Shaley suspected his majestic head garment would fall off his head.
“Bring me the head of the guard.”

A low murmuring went through the crowd. But no one dared to speak up too much in the presence of their ruler. A soldier scuffled away and returned shortly after with a solidly built man in his company. His uniform was richly decorated with medals and insignia.

“Who was on duty last night?” The king cut right through the chase.
The head of the guard looked confused.
“Do I have to repeat myself?!”
“No, Majesty. The… the gate was guarded by our 12th division.”
“I’m not talking about just the gate.”
“My king?”, the captain asked unsurely.
“Execute the whole night shift. It will teach others to be more vigilant.”
The captain looked shocked, but he knew better than to object. He gave a crisp salute and ran off.

Shelay didn’t understand the king’s anger. The runes high above the gate didn’t even say anything. Some signs, gibberish at best. But they looked rather beautiful to her. Round elegant lines, distinct curves, and shapes. She even believed they glowed in a faint blueish hue.

“Is the king upset because of the Tyrants returning?”, asked Tony, tugging on her arm.
“The who?”
“The Tyrants.”, he repeated earnestly.
“Don’t be silly. This isn’t one of your games.” She gave her brother a stern look.

“It’s written there! I’m not making this up. I swear!”

A surge of panic flooded Shelay, and she knelt down to face him directly. She lowered her voice to a whisper.

“Shh! Don’t tell me you can actually read this?!”
Toni nodded, a tear in the corner of his eye.
“What does it say?”, she asked, curious, making sure no one around them was listening.
“They’re returning. At the end of summer. It sounds like a warning. I’m scared, Shelay.”
She didn’t know how and why he can read the runes. But instinctively, she knew what to do.

“We have never been here. Never talk of this to anyone ever again. Do you understand me?”

My Thoughts

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Writing time: 22 minutes
Editing time: 30 minutes

Lately, I’ve been reading high fantasy novels. Ancient prophecies, world-ending threats, and all that stuff. I think that’s precisely where my idea for this prompt came from.

Immediately I pictured a small child achieving something, others couldn’t: reading those strange runes. Maybe I thought of the boy from ‘The Shining’ what was his name again? Actually, the creepy voice imaginary friend was named Toni, right? What a coincidence that his name came to me when writing this.

I put our point of view in the shoes of his older sister. Her curiosity got the better of her. She wanted to see what the fuzz is all about. But she’ll probably never forget this day and her brother reading the creepy prophecy.

Who put the words up there? And who are the Tyrants? I have no idea. Is it really a warning or did Toni just make all that up? Who would warn anyone in a language that nobody else knows how to read? That doesn’t seem too helpful!

But, if it’s true, their return seems to be pretty bad. I’m sorry for the people in this world. Not only do they have to live under a terrible kind who has lost any connection to his people and isn’t above tyranny himself. But it might be the last summer they experience their world as they know it.

What are the stories that inspire you in your creative process?

Make sure to check out the previous prompt. Or read the next one!


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