Written for the New York Midnight Challenge 2018 (Flash Fiction, 1000 words, fixed prompts). Illustration by Rebecca Evans.
The Warlock’s Rebellion
Alfen was once the Lord of all warlocks, but when he lost the Great Battle against the witches, he was condemned to be a garbage collector for the rest of his life. Until one morning, he discovers something unexpected in the rubbish…
Alfen whistled as he worked, lifting the fairies’ bins with one hand. He chuckled at their weight; they were mere thimbles in his palm. He gently tipped them into his garbage truck, and out fell glowing ribbons, broken wings, and a dozen empty bottles of Absynthia. “Someone had a party,” he murmured, placing the bins back down in the garden with care.
Alfen climbed back into his beloved truck, which he’d affectionately named Berta. It was a bruised and rattling vehicle from the dark ages, but Alfen was lucky. When the forest fell to the witches in the Great Battle, the warlocks were condemned to a lifetime of servitude. As their Lord, Alfen was destined for far worse, but his servant had swapped places with him at the last moment. He’d been a bin man for centuries, and Alfen had all but forgotten what life was like before.
“Come on, Berta. Off we go.” Alfen whistled again and checked the sky, streaked with orange bellied clouds. His shift was almost done, but he always left the worst til last.
He swung his truck into The Witches’ Quarter, and felt the temperature drop. The shadowed street was lined with towering palaces, their turrets stabbing the soft dawn air. He wondered how many princesses were imprisoned behind those bars. Sometimes he’d spot a ribbon of hair trailing from the turret, like a flag in the wind.
The truck hissed to a stop, and Alfen reluctantly stepped out. The swirling runes on his skin instantly glowed blue, and he tugged his sleeves down to his wrists. Every time Alfen came close to these sleeping hags, his bones sang with spells begging to be cast. But without a wand, he could do nothing.
Alfen unclipped the shovel from the side of the truck. Even the trolls were polite enough to put their waste in bags, but the witches simply dumped their trash on the cobbles. He scooped up a severed dragon’s head, a split cauldron and a few eyeless newts, and flung them into Berta’s rear.
He moved methodically along, until he came to the grandest palace. The High Witch. Alfen spat at the front gate, as was his tradition, then set about scooping up the kitchen waste. He had barely made a dent in the pile of chopped vegetables and mouldy meat cuts, when he yelped and dropped the shovel. There, in a halo of cabbage leaves, was the face of a princess.
Alfen knelt down and tentatively brushed a few leaves away, revealing a pretty neck and bosom. He checked her pulse; he couldn’t find it, but the flush in her lovely cheeks told him she was certainly under a spell. Perhaps with a kiss, like the ancient myths, he could break it?
He gently lowered his mouth to hers. Out of nowhere, her fist smacked his jaw and sent him staggering back.
“That’s totally non-consensual, you old cretin.” She rasped, spitting a bite of black apple at him.
“I – I’m sorry.” Alfen stuttered. “I thought if you were under a spell, maybe I could save you.”
“You’re the one being saved today, Lord Alfenzar.”
Alfen froze. He had not heard his true name for so long. The princess stood up, and a green pork chop slid to the floor with a wet squelch. “There’s no time to explain. We need to go, before they notice my glass coffin is empty.”
“Go where?” He asked, dumbly.
“I’ll explain later, let’s just move.” Alfen stared at the princess, with her tattered dress and wild black hair. Behind her, he saw Berta, idling patiently for him. He shook his head.
“I can’t… If I don’t finish my rounds, they punish me. I was late once and spent a decade as a frog. Never again.”
The princess laid a hand on his arm, making his runes glow red through the sleeves. “Some things are worth being a frog for,” she said softly, “Now please, let’s go.”
Her coaxing words worked. He let himself be pulled to his truck and they climbed in.
“Warlock’s Forest.” Alfen stared at her, the name of his old realm ringing in his ears. He swallowed, then began to drive out of the quarter as fast as he dared.
“You’ve no idea how long we’ve been planning this.” The princess whispered. “And we did it.” Did what? Alfen wanted to ask, but he waited. Eventually, once they’d parked by the edge of the trees, she continued.
“I’ve been part of the forest rebellion since birth. My mother knew it was only a matter of time before the witches caught me on a princess hunt. At least if I got snatched, I’d be on the inside.”
She looked up at him, eyes shining. Alfen was nonplussed.
“You’re going to beat her, Alfenzar. All you ever needed was her wand. With hers, you can rule all the wands in this world.”
Oh no, Alfen thought sadly. The girl was deranged. Maybe a fairy had turned a pumpkin into a princess, and then forgotten to reverse the process.
“You don’t believe, yet.” She said. Then she slipped a hand in her dress, and pulled out something that made Alfen’s heart stop.
It was a wand.
Not just any wand. The High Witch’s.
“Welcome, warlock, to your rebellion.” The princess said, and placed the wand in his palm.
An explosion of light filled the truck. Berta shook and swayed, as Alfen’s skin burned with blue fire. His runes dazzled the air and ricocheted off the glass, one by one they spun into the wand to await his command. His lips moved with his ancestors’ incantations, until at last, the words trailed away, and the light dimmed.
The princess opened her eyes. Alfen sat with the glowing wand in his hand, tears of joy running down his cheeks. He looked up with reborn eyes, and saw hundreds of creatures watching him from the shadow of the forest. They bowed.
Lord Alfenzar had returned.
Fixed prompts: Fantasy, Garbage Truck, Pork Chop