We’re now in week three (of five) for this odd task in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Two weeks ago, I (and many others) wrote a 200 word fraction of a story, intended to be the first 1/5 of a story. Last week, everyone took someone else’s first 200 word fragments and wrote a second 200 word addition. This week, I’ll take the first 400 words created by two other folks and add my third 200 words. Clear as mud? It’s actually quite fun and interesting
As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.
THE THIRD TWO HUNDRED WORDS
(First segment written by Jeremiah Boydstun [boydstun215] and posted here.)
The soldiers carried the man across the narthex and through the nave. They lumbered along like some giant, wounded insect, three pairs of cold, stiff legs shuffling clumsily beneath a motley carapace of steel and leather. Close upon their heels, the master-of-arms was careful to avoid the hissing droplets of blood that the insect left in its wake. His sword was drawn.
At the end of the nave and standing at the foot of the chancel, the bishop held a gilded crosier at arm’s length as if to thwart the advance of the shambling mass making its way toward the altar. In his other hand he grasped a large silver crucifix. Despite his advanced age and diminutive stature, the crimson-robed bishop made for an imposing figure. “No further,” he whispered. The soldiers stopped , unsure of themselves. One of the men looked down nervously into the pale face of the man he carried while the other two turned their heads in askance to the master-at-arms. For several moments the only sound was the steady hiss of the blood as fell from the lifeless man and met the cold marble floor.
“It must be done here,” said the master-at-arms. “Take him to the altar.”
(Second segment written by Adrienne and posted here.)
The bishop moved aside, letting the soldiers scramble up the few steps to the altar. His crimson robes did nothing to shield him from the cold radiating from their frozen armor. The slick marble stairs proved difficult for the exhausted soldiers as they stumbled and fell under their heavy load. Grim-faced, the master–at-arms followed their procession, only sheathing his sword to offer aid in heaving the unconscious man atop the bare altar.
The soldiers scurried away, stealing a glance at the stone table before fixing their gaze on their snow-crusted boots. The master-at-arms moved to the side of the altar where the man’s head rested. His shallow breaths produced a faint mist in the cold air. Steady drops of blood from his mouth had already created a small pool that hissed quietly on the stone. The master-at-arms looked down at the man’s face, searching for any hint of the soldier he once knew, but finding only the thing he had become. A sharp intake of air through the pale, bloodied lips tore the master-at-arms away from his thoughts.
The bishop joined the master-at-arms. Two terrified altar boys carrying trays covered with vials, books, crucifixes, and various cutting tools followed closely behind.
“It is time.”
(Third segment written by Paul Willett [momdude])
The master-at-arms glanced at his men. “Stand ready,” he said, “if we fail, the abomination must not be allowed to leave this place.”
He took a heavy knife from an altar boy’s tray and began to cautiously cut through the frozen leather straps holding the man’s armor together. He was careful to jostle the breastplate as little as possible, each touch of it bringing a soft moan of pain from the dying victim. He studiously avoided looking at the gaping hole in the center of it, or the throbbing, writhing creature inside.
As the master-at-arms worked, the bishop began sprinkling holy water across the shuddering figure on the altar, murmuring prayers. He took a thurible from an altar boy, sprinkled incense over the coals, and circled the altar slowly. A thin, warbling chant escaped his lips.
When all of the armor save for the breastplate had been cut away and removed, the bishop retrieved the heavy silver crucifix and stood on one side of the altar, while the master-at-arms stood on the other and prepared to tear away the sundered steel. Their eyes met and the bishop gave a small nod.
A powerful woman’s voice echoed through the cathedral. “Stop!”