Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Picture Tells 5,000 Words Challenge: "The Aspiring Artist"-- Hazel West

Here's my contribution based loosely off the picture "Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Izard" by John Singleton Copley.

The Aspiring Artist
By Hazel West

Charlotte Applebee had never been what one could call an artist. Of course she was an accomplished young lady as is to be expected: she could play the piano, and sew and be a good hostess and everything else that was expected of a young woman in the 18th century. But her one failing had been that she had never been able to hold a straight line in her sketching. Trees looked like celery stalks, rocks turned into such shapes nature never could have formed, and we shall not even discuss what the poor baby rabbits that had been her last attempt turned out to look like. This was a continuous annoyance and frustration for Charlotte, for she wished nothing more than to out-sketch her rival, Gwyneth Cumberfinch and she was determined to become an accomplished artist or was sure to perish trying.
            Her mother decided, after trying and failing to help her daughter herself, to get her a tutor, the best in the land, one Harold Herselbert, a man of modest means who had made his way in the world by his skills as an artist as well as a teacher. Mrs. Applebee knew that if anyone could teach her hopeless daughter, it would be he.
            So finally came the first meeting, one lovely spring day. Mr. Herselbert came to the Applebee estate and met with Miss Applebee for the first time. Charlotte was nervous for the meeting and nearly spilled tea in his lap, anxious to show him her portfolio and really learn how atrocious it was.
            “Do promise to tell me the truth, Mr. Herselbert,” Charlotte pleaded as she reluctantly handed him her sketchbook. “I must know how bad they really are.”
            “I’m sure they are not as bad as you think. We are usually our own worst critics,” Mr. Herselbert assured her with a smile before he flipped open the sketchbook.
            That was when he realized that she might have not been jesting after all. The first picture might have been a still life, but it might also have been a horse, he couldn’t tell for certain. The next one was even more indecipherable; there was surely no hope in telling what that was. The next one showed incomprehensive blobs on a background that might possibly have been grass if one had a good imagination.
            “May I ask what this is supposed to be, Miss Applebee?” Mr. Herselbert inquired in all politeness.
            “Oh, that is supposed to be some baby rabbits that I found in the garden,” Charlotte told him, clasping her hands. “Is it very awful?”
            “It’s not that your drawing is…bad as such…” Mr. Herselbert said, trying to be as tactful as possible. “It’s just very…obscure. I am having a bit of difficulty in deciding what the subject matter is.”
            “That does seem to be a common problem,” Charlotte nodded in resignation. “Oh, and find even I cannot tell what some are, I have no recollection of that one!” She was pointing to the current page with a horrified finger, which held something that, if Mr. Herselbert didn’t know any better, he would say was some sort of mythological creature only to be found in the Ninth Circle of Hell.
            “Well, I would say that you at least have an imagination, and you do seem eager,” he said, quickly shutting the sketchbook. He had seen enough. “I am willing to teach any student who is willing to work at it, so I shall show you a few techniques that may help you find lines better, and then we shall go out and sketch some.”
            Days passed and Mr. Herselbert did his best to show Charlotte a few tricks to make her craft easier, and her work more legible. She did work very hard, but in all truth, she was still utterly horrible—there really was no other way to put it.
            He tried to show her how to draw an egg, but that was obviously too complicated. In truth a chicken would likely perish from laying an egg that shape, and then they ventured outside to the garden to see if flowers suited her any better.
            They did not, as it turned out, in fact, they looked like something from a nightmarish land. The same thing happened with the trees, which went from looking like celery to carrots with rocks that looked like potatoes and birds that looked like worms eating all the vegetables. He was almost afraid to move on to living things after those failed attempts, but he had to do something, as Miss Applebee was not improving any other way.
            “Perhaps, instead of drawing a living person, you should try one from a painting,” he suggested to her as they sat in the Applebees’ drawing room where there was a mural on the wall of a statue and some landscape.
            “I don’t know if I’m ready for that, Mr. Herselberg, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of drawing inanimate objects yet,” Charlotte said uncertainly.
            “Technically, it’s still an inanimate object,” Mr. Herselbert told her. “I just think it might help you to understand the process by drawing from someone else’s work.”
            “Well, alright, if you think I can do it,” she replied, not completely assured in herself, and flipped to a new page in her sketchbook as she sharpened her pencils, dutifully setting to work.
            The next day, Mr. Herselbert came at his usual time to see what his student had finished. He actually had high hopes for this one, but those hopes were hopelessly dashed as Miss Applebee put the paper in front of him.
            “Oh my…” He was unable to help himself.
            “Is it very awful?” Charlotte asked anxiously.
            “It is certainly…abstract,” he replied.
            “I’m afraid I didn’t really understand the picture. It looks like a father refusing to embrace his son but I don’t really understand why.”
            “You don’t have to understand the subject that you are drawing,” Mr. Herselbert assured her as he put the picture on the table gingerly, and almost hesitantly pointed out a very oddly shaped spot. “Is this a hand?”
            “It is a foot.”
            “Then why is it up here?”
            “Because that’s the ground. And these are the heads, and this is a tree.”
            He listened intently as she pointed these things out, her guide doing nothing to help him better see what was in front of him. Finally, he sat back with a sigh.
            “My dear, I’m afraid we might have to face the fact that you might not ever be able to sketch. I feel it just isn’t for you. Perhaps another pursuit will suit you better.”
            “Oh, but how will I ever compete with Miss Cumberfinch now?” Charlotte bewailed. “It is just that she is so very good, and I am so very awful. I don’t know what to do, she is so very tiresome, you see.”
            Mr. Herselbert thought a moment, then said, “Perhaps you should offer to draw a portrait of her.”
            “But you just said yourself that I am not very good at all!”
            “Oh, I see!” Charlotte said, a new light in her eyes. “I will do so as soon as I can.”
            Two days later, Mr. Herselbert came back one last time more for the sake of Mrs. Applebee than for her daughter, only to find a very disgruntled Charlotte sitting in the drawing room with her sketchbook.
            “What’s the matter, Miss Applebee?” he asked her.
            “Look at this portrait of Miss Cumberfinch, it is terrible!”
            Mr. Herselbert took the sketchbook and was shocked to be greeted by a picture that, while not entirely skilled, was actually distinguishable as a young woman. He was so surprised, in fact, that he allowed himself a gasp.
            “Why, Miss Applebee, this is actually very good. You should not be disappointed in it.”
            “I know it’s good, that’s the problem!” Charlotte huffed. “I wanted to draw her badly and then this happened!”
            “Perhaps that is your secret then,” Mr. Herselbert told her and handed back her sketchbook. “You might simply have been trying too hard all this time.”
            “You think so?”
            “I think you should try again.”
            “Oh, well, I don’t think I’m going to,” Charlotte told him. “You see, I have given up on drawing, I have actually decided to take up writing instead! I have already started a story. It’s rather gothic, I’m afraid. I was actually inspired by some of my own drawings! They are just so beastly I couldn’t help myself. Would you like to read it?”
            Mr. Herselbert smiled his best smile and accepted the ink-blotted papers that she handed to him, resigning himself to his fate.

Copyright© 2015 by Hazel B. West

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Picture Tells 5,000 Words Challenge: "Sacrifice" -- Abigail Leskey

Here is Abigail's story inspired by the painting  “S.O.S.” by Evelyn De Morgan. 

By Abigail H. Leskey

     I am Myrna; and tonight I am to be sacrificed to the Sea, that the Sea may rise and swamp the Red-Crests, that she may sink their galleys, that she may defend this land. I am willing. This would not be done were I not; what value would the Sea place on one who died in anger?
     Today I am going to my favored place. Look, there; up that slope. I climb, brushing past heather. A bee lands on my fiery hair. Ahead is a cave, one too small for dry sleeping, but great enough for me to sit and look far away. I enter and sit on the round of stump I carried up here, having no lad to do it for me. This is just as well. I doubt I should be a willing sacrifice had I a love. Though is it strange I have not, being old enough to be the mother of two or three were I matched.
     There, far below, heather and rocks; and then the Sea. The Sea is mine and I shall be hers, and from over her my father came, from a land called Eire. Back to that land he sailed, while my mother was moon-shaped with me, and he has never returned to us. My mother was sad of this when she was dying.
     Eire is not far. Today is a fine day, and I can see that place. Often some one of us goes there, or one of them comes here. My mother was proud, and stayed here in Alba. Eire looks green; I did hope, someday, to see it. When I was younger I used to dream of swimming there and forcing my father to return. I became a fine swimmer, practicing.
    I sit and watch the sea. It is darker than the sky, and when the sky begins to darken and become fire and apple and heather colors, it is still darker, and looks as if it knows what it is receiving today. I rise and walk down towards where my people are waiting. We will feast.   
     I do not eat much, but I am not distraught. I watch the fires and my people. Soon the fires and the round moon and the tiny stars are all the light left, and we walk down to the Sea. The tide is partway risen, and our chief and priests and I wade through the Sea to reach the rock. I hold my white gown up, although that makes little sense.
     I stand on the rock, and the chief and the priests speak to the Sea as it rises, telling her what we desire in exchange for me. Then the chief asks me for the last time, “Are you willing, Myrna Nic Aodh, to belong to the Sea?”
     “I am willing,” I say. They all leave then, quiet. The moon is above me, the rock is beneath me, and the Sea is around me.
     After the water rises a hand’s-breadth, I hear a voice cry out the name my father called my mother. “Aoife!” I turn and look behind me. A tall old man is rowing a boat towards me, and he cries out again the name he called my mother.
     “My mother is dead,” I say. “I am Myrna.”
     “Dead?” He ceases rowing, and drifts back, away from me.
     “She is dead.”
     “Are you my daughter?”
     “I fear so,” I say coldly, and turn my back on him.  I hear his oars. Now he is before me. I look like him.
     “Come on, get in,” he says.
     “I will not,” I say.
     “You’ll drown!”
     I stare at him. “I will. I am a sacrifice to the Sea. A willing one. Go back to Eire. I do not wish to spend this time in your company.”
      “Myrna—I meant to return. One of my kin had been slain…. I lost all memory—a sword-blow—for as many years as I have fingers and then that again.” He looks at me earnestly, sadly, and I credit him.
     “I am sorry,” I say. “My mother wanted you when she was dying.”
     “Come, Myrna.”
     “No,” I say. “I am saving my people from the Red Crests. I chose this.”
     “Your mother was stubborn.”
     I nod. “I am glad to have seen you.”
     He bows his head and rows. Around a corner of rock he vanishes.
     Water splashes my bare foot. The Sea is rising. As I look down at it, through the center of the moon’s reflection barges a dark-brown head. It is a sea-monster. It opens its snout, and many sharp teeth stay white as fire flames from deep inside the hairless beast. Another, its mate, silently pokes up beside it; and then behind me I hear a roar, and see bat-like wings spraying as a lizard pulls itself from the Sea with them.
     I close my eyes.
     Nothing, except more roaring. I stand while the Sea rises over my feet and climbs my dress. The monsters seem to be waiting.
     Then a Sea wave rushes and throws me forward, and we fall together onto the monsters and into the Sea.
    I sink in it. I am a willing sacrifice.
    A monster swims through the water toward my face, and will-less I jerk back and surface for a moment.
    As I go under, scratched by monster claws, it is as if my heart struck its forehead. This is water.  The Sea is just water, and these are just animals. The sea is water. Teeth rip at my leg, and I cry out under water, and make myself rise. I am willing to die, but not merely that one more dead creature may float in water or fill the bellies of these beasts.
     I’m fighting.
     I reach the surface and gasp, but it still has my leg. I kick with the other, and scream defiance as one with three heads wriggles at me and another grabs my arm.
      I go underwater, my white dress ripping and floating. Something dark is above, and I see a wooden paddle. I shove a monster away from my throat, slam another into my rock—a good thing these are small beasts!—and get my head up. My father clutches my hair and then my shoulders, and I grab the side as he stabs the monster biting my arm. It grunts and plops into the water. He jerks me into the boat, and passes me a knife even as he slits the throat of the monster sucking at my one leg, yelling as it emits fire and roasts his hand. I shove the knife into the head of a smaller one entangled in my white rags.
     There are no monsters in the boat. We each grasp an oar and row for Eire. I am bleeding from four places, but I will be well in time.
     A splash, a roar, and fire coats the back of our boat. We are the head of a procession. I push my oar into my father’s hand, rip off most of the lower part of my gown, and slap its wetness against the fire until it is out.
      The foremost monster is now behind us, and we are gaining. I row again, shivering. We run onto the shore of Eire and my father helps me out of the boat. He ties it. We are safe.
     My father looks at me, soaking wet, bleeding, barely covered. I look at him, also wet, with a burnt hand.
    My father recognizes that this situation is so peculiar that there is nothing to do save act as if it were not. “Welcome to Eire, daughter,” he says. I try to say something. My nose coughs four times. He puts an arm around me, and we walk onto greenness, away from the sea.   


Copyright© 2015 by Abigail Leskey

Author’s Note
     This story is inspired by Evelyn De Morgan’s painting “S.O.S.” which you can view here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Evelyn_de_Morgan#/media/File:Evelyn_de_Morgan_-_S.O.S._%281914-1916%29.jpg

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Picture Tells 5,000 Words Challenge: "Valor By Fire" -- Joseph Leskey

First up is Joseph with his story using the piece "Sigurd pierced him with his sword, and he died" by Arthur Rackham

Valor by Fire
By Joseph Leskey

Sir James woke to his general, Sir Henry, looking straight at him. “On your feet, men, er, man.”
    James tried not to appear sleepy. Warily, he said, “Good morning, General.”
    The general smirked, and went out of the tent, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll be back soon; you’d better be ready.”
    “Yes, sir!” Reminding himself that now he was a soldier, he heaved himself up from his mat.            Straightening his new tunic, he stepped to his tent’s flap. Cringing, he opened it, and stepped through.
    He smiled with relief, when he saw his only true friend coming towards him. “William!”
    The man grinned. “I was almost shot, James!”
    “How?” James knew of no battles. “Why wasn’t I wakened?”
    “Some fool shot at me in his sleep.” He gestured behind him.
    “Which one?” asked James.
    “I didn’t check.” He threw a loaf of bread at James. “Eat quickly; I’ll distract everyone.” He quickly walked off.
    James sat down, cross-legged, on the grass and ate. After he did, he stalked over to where plans were being made for battles.
    “I greet you, Lord Right-hand,” jeered a soldier.
    James ignored him. Everybody knew that he was the only soldier to be right-handed.
    The general, who was loudly stating that a certain strategy wouldn’t leave enough food, turned abruptly. “Greetings, Sir James. I forgot about you…sorry!” He eyed James suspiciously.
    “I appreciate your apology,” said James.
    “There are reports of a fire beast,” prompted an officer, who was known as Sir Robert.
    “Shut up,” roared Sir Henry. “I’m getting to it.”
    “There’ve been reports of a huge, ferocious dragon. Of course, you will not be the one to kill it.   You’ve never done any valor in your life, and you’re too cowardly to do any.”
    James wisely kept his mouth shut.
    “One of our noble knights is out destroying the fiend,” continued Sir Henry. “Doubtless, he will be back soon.”
    A soldier quickly ran up. “Sir, our men are bringing back Sir Cedrick. He is greatly wounded.”
    “WHAT?” roared the general. “Bring him here at once.”
    They did so.
    “He doesn’t look very hurt,” James announced. Cedrick’s eyes opened, but shut quickly.
    “What do you know?” asked a soldier. “One of our doctors will fix him.”
    They took him away.
    The general said, “You can be excused.” James obeyed, and quickly went away to seek William.
    Instead, William found him. “James!”
    “Lord Right-hand, if you please!” James pretended to be offended.
    “Is that what they called you today?” asked William cheerfully. “Well, they are Sir Left-hands.” He smiled, a little mischievously. “At least you were not shot.”
    “Are you going to kill the dragon?” James asked.
    “Are you?”
    “The general said I wasn’t.”
    “Then neither will I.”
    “What about orders?”
    “I’ll suddenly fall ill.” William fell to the ground, weakly clutching at his throat.
    “Save yourself the trouble.” James grinned.
     Suddenly, the camp erupted with shouts of “Dragon!” James’ eyes quickly roved the sky. The beast was descending.
    “Archers!” shouted the general. Almost instantly, arrows started to fly. The dragon snarled, and headed quickly towards a nearby village.
    “We need to do something,” James shouted.
    “You seem to forget that I am the general,” stated Sir Henry, coming up behind him. “We will not go.”
    “That village has almost no protection,” yelled James in protest. “It is against all rules of chivalry to desert it.”
    “What would your mothers say?” William addressed the soldiers. He added, “Sir James, follow my example.”
    “What use are we dead?” shouted the general, as William started running. James followed him.    Before any objections came, they quickly borrowed crossbows and arrow-filled quivers from two puzzled nearby archers.
    Then they ran to the stable, the whole camp now following them. They jumped onto horses, grabbing long spears as they did so, and rode off.
    “Stop!” shouted the general.
    “There is a slight chance that he said to continue,” said William. “I’ll take it.”
    The two comrades hurried on, although the dragon greatly outdistanced them. Looking back, they saw that the entire camp was now on horseback, charging after them.
    “Maybe they changed their minds,” William shouted.
    “Only one mind needed to be changed,” said James. Among Sir Henry’s men, it was well known that their general wasn’t brave.
    The dragon decided to take the offensive. James winced as he realized that he had on no armor. As the beast came up, both he and William fired their crossbows. The projectiles glanced off.
    “It’s strong.” William stated the obvious. “At least it is gone from the village.”
    James took a deep breath. “Right.”
    The two quickly turned their mounts and followed the dragon, which suddenly plunged downward and landed.
    It breathed streams of fire in many different directions, and then the battle began. Every knight, except the general, started hacking away at the beast.
    It easily swatted them aside. The entire area was burning. William, at least, broke one of the dragon’s teeth. James rushed up to the dragon with his spear, but both he and his horse were thrown to one side.     The dragon quickly flew away, towards nearby mountains. Only one arrow followed it, this being   William’s. Nobody knew how he did it, but he had an uncanny ability to survive through most everything.
    “Well, shall we get up?” he asked.
    The general got to his feet first, with greatly exaggerated pain. Then, everybody else did, in almost one movement.
    The general turned to James and William. “Fools!” He snorted. “You must go and kill the dragon by yourselves, since you seem so eager to do so. You may not return until its head is in my hands.” As    William and James began to mount, the general snapped, “And don’t waste my horses.”
The two men obediently dismounted, and began to walk towards the mountain.
    Once they were a distance away, William remarked. “Well, now we both are going to kill it! Just what we wanted.”
    “We will see,” said James.
    Walking quickly, they soon reached the mountain, which they painfully climbed. Looking down, they were greatly joyed to see ten soldiers riding towards the mountain. This probably meant that they had come to help. They turned around, and to their surprise, saw the dragon. It swatted at them, but they ducked and lunged forward. It breathed a stream of fire, and James and William fell to the ground, rolling.
    It opened its huge mouth to have a snack, but it got a large rock that William had heaved up instead.   This it easily consumed.
    But, in the short amount of time that it chewed it, the two knights rolled away.
    They then leaped upon the dragon, smashing their spears into its scaly body.
    It suddenly flew up, and moving quickly dropped them in a nearby valley.
    Both spears were lost, but they quickly drew their swords. They remembered that this valley was greatly feared for its many enormously fat and long venomous servants.
    The serpents quickly came. The soldiers both fought them well; however, as they killed them, many more appeared.
    “We need some fire,” yelled William.
    “It’s right on top of that mountain,” said James, plunging his sword through the head of a snake.
    “We are supposed to be slaying a dragon.” William swung his sword around and cut the heads off five snakes. He suddenly turned and killed a snake behind James.
    “How many are there?” James shouted.
    “I don’t know, Sir James,” responded William. “But enough to fight an army.”
    “We need to get back to that dragon,” James said. The knights turned and started running towards the mountain, swinging their swords at the snakes.
    Then they began the long ascent, which was much more trouble than it had been before, as miniature rockslides were happening the whole time. The sounds of battle on the top enhanced the speed of the comrades.
    When they finally came to the top, they instantly began to fight. The metallic flash of swords and the ominous red glow of dragon fire came from the top of the mountain for nigh onto an hour.
    It ended by the mighty beast hurling them over the edge of the mountain, large rocks following them.    James was pinned to the ground by one. “William?”
    “Eh?” William smiled weakly.
    “I’m trapped.”
    “At least you aren’t dead!”
    The dragon suddenly descended, aiming its mouth towards the knights, now rendered harmless. Long streams of fire burst through its throat. For once, James was glad that there was a rock on top of him. But, even so, he struggled with all his might to heave it off. William, meanwhile, was painfully throwing rocks at the fire-breather. His amazing throws were smashing into the dragon’s head.
    With a mighty growl, the dragon opened its mouth wide and prepared to consume him. With great effort, James picked up a rock, and threw it at the beast. He was amazed when the rock smashed into the dragon’s neck. It worked. The dragon turned from William, and bore down on James, smashing soldiers into the side of the mountain with its tail as it went. James, finding that his sword was in his hand the entire time, swung it at the dragon. He missed. The dragon used its enormously long tail to pull a tree out of the ground. It smashed into the rock, which then fell through a sinkhole, James with it. James slashed at the dragon’s head. He missed. The rock, which he was now on top of, then turned, and he grabbed a nearby tree branch to steady himself. At that moment, William, with his last strength, hurled a large rock, which collided into the dragon with tremendous force. The dragon, smoke rising from its nostrils, opened its mouth and moved it towards the hole. The beast moved back quickly, however, when James made a quick slice to its tongue.
    In that instant, he saw a tiny hole, where a scale had been dislodged by William’s last stone.
    Thankful that he was right-handed, he thrust his sword at it with all his might. The sword went deep into the dragon. Green blood gushed out onto him. Then, the dragon fell into the hole, dead.
    “Oof!” shouted James. “William!” William, of course, did not hear him.
    Pushing with all his might, he could not dislodge the dragon.
    Finally, he began ripping the scales off it. Then, after a while he was able to cut the dragon in half, resulting in him being covered in the foul beast’s gore.
    “What my mother would say…” he chuckled.
    With many slices, he finally got free. He climbed a tree out of the hole, with the dragon’s head under his arm.
    “William!” he shouted, before running to his friend.
    “I fear that I don’t get to have a burial yet,” said William, yawning. “I always wondered what they were li…” He suddenly sat up. “You’re a mess.”
    “I think I know that,” James stated.
   The other men began to stir.
   “Fellow men-at-arms,” shouted William. “We’ve got our very own dragon bane.”
   Everybody cheered weakly, as James held up the head.
   “Now,” William continued. “How about fixing up some of these wounds? I’m all for it. Let’s go to the village.”
   His comrades followed his advice. Their horses had scattered, but they slowly made their way on foot.
   When they finally arrived at the village, the people instantly knew that they had killed the dragon.    The soldiers spent two days at the village. The whole time, people were shouting that they were the great warriors of the age. Then the twelve comrades, being given fresh horses, rode off towards their general’s camp.
    They put the new horses in the stable, and sneaked up to the camp. The first thing they heard was the general’s words, “Those fools are probably dead now, trying to go kill that dragon.”
    Another voice said, “Of course. Of course.”
Suddenly, there was the sound of beating hooves, and a messenger rode up on a white horse. William and James went to meet him. The other soldiers, being advised by William, went to their tents.
    “Greetings, Sirs,” said the messenger. “Do you know where I might find Sir Henry? I need to tell him that he has been replaced by one Sir James.”
    “He’s over there.” James waved an arm.
    “Thank you.” The messenger dismounted and started off in the direction.
    “James,” said William. “You are Sir James.”
    “What? Oh!” James started. “Sir messenger, wait!”
    “Is something wrong?”
    “No,” said James. “I am Sir James.”
    “You are?” asked the messenger, looking carefully at him. He broke into a wide grin. “Oh, yes! You are. I wondered why you had a dragon’s head. Here are the orders!” He gave James a roll of parchment. “Make sure you let Sir Henry know.”
    “I will,” said James, hardly believing that he was being promoted.
    The messenger mounted and rode away.
    James and William crept to their tents.
    Around midnight, William sneaked into James’s tent. “I can’t sleep, imagining the gen—Sir Henry’s face.”
    “Me neither,” said James, looking up. He was reading the order for the seventeenth time. They stayed awake all night talking about it. A while before dawn, they could not wait any more. They stood up, and marched over to Sir Henry’s large tent. Going inside, James put the dragon’s head into the demoted general’s hands, and said, “On your feet, man!”
    “What is this? Treachery?” The general looked at the dragon’s head.
    “I’ll be back. You’d better be ready.” James grinned. “And I won’t forget.”
    “Guards!” shouted the general. “This man has gone mad!”
    James quickly left, along with William, and began showing everybody his orders. Everybody was extremely glad about them. Now that James had saved them all from a dragon, they disrespected him no more.
    “General Right-hand!” they cheered.
    “What’s this? More treason?” asked Sir Henry, wandering from his tent. He was no longer holding the head.
    “These are joyful soldiers,” corrected William.
    James carelessly tossed his orders on the strategy table.
    “Even more treachery? Why were you looking at my strategies? What are you doing back, anyway? You are dead.”
    “You seem to forget that all of the men here made those strategies,” reproved James, evading the other two questions. The soldiers cheered.
    Sir Henry sat down at the table, and glanced at the orders. His eyes widened. Then he turned purple and red.
    “WHAT?” he thundered. “They cannot do this!”
    “I didn’t tell them to,” said James.
    “I–you–you coward!” shouted Sir Henry.
    “Why are you calling my friend a coward?” asked William. “Do you want to challenge him?”
    Sir Henry turned pale. “No! But I must be the general.”
    “I have some good advice for you,” stated William.
    “What’s that?”
    “Go fight some dragons.”
    “What? There aren’t any more.”
    “I’ve got a better idea, William,” said James.
    “What would that be, Sir?”
    James raised his voice. “Men, we will go kill some big, ferocious snakes! All who wish to, and also Sir Henry, will.”

Copyright© 2015 by Joseph Leskey