Neverlasting Light


Photo © Sandra Crook

“The ever-lights went out?  How?”

“Their spells ended, m’lord?”

Jareni frowned at his marshal.  “All at once?  Unlikely.”

Chaos shouted from the dark city below.

“So, relight them.”

The mage-apprentice blanched.  “Nobody’s left who can, m’lord.”

He’d executed two top mages. Others had disappeared, their replacements inexplicably delayed.  Then century-old spells failed?  Too coincidental.  It was Jareni’s turn to blanch.  “Are the wards functioning?”

Shock crossed every face.  They hadn’t checked.

Had he been fooled twice, his loyal mages framed for another’s treason? “More guards to–”

Hearing the clashing swords, Jareni’s heart sank.  His doubts had come too late.

Word count: 100. Written for this week’s Friday Fictioneers flash fiction challenge.  Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting, and to Sandra Crook for providing the photo prompt, above!  Click the link to join in, or to just read the other stories written based on this photo.


65 thoughts on “Neverlasting Light

    • It’s true, he made the wrong decision this time! And yet, how do you ever know if you have dug deep enough? I imagined that Jareni had been deliberately handed very strong, clear evidence of their guilt — whoever the real traitor is was very good about covering his own tracks and blaming someone else.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Someone wasn’t thinking when he had those with magic to do vital spells for all of society executed or had them “disappear.” Seems to me this is among who was corrupted by his power and fear of others’ power and now he’s paying the price, or will soon.
    Light is always interesting I think they are always metaphorical meanings behind it like the lights going out in this kingdom like the kings rule ending.
    Loved this.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Interesting, I hadn’t thought about the interpretation that Jareni had made them disappear. I was thinking that the other mages either ran off thinking that they’d get caught up in the treason investigation, or left because they actually *were* the traitors, or maybe had been “disappeared” by the traitors so that Jareni wouldn’t have them. My idea for Jareni was that he was tricked by the real evil mastermind into thinking the wrong people were the traitors (see my comment above), which isn’t that unrealistic given how these things work in real life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I did think about Jareni being doomed by an evil other, but also got the idea that he was tricked so put to death many mages who weren’t quilts of any crimes and could have fixed the lights. But I definitely see where you were going.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Whoever conned him into convicting those mages knew what they were doing, that’s for sure! Presumably it’s the same person or group who helped “disappear” the other mages and is responsible for the delay in the replacements showing up. Jareni clearly needs better spies. Thanks for reading Iain!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Funny how everyone assumes that Jareni was hasty, rather than that the bad guy was really good at framing the mages with false evidence. It’s the problem with the limited word count: I could have spent more time outlining that he had really good reasons to convict the mages, but that would take a while. Unfortunately, with almost all of these cultures, if you’re convicted of something as horrible as treason, they pretty much execute you right away. It’s not like the modern judicial system, where they lock you up for fifty years and keep re-trying the case. I’m glad you found it intriguing, either way — thanks Lynn!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true – treason was taken more seriously than almost any crime and you’re right, you might and up being hung drawn and quartered within weeks. Horrifying. And I know what you mean about word count – hard to get the nuances across in such a tight limit. Still a great story though

        Liked by 1 person

      • Or even shorter than weeks — like, immediately! But this is a good lesson for me, in terms of remembering that people bring their own modern assumptions and sensibilities to what they read. It’s one thing to know intellectually that people used to be executed all the time (or used to think having slaves, restricting women’s rights, and whipping their children for blasphemy was normal, etc.) and it’s another thing to read about that in fiction and not immediately think that person is a bad guy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Different times, different standards. There are so many examples from the past. King Richard III was lambasted for being disabled, for killing his own nephews and seizing the throne, but really he did what any sensible Medieval monarch would have done to protect his own interests and was only truly criticised when the opposing royal house, the Tudors, overthrew him. Our moral compasses swing in different ways to our forebears.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This always happens when power-hungry men grab power. They execute the most powerful and influential, thinking this will consolidate their power. In the end, it nearly always undermines it…and the lights go out. Beware the Ides of March, Caesar. Some folks just don’t read up on history enough. Brilliant story, Joy!

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL — I guess I’ll have to accept that I wrote a story others like, but only if they interpret it completely differently than I meant it! (See previous comments…) But hey, I’ll take the “brilliant”, even if it wasn’t intended — thanks, Eric!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, he is a lord, so of course he’s called that. It seems a lot of readers assumed that he executed the mages hastily — as you say “on mere suspicion” — but I don’t see anything in the text that says that. I was picturing a trial, lots of clear evidence against them, all his advisors and judges saying the mages were obviously guilty, caught red-handed… I guess most people just assume the worst of leaders, that’s sad.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true, if you start executing people willy-nilly, you’re going to have a hard time getting new applicants! I didn’t think that was what happened in this case, but clearly my readers have a different impression. Thanks for commenting!


    • It’s true, magic is like any other technology — if you don’t have someone around to fix it when it goes wrong, you’re in big trouble! In this case, nothing had gone wrong in over a century, though, so this was not only an unexpected glitch but a very suspicious one… Hm….

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I can see what you mean when you say that the story doesn’t tell us that Jareni is a tyrant, or too hasty. I confess that the first time I read the story I had him cast as a villain. The only thing I can see that points that way is “The mage-apprentice blanched”. Why? I felt that the likely reason would be that he was in fear of his own life, which would only be reasonable if the mages had been arbitrarily executed. Also, you don’t tell us anything positive about Jareni.
    But whichever you read it, you’ve written a satisfying story!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can definitely see how people read it differently than how I intended. This has been a really useful learning exercise about what types of things need to be spelled out more clearly than I’d realized. Especially with flash fiction, you have to rely a lot on hints, and realize that readers will bring their own assumptions to it — like, that anyone who executed someone must be a bad guy. I took a lot of notes this morning about things to keep in mind in the future!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m sure here is contained a message to us all. For myself, it reminds me that I once threw away folders full of notes I later required. Though we cannot see our future needs, it’s the unwise who doesn’t set a modicum by.
    And as always, it amazes me how you pack so much into so few words.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting take, thank you for sharing! Yes, I was thinking of that angle too, where you suddenly wish you hadn’t done something. Here, that he had concluded that his mages were guilty of treason (which in my mind had been backed up by solid evidence, that everyone around him agreed with at the time) and then… that gut-wrenching feeling that he had not only done something terrible that can’t be taken back, but that he’d been deliberately tricked into it by his real enemy (who is now, apparently, at the door).

      I appreciate your support, but given the number of people who did not see the story the way I intended, it seems I didn’t pack quite *enough* into those words, LOL! Ah well, it’s a good learning experience. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the real enemy is out there, but who? I doubt anyone devious enough to get the whole court to convict the top mages would risk their own neck in the sword clashes happening outside the door. They’re probably hanging back to see how things work out before showing their face(s). Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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