The Messenger (Flash Fiction)

“Captain! A rider approaches!”

The captain spun around at the news and made a quick sprint to the wall. The wooden spikes of the outpost were crude and clumsy, but they gathered at the approach with all the air of seriousness.

“Kill him!” shouted Garold.

“We should see who it is first before we kill him, don’t you think?” asked the watchman.

“Yes,” said the captain. “We should certainly wait before deciding to kill him.” He adjusted his trousers to ensure a proper level of snugness. “It looks to be a messenger,” he said. “He’s alone and unarmed.”

“Kill him!” shouted Garold again. He grabbed his trusty pike and charged to the outpost’s threshold.

“Not yet, Garold!” chided the captain. “Let us hear the message first!”

The rider approached the small gate and waited. On his horse, he stood taller than the highest section of the feeble fortification. His cool eyes glared down at the three sentries, and they took it quite personally. Garold opened the gate with a scowl and brandished his pike with his most opposing stance. The rider trotted in with great pomp.

“I want his horse,” whispered the watchman to the captain.

“You have a horse!” said the captain much too loudly.

“Yes, but I fancy his,” hissed the watchman. They both startled back slightly when they saw that the messenger had plainly heard them.

The rider, far too important to bother with climbing down to the soggy ground, unrolled a parchment of considerable length and began his reading with a voice both proud and mighty. The sound was majestic and caused Garold to temporarily forget his violent disposition.

“To my watch in the north: It has been brought to my most immediate of attentions that this outpost has been the primary source of several degrees of complaint. Travelers throughout my land have given direct comment and tiresome testimony of immediate threat of their lives while traveling in the proximity of this outpost.”

The watchman and the captain gave Garold a glare. Garold blushed and pretended to not hold a rusty pike in his hand.

“I hereby order,” continued the messenger, “the immediate disbanding of this outpost. Those who attend this station are to report to my castle immediately for remedial duties and tedious trainings in civility. Your Lordship Bob, Duke of Bobshire.” The messenger finished his reading with a firm nod and scowled down upon them with disapproval. The three guards coalesced around the man’s horse.

“Kill him,” said Garold quietly, or so he thought.

“You can’t kill me!” scoffed the messenger.

The captain eyed the man fiercely. “Well why not?”

“This very message says it’s forbidden!”

The captain conferred with his men and quickly came to his conclusion. “The message says nothing of death being forbidden. It only says that people have lodged complaints against it.”

The messenger gaped. “Yes, but… I mean— Your Lordship intends to disband you because of it!”

The captain waved a finger in disagreement. “The message speaks of complaints being the reason for disbanding our station. Sir Bob does not specifically state that the killing of travelers is a disagreeable course of action.”

“See,” said Garold. “If we would’ve killed more of those buggers we wouldn’t be hearing about such nonsense.”

“Quite right,” said the captain.

The messenger scanned their faces for humor and found none. He quickly recalled his scroll and searched for favorable literature.

“I really do fancy his horse,” said the watchman.

The captain nodded. “It’s a fine horse, truly.”

Kill him!” shouted Garold. He pointed his dull pike downward.

“But why kill me!?” begged the rider. “I’m simply the messenger! These words are not my own!”

“Yes,” said the captain. “But you read that message in a very agreeable tone. The words may not be yours, but you read them with great pleasure!” The others nodded in support of their captain.

“But that’s my job,” attempted the messenger. “I read well and speak well. It’s taken great practice to achieve such skill!”

The three huddle amongst each other and muttered soft words, each taking moments to pierce the messenger with their eyes. When the conference was done, the captain asked only a single question. “What size shoe do you wear?”

Garold, the man with the large pike, smiled with glee.

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