Sir Edward, the Black Prince, was startled to stupefaction at discovering himself suddenly removed from the cries, blood, and gore of the Battle of Crécy. Father had left the field intentionally, gambling on his son’s ability to win the day. Now sorcery had stolen victory from him and placed him where?
Her hideous screams followed her all the way down from the top of the tower as she fell, their last echo dying as she struck the earth and stone with a sickening “thump.” She bounced once, which almost made him laugh to his horror, then she ceased to move at all.
The night, for it was night here, was illuminated by flashes of lightning, rolling thunder causing him to tremble. His sturdy mount, white mane and noble stature, struggled against the bit and reins, trying to escape the macabre scene, but he was in control…barely.
The tower was tall and solid, made of alabaster stone, and each time the lightning struck it, the structure threatened to collapse, yet amazingly remained standing. This, in spite of the roaring flames rushing upward from each of its gaping windows, them open to the sky like the the orifices of a corpse.
Rain from above danced off of his helmet and chain mail as he gently urged his horse forward toward the dead woman. She lay silent as the proverbial grave, her violet dress soaked, blood issuing from her still open eyes and her wide, yawning mouth. He dismounted, holding the stallion’s reins, and knelt. It could have been his beloved Joan, Countess of Kent, his cousin and bride. She was with child when he left for the campaign. Surely, she would give him a princely heir.
Then he noticed the bulge at the dead woman’s middle. Whatever child she had nurtured, died with her. Who was she? He looked up, his drenched face and beard shone by the light of flame, and heaven’s destructive electricity. How had he been brought here, and why?
He stood abruptly, but did not run. Staring downward, terror strangled in his throat. The corpse had spoken.
“The battle is yours as it always is, but our son will die upon birth. Know you that your name ‘the Black Prince’ is justly earned, and as your son, you will also die before your father.”
# # #
Prince Edward stood in the rain beside his shattered wife, the multitude of mourners wailing, nearly drowning out the sound of the bells of the church of the Austin Friars. His son, also named Edward, had died at birth, just before the Black Prince had returned victorious from the Battle of Crécy. The prophesy had come true in every detail but one. He knew now he would die before father, and another heir would ascend the throne. Would some sword or arrow take his life on the field of honor, or possibly one of the vile diseases rampant in the land, which would be a meaningless and ghastly death?
# # #
If Joan hadn’t insisted, Ed wouldn’t have wasted his time getting the Tarot reading from the woman claiming to be a gypsy. Her tent at the state fair seemed anachronistic among the junk food hawkers, beer swilling farmers in the city to party, or the screaming throngs risking hurling their lunch on whizzing carnival rides.
He shut the door to their apartment a little too hard, still disturbed by the old woman’s prediction. It was ridiculous crap, yet he was chilled and trembling.
“How did it go, sweetheart?” Joan, beautiful, supple Joan, came out of the bedroom dressed in a flimsy negligee, signaling an afternoon of celebrating. He could already feel the heat in his groin.
“About as well as you’d expect.”
“Oh? I was hoping for a good reading.”
One of the things they didn’t share was a love for the occult. He was a web designer, part programmer, part artist, but always grounded in the physical, measurable world. She was more like the gypsy woman, except young, beautiful, and filled with boundless enthusiasm, which he couldn’t help but love.
She pranced toward him, threw her arms around his neck and pressed her warm, sensuous body against him. “I have wonderful news, Eddie,” she whispered in his ear. “I’m pregnant.”
Edward’s blood froze solid in his veins, and his muscles stiffened into steel cords as he remembered the gypsy’s prediction and the meaning of the Tower Tarot card.
I wrote this for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Sunday Writing Prompt “Tarot Reading”. The idea is to use Tarot cards, readings, or anything related to them, as the prompt for crafting a short story.
I know virtually nothing about Tarot cards, but a wee bit of online research led me in a particular direction. The meaning of the Tower card got my attention, and I imagined an ancient knight suddenly confronted with a real-life apparition of the tower.
Looking up famous knights, I came across Edward the Black Prince and very, very loosely based my protagonist on certain aspects of his life. Don’t look for historic accuracy. It isn’t there.
To read other responses to the prompt, visit Mister Linky.
As for recent news, my short story “The Colonists” has been accepted for publication in the Cloaked Press anthology “Spring Into SciFi 2020” See the cover art and find out more by clicking HERE.
You can pre-order it now, but in just two days, February 18, 2020, you can purchase the anthology A Mighty Fortress (A Mormon Steampunk Anthology Book 4) and read my steampunk short story “The Deseret War.”