Fate and Fortune
Two lovers and a coin toss decide how a war ends
Ausha entered the tent, eyes casting for their secret weapon. Well… she was more of a Hail Mary.
Christie was lying in her cot, eyes clasped shut and brow beaded with sweat. Her dreams were surely haunted by the fighting outside the gates.
“Christie,” Ausha said, shaking her partner. “Wake up. We need you to cast a spell.”
Christie shot up, her usually tawny face a stark white. “What?”
Ausha rubbed her shoulders. “The fae have almost unsealed the gates. Once they do, the orcs and werebeasts will be on us. Grivens is warning the local militia, and our remaining shieldbearers are bolstering the aegis spell, but it’s only a matter of time. If they get in, it’s over.”
“What about Owens and—”
“What I said is all that remains of the regiment. Everyone else is gone.” She’d have gladly died among them, but she knew if her plan was to work, she’d have to stay alive.
Christie shook her head. “That can’t be right.”
“The war’s riding on you. I’m sorry.”
“No! Last time was just a battle, and you know how that went!”
“We asked you to burn the forest down, and that was wrong. Lady Luck made the right call. We don’t deserve homes and peace at the cost of theirs.”
“Bryan died, Aush!” It was the first time they’d said his name since the incident. “And a dozen others. Imagine what comes next.” She wrenched the thin, patchy blankets in her hands. “Besides, you know I destroyed my dice.”
The dice had rolled poorly last time. She’d asked for a meteor to crush the opposing forces and ignite the forest, but it came out wrong. The meteor crumbled mid-delivery and rained fiery stones atop their own battalion. Raised shields, metal and mystical, stopped most of the debris, but the largest of the molten hail found targets to maim, their best friend Bryan among them.
“We need to scare them into a ceasefire. Once they realize our lives are not worth it, we can start paying restitutions.” The forest-dwellers were right to be angry at the destruction of their home due to human negligence, but there had to be a price they were willing to accept that wasn’t genocide.
“I still have no dice.”
“I thought of that,” Ausha said. She took from her pocket a single coin. His Majesty’s likeness stared at her on one side.
It was the last of her money. But it was enough.
She pressed the coin into Christie’s shaking hands. “On heads, the opposing army spontaneously combusts. No teleporting. Anything less than seeing their army literally crumble before them won’t be enough to scare the opposing leaders.”
Christie’s eyes widened. She vibrated with protest. “There’s nothing I could gamble in exchange for that. You’re mad if you think I can—”
“Bet me. Heads, you win, and their army suffers. Tails, you lose, and it happens to me instead.”
Christie dropped the coin like it had been the thing about to combust. “Ausha, no.”
Ausha grabbed her hand and forced it back onto the coin. Christie yelled as though it were about to burn a hole through her.
“We must do this, or the human race will die.”
“Then maybe we deserve—”
“Don’t you dare!” They froze in their struggle. The air tingled. “We made an oath to the kingdom and to each other. This is how we keep it. Let Fate dictate what humanity deserves.”
Christie shook her head frantically. “Please don’t make me, Aush.”
Ausha wiped at Christie’s tears before leaning in and peppering her face with kisses. “I can’t make you do anything,” she said as she pulled away, keeping Christie’s face in her hands. “Never could. You are capable of anything if you desire it enough to risk something for it. And any time Fortune refuses you, you always have me to make it happen in Her stead.”
“Then don’t ask me to do this,” she pleaded.
“I already did. I can’t take it back.”
“Scoundrel,” Christie muttered. She pulled away from Ausha’s touch. “I still don’t know if I can do it.”
“You just have to ask,” she said, placing the coin back in Christie’s hand and pressing her clenched fist to her heart. “And flip the coin. Fate and Fortune will handle the rest.”
Fate brought them together, and it’s Her that will pull them apart again. If Ausha died here, it’s because she was meant to. That was what every fiber of her being told her.
“Please,” one of them said, though Ausha did not know which of them had begged the other. Perhaps it was both. She only knew that they both had tears leaking down their faces this time.
Christie took a breath, rolling the coin across her knuckles. She was considering it. Ausha only needed to look at Christie’s nimble fingers to know what she was thinking.
“Heads, I win. Tails, I lose. We either immolate the troops at our door. Or—”
“—Or I lose you.” She slammed her eyes shut, nodding as the magic coursed through and around her. Green streaks snaked around them, making contact with their tears and spreading them like morning dew. She exhaled and flipped the coin.
It landed heavily in the space between them. The magic streaks dissipated. Neither dared look at the result. Ausha merely watched as Christie stared at her, looking for any sign of combustion. The slightest smell of charring. The tiniest bit of ash.
Minutes passed. Then the sounds of battle cries shifted into screaming, and the smell of burning flesh that wasn’t Ausha’s wafted through the tent flaps.
They both sobbed, and Christie threw herself into Ausha’s arms. They clung to one another, both grateful that Fortune and Fate came to an agreement. And while they both knew that there would be consequences for what transpired—the mass slaughter of soldiers could not be that easily forgiven—there was hope that there would be no further bloodshed.
Fact and Fiction
Welcome back, readers. And if you’re reading from the website, you’ll see we have more changes! Today’s the first issue under the Stories From Another Realm title. Quick as a Flash still exists and will host all flash fiction and microfiction stories. Once I start posting my serial fiction, I will provide instructions on how you can make sure you’re subscribed only to what you want to read. Until then, these are purely cosmetic changes.
I really enjoyed writing this story. Originally it was going to appear in my upcoming microfiction collection (more info on that next time), but it went way over the 100 words I was targeting. So instead, I expanded it into what you just read. Here’s a little about my thought process for those interested.
It started when I was generating some prompt ideas for myself, and one was to write something about a dicer and a coin. My microfiction collection is fantasy-oriented this time, so a mage whose magic worked by gambling was what came to mind.
But why a coin? They’re a dicer, after all. Maybe they don’t have access to their dice? Yes, that’s it. Something tragic happened, so they renounced their magic. But now they’re being asked to perform this enormous feat, and all they have is a coin. Somewhere along the way, I determined that the tide of a war was at stake, and this mage’s expertise was what would decide everything. I had a pretty clear image of a superior officer begging and pleading with the distraught mage.
But there had to be a significant stake that would get the mage to flip that coin. Yes, humanity’s fate was at hand, but she’d already seen too much. She’d lost hope. The one requesting this of her had to be special to convince her. That’s when Christie and Ausha were truly born, and I hope I get inspired to write more stories involving them in the future.
If you’re looking for another flash fiction story to read, I highly recommend The Last Laugh by Winston Malone. And if you enjoy it as much as I did, consider subscribing to The Storyletter. I’ve really been enjoying what Winston’s been putting out lately and am slowly making my way through The Crocodilian, a first draft of a novel. It’s been such a great read so far!
And you can always check out the newsletters I recommend on the Stories From Another Realm website. I’m reading through a lot of folks’ archives, so I’ll be adding new ones over the next few weeks!
Those were some intense stakes! And to bet it all on the flip of a coin 😨 Great story!
After reading so many different writing styles with The Grisly Ghost of Gruesome Time, I realize how much I like your writing style. Your stories are cohesive and your style impeccable. You are capable of writing a really good novel Anthony!