Reflections in Dark Water by J.C. Hill

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SUMMARY: Entry for Jan. 09 Flash Fiction Contest, Flashback theme

A rotting hand broke the surface of the moat and groped blindly toward the muddy bank. It found an exposed root, hooked around it and pulled. The rest of the skeleton rose silently from the water, dripping with slime and dressed in rusted chain mail. Bony fingers tore into the ground, tearing up clumps of dirt and vegetation as it scrambled to free itself from its watery tomb. Standing, the abomination started to lurch away, then stopped and stared down at its feet as though mesmerized. A single yellow dandelion stood up from the broken ground, somehow untouched by the violence of the creature's emergence.

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"Momma, Momma! I picked flowers. See! For you Momma!"

The toddler ran to his mother, waving a handful of yellow dandelions over his head like a torch. The late spring sun shone brightly in a pure cerulean sky, making the blossoms blaze almost as brightly as the child's golden hair. He came to an unsteady stop in front of his young mother, who smiled warmly and accepted the bundle of flowers with infinite grace.

"My sweet Jerasin," she said. "They are beautiful. Thank you. But it's time for your nap, my darling." She laid the bouquet down on the stone bench where she had been sitting, taking a break from baking bread for the evening meal, and carried him inside.

The dim interior of the flagstone cottage was cool and quiet as she laid him in his bed and covered him with a soft quilt. The warm touch of her lips on his forehead lingered briefly and then she was gone, back into the kitchen to finish her cooking. He grew drowsy listening to the soothing lullaby that she sang to him as she worked.

***********

The skeleton looked up sharply. Something insistent intruded on its awareness, a heavy, discordant siren's song that seemed to ooze out of the shadowy woodlands to the East. Unable to ignore the powerful summons, the undead thing shambled away, trampling the dandelion underfoot as it went.

It walked for several miles, though it had no sense of time or distance, until it came to a small village that had been the site of a recent battle. Several of the buildings were burning and a legion of other skeletons and a few zombies milled aimlessly in the village green. A pile of bodies lay off to one side, waiting their turn to be raised.

The skeleton entered the green just as a living man in black robes climbed up on a stump and began to speak to the assembled monsters. Ruined faces turned to regard him, held enthralled by the necromancer's power.

"Go!" the sorcerer shouted. "Go to Ebondrake Keep, my children! Scale the walls and kill all you find there! Every man, woman and child must be slain! The fallen will swell our ranks until nothing in Versalon will be able to stand against us! Go and slay!"

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"Don't go! Jerasin, please don't go."

"Maylynn, you know I have to. Lord Ebondrake has called up the militia and I'm of age now."

"But, you'll die, my love," the pretty farm girl wailed. "You'll die and I'll never see you again."

"Now you're just being silly.

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