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The Scabbard

[Flash Fiction- Short Stories of 1000 Words or less]

There is a big lake near my grandfather’s villa; from my window I could see little mountains of bird poo on the small island in the middle of a big lake. When asked, grandpapa would say that a particular variety albatross goes there to nest, hence the large amount of droppings.

If you would go near the lake and look, you will not see the vision that I am describing. From my window, I would see the whole lake, green with algae. Grandpapa said that it used to be so pristine you could see the fish swimming around your legs. Now, no one dares to go into the lake, because of the algae and because a lot of people had drowned.

There, the beginning of the essay for English, Sarah Anderson wondered if her teacher would fail her for giving such a grubby detail. Her parents liked to visit her father’s family during the summer holidays, as the villa provided a way to escape from the heat of the city. Sarah sighed and struggled to continue the next paragraph.

Many things to write about during her stay in the villa, but this has to be special. What should she write about? Her meetings with a ghostly boy every evening by the lake or her near death by drowning would be met with disbelieve and Ms Thatcher might fail her for making up a story.

Maybe she could ramble on about how grandpapa liked to grumble and complain about having to entertain Sarah and her brother Joel, but secretly pleased when they requested for his company and stories. Back in the villa, Sarah knew that she had to write this well if she wanted to be in Ms Thatcher’s good graces; Romeo and Juliet would be play of the year and Sarah wanted to be a part of the cast and not doing curtains like last year. Even if it meant being Juliet’s handmaiden, silent and unimportant, it still was better than not being on the stage. Sarah dreamed about being on the stage.

She summoned some memories: grandpapa teaching them how to hunt for wild rabbits in the yard, just as sport. The boy appearing out from nowhere as the sun was setting one day, his clothes looked like he was in 18th century London, his accent proved it. When they talked, Sarah realized that he had no idea what is Internet, iPods and carriages; but he knew the tenants that occupied the villa before grandpapa, and how many drowning victims in total.

“Names have powers. Do not tell me yours, and I will keep mine a secret,” he had said when she asked for his name.

“Why?”

“I am in constant danger from the Witch, if she finds out…”

“There’s a witch?”

“No, the Witch! She is the reason I am here, like this before you. I have offended her, and this is part of her revenge.”

“What happens if she finds you?”

“I am not keen to find out, my lady.”

“So what exactly are you? Ghost with unfinished business or some forest spirit guarding the yard?”

“I guard the lake and its secrets; I was made to guard it for The Lady of the Lake.”

“There’s a lady in the lake? Like, she owns it or something?”

“She is the true guardian of the lake, but she has weakened by pollution and was seeking refuge somewhere. But I have said too much, you will be in danger if I tell you more.”

“I am not afraid!”

“You should be, as you should not be here after dark. If you value your life, do not come after the sun sets beyond the horizon. Begone now!”

It was not until later, when Sarah recalled this conversation with the stand-in guardian of the lake that she had decided not to include the apparition in her essay at all. Joel was playing with a plastic sword, going on about slashing dragons and chimeras. Joel turned his sword to her, announcing that he will kill the dragon with Excalibur, and proceeded to prod Sarah with the blunt instrument.

Sarah’s scream and protest brought their mother into the fray, holding both children away from each other; Mrs Anderson asked quietly what they were doing, without hesitation Sarah had launched a complaint against her little brother. When mother told Joel to play outside, Joel pouted and yelled: “I am King Joel of the Roundtable, I live to defend my castle! It is too hot outside, there might be a big dragon blowing fire at us,” and off he stomped into his room for the remainder of the afternoon.

Sarah rolled her eyes, what would six-year-old Joel think of next? Then it struck her, the conversation instantly replayed in her mind and she paled. She knew her grandpapa had a small library in his study, so she hurriedly put her books away for later. She found the book, dusty with neglect, sitting in between Arabian Nights and Brother’s Grimm. Le Morte d’Arthur, written by Sir Thomas Malory was written in black, its cover worn around the edges, it smelled like all old books would.

When she opened it, a strong gust of wind blew in from the windows and flipped the pages. Sarah’s near heart attack almost became real when she realized that the window was closed, but the wind had flipped to a specific chapter.

CHAPTER XXV. How Arthur by the mean of Merlin gat Excalibur his sword of the Lady of the Lake.

The chapter detailed King Arthur, with the help of Merlin, obtained a sword and its scabbard from the Lady of the Lake. Merlin had advised that the scabbard was enchanted, and would protect King Arthur from harm. But when King Arthur died, the sword was returned to the Lady, but there was no mention of the enchanted scabbard. Sarah pondered the story and the situation at hand; there was no mention of a boy who helped guard the lake though.


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