Speaker Bryn & Other Tales Now Available

The sixth and final installment in my Singles Collection of short stories and novellas is now available at finer e-booksellers. Stay tuned after the following blurb and links to buy the ebook (just 99¢!) because one of the stories in this volume, The Musketeer's Prayer, is available in its entirety at the close of this post. Admittedly, it's what's known as flash fiction (less than 1000 words) and is more about evoking mood than telling a story, but I hope it does both and that you enjoy it...


The Speaker is a safe conduit, a channel the living can use to talk to the recently dead. Or so the Church of the Holy Communicator teaches. But true Speakers pay a price for their gift, and Bryn’s past is about to demand that he pay that price in full…

The eponymous Speaker Bryn is joined in this collection by three more tales of dark fantasy and the occult: The Musketeer’s Prayer, Songbird, and The Head Washer’s Tale

==================== 

This is the sixth and final volume of M.S. Hund’s Singles Collection. Each volume’s stories are focused on roughly similar themes or genres, spanning the gamut from science fiction to fantasy to horror.


BUY NOW

Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks


The Musketeer's Prayer

(from Speaker Bryn & Other Tales)

 

Musketeer Six prayed.

“Oreon protect me when death stalks the field.”

A line of purple and gold crested the hill before him, muskets at rest on their shoulders, legs kicking high and straight. From somewhere behind them came the sound of the Imperial rune-chant, slow and sonorous. 

"Show the bullets a path around and not through."

“Odds high, evens low,” came the high voice of the Reverend General, tinny from its passage through the tubes that relayed his message from the command bunker to the front.

"Nothing shall touch this blessed flesh, this hallowed soul."

Six was an even, and evens were low. He dropped to one knee, placing his musket before him. Funnel in the barrel, powder in the funnel, remove funnel. Ball into barrel, ramrod, one and two and three. 

Firing position.

"Quench their spark and spoil their aim, for I am the Lord Prophet’s own."

Why did none of the words of the Musketeer’s prayer invoke accuracy on his part?

"Hold, men," came the Reverend General’s disembodied voice. "Hold and put your trust in the Lord Prophet.”

"Oreon protect me when death stalks the field."

Six could see the metal grills covering the faces of the Imperial soldiers now. No eyes, no flesh visible. Their bodies entirely covered. There were some that said nothing human lurked beneath, that whatever the first volley knocked down would rise to advance before the second could be readied.

"Show the bullets a path around and not through."

Purple and gold filled the sights of his musket. Six’s sweat soaked the blue wool of his uniform. He wondered if the fresh dye, not quite blotting out the blood of the uniform’s previous wearer, would stain his flesh. When they pulled the uniforms from their bodies after the battle in order to stitch up the holes and prepare them for the next musketeer, would the skin beneath be the holy blue of the Lord Prophet? Would that guarantee Six a place in Oreon's hall?

"Nothing shall touch this blessed flesh, this hallowed soul."

"Hold," came a distant voice. Six no longer remembered who it belonged to or why he must obey it, but obey he did. Obedience was everything. Hadn't mother told him that when she entrusted him to the Lord Prophet? Hadn't the Lord Prophet’s ministers said that as they demonstrated the loading and firing of the musket?

As they drilled the prayer into his head.

As they handed him a freshly stitched and dyed uniform.

As they handed him a musket blessed by the Lord Prophet’s own hand.

“Quench their spark and spoil their aim, for I am the Lord Prophet’s own."

All in this line of blue were the Lord Prophet’s own, yet how many would survive the rain of bullets that would soon scythe through their numbers? Could the Lord Prophet protect them all from lead and fire? There were none to ask that question of, for all of those standing beside and behind Six were like him, boys entrusted to the Lord Prophet and facing their first battle in his name. None boasted the gold stripes upon their forearms that signified an engagement survived.

Six remembered the Reverend General addressing them before they marched out from the trenches. He remembered the sleeves of the great man’s uniform glowing as he held his arms aloft, more gold than blue, so bedecked in combat stripes were they. He remembered the advisors standing behind the Reverend General, their arms similarly aglow.

Six and the boys like him—the boys holding the muskets—had numbers, not stripes. They were little more than their numbers now.

What had his name been before the ministers christened him Six?

Before they gave him musket and uniform and prayer?

"Hold," came the voice of the man with the innumerable golden stripes.

"Oreon protect me when death stalks the field."

The purple and gold advance continued. They were nearly at the bottom of the hill. Soon they would be climbing toward the blue line of the Lord Prophet’s army. Six could see the sun winking off the cruel blades affixed to their muskets, could imagine with frightening clarity the cold progress of one of those blades between his ribs.

"Show the bullets a path around and not through."

The prayer said nothing of blades. Six fought to keep his trembling under control. The barrel of his gun danced, the sights wobbling before his eyes, stinging with sweat, blurred with tears. Not that it mattered. Wherever the sights swam, they were still filled with purple. It was impossible to miss.

Or to be missed.

"Nothing shall touch this blessed flesh, this hallowed soul."

He heard the others around him now. The prayer, once whispered or recited in silence, rose like the muttering of the stream behind the house he had shared with his mother and sisters. Father had been there in the dimness of his childhood. Before the war. The shadows of older brothers moved through those memories well. How many? He could not remember.

Father and brothers, all entrusted to the Lord Prophet.

How long ago?

Six could not remember, could not remember how long the war had been raging.

"Quench their spark and spoil their aim, for I am the Lord Prophet’s own."

Six could not remember the faces or names of his father and brothers. Nor could he remember when he had begun to yell, a wordless challenge echoed by the other boys in the Lord Prophet’s blue. The faceless metal masks drifted up toward him on a blurred mist of purple and gold. 

Six felt the tears streaming down his face, dimly heard the distant voice of the Reverend General telling him to fire, fire, fire, fire, fire.

"Oreon protect me when death stalks the field!" Six screamed.

He closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.


 

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story. If you're not already subscribed to my newsletter, why not do so now and get yourself another free story (plus more free stories every few months)?