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Destiny

Melissa Mead lives in Upstate NY. Her Web page is here carpelibris.wordpress.com. and you can also find her on Facebook.
"No sign of the Duke's men," said the young man. "I think we lost them back at the stream. And this valley is so secluded I don't think they'll find it. Even if they come back with dogs, I can turn them away. I got to know the pack pretty well while working in the stables."
"And it looks like the farmhouse is abandoned." His fair young companion surveyed the valley. "We could settle down here. The first year or two would be rough, but I'm not the swooning maiden my father the Duke would believe."
"Let's!"
"NO!" Youth and maiden turned to see a stranger stumbling toward them in what should have been the middle of nowhere.
"I think it's a man," said the young woman uncertainly. "Judging by the haircut and the trousers."
"Nope. Not with those bosoms."
"And why are you looking at--" But the maiden had no time to say more. The stranger stumbled up to them, panting and clutching a book as though it were a baby.
"You can't... stay here. Must face the Duke."
"What for?" said the young man in his most reasonable tone, careful not to alarm the wild-eyed stranger. "The Duke wants to kill me and send Lady Alicia here to a convent. We just want to settle down and make a nice home together. Unless this is your property? In which case I beg your pardon and we'll be on our way with thanks for the refuge."
"What? No, the owners died of... a fever or something. A non-contagious one. And there's a cow in the barn and everything you need to rest and regroup for maybe a few weeks or so. But you can't stay."
"Whyever not?"
"And who are you, and how do you know so much about this place?" Alicia looked the stranger up and down. "You don't look or talk like anyone from around here. Are you a thief? Did you steal that book?"
"No. I, um, wrote it."
"A scribe!" the young man smiled delightedly. "I always wanted to be one, but when the Duke caught me listening in on his son's lessons, he put an end to that." He offered a hand. "I'm--"
"Known as Thomas the Stable boy. Secretly betrothed to Lady Alicia, daughter of Duke Kelvin."
"All right, who blabbed?"
"Nobody. It's in this book. That I'm writing. You can call me Jayne."
"I'd call you insane," said Lady Alicia. "And a fool, spilling secrets like that. What are you doing here?"
"Trying to get the book back on track! You're supposed to swear to return to the castle and reclaim your rightful heritage.
"What, spending my days in a dark, dreary castle listening to my father go on about what a disappointment I am until he decides to marry me off to some stranger in another dark, dreary castle? No thank you. I'd rather marry Thomas."
"But you will! Eventually. After you've gone through many noble struggles and trials and emerged triumphant. Then you'll both live happily ever after."
"Let's just skip the trials and struggles and go straight to the happily ever after, then," said Thomas. "This is the perfect place to do it."
"But you're supposed to be King!"
"What?"
"Yes! High King over all the land. It's your Destiny."
"If it's my Destiny, it'll happen whether you're shouting at me or not," said Thomas reasonably. "That's pretty much the definition of destiny. But the last time I checked, in order to be king you had to be the son of a king or queen. And as you correctly noted, I'm a stable boy. Son of stable boys all down the lie. Well, stable-men, I suppose."
"No you're not! Not really. You're the secret son of High King Alexander, smuggled out of the palace in a basket of turnips as a baby, in order to save you from the king's enemies."
"You realize you sound more than a bit dotty, right?"
"Here!" Jayne thrust the book at him. Thomas glanced at Alicia and read:
The young lovers came to a fair valley, full of apple and pear trees in blossom, and a farmhouse that...
"Read the part about your Destiny. Chapter twelve. Where the pen's clipped."
"I'd rather know more about the house and grounds, since we're going to be living here," said Thomas, but he flipped ahead.
I shall restore your home to you, Lady Alicia. I've challenged the Evil Duke to a duel. When he lays dead at my feel all will know my true heritage and...
"Wait. You want me to kill somebody?"
"Just the Duke. Who's evil."
"This is my father we're talking about," said Alicia. "And he's a bit obtuse, and a boor, and not the best ruler we've ever had. But my brother's turning out decent, and in the meantime the duchy's managing well enough without some hothead resorting to murder and throwing the place into chaos, thank you very much."
"But your destiny!"
"Destiny my foot. This is about you making your little story come out the way you want it to. If you'd listened to more minstrels, you'd know that stories change." She took the book and pen from her lover's hands and wrote on the page.
"Hey! Give me that! You're not supposed to apples apples sunny day can I have a drink of water?"
"There's a full bucket by the sink. Help yourself. Get yourself some food while you're at it."
"Thank you!" Jayne skipped into the house.
"What did you write?" Thomas whispered.
Alicia showed him:
Jayne talked nonsense until she was thirsty, but no one believed her. Then she packed up a bundle of bread and cheese and a flask of water and set off for faraway lands.
"Isn't that a bit cruel, love? I mean, if she wanders around talking about Destiny and all that people will think she's a madwoman. Especially if she keeps pronouncing Destiny with a capital D."
"Good point."
"I'm ready to set off for faraway lands!" Jayne announced from the doorway. "In search of my Destiny."
"Keep writing. I'll see her off," said Thomas. "And be kind."
So Alicia wrote:
Jayne talked no more of Destiny or her book, but wandered happily through the lands meeting helpful people and having adventures of the most pleasantly entertaining sort, until she met a friendly wizard who returned her to her own land. And she lived happily ever after.
"There."
Thomas returned, and they both waved farewell to Jayne until she vanished from sight, whistling a merry tune. Alicia closed the book.
"It sounds like she'll be happy," said Thomas.
"I hope so. She's hardly evil, just annoying."
"She, um, was right about the apple and pear trees."
"And she did do exactly what I wrote." Alicia set the book on the ground and backed away.
"We could write good things. Like, "All their harvests were bountiful, and they never became ill."
"We could. But then we'd have a Destiny. Do you really want to murder my father?"
"No! I'd rather burn that book on the hearth of our new home and make toast over the embers."
Alicia took one last peek. "It says there's butter in the springhouse."
The book burned beautifully, and the buttered toast was delicious. And many, many years passed before they thought to wonder if there might be something strange about the pen.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 8th, 2018


Personally, I'll take a nice farmhouse over Destiny any day.

- Melissa Mead

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