One-Minute Epics: “Red Letter Day”

One-Minute Epics are new micro tales from John Klobucher’s Lore of the Underlings, a lyrical fantasy-fiction world. Here’s the latest installment…


Red Letter Day

Marb Ogger had just made the morning tea, a big steaming pot of Nordish black, when she heard a loud rapping at the door. “Now who could that be at this hour?” she muttered. She set down the cake tin and wiped her hands on her apron. “I’m coming!” But no one was there. Instead she found a large notice nailed to the wall. She read it and promptly fainted.

The teapot was cold by the time she came to, propped at the kitchen table as a neighbor, henwoman Fleen, ate sweets. “Seems that you’re out of pom jam, dear,” she said, dabbing her mouth with a cloth. Marb looked down to find an empty jar — and there was the notice beside it. The old maid spread it out on her crumb-filled plate and digested each plum-red word:

ATTENTION — Clan of the Underland! Per order of Acting Governor Plesh, your house must relinquish one grown daughter or son for reaping. Be ready at dawn. Congratulations on being chosen…

“Please stop,” Marb pleaded, “I cannot bear to hear more.” The flush-faced woman sighed. “Is this the help they send from Thoom, a priest who wants to reap our children?” She pressed a palm to her troubled brow. “Not that I know what reaping is, but it doesn’t sound good — that I’m sure of.”

Henwoman Fleen split open a fruit bun and slathered it with oxen butter. “Reaping, that’s a term from ages ago. Your boy’s been drafted, dear.”

“Drafted? My Jury?”

“Some say they raise an army.”

“He’s not ready for that.” Marb stood up and started to pace the room. “He’s more teen than man…”

The henwoman reached for the teapot and poured two cups. “Our days are numbered, Marb.” She took a sip and spat.

“Cold comfort.”

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