The Call

It is hard to forget where I was when the bells started clanging: in the village market, a basket of potatoes over my arm, Gerda’s small hand hiding in mine.

At the first ring, all movement stopped. As the bells rang louder and louder, pealing from one steeple to the next, everyone came out into the street. Mouths agape, men stopped in the middle of tasks: the smith with his hammer overhead, the stockmen on their horses, the baker with his pastry bag dripping pastry dough into the dust.

“The queen is dead!” whispered small children to their blanched mothers. The small ones did not yet understand.

Gerda hid further into my skirts. I felt her quaking, so I turned and squatted down to face her. “Davos is going nowhere yet. This was not the call to battle.”

Her solemn eyes filled and she nodded. “I know. Not yet.”

We turned and ran for home, forgetting the rest of our errands. Mama was standing behind the gate, her face ashen, lips drawn tight. When she saw us approach, she flung the gate wide. We fell into her arms.

“Davos? Mama, where is Davos?” I begged.

“He is here, but not for long. I expect to hear the call soon.” She spoke calmly only with great effort, her voice a rusty hinge.

Gerda began to cry. Mama scooped her onto a hip and strode to the house. I followed closely, the basket of potatoes clumsily hitting my leg with every step.

Inside, we found Davos praying, his back toward us. His shoulders were pulled close to his ears and he shook, ever-so-slightly. Upon hearing Gerda, he exhaled determinedly and stood to face us.

“Gerda, chickpea, all is well. Yes, Sibylle?”

Unsure of how to respond, I shrugged a bit.

“We knew this was going to happen – the queen has no heir. I will go to battle in father’s stead.”

Mama moaned. “You are barely a man, just fourteen. You are exempt, you must be!”

“Mama, I am not.”

“Your father, rest his soul, would forbid it. He would not want you to –“

“Mama! I am the man of this household. I am going to defend our land – our home – when the call sounds.”

Mama dropped to her knees, weeping into Gerda’s little shoulder.

I looked at Davos, he looked back at me. He may say the words of a man, but I see the heart of a boy. I threw a potato at him, hard, “You made Mama cry!”

The potato surprised him. Too late, he put his hands up but the potato glanced off his shoulder and rolled under the table.

“Davos, what will we do? How will we keep the farm? What if you…” my questions trailed off, unanswered.

Davos took my hands, pulled me so that our foreheads touched.

“Sibylle, you are strong as an ox. All will be well. You are the man of the family, now.”

The call sounded, ricocheting off the mountains. We closed our eyes.

13 thoughts on “The Call

  1. The sentence prompt fits perfectly and sounds off like a gong at the end. I love the meaning you added to it. Mama weeping into Gerda’s apron seemed awkward to me based on height difference. It seemed a little overdramatic, too.

  2. I like the way you incorporated the prompts in this. It is so clear how much you enjoy writing fiction. I can picture you massaging the words just so. Is that creepy? LOL. I especially liked the way you ended the story with a sound.
    lisa recently posted…The Not So Silent NightMy Profile

    • No, no, no – she was KNEADING the words just so. 🙂
      I, too, liked your use of the prompts. The inclusion of the baker felt so natural to the setting without being overdone.
      Cyn K recently posted…gratifyingMy Profile

  3. You did such a great job of not just incorporating the prompts, but expanding on them to make them yours. I was invested in the characters from the beginning, and you maintained tension and suspense throughout while still expanding on the characters and rounding each of them. Your work is always a joy to read.

  4. You created such a vibrant world here, and the conflict feels so immediate. I think my favorite part was when the narrator threw the potato. It was such a brother/sister moment, yet it also makes me afraid for Davos. If he can’t dodge a potato, what’s he going to do in battle?

  5. Really good building of tension with the detail of all the characters freezing as the bell rings, and I loved the potato – added a welcome bit of slapstick into the mix.

    In the third paragraph, I wasn’t sure who ‘they’ referred to (mothers or children?), and the line doesn’t sound quite right for either – if it’s the children, what don’t they understand/if it’s the mothers, why don’t they understand that the queen’s dead?

    Minor typo – it’s ‘pealing’ not ‘peeling’ 🙂

  6. At the first ring, all movement stopped. <– This whole paragraph grabbed me and held me. It pulls you right in and sets the scene and populates the world. Great pace with the details,too. I would say though that that richness got light at the end and ventured a bit into talking heads. The characters weren't as strong as they were when the children were running home.
    Laissez Faire recently posted…Yeah Write #90: Butterfly and the Flycatcher ( #amwriting #microstory )My Profile

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