Flash Fiction: “Time-Honored”

Time travel is tricky with tenses, but after a while, you get used to it.


Time-Honored, by Alexander Paul Willging

Word Count: 742

He recognized this place.  This exact moment.  The knowledge weighed him down, bringing him onto his arthritic knees.

Master Veo took solace in the darkened sacristy of the Solar Temple.  He knew his death had come at last.

“So this is how it ends,” said his adversary.  Beside the door stood Tsar Fell, leader of the Occult Brotherhood—soon to be crowned Emperor of all Artha once he usurped the throne.  “After all this time, we find ourselves back here again.  Where we first met, Annas.”

“I told you there was no stopping it.”  Veo reached into his robe and pulled out a small trinket.  A simple ring of jade and magical carmot, forged and refined within four dimensions.  “There are laws where Time is concerned.  You can’t break the chain of causality.”

“I still can’t accept it.”  Tsar waved dismissively at the ring in Veo’s hands.  “If that artifact can bring us back in time, back to where the war started—then why can’t it change history?  That’s what human beings do!  We shape our future.”

“From the present onward, never looping back.”  Veo sighed.  “Show me a tree and tell me you could destroy the seed from which it began.  I’ll show you the greatest fool of them all.”

“You always were so full of riddles,” Tsar spat.  He looked back through the door.  “They’re coming now.”

“You mean, we’re coming now.”

“Again, that fondness for wordplay.  It’s a good thing I’ve already killed you.”

“Correction.  You are killing me.”  Veo set the ring on the sacristy floor.  “It is remembered that Tsar Fell struck down Veo before his pupil’s eyes… and that he was then struck down by his own treacherous student.”

“Havel learned well from Tsar.”  The Occult Master lifted his arms in triumph.  “But I am Havel.  And I am Tsar.  I can do more now.  I can ensure my rule over Artha is everlasting.”

“All those years of studying lore and you never learned an ounce of wisdom.”  Veo folded his hands into his lap.  He was almost anxious for this to be over.  He’d been fighting for so long.

“Time to end this,” Tsar muttered.  He withdrew a curved blade from his sash and advanced on Veo.

It was so cold.

The blade protruding from his chest.  The sudden burst of agony as his lifeblood ebbed out.  Veo stared down at the blade, then up at the door.

There stood young Annas Brand, his prized pupil in the ethereal arts.  His heir.

His younger self.

Now I know why Veo was so content when he was killed, he thought.  Now I know what drives Annas so much… because I’ve been both of them.

He knew what followed next.  He was at peace now.  He would watch it unfold all over again.

“Not much of a master is he, boy?” Tsar sneered.  Before Annas could raise his sword against him, Tsar cast a lightning spell that sent the boy flying back against the altar outside.  Annas groaned and lay still.

Veo by now had collapsed onto his side into a pool of his own blood.  He was so weak.  He remembered that pain and humiliation that Annas felt now.  And then…

From behind the tapestry outside, as Tsar walked over to Annas with his blade raised—

Another hand struck out, clutching a serrated knife.  The blow was dealt quickly.

Tsar cried out and fell to the ground.  Before he could comprehend what was happening, young Havel Thorn emerged and fell on him with a sharp stab to the throat.  The Occult Master twitched and lay still.

Veo watched Havel flee from his master’s body—from the corpse he would still become.  Then he felt a pair of young hands pull him from the floor.  He looked up into Annas’s teary eyes and smiled.

“Take my ring…” he groaned.  “Remember this moment, my boy.  You… will succeed.  You will stop Havel and bring peace again…”  He choked on the blood in his throat and touched the boy’s face, remembering what it was like to be that young.

“I will remember,” he heard his younger self say.  “Master, I will keep fighting.”

Veo knew he would.  He was fine with that.  He had taught Annas everything.  And when he saw him take up the Time Ring from the floor, he knew he could die in peace.

There was a cause for everything, even for the death of mentors.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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