This week’s flash fiction challenge on terrible minds was to write a story with the theme of either:
1. Doing a good thing sometimes means being evil
2. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions
I chose #1, combining it with an idea for a much longer story I have had in my mind. This is in a way, a prologue to that other story.
Hope you enjoy it.
The Coral Castle
By Scott Mollon
The Coral Castle stood tall at the center of the atoll. Built from giant blocks of coral harvested from the great Dead Reef then dried and bleached until a brilliant white, and then finally stacked high on top of each other. A great hall ten stories tall and seven towers rising around it. Unlike it’s inland sisters, the castle did not have the luxury of sprawling across many acres. The atoll afforded little room even at its widest point at the middle of its sandy crescent, so architects were forced to build upwards, towards the sky. On sunny days, light reflecting off the castle could be seen from miles away, a lighthouse shining through the daylight.
At the foot of the castle, and almost completely encircled by the atoll, was a lagoon of such deep blue that the surrounding ocean seemed colorless. The lagoon was so deep, that though many had tried, no sounding was ever able to measure its depth. Rumor had it that a great Sea Dragon slept at its bottom.
The Coral Castle was the capital of King Dushesne’s kingdom. All of the Western Sea was his domain, and his kingdom prospered under the many tariffs his navy collected from sea trade. He was a kind and fair king, and his subjects also prospered under his shared wealth and protection. Those with which he did business only rarely felt misused and so mighty was Duchesne’s naval power that no one ever dared challenge him openly.
It was from the highest tower one morning, that King Duchesne, wearing his coral crown, took his daily news while looking out a wide open window; the continent a small green sliver on the clear blue horizon.
“My sources report that the Duke and Duchess of Harsburry, were assassinated yesterday while they attended a play. It seems their seats were impregnated with poison,” said the King’s spymaster, a man who had no name.
“What have we come to?” King Duchesne wondered while gazing out the tower window. “That’s the fifth assassination this moon cycle. Have we become so bored in our relative peace, are we so unable to live without conflict, that we have begun devouring ourselves?”
“There is no doubt that the families have become rich and fat without the threat of their neighbor’s military at their borders,” confirmed the spymaster. “While cooperation has led to prosperity, greed has also taken root, not everywhere, but in most palaces. Without the outlet of advancement through conquest, many have turned to intrigue and assassination. Meanwhile their people are suffering. No one shares their bread, because they could be feeding their own assassin.”
“We will have all the families, all the king’s and queens and those in power to this Coral Castle,” the King stated somberly. “Peace must be made.”
It was a cloudless day on which nobles from all over the continent arrived in their ships. In the case of some of the deeply inland families and especially those from the great Desert Expanse had rented extravagant yachts special for the occasion. They sailed past the great naval armada of King Duchesne. Sailors waved and smiled at their guests as they went by. Ensigns and deck boys were put to work on pumps below decks which were rigged to jettison water up in to the air, creating a rainbow int he sun for every family to sail beneath. They came in large ships and small and they sailed into the lagoon one by one through the small inlet of the atoll.
None came alone. They brought their personal guards, their food tasters, their wizards and viziers, and because no one had yet forgotten the Duke and Duchess of Harsburry, their chair sitters.
Once inside, the multitude of guests and their entourages marveled at the sheer size and the material of the castle. They ran their hands over smooth coral walls. Two hundred years had been worn the coral smooth, though rough edges could still be found, and more than a few cuts were suffered by those visitors who went looking for them.
All through dinner, conversation was hushed. Eyes carefully looked out their sides at the rival seated next to them. Hands moved slowly and never drifted past one’s own plate setting. The hall was filled with the chimes of silverware on porcelain plates and very little else. Many deaths had occurred at the dining table over the past years and all remained vigilant.
After the skeletal remains of the giant tuna were carted from the hall, King Duchesne stood and tapped his wine glass with his knife to get everyone’s attention. “I have invited you all hear, some with a small amount of deception, for a purpose. We are here because we must purge ourselves of blood lust that is running rampant across our lands.” Raising his glass he toasted his guests. “To finding peace.”
“To finding peace,” a halfhearted echo followed the King as he turned and left the hall.
On the floor above the spymaster heard the toast and signaled his men. The week’s prior to the feast, had been spent cutting a trench around the coral floor along where it met the wall. Then they filled the trench with gun powder from the navy’s stores. And now twenty matches were struck, and twenty fuses were lit.
Below, at the servant’s entrance to the castle, Kaden did his best to slide a heavy trunk off a cart and to the ground, all under the constant scrutiny of the owner’s Baggage Handler. Suddenly a massive explosion shook the castle, seemingly the entire atoll. Small white pebbles and dust rained down around Kaden. Looking up it seemed like an immense black curtain was slowly falling around the walls of the great hall. When it reached him Kaden reached out a hand and touched the wall. It came away wet with blood.
“Its weeping blood,” he said to no one in particular.