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Fenn looked with a sigh up the high moss-covered wall at the foot of which he was standing guard. Up there, at the same time, his colleague shouted something to him but the flapping of the standard covered the sound of her voice. She dropped a pebble marked with a white symbol: urgent. No time to call for someone else.

Fenn rushed to the postern gate. He kept his eyes firmly to the ground and started climbing the stairs, his heart already hammering against his ribs. He focused on the picture of the painted stone in the hope to ignore the flight of steps in front of him and especially its swirling motion.

He was carefully placing one foot after the other when he slipped on the smooth steps and collapsed in a rattle. He rolled onto his back with a grunt and, in a stupid reflex, opened his eyes. In front of him, carved stones danced, forgetting all respect for perspective. The top was the bottom, shadows chased each other’s tails and Fenn felt panic rising inside him.

The edge of the steps made his position impossible to hold any longer; he sat up. It didn’t help the lines in his field of vision settle, but if he kept his eyes closed tight he found he could inhale deeply. He grasped the rope snaking along the wall, stood up and resumed his climbing, step by step, eyes shut. Not seeing where he stepped was the least of his worries, as long as he reached his colleague that, for all he knew, may already lay dead, slumped against the battlements, arms dangling. At regular intervals, Fenn’s eyelids reddened as a sign that he was passing by an arrowslit through which the sun filtered.

He quickly lost count of the steps, but he knew where he was when his outstretched hand found the trapdoor leading to the tower top. He opened his eyes and pushed the door wing. The other guard motioned to him, a finger on her lips. Fenn walked to the battlements and glanced down, following his colleague’s pointed index. His gaze plunged along the stones of the façade, indifferent to the moss covering them, and before even spotting what he was supposed to spot, Fenn passed out.


I wrote this flash fiction piece following once more Mary Robinette Kowal’s instructions (see here the first short story I wrote thanks to her lesson). This time it was for an online writing workshop in French during which I introduced the participants to her technique. I’d written down duos of words to include in each one’s piece depending on the genre the writers chose at the beginning of the workshop. I chose fantasy myself, and my main protagonist had to be a guard. I quickly forgot what the second word I had to use was.

Translating a piece from French to English is always tricky for me, so please don't hesitate to add a comment with any correction!

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