Endurance – a short story challenge

At our recent writers meeting, we were given the challenge to write a short story of no more than 500 words. The story had to include the use of ‘ight’ in a word three times, and the words ‘summer’ and ‘fish’. We drew our genre from a handful of cards. Luckily for me, I selected ‘history’, although this little story is set further back in time than the Regency era. I hope you enjoy it!

From her bedchamber in the tower, Alyssa stared towards the ocean. Moonlight laid a
silver path to the horizon. If only she could walk across that path, to that
horizon and disappear.

‘My lady?’ Marta’s concerned voice sounded behind her.

Alyssa turned and looked beyond her old nurse to the dim corner where her velvet mantel draped itself across an oaken cupboard. Next to the cupboard stood a sturdy chair, and there Marta had spread the fine wool gown Alyssa would wear in the morning. Alyssa herself had embellished the fabric with silver threads and rows of seed pearls.

‘I wish I was a village girl.’

‘Many village girls wish they were you.’ Marta’s tone held an edge only old retainers could
risk sharpening their words with.

‘Oh, Marta! I know! I have so much, and villagers have so little. But most village girls meet
the man they will marry. I have not even seen this knight my father has chosen for me.’

‘Perhaps you should trust your father would not throw out a line and reel in any poor fish.’

‘He would not,’ agreed Alyssa, ‘But more to add to his landholdings than for my happiness.’

Marta sniffed. ‘You do your father an injustice. He has responsibilities to his lineage. And it is only because of the floods, your betrothed was not here a se’enight ago.’ She twitched her shoulders impatiently. ‘Besides, happiness is not guaranteed in this life we must endure.’

‘Endurance? Is that all life is about?’

Marta shook her head. ‘Do not scorn endurance. It is the deepest strength. It will see you
bend without breaking and hold you upright through sorrows and disappointments,
through bitter winters and summer droughts. A mother cannot hold her babe in
her arms without enduring the agony of childbirth. A warrior cannot win his war
without fighting battles beforehand. You will not find happiness by expecting it to come to you.’

‘But surely I can hope?’

‘Of course you can hope! But you must work for it as well.’ Marta put her hands on Alyssa’s
shoulders. ‘What should your father do? Put you at the mercy of any man with a pretty
face and a mouthful of glib words?’

Alyssa colored, remembering the good-looking bard she’d flirted with last year. His
voice had been smooth, but his hands were rough when he lifted her skirt. His
obscenities burned her ears. Marta had rescued her, and she herself had seen the folly of making herself available to such a one.

Her father had always been kind. He’d never spoken to her harshly, nor laid a heavy hand
against her. He’d seen her educated well beyond most women. She could ride a horse and shoot an arrow as well as any man.

Her heart lifted. Trust then, must be her foundation, and hope her guide.

From the dim corner, the pearls she had diligently stitched onto her wedding gown gleamed like tiny lanterns in the dark.

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Picture of pearls to illustrate Endurance short story

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