I scored Big on my second round for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge which put me in the top five of my group and got me into round #3:
Genre: Fairy Tale
Location: An Eating Contest
Object: Two-Headed Coin
The Troll and the Vegan Princess
A Troll may have bit off more than he can chew when a contest of wits goes a way he can’t control.
General Saarl’s tusks gleamed ivory in the sunlight as he sneered across the table. “What? Is? This?”
Princess Karina smiled, gently lifting another forkful of salad. “What does it look like, General? It’s food. You did agree to my challenge, after all.”
“I agree to a challenge, all right; a contest of wits and skill and strength. The leader of my army against the leader of yours, for control of the entire province. I did not agree to a luncheon with a human girl!”
“Oh, but you did, General. When my herald approached you with my challenge, you accepted. ‘A contest of skill and wits and strength,’ that is what you were promised. The details of the challenge were never specified.”
The troll sneered, starting to rise. “But this-“
“An eating contest is a contest of honor!” Princes Karina snapped, lunging to her feet. “You will respect it or you will forfeit.” She jabbed her finger at the five officers standing behind the troll, “Here and now, in front of your officers. Obey the rules of the challenge or forfeit your honor and your army.”
“My army is not forfeit.” Saarl replied. “That wasn’t part of the challenge.”
“True,” Karina said, calmly seating herself like nothing had happened. “The terms of our challenge are unchanged. If I win, you and your army will leave the province and never return. If you win, my people will quit the castle and I will remain as your hostage, to do with as you see fit; ransom me to my father or add me to your cookpot.”
The troll smiled smugly. “Then my army would not be forfeit.”
“Not to me, no. But how long would you remain in control? Will anyone sing songs of a troll who backed down from a challenge?” the princess mused for a moment before snapping her fingers. “I know! ‘The troll who was afraid of a girl and her salad.’ ”
Karina watched the faces of the other trolls behind the general, hoping to interpret some meaning, but she saw none. It was so hard to tell with trolls, the tusks hid everything. But whatever Karina didn’t see, Saarl may have. The general glanced at his men, hands clenching and unclenching several times before he lowered himself back down to his seat.
He eyed his plate with genuine disgust. Karina noticed the tusks didn’t disguise that emotion. Finally, the troll grabbed a handful of salad and shoved it into his mouth. “There, you see?” Karina smiled. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
Saarl made a gagging sound as his pointed teeth tore the lettuce and leaves into shreds. Karina smiled and continued speaking just as if the troll had agreed with her. “I eat all my food like this, you know. I’m what my people call a Vegan. I don’t condone the harming of animals.”
Saarl nearly spat his next handful of lettuce onto his plate, his eyes wide. Instead, remembering the rules of the challenge, he swallowed before answering. “This is all you eat? It is no wonder your people are so weak. We shall crush you.”
“Not until you finish your watercress.” Karina chided.
Saarl sneered, shoveling salad into his mouth by the handful. He choked and gagged on every bite. Karina could nearly feel his carnivorous ancestors flinching. When he finally shoved his empty plate into the center, Karina nodded in respect. “My congratulations general,” she said. “Now, let us have the next dish.”
Saarl held up his hand. “If I am forced to pursue this farce, I demand some say in the dishes, just as I would have choice of terrain in a real fight.”
“Oh, but general, this is a real fight.” Karina’s smile went cold. “And I promise you, every piece of slime in your army shall abide by the results or I shall have your honor as well as your head.” She relaxed again, her face shifting to become smiles and sunshine. “But, I suppose you may be correct. If this were, as you put it, a real fight, you would have some choice of terrain.” She held up a finger. “But not what that terrain was. Therefore, I propose a game of chance. I have with me an old coin. Should it land tails up, I will let you choose any dish you wish to name, provided it was not sentient. Should it come up heads, I will choose the next dish.”
Saarl growled for a moment, clearly wanting to argue. Karina waited, carefully lifting each leaf of lettuce from her plate and savouring the last few bites. After another moment, Saarl finally nodded. “Agreed. Let the gods save me from eating grass.”
Karina swallowed her last bite, pulling a large silver coin from her pocket. “Now, so you can see there is no trickery-“
“No further trickery, you mean.”
Karina shrugged, carefully lifting the coin in the light, showing first the side with the face of the king, and then the side showing his crown. “You may examine it, if you wish.”
“We have taken enough of your coins from the dead of your soldiers.” The troll sneered. “We know what they look like.”
“Very well, then.” Karina bowed her head, whispering a prayer loud enough for the trolls to hear. “Gods of fortune, let me be successful.” As she spoke she deftly slipped the coin into the tight cuff of her sleeve, swapping it with the other coin she’d hidden there. She’d prepared for this moment in advance, carefully choosing a coin that was nearly identical to the worn two-headed coin she habitually kept for good luck.
With her prayer, and her trade, finished, Karina flung the coin skyward. Everyone present watched the coin rise and fall to the table with a clatter. The six assembled trolls each leaned forward, groaning in anguish as the coin came to a rest displaying heads. The troll general slumped, disheartened. “Don’t worry, General,” Karina exclaimed with a grin. “I hear the tofurky is excellent.”