• Charlie Benton

Writing Prompt: Even the Smallest Voice

She pads across the arena floor, tatty coat trailing in her wake, sending plumes of dust into the warm afternoon air. On raised platforms all around her, thousands of throats and mouths are open and screaming. The sound fills her with a sense of courage that almost outweighs her terror.

From the stage, high above her, he watches her reach the centre of the arena. He sits resplendent, crown atop his head, his beautiful, sunken-eyed queen to his left. To his right, the Warden of his Kingdom, the eyes of a hunting dog, with the face to match. Two archers stand either side of the dais, crossbows held low.

The crowd quiets somewhat as the King opens his mouth to speak.

'Should I take that mark upon your skin to mean you are a slave?' he says, his voice booming across the arena and audible even at the very back of the rows of benches. Magically amplified, she suspects.

'Yes, your highness.'

'Tell me. How is it a slave has come to take part in this most auspicious of events?'

She thinks of her father. The man not of her blood but the one who raised her from a child, despite their imprisonment. Shared what little he had with her.

'My entry was sponsored, your highness.'

'Was it, indeed?'

That last part is a statement rather than a question, and she keeps her mouth shut. She has suffered far too many thrashings for speaking out of turn to do it now.

'You stand where the greatest magicians of our fair state have stood this day, and you hope to match their power?'

She doesn't hesitate.

'I aim to beat them.'

A small smile breaks across the Warden's mouth. He's enjoying this. The King wears the crown but everyone knows it is the Warden who holds true power.

The crowds roars with laughter. The wall of noise sends a tickle down her spine. Not yet, her father's voice tells her.

'What power do you wield, child?'

'My power is that of manipulating sound, my King.'



'How very mundane. Today we have seen men raise the dead, women birth towers of flame. And you hope to match them with echoes?'

'There is power in sound, sir. There is power in voice. Even the smallest can change the world.'

The King nods slowly.

'Then show me.'

The crowd begins to chant. A few feet from her, the arena attendants have brought out three wooden training dummies as she requested. She closes her eyes, listens to the wall of sound around her, and raises her arms. She feels the vibration between her fingertips and, with her mind, captures it. It swirls around her hands like water. Then, with a flick, she releases it.

One of the dummies explodes in a shower of splinters. The crowd bursts into laughter, as does the King.

'Is that it?' He guffaws, his queen breaking into a tight smirk also. 'A parlor trick, nothing more.'

The Warden is no longer smiling. But the crowd, of course, agrees with their king. Their drones become boos and chants of off, off, off.

She ignores them. She feels for the increase in volume, brings the wall of sound in around herself like a shroud and expels it. Two more of the dummies explodes with a crack.

'For power's sake, girl,' the King chuckles. 'You are embarrassing yourself. Tell your sponsor to invest his money a bit more wisely next time.'

The crowd is getting louder. They want her gone. Their voices are a crescendo. Off, off, off.

Begone, girl, we want to see the real magicians!

Their jeers and shouts are a wall of sound. They despise her and they want her to know. They want to get back to the mages burning slaves alive, disassembling human beings and putting them back together wrongly for entertainment. The King, the man that took her father from her, watches it all with sick satisfaction.

Even the smallest voice can change the world, says her father. And then it is time.

The crowd is louder than it has been all day, brimming with hatred and spite, whipped up by the King's crowdpleasers and jesters. They are urged to scream at her, to drive her off the stage with their bile and volume alone. But that is her source, her fuel, the thing she has come here for.

She draws the sound in, that awful, cacophonous drone. Holds it for a second, like the first smoke in a morning, then pivots on the balls of her feet and thrusts her hands outwards towards the stage upon which the King sits.

The struts bearing the weight of the dais shatter and splinter, exploding outwards in a spray of sharp, wooden slivers. The King's mocking face becomes a mask of terror before he and those around him disappear into the plume of dust and sand that is suddenly, and violently, kicked up into the air.

The entire structure collapses in half of an instant. She sees the Warden's snarling face only briefly before he too is gone, sucked into the vortex of destruction wrought by her power.

For a moment, as the rubble of the ruined structure settles, the crowd is silent. Then there are screams of fear, of shock. She feels their voices vibrate the air and she is imbued with power once more.

On the other side of the arena, the doors burst open and a cadre of soldiers runs through, ready to apprehend her or - more likely - to kill her. But she is ready for them. She reaches into the air around her for the terrified noise of the crowd and turns it into a tidal wave of raw power, driving it towards her attackers. They are toppled over and washed away like driftwood on the beach as the tide comes in.

Another wave of screams. People are on their feet now, rushing for the nearest exit. The panic will spread throughout the city and without the King or the Warden to maintain order, there will be riots. Her job is done here, her father avenged.

With one last glance at the remains of the dais, she turns and begins to run.

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© 2018 by Charlie Benton

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