Evolution of a Short Story

This project’s aim is to improve my writing through direct application. I’m hoping you’ll find some use too.

I wrote one terrible short story and through time, I’ll be utilizing lessons in the book: Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition). It’s already showing me where I can improve.

So, without further ado, my worst short story:

The Prince and the Darkness

S.S. Trantham

(Original Piece) V.1

1200 Words

Once upon a time, there lived a Prince in a kingdom. He was beloved by all, and all who came to know him.

The Prince would awake at the same time every morning regardless of the day. He would eat breakfast: bacon, eggs, and toast with mounds of butter. The servants all served him happily. The table was crowded with food from one side to the other but the Prince ate alone.

After breakfast, the Prince would go for a ride. His horse, Chestnut, was stabled outside amidst greenery and an orchard. The orchard was a bountiful place, full of apples that were fed to the livestock. Apples were the main staple for the palace and the livestock. People ate them too.

It was here that the Prince noticed the Darkness.

A blight had fallen upon the apple orchard. Dismounting from Chestnut, the Prince walked to a fallen apple, kneeling to pick up the rotten fruit. Flies buzzed about the shiny red skin, marred with a large streak of rotting goop and black ooze dripping from the flesh. He turned it over to study it in his hands before dropping it with disgust back to the orchard floor.

Remounting Chestnut, the Prince explored the length and width of his orchard. It seemed that the Darkness had already eaten away at the western side, only now showing on the eastern side nearest the palace. Whole trees were left barren, trunks split and rotting, exuding a miasma into the air.

He covered his mouth and turned his horse around, riding back to the palace. Once there, he summoned his guards and told them about what he saw. The guards, aghast, sent out searches to verify if the Darkness had eaten away more than just the palace orchard. Indeed, it had.

Overnight, the disease crept in, blighting the crops of the farms around it, coming down from the mountain forest.

Returning with the ill news, the guard captain reported to the Prince, asking what was to be done.

The Prince knew of a wise woman living in the mountain forest on the farthest reach of the farthest village in the kingdom. She knew answers and held balms for the people’s problems. To her, the Prince and the captain went along with a guard retinue.
It took them a week to traverse the entire kingdom and all they saw was affected by the Darkness. Villages were destroyed. People were sorrowful. The land was sick.

Before the week’s final sunset, the Prince and his guards came upon the limits of their land. Before them stretched the mountain forest, and in it, the wise woman’s cottage.
Afraid, the group continued farther. It took them another day to locate the cottage, disguised as it was into the landscape. Not wishing to startle the wise woman, the Prince elected to go alone. It would impress their dire need.

The Prince walked up to the door and knocked. The door opened under the force and swung inward. Inside, he saw the wise woman near a fire at the center of her cottage. She did not look at him and only stared into the flames.

The Prince asked first if he may enter for this was her domain. His kingdom ended as they entered the forest.

She bade him to with a nod of her head.

With only one backward glance, the Prince left the sunlit forest and entered the gloom of the cottage.

The door shut behind him, and then the only light became the fire. The wise woman’s face was illuminated by it but the rest of her was in shadow. The Prince sat down on the other side of the fire.

-Wise woman, my kingdom is in danger. I need to know how to stop the Darkness from killing my people.

The wise woman was silent for a long time before she spoke.

-Prince, as you are called, there is no stopping it. The Darkness comes and eats for it is its nature. I wait with my fire for it to knock at my door.

Then, it was the Prince’s turn to be silent for a long time. He was known for his vast intellect, and he put it to work.

-Wise woman, if it cannot be stopped. Can it be turned aside?

-Prince, these are questions for the Darkness, not for a woman who tends fire and heals maladies.

-You are right, wise woman. How may I come to question it?

-You must travel to it, through the devastation. You must go alone for it will not listen to one swayed by the voice of others. All this, and be polite.

-Thank you, wise woman.

With his questions replaced with new ones, the Prince left the cottage. The guards outside were happy to see him, but their happiness soured with his news. Here in the mountain forest, he would part ways with them and continue on deeper. With many tears, the guards left.

The Prince walked deeper into the forest, his boots now muddy from the rot. He needed to cut strips from his cloak to cover his face. Tired and sick, he soldiered on through the muck.

Three times he convinced himself to keep going: once for when he felt foolish, once for when he felt exhausted, and once for when he felt alone.

At the end of the day, even the stars were out, and the moon hid her face from the sickness.

There, in the deepest pitch, did the Prince feel the presence of something else. In the inky black, a figure took shape.

-Darkness, I have come on behalf of my people. I ask that you turn aside and sate your hunger elsewhere.

-Prince, you ask me to go to another kingdom. When that one is done, I will come for another, and another, until yours is the one left.

The Prince went deep into thought.

-Darkness, why do you eat like this?

-Prince, why do you protect? It is in our nature, and I do not ask you to betray yours.

Again, the Prince thought, long into when the sun should have returned to the sky.
-Darkness, why do you knock at the door of the wise woman but not at our kingdom?

-Prince, she welcomes me. She does not seek to turn me aside or deny my nature.

The Prince thought about the starvation coming, and the people sickening.

-Darkness, I make you welcome in my kingdom. I only ask for advice. What do you like as a guest?

The figure in the darkness was surprised.

-No one before has asked me what I like. I think maybe I would like some company.

The Prince was made into a host for the dark figure, and the two returned through the forest and then the villages, all the way back to the palace. While they spoke, the rot slowed in the farmlands, and the apples ripened in the eastern orchard.

The Darkness slept in the palace and awoke to breakfast. It joined the Prince at the table and found the food there cooked well. The servants were nervous but brought the bacon, eggs, and toast with mounds of butter.

The Darkness looked outside, seeing the rot receding but not gone.

-Prince, today, I will enjoy your company, but tomorrow I will continue my journey.

The Prince smiled.

-Darkness, I understand, and I accept that, but for now, have some more eggs.

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