WEP Feb 2022 – All You Need is Love

This year, all the WEP challenges will be about music. All but one incorporate popular songs of the 20th century. Only one challenge is dedicated to classical music. Unfortunately, while I enjoy classical music, I never liked popular music. I’ve never heard any of the songs or singers involved in this year’s challenges. Even when I tried to listen to them now, they don’t evoke any emotions in me. So instead of following the tunes and verses that leave me cold (except Moonlight Sonata), I’ll write my flash stories based on the words of the titles, which inspire me.

As usual, I’m going with a series of interconnected stories about one protagonist. She is Altenay, a Finder, living in a fantasy city in an imaginary, vaguely medieval land: horses, swords, magic, the usual. Here is my entry into the WEP Feb 2022 challenge All You Need Is Love.   

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I wanted a baby,” Lady Malsy whispered. “I wanted someone to love. All I wanted was love.”

Altenay nodded. “Of course, Milady.” She had made it a policy never to contradict her clients, lest they became non-clients. But what had the woman’s maternal yearning had to do with Altenay, the Finder?  

“My husband wasn’t a kind man,” the lady continued.  

Altenay had heard that about the late General Malsy. Nobody mourned him. Obviously not his new widow.

“It wasn’t his baby. He’d never have forgiven me if he knew. He would’ve killed me and the baby. Luckily, he was away on campaign. He never learned.”

“Of course,” Altenay repeated. “What do you want me to Find for you, Milady?”

“I want you to find my baby.”

Altenay stared. “Uhm,” she said faintly.

“I had to give it up, so my husband wouldn’t find out. The midwife took it away. It was seven years ago. But as soon as the general died, I came to you. I want to find my baby. I want to adopt it officially.”

“Seven years,” Altenay squeaked. She glanced up from her visitor to the man who had come with her. He stayed at the door. His face was impassive, but his eyes blazed with anger. Lady Malsy had introduced him as her cousin, and he obviously didn’t want any baby found. Probably a large inheritance was at stake. Altenay returned her attention to the lady, who was still talking.

“I never saw it. Don’t even know if it was a girl or a boy. But I love it already.” Tears glistened in the woman’s eyes. “Find it for me, Finder. They said you never fail.”

Altenay swallowed. “Do you have anything that belonged to your baby?” Even as she asked the question, she knew the answer. Of course, not. The lady had never even seen the baby.

“No,” Lady Malsy said.

Altenay spared another glance at the cousin. His fury seemed to subside, replaced by quick mental calculations.

“What about the midwife?” Altenay asked. “Do you have anything that belonged to her? Do you know her name?”

The man at the door perked up. Would he do something nasty to the midwife? Or just pay her off to stay quiet?

“I don’t remember her name,” Lady Malsy said. “But I have this. It was hers. I kept it.” She put a cheap silver bracelet on Altenay’s desk. “She removed it before the birth and forgot it when she took the baby away. Would it help?”

Altenay picked up the bracelet and let her Finder magic flow. The pull was strong and unmistakable, arrowing north. Probably not far out of the city. Surreptitiously, she checked the cousin at the door again. He looked like a hunting dog on a scent. Ready to pounce. She needed to do her search out of his watchful eyes.

“I don’t know, Milady,” Altenay said. “My magic is small and erratic.” That was a shamefaced lie. Her magic wasn’t erratic. It was small, yes, but simple and straightforward. It tugged, and Altenay followed. So far, she had always found her quarry at the end of her magical line, but she always cautioned her clients, so they wouldn’t expect too much. Besides, the cousin might be a problem.

“I’ll try,” she said. “But I’ll have to finish a couple other jobs first. I can start on your search in a few days.” That was another prevarication. She didn’t have any other jobs at the moment, but hopefully the notion would keep the greedy cousin off her back for a time. She really wanted to find the kid.

Altenay watched through her window, as the lady’s carriage vanished around the corner. The cousin would need some time to organize anything. Meanwhile, she would move. As soon as the rattle of the carriage wheels on the cobblestones died away, she clamped a yellow tubeteika, fringed with tiny coins, on her head and slipped out of the house. She hurried to the northern gates of the city. To her relief, nobody followed her.

At the gates, she checked the midwife’s bracelet again. Her magic still pointed north. She hired a donkey cart at the livery just beyond the gate and followed the call of magic. It zoomed straight to the door of a modest cottage in a small town a couple hours from the city. Easy.

Convincing the midwife to disclose the fate of the child was trickier.   

“General Malsy died?” the midwife asked in surprise. “When? She was afraid of him.”

“The funeral was yesterday,” Altenay sad. “That’s why Lady Malsy came to me. Because her husband died.”

The midwife pursed her lips but eventually relented. “His name is Ratmir,” she said. “A good, healthy lad. I gave him to the local draper’s family. They couldn’t have children.”

She even took Altenay to the draper. “This is a Finder,” she said. “Lady Malsy hired her.”

“No!” the draper’s wife exclaimed. “No. Ratmir is my son. We won’t give him up!”

Her husband, a thin stopped man, nodded his agreement.

Altenay looked through the window at the dusty yard outside. A boy with the dark curly hair played with a dog there.

“He might have more chances in life with a rich mother,” she said. “And she might pay you too. She doesn’t have to cut you off either. The boy loves you.”   

The draper and his wife exchanged speaking glances. Everyone in the room knew that none of them could really make any decisions. It was Lady Malsy’s money. And the boy was her son.

“I’ll let the lady know where you live,” Altenay said at last.

It was already dark when she returned home. The next morning, she trudged up the hill to see Lady Malsy. To her relief, the cousin wasn’t in the room.

“You need something else?” the lady asked anxiously. The house was swathed in the mourning colors, but its mistress didn’t seem grieving.   

“No, Milady.” Altenay told her about her yesterday’s trip.

“Ratmir,” the lady breathed. Her eyes shined. “You said a few days. Oh, thank you!” She thrust a heavy purse into Altenay’s hands. “Thank you, Finder. Thank you.”

“Milady,” Altenay said. “It is not my business, but you’re rich. You probably have other heirs for your money. They might resent Ratmir’s sudden appearance. Maybe … you should do something … to keep him safe.”

Lady Malsy’s expression turned frosty. Then it switched to thoughtful. “Yes,” she said after a lengthy pause. “Yes, perhaps I should.”

Altenay curtsied and fled. Later on, she heard in the market that Lady Malsy dotted on her long-lost son. She also heard that the lady’s cousin suffered a fatal accident. People always gossiped about the rich.   

Tagline: The mother’s love can’t be denied.

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22 Responses to WEP Feb 2022 – All You Need is Love

  1. I am really, really looking forward to reading more of this story. Thank you.

  2. As always you spin a perfect tale. A self-contained pearl, yet hinting at so much more. Thank you.

  3. patgarcia says:

    Hi,
    I like this story very much because love wins in the end. This is very encouraging.
    Excellently written.
    Shalom aleichem

  4. Such a poignant, complex tale, well told. I love your tagline. Look forward to reading the rest of it!

  5. cleemckenzie says:

    Another great take on this month’s theme, Olga. You have some wonderful images and I loved this: “She had made it a policy never to contradict her clients, lest they became non-clients.”

  6. Well, that takes care of one problem I guess….

  7. I’m glad the lady found her son and took care of the cousin, but sorry for the childless couple. Well done.
    Nancy

  8. Denise+Covey says:

    Will look forward to the continuation of this story each challenge, Olga. Love the richness of this as you show the mother’s love shining through. A pity she missed the early years of Ratmir’s life. So much potential for where this story might lead you.

  9. 3mpodcast says:

    I hope the adopted family got to share in his life moving forward, but so glad the cousin is out of the picture. (Shannon @thewarriormuse dot com)

  10. Nilanjana Bose says:

    As always you do an amazing job with the prompt, Olga. Loved the richness of the medieval setting. Looking forward to where this year’s flashes will take us.

  11. Kalpana says:

    I loved your story Olga. It was extremely well written, I was lost in the world you conjured up, and the twist at the end was just what it needed, although I didn’t see it coming.

  12. Debbie D. says:

    You’ve woven a lovely story, Olga, and I’m interested in what happens next. A mother will do anything for love, even getting rid of her cousin. ☺ I hope the draper’s family will still be allowed to have contact with Ratmir.

  13. lgkeltner says:

    The cousin’s fatal accident was probably for the best. You always tell such creative and engaging stories, Olga! It seems like Ratmir is a well-loved child.

  14. I enjoyed your story. Very creative!
    The cousin’s expression and body language revealed his stance on the issue, so he got what was coming to him.

  15. Beautifully spun. She hired a finder, but we all know a mother’s magic is real. 😉

  16. hilarymb says:

    Hi Olga – great story telling … I love your stories and this most certainly didn’t disappoint. Here’s to more – cheers Hilary

  17. Sally says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and look forward to the next instalment.

  18. Jackie Begue says:

    I am hooked on your story…

  19. shilpa says:

    I am happy that the cousin met with an accident! More than that, am happy for lady who found her son. What happens next??

  20. soniadogra says:

    Very interesting. You brought up a fascinating world. Looking forward to the series.

  21. jlennidorner says:

    Didn’t see that ending coming! Great work on your story.
    Hope you’re having a great day! My latest blog post has my theme for the April #AtoZChallenge (I’m writing speculative fiction and looking for prompts).
    At Operation Awesome we have the #PassOrPages query contest going on (friends or enemies to lovers Romance).
    Looks like I’ll be very busy the next few weeks!
    March quote: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain

  22. Magic worked in many ways. Well told, as always!

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