Onward #WritePhoto

The people of what had been Kirby town had been traveling for months, walking on the hard rocky animal tracks through the foggy and rain soaked mountain range. There seemed to be no end in sight and it was like they had been cursed to walk forever.

Wearily and hungrily, they followed their prince on his bedraggled white stallion and his surviving guards in their tattered livery. No one was sure where they were going but the wizard kept claiming the Gods would tell the prince soon enough.

A fine rain was falling and the wind kept driving into the people and animals. There was little shelter and half delirious some of the people started to believe the mountains were judging them.

But what would mountains know of having to flee your burning town? Of trying to save women from rape and murder at the hands of an army from a distant land? Of there being no help, no hope, nothing left but charred reminds of what had been?

‘Is that a cave or a gap?’ the prince muttered.

He was exhausted and finding it hard to keep the strength his people needed of him. Steering his horse off of the track and up a small ledge. He saw that a gaping hole opened inside the nearest mountain, like mouth that had been punched in.

The prince slide off his horse and lead the stallion over. The cave seemed back enough for everyone and it was also dry inside.

Prays were said to the Gods and a few people suggested that perhaps their fate was turning. Maybe tonight the prince would be told where to lead them too. Everyone settled into the cave, finding a large chamber for twelve horses, seven ponies, five goats, four dogs, two cows, one ox, one kitten and a crate full of chickens. There was also other chambers which the hundred odd humans scattered themselves about in.

No fires could be lit, there was no dry wood. The people ate whatever they had foraged, got as comfortable as they could and tried to sleep.

The prince woke early, feeling uneasy. He looked at the ceiling of the cave and wondered what to do.

‘My prince?’ ask the wizard, ‘any new thoughts?’

‘None,’ the prince uttered.

The wizard nodded and taking up his gnarled staff went out into the misty, rainy morning.

‘Shall we move on?’ the captain of the guards asked.

The prince looked around, taking in the closest children who were so tried and hungry they could no longer cry.

‘No. It seems safe enough here. We shall rest as long as we can.’

A few days passed and the people had made the best of things. Wood had been dried for a fire big enough to cook and dry clothes upon. The animals were providing milk and eggs now they were rested and grazing often. Everyone felt less hungry and tried.

On the four day, the wizard came back.

‘I have been seeing what there is to be seen,’ he announced, ‘and it looks like we must continue. The weather is turning and I fear we shall face greater hardships.’

The prince was fell silent in thought. A few voices give suggestions but at last the prince spoke, ‘tomorrow we leave. Go and find food, wood and prepare. We can’t stay here and must make it to some other town or city for the winter.’

Onward, the people of Kirby town traveled though a gap between two mountains where it stopped raining and began snowing. Some regretted leaving the cave but they knew if they had stayed they would have died, at least this way they had a chance.

On and on they pushed as winter bit in and heaped more harshness on them like never before. Some did not make it, but other weeks later, on the eve of the winter festival stood and looked down upon a valley and a town within.

Spirits soared and the people head forward. The prince feared they would be rejected or find the town in ruined but they were welcome in. A great hall lay at the heart of the town, heated by many fires and decorated with evergreen plants. The Lord welcomed them from his high seat and the prince counseled with him.

Dawn arose on the winter festival morning, crisp snow covered everything and a fine mist hung over the mountains. The people of Kirby all slept peacefully for the first time, warmed by the fires of the great hall, knowing they were safe for the time being.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/12/06/thursday-photo-prompt-onward-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

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The Tolling Bell #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Ivan didn’t want to go into the abbey bell tower, he had a bad feeling about it tonight. Looking up at the slowly tumbling down walls, the shadows seemed thicker then normal. Ivan tugged on the edge of his father’s red Captain of the guards cloak and tried to explain with hand gestures and tongue clicking that he was afraid and didn’t want to do the night’s signalling.

His father, who held a deep disappointment that his only son was a mute, ignored the young teenage and began climbing the steps that lead into the abbey. His heavy boot steps rang out on worn stones, breaking a doomed silence that had long settled here.

Ivan trailed afterwards, knowing that even if father would listen, there was no choice. Clutching the flicking metal lantern in one hand and a heavy wicker basket in the other, Ivan fixed his eyes on the floor and ignored everything else around him as dust clouds stirred. They reached the bell tower’s spiral staircase and started the long climb upwards.

Years ago, the abbey had been home to monks, who one winter had all gone on a pilgrimage and never returned without a clue to their whereabouts. The village that had been constructed around the abbey  died of the abandonment. Now, it was a tiny out post for a handful of the King’s guards, tasked with signalling incoming threats to the close by farming villages which served the King’s castle.

Ivan had never wanted to be in the King’s service. He had liked looking after the animals and the crops his mother had owned, which now belonged to his sisters’ families. His father though had decided to find Ivan a place within the guards and thus the boy had become the night time bell signal ringer.

‘Here we are,’ father’s voice declared as they reached the small room under the bell, ‘I’ll get you a fire going.’

Ivan nodded and placed the basket and lantern on a little wobbly table. He then lit two more lanterns which were placed on stone window sills across from one another. Now, everyone could see someone was up here. Ivan peered down and saw flickers of light below; guards on watch.

‘Have a goodnight,’ father said and turned away.

Ivan glanced at the fire which was starting to grow around two logs in the small fire place then watched his father leaving. He listened as the boot steps faded and the night settle once more. Ivan still felt uneasy, something tonight felt different but he didn’t know how to explain it. Perhaps, it was just the pressing hand of Winter? There had been no threats for months, so why would there be any now? Especially, with the harvest over.

Going to the long twist of rough rope in the centre of the room, Ivan checked it over and give it a few gentle tugs. He felt the bell swing above, making soft sounds. It had taken him ages to practise how to make the bell sound without getting hurt by the rope because it was heavy and the movement powerful. It was second nature now.

Collecting the lantern, Ivan slipped through a small door and climbed another spiral staircase into the actual bell tower. The chill of wind slapped his face and he realised how cold it was becoming. Wrapping his cloak tighter, he hurriedly checked the bell, making sure the rope was tight and nothing was in the way to stop the swinging movement. Then he headed back down again to wait out the night.

At the table, he went through the basket that the elderly cook, had put together for him. There was half a loaf of hard bread, a lump of cheese, two apples, salted dried deer strips, a small sweet bun and two bottles of weak beer. Ivan smiled, the women in the camp took pity on him, even though he didn’t like it, he enjoyed the benefits.

Ivan kept the fire going, careful to use only the wood he needed. He also made the food and beer last through the night. He kept himself awake by telling himself stories, thinking about the different lives he could have had and watching the dots of lights below moving as the guards walked the abbey’s edges.

There was a shouting from below and Ivan hurried to the nearest window. Far below was a gathering of lights and movement but he could hardly make anything out. Listening hard, he heard a horn blowing and he realised his gut feelings had been right. Scrambling over, he yanked the bell rope and let the clanking chime of metal on metal ring out repeatedly.

The noise of the bell meant he could hear anything else but it wasn’t Ivan’s job to figure out who or what was attack where, only that they were and people had to know. Ivan felt the bell rope going up and down in his hands, the slight sting of burns starting but he carried on ringing as fast and hard as he could. Panic seized him, the idea that he should be fleeing came and went. The bell rang out and out still for what seemed like forever.

Ivan collapsed. His hands bloodied, his body shaking, his ears deafened. He watched the rope moving by itself until it stopped, the bell notes fading. He felt the floor vibrating underneath him but he wasn’t sure of the cause. He curled up, letting sleep take him away.

He awoke in his own straw bed, rough wool blankets draped across him. Someone had bandaged his hands but they did not feel like his own, they were numb and crippled. Ivan rolled over and tried to recall what had happened. When nothing came to him, he got up and went to the window, a few black cloak guards and women walked by about their business.

Ivan wondered around the camp then out and around the abbey. There he spotted his father and most of the guards, they were inspecting small, green bodies on the ground and as Ivan got closer he saw they were goblins.

‘Ah, there you are boy!’ his father called, then patted Ivan on the back before spreading his arms out to indicate the scene before them, ‘this is thanks to you. The attack was stopped and the rest scared off.’

Ivan nodded and nudged a small bow in the grass. He touched his head, it hurt just as badly as his hands did and when he looked he saw red dots coming through the grey cloth strips. He wanted to have a drink and lay down again. There were things to do though and his father decided if he was up then he was well enough to help out.

They worked until it grew dark then returned to the run down house where they had stew and wine by the fire. Finally, Ivan crawled back into bed and dozed there, hoping his father wouldn’t awake him to send him back into the bell tower. He slept fitfully, thoughts filled with bells and goblins.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/11/12/weekly-writing-challenge-167/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Stone #WritePhoto

It was growing dark in the woods and everyone was locking themselves inside their homes. Candles and fires burned brightly, keeping the worse of the shadows away but the villagers knew it would not protect them. Nothing would if the monsters who dwelled underneath the trees decided to eat them.

Kissa led her lame nag pony around the moss covered trees, newly lit lantern held high in her small hand. The brown and white pony whined in pain but there was nothing Kissa could do. She was too busy trying to fight down the guilt of causing the pony to stumble because she had been running the poor thing too hard to try and get home before it was dark.

Now, it was too late. Kissa toyed with the idea of leaving the pony behind. The nag was slowing her down and Kissa could run, she wasn’t wearing skirts but dressed in boys’ clothes to help hide her identity. It was safer, her parents said to pretend to be a boy when traveling to see granny because girls were likely to be kidnapped on the roads.

Kissa looked at the pony. The animal was weary, pained and sad, it would be so easy to let go of the reins and walk away but she couldn’t, Bramble was her childhood friend. So, Kissa clutched the reins tighter and patted the pony’s neck whilst muttering soothing words. She also lowered the lantern to giving them more light to see where they were walking.

‘We’ll be home soon enough now,’ Kissa spoke, ‘look, there’s the stone marker ahead.’

Bramble neighed and limped on. Her hoofs tripping over fallen branches and pebbles.

‘We’ll rest there a bit,’ Kissa added, ‘even though I know we shouldn’t stop. It’s dangerous in the dark but we’ll look after each other right?’

They reached the stone pillar which was covered in green moss and surrounded by stones in a circle. No one alive now knew what the stones had originally been placed for but they were now used to mark the miles between places even though nothing was written upon them. Many people couldn’t read anyway.

Kissa sat on one of the stones, dropping the reins and placing the lantern down. She took the cloth bag off her back, pulled out a waterskin and a wrapped packet. She drink and ate the hard bread and cheese that granny had given her. Bramble stood still, right foot slightly raised off the ground, dozing.

A wind rocked the trees above them, an owl hooted and a fox cried out, the long sound taking awhile to fade away. Kissa huddled into her cloak, trying not to let fear get to her but it was hard as she was just a child of ten years. She finished eating, saving some just in case and took a few sips of water then packed everything away.

There was a rustle in the tall bushes close by and Kissa stood up, clutching for the lantern and the reins of the pony. She shone the light in the direction and waited. Perhaps, it was just the wind or a normal animal? Or it could be….

The breathe caught in Kissa’s throat as images of monsters flooded her mind. She had never seen one before but there was enough stories and drawings around for her imagination to create them. They came in all different forms and colours but the most famous ones were black and red, had huge horns on their heads, faces and bodies of beasts, cloven hoofs, human hands and a taste for human flesh.

Kissa was stuck between running and staying, she felt the tug of fleeing more strongly but she knew Bramble wouldn’t be able to move fast. Staying still and hoping the beast passed by was the best thing to do.

Kissa wasn’t sure it would make any difference though, she had seen dogs hunting rabbits and fox out of hiding by smell and sound. The stories said the beasts had great senses; they could see in the dark, hear and scent twice as better then any dog.

The rustling stopped and the bushes that had been swaying before came still. Kissa bit her lip and slowly moved. She put on the cloth bag and started to led the pony away. It was difficult to soften her footsteps and the hoofs of Bramble. There were too many crunchy leaves and snappy branches.

‘Come on,’ Kissa urged Bramble on, ‘We’re almost home, just try a little harder.’

Before they could get out of the stone circle, a tree next to them, give off a  loud crack, branches snapped and showered down on them. A large beast let out a roar so loud it shook the ground and a huge weight swung down to land before them.

Kissa screamed and threw her arms up to protect herself. The lantern banged against her arms, the candle inside wildly flickered, almost going out. The pony cried in fear and more pain as Kissa had suddenly pulled the reins upwards. Bramble twisted hard away, causing Kissa to drop the reins then using whatever energy the nag had been saving, she ran away.

‘Bramble, come back!’ Kissa shouted, spinning and getting ready to chase after the pony.

A massive, heavy, hairy hand hit her shoulder and Kissa fell to the ground. She dropped the lantern and there was a tinkling of glass. Gasping, she picked it up before the candle could go out. Breathing deeply, she stayed on the ground, tasting rotting leaves and soil whilst staring into the flickering flame. Kissa couldn’t move nor bare to look behind her.

She could hear the monster breathing heavily and sniffing around. Hoofs clomped about and the tree was still making snapping sounds. There came a smell of wet fur, dung and the stink of animals that remembered Kissa of the long haired cows some of the villagers kept.

‘Don’t eat me,’ Kissa mumbled.

She shut her eyes and lay still, waiting to feel that hand again picking her up and placing her inside a wet mouth, full of sharp teeth. She held her breath and prayed, for someone or something to save her, anything that would keep her safe and Bramble too, wherever the poor nag had ended up.

The hands and claws never came though, the monster was still walking around, letting out snorting and growling sounds. It seemed to be keeping it’s distance.

Kissa slowly pulled herself up and sat next to the lantern. She saw the monster; a towering, hairy beast with twisted horns growing on either side of his head, black and red fur, stood on two legs like a man, only the feet were cloven and the long fingers curled up. The face was made up of a large snout, with a wet black nose and a snarling mouth where white fangs were stained black, the monster had deep red eyes that were staring at her.

‘What do you want?’ Kissa spoke as she curled up into a tight ball.

The monster roared and leaped towards her but before it could touch her, the monster was thrown back. A tree trunk broken under it’s weight and the tree fell with a crash.

Kissa shuffled and hit the stone. She cried out then stopped as the monster ambled towards her again. The beast paced around the edge of the stone circle, staring at her and snarling.

‘It can’t get in….’ Kissa mumbled.

Kissa got more comfy and moved the lantern to be at her feet. She hugged herself and hopped that Bramble has made it home. Not sure what to do, Kissa put her head onto her knees and despite the danger she was in, began to doze off.

Three times, Kissa woke herself with a start and the second and third times, she found the monster gone and the woods quiet. She thought about leaving the circle and trying to follow the path home but the candle was getting low and the night was still pressing down.

Finally, she lay down and gave into sleep. Sometime later, the candle gutted and went out. A curl of smoke drifted upwards then the darkness fully settled. The monster crept forward two times and tried to break the protective circle with all his might but nothing would make the strong ancient magic give.

As dawn approached, the monsters faded into the shadows of the trees, going underneath them into the cold, darkness. Sunlight touched everything, birds burst into morning song and Kissa awoke.

Rubbing her face, she looked around and saw no monsters. She prayed her thanks, gathered the lantern and with a deep breathe stepped out of the stone circle. Nothing rushed towards her and she felt the sunlight warm on her face.

Sticking to the path, Kissa walked home, feeling weary with lack of sleep and fading fear. Soon the path wove down into her village and she saw most of the villagers standing around getting ready to head out into the woods. Kissa spotted Bramble standing by her house, her brother holding the reins and she rushed forward to hug the pony.

‘bramble! You’re safe! I’m glad you didn’t get eaten!’ Kissa cried.

Then her parents were sweeping her up and fussy and asking where she had been and what had happened.

Kissa told them everything and when she was exhausted, she fell sleep on her father’s shoulder, truly safe once again.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/10/25/thursday-photo-prompt-way-stone-writephoto/ for thanks).

 

 

 

Open Door #TaleWeaver

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Even now, in the middle of nowhere, in the the heart of darkness and grip of the coming winter, did people still keep the candles burning in the old tiny chapel.

If by chance you came across someone and asked them why, they would reply, ‘to keep the evil spirits away. Pray there to be kept safe before continuing your journey.’

You would go and do that. Enter the tiny white building with lots of light spilling out of the door and single window. Take off your snowflake covered hat and kneel before the baby alter. Pray for safe passage through the Nomad Mountains and ask God to protect you from evil spirits, Amen. Then you leave and make it safely back home.

Or perhaps, that response would amuse you because you don’t believe in such things. You carry on, not going inside the chapel but merely glancing at the light pouring out of the tiny building. You walk into the mountains, where you hear crying and screaming. Darkness rolls over you, consuming you and you never make it home.

Somethings are not worth the risk.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/tale-weaver-192-an-open-door-october-11th/ with thanks).

Hermit Brother #WeeklyWritingPrompt

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Brother Aden had lived alone for so long that he had lost count of the years. He knew time had passed because he had aged. He could see it in his hands; brown with too much sun, wrinkled and dry with not enough washing and too much hard work. He could feel it in his body; back bent, slower footsteps, pain in his knees and arms.

His hut was in the middle of the forest, far from everywhere else and that was how he had come to like it. When he had arrived and spotted the two room wooden building through the trees, he had gone in and discovered it abandoned. He had made it his shelter though he couldn’t escape the horrors of the night that had caused him to flee here.

Even now, when the winter nights were dark and wild with storm, his faded memory would show him events of the past. He was an young monk learning to read and copy the scriptures. He was attending four prayer services a day and more on Sunday. He was looking after animals and crops. It was a hard life but he understand the Calling.

Midnight, the danger bell was ringing and the Abbey being stormed by The Cursed knights. There was fire, blood and bodies everywhere. Brother Aden had grabbed whatever he could; books, relics, supplies and fled away. He had selfishly only been thinking about his survival. He hadn’t know that then, had not been thinking clearly in the chaos all round. He had just wanted to live and not die by magical sliver and gold swords.

Fleeing into the winter night, snow melting on his hot face, the forest had seemed to welcome him. The trees sheltered his senses from the battle and he had stumbled onwards till morning. It sometime afterwards that he found the hut.

In the days that followed, he had time to think and decided. Brother Aden realised he could never return to the Abbey, he would be exiled for his actions. He had left the Abbey without permission or proper cause, he had removed relics and books, stolen food and had gone into hiding like a coward. And all that was if there was even an Abbey and Brothers to go back too.

So, he had decided to stay and allow the forest to provide for him. The guilt, emotions and wondering about what had happened haunted him all the time in those first few years. Slowly, that had faded as he tried to survive day to day, season to season. He had grown use and comfy to things. The desire to try and return to the Abbey or anywhere else vanished.

This was his life now.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/09/10/weekly-writing-prompt-158 with thanks).

 

Fairy Hotel #FridayFictioneers

The child pointed at the strange structure against the fence and asked, ‘Grandma, what’s that?’

Grandma looked at the stack of bricks and wood with clay pots and other things stuck in between before replying, ‘it was a fairy hotel.’

‘Was?’

‘It’s fallen apart now,’ Grandma pointed out.

The child pulled at the weeds thoughtfully and said, ‘can we fix it? If it’s pretty again the fairies might come back.’

Grandma smiled, ‘Yes, if we believe they will.’

The child smiled back and together they began working on repairing the hotel.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/08/01/3-august-2018/ with thanks).

Suitcase Bear #FlashFictionChallenge

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Bag handler, Frank slowly opened the abandoned suitcase, preparing for the worse. The soft, fuzzy head of a brown teddy bear popped out. The bear smiled at him then attempted to climb out of the suitcase. Frank stumbled back in shock.

‘Is this America?’ the bear asked.

‘No, it’s Scotland.’ Frank managed to answer.

‘Oh, stuffing!’ the bear cursed, ‘must have put the wrong labels on….Can you help me get there?’

‘What…?’

‘They went on holiday and left me behind by accident!’

‘I’ll see what I can do…’ Frank uttered.

I must be dreaming, Frank thought turning away.

 

(Inspired by; https://carrotranch.com/2018/07/27/july-26-flash-fiction-challenge/ with thanks).

Summit #writephoto

It had been a long climb to the summit of the castle but the adventuring party had reached it at last. The breathtaking view unfolded before them and all other thoughts went away.

The small towns and countryside nested under a grey summer sky looked like the places of miniature people or the child of a giant’s toys. There was so much stretching before them it was hard to take it all in.

Then the weight of their task came back to them and they turned to look at the ruined castle. Somewhere here lived the monster and they had come to kill it.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/07/19/thursday-photo-prompt-summit-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Prophecy #3LineTales

three line tales week 125: heart lanterns for summer solstice

Hugo looked around in awe at all the city folk gathered together, lighting the paper lanterns and sending them drifting into the the pale evening sky.

‘Why are we doing this, mama?’ Hugo asked, tugging on the skirts of a heavy pregnant  woman.

‘Because, the princess has been born today and it’s been written that she will become the warrior who saves us from the eternal rage of the gods, so we are giving thanks for her safe arrival,’ Hugo’s mother replied as she lit a red lantern and let it fly upwards with the hope.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/06/21/three-line-tales-week-125/ with thanks)

 

Mission #3LineTales

three line tales, week 124: two colourful doors that lead to ...

The doors didn’t seem real but she knew they were, for they had house numbers on them and real steps leading up to them, though no else seemed to see them.

She knew that what was behind the doors though were not normal houses but passageways to two different countries not marked on any maps and she had visited both countries now often enough.

Today however, was different, she had a mission to try and complete; the uniting of the two places through a royal marriage and that if everything went perfectly, would stop the thousand year of war between the two countries.

 

(Inspired by https://only100words.xyz/2018/06/14/three-line-tales-week-124/ with thanks).