Nefarious

pexels-photo-144434.jpeg

Nefarious; extremely wicked or villainous.

Morgrim Redsbeard sat in the far corner of the Dragon’s Broken Claw inn, nursing his eighth pint of ale and believing it would cure his headache. Keeping low, Morgrim tried to blend in with the shadows, hoping no one recognised him. He wasn’t in the mood to tell tales of his victories tonight.

The Dragon’s Broken Claw was the most popular drinking hole in Eleria Town. It was just bad luck that Morgrim and his adventuring companions had decided to spend the night here. Morgrim glanced up, taking in the packed room with hooded eyes. The loud noise of voices wasn’t helping, but he didn’t feel like going to his shared bedroom just yet.

Taking a mouthful of ale, Morgrim wished he was drinking something more to his palette, like a nice golden dwarven beer. Also, instead of being in this man inn, he wanted to be in the great dwarf halls of his home, surrounded by kin.

Sighing into his tankard, Morgrim tugged at his long red beard which his ancestors had always been famous for. His finger caught in one of the knots and he was distracted for a few moments. Then out of the crowd, a voice caught his ears.

‘There’s always been outlandish rumors surrounding the Grey Tower. Only a few have ever be there though and many more have tried but The Dead Marshes have seen to ’em.’

Morgrim turned and scanned the over-crowded room for the speaker. There was  a tall man standing at other table close by on the left. At first glance, the man could be mistaken for a elf, but Morgrim’s eyes could tell he was just a fair skinned and haired man. There were other men seated or gathered around the table, they were all holding tankards and there was the remains of a meal on the table. The men looked eager to hear a tale.

‘They say an evil wizard rules the land there and he binds all creatures to do his bidding!’ the man continued.

Morgrim huffed into his ale. He had been to The Dead Marshes months ago and he had seen this so called evil wizard with his own eyes. For him, the fight hadn’t be worth it, but at least there was no more trouble for the surrounding villages.

‘Have you been there?’ a drunkard shouted.

A wave of voices followed demanding similar answers. A few other voices called for more drinks and someone else shouted for bread and cheese.

A ghost of smile appeared on the man’s face and he replied, ‘no, but a friend of a friend has! And he said it was the worse thing he every saw. There were armies of goblins and other such creatures working for this evil wizard. The whole land had been stripped bare and fires were burning everywhere. The smell was vile and chocking.’

‘Evil wizard my a-‘ a voice roared but was cut off by raucous laughter.

The man banged on the table and shouted above the noise, ‘This wizard is so wicked that soon everyone will be in danger! He is coming here and either he’ll bend you to his will or slay you all!’

Silence slowly began to fall over the inn. Heads turned and a few voices whispered.

‘It’s true! I tell ya. His name is becoming the most feared across the lands. He wields power no one has every seen before. He is blessed by dark Gods and he is friends with the giants and dragons. Right now, he is gathering his armies to invade. He’ll stop at nothing till he has complete rule!’

Morgrim slide his empty tankard away. His headache finally fading. He reached behind him and from the wall took his warhammer into his hand once more. The weight of the weapon give him great comfort and he always made sure it stand by his side.

‘How do you know this, Man?’ Morgrim spoke quietly in his deep voice.

Heads turned Morgrim’s way and a few elbows nudged each other as people recognised him. A full silence fell on the inn room and it seemed like breathes were being held.

‘It’s been circling for months. Travellers and messengers have been bringing word to the courts,’ the man explained, ‘though I’m sure a dwarf like you would know all about it.’

Morgrim stood up, the table pushed away by his broad and muscular body. He held his warhammer tightly but none threateningly. Casting his eyes, around the room to see that he had everyone’s attention, Morgrim turned back to the man.

‘I see you don’t know who I am, Man. I am Morgrim Redsbeard and I have been to that Grey Tower in The Dead Marshes which you speak of,’ Morgrim stated, ‘and I’m tell you now no such wizard ever lived in that tower.’

The man swallowed, looking deflated and started searching for words to make a come back with.

‘If you want a tale about an evil wizard, I could tell you one. Many have fallen to my warhammer,’ Morgrim declared, ‘innkeeper another pint of your finest ale. I’ve a tale that will chill your very ears off.’

(Characters originally from The Dead Marsh story. Which can be found here;  https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/the-dead-marshes-part-1/) 

The Giant’s Pocket Watch #fridayfictoneers

PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast

The wooden back of a huge pocket watch had stood in the corner of the town’s park for hundreds of years. The origins of it had long been lost, but the myth was that the pocket watch had once belonged to a giant.

The giant Haldor was running late for the yearly Giants Together meeting. As he trod over a village, ignoring the fleeing of little people far below him, he drew out his pocket watch and checked the time. Seeing, he was going to be very late indeed, he hurriedly put the watch back into his pocket.

However, he missed and the watch hit the floor. Angrily, he bent to pick it up and swiped down two cottages as he did so. Hurrying on, he didn’t notice that his pocket watch had broken in the fall.

Years later, a shepherd lad was searching for a lost lamb when he came across the back of the pocket watch. He stared up in awe at the huge wooden circle then spotting his lamb nearby, he hurried to collect her. When he returned home, he told his father about what he had seen, for the lad was too young to remember the giant Haldor. His father clearly recalled the day though.

And that was how the myth of the giant’s pocket watch began.

 

(Inspired from a prompt from; https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/03/15/17-march-2017/ with thanks. PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast)

Spring

the-silver-well-3

It was the first time Shell had been outside since early autumn. Strangely, everything looked the same; there were leaves on the ground, the trees were bare and clear water was still running in the man made stream. The air felt cold and wet, yet fragranced  with freshness.

Shell breathed in, held it then on release heard the crackling of a cough in her lungs. She tried to hide it, but the cough burst from her like popped ball. She clutched her chest, feeling the tightness growing. She bent over, unable to do anything other then let the coughing fit hack through her body.

Flopping down on the wet grass, her simple dress collecting about her, Shell rubbed her chest and tried hard to catch her breath. She glanced back at the remains of a castle. The light grey stone walls and roofs rose above the brown branches of the tree tops. She had been trying to get there but defeat was creeping in.

Pushing herself up, she went towards the stream and sat down by it. Even though Shell knew the water would be freezing, she scooped up handfuls and drink deeply. There was a few minutes of peace and then another cough tickled up her throat. Giving in to it, she let this cough out.

It was worse then the one before and tears started in her eyes. Sniffing, she wiped her face and made herself look dignified again. Struggling to her feet, Shell walked back though the woods. Glad no one had seen her.

Slipping inside the cottage’s back door, she went up the two flights of stairs and into her attic bedroom. Shell sank down on to the bed and looked around. Someone – her old handmaid probably- had cleaned the room she had just spent the last four months almost dying in.

The windows were open, letting in the early spring air and there was a vase of just budding flowers on the window sill. The bedding had been changed, the floors scrubbed and the fire place clean. There was nothing to say the place had almost been a death chamber.

Shell turned to the window. She couldn’t see the castle from here, but she could feel it. Her home was always close in her mind. She sighed and didn’t let the memories build up. It was time to bury them, just like she had her parents and grandparents.

There was a knock at the door, but before Shell could call out the door opened. Her handmaid walked in carrying armfuls of clothes. the woman was short, busty and getting in late age.

‘Oh! You have returned. I’m sorry. I’ve just brought you some new dresses. Would you like to see them, your highness?’ the maid spoke.

Shell shook her head and let the woman put the clothes away in a roughly made wardrobe.

‘Did you make it to the castle?’

‘No,’ Shell replied.

‘Another day then. Shall I bring you some tea and cake?’ the maid asked.

Shall paused and patted her chest, feeling another cough building, she squeezed out a ‘yes, please.’ Then coughed loudly. she tried to make it seem like she was only clearing her throat, but they both knew better.

With a little bob, the maid left and Shell spent a few moments catching her breath. After, she got up and went to the window. Letting her thoughts roam, she thought about all the times she had dreamed of being Queen and now she really was, she didn’t want it.

 

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/03/02/thursday-photo-prompt-spring-writephoto)

Bridge

beneath-the-bridge

The troll had lived under the bridge for a long time, however he had finally decided it was time to move. The river was too polluted and the smell was making him sick. Every morning, the troll would sit at the edge of the river and watch rubbish floating by. Sometimes he would pull things out; a bent bike, a rusting shopping trolley, a dead dog. He would add all these things to his collections and in the afternoon he would make art.

The troll enjoyed bending metal, snapping wood and breaking other things up to constructed his sculptures. Then he would leave his art in random places so that passersby would see them. His favorite pieces were; the owl made out of wire netting and car parts. The horse made out of shopping trolleys, bikes and wood. The armless mannequin who’s dress was made out of plastic bags and coat hangers.

That morning, instead of sitting by the river and collecting things, the troll began packing. He dug out two huge suitcases he had dragged from the water and ponder what he would take with him. He emptied the broken wardrobe of his clothes, – he enjoyed being fashionable- the cupboards of his kitchen equipment, – he liked cooking tasty meals- his shelves of books, – the troll was a great reader- his chest of drawers full of trinkets, – he liked shinny things- and finally he took his paintings from the wall, – the troll enjoyed experimenting with different mediums.

Putting on his huge coat and large hat, the troll picked up the suitcases and left home. Waves of sadness washed over him as he left the bridge and sculptures behind. Of course, he hadn’t been able to take any of them with him for they were all far too big. Trying not to think any more about it, the troll walked and walked.

Hours later, he arrived at the seaside. He took in deep lungfuls of fresh salty air and decided he liked it here.

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/23/thursday-photo-prompt-bridge-writephoto with thanks)

The Wizard’s House

wizard-29560.png

I rang the door bell of the mansion and stood on the step waiting. Struggling to control my excitement, I looked at the letter in my hand. The script was large and loopy, almost rushed so that the words blurred together, but I could still make out what it said; the world’s most powerful wizard had hired me to be his cleaner!

My mind rolled with all the things I might see in his house. There’d be a library for sure! Books and books lining the walls. There’d be a lab for making potions, comfy rooms to rest in, kitchens to feast in and spaces to amaze guests in. Oh, it’s going to be so wonderful!

Slowly the door creaked open, light and darkness met in the middle.

‘Hello? I’m Henrietta. The wizard’s new cleaner,’ I declared.

The door got thrown backwards, banging against the side and a loud, booming voice said, ‘Of course you are!’

I felt my heart and stomach jump. The wizard was standing before me! He was very tall and dressed in a bright blue robe with a large pointy hat on his head. There were yellow crest moons and stars on the hat, as was tradition for someone as high up as the wizard. Most of his face was covered in a white curly beard, which was actually shorted then I’d thought it be. Nice blue eyes stared back and the face look youthful.

Suddenly there was a flapping of wings and a large brown bird that had been siting on his shoulder took off and flew past me. I gasped as feather brushed my cheek.

‘Blast! Adrastos! Come back!’ the wizard shouted.

I glanced over my shoulder but the bird was gone into the early afternoon.

‘Was that an owl?’ I asked politely.

‘Damn right it was! And the last I’ll see of him! Took me years to capture and train him! I knew giving him that name was a jinx!’ the wizard yelled.

‘Oh….I’m sorry….’

‘Do you know what Adrastos means?’

I shook my head.

‘Not inclined to run away,’ the wizard answered, ‘and look what’s happened!’

‘Maybe you could tempt him back?’ I asked gently.

The wizard fell to muttering and ignoring me. Peering about and around him, I saw there was a large toad at the wizard’s feet. The toad was croaking but didn’t seem interested in escaping.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘at least your toad stays. Does he have a name?’

The wizard snapped back and looked down to where I was pointing. He scooped the toad up and held it close to his chest.

‘Don’t be silly! Toads are not worthy of names. Now, come in before anything else gets out!’ the wizard snipped.

Nodding, I followed him inside. The hallway was cluttered with coats, shoes, umbrellas and contraptions. A number of kites were on the floor tangled together as if they had just fallen from the sky. Wires dangled down with things attached to them and there was a whole stack of cardboard boxes to my left before the towering staircase.

We went into through a door to the right and I had to stop as the room was jam packed. There were so many things, it was hard to describe them all. Furniture poked out from piles of books, papers, paintings, shinny objects and bric-a-bric. I saw the wizard placing the toad in a cloudy bowl of water then shuffling through a mountain of paper on his desk.

‘Oh my,’ I uttered.

‘I don’t have time to show you around the house,’ the wizard spoke, ‘I’m too busy.’

He waved me away and sat down with a little puff on a stool.

‘Well….where should I start?’ I asked.

‘Where ever you like! But remember when you move something always put it back where you found it! There are some things in this house that are very dangerous,’ the wizard explained.

Without further words, I left and began picking my way through the house. Ever room and hallway was full of stuff, dust and dirt. The place hadn’t been cleaned in decades! How could the world’s most powerful wizard live like this?

Finally, I found the library, the place I had dreamed about and it was nothing like I wanted. Most of the bookcases were empty and the books were scattered on the floor or on the desks and chairs that were dotted around. Dust and spider’s webs covered everything and it seemed no one had been in here in years!

Deciding it would be the place to start. I got down to cleaning. Somehow though, I had a feeling this job wasn’t going to last.

The King’s Skull

190-01-january-15th-2017

By the time the goblet was handed down to Wisdom, the legend that the sliver helmeted skull was that of an forgotten ancient King killed in an unknown battle, had long been lost.

Wisdom placed the goblet on to his bookcase, not knowing what else to do with it. Staring at the empty eye sockets, he decided the skull was too real looking and he turned the goblet around.

Feeling a little better, he sit down at his desk and loaded a fantasy war game up on to his PC. For some reason though, his eyes kept drifting to the goblet and he couldn’t concentrate on his game.

There was something creepy about the goblet he decided and he didn’t want it in his bedroom. Getting up, he picked the goblet off the shelf and took it downstairs. He went into the dinning room and placed it in the glass corner case. The helmet wearing skull goblet looked out of place beside a small crystal rabbit and a hand painted porcelain box.

Wisdom went back upstairs and sat down at his desk again. He felt a lot better now. He got back to his game and forgot all about the goblet.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/sunday-photo-fiction-january-15th-2017/)

Swan

swan river

The Duchess sat by the lake, looking out over the sunset kissed water. She sighed deeply and wondered what she was going to do now. She had lost everything beside a trunk full of things and her pet swan. She could cope with that though. It was the betrayal of her husband and the kingdom she would never live down.

 

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/01/12/thursday-photo-prompt-swan-writephoto)

In A Corner Of The World

knowledge-1052011_1920

I’ve no idea how I ended up walking through this field. But here I am surrounded by long grass, wild flowers and the calling of birds. It’s a warm afternoon, but I can’t see the sun above me and the sky is a strange off blue color.

There’s a cottage ahead. The yellow thatch roof rising through the green leafy trees and tall bushes. There’s nothing else to do but go over and see if anybody is home. The field leads me to a small brown fence over which is a short carpet of grass. Bright flowers dot around the cottage and a wire washing line is stretched in the garden.

I go to climb over then stop. There’s an old woman beating a green rug on the washing line with a wooden tennis racket looking thing. Her white hair is piled up on top of her head and she’s wearing many skirts, a grey blouse and a pale blue apron. I can just about hear the thwacking sounds.

Climbing the fence, I walk slowly over, hoping that she spots me before I have to call out. Luckily, she does and she stops her work long before I reach her.

‘Hallo!’ she calls out and waves the tennis racket thing.

‘Hi,’ I answer back with a wave too.

‘Nice day for a walk,’ she adds.

‘Yes,’ I reply.

I come to the end of the washing line and look up. There are many green rugs hanging down…actually….they are strips of grass….

Puzzled, I look across the garden and see strips of dirt close by. There’s also a small red wheelbarrow, a spade and a large black bucket.

‘I’m just dusting my lawn,’ the old woman says, cheerily and as if that’s a perfectly normal thing to do.

I open my mouth, questions popping, but no words come out.

‘It can get quite dusty you know. And yes, there are other ways to do it but I prefer the good old fashioned method!’

She shows me how by beating a strip of grass. Only, she does it lighter then before.

I nod and slowly say, ‘how does it get dusty?’

‘Oh! Heaven knows!’ she cries and throws her hands up to the sky.

I glance up, half expecting to see a pig flying by.

‘Do you some time to spare? I’d be ever so grateful if you could help me,’ she asks and nods towards the dirt strips.

I look around, shrug and reply, ‘why not?’

‘Good. Then start digging, deary!’

Still puzzled, I walk to where the last dirt strip is as the old woman takes up beating the grass again. Looking down, I see how she’s cut the strips out and then I pick up the spade and start with the next one.

It’s actually easier then it seems as it appears the grass is use to being cut up. I slice the spade in and make my way around. It’s like a knife through butter. The smell of fresh cut grass and unearthed soil floods my nose. The grass strip comes up and I put it into the wheelbarrow. I start on another and quickly cut that strip loose too.

I look up as I place it into the wheelbarrow and I see the old woman taking down the first strip of grass. I watch her replace it into the lawn then return for the second piece.

‘This is so weird,’ I mumble.

Returning to my task, I dig up more pieces of grass and when the wheelbarrow is full I drive it over. I help the old woman take them out and hang them up. She begins beating the first one and dust raises off it.

‘How long does this take you?’ I ask her.

‘A few days,’ she answers.

‘And how many times do you do this?’

‘Oh, three or four times a year!’

‘Really?’

‘Grass gets very dusty in the summer, deary,’ she explains.

I look at her, but her face is just that of a plain woman in her early seventies. Her cheeks are fat and wrinkled like the rest of her skin. Her eyes are a warm blue, shinning with knowledge and happiness. Her white hair is long and tightly held back in a bun. Around her neck is a string of white pearls and there’s an old wedding ring on her finger.

‘Don’t you have anyone to help you?’ I ask aloud.

‘Sometimes, I do,’ she replies with a mysterious tone to her words, ‘it’s mostly just me though. I don’t mind. Keeps me busy.’

I nod and hear a shrill whistle sounding. Looking, it seems to be coming from the cottage and there’s smoke now rising out of the chimney.

‘It’s time for tea. Do you want to join me?’ the old woman asks.

‘Okay…’

She hurries off, leaving the grass strips on the washing line but taking the tennis racket with her. I follow and go through the small blue door after her. It leads straight into a kitchen. I stand in the doorway and look around.

It’s a very old fashioned farmer’s wife like kitchen. There’s a huge black wood burning stove against the far wall. A large oak table and chairs in the middle, a metal sink and draining board under a netted curtain window. Sky blue cupboards and work surfaces line another wall.

The old woman rattles around cups and things. Humming to herself. I pull out a chair and look down to see a fat old ginger cat curled up on it. I pull out another chair instead and sit down. I hear a clock ticking somewhere and the warmth of the kitchen hugging me like a old friend.

‘Here we are,’ the old woman says and sets down a tea tray.

There’s a tea pot wearing a tea cosy, milk jug, sugar cube bowl, a plate of biscuits, two pattern flower china cups and matching saucers.

‘Thanks,’ I reply.

We have tea and it’s good. I nibble at a biscuit and look around the kitchen. There’s not much else to see though. I want to talk, but I don’t really know what to say. Finally, the old woman breaks the silence.

‘I must get back to keeping my corner of the world tidied now and you should be getting home.’

‘Home?’ I say aloud.

‘Yes. It’ll be dark soon and the woods can be a dangerous place. Even for yourself.’

She pats my arm and gets up.

‘But….I don’t know the way…I found myself in that field. I don’t even know where I am!’ I cry.

The old woman tuts at me, ‘just head back the way you came, deary.’

I move my tea cup away and get up.

‘Goodbye,’ she says and gives me a little wave.

I don’t wave back, but go straight out the door, too confused to speak.

In the garden, the grass is still hanging on the washing line and there are dirt strips in the lawn. The sky is turning a dark blue and the birds are still singing. I walk off, feeling like that’s the only thing I can do. I go back over the fence and through the field. I look back at the cottage, smoke is still coming out of the chimney and the old woman has gone back to beating the grass again.

I turn, take a step and stumble. My legs go out from under me and I land face first in the grass. My eyes shut. I take a deep breath and open then again…And I am no longer in the field.

My study comes to life before my eyes. I blink and the rest of the long grass is gone, replaced by the bookcases, my desk and a fire crackling of the fireplace. I sit up in the deep plush chair, disturbing the book that’s slipped down on to my lap. I pick it up and read the title; Maps Of The Old Worlds.

Tree Man (Part 2)

blur-1850243_1920

Poppy pressed her face and hands to the icy cold window and looked outside. There was no sign of anyone. Maybe, the stick man shaped like a Christmas tree had disappeared? Poppy wondered about that for a few moments, but then she saw him.

Tree-man was making his way down the pathway and even though he was tiny, the bright green colour Poppy had given him glowed against the white frost.

Poppy opened her mouth to shout to him to come back but then she thought better of it. Hurrying into her wardrobe, she put on some fleece pants, socks and a jumper. Going to her door, she crept out again. The house was quiet and as she passed her parents’ bedroom door, she thought she heard the turning pages of a book.

Downstairs she crept and in the hallway put on her coat and wellington boots. She reached for the keys next and unlocked the door with a bit of difficulty. Pulling the front door open as quietly as she could, Poppy slipped outside.

A cold wind wrapped around her and her breath misted before her. The frost sparkled on the ground looking like someone had spread sugar on the road.

‘Tree-man?’ Poppy whispered.

‘Yes?’ a distant voice called back.

‘Come back here,’ Poppy said.

‘Why? You are there and I am here now. Let’s go see the lights together,’ Tree-man spoke out.

‘But…’

‘You’ll be safe with me!’ Tree-man shouted.

Poppy looked behind her at the hallway. The light was on as her mum had left it lit for her dad’s return. She could feel the warmth also coming from the house and she felt torn.

Tree-man reached the gate, he stopped and waved at her.

‘Just a few minutes. That’d be okay,’ Poppy said under her breath.

Slipping the key into her pocket, she stepped out and closed the door softly. Poppy hurried down the path and bent down to look at Tree-man.

‘Can you pick me up?’ he asked.

Nodding, Poppy held out her hand and he jumped into her palm.

‘Where do we go?’ she asked.

‘Down the street,’ Tree-man directed.

‘Okay.’

Poppy opened the gate and went though. Even though it seemed the frost would crunch under her boots it didn’t nor was it slippy. Carrying Tree-man loosely, Poppy walked down the street and admired the neighbours Christmas lights.

‘Isn’t this magical?’ Tree-man spoke after a few moments.

‘Yes,’ Poppy replied.

‘Look at that deer and that wreath and that sign,’ Tree-man pointed out.

Poppy did, but she wasn’t as fascinated as he was. She was starting to feel cold and also worried. What if someone saw her and they told her mum?

‘We should go back,’ Poppy spoke up.

‘Just a little more, please! I do so love Christmas and it’s so pretty!’ Tree-man cried.

‘But I could get into trouble…’

‘Look at that!’ Tree-man cut in.

Poppy did and she saw the house at the end of the street brightly light up in blue and red flashing lights.

‘Closer! closer!’ Tree-man called.

Frowning, Poppy walked on then came to a stop before the house. The bushes that lined the front walls were divided into red or blue lights as were other plants in the garden. Two real looking but fake baby white trees were on either side of the door, decorated with shinny red baubles and white fairy lights. The walls of the house was covered with flashing stars and other Christmas themed lights.

‘Wow,’ Tree-man breathed.

‘I’ve seen it before,’ Poppy commented and then without thinking, she added, ‘there’s a house on the next street that has a family of polar bears in the garden.’

‘Oh, I’d like to see that!’ Tree-man said.

‘No. We must go back now,’ Poppy replied and she turned around.

Tree-man put his hands on the lowest triangle on his body, ‘no!’ he shouted.

‘Then you’ll have to get there yourself,’ Poppy snapped.

‘Fine!’ Tree-man shot back and he jumped from her hand.

Poppy watched him land on the pavement then walk off. Her mind fully made up, Poppy walked back to her house. Reaching the front door, she turned and looked up the street, but she couldn’t see the Tree-man.

Car headlight lit up the road and Poppy gasped. That could be her dad arriving back!

Fumbling in her coat pocket, she took out the keys and unlocked the door. Rushing in, she closed it and kicked off her boots. As she struggled out of her coat, she heard the car pull up. Tossing her coat on the hanger, she hurried upstairs and took off her clothes.

‘Hello?’ her mum’s voice called.

Poppy stopped trying to take the pants off and got quickly into bed. She pulled the duvet up and shut her eyes. She heard her bedroom door open slightly and then the front door also opened.

Keeping her eyes squeezed shut, she heard her mum go downstairs and talk quietly to her dad. Then they both went into the kitchen or the living room.

Poppy let go of the breath she had been holding and opened her eyes. She thought about Tree-man and where he might have gone. Should she have really left him out there alone? But what choice had she had?

Settling back, Poppy listened to her parents coming upstairs and going to bed. She waited a good few minutes, counting in her head then she got out of bed again. Going to the window, she opened the curtains and looked out.

Tree-man wasn’t there and it had started to snow.

Tree-man (Part 1)

blur-1850243_1920.jpg

Poppy was just about to wipe away the drawing on her new mini whiteboard when her mum walked into the living room.

‘Time for bed,’ mum said.

Poppy looked up with a frown. She wasn’t feeling tried, even though the fire had made the living room really warm.

‘You’ll get wrinkles if you frown like that. Come on now,’ mum added.

Putting down the whiteboard and pens, Poppy got up and headed out of the room.

‘What was that you were drawing?’ her mum asked as they went upstairs.

‘It was a Christmas tree, but it turned out wrong. So I made it into a tree-man,’ Poppy explained.

‘Oh okay. Go brush you teeth then get your nightie on. I need to check on Oscar.’

Poppy nodded and went into the bathroom whilst mum crept into the baby’s room.

As she brushed her teeth, Poppy thought about the tree-man. He hadn’t turned out how she had wanted either. Maybe tomorrow she’d have another go at drawing a Christmas tree.

Teeth clean, she got changed and into bed. The last of the fire’s warmth left her and Poppy felt cold. Wrapping herself up, she had made a nest when her mum appeared at the door.

‘Would you like a story?’

‘No,’ Poppy said, ‘I’m tried.’

Nodding her mum went to close the door then added, ‘I’ll send your dad up to say goodnight when he gets back.’

‘Okay,’ Poppy muttered.

She settled down and shut her eyes. Poppy lay still for a good few minutes, letting thoughts come and go. Then she threw back the duvet and got out of bed. Slowly, she opened the door and looked out. The light from her parents’ room was on and the door was almost closed.

Poppy sneaked out and went downstairs as quietly as she could. Going into the living room, she found it dark and lit only by the last glow of the fire. Poppy made her away around and found the whiteboard and pens. Picking them up, she took them back to bed with her.

Wrapped up again and with the night light on, Poppy looked at the whiteboard. The tree-man was gone. Frowning, she turned it over, but found the other side empty too. Raising the board above her head, she looked down at the bed. There was a strange green, spiky looking stick figure on the fleece blanket.

Poppy dropped the board on to the floor.

The stick figure let out a small cry and turned around.

A scream escaped Poppy’s mouth and her bedroom door flew open.

‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ her mum said loudly.

‘There was a…thing…’ Poppy cried.

She scrambled from the bed and looked through all the blankets. There was no sign of the green spiky stick man.

‘It was just a dream,’ mum said.

Poppy went to argue with her, but thought better about it. She let her mum help her remake the bed, then Poppy got in and lay down again.

‘Goodnight,’ her mum said and left.

‘Night,’ Poppy called after her.

As soon as her mum had gone, Poppy lent out of bed and picked up the whiteboard. It was still empty on both sides.

‘Where are you?’ she whispered.

‘Here!’ a small voice cried.

Poppy grabbed the night light and shone it on the floor. Crawling out from underneath the bed was the tree-man she had drawn. His body was three thin green triangles on top of one another. His legs were long and his feet flat. His arms and hands were the same, but he had long fingers. His head was made of a smaller triangle with large black eyes in the middle and there was a fuzzy green outline all around him.

‘What are you?’ Poppy breathed.

‘Tree-man,’ he replied and he give her a wave.

‘How did you come off the whiteboard?’ Poppy asked.

‘No idea,’ Tree-man replied.

He wandered across the room and stopped at the large teddy bear which guarded the foot of Poppy’s bed. He reached out and poked the bear’s foot pad with a long spiky finger.

‘He’s not alive,’ Poppy said as she slipped out of the bed.

‘He is,’ Tree-man spoke, ‘you just can’t see it.’

With a nod to the bear, he moved on and began climbing the curtains.

‘What are you doing?’ Poppy asked.

‘I want to see the Christmas lights,’ he answered.

Reaching the window sill, he went behind the curtains.

Puzzled, Poppy pulled back the curtains to make a gap of her head. She looked out and saw the house across from her light up by white lights. There was a small deer in the garden and the two small bushes by the door were sparkling with flashing fairy lights.

‘It’s so pretty,’ Tree-man said.

‘Yes,’ Poppy replied.

‘We should go out and see more.’

‘No,’ we can’t! It’s night time and I’m not allow too,’ Poppy explained.

Tree-man looked at her reflection in the window, his expression unreadable because she hadn’t given him a detailed face.

‘I’m going back to bed. It’s cold,’ Poppy announced.

She closed the curtains and went back to bed. Settling down, she ignored the sounds coming from by her window. Then though, she felt a blast of freezing air. Tossing the bedding back, she got up once again and went to the window.

One of the top windows was open and Tree-man was nowhere to be seen…

 

To Be Continued…