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).

 

 

 

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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).

 

Arch #WritePhoto

Walking around, I imagined the ruinings whole and humming with life. Men shuffling around in brown robes, saying prayers and gardening. A bell tolling, the smell of smoke and tingle of food.

I entered the main part of the Abbey. I touched a cold, grey brick in the huge stone wall. How many other fingers had also pressed here? I looked at the archways on either side, stretching down the nave which ended in a massive empty window. I thought once, coloured glass depicting scenes from the Bible glowed in the sunlight there. Now, a single tree was framed perfectly.

I went over, the illusion of the framed tree breaking. I felt the draft more and wondered what had happened the window. The ledge was too high for me to lean out of. I turned and looked back. What had people thought as they stood on this alter stand?

Had God ever been here? Had He abandoned the Abbey when the monks had? Did He still come now and wonder through these empty arches? No one could answer those questions but Himself.

As for me, I enjoyed the peace that still remind in places liked this.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/08/thursday-photo-prompt-arch-writephoto/ with thanks).

Cosy

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She was glad she had worn her new cosy winter boots on the walk. They were wool lined, waterproof and with a good grip so dealing with the snow was much easier. The afternoon outing, with her husband, of a romantic tour around the abbey ruinings and a nice hot chocolate at the cafe before heading home however, hadn’t gone to plan.

Instead, they had been caught up in a snowstorm and had to huddle under a crumbing archway. The cafe was closed – staff sickness- and waiting things out had seemed better then trying to battle through them. Nestling together, they tried to keep warm and out of the worst of it.

The wind howled about them, finding many holes and hallows in the abbey ruinings to echo in. The snow fell like a thick fog; blinding and cruel which was made more wild by the wind. In addition, darkness had began to fall too and the sky that had been an icy blue with tinted grey clouds was now a dull black.

She thought about trying to leave. It wasn’t far to their house and they had both lived in this village their whole lifes, so even in weather like this they could find their way. She looked up at her husband and yelling as loud as she could told him, ‘maybe we should try to go back!’

He stared into the storm, weighing things up before answering, ‘no! We need to wait till it gets better. It’s dangerous. But perhaps, we could move to somewhere better. That area were the stone coffins are.’

Holding hands they walked through the archway and around some low stone walls. The wind and snow whipped around them as if to make them go back, but they struggled on till they reached the enclosed chapel space. Here, through a single doorway, four solid walls and half a roof blocking out most of the storm. There were also two examples of the stone coffins in a corner.

Shaking off the snow as best they could, they settled into the other corner and watched the snow rage through the open section of the roof. They were far enough away not to be as effected though. She snuggled into him, trying to grip some of the romance back but it was hard when you were both frozen and just wanted to go home.

‘Do you think it’ll last much longer?’ she asked.

‘Hard to tell. We’ll try and stay for as long as possible,’ he replied.

After sometime had passed in which they had held each other and shared kisses, the storm dropped a little. The snow was still coming down but the wind wasn’t as wild. Deciding now was the time, they headed out and made their way slowly back home.

 

(Inspired by; https://lindaswritingblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/a-good-word with thanks

Abbey Ruins

Buildwas Abbey, England, Great Britain, Columns, Ruins

There was something about returning to the abbey ruins that made him go cold. It had been his childhood playground for so many years, it had become like a second home. Now, stepping off the bus and entering the abbey grounds after twenty years it still smelt the same. He breathed in summer grass, warm soil and a hint of sweetness which came from the visitor building and shop.

He walked slowly down the stone path, noticing the groups of young families. Everyone seemed so happy and completely oblivious to the past that was rising up around him. Going around the back of the Abbey, he found it quieter and further out some ruined walls that marked separate houses and buildings which the monks had used for guests and storage.

He stopped in front of a corner wall that was about three foot off the ground. He looked around with a lump in his throat, but there were no signs or flowers marking the spot. Strangely, he thought there would still have been. He looked over the top and across to a low tree, there was a bench just in front of it.

He walked over, not remembering a bench ever being there before. He looked at the bronze sign and his heart sink. She had not been forgotten. He sat down on the bench and thought about that summer. He had been ten, one of the oldest in the group, but there had been nothing he could have done.

It had been the normal game of  climbing and jumping, but she had gotten scared and not wanted too. He could not recall her face, it had faded, but he remembered her cries and mumbled nos. Someone had pushed her. One of his friends, but no one could ever say who.

She had fallen, hit her head somehow and landed on the ground never to get up again.