Reaching #WritePhoto

The five adventurers had been walking towards their quest for weeks now. They had across woodland, swamps and moorland, through sun, rain, snow and darkness, fighting goblin night raids, giant raven attacks and other monsters.

Stepping through a clump of wild brush that had been sneakily trying to ensnare them, the group saw they were at the base of sweeping hills as far as the eye could see. Weak sunlight fell through the cloud cover, causing beams of light to touch the hills.

In the dim light and under a dead tree, they gathered and talked quietly.

The elf ranger was certain this was the right way. The two men- one an aged wizard and the other a hardened solider- agreed with him for the elf had yet to lead them wrong. The dwarf cleric and the halfling thief weren’t so sure.

Nobody really knew what was beyond The Reaching Hills, those that went there didn’t often come back and when they did their minds were lost. It was said that evil ghosts and outcast Gods walked the hills, snatching souls and murdering. The hills were always cast in gloom and no normal light could break though the darkness that lay in patches providing perfect cover for enemies.

‘We must go on and see,’ the wizard spoke, ‘I can give us the magical light we need to see by and stop anything sneaking upon us.’

‘We don’t need to go through The Reaching Hills!’ the halfling cried, ‘we can go around them. To the west they only go as far as the Red River. We can cross the Long bridge there and go around!’

The elf shook his head, white hair spilling around his shoulders, ‘it would take too long.’

‘We could die!’

‘We could have died back there!’ the dwarf shouted, ‘we barely got out of that poisonous man-eating plant patch!’

‘We go forward then,’ the solider said and he started walking up the first of the hills.

The rest of the party followed, wondering if the tales of The Reaching Hills were true and what they would encounter there.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/09/12/thursday-photo-prompt-reaching-writephoto/ with thanks).

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Twig Trail #CCC

The twigs appeared like a trail down the middle of the road. It could have been caused by the storm yesterday but Carrie thought not.

Pulling her horse, Sasha, more to the side to avoid any sharp bits of wood, Carrie cursed the council clearing team. They were always leaving a mess behind them after being out here and it wasn’t good enough.

After returning home and stabling Sasha, Carrie went onto her laptop and wrote a complaints email. She doubted nothing would come to it but if she threaten to sue if Sasha got injured maybe they would listen this time.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/crimsons-creative-challenge-42/ with thanks).

Goosey Gander #CCC

Kelly froze and couldn’t get out of the car. The goose had surround her and were squawking loudly. The noise sent chills through her, like finger nails on a black board. Her hand began to shake on the door handle, she want to let go but couldn’t.

One of the goose flapped it’s huge white wings and rose up threateningly. Hissing ruptured and loose feathers dotted the ground.

There was a tapping on the window. Kely screamed, started the car again and tore away.

The farmer lifted his cap and scratched his head in puzzlement. Townies today!

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/08/21/crimsons-creative-challenge-41/ with thanks).

Ritual #FirstLineFridays

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They congregated up in the hills, far away from judging eyes. The ground was soft and wet under their bare feet. A warm breeze blew their simple robes about their ankles and wrists. The sky was blocked by a low hanging fog that hugged the hills in a chilly embrace.

They gathered around the huge standing stone who’s jagged edges pierced the sky. Strange symbols and patterns covered the stones surface, darkened by dried blood and faded blue paint.

Around that hill top, smaller standing stones raising up out of the long grass formed a circle Each had a symbol on that had once been painted green. Perhaps they were a warning? Or protection for those inside?

The people took off their robes, felt the chill of the air and fog on their skin. Tattoos covered their bodies, matching the symbols on the standing stones. Everyone joined hands and began singing in a language that was hardly heard today.

Before their voices died away, a wizened old man, bent almost double and leaning on a gnarled old walking stick came forward. He touched the stone and began chanting. Other voices rose and fell around him.

The ritual had begun.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/first-line-friday-july-19th-2019/ with thanks).

 

Wicker #WritePhoto

I stopped the car too desperate to find a proper place and ducked into a field. I checked there was no one around then fumbled with my clothes. Squatting down, I happened to look across and the breathe caught in my throat.

Three figures were standing in the middle of the field watching me. I felt heat creeping across my skin, my knuckles turned white clutching hard on my bunched pants. There was nothing I could do and nowhere to hard.

Finishing, I redressed and thought about going over to apologise and explain I had a water works infection and couldn’t help it.

I half turned away before swallowing my embarrassment and striding across the field. I could feel my heart racing, my pulse beating loudly in my ears and my face must have been beetroot red with heat.

As I got closer, puzzlement crossed my mind, these figures didn’t look right. They were too still but perhaps they were in shock about seeing my accidentally exposure?

Closer still and the realisation hit me. I laughed loudly and went right up to them.

‘Wicker statues! Not real people at all!’ I cried out.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/05/16/thursday-photo-prompt-wicker-writephoto/ with thanks).

Smultronstalle (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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Smultronstalle; ‘place of wild strawberries.’ a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation a personal idyll free from stress or sadness. 

The small town of Norrtälje sits next to the Norrtäljeviken bay that leads out to the Baltic sea. There’s a large harbour here which is used by pleasure boats and opposite is a nice restaurant and ice cream parlor. In the town there’s all kinds of shops and it’s pleasant to wander around.

We go shopping first and as much as I want to walk around by myself I can’t. So, I keep my headphones on, ignore Oscar’s demands and put a few things I want into the baskets from the shops we visit. I even get some new clothes, books, stationary and snacks without having to pay for any of it myself. Hugo is generous like that and doesn’t seem to care about flashing lots of money around.

Morning of shopping done and we drive to the harbour. We are meeting Hugo’s two cousins and their families at the restaurant for lunch. There’s six of them all together- four adults, one teenage daughter and one child son. They all have blonde hair and blue eyes, nice tans and good figures.

We order food. Oscar decides he wants pancakes and nothing else. I get a burger and watch the boats till the food arrives. A mixture of English and Swedish conversations happen but I don’t join in any of them.

When the food all comes, Oscar changes his mind and kicks up a fuss. He decides he wants a burger like mine. So, Hugo has to order him one but then Oscar has to eat his pancakes as the ice cream inside of them is melting. I can only roll my eyes and feel embarrassed for mum and Hugo but they made Oscar a brat, so it’s not really my problem.

After lunch, we go onto the cousin’s yacht and go out for a ride in the bay for a few hours. It’s really nice with the water spray air and wind whipping my hair. It clears everything out of your head. Also, I really wanted to but I didn’t push Oscar overboard!

Later, we go back to one of the cousin’s house. Oscar and their son play some games outside whilst the teenage daughter and I watch TV but most of the shows are in Swedish, so I soon get bored and find some books written in English to read. We have a late tea outside in the evening light then stay until it’s really dark and Oscar gets overtired and becomes grumpy.

We go back, passing only one other car on the road on the way then we arrive home and all go to bed.

In the morning, I’m the first up. I grab some food and pack it in my bag then I head out to the clearing. Once there, I check the berries but none look ready to eat. It’s a lovely day out though, so I have breakfast then do some reading and writing till lunch time. Mum text’s me then asking where I am and if okay?

I reply back letting her know then eat my lunch. Birds are singing in the trees, there’s the noise of a tractor in the far distance and sometimes cars along the road. Once, I hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on the road. A dog barking for a minute or two. The wind plays through branches, bushes and leaves making gently noises but that’s it!

I lay down and relax. Feeling calm and safe here. I watch the sun shinning through the tree leaves and I shut my eyes for a nap.

I still miss England and my grandparents and the fact that my new home is miles away from anywhere! But I’m getting use to it and things are not so bad here after all.

 

Smultronstalle (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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Smultronstalle; ‘place of wild strawberries.’ a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation a personal idyll free from stress or sadness. 

The Swedish countryside reminded me of England’s farmland and meadows. There was so much open space broken only by a few trees, hedgerows, red houses and barns. All of it was circled by gigantic lakes and wide rivers, which were dotted with islands. On the shores, small docks with pleasure boats moored up, waiting to be taking out on adventures.

I could walk the countryside and lake shore for hours, sometimes even take the small boat out on the lake, lost in my own thoughts. Until my step-dad, Hugo, appeared in his old black jeep, claiming, ‘ I’ve been searching all over for you, Lacy! It’s time to come home now.’ Though it wasn’t really my home that was back in England with my dead grandparents, father and brother.

The Swedish house was a huge three bedroom bungalow with a massive kitchen, living room, dinning room at the front of the house then a walk through pantry with the bathroom and a short hallway into a snug room. This joined the back of the house were the bedrooms where. Outside there was a nice decking seating area, a large rectangle lawn surrounding the house and half hidden in the left to go wild back garden was a small wooden sauna.

It’s a world away from the two down-two up terrace house I had grown up in with my grandparents. Dad and my brother Alex aged ten, died in a car accident when I was three. Mum couldn’t cope so her parents looked after me.

Then mum meet Hugo, a rich businessman who’s half English half Swedish, they married and had a son, Oscar, and decided to settle in Sweden moving between Hugo’s summer house in the countryside and his smaller house in Stockholm in the winter.

I hadn’t seen them or even been to Sweden until two months ago when my grandma passed away, almost three years after grandpa had died of the same lung cancer. I didn’t want to come but being seventeen it was either that or go into a foster home and that really didn’t appeal to me.

Of course, mum was shocked when I agreed to move to her and even more so when she met me at the airport.

‘You’ve grown so much, Lacy!’ mum had said, ‘you look more like your dad then me. It’s all that curly dark brown hair and you wear glasses too. Your eyes are brown like his were. You have my freckles though! But you’re tall like him, he had really long legs. Well, you’ll be able to show them off. Sweden is hotter then England in the summer, but the winters are so much colder!’

I don’t hate my mum or step-family or Sweden, it’s surprisingly nice here and there’s very little traffic or people about. It’s so much quieter, stiller and cleaner then the council estate. Most of the field are either for food growth, left wild or for animals to graze on, which are mostly horses. This area is famous for it’s prize winning horses across all sports.

I sometimes like to sit and the watch horses in the fields when I come across them but most of the time I just walk around. That is the one draw back to living around here; there is nothing close by. The nearest shops are a twenty minute car drive away and they are like a small corner shop and a petrol station. It’s about an hour Stockholm, though there are other towns and big shopping places in-between.

Of course, Hugo’s summer house as a TV, DVD player, internet etc but Oscar normally wants to watch something or be on the computer at the same time I do and since he’s a spoilt brat he always gets his own way. Oscar is eleven and mum baby’s him far too much whilst Hugo is too busy to really care.

So, that’s why I spend most of my time outside.

Recently, I found the perfect spot to hide in for awhile. Following the road away from the cluster of houses that make up the neighborhood by the lake shore, through a farmer’s field that has a footpath at the edge and into a wooden area which has a smaller clearing where lots of wild fruit, vegetables and herbs seem to be growing.

There I can sit on the grass in the shade of the trees or the full sunshine if I move further out. I can read books, write in my diary, do school work, daydream and anything else I fancy doing. It’s become like my sanctuary away from the world. I’m happy there and don’t feel sad about my past and issues.

Currently, I noticed that wild strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are growing in the clearing. I’ve been watching them and wondering when they best time to eat them will be.

That’s how Hugo came to know about my special place. I asked him one day over breakfast. Oscar was stuffing his face full of pancakes which I’m sure he was addicted too, mum was busy making him some more and Hugo was reading a newspaper whilst I was picking at the cereal in my bowl.

‘Hugo?’ I asked.

He hummed to show he was listening.

‘Can you eat the wild berries around here?’

‘Sure,’ he replied, ‘as long as they are wild and not in a farmer’s field. Wild berry picking is something my parents always enjoyed doing. Bit of a tradition in Sweden.’

‘How do you know when berries are ready?’ I asked.

‘Their colour changes and they don’t taste tangy or sour. I guess it depends what the berry actually is.’

Hugo folded the newspaper and give me his full attention which I didn’t like.

‘Strawberries?’ I shrugged and tried to act like it had just come to my head.

‘When they are all red and have no green left on them,’ Hugo answered.

‘Okay, what about blueberries?’

‘When they are a sort of dark purple.’

‘And raspberries and blackberries?’

‘When they are red and black,’ Hugo said and he give a small laugh, ‘where have you found all these berries? Maybe we can pick them together?’

I debated telling him then reasoned he probably knew about the place anyway, ‘in a clearing in the patch woods, passed the first field opposite the road that turns down to here.’

‘Oh, that clearing! The fruits are good from there,’ Hugo spoke.

I nodded and took a few sips of orange juice.

‘Why do you care anyway?’ Oscar snapped, bulling his way into the conversation.

Mum put two more pancakes on Oscar’s plate – his seventh and eighth-  then sat down to finally eat something herself.

‘None of your business,’ I muttered.

‘Tell me!’ Oscar shouted, ‘mamma make her tell!’ he banged his fork on the table.

‘I found some all right and I wanted to know when I could eat them,’ I explained angrily, ‘you don’t like fruit and veg anyway, so there!’

‘I do like fruit and veg!’ Oscar yelled, ‘show me where they are! Mamma make her show me! I want some!’ and he began kicking his legs about under the table.

I moved so he wouldn’t hit me and abandoned my breakfast at the same time.

‘Oscar stop that,’ Hugo said.

‘Stop kicking, darling,’ mum added, ‘today we are going into Norrtälje to do some shopping and visit your dad’s cousins. We can get you some berries there if you like.’

I got up to leave, thinking of grabbing my things and heading out to the clearing.

‘Lacy, you’re coming to. You agreed last night,’ Mum said.

I turned ready to argue, teenage mode on and angry flaring in me. I opened my mouth to say no but both mum and Hugo had stern, no arguments please faces on and I knew there was no point. The last thing I wanted was to turn into a second Oscar and at least in Norrtälje I could go shopping.

 

To Be Continued…

Orenda #WritePhoto #AtoZChallenge

Orenda; a mystical force present in all people that empowers them to affect the world or to effect changes in their own lives. 

I drove through the countryside, looking out for signs to the Thistle Horse Riding School. I had a job interview there this afternoon. I was over-excited, having spent a year looking for this kind of job. Openings didn’t come up often and most of the time they were all family run.

The realisation I was lost kicked in. I glanced at the Sat Nav but the screen was blank. Slowly down, I looked around and saw a wooden signpost coming up on my right hand side.

Pulling the car over, close to the sign, I got out and left the engine running. My sensible, flat black shoes crunched over tall grass, that left dew drops on my dark tights and black skirt. The grass boarded a farmer’s field that was green with new wheat and had fresh tractor cuts lining the ground.

I looked up at the sign that only pointed in opposite directions, fully expecting it to point me in the right way but it was blank!

Puzzled, I stared harder, thinking that age had dulled the words but no, someone had actually painted across the place names with black paint. Totally not useful!

Why would someone do that? I turned around, half hoping someone would come along so I could question them, however the single track countryside lane was empty. The only things I could see were green fields and a few trees.

I got back in the car, leaving the door open to let in the gentle spring breeze. The Sat Nav sat dead on the dashboard. It had been playing up for awhile, not keeping any power and turning off randomly. I should have got a new one but I hadn’t got around to it. Now, I deeply regretted my laziness.

The only think left to do was try and get maps on my phone. The signal wasn’t great but at least I got the idea I was still heading in the right direction and if I took a left at the end of the road, I’d almost be there.

Feeling a bit more confident, I carried on driving. The lane weaved like a snake before splitting two ways. Thankfully, this time the sign post was clear marked. To the left was the riding school, to the right a village and back the way I had come another village which I had passed through.

I went left and followed a short road towards a large gate which had a sign announcing Thistle Horse Riding School. I glanced at the dashboard clock and saw I was late by five minutes.

Getting out, I opened the gate, drove in then had to get out again to go and close the gate behind me. I parked in the visitors’ parking then took a moment to calm myself and check my interview suit was clean. I felt over the top and out of place at the stables in my white blouse, black jacket and skirt, but first impressions always count.

I left my car and followed the signs to reception/office which was little more then a shed before a gate leading to a courtyard and the first stable block. There was a brown pony tied up and with a saddle on waiting for the rider to return.

I knocked on the shed’s door. Through the window, I could see an older woman at the desk going through some paperwork. She was wearing tight black riding pants, a green polo t-shirt and had short dark brown hair. The woman got up, answering my knocking and came to the door.

‘Hello?’ she said

‘Hi, I’m Penny Wright. I’m here for the horse riding instructor job interview,’ I stated.

‘Yes. I’m Heidi Thistle, owner. Please come in.’

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach but I stayed relaxed. We shook hands and I took the other chair in the office. It was too cramped inside, but I tried not to think about it. I had to get this job, it was going to change my life, so I called upon everything I could to make it happen.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/04/11/thursday-photo-prompt-decisions-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Invitation #WritePhoto

It was a last stab at things. Pulling up outside the gates, I looked at my Sat Nav telling me I had reached my destination. The scene around me looked like something out of The Secret Garden. There were trees and bushes growing wild, moss covering everything, a sense of abandonment and wild beauty.

I got out the car and smelt the air, it was fresh this afternoon and flowers were just being to open. I went to the wooden gate, there were no signs or locks, it opened easily enough. The stone pillars ether side were badly weathered and moss covered, but some of the carved designs could still be seen.

I turned the stone, felt coldness and grit under my fingers. I questioned if I was in the right place. Maybe this was just a decorative gate that led nowhere? Just like the single track lane I was now standing on. I wouldn’t know if I didn’t walk on.

I stepped through the gates and with difficult walk down a half hidden path which was really over grown. Once through, I came out at the bottom of a field? I looked and realised it was actually a huge lawn which rolled down a hill on top of which sat a large looking manor house.

There was no path now, so I trekked up the lawn and arrived breathless and sweating at the side of the house. Catching my breath, I really hoped there was a better way up to this place. Scaling all of that in my wedding dress wasn’t going to be good!

I walked around and came to the front of the house. There were large, flat white steps leading up to a double wooden door in a archway and other side were massive vases of flowers. It was a perfect place for wedding party photos.

The driveway was huge, a half circle with lots of parking and there were a few cars all ready here. There were open iron gates at the end, leading to a wide road which seemed to fade under the trees.

I heard the door opening behind me and I turned feeling guilty and nervous as if I had been caught doing something. I tried to stay calm as a woman in her mid-to late forties, wearing a very fitted business suit and greying hair tight in a bun, came out of the house.

‘Miss Sadie Laker?’ she asked.

I nodded.

‘Mrs Rose Crompton,’ she announced and came down the steps to meet me.

We shook hands and I felt more at ease. We had spoken on the phone yesterday, Rose was the manager of the house and a descendent of the current owners who’s family had lived here for three hundred odd years.

‘Did you find the place okay?’ Rose asked.

‘Yes. It looks so perfect,’ I spoke, ‘thank you for this. You’ve saved my wedding day.’

‘It’s all fine,’ Rose said, waving my words away like dust, ‘it was lucky we had a cancellation! Unlike you though and your venue being double booked, the couple decided not to go through with things.’

‘Shame.’

There was a pause and I knew she was staying at me but I didn’t know what else to say.

‘Where is your car?’ Rose asked me, ‘you didn’t walk all the way up here from the road did you?’

‘Erm, no. I think I missed the turning and came through a side entrance,’ I explained.

‘Ah. I think there’s something in your hair….’

I touched my hair, embarrassment flaring and pulled out a few leaves.

Rose smiled and turned back to the house.

I crumpled the leaves, let them fall and joined her going up the steps.

The rooms for the wedding where lovely, actually lots better then the venue I had chosen originally. By the time I left, I know my dream wedding was going to happen two weeks today. Trekking back to my car, there was only one thing left to do now; resend the wedding invitations with the new venue address on them.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/02/28/thursday-photo-prompt-invitation-writephoto/ with thanks).

Sunflower #CCC

Sunflower Dead

Sunflowers remind me of her. I was twelve in 1940 and a London evacuee but countryside life didn’t agree with me. I was ill all the time and the farmer’s daughter, who was my age, looked after me.

One morning, she brought sunflowers fresh off the field to my sick bed.

‘They cheer anything up!’ she said, ‘sunflowers are my favourite.’

I agreed but it was her who cheered me the most, my first and last love.

We found each other after the War, married, children, a life together but now I putting sunflowers on her grave and she has returned to my memories.

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/crimsons-creative-challenge-15/ with thanks).