Winter Wanderer (Part 1)

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Beck kept his head down as the snow storm whistled around him and urged his black stallion, Nightstorm on. Grabbing the reins tighter with his numb leather gloved covered fingers, he prayed the old warhorse didn’t stumble. Breathing deeply, Beck risked peering out of his dark green cloak’s deep hood and took in the winter swept forest around him.

Trees were frozen above him, their branches clawing at the dark grey sky in desperation. He couldn’t help but think that they were praying the winter to be over, just like he was. To the left of them the river was iced over and snow covered. Deadly treacherous for man and beast.   Beck blinked away snowflakes and looked down at the edge of the river. He could hardly see it, but worried Nightstorm might get too close, he steered the horse away and closer to the trees.

The warhorse snorted and stomped off to the side as he carried on forward. Beck patted Nightstorm’s long neck and tried to search through the trees. He couldn’t see anything but white peppered tree trunks and freshly falling snow. The forest offered them no protection at all, but Beck knew that somewhere close by was an abandoned elf outpost. He urged Nightstorm on and tried to spot any arrows sticking out of trees or anything else that would signal the way.

The snow crunched loudly under the heavy horse and Nightstorm came to a sudden stop. Beck rose up from the saddle and looked around, but he couldn’t figure out where they were. He swing down and threw the reins over so he could lead his only friend through the blizzard. Nightstorm neighed softly and nuzzled into his leather padded shoulder. Beck patted the horse’s nose and tugged the reins as he started walking.

‘I know it’s around here somewhere,’ Beck mumbled and the wind snatched his words away.

Easing his hood back for a clearer view, he regarded the forest once more. Frowning, he slowly looked in all directions, but the snow blocked his keen eyes and ears. Nightstorm breathed a hot breath on him and Beck rubbed the warhorse’s forehead. He moved up and scratched his ears, Nightstorm’s long black mane tangling around his fingers.

‘Good horse,’ Beck breathed, ‘come on.’

Tugging the reins again, Beck led Nightstorm into the trees, hoping they were going in the right direction. A few feet in and the trees thinned and shorted a little. A smile crept onto Beck’s face and he urged his warhorse on. Something flapped from a tree in the distance and Beck almost slowed Nightstorm down, but then he saw it was only the tattered remains of an old flag.

They walked under it and Beck saw the elf outpost in the distance. Pushing through some struggling saplings that were being dwarfed by their parents, Beck picked up his pace and hurried to the neatly hidden stone building. As he came closer and even through the snow, he could see how hard the elves had tried to hide the structure. Of course that hadn’t worked thirty years ago when goblins had raged in the forest and taken over.

Beck brought Nightstorm to a stop outside the broken wooden door. He tried to listen to see if there was anything hiding inside, but the wind was too loud. Pushing against the heavy door, Beck led Nightstorm inside then tried to fix the door back into place. A soft crying sound made Beck stop and he peered through the darkness of the open ground floor room.

‘It could just be the wind,’ he muttered.

In the gloom, he patted Nightstorm and ran his hands down the side of the saddle. He felt his wrapped up great sword, bow and quiver then a large leather satchel. Beck dug through it and pulled out an old lantern. Next he found his flint and lit the candle inside. Holding up the small flicking light in front of him, Beck caught sight of the blood splatted walls. Pulling out a short sword at his belt, he made the light dance off that instead.

‘Hello?’ he called.

He heard a small female gasp and the crying stopped.

‘Who’s there?’ he called.

Shuffling in the darkness then nothing else, except his and Nightstorm’s breathing and the snow storm outside. Beck waited then moved slowly across the stone floor. He searched the room but found nothing. He came back, checked the horse was well then climbed up the worn stone steps in the corner, knowing he wasn’t alone.

To Be Continued…

 

 

Polar bear

Writing prompt:

Zoe pressed her face against the cold glass and stared into the water. She could see air bubbles floating through the too blue water and a swirl of movement on the surface above. Clutching, Barley, her favourite teddy bear and strongly aware of her parents with her baby brother, Alex, standing behind her, she awaited eagerly.

A crackle of static over a nearby loud speaker caused her to jump. Zoe looked up as a boisterous female voice began speaking through the hiss of white noise. The voice welcomed them all to the Arctic Zone and to the Polar Bears, then carried on reeling off a speech that Zoe could only half understand. She let the voice slip into the background noise that was all around her and carried on staring through the window before her.

The water suddenly seemed to cave in on itself and Zoe gasped loudly, drawing the attention of her parents. They carried on watching as the water divided apart and a dead fish dropped into view quickly being chased by a large white bear. Zoe, squeezing Barley tighter, stepped back and her heels catch her daddy’s feet. She felt his large hands press down on her shoulders reassuringly, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the polar bear.

The bear opened his large black mouth and snatched the fish up before it could hit the floor of the tank. With larger than life legs and paws, the bear stretched and swim back up. He’s ice white fur moved like a mermaid’s hair with a life of its’ own. His paws swirled the water around him and he disappeared back up.

Zoe rushed back to the window, tucking Barley into her elbow as she pressed both her hands to the glass. She looked up and saw the belly of the polar bear almost above her. She heard him break the surface of the water and even felt a little splash of wetness on her face. Zoe sank down to the little ledge jutting out and put her head all the way up. Her view was distorted by the turbulent water, but she could make out the polar bear getting out and scrambling onto the fake iceberg land.

The water took a long time to settle and the voice over the loud speaker was still going on. Zoe bite her lip and wondered if the polar bear would return. She wanted to ask her parents, but was too worried that she’d miss seeing him again if she did so. Hugging Barley in both hands, she watched the hypnotic dancing of the air bubbles.

When the water began surging again, Zoe held her breath. She saw a paw then the rest of the polar bear. He seemed to be swimming towards her. A tremble of fear shot through her and she felt frozen to the ledge. The bear was getting closer and closer. She could see his shiny black nose and eyes, which seemed to be watching her.

Zoe twisted Barley in her hands and let out a small squeak of fear. She felt a brush of warm air from behind her and her daddy’s soft voice in her ear. She felt his hand on back and he was whispering to her not to be afraid. The polar bear wasn’t going to eat her, he was looking for more fish. Zoe’s lips quivered, but she couldn’t speak nor take her eyes off the mighty white bear.

Another dead fish dropped into view behind him and Zoe thought her daddy was right. The bear would go for the fish, he just needed to turn around. Still holding that breath, she waited. However the bear didn’t turn, but dropped to the floor and actually walked the few steps towards the window.

Zoe felt the urge to scramble away, but her body had turned to jelly. Instead, she focused her attention on not crying and repeating her daddy’s words. Her mommy’s voice excitedly called them to turn for a photo. Zoe give a little shake of her head then became aware of her mom using the camera anyway. She felt her daddy trying to turn her around, but she wasn’t sure she could.

Finally, she turned her head, painfully aware of the polar bear pressing his face and paws to the window and gave a ghost of a smile to her mommy and the camera. Photo taken, she snapped her eyes back to the glass and met those of the bear. A scream shot to her throat, but she swallowed it as her Daddy hushed her with calming words. Zoe bit her lip and tasted the bitterness of blood. She raised Barley to her face and hide behind him. From the corner of her eye, she saw her daddy signalling her mommy over and her leaving Alex in the push chair to join them.

Her mommy scared her why she was so scared? The bear couldn’t hurt her, he couldn’t get through the glass. Zoe, sucking on her lip, mumbled something that her parents missed. Her daddy tried to wrap her into a hug, but she wouldn’t move. Her mommy rubbed her arms and tried to comfort her. Zoe pressed Barley into her face and chocked on the sob.

Her daddy won the battle of moving her and swept her up into a hug. She moved Barley out of the way and pressed into his shoulder. Zoe took breaths and felt herself getting calm again. Slowly, she pulled her head up and looked over to the window. The polar bear had gone leaving a swirl of water in his wake.

Frost

There was frost on the carpet as Darcy pushed the front door fully open. She paused on the step, arms weighted down with bags and her ears stinging with coldness. Frowning, she cast her eyes to the staircase where the small trail ended. She stepped inside, put down the bags and closed the door quietly.

Taking off her long coat and knitted hat, she shook out her curly brown hair. Hanging her things up and taking off her boots, she heard soft laughter. Deciding to leave the bags in the hallway, even though she knew it to be a risk, she walked towards the living room. The cold and wetness of the hall rug sink into her thick socked feet and she scrunched up her toes.

Sticking her head around the door, she saw her mother asleep on the plush armchair. The TV was on, though the sound was turned down and Darcy was able to make out the program to be a church carols one. Turning away, she followed the wet patches down to the kitchen. The door was ajar, like the front one had been and gently, Darcy eased it open.

The scene before her was one that would stay with her for years to come. Her four children were gathered around the fridge-freezer, the oldest one, Riley, balanced on a chair and the youngest, Tess, sat on the floor, whilst the other two, twins, Alex and Andrea held a small ice snowman. Darcy watched as Riley took the snowman from the twins and placed it inside the freezer next to a packet of peas and fish fingers.

‘What’s going on?’ she asked, opening the door and going in.

Straight away, Riley wobbled on the chair and had to grab the back rail. The twins rushed forward and crowded her and Tess screeched out, arms waving and gurgling.

‘Nothing, nothing,’ the twin chanted.

Darcy squeezed past them and picked up Tess as Riley slammed shut the freezer door.

‘You’re home early, how come?’ he added.

‘Do I need a reason?’ she countered and tickled Tess, who burst into laughed. ‘So, what’s going on?’

‘Nothing. Just looking…looking for…Christmas presents.’

‘Presents in the freeze?’

He shrugged, ‘Oh, you know…’

Darcy pulled a face and fixed her son with an I don’t believe you look. Meanwhile, the twins had dart out of the backdoor and their excited voices drifted over. Though, their words couldn’t be made out. Putting Tess on her hip, Darcy made her way over to the door, but Riley jumped in front of her.

‘What we having for tea?’ he asked, quickly.

‘Pizza,’ she answered and tried to look out of the window.

‘Great. When?’

‘The normal time.’

‘Don’t you want to get changed and stuff?’

‘What’s going on outside?’ Darcy asked dropping her voice.

Riley shook his head.

‘Go on…tell me.’

‘Nothing. Nothing. Here, let me have Tess,’ he said and held his arms out, ‘I’ll look after her. You should go and see Granny.’

Darcy pouted and reached out for the door handle. Riley grabbed it before she could. Swinging around, she marched to the freezer and pulled it open as Riley gasped behind her. Inside, the snowman stared back at her, it’s frozen features nicely sculptured.  Tapping it to one side, she saw another one behind it, though its face and scarf were different.

‘Where’s your father and grandpa?’ Darcy asked as she turned around, but the kitchen as empty. She heard Riley’s voice from the garden yell, ‘she knows!’

Closing the door, Darcy swapped Tess to her other hip and went to the door. Standing in the door way she looked into the garden light up by the security lights and saw her husband, father and other children gathered around blocks of ice. The adults were holding tools and looked full engaged in listening to the children. Darcy noticed that the grass was covered in ice chippings that glistened in the light as the melted.

‘Hi, Honey! How was work?’ her husband called over.

‘What’s going on?’ Darcy cut in.

‘Just…practising a little something,’ he replied.

‘Why are there snowmen in my freezer?’

The twins giggled and Riley looked stressed out.

‘Because it’s colder in there…maybe?’

Darcy felt a wave of frustration, ‘just what is going on? And I want to know right now!’

‘Well, darling,’ her father started, ‘the kids wanted to build snowmen, but you know there’s been no snow, so I thought we’d sculpt them some…’

‘Mummy, can we keep them? Dad said we could,’ Andrea and Alex said together, their words tumbling together to form one.

‘Where are we going to put them all?’ Darcy asked.

‘We’ll find somewhere,’ her husband hushed.

‘Look at this one!’ one of the twins said and they awed around a third ice snowman.

Shaking her head, Darcy stepped back and shut the door. From outside came the happy cries of the children. Placing, Tess in the high chair, Darcy suddenly remembered the bags in the hallway and hurried to hide them.