Entrance #WritePhoto

The return journey home was a long one but finally after all these years they had been gained back the country of their great-grandfathers. The land was war torn and reclaimed by nature but they didn’t care about that. They could start again and live as their ancestors had once done.

Stopping to make camp as they did every night, the hundreds of people who had banded together to travel in safety, began the normal bustle and rushing to get things done. Horses, ponies, dogs and other animals needed to be sheltered, feed and watered. Watches for bandits and monster attacks need to be arrange. Lanterns lit, fires to be started, food prepared and cooked. Then finally, shelters and beds to be made.

A chilling winter wind was blowing and the sky looked heavy with snow. Prayers were said to try and ward the worse of winter away for bad weather would make the next few months difficult. Darkness began to fall and fires crackled into life, fighting away the growing shadows.

Tonight, they were camping in a low valley. Rocks jutted out from clumps of grass and small trees grew out from cracks in the mountain like rock. There was shelter from the elements here but it came at a price; venerability to attacks. The high rock sides and narrow ways in and out, meant that it would been easy for enemies to sneak up on the large group.

Some people would have chosen to stay out in the open but they had woman, children, elderly and non-fighting men who needed protecting. So, the best shelter had to be sort even if it wasn’t ideal for battle.

Through the noise that had risen up, the voice of a small child shouted out, ‘Look, mama!’

Fial turned wearily to her five year old daughter who was standing next to a pile of fallen boulders and pointing a finger upwards at the side of towering rock side.

Fial was exhausted and not in the mood for anything other then a hot meal and sleep. She was heavily pregnant, almost eight months gone with her ninth child. She was not happy about having to give birth in the wilderness but had lost the argument with her husband about travelling.

Fial sighed and addressed her youngest, ‘Ierne, please, I am too busy. I have to prepare the last meal and your sister, Aibell, still has a high fever.’

‘I wonder what is in there….’ Ierne spoke, ignoring her mother as her eyes were fixed on what seemed to be the entrance of a cave.

With a shake of her head, Fial turned back to her task and left the child, who was too young to help out much, to amuse herself.

Ierne began climbing up the side of the rock. She dug her hands into the soft soil and gripped onto rough grass to help pull herself upwards. She laughed as taller plants tickled her and frowned as sharp rock scraped her skin. The cave opening was high above but she was determined to reach it.

Stopping for a rest on a large outcrop, Ierne looked down and saw her family. Her mother and oldest sisters, Ciara and Dearlu, were preparing food into a large black pot. Aibell was still resting in the covered cart.

Their father was coming back from placing their horses in a more sheltered area with his youngest son, Faolan at his side. Whilst the other three brothers; Naos, Eion and Bricin, were getting the fire going after chopping down a nearby tree for wood.

Ierne turned her head back to the entrance and started her wonder again.

What is up there? Is it a bear cave? The home of a mighty dragon? Will there be treasure? 

Smiling, the little girl began her climb again. It took her awhile to stand before the cave and she felt tired and hungry. The sight of the gloomy darkness and broken rocks around the entrance re-sparked Ierne into action.

Standing before the cave mouth, she peered in. It was darker in there then outside and only slight outlines of the rock faces and a narrow way in could be made out. There was no guessing how far back or if other passages lead off the cave ran. The wind whistled through like a low, mournful flute backed up by an echoing water drip.

Ierne smiled and cried out, ‘elves! Do you live here?’

Her voice give a soft echo and she listened for a reply but none came back.

She stepped forward and tried to peer into the dark entrance. Icy wind clawed at her face and she shivered in her travelling cloak. Ierne wiped her nose on the back of her mitten cover hand then rubbed her face. She was getting sleepy.

The wind began to pick up, pulling her towards the cave now and a few flakes of snow fluttered by. It was too cold to stand still for long. Looking into the cave again, Ierne slowly walked inside and put her fingers to the damp, cold wall.

Out of the wind and the arriving snow, the girl sit down and huddled in her cloak. Lulled by the whistling, Ierne started to drift off. Her eyes were heavy, her limbs ached with the cold and she tried after her climb. Sleep thickly stole her away.

In Ierne’s dream, there was a cosy fire, hot stew and warm bread. Music was playing somewhere and little people were dancing. They looked funny with their really long hair and clothes made out of plants and small animal skins.  Laughter, singing and voices rose high, echoing in the cave. There was red wine and golden mead flowing and splashing on the floor.

Ierne joined in with the dancing and tried to sing but she didn’t know the words. The little people had a different language to her’s. When her feet got tried, she sat by the fire and it was then that one of the little people offered her a goblet of the mead.

She took it and looked into the shimming liquid. The fire light reflected off the surface and the mead smelt so sweet.

‘It looks and smells like honey!’ Ierne spoke, ‘I love honey and have not had it since the spring.’

‘Take a sip, A’stor,’ the little person said.

Ierne raised the goblet and was just about to taste the gold mead when everything started to shake.

The little people screamed and began running away. The goblet slipped from Ierne’s hand and she looked around confused as a faint, familiar voice called her name.

Coming too, Ierne woke up and felt light stinging her eyes. Someone was shaking her shoulder and repeatedly saying her name. She tried to question what was going on but only mumble sounds came out of her mouth.

‘Ierne!’ her brother, Naos snapped, ‘everyone has been looking for you!’

‘What happened?’ Ierne asked, rubbing sleep away.

‘You can not go wondering off! It is dangerous!’

‘I was safe. I was with the little people.’

‘There’s no one here,’ Naos pointed out and shone his lantern around.

‘That’s ’cause you scared them away!’ Ierne cried.

‘Come along now,’ Naos growled, ‘it’s supper and bedtime for you.’

Naos picked up his younger sister and carried her back down to the safety of their family.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2020/01/23/thursday-photo-prompt-entrance-writephoto/ with thanks).

In The Light Of The Moon

landscape-4762468_1920

I couldn’t sleep, my insomnia was paining me again. I took a lantern and went out to the shore of the lake. Despite the lateness of the hour, a freezing fog was hanging in the air. I let the lapping of the water guide me and felt the wooden planks of the jetty under my boots.

The wood creaked and the water splashed against the poles. There should have been the addition of a rocking boat but last month it had been overcome by heavy rain and sank. I could picture the bones of the boat resting on the bottom of the lake.

The moon was full and low in a cloudless sky. I marvelled at her, not being able to recall seeing another moon see big. Something drew my eyes downwards and at the end of the jetty I saw a figure standing out against the fog.

I frowned, there should have been no one out here. The servants had their own house further back and we were miles from the nearest village.

Before I could address the figure, she turned to me and I saw it was a young woman. She was tall with red flaming hair and wearing a sky blue dress that floated around her. She smiled sadly then turned back to the lake.

I rushed forward, the sense that something was wrong vibrating through me. I reached the end of the jetty and held my lantern high.

There was no one there!

I turned and twisted, looking everywhere. The fog couldn’t have been playing with me for I swear the woman was as real as myself and yet, there was only the lapping of the lake breaking through the night.

Scary

barn-2594975_1920

They had spent the night telling scary stories and laughing at their fears. Little did they know as the fire died and the forest settled into complete blackness, something was stirring through the undergrowth.

The blade of an axe, a glint of light and spots of blood hit the floor.

Fume #WritePhoto

The smoke rose above the trees. That was how he was able to find them. He followed the smell of burning wood and cooked beans.

He moved through the night like a shadow, staying strangely silent for a beast his size. He knew how to quieten his feet, body and breath. He knew where everything lay in his forest and could avoid the nosiest bushes and dry branches of fallen trees.

It was always best to wait, he knew that but sometimes there was no time. Tonight, the people were camping, sleeping in tents. It was the perfect and easiest hunt.

He arrived, slowed and took in the scene. The fire was burning low, orange embers against the black ground. The two tents were together, sheltered under the trees but not from him. He listened and could tell they were sleeping by the sound of their breathing.

He licked his lips and crept forward. All ready he could taste their blood.

He pounced. The tent collapsed underneath and he ripped into the fabric.

Screams rippled through the air then faded into night.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2020/01/02/thursday-photo-prompt-fume-writephoto/ with thanks).

Winter Sea

sea-on-a-stormy-weather-3010265.jpg

People loved the sea and they loved coming to see it but most of them didn’t stay so only a few knew what it was like to live on the coastline during winter. And it wasn’t all just ‘look at how the sea is raging and how flooded the harbour is!’

It was a dangerous time of year and I having spent my whole life in a Cornwall fishing town knew it well. We had been flooded, power failures, cliffs had fallen to the sea, people had drowned in riptides or huge waves, boats had been dashed like rotten wood on rocks and the harbour warning bells were always ringing.

From my attic bedroom as I lay in my bed trying to sleep, I didn’t need to look out of the wind to see that a storm was beginning. I could hear the wind like the blades of a helicopter whipping everything it could pull up into a tornado. What sounded like a tree branch bumped along the roof then was gone.

The rain hammered on the slates like men breaking stones in the quarry a few miles away. The windows rattled, dripping and water stained. There was a knocking as hailstones joined in, the ice chips bouncing away as they hit.

The sea was making the most noise as if in competition with everything else. All that separated my house from the sea was a road and a wall. I could clearly hear the waves bashing the flood defences and trying to climb the wall.

Wondering if we would be flooded, I rolled over and tried to sleep again. It wasn’t the storm keeping me awake, I was use to the weather. It wasn’t the night light casting multi-coloured stars on to the ceiling and wall, that was meant to help. No, it was my phobia of the dark.

Nyctophobia, it was called. I was on a never ending cycle of things to try and help me or cure me. It came and went, some months were easier, sometimes of the week were better then other but winter was the hardest to get through. It was dark for most of the day and my mind was never at rest from the fear of what might be waiting in that darkness.

Giving up sleeping, I turned the light and read my book. It was strange but I loved horror stories and true horror things. I liked reading about the supernatural, ghosts were one of my favourite subjects – fact or fiction. Tonight, though I was reading about true witches starting from the earliest historical records to now-ish.

Of course, I realise how ironic this is because loving horror and being afraid of the dark don’t go together! Some people said that reading and watching horror themed things was the cause of my problems but there was more to it then that. It wasn’t that I believed the things in the horror books and films could be waiting in the darkness to grab me, it was more that in the dark you didn’t know what was truly there.

The dark made you think something was something else, objects had hidden depths, people looked different and sounds were also changed. I knew there were no real monsters out there, just humans who became like them. Perhaps, there were ghosts but I believed they weren’t like the fiction stories said.

I read and read, sometimes dozing off then reading back a paragraph until it grew light outside.

Free at last, I wrapped up warm and went outside, despite the storm. Everything lashed around me; the wind, the rain, the sea, it was like a surge of nature at war with just me.

I went to the wall and looked down. The sea was high, over the rock breakers and every wave was splashing over the wall top. It wouldn’t be long till sea water was pooling across the road.

Salt stung my eyes and water coated me. The wind buffeted me and I couldn’t stay long. I walked along stopping when a wave came over, not that getting wet by it would make me any drier!

My head cleared, my fears left and I felt easier. Not much was open in town partly due to it being Sunday, not tourist season and the storm. I passed a few cafes, an arcade and bingo hall, shops who’s shutters rattled like teeth. I went to the harbour and watched the boats riding the sea like a roller coaster.

 

 

Snow Dust

christmas-4651978_1920.jpg

The snow fell on the town. Flakes danced in the lights from windows and out on the street. There was no noise as the snow stuck to cold patches or melted on warm roofs. Everyone was asleep, staying warm as winter froze everything but a small face appeared at a window and looked down into the street.

It was not the first snowfall of that year that the child had seen but for her each was magical. She thought some of the icy flakes could be fairies fluttering by. They helped to spread the frost and ice that lay thin.

The child rubbed her eyes and felt sleep calling her back to bed. She hoped the snow carried on falling. There would be games to play outside tomorrow, snowman to build and hot bowls of stew to wolf down in the evening.

She could wear her new suede and fur coat, the knitted gloves and hat from granny. Father might take them sledging on the hills and to feed the deer herd. Maybe, they would go to auntie’s for tea and cake on the way home.

Head full of things, she snuggled down back in bed and had dreams full of snow and fairies.

Chill #WritePhoto

The snow froze the ground and lay not as a solid blanket but more patchy and lumpy. The Wastelands were like that, rising and falling, all wild with long grass, spiky bushes and stunted trees.

A small cabin, easily missed, stood nested in between two hills and the cover of trees. Smoke rose from the chimney as the clouds blocked the last rays of sun. The chopping of wood echoed and the whooshing of an axe came from the behind the cabin.

Lance collected the newly sliced logs and juggled them with the axe. He could have left the heavy tool outside but he had lost his last one to the Imps. Going inside, he knocked the snow from his boots and dumped the wood and the axe by the fire.

The two dogs growled at him then settled again on the sofa at the sound of his voice, ‘it’s only me. It’s fine.’

Lance went outside to get the rest of the wood. It was dark now the sun had set and a few flakes of snow fluttered from the heavy clouds above. Lance couldn’t see that far into The Wastelands but he knew the layout as if the map was drawn onto his skin.

Back inside, with the rest of the wood, he put two pieces on the fire then put the other logs into the basket beside. It felt too early to light the lamps but if he didn’t the Imps might try to use the shadows to sneak in.

The lamps went on to the two window sills and on the small table next to the door. Lance touched the holly above the door, the leaves were bright green and the red berries shone in the light. There was also dried sage and other plants that The Hollow Witch said should help to keep the Imps away.

The snow was falling faster now and sticking to the ground. A chilly wind was creaking the cabin and creeping through the gaps to try and freeze the inside up. Night rolled in, claiming The Wastelands in darkness.

Going back to the fire, Lance sit in the only other seat in the cabin, an armchair. One of the dogs thumped his tail, whilst the other didn’t even raise her head. Lance didn’t mind, when the dogs were calm it meant the spirits were away.

‘Let’s hope we have a quiet night,’ Lance uttered, ‘the snow is coming down again and that should help keep things at bay but other things might be seeking warmth and we don’t ever invite anything inside.’

The dog grumbled in agreement and rest his head on the arm of the sofa to watch Lance.

Looking into the fire, Lance fell into wondering why him. He could see things people couldn’t for as long as he could remember. It had drove his parents away and he had been left as an apprentice to a shoe maker. That had only last a year though because he hadn’t been able to stop talking about the little elves who mended shoes in the night.

Lance had tried to be a baker, but couldn’t stop talking to the Spirit Keeper of the Ovens and the bread ended up burning too many times. Next, he had tried to be a blacksmith but the Talker for the Horses had kept telling him he wasn’t doing it right and Lance had kept getting in trouble even though it was the Talker making the mistakes.

He had found not pointing out the spirits was the best thing to do but somehow everyone in the town and the neighbouring ones knew he could see things. That unknown was frighting to simple people so Lance had moved away and tried to be a guard in the King’s City. But the spirits were worse there and Lance found seeing them and hearing them all the time too much.

Seeking out the help of people of magic or others that saw the spirit world had helped. Though it had also lead to him being exploited. As a young man he wasn’t aware of this, just glad to have found he wasn’t alone and someone wanted to help him.

As time went on and Lance become more awake to things, he realised that some of those magic people couldn’t see like he could and were using him to trick people into spending money and sometimes getting their houses robbed.

Lance had come all the way out here, to The Wastelands were people didn’t live. He had wanted to be away from everything and not bothered by spirits. He had built his cabin and made a living for himself as a carpenter. He carved bowls, cups, spoons, buckets, children toys and other useful items which he sold anywhere he could do.

The money he used for food and to pay for The Hollow Witch’s services. Lance was grateful to have discovered her. She had come to his cabin one night, seeking shelter and warmth from a snowstorm.

Lance had been unsure at first then The Hollow Witch had told him she could see that he was being hounded by a group of Imps and in return for a night or two of shelter, she would get rid of them for him.

Agreeing, Lance had let her in and once she was warm, The Hollow Witch had cast spells about and got out some sage to banish the Imps.

‘I’m the Hollow Witch because I live in a tree hollow down in the valley on the edge of The Wastelands,’ she had told him, ‘I can help you with your other spirit problems too. But I can’t take away your Sight, only help keep things at bay.’

‘Do you know anyone who can take the Sight away?’ Lance had asked her as the wind had whipped the snow outside and the fire had crackled away.

‘No one can take away your gift or your curse if that’s what you call it. It is your’s alone. You can use it as I have, to aid people and yourself or you can try and ignore it. But some spirits won’t like that,’ The Hollow Witch spoke.

‘The imps?’ Lance had pondered.

‘Yes. They will stop at nothing till they have your attention. They will steal from you, pinch and bite you, laugh and scream in your ears. Anything that makes you speak of them. Then they will continue because that is what they do. They plague us, trick us and led us to danger.’

Lance nodded and had fallen silent. He had felt coming out here would help him escape but it seemed he had been wrong.

Coming back to the present, Lance heard the growling of the dogs. He watched them get off the sofa and go to the door. They stood with ears and tails up, fur raised, growling deeply.

Lance followed them and tried to look out the window but it was too dark. He pressed the side of his face to the door and listened. He could hear laughter like a child but he knew it wasn’t.

He stood back and repeated what The Hollow Witch had told him to, ‘you are not welcome here. Go away. Don’t do anything to this place nor myself or my dogs. Stay away. I banish you from this space. Return to where you come from. BE GONE!’

Taking a few deep breaths, Lance pressed his ear to the door again and heard the wind blowing the snow.

The Imps were gone now but he knew they would be back soon enough.

 

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

The First Snowfall #3LineTales

three line tales, week 202: snow in the city at night

The first snowfall came silently like icing sugar over a cake, the snow stuck to the frozen ground, making it slippy under foot.

Jack walked to the abandoned pub, he had tried to get a bed next to the soup kitchen but it was all ready full. He didn’t like the pub but it was out of the cold and wet.

He got inside via a broken window, there were other people which he ignored and got into a corner seat, safe there, he slept whilst the snow continued, knowing in the morning he would have to face the streets again.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/12/12/three-line-tales-week-202/ with thanks).

 

 

Coming In From The Storm (Part 3)

lost-places-4016644_1920

Cole half sat up, the weight of the many blankets keeping him down, and listened. He could hear the fire crackling and the snowstorm raging.

‘It was just the wind getting into my dream.’

He pushed the blankets away and got up to find his water skin. Taking a few mouthfuls, he felt better. Turning to check on Eve the pony, Cole saw she was restless. She was shifting around, her ears moving up and down and her head swaying.

‘It’s fine, girl,’ Cole said soothingly.

He went over and rubbed her shoulders and back.

‘It’s just the storm. We’ve heard the wind louder then this before.’

She didn’t settle. Cole threw one on the blankets over her back hoping that would help then tended the fire. He watched the sparks flickering up as he put on another log.

Getting back into bed, he listened again then shook off thoughts. Sleep came quickly back to him but once again he was disturbed by a beast like roar.

Cole lay still, sure this time he had not dreamt the sound nor was it the wind. The roar sounded like a large creature, maybe a bear? Or even bigger and it was close by. Though with the snowstorm it was hard to tell how near.

‘Whatever it is might pass. It got lost in the storm too,’ Cole muttered.

Looking into the fire, he watched the flames flickering and hoped whatever was out there wasn’t drawn to the farm house by the smoke and smell of it. Cole debated putting out the fire but then there was a risk he and Eve would freeze.

‘If I keep it low now, we should be okay,’ Cole decided, ‘and there’s no telling if there is actually a beast out there. It could so be the wind blowing through something, like in the Crying Glen. Even if it is a beast, it could be anywhere the moors can echo.’

Cole rolled over and looked across at Eve. The pony was still uneasy. Cole knew she could tell the difference between a strong wind and the noise of a beast. The wild born pony knew what lived out on the moors and in fact it was an encounter with one of the Yetis that had brought her and Cole together.

Praying that there wasn’t a Yeti out there now, Cole clutched the sliver cross around his neck. It wasn’t good to fight a Yeti in the best of conditions with many men but to face one alone in a snowstorm in an unstable house was suicide.

‘I should find something to barracked the doors and windows,’ Cole spoke and sat up, ‘though if it was a Yeti or an ogre or something that size then a barracked is pointless.’

Sinking back down, Cole lay on his back and looked up at the ceiling. Flame light and shadows danced across the old wood beams and wooden boards. The wind was creaking them and the other wood in the house, making an eerie sound.

Trying to fight off sleep, Cole listened waiting to hear the beast again so he could attempt to count in between the cries to guess how far away the beast was. He was exhausted though. He had been walking even before daybreak, the farmer casting him out even before the night was over. They had stopped two or three times but then pressed on, the need to find shelter before nightfall too great.

Cole dozed, even a little rest would help if he need to fight. Though running and hiding in the snowstorm would give a much better chance of surviving then trying to defend himself against such a beast.

The howling and roaring of the beast carried on through the night. Cole didn’t sleep fully. Sometimes he counted in between the sounds, hoping it would help tell him the distance. Other times he got up to comfort Eve or to try to stare out of the window. He would hold a candle to the frosted and snow struck glass to peer into the darkness and the storm. Of course, he couldn’t see anything other then the large snowflakes hitting the window.

Dawn arrived but there was no break from the snowstorm. Cole ate a little, give Eve a small handful of oats then realised he would have to brave going out to fetch water. Wrapping himself in his jacket and the dire wolf skin, Cole picked up the water skin and Eve’s bowl and went to the kitchen.

He collected an iron kettle and a few other water holding things to fill so he wouldn’t have to go outside again. Then he tried the back door and found it glued shut with frozen snow. Cole used his hunting knife to chip away at the ice and finally he could open the door enough to get out.

He was blinded by whiteness, snow hit him hard and despite the dire wolf skin the wind found ways to get in to chill his skin. Cole struggled on and stumbled the few steps to the water pump. The handle was frozen solid. Cole chipped away at the ice and spent far too long trying to get the water to flow before it finally did.

Cole dragged all the water containers back inside. He wrestled the door back in place and lent against it. His breathing was ragged, his chest hurt and he couldn’t focus. Snow dripped of the dire wolf coat and the added weight of the wetness felt like it was strangling him. Cole took it off and dragged it back into the first room.

He then brought all the water back with him because if left anywhere else it would have frozen over. Eve neighed her thanks and Cole took a few sips of the icy drink as he dried beside the fire.

‘That was harder then fighting a Yeti!’ Cole gasped.

Slowly, he recovered and wrapped in a heap of blankets, he got out his Bible and read a few pages.

The day passed and the snowstorm didn’t give up. The wind howled and rattled the house, driving the snow into whatever gaps it could. Every glance out of the window showed nothing but whiteness and if there was a beast out there, they wouldn’t have been able to tell till it was in the room with them.

By the evening, hungry Cole decided to risk eating something from one of the jars in the kitchen. It was hard to tell what was in them but Cole took a guess at pickled fruits and preserved things. He took a few jars and two of the bottles back into the front room. He opened one of the jars and took a sniff. A horrible smell of decay hit his nose and knocked his stomach sick.

Abandoning that one, he tried another and found a sort of jam which still seemed fine. He ate a few spoon fulls then went through the other jars. Only the other jar like that one seemed okay to eat. As for the bottles, they were wine that had aged perfectly.

Night came and once again the sounds of beast broke through the wind. Cole spent the night half a sleep and half awake. On edge, Cole barely slept but luckily no beast showed itself.

Eve was uneasy, she shifted around, stamped her hoofs and tossed her head. 

‘You know there’s something out there don’t you, girl,’ Cole muttered to her, ‘I’ll keep my axe and knife close tonight.’

Day broke and so did the storm. Cole watched from the window as the snow died down and vision cleared. Everything was covered in white and Cole knew it would be a struggle to get though but they had no choice. He didn’t want to spent another day and night here.

He packed up, taking the things he wanted and making sure that both he and Eve weren’t weighed down too much. He also wrapped the pony and himself up. He put two of the woollen blankets on top of Eve then secured the dire wolf skin around himself.

Everything ready, they stepped outside into the snow blanketed moor.

Coming In From The Storm (Part 2)

lost-places-4016644_1920

Cole looked out of the grimy window and debated what to do. It was hard to tell when the house had been abandoned and when or if the owners would come back. Maybe, they had just left for the winter? He could imagine an old couple doing that. Being on the moors right now wasn’t good.

The sleet was turning to snow outside and night was arriving. Cole could hear the wind howling around, growing stronger like an angry beast. He could half believe that there might have been some huge creature roaming around and making all that noise. He was too tried and cold though to really care.

‘It would be our deaths to go back out there now,’ Cole spoke.

He moved away and patted the pony. Eve hadn’t moved much but that might have been because of the furniture in the way.

Cole made a large space in a corner for her. moving chairs and tables together against the other wall. There was a fireplace opposite with wood and coal still stacked beside as if the owners had been readying themselves for winter.

It was easy enough to light the fire and also more candles and lamps that were dotted around the room. Cole felt more at ease in the warm and light. He took off his clothes, left them to dry and put on another shirt and trousers from his bag.

He took a few sips of water and nibbled on the food so it was just enough to get rid of his hungry but save enough for later. Cole then give Eve a handful of oats then went into the kitchen to find something to put water in for her.

The kitchen was full of things and he found a deep bowl which he then took outside to pump water into. The back door opened easily and icy wind wrapped around him. Cole spotted the hand pump and spent sometime getting it to work At last water poured out and he was able to fill the bowl.

Cole took it back to Eve and left her drinking as he got warm again by the fire.

‘What happened to the family here?’ Cole spoke, ‘people don’t just leave everything behind. Something must have happened.’

Eve snorted and shook her mane.

‘Maybe they got sick and had to leave? Maybe the son didn’t want the farm….perhaps they had none? I hope there’s nothing bad here. I should check…’

Taking up his hunting knife again, Cole left the room and returned to the kitchen. He searched around looking for clues. There were some dried herbs which were beyond recognition, some things in jars which seemed inedible and bottles of maybe beer or wine? Cole didn’t want to risk any of that.

He found more firewood, coal, cooking tools, rusting knives, a bread oven full of soot and some other useless stuff. Cole opened other cupboards and found a few small, empty glass bottles. He took them as they might be useful. There were also more candles, a rabbit’s foot on a sliver chain, a few coins and new bar of soap which was wrapped in wax paper.

Cole took these things back and packed them away. He made sure Eve was good then he went into the last room on the ground floor. It was a snugger room and had two chairs before a fireplace and a few tables holding things.

Cole took a large woollen blanket and two cushions to help make a bed in the next room. There were a few books but there was no point in trying to sell them. People didn’t read much around here. There was also a family Bible which Cole knew would have some value. He opened the cover and looked to see if anybody had written inside it. There was nothing.

Once again, he took his finds back to the first room and showed Eve. He checked the fire and added some more wood. The room was warm and the freezing night outside couldn’t get in. It was snowing heavily now, Cole could see it when he held a lamp to the window. He watched for a few minutes that made his way upstairs.

Clutching a lamp and his knife, he was careful where he stepped. There was no point in being quiet as he and Eve would have been heard by now. At the top of the stairs, there were three half open doors.

Cole peered into each one, checking there wasn’t anything dead or alive in the rooms. After confirming this, he did a deeper look into the rooms. The first, held a double wooden bed, made up as if someone was about to sleep in it. There was more woollen blankets, which he took and more candles too. There was another book but it fell apart when Cole touched it.

He also found a few piles of clothes and looked through them, picking out a few items that seemed like they would fit him.

‘I’m not stealing,’ Cole muttered, ‘I’m taking what I need. God led me here, so it’s fine.’

In the next room were two small beds and few children’s items. Cole took a sliver rattle and an bone teething ring. In the last room, were forgotten animal skins that had been once left to dry. They were mostly sheep fleeces, deer and cow skins which as Cole touched them felt dirty and smelt mouldy.

Cole wrinkled his nose and was about to turn away when something caught his eye. It was the grey, black and white fur of a massive dire wolf skin. Cole pulled it out and was shocked to see he was holding a whole dire wolf in his hands.

He set the lamp and knife down then placed the head of the dire wolf on to his own. It was too big and slipped down. Cole pulled the front paws around him, crossing them over and felt the fur wrap around him like a cloak. The back legs and tail hung down passed the back his knees. He felt the heaviness and a sense of protection inside the fur.

‘This will keep me warm,’ Cole spoke and took the dire wolf skin.

Back down beside the fire, Cole showed Eve his find.. The pony moved away, perhaps still scenting the smell of dire wolf. Cole set the skin aside and made himself a bed for the night.

He could hear the wind picking up and the snow hitting the window. A storm was starting up and he was glad they had found shelter. Cole lay down, dozing in the heat from the fire and listening to the noises outside.

He was almost asleep when a distant animal howling jerked him awake.

To Be Continued….