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).

Blizzard

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The blizzard arrived like they said it would. The snow and wind came down blindly fast. Things ground to a stop like the rusted cogs of a clock. People battled against nature, trying to get on. Children free of school were sledging and building snowmen. It seemed right to join them as not much else could be done.

Days, weeks and months past by. At first it had been fun and slightly annoying but now the blizzard was frustrating and angering people. Cars and houses were snowed in. Transport was limited. Buildings were closed due to burst pipes or lack of heating or it being too dangerous to open.

Homeless people were frozen solid in the street, buried under snow moulds that became too much effort to dig them out. Rubbish piled up around them, unable to be removed as the roads were too blocked up. People who dared to go out risked tripping over the hills of such things.

Other people froze or staved in their homes. Their bodies left because even if they could be recovered, how could they be buried?

Those luckily enough to move away did so and soon that was the only answer. The snow kept coming, the city turned to stone, trapping the people that remained.

White Woods

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Winter was my favourite season. There was something so satisfying about crunching over snow and leaving footprints behind. I spent as much time outside as possible, I loved visiting woods and the countryside. I liked to photograph the snow draped scenery and the cobweb lines of frost on rocks.

Marshmallows

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We played in the snow, rosy cheeks and numb fingers. At the fire, we roasted marshmallows. The air coated with burnt sugar.

Snow Dust

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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.

Snow Ball #FridayFictioneers

Luci blew on her gloved hands and tried to keep warm. A heavy snowfall thickly covered everything even inside the old wooden gazebo.

Michel had asked to meet but she regretting it and longed to be home beside the fire.

He arrived on his horse and held out his hand so she could get on.

‘Where are we going?’ Luci demanded.

‘To the Snow Ball!’ Michel answered.

He spurred his horse on and a few minutes later they arrived at the most dazzling scene; The Winter Queen’s festival. There was so much food, dancing, music and everyone celebrating long into the night.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/12/18/20-december-2019/ with thanks).

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).

 

 

Winter Trip #FFftPP

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The snow had been falling for the last week, it came as no surprise to Joy. She was a winter baby, born on Christmas day. As a child she had hated that, at first double presents had been great but then she had had to wait a whole year to get more whilst it felt like her friends got two separate days of presents.

An adult now, she didn’t mind because if she wanted something she could just buy it and actually when people asked what she wanted she struggled to say. This year though, she had been clear on what gifts should be under her tree and that included the reason for her drive out today.

It was a long one, an almost six hours round trip but God it was going to be so worth it. Joy caught herself smiling in the car’s rear view mirror, she couldn’t contain her excitement. Glancing down into the passenger seat, her smile just grew even though it felt like this was a dream.

The golden retriever puppy was curled up a sleep in the basket Joy had brought with her. For as long as she could remember, Joy had wanted a dog and now her Christmas wish had come true.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforthepracticalpractitioner.wordpress.com/2019/12/11/flash-fiction-for-the-purposeful-practitioner-50/ with thanks).

Ice Skating

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All autumn my little sister had been begging me to take her ice skating. Winter arrived early and stayed late this far north but still we had to wait for the lake to freeze over deeply enough to be safe.

‘Can we go out to check today, Alex?’ she asked me as we ate porridge before the roaring kitchen fire.

‘It won’t have frozen enough yet, Beka,’ I replied, ‘it only snowed a little last night.’

‘Still I want to see!’ Beka cried.

I rolled my eyes and finished my porridge.

‘Take her out Alex,’ mother said from the huge table, ‘today, we are getting the  sweet puddings ready for the Winter Feast day. You two will only get under our feet.’

Both grandmothers, cook and maid agreed.

‘I want to help father hunting,’ I spoke.

‘He left all ready. Now, be a good son and look after your little sister.’

Grumpily, I got ready and the maid helped Beka with her fluffy elk boats, long red coat, gloves, scarf and matching red hat. We meet by the kitchen door, all ready to go out in the freezing morning.

‘You won’t need your ice skates, Beka,’ I said.

Beka pulled a face and shifted the white leather ice skates on her left shoulder, ‘it’s just in case.’

I shook my head, decided not to argue with her and opened the door. An icy wind blasted in and the fire began to gutter. Quickly, we went out and saw a thick frost and light dusting of snow on the ground. The sky above was a steel blue colour and the sun was a weak yellow in the sky.

We walked to the end of the garden, through the gate and around the edge of the woods. Gun shots echoed and a few birds flew up from the trees.

‘It’s father,’ Beka spoke.

I nodded and we walked on to the lake. Ice cold, clear water lapped at a frozen mud shore. A few ducks were swimming in the distant and the little wooden rowing boat was rocking against it’s wooden walk way.

‘See,’ I pointed out.

Beka sighed and looked downcast, ‘it’s no where near frozen!’

‘In a few more weeks it might be. Let’s go out in the boat instead. It might be the last time we can.’

She nodded, we climbed into the boat and I rowed us around the lake.