The Tolling Bell #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Ivan didn’t want to go into the abbey bell tower, he had a bad feeling about it tonight. Looking up at the slowly tumbling down walls, the shadows seemed thicker then normal. Ivan tugged on the edge of his father’s red Captain of the guards cloak and tried to explain with hand gestures and tongue clicking that he was afraid and didn’t want to do the night’s signalling.

His father, who held a deep disappointment that his only son was a mute, ignored the young teenage and began climbing the steps that lead into the abbey. His heavy boot steps rang out on worn stones, breaking a doomed silence that had long settled here.

Ivan trailed afterwards, knowing that even if father would listen, there was no choice. Clutching the flicking metal lantern in one hand and a heavy wicker basket in the other, Ivan fixed his eyes on the floor and ignored everything else around him as dust clouds stirred. They reached the bell tower’s spiral staircase and started the long climb upwards.

Years ago, the abbey had been home to monks, who one winter had all gone on a pilgrimage and never returned without a clue to their whereabouts. The village that had been constructed around the abbey  died of the abandonment. Now, it was a tiny out post for a handful of the King’s guards, tasked with signalling incoming threats to the close by farming villages which served the King’s castle.

Ivan had never wanted to be in the King’s service. He had liked looking after the animals and the crops his mother had owned, which now belonged to his sisters’ families. His father though had decided to find Ivan a place within the guards and thus the boy had become the night time bell signal ringer.

‘Here we are,’ father’s voice declared as they reached the small room under the bell, ‘I’ll get you a fire going.’

Ivan nodded and placed the basket and lantern on a little wobbly table. He then lit two more lanterns which were placed on stone window sills across from one another. Now, everyone could see someone was up here. Ivan peered down and saw flickers of light below; guards on watch.

‘Have a goodnight,’ father said and turned away.

Ivan glanced at the fire which was starting to grow around two logs in the small fire place then watched his father leaving. He listened as the boot steps faded and the night settle once more. Ivan still felt uneasy, something tonight felt different but he didn’t know how to explain it. Perhaps, it was just the pressing hand of Winter? There had been no threats for months, so why would there be any now? Especially, with the harvest over.

Going to the long twist of rough rope in the centre of the room, Ivan checked it over and give it a few gentle tugs. He felt the bell swing above, making soft sounds. It had taken him ages to practise how to make the bell sound without getting hurt by the rope because it was heavy and the movement powerful. It was second nature now.

Collecting the lantern, Ivan slipped through a small door and climbed another spiral staircase into the actual bell tower. The chill of wind slapped his face and he realised how cold it was becoming. Wrapping his cloak tighter, he hurriedly checked the bell, making sure the rope was tight and nothing was in the way to stop the swinging movement. Then he headed back down again to wait out the night.

At the table, he went through the basket that the elderly cook, had put together for him. There was half a loaf of hard bread, a lump of cheese, two apples, salted dried deer strips, a small sweet bun and two bottles of weak beer. Ivan smiled, the women in the camp took pity on him, even though he didn’t like it, he enjoyed the benefits.

Ivan kept the fire going, careful to use only the wood he needed. He also made the food and beer last through the night. He kept himself awake by telling himself stories, thinking about the different lives he could have had and watching the dots of lights below moving as the guards walked the abbey’s edges.

There was a shouting from below and Ivan hurried to the nearest window. Far below was a gathering of lights and movement but he could hardly make anything out. Listening hard, he heard a horn blowing and he realised his gut feelings had been right. Scrambling over, he yanked the bell rope and let the clanking chime of metal on metal ring out repeatedly.

The noise of the bell meant he could hear anything else but it wasn’t Ivan’s job to figure out who or what was attack where, only that they were and people had to know. Ivan felt the bell rope going up and down in his hands, the slight sting of burns starting but he carried on ringing as fast and hard as he could. Panic seized him, the idea that he should be fleeing came and went. The bell rang out and out still for what seemed like forever.

Ivan collapsed. His hands bloodied, his body shaking, his ears deafened. He watched the rope moving by itself until it stopped, the bell notes fading. He felt the floor vibrating underneath him but he wasn’t sure of the cause. He curled up, letting sleep take him away.

He awoke in his own straw bed, rough wool blankets draped across him. Someone had bandaged his hands but they did not feel like his own, they were numb and crippled. Ivan rolled over and tried to recall what had happened. When nothing came to him, he got up and went to the window, a few black cloak guards and women walked by about their business.

Ivan wondered around the camp then out and around the abbey. There he spotted his father and most of the guards, they were inspecting small, green bodies on the ground and as Ivan got closer he saw they were goblins.

‘Ah, there you are boy!’ his father called, then patted Ivan on the back before spreading his arms out to indicate the scene before them, ‘this is thanks to you. The attack was stopped and the rest scared off.’

Ivan nodded and nudged a small bow in the grass. He touched his head, it hurt just as badly as his hands did and when he looked he saw red dots coming through the grey cloth strips. He wanted to have a drink and lay down again. There were things to do though and his father decided if he was up then he was well enough to help out.

They worked until it grew dark then returned to the run down house where they had stew and wine by the fire. Finally, Ivan crawled back into bed and dozed there, hoping his father wouldn’t awake him to send him back into the bell tower. He slept fitfully, thoughts filled with bells and goblins.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/11/12/weekly-writing-challenge-167/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Window #writephoto

 

Pressing my hands to the lattice window, I imagined I was touching the red roses that were blooming on the other side of the clouded glass. I could feel their soft, velvet petals warmed by the sunlight and breath in deeply their heavy perfume.

Resting my cheek on the cold glass, the realisation that I could no longer recall the smell of flowers disheartened me. Sighing, I turned away and went back to the massive bed which dominated the tower room which was my cell.

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/01/04/thursday-photo-prompt-window-writephoto/ with thanks).

Tower #writephoto

The tower stood all alone at the tip of the peak. A set of half hidden stone steps leading the way up and a little archway coming from the reminds of a boundary wall. If you didn’t know the structure was there, you’d easily miss it behind the tall trees and bushes.

I made my way up through all the under scrub and reached the first of the steps. I stopped, wiped my sweaty face and noticed that it was now early evening and still warm for a mid-autumn day. Though the darkening sky threatened rain.

I walked up the steps, sticking to the left edge, in case I slipped. The moss and grass underfoot was wet and squelchy, but I had good boots on. Making it to the top, I studied the tower and tried to figure out what it could be. Folklore said it had been part of a small castle but that wouldn’t make sense high up here in the middle of nowhere. Instead, I decided it was a folly; a once pretty decoration to breakup a travellers day. Maybe, it had also doubled as a shelter.

There didn’t seem to be a door, but there were a few windows higher up. Moss and climbing plants covered both sides and dripped with raindrops. I turned my face to the sky and a few landed on my cheeks. I glanced about for some cover but beside from the small arch and a few trees there was nothing.

I walked around the tower again and as I reached my starting point once more, a wooden door was open before me. I stopped, staring and frowning. How was this possible? There had been nothing there less then a minute ago!

I went to the door and looked in.

‘Hello?’ I shouted into the darkness.

My voice echoed then as if in answer the rain rushed down. Yelping, I dived into the tower and pressed my back against cold, damp wall. Luckily, I had dressed warming in a hat and all weather coat, so I wasn’t that wet. Looking out of the doorway, I saw that unless I did want to take a bath, I’d have to wait for the rain to pass.

I felt a tingle up my spine and tried to peer though the darkness to make anything out. Unable to see, I swung my bag off and dug a small torch out. The thin beam didn’t show me much. The stone walls looked a lighter grey and less moss covered. There was a leak close by and the floor was stone. There seem no way upwards and nothing else in here with me.

Slumming, against the wall, I decided to have something to eat and drink. That would pass a few minutes. The rain was so loud outside that it took me a few minutes to hear the sound of stone rubbing against stone. Crumpling the wrapper of the energy bar as I stuffed the rest in my mouth, I shone my torch around again.

A stone spiral staircase had appeared a few feet away from me against the far wall! Telling myself, I’d just missed it last time because it was dark in here and my torch wasn’t good, I collect my things. Shuffling over, I tapped the bottom step with my boot then began to climb up. It was a tight fit and my bag scrapped the wall beside me.

Arriving at the top and stepping through an open archway my torch showed me a cobwebbed room. There was a small double bed with a red canopy, a table and chair and a bookcase. I walked in, my mind flipping over and over as I tried to figure out what this could be. A room for a traveller to spend the night? But why?

I reached the bed and shone my torch over it. The bed was made and covered by a red blanket that matched the canopy. Straight away, I thought about fairy tales and Sleeping Beauty came to mind. Shrugging, I moved away and went to the bookcase which was empty.

I didn’t like the feel of the room and decided I’d rather go downstairs to wait there. I went to the door…but it wasn’t there.

Laughing, I traced the wall with my light, knowing any second it would hit the door. I did a full sweep and nothing.

‘Ha ha! Must have missed it!’ I spoke aloud.

I went to check again but a noise behind me caused me spin around. The sheets on the bed were rising upwards… I swallowed and kept the torch beam pinned on the spot.

‘Hello?’ I called, ‘I’m sorry to disturb you. I got a little lost.’

The sheet came from the bed and hung in mid-air at the side.

I froze, feeling terror shooting through me. My body shook and I wanted so badly to run away. But where was I going to go to?

The sheet moved, drifting towards me.

A scream escaped my mouth, I twisted away, flinging myself against the wall. My hands raced over the stones, looking for the door, my finger nails scrapped the surface, desperate to feel the wood again.

A whisper tickled my ears, I couldn’t pause my panic attack to figure out what it was then I felt a touch of velvet cloth against the back of my neck. A scream, I never knew I could produce echoed around the room. I turned, flattened my back against the wall and face the sheet head on.

Only….there was nothing there…

 

Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/10/12/thursday-photo-prompt-tower-writephoto with thanks).

Secrets

secret

Who knew what was locked away in the tower? Everyday life carried on as normal and no one give the crumbling structure a thought. It stood alone in the middle of the forest. Raising up over the top of the green pine trees and looking across at the village.

Maybe the tower had once been a part of a fort or a castle? A building now lost to time and the nature. Perhaps it had always been a watch tower, built to keep the village on the edge of the forest safe and warn them of coming danger?

Whatever it’s original purpose had been the tower was long abandoned now. And it would have slipped from history if not for a single story that involved it. Two brothers traveling across the country discovered the tower and made inquires about it.

‘Why do you wish to know?’ the oldest member of the village asked them.

‘It is so unusual out there by itself,’ the first brother answered.

‘We were think it might have a good story connected to it for the book we are writing,’ the second brother replied.

The old woman looked them up and down in the firelight of her wooden shack. They were young men; handsome and strong, yet tried from their travels.

‘Here, have some broth and I shall tell you the story I know of the tower,’ the old woman answered.

Gratefully, the brothers accepted the warm bowls of broth and settled down to listen to the old woman’s tale.

‘It was a long, long time ago and the king had just had a baby daughter. There was a big celebration as the kingdom now had an heir. The next day his wife died and an old hag, claiming to be a witch came to the king and demand his daughter. She showed him a contract his wife had signed in which the queen had brought a spell to make her pregnant.’

“By rights,” the witch said, “The child is mine!”

‘The king fought hard, but that night the witch kidnapped the baby and fled to the tower. Everyone searched high and low, but they could not find the old hag or the baby. Heartbroken the king died and his kingdom fell into war then ruin.’

‘And the child?’ the first brother interrupted.

‘Was locked in the tower,’ the old woman stated, ‘the witch raised her there and taught her how to spin and make things. Later, the lost Princess learnt about herself from books. She begged the witch to release her and the witch told her that could only happen when the Princess’ true love came to rescue her.’

‘And did he?’ the second brother asked.

‘No. Of course he did not!’ the old woman snapped, ‘they say to this day the Princess’ bones are still resting on the floor of the tower. The door magically locked so no one can get in.’

The brothers fell silent and finished their broth. They thanked the old woman and left. As they headed out of the village the first brother turned to the second, ‘I want that story,’ he declared, ‘but I’m going to change the ending.’

 

Inspired by: https://scvincent.com/2016/11/10/thursday-photo-prompt-secrets-writephoto/ with thanks.

Here We Stand (Part 2)

Religious Statue in Greyscale Photo

I peered through the arched doorway and saw the stone spiral steps leading downwards but also upwards. I squeezed inside and found it was a tight fit between the staircase column and opposite wall. Going downwards, I felt the rough wall with my hand and listened to my hiking bag scrapping along behind me.

It took me a moment to realise the steps had ended. I shuffled on, hoping to find a light switch or to see another source. The air was cold, almost crypt like, but I could smell no rotting bodies, it was just the scent of dampness still. My hand flew into an empty gap and I stopped. There was a hole in the wall.

Deciding there was nothing else for it, I swung off my hiking bag and put it down. My shoulders and back burned whilst a cold air rushed under my t-shirt and danced on my sweaty skin. I rubbed my back and listened to the dripping of water somewhere close by. Fumbling with straps, zips and buckle clips, I opened a side pocket and pulled out a glow stick.

Dim green light filled my vision as I cracked and shook the stick about. I blinked, refocused and took in my surroundings. Large flagstones covered in dirt lined the floor and just above my head was the ceiling. The doorway next to me led into a bathroom. The dripping water was coming from a sink beside a toilet.

Grabbing my hiking bag, I walked sideward then let the straps go as I inspected the sink. It was hard to tell what colour it had been as rust had now taken over. I shone the glow stick close to the water and watched as a red coloured drop ran passed. I turned the tap. It was stuck fast, but after a few tugs, it come loose and iron stained water rushed forth.

The sound blasted around me, unlocking the silence that had been weighing against my ears. I stole some glances over my shoulder, but could see nothing forming out of the shadows that had claimed their space back. I turned and waited for the water to change colour. When nothing happened after a few second, I placed the glow stick down and saw a shard of mirror had been left against the sink.

Cupping my hands, I put them under the water then took a careful sip. It tasted like old soil in which veg had rotted, but it was strangely sweet. Shrugging I had some more then went back for a few more handfuls. The water filled my empty belly and left a tangy, metallic taste in my mouth.

Picking up the glow stick, I bent and tried to catch my reflection in the mirror shard. I could just see the growing beard on my face and my long ragged hair drooping on my too thin cheeks. Standing up, I patted my stomach through my damp baggy t-shirt and carried on.

There was nothing else down here. Or if there was it had long been sealed up.

Returning to the staircase, the full weight of my hiking bag on again pulling me down, I trudged upstairs. There were more steps going up, but finally I found myself in a decrepit bell tower. The wooden floorboards looked okay, but there was a trap door in the centre that had been under the bell. Looking up into the roof, I could not really tell where the bell had once been attached too. There was no doubt in my mind though that it had been taken away to be used somewhere else or melted down.

The tower was open on all three sides, so cold and now rain could come in. I went to the nearest opening and looked out. In the fast building evening light, I could see the tops of trees and houses. A fire was burning a few miles to my left. I could see the smoke rising and perhaps a flicker of orange. It was hard to tell if it was a beacon or some vandals.

The rain peppered my skin, making me feel more refreshed as I went to the next opening. This one looked over more trees and houses. Chimneys reached to the cloudy, gunmetal grey sky, their bricks darkened by the rain. Was that the railway station? Maybe not, but it looked big enough. My thoughts darted back to last night when I had slept fitfully in a storage room.

Stepping away, I went to the third opening. This one looked out on a small graveyard. The headstones stuck up through the tall grass as if demanding still to be seen. A few trees grew on the edge then spread to create woodland. Most of the trees had to be evergreen because all the others were slowly surrounding to autumn. I could see no further as evening settled in.

Not giving into dropping my hiking bag, I went back downstairs. Coming into the church’s altar again, I looked round and tried to decide where the best place to sleep was.

 

To Be Continued…

Transformation

Butterfly, Swallow Tailed Butterfly, Insect, Nature

The Princess held the small jar up to the stained glass window. A small gasp rose in her throat and escaped her lips. The tinted red light flittering through into the tower made it easier for her to see the bright beautiful coloured wings of the butterfly. The creature was fluttering madly inside, panicked at being disturbed whilst still not sure of its new form.

The Princess placed the jar on the sill and waited. After a few moments, the butterfly settled down and she was able to see it more clearly. Butter yellow wings, pattern with black curving lines, blue ink smudges and red colour circles bushed against the inside walls of the glass jar. The long green body quivered alongside the ever flicking antenna as of the butterfly was cold and seeking warm.

Kneeling down in her simple shift of a white cotton dress, the Princess rested her arms on the edge of the sill and put her chin on top of her hands. She looked hard into the jar, marvelling that after all this time of giving up hope and believing the caterpillar had died, he had actually transformed into this wonder before her.

Gazing upwards, the Princess saw the window latch and suddenly knew what she had to do. Getting up, she carefully moved the jar out of the way, which caused the butterfly to flap hurriedly again and attempted to pull on the latch. Bits of paint flaked off against her skin as she pushed down on the little iron rod. Having not been open in a while the latch and window were stiff.

Her determination payed off and the latch give way with a sighing groan and the window itself swung with a shocking shriek. The Princess lent out and looked across the clearing where tower sat and into the woods beyond. Everything seemed to be blue or green and the tree tops looked like they were touching the sky and trying to kiss the sun. Despite herself, the Princess laughed and revealed in the warm touch of the fresh air and the pure light falling onto her skin.

She picked up the jar and unwrapped the piece of fabric upon the top. Tipping it a little, she watched the butterfly crawl up and over. Carefully, she let him step out on to the window ledge facing the outside world.

‘You are free now,’ she whispered, ‘go and never come back here. Go and see what lies beyond the trees. Maybe, one day I shall follow you there.’

The butterfly lifted his wings, felt the breeze and took off. He fluttered downwards then back up again and away into the trees as if he had understand the Princess’ words.
Placing the jar back down on the table with a clunk, the Princess sighed and put her elbows out on the ledge. She rested her chin in her open hands, her fingers pressing against her cheeks. She tried to look over the tree tops and through the sky, her thoughts tumbling as to what was out there. A spark of hope lit up inside of her and she knew that one day, just like the butterfly, she too would be free.

 

 

Inspired by the daily prompt from; <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/transformation/”>Transformation</a&gt;

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to follow, like and share this story and my blog. Also, find me on Twitter at: ironmaidenfan9 and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thestoryfiles/

Snowfall (Part 3)

Love, Darkness, Night, Tree, Shadow

He stopped before the tower, gazing up into eyes he couldn’t see, but knew were there. I swung off his horse and went to the door. With a few slashed of his sword and kicks with his boots, he broke his way in. A spiral staircase stood in the dim light and he made his way upwards.

She had seen him riding up then stopping at the foot of the tower. Frightened, she had stepped away from the window, but hadn’t been able to stop herself from peering out at him still. the noise from breaking down the door had sent her rushing to her bed. She threw the sheets around her, feeling safer now she was hidden.

He came to another door and hacked his way through. The chamber he burst into appeared empty and messing. There was a scattering of clothes and bedding on the floor. Books and toys stacked in corners and candle light flicking on cold stone walls. He breathed deeply and thought he saw a heap of bedding moving.

She could no loner hold her rapid breathing steady, nor keep the sheets from shifting above her head. She heard footsteps then felt something pulling everything off her. Her fingers dug into the bed as the last of her cover was removed. She looked up, blinking away small tears.

He stared down at her. His breath snatched away, his body frozen. The stories had been right. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Catching the fear in her eyes, he slotted his sword away and speaking gently, told her he wouldn’t hurt her and he’d come to rescue her.

She didn’t believe the words she was hearing. Clutching what sheets she could to her, she stared up at him. Noting so much in his face and body. He was a worthy knight. She swallowed, but couldn’t form the words.

He held out his hand, promising to take her far away.

Slowly, she put her hand in his.

Snowfall (Part 2)

Horse, Knight, Animal, Great, Encyclopedia

He rode through the snow. The tower growing before him. He saw a figure leaning out of the window, blonde hair being swept by the wind. He was close, he could hear his heart beating in his ears. Would the stories be true? Would the princess be as beautifully as they say?

Snowfall

Blizzard, Winter Storm, Snowflakes, Cold, Icy, Snow

She watched the snowfall from the top of her tower whilst she awaited a knight to rescue her.

Winter Wanderer (Part 4)

.:

Beck shifted slightly from his stretched out position on the floor. He twisted his head up and looked over at the arrow slit. A thin trickle of yellow light was leaking in. He glanced down and saw that Olwyna’s head was on his lower legs. Her blonde hair was cascading around her and her high cheeks were flushed rosy with sleep. He felt a half-forgotten excitement inside of him and the urge to sweep her hair back grew.

Instead he moved slowly, took her head in his hands and lowered it to the floor. She moaned, making him pause. Her eyelashes fluttered and she stirred, coming awake. Beck took his hands away and shuffled across the floor. Leaving Olwyna to sprawl out as she rolled over and began moving her stiff limbs, Beck tossed the blanket away and got up.

He crossed the floor and tried to look out of the arrow slit, but it offered no view of the outside. Checking his weapons then seeing that Olwyna was dozing, he went to the staircase.  He headed down and as he passed the quarters a soft, sleepy voice called his name. He stopped and peered into the first room almost as if he expected the ghosts from his past to be beckoning him. He heard his name again and this time realised it was Olwyna.

‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ he called out and carried on down the stairs.

Beck found Nightstorm on the ground floor nuzzling at his saddle.

‘Morning. You want some oats?’

The warhorse neighed and Beck dug the sack out for him. Leaving the horse, Beck went to the door and pulled it open. A winter blanket greeted him and the early morning sunlight shone down on frosty snow. Beck squeezed his way out and his feet sink into the crunch snow. He made his way around the back of the tower, his breath misting in front of him. The young trees surrounding him were dripping icicles from their snow topped branches. He watched the sunlight glistening off them and marvelled at the silence of the forest.

Reaching the back of the tower, he dug a small hole and relieved himself. Keeping alert, he shot looks through the close trees and listened out for approaching footsteps. No one, not even an elf or fairy could move silently on snow like this. Finishing, he kicked the dug out snow back and walked in his trail of footprints. Beck went back inside and fixed the door to try and keep some of the cold out. He went over to Nightstorm and patted the horse’s side.

‘It’s cold out there, but at least the storm is over,’ Beck said, ‘looks like you’ve had enough oats.’

He slowly pulled the sack away from the warhorse then tied a knot at the top. Whilst he was putting it away and straightening the tack out, Nightstorm went to the door. Beck heard an iron hoof scratching against the wood. He looked over his shoulder and saw Nightstorm trying to move the door with his head.

Stilling a laugh, Beck went over and slipping under the tall warhorse, helped him to open the door. Nightstorm stepped carefully out into the snowy banks. His nose flared and breathes misting before him as he scented the air. The frosty packed snow crunched and moved under his heavy weight, causing him to sink a little.

‘Don’t wander too far,’ Beck called after him.

Leaving the door, Beck went back up the spiral stairs. At the top he found Olwyna folding the blankets up. Her head shot up towards him as he appeared and fear sparked then faded from her tried eyes.

‘Morning, I was just sorting out Nightstorm,’ he said.

Olwyna nodded and turned back to the blankets.

‘The storm seems to be over, so I’m setting out soon,’ he added.

‘What about me?’ Olwyan questioned as she handed him the blankets.

‘I would not recommend staying here,’ Beck answered.

He went over to the fireplace and picked up the lantern. The candle inside had pooled into a circle of wax. Tucking the blankets under his arm, he picked up the water skin and dried meat leather bag with his other hand, before walking over to Olwyan.

‘I guess I can’t leave you here….but I cannot take you to Ravenglass.’

‘There’s no point in going there now,’ she muttered, ‘can you take me to Breland?’

Beck thought about it, ‘I’ll take you as far as I can,’ he stated then went to the staircase.

‘How far is that?’ she called after him.

He shrugged in the doorway, gave her no answer and started downstairs. He heard Olwyan muttering behind him, flapping out her skirts and pacing around. The notion of why he decided to be alone entered his mind and for a few seconds he thought about setting off without her.

‘But then what would she do?’ he said in a low voice, ‘she won’t get far without a horse and a guide. If she stayed here she would not survive. Even if a few a locals did know about this tower, they would not come. They would think she had been kidnapped or buried in the snow. Looks like I do not have a choice.’

Beck sighed as he reached the bottom of the staircase. He glanced upwards and his darker side questioned leaving her to die. He shook his head, the last remaining shreds of honour would not allow him to do it.

He put everything away in the saddlebags then went outside to look for Nightstorm. The warhorse was easy to track in the snow. Beck found him, drinking out of a small stream which he had broken the ice away from. Nightstorm raised his head as Beck joined him. Patting the horse, Beck crouched down and cupped some of the freezing water in his hands. He sipped it and decided the sweet, piney taste was fine.

Nightstorm nuzzled him and they walked back together, the snow crunching loudly underneath them. The tower appeared between the trees, snowflakes crystallised on the freezing stones. Beck lead the horse back inside and began putting on the tack.

Olwyan appeared at the bottom of the stairs, arms crossed in front of her small chest.

‘I’ll only come with you on one condition,’ she stared.

‘You do not have much of a choice,’ Beck pointed out without turning to face her.

Olwyan huffed, ‘I need to know. Are you an elf or not?’

Beck spun, closed the gap between them in fast strides and grabbed her wrist. She cried out, but didn’t twist away from him as the sliver bracelet jingled down her arm.

‘Only if you tell me about that bracelet,’ Beck growled.

‘All right,’ Olwyan snapped.

Beck dropped her wrist and took a deep breath, ‘I’m only half.’

‘But…’

‘My father was or so my mother used to tell me,’ Beck spoke bitterly, ‘do not tell anyone or…’ his hand closed around the grip of his short sword.

Olwyan followed the movement and nodded with a small gulp.

‘Now you.’

‘It is a long story. Can I tell you on the way?’

 

To Be Continued…