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).

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).

Glass #WritePhoto

The first frost had fallen that morning. Dill had waited until the sun had melted it before taking his two westies for a walk. There was still some sparkling white patches of grass in the shadows of the hills and in the distance some of the higher tops looked as white as the clouds that seemed to be touching them.

Dill relying heavily on his metal walking sticks, followed the small stone covered pathway towards the lake. He knew this country well, having spent his whole life out here looking after the flock of sheep. Now, that responsibility had moved to his sons and Dill was free of a burden he had never realised he had carried.

Sitting on a bench his grandfather had built, Dill rested his arthritic limbs. The familiar ache in his chest made itself known and reminded him that he was no longer young. Still though he was defiant that old age would not bet him.

He watched the two westies sniffing about and drinking from the edge of the lake. Soon the water would start to freeze over and in the heart of winter, the lake would become a hard glass surface dusted with snow.

The memory of one winter when he was eighteen always haunted him and the sight of the lake always brought it sharply back.

Dill had been driving the sheep towards shelter when one of the sheep had broken away and gone onto the frozen lake. Dill’s then sheep dog, Kip, had refused to go after it. The black and white dog stood on the edge of the ice barking, torn between chasing the sheep and sensing the danger underneath his paws.

Dill hadn’t been able to abandoned the ewe and had decided to go after her himself. He knew the lake had been frozen for two months now and there was a heavy covering of snow across the surface. He could see the sheep in the distance, her dirty huge fleece making her stand out and her dashing hood prints plain in the snow.

Kip had shadowed him in a shy way and when encouraged still refused to fetch the sheep. Dill had given up and carried on walking, using his shepherd’s crook to steady his footsteps.

Far from the shore, Dill felt the snow shift under his feet and came to a stop as a loud cracking sound started up. Covered by thick snow, it was hard to make out the lines of the break. He had felt a little spiral of fear but pushed on. More cracking echoed off the hills and he thought he heard the sound of water bubbling.

Dill could see the ewe and he was so close but within seconds the sheep disappeared. Her desperate cries echoed in Dill’s ears as did the sound of splashing. Quickly, Dill had rushed onward and found the sheep drowning in a watery hole, edged by jagged ice that looked like broken shards of glass. The force of the water and the sheep’s heavy fleece were dragging her down to her doom.

Grabbing fist fulls of the wet fleece, Dill had tried to haul the ewe out. He struggled as the sheep fought him and the icy water tried to claim her. He tugged and tugged, his own feet slipping on the mushing snow and ice. Kip barked and danced around, unable to help.

Finally, Dill had pulled the ewe out and they had lay on the water snow, both exhausted with lake water running off them. Then, Dill had half carried, half dragged the yew back home. Snow had began to fall and he had thought they would never make it but Kip kept bit at his heels and the ewe’s until they did.

Safe inside, they had sat by the kitchen coal fire for the rest of the night. The warmth melting the snow and chasing the frozen lake water from their veins. The ewe had seemed none the worse of almost dying and Dill knew they had both had a lucky escaped.

One of the westies’ licked Dill’s cold fingers, bringing him back to the present. He patted the dog, speaking softly to it. It was time to go back, Dill could feel the coming snow in his shepherd’s bones. Standing wobbly up, Dill made his way slowly home again where a warm fire and steaming mug of tea with whiskey would be waiting.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/11/14/thursday-photo-prompt-glass-writephoto/ with thanks).

Balefire #WritePhoto

The child rubbed her eyes as smoke from the fire began to irritate her. In blurred vision, she saw dark shapes moving around the orange-red fire. The figures were dancing slowly in time with the movement of the tips of the flames which sent flickering embers into the night sky.

The child shouldn’t be here. Her parents had told her no and left her with grandma. She had escaped as soon as granny fell sleep in front of the white noise displaying TV. The child had never been out this late but she had come to find out a truth she all ready knew within her heart.

From her hiding spot under a spiky bush, the child heard the rise and fall of voices. At first she couldn’t make out what they saying then she realised it was not English being spoken. It was another language, one from the deep past that belong to ancient peoples.

Lulled by the song and tried, the child fell sleep. She had nightmares, swirls of black and red shadows trying to grip her but she couldn’t escape because the fire blocked her at every turn. Smoke got into her eyes and blinded her, it filled her mouth when she tried to scream. Something grabbed her legs, dragging her into a hole that opened up in the ground.

The child woke and was disoriented. Slowly, she crawled out from the bush and went towards the dying fire. The people were gone now, fading into the night as if they had never been. The sky above was becoming lighter but rain clouds were gathering.

Looking into the last of the flames, the child picked up an un-burnt stick. She knew, somehow what had gone on last night. Touching the stick into the fire, she waited till it began to burn then removed it.

Waving the stick in the air, the child said aloud, ‘I won’t be a dark witch. I will be a white witch.’

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/10/24/thursday-photo-prompt-balefire-writephoto/ with thanks).

Copper #WritePhoto

Autumn leaves stuck to my boots, a drizzle rainfall patted the trees. The sky was a dusky blue-grey-black, night was coming fast. Birds tweeted their last songs and somewhere a woodpecker knocked. 

I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be home in front of the TV, eating snacks, being normal. My mind wouldn’t let that happen. I was going though so much therapy and techniques it was hard to keep up with it all. None of it was working. 

Being in the forest helped, somewhat. The hour or two of walking in the evenings, no matter the weather, helped to tire me. If not, the all night gym did.

No pills, cognitive therapy or other practises lasted long. The voices and thoughts came still. They whispered for me to do harm to myself and others. They laughed, taunted, demand, said there was no getting rid of them. I was mad.

I should have stayed locked up in the clinic but I wasn’t ill enough; my problems could be controlled. What did the doctors really know? They didn’t have all these demons inside. I didn’t trust myself, no one could, it was only a matter of time until…I did what the voices wanted and killed the next person I saw.

Looking up at the copper coloured leaves, I tried to relax and clear my head but all I could think about was the flow of blood. Red and pooling on the ground, the taste of it in my mouth, the feel of it on my skin.

Footsteps behind me. I turned hoping it was no one but along the path came a man with his dog.

They were my first victims.    

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/10/03/thursday-photo-prompt-copper-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Harbinger #Writephoto

It was the last day of September and a Monday which meant that Sadie had been super hectic at work. Finally, she was free to go home and though she was tried, she had a busy evening ahead.

As the bus engine vibrated underneath her, Sadie listed off her plans; home to eat and shower, then off to the coven meeting. There the practising witches would welcoming the coming of October at midnight. Afterwards she could go home to sleep.

Getting off the bus, she hurried down the road to her small house. The sky above was almost dark and Sadie hoped it wouldn’t rain. She opened the gate to her house and went up the path. On either side, Sadie’s front garden grew wild with a mix of things she used in cooking and magic.

Something rustled close by the front door. Sadie paused and looked down. There was something black and white sticking out of a clump of rosemary. Sadie peered further and saw a magpie trying to hide.

‘What are you doing down there?’ Sadie asked.

The magpie let out a soft, distressed cry. One of his wings was sticking out strangely and there was dried blood.

‘You are hurt!’ Sadie spoke, ‘wait a minute.’

She dug out her keys, let herself in and rushed into the kitchen. Getting a clean towel, Sadie went outside again and scooped up the magpie.

The weak bird allowed himself to be wrapped up and taken in without a fight.

Sadie placed him inside an old wicker basket then wondered what to do.

‘I’ll take you to the coven,’ she said aloud, ‘someone there will know what to do with you. A few of the witches have bird familiars.’

Sadie kept the magpie warm, give him little bit of cooked chicken and some water. When he seemed settled, Sadie got something to eat herself. After, she showered and changed in her black dress and purple hooded cloak.

Tucking the magpie carefully into the basket, she carried him to the basement of the abandoned factory where the coven meet.

Candles light all the walls and corners of the room. Chairs and tables were dotted around, some with witches sitting on them. Other figures moved across the centre, making markings on the floor.

Sadie found a male witch, Alex, who had a raven familiar, to help the magpie.

‘Looks like he’s been hit by a car,’ Alex told her, ‘this wing is broken and he’s in shock. You did the right thing. I’ll look after him.’

‘Thank you,’ Sadie replied, ‘I knew I couldn’t leave him to die.’

The welcoming of October began and they joined the others in the nighttime celebrations.

Hours later, the witches closed things and said their farewells. Sadie was too tried to give the magpie anymore thought and went home to bed.

 

Days later, there was a knock at Sadie’s door. She opened it, thinking it was the postman or a neighbour but it was Alex.

‘Oh, my basket!’ Sadie cried, ‘I’d forgot all about it!’

Alex smiled and added, ‘and your new familiar too!’

‘Familiar?’

Said looked into the basket and saw the magpie. He was looking healthy, his broken wing fixed and he had been well fed.

‘Yes,’ Alex replied, ‘I asked him if he wanted to be released or stay with you. He decided to thank you for saving his life by becoming your familiar. His name is Harbinger.’

Puzzlement crossed Sadie’s face and she looked from the magpie to Alex, ‘I don’t know anything about birds or having a familiar…’

Alex laughed and replied, ‘Harbinger and I will teach you all you need to know.’

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/09/26/thursday-photo-prompt-harbinger-writephoto/ with thanks).

Murmur #WritePhoto

The sky began to fill with light. The world murmured itself awake. Birds sing the first songs and other animals stirred themselves.

I watched from my bedroom window before I shut the black out curtains. The day was for people who could cope being outside. For me, even the slightest touch of the sun could burn my skin due to a rare allergic reaction I had been born with.

Closing the curtains, I got into bed. Thoughts of being a vampire filling my head. It was a laughable joke but it wasn’t true. I was no more a supernatural creature of the night then my boss was a pig. – Though he probably shared some of their DNA!

I snuggled into the coolness of the fresh sheets and reflected on my night shift at the open all hours petrol station. It had been quiet and I had been bored for a few hours but that was more capable then being rushed off my feet.

Dozing off, I started to dream of the day I was cured and could finally go out in the sun.

 

 

 

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/09/19/thursday-photo-prompt-murmur-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Reaching #WritePhoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘We could die!’

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

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

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

 

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

Mirror #WritePhoto

At the bottom of my great-grandfather’s land is a small shallow pond. In the summer, my younger brother, Dusty, and I would go to stay with him, great-grandma and Grant, one of our many cousins. We would spend all day playing outside. Unless it was raining then we would play in the barns.

Those were our golden days. We became wild children of the woods with no cares or worries. We would play all kinds of games, forge for food and create worlds of our own. Sometimes, the sound of the farm would bring us back to reality; the mooing of cows, the bleating sheep, a tractor engine.

We would stay out for however long we pleased then return to the large farm house for a hot meal, bath and bed. The fire in the kitchen would always be lit, no matter how hot it was outside.

The pond had held a fascination for both of us. It was where the Lady Of The Lake rose up from and give us Excalibur to help us on quests. In other stories; the water had magical powers, drinking it could bring you back from the dead or kill you or give you protection. Whatever we needed it to be in that particular moment.

The pond was also home to the ‘Bogoh monster’.  He’d wait in the depths of the mud then crept out, grip you and try to drown you. He took on many different forms but was mostly like a kacken creature with a hundred eyes and two thousand tentacles!

We saved each other countless times from the Bogoh. It was one of my brother’s favorite stories.

I don’t know how many years, perhaps around thirty?- it’s been since I last stood at the edge of the pond. It seems a lot smaller then I remember but then so does everything else.

Looking down into the rippling water, it’s like seeing into a mirror reflecting my past. My younger self playing with Dusty, who has stayed eleven every since that day.

I can hardly remember it. There was a storm, we had gone to the nearest barn but Dusty had forgotten something and went back to get it. I thought he’d taken shelter somewhere else but next morning, Grant found him floating face down in the pond.

The Bogoh had gotten him.

Tears drop from my eyes, I brush then harshly away. I didn’t really want to come here but I had to say goodbye. All this has been sold, tomorrow work will start to make it gone and soon there’ll be houses built on my childhood world.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/08/22/thursday-photo-prompt-mirror-writephoto/ with thanks).

Clarity #WritePhoto

Tears blurred my vision. I wiped them away hard and told myself to stop crying. It was too hard to, so I shut my eyes and dragged in some deep breathes.

A strong breeze blew, sweeping the salty smell of the sea and also some spray towards me. The marram grass whipped up and began bruising my ankles and legs, almost as if it as trying to stop me.

I hugged the urn hard and carried on walking. My feet sank into dry sand and kicked up as I walked. Before I reached the lapping waves, I slipped my shoes off. Barefooted, I walked into the sea and felt the cold water rising past my knees.

I give up with wiping the tears away and looked around to make sure I was alone. It was passed 5:30 AM and no one was here on the little beach. This place had been my dog, Teddy’s favourite walk. He had loved jumping into the sea and swimming out to catch a ball. He had enjoyed digging holes and been fascinated by crabs and jellyfish on the beach.

There was a feeling a rightness to set him to rest here.

It didn’t have to be done quickly, but I knew I’d changed my mind otherwise. I unscrewed the lid and tipped the urn slowly. Grey ash rushed out and vanished into the waves. I dropped the lid and the urn then dropped down, the sea came up to my shoulders.

Tears and grief swamped me. I couldn’t move, only stay sitting in the sea with the waves splashing against me.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/07/18/thursday-photo-prompt-clarity-writephoto/ with thanks).