FFfAW: Time to Leave

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Photo prompt – The Storyteller’s Abode

Time to Leave

The boats were full, despite the lateness of the day.

Ingrid paused, her foot poised on the gangplank as she looked back at the town. Her throat tightened as tears threatened to fall. How could she leave? The place was central to all of her memories: she’d married Jimmy in the church on the market place; borne her children in the local hospital. She’d walked those streets with steps both weighted with sorrow and made light with joy. Even the thought of leaving chilled her.

“I’m afraid it’s time, dearest,” Jimmy said.

Unfortunately, she didn’t have any choice. The town that had been so bright with life would soon be darkened by death. These would be the final boats to leave. On board, men and women clung to each other, their fear and sorrow almost palpable. Despite the exodus having begun days earlier, many had hoped the situation would change. Now, with ash clouds obscuring the sun, all hope was gone.

Ingrid gripped her husband’s hand and stepped on board.

Word Count: 175

If you’d like to read the other entries, click the little blue frog.

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This post is for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. This week’s prompt was provided by me. The picture was taken in York a couple of years ago, when we visited for the Christmas market. It was an incredibly cold day, and we were amazed to see the boat trips still going on – though at least no one was sitting on the open-air top level.

As always seems to be the case when it’s my own prompt, I found it really hard to write a story this week! Luckily, I did manage to come up with something in the end. This was inspired by a programme about Pompeii I was watching.

I hope you like it.

TLT: The Runner

This post is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales.

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Photo prompt – © Martins Zemlickis

The Runner

He ran to escape the anger and fear that had dominated his life for so long, each stride distancing him from the demons of his past. He ran towards dreams of a bright future full of love and hope. He ran because he could – because he was free, unfettered,  and no one could stop him.

FFfAW: A Place of Safety

This post is for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) Challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s photo prompt was provided by Sonya O. Thank you Sonya!  The challenge is that you write a story of 75-175 words inspired by the photo prompt below. I hope you like it.

Photo Prompt: © Sonya O

Photo Prompt: © Sonya O

A Place of Safety

They huddled together in the shadows, waiting for the brief time when they could board unobserved. The guards’ line of sight would be obscured for minutes only as the cargo swung into place. They’d have to be quick and careful. His daughters trembled at his side, their eyes wide and scared. He pulled them close, unwilling to ever let go.

“You know what to do?” he asked.

He knew they did. His girls might be young but they had their mother’s indomitable spirit. They’d run, climb and hide as ordered and soon be sailing to a life free of fear. They wouldn’t worry about riots and starvation; wouldn’t huddle in terror as armed men stalked through their home. They’d be able to laugh and play. It hurt to send them, but it was for the best.

“Look after each other. Remember I love you.” Tears filled his eyes as he watched them go.

Only he would stay. He’d fight to make their land a place of safety once more. Someday his family would come home.

Word Count: 174


Just out of curiosity, of what nationality did you picture the characters in this story and where and when did you imagine it set?

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FFfAW: What Lies Beyond

This post is for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (FFfAW) Challenge, run by Priceless Joy. This week’s photo prompt was provided by Dawn M. Miller. Thank you Dawn!  The challenge is that you write a story of 75-175 words inspired by the photo prompt below. I hope you like it.

Photo Prompt: © Dawn M Miller

Photo Prompt: © Dawn M Miller

What Lies Beyond

“For centuries we’ve lived in tyranny!” The voice had been bell-like, an awakening chime over the rally. “We’ve huddled behind city walls, believing their lies, for too long. Are we children to believe in monsters lurking in the wilderness?”

With the passionate words of the protest leader echoing through his mind, Marcus stared excitedly through the broken panel at the forbidden land beyond. The covered walkways that connected the city and outlying compounds had been growing increasingly dilapidated lately but he’d never expected to find a hole large to climb through.

“The ruling council wants to keep us living in fear but it is in the wilderness that we can find our freedom!”

Barely hesitating, he scrambled through and dropped to the ground below.

He didn’t see his attacker – merely felt the impact as it forced him to the ground. Sharp claws tore through flesh. Pain ricocheted, an agonised cry wrenching from his throat.

The smug face of the high-councillor swam into view. “Maybe they’ll believe in monsters now.”

His world faded to black.

Word Count: 175


This story was very hard to write in only 175 words! I’ve written and re-written it five or six times, not to mention edited this final version down from nearly 250 words. It was supposed  to have been posted yesterday but, well – that didn’t happen. I hope you all like it. I also hope it makes sense…

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The Crossing – Part Five

Here’s part five of The Crossing. For those of you who haven’t already read them, or for anyone who wants to refresh their memory of what happened, here are the links to Part OnePart TwoPart Three and Part Four. Enjoy!

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The Crossing: Part Five
Genre: historical: early C13th England

Part Five

Dair was barely conscious, mumbling unintelligibly as the forester carried him. Lanky as the youth was, he’d not yet gained the bulk of adulthood. His weight was easy to bear. Soon they reached the free-holding, Randel shouting Aislin’s name as they approached.

“Randel? What…?” Her eyes widened as she saw his burden, relief and hope displacing the shadows of grief. “Oh, my boy…” She held the door wide.

“Pull a pallet to the fire,” he instructed, striding towards the central hearth. “We need to warm him. Then he’ll need a drink. Not too hot. Milk with honey would be good.”

“What happened? Where did you find him?”

Randel shook his head as he deposited his charge, piling every fur and blanket available atop the boy before answering. “Found him in the forest and he weren’t exactly talking. He was drenched so I’d say he’s been in the river. Other than that, I’ve no idea.”

Coaxing Dair to full consciousness Aislin encouraged him to drink. Randel watched with a satisfied smile as bruised eyes fluttered open and the realisation that he was home settled over the exhausted youth.

“Ma…?”

“You’re home, my boy. You’re safe.”

“And that’s my cue to leave,” Randel informed the pair. “I’ll get Old Hilda to visit to make sure he’s healing.”

“You’re leaving?”

“I’ve a job to do, Aislin. Your husband’s killers won’t catch themselves.”

“The bandits…” Dair jolted up. “They… they…”

“We’ll catch them.”

“No. I… I can help. I know where they make camp.”

Word Count: 250

The Crossing – Part Four

Here’s part four of The Crossing. For those of you who haven’t already read them, or for anyone who wants to refresh their memory of what happened, here are the links to Part OnePart Two and Part Three. Enjoy!

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The Crossing: Part Four
Genre: historical: early C13th England

Move!

Dair’s eyes flashed open and he surged forward in a stumble that sent him to his knees, broken branches scratching numb skin. He shook his head, struggling to order his thoughts.

Running. He’d been running. Why had he been running?

Memories of blows falling, of burning fear, of dead eyes staring… He had to get home!

He forced himself to his feet as a figure loomed into sight.

xXxXx

Despite being lost in thought, Randel’s senses were too finely tuned after years as a forester to be unaware of his surroundings. The sound of breaking branches immediately pulled his attention from the road. Readying his bow he eased through the trees.

The features of the bedraggled boy who scrambled dazedly backwards were instantly recognisable: dark hair and sharp cheekbones so like his mother’s, fair skin worryingly blue with cold.

“Dair,” he called, approaching the lad with cautious steps, his bow slung over his shoulder. “You’re safe. I’m a forester – Randel. Do you remember me?”

“Randel?” Dair slumped and the forester knelt at his side. “So cold…” His eyes drooped, slipping out of focus.

His clothes were sodden, ice forming in the wintry air. Randel had seen too many men die of exposure to hesitate. He quickly removed the wet fabric and wrapped the increasingly unresponsive boy in his cloak, cataloging injuries as he went. A seething anger gained in strength.

First he would get Dair to safety. Then he would find the bastards who did this to him.

Word Count: 250


I think I probably spent more time working on the picture for this part of ‘The Crossing’ than I did on the story! I knew that I couldn’t keep on using Ermelia’s picture prompt forever.

The shot I used began life as a picture of a pleasant spring day in what we call ‘the little wooded area’ in the village. I would have liked to used one that showed more trees but trying to edit them in didn’t work. I did, however, manage to make it look nice and wintry.

Friday Fictioneers: Sanctuary – Raen

This is a companion piece for this week’s Friday Fictioneers entry. If you haven’t already read Sanctuary please follow the link to do so.

Photo prompt: Rachel Bjerke

Photo prompt: Rachel Bjerke

Sanctuary: Raen
Genre: Fantasy

Raen ran, each breath harsh against his burning throat, his limbs leaden. Only fear gave him strength to continue. The baying hounds were growing closer, his pursuers’ shouts echoing through the forest.

Safety was close. He could sense the beacon guiding him.

He constructed the Weaving as he ran, twining threads of energy into an intricate network despite a shaky focus. It was complete barely in time.

He skirted the fountain, trailing his hand through the stagnant water, barely slowing as he approached the wall. With wet fingers he traced the activation sigil upon the stone.

And the world shifted.

Word Count: 100

Click the little blue frog to see other entries or to add your own.

This piece was actually written before yesterday’s but was then abandoned as I’ve written a few stories recently from the viewpoint of a character being chased/running. Because of this I thought I’d flip it around and show the chase from the viewpoint of the chaser, Gaert. After several requests for continuation and/or an explanation of how Raen vanished I thought I may as well share this one with you all as well.

I hope you all like it and would love to know what you think. Which one did you like best?

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Friday Fictioneers: Sanctuary

This is my entry for this week’s Friday Fictioneers Challenge run by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s picture prompt was provided by Rachel Bjerk. The challenge is to write a story within 100 words.

Photo prompt: Rachel Bjerke

Photo prompt: Rachel Bjerke

Sanctuary
Genre: Fantasy

This time they had him.

Gaert grinned. The reward on the sorcerer’s head would be his. Even without the hounds the trail was now easy to follow. After three long days of unrelenting pursuit their prey was tired, his steps stumbling and uneven. He would not outwit them again.

Then they came to the moss-covered wall, the chimney, oven and fountain, and everything changed. The dogs cast for the scent without success, whining their confusion.

“Damn it!” Gaert slammed his fist against stone as a glowing sigil faded from sight.

xXxXx

Within the sanctuary Raen collapsed in exhausted relief. He was safe.

Word Count: 100

Click the little blue frog to see other entries or to add your own.

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Picture it & Write: The Crossing – Part Three

It took a little longer for me to finish than I’d hoped but here’s part three of The Crossing. For those of you who haven’t already read them, or for anyone who wants to refresh their memory of what happened, here are the links to Part One and Part Two. I hope you like it!

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Picture it & Write photo prompt

The Crossing: Part Three
Genre: historical: early C13th England

He had to keep going.

Dair stumbled through the trees, forcing one foot after the other. His thoughts threatened to drift, wandering into confusion, into memories of pain and fear and horror. He locked onto thoughts of home and his Mother. The river, his days of captivity, lay behind him. The road to their fief lay only a little way ahead.

He just had to keep going.

Unfortunately his body was finding it increasingly difficult to obey. Cold had settled deep, draining him of energy. Even his shivering had stopped.

He leant heavily against a tree trunk. He needed a moment. Just a moment…

His eyes drifted closed.

xXxXx

Even in grief, with eyes red-rimmed and cheeks tear-stained, she was beautiful. Randel wanted to hold her but knew it was not his place.

His guilt dragged him down. It was his job to keep the forest clear of vermin and he had failed. Her husband and son were killed by brigands on his watch. He was also ashamed to admit that, at the sight of Hugh lying in a pool of blood on the road, he’d felt a flare of relief, of hope. She was finally free.

All that had really changed was that now he came second to a dead man.

“What of Dair…? My younger son. He was with them, too.”

He had not seen the boy. Hope bloomed in her eyes.

“Find him, Randel,” she begged, her soft brogue stirring his senses.

How could he refuse?

Word Count: 248

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It’s now looking like this story is going to be the beginning of a much longer piece – it’s taken on a life of its own! I seem to have spent hours researching, trying to decide exactly when its set, who the characters are, their social positions, etc. I haven’t read so much medieval history since my university days!

In case you’re wondering the name Dair is of Irish origin and means ‘oak’. I named him before the rest of the story started coming together and this proved to be quite a sticking point for a while – why would an English lad in Medieval times have an Irish name?

His mother is Irish and met his father and Randel when they accompanied Prince John as infantrymen to Ireland in 1185. This was nearly thirty years prior to the story.

Dair’s family are freemen, relatively wealthy commoners. Their land-holding is a fief.

Randel is a forester, and leads a group of under-foresters in enforcing Forest Law.

Dair is suffering from hypothermia. At this point he is at a moderate stage – his shivering has stopped and his metal faculties are slowing down.

Picture it & Write: The Crossing – Part Two

Due to multiple requests from readers and a plot bunny that decided to not leave me alone, here is a second part for this week’s Picture it and Write challenge using the photo prompt below. If you haven’t read part one or would like to remind yourself what happened, you can go here. I hope you like it!

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Picture it & Write photo prompt

The Crossing: Part Two
Genre: historical

The rocks were slick and dangerous, the water swirling in tumultuous eddies that tugged insistently at Dair’s feet as he struggled to cross. He knew the route, had used it dozens of times before, but never with the river this swollen. Soon he was practically crawling, clinging with fingers growing increasingly numb in the icy rush.

He was over halfway when he fell.

He grabbed at the sharp-edged rocks with desperate hands as his feet were swept from beneath him, scrabbling frantically to regain his footing. He couldn’t hold on for long. The current carried him in a twisting surge downstream. He fought to keep his head above water, to swim towards the bank, to avoid obstacles, but the chill leeched away his strength, dulling his reactions as he was buffeted and swamped.

Escape looked unlikely. He would die in the river as Father and Alhan had died on the road. Mother, awaiting their return, would never know what happened.

He’d given up hope of survival when the tangle or roots caught him in their trailing embrace. It took several minutes for him to realise his good fortune; several more to gather the strength to pull himself onto the river bank, shivering and unsteady.

He’d done it – he’d made it across! He could barely believe it. He was now only a few miles from home.

Exhausted and battered, sodden to his skin in the bitterest of winter temperatures, home could still have been as distant as the moon.

Word Count: 249

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You’ll be pleased to know that there is a part three of this story that’s already more than half written. I’d like to say I’ll have the next bit up tomorrow but I have to work, so we’ll see. 🙂