Picture it Write: Darkest Chains

This is my entry into the Picture it and Write creative writing challenge hosted by the authors of Ermiliablog.

Photo Prompt

Photo Prompt

Darkest Chains

“Don’t dawdle, girl.”

Lady Aehtia swept into the citadel with barely a glance at the guards standing sentinel, her presence unquestioned. Lytle hurried in her wake. No matter how much she wished to give warning about the monster in their midst, dawdling was not an option.

The ties binding her might be invisible but she felt their presence from the moment she was awakened until she was finally permitted to sleep. Her every action was controlled by the tangled network of coercions and compulsions upon her. She ate, drank and relieved herself only when ordered, her voice forced into silence and her long days filled with whichever tasks Lady Aehtia deemed necessary.

Only her thoughts remained free and they were mired in darkness.

Memories of better times merely heightened the misery of her current existence: her parents’ love, her sweetheart’s caress, laughter, pleasure and happiness – all seemed like a distant dream. Choice was an alien concept. Her mistress’s enchantments made sure of that.

As she followed Lady Aehtia into her chambers, Lytle couldn’t help but imagine the joy she’d feel driving a dagger into the other woman’s back. It was a futile fantasy but one she returned to often. It wouldn’t even be the first blood to stain her hands.

“Tonight you’ll wear the green dress,” her mistress ordered. “Lord Dryhten has a fondness for red-heads. You’ll seduce him.” Her smile was chilling as she looked at her puppet. “And then you’ll kill him.”

Lytle had no option but to obey

Word Count: 250pictureitandwrite2copy-1

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Picture it & Write: Between Levels

This is my entry into the Picture it and Write creative writing challenge hosted by the authors of Ermiliablog.

Photo Prompt: ©2005-2015 Kaeros-Stock

Photo Prompt: ©2005-2015 Kaeros-Stock

Between Levels
Genre: Futuristic

“You don’t belong here.”

Lyla gave an undignified squawk as the gravelly voice sounded from the darkness ahead. She’d not considered the possibility of encountering people during her excursion.

“I can go wherever I want.” She raised her chin defiantly, only to shiver and fight the urge to scurry back up the staircase as a figure emerged from the shadows.

Raised in the Penthouse, she’d always felt a sense of security; constantly watched by the mechanical eyes that tracked each privileged inhabitant. Even on those rare occasions when her parents allowed her to descend a few levels she was accompanied by android guards.

But while she’d always felt safe she’d never felt free.

She’d always been fascinated by the landmass miles beneath them: by dirt and plants, trees and animals. From the top of the structure that housed millions she couldn’t even see the ground. Her view consisted of sky above and clouds below. The lowest she’d ever been permitted to travel was to level minus-five. Mother and Father had been adamant she not mingle with anyone of undesirable social stratum.

She didn’t have to listen to their mandates any more. As of yesterday she was finally of age, free to go wherever she wanted – and she wanted to see the ground.

As the man stalked closer, a strange smile on the face barely visible in the gloom, she began to reconsider – the safety of the Penthouse suddenly looked very appealing.

Maybe she should have brought an android…

Word Count: 250


This story has been an absolute nightmare to write. I’ve nearly given up on it several times. I seem to have spent all day writing, re-writing and re-writing again. I’m not even completely happy with it now but I’d like to post it while its still Tuesday if possible!

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Picture it & Write: The Blade

This is my entry into the Picture it and Write creative writing challenge hosted by the authors of Ermiliablog. This is actually the second time I’ve posted this. I originally posted it in two parts, but for some reason the first part vanished. I thought I may as well put them together. The beginning is a little dark.

Photo Prompt

Photo Prompt provided by Ermiliablog

The Blade
Genre: Fantasy

He was so tired of running.

Sometimes it seemed he would never stop, hounded as he was by a frenzied host of disappointments and mistakes. How had so much changed in such a short time?

Drawing the blade from its sheath, Andein considered the single remnant of his past. It had been in his family for generations: a gift from the gods to the first kings of Ilreia; a symbol of the power and influence they’d once wielded.

That was all gone now.

Andein ran a finger down the length of the shimmering blade, watching the colours shift and swirl as the spirits bound within responded to the human contact. He couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel as the blade cut into his flesh, allowing his life-blood to run free.

What did he have left to live for, after all? He’d lost everything, everyone. He was destitute: no home; no money; no friends. His life was ruined and the blame was his alone.

His fingers wrapped around the hilt and he lifted the blade.

Word Count: 176


I’ve had a number of lovely comments recently about the hopeful tone of many of my stories and it got me thinking. I like to include hope. I’m quite a positive person, generally, and this seeps in to my stories. But I do also like to explore slightly darker emotions in my writing. I like to send characters to their breaking point, where they feel they have no hope left at all.

I also like cliff hangers. This one isn’t too nasty.

You’ll be pleased to know that the story is continued just below.


The Blade – Part Two

Genre: Fantasy

Andein was prepared for pain, prepared for death, as he pressed the blade against his flesh, drawing blood. He wasn’t prepared for the burning sensation that spread from the point of contact, or for the tendrils of alien thought that twined through his mind, locking his hand in place.

As the first drops of blood caressed the blade’s edge, the spirits housed within cast their influence upon him. Their voices echoed through his thoughts, chattering unintelligibly. Images flashed before his eyes in a dizzying kaleidoscope: men, women and children cowering, scared; in need of protection; in need of hope.

He was shaking. He wanted to drop the blade but couldn’t flex his fingers to release the hilt. Madness threatened.

The voices finally coalesced into a single entity. “Protect them,” the order sounded.

“How can I?” A sob tore from his throat as he shook his head. “I’m nothing. I have nothing…”

“Protect them!”

How could he refuse?

“Yes.” Peace descended as he accepted their charge.

Word Count: 176


And hope is returned!

Thinking about the nature of hope in my writing also had me thinking about the types of characters I like to read and write about. I have a definite tendency to a certain type. I always have. I grew up with stories of Robin Hood (I’m a Nottinghamshire girl, after all!) and discovered Zorro around the age of 11. I read baroness Orczy’s ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ aged 13 and Dumas’ ‘The Three Musketeers’ a few years later. I love superheroes – as well as seeing the new Avengers movie last week I also recently binged on Netflix’s Daredevil. I love The Magnificent Seven, Merlin, Supernatural. I could probably continue for quite some time.  The characters I like all tend to be protectors.

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Picture it & Write: Childhoods’ Playground

This is my entry into the Picture it and Write creative writing challenge hosted by the authors of Ermiliablog.

room

Photo Prompt: Emiliablog

Childhoods’ Playground

Tammy was really excited about showing her friends the house.

She’d found it when exploring the village. She knew Mummy said she shouldn’t ever go past the big wall but the crumbling stones and low hanging branches had given her the perfect place to clamber over. It was easy – though she really hoped Mum didn’t notice that rip in her new jeans… The house was empty. Not just ‘out at the shops’, empty but no furniture or anything. It was amazing. She’d told Lily and Jacob about the place and they, of course, wanted to see it too. She’d told them how the corridors were so long and wide they could run races in them; how the rooms echoed when she shouted rude words. She’d told them it might be haunted. That was why they were visiting as the sun set, creeping in through the open doorway and jumping at every shadow. She wouldn’t tell them how the place looked early in the morning, as the sun bounced off the abandoned disco ball. At those times she could dance among the sunbeams and pretend she was surrounded by fairies. That would be her secret.

Word Count: 195

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Picture it & Write: The Telling of Tales

This is my entry into the Picture it and Write creative writing challenge hosted by the authors of Ermiliablog.

steampunk-pens

Photo prompt

The Telling of Tales

The voices are calling, whispering in her mind, eager to tell their tales. Her fingers hover over the line of pens. She’s hesitant to touch, knowing the enthrallment to come, but she can’t resist their lure for long. Her fingertips trace the labyrinthine patterns of the first pen. They’re close. I’m sure they’re close. Them automaton-things ‘ave hunted me fer days. I’ve scrabbled through all the boss’s puzzles, knowing ‘e’s watching an’ enjoyin’ my strugglin’. There’s another one of ‘is bloody seeing things. I smash it as I run past. I ain’t cooperatin’ with ‘is games no more… She draws her hand away, quieting the boy before shifting to the second pen. The cogs and wheels bring the inventor’s voice to the fore. I blink at the blueprints strewn across the worktop. Someone has been looking at my designs! How dare they? I dash to the machine and carefully examine the intricate mechanism. Everything appears to be in working order, ruling out sabotage. That suggests espionage… The next pen calls to her and she runs her fingers down the elegantly interlacing pattern, reminiscent of the stays of a ladies undergarments. A female voice speaks. The bustle of the revels is enough to set my nerves on edge but I remember Ilya’s teaching and force myself into calmness. I have three stiletto blades concealed in my petticoats and enough of the Professor’s gadgets to cause as much mayhem as necessary for a clean escape. My target is in sight… The golden map of the fourth pen draws her then. As her fingers caress the design the exited words of a young adventurer fill her mind. The view from the dirigible’s deck is the best I’ve ever seen. I can hardly believe I’m working on an airship. And not just any airship but McMaster’s own! This is the life I’ve dreamt of. A sudden crash sounds from the stern and we lurch earthwards. Panicked voices summon me to my station… Silencing the now fear filled voice, her touch trails to the fifth pen with its cage-like framework. The whispers of a trapped spirit grow louder. I pace the cage, turning before I reach the bars. I know only too well how they burn. It has been over sixty years since I was caught, imprisoned, but time has not dampened my ire. I continue to plot my escape. Someday I will be free and they’ll rue the day they meddled with me… Her fingers move on to the final pen in line. Caressing the spider-web summons the voice of an ancient being, slumbering beneath city streets. I dream of creatures running: scared, screaming. Their cries excite me. I want to rend and tear. Before they can escape I am on them, my teeth sinking through soft flesh. Hunger gnaws and I begin to awaken. Centuries have passed as I’ve slept and the settlement above has grown. I need to sate my appetite… Her hand hovers. She makes her choice and begins to write. Word Count: 500 This story is rather longer than I’d originally planned. Whilst the challenge hosts at Emiliablog don’t give an actual word limit they do suggest you write ‘a paragraph of fiction’. This is definitely more than a paragraph of fiction. As it is, I’m hoping the story makes sense at this length. Any less and I’m sure it wouldn’t have made sense at all! I find Steampunk a fascinating genre and loved this prompt as soon as I saw it. In case you don’t know much about Steampunk, here’s a link to a page that explains the basics. I’d love to know what everyone thinks. Which pen would you have chosen?   pictureitandwrite2copy-1

The Crossing / The Forester – Part Six

This is a continuation of the story begun in The Crossing, the title of which is now being changed to The Forester. 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, Part Four and Part Five. Each part is only 250 words, so they don’t take too long to read. Enjoy!

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The Forester – Part Six
Genre: historical: early C13th England

Dair awoke with heart pounding, the events of the dream, a jumbled mess of memories, playing through his mind. He forced himself to calm, leaning back against his bedding.

It was over. He was home. And safe.

The familiar sounds and smells settled him: him mother’s even breathing, the snuffling animals in their pens.

The fire had burned low, only glowing embers remaining to warm the building. Whilst mostly recovered from his trials the chill continued to bother him. Clutching blankets tightly around his shoulders he rose and added fresh wood, encouraging the flames to return. Some days he wondered whether he’d ever feel warm again.

His mother continued to sleep. Even resting, her grief and exhaustion showed. She’d cared for him unfailingly over the past weeks – sometimes smotheringly so. It was as if she feared letting him out of her sight.

Today she would have to. Today he was leaving to join Randel and his foresters.

He would have left before, had he been permitted, but his mother and the forester had been adamant that first he rest and heal. Only now was he willing to admit they’d been right. But the outlaws who’d attacked them were still free and he was sure he could find them…

It was still several hours until dawn but sleep would not revisit this night. He dressed, gathering his belongings into a rough knapsack.

And he waited for his mother to wake. He couldn’t leave without wishing her farewell.

Word Count: 250


I thought I’d give you a slightly calmer, less tense installment this week. Dair has been through so much in the previous few that I thought he’d like a little down time before we return to action scenes in the forest. As I’ve mentioned before, this has grown a lot beyond the initial story (hence the change in title). Whilst I haven’t planned out the plot in any detail I do have lot’s of ideas. Hopefully this whole thing will eventually be edited and turned into a novel. If this happens the previous five parts together would be Chapter One. We are now moving into Chapter Two.

Next time: Dair meets Randel’s foresters.

 

 

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.

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!

river

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!

river

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. 🙂