Wednesday, February 9, 2022

One Word - Prompt: Werewolf

 The night is drawing in. The sky transforms from a soft colbalt blue to a deep shade of black. Against the velvet backdrop stars wake and wink down on those below. 

I sit still beneath the large branches of the old chestnut tree, and wait. I knew what is coming. I could feel its presence. I wasn't afraid, yet, there is a dread that lurks in the pit of my stomach. To run will make no difference, it would still find me, and so, I remain still.

There! I see it. Now it begins. My body tears apart with pain as it fights to change and transform into what I must be. I lift my head and eyes towards my destiny and howled my greeting to the moon. For this night, I am Werewolf

Thursday, January 27, 2022

WIZARD - Chapter 11 Departure



Chapter 11

Nettle set about that evening teaching Micos how to perform magic by clicking one’s fingers.
“It’s all in the way you click them while speaking the words. The two must become one for the magic to happen.” Nettle laid a small piece of kindling down on the stone hearth. “Let’s start with something easy. Set fire to this twig. I’ll show you first then you try.” She focused on the small piece of wood. “Ignitum.” The word and the click of her fingers melded together as the twig burst into flames. She looked up at Micos and smiled. “Your turn now. Remember: Concentrate, say the spell with confidence and click your fingers with purpose.”
Micos took a stick from the bundle of kindling and placed it as Nettle had, down on the cold stone. He took a deep breath, spoke the word, “Ignitum,” and snapped his fingers. The twig twitched for a second then lay still. He clicked his fingers again and spoke the spell. It made a crackling noise that ended in a puff of smoke. “It’s not working.” He looked at Nettle and then back at the stick, which he shoved with the toe of his boot.
Nettle laughed at him. “Kicking it won’t help. You nearly got it right, but you must speak the word and click your fingers together. There can be no delay between the two. Go on try again. ”
Micos made several attempts and with each failure he became more frustrated.
“It’s no good. I can’t do it.” He picked up the twig and flung it into the fire.
“You don’t think I did it straight away do you? You’re trying to do in one night what I took my time to learn. But I know you can do it. I feel it. You must focus.” Nettle reached out and retrieved another piece of wood from the bundle and set it down as before. “Go on, try again.”
Micos focused on the piece of wood, this time taking a moment to centre himself and steady his breathing. The spell left his lips as the click of his fingers resounded in the air. The twig flared and was consumed by the flames.
Micos turned towards Nettle. The beam on his face was hard to ignore. She patted him on the back. “See I knew you could do it,” she said. “All it takes is a bit of concentration.”
It was well into the night before she called a halt to the lesson. Micos could now easily set fire to wood as well as transform one object into another. He had not quite got the hang of making things disappear, but Nettle felt pleased at the progress he had made in such a short time. She had always known that despite his boyish charm, which she found hard to ignore, he had the makings of a good Wizard. He had mastered the essence of the magic of transformation, at least enough to convince Narcam he could do it, by union of spell and click as it was set out in her old Wizards Book of Spells.
Micos, who was now feeling confident about his abilities, said, “Now that I can do this, you’d better teach me the spell you used to get rid of the rats.”
Nettle looked at him. There was something in his eyes, a brightness she had seen it before. It was that look he got when his ego took over. She knew he was excited about what he had learnt, and how he really longed to be thought of as a Wizard. Can I trust him with this spell? she thought. Perhaps I should sleep on it.
“It’s late and I’m tired. Tomorrow will have to do.”
“But you promised. Anyway, how’s Narcam going to believe me if I don’t know it?” Micos stood in front of her.
Nettle observed how his jaw tightened. “Don’t be impatient.” She yawned. “It’s been a long day. There’ll be plenty of time in the morning to show you. Narcam’s not due back till late afternoon.”
“How do you know that?”
“He sent another message. Didn’t I tell you?”
“No.” Micos frowned. “Ha, as if cheating me out of the dark magic spell isn’t enough. You’re now keeping messages from me.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Nettle pushed past him. “Go to bed. We’ll talk more in the morning.”
Micos watched her leave and listened to her footsteps as she walked down the hallway to her room.
 “Pfft, girls. Just when you think you know what they’re thinking, you find you don’t know at all.”
He was not tired. In fact he was wide awake and keen to practice what he had learnt. He walked over to the bundle of onions that Nettle had weaved together in a rope and hung from a beam. He pulled free the outer papery skin of one and held it up to the light of the candle. Its soft glow illuminated the amber tones on the fragile skin. He placed it down on the table. Holding his thumb against his first two fingers, he simultaneously snapped them as he spoke the words, “Transformus, butterfly.” The amber wings fluttered and took the air. He laughed as he held out a hand and the butterfly alighted on his finger. Micos observed the shape of its wings, the delicate markings that were traced over them. He carried it to the workbench by the wall, climbed up and opened the window a fraction. He held the butterfly up to the gap. It rested on his finger for a moment before it flew away.
He smiled to himself as he climbed down. The simple beauty of the butterfly reminded him of Nettle and how good she really was. He felt annoyed at himself for the way he had acted.
 It was childish of me, he thought. Micos sighed. It’s just I want to be able to do what she can. After all I’m the one who’s meant to be the Wizard, not her.
The moment that last thought entered his head, he felt sorry for thinking it. He knew it was wrong to be jealous of her. How could they ever be together if he did not stop feeling this way?
Tomorrow I will make it up to her, I will.
He blew out the candle and headed for his own bed.
* * *
The rain pounded on the roof all night and Nettle’s sleep was fitful. When the first light of dawn crept in through the small window of her room, she sat up, rubbed her eyes and threw off the bed covers. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she listened. The only sounds she heard were the sky rumbling and the rain crashing down. No birds were singing, and every now and again a flare of lightning lit up the whole of her window pane.
All through the night she had wrestled with the question of whether or not to share the dark magic spell with Micos. She had decided that if she wanted to stay in Narcam’s employ, then she had no choice but to do so. It was not that she did not want Micos to know, it was just that she knew how impulsive he could be and was afraid he would get himself into more trouble once he had such a spell in his hands.
She smiled. I can’t help it. I like him regardless of how stupid he can be.
 Nettle pictured his features in her mind’s eye, how his cheeks dimpled when he smiled and his ebony hair framed his face. She felt her heart flutter and wondered if this was truly love. Another flash of lightning broke her reverie and she set about getting dressed before she went to the kitchen.
“Micos, breakfast is ready. Get up,” Nettle called through the doorway before returning to the fire and retrieving the freshly made scones. She placed them on the table and walked towards the door once more.
“All right I hear you. I’m coming.” Several moments later he appeared in the room. His hair was ruffled and he yawned as he took his seat at the table.
Nettle looked at him and shook her head. She poured two cups of herbal tea and brought them over to where he was sitting. “Here,” she said as she placed one down in front of him. “Eat the scones before they go cold.”
She sat on the opposite side of the table nibbling a scone and watched as Micos greedily tucked into the flour cakes. When he reached out for the last one, he hesitated and looked at her.
“Go on you have it,” he said and pushed the plate towards her. “Are you going to show me that spell then?” He waited for her to reply.
Nettle munched on the last scone and washed it down with a swig of her tea. “Yes, of course, but first, clear away your dishes.” She nodded at his cup and plate as she picked up her own and walked over to the workbench. He followed. “I don’t know how we’re going to get over to the blacksmith’s place to get that paint. The rain hasn’t stopped. I bet outside is a mess.” She poured water into a bowl and stepped aside for Micos to place his plate and cup inside it.
“A bit of wet won’t hurt us. Come on, Nettle, hurry up! We have to be done before the master returns. Besides I’m dying to get a look of that book you have.”
 Nettle raised an eyebrow and returned to washing the dishes. “Well, don’t just stand there. Take hold of that cloth and wipe these dry then.” She held out a plate to him.
She was just drying her hands when there came a knock at the front door. No, more than a knock, a thump, then another and another. It sounded like someone was banging on the door with a heavy stick. She looked at Micos. “Who can that be? It sounds like they’re going to break the door down.”
Micos shrugged and together they raced up the hall and towards the door.
“Stop banging, we’re coming,” Nettle shouted.
Micos took hold of the handle and flung the door open. Both stared at what met their eyes, mouths agape with incredulity.
“‘Er Wizard, I’ve been delegated to tell you to do something about this?”
The man, who stood with an oar in one hand, gestured with the other hand to the water that had now turned the village into a lake. Another man sat bailing water out of the boat with a tin pot. The relentless rain continued to fall as the sky growled and groaned above them. The boat bumped against the top step of the house, creating a small wave that rolled towards Nettle and Micos, to land with a splosh on their feet.
“Well,” said the man, “what yer going to do about it?”
“Do?” Micos looked at the men in the boat.
“You’re the Wizard aren’t yer? Get rid of this ‘fore we all drown.” With a sweep of his hand he indicated the rising water. The movement made the boat bounce; the man wobbled. Nettle and Micos held their breath as it looked as though he was about to fall in. But he planted his oar with a thump on the bottom of the boat and clinging onto it, managed to steady himself.
“We can’t help you,” said Nettle. “You’ll have to wait for our master to return.”
The man glared at them. “Wait. We could be under all this ‘er water ‘fore ‘e gets back. No, there’s only one answer. If yer cannot help, then the boy must go to the Dark Wizard Lostan. It’s the boy or the village.”
“He can’t go to him,” shrilled Nettle. “You don’t know what the Wizard will do.”
“What I know is that ‘e said to send ‘im. If ‘e has the boy, ‘e’ll end this spell and the village will be saved. Now don’t make me come and get yer boy.”
“You can’t have hi…” But Nettle did not finished the sentence as Micos stepped in front of her and placed a finger upon her lips.
“It’s all right Nettle. I’ll go. This is all my fault anyway.” He moved onto the top step. The rain splattered onto his head and water began to seep around the soles of his boots.
“Wait,” said Nettle as she placed a hand on his shoulder. “If you’re going, I’m coming with you.”
Micos turned towards her. “You musn’t. What’ll Narcam say if you’re gone?”
“I don’t care. I’m coming.”
“Make up yer minds and be quick about it. It’s no fun in this boat yer know.”
“Nettle please.” Micos looked at her, but he knew the moment he did that she would not change her mind. He saw that determined glint in her eyes, that he knew so well.
“Shut up and move over.” Nettle joined him on the top step and pulled the front door closed behind her.
The man beckoned them to come aboard and held out a hand to help Nettle climb in. Once they were both seated, the men started to row the boat towards the gates. Nettle gazed around and wondered how many of the smaller dwellings had been flooded and where the people that lived in them were.
“The people in those houses over there,” she said pointing to one side. “What’s happened to them?” She brushed her now soddened hair out of her eyes.
“They be staying with some of the folk who have houses built higher than their own. This is a right pretty mess we’ll be clearing up. I can tell yer. What yer do boy to make that Lostan want yer so bad eh?”
Micos never replied as the men wielded their oars with skill and strength to cut through the icy water and propel the boat forwards to halt at the gates. All four of them marvelled at how beyond the gates the land was dry and how although the water was rising, it did not spill outside the confines of the village.
“I’ve never seen the likes of this magic afore. Still after those rats I’d think anything was possible. Don’t yer agree Jed?” The man looked at his rowing partner who said nothing, but nodded his head. “You’ll have to jump out of the boat and through the gates, yer hear.” He stared at Micos and Nettle. “Be orft with yer then.”
They both stood, their clothes drenched, clinging to their limbs. The men remained seated.
“I’ll go first and I’ll catch you when you land.” Micos went to the end of the boat and leapt out over the edge of the water to land outside the gates on the dry ground. The boat swayed from side to side and Nettle lost her footing to fall back into the arms of the old man at the far end.
“‘Ere watch out girl,” he said pushing her up again. “Do yer want to tip us all out?”
Nettle edged her way to the top of the boat and climbed upon the seat. It was a long way down, and the water looked deep. She sucked in a breath, placed a foot on the bow and with all her might she pushed off. As she sailed through the air the boat dipped under the pressure of her jump and as it bobbed back upwards it tossed its two occupants, like rag dolls, over its sides and into the murky water that now flooded the village. Nettle landed in Micos’s arms and both toppled over to roll in the dirt. From somewhere above them they could hear the shouts of the two men splashing about.
“What happened?” Micos untangled himself from her and stood up. He reached out a hand to her.
“I don’t know. I just jumped.” She grasped his hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet.
They both looked at the gates and how the water seemed to be held in place by nothing the eye could see. She grasped hold of the skirt of her robe and wrung it out. Water puddled around her and her feet squelched within her shoes.
“That’s some clever magic,” said Micos, who seemed not to be bothered by the fact that he was wet through. “I wonder how he did it?”
“It’s not clever. It’s irresponsible and dangerous magic. And I’m soaked.” Nettle continued to wring out various parts of her dress before moving on to her hair.
“It’s just water. We’ll soon dry.” Micos grinned at her. “It might be dangerous magic but you have to admit it’s kinda spectacular isn’t it?” Micos turned his attention back to the spectacle of the never ending-storm.
“I’ve told you,” snapped Nettle. “There’s always a price to pay for using dark magic and this is Elemental dark magic, the most dangerous according to my book.” Nettle brushed down the skirt of her robe which was now smeared with muddy marks. “Come on we’d better go if we’re to get Lostan to stop this.”
Micos swung around to face her. “Go to Lostan? I don’t think so.”
“You know if we do he’ll do something nasty to us don’t you?”
“I suppose, but the village and the people…. We have to stop this Micos.”
“Narcam will stop it.”
“Narcam isn’t here.” Nettle wanted to shake him, make him understand how important this was.
“Yes, but he will be later today. Remember you said he would.”
“Oh yes, that’s right.” Just for a moment Nettle had forgotten he was returning. “But if he comes back to this, we’ll both be in serious trouble.”
“You were ready to face him a while ago. What’s changed?” Micos reached down, pulled off one of his boots and tipped out a stream of water. He shook it before putting it back on.
“That’s when we had a chance of a believable story. We have nothing now.” Nettle felt her bottom lip tremble. It wasn’t like her to break down, but right at this moment, she felt she was losing everything she had grown to love: the village, Narcam and if she was sent away, possibly Micos too.
“It’ll be all right.” Micos slipped an arm around her shoulders. “We’ll just hide in the woods for a while. Narcam will come back and sort this all out. It’ll soon settle down and then we can come back. That’s better than trying to face Lostan. Besides, Lostan wouldn’t dare to cast any more spells on the village when Narcam is there to protect it. Everyone knows he’s the oldest and greatest Wizard there is.”
Nettle sniffed and nodded her head. “What if Lostan finds us before Narcam comes back?”
“We’ll make sure he doesn’t.” Micos took hold of her hand and together they walked towards the woods.
* * *
In her cave, Octava looked up from her scrying bowl, rubbed her hands together and cackled. “Perfect, the boy and girl are cast out of the village. Now all I need to do is get to them before Lostan and retrieve the talisman. Then I can defeat the Dark Wizard and have a tasty supper as well. Two for the pot is always better than one.”
She cast her eyes back down to the scrying bowl and with a finger swirled the inky contents. “Liquid dark, reveal to me, where the boy and girl may be.” The atramentous liquor whirled around the bowl faster and faster until it cleared to show Micos and Nettle walking into the woods.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

WIZARD - Chapter 10 - Thunder & Lightning



 Chapter 10
Thunder & Lightning

“Where did this storm come from?” Nettle climbed on the workbench against the wall and peered out of the kitchen window.
“It’ll probably go as quickly as it came.” Micos lifted the mug of hot tea that Nettle had made him, to his lips.
“I’ve never seen it rain so hard.” Nettle pressed her nose against the rough pane of glass.
 A golden flash buzzed through the sky, spreading veiny fingers out to hit the ground a short distance away from them. She jumped back from the window and tumbled off the bench. Thunder rumbled all around and exploded in a loud bang, shaking the walls of the house as its heavy tone vibrated through the air.
“I don’t like it,” she whispered.
“It’s just a storm. Nothing to be afraid of.”
“Have you looked out there? If it carries on the ground will soon turn to mud.”
“Then the sun will come out and dry it up.” Micos laughed at her as he placed his mug back down on the table. “Stop worrying. I’m going to finish my new batch of transformative powder. I expect the master will be back any day now. Better have it ready.” He swung his legs over the bench and stood up. “What’s for supper?” But Nettle didn’t seem to hear. Instead she continued to stare towards the window.
Micos looked at her for a long moment and wondered if she felt the same about him as he did about her. A smile spread across his lips as he took in her long flaxen hair, now with a white streak down one side. He had quizzed her about it, but she just shrugged and said she didn’t know how it came about. It didn’t really matter to him. He had thought her hair beautiful before the white streak and now, it was just as beautiful with it.
Nettle looked over her shoulder at him. “What?”
“What’s for supper?”
“Is food all you ever think about?”
“No.” I think about you sometimes. The moment the thought entered his head his cheeks began to colour. He turned away and walked towards the open door. Without looking back he said, “I’ll see you later then,” and stepped into the hallway.
Nettle tried to busy herself in the kitchen but the constant sound of the rain pounding on the roof was hard to ignore. She moved back over to the workbench and climbing up again, she pressed herself close to the window and glanced up at the sky. It was as if a dark blanket had been thrown carelessly over the village, only to have holes gouged out of it every few moments by lightning bolts that flashed with ferocity. Something didn’t feel right to her. She knew it and yet she didn’t know what it was. Anxiety was growing within her. As the storm gathered momentum, she felt a tingling sensation on one side of her head. Her hand instinctively came up to touch the strands of white that now adorned her otherwise straw-coloured hair.
“What’s happening?”
With her fingers wrapped around the silver strands, she felt the faintest vibration. She clambered down from the bench and ran to her bedroom. She held the small looking glass in her hand and studied her reflection. The white strands of hair glowed in the dim light of her room.
Why are they doing that? She touched them once again. The tingling sensation grew stronger with every moment that passed. “Dark magic,” she whispered. What else could it be?
Nettle flung the mirror down on her bed and ran into the hallway. She dashed to the front door and grasped the handle. Just for a moment she hesitated as her heart pounded in her chest. Half afraid and half curious as to what she would see, she pulled the door wide open and ventured out onto the top step.
She gasped as her eyes took in the scene.
“The storm, it’s only over the village.”
She saw beyond the gates and walls the blue sky and the soft white clouds that drifted silently by. Within the village itself the deluge was quickly turning the ground into a quagmire. No one was to be seen. All were locked away in their homes.
 It’ s dark magic. It has to be. That’s why my white hair is tingling. It too is born out of dark magic. But how? Who did this?
She closed the door and stood still. Her mind was in a whirl. It had to be Lostan. Who else could it be? But why did no one tell us? She chewed her bottom lip as she tossed these thoughts around in her head until it all became clear. “Of course. The storm. They’ve all run for cover.”
Nettle hurried down the hall. The door to the workroom was open. She stopped and peeked in. Micos was standing at a workbench, head bent over a bowl, mixing with sedulous care the various ingredients he needed to create his transformative powder. He was so engrossed in what he was doing that he never noticed her standing there. She backed away without making a sound and headed to her own room where she retrieved the book of spells that she kept hidden under her bed. Turning the pages she searched for the one on dark magic.
“Here it is.”
The contents she knew, because she had read it once before, contained a brief history of dark magic and a warning against using it, along with a spell for combating what it referred to as minor dark magic. But she didn’t remember it saying anything about how to control the weather. She scanned the page. A frowned creased her forehead.
There’s nothing. But there has to be. If it’s dark magic there must be a solution.
She started to read from the top again and taking her time, ran a finger along every line. But still she saw nothing. Then a small symbol at the bottom of the page caught her eye. It looked a lot like a lightning bolt.
“I never noticed that before,” she whispered as she turned the page over.
There on the other side was the same symbol embossed in gold ink. The whole of this page was dedicated to just one small paragraph:
 To manipulate nature’s elements is the most dangerous of dark magic spells. Nature will demand a price and what it takes cannot be restored. If the spell is spoken incorrectly, nature will take your life. Only the strongest of Wizards can combat a dark spell that has been cast to change the weather. Be warned, be sensible and LEAVE WELL ALONE!
 Nettle put the book down. “Oh my. There’s nothing I can do.”
The realisation that the village was now in deep trouble hit her like a slap in the face. She closed the book and pushed it back into its hiding place, got up and walked towards the workroom. Micos was still busy with his potion making when she arrived. He looked up and smiled.
“Hi Nettle. Have you come to check up on me? See I’m still working.”
“Micos, I have to tell you something.”
He put down the beaker and looked at her. “What’s a matter?”
She walked into the room and came to a halt on the opposite side of the workbench. “The storm….”
Micos laughed. “Oh you’re not still worrying about that are you?”
“No, not the way you think. If you’ll let me finish, instead of interrupting, I’ll tell you.”
“Go on then.” He noted the serious look on her face and thought better of teasing her.
“It’s no ordinary storm.”
“It’s just a storm Nettle. I’ve never seen you like this before.” He came around to her side of the bench. He wanted to reassure her, but he didn’t know how. So he just stood staring at her with a stupid grin on his face.
“It’s not funny and it’s not an ordinary storm,” she snapped.
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“It’s dark magic Micos. The storm is only falling over the village.”
“Never. Really?”
“Come, I’ll show you.”
Nettle grabbed hold of his sleeve and tugged. “Come on, follow me.” She led the way out and he followed her into the hall and along to the front door. She pulled it wide open and tugged him down onto the top step. “Look.”
Micos gaped at the raging storm that was assaulting only the village. The rain was hammering down, the sky intermittently grumbling with the sound of thunder or being lit up by the flash of lightning. Beyond the walls he saw blue skies, fluffy white clouds and not a raindrop in sight.
“How?” was all he could say.
“How do you think? It could only have been Lostan. When you didn’t go to him to cure the plague of rats, he must of come back and done this. Who else could it have been?”
“Why did no one tell us he was here?”
“They couldn’t. It’s pouring with rain. Really heavy rain. They’ve all run for cover.”
“Then you don’t know for sure it was him, do you?” Micos stepped back inside. Deep down he knew she was right but part of him really hoped she wasn’t.
Nettle came in and closed the door. “Micos wake up! She shoved him hard in the stomach and he fell against the wall.
“What’d you do that for?” He straightened up and for a moment thought about shoving her back, but thought better of it in case he hurt her.
 “Of course it’s him. Who else wants you? Narcam’s due back any time now. We, or I should say you, are gonna be in so much trouble, and that’s if we don’t drown first.” Nettle pushed past him and strode angrily towards the kitchen.
Micos ran after her, grabbed her arm and pulled her around. “Perhaps I can transform it like I did the rats. I’ve just made a new batch of powder.”
“Pfft, how little you know.” Nettle yanked her arm free from his grip. “It’s elemental dark magic. You can’t do anything.” She moved towards the water jug, filled a pot and hung it over the fire.
“That’s what you said about the rats. But I got rid of them didn’t I?” Micos puffed out his chest and crossed his arms.
“No you didn’t.” The anger in her voice was tangible.
“But I did. You saw me do it.”
Nettle swung around to face him. “I did it.”
“You?” Micos dropped his arms to his side and came closer to her.
“Where do you think this white steak came from?” She held out the strands of silver hair.
“I dunno.” She might have done it. After all she can do that clicky thing with her fingers, he thought. But why then did she let me think I did it? He was beginning to doubt himself. “You said you didn’t know how you got that streak of white hair.”
“I lied. I didn’t want to tell you to make you feel less than me. But Micos this is serious.” She placed a hand on his arm. Her blue eyes looked into his and her features softened.
Micos could feel the heat grow in his cheeks, part from the realisation that she was a better magician then he and part because she wanted to protect him. “How do you know all this about dark magic?” His eyes searched hers.
“I read it in the book I use to study magic. Dark magic is hard to combat, even a minor spell like the rats takes its toll. In order to combat it you have to put part of yourself into the spell. Thank goodness I chose a strand of hair and not a nail or eyelash.” Nettle shuddered at the thought of what might have happened to her.
“I didn’t know,” he said as he turned around and walked to the bench by the table and slumped down. He felt his cheeks grow red again, this time from the anger of his own stupidity and bent his head to gaze at his feet, in the hopes she wouldn’t notice. How could I have thought my transformative powder did it? He shook his head, lost for a moment in his own thoughts.
“Micos.” Nettle waited for him to look up. When he didn’t, she called his name again. “Micos, listen to me.”
He lifted his head. “What can we do?”
“The village is in danger of being flooded. But there is nothing we can do. It would take a powerful Wizard like Lostan or Narcam to cast this spell out.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, that’s what it said in the book.”
“Then I must await my punishment when Narcam returns.” Micos’s bit his bottom lip as the colour drained away from his face.
“That’s all we can do and hope that Narcam comes back before the village floods.” Nettle moved towards the fire and lifted the pot of boiling water away from the flames. “I’ll make us some tea. We both could do with a cup. You know you’ll have to tell Narcam everything that’s happened don’t you?”
“But then he’ll know about you. Girls aren’t allowed to do wizard’s magic. What will he do to you Nettle?”
Nettle shrugged. “Probably send me away.” She handed him a cup of the steaming brew and went to fetch one for herself.
Micos watched her. Perhaps I don’t have to tell him the whole truth, just a distortion of it.
They both sat and sipped their tea in silence. Micos smiled to himself as he began to allow a thought to grow in his mind.
“Nettle I have an idea.”
“Narcam doesn’t need to know about you if you show me the spell you did and share with me the knowledge about dark magic. I could say I did it.”
“What about your hair? You don’t have a white streak in that black hair of yours.”
“We could paint it in.” He grinned at her.
“Where would we get white paint?”
“The baker made a new sign for his cart. I saw him over at the blacksmith’s place painting it. It was white letters. I bet there’s still some of that paint left. We could borrow a little.”
Micos nodded at her. “But you need to teach me that clicky thing and soon if I am to convince Narcam it was me.”
“You’d do that for me?” Her blue eyes glistened with the threat of tears.
“I would.”

Monday, January 3, 2022

Writing Prompt - Dancing Shoes - I give myself 120 seconds to write a flash fiction.


Artwork by Helen A. Howell

The shoes lay in their box, surrounded by soft white tissue paper.  She knew they were in the atic but she wasn't sure  why they had been stored away, her great Aunt refused to talk about them, and Lily also knew she shouldn't be up there, it was strictly out of bounds.  She lifted up the box and carefully climbed back down the stairs.

In the lounge she took the shoes from their box, the satin smooth beneath her fingers, the colour bright, shiny like a red cherry. It was then that she noticed the note tucked in among the tissue paper. "A warning! Do not wear these shoes, they are not what they seem." the note was dated1857.

Lily  frowned, what's that supposed to mean? she thought, they look like ordinary shoes to me. "It must be a joke. Surely those haven't been up there since then," she whispered to herself. Her great Aunt was not due back for a couple of hours, so she had no fear of being discovered.

Her feet itched to try them on. She had never seen a pair quite so beautiful, so ignoring the warning, she slipped them on and tied the ribbon. Within seconds her feet began to twitch and before she knew it they had developed a life all of their own. She was whirled into a frenzy of dance steps, twirling her this way and that.  She tried to stop, but she couldn't. She reached for the ribbons but they were stuck fast, as she was carried away by the shoes in a never ending dance..... 

Friday, December 31, 2021

One Word - 60 Seconds

 Today's word was Granted:


He wondered if it was really worth it. Everyone dreams about having a wish granted, but when it does, is it really what you thought it would be? Edwin shook his head as he gazed at what lay in front of him. He should have known better.
“Why was I so stupid,” he mumbled to himself.
 He rubbed his chin and looked around him before staring once more at the decomposing body on the ground. That imp or whatever it was, never said wishing her back from the grave, meant this.....

Friday, December 3, 2021

A Christmas Ghost Story - If you call I will come.





 If you call I will come  

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats in the library for the traditional telling of the Christmas Eve Ghost story.”

The steward led the way through the corridor. The six guest, drinks in hand, followed on behind. There was Dorrie and Lesley, both early twenties, one fair the other dark—a frizz of excitement hung in the air between them as they clutched their drinks and scurried behind. Following them were Geoff and Jan, a couple in their mid forties. Then came Roger, a young man with a shock of red hair and a good deal of skepticism about ghosts. He sipped on his whiskey as he ambled along. Next to him was Miss Dapple, an elderly lady, sliver hair piled high on her head and a glass of sherry held tightly between her fingers.
“I do love a good ghost story don’t you?” said Miss Dapple.
“Roger smiled and said, “Hmm.”
The Manor dated back to the 1800’s; it had seen many parties in its early years. Now it housed just half dozen guests for the Christmas weekend experience. The guests piled into the library where a roaring fire burned in the grate and the lights were set very low. In a leather winged chair by the fireside, sat an old man dressed in a velvet smoking jacket and cap. His gnarled hands held a pipe to his lips, on which he puffed away rhythmically.

The guest, seated in comfortable chairs, sipped their drinks while they waited for him to speak. He lowered his pipe, and just for a moment looked at them, then he began.
“This is true story that dates back to 1860′s when this house was alive with people and music on Christmas Eve. It’s about two young people, Anton and Louise. Imagine the ballroom full of happy laughter…”


“Louise come dance with me.”
Anton held out a hand. She smiled as she allowed him to lead her around the floor to the strains of a waltz. He loved her; tonight he would ask her to marry him. Her father had approved and he knew she would say yes. He looked into her blue eyes and his heart filled with desire.

The music stopped and Louise flicked open her fan and fluttered is back and forth.
“Would you like some punch?” he asked.
“Thank you. I’ll wait out on the balcony, in the cool air.” She picked up her skirts and walked towards the open doors.

Anton returned carrying two glasses. The balcony was crowded, everyone was feeling the heat of the ballroom. He pushed his way past to where Louise stood facing out over the stone edge.
“Louise here’s your drink,” he said stretching an arm out towards her. But just as she turned to take it, a great oaf of a man crashed into the back of Anton, forcing him forwards against Louise; the impact sending her flying over the edge to tumble to the ground. Her crumpled body lay on the cold earth….


“Oh my goodness,” said Miss Dapple. “How sad.”
“I thought this was a ghost story.” Roger took a  swig of his whisky.
“It is,” replied the narrator. “Anton was so grief—ravaged that he took his own life later that night in the corridor outside this library, by slitting his throat with a knife. Every Christmas Eve strange noises have been heard around The Manor. Some say it’s Anton looking for Louise. His voice whispering through the air, asking her to call him.”
“Will we hear it?” asked Jan.

At that moment the lights flickered and the temperature dropped. Dorrie and Lesley gasped and clutched each others arms.
“It’s a trick,” said Roger taking another swig of his whisky.
“Is it?” replied the narrator. “They say Anton will keep searching this house until he finds her.”

A rapping on the window made them all jump.
“It’s getting colder,” whispered Dorrie. She shivered and rubbed her arms.
“Something touched me!” Lesley jumped up and looked around.
“Don’t be daft,” said Roger.  “There’s no such thing as ghosts. Can I get another whisky?” He held up his empty glass.
“Help yourself. The drinks are over there.” The narrator nodded in the direction of the back wall.

Roger walked towards the drinks table. Just as he reached it, the glasses started to shake, chink chink. The other’s turned around, mouths agape.
“Okay how are you doing that?” said Roger.
“I’m not,” said the narrator.
Roger grabbed the whisky bottle, poured himself a shot and came back and sat down. “Don’t be fooled by all of this.” He looked at the other guests. “It’s just an illusion.”

“Anton walks the corridors on this night searching for his lost love and they say if he finally finds her, he will be at peace.” The narrator took a long slow puff of his pipe, then leaned out across to his audience. “Be warned though, do not utter his name. Under no circumstance call to him or he will come and it is said if you are not his love, his anger is terrifying. Now drink up and Merry Christmas to one and all.” The narrator slipped back into his chair and continued smoking his pipe.

The group stood, wished him the same back and left the library. Miss Dapple, Geoff and Jan, headed off in one direction towards their rooms and Dorrie, Lesley and Roger in another.

The corridors were dimly lit and the grandfather clock that stood in the entrance could be heard striking midnight.
“What a load of rubbish that was,” said Roger.
“I think it was fun,” said Dorrie.
“Something strange happened,” said Lesley, “I felt something touch me.”
“That was your imagination,” replied Roger. “All this nonsense about not calling his name. What a load of…”
“You do it then,” said Lesley jumping in before he finished his sentence. She nudged Dorrie and the two girls giggled.
“I’m not afraid to. It’s a load of old poppy cock.”
“Go on then.” Dorrie laughed.
“All right, I will. Then you’ll see how stupid it is—Anton, Anton, Anton.”
The three stood still and waited, but nothing happened.
“There see, I told you.” Roger grinned at both the girls.

They started to walk on and as they turned the corner an icy blast hit them and a murmuring drifted through the air.
Who’s calling me? Is that you Louise, I’m coming, coming….
“Did you hear that?” whispered Lesley as she moved closer to Dorrie. Her breath as she spoke, came as a smoky cloud drifting in the atmosphere.
“It has to be a trick.” Roger’s face had now drained of its colour.

Their breath became thicker;  the air around them began to feel freezing. The three stood and stared as something hazy started to form further down the corridor. The apparition moved towards them, picking up more form the closer it got, until before them stood a young man dressed in evening tails. His eyes searched them as he reached out and ran a cold hand down the side of Lesley’s hair.
“You’re not her.” His eyes hardened and with a flick of his wrist he sent her tumbling to the ground.
Dorrie stood shaking, too frightened to move.
“Is that you Louise?”  He glanced over her, a finger stroked her straw coloured hair. Then he noticed Roger. “It’s you, you who pushed me, I remember that red hair.”
“Nnnoo, you’re mistaken,” stuttered Roger.
Anton’s face changed; wild eyes, gaping mouth, teeth capable of ripping out your soul. Roger screamed and crouched to the ground.
“Don’t,” yelled Dorrie reaching out a hand.
Anton turned to face her. Louise it is you?

Dorrie stared into his eyes and she could feel and see his pain. His breath moved the strands of her hair like a gentle breeze. “I’m not her,” she breathed; her breath a billowing cloud.
Anton looked more deeply into her face, then turned and floated off down the corridor, his voice lingering in the air—Louise where are you?, I’m coming my love….

Roger stood up, there was a wet streak running down his leg. Dorrie helped Lesley to her feet, then looking at Roger said,
“Still don’t believe in ghosts then?”

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

WIZARD Chapter 9 - Fireballs & Magic





© Helen A. Howell

Chapter 9
Fireballs & Magic

“You!” Octava scrambled to her feet and moved away from Lostan, putting a small distance between them. Her eyes narrowed as she watched him.
“Not leaving are you?” His lips pressed into a sneer.
Octava took another few steps backwards. She knew she was no match for him, not without the talisman, but she also knew he couldn’t kill her, not while she had her half of the sceptre. She straightened up her old bent body and slipped her hand into the pocket that contained the fire powder.
“Lostan, you can’t kill me, remember? Not while I have my half of the sceptre. Why waste energy on a fruitless battle now?” She placed another hand in the pocket that housed the arrow and raised her second pair of arms as she shrugged her shoulders. “Let me go. Our time will come, very soon. I promise.”
“I take it that you didn’t get what you came for?” He looked towards the village and then back at her. “What was it you gave the boy? If you had it you would not be so ready to retreat. I know you Hag.” He took a step towards her. She took another step back. “I may not be able to kill you right now, but I can hurt you.” He held his hands up and flexed his fingers.
Octava blinked, but she dared not take her eyes off the Wizard. He knows I gave the boy the talisman? No, he just suspects I gave the boy something. He doesn’t know what. “What makes you think I’ve come from there?” She jerked her head in the general direction of the hamlet.
“Where else could you have come from? Don’t play games with me.”
“Even if I did, why would I have given him anything?” She tried to hide the fear she felt.
“Do you take me for a fool Hag? I don’t know how you knew I had the half sceptre, but somehow you did. I also know the boy is a novice. He would have needed help to force me out. You needed me to leave, otherwise the sceptre would remain out of your reach. It still does. I keep it on me.” Damn - I shouldn’t have told her that. Annoyed at having let that bit of information slip out, he pulled himself up taller and glared at Octava. “You will have to kill me to get it. I don’t think you can do that without whatever it was you gave the boy. Am I right Witch?”
He keeps it on him. Ha! At least I know where his half is. That’s more than he knows about me. “I will get your half Wizard, I promise you.”
Octava backed away further from Lostan. Her eyes stayed glued to those slender fingers of his that he held in the air as she tried to anticipate his next move. Her fingers grasped a handful of the powder in her pocket. Her knees trembled. She knew he could be dangerous and she knew she had to get away. She continued to move backwards. The woods were not too far off and she wondered if she could run fast enough before he did her any great damage.
Lostan looked at her and sneered. “Going somewhere are you?” He moved forwards, closing the gap between them. “I’ll enjoy hurting you.” He wiggled his fingers at her, knowing her magic, unlike his, needed the aid of potions to manifest. “Consider it payback for Lily.” He spat the barbed words at her. The fear registered on her face and Lostan laughed to see it. Octava’s heart banged. Without thinking she tossed a handful of the powder at him, swung around and raced off towards the trees.
Lostan stepped back as the powder fell at his feet to explode in a fireball. He clicked his fingers.“Gionorma hawkus—transformus.” He clicked his fingers again. The flames grew higher and formed into a huge bird. “Attack.” He pointed towards the retreating figure of Octava.
The bird screeched as it took to the air, fiery wings beating hard. It set the Witch in its sights and careered towards her. The first Octava knew of it was when she felt the downdraft from its wings, a hot blast that fell upon her like a blanket. She looked up just as the bird reached out and grasped her by the shoulders in its talons.
“Ahhhh, let go of me.” Octava lashed out at it with her four arms, the flames burning her hands. “Oowwww.”
The tip of her hat was on fire and her robe was starting to smoulder. She beat the hat with one set of hands while making a frantic attempt to put out the sparks that threatened to burn her clothing off her back, with her other set. The bird swung her around and with her feet just touching the ground it hurtled her towards Lostan. Octava puffed and huffed as her legs moved faster than she thought was possible. As they grew closer to the Wizard, the bird began to lose height. Its flaming body started to die and disappeared in a final puff of smoke. Octava found herself face down on the ground. Her hat toppled from her head and sizzled in the cold grass. She clambered to her feet. Her face and hands were blackened and her hair singed around the edges.
 Lostan stood a short distance away from her. “Are you ready to play some more Witch? I’ve only just got started.” As he stared at her he noticed the black streak in her grey hair. I wonder what she’s been up to, to have caused that? Surely she doesn’t know dark magic. But what else could cause a change like that? He moved towards her.
Octava reached down, grasped her hat, and returned it to her head. She knew the powder she had was useless against him. She thought about escaping again but she needed something to distract him in order to get away. She slipped her hand into the pocket that contained the metal arrow she had created to defeat the dark magic. Her fingers felt its coolness against her skin as she entwined them around it. I wonder?
“What’s this new colour scheme to your hair Witch?” Lostan stretched out a hand and lifted the ebony strands with a finger. His dark eyes glowered at her.
“What’s it to you?” Octava squeezed the arrow tighter with one hand and brushed his finger away with the other. With another set of hands she pushed Lostan hard in the chest. “Get away from me.”
“Shove me, would you?”
Lostan thrust his hands into her shoulders. The impact made Octava’s head wobble on her scraggy neck. With all of her arms she shoved him back as hard as she could sending him sprawling across the ground. She turned and ran.
Lostan sat up and clicked his fingers. “Freezum Sward.”
The grass beneath Octava’s feet crackled and crunched as it turned instantly from a lush green to an icy sheet. Her feet slipped from under her and she fell with a thud on her back to slide along the sheet of glass and spin off onto the soft turf. Her head felt dizzy and she could see stars before her eyes. She blinked a few times before regaining her senses, just in time to feel his grip upon one set of her arms, pulling her to her feet.
 Lostan shook her as he spoke. “Tell me Hag, have you been dabbling in dark magic? Is that why you’ve got that midnight streak in your hair? Don’t lie to me. I recognise the signs.” He continued to shake her, until she felt like her bones were rattling.
“Bbbbog Oooooff Wiiiiizard. Iiii’ll tellllll yooou nnnothing.”
“I’m the master of dark magic. You don’t know what you’re playing with.” He stopped shaking her and wrapped his long fingers around her throat.
Octava’s eyes bulged as she felt him crush her skin beneath his grip. She slid a hand back into her pocket and grasped the arrow. “You’re the master of dark magic all right,” she croaked. “See how you like this.” In one swift move she extracted the arrow and drove it deep into his arm.
A burning sensation ran up it and spread to his shoulder. It felt as though it was on fire. “What have you done?” His arm started to turn grey and became heavy as his finger tips tingled and one by one started to fade. The tingling moved steadily through his hand.
Octava tittered. “Master of dark magic, eh. Save yourself then.” Lostan’s first instinct was to grab the arrow with his free hand and try to dislodge it. His other hand had now totally disappeared and the process was creeping up his arm. Octava watched as he struggled to free the arrow. Can I get his half of the sceptre? She knew where it was and if she was quick she might just do it. She lunged forward, all of her hands extended towards his cloak.
Lostan, still pulling at the small metal arrow embedded up to its hilt in his arm, let go and punched her squarely on the nose. Octava reeled backwards and toppled over. His heart raced as he observed his forearm vanish before his eyes.
“This is not possible,” he muttered as he continued to tug at the dart. He stopped and took a deep breath to calm himself. “I’m a Fool. I cannot pull this out. I must use magic to fight magic.” He heard Octava laugh and glanced towards where she had landed. “You’ll see who’ll be laughing last Witch.” He grasped his arm and held it in a firm grip as he started the incantation to restore his flesh. He spoke it over and over again and watched as the spell began to work and inch by inch his arm, hand and fingers returned.
From where she was, Octava could see the Wizard and his magic at work. “Fireballs and Cauldrons, I have to run before the magic frees him.” She scrambled to her feet, held up her robe to free her legs and dashed off as fast as she could.
Lostan looked at his flesh, now fully recovered. The metal arrow fell from his arm to dissolve into the grass. He looked across the land just in time to see Octava disappear into the trees.
“I’ll destroy that Witch if it’s the last thing I do.”
He was still a short distance from the village and as he walked towards it, he turned his attention back to Octava and the arrow. That was a powerful spell. Did she know about the rats? Did she create it to try to get rid of them? She’d have done anything to get to the boy. But if it was made to combat dark magic, why did the arrow have an effect on me? He halted in his tracks as the reality dawned on him. “Dark magic and I are becoming one.” A smile spread across his lips.
When Lostan arrived at the village gates, there wasn’t a rat in sight. He observed the people going about their normal business looking none the worse for his attack on them.
Strange. Who got rid of the dark magic? It couldn’t have been the Witch. She still had that arrow unused. Could the great Wizard himself be back? “Hey you.” Lostan yelled through the gates at the baker pushing his barrow loaded with bread, towards the square. “Is Narcam back?”
The baker stopped and squinted at him. “You again. Whaddya want?”
Lostan took a deep breath and tried not to lose his temper. “Tell me if Narcam has returned.”
“Yes, Narcam.”
“No. Now clear off. We don’t need the likes of you around here.”
Lostan felt a rush of anger spread through him and for a moment forgot he could not enter. He rushed towards the old man, hands outstretched, fingers wanting to grasp him round the neck. The moment he passed through the gate, his skin started to tingle. “Blast.” He skidded to a halt, looked at his hands then the baker and screwed up his eyes. “You’ll be sorry. All of you will be sorry.” He swung around and dashed outside the confines of the village.
“We’re not scared of you anymore. The boy wizard took care of your rats. We have him to protect us.” The old man spat his words at Lostan as he picked up his barrow and began to wheel it away.
That boy never defeated the dark magic. I’d bet my life on it. Who’s helping him? The Witch? No. He started to pace up and down outside the gates. The more he thought about who rid them of the rats, the more agitated he became. There’s no one within miles of here capable of combatting dark magic. Never mind. What I have in store for them next will take a very powerful Wizard to combat. They’ll send the boy out, unless they want to drown.
Lostan moved as close as he dared to the entrance and tossed a handful of sulphur powder down at his feet. There was a flash and a bang and a whole lot of smoke. The villagers in the square all turned together to look at him. He coughed and waved the smoke away with a hand. “Now hear me. You defied me last time, but don’t think anyone but me can save you this time from a never-ending storm.”
“Never-ending storm? What’s ‘e talking about now?” said Betsy to the candlemaker, who just shrugged his shoulders. “Bah, what rubbish is this, Wizard?” Betsy took hold of a large red tomato and rolled up her sleeves and flung it in Lostan’s direction.
Lostan held up a hand. “Reverse.” The tomato pulled up within inches of his face, spun around like a top and flew off towards Betsy to land with a splatter on her nose. Betsy swayed with the impact, as tomato flesh and juice ran down her cheeks and onto her ample bosom. The crowd gasped and simultaneously took two steps back.
“Enough of this nonsense,” bellowed Lostan. “You have been warned. This is your last chance. Send Micos to the forest within the next two days and I will come back and stop this, or prepare to drown in a quagmire of mud that the never-ending storm will bring.” The crowd gasped again and took a further two steps back. No one was brave enough to utter a word.
Lostan slipped the silver vial from his pocket and pulled out the stopper. He held his arms up to the heavens and started to speak the spell.
“Mother Nature obey my command,
Bring rain, hail, wind and storm.
With lightning flashes, crashes and strikes,
Let the never-ending tempest be born.”
Into the air he threw the single tear drop. It sailed upwards towards the soft white clouds. Lostan watched as it glittered in the daylight until it disappeared. All eyes were on the blue sky. A soft breeze was the first to be felt. It rustled the leaves on the nearby trees as it gathered in strength to blow through the gates, a gust so strong it toppled the stalls. It swirled around the square, faster and faster, pushing the people this way and that, lifting their produce and clothing to fling it through the air. A dark cloud descended, black and threatening. A thunder crack rang out as the first heavy drops of rain started to fall. Big globular splashes hit the ground, one after the other. The sky lit up as a lightning bolt flashed across it. The rain poured down. Thunder rumbled through the atmosphere as more and more lightning bolts flared, striking the ground at intervals and making the people scurry for cover like insects dodging Zeus’s thunderbolts.
Lostan stood at the gates, his robes flapping around him with the backdraft from the storm that was raging within the village walls. He watched the sky ablaze with lightning, jagged forks that cracked and snapped their way to the ground. From above his head thunder boomed, its force so great it shook the ground and him. Lostan steadied himself and once more cast his eyes upwards.
This shouldn’t be happening. The storm should remain within the village.
Out of the black came a bolt of lightning which struck a short distance from him. So bright was the flash that he saw spots before his eyes. There was a loud crack just before he felt the rock hit. A shard broke off and slithered into his eye. He blinked but his vision returned to only one. The eye from which the tear had fallen, saw nothing but complete darkness.
He put a hand over the blinded one. “The price of dark magic is always dear,” he muttered. “But it’s a small price to pay to get what I want.” Lostan glanced towards the wild storm that was now taking place within the village walls. They’ll soon realise they have no alternative but to send the boy to me. He turned and made his way back to the forest. As the crackle and crash of thunder and lightning resounded behind him, he touched his damaged eye once more.
“I guess it’s an eyepatch for me now. Ha. I’ll look a bit like a pirate. I’ve always wanted to be one of those.”