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.”

Thursday, November 11, 2021

WIZARD - Chapter 8 - The Art of Illusion


 Chapter 8
The Art of Illusion

Octava hurried through the woods. The small sack which she clutched in one pair of hands, contained the ingredients needed for the spell to combat the dark magic. She had never been squeamish about chopping off a bat’s wing or poking out a snake’s eye, let alone pulling off a frog’s leg. “They’ve got another one,” she muttered as she scrambled through the twigs and leaves that were scattered on the ground.
It was quiet. Only the wind rustling the leaves on the trees could be heard. As she walked in the direction of her cave, her mind wandered back to a time when she was not so alone. She had come from a long line of hags who had lived in the area for many hundreds of years.
I’m all that’s left now. The line will die out with me.
Octava stopped and sniffed. Her eyes began to feel damp. She blinked in an effort to rid herself of the tears that threatened to fall at the memory. But she could not rid herself of all those other memories. Perhaps it was the silence of the night and the place that brought it back. The woods were where the coven had had their monthly meeting. Many voices, much laughter all around a great pot that bubbled upon the flames of a huge fire. There were spells and dancing. Oh yes, Witches loved to dance themselves into a trance. She remembered how she had stood away from them, watching and wishing. Wishing to be more accepted. She was not like the others. She was the only one to have four arms and an unusual taste in food. Granted she was not pretty, but then not many Witches were.
“I don’t know what all the fuss about my appearance was. Frightened, that’s what they were. Scared the blood line was not pure.” Octava sighed and looked up into the pale moonlight. Which of them could say that they could chop up ingredients for their dinner while reading a book at the same time eh?
She stared at the moon a moment longer before lowering her eyes to look directly in front of her. She saw nothing but the images that were playing in her mind’s eye. She heard nothing except for Narandella’s voice telling her to leave.
“Go now Octava and never come back to us again.”
“But why? What have I done?”
“Your four arms, your bent back, the rumours that you have acquired, let us say, an unusual taste in flesh, have brought disrepute on our coven.” Narandella looked around the gathering as all heads nodded in agreement.
“But I’m the progeny of Cattama, and her mother before her and hers before her. My line goes back for centuries.”
“People are frightened and no longer come for help. How are we to live if the people do not seek our help and pay us for our favours? You must leave. You are no longer welcome. Be gone.” Narandella pointed a finger at Octava as the rest of the coven looked on.
She saw herself walking away, an outcast from the group. Her exile made her bitter and resentful. But it also made her determined to be more powerful than her sister Witches. She studied her craft with a diligence that was born out of rejection and loathing. Her prowess in the skill of mixing magic spells became so remarkable that word spread through the witching community and soon they began to fear her.
Octava reached out in front of her, as though to touch an image only she could see.
 They came when they were scared enough, to ask my forgiveness for their treatment. “I forgave them all right. Killed every last one of them. May they rot in hell.”
She spat on the ground as if to seal her curse and laughed at the memory of their faces as they laid dying in the dirt and how she had stripped them of their possessions. The lock of hair she found on a ribbon around the young Witch Lily’s neck. She knew who the hair belonged to, she made it her business to know what was going on.
The hoot of a distant owl snapped her out of her reverie and she hurried on home.
“Bat’s wing, snake’s eye and frog’s leg. Dust it must be to work.”
 Octava pounded the mixture in the metal pot, until it was a fine powder. She picked up a bottle and held it towards the flames that danced within a silver dish set to the side. She pulled the cork free from the bottle and sniffed.
 “Boy’s blood. So red, so beautiful.”
 In one set of hands she held the bowl with the powder and the bottle with the blood. In another hand she held a metal rod. With her free hand she pulled a hair from her head. To combat dark magic you had to put yourself into the spell, she knew that, but she had no fear of the consequences. She poured the powder and blood together into the fire in the silver dish and added the hair, whilst stirring it with the metal rod. The incantation to create the spell to combat dark magic rolled easily from her mouth, a slim wisp of a spell that curled into the air and reached towards the silver dish.
Octava watched as the flames ignited the powder, hair and blood. Her eyes widened as the ingredients and fire become one. The fire spiralled upwards from the dish, whirling faster and faster, a kaleidoscope of colour.
Within the vortex she saw the bat’s wing flap.
“And there, and there.”
She pointed at the whirlpool as the snake’s eye blinked and the frog’s leg jumped. The hair twisted itself around all three to bind them and the blood poured over them to cement them in place. She took a step back as the flames leapt towards the roof, fiery tongues licking outwards in all directions. The blaze lit up the cavern, so bright that she had to shield her eyes. Then with a hiss and splutter the flames extinguished and within the dish came the clang and the clatter of metal upon metal.
“It’s done.” She moved in closer. A miniature arrow lay in the dish. “Perfect. I just have to throw it and it will work its magic.” She rubbed her hands together and cackled as she reached in to retrieve it. “Oh.” Her reflection from within the silver bowl stared out at her. Down one side of her dull grey hair was a streak as black as night itself. “Hmm. That’s different. Not much of a price to pay was it? I think it complements my good looks.” Octava laughed as she slipped the arrow into her robe pocket. “Now to make the illusionary draft.”
It was already the early hours of the morning when she had almost finished the draft. “I’m one ingredient short.” She rubbed her chin with one hand while scratching her head with another and searching her shelf of bottles with her extra pair of hands.
She pushed aside one bottle after the other. I’m sure I had spiders legs somewhere. She went back to the spell list and read the instructions once more. It says not to deviate from the ingredients. But surely beetles legs can’t be much different from spiders? What harm could it do?
She collected the jar of beetles legs and tossed half a dozen into the brew. They sank into the bubbling mixture and just as she was about to stir it, they ran up the side of the pan as if trying to escape.
 “Drat these beetles legs. Spiders would never do that.” Octava tutted as she pushed them back down with her wooden spoon, but as soon as she knocked the last one into the liquid, the first ones started to climb out again. By the time she was finished, she was exhausted and it was almost daybreak.
She poured the illusionary brew into a vial and then made herself a refreshing cup of nettle tea. The village will be awake now. Ha, they probably haven’t slept a wink with all those rats running amok. “Won’t they be pleased to see me.”
 She slipped the vial into her other pocket and grabbed her cloak and swung it over her shoulders. On the table stood the basket of berries she had prepared, glistening like tiny jewels. The poison had long ago seeped into each plump and juicy fruit. Her lips curled into a smile as she took hold of the basket and headed out and towards the village.
When she arrived outside the village, the gates were wide open. The people were going about their normal day’s activities, and there wasn’t a rat in sight. What’s happened here? Who got rid of the dark magic?
She peered at the village square where the market stalls were being set up. Well, I won’t be needing this after all. She patted the metal arrow that lay in her pocket. It will keep. With Lostan nearby, I may have need of it yet.
From her other pocket she pulled the vial of liquid. It fizzed within the glass container. It shouldn’t do that. Octava frowned as she held it up and studied it. Could it be the beetles legs that’s causing it? I have to get in to see the boy and get what’s mine. I mixed it well. It should work. She uncorked the vial and held it to her mouth. “Throw it in, tip it back, down it goes without a scratch.”
The liquid slid down her throat and hit her stomach in an explosion of bubbles. Her tummy stretched out in one direction, then in the other, as though a large finger was pushing the skin out of shape. A rumbling noise, at first soft, grew louder and louder as it climbed up her gullet and erupted from her mouth in a thunderous burp while at the same time a gush of steamy vapour poured from her ears. Octava stood still and caught her breath. She hoped no one had seen. She looked towards the gates, but the inhabitants of the village seemed not to have noticed her.
 Her whole body quivered as it started to changed shape. To all, she would now appear as a beautiful tall woman with a head of vibrant red hair topped in a White Witch’s hat, decorated with stars and the moon. Garbed in a robe of pure white silk she held the basket of fruit in her hand. Her lips pressed themselves into a smile as she took her first steps towards the gates. Her body quivered again and for a second she fluctuated between the illusion and her real self before returning to the illusion.
 Damn. it must be those beetles legs. I must concentrate if I am to hold this illusion. The spell only lasts a short while. I must be quick.
Octava hurried through the gates and into the main square. The stall holders stopped what they were doing as all eyes were cast upon the White Witch that stood before them.
“Who be you?” asked the baker.
“I’m Isabel Icicle, The White Witch of the Snow Mountains.” Octava concentrated as she felt her body flutter.
“Snow Mountains? Where would they be then?” He looked up from setting his loaves out on his table.
“Oh, they’re somewhere over there.”Octava pointed a slender finger in the general direction. “South of that great hill.”
“I thought White Witches were just a legend. Don’t know anyone who’s seen one before,” said an old woman as she sorted through vegetables that she was going to sell. “You’re not having us on are ye?” She sniffed and wiped her nose across a grubby sleeve. “We don’t like tricksters.”
“I assure you my dear lady, I’m who I say I am. It’s true White Witches are rarely seen. They only do nature magic, not much call for that these days. Can you direct me to the Wizard’s house. I assume you have a resident Wizard?”
The old woman put down a cabbage and came to stand in front of Octava. “Why do you want the Wizard?”
“I bring a gift of berries.” She held up the basket. “A gift from nature and to introduce myself.” Octava smiled her sweetest smile.
The old woman wrinkled up her eyes and stared intently into Octava’s face. “What’s wrong with your nose?”
“My nose?”
“Yes, it keeps changing shape.”
“I assure you it doesn’t. You haven’t been eating toadstools instead of mushrooms, have you?”
“Old Betsy’s been known to hallucinate from time to time,” said the candlemaker. “Too much pipe baccy, eh Betsy?”
The gathered group of sellers let up a roar of laughter at the joke.
“You silly old fool,” said Betsy turning away from Octava to glare at the old man. “You’ll find the Wizard’s house over there. It’s the big one with the steps up to the door,” she called over her shoulder before returning to her vegetables.
Octava climbed the steps to Narcam’s house, knocked on the door and waited.
“Someone’s knocking at the door.” Micos leaned out of the workroom. “Nettle, the door.” But when Nettle didn’t appear, Micos sighed and walked towards it himself. “I’ll just answer it then shall I?”
“You do that.” Nettle’s voice echoed from the kitchen.
“I knew she heard,” Micos muttered as he opened the door. His mouth dropped open as his eyes took in the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“Hullo.” Octava smiled. “You need to close your mouth before something nasty flies in it.”
Micos snapped his lips shut. “Sorry. Can I help you?”
“I’m Isabel Icicle, The White Witch of the Snow Mountains and I’ve come to pay my respect to the Wizard.” Octava kept her gaze on the boy. I’ve found you, you little wretch. The urge to reach out and clasp him around the neck was so great, that it felt like her extra pair of arms was going to break free from the illusion and strangle him. She took a quick breath and filled her mind with the image of Isabel. She felt the slightest flutter within her body and then everything became stable again.
“The master’s away at the moment, but I,” Micos placed a hand on his chest, “am considered the Wizard in his absence.”
“I’m very pleased to meet you and I bring you this gift.” Octava held out the basket of berries. Micos’s eyes lit up at the sight of the bright fruit that glistened in the morning light.
“How rude of me. Do come in.”
 Octava walked through the doorway.
“This way.” He led her down the corridor until he reached the kitchen. “Nettle we have a visitor.”
He stepped aside as Octava entered the room, then he closed the door behind them. Nettle looked up from the food she was preparing and stared at the woman who stood by Micos. She wiped her hands on her apron and walked over to the two of them.
“This is Isabel Icicle. She’s the White Witch of the Snow Mountains and she brings us a gift.” Micos pointed to the basket of fruit.
“A gift?” Nettle looked at Micos, then the fruit, then at Octava. “That’s very kind.”
“Yes, I come to pay my respects to the great Wizard that overpowered the Dark One.”
“The Dark One?” asked Nettle.
“Word has reached far and wide that a Wizard from this village forced the one known as Lostan to leave. I came to see this Wizard for myself and congratulate him.”
“That was me.” Micos beamed with pride.
“Then indeed I have come to the right place.” Octava placed the basket down on the table.
“Nettle we should offer our visitor some refreshment. Please sit.” Micos indicated the bench.
Nettle glared at Micos. There’s something not right here. White Witches are legends and there are no Snow Mountains in these parts. She looked at Octava. “What may I get you? Herbal tea? Water?”
“No, don’t trouble yourself. I’m perfectly all right. Just a chat and then I’ll be on my way. Come sit, eat some of the berries I brought. Trust me they are delicious. But first tell me young Wizard how did you get the Dark One to leave?”
Micos sat down opposite Octava, and Nettle came to stand by his side.
“Well, I just said the spell I had concocted that made Lostan start to age rapidly and to stop it he had to leave.”
“Ah, I see. But was the spell alone all you needed?”
“Why are you so interested in what he did?” Nettle stood with her arms folded across her chest, her gaze firmly fixed on Octava. Just for a moment she thought she saw something, a change in her features, but it was gone as quickly as it came.
“Why my dear, Wizard’s magic is fascinating to a Witch. Us girls are just not in the same league are we with our potions and powders. Why don’t you have a handful of these luscious berries while I talk with the young master here.” Octava pushed the basket of fruit towards Nettle.
Nettle said nothing, but kept her eyes on the woman dressed in white. Something’s weird about her. I can feel it. She gave Micos a look that said, keep your mouth shut. But he glanced back at her and decided to ignore her. After all, if someone was interested in hearing his tale then he was going to tell it.
“Actually I did use something else,” said Micos, embellishing the story he was happy to tell. “A sort of charm, to boost the spell. A talisman only a Wizard could create.”
“Can I see it?” Octava’s eyes sparkled.
Before Nettle could stop him, Micos had withdrawn the talisman from his pocket and held it out in the palm of his hand.
“Here boy have some berries.” Octava pushed the basket closer to him.
Nettle watched Octava. The light seemed to be shifting all around her. She noted how her slender hand as it reached towards Micos’s hand, seemed to change shape. She caught a glimpse of gnarled fingers and yellowed nails. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Micos grab a handful of the juicy berries and bring them up to his mouth.
“No Micos!”
Nettle slapped Micos’s hand as hard as she could. The berries toppled from his grasp to scatter over the table and floor. The click of her fingers rang in his ears.
Octava’s illusion dissolved and in the place of the White Witch stood her bent body clad in black. Micos fell backwards as Octava kicked away the bench and lunged towards him with her four arms, one set reaching for him, the other for the talisman.
 “Give that to me boy.”
Micos, still holding the talisman, backed away pulling Nettle with him.
“You can’t escape. Give me what’s mine and I promise I won’t hurt you or the girl.” Octava’s face wrinkled as she narrowed her eyes.
“How do I know I can trust you?” Micos kept a tight grip on the talisman.
“You can’t,” whispered Nettle.
Octava moved to the edge of the table. Nettle’s eyes darted first to the door which was closed, then to the Hag, who was working her way around the far side of the table. Nettle looked once more at the door. Octava looked at her.
Nettle’s heart banged so hard she could barely hear herself think. Can I do this? I’ve never tried it before. It’s our only chance. With lightning speed she swung around to face the door. With her back towards the Hag, she raised her hand, screwed up her eyes and put all her focus into the words. “Portus apeario.”
The door creaked. Octava stopped dead in her tracks and stared. Nettle held her breath. The door creaked again and opened half way.
“Run Micos!” Nettle tugged on his arm and both made a dash for the opening.
“Oh no you don’t. I want what’s mine.” Octava grabbed some powder from her pocket, clambered up onto the table and threw it in their path. It hit the ground and exploded in a fireball. Micos pushed Nettle to one side as they skidded around the flames. Nettle grabbed the door and pulled it wider as the two of them ran through and down the hallway.
“Come back.” Octava scrambled down from the table and ran after them. The front door was open and she charged out and down the steps. Where are they? She scanned the surrounding area, but neither the boy nor the girl were to be seen.
* * *
“Those fools. I waited all night for them to bring the boy. So the rats weren’t enough eh?” Lostan ran his hand through his hair, only to find several strands remained wrapped around his fingers. He looked at the dark hairs and remembered the spell’s warning, before allowing them to fall to the floor. “Pfft.” Let’s see how the villagers survive not just the rats but a never-ending storm.
Lostan retrieved the Dark Magica from its hiding place. He knew he needed dark magic to manipulate a natural force like weather, and to do so was a risk. Mother Nature hated being tampered with. He turned the pages until he found the incantation he was looking for. The warning in bright red ink jumped out at him.
To make the weather wild.
A single tear is all it takes,
 When lightning strikes, beware my friend,
You don’t get the shakes.
Do not stutter or falter.
Speak each word right from the start.
Or lightning that runs through the sky
Will jolt though your heart.

I must have whatever it is she gave the boy. Lostan placed the book back in its hiding place and fetched a silver vial from the ornate box that stood on the small table.
 “I need a single tear.”
He frowned. He was not given to shedding tears. It was a weakness he didn’t possess, except for perhaps one brief moment in his life. He pictured Lily’s face once more and the pain was as sharp now as it was back then. She had been sweet and kind. Had she lived, his life might have been different. I’ll never know now, will I?  As he pictured her face, her smile, down his rough cheek rolled not one, but two tears. He held the vial up and captured the first, whilst the second fell silently to the ground.
“Damn Octava.” He gathered up his cloak and threw it across his broad shoulders. He placed the vial inside one pocket and opening the door to his tree house, stepped outside. “I’ll put an end to this one way or the other.” Filled with anger at the villagers and hatred for not just the Hag but also the boy, he marched towards the village.
* * *
“Is she there?” said Micos in a low voice.
“Shush or she’ll hear us.” Nettle peered around from the corner of Narcam’s house. “She’s going over there.”
Micos came closer to Nettle and looked over her shoulder to where she was pointing. Octava was so preoccupied with looking for them, that she had not noticed she had wandered into the square. It was when somebody shouted at her, that she realised where she was and remembered they could see the real her.
“It’s the Hag from the cave. Look!” called out the candlemaker.
“Where?” said another man.
“There. Look,” cried the old woman from behind her vegetable stall.
“How’d she get in the village?” said the basketmaker.
“WITCH. It’s the Witch,” shrieked the old woman.
Octava froze. Her eyes darted across the group of stall holders who were now glowering at her. “Stay back, or I’ll turn you into frogs.” She reached into her pocket and retrieved more powder. “Stay back, I say.”
“She’s bluffing,”said the old woman.
“But she’s a Witch,” said a boy as he cowered behind the apple cart.
“Can she do that?” Micos leaned on Nettle and squinted to get a better look.
“Not with that powder. It’s what she threw at us. If she had anything better than that flame powder, she’d have used it on us.”
“Should we go and help them?”
Nettle pressed her lips together and shook her head. “Best not get involved further. You’re in enough trouble already when Narcam gets back.”
Nettle and Micos continued to watch the Witch and the villagers.
“Turn us into frogs. I’d like to see ye do that.” The old woman puffed out her chest and rolled up her sleeves.
“Careful Betsy, she’s a nasty piece from what I’ve heard tell about her.” The baker came to stand by her side.
Octava was beginning to panic. All she’d brought with her was the poison berries and the combustible powder. “It wasn’t supposed to go like this,” she mumbled.
She hurled the powder in the general direction of the crowd and turned to run. It exploded in a flash of bright yellow flames which set alight the beard of the basketmaker. He screamed and jumped around, his hands flapping in a frantic attempt to put out the flames that were threatening to consume the hair on his face. He ran to the water trough and threw himself in. A sizzle and a hiss drifted into the air along with a cloud of steam.
“Get her,” said Betsy as she picked up a tomato and tossed it at the retreating Witch.
 The others joined in, and a various assortment of vegetables and fruit flew through the air, some hitting Octava while others whizzed past her ears. She reached into her pocket and lobbed one more handful of powder over her shoulder. She heard it explode as she scurried as fast as her legs would take her towards the gates. Her breath now coming in short bursts, she rushed through the opening.
“Ha, I got away.” She glanced over her shoulder. While still running full pelt, she hit something hard and toppled over into a backwards summersault. Over and over she rolled, her arms flailing helplessly until she landed upright on her bottom.
She felt more than a little dizzy and placed her head in her hands. “Fireballs and cauldrons! What was that?”
“Well, well, who do we have here?”
The deep voice made Octava gasp. She removed her hands from her face and looked up. The jet black eyes of Lostan stared back at her.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Wind - Short Story

Art work by Helen A. Howell


Beware of the Wind, he's sly and quick.

He sneaks up behind you to play his trick.

He puffs up his cheeks till they're fat and round.

Then he blows really hard, and you're off the ground!

As you sail through the air,

with a gasp of surprise and a look of dispair.

The Wind quietly smiles - for he does not care.