The Tree

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Whispers and the occasional shh outside woke Charmaine from her slumber.

With a sigh, she stepped out of bed, slid on her slippers, and wrapped a robe around her tired shoulders. Wrinkled hands stared back from under the long sleeves, and Charmaine muttered under her breath.

It hadn’t always been like this. She was young once, and things had been so much better back then. There used to be a time when no one would dare trespass on her property. When did kids become so disrespectful?

The gate to her garden rattled just outside her bedroom, and she contemplated how best to punish the children. The two boys, she thought, from the squish of their shoes and the slight baritone of their voices, were becoming more brazen with every passing minute. They weren’t even trying to be quiet anymore.

The tiny thieves would learn their lesson.

Charmaine considered her options: skewered, baked, barbecued. But it all seemed like too much work now. She was no spring chicken after all, and her days of roasting children were long gone. No. She needed to teach them a lesson that all their friends would hear about. It was time they feared her again.

She threw open her balcony doors. On the garden path, just by her favorite tree, the boys stood, pockets bulging from their pilfer.

“Thieves!” Charmaine screamed.

Her voice was raspy – foil-crackled rough -, and she reminded herself to have some tea with honey later to soothe it.

The boys turned toward her, mirthful eyes changed to panic-stricken, and they began to run towards the gate.

She glared at the pair for all of a second before snapping her fingers. A puff of smoke consumed the space around them. As it faded, two toads stood where the boys had been. Clothes and gummy bears were scattered on the garden path around them.

Charmaine floated down to stand in front of them. They croaked and hopped around, unsure of how to do either. It continued until they knocked into each other and fell onto their backs. Their legs kicked and kicked, but they weren’t going anywhere.

She picked them up and walked them out onto the street.

Charmaine grumbled and thought out-loud, “I really ought to get rid of that gummy bear tree.”

“Ribbit!” they agreed.

She placed the pair on the ground and stepped away. “And stay out!” she cried.

As everyone on the street turned to look, Charmaine snapped her fingers again. The townspeople gasped as the toads transformed back into little boys, only this time minus their clothes. They both made tiny yelps, jumped, and covered their privates before running away screaming.

The crowd laughed and mocked the pair, ignoring her. She chuckled as she walked back to her manor. Maybe keeping the gummy bear tree would be a good idea, after all. That was the most fun she’d had in a while.

 

The Church – a flash

-Outside, the grey cobbles of the church belfry were lit by a faint morning sun.- (2)Moira crouched in the underbrush, sword in hand. Daylight and the horrors it brought wouldn’t stop her. If she could reach those church doors, she could end this whole thing.

Cries of the wild echoed around her, and she knew she had no time left. She sprinted  towards the church. The doors burst open as she reached them. A host of demons with a thirst for her blood rushed towards her.

Moira lifted the sword over her head and jumped to the side with a laugh, “The end.”

The last thing she saw was the rocket speeding down the path.


 

My very good writing buddy, Newshound to Novelist, has a weekly prompt pot that she hosts. It’s a lot of fun! All you have to do is write 100-words towards a prompt (usually a single word, but this week was the above quote), and link to the original post she wrote. 

Mercy Grove

I’m participating in the 13-Week Streak by Eilidh from Thain in Vain and Charlotte of Drafty Devil. I wrote this last week, but I’ve had some trouble with my dog in the past week and never got around to posting. Here’s my 2nd week entry for this awesome little event!


IMG_20170522_054502The fog was so dense this morning that Claire struggled to see. She looked back and considering the distance back to the campsite. It was an hour either way now. No point in going back.

A power transformer buzzed like an angry swarm of bugs. When did my music stop playing?

She pulled her phone out of her sleeve case and examined it. Smashed. From top to bottom. What the hell?

A light above her flickered, and for a moment she thought she could see a dark and wet streams across her arms and hands, but the moment passed.

Claire rounded the corner. The sound of a distant squeal of wheels sent a jar through her muscles.

 

“Why train so bloody early?” her sister had asked her yesterday – today?

“The marathon’s next month. I’m trying to get used to long distances,” Claire answered.

“But, really! Three in the morning? You’re insane.”

“All marathon runners are,” Claire laughed.

 

The echo of hard footsteps broke her revelry.

Claire turned around.

“Hello?” she called.

A scream from far away resounded back.

She shuddered. Just ignore it. It’s probably just a couple of pranksters.

Claire knew this path well. She had consulted many a map before she came here, making sure it would be well-lit and had little access to the main road. So when she found herself at fork and a sign with the words “Mercy Grove” painted on it, Claire was a bit surprised. She had never seen it on any map. The small cobbled footpath was surrounded on both sides by tall hedges. She glanced inside; the mist was all but gone here.

The smell of snicker-doodles and fresh-mowed grass permeated through the air. Claire was reminded of her grandmother’s house, before she passed.

She through the shrubs.

“He must have been drunk,” she heard someone whisper.

She scowled and turned.

A pair of headlights pushed through the bushes. Claire covered her eyes and braced herself.

The cacophony of squealing wheels, screams, the shattering of glass, and sirens rang across the garden. Claire’s muscles jerked; a single tear ran down her face.

“Let me at ‘im!” she thought she heard her sister scream.

She blinked. Nothing was there. The cobbled path was unblemished, but a shadow raced towards her.

With a shriek, Claire ran the opposite direction.

“Come into the light,” she heard a familiar voice whisper.

A brilliance beamed onto the path, and Claire saw a golden staircase. With a yell, she leapt at it. The shadow grabbed her foot and tried to drag her back, but she landed squarely on the stairs and held on, screaming.

The light glowed brighter until the pressure on her foot receded. With a guttural yell, the shadow faded away.

A soft, wrinkled hand touched her own and helped her up.

“Grandmother?” Claire said, blinking.

“You needn’t run ever again,” her grandmother whispered as they embraced.

Claire smiled. They walked up the golden staircase to the clouds, leaving the troubles of the earth (and the living) below.

 

The Hills

Today’s piece is brought to you by, Donna-Louise Bishop over at Newshound to Novelist. She is doing a weekly writing prompt challenge in which she provides a single word and challenges everyone to write a complete story in only 100 words. This week’s prompt is “Hills” and here is my take on that prompt.

*****

Lora intoned a sweet sigh as her eyes drifted to the window beside her bed. Buildings and houses covered the landscape. She frowned and watched a girl getting the water pitcher.

“There used to be nothing but hills there once,” Lora said.

The girl gave her a knowing smile.

“What was your name again?”

“Sarah, Mum. It’s Sarah,” the girl answered as sadness filled her eyes.

“Right, Sarah. I knew that,” she turned back to the window, “There was a giant apple tree on the top of one.”

Sarah dipped her head and whispered, “I know. You met Dad there.” 

The Dragon Room

I entered the Yeah Write Super Challenge #4 this year. There’s so far been 2 rounds to this event, and I’ve successfully moved forward on both rounds. I thought I might share the round 2 piece here, since I’ve been quiet the past few months. 

Group 1

Scene: An arched corridor

Event: learning a nonviolent skill

Summary: Custodial apprentice, Pip, sees his clumsiness landing him in so much trouble that he is led into the castle dungeons. Down there a room awaits him, a dragon room, filled with nothing but stone and obsidium to keep him company, and maybe a few dragon eggs.

_________________

The arched hallway of the castle dungeons was much darker than Pip had imagined. The stone path was cold and coarse beneath his bare feet.

“Wh-what are we doing down h–ow!” he asked as his toes caught on a gap, causing him to stumble forward.

His heart raced, and sweat beads formed on his pasty skin.

No one has ever entered the dungeon before and come out alive!

“This is your fault,” Gregory harrumphed. The castle caretaker and master custodian pushed his way past the young man.

Pip sighed. He knew the old man was right.

The castle halls had not been the same since Pip received the custodial assignment at this year’s Naming Day. He remembered the trials – success judged by a series of events. Turned out, his skinny frame and tiny hands were ill-suited for sword-wielding, his archery skills were non-existent, and his attempts at magicka had disastrous consequences.

He knew he was rather unremarkable in almost every way.

“Did you have to spill the king’s chamber pot on Queen Symphonia’s baby gryphon?” Gregory stopped in front of a large double door.

Pip straightened himself; tears filled his eyes, “Please, don’t lock me away.”

Gregory chuckled, “Oh, dear boy, what kind of kingdom would this be if we locked every clumsy apprentice into a cell?”

“Bu-.”

Gregory shook his head and reached for the metal rings of the door.

“We can’t have you getting clawed to death by an angry gryphon, now can we?” Gregory pulled the doors open and exposed a large chamber with oval stonework covering the floor.

Pip squinted and cocked his head to the side.

“When I was young and nervous like you, the king sent me down here to work. There is naught but stone and obsidian.”

“Nothing to break?” Pip asked nervously.

Gregory shook his head, “And no one to harm.”

He gestured Pip inside, but the frightened young man hesitated. What if it’s all a trick?

“There are no locks on the door, boy,” Gregory sighed.

Pip swallowed, nodded, and stepped forward. “What is this place?”

“The chambers of the great dragon the first king slew two hundred years ago.”

Pip followed Gregory inside and put his hand on top of one of the oval statues. “Ow- It’s hot!”

“Obsidian,” Gregory said. “It retains heat.”

“What are they supposed to be?”

“Dragon eggs,” Gregory shrugged his shoulders, “or so I’ve been told, but never mind that fairy tale.”

Gregory handed Pip a thin cloth.

“The king. He asked for you to polish these dragon eggs.”

Pip raised his eyebrows, “Really?”

The caretaker narrowed his gaze, “It took me years to master. It’s far more complicated than it sounds.”

Pip watched as Gregory showed his expert skill. The motion of his polishing was methodical and unlike polishing a table or benchtop. Pip tried to understand it, but as he followed along with the master custodian, he saw dust and dirt reform on his egg while Gregory’s remained spotless. He couldn’t ever imagine being able to match that skill.

*****

For months, Pip practiced and practiced. He languished over the eggs. With every passing day, he talked to them, sometimes without even speaking, and from time-to-time, he thought he heard them talk back. He dismissed it as nothing more than loneliness. There were often voices in the corridor outside the chamber, so it could have just as well been that which he was hearing.

One afternoon, nearly three months after his assignment began, Pip heard the familiar voices again. Two men must have been in the halls, and for the first time, he listened.

“Your brother, the king,” he heard, “he knows something.”

“Nothing that he’ll be able to stop now. The unicorn horn has already been added to his stew for tonight. He’ll be eating it within minutes,” another voice said. His hushed laugh made the hairs on Pip’s neck stand up.

Unicorn horn! But it’s poisonous. If he eats that-

Pip backed up and fell backwards with an oomph.

“What’s that?” he heard. The door slowly opened, and Pip scrambled to hide behind an egg. His hands touched the obsidian, and he cried.

Please don’t let me die!

A crack appeared across the egg. The sound of shattering glass echoed through the chamber.

The Earl stood in the doorway with a disbelieving look on his face as each of the eggs burst open. Whelplings. Hundreds of them burst forth and circled the diminutive Pip.

With a shriek, he sprinted down the halls of the dungeon, up the stairs of the castle, and into the king’s sitting room only just scrambling past the guards.

The king was lifting a spoon to his mouth. Pip screamed and dove at him.

“Unicorn horn!” he cried pushing the king’s hand.

Outside screams and a flurry of wings echoed through the castle halls. The man pushed through the dining hall door narrowly missing the fiery breath of the tiny dragons. Despite the chaos, the king remained resolute in his chair.

“This man tried to poison you,” the whelplings cried in unison. “Pip told us.”

Pip gasped at the words, at their meaning. They understood him. Every thought, every word, every emotion. The connection was real.

“Thank you, dear boy,” the king said. “You confirmed what I had already suspected and saved the kingdom.”

The little dragons swarmed into the room and surrounded Pip. The would-be assassin struggled against the strong embrace of the castle guards. The king stood up and patted Pip on the shoulder, “Oh, you unremarkable boy. You broke their sleep and have bonded with the dragons. Just as I knew you would.”

Pip squinted at the king, “Wha-?”

“You’re the third born in the third generation of dragon masters.”

The whelplings sang, “Master, protector, friend.”

Pip’s eyes grew wide, and a smile spread across his face. Their joy was his joy, and suddenly for the first time in his life, he understood his place in the world.