Monthly Archives: September 2014

Tooth be told – A Green Lake Tale

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Today’s Daily Post prompt – Truth Serum – You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give
it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?
I’m also using this piece for last week’s 3 Word Wednesday. The words are highlighted in bold.


“That should be adequate.”
Clarabelle stepped back and surveyed her handiwork. The tiny figure duct-taped to a mangy toothbrush wriggled furiously, but there was no give to be had. Clarabelle twitched the improvised hood – a little finger cut from a child’s glove – and hauled it free. The fairy beneath was clearly trying to cast a spell, but Clarabelle had that covered too. She pointed at the penny-sized medallion around the fairy’s neck, shaking a reproving finger.
“Don’t bother, Cavity. Every time you try to use magic that medallion will drain and contain it; those wizards know a thing or three about dealing with fairies. Now, time to find out exactly where you are stashing all that money.”

“As if I would tell a galumphing ape like you!”
Cavity followed her words with an explosive curse, but the medallion swiftly blocked the magic, sucking a trickle of silver sparkles into itself.
“Told you not to do that” Clarabelle sympathised, with absolute insincerity, for the fairy had lost much of her luminous blue light in one fell swoop, “I really don’t need you to tell me, Cavity. I knew you’d never give up secrets to a mortal, but we have a few secrets of our own.”
She cackled nastily, drawing a small vial from her apron pocket. Her plump fingers struggled with the cork. She muttered imprecations against all wizards whilst she struggled, eventually dragging a securing pin from her hat and jabbing it into the cork to free it. She re-read the instructions carefully – for much as she loathed the fae and their magic, she had no wish to bring down their wrath by accidentally killing one of them – then let three shockingly red drops fall onto a scrap of cloth.

She advanced on Cavity, who was watching, eyes wide with fear and once more struggling against her bonds. Clarabelle shoved the cloth under the fairy’s nose, covering nostrils and mouth until the creature was forced to breathe in the fumes. The change was instant, Cavity going from frantic bucking against her bonds to such stillness Clarabelle felt impelled to check the fairy was still alive. Satisfied the lack of motion was a side effect of the truth serum, Clarabelle grinned; an altogether vile thing of rotten teeth and eager greed.
“You don’t have a choice, fairy; you have to answer my questions now.”
Cavity opened her eyes and gave a single nod. Clarabelle rubbed her grubby hands together in glee.
“Are you a tooth fairy?”
“Yes.”
“I knew that, of course, I just needed to make sure the stuff was working. Where is the tooth bank?”
For a long moment Cavity said nothing, Clarabelle’s anger beginning to bubble, the urge to shake the stupid thing all but irresistible. Her voice heavy, strained, still fighting the magical vapours, Cavity finally spoke:
“Under Farwell Great Oak.”
“Yes!”

Clarabelle actually hurled her great bulk into the air and punched the air in delight before remembering she needed to deal with the fairy. She ripped the duct tape off with no small pleasure, aware how it must be hurting. Cavity sunk to her knees, but showed no sign of recovering from the drug.
“Right, you little parasite, making money off stupid mortal kids, you stay right there. You’re not to move until dusk, understood?”
“I understand.”
Clarabelle turned her back, heading out of the cottage, the fairy already forgotten. She had three hours to reach the Great Oak and break into the bank. She set off along the winding path which led to Farwell, her mind filled with plans for the fortune stored in the tooth bank. She’d come across the information by accident. Well, she hadn’t meant to be eavesdropping on Grandmother Ida’s conversation with Molar, the head tooth fairy; it had been a lucky accident. She’d listened to them discussing how the fairies sold the teeth to an old warlock over in Magevale and were paid gold for every sack of teeth. Clarabelle had phased out at that point, images of riches dancing behind her eyes as she wandered away, leaving the oblivious pair to discuss using the money to add a new schoolroom for a mixed class of mortal and fae children.

It had been too easy. Clarabelle had stolen a tooth from under her kid sister’s pillow and put it under her own. When Cavity had arrived to claim it she’d grabbed the unsuspecting creature before she knew what was happening. Now all that gold would be hers and she could finally leave Green Lake village and buy herself as many sweets and cakes as she could ever eat. She ambled on happily planning whilst back at the cottage Cavity sat very still and began to whistle. She couldn’t break her word, but Clarabelle had said nothing about Cavity not using her voice. In moments Tartar was at her side. When Cavity explained what had happened, Tartar shot off to raise the alarm. Cavity sat quietly, using magic to ease the pain and damage of her captivity and with a very secret smile on her face.

Clarabelle reached the Great Oak with an hour to spare. She was a little surprised to find no guards, no sign of any security about the door in the trunk; not even the smallest signal was given when she wrenched open the door and ran down the carved wooden steps within. At the bottom of the flight the space widened to a great circle which glowed golden in the light of torches stuck in the walls. The flickering light danced and bounced off of so much gold that Clarabelle felt dizzied by the possibilities it represented. She ran up the golden heap, flopping onto a golden throne which sat atop it all, as the fairies had known she would.
The instant Clarabelle set herself in the chair golden clasps shot out of the arms and legs trapping her completely, despite her desperate struggles. Head tooth fairy, Molar stepped out from behind the throne and shook her head sadly.

“You must atone for your actions against Cavity, mortal. You are to serve as housemaid to the wizard Zorvac for the next twenty years. Perhaps you will have a better attitude when your time is done.”
“No!” Clarabelle screamed, caught between terrified tears and breathless disbelief, for everyone in Green Lake knew about Zorvac and his experiments with the undead, but Molar was no longer there. Instead, the throne unfurled a beautiful set of golden wings, lifted smoothly into the air and sailed through a hatch in the upper reaches of the trunk, arrowing toward a distant tower deep within Magevale cemetery.

Adventures Neverending

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The Daily Post prompt – The Great Divide – When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?
These really aren’t the most electrifying prompts so I am glad I can turn them into stories. If you feel you must know my answer, it is that:
All reading is fun. I read anything and everything and it is all pleasure. I do not need to pick one over the other as they are all worthy of my time *wink*
I’ve also used the story to fulfill the prompt at 3 Words (here) and the words I used are highlighted in bold.

Timmy wandered the aisles with no real idea of what to check out. The library stacks towered above him on all sides leaving him mildly uneasy, expecting them to teeter and fall, burying him in actuality as he currently felt buried in choices. Fiction or non-fiction? His library ticket gave him the choice of ten books, but Timmy’s had a purple star in the top right corner. A superb reader, both Timmy’s mum and his teacher had asked the women at the library to grant him access to the adult sections; the purple star was his backstage pass, his entrance into a million new worlds unknown to his peers, and an additional two books each week.

He clutched the ticket and ambled along, scanning the autobiographies of people he suspected were long dead and he didn’t recognise. The opposite shelves contained a hundred or so books dedicated to geography and Timmy was tempted. He loved reading about places he’d probably never go to, spending his nights dreaming up adventures for his hero, Sir Hugo Thrilling. Aged five, Timmy had often spent the weekends with his Grandpa Jo who believed in bedtime stories. No reading from books for Grandpa Jo; instead he told Timmy exciting tales of his friend and one time partner, Sir Hugo Thrilling, world’s greatest marksman, spy extraordinaire and treasure hunter.

Timmy drifted, idly drawing and returning book after book, wishing Grandpa Jo hadn’t gone to the home and taken all his tales of Sir Hugo deep inside his brain where they couldn’t get out any more. Grandpa Jo didn’t even appear to recognise Timmy these days. Sadder than he knew how to express, Timmy stood gazing at his feet, fighting for his calm place, when he spotted a book on the lowest shelf which was almost falling out. Timmy knew you shouldn’t assign meaning to random events but when he bent to push the book back into place the title gave him pause.

‘Follow Me!’ was emblazoned in bold black script over a photograph of a man swinging on a rope over a wide crevasse. The man had his back to the camera, but something about him seemed terribly familiar. Head bent, studying the cover, Timmy almost dropped the book in fright when a voice issued from the other side of the stacks.
“You lad, come this way”
A hand appeared around the side of the stack, index finger curled and beckoning. Timmy knew all the reasons you should never follow a stranger, but somewhere in his heart he knew this was no stranger. He hurried to the end of the stack just in time to see a solid teak cane vanishing between the history and science stacks. His heart leapt; he knew that cane, knew it would have a beautiful gold lion head and the initials HT carved into the handle. He wanted to run but he was a good lad indeed and knew the library rules by heart. He walked so fast he could hear the swishing static of his trousers rubbing together, peeling around the stacks and struggling to suppress a laugh of delight as a pith helmet waved a couple of times from the gloomy recesses of the archives and was gone.

Setting his book choices, a healthy balance of fiction and non, on a side table, Timmy forgot all the rules, running full tilt for the usually locked archive doors. The wrought iron gate swung open at his touch. He hurtled inside, racing headlong into the gloom and was brought to an abrupt halt by a meaty hand and a booming voice.
“Always break the rules do you, lad?”
“Not always, Sir, but sometimes… sometimes rules aren’t as important as knowing.”
“Good answer, that man! This way then.”
Timmy stepped smartly into line behind Sir Hugo Thrilling, watching a trap door open in the floor of the archives, following the receding bulk of his hero without a qualm. A man who looked incredibly like Grandpa Jo.

At Bide-a-While nursing home, Grandpa Jo settled back in his chair, allowing his imprisoned mind to wander free within the fantastical form of Sir Hugo Thrilling. It still amazed him, this new-found ability to project his mind out of his dying frame, giving him the chance to beat the dementia which had deprived Jo and Timmy of so much. He took a final breath, smiled and swept through the ether to join his grandson on their latest adventure.

Transformation

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This post was inspired by both this prompt and this photograph which I took whilst out walking with my friend today.

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The clock struck midnight and I could feel the transformation begin. I slung a heavy cloak about my shoulders and pulled aside the dark velvet drapes at the French doors. The handle gave silently under my touch and I stepped into the cool October night. That transition from indoor to outdoor in a matter of seconds gave me the usual instant of pure delight before I turned my attention to the rose arbour and the wicket gate beyond. I hurried to the gate, eager to put the last barrier between myself and the shadows aside. It too gave with no sound adding to the ethereal, dislocated quality of my progress into Fernlea Forest.

Beneath the tree canopy, weaving my way amongst the saplings which formed the outer boundary of the woodland, I strained my senses, searching for any sounds, a scent, a movement, which might indicate life, but none came to me. Deeper I pushed, following paths barely visible in the navy night, paths trodden only by small animals. All about me I could feel the changes, the charge in the air, the sense of bated breath, of expectancy, but no sign betrayed the location I sought. Crossing a meandering stream, I came to a standing stone, long covered in verdant green lichen, whatever it once marked long lost to time and the workings of rain and wind. I sighed softly, knowing my way at last.

I worked further into the forest, now battling tangled undergrowth which had not been disturbed by paw or foot in a twelve-month; not since I had chanced upon the transformation by accident. I only knew, as I battled thorn and sting, tripping root and clutching branch, that I would fight with my last strength to see it again. The moon, slender and flighty goddess, danced between clouds, often darkening at the least opportune moment, several times plunging me into such darkness that I could only reach out a hand before me and wave it blindly to avoid walking into trunks which had grown gnarled and ancient, replacing the young upstarts who had seemed so easy to pass one hour since; an hour in which I had managed sight nor sound of my goal.

I paused to catch my breath, winded from a steep slope which I could not recall climbing on my previous visit, leaning against the bark of a silver birch which seemed to glimmer in the intermittent moonlight. The instant I lay my hand upon the trunk I felt a spark flee through my body, something of such vitality that I was instantly renewed, ready to plunge on, ready to face what might lay in my path desiring to prevent my attaining answers. Realising I had been given the sign I yearned for, I stood for a long moment, silent, still, and allowed my body to attune to the land, to the earth and the trees which grew from her. Opening my eyes I caught the merest hint of movement in the canopy, a barely there motion in the leaves which caused them all to drift in one direction. I took it for guidance and followed.

No more than ten minutes from the birch I all but fell into a circle of trees old beyond my reckoning. I could not decide if I should sit on the great flat stone which jutted from the ground in the centre of the circle or if I should try to creep away, find a less exposed point from which to observe; for I was certain this was where I had seen the transformation and where I hoped to see it again. The choice was taken from me for, with a tremendous shaking of the earth, which deposited me firmly upon the stone, that which I sought began before my eyes.

The circle contained a dozen trees of many species, each so ancient as to have put out no new growth in several decades, and for their leaf canopy to be as sparse as the teeth on a hen. I watched as roots began to haul themselves free of the loamy earth, as twisted trunks slowly straightened. I saw emerge, from beneath its coat of emerald green moss, a bony white spine which elongated and rose tall, lifting the crackling, desiccated branches of a hawthorn into regions it had not seen since before lightning had bent it double in years long dead. When all twelve trees were loose of their moorings, they turned as one to the west and, led by an oak which must have measured a span of centuries, they filed away, vanishing between the trunks of younger trees which, to my lasting astonishment, were already shuffling on roots which inched and grubbed through the soil to transport their mass into the vacated places.

At once, I rose to my feet, wishing to follow, to discover where those venerable trees were heading, but, as I attempted to navigate between these newcomers, branches swept down, and roots rose; my way was blocked at every side and I was forced to admit defeat. I had seen all I was allowed to see and the transformation was finished for another year. Trailing slowly back to the house I could not help but wonder, would I live long enough to be granted the privilege of that knowledge, for I could never hope to rival the longevity of Fernlea, and it had but to wait me out, needing never to share its ultimate secrets with one who was no more than a lone leaf in a single season.

A Letter to Mistress Abigail – A Green Lake tale

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Today-s response to the Daily Post prompt

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(Image here)

Grandmother Ida chewed pensively on her quill, spitting feathers quite literally as she attempted to compose her letter to Grand Mistress Abigail. She knew her time amongst those of Green Lake would end soon and had already received her scroll of invitation, assuring her of a place at the Great Congress in Magehaven, but she simply wasn’t ready. She dipped and re-dipped the nib in ink, started, discarded and restarted the letter, went outside to feed the geese and ducks, mixed up a batch of healroot for old man Barney’s rheumatics, remade a bed that was already perfect and finally flumped back into the chair by her work desk.
“If it doesn’t suit, so be it.” She muttered into the silent air of her cottage, and set nib to parchment.

Hail, Grand Mistress,
I accept with humble gratitude the offered position of High Lady of the Great Congress and acknowledge the tribute to my work at Green Lake village. I shall take up the post with great joy, seeing it as the pinnacle in my service to the Great Lady whom we serve.

However, it is with some trepidation that I ask for a delay in returning to Magehaven. I know and understand that this decision may cost me my position, and has not happened to my predecessors in living memory. I feel I must make a stand, not for myself, but for the sake of the village and all it stands for.

Mistress Abigail, I beg you to understand, things are not as they were in the mortal world. Time passes slowly for we who have the touch of immortality, but these humans move fleet of foot through that same time. Their ways have changed greatly, not only in their ability to use sciences for matters in which they once turned to us, to our powers, but also in their numbers. They do not proliferate in such great numbers as was once the case. It is this factor, above all others which has led me to this unprecedented decision.

I need time to find and train the next Grandmother. It becomes ever more difficult to find a mortal with enough of the touch to train. Once we could take our pick from dozens of girls in many villages, but no longer. In forty years I have found but three with any trace of the touch. Two are gone, one to marry far away, the other to the winter cough of last year. The remaining girl is stronger in the touch than any I have encountered since the days when it was common, but I ask again for time.

She is but three years old. Her mother has given her some understanding of the fae world, and she has a life guardian, a favour from the pixies for a kindness her mother did them. She is too young for me to leave behind, untrained, and the mother has no trace of touch to leave her in her care with any hope that the child will one day fill the post of wise woman. I must be here, Abigail, I must. Grant me a decade; that is all I ask. A decade to train this child who is so bright, brimming with untapped potential, a hope for the future of the village and of the union between mortal and fae.

I go now to the lake to send this missive, and there I will wait until your reply comes.
With greatest respect and small hope
Grandmother Ida

Ida rolled up the parchment, sealed the roll with ribbon and her wax stamp, then tucked it into her apron pocket. Gathering a thick woollen shawl about herself, she stepped into the gentle chill of an autumn evening, her solid leather boots kicking through the dry, brittle fallen leaves which carpeted the rutted cart track leading to Green Lake. Reaching the shore, Ida curved left and slipped into a stand of silver birches, weaving her way until she came to a clearing which gave onto a smooth stone path leading directly into the still emerald waters of the lake.

Ida stood, the water puddling around her booted toes, sending up a prayer to the Great Lady for a favourable outcome, for the chance to aid everyone who lived in that special place, and then she drew her arm back and pitched the scroll toward the centre of the lake. As it arched and dipped, about to hit the surface an ethereal arm, a thing of mists and smokes, pierced the water’s surface, grasped the scroll and disappeared beneath the emerald shimmers once more. Ida settled on a tree stump, prepared for a long wait.

As dawn began to tint the sky with palest gold, Ida watched the ghost of an arm break the surface once more. She was puzzled when the scroll did not detach and float toward her, as was usual, but a moment later she understood why. Clamping a hand over her mouth to prevent any sound escaping which might cause a distraction, Ida’s heart thumped rapidly in her chest. Rosa skipped merrily across the lake surface causing barely a ripple. Giggling with delight, she took the scroll, dipped a childlike bow to the hand and then skipped back to where Ida waited on the shore. Ida’s hands shook so badly she almost dropped the answer she had waited all night for. Rosa grinned up at her;
“Is it important? I guess it must be for the lady to sit in the lake all night to give it back.”
Ida couldn’t quite get her head around words, stunned as she was by a toddler performing tricks it hadn’t taken Ida years to perfect, but she managed a smile and a nod.
“Are you going to open it then?”

Ida broke the seal and unrolled the parchment, noting Abigail’s eagle seal header. There was one line of text:
‘I think that little performance just earned you a decade, maybe more. Abigail.’
Damn woman and her farsight; she’d probably been watching Rosa for months! She could have saved Ida a night in the cold, but she guessed that was Abigail’s mild reproof for Ida having the temerity to hold out on a position others would kill for. For now, Ida took Rosa’s hand and started walking back to the village.
“Let’s go and have breakfast with your mother, child.”

Brack the Boggis – A Green Lake Tale

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I promised to finish this and the prompt today reminded me of that promise. So here is the full tale of Brack, Kate and Rosa, at least for now *wink*

Boggis
The image of Brack came from here, and this is pretty much how he looks in my head.

Brack poled his craft slowly over the surface of Green Lake, barely causing a ripple in the calm, emerald waters. He sniffed appreciatively at the damp night air, squinting a little against the pale light of the full moon. He could hear his neighbours, assorted Fae folk, going about their business just beyond the lake shore as his prow bumped against sloping earth. He hopped out, swung his pack over his shoulder and headed into the shrubbery lining the path that lead from the village to the shore.

His slender, almost wizened frame, topped by an outsized head and huge ears, loped along a path beaten permanent by countless generations of elves, pixies, fairies, gnomes, trolls, and boggis’, Brack’s people. He’d first followed the path, tagging behind the grumpy coat-tails of Gramps Boden, struck dumb with awe on stepping into the hustle and bustle of the night market. It could still have the same effect on Brack, two centuries later. It did now, and he paused, a one-sided smile crossing his usually grumpy features – had he thought about it, he’d have seen the resemblance to Gramps Boden.

Stalls filled every nook and cranny, nestled between the tangled roots of ancient oaks and beeches. Fireflies hovered in helpful little groups above each stall, lighting the way for sellers and buyers alike. The market was an explosion of sound, colour and smell. From delicately woven fairy fabrics, via ironwork weapons and armour crafted by gnomes, to delicious, enticing scents of trollish cookery, if a Fae needed something, they would be sure to find it at the night market. If not, it could be ordered.

Brack hoisted his pack a little higher and began to thread his way through the throng, heading into the gnomish quarter. He had many items to sell, their strange angles digging into his back as the pack bounced with each stride. At dawn and dusk Brack could be found threading his way amongst the tall grasses and reeds of the lake shore. Most Green Lake humans were careful not to litter the land which fed and clothed them, but outcomers trekked to the lake regularly, fishermen who spoke of the wealth of lake fish and children who came to swim in the emerald waters. Those folk could be trusted to leave something behind other than their tracks.

Brack collected metal. Long ago, before Gramps headed out to Bracken Falls – where all elderly Boggis went to pass their final years – he’d taken Brack aside.
“Lad, you’ll be a guardian one day, as all Boggis must. Til then you has to earn ya keep. I’m off now. I teached ya all I could, and I give ya this as me parting. Guard it well an’ it’ll see ya right. Jus’ ‘old it ‘gainst human stuffs and you’ll know what’s metal and what’s nae metal.”
He’d pressed a small, horseshoe-shaped item into Brack’s hand, hefted his pack a little higher on his back and walked into the twilight. Brack had never seen him again, but he’d treasured the small blue horseshoe thing which stuck to anything metal. It had turned Brack into a fought over guest in the gnomish quarter where metal made weapons, and Brack brought the most as well as the best.

He sauntered into the spreading circle of roots beneath an ancient oak, pretending to be occupied with adjusting his pack, but waiting. They came at speed and many muttered imprecations against the family heritage of Master Steamsteel who hurtled to a stop in front of Brack and grasped his hand in a grip as well forged as his weapons.
“What h’an h’unexpected pleasure, Sir Brack. Please, please, h’allow me to h’offer you some acorn tea, straight from the trollish gardens in Densfield, I swear.”
Brack allowed himself to be steered to the stall and forge of Steamsteel. He didn’t mind dealing with gnomes, but their tendency to put on airs and graces, as well as h’s where they didn’t belong, became wearing very fast. Toasting his feet against the forge grate, seated on Steamsteel’s own stool, Brack sipped the delicate tea. Although it was a sort after commodity, he didn’t understand the appeal, and rather wished it were some of Madame Kizi’s bramble root beer which he could see being served across the market at her tent in the troll quarter.

Brack was weary and decided not to prevaricate, rather surprising Steamsteel when his guest simply upended his pack, allowed a pile of precious metal items to heap at his feet and waved a hand at them.
“You know me, Steamsteel, it’s all good. How much, and don’t barter. I want to be away to my bed.”
Steamsteel started to puff himself full of self-importance and disbelief at Brack’s desire to avoid the usual hour of dealing and drinking, but something hard glinted in the boggis’ eyes and he backed down, offered a good price and Brack was on his way. He passed Madame Kizi’s and was sorely tempted to join a couple of his people who were propping up the bar with foaming jars of beer, but he knew he had a long day on the morrow. Mistress Kate’s babe was due any day and he had to be ready.

Brack had barely closed his front door – a well concealed entrance carved from the living bark of a willow, consent given by the tree’s spirit, Nirida – when a vibrant purple light flashed in his eyes. The fairy ability to appear wherever they wanted and announce their presence with their birth colour drove Brack distracted but he held his temper.
“Lady Briar, you have news?” Brack managed polite, the annoying creature was royalty after all.
“Mistress Kate bore a daughter not one hour since. I will take you.”
“Wait!”
It was no use. Brack barely managed to grab the small, leaf-wrapped bundle from his dresser before he was enveloped in rushing air and blinding silver sparkles – fairy travel was ridiculously fast and far too showy for Brack, always leaving him with a headache and spots in his vision. He was deposited outside the home of Mistress Kate, Lady Briar vanishing without a word.

“And just how am I supposed to get home, you ridiculous creature?” Brack grumbled, sidling carefully around the house until he was under the bedroom window. He nearly fell into the water butt he was climbing on for a better view when a voice tinkled at his ear; ‘Call me when you are ready, Grumpy”. He tightened his grip on the sill, swallowed the many curses he wished to hurl after the fairy and peered in the window.
A candle burned by the low wooden bed, flickering in the slight breeze from the open window. Buried under snowy white blankets and a rich brown fur, Mistress Kate lay with her eyes closed and her babe wrapped securely to her breast. Brack hauled himself over the sill, dropped lightly to the floor and crept across the wooden boards, begging the gods to quiet any creaks. It didn’t work. As Brack reached the bed, Kate opened her eyes and looked down, smiling.

“Welcome to my home. I am Kate. May I know your name?”
This wasn’t how it was supposed to work and Brack was wrong-footed. He mumbled, fumbling with the parcel in his hands, desperate to just throw it on the bed and run, but he knew his responsibility to the babe this strange woman held. He swept a bow.
“I am Brack, a Boggis, Mistress Kate. I’m to share something with the babe, as the pixies asked.”
“Ah, I wondered what would happen.”
“You put the carving in the babe’s hand?”
“Her name is Rosa. Come.”

Kate reached a hand, aiding Brack onto the pristine counterpane. He felt grubby and out of place, but Kate beamed, unfolded the shawl about Rosa and showed him her chubby, tiny hand gripping the swan carved from a conker. Brack carefully unwrapped his leaf parcel, stepped up to Rosa and gently took her hand in his. He placed an identical swan back to back with the one Rosa held and recited the words Queen Nib had taught him;

“Mortal child, our lives are bound, from journeys start to breathings end. Call my name when dangers abound, I will ever guard, on that you can depend.”

A tiny shimmer of light began at the heart of each swan and slowly grew until it enveloped Brack’s hand and Rosa’s together. When it faded Brack swapped the swans, tucking his into Rosa’s grasp and depositing hers back in the leaf bundle. He slid off the bed, preparing to leave, but Kate called to him.
“Sir Brack? What now? I wish you would stay. I have been given a great gift for Rosa, I know, but I do not understand it.”
Brack turned slowly, shook his head in exasperation and returned to the bed.
“Mistress Kate, I am Rosa’s guardian for life. I will watch over her, keep her safe, and if she should stray into dark places she has but to call my name and I will come to her aid. For now, please, I have to be up at dawn and I am tired. If you will allow, I will return tomorrow and explain further, but I must rest.”
Kate leaned forward, taking Brack by surprise with a swift kiss to his brow.
“Forgive me, Sir Brack. Away to your bed, and you will be welcomed to my home always.”
Brack mumbled mortified thanks and fled, suddenly aware that he was not going to have an easy life from the next dawn into many decades.

Baby Elephant Walk

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Today’s Daily Post prompt – Ready, Set, Done – Our free-write is back by popular demand: today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.

This was begun at 13:04 and finished at 30 seconds over 13:14 😉 The elephants in the picture are my ever growing collection which sit next to me at my desk; and yes, I do make up adventures for them!

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Milly climbed onto the back of the mottled grey elephant and settled into the curve of its neck. She giggled, clapping her hands over her ears as the elephant raised its trunk and trumpeted, before lumbering off into the verdant greenery of the jungle. Swivelling around to look over her shoulder, Milly counted twenty-one other elephants forming into an untidy herd behind hers. They ranged in colour from jet black to sandy yellow, from the biggest – which she rode – to the tiniest which scurried along frantically trying to keep up.

For a moment Milly was worried about the tiny one, but just when she thought it about to be trampled underfoot by a massive brown male with a howdah on its back, the adult paused in its stride, let the infant lollop through and then continued on, crisis avoided. Milly marvelled at how the rambling herd managed to keep the smaller members close to the centre without any particular attention to the matter. Then her attention was diverted by a terrifying roar somewhere up ahead. She clung to the neck of her elephant, feeling it pick up speed, its body swaying from side to side, its trunk upraised and issuing short blasts of sound.

A gigantic lion, its fur a deep brown, its mouth laden with blocky teeth stepped onto the grassy path, snarling and roaring and Milly was petrified, but her elephant feared no thing so small. It charged and Milly hear the thunder of many feet behind her as the herd followed the leader. The lion held its ground for a moment then, with a final roar of defiance, it turned tail and vanished into the tall bushes. Milly grabbed a currant bun from her pocket and offered it to her ride, whom she’s named Nelly, patting the warm, wrinkled skin under her hands with delight.
“I wonder where we will go now.” She mused aloud.
“Milly, tea time. Remember to put Grandma’s elephants back where you found them.
“Next time we’ll visit the king and take tea at his palace” Milly assured her herd before gently replacing them on grandmas window sill.

I cannot see baby elephants without hearing this music in my head!

The Snow Queen

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Earlier today I said I was going to find a prompt for my fiction piece today. A couple of weeks back I bought a book called ‘1200 Creative Writing Prompts by Melissa Donovan’. I decided to use it for the first time today. I opened it to a random page and this is the prompt I chose from that page:

Turn you favourite fairy tale, myth or legend into a horror story. Mae sure there’s plenty of blood ad gore.

Well, my favourite fairy tale is The Snow Queen and you can read the original version here. Now I don’t like to go overboard on blood and gore, but this is definitely going to be a more adult version of the tale than the one I love so much, so be warned if you decide to read it and feel free to skip any bits you don’t like *wink*

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(Image taken from here)

Are you sitting comfortably, dear followership? Then let us begin. Once upon a time…

First Story – Of Fire and Hate
Under a mountain, where the oldest stones still boiled in fire, the demon howled its wicked pleasure. Birthed into flame, its skin ripped and burst before the heat of its demonic worktop. A stone fallen from distant stars, black as coal lay upon it, cold and silent but it emanated a depth of evil the demon found delicious. What unknown beings had hurled the stone into the void, throwing its evil where fate willed, he could not know, but he had discovered.

Yes, deep under his mountain the demon had poked and prodded, chipped and smashed, wanting to reveal something terrible in that dead black stone which had slithered into his home on the back of a rock slide one thunderstruck night. Finally, screaming and tearing at his skin in frustration, the demon had run obsidian claws over the surface of the indolent stone that refused to give in to his need, to his greed. Only then had he revealed the wonder. Polished, the stone could be mounted in purest gold and formed into a looking glass.
The demon cackled, its red eyes darting, avarice clutching the beautiful object to his suppurating flesh.

Looking into the glass produced miracles of vision. He could see the deepest, darkest depraved thoughts of any he turned his attention to. He spent an entire year revelling in the horrifying and twisted thoughts of mankind. One night, he captured the thoughts of a dreadful man, creeping through the dark with knife extended, gutting, slicing, ripping through every person that crossed his path, man, woman or child. The demon fell into transports of delight as the hate-filled predator tore through an orphanage. He clutched the wondrous mirror, holding it triumphantly over his head and spiralling higher and higher into the velvet night sky.

Alas for the world, the demon was so delirious he forgot the pure, silver brilliance of the full moon. After so long amongst roots and foulness the demon could not bear the illumination. He threw up his hands to shield his scorched eyes and the mirror fell. Down and down it plummeted until it smashed against the unyielding spire of a church. Shattered, the shards dispersed. Now the stone revealed it’s finally terrors. It held within every dissolute act, every debauched moment, and each instance of depravity, hate, jealousy and lust. When a shard touched the skin of a person it dissolved and the wickedness it carried fed on their blood, pumping its way to their heart and turning that soul to hate for all mankind.

Second Story – Of Friendship and Sorrow
Deep in a quiet valley between aged mountains and beside an icy stream lay a village. It was simple, a place of wood and stone and hard work, but it was also a place of joy and contentment. Children ran in the streets, skipping, chasing, laughing, and first among them were Kai and Gerda.If there was innocent mischief to be had, it would be those firmest of friends who led the others. If teams were to be picked for games of chase, all wished to be picked for the team of Kai and Gerda. Equally, when there was food to share or help to be given it would be that happy pair first in line.

Although the village was simple, it was known for its abundant flowers. All the land about was given to feeding cattle and growing root vegetables and left no room for garden plots. It became tradition to adorn every window with a flower box, and for the eldest child of every house to be responsible for those boxes. Kai and Gerda, being only children, had little choice, but their gentle hearts and loving natures saw them happy at the task. They especially liked to tend the boxes outside their bedroom windows. Living across the narrow, cobbled street from each other they used their tending time to talk and make plans for new adventures. Sometimes, Kai, who was given to occasional bouts of melancholy, would simply lean his elbows on the box and ask Gerda to read to him. Her voice was soothing, soft and melodic and it eased his mind.

And so life went along, without event, until the morning after the mirror was smashed. Kai and Gerda were tending their bedroom window boxes when the final shard arrowed out of the clear morning sky and pierced Kai through his right eye. He gave a little shriek of discomfort and began to rub, thinking he had flicked earth whilst weeding. Gerda urged him to wash his eye with water, but the shard had already begun its work. For the first time in their lives Kai snapped at Gerda.
“Leave me be. Don’t fuss at me like my mother!”
Hurt and confused, Gerda retreated, holding her silence, but worried by the violence with which Kai continued to maul his eye. When she noted a single drop of blood course down the slope of his nose she began to cry in fear, but Kai was almost given over to the shard and only laughed.
“Stupid girl, crying like a baby. Go away. I don’t want to play with you any more, baby!”

Gerda fled indoors, seeking the comfort and wisdom of her grandmother and Kai felt his eye clear, but his heart was now completely clouded. He looked at the window box, so long his pride, and with a contemptuous sneer he tore it loose from the wall and tossed it to the ground. He ran through the house, ignoring the startled, angry cry of his mother as he upturned her clean washing into the coal scuttle and hurtled out into the street, the door slamming behind him in a cloud of dust. For a month Kai drove his mother and the village to the edge of reason. Where once he had been helpful, now he favoured destruction, where once he was kind, now he was wicked, and it was Gerda who suffered the most.

She could not bear to see her childhood friend turn into a heartless monster and she followed after him, meekly repairing his damage if she could, comforting those who he tormented, from the smallest children to the old and weak, and always crying after him to stop, to be her Kai once more. He only glared at her, and when she would not stop he pelted her with stones. Finally he scored a hit. Gerda went down, bleeding from her temple and unconscious in the middle of the street. As people ran to her aid, Kai heard the protests against him, saw the local officials moving to corral him, and he fled.

The snow had been falling for several hours and Kai had been hauling his sled toward the lowest slopes. Now he ran with it and climbed, vanishing under the trees at the base of the mountain. When the voices fell far behind, the accusations were silenced and the figures lost in the oncoming snow storm, Kai slowed. He worked his way up the mountain pass, over the top of the rise and contemplated the sheer slope on the other side. He threw down his sled, landed face down on it and pushed off. At first the speed was exhilarating, but then he began to hit stones hidden beneath the snowy blanket. He was tossed and jolted all ways and then he hit an ice patch. The sledge shot off at an angle, hurling Kai against a huge black rock and vanishing into the distance.

Kai screamed in pain and shock, and it took him several minutes before the spots before his eyes cleared and he felt able to sit up. The sight of his left leg made him violently sick; a white knob of bone stuck out through the rough hemp of his britches, and ruby blood dripped, dripped, dripped onto the pristine white snow. He felt faint again, almost passed out when he tried to move, and then realised he was too far from the village for anyone to come and rescue him. The mean villagers would blame him for that stupid girl getting hurt and they wouldn’t care what happened to him, would even let him die of blood loss and frostbite out on the bare mountainside. Kai began to snivel and sob, allowing himself to feel hard done by, so sorry for himself he didn’t notice the arrival of a huge silver and gold sledge at the crest of the pass.

“Why is a brave boy like you crying?”
Kai looked up and was instantly dazzled by the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He struggled to swipe tears from his eyes, snot from his nose and appear brave before her icy blue eyes. She stepped lightly from the sledge, approaching him and he noted her feet appeared to be encased in slippers of twinkling crystal. She smiled and offered him her hand, he took it, wondering at how smooth and cool her skin was, how she did not appear to feel the cold despite only the filmiest, most revealing of gowns which seemed to be sewn from stardust and frost. He shook his head, indicating his leg.
“Forgive me beautiful lady, but I cannot rise.”
“Would you like to visit with me in my castle over yonder?” the vision asked, waving a hand encrusted with shimmering diamonds at the horizon, “I have all things which might delight a brave young squire such as you, Master Kai.”

Kai fleetingly wondered how this woman knew his name but the idea of castles and delights overwhelmed him with greed and he nodded eagerly. So eager was he for her treats that he managed to get his good leg underneath him and rise to perform an unsteady bow.
“Such manners” she smiled, her teeth seeming to glitter in the light of the rising moon, “Let me show you a little of the wonders you might see if you agree to be my squire, Kai.”
She drew her hand slowly over Kai’s leg. Despite the bolt of icy pain that coursed through his injured flesh, Kai felt the first stirrings of desire in his core. He blushed furiously, but the woman merely caressed his cheek, not yet ready for his first shave, and kissed his lips lightly, her touch numbing and glorious.
“Come.”
She swept away to the carriage and Kai followed without thinking. Only after a few steps, as he bent his leg to climb into the carriage did he realise her touch had healed his leg completely. It was numb, true, and he assumed pain would return when the numbing touch departed, but he was stunned at her power. He clambered in beside her, she tucking him to her side, wrapping them both under a pure white fur and sent the sledge hurtling into the night.

In the village Gerda tossed and turned in her sickbed, dreaming of Kai being buried deeper and deeper beneath sheets of ice.

(To be continued as it is far too long for one post!)

Say the Right Thing

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I really didn’t like today’s prompt… so I sort of cheated my way around it; sorry Daily Post *grin*

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(Image can be found here)

Marcus slipped between the heavy drapes curtaining the entrance to Hideus and felt the tremor of excitement which shot through the waiting line of potential patrons. The usual motley crew and Marcus really wasn’t in the best of moods. He’d yet to eat and that always made him grouchy. He released the blood red cordon and held up a hand the size of a dinner plate, halting the eager advance of the crowd.
“If you don’t know the correct password, leave now.”
A few souls disappeared into the night, but the majority remained and Marcus knew it was going to be a long shift.

Half an hour later he’d turned away 30 out of forty waiting bodies, and reached the worst of them. These were the hangers on, the hopeful hopeless and the poseurs. A purple plaited, Gothic attired girl of about 19 stepped up.
‘Password.” Marcus barked, already hoarse and ready to eat a horse.
“Letstat” she announced with a confident smile.
“Go home, child.”
A momentary fury crossed her features but she stalked off, rejoining a group of similarly attired and aged peers who were lurking in the alley opposite. Marcus knew they’d be back. They’d keep coming until one of them hit the correct password, got by him and then texted it to the rest from inside; so they hoped, but Marcus hadn’t let one by in three years. He wished it discouraged them as the smell of them drove other genuine patrons crazy and made them hard to manage for the team inside.

A tall man stepped up and gave a password, Sang. Marcus accepted but cast a questioning glance at the girl on his arm.
“A gift for our host.”
Marcus wasn’t happy with such blatant flouting of the rules, but the boss did like such gifts so he waved the pair inside.
Next came a figure swathed in furs, accompanied by a potent scent of earth and leather. No trace of features were visible but the voice issued forth with depth and authority, ‘Jötunn’ and Marcus hurriedly held the drapes aside. The reek was a little much for his sensitive nostrils.

He was at the end of the line. The wannabes and hopeless, the would-be victims had all vanished into the night to cook up new ways to get by the infamous Marcus. He watched a cloaked woman drifted up, smiling pointedly, literally. Her teeth appeared to have been sharpened on a file and her skin had a deathly white pallor. ‘Sang’ she hissed, but Marcus hesitated; something wasn’t right. Hideus rules said guests had to say the right thing, but guarding the door for three years had made Marcus aware of the multitude of tricks people used to get in.
She stepped confidently toward the drapes. As she reached a hand to hold one aside Marcus whipped a crucifix from his jacket and pressed it hard against her flesh. She recoiled, sibilant breath escaping her snarling lips and Marcus shoved her back into the street.
“Real vampires aren’t scared of crucifixes, Miss. Don’t try my patience a second time.”

She fled in terror as Marcus allowed himself the relief of transformation. He revelled in his mane of black fur, flexing his claws, scanning the empty street with perfect night vision before slipping inside the club. Within the city’s supernatural population socialised freely, the swathed figure now revealed as a bulky troll with granite features and gravel voice. Vampire drank with werewolf, zombies chatted to ghosts and it was always best to avoid glancing in the direction of the succubae and sirens; it tended to be an x-rated booth.

Marcus felt a pull on his mind. The boss calling. Why now, when all he wanted was to find some food? He loped through the throng, greeting the occasional being with a toothy grin and climbed the steps to the special lounge inhabited by the elite. The boss rested deep in a love seat with a practically comatose blonde, his teeth reddened.
“Good catch tonight, Marcus. New password for the vamps then?”
Marcus nodded, hoping the boss couldn’t hear the growls and grumbles from his stomach, but vampire hearing was even more acute than a werewolf’s.
“I have a spare gift tonight, my friend.” He nodded to a spaced out red-head reclining in a wingback chair, shadowed in a recess, “Enjoy”
Suppertime at last. Marcus raced into the shadows eagerly.

Tell it quick

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Today’s Daily Post prompt – Flash Talk: You’re about to enter a room full of strangers, where you will have exactly four minutes to tell a story that would convey who you really are. What’s your story?

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Clara stumbled through the plate glass doors, sending a waiter flying, his champagne flutes showering three shrill women who had been trying to get the attention of a rather handsome movie star. His howling laughter was probably not what they had in mind.

Clara staggered to the centre of the ballroom, swaying underneath the immense crystal chandelier, her wild-eyed gaze roaming the assembled dignitaries. A few ‘men in black’ were casually sauntering in her directions but she leveled her crossbow and it seemed to give them pause. Her breath came in hiccupping gulps, her face was beet red from exertion and her clothes displayed a variety of rips and unidentifiable stains, too many of them a shade of red very familiar to Chief-Inspector Gray, who was approaching Clara, hands held up and splayed, conveying calm with every muscle.
“Please, let’s talk, young lady. It’s clear something unfortunate has happened to you…”
“Unfortunate!”

Clara wheeled to face the portly man in his fifties, penguin suit stretched over too many good roast dinners, her face ablaze with disbelief and fury. A security guard decided it was a good time to be a hero, starting a run at Clara, but she’d been outside too long. Her hand flicked back over her shoulder and he went down with a small knife between his eyes. Gray signalled the men to stand down, aware this bristling fury of a woman probably had more concealed weapons about her.
“Do you have any idea what’s going on out there? Do you even know that the world is ending, that millions are dying whilst you swan about in here, drinking fake champagne and stuffing your ignorant, heedless faces with salmon that the staff spat in before serving?”

This outburst was followed by a few isolated retching sounds and many more clatters as plates and glasses were hurriedly disposed of, the floor being handy. Clara turned in a slow circle, Gray noting the shotgun strapped across her back and the suspiciously weapon shaped bulge at each ankle. She shuddered, her eyes closing for a moment, the fight going out of her, but Gray made the mistake of moving closer. A man his size was not built for delicacy and she was alert in a second, the crossbow aimed straight in his face. He decided to try a new tack, play into her delusions, whatever they were, until they could figure a way out. Before he could apply this new strategy, Clara laughed, shocking everyone in the room into stillness with its vicious, mocking edge.
“Where do you think you are going to take them?”

Her comment was aimed at several burly guards who were herding guests toward back exits. She succeeded in halting their progress.
“You really don’t know, do you?” Her disbelief was palpable, “They’re everywhere. This is the first place I’ve seen that hasn’t been hit. Take them outside and they’ll be dead in seconds, you morons! We all have to…”
Clara never got a chance to explain. The ceiling caved in and multiple winged forms poured through; winged and clawed and sharp-toothed.

The Chase

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Today’s Daily Post prompt – Autumn Leaves: Changing colors, dropping temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes: do these mainstays of Fall fill your heart with warmth — or with dread?

(Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year. I love misty mornings, dewy cobwebs in the hedges, ‘dragon breath’ on chilly air, Samhain (Halloween to non pagans *wink*), the colours, the smells, the cool weather – I would happily live in autumn all year around!)

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A tale from Green Lake

Briar paused for a moment, aware of the chill in the air, the occasional drip of morning mist settling on a browning leaf, and stretched hugely. She unwrapped the black wool cloak from her shoulders and shook out russet wings, the exact shade Green Lake villagers thought of as Falling red. With a single word of power, she took off, rising straight up, too fast for any mortal to see. Breaking through the forest canopy into hazy golden light, she hovered. Others were already gathered, a myriad shades of Falling glinting and shimmering from hundreds of wings as the fairies prepared for The Chase.

Lichen shot up through the leaves of an oak, dive-bombed her a couple of times and then settled to a hover beside her. He really seemed to think Briar was impressed by his bravado; she wasn’t but they always ran The Chase together. As a flying team they were unbeatable and Briar had already noted a few crestfallen faces amongst the almost complete assembly. Five or six stragglers were still arriving as the first sounds reached the fairies; the children were gathering. Giggles, shrieks and conversations about strategy came closer, the children of Green Lake heading for Bramble Glade.

For centuries Green Lake had held The Chase on the first official day of Falling; a date determined by the first sighting of a red-breasted robin. Long ago, one of the village elders had decided there was a more efficient way to deal with the immense volume of foliage deposited every year; Green Lake forest stretched for several miles around the lake. Many glades and clearing had been given over to growing fruit and vegetables to supplement the meagre days of Deep Dark. Not only did the sprawling drifts of leaves make it difficult for carts and people to travel, especially when wet and slippery, they were a constant source of illicit distraction to the village children.

After ‘The Incident’, as the older villagers still called it, action had to be taken. Three children had built a huge pile of fallen leaves under a tree. They’d climbed up, stood along a branch, holding hands, and dived in together. The tree had marked the site of a long abandoned mine, long flooded, and the children plunged straight through the rotted wooden boards guarding it. No-one had wanted to think what might have happened if a wood elf hadn’t passed by soon after. The elders instituted The Chase, with the agreement and aid of the fae.

All children under the age of twelve gathered in Bramble Glade. All the fairies hovered, out of sight, above the trees. Each child was equipped with a large woolen sack and a good pair of gloves. The fairies needed nothing more than the stirring of air their movements created. At cock crow the fairies descended into the trees, flying in all directions and causing the leaves to fall. The children chased below, catching with hands, sacks or the occasional enterprising net – although that was somewhat frowned upon. Children and fairies worked in teams, aiming to return to the glade at the end of the day with the most leaves collected. The mortal prize was a year of magical education with the fairies. The fae prize was a chance to choose a child and be their life guardian for a year. As the job came with many perks, including regular audiences with Queen Fen and her consort, Prince Stone to report on mortal development, it was much sought after. Briar and Lichen had won for the last fifty years and intended to do so again.

A hush fell over mortals and fae alike, every ear straining to catch the first hint of cock crow. When it came, accompanied by a lemon wash of light, the sun clearing the mist for a single instant, a roar of excitement flew up from the children, hitting the fairies in a wave of sound which dislodged almost as many leaves as their first manoeuvres; The Chase was begun.

Briar and Lichen headed to the willows which overhung most of the Green Lake shoreline, watching for any sign of children in tune with their thoughts; willows gave up their leaves readily and had multiple leaves per stem, a sure fire winning strategy. Hovering by the tree closest to the exit from Bramble Glade, they were rewarded by the appearance of Sally Murphy and Danny Moore, two of the brightest children in the village, pelting toward the willows.
“Go, go go!” Danny gasped, bent double hands on knees, catching his breath.
“We claim you, if you are willing” Sally added, remembering the rules.

Briar and Lichen nodded, grinned and shot amongst the willow boughs. They used their tried and tested maypole pattern of flight, racing round and round, over and under, higher and higher, always heading in opposite directions. Sally and Danny ran to the tree, Sally circling it clockwise, Danny opposed, echoing the movements of their fairy partners. Haring from tree to tree, it wasn’t long before Briar had to send up a flare of purple light to summon a steward with a new sack. The first was sealed with the mark of all four team members and flown off by a local heron to the weighing point. With new sack in hand, they were off again, stopping only for a brief lunch of Mrs Murphy’s currant buns and some troll dandelion juice, a local favourite of mortal and immortal alike.

“It’s almost dusk! We have to run!” Sally yelled, in her official capacity as timekeeper. If the teams weren’t assembled back in the glade by full dusk none of their sacks would count. All four arrived in an exhausted, dirty rush but on time. Only two teams of the twenty who started failed to make it back on time, and Grandmother Ida stepped forward to adjudicate the count. She wasn’t really anyone’s grandmother as she’d been widowed young and never had children, but she received the title when she took up her position as oldest Green Lake female and village wise woman.

It was agony, especially as the top three teams each had fifteen sacks apiece. Finally, as full dark slipped over the throng of children and fairies, Grandmother Ida stepped forward, a scroll clutched in each work-hardened hand.
“The Chase is done. For the next year…” she took a long pause, then winked merrily at the children, “Sally and Danny will be the beloved guests of Queen Fen and Prince Stone.”
The delighted children stepped forward, halting at her right hand and taking the scroll which signified their victory.
“The people of Green Lake village will be pleased to welcome Briar and Lichen as life guardians for Maya Greenleaf and Jimmy Mulch for the next year.”

There were cheers all round as the fairies accepted their scroll. The glade stilled and in the silence Grandmother Ida held up her empty hands. They began to glow, child and fairy alike watching awestruck as her hands filled with Falling red fire, dancing and flickering over her face, and that of the four competitors at her side. With a sudden movement, she threw up her hands and flung russet fire between the trunks of the oaks surrounding the glade. From between each trunk stepped a villager. They all held bowls before them and as the fire struck the first on each side it leapt from bowl to bowl until the entire glade was ringed with Falling fire.
“Let the celebrations begin!” Grandmother Ida called.
The centre of the glade was piled high with logs, now filled and covered with all the leaves collected over the day. The villagers, as one, reached back and then hurled their bowls of fire into the pile. It caught instantly – Grandmother Ida would never have admitted to augmenting that flame – and people began to sing and dance, joining hands and circling the fire. Soon all were a part of welcoming the days of Falling, the safety of the village and holding back the Deep Dark just a little longer.