The Sacrifice

Witch, Fantasy, Magic, Witchcraft, Woman, Scary, Spooky

Pixabay

The three brothers were full of war-fervour.  They had left the farm with high expectations of the heroism that they would display on the battlefield.  How could they, the Breoins, do anything less?  Uncle Diwin never relented of regaling the tales of his own glorious exploits of the last war.  Diwin, so he recalled, stood defiantly before many an onslaught, and though he had slew foes by the dozen – never received a scratch.  “War,” he had said, “is the ultimate adventure.”

The three’s enthusiasm waned soon after joining the Duke’s brigade.  Long hours of drilling, and constant rain coupled with sleeping on stony ground didn’t quite match the glorious picture Uncle had painted.

Then came the first battle.  The right of their lines had collapsed under the weight of a cavalry charge, and panic set in.  Much of the army, including the Breoins hightailed it into the forest and it took days for the remnant to regroup.

The Duke mustered his shattered army and announced that they would attempt to leave the forest and seek sanctuary in his cousin’ castle to the north.  The move was anticipated by the enemy however, and an ambush was set.

As the Duke’s men approached a ford near the forest edge, they were attacked on two sides.  The men fought furiously,  yet almost all were slain.  Andre Breoin, the eldest was pierced in the belly, and Gregor and Dawid were barley able to pull him into the cover of the trees.  The three lay there until the enemy had given up the search, Andre’s life ebbing.

As the sun set, a small bluish light dappled through the branches.  Gregor crawled cautiously towards it to see if any of the Duke’s men were there.  What he found was the most hideous hag he had ever imagined, much less laid eyes on.

“Gregor,” the crone croaked. “Why do you tarry in the bushes?”

Taken aback, the farm boy stood.

“Come closer, my dear,” she almost hissed.

The lad of eighteen took a guarded step forward.

“I fear Andre has not long for this world,” she announced. “Unless he be given a sip of this potion I am preparing.”

“Please Lady, may I have it for him then?” the lad begged.

“Alas,” the crone said, “it lacks one small ingredient.”

“What is it? I will find it!” Gregor said excitedly.

“A kiss,” the hag said matter of factly.

Gregor looked at the opal dullness of the woman’s left eye, and the brown decaying teeth.  He nonetheless stepped closer.

“Whose kiss, and where?” the lad asked.

“Your kiss to my mouth,” she said, sticking out a heavily filmed tongue.

Gregor took another step closer and the reek of her body odour and breath were nauseating.

She gave a uneven smile and then flicked her tongue at him several times.

He took one more step, and closing his eyes, he kissed the witch.

Padre

Christine’s Daily Writing Prompt: Kissing the Witch

 

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In Meadow Nymph’s Eyes

Inspiration Calls

The pastureland and adjoining meadow were peaceful.  The boundary oaks and poplars slowly darkened as they transformed into silhouettes against the setting sun.  It was Epimelidia’s favourite time of the day.  She reclined upon an apple bough at the edge of meadow and watched the flocks of sheep gently settling.

How many times had she watched over this scene?  How often had her protective gaze helped the lambs to securely lay down their heads.

But something was not quite right tonight.  Epimelidia could feel it.  Was it Pan or some other Satyr trying to unsettle her?  No, there was nothing of a spirit about this.  It was clearly a disturbance made by mortal men.  As she watched she could just make out the line of warriors traveling wearily towards her.

“Aspius,” one called back down the line. “There is meat for us tonight, my friend.”

The column of soldiers altered their direction and then split.  Half of the troop approached her slumbering lambs, and the other group was heading directly at her sacred apple tree.

This will never do! she fumed.

Suddenly glittering golden lights danced throughout the meadow and pastures.  At first the warriors thought it was some type of glowing insects, but it soon became clear that hundreds of little sprites and fairies had answered the mental call of the Meadow Nymph.  Some of the soldiers struck out at the flashing apparitions.  Those who did fell instantly blind.   Men began to scurry about falling over each other in the confusion. Others grabbed hold of sightless comrades and led them back to the roadway.

Epimelidia’s lambs would sleep well that night.  And as for Aspius, there would be no meat this evening, but only stale bread and water, and a futile hope that his sight might return.

Padre

Inspiration Call: Flash Fiction Friday

 

 

 

Beyond the Lair

 

Autumn was returning and the long hibernation of the Dragonette had come to a close.  Her sleep had been interrupted this year.   For reasons still not fully understood by her, she had risen in August.  The brief foray up the stairs of her lair had caught her quite off guard. Too early! she had mused.  But it also was far to late to return to her slumber.  She had, therefore, spent the month silently pacing her lair – waiting,  just waiting.  How she hated those long sun-filled days, with the blinding light and hot, humid air.  But now, the days were getting shorter, and the air was beginning to become crisp at night.  Her time to emerge was nearly at hand.

As she awaited the sunset, she thought of all that was before her.  She would fly through the lengthening evening.   She would soar above the unsuspecting people below, her airborne form so nearly that of a bat in flight that she would be mistaken for such.  She would feel the cool breeze in her fur and the fresh air in her lungs.   October, how she longed for All Hallows Eve, and then her work could begin.  From then until March, she would prowl the nights breathing her icy frost breath – freezing puddles and icing window panes with the cold signature of her passing.

But for now the miniature frost dragon was poised for all that would come.

Padre

Thursday photo prompt: Poised #writephoto

 

Flos Potentia

Image result for medieval nurse

image: schoolofnursinghub

Angard lay doubled over in the bed.  Sweat glistened on his brow, and he moaned in agony.

“I think I am actually going to die this time,” the mighty warrior said.

“We shall see,” Angatha said placing a gentle hand upon his shoulder.

She could see the multiple battle scars across his sturdy frame.  How many times has this man known the pain of sword or arrow? she wondered.  Yet despite this history, he now lay almost inconsolable.

Angatha’s sister, Benora approached the bed and held a sweetened elixir to the champion’s lips.  He sipped it slowly, and closed his eyes.  Both sisters rubbed his shoulders and said almost in unison, “flos potentia.”

Within minutes the warrior opened his eyes and stretched.

“I feel so much better,” he announced. “What was that spell you uttered?” he asked.

“Spell?  There was no spell,” Benora said matter of factly.

“How am I healed then?” he challenged.

“The flowers, stupid.  There was chamomile in the tea,” Angatha mocked. “You ate too much mutton again, you idiot.”

Both of the sisters looked down at their brother and just shook their heads.

 

Padre

 

Tale Weaver – #239 – Flowers – 6th September

Northwards

 

Ildris and Hannon continued northwards.  Their orders were simple: cross the Great Nord River and then follow its feeder tributaries north seeking any sign of the Griffin Legion.  The Scout-Rangers knew this would be an arduous journey, and perhaps even a fool’s errand, but the orders had come from the king himself.  Seventy scouts travelling in pairs were sent north and fan out to follow all possible passages north.  Surely the Griffins could be contacted in this way.

The previous spring the Legion had set out on a grand expedition to stamp out the Nuar Raiders once hand for all.   Four thousand men commanded by General Neston had left the capital to the cheers of adoring crowds.  Everyone expected the raiders to be vanquished before the end of summer.   Why shouldn’t they?  Neston had never been defeated in battle, and the Nuar were no more than disorganised bands of barbarians.

A messenger had arrived in late May to announce that the Griffins had encountered a coalition of twenty bands, numbering nearly three thousand warriors.  The battle had been swift and decisive.  Within three hours the discipline and superior arms of the Legion had left over two thousand barbarians dead or dying.  Neston’s losses were fewer than two hundred.  The general pushed onwards in pursuit of the remnants of the coalition.

The last that was heard of the Legion was in mid-June, however.  A rider had arrived in the capital with reports for the king.  These indicated that the Griffins had crossed the Nufow River about a week after the battle with the coalition. This news was greeted cautiously as the Nufow was the furthest north that anyone from the kingdom had ever ventured.  It was so far north, in fact, that  it was flippantly referred to as the “No Flow,” by school boys seeing it on their maps at school.

Now Ildris and Hannon were following a frozen stream that had merged with the Nufow from the north.  The crossing of the watercourse proved easier than expected as it proved to be frozen for at least six months of the year.  Their crossing had been three days earlier, and the surrounding country was cold and bleak.

As the frozen creek they were following made an eastward turning, they were greeted with a poignant scene of devastation.  The surrounding flats were strewn with the shattered equipment, armour, and remains of the once noble Griffins.  At the centre of the grizzly scene were thirty posts on which the heads of the Legion’s officers had been impaled.  The head on the central post was encased in the horse plumed helmet of Neston.

The two scouts had found irrefutable proof of the Legion’s fate.  They respectfully removed the general’s helmet and buried the thirty officers’ heads.  Then with the helmet secured in oilcloth they began their melancholy journey southwards.

 

Padre

 

FOWC with Fandango — Irrefutable

Thursday photo prompt: Frozen #writephoto

Your Daily Word Prompt – Poignant – August 29, 2019

Deeper Understanding

The wizard led his most able student through the southern wood.  At last in the midst of a grove of ancient trees they came upon a mirror-like pool.  The magician opened his travelling bag and withdrew a horn cup.  He stooped down and drew some water and handed it to the lad to drink.

As the apprentice sipped the cool water, the mage said, “It is said that the pool is as deep as sea, though it has but little surface.  Drinking of these enchanted waters will allow those who know of them to see deep truths and have even deeper thoughts.”

“Master, if it is so deep, how does it reflect back so?” the boy questioned.

“Why would it not be so?” the wizard asked. “In a shallow pool you can see the stones on the bottom, and the fish darting about.  Can you not?”

“Yes, I suppose you can, ” the boy said, mentally conjuring such an image.

“And a piece of glass is transparent, but if painted on its back, does the darkness not cause it to become a mirror?” the magician coxed.

“Yes, it does,” the boy said. “I can see now that the water must be dark, but does that mean it is necessarily deep?”

The wizard again pulled a horn cup from his traveling bag and handed it to the lad. “Now draw some water from the pool.  Is it opaque or transparent?”

“It is clear.  But that alone does not indicate the pool’s depth,” the boy answered.

“How then might you determine the depth?” the wizard asked.

“I might tie a weight to the end of a rope, and then drop it into the waters to see how much rope it takes to meet the bottom,” the apprentice said thoughtfully.

“Do you have such a rope?” the magician challenged.

“No Master, I do not.”

“What else might you do then to answer your query?” the wise old man asked.

The boy thought for a moment, then without a word, he stepped into the pool and was submerged to his waist.

“It is only a few feet deep,” the boy said triumphantly.

“Did I not tell you that drinking from the pool would give you deep thoughts and insights?  Well done, Lad.”

Padre

Mirror #writephoto

 

 

 

 

The Mercenary

image: DNDspeak

Venar was desparate.  The Bronin Brothers had raided his farm stealing the livestock and taken his daughter hostage.  Venar had been given one week to bring them 500 silver pieces or she would be ravaged and mutilated.

“How can I raise such a sum,” Venar pleaded, “You have taken my animals.  I can’t even bring in the crops without my mule.”

“Why is that my problem Raynin Bronin?” asked dismissively.

“You have seven days,” added his brother, Gerwin.

“How do I know you won’t harm Liza?” Venar questioned.

Five days had passed and he had only been able to secure thirty-four pieces of silver, and that at the cost of his best plough and much of the firewood he had gathered for the winter.   The Bronin’s had his daughter, and even if he tried to rescue her, there was only one of him and three of them.

Finally he had, against his better judgement, decided to go to the Lusty Troll Tavern to seek a mercenary to aid him.  The timber framed building had seen better days and he noticed that plaster was missing in several places on the tavern’s facade.  Inside he found a dingy, single room with sawdust and straw on the floor, all of which was dimly lit by tallow candles.

He hesitantly approached the barman, and explained his plight.

“And how much can you afford to spend for such help?” the tavern-keeper asked.

“Twenty-eight pieces of silver,” Venar said. “But I don’t have it with me,” he added quickly after giving a quick glance at the surrounding drinkers.

“I think you will need the services of ‘R’,” the barman said giving a nodding gesture towards a muscular man at the end of the bar.  The warrior had small cold eyes, and a scar disfigured his left cheek.  The man looked disinterested with the farmer’s presence in the tavern, but gave his attention to slender, blonde woman sitting to his right.  She was attractive, and her hair was pulled back into a braided ponytail.   Venar couldn’t help seeing why she seemed to draw the warrior’s attention.

Pulling his own gaze away from the fine featured young woman, Venar studied the warrior more closely.  Yes, there they are, the farmer thought,  as he counted the six small skull tattoos on the huge warrior’s bicep.  He has killed six men.  Just the kind of fellow I need to defeat, or at least frighten the Bronins.

“How should I approach ‘R’?” Venar asked the inn-keeper.

“Rayna,” shouted the barman.

At this the blonde woman slid off of her stool and approached Venar and the tavern-keeper.

“What is it?” she said as she sized Venar up.

“This Gentleman needs your special kind of assistance,” the barman said with a wink.  “Twenty-five silver for you, and a commission for me.”

Venar at first thought that the tavern-keeper had gotten it all wrong.  He hadn’t come in for that sort of thing, he had a wife at home, and  . . . .  Then his eyes fell on the nineteen small skulls tattooed upon the woman warrior‘s forearm.

Padre

Christine’s Daily Writing Prompt: The Woman Warrior

FOWC with Fandango — Tattoo

 

 

Ursula’s Mission

Castle by Mateusz Michalski

 


She hurried along the path, carrying nothing more than what could hang from her belt or fit in the satchel strapped to her back. She dreaded the long, lonely, and dangerous journey that was surely ahead of her, yet she had no choice. Sighing heavily, she dared to look back one last time at what she was leaving behind. The castle that had been her home looked so beautiful sitting there, perched on a throne of rock and greenery. Such a peaceful scene, with the spring flowers waving to her on a gentle breeze, and the blue of the distant mountains blending into the depths of the sky.

But the serenity of the castle’s surroundings belied the turmoil building within its walls–the ravings of a king slowly succumbing to madness, and the treacherous whisperings of power hungry nobles. There was something else too…a moving shadow that lurked in the bowels of the castle. She had caught glimpses of its movements from the corners of her eyes, and caught whiffs of its scent. Pain…death…malice. Perhaps it was the shadow that was causing the king’s madness, she did not know. She only knew that she had to get away from it–away from him. She hoped one day to return with the power to save him–to save them all. But the road ahead loomed more with uncertainty than promise. Would she survive the journey and find the cure she sought, or would all be lost?

These concerns lingered in Ursula’s mind.  But where should she go first?  Home, her real home, held little prospect for the answers she needed.  After all, it had been twenty-eight years since she left there to become the nurse for the then newborn prince.  They had been happy days when she first arrived, and she found no urge to return to her home city.   Why would she want to, the “Old” king had been kind to her, and Queen Hilda seemed more like a sister than a mistress.  No, her ties with Lintea were too distant for there to be any help there.

It then struck her – Benopor – the ancient centre of her order.  Surely one of the Abbesses or High Sisters would know how to overcome the dark Shadow.  Forty leagues – it was quite a distance for a middle-aged nurse to make on her own.  She had little coin, and no weapons, say for her wits, but it had to be the right destination.

She could not possibly afford the river journey, and the swamp-lands were not practical for her on her own.  The forest path was the only option.  Little did she know that the Shadow too had its eyes on that lonely road, and worse still it was aware of her intentions.

 

Padre

FANTASY ART FRIDAY

The Gateway

Wood, Nature, Tree, Travel, Landscape, Wall, Passage

Image by Gruu from Pixabay

Tegan and Theos cautiously approached the overgrown battlements.  They had seen the disused fortification before on their many trips to collect berries or mushrooms in the forest.  But in the past the heavy bronze clad oaken gates had been tightly shut.  They had heard tales of burly woodsmen who had tried to gain entry to the ancient defenses, only the have their mighty axes dulled, or their hafts snapped by the effort.

Today, however, the gateway lay wide open.  Had something emerged from within? Surely not, for Grandfather said that the doors were already sealed when he was a lad.  But there they were open, almost beckoning.

“Should we go any closer?” twelve-year-old Theos asked.

“What harm can it do if we don’t actually go in?” his fourteen-year-old sister replied.

As they drew closer to the gateway, a warm breeze seemed to emanate from the opening, and the smell of rich spices seemed to be upon it.

“Maybe just a little closer look,” Tegan encouraged.

“But, it might be dangerous,” Theos objected.

“Mum can barely keep us feed.  That’s why we have to search the forest each day,” Tegan said.  Aren’t you tired of mushrooms and wild onions?”

“Yes, but . . .” he trailed off, for his sister had already stepped into the dark recesses of the entry tunnel.

Theos rushed to join her, and found himself in a growing darkness only dim light coming from behind him.  “Teg, Teg where are you?” he called in a panicky voice which echoed down the tunnel.

“Right here,” she called back, “Keep up.”

He took about ten more hurried steps and bumped into to her.

“Watch it,” she snapped.

There suddenly was a sound of a flute or recorder ahead of them, the melody strange and exotic.

“We should go,” Theos insisted.

“Not until we see what’s up there,” she countered and again stepped forward.

Theos desperately reached out and took hold of Tegan’s left hand as they took another twenty or thirty steps into the darkness.

Suddenly there was a bright pinkish light ahead of them, and the tunnel opened into a stylised archway.  Beyond it they could hear the hustle and bustle of a marketplace, rich smells of spices and roasting meats were in the air, which was hot and dry so unlike their forest home.

“Where are we?” Tegan mused, “The gateway is only a hundred feet behind us.”

Unfamiliar voices speaking in some foreign tongue were all around them.  The people were in silken robes and other outlandish garb.

The two stared in wonder.  As they did a woman in long flowing robe of embroidered scarlet approached them.  “Welcome to Arana,” she said in the children’s own language, though it was highly accented. “We have been expecting your arrival.” At that all those nearby gave nodded bows.

imageedit_19_4967548251

image: Padre’s Ramblings

Padre

 

 

Raven-haired Beauty

 

Photo courtesy of DB McNicol via Pixabay

The Ravenia sisters were not the typical village maidens.  Their father, Ravernon, in fact was a great sage and wizard.  Each was considered as beautiful as the other, with jet black hair and movements that were so graceful that they seemed to glide, almost fly across the floor.  There was one odd thing about the sisters, however, they were never observed together.  One might see Hetia or perhaps Metia, but never at the same time.

This did not seem to trouble the many suitors after their affections, however.  Knights, mages, and nobles from throughout the three kingdoms would come to pay court to them.  Some might be disappointed to find one sister, when their desire was for the other, but most remained undaunted as their beauty was almost mythical.

Little did anyone know, that the raven-haired beauties were not what they seemed.  The great Ravernon was widowed before his wife could bear him a child.  In is grief and loneliness he conjured his ‘children’ by converting hatchlings he spied on the battlements below his tall tower.

He was pleased with his efforts, but though his powers were great, he was not strong enough to maintain the two together in human form more than a few hours.  As they grew it became more and more difficult to even achieve this.   On the girls’ seventeenth birthday he made his decision.  Each of his daughters would take her human form for only one day, then her sister would have her turn.

Oh, there were squabbles as to the fairness of the arrangement, especially if a favoured suitor called, but it had its benefits as well.   Often the girls in their winged form would perch on a roof top or overhanging bough and spy on their suitors.  The secrets gathered always gave them the upper hand in their relationships, and more than once avoided potential heart-break as they observed the men’s unfaithfulness before they had become too invested in a suitor.

There was even the day when Sir Tristan was flirting with a buxom wench near the village well, only for the blonde to suddenly take flight after she was showered with foul raven’s droppings as she coyly smiled and twisted her locks to draw the young knight’s interest.

Beware the dark magic of  dark beauty, it may well prove fowl.

Padre

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Sunday Photo Fiction – Aug 18 2019:  Top Picture

Christine’s Daily Writing Prompt: The Beauty Myth

Inspiration Call: Flash Fiction Friday: Bottom Picture