Updated: Sep 24, 2021
Patrick decided that he would assign us secret partners (like a secret Santa exchange) and we would then pick picture prompts from our own Pinterest boards for our secret prompt partners. We all laughed about whether we should pick something that the person would love, something in their preferred genre, OR whether we should choose something entirely opposite from their normal comfort zone. We ended up having so much fun, we think we'll do it again. Each story is below with the person who picked the picture listed after the author.
Ronnie: (Jake picked her picture)
The evening air was cool, the breeze cutting with its chill as a lone black raven flew through the sky. The sun was just setting on the horizon bringing with it a mass of colors that spilled into each other: vibrant reds, fiery oranges, a hint of yellow where the sun remained, and deep crimson turning to purple turning to dark, black night. What remained of the sun tried without success to shine, the last of its light reflecting on the wings of the raven, tinting its black feathers with fire and revealing the raven’s quarry: a small strand of long, black hair held firmly in its beak.
The raven slowly began her descent aiming for the woodland’s edge as the sky above grew ever darker. She navigated through the trees easily, passing beneath the canopy and avoiding the heavy growth of leaves and branches. She flew deeper in, passing a tree charred and long dead with a discarded hangman’s noose still attached to its lowest limb. The tree, while long dead, looked alive as if the souls of those who’d perished still clung to it preserving the life it had once had. The raven circled the tree once and then continued its flight, deeper and deeper in, until it reached the opening of a cave, its interior emitting a warm, orange glow.
Diving for the mouth of the cave, it soared inward as it had many times before. The sound of chatter and laughter echoed from within. The raven continued through the tunnel until it widened to another opening within the interior. As it approached the doorway, it landed, transforming into a striking woman. She was thin and clothed in a dark grey dress trimmed with black raven feathers. Her hair was a wild mane of black, braided and dreadlocked, slowly transforming into gray and white. She was adorned with leather bracelets and arm bands, painted with strange stripes and symbols on her arms. Her forehead had been smeared with black as though with ash from the cold remains of a fire, a single stripe running down her forehead to her chin. Her eyes, the lids covered in the dark ash, shone bright green and a warm smile arrived on her lips. In her hands, she clutched her souvenir: the black hair.
The voices within the chamber grew hushed and the woman stepped inward.
“Nerissa’s back,” a young voice yelled, and suddenly the woman called Nerissa was enveloped in an embrace by a young boy no older than 5. He was dressed similarly to Nerissa: gray clothes adorned with feathers. His small arms, also painted with charcoal lines, wrapped strongly around Nerissa’s neck. She held him tightly against her in a loving embrace. “Giacomo, my little chick, have you behaved yourself?” He loosened his grip on Nerissa’s neck and smiled up at her. Along his neck and around his head, the skulls of ravens hung on bands. He looked almost angelic, if not for his strange decor and impish grin.
The other three children stood and waited, each one of varying ages, two girls and one more boy. They too were adorned in grey, their faces and arms painted with soot, and, on each one leather bands and bracelets lined their wrists and arms.
“My little birds,” Nerissa said holding onto Giacomo, “I have it!” Triumphantly, she held aloft the almost invisible hair. “Come, let us prepare the ritual.”
Immediately, the children obeyed, each scattering to a different part of the cavern. Nerissa released the young Giacomo, and he too scattered about to retrieve an element of the ritual. One by one they gathered their items and met up in the center of the cavern. They held bowls containing elements ground into grains of bright red, yellow, and orange, the bones of some small, long-dead creature, and a pile of raven’s feathers. Nerissa lowered herself to sit on the floor and with her nail carved a deep sigil into the ground. Her blood ran down her fingers, staining the design, a circle with a series of spokes radiating from the center, with the viscous liquid.
“Come, children, place the elements at the end of each of the spokes. I will do the rest.”
The children obeyed, laying down their bowls of dust and bones and feathers where each spoke met the edge of the circle. Nerissa patted the head of the older boy with her bloodied hand, leaving it stained red. She reached into the bowl of red dust and sprinkled it into a pit at her feet. She traced the lines of the circle with the dust until the gorge she had dug now shone crimson. The children gathered around her, watching her with interest, as she muttered a few words under her breath. Then, taking the strand of hair, she kissed it and with a quick flick of her hand threw it into the center of the circle. The symbol glowed and sparked with fire, a slow flame rising from the center and a flash of red smoke snaking above it. Nerissa’s eyes glowed green, a content smile making its home on her face while the children stared deeply into the red flame.
After some time, she took a breath. “We’ve freed another one, my young ones. Another soul can now go home.”
Beyond the cave, a warm, red light slowly engulfed a charred, black tree and pierced the pitch black darkness of the surrounding forest. A hangman’s noose, long forgotten on the lowest hanging branch, swayed slowly to and fro.
Britney: (Andrea picked my picture)
And a one, and a two, and a one, two, three, four.
The beat jaunted rhythmically through her body. She tapped a red sneaker in time to the music, her head nodding just slightly, causing the headphone cord to tap gently against her chin on the offbeats. Her dusty lips pursed together in a dainty bow as her hair slammed against her face and then flew back again, caught in the yellow scrunchy.
It was a shame she'd wrecked here, she thought with regret and wrinkled her brow. It wasn't a great place to ride in the best of circumstances, and this was certainly not those. Not only that, but her the knee propping her up on the concrete was starting to ache. Of all days to wear her mini shorts and cutest leather top...
As the radioactive particles rained down and thudded against her stone shield, she considered. Sure, it wasn't the worst situation she'd been in - there had been that time in the oceanic rift on the sinking freighter for instance - but the radiation was starting to affect her human organs, and who wants that? No sane person would continue on in pure human form, right? Even though she expected more of herself...she heaved a great sigh and cricked her neck to the side in a swift jerk.
Stone plates erupted out of nowhere it seemed to coat her skin, starting at her fingertips and left toes. She stopped the stone meld transformation when her attack arm and shield leg were sufficiently covered: no need to go overboard, after all. She'd be pretty toast after this partial meld, and she had things to do tomorrow.
Thinking of her schedule brought another deep sigh gusting from her chest. She peaked around her shield, scooting another meter closer to her demolished bike, and got a good look at the guns.
They weren't going to stop. Allowing herself a brief pause to simply bop to the bass, she closed her eyes and gave her body a little shake to work out the kinks.
As the song ended, she tensed. The next song was Val's. Her mild brown eyes narrowed into slits, and if one had looked closely enough, they may have noticed a bright blue spark leap from them.
A push from her red sneakered foot launched her forward, her shield taking the hits from the particles that burst into blue flame. Pumping her mismatched stone and flesh legs, she allowed her heart to course the blood and magic faster...faster...faster.
Somehow she always forgot how much she loved the feeling of shooting through the air, barely touching the ground, nothing existing in the moment but the movement, the motion, the target. Invisible but for a blue streak across the ground for a few bare seconds, she tasted air and purity and fierce joy. Then, all too soon and almost too late, she was on the rad-cannons, smashing them down to their atoms with her stone fist. Next moment she'd rocketed into the air and come down again, too quickly to see, her rock foot disintegrating the last cannon, her shield twirling with dizzying speed, splitting guns into scattered metal shards, her fist sweeping away the swords that rushed toward her. When she fixed her glowing eyes on the ones wielding the weapons, they fled or melted - their choice. She thought it kind to always give the enemy their choice. After all, who knew how many of them were deceived into joining up? More than she'd know, she was sure. In fact, Val had said...
It was time to take out their station and then continue on to her scheduled Friday night fun. She smashed one last gun to smithereens, effectively halting the rad-parts downpour. The metal building stood sweltering in the evening sunset. One good kick dented the side enough for her fist to rip out the side, giving her a good handhold to grab, yank, and finish the job. The stunned officers inside took one look at her bright yellow top, white headphones, and glowing eyes, and bellowed, either choosing to rush her in rage or flee in fear. The angry ones she sent flying, irreparably damaged. The fearful ones she let go in pity, merely crumpling a few tables into steel balls and tossing the remains after their fleeing forms.
That should fix them - for a few weeks anyway. She grabbed the flimsy tablets that would contain battle plans and stuck them in her back pocket. As the battlefield quieted, Val's song ended, and the fierce glow in her eyes faded back to mild brown. She carefully shrugged her shoulders back in self-evaluation.
Nothing broken, all stone intact. With a hiss of air through her teeth, her rocky meld disappeared, leaving pink, raw-looking skin behind. She checked it ruefully and scanned the field for transport. The trucks were smashed with the remains of two of the cannons. They hadn't brought hovercraft. There was no way she was getting to the rendezvous in time. Her shorts were shredded and the new leather jacket was slightly melted in spots from the stone meld.
She closed her eyes and let her head fall back in resignation as the sun sank behind the horizon.
She supposed it was just as well. This date was doomed from the beginning. No one could beat out Val in her stony heart.
She just wasn't over him yet.
With a shrug of her shoulders, she tied her sneakers in a secure knot and set off toward the sunken sun, nodding in time to the music.
Andrea: (Amanda picked her picture)
Mirielda headed the duo through the forest maze, determination in her every step.
Now that her father was sick and she was eyed as next for the throne, a fire had been ignited in her belly. She only hoped to keep the flame fed.
"This is insanity," Othfer grumbled as he followed close behind. He kept his arrows in their quiver but held his bow in his hand. "So much time...wasted."
The dwarf, although courageous, had a propensity for distrust. Especially when it came to things unseen.
"Some support would be nice," Mirielda snipped without pause. "You don't know the possibilities..."
"You don't know the dangers," Othfer interrupted in a low voice, glancing behind as though a creature of the wood might be stalking them. "Centaurs, nymphs, goblins..." he spat as if the names left acid in his mouth. "And those are the risks we know of."
Mirielda ground her teeth. "The diviner wouldn't have made the promise unless she knew we'd be safe. This is important."
Othfer huffed. "Wouldn't be the first lie from a witch's mouth."
"She's not a witch!" she argued. "She's..."
"A diviner," Othfer muttered with a long-suffering nod. "I know, I know. It's just...I don't know if your vision has been the clearest of late."
Mirielda frowned and held her tongue before thinking and responding with a strained question. "What do you mean?"
The dwarf sighed. "You know what I mean. You're...focused on the wrong thing." He was trying to be delicate but words were not his trade. "If you want to prove yourself a queen, wandering aimlessly through the forest is not the way to do it."
She felt her mouth twitch involuntarily. "I'm not here to prove anything. I am keeping my kingdom safe by expelling a possible threat."
"And heaven forbid you send armed soldiers," Othfer said without hiding the sarcasm. "Instead you feel the need to go yourself and drag along your best friend."
Mirielda laughed before casting a playful smirk. "Best friend, huh?"
They continued to navigate their way through the woods before the trees began showing subtle change. Instead of appearing lively and green, these trees were ancient and dark. Vines snaked up the trunks and choked out those not strong enough, leaving wide, mangled trees, distorted by time. They were the gods of this forest.
"This place is unholy," Othfer breathed reflexively as he looked upwards. The trees formed a thick barrier that the sun couldn't even pierce.
Mirielda swallowed her fear.
In the midst of the elder trees, a structure appeared. At first glance, Mirielda thought it was nothing but a rock structure. But as they pursued the path, the structure became clearer and revealed itself to be the lost ruins of some former building.
"A small castle?" Othfer questioned as they approached.
"Maybe a well house?" Mirielda proposed.
"You don't suppose this is what we're looking for, do you?" the dwarf asked with a wince. If this is what a witch considered a threat, he wanted someone to repay him for the hours he spent wandering the woods.
"Let's see," Mirielda said resolutely before reached for the rotted door.
"Wait!" Othfer shouted as he snatched Mirielda's hand. "You don't know what's in there!"
She glared at him in disbelief. "That's exactly the point," she replied. "We have to do this or something bad might happen."
"Something bad MIGHT happen?!" Othfer repeated. "You don't..."
Before the argument continued, Mirielda grabbed the door and forced it open. Rotted wood crumbled away in an unceremonious flurry.
"We don't know," she said firmly. "That's why we're here."
She stepped into the darkness, finding vague shapes outlined by the dim light. To her left was a mirror and directly above the circular structure was an opening to the sky.
Othfer cautiously moved inside when Mirielda began moving the mirror until it lined up with a series of mirrors that transported the light above to the entire inside. The filtered, milky light revealed something like a wide well in the floor surrounded by ornate brick. A pulley system using chains lined the wall and entered the water at oblique angles.
"What...is it?" Othfer asked hesitantly, an arrow now held to his bow.
Mirielda stepped around the well of black water while studying the mysterious system.
"This must be it," she said quietly. "This is what we need."
She eyed a crank on the opposite wall and reached for it before Othfer could argue otherwise.
Mirielda strained but managed to crank the pulley system to life. Loud squealing from the stubborn chains sounded as rust metal sprang to life and began lifting something out of the water.
"Wait, what are you doing?" Othfer asked. "This could be what the witch told us to avoid. Did you ever think of that?"
"And what if this is what we're supposed to do?" Mirielda's shouted over the noise.
A loud splash announced a figure being lifted from the dark waters.
Both observers stared in silence as a human secured to a metal frame was freed from the water and cast into the light. Once the frame was completely revealed, Mirielda locked the crank into place and joined Othfer in staring at their discovery.
"What is it?" Othfer asked quietly, as if afraid of disturbing the motionless figure.
"I...don't know," Mirielda admitted.
The human was male and had clearly suffered some level of decomposition while under the water. But not as much as would be expected. The skin was white and waxy and what thin clothes he had were in tattered shreds. If he had had any hair, it had fallen off, leaving an only vaguely human creature with pale skin stretched over a skeletal frame. The thick chains wrapping him tight to the frame was almost mocking to the corpse, but indicated someone's very real fear.
Mirielda barely worded her question when the corpse took a shuddering gasp of life. The ribcage expanded, making the whole body quiver. Both she and the dwarf jumped back in fear.
Pale eyes blinked open, glowing sickly in the dim light. They groggily searched their surroundings before focusing on the pair in the doorway. The body sucked in another gasp, the sound of water gurgling in newfound lungs.
Cautiously, Mirielda freed her short sword and held it up. Though it hardly seemed necessary.
"What are you?" she asked, trying to sound like the queen she needed to be.
The eyes of the dead man blinked away excess water with a puzzled expression, as if it were her who was out of place.
"Well?" Othfer barked. "Can you speak?"
With a wince, the man peeled apart his lips and spit out a mouthful of water.
"I can...speak," he said in a hoarse mumble
Mirielda took pause. Unless she was mistaken, more flesh had appeared under his skin.
"What are you?" She repeated. "Why are you...here?" She used her sword to gesture towards the well.
The man casually glanced down at the watery prison as if he were seeing it for the first time.
"A misunderstanding," he replied.
Othfer scoffed. "A misunderstanding by whom?"
The man worked his neck and flexed his arms. Now Mirielda was certain he was gaining life by the minute. The chains were taunt under his strain.
"People with small minds," he said. "Short memories."
"Uh huh," Othfer said quietly.
"Why might someone tell us to find you?" Mirielda asked, trying to stick to the heart of the matter. "WHAT are you?"
"It depends," the man replied, "what are you?"
Othfer cursed before raising an arrow. "Answer the bloody question!"
The man didn't seem fazed, merely confused by the reaction. He furrowed his brow and took a steady breath. "A vloek," he said plainly. "Do you know what that is?"
Mirielda didn't appreciate the patronizing tone. "We can put you right back where we found you if you'd like."
Again, he didn't react to the threat and stared back with pointed, icy focus.
"Vloek?" Othfer repeated. "As in...?"
A cruel smile stretched across the man's face as he nodded slowly. "So you know?"
Othfer lowered his bow and grabbed Mirielda's wrist. "We have to go."
She shook out of his grip. "No! Not until you tell me what's going on!"
The man, called a vloek, scrunched his face. "I smell...royal blood."
Mirielda's breath caught in her throat.
"What year is it?" he asked, glancing around the inside of the tower.
Mirielda shook her head and pointed her blade at his chest. "Why were we told to find you?"
He narrowed his eyes. "You don't know. A vloek is the greatest curse upon humanity. Tell me, would you want to live forever?"
Mirielda swallowed. "I can't say I would."
He nodded and pulled against the chains around his legs. "And that scares people and makes them do things..." he glanced down at his prison. "Crazy things."
"Appropriate measures is more like it," Othfer spat.
Suddenly, a great light flared within the man's eyes and his lips parted to reveal sharpened teeth. Mirielda stumbled back, holding her sword in both hands while Othfer tried to shield her with his short body.
In one fluid motion, the vloek broke his chains with scales piercing through skin. Bones shifted and grew to create another body - another form. Wings stretched out of his back and cut through the metal restraints. A horrid growl shook the entire tower as the creature used clawed feet to push off the brick and chains and leap upwards. Mirrors shattered and stone crumbled until the dragon breached the window above and leaped into the sky.
Below, Othfer and Mirielda quivered under crumbling rubble. They ran out of the tower in time to see the long figure of the vloek turned dragon disappear above the trees and into the clouds.
"What have we done?" Othfer asked, his voice shaken.
"We were supposed to," Mirielda said quietly, horror etched into her face. "I was...I was supposed to..."
"We were supposed to kill him..."
Patrick: (Ronnie picked his picture)
Crimson knight, ichor Divine,
Bind thy heart and steal thy soul.
Hold thou fast, by strength Divine.
Peril and darkness shroud thy goal.
Blind, the daughter of the gods
See her not what lies before.
Be her sight, forbid it, gods
That her foot slip evermore.
Crimson eyes and porcine snout;
Bind her fast with silver thread.
Hold it fast! Danger’s about
Seek to free and lift its head
Through the forest’s tallest trees,
Stretching, praying toward the sky,
Whipped with wind like living seas,
None shall note your passing by.
Crimson knight, ichor Divine,
Bind thy heart and steal thy soul.
Hold thou fast, by strength Divine.
Peril and darkness shroud thy goal.
Beauty as befits the gods
Holds a terror long unseen.
Eyes and mind close tight. The gods
Will reward the one that’s keen.
End of all that is and was
And of all that might have come
She wilt be, and all because
Some hate and malice once was done.
To the golden leaves tread on
Till thy feet can tread no more.
Rest then by the silent pond
Waiting on the grassy shore.
Crimson knight, ichor Divine,
Bind thy heart and steal thy soul.
Hold thou fast, by strength Divine.
Peril and darkness shroud thy goal.
Kiss the sun, praise the gods
Shed a tear, embrace the stars.
Ye were chosen by the gods.
Mock the blood, the wounds, the scars.
Choose now who thou wills to be,
Be ye savior, kindly knight.
Know that should thou fail or flee,
All should bring thee deadly fright.
But should thou instead choose love,
All shall smile on thee, but more,
Yes, much more, with sweetest love,
She whose troubled soul you bore.
Amanda: (Patrick picked her picture)
“Elissa, did you see the public notice in the square? Who do you think will be selected this year?” Romae asks with a nervous glance.
“I do not know,” I say. “Whomever it is should be prepared. I’ve been to the festival, and a joyous occasion it is not.” As we walk to the town square, a crowd gathers together around the central podium. Mayor Griessmann addresses the crown.
“Well, I bid you all a good day but bring unfortunate news. The conscriptions have been sent from Central Dismyra. The tournament will take place on Graveman’s Eve. The ballots have been cast for this year’s participant from Vayrn.” The mayor begins to spin the tumbler that contains the names of all citizens of Varyn between the ages of 18-60.
Romae leans over to me and whispers, “Why Graveman’s eve? The tournament is always held in the spring, this is most absurd.”
Chuckling to myself I respond, “Do you not remember the histories? Ailstyr Graveman is a legend among gunslingers. That date was named after his final match before he retired. One of the few to make it through his career. This will not be just any tournament. Rumor has it that they are bringing back the duel.”
Romae gasps, “The duel? Seriously, is this why they are conscripting this year? Surely the healers will make sure everyone survives.”
I shake my head, “That is not the feeling I have gathered. The healers cannot repair everything. Some wounds are just too bad.” The tumbler stops and Mayor Griessmann selects the ballot from the tumbler. “This year’s proud champion from Vayrn is Elissa Stone.”
Romae shrieks in terror and screams, "No! This cannot be happening. The ballot is wrong, read it again.” Tears are streaming down her face as she clutches my arm.
“It is all right, Romae, who better to enter the duel than a trained duelist? I will be fine, and you will be singing stories about this by the next fortnight.” I make my way up to the podium and Mayor Griessmann hands me the conscription notice.
“Well, uh-, good luck Elissa. We will be counting on you to bring back a win.” He awkwardly pats my shoulder.
I glance at his arm with disdain. “Do not worry, Mayor, we all know you rigged this ballot so you could get rid of me.” I don't bother to lower my voice. “It is no secret that you have been trying to run me off for the last year. I hope, for your sake, that you wake up and do what is best for this town. If you actually read the conscription notice, you would have never selected me for the champion. When I win, I will be coming for you.” I casually walk off the stage and make the long trek back to my cabin just on the outskirts of town. Romae chases after me.
“What do you mean the ballots were rigged?” I look over to Romae when she catches up.
“It is no secret that your father despises me. He feels like I am a bad influence on his daughter. Filling her head with silly things that are below her station.” Romae snorts.
“Bah! You are the only one who treats me like a real person and not a porcelain doll who needs to be shielded from her own shadow. What will Travers say?”
“I say what I’ve always said, shoot straight and shoot true,” says Travers as we walk up on my porch.
“I have to leave tonight to make it to the tournament. Watch over Romae and the others. I will be back when the tournament is over.”
After a long train ride, I reach the Bookman’s in Central Dismyra. I enter the stone building and am instantly hit with the smell of alcohol. Great, let’s get all the people drunk and give them a gun. This is a recipe for disaster. I make my way to the Booker. He glances at me and sneers, “What are you doing here. This ain’t no place for a lass, especially one who looks old and weathered.” He snorts at his own joke.
“It isn’t your place to judge, Booker. Don’t let the white hair and leathered skin fool you: I’m the best shot in this place.” I hand over my conscription and he glances at the seal.
“Vayrn, huh. Didn’t think any of yins knew what a gun was, let alone what end to shoot from.”
I roll my eye at him. “You’d be surprised what I know. Would you like to test your theory?” I swing the sides of my jacket open, ready to draw.
“Now, now, let’s not be hasty, I was just foolin’ ya,” he gulps and writes my name on the list. “You’re in room one-oh-five. The tourney begins at dawn. Good luck, lass.”
I take the key and make my way to room 105. Well if this isn’t an omen, I don’t know what is. As I glance around the sparse but clean room, I notice a symbol carved into the wall. It is a rectangle with an arc on the top and a scripted AG carved in the center. Huh, I guess Graveman really did stay here, or someone was wanting to think he did. I lie down on the bed and try to sleep.
I wake early the next morning before the others and make my way to the center room. I take a seat in the back corner and watch as all the other conscriptors made their way into the room. Well, it seems like this could get interesting. Most districts sent their warriors.
“All right you lot, down to the pit we go,” says the Booker. As we make our way to the lower level, the stands start to fill with excited townsfolk.
I really hope these people know what they are about to watch. I think to myself.
The Proprietor stands to address the crowd. “Good morning lads and lasses. This year the tournament is in honor of the great Ailstyr Graveman. As such we have brought back the duel!” The crowd gasps and claps with excitement. “Now we will have 4 brackets and the winner in each bracket will face off in a semi-final. The final two contestants will compete in the finals. Remember this is a duel. All rules regarding a duel shall be in place.”
“First to compete, Rick from Bartos and Elissa from Varyn,“ announces the Proprietor. I take my place on the center circle and spin on my heels. “On my count begin your pace,” says the Booker. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. I turn and fire a clean shot hitting Rick dead center mass. He drops instantly as I holster my pistol. “Round one goes to Varyn.” The crowd gasps as the healers try unsuccessfully to bring Rick back to consciousness. I move to the holding tank to await the next round. The champions from Vikots, Evyrn, and Mikatos.
“On to the semi-final round we have Elissa from Vyrn and Mikhael from Viktos.” I take my place on the center circle and wait for the count. When the Booker calls “ten,”. I turn and fire my weapon hitting Mikhael dead center mass. I return to the holding tank. The Champion from Mikatos returns. “Looks like it’s you and me from the final,” the Mikatos champion says to me.
“So it appears,” I answer.
“The final round we have Reaver from Mikatos and Elissa from Vyrn.” I again take my place on the center circle and wait for the count. I turn and fire my weapon, hitting Reaver in the heart and between the eyes. “We have a winner. Elissa from Vayrn. Congratulations to you. We have not had a winner from Vayrn since the great Ailstyr Graveman himself,” says the Proprietor. I nod my head and take my winnings. “What will you do with your winnings?” asks the Proprietor.
I look him in the eye and say, “go home and live in peace.”
I board the first train home and walk up the steps to my cabin. Travers walks out and stands on the porch.
“Well?” he says.
“I did just like you taught me, Pops: aim straight and shoot true. They never stood a chance.”
He smiles at me, “Well, you were taught by a legend.”
I smile back. "Never forget I retired you, old man. If they knew who you were, they never would have sent me.”
Travers smiles once again, “True, now about that Mayor. I think it’s time to bring Ailstyr Graveman back to life.”
Jake: (I picked his picture)
Arabelle walked through the woods, glancing backwards at her feline familiar, Constance, stalking quietly behind her. Arabelle’s weekly stroll through the woods to gather herbs and ingredients for the townsfolk had been quite uneventful thus far. Her eyes shot overhead. Thin streams of sunlight penetrated the canopy of taller trees as the leafless smaller trees reached and curled up them. Arabelle began digging through her bag, going through a checklist in her head. Echinacea. Feverfew. Chamomile. Should make sure to find some gingko leaves for Tomas. The poor boy still has trouble breathing some days.
Arabelle heard a hiss from up ahead and noticed that Constance was not within her vision. What has she gotten herself into now? Arabella lifted her long red skirt and followed the Constance’s ever pleasant hissing. Passing gnarly trees into a small clearing, she found Constance standing warily, her back hunched, while the rest of her stood still. There lying on the grass was a small, black-scaled reptilian creature, not much bigger than Constance.
“A reptile? Don’t see many of those this far north,” Arabelle pondered, passing by Constance to approach the motionless creature. Upon closer inspection, Arabelle noticed a small stream of crimson, pouring from between the scales on the left side of its neck. “The poor creature is hurt. Luckily it’s still breathing.” Arabelle knelt beside it as Constance circled around to the side opposite her patron.
“Mrrrooow,” Constance uttered. Arabelle raised her head to peer at her familiar. Constance typically didn’t utter those kinds of noises unless she thought something was wrong or peculiar. Constance was sitting, holding her right paw outward to Arabelle.
“Is there something even more peculiar that you can see, Constance?”
Arabella placed her hand beneath Constance’s paw, palm to pad. Arabelle’s vision blurred then blacked out, reappearing a moment later, but looking at herself. Now peering through the eyes of Constance, the cat looked down at the reptile.
The beast had an aura about it in Constance’s vision. Spiritual energy pulsed from it, unlike that of any normal animal.
“I’ve only seen magic pulsing like this off of another witch’s familiar,” Arabelle heard her own voice, but not from within her head, but from Constance’s ears. Arabelle removed her hand from the paw. Her vision blurred, blacking out, and then reappearing within her own. “If this is someone’s familiar, they must not be too far off.” Arabelle began digging her hands underneath the familiar’s body. Its scales were so different from Constance’s soft, dark grey fur. The witch hauled the familiar carefully into her arms. “The owner may be around and hurt as well,” Arabella began.
Suddenly Arabelle heard multiple steps to the east of herself, breaking branch and crushing grass loudly underneath them. She stood behind a twisted tree trunk, peering around it. There she saw three people, wearing black shirts over breastplates, black pants, leather boots, and black cloaks over all that. Arabelle also noticed the rapiers hilted on their belts and the pin on their overshirts: that of a golden sunrise over the horizon.
“Inquisitors,” Arabella gasped quietly.
“The abomination is here somewhere!” one of them grunted. A man, with a deep gravelly voice.
Are they searching for you? Arabelle peered down the reptile in her arms. Dawn be blighted. Arabelle turned on her heel and darted through the woods at a quick pace, glancing back occasionally to make sure Constance was following. She was, like the ever dutiful familiar she was.
I can’t let those damnable inquisitors get their hands on you. I’ll bring you back to my hut, patch you up nicely and then we’ll head out to look for your patron. Arabella spoke in her head to the familiar in her arms to no reply. I will keep your safe. I will make sure no one hurts you, Constance, or myself.