Shimmer – #writephoto

On Ladd’s family’s first night at their hut after he left for London to apprenticeship with the small man, there was a sense of emptiness, but a lot of activity. Archer and Knowledge knew Mercy would be inconsolable without her brother. Archer arranged, with Lord Percival, to provide Mercy with a small spaniel dog to be her companion. He brought home the puppy that night. Mercy was wild with pleasure but only after she had talked with Knowledge who reassured her that Ladd would be home and would still be her brother. Mercy didn’t mention her encounter with her betrothed, Smith, to her mother.

While Mercy played with her new puppy, Knowledge took Archer aside since they needed to have a conversation. About that time, Smith, Mercy’s betrothed, walked up and asked to speak with Archer. Archer agreed and Knowledge withdrew to the hut, feeling as if she and her husband never had a moment to speak in private.

“Archer, I would like to speak to you about Mercy,” Smith began.

“What about her, Smith?”

“I know she is dreadfully upset that Ladd has gone off to make his way. I would like to help her. I would like to go ahead and seal our union, marry Mercy,” Smith said.

Archer stared at the younger man for a few seconds and then said, “Smith, I know you are from a different land, but our custom in Farnsworth is for our young girls to remain betrothed for a year or even two. Mercy is too young and inexperienced to marry. You’ve only been betrothed a few months.”

There was something about Archer that made Smith not question him.

Archer went on, “I’m still raising Mercy. She’s only a child. I think I can comfort her quite well. Now, good evening.”

Archer turned and walked toward the hut and Smith had no choice but to leave. He was very unhappy. Archer told Mercy to bring her new puppy and come in with him since it was her bedtime. He had prepared a bed for the puppy by Mercy’s bed, much to her delight.

After Mercy went to bed, Knowledge told Archer she had to speak with him and he agreed. They went outside the hut and sat down in two chairs Knowledge always kept there for the family or guests.

“Archer, our family is about to expand.”

Archer looked at Knowledge quizzically.

“What do you mean?”

“I am with child, probably about three or four months along, Archer.”

“Knowledge,” Archer cried out. “How wonderful! I had thought our family was probably complete.”

“I’m so glad you’re happy about it. I was afraid you’d be upset,” Knowledge said.

“I am overcome with happiness, my love,” Archer said.

Knowledge, being very relieved, told Archer there was something else she needed to discuss.

“It’s been years since we’ve discussed this, Archer. There has been no reason until now…..and Ladd. Do you remember my grandmama? You met her and we talked about her.”

Archer laughed and said, “You mean one of the most famous witches ever to live in England? How could I possibly forget your Grandmama? You also got your beauty from her.”

“Thank you, Archer. I don’t think you’re quite making the connection.”

Before Archer could speak, there was a roll of thunder and the air shimmered in front of them. There, in the shimmer, was a beautiful old woman smiling at the couple.

“Hello my darling granddaughter.”

“Grandmama, you’ve come to visit,” Knowledge cried.

“Only for a moment. My powers are not what they used to be. I have to make things clear to your young man.”

“Hello, Archer. Is your head made of wood, my son? Ladd has just felt the calling to be a sorcerer. What, pray tell, am I?”

Archer said, “Because you were a witch…..is that why……I see…..that’s why Ladd was chosen?”

“It’s in his heritage, in his genes,” the old woman replied. “Of course it’s why he was chosen. He already has the power. He just doesn’t know it.”

Her image was fading and she quickly said goodbye and was gone.

Knowledge remarked, laughing, “I can’t believe she can still do that. She has been dead for so long now.”

“Now I understand about Ladd,” Archer said.

An excerpt

Thank you, Sue!

Afar – #writephoto

After Ladd left home with the small man, Knowledge went back to her job for the day. She was in the spinning room that day with some of the other women. They were sharing cotton and wool fabric and making clothing for their families. After work, Knowledge couldn’t get her mind off her family, so she took a walk to one of the hills surrounding Farnsworth. She stared in the direction of London, where Ladd would eventually arrive. She wished she could see him from afar.

Her daughter, Mercy, was taking Ladd’s departure particularly hard. She saw the tears in Mercy’s eyes during their goodbyes to Ladd. She would speak with Mercy tonight. What she didn’t know was that Mercy had had a difficult afternoon.

Mercy, Ladd’s 12-year old sister, cried all day the day Ladd left for his apprenticeship in wizardry In London. The two children had been close all of Mercy’s life. Ladd protected her. They shared their food. Ladd even gave her part of his food when times were lean for the family. She felt lost without him and could hardly believe she wouldn’t see him for a year. She had to go back to work, and she walked slowly and tearfully toward the Lord’s gardens.

Mercy heard someone running up behind her and she stopped and turned. It was Smith, who she would soon marry. She collapsed on the ground, sobbing.

“Oh, Smith, Ladd is gone to the city. I’m fearful I will never see him again,” Mercy cried.

Smith grabbed Mercy’s shoulders and held her at arm’s length.

“Your father just told me about Ladd’s apprenticeship. He thought I could, perhaps, comfort you.”

“No one can comfort me, Smith. My brother is gone. For a year.”

“Mercy, your brother is a man now. He has to make his own way,” Smith replied.

Ladd’s family had discussed, before he left, that they would not talk to the other villagers about his actual apprenticeship in wizardry. Mercy didn’t know if Smith knew this since she and Smith had not yet married.

Smith walked with Mercy to the Lord’s gardens, trying to comfort her. Mercy’s tears flowed freely. Smith stopped along the path and gently stopped Mercy.

“Mercy, this is a difficult time for you. Let me make it easier. We are to marry. Let’s go ahead and create our union.”

Mercy said, “You will have to ask my father. He takes care of such things.”

She desperately wanted to say no to Smith, but it was not her place. Smith was not a boy, but an older man. She did not love him. She wanted to love her husband.

“I already have a hut for us. It’s much like your parents’ hut. It has two nice rooms. I will make it as nice for you as I can, and I will treat you as if you were the Queen.”

Smith’s statement made Mercy smile.

“I will miss my parents, Smith,” Mercy said.

“My hut is near Lord Percival’s home. It’s only across the village green. You can see your parents as much as you desire, Mercy.”

“Smith, you are very nice,” said Mercy.

Smith smiled. “I’m going to speak with your father.”

Mercy didn’t comment. She walked on to the gardens and went back to work. Now she was crying both about Ladd and about her soon-to-be marriage.

 

Thanks, Sue!

Glow – Walk Toward the Light – #writephoto

93E57F4E-1DB4-41AE-B885-99D0057775D3

The door of the hut where Ladd lived with his family faced east. Dawn broke soon after Archer, Knowledge, and Mercy left for work and Ladd still sat in the straight chair in front of the fire. He noticed Cat, with the red eyes, had come in and taken a seat in front of the fire. Behind Cat, there came a small man. He stood at the doorway looking at Ladd with the glow of the sunlight diffused behind him.

“Good day, Ladd,” the small man said.

“Hullo. Do I know you?”

“No, but you will. I was sent by the Grand Wizard.”

Ladd jumped up, out of his chair, immediately.

“You will be my apprentice in my grocery shop in London. There you will learn the trade of shopkeeping. You will also learn the craft of wizardry for the benefit of the citizens of this village to which you will return.”

Ladd studied the small man as he spoke. He didn’t look like a wizard. He had short gray hair and a gray beard, with sparkling blue eyes. The glow of the rising sun surrounded him. He was slightly built, not as tall as Ladd.

The small man continued, “I know you don’t want to be a wizard. What you don’t know yet is that your background made it your destiny. Now gather your things and we will go see your family so you can say goodbye for now. Have you had breakfast?

“Yes,” Ladd said.

“I am going to eat while you get ready. Do you have mead?”

Ladd pointed out the mead to the small man and started to gather his things. Ladd didn’t take very much. Shortly, the two of them left, along with Cat, to find his family so he could say his goodbye’s.

Ladd and the small man ran into Knowledge right outside the door of the hut as she returned from her talk with Healer. The small man told Knowledge who he was and that he would be leaving with Ladd to begin Ladd’s apprenticeship. Knowledge asked him to wait while she found the rest of the family so they could say goodbye. As she said that, Archer walked up.

“What’s going on here?” Archer asked.

Knowledge replied, “This man was sent by the Grand Wizard to pick up Ladd. Ladd will be his apprentice in London. He will learn to be a shopkeeper as well as receive training in wizardry.”

“When will Ladd be allowed to return to us?” Archer asked.

The small man replied, “Within one year, sir. He will then take up the position as the wizard in the village. He may also want to keep a small shop here.”

Archer said, “This will be a loss for our family. I go out on the hunt often. I rely on Ladd to protect the family while I am gone. He is helpful in providing food for the women.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I serve at the pleasure of the Grand Wizard.”

“Then I don’t suppose we have any recourse,” Archer said.

The family came together with hugs and murmurs of good wishes and love. In a few moments, the small man and Ladd walked from the village as Ladd turned around and waved to his loved ones. Cat jumped up on his shoulder to get a ride.

Glass – #writephoto

 

As Ladd and the small man made their way toward London, they stopped to sleep at dusk at whatever shelter they could find. The first night on the road found them by a lake with water so still it looked like glass. There was a small shelter there that someone, probably another traveler, had built out of limbs and mud. It was enough to keep them out of the weather and away from the wild beasts. The small man decided to stop there for the night.

After they laid down their things, the small man instructed Ladd to gather some leaves to make them softer beds. The leaves from the past fall were still on the ground. Ladd went about the business of gathering leaves while the small man built a fire. Dark had not yet fallen.

The small man went to Ladd and asked him to follow him. Ladd stopped leaf-gathering and followed the man. He led him to the water’s edge and sat down. He motioned for the boy to sit down beside him.

“Have you ever seen a looking glass?” the small man asked the boy.

“Oh yes,” Ladd replied. “The mother of my friend from home has one.”

”Looking glasses are important in your job as a wizard,” said the small man. “They allow you to see through them to the future and in front of them to the past.’

Ladd just stared at him.

“I’ll give you a magic lesson,” the small man said, smiling. “First, we have to cast a circle. The circle will keep the evil powers out and keep us safe inside.”

With that, the small man picked up a stick and drew an oval in the sand around them. He then sat very still with his head bowed. He appeared to disappear deep inside himself. He opened his eyes, raised both arms and pointed out at the lake. Ladd saw that his eyes had turned the color of the lake.

In his hands, he had pieces of lake glass he had picked up, clear in one hand, colored in the other. He shook them and transferred the clear glass to the hand with the colored glass. He said these words,

“Glass and water, Glass and water. We mean you no bother. Show us Ladd’s village. Only a future image.”

From the surface of the lake, a shimmery image of Ladd’s village arose.

As it came into focus, Ladd cried out, “There’s my sister. That’s Mercy!”

“Who are the people with her, Ladd?” the small man asked gently.

“The man is Smith, her betrothed and the blacksmith in our village. There are children I don’t know. It looks like Mercy is carrying a child.”

The small man said, “Remember Ladd, that is an image of the future.”

Suddenly, the image vanished. The small man seemed to draw back into himself and Ladd was quiet. After some time passed, the small man opened his eyes, which were now back to normal. He spoke. He spoke,

“That was quite tiring. It’s time to sleep.”

As he and Ladd arose, he removed the circle with his foot and they walked toward the shelter. The small man placed the lake glass in one of the jars he carried. He and Ladd then put a blanket on their pallets of straw, laid down, and immediately went to sleep.

 

 

 

The Sorcery Shop – #writephoto

Ladd and the small man who had fetched him from the village of Farnsworth reached London after a long walk of about 20 kilometers. Cat had followed Ladd and when he had tired, he had jumped on Ladd’s shoulder for a ride. The small man led Ladd to a shop where sides of meat where hanging in the windows. When they entered with the small man’s key, Ladd realized this was the grocery shop the small man had said he would be an apprentice in while he learned the craft of being a wizard. There were basic foodstuffs in barrels sitting around such as flour, corn meal, sugar, corn, dried beans, and more. Along the wall, there was wool and a little cotton with which to make clothing and blankets. There were things in jars along one wall that Ladd didn’t recognize.

The store also sold a few basic hardware items. Horse hardware items like saddles. A few very basic tools.  Hammers, augers, chisels, trowels. All made from wood. Metal items included chain mail, some armor plating. The small man locked the door behind them, then quickly walked toward the back of the shop with Ladd following. He opened a door to the back room of the store.

”What is this place?” Ladd exclaimed when he saw the suit of armor by the door.

“First, my son, you may call me Uwin. We are in my quarters in the back of the shop. Not only do I live here, but I help those who are to be wizards find their calling.”

”Uwin, I didn’t want to be a wizard. The Grand Wizard chose me.”

Uwin answered, “Then that, my son, is your calling. You will live here with me while you learn your craft. You will perform the tasks I assign to you even though they won’t make much sense to you. I will assign those tasks which will help you to become a wizard. You may find that you enjoy becoming a wizard.”

“When may I go back to my village?” Ladd asked.

“When I determine you are ready, Ladd.” Uwin gently replied. “Now, get settled in and I’m going to go open the shop. You will have the afternoon to yourself to look around. We’ll start work tomorrow. I’m going to go open up the shop.”

After Uwin left, Ladd noticed that Cat had jumped up on one of the cots in the room. He assumed that was his cot so he laid down on it with Cat. Ladd fell asleep and dreamt that the big suit of armor had come alive and was staring down at him. He awakened and jumped up. He was certain he saw the suit of armor move back into it’s place by the door.

@Copyright Rosemary Carlson 2019

Thanks, Sue!


 

Copper – #writephoto

You could hardly see her as she walked down the old country lane. The trees were ablaze with fall color and her coppery-colored hair was indistinguishable from the leaves swaying from the bowing branches. She was home to see her parents for the first time since she had married. They were not pleased and she hoped to placate them.

It was the fall of 1943 and her new husband had gone off to war after only two weeks of married life. She knew that he hadn’t wanted to marry before going off to war. She wouldn’t know until many years later why he finally decided they should marry. She thought he had a guilty conscience. She really hadn’t meant to get pregnant. They met in the USO Club in the small town where she lived with her sister and attended college. Her sister and her husband had introduced her to him.

He was just so exotic. Growing up deep in the heart of Appalachia, she’d never met anyone like him. She’d fallen in love. He’d come to the small college town to train naval men before they went off to war. He was from another place, another culture. He had such a voice! They hadn’t meant to become so intimate so fast. Then there was a baby that would come of their union. She did love him so, but did he love her? She had no way to know. She was determined to make that happen.

Now she had to concentrate on her mother and father. They had married in the spring, but she had attended summer school. This was the first time she’d been home since her marriage. Almost at the end of the lane that led to The Big House, where she’d grown up and where her parents still lived, she slowed her pace and took a deep breath. She sat her small cloth suitcase down and breathed in the crisp fall air. She looked around her. It was beautiful in eastern Kentucky at this time of year. Now it was time to face the music. She could hardly stand to disappoint them, especially her Daddy.

Timeless – #writephoto

She often came this way. She stopped and sat on the fence, looking at the single, timeless standing stone. It always caused her carefully controlled mind to wander. Back and forward. Backwards, she wondered where they came from. What they meant? Were other stones buried by the sands of time somewhere deep around this one, perhaps in a circle? Maybe this was a lone stone. Perhaps meant to cure sick children? How will we ever know, she wondered, what the prehistoric people who raised these stones really were doing.

Then there was that other theory. The one that some thought explained the pyramids as well as the standing stones. The theory that said that we weren’t alone in the universe. Perhaps other beings had helped those prehistoric people build these complex stone structures. Most discounted that theory of course, but she found herself thinking of it. It seemed so impossible that the prehistoric citizens could have done it themselves.

A timeless mystery of the universe. She started walking again, her imagination making her smile.

Renewal – #writephoto

Jane remembers the night they got to that island. They were just looking for a place to stay and they happened upon the bridge where signs told them of vacancies. They crossed the bridge, not really knowing where they were. Not really knowing they were going out into the Gulf of Mexico.

It was winter and even in the southern part of America, dark came early. Even so, someone was in the office of the first place they came to. After they secured a reservation, they went to their spot and crashed. Never really thinking about where they were. They had driven a long way. They knew it was warm and they could smell salt water. Sleep came instantly.

It had been a hard year for them before that winter. They were young. They didn’t know that the things that had happened, decisions they had made, would come back to haunt them many years later. They had the freedom of youth without the wisdom of age. Like most young people of ther generation, they worked hard and played just as hard. Too hard. It was the 1970s and their kind of fun seemed innocent then. They didn’t realize that it wasn’t. That the transgressions of youth would color their whole lives. They didn’t know that too much fun then would make the responsibilities of age hard and getting old so much more unbearable.

When Jane’s eyes came open, just a crack, the next morning, she looked around and saw the entire place enveloped in a warm glow. Bare tree branches were on one side of the place with palm trees towering over the other side. They had been lost the night before. She couldn’t imagine where they were.

Jane got up and dressed and walked out on the porch and down the road. The sky astonished her, layered in gold clouds. She had never seen anything like it. As she walked and nodded to the locals, she felt a weight lift off her shoulders, a sense of renewal wash over her. A decision she had been trying to make became clear to her as the tropical birds swooped in front of her. When she came to a general store, she found out the name of the island although in her mind, she’d already dubbed it her magical island. She’d been struggling with that decision for weeks.

After that winter, Jane knew they would spend many winters on that magical island. Looking back, she knows they will go back someday. It might be they should do it soon. Could it renew her once again?

Clouds – #writephoto

She doesn’t walk much anymore, but today, her dog needed to walk so off they went. He’s excited to be out and she hopes the walk will be good for her too. It’s hard for her to get outside her own head, but she looks around at the scenery and notices the beautiful, but darkening clouds ahead of her. She doesn’t think they look threatening, so she and her dog walk on. She tries to be in the moment mentally and he helps with that, smelling every smell along the way. It helps her to focus. As always, she’s thinking about many things while trying just to think about him and his joyous communion with nature.

The clouds are so beautiful that they cause an old song to pop into her head. She smiles as she remember Joni Mitchell’s original recording of “Both Sides Now.” The ultimate “cloud” song as far as she is concerned. She remembers lying in her parent’s backyard in the grass, looking up at the clouds as a teenager. She remembers the line “ice cream castles in the air.” As a young girl, she looked at the cloud formations and dreamed of such innocent and foolish things..

She and her dog stopped to rest. She gave him a drink out of his water bottle and he laid down to rest for a few minutes, looking around, drinking in the scenery. She watched the clouds as they moved overhead. As an older teenager, reaching adulthood, she still watched the clouds in the backyard, but the images became different. She remembers the words to the song. One stanza described her feelings at that time in her life, when she met a boy she thought she would marry.

“Moons and Junes and ferries wheels 
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real 
I’ve looked at love that way”

She had fallen in love and she thought he was in love. Something terrible happened. He was not the boy, she had found out very painfully, that she would marry. She reached down and touched her dog’s head. He was her touchstone now if her thoughts drifted to a bad place.

They got up and walked on. The dog was anxious to see what was over the next rise on their walk.

2018 had turned into a year of reflection for her. She hated that and thought it was brought on by her health issues which seem to have blown up this past year. She had spent the year frightened and it had made her look back at her life. She liked to look forward, but she was facing serious life-threatening issues. Looking forward had become difficult.

She had looked at the relationships in her life. Not just romantic relationships, but all of them. Family, friends. She saw the folly in so many of them. She and her husband seemed to finally be at peace. She had amazing friends. Something wonderful had happened with her family. She had found family members she hardly knew existed and some she had not known existed and she was getting to know them. That had made her year. There were other family relationships that were gone. Gone forever. That had hurt her terribly.

Love. Romance. Did it even exist or like in the song, was it just another illusion? She had come to the conclusion that love was very rare, that it seldom existed if at all. As for the rest of her life, however long that was, she found the song to be very relevant:

“But now it’s just another show 
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know 
Don’t give yourself away 

I’ve looked at love from both sides now 
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all…”

They walked on home, leaving the cloud formations behind, to do whatever they had to do.

The Growling

It was a beautiful day on the beach by the village. The children could run out the door of their homes and reach the sand and sea in moments. Tourists who rented homes here and there could be spotted lazing in the warm sun. The setting was an idyllic as one can imagine. 

The small boy and his dog walked along the streets of the village that day. He was doing errands for his mother. The dog, normally so well-behaved, kept running circles around him with a low growl in his throat. The boy couldn’t imagine what was wrong. 

It seemed that the growl from the dog got louder. The boy felt the earth shaking. He’d felt this before. He knew it was an earthquake. The shake was a big one, but the damage to the village didn’t look severe. The growling didn’t stop. 

Someone shouted that there was a tsunami warning. The boy climbed up onto the roof of a shed and hoisted his dog up with him. They were hit by a wall of water. When it subsided, they were mostly alone, saved by the growling. Only a few others remained.

Thanks to Susan at Sunday Photo Fiction and to Anurag Bakhshi for the photo prompt.