Chill – #writephoto

Uwin, the small man who would train Ladd to be a wizard, walked through the door that connected the grocery shop and the living quarters with a sack in his hands. He told the boy he was going to prepare their evening meal, then they were going to bed. They’d had a very long walk over the last two days from Ladd’s village of Farnsworth and tomorrow was the first day of Ladd’s apprenticeshp in wizardry and shopkeeping. Uwin felt he should get a good night’s rest. 

Uwin went to the fireplace to cook and when he opened the sack, Ladd gasped. He had never seen such a feast. In the country, the peasants, like Ladd’s family, lived on wild meat. Since Uwin ran a grocery shop, he had access to meat like beef and lamb. In the sack, there was beef for dinner, which Ladd had never eaten. Uwin also had leeks and peas and even fruit. In his sack, he had strawberries. Uwin cooked the beef and fixed the leeks and peas together. He served them with a loaf of crusty bread. They had the strawberries at the end of their meal. 

“Uwin, such good food. I’ve never eaten like this in my whole life,” Ladd remarked.

“There are benefits to being a grocer in the city, Ladd. Even in the country. You have access to better food because you have rich people like the Lords, or in the case of London, the Royals, who will buy from you.”

Ladd thought to himself that being a shopkeeper might not be so bad after all. Shortly, the two fell into their beds for the night.

Uwin woke Ladd up before dawn the next day. As Ladd was washing up, he asked Uwin what he would be doing that day. Uwin walked into the shop and simply told Ladd to meet him there wearing his oldest, dirtiest clothes. Puzzled, Ladd dressed and met Uwin in the shop. Uwin was getting the goods in the shop ready for the day.

“Ladd, today, you will clean the store. First, you will take all the meat that is hanging in the window out of the window. It has gotten old during my trip to your village. You will discard it in the back of the shop. We have a delivery of fresh meat due today, which you will hang in the window after you clean it. As you have time today, you will clean the shelves that the goods sit on. That will help you familiarize yourself with the products I sell. Most of the products are grocery products that everyone needs. Some of the products, most behind the counter, are specialized products for witches and wizards. You’ll gradually learn what they are and what they are used for. Do you understand my instructions?”

“Yes, Uwin, I do.”

“Let’s get to work. I will tell you when we can take a lunch break. If you have any questions, ask me.”

Ladd started hauling the meat out of the window and putting it behind the shop. It was raining, a cold spring rain in London. It was cold, wet work. When he got the last side of meat out to the back, he noticed a group of children standing back watching him. As he walked away, the children ran up to the meat and started dragging it away. He went back into the shop. Uwin wasn’t busy at that moment.

“Uwin, who are those children and why are they dragging away that meat?”

“Those are the orphan children that live on the streets of London. They take that meat to the place they live and the adults who also live on the street cook it,” Uwin replied.

“They don’t have any parents?” Ladd asked.

“Something has happened to their parents or they’ve been abandoned.”

Ladd didn’t say anymore, but he suddenly felt very lucky that he had his family and, now, Uwin. He began to clean out the window where the meat hung. It was hard, dirty work. 

Ladd heard the door of the shop open. He felt a sudden chill come over him. It wasn’t from the cold weather. He’d never felt anything like it before. It was like his body was freezing into a statue. His eyes were drawn up and he saw a girl who was a little older than he was. She had on a long brown, wool tunic with brown hair wrapped around her head in a braid. Their eyes locked and for the first time in Ladd’s life, he felt the flickering of his powers as a wizard. Something magical passed between them. They knew each other and Ladd realized not only did he have magical powers, but she did too. They stared at each other for a moment and it was she who broke the connection. Shaking her head, she walked to the grocery counter where Uwin stood watching both of them. 

The magical girl knew Uwin. They greeted each other by name as Ladd watched. Ladd heard Uwin call her Joyful. 

Joyful went about the business of picking out some grocery items as Ladd watched. Some flour, beans, onions, and turnips. Then, she went to Uwin and finished her order by adding some items from behind the counter. Ladd couldn’t see what they were, but he knew he would ask Uwin later. As Joyful left the shop, she dropped her eyelids and didn’t look at Ladd again. 

As Ladd worked in the shop, he felt different after his encounter with Joyful. He had so many questions. Was he becoming a wizard? How did it happen? What just happened with Joyful? He would talk with Uwin. 

It got too busy in the shop for Ladd to do much thinking. He kept feeling flashes of that same chill within him that he felt when Joyful had walked into the shop. He felt like her presence had somehow changed him.

That afternoon, there were meat deliveries. Women brought in eggs to sell to Uwin. There were deliveries of the staples in barrels like flour, cornmeal, and beans. In between deliveries, Ladd kept on cleaning. He and Uwin only had time to grab a piece of dried meat for lunch that day.

Dusk came and Uwin closed the shop. Even though Ladd was tired, the day had flown for him. He had learned a lot about the products Uwin sold in the shop, both food products and hardware. The shop had been busy all day. It was the neighborhood grocery and Uwin had been closed for a few days while he came to fetch Ladd. People from the neighborhood were catching up on their shopping. After the shop closed, Uwin and Ladd went back to the living quarters and Uwin cooked their dinner. They discussed how much Ladd had learned that day about the shop, its products, and being a shopkeeper. While they were eating, Ladd decided to share his experience when Joyful came into the shop with Uwin.

“Uwin, do you remember when that girl came into the shop early this morning? You called her Joyful.”

“Oh yes. Joyful shops here regularly. What about it?” Uwin asked.

“Something strange happened to me when I saw her, Uwin.”

Uwin’s head snapped up and he peered intensely at the boy.

“What happened, Ladd?”

“When she walked in the shop, I felt a chill in my bones. I got so cold I felt I would freeze solid. We looked at each other and something odd happened between us. I can’t explain it, but it was like we knew each other.”

Uwin leaned back in his chair and sighed. 

“I’m sorry that happened without you being prepared, Ladd. I wanted you to have more time here before I had to tell you this.”

“Tell me what, Uwin?”

“Finish your dinner, Ladd. Then I have a story to tell you.”

Ladd finished his dinner as Uwin paced around the room with Cat on his heels. It was like Cat already knew the story and was worried. 

After the boy had eaten, Uwin told him to get comfortable and he would tell him a story.

“A long time ago, Ladd, in the days of the old King, William the Conquerer, there was a witch, a beautiful witch, who was a member of his court. Some thought William was a great King. Others did not. Your great-grandmother, through a series of events that are not important now, ended up serving at his pleasure. She was a secret member of his court, but not a well-kept secret. He depended on her greatly. 

Ladd interrupted Uwin.

“What did my great-grandmother do? Which side of my family was she on? You said she was a witch?”

Uwin continued, “She was your mother’s grandmother, Ladd. She had tremendous powers. Her name was Eleanor and she will always be remembered in England. Eleanor had a daughter, Elizabeth, who was also a witch, but Elizabeth did not practice witchcraft. Your mother, Knowledge, was born of Elizabeth.”

“Is my mother also a witch, Uwin?” Ladd asked.

“Knowledge has the power of a witch, Ladd, but she has never practiced witchcraft. Do you now see why the Grand Wizard choose you to be the wizard for your village? You have a history of sorcery and, apparently you also have the power or you wouldn’t have reacted to Joyful today. This is a good thing, my boy. You will be easy to train as a wizard.” 

That night, Ladd sat awake on his cot for a long time. It was all too much to take in. Since a wizard was his calling, he had to take this in and fast. He missed his family. They would have helped him.

Uwin also was awake for a long time that night. He’d had to give Ladd too much information too soon. He hoped the boy was mature enough to handle it.

an excerpt….

Copyright Rosemary Carlson 2019

Thanks, Sue!!

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!

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!


 

Stillness – #writephoto

There were always a few tourists hanging around the cliff at the end of the day. If they noticed the old man sitting there, on the rocks, no one paid much attention to him. The tourists were there to see the sunset. It was a spot known for its spectacular sunsets. The old man was there every day, for every sunset.

He sat tall with exceptionally good posture. His father had taught him that. He had a full head of white hair. You couldn’t see his face since he was looking down, but you could see his rather rugged profile. He wasn’t a handsome man, but he was someone you would instantly notice. His arms were stiffly supporting him on either side.

This was the place John came to for serenity, to find stillness. The older he got, the more life overwhelmed him. He and his wife had made a pact to try to get back to simplicity, to even become minimalists. It seemed that life interfered with their plans at every turn. Being a minimalist didn’t just mean having a home that was stark with little furniture and no clutter. It was also a way of thinking. Just living in today’s world almost would not let them live their lives in a simple manner.

That’s why John came here every day. It was meditation, he supposed. This was the only place where he could empty his mind completely and have a half hour of peace. When that half hour had passed, it was if he had awakened from a trance. He was refreshed. It was much better than sleep. He felt he could survive.

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.

The Savior

They would stand in the rain as long as necessary. They followed him, wherever he went. The rallies, they found them addictive. They touched something inside of them. Something they hadn’t known was there until they heard him speak. He said the same things every time he spoke and he enraged them, but they felt they needed to be enraged. Why didn’t the entire country realize that? Realize how much sense he made?

He was the Savior. He was going to help them out of their difficult lives. Never mind those who doubted him. They didn’t hear what they heard.

Thanks to Rochelle! Photo Prompt @ Na’ama Yehuda

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.