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!

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.

 

 

 

Balefire – #writephoto

“Ladd, come along, we’ll be late. They are lighting the balefire for Wizard tonight,” Mercy said.

“That old goat,” replied Ladd, Mercy’s older brother. “I didn’t like him anyway. The way he crept around, watching all of us. Making his silly predictions.”

“Oh, Ladd, hush,” Mercy cried. “Wizard is powerful. We dare not say things like that. Come, let’s run. We must get to the funeral. Mama is waiting and will be angry with us.”

Ladd and Mercy set off from their hut in the village through the woods toward the funeral pyre. The people of the village were all frightened. They didn’t know that wizards could die. After a session in the street when Wizard was making a series of predictions for his people, he suddenly crumbled and dropped to the dirt. The people left him there for three days. They thought he would rise again. Finally, the medicine woman who served the village examined Wizard and determined that he was dead.

There was much weeping and wailing among the people of the village. They had never heard of a wizard dying and they thought they had done something wicked to cause it. The men started building a funeral pyre outside of the village. The women prepared Wizard’s body, including Knowledge, Ladd and Mercy’s mother.

Knowledge told the children that she had heard from the other women that one of Wizard’s predictions was going to come true. The Grand Wizard from the King was coming to the village to talk to the people. She didn’t know when the visit would take place, but she was very uneasy about it.

Within a few days, the funeral pyre was ready for the balefire to be lit and for Wizard’s funeral to take place. Knowledge told Ladd and Mercy it would be that evening and they were expected to be there. She and the other women had to accompany Wizard’s body.

When Ladd and Mercy reached the funeral pyre, the balefire had been lit and was beginning to burn high. The people were standing back. They were fearful of what a balefire meant for a wizard.

Then, someone appeared from the shadows. Everyone gasped. It was the Grand Wizard sent from the King. He roared as he stood in front of the funeral pyre. He said that a wizard would be dispatched from the kingdom to the village to train someone to take Wizard’s place. The people of the village all looked at each other, wondering who would be the chosen one that would be trained.

The Grand Wizard raised his arms to the sky and a lightning bolt struck the ground right next to Ladd. The Grand Wizard declared that Ladd was the chosen one and that he should prepare himself for training to be the next wizard. Knowledge swooned and fell to the ground. Ladd stood there in shock, not knowing what to do. He didn’t want to be the wizard, but he was struck dumb.

The Grand Wizard disappeared, leaving the people of the village to the funeral and Ladd and his family to absorb the news. Mercy, standing off to the side, contemplated the trouble that would likely follow.

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.

Harbinger – #writephoto

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It somehow seems unfair that, as you get older, life gets harder. Haven’t we paid our dues by now? Isn’t it time for easy street? Apparently not. I’ve just spend one of the hardest summers ever and I’m hoping it isn’t a harbinger of things to come. I don’t normally believe in omens, but the events of the past summer has filled me with fear.

The good news is that I’m enjoying improved health. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit long-lost relatives — my father’s side of the family. It was wonderful to see them. Then there is the bad news. My life was flipped upside down this summer, early on, when my husband had a huge health scare. Major, unexpected, and emergency open-heart open-chest surgery. I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified in my life and I remain frightened. He survived and has recovered quite well. I’ll never quite recover from the fear. Then, one of my best friends, a childhood friend, passed away, again quite unexpectedly. I still don’t believe he’s gone. To me, we’ll always be kids, camping out in my backyard.

On top of all this, my contract writing job ended. I knew it would, but I’m still sorry it did. I don’t quite have it in me to job hunt. At least not right now. I may wait awhile, then freelance. I don’t think I’ll take another contract position. I’m not cut out to answer to a boss at this point in my life. Operating my own freelance business is more my style now. Writing non-fiction business articles. Perhaps breaking into the B2B market. I also have other areas of interest – politics, culture, education. Maybe finishing my two books. A novel and a book of flash fiction. Those are my ventures into fiction, except for the fiction I have written and will write on this blog. I’ve made a good living writing freelance in the past.

I was reminded this morning of the harbinger I really should focus on. Three months  ago, I rescued a little dog named Clara. She’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed I’ve loved for years. She is seven years old and had served as a breeder dog in a kennel. I won’t go into all of her problems, but she was not well when she came to me. She had been neglected and only valued for her puppies. Clara has had a long summer of veterinary care and loving care in my home and she’s started to blossom. She’s starting to respond to us and she’s remembering she’s a dog who has the opportunity to play and be happy. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. Perhaps Clara is the harbinger I’m looking for since fall has arrived and winter draws near. She represents hope for the future.

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.

Pillars – #writephoto

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She walked among the pillars of the old building on the monastery grounds to gather her thoughts. She found it cool and serene here. Many things had gone wrong in her life recently. Not only in her life, but in the lives of some of her friends and family. She touched the cold, gray marble of one of the pillars in the colonnade and she felt a frisson of emotion. She yanked her hand away. It was exciting and frightening. Slowly, she touched the pillar again. The same emotion overcame her. She felt strength. Through her mind and body, she was flooded with the strength to meet her problems head on. She didn’t want to take her hand away, but she finally did. The strength to fight on remained.

She walked to another pillar and touched it. She was shocked with the emotion of hope. Hopelessness about her life had permeated her world for so long that she had forgotten what it felt like to feel hopeful. She felt strong and hopeful. Ready to tackle the problems in her life.

She had to touch another pillar. She could not imagine that it would cause any further emotion in her. Strength and hopefulness had already been granted to her. She touched the pillar. A sense of worthiness flooded through her. She had felt unworthy to tackle her problems. To even live her life. For years now, she had felt no self-worth at all and, by touching this pillar, that changed. It gave her great relief and made her feel that not only could she solve her problems, but she was worth the life she was living.

After she caught her breath and composed herself, she decided to try touching only one more pillar. She walked to one near the front of the colonnade and put her hand on it. She smiled and the smile got bigger as she left her hand on the pillar. She felt gratitude. She was grateful she was alive. Alive to live the life she had been given.

Strength, hope, worthiness, and gratitude. The pillars in the colonnade at the monastery gave her those things that day. She asked herself whether it was real or not. Did they give her those things? Or was she just ready to feel them on her own?

She’ll never know.

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the great photo prompt!