Tag Archives: #fantasy

Silently Watching At Sunrise

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Early morning shadows hid the fallen angel in the trees that grew beside the picnic tables. There was a still a chill in the air. She drew her majestic black wings around her for warmth. Her throat felt parched. It had been weeks since she had last fed; months since she had last enjoyed some warm, viscous human blood.

Killing a mortal was always high risk. Hunger and desire had caused her to be careless last time. She should’ve taken time to carry the body off instead of discarding it in the dried leaves on the pavement.

She’d heard the shrill shrieks of the dog walker who had discovered the man’s body not long after she had abandoned it. Damn dog!

Well, she’d taken care of it a week or so later. Dog owners were sloppy. The angel had watched, biding her time, until the chocolate brown Labrador was off its lead, running ahead of its slow middle aged owner. The dog’s death had been swift. It had barely whimpered as she had bitten deep into its jugular vein. By the time the owner had caught up, the angel had drained every last drop from the beloved family pet and swooped up into the trees out of sight. She had laughed at the woman’s wails of grief for the dead canine lying on the pavement.

Her attention was brought back to the present as she watched the woman cross the road, heading towards her. The angel had been studying her early morning routine for a few weeks, working out where and when to strike. The woman’s erratic fitness regime had frustrated her. Never the same day two weeks in a row; never the same number of outing s a week; always the same time to within a minute or two. Close surveillance had warned the angel of the routine of others who walked and ran along that section of road so early in the morning.

There was one obvious window of opportunity. It came when the woman finished her run. When she returned to the small secluded picnic spot, she sat down at one of the tables to catch her breath for a moment or two before tackling the steep hill back to her home. She only took a seat though if the sun was shining.

Hunger was forcing the angel to take a dangerous but calculated risk by stepping out into the direct sunlight. For the sake of savouring the sweet ferrous female blood, she was prepared to risk singeing her precious wings. There were only so many rabbits and sheep and deer that she could stomach. Her recent starvation diet had left her feeling desiccated; feeling unfeminine. It was this fact that had decided her that she needed to feast on female hormone filled blood on this occasion.

Calmly, she waited in the shadows for her prey to return. Patiently, she counted the dog walkers, ensuring they all passed her oblivious to her presence. The other two regular early morning joggers also passed, heading out towards the lighthouse

The minutes ticked steadily by.

Silently, she watched the woman approach. There was a sheen of sweat on her forehead. Her cheeks were scarlet, reddened by the effort, and she was breathing heavily. The angel’s nostrils twitched as she tasted the hormone soaked blood in the air around her.

Just as she had hoped, the worn out woman took a seat at the end of the bench in the sun, gasping for air.

Spreading her wings, ready to swoop, the angel suddenly froze to the spot.

The air was filled with a familiar ferrous infused male musk. A scent she had only dreamed about over recent weeks. A perfume that she hadn’t lusted after since her last human meal.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Rhythmic light footsteps were approaching rapidly. He was still a hundred meters or more away. Already her sensitive ears could hear that infernal music that he listened to.

Faced with a choice, she hesitated. Male or female? Decisions. Decisions….

Fate intervened.

Hearing the footsteps, the woman scrambled to her feet and darted across the road out of sight before he reached the picnic area.

Silently, seething with hungry frustration, the dark angel watched as he ran by. Oh how she yearned to sink her fangs into his veins. He was a meal to be lingered over and savoured, not a dinner to be rushed through greed. Like a fine wine, his blood would be sipped until she felt intoxicated by it.

With a soft sigh that could easily have been mistaken for the breeze wafting through the leaves, the angel drew her purple tipped wings around her once more and settled in the shadows to wait for her next opportunity to dine.

 

 

image sourced via Google- credits to the owner

The Return of an Old Friend -The Imp – part thirteen

It’s been a while since I re-visited the tale of Amber, Jem, Urquhart and the witches but, for those who have been impatiently waiting, here’s part thirteen of The Imp – enjoy!

Clouds were covering the full moon as Amber looked out through the tiny slit of a window. From her tree top cell, she could just make out the convoy of wagons preparing to depart for the portal. In the distance she could see the faint faerie glow of the portal itself. The fairy/elf had watched the wagon train depart for the portal the previous night as she finalised her plans, scarcely daring to believe that she would make her escape through it. In her heart, she knew if she escaped now then she would never be able to return to the fairy kingdom again; knew if she needed help from her family she would need to turn to the elves. The thought chilled her heart but she had no other choice.

A soft knock at the door jolted her back to reality and, as she turned round, Blain entered alone. Her elf senses picked up a small movement to his left but, before she could say anything, the air shimmered and a tall, slender, shadow creature materialised in the room beside them.

“Good evening, princess,” said Blain softly. “I’ve brought you a visitor.”

“Blain!” she gasped. “Where did you find him? He’s perfect!”

Mutely, the shadow creature watched the two friends.

“He’s been staying with the healers for the past month, learning their secrets,” explained her friend. “Chamelle, this is Her Royal Highness, Princess Amber.”

“Charmed,” replied Chamelle, his voice wispy and hoarse. He stared intently at the fairy/elf, his dark eyes boring into her very soul then slowly the air around him began to shimmer. Gradually, before their eyes, he transformed into her mirror image.

“Are you ready to depart?” asked Blain anxiously. “We’ve only a few minutes to spare before they finish loading the wagons.”

“Yes,” replied Amber, lifting her sleeping son and settling him in the travel sling she had improvised from her spare shirt.

Earlier on, she had laid out the items that Blain had smuggled to her a few days before. The rowan twig had been stripped of its bark and fashioned into a magic wand. Curls of bark, soot and some of Amber and the baby’s hair strands lay in the bottom of a small wooden bowl on the table. With a quick glance at her friend, Amber lifted the needle and pricked her son’s thumb with it. Two large drops of blood spilled into the dish. The fairy/elf repeated the action on her own thumb, allowing the droplets of blood to mingle with the soot. Almost silently, she whispered an ancient elvish incantation then dipped the rowan wand into the bowl. A flash of green and red light lit up the room and, when the light returned to normal, the contents of the bowl had liquefied.

Swiftly, Amber dipped the thimble into the bowl then dripped the dark liquid into her son’s mouth. She swallowed two thimble-fuls herself then lifted her cloak.

“Amber?” began Blain, curious to learn what effect the spell would have.

In the blink of an eye, the fairy/elf and the baby vanished.

“Amber?” echoed Blain anxiously.

“We’re here,” she replied from within the invisibility spell. “Time to go. This won’t hold for long.”

 

            When they reached the base of the huge tree that had been her prison, Amber followed Blain through the village to the last wagon in the convoy. It was being loaded with sacks of fancy spun colourful cloth that was coveted by the women at the King’s court. The supervisor had carefully stacked the bags, ensuring that there was a small “cave” created for her to hide in.

“Stay safe, princess,” whispered Blain as he felt her move from his side.

From her hiding place. Amber heard her friend drop a heavy purse into the driver’s hand then felt the wagon lurch forward.

As the wagon passed through the portal into the human realm, the faerie magic broke her elven spell and Amber became aware that she was fully visible to all around. She held her breath, praying that the baby would remain asleep for the remainder of the journey.  The faerie slumber spell cast earlier was holding fast ….for now.

Steadily, the wagons trundled towards the village and the castle.

 

In his tower study, Urquhart stood at his window watching the train of wagons roll in from the portal. The fairy queen had signed off on five wagons per night for eight days. It was the most trade she had sanctioned in the past decade.

The boy wizard watched as the five covered wagons rolled down the narrow village street towards the castle.

His sharp eyes were drawn to the last wagon in the line. There was something about it that attracted his attention; something that was making his wizarding instincts twitch.

Dismissing the thought that flashed through his mind as an improbability, Urquhart returned to his desk and the ancient elven history that he had been studying. He had read it through three times from end to end and was still none the wiser about the fourth gemstone. His gut instinct told him he was searching for reference to a diamond but the history made no mention of one. There was no mention of any other stones, not even a pebble.

Thoughts of the wagon train interrupted him again and the boy wizard wandered back across to the window. A large bowl of crystals sat on a pedestal in the bay of the window. Carelessly, he ran his fingers through them, allowing the smooth stones to trickle through his grasp, as he watched the last of the wagons disappear from view as the entered the castle gates.

 

In the castle nursery, Jem too was standing at the window. The prince had his baby daughter nestled on his shoulder as he watched the fairies begin to unload their trade goods. The baby was restless and, every time he tried to return her to her crib, she squealed shrilly as he moved away from the window.

“What is the attraction with the window tonight, little miss?” whispered Jem as he turned her round in his arms so she could see out.

A movement at the rear of the last of the five wagons caught his eye.

The canvas flap moved aside and a tall, slender figure, clutching something tightly to their chest, stepped down, glanced round then disappeared into the shadows.

The baby squealed and wriggled in her father’s arms.

“Amber,” breathed Jem.

 

 

 

 

It’s The Time of Year For Spooky Tales

Hallowe’en is almost upon us once more.  This week I thought I’d continue a spooky tale from earlier in the year.

If you missed the first part, here’s the link – https://coralmccallum.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/still-as-a-statue-3/

Enjoy –

Still As A Statue – Part Two

Having worked late into the night editing the photos for her portfolio, she slept through her alarm. It was the noise of the downstairs neighbour clattering in after his night shift that wakened her shortly before eight. In a frantic panic, she had charged through her small flat getting ready in record time.

As she had scampered down the front steps, juggling her bags, camera and a half-eaten slice of toast, rain pelted down on her. Muttering as an icy drop slid down the neck of her jacket, she pulled up her hood and set off for her nine thirty meeting with her tutor.

Despite being tight for time, she couldn’t resist the temptation to pause in the square to take a few more photos. Part of her loved the effect of the rain on the stone. It added more shading and a subtle sheen to some of the effigies. Having spent hours studying the various statues the night before, she scanned the buildings and gardens seeking out the tall male and the girl with the long tumbling curls. She quickly spotted the girl. Unusually, she was on a plinth in the garden, staring down the road that she herself had just rushed up.

The tall, slender male was nowhere to be seen.

An icy chill ran down the student’s spine as, with trembling hands, she stuffed her camera back into her bag.

Her tutor was waiting for her when she came dashing into his small office.

“Sorry, sir,” she gasped, as she dumped her bag on the floor. “Overslept.”

“Relax, Jenny,” he replied. “You’re a whole thirty seconds late. Chill.”

“Oh, I’m chilled,” she declared emphatically. “To the bone! Wait until you see my photos.”

She handed the flash drive to her tutor and asked him to open the file “Moving Statues” that was stored in the “Portfolio Pieces” folder.

Nodding approvingly, he scanned the images one by one, occasionally complimenting her on the light or the angle or the balance of the composition.

“These are fabulous! Just the boost your portfolio needs. Which ones are you going to enlarge and print?”

“I’m not sure yet,” she said, twirling a strand of her coppery red hair round her finger. “Did you notice anything odd about those statues?”

“No. Was I meant to?”

“Sir,” she began nervously, suddenly feeling very foolish. “They move about that square.”

“Move?”

The look on his face told her that he thought she was crazy. Folding his hands in front of him, he continued, “Jenny, statues of that era or any others made of stone aren’t easily moved. It would take lifting equipment to shift some of the larger ones.”

“I know and I know it sounds insane, but I can prove it,” countered Jenny boldly. “Open the file “Changeable Locations.” The proof’s in there.”

Together they sat and studied the numerous photos of the sculptures. Again her focus had been on the tall male and the girl. Both statues appeared in at least a dozen different locations around the square and gardens. Both statues had been photographed in different poses but there was no denying that there were the same ones.

“Jenny, you must’ve Photoshopped these,” accused her tutor as he closed the file.

“I don’t have Photoshop!” she protested. “And I can confirm they move with this morning’s shots that are still in my camera.”

Before her tutor could levy any further accusations, she reached into her satchel and passed him her camera.

“Date and time stamp is on each image,” she stated.

Sceptically her tutor accepted the camera and browsed the pictures that had been captured only an hour before.

“Now do you believe me, sir?”

“I must be losing my mind,” muttered the disbelieving tutor as he switched off Jenny’s camera. “Yes, Jenny. I believe you.”

By the end of the day, Jenny had printed off half a dozen of the images and mounted them, ready to be included in her final portfolio of work. She had also left a copy of all of the files, including the fresh ones from that morning, with her tutor who had promised to speak with a colleague who studied paranormal phenomenon.

Straight after her last class, Jenny rushed off to work. Three nights a week she worked as a waitress in a small family –run city centre restaurant. As it was midweek and a miserable night, business was slow. An hour before the end of her shift, the owner’s wife suggested that she should finish up early and head home.

As she opened the garden gate, Jenny felt the temperature drop. An icy chill swept through her. The light above the entrance was off, leaving the doorway in virtual darkness, despite the lights being on in the two ground floor flats. Quickly she ran up the path and the half a dozen worn stone steps. As she reached to open the large wooden door, she heard a noise behind her.

Slowly she turned round. She found herself face to face with a tall, slender familiar looking man. His skin was alabaster white, almost translucent.

“Hello, Jenny.”

Hanging Out In The Memory Bank

Sometimes when the “real” world gets too much you need to escape into the “Memory Bank”.

The “Memory Bank” is crammed full of precious memories from life.

Some of them are songs. Some of them are food. Some of them are photos

You get the hint.

For various reasons way too private and person to go into here, I’ve spent a lot of time browsing the “Memory Bank” over the past few days.

(And before any friends start to panic, I’m fine. No need to worry. I just needed to get my head round something.)

It’s been fun “hanging out” at the “Memory Bank” while recharged my emotional batteries.

Yes. Some of the memories in there are bittersweet. I’m not going to lie but even they have their own “vault” within the “Memory Bank”.

There’s a few sad ones in there too but I tend to skipped past that “room” in search of happier galleries.

Occasionally memories “skip” rooms as the “real” world twists and turns.

There’s been a degree of memory “sorting and filing” over the last few days too.

Before this becomes maudlin and I’m delving back into the dark recesses of my mind, I thought I’d share a few totally random memories from the dim and distant past.

I mentioned a moment ago that songs conjure up memories. One slightly reckless but precious memory springs instantly to mind whenever I hear the original Guns ’n’ Roses version of Paradis City. Before the intro is over I’m mentally transported back about eight or nine years to a hot sunny morning spent on the town beach at Cape May, NJ. The kids and I had been dropped off by mu uncle for a couple of hours on our own on the beach. I desperately needed a few minutes of music and “me time”. The kids were about six and eight at this point. While they ran off down the crowded beach and played unsupervised in the ocean, I lay in the sun listening to Paradise City on my son’s mp3 player. For those six minutes and forty eight seconds I too was in Paradise. (No children were harmed due to lack of parental attention at that time)

Meringues from a local bakery are another source of early childhood memories. As a wee girl, I remember visiting my mum’s old auntie several times a week. She was a fabulous old lady and she adore children. I must have made the mistake one day of saying I liked fresh cream meringues. On a regular basis thereafter until she passed away, she bought me a fresh cream meringue from the local baker’s. I clearly remember kneeling up on the chair at the table in her small flat, eating my meringue in front of the budgie’s cage. (I’ve no idea why his cage lived on the table)Poor woman sickened me of meringues. Forty years later and I still can’t eat another one but the memories of her kindness and eagerness to please are so sweet.

fresh-cream-meringue

The ”Memory Bank” is pretty stuffed full with photo memories. Mt phone is pretty full with photo memories. My sideboard has a whole section full of photo albums and there are many more in another cupboard and on the book shelves. My laptop too (and external hard drive) has more than its fair share too.

Yes, I admit it, I hoard photos!

It would be virtually impossible to share them all.

I’ll pick one.

Eleven summers ago I took the kids to the USA to visit our American family for the first time and, as part of the two week trip, we spent a day or so in Washington DC. I’d been there as a little girl and was keen to go back to visit places from my own childhood memories. Before we left home, Boy Child, who was only six at the time, had been playing a driving game called Midtown Madness on the X-box. As part of the game, he could “drive” around Washington, DC. Repeatedly he drove his vehicle of choice into the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall. I commented that we’d see the pool while we were on holiday.

The day we visited the Mall, the pool had been drained for cleaning. Lo and behold, its base was covered in tyre tracks. You’ve never seen a little boy so happy to see “his” tyre tracks in real life.

USA 2004 122

Happy memories!

credits to the owner of the GnR video. and to the owner of the Google image of the fresh cream meringue

It’s Been So Long That My Hearing Has Fully Recovered…….

It’s been seventy two days since my last fix. I’m growing twitchy!

Having checked the calendar, there’s still seventy seven days to go until my next scheduled fix. Tragic!

If my maths are correct that is one hundred and forty nine days without a fix!

Far too long! Far FAR too long!!!

I’ll have completely forgotten my way to the 5.25 train to Glasgow by the time 12 November comes around.

Some of you are possibly scratching your heads and muttering “What’s she wittering about now?”

Those of you who follow this blog and those of you who happen to know me or even on occasion accompany me will have guessed.

I’m suffering from a severe drought of gigs! It’s quietly killing me. My hearing’s been almost perfect for weeks now!

The last was Tremonti at my favourite O2 ABC on 15 June.

My next scheduled gig is Crobot at The Cathouse, Glasgow on 12 November.

Daily I’m keeping my eye on the various social media sites for updates on long hoped for tour news.

I’ve scanned my O2 Academy app looking for potential shows.

I’m scouring the music magazines for tour news on a weekly basis.

(Yes, I know, there are countless bands out there touring and playing fantastic shows but a night out at a gig isn’t a cheap night out and I am perhaps being a little picky on economic grounds.)

My diary where I store concert tickets for up-coming shows is very, very empty. There are only my Crobot tickets for November and my Carnival of Madness tickets for Glasgow for February 2016 (still waiting for the Manchester ones to arrive)

Sighs sadly…….

So until things pick up on the live show front, it’s time to plug in the iPod (ok, ok, it’s always on), attempt not to download too much music (Can you actually have too many tunes?), explore new bands/albums and reflect on the memories of shows gone by.

Here’s a few of the special moments that are keeping me going.

music blog 1 music blog 2 music blog 3 musci blog 4 music blog 5

When did you last look up?

How often do we charge through our days without really looking at the world around us?

When did you last go for a walk and look up?

It’s amazing what you notice!

On my daily drive to work I pass a statue of James Watt, the famous Scottish engineer who was born in Greenock (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Watt)

It would appear he enjoyed gardening from the flora and fauna adorning the beautiful building beside him!

Seeing these pretty wild flowers- ok weeds to some folk- made me take a closer look at some of the other buildings along the route.

Here’s the result – the informal roof gardens of Greenock!

6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5

So next time you’re out and about, look up!

The Imp – part twelve

Here’s the next, long overdue instalment of The Imp. Enjoy!

The Imp – part twelve

In a room, illuminated only by a small oil lamp, Jem sat beside his tiny daughter’s cradle, singing softly as he rocked her to sleep. The baby wriggled restlessly until she had turned onto her side to face her father then closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. Loathe to leave her, Jem sat on, watching her gentle breathing with his hand resting on the carved edge of the crib.

High up in her tree top prison Amber was pacing the floorboards with her fractious son. Nothing seemed to settle him at this point in the evening. Night after night he cried himself to a standstill. She had tried everything but to no avail. He wasn’t hungry. He didn’t need changed. He didn’t have wind. He just wailed, a heart wrenching tortured cry. Whispering softly to him, the fairy/elf delicately reached out with her elven magic and probed into his mind. Up until now Amber had resisted the temptation to use magic on the baby but she was rapidly reaching the end of her tether. She was startled to see a clear vision of her sleeping daughter. The baby girl looked to be wrapped snuggly in a soft wool blanket. A hand rested on the edge of the wooden cradle. An adult hand. Jem’s hand. The sight of his signet ring and his long fine fingers brought tears to her eye. Instantly she understood her son’s distress.

The baby boy was missing his twin sister. While she slept, their telepathic connection was severed. It was the unbearable loneliness and the separation that was causing him to wail inconsolably.

“Hush, little one,” she whispered in his mind. “You’ll be together again soon. I promise.”

In his study Urquhart was pouring over the leather bound book. He had read it from cover to cover four times already, desperately seeking more clues about the witch and her sisters. So far he had determined that each witch was tasked with acquiring a gemstone- one from the elves, one from the fairies and one from the mortal men. The last fable in the tome suggested that a fourth stone was needed to connect the three gems. Despite reading and re-reading the six tales, the wizard still had no clue as to what this mystery gem was and not the slightest hint as to where it may be.

Muttering to himself, he opened the bottom drawer of his desk and brought out an ancient elven manuscript. His master had gifted it to him when he completed his apprenticeship, saying he would have need of it in troubled hour. Perhaps this was that troubled hour? The aged elven manuscript was badly faded in places but with a subtle rejuvenating spell, the wizard soon had it restored to its former brightness. Beside him the candle began to splutter as it reached the brass candlestick. Quickly he used the dying flame to light a fresh candle then returned his attention to the manuscript.

As the first light of dawn streaked across the sky, Urquhart found what he had been searching for. After trawling through centuries of elven history he had found a description of a theft that had rocked the gentle race to its very heart. The parchment told a strikingly familiar tale. A beautiful raven haired elf had wooed the newly-crowned and unwed king. He had been completely besotted with her and married her in a lavish ceremony in front of the High Council. Two days after the celebratory feasting ended, the king was found dead in his bedchamber. Poisoned. His new queen was nowhere to be found. Nothing in the room had been disturbed and the door had been locked from the inside. The only item missing was the king’s ceremonial chain of office. It was a heavy ornate gold chain that he used to hold his official royal robes in place. The clasp had been forged by the original elves and at its centre they had set a large emerald in a bed of gold carved oak leaves. Nothing else was annotated in the manuscript as being out of the ordinary apart from the unexplained presence of black crow feathers on the chamber’s window sill.

“Damn and blast,” hissed Urquhart, placing the elven history back in the drawer.

As he stared out of his study window, the wizard recalled a song he had heard the fairies perform at the annual fayre. It was a love song that told of the death of one of the first fairy kings. He had died from a strange malaise after the mysterious disappearance of his queen, following the birth of their twins. The babies, a boy and a girl, were left orphans and deprived of both their parents’ love. One verse of the ballad made mention of a missing sapphire ring that had been the king’s gift to his queen following the birth of their children. The last verse contained a reference to a giant mythical bird carrying the queen away to its eyrie. More feather references.

Suddenly it became obvious to Urquhart that the witch, masquerading as the Lady Karina, had had her black heart set on the ruby that was the centre piece of the king’s crown.

With a flash of inspiration, Urquhart realised that the fourth stone had to be a diamond. Not just any diamond. A mythical stone that had perhaps been connected with all three races in the past; a stone that had long since been lost.

A week had passed since Karina’s return to the family home and she was still trapped in the form of a crow. Her sisters had discarded the cage but her movements were restricted to her own suite of rooms, deep within the mountain. She hadn’t seen daylight for days. Captivity was doing nothing for her humour and she had already bitten three of the household servants as they brought her meagre meals of grain. The last serving girl had apparently lost her finger as a result of a particularly vicious bite.

“Sister, dearest.” Greta’s sharp greeting startled her. “We may have found a solution.”

“You have? About bloody time!”

“Yes,” snapped the elder witch, extending her hand. “Step on and come with me. I’ll trust you not to fly off.”

As she hopped onto her sister’s outstretched hand, Karina felt a gentle tingle of magic round her feet as enchanted shackles held her firmly in place.

“So much for trust, dear Greta!”

“Well, perhaps if you had exercised the same caution, you wouldn’t be in this predicament!”

Silently Karina was carried through the keep’s torch lit corridors until they arrived at a small ornately carved door. It was the door to their brother’s private study. No one had dared to venture inside since his untimely disappearance over a century before. Greta snapped her fingers and the door opened. Once inside the small chamber she released the binding spell and allowed Karina to hop off onto the back of the only chair in the sparsely furnished room. On the desk sat a small dish of seeds and beside it a smoking vial of bright green liquid.

“We consulted the family physick and Isabella found an entry with a potion recipe that should solve you bodily problem,” Greta explained as she poured the smouldering contents of the vial over the bird seed. “Eat, Karina.”

Without a murmur of complaint, the cursed witch flew over to the desk and, perching on the edge of the silver dish, began to eat the sodden seeds. She had expected them to taste foul but was surprised to discover they were sweet, deliciously sweet. Soon the dish was empty.

“Now, we wait,” stated Greta coldly.

Gradually Karina felt a tingling sensation begin to spread through her feathers. She felt as though she was starting to swell. Just as she was on the brink of calling out in fear, there was a flash of blinding green light, followed by a cloud of vile smelling smoke.

When the smoke cleared, Karina stood, naked as the day she was born, in front of her elder sister.

“Welcome back, Karina,” purred Greta as she handed her a dark green velvet robe.

When Amber awoke, her senses told her immediately that someone had been in the room while she had slept. A small package lay on the table, wrapped in a leather cloth. Beside it lay a large bunch of wild flowers and a plate of fresh fruit.

“Blain,” she whispered to herself. No one else would have brought her flowers.

Her son was still sleeping soundly in his plain wooden crib. With a quick check to see that he was alright, the fairy/elf slipped out of bed, crossing the cold damp floorboards in her bare feet and unwrapped the package. In the middle of the leather cloth lay a silver thimble, a long thick needle and a small leather pouch full of soot. Her heart sank. The rowan twig was missing. Without it she couldn’t make use of the other items. Suddenly something in the centre of the bunch of flowers caught her eye. In typical Blain fashion, he had disguised the twig amongst the colourful blooms.

Now she had everything she needed.

Carefully she hid the items under the mattress of her son’s small bed. As she folded the piece of leather, Amber noticed there was a message written in tiny lettering in one corner.

“The portal opens in two days. It will be open for eight days and nights. I will bring you a visitor in three night’s time. Be ready to do what you plan. Time will be short. B.”

Still As A Statue

A few months ago I was walking up Sauchiehall St in Glasgow with Girl Child and took note of the number of buildings that have ornate figures carved on them, especially up around the O2 ABC area. It set me thinking….seldom a good thing.

The following short piece of fiction was inspired by those mad thoughts. Enjoy!

Still As A Statue

The soft light from the computer screen was the only illumination in the room. Staring intently at the screen, the young art student couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing. It was late and she knew she was tired however what she had just noticed made no logical sense at all.

For the past two weeks she had been focussed on her final photography project for her portfolio. She had a love/hate relationship with the camera but, after a lengthy lecture from her tutor, had conceded that she had no choice but to submit some photographic images as part of her overall degree portfolio. In an attempt to make things easier for herself, she had elected to centre the theme of her coursework on the stone statues that she walked past every day on her way to college.

Her daily route took her across a small square in the city centre, slightly off the beaten track, but filled with stone statues. It had caught her attention in her first year and she had done some research at that time into its history. All the sandstone buildings around the perimeter of the square had been designed by a Victorian architect who was renowned for adding Gothic touches to his work. He had met up with an aspiring French sculptor and together they had collaborated on the architecture of the square. Every building had at least one carved stone image on display, some having several. There were gargoyles leering down from every angle. In the centre of the quadrangle there was a small public garden containing more samples of the sculptor’s work.Her research had come to an abrupt halt. Both the architect and the sculptor had mysteriously disappeared shortly before the last house was completed, leaving one home with an empty plinth within the archway above the front entrance. As the sculptor hadn’t left any instructions or partially finished pieces, no one knew which statue had been destined to fill the space.

The following day she had scoured the area and finally found the house with the missing statue. It may have been her imagination but the air temperature had seemed to drop  a few degrees as she stood gazing up at the empty arch.

Now almost three years later she used these statues as  the models for her photography project. They had proved to be the perfect subjects. Always still. Facial expressions fixed. No risk of them twitching and ruining the shot. She had photographed them over several days, taking hundreds of shots from every conceivable angle. In different light they looked subtly altered so she repeated her photographic session by the light of the dawn and by the light of the moon. The variable Scottish weather had aided her project too, allowing her the opportunity to capture images of the stone figures bathed in bright sunshine and lashed by driving rain.

As she had edited the photographs she had felt pleased with the results. Her camera had captured the texture of the stone, the emotions carved into the faces and she had even picked out a few smaller carvings that she previously missed.

Now though, as she sat preparing the final images for printing off in college in the morning, she couldn’t make sense of the scenes before her.

Crazy as it sounded, the statues weren’t always in the same location.

Scrutinising   the hundreds of photographs she concentrated on four statues who appeared to move about the most. Within the four folders she had saved out she had photographic proof that she had shot them in at least half a dozen different locations around the square. One, a tall slender striking male had even managed to appear in the park on a short column instead of his usual position beside the door of number seven. The statue of a young woman with long tumbling curls also moved from house to house. In one image she was crouching down above a doorway, almost as if she were trying to squeeze into a space too small for her, instead of standing on a wide base in a corner of the gardens.

A cold chill ran down her spine as she copied the pictures onto a flash drive. She would take them into college and show her tutor what she had uncovered.

With the images saved and the flash drive removed, she shut down the laptop and headed for bed.

Outside on the window sill, a tall slender male was crouched down watching her. He had been there all evening, as he had every other evening for a week. In the moonlight his alabaster white skin glistened.

He had repeatedly warned the others to take more care. Cautioned them against their reckless behaviour. Now, from what he had just witnessed, he knew they were all at risk. The art student had discovered their secret…or at least she thought she had. Little did she truly know.

The Imp – part eleven

Flames danced over the logs as they burned in the grate in the king’s private study. The king himself sat in a high-backed well-worn leather chair gazing into the fireplace, trying to make sense of the events of the past few months. His train of thought was interrupted by the arrival of his son and the wizard.

“Good evening, sire,” greeted Urquhart, as he took a seat on a low stool to the king’s left. “You summoned us saying it was important?”

“Yes,” replied the king, watching his son lower himself into the chair opposite him. Seeing his son still in agony thanks to the curse’s poison tore at his heart. “It might be something or nothing but I’ve been reading my wife’s diaries. Folk tales and legends fascinated her. I recall that she favoured a tale of three witches from the mountains to the north east of here. Do you remember it, Jem?”

Hearing his mother’s soft lilting voice in his head, the prince nodded and replied, “Yes. She loved that story. I have fond memories of her tucking me into bed and reading it to me from a big blue book.”

“And do you remember the details?” asked the king, his tone surprisingly sharp.

“Some of them. It was a long time ago, father. I remember the book itself more vividly.”

“I believe the book is still here somewhere,” commented the king. “If my memory serves me well, each of the witches was tasked with finding a particular jewel. Once brought together these jewels would give them the combined power to control every living being in the land.”

With a sudden flashback memory vivid in front of him, Jem exclaimed, “And each of the witches had the power to transform themselves into a bird!”

“And one of them favoured the form of a hoodie crow,” finished off the boy wizard calmly. “We need to find that book.”

“All of my wife’s things are still in her bed chamber. Nothing has been touched in there since her death,” said the king, his voice filled with emotion. “I ordered the room to be sealed after her funeral.”

“And where’s the key?” demanded Urquhart bluntly.

“Here,” said the king, handing him a large ornate key on an emerald green ribbon. “You know where it is, don’t you?”

“Yes, your majesty,” replied the wizard, pocketing the key.

“Father,” began Jem softly. “Will you help us search for the book?”

“No.”

The king turned his chair to face the blazing fire, signalling to his son and the wizard that their audience was at an end.

Leaving his father lost in his memories, Jem followed the court wizard out of the room and down the dark corridor that led to the narrow passageway to his mother’s room. He had been only ten years old when a fever took his mother from him and he had avoided that part of the castle since. It was with mixed emotions that he entered the room.

The air, although stale and musty, still carried a hint of the late queen’s perfume. A film of dust covered everything. Much to their surprise though, there were footprints leading from the window to the dressing table and then over to her writing desk. When Urquhart investigated further, he found bird footprints in the dust on the window sill.

“The witch has been in here,” he muttered sourly. “I wonder what she was looking for and if she took anything?”

“We’ll never know, Artie,” sighed Jem wearily, as he gazed round the room.

It was more luxuriously furnished than he remembered. Memories of sitting on his mother’s knee by the fireplace, of bouncing on her large four-poster bed, of having his hair brushed as he stood by the dressing table all tumbled through his head and he felt tears prick at his eyes. The far wall was lined with bookshelves, each shelf piled high with leather-bound volumes of all sizes and colours. In front of the shelves, the layer of dust was untouched. The witch had been nowhere near the books.

“So what does this book look like?” asked Urquhart, gazing up at the towering library. “We could be here a while trying to find it.”

“No we won’t,” whispered Jem, as he walked across the room towards the books. Instinctively, he reached for a large, slightly battered looking volume on the second shelf from the bottom. “It’s this one.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said the wizard with a smile.

Once the baby was finished feeding, Amber lifted him onto her shoulder, gently rubbing his small back to wind him. After a few moments he obliged with a loud “burp” then snuggled into her neck. For the first time Blain noticed the baby’s tiny elven ears and smiled.

“Yes,” he said quietly. “I’ll help you if I can but I won’t put either of you in danger.”

“Thank you,” whispered Amber with a relieved smile. “And I promise not to put you at risk either.”

“Do you have a plan, princess?”

“I’m working on it,” she sighed, as she hugged her tiny son. “It would help if I knew what was being transported to the fayre to trade. I will also need to find someone the same height and build as I am.”

“Why?” questioned her friend.

“The less you know for now the better. If you don’t know the details then you can’t be punished if I am caught,” answered the fairy/elf. “Can you get me the trade schedule? The High Council still approves it, don’t they?”

“Yes,” said Blain. “It is on the agenda for our next meeting. Finding someone to match your height and build will be more of a challenge. You are somewhat taller than most of the women in the village.”

“Ah, my elven blood again,” acknowledged Amber. “It doesn’t have to be a female. Just someone my size.”

“In that case, I know the very person,” declared Blain, with a wink.

In the distance they heard the long bow on a horn that signalled dinner time at the High Council chambers. Quickly Blain lifted his cloak and the now empty basket.

“I need to go, princess. I’ll be back in a couple of days. Is there anything else you need me to bring you?”

Amber thought for a moment then, just as her friend reached the door, she said, “Yes. A silver thimble. A needle. Some soot and a rowan twig. A green twig. Not a dried up one.”

“I won’t ask. Consider it done.”

The door closed softly behind him leaving her sitting alone cradling her sleeping son.

Deep in the mountain fortress, two raven haired witches stood staring at the half dead crow that lay at the bottom of a wicker cage. The guard who had picked the bird up from the floor had given it some water laced with wine and it had briefly rallied before collapsing a second time.

“I tell you, it’s our sister!” screamed the smaller of the two witches.

“How can you possibly tell?” squawked the other witch instantly. “There’s no ruby. Karina wouldn’t return without it. That was the arrangement, sister dearest, or had you forgotten?”

“This creature is Karina,” insisted Isabella, the youngest of the three witches. “I can smell magic on her. She’s been cursed.”

“By whom, may I ask?” demanded Greta, the eldest of the three sisters.

“I smell her own magic but it’s been tampered with. I don’t know who else is involved but they’ve had power to match hers. I tell you, this is Karina!”

“Well, if it’s Karina,” hissed Greta with a sneer. “Transform her back!”

“Very well. I will,” snapped Isabella.

Try as she might, the witch failed to transform the exhausted crow back into her human form. Eventually, after an hour or more of wasted spells, she changed tactics. With an intricately woven hand spell, Isabella restored the power of speech to the bird.

“About bloody time, sisters!” screeched the crow, as she struggled to stand.

“I knew it!” declared Isabella triumphantly. “I knew it was Karina.”

“Hmph,” snorted Greta, peering into the cage. “Whatever happened to you, Karina dearest?”

“A meddlesome half-breed fairy and a wizard called Urquhart.”

“Do tell us more,” implored Greta, her curiosity triggered by the bird’s response.

“Let me out of this cage and I’ll tell you.”

“Ah, perhaps not,” commented Greta with a malicious smile. “Explanations before freedom, sister.”

It took the cursed witch a further hour to tell her tale while her sisters crowded round the cage. As she told of the events that transpired in the king’s bedchamber, Greta cursed her stupidity. When her story was told, Karina stood in the centre of the cage staring at her sisters with her black beady eyes.

“Very well,” muttered Greta. With a snap of her fingers, the cage door flew open.

Slowly Isabella reached into the cage and Karina hopped onto the trembling outstretched hand. Not quite the welcome home she had envisaged.

The Imp – part ten

An icy east wind bit into the crow’s feathers as she flew deeper into the mountain range. All around her grey, lifeless rock faces loomed. The only sound was the wind whistling through the gorge. Far below she could see the silvery, winding ribbon of the river that ran through the stark peaks. Using it as her guide, she continued on and up. Food had been scarce since she had crossed the plains and entered the mountainous terrain but the landmarks below were becoming more familiar. A few more hours and she should reach the sanctuary of her family home.

It had taken her four weeks of constant travel, after spending the first two weeks resting and feeding near the bothy, to reach the mountains that she had called home for the last two centuries. Every feather tip ached with exhaustion. The remnants of the curse’s poison still coursed through her narrow veins, sapping her diminishing energy reserves. She held onto the vain hope that her sisters would be able to reverse the wizard’s magic and restore her to human form. It was growing tiresome being trapped as a bird and she longed to enjoy a hot bath, a fine meal and a smooth glass of wine.

In the distance she spotted two flickering lights high up on the cliff face. The sign she had been searching for – the torches that lit the entrance to her family home. Drawing on her final drops of strength, she flew towards the beacons. As she glided soundlessly into the mouth of the cave, she crash landed unceremoniously on the dusty floor. Her chest feathers heaving, she lay panting for breath. She opened her beak to let out a “caw” but no sound came. As exhaustion swept through her, the witch felt herself being scooped up into a leather gloved palm.

 

Under the shade of the lower branches of a huge pine tree, Jem sat leaning against the trunk, his baby daughter nestled in his lap. Gently he ran his good hand over her soft auburn hair and marvelled yet again at her beauty and innocence while she slept. Silently his heart wept for Amber. She should be here sharing these first few precious weeks of the baby’s life. Despite the pain it caused him, the imp reached up with his burnt hand to touch the fairy/elf’s amulets that he now wore round his neck. It may have been his imagination, or just wishful thinking, but Amber felt closer to him when he wore her talisman.

It had been two weeks since Urquhart had deemed him strong enough to make the journey home to the castle. Since his return, Jem had struggled to settle. He felt caged and suffocated within the thick stone walls of the castle and longed to return to freedom of the small mountain bothy. At every opportunity he would escape outdoors with the baby and roam the extensive woodland behind the castle.

His injured arm was healing slowly and, with the assistance of the wizard’s magic, the feeling was beginning to return to his damaged hand. The curse’s poison still burned deep within him but Urquhart had devised an enchantment that contained it within the injured arm. Despite his best endeavours, the wizard had been unable to restore the sight in his eye. In his heart of hearts, Jem knew that only Amber held the magic to do that.

A soft cry from the baby brought his attention back to the present. In his lap, the baby had wakened from her nap and was whimpering softly.

“Time for your dinner, little princess,” he whispered softly. “I guess we had better take you back to Martha and Mistress Morag. Time for some milk.”

With the baby securely nestled in his arms, the prince walked slowly back towards the towering castle walls.

 

Up in the small tower room that was his private study, Urquhart stood by the window with the black crow tail feather in his hand. Several others that had been found in the Lady Karina’s bedchamber lay on the table behind him. These feathers, plus the small chest containing the witch’s personal belongings, were his only hope of breaking the remains of the curse. Beside the pile of feathers lay Jermain’s silver brooch. It too would be required to break the spell, if there was any magic left in it.

“Where has she gone?” muttered the wizard, turning away from the window.

He laid the feather on top of the wooden chest and made his way back down the spiral staircase to his main chamber.

A second dilemma was also troubling him. Where was the portal that had been used to bring the baby to the prince? His instincts told him it had to be close by or near to somewhere Amber could visualise. But where?

While the prince had been recuperating at the last house in the village, the wizard had spent his time trying to retrace the path that brought the baby to them. Whoever had delivered the basket had been clever and cautious in the extreme. His tracking efforts had taken him round the perimeter of the village and into the dense woodland at the foot of the mountain. It had taken all of his tracking skills to follow the trail through the deep bed of pine needles that covered the forest floor but, when he reached the stream, the trail stopped. The mystery person would appear to have walked either up or down the stream for some distance to destroy their trail. Finding it on the far side had so far proved impossible.

His last remaining hope was that the fairies would return to the village during the fayre to mark the end of summer and open a new portal. Traditionally they came to trade and to provide entertainment for the locals. The fayre, however, was still two weeks away.

Muttering sourly, Urquhart sat at his desk staring at the map of the local area that was spread out across the top of his piles of books and scrolls. His search area was marked out on it. Previous portal locations were highlighted. Spinning his wand through his fingers, the wizard sighed.

“Where would I hide the gateway?”

Sunlight rippled through the leaves outside the window of her tree top prison. From her bed, Amber could just make out the lilac mists that marked the boundary between her world and Jem’s. With tears in her eyes, she rolled over to face the wooden wall and rested her hand on her now empty belly.

Less than a week after the birth she had been brought there by the order of the High Council; by the order of her grandmother, the queen. Light fairy chain had been shackled to her ankles, long enough to allow her to move about the small room but short enough to keep the door out of reach. Only once in the following days had her grandmother visited her and then the visit had been filled with hate and disgust.

The High Council had sentenced the fairy/elf to be confined to the tree top cell indefinitely. Her defiance of ancient laws was unprecedented so they determined that solitary confinement for her was the best course of action to take until they could reach a formal agreement on an alternative form of punishment. Only one member of the council had spoken up for her. Her childhood friend, Blain, had risked his position by proposing that they petition the elves for their opinion on the matter, arguing that Amber’s defiance was as much an elf issue as a fairy one. It was a risky strategy but Blain hoped it would buy him some time to try to persuade some of the other council members to review their stance. To his relief, the High Council had agreed and had arranged to send two representatives to consult the elves. It was anticipated that they would be gone for two months. In the meantime, Amber had to bide her time high up in the tree tops.

As she lay on her side, she counted the marks she had scraped into the soft wooden wall beside her narrow bed. She counted thirty five small scores. Adding on the seven days she had spent in her grandmother’s home following the birth, Amber calculated that word from the elves was due to be received in a little over two weeks.

The soft squeal of the door opening startled her. She turned over in time to see Blain tip toe into the room carrying a small basket.

“Good afternoon, your highness,” he said rather formally, setting the basket down on the table.

“That title’s long gone,” answered Amber as she sat up.

“You’re still the queen’s grand-daughter,” argued her friend. “And will always be a princess in my eyes.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” giggled Amber, her laughter filling the small room with music.

“I live in hope,” sighed her visitor, shedding his cloak. “But I fear your heart belongs to another. Well, three others to be precise.”

“Perhaps,” sighed Amber, feeling tears prick at her eyes. “Won’t you be in trouble for visiting me?”

“No,” replied Blain, producing a small parchment scroll from his pocket. “I can argue that I’m here on official High Council business.”

“You are?”

“No,” stated her friend, showing her the blank parchment. “But no one will question me if I claim I had to read this to you. Confidential High Council correspondence relating to your trial and for our eyes and ears only.”

“Devious. I like it.”

Reaching into the basket, Blain brought out some fresh bread, fruit and a small bottle of wine. He put his hand back in and retrieved a small round cheese.

“I thought we could break bread together for a while,” he explained with a warm smile. “Break the monotony for you.”

“Thank you. I’d be happy to,” she replied as she came to sit at the table.

Over their simple meal, her friend filled her in on all the comings and goings of daily life in the fairy community. When she asked, Blain confirmed there was no word yet from the elves. Between bites, he spoke about various High Council matters that he wanted her opinion on then he happened to mention that the queen had tried to forbid them from visiting the fayre being held in the mortal realm that marked the end of summer.

“She didn’t succeed, did she?” gasped Amber, her eyes wide with concern.

“No. She was promptly over ruled on economic grounds. We need the trade. Why?”

“No particular reason,” murmured Amber, keeping her gaze lowered.

“Amber?” he said softly, reaching out to touch her hand. “What are you scheming?”

“The portal remains open while the fayre runs. It is usually open for five days and loosely guarded. If I’m to escape from here, those five days are my window of opportunity.”

“And just how do you plan to escape the High Council’s bonds?” demanded Blain sharply, pointing to the silver thread-like chains around her slender ankles.

“Elf magic,” stated Amber plainly. “The less you know the better.”

Before Blain could reply, their conversation was interrupted by a sharp wailing cry. Instantly Amber leapt to her feet and darted to the far side of the room. Whispering softly, she scooped the crying baby into her arms. The wails subsided to whimpers as she carried the baby back to the table. Discretely she opened her tunic to allow the hungry mite to suckle.

“And you’ve that elf blood to thank for the fact that you were allowed to keep this little one,” commented Blain, watching the fair haired child suck contentedly at her breast. “Only act of compassion I have ever seen from the queen.”

“That I have,” agreed Amber, gazing down at her tiny son. “But I have to return to Jem and to my daughter. What if she’s like this little man and needs half-breed milk to survive? She could be starving to death in agony!”

With a heavy sigh, Blain nodded, “You’re right, as always.”

“Then help me find a way back,” pleaded Amber quietly.