Once again it’s fiction Friday and here I am with the story I came up with for this month’s picture prompt. How about you? Did you find yourself inspired by the picture? Just as a reminder, here it is:
My story turned out a little longer than I expected, and I have to admit it’s a little rough. But ready or not, here it is:
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Clouds boiled in the sky, a sickly combination of grey and green and brown. That’s when she knew her spell had worked. Until that moment, she hadn’t been sure it would. It was a dark magic, and old magic passed down through generations but no one had ever used it before. No one had been consumed with the right amount of rage and sorrow....
The day had begun much as all the days did. While she hoed the small vegetable patch beside the house, she kept an eye on Lanni, her youngest, as she played contentedly with her doll in the shade of the apple tree. The branches of the tree were just starting to dip under the weight of the apples they held - it promised to be a good crop this year.
In the distance she could see Joseph working diligently in the fields, Henry and Robard close by. The sky was clear and blue, giving no hint of what was to come. She’d paused for a moment, leaning on her hoe, and watched a hawk wheeling above, then suddenly diving. He was so fast his prey had not even a chance to cry out.
And that was when the horn sounded.
She’d frozen in place. Out in the field Joseph’s head snapped up, and when the horn sounded a second time he sent the boys ahead of him as they raced towards the house. Shaking off her paralysis, she dropped the hoe and snatched Lanni up, ignoring the plaintive cries for the dropped doll as she rushed into the house.
“There’s no time to take anything,” Joseph shouted, catching up to her at the door.
He sent the boys on ahead then took Lanni from her. Frightened, Lanni began to cry harder.
“Things can be replaced, you can’t,” Joseph said grimly. “We’ve no time to waste.”
He was right and she followed him back out of the house without a second glance. There was not enough time to follow the road and they cut across the fields, stumbling on the uneven ground. As they caught up to the boys Robard fell, crying out in pain. They paused long enough for Joseph to pass Lanni over to her and then he scooped Robard up into his arms.
The gate was just closing as they reached the village wall.
“Wait!” Joseph shouted.
But the gate shut fast and they heard the bar drop into place.
“Please,” she called out, as Joseph set Robard down so he could start pounding on the gate. “You can’t just leave us out here!”
“It’s the likes of you what brung the raiders in the first place,” an angry voice called from behind the gate. “With any luck they’ll take you and leave us be.”
“At least take the children!” she begged, only to be met with silence.
They turned to run but it was too late. The small party of raiders, advance scouts for a much larger group, had them surrounded. Though they had no come specifically for her, once they saw the mark on her forehead she knew they were lost.
The raiders took them back to the homestead and made her watch as one by one they tortured and killed her family. She remained stoic, resigned, refusing even to shed a tear. Finally they beat her and raped her and left her for dead.
There no sympathy from the villagers who ventured out to see the raiders handiwork the next morning, but then she expected none. Dry-eyed, she stood and faced them.
“You have only yourself to blame, witch. This is what comes of consorting with the devil.”
“I am no witch,” she said proudly. “As you well know.”
“You bear the mark,” the headman’s wife hissed.
“It’s just a mark, it means nothing.”
“You need to leave,” the headman told her. “We don’t want your kind here.”
“And where am I to go? This is my home.”
“No longer. We want you gone before your trouble becomes ours.”
“You have no idea what trouble is,” she said softly. “But you will.”
They left without even offering to help bury her dead, not that she would have accepted. Her heart was stone, she was stone. Alone she buried her family, four graves lined up side by side. With each shovelful of rocky soil her anger grew, soon outweighing her sorrow. They would have only had to open the gate and her family would still be alive. But they were too superstitious, too petty - and they would pay.
She was not a witch, but she came from a long line of witches. They had but one spell left to them, passed down from generation to generation. Her mother had not used it, nor her grandmother, nor even her grandmother’s mother. But she did.
It was a summoning spell, it called the creature known as The Bleakness. It stood before her and she pointed at the village behind its wall, no words were necessary. At her direction it turned and drifted that way, the crops in the field it passed over shriveling in its wake.
She watched even though she could no longer see it, knowing that where The Bleakness passed, barrenness followed - fields, animals, women - no life would grow here for a hundred seasons. There would be no crops, no increasing herds, no children.
At last she turned away and started back towards the house to pack up what few belongings she was taking with her. As she passed the apple tree, fruit rotting on its limbs, she spied Lanni’s doll laying where she’d dropped it. She reached down and picked it up and a shiver went through her.
Numbly she continued on into the house. There was nothing she wanted to take from this place. There was nowhere for her to go where she’d be welcome. She sank down onto the hearth with the doll in her arms and wept.
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Be sure and visit next Friday to see what the picture prompt is for the month of May. And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for the final poetry post.