Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Prompt: Retell your day as an epic struggle between the forces of good and evil

Prompt: Retell your day as an epic struggle between the forces of good and evil

Marguerite des Cygnes strode into the council chamber, determined to prove her worth. As the newest council member, and the youngest among them, she knew many questioned her position. She surrendered her staff to the guards at the door, but did not volunteer the blades woven into her braided hair. It was never wise to be completely unarmed.

“Marguerite! Welcome!” called Idris de la Chapelle, her mentor and the council leader. She accepted his outstretched hands in greeting, and he kept her close as the other council members arrived. He quietly offered his assessment of each of the men and women she now joined.

John de Mierle, Chapelle’s strategic advisor, pounded the table for silence and called the council to order. Marguerite struggled to keep up with the fast paced discussion, names she did not recognize, and the seemingly snap decisions of the council. There was good news from the battlefield, but supplies were low. They needed the support of Robert of the Briers. Marguerite was surprised when Mierle said she should be the one to go to Robert’s hold at Brier Creek. She saw the disbelieving looks around the council table, and then she saw Chapelle nodding and realized he knew of her long friendship with Robert and his family.

When Mierle closed the council session, Marguerite quickly said her goodbyes and made her way across the muddy keep yards to the stables. The day had turned warm and glorious after a long bout of cold rain. Her gray mare stood saddled and ready, and Marguerite quickly mounted and cantered out of the keep’s gate and across the fallow fields towards Brier Creek.

Her mare made good time crossing the valley and the low hills on the way to the Creek. Laborers in the fields stood and stretched their backs, watching them race by. They reached the main road into Robert’s hold, and there were plenty of small groups of travellers, merchants and families alike, crowding the way. Marguerite was frustrated by their slow pace, until she finally made her way around them and the road opened up again. Her mare stretched into another fast canter and soon they approached Robert’s hold.

Marguerite pulled her signal handkerchief out of her sleeve and waved it to the guards as she approached. They recognized her shield and opened the gates without hesitation. Inside, she jumped down from her exhausted mare and handed the reigns to a young boy. She fished a few coins out of one of her skirt pockets, and his face lit up when she pressed them into his hand.

“Walk her around before you give her water and oats, do you understand?”

“Yes, m’um. She’ll get sick if’n I give her water while she’s so lathered.”

“Good boy. What’s your name?”

“Danny, m’um.”

“Danny, wait for me at Robert’s council chamber so you can lead me to her when I’m done. Thank you.”

The boy grinned and bowed, then walked her mare away, standing tall with self-importance at his task. She smiled briefly, then headed into the familiar hold.

Dogs in house:

Robert Sequoia, Bequest

February word count:

Prompt: Portal Arch Over the Ocean

Kerri lay in the bottom of her dinghy, feeling the cold water soaking her clothes. She was too tired to move, too tired to row any farther. Her small boat rocked over the ocean waves, and she was grateful for the calm. Soon the sun’s rays would warm her weary body enough to sit on the crossbar and lift the paddle once more.

Four days. Kerri had pushed the dinghy into the water four days ago, when the portal appeared in the dawn after the full moon. She had been ready, waiting for it. Hoping it would be close enough. Hoping she would reach it in time. The portal stayed in place for five days at a time, then it disappeared until the next full moon. It never reappeared in the same place.

Today was the last day. Kerri could see the portal from where she lay. The giant arch looked like it was made by giants, or gods. Slender columns rose into the air, with intricately carved designs she had never seen from afar, but became more clear as she slowly made her way across the water toward it. They curved in to a point, reaching to the sky. As she drew closer, Kerri could see the rough, rocky base hovering over the ocean’s surface. She didn’t know how she would get up there once she reached it. First, she had more rowing to do.

She sat up slowly, groaning as every muscle and bone in her body protested. Strong from a decade of farm work, nothing could have prepared her for this challenge. The constant rowing blistered her palms and fingers, made every joint and muscle from her hands to her shoulders burn in agony. Her back could find no relief from her bent pose over the paddle when she rowed, or the uncomfortable bottom of the boat, even though she had padded it with a quickly-sodden blanket. Her stomach and thighs burned from the constant rocking motion of rowing, and her calves had started spasming from disuse as she sat or lay down for four days and nights.

Ignoring her body’s demands for rest, Kerri pulled herself onto the wide crossbar she had carefully hammered over the dinghy’s sides. She lifted her water bottle and took a small sip. A light rain the second night had given her a good supply, and she had been ready with a plastic sheet and gourds to capture it. She’d had good fortune with the weather, and no storms had threatened her so far. The light clouds she saw this morning told her the sun would be blazing by midday, and she would need to setup her makeshift shade again, or risk punishing burns.

She could only pray that by evenfall, she would reach the base of the portal and find a way to get through.

Dogs in house:

Rachel Portman, Chocolat soundtrack

February word count:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Prompt: Saying Goodbye to the Gryphon

Callie ignored her brother’s call for her to return to the house as she ran into the forest. She traced the familiar path, dodging branches, roots, and brambles with ease. After hundreds of times, she could make this trip day or night, blindfolded, and never stumble or falter. She jumped over the bubbling hot-water stream that marked the boundary—past here, no human dared continue. Except that one day many years ago, Callie hid from her angry father and crept farther into the forest than she knew, until she wandered into Brandion’s glade and fell asleep nestled in his downy feather nest.

Today, she raced into his lair and found him dozing in the nest. Without hesitation, she climbed in and burrowed under his wing, taking comfort from his warmth and the steady rumble he disdained to call a purr. His feathers rustled around her as he pressed her close to his side.

Good even, Caledonia. It’s late for you, Child. What brings you here? Brandion’s welcome rumbled in her mind.

Callie stretched her arms up around his neck and sobbed against him. “Oh, Brandion! It’s almost my birthday! Is it true? I don’t want you to leave me!”
Brandion lifted his head to peer down at the little human child. Had it already been five years since she first came? So little time. He would miss her, as he did the others from years past.

Aye, child. It is true. After your tenth birthday, you will no longer have any sense of me, no sight, nor sound, nor touch.

Callie sniffed and rubbed her face against his feathers. She stood to face him. He remembered how tiny she had seemed when he first found her sleeping in his nest. Now, she stood almost to his elbow when he was standing. As he now lay, she could easily touch his face. She laid both palms against his cheek patches, gently stroking the delicate feathers under his eyes. He closed his eyes and rumbled his pleasure.

“But why, Brandion? Please don’t go! Why can’t you stay?”

I do not wish to leave you, child. It pains me to see your sorrow. This is my curse, Caledonia, not yours. I thank you for the gift of your friendship these five years past.

Her fingers stilled as she thought. “A curse? Can it be broken?”

Brandion shook his head, brushing her arms with his long, curved beak.

No, child. It is an ancient curse, for ancient wrongs I can never repay. Although I have changed greatly since then, I am still responsible for many terrible deeds in my proud and foolish youth.

“But surely you have changed, Brandion! You shouldn’t be punished forever! Tell me, please. There must be something I can do to help you.”

Brandion’s round golden eyes widened in surprise. Never had a child offered to help him before. He had known from the start that Caledonia was different. Her heart shone with pure joy. Although the others had loved him, when it was time for him to go, they always cried for their own loss, never his. Until now. He looked down into the somber brown eyes of the human girl who had been his only company for the past five years.

Pride proves the curse’s merit, dear child. I do not wish to tell you this story. I fear the change I will see in your eyes, in your heart.

“So you would rather leave me forever? Brandion, if you love me as I love you, tell me your story. Let’s fight your curse together! I know I’m just a child, but I swear I will find a way to help you!”

The power of her words swept through him, and Brandion’s wings ruffled in surprise. For the first time in hundreds of years, he felt a frisson of hope. He stood to his full height and stretched his wings to their full span, tips touching the trees on either side of the glade he had lived in for so long. He looked down at Caledonia, who stood facing him with her hands on her hips, sure in her faith that together they could conquer any foe. Could he find a remnant of such faith in his own heart. Could hers be enough to carry them both?

So be it, Caledonia. I accept your oath. Together, we will fight my curse.

He bent down and solemnly touched her head with the tip of his beak, then one shoulder and the other. She shuddered this time, as she felt the power of his own words, but she did not turn away. She looked up as he lifted his head.

“So, tell me your story, dear Brandion. Nothing will ever make me love you any less.”

Dogs in house:

Sergio Calu, Celtic Music with Harp

February word count:

Prompt: Magic Smartphone Apps

With the opening tones of Sting’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, Melinda groaned and buried her head under the pillow, feeling around the top of her bedside table for the phone. She pulled it under the pillow and tapped the snooze button. A few minutes later, it sounded again. This time, she groaned and turned it off, rolling over and opening one eye to balefully glare at the interruptor of her dream about Justin Scott.

She tapped the weather app and ordered Sunny and 65. In the style app, she chose “Perfect school outfit” and left it to the smartphone and closet to figure that out. She used the House Settings app to heat her bathroom floor and start the hot water. Uh-oh, credit denied?

A flick of her fingers closed the app, and she jumped into the karma credit app. Darn, she should have washed the dishes last night. Household chores were easy credits. How had she dropped so low since yesterday? Oh, yeah, there was that teasing Billy. He had it coming—she was pretty sure he would be down a few credits this morning too. But she was the big sister, and she had to set a good example. So she got docked for both the teasing and the bad example. That wasn’t fair! She groaned again and rolled out of bed. It always took longer to heat the water when she had to run it manually.

While she dressed, Melinda built up some good karma by blowing the leaves off the driveway into a neat pile, and growing Mrs. Calder’s daffodils next door so they’d be blooming when she left for work later this morning. That earned her enough for “Perfect hair” in the Style app, thank goodness.

Downstairs, her mother’s phone already had Favorite Breakfasts cooking, so Melinda set the table for a couple more credits. She was debating offering to do the laundry when Billy bounded downstairs and gave her and their mother hugs. Darn, he got the credits.

On the way to school, Melinda kept an eye out for untended lawns and flowerbeds. She almost exclaimed aloud when she caught sight of Mr. Jackson’s unwashed car, but darn if Jeffrey Gleason got it before she did. She glowered at him, but changed it to a cheerful thought before she lost any credit.

All the kids with smartphones turned them in at the front desk before heading into school. Melinda hovered at the back of the line to check her texts one more time and to see if she had enough credits for Easy As today. Darn it, she would have to think of something really nice to do for someone before the Math test on Friday!

Dogs in house:

Bach: Sonata I in E Flat Major BWV 525: III. Allegro

February word count: