Thursday, March 7, 2013

Prompt: Baiting the Tuurmogg

Olga crouched on the cold stone arch, patiently holding the thin rope dangling over the side. The wind whistled through her thin shawl, but she had given her warm coat to Iba and would not take it back. Iba slept fitfully, and Olga kept a close eye that she didn’t roll over in her sleep. There was barely enough room on the arch for them to huddle together. Olga looked up at the bright moon and prayed the tuurmogg would come this night. She wasn’t sure Iba would last another day.

They had grown up together in neighboring houses, playing and learning, then working with their mothers. Olga’s father had died in a mining accident when she was four, and her mother succumbed to the poppy smoke a few years later. Olga spent so much time in Iba’s home, she came to feel it was her own. She had no brothers or sisters of her own, and she loved when Iba’s teased her like they did their fair-haired sibling. Iba’s mother even brushed and braided Olga’s long dark hair and said she looked more like the rest of the family than golden-haired Iba. The girls were inseparable.

Until Marco. Iba fell in love the first time she saw him. Olga didn’t give him another thought until she saw Iba pining away for the new blacksmith’s apprentice. The girls plotted strategies to visit him or cross his path in the village. And it became clear they attracted his notice. Or at least Olga did. He hardly gave Iba the time of day. And even though Olga insisted she was not interested in him, to both of them, Iba’s heart was poisoned with bitter envy, and she wasted away.

Olga went to Marco and begged him to pay favor to Iba. He dropped to his knees and wept, declaring his love for her. She paled and ran from him in despair. For the first time, Iba’s mother did not greet her in the kitchen with a warm hug, but suggested that it had been too long since Olga spent time with her own, wasted mother. But her own mother did not know her any longer. She only sat on her bed and smoked her thin poppy reeds.

Iba abandoned all the things that used to bring her joy. She lay in her own bed and stared blindly out the window, deaf to her family’s entreaties. When Olga sat on her bed and tried to speak with her, she flinched away from Olga’s hand on her arm and turned her head to the wall until Olga left the room, the house, the only family and home she had ever really known.

In desperation, Olga packed a pail of bread and cheese, with a few small apples from the last harvest. She ventured deep into the forest in search of the hermit who had left their village many years before. People whispered that he knew many secrets of the world that swept on by their tiny village, tucked into a crevasse in the mountains, safe from the tuurmoggs who roamed the plains.

Olga was gone for three days, and many thought she had died in the forest. No one suggested they should look for her. When she returned, tired, cold and hungry, she climbed into her bed and slept for two days straight, then rose and went in search of the items she needed. That night, she climbed into Iba’s window and shook her awake.

“Iba, sister of my heart, please come with me. The hermit told me how to help you, how to make you happy once more. Please, Iba, get up and come with me.”

Iba hardly responded, but she allowed Olga to pull her up and dress her in a warm cloak and boots. Olga led her quietly out of the house and picked up the package she had left under the window. Together, the girls made their way out of the village. But this time, Olga headed not for the forest, but for the plains. If Iba had a care for the tuurmoggs, she didn’t show it. She didn’t turn her head or seem to notice anything as they passed. Olga led her in the bright moonlight to the rough trail that remained out of the village’s protected hold, and held her hands for balance as they made their way down the rocky slope.

At the base, there was a large stone arch, and Olga helped Iba climb to the top, where there was barely enough room for the two girls to sit and huddle together in the bright, cold night air. Olga tied a thin rope to the bucket she had carried, and dropped it carefully over the arch to dangle several feet below them. She held the line in her hands and gently swung the bucket back and forth. Iba tired and lay down again. Olga kept watch through the long night.

She might have dozed. A tremor shook her awake and alert. Another, and another. She peered into the dark, trying not to move, not to breathe too loudly. She almost moaned in terror when the tuurmogg plodded into view. It was a fearsome dragon, ten feet tall and twice as long, with broad shell plates protecting its broad head, back, and legs. Olga knew it breathed a fire hotter than any blacksmith’s forge, and it could destroyed anything in its path. Noone knew where the tuurmoggs came from, or how long ago, but the village had been isolated from all others for as long as anyone now living could remember.

And now Olga had to tempt it with her bait. The tuurmogg’s fire was what the hermit promised would heal Iba. It would heal anyone, but only one. Olga had to choose: her mother, or Iba, the sister of her heart.

She swung the bucket back and forth to catch the tuurmogg’s eye. It swung its head toward the arch and moved slowly in their direction. As it moved toward them its long blue tongue flicked out of its mouth, waving in the air, catching the scent of Olga’s baited bucket. Her eyes grew round as the tuurmogg opened its mouth wide, and a bright light began to blaze in its throat. Olga froze in terror and forgot to swing the bucket, but the tuurmogg was locked onto now, and she watched it come close, the blaze within its mouth burning brighter. Suddenly, a ball of shining light, not flame, burst from the tuurmogg and wrapped around the base of the arch, enclosing the bucket, filling it.

Jerking herself into action, Olga pulled up the rope as quickly as she could. She stared at the bright light that filled it, and she knew she had to act quickly before it faded.

She shook Iba’s shoulder and pulled her upright. “Iba, dear heart, drink! Drink from the bucket, my sister! Drink quickly!” She held the bucket of light up to Iba’s lips, and tilted it toward her. How could Iba drink light? She thought she saw her friend’s lips moving, felt her grow warm under her touch. Iba reached up and took the bucket, pulling it down into her lap. Olga stared into it. The light was gone. She looked up at Iba’s face, hoping against hope. She didn’t know what she would find.

Iba smiled and touched her face. “Sister of my heart…” she murmured. Olga leaned her head down onto Iba’s lap and wept.

Thanks to <> for yet another great image prompt!
Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle, Bacon

Jesse Cook, Free Fall

March word count:

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