I chose the image of the gate for my 20 minute sprint this time around. Enjoy!
The Gate and The Fair Folk:
The gate was old, the lock having rusted away to nothing. It took Keisha a few minutes just to work the bolt open through all the rust coating the latch.
She could see the flagstone path on the other side. It ended in a circle several steps away from the water’s edge.
The gate made an ungodly screeching noise as it finally swung open. It sounded like some small animal crying out as it died.
Keisha didn’t let the noise deter her from pushing the gate wide open and walking through. There were two steps down and then the path.
She could feel the power of the place. It was old and almost forgotten, but she thought maybe that was a good thing. No one had corrupted it yet with the modern world with all its encroaching technology. This was still a place that was pure and quiet, just like it was hundreds of years ago when someone lived in this forgotten castle.
Keisha’s grandmother used to tell stories about the castle. How the fair folk would have revels in the courtyard, and on festival nights there would be a fire to celebrate. As a child, Keisha had loved those stories, and would often sneak off to try to catch the fair folk going about their revels.
Each trip out to the castle had earned her a week locked up in the house. Her mother grounded her every single time.
But not today. She was an adult now, and her mother could no longer mete out whatever punishments she chose. If Keisha was going to the funeral for her grandmother tomorrow, then tonight she wanted to come here and remember all the happy tales her grandmother had told her.
The air seemed warmed as she walked down the smooth path toward the circular space where it ended. It was almost as if she were approaching a great bonfire.
When Keisha stepped off the path onto the circle of flagstone, she felt the heat blast around her for a moment before it died down once more.
She looked around. It seemed brighter than it had been a moment ago. Then she looked up.
All Keisha could do was stare. The sky had been full of low hanging clouds a moment ago. Now it was bright and blue and there were no clouds at all. And no sun. It was almost noon. The sun should have been high in the sky.
Keisha looked around again, noticing that the shadows were strange, as it they were being cast from all directions at once. As she was trying to see where the sun had gone, she caught movement to her right.
She turned to look further down the castle wall. There was something moving down that way.
Keisha kept her eyes along the wall, waiting for the movement to come again.
Something darted out, looking for all the world like a giant rabbit, and then disappeared again.
“Mama! Mama!” a boy yelled from the same direction. “There’s someone here!”
“Shush now,” a woman replied. “No one comes here anymore.”
“But I saw her,” the boy replied.
Keisha took a few steps onto the grass. Who were these people?
“Hello?” she called. Surely they were friendly.
“Told you,” the boy said.
Keisha froze when the figures stepped around the bend in the wall.
The smaller one looked like a rabbit, only the size of a child, sitting back on it’s haunches, it’s little nose twitching wildly.
The other looked like a woman, if you could ignore the face, that had a rabbit muzzle instead of a nose and chin, and the two long floppy ears.
“Hello?” Keisha said, trying not to stare.
“So we do have a visitor,” the woman said. “Welcome to Tir Na Nog,” she said with what Keisha assumed was a smile. The woman had large front teeth just like a real rabbit.
“Thank you,” Keisha said. “But where am I exactly?”
“Ah,” the woman said. “An accidental traveler. Never you worry,” she said, walking closer and beckoning for Keisha to follow her toward the circular end of the path. “We can send you back and Eishala will take care of you.
“Eishala?” Keisha asked. “Eishala Martin?” Why did they know her grandmother’s name?
“I believe that’s right. She’s a wonderful lady,” the woman said, beckoning again.
“She died,” Keisha said, the tears brimming in her eyes. “I just wanted to come think about the stories before the funeral tomorrow.”
“Oh, deary,” the woman said, hurrying to Keisha’s side and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “There, there,” she murmured, pulling Keisha into a hug. “You stay here and live a story for a little, and we’ll have you back in time for tomorrow.”
Keisha nodded as she fought not to cry. She didn’t want to cry. He grandmother wouldn’t want her sad.
“Come inside,” the woman invited. “We’ve got a stew on and you can have something warm to drink.”
Keisha let herself be turned back toward the castle and lead to the path and the gate, which wasn’t rusty at all.
The woman took her through the gate and the child rabbit closed it behind them.
Keisha gasped when she looked up. What had been an empty stone room with half the ceiling falling in was a grand hall with paintings on the walls, torches glowing every few feet, and thick rugs laid down along the floor.
“Am I really in the home of the fair folk?” Keisha murmured.
“That you are love,” the woman said with a laugh. “Come revel with us tonight, and tomorrow we’ll send you home once more.”
Keisha let the woman lead her across the room and into the grand hall. The room was full of people and color and noise and she didn’t know how she would possibly take it all in.