Image Prompt 051 Response – Meeting at the Castle

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I chose the image of Edinburgh Castle for my twenty-minute sprint today.

Meeting at the Castle:

Calum settled against the stone wall and watched the crowd.  This was probably not the smartest thing he’d ever done, meeting up with a friend from online that could be anybody.  In theory, he was meeting Matthew Evans, graphic artist and maker, who was in Edinburgh for some kind of conference for independent business people.

The castle had seemed like a good place to meet.  Very public, always reasonably crowded, and safe because there was a lot of folks who wanted to make sure the castle itself was properly preserved and protected.  Also, it was swarming with tourists and no one wanted tourists getting hurt.  It was bad for business.

Matt had said that he’d be wearing a bright blue jacket and that he’d have a messenger bag covered in art buttons.  In retrospect, Calum wasn’t sure how great that was for spotting his friend.  There were a lot of blue jackets and a lot of people with buttons on their bags.  Calum was wearing his usual dark gray pea coat, so he wasn’t any easier to spot.  He did have the bright copper hair which wasn’t quite as common in Scotland as a lot of folks thought.  He’d also positioned himself in a good vantage point, and told Matt where to find him.

There were four guys in bright blue jackets coming up from the parking lot.  Two seemed to be with other people, but two of them seemed to be alone.  Calum spotted a backpack on one of the others, which probably meant it wasn’t Matt.  The other was walking straight toward Calum and there was a strap across his chest that could have been a messenger bag.  He had sandy brown hair that was cut business man short and bright blue eyes.

“Calum?” the guy asked as he stopped a little away from Calum.

“Matt?” Calum replied.

“Yeah,” he said, smiling and stepping in to offer Calum his hand.

“It’s good to meet you in person,” Calum said, taking Matt’s hand.  It was warm, and a little bigger than Calum’s.  Matt was taller than he was too.

“I’m really glad you agreed to meet me,” Matt said.  “So many people are too nervous these days.”

“I did pick a public place,” Calum pointed out.

“Even I insist on that,” Matt said with a laugh as he let go of Calum’s hand.  “You want to explore the castle a bit while we’re here?”

“Yeah,” Calum said.  “It’s easy enough to chat while we walk.”

“Great,” Matt said, stepping out into the flow of others moving into the castle.

Calum followed, trying to stay with Matt as the crowd moved.

“So do you do this kind of thing a lot?” Calum asked.  Matt seemed comfortable, and his comment about people not always being willing to meet made Calum wonder.

“I wouldn’t say a lot,” Matt said.  “Once or twice a year I’ll be traveling for something and be near where an online friend is.  Not all of them are willing to try meeting up.  I understand and respect the caution they have.  I could be anyone, and just because we get along great online doesn’t mean it will work well if we meet in person.”

“I tend to be largely the same,” Calum said.  He didn’t believe in hiding who he was in real life or online.

“Me too,” Matt said with a smile.  “Some people can be painfully shy in person but do just fine online.  And a few online friends have been willing to share with me that they’re disabled or ill in some way, so getting out and meeting people isn’t really an option for them.”

“It’s good that they have online then,” Calum said.  “It’s hard to be isolated.”

“It is,” Matt said.  “I went through a few years when I was ill and had to stay home all the time.  It made me a little nuts before my parents let me online.”

“You seem far too social to have handled that well,” Calum said.  Matt knew everybody in their little online community.  Calum suspected he was like that in person too.  One of those people that everyone knew and everyone liked.

“Maybe,” Matt said with a laugh.

“So what else are you doing while you’re in town besides the conference?” Calum asked.

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Image Prompt 050 Response – Mage’s Bridge

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I chose the image of the stone bridge in the UK for my twenty-minute sprint this week.  And then I was having so much fun that I kept writing, so this is longer than usual and definitely wasn’t written in only twenty minutes.  I still did the usual quick copy-edit before posting, so please excuse any errors I missed.

Mage’s Bridge:

Aaron held Jason’s hand as they walked down the road from the little village where they were staying.  There was a lovely little stone bridge Aaron wanted to look at.  Jason found them interesting because of the engineering principals involved and how old they were.  Aaron thought they were lovely and had found that any kind of water crossing had potential to be a place where mages placed protections.  In a country as old as Britain, he thought there was a chance there would be traces of some kind of spell he could study.

“We’ve walked back to every old bridge we’ve crossed on this trip,” Jason said as they arrived.  “Is there something about them besides the look that you find so interesting?”

Aaron smiled.  Jason knew him too well.  “They’re a common place to find the remains of spells,” Aaron confessed.  “If a village had a mage, they would put protection spells on bridges and fords and crossroads to guide those who intended harm away from their home.”

“Find any so far?” Jason asked, squeezing Aaron’s hand.

“There were faint traces on a few, but nothing strong enough for me to learn anything from.”

“So it’s a research thing?” Jason asked.

“Sort of,” Aaron said as they stopped before crossing onto the bridge.  “It’s intellectual curiosity,” Aaron said, studying the bridge with his eyes first.  “But it’s also about finding ways to weave magic that have been forgotten.  I spent a whole summer traveling to any sites where Native Americans lived that are still in existence.  They had a different way of weaving magic once, and a lot of it was lost when so many of them died out.  Settlers would find their mages and make sure they were educated by European mages rather than their own.  It was shameful, to lose so much.”

“That sounds awful,” Jason said.

“Yeah, history has a lot of examples of mages being worse than the average human when it comes to that kind of thing.  Some still are.  There are weird pockets of insular people who don’t want to change with the world.”

“I’m glad you’re not like that,” Jason said.

“You’d never have stayed with me if I were,” Aaron replied.  He was pretty sure Jason never would have agreed to a first date, let alone a second if Aaron had the superiority complex he’d seen in so many other mages over the years.

“Go explore,” Jason said, squeezing Aaron’s hand before letting go.  “I’ll take some pictures and look up architectural facts.”

Aaron laughed.  He loved that Jason was willing to indulge him.  He’d been so patient even before asking why Aaron was so fascinated by the old bridges.  The stone ones were the best.  Wooden ones wouldn’t hold the magic as long.  But a stone bridge could hold magic for centuries.  Especially if the mage had been around to weave the magic while it was being built.

Aaron stepped onto the bridge, letting his magic flow out through his feet to examine the stonework.

There was definitely magic in the bridge, but it was strong.  Too strong to be a remnant.

Aaron stepped back off the bridge.  He looked closer at the end, searching for a mark.  Most mages these days left one, but it was usually subtle, something that could be missed or ignored if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

It took him a good five minutes to spot it.  It was on the first stone at the very center of the bridge.  Aaron moved to it, crouching down so he could examine it closely.  He knew Jason would be paying attention and let him know if a car was coming.

The mark had been placed there recently.  Maybe even in the last few years.  Since they were visiting another country, it wasn’t something Aaron was familiar with.  He kept up with the Mage’s Society back home, but Britain had their own, and didn’t make their resources public to other societies.

Aaron reached down, touching the mark with one finger.  The mage had been young when they placed the mark, perhaps early twenties.  She’d placed the spell on the bridge first, then the marks.  Now that he was touching this one, Aaron could sense the other four.  One at the other end of the bride and two in the middle on either side.  They weren’t part of the weaving of the spell.  They were something else.

“Aaron, there’s a car coming,” Jason said.

Aaron opened his eyes, got to his feet and hurried to the side of the road with Jason.

A little sedan pulled up but didn’t drive onto the bridge.  There was a woman behind the wheel.  She looked to be in her late twenties, and as soon as she turned and looked at them, Aaron knew she was the mage who put the spell on the bridge.

Aaron held her eyes as he bowed to her.

Her mouth popped open in surprise. ~

Aaron smiled as he straightened.  She hadn’t expected him to acknowledge her.  Interesting.  He realized now why there were four marks.  It was a common way to weave a very subtle spell that most mages wouldn’t notice that would alert her to the presence of another mage.

She clamped her mouth shut and narrowed her eyes at him.  Aaron held his hands at waist level, a little away from his hips, and very slowly and deliberately turned them palm toward her and spread his fingers wide.  It was a sign most Mage Societies recognized as signaling peaceful intentions.

She nodded to him, then put her car in reverse and pulled off the road.  She got out and slowly walked toward them.

“Well met,” Aaron said, nodding to her again, his hands never moving.

“I hope so,” she replied, her accent sounding very much like the ones he’d been hearing in the village.

“My name is Aaron,” he said as she crossed the road to them.  “I’m on vacation.”

Her lips twitched at that, like she wanted to smile but didn’t want him to know she was amused.

“I live here,” she replied.

“I know,” he said.  “You do good work,” he added, nodding toward the bridge.

Her eyes narrowed again, and she stopped at the side of the road a little away from them.  It put Jason closer to her than Aaron, which got Aaron’s protective instincts into high gear, but he kept them in check.  Jason was being amazing so far, not saying anything and not making any sudden movements.  Aaron could feel that he was slightly worried.

“I really am just here on vacation,” Aaron said.  “I like to stop at old bridges and take a look at them.  Sometimes there are traces of something old that I can learn from.  That’s all I was doing.”

“And him?” she asked.

“Can’t you tell?” Aaron replied.  He and Jason were bound.  Any mage that encountered them should be able to tell as much.

She frowned, and looked at Jason.

Aaron could see it in her face when she recognized the signs of their bond.  Her eyes were wide and they quickly moved back to Aaron.  She actually took a step back.

“I believe in being civilized,” Aaron said.  “We’re all fine because no one is being threatening.  We’re just talking.”

“We don’t get many visitors here,” she said, her own hands down at her sides now, palms out and fingers spread.  Aaron understood her caution.  Most mages were a little unreasonable about protecting their bound mate.  Aaron thought it was old fashioned and knew Jason wouldn’t appreciate it if he was overbearing and overprotective.

“Most of those I know are uncomfortable traveling,” Aaron replied.  “They all find me quite odd.”

She actually smiled at that one.

“We’re staying in the village,” Aaron said, motioning with his head toward the direction she’d driven in from.  “Perhaps we could go have tea and chat?”

“You are quite odd,” She said, smiling as she approached them.  She stepped onto the road so that she was facing Aaron.  “I’m Emily.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Aaron said as they shook hands.  She had her magic pulled in tight, just like he did.  “And this is Jason.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jason said, offering her his hand.

“Likewise,” EMily said, her eyes wide again as she shook hands with Jason.

Aaron smiled.  She was kind of adorable as she tried to figure out how to interact with them.  He wondered if this was the first time she’d ever had a foreign mage in her village, or even the first time she’d met a mage she didn’t know through someone.

“You can ride with me if you want,” she offered.

“Fine by me,” Jason said, looking at Aaron.

“Thank you,” Aaron said as they followed her to her car.  He was looking forward to the chance to talk with someone from another Mages’ Society.

Image Prompt 049 Response – Fair Folk

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I chose the image of the Welsh castle ruins for my twenty-minute sprint this week.

Fair Folk:

Calum ducked behind the partially ruined wall, his heart pounding.  He’d just come up to take some pictures.  The place was usually either completely deserted or crawling with tourists.  He’d thought he’d lucked out and it was a slow day and he’d get shots without people in them, but then he’d heard voices.

He turned and slowly peeked his head up over the wall enough to see the two figures he’d overheard.

Hearing someone say “If you don’t do as you’re told she’s going to have you killed,” had freaked Calum out enough that he’d run away from the pair.  Looking back at them, he was glad he’d run.  They didn’t look entirely human.

The taller of the two was wearing a dark green jacket.  He also had no pants, and his legs had backward knees, thick brown fur, and ended in cloven hooves.  Calum was fairly sure there were little horns at his temples too, but he was just far enough away to doubt his eyesight.

The shorter one at least had all his clothes on.  They looked like something out of a medieval fair though.  Slightly baggy pants tucked into boots that were fastened with leather tied around the outside, a loose shirt tied at the neck, and a tunic that hung over the man’s hips.

Calum ducked down again, not wanting them to notice him.  They were either seriously dedicated actors of some kind, or the rumors about the ruins were true, and the two men were some of the fair folk come to the human world.

The death threat actually made Calum hope for the later.  Unless it had been a line from a play?  The ruins would be a great place to do an in situ performance, or even to film a screenplay, but there was no evidence of an audience or any recording equipment.

Calum wasn’t sure how the two would react to being overheard, or seen for that matter.  He didn’t think he could get back to his car without being noticed though.  Carefully, he peeked up again.  Neither man seemed to have noticed him.  Crouching down again, Calum surveyed the slope back toward the parking lot.  Maybe he could make it look like he hadn’t seen or heard them yet?

They were still talking, though Calum wasn’t close enough to make out the words now.  They didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the rest of the area.  Calum peeked up again, bringing his camera with him this time.  He wanted one picture, just to prove to himself that he wasn’t crazy.  He snapped it quickly then ducked down again.  He started moving along the wall, putting more distance between him and the two men.  If he was on the other end of the wall, he could pretend he hadn’t seen them and head back toward the parking lot.

When he made it to the far end of the intact portion of wall, Calum took some shots of the stones, it gave him a reason to be down here and a reason to not have noticed the other two men.  He slowly stood as he took more pictures, glancing sideways to see if the men were still there.

They were gone.

Image Prompt 048 Response – Broken Down

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I chose the picture of the couch in the snow for my twenty-minute sprint this week.

Broken Down:

Caleb walked along the side of the rode with his arms wrapped around himself.  The snow was still falling slowly down around him as he trudged along.  He was glad for his thick winter boots and his heavy winter coat, but even than wasn’t much help when he’d been out in the swirling snow for more than two hours.  He hadn’t realized how far in the middle of nowhere he was when he decided to walk toward civilization instead of staying with his car.

It had probably been the right decision because he still had a dead battery in his phone and he hadn’t seen a single car on the long stretch of highway he’d walked so far.  He knew his aunt lived in the boonies, but hadn’t expected his car to die half way between town and her place.

He crested a hill and paused at the top.  There were some buildings ahead, that he didn’t actually remember passing on the way down.  Maybe he hadn’t been looking far enough from the highway?  Or maybe he’d stumbled off the highway and was now hopelessly lost.  The buildings still seemed like a good bet.  They might have a land line he could borrow to call his aunt or a tow truck.

Caleb started down the hill, still walking along the road, which was nominally cleared, so that he wasn’t wading through the foot-deep snow.

As he got closer to the little cluster of buildings, he saw a brown leather couch sitting in front of the fence near the road.  It was covered in snow like everything else, but it still looked so inviting.  Caleb shook his head.  He wasn’t that tired.  He didn’t need to sit down on a couch in the snow.  With his luck, he’d fall asleep and end up dying of exposure.

Just past the couch was a wooden gate that stood open at the end of what looked like a gravel driveway.  It wasn’t cleared of snow enough for a vehicle, but he could see furrows that meant a human being had been up to the mailbox and back some time in the last day, so Caleb followed the tracks down the drive toward the buildings.

As he approached, Caleb could see that the closer building was a barn, followed by something else that was probably another barn or a storage shed of some kind.  Past that another hundred yards or so was an old farm house.

The barn was closed up tight, but Caleb could smell animals as he walked past it.  A working farm would have people around.  No family would abandon their livestock even for a storm like this.  Hope made Caleb move a little faster as he trudged through the snow toward the house.

There were three steps up from the drive to the porch of the farm house.  There were two pickup trucks and a little sedan parked off to one side, and Caleb thought he saw light coming around the curtains of one of the front rooms. He knocked his boots together to get the bulk of the snow off them and shook his coat out on the first stair, then climbed up onto the porch.  It was a big wide, wraparound style with a couple rocking chairs on one end and a porch swing on the other.

The mat at the door said welcome, which Caleb hoped was promising.  He raised his hand and knocked.

“Was Manny planning to come by or something?” Caleb heard someone call from inside.

“Not that I know of,” someone called back.  Through the door it was hard to tell anything about the voices.

Caleb smiled when the door opened, pushing his hood back and hoping he didn’t look threatening.

The young woman who opened the door looked utterly confused.  She was a little under five feet tall with her brown hair pulled back in a braid, wearing jeans and a heavy gray sweater.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Caleb said.  “My car broke down, and I was hoping you had a phone I could use since mine’s dead.”

“Dad,” The girl yelled over her shoulder.

“Who is it, hon?” her father asked as he walked up behind her.  He was definitely her father.  They had the same nose and the same pale blue eyes, but he was over six feet tall with thickly muscled arms shown off by the blue t-shirt he wore with his jeans.

Caleb repeated his apology and request to use a phone.  “I was on my way to see my aunt when the storm caught up with me.  I hadn’t expected the snow until this evening and then my car died.”

“Come on in out of the cold,” the man said.  “We’ll get you sorted out.”

“Thank you, sir,” Caleb said in relief.

The man opened the storm door and Caleb stepped inside, the warm air making his cheeks hurt and his eyes water.  He blinked trying to see, and managed to identify a neat line of shoes beside a bench next to the door as well as his host’s bare feet peeking out below his jeans.

Caleb sat down on the bench and pulled his boots off, not wanting to track snow through the kind man’s house.

“You can leave your coat on the bench and follow me to the kitchen,” the man said.

“Thank you very much, sir,” Caleb replied.  He stood up, careful to avoid the snow already melting off his boots, and shed his jacket.

Image Prompt 037 Response – Name Confusion

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I selected the image of the statue near the Firth of Tay in Dundee, Scotland for my prompt this week.  I’ve done a twenty-minute sprint and a quick edit.  I hope you enjoy.

 

Name Confusion:

Bailey sat on the little step at the base of the sculpture by William Longair that looked out over the Tay.  He faced the water, taking comfort in the noise of people walking behind him.  It was a beautiful day, so there were plenty of people out walking beside the firth.  That’s why he’d picked the place.  It was outside and usually had a small crowd within shouting distance at the furthest.  He knew meeting someone he met online was a risky thing under any circumstances, but he was at least doing it in public where he should be safe and in reach of help if needed. Continue reading

Image Prompt 034 Response – Dancing Blue Light

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So I’m a week late getting this posted.  NaNoWriMo does tend to eat the rest of my life in November.  I chose to do the image of the arch and gate from St. Paul’s in Dundee, Scotland as my image prompt for this twenty-minute sprint.  I hope you enjoy it.

Dancing Blue Light

Amber walked past the Episcopal church every day on her way home.  She liked the architecture.  The spires, the arches, and the stonework.  There was an arched entryway in the wall off to one side with a gate.  There were stairs leading up on the other side of the gate and Amber always wondered where they led.  In the dim light of autumn evenings, it all looked mysterious and intriguing.  On cold winter nights when it was already dark as she walked home, she could barely make out the stairs on the other side of the gate.  There were no lights on that side of the church, and the wall the arch was set into blocked the light from the street lamps.

It was early December when she first saw the light on the stairs.  It was a blue-tinged light that seemed to flicker and shift as she gazed through the arch, trying to get a better view around the bars in the gate.  She couldn’t figure out where the light was or what was making it.  When her fingers started to get stiff from the cold, she headed home. Continue reading

Image Prompt 033 Response: The Tree

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I picked the tree in the Florida state park for my twenty-minute sprint this time.  I went in a little bit different direction than my usual.  I’d love to hear what you think.

The Tree:

The tree was alone now.

Before there had been others.  A forest of them together at the edge where the land met the water.

Time took away the sand and rock they clung to first, and then one by one, the other trees succumbed.  They were carried off by well-meaning creatures, or they drifted out on the waves.

The tree was alone now. Continue reading