Image Prompt Response 077 – Unnatural Fog

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I chose the image of the morning mist and the edge of a wooden dock for my twenty-minute sprint today.

Unnatural Fog:

Riley sat at the edge of the dock, looking out at the morning fog that clung to the river.  It had been three days since he woke up to find the river and their small trading post surrounded by dense fog.  It was as if someone called down a cloud to cover them, and it hadn’t gone away.  Normal fog dissipated over the course of the day, the heat from the sun dispersing it.  Not this fog.

“Whatcha thinking?” his sister Kiley asked as she sat down beside him.  As usual, she’d arrived without a sound or warning.

“This isn’t natural fog,” Riley replied.

“We all know that,” she replied.

“We haven’t seen anything on the river in three days either,” Riley said.  “There should have been a few traders, maybe even an inspector.”  They were actually overdue for a government inspector.  As an official, government-sanctioned trading post, they had to be inspected twice a year to make sure they were storing goods properly, posting information according to regulations, and not letting anything pass through without documentation.  They’d had their yearly audit back in the fall, but it was well into spring now, and usually the inspection of the facilities themselves happened well before summer.

“They might have just missed us and decided to come back on their return trip,” Kiley said.

“But that doesn’t explain seeing nothing on the river for three days,” Riley said.  “Or the fact that you can’t hear things in the fog like normal.”

“The quiet is eerie,” Kiley agreed.

Normally, when there was fog on the water, sound seemed to carry further and louder than usual.  It was impossible not to hear another boat, even if you couldn’t see them properly.  Fog made navigation dangerous, but this fog seemed even worse.  You wouldn’t even hear another boat coming until you were right on top of it.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Kiley added after a while.

“We could,” Riley countered.  Neither of them was much of a magic user on their own, but when they worked together they could accomplish some pretty impressive rituals.  Clearing out the fog with a strong wind or a fire spell was conceivably possible if they worked together.

“You know father would never let us,” Kiley replied.

Their father was a little overprotective and a lot worried they’d be taken away if their abilities with magic were discovered.  Their mother had been conscripted by the government when one of the inspectors found out how good she was with magic.  They hadn’t seen her in ten years.  They got letters occasionally, so they were pretty sure she was still alive, but she wasn’t allowed to come home.

“I just get a really bad feeling about all this fog,” Riley said, pulling his knees up to his chest and hugging them tight.  “It feels wrong.”

“I know,” Kiley replied, shifting closer to wrap and arm around his shoulders.  “It’s not natural and it makes my skin crawl a little.”

“It feels heavy,” Riley said.  “Like if I’m not careful it will smother me entirely.”

“I know what you mean,” Kiley replied, rubbing his arm.  “If we have to do something about it, I think a fire spell out over the water makes the most sense.”

Riley nodded.  A magical water spell, which fog would be, could be negated by a fire spell to a certain extent.

“We should wait until it matters though,” Kiley said.  “If we go a whole week without a boat.”

Riley nodded.  They often went a few days between boats, but a week was unheard of.  It would definitely mean something was wrong.

“And maybe we’ll ask forgiveness instead of permission,” Kiley added.

She was right that their father wouldn’t approve of the idea of them doing a spell to clear the fog.  It would make it too obvious that someone else in the family had a talent for magic.  Riley didn’t want to be taken away from his home, but sometimes he wondered if he’d get to see his mother again if he was conscripted by the government too.  He barely even remembered their mother.  He’d been five and Kiley eight when the official came for her.

Image Prompt Response 074 – Red

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I chose the image of the moss-covered, stone stairs leading up a hill for my twenty-minute prompt this time.

Red:

After months cooped up inside her apartment, Kelly was glad to get out of the house for a while.  She’d been doing alright with online meetings for work and seeing her friends in online spaces and doing occasional calls with family and her best friends, but it was getting old staring at the same walls all the time.

So she’d driven up the mountain to find a place to hike for a while.  It was safe enough to be out in nature as long as there weren’t too many people.  It was still early in the season, and the parking lot hadn’t been very full, so she figured she’d be alright.  She kept a mask in her pocket anyway, just in case.

The first part of the trail was a little busy, so she put her mask on and picked her way around people a little off the trail most of the time.  She was an experienced hiker and even had a little climbing experience, so she was willing to go off trail a little, always careful where she stepped to avoid damaging anything, and she managed to get out away from the others by taking the more difficult option when the trail forked.  It wasn’t long before she came to her favorite section of the trail.

There were stones set into the side of the hill to help make a rudimentary set of steps to get higher up the hill.  They were covered in moss and could be very slippery in the wrong conditions, which was part of why this was a harder trail, but it was dry and bright today, so she was able to walk up them quickly to the top of the hill.

There were remains of a railing that hadn’t been kept in good repair.  Back from an older period of trail tending.  These days the goal was to change as little as possible.  The trail was there to keep humans off the rest of the mountain, so they didn’t damage things.  It wasn’t necessarily there to make the climb easier.

When she crested the hill, the light blinded her for a moment.  She held up a hand to shield her eyes and blinked quickly, her eyes actually watering from how bright it was.  She hadn’t been expecting that this early.

When her eyes had adjusted, she was able to lower her hands and gaze out at the mountains spread out before her.  She was so glad she’d moved up here.  So much better than being stifled in the city.

“Haven’t seen you around before,” someone said from her left.

Kelly shifted to her right as she grabbed her mask out of her pocket, slipping it over her mouth and nose and wrapping the elastic over her ears.

“Never got that reaction before either,” the voice said.

Kelly couldn’t see anyone on the trail to her left.  That was weird.

“Down here,” the voice said, so Kelly looked down.

There was a fox sitting just off the path, front legs straight, head held high, tail wrapped around it’s feet.

“You seem surprised,” the fox said.

“That’s because foxes don’t talk,” Kelly replied.  Had she slipped and fallen?  Hit her head?

“Oh, right, you aren’t used to this,” the fox said, looking down at itself.  “Is this better?” it asked before being enveloped in a puff of smoke.

The smoke cleared to reveal a slim figure about four and a half feet tall with fox ears poking out of it’s red hair, amber eyes with vertical pupils, and a bushy fox tail swishing slightly from side to side.

“No less unbelievable, but it’s been a weird year, so what the hell, I’ll roll with it,” Kelly replied to the fox person.

“They said belief was down these days, but I didn’t realize it was this bad,” the fox person said.  “How about we start with names, then?  You can call me Red.”

“Kelly,” she replied.  “Nice to meet you,” she added.  “Do you get human diseases?  We’re dealing with a pandemic, that’s why I put the mask on when I heard you.”

“Oh dear, a plague?” Red asked.

“We’d probably have called it that back in the day,” Kelly said.  “It’s a potentially deadly disease at any rate.”

“It shouldn’t hurt me any,” Red said.  “Never heard of a puka getting a disease before.  Probably because of all the magic.  Keeps us healthy.”

“Magic, right,” Kelly said.  “Is that how you do the fox to mostly human thing?”

“That doesn’t take magic,” Red said, waving one hand in denial.  “That’s just something puka can do.”

“Cool,” Kelly said, carefully taking of her mask.  “So what’s a puka doing here anyway?”  She might as well have a conversation.  It had been a long time since her last face-to-face conversation.  So what if it was probably just a hallucination brought on by a head injury.

“I like to visit and people watch,” Red said.  “Been a while since anyone’s been able to see me.”

“Not everyone can see you?” Kelly asked.

“Only humans with a little magic of their own can see us these days.”

Image Prompt Response 071 – Flight

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

Title: Flight

Sonja crept along the edge of the wall.  Every few feet she paused to listen.  She could hear the patrol making it’s rounds above her.  As long as their steps remained slow and regular it was unlikely they’d noticed she was gone.  If they were looking for her there would be running.

She moved a few more feet and paused again.  She heard voices.  There were guards right above her.

“I don’t see the point,” a woman said.

“We’re getting paid, who cares why?” a man replied.

“It just seems like such a waste,” the woman answered.  “Fifteen of us at all times just for one prisoner.”

Sonja crept forward a few more steps.  If they were talking and dismissive, maybe this really was going to work.

“One very important prisoner,” the man reminded his fellow guard.  “You remember what they told us, don’t you?”

“I’m not sure I believe in any of that stuff,” the woman replied.

Sonja crept forward again, coming to the spot where the wall met the living rock.  She needed the guards to move away.  It was too risky with them so close.

“Believe it or not, they do,” the man said.  “And if they believe, you bet your ass we’ll be in for it if we don’t do our job.”

“Whatever,” the woman replied.  “I don’t shirk,” she added.  “It’s time to check the south wall.”

“You want windows or exterior tonight?” the man asked.

“Windows,” the woman replied, their voices already getting quieter.

Sonja pressed herself against the rock at the base of the wall.  This was her only chance at this.  They were moving away, but they were also about to find an open window and raise the alarm.

Sonja gripped the rock and pressed her foot against the wall and slowly managed to inch her way up onto the top of the rocky ledge along the edge of the wall.  She had to stay crouched to not be visible from the arrow slits in the wall above, so she inched forward carefully.

She heard the shout when the woman found the open window.  Scrambling forward as fast as she could in her crouch, she made it to the corner, where the rock face dropped precipitously and the next portion of wall was flush with the sloping edge.  She glanced back at the old castle they’d turned into her personal prison.

Every light in the place was on, but she was still in shadow.  She prayed that she had enough time.

Sonja closed her eyes and sought her magic.  It had been so long since she’d been able to let it out.  So long since she’d been her true self.  It took a heart-pounding moment before her magic answered her.

The magic boiled out of her in a rush, transforming her body as it enveloped her in flames.

Sonja spread her wings, fighting every instinct she had to keep from crying out in joy as she let herself fall off the cliff.

The wind caught her, the air around her wings lifting her up as she soared out over the city.  She headed straight for the most densely populated area.  The lights there would help her hide.

~

Anna looked out over the wall as they ran back toward the east end of the castle.

“Gods defend us,” she gasped, coming up short at the east wall.

There it was.  The phoenix she didn’t think she believed in.

“She’s headed for the city!” Anna cried, unable to look away from the beauty of the giant bird soaring out away from the castle.

“Bring it down!” their commander yelled from somewhere behind her.

Anna drew her weapon as her partner came up beside her, his already drawn.

Sighting carefully Anna’s finger touched the trigger, but she couldn’t make herself fire on such a beautiful creature.

Her partner’s rifle went off and Anna held her breath, still tracking the phoenix, so she saw it dip one wing, her partner’s shot missing completely.

Anna fired, and watched the majestic creature dodge her shot as well.

Image Prompt Response 063 – Finally Together

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I chose the image of the Cornwall coast for my twenty-minute sprint this week.  I’m returning to Kyran and Neal, who I created for Image Prompt 23, just to explore that snippet a bit further.  I’ve been reading back through some of my old Image Prompt responses lately and finding interesting kernels to continue exploring.

Finally Together:

Kyran stood beside his car, looking down at the beach below.  It was still fairly cool, so there were only a few people down at the beach today.  No one he knew.  No one that would know him.  He hoped none of them would know Neal either.

“I hope you haven’t been here all night,” Neal said as he walked up beside Kyran.

“No,” Kyran replied.  “I left to find a place to sleep.”  Neal didn’t need to know what meant a place to park his car where it wouldn’t be seen and he could sleep in the back seat.

“Good,” Neal said.  “I didn’t bring my car,” he added.  “It doesn’t make sense to have two if we’re going to be strapped for cash.” Continue reading

Image Prompt Response 061 – The Face of a Cat

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I chose the image of the black cat in the black back pack for my twenty-minute sprint today.  I set this in the same world as my books, with a student at Black Ashe University, the Wiccan University in Fort Madison as my main character.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Face of a Cat:

Kyle padded out of his room into the kitchen, starting the coffee maker more by feel than sight.  He’d been up late last night finishing up his essay on metaphysical translation spells.  He’d thought this was going to be one of those boring, reading dusty old tomes kind of metaphysics classes, but the professor was new, and was actually having them research spells, discuss how the mechanics worked and how they could potentially rework or recombine different mechanics for different spell effect.  It was the most fascinating class he’d taken as Black Ashe University so far.

Once the coffee was brewing, Kyle stopped in the bathroom, then returned to the kitchen, actually turning on the light this time and opening the fridge.

There was a soft noise from near the door, almost like there was an animal outside growling.

Kyle straightened up and looked toward the door.  He had the food for his late class in a bag hanging behind his backpack so he wouldn’t forget to pack it.  They were taking turns providing snacks so everyone had something since they met during normal dinner hours.

The noise came again. Continue reading

Image Prompt 060 Response – Familiar

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I chose the picture of my black cat, Locke, looking out the kitchen window for my story prompt this week.  This is the product of a twenty-minute sprint and a quick copy-edit.

Familiar:

Midnight had her paws up on the kitchen windowsill so she could see outside.  Amanda smiled as she got out of the car and saw her familiar watching for her arrival.  She hurried to grab the bags out of the trunk but walked carefully up the steps.  It had snowed again today and she needed to clear them off again, maybe put down some more salt to keep things from getting slippery.

Amanda unlocked the door and pushed it open.

“Hello my lovely,” she greeted Midnight, who was now sitting on the counter right beside the front door.

Midnight meowed happily, brushing her head against Amanda’s arm since her hands were full.

Amanda chuckled and set her bags down, petting Midnight with one hand as she closed and locked the door.  “All’s well?” she asked.

“No callers or intruders,” Midnight informed her. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Image Prompt 042 Response – This Is Not Our Basement

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I selected the image of Scotland cityscape for my twenty-minute sprint this month.  I hope you enjoy the beginning of this idea.

This Is Not Our Basement:

Michael made his way down the stairs into the basement to investigate the weird noises.  His roommate must have left one of her weird experiments running, because the combination of bubbling noises and sharp knocking sounds made no sense and wasn’t rhythmic enough to be music.

The light was still on, but she’d put up a red filter so it didn’t do more than make sure he didn’t trip on the stairs.  He didn’t see her as he reached the bottom, but that didn’t always mean anything. Continue reading

Image Prompt 040 Response – Celestial Academy

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I selected the image from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland for my image prompt this week.  A twenty-minute sprint and a quick copy edit produced the below.  I hope you enjoy it.

Celestial Academy:

Ryan walked slowly up the steep grassy hill.  When he’d agreed to meet Xander at his school, he’d expected a university or a secondary school.  The address he’d found for Celestial Academy in Edinburgh had been at the top of the hill at one end of the city.  According to the website, the place had been some kind of memorial back in the twentieth century, but had since been repurposed for private use.  The web didn’t say what the school taught or how old the students were, just that it was highly selective and students were invited to apply. Continue reading

Image Prompt 039 Response – Need of You

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I selected the image of the south wall of David’s Tower for my prompt today.  I’m also playing with characters from some previous posts.  You first saw them in my 2017 A to Z challenge story (story starts here), and they appeared again in my response to Image Prompt 028.  I hope you enjoy.

Need of You:

Uriel materialized in the world inside a castle.  It was cool, but far better lit than any castle he’d been in when they were common place.  Michael had told him that it was only a few months since he was last sent into the world.  Avery had need of him again.

There were voices further down the corridor, so Uriel took a moment to observe himself and his surroundings.  He could feel that he looked the same as he had in his two previous encounters with Avery.  He was wearing black pants and a simple dark green shirt.  There were sturdy boots on his feet and a dark jacket folded over his arm. Continue reading