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