Hello, elementals and pyromaniacs.
It’s getting cold, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I’m freezing. You too, huh? Yeah, you’re shivering a lot. Well, look around. You’ll have to find something to give us warmth, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
By the Fire
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
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Ah, just the prompt we need to keep ourselves cozy on these cold winter nights. And much like the flames that dance in a fireplace, this leaves so much to the imagination.
Those flames could stir passion into two lovers who have grown distant, one surprising the other with a romantic night of firelight and champagne. It could bring to life the joy of a little boy reading tales to his new little sister, sharing with her his love of literature. Perhaps a group of friends have escaped the city to camp out, and the fire burns bright as they each share stories and memories. It could even be two parents giggling as they discover their child sleeping on the floor beside the fireplace, having tried once again to catch sight of the one leaving gifts under the tree.
This fire could even be literal life breathed into an elemental spirit, who then makes friends with the one who woke them and uses their fire to tell stories of the past. Maybe it’s a classic dark and stormy night, and one little child stays huddled close to her only candle for comfort. Perhaps fire is how one witch prefers to travel, climbing out of a fireplace to visit an old friend. It can even be that the fire brought to life a little clay doll while it was baking, the sculptor adopting the doll as his own child.
There’s many heartwarming ways to ignite such a prompt. Even ways that aren’t so heartwarming, ways that would burn and ache. The choice is yours to make.
All it takes is a spark of imagination.
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“By the Fire”
I sat in the wooden chair by Master Nariyon’s bedside. We had moved his bed close to the fireplace to keep him comfortable, and he lay under several layers of blankets. His breathing was slow and halting. Coming in steady breaths, but with long pauses between them. I sat there quietly and was unsure if each long pause between drawing in breath was a sign that he had drawn his last. He was so quiet now and lay unconscious, and so all we could share together was our silence.
I closed my eyes and concentrated to shift my vision to gaze upon the Otherside. Even there we were alone together. No muttering spirit or wandering specter lingered in the room. Only the long dark shadow which had draped itself over the end of Master Nariyon’s bed, and stretched over to rest against the far wall, stood out to me. Nariyon’s death echo, a shadow cast from the future, the future of his life ending. Soon now he would pass and the death echo would fade from existence as the event had come and gone. It was no psychopomp waiting impatiently against the wall, merely a shadow of life’s final struggle. Besides, he wouldn’t really be going anywhere.
I returned to listening to the quiet breathing of Master Nariyon again. Everything had been arranged before this point, and now nature would take its course. Finally, I noticed his breathing had halted for even longer than before. I leaned down, placing my ear upon his bosom and found indeed his heart had stopped. The shadow of his death echo faded from the room and all was still.
I sat there and waited. After a minute Master Nariyon opened his eyes and stiffly sat up. He turned his head and looked at me with blank eyes. His skin waxen and cold, he smiled at me.
Oh wow, this is a really interesting telling of a coming of age ritual. It really captures the loss of it, something that I don’t think is often focused on. I think often stories of these rituals focus on the pride and joy of becoming a man…but I relate to this idea a bit more, personally.
“To become a man you must kill the child.”
Oyawantin hesitated. “He wished to remain a child and wasn’t ready to die”–I really liked this. Personally I think, while kind a jarring image at first, his hesitancy really captures the feeling of growing up.
” Kesabaiyo had captured their spirits with his magic and there he had trapped them.”–This is a really interesting idea, I’m curious about it.
“By morning, Oyawantin was dead, and his childhood-self remained with the spirits of the cave. And reborn, he returned to the people a man.”–What a powerful line. The idea of growing up as a sort of death, the spirit of the child taken from you and trapped somewhere that you can no longer reach it…yet there’s still pride in returning as a man…it’s quite beautiful.
I’m also curious about the title too. If the wolf has something to do with the tribe, the tribes leader, his own name, or if becoming a man makes you a “child of the wolf”? It intrigues me.
The fireplace breathed bright comfort into my sparse den. A glass of bourbon was my only other company; all screens and devices were shut off. I was tired of seeing the jubilance and mirth of the season. My beloved was still overseas, unable to reach out by the demands of her profession. The snowstorm raged the cabin, no one was getting through.
It was just me, my drink, and the dancing flames of the hearth. I couldn’t sleep, and the glass held the last of the bottle I had purchased this morning. Time seemed to pass in a blur, my body numb and still. Whether it was by a trick of the flame or my inebriated mind, my glass tumbler took on the appearance of a novelty mug my mother drank from before her shifts at the hospital. The distant echoes of playtime hummed in the air; the sense memory of pulling off snow boots and burning my tongue on hot cocoa pulled me into an increasingly lucid state. It all felt so real. It all felt so perfect.
My head snapped back to attention, the spell gone in an instant. It was just me, my drink, and the dancing flames. I shook my head and seethed as I poured in vain from my empty bottle. With a scowl and a groan of effort, I left my cocoon of blankets to toss the bottle.
I felt an arm tug on my own as I made my way back. My beloved the day I had met her, finally laughing at my stupid jokes while holding on tight. She didn’t want to be alone on Christmas for the first time since the accident, and I gladly obliged. The sweetness of our first kiss danced on my lips….
Somehow I was in my chair once again. Just me, my empty glass, and the dying embers.
The shadows danced and mixed with my senses. Long-dead relatives came to mingle and talk of olden days. Happy golden days indeed. I don’t remember what was said, only their warmth lingered.
Just me and the ashes.
Chronicles of The Dragon: Holiday Wishes
The room was warm and bright. Sparkling lights and glinting decorations covered every surface while a fire burned strongly in the hearth. A fresh cut pine tree delightfully scented the air.
A blonde woman, whose ethereal beauty made her angelic heritage no surprise, carried in a tray of spiced cider. She set it down on a coffee table before handing a mug to a younger woman, almost as beautiful, who had black hair streaked with white. “Thanks Mom,” she said before taking a big sip.
A hulking black beast, looking somewhat like a bipedal lion, though smooth and rubbery, with a flat, featureless face and white eyes stepped over and put an arm around her shoulder as she drank the cider. He rumbled pleasantly in his overly festive sweater, and the mane of anemone like tentacles around it’s neck and down it’s back waggled like a dog’s tail. “We are happy to be here,” it’s voice rumbled into their heads.
The young woman looked up at it and smiled, before reaching a hand up to pat its cheek.
“It’s great to have everyone together as a family again,” a honey blond woman said, coming in from the dining room with a smallish, auburn haired, catgirl.
Berri, Jostica, Kat, … Sera. All here, together. Happy.
It was almost like.
He blinked. Then looked around, at all the homeless people trying to get a bonfire relit after an apparent uptick in the snowfall had managed to put it out. With a thought he brought it to a roaring flame, and they all cheered.
He leaned his head back against the concrete and closed his eyes. Well, if he hurried he might be able to find Berri in time for New Years.
A wonderful, ominous tale, Adrian. The concept of a person literally leaving their childhood behind as though it were a second skin that needed to be shucked away is absolutely brilliant. I love the ritual of it all. You did a fantastic job of portraying the fear of the boys while also holding the mystery of the story intact.
One of my very favorite parts about the story is that they have to smoke this serpent pipe before they enter the cave. There’s something about combining mysticism with magic and emotion that REALLY helps build the atmosphere and the reader enjoy the story, at least for me.
I’m so stoked to see what you write next. You have this amazing way of immersing the reader in the story. Great work! Please keep writing; you’re astounding.
Interesting story. It’s always cool to see the context behind rituals. Too often we hear talk of spirits and huffing paint without actually being told what exactly these things do, or at least what the people think they do. And the idea of getting rid of the child’s spirit so the man may take it’s place is interesting. I wonder what your inspirations were for that.
In any case, “pass the dutchie on the left hand side to light the fire of adulthood” is a very cool take on the prompt. Good work, I say.
I realized my story was too long and have no idea how to delete this comment now
The time will come when we will put away our childish things, and embrace those objects of adulthood. An interesting take on the prompt. I am curious as to whether the ritual is at all mystical (that being the title implying some form of lycanthropic transformation) or is purely ritualistic. Overall, a great piece.
Ashes and dust
By Mango Gravy
Arinn used to recite poetry to us. By the campfires he would spin golden words, speaking of glory and retribution. “Our cause is like a fire,” he used to say, “Burning bright like the Sun to burn away doubt and cleanse the world.”
In his final months he spoke coldly of duty and necessity. “It must be done,” he would say over and over. As if he couldn’t even convince himself of that. In his last days Arinn never spoke a word.
Ogun was a blademaster. He devoted his life to fighting as an art form. He danced among his enemies and severed them from this mortal coil. By the end, he shambled. Still, no enemy could touch him but where once he laughed with the thrill, he began to weep. The very thought of lifting his sword was agony to him.
Moteru was a singer before the war. She would sing lullabies to ease our nerves before we slept. I barely remember how she sounded in song, those memories were overwritten by the sound of her wailing in her sleep, and choking up whenever she tried to sing. She had given up by the end.
Lingar, the tactician who described a battlefield as a painting gouged his eyes when the war ended. Othel, the medic who prided himself on saving lives took his own soon after the peace treaty was signed. And many more.
Most of us just sat around waiting for death. I’ve seen the last hours of so many comrades and though they didn’t welcome death, they didn’t resist it either. When it was time they simply closed their eyes and let go. To call it peaceful almost seems insulting, for there were no smiles on their faces.
Their bodies burned all the same, but the fires seemed dim. They say that the soul burns brightest in the funeral pyre. I suppose ours burned up in the war, leaving only ashes.
Ashes and dust.
“A new life”
By David Chamberlain
A log in the fire pops and launches a small eruption of sparks. Swirling ever higher in the wash of heat. Ascending like a flock of Phoenix. Scrambling out of the ashes to start a new life.
A new life…
As quickly as they appeared they are lost. Devoured by the blackness of the night sky. Quite shocking to Oscar was the contrast from the dancing flames to the vast black void above. Who knew the sky was that big or could be that black?
Didn’t get to see that back home, Only chunks and slices of it cut out between the facades of towering buildings. What lay beyond was not black either. More of a fuzzy bland nothingness in comparison to the sharp monolithic structures that framed the view.
The lights of the city smeared together with factory smoke to create a bluish haze that enveloped the sky and left all but the brightest stars invisible.
Anyway; Mark, his oldest brother, told him it is best to keep his eyes on the street. If there is trouble; best to see it coming and give yourself time to avoid it if possible. An ounce of prevention…
Never before had he the luxury of just laying back and letting his eyes wander from star to star. I could get used to this, he thought.
Now with eyes fully adjusted to the true darkness; and total absence of unnatural light, he could look between the brightest stars and see even more stars beyond.
He actually picked up on the twinkling trace of a satellite slowly strolling across the sky. Inching its way past its celestial neighbors. At least that’s what he thought to himself as he watched it slowly advance and then slip into the far-off blue haze of home. Just as it disappeared the arc of his glance brought his gaze directly upon her face…
The reason he was running. Running from a jungle with mountains of glass and steel and predators to match.
Running to a new life together…
This time, not the fire…
Memory of the Night
The rock crashed into the window, shattering the cold silence of the pristine night. There was no more room for second guesses. I had taken the first step. I had declared war.
My icy fingers trembled as I held the match to the rag stuffed inside the bottle. It immediately caught fire and Lucas nodded with approval. I turned toward the building and threw the fragile instrument through the broken window. I stole into the shadows to watch the result of my deed. It didn’t take long before the side of the building coughed up a billowing flame that seared the night sky.
Onlookers and morbidly curious alike viewed the destructive display while I walked away from the ensuing chaos. The sound of a crackling explosion stopped me in my tracks. My eyes shot back to the building, now with a gaping wound in its side. Walls crumbled with each explosion as the flaming beast scurried throughout the building, hunting down anything volatile.
I scrambled up a hill as the building groaned and collapsed, revealing a golden portal surrounded by brilliant yellow mist. Inky shadows poured from the portal like sewer rats, entering into anything that moved to consume them from the inside.
Lucas remained fixed on the massacre below our perch as he spoke to the open air. “See how their victims writhe and squirm like snakes without fangs? They think they can win this battle, failing to realize that they’ve already lost!”
Once the shadows had their feast, they looked up, yellow eyes glowing in the darkness, seeking out the ones that had freed them from their impenetrable prison. Fueled by the hatred of their captors, they would be an unstoppable force so long as their loyalty held.
Lucas turned to me, his sinister smile now gleaming in the flickering flames. “They thought they would forget us, brush us aside like trash thrown into a fire.” He laughed, “Surely they will remember us now!”
By the Fire
When the aliens came, I was killed with 100 million others… well almost. Before I passed, what was left of my mind was transferred into the computer CPU of a tank. I became fused to a steel machine of war. I am an undead device of horror, yearning to find peace.
Do you know how you sometimes can’t truly picture people who have died? You can’t remember what they looked like clearly? Well as an undead, I can’t remember my life. Only foggy bits and pieces. I can’t even recall my name. I use the name scrawled on the tank’s exterior… Gruesome.
I know once I was free. My vision comes from two red, glowing eyes. But I no longer have eyelids, so they never close. In life, I never hurt anyone. Isn’t all life sacred? But undead, I am a machine of death. I exist only to kill.
Once I had arms for holding people. Now when I recollect how to move my arms my mass driver canon turns. When it finds a target, it fires. Nothing I do can stop it. The legs I had once have been replaced by tracks. No longer can I run in green fields, smell the trees, or feel the air on my face. I can only roll toward my next target, an instrument of destruction.
The old city is burning. My dark sides are lit by the fire. Sadly, my computer augmented brain tells me the fires are not a threat. They are not hot enough to melt my structure. Andy and Jimmy, the hard-suited infantrymen I support direct me to move forward and conserve ammunition. I can hear the aliens shriek as my treads turn their bodies to goo. I can feel their blood oozing between my treads.
I hear a ping. An anti-tank round glances off my side. My spirit sinks, it does not penetrate. My arms move to inspect the wound. It’s instinctive. But the result is my canon turns and fires; eliminating the anti-tank gun and her crew. I scream.
Unexpected Visit (Big Top’s Cabaret Universe)
by Lunabear (Private Repost)
I feel heavy and sick as I sit on my bed.
Papa is angry. I think he hates me. He hadn’t talked to me all the way home, and he didn’t answer when I called him.
Why can’t he or Mama see the monsters from the circus but I can?
I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to disappear.
“But who would protect Mama from the bad, scary people if I leave?”
The three-eyed man’s face flashes before my eyes. I’m not scared this time, though.
*I* have to protect Mama.
I hop from the bed and set toy soldiers outside of my door. I start to look for weapons, but the doorbell freezes me in place.
I hear Mama answer the door.
“Garrett! Davey! We have visitors from the circus!”
I wish I could sink into the floor.
I go slowly down the steps and peek around the corner. I stop my gasp with my hand.
Two ladies sit at the table with Mama. One is the same spider woman from before and the other is red with horns and a tail!
“Davey! Come meet our guests!”
The spider woman turns and waves. The horned lady gives a scary smile. Her teeth are yellow and sharp.
“No, thank you.” I try to leave, but Papa comes downstairs. He takes me to the table with him.
“Don’t be rude.” Papa smiles oddly at the horned lady. He doesn’t seem like himself.
The spider lady points to herself then her friend. “Erma. Sheam. Nice to meet you.”
Mama introduces us and offers them treats.
Erma takes one. Sheam doesn’t.
“Sorry for the intrusion. We want to make sure you’re ok. After the box trick.”
“Oh, yes! We’re all fine. Thank you.”
Erma pokes Sheam with her elbow. Sheam mutters in a language I don’t understand.
“An’ YEW, Davey?”
I glare, not saying anything.
“Ach! Bleedin’ kid!”
“Such fire, though.” Erma giggles.
“No, no. We visited unannounced. It was lovely meeting you.”
They stand and head to the door.
“We’ll call ahead next time,” Erma promises.
By Giovanna J. Fuller
“You have to get it closer to the coals.”
“Stop it, Dee, I can do it on my own.”
“But it’s not cooking. You’re going to-” Dee gasped and moved to take the stick. “It’s on fire. It’s gonna get all black!”
The stick was yanked away and the little fire that had consumed the end of the stick went out. “So?”
“You’re doing it wrong. It should be a nice, golden brown. You must be patient.” He demonstrated with his own marshmallow. Slowly, he turned the stick around so that the heat was evenly distributed. After a few minutes the puff began to change into a perfectly, golden brown treat.
On the outside, it was slightly crispy. However, just beyond that thin crust of toasted sugar, was the ooey gooey center that burst forth once it was crushed between two honey crackers. He let out a moan as he tasted his perfectly toasted marshmallow and gave his companion a smug smile.
“That’s how you do it.”
“What if I like my marshmallows burnt?”
“Then eat it.”
He looked at his creation, hesitating.
“Unless you’re a coward.”
His eyes flashed angrily. “I am not a coward.”
“Panny’s a coward! Panny’s a coward!” Dee taunted in a sing-song tone.
“Knock it off you two!” A deep voice boomed, cutting through the sound of the roaring fire and screams of innocents. “If you cannot get along, then you will get no…more…marshmallows!” A pair of golden eyes looked between the twin, ivory dragons.
“Y-yes, mother,” the two dragonlings said.
Their identical, blue eyes were so big and so pleading, that motherly instinct overcame the enormous dragon’s rage. She reached into the pouch and withdrew another marshmallow. “Panic-At-My-Roar, try again.” She handed a bar to the other. “Here, Death-Is-Upon-You, have some chocolate.”
“Thank you, mother!”
She smiled and watched her sons gobble up their sweet snacks as the village burned down around them. The sound of buildings collapsing and people fleeing in terror, akin to the soothing crickets and owls of peaceful, summer night.
Embers glowed against the snow-white of the field. Anya stood hand in hand with her tribe. Singing songs and reveling in the longest night of the year.
The men hunted in winter and had caught a great boar for the feast. They served bread and sweetmeats. Mead and ale flowed from kegs on long tables. The night was full of revelry and song, of feasting and lovemaking into the frosty night.
The last harvest gathered. Tomorrow they would return to their longhouses and wait until the muddy thaws of spring came. Locked away for months, living on dried meat and dried vegetables, and whatever grain they had stored away for the long months ahead.
Not all the tribe would make it through. The snows and ice were harsh, and sometimes there was not enough food to last. Sometimes huntsmen would not return home from the icy depths of air and darkness.
Between songs, they heard shrieks and howls in the long night. The air outside the village grew more frigged, calling deep winter to come. This fire, built from wood they all gathered, would hold the beast at bay.
Tonight they feasted and sang, holding onto the light when the black of night threatened to take them. The bonfire burned high into the night sky, providing warmth and light.
Past the village into the night, eyes glowed in the inky darkness, waiting for the wind to hide their howls. Knowing that they too had to feed through winter.
The long night (Tales from Adfidem – Book of Boghos)
By Alan Baker
Departing from that place Boghos went up a high mountain to meditate. Upon reaching the summit, he laid down his cloak on a rock and gathered wood for a fire. Sitting atop the peak, Boghos beheld the vastness of creation. From the heavens to the bobbling brook, form mountain to thistle, the enormity left him as a speck of dust, alone among the stars.
Then the winged serpent came up from the ground and spoke to him, “Call my name, and I will send a servant to accompany you through this night.”
“Beware the company of a broken man for he may trap you in his narrow hell,” answered Boghos and the demon retreated. Gazing once more upon the totality of being he found himself a part of it and was content.
Then a great wind came from the north and blew out the campfire. Again, the dragon came and said to him, “Embrace my name, and I will set my breath on this rock to warm your aching bones.”
“Head not the serpent who offers light for he will guide you onto icy paths,” answered Boghos and the beast relented a second time. The winds died down, and warming rays of sunlight peeked over the austere ridges.
As Boghos rose to descend the mountain, the ground beneath his feet shook. The booming voice of the dragon rang out and reverberated through the stone on which he stood, “Take my name, and you shall wield this power to rule over those below.”
“Seek not power over thy fellow man, for nought but an empty husk will it leave you,” answered Boghos and the serpent returned into the ground. The tremors abated, and Boghos went back to his people teaching what he had learned at every hearth and fireplace.
By The Fire
C. M. Weller
Fire. Animals all over Earth fear it. Well. All animals… but one. Numerous legends tell of theft from the Gods or the heavens. This is definitely NOT how fire came to the human race.
Call her… Red. Because she likes to wear the red ochre mixed with clay. She has always been strange. There’s a few of them in every pack. They’re the ones who risk, who taste.
What she is currently enraptured by is a strange new leaf. It was not a leaf.
It was… eating… dried grass in the area. Red picked up some and offered it. The leaf grew. Spread. Red felt heat not from the sun.
Call it… Burnie. She could make MORE Burnies by moving some from one and into a pile of dry plant things. She could make one big Burnie, and it would keep the area around it warm. She could put it in a pit, with lots of food, and Burnie would stay there all night, needing fresh food by the morning.
The hearts, living in burned wood, could be taken and used with dead plant things to make more Burnies.
The usefulness came from another.
There are other weird ones, who are awake in the darkness. They joined Red in adding dead plant stuff to Burnie.
Darkwatcher liked Burnie. They fed a leafy branch to it, watching baby stars trying to return to the sky.
It was luck that Darkwatcher saw the shining eyes of a predator. Circumstance had them flail Burnie at the eyes in the dark, all while making noise.
The noise woke Hunters, who were good at throwing things.
“Darkwatcher! You saved us,” the pack-members announced.
Darkwatcher showed them Burnie on the stick she still held. A stick she gave back to it. “Red’s Burnie showed me, helped me.”
Ideas grow like flames. From scaring a predator to scaring prey. They became a TRIBE. They shared the secrets of keeping Burnie happy. Learning about what Burnie could do. The tribe learned how to like Burnie.
All of them will take it all over the world.
Romance by the Fire (Tales from Alsuria)
By Claire Aslesen
Ashkar squinted in the dimness of his mask. He silently cursed his poor eyesight for the hundredth time while he fumbled for the comb. Melka probably looked beautiful tonight, framed by the fire’s glow from the hearth.
Tentatively he reached out to brush her hair. It was wet, and when he pulled the comb back, he could smell the peppery scent of the perfumed oil that had been massaged into her hair. “Alms wood?” He asked coyly, leaning in closer to watch the light dance among the dark strands. “I thought it was hard to get in the outskirts.”
“A flirt of a traveler gave me some,” Melka said. A grin pushed up the tips of her long ears. “He said it was his favorite scent.”‘
“You must have misheard him. Because I’m sure he said something different.” The comb glided as he divided her hair into three strands.
“Oh?” She turned her head to smile at him through the corner of her eye. “What did he say?”
He whispered a secret that made her smile widen. She turned to face him. Her half braided hair fell across her shoulder. “What else did he say?” She whispered back, leaning close.
He wished the moment could last forever. Melka’s laughing brown eyes glimmered in the fire’s light. Her soft smile drew him closer, tempting him with a lover’s promise. He took a moment to soak in her fire flushed features before he sealed another secret with a kiss. Passion blossomed as the flames coiled.
The fire sputtered for a moment then interrupted the lovers with a loud pop. The pair looked up from their embrace to see a diminutive hearth guardian staring back at them through the flames. Its amber face was taught with a blushing frown. Pleadingly it motioned to the stairway leading to the inn’s spare rooms.
“It seems we have disturbed the spirits.” Melka laughed. She pulled Ashkar to his feet. “Come, I have more secrets to share with you.” He grinned and nodded apologetically to the spirit before following her. The fire hissed, it’s guardian relieved.
By Red Grapes
My hand hovered over the doorbell as I mulled over my thoughts and options. I finally gave in and was soon standing face-to-face with her: the only person I think to turn to, to trust. Our gazes briefly crossed each other before I quickly darted my eyes toward the ground and spoke up. “Hey… um, is it alright if I come in?”
Soon enough, I was seated near a fireplace with a bitter mug of coffee in hand. “I really appreciate this, Briar, “ my eyes focused on the fire, “I couldn’t think of anyone else in walking distance. I would’ve slept outside, but…” I trailed off as I gestured toward the snowy landscape just outside the window.
“Alex, it’s fine. I meant it when I said you could come by anytime.” She slipped into the chair just across mine and continued. “Not to mention, I still owe you for taking the fall in Big Rapids last year.”
The two of us sat in silence for a moment, punctuated solely by the crack of the fire, leaving me to peruse my disheveled thoughts until the warmth emanating from my palm broke my trance. “My mom kicked me out,” I broke the silence, “we had a falling out; she was mad I’d been let go at work and it just escalated from there.” I looked up at her before continuing. “She said I’d never graduate with my work ethic and I… God, I don’t know what I was thinking. I started screaming about how tired I was of everything… that I just wanted to… and she just told me not to threaten her.” I began choking back tears until…
“She’s wrong about you.” She placed her hand on my cheek. “You’re amazing and I…” she paused, as if to ponder the right words. Instead, she leaned in secured her lips to mine for a split second.
We fell asleep huddled together, content to wait until morning to work out a proper lodging situation.
Oh Christmas Tree
Lucy leaned forward, the lawn chair creaking under her as she dropped another junk of spruce wood into the fire pit. The impact sent a spray of sparks up into the night sky. As if they could somehow join in the dance of distant stars twirling overhead.
It had been a good day when they cut that tree down. Taking the time to discuss several, before deciding this one was the one they would take home.
Next had come setting it up, lights, and stringing the beads. With Christmas songs playing in the background, the family gathering together to place the ornaments: so many gifts from friends and family; each one a little memory.
The excitement of Christmas day, carefully wrapped treasures, with shiny ribbons on top. The kids had been so excited, they had been bouncing in place. Sitting on the floor ripping paper, and the delight of discovering what was inside. The tree had stood over them like it was watching, a visitor of honour in their home for a short time; decked out in it’s fanciest attire.
Lucy shifted in her chair, wrapping her shawl a little higher around her arms, adding another piece of wood from the dwindling pile beside her.
Yes it had been a very good Christmas, with visitors to their home and trips out to see others. Some of them were people they only saw once a year.
When the festivities had passed, even taking the tree down was a little ritual all it’s own. Packing each ornament away carefully to save for the next year. Wrestling the tree out of the stand, watching as it was carried across the living room and out the patio door. Then it would be thrown off the deck with a touch more drama then was needed. To crash onto the lawn below. There the tree would wait out the rest of the winter in the garden until some pleasant July evening, when the family would gather around it again, for a very different reason.
Lucy sighed with contentment, “Would anyone like to roast a marshmallow?”
A Dragon, in Name Alone
By: Makeshift Mousepad
The smooth light from the hearth washed the dark night away from Joseph’s face. He didn’t need its warmth or light but Ariadne did.
“Warm enough?” Joseph asked.
“Almost.” Ariadne patted the bench next to her and smiled.
Joseph rolled his eyes and lumbered over to the bench. His figure eclipsing the hearth until he sat down.
“See. You’re not so bad.” Ariadne smiled and leaned against Joseph.
“Spoken like someone that didn’t fight in the war.”
She looked up at him. His gray eyes caught the glint of the fire that he seemed entranced by. “Everyone else has already forgotten about it. Eventually you’ll have to forgive yourself and move on.”
“I’m not thinking about the war… It’s Caroline.” Joseph explained. “After over two-hundred years I finally got closure and learned that when she died, she didn’t hate me.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Ariadne raised a brow.
Joseph sighed, “The reason that I became this way is because I couldn’t let go of my grief. My nano bots were supposed to be a medical device that could cure any injury. But after she died, I kept them to myself. I used them to become immortal and eventually turned them into a weapon that could eat anything and turn it into more nanobots. I had clones of myself march against humanity with muscles like artillery shells and the ability to regenerate any damage in minutes.”
“Impressed with your own technology?” Ariadne gave him a tired stare.
“Heh, sorry.” Joseph chuckled, “Anyway, I nearly brought an end to humanity in my grief.” Joseph’s expression became pained. “If Caroline had just told me how she felt, maybe none of this would have happened.”
Unknowingly his words had lulled Ariadne to sleep but he couldn’t do the same. He could see his former eyes in the fire. And he could feel his former self swimming in the shadows of the hearth. “…I won’t become a monster again. I promise… Caroline.”
A Late Night Visitor (Crossroads City Canon)
By Fredrick H. (challeng3r22)
Angela awoke to someone smashing down her apartment door.
Grabbing her sword she rushed as the wards shattered around her.
At the entrance stood a creature that was monstrous in size and shape.
Dashing forward, sword held aloft, she prepared to strike down the menace.
Quickly the creature held out a reddened hand as a rune the shape of a bent cross glowed on its arm.
Her blow was blocked with mystical energy as the grey arm knocked her aside.
“Identify yourself,” she commanded.
“I am merely a servant, and you are merely my target,” it replied in the voice of a storm.
A sideways V burned on its forearm as it slammed its hand into the wall. Fire sprung from the fingertips and the apartment began to burn.
“A servant to whom?”
“Survive and you might learn of her greatness.”
She once again made a swing at the creature. This time it caught the blade, ripped it from her hands, and cast it out the window.
She scrambled to get away as a straight line glowed on that infernal arm. A burst of cold flashed across her body as her calves and feet were joined to the ground with ice.
She attempted to smash through the ice with her bare fists, but she soon found them joined with the mass.
“I thought the chosen one would be a challenge, but you proved to be a disappointment. I will have to burn this building passed the foundations.”
In its wake it left a trail of fire.
First Attempt (Novus Academia)
By Connor A.
“Tell me another story.”
“Bal, it’s already late.”
“Tell me how you got white eyes.”
Miranda tensed. She looked at the tent behind her son, then back at him.
“Only if you don’t tell your sister.”
“Well…” Miranda debated how to start. “It came from my job.”
“The executer one?”
“Executor. And yes, that one.”
“What does this have to do with your eyes?”
“I’m getting to that. You see, I’ve seen a lot since I started. The more things I’ve seen, the more my eyes… you know.” She pointed at her eyes. “Changed color.”
“What did you see?”
A new voice cut through, “The very strings of fate.”
Balthazar and Miranda turned their attention to the voice and saw a man in a suit. He approached the campfire with a grin on his face.
“I can’t believe you hid your son’s existence from me,” the man said to Miranda. “That is quite the feat.”
“What do you want, Gabriel?” Miranda asked. She felt a twinge of guilt when she saw Balthazar flinch at her voice.
“Certain events are set to arise, so Lady Fate has to cut your vacation short.”
Balthazar shot up, “This is the first time she’s had a break in years!”
Gabriel bent down and gave a condescending smile, “Welcome to adulthood.”
Balthazar was about to kick Gabriel’s shin when he felt his mother’s hand on his shoulder.
“Leave,” Miranda demanded.
Gabriel stood up straight and smiled, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that, he walked away.
Balthazar turned to face Miranda. His original question died when he saw the grave look on her face.
“Promise me you’ll avoid him.”
Balthazar nodded slowly, a bit confused. He let his mom hug him, and he returned the favor.
“You know I love you, right?”
“And no matter what happens, that will never change.”
Miranda pulled away and ruffled Balthazar’s hair. “Good. Now go to bed.”
Balthazar entered the tent, but Miranda stayed outside and watched the fire with a heavy heart.
“Nothing changed. Dammit!” She kicked a lone pebble.
“A Warm goodbye”
By Joseph Kharms
I want to say thank you to my good friend the grass hopper. When I got shot, in Vietnam. I lay on the ground, alone. It was silent around me, nothing stirred amongst the mist and the trees of the jungle. My face was down in the mud. A little grasshopper came scuttling through the grass on an adorably small, but appropriately sized, bicycle and decided to socialise with me.
It wasn’t just because I had been shot and was unable to move that I listened and chatted to the grasshopper, I was also very interested in what he had to say. After all, one does not see an insect on a bicycle every day.
The grasshopper said this.
“I once had a wife, who was wetted by the rain. When a grasshopper gets wetted, they cannot ride bikes, you see our legs get all heavy and our curved bums slip right off the saddle. I had to dry my wetted wife quickly, we were going to be late to our party with the elephants of London, so it was necessary we start cycling promptly.
I took her to a fire, and waved her in the air. But her legs were still moistened so I edged closer to the fire. Sadly, I set fire to my wife that night. And she screamed
“I’m on fire! I’m a grasshopper on fire!”
I ended up late for the party, and my wife didn’t make it at all; she’d burned to death.”
My consciousness began to slip, the world started distorting. But, in the face of death, I couldn’t help but laugh at the little grasshopper’s story. I wish I’d set fire to my wife, she was a scarecrow and when I dragged her to parties she didn’t say anything. Infact she didn’t say anything at all, because she was a scarecrow. I’d wasted my whole life, married to a scarecrow when I actually loved the crow in the corner shop. But my wife would always scare her away, so I could only catch that beautiful black bird in a blur as she darted behind the shop’s shelves. The thought of burning my scarecrow wife was comforting.
So, I want to say thank you to my good friend the grasshopper, for being with me whilst I drew my last breath and said:
By the Fire
By RVMPLSTLSKN (repost from private)
The Everflame smoldered.
Vienas couldn’t see its waning light, but she felt it on her skin. She felt the cold too. There was no barrier of heat emanating from Raimundos’s Everflame.
“Is that all of it?” She asked.
“Yes,” Padas said.
“And it’s still burning?”
“Tell me about it.”
She felt his arm rise and fall in a shrug. “It’s a fire.”
She laughed. “And?”
“There’s no wood with it.”
“What’s it attached to?”
Impossible, she thought. But how could she understand the workings of gods? What is possible to the divine? Still, she’d always thought the Everflame would be tethered to an object.
“Did it give you trouble?”
“And the shovel?”
“The iron glowed white, but it went back to normal.”
She nodded. If their situation weren’t so bleak, so incomprehensible, she might have laughed at the thought of collecting temple relics to keep peasants warm. Divine gifts should be used though.
She laid a hand on his arm. He stiffened. “Thank you.” She knew he was unnerved by the empty temples.
“I’m going clamming tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll start a stew.”
“A curry,” she said. “There’s lard and rice in the stores. And peppers.”
He nodded. It was strange. She could feel the tension and shift in his arm, but not see his frown. She wondered how she knew he was frowning; if she would ever grow accustomed to not seeing; if he would ever relax around her.
“What can I do to prepare while you’re gone?” She didn’t look up at him. She’d started keeping her eyes closed. She wanted him to be at ease.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I can’t cook yet.”
Nor can I read, she thought. It was the worst part of her blindness.
“I’ll cook, priestess.”
“Vienas!” She snapped. “You’ll call me by my name.”
“And you’ll drop that tone. There’s no castes anymore.” She shuddered, knowing her place if there were.
“I—. Yes, Vienas.”
“Better.” She leaned against him. “I’m still cold.”
He wrapped an arm around her and they both faced the Everflame, warm at last.
Three Lone Heroes (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)/Looked over by Calliope Rannis
The pale azure eyes of the demon stung into her soul, as the Nightguard took up a fighting stance again. She breathed deep, trying to calm herself down. She was in control. Long sharp claws swung in her direction. She leapt into the air, landing on the office ceiling. She backed away, closer to the large window.
She shivered. It was cold, incredibly cold. The windows were misting up. Frost formed on pot plants. The air smelled of ozone. The demon possessing a corpse closed in slowly, its fanged mouth forming a smile.
“Oh, little dreamer. So mighty and yet so scared. You shouldn’t have faced me alone.”
“I’m not alone,” the Nightguard hissed.
“You really should not have taken a dead host. It makes this so much easier,” said Max Zwickau, stepping out of the Darkness, a ball of flame in his hand.
Before the demon could do anything, Max threw a handful of herbs into the creature’s face. The Nighguard showered the demon in petrol from a hip-flask. Max flung the flame.
The demon shrieked, as fire covered it. The smell of ozone mixed with the stench of burning flesh. Max held his hands outstretched, an orange glow emanating from them. Icy wind bit into her. Max’s teeth began to chatter in tandem with hers. She felt the cold bite her eyes through her blindfold.
“Burn me! You dare burn me, exorcist! I am the winter!”
“You’re a pathetic footsoldier,” Max replied, though she noticed him straining.
A shot rang out. A bullet whizzed past her and hit the demon in the head. It didn’t kill him, but dropped his focus for just a second; a second, Max exploited. The fire erupted in an inferno. The demon screamed loudly and crumpled to the floor in a burning heap. By the fire, the Nighguard and Max were joined by Lilith Aerenhardt, the golem and monster hunter. All three stood there, watching the demon burn. All three expressions were grim.
When they left, one by one, they silently promised to hold onto each other’s phone numbers.
A Quiet Moment (Nyssa’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
As the campfire surged into life, Nyssa finally let herself relax. Shrugging off her heavy backpack, she sank backwards onto the soft earth, trying to find a comfy way to sit despite her aches and pains. Some of that was just the aftermath of fatigue and strain, but the dungeon they had fought within for the past two days had left deeper marks on her too.
She pulled up the left sleeve of her robes, carefully stroking the blackened slash-scar on her shoulder. The healing magic of her friends (Can she call them that? Her friends? Do her fellow party members really see her that way?) had sealed up the wound, but the mark left behind by the Shadow Assassin’s amorphous dagger would not easily fade. Nyssa was used to numb skin, most of her body had felt that way ever since the Storm, but the numbness around the dark scar felt deeper and colder. It didn’t tingle or twinge at her touch, but instead felt like nothing at all, not even pain. She hoped that time alone would be enough to reverse the damage.
Pulling up her right sleeve, she winced. She still didn’t like to look at it, even after healing and over a day later. This arm was completely riven with marks of teeth and tearing – the result of sticking it right into a mimic’s maw. The limb was still warm with residual pain, and it was a little difficult to open and close her hand properly. But at least this damage was purely physical. She just had to wait, and all that ugliness would eventually shrink away.
Nyssa pulled her sleeves down and looked up again, to see her party beginning to gather round the cheerful fire. Rosewin, Vagrant and Alex, Dante (she still needed to apologise to him), Astiroth, Agama (Meh too, maybe?), even Ace was fitting right in like he’d known them all for months… she still didn’t believe that she had gotten so lucky. That they counted on her, and her on them. A bond beyond just convenience.
She hoped it would last.
Who screamed like that? It wasn’t me. I don’t know what you’re talking about…
“Huh…” Matt grunted as he looked at the statue. The fire in front of it caught his attention. He wondered which of his companions lit it or if it was some magical thing that was always lit. He was still trying to figure this whole supernatural situation out.
Regardless, the fire did make the statue that much more striking and for a while he couldn’t look away.
“She’s so beautiful…” He muttered to himself.
Matt unleashed an embarrassingly high-pitched scream that he’d forever leave out of retellings of this first meeting. Once his breathing returned to normal, he could finally acknowledge the voice that came from behind him. “W-who are you?”
Ethereal was the best description for the woman who answered. Everything from her hair to her elegant clothing were in shades of gray. “I am Teriana. Goddess of the harvest. …more or less…”
Matt understood the ‘more or less’ when he remembered he was apparently in the Temple of the Forgotten Goddess. Looking back at the fire-lit statue, he could easily see the resemblance. “Hi. I’m Matt. Me and my friends apparently… pissed off Heaven and we were hoping to hide here. I was told this place was nearly impossible to find.”
“Like me, it both exists and… doesn’t…” Teriana answered. “You may stay. But please respect the artifacts in my temple. They’re all that keep me alive.”
“Of course.” Matt nodded, but as Teriana began to leave, he called back. “Why are you forgotten?”
“My followers were given a choice. Deny me for another religion or death. Either choice had the same result.”
“I’m sorry.” Matt apologized, practically feeling her loneliness. “I was never a religious person. And that was before angels wanted me dead. So… for what it’s worth, I acknowledge you.”
Teriana’s eyes bulged in surprise. “Do you mock me?”
“Not at all.” Matt replied, doing his best to give a respectful bow. “Oh, great Teriana, goddess of the harvest. I won’t forget you.”
Teriana was the first goddess Matt had ever met. She was the first goddess to hug him as well.