Tunnel #Writephoto

Azalus teetered on the bluff’s edge, warded sword wheeling for balance against the brilliant sky. The mountain beneath his feet offered no reprieve, a sheet of obsidian sleek as spilled oil.

Below him, the massive dragon shot up along the mirrored wall, its neck and talons extended. Slit reptilian eyes reflected the inferno erupting from its throat. The beast blasted through its own blaze, and its maw gaped, scorched shards of the last armsman wedged between rows of serrated teeth. In a heartbeat, chances of escape had dropped from doubtful to dismal.

Gaylen’s whip coiled around the vambrace shielding Azalus’s forearm, and he clasped it as his feet slipped into the heated air. His body slammed against the rock wall, and the dragon altered its flight to pick off the newly dangling prey.

“Dragon,” Azalus shouted to his fellow fugitive and pointed the tip of his sword at the ascending beast. Jade scales glimmered like sunlight on still water, and webbed wings beat with the snap of wind-caught sails. Beautiful and deadly.

Above him Gaylen hauled. “Reavers are closing.”

Suspended on the whip, Azalus kicked against the cliff’s sheer face. Gaylen heaved, and when Azalus reached the lip, he thrust his sword arm across the rock, fighting for leverage. Movement at the forest’s rim caught his eye. “Reavers. Behind you!”

Gaylen staggered. His face morphed into a fusion of disbelief and despair as his flesh yielded to their enemy’s iron bolts. The whip’s stock eased from his hand. Azalus slipped into the air.

The monstrous dragon’s throat yawned, jaw bones split, and fangs hyperextended. Azalus straightened, arms overhead, sword in a two-handed grip. The beast’s gullet stretched open, air drawn in for another explosion of fire. He speared between the teeth, slid over the forked tongue, and descended into darkness. The welling heat and sulfurous reek burned his lungs as he glided down the blackened throat. With a vengeful howl, he thrust the blade forward and carved as he fell. Steel sliced through flesh, thudded against bone, and blood gushed, dousing the rising flame.

Azalus’s careening descent ceased, or the dragon plummeted with him. He braced himself against the blood-slick wall, sword jammed deep between the vertebrae. The creature writhed and spasmed, and Azalus swallowed his gorge as they plunged toward the vale.

He woke with a gasp, disoriented, heart pounding. His body felt trampled, but nothing of his pain foreboded death. He gulped a breath and listened, willed his nerves to stillness. The dragon lay motionless, he lodged in its throat in a pool of congealed blood. Rising to a crouch, he yanked his sword free of the flesh, and with fingers tracing the throat’s charred wall, he staggered down the tunnel toward the light.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo for another fun #writephoto prompt. Check out her site and join in the weekly fun.

Monster – A Children’s Story

My writing break is busy with little projects, and new book ideas are happily simmering. The rain lingered through most of May, so I spent a couple weeks playing at other kinds of creativity. I thought I’d try to illustrate one of my children’s stories. Here are the first six pages. A  couple still need some work, but it’s a start. The verse is hard to see at this mini size, so I added it below.

Monster

In a dim and distant galaxy
Due east of dusty Mars
Spins a tiny greenish planet
Nestled in a spray of stars.

Its rivers teem with fishes
Its fields grow golden wheat
And fireflies light its lanterns
Along every nighttime street.

The sun smiles at its dawning
Rain only drips at night.
Even prickly woodland beasties
Hardly ever raise a fright.

“Life is grand in Alderdoof,”
The elders often say.
“Could a soul in all the village
Want it any other way?”

Yet, inside a shingled cottage
At the end of Grabble Lane
Lives a gloomy, grouchy creature
Ana Goblyn is her name.

She’s sour, dour, and cranky
Her lips droop in a frown.
She’s bored with every place and person
In her friendly town.

She snuffs and snorts her crabbiness
At doting mom and dad
Who shake their heads in weariness.
“It’s really not so bad.”

“Your chums skip in the daffydils.
Why not go out and play?”
Ana grunts and glowers grumpily
And yearns to run away!

“My life is oh so commonplace
My chores are never fair.
My mates think I’m quite ordinary
And I hate my curly hair.”

“Why can’t I live where everyone
Adores a prize like me?
Amongst a band of monsters
Where I’ll do just as I please?”

“A fine idea,” her father shouts.
“Let’s build a shiny ship!
We’ll add two booster rockets
To give you lots of zip.”

They toil in the garden
For an endless, grueling week.
Her ship peeks over rooftops
Its metal smooth and sleek.

(23 more stanzas in case you’re eager to read the rest!)

At last, the craft is finished.
Eager Ana packs her sack.
She scrambles up the ladder
Not a single wee glance back.

To Alderdoof she bids farewell
And to her mom and dad.
Yet, oh, one watery tear does fall
Her parting a morsel sad.

The spaceship flies past pearly moons
And girds a sparkling star.
Now all alone, she wonders why
She’s traveled quite this far.

Then on a sodden planet
She spies a foggy shantytown
Pulls on the spaceship’s landing gear
And gently sets her down.

From a bank of fog with eerie grace
Emerge her curious hosts.
They look like leggy lizards
With bodies as wispy as ghosts.

Their scaly skin is slimy
Much greener than a fish.
And long hooked tails like fire-pokers
Flick and flop and swish.

The only hair upon their heads
Sticks out from twitching ears.
And yellow eyes, flecked with red,
Blink as the monsters near.

They click their claws in unison
And sway from side to side
While Ana wonders if it’s wiser
To spend her days inside.

Around her shiny metal hull
The monsters plod and prowl.
Then bare their pointy yellow teeth
From snouts bent in a scowl.

Those ghastly, ghostly monster-frowns
Make Ana shout with glee.
“These grumpy, lumpy lizard things
Are grouchy just like me!”

Without a thought, she pops a pout
And opens up the hatch.
She clambers down the ladder
To a soggy, grassy patch.

The creatures wince in horror.
They cringe at the fearsome sight.
The thing climbing from its tinny can
Is twice their size in height!

It has no tail or claws or fangs
Its teeth shine white as bones.
Two legs, not four, lumber
Across the weathered seaside stones.

Centered in its oval face
Is a point with two round holes.
Its blue orbs look like drowning pools
That plan to steal their souls.

Atop the creatures head twists
A tangle of coiling curls.
The monster can only be the dreaded
Spoiled human girl!

The ghostly, scaly lizards squawk
Turn hooked tails and flee.
They scuttle and scramble and dive headfirst
Into their foggy sea.

That rude reception draws a sniff
Her welcome disappointing.
Ana boards her lonely ship
Head hung low and moping.

“I suppose I might fly onward
To another flaming sun.
But this journey hasn’t turned out
As I hoped when it begun.”

Ana dawdles in her silent ship
While wondering what to do.
Perhaps she’s learned a precious lesson
And grown up a day or two.

Maybe chores aren’t quite so vexing
Her parents more than fair.
Perhaps her chums are a tad bit fun
And there’s worse than curly hair.

The cozy town of Alderdoof
Seems such a kindly place
Far away from where she waffles
In the starry void of space.

A sudden thought bubbles up.
Could it be that she’d been wrong?
Could her cranky, crabby crossness
Be the problem all along?

With nary a grousing rumble
Not a gripe or grumbling groan
But with a happy smile, Ana turns her dials
And sets her sights on home.

Inside-out #writephoto

“You will wed Nallea,” Lord Rydan commanded. “It is already agreed. This is not a lad’s game.”

“She’s seven!”

“In eight years, she will be fifteen. I will not argue this with you.”

“I don’t know her. I have no idea who she will be!”

“That is of no consequence, Raze. You will be Lord of Vestrelle. You bear responsibilities, duties to the land, a future in the kingdom. Do you think these puny provinces will remain under separate rule? Do you believe our rivals will idle contentedly within their walls?”

Raze curled his fingers in silence, any reply wasted breath. “What about love?”

Rydan’s eyes tightened into pale slits, and he faced his son. “Love will follow.”

“Did you love my mother? Did she love you?” The questions had barbs, and Raze would use them to pull his father’s heart inside out. “Was your marriage forced upon you against your will?”

The Lord waved away his argument, but his jaw softened. “No, it was not.”

“Did you wed her for love?” Raze would force an answer. Even if it made no difference, his father would acknowledge the unfairness of his demand.

Rydan retreated to the window that peered over the rose garden pruned and dripping in the squalling rain. Its glory had turned brown and brittle during the bitter months of snow, love’s blooms reduced to thorny canes with sharp tips. A corner of his father’s heart had remained faithful to his mother, tenderly caring for her roses, his affection for the delicate petals a stoic confession of love and longing.

Four years ago, she’d drowned on the winter sea, and though they’d all, more or less, moved on with their lives, they each saved a sacred place for her. She had carried a piece of their hearts with her when she died, and the wounds had yet to heal.

“Yes, we wed for love,” Rydan said. “There is your answer.”

***

Thanks for Sue Vincent for her Thursday #writephoto prompt.
Check out her site and join in the fun.

Obelisk – #Writephoto

The horror on my mother’s face earned her a compromise, and I hauled my keepsakes into her attic. The rest I sold or trashed—all my belongings, from my gabled home and rusted car to my laptop and half-squeezed tube of toothpaste. Then I emptied my bank account and donated every red cent to the cause. I wouldn’t need it where I headed, and it would help spread the word of salvation among those left behind.

We gathered by the obelisk, thousands of us, believers young and old, some in homemade robes but most in jeans and rolled up sleeves. Anticipation crackled in the air and prickled the nerves. The sun dipped toward the burnished sea and the sky turned to brass. The moment was nigh.

Some fidgeted and grasped at fleeting minutes with fretful yearning. Others reconsidered the wisdom of their choices, whimpered their regrets, and lobbed breathless pleas to the ether with white-knuckled fingers, but not I. My veins pulsed with intrepid hope, dreams of pristine worlds, a homecoming with my ancestors, a vibrant vision of a future among the stars.

The sea shaved slices from the sun and the horizon deepened to green. The moment passed and our ship never came. I watched faith peel from the devout like onion skin, tearful and pungent, the betrayal palatable and mutating faces with grief, anger, and despair. A few backpedaled with delicate reasoning; others scratched for ways to undo what they’d done. Most vowed vengeance. The buses had departed hours ago, and as twilight faded, the horde of disillusioned started the long walk to town.

My back to the obelisk, I waited as night drew up its coverlet, not the only one to remain on the rocky point but one of few. The sea lapped on the shore to the rhythm of my breath, and the stars winked on. The prophet had promised us a life of spirit and relieved us of our worldly possessions for the start of our journey. There never was a ship, intergalactic or otherwise; I knew that now. But he hadn’t betrayed me. He’d done as he promised—freed me of the heavy trappings that weighted my life, and set me on an altered path. I faced a new future. Like it or not, I was reborn.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for her Thursday #Writephoto prompt. Visit her site to see other creative entries.

Fallen Angel

click on the image to enlarge for a view of the being in the shadows

This is a result of an early morning dream as I let my mind wander in search of a new book idea.

Feathers rustle softly in the corner of my room. The sound is subtle, intentional. He’s broken through more than the walls of my home; he’s defied the barriers dividing our kinds. He perches like a wraith in the safety of his shadows, waiting for me to wake, to stir at his presence. I don’t twitch.

On ebony nights, when woolen clouds swath the mountains and blank out the moon, the world turns invisible and senses heighten. My room smells of snow and wood fire, and his breath whispers. I’m his echo, and if I could see, my slow inhales and exhales would blow the ashes of old choices into the still air and shroud my bed in a coverlet of regrets.

My eyes search the shadows for an outline, a face, a reprieve. A phantom light glimmers on the black rachis and vanes of his wings. This fallen angel has traveled between worlds for me, only to find I’ve lost my wings along the way and can’t go home.

Bridge #writephoto

beneath-the-bridge

I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, which is why I never told my mum about the man below the bridge. She wouldn’t have tolerated him with his frayed coat and dirty fingers. His eyes had a little shine in them, even in the shadows, as if he’d left a light on inside his head.

After my chores, I’d ask mum for jam sandwiches, biscuits, and a sliced apple for a tea party with my friend under the bridge. She thought the old fellow was a fairy child, flitting in my imagination like a moth, and she liked me out from under her feet.

My doll, Miss Penny, and I would tote our basket down the hill and tiptoe across the stepping-stones. My friend waited in our castle’s cool darkness while I propped Miss Penny up against the wall and brewed pretend tea. We’d share our feast and sip from invisible cups as proper as the queen. Miss Penny always smiled, enjoying the party as much as we. Then he’d tell us stories of his travels to India and Africa, of riding elephants, and diving for pearls, and climbing mountains in the snow. One day, Miss Penny decided to stay in the castle under the bridge to keep my friend company.

Then, my mum packed us up, and we moved to America.

That was forty years ago.

My husband is golfing with colleagues, and I have a precious morning to wander through the old haunts of my tender years. I rent a car for a drive into the country. The old home is still there, smaller and empty. The roof sags and ivy consumes the sunny walls. But it isn’t the home I’ve come to visit. I tote my basket, my jam sandwich, biscuits, and apple down the hillside and tiptoe across the stones through the stream.

I know my friend isn’t there, but the eight-year-old child inside me hopes anyway. I hear his stories whisper from the castle beneath the bridge, in the brook and trees, in summer’s heated air, and I find his bones, Miss Penny still smiling in his arms.

**

Thanks once again to Sue Vincent for her wonderful Thursday photo prompt. Visit her at The Daily Echo and join the fun.

Flame #writephoto

flame

Thanks to Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo for her Thursday #writephoto prompt.

Going Hungry

“Eat your dinner.” Mogreth’s father wagged a half-eaten leg bone at the meat sizzling on the flames.

“I’m not hungry.” Mogreth slumped on the log bench.

“Your mother’s testing a new marinade. The least you can do is try it.”

Mogreth watched his mother gnaw on a thigh bone. Last night, she cooked a rump roast that his father gobbled without taking a breath. Tomorrow, she would probably grill ribs slathered in fat. Maybe stir up a meaty stew with grisly leftovers and giblets. Mogreth wrinkled his nose at the thought. “Why can’t we steam some broccoli or cauliflower?”

“Vegetables are horrible for your health,” his mother said. “Have you ever considered the havoc they wreak on your digestion?”

“Disgusting,” his father muttered and tossed the bone over his shoulder into the growing pile.

“I could grow my own,” Mogreth pleaded. “I found the perfect spot for a garden.”

His parents sighed with weariness, exhausted by his perpetual nagging. But he couldn’t help it. He wasn’t like other teenagers with their bristly hair and yellow, stumpy teeth. His room was immaculate, clothes pressed, shoes polished to a spiffy nut-brown. He studied books on horticulture and nutrition, his thick fingers gliding over the glossy pictures. If he had his druthers, he’d spend his days digging in the soil, pockets bulging with seed packets and dreams brimming with the perfect zucchini.

He stared into the fire. No one understood his longing, his peers least of all. They preferred exploring caves, stomping on small animals, and clubbing villagers, a divergence in tastes that made him a prime target for teasing.

“You really should try this.” His father beckoned to his mother for another crispy morsel. “The sauce adds just the right amount of zing. Clears the sinuses. Nothing like food roasted over an open flame.”

Mogreth’s mother giggled at the compliment. “Don’t wait too long or your father’s going to suck the meat off that last bone.”

“Help yourself.” Mogreth waved a gloomy hand at the charred meat. He might be a troll, but the whole idea of munching on villagers disgusted him. He’d rather go hungry.

A bit of silliness since I’m in an editing fog.

Thanks for reading!