Short Story: Arcane Lust

A short story I wrote for the Blank Page Challenge. I didn’t win, unfortunately, but I was up against some stiff competition! There was a 2000 word limit and we had an image as a prompt.

Lessons learned: Don’t start from scratch four times, plan ahead, hit your goals.

Paul’s mobile bleeped repeatedly. He fumbled around his nightstand, squinting at the sunlight piercing the gap in his curtains. He finally grabbed his phone and saw it was his brother, Mike.

‘Ugh,’ Paul uttered, discovering his mouth was bone dry.

‘Hey! You awake?’ Mike shouted. Paul pictured him hanging from a cliff face, yelling into his hands-free kit.

‘I am now, yeah,’ Paul replied in a monotone, dry-mouthed drawl. He shielded his eyes against the sunlight.

‘Listen… I sent something back. Are you in all morning?’ Mike asked. His voice crackled with a layer of static – high altitude, no doubt.

‘Uhh… yeah. I’m at home all day,’ Paul said, pulling himself upright with a grunt. He didn’t go out much since the divorce.

‘You know I was saying we found a cave? Well, we abseiled into it yesterday,’ Mike said, enthusiastically.

‘Cool…’ Paul said, automatically, throwing off the covers. He sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed his eyes.

‘Dude, we found a shrine or something. Carved right into the rock!’ Mike said with an excited cadence.

‘In Alaska?’ Paul asked, with a rare trace of enthusiasm in his voice.

‘I know, right? Anyway, there’s this book, just lying there on a stone table. You’ll see. It’s weird.’

Mike occasionally found odd things on his travels, arrowheads, old tools, diaries, that sort of thing.

‘Want me to put it in your salvage box?’

‘It won’t fit. This thing is big, heavy and really old.’

‘Can I have a look?’ Paul asked, finally opening his eyes.

Mike sighed. ‘Have a look, but don’t fuck around with it. It’s probably valuable.’ He said, sternly. ‘The clasp is rusted shut. Don’t force it, okay?’

‘When are you back?’ Paul asked, stretching in front of the window. ‘And no, I won’t fuck around with it.’

‘Should be home by the weekend,’ Mike said, followed by a pause. ‘How’s the house hunting going?’

There it was. Mike’s way of saying in case you forgot, you need to move out. The truth was, Paul hadn’t looked in over a month. Getting out of bed was hard enough.

‘Not that good.’ Paul replied, glumly.

There was an awkward pause.

‘Okay, we’ll talk about it when I get home,’ Mike sighed, finally. He’d given up masking his disappointment years ago. Paul was used to it.

‘I’m trying, Mike,’ Paul said, apologetically. ‘It’s been… tough.’ He hadn’t found the words to explain how he felt, especially not to Mike – he wouldn’t have understood. He was the troubled brother of a success story, living in the shadows of expectation. He harbored a terrible, helpless self-loathing that his brother would have sectioned him for if he knew how broken Paul was. Fortunately, they weren’t that close.

‘I know, bud,’ Mike said. ‘Go get some exercise. It’ll do you good. Catch you soon.’ Mike disconnected.

Paul put the phone on the nightstand and sighed.

Paul closed the front door and lumbered the hulking book from the doorway, gently resting it on the glass kitchen table. He tore off the packaging eagerly. A strange excitement had come over him.

The tome had a rough cover, dark brown and maroon in colour. The pages were crinkled and yellowed with age. Sturdy leather bindings reached together into a rusted clasp. It had a musty, damp smell of sweaters left in old basements. On top of the tome was a Polaroid of Mike. Paul picked it up and examined it. In the photo – which he thought looked like the front cover of a mountaineering magazine – Mike was stood between two snowy peaks, nothing more than a silhouette, really. The light cone from his torch beamed up into the sky like a searchlight, sending eerie light throughout the icy gully. Written on the back of the photo was a note in messy handwriting:

This is why I do it.

Paul tossed the photo aside and ran his hand over the tome’s cover. It looked like leather but had the texture of marble. Placing his palm fully on the cover, he shuddered as an image flashed in his mind: A crypt of some sort, lit with a sick glow. Arcane symbols were scrawled on the walls, seeping fluid like a fresh wound. The book Mike found was placed upright on an altar. It glowed with a dark red aura – the shadows it cast with its unholy glow danced on the walls in demonic, inhuman shapes.

Paul staggered backward, tripping over a chair and landing in a bruised heap on the kitchen floor. His feet squeaked on the linoleum as he tried to pick himself up. Looking up, he noticed wispy tendrils of smoke drifting from the book lazily snaking their way downward, spiraling toward him.

Getting on his feet, he dashed to the front door, pulling it open unexpectedly easily, overcompensating and nearly falling over again. The snakes of black smoke were closing in, wisps splitting off from the main body and touching Paul’s shoulders. The door slammed shut as if pulled closed from outside. Paul turned with a grimace to face the horror. In a veil of smoke, it invaded his senses, pouring into his mouth, funneling between his gritted teeth. Then there was nothing.

An empty void. An infinite darkness.

‘This is the place outside places,’ an echoing, indistinct whisper began, ‘There is no moon and there are no stars.’ The eerie voice seemed to come from nowhere – and everywhere.

Paul tried to step forward in the darkness and was hit by an overwhelming sense of vertigo. Wherever he looked felt like he was staring into an abyss. Gravity felt off-kilter. He dropped to a knee, his legs buckling beneath him.

Something moved closer from in front of him somewhere, rough debris skidded across the floor and tapped against his kneecaps.

An unknown entity whispered arcane words in his ear; he could feel it’s breath. It made his headache, throbbing with each impossible word.

Suddenly, there was no sound other than Paul’s hitched, gasping breaths. He clutched at his head, tears wetting his knees, convinced he was too far gone – that he’d finally snapped.

Light began to creep in from above as if someone had opened a trap-door. The light came down in a strong beam. A beautiful scarlet-haired woman stepped forward, her pale skin glowing in the light from above. Her long hair fell loosely over a nondescript black robe. As attractive as she was, there was something cunning in her eyes, something dark, something mysterious. Beholding to the terrible beauty, Paul knelt in front of her, his mouth agape. She gently reached out and stroked his cheek, wiping away the stinging tears. His mind began to fill with otherworldly words and chants – whispers of the past. Alien memories pervaded his senses as his eyes rolled back into his head. He faded away.

It was born formless and nameless. Naught but an eerie whisper on the wind or a chill over flesh, the feeling of being watched when one was alone. It was brought into the world by men with prayers and incantations over many ages, under many names – under many religions. The strength of the priests and acolytes’ collective will ripped it through the veil into the material realm. It chose the form of a scarlet-haired woman, who was offered to her as a sacrifice. It inhabited her body after she was killed. She was pleased to be called ‘she’ or ‘her’. It was a sense of self that she hadn’t been aware of until then. With it was born a sense of self-preservation.

The men prayed for her to perform miracles, nurturing crops, healing the sick or reviving the dead. She was bound to them by their strength of belief, but each feat she performed came at a cost. If a child was healed, another child would get sick, and so on. The men who worshipped her came to fear her. Damning her to an eternity trapped within a tome, they called her ‘demon’, and she felt their hatred.

For centuries, she sought to escape, clawing and tearing at her prison in muted rage, damned to darkness. She sensed the world only on the fringes of her perception and intuition. Frustrated and afraid, she blindly reached out with her consciousness, but there was no answer. She eventually succumbed to a deep sleep, lasting hundreds of years. She was awoken by a burst of light breaking in between the pages. Passing through so many hands and minds throughout the ages, she chose Paul.

The vision ended. Now he understood, he could feel her pain. He felt a strange sense of solidarity with her.

Another vision flashed into being: Two snakes intertwining, melding into each other, eventually becoming a dragon. It had emerald eyes.

‘What do you want?’ Paul asked, helplessly. ‘I don’t understand.’

‘I want to share you, and all the light and warmth you offer. I want to see something other than darkness,’ she said, emotion filling her voice. ‘In return, you will know what I know. The mysteries of all things. You will not get sick or die young.’

Paul considered for a moment.

There was a gentle sigh in his ear. Another vision manifested itself, this time it was of Paul. He lay, broken and bruised. His skin was ashen, his eye sockets purple. He lay dead on a bare mattress, surrounded by pill bottles in a damp, dark basement.

‘This is your choice,’ she said from the darkness. ‘But you will die at your own hand. It is a gift of mine to see such things.’

He knew it was true. It was a small miracle he was still alive, having been resuscitated before. It was only a matter of time before life got the better of him again. He knew he couldn’t suffer anymore.

‘Fuck it. Let’s do it.’ He said, finally. He felt her surprise. He felt his own.

‘Break the clasp on the book.’ She said before the darkness faded. ‘Free me.’ Her words lingered in the air as the world returned.

Paul woke on the floor. His body ached like he’d climbed a mountain and his head throbbed. With an effort, he pulled himself to his feet and stared at the relic on the table. Without hesitation, he walked over and pulled at the clasp, the rusty edge tearing into his finger. He didn’t notice. Desperate that his chance for his redemption was waning, he threw the book to the floor. Standing on the tome with one foot on the book, he pulled with both hands, with all the strength his spindly, atrophied arms could manage. The clasp broke and shot across the room, embedding in the fridge. He stood back, the book began to float into the air, creaking open like a fly trap. It glided in front of his eyes. Archaic runes and impossible shapes glowed like embers in fire. The glowing words floated off from the page and drifted towards his eyes. They hovered there as if waiting for permission, like obedient snakes.

‘Do it,’ He said, clenching his fists. ‘Please.’ He didn’t care, knowing he’d offered everything for a chance to make a change.

The glowing words shot into his eyes. Searing pain screamed through his head; he squeezed his eyes shut. Staggering through the kitchen, squinting through the pain, he guided himself to the bathroom, arms outstretched. Stumbling in, he threw himself against the sink and opened his eyes. Except they weren’t eyes – they were glowing emeralds. Paul wiped them with a towel and stared at himself in the mirror. He smiled back at himself, caressing his face, as if it was the first time. Paul realized he wasn’t controlling his hands.

Wait, wha His voice began. His lips didn’t move.

The emerald eyes gave Paul a pitying look.

What’s going on?! He screamed without words.

She grinned at him, with lips that weren’t his anymore.

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The Relics of Men – Chapter One

Note: This is a first draft of the first piece of writing I’ve ever published online (yikes!). I’ve copied from Scrivener, so the formatting is a bit off! Please leave feedback if you have anything positive or negative to write. Don’t feel shy about DM’ing me on Twitter, or on here! Thanks.

Mara woke up to bright sunshine breaking in through the cracks in the walls.

She squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to move with a weary sigh. With some effort, she threw off the blanket, pulled herself out of bed and stepped into her breeches. They were basic but functional, like most things out in the Flatlands. Her copper belt buckle flickered in the light as she clasped it. She rinsed her mouth with the water and opened her dresser. Mara only had a handful of clothes, her lifestyle hadn’t called for more than that. She pulled out a simple leather jerkin, no more than two pieces of leather stitched together, really. She slid it on and tightened the neckties. With a deep breath, she opened the bedroom door and stepped into the kitchen.

Mara walked to the table, her bare feet padding on the board floor. Her husband was writing in his ledger on the opposite side. The table had the makings of a breakfast; some bread, tomatoes and a few slices of ham. A chipped wooden plate was set for her.

‘Mornin’,’ she said, accompanied by a slight smile. A polite smile.

He glanced up from his ledger and offered a perfunctory smile back. His eyes never met hers.

It had been that way for a year; avoiding eye contact – or any contact for that matter – staying out as late as possible, just to delay coming home to the stillness and silence. She was coming to realise – after five years, no less – that she shouldn’t have expected anything more from him. She was traded for a couple of horses, after all. Love had never been in question and she thought she was stupid for thinking otherwise.

All for a couple of horses. Mara thought. She wondered if her mother and father made good use of them. She sometimes wondered if the horses went mad and rode them into a ravine.

Mara moved to Sunwell five years ago, at the age of twenty-six. Until then, she had lived in a small hut with her parents on the other side of the Flatlands, on a small farm that was tucked away in a small copse of trees, far away from the nearest settlement. Mara had worked since she was able. She was treated respectfully, but with aloof disinterest. She only met passing traders and occasional wanderers when she was out for walks. It was a lonely existence, but she was able to make the best of it. She knew no different, after all.

Eventually, a passing trader came through and asked for water for his horses. Locking eyes with Mara, he offered two pure-white stallions in exchange for her ‘service’. Exchanges like that were common in the Flatlands.

Mara had mixed feelings to start with, she wanted to be somewhere – anywhere – else. She dreamed for years of someone coming to rescue her. Anyone. But now he was here and his intentions weren’t hidden. She knew people married for life in the Flatlands. The ceremony involved branding the initials of the partners on the skin surrounding the right bicep, so the marriage could never be undone. He would bed her and she would squeeze out children and that would be it.

Her parents never spoke to her about it. It was decided behind closed doors, with Mara’s parents and Elias in the hut, while Mara obediently brushed Elias’ horses.

She’d never forget how they told her: ‘You’re going to stay with Elias now. Perhaps you can bear him a child. We’ve raised you, now you must make your own life.’ There wasn’t a shred of emotion in her mother’s voice.

Mara saw her parents take the horses around the back of the hut to the small barn, and that was that. She never saw them again. She was gently guided to Elias’ carriage and whisked away, without a second thought.

‘Trade’s not doing so well this week,’ Elias said, scribbling on a pig-eared page with a quill. ‘We could do with some more cured meat for winter.’

Mara nodded with obvious disinterest. There was no real economy out here; food and materials were traded. Flatlanders made a point of keeping their lives simple, watching industry grow from afar with masked contempt.

‘And will ya see if Gart wants to trade some grain today?’ He said, putting the quill in the pot. He tried to meet her eyes as she turned towards the fire.

After a year of attempted conception – and an uncomfortable inspection by a Cresthall apothecary – they found Mara was unable to birth children. He had retreated into himself since, resentful that he wouldn’t have a child to take up work as he got older. His health was failing him. Mara had stepped up her work, and now tended the field as well as the small number of animals they had. He didn’t seem to notice that she was gone all day, most days. He also resented the fact that she worked harder than he did. This was one of the times he was actually trying. Mara wasn’t feeling mutual.

‘I’ll go and see him this afternoon.’ Mara said, absently poking a steel rod into the fire.

He reached out with his hand, hoping she would reach back. She glanced at it and looked away.

‘Mara…’ he began, his voice quivering. She recoiled, trying not to notice the weary despair in his eyes and the disappointed expression on his face.

‘I should start on the fields,’ she said, quickly standing up.

Mara walked to the front door and slid on her boots. She stood there for a moment, with her hand on the door handle.

‘P’raps we’ll talk later,’ she said, hesitantly, opening the door and stepping out into the bustling street.

Sunwell was a farming community, situated in a lush valley in the middle of the Flatlands – a large stretch of land between Cresthall and the western mountains – that had perfect conditions for farming. The soil was good, the land was flat and it had a lot of sun, hence the name. There were many farming settlements across the Flatlands, but Sunwell was the most prominent and successful due to its proximity to Cresthall. It also had good access to the nearby river that cut through the forest.

There wasn’t a lot of the settlement – which, the residents would tell you, is part of its appeal. There was the marketplace in the town square that had basic amenities you’d expect in a town; a blacksmith, trading post, tavern, wash-house and an inn. The rest of the log buildings were for utilitarian or residential purposes. The majority of buildings were made of wood – with the nearby forest, there was ample supply.

Mara walked through the town square marketplace. Merchants, traders and farmers were doing business, weighing fish and bagging grain. There were a few dozen people in the square, which was as busy as it got this far away from the civilisation and stone buildings of the industrial city.

She nodded at Tessom Hadley, the butcher – a dishevelled, unclean drunkard. He constantly stank of sweat and ale, and he never seemed to wash his face. He nodded back as he stepped into the tavern for his morning sausage and ale. The thought of him handling meat was almost enough to turn Mara to a vegetable diet. She’d have to go and see him later. Much later, by the looks of things.

Leaving the marketplace and heading toward the fields, she noticed dust trails off the dirt road to the west. Traders from Cresthall, she guessed. Flatlanders were seen as primitive and uncultured by the elites in Cresthall, but the princes of industry rode for miles to buy their meat, leather and vegetables. The people of the Flatlands lived comfortably, with a simple lifestyle and a close-knit community. It was a world away from the politics and kingly aspirations of Cresthall.

She stopped abruptly as a sound caught her ear, it swelled and faded on the breeze.

Horses. Lots of horses. The only time she heard – felt – that low rumble was when a procession rode out from Cresthall to Lambry, cutting through Sunwell in a bizarre military parade. Dozens of them there were, then.

She turned back towards the marketplace. She heard the hooves, she saw the dust clouds. Something felt wrong. She began jogging back towards the dirt road connecting the square to the fields and barns.

Emerging from the dust was a single line of riders, clad in red and black. The only visible details were they wore large helmets, wore crimson jackets and wielded weapons. They weren’t slowing down. A rider at the front carried a crimson banner.

Mara – sprinting now – made her way back up the road to the square. She was flailing her arms violently – as well as shouting, but no-one could hear her. She saw a few farmers finally take notice of the approaching danger, and raised the alarm. People left their houses and huts to see what the fuss was about.

The riders arrived in a plume of dust. A cacophony of primal screams and clanging metal. Farmers stopped in their tracks, wild-eyed and frozen with fear. Approaching the town square with a frightening rapidity, the riders wore animal skulls on their heads, their faces hidden in the recesses of their bone helmets. Their crude, cruel-looking blades glinted in the sun as they charged the residents of Sunwell, now just rabbits caught by torchlight.

A merry gentleman stumbled out of the tavern, pointing an unsteady hand at the oncoming death. He turned his head to the side and shouted incomprehensibly into the tavern. Turning back to the street, he looked like he was about to address one of the riders before his head was unceremoniously smashed off his neck in a red mist. It bounced as it hit the ground, rolling into the taverns open door with the sound of a dropped wet towel. People sprinted out, screaming. They ran straight into the path of the riders – who had now formed a column formation – and were crushed beneath dozens of red-clad horses in a deluge of broken bones and wails of agony. As they passed the tavern, one threw a flaming torch in through the doorway.

Lothal Travis appeared from behind the tavern, skulking out of the riders’ sight. He brandished a sword unsteadily, and with uncertainty. He watched the riders move out of sight behind the trading post and visibly exhaled.

Mara – who was hidden in a nearby hut – waved and hissed at Lothal, unwilling to leave the hut proper. He made eye contact with her, who motioned him to come over. He gave her a thumbs-up and made his way to her, weaving behind barrels and overturned tables. He was only a few feet away, close enough to see the horrified expression on Mara’s face, now watching with fearful eyes at something behind him. Lothal quickly turned around. The bone man hit him with such brute force that he flew into Mara, his sword slicing her arm in a nasty arc from her elbow to shoulder. He landed on her, twitching and gasping. She heard his last breath – a long exhale that strangely sounded like a distant waterfall.

The monster just stood there, just outside the doorway with his two-handed axe, like he was posing for a sculpture. Mara was trying to breathe, but Lothal had winded her.

The monster removed his cow-skull helmet; blood dripping from it in thick strings. Underneath he was quite ordinary. Attractive, well groomed. But his eyes… They brimmed with cunning and malevolence.

Across the street, an explosion sounded out – likely the booze in the tavern catching light.

Seeing only what the doorway would allow, Mara saw the bone man look towards the tavern, just before being smashed out of view by flying, wooden debris. A moment passed, and no-one returned to her view. She pushed Lothal’s scrawny body off and climbed to her feet. She picked up Lothal’s sword shakily and stepped outside.

The fires had gotten worse. The whole village resembled an inferno. No distinguishable shapes or people. Just fire and shadow.

Mara dropped to a knee, weakened and afraid. Blood seeped from the graze and ran down her arm. Flames and embers crackled, but not enough to mask the screams coming from within the flames.

She wiped her eyes, leaving a wide, charcoal streak across her face. She wanted to run, if for nothing else than to get away from the screams of those trapped in the scorched buildings; the familiar folk she couldn’t save. She picked a direction and began running.

Anywhere is a better place to die than here, familiarity be damned, she thought, somewhere underneath the panic.

Hours – and many fields – later, the town was a mere plume of smoke on the dark horizon; a stark contrast of the idyllic thicket she was dragging herself through. Sweat trickled from her skin, leaving pale white streaks through dirt and blood. She could no longer see the carnage, but the ghostly screams and war cries carried by the breeze chilled her bones, even in this heat. Haunted by the distant voices, she cried softly as she crawled towards the woods, clawing for shade against the relentless sun.

She didn’t make it that far.

She woke to a large dagger pointing at her throat. Her eyes snapped fully open, hand already reaching for her sword that hung on her belt. A man was stood over her, an indistinct shade against the rising sun.

‘I wouldn’t do that,’ the man said, in a tough, hardy voice. He jostled the stubby blade slightly. She looked around, eyes darting back and forth, searching for an escape. She saw she was in the shade of a large, gnarled tree. The man must have moved her as she slept.

He prompted her again by teasing the tip of his blade towards her neck.

‘You’ve been in a bit of a scuffle,’ he said, pointing to her arm with his sword, ‘thieving, were you?’

Mara tried to talk but instead made a cracked, retching noise. The man reached to his belt and produced a small water-skin. He handed it to her, still maintaining his position in the glare of the sun.

She took a deep drink. Water spewed from the corners of her mouth as she coughed. The man reached over and took the water-skin.

‘That’s enough for now, I think,’ he said, tying the leather bag back onto his belt.

‘…from Sunwell,’ Mara sputtered. She pointed towards the smoke far off into the valley.

The man looked at the carnage near the horizon. He looked back at Mara, stepping forward.

‘Sorry,’ he said, his voice softening, ‘I walked through Sunwell. Saw what was left.’ He sheathed his blade and sat opposite her. She pulled her knees closer as she sat at the roots of the tree. He was a few years older than her from the looks of it, with shoulder-length black hair and strange, leather armour. He looked worn, hardened. Mara thought he was a soldier or explorer.

For a moment, there was just the birdsong and crickets. The man sat back a couple of feet, intuiting her unease.

‘Men in bone masks…’ she began, shaking her head slightly, not believing what she was remembering. ‘They ruined Sunwell… I don’t…’

He put his hand up, gesturing her to hold on. Her breathing indicated she was about to cry.

‘It’s okay, girl. I saw them riding out. Saw what they did.’

Mara nodded. She was frustrated that there was nothing more she could say.

‘I’m Vell,’ he said, extending his hand. Mara received it and placed her hand on top of his.

‘Mara,’ she replied with a cringe, twisting something in her bad arm.

Vell stood up. ‘We’re going to need to get you something to help with that. No telling when we’ll get you to a healer.’

We?’ She asked, incredulously.

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Aye?’ He put his hands on his hips. If he were Elias, she’d expect a telling off. ‘And what kind of maggot pile would I be if I left you to your fate out here, eh?’ She was shocked that he seemed completely genuine – no trace of a lie.

She smiled, wryly. She was pleased she’d managed to stop herself crying this far. It was coming, though. She told herself it was guilt, but deep down inside, there was shock and excitement – a lot of things to be considered and dealt with, in time. She’d cared for Elias in her own way – because that’s all she had, but she knew it would never be enough. Mara didn’t know what she wanted, but spending her days on the outskirts of the developing world, with a man she didn’t love – or even like that much – simply because he gave her food and a bed wouldn’t have been tolerable for much longer.

And what of this man? What did he want in exchange for helping her? The scales must always balance, she thought. Dismissing her mistrust and cynicism – largely because she didn’t have the energy – she put it out of her mind.

‘Where do we go?’ She asked, helplessly. ‘Where do I go? That… was all I knew,’ she gestured lethargically towards the ruins of Sunwell.

Vell pursed his lips, sympathetically. ‘Rest easy, now. Let me gather some bits for your arm and I’ll give it some thought.’ He traipsed off into the bushes and dense woodland, cracking twigs underfoot as he went.

Mara reached for her sword. She turned it over in her hands, examining it. It had a short blade, a little longer than a dagger, with a basic, leather-wrapped wooden hilt. There was a small hand-guard. The blade itself was dull on one side, but the tip was fierce and the other side was sharp enough. She’d never held a sword before. Travellers passing through Sunwell sometimes carried them, but it was rare. There wasn’t much use for them, until now.

Mara wondered what she might do when she reached another settlement. She had nothing to her name and knew no-one that wasn’t dead; the loneliness finally dawning on her. The complete isolation of Sunwell and the Flatlands had her clueless about the world. She knew of Cresthall and other prominent farming settlements, but that was it. Now her situation became clear. Mara knew something had broken inside of her. Adrenaline, fear and instinct had kept her going this far, but she knew that the locked-away trauma – and the gravity of her situation – wouldn’t stay subdued for long. With that, she drifted into unconsciousness.

Twigs snapped, and Mara shot upright, putting her weight on her injured arm. She fell clumsily to the ground.

‘It’s me, girl.’ Vell said, hands outstretched in a peaceful gesture. ‘Looks like the grieving has begun.’

She sat up and tried to regain her composure. ‘It’s over. For now.’ She said, apologetically. Her dirty hair stuck to her tear-streaked face like a veil. She wiped it aside, smearing more dirt on her forehead.

Vell held up an assortment of herbs and fungus, all roots and dirt. Despite everything Mara had been through, she hoped she didn’t have to eat them. Vell must have seen the look on her face. ‘It’s for an ointment,’ he said, reassuringly.

‘I’ve had a good look over the land. We can stay here tonight – the riders are long gone.’ He sat next to Mara and handed her the water. ‘We can stay here tonight and head for Lambry in the morning – it’s a few hours walk.’

‘Vell,’ Mara said, looking him in the eyes, ‘what will I do there?’

‘You’ll be alright, girl,’ he said, cheerfully. ‘You’ve been working farms. There’s always farm work.’

There was an awkward silence. Mara had no intention of returning to working a farm.

‘Where will you go?’

‘Nowhere for someone who needs treatment and rest. Lambry has those.’ Vell said, dismissively.

Mara thought Vell knew what question would come next.

A Brief Introduction

I’m Adam, and welcome to my blog. I set this page up mainly to upload my writing and photography, hoping to finally share something with the world. The jury’s still out on whether that’s going to pay off, though…

I’ve been writing since I was a very little boy; it’s probably the only thing I haven’t grown out of as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been an avid reader of fiction my whole life. While I prefer horror and fantasy, I will give anything a go if it speaks to me (not trying to sound arty, here).

As a creative type, I also play around with editing videos, VFX and photography. All of those are on hiatus for now, pretty much while I try and get my first novel written. It’s a low-fantasy story about a young wife and mysterious thief who come across world-changing truths, changing their – and everyone else’s – lives forever. That’s as vague as it gets, I know.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that speaks to you.