“I do love a chance to write something a little fantastical. Let’s have a little magic!”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
#Writephoto Challenge — Picture above by Image by KL Caley
Word of the Day — Culture
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Juicy
Francis the Frenchie’s Daily Phrase Challenge – A Cold Winter
Now, Emberlee knew how a juicy steak felt as it was dropped before a rottweiler.
It wasn’t her fault that Duke Attendor lay dead. Yet the whole castle guard was after her head with extreme prejudice.
The cold sweat of mortal fear stuck Emberlee’s golden hair to her head. She slammed into the gate and glanced back at the castle, glowing white against the black skies.
A legion of horses hooves and sollerets could be heard hammering the pavements in search of her.
Emberlee’s lungs burned like those of a marathon runner. Close to passing out through panic, she mantled the gate. Her bare feet were raked by nails and splinters. Her dress snagged and she fell to her knees on the other side.
“Find and bring the witch to be burned at the stake!” commanded Llefron’s, his sonorous voice booming over the castle grounds. He was the captain of the guard and heartless too.
“No, it’s not my fault!” Emberlee cried as she scrambled to her feet. Pain throbbed from her savaged soles to her elbows as she glanced at her fingers. Small scorch marks at the tips revealed the reason the guards hunted her.
Entering the paddocks, her mind spiralled between images of her impending death and the direction she could take to survive. The living nightmare left her mouth desert-dry, as her chest burned for oxygen, and her heart thrummed in full flight.
Young horses and deer corralled for venison meals moved in the shadows of the paddocks. None could help her escape her pursuers.
Emberlee’s silver-blue eyes fell upon the woods. The dense oak and birch forest was her only chance. A chance she had to take.
Breaking into a run, Emberlee dashed along the fence.
A chestnut stallion cantered into view and blocked the path. With a deep whinny, it reared and tried to crush her.
Emberlee screamed, fell back and scrabbled away. “No, please!”
“Gotcha, Witch!” yelled the rider. A chainmail-wearing castle guard.
“Gelderon, it’s me, Emberlee. You love me. You know it’s not my fault!” Tears stabbed her eyes and flooded her face as she backed away from the oncoming horse.
“I cannot love a murderer,” Gelderon drew his sword and angled the point toward her. “You struck Attendor down. For that your stake awaits.”
“Please, I beg you!”
“There will be no mercy!” Gelderon spurred his horse and charged toward her.
Emberlee shrieked and dove through a spray of mud. The sword shaved hairs from her head as she rolled into the grasses.
“Come here. A merciful death will at least save you dying in the cold winter which bears down upon us!” Gelderon turned his horse and came again.
“But you show no mercy for an innocent girl!” Emberlee limped away along the track as fast as she could.
A second horse galloped out of the darkness. A muscular black creature, its nostrils flared as it scratched the ground with its mighty hooves. Its rider gleamed in his silver plate armour. He was Captain Llefrons, the man who’d issued the bounty for Emberlee. “Good show, Gelderon. Let’s have a little fun before we burn her!”
“No, Please. Nakkara —”
Gelderon directed his horse to plough into his victim.
Emberlee buckled as she was thrown back onto the path. Bleeding and dazed she watched the two horses circling her like bloodthirsty vultures.
“She is yours, Captain,” Gelderon remarked.
“Much obliged. Ya, Jet!” Llefrons ensured his horse sprayed his victim with mud as it circled her. “I think I’ll end her for Attendor, now.”
Emberlee curled into a ball. “Please, don’t kill me. I didn’t —” the words caught in her throat as her eyes fell upon a miraculous sight.
Unseen by the riders something magical was happening. A majestic, glowing pink stag strode into the paddocks. Beyond him was a milk-white doe. Both translucent spectres, spirits of the night.
“Ya jet!” Llefrons bellowed as he hauled on his reins.
The horse reared, kicking its front hooves high into the air. The animal shrieked as it bore down upon the young woman.
“Death becomes me, but I am innocent!” Emberlee screamed. She turned away with a grimace and gasped.
The horse’s hooves slammed into a sphere of pink energy surrounding Emberlee. Like a neon starburst, it exploded and launched horse and rider into the air.
Llefrons landed hard with Jet toppling over him.
“That’s two crimes you’ve committed, witch!” Gelderon roared swinging his sword for her neck.
“This is not my doing!” Emberlee shrieked.
The white doe flashed between sword and girl, absorbing the murderous blow, and ripping the blade from the guard’s gloved hand.
“What the hell is this!” Gelderon yelled.
Emberlee rose to her feet. “I swear to you this is not my doing. However, these are beings of nature choosing to spare me. Believe me now, although my hands bore the fire which killed Attendor, I did not summon it. I did not wish him dead.”
“Yet, you are still guilty!” Gelderon leapt from his saddle determined to finish her.
The white doe, flashed back into being as it kicked him into the dirt.
Emberlee saw the air sparkle pink and then she was aboard the stag. The spectral creature lowered its graceful head and ran like a flash of neon lightning.
The paddocks and the lane became a blur, as did the woods.
Emberlee had no idea where she was going, all she could do was hang on for dear life and hope the stag was taking her somewhere safe.
The rocking movement of the stag pulled at her battered body and stole her consciousness. Within minutes the woods faded to darkness.
“Wake up, Emberlee!” said a feminine voice
Emberlee felt like she was in an earthquake as somebody shook her shoulders, “Okay – okay, I’m — arrgh!” she sat bolt upright as her memories returned. “Gelderon, Llefrons – they – Attendor – I killed —”
“Hush, now. You’re safe here.”
Emberlee forced down her fears and glanced about. She was in a cave lit by a small fire. The woman knelt by her wearing a brown pinafore dress, was Nakkara. Emberlee’s grey-haired governess from the castle.
“Seems, my deer saved you in the nick of time,” she said while bathing Emberlee’s wounds.
“Ow! It’s your fault I ended up like this. You made me kill Attendor.”
“No. The bloody barley-brae juice we had at dinner was poisoned with grey-mana. The stuff corrupts our magic and manipulates us with dark magic. I realised that too late, by the time I’d countered the effects on myself, I’d turned the blacksmith Heren into coal and you’d incinerated Attendor. The explosion was me clearing the magic and giving you time to run.”
Emberlee was stunned as she listened and tried to remember. “What you say might be true. But you never told me I was a witch.”
Technically you are not until your magic unlocks at the age of eighteen. Even still the magic resides deep within you. That’s how the grey-mana corrupted you.”
“Fair enough, but now what? We cannot go back to the castle and will surely be hunted wherever we …” Emberlee felt tears flowing and let out a sob. “Even Gelderon didn’t believe me and he used to love me. We’ll never be allowed to live now.”
“He still loves you. He would lose his head if he failed to follow orders to catch you though.” Nakkara squeezed her shoulders. “Hush now, we’ll be alright I promise.”
“You’ll be dead!” Llefron’s yelled. His voice echoed around the cave. He emerged in the firelight with Gelderon beside him. “Didn’t think we knew of this cave, did you?”
“Course you did, I was counting on it.” Nakkara rose. “I suppose you’re elated now you’ll become Duke.”
“I shall wear the title with honour.” Llefrons sneered.
“With the honour of slug. Did you have to sacrifice poor Emberlee to kill Attendor? She is an innocent young lady who hadn’t even gained her magic yet.”
“What?” Llefron’s smile melted into a look of fear.
“Yes, I know you stole the grey-mana from my magic store. It was just too bad my charm failed to prevent it working.”
“What is she talking about?” Gelderon demanded to know as he stepped away from his captain.
“He poisoned the barley brae juice causing us to kill Duke Attendor and Heren, so he could become the new Duke,” Nakkara accused.
“Llefrons, she just did.” Gelderon realised as he drew his sword. “Emberlee is seventeen she cannot do magic for five more months. Therefore, only a curse or poison could force her to cast fire. Nobody but you would benefit from the duke’s death —”
Llefrons swung his sword from its scabbard and lunged at Gelderon. “Now, you will all die!”
Gelderon parried in a shower of sparks. Ducking a second thrust, he watched the ball of lightning explode into the captain’s chest plate.
Llefrons snapped across the cave and crashed into the wall. It was then vines grew from the rock and ensnared him.
“There, now we can all go back to the castle and explain what really happened, so poor Emberlee can return home and live happily,” Nakkara said as she manipulated the vines with hand gestures.
“Indeed.” Gelderon sheathed his sword and knelt before Emberlee. “Forgive me for not believing in you. I saw the flames leave your hands with my own eyes. That and Llefron’s orders left me no choice but to capture you. Will you forgive me?”
“I understand,” Emberlee kissed his cheek, then slapped him. “Next time, talk to me and find the facts before deciding to chop my head off!”
“Of course, my lady,” Gelderon helped her stand. “And to the castle, we go, to right the wrongs and restore peace to the land.”
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!