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The Erlking

“Hello, my friends. I found a chance to write in my favourite way. Come with me for a cosy scare.”

I wrote this story for the following prompts.
Write Photo — Lakeside photograph above by KL Caley
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Thread
Your Daily Word — Wiles
Word of the Day Challenge — Poignant
Fandango’s One-Word Challenge – Reprieve
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Boast – Toast – Most

The Erlking

Lil-ly…’

‘Lil-ly … Come here!’

“Hey, Lilly sweety! Come here please.”

Lilly shook the shivers from her body. The sudden movement caused her ginger pigtails to dance upon her bare shoulders. It was all she could do to tear her deep-green eyes from the little round island in the lake beyond the rocky spit of shore. Despite the two swans sitting serenely beneath the lone tree there, she’d heard a disembodied voice on the breeze. There was no doubt something was using all its wiles to lure her to the island. Why else would it use her name?

“Lilly! Dinners done. Come on!” called her mother again.

“Coming!” the twelve-year-old adjusted her pink shorts over her summery white vest. Then glancing at the island again she ran back to camp.

“You have to start doing as you’re told, Lilly. I don’t want to have to confine you to your tent,” her mother gave a stern look while holding out a plate of bonfire chilli.  

“Sorry, mummy.” Lilly gave a demure smile hoping for a reprieve.

“Don’t cheek your mother!” warned her father. Like his wife, he had on khaki shorts and a matching buttoned shirt.

“Yeah. Don’t cheek your mother,” mimicked her older brother.

“Aww, Sh —”

“Hey!” father raised his voice blocking Lilly. “You can shut up and behave as well.”

If a person could boast through a grin; Lilly managed it as she began on her chilli in silence.

“What was so interesting over there?” asked mother glowing in the flames of the fire within its rock circle.

“Nothing.” Lilly lied, but glanced back at the island anyway, “I was just watching the swans.”

“You seemed transfixed on them,” noted her father.

Lilly took a big bite of her chilli as she hid a shiver. Even now she felt eyes on her back. “They’re the most beautiful birds. It was just nice to be so close to them.”

Shawn scowled at her. “I think she’s lying!”

“Shawn, shut —”

“Lilly, Shawn, zip those mouths. Or the next time you leave your tents will be the day we go home!” warned father with a reprimanding finger.

Lilly said nothing for the remains of dinner. She loved getting to toast marshmallows in the fire for dessert. After that, she retreated to her pink tent and began reading her favourite mystery book.

It was dark by eight at ten everyone had said goodnight and retreated to their tents and sleeping bags.

Lil-ly …’

She sat bolt upright. Eyes bulging, she gazed at the dark pink canvas of her tent flaps — A shadow played across the material.

Lil-ly … Come to me …’

W-who are y-you?” she asked all of a tremble.

Lil-ly … Come play!”

“S-stop calling my n-name!” Lilly laid back and pulled her sleeping bag over her head but the spooky voice wasn’t drowned out.

‘Lilly, don’t hide. Come play!”

The little girl felt welling nausea as she struggled to control her racing heart. Every thread of her hair tingled and tickled as if a phantom hand was caressing her head.

She gasped and swallowed through her fear as she rose to her knees. Despite herself, she quietly unzipped her tent and crawled into the still, misty night. The swirling murk turned milky in the moonlight, seemed to morph into ghosts that faded away in an instant.

The lakeside was silent as a graveyard. So devoid of life it was as if the ducks and swans had ceased to exist, and yet Lilly did not feel alone.

“Where are you?” She asked. Her voice was swallowed by the eerie atmosphere. She hugged her pink nightdress to her body and gazed about her hoping to see a friendly person nearby.

‘You already know.’

Lilly took a deep breath, nodded, then padded barefoot along the shore. She quickly arrived at the grove of trees, the rocky spit of land before the peculiar circular island.

‘Come on …’

“Why?” Lilly peered through the murk. The only tree on the island was barely visible through the candles of fog curling about its branches. Was that a figure lurking by the trunk? Lilly shook her head, “No, it’s nothing,” she breathed.

‘Nothing? Then why not come over here …’

Feeling as if she was snagged on a fishing hook and being reeled in, she walked forward. The cold water stabbed her bare toes as she waded into the lake. The rocky bottom threatened to dunk her as loose stones rolled beneath her feet. Regardless she moved ever forward

The distance was short. In less than six steps, Lilly was on the island.

“Well, I’m here,” she said, having reached the tree. From there it was clear the island was a perfect circle. Was it man-made or something to do with the supernatural force at work here? Lilly had no idea but she already longed to be back in her tent.

‘Me too.’ The male voice was much louder now. It whispered from above and right behind her.

Lilly snapped around. Nothing. There was nothing but the swirling fog playing like a translucent sheet over the lake.

Then came the tug.

Lilly felt a breath upon her neck. The elastic holding her left pigtail loosen and then withdraw from her hair. A static tickling raised gooseflesh upon every inch of her exposed skin. Her right pigtail flicked into the air. Its elastic restraint was gently pulled out. Her loose hair fell heavily about her heaving shoulders.

‘Very pretty.’

“Hey! Give me back my elastics. You’ll make my mummy mad at me,” Lilly demanded.

‘Sure.’

Lilly flinched. Her feet had gone stone cold. Glancing down, she was amazed to see her elastics resting above her toes. “Thank you. Now, would you mind not being so creepy?”

Silence fell. Only shattered by a screeching tawny owl as it flew overhead.

Lilly felt the tingling sensation drain from her body. She shivered as loneliness pressed against her. Turning to leave, she saw it. A silvery finger of moonlight played upon a depression in the trunk. An arrow pointing straight ashore.

“So, you want me to follow this?”

The lakeside remained silent.

Lilly sighed, as much as she wanted to run back to her tent; she felt compelled to obey. Putting her back to the tree in line with the arrow she walked forward. Once more the cold water assaulted her bare toes as she paddled ashore.

The rocky lakeside was uncomfortable; she stubbed her toes and stepped upon sharp areas with agonizing regularity. “Owee, this game sucks!” She complained while checking her direction with the island tree. Following the invisible line with her eyes, she saw it lead directly into the grove of willow and ash trees.

Making a choice that was no choice, she stepped beneath the boughs and walked on. Sticks broke beneath her feet and once she felt a mouse tickle her toes as he scuttled away.

Shuddering she crept on, always heading deeper into the trees. Where the moonlight showed her the way before. It failed here beneath the leaves.

Lilly found herself stumbling over unseen logs and branches. Brambles snagged her nightdress until without warning she stepped into a clearing. At once she knew she’d arrived. An ancient and gnarled Wych elm loomed like a hunchbacked monster with twisted, skeletal, and clawed limbs. There was something else too.

A lone slab of granite, caught in a shaft of moonlight, rose three feet from the leaf litter. Entwined ivy seemed to anchor it in place.  Lilly approached with a feeling of sadness welling in her chest. She knew this was a gravestone — poignant when a ghost had led her here. “Did you guys get buried here?” she asked while pulling on the ivy in the hope of discovering a name.

There was writing etched on the stone. Just three words. ‘Unknown Soul, R.I.P’

“This is so sad. You died and nobody tried to find out who you were so they could return you to your family. I’m so so—” Lilly froze. The milky light had shifted. Beside the gravestone was a freshly scraped area of earth. “No!” She shrieked.

Even as her cry died away in the branches, the air crackled with energy.

Lilly felt a presence behind her. She saw the air growing lighter as it approached. Frozen in place, she couldn’t bear to turn and face the spectre.

‘Now you will join me.’ It said reaching out to grab her.

“No, no. Please, No!” Lilly placed her shaking hands to her face. She couldn’t run. There was no way to fight something so incorporeal. This was it, the phantom was going to kill her. With nothing more to do, Lilly closed her eyes and began to pray.

An icy hand gripped her left shoulder as another grasped her head.

Lilly squeezed her eyes tighter. Tears leaked from her lids and splashed down her cheeks.

The pressure on her skull increased like the worst headache and then as she anticipated death — it was gone.

‘Ha-ha-ha!’ The spectral voice guffawed with laughter.

“That’s — not — funny!” Lilly stomped a foot and spun around. Shock gripped her. She was still completely alone.

Oh, it was, from where I’m floating.’

“There’s nothing funny about pretending to kill someone!” Lilly snapped.

“He can’t anyway,” said a new voice.

Lilly looked and felt relieved to see her mother walking toward her. “Mummy, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have come here,” she ran over and hugged her.

“It’s okay. I should have known he’d targeted you this afternoon when you were by the island. I’d hoped he passed on by now,” said Mother holding her daughter now.

“How could you know?”

“When I was your age your grandma and grandad brought me camping here too. That rotten erlking played the same nasty trick on me back then.”

“Erlking?” Lily furrowed her eyebrows. She loved words, however, that was a new one for her.

“He’s rather like a naughty poltergeist. The big difference is adults can’t see him and he can’t affect them either. An erlking can only cause mischief towards children. His binding allow him to tease, scare and annoy but never to hurt them.” Mother smiled.

Lilly smiled too. Turning to the woods she said, “Here that Erlking, you’re nothing but a harmless pain in the arse!”

“That told him,” Mother laughed.

“Good. Although I think that’s his gravestone. I think he’s stuck here because he was buried without a name,” Lilly said seriously.

‘I was and I am. Your mother was smart enough to discover what I became but she didn’t know how to help me.’

“That’s sad, what a poor fellow. Is he still here?” Mother asked wishing she was still young enough to see and feel him.

Lilly nodded, “You became an Erlking. In that manner, I name you Earl, Lord of the Lake. I want you to look around you, Earl. Find the area of the brightest, whitest light. My grandmother told me that’s the door to heaven. As much as you were forgotten here you will never be forgotten there. Your family still await you on the other side. Go to them and rest in a place of warmth and happiness. We love you and wish for you to rest in peace, Earl.”

“Rest in peace, Earl.” Echoed her mother.

‘Thank you …’

Lily took a deep breath. She felt as if a weight had lifted off the entire woodland. A feeling of peace and serenity had fallen upon the entire lake by the time she returned to her tent. That tranquil energy lulled her into the most peaceful sleep she’d ever experienced.

The End


Don’t forget Holly Ward investigates, Stolen Treasures is out on Amazon now!

A recent bank robbery. A saddened man. A coded message. Can they all be connected?
Young Sleuth Holly Ward is determined to help the man. It’s not long before she too comes under assault from a group of dangerous individuals. In the face of intimidation, abduction and even murder can Holly solve the clues and catch the criminals before she becomes the next Stolen Treasure?


Thanks for reading my friends.

There’s more in the Poetry CornerPoetry Nook, and the Short Story Collection

Have a great day!

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18 thoughts on “The Erlking

Add yours

  1. Wow, great story, Mason. Great twist at the end with the mother too. Thank you so much for joining in #writephoto and well done in combining it so naturally with the other prompts too. KL ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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