The Nyriads- Short Story

The Nyriads- Inspired by my developing fantasy world. I tried a different writing style on this piece, hoping it sounded more like an article from a fantasy ‘Guide to the Region’ kind of book. I hope it worked!

There is a song the folk of Asphoden sing; it has not changed over many, many centuries. All know its tune from the youngest child to the most elderly of men. The tune, though melodic, is a warning. It speaks of the Mirror Lake that lies not two miles from their border. For in that pool of crystal water lives a race of creatures of great power and reverence.

Nyriads they are called.

When the sun shines down on the lake the waters glitter like liquid diamonds. The shimmering reflection is a halo of light that beams constantly from the water. That is when you see them, the Nyriads. Magnificent in their splendour and kind in their hearts they are truly an evolution above that of mortal man. Crowns of gold, copper and silver hair frame their long, slender faces. Wide, innocent eyes glimmer back to greet you warmly.

In the light of day the Nyriads are people of truth, joy and justice. In tune with the pool in which they live, they are bound to its changing waters.

But when the sun dims and night swallows the land, the Nyriads are changed. The waters, so clear in the sun, become black as ebony. And so, as the waters shadow, as do these normally peaceful creatures. Their hair of autumn shades stain to black. The eyes so full of wonder will narrow and sharpen. Long, elegant limbs twist and grow blackened claws. This is where the Mirror Lake gains its name; the Nyriads bound to the different reflections of the water in light and shadow.

Few dare to pass the lake at night, even fewer would take peaceful refuge at its edge. For although the Nyriads would not touch those pure of heart, who can honestly say there is no small taint of darkness buried within them? Those who do not prove wholly true are not even given the opportunity to scream before being dragged down into the murky, judging depths of the lake.

So, though the day provides many with a memorable glimpse of this spectacular race, you would do well to heed the warnings of the song. Leave the lake to undisturbed shadow when the moon rises or pray the Nyriads judge you worthy.

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Magpies of Praulia- Short Story

Magpies of Praulia- Inspired again by my steadily growing and developing world.

The tavern was not as Ula had been told taverns would be. It was clean with white washed stone walls and well lit by simple metal chandeliers that held many candles. There was no foul stench and her shoes did not stick to the floor as she’d been warned would happen in such places. As she stared around the open and welcoming inn, a rosy faced woman walked to the edge of the wooden bar and smiled brightly.

“Looking for a room or meal, Miss?” She asked cheerily. Ula shut the door behind her, completely leaving the dark of night and entering the warmth.

“Both, if available.” Ula replied as she shrugged off her heavy but worn purple cloak which was only done up by a few wooden buttons at her neck.

“Of course.” The woman gestured to a stool at the bar. “What do you fancy?”

“Just something simple.” Ula was still suffering from the foreign foods of this land that she had mistakenly bought and eaten without realising their spiciness or strong flavours. In her home the food was a lot more homely and didn’t cause her to reach for a glass of water after the first mouthful.

“Coming right up.” The woman nodded and turned to talk through a small window in the wall to where Ula assumed the kitchen was. Ula let her body relax from the long days trek. It had been a flat road but a tough one with dust being easily kicked up and little shade from the beating sun. With a sigh she placed her small pack on the seat next to her. “What brings you here?” The inn keeper asked in a jolly tone.

“I’m just passing through.” Ula tried to hide her fatigue from her voice. “I’m on my way to Praulia.” This caused an almost sudden silence to pass over the room.

“Praulia?” The lady asked tensely. “Then you’ll be going to see the elves.” Ula nodded, not understanding their reaction. Normally when she spoke of going to see the elves of Praulia most people got a glazed look in their eye and went into wistful speak of their famed beauty and wealth. After all, tales of the Praulia elves had had time to travel far over the thousands of cycles they had been in the world. Their reputation consisted of such tales of great wisdom, intelligence and everyone marvelled after them.

“This is the town at their border?” Ula asked in panic, wondering suddenly if she had travelled the wrong way.

“Yes, yes…” The woman began wiping the top of the bar furiously with her rag. “What is it that takes you to them?”

“I have goods to sell.” Ula smiled. “I hear they pay greatly for items of unique and beautiful properties.” In her naivety of youth she pulled out a large ring, not realising all of the eyes that were trained on her to see what riches she carried. The inn lady stared at the exquisite piece made of gold metal swirling around three large rubies set in the middle.

“A very fine trinket.” The woman said finally clasping her hand over the piece to hide it from the prying eyes. “But you would be better to take it to a merchant in the market. I’m sure you would find a good price there.”

“You do not think the elves would find it of value?” Ula asked placing the ring back into her pocket.

The woman frowned. “I do. Very much so.” She then leaned in almost conspiratorially. “They take anything they think comes up to their standards: jewellery, paintings, instruments, all of it. Indeed, it is said that the very walls of their buildings are covered in tapestries of such glorious and rich silks that they can only be seen in the radiance of sunlight. The songs that play in their halls make grown men weep at their splendour.”

“I have heard tales like this.” Ula said to which the woman shook her head.

“The elves of Praulia do value beauty over all things. So much so it has consumed them over their long lives. Where once they were a wise race now they are… corrupt.” She took a deep breath to steel herself. Ula leaned closer. “It is said that only those of very plain looks dare trade with the elves for not only do they want beauty in their objects but people too.”

Ula recoiled. “They take people?”

“The ones of superior beauty, yes.” She replied sternly. “A shadow lingers over that place, their need of exquisite things has laid a foul air there. For a long time they have not been considered elves but creatures of need, magpies taking what they want to glitter their nest. It is dangerous to travel there.” Her heavy warning weighed down on Ula. “Fill up on good food, Miss.” She said suddenly breaking the tension that had fallen between them and placed a plate of bread and cheeses before her. “Rest and think over what I have said, hmm?” She smiled at her hopefully and then walked to the end of the bar to see to another waiting customer.

Ula’s hunger suddenly vanished, her thoughts overtaken with this new information on the elves. If it had just been her, maybe she would have risked it. She did not consider herself of any particular beauty with her long auburn hair and small brown eyes. Yet she did not want something to befall her. Her trip to sell the last of her family’s heirlooms was only to be able to feed her sisters and brother. Her fingers fiddled with her satchel. Should she turn back empty handed or risk these Magpies of Praulia?

Tropical Encounter- Descriptive Short

‘Tropical Encounter’ Descriptive short- Inspired by a writing prompt on Twitter

It was difficult to breathe in the heavy, damp atmosphere of the rainforest. Michael slumped to the ground and rested against the rough bark of an obviously very ancient tree. Its roots twisted and clawed into the leaf covered ground. He sipped a small drop of cooling water from his flask and tried to inhale a few breathes, only to find them clogging in his lungs.

A ‘jaunt’ through the tropical trees of his home had been a little more difficult than Michael had planned, though it was a much more beautiful setting to jog through than the concrete jungle of his old city neighbourhood. Michael narrowed his eyes as the large, thick glossy green leaf before him as it suddenly began to move. He held his breath and felt himself stiffen knowing the kinds of creatures that prowled this region. Onto the leaf’s flat surface crawled a small lizard and Michael laughed out his nerves. The creature stared at Michael as though assessing the threat level and then just blinked its large black eyes at him. Its scaly skin was a bright almost fluorescent shade of lime green blended in with citrus lemon. Above its round eyes was a blob of neon blue like it was wearing a dash of eye shadow.

Michael continued to watch the reptile as he tried to regain his breath. It cared little for his presence and continued to make dashing, flitting movements over the leaf. For such a long animal it could move very fast, its sucker like feet seeming to let it cling onto the very shiny surface of the leaf. With one last beady look to Michael it crawled off into the thicker foliage, its fruit coloured skin blending surprisingly well into its surroundings.

With a smile on his face, Michael pushed himself from the ground and continued his jog. It was a tropical encounter he realised he would have to get used to in his new home.

New Year, New Journal

New Year, New Journal- Short Story inspired by the New Year! Hope 2014 is a good one for everyone.

The journal was indeed beautiful. Sally turned the book around in her hands feeling the luxuriously soft brown leather. It was weighty and felt expensive. The journal had been Sally’s indulgent Christmas present to herself. Excitedly she pulled open the cover and stared at the cream paper of the first page.

A blank page would normally cause intense panic to some writers, but for some reason empty journal pages held only promise and hope for Sally. The paper in this journal was to be filled with her life stories some which would be full of drama and others which would be merely humorous anecdotes. At least, that was how Sally intended her life to be. Apparently owning a journal meant her life would now take on a rom-com kind of quality.

Sally picked up her fountain pen and held the end to her lips in thought. Her first line had to be intelligent, witty and in the style she meant to go on. She planned to fill the entire book after all. Though in the back of her mind she knew that by March the beautiful, leather bound journal would probably be nothing more than an unused ornament that decorated her bedside table; at that moment, on New Year’s day, her good intentions overwhelmed her and she had plans of writing everyday.

Sally looked to the blank page, nibbling the end of her pen and smiled. She knew exactly how to start. So, putting pen to paper she began to write, began her good intentioned, life changing journal.

‘Dear Diary…’

Sibling Thieves

Sibling Thieves- Inspired by another character’s tale in my slowly developing world.

“Your eyes, they sparkle like sapphires lost at the bottom of the sea.” This compliment got the expected response as Liam’s target flushed a bright red and fluttered her eyelashes at him. His thin smile widened to match his thin eyes in a smouldering gaze. “Your husband is a lucky man.”

“He doesn’t seem to think so.” She replied with pouted lips. Liam gave her the appropriate sympathetic frown and sidled up closer to her.

“Then he’s a fool. A lucky fool, none the less.” She giggled at Liam and he pushed a strand of her frizzy grey hair behind her ear. As the woman’s attentions fell completely to the man half her age giving her such compliments, she forgot all about her market stall. The kiosk was filled to the brim with all kinds of luxury goods. Jewel embellished necklaces glimmered in the midday sun, thick cuff bracelets made of every kind of metal shone like a treasure trove and hoop earrings dangled and chimed in the slight breeze.

Liam didn’t notice the jewellery, that wasn’t his task. Instead he continued to pull the stall holder’s gaze towards his handsome features and the lithe body that leaned flirtatiously closer to her. It was his sister’s mission to take note of the treasures that lay on the table of the stall. With deft hands she slipped a collar of gold and emeralds into the hessian pouch attached to her belt. Next went some of the hoop earrings, the sound of their tinkling muffled by the material. Lillian was well practiced in her duty. She knew just how much of the goods to steal before it became obvious that anything had been taken.

Lillian glanced up to Liam who was fully enjoying having the old, stall holder’s attention. She rolled her eyes at her brother’s ease of flirting, especially as the woman’s body shook with giggles. When Lillian had swiped every smaller piece of jewellery from the stall she pulled the pouch firmly closed and made to turn away from the stall. It would have been easy to get lost within the crowds that streamed down the long aisle of the market place.

That was until her eyes caught a glimmer so bright it took her breath away. In the rays of the sun, almost as though spotlighted, sat a pearl necklace of such opulence and such shimmer it rivalled the beauty of even the Goddess herself.

Lillian couldn’t tear her gaze away. Pearls were her favourite gem and laying before her was the treasure of all treasures. For a moment she looked to her brother. Liam’s panicked expression towards her gave away that he obviously knew what she was thinking. But how could she leave it behind? It practically sang to her. With steady fingers she reached out and slipped her hand beneath the necklace which had been led on a deep purple velvet pillow.  The pearls were cold against her tanned skin, a small respite from the beating heat of the sun.

“Hey, what are you-” It was the stall holder’s voice that cut through Lillian’s lost thoughts. “Are you gonna pay for that?” The woman’s brows had knotted so tightly together it was almost one continuous brow.

Lillian thought honesty was the best policy. “Does it look like I’m going to pay for it?” She flashed one quick smile before yanking the pearls away from their resting place. With movements that were so flexible and elegant it was almost like a dancer, Lillian spun into the mass of people. She knew Liam would not be far behind, she could almost see his face seething with anger in her mind already.

With the pearls clasped tightly in her grasp Lillian slipped through the browsers staring at the other market stalls. The old woman’s shouts of, ‘Thief!’ and ‘Stop her!’ were almost lost as she made it into a shadowed alleyway. Climbing onto a set of upright barrels she leapt onto the low roof of the neighbouring building and was lost to the eyes of the people below. Clambering onto the higher roofs of the building she finally stopped and fell to a sitting position. Catching her breath she pulled her hand before her and opened her fingers. The pearls shimmered in a rainbow of colours, their white polished surface reflecting her wide grin.

“Was it worth it?” Her brother’s voice came from behind, his tone far from happy.

Lillian did not even look to him. “Yes.”

Remnants of an Un-concluded War

Remnants of an Un-concluded War- Inspired by a tale of a character living in the world I am slowly creating.

The road was well worn, the mud having been baked in the sun. Imprints of previous horse hooves and footprints forever cut into its surface. Coran could see how it cut through the grass and bent towards the forest where it forked into two paths. The path into the trees was well lit and it looked like a serene ride but he knew it would add at least a day to their journey. The other path led in almost a straight line to the village of Arlin where they needed to be.

“Why are we not taking the direct path?” Coran asked as his guide rode on ahead with his donkey. The guide flicked his head up and looked down the direct path and Coran could see the man shudder.

“No one goes that way.” He said and Coran furrowed his brow.

“That’s absurd, why not?” Coran asked in amused disbelief. The guide pulled his donkey to a halt so Coran stopped his own steed, a rather more impressive grey stallion with a flowing black mane and tail and feathers that covered the horse’s large hooves.

“We would have to travel through the night on that path,” The guide glanced over his shoulder. “It’s dangerous, m’Lord.”

“Is this more local superstitions?” Coran raised a thick eyebrow at the man who looked at Coran as though he was the one being ridiculous!

“At night a thick fog envelopes that road, you can’t see your own hand before your face.” He held up his hand as though to further his point. “And you don’t wanna get lost down there. The ghosts will get you.”

Coran’s nostrils flared as he restrained his annoyance. “Ghosts?”

“You must know about the battle, m’Lord.” The guide said with wide eyes. “Centuries ago one of them wizard folk stumbled into the forest. There he was found by the Queen of the Moon elves. The two, they say, fell in love and ran away together. The King of the elves was furious to lose his wife, as well any man ought to be.” The guide snickered and Coran held back a roll of his eyes. “And you knows how them wizards and Moon elves hate each other anyway. So he gathered an army and went after the wizards. But they, with all their magic, was hardly defenceless. The battle lasted five months until the Queen and her wizard lover returned. They wanted to stop the fighting but the King and the Wizard leader was just looking for an excuse to fight. So they kept fighting until the Queen was killed in the crossfire.” The guide’s eyes seemed to fill with sympathy for the Queen’s plight. Coran was unmoved. “Her wizard lover exploded with rage and he cursed the Moon elves and wizards who had caused her death.” The guide pointed to the path. “It’s them that haunts the road, their hatred living forever in the mists that rise at night, never finishing their war.”

There was a long silence as the guide seemed to wait for Coran’s response.

“Oh, fine.” Coran groaned as he let out a long sigh. “We will take the path through the forest.”

“Thank you, m’Lord.” The guide said in a relieved tone. Coran nodded his head, the superstitions of the common folk being but silly tales to him.

Yet as they rode towards the trees Coran felt someone watching him. He looked over his shoulder and caught his breath. There was nothing on the road now but for just a second he thought he’d seen…

No, no! Coran shook his head of the thought. There had been no one.

Sweet Kiss -Part 2-

Sweet Kiss -Part 2-

A slow hour passed in which Ishaq could cry no more and exhaustion meant his shaking had ceased. Now he sat in one corner of the fire lit room, hugging his knees to his chest. As he looked into the flames, the heat warming his tired body, his mind wandered to the stories his mother had told him, now understanding the fear that had lingered in her eyes when she had told them.

“I would go there!” Ishaq had exclaimed proudly, his child-self having more courage than sense.

“No you wouldn’t.” His cousin had taunted. Ishaq was about to answer back when his mother stopped them both.

“Neither of you will ever go there, and you should be thankful for it.” His mother had said sternly. She put down the bundle of clothing she’d been carrying that had been destined for the wash and knelt down next to them on the floor. “That place is cursed.” She’d almost hissed the words.

“Why?” Ishaq had asked with a small frown. His mother had smiled at him sweetly and ran her soft fingers through his hair.

“Long ago, the land that borders our own suffered from a terrible drought. Disease and famine spread over their villages like an invisible army they could not fight.” His mother began and both he and his cousin sat cross legged and eager before her as she continued. “One day a woman came and promised to end their torment. But, as with all bargains with the devil, there was a price to pay. The villagers accepted blindly-”

“They were fools!” His cousin said to which he gained a frown from his aunt.

“They were desperate, they no longer wished to see their children and families suffer.” Her face softened again. “But it was indeed foolish. The woman did as promised and once again made the land fertile and crops flourished. Disease became nothing but a fable to them as she cured them all. For a while she was praised, even revered. She was known as the Empress.”

“The Empress…” Ishaq repeated in a whisper having heard this title said many times in the village with tones of fear and sadness.

“It was not long before the villagers had to pay the price for their boons. She enslaved many of their people, forcing them to build her a palace of such magnitude it would rival the heavens. When it was complete she demanded a grown son from each family to fill her harem.” He saw his mother swallow hard and force herself to continue. “The people did not comply and she sent her guards to force them to obey. Eventually the sons were taken and never seen again, though it is said that those sons from a hundred years past still decorate her harem.”

“Why did she want them?” He asked with childish innocence.

His mother hesitated seeming unwilling to answer. “She wants their blood, their very souls. It is how she lives and how she has lived for so long as she still rules that land even today.”

“Is it true that the men are still taken from that land?” His cousin asked in excited horror.

“This is no trivial matter!” She scolded though from obvious fear rather than anger. “Every year the villages are to offer one son after his twenty-first birthday, only the most handsome and strong will satisfy her.” This was said with disdain, as though some foul taste was brought on by the statement. “This is why we never cross the border, why there is no trade with that land. And you should be eternally grateful you shall never suffer their fate and meet that Demon-Empress.”

A hollow smile creased Ishaq’s lips. Was he considered handsome enough to please this, ‘Demon-Empress‘? What creature must she be to demand such a sacrifice? As he made to stand he felt the object that the son had pushed into his belt. Reaching behind him he pulled it out and held it towards the light. His eyes widened to see a white ash, wooden stake in his grasp. There were tales that the Empress could be killed by driving a stake through her heart, but many doubted if there was even a heart to pierce. He didn’t have long to let his mind linger on it as the door opened followed by a group of girls all holding a small package in their arms. Quickly he let the stake drop and pushed it into the shadow with his foot.

The packages’ uses became obvious as the girls began to bathe and clean him. After soaking in the warm water he was dried off in towels so thick they felt like feathers against his skin. When dry one of the girls walked to the packages and pulled out an engraved jar. She lifted the lid and dipped her fingers inside and when she pulled them out they glittered and gleamed gold. He had heard of powered gold dust being used to highlight the skin but never seen it. The girls set to work covering his dark skin in the gold and when they were through he felt like one of the gold statues at the temple and he realised if he remained naked he still would have been wearing the most expensive adornment in his life.

But he was clothed, if only a little. A clean, white linen wrap was tied around his waist, a sash of red velvet knotted around it to hold it up. Next, one of the girls moved towards him and placed a collar of gold around his shoulders. It was heavy and cold, making him shiver. As one final flourish the girls doused him in a heavy scent of musk and vanilla before making their exit. When he was alone he wished he could have enjoyed the feeling of the richness of the experience. To be bathed and dressed and scented was only enjoyed by the upper classes of the palaces far from his reach. But it was impossible to think of the luxury when he knew it could not be long now.

In haste he rushed to the corner where he had pushed the stake and retrieved it, stuffing it into his belt so as it was hidden. Just as he finished the door swung open and one of the soul-less men gestured for him to follow. A shudder ran down Ishaq’s spine and it took all his strength to get his feet to move.

Ishaq had been blindfolded and then led down a series of long corridors, his only lead being the hand of the man from the harem on his shoulder. Finally they came to a stop and the guiding had slid from his shoulder leaving him alone.

For a long time Ishaq just stood still, unsure of what to do. Eventually he reached behind him and undid the blindfold letting it fall to the ground. As soon as he could see again it was as though all his senses were also unmasked. The heavy fragrance of incense wafted over him and he almost expected the room to be crammed full with spice-scented lilies with how strong it was. Two pillars dominated the room, their surfaces’ carved with designs of hieroglyphs Ishaq had never seen before. Their was no sound in the room, in fact it was beyond silent, as though every sound had been sucked out leaving nothing but a heavy weight in his ears.

Ishaq’s full view of the room had been blocked by one of the stone pillars that had reached right to the top of the high ceiling above. He stepped out around to look to the middle of the room and froze.

Ishaq had been prepared to face a monster not the beauty that was before him. The Empress was led upon a mass of silk and velvet cushions. Incense and candles were lit either side of her, the smoke was rising into the air and each stream of mist swirled until it met in the air above her as though framing her like a living picture.

The woman rose onto her elbows to look at Ishaq. Her eyes were the striking blue of the sea not the red he had imagined. Her hair was as black as raven’s feathers, her skin as pale as porcelain. Long legs accentuated her hour glass figure that was only hinted at beneath her shimmering, purple silk dress.

“Come closer.” She purred, and Ishaq could not help but look to her small, crimson red lips as she spoke. He did as commanded almost without realising until he was stood before the mountain of pillows. With the ease of a cat she crawled down until she knelt on the cushions and was eye level with him. Her breath was colder than a winter storm and Ishaq was suddenly reminded who she was. Beneath her tempting beauty and inviting aura lay a demon after his very soul.

As the Empress gave him an inspecting gaze, Ishaq let his fingers curl around the stake in his belt. He swallowed hard as her hands snaked over his shoulders and lingered upon his jaw as though cradling his face to kiss it. She pulled away and Ishaq felt almost disappointment but ignored the feeling.

“Very acceptable.” She spoke finally after her evaluation. Then she turned away. Now was his chance! Gripping the stake he pulled it from its hiding place and stabbed it down towards her. The Empress twisted around on the cushions her piercing gaze meeting his.

His hand stopped.

The tip of the sharp stake hovered above her chest. She didn’t look at the weapon and only brushed her fingers against his cheek.

“Do you wish to kill me, my sweet?” She breathed and an almost mocking smile made her eyes glimmer. “Then do as you wish.” She brushed the curls of hair that had swirled against her collar bone to behind her shoulder revealing the open, vulnerable china-like skin of her chest.

Ishaq kept his eyes on hers, unable to tear them away. Her radiance, her beauty, her being enveloped him and he felt almost a sense of love come from her. There was a small thought in the back of his mind that warned him that this temptation was a trap. The thought was quickly crushed as her hands curled over his shoulders to bring him closer.

The stake rolled from his grasp, hitting the floor noiselessly and lying useless now far from his reach. The Empress twisted Ishaq so as he led amongst the soft, hugging feeling of the cushions. All he wanted in that moment was to see her smile, to know that her happiness was of his doing. He led silently and contentedly as she kissed his lips, her own touch like the fluttering of a moth’s wings. The kisses trailed until finally her lips lingered longingly against his throat.

Her sweet kiss was as sharp as needles, hot as molten gold but as pure as ecstasy.