Daffodils- Description Practice

Photo by Twisted Pixel on Flickr

Photo by Twisted Pixel on Flickr

Daffodils- Inspired by a vase of daffodils. Photo by Twisted Pixel on Flickr.

The bunch of flowers stood proudly, sprouting from the jug like a spray of cheerful sunshine. Six, diamond-shaped petals spread around the trumpet middle, their surface shimmering in the light giving the impression they had been cut from pale yellow silk. Pushing my nose into the frill-edged, protruding centre, the sweet, tangy scent of honey tickled my nostrils and the pollen stained my nose like specks of gold dust. Strong, straight stems of pale green hold the large heads of the daffodils, each one its own sun, adding a much needed burst of cheer against the dreary, grey world of winter that hung outside.

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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.

Sweet Kiss -Part 1-

Sweet Kiss -Part 1- Inspired by, well, nothing really. Just kinda came into my brain late one night! (Is in 2 parts as it is really quite long for one of my ‘short’ stories).

The sands of this land were not like the golden ones Ishaq had come from. This desert was the colour of umber, as though the once yellow grains had soaked up much blood from over years of conflict.

Ishaq glanced around him, his vision only piercing so far as a small flickering fire was the only thing to hold back the night’s deep shadow. The village he was in was sparsely populated with only a few ragged souls wandering about, eyeing him carefully and with no small amount of pity.

All of them were dressed in thread-bare robes of browns and creams and he would have given anything in that moment to have one thrown about his shoulders. All he was clothed in were a pair of loose cotton trousers with a bone pin to hold them up around his hips. His torso, arms and feet were all open to the cold night air but he stood stoutly as he could, clenching his jaw to stop from shivering. It wasn’t as if he could have much say in the matter. His hands were bound together by old rope making it impossible to implore to the lady that passed if she might lend him a throw. Instead, he remained as silent as he had been when he had been bought from the slaver in the far away market. He could see the lady swallow hard as she glanced at him over the dying flames. Her sad eyes locked with his for only a moment before she quickly turned away and hurried into a tent.

Ishaq stood out amongst the people of this tented village. Most were gaunt, of medium height with broad noses and thin lips. Their skin was olive and speckled with dark freckles, their hair the colour of hazelnuts. They looked so foreign. Ishaq was tall, with broad shoulders and a toned physique from years of labouring the fields of his home farm. His skin was dark brown and his eyes were bright if also of cocoa colour. He had no hair, as was the custom of any man who was over the age of twenty in his homeland, just a clean shaven head adding to the masculine shape of his face. Full lips and a long, strong nose had helped to adorn him with compliments such as ‘mighty handsome’ and ‘carved by the Gods’ by many in his village.

“It’s time.” A heavily accented voice came from his side but the man at least spoke in a language he could understand. Next to the tall, thin man that had bought Ishaq was stood an equally tall but much leaner figure. Ishaq guessed it was a father and son pair from the similar features of the wide nose and thin lips. Ishaq was pushed forward by the man who continued to avoid eye contact and they walked out of the camp and through a path trailed into the blood coloured sands.

It did not take long to reach the Palace which loomed over the entire desert, its shadow seeming even darker than the midnight blackness in the sky. Its walls were of pure white stone and gold glinted in the moonlight where it decorated window arches and the roof. Towers and spires jutted into the sky seeming to almost go on forever as they reached into the clouds that scarred the sky. Lit torches either side of a large wooden gate led their way and the small group continued on until they reached it. When they stopped a lightly armoured guard walked forwards and looked at them closely. The guard glanced between Ishaq and the son of his buyer, then again before finally glancing at the buyer with a pitying look.

Ishaq understood this look. He knew that it should have been the son in this position. It should have been the son that stood before the gates trying to gather every last breath of courage so as not to scream and run. But instead the father had spent every last gold coin in his savings to buy Ishaq as a slave and put him in his son’s place. For a moment Ishaq wished he had a father so willing to do such an act of love and understood the man‘s actions. It was only a moment though before hate returned to Ishaq’s heart and he scowled at the man.

“This is your offering?” The guard asked finally, his words seeming to barely break the heavy atmosphere that radiated from the building behind him. The father nodded before pushing Ishaq forwards again so as he stood completely in the guard’s view. “Come on, boy.” He said before turning and walking towards the gate. Ishaq was about to follow when he felt something being pushed into the top of his belt at his back. It was solid, long and cylindrical. Ishaq glanced to see the son giving him an encouraging smile before scurrying off to join his father in hasty retreat.

Inside the walls was a courtyard of such magnificence that it took Ishaq’s breath and he almost forgot his reason for being there at all. The floor looked as though it was paved in jewels. Lush green trees and thick leafed plants lined the walls and pathway and birds with wings with the sheen of pearls flitted past him. It was a true oasis amongst such a hostile, arid land. The guard hesitantly nudged Ishaq on, seeming to allow him to enjoy the splendour for a moment.

They walked up a small staircase, the floor cold against his bare feet, though incredibly smooth. The hallways were just as grand as the courtyard, with white washed walls that seemed to retain the heat of the day and gold edged tables lining them all decorated with priceless looking urns and trinkets.

Eventually they turned a corner and the guard rapped his knuckles on a solid, wood door. It opened to reveal only shadow and the guard stepped aside to allow Ishaq to enter. The darkness seemed to loom out of the room as if to suck him into it. He swallowed hard trying to ignore the urge to flee or plead to the guard.

The room behind the dark was surprisingly bright and Ishaq blinked his eyes a few times to adjust. It was smaller then he expected with a fire blazing to one side and giving much needed warmth to his now freezing skin. Yet still he shivered, only now not from the cold. A slim figure came from an open archway, her pale skin and wide eyes a contrast to the stern guard he had so far been led by. She bowed her head to him before walking forwards to untie the binds around his wrists. He rubbed the soreness that the rope had left before continuing onwards to follow the girl.

After a few more long, impressive corridors the girl stopped before a set of grand doors. They were not wooden like the others, instead they were made almost entirely of coloured glass. Ishaq had never seen such a marvel. Glass was almost unheard of where he came from and now to see so much of it in use was beyond anything he had ever dreamed. Light came from within the room making the panes of reds, purples, blues, greens and yellows glimmer invitingly. But Ishaq regained himself and realised nothing in this place would ever be enticing to him.

When the doors were opened a wash of warmth and freshness ran over Ishaq. The room was well lit by wall sconces making the mosaic floor glimmer in the light. His focus was instantly drawn to the large square pool that dominated the centre, the crystal clear water was deathly still inside it. Ishaq then noticed movement and he flinched when two men crossed his vision. Then the whole room seemed to be filled with men, all of them dressed in white linen cloths and bare torsos. Their foreheads and waists were decorated in gold headbands and belts that sometimes were enhanced by rubies or emeralds.

Though the men were obviously all attractive, in very good health and seemed to want for nothing by the amount of fruit laden tables and wine jugs placed about the room, they looked… hollow. Ishaq tensed visibly as he looked into the eyes of one man. There was nothing there, no colour and no life.

It was as though he had no soul.

Ishaq had heard of this place and although he knew where he was going he had not expected this. It was a harem. Her harem.

“This way.” The girl by his side whispered and he’d almost forgotten she’d been there. He obediently followed her no longer wanting to see those men or think that soon it could also be his fate.

Ishaq was led away into a small room to one side. Another pool of water dominated the space but this one was simple and obviously for bathing proper. The girl left hurriedly, closing the door behind her and Ishaq heard the familiar click of a lock though there seemed to be no keyhole. Now alone, he fell to his knees and his body shook with uncontrolled terror. He looked to his hands, barely able to see from behind the barrage of tears that streamed down his face.

(To be continued…)

The Fountain

Photo by Vermin Inc - Flickr

Photo by Vermin Inc – Flickr

The Fountain- Descriptive piece inspired by, ‘One Buck Splash’ photo by Vermin Inc

Claudia leaned over the small, marble fountain. It was an unobtrusive structure in front of the more impressive architecture of the museum. Inside the building were magnificent sculptures and art from forgotten Roman times. The trickling fountain that Claudia stared at seemed to act almost as a taster for what marvels lay inside. Still, as small as it was, it fascinated Claudia the most. It’s polished surface, smooth and clean. The marble shone in the midday sun, small veins of black threading their way through the stone as though it were a living thing.

A collection of fish had been carved into the top. Claudia had no idea about fish but it looked as though the creatures could actually be real species. From their pursed mouths sprouted trickles of clear water. The liquid spluttered from their open mouths and then fell into a holding bowl beneath, the drops making small splashes before merging with the body of water below.

The bowl was not very ornate and only simple ridges had been carved into the surface at even points creating stripes within the marble. Claudia smiled as she tried to count the number of copper coins that lay on the bottom, their images wavering below the surface of the water. Some were shiny and glinted in the sun as it hit them, others were dull and slightly green making it almost seem as though seaweed had grown in the small, fresh water pool. But each coin was a wish or hope that had been thrown into the pool to be forever immortalised in the silence of the water.

Claudia reached into the pocket of her linen jacket and gripped a two pence coin in her fingers. It was warm from the heat of her body and the surprisingly hot temperature of the spring day. She didn’t believe in superstition or magic but something about the fountain with its inviting cool water and the way it glittered in the light made her give into a moments temptation.

Closing her eyes she let a million thoughts and wishes flood her mind until one stood proud. With another smile she flicked the coin into the air and heard it hit the water with a satisfying, ‘plop‘. She then pulled on her wide brimmed, white sun hat with a polka dot ribbon tied around it. A small sense of satisfaction and childish delight meant her smile lingered as she entered the shady respite of the museum to stare at the rather more educational items within.