I love to write, most of the time. You know, when the words cooperate and I know just how to describe the movie playing in my head. Sometimes the story the story in my head advances faster than my fingers can keep up with or it gets too complicated, and that usually leads to an unfinished story.
A while back, I decided that I wanted to try to focus on writing short stories as it had been a while since I had really focused on writing and I wanted to ease back into it, not put too much pressure on myself to do the full novel length stories I had done in the past. I found a writing prompt on Pinterest that I thought would be perfect for a short story.
Yeah, 4,000 words so far and it’s only three chapters. No title just yet, and minimal editing. Here is
The ancient tunnels twisted through the mountain. At the heart was an ever burning fire.
There were many legends about the origins of this flame. Only a few knew the true history however. Some believed the flame itself was a myth as no one had ever seen it. Some believed it was a piece of the sun. They thought that if it ever went out, the sun would no longer rise. The world would turn cold and dark. Food would not grow without the sun. The land would be covered with ice.
Others believed the fire was protection. Without it, the creatures who feared the light would get stronger. There would be nothing to keep Saldiavya, or any of the other worlds, safe.
The one thing everyone agreed on was that once the fire was gone, so was the world.
The night was still when the Crone awoke. The only sound in her ears was the pounding of her fear filled heart. She could sense it; the fire was getting weaker. They would have to act fast.
Her power reached out to the others, too impatient to use traditional means. She gathered supplies as she waited for them to arrive. She pulled her pewter scrying bowl out, along with water she had made specifically for scrying. She was staring at the image within when Inati arrived.
“Starukha, what is it?” She asked. “I’ve never felt you so agitated.”
Inati wore a long coat over a flannel nightgown. The top button was closed but the rest was left open to accommodate the swell of her belly.
“It’s the flame,” she responded, not tearing her eyes away.
“What?” One hand fluttered to Inati’s heart while the other rested protectively over her unborn child. “Th-that’s not possible.”
Starukha stepped away, gesturing to the bowl. “See for yourself.”
Inati gazed into the bowl, at first only seeing her face reflected. She saw the fear in her own brown eyes, worry lines forming in the olive skin of her face. Slowly, the image began to change.
The ancient flame had burned since before the memory of man. The soft sounds of Starukha moving around began to fade as the flame filled the Mother’s vision. She remembered see the flames for the first time as the Maiden. It had terrified her. The roar of the fire consuming an unseen tinder had stayed in her ears long after the vision had ended. The flames had touched the ceiling of the cave. Now they barely reached the tips of the jewel encrusted stalactites.
“Rukha, what are we going to do?”
“Well, if Sirena would get here-”
“I’m here! I’m here, Starukha, Inati,” the Maiden said, dashing through the door. “Mama didn’t want to let me out.”
At the tender age of sixteen, Sirena was the baby out of the trio. Her mother had not waned her to be chosen as the Maiden. If it were up to her, Sirena would not have anything to do with magic. However, no one said no to the Crone. The child had an innate talent for water magic. She had to be trained. Typically the Maiden would live alternately with the Mother and the Crone. As a compromise, Sirena was trained during the day while spending her nights at home.
“You finally made it,” Starukha said, her tone gruff. “Now we can finally get to work.”
Inati smiled comfortingly at her, placing a hand on the young girl’s shoulder as they walked out into the night. Inati used the broom to sweep away unwanted energies while Starukha placed the protection crystals and Sirena laid out the candles. Once everything was set up, Starukha looked over at the others. Inati was strong but caring, as the Mother should be. As her pregnancy neared its end, she did not move around as easily but she could be counted on to do the job that needed doing.
Starukha worried for Sirena. She was so young to have face what was coming. She seemed so fragile, with her pale skin, paler even than Starukha’s own, her onyx hair reaching her waist a sign of her youth. Still, there was determination in her ice blue eyes.
The women took their places, raising their arms to the sky as they spoke in unison.
“Beloved Goddess, mother of all.
“We humbly ask you, heed our call.
“We the Crone, Mother and Maid
“Call upon the for your aid
“Those we seek, help us to see.
“As we will, so mote it be.”
Sirena maintained the pose as she waited for whatever would come next. The minutes stretched out and she peeked through one eye, looking for a sign that they would be answered. Her arms were beginning to ache when the wind began to blow, whipping her hair across her face.
Inati knew to brace for the vision to come yet it still hit her hard. She gasped as images filled her mind. The flames getting smaller and smaller, the creatures of the underworld reaching the surface, the screams of defenseless people under attack. She saw the end of the world as she knew it. The last thing she saw was the faces of those who were meant to defeat the evil. One of those faces belonged to Sirena.
Inati turned to the young girl when the vision set her free. She was sitting on the floor, hand to her head as tears streamed down her face.
“We can’t let that happen,” she sobbed. “We have to stop it.”
“We will,” Inati stated. “We have no choice.”
“Did you see their faces?” Starukha asked. “Do you remember them Sirena?”
“Those poor people. I’ll never forget their faces.”
“No, child. The Elementals, the people we need to stop this terrible thing.”
“Um, yes. One of them was…me.”
“Yes. You will have to find the others.”
“Give her a moment, Rukha, that was a hard one.”
“Things will only get harder once the fire goes out. You saw what is coming if she fails.”
Sirena stared up at her. “Me?”
“Yes you,” Starukha replied impatiently. “I have far too much to do here and Inati’s lying in will begin any day now.”
She headed back into her cottage, her mind already on the next steps to be taken.
“Sirena, sweetie,” Inati said, taking her hand. “You are so much stronger than you know. So smart and gifted. If anyone can do this you can.”
Starukha stepped outside, her hands filled with vials and bottles. “Go. Pack some things and say goodbye to your mother. Hurry.”
With one last glance at Inati, she turned to do as she was told.
“You don’t have to be so harsh, Rukha.”
“And you don’t have to coddle her so much. The girl is strong and powerful. She will do what needs to be done.”
An hour later she was back with a bag packed. It had been difficult to pack as she has no clear idea of where she was going. She had seen bits and pieces of the worlds she would be going to in that horrible vision but she was still unprepared. People dressed strangely there. Men and women alike wore breeches. Some women were covered completely while others were barely covered at all. Nothing she owned looked similar to what she had seen.
She packed food and healing herbs. She did her best to be practical but she did not want to take much from her mother. Her mother had slept the entire time she was there. She has written her a note to say goodbye, not wanting to have to say it to her face. What could she say to make her understand? She barely understood it all herself.
She would travel to different worlds to seek out people she had never met to help her keep an ancient fire lit so the world would not be overrun with monsters. Her mother would try to talk her out of going but she had no choice.
Her mother had been through so much in the last few years. She had cared for a sick husband and child, eventually burying her husband. She had found a way to turn her skill with a needle into a profitable business that she used to care for her only child. Now that child, her only family, was leaving on what seemed an impossible mission.
It was cowardice but Sirena could not face a goodbye. There was so much unknown in her future. Would there be birds in these other worlds? Would the seas be the same? Had she packed enough cheese and bread? Would she be able to get more if she ran out?
What if she was attacked? She had trained with Starukha and Inati but they had not taught her to fight.
She was thinking about this as she walked into Starukha’s cottage so she did not see the bag.
“What is this?” Sirena asked, picking herself up off the floor.
“Essentials,” Starukha replied. There were two more bags on the floor.
“It’s time to find the first Elemental.”
They used the scrying bowl again. Fresh water and a drop of Sirena’s blood and they saw the first of them.
“She looks like my great-aunt,” Inati said.
She was tall and slender, near Sirena’s age. Her pixie face was surrounded by thick cherry wood colored hair.
Her name was Himawari.