Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This Sunday’s prompt is: Freedom
This story’s based on a question I asked the magic 8 ball as part of a #FlashFicHive prompt last month: Should my main character fight for freedom? The answer was yes. I also made another aesthetic on Canva, using images from Pixabay:
This week’s top tip is:
Don’t push yourself too hard. If you’re ill, take it easy. Your work will be better quality when you feel 100% anyway!
I’ve been ill this past week, and I’ve not been very productive! (Unless you count binge watching Jessica Jones and changing my blog theme as productive?)
Onto the story!
Freedom. What she wouldn’t give for freedom. To have enough to eat, and excess to sell. To live in peace, without fear. To work their small vegetable patch and keep the profits in the family, not lose it to the baroness and her minions.
‘Life will never be that way Anna,’ her mother said with a sympathetic pat on the arm.
‘But why not? Why should we give her everything? We barely have enough to eat, and each winter more of us starve. Freeze to death. We should fight.’
Her mother sighed. ‘She has an army, and we’re farmers, not fighters. We’d be slaughtered.’
‘We could learn to fight! There’s a man, in the woods. He’s got magic. He could help…’ She tailed off, eyes sparkling, and patted the matted mane of her horse. ‘We’d be free of her. Things would be better.’
Her mother’s eyes went wide, and her weathered fingers closed around her daughters arm. ‘No, Anna. No. Under no circumstances must you go to him. All magic comes with a price.’
Anna looked away over the farms, where every mother, father, son and daughter toiled the fields in the sweltering sun for the little reward they’d see for themselves. She nodded and promised she wouldn’t seek the magician, but she knew it wasn’t a promise she’d keep.
She waited until her mother was asleep, and the village outside their thatch cottage silent, before she slipped outside. Her horse whinnied as she approached, but she shushed him with a gentle pat and mounted him. They cantered across open fields towards the edge of the woods.
Her horse shied as they reached the trees, and no matter how much she tried to urge him forward he wouldn’t take a step closer. She glanced ahead, but there was nothing but shadows playing between the leaves. Whatever had spooked him, she couldn’t see it.
She left him secured to a tree and shuddered at the sudden chill wind. Cloak tugged tight around her, she stepped into the forest. The moon was high in the sky by the time the trees thinned out, and she emerged into a clearing dusted with leaves. ‘Hello?’
The bushes rustled behind her, and she spun around to see a figure emerge from between the darkened trees. Shrouded in a grey hood, and sword clutched in gnarled hands, he shuffled towards her. ‘What can I do for you?’
‘How do you know I want something?’ Anna asked, knuckles white around her cloak.
He shrugged. ‘Few venture into the forest if they don’t, and I can sense your struggles.’
The leaves crunched beneath her feet as she stepped forward. ‘Then you know I mean to stand up to the baroness.’
‘Aye, and I can give you the means, if you’re willing to pay the price.’
Anna grit her teeth and nodded. ‘Whatever it takes.’
He held out the sword, but when she reached for it he clasped her wrist. ‘You seek freedom, and this can grant it. With it, you’ll be able to fight with more skill than any living person, but its magic comes with a price.’ He peered up into the trees, where a dozen black crows circled above them. ‘There will be casualties, and I will take the bodies of the fallen as payment.’
‘None of your concern, lass. You still want the sword? Take it, and you accept my terms.’
Anna glanced between man and sword. Should she fight for freedom? The way the villagers toiled everyday was imprinted in her mind. There was no reward for their efforts. They didn’t reap what they sowed. They died young, and barely had enough food to eat. Every winter children starved, people froze. Those that survived didn’t truly live.
She grit her teeth. There was no question of what she must do. A few sacrifices before the frost set in was a small price to pay for a lifetime of happiness. She nodded, and he released his grip. Her hand trembled as she took the sword, and a frisson of power shuddered through her.
He grinned. ‘I look forward to my payment, Anna.’
Anna’s eyes widened. ‘How do you know my name?’
He winked, and his cloak swirled around him. In an explosion of black feathers, he joined the dozen ravens above her. Anna shuddered and turned away. The wind fluttered her hood and she gripped the sword tight. The next time the baroness came, she’d be ready.
When the baroness appeared after they brought in the harvest to reap the rewards of their labour, Anna grabbed her sword and stood in front of their bounty. ‘Not today.’
The sword guided her movements, and when she locked swords with the baroness the rest of the world faded away. Dimly, she could hear screams, but they were covered by the shriek of the baroness as Anna drove the sword into her stomach.
Blood splattered the floor as she pulled it free, and Anna brushed bloody hair from her eyes as she surveyed her fallen friends. She thought she saw a raven dive for the bodies, but had no time to contemplate it. The baronesses guards were still here.
They drove swords through villagers and charged her with wicked intent. Anna was ready. Her magic sword made swift work of them, and by the end of it she was covered in blood but alive. She wiped her brow and turned as villagers peered out from their hiding places.
‘We won!’ she said with a grin. ‘We’re free!’
The villagers stared at their slaughtered comrades in horror as ravens engulfed the fallen, friends and foes alike. Grim, tear stained, expressions met her grin.
Anna frowned. ‘What’s wrong?’
One of her elders stepped forward, fists clenched. ‘We were fine as we were, but you had to fight them, didn’t you? So many are dead, and their bodies…’ He gestured to the ravens. ‘What dark sorcery is this?’
‘The magician’s taking them. It’s part of our deal,’ Anna replied. She shook her head resolutely at his look of disgust. ‘It’s worth it. We can eat. Sell extra crops at market. We’re free.’
‘It wasn’t your choice to make, and your mother…’
Anna’s eyes widened as she glanced around, but she didn’t see a familiar weathered face. ‘Where is she?’
He swallowed and looked towards their vegetable patch with a sad shake of his head.
‘What? No!’ A frisson of horror shivered down her spine as she ran for her house, but there, among the freshly dug field, face up and stomach bloody, lay her mother. Anna dropped to her knees beside her and took her lifeless hand in her own. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, as hot tears escaped from her eyes to mix with her mothers blood. ‘I didn’t think you’d pay the price.’
A raven swooped down and landed on her mothers face. Anna shooed it with her sword, but it remained steadfast and blinked once before it disappeared with her mothers body. ‘No!’
‘You’ve paid the price,’ a familiar disembodied voice whispered. ‘Enjoy the spoils.’
The sword sparkled, and Anna swallowed around a lump in her throat. She’d won. Her village was free from oppression and its people could take their extra goods to market, but her mother’s death left her with a hollow emptiness in her chest. With no body to bury, and no family left in the village, there was nothing left for her here.
She wiped her tears and turned her back on her family home. Her mother was right. All magic came with a price, but there was no turning back now. As Anna walked away she made a vow: To use her power to help others gain freedom, but never again at the sacrifice of innocents.
Thanks for reading!
One thing that stuck with me from watching Once Upon a Time was ‘Magic always has a price.’ I wanted to write something along those lines!
Why not write a short story or poem based on a prompt yourself?
The prompts for May are:
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts weekly on Pinterest:
‘The door was open, and beyond it a world I’d only dreamed of. Maybe this time I’d be free.’
If you use one of the prompts for a story, feel free to share links below.
Feeling creative? I also run a weekly hashtag game on Twitter, #sunscribbles, where you can share one off lines or quotes from a #WIP around the weekly prompt!
See you next week!