Monday, 26 March 2012

A Picture Paints 1000 Words - Bloghop

As the picture says, this is a blogfest about ... well, pictures.The hosts for this are the bunch at Unicorn Bell. They will each pick a favourite story and those four will then be voted on for a winner.
For this, participants were to choose a picture from a collection of ten and write (you guessed it) a thousand words. Cause, you know, a picture can tell a thousand words.
I actually bounced between four pictures for a while (I'm an automatic fantasy-style gal, so half of the images called out to me) before going with the one in the banner. And here, the picture did tell 1000 words, precisely.

---------------------------------------

Click for better detail

The oar dipped into the lake, disturbing its calm veneer with the faintest of splashes. Pitched back and forth, she shuffled on her seat. Her shoulders ached at the strain of being bound. If only they would loosen the ropes. What would she do? Jump into the water? It wasn’t as if she could swim. What if I fall overboard? Her stomach flipped at the thought. No, they wouldn’t let that happen.
Biting her lip, she fastened her gaze on the castle before them. Trees and bushes screened off bits of the structure, leaving its tower as the only properly defined formation. She wouldn’t have cared if the land held nothing more than tents. Its purpose would serve well enough as bare land.
Land. How she longed to once again set foot on it. To be surrounded by the gentle sigh of the forest and the murmur of the life it bore. No such luck here. Trees there may have been, but they stood surrounded by brick and mortar. The wild hemmed in their idea of civilisation. And water.
The boat rocked like a wind chime in the breeze. Wavelets lapped at the sides with sickening slaps like raw meat on a cold pan. She shuddered. No way to forget they headed towards an island. The Gilded Cage they called it. A perfect prison. The savages. Ever mocking what they didn’t understand. Even here, at the heart of their empire.
The prow bumped against the landing with a hollow thunk. Deft hands swung the boat around, slamming the side up against the weathered planks. The pier creaked, its wood, both dead and alive in the fresh water, left to scream in its submerged agony. She cringed at the cry. Did they not hear the torment they inflicted? How could they be so deaf?
Strong hands grasped her arms and hauled her to her feet. She staggered across the short platform, her steps growing stronger as the earth neared. Behind her, in a flash of blue, the boat slid back out into the water. Did they think she’d only now attempt an escape? As if she would even consider returning to that empty shell they dared to call a vessel. She’d prefer to slip under the lake’s green surface to never emerge again than endure that.
Her foot hit the ancient stone stairs. Vigour returned anew, seeping through the worked slabs. Up the flight of steps they took her and through the archway looming over them. The path beyond lay shadowed by trees. She could feel the bushes shivering, their branches bending towards them in her wake. Her presence noted and passed on.
Up the gravel path they went. Her guards hurried her onwards, their unease a fine musk. She smiled. Better if they’d the foresight to strip this place of all life. Although, legend said that even in the most barren of lands, the soil alone could, for a time, lend its strength to one in need.
High above, a tree creaked its mournful greeting. Caution, they warned. Others had come before her to this place and had been broken. Their souls, both the strong and the weak, shattering against the cold slab of the empire’s will. Why had the elders allowed another to be given over to the Silence?
“Them trees,” one mumbled, “what they’re doing?”
“It’swat they always do around the Folk.” A meaty finger prodded her back, arching her spine and sending a fresh wave of pain through her shoulders. “Make’em stop.”
Teeth clenched, she continued her measured pace in the waiting quiet. No point trying to explain to these oafs that she had no control over what the trees did. Be simpler trying to rule the earth and its seasons than to get a single tree to obey any sort of command. Even in the artificial forests they built to span the hole in their souls, the trees held more sway than any mere creature could hope to attain.
The castle loomed above her. A hideous monster of brick and glass. The open maw of a doorway beckoned them forth. She was strong. One of the High Circle. The most revered among the clans for leagues. She’d show those earth-deaf heathens that they could not break them all.
She stepped into the courtyard to be greeted by a call she hadn’t noticed had been lingering on the edge of her senses the whole time. Its cry subtle, yet piercing to the soul. She sunk to her knees. Tears streamed down her face in sympathetic resonance. How? They were deaf. Blind. How could this be possible?
But there it was. Despite all rationale, it sat hunched in the centre of the yard like an old man. She peered through the leaves, long tendrils that brushed the cobblestoned ground, ends twirling in the breeze. Beyond branches bent in their eternal grief to the trunk they cruelly twisted and bound in the iron they dared to call a fence.
They had tamed a willow.
She shivered. Unlike the trees at her back, living in what wild this island could claim, there was no such whisper from the willow. An echo did sit where there should have been that natural zest. It sucked at the world, yearning to fill the hole these savages had ripped in its core.
Just as keenly as its kin, it felt her presence. The leaves shook a vigorous welcome. Too long did they keep it cooped. No company. Little room to grow. Nothing from which to feed.
Jumping to her feet, she spun to flee through the archway. Hands grabbed her. She struggled against their grip. They dragged her back, drawing near the tree.
“Come now, missy, don’t you Folk like trees?”
Like the crack of a whip, something hit her mind. She threw up a shield. Too late. It coiled about her mind, severing her ties to the earth. Shutting her off from the world she knew.
Leaving naught but Silence in its wake.

26 comments:

  1. Wow, your description and voice are both wonderful. I never once was jarred out of reading this, and now I'm annoyed that I don't know what happens next! Great job.

    Also, man I wish I knew about this blogfest before now, it seems awesome! Aw well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful! This is another emotionally chilling piece. Your descriptions are beautiful and I could feel the pull of nature. I loved the lines: "No point trying to explain to these oafs that she had no control over what the trees did. Be simpler trying to rule the earth and its seasons than to get a single tree to obey any sort of command."

    Then to have the tamed willow come after was a great juxtaposition of her beliefs. It was truly a crushing blow.

    Loved this!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love the dark feel of this entry! Really beautiful. My heart wrenched for that "tamed" tree, so miserable and lonely.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the voice of the main character, perfectly pitched between that confidence in her specialness and the sorrow that brings with it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very chilling. Excellent work and your descriptions were well written. Guess the men were smarter than she thought.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Really want to see where this story goes. The tone and the world building feel like a prologue. Well done! Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hildred: Thank you. I only just found out about it a week or so ago myself.

    Charity: Thanks. I’m quite surprised it came out that way. I’d no idea how the last 500 words would play out until yesterday.

    Julie: Thank you. Is it weird that I was holding back some tears of my own when I wrote that piece? Cause I was.

    Stu: Oh, cool! I’m so glad that worked!

    Huntress: Smacked me right in the face when the idea finally surfaced. I was all, “Yes, duh girl. Do it! Write it!”
    The oddest things hit one while preparing the families dinner.

    Sheena-kay: Hee, thanks. ^_^ And yes, yes they were. There’s some very tricksy people in the empire.

    Alica: ^_^ Thank you. It was certainly fun cramming just enough back-story in without going into exposition overboard (it’s a bad habit of mine. The exposition, that is).

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nicely done. Great atmosphere and loved how you used the trees, especially the sad willow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanky, the idea came to me whilst peeling potatoes and watching the pines just outside the window swaying in the breeze.
      Then I recalled hearing about trees that pass on info about a nearby predator and actually change the taste of their leaves. Info ... pass on ... resonance in another being ... and I'm back to what I said to Huntress ... "Duh. Do it!" ^_^

      Delete
  9. "Up the gravel path they went. Her guards hurried her onwards, their unease a fine musk. She smiled. Better if they’d the foresight to strip this place of all life. Although, legend said that even in the most barren of lands, the soil alone could, for a time, lend its strength to one in need."
    WOW!! The voice and construction ring amazingly.
    All I have left are the questions. The largest, the one that is giving me oodles of grief is - Why had the elders allowed another to be given over to the Silence? - Another what?
    Who? What? Where? When? and Why? I hope you have plans to answer them all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ‘Another what?’ “Others had come before her to this place and had been broken.” Another of the others. ^_^
      Not yet sure if I'll expand on this. (I’ve answers to the Who, the Where, the When and, my favourite, the Why. The What needs specifying.) I'm tempted but I've two WiPs on the go now and so many waiting for me. Not to mention that I'd have to decide if this would be the prologue, the beginning or the climatic end of a story? Or perhaps the twist in the middle. And if it would be all her pov or does she share it with others ...
      I might put it on the back burner and let it stew while I write the others clammering for my attention.

      Delete
  10. As I read this, a niggling sensation tapped away at my spine, my neck. There was a tragedy taking place. This main character was being forced on her "Green Mile" of sorts by being sent to this beautiful hell. My heart ached when the story reached the tamed willow. All the while, bits of nature seemed, at leaset, somewhat empowered, but not this poor willow.

    Truly sad.

    The ending, heartbreaking.

    Very nice job.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, an exciting story plot in the making. I am intrigued.

    ........dhole

    ReplyDelete
  12. a naiad? no dryad! she knows the trees and now shares the fate of the willow. so tragic!
    great job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I pictured an elf-like people, but dryad-like works too.

      Delete
  13. Enticing, thrilling, sending a beacon of hope in the middle only to be extinguished in the end.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I loved this! Broke my heart into pieces. There's such a huge story there waiting to be told...

    ReplyDelete
  15. You had me feeling sorry for a tree. That's some writing.

    ReplyDelete