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.
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.