Dawn – #writephoto

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt

Another bit of fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here. Very late this week – it’s not been easy in our lives lately. Hopefully not too late but if it is – hey – I need to keep it going for my sake.

Here Sue’s photo for this week.


Dawn

By Scott Bailey © 2018

All night she had waited. Watching that dark cave. She knew it was occupied – there had been a fire lit there.

Yet something has held her back. Fear – of what?

Well, for one thing, she did not know how many people were in there. Or what their reception to a stranger might be.

But she was in just as much danger hanging around out here. There were too many wild beasts that would finish her easily.

And she was cold and hungry and alone.

She had nothing left to lose – she told herself. But though she was young, she had lived long enough to know exactly what else she could lose. He life was the least of it.

All night this battle had raged in her, fear of the night, fear of the cave and that fire.

And beneath it all, grief boiled and churned. Tears flowed silently for the family she had lost to that treacherous wave.

Was there a family up there? Huddled in warmth and safety around that fire. She could recall many such scenes with keen sharpness and pain.

Then a thought struck her – if her family had been there they would have posted lookouts. Maybe there were not so many occupants in that shelter.

As she thought over that the sun rose, burst over the cliff top and spilled light like new hope onto the plains.

She stood. Her decision made. She started to climb to towards the cave.

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Remains – #writephoto

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt

Another bit of fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here.

Here Sue’s photo for this week.

Image from Pixabay

 


Remains

By Scott Bailey © 2018

“This was where you found it?” Ilaria said brushing her fingers along the smooth stone bones. “It doesn’t look that old.”

“My father found it,” he corrected it, “and it’s not. At least this isn’t.”

He nodded at the stone skeleton that adorned the tomb.

“This is a reconstruction of the original that had been badly damaged.”

Ilaria shuddered at the thought and again he surprised her by noticing. She wondered if he were really blind.

“Those Victorian’s did not share our modern obsession with preservation,” he smiled.

“Who was he?” she asked

“One of the past wielders. A French lord. There are many myths surrounding him, most of which involve sword fights. Most sound ridiculous to most people. You will find them – easier to accept in time.”

She frowned, wondering what that meant. He went on.

“The sword was found in his tomb. His enemies buried him with it.”

“It survived the fight then?”

“He did not die fighting. He died of old age.”

She stared at the detailed – almost lifelike stone carving. Lifelike! Ha!

But it was exquisite  – if it was accurate the man must have been an imposing figure. Certainly tall.

“He was undefeated then,” she observed.

“Death claimed him eventually, even Northblood cannot stay that blade. He lived a long life, spinning his own stories. It is from him we got many of the tales of other wielder’s. They do not seem to have lived such charmed lives as he. But in the end, he died alone, an old blind man.”

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Wielder – #writephoto

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt

Another bit of fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here.

Here Sue’s photo for this week.

 


Wielder

By Scott Bailey © 2018

He sat staring too the horizon. Waiting. Occasionally he would sharpen the sword that sat against his thigh.

The sky was bathed in fire. It was a sign. He was sure.

The metal felt warm in the sunlight. He caressed it. He was sure of his fate now.

He had never wielded a sword before. When this one had been gifted him from the sacred pool, he had put it away safe. Never thinking he would need it. Never thinking he would want to.

Now he had no real need for it. But he wanted too.

He has been away. Delivering corn downriver to another village who had need of it.

That’s when they came. Invaders from the north.

They had taken his family. Everyone one, slaughtered. He had nothing left.

Nothing but revenge.

He had been a farmer. No more. He knew he was no warrior, knew his life would most likely end this night. The invaders were returning, rumour preceded them. He scanned the horizon where their dark figures would appear.

No, he would not survive the night. But this blade, this fiery, beautiful blade, would earn its name tonight.

Tonight, it would drink northern blood.

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Heirloom – #writephoto

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt

Another bit of fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here.

Here Sue’s photo for this week.

 


Heirloom

By Scott Bailey © 2018

 

She had run from the stately home – from ghosts and strange blind men – both alive and dead.

But not far. She had very quickly got hold of herself. Now she sat outside a provincial coffee shop sipping the best she’d tasted for some time.

As she drunk she stared at the place in the distance. Turrets rising from the darkness like the beginning of some gothic horror movie.

Only now she knew the ghosts were real.

How she knew that she was not sure. It went against everything she had ever believed, against the grain of her fundamental seeking for truths.

But she did not doubt what she had seen.

So, that is how he found her, sipping coffee, staring at his home.

Vaguely, she wondered at that. Had she stumbled straight into his favourite place? Had he had her followed? Again, she noted that he seemed to need no guide. He must be familiar with this place as well.

He sat across the table from her and waited.

“Who are they,” she asked eventually.

He smiled wryly and lifted one shoulder and a strange shrug.

“That is the question. One there has been no answer to. All I can tell you is that through all the stories, down through the years – beyond history – they are there – along with the sword. With Northblood.”

“Stories? Do you have them all?”

“All, that are known of,” he replied. “There are gaps in time, and as I said, they go beyond written history.”

Again, for no apparent reason, she believed him.

“Will you tell me them?”

“I will,” he nodded. He signalled to a waiter and ordered himself a coffee. Then he resumed.

“But if you are seeking truths, stories will not suffice. You must take more, you must take responsibility.”

She cocked her head at that.

“What do you mean?”

“It is time Northblood was held by new hands.”

“You want me to have the sword?”

He nodded, then added more quietly.

“But there is a cost.”


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The Avenue- #writephoto

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt

Another bit of fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here.

Here Sue’s photo for this week.

 


The Avenue

By Scott Bailey © 2018

 

This was the second time Ilaria had walked down this Avenue of trees today. Earlier it had been bright sunshine and lush green grass. Now it was grey and blue in the moonlight.

Then, he had walked with her. The Count. She had learned he was a Count almost immediately. It had amused her mildly. She had followed all the clues and they had led her to a castle where a Count lived.

It has all the makings of a horror movie. Or maybe a quaint period romance.

She had no taste for either. She rarely read fiction. She preferred a good textbook, preferably history.

Somehow he had known that.

She had badgered him with questions which he deftly danced all around and avoided with politeness. As she talked, he walked. Moving at a leisurely pace. She noticed that despite his age – she guessed around mid-fifties he seemed quite fit. Moved with a strong, feline confidence.

She barely noticed that they left the darkness of his personal museum and found themselves strolling in the dappled sunlight beneath the trees.

When she did she also realised that, despite his blindness, he had not faltered once. He had been sure-footed and need no guide.

She stopped. Taking in the implications.

“You have lived here all your life?” It was the only explanation, he must know the place intimately.

“As have my family for several generations.” he smiled, amused at her question.

“A French Count.” she mused.

“An English title, my family moved here many years in the past, the title came with them and stayed.”

“And you? You have stayed here, never left?”

“Oh, I have travelled in my time, all over the world.” There was sadness in his voice now. Maybe he had not always been blind? Did he mourn the loss of all the sites he had seen?

She pushed on with her quest for answers though.

“Is that where you collected all those weapons?”

“No, that was not me. That was father’s passion. I don’t really care for the collection – it holds no interest to me.”

“Except for that sword.” There could be no denying his interest in that sword. It had pride of place n his house.
He smiled wryly, as is admiring her insight. He nodded.

“Yes, except that sword.”

“Was that one of your father’s acquisitions?”

“It was. One of his last.” he began walking again, drawing her down the avenue.

“He never knew what he had, he dies shortly after bringing home.”

“But you do?” she said. “You know what is special about it. What is it? And what are those figures?”

He stopped again, turned and faced her. He sighed and appeared to be considering his answer. Finally, he spoke again.

“I know your type. You are obsessed with facts – with explanations, not mystery.”

She bristled at this description of herself, to the way he had pigeonholed her, she wanted to dispute it, but she didn’t know what to say. She realised that he had hit the mark.

He went on.

“You want answers, explanations. I am not sure I can give you that. What I can tell you, you would not believe.”

“Try me,” she said. Something about all this had hooked her. She needed the answers in a way she had never felt before. Her calm assessment of everything that had gone before in her life seemed to have been washed away by this sudden, irrational obsession. Though it frightened her – she found she could not turn back any more.

So her heart lurched when he answered.

“No.”

She began to protest but he held up his hand.

“I cannot tell you in any way you would accept. Therefore, I must show you. Meet me here again, this exact spot at midnight.”

She almost snorted, almost derided all this theatrical nonsense. Almost walked away from it all.

But he did not give her the chance. He whirled around and stalked away from her, leaving her open-mouthed.

So she found herself back beneath the trees in the cool night, wondering if she were starting to go mad.

“Are you ready to open your eyes?”

She jumped in fright. The count had come up beside her in silence.

The air felt chill now. Yet, somehow, in spite of the situation, she did not feel any threat from him.

“What are we waiting for?” she asked, trying to keep the scepticism from her voice.

He pointed his cane down the avenue.

Where two faint white figures approached. They were misty and translucent and seemed to be sunk in the ground up to their waists.

She stepped back several paces in fear. What the hell! They looked for all the world like ghosts approaching them.

The air felt colder still.

This could not be! She whirled around looking up in the trees for the light of a projector.

“This is no illusion!” said the Count. “Take all the time you need to confirm that after, but for now – attend closely.” He nodded in the direction of the approaching figures.

She could see them more clearly now. They were indeed sunk up to their waists into the earth. But they seemed not to notice. They ran as if it were not there.

They were figures from the most ancient of times. Almost naked, wearing simple animal hides. Their hair wild. They both carried spears, wooden with flint heads.

They passed her. The nearest was a young woman, barely an adult. The other was an older, man. He looked strong but worn by time. Somehow, despite the fact that he was not eyeless, she could tell that he, like the Count, was blind.


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The Sculptor – #writephoto

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt

Another bit of short (very short this week) fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here.

Here Sue’s photo for this week.

 


The Sculptor

By Scott Bailey © 2018

 

He stood back, took in his work, and smiled.

Yes. He was getting there. He was satisfied.

He was almost finished.

He knew that nobody else would see it. No one in this place understood. They would not see what he could see. They would only see a couple of boulders, barely touched by him.

But he knew. His subtle touches revealed the shapes that were there. The two figures, watching waiting – poised. Ancient figures known now only to a few, their stories passed down through the generations.

Stories many did not believe – of wonder and dread.

Stories of The Hunter, The Eyeless Man and a magical weapon that defied time.

Northblood.


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Northblood – #writephoto

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt

Another bit of short fiction – another continuation of previous entries that I have decided to collate in one place – here.

Here Sue’s photo for this week.

 


Northblood

By Scott Bailey © 2018

 

Ilaria regarded the stairs with apprehension. Should she ascend them? There was something about all this? Something she could not explain rationally and that disturbed her. She was a scientist! Her life was all about explanations.

So she hesitated.

Actually, she was not being honest with herself. She was an archeologists and in that field explanations were not always forthcoming. In fact she prided herself for her tendency to refrain from explanations. To her facts were what she found. A pile of swords in a pool was just that – a pile of swords in a pool. They might be in a broken state or not. What she did not do – what she insisted on – was starting down a flight of fancy trying to imagine – or theorise on what it all meant. Was it ritual? Or a treasure hoard? In the end there was no way of knowing. So it was best left at that – an unknown.

So why did this whole mystery upset her equilibrium?

It was that face in the caves. That ancient figure from a time so long ago it was a miracle that it still survived.

It was the contradictions in the figure. When they had discovered it she had enthused to her colleagues about the clarity and detail of the painting – and it was all true. The figures truly surpassed anything else she had seen that was contemporary or even later. Yet, by modern standards it was crude.

And still.

That figure of the man. It seemed to stare right through you. Look down through the ages and into your soul. Despite the fact it had no eyes.

And now this sword. She had seen the photo’s and there was no doubt in her mind – the figure was the same.

So she had pleaded and begged this visit – to see it for real. The owner had been reluctant – to say the least. He had even denied its existence.

It had taken a photo of the cave painting in return to convince him.

And still, she hesitated.

“Ms, Neri?”

Her guide, looking for all the world like an old time butler, waited by the stairway. She had come all this way to Paris, to this opulent mansion, to this private collection.

She took a deep breath and nodded. The guide led her up the sweeping curve of the stairs.

They walked down a hallway, lined with many fine pictures which she she guessed were worth a small fortune each. They came to a heavy, modern security door. The guide discreetly entered a code and, she thought she detected, used a fingerprint to unlock the door.

They stepped into a small, dimly lit room. In the centre was a hexagonal glass case. Hanging in the case was the sword.

It did not look ancient. It did show signs of use but could have been twenty or so years old. The hilt certainly looked like it had been replaced.

But the rest – it drew her in. The deep rose gold of the metal had a deep lustre, as though light was lost in it, swallowed to another place deep within the blade where it ebbed, reaching out for reprieve.

And, there, on the blade, was the figure, the eyeless man.

She shook herself, immediately started to see the signs that told her the design, the origin of the the blade. It certainly, at first glance, looked to be something designed in the early iron age. Yet it also looked far too unscathed.

Was this a replica?

She asked the guide.

“No,” he said. “This is the real blade. I understand your confusion – but let me assure you – it has been aged correctly.”

“Was it found near here?” she ventured – it was a test. The was not Gaulish if she was correct.

“No,” he replied. “We have traced its earliest findings to Wales.”

She nodded, that chimed true to her.

“Is that why your master is so cloak and dagger? Does he think the Welsh agitators might want it back? As a symbol?”

The man paused for a long time. Finally he spoke again, carefully.

“No. No doubt you’re right, they would demand it back. This sword is not unknown though few know that it really exists. Many historians in fact equate to a more well known sword of Welsh origin. They are mistaken – that name does not belong to this blade – it has another.”

She looked at him quizzically

“It is called Northblood.”

Before she could ask how he knew that he seemed suddenly to remember something. He went to the case and flicked a switch on the base. The sword began to rotate slowly. She watched, mesmerized as the light glinte on the strange red metal. Then she gasped as the other side of the blade came into view.

There was the figure of the woman, the same woman from the caves.

What the hell connected this sword to that cave – the time distance was fantastic!

“Well? You are the only person alive to have seen both this sword and the cave paintings. Do they indeed match?”

She nodded slowly. They did. She was so shocked by what she had discovered here that it took a few moments to realise that it had not been her guide who had spoken. It had been a much deeper and richer voice.

She whirled around.

There stood an imposing figure. A middle aged man, well built and with strong shoulders over which he wore a coat like a cloak. A bristling, greying beard on a broad strong face. He leant his heavy frame on a sturdy black cane.

And though he has deep grey eyes it was immediately obvious.

He was blind.


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