Prompt Short Story: Balance

The knock came at her door just as Bryten settled down for a well-earned breakfast after a night spent treating one of the villages’ young men, injured trying to climb one of the harder sections of the mountain. Wanted to impress his friends, he said, eyes glazing as much from the pain as from the other pretty young man holding his hand and pressing a cold cloth to his forehead.

The youngster would be fine, her magic was strong and his breaks and wounds – inner and outer – would complete their healing over the next 24 hours. He had been left in the care of his pretty young man, and Bryten had returned home for a large breakfast before sleep.

Apparently it was not to be.

Wearily, she stumped to the door, pulling her greying hair back into a ponytail, and flung it open.

The two figures outside flinched slightly.

“Yeah? Who got hurt now?” Bryten prompted, squinting to try and recognise the villagers in the dim morning light.

“Hi Mama Bryten, do you remember me? Ami?”

Bryten smiled, one slightly crooked tooth catching on her lip as she motioned the people in, “Ami, of course I do! I remember all my little loves. Come in, tell me how you’ve been, and your young fellow – I don’t believe you’re from around here? You made it out into the wide world, then, love?”

Bryten forked out her breakfast onto two extra plates and poured herbal tea for them both, before sitting and beginning to eat.

Ami shuffled uneasily, “Well, I made it to the foothills, and a bit further. I stopped overnight in an inn and met Heper here,” she motioned to the young man who swallowed hastily.

“Soon as she walked in I asked her to stay,” he smiled. “An’ she did! We got wed last year, an’ Ami wanted to come see you.”

“So we came back, and we stopped at the village down the foot of the mountain. I’d only passed through on my way out, but coming back, it was late so we wanted to stay, then we decided to make it a couple of nights so we were well rested…”

“Well you musta set out just gone teatime to get up here this time of the morning, love, what happened?”

“Well…” Ami gulped tea and cleared her throat. “Up here we tell tales about you. How you help us and heal us, perform miracles of magic.”

Bryten nodded, frowning slightly.

“Down there, they talk about you, too. Only not as Mama Bryten. They call you – well not you, they don’t know you, but they have a…a thing they call Kilen.”

Bryten leaned forwards, “I don’t follow, love.”

Heper put a hand on Ami’s shoulder, “Yesterday, Mama, did someone hurt themselves real bad? Broke bones, inside bleedin’, lotsa wounds?”

“Well yes, a young fool. You’ll remember Mifil, Ami? He tried to climb the overhang and he fell. I was with him all night. You’ve been here waiting for me?”

“No, Mama,” Ami took over again. “We started up, risking the dark, as soon as we realised. Mama the things you heal. Where do they go? The injuries. What happens to them?”

Bryten, thoroughly confused, moved them all over to the corner she called her living space, taking her creaking armchair and giving the couple the sprung sofa, patched and in need of new upholstery.

“Ami love, I dont…magic is…well hard to explain. I do the spells, sometimes with some potions, and the wounds and illnesses they heal. It’s like making time pass at high-speed but only to that specific thing. They heal, fast, and then the injured or sick person is left to sleep off the exhaustion of the body that went through a whole healing cycle in minutes. Now tell me what you want to tell me.”

“Whenever you heal someone, Mama, it doesn’t just heal. It transfers. To the people at the foothill village. They’re terrified of people getting hurt or sick up here because it means one of them will suffer the injuries and illnesses. Last night I watched a healthy young man suddenly get broke bones and inside bleeding and open wounds, out of nowhere! Mama every time you use your spells, they suffer!”

Bryten, a cloak of dread settling on her shoulders, sat back heavily in her chair. “I always thought…I mean, it’s what she taught me…balance is necessary but that’s the tributes. Look, I pay tribute. In grains, in meat, in prayer. That’s what I was taught by my gramma, when she showed me how to heal. She told me that’s how to keep the balance. Never that it transferred. Gods… All these years. All those people.” Bryten’s face paled and drew in on itself. “Gods…”

Ami knept by her, taking Bryten’s hand in hers, “I told them. I told them there was no way you knew. I knew you could never do that on purpose.” Ami brought a handkerchief, wiping the tears Bryten unknowingly shed.

“Please leave me,” Bryten whispered. “Go to the village below. Tell them they are free. Tell them…tell them I’m sorry.”

Ami nodded and stood,  “Then we’ll come back. OK Mama? Wait for us. We’ll come back.”

Heper placed a hand on Bryten’s shoulder, “Please, wait for us.”

Bryten turned her head away, staring at the peeling plaster on the wall by the fire, barely hearing the door close.

“All these years. Gramma…did you know? Did you tell me wrong?”

Bryten held her hands out in front of her. All the blood on them over the years. All the magic flowing through them. All the hurt and sickness taken away, and…sent somewhere else? To someone else?

She was a healer. Three generations of her family had kept this village alive, never leaving,  never turning anyone away, accepting payment in housework, repairs, donated food, and sometimes simple gratitude when the afflicted had nothing else. She had loved them, birthed them, healed them and buried them. How could she turn away those who came to her for aid, even knowing what she knew now? How could she explain it to them if she did?

Never one to linger over a decision – second guessing oneself could be the difference between life and death – she sent the options through her mind, and settled, calmly, on a solution.

She creaked to her feet, her steps heavy with the weight of all the hurt she had caused. They would be back, they said. Well they could return, indeed, but she would not be waiting for them. The village could mourn, and the couple could explain.

Quickly mixing a potion with one hand and scrawling a note with the other, Bryten prayed for mercy.

A quick swallow, and drowsiness quickly overtook her.

She lay down on her cot, allowing her eyes to close on her final tears as she said goodbye.

She would go to the Gods and explain herself. Perhaps they would understand.

I hope you enjoyed the story! If you can share the link, I’d appreciate it. You can also leave a comment or drop me a message, I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, a donation via Paypal or a sub via Patreon would be a great help towards future, and better, endeavours!

Writing prompt used:

You’re a local healer, a good one, and your people love you. But you do not truly heal wounds, merely transfer them… The people of the valley below know you under a different name.

Prompt Short Story: Final Lesson

D is a character created and owned by myself, Alexia Harvey (aka the other half of Team Cuddles) and artist Peter Hackney. They are eventually destined for a webcomic but Peter moves at the speed of a glacier (3 yrs and one episode now aaaaaalmost finished drawing!), so I couldn’t resist the urge to write this when the prompt showed up!

Millie puttered around the kitchen, humming the minute waltz as she foraged for the ingredients to make scones to go with her lunch of salad sandwiches, made from last night’s leftovers. Listening to the coffee percolate as she kneaded, it took her a moment to realise someone had materialised in the kitchen with her.

“Ahem,” came a polite cough.

Millie spun and raised her rolling pin, ready to hit the intruder sharply until it regretted every choice that had led it to this point, then stopped short, her muddy green eyes taking in the figure before her.

“So it’s you, then,” she said, putting down her weapon and forcing some wisps of grey hair back into her bun. “Coffee? Sandwich? I can offer scones if I’ve time to finish, if not I need to turn the oven off.”

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Final Lesson”

Prompt Short Story: On Mission

Using the coffee table, Alison emptied her purse and began replacing objects within, mentally checking off her list to ensure she had everything she might need for the day. 

Behind her, padding downstairs in socks and not much else, her roommate and best friend, Denise glanced over, “Uh. Should I ask you why you have a knife in your purse?”

Alison let out a yelp. She hated when Denise wandered around in her socks, she was so damn quiet! Quickly checking the rest of the items left of the table for anything else questionable and seeing nothing, she forced herself to shrug nonchalantly. Standing the blade upright on her forefinger, she artfully balanced it as she spoke, “It’s a dagger, actually. And no, you shouldn’t. Didn’t your mother never teach you not to ask a lady about what she carried in her purse?”

Denise laughed and hit the button on the kettle, “My mother didn’t stick around long enough to teach me anything. Want a drink?”

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: On Mission”

Prompt Short Story: Precognition

The scent of spice and flowers hit her as she wrenched open the door, “Will you quit bangin! Whaddya want?”

The elf bowed low, his tight tunic, and tighter trousers, almost creaking with the strain, “Madame Reval, such an honour to greet you. As my apology for disturbing you, please accept these tokens,” he thrust forward a bouquet of wildflowers, and a small tin of magically-enhanced cooking spice, his clothes shimmering in the twilight. “The spice is fully legal and of the non-addictive variety, I assure you, although I cannot promise no addiction to your cooking once sprinkled with it.”

Even the formidable Madame Reval was no match for the charm of the elf before her. She offered a clumsy curtsy, “You’re right kind, sir. May I ask yer name and yer business here?”

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Precognition”

Prompt Short Story: Touched – Chances

The mage sighed and ran her fingers back through her hair, “Helluvan ask you got here. Y’know most mages’d laugh you right out their rooms – those as wouldn’t just call the police on you fer askin.”

The clent nodded, “I know how big – and how dangerous, and illegal – this is. I heard you were the sort to hear a body out before making a decision. Hear me, and if you choose to kick me out or call the cops then I’ll accept it. But if you agree, I can pay more than you’d make in a lifetime of magicking.”

“That’s a fair bit, my services ain’t cheap,” the mage said, one eyebrow raised as she motioned around the richly appointed room.

Even if this was just the showroom, and she spent the rest of her time in a hovel, the money spent on the lush carpeting, the decoration, even the ceiling lights, was nothing to sneeze at.

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Touched – Chances”

Prompt Short Story: Touched – Cold

The assassin hooked their fingers around the windowsill, testing the strength of the treated synwood, their other fingers and bare toes pressed firmly into the smooth wall, attached by no more than a thin instaweld mesh.

Carefully they moved their weight up, calculations flying at light-speed through the tech in their head, transferring to their limbs faster than the speed of thought, as the second hand joined the first and shifted their body to the left of the window, balancing as they removed a toolkit from their belt.

They opened the kit with a quick tug of their teeth, letting it dangle from their mouth as their right hand reached in and removed a small, thin stick, topped by a chip barely visible to the naked eye.

The assassin pressed this against the window, on the exact spot where the magitech lock held the window closed on the inside.

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Touched – Cold”

Prompt Short Story: Freedom

“Open it,” Morgan nudged his best friend, dirty blonde hair flopping over his muddy brown eyes.

“You open it,” Salima responded, nudging him back, dreads swaying with the movement.

“I found it,” Morgan retorted. 

“So the honour should be yours,” Salima grinned, passing over the crowbar. 

Morgan glared at her, “Dammit, fine.”

He took some steadying breaths and looked again at the lid of the stone seat.

They had stumbled, way off the paths in the woods, into an old mausoleum, clearly long abandoned and forgotten, and decided to force open the thick iron gate and make their way inside.

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Freedom”

Prompt Short Story: Cheers!

“CHEERS!” The slightly drunken cry came from the four customers at the table in the back corner, and not for the first time that night.

The bar, out of the centre of town and tucked away down some back streets, was never a favourite of University students even during term-time, and was mostly empty during a weeknight in the summer break.

The decor had gone through an upgrade since the last time these friends had been there. The dark oak had been treated with a lighter woodstain, and the tacky gold leaf had been replaced with a more sedate copper to match.

“This place changed about as much as we all did,” the fair-skinned woman in the blue summer dress said as she took a gulp of her beer.

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Cheers!”

Prompt Short Story: If Only

I can’t forget the moment. It still replays in my head. Along with all the others. They fight to be the memory that fucks me up that day. 

This one is the accident. A rainy day, just turning to twilight, streetlamps just being lit, bouncing their light off of raindrops. The street smells like wet horse and smoke from the stacks across the river.

I’m walking, looping my way home from a visit to a friend via the park, dripping wet and slightly grumpy that my favourite hat and jacket are likely ruined. I don’t see the carriage, don’t even hear it until it’s too late. The driver, blinded by the dusk and the rain, doesn’t see me in time. They swerve, but it’s too late. I get slammed and thrown aside, and they crunch into a lamppost.

They’re ok, mostly, some whiplash and some bruises from being thrown off, but that’s all, and the carriage was fortunately empty.

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: If Only”

Prompt Short Story: Anniversary

You can’t always see the big ones coming. The days where everything changes, for better or for worse. Sometimes you get a hint, a clue, an idea, even just a hunch. Other times? Zip.

She was just one of many, in the beginning. We get taught distancing techniques, mental exercises to keep us from getting invested, from caring about our subjects. Our instructor used to tell me I was good at them – “Jessica, you’re a natural, just keep up those guards!” – and I’d smile and nod and know I would be great.

And for the first few years, I was. But while I was on alert for the obvious signs we’d been taught to expect, the others snuck up on me. It was just a job. Three years watching her, and all the others, through that machine. And without me realising it, maybe a little part of me fell in love with her, because I wished she knew who I was. Until she did.

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Anniversary”