Tag Archives: settings

Abbey on the Mount

Brick by brick the steps were laid, each stone baring the mark of its mason. At least a hundred different craftsmen were represented in these stones, the project was so great. And slowly but surely, the abbey was built. Little did the masons know their symbols would long survive them – still watching over the crests of the waves even centuries later.

Stairs and ramps ascend to the clouds, narrow and winding. Walls protect the walkers of those paths from falling into the sea below and allow the gulls a perch to rest upon, weary from their day of fishing. (Surprisingly, they are as quiet as the monks that reside within.) Gates are mounted into these walls – great sturdy gates of iron and wood – though there is no great army to keep out and no great threat to keep within. The devil was slain upon this rock before memories began.

Despite the grandness of the construction itself, simplicity is the motto within. Plain chairs, tables, and pews of sturdy wood are the only furnishings. A few windows hold leaded glass, to hold a little of the heat from the fires in, but most are free and open to the sea breeze.

A great balcony overlooks the expanse of the sea to the north and the fields to the west. On a clear and sunny day, it feels as though you can see an eternity. Certainly this is a view meant only for angels – one is humbled by the privilege of its witness.

Inside, the tower extends to the heavens themselves. Openings at the top allow light to filter in, creating the effect as if Saint Michael himself was looking in upon the worshipers. Again, one is humbled.

Serenity flows through every molecule of this place, which is only augmented by the reverent passing of monks on their way to worship. Here, silence is not painful nor awkward; it is natural and worshipful. It is as if words have been an unknown burden throughout one’s life, and now the burden is lifted. You are free to simply… listen.

The frothy waves whisper at the sandy shore, the breeze gently stirs leaves and whistles softly through the corridors, and songbirds sing only the most beautiful of their melodies.

Gardens are tucked away in every nook and cranny that can be found, with trees to rest beneath, soft grass to lay upon, and flowers to scent the air. Vines of ivy even climb some portions of the wall, working their own way to the clouds above, and patches of tall grass defiantly spring up perhaps where they should not. All of it is tended with care and devotion, which shows in every fiber.

At the very top, above the walls and gardens, above the trees and towers, stands Michael, glinting in the sun and triumphantly thrusting his sword above his height. It is the reminder that this is where the devil met his end, where Satan was vanquished.

This is where good triumphed over evil.

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Sand Pits

There was a time in Lotharia, you weren’t nothin’ lest ye had a sea gem. Sea gems was as blue as the sky, maybe bluer, and as beautiful as the stars. Everybody called ’em sea gems, though, on account of they shade of blue being way darker than the washed out sky above ole Lotharia. Some say a merchant from the coast is the one brought ’em here and that’s how they got the name, but people who say that’re dumber ‘n rocks ’cause everybody knows that them stones came outta the Sand Pits just south of the city. Course, some people don’t like to talk about it no more.

See, the area south o’ the city is dryer than a basilisk’s belly and just as rough. Hot as fire, too! Somehow, though, somebody figured out that buried in that dry cracked earth there was sea gems. Only problem was the conditions was so bad, ain’t nobody wanted to go mine ’em. Then somebody got the bright idea that they could make people dig ’em up. Course, Lotharia is civilized folk – nobody wanted to force that kind o’ work on nobody it ain’t fit for. So then somebody asked, ‘Well what ’bout prisoners?’

After a lot o’ talkin’, it was decided that people who had committed the worst o’ the worst kind o’ crimes would get sentenced there. The kind we should just kill off, probably, but sometimes people just don’t feel good about doin’ that sort of thing. Anyway, that was ages ago.

While all them paper pushers got the project started, some other guy went about figurin’ out the best way to get the rocks out. He ultimately figured to dig a giant pit that stepped down in levels, with tunnels branchin’ off each one. At the very bottom, they built a place for the prisoners te live – if you could call it livin’. Into the side o’ the pit, they built the ole Overseer’s house. This smart guy that figured out about the pit, he also figured out how to keep them prisoners in check. This was prolly a good idea since it was going to be the baddest of ’em all trapped in one place.

Then an Overseer was hired, the prisoners was brought in, and the people o’ Lotharia got they sea gems. Became a real hot trade item an’ the city got real fancy after that! Only problem was the people stopped carin’ ’bout the pit they came out of.

Once the minin’ op started, a big ole cloud of dust rose up in that pit. The city people didn’t care because that just meant they di’n’t have to see in and whoever was in there – well, they deserved it. But the people inside the pit? They couldn’t see out. That smart man figured out the pit must’ve also figured there’d be dust, ’cause he’d made some special lights you could see through it all.

A few years later, it was all outta sight, outta mind. People didn’t notice that the people goin’ into the pits weren’t comin’ out and I guess they didn’t think to care. Prisoners, though… they started prayin’ for death before gettin’ sentenced to the Sand Pits. Lawyers started makin’ even prettier pennies off it all, too. This put the Overseer in a bind, though, on account o’ he started runnin’ out of prisoners to run operations. But the people? They still wanted their gems. Guess the city officials turned a blind eye when the Overseer started buyin’ people off the slave caravans that started runnin’ through. Real shady business, that.

Slavery ain’t legal in Lotharia. They got a lot o’ laws there protectin’ people and makin’ sure the right thing gets done. Guess that’s why people just assumed that things was still a-okay down in the Pits. Long as they had them pretty stones, they was happy. Went on a long time, that did.

Some folk say the sea gems, they got darker on account of all the blood it took gettin’ ’em out.

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The SS-51, Pirate Ship

It’s amazing how you can be surrounded by everything and yet nothing all at once. Outside, the beauty of the stars seems to go on forever – an infinite sea decorated with pinpoints of light. The entire universe stretches beyond this ship’s hull, filled with a vast array of possibilities.

Yet space is a vacuum – there is nothing outside the walls of this ship. Any given twinkle could take an eternity to reach.

The universe is very full of life; but at the same time, very lonely.

The SS-51 is a pirate ship. While its crew does not consist of eye-patched swashbucklers, no member belongs to any given world, country, or federation. Once upon a time, they were all part of a particular organization. However, about a year ago, that organization met a brutal end. The crew of the SS-51 consists of the people who had nowhere else to turn but to one another, plus a few good souls willing to help and another few strays picked up along the way.

Hackney runs the med bay and is the one person everyone on the ship knows on a first-name basis. The moment The Academy crumbled, he and Simmons – the psych that we all love or hate – were first in line to offer their help. It’s a wonder they weren’t killed, but luck or fate – take your pick – led them to the right people and they wound up on board. Without their help, this crew wouldn’t have lasted a month.

Lu sits at the helm. She knows this ship inside and out and the gods help you if so much as put a scratch in this baby. Some say she was on the team that helped design the ship, back when it had been intended for deep space warfare; but no one knew her then. Lu was the last in her class to come up for termination. She had three days left when the Release happened. Rumor has it she’s the oldest on deck, but you would never be able to tell by looking at her.

Finally, Crow is the unofficial leader of this ragtag group. After the Release, he’s the one that spearheaded finding everyone that needed someone. There was no government that wanted to cozy up to rogue members of The Academy, and he knew that. Together, we’re the biggest – and most dangerous – bounty that’s every been. Individually, we’re hunted like animals. Crow found people to help us, he got the roster, he found Lu and the ship, and he works to bring – and keep – us together. He’ll never admit to being a leader, though.

SS-51 isn’t exactly paradise – unless, of course, your idea of paradise is a hunk of metal floating through space – but it’s home.

Simmons is mostly responsible for how it’s been divided up. She rearranges things every once in a while to force us into socialization as much as possible (she says that’s our key to ‘rehabilitation’), but some think it’s just to give herself an opportunity to study how we react to change.

What was supposed to be the ‘War Room’ is the social/recreation hall. Living quarters are assigned, currently, around occupational work stations and assignments.

(And… it’s late. I’m tired, on vacation, and a bit under the weather… but here’s a portion of a setting. I couldn’t stand the thought of missing two days of writing in a row! I’m going to be washing dishes by hand for an eternity, dear readers. It was a wise, yet masochistic, decision to designate my partner as the one to assign my punishments. I doubt I’ll have time these next few days to catch up on reading many of your writings – but I’m excited for all the content I’ll have to explore once I’m home again!)

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Frederick’s House

The sky is bigger than big, vaster than vast, and oh so blue! Beneath it rest rolling slopes of tall grasses – waves of green and grain that ripple with the slightest breeze. It’s as if you can watch the wind dance as the whispering stalks bend to its will. They are only parted by a dirt road that winds through the scene – a lazy snake napping among the grasses.

The air here always smells clean as it does after a spring rain, when droplets still cling to blades of grass and a cool wind lingers to push the storm clouds toward the horizon. An extra deep breath might even reveal the soft scent of tulips mingling with the rays of the sun. The tufts of white cloud drift by like leaves in a river, guided by the current.

Following the sleepy snake of a road or the scent of tulips – for both lead a person the same direction – one would happen upon a yellow picket fence guarding a lovely English garden and a small house made from a teacup. Not a small tea cup, mind you – a small house. As you or I could easily find a seat within, the cup and its saucer are quite large, by drinking standards; modest, by living standards.

The wide brim, instead of being filled with tea, holds a sea of bluebells and dark green ivy. The ivy even spills down the side opposite the cup’s handle, to which is tied a simple swing of rope and wood, giving the effect of liquid spilling over. Behind this ivy cascade, mud-caked garden tools rest inside the lip of the saucer, propped against the ceramic facade.

For an entrance, there is a small and round wooden door with a shiny brass nob that looks as if it’s met many palms in its day. Above the door a branch is painted supporting a small yellow and black bird and sporting soft pink blooms, with green buds indicating more are on the way.

Dark blue circles the top of the cup, matching the ring around the saucer it sits in, and full-petaled white and purple blooms adorn the background, separated occasionally by light green leaves. The centers of these flowers are mostly orange and yellow, but are occasionally affixed with a circular window in place of the polleny centers.

The cup and saucer are nestled into a patch of tall grasses, similar to the those waving in the distance. Out front, extending to the yellow picket fence, rests a beautiful garden with honeysuckle vine climbing over parts of the fence, sweet peas nestled against a small stone bench, peonies, irises, phlox, and lillies. Lush foliage busts of a garden well tended, as does the absence of weeds. A lemon tree even grows next to the tea cup’s handle and swing; and beyond, one can see berry bushes extending back to even more garden expanse.

On the small yellow gate, which the grass-bare ground beneath indicates has been opened many a time and again, hangs a sign that reads in firm yet curling letters: Friends Welcome.

Inside lives Frederick.

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Home, Sweet, Home

Sophie had watched dozens of tenants come and go over the years. All of them enjoyed the warmth of her fires, the tidy premise she kept, and especially the absence of critters and bugs on the interior of her little cottage. Well, to be fair, she did let them in from time to time when it was cold or raining out, but they were always kept well away and out of sight of anyone there; and they were never allowed in the pantry. That was one rule Sophie was actually strict about. Though she would ignore the occasional crumb of the floor, just for the mice or cockroaches. Really, these “pests” had become her only true friends as of late. Despite their fondness for her, the tenants never stayed long. No one appreciated a magic house these days. It was awfully disappointing.

The last resident had been a lovely young woman and her husband. Well, young by comparison… Sophie herself had outlived most things. She’d seen that young woman born in one of her upstairs bedrooms, in fact. She returned after her wedding day, her husband having purchased Sophie’s property as a surprise wedding gift. The couple then raised their children and grew old together there. It had been lovely to care for such a family. The young woman remained after her husband passed and the children had grown and moved on – Sophie had considered her wonderful company. They were like two old hens that had settled into their own little routine – cleaning and reading, mostly, which they both enjoyed. Eventually, the children insisted the young woman come to live with them in the city. They’d rented Sophie out after that, until someone forgot about her.

There is a great difference between being a house and being home. Houses do not care for the people who live within them, for instance. They only care about themselves: fresh paint for their walls, patching holes in their plaster, regular sweeping, central heating and air. Many had a sense of entitlement – thinking that the people who resided within their walls were meant to care for them, yet they were not keen to return the favor except in the most basic of senses. Many modern constructions were like this. However, Sophie thought, she’d probably be of a similar disposition if she’d been crafted the same as them. So many houses these days were practically identical! Given no personality whatsoever.

The man who’d crafted Sophie had given her plenty of personality – beams that weren’t crafted perfectly straight, granite kitchen counters that came from the same earth as the trees that had become her floors and cabinets, and brass knobs and handles that had come off an old castle. Her front stoop was cobbled together from stones that had come all the way from two counties over, then he’d fixed her front door with glass shipped across entire countries in butter so that it would not break. Yes, she had more personality in her cornerstone than most houses had in their entirety.

A proper home, as Sophie considered herself, knew how to care for its caretakers: keep the sound out when they needed quiet but let it through when needed, remain cool in summer but provide warm comfort in winter and fall, guide breezes from one window to the next ever so gently, hold in just the right smells, etc. Simple tricks, really. Perhaps it came from the fact that she’d been handcrafted, but Sophie always considered herself a cut above the rest. This is why it hurt her so when she realized she’d been forgotten.

Feeling sorry for herself simply wasn’t her style, though. No way she was going to let herself sit around and fall to ruin. Collecting dust was for those houses – she was a home. After all, she had a an advantage most other homes didn’t: magic.

Starting with sun up each day, she’d sweep each room from top to bottom with the old sorghum broom that had been used as decoration in the kitchen. Then she’d wipe down all the surfaces in need of it, polish the silver, and clean the windows. Sometimes, in the afternoons, she’d bake a lovely pie made from the berries the squirrels would bring her from the garden and let it set in the window to cool. Passers-by enjoyed the smell and would take notice, often commenting ‘what a lovely little cottage – I’d never noticed!’ Though none would stop in. It had become such an impersonal world to live in.

On chilly evenings, Sophie would put a fire in her hearth and warm her old rafters. Winter mornings were a bit more difficult to get started, on account of her shivering pipes. Sometimes she felt a touch of envy for those modern homes with their central heat; but once the fire really got going, she knew there was nothing better. However, these fire-lit evenings became one of the reasons people started calling her a haunted house. The nearby townsfolk had caught on that no one was actually there, yet fresh pies would appear on the kitchen sills and fires would be blazing in the hearth in the evenings. Their accusations hurt Sophie’s feelings. Had they all forgotten about magic?

Haunted houses were always supposed to be dark, dusty and decrepit, with broken glass in their panes and paint flaking off. Sophie was lovely! She kept her dark wooden beams from fading in the sunlight and made sure the white paint of her plaster always looked quite fresh. The ivy climbing up her exterior was a lovely shade of green that perfectly complimented the thatch of her roof. Despite the damp weather, you’d be hard pressed to find a spec of mold growing anywhere on her, as well. Cobwebs did look fairly hauntish, she thought, but she only allowed those in the winter months – couldn’t let the poor things freeze to death! Haunted house, indeed…

Spring cleaning always made her feel better, though. It was her favorite time of the year! With the open windows, the fresh smell of garden flowers gave her new purpose. Dusting the cobwebs from her rafters and treating her wood-planked floors with a bit of white vinegar always made her feel as fresh as the spring rain (even though actual spring rain caused some swelling in her old joints and sometimes a door or two would stick – nothing she couldn’t handle, though). Yes, spring was a lovely time of year.  And one year, after a decidedly rough winter, Sophie decided to make it even better for herself.

Clyde, the plump tabby cat that was her only consistent companion throughout these years, was snoozing in a warm patch of sun on the living room floor when she came up with the idea. She woke him gently by stretching a bit – her old oaken beams giving low groans, the floor boards creaking a bit, and a soft breezy sigh escaping through the open windows. The cat stretched himself as if to emulate her, opened its wide maw into a yawn, then pulled his paws in a criss-cross over his face and grumbled.

Whaaaaaaat…? He sleepily blinked his emerald eyes open as if it were the most impossible task in the world.

I’m thinking of moving, Sophie whispered on the wind. Her voice was always the most youthful in Spring.

Challenge Update

Keeping with my commitments, I caught up on two other writers and discovered a third this morning! 

The first was The Bookshelf of Emily J, which is one of my favorites. I always get lost in her pages, dreaming of all the things I should eventually read myself! The second was PritchettSarah’s Open Your Eyes. This writer has the commitment of taking time to truly observe what’s around her, and documents it in her blog. It has been a wonderful journey so far that has produced some beautiful pieces. I do highly recommend it.

The new writer I sought out today was Jacqui Murray – a published author – over at Word Dreams, which I’m still exploring! She offers writing tips, which drew me in, as well as book reviews and general thoughts.

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Creative Something #8 (based on a dream)

The Captain exited the former library by way of the upstairs balcony, surveying the destruction of a horizon that was now blanketed in the darkness of night. Light poured from the building behind her, creating a soft glow around it that served as a barrier against the creatures that lurked beyond its protection. She always felt a sleeping dread that their power systems would somehow fail, that she would fail, and their camp would fall into the darkness as so many others had; that her people would be ravaged and shredded by its demons. But it was a fear she had to keep to herself, particularly now. They had a visitor.

In her heart, the Captain knew that not all visitors were bad. Some simply had managed to survive and needed a place of refuge. However, others were daring infiltrators from other camps who came to scout out supplies they may be able to steal. Some had no interest in joining their clan, but rather overtaking the location for their own group – some people didn’t like sharing, though there was likely room enough for all. Still others had been driven mad by the darkness, and those were the most dangerous.

People who had been lost too long out there, thinking they could survive in a world that was no longer their own, no longer the world they’d once known, they became confused. The fear gets to you, after a while – the fight that keeps you alive takes over. Some could be saved from this trauma, if given the right treatment, but most were too dangerous and a threat to her people. The Captain and her crew had enforced strict policy against people Wanderers, as they called them. She was convinced, as most were, that these rules were what had kept them alive.

She could already see the man as she descended from the balcony, the steps rising to meet her boot-clad feet, those platforms she’d already utilized swinging from back to front, descending with her as she continued. If she’d stopped, they’d stop as well and hold her suspended in mid air. It was a simple magic, but quite useful. The stranger appeared to be wearing a modified Navy uniform with those distinct blue camouflage pants, a blackened protective vest, and a dark beret. He looked strong, with a determined set to his jaw, as he stood confrontationaly before one of her own soldiers. If she did not intervene soon, there would be a fight; and that would be good for no one.

“Have you come with a purpose, or did you just want to pick a fight?” She directed her question, obviously, to the stranger, then shifted to her own man, “Jones, stand down. I don’t want everyone coming here thinking that we’re rabid dogs in need of putting down.”

By the time she finished speaking, she’d reached the bottom of the enchanted stairs and stepped onto the cold cement of the light-flooded plaza below. The planks that had constructed the steps flew up, returning to their resting spot beneath the balcony, as she extended her arm to the stranger and gave him a wide smile. She was aware it probably wasn’t a warm one. He straightened, shoulders back, and eyed her skeptically.

She said, “I apologize if my comrades offended you. We don’t take kindly to those who may be Wanderers, as I’m sure you can well imagine. I’m the Captain. You asked to see me?”

The man took her hand and gave it a firm shake, still eyeing her skeptically, “Butler. Jermaine. Formerly of the 182nd, Bravo Company.”

The Captain gave a curt nod, still smiling, then extended her other arm toward a make-shift lookout tower where one could observe the darkness beyond, “Shall we, then?”

Jermaine Butler, former navy man, crossed in front of her. Before she followed, she dropped her smile and gave a meaningful nod to the group of soldiers that had detained him. They dispersed, returning to their duties, confident that the Captain would handle the matter appropriately.

To be continued…

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Creative Something #4

Today’s entry comes from another bout of Writer’s Block. Well… maybe it’s not writer’s block, per se. I’m just not in the best of moods and was acting petulant about having to write my daily 500 words. I simply didn’t feel like writing. at all. But I had to. I am committed to this. At first, I tried music. Often times I can put on a song that will get my creative synapses firing and, even if it’s not great, I can get something out. Today, there was none of that. The worry, the frustration, all of it was taking over my bright happy place like The Blob devoured that small town in Pennsylvania. So I closed my eyes. I took all the negativity I was feeling and tried to turn it into an image or some sort of picture I could describe. Then I started writing.

A small foot-shaped indention is impressed in the ash and dust that has settled upon the remains of this city. Few structures still support their roofs; glass is only found in shards, whether it be on the ground or left in a pane. Poles supporting long, once-live wires that connected one phone to another lean, like a jagged reminder of what once was, against the gray sky background. Some lie like a corpse upon the ashen ground. The wires droop from them like long strands of old spider’s web. The only thing clinging to it now was dust. There were no bugs to feed a spider’s hungry belly, but no spiders to go hungry either.

Shadows lurk around corners, under collapsed floors, and in doorways. The facades of the old buildings, if they haven’t already collapsed forward in a spill of bricks and mortar, stare out blankly at the street. The ash and dust rest an inch deep on everything, like sooty snow that refuses to melt. There’s silence. Not even a soft wind yawns to stimulate the ears and disturb the dust. Yet through this calm that followed the chaos, a thin trail of foot-shaped indentations wind down the streets, around obstacles, and through shadows. Something here lives.

Life left this place a long time ago, leaving behind not even a photograph of someone who had once lived. It is just emptiness that has faded from memory. Plants don’t even grow here. Birds don’t sing or fly here. The sun that pierces the clouds isn’t even warm on your skin.

Yet now there are footprints.

I am the only one who comes here, who remembers. I have lived more years than I ever thought possible when in my youth. Those were the days filled with people. I remember sometimes getting overwhelmed that there were so many of them; wishing for some time just to myself, away from everyone else. I remember having a room that I considered “mine” – a room and that was it. Now it’s all mine, and I wonder if I’ll ever see another person like me again.

And now there are footprints.

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