I am participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. I am a newbie to the competition. For the challenge we are given writing prompts at midnight and have 48 hours to write a story using 1000 words or less. My Challenge 1 prompts were:
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: A Castle
Object: A Thimble
Here's what I came up with. Cheers to all who are participating. Happy Writing!
Isleen arose before dawn and made her way to the sacred circle on her family’s farm. She entered and kneeled to pray to the Pleiades. “Mother Goddess, on this, eve of Beltane, restore the fertility of the earth, bring growth and bounty to our crops, and restore life and vitality to our livestock and families.” She buried an offering of sweet bread, then brushed her hands through the dew-laden grass and washed her face with the cool water. As she was doing so, she faintly heard the sound of chimes, looking around she saw nothing.
Drustan rose as the sky was turning pink. He went to the Druid altar in the castle courtyard and kneeled to pray. “God of the Sun, warm and awaken the Earth. Bring light, life, and prosperity to our community.” He placed an offering of antlers, acorns, and seeds upon the altar. He meditated in silence until the sounds of the cathedral bells signaled the dawn of the day.
A long, arduous winter was finally coming to an end. Sorrow and dismay hung over the village of Ros like a black cloud. Food shortages and malnutrition had taken a toll, as 25 lives were lost to Typhus this winter season. The loss of any member of the community was felt deeply, this loss was devastating.
Today, however, spirits were lighter. As dawn broke there was hope and a promise of rebirth in the air. At the epicenter of the village, Castle Ballyros, home to Lord and Lady Cara was bustling with activity preparing for the evening rituals. The main street passing in front of the castle was being cleaned. On each end of the street an area was being prepared for two bonfires. A maypole was raised in the castle square and tables for a village-wide feast were placed around it.
Maidens gathered in the castle square toiling to string flower garlands of primrose, lilacs, daisies, and marigolds. Their melodic voices and laughter floated in the spring breeze as they worked. “Agh,” Isleen exclaimed as she pricked herself with a needle making a crown of daises and primrose. A drop of blood splashed on the flowers as she drew her finger to her mouth to stop the bleeding. “Be careful Isleen, here use a thimble. If the fairies get a scent of your blood they may whisk you away before Drustan is able to have his way with you,” teased Brie, her closest friend. “Hush, Brie, you shouldn’t speak so.” Suddenly, again she heard bells softly tinkling, “Do you hear that?” “Hear what?” Brie replied. “I thought I heard bells; this morning too.” “I don’t know how you could hear anything over all the noise in the castle square today.” Isleen looked up from her work and glanced around, it was crowded, everyone was busy, “It’s nothing,” she thought to herself. She placed the thimble on her finger and got back to work.
The bachelors of the village were in the surrounding woods collecting the nine sacred woods for the bonfires. One of the young men was playing a flute as the others divided up the work. “I know there’s a stand of Alder trees down by where the river forks, I’ll go gather those branches,” said Drustan. Off he went and soon had a bundle of the wood in his arms. As he bent to pick up one last branch he saw a flicker of white out of the corner of his eye. He stood and looked around but nothing was there.
At dusk, the villagers gathered in the castle square for the Beltane rituals. Lord Cara ignited flame through the rubbing of sticks praying to the sun Gods for a bountiful growing season and lit the bonfires. The bachelors and maidens gathered around the maypole each grasping a ribbon and began their weaving to the tunes of the harp and viola. Drustan held the ribbon over Isleen as she ducked under; they smiled coyly at one another. Baskets adorned with flowers containing the names of the Maypole dancers were presented to Lord and Lady Cara. Lady Cara drew a name, “Drustan Cara, I pronounce thee God of the Sun.” Lord Cara drew a name, “Isleen Byrne, I pronounce thee Goddess of the Earth.” Drustan and Isleen presented themselves before the Lord and Lady for their handfasting. Crowns of flowers were placed upon their heads and their hands were bound with flower garlands. Lord and Lady Cara chanted “May this marriage of Earth and Sun awaken the soil and bring bounty and wealth to our community.” Again, Isleen heard the faint sound of bells. She glanced at Drustan, and the people surrounding them, but no one seemed to indicate they had heard it.
Once the handfasting was complete, the newly crowned God and Goddess invited all to the table and the villagers sat down for a feast. When dinner had ended, Drustan and Isleen rose and signaled for the herds to be walked through the village. The cattle adorned in flowered garlands were paraded around the fires in a figure eight. Having thus been blessed they were lead to pasture for the spring season.
It was now time for the God and Goddess to take their repose into the woods. Isleen and her maidens entered first to decorate the wedding bed. They found a grove of Hawthorn, Ash, and Oak and tied ribbons from the boughs. Isleen settled herself on the mossy ground beneath the trees and waited. Again the bells chimed, louder this time, she glanced behind her and saw a beautiful woman on a white horse. “It’s time for you to join us Isleen.”
As the maidens rushed out of the woods they bid Drustan to enter. In the distance he saw the ribbons flickering in the light breeze and ran to the grove. All that was there was a floral crown with a few specks of dried blood. Isleen was gone.
Once upon a time...
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