Tag Archives: ghosts

Nightlings – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

The battle was not yet won and nor would it be without help.

The opposing army stood silent but for a drum beating in time with Nomin’s heart. Sweat and fear from his warriors and their horses reeked and the taste of blood set his teeth on edge.

Numbers did not favour him, and the exhaustion evident in the hoarse breaths behind him made him wonder how much longer he could stall the inevitable.

Though they were almost a mile apart, separated by a stretch of verdant mossy green and a crystal clear stream, he knew the Captain’s eyes were trained upon him, and he squirmed with discomfort. Within moments the virid velvet carpet would become mire and the stream would run with ruby swirls.

Nomin straightened his back and relaxed his shoulders heavy beneath his leather armour, and stared back. The drumbeat, echoing across the glen, quickened and Nomin’s heart matched it. His breathing rose and fell with the strain of courage building and determination gilding his lungs. It was now or never, and time was not on their side.

Nomin closed his eyes, and uttered her name beneath his breath, a single syllable, yet everything, “Bren…” Her name fluttered away on the breeze, but he hoped she’d heard it. Their lives depended on it.

The horses shuffled, nerves tingling beneath their hide and anticipation flooding their veins. The drumming stopped and a shimmering wave glinted on the far side of the valley as shields rose, and in the sudden hush Nomin raised his arm. He could not retract his response and commitment was sealed in his shaking hand.

Tension increased as armoured gloves clenched reins and boots gripped flanks. The battle roar opposite had the desired effect, and Nomin swallowed hard then dropped his hand. Heels kicked and horses sprang and Nomin urged his steed forward.

Thunder flooded the glen, and lightning flashes of swords and shields glittered beneath the gloomy sky, and they raced towards death and glory.

Nomin closed his eyes as his breath tore through his throat and his knuckles grazed against his horse’s armour. How long had they before the clash, before the clang of steel took the lives of those around him, how long before death graced the green, green grass?

A new sound echoed, wailing and tearing through his brain and his eyes flew open. He almost dropped his reins as he pulled up his mount and watched his army divide and veer. “Bren!” his voice cracked with effort and passion.

Bren sat astride a steed of the night, clothed in witchery and ebony. She howled like a wolf, and from the forests came a host of Nightlings, baying like demons and screaming with banshee calls. Black, and white, and grey chargers, midnight’s ghosts, streamed from the trees with wild manes and tails, and the magic of the night.

Nomin watched with wonder sparkling in his tired eyes and love pumping through his veins. He screamed and roared encouragement, and he and his army watched as Bren stormed the soldiers that would have annihilated his. Tears welled and merged with the sweat on his grimy face.

Nightlings, the myths of the night, stampeded across the glen without leaving a hoof print or a trampled piece of grass, and barrelled into the army with a force they would never survive. Screams of men mingled with the rage of the revenant, and death did indeed come to the glen that afternoon.

When it ended, Nomin galloped forward, searching the Nightlings for their queen. The ghosts departed and finally Nomin gazed into the dark eyes of his love. Bren smiled with eyes that could not weep, and blue lips that matched the pale skin that barely covered her hollow face. Wild black hair, whipped in strands as the wind kissed her in a way that Nomin now – never could.

Their steeds stood side by side, ghost by flesh, and Nomin tore off his glove and reached to cup Bren’s face in his warm, calloused hand. Bren’s frozen fingers closed around Nomin’s in a clasp that would have to last for all his time he had left. She backed slowly away, until he nodded and whispered in a breath that only she could hear, “Til then…” and Bren’s mount was gone, and she with it.

Death and the Nightlings came and the battle was won.

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Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge is back again after a summer break and this photo truly inspired me, and I listened to Audiomachine as I wrote…epic battle music!

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

 

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Blues Buster: Drift

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Water lapped, slapping the sides of the little boat, and Joe’s oars slipped from his fingers. The ocean, glistening black like treacle, swallowed them without regret. Joe stared, wide-eyed, into the darkness, his pupils dilating as his jaw slackened. Wisps of fog curled about the debris floating on the surface and he gulped as white swirls caressed the drifting scum.

The moon peered through the mist for a moment, illuminating rainbows of oil atop the water, until the gloomy clouds closed rank and Joe was lost again, a single soul in a tiny boat.

He refused to look behind, refused to acknowledge the final flickering flames that sank lower and lower, fading into the night and into the hungry sea, but the wails, that had been vanquished hours ago, still echoed inside his head.

He rubbed his greasy hands, trying to find a spark of warmth, but the cold that had stolen his oars, stole his fingers and then his hands and goose-bumps sent chatters through his teeth. His head shook with cold, and with insanity, and his last grasp on reality slipped away.

He shook his head, trying to evade the demons that swam through his mind, and squinted. Swirls of fog danced across the waves, imitating white horses, but the sea was too still for waves. The hazy spectres waltzed and whirled atop the flotsam and jetsam, and Joe shivered.

A hefty piece of driftwood clunked against the little boat and Joe jumped, and the scars on his heart tore just a little wider as the little boat rocked.

Ghosts reached out to him, white, watery fingers extended and beckoning. Joe sank back, flinching, as the wisps curled about his little boat. Oily streaks ran down his face as terror invaded his head. He huddled down, trying to hide behind a barrel and between a chest and a sack of provisions. The cold fog spread wide and behind him fingers gripped his soaked jacket, tugging and wrenching at his body.

Joe stared wildly about him, slipping out of his sodden coat, and wriggling free of the arms that tried to capture him. He was too crazed to see the fingers were just gusts of icy wind, and he stood, grabbing the chest from the floor of his tiny boat. It took but a moment for the wind to seize its chance and the waves, and debris and driftwood flooded the boat. Joe tumbled into the grasping arms of the sea.

The silent ocean took the renegade fire-starter and dragged both him and the treasure down into its depths, where the ghosts of the recently drowned could finally reap retribution.

(441 Words)

A little something for the last Blues Buster for a bit over at The Tsuruoka Files, for the prompt song:  The Turkish Song of the Damned by The Pogues.