By the Willow Grove

31 DaysDay 21: TWO IMAGES SEPARATED AT BIRTH {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

By the Willow Grove

It wasn’t that the journey to the well was all that far, but that the journey wound its way through the Dark Forest after the sun had sunk well below the day’s origins and Arabella’s mother was perhaps entirely too superstitious when it came to the Dark Forest and the tales that the Healer often spun of visions and magical creatures and a point of crossover near the willow tree grove. The Healer spoke of times, when the moon was not quite full and when change rustled on the wind that carried forth each new season, that members of the quiet village nestled in the mountain valley of Faywyvern went missing. The lore involved mundane tasks that lured villagers into the Forest: gathering berries, hunting small game, fetching water from the well. And then, they were gone. Disappeared.

Arabella’s nightly journey for water almost always involved Caelan, the boy Arabella’s mother had chosen as her future husband and helpmeet. Caelan was 16, only one year older than Arabella, and Arabella towered over him by a good two inches and could outrun him without much effort. Still, to appease her mother, Arabella traveled to the well each night with Caelan and the two had grown into friends during their evening journeys for water and Caelan could almost always make Arabella laugh.

“Mama, I’ll be going to Caelan’s and then on to the well,” Arabella called into their small cabin.

“Tread carefully, my girl,” her mother said and looked up into the night sky to judge the phase of the moon and to test the changing winds.

“Yes, Mama,” Arabella said.

Caelan met her on the path between their houses and the Forest with an already glowing torch and took one of the buckets from Arabella’s hands. “Adventure awaits,” he said and winked.

“Mama is sure that tonight is the night of the changing winds and the eclipsing moon and the we surely will disappear like the morning mist.”

Caelan smiled. “Would it be so awful to get lost?” he said and Arabella laughed.

“Ah, only for Mama,” she said. She followed Caelan into the Forest and the darkness, letting him guide their steps with his torch. He shifted the bucket into the torch-bearing hand and reached a hand back for hers. Arabella smiled in the darkness as their feet followed the familiar path. They barely needed the torch; their feet could carry them by rote through the brambles and over the roots and rocks that lined the path to the well. Even so, Arabella was glad for the torch as they journeyed further into the Forest. Tonight the Dark Forest seemed to personify its name and the darkness cloaked around them and she held tightly to Caelan’s hand in front of her.

In the silence, Arabella was lulled by the sound of their tromping feet on the dirt path until she heard a whispering in front of her. “What is it that you speak?” Arabella said. Caelan looked back at her. “Not a word,” he said.

Arabella wondered for a moment, peering into the darkness on either side of them. A few steps further, she heard yet additional whispers and she stopped upon the path. Caelan approached her.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Do you not hear the whispers around us?” she replied. He shook his head. “There, there it is again,” she said, but again Caelan shook his head.

“Perhaps it is but the wind,” he said. This time it was she who shook her head. She peered again into the darkness on either side of the path, this time her eyes catching a warm yellow glow not far from the path. She pointed toward the light. “But you do see the light yonder there,” she said. He nodded.

Without a word, the two veered off in the direction of the light, treading carefully over the uneven Forest floor. As they drew nearer, Arabella noticed a painting in a gilded frame propped against the trunk of a tree. The golden frame reflected a light from further on so that they could not see the subject of the painting without Caelan’s torch. Arabella pressed into Caelan and placed one hand over his on the torch as they passed it over the painting. Although oddly out of place, it seemed but a simple painting and nothing extraordinary. But upon closer inspection, the willowy figure who stood with her back to the painter, a shimmering veil draped over her auburn curls was increasingly familiar. The other figure appeared taller because he was closer to the painter. He stood holding a glowing torch that lit his brown wavy hair with a golden hue. One of the girl’s hand was extended back toward the young man and he was reaching his toward hers. Though they were not yet touching, there was a definite intimacy to the gesture and to the painting itself.

Arabella looked into Caelan’s round brown eyes and said what she guessed they must both be thinking. “Why is there a painting of us propped up against a tree near the Willow grove?”

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: TWO IMAGES SEPARATED AT BIRTH – Think up a vivid, haunting image. Work hard to construct this image so it is not only visible to the reader but exciting and thought-provoking. Then think up another unrelated but equally vivid image. The key to this exercise is to work at composing two unrelated images, two scenes or situations you do not think are part of a story. Then write a story fragment out of the two images. Many stories are simply a set of these vivid images, loosely or complexly connected. The best fiction makes us unable to forget the pictures it lays out for us in fascinating, logically illogical arrangements. {Exercise 15 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

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