Starting Strong Scenes in Your Writing
Scenes are the fundamental building blocks of novels and short stories, and each one should propel a story toward the climax.
Generally speaking, your scene structure should mirror the story structure. In other words, take a novel-writing approach to a scene, crafting a beginning, middle, and end. Like a story, the beginning of a scene should have a strong entry hook that pulls the reader in.
Start with the setting. Often a new scene signifies a change in time and location. Establishing the setting at the top of a scene helps your readers get oriented. It also sets the tone and mood of what will unfold in the coming pages. A setting can serve as much more than a backdrop in literature. Have your scene take place somewhere that builds tension and hinders your protagonist. If you’re writing a thriller, describe a dark and foreboding place where the worst might happen. Be descriptive and use sensory details to make your setting come alive before you jump into the action.
Use visual imagery. In screenwriting, writers have to think in pictures. What images will excite an audience at the top of a scene? Your approach should be the same when writing any kind of fiction. As you write the opening of a scene, use descriptive language to engage a reader through detailed imagery. Think like a screenwriter as you’re writing scenes.
Drop the reader into the middle of the action. Hit the ground running by starting a great scene in media res. It doesn’t have to be a fight scene or a car chase, but physical movement creates momentum and builds tension in a story. It’s also a way to instantly engage a reader. Be sure you begin the scene before the high points of the action so you build up to the scene’s climax.
Write a character-driven scene opener. A good scene starts by giving characters a goal. Start by putting your protagonist in a situation that creates an obstacle or opportunity for both the scene and the overarching storyline. Try starting with dialogue, like an intense conversation between your POV character and a mystery character whose identity is revealed later in the scene. If you’re writing from an omniscient third-person point of view, consider starting a scene with a secondary character, even the antagonist, and use it as a chance for deeper character development.
Summarize past events. You might choose to use the beginning of the scene to do a quick recap of what’s brought your main character to this place and moment in time. A summary is especially helpful if you’re writing in third-person and a new scene switches to a different character. Take the opportunity to remind the reader where we left off. Instead of a straight-forward update, get creative. Go into deep POV and let a character’s thoughts provide the summary instead of the narrator. Be sure to keep this summary brief—just a line or two—so you can get back into the action.
Introduce a plot twist. The start of a new scene is a chance to pivot and take your story in a new direction. Start a new scene at a turning point in your story. Dive into a flashback or character’s backstory, revealing critical information that changes the course of the story going forward.
Keep the purpose of the scene in mind. Effective scenes are clear about what they set out to accomplish and how they contribute to the overall plot. They might include plot points or reveal important information needed to move a story forward. Establish your scene’s intention from the very first word and keep the rest of the scene on point.
Rewrite until you’ve found the perfect scene opening. When you’ve finished the first draft of a scene, go back and read it through. If your scene needs something, but you can’t figure out what, it might be how the scene starts. The best way to know if your opening works is by reading how it plays with the rest of the scene. Review the last paragraph and see if it ties back to your beginning. If the intro feels weak, rewrite it. Maybe your real opener is hidden in plain sight somewhere else in the body of the scene.
Make sure your opening scene is your strongest. While your entire book should be filled with compelling scenes that start strong, the very first scene of your book needs to lead the pack. This is the reader’s introduction to your story and where you’re revealing the characters, the setting, and kicking off the plotline with the inciting incident. This first scene has to hook the reader from the first line so they keep turning the pages.
Read a lot of books. If this is your first novel and you need some inspiration and ideas to help you start off your scenes, start by reading other books. Choose a book by a bestselling writer like Dan Brown or Margaret Atwood. Study the different ways they approach every scene. Reading other authors is a great way to hone your scene-writing skills.
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Where Intimidation Meets Intimacy
Partially inspired by one of @the-modern-typewriter 's snippets (That I can not find for the life of me! Though hers was much less fluffy lol!)
Villain realizes they overdid the intimidation, causing the hero to have a panic attack. Now villain has to help calm them down.
TW: Panic Attacks
"Alright as-" the villain froze mid-sentence as they opened the heavy door of their interrogation room.
The hero was where the villain had left them, tied to their chair in the center of the room, tables covered in torture tools to either side of them.
They had NOT been mid panic attack when the villan had last left the room a few minutes ago, however.
For a second the villain just stared, completely unsure what to do. Should they... leave? Surely they couldn't just leave the hero like this?
It was there fault, after all. Seems they overdid it on the intimidation tactics...
The truth was that none of the tools in this room had ever been used. The villain had never had the stomach for torture. The worst theyd ever managed was leaving a captive in a room without turning the light off at night so they didnt get much sleep. And sure, that wasnt a *nice* thing to do, they weren't a saint, but leaving captives in an illuminated room with a fully made bed was a far cry from carving them like a jack-o-lantern on Halloween.
The villain clenched their fists. They reached up next to the door, dimming the bright light above the heros head until it was more of a soft glow.
The villain walked over quietly and began unbuckling one of the heros forearms. Their wrists were still strapped down which would prevent them from moving, but the villain hoped less buckles would make them feel a little less trapped.
The heros eyes shot up, a sharp gasp and violent flinch when the villain first touched their skin, like they hadn't even realized the villain was back in the room.
The realization only seemed to make breathing harder as the poor hero began physically shaking.
"Hey- no- that's not- it's okay," the criminal hushed gently, "shhhh, it's alright. I'm not actually gunna hurt you I promise" the villain continued trying to calm them as they undid the other forearm strap and slipped off the one on the heros forehead, along with some other ones, and even loosened whatever straps still remained. Their efforts didn't seem to make much of a difference.
The villain slipped out of the room, returning only a few seconds later with a heavy blanket, which they draped over the heros shoulders and arms, wrapping it around their back and then crossing the ends over their chest.
Then the villain settled themselves down into the heros lap, feeling a pang of guilt at the violent flinch it caused, watching the hero nearly choke on the sharp inhale of breath as they pushed themselves against the back of the chair.
"Shhh," the villain soothed, running their hands up and down their heros upper arms and shoulders gently, "It's okay, I'm not actually going to hurt you... just... try and breath..."
The hero forced their eyes open for a moment to eye the villain warily before pinning their eyes shut once again to try to regain control of their breathing.
The villain used a thumb to wipe away an angry tear that appeared, before their hands glided up behind the heros head, guiding it forward to rest their forehead against the villain's shoulder.
"Deep breaths, just match your breathing to mine.... in and out... there you go... slow and steady... you can do it..." the villain continued, one hand carding through the heros hair while the other soothed down over their shoulder.
"Why- why-" the hero gasped, whimpering slightly, but was cut off.
"Shhh, focus on calming down right now okay?" The villain urged quietly, pressing a kiss to the top of the heros head, who shuddered and nodded against their shoulder. The criminal traced their finger around the hero's ear, cradling their head gently.
The next few minutes passed slowly, with the only noises being the hero's unsteady breathing and the villain's quiet affirmations.
When the hero finally seemed to calm down the villain spoke again.
The hero nodded, still slightly shaky, exhaling slowly as they sat up before eyeing the villain warily, "why did you do that?"
"I don't actually want to cause you any pain,"
"Yeah right," they scoffed disbelievingly.
"Says the person with an interrogation room full of torturing tools,"
"Its all for show," the villain shrugged, tucking a loose strand of hair behind the heros ear, stroking their cheek with their thumb to wipe away a residual tear track, "Intimidation and fear works wonders. Pain is rarely affective in getting truthful information,"
The villain nodded, "yeah, look," they started before leaning over from where they were still seated in the heros lap to grab a tray of tools off the nearby counter. The hero immediately tensed at the sight. "Easy," the villain soothed, placing their other hand on the heros chest, "just look,"
Slowly, very slowly, so the hero could track their movements, the villain picked up one of the tools using two fingers, only to set it down a few centimeters from where it had been on the tray, revealing the obvious tool shaped imprint in the dust.
"As I said..." the villain continued when the hero didn't say anything, just staring in disbelief at the tray. They took a deep breath before blowing on the array of tools, causing a plum of dust to fly off, "never been used, not even once,"
The villain leaned over to set the tray back down.
Summary: The one where Y/N feels like hers and Harry’s relationship is now just sex.
Word count: 700
“Is sex all you want from me?,” Y/N mumbled, walking out of the bathroom and laying back on Harry’s bedsheets. He was right beside her, as naked as her after the fun they shared, but his attention was somewhere else.
As soon as he heard her words, he looked up from his phone screen and in her direction, frowning. “No. Why are you even asking that?” He didn’t finish typing the message. He turned the device off and put it back on his nightstand, his whole body turning to her.
Her gaze was fixed on the ceiling above her, her hand in her stomach as she bit the inside of her cheek. Truth was, she had been feeling that way for a few weeks now, and she wondered if they had grown apart.
“Hey, Y/N. Look at me,” he softly called her, making her face turn to him, “Where’s all this coming from?”
She shrugged her shoulder, suddenly regretting having even made such question.
Harry and her started off as fuck buddies after being introduced to each other by a mutual friend at a club on a Saturday night. They both had just got out of pretty messy relationships, and having fun with no commitments was exactly what the two of them were looking for at the time. For a few months, their sporadic redez-vous worked really well, until feelings got involved and they started seeing one another as something more than just sexual partners. Ever since then, they had been dating for almost a year, but for the past weeks, the only short moments they had shared had always had to do with sex, as if their initial chemistry had disappeared and the only string that kept Harry glued to her was sexual attraction, just like during their first months together.
“Tell me, baby,” he softly pleaded.
“It’s just that… I barely get to see you because of your job and when I do, the only thing we do is fuck,” she sighed.
She would have thought her mind and chest would be at ease once she let those words out, but they weren’t. If anything, she was feeling even more anxious, scared she might be right and that that was it for her and Harry. She didn’t want them to break up, but maybe he was ready to part ways and hadn’t known how to tell her so until she brought the topic up. Now he had the perfect excuse to.
“I’ve developed the ability to read that gorgeous face of yours pretty well, lovie… I know you’re overthinking right now, and I can assure you it has nothing to do with whatever your mind is telling you,” he replied, taking the hand that was placed over her stomach and locking his fingers with hers afterwards.
“Then what is it?,” her voice unintentionally cracked mid-sentence.
She wasn’t going to start crying right there and then; she was just feeling a bit overwhelmed by her mind and the thought of them ever not being together. Gosh, she was so head over heels for that six-feet-tall, long-dark-curly-haired boy she was able to call hers that she couldn’t even imagine them ever ending things.
“With everything happening with the band, our upcoming hiatus and all that, I guess I forgot to check on you in that sense,” he confessed, while guilt started to take upon him, “Sex with you just feels so good you know I can never resist it,” he chuckled a bit, in an attempt to erase all her possible doubts regarding their relationship, “But I’d no idea you felt this way, and I’m sorry. I’m glad you told me, though.” He sweetly smiled at her, pressing their foreheads together.
“You promise is just that?”
“You’ve got my word, baby,” he nodded, assuring her his words were true, “I’m taking you out for dinner tomorrow, by the way. I’ve heard there’s a new restaurant in town and I want us to try it.”
“You know I’m more than content with us cooking dinner at home,” she confessed, not wanting him to feel obligated to do things he didn’t want to just to keep her happy.
“I know, but I want us to have some fun outdoor, too. As you said, we have already had enough of it here at home.”
She giggled, agreeing with him.
Tom Holland x Harrison Osterfield x Fem Reader
Warnings: straight smut, Tom has a nightmare, swearing
A/N: nsfw, minors dni!! i have other stuff on my page you can read tho!
A/N: I do not own any of the people/names here!!
Word Count: 2,228
“You fucking div,” you hear a voice say from the other room. “She doesnt fancy you, its ME she-“
“Shut up she’s coming!” You hear another reply.
Opening the door, you see your two favourite boys standing in the kitchen, trying to play off their argument. “Who we talking about?”
“Nobody!” The boys chorus together, turning to face you. Toms dark curls are messy and Haz’s shirt is darkened with sweat; they must have just come back inside from basketball. Damn you loved watching them play, the way they became so competitive. You would never tell them, but you had had the biggest crush on the pair ever since middle school.
“Y/N? Hello?” Haz waved a hand in front of your face. “I was just asking if you wanted dinner.”
“Nah I’m good. Work was really long, I think I’m gonna turn in early. Gnight boys!” You hugged them each in turn before walking up the stairs to your bedroom.
You showered and climbed into your favourite pyjamas - a grey spiderman tshirt and blue shorts - and crawled into bed, sighing. You had almost drifted off when you heard your door click open.
“Y/N?” A voice whispered from the doorway. “Are you awake?”
Sitting up and flicking on your bedside lamp, you saw Tom standing just inside your room, wearing only a pair of boxers. The low light made his abs stand out more than usual, and you had to pull your eyes away quickly before he noticed. You could stare at him all day, but didnt want to give your game away.
“Wassup Tommy? You ok?”
“I.. I had a bad dream and cant sleep... I was wondering.. I wanted to know..”
“Did you wanna cuddle in here tonight Tommy?” You chuckled, shuffling over. He nodded, smiling sheepishly and walked over, closing the door behind him. It wasnt the first time he had done this, but it wasnt very often that he did.
He climbed in beside you and you both shuffled down under the covers, flicking off the light. He placed his arm around your middle, slightly pulling you closer to him. You closed your eyes, but they flew open a few minutes later when you felt Toms hand travel down and begin playing with the waistband of your shorts. You inhaled sharply, your heart racing.
How many times had you thought of this? The thought of Tom fucking you senseless, the thought of unraveling around him.
From the darkness, he breathed, “is this ok?”
“Mhm,” you mumbled, shuffling closer still into him.
Slowly, ever so carefully, Tom edged his hand into your shorts, gasping slightly when he discovered there was no underwear. His long fingers began tracing the softest, smallest circles on your clit, making you breathe out in relief.
When he began to add pressure and move faster, you couldnt help but let out a small moan, making him chuckle.
“Whats that? Do I make you feel good, Y/N? Come on, d’you wanna cum on my fingers?”
Moaning in response, he moved his fingers down to your entrance. This new demeanour of Tom was a welcome change. He slowly inserted two of his digits inside you, and began moving them in and out at a steady rhythm. Chasing your sweet release, you slowly ground against his hand, fucking his fingers.
It only took a few minutes before your vision went white hot and you released all over his hand.
“Tom I-“ you began when you had your breath back, but he cut you off with a kiss. Parting your lips with his tongue, he began deepening the kiss, exploring your mouth. He began rubbing your clit again, climbing on top of you, throwing the sheets off the bed.
He stopped, panting and sat up, knees either side of your hips, pinning you down. He slid his boxers down, exposing his semi-hard dick. Smirking, he threw his boxers aside and resumed kissing you, one hand beside your head on your pillow, the other slowly palming himself.
You surprised yourself when you reached down to move his hand away, stroking his length. This time, it was you who broke the kiss, pushing Tom backwards so that it was you on top of him this time. You shuffled down his legs, still stroking him and smiled innocently up at him.
“My turn to make you feel good, baby boy.”
You spat into your palm and spread it along his length, beaming inside that you were the one making him moan like that. Taking him by surprise, you suddenly took him in your mouth, swirling your tongue around his tip. He tasted slightly salty, and he huffed out in a mix of surprise and pleasure.
Tom tangled one of his hands into your long hair, holding your head as you began to deep-throat him, taking control of the speed you bobbed you head at.
“I knew you’d look beautiful Y/N, choking on me like the pretty little cock-slut you are. Fucking stunning.”
You moaned around him at his words, feeling his tip twitch in your throat. Knowing he was close, you lightly grazed your teeth along his length, coaxing a particularly loud moan from his throat.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fu-“ Hot, salty white ropes painted your tongue as he released into your mouth, and you swallowed every last drop. Secretly proud of yourself, you pulled away with a small pop and looked up at Tom. “Such a good girl for me, hey? I bet you’ve thought about sucking me off a thousand times.”
This time, it was your turn to now sheepishly. He chuckled, slowly standing up off the bed. “Face down, ass up princess. Ill be back in just a second.”
With that, he walked out of your room, clicking the door behind him. When you heard him come back a few minutes later, you waited silently and patiently for his instructions.
But no instructions came. Instead, you felt his tip tracing through your dripping folds, a chuckle following. But that wasn’t Tom’s airy, high chuckle, that was-
“Haz?!” Was all you could get out before he pushed into you, making you gasp. You pushed your face back into the bed in bliss as he began to movie inside you, gradually building up a steady rhythm behind you.
First Tom, and now Haz? This had to be what they were arguing about in the kitchen before, who you liked better. Little did they know that you had thought about them BOTH.
It was a few minutes before you heard the door click again, but you barely heard it over the rush of blood in your ears as the coil in your stomach wound tighter.
“Being such a good girl for Haz, arent you Y/N? Has she been a good girl for you mate?”
You moaned loudly at his words.
“The very best, Tom.”
If you were such a good girl then why did he suddenly freeze inside you, pulling out without warning, you high ebbing away fast. You cried out at the loss of contact, and spun around to see both of the boys standing that the foot of your bed, stroking themselves. Tom chuckled at your confused and slightly hurt face.
“Heres whats gonna happen ok princess? Haz is gonna fuck your mouth, and im gonna fuck your pussy ok?” His voiced softened, “the code word is teal ok, your favourite colour.” You nodded in response.
Haz walked around to the head of you bed and climbed on, shoving the pillows off the side. You watched as he kneeled, stroking himself lazily and eying both you and Tom. You, too looked back at the dark eyes, and he nodded. On your hands and knees like an animal, you turned back around and stalked towards Harrison, swaying your ass for Toms pleasure.
Once again, you spat into your palm and rubbed it onto Haz’s dick. You bobbed your head down and felt him buck into your mouth, slightly choking at his length. You moaned around him as you suddenly felt Tom tracing his own dick through your dripping folds, quickly pushing in. He wasn’t as big as Haz, but you still made an extremely pornographic sound as he began to thrust into you.
The boys quickly found a way to fuck you good from both ends, Haz’s long fingers twisting your hair into a ponytail at one, Tom’s gripping your waist. You bobbed on Haz’s cock hungrily as the other boy began snapping his hips into you faster, the prettiest sounds falling from both boys lips.
Watching the blond’s facial expressions contort in pleasure above you, you watched him pull his bottom lip between his teeth when he wasnt cursing under his breath.
Before you could comprehend what the low buzzing sound coming from behind you was, your clit was suddenly assaulted by Tom tracing circles with your vibrator. Pulling off of Haz you threw your head back and cried put in utter pleasure.
You squeezed your eyes shut as the coil in your stomach snapped, ungodly sounds ripping through both your and Toms throats as you felt him spill inside you.
"Fuck Tommy- can't- Haz, please-"
God, that had to have been the best orgasm you'd ever had, brain going numb inside your skull, ears rings. You thought you were going to pass out for a second, but soon your vision returned.
High slowly fading, you heard Tom chuckle under his breath as he pulled out.
“What?” You asked, voice hoarse and suddenly self-conscious.
“Didn’t know our baby could squirt, diju Haz?”
You looked back over at the blond haired boy, lightly smiling and shaking his head as he stroked himself slowly.
“Nope, but I do know that you two look fucking stunning when you cum,” he replied with a smirk. You exchanged a quick look back at Tom, and you both began to approach him.
“Aww baby boy didnt get to cum, did he now?” You cooed in his ear, tracing along his sharp jawline. “Didnt get to cum all over my pretty face?”
Tom was on his other side, sucking hickeys along his neck. “Didnt get to cum in her pretty little mouth? Hmm,” he said seductively into his other. “Let us help with that.”
And with that, the two of you climbed onto the bed in front of Haz. You took his cock back into your mouth as Tom began sucking his balls, and you both let out groans as he put a hand behind both of your heads, pulling you both off.
“What do you want? My cock?” His ocean eyes pierced into yours. “My balls?” He looked at Tom. “Well then, beg for it. Go on.”
You paused and looked over at Tom, before taking one of the blonde's hands and kissed it softly.
“Please Haz, please let me suck your big cock. Let me make you cum,” you cooed big doe eyes staring up at him.
“C’mon Haz mate, let me make you feel good. Please?” Tom traced up Harrisons thigh with one hand and absent mindedly palmed himself with his other, also staring up at the boy.
Without another word, Haz forced you both down again, the most beautiful sounds ripping from his throat as he brought his bottom lip between this teeth again, eyes squeezing together. You reached up with your free hand and began tracing his abs, only to melt when he moved his hand from your head to begin massaging your tits.
The room was filled with panting and moaning, words of praise mixed with curses falling from Haz’s lips like running water. It didnt take long before you felt him begin twitching in your throat and his moaning to become louder.
“God, so fucking stunning- gonna- fuck-“
For the second time that night, your mouth was painted in white. Swallowing, you slowly stood up and kissed both boys.
“This was fun, lets do it again sometime,” you called as you walked over to you en suite to clean up, swaying your ass.
As you shut the door behind you, the sound of the boys laughter drifted through the door. After a second, Tom spoke, attempting (unsuccessfully) to stay quiet enough that you wouldn’t hear him.
“Told you she liked me.”
“Come on mate, did you hear the way she fucking moaned my name?”
You didn’t know how much hearing the boys fight over you would turn you on, even after everything that just unfolded.
The boys bickering stopped however when you called through the door, “guys come off it. If you guys really want me to tell you, we’ll have to see who can make me cum faster next time.”
You heard the bed creak and rapid footsteps before the bathroom door was flung open, and Haz strode over to you.
He wrapped his long arms around your middle, then proceeded to nestle his head into your neck, sucking on the spot that made your eyes flutter shut and your head roll back onto his shoulder.
Laughing, your hands crossed onto his. “Babe, really? Right now? How ‘bout we wait until morning at least.” He stopped kissing my neck, but made a defeated sound in my ear. “If you want you and Tommy can sleep with me tonight, though.”
With that, his hands left my waist as he practically sprinted back into the other room.
Okay. I don’t know if your request are open, but if they are. Can you write something where MC teaches Luke how to make a clock out of a potato?
Like, maybe the MC was talking about projects they used to do in science class as a kid and it came up, and the little angels mind it just blown that you can make a clock out of a potato of all things. So of course he’s gotta try it himself.
Ooo, what a fun idea! Luke would love doing these sorts of science experiments with MC. Thanks for the prompt! Enjoy!
Short Story - The Wonders of Science
Main Characters: Luke and MC
Other Character: Simeon
Word Count: 545
“Whoaaa, your science teacher sure did a lot of cool things, MC,” Luke remarked with awe. He had been listening to the human tell him all about the experiments their one teacher used to do to teach science lessons. He was so intrigued by everything MC was saying that he didn’t realize that his legs were kicking back and forth like a dog’s wagging tail while he sat on the sofa in Purgatory Hall’s living room. “And none of them used magic?”
“That’s right,” MC confirmed, reaching in front of them toward the coffee table to grab another cookie Luke had baked for them. “Out of all of them, though, I think my favorite had to be when we got to make our own potato clocks.”
“You can use potatoes to make a clock?!” the young angel exclaimed in bewilderment.
“Crazy, right?” they agreed with a laugh. “But it’s true.”
“Do you remember how you did it?”
MC took a bite of their cookie as they racked their brain for the answer to his question. “I think so. Why?”
“Then, if you don’t mind,” Luke began a bit nervously, “can you help me make one? I really want to see it for myself.”
There was no way MC could decline his request, especially when he was staring at them so hopefully. Once they voiced their promise to help, his beaming expression coupled with the twinkle in his eyes felt like a reward for the task they hadn’t even started yet. With his excitement rubbing off on them, they wasted no time in bringing him along to gather the materials they would need for their impromptu science project.
One quick shopping trip later, the duo returned to Purgatory Hall to get to work. They stabbed two potatoes with nails and copper wires, connected some wires between them and to an electronic clock, got confused when nothing happened, and then redid a few things when MC realized what was wrong. It was a fun process nonetheless, with the two of them brainstorming what MC forgot and helping each other with putting the materials in the right locations. Before they knew it, a tiny “beep” echoed in the kitchen.
“MC, look!” Luke pointed out while patting the human’s arm excitedly. “The clock turned on! It worked!!”
They couldn’t restrain the smile on their face as they watched the young angel’s cheerful reaction. “See? I told you it was possible. Great teamwork, Luke.”
The duo shared a high-five for the success of their experiment. While Luke was questioning MC about how exactly the potatoes and other items powered the electronic clock, Simeon entered the kitchen, drawn in by their joyful chattering.
“What are the two of you up to?” he inquired with a smile that matched theirs.
“Take a look, Simeon,” Luke said, showing off the mini project on the counter. “MC and I used potatoes to make this clock work!”
The older angel’s eyebrows rose in amazement. “A potato clock, huh... Wow, you really got the clock to turn on without a battery. That’s incredible.” A realization abruptly dawned on him, forcing him to awkwardly announce, “Um, but... These were the potatoes I was going to use to make dinner tonight.”
“...Oh,” Luke and MC muttered in unison.
Children of the Woods by S.Shah
Children of the Woods by S.Shah
Guys, this is the first horror short-story I've ever attempted. It was written for a local short-story contest on child sexual-abuse; the narrative’s framework is a deconstruction of old Fresh Romances with my personal spin on the genre. I didn't get to benefit from it in any manner, so I thought that I should self-publish my work through Ko-Fi and earn something for myself (publishing houses aren't what they're cracked up to be). I’m working on another horror short-story, and it’s almost complete; so expect that one to come out soon, as well!
If you like my work, buy this story and support me; I'm an artist, a writer by trade, so it'd mean a great deal to me. You can spread the word around outside tumblr, as well, and get as many people as possible to support my work, as 10$ from this would be given away as a donation to my friend in need (the donation post can be found here).
Thank you for all your kindness and support!
Premise: Max takes Sienna on a haunted tour of their neighborhood, and there are more thrills than chills.
Book: Open Heart (post series)
Pairing: Sienna Trinh x Max Valentine (M!OC)
Rating/Category: Teen. Fluff.
A/N: This fic was inspired by an anon I received about haunted houses. Submission for @choices-september-challenge-blog Day 14 Dialogue Prompt
Timeline wise, it’s set right after Max & Si’s Halloween Bash.
“They say that she held seances at her house, calling the spirits of the dead. Those were often followed by strange incidents, such as people hearing tapping noises or finding broken artifacts in an empty room. Legend has it Mary’s ghost still haunts Halcyon House, and you can hear her footsteps shuffling in the attic, talking to the dead….”
Sienna Trinh huddled inside the thick coat as a cold wind blew over her. The ominous howling that echoed from the low-lit alley they’d just passed had her shivering.
“Cold?” Max Valentine paused in the middle of his tale to wrap one arm around her.
Grateful for his warmth, Sienna glanced back apprehensively and thought she saw a shadow watching her from the top floor of the house.
Ghosts aren’t real, she told herself, but the unnerving feeling wouldn’t leave her alone. She moved closer to Max, practically burrowing into his side.
He stopped, his arm falling away as he turned to face her. “Are you okay? Maybe we should have taken the car instead of walking.”
They were on their way to the Georgetown University campus for the annual Halloween festivities at Max’s alma mater. It was less than a mile from their place, but he’d taken the long route, pointing out haunted streets and houses in their neighborhood. His voice was deliberately hushed as he recounted ghostly tales and urban legends.
“It’s not that far, right?” Sienna said, swallowing loudly as she felt her heart beat faster.
Unable to hide the nerves, she grabbed his arm to pull him along, away from the creepy house on Prospect Street covered in shadows. He resisted her attempts, standing his ground, eyes narrowed as he stared down at her, perplexed.
And then she saw the knowing look enter his face as he glanced at Halcyon House and then back at her. Locking his hands around her hips, he pulled her closer. His lips curved in a teasing grin, but his voice was grave.
“Did you know that during the War of 1812, as the American soldiers marched, dispirited, they heard the sounds of a little boy’s drum permeate the air?”
His voice dropped so low that Sienna had to practically plaster herself around him to hear. “Rumor has it that on stormy nights, you can hear the little drummer boy playing his instrument, the drumbeats signifying misfortune for those that hear it….”
A car backfired in the distance, the sound making Sienna jump, and she yelped in fright. Her reaction had Max laughing uproariously, and he tightened his embrace.
She swatted his arm and cried, “It’s not funny!”
“I’m sorry, Si,” he said between bouts of laughter. “You should have seen your face. It’s like you’d seen the ghosts of Mary Steele Morris and those poor soldiers come to life.”
“Bite me,” she retorted, tilting her head back to glower at him.
“If you insist.” He wasn’t even fazed as his mouth latched on to her exposed neck, teeth lightly scraping the sensitive skin.
Sienna snorted as laughter escaped. She slapped her hand on his chest and pushed him away. “You’re such a jerk.”
“Come on,” he insisted, folding her hand in his as they started walking again. “You have to admit it was a little bit funny. You might have been scared, but you loved it too.”
Sienna shook her head, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of being right, but her smile betrayed her. His smirk was her undoing. She pushed him up against a brick wall, tugged his head down and covered his lips with her own in an explosive kiss.
“I admit nothing,” she mumbled against his mouth when they broke free.
“Know what I think?” he murmured, cupping her face. “I think you love the thrills as much as I do. You say you don’t, but your pulse is racing, and I can feel anticipation vibrating inside your body.”
When she remained silent, he continued. “I know you, Sienna. Better than you know yourself. Whenever you want adventure, just say ‘go,’ and I’m right there with you.”
With that, he took her hand in his once again. They trekked up 37 Street to the campus entrance on O Street, joining the throngs of visitors heading up to Healy Hall.
Sienna had seen the iconic Victorian-style building with its Gothic towers and spires marking the skyline whenever she stepped off the bus stop at M Street. During the day, the building was imposing; but at night, with Halloween decorations and lights, it looked like something out of a Mary Shelley novel.
She listened to Max narrate a bit of campus history, and they took their place in the line. This year, one of the floors of Healy Hall had been converted into a haunted house, with proceeds from the event going into a fund for year-round student activities.
“I can’t really picture you here, on this campus,” Sienna said, as they shuffled closer to the entrance.
He lifted one eyebrow in surprise. “Why not?”
Sienna shrugged. “I guess I see you as one of those guys that would fit naturally at Harvard, maybe Yale. That’s all.”
He sniffed in amusement. “Well, I got into both, but I wasn’t interested in joining fraternities with trust fund douchebags or secret societies like my Maxwell cousins. Besides, Cassie wanted to stay close to home, and I realized I did too.”
Their group was next, and Max held his phone out with the digital tickets for scanning.
Once inside, Sienna noticed how the low lighting enhanced the spooky effect of the dark wood-paneled interior and stained glass windows. It reminded her of the parish church her parents went to every Sunday.
“Did you know that Healy Hall is haunted?” Max whispered gleefully in her ear as they crowded into the elevator. “Tormented souls of students and Jesuit priests alike wander the forgotten fifth floor, their moans and wails particularly loud on All Hallow’s Eve.”
Sienna scoffed and threw him an annoyed look. “You must think I’m incredibly gullible. There are only four buttons on the elevator. There’s no fifth floor.”
���He’s not wrong,” said the man standing in front of them, looking over his shoulder. “Legends abound in the Hilltop of a young student that accidentally opened the Gates of the Underworld when reading forbidden chants in a book about exorcism. They closed off the fifth floor long ago in case other students disappeared.”
“Don’t forget the Jesuit who was crushed to death in the clock tower,” someone else piped in, their eager tone relishing the grisly end of the poor man. “They say his ghost still haunts the Hall.”
Sienna had heard at least three gruesome tales when the elevator doors slid open on the darkened floor. Her head was pounding, and it wasn’t just from the ghostly sound effects pumping through overhead speakers.
Max must have sensed something was wrong because instead of joining the group, he grabbed her hand to pull her off to the side. Ignoring the sign that the area was off limits to visitors, he ducked into an empty room with a low-hanging chandelier, heavy furniture and large paintings lining the walls.
“You’re pale.” Max peered intently at her, his green eyes concerned as he placed his hands on her shoulders. “Sienna, they’re just silly stories and students pretending to be ghouls and amateur special effects. If you’re not feeling up to it, we can leave.”
Sienna looked away from his worried gaze and saw another door on the opposite end, a red Exit sign visible above the wall against the low light. It was quieter here, and she could hear her heart beating. She knew it wasn’t fear coursing through her veins; it was excitement.
Before she could tell him she was fine, the door on the far end swung open, and a security guard peeked in. The blinding beam of his flashlight ran over them, and they put up their hands to shield their eyes.
“Hey,” shouted the security guard. “This area is restricted! You can’t be in here.”
They heard his heavy boots on the wood floor, the flashlight bobbing as he closed the distance between them.
“Hey, Max?” Sienna tugged his hand, and he looked down at her, brows furrowed. “Go!”
Max grinned, tightened his hold on her hand, and they ran.
Sienna’s laughter rang out as they slammed the door behind them. They zigzagged past people coming off the elevator, ignoring their protests as they dashed through the entrance to the haunted house.
She glanced over her shoulder and caught a glimpse of the security guard through a break in the crowd, his head craning left and right, searching for them. And then she and Max turned a corner and disappeared out of sight, swallowed up in a haze of smoke lights and ghoulish figures hanging from the ceiling.
Safe for now, they ducked into an alcove festooned with gruesome body parts and paint masquerading as blood. They hunched over, both laughing as they tried to catch their breath.
“I can’t believe we did that,” Sienna giggled, clutching her stomach to get rid of the stitch from all that running.
Before she could straighten, Max pulled her into his arms and kissed the rest of her breath away. She wrapped her arms around his waist, holding him tightly against her and parted her lips, deepening the kiss.
They were smiling when they broke apart, wrapped around each other, ignoring the faces that peered inside the alcove but otherwise left the couple alone.
“Ready?” Max asked, raising his voice to be heard above the noise. He was slightly breathless; a flock of blond hair flopped across his forehead.
Sienna brushed his hair back, trailed her fingertips down the side of his face and rested her palm against his jaw. “Let’s go.”
All Fics & Edits: @potionsprefect @trappedinfanfiction @bex-la-get @mysticalgalaxysstuff @genevievemd @choicesaddict5 @jerzwriter @vi-writes-stuff @coffeeheartaddict2 @quixoticdreamer16 @zahrachoices @lucy-268 @a-crepusculo @jamespotterthefirst @headoverheelsforramsey @takemyopenheart @queencarb @crazy-loca-blog @peonierose @cariantha @annfg8 @openheartforeverinmyheart @bluebelle08 @rookiemartin @natureblooms24
On the screen, Jeff Goldblum lounged in sweaty, shirtless glory.
Then the scientist said: “You know I worked on one of these, right?”
“What, one of the Jurassic Park movies?”
“No, like an actual Jurassic Park. Real ‘man destroys god, man creates dinosaurs’ stuff. We were going to open an actual theme park with actual dinosaurs.”
She narrowed her eyes. “You’re fucking with me.”
“I’m dead serious.” Ice cubes clinked together as she flourished the glass. “Some billionaire saw the movie in the nineties and immediately started privately developing his own dinosaur theme park. It actually got pretty far into development.”
She looked into the depths of the drink. “Didn’t end well.”
On the screen, Bob Peck was talking about lysine.
“Was it velociraptors?”
She looked up, blinking away the vision she saw in the glass. “Hm?”
“Did it go bad because velociraptors?”
“Oh, no, the velociraptors actually turned out to be very sweet. If you can imagine a penguin mixed with a hawk, that’s a velociraptor. And all the tyrannosaurus wanted to do was sleep and seduce her handler.
“The problem was the brachiosaurus.”
The ice cubes clinked together as she tipped her head back and finished the drink too quickly.
On the screen, Samuel L. Jackson was talking about butts.
She swirled the glass and stared at the ice cubes as they rattled off each other.
“Did you know that cows kill an average of twenty people a year?” she asked.
“Deliberately, too. A predator will kill for food, or if it thinks you’re a threat, but mostly they don’t care about people.
“But a cow? A cow will trample you because it’s a big, dumb, territorial thing and it’s genetically designed to protect itself from predators.
“Imagine a cow filled with the wrath of God.”
"This should do it." It looked down at itself, pleased.
The two - rather long - legs jut out under it's torso. It used it's new - ew - five fingers to feel along it's skin, feeling the bumps of a ribcage underneath. A heartbeat too.
In front of it was a mirror, and staring back at itself was a human. Well, an illusion of one.
Time and time again, the newly star bound aliens, humans, had infiltrated it's species ranks through elaborate disguises. They got better at it every time.
Not only were humans great with what they call "make up" but they had a way of mimicking their behaviors. It's species tried to replicate this. Failed to. In the end, they had something better.
A team of highly immoral scientists who were given boundless permission to try whatever the hell they wanted. And they went with genetic mutation.
It was a painful change, and slow. Agonizingly slow. But now, it was a super solider with one superpower. A shape-shifter.
And it was time to test it out.
It strolled out of the bathroom and into the eating area where various alien species were seated. Only one human - the unwitting test subject - was present.
If this could pass for normal conversation, this could pass for war.
It strolled right up to the other creature - a man who had not yet seen him - and sat down.
"I'm glad to see one other human on this station," it said.
The human non-committedly looked up. Only to jump with a start after taking it in.
"What are you?" he said.
"A human?" it said. If it's species could sweat, it would do so by now.
The man stared at it a moment. He turned to the alien on his right and pointed to his left.
"Forgive me if this question is batshit insane, but what do you see?"
"Two humans?" The alien had three eyes.
Her species' third eye was famous for detecting the most miniscule details and then committing it to subconscious memory. The rise and fall of a chest. The careful rythem of a human heart. How often - or little - a human blinks. Even human's make-up tricks couldn't bypass her species' extra form of security.
"So it is," said the man. She turned away and it found itself blinking quickly in relief. It cut that out when the human turned to it. "Sorry, I guess you're just real ugly."
"Ugh, rude." All humans are ugly.
He scooted in closer on the bench and leaned in towards it. It found itself leaning away, but couldn't help but notice the bead of sweat on the human's forehead and how the pupils were shrunken as far as they could.
"Wanna hear an old Earth tale?"
"I'm sure I know it." Was this a test?
"I doubt you know this one. My grandfather experienced it himself." He leaned away. It had stop itself from blinking too rapidly again. "This is about an Earth cryptid."
"Bigfoot?" it said, but nodded as if it already knew.
"Everyone knows Bigfoot," he laughed. "No, he was driving down a dark country road unlit by street lights. He didn't have his brights on - that's important to the story, you see - but heaven knows why."
Brights??? What are brights???
"Down the road an animal was crossing. A simple male deer with antlers. He couldn't see its body yet, but he was familiar with the eyes. They glowed as his car sped closer."
"He slowed as the deer became more apparent, and eventually came to a stop when the creature wouldn't move. By now, he could see the antlers, the four legs, the neck. Not in detail, mind you, but he could see it "
Other aliens in the room- not hearing this conversation - were trickling out of the room. There was no dramatic reason for this, they simply finished their lunch. The human, not paying any attention to his own lunch, continued the story.
"It's not uncommon for deer to freeze, especially when lights flood their eyes. So my grandfather gave it a moment to realize it should run. When seconds ticked by, he honked at it."
"There was something... off... about the deer. It looked every way like a deer, but the longer he stared, the longer that just didn't seem right."
"Was it a deer?" it said.
"It was not."
"What was it?"
"Not a deer."
The alien found itself frown at this in a perfectly human way.
"Time went on, and my grandfather decided to turn on the brights to try and see the creature better. And it was still... a deer... but not..."
It found its frown deepening.
"What's worse was it began to move. Similar to a deer, but all wrong. Like maybe its legs bent the wrong way. Or perhaps the legs were too long. It was every way like a deer, but it just was not."
"He drove home as soon as that not deer was out of his path. And yes, he found himself alive the next morning. But that encounter disturbed him, so he recounted it to everyone. And many people - especially in that town - could tell him their own stories."
"Well, that story is funny. Probably a figment of his imagination, but it does reflect a very real human instinct."
This was another test. "Would this be something I know of?"
"It's called uncanny valley. It occurs to us when something looks human... but is not."
"Well, rumor has it that it was a instinct formed from a predator. Something that looked human but was not. A not human."
"A not human? Is this true?"
"No," he said. He laughed. "No, we most likely developed it for something a lot more practical. Corpses, you see. They carry a lot of bacteria, so we have a fear of them."
"I have that very same feeling of you," he said. The room was empty besides the two. He reached for his bottle above his lunch tray.
"But I'm not a corpse?"
"You're about to be."
The human tossed down the bottle, effectively cracking off the bottom half and forming his weapon.
It shape-shifted as it scurried away to retreat from the very much human.
The Late Traveller
I should have known, of course.
A little old hotel in the middle of nowhere, with a creaking wooden sign instead of neon? Red flag.
A hollow-eyed, weary-looking young woman at the desk who seemed hesitant to let me get a room? Red flag.
A picturesquely old-fashioned room with a patchwork quilt on the bed that smells a little too musty? HUGE red flag.
Only they’re actually not. Not the first two, anyway. I travel a lot. There are a lot more seems-haunted old-house-turned-traveller’s-rest places than most people think, and in my experience most night auditors are hollow-eyed, faintly eldritch, and disinclined to let someone check in just before dawn.
Of course, the patchwork quilt should have been a dead giveaway. Tired 80s decor and a chenille bedspread? Entirely normal. Patchwork quilt and nineteenth century charm for less than $100 a night? Sus. Very sus. Should have warned me then and there.
In my defense, I was really tired. I’d been driving for two nights and a day, I was exhausted, all my car snacks were gone, and I just wanted to close my eyes and get horizontal. I handed over some cash, stumbled upstairs, made sure the blinds were down, and passed out.
I didn’t wake up until late afternoon, and I felt like shit on a shingle when I did. It took me a couple of attempts to put on my pants and stumble out of the room to look for some sustenance. My expectations weren’t high, but most places at least have coffee-making facilities, and in a pinch a cup of coffee and chugging all the available milk will keep me going for a while. There might even be some of those little packages of cookies, which usually give me an upset stomach but are better than nothing.
There wasn’t a coffee station. What there was was a vending machine with a buzzing, flickering light inside it that made the dusty snacks look even less appealing than they already did.
I was debating whether to risk a can of soda of unknown brand and vintage - sugar and caffeine don’t readily go bad, and I was starving - when I heard a little cough behind me. “Are you a guest, dear?” the old woman said when I turned around to blink at her. She was thin and tottering, faded-looking, and while there weren’t actually cobwebs on her, she looked as if there should be.
“Yes. Is there a kitchen or something where I can get some food from this century?”
Her eyes flicked away. “There’s a diner,” she told me. “Not far down the road. You should try there. I’m afraid the facilities here aren’t what they once were.” She sighed deeply.
Belatedly, my sense for the uncanny started to tingle. “So I should check out and keep moving, huh?”
“Yes, dear. If you can,” she added, and she glanced over her shoulder. “Before sunset.”
I could have been more tactful with the old dear, I suppose, but I didn’t have it in me just then. “Lady,” I said, folding my arms and glaring at her, “I am very tired, and very hungry, and being tired and hungry makes me very cranky, so I’d really appreciate it if you could get to the fucking point. You’re a ghost. This is one of those haunted hotels that lure in travellers to sacrifice them to demons or beg them to break curses or whatever. Fine. That’s on me. Shouldn’t have been suckered in. But enough with the veiled warnings. Just tell me what you want.”
The old woman hissed softly, like a startled cat, but she didn’t vanish on me. That was good. The really timid spirits did, and it was annoying as shit. Then she shook herself and cocked her head. “I see,” she said, her voice stronger but less human-sounding. Ghost voices don’t have the body of a human voice, unless they really work at it. “You’re not… ordinary.”
“That’s an understatement.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Okay. You’re here. You’re trying to warn people off, so you’re not a willing participant in whatever’s going on here. I don’t mind releasing you, because I personally find the binding of unconsenting spirits to be a disgusting abomination, but if you don’t get to the point I’m going to get even testier than I am now.”
“We’re bound here.” The night-auditor was in the doorway, three or four shadowy figures behind her. I heard a faint murmur that suggested there were more further back where I couldn't see. “He traps us, and kills us, and then we’re still trapped.”
“Okay, there’s a he. Necromancer?”
“Not exactly,” the old woman said grimly. “It’s the fear that sustains him, the fear and the suffering. Do you know how long it takes someone to starve to death?”
“About a month, usually.”
“He can usually drag it out to at least two, by allowing a little food now and then. An illusion of hope.” The old woman looked bitter. “I was the first. This was my house. He came, one night, and I opened my door to a lost traveller. I’ve had many long years to regret that.”
I allowed myself a small growl. That wasn’t just evil, it was rude. “Well, he made a mistake this time, just like you did.” I paused. “He’s not a demon or something is he? Because that takes special equipment, and I’m not sure I have enough wormwood in the car.”
“No, he’s no demon. Only a mortal magician who draws power from the suffering of others.” This was a spirit who hadn’t spoken before, a man with the pouchy, drooping look of a stout man who’d lost a lot of weight before he died. He looked shrewd, though, and the look he gave me was assessing. “He’s living.”
“Oh, good. In that case, lead me to him.” I felt in my pockets for the charm I’d picked up six small towns ago. I tend to tap out protective charms fairly quickly, but this one still had some life in it. She’d been a gifted witch, that one… and a good kisser, too. I’d try to stop by there again soon.
They led me down to the cellar, and showed me the hidden door. In theory, the door couldn’t be opened from the outside. In practice, most doors open once you put your fist through them and then rip them right off their hinges. That sounds impressive, but behind the disguising layer of dried clay it was one of those flimsy modern doors that’s basically made of laminated paper and plywood a toddler could break through.
I went through the door fast, not wanting to give him time to get a spell ready if he didn’t already have one going. He hadn’t been expecting me to come through the door - I got a look into his scrying mirror over his shoulder, and he was watching my car. Probably getting ready to pixie-lead me back to the hotel when I tried to leave, the normal next step in this game.
I’d taken him completely by surprise. He managed one hex-bolt, which I shrugged off, and then I had hold of him. Like most of the spider-types, who let their webs do their hunting for them, he wasn’t physically strong or fast. I am.
Much more so than any human.
It felt fitting, that a man who starved and tormented his prey should find that he’d caught a bigger predator than he was. I didn’t drop the body until I’d drained it of every accessible drop of blood. We don’t usually do that, despite the stories. We’re still equipped with all the usual human organs, and a human stomach is not designed to hold five liters of fluid in a hurry. Ours do get a bit bigger, over time, taking up some of the space in the abdomen that the atrophied bowel doesn’t need any more, but I still felt as bloated as a tick when I finally dropped him.
“I needed that,” I admitted, licking a trace of blood off my lips and tucking the feeding fangs away behind my teeth. “Thank you.”
The ghosts might have feared a vampire in life, but they all looked delighted now. They clearly appreciated the poetry of the man who had starved them being devoured before their eyes. “At least he left someone with a full belly,” the girl who’d posed as a night auditor said with satisfaction. They were already looking less… real, and less human. Without magical anchoring, ghosts who have been dead for a while can’t usually pass for living any more. There were at least thirty of them, all up. He'd been here for a long time.
“His spells still bind us here,” the formerly-stout man said, tugging on something I couldn’t see with spectral hands. “Can you undo them?”
“Technically, no. Most vampires aren’t magicians.” I grinned at him. “But here’s an interesting fact. Phosphorus fires burn magic. That’s why so many vampire and magician strongholds are burned down.”
He grinned back, a deaths-head grin that would have frightened someone mortal. “And you have phosphorus?”
“Got some in the car. I’ll go get it as soon as the sun goes down and set this place alight.”
We had a nice chat until sundown. The old lady showed me around, and I filled a few boxes with antiques and other valuables or items of sentimental value that she didn’t want torched. I put all the identifiable stuff the wizard had taken from his victims - IDs, rings, engraved watches, that sort of thing - in a separate box, and buried it with enough juice from the corpse that any dog, sniffer trained or otherwise, would go straight to it. The ghosts’ bodies were all buried under the floor of the cellar, they said, so once the fire was out and the investigation started, they’d be found.
Of course not all vampires are alike. We’re as different as any humans are from each other. But most of us feel a certain kinship with our fellow dead, especially the ones who didn’t go by choice. I volunteered to be turned, but I know plenty who didn’t, and I don’t care for that any more than I do for binding spirits. It was a pleasure to be able to help them out, and make sure their families found out what happened to them.
It doesn’t take much phosphorus to set a fire. When I drove away, the house was already ablaze, and the ghosts had vanished.
Or so I thought. Three miles down the road, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a familiar face. “Haunting the photographs, huh?”
The old lady shrugged. “I can if I want to.”
“I’m not judging. Anywhere you want me to take them?”
She beamed. “Somewhere interesting. A museum or something, where there are a lot of people and interesting things to see.”
So yeah, I’m basically the reason there’s a haunted 200-year-old patchwork quilt hanging in the Texas Quilt Museum. I donated it, along with the picture of my old lady’s grandmother (who made the quilt) and the old lady (who I credited with the donation). Nobody seems to have noticed yet, except a local witch who’s started hanging out there to get knitting advice from the old lady.
You know, vampires get a bad rap, but we really do a lot of good for the community… in our own way.
Note: To my knowledge, there isn’t a haunted quilt in the Texas Quilt Museum. But the museum itself exists, which is very neat, and it looks well worth the visit even without a ghost.
"Are you okay?" The hero asked in concern, watching their lover wince slightly as they sat down in bed.
"I'm fine," the villain dismissed, but the hero knew them too well; they could hear the strain in their voice. The way they spoke without taking a full breath.
"What's wrong?" They questioned, completely ignoring the previous response as they closed the closet door and took a few steps forward.
The villain tensed slightly, but whether from pain or the fact of being caught lying, they weren't sure. "Nothing! Really hun, I'm fine-"
"You're hurt," the hero stated more than asked, noticing how one of the villain's hands was cradling their side slightly, "why are you lying to me?"
The villain let out a conceding sigh, shoulders deflating.
"It's just not a big deal; I didn't want to worry you, is all,"
"I'm more worried you won't just tell me the truth,"
The villain sighed again, fingers raking through their hair, watching as the hero moved closer, slowly climbing onto the other side of the bed. They approached as if rounding on a wounded animal, slow and trackable- unthreatening.
"I just ran into one of my old colleagues earlier; we aren't exactly on good terms. We got in a fight- which I won, by the way- but that doesn't mean he didn't get a good hit or two in,"
The hero climbed onto the villain's lap gently, hand resting on their chest as they gently pushed them back to lay down against the pillows. They looked down at them with terribly soft and knowing eyes, eyes that made the villain feel so many emotions. They felt completely exposed under that gaze.
"I know you've dealt with being in a lot of pain in the past, but don't suffer in silence when relief for the pain is standing right in front of you,"
They made it sound as though they were hurting due to the villain's injuries. They sounded desperate, pleading. To sound as such on someone else's behalf, on their behalf, made the villain's heart do flips.
The criminal could also feel the warmth around the hero's hand, not normal body heat, but the warm tingling of their healing magic. Yet, it didn't spread; it just hovered, as if waiting for permission.
The villain smiled softly, head thunking back onto the pillow in defeat, "That's not fair; I can never say no to your puppy eyes,"
The hero on top of them smiled back, eyes shining, "desperate times,"
Slowly, the warmth of the healing magic spread, tingling slightly across their torso making goose bumps rise across their skin. They could feel the pain in their muscles melt away. Moments later, their injuries were healed.
Their relief was near palpable. The villain had been numb to just how much pain they'd been in until it was suddenly gone. Their entire body relaxed, muscles aching from being tensed for so long. They sighed again for the hundredth time that night, looking up at the hero through half-lidded eyes, a soft smile on their lips, "thank you,"
The hero didn't respond verbally and instead opted to lean down and kiss the villain's forehead gently. They could practically feel the villain melt underneath them.
"Next time your hurt," the hero whispered once they pulled away, "please tell me, there's no reason for you to continue in pain when I'm right here,"
"I know..." the villain conceded quietly, sleep hitting them like a truck, "I'm sorry..."
The hero giggled slightly under their breath, "I forgot how sleepy my powers make you," they teased; they always seemed to forget about the sedative-like side effect of their abilities, "don't be sorry, just go to sleep,"
"Lay down with me?" The criminal asked meekly.
Berthe the Green Witch
Summary: Traditional witches and green witches don't always see eye to eye. With a life on the line, Berthe is very persuasive.
The egg timer in the window over the sink ticks busily. Berthe watches it from the table, her hands wrapped around a mug of fresh basil tea. She made the mug a few months ago with clay she refined from the creek running through the backside of her property and the basil is from her garden.
She sighs into her tea, eyes closing. The wind rattles her kitchen window, the oncoming storm announcing itself by throwing the first dropped leaves of fall against her house. The air is sweet and spiced - apples in her creaking oven covered in sugar and cinnamon.
She’s meant to answer letters today. They’re sitting on the other side of her crème table, the pile teetering. Notes asking for advice, missives from Councils she doesn’t remember joining, well wishes from former coven sisters who’ve gone on to build their own covens far away.
Her eyes open a moment before her besom - made from the twigs of her oldest apple tree - chatters against the wall and flings itself across the foyer.
“Oh,” she sighs, setting her mug aside, “there’s no reason to be so dramatic about it.”
The besom rolls over until it can tuck itself under her shoe bench.
Her doorbell chimes and, with a sigh, Berthe rises. She dislikes company on storm days, though she shouldn’t have expected any different. If Clayman visits her, he visits her on storm days. No exceptions.
Ring ring ring
Berthe falters, looking between the shadow behind her stained-glass door and the egg timer. Clayman hates being kept waiting, but her apples can be very delicate…
“One moment!” Berthe calls over her shoulder. She turns off the timer and bustles over to the oven. “I just need to pull something out of the oven!”
“Seriously?” Clayman’s voice is muffled by the door, but no less incredulous. “Berthe!” He knocks again.
Carefully, Berthe pulls the sheet pan from the oven. Red apples cut thin, laid in a spiral, with spices and sugar dusted over the top. A thin layer of puff pastry shows golden at the edges and she hums in pleasure. She loves when she gets the timing right.
Knock knock. “Berthe!”
She transfers the tart to her cooling rack and, after some consideration, moves her breadbox in front of it. Clayman’s gaze can be rather cold. She wouldn’t want all the warmth and care she’s put into her treat to go to waste.
Clayman is knocking constantly now, and muttering. Her wards don’t react so she knows it’s not a spell, but she frowns anyway. There he goes again. On someone else’s threshold no less!
She wipes her hands on her apron, dusting off flour and cinnamon, and opens the door.
Clayman is a scarecrow. She doesn’t think so because he’s tall and thin, though he’s both. It’s not because of his straw-colored hair, neatly combed away from his face and held in place with rosemary oil. It’s not even because of his coat, a long duster-like affair done in softened leather.
It’s because, as soon as she opens the door, the man is smiling. He is always smiling, his eyes mellow and shoulders loose, no matter his tone of voice. It’s as if the expression is painted on his face, forever fixed. She thinks that he’d cry smiling.
“Berthe,” Clayman says. He takes off his wide-brimmed hat and holds it to his chest. “May I come in?”
“Be welcome in my home,” Berthe says, stepping aside to let him in. He has to duck a little to avoid the dried rosemary she has hanging over her doorway. A full head shoulder, Berthe doesn’t need to show such consideration. “I have coffee brewing.”
Clayman hangs his hat on the hooks above her shoe bench. He knows she doesn’t drink coffee. Smiling, he asks, “And you still couldn’t come to the door any faster?”
The cuckoo clock upstairs crows in protest. Berthe shrugs. “I suppose not.”
“Hm,” Clayman says and follows her into the kitchen.
He’s able to keep any further needling to himself as Berthe clears him a spot at the table. She sets her daisy coaster down - to lighten his mood - before she places a steaming cup of coffee in front of him. His mug isn’t handmade. SHe got it on sale at the grocery store. It says Bright and Early on one side. On the other it reads Unfortunately.
Clayman drinks so the Unfortunately is pointed at Berthe. “Thank you for the hospitality.”
“My pleasure,” Berthe says. And it is. Under normal circumstances. Despite his prickliness, Clayman is a friend to her even when he denies it. But these are not normal circumstances. “There hasn’t been any improvement?”
“No.” Clayman accepts the sugar Berthe slides to him. He always insists on taking one sip without any sweetness. Then he dumps nearly half of the sugar in the tin into it. “Ms. Rayne is dying.”
Berthe presses a hand over her heart as if to soothe the sting. The Rayne family may not favor her magic, but they have always been kind to her. “I am so sad to hear that, Clayman.”
Clayman smiles, like always. But his aura is distinctly sluggish and tinged a faint blue. Rachel Rayne is his student. “As am I.” He breathes in deeply. “I got permission to have you see her.”
“Oh,” Berthe says. Then, when it sinks in, “Oh.”
The Raynes are a traditional witch family, despite having not produced one in two hundred years. They proudly trace their roots back to 16th century Italy. All of their beliefs and teachings come from grimoires older than their name and alchemical texts that have to be translated by scholars to be read.
Clayman, a traditional witch, is the man they go to for spells. They tolerate Berthe’s practice so long as she keeps her actual workings to her house and her orchard.
“I’ll get my bag,” Berthe says, standing. She feels like her eyes are spinning. She never thought she’d be invited. There are poultices and salves to make, herbs and petals to collect, wands and crystals to choose. She dives for the drawer closest to her and pulls out her favorite wooden spoon. “Do they have pine incense? Should I bring some pine incense?”
“You’re going?” Clayman asks. When she turns, he’s not smiling. His mouth is dropped open in shock. “After what they’ve said about your practice, I expected to have to convince you.”
This is why she doesn’t like traditional witchcraft. So many grudges! So many perceived debts! She’s never called Clayman her friend to his face. She thinks he’d combust.
“Of course I am,” she says waspishly. She dumps her spoon and several jars onto the table in front of him. “Check these to see if they’ll clash with the Rayne estate’s wards, will you? I need to run upstairs.”
Clayman is smiling. “Are you asking me to cast magic in your house? I always knew you were crazy, I didn’t think you were stupid.”
Berthe dashes upstairs without answering him. He may think her stupid for her trust in him, but she knows he’lol follow her orders anyway.
Berthe grins. Of course Clayman’s mug didn’t take kindly to his snide words. It has a tendency to heat up something awful whenever Berthe is insulted.
The Rayne Family Estate is massive. Situated on top of the only hill in town, the driveway winds through wild oaks and pines for a good half of a mile before reaching the house. The house looms over the town like a castle, white walls and slate roof and black curtains over the windows.
The woman waiting on the front steps is like the house. Severe and colorless with gray hair pinned securely under a white handkerchief, black blouse tucked into a long, black skirt. Her weathered hands are folded neatly in front of her and her dark eyes track Clayman’s car as he pulls up and parks.
“Hello!” Berthe hops out of the car, waving with one hand. The other is full of the apple tart she’d grabbed at the last minute. “I brought a tart!”
“Berthe,” Clayman says out of the side of his mouth. “Shut up.”
“It’s apple,” Berthe says.
“Berthe Steighart,” Mrs. Rayne says through thin lips. “We’ve been expecting you.”
“Yes,” Berthe says. Mrs. Rayne makes no move to accept the apple tart. Berthe shoves it on Clayman and bustles around to get her bag out of the trunk. “I suppose you’d like to get straight to the point then? Clayman’s already checked my things. Is Ms. Rayne upstairs?”
“There are rules in this house,” Mrs. Rayne says as if Berthe hadn’t spoken. “We believe in the pure magics, those that come from study and self-reflection. There will be no calling on - on beings while within these four walls.”
Berthe throws her bag over her shoulder. It’s an old carpetbag she forgot she had and she sneezes when a plume of dust puffs off of it. It’d been the only bag big enough for her things. “Beings? You mean gods? Or other? I don’t have a patron god currently, so that won’t be a problem!”
“Currently?” Clayman asks.
“Never close off future possibilities,” Berthe says. She weaves past him and squints up at the house. “Is that Ms. Rayne peering out the window up there? Hello, Ms. Rayne!” The young girl with hair as black as a raven’s wing ducks back behind the curtain. Berthe frowns. “She looks very pale.”
She is dying, Clayman said. It looks like he wasn’t exaggerating.
“What I am about to tell you is a Rayne family secret,” Mrs. Rayne says. She turns on her heel and, lifting her skirt slightly, climbs the stairs to the house. “It must never leave the walls of this home without our permission.”
Berthe follows the older woman into the house. It’s as austere as its owner. The foyer is minimalist, a dully patterned carpet running the length of the hall to the grand staircase. There are paintings of ancient witches and confusing landscapes of places that can’t possibly exist on earth.
“I will not intentionally reveal your secrets,” Berthe says. Mrs. Rayne is moving quickly without looking behind her. Berthe huffs and focuses on keeping her heavy bag from dragging along the carpet. She eyes the main staircase with some trepidation, but says nothing. She already gave Clayman the tart. She can’t give him her bag too. “I swear.”
With a sigh, Clayman plucks her bag from her hands. “I vouch for her, Madame.”
Madame? Berthe has to work very hard not to laugh at that. It’s 2022 and he’s calling his employer madame.
“Rachel has magic,” Mrs. Rayne says. She stops in the middle of the stairs to glance at Berthe pointedly. “Significant magic.”
“Oh,” Berthe says. That’s it? She knew that much since Clayman is Rachel’s teacher. Clayman told her so himself - oh. He wasn’t supposed to tell her. Something warms in Berthe’s chest. Maybe Clayman does see her as a friend after all if he’s sharing secrets with her. “Congratulations, Madame.” She shoots Clayman a warm look.
Clayman hisses. When Mrs. Rayne isn’t looking, he darts up the stairs so he can whisper in her ear. “It’s not what you think.”
Berthe grins and winks.
Clayman’s eye twitches. “It’s not—“
“We are very proud of Rachel,” Mrs. Rayne continues. She takes them down the right hall and past several busts of important looking ancestors. “Perhaps we were too zealous with her power. She’s been training since she was young in the ways of witchcraft.”
Berthe sobers. “How young?”
“I first became Rachel’s teacher when she was ten,” Clayman says. His voice is even more mild than usual when he says, “I am her third teacher.”
Ouch. Alchemists probably. Witches like Clayman at least know enough about magical cores to wait until they develop before testing them. Alchemists are always so barbaric about it.
Berthe can’t show her disapproval here. She hums. “She must be very accomplished then.”
“She is,” Mrs. Rayne says. There’s no pride in her voice. It’s a statement of fact. She stops in front of the door at the end of the hall, the one that overlooks the driveway. She looks down her nose at Berthe. “Or was. Two weeks ago, Rachel’s magic began to fail. Her core drained and never recovered. I am told that, when it empties completely, my daughter will die.”
Berthe looks at Clayman.
“I made the diagnosis,” Clayman says, smiling. His aura beats with guilt. “I have tried every healing spell I know, every restoration charm, every ward to catch her magic before it fades. Nothing has worked.”
“Several attempts slowed the progression,” Mrs. Rayne says. To Berthe’s surprise, she sounds like she’s consoling Clayman. She reaches around Berthe to pat him on the arm. “And we are thankful, Clayman. She’s been so happy since you became her teacher.”
Clayman nods stiffly. “I appreciate your words, Madame. And I am grateful you’re allowing me to bring in…unorthodox assistance.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Rayne says, eyeing Berthe’s apron and the flour that still stains it. “Well. Hardly any harm now, I think.”
She opens the door.
The smell of fading hits Berthe full force. Her eyes widen and she steps back into Clayman without meaning to, nearly knocking the apple tart from his hands. The room, like the rest of the house, is bare. A white carpet, black bookshelves, sheer white curtains around the bed and heavy black ones over the window.
The girl sitting in bed - Rachel Rayne - is too weak to sit up on her own. She leans back against a mountain of pillows. She has to be fourteen. Fifteen, maybe. Her gaunt cheeks make her look much, much older.
Berthe regains her footing. Blindly, she reaches out to grab Clayman’s forearm, eyes never leaving Rachel’s. “The apple tart.”
“Yes, and I have your bag,” Clayman says.
“Leave the bag,” Berthe says.
But Berthe is already slipping past Mrs. Rayne and towards Rachel. “Oh, my dear. How tangled you are!” She keeps her voice as soft as the breeze through the orchard. “You must be having dreadful dreams.”
Rachel’s black eyes widen. She doesn’t protest when Berthe takes one of her thin hands in both of hers. “I am. How did you…?”
“You must tell me all about them,” Berthe says. “Clayman, cut the tart, would you? We can talk and eat.”
“With what?” Clayman asks from behind her. There’s a thud as he sets her bag down.
“There’s a knife in my bag.”
Clayman chokes. “You want me to cut a tart with your athame ?!”
“Traditional witches,” Berthe tells Rachel, rolling her eyes. “Always so formal.”
“You know what’s wrong with my daughter?” Mrs. Rayne demands. She comes up beside Berthe, looming with her hands a knot in front of her. “You can fix her?”
“I can untangle her,” Berthe corrects. She smiles at Rachel and pets the back of her hand. She doesn’t think she imagined Rachel’s flinch when her mother used the word fix. “Now, your dreams. I’m sure you can tell me one while Clayman struggles with a very basic task.”
“It’s a ritual dagger, how am I—“
But his words are interrupted by Rachel.
Rachel’s eyes are glued to Berthe. Her voice is small and shaking and she speaks as if caught in a trance. “I dream I am underground. I am trapped there. I can hear Mom walking on the earth above me. She is calling for me. I try to call back, but there’s dirt in my mouth. I think I’m suffocating but it doesn’t hurt. But the more I try to call out, the colder I get. It’s a cold dream.”
Berthe feels the other two adults go still behind her. They’ve never heard about Rachel’s dreams. Why would they? Traditional witches like Clayman don’t divine in dreams. They have mirrors and flames and pools of water for that. She hums. “That must have been frightening.”
“Sometimes,” Rachel says, “I am in the sky. I think I must be a bird, but I don’t have any wings. I fly above the house and I can see it like a heart. When it beats, the streets in town glow an awful red.”
“Awful?” Berthe asks. She accepts the slice of tart from Clayman. The underside is crispy and still a little warm. She holds the tart to Rachel’s lips. “Try it! It has cinnamon.”
Rachel’s eyes are foggy. She’s still seeing her dreams and, like a doll, she follows Berthe’s command. When the taste of sugar and spice touches her tongue, she blinks. “That’s apple.”
“From my orchard,” Berthe says, chest swelling with pride. “It’s nice, yes? Seven apples from my seventh tree.”
Rachel’s gaze drifts from Berthe to the tart Clayman’s still cutting on her bedside table. She frowns. “There aren’t seven apples in that.”
“It’s the thought that counts,” Berthe says. It’s technically made with three apples, both of which she picked seventh at some point or another. She’s not bothered by technicalities, though she can see why Rachel is. Imagine having Clayman as a teacher! Or, worse, an alchemist. “Now, tell me. Why is the red awful?”
“I don’t know,” Rachel says. She furrows her brow and chews another bite of tart. Warmth is coming back to her face already. “I guess because it’s alive.”
Berthe hums. “Why is being alive awful?”
“Because it’s a town. It’s not supposed to be alive.”
“It—it just shouldn’t be.”
“Our town is laid out into a magical grid. Workings can’t be made with living things. So it can’t be alive.”
“Because— because it just can’t!” Rachel cries. “That’s not how magic works. There is no spell that can twist something living and if the town is alive then how is it a magical grid? So it’s awful because it’s not true.”
“But it is true,” Berthe says. She can feel Mrs. Rayne ready to protest so she speaks quickly. “What is life? We do not say that a dead bird is alive, do we? It’s dead.”
Rachel stutters. “Necromancy is taboo—“
“I’m not talking about necromancy,” Berthe says. She squeezes Rachel’s hand. “Every living thing has a body. When it is no long living, it is a body. So what is the living part of it?”
“The soul, but that’s—“
“There is an inert part of all of us,” Berthe says. “We do not know it because we are alive. We claim our bodies and our souls so completely that they become one. The town, however, is not alive in the same way. It has a soul but does not claim its body the way we do. It can’t. It exists simultaneously as a soul and also inert. So why can’t there be magic on its body? It is alive and it has working on it at the same time. Why can’t both be true?”
The silence in the room is loud. Berthe takes the opportunity to eat some of her slice of tart. She got the amount of clove just right.
“What does this have to do with my daughter being sick?” Mrs. Rayne is the first to break the silence. “Dreams and life and bodies— what does this nonsense mean to Rachel?”
“It’s not nonsense,” Berthe says. She sighs and sits back on her heels, not relinquishing her hold on Rachel’s hand. The girl’s skin is only just starting to feel warmer. “It’s magic. A different sort of magic to Clayman. Or, rather, the same but through another perspective.”
“Please,” Clayman says when Mrs. Rayne goes to protest again. “Madame, I understand your opinions on Berthe’s practice. I even share some of them. But she is a witch that I respect regardless and I would like to give her the chance to explain.”
He respects me?, Berthe thinks. But it makes sense in a way. He wouldn’t have come to her if he didn’t.
Mrs. Rayne thinks for a long moment, staring at her daughter. Her lips thin and her dark eyes flash as color comes back to Rachel’s cheeks. Finally she says, “Then explain.”
“Rachel,” Berthe says, “is a green witch.”
“No,” Clayman says immediately, before Mrs. Rayne can do more than scowl. He stands abruptly, his hands fisting at her sides. “No, her core is structured traditionally. I checked when I first came on as her teacher—“
“She was trained by alchemists,” Berthe says simply. Mildly. She smiles at Rachel. “They’re a little rigid, aren’t they?”
Rigid is an understatement. Berthe can imagine the torment Rachel went through, trying to force her young magic to conform to archaic arrays and clumsy runes. Her growing power has been stifled and gnarled by the crucible her studies forced it into.
Berthe herself has never been fond of traditional spellwork. She finds the ritual chants and offerings uncomfortable with the way they bend her magic. And Rachel’s been going through that before her core even fully developed.
No longer, Berthe thinks.
Rachel’s lip trembles. She darts a glance at her mom and then back to where Berthe’s hands are wrapped around hers. “Yes,” she whispers. “I—“
“There’s no such thing as green witchcraft,” Mrs. Rayne snaps. She looks like she wants to tear Berthe away from her daughter but, after a moment of hovering, paces away instead. She stalks from one side of the room to the other. “See, Clayman? This is why I didn’t want to call in this— this charlatan. Our family follows the sacred texts for a reason and I don’t want—“
“Charlatan,” Berthe repeats. She lets Rachel’s hand slide from hers so she can stand and face Mrs. Rayne. Berthe is patient. Berthe is not that patient. “Who are you to call me charlatan? It must be easy considering you have no power of your own to sense me with.”
Mrs. Rayne turns red with rage. “You insolent, horrible charlatan—“
Clayman slides between her and Mrs. Rayne, one hand up and warding. “Berthe, you can’t hold her to her words. Traditional witchcraft is rigid in nature. She means no harm—“
Berthe barks a humorless laugh. “No harm? Her daughter is dying from the strength of her beliefs! Why, no one would blame me if I were to spirit her away here and now.”
“Dying?” Rachel asks.
Berthe sucks in a breath, backing away so she can see everyone in the room. Rachel is already fading without Berthe’s magic, sinking back into her pillows. Mrs. Rayne’s lips are pressed into a thin line and Clayman’s smile looks robotic. “You didn’t tell her?” Berthe asks. She looks at the other witch in the room, the one who knows what a crime it is to withhold such information. “Clayman.”
“I didn’t think it was her core,” Clayman defends. He rubs a hand over his straw-colored hair. “I would have if I’d known. I thought it was a curse. Maybe a sickness I didn’t know of.”
He means he thought it was something irrecoverable. He thought it kinder to leave Rachel in the dark as her magic drained, her soul emptied, her body withered.
Traditional witches, Berthe thinks with carefully disguised disgust. Always seem to need an essay to know what’s in front of their face.
“You’re not going to die,” Berthe tells Rachel. She dusts her hands against her apron reflexively, the way she does when she’s finished kneading bread. She lifts her chin, daring Mrs. Rayne to contradict her. “You’re coming into your magic. All we need to do is untangle you before the new moon and you’ll be right as rain by the next full.”
“The new moon is tonight,” Rachel says.
Berthe blinks and then grins. “Oh! And there’s a storm tonight, how perfectly lovely. We can go to my orchard, it’s far enough from the city that the light pollution--”
“No!” Mrs. Rayne thrusts herself between Berthe and Rachel, holding out her hands as if about to throw a spell at Berthe. Her black eyes burn. “No, there will be no going anywhere! My daughter is sick. She needs rest not to go gallivanting about your orchard chanting made up spells and- and eating grass!”
“With all due respect,” Berthe says, “that’s exactly what’s going to happen.” She pauses. “Except for the eating grass part. Where on earth do you traditional witches get things like that?”
“Berthe,” Clayman says. He’s hovering beside Mrs. Rayne now, eyes nervously flicking from Berthe to Rachel and back. As always, he’s smiling. It is particularly ill fitting now. “You were invited here to help. Maybe if you explained a little more, we could come to an agreement on Rachel’s treatment.”
“No,” Mrs. Rayne says. “Clayman, that’s enough--”
“Madame,” Clayman says. His eyes don’t leave Berthe but he addresses Mrs. Rayne. “I beg you for a bit more of your understanding.”
Mrs. Rayne must trust Clayman an awful lot. She settles back on her heels with a huff, arms crossed tightly over her chest. “Very well.”
Berthe studies Clayman. There’s a faint sheen of sweat on his upper lip. He’s saying the right things for Mrs. Rayne. He doesn’t want her to panic and do something silly like attack Berthe. But he knows that there aren’t any other options. Rachel is a green witch.
They both know who has jurisdiction here.
Berthe sighs and props her chin in her hand. She cocks her head to one side and clicks her tongue. “What part of my explanation did you not understand, Mrs. Rayne? Perhaps it would be better to start there.”
Clayman covers his eyes with his hands. “Berthe…”
“The part where my daughter is anything but a Rayne,” Mrs. Rayne says. She gestures to Rachel. “She is a pureblooded Rayne! Her powers manifested in the traditional manner.”
“Telekinesis,” Mrs. Rayne says proudly. “She was two and lifted one of her toys into her crib.”
Of course the woman thinks the most common way to manifest is traditional. “That may be so,” Berthe says, “but the power of a child is pure. It doesn’t have a preference or a shape. That comes later or, in Rachel’s case, now. She is a Rayne, but her magic is green.”
“Green witchcraft isn’t--”
“Your daughter dreams,” Berthe interrupts, losing patience. Truthfully, she isn’t as kind as Clayman. She doesn’t understand why she needs to explain herself to a human. “She dreams she is in the soil, like a seed. Well, it’s time to sprout. She must sprout before the winter chill freezes the ground and she suffocates.”
Clayman’s smile is pinned in place. “Berthe--”
“Mrs. Rayne,” Berthe says, propping her fists on her hips. She glares at the older woman. “The matter is very simple. Your daughter is dying because of the teachings you enforced on her. That’s fine. You’re magicless and you thought you were making the right choice.”
“I may be magicless but my family’s power runs through--”
“BUT.” Berthe stomps her foot and Mrs. Rayne’s mouth slams shut. The older woman doesn’t have time to panic at the silencing spell before Berthe is continuing. “But, it’s not too late to undo what has been done. I will help your daughter untangle herself. It must be today. It must be tonight. Once we do, she will recover her strength and her magic will bloom fuller and deeper than it was before.”
Mrs. Rayne rubs at her throat frantically.
Clayman mutters under his breath, pulling and swishing his oak wand in one motion. With the sound of a bell, he breaks Berthe’s spell. He is not smiling now. “Berthe. I must ask you not to lay workings on my employer.”
Mrs. Rayne is shaking with rage. “You--you dare? I am Elizabeth Rayne, matriarch of the Rayne Family and Coven--”
“And I am Berthe Steighart,” Berthe snaps. “Arbitrator of the Light Council, mediator of the Dark and North American Representative of the Green Witches.” She glares at Clayman from her peripherals. “I do not need permission to silence a human, Clayman.”
Mrs. Rayne squawks. “Human--”
“Berthe,” Clayman says, “I invited you here. She is under my protection.”
Berthe breathes out through her nose. Clayman is brandishing his wand like he’ll actually fight her. What he’s saying makes sense though. Along with being rigid, traditional witches tend to be awfully noble. “She may be under your protection, Clayman, but her daughter is now under mine. I won’t allow a green witch to wilt in front of me.”
“I know,” Clayman says. He lowers his wand and rubs a hand over his face. “I know. No one is trying to stop you, Berthe. I am asking you to have sympathy. The Raynes are an established and well-respected family. Their magic has been dormant for so long that no one would’ve been able to anticipate it would resurface, much less as a green witch. Can you understand Mrs. Rayne’s denial? Admitting Rachel is a green witch is like admitting the Rayne Family’s traditional magic is dead.”
“Nobody,” Berthe says, throwing her hands into the air, “nobody is saying that Rachel can’t practice traditional magic anymore!”
“What?” Clayman asks.
Mrs. Rayne gapes. “Yes, you are! You’re saying my daughter is like you--”
“Her core is, yes,” Berthe says. She pinches the bridge of her nose. Her head is beginning to throb. “The death of a family’s magic, Clayman? Really?”
“Well,” Clayman says. He shifts his weight from foot to foot. “...isn’t it?”
Berthe wants to scream. Sometimes she forgets that Clayman, for all his power, is so young. Berthe was born onto her path. Clayman’s only been practicing for a decade. “Very, very few grimoires are specific to a certain magical core. The Rayne family’s grimoire is advanced, yes, but it’s broad. It’s not that the Rayne family has never had a green witch before. It’s that they’ve never had a witch with a strong enough affinity for it to matter.”
“Ah,” Clayman says. He clears his throat. “I may have misunderstood something.”
Berthe forces herself to calm down. “You’re a very powerful witch, Clayman. Your core is traditional, but that’s unusual. Traditional is usually a practice, not a state of being. Most witches tend towards green, light, dark, or deity magicks. I understand how you made a mistake when evaluating Rachel’s core - she had an unusual upbringing - but now you have the correct information. It’s time to help Rachel now.”
Clayman rubs the back of his neck. His smile creeps across his face. “You think I’m powerful?”
Berthe swats at him.
Berthe turns to Rachel. Oh dear, she nearly forgot the young lady was there. “Yes?”
Rachel grimaces as she adjusts herself against her pillows. “This untangling…will it cure me?”
“And I’ll be able to use my family’s grimoire after?”
Berthe pouts. “If you want to. But you have such a lovely green soul. I think you should--”
Rachel is already shaking her head. “I am a Rayne. I want to use my ancestor’s spells.”
Mrs. Rayne presses a hand to her chest. “Rachel.”
“Mom,” Rachel says. She reaches out a hand and sighs when her mother grabs hold. “I know it’s against what you believe. What I believe. But if it can help me, I want to do it.” She tries for a smile and ends up with another grimace. “If I’m going to rebuild our family’s coven, I need to be alive to do it.”
Berthe sucks her teeth. “Oh, that’s a good argument. I should have led with that.”
“Plant for brains,” Clayman mutters out of the side of his mouth.
Berthe slaps his shoulder.
Thunder rolls through the sky. There isn’t any rain - yet. Berthe stands between two of her oldest trees and tips back her head. She smells power in the air, lightning and rain and magic. She grins up into the night.
Berthe turns. Rachel wrings her hands together, eyes darting nervously from the shivering treetops to the stormclouds to Berthe. Behind her, Berthe’s house is well lit. There are two figures in the kitchen window peering anxiously out to them.
Rachel is dressed in a simple, linen gown. Her long, black hair is loose down her back and, in the dark, the stress of the past few weeks fades away. She looks young (as she should) and alive (as she should). Magic sparks in her aura as the thunder rumbles around them.
“The ground,” Rachel says. She looks down at her bare feet and wiggles her toes in the soil. There’s awe in her eyes when she looks back at Berthe. “The ground is breathing.”
Berthe grins. There is nothing better than a new witch learning to see. She holds out her hand. “Come on, Rachel. It’s starting.”
Lightning cracks the sky and Rachel takes Berthe’s hand.
Thanks for reading! It’s Halloween season which means there will be witches and horror on this blog for the foreseeable future!
Next week’s short story: Marigold Fletcher is a good witch. However, when her dark past comes knocking, her reputation is on the line.
You can read the story now on my Patreon (X) where I post all of my stories a week early!
Also thank you everyone who bought my anthology, Being Heroes, Being Villains (X) and to those who reviewed it! I’ll be making a post this weekend about the reviews which have been so kind :) Thank you!
Female y/n: *on her period*
Robin: hey are you okay?
Finney: of course she’s not okay. She’s on her period. 😒🙄
Robin: on what?- isnt that, that thing where females bleed out of there butt hole
Finney: no they bleed through-
Female y/n: WE BLEED OUT OF OUR PUSSIES NOW STFU AND LEAVE!
Long way home
Pairing: Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw x Reader
Warnings: Very cheesy 🧀 so I hope you're not lactose intolerant 😁
"You won't believe this, Bradley, but before we started dating, I used to walk alone all the time." You smiled as your boyfriend patiently waited for the end of your shift.
"I know, but that doesn't mean that you still have to do that." He smiled. "I'm here now." You blew him a kiss and handed the last receipt to the customer. As the last person left, Bradley started putting away the chairs and moped the floors. You stared at him and tried telling him that it's not necessary and that you could do it in the morning before your next shift, but he was unmoving, even though he hated moping the floors. He had you sit on the bar and together you laughed at the situation.
"Bradley, I'm serious. Please go back to the base, you have training in the morning." You said after giving him a kiss at the closed Hard Deck door.
"I can't in good conscience let you walk home alone in the dark." Bradley put a hand over his heart, making you roll your eyes and smile.
"I know a short-cut. I'll be home in 15 minutes. I'll even send you a text when I enter my house."
"How about we take the long way home and I sleep over?" He smirked at you.
"Lieutenant Bradshaw, did you just invite yourself over? You slapped his forearm in disbelief.
"I was waiting for you to invite me, but I'm getting restless." He paused for a second, blushing. "That being said, I would really like to make you breakfast." Bradley scratched the back of his head.
"Come on, wise guy, let's go home." You smiled, grabbing his hand, pulling him after you.
The walk home was much longer than the one you were used to, but it was still a pleasant night walk. You were used to just listen to waves crashing with the shore as you walked along the ocean, but this road was paved with a few street light illuminating the path. Walking along the houses you voiced your opinion on a few houses and you were more than tempted to just stop and stare at some of them.
Just before you were about to turn down the last big street, you let out a big yawn.
"Getting tired?" Bradley pulled you into a hug and as your hands went around his body, you sagged into him. Has he always smelled so good? So calming?
"Mhm. This 'long way home' after a full shift at the bar is really exhausting." You tried rubbing your eyes.
"Come in, I have an idea. This is the last big street before we come to your little street. So let's play a game. At each street light you have to give me a kiss." He smiled at you. "That way we'll walk a bit and then take a break."
"That actually sounds nice." You smiled back, but still pulled him back into the hug, ducking your head into the crook of his neck.
"Come on, baby. Let's get you home." Bradley laughed, your breath tickling him.
As you turned the corner, you came to an abrupt stop.
"What's the matter?"
"You planned this, didn't you?" You accused.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Your boyfriend smirked as he followed your eyes down the street. There were so many street lights. More than there were throughout the entire walk.
"Bradley." You lifted one of your eyebrows.
"Think of it like this. Each one of these street lights is a month that I haven't spent with you. A kiss I didn't get because I didn't know you."
God, your boyfriend was so cheesy. But adorably cheesy.
Grabbing his hand and turning to him while walking with your back to the street, you pulled him to the first street light and kissed him sweetly.
"One month / One kiss down." You turned to look at the street. "Ten thousand to go."
His brilliant idea of taking the long way home meant you entered your apartment almost 2 hours later. Giggling, you finally separated as your umpteenth attempt at finding your keys proved unsuccessful.
"So this is the place you so wanted to visit and I have been 'keeping' from you." You giggled as Bradley followed you into your cozy apartment. You were wondering whether he first went to the kitchen and checked the fridge just for show or he actually wanted to make breakfast for you.
"I can work with this." He smiled as he closed the fridge.
"You really just want to make breakfast for me?" You asked as you put your jacket and keys away.
"And that's it?"
"Everything else will come at its own time." He leaned on the dining table. "I'm not going to pressure you into something like that."
Making your way to him, you cupped his cheek. "Where have you been Bradley Bradshaw?"
"Searching for you." He smiled and kissed your palm.
Thank you for reading! 😊💙
The GIF belongs to the amazing creator! 🙏😊
I think I told everyone that I fell in love with Top Gun, I think it was suprising because I haven't see the first one before going into the new one 😅 but it's really not that hard to understand the references 🙈 Anyway the Lieutenants were all GORGEOUS and I now have too many drafts that are waiting to be written. But today I had a really tough day so this was my treat for myself 💙
Humans Are Feral: Part 2
Wow, I did not expect that last post to be received so well, and so fast. Thanks so much to all those who left awesome comments, reblogs and notes. And since it was received so well, I decided to go ahead and write the part two I’ve been thinking about since part one.
So, humans can vicious and absolutely feral at times. Our society often criticizes such behavior, referring to it as “acting like an animal.” And don’t get me started on how humans love to make themselves seem important by separating ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom whether from religious belief or simple egotism. But our animal instincts are still a part of us, even though they have been suppressed through hundreds of years of societal evolution. The biggest example of these primal instincts is the fight or flight response. This is one we commonly experience in day to day situations, however small they may seem. From situations like: being in a crowded room and feeling the urge to run because of overwhelming social anxiety. Or being at the in-laws and they make a rude comment, and you just want to snap back or run out of the house. But you suppress those feelings in order to appear “civilized/normal.” Just some tidbits on human psychology I think about a lot.
But that thing that I mostly think about is how we react in extremely stressful and dangerous situations. One’s in which we perceive are life-threatening. I have been put in a situation where I was nearly fighting for my life, and I remember the wildness I felt. There were no verbal thoughts in my head, nothing I remember being normal. All I could feel was this kind of fear-rage in which I was scared as hell, but also angry because I was scared. I remember the adrenaline and the realization that if I was going to die, I was going to fight with everything I had. Which, looking back, seems kind of strange. Many animals often give up if they realize they’re going to die. But humans don’t. Any kind of hope, any kind of need to fight and survive is all we need to keep going. We rarely just give up.
A ship of imperial soldiers of the Fiuldarian Empire had sighted the Star Chaser. All crew had done their best to push the ship to her point, trying to outrun the imperial flagship. But it was no use. Within a few ticks they had been flown down and anchored. But the soldiers never boarded, which scared Captain Din:ai. She stood in the control room before her holoscreens, staring with fear-blown eyes. The imperial ship never sent a communications, nor did it fire any weapons. She had no idea what was going to happen.
Until something did happen.
From the comm, Equaloi’s high-pitched screams shattered the tense silence. The feathered Unaga’o cried out something in their native tongue before a wet gargle cut his voice. His comm cut off, but not before a strange clicking and growl were heard. All in the room stood still, antenna, fur, and scaly plates twitching with anticipation. All eyes stared up at the Captain, awaiting her orders. Or reassurance. Something. But the tall Diralo stood as still as her crew, three-fingered hands balled tightly.
The comm went off again, making several in the room jump. This time heavy breathing sounded. “I just found Equaloi and Fir’nad.” Alex Risach, the only human among Din:ai’s crew. They sounded unnervingly calm, but there was something off about their voice. “They’re not…alive. And they’re all over the place.” Din’ai drew in a sharp breath, her breathing cavities in her chest whistling lowly. Two dead. But not from soldiers.
Din:ai pressed the receiver. “What do you mean by ‘all over the place’?”
“I mean,” Alex said. “That they are in pieces. Torn apart.” Alex’s next sentence made Din:ai’s blood grow cold. “Imperial soldiers did not do this.” Din:ai remained silent, thinking desperately about what to do. Her long kallocks of experience did not prepare her for this situation. Because as much as she wished to deny it, the last few minutes made it clear what was going on. Something was aboard the Star Chaser. And it was extremely dangerous.
“Risach, listen to me. You must make your way to the control room. Any crew you find must follow these same instructions. Whatever is aboard is extremely dangerous, and must not be approached until we know what it is. Do you copy?” There was silence on the other side. Din:ai grew tenser with every quiet second. “Risach, do you copy?”
A click of the comm. And an alien screeching. Angry words could be heard in a human language, one Din:ai did not recognize as a common tongue. Then a feral scream, one that had the scales along Din:ai’s back arching in terror. Every crew member listened in rapt attention, all trying to imagine what was going on behind the sounds.
Then Alex’s voice screaming above the commotion.
“GET SHIT ON MOTHERFUCKER!” A howling squeal followed. A click as the comm turned off. Another click as it turned back on. “On my way to the control room. I recommend all weapons off safety and for everyone to take cover. This thing is mean and ugly as sin.” Their heavy breathing didn’t hide the deep gruffness in their voice. Din:ai pushed away the observation. She could worry about deciphering human language tones later.
She reached under her command center, grabbing the firearm she had hidden earlier. All other crew in the room followed suit. Din:ai pulled up a hole map of the ship, centering in on Alex’s orange-dotted life signal. And the life signal following them. The label above the beeping red dot read ‘unknown’. Both signals were closing in on the command room’s eastern doorway. The giant Diralo captain signaled to all crew present to aim their weapons at the door.
“Anything non-human coming through that door gets shot, understood?” Nods and chirps of agreement. The room became quiet once more, the atmosphere thick with fear-scent. Then sounds could be heard beyond the door. A strange clicking-screeching drowned out everything. Din:ai jerked when banging sounded on the other side of the door. Alex’s voice muffled through the walls.
“OPEN IT!” Din:ai shouted. Yugi, a derumo juvenile who was closest to the door, hit the controls beside it. The door slide upward, exposing the dim hallway and the blood-covered human behind it. Alex sprinted through, turning to aim their weapon at the open doorway.
Then the creature appeared. All recoiled at the sight. Alex spoke true. It was immensely ugly. It resembled a Terran arachnid, long spindly legs supporting a large, hulking body that stood just above Alex’s height. But that is where similarities ended. It was covered in black chitinous armor, spiked and sharp. A pair of spindly arms with elongated claws sat beneath its head. It’s head swayed low, its mouth shaped like a five pointed star shape, teeth covering every flesh surface. Beady black eyes stared from its skull, reflecting the light beaming down. It screeched and charged toward Alex. The crew opened fire.
The gunfire seemed to stop it for a moment before it grew confident again. Because the barrage of bullets and energy weapons barely dented its thick black armor. The clawed arms beneath its head rose to protect its eyes from the oncoming assault.
The gunfire began to lessen as ammo was lost, and the creature noticed. With its head shielded, it approached through the fire storm. That’s when a cloud of fire billowed over it. It screeched and fell back. Alex stalked forward, their weapon drawn against their shoulder, and let loose another bout of streaming flame. The creature retreated, it’s clicks an incessant stream of fearfulness.
“I am so glad I grabbed my flamethrower instead!” Alex shouted. Many of the crew realized their weapons were not effective against the creature, backing under their respective shelters beneath command boards.
Alex’s weapon sputtered and lost its flame. A curse under their breath and they scrambled to reload. But they weren’t fast enough. The creature sprang forward in the moment of weakness and latched its jaws around Alex’s leg. Alex screamed as the beast tore into flesh, red blood spattering on the white floors. It but down and began dragging Alex away, swinging and throwing them around. Alex screamed and cursed in their human tongue, beating at the creature’s head with their weapon.
The weaponless crew could only watch as their human crew mate battled a seemingly hopeless war. Some had run to the western doors, opening them and running away into the depths of the ship.
Din:ai was of the few that stayed, aiming a nearly empty energy gun at the armored beast. She was horrified watching as Alex was tossed about. But what more surprised her was the continued struggle on Alex’s part. They didn’t stop. They continued to beat down upon the creature’s head, screaming and kicking with their free leg at any exposed hide. Even as more blood was lost they fought back.
And Din:ai felt some of her courage, if not shame, return watching the small human fight. She aimed her gun, locking onto the beast’s one exposed weakness: it’s eyes. The black beady things were covered with it’s strange claws, shielding itself from the onslaught of Alex’s flamethrower. The creature was snarling as it dragged Alex, but Alex was snarling back. Din:ai, waiting for an opening, watched as Alex dug the flamethrower beneath the creatures contorted claws, letting go and tearing at it face with their own hands. Their fingers tore wildly, landing on the creatures jaws, trying to part the cage of flesh and teeth latched to their leg. Alex was able to tear away one of the creature’s jaw flaps and pulling with all their strength, ripped it off. Din:ai’s eyes widened. The creature screamed, and Alex screamed back.
The pain the creature was experiencing caused it to lose focus. It’s claws dropped, exposing its eyes. Din:ai took the shot. The wet, electrical sound of an energy discharge into flesh was heard. The creature stopped screaming. Instead it contorted and struggled. Alex was dropped, rolling away and clutching their leg. The creature continued its death throes for a moment more, then its legs curled together and it slumped to the ground, becoming still.
When Din:ai was sure the creature was dead, she crawled down to Alex. The human was clinging to their leg, clutching the horrific wound still leaking blood. Din:ai leaned over them tearing of her clothing covering her torso. She went to move Alex’s hands, but the deep growl the human made caused her to freeze. Din:ai had never heard such sounds come from humans, nor did she know they could do such things. They sounded as ugly as the creature’s. She stared down at Alex.
“Please remove your hands. We need to stifle the bleeding.” Alex stared up at her with large eyes, the white around the brown irises strangely animalistic. Scared and wild. Their chest was heaving, breath loud and raspy. They growled again, baring their teeth in a ugly grimace, then exhaling and letting their hands drop. Din:ai surveyed the wound before wrapping it. The beast had torn the flesh away from the bone, the off-white color unnatural underneath the red flesh. Bits of skin and meat hung from the wound, held together by the thinnest of muscle sinew. It was terrible.
Din:ai wrapped it, ignoring the red blood collecting on her hands. She instead focused on Alex’s wellbeing. “You are extraordinary.” She said. “I always wondered why you humans are held in such high regard. You should not be alive after that beast had you in its jaws.”
Alex snorted. “I’m from Australia.” They grunted, grimacing in pain. “I’ve seen bigger fuckers than that thing. Dealt with worse than that thing.”
Din:ai did not doubt her colleague’s words.
Wow this was fun. This is the kind of stuff I like to write. Horror-thriller short stories with a little bit of badassery sprinkled in. Thank you again to everyone who bombarded my phone with notifications about how liked my first post was. That was wild. Brought me back to my Wattpad days. If anyone has any suggestions for future story prompts, I may or may not use it. I love writing about how humans can be stupid badasses, it brings in the serotonin. This blog might even become more sci-fi short stories with “humans are space orcs/Australians/insane” prompts. Dunno. lets see what happens.
How to Write a Believable World: A Guide to Worldbuilding
Let’s just get to it!
What Is Worldbuilding?
Worldbuilding is the part of the writing process that sets up where your story takes place
When you build a world, you include the landscape that your characters will inhabit, the tone of your story, its major preoccupations and themes, as well as the nature of its morality
Worldbuilding lays the groundwork for your characters to develop, providing the stage for where your creations will perform.
It’s okay if you can’t answer every question there is about your world, but setting down the basics will help you start writing and building.
What Is the Purpose of Worldbuilding?
The purpose of worldbuilding for writers is to give their story structure and somewhere real to live.
starting point should be to establish the rules and boundaries of your imaginary world and how everything exists within it
8 Tips to Guide Your Worldbuilding Process
Decide where to start. Whether it’s the language spoken by the inhabitants or the apocalyptic landscape, pick the aspect of the world you’re most excited about exploring and start there.
List the rules and laws. The inhabitants who live in this world you’ve created will have their own independent existence. What is their governing system? Who is in charge? Do they use magic in this world? If so, who can use it, and how powerful is it? Setting up boundaries helps create a more realistic world that functions like a real one.
Establish the type of world you want. Pick a genre. Is this a dystopian or fantasy novel (or both)? Does it take place in our Earth or is it an alternate earth? Knowing this will help figure out the tone and mood of your world.
Describe the environment. What’s the weather like? How does it affect the world or planet? Are there natural disasters? Are there extreme temperatures? What natural resources exist in this location? How do people use the land? Establishing the environment and how it impacts the life within it can be a useful detail in the creation of your world.
Define the culture. What do the inhabitants of this universe believe in? Is there religion? Is there a God? Do they have any sacred customs? What do they celebrate? Breathe life into the characters who populate this location by giving them a meaningful existence.
Define the language. How do the inhabitants communicate? Is there a common tongue? Are there any ‘bad words’ that are off-limits? Knowing what can and can not be said in your world can be an apt source for conflict.
Identify the history. What is the history of this place you’ve created? Have there been any world wars? Do the countries within your world have enemies? Are there rival races? Is there a sole antagonist? Providing the backstory for your world can give it an added dimension and make it feel more tangible.8. Use existing works to inspire. Revisit the works of successful authors to get inspiration. Never steal ideas, but review the work of other fiction writers to see how they answer the same worldbuilding questions within their own novel writing.
Use existing works to inspire. Revisit the works of successful authors to get inspiration. Never steal ideas, but review the work of other fiction writers to see how they answer the same worldbuilding questions within their own novel writing.
Somethings to Consider:
Diversity exists everywhere or maybe not
Magic and powers have limit, what are they?
Figure out the technology and it’s availability to the characters and environment
What’s the government system like? Or if there isn’t one — why?
How strict are the rules?
Are people treated equally?
Where do people get their food / water from?
Are there basic commodities: schools, hospitals, etc
Are there jobs? Can anyone work?
What’s transportation like? How isolated is your world?
These are just somethings to consider of course there are many but it’s up to you to decide how detailed you want it!
Please like, follow and reblog if you find these useful!