So here we are! Week 1 of Writer in Motion. The week we get to share the messy, mucky, wonderful first drafts of our Writer in Motion projects! Kind of terrifying, ain’t it? The impostor syndrome is strong in me today.
As a reminder, the prompt was to write a story inspired by this photo:
So this image didn’t immediately grab me. The mountains are pretty, but I’m more of an ocean person, or perhaps a forest gal, as long as there are no bugs. And maybe there is a forest somewhere, down that hillside to the left, but everything also looks pretty dry. It also seems very isolated, and I’m a big introvert, so you might think that I’d welcome the isolation, but I also don’t drive, so this image really says one thing to me: trapped. Yes, the view is great but if I lived here, I could never leave. Which probably explains the title of my story, come to think of it. So, without further ado, I present the messy first draft of my Writer in Motion story:
High up in the hills, where the wildflowers bloomed and the grass grew tall and brown, lived a boxy little woman in a boxy little house. Her hair was grey like stone and dry as straw; she was short and had a pinched little face, like one of those high-strung dogs heiresses carry around in their bags. To look at her, was to immediately forget her; rather, to look at her was to overlook her, and for most of her life she had preferred it that way.
From appearance alone, you would never know she was the most powerful sorceress in seven worlds.
She’d have far comfier housing had she not been.
Not long ago, she had joined the band of rebels taking down a tyrannical king. Rumor had it, he practiced black magic; he’d certainly looked the part, with his flowing robes, pointed beard, and beetle-black brows.
Rumor, as it turned out, was wrong. Madam Sorceress could have told the rebels that much, had they bothered to ask. But as long as their money was good, and they thought they needed sorcery to defeat sorcery, she was willing to work on their side. She had brewed up such a potion, filled with frog livers and bat wings, the last breath of a dying outlaw and the first tear of an abandoned bride. In a vessel shaped like a dragon’s claw, she served it to the leader of the rebels. He grimaced at the smell, but gulped it down quickly, almost immediately vanishing from view.
This was not a potion of invisibility. The sorceress would never lower herself to use such as that. The potion did not only shield the rebel from view, it enveloped him in silence, and stole away his very scent. No dog would ever smell him, no guard so much as feel the breeze as he passed them by. Until he slit the king’s throat, there would be no evidence to any of the senses that the rebel leader had even passed by.
“Be careful,” the old sorceress had warned him. “Keep in mind both your purpose and your name. This is no mere hedge witch’s brew. Should your mind weaken, you will disappear completely, as if you never were.”
And so the rebel snuck into the tyrant’s palace, murmuring his name as he snuck past the guards and their dogs, up the stairs into the king’s bedchamber, where he made short work of the tyrant and slew the queen before she had even a moment to scream.
The dynasty was all but ended. The throne went to the rebel leader, who vowed to rule his people with fairness and respect.
Twas a week later the new king summoned the sorceress to his presence. She had expected as much, though she had already been paid. Lad wants to thank me in person, she told herself. Knows he’d never have won the throne were it not for me. So she dressed herself in her finest garments, mustering as much elegance as a squat old woman could, and stood before the king in the throne room.
Behind the throne stood an ominous figure, clad in dark robes, with his hood pulled down to shield his face. Now, you wanna see one what works in black magic, thought the sorceress, that’s him right there. But she did not look at the figure, nor at the large mirror that stood at the king’s right hand. Instead, she curtsied as best as she was able, arthritic joints and all, and tasted her doom as she met the young king’s eyes.
“Your Majesty,” she said.
The king inclined his head, and she noted again how young and handsome he was, but there was not a hint of warmth in his eyes. “I’m afraid,” he said, “you are far too dangerous to be allowed to stay.”
Tyrants may replace tyrants, the old sorceress thought, and a witch is nothing more than an old woman, easily tossed aside.“Well, what’d you summon me for, then?” It was meant to be a joke. No one laughed.
“Not in the palace,” said the young king. “In this very kingdom.”
“In this very world,” said the figure behind the throne. Its voice was dry, and creaked, worse than the sorceress’s old joints. D-d-d-death? she thought but pressed her lips together so it would not come out.
The young king tilted his head, a cruel smile on his handsome lips. “Did you really think we would only have one sorcerer on our side? Oh no. That’s much too dangerous. You’re much too dangerous, you and that spell. We needed a check . . . in case something went wrong.”
“Nothing went wrong,” the old woman snapped. “You got your throne, and I ain’t never asked for more than what was fair.”
“I know,” said the king. “Which is why you shall live. But not here.” And he gestured grandly at the mirror.
The sorceress peered at the mirror, scowling. “What am I supposed to be seeing?” The mirror did not reflect her surroundings. Instead, it showed a different land, hilly, with brown grass and wildflowers . . . and a tiny boxy house.
“Your new home,” said the king.
The old woman scrunched up her face. “It’s too tiny. Can’t nobody live in a place like that.”
“It does not have to be,” said the king. “Any sorcerer worth their salt could surely shape it to their needs.”
That wasn’t beyond her capabilities, it was true. She had raised palaces for third-born sons, made bridges appear overnight, just with a flick of her wand. “I suppose I can work with it, spruce up the place a bit . . .”
“Only on the inside.” The dark figure spoke again; this time his voice sounded like roaring flame. “This world is bereft of magic. All of yours is at your disposal—but only inside the house.”
The sorceress felt something rattle in her chest; her extremities suddenly went cold and dry. “I must live there. Alone. All the magic I ever had at my disposal, but I can never leave.”
The king’s face was a blank mask. “It is better than losing your life.”
The sorceress swallowed. There wasn’t much to say to that.
The dark figure came forward, reaching a hand to her back. The sorceress recoiled, wanting anything other than to feel that dreadful touch upon her skin. Breathing deep, she entered into the mirror, walking towards the little box, the house that seemed more a casket, more a prison than any home she’d ever known.
From that day forth, she lived in that tiny little box house, the greatest sorceress in seven worlds, now forgotten and ignored by eight. She charmed the interior so it wasn’t too unbearable to live in, and she practiced her magic, for something to do, and because she didn’t know who she was if not a sorceress. It was all she had ever been. And if the sorceress was not entirely happy, the king had been right; it was better than losing her life.
Until there came a knock on her door.