The second challenge prompt is getting a little more personal for extra practice with drawing on our own thoughts and emotions. I’m pleased that I managed to find a way to turn this into a fantasy story, rather than letting my fears drag everything down. I chose my fear of losing my cat (when you’re alone, the companionship of your pet becomes almost codependency) and turned it into a story about characters I haven’t thought about in years.
Prompt #2: Make a list of five things you’re afraid of happening to you. Then write a story in which one of them happens to your character.
The discussion about what to do about the hostile army now only separated from them by one rocky pass through the mountains was cut abruptly short when Veronica let out a shriek and fainted. Only her four comrades-in-arms moved, all rushing to her but not in time for her to hit the floor hard. Emelie knelt and whispered a prayer to her goddess, stroking Veronica’s forehead softly as she did so. To everyone’s concern, the noblewoman didn’t move. Emelie took Veronica’s hand in hers and closed her eyes, whispering a prayer to Silvanus for the soul of his druid.
It was then that the council chamber door opened, admitting Councillor Greggery Simms with a giggling harem girl on his arm. The blank look on his face told anyone who saw it that he had completely forgotten the meeting, despite the increased need for it since the Terpathi government had folded this morning. The harem girl hiccupped and hid behind the Councillor, who for his part covered his surprise with his usual look of disdain. His head turned left and then right looking for a scapegoat, and he found one in their fallen leader. “Has she finally had a heart attack and left me as her successor, or is she just having hysterics?” It was a good thing only those nearest the dwarf could make out what he growled in his deep bass, but the councillor seemed to take for granted that it was rude. “Well get your ladyship on her feet, fool, or get out of my way.”
A low cry from the kneeling healer this time brought eyes back to Veronica to see a red stain spread across her white blouse. That stalled even the rudeness of the drunken councillor for a moment, as he too stared at her. Emelie shook her head. “She’s not wounded. There’s nothing wrong with her!” she cried, looking at her companions for guidance. All of them shared the same stunned look that made her elaborate. “Her body is fine, I swear it! There’s no wound on her!” And there wasn’t, when she turned over the very edge of the noblewoman’s blouse. There was blood soaking the fabric, but none beneath it.
The next sound was the very audible gasp from the fallen woman, which made them relax until she started sobbing. Between sniffs and gasps for breath she sobbed a short phrase in Elvish, which she repeated. Emelie looked around, but most of the Elves had already headed for the border to bolster the defenses there. “Veronica, we don’t speak Elvish,” she murmured down at the woman. The sobbing changed, and while it was still in Elvish, the name Amael was only too familiar to all of them. “Oh no.”
“Is someone going to enlighten us?” snapped the councillor.
“The roc has been attacked,” snapped the dwarf. “We’re now at war, so you’d best go lock yourself back in yer rooms again.” The dwarf may not have been the most tactful, but he was now in charge in Veronica’s immediate absence. The council only had power in times of peace.
“Keep a civil tongue in your head or I’ll have it removed!” returned the man, including everyone present in his sneer. “All of this is just hysterics over a dead pet?”
A wave of a bloodstained hand knocked the man twenty feet through the air into the nearest wall with no small force. “Amael is not my pet, he is my heart,” the ruler spat, every word audible throughout the entire council chamber. The harem girl squeaked and fled. “You are dismissed, Simms, and I suggest you not show your face for at least a day or I may have it removed,” she parroted back at him as the healer helped her into the nearest seat. For the first time the man seemed to know where his limits were, for he too fled the chamber. “Emelie, please run to my room and get my amulet. They’re attempting to strike me by infecting Amael with their witchspawned poison. He won’t die of it while I live, but at the rate it’s building up in him…”
The healer fled.
Veronica coughed wetly, a sound that belied the healer’s insistence that the woman was hale, and leaned her head back against the high headrest. “Jormundr, send the city guard to the west walls, there’s a small strikeforce coming in hard and fast to finish the job.”
The dwarf nodded and left the room at a run of surprising speed for someone stout wearing full plate armor. The three other councillors exchanged looks and rose, casting concerned glances at the elven woman but leaving the room to go find themselves more useful tasks that didn’t involve the potential death of their liege lady.
When she coughed again she pulled out a handkerchief, and this time it was visibly streaked with blood that soaked the thin material in moments. “Very well,” she grumbled, beckoning the two remaining adventurers closer. “Before I pass out, you two need to help me. My amulet reflects the bond between myself and Amael. You must burn it until nothing remains but the agate stone. It’s not going to burn well.” She coughed into the reddening handkerchief again. “Place the stone here.” She clutched at her chest where the appearance of a bloody wound remained. “If it’s in time, I’ll live.”
The two men looked at one another. This was not their area of expertise, one being a spy and the other a gladiator, but the instructions were clear enough.
“Don’t use the fire here,” Veronica coughed out. “Enchanted ironwood… no. Take it to the forge. And please…” A fit of coughing erupted from her and both men stepped forward to catch her as she started to tumble from her seat. “Please…” she whispered, all the sound willing to leave her throat. “Run.” Her eyes widened at something neither could see, staring blankly past them. “Silvanus’ hairy balls…” And the noblewoman passed out.
A nervous laugh exited Marek, the slighter of the two men, an almost unconscious sound that reflected the craziness of the situation they now found themselves in. The fighter grunted, but even Gavin couldn’t find disapproval to heap on his friend when Veronica lay like one dead in their arms. “Move,” he decided after a moment, scooping up the slender woman and laying her bodily on the table. His roughened hands were gentle as he confirmed that she did have a pulse, but her breathing was so shallow it was almost hard to see.
The door banged open, making both men reach for weapons, but it was just the return of Emelie, panting her exhaustion. “Veronica, what do I–” Then the scene registered and she looked from one man to the other. “She’s not..?”
“She lives,” Gavin replied. “Barely. Do you have the amulet?”
Emelie raised it in response, so Marek seized it and bolted for the door.
Gavin took the time to tell the healer to watch Veronica, they’d be back, and then followed the nimble rogue out the door. The lighter man moved faster without weapons and armor to hinder him, so Gavin reached the forge after Marek had already thrown the amulet in the fire, but the blacksmith was in his face. “Hold, friend!” Gavin called out from across the yard, interrupting the conflict enough that Marek slid away from the burly dwarven smith.
“This misbegotten son of a–” the smith began.
“We’re under attack by the Ycht witches,” Gavin snapped, trying to keep the smith’s attention on himself while Marek reached for the bellows and began heaving on the handle, stoking the fire hotter.
“Why didn’ ye jus’ say so?” retorted the dwarf. He turned and shoved Marek out of the way. The smith’s movements were swift and sure, the fire glowing white hot. The dark spot of the amulet sat next to a melting sword blade, not seeming affected by the heat at all. The smith’s eyes widened, but he didn’t wait. “Toss me the darkwood-hilted dagger, there.” He pointed. Gavin grabbed it and lobbed it gently in the dwarf’s direction. The smith caught it easily and began muttering in dwarvish over the pommel, the polished darkwood gleaming by the light of the forge. The smith glowered. “Wha’ fool made this impervious bit o’ nonsense?”
The dwarf’s mustaches twitched at his error, but he returned his attention to the dagger in his hand. This time he thrust the blade straight into the coals, his hands seeming to not notice the heat. The smith pumped the bellows again and called out a single dwarvish word, the power of which knocked the dagger over straight into the hottest part of the fire. This time both dagger and amulet flared, the wood burning the way wood ought.
Gavin took up the handy pair of tongs and grasped the moss green stone from the coals, throwing it straight into the cold water trough. With a mighty hiss and green-tinted smoke, the agate cooled to a more normal temperature. “Get it back to Veronica,” he ordered Marek, who pulled it from the trough and took off at an all-out run once more. The fighter nodded at the smith, whom he’d not known capable of arcane feats the likes of which he’d just seen. “We’ll repay you what you’re owed, just send a message once all this is over.” Then he too ran back the way he’d come, hoping they had burnt the amulet in time to save their friend.
Emelie was holding Veronica down when he reached the council chamber, the elf tossing and turning, muttering in Elvish once more. The roc’s name was repeated, but when Marek tried to do as she’d asked, laying the stone on her breast, a seemingly random jarring movement sent it to the floor where it skittered toward the balcony. Both men raced after it, nearly cracking their skulls together in their haste. Gavin came up with it and turned back, grabbing her arm with his free hand so she couldn’t lash out again. Stone in his fist, he pressed it against her breastbone, holding her down with Emelie’s help.
Veronica’s tossing ceased, and she lay very still.
From the balcony, Marek’s voice cut through the sudden silence. “Gods above.”
Both Emelie and Gavin turned to see a large bird’s silhouette plummeting down. Despite the large shadow’s seeming closeness they knew the roc was quite distant, only the druid’s thrice-enchanted bond with it having informed them what was going on, or kept it alive for the minutes that it had lasted.
Gavin’s eyes didn’t leave the sight of the bird’s demise. “Is she…?”
Emelie moved, whispering prayers as she checked Veronica’s throat for a pulse. “I don’t– yes!”
The exclamation did not sound negative, so he turned to confirm that their friend was now breathing easily. “Thank the gods.”
“Thank you two,” Emelie replied quietly. “Give me ten minutes, I’ll have her on her feet.” This time she sounded quite sure of herself. “You may want to go help Jormundr with whatever defense he’s mounting. We’ll get through this.” Both men nodded and turned to make their way to the city walls at a much reduced pace.