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When the bells ring, the tidings are never good. Only on Sunday morning, when they call us to worship, are they not bad, and even then, when you get to chapel, there is often news of incursions elsewhere. Places where the darkness has crept closer.
When the bells ring, loud and clear on the winter air, I lock the door and shutter the windows, and put salt round the mirror. It is vanity makes me keep silvered glass in my house, so Martha tells me. If she knew I was a witch… But she doesn’t know, and unless the Fae break through in force, she won’t find out today. Then I run upstairs, to shutter my bedroom window, and lock my spell-safe. If a Fae ever got into that –
Before I shutter the window, I cautiously look out. The wall is smoking over by the graveyard, but the breach appears more towards the castle. Which means the knights will fight the Fae, not me. They hate me, the knights, even though they eat my bread and wear my woollens. I remind them too much of the time before the Fae, before the walls between the worlds was broken. Not my fault, I want to cry. My grandmother, my stepfather, not me! Not me!
But I could. If I wanted to. I may only have a sketchy knowledge of magic, but I could turn their iron to mercury and have it puddle at their feet. I could stop the hearts of their horses as they stand. I could. But I won’t. Because although the knights are bad, the Fae are worse.
And here comes one. As the light fails, and the shadows darken below, I see her. She has long fingernails to take out my eyes, and long hair to bind my soul to the underworld. If I am not careful, if I do not shutter these windows now and creep, quiet as a mouse, quiet as the darkness itself, to the spell-safe. Only there might I find safety.
For I recognised Calentha. She knows my soul is black, and why I belong to the Fae as much as I belong to humanity. She wants me. She would take me to the shore and spill my blood there, watch it smoking on the black sand before I died. And I cannot have that. For my child needs me still, half-Fae and half-human as he is, he needs me more than ever his father did. So the salted mirror and the sleep herbs, the iron shutters and nailed doors are to keep us both safe.
But I don’t know for how long.