I had a dream that the king and the queen of a small country had a daughter. They needed a son, a first-born son, so in secret, without telling anyone of their child’s gender, they travelled to the nearby woods that were rumoured to house a witch.
They made a deal with that witch. They wanted a son, and they got one. A son, one made out of clay and wood, flexible enough to grow but sturdy enough to withstand its destined path, enchanted to look like a human child. The witch asked for only one thing, and that was for their daughter.
They left the girl readily.
The witch raised her as her own, and called her Thyme. The princess grew up unknowing of her heritage, grew up calling the witch Mama, and the witch did her very best to earn that title.
She was taught magic, and how to forage in the woods, how to build sturdy wooden structures and how to make the most delicious stews. The girl had a good life, and the witch was pleased.
The girl grew into a woman, and learned more and more powerful magics, grew stronger from hauling wood and stones and animals to cook, grew smarter as the witch taught her more.
She learned to deal with the people in the villages nearby, learned how to brew remedies and medicines and how to treat illness and injury, and learned how to tell when someone was lying.
Every time the pair went into town, the people would remark at just how similar Thyme was to her mother.
(Thyme does not know who and what she is. She does not know that she was born a princess, that she was sold. She only knows that one night after her mother read her a story about princesses and dragons, her mother had asked her if she ever wanted to be a princess.)
((Thyme only knows that she very quickly answered no. She likes being a witch, thank you very much, she likes the power that comes with it and the way that she can look at things and know their true nature.))
The witch starts preparing the ritual early, starts collecting the necessities in the winter so they can be ready by the fall equinox. Her daughter helps, and does not ask what this is for, just knows that it is important.
The witch looks at Thyme, both their hands raised into the air over a complicated array of plants, tended carefully to grow into a circle, and says, sorry.
Thyme wakes up in a clearing she recognizes well. Her mother is not there.
The house she had grown up in is a pile of logs on the ground, destroyed and broken and in disarray, and Thyme is afraid. She calls for her mother, once, twice, and then rolls up her sleeves and begins the trek towards town.
Her home is not here, she has neither her bow nor her knife, and if she means to figure out what happened she needs supplies. People are always in need of a witch, she knows, and her mother taught her long ago the value of a silver tongue.
She walks out of the woods, and the town is... different. Smaller. The mill she knew so fondly, that she used to climb in with the other children of the village, isn’t there.
There’s no indication it was ever there, and all at once, Thyme realizes what the ritual was for.
It was a time-spell, and now she is in the past. The house is in ruins because her mother has not repaired it yet, the mill is gone because it has not been built yet.
She is here, because...
She does not know.
And now, it is up to her to take care of herself.
She learns the date from the villagers, gets herself a room at the inn and a good hot meal in exchange for looking at the innkeeper’s son, who has been wracked with cough for weeks now, apparently.
His face is one Thyme knows, one that in her days were covered in wrinkles and laugh-lines, and as she goes back out into the woods to collect the herbs she needs to cure the boy, she thinks.
The boy will take the inn over from his father, and he will always welcome Thyme’s mother in with open arms for saving him when he was a child. Either the story had been wrong, or Thyme has already broken things.
Thyme does not know which one she fears more.
She waits in the village for a full turn of the moon for her mother to come. She knows that this is when she should have come in to town. She knows that she should show up here, any day.
The boy’s cough gets better and when it’s gone completely Thyme buys herself a knife at the blacksmith’s and returns to the woods, to the clearing she calls home. Hands on her hips, she surveys the once-cottage, and makes a plan.
The house takes a long time to build. She buys an axe, makes a bow, and sleeps under the stars while the house is very slowly built back up. Walls, roof, floors, and then a fireplace, big and wide enough to fit a cauldron, built from special bluestone she hauls from a nearby hill one lump at a time, all the better to brew inside.
Mama, she thinks wryly, you better be grateful for this.
She hunts for herself, mostly, snares rabbits and shoots down deer, strips them of their skin, treats it and leaves the fur out to dry. They’ll be good blankets, a good winter cloak, someday. She knows what plants she can eat, what plants will be good, and she survives. She builds.
She does not tell the villagers her name, and they know her only as “the witch.”
Thyme eventually stops waiting for her mother. She watches herself in the mirror, and aches at how much they look the same. How much she’s turning out like her mother.
She helps the villagers, occasionally travels further to heal illnesses in other villages, but mostly stays to herself, in the woods, collecting books and herbs and the house grows more and more as she remembers it. Her hair, that used to be so dark, raven’s hair, her mother would say, braiding it back for her before she learned to do it herself, gets shot through with white and goes grey.
There’s wrinkles on her face that didn’t used to be there.
Thyme stops waiting, and becomes the witch of the these woods.
The King and Queen of these lands show up at her door, and they are holding a baby girl.
Please, they say, We need a son. Give us a son.
And Thyme, who now has a scar on her cheek from a branch whipping at her too fast to avoid, who knows that her mother had had the same scar, looks at the baby, meets her eyes, and knows that they are her eyes.
I’ll give you a son, Thyme tells them, as if through a trance, but the cost will be your daughter.
They agree, as she knew they would, and she makes a boy out of clay and wood and she remembers learning how to make constructs like these with her mother, she breaths life into it and sends it off with the King and Queen and she holds their baby in her arms.
Black hair. Dark eyes. A quiet baby, who looks up at her with a solemness that Thyme’s not entirely sure babies are supposed to have.
Hello, little one, Thyme says, holds out her finger for the baby to grasp, feels her voice crack down the centre like a burnt-out log when the infant holds her finger in her chubby little hand.
She’s a princess. This baby is a princess, and this baby is her, and her mother has never existed. She knows all these things now, but the thing that she knows most strongly is that she will protect this child, and not only because this child is her.
(It is alright to be selfish, Thyme, she remembers her mother telling her, it is alright to take things for yourself. You do not need to give yourself away, remember that.)
She has to build a crib and cradle for the baby, and until it’s finished, until she knows that the birchwood and blanket is as comfortable as it can be, she sleeps with the baby -- with Thyme, her name will be Thyme, and she smiles as she thinks it -- on her chest.
She goes into the village, walking through the woods as baby Thyme looks at the trees and the plants with wide eyes, brings her to a farmer who has raised three girls, knocks at her door, and says, help me.
The witch doesn’t know how to care for a child, and she is going to learn. She must learn.
The farmer helps her gladly, something in her eyes that tells the witch that she misses having children, that however much she loves her girls, grown and adventurous, sun-browned and strong from working the fields with her mother, she misses caring for an infant.
She learns how to make formula out of goat’s milk, how to burp the baby, how to change and wash her. She learns how to tell why the baby might be crying -- even though baby Thyme rarely cries, prefers to watch the world with her big, dark eyes -- and how to fix what might be wrong.
She sits with the farmer as Thyme plays with a doll carved from a cow’s bone, and learns how to thresh wheat.
The farmer never asks where the baby came from, but does remark how alike they look, that Thyme looks just like her mother, and the witch smiles at that.
Thyme seems to grow quickly, learning to crawl, and then to toddle around while hanging off the furniture, and the witch cries at Thyme’s first, unsteady and unsupported steps, even as she builds high shelves into the rafters of her home so that Thyme won’t end up eating things she shouldn’t.
The witch takes Thyme into the village more and more, first in a bag tucked up close against her chest, and when Thyme grows more, holding her hand as she runs through the woods as fast as her little legs will carry her. Every time Thyme runs off to bring back a flower, the witch feels a surge of fondness she refuses to suppress.
The mill is built, and the witch watches as Thyme runs off to play with the other village kids, brave and fearless and so, so curious.
She teaches Thyme her first charm when the girl is eight, and Thyme takes to the craft like she takes to memorizing the names and uses of plants, like she takes to a bow and knife, like she takes to books, exactly as the witch knew she would.
Sometimes, the witch hates the lie she’s made Thyme into. She agonizes over it, over she should tell the girl her true parentage, should spill this secret like a cut bag of wheat, but--
She does not want Thyme to know that she was traded away so easily. She does not want Thyme to know that to her birth parents, she was worthless.
She asks, though. Asks, do you want to be like the girls in the books? a princess? and is warmed to the core when Thyme answers no.
Yes, the witch had known what she had answered. Yes, the witch knows that Thyme loves her life, her studies, the woods, her home.
(Yes, the witch knows that Thyme loves her mother, because the witch loved her mother. She knows this, and still, she asks.)
The witch teaches Thyme how to make constructs, how to animate them, is proud beyond words when on her fifth try, casting over a wood skeleton covered in clay, the shape of a rabbit, the thing shivers to life, and hops over to push it’s nose into Thyme’s outstreached hands, the girl beaming so brightly that the witch thinks the woods might be glowing with it. The rabbit-construct is lumpy, and uneven, it’s movements slow and unnatural, and she has not yet taught Thyme how to cast the illusion spell onto it that will make it look real, and alive, but Thyme looks so happy that the witch nearly, nearly, forgets her guilt at the purpose of this spell.
Thyme grows, first into a teen, skinny and narrow from how she had shot taller like a willow tree, bony and sharp and lean, and into a woman, growing broad from good food and hard work, takes to hiking into the woods for days at a time with only her knife and her bow and a pouch of herbs, returns home with wild hair the witch combs out for her as Thyme tells her of her adventures.
It matters not that the witch knows all of these stories, knows them because she lived them herself, when she was a girl. She listens to her daughter, dragging the comb through her tangled hair, asks about the falls she found, the cliffs, the animals, the herbs, makes sure that Thyme knows that she will be listened to, that she deserves to be listened to. She listens, because she knows that no matter how much Thyme loves going on these adventures, she also loves coming home, and sharing in these simple, cozy moments.
Winter comes. With the cold comes a grief, a guilt, that weighs heavy on the witch’s heart. She begins preparing for the ritual, for the time-spell that will send her daughter backwards and into loneliness and into the position to save herself from what her true parents would force her to become, backwards to learn the truth, backwards to become her.
She knows why she must do this. She has scryed on her construct, the prince, the soon-to-be-king, every moon since she sent him away and took herself in his place. She sees what he has grown into, she sees what the power has done to him, she sees and she knows that she and her daughter would have suffered greatly in that role. She sees him make hard choices.
She sees him go to war.
She sees the illusion she cast over branch and clay bleed. She sees him, bandages around his torso, arm hanging awkwardly by his side, leave the castle, and wade into the lake outside of it’s walls. She sees the clay in the lakebed melt towards him, heal the wounds, make him fit to wield a sword the very next day.
She does not want that. She does not want that for her daughter.
It is alright to be selfish, Thyme, she remembers her mother saying to her, remembers saying to her Thyme, bleeding for others is a gift. It is valued, but it is up to you to give it.
Spring comes. Reedy plants are tended into a circle. Summer comes. Fires are burned over the dirt, ash mixed with soil. Fall comes. The heart of a boar is buried under the circle, placed to rest with gentle words. The witch and her daughter, Thyme and Thyme, stand together, hands raised, looking at each other.
The witch whispers, I’m sorry.
And her daughter disappears.
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Story Structures for your Next WIP
hello, hello. this post will be mostly for my notes. this is something I need in to be reminded of for my business, but it can also be very useful and beneficial for you guys as well.
everything in life has structure and storytelling is no different, so let’s dive right in :)
First off let’s just review what a story structure is :
a story is the backbone of the story, the skeleton if you will. It hold the entire story together.
the structure in which you choose your story will effectively determine how you create drama and depending on the structure you choose it should help you align your story and sequence it with the conflict, climax, and resolution.
1. Freytag's Pyramid
this first story structure i will be talking about was named after 19th century German novelist and playwright.
it is a five point structure that is based off classical Greek tragedies such as Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripedes.
Freytag's Pyramid structure consists of:
Introduction: the status quo has been established and an inciting incident occurs.
Rise or rising action: the protagonist will search and try to achieve their goal, heightening the stakes,
Climax: the protagonist can no longer go back, the point of no return if you will.
Return or fall: after the climax of the story, tension builds and the story inevitably heads towards...
Catastrophe: the main character has reached their lowest point and their greatest fears have come into fruition.
this structure is used less and less nowadays in modern storytelling mainly due to readers lack of appetite for tragic narratives.
2. The Hero's Journey
the hero's journey is a very well known and popular form of storytelling.
it is very popular in modern stories such as Star Wars, and movies in the MCU.
although the hero's journey was inspired by Joseph Campbell's concept, a Disney executive Christopher Vogler has created a simplified version:
The Ordinary World: The hero's everyday routine and life is established.
The Call of Adventure: the inciting incident.
Refusal of the Call: the hero / protagonist is hesitant or reluctant to take on the challenges.
Meeting the Mentor: the hero meets someone who will help them and prepare them for the dangers ahead.
Crossing the First Threshold: first steps out of the comfort zone are taken.
Tests, Allie, Enemies: new challenges occur, and maybe new friends or enemies.
Approach to the Inmost Cave: hero approaches goal.
The Ordeal: the hero faces their biggest challenge.
Reward (Seizing the Sword): the hero manages to get ahold of what they were after.
The Road Back: they realize that their goal was not the final hurdle, but may have actually caused a bigger problem than before.
Resurrection: a final challenge, testing them on everything they've learned.
Return with the Elixir: after succeeding they return to their old life.
the hero's journey can be applied to any genre of fiction.
3. Three Act Structure:
this structure splits the story into the 'beginning, middle and end' but with in-depth components for each act.
Act 1: Setup:
exposition: the status quo or the ordinary life is established.
inciting incident: an event sets the whole story into motion.
plot point one: the main character decided to take on the challenge head on and she crosses the threshold and the story is now progressing forward.
Act 2: Confrontation:
rising action: the stakes are clearer and the hero has started to become familiar with the new world and begins to encounter enemies, allies and tests.
midpoint: an event that derails the protagonists mission.
plot point two: the hero is tested and fails, and begins to doubt themselves.
Act 3: Resolution:
pre-climax: the hero must chose between acting or failing.
climax: they fights against the antagonist or danger one last time, but will they succeed?
Denouement: loose ends are tied up and the reader discovers the consequences of the climax, and return to ordinary life.
4. Dan Harmon's Story Circle
it surprised me to know the creator of Rick and Morty had their own variation of Campbell's hero's journey.
the benefit of Harmon's approach is that is focuses on the main character's arc.
it makes sense that he has such a successful structure, after all the show has multiple seasons, five or six seasons? i don't know not a fan of the show.
the character is in their comfort zone: also known as the status quo or ordinary life.
they want something: this is a longing and it can be brought forth by an inciting incident.
the character enters and unfamiliar situation: they must take action and do something new to pursue what they want.
adapt to it: of course there are challenges, there is struggle and begin to succeed.
they get what they want: often a false victory.
a heavy price is paid: a realization of what they wanted isn't what they needed.
back to the good old ways: they return to their familiar situation yet with a new truth.
having changed: was it for the better or worse?
i might actually make a operate post going more in depth about dan harmon's story circle.
5. Fichtean Curve:
the fichtean curve places the main character in a series of obstacles in order to achieve their goal.
this structure encourages writers to write a story packed with tension and mini-crises to keep the reader engaged.
The Rising Action
the story must start with an inciting indecent.
then a series of crisis arise.
there are often four crises.
2. The Climax:
3. Falling Action
this type of story telling structure goes very well with flash-back structured story as well as in theatre.
6. Save the Cat Beat Sheet:
this is another variation of a three act structure created by screenwriter Blake Snyder, and is praised widely by champion storytellers.
Structure for Save the Cat is as follows: (the numbers in the brackets are for the number of pages required, assuming you're writing a 110 page screenplay)
Opening Image : The first shot of the film. If you’re starting a novel, this would be an opening paragraph or scene that sucks readers into the world of your story.
Set-up [1-10]. Establishing the ‘ordinary world’ of your protagonist. What does he want? What is he missing out on?
Theme Stated . During the setup, hint at what your story is really about — the truth that your protagonist will discover by the end.
Catalyst . The inciting incident!
Debate [12-25]. The hero refuses the call to adventure. He tries to avoid the conflict before they are forced into action.
Break into Two . The protagonist makes an active choice and the journey begins in earnest.
B Story . A subplot kicks in. Often romantic in nature, the protagonist’s subplot should serve to highlight the theme.
The Promise of the Premise [30-55]. Often called the ‘fun and games’ stage, this is usually a highly entertaining section where the writer delivers the goods. If you promised an exciting detective story, we’d see the detective in action. If you promised a goofy story of people falling in love, let’s go on some charmingly awkward dates.
Midpoint . A plot twist occurs that ups the stakes and makes the hero’s goal harder to achieve — or makes them focus on a new, more important goal.
Bad Guys Close In [55-75]. The tension ratchets up. The hero’s obstacles become greater, his plan falls apart, and he is on the back foot.
All is Lost . The hero hits rock bottom. He loses everything he’s gained so far, and things are looking bleak. The hero is overpowered by the villain; a mentor dies; our lovebirds have an argument and break up.
Dark Night of the Soul [75-85-ish]. Having just lost everything, the hero shambles around the city in a minor-key musical montage before discovering some “new information” that reveals exactly what he needs to do if he wants to take another crack at success. (This new information is often delivered through the B-Story)
Break into Three . Armed with this new information, our protagonist decides to try once more!
Finale [85-110]. The hero confronts the antagonist or whatever the source of the primary conflict is. The truth that eluded him at the start of the story (established in step three and accentuated by the B Story) is now clear, allowing him to resolve their story.
Final Image . A final moment or scene that crystallizes how the character has changed. It’s a reflection, in some way, of the opening image.
(all information regarding the save the cat beat sheet was copy and pasted directly from reedsy!)
7. Seven Point Story Structure:
this structure encourages writers to start with the at the end, with the resolution, and work their way back to the starting point.
this structure is about dramatic changes from beginning to end
The Hook. Draw readers in by explaining the protagonist’s current situation. Their state of being at the beginning of the novel should be in direct contrast to what it will be at the end of the novel.
Plot Point 1. Whether it’s a person, an idea, an inciting incident, or something else — there should be a "Call to Adventure" of sorts that sets the narrative and character development in motion.
Pinch Point 1. Things can’t be all sunshine and roses for your protagonist. Something should go wrong here that applies pressure to the main character, forcing them to step up and solve the problem.
Midpoint. A “Turning Point” wherein the main character changes from a passive force to an active force in the story. Whatever the narrative’s main conflict is, the protagonist decides to start meeting it head-on.
Pinch Point 2. The second pinch point involves another blow to the protagonist — things go even more awry than they did during the first pinch point. This might involve the passing of a mentor, the failure of a plan, the reveal of a traitor, etc.
Plot Point 2. After the calamity of Pinch Point 2, the protagonist learns that they’ve actually had the key to solving the conflict the whole time.
Resolution. The story’s primary conflict is resolved — and the character goes through the final bit of development necessary to transform them from who they were at the start of the novel.
(all information regarding the seven point story structure was copy and pasted directly from reedsy!)
i decided to fit all of them in one post instead of making it a two part post.
i hope you all enjoy this post and feel free to comment or reblog which structure you use the most, or if you have your own you prefer to use! please share with me!
if you find this useful feel free to reblog on instagram and tag me at perpetualstories
Follow my tumblr and instagram for more writing and grammar tips and more!
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The Witch Who Spoke to the Wind
Sequel to Eindred and the Witch
In which Severin, the golden eyed witch, learns that his greatest enemy and truest love is fated to kill him.
Dealing in prophecies is a dubious work. Anyone who knows anything will tell you as much.
“Think of all of time as a grand tapestry,” his great-grandmother had said, elbow deep in scalding water. Her hands were tomato red, and Severin watched with wide golden eyes as she kneaded and stretched pale curds in the basin. “You might be so privileged to understand a single weave, but unless you go following all surrounding threads, and the threads around those threads, and so on - which, mind you, no human can do - you’ll never understand the picture.”
Severin, who was ten years old and had never seen a grand tapestry, looked at the cheese in the basin and asked if his great-grandmother could make the analogy about that instead.
“No,” she replied. “Time is a tapestry. Cheese is just cheese.”
And that was that.
By fifteen, Severin who was all arms, legs, and untamable black hair, decided he hated prophecies more than anything in the world. He occupied himself instead with long walks atop the white bluffs well beyond his family’s home. Outside, he could look at birds, and talk to the wind, and not think about the terrible prophecy which followed him like a shadow.
His second eldest sister had revealed it - accidentally, of course. Severin lived in a warm and bustling house with his great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, two aunts, and three sisters. All of whom were generously gifted in the art of foretelling (a messy business, each would say if asked), and every one of them had seen Severin’s same bleak thread.
He would die. Willingly stabbed through the heart by his greatest enemy and truest love.
Willingly. That was the worst part, he thought.
Severin, who had no talent in the way of prophecies, but plenty of talent in the realm of wind and sky, marched along the well-worn trail, static sparking around his fingertips as the brackish sea breeze nipped consolingly at his face and hair.
I will protect you if you ask me to, it blustered, and Severin was comforted.
He didn’t care who this foretold stranger was. When this enemy-lover appeared, Severin would ask the wind to pick them up and take them far, far away. Far enough that they could never harm him. The wind whistled in agreement. And so it was settled.
At seventeen, he was still all arms and legs, though his eldest sister had managed to tame his hair with a respectably sharp pair of shears. The wind, who had delighted in playing with his wild, tangled locks, did not thank her for it. Severin did thank her; in fact, he’d asked her to do it. He was of the opinion that his newly shorn hair made him look older - more sophisticated. And he left his family home with a new cloak draping his shoulders and a knotted wooden walking stick in hand, thinking himself very nearly a man. He was far from it, of course. But there was no telling him that.
He set out on a clear, cool morning to find his own way in the world, and was prepared to thoroughly deal with anyone who so much as dared to act ever so slightly in the manner of enemy or lover.
He discovered, soon enough, that this was not a practical attitude to take when venturing into the world. Severin spent his first months away from home making little in the way of friends and plenty in the way of thoroughly baffled enemies.
When you meet his gaze, you’ll know, the wind chided as it whisked in and out of his hood.
“His?” Severin said aloud, lifting a single dark brow. “Do you know something I don’t?”
The wind whistled noncommittally in answer.
The wind did know something, as it turned out. At twenty, Severin stood on the warm, sun-loved planks of a dock. As gulls cried overhead, he pressed his fingers to his lips. The young sailor had touched his lips to Severin’s in a swift, carefree kiss before departing on the sea. And though the feeling was pleasant enough, Severin knew that his enemy-lover was not on the great ship cleaving a path through the cerulean waves.
“When I meet his gaze, I’ll know,” Severin said, golden eyes sweeping the horizon. The seaward breeze blustered in such agreement that the gulls overhead cried out in alarm.
What will you do? The wind asked, delighting in whipping the gulls into a proper frenzy.
“Get rid of him, of course,” Severin replied.
What if you don’t want to?
Severin thought that was the stupidest question he’d ever heard. “He’s going to stab me through the heart. Why in the world wouldn’t I want to get rid of him?”
People are foolish, the wind answered, shrugging the nearby sails.
“Not me.” Severin leaned on his stick and looked out at the sea. “I won’t let anyone get away with stabbing my heart.”
When he was twenty-two, Severin knelt at the bedside of a withered, wilting woman. She was a stranger, but the town’s herb witch was away, and Severin happened to be passing through. Though his true strength would always remain with the wind and the sky, the youngest of Severin’s two aunts had a special way with plants, and she’d taught him a fair bit about the many healing properties of the region’s hardy, windblown flora.
He boiled water, adding the few herbs he carried to make a rejuvenating tea. He helped the woman drink, his hand supporting her head and fingers tangling in her sweat drenched hair. After, he pressed a cool cloth to her head, and in the half dark room, she murmured, sharing delirious fears that she would accidentally speak cruel dying words and lay a curse upon him.
Kindly stroking her forehead, Severin assured her that he was not afraid of curses. Even uttered by the dying, a true curse was rarer than the superstitious soldier’s and barbarians liked to believe. Besides, she wasn’t going to die. Severin, who’d seen just enough of the world to have a taste of wisdom, was certain he could save her.
She died within the day.
Whether her condition had been beyond help, or Severin lacked the skills to twist the herbs to his bidding, he would never know. The wind rustled reassurances through the sparsely-leaved trees, but Severin was beyond consolation. Clouds gathered on the horizon, and by nightfall, great branches of lightning crackled across the sky.
He spent the next year and a half in the wilds. Beneath the jubilant light of the sun, he collected plants, acquainting himself with the earth. And beneath the soft, watchful light of the moon, he whispered to the wind and dared to wonder at the shape of his enemy-lover’s face. He could never seem to summon the slightest picture in his mind. Though it really didn’t matter, he supposed. Their eyes would meet, and Severin would know. And then he’d use all of the power at his disposal to send his enemy-lover away.
During this time, Severin sometimes saw bands of barbaric warriors crossing the plains. He kept his distance, but he doubted any of them were interested in either recruiting or killing a scrawny young man in a worn woolen cloak. Few he encountered ever suspected he had any great abilities, and Severin certainly didn’t go out of his way to advertise the fact that he could command the wind and sky when he wished. The barbaric companies had their eyes on more obviously lucrative targets, anyway. A handful of city states which spread across the great peninsula were openly at war with the barbaric tribes from the north.
It was when Severin was returning from his self-imposed isolation that he had his first real encounter with war. He held his sturdy walking stick in hand and carried a bursting bag of herbs, poultices, and leather-bound journals over his shoulder. Severin was so surprised by the sudden, brutal clash of metal and the primal cries that erupted nearby that he halted where he stood. His curiosity both outweighed and outlasted his fear, and after a minute or two of tense consideration, he pressed cautiously onward in the direction of the noise.
By the time he arrived, the battle was done.
It had surely been an ugly, bloody affair, if the splayed out bodies of the city soldiers and barbaric warriors were anything to judge it by. Holding a hand over his mouth, Severin gingerly navigated the carnage and valiantly resisted the impulse to be sick right there in the field. He was nearly on the other side of it when movement caught his eye. Squinting, almost afraid to look, he glanced from the corners of his eyes, sure that it was some grotesque remnant of warfare which awaited him.
Instead, it was a man.
Just a man.
The movement Severin had spotted was the rise and fall of his chest.
Only after turning a careful look around the terrible and silent battlefield did Severin approach the fallen man.
The barbarian’s eyes were closed and his pale brows drew together, as if reflecting pain. His face would probably have been handsome in a rough, simple sort of way if it weren’t smeared in dirt and blood. His light hair, braided and pulled away from his face, was bloodied as well, and Severin frowned at the sorry state of him. After a second wary look around, he knelt with a sigh.
The barbarian’s leather vest was cut, and his thick, scarred arms had earned several new slices as well. Severin, who had more than enough herbs and poultices on hand, reluctantly tore his only spare shirt into bandages. Within the hour the stranger was fully bandaged and muttering in fever addled sleep.
“Don’t worry,” Severin murmured, knotting the last makeshift bandage. “I’ve learned enough from the plants and trees to save you from both fever and infection.”
Behind closed lids, the barbarian’s eyes flitted anxiously to and fro and he mumbled something that sounded like no. Nose wrinkling, Severin leaned in. He heard the sleeping barbarian say, his voice low and cracking, “The curses will take me.”
Severin frowned down at him, unimpressed. “No they won’t,” he snapped, and yanked the bandage tighter.
The barbarian silenced then, and Severin stared at him a moment longer, pursing his lips in consternation. It wasn’t that he minded using his supplies to heal a stranger. But a part of him worried that healing a warrior made Severin responsible for whatever slaughter he resumed when he rose.
Severin abhorred warfare. It was such a terrible waste. But he supposed there was no helping what he’d already done. The barbarian was already on his way to recovery, and Severin certainly wasn’t going to murder him in his sleep. He reached out, intending to test the temperature at the man’s temple, but no sooner had Severin’s fingers touched his overheated skin than the world bled around him. In its place: a vision.
Shock echoed through him, because he was not like the women in his family, able to see phantoms in time. He’d always simply played with the air. The vision dancing before his gaze, however, didn’t seem to care.
Like droplets of ink spreading in water, a prism of colors twisted, threading together into nearly tangible shapes. From the chaos, rose a blond child holding a knit sheep. He was ruddy cheeked and pouting up at his mother. Then ink and water swirled and the images collapsed and shifted. Hulking shadows loomed over the child. The mother wailed her grief. The formless ink shivered, morphing from one scene to the next, nearly too quickly to follow, and Severin was swallowed up in it, overrun and overwhelmed by violence, blood, and pain. Beneath his fingers, Severin felt the movement of shifting, slipping thread.
Just as abruptly as it had started, the vision ceased. Severin’s knees ached where they pressed against the dirt and the barbarian’s skin beneath his hand was no longer overheated. How long had he been within the vision’s grasp, he wondered?
As Severin shifted back, the barbarian groaned. Severin watched as the man’s eyelids fluttered - and at once, the air turned heavy, as if the wind had drawn and held an anticipatory breath.
Dread flooded Severin and he rushed to stand. The barbarian had not yet opened his eyes, and Severin knew with a terrible nameless certainty that he must not be here when this man awoke. Severin could still feel those elusive, unknowable threads beneath his fingers, and his hands shook as he rose. Awakened by his urgency, the wind roared, lending him speed as he fled the clearing.
By the time the barbarian cracked open a single, world weary eye, Severin was long gone, heart still safely beating in his chest.
Severin endeavored to forget about the barbarian. He convinced himself that the vision had been the hallucination of an overexerted body, and that the sensation of inexorably moving threads beneath his fingers was nothing more than a flight of fancy. Severin did not think about how the threads had felt - certain and unyielding - beneath his fragile, very mortal hands. If he did, he feared he might ask the wind to whisk him away from the world altogether, and that, surely, was no way to live.
In a deep, secret place, however, Severin suspected the reason he was granted such a vision was because the stranger’s thread was woven perilously close to his own. Because of this, he set upon an easterly road, endeavoring to put a healthy distance between himself and the pale barbarian.
After nearly a month of travel, he arrived in a small village which sat nestled in foothills, tucked beneath the shadows of great mountains which stood like sentinels above. Severin hadn’t intended to stay, but when it was discovered he had some skill with plants and medicine, the villagers eagerly led him to a hut some distance from the village. It was empty, they explained, and had been for some years. A healing woman had occupied it, some years back, before she’d passed on. The villagers had been saving it, hoping the space would be enough to entice a new healer to make their isolated village a home.
Severin had nowhere else to go, and he supposed a distant, mountain village was as good a place as any to avoid a blade to the heart.
Two years passed, and Severin settled into his little hut. He spent his mornings taking long walks around the surrounding lands, collecting herbs and specimens. Returning home, he’d throw open the windows to allow his friend the wind a brief but wild rampage through the hut. With the air freshened, Severin spread plants across his square dining table and sorted them into jars to be sealed, dried, or preserved in vinegar. His neighbors in the village visited frequently, just as often for his company as for his medicines, and Severin delighted in visiting the town on market days and making the streamers dance in the wind for the children. Evenings were spent in his rocking chair, with a book in his lap and his feet pressed near to the low fire in the hearth.
He was happy, and hardly thought of the barbarian he’d found bleeding in the dirt. That is, until fate caught up with him.
One day, when he was foraging for moss on the hillside behind his hut, Severin felt the whisper-soft touch of thread against his palm. He sat upright at once, and turning and craning his neck, he absently rubbed his palms against his robes.
A company marched into the village. From up on Severin’s hill, they appeared a swarm of ants overtaking the miniature thatched roof homes. The slipping, shivering feeling beneath Severin’s palm intensified, and he stood. His heart drummed a frantic beat against his ribs, and Severin felt with a terrible certainty that fate, like a hunting hound on the scent, had sniffed him out at last.
When Severin called out, begging the wind’s help, it rushed to him, howling atop the hill.
I am here. I am here.
Cradled in the gale, he begged the wind to take him and hide him away, so that the tapestry’s relentless threads might cease dragging him toward the one he never wished to meet.
So be it, the wind said. If that is truly what you wish, I will take you and hide you away forever.
In that moment, nearly caught as he was, Severin was willing to do anything to avoid meeting this man who would kill him - until the screams rose from the pastures in the valley beneath his hut. Severin’s heartbeat was in his throat, on his very tongue, as he held up a hand to stay the wind.
“Just a moment,” he murmured, and turned bright, pained eyes toward the village. The terrified screams of his neighbors pierced him as surely as any blade, and with a mournful twist of his fingers, he bade the wind disperse.
By the time he reached in the pastures, the shepherd, the blacksmith, and Helvia’s two sons lay dead. At the sight of his friend’s bodies, grief and rage stirred within Severin, and the wind, always nearby to him, trembled in sympathy. Gaze sweeping the warriors, he marked the five whose weapons were stained red. Severin was not violent by nature, but if he was to die this day, he resolved to remove from the earth at least these five men, who with bloodied blades, uncaringly spoke of feasting upon the village’s few precious sheep.
When the warriors turned and finally noticed Severin, he lifted his chin and prayed his voice did not betray his fear. “These are simple people. They have little in way of money or goods. It wasn’t for nothing that the shepherd, blacksmith, and teenagers died. They need these sheep. And I cannot allow you to take them.”
The men glanced at one another, eyes filling with a cruel sort of mirth. They laughed at him, and Severin steeled himself for what must come next. He was friends with the wind, but to call down the heavens was an entirely more serious matter. And he’d never done it. At least, not like this.
Severin turned his palms up and glared at the heavens, daring them to refuse him now when he needed them most.
For a long, terrible moment, nothing happened.
And then, the skies erupted.
He had never felt pure, visceral power in such a way, and as it whined and crackled, Severin, with splayed fingers, used all of his strength to tear the lightning from its home in the sky. It rained upon the warriors, screaming in wild, untamable fury. Severin watched the men cry out in agony, and he felt horror and satisfaction in equal measure.
When a single figure broke from the group, agile enough to evade the lightning and charge across the field, Severin could only look on in exhausted realization. It was the pale barbarian. The man from the battlefield. The child in the vision.
The barbarian charged like a beast, his thickly braided hair bouncing. His brows were drawn down in focus and his lips poised on the precipice of a snarl. It was with a hopeless sense of finality that Severin met the stranger’s gaze.
He met eyes of icy gray, the color of hazy, snow capped mountains in winter, and Severin knew, he knew with a certainty that was sunken into his bones and twisted in his marrow, that this barbarian was the shadow which had haunted him. And he knew, more than anything, the crude blade in the man’s scarred-knuckle hand was fate’s exclamation point at the end of Severin’s ephemeral existence.
Watching as the barbarian pivoted, drawing back his blade, Severin only wished he understood why the women in his family had persisted in calling this man Severin’s truest love. If this was love, the man had a spectacularly terrible way of showing it.
Time slowed to a crawl, and sunlight flashed, reflecting off the blade. As the jagged edge touched the fabric of Severin’s robe, the wind whispered at his ear. Let me show you a piece of the picture.
The wind around him froze, and so too did the world.
Look up, said the wind, a rustle within his ear.
The complexly woven image was shaped by currents in the air - all but invisible to any whose eyes are untrained to look for them. But Severin had a born understanding of the wind and sky, and when he looked up, he saw bits and pieces of an impossibly complex tapestry.
He saw scarred knuckles gently shaping wood. A small child that sat upon broad shoulders. Rocking chairs placed side by side before a glowing fire. Warm hands enveloping his own. Safety. Home.
It was...everything, and Severin’s heart ached with a strange and complex longing for a future that surely could never be.
It’s not impossible, the wind whispered. But the threads will have to tangle and untangle just perfectly so.
“How?” Severin asked, and wondered if he was a fool to feel so desperate a pull towards this life glimpsed in impressions and half images.
The warrior must weep and repent. And a curse must come to fruition.
“And if these things do not happen?”
Then your soul will fade from the earth.
Severin felt torn in two.
The blade has not yet struck your heart, the wind murmured, kind and conspiratorial. There is time still for me to secret you away. I could pull your thread from the tapestry altogether.
“But there would be no hope for that life,” Severin said with a last wistful glance at the scattered mosaic above.
No, none, the wind agreed.
“Okay,” Severin whispered, “okay.” And it felt terrifyingly like surrender.
The wind stirred, and a breeze like a kiss tousled his dark hair.
The blade struck.
It was an intense pressure and then swift, vibrantly blooming pain. Severin wavered on his feet, and looked up. For the second time, he met the warrior’s gaze. And Severin saw and understood that there was no malice in those wintry eyes. Not even frustration or anger. But, instead, an exhaustion deeper than Severin could conceive.
When Severin toppled backward, it was concerning to realize he could no longer feel the grass beneath his body. The man knelt down, and Severin blinked tiredly up at him.
It seemed as though the man were waiting for something. Severin’s slipping mind struggled to think of what - until he recalled the dying woman and her talk of curses. And hadn’t the barbarian said something about curses when he was fever addled and hurt? What had the wind said? Severin was struggling to remember. As his life trickled away in red rivulets which stained the grass and soil, he thought of the boy in the vision - lost and afraid. And he thought of the man he’d become, kneeling stonily over him.
And Severin knew exactly which words should be his last.
Swallowing, he mustered the strength to whisper, “-my hut…it’s just past…the next hill over. In it, I keep medicines and herbs. For the villagers. And travelers who pass.”
For the barbarian would have to stay if he were ever to show remorse. He couldn’t very well continue going about fighting and murdering his way across the peninsula. Which brought Severin to his final words. It took all of his remaining strength to lift his hand. When he reached out, the barbarian startled, as though he expected more lightning to spring forth from Severin’s fingers. But Severin merely tapped his chest and smiled. “May you live a life of safety and peace.”
It was a fitting curse, he thought, feeling particularly clever. And there, on the field, surrounded by sheep, Severin’s heart stuttered and stopped.
It was an abrupt, slipping sensation, like losing your footing on iced over earth. Raw existence rushed around Severin, and he was battered and blown about, like a banner torn loose in the storm. This continued for a dizzying moment, or perhaps a dizzying eternity - Severin really had no way of knowing which. But it stopped when a familiar presence surged around him, blowing and blustering until the wild chaos of existence was forced to let him be.
The wind could not protect him forever, Severin knew, and so he focused his energies until, like a wind sprite, he swirled about the hillside. Below him, he saw the barbarian, his great head bent. Severin, as incorporeal as a breeze, could not resist blustering over the barbarian’s shoulder and observing himself, limp and pitiful in death. Whipping around, he beheld the barbarian - because surely this sight would bring him at least to the verge of tears.
The barbarian frowned down at Severin’s body and rubbed a scarred hand over the patches of stubble on his chin. And then he rose with a great sigh and set off down the hillside, away from Severin and the village.
Severin, who was nothing more than wind and spirit, watched him and despaired. He could do nothing more than whip and howl through the hills as his murderer left him without a backward glance.
Severin did not follow after the barbarian. What good would it do? In this form, it wasn’t as though Severin could speak to him. And if he was doomed to fade and dissolve from existence, he would much rather do so here in the hills he loved than in some strange land trailing after an even stranger man. The wind kept him company, at least, and Severin spent his days whistling through the black, porous stones at the base of the mountains and blowing bits of dandelions across wild tufts of grass.
One day, long after Severin had begun to feel more spread out and thin than was entirely comfortable, the wind rushed to him, carrying with it the scent of dust and dirt and faraway lands.
The barbarian had returned.
Severin was an icy breeze that whipped around the edges of town, and he watched with cool distrust as the man trudged through the streets. His shoulders were slumped and his blond head was turned down. He looked utterly defeated, and any sympathy Severin might have felt was eclipsed by petty spite. He didn’t hold any of the pettiness against himself, though. He was dead, and therefore felt he’d earned at least a little pettiness.
When the barbarian crossed the field, stopping to stand before the place where Severin had fallen, Severin swirled around him, newly curious. The man didn’t look grief stricken, but his face was difficult to read. There were dark shadows beneath his eyes and lines of exhaustion around his mouth. Mostly, Severin thought he just looked tired.
When the man approached Severin’s home after having ignored the invitation for months, Severin had a second moment of pettiness and whipped the wind up on the other side of the door, sealing it closed as the barbarian tried to open it. Only when the man shoved it with his great, muscled shoulder did Severin retreat, allowing the door to swing open.
It was with a strange sort of melancholy that he watched the barbarian’s silver gaze sweep over the room. The man looked first at the damp, unkempt hearth before slowly making his way across the room. He glanced from Severin’s well-loved walking stick to the bookshelf built into the wall. He fumblingly ran the backs of his fingers along the spines of the books, as if he was unlearned in the ways of a gentle touch.
Severin was still very much put out about the whole being dead business, but as he watched the barbarian’s almost reverent inspection, he unthinkingly twisted the air in the room, drawing out the cold and pulling in a bit of sun warmed breeze.
By the second day, the man was sitting in Severin’s chair. Severin stewed, swatting at floating dust by the window as his killer rocked to and fro in Severin’s favorite seat. Later, the barbarian stood, stretching his strong arms overhead and twisted his back experimentally. Brows lifting in pleasant surprise, he gave the chair an appreciative pat.
By the third day, Severin had no more dust to swat about. The barbarian had rolled up his ragged sleeves and set about scrubbing every inch of Severin’s little hut. When the hulking man worked open the stiff windows, the wind rushed in, delighting in whipping about the space once more.
He’s done a better job of cleaning than you ever did, the wind sang, slipping once more outside.
He was dead and that meant the wind had to be nice, and Severin told it as much. It’s reply was a soft rustling of chimes that hung from the house’s eaves, and the sound was almost like laughter.
Days passed, and the man began reading Severin’s books. This was probably the most surprising development yet, in Severin’s opinion. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought the large, scarred warrior capable of reading, just - well, he hadn’t thought the large, scarred warrior capable of reading particularly well. But the man seemed to be doing just fine, and sat in Severin’s rocking chair, putting a far greater strain on the sturdy wood than Severin ever had, as he thumbed carefully through the book’s smooth pages.
When little Mykela took ill, Severin knew it well before anyone else. He’d taken a spin through town and as he rode the wintry wind past where she played in the yard, he’d felt the rattle of air in her lungs. But at this point, Severin was little more than a memory on the breeze, and though his worry was agony, he could do absolutely nothing. He spent the rest of the day roaring about the mountain peaks, sending snow flurries spilling down the far side of the cliffs.
Two days later, Severin was idly observing the barbarian, watching the crease between his brows twitch as he slept, when a great pounding broke out against the door. The barbarian rose at once, and Severin watched him cast a brief glance at the walking stick before turning instead to the candle on a nearby shelf. With warm light cupped in his palm, the barbarian approached the door.
When Dormund, Mykela’s father, entered the hut, carrying a limp mound of blankets, Severin felt a spike of icy terror. As the barbarian poked and prodded the fire, Severin carefully stirred the wind to better feed the flames. Severin would have shouted instructions, had he lungs to shout, but the barbarian already had two jars in hand. He held them up, looking a little lost, before he hurried to the bookshelf and selected a thick book. Muttering under his breath, he flipped hurriedly through pages until he found what he was looking for. And then he was kneeling before the pot of water he’d set over the fire, and Severin watched as he scooped careful measurements of Severin’s dried herbs into the roiling water.
Mykela was saved, and as the barbarian sent the girl and her father off with a bag of herbs, it occurred to Severin that he wished to know the barbarian’s name. He wouldn’t learn it until two days later, when Old Cara arrived at the hut, seeking the barbarian’s help for her arthritic knee. After supplying her with the appropriate poultice, the barbarian helped her to the door, and looking up, she patted his shoulder and asked him his name.
Eindred, was his answer.
Severin wished he had lips to test the shape of the name.
Months passed, and was easier now to watch Eindred move about Severin’s hut. In fact, Severin had even begun to enjoy riding the soft breeze from the windows as it wafted around Eindred’s shoulders, curiously observing whatever small thing he happened to, at any given time, be doing with his hands. One day, Severin was surprised to find Eindred’s hands at work, deliberately whittling the curved back of a rocking chair. When the chair was done, Eindred set it carefully, almost reverently beside the first. At the sight, Severin had a bright, nearly overwhelming flash of recognition, and he thought of the image the wind had shown him - of the rocking chairs before a warm, crackling fire.
Severin was fading, he could feel it. To hope was to court a greater disappointment than Severin could rightly comprehend, and yet - he watched Eindred set out with Severin’s walking stick to join the festival, and saw when Mykela took his hand. The barbarian’s stony expression softened, then melted as the girl tugged him after her.
It was the strangest of sensations, because while Severin didn’t strictly have a heart these days, watching the great Eindred meekly follow little Mykela made something in Severin’s incorporeal being ache with unexpected warmth.
Whatsmore, Eindred had been reading Severin’s journals and he would sometimes stop and stare about the hut, as if trying to picture the ghost of Severin’s life there. Once, Eindred draped a thick blanket over the back of one of the rocking chairs and ran his rough hands over it as he frowned contemplatively into the fire.
Summer had come and gone and Severin feared that parts of his soul had already begun to slip into that other-place. And so, with a tender sort of weariness, he drifted on the sunbeams cutting through the clean window glass, and watched with only mild annoyance as Eindred carefully tore a blank page from one of Severin’s journals.
Lips pressing together in focus, Eindred wrote in with small, precise letters, what appeared to be a list.
Confused, Severin drifted closer.
May your every loved one die screaming in pain.
I hope you die with your eyes stabbed out and your heart in your hands.
You will never know happiness.
Your existence will be suffering.
It was a list of curses, Severin realized. Morbid curses, by the looks of it. The last two, however, caught his attention.
May your greatest enemy rise from the grave and never leave you alone.
May you live a life of safety and peace.
And Severin understood.
When Eindred set out from the hut, looking drawn but resolved, Severin began at once to gather his energy. It had been nearly a year since his death, and he feared that there might not be enough of him left to make a return. The second to last curse would help things along, but Severin knew it would be a mistake to rely on it.
And so, as Eindred entered the village, Severin stretched upward and out, calling wind and storm clouds with reckless, hopeful abandon. For his entire life, Severin had lived, certain in the knowledge that love and happiness were not meant for one such as he. How could they be? When a blade was foretold to make a home in his heart?
But Eindred had changed. And the patchwork pieces of tapestry were there, a life Severin had never dared to dream of, right there - if he could only summon the strength to reach out and grasp it.
Below, Eindred bowed his head before the townsfolk, confessing his part in the tragedy which played out on their soil. Above, Severin swallowed the skies and became the storm.
Severin felt it, distantly below, when the people in the village forgave Eindred. And he felt when Eindred’s bittersweet tears tickled the earth. He felt Eindred return to the hut, and then after pacing restlessly about, return at last to the pastures where it had all begun.
And then came Eindred’s pained voice, calling out from the fields below. “Severin!”
Eindred had never said his name before, and Severin, who was the clouds and the wind and the rain and the sky, rumbled his joy at the sound of it.
“It was my hand which ended your life,” Eindred continued. His deep voice was shaking. “And with your dying breath you gifted what I thought was a nightmare. Did you know that it would turn out to be a dream? I think you did.”
Just wait, Severin wanted to tell him, because he’d seen a future better still. The only question that remained was whether he had strength enough to reach it.
Rugged face upturned, Eindred called to Severin and the sky, which were one and the same. “Though it’s a dream, I’ll never know peace. How can I? When I live in the home of the one I so coldly murdered? I would leave, but the villagers have my heart - as they had yours. In this state, I don’t think I’ll ever truly know true rest or true peace - despite the great power of your curse.”
You will, Severin said, and lightning streaked across the sky. I will.
“Even now,” Eindred said, through wind and rain, “I’m not sure if you are my greatest enemy or ally.”
There it was.
His greatest enemy.
Severin, with every ounce of power he possessed, claimed the title. For he was the greatest enemy the old Eindred, warrior and killer, had faced. With his parting curse, Severin had forced the old Eindred to do the one thing he’d feared most of all: to live and face all he’d done.
Severin felt a rushing, coursing energy thrumming within and without and he knew that he must catch it and hold it, though he wasn’t sure how.
The tapestry threads, the wind whispered. Severin had spread so thin, his old friend was nearly a part of him now.
Severin listened, and felt for that thread which had teased and tickled his palm. And when he was sure he felt it, he wrapped himself around it and pulled. The sky around him screamed as he dragged himself forward toward something - something -
White light was all around him, and then it wasn’t. The air was cool and damp, and the evening sang with the wind’s gleeful gusts and the soft patter of rain on grass. Severin lifted a hand, and looked it over in tentatively blooming relief. Pressing the hand over his heart which beat with a strong, steady rhythm, Severin breathed a relieved, ragged sigh.
Eindred stood in the field, turned away from him. Drawing in a breath, Severin delighted in the sound of his own voice. “May your greatest enemy rise from the grave, Eindred, and never leave you alone.” He smiled as he spoke, and very nearly pressed his fingers to his lips to feel the shape they took when saying Eindred’s name.
Eindred turned. “So you are my greatest enemy then?” He sounded wary.
“I don’t think it’s so simple as that. Do you?”
Eindred’s expression shifted and he shook his head. When he next spoke, it was soft and fumbling, as if he still hadn’t fully adjusted to a world which was kind. “I made a chair,” he blurted out. “A few actually,” he added, rubbing a hand over the back of his head.
Severin wanted to say, I know. I saw. But that would require more explanation than he cared to give at the moment, so instead, he replied, “Do I get the new rocking chair or my old one?”
“Any,” Eindred stammered, “Either. Both?” He looked at Severin, and the earnest weight of his gaze held the promise of all the chairs Severin could want and anything else Eindred could possibly make with his scarred hands.
The fondness that bubbled up within Severin was so abrupt and filled him so thoroughly that he wanted to laugh with it. “Lucky for you, I only need one chair. You can keep the old one if you like it. I trust your craftsmanship.”
Severin turned then, because it was cold and every part of him felt so entirely bright and buoyant that he thought he might die if he didn’t move. However, when he realized Eindred was not following, he stopped. “Well? Are you coming?”
Eindred looked up, as if he’d been startled. “Where?” he called.
Standing there, sodden in the field, Eindred looked after Severin, as if he was afraid to hope - as Severin once had been afraid to do. And it occurred to Severin that Eindred would need to hear it said aloud.
“Home, of course. Where else?”
“Home,” Eindred repeated, as if confirming it to himself.
And when Severin turned again towards home, Eindred followed.
By the time they reached the hut, both were shivering from the cold, and as they crossed the threshold into the warm space, Severin swayed on his feet. He’d almost forgotten the immense power he’d used, and now the harsh ringing in his ears was a stark reminder. Warm, rough hands steadied him and when Severin tilted his head up, he saw that Eindred wore an expression of poorly concealed terror.
“I’m not going to die all over again,” Severin assured him. “I just used a lot of magic.” As he said it, he swayed once more, this time falling forward.
Eindred caught Severin again, one arm wrapped around his back and his other hand braced against his chest. Beneath where Eindred’s palm pressed, Severin’s heart thrummed. And Severin watched, curious, as Eindred’s expression twisted. He no longer claimed the title of warrior, Severin knew, but it was nonetheless with a warrior’s gravity that Eindred met Severin’s gaze.
“These hands will never again harm you. I swear it.”
“I know,” Severin replied, and pressed a hand over the back of Eindred’s rough knuckles. “Help me to a chair?”
Eindred did, and helped to remove Severin’s thick outer robe before Severin sank gratefully in front of the fire. Eindred left him a moment, and Severin closed his eyes.
He intended to just rest them for a second - maybe two, but when Severin next opened his eyes, the room was darker and he was draped and bundled in blankets, softer and thicker than any he recalled owning. The fire was still crackling, and the warm light made soothing shadows dance across the hut’s wooden floor. The other chair was occupied, Severin realized, and he watched as the hearth’s orange light played across Eindred’s sleeping features. Compared to Severin’s mountain of blankets, he had just one draped over his lap, though he didn’t seem cold. Nonetheless, Severin shifted a bit, and peeled a soft fleece blanket off his own pile to toss it onto him. The blanket fell short, and with a quick whispered word, the wind slipped under the door and flipped the offending blanket up onto Eindred’s chest.
“That’s better,” Severin said.
The wind played a little with the fire before tousling Severin’s hair and departing with a sibilant, save your strength foolish human. You’re still recovering, and slipped out the way it had come.
When Severin turned back to Eindred, he saw the large man was sitting up and his eyes were now open. Blinking, Eindred rubbed a hand over his face and then, stiffening in sudden shock, he whipped to look at Severin. Heaving a great sigh, he rocked back in the chair. “Still breathing,” he said.
“I don’t plan on stopping.”
Something almost like a smile twitched at Eindred’s lips and Severin was enchanted by it.
“You were dead and now you’re alive. Forgive me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”
“You’re the one who believes in silly curses.”
Eindred’s brows rose. “Silly? Says the one who was brought back from the dead by one.”
Severin waved a dismissive hand. “The curse might have set the stage, but I was director, crew, and cast.”
And there was another smile, like a glimpse of sun between clouds. Severin was beginning to fear there might be no practical limit to the lengths he’d be willing to go to see another smile.
“I’ll take your word for it,” Eindred replied. “I get the feeling you know a great deal more about the world and magics than I.”
“Well Eindred,” Severin said, scooting his chair a little closer to both Eindred and the fire. “What do you know of grand tapestries?”
Eindred, looking more than a little lost, shook his head. “Nothing. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one.”
“Well,” Severin said, and grinned. “What do you know of cheese?”
EDIT: A novel based on Eindred and the Witch and The Witch Who Spoke to the Wind is in progress! I will post news about it on my Tumblr and my Patreon as news becomes available :)
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interruptions (Henry!Sherlock x Fem!Reader)
Summary: Reader and Sherlock can never get a moment to themselves, especially when Enola and Mycroft are in the house.
Pairing: Sherlock Holmes x Female Reader (Enola Holmes)
Word Count: 2.3k
Warnings: Light smut, some language, mostly second hand embarrassment.
A/N: this is like not good at all but i wanted to write it so here we are i guess lol. (gif not mine but the scene definitely influenced this)
“So if you sink the black and white one, the game is over?”
“Yes, but only if you sink it before you’ve finished shooting and scoring on the other object balls.”
Sherlock moved around the pool table in one of the many studies in his childhood home to angle himself just right to shoot the cue. Although he was playing no one, he wanted the shots to all be perfect.
On the other side on the pool table, you sat in a chair in front of the fireplace with a book in your hands. You weren’t really reading any of the words on the page because your mind was elsewhere. It was instead very much occupied with thoughts of the man just a few feet beyond your own spot, concentrating on the game rather than you.
“And how many do you have left?” You asked him, not looking at him because pool wasn’t the least bit interesting to you.
“Five plus the eight.” He responded and the room sounded with two balls colliding and one falling into the leather pocket.
“Four plus the eight.” He corrected then and you closed the book just enough so one of your fingers was holding the page you were on. You turned in the chair, facing him as he stood directly across from you on the other side of the table with his pool stick next to him firmly planted on the ground.
“Why?” He inquired as soon as his eyes met yours and he couldn’t help but see a mischievous twinkle in your own.
“No particular reason. Though, I do recognize that it is greatly passed supper and I would like to eat before I go to bed.”
Sherlock nodded at you and picked up the stick, ready to shoot another when you closed the book fully. The rough snapping of the pages together drew his eyes up to you in the chair and the lightest smile was gracing your face.
“And?” He asked and you shrugged, raising an arm to rest on the armrest of the chair and letting your fingers sweep the skin under your chin briefly before moving your index finger to your lip. You watched his eyes follow your finger as it ran across your bottom lip and then you bit down on it lightly, smiling at him as the pool game was now far from his mind.
“More like or.” You continued but stood up from the chair, walking slowly to one side of the pool table and leaned up against it, putting the book down on the velvet that lined it and intentionally in front of the ball he was attempting to sink.
“Or we could just go straight to bed?” You proposed and an eyebrow propped itself up on your face. You hoped that he was receiving the signal but Sherlock was a smart man, it’s not something he would have missed in a million years.
Sherlock hummed to himself and looked as if he was still studying the game in front of him as he rounded the table and stood just to the side of you. You looked expectantly and perhaps the only answer you needed was the way his eyes went from your own to your lips and then trailed down the rest of you. Sherlock put the pool stick against the bookcase and trapped you against the table, his hands grasping the green velvet bumpers but his hands were not far from your body. He teased the fabric of your dress with his thumbs and he bit down on his bottom lip.
He his eyes were telling of how he felt even if he didn’t say it out loud. You were a bold and he knew what you wanted because he wanted it to, but being in the house with a snobbish brother and a sleuth of a sister, intimate moments lacked greatly since your arrival two weeks ago.
“Or-” Sherlock proposed and you couldn’t help but let your hands run up his arms and move to fiddle with the top button of his brown patterned vest.
“I could be so tempted to take you here now and then we can get supper afterwards?” He let you guide him down by the vest, just close enough where his lips were hovering over your own and the curled piece of hair that always becomes undone tickled your forehead.
“Your choice, Holmes.” You spoke softly and he took the opportunity then and there to capture your lips with his down, grabbing at the fabric of your dress to hoist you up on the pool table. Your legs spread out so he could stand flush against you, his hands no longer gripping the bumpers but one on your waist and the other held the back of your neck.
Sherlock’s kiss was searing and passionate, riddled with a need for you as it quickly grew within him. Your hand yanked at the bowtie and let it fall to the floor. Sherlock broke the kiss and his lips moved from your cheek to your ear and his hot breath was agonizing as he pulled you against him again with a groan as you ground your core against him.
“If Enola or-”
“They won’t. Stop worrying so much.” You breathlessly muttered back and Sherlock moved his hands to grip your thighs that were just hanging off the table, moving the dress, bunching it upwards so he could feel you, not all the fabric of the dress.
You gave up on the fastened shirt buttons when they simply wouldn’t budge as easy as his vest had and placed your hands on his. With your help, you guided his hands under the dress and along your legs to where you needed him most. Your lips found Sherlock’s again and his tongue fought for dominance against your own and he let out a muffled moan when your hands left his and palmed his growing member.
You rubbed him over his pants and his forehead rested against your own. One of his hands moved gripped at your thigh tightly, bruising in tension and he let out a lowly chuckle.
“If you keep doing that, dinner won’t be on the table later.”
“If I knew this is all it would take for you to fuck me I wouldn’t have waited all day.” You smirked at him and he slowly untied the corset you were wearing, letting you breathe better as your heart was already racing out of your chest.
“Just fuck me already, Sherlock.” You whimpered impatiently as he tossed the corset aside and you undid his trousers. He kissed your neck and down to dip in the dress you were wearing, paying attention to every piece of skin he could find.
“Why are you in such a rush? They are in bed and Stop worrying so much.” You could have slapped him for using your words against you but your mind was too occupied with the man against you and the situation at hand.
Sherlock moved his hand under your chin and held it for a moment, looking in your eyes and taking in the disheveled woman in front of him, entirely need for him and what he could give her. He placed a kiss on your forehead before slowly meeting his lips with your own once more, but not in a passionate, needy way. He was slow and romantic, and he took all the time in the world with you as he would any one of his famous cases.
He could sense the restlessness and want returning quickly, but before he could fully remove any of the dress to enter you, a shriek sounded from the doorway and the both of you froze like statues. Your back was to the intruder and Sherlock’s eyes went wide in shock, that yes, in fact you both have been walked in on.
“Oh my God.” You could hear the horrified voice of Enola in the doorway and Sherlock’s head turned quickly to her with a mortified look on his face. Enola couldn’t even meet his eyes after walking in on her brother and you in a very compromising position and both not proper at all. Enola was not the least bit of a proper young lady, but this was something she never wanted to see.
“Enola!” Sherlock managed to say in a slightly scolding manner but the girl ran off before either of you could try and salvage the situation but the mood had quickly shifted.
You couldn’t recall if it was five seconds or five minutes before the both of you tried to fix yourselves, putting everything back into a proper place and forget what happened but her shriek had woken up Mycroft and as Sherlock helped you re-tie the corset he had taken off moments ago, Mycroft appeared in the doorway with a look of disgust.
“Oh you are kidding me!” He looked absolutely dumbfounded and as you braced yourself against the pool table, Sherlock tying as quickly as possible to get away from the prying eyes and the judgmental stare of his brother.
“Does presentation mean anything to you? We are trying to help her become a lady and you two, you two- do this!?” Mycroft yelled and he looked utterly ridiculous in his slippers and robe with his hands on his hips.
“I-We thought everyone was asleep.” Sherlock replied. You felt his hands at the bottom of the corset, signaling he was done with the ties and you ran a hand over your dress, smoothing it out and looking Mycroft in the eye.
“Being intimate with someone doesn’t make you less of a lady, Mycroft. Perhaps if you had sex with someone you would know that.” You huffed and walked out, passing him as he almost jolted in the opposite direction of you and into the hallway.
“You’re just going to let her talk to me like that? She isn’t even your wife! Do you like harlots now or have you always been this way?”
Sherlock cocked his head to the side and squinted his eyes at Mycroft. He walked slowly up to him and managed to tower over him enough to where Mycroft was intimidated by his brother.
“Call her that again and I won’t stop her from beating you to a pulp the next time she sees your face. She may not be my wife now but one day she will be and I am not going to let you intimidate her with your weasel words, brother.” Sherlock spat at him and left the room as well, finding you waiting for him in the dimmed hall. He took your hand in his and as you walked throughout the house and just down the hall to the bedchamber of Enola, you couldn’t have been more proud of him for standing up to his brother. The two of you knew you had to talk to her otherwise it would be entirely too uncomfortable to even stay in the house.
Standing outside of Enola’s door, you looked at Sherlock with an apologetic look and he shook his head at you.
“We didn’t know she wasn’t asleep, it’s no one’s fault.” He reassured you and squeezed your hand before knocking on Enola’s door and opening it slightly.
“Go away.” She mumbled from her window bay and refused to look at Sherlock or you as you entered the room fully and kept your distance.
“Enola, I want to apologize. We didn’t know you were-” Sherlock began and Enola turned her head quickly, her eyes angry and judge-y.
“You couldn’t just wait until you were in the proper place? My brain will NEVER be able to unsee that! I don’t care what you do on your free time but please don’t ever, ever do that in public.” Enola pleaded with her brother and Sherlock nodded but you stifled a laugh at her horror. She was a girl, she had never loved someone before so for her this was horrifying but for you and Sherlock it was mortifying.
“We certainly didn’t want to see you either, Enola.” You told her and she shook her head and got up, walking over to her bed and crawling under the covers.
“Just don’t do it again and do not mention it at breakfast tomorrow.” Enola was adamant about it and bid the two goodnight, pulling the sheet over her head and trying to think of everything but her favorite brother having sex.
When the sun rose the next morning and Enola found herself at the table alone. With no one to eat with, she reminded herself that she had no desire to go searching for her siblings to get them to eat with her. She was just beginning to dig into her scone when Mycroft came down the stairs and sat down at the head of the table. He didn’t say a word but looked like he hadn’t slept a wink last night. Enola thought if she said one word to him that he would fly off the handle and she would have been right if she tried.
She finished the scone and moved on to her eggs when she saw you and Sherlock walk down the stairs, not dressed in day clothes but still in pajamas, and entered the kitchen. Mycroft glanced up and dropped his toast when he saw you wearing Sherlock’s silk robe and Sherlock not in a suit. The two of you bustled about in the kitchen, filling plates with food and Sherlock grabbed two cups of tea, turning to look at Mycroft who was already staring.
“Don’t worry brother, we know our actions are not wanted at the table, so we are going to have breakfast in bed.” Sherlock gave Mycroft a toothy smile and you managed to glance at Enola when you picked up the two plates and gave her a sly smile. Sherlock nudged your shoulder and you looked him, his eyes creased on the edges in happiness and motioned for the door.
“Also, don’t bother coming to fetch us today, the door will be locked.” Sherlock ushered you out of the kitchen and the two of you couldn’t suppress the laughter that built up after the look on Mycroft’s face dropped.
That day was a good day and eventually, after Enola had grown up a bit more and discovered her love for the Tewkesberry lad, she understood the looks her brother would give you and would eventually just leave the room if she ever saw them again, not wanting to ever be in that situation again.
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