A Drift of Quills are at it again, writing like maniacs. It’s time again for our Fiction Shots! In case you’re just joining us, we take turns choosing a picture for inspiration, then each of us writes our own stories based on that image. Where do you think we will take you with a little… footwear?
This time around, we have a picture of some amazing custom-made boots by Turtle Island Moccasins. They do some very creative work, and these boots are sure to carry us into magical realms…
Fiction Shots #7
It’s funny the thoughts and ideas a single image can inspire—and how they whirl and wheel about until one or two of them settle into a pattern. Who wears boots like these? Who wouldn’t? And what if they meant something beyond what was intended? They clearly ought to have someting to do with magic. Are they enchanted, or is the wearer? Is there still magic in the world?
Flash #1: Starry-Eyed
By Robin Lythgoe
The autumn sun slid toward the horizon, gilding the moors and pulling twilight ever closer. Little streamers of fog drifted this way and that, half-formed fairy ribbons. Archibald Cumming laughed to himself. The old man was getting to him. Had already got to him, years ago, truth be told. And where was the old fool now? Shifting his backpack, he trudged up the sparse hill. Hands on hips, he stopped at the top to have a look around. When he had his breathing under control again, he straightened and stood still and quiet, listening. Listening as he’d done dozens of times already just today. This wasn’t the first time the old codger had taken off on his own.
He was about to move on when he heard it—the haunting, mellow sound of a penny whistle. About time. Down the hill, he paused again to listen. Sound could be misleading up here. Bent by the fae, old Tavish would say.
There are no fae. They’re gone now.
Don’t be daft, laddie.
“Daft” was going off to the moors alone when you were north of seventy years old. And every man younger than Tavish was a “laddie.” The vision of old age, he said. Archie canted his head to the side, and when he caught the melody again, he followed cautiously. Cresting a low rise, he finally caught sight of Tavish Gibson. White hair like a zealous dandelion fluff danced in the breeze. The sun lit it brighter than a spunkie’s light from folktale.
“Here ye are, then,” he said when he finally reached the old man’s side. Relief mingled with affection. He shrugged his backpack off and dropped it to stretch his shoulders. “Or are ye a sprite to lead me astray with your fair music and your glowin’ magic?”
Tavish lowered his slender flute and gave him a grin. “I might be, aye.” Something about him reminded Archie of a boy with a view not yet blackened by the world, though that couldn’t be true. Three different wars he’d been in, and he had the scars to prove it. “Did the wardens send ye after me?”
Archie had once worked as one of those “wardens” at the care home where Tavish lived. Good people, most of them—especially those that put up with the man’s quirky nature.
“No, I came to see ye and the staff said ye’d put your feet on.” He waved. “An’ there ye be, boots and all.”
Tavish laughed and held one foot up, displaying his truly awful footgear. Green, they were, and not even a natural shade, but a sort of spruce color with brown overlays that resembled tree trunks. Fancy silver disks up the sides held the laces, and—what Archie found the most obnoxious—a score or more of oak leaf-shaped leather leaves dangling around their tops.
“They’re magic, don’t ye know?”
“I know Christy Connal gave them to ye to be mean.” There goes the auld bampot, frolickin’ aboot in his fairy slippers. Can ye fly yet? What’s become of yer wings? And they’d sit back and guffaw like a gang of schoolboys, and them nearly as old as Tavish. “He lied to ye about them being magic elf boots.”
“Did he now?” Tavish’s brows lifted in exaggerated surprise. “For all that, they’re mighty comfortable. I can walk for miles!”
“That is surely the truth.” Archie’s hands settled on his hips as he surveyed the countryside. Beautiful. Wild. Dangerous if you didn’t know your way, especially after dark.
“What have ye brought me?” Tavish bumped the backpack with his foot.
“A tent, blankets, water, and a fresh loaf of barmbrack.”
“I’ll put a kettle on the hob the minute we get back to town if ye can do it before dark sets.”
Tavish gave a little shake of his head. “No, I think I’ll stay, Archie laddie. My Se’sla has finally found me.” He held his hand up, and the setting sun glittered on a delicate silver chain. A stylized key hung from it, a stone red as blood glinting sharply in the center. It shone as if brand new.
“Ye found this?” Archie bent to look closer, astonished.
“I gave it to her before I went to war the first time, ye know. A promise, it were. Found it again today right here on this rock.” His free hand patted the lichen-covered boulder he sat upon. His search for his Sìth maiden had fueled Christy Connal’s taunts and earned him a reputation for being amusingly mad. “She knew I’d come.”
Tavish had shared with Archie the story of meeting a beautiful lass right here on the moors. He’d known from the start she was more than a woman, more than human. She wove a spell, and he didn’t care to fight it. He’d paid her court and they’d fallen in love — then duty to his country called him away. When he’d left, he’d promised to return to her, and he had, searching for her year after year.
Archie chewed on his lip, then sat down to take Tavish’s gnarled hand in his. “We need to be going,” he said ever so gently. “It’s like to be a cold one tonight.”
“Ye go if you must. Will ye leave the blankets?”
“I can’t leave ye here. Ye know that.”
“And I can’t go.” Unexpectedly, a single tear trickled down one worn cheek.
A sigh lifted Archie’s chest and he closed his eyes, already losing any rationalization. A skylark sang its sweet song in the heather nearby, and he could imagine the notes weaving strands of magic through the gloaming. Foolishness. “If we stay the night and your Se’sla doesn’t come, will ye stop wandering about? Keep to home and stay safe? For me, old man.”
Tavish shook his head, wild hair falling over his eyes. “I canna do that.”
Another sigh. “Then promise ye’ll wait until I can come looking with ye.”
“Ye’d do that?”
Archie squeezed the old man’s hand. “Aye, I’d do that.”
“Ye’re a braw lad,” he murmured in a choked voice.
“And don’t ye forget it.” He smiled to ease the moment, patted Tavish’s thin shoulder, then went to gather brush for a fire and set up the small tent.
Archie had a surprise bag of dried apples to go with the bread—and tea to improve the water. The magic of the moors, the stars, and the fire made their simple meal more tasty than it could ever have been within the familiar walls of home. After they’d eaten, Tavish pulled out his penny whistle, and after a few songs, he coaxed. Archie to sing. No one could hear him but the old man and the night. Distance saved ears and preserved sensibilities. And because it was Tavish, with his dancing eyes and obvious happiness, Archie didn’t really mind, though he brushed off the old man’s compliments.
“Ye’ve a fine voice, boyo.”
“Maybe you can’t hear over the sound of that flute of yours. It covers up a lot of sins.”
Archie chuckled and got to his feet. “Let’s get some sleep, old man.” They’d waited long past midnight, never saying that’s what they were doing.
“I’ll stay. Play for a bit longer. It won’t bother ye, will it?” he asked, bushy white brows bunching.
“Of course not. But don’t stay long, aye? Will ye be warm enough?”
Relief colored Tavish’s smile. “I’ve got this fire, the fine blanket ye brought me, and my fool boots.” Stretching his foot out made the fake leaves swing, teasing the shadows.
“The embarrassment of their existence ought to keep ye warm enough.”
Tavis hooted a soft laugh, and Archie put a little more fuel on the fire. He squeezed the old man’s shoulder before ducking into the tent. As he settled in, Tavish’s sweet music wafted into the night, carrying dreams and wishes. Magic, if anything in this world was. And wasn’t that a whimsical notion? Still, the world would be a better, more comfortable place if people allowed whimsy in their lives.
The thought drifted around in his head, beguiling him into dreams filled with music. A woman’s voice came from afar, joining the song of the penny whistle. She sang no words, but her voice was rich and warm all the same. It became the warmth of summer sun and the sparkle of light on water.
Archie woke to his breath hanging in the air and the place he’d made for Tavish untouched. “Tavish?” he called out, reluctantly shedding the warmth of his blankets to poke his head out into the morning. For a wonder, he felt as fresh as though he’d slept in a comfy feather bed within his own snug walls.
Frost covered everything with a magical white blanket. The world smelled clean and so full of promise he could taste it. He snorted a laugh at himself. He was getting as starry-eyed as Tavish. The fire had just been stirred and he held his hands out over the flames, casting about for the old man. Where was he? The old fool…
There, propped against the rock where Tavish found the necklace, were his boots as if he’d only just taken them off—and nary a single footprint in the luminous frost. Tucked within one he found a ragged bit of paper with a strange texture. Smudged coal spelled out words in the old man’s hand:
Ye’ll need these, trust me. Ye’ll likely want to take off the silly leaves. I only kept them to spite Christy Connal. Trust your heart. Always believe. I’ll be looking for ye…
Flash #2: Calico Dew and the Boots of Ominous Delight
Author of the Oathtaker Series
The ramshackle hut sat in a damp tree-shaded hollow, deep in the Forest of Infatuation. An occasional bright green patch of mold stood out on its thatched roof and spotted its weathered, paint-crackled, windows. Their half-open shades looked like eyes peering down at a bed of poison ivy just outside the hut’s door, which hung slightly askew on its rusty hinges.
Nearby, Calico Dew hid. She patted Sneaker, her faithful canine companion, whose shaggy mottled coat helped him to meld into his surroundings. This well-served Calico’s purposes in carrying out her duties as an official retriever of stolen magic artifacts. However, Sneaker also came with a downside. That is, while his physical traits allowed him to rummage about stealthily, he also possessed a particularly annoying personality quirk. Specifically…
Flash #3: Fool’s Feet
Author of The Unseen Chronicles
“I’ll be requested by kings,” said the shiny face of ambition, caught somewhere between a boy and a man. But the glint in his eye was ageless.
“You’ll be an outcast.”
“Princes will offer me untold wealth and honor,” he continued, unhearing.
“You’ll reject it all.”
He rubbed his hands together unconsciously, unaware of how silly he looked, how small and unworthy. “My name will be known from the border of Darjil to the Jabob River and beyond.”
“Where you will be unwelcome and hunted until the last of your days.” The old man sighed. Ambition turned his head, the sigh finally catching his attention. Was the old one dying? Would he pass on the boots now?
“Master Eli…are you well?”
The grizzled beard, streaked white and grey and sandy-desert brown, twitched. Eli looked full at his apprentice. Looked in his soul through the undisguised eyes.
The boots would instruct him.
“I must go.” Eli struggled to his feet. He could not rest. Not yet.
The apprentice’s long eager fingers grasped an elbow, half helping, half clinging. “I’m going with you.”
Eli shrugged. “Do what you must.”
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Want to read more short-short fiction we’ve written? This link will take you there.
This is such a fun way to write a story. I hope you enjoyed reading our mini-stories as much as we enjoyed writing them! We’ve decided to make this a regular feature. Have you got a title or a picture to inspire us? Share below!