"Magic" drabbles by Jeff Taylor

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Settling Sands

Magic #237

The storm abated late into the night. As the sands settled, the grinding roar turned into the hourglass whisper of time passing; as rivulets of ground stone ran down the sides of the needle-like spires.

Clora shook Minerva awake as soon as the winds outside the cave began to drop.

"Hurry! We must leave now, while we can! I will lead you out, but we must go now." She hissed, helping Minerva up. Inside the caravan, Rhian slept on as the stars shone down through the falling dust.

Quickly, quietly, they gathered camp and entered into the unnerving night.

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Don't be Caught

Magic #236

Clora relaxed, and looked out at the sands whipping past.

"The storm will pass soon enough. There will be a brief respite in the morn. You should be able to move your caravan then."

"How brief?"

"A few hours. The storms haunt the spires, they hunt for spirits from the sundering crusades. For the evils that the Necromancers tore out of the shadowlands between here and the lands of the dead." She touched Minerva gently on her arm. "Don't be caught in the storm. Don't allow the child to be caught by them, and certainly hide her power from them."

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Magic #235

"So, your daughter is a stone weaver?" Clora sipped the water, cool and fresh.

"No. She can't fold stone. Bone weaver's can only work with the recently dead. Rhian works with the ancients. The bones that are so old that they've been turned to stone by time. We would call a bone weaver a necromancer. A colleague of mine called Rhian a Paleomancer." Minerva sipped her cup. "It's as good a name as any. I've no idea what the hell it means to be honest."

They watched as Rhian and Frankie chased a ball around the cave. The girl laughing.

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I do not Understand.

Magic #234

"What?" Rhian took Clora's other hand and brushed it over Frankie's head. It was the strangest of sensations. She felt the glowing blue, ghostly, feathers beneath her fingers; but also the cold, hard, stone of the creatures skull.

"I do not understand..."

Minerva sat down next to Clora and poured herself a cup of water. "Frankie is an ancient creature. Rhian found him buried deeply inside a cliff face. Her inheritance allows her to re-animate them. He's a cutie once you get used to him. But don't underestimate him. He's more dangerous than any skeleton a bone weaver raises."

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Escape into the Storm?

Magic #233

Clora's eyes widened in horror as Frankie clacked his claws on the steps of the caravan. She pointed.

"A Bone Weaver!" She gasped.

Minerva wrapped Clora's hand around the cup, and smiled. "Not quite sand mistress. Rhian? Bring Frankie over here a moment."

Clora backed away, glancing at the wall of sand that whipped past the entrance as her escape route.

Frankie approached, and chirped as Rhian brushed the feathers on top of his head.

Clora paused, tilting her head. The skull beneath the feathers was clearly not fresh, but the most ancient of stone. She looked up, questioningly confused.

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A Cup of Water

Magic #232

Clora sat and rested her back against the sculpted wall. Jet black eyes blinked slowly as she brushed her face clear of the fine sand from outside. Minerva struggled to see the difference as Clora's skin was pretty much the same colour.

"May I offer you water?"

Clora nodded. "Water would be most welcome. Mistress Minerva." Acknowledging Minerva's status as a witch.

"Rhian! Can you bring out a pitcher of water please and some cups?" The rattle of cupboards and bones came from inside the wagon, before Rhian emerged closely followed by Frankie.

Minerva poured a cup and proffered it.

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A Brief Respite

Magic #231

Minerva stepped back as the figure passed through her barrier to the raging sands outside.

A good six and a half feet tall, the spindly figure, wrapped in sand-worn cloths shook itself briefly before bowing.

"I thank you for allowing me to enter your space. I am Clora." Said a female voice, as she pulled away the wrappings from around her head. "May the sands bless you as you pass by."

Minerva nodded. She knew of the sand dwellers, but had never met one face to face. "You are most welcome here. Take respite from the storm and rest."

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A Gentle Tap

Magic #230

Minerva woke to the sound of light tapping against the rock around the entrance to their small cave.

Outside, the wind was a howling, rage filled monster as it whipped across the shield she had erected across the wide opening. Sand rattled and hissed yet the small, light, tapping persisted. Off to one side a sand obscured shadow tapped gently. The shadow's head tipped to one side as she sat up.

Squinting through the sand, she reached out. People who gently knock were not usually the type to cause problems. Her hand wrapped around a thin arm, skin like paper.

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The Wind Howled for two days

Magic #229

The wind howled for two days.

The continuous, rasping, susurration of the sands against the rock walls of the canyon became unendurable. Until they slowly disappeared into the background noise, becoming as white as the sound the sand made.

Rhian and Frankie played around the back of the cave, while Minerva kept a close eye outside. Sometimes there were shadows, other than sand blowing past the cave. Anything that could move freely through these, grinding, winds was something to worry about. Something to watch for.

So, she warded the cave. Etched the arcane into the entrance and fed it power.

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The Hissing Sands

Magic #228

The sand hissed constantly around the caravan, as Minerva kept an eye out for caves to park up in for the night.

She finally found one in the side of a swirling, deep-cut, canyon. Above, the towering spires of razor-sharp sandstone cut the darkening sky, casting the shadows of sunset across the range.

The sound of the wind changed slowly from a quiet moan, to a wail of oncoming storms. While she couldn't stop the sound, she could prevent the sand (And maybe water) from entering the cave by weaving a shield spell.

The rain came in haste.

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The Needle Mountains

Magic #227

Slowly, the pinnacles of the Needle mountains came into view. Not the sky scraping peaks of the Ganninal Range.

The Needle mountains were a carved nightmare of sandstorms and high velocity winds. Also known as the Hedgehog's Back, the soft rock had been cut by the intense winds coming down from the far larger mountains behind them.

As they left the plain Minerva wrapped the wheels with sand-pads to make the going easier over the grainy yellow sand. The wind, gentle at the moment, moaned quietly amongst the tall spires of sandstone as the caravan wove its way through.

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Travelling the Plains

Magic #226

The morning chill of the plains flitted away as the sun rose into the clear blue sky. In the distance, jagged, snow capped peaks turned the horizon into a badly drawn line instead of the usual flat line disappearing into infinity.

The soft coach springs of the caravan absorbed most of the uneven ground, turning it into a softened jolting as the big wheels were dragged over clumps of grass, hardened manure and trampled ant-hills.

The darkness tickled Minerva's senses. She could feel it out there, behind her. Just as she could feel the Shadow lord watching as well.

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Words with Gramma

Magic #225

The sound of blankets rustling came from inside the wagon and a bleary eyed Rhian crept into the chill of the morning, her blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

"Good morning sweety." Said Minerva.

"Morning momma." Rhian yawned, and pecked Minerva's cheek. "Breakfast?"

"I was waiting for Frankie to come back. It's sweet that you had him on watch last night, but you shouldn't leave him running like that. You'll exhaust yourself."

"Gramma said it was good for my stamina."

"Oh, ho! Did she now? Well, me and Gramma are going to have to have words when we get back home."

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Plenty of Sugar

Magic #224

Minerva sat down on the back step of the caravan with her steaming mug of coffee, plenty of sugar.

From beneath, came the sound of scrabbling claws and rattle of bones as Frankie emerged. He headbutted her leg gently and she absently smoothed out the spectral feathers on his head.

"You been up all night keeping watch?"

Frankie squawked quietly.

"Good boy." She sipped her coffee. "Go have a run. See if you can find a rabbit or something."

The raptor squawked again, happily, and bounced off into the tall grass at speed. Leaving puffs of dust in his wake.

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Magic #223

Nothing came near the caravan during the night of note. The general air of menace, and danger, that emanated from Frankie's position underneath was more than enough to convince most denizens to stay away. The bigger hunters were smart enough to know that they shouldn't mess with humans anyway.

Minerva woke first and immediately started crushing beans in a pestle and mortar for a morning coffee. The Quartermaster had made sure that they were well stocked. Even the cold store had milk and fruit juice concentrate cubes for travelling.

She was, she admitted reluctantly, quite impressed with the Quartermaster's management.

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Silently, the Stars

Magic #222

The raptor clicked quietly across the wooden floor, waited for his mistress to open the door and slipped out into the night.

Mistress liked to let him go off on his own, even though the bigger people didn't. He couldn't go too far though. Maybe the length of two, maybe three, of the giant whip-tales from his multi-million year old memories.

But, that was OK. He snuffled around the caravan for a while, before settling down beneath it. Ruffling his proto-feathers and settling down. Curled up, but ready to strike if needed.

He watched, silently, the stars.

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Guard Duty

Magic #221

As her mother finally slipped into the deep sleep between dreams and nightmares, Rhian finally settled down in her own cot. Beside her, the bundle of rock bones that constituted the remains of her beloved pet, shivered slightly and the skull looked up.

"I need you to do guard duty Frankie." She whispered. She nodded at the doors. "Keep an eye out for us please."

He nodded. Understanding fully that he needed to protect his pack, just as he had done earlier.

"Good boy." She patted him on the head, and then did his favourite scratch underneath his main jaw.

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Night Terrors

Magic #220

The night terrors returned that night for Minerva.

Battle Witches, especially wielding foci like Minerva, got to experience the horror that high-level magics could wreak. They didn't just leave scars on skin...

Having held attack magic that day, dredged up memories that had been hard fought to put down. Buried. As deep as she could. Now, they bubbled and burbled through a nightmarish dreamscape of twisted flesh and melted bones.

In the real world she tossed and turned. And a drowsy daughter held out a hand to try and will away the nightmares that gripped her mother so tightly.

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Happy Squeaks

Magic #219

Frankie's cold skull made of stone nudged Rhian's side, looking for reassurance from his mistress. He squawked gently and made a rurrling noise with his ghostly tongue as she turned and hugged him.

"You were a good boy! Mummy says so!"

Minerva stroked the faint blue feathers adorning the top of the ancient raptor's head. "Yes. Keep protecting your mistress like that you silly old thing."

He gently squeaked, happy.

"Yes, not bad for bones of stone."

Rhian sat up. "I'm tired mummy, me and Frankie need to sleep now." Minerva picked up her little girl and made her comfortable.

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A Hug

Magic #218

Minerva ran to Rhian, who was hiding beneath the caravan. Frankie was circling it, watchful and still vaguely angry as he scratched and snarled at the bodies he'd carved.

"Mummy!" Minerva wrapped her arms around her little girl and hugged her tightly.

"Are you alright?! He didn't hurt you did he?"

Rhian sobbed into Minerva's chest until she eventually managed to stop. "No. I'm alright. Frankie hurt the man. Was he a good boy?"

"Oh! Oh, darling! Yes, Frankie... He was a very good boy. He protected you from the bad men. He did exactly what he should have done!"