The Fog Witch

This is an entry for Chuck Wendig’s weekly flash fiction challenge. The story was inspired by this picture. Word count: 999

Warnings for: implied abuse

Lyra stumbled through the swamp as fast as she could. Cold, gritty mud sucked at her feet with each step. Fog swirled around her, thick and impenetrable as soup, cutting off what little light came from the moon. Only memory kept her on the path; she could see no further than a few steps ahead.

“Lyra!”

Adam’s voice was closer now. She’d prayed he wouldn’t follow her into the swamp, that he’d be too superstitious to venture onto the paths she knew by heart. But that was too much to hope, apparently.

“Get back here, Lyra!”

She plunged ahead. Soon, she would come to the end of the paths she knew. Soon, she would be at the mercy of the swamp and the fog and the unforgiving weather.

And, of course, the Fog Witch.

Lyra lost her balance, landing in icy water up to her knees. It soaked her dress, plastering the fabric to her skin. She must have been deeper into the swamp than she’d thought. She’d have to tread carefully now, and she had no light, no coat, no food whatsoever.

“You’re too far out.”

Adam sounded gleeful, or perhaps hysterical. Lyra couldn’t quite make out his tone.

She crept quietly through the water, shivering all the while.

“The Fog Witch will find you, Lyra. You’re all alone out here.”

Her fingers brushed bark, and Lyra quickly felt over the tree until her hands wrapped around a branch. It wasn’t much, but hiding may well be her best bet now. Hiding and praying.

It took three tries, but she finally pulled herself up onto the branch, and then onto the next one above it. The sharp wind chilled her, and an owl hooted mournfully somewhere high above. Lyra settled against the tree trunk, pulling her knees to her chest.

“Come home, Lyra. Please. I’m worried about you.”

Oh, yes. Here came the wheedling. Lyra rested her head against her knees and shivered. She would not go back, not to a man who thought he owned her, who thought he could strike her without consequence because he called her “wife.”

She would rather take her chances with the Fog Witch.

“Lyra!” Adam shouted again, and then he screamed.

It cut off abruptly.

Lyra raised her head from her knees, waited for one minute, two minutes, three.

Adam did not call for her again.

The fog swirled around her, growing thicker, moved by a gust of wind Lyra couldn’t feel. She pressed her face into the sodden fabric covering her knees, trembling from both cold and fear. Some said the Fog Witch was not the only one in the swamp, and the fog hid far worse creatures. Lyra did not know the truth, but she had a feeling she would learn.

Please, she prayed to whoever might listen. Please, please, please…

***

When she opened her eyes, she was sitting on a cot.

Lyra blinked in surprise. She was in a cottage, with drying herbs draped from the ceiling and a fire crackling in the hearth. A woman sat beside the fire, weaving. Her black hair was piled high on her head, wrapped in braids and loops, and the yellow-orange light of the fire shone on her dark skin.

The woman looked up from her weaving and smiled. “Hello, Lyra.”

Lyra drew her knees to her chest once more, as if that might offer her some protection. “How do you know my name?”

The woman nodded toward a shelf. “You have brought me many gifts.”

Lyra peered at the shelf. There was an old, well-loved handmade doll, three braided ribbons, a handful of pretty rocks, and several dried flowers.

Her heart clenched. “You’re the Fog Witch.”

The woman inclined her head. “Indeed I am.”

Lyra hugged her knees harder. “I knew you weren’t a myth.”

“I am for some.” The Witch’s eyes gleamed. “But you will notice, they do not venture into the fog.”

“What did you do to Adam?” Lyra asked, both fearing and needing the answer.

The Witch shrugged. “I? Nothing.”

“Then what–”

“I am not the only danger within the fog, my dear, a fact your erstwhile husband ought to have remembered from the stories at his grandmother’s knee.”

Lyra shuddered at the thought. “Then what about me? I had nothing, I–”

The Witch set down her shuttle and stared at her with dark, piercing eyes. “And you needed nothing. You have shown nothing but respect and kindness all my days here. You never feared me, and never needed to. Did you really believe I would leave you alone?”

Tears pressed against her eyes, and Lyra closed them. After her grandmother had died, after her mother had died, when her father had drunkenly promised her to Adam to settle his debts…

“I needed you before,” she whispered, her throat tight. “Why didn’t you come before?”

The bed dipped with extra weight, and Lyra raised her head to see the Witch there, dark eyes full of sorrow. “My power keeps me bound,” she said softly. “Otherwise, I would have come to you in a heartbeat.”

Lyra dashed her tears away. “You can’t leave the swamp?”

The Witch shook her head. “I must remain here.”

“What happens now?” Lyra asked.

“Now?” The Witch spread her hands. “Now, you may do as you will. I will take you wherever you wish at first light.”

Lyra fisted her hands in the fabric of her dress, still soaked from her stumble through the swamp. “And what if I wished to stay here?”

The Witch’s eyes widened, and she folded her hands in her lap. “You…you could do that, if you wished.”

Lyra thought about her village, with no family but her drunk father, with people who would blame her for what happened to Adam. She thought about the swamp, and the fog, and the fear everyone else had held that she had never been able to manage.

“What is your will?” the Witch asked.

Lyra’s heart squeezed. “To stay.”

The Witch smiled.

Wrapping Up NaNoWriMo 2016 with the Ferrets!

The Ferrets wrap up NaNo! It’s been a crazy month, which is a large part of why I haven’t been posting as much, but here’s a brief look at how we all ended our biggest writing month of the year and what our final word counts (or hours count, as the case may be) were.

The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society

It’s time for triumph! Right?

NaNoWriMo 2016 Winner's Banner - space-themed

Each of the Ferrets below launched herself into NaNo – with or without a plan, to be quite honest with you, and not all of those plans survived engagement with NaNoWriMo proper – and forged ahead, making progress on her chosen project (or projects).

We attended write-ins, we made ourselves laugh or cry – and that’s just at the process of writing, before we even get to the content – we developed some truly impressive NaNo-fingers and NaNo-brains leading to nifty new and creative typos. . .

Life forgot that there’s supposed to be an allowance for NaNo and threw obstacles in our paths, but we made it through anyway!

Let’s say goodbye to NaNoWriMo for this year with a last word from each of us about this year’s session and our works for it.

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Dealbreakers: What Makes You Quit a Book?

Earlier this week, I wrote about dealbreakers for the RRFS blog. Come talk to me about what makes you drop a book!

The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society

I think we’ve all got those dealbreakers, those things that a story can do that will make us drop it like a hot potato. These vary from person to person, and what wrecks a story for one person will be something another can let slide. Some people will finish a book no matter how much they hate it; others won’t give it more than a few pages before they toss it into the “did not finish” pile and move on to something else.

I used to be in the camp of “finish the book no matter what,” but in the past 5 years or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that life’s too short to read books I don’t like.

Here’s what tends to throw me out of a story:

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NaNoWriMo 2014 – First Update?!?

Participant-2014-Twitter-ProfileIt’s amazing how quickly this month has flown by. I meant to do my weekly NaNo updates as I have every year since 2011, but this year it just seems like it wasn’t in the cards. So here’s where I am so far!

Minimum word count for November 18: 30,000/50,000

My word count: 29,469/50,000

Current story count: 5 drafts complete

Adventures in NaNoing: Why yes, you read that correctly. “Current story count” is a new statistic!

That’s because this year I didn’t have a story I could expand to a full novel this year, so I decided to write short stories and novellas. This also gave me the chance to get a few stories I’ve had in my head for awhile on paper, and it is kind of nice to practice writing in a shorter format than what I usually do.

By “five drafts complete,” I mean I’ve finished first drafts on five stories. Some need more editing than others. 😀

If you look at my graph on the site, you’ll see that this year I’m tracking along almost exactly with the daily word count. I think this is in a large part because I’m doing multiple shorter works, as opposed to one giant one. It’s occasionally difficult to get traction on a short story the way I would a novel, because whereas there I’d have one scene that’s 2500 words, with the short stories, that’s my entire word count. Plus, with switching between different stories and characters, it sometimes drains me faster than just being able to immerse myself in a single story, so even my big word count days aren’t as high as they usually are.

That being said, it’s also EXTREMELY satisfying to accomplish little goals in NaNo, not just by hitting my word count, but also by finishing a story draft. 🙂 I like being able to look over a story and go, “Yeah, this is done!” and then set it aside to edit the first week of December.

So far, NaNo itself has been tremendously satisfying as well. We had 40 (40!!) people show up at IHOP on Halloween for our midnight kickoff, which was a bit of a mess but still so, so much fun. There are few things I enjoy more than getting to start writing with a big group right at midnight. It feels like we start the month of right that way. 😀

We also had a mid-month party for the second year in a row, and spent the evening hanging out at a comic shop, eating pizza and cupcakes and talking about random things while one of our WriMos did manicures for those who wanted them. It was nice to have a break from the writing madness and get to see people who hadn’t gotten to come to some of the other in-person events.

Of course, next week is Thanksgiving, which means at LEAST two days of no writing, possibly three. I’m looking forward to seeing my family, but I am equally glad there’s a full weekend at the end of the month so I can catch up on my word count. 🙂

For you other NaNo writers, how’s your month going? Are you staying on target? Insanely behind? Insanely ahead?

June #WriteMotivation – Week 4

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

I can’t believe there’s only one week left in June. It feels like this month has just flown by.

In other news, the July sign-ups for #WriteMotivation are live, and you can still get in on the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo.

1) Write at least two reviews.
I’ve written three, and all of them are either published or scheduled.

2) Revise 4 chapters of MGG and the synopsis.
I’ve made it a little further through this one, but sadly not much headway.

3) Start revisions on NaNo novel. (This will not be until at least halfway through the month, so I have time to take a break from it.)
I have started! The first thing I did was skim through the story and make a calendar, so I would have a good ballpark of when the story was actually taking place. Everything happens over the course of about seven weeks, and I had completely forgotten that 6 chapters near the end of the novel actually take place in a 24-hour period. Because of this, I’ve revised the timeline for some of the backstory, so hopefully that will help with some of the novel’s events.

I’ve also made notes on a few other things I need to research, and a couple of things that are less “research” and more “give me 20 minutes with a notebook and pencil so I can make some awful geographic doodles.” (I don’t know why, but I don’t ever draw maps until I’m done with the first draft.)

I’ve also rewritten most of the first scene, so yay!

4) Read three books.
No significant progress to speak of.

How’s your month going? Are you feeling good about the one week left, or are you, like me, wondering where the time went?

June #WriteMotivation – Week 2.5

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Yes, my first actual update for June isn’t until halfway through the month.

I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been accomplishing the actual goals I set out for myself, but it also involved movies and family and travel and finally finishing the first season of Veronica Mars with Eris and finishing off two short stories I started writing months ago.

So. Um. As for actual goal updates?

1) Write at least two reviews.
I’ve got one that just needs a revision and two others that are half-written, so hopefully I’ll have a couple of these up soon.

2) Revise 4 chapters of MGG and the synopsis.
I’ve started the chapter revisions, and I’m close to halfway through the first two. It looks like revisions will combine those two chapters into one, though, so yay go me?

3) Start revisions on NaNo novel. (This will not be until at least halfway through the month, so I have time to take a break from it.)
Still haven’t started, probably won’t until a little later this week.

4) Read three books.
No significant progress to speak of.

And that’s it! How are you doing on your goals for June? Or are you taking it easy this month?