Prompt: A Hike Through the Woods

A Hike Through the Woods

Another completed prompt for January, huzzah! This was also from that prompt book I received as a Christmas gift. It too came with ten words I had to use, and this time, I didn’t miss half the prompt in writing it. And here are the words I had to use:

  • backpack
  • collar
  • covert
  • fireball
  • leprechaun
  • pity
  • nausea
  • practice
  • snoop
  • wart

I had fun incorporating magic into this little prompt. I hope you enjoy it!

I adjust the straps of my backpack, tugging it more firmly against my back. The wind is brisk, and I hope that once I step into the woods that the trees will help serve as a bit of a buffer against the wind. I wonder if I should have worn a thicker jacket but I know, after hiking for a bit, that I will grow warm. I always do. I run hot.


I like to take these hikes alone. I like the quiet, even though quiet isn’t really the right word to use. The woods aren’t quiet. Creatures are moving around underfoot and overhead, the breeze blows through the leaves causing them to rustle. Occasionally, an animal will sound the alarm, or maybe yell at another. But it feels quieter than the sounds that I am used to. It isn’t the loudness that I equate to a city. It isn’t the honking of horns and the curses of fellow humans. I would much rather deal with animals cursing than humans.


Everyone tells me I do not need to make these treks alone. Especially this one. I can see the pity in their eyes, hear it in their voices. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I remember how it made me feel so angry, and I still don’t know if I was angrier with myself or with those who wore pity in their eyes like their life depended on it. It was not like it ever led to action on their parts, no true action at any rate. They do not deserve my anger or even annoyance. I do my best to push it down. It shouldn’t — and it doesn’t — bother me these days.


My shoulders relax as I make my way further in the woods. My boots making tracks in the mud. There will be no hiding that I have been here, at least not today. There is no rain in the forecast, nothing to wash away the evidence of me. That bothers me, and I’m not sure why. I tug the collar of my shirt up higher around my ears. I’m not cold. I just have a sudden urge to hide as much as I can. To tuck into myself. It’s the thoughts rolling around in my brain that are making me act like this. It is not like I’m on some sort of covert mission.


Huffing out a sigh, I tell myself to snap out of it. I hike ever onward.


I remember when I was a child, when I used to snoop in my grandmother’s office. It was a room that we grandkids were not allowed in. I never heeded that warning, never thought that it really applied to me. There was a black-and-white picture on her desk that I was obsessed with. The photo was of a young woman, smiling shyly at the camera. She wore a witch’s hat, cocked lopsidedly over one eye. There was a large wart on the tip of her nose. The photo fascinated me. I always wanted to ask my grandmother who that woman was.


I never did because that would give away the fact I had been in her office.


But I always wondered. Wondered who she was and why she looked like a witch. At least, like a witch told in stories to children to make them behave. She looked friendly, though. I couldn’t imagine her trying to eat children or whatever outlandish lies the story books told.


I am playing with a fireball in my hand as I take a brief rest. I know I should eat, especially since I am needlessly using my magic. I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head, telling me to not waste my abilities. But playing with fire has always been how I calm myself. I like having control over something that can destroy. I like how hot it makes my hands feel. I like how dangerous it is.


“Still playing with fire?” A voice asks somewhere to my right.


I recognize the voice. I don’t look up, or acknowledge the leprechaun as he takes a seat on the fallen log that I have claimed as my chair for my rest. I don’t know how old he is. He has looked the same throughout the years that I have known him. Always offering more of a hindrance than any genuine help. Though my grandmother originally sent him to keep an eye on me, I think he cares, too, that I succeed.


“You know I’ll never stop,” I say, after a silence has lapsed between us.


“You should eat,” he says, and he says it gentler than I have ever heard him. I don’t think that I knew his voice could sound like that. It makes my stomach hurt.


“I’m not very hungry,” I say. Maybe I was a few minutes ago, but that hunger has gone away now.


The leprechaun sighs and I feel him get off the log. I finally look at him, and he is watching me. Eyes gleamed over with that look of pity that I have gotten used to. I had hoped he wouldn’t waste that look on me.


“Be careful. Do not do anything foolish,” he says.


I grunt a reply, dropping my gaze to look at the fireball in my hand. I toss it lazily to my other hand.


The leprechaun doesn’t say goodbye. He just vanishes with a loud cracking noise. I stay on the log for a little while longer. I don’t eat even when my stomach grumbles for food.


Nausea hits me a few hours later. I am still hiking in the woods, knowing my destination won’t be reached for another hour at the least. I regret not eating during my rest earlier, and I am forced to stop. I shrug my pack off my shoulder and reach inside of it for a granola bar when a memory hits me like a punch to the gut.


Suddenly, I feel like I am thirteen years old again, on my first hike. I didn’t eat then, either. I was too excited. I could hardly make myself take a break, but it caught up to me and I reached into my pack, and pulled out homemade trail mix from my grandmother.
I feel twenty again, still eating the same trail mix. Desperate to prove just how much of an adult I thought I was.


This is the first year that my hand comes back with something else. I can’t tell anymore if my stomach hurts from not eating, or because of something else.
I eat the granola bar even though it tastes like cardboard in my mouth.


I reach my destination little over an hour later. My legs burn from the exertion. I’m out of shape. I ponder, like I have the last few years that I have done this trek, about getting in shape. Taking walks outside of this hike. Somehow, I doubt I will. In the day’s light, out of these woods, that kind of work seems pointless.


I am in a clearing with a small river that runs to an edge of a cliff. The water doesn’t flow down the edge of a cliff; it doesn’t pour down it like a waterfall; it doesn’t drip-drip-drop. It is like gravity has stopped. An invisible wall halts the flow of the water.


The air is thick with magic.


I remember feeling like the surrounding air was suffocating me the first time I came here. I panicked. The leprechaun had appeared then and reminded me to relax. I did, just barely. I struggled to remember the breathing exercises that my grandma and others had taught me. But eventually, I did. And then I had realized the beauty of the place. The majesty of the magic.


Each year I must make a pilgrimage to this spot. I must absorb the magic placed here by my ancestors and leech some of mine out. It has taken a lot of practice to do so. I am fairly certain that in the first few years that I didn’t exactly take or give any magic. Everyone told me not to worry, that I would figure it out, eventually.


And I did.


I sit down at the edge of the cliff, ignoring the steep drop. I can’t look down or else I will panic. I don’t like heights. I feel like I was made short for a reason. I close my eyes and I concentrate. I can feel the air grab at me. I let the air, or magic, or whatever it is, pull some of my magic out of me. I do not panic, even when it hurts. I lose track of time. I don’t know how long I let the flow of magic leave me. But, eventually, I stop and then stand up, legs wobbly. I feel weaker than I have in years of doing this.


I should have eaten more.


I move to the stream, and I dip my hands into the water. It is cold. I bring it to my lips, and I open myself up again. I drink the water; it is thicker than water should be. I feel a sudden burst of fear that it won’t go down my throat. That I will choke on the thick-water and die. But I don’t. The water goes down, and I open myself up to it, allowing that magic that has infused in it long ago, to replenish what I let seep out of me at the cliff’s edge. I drink and drink until I feel uncomfortably full. Then I stop.


I feel stronger.


I feel ready to take on the world again.


I feel ready to face it without my grandmother.

Bree Finds a Teacher

Bree Finds a Teacher

Howdy! This is a little scene I wrote that involves my D&D character, Bree. She is a young halfling rogue. Fresh into adulthood. She was separated from her family at a young age, and grew up on the streets of a city. She’s now in Waterdeep with a group of companions that she thinks of as friends. She’s a little uncertain of it all, but she is embracing the adventure of it. This is a story of her finding a teacher of sorts. At one point, Copper is referenced. Copper is a pseudodragon, to help with the mental image.

Please enjoy!


Bree had been in Waterdeep for a while now. She lost track of exactly how long it had been, and things were busy ever since she met Orryn, Fenn, and Solara. She now had a place to call her own at Trollskull. A room of her own, even. But Bree was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the others to realize she wasn’t worthwhile to keep around. That she was more of a hindrance to them all and their business. She did her best to quell that little voice of hers, stamp it and bury it down.

But at night, when she was alone in her attic room — seemingly far away from everyone else — the thoughts came to her. Unbidden, but never quite forgotten. She would climb out of her bed and sit on a chest that she had shoved beneath the small window in the attic. Sometimes, gazing out of it, looking around at all rooftops near Trollskull. Other times, she would look up into the night sky, and see a smattering of stars. Not as many stars as she knew there to be. She could remember the road to Waterdeep and how when you weren’t in a city, the sky was so full of stars. Sometimes, she climbed out of her window and onto the roof. She would just look out into the city, watching it. Feeling both like she was home and like she wasn’t. Like she belonged and like she didn’t.


It was mid-afternoon and Bree found she had nothing to do. Solara was holed up in the library, and Fenn was in her room with her plants. Orryn was tending the bar, but Bree didn’t feel like being his shadow. She slipped out of the tavern and took a stroll. Aimless, really. She was trying to get a feel for how the ground felt beneath her feet. Her boots were made of leather, the cheapest available, so thin that she could tell the difference in texture from one road to the next. Some streets were in better condition than others. And she knew how different the roads and walkways felt between the richer and poorer areas of the city. Bree closed her eyes, focusing hard on ground beneath her feet, trying to encourage them to memorize how the ground felt.

She walked right into the side of a building, and it hurt. Bree opened her eyes, and craned her neck up to see on the sign, a picture of a book. She peered through the windows, and sure enough, shelves upon shelves of books lined the space. She didn’t think about it and walked in.

“Can I help you?” Asked the oldest halfling that Bree had ever seen. Her voice sounded ancient, and Bree realized that she was staring.

“Oh, uh… sorry. Just… looking.” Bree mumbled, feeling ashamed.

The halfling stared at her.

“I’ll chop your hands off if you steal anything,” the old one threatened.

“I won’t,” Bree promised, and she didn’t. What she did instead was spend hours among the shelves, feeling a strange pull towards the books. Her fingers itching to take one, but she heeded the old halfling’s warning, and instead of nicking the book like her fingers wanted, she paid for it.

It felt heavy in her hands as she walked out, as her coin purse felt lighter. She couldn’t read, and she didn’t know what she would do with the tome.


Bree was outside of Trollskull when she heard the shouts of children. She wasn’t too concerned, Orla had a pack of kids, and their friends, in and out of her house at all hours of the day. There was often the sound of shouting. She had learned that silence was when she ought to worry The shouting died down and Bree stood up, stretching. She then moved towards where the shouting had been, thinking she might see if the kids wanted a snack. She enjoyed cooking and baking for the kids. They could be harsh critics, but they were also always willing to try whatever it was she made, even if it looked gross.

But when she rounded the corner, she was surprised to see a single kid — not quite a teenager, but close — seated on the ground, furiously wiping at their face. Wiping at tears, Bree assumed.

“Are you okay?” Bree asked.

The kid looked up, startled, and Bree could see their face turning red with embarrassment.

“I’m fine,” the kid sniffled.

“You don’t look it,” Bree said, realizing she was pointing out the obvious. The kid looked at her.

“Fine… I… Bram said that I can’t come with him n’ his friends on the account of me being a girl. That I won’t be able to keep up with ‘em.”

“What are they doing?” Bree asked, her head tilting to the side like a confused Copper.

“Tryin’ to break into an abandoned building,” The girl said, and then she clamped her hands over her mouth. Like she had said something she shouldn’t have. Bree knew it was dangerous, and foolish, for the kids to be breaking into an abandoned building. They could get hurt. But Bree also remembered all the dangerous places she had gone to as a kid. And, maybe, if she taught the girl a thing or two, then the girl could teach the arrogant Bram a thing or two.

“I could help you,” Bree offered, and the girl looked confused.

“Help me with what?”

“I could teach you how to break into buildings. You’d scare the hell out of your brother and his friends. I could teach you how to do it proper, and how to be careful about it so you don’t hurt yourself.”

The girl was looking at Bree like she didn’t believe her. Bree wasn’t sure what part the girl didn’t believe, and it rankled some, but she tried to ignore that feeling.

“What’s in it for you?” The girl asked suspiciously.

Bree hesitated before answering. She was on the verge of offering the girl food whenever she wanted. Baked goods too! But then words tumbled out of her own mouth, words that took her by surprise. The human was no longer the only one blushing.

“You could teach me how to read.”

Shame burned deep. Bree looked down at her worn and thin leather shoes. She didn’t want to see the scorn and cruel amusement on the girl’s face. She had gotten used to looks like that, but they still hurt. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the girl spoke up.

“You have a deal. Should we shake on it?”

Bree held out her hand, and they shook on it. It was an hour later that Bree learned the girl’s name was Elle.

Not A Finisher

I have a confession to make. My confession is: I don’t know how to finish novels and stories.

I have ideas galore, inspiration in abundance, and the drive to start. I can get pretty far into a project, and then… and then… I stop. I lose track of what I am working on. I lose the motivation to figure out the rest of the story, as a new idea beckons me, teases me with its newness and how easy it is to start something. I fall in love with new characters and stories with ease, and then I struggle, I place the older ideas on the back burner, always with the promise of returning to it. Yet, I rarely return to it, or if I do, I start over. Ignoring a lot of what I wrote before except for the world-building. Then those ideas stagnant and instead of pushing through, instead of trying to figure out an actual damn plot and not just a series of scenes that supposedly connect, I move on.

Even with my prompts, I don’t necessarily have an ending to them. There is always the chance that the story can continue. I don’t feel as much of a need to wrap it up in as neat of a bow as, say, a novel. I know novels do not need endings. There can always be the option of continuing the story. But prompts work for me because I keep them relatively short. I write a snapshot of characters who crawl into my mind. Characters who want some part of their stories told, but aren’t too fussy if at most it is 2,000 words.

Despite being a consumer of stories, I suspect I don’t really know how to tell one. That there is some disconnect in my brain. I understand the steps. I understand what readers look for. I understand what I like as a reader, and the stories that hold me captivated, and yet putting that understanding into practice, I flounder.

Maybe I am not supposed to be a novelist. Maybe I should just stick to the fun I have in writing prompts, in writing those snippets of stories that rattle in my heart and mind. Get my need for validation by posting them here on the blog and leaving it at that. I love to write. Publishing a novel, of having my name on a physical book, sounds amazing — but maybe, maybe I’m just not that person. Maybe I need to play to my strengths, which are half-baked ideas and snapshots. Maybe it is time to ignore the voice that whispers to me that not having anything truly published is a sign of failure.

Why does being published and making money off of my writing seem like a sign of success? Why do I feel the need to monetize something that I love? Would the act of making money off of it suddenly mean I am good at it? But isn’t it all subjective?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions… at least, not for myself. I know though; I want to prove myself wrong. I want to take an idea and see it through. I want to figure out the ending, and the middle bits. I want to figure out how to tell a story that is cohesive. I want to finish something that I have started instead of letting it languish and die.

So, this year, like every other year for who knows how long, I aim to finish a story that I started. I’m not going to call it a novel. I don’t know how long it will be. Maybe only 5,000 words. Maybe 100,000 words. No worries of polishing it up this year. No worries about making it perfect. Just a story that has something of a clear beginning, a middle, and an end. Something that makes some sense.

And I won’t worry about those other questions. I’ll continue to write for the love of it and the need of it. And hopefully, finish a damn story.

If you stuck around for this entire ramble, I thank you. How do you finish stories?

Prompt: A Piano Bar

Prompt: Piano Bar

I got a book for Christmas from my Mom, filled with all kinds of writing prompts. This is the first prompt in the book. I kind of messed up on writing it as the prompt is actually: A Strange Request at a Piano Bar. I forgot all about the strange request part. Another thing about these prompts is that they include ten words you are supposed to use for them. I used all ten of them (that was my main focus and probably why I forgot about half of the actual prompt itself). Here are the ten words I had to use:

  • Carnival
  • Sprained
  • Mask
  • Oxidation
  • Awkward
  • Apple
  • Juvenile
  • Controversy
  • Twirl
  • Sassasfras

Anyway, look for the words in the prompt, and please let me know what you think of it!


The carnival is in town. Tents and rides are being set up as campers and trailers pull into the lot next to the site. It isn’t set to open until the following night, but there is a kind of hustle and bustle going on. Everyone working in that space knows what to do. They work in a forced harmony. The kind that comes from years of doing the same thing, over and over, in cities across the country. Sure, there are subtle differences in each city, quirks of the lots that they set up in, but overall, the setup and takedown are the same. 

“There’s a piano bar not too far from here,” Caleb explains, a half-eaten apple in his hand. 

Caleb runs one of the games that seems impossible to win. Oh, people get close enough to winning, but they rarely ever do. His prizes are getting old. Some stuffed animals that he has on display are likely older than him. He has been with the carnival his whole life. His parents met in a town just like this, his Dad running the very same game he is. His Mom, a recent and young widow. They fell in love during that week the carnival was in town and his Mom ended up leaving her old life behind, to travel with his Dad. Caleb was born a year later. He’s somewhere in his late twenties to mid-thirties. His age hard to pin down. Sometimes, you think you can guess it based on something he says. But usually, you can’t tell. It has become something of a game to him, one that his parents are in on. 

“A piano bar?” Jilly asks, her head tilting to the side. Her long and braided hair falling in front of her tattooed face. There probably isn’t a space on her body that is unmarked by ink. She has been traveling with this carnival for a couple years now, but before, she worked with another. She doesn’t talk much about her previous experiences. Jilly is another one whose age is difficult to tell. She looks young but the way she talks about her life when she does, it makes her sound older. 

“Fras you should come,” Jilly says, to the newest member of the carnival. 

Fras, or Sassafras, looks up from the task she was working on. She has heard Caleb bring up the piano bar before. He’s been talking about it, on and off, for a month, maybe more. Fras frowns before answering. She knows that Jilly is rolling her eyes at the frown, even if she can’t see her do it.

“We have so much work to do…” She says, trying to appeal to their tendencies towards working hard. 

“And we’ll finish it soon. You are nearly done anyway. Caleb, pick us up in an hour.”

Caleb flashes Jilly a grin, and then he bows low before he speaks up, a twinkle in his eyes.

“As you wish.”

He walks away, tossing that apple core in a trash bin.


“And then I stabbed him in the gut!” Jilly exclaims.

With a twirl that makes her braids whip around her head, she goes to face Fras with a frown.

“She isn’t even listening to us, Leb.” 

“I hate when you call me that, Illy.” Caleb retorts, but the nickname Illy has never bothered Jilly. Everyone knows that, even Caleb.

Fras sighs and looks over at her two companions. She is in a funk, and she knows it. She needs to pull her head out of it. But she feels an immense amount of guilt over what happened with Rigsby in the last town that they were in. She knows that a sprained ankle in the grand scheme of things isn’t  terrible. But Rigsby’s job requires him to be on his feet all the time, and he’s been out of commission. Even Rigsby himself has told Fras that it wasn’t her fault, but she doesn’t believe him. She knows she has been needlessly awkward around him. In Fras’ defense, she is an awkward person even in the best of times. 

“I am just thinking about Ri—….” 

“Stop thinking about that old man,” Jilly says. She slings an arm around Fras and pulls her tight against her. Fras can smell whatever perfume Jilly uses, a scent that she can’t readily recognize. Something that reminds her of flowers, but none that she can name.

“I—…”

“Jilly is right,” Caleb says, with a look back at the two of them. He has a kind of nervous energy, jittery tonight, that Fras isn’t sure she has ever seen from him before. “Besides, Rigsby is over it. I think he’s been enjoying bossing everyone around to help him out.”

Fras knew that Caleb had a point with that. Everyone has been grumbling about it, wondering if his sprain has improved and he is just milking now. Still, the guilt swirls around in Fras, but she tries to tamper it down.

“Okay,” she says.

“Okay what?” Caleb prompts while Jilly gives a one armed squeeze that Fras knows is supposed to be comforting and not suffocating.

“Okay, I will stop worrying about him.”

“Good!” Jilly and Caleb say at the same time.

It causes Fras to laugh, a true one, not one of her forced ones. 


“There are too many juveniles in this bar,” Caleb says aghast, as they enter. 

Fras gives a quick look around the place, and sure enough , there are a lot of kids in the place. Or maybe the more accurate description would be that there are too many families in the place. She doesn’t know what time it is, but it must be after dinner. It wasn’t dark on the walk to the bar, but it will be soon.

“Don’t cause a scene, Leb.” Jilly says, with that patent eye roll of hers. She tugs a mask over her face as she says this. The mask has been around her neck, and Fras originally thought it was a scarf or something she was wearing.

“Don’t cause a scene you say, as you pull a mask over your face?” Caleb asks, the tone of his voice fighting amusement. 

“You can still see my eyes,” Jilly replies, as if that matters any. 

Jilly moves away from them, heading towards the bar where a man in an ill-fitting suit is seated. She leans against the bar, catching the man’s attention. Fras can picture the look that Jilly is giving him. The man’s face is red, and Fras can’t remember if it was red from before he looked at Jilly, or after. Caleb lets out a groan as he watches all of this, and then he is tugging Fras towards an empty table not too far from the piano.

“Won’t it be too loud near the piano?” Fras asks, but Caleb ignores her.


Caleb stays in a dark kind of mood while they enjoy their first round of drinks. Others from the carnival make their way to the piano bar, and soon their small table is feeling a little cramped. Jilly is still talking to the man in the suit, she hasn’t bothered to look their way once. Fras feels a little like she is suffocating and extracts herself from the table with no one shouting drink orders at her.

She makes her to the bar and leans her elbows on it. She is next to Jilly and the mystery-ill-fitted-suit-man. She can just make out what he is saying to her through the din of voices. A lackluster stroke of a piano key sounds.

“And the oxidation of the wine…” 

Fras wonders how long Jilly has sat at this bar, listening to the man drone on and on about a drink he isn’t even drinking. His glass looks like it is full of some dark liquor, and she also wonders how many drinks Jilly has gotten out of him.

“Why are you wearing that mask, anyway?” The man asks, as if he suddenly just now noticed that Jilly was wearing one.

The bartender notices Fras, and she gives her order. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices Jilly shrug of her shoulders. 

“Boredom,” Jilly replies.

“Oh,” the man says, a little uncertainly. 

“I work for the carnival,” Jilly continues.

“That makes some sense,” the man says, and then hurriedly he adds, “because I haven’t seen you around here before.” 

Fras gets her drink. She thinks for a moment about placing a hand on Jilly’s shoulder, making her presence known, interrupting this odd ritual of her friend’s, but she decides not to. She takes her drink, tips the bartender, and then wanders away. She doesn’t go back to the table.


The piano player has finally begun to play. Caleb seems to be in brighter spirits. He is sitting closest to the piano, his chair turned away from the rest of the table but no one seems to mind. No one even seems to notice. Fras wonders the last time she has seen Caleb look like that, and she doesn’t think she ever has. She doesn’t think it just has to do with the music, either. 

She stops studying Caleb, and instead, turns her focus to the man seated at the piano. He is wearing clothes that have seen better days, but he doesn’t look shabby for it. Maybe it is just all in the way he carries himself. He has an effortless sort of confidence, and he plays good. Probably better than is actually needed at a place full of drunks. She sees him stealing glances at Caleb, never once missing a key, never once making the piano sound discordant. He looks damn near as happy as Caleb. 

Fras stops watching the two of them, feeling suddenly like she is intruding on something. Rigsby gets her attention by asking for another drink. She feels guilty again, and offers to put it on her tab.


“He started talking about the controversy of wine, Fras. He doesn’t even work with wine or drink it. Says he can’t stand the taste, but he’s fascinated by it all the same. He said, life has cursed him. He should have been a sommelier, but he can’t be.”

Jilly is drunk. Drunker than Fras has seen her in a while. They are walking back to the lot with a group of other people from the carnival. Caleb isn’t with them.

“He shouldn’t be as attractive as he is, Sassy.” Jilly groans.

“I think you drank too much,” Fras says.

It wasn’t like the man was unattractive but Fras doesn’t know how Jilly spent so many hours talking to him. 

“He gave me his number,” Jilly continues. “Maybe I’ll call him in the morning.”

“See if he is still fascinating in the light of the morning, and with sobriety?” Fras asks, not necessarily unkindly, but the way Jilly reacts, it makes Fras think she should have watched her tone. 

“Yes,” Jilly says, stiffly. Embarrassed, even though embarrassment isn’t something Jilly usually exhibits. 

“Sorry, tell me more about your non-wine-drinking-sommelier,” Fras says, trying to undo whatever it was she just did. 

Jilly hesitates all of a fraction of a second, before going back to talking about the man in the ill-fitting suit. Fras wonders if she ever got his name.