Alys and Sparky at Christmas – Part 1

Even the combined efforts of the entire Western Witches’ Coven had failed to produce more than a light dusting of frost come Christmas Eve. Sparky stared gloomily out of the kitchen window, a sad stream of silver smoke issuing from his nostrils.

‘Come on, Sparky, cheer up,’ said Alys brightly, pulling ingredients from the store cupboard. ‘You can help me make the Christmas pudding.’

The diminutive dragon raised a small purple eyebrow. ‘You’re not going to make it from scratch are you?’

‘Of course,’ Alys replied with a slight frown, consulting her copy of Conventional Cookery for Witches.

While the light outside dimmed, they measured and poured and, stirring sunwise for luck, they both made a wish, adding a handful of small silver charms, which Alys had quickly conjured up. The charms fizzed and buried themselves in the sticky mixture. Alys poured it into the pudding bowl, sealed the top in waxed paper and gently lowered the bowl into the large water-filled saucepan that was bubbling gaily on the stove.

Sparky read from the recipe book. ‘It’s going to take a whole six hours to steam,’ he said, eyes widening.

Alys nodded cheerfully. ‘Then it should be ready by midnight. We won’t forget that.’

Later that evening, after a celebratory supper of mince pies and custard, they were relaxing by the festive fire that Sparky had conjured up from Alys’s Creative Christmas Spell Book, a slim volume that only opened on Christmas Eve and offered a brand-new yuletide spell each year. This year the dancing flames made memory pictures.

‘Look, Sparky,’ said Alys excitedly, pointing to a pair of pulsating pink parsnips that had popped up amongst the flames. ‘It’s those ugly vegetables that won us the Witches’ Institute Flower and Produce competition!’

A little stream of proud pink smoke flared from Sparky’s nostrils. He started to chortle and the pink smoke turned to green as the bewildered faces of the two botching builders appeared, grisly green hair sprouting from their heads. ‘That served them right, didn’t it?’

Alys blushed slightly. It wasn’t in her nature to harm anyone, but they had deserved it. She started to giggle.

The clock on the mantle stood to attention and cleared its throat, preparing to strike. Alys glanced up. ‘It’s nearly midnight, Sparky, which of one of your presents are you going to open?’

Sparky flew over to the shimmering Christmas tree, which the Retired Cauldron had generously sprouted that morning. The tree was now proudly bearing their presents on its outstretched branches. The diminutive dragon looked up, stroking his chin with a thoughtful purple paw. ‘I can’t decide whether to open the one that’s obviously a book or…’

He was interrupted by a loud ping from the Magical Messaging Machine. Alys and Sparky hurried over to the table, which still bore faint water marks from the recent Immersive-Experience incident. The Machine’s screen sprang to life and the big friendly face of George the Dragon appeared. His usually jovial expression was creased with concern.

‘Sorry to bother, but we’ve an emergency!’ His large yellow saucer eyes glowed glassily.

‘What kind of emergency?’ asked Alys and Sparky together.

‘The gnomes had a magic-missive from their elf cousins in Lapland.’ He lowered his voice. ‘I’m not at liberty to say over the witch-waves, but think you can guess who it involves.’ George’s scaly green ears waggled anxiously. ‘Will you come? Please.’

Alys and Sparky looked at each other, then turned to the screen and nodded vigorously.

George’s face relaxed. ‘Come over to my place and we’ll go together. Please hurry,’ he urged.

The screen went blank.

Excited emerald smoke issued from Sparky’s nostrils. ‘Come on, Alys! Lapland. You know what that means!’ The diminutive dragon hovered by the doormat, while Alys snatched up her wand and hurried over to join him. ‘Edelweiss Valley, Switzerland,’ Alys enunciated.

As they disappeared, the clock cleared its throat again and began to strike midnight. The saucepan on the stove spluttered in response.

to be continued tomorrow…

A small cute purple dragon
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The Beast in the Night

a fearsome dark beast with blood dripping from its mouth

Sinead shook the gates harder. No lock was visible, but they would not yield. They must be secured by an enchantment. Too slippery to climb, too high for even Moonsprite to jump, they were trapped in the bitterly-cold darkness. The Crystal’s light was fading and the night closing in.

The beast howled again. It was coming closer.

Sinead thrust the Crystal into Moonsprite’s saddle bag and pulled out the fabled Blue Orb, the most powerful weapon they possessed. The Orb had destroyed the last of the Oppressors, it would surely demolish the gates.

Sinead clasped the Orb in front of her and prepared to utter the sacred words.

Just as she was about to speak, a dark shape appeared out of the gloom and bounded towards the gates. Touched by the hot breath from its snapping jaws, the gates swung open.

The fabled Blue Orb rolled from Sinead’s startled hands.

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Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

Back to the Garden

Sinead thrust the now useless Prophesy Book back into Moonsprite’s saddlebag. The light was fading and the temperature was plummeting with it. The same thoughts formed in both Sinead’s and Moonsprite’s minds. Had they been betrayed again? First by the Sisterhood, now by the so-called Gatekeeper?

At least they still had all the remaining artifacts.

The Crystal of Nor began to pulse.

Sinead snatched it up and held it aloft, but its glow could not penetrate the gloom ahead. Surely their only course was to return to the Garden and confront the Gatekeeper. Moonsprite snorted in agreement, nudging at Sinead to mount.

Guided by the Crystal’s light, Moonsprite thundered sure-footedly down the snow-covered steps. Soon the great iron gates came into view. Sinead dismounted and hurried forward. She gripped the gates and pulled, but they remained stubbornly shut.

In the snow-clad garden beyond, they heard a great beast howl.

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White Out

Sinead and Moonsprite began to climb the shallow steps. All they could see around them were the tall hedges on either side and a bright patch of clear sky in the far distance, where the endless steps were leading them.

The air grew increasing chilly. Frills of frost appeared on the hedges and visible tendrils of breath spilled from Moonsprite’s nostrils. Flakes of snow began to fall. Sinead shivered and drew her cloak around her.

On they climbed through the ever-thickening snow. Sinead placed her hand on the hilt of her sword. This time Moonsprite sent no calming message to her, as she had back in the Garden. Sinead placed her other hand on Moonsprite’s neck, urging her to stop. The snow-white unicorn halted, stamping her hooves on the icy stone, while Sinead opened the saddlebag. She took out the Prophesy Book and opened it.

Every single page was blank.

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Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

Another Gateway

Without another word the emerald-clad Gatekeeper turned on her heel and strode across the lawn to a different path. Sinead and Moonsprite hastened after her. The atmosphere had changed. A cool wind blew across the grass and the trees began to quiver, casting showers of red-golden leaves onto the ground.

The Gatekeeper glanced over her shoulder and quickened her step. When Sinead and Moonsprite caught up with her she was standing before a pair of tall iron gates. A broad flight of steps, edged with tall green hedges, lay beyond.

Sinead took the Freedom Key from her tunic and held it out to the Gatekeeper, but the ageless woman shook her head.

‘These gates are not locked. All are free to pass through.’ She turned and pushed the two gates open with a grand, sweeping gesture. ‘Put the Key away and enter,’ she instructed. ‘I will not be far behind you.’

Image credit: ‘Iron Gate’ by flowerpowerstock on Deviant Art

Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

Paradise or Prison?

When Sinead lifted her head from Moonsprite’s neck, the emerald-robed woman had wandered off a little way. Moonsprite pawed the ground gently; the woman turned to them and beckoned.

‘Walk with me.’ She indicated a golden-lit path through a flower-filled glade. ‘You have travelled far, Sinead,’ she continued. ‘What news of the Oppressors?’

‘They are defeated, Madam,’ Sinead replied. ‘All of them have been destroyed.’

The woman nodded, pacing on in silence.

‘…are you Mother Earth?’ asked Sinead hesitantly.

‘Me? No, my dear. I am the Gatekeeper.’

Sinead’s hand hovered over the hilt of her sword. Moonsprite whinnied gently. Nothing to fear.

‘But where is Mother Earth? I’ve been sent to set her free.’ Sinead took the Freedom Key from her tunic.

The Gatekeeper smiled. ‘Then we must hasten to the gate.’ She broke her stride and turned to Sinead. Her face bore an expression which Sinead could not decipher.

Image credit: ‘Dreamy Alley’ by Leonid Afremov on Deviant Art

Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

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Welcome to Paradise

The image shows a beautiful garden with illuminated trees and brightly coloured flowers

The heavy door clanged shut behind her. Sinead wheeled around, drawing the Sword of Elshain for protection. The weapon glowed only dimly: no threat was apparent.

Sinead advanced through a lofty hallway, which opened into a still larger, circular atrium. Double doors swung open at the far side and a warm, fragrant breeze wafted in. Sinead hastened forward, filling her lungs with the scents of fruits and flowers, and tasting the honey-dewed air.

She stepped out into patchwork of verdant greenery, laid out in manicured magnificence. Was this really the place where Mother Earth was being held?

‘We’ve been waiting for you.’

A woman, neither young nor old, dressed in flowing emerald robes emerged from a blossom-filled orange grove. Moonsprite was at her side, whinnying gently. Sinead dropped her sword and ran towards them, burying her face in Moonsprite’s mane.

In that moment, their reunion was all that seemed important.

Image credit: ‘Alley Of Roses’ by Leonid Afremov on Deviant Art

Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

Forged from Fer

‘To the forge!’

The two dwarves hurried off while Sinead struggled to her feet. With renewed resolve she tucked the Prophesy Book into her cloak, fastened her sword and followed.

She found them stoking up the fire.

‘Which metal shall we use?’ Dorrin asked.

Alric turned to her. ‘My lady, can you guide us?’

Sinead turned to the final page of the Prophesy Book, where a new verse had appeared:

‘Forged in the Depths from Finest Fer, the Key to Free our Mother
wrought-well by the Sons Of Earth, Sinead must bring, no other.’

Alric caught Sinead’s puzzled look. ‘Tis iron to us Sons of Earth, my lady.’

‘And a fitting use for this,’ said Dorrin, holding up a glowing globe of iron.

They set to work, heating and hammering, until finally they placed a beautifully-crafted key in her hand.

If only she knew where Mother Earth was being held.

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Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

The Freedom Key

A black and white drawing of a large ornate key with a butterfly motif.

A strong arm lifted Sinead’s shoulders and a black-bearded face came into view. A cup was brought to her lips and she took a sip of sweet water.

‘Where did you find the vessel, Alric?’ asked the black bearded dwarf.

‘It was next to the spring by the Forge,’ said another voice.

Sinead’s eyes focused on the cup. The Chalice of Earthly Liberation! She sat up, almost knocking the chalice from Dorrin’s hand.

Fumbling in her cloak, she brought out The Prophesy Book. The two dwarves crouched either side of her as she turned to the new Final Chapter. Under the title there was now a drawing of a key.

Alric gasped. ‘Dorrin, fetch the scroll!’

Dorrin scurried off, returning a few moments later. He crouched down and unrolled the yellowed parchment to reveal an identical image.

‘This is our Destiny,’ he announced. ‘We’re going to forge the Freedom Key!’

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Previous episodes of Sinead’s Final Quest an epic tale, unfolding in tiny 150 word increments.

The Dwarves’ Destiny

an image of a sword with a silver hilt

Sinead forced her eyes open. She was lying on a lumpy mattress wrapped in her cloak. A short, stout figure with a black beard, was crouching beside her.

Sorry for hitting you like that,’ he said gruffly. ‘Alric and me thought you were one of them witches.’

Another squat figure appeared out of the gloom. ‘It’s her, Dorril! Like it says in the Prophesy: ‘She will come bearing a Dwarfen sword’.’ He pointed to the Sword of Elshain, which lay beside Sinead. ‘That’s it! The Destiny we’ve been waiting for all these years.’

Sinead raised herself on her elbows, fighting back the dizziness.

‘We are the last Dwarves of the Deep Mines. It’s says in the Prophesy that we must help you,’ said Alric solemnly.

Sinead blinked. ‘Prophesy?’

‘My lady?’

Sinead sank back onto the mattress.

Dorril crouched down again. ‘Quickly, fetch some water, Alric! Our Destiny depends on her.’

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