It’s an unmistakable sound, a cross between sticks clattering together and overly excited feet flapping against concrete, and I rarely get to enjoy it.  Enjoy it I do, though.  For it brings with it memories of warm summer nights huddled beneath the overhang of the open garage, lightning bursting in the distance, rollerblading against my better judgement on slippery sidewalks nestled between groves on my college campus, and the feeling of cold sand between my toes as I played volleyball with the capturer of my heart, she who would be Queen.

I could sit for hours on end and just listen to the rain, and I have done exactly that when offered the chance.  I hear the first smattering and clattering of drops and my heart sours while the best of my memories flood my thoughts.  I close my eyes and see the flashes of blinding light bouncing off the slick desert floor, with the dark looming backdrop of the mountains.  My cheeks flush from the rush of wind and stinging droplets crashing against my face as I defy logic and sanity to zip along the debris ridden walkways.  My lips smile and release a laugh as I dive for a wayward ball, wet clumps of beach sand kicking up and tangling with my hands, my legs, my hair.  Honestly, who plays volleyball in the rain?

Honestly, who doesn’t play volleyball in the rain?  Who doesn’t go rollerblading or running or walking in a tempest?  Who doesn’t sit and watch thunderstorms march slowly across the horizon?  Who doesn’t splash in puddles?  Who doesn’t wake with a smile in the middle of the night as drops start pinging against their windows?  Who doesn’t look at the forecast every week hoping to see that this is the week, this one right here, where we are finally going to get some weather to be excited about?  Who doesn’t love rain?  Who?

Ah, rain.  Sweet, cooling, wonderful restorative mana from the heavens, how I love your song.  You are a symphony of sounds, a chorus of voices, a speaker of tongues.  You play and my heart and soul listen.  In Mr. Brown Can Moo, Dr. Seuss corrals the sounds as “dibble dibble dop, dibble dibble dop dop dop,” and who am I to argue with him.

our unending duality

The stars were shining in defiance of the coming storm.  Though no clouds yet darkened the horizon, the storm was building out of sight.  The gunfire piercing the night and echoing still in his thoughts were proof of its inevitable march across the sky.  Rain and thunder had always accompanied, mirrored, the tempest on the ground before and he had long ago lost hope that their relationship would change.  When shots rent the night, the following day would be miserable with weather.

Hitching his coat around his neck, he stepped free of his porch and across the dusty driveway to stand at his property line.  His gaze was drawn east to catch the first of the morning’s warmth pressing against the heavens.  Soon the world would spin enough to pry the fiery orb from its nightly slumber, but it would only shine for a few hours before clouds overtook it.

The thunder would roll forward first, signaling its slow approach.  The crash and tremble would echo in his small valley and his thoughts would return to the previous night.  Then the sky would soften and the rain would patter and splatter turning his driveway into a river of mud.  The torrent would pound against everything in its path until it was satisfied its lesson had finally, and brutally, been imparted.

The students were never paying attention though and the violence would continue.  He understood the duality of his kind even as he pondered the same and watched night give way to dawn.  The edge of the world bruised and then blued.  The sun came into view and the light shimmered in the clear air and reflected off the ground, heavy with dew.  It was beautiful and hopeful but he could trust neither.

The gunfire echoed in his memory again and the first peel of thunder reached across the world as the clouds began to form.  Small at first, they stretched high into the atmosphere before spreading horizontally to blot out the sun.  The day crackled with energy.  The storm sizzled with retribution.

He stepped away from his property line and retreated to the partial safety of his porch.  The danger was real, no less than it had been the night before, but that didn’t mean he could shirk his responsibilities.  It was day and that meant work must be done, despite the risks and the coming downpour.  It wasn’t yet time to get started, though.  The sun was still shining.

So, he watched the storm build and he waited for it to arrive.  Once the first fat drops splashed into the dust he would step into the open again and begin.  He would track down those who had called down the storm and he would silence them forever.  One day, he hoped to keep the storms from raging at all.  One day, he knew someone would come looking for him.

And the cycle would continue for someone else, to wake to the ringing shots and wait for the resultant storm.


cowering in the mud

She cowered and trembled in the darkness, rain lashing against her, soaking her robes and sending rivulets of drops running down her face.  Her drenched hair, loosed from its normal jeweled bind in her flight, clung in patches to her cheeks, forming channels for the water.  Her knees sank into the pooling mud.  The wind whipped branches snatched at her unprotected shoulders and back.  In her haste to flee to safety she had neglected to invoke any of the spells that would have saved her from the indignity of the weather.

The lightning highlighted her disheveled state and the thunder rolled in peals of laughter.

The panic in her eyes was replaced with rage as she watched her tower burn.  The orange flames, tinted with nuances of purple and green as her stores of magical components tasted death, reached through the windows to defy the fury of the storm.  The rain would win in the end, but that wouldn’t, that couldn’t, keep the fire from showing its defiance.

Some of the magical tomes would protect themselves from the fire and looters and others would be lost forever.  She could replace the stores of ingredients.  She could recreate her trove of potions.  She could rebuild the tower.  But, she could not salvage the ancient texts she had been studying from, the histories and scrolls that she counted as her most prized possession.

Her ex-apprentice had started laughing, and she’d felt, as much as sensed, the hands reaching for her from the darkness behind her and she had panicked, whisking herself along the corridors of magic without thinking about what she was doing.  She cursed herself as a fool.  She should have trusted her protective enchantments.  She should have trusted her superior knowledge of the craft and met her cowardly enemies directly.  Instead, she had shown herself a coward as well.

“I’m a coward and a fool.”

The words, though swallowed immediately by the force of the rain and wind, rang clearly in her head for a long moment.  She had uttered them before.  They had been her truth before.

Her fists clenched, and she pushed away from the sodden earth.  “Never again,” her whispered words rose to rival the thundering electricity.  “Never again will I act so.  Never again will I allow myself to cower in response to the threats and posturing of bullies.”

She spoke the arcane words that distanced her from the weather’s onslaught and brought peace to her mind and soul.  The magic flowed within her, giving her balance and renewing her strength and purpose.  The sorceress closed her eyes and let the enchantment’s embrace envelop her.

When she opened her eyes and cast them back to her tower, they shown with equal parts rage and clarity of thought.  The next spell encased the flames in a vacuum, silencing their threat immediately.  Then she stepped through space and appeared instantly back in her study.  The chair that had held her captive was empty.  The shadows, however, happily divulged the secrets they had witnessed, and she smiled as she planned her next moves.

The sorceress had hunted bullies before and she knew just what to do.

the storm approaches

Lightning splashed in the distance, too far away for the thunder to roll against them, but close enough for the dazzling strike to sparkle in her eyes.  She leaned in close, allowing the returned darkness around her to press in and envelop her captive, her eyes offering the only illumination in the room, and whispered, “You will know the true meaning of pain before I’m done with you.”

The sorceress snapped her fingers and the candles in the room flared to magical life.  The flames rose unnaturally high and sent twisted shadows crashing around the room.  They melded with the darkness in the corners and advanced in threatening chaotic battalions, rushing, spiking, withdrawing, devouring.  She had finally caught her betrayer and she wasn’t holding back anything from her arsenal of fear and power in exacting her revenge.

“Stop me if this sounds familiar…  First you are going to lose your hands at the wrists and your feet at the ankles.  Then you’ll lose your eyes and nose.  Then I’ll snap the major tendons in your legs.  I’ll carve my justice from your flesh with searing spells.  When your body gives out and you lose consciousness I will haunt your dreams.  You will beg for death in your sleep and it will not be granted.”

A stiff wind ran through the open window, heralding the arrival of a storm.  The next time lightning danced in the heavens the thunder would shake the foundations of her fortress.  Rain began to drip against the sill.  The droplets splashed inward, pooled in tiny puddles on the dark stones, and ran along the edge to fall to the floor.  The sorceress, normally mindful of maintaining a clean and orderly study, hardly noticed the disruption at all.  Her former apprentice, caught in an enchanted cell that neutralized his ability to use magic, received the full force of her attention.

“How arrogant of you…  How foolish…  To think you could betray me, after I took you in and helped you reach higher levels of sorcery than you ever could have without me, and to not know that I would catch you?  I’m the greatest magician to walk this world, and many others, in over a century.  The ancient trees whisper their secrets to me.  Breezes bring me news from across the lands.  The stars show me the future.”  She spoke a single guttural word, a curse from times long forgotten, and her right hand shifted from flesh to a single gleaming blade, honed to a fine point.  “How could you possibly believe that you could get the better of me?”

She pressed her blade-hand through the exterior spell fabric keeping the betrayer immobilized, and smiled at the feeling of magic caressing her arm.  She smiled wider as a small trickle of blood began to ooze down his cheek below the point she had pierced his flesh.  Her eyes followed the trail down, hoping to watch a droplet fall from his chin.

Her expression of mirth faltered, slightly, however, as she saw the man returning the smile.  Her eyes darted upward and finally noticed the lack of fear in his.  Something was terribly wrong, and she quickly took a step back, retrieving her hand and cancelling the spell that had turned it into a weapon.

“Why aren’t you afraid?”  The sorceress shouted the question, outraged that her moment of revenge was being stolen from her.

Her former apprentice widened his smile and began an low chuckle, that was immediately lost in the crash and roll of driving thunder.

Prompt: Finish The Story

The night howled, sucked at the windows, and rattled fences.  Trees, arched with the onslaught, whipped and branches reached out for anything to unleash their frustration and torment on.  The wind pushed against everything, a bully on a rampage, the world its victim.

The cloud shrouded darkness ate away at the edges of the dim pools of light cast by the street lamps.  The polka dot glows shimmered in the swaying black.  They seemed resigned to their fate, destined to be swallowed and complete the end of all things, but too stubborn to wink out quickly.  Fading, little by little, the long hours of the night stretched thin.

A single door on the block creaked open, straining against the arms of the storm, and then banged shut.  The hunched man winced in anticipation of the sound even though the echoes of the escape were lost below the fury of the wind.  His strained eyes swept the scoured landscape and saw nothing but the traces of lights ominously urging him forward.

The way is here.

It is not safe.

Follow the dancing lights.

If you dare…


Okay, I’ve set the scene, what happens next?  Leave your ending in the comments or write a post and link it back here.  Can’t wait to read what you all come up with.