Enter Porkus

Setting: Rathen and Bulo are sitting at a table with Selven in Gunther’s Tavern talking about finding a member of Selven’s Guild. A large man named Porkus had fallen in the tavern threating to return to get the money for his injuries.

Suddenly, the doors to the tavern were thrown open, three men turned around quickly in their chairs.

“I told you I’d be back!” Porcas shouted out. He stepped in with two big men on each side of him who looked like thugs hired off the street. “If you don’t pay me the twenty gold I spent healing myself I’ll take it out of your place!”

Rathen, Bulo and Selven remained sitting at their table but were now on the edge of their seats ready for anything.

“I told you I ain’t paying for your own clumsiness!” Gunther shouted as he came in from the back room behind the bar.

Rathen quickly sized up the situation. The two big men were not armed but were rather large and looked like they could handle their own and obviously Porcas was big with less muscle. Looking over at the other two, Bulo remained calm in his seat as if he were watching a play while Selven seemed to be a bit nervous reaching under his tunic to where Rathen could see he had a dagger tucked away. Rathen felt confident he could fend one off while Bulo worked on the other one.

“If you ain’t paying then this place will be torn down! Do it!” Porcas shouted pointing to his two henchmen. One of the henchmen picked up a bar stool and slammed it against the bar making a loud wood on wood smack. The stool shattered into pieces.

As the man slammed the stool over the bar, Bulo jumped up, and like a charging bull was halfway to the group before Rathen had the chance to even stand up. It was apparent Bulo had been anticipating trouble while he sat so calmly. Rathen noticed Selven slowly duck under the table.

Porcas glanced over to Bulo approaching, “This ain’t your fight so stay out of it, or else.”

Bulo reached the group and stopped, “Thanks for the warning. Now here’s your warning. I’m giving you three seconds to get you and your men out of this tavern or I am throwing you out!”

“Get’em!” Porcas yelled.

Rathen closed on the group and selected the henchman he wanted to subdue. He waited for the right timing to attack.

The henchman that busted the stool over the bar charged Bulo. Immediately, Bulo dropped down in his stance Rathen had become familiar with. The henchman swung his fist wildly with great force. Bulo ducked under the swing charging the henchman. When they collided, the henchman was knocked back a few feet stunned. Bulo took the opportunity to reel back and punch the henchman in the face. The henchman dropped down to his knees with his hands over his face.

“My nose!” he screamed.

Rathen closed quickly on the other henchman but as the henchman noticed Rathen approach, he carefully positioned himself behind Bulo.

“My nose!” The man on his knees screamed again.

With Bulo’s attention adverted the henchman behind him quickly charged and hit Bulo with a furious punch to the back of his head. Rathen cursed himself for letting him get the better of Bulo before he could get to him.

The punch was fierce but did not seem to faze Bulo. Bulo slowly turned around to face his attacker who now backed away. “Hitting a man in the back, huh?”

Rathen saw that fire in Bulo’s eyes he had seen during the Taklar orc battle. Please don’t let Bulo kill this man!

“How hard can you hit a man from the front?” Bulo challenged the thug.

During this confrontation, Rathen saw Porcas moving toward Gunther. Rathen quickly made his way there.

“Come on! Punch for punch! Let’s see who wins. You got first punch.” Bulo challenged him with his arms straight out to his sides.

The henchman looked around quickly and charged Bulo with a punch to his face. The punch moved Bulo’s head slightly and would certainly have put a normal man down.

Without a flinch, Bulo shouted “And now it’s my turn.” Bulo moved toward the henchman who was obviously not willing to let Bulo hit him. He backed up until he hit the wall behind him. When he hit the wall and stopped moving, Bulo let off a massive punch that hit the man’s face with a sound like a plank of wood hitting a side of beef. With the force of the punch the henchman’s head hit the back wall and his body slumped down to the floor.

Rathen walked over and stood between Porcas and Gunther and stared him down.

“I ain’t leaving until I get my twenty gold!” Porcas shouted.

Without even cleaning the blood off his fist, Bulo walked over to Porcas, “Oh you’re leaving alright.” Bulo walked behind Porcas and placed his right arm under his neck and locked in a choke by reaching his left arm around the other side. Bulo pulled him back away from Rathen. Porcas went to the ground but Bulo dragged him on his back to the door in the chokehold. Porcas’s weight was not a challenge for Bulo. Rathen rushed over to open the door for Bulo who continued taking him out.

Outside Bulo released his grip. “And if you ever come back, you will end up like your thugs!”

There was no response from Porcas, he laid in the dirt coughing from the pressure of the chokehold.

Bulo walked back inside and Rathen started to close the door. “Keep it open.” Bulo said and he picked up the man who was still on his knees holding his face with a handful of blood. Bulo gently pulled him to his feet and slowly walked him outside. Once back in the inn Bulo called out, “Rathen, can you lend me a hand?” and walked toward the henchman on the floor.

“Sure,” Rathen responded thinking to himself that was the first time he has ever heard Bulo ask for help from him.

Together they picked up the unconscious henchman and walked him out the door. They laid him next to Porcas who was still lying there coughing. Bulo laid him down and walked back inside the inn. Rathen took a few seconds to check the man’s heartbeat and breathing just to make sure he was not dead. While his bloody face had been split open and even had what appeared to be a broken cheekbone, he was alive.

Walking back in the inn, Rathen found Bulo helping Gunther clean up the mess the henchman made. A small welt could be seen under Bulo’s left eye from the punch he received.
Selven approached Rathen from under the table where he had been hiding, “Uh, I’ll come back tomorrow evening and let you know what I find out.”

“Thank you,” Rathen replied.

Selven slowly approached Bulo, “Bulo” he spoke out. Bulo turned to face him. “You will always have a position as a member of the Adventurer’s Guild if you should ever choose to join.”

“Thank you!” Bulo replied. “I appreciate that.”

“You’re welcome,” Selven replied as he walked toward the door carefully stepping around a pool of blood on the floor…

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A cut above the rest

Subject: An Action scene
Setting: Any
Time period: Any
Length: Less than 500
Restrictions: None

The sound of footsteps echoed from down the darkened hallway. Eva pressed herself against the damp stone wall pulling her weapon. With dagger in hand, she tensed her muscles and bent her legs. The hallway lit up as the footsteps approached. Eva kept her place around the corner but worried the light might give her away before she had time to strike. This wasn’t her ideal location for the kill, but she knew the area was secure. I have to be quick.

As the man turned the corner, Eva quickly identified her target. It was Vargas, the guard captain. With a quick look over, Eva noticed the leather armor Vargas wore on his chest. He was much taller and his stout body implied strength. She had to be smart.

From the darkness, Eva sprung forward cutting the man’s hand that carried a torch. Vargas shouted out in surprise. Embers bounced off the stone floor as the touch hit. Eva slipped behind him thrusting her blade into the back of his leg. With a yelp of pain, the man collapsed to his knees.

Eva wrapped her left arm around Vargas’s neck. She pressed her body tightly against his back and stepped on his lower right leg, securing it to the floor. She placed her dagger inches in front of his right eye.

Vargas grabbed at Eva’s arm around his neck. “Wait! Don’t kill me!”

Eva leaned in whispering into his ear, “Give me one good reason.”

“I can give you wealth, power … whatever you want!”

Nothing would persuade Eva. She had a job to do. Hearing her victims beg for their lives only increased her sense of power. A moment she relished. “Sorry, hun,” she whispered, thrusting the dagger.

Vargas reared his head to the side just before the strike. The dagger missed his eye but cut into his head. Blood poured.

Eva tightened her grip, readying for another stab. Vargas reached up grabbing the dagger by the blade. He started to stand, picking Eva up on his back. She was no longer able to restrain him.

The man roared in anger. He violently shook his body. Eva’s grip started to weaken. She had no choice but to let go. She sprung backward pulling the dagger from Vargas’s hand. She landed on the floor, crouched and ready.

“I’ll kill you!” Vargas roared. He picked up the touch and limped toward her.

Eva considered her options. Vargas’s leg was deeply wounded, limiting his mobility. The cut on his head was bleeding so much it covered his eye restricting his vision. The cut on his hand was superficial. With the leather armor, he would still be a powerful opponent. Flee!

Vargas violently swung the touch in front of him. Eva could feel the heat of the blinding flame. She slowly stepped back and glanced behind her. Her way was clear. Eyeing the man one last time as he moved forward, Eva turned and ran down the dark corridor.

“Damn you! I’ll find you! And I’ll kill you,” Vargas yelled from behind her.

“We’ll meet again,” Eva whispered the promise to herself, as she disappeared into the darkness.

It’s not always good to be King

Long silk curtains fluttered gracefully in the cool morning breeze. The warm sunlight poured into a large room from arched windows. A large man with thinning gray hair and a short gray beard sat at a long table. Under his extravagant red wool court coat, his rumpled white shirt was stained with several food stains. He rested his chin on his palm allowing his body to lazily slumped forward.

The man continuously reached over to a bowl of fruit popping red grapes into his mouth as he looked over a large map. He glanced idly at the sunlight streaming in through the arched windows. A faint smile curved his thick lips. Spring, he thought. His smile widened. Taxes would be rolling in from his estates.

“Lord Vorick,” a tall, slender man dressed in dark clothing called out upon entering the room. Dust from the road still clung to his boots and pants periodically falling onto the floor as he approached.

“It’s about time! I expected you yesterday!”

“I’m sorry your lordship, I had some difficulties,” the slender man said as he produced a pouch from under his cloak.

Vorick popped another grape into his mouth, “what difficulties?”

The slender man stepped forward setting a small pouch on the table and quickly stepping away. “The towns on the eastern side all all gone. Only a few farms left.”

“That’s all?” Vorick knew of and counted on at least four towns that had plenty of land that always paid their taxes each year. “What of Framshire?”

“Abandoned, your lordship.”

“Pendleshire?”

“Abandoned.”

Vorick stood up in frustration, pointing his thick finger down on the map in front of him, “Munclaven? Lapendal?”

“Both gone.”

“What’s this nonsense? What’s the reason?” Vorick asked loudly. If Marcus was joking, he did not find it amusing.

“I’ve asked the farmers there. They said crops continue to fail.” Marcus paused for a second casting his gaze to the floor. “Livestock and even townsfolk have mysteriously died. They blame it on monsters from Castle Ghrakus. The people just moved away.”

“This nonsense again? I’ve heard these same tales as a child. How it was supposedly sealed by great magic two centuries ago to keep hideous monsters inside from getting out. I’ve never seen any monsters!” Vorick said pounding the table with his fist. “Bandits have been plundering the area under the guise of its dark reputation for years.”

“It’s what they told me, your lordship.”

“Where do these towns move to? Farther west?”

“No, I’ve been told they moved out of your kingdom. They no longer feel benefited by your protection.”

Losing people and towns was one thing but the thought of losing out on land taxes and damage to his reputation was something Vorick took very seriously. “Send out our guards, scour the lands and kill these so called … monsters.”

“Yes, your lordship,” Marcus said as he quickly exited the room.

“Monsters…” Vorick muttered to himself rolling his eyes and sitting back down. Glancing back over the map he pushed the bowl of fruit aside determined to restore his reputation as a protector and to collect the taxes due.

. . .

Six months later, Vorick sat back at his table. Slumped in his chair, he stared mindlessly into the table’s surface. He contemplated his future and the decreasing income of the kingdom.

“Lord Vorick,” Marcus entered the room.

Vorick looked up anxiously, “Yes? What word do you bring?”

“Bad news, your lordship. We’ve sent all the guards we could to the eastern side. They’re not returning. If we send anymore we will be unable to defend your castle.

“Enough with the guards. They are much too expensive to lose anyway. What about the mercenaries I hired?”

“None of the three groups have been heard from again.”

“This is terrible,” Vorick’s said in a shaky voice. “I’m quickly running out of resources and men to send. Find six more mercenaries, tell them they’re get paid upon their return,” Vorick said with a sigh. Sending mercenaries to deal with this issue over trained guards made economic sense. If the mercenaries never came back at all, it was no cost to him.

“We have already searched for new mercenaries but no one is volunteering.”

Vorick sat up in this chair with narrowed eyes. Pointing his finger at Marcus he said, “I don’t care what it takes! Get some men to that area to clean it up. I don’t care if you have to go as far as Mortimer to find someone willing.”

“Right away. I’ll send our scouts.”

“See it done.” Vorick muttered once again staring into the table.

“Another thing your lordship.”

“What is it? Vorick shouted. He wanted nothing more but to be left alone.

“I do not have a formal report on this but there are whispers of a possible revolt,” Marcus said with his head held low.

“Revolt? I’ll have them crushed!” Vorick said in anger raising his fist toward Marcus.

“Yes, your lordship. But as I’ve mentioned, your forces are now dangerously low.”
Realizing Marcus spoke the truth, he wanted to quickly end this eastern side terror. Hanging his head, he took a deep breath. Letting it out, he spoke, “well, hire a large group of mercenaries and find the best man you can to lead them. This may be our last chance.”

“How large, your lordship?”

“Double the size, make it twelve. Pay the leader an advance and have the others paid upon their return.”

“Very well, your lordship.” Marcus spoke, quickly exiting the room.

Vorick slumped back in his chair. He rubbed the back of his neck with his thick fingers. The deterioration of his reputation as a competent king and the thought of revolt rested heavy on his mind.

His only hope rested with this large group of mercenaries. If they fail, it could very well mean the end of his reign.

Considering Everything

I attempted to take this an extra step and write the action (mostly) backwards.  It’s done as more of a quick summary, so it doesn’t really flesh out the situation well, but I think it could be used as a setup to a longer story.

Subject: An Action scene
Setting: Any
Time period: Any
Length: Less than 500
Restrictions: None

Considering everything that could have happened, the punch to the gut was probably the best thing John could have taken away from the fight.

He took the punch just after avoiding several quick swings at his face.  His training had made him fairly quick on his feet so dodging them wasn’t too hard.  He had blocked the attempted kicks to the side that came before it with his arms and the roundhouse kicked that started the attack was easy to avoid; roundhouse kicks almost never make contact against real fighters.

Of course he wouldn’t have been in this fight if it hadn’t been for his attempt to stop the man by jumping down in front of him just as he was about to enter the back door to the mall and escape.  John managed this feat by cutting across the garage and jumping from the entrance ramp level near the bottom.  Prior to the jump, he had to keep an eye on the man as he dashed between cars and dove through the small spaces between each level.  It was a clever way for him to try to slip away, but since there were only four stories to the garage, it didn’t take long for John to scout out each level and regain sight of him.

The only reason he lost sight of him in the first place was because of the man’s friend trying to hit him with the truck.  Taking a pickup to the face wouldn’t have made for a fun day so dodging it (and the bullets that were shot at him just before that) seemed to be in his best interest.  None of this would have even happened and he could have caught them both completely unaware if it weren’t for his partner calling his phone while he was staking out their transaction.

Given all of that, one punch in the stomach was probably the best possible outcome for John, even if it did wind him a bit and knock him out of his rhythm; however, just as John found his footing again and prepared to throw some punches of his own, the man violently convulsed and fell over.  “You could have just used one of these,” his partner said, raising the taser in her hand.

Ben and the Girl in the Yellow Jacket

Here’s a short story I made that was supposed to follow the rules for the New Year’s party challenge.  I did screw up by not specifying a New Year’s party, but I think it came out okay in the end.

Ben never really enjoyed parties.  Sure, it was a nice way to meet new people and get back in touch with ones he hadn’t seen in a while, but as a whole, the parties were just not that fun.  He’d move about from group to group, hoping that he would fit in somewhere; and he might for a minute or two, but then the subject would change and he would end up feeling awkward again.  And since the parties were almost always being thrown in his apartment by his roommate, it just meant that he couldn’t go to sleep when he wanted to and when he would wake up he would just be forced to stare at the wreckage from the night before.

Tonight’s party didn’t seem like it was going to be much different.  Ben greeted people as warmly as he could when they would come in, and when most of the people seemed to be there, he would take his place by the food table.  The food table was always the best place to be.  Everyone just gives you a passing glance and a quick, sly smile as they load up their plates, no one wants to engage you because all they really want in that moment is more chips, and you get the added bonus of feeling like you’ve done a good thing by not spending the entire evening wolfing down every last morsel on the table like a calorie-sucking vacuum cleaner.

Ben was watching a drunk couple attempt to fondle each other while trying to load french onion dip onto a plate when he spotted someone new.  The girl was wearing a short, slick, yellow jacket that perfectly accentuated her beautiful blonde hair.  He was immediately smitten, but also confused.  Was it raining?  He hadn’t been outside for several hours, but it didn’t seem like it was going to rain today.  Maybe she knew something he didn’t.  If it was going to rain too hard, maybe she could just stay the night here.  Maybe she could stay here forever and they could just stay inside and never have to leave and he would never have to take his eyes off her.

But he did take his eyes off her the moment she glanced his way and gave him a smile.  He wasn’t ready for her to acknowledge him!  Not yet!  He had to work up a plan first!  Meeting the love of your life and really hitting it off takes time!  It’s not something that can just happen haphazardly like that!  After a few moments, he realized he didn’t even know if she was still there.  When he finally fought the urge to stop averting his gaze lest she peer into the very depths of his soul with her penetrating blue eyes and see the feeble creature beneath, he found that her attention had gone back to the friend she came in with.

He had obviously never seen her at these parties before, but Ben realized he had never seen her friend either.  She was a short, stocky woman who obviously knew what she wanted in life because they hadn’t been there more than five minutes and she already had a drink.  Her friend in the yellow jacket, though, was here for a different reason.  It was clear her friend dragged her here against her will.  She didn’t really seem to be enjoying herself and she seemed more focused on watching after her friend.

He knew he had to meet her and he couldn’t wait any longer.  But how should he handle it?  Just as he was running the scenarios through his head, a guy he vaguely remembered from a previous party came walking up, his gaze fixed on Ben.  “Hey buddy!  How’s it going?” the man said with a wide grin on his face.  Ben really didn’t feel like socializing and he could barely remember him, so he just gave him a quick smile and walked toward the other side of the room.  It may have been a little rude, but he had an agenda!  He had to meet the girl of his dreams and live in total bliss for the rest of his life!

But as he turned away from the man to look where he was walking, he realized the girl in the yellow jacket was gone.  He did his best to casually look around the room, but she wasn’t there.  Ben started to worry.  He reasoned that she had to still be here because her friend seemed to be having a good time and they’d only been here for a few minutes.  Doing his best to stay casual, Ben walked from room to room.  They weren’t in the kitchen, the bedrooms, or the bathroom, so where did they go?

Ben had pushed through the partygoers and reached the far end of the hallway, but there was still no sight of her.  He began to lose hope.  His heart felt crushed just thinking about someone he hadn’t even met yet.  In those few moments he had a world of potential, and now he had absolutely nothing.

Just then, he saw the front door at the other end of the hallway open.  He thought he caught a quick glimpse of yellow.  He still couldn’t see the girl, but he definitely recognized her friend!  Ben was so excited he could barely contain himself!  But if her friend is that close to the door, did the girl leave already?

Ben didn’t care about anything else anymore.  Damn the people in his way, damn that open door, and damn the whole party!  He had to meet her!  This was his only chance at true love!  Ben raced to the front door, shoving people out of the way and darting between groups as quickly as he could.  His sights were set on that door and nothing could stop him!  When he reached the door and saw her looking straight at him with surprise and excitement in her eyes, his heart stopped.

Moments before Ben was dragged away by his collar to the bedroom and repeatedly spanked for being a bad boy, he met the girl of his dreams.  He managed to sniff her butt and she sniffed his and that was all he needed.  He would never forget that scent.

Vyth’s nightmare

A horrific scream woke Vyth in the dead of night. He reached for his weapon, racing to the edge of his tent. His heart pounding like a drum as he stepped out. The cold night air bit into his skin like needles. He tried to focus his mind. There was movement at the edge of the camp and Vyth rushed to it trying to keep his footing on the frozen ground. The night was a moonless pitch-black making sight of the hunting camp nearly impossible.

The shadowy shapes ahead slowly took humanoid form as Vyth approached. A lit torch blinded Vyth for a second with its brightness. His eyes slowly focused on three of his hunting party members standing around a tent that was completely ripped apart. Vyth’s heart sunk and his mouth went dry as he realized that it was Gunther’s tent. “What happened?” Vyth finally asked. “Where is Gunther?” The three men stood silent starring at the mangled tent.

Fearing the worst, Vyth walked to where the three stood. The torchlight flickered in the night air shining over the ravaged remains of Gunther’s tent. Vyth was able to make out parts of a horridly dismembered body. The pungent smell of blood was heavy in the air and the innards sent their warm vapors in the cold night. A lesser man would run in fear or lose the contents of his stomach. Was this Gunther?

A large man named Fallon approached. “The kill is fresh, the creature might still be around, warn the others,” he spoke in a stoic deep voice.

Vyth was oblivious to his words.

“Damn it, men! Snap out of it before this creature takes another one of us this night!” Fallon shouted in such a stern voice it gave Vyth a sense of courage, if even for a brief second.

Vyth and the other two focused on Fallon’s words and the task of warning the others. The rest of the hunting party were either hiding in their tents or standing in a distance. They were not like Fallon, a hardened warrior cast from the hells of war. His large frame and muscular body had numerous scars from the action he had seen. Fallon held his large battle-axe against his shoulder that was scared and nicked even worse than Fallon himself. Fallon was leading the hunting party this night only as a favor to the elders of the town. Gunther was the elder who had requested Fallon to lead the group, but the reasons for such an occasion were unknown.

Fallon bent down to investigate the body while the other hunters went off to warn the others. Gasps from the other hunters gathered around the fire as the two men told them that Gunther’s life had been taken in the night.

“This is not good. It’s … impossible.” Fallon muttered as he looked over the inflicted wounds.

A hunter named Gyne, spoke up from the camp, “it must have come from the woods behind us! We have to get out of here! It will no doubt come back for more of us!”

As Vyth walked around the immediate area, his blood started to run cold as he thought of the creature returning. Vyth started to doubt his courage and strength to be able to deal with the loss of another member. Or worse, to have to face the creature himself. He was not sure if it was the cold that made him shiver so much or it was the fear, but he tried to hide it. Gyne’s words of worry grew louder and started the other hunters to utter the same words of flight.

Vyth was certain Fallon would at any moment walk over and knock Gyne to the ground for causing such a panic amongst the others. Nothing happened. Worried, Vyth went back around to Gunther’s body and Fallon.

A chill went down his spine and fear engulfed his entire being. Vyth saw Fallon sitting on the cold ground holding his battle-axe in both arms staring off in the distance with a look of fear in his eye. “It cannot be… it cannot be,” Fallon muttered as his body trembled.

The Mirror

Sarah hurried along the street, chastizing herself for choosing today of all days to lose track of time in the library. Her mother’s birthday dinner was to begin in a few hours and the decorations still needed finished and the cake needed iced. Thankfully she had assistance grilling the steaks and she lived fairly close. If she just could make it to the antique store to retrieve the gift she had been eyeing she might just make it in time.

Gasping breathlessly, her chest aching from the effort, she approached the shop window. Outside, she paused to admire the large floor length mirror again. The ornately hand carved wooden frame was stained a dark walnut. The unique scrolling design was rare in more modern pieces. It had narrow pedestal legs with carved feet that reminded her of a lion’s paw. The swivel frame completed the design that her mother had missed so terribly.

It was in pristine condition, as it should be for the price. But Sarah had been saving for months, walking by the window weekly to ensure it was still there. She didn’t have a second thought about choosing this particular gift. Her mother had eyed it wistfully through the window, in similar fashion as Sarah did just now, only for different reasons. Sarah’s gaze only had her mother, Donna, in mind; however Donna’s eyes had misted over as she remembered her dearest grandmother, Mertyl, who had passed away just before Sarah had been born.

As Donna had reminisced about her grandmother, her eyes teared up lovingly. She got lost in the memories as she told her all about hovering around her grandmother’s skirt while watching her primp for the county fair. Her greatest pleasure at the time had been mimicking her and getting into her makeup. Donna’s giggle had caught in her throat when she told Sarah about the time she climbed onto the nearby dresser and had knocked over a tiffany lamp into the mirror’s frame, shattering the gorgeous stained glass shade.

Mertyl had quickly picked her up and transported her to safety away from the glass, her kind words eased her young worried mind and dried her guilty tears. It was only an object and tender little toes were not easily replaceable she’d said with a gentle smile. While Donna had never completely forgiven herself for the deep gouge the incident left in the virgin wood frame, it was obvious the woman held nothing but love for her granddaughter.

The biggest heartache of all was the fact that no one quite knew what had happened to the mirror. Over the years, as Meryl’s health had declined and moves between nursing homes and hospitals were made, things were lost or sold or given away. A familial tragedy that perhaps only she recognized for what it truly was…a sentimental treasure lost forever.

Sarah suddenly shook her head, willing herself to break free of the memories, her sense of urgency returning. As she entered the door old copper bells signaled her arrival. She walked over towards the mirror glancing around for the shopkeeper who was nowhere in sight. Feeling slightly impatient now as she turned back towards the mirror, she tilted it slightly running her hands over the carved wood as she waited.

Sarah noticed the reflection of an elderly woman shuffling across the old hardwood floors towards her. The woman caused Sarah to pause, pursing her lips as she tried to determine the cause of her familiarity. After a few beats she attributed it to her visits gazing through the shop window at the masterpiece of all gifts. Sarah reached into her bag for her wallet, anxious to complete the transaction and begin her trek back home. After paying for the mirror and arranging for delivery that evening, Sarah rushed home to complete the tasks for the party.

Sarah was beginning to get nervous. Dinner was done and most of the guests had already left. While it was still early in the evening, her mother’s gift had not yet arrived. Just then there was a knock on the door. Anxious, Sarah ran to the door, grateful to see the shop’s delivery men.

Thankful her mother was still visiting with the stragglers in the back of the house, Sarah directed the movers towards the front living room, hoping they didn’t scuff the natural hard wood floors when they brought it in. Once the mirror was muscled through the narrow door she called for Donna, pleased they left the large sheet covering it so she could thoroughly enjoy her mother’s expression when she lifted it.

Donna finally made her way to the living room and Sarah could barely contain her excitement. Her mother’s confused look at this large, awkward thing under the sheet was obvious as Sarah urged her to come closer. Donna hesitantly approached the gift, wondering what in the world her daughter had done now. Sarah was known for being impulsive so Donna wasn’t sure quite what to expect. As she began to lift the sheet she gasped.

Donna recognized the lion paw feet instantly and tears welled up in her eyes. She hurried to remove the sheet from the top of the mirror. As she ran her hands over the carved wood, her breath caught in her throat. The emotion the memories brought on was overwhelming. She grabbed Sarah in a giant hug, so great that Sarah was sure her mother would crush her ribs, and nothing had ever felt better. Sarah started crying with the joy she felt at pleasing her mother so much.

Suddenly Donna tensed up, a frozen gasp stopped her mid-spin as she released Sarah and stared at the mirror. She turned her body to look at the room behind them leading towards the door to the front hall, then back to the mirror, and back again to the doorway. As Sarah wondered what on earth was wrong with her mother she noticed something strange in the mirror. She looked closer at the old woman from the antique shop staring at them from the hallway. Sarah looked at the hall towards the old woman, wondering when she had came in, her confusion growing as she found no one there.

Sarah looked back towards the mirror to find her mother with a mixture of confusion, joy, sorrow, wonder and love on her face. As they both looked back towards the mirror it dawned on Sarah that she did know the old woman; why it was that she had looked so familiar to her when she saw her in the antique shop. It was Mertyl, Donna’s beloved grandmother. It had been a very long time but Sarah remembered Donna showing her the pictures as a young child as she entertained her with stories of her own childhood. As Sarah and her mother gazed into the mirror, Mertyl gave them a small, simple smile filled with the gentle love that Donna treasured about her.