Thursday, October 18, 2012

#RomanticFridayWriters, House of Horrors

Welcome to Romantic Friday Writers House of Horrors flash fiction blogfest. Romantic Friday Writers is open to all who'd like to participate. You don't have to be a romance writer or any other specific type of writer to participate. While many of us post every other Friday others can't. If you are an aspiring writer it is worth your time to try since both publishers and editors follow this blogfest. I want to thank Denise (L'Aussie) for coming up with the concept and Donna Hole who also helps Denise with clever synopsis of our post the following Wednesday.

Today our offerings are being judged by Ann Best and Nas Dean, editors and writers in their own right. Each House of Horror story can be up to 1,000 words in length and must contain a little romance along with spooky tales. I hope you will also make the rounds to read all the excellent stories our members deliver. Without further delay, here is my story posted on Thursday instead of Friday because it's Friday somewhere and I want to give everyone a chance to read it.

The Panettiere Cup 

Aya felt the sadness like bitter tea served in a fragile china cup. Melancholy rubbed against her harried existence, sending her deep within her morbid memories. How had this become her life? 

She lifted the laundry basket and stepped to the clothes line. She lived in a hut made of river rock and earth just below the bluff where once, nearly two hundred years ago, King Julian of Gil-Lael made his camp. South from this position, past tall wheat stalks, was the ruined estate of Panettiere. As a child she had explored the estate and found the chipped china cup that was, to this day, her treasure. 

Far from sight, her husband, Flynn, labored in the fields of the Marquise de Fortier along with their son, Jaye. I shouldn’t be so miserable, Aya thought. Flynn was a good man, first to volunteer when neighbors needed help, loving father to their five children, faithful husband, a hard worker. Yet in the matters of the heart, he knew nothing. She should have wed the man her father had selected. If she had, then her life would have been so different. He was the butcher Arnaud and lived in the village instead of being a lowly serf like Flynn. Yet the days of arranged marriages had ended with King Julian’s victory, though many parents still tried to sway their children toward their desired choices. 

Why was her mind obsessed with this? Perhaps it was the upcoming nuptials of their daughter, Lirenne, to another serf, Javier. Aya would spare her daughter the life she’d led, but Lirenne was in love. Aya had been in love once. Flynn could persuade an ant to stop digging and so he had persuaded her to wed him.

The last of the clothes hung on the line. Aya returned to the hut, alone. The men tended the crops and Lirenne had gone to Javier’s home to help his parents. Aya made boiled water with fresh mint leaves for tea and pulled out the cabbage to start preparing it for supper. They rarely had meat to add to the pot. If she’d married the butcher she’d have meat every night. But Aya didn’t love Arnaud the butcher. What was love anyway? An emotion that caused one to make foolish choices, that’s what.

If she had been Ninette Panettiere from a long time ago, she would have been wife to King Julian and sister to Cearbhall, Duke of Panettiere. How different her life would have been. It was common knowledge that Cearbhall and his sons slept with every woman for miles. She had Panettiere blood running through her veins. Why should she not claim a noble title too?

A tap on her shoulder.

“What is it Flynn?”

She hadn’t heard him enter. She hadn’t heard anyone. Aya turned. No one was there. A cold chill hung on the air. She stood. The cabbage rolled from her lap across the floor. Backing up against the cabinet, Aya scanned the empty space. Another tap on her left shoulder this time sent her spinning around. No one. She quickly made the sign against witchcraft. Forehead to shoulder, to opposite shoulder to nose. “Oh Great Creator,” she uttered.

“Aya.” A voice without a body shattered the stillness.

Her tongue wouldn’t move to answer.


There in the doorway, decked in shimmering white, Queen Ninette. Her crowned head and jeweled neck matched an old painting at the estate. Aya could see through her. The ghostly image beckoned. Aya followed.

The apparition floated on the old road toward the Estate of Panettiere. Occasionally the ghost lady would glance back at her. The sky had darkened with an oncoming storm and swirling clouds threatened rain.

“Aya.” She heard her name and knew no one spoke aloud. The workers glanced up as she passed them in the fields. They seemed untroubled and didn’t gaze at the woman in white. Aya continued on.

Within the hour the lady reached the estate. She paused, gazing at Aya and beckoned for her to follow before she vanished. Without hesitation Aya entered the ruins of Panettiere. Within, the overcast day left the ruins in shadow. Shapes seemed to appear and disappear.

“Ninette, my Queen, where are you?” Aya’s voice echoed off the stone walls, rushing through the ruins.

Now the shapes paused in their wanderings. They turned to stare at Aya. One among them stepped forward in shattered irons and rusted armor. He advanced. The clang of his chains sent fear piercing through Aya’s bewitched mind.

He stopped within inches of her. Aya could smell his rotting flesh. He opened a mouth that became shattered bone. “You are not my sister!”

Wind spun the loose dirt into Aya’s eyes. All the shadows took form and the army of Panettiere charged forward, weapons drawn. Distorted faces hovered too near and she stepped back onto rubble. Their voices roared and Aya felt her eardrum ache from the noise of it. All the men rushed her, entered her body and exited the back. Aya felt the chill stop her heart. She fell. The world opened. Great rocks took shape all around her and fire to match the chill burned her.

“Aya.” A human voice cried. Tears wet on Aya’s cheek. She opened heavy eyes and saw through blurred vision her husband Flynn kneeling beside her in the ruin of Panettiere.

“My beautiful wife, you have come back to me.” He lifted her and hugged her so tight that his body’s warmth finished what his words declared.

“I am not so beautiful anymore,” Aya said.

“You will always be my treasure, my lovely Aya,” he answered.

Joy blossomed within Aya and she wondered at her foolish melancholy. “Take me home, my love.”

Flynn pulled her to her feet and together they left the ruined estate. The first thing she intended to do when she got home was throw away the Panettiere tea cup.

Word Count: 991

I hoped you enjoyed my little tale. I’m not sure this will become a short story since I think there isn’t anything left to tell. If you think of something, let me know in the comments. Thanks, Nancy

Don't miss Monday's post on short stories and flash fiction.

Do you want more stories placed in Gil-Lael? Now available through Amazon's kindle lending library for a limited time; The Treasures of Carmelidrium, by N. R. Williams, that's me. Click here to download.


Kiru Taye said...

Hi Nancy, I enjoyed that. Definitely romantic amid the castle of horror. :)
Sometimes we don't realise what we have until it's about to vanish.

Yolanda Renée said...

Hi Nancy,

The melancholy of life is sometimes overwhelming. It's nice to get a friendly reminder and be thankful, but it's Halloween, and a ghostly tale accomplishes the same. However, I think I'd like my lessons to be much less ghost filled! I enjoyed the journey, and love the happy ending.

Unknown said...

Dear Nancy,
I love the descriptions and the build up of suspense in this story.

At first I was not sure what this was all about, and then you pulled it all together at the end.

Yes, this is a complete story. But you could tear it apart and make it longer if you want to give it another structure.

Wonderful that her husband loves her so much. And that she finally understood this at the end.

Best wishes & hugs,

RFW No. 46 - 'Jenny Holland's Robinson Crusoe Halloween'

Unknown said...

Hello again,
I will have to read this again tomorrow. I missed the significance of the cup. I think it symbolises something. I'll be back later. It is almost 2 a.m. here!

Debra Gray-Elliott said...

Love it and want to read more!

Denise Covey said...

Hiya Nancy. I think you could definitely write more. This is an enchanting story, just a nice mix of fantasy with an historical touch. What a great Halloween tale!

Raelene Purtill said...

good read, thanks. love the history and fantasy combination and the spooks too of course.

Nas said...

Hi Nancy,

It was so romantic...sigh! He loved her after all. Spooky too!

Well done!

Sally said...

Hi Nancy,

It's the old tale of the grass seems greener on the other side. I felt the chills with touch on the shoulder and the apparitions in the ruins and then she was saved by her husband. Great story.


N. R. Williams said...

Hi Kiru
First to comment, woo hoo. It must have some romance I think.

Hi Yolanda
LOL, me too. No ghost of any kind in real life.

Hi Anna
When I'm tired I miss the entire thing regularly. Thanks for hanging in so late.

Hi Debra
I must think hard about this then.

Hi Denise
I guess my brain just couldn't come up with more earlier. I'll have to mull it over.

Hi Raelene
The spooks thank you.

Hi Nas
Yes, we often miss the love that is right in front of us.

Hi Sally
Yes, we often want what we can't have. Scary to think the lessons would come from a ghost, but grateful to the man we married.

Thanks everyone for stopping by. I'm not going to have time to make the rounds until later tonight or tomorrow. Too much happening here.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Great style, has the feel of a traditional tale. Very eerie :)

Unknown said...

Lots of suspense and history and creepiness. I think if you wanted to add to it, speak more of the cup and its symbolism. Fabulous entry!

N. R. Williams said...

Thanks Charmaine

Hi Candilynn
Great idea.

Thanks you both for coming by. I look forward to reading all of yours in a few hours.

Nilanjana Bose said...

Relished the story, the feeling of horror combined with the richenss of historical fantasy. Especially liked the opening lines and the happy ending.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Nilanjana
Thanks so much for the praise. It's greatly appreciated.

Erin Kane Spock said...

At first I thought the horror aspect was laundry, and that was enough.
I love how she rediscovers the love she once had. I read Carmelidrium a couple years ago, it was nice to see this piece set in that world.

Denise Covey said...

Best of luck with the judging! I'm glad it's Ann and Nas who have to choose from this awesome lineup! :D

Unknown said...

I loved the expressions you used in this piece, very unique and refreshing. Liked the one about "Aya felt the sadness like bitter tea served in a fragile china cup. Melancholy rubbed against her harried existence, sending her deep within her morbid memories. How had this become her life?"
Also the setup and the story was very different

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Erin
Laundry! LOL. Thanks for mentioning my epic fantasy book. I'm glad you read it and have enjoyed a brief return to Gil-Lael.

Hi Denise
Oh me too. Overwhelming.

Hi Ghalzala
Thanks for being so specific. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Thanks all for coming by and leaving a comment.

Francine Howarth said...


Well, what can I say: the mistress of the weird, the wonderful and the spooky! Loved it... ;)


N. R. Williams said...

Hi Francine
Thanks so much.

Scarlet said...

Very lovely story ~ I hope that in the end, she realizes who really loves her ~

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Heaven
I think she does.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Nancy,

What a wonderful story Nancy. Many never realize the love of their life is REALLY the love of their life. It takes a jolt to a deadened heart to re-awake the passion.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Micheal
Thanks so much.

Wendy Lu said...

Hi, N.R.!

Wow, I loved the way this flowed. This was intense and sweet and spooky, all at once. Ahh, also I absolutely love the name Aya. So pretty and creative. Your beginning was awesome and immediately hooked me as a reader.

Thanks for sharing. :)

~Wendy Lu

The Red Angel Blog

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Wendy Lu
Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by.

Nilanjana Bose said...

Congratulations on a very well deserved award! Back for a repeat read, loved it this time around just as much as the first! :)

N. R. Williams said...

Thanks so much, Nilanjana