Week 51 of Odd Prompts

Fifty-one weeks! Where did the time go? Just yesterday, there were butterflies and enough pollen to cause sneezing fits. I know one thing, though – I’m grateful to this group for keeping me writing this year, all year.

So with that, onto the inspiration! And as always, send in your prompts to oddprompts@gmail.com if you’d like to give it a go.

PrompterPromptPromptee
AC YoungYou see an advert in the local paper. For a small fee you can learn the art of alchemy.Leigh Kimmel
Becky JonesThe elf popped up from behind the bushes in the front yard. “Oh, hi! You must be the gardener!”nother Mike
Leigh KimmelThe frantic search for the two missing baskets of laundryAC Young
nother MikeThe camping trip started with a devil in the tent…Fiona Grey
Fiona GreyI’d no idea a true turtle-dove could tuck its head in during flight, not until I caught my son building the trebuchet in the backyard. Boys will be boys, you know, and those birds honestly made excellent projectiles. Nor did they seem to mind the launch. That one over there even waddled back for another go.Becky Jones

Testing the waters? Forgot to send one in during the holiday rush? That’s what spares are for!

SpareThe pickled cactus was delicous, but crunchier than expected.
SpareThe miracle on main street was not what we expected.
SpareThe study of broken and misused things was an underutilized PhD program until…
SpareThe sword rested against the wall, dull and neglected, avoiding gathering attention beyond dismissive snorts for years.
SpareThe new program matching up survivors of dead spouses caused quite a bit of controversy.

And with that, we’ll see you next week, for the wrap up of year two!

Header image by Fiona Grey

9 comments

    • I hope you manage to find your way out of the quantum foam and back to our timeline. In the meantime, I hope you have a Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

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  1. Happy Christmas!

    This week I had a prompt exchange with Leigh Kimmel, who supplied: The frantic search for the two missing baskets of laundry

    Why the frantic search for missing baskets of laundry? But more difficult, how did they go missing in the first place? My answer to the second led to the following (perhaps more suitable for August/September than December).

    The day had started out so well.

    Ligramion was on the verge of becoming a final year student at the Farandimium Academy of the Magical Arts. One of the school’s traditions was that students wishing to take the final year of studies at the Academy had to do work experience during the break between years. All the available placements were in menial roles, the lowest rated magical careers. It was supposed to train the student’s character.

    Somehow Ligramion had been assigned to FAMA’s Laundry Floor. There was a lot of manual labour, and the spells weren’t difficult – they were ancient, and (according to the Head Launderer) had to be pronounced with care, but could (Ligramion had quickly discovered) be learned by rote.

    Today’s task was to wash and clean the teaching staff’s ceremonial robes for the start of the school year ceremony tomorrow. The first load Ligramion had been allowed to wash under the supervision of the Head Launderer, the second load he had been allowed to wash unsupervised. It wasn’t a difficult task, but somehow being trusted to know how to do it gave Ligramion a sense of having achieved something.

    Ligramion carried the laundry basket containing the washed, dried, pressed and folded second load to the Laundry Floor’s central chamber. There he placed it on the floor next to the laundry basket containing the first load of ceremonial robes.

    The next task was to cast the spell that transported the laundry to where it needed to go. Ligramion had cast a number of these spells over the two months he had been working in the laundry, but not the spell to send washed laundry to the Teacher’s Receiving Area. Nonetheless, he knew that all the spells the Laundry Floor used were on the walls of the central chamber, clearly headed.

    He found the spell he needed. It looked to be written in Kalantarian, an old language he knew the basics of from one year of studying old, forgotten languages. Many of the spells down here used Kalantarian, and he knew how to pronounce it. So, for the first time during his work experience Ligramion cast an unknown spell without supervision, and without running through the text first with the Head Launderer to ensure the pronunciation was correct.

    Ligramion put out his right hand towards the two laundry baskets, set himself to focus the magic through his right hand with the baskets (and their contents) as the object, and read the words of the spell. It worked. The baskets and the ceremonial robes within vanished to reappear upstairs.

    Then the Head Launderer entered the room.

    He glanced around the room, turned to Ligramion, and said in a controlled tone “You cast the transportation spell without supervision. How?”

    Ligramion suddenly had the impression that he’d made a very bad mistake. But he had no idea what that might be. “It’s there on the wall, and it’s in Kalantarian, which I know how to pronounce.”

    The Head Launderer sighed, made his way over to a table, got out parchment, quill and ink, before saying in a resigned tone “That spell isn’t in Kalantarian, it’s in Old Lantar. The two are very similar, and easily confused if you don’t know what you’re reading. But first, what did you cast?”

    Ligramion put out his right hand again. The Head Launderer snapped “Don’t focus any magic! Just read the spell again!”

    Ligramion did as he was told. Frequently he was interrupted by the Head Launderer wanting clarification on how he had pronounced a word. Eventually he finished his recitation.

    The Head Launderer had written down every single word of Ligramion’s incantation. He read through the full text before giving his opinion. “A number of mispronunciations, some of which were the wrong word, and some of which were nonsense words. At least you pronounced enough right that we can be reasonably confident that the baskets are somewhere, and probably within the school grounds given that you’re not lying on the floor exhausted.”

    Ligramion couldn’t help himself. “You know Old Lantar?” he blurted out.

    “Of course,” said the Head Launderer. “The Laundry Floor uses spells written in Old Lantar, Kalantarian and Tarlag. We don’t expect it of work experience students, such as yourself, but Launderers are expected to learn all three languages. As a minimum they need to know enough to understand what they are casting. To become Head Launderer, you need to be fluent in all three.”

    Never cast a spell you don’t understand. One of the rules of magic drilled into all students once they’d learnt enough to be able to cast useful spells, as opposed to those of the ultra-low-power beginner’s variety. Ligramion had neglected it, thinking that the laundry spells were so simple that it didn’t really matter. He had mispronounced words in spells on the second or third attempt often enough that the Head Launderer must be aware that he’d ignored the rule. Ligramion hung his head in shame.

    “Second, we need to find the baskets. And by the end of today.”

    The Head Launderer summoned two Launderers, and organised the search. He and a Launderer were to search the school grounds. Ligramion and the other Launderer were to search the inside of the school, from bottom to top. Ligramion and his more senior partner were granted authority to search any and every room and check every cupboard large enough to hold a basket. If Ligramion’s pair found a basket, Ligramion was to carry it back to the Laundry Floor’s central chamber himself, with no spell assistance. Suitable communications protocols were put in place so that neither pair needed to continue searching once both baskets had been found.

    The search took hours. Lunch was skipped, finding the missing baskets was too important. Ligramion and his partner had just finished the fifth floor when they were told that one of the baskets had been found in Greenhouse Number 7. Only one, so they had to keep going.

    The time for the evening meal arrived while they were searching the seventh floor. But Ligramion and his partner had to keep going. The other basket had to be found. Ligramion started to worry that the search wouldn’t be complete at the time when all students (including those on work experience) were required to be in their dormitories.

    On the eighth floor they found the other missing basket. With much relief, Ligramion picked it up and started the long journey back to the Laundry Floor (in the first of the basement levels). His partner hurried ahead to alert the Head Launderer that the search was complete, and they could come inside now.

    Physically Ligramion was very near exhaustion when he finally staggered into the central chamber, and carefully deposited the basket next to the other one.

    The Head Launderer was awaiting him. “Well done. Eat this, and then I’ll guide you through the spell. This time you’ll cast it properly.”

    Ligramion noticed the plate of food on the table that had previously been used as a writing desk. He picked the plate up, sat down on the floor, and scoffed the lot, not caring whether he liked what he was eating or not.

    No sooner than Ligramion stood up again, and put the empty plate back on the table, than the Head Launderer started guiding him through the spell.

    It was not a quick process, but Ligramion was determined to get it right as quickly as possible. The Head Launderer kept Ligramion practicing until he pronounced it correctly three times in a row. Then it was Ligramion’s time to do it properly.

    Ligramion put out his right hand towards the two laundry baskets, set himself to focus the magic through his right hand with the baskets (and their contents) as the object, and read the words of the spell. It worked. The baskets and the ceremonial robes within vanished to reappear upstairs. And this time, the Head Launderer was in the room, and nodded in confirmation that it had worked.

    Before dismissing Ligramion for one last time, the Head Launderer turned to him. “You weren’t the first work experience student to make that mistake, and you won’t be the last.

    “We have a couple of new Launderers joining us this year, so I’ll need to organise some lessons in Kalantarian, Old Lantar and Tarlag. They’ll have to be after work hours, so after any of your lessons. You’re welcome to join them if you wish.”

    Ligramion was aware of the value of the gift he had just been offered – much more so than he would have been only that morning. As he had learnt only that day ignorance in an old magical language could be a massive disadvantage. “Thankyou. Thankyou very much. I accept.”

    “Excellent. I’ll inform you of the times when I’ve organised them.

    “Now, you’d better get back upstairs before curfew. Don’t worry about your work experience report. You’ve worked very hard, and put in the effort to fix today’s mess without complaint.”

    Ligramion muttered his thanks and goodbye while giving the Head Launderer a shallow bow (the sort normally used by a student to his superior in magic), before heading out of the room. He checked the time as he departed, and no sooner was he on the stairs than he broke into a run. He just about made it back to his dormitory in time.

    Ligramion went swiftly to bed. Tomorrow would be the first day of his final year at the Academy.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Becky Jones suggested…

    The elf popped up from behind the bushes in the front yard. “Oh, hi! You must be the gardener!”

    A quick sketch…

    Harry looked around at the landscape. Whew, they had a nice place here. House on a little rise, with the land around it carefully shaped, and quite a lot of plants needing grooming. That bush over there, for example, with the long, long branches folding over the walkway. The Mandelans really should have hired another gardener sooner, although they said they just didn’t realize what kind of upkeep they needed. They were a little odd, but they certainly had enough money. Well, time to get started.

    He pushed his wheelbarrow, with the tools he would need, over near the bush. Then he stepped over and lifted one of the overgrown branches.

    The elf popped up from behind the bushes in the front yard. “Oh, hi! You must be the gardener!”

    Harry fell on the grass. He felt his eyes popping, and his mouth working.

    “You… you… you’re an elf!”

    The elf chuckled. He looked down at himself, then winked at Harry.

    “Now that you mention it, yes. I’ve been one as long as I can remember. So, are you the gardener, or a new lawn ornament?”

    Harry felt something push his hand aside. His hand slid off the hairy lump. He wasn’t even too surprised to look down and realize there was a gnome or troll or something standing up in the grass, and frowning at him.

    The gnome said, “Of course he’s a gardener. Lawn ornament! Next you’ll want us to stand still, and tell him we’re lawn gnomes. Now, help the poor little fellow up!”

    The elf laughed, and raised one hand. That’s when the air around Harry seemed to turn hard, and somehow it raised him up, up, up… he thrashed his legs, and the solid breeze that was holding him up softened. He got his feet underneath himself, and looked around, eyes wide.

    “What was that?”

    Now the elf and the gnome both laughed.

    “Elfin magic, of course!” The elf choked out, still chuckling. “You didn’t think all we did was make cookies, now, did you?”

    Harry shook his head.

    “Well, actually, I didn’t think you were real.” He waved his hand at them. “Either one of you.”

    The elf and the gnome looked at each other, then they looked at Harry, and around the front yard. Then they both laughed and laughed.

    As Harry looked around the yard, other heads, wings, and parts of bodies popped up and waved at him…

    [I think I’ll stop there for now… Merry Christmas, or whatever holidays you celebrate!]

    Liked by 2 people

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