The magic glittered all around her as she laughed and ran and played. The lake was so large, but not large enough that she couldn’t dance across the tiny waves that the wind caused. The river, just as wide as the lake, it seemed, was gentle as she landed on the large boulder in its middle. She plopped down, only slightly winded from dancing across the lake and down the river to the boulder itself, her legs dangling over the edge and the flowing water teasing and tickling the edges of her toes. She giggled happily, joyfully even as she flopped back and let the sun-warmed stone behind her help to dry up the water that had lightly soaked her during her play.
The sun was so warm and though it did nothing to her skin (no tan ever seemed to stick to the girl’s skin, not that she cared generally, but the incessant sunburns that few others in her family had to deal with were really getting on her nerves) she enjoyed the heat it engendered for several more minutes before jumping up and skipping back across the river in order to run through the fields and find her favorite cherry tree. (It was the only cherry tree, but that didn’t really matter to her in the end.) The tree still had some of its summer fruit on it and she gleefully picked a few from the highest branches (the only part that still had any of the tiny red berries) and ate them while still clinging to the gently swaying limbs.
This summer was glorious, but all summers in the Valley were glorious. There was always some kind of fruit in season: apples (six different kinds!), grapes (though you had to leave the Valley for those…), pears, plums (only three or four different kinds), cherries, peaches, gooseberries… The supply was endless as each month something was in harvest. She knew that there had once been other trees and bushes with fruit growing on them, though those trees had long since vanished from the Valley, likely some Evil Plague that had been sent down to frighten the inhabitants of the Valley away so that others could come and claim it.
It wouldn’t have been the first time that someone had tried to take the Valley from its rightful inhabitants and it likely wouldn’t be the last. Such a fertile and idyllic place was often sought after by all and sundry.
Even up in the cherry tree she could see movement in the fields of wild wheat up on one of the hills. Her eyes narrowed and she crouched in the tree, eyes still following the line that was being drawn in the wild wheat before springing out of the tree and racing through the fields and other trees, through the large sentinel-like juniper bushes that were on either side of the entrance to the wild wheat fields. She was careful to not trample the wild wheat (it would do no good flattened on the ground) and tracked the figure who was only several yards in front of her now.
Without any kind of cry (though she wasn’t completely silent) she pounced on the supposed intruder, rolling with them down the hill until the figure was pinned beneath her.
“Was there a reason that you just wrestled me to the ground?” came a voice that she knew, dry in its humor and with only a bit of a threat hidden within it.
She blinked and then flushed, “Oops?”
She scrambled off of the person she’d…well, attacked…before she was flung off.
Her sister had never been the most forgiving type.
“I thought you might be an intruder into the Valley.” She explained as she continued to back away from her advancing younger sister.
It wasn’t a question and without another word, her younger sister pounced (much better than she had, she noted silently even as she tried, and failed, to escape.) They went down and she realized that the only reason she’d won in the first place was because her sister had let her.
After a good ten minutes of tussling, she gave up and lay flat, breathing loudly.
“Are we even now?” she eventually asked.
Her sister made a show of thinking it over, “Maybe. I’ll think about it. So what’s this idea that there are intruders in the Valley?”
She shrugged, “It was just a thought, probably nothing.”
Her sister’s eyes narrowed and she stopped getting off of her, deciding to pin her back down, “That’s not what I asked. Spill.”
“It was nothing, can I please get up?”
They argue like that for a few more minutes while she tried to dislodge her sister a few times before giving in. It was always best to just give in to her sister; her sister was the natural leader of the two even if she was the one who usually had to actually make her sister’s crazy plans work out.
“I…I, uh, think that some of the problems we’ve been having in the Valley have been a Plague Curse or something, to chase us out so someone, uh, someone else can, uh, take the Valley for their own.” She’d mumbled through the last bit and looked at the ground.
She waited for her sister to say something.
She waited some more.
Finally, she peeked up through her (covered in dirt and twigs and leaves) bangs at her sister. Her sister looked thoughtful, her brow furrowed and her mouth drawn down into a frown as the thoughts flew across her eyes rapidly.
Apparently her wait in silence would continue, because interrupting her sister when she was thinking led to not good things happening. To her, always to her, because she just wasn’t the most patient of people and was always trying to hurry things along when, if she’d just waited even five seconds more things would have been fine.
Yeah, she had issues with waiting quietly.
Issues that were about to come up again if her sister didn’t say something already.
Before she could open her mouth and say or do something stupid, her sister nodded to herself and seemed to come to a decision.
“We need to bring our brother into this, he’s traveled the most outside of the Valley, he’ll know what’s going on outside and if there’s been any rumors of wars or plagues or anything that would be a problem for the Valley.”
She cringed; she’d hoped that her sister wouldn’t want to contact their brother.
“He’s, uh, he’s not…available…right now.”
Her sister paused in her pacing, which she had started when she’d started talking and laying out what they were going to discuss with their brother. She turned and looked at her elder sister, “What do you mean he’s not available?”
She flinched and then wished she hadn’t when her sister’s frown deepened. “He’s, uh, he’s in the house.”
Her sister’s face momentarily blanked while she blinked and absorbed that information.
“He’s inside, watching something, maybe playing a video game.”
And just like that the magic was broken.
The Valley melted down into their backyard, the river turned into the gravel that ran alongside the house and the lake became the giant hole they’d dug near the end of the gravel-way. The fruit trees and gooseberry bushes were still there, but closer together and the wild wheat no longer covered hills and dips, just the part of the yard at the back where it was on higher ground than the rest of the backyard.
“I thought he was going to play with us?” her sister asked as they divested themselves of their sticks (swords, daggers, staves) before entering the house through the sliding backdoor.
“He decided he wanted to have a turn on the t.v. before Mom got home from work.”
Her sister sighed, “Fine, but we’re totally going to crash his time and demand some of the popcorn he’s likely made while we were gone.”
She stopped and stared at her younger sister with wide eyes for a moment, “We have more popcorn! He didn’t tell me that!”
Her sister laughed, “Of course not, would you have told us?”
She didn’t bother trying to argue or look guilty as they raced down the stairs.
This little story was partially inspired by my childhood backyard. It was an awesome place and had lots of fruit trees and gooseberry bushes. (There used to be strawberry bushes and rhubarb, but, uh, there aren’t anymore.)
It’s amazing the magic that a child has and I wonder just where some of it goes the older we get. Maybe we need to spend more time practicing the magic we had as children once we’ve become adults to make sure we don’t lose it.
The rest of this story was inspired by the Dungeon Prompt: Our Magical Powers.