An Image Literary Prompt
The warm autumn sun bathed the city’s rooftops in a golden glow as Aria and Rufus crouched, hidden from view. Below, the city was alive with a vibrant energy that permeated the air. The streets were bustling with people, and the cacophony of laughter and music filled the air. The climax of the “Harvest’s End” festival was hours away, it was a time of revelry, feasting and merriment. The last hurrah before the winter winds set in. A perfect moment to go unnoticed.
Aria, with her dark hair and olive skin, clung to the shadow of a chimney as she surveyed the building through the lens of her telescope. From their vantage point atop a nearby building, they could see the open balcony doors of the wizard’s workshop and the intricate carvings on the door arch. Her gaze was sharp and calculating, her mind already sifting through a myriad of potential magical solutions to any obstacles that may lie ahead. Her enchanted satchel, bulging with various magic specks of dust and granules, clung tightly to her side like a trusted companion.
“Looks like a simple enough protection spell, easy peasy, we’ll be in and out in no time,” Aria said as she packed the telescope back into her satchel.
“Hey!” Aria gave the griffin a soft whack on the back of his head. “Did you hear anything I just said?”
Rufus pulled his eyes away from the food stalls below. Rufus the adolescent griffin, shook off Aria’s attempt to get his attention, his light brown feathers shimmered in the sunlight. A testament to his youth. His wings, however, were a vibrant shade of sky blue, hinting at the power and strength that would come with maturity. His bright sapphire eyes sparkled with mischief and joy as if he were eager to dive headlong into the next adventure that came his way. Aria and Rufus had been inseparable since birth, partners in crime and comrades in countless escapades. Their bond was unbreakable, forged through years of shared laughter, danger, and triumph. Aria knew that she could always count on Rufus to have her back.
Rufus chirped in reply and focus on the task at hand. As if he was looking at the wizard’s workshop this whole time.
“We’ll get something to eat after, but first we get the scroll. Trust me. They’ll be plenty of time for food. A day here, a minute there. Nobody will know we were here. Or anywhere.” Aria reassured Rufus as she checked the stone embedded in the silver amulet around her neck. “See, still black.”
Rufus gave a pointed nod towards the opposite building. He raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, this is the place. And besides, it’s that Harvest’s End, he’s not around anymore.” Aria reached into her satchel and retrieved a couple of vials. One contained a lavender liquid and the other glittering ruby dust. Aria unscrewed the cap of the vial containing the lavender liquid and took a small sip. Immediately, she felt her body becoming lighter, almost weightless. She grinned at Rufus, who was eyeing her with a mix of curiosity and admiration. With her reduced mass, she could move quickly and nimbly, making her almost impossible to detect.
Next, Aria dipped her fingers into the vial of ruby dust and sprinkled it onto her palm. She rubbed her hands together and began to whisper a spell under her breath. The dust glimmered in the sunlight, as if alive with its own magic. As she finished the incantation, a faint shimmer enveloped her form, distorting her image slightly. She knew that this would make her undetectable to magical surveillance.
Aria turned to Rufus and the two locked eyes. It was time. With a swift motion, Aria leapt from the rooftop, soaring through the air with outstretched arms. Rufus hopped up and down before launching himself into the air. At the apex of Aria’s leap, Rufus’ hind talons gently wrapped around her arms. Together, they made their way towards the wizard’s workshop, flying above the distracted crowd.
Rufus released Aria moments before hir feet graced the balcony. Satisfied that they were undetected, they slunk into the workshop. Inside, they found themselves surrounded by towering bookshelves and rows of ancient tomes. The shelves were packed with jars and bottles filled with strange powders, liquids, and dried herbs; their labels were inscribed with faded ink. The scent of sandalwood and incense filled the air, along with the faint hum of magic that seemed to emanate from the very walls themselves. At the opposite end of the room was a large wooden door with an iron latch. Rufus perched himself on a wooden table in the centre of the room.
“Keep an eye out while I’ll start looking,”
Aria combed the piles of scrolls, quickly unrolling each one and scanning for the information she needed.
“I think, this is it,” she muttered engrossed in her task that she barely registered the sound of the door opening. Only when she heard a throat being cleared did she look up to see an old man standing in the doorway, hands on hips. He was of average height and had olive skin that had seen its fair share of wrinkles. His face was weathered and creased, with deep-set eyes. His hair, once black, was now a pale grey, and it hung down to his shoulders in loose, wavy strands. He wore a simple tunic that was slightly frayed at the edges, and leggings that had been patched in several places.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
She shot Rufus a glare, only to get a faster tail wag in return.
“No, thank you. My Grandfather said it was quite all right to fetch what I needed” She waved the scroll in her hand, “Found it.” She chuckled as she placed the scroll in her satchel.
“I wasn’t aware that the master’s Grandchildren were visiting.”
“Well since you didn’t recognise me, you must be new here,” Aria said as she slowly edged towards the balcony.
“Of course, forgive me.” The old man lowered his head, “I hate to ask but, what was your name?”
“And which child of the master is your parent? I don’t want to make any assumptions.”
“Umm, Lillith,” Aria coughed to get Rufus’ attention, “Lillith is my mother. Well, we best be off now.” Aria turned and briskly moved towards the balcony, and Rufus jumped off the table to be at her side.
“There’s nothing that way. Shouldn’t leave via the door?” The old man asked as he moved to the side.
The two froze.
“Yes, how silly of me,” Aria said, Rufus’ head angled to the side as he gave her a look. Aria mouthed, “You were meant to be the lookout” in return. Rufus’ brows furrowed.
They turned and headed towards the door. “The door, haha. Don’t tell Grandfather, he’ll call me a silly goose.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” said the old man as he moved to the side.
Once they were in the hallway the two broke out in a run. “Let’s get clear of here, then get back home,” Aria said looking at Rufus.
Without warning she was knocked to the ground. Standing above her was the old man. Looking around she and Rufus were back in the workshop.
“Must have taken a wrong turn,” said the old man.
“Yeah,” Aria said as she got to her feet. She signalled for Rufus to follow as she ran out of the workshop, taking the other direction this time. They only made it a few feet before running into the old man in the workshop again.
“Lost?” he asked.
Aria reached into her satchel and quickly rummaged around. “No, not lost just…” she found what she was looking for. “Out of time.” Aria’s hand clutching a pink flower bulb shot out, she gave the thick stem a squeeze. The bulb opened and a burst of rose-tinted light blinded the old man. Aria and Rufus ran out onto the balcony and leapt into the air.
As Aria and Rufus soared, the world began to warp and twist in front of them. The buildings seemed to fold into themselves, forming a swirling funnel that sent them hurtling back towards the wizard's workshop. Aria's heart raced as she quickly grabbed more dust out of her satchel. With a quick flick of her wrist, she released a cloud of shimmering silver dust that engulfed her and Rufus.
As they hurtled towards the workshop, Aria could see the stone walls distorting and changing shape. She ran along the walls, dodging outstretched stone hands that emerged from the warped surfaces. Rufus flew beside her, his wings beating frantically as he tried to keep up.
With a burst of speed, Aria and Rufus burst through the other side of the funnel and were propelled into the open air once again. Aria could feel her heart pounding in her chest as she looked down at the city below. The streets were still busy with festivalgoers, oblivious to the warped buildings and stone hands.
The two glided into an alleyway.
“That was too close,” Aria wiped the sweat from her brow.
“Impressive,” the old man said, “let’s go back to my office and introduce ourselves properly.” With a wave of his hand, the alleyway morphed into the workshop.
“I am Meridian.”
He studied Aria and Rufus for a moment, his eyes flickering between them. "Now, what are your names?" he asked his tone firm but not unkind.
"Aria," she replied, "and this is Rufus."
With a slow nod, Meridian extended his left hand and gestured, causing the scroll Aria had taken from his workshop to lift out of her satchel and into his grasp. "Do you mind if I take this back?" he asked politely. He open the scroll and his expression darkened.
"Do you realize how dangerous this scroll is?" he asked, his voice grave. He dropped it on the table. “Who are you? And how did you get past my seals? Only my blood can pass through. Not even my apprentice has access to this workshop.”
Aria took a deep breath before speaking, “As I said, I’m your granddaughter,” Aria winced “Several generations removed.”
"Absurd.” Meridian scoffed; his eyes slowly fell on the amulet around Aria’s neck then rushed over to a sealed box on a shelf. Inside was the same amulet, the stone set inside was white. "This is impossible," he murmured.
"Please," Aria implored, "I need that scroll to undo what's been done. Without it…”
Rufus slowly moved up alongside Meridian, bunting his hip to help plead Aria’s case. The wizard overcame his shock and returned the box to its place and gave Rufus a scratch behind his ear.
“Where I’m from,” Aria paused, wiping away a tear, “When I’m from. There is an immortal wizard. A wizard so powerful that he claims he is a god, and rules over every living thing. That scroll is our only chance.”
Meridian shook his head, "The scroll would be of no use.”
“It has to! It just has to! Too many have risked everything for us to be here. Don’t you see, there’s no one left who is powerful enough to stop him!” Aria slammed her hands on the table in defiance, but in truth, she used both hands on the table to prop herself up, she wasn’t sure if she could handle any more setbacks.
“Tell me, this future of yours. What happens to me? Does this wizard kill me? No, don’t answer that.” Meridian stroked his beard, “at least answer this. When does this wizard first appear?”
“A hundred years or so from now, I guess. History books aren’t a high priority.”
Meridian turned to her, a glint of determination in his gaze. "There is a way," he said, his voice low and intense. "A way that has been long forgotten. But it will require both of our skills and knowledge to pull off."
“What. What?” Aria’s eyes widen.
“I’m coming with you.”
At the news, Rufus sprung up and almost knocked Aria to the ground. Despite her surprise, Aria couldn't help but smile at the griffin’s enthusiasm.
“Really?” Aria asked.
“Well, I don’t know if I’ll be around in a hundred years, and besides, there’s nothing left here for me. My children have their own families to look after, they don’t need me pottering around.” Meridian smiled faintly, a glimmer of pride in his eyes. "Let us go, then. Time is of the essence."
Aria clasped the amulet, the metal cold against her skin, and began to chant the ancient words of power. The syllables, at once familiar and yet elusive, flowed from her lips, each one resonating with the magic of ages long past. As she spoke, a soft luminescence began to radiate from the amulet, suffusing the workshop with a soft shimmering light. The workshop around them seemed to quiver with the intensity of the spell. And then, in a sudden burst of blinding radiance, the three of them were gone.
The wizard’s apprentice came to the edge of the protective seal of the workshop to investigate the strange vibration that went through the building. For the first time, the door was left open. His eyes drank in the view, absorbing every detail. Especially an open scroll on the table. The apprentice couldn't believe his luck. This was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. It was the spell of lifetime, one that would add the lifespan of the victim to the caster's own.
He had spent years studying under Meridian but had always felt restricted by his mentor's teachings. Meridian was old-fashioned, holding him back. But then a nagging thought crept into his mind. With this spell, he could break free from those shackles. He could experiment with new spells, push the boundaries of magic, and become the greatest wizard of all time.
What if Meridian found out? The wizard was known for his strict rules against using magic for personal gain. The punishment for breaking those rules was severe, I don’t want to risk it.
He paced back and forth, trying to decide what to do.
What if I cast it at the climax of the festival, I’d have thousands of lifetimes to perfect my craft.
Nobody will hold me back ever again.