Lisa Farrell has been writing for as long as she can remember. Much
of what she writes is speculative fiction, but she tries other things
from time to time. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University
of East Anglia.
by Lisa Farrell
Magic cannot be used without consequences, that's why you need a license to use it. But if your child was suffering because of the backlash of someone else's spell, could you stand by and do nothing? Wouldn't you want to save them, no matter what the cost?
This is a dark tale of magic, desperation and revenge.
Word Count: 7600
Pages to Print: 26
File Format: PDF
As a child of the temple, Alandra's goal is simple: to please
the Mothers who raised her. When sent on a mission, she knows
she must obey without question, no matter who is to be punished
or how. Until the face of a victim brings back memories she
didn't know she'd lost, and changes everything.
Pages to Print: 16
File Format: PDF
|Moira's mother is long gone and her father
comes and goes, but she can look after herself. So when Riana
appears, trying to get involved in her life, Moira resists. She
doesn't want a fairy godmother; she wants to make her own
Adam doesn't know who he is. He has grown up as the plaything of
some very sinister fairies, and only the occasional kindness of
the three sisters has kept him alive.
Moira and Adam must both get their destinies back on track, but
Riana has been doing more than giving gifts and setting people
up. And even the sisters cannot claim innocence.
Word Count: 53000
Pages to Print: 169
File Format: PDF
Brambles and Thorns, Category Finalist in the
Eric Hoffer Awards for 2013!
|Ivy doesn’t get excited about Christmas, but
her mum won’t let her spend the holiday alone and miss out on
the magic. No matter that her mum has technically departed the
mortal world… Witches have their ways.
Word Count: 4900
Pages to Print: 20
File Format: PDF
She pretended not to notice the women
watching her as she approached the bier. She kept her head up and eyes
forward as she passed them, her baby held carefully in the crook of her
arm. Her offering was precious perfume for the chaotic god; she had to
bring the best she could afford. It wasn't her fault the other women
could only spare a loaf of bread or a bunch of wild flowers. Their
husbands toiled in the wheat fields because they hadn't the skills to do
anything else. Her man could both write and count, and so served the
lord personally, up in the great house on the hill.
That was where he was now,
though the sun had almost set. The farmers were able to attend to the
rites with their wives while she had to make their pledge alone. As the
other women joined hands with their men and marched past her with their
noses in the air, she turned to head for home. She cooed to her baby,
who was waking up.
It was a warm day, so she kept
to the shade of the tall rickety houses along the street. The smell was
worse in this season, as the sun released the vapours from the dung that
had been walked into the cobbles of the road.
She hated the town. Everywhere
there was life, but of a very different sort to that around the country
dwellings where the more fortunate lived. The sort she could have lived
in, had her husband's family not been cursed with ill fortune. It would
be a long time before he could afford to house her on one of the hills
above the town, where the air was clear and the ground not infested with
maggots or disease.
Her husband worked all day up
on that hill, and she envied him for that. She had to return now to
their poky little house, with nothing but a stone wall between her and
the farmers' families. At times she even envied the farmers themselves,
who at least got to spend their days in the open fields beyond the town
walls. They weren't encased in stone all day.
Her baby began to cry as she
closed the gate behind her. He didn't like the grate of metal as the
latch dropped back into its place. Her garden was a mass of herbs and
the scent greeted her. Everything she grew had a strong smell; it served
to mask the stench of the town.
She walked up the little stone
path, jiggling the baby in an effort to quieten him.
“It's all right, my sweet one,”
she said, “we're home now.”
She wished that she needn't
take him out when she paid homage, but she couldn't keep a nanny for
him, and it would look bad if she didn't take something to the bier in
the square at least once a day. Not with her husband doing so well in
comparison with the other poor souls around, and with a young child to
keep safe too.
Her key was in the bottom of
her pocket; she could feel it digging into her thigh. She held the baby
close with one hand and fumbled for the key with the other. Her long
skirt was too tight, she couldn't get her fingers in without shifting
position again. The baby was starting to thrash in her arms.
“Stop it,” she snapped. “Give
me a minute.”
Her tone did nothing to soothe
him, but when she pushed the heavy door open at last and stepped into
the dark of the hall, the cool air quietened him. He whimpered softly as
she moved to the living room, where she placed him on the rug before the
“There, that's better,” she
said, smiling as she knelt before him, hoping to have a smile in return.
He just stared at her with his big blue eyes, but she tickled his round
tummy and was rewarded with a giggle. He was getting bigger so quickly.
It hadn't been long ago she could leave him lying there as she worked
and he'd be safe. Now if she turned her back for a moment he would crawl
off somewhere more interesting.
“Are you hungry?” she asked as
he reached for her. “Already?”
She gathered him in her arms and sat in the chair
by the fireplace to feed him. She had worked hard today, washing and
baking. She hoped he'd sleep after his feed, and give her time to rest
She woke to his wailing and
sighed. Her head hurt, as it generally did when her sleep was
interrupted. Her husband rolled over to face her and mumbled something,
but she hushed him. She would get up to quiet the baby and let him
Her candle had burnt down while
she slept. Moonlight highlighted the cracks in the shutters and allowed
her to see her way to the cot by the shades of grey. The baby's cries
were angry and urgent, as though he was in pain. He was kicking his legs
in the air as he shrieked, and his tiny fists were clenched. She reached
in to lift him out, but before her fingers touched him she could feel
the heat radiating from his body. She was afraid to touch him. She put a
finger to his wrinkled forehead and yelped at the burning of his skin.
“Mark!” she cried. “Get up!
She didn’t try to lift him for
fear of dropping him, so stood uselessly looking down at his face. Her
husband stumbled to her side and blinked down at the screaming child.
“Maybe he just needs feeding?”
“He’s too hot, Mark, feel him.
I think . . . I think someone has brought the curse on us.”
Mark put his hand to the baby’s
forehead and the little hands latched onto his bare arm. The sickly
smell of burnt hair began to fill the room but Mark didn’t move.
“Fetch the doctor,” he said.
She spared little thought for
the shame of having to go herself, but hitched her nightdress up and ran
barefoot through the street to the doctor’s house. A learned man who
came at no small price, his house had a wall higher than her own. She
clambered over the gate, for her hands shook too much to open it, and
hammered on the door.
She was shivering by the time
he opened it to her, but couldn’t feel the cold. She could only blurt
out that they needed him before she broke into sobs. He came with her at
once, throwing a coat over his dressing gown.
They could hear the baby’s cries from halfway down
the street, and she cried harder to think that his little throat must be
raw with screaming.
“He’s burning up,” Mark said as
they entered the bedroom. “What’s wrong with him, Doctor?”
He had detached his arm from
the child and lit a candle. She could see red welts on his arm where
he’d been gripped. The doctor hurried to see into the cot, and swore.
“What is it?” she asked, and
gasped as she peered over his shoulder. The child’s face was scarlet,
and his eyes, open wider than she’d ever seen them, were bright yellow.
“Oh, gods help us!” she said.
“What’s happening to my baby?”
The doctor turned to her, his lips a tight line
and his brow furrowed.
“I can’t help you,” he said.
“It’s the curse. Only magic can save him from magic.”
“No!” she shook her head, and
her husband caught her trembling hands before she could grab the doctor
by the collar. “There are no magicians in this town! There must be
something we can do.”
“I’m sorry, Madam, but this is
no natural sickness. Do you want me to inform the witch-finders?”
“No,” Mark said. “That won’t
help him. We must employ a magician to redirect this curse.”
“Someone has cursed our child,”
she growled at him, “and we can’t let that go unpunished. No one has a
license in this town. They must be brought to justice!”
“One man has a license,” Mark
said. “Our lord. And I shall go to him at once.”
“Be sure that you do,” the
doctor said. “The child will burn out; he doesn’t have long.”
“Wait!” she shrieked, breaking
from Mark’s grip to follow the doctor from the room. “I beg you, Doctor.
Send for the witch-finders.”
“As you wish, Madam.”
Back to The Cursed
| “We are all proud
of you, Alandra,” the Mother said. “You have learned your
“Thank you, Mother,” she said, bowing low and taking hold of
the holy skirts to kiss them. The feel of the rough, bleached
fabric against her lips was familiar and comforting.
“You performed well on the last mission, and we think that
the time has come to send you on a task of your own. Do you feel
ready to face the world with no one by your side?”
“I know that the Great Mother will be watching, Mother,” she
said, unable to keep the smile from her face. She kept her eyes
cast down. “I will attempt whatever task you see fit to give
She felt the Mother's bony fingers brush her cheek, and
images began to flick through her mind like memories. She saw
the house they wanted her to hit, along with the route she must
take to find it.
“It is up to you, child, how you bring their fate upon them.
But the Great Mother has made Her choices and tonight you must
be Her instrument. However you do it, be sure that Her will is
Alandra nodded, the smile still upon her face. She waited,
listening to the slow, sliding footsteps of the Mother shuffling
away across the marble floor. She flexed her hands, stretching
her fingers, then clenched them into a fist, digging her long
nails into her palms. Only when the Mother was definitely gone
did she lift her head. The room was empty, but for the crates
stacked against one wall, obscuring a frieze of the Great Mother
defeating the crocodile god of a nearby island, some old enemy
of her people.
Alandra would not be carrying any more crates today, she
would leave the task for some other child of the Great Mother to
complete. She had to prepare herself for the work ahead. This
would be her first solo mission, the first time the Mothers
trusted her to go out into the world without some elder as an
escort. She had done everything she could to show them how
useful she could be, and now she finally had a chance to prove
She would pray. She left the storage room, her bare feet
quiet as she walked with practised care. It was mid-afternoon
and supplicants still lingered in the temple, waving incense
sticks and muttering before the image of the Great Mother. Her
statue was made of white marble like the floor, and looked as
cold. Her expression was meant to be serene, but it looked
merely unfocussed to Alandra, as though the Goddess gazed
uncaring over her people and did not see them. Her six arms were
spread out, her palms cupped to receive candles and offerings.
It had once been one of Alandra's jobs to clean and polish them
when night fell and the temple closed, but she had given that
job onto another, younger child as soon as she was able.
She passed the statue and went through the dark doorway
behind to the inner sanctum, where only the Mothers and children
of the temple were allowed to go. She passed through the room
containing the Casket, said to house stars that had dropped from
the sky, sent by the Great Mother to be made into powerful
weapons of war. Beautiful shells had been arranged around it,
gifts from the waters surrounding the island, the waters that
kept their enemies at bay for much of the year.
Back to The Mother
Brambles and Thorns
Moira cut across the field, her bike rattling beneath her. She
went through a particularly large cow-pat and knew her jeans had
been splattered. Anne’s mum would probably insist she change
into a pair of Anne’s clean, expensive jeans. They would be too
short and would show her ankles, which she’d not shaved since
last week. That woman’s kindness always led to humiliation.
The sky was thick with clouds and a feather-light mist was
rising, making everything dim and grey. By the time she came
home she would need her lights, but the batteries were running
low. Maybe she would leave them off and speed silently through
the darkness, a creature of the night. Of course, if she ended
up in the river, then it would be her fault.
She had not seen a soul since she had reached the river path,
and usually it was busy. Maybe the cold was keeping people at
home, or in their cars. Moira sniffed hard; the cold made her
nose run. She didn’t want to slow down to dig a tissue from her
pocket. It wasn’t much farther to the bridge, and the light—not
that she was scared of the half-dark.
Someone was standing on the bridge, right in the middle, right
in her way. Moira flicked at her bell a couple of times as she
approached, but the figure just stood there, a dark form under
the light. Moira was forced to stop, clenching her brakes, and
found herself face to face with a woman who looked more than a
little crazy. She had a huge hooded black shawl pulled around
her, over a humpback. Her face and hair were white, shining out
from the darkness under her hood. Her eyes doing the rabbit in
“Excuse me,” Moira said, dismounting.
The woman didn’t move so Moira pushed past her, and the woman
let out a yelp of surprise. Moira fought the urge to apologise,
or look back. She hopped back onto her bike and got away as fast
as she could.
“Hey, Morra,” Anne’s mum said. “Come on in!”
If the jeans were noticed, they weren’t mentioned. Moira
followed her into the house, gritting her teeth and politely
refusing the many offers of food. She used to think Mrs. Harris
pushed food on her because she thought she wasn’t fed properly
at home. She had soon realised it was because Anne was too fussy
to eat any of her cooking, so she had no other child to give it
“Is Anne upstairs, Mrs. Harris?”
“Call me Sally, please, Morra,” the woman said, her head bobbing
up and down like a mother hen’s as she spoke. “Yes, she’s
upstairs, but be sure to knock, I think Darren’s still with
Mrs. Harris’s eyes gleamed. He had obviously charmed her. She
obviously didn’t know about his reputation.
“Maybe I’d better come another time.”
“Oh no, dear, she’s expecting you. Go on up.”
Moira suppressed a shudder. If Anne was expecting her she was
probably in for a scene. Maybe she should stall a bit longer,
let Darren call Anne’s bluff. How long could it take to undress,
given how little Anne ever wore?
Moira climbed the stairs slowly, her socked feet treading
quietly on the faded flowery carpet, her hand gripping the
polished brass handrail. At the top she paused, listening for
clues. She heard Anne’s patently cute giggle, but that didn’t
tell her anything.
She stood in front of the door and examined the pretty, painted
sign. Welcome to Annabelle’s Room had been done in swirly blue
letters, tiny flowers curling from them. The door was white and
plain, but there were sticky marks where Anne had taped posters
to it in the past.
Moira held the doorknob in her palm. The brass was cold. She
wondered how many hands had held it in the past. Had it been
here before the Harrises moved in? Or had Mrs. Harris insisted
on changing everything, so it was all clean and new?
She opened the door without knocking and found Anne and Darren
on the bed, fumbling at each other, still mostly dressed. Darren
was topless and he seemed genuinely embarrassed, tumbling from
the bed and retrieving his shirt from the floor. Anne just
“Your dad didn’t let you fit that lock yet?” Moira asked,
forcing a smile.
“Not until I’m sixteen,” Anne said, lying back against the
pillows. Moira could see a red silk bra through her open blouse.
She wasn’t known for wearing blouses, but buttons slowed boys
When Darren had gone they laughed about him, and Anne told her
all the secrets he’d spilled. There was nothing too
incriminating, but Anne loved gossip in all its forms and was
enjoying herself so much that she made herself breathless with
talking, her cheeks turning a delicate shade of pink.
Moira pretended to listen, until Anne paused long enough for
Moira to bring up her idea. She hadn’t come just to talk about
“I found this,” Moira said, producing a crumpled page from her
pocket. “I thought it might be fun to have a go.”
Anne was frowning as she took the page, which Moira had ripped
from a magazine, but her brow smoothed as her eyes skimmed the
words. She smiled, and her eyes lifted from the page and met
“Unlock the secrets of your destiny with candle magic,” Anne
said. “A bit melodramatic isn’t it? And they’ve spelt magic
“Since when do you know how to spell?” Moira teased, plucking
the page from Anne’s hand. “You only do well in English because
Mister Rangle fancies you.”
“Ew!” Anne shrieked, jumping to her feet and dancing about as
though the thought of Mister Rangle was a bug to be shaken off.
“Maybe his initials will appear in the water, and I’ll know you
like him too!” Moira said, laughing. Anne grabbed a pillow from
the bed and began hitting her round the head with it. Moira
collapsed, but pulled Anne down too. They ended up in a giggling
heap on the floor.
“Whose initials would you like to see?” Anne asked her.
Moira pushed her off.
“Come on,” Moira said, “I can’t stay long. Let’s do this.
Moira lifted the candle slowly over the bowl. She knew that
candlelight was supposed to be flattering, but she still felt
self-conscious with Anne watching her. She tipped the candle and
let three large drops of wax drip into the water. The wax
solidified at once, and she waited for the pieces to stop
spinning so she could interpret the shapes they made.
Then it would be Anne’s turn, and they would both know who Anne
was destined to be with. Or so the magazine claimed. Moira took
a breath to say the words, but before she spoke, something
changed. The light of the candle dazzled her, the darkness
beyond it made her feel suddenly alone. She was aware of Anne
talking, but the girl sounded far away. Moira’s ears seemed full
of water, the world was receding and all she could see were the
wax drops, still spinning round and round. Candlelight flickered
on the rippling water, streaking it red. The red faded to pink
and Moira saw ribbons fluttering. There was a dark shadow in the
middle of everything, the shape of a person, surrounded by tiny
“You shall have him,” whispered a voice by her ear. “He shall be
your handsome prince.”
Moira screamed and the light came on. Anne was standing with her
hand on the switch, staring at her like she was on fire.
Brambles and Thorns
Ivy slammed the door and let out a stream of curses that would
have made her old mother proud. Her commute was bad enough
without the Christmas shoppers clogging up the tube. She kicked
her shoes off and stomped into the kitchen to find something to
dull the memory of her day. Half a glass worth of white was
still in the fridge, but it just left her feeling cold. Fergus
padded into the kitchen and sat between her and the door.
“All right, I’ll feed you,” she said. “No need to give me that
Fergus’ tail twitched as he watched her pour dry food into his
bowl. He seemed to be judging her. Mum had always spoilt him,
fed him carefully cooked chicken and fish. Now he had to make do
with brown flaky lumps that smelt faintly of mouldy cheese.
“Tell you what, I’ll shop tomorrow,” she said, “get you some
posh cat food, stuff they advertise on TV.”
Fergus ignored her and wandered off towards the bedroom. He had
heard such promises before. Ivy shivered, but she could tell
from Fergus’ behaviour that she was alone in the flat. She would
have a hot shower; that might cheer her up. It was the weekend
The shower wasn’t enough to warm her. She turned the water up as
hot as it would go and scrubbed herself briskly. She felt like
she was turning into some sort of ice queen, she’d been alone so
long. She didn’t have any close friends in London, and as for
men . . .
Ivy wrapped a towel around herself and scowled at the wet
footprints leading to her bedroom. She’d know the shape of those
gnarled toes anywhere.
“Not fair, Mum,” she muttered, following the prints. “I was
naked in there, funnily enough.”
There was a sprig of holly on her bed, and Fergus was purring
contentedly on her pillow.
“What do you want?” Ivy asked, picking up the holly to examine
it. Three juicy red berries shone in the light. “You think I
should decorate? Christmas doesn’t cheer me, so if you’re trying
to make me feel better, just let it drop.”
Something just out of her line of vision fell from the bookcase
to her left and hit the floor with a thump. Ivy jumped despite
herself, startling Fergus. He lost his usual composure, leaping
from the bed and streaking from the room.
Ivy’s lips were clamped shut as she retrieved the book from the
floor. She was determined not to speak ill to the dead. “Ha ha,”
she muttered, replacing her mother’s old copy of A Christmas
Carol on the shelf. “I get it, I’m Scrooge. Now I’m going to
bed, so leave me alone.” She donned her nightdress a little
self-consciously and climbed into bed. As she closed her eyes
she thought she saw the curtains flutter, though the window was
“‘Night, mum,” she whispered.
It wasn’t until she was buying cat food the next morning that
the thought occurred to her. Perhaps her mother didn’t want the
flat decorated. Maybe she was nudging Ivy to remember her. This
had always been her mother’s favourite time of year. Her only
daughter could surely take the time to pay her respects.
“All right, mum,” she said, though she was alone. “I’ll come see
She hurried home to feed the cat, and then set off at once.
Every minute that passed seemed to make her little mission seem
more urgent, until she was fighting the urge to speed on the icy
roads. She didn’t drive often these days, but being on the
familiar roads seemed to erase the last few months of her life
and she almost forgot her destination was the graveyard, not the
She parked behind the church and stepped out of the car to find
herself knee-deep in frosty nettles. Thankful for her jeans, Ivy
quick-marched back up the road. She knew where the holly grew
round here, and though there probably wouldn’t be any berries
left now she could take some for her mum. It was the thought
The world felt bigger here, where fields stretched away on each
side and the sky was wide. So different from her new home. The
air smelt so clear, and tasted like ice water at the back of her
throat. She reached the line of trees and slowed her pace,
looking for the bush they’d walked to together, years ago.
Berries shone. She couldn’t believe it; the bush was full of
“Looks untouched, doesn’t it?”
She started, her hand flying to her chest of its own accord. A
man was standing between the trees, a tall, dark, handsome
stranger. If her mum had somehow set this up, she might have
just got it right for once.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, quickly stuffing her hands into her
pockets. She didn’t want to come across like a Jane Austen
heroine. “I didn’t see you there.”
The man stepped out of the trees. Ivy took in his deep brown
eyes, square chin and broad, muscular shoulders. For a moment
the silence was awkward.
“Picking holly?” he asked, pulling a small pair if shears from
his pocket. “Me too.”
“Well there’s plenty for two here,” she said, laughing
unnecessarily. “I don’t need much anyway, and I’ll be out of
She hadn’t thought to bring any shears. She pulled at a small
sprig, but it wouldn’t break. She felt her face growing hot and
“Here.” The man leant past her and snipped the sprig free. She
gasped as his hand brushed hers, and a sharp tingle passed up
Holly and Ivy