Crooked Steps


Photo © Karen Rawson

It took Herrol all afternoon to find the crooked steps.  The stream’s twists and turns had meandered off-course.  Or his memories had.

His chest clutched, spotting the roof peeking over the hill.  He’d half-hoped it would be gone, and the old woman vanished with it.

She looked up when he entered, resting the witching spoon atop the bubbling pot.  She stared at the empty spot beside him, as though saying goodbye.

Herrol waited for her to speak. She didn’t. This was his fast to break.

“You were right.  He wasn’t strong enough.  He was too young.”

She sighed.  “So were you.”

Word count: 100. Written for this week’s Friday Fictioneers challenge: write a story of no more than 100 words inspired by the photo.  Big thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting, and to Karen Rawson for providing this week’s photo.  Click the link to read the other stories written for this prompt, or to join in!

It’s been a while since I’ve done FF because I’ve been “away” at Camp NaNoWriMo.  See my previous post to hear all about it!

44 thoughts on “Crooked Steps

    • Hmm, if you didn’t understand it, then it wasn’t very well written after all – sorry! My idea was that this woman was his mentor, and he had taken this younger (missing) man as an apprentice and they’d gone off to try something, against her advice. And things hadn’t gone well. Herrol says the apprentice was too young to have succeeded, and she points out that Herrol was too young — which is why he made that poor decision.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I re-read it with you explanation and realize I made a wrong interpretation. I thought she was saying Herrol was also right, not that he was too young. That’s on me. Too many distractions while reading it. Thank you for helping me understand

        Liked by 1 person

  1. If it helps, I got this the first time without reading your comment first. Very sad, atmospheric and I think your build up helped my understanding of the end. You made it clear he was loath to find her even though he knew he had to , to settle something important and when she looked at the empty space beside him it was crystal clear someone was missing. I don’t know what happened but I know they faced great danger and their lucky anyone returned. Lovely writing Joy

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Lynn! And yes, it does help. And I’m not sure what happened either — was the boy killed through hubris, or did the boy abuse his witching powers to some tragic end? I figured that Harrol’s feeling would be similar either way. Once again, I seem to have written a nugget that inspires a much longer short story, or even a novel. Like we’ve discussed before — as though we need more ideas!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely – too many ideas for one lifetime! Better than writers’ block I guess 🙂 Your ideas are intriguing. I think hubris myself. They were undone by their own certainty. Such a great story Joy

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, hubris is where I was going too. In fact, I have a little “treatment” for the novel percolating in the ideas file right now. The character arc practically writes itself. Which means the plot is going to be a total pain. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • It *might* be, we can hope! But I’m just poking fun at my experience up to this point, which is that I keep thinking this next new story is going to be SO much easier than the one before it, because I *totally* know what I’m doing this time. Then just when the hubris is peaking, some unexpected glitch rears its ugly head and I realize what an utter mess I’ve gotten myself into. 😉


    • It’s true — which is why he was half-hoping she wouldn’t be there. I can relate, sad to say… But he did go, and he did say it, so good for him. Glad to see you caught the witching spoon mention!


  2. Young people make mistakes but when one gets lost, it goes beyond jokes and dares. He’ll have a hard time to get to terms with this if he even accepts his own part in this. From his hoping that the woman wasn’t there, to putting the blame on the young companion, it doesn’t really look that way. Great story, Joy, so many layers, and i especially love the intro.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, that’s a really great comment, and I’m glad you liked it! Yes, Herrol has a long way to go before he really comes to terms with what he did. Or what *she* did, because in the new novel-length version I’m writing notes for, I’ve changed the main character to a woman. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, good call! The funny thing is that I was afraid it would come off as too derivative of another famous movie example of an apprentice gone wrong, so I’m relieved that that wasn’t the first thing everyone mentioned – whew! (Or maybe none of my readers actually watched those prequels, lol.) Thanks Dale!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Crispina – that was a favorite part of mine too, so it’s nice to hear you say that. And with only 100 words, it’s hard *not* to leave you wanting more! Certainly I always want to *say* more. As I told Lynn, this is turning into a prompt for a whole novel — and then I can explain all you’d want to know about who “he” is and what happened to him, and what that spurs the main character to do next.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Karen! And that was world-building in action that you noticed. Hmm, how can I hint that she’s a witcher? Invent such a thing as a witching spoon! (And that’s not a typo — they are “witchers” in my world, because I found that if I called them “witches” nobody understood that a man could be one too.)

      Liked by 1 person

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