The tarn was black, as if the waters had consumed the starlight from the sky above. Húlwen stared into the depths, shadowed by her dark robes, desperately trying to remain in control, despite her hammering heart. The mantras she had learned, the incantations and chants fled from her memory, leaving nothing, nothing with which to face her final test. The final test.
Somewhere close, in the shadowed landscape, creatures moved. Their claws scrabbled, preying on the initiate’s raw nerves. She ran sweating palms down the sides of her garments, twisting her short fingers into the soft, velvet cloth, a habit from childhood.
Under her breath, in the common tongue, Húlwen began an invocation:
Dark mother, I am your daughter, come to you for guidance.
Dark mother, receive my offerings and give me your blessing…
She paused, a sound, perhaps a breath of wind, perhaps a woman’s sigh murmured across the damp grass beneath her feet. She looked quickly to the left and right, no one approached.
Gathering her courage once again, she continued the invocation:
For I seek your wisdom and your strength,
Dark mother, grant me….
Once again, a distant moan, a keening cry rose up in the silent air. Without thinking, Húlwen touched her amulet, grasping the talisman with her left hand. As she opened her mouth to speak again, the initiate felt a ripple of energy flow through her body, flowing from the amulet with a spark of aventurine light. She cried out in pain, letting go of the necklace. Immediately, she put her burnt fingers to her mouth to soothe the skin.
A low mocking laugh echoed around her.
The murky waters rippled and pulsed, then parted with a wrench that Húlwen felt in her ribcage. The power flooding from the tarn brought her down to her knees with a groan.
From the dry centre of the lake a figure uncurled, sharp and jerky at first, with the awkwardness of an insect pulling itself from a cocoon. Dark wings, leathery and wet, spread out from the figure’s shoulders.
Húlwen spoke, an agonised sob rising from her throat, ‘Dark mother..’
Impossibly quickly, the figure moved. It towered above the quivering elf-maid. The goddess had eyes that reflected the starlight, cold and unfeeling. She bent towards Húlwen, reached out her long fingers and dragged the girl to her by the throat.
The goddess grasped her initiate by the windpipe and slowly crushed it, relishing the panic and the fear shown in the young girl’s eyes. ‘Mother,’ Húlwen gasped. The goddess wrapped her wings around the elf-maid. Her magic detonated in the silent landscape with the force of a fireball.
When the aftershock had passed, the tarn was black and still, as if the waters had consumed the starlight from above. Nothing disturbed the goddesses’ rest.
Here is a short story that I wrote based on a visual prompt, of black waters. I love fantasy fiction, and it has been a very long time since I wrote some!