Writers in the Rafters

Welcome to Writers in the Rafters, Leeds Central Library Writers Group. We meet every third Thursday of the month, in the Central Library’s The Portal, Second Floor, 1:30-3:30pm.

Image result for leeds central library

Find inspiration and develop your own writing style amongst a fun, eclectic writers group. Whatever your skill level or style, come along and enjoy discussing anything and everything to do with writing in a supportive and friendly social setting.

For those that can’t attend our group, please feel free to submit your creative writing below or to Jolene.stevens@leeds.gov.uk

For more information call Library Enquiries 0113 3785005 or email libraryenquiries@leeds.gov.uk


A History of Magic

In December Central Library will be hosting a month of magical inspired events in coordination with the British Library to celebrate 20 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released and Potter Mania began.

I would like you to write a piece using a theme below. The writing doesn’t have to be related to Harry Potter and can be taken in any direction you choose. I would then like to display your work throughout the month in Lending as part of the History of Magic event. If you would like to participate, please send me your writing electronically by 20th November.

  • Herbology
  • Charms
  • Astronomy and divination
  • Defence against the dark arts
  • Care of magical creatures

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting: 16th November in the Portal, Second Floor.


Writing Prompts and Information

Please complete your City Museum pieces for our next meeting on the 19th October. We shall be meeting in the Portal, Second Floor.

The deadline for sending me your pieces for the anthology is also 19th October.


Inspirational Tour of City MuseumImage result for leeds city museum

Please write a piece that was inspired by something you saw at Leeds City Museum. This could be any of the artefacts, the exhibits, the building or maybe even a person. It may be prose or poetry. Please ensure that the piece is U rated.

Please send you finished work to me electronically (Jolene.stevens@leeds.gov.uk) by the deadline. No more than 2500 words.

Deadline:16th October 2017

Next meeting: 21st September 2017, Second Floor Meeting Room

Optional Task for Light Night : The Leeds Labyrinth

The theme for Light Night is ‘community’. One of the Library’s displays will be about the Leeds Labyrinth. Not much is known about the labyrinth – you may have heard some of the legend. All we really have is the following…Image result for leeds labyrinth

In the late 17th – early 18th century a Thomas Kirke owned a wood in the hamlet of Cookridge, a few miles north of the centre of Leeds. The wood was called Moseley Wood. The wood occupied about 120 acres. Mr Kirke had the wood laid out to form a complex pattern of paths and intersections. This plan provided over 300 views through the wood and 65 intersections that the walker had to decide which route to take next. Visitors to Mr Kirke would spend some considerable time walking in the wood being both amused and perplexed in trying to find their way out from the intricate labyrinth.The wood inspired the local legend of ‘Jack and His Eleven Brothers’ meeting at one of the ‘centres’ and then each taking one of the eleven paths out into the world to make their fortunes.

 We have been asked to write something about the labyrinth in poetry or prose. Please keep it relatively short no more than 3 A4 sides. It can take any direction you fancy – time travelling, what happened to the 11 brothers?, what was in the centre?, why was it built?…..it is really up to you.  

A website with more information – http://www.labyrinthos.net/C30%20Thomas%20Kirke.pdf

Please send any writings to me by 19th September.

Hey Diddle Diddle

Nursery rhymes, although great for teaching children language, they actImage result for nursery rhymesually reflect events in history. For example –Mary Mary Quite Contrary concerns Queen Mary I and her regime victims with silver bells and cockle shells being forms of torture . Many of the words and lyrics were used to parody the royal and political events of the day as direct dissent would often by punishable by death.

Choose a nursery rhyme and feature it in your writing. You could use the characters to tell a story (eg – what’s the background story on the owl and the pussycat before they eloped?), or try and create a modern satirical nursery rhyme. You can even set it to music if you want!

For any help a good nursery rhyme website is – http://www.rhymes.org.uk/

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting: 17th August 2017, The front door of Leeds City Museum, Millennium Store.

Game of Thrones

On 22nImage result for game of thronesd July in Room 700 in the library, we are planning a medieval inspired ‘fayre’ with various stalls and entertainment (possibly some sword fighting) to celebrate the start of the new series of Game of Thrones and everything gothic. At one end of the room we are planning to display of medieval inspired gothic books and it would be a good idea to ask you all to write a gothic/ medieval inspired piece of work which we could then display for all to read.

The writing could be an epic medieval poem, or, like Game of Thrones, a medieval inspired fantasy piece of prose involving dragons, knights and fair maidens. Think King Arthur, Robin Hood and Ivanhoe. Serious or not, it is completely up to you.

If you would like your writing displayed, could you please send me any work electronically by Monday 17th July so I can mount them for display. I will attempt to make your work look gothic!

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting: 20th July 2017, The Portal, Second Floor.

The Family PetImage result for pets

Write about life from the perspective of the family pet. The animal could be anything you want, and the family can be as normal or as dysfunctional as you wish. May be the pet is a beloved dog or a witches’ cat. Does the animal understand people, is it well behaved?

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 15th June 2017, Second Floor Meeting Room, Second Floor.

WishesImage result for wishes

Everyone makes wishes, whether realistic or completely improbable. Write a piece that involves wishes coming true. How are they obtained (magically via a genie, winning a competition, marrying a wealthy spouse…), are the successful or do they go  horribly wrong?

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 18th May 2017, Second Floor Meeting Room, Second Floor.

History Pin

This month we are going to create some writing that could be used for the History Pin project, explained by Sally.

Choose a photograph from Leodis www.leodis.net of Leeds.

You can choose a building or place that you like, or even dislike!

Using an image that resonates with you, you can write whatever you wish; a short story, poem, fiction or non-fiction, it’s up to you.

Anyone willing to read out their work and be recorded in the April meet up would be making a very welcome and valuable contribution to the Historypin Connections project.

Thank you!

Sally Hughes

Historypin Outreach Librarian


0113 3787050

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words (or up to two minutes long).

Next Meeting 20th April  2017 in the Second Floor Meeting Room, Second Floor.


Freedom is the theme of National Poetry Day (28th September). To give us plenty of time, please write a poem based on the theme of Freedom. Poems should be no more than 2 minutes reading time out aloud if you are considering writing something for the video. Please llet me know if you are interested as soon as possible.

If you really don’t want to write a poem, then please write a piece of prose with this theme. I would like to use as many pieces of writing as possible to turn into a display in Lending.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words (or up to two minutes long).

Next Meeting 16th March 2017 in the Second Floor Meeting Room, Second Floor.

Story Dice

As I don’t have enough dice to lend, please select a random piece of paper for setting, weather, time and object. Please try and include these in your writing. The rest of the story is up to you.

If you have story dice, please feel free to use them, but write them down so we kjnow what you are including.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 16th February 2017 in the Second Floor Meeting Room, Second Floor.

A happy new year to all. Just in case anyone is interested –


Wordsworth in Leeds

19 January 2017

10 – 11am

Central Lending, Leeds Central Library

In celebration of the ‘Creative Communities: Wordsworth in Leeds’ exhibition on display in Central Library during January, there will be an hour workshop on Wordsworth. The workshop will introduce and examine Wordsworth as a poet and how this is related to the exhibition.

Suitable for Adults

Free event

No booking required

Christmas Break

A merry Christmas and a happy new year from the Writers in the Rafters. Please note that we are taking a break over the festive season and will meet again on the 29th  January 2017.

Dates and places for 2017. Please note due to the roof, we will spend the first half of the year in the Second Floor meeting room. This is located on the second floor, the first door in the corridor from the lift/ Local and Family History library.

19th January 2nd Floor Meeting Room
16th February 2nd Floor Meeting Room
16th March 2nd Floor Meeting Room
20th April 2nd Floor Meeting Room
18th May 2nd Floor Meeting Room
15th June 2nd Floor Meeting Room
20th July Portal
17th August Inspirational Visit TBC
21st September Portal
19th October Portal
16th November Portal
December Christmas Break
19th January 2nd Floor Meeting Room
16th February 2nd Floor Meeting Room
16th March 2nd Floor Meeting Room
20th April 2nd Floor Meeting Room
18th May 2nd Floor Meeting Room
15th June 2nd Floor Meeting Room
20th July Portal
17th August Inspirational Visit TBC
21st September Portal
19th October Portal
16th November Portal
December Christmas Break

Sliding Doors

In the film Sliding Doors (1998), Helen is fired from her job, drops an earring in a lift, and then the film alternates between two parallel universes that are based on the two paths the central character’s life could take depending on whether or not she catches an early train home. Both paths causing different outcomes in her life.

Write about a character and the two different outcomes that depend on whether they get that bus, that lift, go to that party, buy that suit, take that job. What happens in the two versions? Do they merge at the end? Is the character better off in one version or the other?

For reference to the film ‘Sliding Doors’ – read wikipedia or IBM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sliding_DoorsCachedSimilar

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting: 19th January 2017. In the Second Floor Meeting room.

‘I know what you did’.

Someone knows something about what you did (and when you did it) and you need to keep it a secret. What did you do? Was it good or bad? How are you going to keep it quiet?

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 17th November 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor.

This meeting will be our last before our Christmas Break. We have agreed to make it party atmosphere and have asked everyone to bring sharing food. I shall also be handing out copies of the anthology.

The Party

Write about a party. This could be a sophisticated dinner party, fairy tale ball or an energetic 90s rave. Who is hosting it? What is the reason for the event? Why is your character there?

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 20th October 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor.

Please remember that the 20th of October is the deadline for the Armouries Inspired piece. Please may I have all pieces by this date.

Please remeber that Leeds Peace Poetry entries are due 21st October if you intend to submit a piece.

There are still a couple of places avalible for National Poetry Day Workshop on the 6th Ocotber with the Sunday Practice. Please let me know if you are interested.


Please use the visit to the Royal Armouries to inspire you to write a related piece for our annual anthology. You could focus on an artefact, the ideas of war/peace or the museum itself.

All entries into the Anthology must be submitted electronically to me (jolene.stevens@leeds.gov.uk) by the 20th October 2016. Entires may be up to 6 A4 pages or 1500 words.

Please note that on the 18th August we will be meeting in the entrance foyer of the Royal Armouries at 1.30pm for our Inspiration Trip for further details.

Roald Dahl

This September marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl. Much loved as a children’s author, he also wrote for adults. One book loved by both is his ‘Revolting Rhymes’, published in 1982. A parody of traditional folk tales in verse, Dahl gives a re-interpretation of six well-known fairy tales, featuring surprise endings in place of the traditional happily-ever-after.

In tribute to this much loved author, choose a fairy tale/ folk tale and see if you can make a parody of it. If you’re feeling brave, you could also write it in verse with rhyming couplets!

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 18th August 2016, The Armouries

The Beach

Summer is finally here and crowds of people head towards the coast for sun, sea and sand. Produce a piece of writing that is set on or around a beach. This could be a beach in the UK, or somewhere with a more exotic flavour. Please remember that beaches don not have to be bright sunny places!

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 21st July 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor.

Script prompt

Use the random prompts below to write a scene (or two) for a play or film. Remember to set the scene and use stage directions. If you don’t like any of the ideas below, feel free to use your own.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 16th June 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor.

  • A couple finds an old trunk in an attic.
  • A family pet gives his/her owner a piece of his/her mind.
  • Face to face with an alien/ magical/ paranormal being
  • A husband/ wife of 20 years is a serial killer
  • Love at first bite
  • A breakout is being planned
  • A couple discover that their child has a unique ability
  • The summing up of a 1920s murder mystery
  • Discovery of a forbidden love affaire
  • Lost in translation

Bronte Birthday

The 21st April marks Charlotte Bronte’s 200th birthday.  Try and use either her or her sister’s character(s), plots or settings and use them in a piece of writing. This could be taking the character(s) and placing them in a modern setting, rewriting a part of the story for a modern audience, placing a modern person in the traditional plot, or just using the inspiration of the moody Howarth moors.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 19th May 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor.

An Unexpected Package

You do love getting packages! Yet this one’s different. It’s oddly colored. The material is unlike anything you’ve ever felt and something is violently shaking the box. The worst part is you never ordered anything. So how big is the box? What’s inside? Where did it come from? What does it mean?

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 21st April 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor.

Shakespeare: Love him or hate him?

It will soon be the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth and death (23rd April 1654- 23rd April 1616) – 400 years since his death. Please write a piece which involves Shakespeare. It could be an interpretation of a play or sonnet, perhaps something written for a modern audience or one of your own using Elizabethan language. It could be a piece of prose where Shakespeare or his work features or a piece which explores the question concerning whether he wrote all the work attributed to him.

To celebrate Shakespeare, I will be hoping to create a public display of the writing produced.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 17th March 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor.

Random Image

For something slightly different visit : http://writingexercises.co.uk/random-image-generator.php to obtain a random image or select one of your own.

Look at the image. What story does it tell you? Try and include some description and detail of the image in your work.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 18th February 2016 in the Portal, Second Floor, Leeds Central Library.

Christmas Break

A merry Christmas and a happy new year from the Writers in the Rafters. Please note that we are taking a break over the festive season and will meet again on the 21st  January 2016.

Ugly Beauty

Write about something that is ugly such as war, poverty, hate, cruelty, fear and find the beauty or the good in it.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

Next Meeting 21st January 2016 in the second floor meeting room, Second Floor.


Write about a character that hears something that they are not supposed to hear. Or maybe you are talking to someone else and fear that someone is listening. What is the conversation about? Why is it private?

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words. Next Meeting Thursday 15th October

Writers in the Rafters Annual Anthology – Leeds Town Hall

Produce a piece of work inspired by your visit to the Town Hall for the publication of the annual Writers in the Rafters book. This may be poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction.

If possible, please email all work to Jolene.stevens@leeds.gov.uk.

Up to 6 A4 pages or 1500 words. Deadline Thursday 15th October. Publication by Thursday 19th November.

August 2015- Keys and Locks

Produce a piece of writing about keys and locks. Everyone has keys and they open a variety of things: doors, gates, windows, suitcases, jewellery boxes, diaries. Write about a key or set of keys and the objects which they unlock.

Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words. Next Meeting: Thursday 17th September

July 2015 – Regular Meeting

Produce a piece of writing about a regular meeting. The same people meet at the same time, every week or month, again and again. Why do they meet? Where do they meet? And what would it mean if a meeting went very badly wrong?
Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words. Next meeting: Thursday 20 August

June 2015 – Lies, Damned Lies!

Produce a short story or piece of writing in which a character is lying – to themselves or to others! Think about why they are lying –is it small and inconsequential? Is it life-changing? Is it self-serving? Is it a malicious lie? Or is it to protect someone else?
(If you’re up for a challenge, write in the 1st person, and have the character lying to the reader! How will you reveal to the reader that the narrator is unreliable?)
Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words. Next meeting: Thursday 16 July

May 2015 – Borrow a Character

There are many great characters in fiction, and for this exercise I’d like you to borrow one – write a short story or scene featuring a pre-existing character. It could be one of the greats, like Sherlock Holmes or Elizabeth Bennett, or you could use a character from film or television: Pat Butcher or Captain Kirk. Think about how the character is normally portrayed – will you stick to this, or introduce some new elements? How do they spend their time, off-page or off-screen? Try to get inside their head, reveal their inner life. Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

April 2015 – Curiosity Killed the Cat

‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’

To celebrate 150 years of Alice in Wonderland i ask you to challenge your curiosity. There are curious things all around us – moments, people, situations, places, objects that are magnificently rich inspirations for our writing, especially fiction.  Collect at least five curiosities and weave them together into a piece of fiction – an overheard conversation on the train, someone wearing an unusual piece of clothing, someone’s strange quirk or habit, an odd item on the shelf at the charity shop.  The strange truths of our lives inspire our fiction all the time.

March 2015 – Britain from the Air

The writers were set a task to choose an aerial shot from the Britain from the Air exhibition currently on display outside the Central Library, on Victoria Gardens. The display is on for the rest of April, so do check it out before it’s gone and get creative and submit your writing below. Up to 3 A4 or 1200 words.

February 2015 – Map my writing 

The group shared their work around Central Library today, including areas such as the Atrium, Local Family History Gallery and the Arts Space. Afterwards, the group chose a map from our collection, and wrote a short story on it. Please contact Local Family History Library, Central Library for more information about our map collection.

January 2015

Happy New Year from Writers in the Rafters. We will be meeting on 15th January, in the 1st floor Art Reading Room from 1:30pm. This is just temporary as we will be locating to a quieter area of the building in February, more to follow. We would love to see you there.

November 2014

The group celebrated another fantastic year of creative writing. We took a heritage tour of the Central Library and this was used as the basis for homework for 2015. There are several tours available between January and March and can be booked from http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents

October 2014 –  The Dyslexic Writer’ is a well written and thought provoking article by Melissa Wuidart Phillips, Blackheath Dawn Writer 2014, very well worth a read.

September 2014 – An Archive of Discovery

This year’s end of year project will be based on Leeds Discovery Centre. We would like you to select an item from the stores there and write up to 6 A4 sides or 2500 words.

The deadline for project will be the 1/11/2014 at 5pm. If you would like to arrange a free tour of the stores at the Discovery Centre, then please book on 0113 378 2100.

August 2014 Topic – The Metal Workforce 

As robotic technology develops, more and more humans drop out of the workforce, having no need to work. The politicians watching these developments realize that, if people don’t have to spend most of their time and energy working, they will begin to question the need for a government. A government hoax creates millions of new jobs, jobs that only humans can fill. 2 x A4 or 1000 words.

July 2014 Topic – Two titles are better than one…..

This could prove to be the best one yet. Select two titles from any books, to create a new title of your piece. The titles could be from any genre, and for any age, but it must be a crime piece. So get searching through your bookshelves, pop into your local library and find the two titles that will create the crime story of the year.

Two A4 sheets or up to 1200 words

June 2014 Topic – Fortune Cookie

As the group are tied up with the Gledhow Scrapbook project, this task is short and……..not so sweet. On paying for your group birthday meal at the local Chinese restaurant, the waiter hands over fortune cookies for your party to enjoy. On opening yours it reads “Your life is in danger. Say Nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat………..say nothing.”

What do you do next??????

Two A4 sheets or up to 1200 words

May 2014 Topic – Me and My Bicycle

With the Grand Depart taking place in our beautiul Leeds on the 5th July, i thought it’d be fitting to get you to write about the bicycle. Let’s keep it short with a maximum 600 words, it can be fiction or autobiographical, I shall leave this up to your creativeness.

Keep those eyes peeled, as we have some great displays coming to Leeds Libraries, incoporating the work that is submitted.

April 2014 Topic – Shakespeare 2.0

On 23rd April, World Book Night, Leeds Central Library will be bringing you an evening to celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, 5-7:30pm. With Sonnets around the library, Romeo and Juliet:  The balcony scene, The Alan Cuckston Singers performing The Triumphs of Oriana, Hamlet: The alas, poor Yorick soliloquy and a Talk on the supernatural in the age of Shakespeare: witches, monsters and ghosts. These will all be performed by staff from the Leeds Library and Information Service, and bodes to be a fanstastic evening.

On the back of this, rewrite your favourite scene/monologue from any of Shakespeare’s works….with a modern twist. Our drama collection and literarture section are bursting with works by Will, so pop into your local library today to find your inspiration.

As always, please stick to the 3 x A4 or 1800 words.

March 2014 Topic – Theatre of Dreams

This months topic utilises one of Leeds Libraries finest treasures, the Playbill section on Leodis, a photographic archive of Leeds.

I had asked the writers to select a playbill from random, but as you have the time to peruse the playbills, please select one and write a short story from the perspective of someone who is either there to watch the show or work on it. Please pay attention to the date that the play is set, as you will need to base your story around this time. Up to 1800 words or three A4.

You may also find Leodis useful, for researching the location around the time the play is set.

February 2014 Topic – Heart of Leeds

We were fortunate to have Michelle Scally Clarke come in to this months group and discuss her exciting project, Heart of Leeds. On the 22nd March at 1pm, 100 dancers and poets will form a gigantic heart in Millenium Square,  and in a reverse flash mob, disperse in pairs throughout the city passing on positive messages of love, comfort, support, hope, wisdom and advice written by the people of Leeds. Please email Michelle on dispersal@outlook.com if you would like to contribute some work.

Now on the back of this, this months work is simple, produce up to 2 x A4 sheets or 1000 words using words of Love, Comfort, Support, Hope, Wisdom and Advice.

January 2014 Topic – Music my Muse

Choose your favourite song, a song that stands out in your mind. We’ve all got one, the one hit play again when it finishes. Listen to the song, and as you do use the lyrics and music to help you write 1800 words, or up to three A4.


23 thoughts on “Writers in the Rafters

  1. As requested, here is my piece on the July topic, ‘The Last Truth’…

    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 793 states: “In this year terrible portents appeared in Northumbria, and miserably afflicted the inhabitants: these were exceptional flashes of lightning and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air.”
    Modern-day scholars take this as meteors, or metaphors. But perhaps the truth was rather more literal…


    I look back at what happened and there have been so many lies mixed up with so much truth that I can hardly separate them now.

    But of one thing I am sure, Finn, he it was told the first lie.

    I forgave him, of course. I have always forgiven Finn, no matter how outrageous he is, how far-fetched, how wrong.

    I love him, I cannot help myself.

    But when it began, he strolled casually in as I was sorting the good beans from the bad, and kissed my head in passing as he went to fling open his weapons chest.

    ‘Is there danger?’ I asked, alarmed as he pulled out bow and knives and sword and dropped them on the table opposite me, if you please, and began to clean and polish the blades.

    ‘No,’ he said lightly, too lightly, and that was the first lie; his eyes said yes, yes there is danger, flee, run, hide… ‘No, there’s just been… stories. At the coast, nowhere near us. Lights in the sky, oh, I don’t know, could be angels, could be… anything.’

    Dragons. Also, it could be dragons.

    ‘We all know the sky burns green at night, sometimes,’ I said, before he can mention dragons and so make them real.

    ‘Yes. Not in daylight, though. Anyway… I have been sent for.’

    ‘Of course you have.’

    He looked at me, his bright blue eyes innocent, hurt. ‘But they need me.’

    ‘They always send for you,’ I said. ‘They always need you. Why would they not, as strong as you are, as skilled? But… I have noticed, the summons arrives always just as you are ready, your weapons stowed, your prayers said…’

    He looked down, intent on his work, I saw his eyes reflected in the blade.

    ‘I love you, Aebba,’ he said, and that, that was no lie, and it frightened me more than any dragon, that he needed to say it now. ‘I won’t be gone long…’

    A sigh at my stern silence and he shook his head, looking up.

    ‘No, I will be gone as long as it takes to keep us safe, you and the little ones and the village. And then I will return triumphant, and I will expect good hot soup, cold beer, and warm arms.’

    And that was truth, and lie, and truth, all together.

    I did not wave and call after him as he rode off next day. I held the childers close to me and handed him a flower, a forget-me-not, so blue, so very blue.

    But not as blue as his eyes.


    They are still blue now, brighter now, looking out from his poor, bruised face as I cradle him in my lap and try not to weep.

    ‘Aebbe?’ he manages to say, and from somewhere I find a smile.

    I look into his face, only his face, so that I do not have to see the rest of him.

    ‘Don’t fear,’ I tell him. ‘Help will come.’

    And that is most certainly a lie.

    There is no one left alive to help, I think, in the whole of the world.

    Everything is gone, lost, razed, destroyed by dragon-fire.

    At least it is not cold here.

    ‘I did it, didn’t I?’ Finn asks, desperate to know he is the hero. ‘I killed the dragon, blinded it with my last arrow, ran it through with my sword…’

    …No, beloved, you hit it in the eye, made it angry, alerted it to where you were sheltering me, my dear idiot, my foolish Finn, and it turned on us… you stopped it, you held it off… but it was Dunstan, the King’s man who killed it even as you stabbed and it swiped at you, throwing you clear across the village. It was Dunstan pushed me to safety, he who ducked beneath its body to stab up into its heart, he who died beneath its crushing weight…

    Of course, I do not tell my poor, damaged husband that.

    ‘Yes, Finn,’ I say instead. ‘You killed it, you saved me. You saved us all.’

    I stroke the remains of his hair back from his face. So beautiful he had been, so fair,golden and gleaming. Not now. But still fair, to me.

    ‘Where are they, my son? Our daughter?’

    ‘Hush. Safe.’ This is not a lie. They said their prayers, they are innocent, they… they are free from the pain of this world, now, and if that is not safety, I do not know what is. ‘You wouldn’t want them to leave off their games just yet, would you?’

    ‘What about you? I thought… I thought I heard you scream…’

    ‘It is nothing, I am fine. I was afraid for a moment.’

    ‘Aebbe? Aebbe, love, I can’t feel my legs…’

    ‘Well, and how could you, when I am holding your hands?’ I say, trying to be playful and fun, just as he likes me to be.

    But the truth is, when the dragon threw him through the air, he landed badly, and although it took me forever to get to him, he didn’t move, didn’t stir even when I lifted his head into my lap. The truth is, my Finn is broken almost in two and I cannot bear to tell him.

    ‘What are you hiding from me?’ he asks, and I do not know what to say, so I let go of one of his hands to stroke his face again.

    ‘Perhaps it is just the shock,’ I tell him. ‘You remember old Ernulf, when the horse kicked him. Claimed he was fine, didn’t feel a thing, and then fell down in agony an hour later…’

    ‘Yes… when owner of the horse arrived…’

    Finn smiles, and I laugh, thinking about old Ernulf, even though it hurts, and for a few moments I nearly forget about my childers burned and my husband dying in my arms and all the blood…

    For there is blood, pooling beneath us somewhere; I can feel its trickle and I hold Finn tighter against my fears.

    ‘It’s getting dark,’ he says, ‘they will be lighting the lamps soon.’

    ‘Yes, dearest,’ I say, even though the sun in the sky mocks us with its bright middle-day light. Even though there is nobody left to light the lamps.

    Perhaps it is just that my Finn’s eyes need wiping, from the smoke.

    ‘And I am cold,’ he adds.

    I still have my shawl, and I lay it over him and press my hands to his face. It won’t be long now, and I bend to kiss his lips, despite the taste of blood. If this is the last of him I will have, I will savour it, bitter though it be.

    ‘It often gets colder towards nightfall,’ I say, and this is not a lie. ‘Finn, I love you. Even when you show off, even when you are late, even when you are drunk.’

    ‘Now, don’t get carried away, my girl!’ he says with a hint of his old familiar grin. ‘Just maybe another kiss, warm an old warrior’s heart?’

    ‘My love, you will never be old,’ I tell him, bending to his lips again, and this is a sad, sad truth.

    As we kiss, he stills, and his breath drifts into my mouth, and that is all.

    But his eyes, they are still so blue and bright as they look up into whatever place he is gone to.

    I sit forever holding him, until he is long cold, and I wonder that still he bleeds from somewhere, still pooling out beneath me is this slow and sticky redness. I sit until the day fades, for the sky is dark and I am growing cold.

    And I realise the last lie; I am not fine, the blood is not Finn’s, it is my own.

    And still nobody comes. There is nobody left in the whole world except Finn, and me.

    And that, that is the last truth.

  2. The January topic was challenging. We each drew three slips of paper; one had two character names, one a setting, and the third a genre. I drew:
    Paul and Reuben
    Garden Party
    Since we were performing as part of Library Fest yesterday, we didn’t get a chance to read out our homework, but here’s mine:

    Tombola Trouble

    Thing is, when you’re the son of the Parish Secretary; your mum isn’t your own, not even in the school holidays, because that’s when they have their charity things, when everyone can come.

    I shouldn’t complain, I suppose. It’s why Mum let me get Reuben, so he’d be company for me when she’s working and doing her church stuff.

    Anyway, Reuben’s really cool. He’s white, but with proper black eyes, so bright, like little globs of polished jet. He’s so clever, too. Rats are really intelligent. When we humans are all long extinct, it’ll be a battle between the roaches and the rats for world domination, and I’m betting on the rats.

    He’s a quick learner, too, my Roobz. He knows if he stays still and quiet, he can come out with me in my coat pocket. Of course, if he gets bored, or scared, he’s away up my sleeve if I don’t watch him.

    ‘Paul?’ Mum called. I put Roobz into his cage before I went to see what’s up, I’ve done it a few times, gone downstairs with Roobz on my shoulder and given some old thing a fright, so I try to remember not to do that now.

    ‘Hey, Mum. You want me?’

    ‘Yes. Not now, but at the do on Saturday. I need you to sell raffle tickets…’

    ‘Mum! I’m only fifteen, is it allowed?’

    I was only joking, trying to get out of a boring job at an even more boring thing, but Mum actually thought for a minute.

    ‘Good point. I’ll check with the vicar.’

    The ‘do’ Mum was planning was billed as a garden party to raise money for the Church Fabric Fund, to make new curtains for the vestry, I supposed. Really it was just another fair or something, stalls and tombola and cafe and raffle, out of doors if the weather held, church hall if it rained. Mum gave me a funny look when I pointed out it couldn’t be a garden party indoors, could it?

    ‘Too literal, that’s you, Paul,’ she’d said.

    Anyway, Saturday came, clear and dry, a bit on the cool side, but Mum said that was a good thing.

    ‘People will buy lots of hot drinks. Oh, Vicar says you can sell raffle tickets, it’s for charity and prizes, not for money.’

    So that was the end of my quiet Saturday; I was roped in to help set up, but managed to sneak off home and grab a sandwich while Mum wasn’t looking. I went to my bedroom to eat it, sharing with Reuben.

    Mum came looking for me, shouting up the stairs about it starting soon and she needed to tell me about the raffle.

    I sighed and tucked Roobz into my pocket. I hadn’t asked if I could bring him, she’d only say no and, anyway, if she found him, I might get sent home in disgrace.

    Raffle was easy, really. Tell everyone about the lovely prizes and hope they still want to buy tickets anyway. Take the money, give the change and the tickets, fold the stubs neatly and put them into the box.

    After half an hour or so, in raffle tickets was flagging. Mae, an ancient old woman with a wicked laugh who was meant to be in charge gave me a nudge.

    ‘Why don’t you take a walk round? I’ll be fine.’

    It seemed like a chance to escape, so I nodded and set off.

    It was starting to get warm, now, and I’d have liked to take off my jacket, but it had a pocket full of Reuben, of course, so I had to keep it on.

    Halfway around, I saw a familiar face, Cassie from school. She’s one of those girls you don’t mind talking to sometimes, clever and doesn’t have her head full of the same music as the rest of them. Today she was behind a stall looking fed up.

    ‘Hey, Cassie.’

    ‘Hi, Paul.’

    ‘What you doing here?’

    She nodded at a sign in front of a big wicker basket with a sigh.

    ‘Hold a snake £1.’ It said. ‘With photo £2.’

    ‘I take the pictures, Dad helps them hold the snake.’

    ‘Wow! Didn’t know you had a snake.’

    ‘Not me, Dad. I like them, though. We got two. They’re all right, not slimy, just smooth. Got a corn snake here today, he’s just a little thing, half a metre or so. He’s for the scared ones. And an Indian python, called Rajah… Metre and a half, for the tough guys.’

    ‘Wow. Are they hard to keep?’

    She shrugged. ‘Not really. Got to keep them warm. Rajah eats every ten days or so.’

    ‘What do you feed him?’

    ‘That’s the only icky bit, day old chicks, rats.…’


    ‘Frozen ones. Dad says, twenty years ago, you almost always had to give live feed, but it’s still a bit… you know…’

    ‘I have a rat in my pocket,’ I blurted.

    ‘Of course you do.’

    ‘No, really. He’s called Reuben and…’

    ‘Can I see?’

    ‘Well… All right. Come over here…’

    I backed away from the stall, taking no chances with Roobz even if the snakes were in a basket. Once I thought we were well clear, I lifted Reuben out, careful to keep most of him concealed so the old dears queuing for Tombola didn’t panic.

    ‘Oh, he’s nice!’ Cassie said. ‘Can I hold him?’

    ‘Okay.’ I stroked Roobz’s head, telling him to be good, not to mind the nice girl, be careful of his claws. ‘Hold out your hands.’

    She did, and I went to put Reuben into them, but suddenly he panicked, scabbled his feet madly against my hand and Cassie’s and ended up leaping out of my grip. The old dears around the Tombola gasped and one or two shrieked as Roobz headed for safety; the open hole of the Tombola barrel.

    ‘Quick, shut it,’ I shouted, hoping someone would listen, and the stallholder, realising what had happened, slid the panel across as people around me began to shout and scold.

    ‘I’m sorry,’ Cassie said, ‘it’s my fault. I helped get Rajah into his travel bag after a photo and I forgot, my hands must smell of snake… will he be all right?’

    ‘I hope so…’ I looked around. Angry old ladies were twittering at me now, someone had called for the vicar. ‘Come on.’

    I pushed through to the table where the tombola barrel was tumbling and rocking as Rueben moved around inside. I grabbed for it, ignoring the protests of people who hadn’t pulled out their tickets yet, running through the garden with Cassie fast on my heels.

    ‘Where are we going?’

    ‘My house!’

    Once we were round the corner and out of sight of the vicarage, I slowed down and took a better hold on the tombola drum as I led the way home, letting us in through the back door and heading straight up to my room, Cassie following.

    ‘Where’s your bathroom?’ she asked. ‘I need to wash my hands, I don’t want to frighten him again!’

    ‘On the left,’ I told her, putting the tombola drum down on the floor.

    Once Cassie joined me I shutt the bedroom door, taking Reuben’s feed dish out of his cage. I put a couple of bits of chocolate into it before opening the tombola drum; Cassie sat on the bed with her legs tucked up under her. I pretended not to notice.

    It took Roobz a minute or two before he came out, even for the chocolate. He looked okay, though, his movements a bit hesitant, maybe, but after a minute or two he let me pick him up and stroke him.

    ‘Want to meet him?’ I said, taking him over.

    Now Cassie no longer smelled of snake, Roobz was okay with her, relaxed and easy and Cassie smiled as she stroked him with one finger.

    ‘His fur’s so sleek! And he’s just…’

    ‘Yes, isn’t he?’ I shut Roobz back in his cage with fresh water and food. ‘Suppose we’d better get the Tombola back to the Garden Party.’

    Mum and the vicar were both waiting.

    ‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘sorry, Mum, it was Reuben, he…’

    ‘Paul, I’m ashamed of you! What you were thinking, bringing that rat…?’

    ‘I’ll have that, my lad,’ the vicar said, taking the Tombola barrel off me and heading back towards the stall. Mum followed, still telling me, and I trailed after, Cassie at my side.

    I had to apologise again to the old ladies whose fun had been spoiled when I ran off with the Tombola barrel.

    ‘Here, this ticket’s been ripped!’ one of the old dears said.

    ‘Mine’s all wet,’ another said, ‘and what’s this in here…? Raisins…?’

    I gulped and turned to Cassie.

    ‘I think Roobz got frightened…’ I said.

    ‘Are we running again?’


    We ran.

Make a Comment, Review a Book

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s