Flash fiction: Tree magic

An expanded version of the 100 word story for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.


She loved him from when she first set eyes on him. Easy enough, tall as he was, and his red gold hair falling in a wave of sunlight onto his shoulders. His smile across the hall caught her fast, and his eyes blue as lake water on a summer’s afternoon drew her in. He came to bear arms for her father and was welcomed for his strength and his sure eye, but he came without wealth and was not likely to earn much. The black looks of her father’s men guaranteed that.

She was to marry a king, that she had always known, but had not yet given her word. When she saw him, she knew that she never would. They met in secret and loved in secret. In the darkest hours of the night, in the forest or at her foster mother’s house where no one would question her. They met and loved as the trees came into leaf and the forest grew summer green and full of birdsong. Until, on the eve of the sun’s festival, the bright sun god who had looked so kindly on them, they were betrayed. Red-haired Aodh, jealous and angry at being spurned by her, told her father, and on the eve of Lughnasa, her father was waiting for him at their trysting place.

Her father forbade her to leave the fort, threatened to marry her to the least, the oldest, the poorest of his vassals if she dared follow. But follow she did, for she knew where they were heading. They had caught him on the edge of the forest, her father and his men. Tied him to a tree. She begged for his life, offered her own in exchange, but honour was all her father cared for. Love had no place in his world.

His eyes met hers, full of suffering and sadness, but he smiled. She called his name and he told her he loved her. There was no other choice, no life to look forward to, only death, so she shook away the tears and cast the spell.

Her father’s knife stopped in its cruel arc and he let out a cry of rage. Her lover, one now with the ash tree, raised free branches to the sky. Pain could touch him no more. She ran, pushed aside the men and wrapped her arms around the ash trunk. Her father reached out to pull her aside.

His hands never touched her. She had turned herself into a vine, rooted deep, inextricably entwined about the ash tree, her arms forever embracing her beloved.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

26 thoughts on “Flash fiction: Tree magic”

      1. It is really interesting seeing how the two dovetail. I removed the 100 word limit as people were enjoying exploring ideas, though I like the discipline of it myself.

  1. Ok… true story. You’re the second person I have read who did this challenge, and I decided upon seeing the photo and the link, “Yeah, I should do this one,” and started formulating a story in my head but wanted to finish yours before I started working on mine. And as I read your story, the similarities to what I was planning was scary. Like, freaky scary. But I liked how you ended yours, that viney-embrace. Nicely done.

    1. I’m willing to bet that this theme is an old one. If it occurred to more than one person of the handful doing this challenge, it’s probably a deeply anchored idea. Greek gods were always turning people into trees, or people turned themselves into trees to get away from Greek gods. Your ending is obviously different which is the original twist in stories with a common core. Have you written it yet?

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