The Stump and the Ring

Image from Pixabay

This is in response to the September Speculative Fiction Prompt from Carol Forester of Writing and Works, who has taken over from Diana Wallace Peach of Myths of the Mirror

Diana has caregiving commitments that have prevented her continuing with a prompt she clearly loved. I would like to add my thanks to Diana for her personal responses to the writers who have responded to this fun and often challenging prompt in the past, myself included.

The Stump and the Ring

She was as deadly as she was beautiful…

The battle had been sinister and long, but eventually she had won. He had saved the last of his strength to deliver the twisting spell, but the sorceress had broken his right arm with a precise slash from the flat of her elven steel… then used the return stroke to cleave his wand in two.

When she put down the sword, laughing, he knew that his death was to be ceremonial!

Something of his magic had worked, though – for her eyes flared with anger as she wiped blood from her nose. She paused to look at it, then, screaming with rage, she wiped the stained hand on his torn tunic, and slashed down at his own face with the side of her offended fist.

She was not a nice person, he decided, as the trained hand smacked into his own nose. It hurt…

He managed to roll flat with the blow, his right arm uselessly raised but cushioned – with the remains of his wand – against his solar plexus. She slowed and looked down at her prey. Her eyes cooled to ice. From the harness between her breasts, she drew the dagger. It flashed in the cool moonlight, a pale mirror of her bared teeth.

Knowing that his death was imminent, he laughed with irony at the shards of iron that flew as molten drops onto his tender skin from the stump and core of the broken wand… a wand that now fizzed, pathetically

She snarled at his insane laughter, thinking he was mocking her; that he had one remaining trick to play. Crouching low, she came for his throat by running the point of the dagger along the length of his torso.

He moaned, annoyed at his weakness in the face of the approaching demise. His last action was to take a gulp of breath, as though it would carry his consciousness through into a dubious other realm.

The silver dagger glinted below. The wand fizzed, again. He knew it would be the last thing he ever heard…

But then… nothing,… until her hot and beautiful body slumped onto his, unconscious.

For long minutes he lay beneath her, expecting cruel laughter and trickery and then a dagger’s slow death.

But nothing…

In pain and with one arm, he pushed himself, breathlessly, into a semi-upright position. He looked at the head of the silent sorceress, apparently asleep on his chest. The remains of his wand, on the end of his damaged arm, still glowed red hot and was welded to a rather tasteful ring that the fading but resourceful twisting spell had driven through her septum.

The hot night air was tainted with a slight smell of burnt flesh

He would not, he muttered to himself, be bragging about this one down at the inn…

©️Copyright Stephen Tanham

#FurryFives : interview

– Yea, well it was cool at the time, but you can only take so much of living in a bush in Bolton…

So what changed the course of your abandoned life?

– Well, his mother walked past with a pampered Pomeranian pooch…


– And I thought, “Holy shit, look at the lifestyle that goes with this one!” And followed her home!

(This is a true story…)

©Stephen Tanham

#ShortWrytz: A Pint of Change

Ulverston: a lovely town of stark contrasts

There’s nothing pretty about this street in Ulverston, but the depth and intensity of the shadow caught my eye…

Unseen to the photographer, just visible in the upper left – in the gap between the rooftops and the tree – is The Hoad; a lighthouse-like monument to one of the town’s most famous sons: Sir John Barrow.

Born in Ulverston in 1764 of humble origins, John Barrow rose, through his own efforts – primarily in mathematics – to become Second Secretary to the Admiralty and the country’s first Permanent Principle Secretary, surviving eleven changes of government and establishing the principle that civil servants served the country with the continuity of their expertise, and therefore had to be impartial in their actions.

Sir John Barrow. Image source

He was a geographer and explorer, a master linguist – including fluency in Chinese, and one of the foremost mathematicians of his time. He was the last man to shake Admiral Nelson’s hand as the latter boarded the Victory, bound for Trafalgar.

His was the suggestion to exile Napoleon to St Helena, where the Emperor died, six years later.

HMS Victory painted before the battle of Trafalgar, 1805. Image Wikipedia , Public Domain

I didn’t realise at the time of taking the photograph, but the shadow in the picture is thrown by the wall of the former Hartley’s Brewery, considered one of the finest beers ever produced in the north of England. Hartley’s was taken over by Robinson’s Brewery, who moved production to Stockport. The last Hartley’s beer to be made in the town was brewed on the 8th November, 1991. The former factory has been derelict for many years…

When I studied the picture, later in the day, I was struck by the poignancy of the shadow of the former flagship brewery and the sunlit and proud shape of the Hoad Monument to Sir John Barrow.

It’s a fitting image of the clash between historical wisdom and the power of change to sweep away entire worlds that we, mistakenly, view as permanent…

It seems that what is ‘good’ endures only when it remains connected to its source… perhaps something for which we are all responsible?


© Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at

#ShortWrytz: ’18’

It’s rained all night – for most of August, to be honest. Our weekly Pilates class has been beset by bridge failures for the past two months.

So.. equipped with our own tea, we’re here early… 18 minutes early, to be exact, and sitting, with kind permission, in the closed bar of Kendal Rugby Club, the place where the classes are held.

Funny how the table number is chuckling at me…

©Stephen Tanham