Crossing was provided as a prompt last April (2023). I wasn’t inspired by the chicken so much as the word prompt… which reminded me of the short story X Marks the Spot, that in turn gave me book 8 of the Princelings series, The Princelings of the North. The prompt is from the writephoto meme by KL Caley at, but unfortunately KL is on hiatus.

Having complained on the last #writephoto that my neck is troubled by constant movements from looking at keyboard to screen, I have worked out that writing on the iPad, using predictive text and keeping my head on one plane, rather than shifting from keyboard to screen, works reasonably well. Small steps…

Today’s story is set firmly in the post-Princelings Revolution world. If you’ve read my blog for a few years you’ll have met these characters before. This is just under 1200 words. Moreisle is my take on the Isle of Mull, and my favourite spot in the whole world, the Treshnish and Haunn cottages.


Dylan was back on Moreisle. He’d slipped past the crowd and hidden underneath the smart coach that had been set there to take him across the island to his old home. Dougall was covering for him, as he knew he would. Everyone needed a brother like Dougall. Steady as a rock, clever, and interested in loads of things that Dylan skipped altogether.

Not the stars, though. He’d always thought the stars were useful, helping him find his way across the wilderness of inner Moreisle, when he was simply a castle messenger. He hoped he was still fit enough to make his way home across the moors and the bogs without getting in too much of a mess.

He dropped off the bottom of the coach after about twenty minutes, on the way out of Sarlen. Rolling to the side, under the cover of the fern-infested stone wall beside the rough shack that was the Sarlen smithy, he grinned to himself. The coach rattled on along the stony track. He hoped Dougall was comfortable. Enough, anyway.

The track up onto the moor was just as he’d left it, first the lichen-encrusted twisted trees in the little valley, then breaking out onto soggy moorland. He skirted the rocky summit, and smelled the edge of the bog between the grass and the forest before he stepped in it. His nose kept him dry as he headed northwest, over once well-known territory, up and down the ridges of old dykes that had been formed by volcanoes in the unknowable past.

He reached the watershed of the island, and paused for breath. Did he really used to do this all in one night? He could do with a rest already.

Away in the west, the skies were clear over the far islands, and they basked in silvery moonlight. The sea seemed oily black, but that was only because for once the wind was still. If the clouds would only clear, he’d be more sure of his route now. The bog seemed far more extensive than he remembered it. No wonder the lairds had been complaining about the incessant rain ruining their winter crops. Here we were in April, and the moors were sodden. 

He paused at the edge of a small cliff. He used to jump off this and over the stream that gathered beneath it. A glint several yards ahead suggested that the stream had become more of a lake.  Oh well, let’s go along the cliff instead of over. He’d end up coming down Glen Aros and into Dervaig that way. But it would most likely be well into morning before he got to Castle Haunn, his destination.

The lairds might be cross.

He would be keeping them waiting.

Oh, tosh, let them wait. Goodness knows he’d done enough waiting for them.

He picked up a trail coming down Glen Aros, and took it over the stream. It meant crossing back as he got to the old castle, now a fortress keeping a dangerous prisoner safely behind bars, forever doomed to isolation as a punishment for his many cruelties.

old castle

There it was. A stumpy block of a keep, really. It never had a name, as far as he knew. Memories of rescuing Prince Kevin, rightful heir of Castle Deeping, poured into his brain. What an adventure that had been!

The morning sun threaded itself through the glen behind him and sparkled on the keep. It would be no more than a minute before it went behind the next hill as it slowly moved through its dawn ascension.

Why did it look as if the door to the keep was open?

His stomach dropped as he realised what that implied. He moved quietly along the track to the crossroads. If anyone had been in or out of the keep they were bound to have left prints.

Yes, there, and there. A wheeled cart of some sort, going from Dervaig to Haunn… but no, it had stopped here. Footprints from the keep also stopped in a morass of mixed prints. Someone had come out of the keep and got into or onto the cart.  No, not just one person. There were three sets of prints, but one had gone the opposite way from the cart —he could see those prints squidging the cart’s ruts.

The cart’s prints went on up the track, the way Dylan was going. How long ago? By the sharpness of the ruts, not long. He could probably overtake it if he took the shortcut through the forest. But what if that shortcut was no longer there? Forests grew in his absence. He couldn’t rely on knowledge that was five years old or more.

He carried on along the path, using his old scout’s pace: forty steps fast, forty steps slow. It was a way of speeding up without exhausting your stamina. Dylan knew he was no longer the indefatigable messenger he had been. But he needed to get wherever this cart was going before the person from the keep wreaked havoc on his lairds.

What would they do if he turned up demanding vengeance?

Well, at least it was well past dawn. The exile couldn’t use any really nasty tricks on them. Dylan just had to rely on their sense. Surely they trusted each other, and him, enough to stand against the exile? They knew what he had done. And even if the exile was out of practice, like Dylan was, he could still cause mischief.

Dylan reached the sandy bay he loved so much—and saw a cart on the road ahead, twisting around the edge of the sheer cliffs and out of sight again. How could he delay them?

A grin slowly spread across his face. As long as their smith hadn’t repaired the crossing of Ensay Burn so solidly nobody could destroy it, he had a chance.

He took a short cut across the edge of the cliffs, round a headland, and climbed up the rocky Ensay Burn. The sound of the cart rattling off the road was a spur to his ambitions. He reached the rickety bridge that now replaced the old stepping stones. A quick examination showed the central posts were held up by wedged rocks. As the rattle of the cart grew closer, Dylan heaved the rocks away, and climbed further up the burn to get to Castle Haunn by the quickest possible route.

Time to raise the alarm.

Get all the lairds out to recapture this miscreant, and put an end to his double-crossing ways—and those of any helpers. He paused by a rock, just below the skyline, and looked back. Ah, yes, the helpers.

Hah! He might have known. Well, he was in charge now, and with the experience to deal with this. His uncle Heath was nothing. Nothing but a troublemaker, as he always had been.

Dylan, Lord of the Isles, went down to Castle Haunn to raise the lairds gathered there to greet him, and put paid to this escape attempt by the dastardly Lord Colman.

© J M Pett 2024


Crossing | #writephoto Flash Fiction
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4 thoughts on “Crossing | #writephoto Flash Fiction

  • 10 April, 2024 at 3:56 pm

    So glad you’ve found a more comfortable way to write, because I love getting new stories 🙂 And Dougal and Dylan are definitely favorites.

  • 10 April, 2024 at 7:23 pm

    I find predictive text can have unpredictable results but your story seems to have survived its vagaries! Or you are better at spotting them than I am. I already have these cottages bookmarked in case we go back to Mull.

    • 10 April, 2024 at 7:31 pm

      Using my iPad I get 3 words offered as I type. Some are right in two letters, some take longer but I tap them to get them rather than have to delete them to get the correct word. The most important thing is not having to lift my head to the screen then drop to the keyboard incessantly. 😀

  • 11 April, 2024 at 7:27 am

    A great story Jemima I am glad that you are redoing these writephoto stories 💜


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