Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

Fireside Wine Chat

September 14, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 33
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Fireside Wine Chat
Show Notes Transcript

This week's story, Fireside Wine Chat,  brings two friends together in a mystical autumn setting. 

Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Today's prompt came from my friend Wendy McMullan, who lives entirely too far away from me. ;-) 

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.


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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 33 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:


Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction. 

[Light piano music]

Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Fireside Wine Chat

As a reminder, here’s how this podcast works: I use a word or phrase as a prompt to write a story—with no planning and very little editing—and then share that story with you.

Today’s prompt came from my oldest and dearest friend Wendy McMullan, which likely influenced my mindset as I wrote my way through this short story. Another influence: this pandemic has put my travel plans on hold and, like many of you, I’ve been staying in touch with long-distance friends and family virtually. 

And so, let’s see how those realities influenced this week’s story:


Fireside Wine Chat

Igmara propped her sturdy axe by the cabin door and brushed a fallen leaf from her thick, braided hair. The days had become crisp, and the leaves had taken on their autumn hues of russet, gold, and fiery red. The naiads retreated earlier each day, giving the dark night over to the roving banshees. 

As Igmara unlaced her boots, her eyes drifted toward the stone fireplace, and she smiled softly to herself. The shorter days had charms beyond their autumn leaves. At least for those skilled in the art of pyromancy. 

Though before she could settle by the fireside, Igmara had a few evening chores to complete. She hung her cloak on a peg by the door and slipped into her soft-soled house shoes. She fetched a metal pail from beneath her sink and began filling it with rose-colored seed from a bag in the pantry. 

Like most homes in N’yeardwahl, the main room of Igmara’s cabin had a kitchen clustered in one corner and a large wooden table suitable for meals, crafts, and social gatherings. There were two stuffed chairs opposite the large stone fireplace and a small table between them. 

The far wall, opposite the kitchen, included an enclosed bathroom beneath her bedroom loft. Beside the bathroom, a metal door etched with runic symbols led beyond the main room. 

Igmara carried her filled bucket of seed toward the metal door, pausing to straighten a painting that had become crooked on the rough-hewn cabin wall. The painted was a cherished gift from Fleura, a faun who had recently moved to N’yeardwahl and was fast becoming one of Igmara’s closest local friends. Not that she had many close friends in N’yeardwahl. 

Igmara unlocked and opened the metal door, using care to avoid spilling seed from her full bucket. The room behind the metal door was brightly lit, despite the darkening sky. Metal braziers hung from chains along the peak of the long room’s thick glass roof, yet the dancing flames did not add much heat to the stone-walled stable below. This was by design, as the stable had to be kept at a precise temperature for the health and comfort of the miniature griffons. 

While there were times when Igmara housed a dozen or more griffins, for the time being, there were only six creatures lolling around the straw-covered stone floor or standing on powerful back legs to peer out the room’s high windows. Igmara scanned the stable for the seventh griffon and quickly found him perched on a ledge just below the tall glass ceiling. 

Like most griffons, Igmara’s miniature breed featured the body, back legs, and tail of a lion along with the head, wings, and front talons of an eagle. The most visible difference was in their size, which was significantly smaller than a typical griffin, making them about the same size as a medium goat. The less visible difference was in their diet. Unlike most breeds, Igmara’s miniature griffons were herbivores. Specifically, they were raised on the high-protein rose-colored seed Igmara grew in a pasture on her farm. 

As Igmara made her way about the stable, ladling seed into wooden bowls, the griffins eagerly approached for their dinner. Even Bastian, the quiet griffin who had retreated to his lofty perch, soon swooped to the ground in a lazy arc. 

Igmara spoke to the griffins lovingly as she doled out their seed and sat back to watch them enjoy dinner. “Did you have a nice afternoon?” she began simply, not expecting an answer. “Did you see the silly naiads playing catch with the pinecones?”

She turned toward the nearest window, seeing that the sky was nearly full dark. It would soon be time to light the fire. 

After spending some time lightly smoothing feathers and scratching furry backs, Igmara gathered her empty bucket and bid the griffins good evening. She had tried not to rush her time with them, but it had been hard to stay calm as the first stars blazed in the sky above. 

With her chores finished, Igmara added another log to the grate in the fireplace and set the kindling ablaze. As she waited for the larger logs to catch, Igmara fetched a bottle of wine from the kitchen, poured out a single glass, and set both bottle and glass on the small table between the two fireside chairs. 

Her last task was to unbind a leather pouch from her belt and sprinkle a mound of iridescent powder into her cupped hand. She held the powder near to her heart and closed her eyes, waiting to sense the moment of connection. It came quickly, and Igmara tossed the sparkling powder into the flickering flames. As she turned, one of the fireside chairs was no longer empty. 

Igmara’s smile stretched wide as she took her place beside the shimmering form of her dearest friend, Arwyn. She lifted her glass in a toast, and they drank with contented sighs. 

“How are the griffins?” Arwyn asked, knowing that Igmara had recently released a new generation into the wild. 

“They’re well enough,” Igmara answered mildly. “Though Bastion seems a bit down.”

“Hmm,” Arwyn murmured sympathetically. Her own unicorns had more freedom to come and go as they’d please, though she understood why breeding griffins were safer being stabled until their numbers grew in the wild. 

“But tell me what else is new!” Igmara insisted brightly. “Have you been to the market since fall began?”

“Yes, yes,” Arwyn laughed, sharing her friend’s love of autumnal baked goods and housewares. “And Marlyanna had created a warm pumpkin spiced cider that is divine.”

“Oh, I had a similar brew at our market!” Igmara nearly sloshed her wine out of her glass in excitement, causing them both to laugh again. “It was delicately spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and I know not what else. Divine is the word for it.”

“Speaking of divine…” Arwyn began with contained excitement. “The gods have been so pleased with my unicorns’ rainbow production that they’ve rewarded me with a fine young phoenix.”

“A phoenix?” Igmara squealed. “Oh, that’s wonderful!”

“Yes, and she’s quite beautiful,” Arwyn confided. “Come see for yourself.”

Igmara turned toward the fireplace and let her gaze soften into the flames. After a slow blink, Igmara’s glowing form sat beside Arwyin, in her second fireside chair. Igmara let her eyes drift around the interior of Arwyn’s cozy stone house until she caught sight of the brilliant red and gold plumage of the phoenix resting on a wooden perch. 

“She’s gorgeous!” Igmara told her friend, feeling pride in Arwyn’s well-deserved recognition. 

“Her name is Cyra.” Arwyn took a slow sip of her wine as Igmara admired her new pet. After a moment, she cocked her head to one side and listened intently. “Are those banshees I hear?”

“Oh, yes,” Igmara answered with a heavy sigh. “They do like to screech on autumn evenings. Though they should be winding down soon.”

“I do not miss banshees,” Arwyn said with a delicate shudder. It was the closest she would come to criticizing any living creature, and Igmara remembered when Arwyn had been teased by banshees during an all too rare visit. 

“It’s been too long since we’ve met in person,” Igmara intoned sadly, then smiled gently, as if trying not to allow sadness into their fireside wine chat. 

“I know,” Arwyn replied with the same wistful expression. “Perhaps in the spring?”

“Perhaps,” Igmara agreed without much conviction. 

There was a moment of quiet before both friends shook it away, letting their eyes meet with a glint of connection. 

“Until then, we have the fire.”

Arwyn held up her wine glass in invitation. Igmara’s glowing form brought her glass close, seeing its diaphanous edge pass slightly through Arwyn’s solid glass just as she knew that Arwyn—back in her cabin—saw her shimmering glass cross the border of Igmara’s wine glass. 

Pyromancy allowed the illusion of being in the same room, the sights the sounds, but not the touch of a physical visit. 

“To the fire!” Igmara smiled brightly. 

“To the long nights of autumn!” Arwyn returned cheerfully. 

And they settled in for an evening of chatting and drinking wine by their cozy firesides.


The End


Thank you for joining me for another story break. If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, you can visit my website, You can also connect with me on social media or support me on Patreon at 

Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you. 

[Light piano music]