As part of our Aspire Programme we gave our students the chance to take part in writing a short story. Below is The Storyteller’s World which has been written by our winner Caitlin.

If you want to read all of the winners we have included the file below.

First Place: Caitlin Norman

The Storyteller’s World

It was a night for the storytellers. The sky was a murky black, with torrents of rain pouring down. Clashing thunder could be heard all around and the sky was frequently rent in two by forks of flashing lightning. No-one stepped outside. On nights like these, electricity was cut off and people huddled silently around flickering fires with blankets, waiting. In one group, it was to an old lady that everyone looked. She had lived for as long as anyone could remember and the stories she told seemed almost unfathomable. After a particularly loud clap of thunder, she began.

‘The world used to be full of life and dusted with magic. Nature stood tall and proud, cared for by the little folk and guarded from the evils hidden in the depths of the earth – the giants that had been trapped in wars long ago. The fairies ruled everything that grew: ancient forests that whispered secrets as you walked by; meadows of wildflowers full of pops of bright colour, like sprinkles on a cake; pools of water and flowing rivers so pure you could see your reflection in them. Colour was everywhere, ranging from the richest, fieriest ruby reds to the brightest yellows to the deepest, most vibrant purples. Animals, insects, birds, sprites, pixies and fairies could be found everywhere in this world of idyllic serenity.

Then there was the realm of the spirits. The non-corporeal beings roamed the deserts. Massive dunes stretched as far as the eye could see. Sand lay still, occasionally whisked up by a passing spirit and arranged into a new, swirling pattern. The land, like its inhabitants, was neither fully one thing or another – stuck between two worlds. The sands were solid, yet flowed like water; made up of rocks, yet silky smooth underfoot. Similarly, the spirits had no physical form and could not be seen but their presence was felt strongly wherever they were. Some wanderers might be lucky enough to see one, as they appeared like lights to guide travellers safely through their lands.

The mountains didn’t feel the same as the forests or the deserts. No strange aura could be felt as you approached; no magic in the air, carried along by the winds. But if you looked closely, you could see how the rocks and the caves told their own story. For it was underneath the mountains that the real treasure lay – in the lands of the dwarves and the goblins. Beneath the massive mounds of rock lay sprawling tunnels and cavernous pockets full of precious metals and stones. Rubies as dark as blood, emeralds bright and glistening, sapphires which shone blue as the sky, all could be found in abundance in the mines of the goblins. Diamonds bigger than your fist and brighter than stars sat in piles, carefully cut and polished in the dwarves’ workshops. No craftsmanship was more perfect. A few of the mountains were the guardhouses of the dragons – the last line of defence which kept the giants trapped beneath the earth. The dragons would occasionally send a burst of flame through the top of their mountain, leaving a cloud of ash and molten rock as a warning to the surrounding people.

For a while, the humans lived in peace with the magic of the world, making deals to keep everyone happy. The humans gave music to the fairies and, in return, were allowed to cut down a few trees to build their houses. They would write stories in exchange for animals as meat, paint pictures and take a few jewels. This balance kept the world running smoothly for years.

But then the humans began to get greedy, to forget about the magic they were allowed to take advantage of. They started chopping down more trees to gain more space, burning dangerous fuels in order to run giant factories, stealing the earth’s resources, like oil, and not caring about the consequences of spills. The lands were commercialised and humans took jewels and metals without giving back. The world became polluted and the darkness within began to stir. The humans ignored the signs and refused to change their ways. Eruptions from the dragons became more frequent but, by this point, the humans had forgotten what they meant. The effects were too great – too many trees burned, too many rivers polluted, too much smog. The humans blamed the magic then, for not being enough to save them, and the natural caretakers of the world were hunted down.

The day that magic left the world was the day that the sky turned red. The dragons fell silent and turned to stone, trapped in their own prisons. The little folk became wraith like, nothing more than passing shadows. Smog blanketed civilisation and, what had once been full of life, was now a barren wasteland, drained dry by the humans. They tried to create their own magic, developing advanced technology and experimenting with different chemicals but nothing worked. They discovered it was so much easier to destroy than it was to create but by then, it was too late.

Without magic keeping the balance, the giants grew restless. Although they were trapped deep below the ground, they could feel the bonds holding them there weakening. They started banging on the walls of their prisons, sending earthquakes shuddering through the human cities. Floods became more frequent and humans fled the devastation, hiding out in small groups and doing their best to survive. There they remain to this day, waiting and hoping for the magic to return.’

A small girl stared at those around her, she could see lots of wide eyes at this story. She wondered if any of it was true, if that was really why the ground sometimes shook and the world was so dark. She wanted to see a world full of colour and light and she vowed to herself in the darkness, that one day she would go looking for magic. One day she would find it.