Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Another Interlude

As the sun rose two birds took flight from a small island of stone, one black, one white. A grey haired woman watched until they were gone before she walked towards the sea and dived in. She didn't resurface but a while later a seal could be seen playing in the swell. The seal looked after the birds and seeing them gone, it dived down below the sun and then down some more.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Love Alight

The sky was black. There was no moon. The stars glinted bright in the sky but the fire burned brighter. People moved around the fire, half cast in light, half hidden in dark. Mead flowed freely. Children moved around the fire to, but not for much longer, soon they would leave with the oldsters and only adults would remain.

Tonight the God and Goddess would be made anew by the actions of those here. The fire beat back the dark and balance was in all. Celebration of all was the way. Pretty girls danced around the handsome lads. Tonight no ties held between people and all were free to express themselves as the God and Goddess drew them. In truth those who had been bound together celebrated together but not always. Tonight was a night when a new love may or may not be revealed, some for a day, some for a year, some for life and others for more. Those undrawn to someone would continue to sing and drink by the fire.

Mallory wore her becharmed dress and danced around the fire. She drank mead and ate roast pork. She danced some more, determined to lose herself and forget her grief, if only for this one night. The other dancers began to take on an eerie cast as if they were half drawn flames dancing around the fire, half bright, half dark, turning and burning in the night.

She brushed her hair out of her eyes and swayed as she suddenly stopped dancing. Sweat burned on her forehead and dizziness threatened to drag her down. She squinted through the fire at a figure, most magnificent, eyes aflame. She felt an answering fire in her eyes and her body was released from dizziness and she stood tall.

They moved around the fire within the spiral dance and then they danced together. The night burned with light and her body burned with fire and where his arms held her to him she burned hottest. Taken by the powers that be they drew away from the fire and the mysteries of the universe were shown to them and made anew. And then they slept, he cradling her gently with his cloak thrown over them both.

The first thing Mallory was aware of as she came too was that her head hurt, the second was that it was too bright and the third was that she was not alone. She tentatively opened her eyes the merest of cracks to see who had been chosen for her. A large chap, tall and broad and strong with bronzed skin and golden hair which never did quite what it should. Jack she thought and then closed her eyes and went back to sleep.

Later they were found by Maria who left water and bread by their side. Maria smiled knowingly to herself, pleased at the happiness on the lips of those that slept. Always a good sign that a happy bond had been bestowed.

Love in Chains

The woman with luxuriant black hair sat opposite a lady with swathes of fuzzy silver grey hair and unusual round grey and black birth marks across her skin. A fire burnt between the pair of them and they needed it, for neither of them wore much in the way of clothes. The grey haired lady had a cloak but little else.

The grey haired lady obviously lay claim to the place they sat and the things in it and she took a handful of sweet smelling herbs and scattered them in the fire. She glanced up at the segull sat, head under wing next to the lady.

'and you love him?' she said.

Sally glanced at the bird nervously 'of course I do, why else would I be here. I don't think he has any idea of what I shall have to do though.'

'why should you do anything? Live out your lives together as you are!'

'I saw something in the waves, a child, a human child. Rich in magics she was and she has to be born and she has to be mine. A promise I made many years ago to Danu has come back to haunt me, Serena.'

Stirring the fire she signed deeply and pondered before replying slowly and hesitantly, 'how would Lir react to this? Stepping into the afairs of others can be, complicated to say the least.'

Sally stretched out her left arm to show Serena where her bone was not entirely straight. 'I was searching for my love to be, flying hither and tither calling him to me but Lir heard me and called up a storm. He only meant to stop me flying, not to kill me so after plucking me from the sky he had me seen to shore but he could have had no idea that he aided my mission. It was my true love who found me there and took me to his home and wed me.'

Sally paused with a distant look in her eyes before continuing 'I never walked near the sea with him but somehow Lir learned that we had found each other and wed. Tom was a fisherman and once Lir knew, I guess it was only a matter of time. The storm was his and his alone because I caught no hint of it before it announced it's arrival to all. Lir claimed tom's soul as his own, as was his right and so here he is bound for all time. From this life to the next he shall be a bird of the sea.'

Serena reached over to lay her hand on Sally's in comfort. 'Why would Lir be against this child Danu seeks to bring into existence? Is he jealous that one of those of his court would seek to help her and bind themselves to her rather than him? Yes, that must be it. Unless there is something about this child you will bring forth?'

'I know not of my child's fate, simply that he must be. I must find out how to unbind Tom from the wheel he is now on, how I can take him from Lir.'

'Yes you must and I know just how to do it.'

Sally leaned forward eagerly to catch Serena's whispered words.

'He must die to the wheel he is on and be reborn to his own blood.'

The two women talked long into the night as the sea gull slept.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Interlude II

The two birds flew on, the small black bird leading the way, towards the sunset. She seemed to know where she was going while the gull had no clue and meekly followed on. They were two vivid smudges of monochrome against the grey brooding clouds, one white, one black.

Twilight saw them arrowing down towards an island where a rude heap of stones glinted as light escaped from within. Dark crowded round the stones, as if trying to see inside and hid the birds from view. Two voices could be heard talking within far into the night.

Souls Lost at Sea

Sally had no words when she woke. I don't mean she didn't understand us, because she did, but all she had were mime and strangely eerie cries. She was scared to start with unless she could see Tom but she slowly became more certain of her safety and words began to come.

We named her Sally before she had words, just because we had to call her something and she never felt the urge to change it. If she had another name before she came to us, she never said and we never asked. It was almost as if, everyone was nervous of what she might say. It was a conspiracy of silence, of turned heads and a determination not to know.

She would gaze at the clouds and the waves crashing on the shore and smile to herself, her eyes darting as if she were watching some story unfold. Sometimes she frowned, or looked uneasy at what she saw. It reminded me of the look Maria got when she stared deep into the fire. She knew the weather too and the sight of her scowling at Tom taking the boat down the slipway was enough to stop any boat from moving into the waves.

No one was surprised that she stayed at our house or that they jumped through the fire, hands tied together one night. Those that gathered to wish them well, told stories of where she had come from to the visitors from other villages and I heard several as passed through the gathered.

'She is Maria's cousins daughter, you know the one that moved North to marry that herbman that had been apprenticed to her Da.'

'Oh she took ill while traveling along the coast with the metal carriers and they left her here to get well and when they came back by, she chose to stay.'

'A traveling herbwoman she is for Scandria I think.'

I could see the puzzlement on the faces of our near neighbours but they would get no more from us. We were a close knit settlement of twenty grown souls with a number of wild children and squally babes. but all could see the love on Sally and Tom's face and joined in the merry making and dancing around the fire.

My life changed for the better. Again there was someone in the kitchen to help and tasks were easier with two. I had struggled to do all that needed to be done alone when Tom was at sea, because whether we like it or not, he had to go. She never tried to be my mother, although I would have had her as such, but more of a older and wiser sister.

She taught me how to sew and in particular how to embroider. This was not a common thing in our village for what need did we have of fine embroidered cloth but she had an urgency to her as she taught me. It had taken Tom a while to find a peddler with the needles she wanted and he doted on her so he didn't begrudge her fine silk threads.

As we sat passing the needle back and forth through our cloth she would mutter nonsense beneath her breath. '...and this stitch is for binding and this for calling' or 'this shows the soul shining bright'. Her sewing began to take on subtle meanings for me, stories she wanted to tell, great flights of fancy bound in thread.

She made me a beautiful dress that I would wear to the Summer Fires which would the first time I would stay up with the adults as one of them. I would be old enough to take a man then, if I wanted for it was always us women that decided, no matter what the men thought. I knew my dress told a story, subtly webbed in pretty designs. A story of happiness and long life, of babies and freedom from hardship, of a love deep and true.

When the dress was finished I excitedly ran with it to show Maria. She took the dress and her first comment was that it was a pretty and fine dress but then she took a deep breath, as if she had suddenly seen more. Her forehead crinkled in thought and she took a long moment before turning bck to me with a smile and a compliment on it's prettiness.

I was looking forward to the fires and they were only a few short days away now. We were eagerly awaiting the return of the boat. They had been out longer than expected and a storm had blown up yesterday. We all chose to think that it was a local storm and Tom had been fishing further out, which was likely. In deeper water, he would have been safe. For our boats could be sealed up tight like a bubble in the water and no wave could push them down so deep they wouldn't bob back up again to the surface.

Sally had sent him off with a smile but the storm blew up so sudden like, I knew it had surprised her. I knew she was on edge and watching the sea. The more on edge she became, the more nervous I felt. I went to bed that night knowing she would be up earlier than the sun, making bread and kneading dough. If she slept then I would be surprised, because I knew I wouldn't.

Although I did. I woke early to see the storm clouds glowering over the cliffs. I hurriedly dressed and ran down stairs feeling un-renewed by my sleep. The dough was on the side untended, rising in an uneven shape. The door was not shut properly which surprised me and I knew something was on.

I stepped outside and caught a flash of red from the cove and ran down the slipway. I stood on the sand at the edge of the waves as the sun came out and hit me in the face. I couldn't see through light and salt water for a long moment until the sun hid away again. I heard old man Blue shout to wake others and hobble down the slipway to me. He flung his arms around me and drew me from the sea and the red in the foam, dragged in by the horses in the waves and then left there idling.

I fought free and turned to pull the wood and leather from the sea. Old Man Blue helped and others joined. Jack, Blue's Grandson was first but not last and soon what remained of the keel was on the sands which shifted beneath me.

I feel to the sand, my head in my hands and wept.

Long moments passed before I returned.

The thing that bought me back was Sally. She had left the house but she wasn't here. I heard the shout behind me 'Sally! Ho! Sally!' and turned to find Maria with a worried expression, leaving my home.

I think the same thought occurred to all of us. If anyone had known it would be her, and if she wasn't here, then where would she have gone. We all set off in different directions calling to her. I found myself on the rocks where we first found her and it was there I found her shoes. One lay on the rock I had pulled her up onto and the other lay in a pool beneath it.

Jack called from the cliff top above me and we all knew what must have happened. At least we thought we did and I fell down on my knees again as Daisy came to me. Maria was close behind and I found myself willingly taking the drink she offered, knowing the sweet and dreamless sleep it would bring...


The clothes suddenly flared up, petticoats acting as parachutes buoyed up by the wind. The shoes hit the rocks below as the eddies carried blue cloth and lace towards the waiting arms of the sea. The wind filled them and made it look as if a large puffed up sort of a person was still within them. They swayed back and forth hit by a sudden ray of light spun like sugar from the stormy clouds above. The waves reached up and grabbed them and they sat for a moment on the surface before being sucked beneath.

The seagulls had squawked and flown around them as they had drifted down. As the clothes vanished the flock separated and flew off in all directions. A tiny black storm petrel flew off with a large herring gull along side. They headed straight out to sea.

Soul From the Sea

Mallory tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear and looked out of her window. Grey granite houses clustered at the bottom of the hills. They looked like they were in danger of sliding the last few yards into the sea. In bad weather, she often thought they didn't dare sit on the tops of the hills for fear of the wind and rain but huddled at the bottom to keep company and warmth.

She had been born in this house but she wouldn't die in it. One day she would marry and leave this house to her brother and his wife. Too young for that yet, it was still home. Nothing had changed too much, being orphaned hadn't seen her homeless. Her brother was full of life and spirit and love and he kept her with him rather than turn her out.

Things had only got better for them when he found his wife. Found might be a strange word but it seemed apt. No one in the surrounding villages or towns had ever seen or heard of Sally before she came home with Tom one day. That had been a strange day.

No boats had left to fish, they had been pulled up above the sands of the cove as far as they could get them and still they feared they would be lost. Nobody in their right mind would go out on a day such as that one. Just to step foot out the door was a risk, being so close to the cove. A storm such as this might come once in a hundred years.

Mallory and Tom had been sat in front of the fire and some of the other villagers had joined them. Tom had a fantastic voice and Mallory had a piano in the corner that had arrived with her Mother the day she left town to live with their Dad. So everyone came here when they could do little else, bringing food and drink and their voices to raise in song and merriment while Mallory played.

Tom was halfway through a verse when he suddenly stopped as if he heard something and needed to be quiet to hear it better. Everyone else stopped to but in puzzlement as they could hear nothing. Suddenly Tom was moving towards the door tugging on boots and oilskins and then he was gone. Out into the rain and wind with the waves trying to push up the beach at the houses.

Nobody knew quite what to say and they wouldn't meet Mallory's eye as she sat their in shock, fingers paused above the keys. She gathered her hands in her lap for a moment and then she decided to leave as well, following after Tom in oilskins. The villagers would follow her lead.

Outside the wind hit her and the rain clawed at her. Which way? A flash of yellow on the beach and she could see him moving towards the rocks. She prayed that the waves would hold off for a bit and not sweep him away. Why would he go there?

She thought she saw a small black bird, a storm petrel? But it couldn't have been. Because then she realised there was a woman down there, on the rocks. Naked to the wind and rain with long black hair all that covered her. She must be hurt.

She ran down, nearly falling over in the rain and wind. Tom reached her as a wave crashed onto the rocks and she shouted a warning. Tom crouched over the woman and clung to her and the rock and disappeared from view.

Old man Blue appeared next to her tutting under his breath as he took the scene in, in an instant. He turned to his boat at the top of the slipway as she started to move down.

'Wait, you'll be needing this.' He said.

He returned with a rope and tied it round her and then she ran. Were they still there crouched between the rocks? Had the wave dragged them out? She saw something moving. It was them. He was dragging the woman higher up the rocks to a perilous safety, as long as the waves didn't climb too high.

Mallory started round the rocks to help, nearly slipping on the rocks, dragged down by the weight of the rope. Another wave and she saw Tom shelter the woman with his body placing her between himself and the rock he clung to.

They reappeared from the water and Mallory moved across above them and reached down to help pull the woman up. Her skin was cold and wet with rough abrasions and lines of red that seemed to bloom as she watched. Mallory stared in horror as the woman could barely hold her hand. Tom pushed and she pulled and somehow the woman was there with her and Tom was scrambling up the rock to join them.

They slung the woman between them and started scrambling towards safety. Blue held the rope taut and she knew she was the safest of all of them. The waves flung spray up at them, angry that they had moved beyond the reach of the sea. Hitting them with sand and pebbles.

After the longest time they reached the villagers and were bundled into their house. A blanket appeared around the woman. Tom and Mallory were soon stripped to their smalls and warming by the fire. Daisy was in the kitchen making up some hot broth and this was quickly brought through along with some of maria's special salve, stuffed full of plants taken under the light of the full moon and blessed by her light.

Tom had cuts on his hands and a gash on his forehead but he seemed not to notice such was his focus on the woman. He hadn't said a word, in fact since Blue had spoken, no one had. The folk of these shores were quick to action and words were not wasted when action was to be taken.

It was Maria that spoke first 'Now Tom, let me by so I can look at her.' For Tom was positioned as if guarding the woman. He grudingly moved away. And Maria bent over the lady and tutted.

Maria looked at the masses of hair and called for a towel to wrap it up in. Once bound the body of the woman could be seen. Maria turned to the villagers and with a disapproving look they one by one took their leave, moving towards the door. Maria cast her gaze back to the lady.

'Mallory, heat some water for the bottles, she needs to sleep more than she needs us poking at her. Prepare your parent's bed and light up a fire for her.'

As I left the room, I heard mention of holding her steady and things broken. As I climbed the stairs, I heard a heart wrenching cry and i shivered. Birds can't fly with broken wings. I quashed that thought and used my tasks to keep warm. I lit the fire first to start the room a warming and then turned the covers back. I fetched some stone hot water bottles from the cupboard and took them downstairs.

I knew Daisy had left a pot of water on the stove but as I passed through the main room I could see Tom scowling at Maria as she bound the woman's arm. Her eyes were now open slightly but she didn't look fully awake. Her good hand gripped Tom's in panic as her eyes widened and i could hear Tom croon to her as he would a horse.

Hot water pouring and then the stones were wrapped in cloth to protect my hands and taken upstairs. I then went to my room and removed my wet slip and redressed. I bought back down dry clothes for Tom. The woman smelt of lavender now, one of the few ingredients I knew of the salve. Her cuts all seemed minor which surprised me. She had been on that beach longer than Tom hadn't she? Surely she had been buffeted by the rocks. She could only have come from the sea, over the rocks.

Tom dressed and then under Maria's watchful eye he carried her up the stairs to the warmed bed. He couldn't take his eyes off of her and as he went to leave her, she stirred and her eyes flickered open. The panic was evident until Tom shhh'd her and lay on the bed next to her.

I bought up broth for him and put another log on the fire. Maria stood there looking at the woman, with her dark hair and pale, unblemished skin and pursed her lips.

She turned and beckoned me down the stairs. 'It's no use now, what is done is done, mayhap this house needs another woman.' she muttered and then she turned to me 'get you some food and off to bed, I shall check on you all in the night but you know where I be if any trouble comes a'knocking. Fare you this night well, or as well as can be.' And then she left.

I drank my broth sat by the fire before I covered it over for the night and with a stone for myself, crawled off to bed. And that was the end of the day that Sally came into our lives. I never understood how Tom heard her call over the storm. I never understood how only he could hear it. I never understood how she had come from the sea and survived. But it didn't matter for she and Tom were inseperable and the goodness of her spirit shone through. It surprised none that she never left.

Souls Fly Free

Sally paused and ran her fingers down her apron, turning the fabric white and dusty with flour. She looked out of the window at the grey sky. White smudges wheeled against a canvas of clouds. Dramatic and bright, they swooped and turned.

She didn't want to look out towards the sea. She didn't want to not see a red hull tumbling over the waves. She didn't want to think about storms battling fragile wood. She didn't want to imagine hands of water winkling the prize from a pretty shell.

The gulls wheeled above the house, sometimes in view, sometimes not, but always calling. Loud and coarse they were but they spoke of freedom and loneliness. Calling forever, away from here, calling her home.

Home? Here was home. The place she hoped to raise a family in years to come. Beside her man, united in the love of her children to be. How could her home be away from here? If she left, how would he find her?

Absentmindedly she had shaped the bread into near oblongs but with a broadening towards one end. She felt a growing sense of disquiet and the need to run from the stifling heat of the house. Up onto the cliffs she went. Drawn into the air by the freesom of the gulls flying around her.

They said that sea gulls were the soul of fishermen lost at sea. They were drawn to land to see their families but the call of the sea drew them out with the boats at the turn of the tide to hunt for fish. Because a fisherman can never be truly happy on land, no matter how much love they have.

The sea gulls wheeled and danced, quiet now. They almost seemed to create a vortex around her and she could feel the world slip. As quickly as the feeling began it left as one caught her eye. Snared by the intelligence in it's gaze and some connection, she gasped and turned away.

Something in the waves caught her gaze. A flash of red. Too small. Too close. The gull showed her the way home as she stepped forward to find her wings.

Storyteller True

Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl who could tell stories. Her stories took her to beautiful lands where there were amazing adventures to be had. Dragons and unicorns lived alongside animals never seen before in any story before or since. Her stories flowed from the secret place of magic within her.

One day an evil old woman asked her to tell a story and so the little girl did. It was a story of amazing beauty and wonder and the old woman listened intently. Or at least she did for a while and then she said

'You need to pause and take a breath occasionally. Try breaking your words down into proper sentences and then you won't end up getting short of breath.'

The little girl thought about this and thought it sounded very proper. She went to start her story again but she couldn't remember where she was. The story was gone, but that didn't matter, there was another, waiting eagerly to be born.

And so she began another story, a tall story of moon and mist and all the things inbetween.

The evil old lady scowled and after a very short while she interupted again.

'Oh i don't think that sounded right at all, you need to remember never to begin a sentende with but or and.'

The little girl's lower lip began to tremble a little. The story was gone but another grew and there it was a fable of foxes and forests.

'oh don't say the fox and me, say the fox and I'

The fable died but another grew of waves and mermaids and songs of beauty from beneath the waves.

'That was the wrong form of the verb it is you are, not you is'

The mermaids wrung their hair in sorrow and a tale of bear and eagle on a mountain of ice began

'Which form of the word are you using? B-E-A-R or B-A-R-E?'

Moles in pink winged glasses burrowing for hidden treasures....

'Your story needs a beginning, a middle and the end. You can't start at the end.'

Blue haired...

'Blue hair isn't sensible!'






'No. this just won't do! Capital letters and full stops. Sentences have to make sense all by themselves. Use the right form of the verb. Spell all the words right. Never, ever make up words, use the dictionary....'

On and on it went. Each comment from the evil old woman stole a story from the Little girl. Each spell made it harder for her to hear what the stories were trying to tell her from deep within. Until she couldn't hear any more. They were gone and she sat there numb and practiced the form of the verb to be with the evil old woman before learning how to correctly join the letters a and e neatly together.

The little girl was so grateful that she was learning how to make her stories better that she didn't notice. One day she tried to tell a story and all that came out were words that sounded like the evil old woman

'i before e, except after c. No! That isn't a story!'

She sobbed.

She wailed, but the stories had gone and she cried for their loss. She couldn't remember the story of how to get them back. She was lost and she couldn't hear and she was alone and lost without them.

She went to the house of the evil old woman and she took out her fountain pen and stabbed the evil old woman with it. Everytime her pen swopped down, a story was freed....

A bunny rabbit with a tail of silver...

And again her pen flew.

A walk across the surface of the sun...

And down into the evil old woman it fell.

The evil old woman lay at her feet, quite dead. Covered in blood and ink.

The little girl looked on in horror but then a story grew inside her head.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful queen who was put under a spell that could only be broken with blood and ink and the words of a storyteller true....