Flash fiction #writephoto: Old gods

This tale is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday #writephoto prompt.


For long years it had been a round tower, a holy place pointing to the heavens, where the ritual of prayer followed the mounting stairs, where chieftains of the lake conferred with their god. For years the chief wound his way in the path of his holy men, hoping to bind the strength of their god with his own. And for years, the god was with him. He held his place, his sons grew strong and healthy, his flocks and herds increased, and he followed the relics and the chanted spells round the tower to gaze down in satisfaction on his tribal lands.

Then, one black day, the invaders came in their narrow ships. The cowardly warriors clad from top to toe in iron, who used the long bow, the coward’s weapon rather than risk their skins in true combat. They brought their own god with them, a god that echoed vaguely the chief’s god, the god who rode into battle between his father and his mother, and held the chief in his embrace like a brother. But the god of the iron men was a dead god who rode in no chariot, and ruled alone. He hung from a tree in his blood, and he had no more need of a father, a mother, or a brother than any other dead man. Perhaps the monks feared this bloodless god. Perhaps that was why they fled when the iron men encircled the tower where the chief prepared to meet them with his spear and his sons at his side.

The chief cried out his war cry and his sons drew their swords, but the iron men never came near. Instead they sent flaming arrows to burn down the door of the tower, and the fire caught at the ladders and the goods stored in the tower and sent up a great cloud of smoke that suffocated the chief and his sons.

The iron men settled on the old chief’s lands and married his daughters and took his cattle, and they built their own, graceless square tower on the site of the beautiful round tower that they had destroyed. They had their priests bless the new tower and baptised their sons in the new chapel. But one black night, the old chief’s daughters and their daughters slit the throats of the iron men invaders and their soft-skinned priests. Blood flowed in the square keep, down the stone stairs and out onto the green field.

In the moonlight, the monks returned and called back the old god and his mother and his father who rode together in the same chariot, and the old round tower reappeared in the heart of the new square keep. The moonlight became silver stone, and in the morning, the tower shone in the new sun, and the keep remained, cold and dead as iron and any man hanging in a tree.


If you like this story, remember, there are two collections of my stories available: Tales from the Northlands and  The Spring Dance.




Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

30 thoughts on “Flash fiction #writephoto: Old gods”

      1. It seems to me that there are two ways of looking at the spiritual/supernatural—the multiple gods, one for each quality or need, and the single god that does everything and there’s no arguing with. Catholics of course hedge their bets and have the one god and a plethora of saints who are the ones you can count on 🙂

      2. Even the monotheistic faiths seem to have their heirarchy of angels and holy men as a more accessible level of help… I don’t really see that there is a great deal of difference in function, except in the name and the level of their attributes 🙂

      3. If Martin Luther tried to do away with the worshiping of images it must be that he imagined that dispersing the divine power among saints and angels and whatnot detracted from the main point which seems to be that there is one path to one goal, it’s hard, miserable and unrelenting, but woe betide anyone who tries something different.

      4. I think those with faith have always seen but one Source… how we approach It has to be a personal thing.The small gods bring the sacred close to heart and hearth… it doesn’t mean that is where vision should end.

      5. It’s such a personal thing, it beats me how anyone can be so full of himself as to say ‘this is the way’. Life is complex, emotions are complex, so is spirituality.

  1. Wonderful picture of cultures clashing, and how they perceive the other’s gods and traditions. I enjoyed the idea that the kidnapped women got their revenge on the killers of their men. The ending is especially powerful.

  2. One more thought, I just gotta say.

    BTW? The saints for the most part, used to be considered Gods and Goddesses.

    Sorry just had to.

    1. The Christians certainly absorbed a lot of old gods and goddesses because the people, even after they were converted, refused to stop believing in them. Brigid is a good one. The Christians transformed her from a powerful deity of fire and metal-working, fertility and healing into…a nun.

  3. Women biding their time for their chance at justice. It seems ever so.
    Gods, goddesses, saints–they seem to me to function for cultures as symbols, but when people take it all literally, trouble is sure to come calling…(K)

    1. I thin you’re right there. As long as they all stay in the realm of the fanciful, and they are only shorthand for a bigger concept, there’s no harm in it. Give one of them form and substance AND supreme power, and as you say, there’s trouble brewing.

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