#writephoto: at Dún Darach

This is from the section of my current WIP that I am writing. It fits the picture for Sue Vincent’s photo prompt perfectly.


Énna refuses to keep his bed. Says it’s his eyes that are gone not his legs. His head is bound about in bands of linen that Ciar changes twice a day as the wounds weep. She checks for the smell of decay and for the yellow pus of infection, but she can do little more except always be there, a presence that Énna can feel at his side. Bual, his dog, follows him like a shadow, returning some of the kindness Énna has shown him. The two of them walk like old men, slowly and carefully down to the river. Ciar is worried that Énna might miss his step and fall in, but he laughs.

“Bual will let me know sure enough when we get to the water’s edge. He never did like getting wet.”

Aoife follows, in the footsteps of the man and his dog. She is pleased to see that her brother is not letting his infirmity crush his spirit, but she has another reason. She wants to know if his powers as a seer have been diminished. She wants to know what he sees. She makes herself useful by carrying his harp and arranging a blanket on the ground so he won’t take the damp. He composes, and she listens to the raw music of the brass strings, the soft sweetness of his voice.

Blackbirds flutter through the undergrowth; in a willow tree one sings, rivalling the fili’s song. Énna stops and listens, his lips parted in a smile. Higher, in an alder, a song thrush repeats the same phrase before trying another, and like beacons of song, nightingales pass their message from tree to tree, following the course of the river.

“Not even a master harpist can rival the birds,” he says with a sigh. “Their tiny voices are what drive us on, striving to come close.” He turns his blind head in Aoife’s direction. “I hear them clearer now. Perhaps I will come close, in time.”

She places a hand on his. “You already do. Can you see them?” she asks hesitantly, edging around the question she really wants to ask.

“I see the shape of their singing,” he says, “and the colour of the trees. I might walk into one of them if I have no one to guide me,” he places a hand on Bual’s head, “but I feel them around me, aflutter with birds, and the running music of the river. Yes, I see it all still, but differently.”

“Do you still need the water mirror for seeings, or is it all there, behind your eyes, in your head?”

He shakes his head. “I don’t know. I haven’t tried yet. The world looks different without eyes. I’m not certain I would know what was real and what was a seeing.”

She holds her breath. Again, she has the sensation of standing on the edge, with a slender cord to catch at should she fall. Life is fragile, death so close she can smell the crushed grass of its tread. Between, there is happiness, as elusive as a blackbird in the woods by the river. Will she catch it, happiness, or will it flick out of reach, a dangling cord, or a pair of swift wings? Will Énna look for the Northman? Will he see those grey eyes, and will they still be soft, or hard as chain mail?

“I have a longing to know what awaits me. Father sent a messenger—did they tell you? As soon as they break the siege, I shall be married. I am afraid, Énna. I shall marry him, even if he is…but it would be easier if I thought he was not a butcher.”

Énna hands her his harp. “Take me to the bullán stone. Perhaps the water mirror will show something, even to a seer with no eyes.”

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.

34 thoughts on “#writephoto: at Dún Darach”

  1. I like the characters, their lives seem intriguing. I also love your description of bird song. While I was reading my mind kept searching for the tone/tense of the story. (I don’t know if that’s the correct expression) I’m no expert, I’ve never written more than 50 lines. You write ‘says’ instead of ‘said’, ‘checks’ instead of ‘checked’ ‘follows’ instead of ‘followed’. This is the only page I’ve read and I don’t know the context of the story. Just an observation.

    1. I’m not sure why, but something made me write it in the present tense. It’s set in the twelfth century, so maybe I felt it needed making more immediate. I could be totally wrong, but since poetry is usually written in the present tense, I’m trying it out in prose.

    1. I’m having to make a lot of it up out of conjecture since there isn’t much about their private lives, but knowing they really existed brings them closer to me. I’m sure I will finish it. I just have bouts of what is it all for? You know the feeling.

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