#writephoto: In the lap of the gods

Next WIP started and Sue Vincent has found a photo for her prompt to nudge it along.

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She follows with her eyes the sinuous line that hugs the contours of the hill until it disappears out of sight, to fall to the valley beyond. There is a plain, rich and green and on the horizon the march of low hills, blue in the uncertain distance. At her back is the sea; she smells the salt in the wind, feels its buffeting. If she were to turn, she might still be able to see the sail of a small boat, know who sails it, even though he is too far away for her to distinguish any feature. If she were to turn, she might see, if it were not for the tears.

He has gone, looking for the one who will take her place, and all she can do is send him a kindly wind and hope he reaches his goal safely. She wonders if she made a mistake and this place will never be her home. Would she have been happier had she stayed a servant to a brute but in a world she knew and understood? She looks down across the valley the herds of fat cattle, the sheep on the hills. She feels the peace that comes from plenty, from a land wide enough for all, fruitful and prosperous. There is song here and poetry and the children grow straight and tall. She was not wrong to come here. She was just wrong in choosing Caibhán.

She sighs and carries on the path. Beyond the bend she will be able to see the houses, the strangely comforting round houses that echo the sun and moon, the ripples made by raindrops in a pool. She will watch the children running, round and round in their noisy games, the dogs following, and the life of the settlement revolving round and round the seasons, birth, death and the successions of joys and sorrows. She will line her own round nest with comforts against unhappiness and hope in what the turning seasons will bring. One day, perhaps she will become a gull and fly round and round with no more cares than the choice of a fish.

#writephoto: Winged waves

And we’re off on another WIP. This isn’t an excerpt, just playing around with ideas. For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt.

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All that is left of the great wave is a silver pool and the rippling fishbones of the sea bed. She wades into the silver, sending echoes or ripples rushing across the clouded surface, but no head rises from the shallows, no mouth breaks into a broad smile, no hand reaches out to draw her home. The wave has passed, gone, ebbed, drawing him and hope back down to the deeps. She listens for echoes of his voice, calling, but even though it was not her name he called, that bitter pleasure is denied her.

The sky fills with sorrowing cloud, and the waves roll restlessly. What has been done has brought no happiness, neither in this world nor the other. The fairy woman has him now or he is dead. He might live for ever in her arms, or he might be tossed into a watery grave should she tire of him, as she will. They always do. In her people’s stories at any rate.

She wades through the pool that remains silent, still but for the shadows she stirs, and a gull glides overhead, drifting with barely a movement of its wings, across the green waves. Something breaks—a hope, a heart, a chain? Memories flood back of the home they stole her from, calling her name louder than he ever did.

Nothing holds her to this place now though they would still call her slave. Nothing binds her here now that his voice is forever silenced. She summons the magic she has always had at her fingertips and lets it flow into the shape of a gull, a northern gull with memories of the icefields in her feathers.

When they come looking for her along the shore, there is nothing to see but a lone gull winging its way northwards.

Writephoto: Swan women

An excerpt from my latest WIP, because it’s swans. Not Fionnual, Conn, Aodh and Fiachra, but the swan women from the story of Midir and Étaín. For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

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They stowed their belongings beneath the sleeping bench in the guest hall, and Höfmund offered to show Oisín the wonders of Utgard.

“There’s a while before the night meal. We’ve time to walk around the walls and watch the sun go down on the lake. It stretches due west and the setting sun turns it to gold.”

He led the way to the wooden stair that climbed to the stone wall and the walkway along it. Oisín followed reluctantly. The lake was unnervingly familiar, reminding him of the dark side of the man who had been his friend, the madness of the bard and his unceasing search for something he could not have. It reminded him too much of himself. Höfmund stretched out a hand and pointed, his finger moving in a slow arc from east to west.

“All of this is the land of the Ettings, lakes, mountains, forests and pastures. It’s good land, even if winter comes earlier here than at Thrymheimr and lasts longer.”

The last rays of the sun slipped beneath a bank of cloud hanging low along the horizon and flooded the lake water with golden light. It was beautiful, but fleeting. They watched until the sun declined and the cloud thickened. The gold faded, sunk beneath the surface of the lake, and the landscape darkened. Water birds called as they settled for the night, a melancholy sound. In the last moments, before dusk deepened to night, the air vibrated with the beating of wings, broad powerful wings, and the dim light was full of the ghostly forms of swans circling, flying lower then landing with noisy splashing on the lake in the shelter of the sedge.

Oisín felt no surprise; he had recognised the place, though he thought he had left it behind in another world. Despite the sadness that crept into his bones, sadness for the swan women, for Caer Ibormeith, and her haunting, and also for himself, hope brushed his face, feather-soft and he heard once more the sweet voices of women singing.

“Do they have a story, these swans?” he asked Höfmund, half expecting he would say, there are no swans. Höfmund raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Them there? I reckon they’re just swans. There’s no stories about them among the Ettings that I know of. No doubt the men of Asgard would say they’re the swan women who gather up the souls of dead warriors.” He shrugged. “I don’t see no battlefield here though.”

Höfmund saw a flock of swans, nothing more magical or sinister. Perhaps that’s all they were. As the last of the light faded, so did the swans and their imagined singing.

Boobies

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales prompt.

photo by Raúl Nájera via Unsplash

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The hunters read the notice and laughed, arrogant, derisive laughter, because they were hunters and they respected no rules but the ones they made themselves.

There were deer in the woods, hare and pheasant in the broad glades, and game was game, wherever it hid.

Shouldering their rifles they climbed the fence and jumped, clearing the brambles and landing in the concealed trench filled with razor wire, their screaming drawing from the tree shadows, the waiting wolf pack.

(Another) WIP finished!

I’m just surfacing. Written the last word of the first draft of a mythological mash-up that incorporates the stories of Niamh, Oisín and Aengus with the Norse myth of Idunn and the apples of eternal youth.

There are lots of apples and swans, women held against their will, transformed into things they don’t want to be, given children and tasks they never asked for. They are tricked into doing things they don’t want to do, married to men they don’t love, and generally abducted, handed over as payment for a gambling debt, pursued with passion, or murdered with indifference. Different cultures, but with many of the same characters.

The hardest part remains—the title. At the moment the two I prefer are:

Apples of the sun and moon, and Between the horns of the moon.

Now I have the fun part ahead, rereading to check I haven’t resurrected any dead characters, changed their names or lineage, or got my wires hopelessly crossed. Then I’ll see if I can twist an arm or two to beta read it.

I might just write a poem first to celebrate.

 

Gospel

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Matthew 6: 28-29

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

 

Lilies don’t work

Lilies have no fashion budget

Lilies still look better than kings

Lilies are smart

Be like the lilies.

 

Any other interpretation is rubbish.

Three line tales: Howling

For Sonya’s photo prompt.

photo by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

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They gave him a puzzle to put together out of bits of black and grey, sharp and caustic as the put-downs of his teacher and cold as his father’s disinterest.

He struggled beneath their unflinching gaze and the click click of biros taking notes and the glare and the blare of the noisy light.

At the end of the hour he had made a figure of a boy out of five rectangles and a circle, and scattered all around was the howling debris of his world.

The land of balloons

Couldn’t resist this prompt. Reminded me of a well-loved film.

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He took a crayon from the pot and drew a red balloon, and at the end of the long string, he drew himself.

The master crumpled up the paper and tossed it in the bin angrily, but later, after school, the child met his friend on the corner, and in her hand she held the strings of two balloons, a red and a blue.

She smiled, handed him the red one, and together they drifted away, over the rooftops of the unkind city to the place where balloons and children fly free.

Flash mythology

Embroidery on an old story and a line from a poem by Maya Angelou, His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream.

 

Elatha was no more than shadow. Since the Fomhóire were defeated and his ambitions torn to ribbons, he had gone back to live beneath the wild waves, beyond the black cliffs beaten by the ocean, where his ancestors had arisen from, and the world was the better for it. But Midir stirred up his old ambitions and the ambitions of his son Eochu Bres, the beast, though Brigid would rather his name was never heard again.

Elatha was no more than shadow but Midir gave him substance and he gave Bres a spear, all to kill Oisín who he hated worse than poison. The world hung in the balance, the Isle of Apple Trees waited, the salmon curled in the mud at the bottom of the pool, and the birds of the dead souls fell silence.

Swan women bound two and two by silver chains rose from the lake between the worlds and Oisín watched them fly. In the wind of their passing he heard Niamh whisper, and her voice filled his heart with longing. When Ulatha and his son strode out of the shadows, a thing of mist and murk, the sea muck clinging to their cloaks, he was ready; he had Brigid’s sword and Niamh’s love.

When Bres threw the spear that was not his, and the spear turned back on the thief who threw it, when Ulatha saw his son struck down by his own hand, he uttered a scream that would give nightmares to an unborn child in the womb.

Oisín wielded the words Niamh had taught him and the sword Brigid had forged for him and Ulatha fell back before them all, the bright burning lights that pierced his shadows, fell back to the ocean depths, where none, not even Midir the cunning, would raise him up again.

The swan women circled and settled on the lake, and threw off their feather cloaks. One strode out of the shallows to Oisín, the silver chain in her hands.

“Niamh,” he murmured.

She smiled. “Will you come with me and be bound to me as I will be bound to you? Will you follow where I lead when I know the way, and listen to the silence what I say there is no need for words?”

He took her hands and kissed her face. “I will be bound to you and never look for the key. I am not such a fool that I would challenge your knowledge, and I already know that the silence the birds sing is wiser than any words of mine could ever be.”

So Niamh wrapped the feather cloak about them both and it was as two great swans that they flew out of the world of men forever.