#writephoto: The last look in the mirror

My WIP is at the waiting to see if it passes muster stage, but this photo is so much a part of the story that I can’t help but write a bit that fits it. Thanks Sue 🙂 It’s even entitled ‘The Mirror’.

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Evienne stands by the pool in the river bend for the last time. She is old now, too old to have the strength to stir the memories, too old to remember the names of all the faces. There is only one she remembers with love anyway, and his face has fled from this pool. It lies now in a distant pool, over the sea, and even though the barrier of mist magic around the island is failing, as the magic of its seers dies, it is still too strong for a woman who is now only a woman, to pierce with only women’s magic.

She would have left his place, her lake island and the meanders of the river Wye, while she was still strong, and followed Richard’s shade to his resting place, but she had not the heart to deprive the red-haired woman of that privilege. She, after all, had almost twenty years of Richard, bore him three daughters. The red-haired woman’s was the lot of all mortal women, loss and grieving. Evienne had left her Richard’s shade, and when she died, avenged her death, and let her shade go in peace to find Richard and their son.

She is old now, and her turn will soon come. Her daughters are scattered like autumn leaves but at least two of the last birthing, Richard’s daughters, have known happiness as few mortal women ever do. The youngest is waiting for her, in the depths or the heights, perhaps both.

It is time for her to leave, to wade back across the lake to the island and pull the mists about it for the last time. She turns from her contemplation of the still pool that mirrors only the sky, and finds that she still has tears to shed.



#writephoto: Black crow strikes

Cheating a bit here. This isn’t inspired by the WIP, it’s an excerpt. It’s the point I’ve reached in revision and this image, Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt, fits the story well.

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She wraps her brat tighter across her shoulders; the evening air is cool after a damp summer day. The river is a mass of moving shadows beneath the trees, but she knows the path. If Dónal has asked for a seeing, it is to know the answer to one question. Her belly convulses with fear, tightening her throat, breaking up her breath into short gasps.

There is no light from a fire now, but she knows the path up the valley side well enough. The silence is terrifying, unnatural. Not even an owl cries. She wants to call out but bites her tongue, afraid to draw attention to herself. Branches snag her clothes, tug at her hair. She trips and almost falls. The night is closing in—protecting or defying? She gasps as a tree root rises beneath her foot and she slips. Something skitters away into the bracken lower down. The rock looms, a darker mass against the sky, brushed by leafy boughs. She takes a deep breath and hurries the last few yards of the incline.

Slumped forward, his back against a tree trunk is a man, pale-haired, still. By his side a harp and the glowing embers of an almost dead fire.

“Énna,” she whispers. She hates herself, but before she moves to his side, she looks around, searching the shadows in fear that she is not alone. There is no sound, not even from her brother. She touches the handle of the knife at her belt and, reassured by its smooth familiarity, rushes over the rock, past the bullán stone and its dark pool and puts a hand on Énna’s shoulder. He whimpers. The sound is like the sadness of a child. “Énna,” she says, louder, trying to make him sit up.

There is little light, just the fire glow and the faint light of the stars, but she sees that the front of his léine is dark. She whimpers, echoing his distress. Slowly, he raises his head, leans it back against the tree trunk and Aoife sucks in her breath in horror.

Flash fiction: Duality

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. A scene inspired by my WIP.

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He can’t remember why he has come down to the shore. There was fighting up in the town. Surely he should be there, fighting…who? He wades into the shallows, forgetful of his new boots. For a moment he even forgets his name. He should be fighting the grey foreigners. Has he come to look to see if there are more of them on the sea? Waves lap his calves. He ignores the cold, realises he doesn’t even feel it. He gazes into the distance, but the sea is empty. No sails ripple on the horizon. Then he hears it again, the call that drew him to the water.

He remembers now why he is here, and his name fades along with the fighting on the hill, the who and the why. Eyes narrow and he sees the world through amber light. His tongue tastes the salt wind and he feels an irresistible urge to join it.

The voice murmurs, Fly. Soar. Embrace who you are.

His arms jerk away from his body, his feet…he looks down and finds only the green coils of a serpent.


The amber light of his eyes turns inwards and his man-thoughts cower and hide. With a scream, his spread arms, a mass of taut, translucent skin and the webbing of bone, beat, thrust…The man struggles; a crucifix dances behind his eyes and becomes his own spread arms, wings. The scream echoes in his ears, his own voice, and the amber eyes turn back upon the crucifix that folds its arms and whimpers, comforted by his other self.


The wyvern-worm-péist thrusts the translucent webbing of limbs into the air. Green coils thresh the water and stream behind, a green banner, and Art Ó Conor reaches out to the guivre across the water, his tongue tasting her salt name on his tongue—Muirgheal.

Remember, you have your honour to avenge. Remember who stole your wife.

The thing that shares Art’s body twists and rises into the clouds. He shrieks the response with forked tongue—I have not forgotten.

Placid as the night ocean

I haven’t had much time for poetry these last few days. There’s so much to do here and I’ve been immersed in a re-write. The hard work is done, just needs the fine-tuning and we’ll see if it works.

I couldn’t not visit the Oracle though. The second poem fits Sue Vincent’s photo prompt, which often corresponds to some scene in the WIP.

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Why ask where home lies?

Look out on the night ocean,

listen to its wings beating,

see how green morning wakes,

slow and soft as peace falling, stars wheeling,

in the vast silence of the universe,

and we are there.

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The lake is still, smooth as a mirror.

She watches a ship,

with billowing white sails,

through singing mists—

moon mother, water woman—

until the sky runs red as berry juice.


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The Three Lines Tales prompt is reflecting my WIP now. Even the photographer has the right name.

photo by Richard Clark via Unsplash



The river’s fury subsides, and William le Maréchal drags himself onto the bank, gasping, his fury the equal of any natural or magical phenomenon.

Striguil, so close, almost within his grasp—he could almost hear the feeble cries of the woman he would take, by force if she resisted, in order to legitimate his claim—and to be denied it by the unholy workings of a succubus.

From the lake, calm now in the evening sun, a woman’s voice rises in a gale of bright laughter—For all your toadying and flattering of kings, your line will never possess these stones, de Clare’s bones and the inheritance of his daughters.



#writephoto: No choice

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. More WIP…

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Dónal had a message for his brother, the blind seer. He had received word that the grey foreigner who had stolen his birthright was bringing over his eldest son, a Sasanach son and warrior with battle glory to his name, to set him up as chief in a caiseal over Santry way. This was surely the son he intended as his heir, not the wee boy barely weaned he had by Aoife. Dónal had never intended to let his sister’s son grow beyond infancy, but this was a bitter blow. A man and a warrior is much harder to do away with than an infant. Once behind the walls of his caiseal, the young Northman would be as hard to winkle out as any of his kin. Dónal vowed to stop him ever crossing the threshold.

“I have a job for you, brother.”

Énna did not move. He crouched, his back to Dónal, the spring before his feet, bubbling into the stone. Dónal despised and feared his brother’s power but he did not doubt its efficacity. He kicked him. Not hard. Just enough to remind him that he could.

“I said, I need you to do something for me.”

Énna turned his head slowly. He was not wearing the band that usually covered the scars and Dónal felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand on end. He had seen blinded men often enough, but this was his own handiwork and he took it as a provocation that Énna did not hide the mutilation.


One word, and even that was slurred. Énna was slipping away. He would be no loss. Not once he had performed this one last service.

“The gall’s kinsman is on a ship. I want him drowned.”

“Is that all?” The words came out slowly. His teeth were pink-rimmed with scraps of berry skin.

Dónal shivered. “I am pleased you think it such a small feat. Find him and sink his ship.”

Énna turned away again, his unseeing eyes fixed on something no one could see. “And if I say no?”

“You know the answer, little brother. The gall’s son, or your own. And your black-haired wife too, why not? Choose.”

When Énna raised his head the empty orbits raged red and fiery, and in their flames, Dónal thought he saw their father’s face, and it was laughing.


Another bit of WIP in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt

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The pool shows her nothing; her robin-child has disappeared. Nor can she find Richard in any of the places where she has left a part of herself curled in the depths. Fear grips hard and cold, colder than the serpent coils that shift in the water, mocking her, calling to her to give in to that part of her nature that will wreak destruction on those who betray her.

The island beyond the sea is always wreathed in mists and she tries to see through the eyes of the seer, the red-haired woman’s kinsman. She reaches into the pool where he does his magic but it is full of madness and red as the berries he chews incessantly now, not just to give him visions, but to try to calm their chaotic dance through his head. When she finds his face, his lips are red with berry juice and she sees shreds of their skin in his teeth. There is nothing in his face but murder, stabbings and blindings. In a fury, she leaves the pool and calls up the white mare.

It is a three hour’s ride to the sea from Striguil, even for a horse such as the white mare. The evening tide is out and she rides across glassy sands to the edge of the water. When the mare’s hooves splash and foam hisses over them, she dismounts. She clears serpent-thoughts from her head and gazes into the shallows. She sees only clouds, their breasts white and billowing, and one is specked with red.

#writephoto: Waiting

For Sue Vincent’s weekly Thursday photo prompt.

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Richard’s gaze sweeps the horizon. No sail breaks the monotony of blue sea and sky. The morning is calm after the squally winds of the night, a good day for a sea crossing. Yet fear squirms deep in his gut, a great worm stretching. The pools left by the outgoing tide glitter with reflected sky and he dare not look into them. It is her face he is afraid to see, the judgement, the eyes hard as stones. Her face will tell him more surely than any wreckage, any washed up timber and broken spars that there will be no sail on the horizon.

The sea is calm. The air is still, storm forgotten. He watches, waits for the sail to breach the blue like a great white bird making for the shore. He waits until de Cogan comes to find him. He turns at the sound of boots on the slippery rocks and has no need to ask. He sees the quiet commiseration in his captain’s eyes and he knows. The robin-child did not outfly the storm.

WIP update


I had thought this story would be told in two volumes. It won’t be; there will be a third. Good news is that I have just finished the second volume!

The time scale is very short, from 1169 to 1176, and only the bare bones of fact are known with any certainty. Even some of the bare bones are in doubt. The invasion of Ireland was only a sideshow to Henry II who had wars going left and right (including with his wife and sons) for all of his reign. The barons who took part in it, mainly Norman-Welsh were a brutal, uncultivated bunch, greedy for land and prepared to fight against odds of a hundred to one to get it. For Ireland though, it was a pivotal moment, the invasion that would not be entirely assimilated. Though many of the Normans went native, the English King never forgot that they held their lands in fief, and sooner or later, there would be a reckoning.

Europe was in a constant state of war and empire-building, and at this time, the Pope did have his own divisions. Ireland, on the far western edge of the continent, was about to be brought into the power struggles of the European monarchs. These few years of the invasion were lived intensely by all those involved and their lives were changed utterly. The Normans drove a wedge into the ricketty tribal structure that kept Irish society together led by Richard de Clare, the penniless earl from the Welsh Marches and Aoife, the princess of Leinster who stuck with him even after his death. There is no hard historical explanation for much of what happened at this time, only conjecture:

Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.


#writephoto: Roots

Sue Vincent has provided another image with her Thursday Photo Prompt to fit my WIP.

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Aoife had the pool drained and filled in, but the mound of earth never settled. It quaked and shivered, and she wondered if she had done wrong in meddling, whether she had buried something beneath the earth that would not be still. The following year, three saplings appeared, green willows that bent in the spring gales but sprang back again, growing taller as the summer came and the next spring after that.

The mound of earth has grown to be a small hillock now and the trees have thickened, spread branches like arms that reach out to catch the hands of the other two. Their roots have spread too, but not below the ground. They race and twine about one another in a sinuous dance.

Not Guivre, they say, no longer.

The roots are like the patterns carved on old roof beams, on the stone slabs that mark the entrance to fairy raths, like the water that swirls from the source into the búllan stone. She would have asked Énna what it meant, but Énna is dead long ago, and none of his children have shown signs of having the gift. She doubts Ciar would have suffered it to flourish if they had. In any case, she has her own idea of the story in the trees, their roots and the pool that lives again.

She has made her peace with the fairy woman from across the sea, and laid to rest the anger and the misunderstandings that have caused so much suffering, these ten years since. She stands now between the trees, within the ring of trees for that is what it is, and she strains to hear their voices.

Perhaps it is only the breeze, but it recalls how Riseárd whispered to her in the dark of their nights. Sometimes she thinks she hears a child’s bright laughter, at others, the low murmur of a woman’s story-telling voice. They reach out their hands to one another, but there is a slight gap in the circle where they have made room for her, and she knows that one day, when it is her time, she will join them and take the hands of her loved ones again.