#writephoto: Battle

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt. Evocative of the scenery of my latest WIP.

low-cloud

Röskva stood on the rath wall and gazed to where the dark northern hills met the dark sky, and the storm that embraced both hills and sky. For three days they had heard the rolling of thunder and watched spears of lightning tearing the grey billows, but the storm had come no closer.

Cian came to join her, his jaw clenched, apprehensive and angry, but not fearful. His father had brought this upon them, and although he could find no justification for it, Cian was yet his son.

“Are they come yet?”

The question was short, terse. He asked Röskva because she had the sight and might know, but he would rather have asked anyone else.

“The air is full of agitation, and I have seen lightning running along sword blades. The sea is high and I can hear waves crashing on cliffs. Whatever has come out of them is hiding from me.”

“It must be them,” he murmured. “And you can see no army? No swarm of fishmen?”

“If I could, I would have told you,” she replied coolly. “Your father has his invincible warriors, what have you to worry about?”

“How he got them is what worries me. No good can come of such a deed.”

Röskva looked at him with a hint of disdain. These people would commit the most heinous crimes and wring their hands afterwards because it offended someone’s sense of propriety.

“No good came to your sister, that is certain. But if he feels no twinge of conscience, why should you?”

Cian turned to her and his expression was so full of pain that Röskva felt ashamed of herself.

“What Delbáeth did to his own daughter was unnatural, and it has produced only monsters. If these are the weapons he and Morc are using against one another, the fishman will have done the same to Ceara, and that is a thought I cannot live with.”

The lightning continued to flicker on the hills, lighting the galloping horse and the rider flogging it up the cliff track to the gates.

“This is when we learn the worst,” Cian said, a wild light almost of pleasure in his eyes, as he leapt down the wooden stair, shouting to the watch to open up the gates

(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.

 

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.

A heart lost at sea

Painting ©Voyen Koreis

Seascape-600.jpg

The Sea King’s daughter let him go,

In magic sleep could not resist

Her father’s men, who carried her

Where kelp and deep sea currents flow.

 

I watched them from the cliff top high,

My love go hunting while Clíodhna

Slept in a sleep by magic cast.

He never guessed; no more did I.

 

Ciabhán returned and when he found

Clíodhna gone and where she’d lain

The sand as smooth as was her cheek,

He raged for fear his love had drowned.

 

I took his arm—he had my heart—

And tried to tell him she was gone,

That fairy folk can never love

A mortal; they are doomed to part.

 

He flung himself into the wave,

Not once but nine times cast ashore.

His brothers begged me call him back,

As if my love his life could save.

 

But who can summon love in one

Whose heart is drowned beneath the sea?

The Sea King’s realm is where he’d be,

And I’m forgot; our time is done.

 

#writephoto: Sleep

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 15.26.09.png

Who knew who built the dolmen or why? Even in his time, it had been older than any race of men, a place haunted by the old ones. In his time, they had left offerings there on the eve of the longest night, to entice the sun to return and lit a fire in the sun’s image out of reverence. The sun always did return, and the year always turned. Though the days grew colder and bitter, they were longer and full of the promise of spring.

In his time, he made sure the traditions were respected. He was chief and sorcerer, smith and poet, hunter and healer. He knew the power of the natural world, and one half of his being was in the supernatural world. He had asked to be placed in this window on the world when he died, with the comfort of stone overhead to shield him from the rain, and the lush green grass draped all around like a cloak of the finest wool. From his window, he could look across the valley to the hill where his foster mother Tailtu lay beneath her cairn, and watch the games held in her honour each year, the leaping flames of the fire at nightfall.

For thousands of years he had watched the flames, each time wondering if it would be the last. Surely men’s memories would fail and the times would change. He had seen the flames dies after the last invasion, only to be revived when the invader was finally driven out. He had seen the stillness that fell when the games were outlawed, and he had seen the excitement of their revival when the wheel turned again.

In his bed of dark earth, beneath the stone warmed by the sun and the stories whispered by the fairy folk, Lugh lies and watches. From beneath her cairn, Tailtu still watches over him, and the ages old love of mother and son flows between the hill and the dolmen, filling the valley with green peace.

Root of all evil

For the dverse prompt. Late because we had a power outage yesterday evening. The Judgement of Paris probably says it all.

496px-Lucas_Cranach_d.Ä._-_Das_Urteil_des_Paris_(Seattle_Art_Museum).jpg

They stand in the shadows, Deirdre and Étain,

Andromeda and Persephone,

Eurydice, Penelope, Helen,

all the women who took the blame

for their beauty, the greed and lust of men,

for not being their father’s sons.

They stand in the shadows and watch

as we stalk the catwalks or cringe behind veils,

as we walk always two paces behind

but with a simpering smile of complicity.

They stand, they watch, and they judge.

So long, their stony eyes say in silent reproach,

and still we mince and pout and take the rap,

the punch in the face, the unwanted touching,

or we wrap our shame in black

scuttle like beetles to deflect desire.

When, they ask, will we turn to the adventurer

returned from his wars and his conquests of female flesh

and say, what kept you?

Slap Paris in the face and tell him,

I am not a prize to be won;

I too will fly on a winged horse to sun and moon

to pluck golden and silver apples,

spit the pips in the eyes of all your gods.

My prize is not a bedslave,

but the liberation of the world.

The Third Coming

D. Wallace Peach is running a month long writing challenge. The prompt is the picture below. Thanks for the challenge, Diana!

by Stefan Keller

fantasy-2925250_960_7201

The Jötunn places a warning hand on Fenrir’s head. There will be time for action, even revenge later. First though, they will observe. Unlike the mortals, they will not act in haste, without thought. The rainbow bridge is broken; there is no going back, but even after such destruction, the little men seem to think that is not enough.

Ymir gazes through icicles at the blue earth in the sky above his head. His cheeks are aglitter with frozen tears at what men have done. The gods have their part of responsibility, allowing their own petty quarrels to blind them to the wars of men who watched the anger of the gods and copied it, refined and honed it, until they had weapons capable of destroying the world. Add to that an incommensurate greed, selfishness and cruelty, and the fall of Bifrost was a mere side show.

Now they are here, looking for some cave where they can begin again, to swarm and spawn, and suck dry. Ymir’s icy gaze returns to the string of explorers, the vanguard, striding resolutely across the snowy wastes. Like so many waves of invaders before them, they have nothing to lose. They have burnt their boats; the home they left is a wasteland. Ymir had hoped that the inhospitable face of this planet would deter them, but he sees he was wrong. And as soon as they pierce the secret, when the dimensions shift and the summer planet returns, the floodgates will open. Men will flow from the stricken earth like rats from a burning barn.

Is that what you want?

Ymir strokes Fenrir’s head gently.

No. Not this time. They have had their chance.

Fenrir lets out a blast of burning breath and the men stop, sensing the change in temperature. They look around, note the melting snow, dig, scratch, find the grass beneath. The leader sticks a banner in the ground and unfurls his colours. A spring breeze tugs at the fabric. The invaders cheer.

Now?

Ymir sighs. Now. Make an end.

Fenrir surges to his feet and shakes the snow and ice from his coat. The men flinch in the avalanche and seize their weapons. The sky darkens; the wolf-shape blots out the light of the sky. There is no target. The men look in every direction but see nothing in the blizzard and the darkness. Their last sight is red, a cavern of red, like the mouth of Hell, and eyes, deep and fiery as the pits of Hell. In the instant before the flames engulf them, they see, reflected in the flames, the last vestige of the last forest, and the last deer lowering his antlers to face the final inferno.

#writephoto: Memorial

This is for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

fallen

They told him sorrow would find him if he took his faithful hounds to look for his lost love. They were old and not up to a long hunt. But Fionn had never been one to listen to advice. After days of fruitless searching, Fionn sent out the dogs one last time to find the scent of his love. The old hounds could barely walk, but they found a scent and though their youth returned briefly, Sceolan began to tire. Bran tried to encourage her, but she sank to the ground, and laid her long head on her paws with a sigh.

Bran reluctantly left her behind and followed the deer to a crag overlooking a lake. The deer leapt, and Bran, with a last glance back at his master, followed. Fionn gathered up Sceolan in his arms, but when he reached the lake, there was nothing of either Bran or the deer to be seen. Sceolan waded into the lake and howled, and would have joined Bran if Fionn had not called her back. Sorrowfully, he carried the old dog back to the fort.

Fionn never did find his love and never found happiness. Years later, when Sceolan died, Fionn was overcome with grief. Nobody knew where he took his faithful companion to bury her, not until the lake beneath the crag ran away and two stone hounds were revealed, leaning fondly one against the other as they had in life.

Microfiction #writephoto: Balor’s Eye

A story break. I didn’t have time to do Sue Vincent’s photo prompt last week or was it the week before? But it’s a good picture, so I’ve had a go now.

sighting-stone

Most people peered through the round hole and saw the fields at the other side of the rock, the grass rippling and the far trees swaying in the breeze. But some people saw something else. Some people are gifted with the sight, or perhaps cursed is the better word. A few recognize this gift from an early age and stay away from the places that show them the otherworld. Most only realize when it it is too late.

He had no idea that he was anything but a very ordinary man, living a very ordinary life. True, he loved walking and running and would often sleep out beneath the stars with only a sleeping bag and his dog for company. He was never happier than when he was up in the hills with only the sound of the larks and the wind in the trees. Often, his running took him up to Balor’s Eye, and he would climb to the top of the rock and look down on three counties at once.

If he had a foreboding, he ignored it. If he was drawn to Balor’s Eye at the summer solstice, he did nothing to fight it. As the sun sank to the rim of the hills on that longest day, as its long rays fell through the round hole that was called Balor’s eye, he peered through, as hundreds, perhaps thousands had done before him, and he saw a bloody battlefield.

There were no slanting golden rays, but an ocean of red blood and fire. There were no larks singing, but men screaming. He tried to back away, but a face in the anonymous heaving, bleeding crowd turned and a voice called his name. His name?

Lugh!

The voice called from two thousand years away, yet he heard it clear, and he knew it for his own. His knuckles clutched the rim of the eye, but something stronger than the familiarity and ordinariness of the peaceful fields gripped him. The otherworld was calling its own; and he had a part to play.

Lugh! Come quick!

He was an ordinary man with the heavy muscles of an athlete, and the walking stick in his hand was a long spear. With a gasp, that was both regret and excitement, he leapt through the round hole, the eye of the giant Balor that looked out onto the otherworld, and the red battle enveloped him in flames and blood.

Before the eye could find him, he span about and cast the spear, the long spear no other man could wield, and it passed through Balor’s eye. The rock, the giant, the mass of man and mountain roared one last curse, belched one last gout of flame, and fell dead. Lugh, the extraordinary man was carried, a hero from the red field. He cast a last, puzzled glance back at the tumble of smoking rock, but already the memory of the peaceful, lark-singing field was fading.