#writephoto: The sun’s gift

A short story promoted by Sue Vincent”s lovely photo.


She had been proud when they chose her to become the spring. For a week she was treated like a queen, carried on a litter so her feet would not have to touch the ground, dressed in clothes so fine a goddess would not have been ashamed of them. It was a week of feasting and dancing and the fires burned long into the night. They gave her mead to drink, heady and potent. Unused to such strong liquor she was in a permanent daze of happiness. Even the December cold was banished as her blood raced like a fiery torrent.

On the longest night of the year, the night that marked the turning point, when the sun would grow ever stronger, when the sun should grow ever stronger, they tied her to the tree. She was the spring. She was the one who would call back the sun after the long night. If there was no one to call, the sun may decide never to rise again. The idea terrified her, even more than the thought of being left alone in the darkness.

Truth be told, they had given her a beverage both bitter and sweet that made her head swim even more than the mead had done, and she barely felt the cords that bound her tight. They passed lengths of ivy over the cords so she looked wrapped in bright greenery. They had taken away the goddess garments and dressed her in her old clothes with a cloak to keep away the cold. She had been helpless as a baby, laughing at her erratic movements as the women struggled to get the shift over her head.

She was not laughing now. The effects of the beverage had faded and she no longer felt her hands. She no longer felt her feet, but her face prickled with cold until it hurt. The ivy cords bit into her flesh, but she no longer felt the rough bark that scraped and pitted her back. Her hair was tangled with the ivy, and her head was trapped in the green leaves and the oak bark.

She moved her eyes, to look eastwards to where a pale light was growing. Her heart pounded and it seemed to echo from deep within the tree. The sun was rising. Pride had dissipated in the dawn mists, replaced by terror. She had called the sun! There could be no doubt; the god had heard. She had called the sun back from the darkness and into darkness she must go in his stead.

She squeezed her eyes tight closed, but tears crept from the corners and ran down her cheeks. They ran down her cheeks and pooled in the corners of her mouth. She licked them away. Not salt. Sweet and sticky. Honey dew. The sun rose, pale and magnificent and the breeze sighed in the bare branches. Birds peered at her without fear. The breeze sighed, like breath, soft and warm, and the ivy wrapped her gently, as she sank into the warm, comforting embrace of the oak tree.

Microfiction: Spring


They told her she was the spring. She would bring them the soft rain and send the storms to the people on the other side of the hills. She would bring warm breezes and let the high tides batter the coast far away beyond the dunes. She would bring the sun to warm the earth and coax the sleeping seeds awake. Not that anyone said that she had the power to change the course of the sun, the tides or the winds. She was just a girl after all, an insignificant girl. She was the appeaser, the offering to ensure that the worst did not happen.

She should be proud, her mother had said as she wove the yellow flowers into a crown. The gods could be cruel, but she would be their shield. The girl didn’t want to be a shield. She wanted to run in the water meadows like the other girls. She wanted to dance around the fire at midsummer and see the face of her beloved in the flames. She wanted to take the hand of the youngest son of the farmer with the barley field next to theirs, and run with him through the meadows and the flames of midsummer.

So she slipped away, the yellow crown on her head, across the meadows to where the salt flats began. She sat beneath the willows and listened to the blackbirds singing for their loved ones, and she wanted to weep. But the drumming of many feet dried her tears before they could fall. They were coming for her. A voice inside told her to run, but there was nowhere to hide, and she would not disgrace herself and her family.

The birdsong trembled in her ears, and she so wanted to suspend time and hold the moment forever. A voice broke from the rhythm of footsteps and her heart leapt with hope. She turned eagerly and saw his face, the face of the farmer’s youngest son, and hope died. His finger pointed accusingly and in his eyes was the wild light of murder.

#writephoto: Pale bones

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt : pale


She crouched in a corner of the hut until it was over, her apron over her head, trying to pretend she couldn’t hear the pleading in their voices, but that was all she could hear—that and the chanting of the men in black.

Her father would occasionally kill one of the wethers, if there was a nasty one, because they were vicious some of them, or if one got injured. They would have meat for a long while then, and she would eat it like everybody else and be grateful for it. But this was different. The men who came, all in black, they took the new lambs. They took the lambs she had played with. She heard the ewes bleating now, crying for their babies. They could smell the terror and the blood. She sobbed in helpless anger.

Her father had told her to be still and quiet, and he’d piled a heap of skins over her and pulled her mother’s loom across the floor so no one would see her from the door. His face was white. She had never seen her father afraid before. When the men had gone, he let her out, took her in his arms to comfort her, but he couldn’t bring them back. ‘Sacrifice’ he’d called it, and spat out the word as if it tasted bad and bitter.

The men in black had left the bones in the fire, blackened and stinking. A greasy smoke curled around them, and her breath caught in her throat. When the ashes were cold, she took the head bones and washed them white again in the spring. She laid them on the rocks where the sun would warm them, brought them flowers to replace their springy white curls, and vowed that the next time the men in black came to take the lives of her flock, she would kill them.

Microfiction: Lola

The Daily Post prompt today is ‘sacrifice’.

Photo ©Canudo1024px-Sans-abri_Bruxelles-DSC_6408.jpg

The boy shuffled about on the piece of cardboard. Better than sitting on the ground but he was still frozen. The dog raised her head from her paws and looked at him. He reached out and scratched her ear.

“Yeah, I know. I’m hungry too.”

Lola let her head back down wearily. She was patient, he thought. She’d wait all day, and then some. The thought wrung his heart, squeezing out tears. He wiped a hand over his face, pulled himself together. He shivered and pulled his jacket tighter.

He had nothing. Not the price of a packet of fags or a bottle of wine. If he was lucky, he’d get a bed in the hostel. Not much better than sleeping rough. He glared at the sky and hunched back into the doorway. But he’d be out of the rain at least, and the other dossers would leave him alone since he had nothing to pinch. But they wouldn’t let him bring Lola. He’d done it before, left her in the park while he spent a night in a bed. Just once. She’d been frantic. Running round town all night looking for him. He couldn’t do it again. Wasn’t fair.

He stifled a cough. Lola raised an eyebrow. He looked into her eyes and he made the decision he’d been putting off for weeks. There were hardly any leaves left on the trees now, the nights were cold as fuck, and he was sick. It wasn’t fair. Lola was his only friend, but he couldn’t do it any more. He got stiffly to his feet and slung his backpack over his shoulder.

“C’mon, Lola.”

He tied her lead to a post outside the supermarket. There were always loads of people around and it was a poor area; there were lots of people liked dogs. Lola had a nice face. He turned away, couldn’t bear it, knowing how she would be standing with her head on one side, her ears raised, asking herself, what the fuck’s he doing now? He didn’t want to watch, to see who unhooked her lead and took her home. But he had to. He wouldn’t let some shitbrains take her for dog bait.

He turned the corner and slumped against the wall. It felt weird not having Lola’s warmth against his leg. He wiped the tears away with the back of his hand and watched. He watched until one of the checkout girls on a break noticed Lola. She said something to a grey-haired fella come out with his shopping, untying his own dog. The old fella looked at Lola and scratched her ears. The girl stubbed out her fag and they both waved their arms a bit, looking around. The boy held his breath. The old fella unhooked Lola’s lead.

The boy closed his eyes tight to stop himself floating away in the empty space his world had become.



Not so good Friday


Your dead man hanging on a tree

Did not die for you or me,

Not for our sins, since we were not even born.

Then for whose, may one ask?

Since our ancestors were not even there,

Our people unheard of in that bleak desert,

His people unheard of on our green hills.

What sins were those, may one ask?

Did anyone know what they had done wrong,

For what they were being absolved?

And how, may one ask, did that gruesome death

Advance humanity one iota?

We have invented worse ways to die,

We murder and maim babies even,

And what, may one ask,

Does your dead man on the tree

Have to say about that?

Free will?

To kill on such a grandiose scale

Your dead man on the tree could never have imagined.

He could? He did?

Then what, may one ask, is the sense in that?

Three line tales: New Year’s Honours

A new photo prompt for a story in three lines. For the rules, to join in, or just to read the other stories, please visit Sonya’s blog.


So pretty, she thought, the way they flutter in the breeze like bird of paradise wings.

She clapped her hands and silence fell. “The honours this year go to…Orange!”

The crowd erupted, a volcanic surge of cheering and roaring as the Orange colours were torn down and thrown on the sacrificial pyre, then screaming as the Orange supporters were tossed after them.


Two Sentence Story #6

Painting by Odilon Redon

The prettiest of the unmarried girls, she was a sacrifice to the sea, she and the sea’s share of the treasures the men had brought back from the season’s raiding, but she was also the daughter of the Wise Woman, the Healer, She Who Balances Life and Death, and now Thief of Sacrificial Boat and Booty. For any mother would defy the law, refuse the death and sorrow dictated by the menfolk, defy the sea itself, to choose another future for her daughter.

In the beginning

Here’s my take on a winged horse poem

Cloud piles above and beneath her
The dust of a broken world
White wings plough desert-brown furrows
And the banners of hope are unfurled
Green and gold are her colours
The emblems of life and the sun
But their brightness is hidden, uncertain
Until the battle for freedom be won.
She offers her tears to the darkness
She offers what she holds most dear
And the memories pour out to guide her
And tears fall to wash the way clear.
Apple and yew trees will flourish
And raise laden boughs to the sky
The wind whispers words of cold comfort
To the mother whose heart has to die.


Flash fiction: Harbingers

Here’s a taste of the next series, Angel Haven. Also YA fantasy it follows on from The Green Woman. It’s jumping the gun a bit (a lot) but it’s what I’m reading and writing at the moment.


The last rays skimmed the oak grove while shadows swallowed up the forest paths. Scyld stared down the mountain, across the treetops, his gaze unfocused. Deep in thought he did not hear the creaking of the ropes, the sighing of the branches beneath the dead weights. He did not hear the noise of his feasting thegns or the raucous cry of the birds.
Scyld was reliving his blood dream. His fists clenched and his lips parted as he watched himself splash across the ford, a war cry in his throat. His thegns were about him, axes and swords swirling, throwing up great fountains of river water. In the dream the river ran red, red blood splashed and fountained, and the warcry in his throat was the death knell for the fools in the unguarded settlement.
The dull thunk of a heavy blade slicing through human flesh, the screams and shrieks of the villagers taken by surprise filled his dream ears. The river ran red, and the earth was black with blood. His parted lips curled into a smile. Donar was with them; the god sang in the sweep of the axe stroke, laughed in the whistle of arrows, and roared in the sacking of the wattle huts.
At his back the bodies twisted in the breeze. Sacrifices to Donar. He stepped closer, and peered with cold curiosity at the swollen tongues and bulging eyes, his nostrils flaring in distaste at the smell from the soiled breeches. A price well worth paying, he thought as he pushed the redheaded corpse, setting it twisting slowly.
The sound of feasting reached him at last, and a sudden thirst dried his throat, a desire to be with company to celebrate the sacrifice that would bring certain victory in the coming raid. He licked his lips and turned towards the fort. Deep in the grove yellow eyes stared, unblinking. Scyld looked from the yellow eyes to the twisting redhead.
The god comes for you, Hrothgar. He grinned, almost laughed, but that would have been unseemly in the holy place, and left the wolves to their own feast.
Feasting, he heard, and the raucous sound of birds. Scyld raised his head. Against the fire-streaked sky above the fort two black birds flapped with ragged wings.
More guests for the feast, Osmund.
This time he laughed out loud. The blood dream had shown him war and slaughter, he had made two sacrifices from among his finest warriors. Donar would be pleased with his offering; he would be in Scyld’s right arm on the morrow.
The raucous cry of carrion birds broke into his thoughts of massacres and bloodletting. Scyld paused at the gates of his fort and frowned. Two ravens. Flapping with their steady, powerful wing strokes they flew over the fort, then turned and back they came again. Scyld followed them with his eyes, waiting for them to reach the sacred grove. Suddenly uneasy, he started back; anxious to see them settle on the god’s feast. Before he could move they turned about, not reaching the grove, ignoring the enticing smell of dead men. Against the fiery sky they turned about, gracelessly, flying low, back through the open gates of the fort.
Fear gripped Scyld as the harbingers circled the houses, passed over the huts of wattles, and the finer halls of the wealthy thegns, circled once and settled on the roof of the big hall. Scyld’s hall. Cold settled in Scyld’s stomach. Harbingers.
The blood dream came rushing back. In consternation he saw the fording of the river, the bloody water splashing before his face, heard the war cries, the screams and shrieks as blades sliced through flesh. He heard the whistling of arrows. Cold turned to ice. He heard the whistling of arrows growing to a whine. The whine grew to a shriek, and he heard at last the death song the air crooned in his ears. Silhouetted against the blood red sky, two birds waited. Harbingers.