Short story published

Starting off the week with a pat on the back for me. I have a short story published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, a magazine that pays its contributors real money for their work! The editors are also very relaxed about what constitutes heroic, as my story is an interpretation of a not very heroic episode from Norse myth.

I have to thank editor James Rowe for his encouragement, and Adrian Simmons for his perseverance with dodgy email connections.

You can read my story Apples of the Gods and the other contributions here.

#Three line tales: Lavender fields forever

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

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The lavender fields stretch silent and scentless, their parallel banks of gaudy colour disappearing from sight over the hills.

We still marvel at the glorious (unnatural) colour, but the unmistakable scent is a faded memory, the sound of bees relegated to audio histories,

and we never talk about what the lavender harvest feeds.

#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.

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.

#writephoto: The world afterwards

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

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We have longed for this for so long. The weeks turned to months, and now that the restrictions are finally lifted and the army has left the streets in a cloud of dust, we pour out into the familiar silence, and we have forgotten how to show our emotion. No one sings or shouts, or embraces strangers with joy. Sparrows flutter and garden songbirds flash with coloured wings. Grass has begun to grow between the paving stones; the river laps and washes banks lush with marsh flowers.

It hasn’t taken long to discover there is nothing left in the food shops, no petrol in the pumps. The shops that were forced to close are empty, no stock, no staff, no orders. I walk, like many people, following the river to the ocean. It isn’t far, though for months it might as well have been in another galaxy. Soon the rioting will begin, the destruction, because too many have no idea of how to build, but for the moment, in this brief interlude of adjustment to the world of afterwards, there is quiet.

I walk to the beach, the long straight beach that stretches parallel with the waves and the ranks of clouds that layer the sky with hues of red. The waves roll with a sigh and a hiss, licking away at the land, sucking it back into the cradle of the ocean. I wonder if the water will eventually reclaim all the land.

Dolphins and seals, porpoises break and dive. Birds call. We watch the sunset because there seems nothing else or better to do. Tomorrow it will start, the end, and the dolphins will laugh. The birds won’t care either. They will sing as they have always done whether we listen or not.

#writephoto: Unquiet bones

Just finished my WIP and as usual, Sue’s photo for the #writephoto prompt fits the theme perfectly.

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Cecilia stopped out of breath at the crossroads. The place held no terror for her, but she was close to her time and the child would hear them calling as clearly as she did. She looked across the valley, the town huddled along the beck, out of sight, but the column of smoke from the mill chimney rose straight and black, a finger pointing at the indifferent sky.

The place held no terror for her, but it was full of a restless sadness. The quarry that was not a quarry gaped. She felt the pattering of footsteps beneath the earth, heard the scrape of clawed fingers on stone. He had never listened, never wanted to know. Perhaps he would not have cared anyway. His kind rarely did.

She sighed and turned back. Soon it would come. There is a time for everything, seasons, births, reckonings. She looked at the spire and the turrets that poked in their absurd monstrosity above the tree line. He had thought to build a mansion for himself and his heirs. He had built it on bones of the unquiet dead. She winced as the child stirred, and the wind blew cold. The saddest part was that when the flames came, he would not understand why.