#writephoto: Home

Finished the rewrite. It’s in the lap of the gods now. Sue’s photo prompt is as apposite as ever.

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All has changed since Richard ordered the castle built on the promontory, but is that not always the way? Nothing except the salmon stays still in the current of a rushing river. Men build and other men pull down. Men make sons so they too may die in the same way as their fathers. She did not expect to see the tower as she remembers it, that it is now only a tumble of stones is not too hard to bear. But what digs deep into her heart like a flung javelin is the loneliness.

She remembers feeling the same loneliness at Dún Ailinne when the king and his company left with their banners and their feasting, to return to more comfortable houses where wives and children awaited them, a roaring fire in the hearth and hounds to greet them. The ancient seat of kings was a sorrowful place, ignored and abandoned unless a coronation required the dust to be chased outside, wall hangings shaken out, the mouse and bat droppings swept from the great table. When the ceremony was over, the dust returned and the solemn loneliness.

This is different. This was home, the castle built by the first of the Northmen for his wife and queen. There used to be love within these stone walls and the laughter of children, and if there were also tears, is that just not part of every story? She places a hand on the ruined sill where the wind from the sea blows and the rain blows. All gone. Even their names.

Another hand covers hers. She turns her head, away from the sadness of the lonely ruin, and his eyes are smiling, gentle and grey as ever. They know more than names, have lived more than love. She links her arm with his and they go back to join the wind blowing, the gulls crying, beyond laughter and sorrow.

Microfiction: A pleasant seat

A late entry for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

ruin

 

There had always been a house there. It was a good site, close to the river but high enough to be out of reach of flooding. There was a big tree for shade and the land about was rich. The highway ran close by, and there was a small town an hour’s ride away.

There had always been a house on the hill above the river, built on the same spot from the same stones. Always, since long before anyone could remember, a house had stood there, a ruin except for one gable wall, waiting to be rebuilt again. The stones were old, some of them carved with strange patterns. The lintels were unworked, the door low, almost like a mouth opening into the earth. The stones would lie scattered on the hillside for so long that no one remembered what the previous house had looked like, who had lived there, nor why it lay in ruins. They called it the Prince’s House, though there was nothing to suggest that it had been owned by someone of wealth and importance.

The house was rebuilt one last time, in the days of photography and enlightenment, by an amateur scientist, intrigued by the strange carvings on certain stones, and by a shallow pit at one corner of the foundations beneath the gable end. The scientific gentleman excavated the pit and found human bones, small bones, a child, curled in a foetal position. He had the bones exhumed, moved and disturbed by some deep instinct. The bones should be buried with respect, he said, in the local churchyard.

The mason was sent, unwillingly, with the bones to the priest who, as he expected, refused their interment in consecrated ground. The two men replaced the bones where they had been found, and the mason, by the light of a lamp held by the priest, covered them with a stone slab and filled in the pit with earth and stone.

The scientific gentleman was none the wiser, and the house was built, snug and tight with a solid roof of red tiles.

On the first night of winter, the Prince, as was his custom, rose up in anger to expulse the intruder from his home in a black wind of pure fury, and the scientific gentleman learned the taste of inexplicable fear. It was the last thing he ever learned.

His thoughts on the bones found in the foundations of the house, the photographs he took and the paper he wrote on the subject for the university escaped the Prince’s grip, flew through his immaterial fingers, caught up in the new wave of scientific fervour that he could not stop. The story of the sacrificial offering became known, and the house was left in ruins. Charred and broken roof beams litter the hillside to this day. Strangely carved stones lie scattered in the long grass. But the gable remains, sturdy and unblemished, as it has stood since the days of darkness, when the Prince arose and made the pleasant seat his home.

Microfiction #writephoto: New dawn

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

cracked-ice

The last ship left with its huddled masses for another solar system, abandoning the blue planet sucked dry and arid. When the old sun set for the last time, Earth’s skin cracked, and her last sigh froze in the glacial cold. In the silence and the darkness, the spinning Earth felt a jolt, and a tremor ran through the soil and the rock. A new star was calling across the universe. Slowly, then faster, night followed day followed night, so fast and so far, pulled by the young star, pulsing brighter with every parsec Earth covered.

Earth locked into her new orbit, and the first dawn broke in all the hues the old world had ever know, washed clean by the winds of space and warmed by the power of the young star. The ice melted, the soil warmed and shivered with pleasure, sifting and shifting seeds and roots. In deep burrows and earths, in river mud and deep sea sand, life stretched. Nests with cold eggs basked in the growing heat, and in the heart of a jungle of dry brambles, eggs hatched. Later, soon, when the first leaves unfurled green and tender, a brown bird with a red throat shook out his feathers and began his song, the first song in the new world that said: winter is over.