#writephoto: Wandering

For Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt. Moving onto another WIP.

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The cold hit him as soon as he broke through the saplings at the edge of the copse. If he hadn’t been running so hard, he would have noticed it earlier. If he hadn’t been so afraid of being caught, he’d have noticed the change in the light too. He hurtled into the open; what should have been a field on an autumn afternoon, now seemed full of shadows. He stopped, his breath heaving, the only sound the blood pounding in his ears and the crackle of frozen grass beneath his feet.

He listened, despite the strangeness, the fear of his pursuers stronger than the evidence of his senses. Nothing. Not even a dog barking. Not even the faint rumble of traffic on the main road that passed through the small town as the bottom of the valley. He flung himself around, wild-eyed now, his feet cracking the ice that had formed along a sinuous path that led…he had no idea. He stumbled forward, aimlessly, teeth chattering with the cold, heading for the shadows he imagined to be the hedge at the field’s edge.

His breath made clouds in front of his face, misting his vision, his feet slipped over the same misty hoarfrost, until the shadowy line at the edge of sight towered over his head. By the faint light of the stars he saw he was standing beneath the eaves of a forest. It was cold as feck, and he had no idea where he was.

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#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.

Fly!

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.

Fly!

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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#writephoto: Ambush

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. Another bit inspired by the WIP I’m afraid.

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The leader, sergeant or whatever of the Welsh bowmen peers through the leaves at the sky then looks at Art. He yawns theatrically.

“When did you say this army was passing by here? This week, was it?”

“He’ll be here.”

The yawn becomes a stretch. “It’s just that if I sit here much longer I’ll be so old I’ll have forgotten how to string a bow.” The breatnach grins insolently.

“If you’re not ready when they come I’ll wrap that bowstring round your scraggy Welsh neck and you won’t have to worry about getting old.”

The bowman spits on the ground and calls out to one of the other surly bastards. They both laugh. Art can’t make out many of the words of their speech but he guesses it is a joke at his expense. He can’t help glancing at the sky in his turn. The sun is getting low. Any lower and it will be lost among the trees, and the Northman will be making camp for the night. This is the only road through this part of the mountains, and this is the only bridge over the Urrin. The Northmen will have to cross in single file. It is the perfect place for an ambush. He grinds his teeth. So where are they?

“I’d say your man has gone a different way,” the breatnach drawls.

“Why would he do that? To take in the scenery?”

“Been here before, has he? Knows the country well? Trusts the locals to put him on the best road? He could be wandering anywhere between here and the coast.”

The worst of it is, Art knows the bandy little péist could be right. Well, if he is, he won’t be wearing that mocking grin for much longer. If there’s no assassination to be done, Art has no need of a band of idle, insolent Welsh mercenaries who would likely murder them all in their sleep should they find out they’re not going to be paid with their freedom after all.

“Get your men together. We’re moving.”

The sergeant opens his mouth so make some clever remark. Connla, Art’s cousin closes it with his fist.

“Just do what you’re told, sheep-fucker.”

The bowman rubs his mouth with the back of his hand and glowers. The Welshmen, six of them, assemble with a bad grace. They are terrible horsemen and hate the idea of riding again. Cairbre brings over their horses but stops when Art catches his eye and puts his hand slowly on the hilt of his sword. The Welsh are gathering up their affairs, grumbling, hanging back. Connla too has got the message and moves to the far side of the group.

“Get on with you, or we’ll still be here at nightfall.”

One of them straightens up, his mouth open with a retort, and Connla slashes his throat open. Art and Cairbre draw their weapons and in less than a minute it is over. Art steps over a body and peers out across the mountains.

You’ll not spoil for keeping, Richard de Clare. Then you’ll learn how we deal with usurpers.

Justice

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

photo by Richard Clark via Unsplash

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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.