#writephoto: No going back

This is a sketch from my next WIP. For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge.

Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 18.47.36.png

They scrambled to the top of the hill, and stopped, chests heaving, trying to get their breath back. The tree cover was sparse, rowan and birch and spindly oak trees, and overhead the sky lay, dark and heavy. Jon felt the weight of the dark sky and the pressure of the dark earth, the forest that was black and grey but never green, and the wind that sang in a colourless voice through the bracken.

He gazed out over the treetops to where the place lay where they would be safe. Safe from what, he wasn’t sure, but they had four legs, sometimes two, faces with narrow eyes, but sometimes the grimacing muzzles of dogs that had never been.

Halli recovered from the climb first and was was about to plunge down the hill and back into the forest when something made Jon grab her arm. “Wait,” he whispered. The silence thickened; he couldn’t breath.

Halli looked about in alarm then gasped, “The sky. It’s broken.”

Overhead the grey was as compact as ever, darkening to slate at the far horizon, slate the treetops that moved sluggishly in the wind, but away over the forest, the cloud and mist was torn and through the rent, a golden cascade of sunlight fell in pillars of brilliance.

“What is it?” Halli murmured, her eyes open wide as pools. “What’s happening? Is it the end of the world?”

“It’s the sun,” Jon said, and for the first time since he had burst out of the dark tree tunnel, he smiled.

Advertisements

#writephoto: Earthward

Not a story to accompany Sue’s photo, just idle thoughts.

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 17.05.58.png

When down is the only way open, you follow the drifting leaves, down and down steps slippery with rain and fallen leaves, until the earth closes above your head, and the leaves become the smell of earth and leaf mould. Where the light ends and the dark begins might be safety, and it might be the start of a greater danger.

When down is the only way, and behind is a mass grey as thundercloud pushing you on, you follow the leaves, slip down with the rain and descend one step at a time, pretending this is a dream and not a nightmare.

Yet taking the downward stair into the dark is as valid as walking up to the light. Earth enfolds and protects, tunnelled with homes and sanctuaries, out of the wind and the cold and the fear of discovery, and here, where roots dig and plants and trees begin, is silence, the peace and calm of the great earth.

Here, at the beginning of things, is the place to learn and cherish what will grow, to cast away our fear of mystery, so when we follow the winding path beneath root and stone, and out the other side into the daylight, our eyes will be open. We will see the whole world as layers of one great living entity, all beauty, all goodness, not ours to meddle with or discard, to use and destroy, but to keep whole and integral, the silence of tree roots tangled with the silence of clouds.

 

#writephoto: Wandering

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

Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 14.34.19

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.

#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’.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 12.32.24.png

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: 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.

#writephoto: Last journey

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 22.23.57.png

They said just follow the road, it goes straight there. Take no notice of the mist, don’t follow the shadows, don’t listen to the voices. They didn’t say how long it would take, nor what would happen if I left the path, but I had little choice. I walked.

How long I have been walking, I can’t say, the trees all look the same, their shadows never move, as if the unseen sun is fixed in the sky. Time never changes there, they said. The light is always twilight between dark and dawn, between dusk and dark.

I keep walking. Perhaps this is all there is, an eternity of walking, following the road bordered by trees into the misty distance. I should be tired, but my feet keep up a steady rhythm, one two one two one two and the mist still obscures the end of the road.

I walk and pay no heed to the voices that drift through the leaves. There is no anger in the voices, no aggression, just curiosity. I imagine they are the voices of birds, and once that would have been a fancy. Now, it is a possibility.

Just keep walking, they said. Who were they? I try to look back, but my feet won’t slow, my head turn. I forget a little more with each step. Keep walking.

Where? Who? The voices ask, but I cannot answer. Can I not? The mist is thinning. I see blue ahead. The sea perhaps or the sky, and the sun shines gold. Who? Wings brush my face. I hear their fluttering.

I am a woman who has left her name behind, on her way to the other side of life, or is it death?

The bird laughs. The mist has cleared. Between the trees deer flit and jays rattle.

You can speak, the bird voice says. That means you have arrived.

Above my head green boughs bend, and beyond, white clouds drift. From the blue ahead springs a cool breeze and I hear the sound of water. The voices mingle with song, fluting and whistling, and among the bird voices, I hear others. I run, and my feet have wings.

Welcome home.

 

 

 

#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.

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 14.26.48

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.