Monday, 16 June 2014

Forever Fog

Forever Fog
The world was not always as it is now. It's much older and more mysterious than many imagine. What is common now was once impossible, and visa-versa. Back in an age where knowledge and magic were closely entwined: a story unfolded.

Life in this era was perilous, filled with excitement and danger. The most adventurous of men turned to the sea for their fortune. Aboard flimsy boats, these foolhardy folk sailed into the unknown, laden with treasures to trade among far flung peoples.

Prince Linus of Greece, was just such a man. The youngest son of a Greek King, Linus was never destined to rest upon the throne. Six older brothers waited in line for that honour and Linus hadn't been blessed with the gift of patience. Deciding to carve out his own fortune he purchased a battered sailing dow from an aging Mediterranean pirate and rigged it with a second mast. Using every coin in his purse he loaded the ship with herbs, spices and fine cloth, before setting sail west.

Along the journey he made many stops, selling his wears and purchasing exotic goods in their stead. On and on he sailed until he came to the narrow straight that marked the end of the known world. Linus urged his nervous crew to keep a steady tack. His men believed if they passed this point, they would vanish from the face of the earth but Linus didn't believe such fairy tales. He kept his sail fully unfurled as he raced on. His men pleaded with the young prince to change his course but he was not for turning. He sent them below deck to secure the cargo while he took the teller himself. With deft touches of the rudder he slipped between the massive headlands without mishap. Linus let out a whoop of delight, drawing his crew back on deck. They celebrated still being alive with gusto and emptied a dozen pitchers of wine while the little ship sailed into the vast open ocean.

As the hours passed, the waves became hills to be climbed. The light water of the Mediterranean darkened to black but onward they sailed. Three days and three nights they traveled on brisk breeze with no sign of land. The crew looked at the prince with frightened eyes and he was starting to believe they had reason. At the end of day four, and having only a few skins of water left, the Prince commanded a change of course. His men fell on the sails with abandon, delighted to be heading back toward safety. As if sensing his move, the Gods of the abyss decided to show their might. The sky darkened and the sun vanished. The wind rose to a howl and waves crashed over their deck. As night fell the hills of water had become mountains and none believed they would see the morning. All night they battled the elements and when dawn turned the horizon pink they were still floating, just.

They bobbed in the dropping swell with a cracked mast, tattered sails and water flooded the hull as quickly as the men could scoop it out. The storm might have passed but they were far from safe. Two more days they battled to keep the ship above the waves, a battle they were slowly loosing. When hope was all but gone, a man cried out, “Land!”

It was a miracle.

They were pushed toward the fortress of cliffs by the current. It was a strange green land, very different to the sandy shores of home. Prince Linus spotted the mouth of a bay just as the sun left the sky. He turned his limping vessel into the dark and hoped for the best. It would be a tragedy to come this far and sink within touching distance of land. By the light of the moon they dropped anchor in sheltered water and for the first time in days, the weary Prince lay his head upon the deck to sleep.


When the sun rose over the Irish village of Beanntrai, smoke was already rising from morning cooking fires but all was not as it should be. A strange sight had appeared in the bay, a new island with two spindly trees growing on it. A boy was sent to wake the Druid to assess this bewildering occurrence. The boy raced up the hill and hammered on the Druid's door.

The Druid was the second most powerful man in the tribe, only surpassed by the warlord himself. He knew the healing plants and the ones that could kill, he knew many mysteries and was respected by all. As befits a man of his station, the Druid was wealthy and had three young wives to show for it. Unlike most men, the Druid didn’t believe women were dullards. He had always found them to be the most apt students. Each of his wives had proven themselves gifted in many ways and knew nearly as much about magic as he did.

The boy's excited knocking soon roused the Druid from his slumber. He went to the door, passing Fia, Corri and Gwyn as they prepared his morning meal. When told of the strange apperation the Druid raced to the water's edge to see for himself. Talk of a new island was too much for the women to ignore and they abandoned the cooking pot to follow.  

On the shore the whole village had gathered to see this strange new thing and the Druid had to push his way through the throng.

“What do you think it is?” asked the Warlord. The Druid studied the strange island and noted it moved in time with the water.

“It’s no island, it moves like a coracle.”

“A coracle of such size has never been made, how would it stay up? It would be far too heavy. And what of those trees that grow upon it?” said the Warlord.

The Druid was at a loss but was never going to admit such a thing. He strode to the water’s edge and righted one of the wicker framed boats. He launched it and with a practiced stroke of his paddle he moved in the direction of the strange floating thing. As he got close it was easy to see that this was a boat but one unlike any he had ever seen before. It creaked as the little waves rocked it too and fro. The Druid longed to inspect the craft, to unearth its secrets. He paddled a little closer and was shocked when a sun-darkened face popped up to investigate his splashing. Hazel eyes floated below a mop of impossibly black curls, a dark beard fell on a strong and hairless chest. The words that drifted from this man's tongue were exotic and unintelligible. The Druid wished to get closer but he daren't. This man might be a pirate or a barbarian.

The men stared across the water at each other as more heads appeared, seven in all. The Druid raised his arms, showing he held no weapons. The young dark haired man seemed to understand and he copied the Druid's gesture. A connection had been made, but only a fool would venture closer without learning more. The Druid turned his corrical and paddled back towards shore.

The Druid explained what he had seen when he reached the shore. A boat capable of carrying men, many men, across the top of the sea. The Druid advised the warlord to be wary of the newcomers, to hide all of value while the Druid made a plan. Eventually he sent his three wives to prepare a stew and bake fresh bread. Once the meal was ready the Druid selected Fia, his youngest wife, to deliver the foo to the men on the water. Fia tried to refuse but the Druid would abide no girlish strop and sent her on her way.

As she paddled, Fia was sure these savages would kill her or even worse. Her stomach churned with trepidation as she approached the magic ship. A row of dark eyes watched her approach but as she lifted the pot of broth, a man appeared who's appearence made her heart flutter. His beauty took her breath away and she felt lightheaded. He reached down and took the pot from her hands and smiled at her. Starvation knows no language and Fia understood the longing in the men's eyes was for the sweet smelling food, not her. Desperate hands reached down as she passed up a dozen bread cakes, all of which vanished in seconds.

She waited alongside while the sounds of laughter filled the sea breeze. The men finished every mouthful of food and the dark haired man returned the cooking pot with a huge smile. Fia’s hart jumped in her chest with delight. He held his hands in such a way that she understood he wanted her to wait. When he reappeared he held a bundle cloth in his arms. He passed it down and it felt amazing. It was so fine, so smooth, it felt like smoke in her hands. It could only have been made by the hands of a fairy. Fia tried to return the wonderful gift but the dark haired man refused and pointed at the shore. Fia knew it was a gift in return for the food. She paddled home as quickly as she could with her amazing treasure.

Fia made more and more trips to the magic ship until the Druid felt confident enough to return with Fia and climb on board the strange boat. In nods and gestures, the Druid and the dark stranger tried to communicate. Eventually the stranger made a gesture with his hand and the men pulled a ropefew. The island began to move and Fia clung to the side. The Druid looked terrified but the dark stranger rested a reasuring hand on his shoulder. Another gesture of the dark man's hand and and the men on board hoisted a vast stiff cloth to hang from a tree where it snapped stiff in the breeze. The boat surged forward pushing the ship ahead of it. Fia let lose a small cry and the Druid stood wide-eyedeye.

That night the ship lay at anchor a stone’s throw from the shore. A great banquet was held in the honour of the magical sea men. It was also the first time that Corri and Gwyn got to see the dark haired man that Fia couldn’t stop talking about. More importantly it was the first time that Prince Linus saw Gwyn.

Any that say they don’t believe in magic, have never seen a man and a woman falling in love. From the moment Prince Linus saw Gwyn his heart was lost and Fia knew it. Gwyn only had eighteen summers but she held herself like the queen. Her laughter was as sweet as nightingale’s song, her beauty paled all the flowers of the forest. Was it any wonder the handsome man grew blind to Fia.

As the days passed, the stranger sought out every opportunity to be around Gwyn, while his men carried out repairs on the ship. To the Druid, the fondness that was growing between the two was a tiny price to pay for the secrets of the ship. If he lost her heart to the stranger, it would sting, a little. Fia was not so forgiving of the burgeoning love.

Every look that passed between the two, cut her to the core. She hid her envy as best she could but the corruption started to invade every ounce of her being. Corri on the other hand was delighted for her Gwyn. Weeks passed and the ship was ready for sea once more. The food and water supplies were replenished but the thought of leaving the village threw the stranger into melancholy.

On the night of a full moon, the Prince bid his farewells to the Warlord in the few Irish words he had learned from Gwyn. Even now, Fia held hope he would see her love and realise what happiness she could bring him. She hoped against hope as the hours slipped away.

The village feasted into the night. When they thought nobody was watching, Linus stole Gwyn away from the festivities, but Fia had the eyes of a hawke. She watched him take Gwyn to a spot on the headland and point to the moon, then he pointed to the hill where it would vanish from view, his gesture was clear. She was to be at this point when the moon and the hill touched. She nodded her understanding and smiled with delight. Prince Linus took her in his arms and kissed her as Fia wished to be kissed. From the darkness she watched and felt hatred for the first time. Her soul became as dark as the night she hid in.  The lovers ran back to the banquet hand in hand, Fia was left in a storm of evil thoughts.

When the moon began its fall, the Prince raised his crew from where they slept. They rubbed their drink aching heads as they readied the ship for sail. On the spit of rock near the mouth of the bay Gwyn waited having left all her worldly belongings behind. In the dark shadow of a roan tree, Fia prepared her spell. She etched the ground with charms and opened the leather pouch containing the Druid's darkest tool. A black candle stub with a horrible smell rested in the bottom of the pouch. Fia encouraged a flame to catch some dry tinder before adding some twigs. Soon a fire was burning happily. From the pouch Fia removed a lock of hair that she had saved after Prince Linus had trimmed his locks. On the ship the sail was raised and it began its turn toward the mouth of the bay. Fia dropped the lock of the strangers hair into the fire and began her chant.

Magic words of elfish language fell from her lips, the curling smoke took on shapes that swam before her eyes. More smoke that was possible began to drift off the fire, rushing like a fog bank down the hill and across the water, moving against the wind and growing in size. Fia’s words came faster, her tone more guttural. With each passing moment, the terrible evil she was unleashing spread across the bay.

The ship sailed forward, into the un-natural bank of fog. When it had vanished from view, the moon was on the verge of touching the hill. Fia’s words reached a crescendo as she took another lock of Linus’s stolen hair and dipped it to the fire. It burst into flames which she used to light the black candle stub. The last word of the spell was cast as the wick spluttered into life.

The flame grabbed the misty tendrils of the smoke and dragged it back. Faster and faster the fog was drawn back into the candle until a flash of lightning boomed from the clear night sky, striking the ground where Fia stood, throwing her off her feet.

When Fia awoke the mist was gone, the magic ship along with it. All that remained was a full black candle sitting in her hand.  Fia sprinted back to the Druid's hut with her wax encased love cradled in her hands. Gwyn stayed the whole night on the headland, waiting for Prince Linus to arrive. In the dawn she returned to Corri and Fia with tears in her eyes and stone in her hart.

Days passed and all believed the magic ship had sailed out of the bay in the fog, never to be seen again, just another aspect of the magic they couldn’t understand.  Gwyn was no longer the woman she had been, she didn’t eat, never smiled. Her life began to slip away a day at a time. Fia kept the black candle hidden in the reed mat that she used as a pillow, holding it as often as she could. It didn’t bring her as much happiness as she thought it would, having her love so close to her. Corri was very worried about Gwyn, and one day when the girl could no longer raise from her sleeping mat, Corri asked the Druid to cast a spell for her.

“She is beyond my help, the magic that holds her is much stronger than any I possess,” said the Druid, sadly looking from Corri to Gwyn but ignoring Fia as she quietly sat in the corner. 

“You must try! What spell can there be that you can’t break?”

“Love, sweet Corri. Even you must have seen the way she looked at the Prince. Gwen suffers from a broken heart and will surely die from it."

“There must be something that can be done," she pleeded. 

Their husband shook his head again and Fia realised he was as heartbroken as Gwyn.

The Druid tended Gwyn in the days that followed but she only got worse, he tried everything he could think of but nothing worked for the girl. It was the following week while resetting the cooking fire Corri broke down in tears over Gwyn and Fia tried to comfort her.

“How could that monster break Gwyn’s heart this way?” she asked Fia.

“Prince Linus is not a monster, it was hardly his fault that Gwyn fell in love with him,” she replied.

“He is a monster and I hope he dies horribly.”

“Stop, you can’t say that,” cried Fia.

“Oh I can and I will,” said Corri lighting the fire anew. “That old wizzard of ours might not want to cast his spells but that won’t stop me. I'm going make sure Linus never loves another woman as long as he lives.”

“No, promise you won’t,” howled Fia, beginning cry. 

“What is wrong with you woman?”

Fia had no choice but to tell Corri how in love she was with Linus and if Corri cast her spell, Linus would never be able to love her back.

“That’s ridiculous, if he was concerned about any woman he would have come for Gwyn like he promised.”

 Fia told Corri how she trapped the ship with Linus aboard in the black candle beliving Corri would see how desperate she had been and would understand. After all, Fia was only waiting for the right time to release the Prince so he could be with her, she was saving him from himself.

Corri looked at Fia for a few minutes before making a face of disbelieve. “You’re lying,” she said.

Fia ran to her mat and drew out the thick black candle. Seeing the candle Corri flew at Fia, striking her viciously about the face. Fia dropped the candle while trying to defend herself, which rolled towards the open fire.

“No,” screamed Fia, as the flames touched the wick. The candle exploded into flame. Fia tried to extinguish it but once the black candle had been lit, nothing would quench it. Thick smoke billowed, filling the house, before bursting out the door and racing down the hill. Corri ran to Gwyn lifting the girl easily in her arms, she was as light as a feather in her sorrowful state. Corri struggled through the choking smoke eventually finding the door. Fia was laying on the ground outside, crying and coughing.

The thick smoke rushed down the hill, over the village and out onto the bay. By the second, the fog bank grew bigger and thicker. Fia spotted the Druid as he ran up the hill toward the house.

“What have you done?” he demanded of Fia and Corri. Corri was about to tell him what Fia had done, when Gwyn lifted her arm weakly and pointed. Corri’s mouth hung open as she watched the Prince’s ship sail serenely out of the fog bank with Prince Linus himself standing at the helm. The ship sailed directly for the headland where Gwyn should have been waiting. Gwyn smiled one last time before falling into a dead faint. Corri lifted the girl in her arms once more and ran for all she was worth and Fia struggled to catch up.

When Corri reached the headland, Prince Linus was searching for Gwyn. Corri’s legs collapsed with exhaustion, dropping Gwyn like the bundle of rags. Prince Linus ran to them, picking Gwyn up easily in his arms, his face a mask of confusion and concern. Corri had no words to explain, she just waved him back towards the ship and hoped the Gods would save them both. A hundred paces back Fia cried out for the prince to wait for her but he didnt hear. When the ship sailed out of Beanntrai Bay, the lovers were together at last. The Druid watched with awe and a measure of heartache. Fia cried the prince's name over and over again, long after the ship vanished over the horizon.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Forever Fog - The Running.

Once in deeper water, Prince Linus set his second sail which hauled the boat far from land. He couldn't explain exactly what had happened to them in the bay, but it was night one minute and day the next, magic for sure. All that was behind him now but he was shocked at how weak Gwyn was and she had been fine when he spoke with her a few hours before.

He held this amazing woman in his arms, dazzled by her fragile beauty, even when she was clearly sick. The waves began to pitch the boat and Gwyn’s eyes fluttered open. She seemed shocked to see him; had he not told her he would come for her? She said something but he didn't understand her strange words. The Prince tendered her, as a mother tends a child. He touched a dish to her lips, tipping drops of honey water on her withered tongue. Gwyn’s body so desperately needed the nourishing liquid that even a few drops worked magic. Gwyn sucked lustily at the liquid. By the hour she got stronger, taking in more of the sweetened water each time it was offered. By noon she slumbered once more and the Prince covered her with his finest silk, darned with threads of purest gold.

At the helm, a crew man had been holding the ship into the wind, ignorant of a destination, just happy to be moving once more. “My Lord,” he greeted the Prince who relieved him at the teller. Prince Linus studied the sky and the sail, judging the home of the wind. With a flick of the oar he adjusted the angle of the boat, filling the sails even more, the agile ship responded sweetly.  
“Which port shall be next, my Prince?” asked the crew man with humble respect. These men had traveled far with him, facing adventure and death as one, but always his birth-right set him apart. The Prince knew this deference was not forged out of fear, but of love.

“I have the urge to see the house of my father once more,” Linus said. A huge smile spread across the face of the sailor.

“You are as wise as you are hansom, my Prince,” laughed the man. His humour was infectious.

“You silver tongued scoundrel, no wonder husbands fear you making land,” laughed the Prince gripping the man by his shoulder.

“What course shall we set,” inquired the sailor when the mirth subsided.

“Our home lies where the sun wakes, the storm has set us far off course. I noted its position in the sky while we were at port. It had the custom of burning the top of my head as a boy, today it lies to one side,” said the Prince pointing out the sun which lay to the lee of the bow. “We should sail across the ark of the sun until it rests above our heads. Then we must turn and follow the rise of each day.” The sailor pondered on the Princes words, finding truth in his logic he simply nodded and began harrying the crew to set the ship for its new heading.

A day and a night they sailed across the wind through ocean swell. Gwyn was sick to start with, Linus kept refreshing her with water and food, even when she protested her fill. By the dawn of the second day she was eating unaided and her body had become accustomed to the movement of the ocean. Prince Linus set his crew the task of building a shelter for her. Gwyn was going to be his wife and as such her private moments were no sight for his crew. He wisely instructed the cabin be big enough for two. Midway through the second day land appeared, causing the crew to celebrate wildly believing they were home. Only Prince Linus held his cool. He studied the position of the sun and the nature of the shore before him. It was similar to Beanntrai in colour but a little dryer. This was not their homeland, not yet. The prince pointed out the position of the sun in the sky and shattered the dreams of his crew.

“We can’t sail further across the sun, my lord we shall run aground,” protested a crew member. Linus studied the wind, the water and the land. He thought of the conditions of his outward journey, the wind in his face and the storm at his back.

“Keep the land in sight, to the lee of our bow and turn her into the wind,” commanded the Prince. As the crew made good his order, Gwyn appeared at his side touching his hand with hers. Her eyes were full of questions but her language was beyond his reckoning. He touched his chest and said, “Linus.”

She smiled and touched his chest repeating his name after which she touched her own heart and said “Gwyn.”

The Prince smiled and said “Gwyn.” She frowned and grabbed his hand holding it to her chest nodding for him to repeat the word. The soft swell of her breast filled his hand with warmth, the thump of her heart, the heat of her body took the Prince by surprise. When he said her name again his voice was cracked with want. The prince tried to draw his hand away but Gwyn held it firm, smiling she moved the hand a little lower and to the right. The Linus eyes widened causing Gwyn to smile delightedly. The prince laughed at the brazenness of this woman, taking her by the hand he ran the length of the ship dragging her along with him.

 “Perhaps the rest of this lesson should be in private,” he said vanishing with a laughing Gwyn into the newly finished cabin at the bow of the ship.

Corri walked sadly back to the Druid's cottage. She found Fia wailing on the ground, watching the mast of the Prince’s ship vanish. She ignored the wicked girl and sought out the Druid. Once she told him what Fia had done, he was furious beyond reason. Grabbing a stout branch from the wood pile he ran to where she lay and began raining blows on her shoulders. Fia seemed to barely feel the blows such was the depths of her despair. The old Druid was soon breathless and dropped the branch from his hand. Fia’s skin wasn’t even broken.

“You wicked girl, you've betrayed me, you've betrayed us all with your treachery,” panted the Druid.

“I don’t care what you say, Linus should have been mine. I love him so much,” she snarled at him, the woman lying on the ground was more animal now than human.

“Your wicked and you’re stupid, a dangerous combination,” the Druid said dragging Fia into the house and barricaded the door until he could decide her fate. It didn’t take long for the story to spread through the village. It was evening when the Warlord, and a procession of elders, marched up the hill toward the Druid's home. Seeing them approach the wise man rose to his feet and went to meet them.

“You have never needed so many to show you the way to my door in the past,” the Druid said to the Warlord.

“There are stories of witchcraft rife through the village, your wife, Fia is at the heart of them,” said the Warlord which raised a rumble from the mob.

“She is my wife so it is me you have to deal with,” said the Druid firmly. This stopped the Warlord in his tracks. Taking on a powerful Druid was no light matter, but he was the warlord and he had to protect his people from wickedness.

“She cast a sell, I've been told, she is a witch,” the Warlord boomed for everyone to hear.

“Ha,” snorted the Druid. “You were not so quick to complain about spells when your crops came to harvest or your children were born with sturdy limbs.” The mob seemed to falter, not one among them had not visited him in the past to seek help.

“Those were mere blessings and you know it. I'm talking about spells, dark magic,” countered the Warlord. It was the Druid’s turn to be held in check. He considered what his chieftain had said and the deeds of his wife, searching his mind for the right path to take.

“Witch!” a faceless voice in the crowd called.

“Bring out the witch,” echoed another.

“She has been foolish, and even spiteful,” said the Druid powerfully. “She is not a witch.”

“Has she been using her powers for her own benefit?” asked the Warlord, causing the crowd to hush with anticipation. The Druid was trapped, if he lied, his own position would be in pearl. If he told the truth he condemned Fia to death. In the end the Druids self-interest won out.

“She did.”

“She’s a witch so,” said the Warlord.

“Bring out the witch,” several of the mob cried.

“Burn the witch,” howled a woman’s voice.

“There will be no burning today,” the Druid bellowed, stopping the mob with one sweep of his staff.

“Who knows which of us she will turn on next, she is too dangerous to let live,” the Warlord reasoned.

“Fia will be banished,” said the Druid.

“That’s not good enough,” said one villager feeling brave in the midst of the mob. “What is to stop her coming back and casting her spells in the dead of night?”

“Slavery then. I will sell my own wife into slavery with the tin miners of Croom. Will that keep you sleeping soundly in your bed, you little weasel?” the Druid said advancing on the man who questioned him. The Warlord knew the Druid was at breaking point and could well curse them all.

“Aye, that will do well enough,” he agreed. He turned and walked back down the hill. With their leader gone the mob soon scuttled away. Corri emerged from the hut, wrapping her arms about the Druid. 

“I thought they would kill her,” she sobbed on his shoulder.

“You were very nearly right, how could Fia be so foolish and spiteful. Didn’t I always treat you well, were you all so unhappy with me?” Corri realised that only a day ago the Druid was the husband to three women. Today, one was taken across the oceans by a Prince and one forced into banishment as a witch. His house had been devastated by lust and betrayal.

“What will you do?” she asked.

“I have given my word. Fia is destined for Croom. We should leave before they change their minds and burn us all in our sleep,”

The Druid bid Corri to pack a travelling bundle for the three of them. As the moon rose he bound Fia’s hands. Her eyes had grown hard and hateful. Her body was still that of a young woman but her mind was that of a crone.

“You’ll gladly make me a slave?” she hissed as he finished knotting the thong on her wrists.

“It was this or a scorching death, and it was your own actions that landed you here,” said the druid as he finished binding her.

“I would rather death than life without Linus,” she snarled and spat in his face. Without realising his actions the Druid's hand whistled through the air, rattling Fia's teeth in her head when it landed. It was not the first time Fia’s skin had felt the touch of a man’s hand, but this blow stung both her cheek and her pride.  Rubbing her face with her bound hands she let her hate filled eyes play over her shocked husbands face.

“At least in the mine there might be a real man to make me squeal, something you could never do with that withered little wand of yours,” she snarled at him. When the blow landed this time it was Corri’s hand which felt the heat of Fia’s cheek.

The journey to Croom was not easy but with the treat of death following hot on their heels the journey was speedy. The path began to climb and the Druid and Corri had to get off the cart and lead the pony by the head. Dense forest gave way to barren hillside. Countless streams washed away what thin soil lay on the stony mountain. Soon the mouth of the ‘Valley of Croom’ lay before them. Bolder strewn and desolate, the mines were a dreadful place. A stinking stream of water trickled along the valley floor, clogged with silt and human waste. Thread bare ponies grazed at wisps of grass on the end of long tethers. The Druid stopped long before he reached the huts and announced his presence. The Croom men were not kindly disposed to visitors.

“Bless all who hear my voice,” the Druid called and held his hands aloft showing his unarmed condition.

“What want you old man?” asked a voice belonging to someone out of sight.

“Simply to trade. I come in search of Tin.”

“With what will you trade?” boomed the voice around the walls of the valley making it seem like the speaker was everywhere at once. The Druid dragged Fia from the cart by her bound hands.

“I wish to trade this woman,” he said unable to keep the sadness from his voice.

“Woman?” chortled the voice. “I see you have two, why not both?”

“Only this one,” said the Druid firmly.

“What if we keep both, trade or not,” threatened a voice accustomed to violence.

“That would be a dreadful mistake indeed, do you not recognise a Druid when you see one,” he said standing tall and true. Minutes passed before a filthy beast of a man with matted hair all over his body came from behind a nearby boulder. In his hand he held a knotted root of an ash tree driven with spikes, a formidable war club.

“It is true, you are indeed a Druid but years are creeping up on you.”

“For a wizard the passing of years simply strengthens his magic.” The filthy man came closer and circled Fia, using a long nailed hand to test the solidness of her arms. He rubbed the firm skin of her shoulder, probing the mussel underneath.

“This little thing will last no time in the mine, she is too soft.”

“She is a hard worker and tough for her size.”

The miner guffawed, grabbing a fist full of breast. “The only hard work this one has done was lying on her back,” he laughed. “She will have plenty of that here, while she is remains pretty and sweet.” Fia slapped away the hand with her clench fist and flew at the man with bared teeth. With the slightest flick of his enormous arm, the minder sent her crashing to the bed of the stinking stream.

“How much do you want for this unbroken filly?”

“Two carts of ore.”

“Two! You have spent too long on the road old Druid. One and you will be lucky to get it.”

“She is easily worth three but two is what I want.”

“You can have one or begone.” This miner is a wily one. The Druid knew he was being robbed but he couldn’t do anything about it.

“Trade,” he said sadly holding out his hand.

The miner slapped the Druid’s palm, “Trade.”

While the ore was loaded by a gang of ragged slaves, Fia was dragged away by the miner. She spat at the Druid as she passed crying “I will never forgive you, pig!”

The ore couldn’t be loaded quickly enough for the Druid's tastes. It was a blessed mercy when the pony took his first stumbling steps forward. The sound of the timber wheels crunching over pebbles did nothing to mask the cries coming from the miners hut. Fia had gotten her wish it seemed. The men of Croom were more than able to make her moan. Corri shed silent tears as they passed the hut were a queue of miners waited to take their turn.

Forever Fog - Tears of Stone

Fia prayed for death several times during the first few hours in that stinking hut. The miners of Croom were a feral breed and she felt the weight of many. At one stage, a woman entered the hut and Fia cried out for mercy. The woman turned hateful eyes on her, as if she were less than human.

In the days that followed she learned that the men, although hard and savage, were not the ones to fear, it was the spite of the women that held most danger. The huge hairy chieftain took more than his fair share of turns on her, satisfying himself until her body was raw. Vaddon, they called him and eventually it was he who dragged her, half naked, across the rubble of the valley floor.

The same crone that had turned a deaf ear to her pleas for mercy, crouched near a cooking fire, belching smoke around the blackened pot suspended above it. As she neared the woman her spite filled eyes narrowed with unbridled hate. She could only wonder what she'd ever done to rouse such ill-will. She quickened her pace but the woman was far quicker, her arm shot forward as fast as a viper strike, threading her stirring stick between Fia's bare ankles. She went crashing on the razor sharp rubble. The skin of her knees and hands opened in bloody ribbons, staining the grey stone with blood. The woman became a whirlwind of fury, beating her on the head and back. Fia was amazed any woman’s tongue could be as vile and skilled in curse words. She scrambled to her feet and dashed away from the mad old wench, Vaddon followed along, laughing with abandon.

"Get moving you pox ridden whore," screamed the woman, landing a stinging blow on Fia's ear. She covered her head with her bleeding hands, fending off further blows.

"Careful woman! You'll have her dead before she’s drawn one creel of ore from the ground," laughed Vaddon. His warning only added to the ferocity of the woman's arm. Fia was driven towards the head of the valley where a gate of stout oak barred the entrance to the mine. It was only when she got closer that she could see eyes floating in the darkness beyond. A guard lay beside the gate, curled in his cloak.

Vaddon kicked the man awake and Fia thought of fleeing, but her limbs were leaden with shock and abuse. The hag’s fingers gripped her hair as if she could read the thoughts running through her mind. As the gate opened the woman shoved her into the huddled mass of slaves inside. Fia watched with terrified eyes as the gate was secured. Vaddon was still roaring with laughter as he walked away with the furious woman trailing in his wake, giving his heedless back dogs abuse.

In the darkness, figures moved. Soon she began to pick out bodies, so covered in grime, they became one with the darkness. As her eyes adjusted she picked out women and men, clothed in rags or completely naked. They were incredibly thin, flesh stuck on bone. The floating eyes regarded her with neither pity, nor fear, they were broken people, only a heartbeat away from death. This is what lay ahead of her, a life of never ending toil until blessed darkness would finally take her. Fia felt her way deeper into the mine, running her shaking hands over the weeping walls of rock. Soon, tears flowed just as freely from her eyes. She made a pillow of her arms and cried herself to sleep on a bed of stone.

As the days passed, she toiled from dawn till dusk, only to remain caged in the mine at the end of it all. She was only dragged out for the amusement of the chieftain and that happened several times in the first weeks. He doused her with buckets of freezing water, sloshing some of the stinking muck from her skin. Then he fell her, like a man starving for the touch of a woman. The old crone, who must have been Vaddon's wife, was forced to watch. Vaddon added insult to injury by telling his wife to return Fia to the mine after he was saited. It was a source of great amusement to the miners who witnessed the jealous wife whipping her husbands naked consort across the village, while Vaddon stood aroused in the door of his hut.

Morning is just as dark as night in the tin mines of Croom. The sound of the gate being dragged open shocked Fia awake each day. They alll started the same, slaves charging toward the opening, the stronger throwing the weaker behind them. A bucket of watery slop dumped into a trough where the slaves ate with the finesse of a heard of swine. Fia watched the retched specters squabble over the scraps and vowed she'd never sink so low. Then the miners appeared. They dispensed metal-tipped digging tools and lit the way into the mine with burning torches.

All day she worked, digging ore and dragging it to the mouth of the mine. The air was a mixture of smoke and human stink. The miners themselves stayed outside the mine, rarely venturing deep inside. They only time she saw Vaddon in the mine was after a cave in buried several slaves. The Chief and his miners rushed to the landslide, digging with vigour. They worked until they'd retrieved the digging spikes, leaving the slave’s buried where they fell.

Overtime, she saw how one slave always bullied his way to the food before everyone else. Food was life, and life was all she longed for. She decided that the only way to survive this test was to become more savage than any other slave in the mine. That night Fia worked deep in the mine fashioning a sharp sliver of flint, as thin and deadly as a dagger. The next morning she positioned herself near her intended victim, beating him to the food when it arrived. With a savage blow the slave sent Fia reeling but she recovered quickly and drove her flinty weapon into the man's neck. The man spasmed, the small incision invisible and the rest of the slaves backed away. Fia chanted a complicated curse, damming the man as he died before everyone's eyes. The gathered slaves were mesmerized by the power of this new woman. Fia knelt at the food container and ate her fill while the dying man pawed at the ground. When she had finished eating, she moved and let the rest of the slaves fall on the food.

That night, after the miners had locked them in, Fia gathered the slaves to her. She told them she was a powerful witch sold into slavery by an evil druid. She promised them she would set them all free when her powers were recovered enough. From that day on the slaves had a new high priestess. Fia took to sleeping alone deep in the mine, away from the stinking mass who crowded close to the refreshing air at the entrance. She would make her way to the entrance shortly before dawn each day. Now there was order to the eating. The slaves waited eagerly until she had her fill before gorging themselves on what remained.

During the days she worked and stayed out of the hands of Vaddon or his wife. One day, while loading ore into her creel a piece of rock fell from Fia's hand. When she picked it up she saw a glimmer of yellow inside the stone. Fia worked the crack open and gloried at the thick vein of gold that ran through the middle of the rock. Fia placed the rock on top of the creel and began trudging the long dark climb towards the mouth of the mine. In a quiet spot she stopped and hid the rock in a crevice. Fia knew that this could be a key to her future, she might be able to bribe a guard but she knew she could not act rashly.

All the following day, Fia played out different plans in her mind. No matter how she moved things around she could only see the miners taking the gold for themselves and doing nothing to make her freedom any more eminent. She went to sleep that night lying across her hiding place, making sure no one stumbled on her treasure. Fia was woken by something, but she knew not what and lay staring into the dark trying to figure out what she felt. She concentrated on the sound and pressed her hand against the wall of the mine, through her fingers she could feel the water rushing past. With her bare hands she began loosening rock, digging towards the sound. The hours passes as she lost nail after nail from her fingers. She was exhausted but happy when she made her way towards the gate at dawn. She left behind a tiny trickle of fresh water seeping from the wall of the mine.Night after night she continued to weaken the wall, something Fia was sure would bring the whole mine crashing down.

One day, Fia decided it was then or never. Vaddon appeared, inspecting the quality of the ore being delivered on the backs of near dead slaves. Fia dropped her creel of ore and dug out her hidden treasure. She dropped the rock several times, cracking it in half. The seam of gold glowed bright for all to see. Fia ran as fast as she could toward the entrance: nothing could stop her now.

"Look, look," she called, burst past the guard.

All the miners turned to see the commotion. Fia made sure they all got a good look of the gold as she ran to the chieftain.

"See what I have found," said Fia. Vaddon grabbed the ore from her hands. She could see yellow fever take hold.

"Where did you get this?" he demanded.

"The mine. Did I do well?"

"Yes, very," and he panted harder than he ever had when he lay on top of her.

"Good enough to set me free?"

Vaddon sneered before striding towards the mine. It only took seconds for the news of gold to spread among the miners. Fia watched them crowd into the shaft and when they were all ahead of her, she followed.

When Fia reached the weakened portion of the wall she began to dig. Within minutes the tiny trickle of water was a spray. The stone cracked under the pressure of an underground river. Boulders as big as a man flew inwards. A torrent of water rushed into the mine, extinguishing torches as it filled the tiny space. Fia ran for the gate as the water flooded the deepest part of the mine.

Body after body floated up on the rising water and Fia attacked each as if they were Vaddon himself. Not one slave, or miner, survived the flood. Eventually the water stopped rising and Fia scrubbed off the filth as best she could. When her body was as pale as morning mist she smoothed her hair and walked into the light. She was a woman reborn.

A handful of villagers waited near the entrance, not daring to go any closer. At first they ran from the deathly white figure that emerged from the mouth of the mine. When Vaddon's wife recognized Fia, she charged at the stick thin, naked woman. Fia stood her ground, one hand beside her side, the other behind her back. The old crone let loose a manic howl as she closed the last few feet, Fia shrank to her knees as the woman closed in on her. Fia used all her power to launch herself upwards, putting her hatred behind the pointed digging stick. The metal point tasted blood at the nape of Vaddon's wife's neck. The pole pinned the woman like a scarecrow. 

The remaining women took to flight. Fia searched the crude huts which lay abandoned. She dressed herself in a rough black cloak and armed herself with a dagger. Fia gathered the few items of value she could find and mounted a skinny pony. On the way Fia found a skinned rabbit and took it with her.

From the bushes the remaining women watched in terror. They would later tell how the demon that had killed all the men left riding astride a pony, its evil body hidden beneath a black magical cloak, its hood pulled low over a grotesque head.  The most shocking part of the story came next, they said it was holding the still beating heart of Vaddon, eating it one bite at time.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Versatile Blogger Award

How poor a place would the world be without words?

Simple shapes, scribbled on what ever was available, have ignited the imaginations of men since we sought shelter in caves. The ability to record and share ideas could be the fundamental difference between our species and all others on this globe we call home. I know there will be those among you that will point to other differences which set us apart, some for better, some for worse. I would be willing to bet that every single one had roots firmly planted in the written word.

Today the scribes have thrown away their quills and parchment, replacing them with Macbooks and the Internet. I am delighted to be counted among the legions that participate in recording emotions, ideas, thoughts and stories, so others may share our experiences. The blogger world is filled with limitless outlooks, mental pictures cast in countless hues. Like all aspects of life, holding fourth your though's may inspire debate, even disagreement. No one view is more correct than another. Taste and compassion are virtues that count in all walks of life, writing more than most.

A shining example of bloggers doing what bloggers do best is Teagan Kearney. She finds herself on a journey through a novel and has chosen to let us share the experience with her. Not only this, she also takes time out of her day to share with us things she has learned along the way. Her posts are full of fun and knowledge I invariably smile when her little golden dragon appears on my screen. Teagan was kind enough to nominative me for the Versatile Blogger Award which I am delighted to accept.

The Rules:
Thank and give a link to your nominator.
Share seven things about yourself that others may not know.
Nominate 15 bloggers you enjoy.

Teagan Kearney, my heartfelt thanks for this great honor, I have followed your journey for some time and will continue to do so. for as long as the lights stay on. You can find a link to Tegan's blog 'Writing my novel no working title yet' here:

Seven Things about me.
1. Meet the two girls and one little boy who fill my days. Left to right, Lofty, Ela and Holly.

2. I grind my teeth in my sleep.

3. I have been know to cry at sad movies, (Notebook and Braveheart have both embarrassed me.)

4. When I was just a baby my Mom brought me to the beach. I couldn't walk yet but was a mighty crawler. She set me down on the blanket and I imitatively took off for the ocean. She followed me, picking me up before I got wet and carried me back to the blanket. After five repeat performances she decided to let me keep going expecting me to get a shock as soon as the water touched me. She said that I hit the water and just kept going. It was up to my chin and I showed no sign of stopping when she picked me up. This time as she walked back to the blanket, an old man sitting close by was laughing at her. He said "God missus are you training that thing for the Olympics?"

5. I think my dog talks to me?

6. I have sat in a Formula 1 car but they wouldn't let me drive it.

7. The first plane I was ever in was a four seat'er Cessna. I got to fly it around but the scardy cat pilot  wouldn't let me land. I was sure I could have managed it without killing us too much.

15 Bloggers testing the boundaries.

These are my famous fifteen, a click on any one of these links will not leave you disappointed. They are a truly diverse bunch, all well worth getting to know.