Monday, 16 June 2014

Forever Fog

Forever Fog
The world was not always as it is now, it is 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 so closely entwined they became one a story unfolded.

Life was a great adventure, filled with excitement and danger around every turn. The most adventurous of all men turned to the sea for their fortune. Aboard flimsy boats, these foolhardy men sailed into the unknown, laden with treasures to trade among far flung peoples. Prince Linus of Grease, 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 position and Linus had not been blessed with the gift of patience. Deciding to carve his own way in life, Linus purchased a battered sailing Dow from an aging Mediterranean pirate.  He rigged it with a second mast to carry more sail than any other ship of the fleet. Using the last of his wealth, he loaded the ship with herbs, spices and fine cloth, before setting sail for the west and the great unknown. Along the journey he made many stops, selling his wears and purchasing exotic goods in their stead.  Soon, if Linus clambered to the top of the mast, he was able to see land to his left as well as to his right. Onwards he sailed while the shores drew ever closer, before long the land formed a sold line in the distance before his bow. Linus felt sure he had reached the end of the world and would have to turn back. That was the moment he noted a great bolder soaring skyward with a ribbon of blue at its food.
Linus urged his nervous crew to keep a steady tack. He kept his sail fully unfurled as he raced upon this tiny gap. The sailors pleaded with the young prince to change his course. They believed the headlands were massive fingers of a sleeping giant guarding the entrance to the afterlife. They felt certain the giant would wake and crush them to dust should they try and enter that narrow passage. Prince Linus didn’t believe in such superstitions but knew their power over sailing men. He sent the men below to secure the cargo leaving him alone on deck. Linus drove the ship on at full speed changing tack with deft touches of the rudder. The Dow slipped between the massive headlands, the giant fingers were only rock and stayed exactly where they were. As the ship left the confines of the passage Prince Linus let out a whoop of delight, drawing his crew back on deck. They danced and celebrated still being alive with great gusto and many pitchers of wine while the little ship sailed on into the vast ocean.

The waves under his hull became hills to be climbed. The light water of the Mediterranean darkened to black in the bottomless ocean. The ship ploughed onwards, always keeling the line of the sun and heading west. After three days and nights of good winds there was still no sign of land. With only a few skins of water left the Prince decided it was time to turn around. Within hours of turning the sky darkened behind them, blotting out the sun. Waves rushed upon their stern, each larger than the last, casting the little sailing ship high into the sky before plunging it deep between mountains of water again. The wind began howl straining the fabric of the sail, driving the ship forward. The crew urged to the young Prince to reef some sail but before he had the chance to do so, a great gust split the sail in two. The Prince felt that dropping the sail would leave the little ship at the mercy of the waves, without power to manoeuvre they would surely be swamped. The Prince kept his own council and the sail stayed aloft, rent but working. They passed a terrifying night in the maw of the storm, driving them onward at tremendous speed. When the dawn began to paint the horizon pink the storm gave up its fury and allowed the little boat to live.

Damaged but afloat, the ship sailed on. The sun was dropping behind them when a crewmember stationed atop the mast called, “Land.” The coast they approached was a fortress of cliffs. It was a strange green place, very different to the dry sandy shores they were accustomed too. Prince Linus spotted the mouth of a bay just as the sun left the sky. He turned his limping vessel into the shallow bay and hoped for the best. It would be such a tragedy to weather such a mighty storm only to run aground and sink within touch of land. By the light of the moon they dropped anchor. For the first time in days the weary Prince lay his head upon the deck and slept.

***

When the sun rose over the Irish village of Beanntrai, smoke was already rising from cooking fires. When people began to emerge they couldn’t understand the strange sight that awaited them in the bay. A new island had appeared which bobbed on top of the water with two strange trees growing from it. A boy was sent to wake the Druid. The Druid was the second most powerful man in the tribe only surpassed by the warlord himself. He knew the powers of plants and the way to make tools of Iron. He directed the villagers when squabbles needed to be sorted and guided them all in the ways of magic. As befits the station of a Druid he was a wealthy man with three young wives to show for it. Trean, the Druid, didn’t believe that women were dullards, like many men did. He had always found them to be the most apt students. All of his wives proved themselves to be gifted healers as well as excellent sorceresses. Woken from his slumber by the excited boy, Trean rushed out the door past Fia, Corri and Gwyn, who were already up. The thought of a magic floating Island was too much to be ignored, they dropped the cooking pot and followed behind the running Druid. 

On the shore the whole village gathered.
“What do you think it is?” asked the Warlord Beann, after whom the bay was named. Trean studied the strange appearance noting the way it moved on the water.
“It’s no island for they are secured to the land below the water, it moves like a coracle.”
“A coracle of such size has never been made, how would it stay on top? It would be far too heavy. And what of the trees that grow upon it?”
The Druid was at a loss to explain all of the Warlords questions but he was not going to admit such a thing. He strode to the water’s edge where a row of coracles were resting upside down. The little round craft were made of tanned animal hide over a wicker frame. The Druid lifted one easily in one hand and launched on the water, jumping inside when it floated. With swishes of a flat stick he dragged the little boat across the top of the water in the direction of the strange floating thing. As he got close it was easy to see that this thing was made by the hand of man. Timber planks cold be made out under a black skin which coated them. It creaked, as the little waves rocked it too and fro. Trean knew it was a boat, such as the one he was in, but much bigger. He wished to inspect it so that he could understand how it remained above the water. Trean was shocked when a sun-darkened face appeared above the top edge of the ship.
Hazel eyes floated below a mop of impossibly black curls, a dark beard of youthful lustre fell on a strong and hairless chest. The words that drifted from his tongue were exotic and unintelligible.   Trean didn’t get any closer although his natural curiosity was baying for answers. In these times what was unusual, was nearly always dangerous, often fatal. The men stared across the water at each other, soon more appeared, seven in all. Trean raised both arms showing his hands were empty and smiled at the men, intending to say he was unarmed and friendly. The young dark haired man seemed to understand he repeated Trean’s gesture. A connection had been made but only a fool would venture any closer without learning more. Trean turned his corrical and paddled away towards the shore, watched all the way by the men on the ship.

Trean explained to the villagers that what they could see was a ship capable of carrying many men across the top of the sea. It floated by magic. Trean advised the warlord to be wary of the newcomers, to hide all of value and allow Trean to continue with his investigations. Having the Warlords permission he sent his wife’s to prepare a fish broth with fresh baked bread. Once ready, Trean sent Fia across the water in a coracle to deliver the peace meal. Fia tried to refuse but Trean wouldn’t consider any other option. Fia had no option but to do as she was bid.

As she paddled Fia considered that these men might kill her, or fall upon her or even steal her away. Filled was filled with trepidation as she approached the magic ship. The men on board watched her as she approached. The beauty of the dark haired one took Fia’s breath away, she had never seen a man so wonderful in her whole life. Before closing the last few yards to the ships side, Fia held aloft the pot of broth and a cake of bread for the men to understand her intention. Starvation knows no language, Fia understood the longing in their eyes. As she got closer it was clear these men were nearly dead for the want of food. It only took a few strokes of the paddling stick to make the coracle touch off the solid timer of the magic ship. Desperate hands reached down and took the pot from her, she passed up a dozen bread cakes which vanished in seconds.

Fia waited alongside while the sounds of laughter filled the sea breeze. The men finished every mouthful of food in minutes. 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 of colour the size of small child in his arms. He passed it to Fia who had never seen anything like it. When she took the bundle in her arms her fingers told her it was fabric so fine, so smooth, it felt like smoke in her hands. The colours were dazzling and woven together in such patterns that it could only have been made by the hands of a God. 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.

More and more trips were made to the magic ship until Trean finally returned himself and climbed aboard. In nods and gestures Trean and Prince Linus began to communicate. When the Prince commanded the anchor be raised and the boat sailed closer to the village, Trean looked terrified. The prince smiled and rested a reassuring hand on the old wizards shoulder. The sail unfurled and filled with wind, pushing the ship ahead of it. Trean was amazed. 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 he knew he would never love another woman. She had only seen 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.  As the days passed Prince Linus sought out every opportunity to be around Gwyn, while his men carried out repairs on the ship. To Trean, the fondness that was growing between the two was a tiny price to pay for the secrets of Prince Linus’s ship. If he lost her to him, there were plenty more suitable girls in the village. One not so forgiving of the burgeoning love was Fia. Every look that passed between the two cut her to the core. She hid her envy as best she could but the corruption was invading every ounce of her being. Corri on the other hand was delighted for her friend.
The weeks passed and soon the ship was ready for sea again. The food and water supplies were overflowing, all purchased for a few glass beads and bolts of dyed linin. On the night of a full moon, Prince Linus bid his farewells to the Warlord, Trean and all the rest of the village. They feasted and drank into the night. Prince Linus stole Gwyn away from the festivities and took her to a spot on the headland. He pointed to the moon, then 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 she had never been kissed before. From the darkness Fia 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 decent, Prince Linus raised his crew from their slumber. 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 Trean’s darkest tools. 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 hair. As the sail was raised on the magic ship, Fia dropped the lock hair into the fire, beginning her chant.

The 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 and her tone became 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 sucked in the trail of smoke wafting down the hill from Fia’s little fire. It seemed to grab the misty tendrils of it and drag it back on itself. Faster and faster the fog was drawn back to the candle until a flash of lightning boomed from the clear night sky striking the ground where she 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 and untouched black candle. Fia sprinted back to Trean’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 smile. 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 Trean to cast a spell for her.
“She is beyond my help, the magic that holds her is much stronger than any I possess,” said Trean sadly.
“You must try, what spell can there be that you can’t break?”
“It’s the spell of love, sweet Corri. Even you must have seen the way she looked at Prince Linus. Gwen suffers from a broken heart and will surely die from it.”
“There must be something that can be done.”
Trean shook his head again. Trean 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.
“How could that monster break Gwyn’s hart 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 windbag, Trean, might not want to cast his spells but that won’t stop me. I am 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. She was only waiting for the right time to release him. Corri looked shocked at Fia for a few minutes before making a face of disbelieve. “You’re lying,” she said. Fia ran to her room and returned with the thick black candle in her hand. 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 everything to extinguish it but once the black candle had been lit, nothing would quench it. Thick white 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. They all watched as 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. Trean ran up the hill toward the house.
“What have you done?” he demanded of Fia and Corri. Corri was about to tell him what the spiteful woman 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. Gwen 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.

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. When the ship sailed out of Beanntrai Bay, the lovers were together at last. Trean watched with awe, Fia with envy and Corri with hope, as the boat vanished into the distance.

Part 2 - http://squidmcfinnigan.blogspot.ie/2014/06/forever-fog-running.html
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