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 -

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Forever Fog - The Running.

Once in deeper water, Prince Linus set his second sail which stiffened in the breeze, hauling the boat far from land. So taken and concerned was the Prince with Gwyn, that he gave little heed to where they were sailing too. He held the woman in his arms, wondering at her fragile beauty. When the ship left the shelter of land the waves became fatter, pitching the boat. Gwyn’s eyes fluttered open, waking from her delicious dream. Her eyes slowly recognised Linus hovering above her, the sight of him was life itself. He had come back for her after all, it hadn’t been a dream. 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, now that she had something to live for it was important to fight. By the hour she got stronger, taking in more of the sweetened water each time it was offered. By noon she slumbered once more, 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 travelled 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,” enquired 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 had set his crew the task of building a shelter. 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 saying, “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 Trean’s cottage which lay unharmed after the smoke had vanished.  She found Fia wailing on the ground, watching the mast of the Prince’s ship vanish into the ocean far, far away. She ignored the wicked woman and sought out the Druid. Once he had been told 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. The truth be told she barely felt them so great was her misery at seeing the Prince sail away in the arms of Gwyn. The old Druid was soon breathless and dropped the branch from his hand. Fia’s skin wasn’t even broken.
“You wicked girl, you have betrayed me, you have 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.”
“Your wicked and you’re stupid, a dangerous combination,” the Druid said dragging Fia across the ground, into the house. He locked her into the sleeping chamber until he could decide on her fate. It didn’t take long for the story to spread through the village. It was evening when the Warlord and a precession of elders marched up the hill toward Trean’s hut. The Druid waited on the edge of his land for the mob to arrive.
“You have never needed so many to show you the way to my door in the past,” Trean said to the Warlord.
“We have come to seek Fia, there are stories of witchcraft rife through the village,” said the Warlord which raised a rumble from the mob.
“She is my wife, it is me you have to deal with,” said the Druid firmly. This stopped the Warlord Breann in his tracks. Man handling a young witch was one thing but taking on a powerful Druid such as Trean was a different matter completely.
“She had been casting spells I have been told,” 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 Trean in the past asking him to cast one fashion of spell or another.
“Those were mere blessings, Trean and you know it. I am talking about spells of a vial nature, dark magic,” countered the Warlord. It was Trean’s turn to be held in check. He considered the words of his chieftain and the deeds of his wife, searching his mind for the right path to take.
“She is a 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. Trean was trapped, if he lied, his own position in the clan 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,” Trean 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?” Trean 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 to the village at the shore side. With their leader gone the mob soon scuttled away. Corri emerged from the hut, wrapping her arms about Trean. He may be a powerful Druid but he was still only a man. He was a kind husband and a gentle soul.
“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, Trean was the husband of three women. Today, one was taken across the oceans by a Prince and one forced into banishment as a witch. Trean’s 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 this very night before they change their minds and burn us all in our sleep,”
Trean bid Corri to pack a travelling bundle for the three of them. As the moon rose once more into the sky, Trean 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 Trean.
“I would rather death than life without Linus,” she snarled and spat in Trean’s face. Without realising his actions Trean’s hand whistled through the air, rattling the 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. For the last half days walk, they climbed constantly upwards, the dense timberlands giving way to barren hillside. Countless streams crossed the narrow path, washing 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 of Croom were a dreadful place. A stinking stream of water treaded its way along the valley floor, clogged with silt and human waste. Thread bare ponies grazed at wisps of grass on the end of long tethers. Trean stopped long before he reached the huts at the head of the valley 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.  Trean dragged Fia forward by her bound hands. “I wish to trade this woman,” Trean 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 Trean 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 Trean the Druid when you see him,” Trean 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 the 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 filthy hand he tested 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 send 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 and may keep the pony and cart as I noticed you have neither.” This miner is a wily one.  Trean 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 being loaded by a gang of ragged slaves, Fia was dragged away by the miner. She spat a Trean as she passed crying “I will never forgive you, pig.” The ore couldn’t be loaded quickly enough for Trean’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 masked 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.

Next Part

Forever Fog - Tears of Stone

Fia prayed for death several times during that first few hours in that stinking hut. The miners of Croom were a feral breed and she had felt the weight of many men. At one stage a woman entered the hut, Fia cried out to her for mercy. The woman turned hateful eyes on her, as if she were less than human. In the days that followed Fia learned that the men, although hard and savage were not the ones to fear, it was the spite of the women which held the most danger. The huge hairy chieftain took more than his fair share of turns, satisfying himself with Fia's body. Vaddon, they called him and it was he who dragged Fia, half naked, across the rubble of the valley floor when his lust was quenched. The same crone that had turned a deaf ear to her pleas for mercy rested on her haunches near a cooking fire. Smoke belched around the blackened pot suspended above it. Fia was forced to walk near the woman, her spite filled eyes narrowed with unbridled hate. Fia could only wonder what she had ever done to rouse such ill will from a woman, she didn't even know. Vaddon shoved Fia with a work hardened hand which felt like a cat skin filled with rocks. Fia 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. Fia went crashing into the razor sharp rubble littering the ground.  The skin of her knees and hands opened in ribbons, staining the grey stone with blood. The woman became and whirlwind of fury, beating Fia on the head and bare back. Fia was amazed any woman’s tongue could be as vile and skilled in curse words. Fia made it to her feet. The woman drove her forwards with stinging blows while Vaddon followed along, braying with laughter. 
"Get moving you pox ridden whore," screamed the woman, landing a stinging blow on Fia's ear. Fia covered her head with her bleeding hands, fending off further blows.
"Careful woman, you will have her dead before she’s even 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, and a low dark hole visible in a solid slab of grey rock. A gate of stout oak beams, pinned together with whittled dowels, barred the entrance to the mine. It was only when she got closer that Fia could see eyes floating in the darkness. A guard lay nearby, curled in his cloak. Vaddon kicked the man awake as it took them both to move the heavy grate aside. Fia thought of trying to flee but her limbs were leaden with shock and abuse. The hag’s fingers gripped Fia’s hair. As a gap appeared between the hewn rock and the gate, the woman ran towards it dragging Fia by the head. She yanked her fist painfully side to side. Fia felt the skin of her scalp rip, just as she fell into the darkness of the hole. The woman threw the bloody mess of hair and skin after her before the gate was slammed shut. Fia watched with terrified eyes as the props were replaced outside the gate sealing her in. 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, black figures moved. Soon Fia began to pick out bodies, so covered in grime they became one with the blackness around them. As her eyes adjusted she picked out women and men, clothed in rags or completely naked. They were incredibly thin with flesh literally stuck to their bones. They regarded Fia with neither pity, nor fear, they were broken people only a heartbeat away from death. This is what lay ahead of Fia. Life of never ending toil until one night a blessed darkness would take her into the underworld. 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 in a bed of stone.

The morning is just as dark as night in the tin mines of Croom. The sound of the heavy gate being dragged away from the mouth of the mine shocked Fia awake. She balled herself as small as she could while all around her slaves burst into life, charging towards the opening, the stronger throwing the weaker behind them. A bucket of watery slop was dumped into a trough which the slaves ate out of with all the finesse of a heard of swine. Fia watched the retched spectres squabble over the few scraps and vowed she would never sink so low. Within moments the miners began to appear, they dispensed metal tipped digging tools and creels to the slaves before lighting torches of bound reed and twigs to light the way. All day the slaves worked, digging ore and dragging it to the mouth of the mine. They were up to their knees in oozing muck, the air was a mixture of smoke and human stink. It wasn't long before Fia was as filthy as the rest of the slaves. Fia could see why the miners fell on newly arriving women with such relish, no mortal man would dream of touching her in the state she found herself in. The miners themselves stayed outside the mine, rarely venturing far inside. They only time Fia saw the chieftain himself in the mine was after a cave in buried several of the slaves. The Chief and his miners rushed to the sight of the landslide, digging with vigour. They worked until they had retrieved the valuable digging spikes, the slave’s remained buried where they fell. They toiled from dawn to dusk, only to be caged in the mine at the end of it all. Fia was dragged out for the amusement of the chieftain several times in the first weeks. He doused her with buckets of freezing water that bubbled from a spring near the mouth of the valley, sloshing some of the stinking muck from her skin. He fell upon her each time like a man starving for the touch of a woman. Each time the hatred his wife felt towards Fia grew more intense. Vaddon added insult to injury by telling his wife to return Fia to the mine. It was a great source of amusement to the miners watching a jealous woman whipping and beating the naked slave across the village while Vaddon stood naked and aroused in the door of his hut, laughing even louder than his men.

A few days after she had arrived Fia had seen how one larger slave always bullied his way to the food before everyone else. 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 he sent Fia reeling. In the chaos no one noticed her position her flinty weapon above the bony knots of the man's spine. In the frenzy Fia drove the razor sharp flint all the way home, snapping the delicate handle off when it was firmly lodged in the man's spine. Trean had shown her how do such a thing to a deer, to keep it alive but unable to run. This allowed the old Druid to travel for many days without having to make fresh kills. The man spasmmed the small incision invisible among the thousand other rents in his skin. The rest of the slaves backed away from the man, believing him possessed by a demon. Fia chanted complicated curses, damming the man and his denying him his feet so he may never lay a hand on her again. The gathered slaves were mesmerized by the power of this new woman. Fia knelt at the food container and ate her fill while the paralyzed man pawed at the ground close by. When she had eaten only then did the rest of the slaves fall on the food. That night after the miners had locked them in, Fia gathered the slaves to her out of ear shot of the guard. 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 rest of the slaves waited eagerly until she had her fill before gorging themselves on what remained.

During the days she kept working and tried to stay out of the hands of Vaddon and his wife. One day while loading ore into her creel, a large piece of rock fell from her hand, a crack appeared in the rock which glimmered a deep yellow. Fia worked the crack open a little more with her finger. Her eyes opened wide with delight at the thick vein of gold that ran through the middle of the rock. Fia placed it carefully 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 the guard into releaseing her, but Fia knew that she needed to think things out, not act rashly.

All that day she 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 Fia's freedom any more eminent. She went to sleep that night across her hiding place, making sure no one stumbled upon her treasure. She felt sure the gold must have been whispering to her because every time Fia tried to sleep a low rumble crept across her consciousness. It was such a strange sound, more of a feeling. Fia realised it was not her mind as she lay completely awake against the hard rock wall and could still feel and hear the low rumble. As she concentrated on the sound it became clear that water was running close by on the far side of the rock. She pressed her hand flat 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 entrance for her daily ration of food. She left behind a tiny trickle of fresh water seeping from the wall where she had been working. Night after night she continued weakening the wall to the point Fia was sure one good blow would bring the whole thing crashing down.

When dawn approached, Fia assessed her work and decided it was then or never. The working day was well underway when Vaddon appeared at the head of the mine, inspecting the quality of the tin 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 the rock in to. 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 once she was at the entrance and burst past the guard. All the miners watched to see what the commotion was about. Fia made sure they all got a good gimps of the gold as she ran to the chieftain. "See what I have found for you," said Fia. Vaddon grabbed the ore from Fia's hands. She could see the yellow fever take hold of him.
"Where did you get this?" Vaddon demanded of her.
"It came in a creel of ore from the new diggings at the head of the mine. Did I do good?"
"Yes, very."
"Good enough to set me free?" Vaddon sneered at her before striding away towards the mine. It only took seconds for the news of gold to spread among the miners. Fia watched them crowd into the shaft blocking the way with their eagerness to see this promise of a king’s ransom. Fia waited for the miners to push past her as she slowly made her way back to her work. None of the miners noticed that this time she carried one of the metal tipped digging poles not a creel. When Fia reached the weakened portion of the wall the mine ahead was crammed with bodies all searching for the source of this golden nugget. With all her strength Fia began to dig. Within minutes the tiny trickle of water was a spray. The stone cracked under the pressure of the underground river, boulders as big as a man flew inwards. If Fia had been hit by any of them she would have been killed outright. A torrent of water like she never experienced before, rushed into the mine, extinguishing all the torches as it filled the tiny space. Fia struggled away from the pull of the water, which rushed downhill to the deepest part of the mine, where all the searchers had gathered.

Fia backed away from the rising water which rose with alarming speed. She saw a white shape float up towards her, she charged into the water, stabbing wildly with her digging spear, Body after body floated up. Fia attacked each as if they were Vaddon himself. Not one slave or miner walked out of the mine. Eventually the water stopped rising, Fia bathed herself, scrubbing off the filth as best she could. When her body was as pale as morning mist, Fia slicked her long hair with water and smoothed it to her scalp. Hefting the digging stick in her right hand she straightened her shoulders and walked as naked as the day she was born toward the mouth of the mine.

When Fia emerged into the air, she was like a woman reborn. A handful of villagers waited near the entrance, not daring to go any closer after hearing the terrible roar that had come from the earth. They believed some creature’s lair had been breached deep under ground, releasing the beast. There was not a man among them, every able bodied man had been searching for gold at the face of the mine with the water broke through. At first the women ran from the deathly white figure that emerged from the mouth of the mine. When Vaddon's wife recognised Fia, she charged at the stick thin, naked woman. Fia stood her ground, one hand beside her side, the other behind her back. She didn't shy away or try to run. Vaddon's wife let loose a manic howl as she closed the last few feet which seemed to knock the resolve from Fia as she shrank to her knees, the arm behind her back swung in a low arc, Fia used all the power in her knees to launch herself upwards, putting her hatred behind the pointed digging stick. The metal point first tasted skin at the nape of Vaddon's wife's neck. The combined force of the women colliding drove the stake deep into the woman's brain, killing her instantly. The full weight of the woman fell forward driving the base of the pole into a crevice in the rocky ground, pinning her lifeless corpse like a scarecrow. 

The sight of this drove the remaining women to flight. Fia searched the crude huts which lay abandoned. She dressed herself in a rough black cloak that she found and armed herself with a dagger. When she found a brace of un-skinned rabbits Fia tore at them with her bare teeth.  Her stomach was so shrunken from months of starvation she retched up the meat after only a couple of moments. Fia had to force herself to take only small bites, chewing the bloody meat well before swallowing. She let her body consume each piece before taking another bite. Fia gathered the few items of value she could find and mounted a skinny pony, keeping the bloody half eaten rabbit in her hand, not willing to be parted from the food for even a minute.

From the bushes the remaining women watched in terror. They would later tell how the demon that had killed everyone left the village 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.