“Do you hear the Gods my love? Thor and Hod are riding the sky tonight driving the long winter days before them, pushing the frost and chill across the lands.” Toothless old Agritha stopped her knitting. Needles poised in mid clack, her pale eyes took on a faraway look and Tarmen knew she would stay that way, transfixed by days long gone, lost in memories until she was pressed to continue the story.
Tarmen listened to the tale, although half an ear had lent itself to the torrential downpour and the intermittent claps of thunder. He sat at the crone’s feet and leant against blue veined legs, wrapped in the pelts of wolf skins on the edge of the fire pit. Flames spun shapes of the gods who walked the earth before men were born and the shadows they threw out rose into monsters. But he wasn’t a child anymore, he had bragged as much to his father, so the grasping fingers of shadowed things didn’t scare him. Agritha’s eyes, cloudy as they were, watched the yellow dancing gods.
The young boy wondered if it was raining where his father was. ‘Wait another season. Wait a little longer, then you can raid with us.’ He had heard the words before and yet, despite his anger at being stuck with old Agritha and the slave his father had stolen from across the sea, Tarmen’s envy matched the weather outside.
“Agritha?” Tarmen’s voice drew her away from the dreaming.
“It will snow, mark my words.” The clacking began again, a familiar sound to the raging tempest screaming its fury around Skarken.
“Will the gods protect my father?” A small voice beside Agritha asked.
Agritha worked her tongue into the space where two teeth used to be. It was a habit of hers when she took to thinking. Tarmen looked up, straining his neck backwards. Old skin, wrinkled and loose, wobbled as she spoke. Continue reading →
Bolt upright, tangling all askew in sweat soaked sheets Trend reached out a shaky hand. He ran it over a mop of light, yellow coloured hair.
Trend moved to the edge of his bed. The sheet snagged around his leg and with a heavy thud the boy fell to the floor. Memories, dream induced was a hazy reflection. The breeze blowing through the open window sent a shiver through his thin body. Trend wondered which star was his mother. Would she be watching him now? Did she know he lived?
He tried to stand. I have to shut the window I’m freezing, but of course Trend couldn’t. He fell to the floor, just another dark shape on the ground. Grunting he dragged his body a few inches. How could a one legged boy walk to the window? So strange to think he could feel the other one, as though he had two legs, only the pain lancing up a tender thigh failed to keep the wishing dream alive. He closed his eyes; sleep rarely came to him these nights for memories haunted the shadows, as much as they did the bright sunlight days.
The boor opened bringing with it a shaft of hallway cheer. A silhouette filled the doorframe. It stood there motionless.
Trend spoke, hidden from his brother’s sight having fallen from the warmth of his bed.
Prose was a pretty thing with dark hair and brown eyes whose smile lit the world around her. This day found her hard at work. Sheets of paper lay scattered on the desk and floor, screwed up balls of the unwanted stuff littered the room and the quills that she so loved to write with – her most treasured of possessions – were spread out before her in loving array. Feathers and inkpots, scrolls, and the ability to create infinite worlds belonged to this dedicated writer, Prose was proud of every word.
“I have finished! I have finally made my mark.” Prose leapt out of her chair. “It is done at last, my very first story. It’s a pearler and once it’s published I know it will go straight to number one.” She hammered on the wall with her fist and the scraping of a chair on the other-side followed, then a came a knock on her door.
“Come in, come in Ink and hurry up.” Prose shouted, well aware that every writer in her building would be frowning at the interruption. Every time a writer placed the last dot on the end of a tale, indicating that the manuscript was ready for other eyes there was a celebrated shout: disrupting the usual quiet that enveloped her building.
“I hate to bring it up, but I am down to my last silver. Unless the Needle and Thread has a packed house tonight we’ll be eating our last meal.” Whining was a form of mantra for this skinny man.
Ametrine laughed. “I know a place, its a bit of a walk but … “ He always kept to the right side of the path, it hid the purple stain that covered his cheek and ear. It wasn’t that he was embarrassed, far from it. He kept it away from his companion, because it suited him to do so. His secrets were his own.
Hook pulled up hard. He sounded, as though he was choking, “If we don’t go to the Needle and Thread there’ll be no dinner. Nothing, do you hear me Ametrine. I might just as well bury this bloody piece of silver in the ground and hope that it grows overnight into a plate of stew. We’re on the bones of our ass friend, no savings, no spare nothing.”
Ametrine turned. The purple splotch darkened and the eye inside changed. It paled to a creamy gold. “Do you believe in magic Hook?”
“Magic? If I believed in such stuff I wouldn’t be fingering my last silver now, would I!” He shifted the mandolin on his back. Continue reading →
Diablo asked herself this question every day. But nothing ever changed. It always came back the same… a burning anger, so bright that it matched his strutting brilliance and that only made her angrier. God, the almighty, sanctified divinity and his constant holier than thou lectures. Her husband was a pompous fool, whose faults were even greater than the obedience he demanded from everyone.
She smiled despite this, for she had to admit there was great satisfaction in upsetting him. A single finger raised and from the shadows came a man, not nearly as perfect as she, but darkly handsome none-the-less. Continue reading →
It was just a song. It didn’t mean anything and she was sure if the words were sung just so, no one would notice. Isnale spun a circle, her bare feet feeling the grass beneath and certain she was alone, a single note floated gently out front. It crystalized and held still for a brief moment. Clapping her hands, Isnale marveled at the light it made. Apart from the stars overhead, the note shone like a beacon.
“They’ll cut you for just one note, you know that, don’t you Isnale?” Her brother’s voice shattered the form and the light extinguished, leaving them both, once more in the dark. Continue reading →
I sat in that place I favoured so well, letting the memories wash over me. Leaves swirled and danced on the floor and the wind teased my thick long hair, as it carried the sad overtures of what had once been. It covered my face as I turned my head a little to look at the door. A cracked mirror leant against the weatherboard wall and I caught a glimpse of myself. There were a few I had known that had said I was slim and pretty, but what did they know, I had been locked away forever and a day with her, never leaving the house, except to take Withering to the shed.
The trouble with living in a small town was that everyone knew your business. It troubled me that my grandmother was able to keep our business a secret. Were we safe because of the empty, outreaching fields and the rolling hills beyond that, as they bled away into endless stretches of colour? I didn’t know, nor did I really care. This town had skeletons roaming its dusty streets and no one seemed to give it a second thought that they crowded up against our place.
So many had died by Pollard’s hand and there, among the leaves, hidden under the hessian bag I used to cover my nakedness sat more tears. Shaped and hardened into coloured marbles. They were full of sin and other things. Some held disbelief and anger, while the pale yellow balls, catching the sunlight in my lap, shimmered with pain. It was easy to hurt, easier than forgetting.
“Justice, stop your moping and help me with the old man. Your grandfather’s been seen walking. Pollard’s name is on everyone’s lips this morning, so grab yourself an umbrella and get me to the shed.” Withering’s voice was as gnarly as the body she walked in. Long earrings hung from stretched earlobes and the many rings on her fingers clacked their impatience. Continue reading →