Elves’ Dew

Basalt Fog KarenForte

Photo: Karen Forte

 

He was a Shrouder, ordained from birth to emerge in mist and fog to collect Elves’ Dew from basalt rocks. Ordinary persons could not discern the quality of water imbued by the Fair Folk. Detecting the elusive shimmer took innate talent and a good amount of training to trust what one saw right on the edge between the real and imagined.

Elves’ Dew. The world’s very spin depended on it, and yet most people did not know or believe it existed.

Thornsten used to think it odd. “Do they really not see or do they refuse to?” he’d asked Boulder. He must have been no taller than the large man’s knee at the time. Four or five summers old at most, and a wee one at height even for that.

Most of them were. Smaller.

Early born. Sickly. Odd in growing. The ones already half-way here and half-way in the other worlds.

Boulder was in that sense an anomaly for a Shrouder. Six-feet-tall and barrel-chested, he could lift rocks the size of a small man and break little sweat for it. He towered over most of common men, let alone the Shrouders he was training. And yet he was a Shrouder, and perhaps the better of them. Or was, some said, till Thornsten.

“They see only in parts,” Boulder had responded. “Like black and white instead of color.”

“But you do not see color,” Thornsten argued. Boulder’s eyes had been milky gray with whitish film from birth. “And anyway, the shimmer has no hue.”

But Boulder had only nodded and said no more and left the boy to wallow in a prolonged pouting and to wrestle whatever meaning he could out of the answer.

It was the way of Shrouders to do so.

A moody tendency that some saw as obstinacy and some excused as a product of having seen the afterlife and been sent back on delayed entry.

Thornsten thought that was odd, too. How else was one to ruminate an understanding without time spent submerged in one’s own moroseness?

In any event, by the time he reached eight summers, he came to think of others’ lack of belief in Elves’ Dew as more of a matter of need for adequate technology for visualizing the mythical. Perhaps a bit like how people hadn’t believed that germs were real only because they could not see them, and so had refused to wash their hands from the effluvia of death before they tended to laboring women. It had been a costly — and for some, a lingering — ignorance. Same could be said for the stubborn denial of the reality of Elves’ Dew, when the essence was mandatory for life’s survival. Would there ever be lenses that could translate Elves’ Dew into what ordinary people saw?

He asked Boulder about it the next time the mountain breathed in their souls and let them know it was time to go collecting.

The cool air pooled around their feet as they climbed. It filled their lungs with memories of moisture. In the midst of resting clouds there shimmered pearls of Elves’ Dew. It boggled Thornsten’s mind that some could not see them when they were clear as morning.

“Perhaps a way would be found,” Boulder answered. “But we best ensure life remains viable until people evolve sufficiently to manage it.”

He bent his bulk and siphoned a few drops into a cask, careful to leave some behind for the Fairies.

“But evolution itself depends on Elves’ Dew,” Thornsten countered.

The large man shrugged in reply and Thornsten knew he’d get no more out of him at the moment.

They worked in silence for a while. Behind him Thornsten felt more than heard the other Shrouders. The small troop had been listening to his conversation as well as to the mountain’s breath.

He pouted, but in spite of him the calm of the misty fog filled his inside eye and guided his hands from rocky dent to basalt shelf to precious drops to cask.

Long moments past.

“It may be you, if anyone,” Boulder added so quietly that Thornsten wasn’t sure he’d actually heard words. Recently he found that thoughts had their own voice, sometimes.

He looked up to see Boulder’s milky eyes resting on him.

“You will lead the Shrouders, Thor, and much sooner than I had imagined.” The man’s mouth did not move but the words formed, crystalline, in Thornsten’s mind. “And it won’t surprise me if you’ll somehow lead the ordinary folk to the marvels for which they had till now been blind.”

 

 

 

For the Friday Fun Foto challenge: Mythical

 

Tut’s Trough

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“It’s been here since time before time,” Marty’s voice rose in self-importance.

“I don’t think Mammoths would agree,” Donna deadpanned. She was tired and the tour-de-woods was becoming tedious. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Marty. She did. Or at least, she had … before he’d unleashed his inner Know-it-all in what he appeared to consider some form of seductive foreplay. It did the opposite for her.

To be fair, she’d always claimed men’s minds could be just as attractive as their bodies.

The key being ‘as important’ she sighed to herself, not the sole importance.

Marty, oblivious, nodded. “Mammoths didn’t need troughs,” he added pedagogically. “They weren’t domesticated.”

Donna slapped at some buzzing insect on her arm. The noise ceased. She’d slap away Marty’s patronizing tone, too, if she didn’t so abhor violence. These days.

The very thought stirred guilt. It wasn’t his fault she was there. It wasn’t his fault she was broken and that time hadn’t ever been kind to her kin.

She forced herself to breathe and glanced at the moss-covered structure in an attempt at interest, only to be mortified when the first thought through her mind was how much it resembled a sarcophagus and how peaceful it would be to lie in one for all eternity.

Or until some form of grave-robbers came.

She shuddered.

“You okay?” Marty’s voice filtered through her distress. “You look as though you’d seen a ghost!”

How little you know, Donna thought. “I’m fine,” she said.

The line between his eyebrows smoothed and he gestured grandly toward the vessel. “Some say it is haunted,” he leaned close to her and whispered a mockery of suspense, “for how this simple trough tricks the vulnerable into thinking it resembles King Tut’s tomb.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt

Fury

Photo prompt © Sandra Crook

 

He retreated to behind the fence during low tides and sharpened his claws on the aging timbers. He nursed his rage on fantasy and fed his fury on abandoned sea-foam. Some days the seething rose a hurricane that only freezing wind subdued into a smolder. He hissed. He breathed. He knew. He waited.

The time would come.

Waiting both allayed and fanned his urgency. He scraped his restless agony into the wood, that hewed abomination they’d forced onto his bay to tame it. As if it, he, could be. Tamed.

When time returned he’d vanquish them and show no remedy.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

The Colonists

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They would come out when dark was complete under a moon that was yet to be reborn.

First a scout would be sent. One not quite old enough to have their wisdom be missed, but not quite so young that they’d be careless or uninformed. It was an honor and a worry, both. For not all scouts returned, and laws dictated that no one is to follow and the outing abandoned until the next dark comes. The safety of the colony outweighed any singular life, no matter how heartbroken they were over losing one of their own or how many nightmares wracked the communal dreams for many sleeps afterwards.

Most times, blessed be the hidden stars, the scout would return safely. If they confirmed that all was as it should be, any who could walk would funnel topside through the tunnels that honeycombed their underground world, and out into the rocky canyon which was formed a million years ago by a whip of light from the stars.

The colony would climb over hills of leaves and navigate the muddy ponds at the bottom of the canyon, all in silence that only the heartbeats in their collective chests would pierce. For the predators were many and the colonists were small and peaceable. They lacked fangs or claws and were opposed to weaponry. The universe that sprawled beyond the walls of their rock canyon provided the provisions they required. They took the danger with the blessings.

Once beyond the relative shelter of the canyon walls, they’d fan out to forage and gather: edible leaves, stalks of grass for feed and weave and bedding, acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, and the occasional fallen fruit or discovered tuber that required many hands to trundle back into the tunnels where they lived.

They’d work until the elder who tracked the darkness passed the whisper to return, and they would fall in line to carry the final batches home.

The last to enter the canyon would pull a broom of leaves behind them – a gesture of traditional thanks for the sustenance, and a practical act for sweeping away many footsteps. The ancients had tunneled pathways for them to emerge into the night from, but there was no need to make those very pathways highways to decimation. They took care to not be known.

With all returned, the elders would seal the rocky door and bless it closed, and the colony would sigh relief as the rock itself would seem to whisper as it settled into slumber til the next unborn moon darkened the sky.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

Reclaimed Royalty

 

https://naamayehudadotcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/7d39a-co.jpg

Lord O’Neill’s Cottage, Ram’s Island (from article in the Dublin Penny journal – 1830s) 

 

He’d come from royalty. Or at least from those who should’ve been but history had been too blind to realize their value. He’d seen promise in his older brother James: a lust for power and a need to force his will onto others. But James hadn’t shown enough self-preservation for a prince. A pity … but at least it left no issue of seniority.

Since childhood the conspiring doctors tried to claim him ill with “grandiosity.”

His mother failed to see. “We come from farmers, Thomas. Always have.”

Perhaps she truly believed her forefathers were but serfs to the O’Neills, but he knew better. He’d seen himself in the drawing, and it fit what he’d always known: He was destined for more, a royal progeny.

He’d take the island by force. It’ll make them realize it was past time he reclaimed what was his by rights, even if forgotten by history.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Northern Ireland

 

The One Place

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She ran and wouldn’t stop till she got there.

It didn’t matter that she had a stitch in her side or that something hard in her backpack kept slamming into her ribs or that the lower branches of some trees slapped burning licks against her cheeks.

She would not stop.

At last she saw a glimmering reflection and the slight opening in the dense woods that signaled she was almost there.

Her attention drawn to the sight ahead, she missed a crawler root and fell hard. She lay there, the breath knocked out of her and pain coursing through her body where it hit the ground. A gnarly stump poked out of the earth not two inches from her eye. It would have done real damage.

She was almost too miserable to care but her eyes still filled with tears. For the pain. For the helplessness. For the exhaustion. For so much more she could not find the words for and couldn’t afford to. Not yet.

She had to get up or she’d never move again. The backpack pressed heavy against her and she couldn’t help but remember other weight pinning her down. Unwelcome. Uninvited. More tears sprung. Then sobs that came from someplace between her diaphragm and belly button and competed with the stitch already jabbing through her chest. It was too much. It had all been. Too much.

Finally, after what seemed a decade, her breath calmed and she found strength to push up to her elbows, then her knees, then up to lean against a tree and shift her weight gingerly onto each leg.

Nothing broken. Or nothing broken that would prevent her from getting there. Her elbow throbbed and she was bleeding from scratches on her face and a badly skinned palm. There would be more abrasions underneath her pants where a tear bloomed red at the knee. But she was up, and some burden had lifted in the crying, even if it left her heart hollow with sorrow and echoing with despair.

She filled her lungs with a long breath and a tardy sob escaped to join the others but then her body shuddered one last time and she steadied.

She walked on. Not running now, just dogged determination.

The forest peeled away to reveal the clearing. The pond glowed and the purple light remained as she’d remembered. Lush greens licked the muddy banks and a clump of cattails whispered in an almost nonexistent breeze. The tree, too, was still there, just as it had been before: it’s bark missing in places, it’s silvery leaves rustling as the very breath of the place coursed through it from root to leafy tip.

“I’ve come back,” she breathed, and touched her scraped palm to the exposed trunk. Skin to blood to skin.

An echo filled her chest and she knew it knew her, and the relief made the jagged hole in the center of her self heal some.

This was the one place she never felt completely alone in.

She’d last left it thinking that her old life would not chase her to the new, and she had tried – for longer than she thought she could endure – to pretend that she no longer longed for what she had believed in and had given up. She could give it up no more.

“Will you help me?” she whispered. “I’d forgotten how.”

And the tree rustled and a ripple ran across the water and into her core, and her body softened so completely that she slid to sit leaning against the trunk. Welcomed. Invited. Warmed.

She’ll sleep. And she will dream. And she will wake to find the way back to herself. To her true realm in her rightful time.

 

 

For Sue’s WritePhoto prompt

 

The Balance

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

 

She did not understand where the castle had gone.

Tumbled walls

Like broken bones.

 

But the well was still there,

And the sword

Wrapped in stone,

Had waited stored

Well ensconced.

 

She took the hilt

Spelled the spell

And the blade pulled out

Clean

Glowing green,

Showing

All was still wrong

Just as all was still well.

 

She took a deep breath

And exhaled.

Because though

Times had changed

At least the balance

Remained.

 

 

For Sue’s Thursday WritePhoto Prompt: Blade

 

First Sighting

SPF 10-07-18 CE AYR 4

Photo Credit: C.E. Ayr

 

Frank said he’d show them. They didn’t know what to expect.

There had been noises coming out of Frank’s garage for the last month. Scraping sounds. Creaks and screeching. Odd lights that did not seem electrical. Scents of things they could not place.

“That’s what happens when you indulge a grown man’s folly,” Mirabelle scowled, bestowing wisdom and a sharp tongue on the gathered neighbors. “Tinkering about instead of doing an honest day’s work.”

Rebecca raised an eyebrow in Dave’s direction and he swallowed a laugh. He had no intention of having his wife succeed in making Mirabelle turn her bottomless well of ire onto him.

“He found it,” Tommy whispered. The towheaded boy lived across the street from Frank and was known to make extensive use of binoculars, not always for savory pursuits.

Dave tilted his head in quasi-invitation.

“In the bog. A round thing. Egg-like. Didn’t sound this big before, though,” Tommy fidgeted.

The racket grew and the assembled quieted. Slowly the garage door rose. Something labored out, scraping massive claws on the driveway’s concrete.

Rebecca gasped. Mirabelle fainted. Frank hung back.

Reptilian eyes regarded them, assessing. As food or foe, Dave was not so sure.

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge

 

Bones of Monsters

photo by sam loyd via unsplash

Photo: Sam Loyd via Unsplash

 

When she rose from the depths to where the world mirrored dark, she observed the bones of monsters no one disposed of, and the hulks of others poised to glean the phosphorescent plankton from the indigo above.

 

For Three Line Tales #156

 

Aladdin’s Ally

PHOTO PROMPT © Nick Allen

 

He didn’t find it yet, but failure was just motivation to keep trying.

People said playing the lottery was folly. Yet some people won that … and laughed all the way to the bank.

He wasn’t going to let those of little faith dissuade him.

Sure, let them think he was into antique oil and kerosene containers. It kept badgering to a minimum and lent him some credibility in scouting flee markets.

No one needs to know that what he’s really after, is an authentic genie lamp.

He’ll find it, and laugh all the way to the bank.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers