Pathfinders

crown SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They filed into the toothy circle, a long double line, holding hands over the green strip that split them apart.

The stone pillars stood, immobile, ever present, waiting.

There have always been golden fields in all directions. Wild, then cultivated. The rustling of the ripened plants replacing a hush that would otherwise feed unease.

For there will be no voice heard.

No word.

No song.

No shout.

Nothing said.

Just a long line of humility, stepping up the path and through the eye of the ancient circle. Waiting to be cleansed.

To be whole.

To be seen.

To walk on.

Ahead.

Out the other side and down the second path where a widening triangle fanned into the distant horizon, mirroring the measure of relief.

And from the far far spaces, well beyond the hills, the sound of voices, whispers freed, a humming on the breeze.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

No Known Gnome

homeless-gnomes CrispinaKemp

CCC #69

 

No matter how much he tried to recreate the last exchange he’d had with The Tall, he couldn’t wrap his head around how he ended up in the predicament he now found himself in.

Open-eyed-blind, blunted, turned away from everything and everyone. He was but a nub of his former self.

It never should’ve come to that.

He didn’t think such drastic measures had ever been taken before against any of the garden folk. Certainly not against a gnome (shorter and tricksier than most or not). Sure, there have been tales of persecuted fairies. Of elves’ homes trampled. Of spirits sent to cemetery quarantine. Perhaps the less-than-fair Fair-Folk had to sometimes be kept in check. But gnomes? Why would anyone get even with a Grandfather of Gardens? Gnomes were made to evoke trust and smiles, not fury.

And yet. There he was. Exiled. Helplessly turned against the blank, black wall.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Kultuk

elijah-hiett-GEmpHF7zjrQ-unsplash

Nikiski, USA (Photo: Elijah Hiett on Unsplash)

 

“The spirits of water and sun fought with the spirits of snow and ice well before the white man came to this land aiming to tame them.” The old man spoke softly, punctuating his words with silence. “Our people did not fight the spirits. Birth and death. Light and dark. The Tinneh accept them as they do life.”

The elder’s story was met with quiet nods of respect. There was no need for sound when another was speaking. A log crackled in the fire and the hush of waves sang on the shore instead.

“Our Tinneh ancestors have lived here ever since Walrus and Whale were born from the womb of Water Spirit. The white man calls this place Nikiski. It is a fine name, but not as fine as the name it already has. Just like the seal that swims unseen, Kultuk still lives under the new name’s ice.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Nikiski, Alaska

 

 

Sentry Sign

 

“Can you believe this weather? The sun is …” she stopped cold, her jaw frozen in mid-sentence. Her heart thundered, threatening to escape the confines of her chest.

“Mauve?”

Eric’s voice sounded as if filtered through molasses. Someplace in her stunned mind she noted to herself that she finally understood why cartoonists slurred speech and movement into agonizing slow-motion during moments of high-drama. It was as if the world itself spun differently. Time simultaneously lingered and lost all definition.

Her finger labored against a suddenly-too-heavy gravity. She pointed at the gravestone.

“The swirls,” she managed, her tongue was a parched brick in a desert.

She forced herself to breathe and swallow. Paradoxically the motion released some moisture back into her arid mouth.

“It is the mark of my ancestors,” she whispered. “A sacred, secret, rarely-used Sentry Sign. I’d only seen it once. I didn’t even know they’d been to this land.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

 

New Born

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

He was born on a blustery night to a woman who huddled on the exposed slopes with naught but the protection of three wide backs to block the worst of the wind. The men crouched, arms linked and heads down, their eyes averted from what was taboo to watch, as they hummed the low sounds of incantations meant to shield the woman and babe from the demons and their own ears from the muffled cries.

There was no midwife.

The other woman had died not a full moon prior. It was a bad omen.

There was no spirit-guide. Their leader, too, had died.

Bad omens, all.

There was only the woman, panting desperately in the dark. And the three of them: One of whom in whose hearth she’d grown, one whose hearth she shared, one who’d preceded her in her mother’s womb. And a girl-child of barely eight winters. Pale and shivering and wide-eyed, she knelt before the woman, one hand on the swollen belly, another cradling the opening for the magic and terror that no man was allowed to look upon. But she would. She was too young. But there was no one else who could.

As the night stretched and the panting shortened, he was born.

By morning, they moved on.

A fresh mound under a rock marked the space where the smell of blood still lingered. The men had dug the hole, even though it was women’s work. A concession to their circumstance. They could not wait till the girl, or woman, gathered sufficient strength for the task. It was paramount that one put distance between oneself and the afterbirth, lest the demons seek to lug the babe back into the dark. The mother, too, sometimes.

They left all that behind.

He lived his first days in almost the same darkness he’d been made in. Cocooned inside his mother’s wraps, lips close enough to her breast to suckle, rocked by the same thunder and gurgle of her heartbeat and innards.

Sometimes, much later in years, he’d remember the indistinguishable. How inside and out did not differ by much other than air and hunger and the momentary cold that blanketed him when he was whipped out to be held above the ground to release his waste.

He might’ve stayed cocooned for longer had they not found the cave.

The old man saw it first. A black tooth in the mountain-side. Large enough to fit.

They waited two days to approach it. Demons have been known to skulk in the back of dark hollows, waiting to pounce. They were too few to risk it. Let alone with a helpless morsel who couldn’t even cling.

When nothing bigger than a ferret emerged from the entry, and when hares were spotted munching languidly nearby, they knew that whatever demons might have lived there once, had since long gone.

They brought an ember to the cave. And stones for a hearth. And moss and boughs for bedding.

The girl carried water from the spring. The woman made the tea and cooked the grain from her ceremonial parcel. They ate. They drank. They slept.

By morning the men came for the baby.

They held his naked, squalling form, indignant in the cold exposure, and passed him from man to man at the entry.

His life-force squealed vitality. His lungs breathed their collective previous misfortunes to the wind. His face, first reddened then purple with rage, summoned the sun to rise and fall. Someplace a wolf returned the howl.

It was a good omen.

They called him New Born. The reincarnation of Born, the spirit-guide they’d lost along with what safety they’d had where they came from. This New Born was a cameo. He was their future. Their hope in this new home.

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Allegiance

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They called her Allegiance.

Contract and insurance, she was. Revered and guarded, both.

So well revered and so well guarded, in fact, that with time she became almost forgotten and had turned more a symbol than a soul. She sometimes wondered if she was in that way not too dissimilar to many of her kind through time, even if they had been so for far shorter spans.

Women often were made ornamental. Used as symbolic pawns, utilized as cementers of allegiances, then blamed for those that broke.

It helped her feel less lonely, knowing that even in her immortal isolation she was still in some way a member of a community of others who’d been perched into positions, as she was, without much of a choice. Possessions and producers, keepers of the continuity of power, serfdom and thrones.

They called her Allegiance.

And she sat in her fortified tower, aware of the two rows of guards: One row looking out against any who may get it in their minds to sabotage, the other row looking in against any indication that she may get it in hers to leave.

They needn’t have worried. At least not about her.

There was enough of misery without adding heads to spikes in any kind of rebellion, where those most likely to be harmed were those least likely to have been given part in the decision.

She accepted her place. A figurehead to keep the heads of others firmly on their shoulders and their children’s hearts safer from the sorrows of orphanage and war.

So she stayed.

As centuries passed, those who’d placed her there took less care with guarding her and the promises she’d represented. The tower crumbled. The guards played cards and drank and slept and grew lazy, and she took comfort in knowing that at least this meant they weren’t in battle. Even if she shivered, windowless, her walls crumbling all around.

Perhaps, she thought, as winds whistled and the stories of her had become lore printed onto metal plaques for tourists to ignore, it was all as it should be.

Perhaps one day there will not be a need.

Perhaps one day allegiances will be built-in, rather than built-up and set with guarded fences that time and lassitude and apathy were certain to erode.

Till then, Allegiance waited.

For the moment, the ruins of her tower stood.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Embers Hot As Coals

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

She could feel them.

That’s why she came.

Why she took every opportunity she could to escape the drudgery of sewing and hoeing and weeding and feeding and washing and threshing and mending and tending and all the multitudes of tasks that never seemed to end and somehow only multiplied.

“It’s life,” her mother had sighed, when as a young child Mayra had burst into tears of fatigue and frustration when yet another basket of wash needed to be scrubbed. “We rise, we work, we eat, we sleep.”

Mayra, a dutiful daughter, had just nodded and sniffed and bent to her work. But inside her a restlessness rippled. She was expected to grow up to be like her mother: solid and stolid and capable. The capable part she was on path to mastering, if painfully slowly. But solid she wasn’t, in her wispy willowy frame, and stolid she could not be, when her feelings and thoughts bubbled in her mind like an ever boiling pot that used embers as if they were coals.

She would boil over. She would.

If she didn’t manage to find a chore that allowed her to put some distance between herself and the village and to reconnect with the souls amidst the stones.

They calmed her. They reached around her with fingers as wispy as her hair and plucked the edges of too-sharp words and smoothed rough irritation off of her being.

Most people avoided the stones. “They are haunted,” they whispered, as if that was a bad thing.

Mayra said nothing. Perhaps it was something in her that needed ghosts to sooth the places that she felt would otherwise burst and cause harm. Perhaps her difference drew her to what others knew to keep away from.

Still she came.

In secret. To avoid blame.

It was only when she was about to wed that she realized it had been her mother who’d conjured errands out of thin air for her, so the child could manage some relief.

“For some, this is life, too,” her mother smiled.

It was a rare transformation of the face that often showed so little beside focus on the thing at hand, and suddenly Mayra saw the girl her mother had been, reflected in the sky-hued eyes.

“You, too?” Mayra whispered.

Her mother’s eyes twinkled. The berries. The mushrooms. The bark. The herbs. The kindling that could not wait till the morrow to collect. All those times when her own pot was set to almost overflow atop life’s embers, hot as coals.

“I did, and I do. It is our grandmothers there, helping you.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo challenge

 

 

Ethera

The Offering: painting and photo © Sue Vincent at scvincent.com

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

She was Ethera, and she came at the peak of the longest night, on the cusp of the broadening daylight.

She was Ethera. A human. A spirit. A soul. Sometimes one. Often all.

She’d lived among them, flesh and blood and hope and heartache. She’d hungered and shivered and grew and raised and danced and cried and plowed. There had been nothing in her that foretold what she’d become once she passed the veil to the realm of Nether. Where summer did not come and winter did not grip the land and where the prayers of people held substance, unlike bodies, which did not.

She was Ethera. Unseen by most. Perceived by some. Hoped for by many. Feared by almost everyone.

Feared though she’d rarely brought on harm that wasn’t already in the making. Feared though she heralded truth, which for a reason she hadn’t been able to fathom, so many fought against.

She passed like air. Like wind. Like the willow whispering a breeze into one’s ear come silent night.

She was Ethera. And she came bearing gifts: Of scented fields. Of sunlit glens. Of fruit blushing ripe atop the trees. Of roots awaiting the fattening of rain. Of undulating earthworms sliding through the layers of the dirt to aerate the unseen.

As she could, too, pass between the layers of being.

She was Ethera. Some thought her fog. Some thought her ghost. Some knew her as the mist that rose to hold the moments yet to come and the droplets of the feelings those would bring.

She came at the deepest hollow of the longest night, and in her palms she held a bowl of alms, collected by the people’s dreams to appease the frost and sing the morning in.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo Challenge

 

 

Oh, The Mistletoe

Mistletoe NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

Oh, there’s the mistletoe,

The berries

Over green.

The holidays

In olden faiths

Remembered,

Veiled, still seen.

Oh, in the mistletoe,

The Druid,

Norse,

The Greek,

For strength of

Loins,

And sacrifice

For friendship, love

And peace.

Oh, in the mistletoe

A medicine

A kiss.

May it bring

Your heart

Only the best

Of all of

This.

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Holidays

 

No Time

flash flood OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

She ran into the camp,

Braids streaming behind like ribbons

In wind,

Determined to be

Unbound

For a time.

The women raised their heads,

Weary from tending to

Crops and overtired babies.

This time of year was plentiful in many things but

Not in time.

“What is it, child,” her elder asked,

The rhythm of rocking the cradles of milk

And infant

Adding a lilt to her aged voice,

Raspy from smoky fires and chaff

Of time.

“Help,” the young one breathed,

And stalled,

Needy of air and flooded by sudden doubt.

“Speak up, child,” her mother snapped,

Tight with worry for a girl-child

Chased home,

And the shadows

of another time.

The camp stilled.

A baby woke in cry.

“Come help,” the lass repeated, indignant,

No longer shy.

“The creek rises and a cow is screaming

Across the arroyo.

We have no time!”

 

 

 

For the dVerse prosery challenge