Friday, 18 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Phoenix

Previous: Ogre

Ivy heard a long, piercing shriek from the kitchen and came out of her room running.
“Mother! Help!” Mary cried as she huddled on the table, looking at a sea of little faces that blinked at her.
“You have done it? Where is she?” Ivy demanded.
“Hush child, don’t be afraid.” The imps made a path for her as she walked over to her younger daughter and hugged her close. “Well?” she demanded.
“We found her. She is in the Old Kingdom.”
“Why didn't you bring her back? Is she safe?”
“You asked us to find her, not to bring her back,” the imp said with annoyance. “She is safe with her father.”
“Her father!” Ivy exclaimed, turning pale. “He is there?”
“Yes. Now about that matter of payment…” The imp grinned.
“What is it you want?” Ivy’s thoughts kept turning to Darrick. He will die before I get to him, he will die unless someone intervenes. Oh Mother, what will you do in your anger?
“The firstborn of the firstborn is sacrosanct. But will you release your secondborn to us?”
“What?” Ivy focused again on the imps. “What do you want of her?” She held Mary close, young Mary who stared at them with bewildered eyes, and looked at her mother as if she had never seen the woman before.
“To cook for us, to slave for us, to do the many things we have done for you all your life!”
Ivy glared down at them and they withered.
“You know we joke, Leanen Sídhe!”
“I begin to wonder. What is it you need?”
“As we have always needed.”
Ivy sighed. She beckoned Mary, who clambered down from the table and stood beside her mother, gripping her hand tightly.
With slow, clear words, Ivy incanted:
The protection of this house is yours, now and forever more.
Our sustenance is yours for as long as you need,
Our lives are pledged as friend to friend
That those who come against you will face our wrath.
The silence grew heavy as her words hung in the rafters, absorbing themselves in the wood. With quiet nods, the imps disappeared into the woodwork. Ivy felt a great weariness fall over her, and she leaned on Mary as she stumbled to a chair. Her daughter still stared at her wide-eyed.
“You have seen a lot of things I did not wish for you to know of yet,’ Ivy said gently. “And you will have to see more that I cannot hide from you. For now, will you make my tea? I have need of great strength.”
As Mary set the kettle to boil and mixed the special strengthening brew of herbs her mother relied on, Ivy sat staring at the fire. “The imps will not harm you. They will listen to you as my daughter. Do you feel safe here alone?”
“Yes, mother,” Mary answered as she placed the cup in her mother’s hand.
Ivy smiled as she caressed her face. “I am going to do a dangerous thing. Your father is in danger and this is the only way I can think of to get to him fast enough.” She held the cup in trembling hands, and took a long draught.
“Can I come with you?”
“I wish you could, but I do not know how.” Draining her cup, she took a handful of the herbs and threw them in the fire, muttering words under her breath. “Do not be afraid, Mary. Look for us when the sun sets.” With that, she threw herself into the fire.
Mary screamed as the fire seemed to greet and envelop Ivy. The bright shimmering blinded her and when she opened her eyes again, a beautiful, crested bird stepped out of the fire, seemingly surrounded by a halo of light. Then it unfurled its wings and flew away.

Next: (Fairy) Queen
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From Wikipedia:
In Greek mythology, a phoenix or phenix (Ancient Greek φοίνιξ phóinīx) is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix was subsequently adopted as a symbol in Early Christianity. While the phoenix typically dies by fire in most versions of the legend, there are less popular versions of the myth in which the mythical bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again.[1] Herodotus, Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Pope Clement I, Lactantius, Ovid, and Isidore of Seville are among those who have contributed to the retelling and transmission of the phoenix motif.
In his study of the phoenix, R. van der Broek summarizes, that, in the historical record, the phoenix "could symbolize renewal in general as well as the sun, time, the empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life".[2]

Thursday, 17 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Ogre

Previous: Naiads

The ugly creature that descended upon them in a crash of armour was taller than Darrick by at least two heads.
“What is that?” Darrick asked Euthalia, who was hissing like an angry cat.
“That’s an Ogre. There are very few of them left after the massacre. The ones who survived hate humans with a passion.”
The ogre roared. “Fee Fi Fo Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.” He stooped to stare Darrick in the eye.
"You." His eyes narrowed. "How DARE you enter my Kingdom! After all you have done to me, you still show your face?"
Darrick returned the stare in confusion.
"No words on your lips, human? Nothing to say before my ogre crunches your bones?"
"The Fairy Queen is talking to you through the ogre," Euthalia said through gritted teeth. "It would be to your credit to answer her."
“I know not what I have done to you, Your Majesty,” Darrick replied with a formal bow.
“Hah, formality and lies will get you nowhere. What are you doing in my realm?”
“My presence here was one of necessity. I would not have come except for great need.”
“Hmph. What need was that?”
“My daughter… was lost. But I have found her now and our presence need not burden you anymore.”
“Your daughter?” The ogre seemed to contemplate. His attention turned to Jane, who shrunk back behind her father. “Impossible. You lie.”
“I do not lie! She is my daughter.”
“Impossible! She cannot have children, not in your way. I do not know whose child this is, but it cannot be hers. Why do you insist on lying to me? Do you welcome your death?”
Darrick stared helplessly at the ogre’s bared teeth. “I’m not lying. I do not long for death, but I do not know who you talk about. Surely not about Euthalia? Jane is my child as sure as day is day.”
By now, multitudes of different creatures had gathered around them. The naiads stood behind them, blocking their way to the stream. Jane caught sight of the kelpie who winked at her and tossed his mane. Nymphs of all sorts circled them, whispering like the leaves. In their wake, the trees bent to each other, as if hemming the two humans in. The Ghillie Dhu sat frowning at them, especially Euthalia who still stood defiantly by Darrick. Different fairy folk zipped through the sky, winking in and out of sight. Jane thought she saw Petals sitting on a high branch, smiling smugly, but when she turned to look properly, the fairy had disappeared.
“Don’t claim ignorance. You have broken the treaty and will die by my law. No one can begrudge me that!” The ogre reached for his club and raised it high.
“Consider long, my Queen,” a voice spoke up. A stately centaur strode in between the ogre and Darrick. “Will you not hold fair trial in the Queen’s court? Will our fair folk then have cause to say that the Queen does not abide by law and justice? What if his family makes claim against you?”
“Why do you plague me, Alexei?” The Queen growled through the ogre.
“I remind you of what is fair. Isn’t that our role as the Council? Wasn’t it our wisdom that you sought?”
“Fine. So be it. Take them to court. That dryad included.” The ogre pointed a thick finger at Euthalia.
Solemnly, the centaurs surrounded the three of them.
“I’m sorry, but you will come with us,” Alexei said. Darrick nodded in assent. They followed the centaurs deeper into the Old Fairy Kingdom.
“What took you so long?” Euthalia whispered to one of the centaurs.
“Sorry, I had a hard time understanding what your messenger was saying,” Charon replied with a shrug.
The ogre watched them pass by with malice.

Next: Phoenix
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From Wikipedia:
An ogre (feminine ogress) is a being usually depicted as a large, hideous, manlike monster that eats human beings. Ogres frequently feature in mythology, folklore, and fiction throughout the world. They appear in many classic works ofliterature, and are most often described in fairy tales and folklore as eating babies.
In visual art, ogres are often depicted as inhumanly large and tall and having a disproportionately large head, abundant hair, unusually colored skin, a voracious appetite, and a strong body. Ogres are closely linked with giants and with human cannibals in mythology. In both folklore and fiction, giants are often given ogrish traits (such as the giants in "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Jack the Giant Killer", the Giant Despair in The Pilgrim's Progress, and thejötnar of Norse mythology); while ogres may be given giantish traits.
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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Naiads

Previous: Mermaids

Jane stifled a scream when a hand landed on her shoulder.
“There – I’ve found you. The naiads were actually right,” Euthalia said. “You know how fluid they tend to be with places and times. I looked for you at the adlet’s house, but you’d left. The trees said that you’d gone to the river, so I returned, but the Ghillie Dhu had wandered off somewhere and the only ones who would tell me anything were the naiads. Some of these nymphs! Althea is such a bad influence on them; just because the Ghillie Dhu said I’d done the right thing, she’s gone and told all the nymphs not to speak to me anymore! Why, what’s the matter?”
“My father -” Jane looked back to where she’d last seen him, but they were long gone.
“He’s looking for you, I know. Your sister told me last night. That’s why I was looking for you. I’m sorry I took so long -”
“No - he was just there when you startled me.”
Euthalia looked to where Jane was pointing and shrugged. “Well, let’s follow after him then. Didn’t he see you?”
“Hold on. Before we go anywhere with you, who are you?” Ataneq asked. “How do you know so much about Jane?”
Euthalia introduced herself and told them briefly about her meeting with Mary the night before and then listened as Jane described what she had just seen.
“Come on then - we don’t want to lose him. I’d rather get you out first, of course, but it sounds like he’s in trouble.”
The three of them set off in the general direction the imps were headed in. They soon found themselves back at the stream. Jane watched warily for the kelpie to appear. Instead a translucent girl stepped out of the waters and stared at them. Jane shied away.
“Is she dangerous?” the girl asked Euthalia.
Euthalia shrugged. “Are you?”
“Is she a naiad?” Jane whispered to Ataneq. He nodded.
“She’s really pretty.”
“Come on, stop whispering. They’re headed this way,” Euthalia called as she ran ahead of them. Jane and Ataneq sprinted to catch up.

The imps stopped, backing into a circle, with Darrick in the middle.
“Have you found your senses, elf-man?”
Darrick nodded, his eyes clear again.
“Good. We need all the help we can get.” The imps released him and he sat up, rubbing his head. Silently, he surveyed the naiads that streamed out of the water to surround them.
“What do they want?” he asked.
“We don’t know.”
“Why do you come here?” they seemed to speak with one voice, a low dulcet sound. “Why do you carry the wrath of the Queen to our fair banks? Why do you come here, hated of all? Who gave you permission to enter our land?”
The women circled them, drawing nearer and nearer.
Darrick swallowed hard. “What do we do?”
The imps chattered amongst themselves, a cacophony of sound that rose higher and shriller.
“Stop!” A voice rang out amidst the noise. As one, the naiads turn to face the newcomer.
“Leave him alone,” Euthalia cried. “Back, back to your waters, my friends. Keep your hands pure and clean.”
Hesitantly the naiads moved as Euthalia urged them.
“Why should we listen to you?” one asked as she returned to the stream. “The Queen is angry. She comes! She comes.” With that final cry, the naiads disappeared into the stream.
In the tense silence, they could hear a heavy thumping in the distance. A sob escaped Jane’s throat as she ran to her father. Darrick held her in a tight embrace.
“We are off now! Our mission is over! The Witch’s daughter has been found. Goodbye!” The imps scurried off in a rush, leaving Darrick bewildered. The dryad stood staring worriedly into the distance.
“What’s going on, Euthalia?” Darrick asked.
“I don’t know, but I don’t like it,” she replied.
The thumps grew steadily nearer.

Next: Ogre
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From Wikipedia:
In Greek mythology, the Naiads (Ancient Greek: Ναϊάδες) were a type of nymph (female spirit) who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water.
Naiads could be dangerous: Hylas of the Argo's crew was lost when he was taken by naiads fascinated by his beauty (see illustration). The naiads were also known to exhibit jealous tendencies. Theocritus' story of naiad jealousy was that of a shepherd, Daphnis, who was the lover of Nomia or Echenais; Daphnis had on several occasions been unfaithful to Nomia and as revenge she permanently blinded him. Salmacis forced the youth Hermaphroditus into a carnal embrace and, when he sought to get away, fused with him.
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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Mermaids

Previous: Leanen Sidhe

Past the clearing, the imps tramped steadily through the forest.
“What’s that?” Darrick asked suddenly.
“Eh? Don’t hear anything,” the chatty imp replied.
“Don’t you hear that singing?”
“Nope, we’re talking too loudly to hear anything,” another imp snickered.
Darrick scanned the surroundings as he followed, soon realising that he could hear the crash of waves in the distance. A haunting melody pierced his soul over the sound of the sea. Like one in a trance, he broke away from the company of the imps, floundering through the underbrush until he stumbled onto soft white sand. Far ahead of him, three mermaids sang as they played in the water. Slowly he stepped nearer, not wanting to disturb them.
Then one saw him, pointed and laughed. The song stopped as all three mermaids stopped and stared at him.
“Don’t stop,” he said.
“Who are you?” the green-eyed one asked. Her bronze hair curled down to her waist and she swished her tail like a cat.
“Would you like to follow us, Darrick, to our underwater halls?”
He hesitated.
“What’s the matter?”
His brow furrowed as he thought. “Jane.” He finally managed to say. “I need to find Jane.”
“You can look for Jane after you’ve visited,” the mermaid said. Beside her, her two sisters started to sing again.
Darrick took a fumbling step forward. “But -”
“It’ll only be a while, I promise. You’ve never seen anything like it.”
His stumbling steps soon took him to the water’s edge and he’d just started to splash into the waters when with a shout, the imps came pouring out of the forest.
The clamour seemed to wake Darrick out of his stupor, but his eyes remained slightly glazed.
“His man-side is much stronger than his elfblood,” his imp friend commented.
The mermaids hissed at them, making their song stronger, trying to lure Darrick further into the water. Darrick frowned, concentrating on the imps in front of him, shaking his head, trying to clear it.
“And again we save the elf-man,” one of the imps commented as they swarmed over him, dragging him away from the water.

Jane stood panting at the edge of the forest. “Did we lose them?”
“I - I think so,” Ataneq looked over his shoulder.
They’d left the stream a while ago, and Jane was fairly sure that the horse-thing had stopped then. She wasn’t sure about the person covered in leaves. There seemed to be a commotion happening by the shore ahead of them and Jane drew back, trying not to draw attention to themselves. Half hidden by a large tree, she saw a few mermaids swimming away and sighed with relief. Whether or not they were friendly, she felt that the less fairy creatures she met the better. But the rest of the ruckus seemed to be coming towards them now, and with a feeling of frustration, Ataneq and Jane headed deeper into the forest, out of their path, and hid in a clump of bushes.
The little people were dragging a large man by his shoulders. They had tied his hands and feet together and were grumbling about how it had turned out to be a bad idea to invite him along in the end. Jane drew further back into the bushes. It was only after they had passed and she stuck out her head a little to see if it was safe to come out did she catch sight of their captive’s face.

Next: Naiads
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From Wikipedia:
A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish.[1] Mermaids appear in thefolklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia. The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.

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Monday, 14 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Leanen Sídhe

Previous: Kelpie

“Why do you search for the Witch’s daughter?” They’d been walking for hours through the forest, making an incessant racket. Darrick figured he might as well add to it since he had nothing else to do.
The imp beside him looked at him with a confused expression. “Because the Witch asked us to.”
“Oh. So it’s true then, that the imps answer to witches?”
The imp shrugged. “Most. But mainly to this one.”
“Why’s that?”
The confused expression on the imp’s face turned to curiosity. “Because she is also Leanen Sídhe. Did you not know?”
“Leanen what?” Darrick had a vague feeling that he was supposed to know who the imp was referring to.
The imp chuckled. “Oh, he does not know! The elf-man does not know!”
“What do you mean?”
“The Witch is Leanen Sídhe. She is of the fairy folk. In fact, elf-man, she is the daughter of the Fairy Queen, the reason of the Queen’s hatred of the race of men! Oh, the horrid humans who stole her precious daughter far, far away!”
“The Queen hates humans?”
“Oh, with an undying hatred. If she catches the Witch’s daughter or her husband, there is no knowing what she will do!” He chuckled with glee.
And Jane is in there, Darrick thought, a queasy feeling in his stomach. “How much longer until we get into this Fairyland?”
“Almost there, impatient one.”
They stopped at a large clearing surrounded by oaks. Darrick looked around, his eyes narrowing. He recognised this place. It was here, more than twenty years ago, that he had first seen his wife.

He run so far for so long that he didn’t know where he was anymore. He almost fell to the ground in exhaustion, his tiredness for once overpowering his grief. Why would anyone raid his village in the night and slaughter all his family but him? What had he done to deserve this? Why was he still alive? His father was dead. His mother had died in his arms this morning. His little sister, sweet Adele Adanessa, barely six, had been hacked to pieces before his very eyes. He lay himself at the foot of a great oak, inviting Father Oak to take him into his bosom.
“What are you doing here, child?” a soft feminine voice woke him up.
He looked at the young woman standing over him. “Child? You can’t be more than a year older than me.”
“Is that so?” she smirked. “How old are you? You huddle into that little piece of ground like a twelve-year-old.”
“I’m fifteen,” he got to his feet angrily. “What do you want?”
“Is that how you talk to girls?” 
Darrick looked down at his feet. “No, sorry,” he said. 
She laughed. 
“What’s so funny?” He looked up again looking into her eyes.
“You’re blushing.”
Darrick opened his mouth, but couldn’t find anything to say.
“Anyway, as I was saying, what are you doing here?”
“Uh - I got lost,” he replied. 
“Hm, I can tell. Come on, I’ll show you the way home.”
Darrick followed her through a clearing onto a clearly marked forest path.
“Just follow this path. You’ll get home soon enough.”
“How do you know?”
“Oh, I have ways. I’ve been there before.”
“I’ve never seen you before.”
“Maybe I didn’t let you.”
“Will - will I see you again?”
She smiled, winked and walked away.

Darrick felt a tinge of guilt. He should have gone home and told Ivy what he was doing. Or he could have sent a note. She would be worrying herself half to death by now.

Next: Mermaids
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From Wikipedia:
In Celtic folklore, the Irish: leannán sí "Barrow-Lover" (Scottish Gaelic: leannan sìth; Manx: lhiannan shee; [lʲan̴̪-an ˈʃiː]) is a beautiful woman of the Aos Sí (people of the barrow or the fairy folk) who takes a human lover. Lovers of the leannán sídhe are said to live brief, though highly inspired, lives. The name comes from the Gaelic words for a sweetheart, lover, or concubine and the term for a barrow or fairy-mound.
The leannán sídhe is generally depicted as a beautiful muse, who offers inspiration to an artist in exchange for their love and devotion; however, this frequently results in madness for the artist, as well as premature death. W. B. Yeats popularized a slightly different perspective on these spirits with emphasis on their vampiric tendencies:[1]
The Leanhaun Shee (fairy mistress) seeks the love of mortals. If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding another to take their place. The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless, and will not let them remain long on earth—this malignant phantom.


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Saturday, 12 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Kelpies

Previous: Jaculus

“Slow down, Ataneq!” Jane called as she ran after the adlet. “I can’t run as fast as you.”
Ataneq grinned back at her. “You have useless human legs. You should grow two more, like me!” He slowed down, allowing her to catch up.
“Where are we going?”
“It’s a fine day, and you can’t do anything until the portal opens so we might as well enjoy the day.”
“What if - what if the Queen comes after me?”
“Ah, but that’s why we left my cottage. She would go there first, see? So now we keep moving until she is so tired she can’t keep up!”
Jane looked at him with some misgiving. “Can’t she track us?”
Ataneq shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
They soon came to a rushing river. Ataneq plunged into the icy water. Jane sat down by the bank. She watched the adlet splash around idly for a while, then looked further up the stream. To her astonishment, she saw a white horse with a sky blue mane swimming in the river towards them. Ataneq saw it as the same time and stared at it with his mouth open.
“What is that?” Jane called out Ataneq.
“I - I don’t know,” he replied. It ignored the adlet, heading instead towards the bank.
She wasn’t sure if it was a trick of her eyes, but it seemed, faintly, that the horse’s mane was constantly dripping with water, occasionally curling up like a thick mist.
“Aren’t you beautiful,” Jane said in awe.
“Of course I am,” the horse answered, with a little derisive snort. “Want to go for a ride?”
Jane blushed. “You - I… I’m sorry. I didn’t know you could. Uh well.”
Ataneq laughed. “I thought you’d know by now that this isn’t quite back home, Jane.”
“Jane, is it? That’s a nice name. Come on, want to go for a ride?”
“Well, I - I don’t know how to ride.” Jane wished she could stop stammering, but the beautiful horse in front of her was making her wits confused. “I mean, I’ve never ridden a horse.”
“A horse! I’m not a mere horse,” the creature neighed. “I am the water horse, the Ceffyl Dŵr, the Bäckahästen, the Kelpie of these shores.”
“Yes, and a nuisance,” a voice spoke up from the trees. “I wish you’d go back to Scotland and leave me in peace.”
“Why not you go back, dear Ghillie Dhu and leave me here in peace?” the Kelpie snapped. “Or maybe you’ve forgotten that we’re not welcome there anymore.”
A dark-haired man dressed in leaves and mosses emerged yawning from a nearby copse. His eyes focused on Jane. “What are you doing back here? Didn’t Euthalia lead you home?”
Jane stared at him with a blank look. “Who’s Euthalia?”
“The dryad. She said she led you home last night.”
“She’s been with me in my cottage all night,” Ataneq said.
“Then who -” the Ghillie Dhu frowned. “Two humans in a day. This is not good.”
“How about a ride then?” the Kelpie said brightly.
“No, Kelpie, we don’t want her death on our hands,” the Ghillie Dhu said, still frowning at Jane.
“Well, I just thought I’d help the Queen a little. Her fairy folk are on the way anyway.”
Jane backed away, Ataneq flanking her.
“What do we do?” she asked him helplessly.

Next: Leanan sídhe
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From Wikipedia:

The kelpie is a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland and Ireland; the name may be from Scottish Gaelic cailpeach or colpach "heifer, colt".
In mythology, the kelpie is described as a strong and powerful horse. It is a white and sky blue colour and appeared as a lost pony, but could be identified by its constantly dripping mane. Its mane and tail are a bit curly. Its skin was said to be like that of a seal, smooth but as cold as death when touched. Kelpies were said to transform into beautiful women to lure men into their traps. They created illusions to keep themselves hidden, keeping only their eyes above water to scout the surface.
The fable of the kelpie varies by region. The kelpie's mane is said to be a sky blue colour. The water horse is a common form of the kelpie, said to lure humans into the water to drown them. The water horse would encourage people to ride on its back, and once its victims fell into its trap, the water horse's skin would become adhesive and the horse would bear the victim into the river, dragging them to the bottom of the water and devouring them—except the heart or liver. A common Scottish tale is the story of nine children lured onto a kelpie's back, while a tenth kept his distance. The kelpie chased the tenth child, but he escaped. Another more gruesome variation on this tale is that the tenth child simply stroked the kelpie's nose but, when his hand stuck to it, he took a knife from his pocket and cut his own hand off, cauterizing it with wood from a nearby fire.

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Friday, 11 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Jaculus

Previous: Imps

Darrick fumed silently. As soon as the Elven King had dismissed him, Erurainon had grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the elven halls. His elves had then flung the bag back over his head and with grips as tight as vices, started to haul him away.
“Wait - Please you have to help me.”
“Shut up.”
“Eru -”
“Don’t you ever speak my name.” His voice was a low growl. “Now shut up, or I’ll shut you up.”
They’d been walking for a long time since, as silent as the grave. He could barely hear the sounds of the elves passing - they were as quiet as his mother. Mother, Darrick thought.
“Just listen to me, uncle.” He felt the grip on his arm tighten. “You search far and wide for my mother. You know the pain of a missing loved one. Don’t you think I feel the same for my daughter?”
He waited for a reply.
“Just lead me to the Old Fairy Kingdom. Lead me to where your… people last saw her. Your grand niece. I won’t come back here again, I promise.”
There was a whisper, nothing more.
“You won’t be disobeying anyone. Please, just this one favour.”
They stopped so suddenly that Darrick knocked into the elf in front of him. He blinked as they pulled the bag off his head. They were back in familiar forests and the sun had risen higher than he'd expected.
"You are at the edge of the three realms," Erurainon said. "Straight ahead you'll find a portal through to the Old Fairy Kingdom. It only opens for a span from even until midnight. We go no further than here in this light."
Darrick looked at the place Erurainon had pointed at, and when he turned his head, the elves had vanished into the forest.
"Thank you," he called anyway, sure that they could still hear him.

There was nothing in the clearing except for the rubble of an old house. To wait until sun down was a long time. Darrick contemplated returning home first - he'd been gone all night, after all. Ivy and Mary would be frantic. He was just about to turn when something small and heavy hit him from behind, sending him tumbling like a rock.
The imps surrounding him laughed.
"What was that for?"
"Get down, elf-man. A jaculus hunts you."
"Just follow us."
"Somewhere. Nowhere. Anywhere. Just follow us if you want to live."
Darrick hesitated, but the little people pushed and pulled him and he allowed himself to be led by them. After all, Ivy trusted them. Or used to, anyway. Once they reached the edge of the house, he saw it. The small dragon creature hissed at him, frustrated that his prey had gotten away. It seemed to glare malevolently at him before slinking away.
"Thank you," he said, wondering at this turn of events.
"Thank us? Thank the Witch. If it were not for the Witch, we would not care about you. Already we waste time with you, clumsy elf-man."
The imps huddled together, ignoring him. They seemed to be tracking something.

The silence of the forest made him uneasy again. Could it be the elves returning? Or could it - he caught a flash of dark gold from the corner of his eye. The jaculus had not left. The imps’ squabbling remained at the edge of his awareness. No, no, no. The dog-man would not take her in. Why not? He has a kind heart. We should look for the dryad instead.
This time, he was aware. When the dragon creature pounced, he ducked, grabbed a convenient rock (the same one the imps had thrown at him, he supposed) and threw it at the creature. It hissed and slunk away again.
The imps stopped squabbling to stare at him.
"Hm. The elf-man has his uses after all."
"What are you doing here?" he asked. "Who are you looking for?"
The imps shared uneasy glances and huddled again, this time whispering so quietly that Darrick couldn’t make out what they were saying. Finally, what seemed to be their spokesperson turned to him. “We have decided that you will indeed be of greatest help in our mission for the Witch, no matter how we do not like your kind. We search for the Witch’s daughter.”
Darrick stared at them in incomprehension. “I don’t see why -”
“Come, we have no time to waste. The portal here is closed. We must go the long way.”
“The long way to where?”
“To the Old Kingdom, of course.” The imps set off at a slow jog.

Next: Kelpie
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From Wikipedia:

The jaculus (or iaculus, pl. jaculi, meaning "thrown" in Latin) is a small mythical serpent or dragon. It can be shown with wings and sometimes has front legs. It is also sometimes known as the javelin snake.
It was said that the jaculus hid in the trees and sprang out at its victims. The force of it launching itself at the victim led to the association with javelins.[1] Pliny described it as follows: "The jaculus darts from the branches of trees; and it is not only to our feet that the serpent is formidable, for these fly through the air even, just as though they were hurled from an engine."[2]

I had a crazy busy week and now I've lost my lead. :(