Thursday, 24 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Unicorn

Previous: Trolls

The Fairy Queen and Elven King continued their dance of glares. Her face was beautiful even in its austereness, like an exquisitely carved greek statue. The Elven King matched her stare for stare, unblinking in his sternness.
Ivy went to stand by her husband. Jane, looking once hesitantly at Euthalia, stepped up beside them.
“And we are complete,” Ivy whispered in the silence. Time itself seemed to drag its feet as the monarchs stood locked in battle.
“Not quite –“ Darrick said.
“Oh, we are,” Ivy said with a knowing smile. “She comes.”
A glimmer of a frown crossed Darrick’s face. “You brought Mary here? How?”
Ivy shook her head. “See the imps at the edges of the crowd? If they’re here, it means Mary has left home. I wonder…”
“Those imps! They’re the ones who dragged me into all of this!”
“They? How?”
“They asked me to follow them here on some mission for a witch!”
Ivy laughed aloud. Everyone turned to look, even the King and Queen.
“Oh, Mother. How your rule of law fails!”
“This is not a matter for laughter, Iliana. Are you quite mad? Has being with this – this half-elf made you crazy?”
“Darrick has broken no law, Mother. The imps, those blessed rascals, invited him into the Old Kingdom.”
“It is settled then,” Alexei the centaur announced. “No law has been broken. This court is adjourned.” As one, the centaurs turned to leave.
The centaurs stopped. Charon turned in the direction of the voice. A stately white horse with a single horn in the middle of its head trotted up to him, bearing Mary on his back.
“Why are you here?” Charon asked, casting a worried glance at Alexei. He could hear Euthalia laughing behind him.
“The unicorn called me. My –“
“Mother! Father!” Mary slid off the unicorn, running to her parents.
“How did you come? And why?” Ivy asked as Darrick hugged her close.
“I heard your voice on the wind. You were calling to me. So – so I thought I’d go back to the place where I saw Charon last night. But I couldn’t. The trees wouldn’t let me,” she gave Euthalia a baleful look. “I tried to walk around the trees – I walked for so long, and the winds were getting so strong I was afraid I would be blown away. That was when the unicorn appeared. He told me to get on his back and he’d bring me in – oh, he’s gone!”
“Wait, Mary. You didn’t tell me anything about Charon this morning.”
“Oh! Oh dear,” she blushed. “I wasn’t supposed to, well, I promised not to tell.” She stole a look at Charon who was frowning at her. Alexei beckoned him angrily.
“And who is this, Iliana?” the Fairy Queen asked.
“This is my second born,” Ivy replied. The little family drew together in the midst of the fairy creatures.
“So. You were the second intruder,” the Queen said. There was a slight trace of rancour in her voice. “And I suppose I have no recourse against your intrusion either, seeing as you are… of my blood.”
“The question I have is who was calling for you in my voice?” Ivy said, looking at Mary thoughtfully.

Next: Vila
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From Wikipedia:
The unicorn is a legendary animal that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. The unicorn was depicted in ancient seals of the Indus Valley Civilization and was mentioned by the ancient Greeksin accounts of natural history by various writers, including Ctesias, Strabo, Pliny the Younger, and Aelian.[1] The Bible also describes an animal, the re'em, which some translations have rendered with the word unicorn.[1]
In European folklore, the unicorn is often depicted as a white horselike or goatlike animal with a long horn and cloven hooves (sometimes a goat's beard). In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it was commonly described as an extremely wild woodlandcreature, a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin. In the encyclopedias its horn was said to have the power to render poisoned water potable and to heal sickness. In medieval and Renaissance times, the horn of the narwhal was sometimes sold as unicorn horn.


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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Trolls

Previous: Sylph

It was the steady beat of many feet that woke the trolls under the bridge. If there had been any less, they wouldn’t have noticed, so light were the footfalls of the elves.
“Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” cried Papa Troll. No one answered him, so Papa Troll poked his head out from under the bridge. Two seconds later, he was hustling Mama Troll and Little Troll out from under the bridge and into the forest.
“Why are we running?” Mama Troll asked, lifting up her apron from getting in the way of her legs.
“We are being invaded by elves. We must inform the Queen,” Papa Troll replied, picking up Little Troll who was tripping over roots and stones and all sorts of things.
“Elves! But the elves left us a long time ago!”
“But now they have come back.”
They ran on in silence, Mama Troll with a big frown on her face, Papa Troll panting as he carried Little Troll. As they ran, Papa Troll shouted a warning to every passing creature that he saw.

The three trolls burst into the centre of the court, startling everyone.
“Oh Queen, My Queen, we are being invaded!” Papa Troll blurted.
“Who dares invade my kingdom?”
“The elves - the elves are coming with bows and swords!”
Even as he spoke, the sound of running feet made every one turn and rise to their feet. The elves poured into the court, weapons at the ready.
“What is the meaning of this?” The Fairy Queen’s face darkened with anger as the Elven King strode up to her throne.
“Hello, my dear,” he smirked.
“Why do you come armed to the teeth and ready for war?”
“There was a disturbance in the balance,” he said, his glance flicking towards Darrick. “I believe you were about to murder one of my subjects.”
“Your subject?”
“Yes. Estranged, surely, but one of mine.”
“And why would I have done that?”
The Elven King shrugged. “I have never professed to understand the way you think. But I felt it, as sure as you feel my sword at your throat now. You were draining his life force -”
“Who? Prove it!”
“Adanion.” He beckoned Darrick with a finger. Erurainon escorted Darrick to the king’s side.
“Mother! How could you?” Ivy turned on her mother.
“I stopped when you - but how is he yours?” the Fairy Queen asked the Elven King in confusion.
With a sigh, the Elven King explained.

Next: Unicorn
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From Wikipedia:
A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In origin, troll may have been a negative synonym for ajötunn (plural jötnar), a being in Norse mythology. In Old Norse sources, beings described as trolls dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings.
Later, in Scandinavian folklore, trolls became beings in their own right, where they live far from human habitation, are notChristianized, and are considered dangerous to human beings. Depending on the region from which accounts of trolls stem, their appearance varies greatly; trolls may be ugly and slow-witted or look and behave exactly like human beings, with no particularly grotesque characteristic about them. Trolls are sometimes associated with particular landmarks, which at times may be explained as formed from a troll exposed to sunlight. One of the most famous elements of Scandinavian folklore, trolls are depicted in a variety of media in modern popular culture.
From the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Sylph

Previous: Ragana

The fairy flew around the place where she had been standing, looking confused. After a few passes, she flew back to the adlet. The old woman gazed upon him and chuckled. It has been a long time, my friend, but Baba Yaga remembers. Do you?
She watched the proceedings for a while, frowning a little at displeasure to discover her story being told by the Leanen Sidhe, but she hadn’t sworn her to silence. Still, what was the adlet waiting for? Was he so hopeless he still could not find the answer? Or maybe he’d given up and was happy to remain as he was. She hadn’t thought about that.
“You’re still here.”
Baba Yaga turned to look at the beautiful creature that hovered in the air beside her. “Yes.”
“Why do you not show yourself to the court? Are you afraid?”
“Why do you not show yourself to the court?” Baba Yaga asked in return.
“It has nothing to do with me. Whether the man lives or dies, he cannot harm a sylph so we do not care about his fate, not like the others. Why then should I stand in attendance?” The sylph yawned.
“Does he not?”
The sylph gestured vaguely. “He has not thus far.”
“But what if he does in the future?”
“Then he dies along with us, so we care not either.”
“What a strange stance to take.”
“Well? I have answered your question. Will you not return the favour?”
“Ah, well. I have my reasons. I am not afraid, and yet, I will not go where my words are not welcome. I feel in my heart that the Queen will not welcome my presence now.”
“That is true. Her anger still burns. Are you not a creature of the fairy folk?”
The old crone cackled. “I am, but I am not.”
“Like the elves?”
A look akin to envy crossed the woman’s face. “Alike and not yet alike. We share a similar fate - one your queen has not yet come to terms with.”
“Interesting,” the sylph said. “Well, I will go then. It seems they have settled on something, I cannot tell what.” With that, she flew away.
Baba Yaga turned her attention again to the court.

Darrick had recovered his colour and most of his composure. He sat between Jane and Euthalia, listening with horror to Ivy’s tale. He remembered well his long illness that baffled the village’s best healers. He had steadily lost strength for no reason, slipping in and out of dreams, never knowing what was real or what was not. And suddenly, he had sat up one morning feeling better. His recovery was touted as a miracle, his wife had told him it was the herbs she had been giving him. The herbs she had been relying on more and more.
“Don’t worry, Father. Everything will be alright,” Jane said, giving him a look. It was the look he’d seen many time on Ivy’s face - calm, knowing, assured, telling him that he was fretting for nothing.
“How will we get out from here?” he surveyed the centaurs that guarded them. They looked grim. In the far distance, he saw the ogre and shuddered.

Next: Trolls
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From Wikipedia:
Sylph (also called sylphid) is a mythological spirit of the air.[1] The term originates in Paracelsus, who describes sylphs as invisible beings of the air, his elementals of air.[2] There is no known substantial mythos associated with them.

Monday, 21 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Ragana

Previous: (Fairy) Queen

Ataneq sat at the edge of the court, watching both with fear and relief. Relief that he hadn’t been called out for judgement, as Euthalia had, fear for the life of his friends. Petals came to settle on his shoulder.
“See, I told you she was angry,” she said.
“I didn’t say I didn’t believe you. I just said I couldn’t do anything about it.”
“You could have delivered her to the Queen and forgone the growing of her anger.”
“Would you betray your own house guests?” he asked pointedly. Petals didn’t answer, but shifted uncomfortably. He saw the phoenix fly into the court, wondering at its beauty, but before he could point out the bird to Petals, there was a loud sound, and a sharp, bright light. He threw up his hands to cover his face. All around him, the different fairy folk stirred and talked, and he turned to look at the tall woman, face as grim as the queen’s who stood with an arm around Jane.
He stared in wonder, but something else caught his eye. Far beyond the throne, half hidden in the recesses of the wood, an old crone stood, silently watching.
“Do you see what I see?” he said quietly to Petals. “Just there, behind the Great Yew.”
“Hmmm,” Petals hummed to herself. “I have seen her before. She wanders these woods quite often, with two or three others.”
“What do they call them?”
“I believe in their language they are Ragana. Minor witches who deal in herblore and hedge magics.”
Ataneq looked at her carefully again, but it was too far to make out her features clearly.
“Do they ever travel alone?”
Petals shrugged. “Not that I’ve seen. Now that you say it, it is a little strange.” With that, the fairy zipped away. Ataneq turned his attention back to the court.

“So you finally return, Iliana,” The Queen said.
“Return, Mother? No, I come to claim back what is mine.”
“Yours? Impossible.”
“Did you not have human lovers before, mother? Am I not a child of one your unions?”
“But far in the land of man without the strength of our powers, how do you not consume him? How is he still alive?”
“That is a tale not for this court, Mother. Restore him to me and I will tell you of it one day.”
“No, tell me now or he does not leave alive.”
Ivy looked down at her husband. “Jane, take care of your father,” she said before answering the Queen’s summons.

He was fading, and I had no clue how to keep him alive, when there was a knock on my door. The imps answered it, divining that it was a fairy creature. An old crone entered my house and walked right into our bedchamber.
“What do you want?” I asked her, both angry and distressed.
“Do you treat those who would help you this way, Leanen Sídhe?” she said mildly.
“Can you help? How? Who are you and how do you know who I am?”
“Oh, the Ragana can help you, sure enough. That is your name for us, is it not?”
I told her frankly then that I had never seen hide nor hair of the Ragana in years and knew nothing about them but a name. 
“Oh, we are old crones, we are, we keep to ourselves, we do. But I divined that you needed help this night. And so here I am.”
“What do you wish for in return?”
“Ah, the price, always the price. You are wise to ask first. I ask for safe passage in the Old Kingdom, for as long as I shall need it.”
I wanted to ask her why she could not ask you herself, but I felt in my heart she had reasons of her own. So I assented. “For as long as you shall need it, and not a moment more.”
“You drive a hard bargain. Ah, well. But that will suit my purposes.” 
That night she taught me her herblore - medicinal flowers, herbs that protect, herbs that strengthen, roots that deaden your need for power. I have lived as a human for long enough that my secondborn is of almost pure human blood. But my firstborn has inherited, as all firstborns will. How he survived until the night I learnt the Ragana’s craft, I do not know. For only once I staunched the need for lifeblood did realise how much I drew of him.

Next: Sylph
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From Wikipedia:
Ragana, is an old looking female, or witch. Mostly has dark intentions and powers to control forces of nature. They probably were old ladies living by the forest, having a good knowledge of plants and their use for medical and other purposes

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fragments: I am Thine; #Easter #poetry


O, whither dost thou wander, treacherous heart of mine?
O, whither wilt thou go, how far and for how long a time?
How long wilt thou cry for relief no man can give
While running far and fast from the only true reprieve?


And my heart breaks
Again and again and again
Because I don't know where I'm going
Although I do.
And I know I must die to live again
But I am afraid of death
I am afraid of giving up the things that mean the world to me
But are not
I am afraid that once I let you go,
I will be bereft forever.
But I know that my heartsong sings
In words that only one can understand
That in the silences are the beats of his heart
And in the noise is the strength of his hands
And in my chaos is his peace.


O death, where is thy victory?
O grave, where is thy sting?


You call to me, like an insistent lover
Telling me over and over
I am yours, you are mine
I am yours, you are mine

You pull me close, and I lean my head on your breast
Listening to your heartbeat
Close to mine
Oh, so close to mine

And when I close my eyes, all I can hear
Is a heart that beats for me
But I am out of sync,
Drawn away

By the dragon's flight, by the wings that beat
By the splendour and pomp this world brings
By the words that tumble through my head
Until I realise -

That you are Eldest,
Wisest amongst the Wise
The First and Only,
The Creator of all,
In your eyes are the Fires of Creation
On your lips, the Word of Life
The Binding Word that holds all things.

You are Eru Iluvatar and Aslan:
The first, the Creator, the uncreated one.
You are the Ancient Tongue and the Words of Power
For when you speak, all things are made, all things are revealed.
You are Aragorn and Belgarion,
The promised, the hoped for, the messiah.
And when I frame you in the worlds that I live in
I understand you a little better than before.

And my heart again falls into step
Closer, but not quite,
Prone to starts and stops
As fears take me and release me
And I cry out
But the wind steals my breath, carrying away my words
And there is nothing but clamour
Yet underneath it all, that steady beat
That draws me, draws me nearer
With a song that resonates with mine
Until we are lifted in flight
And all we know is that

I am Yours and You are mine
I am Yours and You are mine
I am Yours


Oh whither dost thou wander, fickle heart of mine?
To the garden of thy lover, where thy fate will twine
With his ever deeper as he bids you come
Behold the place where he cried, "It is done!"

And in thy faithlessness he speaks
"I have come to strengthen the bones that are weak
And you have nothing left to fear
For all your thoughts to me are dear."
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Saturday, 19 April 2014

#atozchallenge: (Fairy) Queen

Previous: Phoenix

The Queen in her anger was a sight to behold. She stood tall - taller than Darrick, almost as tall as the ogre - with bronze curls that reached to her waist. Her skin was fair, like light cream, touched with pink carnation anger. She watched with flashing black eyes as Darrick, Jane and Euthalia were escorted into her presence.
It was unlike any court that Jane could ever have imagined. She remembered the hard stone of their village courthouse, the thick, scored wood of the whipping post, the smell of fear and blood, the mud and dirt and hopelessness that underlay every thing. Here, lush, thick grass, soft to the foot, was ringed by great trees. An ancient yew stood prominently at the head of the circle, under which the Fairy Queen stood by her throne of silver. She could feel the anger emanating from the Queen, and yet the calm of the Council of Centaurs pervaded the place, seeking to placate it, if not turn it aside.
“What do we do, Father?” she whispered.
“I do not know.” He looked haggard in the light, an anxiety she could not fathom on his face. What she felt was a lightening of her spirit, as if a great joy was descending upon her.
“You’re glowing,” Euthalia said with astonishment.
“Am I?” Jane almost giggled. “I feel so - so powerful.”
The Queen raised her hands.
“Let the prisoners be brought forward,” she called in a dark and terrible voice. Jane’s heart resonated with its power, drawing strength from it even as her father paled and faded beside her. It was he who now gripped her hand in terror as they stepped forward to the raised dais.
“What are we charged with, O Queen?” she found herself speaking.
“Trespass and breaking of the treaty,” she proclaimed, but a glimmer of uncertainty had entered her eyes. “What are you, human? You appear strange to my eyes.”
“What am I?” Jane laughed. “I do not know. I have not felt this before; I do not know what it means.”
“No matter. You have still trespassed where you have not been invited to enter.”
“Did I? I came here by accident, I admit. But I have felt nothing but welcome in my spirit.”
“And what of you, O man, O ancient enemy?” The Queen turned her face towards the cowering Darrick. “What excuse do you have?”
“I -” he tried to speak, but he could not claw the words from his throat.
“So you admit! You came unbidden, breaking our treaty, breaking our laws. Your life is forfeit to me!” A cruel smile spread over the Fairy Queen’s face. She lifted her hand, a long knife appearing in it, standing ready to strike.
“Let all witness!” she cried, her hand falling. There was a bright flash and confusion, and when everyone could see again, the Queen still stood with her arm upraised. Darrick lay unharmed in his daughter’s shadow, a phoenix by her side.
“Well done, daughter,” the phoenix whispered as it fluttered down to the ground.
“What sorcery is this?” the Queen asked. The bird shimmered and in its place stood a young woman.
“Hello, mother,” Ivy said, laying an arm around Jane’s shoulders.

Next: Ragana
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From Wikipedia:
The Fairy Queen or Queen of the Fairies was a figure from English folklore who was believed to rule the fairies. Based onShakespeare's influence, she is often named as Titania or Mab. In Irish folklore, the last High Queen of the Daoine Sidhe - and wife of the High King Finvarra - was named Oona (or Oonagh, or Una, or Uonaidh etc.). In the ballad tradition of Northern England and Lowland Scotland, she was called the Queen of Elphame.
The character is also associated with the name Morgan (as with the Arthurian character of Morgan Le Fey, or Morgan of the Fairies), Meave, and L'annawnshee (literally, Underworld Fairy). In the Child Ballads Tam Lin (Child 39) and Thomas the Rhymer (Child 37), she is represented as both beautiful and seductive, and also as terrible and deadly. The Fairy Queen is said to pay a tithe to Hell every seven years, and her mortal lovers often provide this sacrifice.
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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]