Wednesday 30 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Zână

Previous: Yara-ma-yha-who

Jane sat on the rocking chair under the shade of their porch. She could hardly believe that it had only been a day since she’d made her way into the Old Fairy Kingdom and met so many memorable fairy creatures. She was a little afraid that when she went to sleep that night, she would wake up and have no memory of Ataneq, Euthalia or the beautiful Fairy Queen.
My grandmother, she thought with some astonishment. She had always believed that both her parents were orphans - true enough on Darrick’s side. 
I have a great grandfather too! It was hard to wrap her head around. Opening her journal in her lap, she started to write, trying to remember every detail of the day before it faded away.
Hearing a sound beside her, she looked up to find a beautiful girl sitting next to her, watching her write.
“Who are you?” she asked, surprised at her lack of astonishment, as if somehow since last night, nothing could astonish or frighten her anymore.
The girl laughed, a cheery tinkling sound. “I am one of the Zână. I bestow gifts of beauty and fortune to those who deserve them. I’ve always been with you in this place.”
“Have you? I’ve never seen you before.”
“You’ve only just had your eyes opened,” the Zână replied.
Jane thought about it for a while. “That’s true. But how do I know you are who you say you are?”
“I suppose you have to take me on trust.”
“Can my mother see you?”
“Of course she can. Do you think I come here just to watch you write?” she laughed again. “Though it is fun. You do make up such interesting things.”
Jane blushed. “I’ve never shown this to anyone.”
“Oh, I’m not quite anyone. And don’t worry. I haven’t told any of this to your mother.”
“Pinky promise. That’s what you say, don’t you?”
“Well. Do you want to go play? We could go to the stream and meet the Ghillie Dhu. He’s real fun - when he’s not trying to sleep.”
Jane pursed her lips as she thought. “You know what, I’m going to talk to my mother about you. Just in case.”
The Zână smiled. “Go ahead, Jane. I’ll  be right here when you come back.”
Closing her journal, Jane tucked the book under her arm as she walked into the kitchen.
“Yes, Jane?”
“There’s this girl on the porch who says she’s a Zână.”
“Oh, Diana? What about her?”
“Remember you said we need to be careful?”
“Oh, don’t worry about her. She’s been around for a long time. In fact, she used to help me take care of you. I wondered when you’d notice her.”
“Okay then. Can I…”
“Go off and play with her. Just remember to come home for dinner.”
Ivy smiled indulgently as Jane ran back out the door.
“Are you sure about this?” Darrick asked, looking up from the woodcarving he was working on.
“Oh, she’ll be safe. After all, she has important family in all three lands. Who would dare harm her?”


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From Wikipedia:
Zână (plural zâne; zînă and zîne, d̦ână and d̦âne in old spellings) is the Romanian equivalent of the Greek Charites. They are the opposite of monsters like Muma Padurii. These characters make positive appearances in fairy tales and reside mostly in the woods. They can also be considered the Romanian equivalent of fairies and of the Germanic Elf.
They give life to fetuses in utero and bestow upon them great gifts like the art of dancing, beauty, kindness, and luck. In folk tales, it is told not to upset them because they also have the power to do bad things or put a curse on the wrongdoer. They also act like guardian angels, especially for children who enter the woods, or for other good people.



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Tuesday 29 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Yara-ma-yha-who

Previous: Xiuhcoatl

“Well. Now that’s all settled, I think we should be getting home,” Ivy said. “If you have no objections, Mother?”
“Even if I had, would you listen to me, Iliana?” the Fairy Queen said wearily. “Go on then, do as you wish.”
“Come on then, Darrick. It’s been a long day and the children need rest.”
They took their leave of the council and the remaining creatures, Jane saying a fond farewell to Ataneq whilst Mary waved to Charon as they left. Ivy stopped to thank Euthalia personally for watching out for her family.
Euthalia seemed to turn a peculiar shade of pinkish green. “It was the least I could do for Darrick Oak-knower. After all, he saved my life.”
“I did? When?” Darrick replied in surprise.
“Yes - years ago, when you protected my oak grove from the wood-cutters. I was the tree they almost felled. Why did you do it? I’ve always wanted to ask.”
Darrick’s fingers curled around his wife’s. “That was the grove where I first met Ivy. I felt it was sacred to me.”
“Ah.” Euthalia smiled. “Then it worked out well for both of us.”
Taking leave of Euthalia, the little family made their way out of the forest.
The paths were familiar to Ivy and she took her family through the old haunts of her youth from ages past. Jane and Mary stared with wonder at each new creature that Ivy introduced to them. Darrick found himself looking at his wife with new eyes.
“Be quiet here,” Ivy said, stopping suddenly. “This is the haunt of the Yara-ma-yha-who.”
“Who?” Mary asked with wide eyes.
“He’s only been here a few hundred years, but he’s extremely dangerous. He knows who I am, though, so you should be safe - but let’s not chance it anyway.”
They tiptoed through the foliage that Ivy gestured at. Darrick looked around warily, but didn’t see anything.
“What was that all about?” Darrick asked once they’d left the place and Ivy indicated that they were safe.
“Just a precaution,” Ivy replied. “The Yara-ma-yha-who preys on living people by draining their blood over and over again.”
“Like a vampire?” Jane asked.
“A little.”
“Wow, I didn’t know that Fairyland could be so dangerous,” Mary said.
“Every world has it’s own dangers, dear. Just as in our normal human world, you take care to avoid snakes and poisonous spiders as well as lions and tigers and panthers, there are creatures in the fairy world that you need to avoid or at least be wary of.”
“Will we come back again, Mother?” Mary asked.
“Yes - yes, we will,” Ivy said, looking at Darrick.
He nodded slowly, “But only with either your mother or me. At least until you’ve learnt what to be careful of.”
Ivy could almost see Darrick’s relief as they stepped out of the Old Kingdom into the familiar forests of his youth.
“You really don’t have to worry so much, you know,” she said, smiling.
“Wasn’t it you who said we should beware of the who-thing?” he retorted.

Next: Zână
Back to the theme list.


From Wikipedia:
The Yara-ma-yha-who is a creature from Australian Aboriginal folklore. This creature resembles a little red man with a very big head and large mouth with no teeth. On the ends of its hands and feet are suckers. It lives in fig trees and does not hunt for food, but waits until an unsuspecting traveler rests under the tree. It then drops onto the victim and drains their blood using the suckers on its hands and feet, making them weak. It then consumes the person, drinks some water, and then takes a nap. When the Yara-ma-yha-who awakens, it regurgitates the victim, leaving it shorter than before. The victim's skin also has a reddish tint to it that it didn't have before.[1][2] It repeats this process several times. At length, the victim is transformed into a Yara-ma-yha-who itself. According to legend, the Yara-ma-yha-who will only prey upon a living person, so (hypothetically speaking) you could survive an encounter with this monster by "playing-dead" until sunset; the creature only hunts during the day.
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Monday 28 April 2014

#atozchallenge: xiuhcoatl

Previous: Wyrm

“Oh, don’t listen to him. He’s a codgery old snake who doesn’t believe in his own mortality,” a voice spoke out after the beat of the Great Wyrm’s wings had quietened to a whisper. Out from under covering of the ancient yew, a turquoise serpent slithered. Wisps of smoke rose from the dry grass as he approached the assembly. “I may not be as ancient as him, but I know well enough what you’re talking about.”
“Who are you?” the Fairy Queen asked pointedly.
“See, my point exactly. I am Xiuhcoatl. You’ll most probably have never heard of me because my people, the Aztecs, have long died out. But I lived on because my likeness was carved in stone and my story was inscribed on crumbling walls and when the people of the future found them and retold them, I was reborn. Sometimes I feel I cling on to life by the skin of my non-existent teeth just because there are people who curate stories, who study cultures and who determine that whatever happens, these things must be remembered. Some were not so fortunate. I have lost many colleagues to the void.”
“Do you believe me now, O Queen?” Baba Yaga turned to the Fairy Queen.
The Queen sighed, slumping tiredly on her throne. “I must believe you, mustn’t I? But tell me then, how will these two… girls change anything in the world?”
Darrick gripped his daughters’ hands tightly.
“Give them the freedom of these lands. Give them the right of entrance, the right to be entranced at every step of the way. Let their imaginations run wild. Let them learn of us - all of us - and tell of us to their friends. Let them speak of us at every opportunity, write of us in every story, until our stories are told all around the world. Will you do that, Jane and Mary?”
“Of course we will!” Mary said eagerly.
Jane looked instead to her mother. “My friends say that when we tell these tales we tell lies of ourselves. That we make ourselves - our human selves - small and weak, as if we must always look to something magical to save us. They say that we can save ourselves without the need of magic. The real world is all that we need.”
Ivy smiled. “What do you think?”
She thought for a while, biting on her lower lip. “I think that stories help us remember the important things in life. And maybe we don’t need magical beings to save us, but hearing what they’ve done may stir up courage in us to act like them and be our own magic.”
Xiuhcoatl slithered up to her. “And what would you tell them about me?”
Jane shrugged. “I suppose I would need to find out more about you to tell them anything.”
“You could make me a wise and courageous snake who saved your life.”
“But that would be a lie.”
“Aren’t all stories lies?”
Jane shook her head. “No. Stories are the truth dressed up in other clothes.”
Baba Yaga smiled. “But there are always two sides to a story.”

Next: Yara-ma-yha-who
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From Wikipedia:
In Aztec religion, Xiuhcoatl [ʃiʍˈkoːaːt͡ɬ] was a mythological serpent, it was regarded as the spirit form of Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec fire deity, and was also an atlatl wielded by Huitzilopochtli. Xiuhcoatl is a Classical Nahuatl word that literally translates as "turquoise serpent"; it also carries the symbolic and descriptive meaning, "fire serpent".
Xiuhcoatl was a common subject of Aztec art, including illustrations in Aztec codices and its use as a back ornament on representations of both Xiuhtecuhtlu and Huitzilopochtli.[1] Xiuhcoatl is interpreted as the embodiment of the dry season and was the weapon of the sun.[2]The royal diadem (or xiuhuitzolli, "pointed turquoise thing") of the Aztec emperors apparently represented the tail of the Xiuhcoatl, the fire serpent.[3]
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Sunday 27 April 2014

#bookreview: Touched with Fire by Chris Datta

Welcome to the REVIEW EVENT for Chris Datta's Historical Fiction Novel Touched with Fire! We have a great giveaway at the bottom of the post and hope you enjoy hearing about this fabulous book. But first, the details:

Ellen Craft is property

In this case, of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her “father:” the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same pale—indeed, lily-white—skin. Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run North. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey—South again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army: she will literally fight her way back to her husband. Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.

Author: Christopher Datta
Genre: Historical/Women's/African American Fiction

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Touched With FireTouched With Fire by Christopher Datta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found Touched With Fire an interesting read. I don't read much historical fiction and was a little disappointed when I found out that the second half of the book was entirely fictional, although it was still based on real life events that happened to other people (just not the Crafts). The book was on a whole a breeze to read through. I suppose, being far removed from the Civil War or anything American (other than what I read), I wouldn't be the best person to give comments about authenticity or stuff like that, but I'd just say that I felt it was quite a realistic read.

I liked the voices that Datta gave to both Ellie and William Craft, and the way he contrasted them against the Collins and the White society as a whole. In most books we only see one side of the story, and the way Datta shows both in Touched With Fire serves to play up the conflict between the two. It is this contrast in the way that the Collins think of Ellie and the way she sees herself that makes you stop and think about the way we think about people of other races even now. It's sad to know that we still tend to have that same kind of reaction to people of other races, as if just because they have a different skin colour than ours, they are somehow "less" in some way, especially if they are not as successful as a society.

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Review Event Schedule:
Date Blog
21-Apr My Devotional Thoughts
21-Apr Deal Sharing Aunt
22-Apr Jelly Side Up - Promo Only
22-Apr Our Wolves Den
23-Apr rubina ramesh
23-Apr The Mama Games
24-Apr My Writer's Cramp
24-Apr The World As I See It
25-Apr I am indeed
25-Apr Rachel Delane
26-Apr Rick And Eileen Bremner
26-Apr Author Interrupted
27-Apr Anna Tan
27-Apr Pete Waugh
28-Apr Alexa B
28-Apr Michelle Willms

About the Author:

 Born in Washington, DC Chris Datta, Foreign Service officer, has been on numerous battlefields for his job and country. He has seen mass graves, brought war criminals to justice and in this new chapter, Datta brings readers a stunning historical account of the American Civil War with Touched with Fire. His attention to detail is superb, and his experiences abroad have given him ample stories to tell for years to come.

 His action packed life has taken him across the world from the United States to Liberia and Southern Sudan. Not only serving in active war zones but often battling tropical diseases, Datta has nurtured his fascination with civil conflict by diving into the history books and historical records of America’s past. His research is meticulous, and his attention to detail creates vivid pictures of the past.

 Follow Chris on his website for updates about new releases and upcoming events:
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Saturday 26 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Wyrm

Previous: Vila

“How do we know that we can trust this old crone?” The Fairy Queen said, her voice harsh in the silence. “Who can speak for what she says? What do we know of her truly?”
Ataneq pushed his way out of the crowd. “Your Majesty,” he bowed. “I am the adlet that Baba Yaga spoke of earlier. I do not know if all she posits is correct, but I, for one, can testify that as a wanderer from a far land, I have found my space in this kingdom of yours for the past fifty years.”
“But we know nothing of you either,” the Queen said.
“And so we are in a bind,” Alexei mumbled to himself. “Unless -” His face brightened as he raised his voice. “There is one, my Queen, who is eldest of all and who exists in all legends. The eldest of the dragons.”
“The Great Wyrm! But who would call him? Who would dare raise him from his slumber?” the Fairy Queen asked.
“The ancient enemy,” Darrick whispered under his breath, even as Baba Yaga’s face blanched. “The great evil whose blood even the earth rejects.”
“Wisest and most dangerous,” the Elven King added.
“So will none call him to council?” The Queen looked expectantly at the gathered creatures. Soft murmurs arose, each shaking their heads.

Then a tremor shook the ground where they stood. Great terror fell upon the fairy creatures, and they scrambled away or took to flight as they could, as the ground rumbled and trembled and grumbled. Heat arose in waves, and a strong wind blew. With the great beat of huge wings, a large scaled creature landed in front of the silver throne, scoring the ground where his talons touched.
“Above the four winds I was flying, and I heard my name. Who of you puny little creatures dared call upon the Great Wyrm?” His voice was like deep gravel.
“We do not call you with impunity, Eldest,” the Fairy Queen said, drawing herself up as regally as she could. Beside the great creature, she was like a doll of ice, fragile, breakable. “This old crone speaks of the end of our days, and we would seek to find the truth of it.”
The dragon turned a liquid gold eye on Baba Yaga. “Our days will always come to an end, and yet we are reborn with each new telling. Which end do you refer to, Mother Rus?”
“The end of all ends, o Dragon. When they tell our stories no more.”
The dragon laughed. “My story has been retold for six thousand years, from when I was the serpent who deceived Eve until now, when I am the great Smaug who hoards the gold as the King under the Mountain. Why would I worry about my end?” He grinned at the Elven King. “Ask our dear elves who have taken on a whole new life in this generation.”
“But when our stories end, o Dragon, where will you reside? Even if your story is told to perpetuity, without us, you are nothing.”
The dragon fell silent. “Pah, it is none of my business,” he finally said, stretching wide his wings and flying away in a rush of wind.

Next: Xiuhcoatl
Back to the theme list.


From Wikipedia:
The Latin word draco, as in the constellation, Draco, comes directly from Greek δράκων, (drákōn, gazer). The word for dragon in Germanic mythology and its descendants is worm(Old English: wyrm, Old High German: wurm, Old Norse: ormr), meaning snake or serpent. In Old English, wyrm means "serpent", and draca means "dragon". Finnish lohikäärmedirectly translated means "salmon-snake", but the word lohi- was originally louhi- meaning crags or rocks, a "mountain snake".[citation needed] The prefix lohi- in lohikäärme is also thought to derive from the ancient Norse word lógi, meaning "fire", as in Finnish mythology there are also references to "tulikäärme" meaning fire-snake, or fire-serpent.
In the modern period, the European dragon is typically depicted as a huge, fire-breathing, scaly, horned, lizard-like creature; the creature also has leathery, bat-like wings, four legs, and a long, muscular prehensile tail. Some depictions show dragons with feathered wings, crests, fiery manes, ivoryspikes running down its spine, and various exotic decorations.
Though a winged creature, the dragon is generally to be found in its underground lair, a cave that identifies it as an ancient creature of earth. Possibly, the dragons of European and Mid-Eastern mythology stem from the cult of snakes found in religions throughout the world.
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Friday 25 April 2014

#atozchallenge: Vila

Previous: Unicorn

Baba Yaga looked out at the crowd from behind the silver throne. There was a sense of waiting, beneath the veneer of confusion. She could feel the adlet’s eyes upon her again.
Well, the stage is set, and it is time. With a smile on her wrinkled face, she stepped out into the open.
“Your majesties,” she said, her bones creaking as she bowed low.
“Who are you?” the Fairy Queen asked.
“Where I am from, I am called Baba Yaga. When I met your lovely daughter, I was known as a Ragana.”
“What do you want?”
“Ivy asked a question, I felt it was time for me to answer.”
“You? You called Mary?”
“Not I – the Vila did, but under my instruction. Why would I do that? Let me tell you a story.”

The world was young once, and men ruled it with an iron fist. Life was hard, they had much to do to shape the world in their image. But their women and their young, seeking escape from drudgery, created worlds of their own with words and belief. Some of these were dark and frightening: the dragon that breathed fire, the old crone who would curse those who crossed them, the Fairy Queen who protected her lands from the evil of mankind. Some were beautiful and majestic: the wise centaurs, the pure unicorns, the laughing dryads. And some of these stories changed through the years: the elves, once tricksters, grew noble and stately. Mermaids, sirens as they are, sometimes betray their nature and fall in love with humans. For years and years, we existed in these worlds, some separately, some together, growing on our own, and growing apace with the humans. 
But time has passed, and the world is now old. The stories have changed, and we are forgotten. Have you not felt the waning of your powers? Have you not felt the drain on your spirits? How there are fewer and fewer of you as time passes?
A hundred years ago when I felt it, I met an adlet who was once a man. He came from the land of the frozen seas, and I knew nothing of him or his kind until he came to my hut. But it was then that I realized another change that was happening. A happier, kinder change I hoped. Our stories, on the verge of being forgotten in our homelands, are also being retold in the lands of others, renewing and reshaping us. 
So I charged him with a mission – to find out what he could do for me, or for those of us. (Here, she looked balefully at Ataneq). For years I heard nothing of him, until finally, a whisper came back to me. So I came here to find three coexisting lands - the land of disbelieving man, the ancient kingdom of the the Fae, and the forests of the elves. And in Ivy Iliana, I found new hope - if I could keep her and her husband alive long enough to see my plans come to fruition. 

“What plan is that?” the Elven King asked after Baba Yaga had fallen silent.
“I needed to know if Jane and Mary were changelings, or if they had the blood of the Fae in them. The Vila helped me in that, last night, calling the high winds, brewing a storm strong enough to lure here into the Old Fairy Kingdom for protection. She came - and later so did Mary, though I had not planned for that. The Queen’s anger was stirred, and I was afraid that I had failed. But - as was seen in this court - they have blood enough of the Fae that the Queen herself cannot deny it when they come face to face.”
“What do you plan to do with them?” Ivy asked.
“Nothing, my dear. I just needed to know. Your children are special, Ivy Iliana. In them, all three bloodlines are evident. And in them, is our salvation. Remember what I said - it is their remembrance that sustains us. To deny them any part of their heritage is to deny all our futures.”

Next: Wyrm
Back to the theme list.


From Wikipedia:
The Vila are the Slavic versions of nymphs, who have power over wind, which they delight in causing storms of high winds. They live around hills, mountains, and high mounds. (cf.Leimakids, Limnades, Oceanids, Dryads, Nephele). They can appear as a ghost-like figure with a long billowing cloak wrapped around them.
In Polish mythology, the Wiła (pronounced [ˈviwa]), and in South-Slavic mythology the Vila (Serbian pronunciation: [ʋǐːla]), are believed to be female fairy-like spirits who live in the wilderness and sometimes in the clouds. They were believed to be the spirits of women who had been frivolous in their lifetimes and now floated between here and the afterlife. They usually appear as beautiful maidens, naked or dressed in sparkling beautiful white dresses, green skirts of leaves, and special fabulous blue robes.


Some random happy awesome news - tonight I'll be talking to a university book club about my book Love in Penang, as well as, apparently, the state of creative writing in English in Malaysia.

Well, I think that's what I will be talking about because that was the topic given. But I don't really know yet because everything is still a jumble in my head.

But yes! Exciting! My first speaking gig as a writer... or well, as an editor. Hah. *wiggle*

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
Back to the theme list.


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.


Final week to enter the giveaway!
Here's the rafflecopter again! (Or you can just check the page up there)

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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]

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.
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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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