Maiden Mother Crone, Part 7 – The Dance

It was Sunday morning, and it was raining again. But I breakfasted with friends, warmth and laughter a pleasant way to begin the day. Outside, a raven wandered along the wooden fence – one of our group remarked on him, as he was quite unusually large. ‘He was there yesterday, as well,’ I said. Sue had mentioned to me the day before, as we stood in Midmar circle, that it was the time of the Raven, so it seemed appropriate to see him waiting there.

After breakfast we met the rest of the group at the usual place, before splitting into smaller groups to head to the first of three planned sites for the day. Aftera short drive we pulled up on a road running alongside a petrol station, brambles and bushes tangled along the verge, and what looked like a bit of a wasteland on the other side. Yet, that was our destination

This unprepossessing piece of ground was actually once a place of some significance. As we took the narrow path through tall weeds the land seemed to rise around us, cradling us in a bowl. The long grass hid shapes that revealed themselves as we came closer, a circular henge surrounding three standing stones our destination.

Another carved Pictish stone, the Broomend of Crichie, awaited us and, as we entered the henge, once again soft drizzle began to fall. The modern world seemed to fall away and, as the ancient site was described by our guide, it seemed to come to life around us. The long avenue once featured 12 pairs of stones – though only one stone remained, it was in situ, unlike the three stones in the circle. There have been excavations done on the site, but more work is yet to be done to fully understand this place.

But we had to keep moving. It was the final day of the weekend, the companions all had places to get to before the end of the day, and there were still two more sites to visit. So we headed into the countryside once more, our next destination the Loanhead of Daviot, another recumbent stone circle.

As we walked the pathway to the stone circle my gaze was drawn to the left, to a rise in the woods where I could see a couple of large stones, and I stopped to take a photograph. A tree up ahead seemed to hold the shape of a dragon, and the land itself felt full of wonder.

The trees opened out and we found ourselves on the side of a slope, almost at the summit but not quite, as we had seen with the other recumbent circles we’d visited. This circle was complete, and quite large – over twenty metres in diameter, the huge recumbent stone flanked by two taller stones.

The remains of a circular burial cairn lay next to the circle. Excavation in 1934 found burials with Iron Age & Beaker pottery, while subsequent work uncovered flint scrapers and a Bronze Age sword mould, showing the site was in use for many centuries.

‘Well, this doesn’t feel right. The bits in the middle.’

‘They seem more modern, maybe they were done later’

I was having this conversation with one of the companions, both of us bemused by the large jumble of stones spread across the centre of what was otherwise a perfectly lovely stone circle. There was none of the turmoil of Cullerlie here, but the stones were rough and difficult to walk on, not exactly conducive to ritual. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, it just felt… out of place. As we spoke, we heard our guide explain that the Victorians had moved the stones from the nearby cairn to spread across the centre of the circle, because they thought that was how it should be.

Why they haven’t been moved back I don’t know. I guess it will remain a mystery.

We stayed at the circle for a while, the usual rain appearing to soak us. By now it was expected, and we simply put up our hoods and got on with it. Our guide pointed across the small valley to the slope opposite, asking us what we could see. And there it was, another recumbent with two flanking stones, all that remained of another circle, the rest of it lost to time. Clearly, to the people who worked this landscape, the circles were deeply significant and important enough to make in multiples – it’s a shame that we don’t really know why.

One of the group had stopped on their way in to talk to an older man working on the site, and he had told him a story of a ghost, a woman in a green dress, said to dance in the circle at night. The area was used by Scouts and the story was told to scare them – we found it intriguing, in light of what we’d learned about the circles and their uses.

The stones cannot stop the dance…

I heard this very clearly, afterwards, the words strong in my mind, beautiful with their sense of freedom, their message reaching beyond the circle, a smile in the voice saying them. Whether it was the influence of the charming storyteller, or something else, I’m not sure. But it felt as though someone linked their arm with mine, wanting me to come with them.

Come with me, I would show you something. In the woods…

I went to the trees, a wire fence stopping me from entering the woods proper. But I think I could see what they were trying to show me. A small ridge, stones piled there, the same spot that had caught my attention as we’d entered the site. I took another photograph, because it felt like the right thing to do.

It was time to go, so we bade the place farewell. One more site to visit before the weekend was out…

This is my account of a recent weekend away with The Silent Eye. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

#Blogbattle – Iridescent – When The Moon Is Full

IMG_1368It’s Tuesday, and time for Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle. The rules are simple – each week you get a prompt, a genre and have 1000 words to write a response, which has to be posted on the following Tuesday. This week’s prompt was Iridescent, and the genre was Fairy Tale. Here’s my take:

When The Moon Is Full

Once upon a time, when the world was younger, there lived a boy. Tall and lean he was, his skin nut brown over strong muscles, his clothes as tattered as the leaves among which he lived.

No darkness came to stain his days – he was warm and well-fed, the forest providing all that he needed. He roamed along paths he knew like he knew the feel of his skin, or the sound of his breath as he lay alone at night. And as he roamed he hunted, gathering his crop.

But no nuts cracked between his strong white teeth, no berries stained his lips, no blood flowed across his long fingers. Instead, he gathered memories. Bubble light, floating untethered around sleeping travellers taking their rest beneath tangled branches. They would wake unaware that anything had been taken, only a mild headache marring their day as they travelled on to the road beyond the trees.

And so the boy leapt and ran, graceful as any stag, through glowing leaves and past ancient stones, the precious memories tethered to him, dancing like fireflies in the dark of night. When he reached the tree he called home he would sink down among the roots and close his eyes, savouring the sounds and thoughts as they washed over him, nourishing his soul.

But one night, something changed. The moon was full, a golden globe sailing above the treetops, shining through the branches to pick out white flowers like stars dotted along the path. Around him the forest was lush and green with spring, the scent of flower and foliage strong enough to send a man mad. But he drank it in, the wildness of the night running through his veins. Then he saw her.

Dressed in velvet green as the leaves on which she lay, curled at the edge of a small pond. Her long hair was the dark brown of tree bark, her skin golden as his own. He stopped, entranced by her curves, by the rise and fall of her breast as she slept, one slender hand outflung. A bubble of memory appeared, fragile and feather light, floating around her head.

He reached out to take it, all at once desperate to have one small piece of her beauty. But when he touched the bubble her eyes came open and she stared at him. Green, her eyes were, iridescent in the moonlight like dragonfly wings, the pupils night dark. He heard her voice in his head.

‘You have taken something that belongs to me.’

He said nothing, frozen in place, the bubble floating around him like guilt.

‘It’s not right to steal, you know.’

Still he said nothing. He did not know what to do.

‘What is your name?’ She stared up at him, lips dark crimson.

He found his voice. ‘I don’t know.’ He did not.

She frowned, her head tilting to one side. ‘Do you remember nothing?’

The boy thought for a moment. “I have no memories except for those I steal.’

‘Then let me remind you.’

She stood, like a snake uncoiling, and reached for the bubble tethered to the boy, taking it back. As the tether broke he gasped. And he remembered.

He had been sent here, not so long ago. A gift from another realm. But it was not memories he was supposed to steal. It was pain, easing the path of the weary travellers as they passed through the woods. But in his youth and haste he had forgotten, taking memories instead.

‘Do you see?’ Her voice was the whisper of wind through branches, her perfume apple blossom, earthy and sweet.

He nodded, tears in his eyes. ‘I – I am sorry.’

‘Hush,’ she said, coming close to lay one finger gently on his lips. ‘You were young, and you did not know any better. I should have helped you before.’

‘Who are you?’ he whispered.

She smiled, her face close to his. ‘I am the forest,’ she replied. ‘And you are mine.’

***

It is said that the woods bordering the two lands, where the road passes between the trees, is a place of wonder and beauty, where a man might find rest in the most difficult times. It is also said that a spirit lives among the trees, as beautiful as Spring itself, her companion tall and strong.

And sometimes, on a night when the moon is full, they can be seen dancing in the glades, as close together as two vines twisting, their sighs echoing until dawn.

 

 

Walking A Tangled Path

img_2083I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front of late. Partly because I think I’m still recovering from the Thirty Day Writing Challenge, partly because I’ve actually been recovering from a nasty lingering cold that’s been running rampant around here (even the Queen had it), and partly because I’ve been trying to untangle the structure of Under Stone, the fourth book in my Ambeth series.

I wrote the first draft of Under Stone more than three years ago. Since then it’s undergone quite a few edits and rewrites, then was sidelined for a while as I worked on other projects. Now that A Thousand Rooms is out I’m free to roam the forests once more, but the path to this story is still quite tangled.

As the fourth book in the series, Under Stone pulls together a lot of the plot lines set out in books one to three, so I’ve had to do a quick re-read of those books and make sure that I’ve covered everything. Even though Ambeth, the characters, their motivations and their plot lines all live in my head, there are small details I’ve added here and there that I need to keep track of. So far, so good. However, the story itself also needed re-ordering, so I’ve been shuffling scenes around and, in some cases, deleting them.

Making this slightly more complex is the fact that Ambeth deals with multiple character viewpoints. I know, right? A six book series told from the point of view of multiple characters. *shakes head* Also there’s a time twisting element, which sometimes is useful and sometimes really annoying (for the writer), as I have to keep track of what is happening when in two different worlds. But oh, I love it. I love the stories and the characters, and I love it when it all comes together and I can feel the flow. I guess that’s part of the reason I write, for that feeling – it’s a little bit like joy.

I think I’m pretty close to being done now. In fact, I’m hoping I might even be able to get it out to beta readers by the end of this month. So I’ll continue to slash and burn, moving branches and reshuffling scenes, forging a new path through the tangles in the hope I reach my destination soon.

How about you? When you write a story, do you then play around with the order of events to get the best flow? And, if you’ve written a series, how do you keep track of everything? (Notes. It’s notes, isn’t it? I really ought to make more notes when I’m writing.)


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

 

Cascade Poetry Challenge – Longing

Waterfall painting

‘Silence, Waterfall and Forest’ by Arthur Bowen Davies. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I really enjoyed Jane Dougherty’s Poetry Challenge last week, so I thought I’d give it a go again this week. This time, Jane has challenged us to write a cascade, which consists of four stanzas each with three lines, where each line from the first verse is the last line of each subsequent verse. Jane shared the above painting as inspiration, and here is my cascade poem:

Longing

Among pine-scented shadows,

As water falls

I hear your voice, beloved.

 

Clad in velvet we wait,

The deer and I,

Among pine-scented shadows.

 

Cool spray rippling silver

Across a darkened pool,

As water falls.

 

Bright hair, red cloak,

A flash of light.

I hear your voice, beloved.

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I found this form more difficult than last week’s kyrielle, yet just as enjoyable to write. I found I had to consider the story I wanted to tell in the first stanza, as it would shape the remaining three. Thanks to Jane for another interesting challenge!

#BlogBattle – One Year Anniversary Edition

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I’m fairly new to Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle, but am really enjoying the challenges so far. And, guess what, I won one! My entry Behind The Mask, for the theme word ‘Hair,’ was voted last week’s winner, so thank you very much to everyone who read and voted for the story.

This week’s theme is a little different. As it’s the one year anniversary of BlogBattle, Rachael has asked us to re-post one of our entries from the past year. As mentioned, I haven’t been doing this too long so don’t have a massive back catalogue of stories to choose from. However, I’ve decided to re-post the first one I wrote, which was for the theme word ‘Forest.’

It’s a vampire story, which now seems to be growing into a full length novel – in fact, I’ll be heading into the virtual woods at Camp NaNoWriMo next month in the hopes of writing a good chunk of it. I only shared this story a few weeks ago, so apologies to those of you who’ve read it already – however, for those of you who haven’t, I hope you enjoy it.

Silver And Black

‘C’mon.’

He held out his hand, a darker silhouette against trees silvered by the moon. I knew his eyes were a similar shade, but I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t see a damn thing, really, other than faint lines of pale branches against a clotted blackness.

‘You know I can’t-‘

‘Can’t?’ The silhouette tilted his head. I knew he was smiling, could hear it in his voice. But I couldn’t hear as well as he could. Another thing that pissed me off.

And I had to be so careful how I moved, what expression showed on my face. I smoothed down my skirt with damp hands. This was stupid. I should just go home.

All at once he was in front of me, and I glimpsed a faint gleam in his silvery eyes before he bent his head to kiss me, sharp teeth grazing my lips, hot/cold breath turning my insides to honey. Okay, maybe I could do this, I thought as I clung to him, my hands sliding inside his jacket.

Then he was gone, just as fast, leaving me alone in the clearing. I froze.

‘Kyle?’

No answer. I tried to control my breathing, but I was starting to panic. Was this a trap? I strained my ears, listening, eyes wide against the darkness under the trees. Was something moving there?

Okay. Screw this.

I kept my face smooth, just in case he was somewhere, watching me. The branches creaked, eerie in the cold night. I unzipped the pocket of my leather jacket, pulling out my phone. My mouth twisted a bit then, I couldn’t help it. But I had no choice. I had to call my mother.

The screen came to life under my fingers and I scrolled through. Not that there were many contacts on my phone. But before I could make the call arms came around me, and I felt teeth grazing my ear.

I jerked involuntarily and the arms softened, letting go. Then Kyle was in front of me, one hand coming up to touch my cheek, smoothing away a tear that had snuck out, despite my best efforts.

‘Hey,’ he said. His voice was soft, all the teasing gone. ‘I’m sorry. I forget.’

I couldn’t say anything for a moment, mingled relief and anger choking me. I shook my head, tucking my phone back in my pocket then swallowed, clearing my throat. ‘I want to go home,’ I said, my voice higher than normal.

‘No.’ He breathed the word, his arms coming around my waist, his body close to mine. ‘I really am sorry. Will you stay with me, a while longer? There’s somewhere I’d like to show you. And then I’ll take you home, I promise.’

I purposely didn’t look at him. I didn’t need him trying to glamour me. Did I want to stay with him? My body was screaming, yes, Ohmygod, are you crazy, staystaystay. Then my mind joined in. Damn.

‘Fine,’ I said. Possibly a little ungracious but then, hey, he was the one who’d left me out here alone. ‘But,’ I went on, looking at him. ‘Don’t leave me again, or I am going.’

‘I promise,’ he said, taking my hand and bringing it to his mouth. I tensed. He smiled, his tongue flicking out against my fingers before he kissed them and let go. I took in a shaking breath.

‘So, where are we going?’

————————————————————————————————————

And that’s all, folks! Visit Rachael’s page to vote, read more entries or even add your own.

#BlogBattle – Silver And Black

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One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the number of challenges offered by bloggers throughout the community. For writers there’s everything from sixty second flash fiction to short story competitions, and photographers could post something every day of the week and never run out of different blogspirations.

One writing challenge I’ve noticed is Rachel Ritchey’s #Blog Battle, and this week I’ve decided to give it a go. The theme is ‘Forest,’ so it’s right up my alley. The story below is a shorter section of a book which seems to be coming to me in dribs and drabs – it first appeared as part of a Flash Fiction Challenge by Ali Isaac, then another piece came along as one of Sacha Black’s Writespirations. This piece appeared when I saw the word ‘Forest.’

It’s a vampire story. I never thought I’d write a vampire story. I mean, I quite like them, loved the Lestat books back in the day, but my fantasy imaginings lean more towards  fantastical otherworldly stuff. So it’s been kind of neat to get a new kind of story in my head and I’m embracing it as it comes. Perhaps I’ll write the whole book as a series of blog challenges!

So here is my entry for this week’s Blog Battle:

Silver And Black

‘C’mon.’

He held out his hand, a darker silhouette against trees silvered by the moon. I knew his eyes were a similar shade, but I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t see a damn thing, really, other than faint lines of pale branches against a clotted blackness.

‘You know I can’t-‘

‘Can’t?’ The silhouette tilted his head. I knew he was smiling, could hear it in his voice. But I couldn’t hear as well as he could. Another thing that pissed me off. And I had to be so careful how I moved, what expression showed on my face. I smoothed down my skirt with damp hands. This was stupid. I should just go home.

All at once he was in front of me, and I glimpsed a faint gleam in his silvery eyes before he bent his head to kiss me, sharp teeth grazing my lips, hot/cold breath turning my insides to honey. Okay, maybe I could do this, I thought as I clung to him, my hands sliding inside his jacket.

Then he was gone, just as fast, leaving me alone in the clearing. I froze.

‘Kyle?’

No answer. I tried to control my breathing, but I was starting to panic. Was this a trap? I strained my ears, listening, eyes wide against the darkness under the trees. Was something moving there?

Okay. Screw this.

I kept my face smooth, just in case he was somewhere, watching me. The branches creaked, eerie in the cold night, the forest whispering around me. I unzipped the pocket of my leather jacket, pulling out my phone. My mouth twisted a bit then, I couldn’t help it. But I had no choice. I had to call my mother.

The screen came to life under my fingers and I scrolled through. Not that there were many contacts on my phone. But before I could make the call arms came around me, and I felt teeth grazing my ear. I jerked involuntarily and the arms softened, letting go. Then Kyle was in front of me, one hand coming up to touch my cheek, smoothing away a tear that had snuck out, despite my best efforts.

‘Hey,’ he said. His voice was soft, all the teasing gone. ‘I’m sorry. I forget.’

I couldn’t say anything for a moment, mingled relief and anger choking me. I shook my head, tucking my phone back in my pocket then swallowed, clearing my throat. ‘I want to go home,’ I said, my voice higher than normal.

‘No.’ He breathed the word, his arms coming around my waist, his body close to mine. ‘I really am sorry. Will you stay with me, a while longer? There’s somewhere I’d like to show you. And then I’ll take you home, I promise.’

I purposely didn’t look at him. I didn’t need him trying to glamour me. Did I want to stay with him? My body was screaming, yes, Ohmygod, are you crazy, staystaystay. Then my mind joined in. Damn.

‘Fine,’ I said. Possibly a little ungracious but then, hey, he was the one who’d left me out here alone. ‘But,’ I went on, looking at him. ‘Don’t leave me again, or I am going.’

‘I promise,’ he said, taking my hand and bringing it to his mouth. I tensed. He smiled, his tongue flicking out against my fingers before he kissed them and let go. I took in a shaking breath.

‘So, where are we going?’

————————————————————————————————————

Check out the other#BlogBattle entries, or maybe add one of your own!

Wednesday Wander – Lost Lagoon, Vancouver

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Looking at this photo, would you believe it was taken in the heart of a large North American city? Sure, there are a few giveaways if you look closely – streetlights just visible through the distant trees, and a manmade fountain in the centre of the lake.

This is Lost Lagoon, in Vancouver, Canada. Once a tidal mudflat connected to Burrard Inlet, it was home for centuries to the area’s First Nations tribes, who used it as a rich food source. Before it was landlocked in 1916 by the construction of the Stanley Park Causeway, the lagoon was open to the sea, the movement of the tides causing it to ‘disappear’ from time to time.

A local writer who loved to canoe on the lake gave it the name ‘Lost Lagoon.’ She wrote:

‘As that perfect summer month drifted on, the ever-restless tides left the harbour devoid of water at my favorite canoeing hour, and my pet idling place was lost for many days – hence my fancy to call it the Lost Lagoon.’ Pauline Johnson

I used to live very close to Lost Lagoon, and spent a lot of time walking there. Raccoons played in the undergrowth, squirrels and waterbirds made their homes in the ancient trees, yet just a block away were the towers and noise of Vancouver. Such contrast is part of why Vancouver is so often named one of the world’s most liveable cities, that such an oasis of calm can be found at its very heart.

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Thanks for joining me on another Wednesday Wander – where will we go next week?