Monday, 13 October 2014

Extract II

(Figure in the Mist by Saucydarkmatter)

Following on from the very beginning, here's another extract from what I'm currently writing. Rough and unedited. Drafting the outline. Although I'm not going to blog this the way that I did Rosy Hours, I've decided to hook all related posts with the Swan Song tab, so you can follow along if you like.

I watched for a long time, her reflection shattered against the surface of my world, convinced that she would grow tired and return to her bed.

At first she would come with her maid. They would cower behind a fallen log until L--, having prostrated himself at my feet until stiff and exhausted, would crawl back to his horse and ride for Sidhe Fionnachaidh. Then they would emerge, these two women, their sandals sinking in the sand as they crept to the spot where his figure still impressed itself upon the shore.

“Hello,” they whispered at first. “Is anybody there?” Then their questions turned to pleas: “Please come out, we know you’re there,” and finally to anger: “Show yourself!” as they hurled pebbles into the sea.

I am a man of infinite patience. When their frustration no longer amused me, I left. Perhaps they stood there all night, skimming flint until the dawn reflected in their eyes. Perhaps they simply shouted until they were hoarse, then fled for home to sooth their throats with honey and warm milk. It was not for their sake that I came to shore, and for their sake I had no reason to stay.

Almost a year after she first came, the girl stopped coming. For the first time, after L-- left, I realised that I was alone in the shallow waters of the bay. I breathed in the silence and waited, but she did not come. Not that high tide, nor the next.

On the third, she returned. This time only she, without her maid.

L-- choked and wailed and clawed at the sand as had become his custom. A ritual which did no service to A---. Instead of helping him to remember his wife, it had become a ritual, without which he felt he could not remember her, yet in performing befell the worst kind of insult to the dead: that their loss outweighs the value of their life.

I presented him with my boat, Wave Sweeper, and allowed them their time to speak, as I had promised him I would the day I sailed her safely to the shores of Tír na nÓg. Had I known then that the salt of her words would forever keep open his wound, I would never have uttered such an oath.

Whilst I stood and watched, I became aware of a presence in the dark. It burned with curiosity and fear in such a way it had never done before. When L-- finally took his tiresome leave, I cloaked myself in mist and waited.

“I know you are there,” she said, approaching. “You have always been there, and yet you refuse to speak. Well then, if you shall not come to me, I must then come to you.”

I watched as my sister undressed on the shore, her pale skin shimmering beneath the moon, dimpled with cold, small breasts curtained by golden hair, blue eyes burning like the winter wind.

As the water encircled her ankles, she paused. As it rose to her thighs, she shivered, and as it gripped her belly she gasped.

I did not move.

I already knew that it was not her time, yet she betrayed herself well enough. At the point where the water reached her nose, when the next step would most certainly plunge her beneath the surface, she paused to take a breath. No person intent on taking their own life ever breathes in before that final step.

Tired of the show, I flicked my finger and the current swept the sand from beneath her. She disappeared, then reappeared a moment later, thrashing towards the shore.

After coughing up saltwater and shivering in a posture much like that of our father, she rose unsteadily and began to pull on her clothes. Once dressed, she half turned as though to look for me, but instead turned back and started walking.

“Wait,” I said, stepping forward. Our eyes met, hers wide as the western ocean, mine black as the bottomless depths. “You must be cold.”

She nodded, and I set the sand aflame so that she might sit and warm herself.

“My brother?” she asked, her voice full of wonder.

“What do you want of me?”

She frowned and stared into the blue flames for a moment. “I do not know,” she replied. “I have thought about this moment so often, yet now that we are face to face, I am lost for words.”

From the flames I made a fish leap, transforming into a bird which faded as it rose into the night’s sky. She laughed and for the first time I looked at her – truly looked. My father’s daughter, possessing none of his former strength, nor mine. Simply a fragile clay pot which any heavy stone might fracture. Until that day I would not have cared had an avalanche of rocks buried her, I might even have rolled the first down the hill myself. Yet standing there, wrapped in her thin shawl, smiling into the sky where thin tendrils of smoke fell like feathers, I felt the Fates closing in about her. Though she possessed no magic of her own, something powerful had already singled her out and I knew then that I must decide either to hate her or to love her. For the lines of battle were being drawn, laced in perfume as putrid as carrion, as seductive as sage.

This child and her siblings who sat each night at my father’s table, whilst I retreated beneath the waves to a castle they could never visit. I resented her that, even though I had stopped loving my father many lifetimes past.

“Is it true,” she asked, “that my father made love to the sea, and that is how you were born?” I stared at her until she lowered her eyes, self-consciously pulling her shawl a little tighter about herself. “Would you prefer I go?”

“Yes,” I replied.


“We belong in different worlds.”

“Yet here our worlds meet.”

She came close again, raising one hand, inviting me to press my palm against hers. For a moment, my own curiosity overwhelmed me.

“It’s warm.” – “It’s cold!” we spoke at once.

I drew back, catching the fascination in her eyes, not wishing to speak of our differences any longer.

“I must go,” I told her.

“Wait! I have a question.”

“Make it brief.”

“My father, he comes here on the high tide to speak with my mother, yet I only ever see a boat and she is never in it. Is she truly there?”

“Your mother is in the land of the Forever Young, beyond my kingdom of Tír fo Thuinn, far beyond the last wave.”

“What is life like there?”

“You will see someday.”

“Is she happy?” I met her with silence. “May I speak with her?”

“No. I have made no oath with you.”

“Have you no compassion, brother?”

“Has not your father’s fate taught you to forget the dead, sister?”

I could see that she understood me.

“I am warm enough now, I will leave you.”

As she began walking back along the path to the woods, I called out once more. “F--------, we shall meet again someday, you and I.”

Her smile was only half a smile, as though she had not heard. 

Perhaps she, too, felt the breath of the Fates through the ages.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, this is great! Way to go, posting it as you're bumping right along! Exciting... Maybe an extract will fill the next post's space... :)