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Elan Mudrow on Poem – Points of Co…
The traveler had been walking for miles without rest, determined to reach his destination before nightfall. Now in the dying light of the sun, the path had grown shadowed and unclear, causing him to quicken his pace and grip at his coat to keep warm against the building wind. Despite his best efforts, these cliffs were unfamiliar and misleading, forcing the man to turn heel and retreat in search of a more reliable route. Ireland was tamed and fenced, but had not lost her wildness just yet.
By the time he had doubled back it was already late evening, the howling of wolves signalling the beginning of their hunt and the moon’s rising. A beautiful pale marble cast shaky beams of light through the canopy of birch trees, who stood themselves as ancient reminders from a different time. He could see his breath rising in uneven puffs of heat, and somehow this brought a flicker of light into view. Just off the path, a small campfire burned not too far away; certainly close enough to make the traveler shiver with jealousy. Cautiously, he approached, resigning himself to the fact that he may have to spend the night here.
The flames were well kept, dancing obediently within a small circle of wood and ash to provide heat. The traveler crept closer, trying to catch sight of the figure nearby, but struggling to see past their hooded and cloaked appearance. “Excuse me…” He said quietly, repeating himself when there was no answer. “Excuse me but I was hoping to warm myself by your fire, if I may?” He dipped his head, both in a show of gratitude and a sly attempt to see a face beneath the hood. Though he didn’t quite catch sight, the figure was revealed to be a man when they finally spoke back. “Oh ‘I mayyy’, is it? Well you may sit, you may stand, you may entertain us both with a jig if you prefer. Join me, my friend.” There was a kindness to that voice almost unheard of, with a natural warmth and booming depth that reminded the traveler of a father he had never known. Before he could respond, the man looked up at him, and gestured to a nearby stump.
“Thank you.” He said simply, regarding his new companion’s face with curiosity. It hadn’t seemed obvious at first, but this man was well over 7 feet tall, and even beneath a long cloak it was clear to tell he was strongly built as well. There was a smile on his face, but an almost tired expression that marked his skin with dry wrinkles that cut through a light dusting of freckles. His messy, copper beard reminded the traveler of the dancing embers below; spread like flame across the stranger’s smiling face. Even so, something about him didn’t feel right, and he found it impossible to shake the uneasy feeling in his stomach.
“I really don’t mind you staring at me like some clueless child, you know.” The tall stranger interrupted the traveler’s worrying with another volley of noise, before rummaging around in the tall grass by his seat. “But at least have something to eat first.” A modest little cauldron was eventually produced, and placed on the flame while the stranger retrieved a matching iron spoon. Both were blackened with use, and he hummed cheerfully as he stirred the contents. “Now that you’re my guest, I probably shouldn’t let you starve to death tonight. Not while there’s lamb and potato to be had.” He grinned toothily, allowing his hood to slip just enough to reveal thick, messy flame for hair, matching his beard. The traveler had barely spoken, though managed to nod by way of a meager reply.
A few moments passed in silence, the tall man busying himself with cooking and humming, while the traveler watched the mixture bubble against the heat. “You haven’t had stew in years, have you? Not since your Mother last made it.” The stranger spoke as if he had known this man all his life, nonchalantly stirring the pot without even bothering to look up. “No I…That’s not…” Again, the traveler was left struggling for words, and felt that unease build up again. In the light of the fire, bright green eyes shone like jewels, and for a moment it seemed as though the trees edged closer to the tall stranger. They offered their branches to him, their golden leaves practically wrapping around his shoulders. Something was wrong. “How could you know that..?”
“Eat.” The stranger demanded, dunking a bowl into the cauldron and passing it over to the traveler. “You’ll enjoy it, truthfully. Don’t act like it’s some kind of fool’s poison – see?” The stranger took a handful straight from the pot and slurped it down hungrily, just to prove his point. “If I can eat it, you can eat it…or I put you in the pot for tomorrow!” Thankfully a great, hearty laugh followed the threat, which hopefully made it out to be some kind of joke. The traveler certainly wasn’t smiling, but put his lips to the bowl and drank the broth out of hunger and no small amount of fear. It was delicious, beyond anything he had ever tasted before. That first sip soon turned into starved, desperate gulps for more, and chunks of meat and potato only added to the flavour. His senses lit up, his mouth watered and his body flooded with shivers of delight as the meal lasted a lifetime. Flashes of happy memories rolled by, of laughter in houses and comfortable beds, fireplaces and friends, a childhood by the ocean. In reality it had taken less than a minute to finish the bowl, but it had changed everything.
“Not bad at all, is it?” The stranger smirked, now appearing as a far younger man with a staff by his side. “Now, I believe it is time for a story. I know a good one.”
With a curious pause, he reached inside his cloak and revealed a handful of stones, displaying them for a half-moment before placing them down on a small stump by their side. “Good stories deserve a stage.” He mumbled, knowing that the traveller could now feel the stew warm his body and numb his concerns. It was enough to bring him some measure of peace and comfort, even as the dark stones began to shudder and take new shapes. The tall stranger continued to speak, his voice calling a thin mist to spread over the woods, and dance around this makeshift stage of stone and wood.
“On that day, great ships arrived on the horizon, broad and strong. It was a massive fleet beyond imagining, piercing the clouds with determination, withobsession. The call had brought them from a distant land, to seek out this new, fertile home.” Four of the mysterious stones rolled neatly into line, a formation matching the tale as they splintered into new shapes. Sharp, jagged representations of ships slid across the uneven surface, the stone figures bobbing and lifting as if being shifted by the sea’s command. “Their journey was not one of water and storm, but of the air. These vessels were built with purpose, and wreathed in mist they arrived against the shores of Éire with a fleet that danced across mountains, far far off the ground.”
The stranger’s words echoed unnaturally, lifting the tiny stone ships into the air and surrounding them on all sides by a silken covering of dark mist. With wide eyes the sole audience member could only watch in amazement, and in his heart he knew this tale was true, however fantastical. To him, these stone ships were regal, worthy vessels for an ancient race, the story taking on a form of its own with visions of the past. Tendrils of smoke wrapped around his body, curled against the flickering embers of the fire to blur reality with this impossibility. The hooded stranger’s stage was far more than it seemed, and his story had only begun.
“And so we arrived.” His face slipped into an earnest smile, fondly recalling the details. “The Tuatha De Danann, finally home. It had been a long journey, but our ships swept against the shore as light as feathers, brushing the grass before slipping away entirely. Bare feet touched soil, we filled our lungs with air and the mist slowly parted.“ As soon as he spoke the words, that dense mist around the campfire began to fade away as well, leaving the stone ships in a new form. Like pewter chess pieces, they now represented tall, graceful humanoids in fine garb, though the largest seemed to wear only a simple, very familiar cloak. “But that’s…” The traveller found it difficult to speak, but somehow managed to muster up a few words before he was interrupted again. “Yes, it is. My name is Dagda.“ In an act of some vanity, the cloaked man lifted up the matching piece and held it gently in his palm, now clearly showing the similarities between them.
He turned it over, glancing at the detail with pride and tugging idly at a strand of hair from his beard. He allowed the fire to cast some light on the piece before setting it back down and continuing. “I have been here for quite some time… But we were not the first, nor were we the last. When we arrived, men of war and suffering arrived to greet us, The Fir Bolg. Their lifetime of grief and hard labour was worn clearly on their withered expressions, they were unable to hide it.” Suddenly, a long finger was pointed in the traveller’s direction, as Dagda spoke directly to him. “Have you ever truly fled from something? Have you hoped for more, and ran tirelessly to try and catch it?” The man froze, looking towards the ground to avoid further accusation. His silence was telling, and Dagda let it linger for a moment before speaking again. “We called them the ‘men of bags’, these Fir Bolg. Their lives had been spent as Greek slaves, labouring away in the scorching heat, backs hunched over from the weight of their burden. They were forsaken for having left Éire, in search of a brighter sun. They fled, and found it not to their liking.”
It seemed as though Dagda took some pleasure in recounting their story, perhaps savouring a feeling of superiority, but allowing a measure of sympathy to flow as well.
Inspired by stories of the Tuatha de Danann, and encouraged by Niamh.
There were no clouds that day. Not a single stroke of rain held back the clear and still sky from breaking through, in grim contrast with the chaos below. Within the forest, each tree filled with the King’s presence, each patch of earth responding to his footfall with quiet bursts of light. He wore no crown, but gazed down at his arm of silver as it glinted in the sunlight. Soon, nothing would be left of these woods.
The Fomorians had brought unspeakable ruin, scorching the land with black flame and poisoning what remained on their way to this place. Ancient shadows crept from underground, unshaken by the sunlight and growing even bolder as they gathered in number. With serpentine tongues lolling from their toothy jaws, they charged through and set up messy ranks in the valley below, gathering under the banner of traitorous Bres.
Nuada spat at the thought; his resolve cracking only slightly as he took in the sight of impending battle. It was not easy to forget the tyranny of Bres, nor the starvation and misery suffered by the clans under his rule. Battle had claimed one limb already, but the great chieftain was more willing than ever to fight for peace once again. From his point on the hill, he felt the weight of responsibility and doubt, shrugging off weakness in favour of courage. This land was theirs; fought through storm and sky when they first landed on Irish shores in great ships of mist. The Fomorians were just another obstacle to overcome. Drawing his sword, and a solemn breath, Nuada stepped forward into shadow.
The Tuatha De Danaan were eager to fight, and assaulted their enemy with a furious charge. It was as if you could hear the sound echo through the mountains themselves, cracking stone as both armies met with a thunderous smashing of shield and spear. The Fomorians left smaller creatures to the back, those twisted hounds that vaulted across to dig their teeth into the necks of anyone they could find. Bolts of unspeakable magic conjured from mere whispers flew overhead, while elsewhere giants hurled boulders with an inhuman force. The Tuatha carried their anger and their thirst for vengeance with them; splintering the masses and forcing a path towards their former King Bres, the half-cast monster. He watched the war with a callous grin, hidden behind waves of creatures too foul to mention, but none were worse than Balor of the evil eye.
It felt good to take back his rightful place as King, to lead his men to righteous battle, Nuada thought through gritted his teeth as another monster fell to his sword. He would set things right after this, he would end this war and change things for the better. The wave of soldiers stormed ever onward, confidence rising in their chests until they caught sight of the enormous, hooded shadow on the horizon. “BALOR!” A shrill voice called from the distance. “Burn every last one of them” Bres pointed a crooked finger and watched as the bloated titan pulled at his mask.
The giant’s face was covered by steel and cloth, like some crude blindfold that went on for layer after layer of fabric. He peeled away until one terrible eye was revealed, and the charge of the Tuatha De Danaan ceased. “Hold…” Nuada ordered, uncertain of what was ahead. A mortal chill ran down his spine, his breath pausing. Some had heard stories of what Balor had done, but no man could have predicted the instant dread that filled them as soon as they caught sight of that singular eye slowly opening. Balor looked down upon them, and the screaming began.
I found the place where we lost our hours,
abandoning grace in the sheer damp of the forest.
Walking for miles, familiarity shrouded itself in gold leaves
and swept up my footsteps.
Places like this convince you
that stories are carried page by page.
Invariably, they’ll flow when you aren’t watching.
The scrapes on our knees were compared then,
as boastful adventures found etched into skin.
Little branches – never veins. We were crude and brave.
At times I had to force the invulnerability.
We thought ourselves so powerful,
but fearfulness declared war
on the freezing river, for biting our ankles.
Now we’re beyond a peace treaty.
We would sing if our lips were free,
and our lungs not swollen with the vacant heat
that comes from seeing you again.
Here there is pale softness that stretches on
far further than my fingertips can reach, but I attempt it
over and over again.
You’ve asked me to.
A heavy silence fills gaps between the chorus
and what comes after. Something unnamed, but it’s
all familiar. I’ve looked for you in everyone.
Stay long enough to keep sunlight on your skin .
Drift away and return to gather more.
Fade before I remember.
You’ve asked me not to.
I write poetry to permit the use of the most flowery language I can come up with, and I usually write this physical romance because I simply love to describe it.
I think i’m without structure, but I really do enjoy it; so for this one I wholeheartedly welcome feedback and criticism. It’s not much, but hey, this blog needs some life again!
I’m not normally one to update frequently enough to comment on the comings and goings of my blog, but I’d just like to take the chance here now to say welcome to all the new followers I’ve somehow been lucky enough to earn lately.
I think I owe it to some Nosleep attention, which is fantastic, but no matter the reason I hope you find something you like on here. Actually, I mostly hope that you continue to find pieces that you like! Updates won’t be set to a schedule, but there is definitely more coming, don’t worry about that.
This is an innocuous enough little post, but really this means the world to me so it’s absolutely worth mentioning.
I value you all, look at how much I GODDAMN VALUE YOU!!!
Here’s hoping I do everything but bore you.
So to tide you over until my next update, I thought I’d let you know that I’ve recently posted two short (and semi-ongoing) stories to the horror subreddit /r/nosleep.
Merger: The story of a man trapped within his own town.
I write reality: When a writer discovers a way to make his words really count, he calls on readers to suggest how far he takes it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the forum, it’s a place for horror writers to tell a story to an audience encouraged to believe every word. As such, I’m constantly drawn to the place out of sheer fascination. Reading is one thing, but when suspension of disbelief is strong enough to take it as absolute fact, some really interesting things can be done.
Keep an eye on ‘I write reality’ in particular, as the fact that I ask for outside input means the story is likely to continue on for quite a while yet through updates and comment replies. I’m really enjoying it, taking on my character fulltime and immersing myself in this little idea I’ve created.
I hope you enjoy, and I’m sure I’ll be posting here in earnest soon enough.