Category Archives: Prose

Midnight light

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Before the shadowed mirror

She stood, backlit in soft glow

From a single lamp on the left,

The dancing flame softening

The lines of a sleepless,

Merry night – For it had been indeed!

 

She stood, caught in the dregs

Of midnight magic fading,

Holding proudly, the visage

Of a Roman empress in colour

And style, but in dress more humble,

Wrapped in the softened glow of the everyday.

 

She fancied she saw held,

In the silver disk before her,

Caught as she was betwixt,

Divine and mundane,

That then she was more beautiful

Belonging to a Raphaelite painting.

 

Too delicate, she felt herself,

For harsh reality’s harsh sunlight.

She shied away, covered the glass,

Such fancies fade away with time.

3 Days 3 Quotes – Day 1

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Oooooh, a tag! Haven’t seen one of those in while! (Well if you bothered to actually stick around on WordPress for more than 5 minutes at a time…)

-ahem- Big thanks to the ever-lovely Irena S. for the nomination! Not sure if I’ll manage to do the full thing, small as it is, I’m on essay writing mode right now… Here goes anyway!

The rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post three different quotes in three consecutive days
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

And quote #1, from literally the first book next to me right now. It’s from Diary of a Witchcraft Shop by Trevor Jones and Liz Williams and every page of it is hilarious!

“Walking down the High St last night, I was suddenly accosted by St George, in full armour and a sword, who leaped out of the doorway of the George and Pilgrim, exclaiming, ‘Ah! A damsel!’ I explained that I was not, however, in distress and St George disappeared. But it’s the thought that counts.”

If you fancy seeing what living in as crazy a place as Glastonbury is like, I’d say check it out.

Now…who to nominate…Oh, I know! -cue the Pokemon theme- I choose Cora and Brittany! Yes, I know it says three people on the tin but my list of blogs I follow isn’t exactly huge, so if I’m going to do all three days I need to have people to keep tagging! Of course, since the people in question are not stuffed in Pokeballs, there’s no pressure to do the tag. Gotta admit it’s fun though!

Bedroom Window – Three flash stories

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  1. The girl in the tower

She leaned against the window sill, heedless of the rose thorns catching on her clothes. Mother never left for long. If she was to do it, it had to be now. She looked at the drop below her. With a nervous breath, she tugged her braid inside. Maybe next time.

 

  1. First night

The branches scratched against the glass and, with a shudder, he pulled the blanket over his head. What a night to be left alone! With thunder booming outside and shadows dancing at every corner of the room. Some darker than they should be, he fancied. With a whimper he tried to sleep.

 

  1. Entry level

The bird paused in front of them. It had been walking on the windowsill uncertainly, trying to, no doubt, comprehend what it was seeing. It chirped uncertainly and took a step closer to the invisible barrier. Two streets down a car honked. Startled, the bird turned around and took off.

In which Mordred is really not a bad guy….

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In case there is anyone left who has missed the memo: I prefer villains and anti-heroes to straight-cut heroes. I’ve always found them so much more interesting, even if they sometimes are saddled with a “just because” motivation. And that is way it’s always bugged me that Mordred is evil just because he is. Sure, we needed a formidable enough enemy for Mr I-Kill-Giants-In-My-Free-Time but surely there had to be more in the story. I may love medieval literature but it cannot be denied that when it comes to complex motives and conflicting loyalties, well, unless it’s a love story, they kind of are ignored in favour of a more standardised Good vs. Evil plot.

 

tumblr_mbik3r0mUP1qbq8v8 And then I read the Alliterative Morte Arthure. And suddenly this guyis not the root of all evil. If anything,  when Arthur makes him Regent he respectfully declines. Truly the sign of a power-hungry usurper. It’s a  small thing, but Mordred has a surprisingly small number of lined dedicated to him and his sub-plot. What  is more, he expresses genuine regret towards the death of his brother, without the melodramatics that  Arthur deems necessary. Call me insensitive, but if you’re in the middle of a civil war and practically a  sitting duck, then you’ll refrain from ad-libbing a eulogy until you are safely on the throne again. Geez, no  wonder Guinevere couldn’t stand the guy!

 

Also, might I point out that in every account of the Morte Artu episode I have come across (that was composed before the 1900s), Mordred is crowned king by popular demand?  To paraphrase a line from the text itself, the people preferred him to Arthur because with him they had peace and prosperity but with his father they only had wars. And wars might be all well and good when you have 60kg of armour protecting you, but not when your only weapon is a sharp stick because you couldn’t afford anything else. Also, considering that “the people” are the ones making sure the nobles have food on their tables, I think Mordred had appealed to the right demographic.

 

Whether you choose to follow the Morte Arthure as cannon or pick another strand of the tradition, the point remains. All versions of the episode agree that Mordred was trusted by both Arthur and the court, hence the regency. I just think there must be something more to the story, something that was brushed aside in order to draw clearer moral lines.

In which you learn to ALWAYS question the source

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Ah…I remember the first time I read a translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of king Arthur. Being a newbie on the whole Arthurian literature thing, I was star-struck by the pseudo-historic way in which he presented the events. True, I understood that he was probably making stuff up at least partly as he went on, but damn he did it in a cool way. And then I came across his claims over his reputed main source, that Holy Grail of lost manuscripts that he supposedly based his work. Yeah, as far as I can tell the manuscript Geoffrey describes did not exist. Most of the texts I have found on the subject argue that he probably based his account in part on pre-existing manuscripts (but a multitude of them, not one) and in part in oral tradition.

 

This got me thinking though. Sure, not even all of his contemporaries believed his account to be genuine, but the Historia became the basis, in some capacity or other, of most future versions of the Arthurian Cycle. Why was that? I’m not dissing Geoffrey; his account is very interesting, even if it is just read as a reflection of his time. However, Arthurian texts retained their quasi-historical claims for a while. Why base your text in a debatable source? Where they consciously undermining the historicity of their accounts? I remember being told that the greatest compliment an author could make in the middle ages would be to present another’s account as the ‘true facts’ he –ahem- borrowed from.

 

Maybe then the point wasn’t the accuracy. Maybe the point was to show appreciation for a predecessor’s work. In a time when the written word was not exactly openly available this might have been one of the few ways to actually preserve an older account and at the same time make it contemporary. The extensive bibliographies that are now readily available at the end of most books would be simply unimaginable in the early 1000s.

 

And maybe it was in that spirit that BBC’s Merlin (the mash-up adaptation that I respect most after Malory’s account) actually included a character named Geoffrey of Monmouth.

In which the Welsh invent Rom-Com

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Ever heard of the Mabinogion? It’s collection of stories (originally in Middle Welsh I think) that were introduced to me as one of the earliest collections of Arthurian tales still around. Meaning that there are recognisable names, romance, random supernatural forces, mindless violence, bizarre quests and generally hijinks. Also a Rom-Com. I’m not kidding! Culhwch and Olwen is a rom-com, I swear. Here’s what TV Tropes have to say about rom-coms:

 

“Every story needs a conflict, and since rom-coms are driven by the quest for love, the conflict derives from the obstacles to the quest. This could be the apparent incompatibility of the leads: mutual Love at First Sight is rare. The two characters will spend a good part of the movie fighting their obvious attraction. Eventually, they’ll realize they’re perfect for each other. Or, something will pop up; maybe a Three’s Company kind of misunderstanding, or a revelation in the third act about one of them lying. One of the two characters will storm off in a huff. Or the couple is already married for some reason, and the conflict comes partially from different expectations and misunderstandings.

 

The climax of a rom-com requires the satisfactory recognition of love: the other chases after the love interest and does something really romantic to win them back. The reconciliation scene ends with the two characters reunited in a romantic embrace. Often ends in a wedding.”

 

Now match that to what happens in Culhwch and Olwen: Culhwch, the hero, is cursed to only marry Olwen, who in turn is forbidden by her father to marry at all. Here’s the Romeo and Juliet angle, with Ysbaddaden being either the Big Bad or the Overprotective Father, depending on your reading of the story (coughTenThingsIHateAboutYoucough). Culhwch would then be the Big Damn Hero (whether he deserves the characterisation for any other reason other than his name being on the title is up to debate) and Olwen the Magical Girlfriend.

 

Of course it wouldn’t be a rom-com if there weren’t an assorted cast of characters to surround our star-crossed mains. Call it a motif or trope but Culhwch’s gang can be categorised under Six Go Round The World, a group that includes somebody ideal for every occasion that may arise (also known as token characters). They are provided by Culhwch’s Fairy Godmother of a cousin, our good old friend, Arthur. One might argue that Culhwch and Olwen’s aunt (just go with it) is also a Fairy Godmother, since she enables the two lovers to meet.

 

And, truly, it wouldn’t be a rom-com without wacky shenanigans now, would it? Just have a look at what Ysbaddaden demands Culhwch and co. do before he agrees to the wedding! Sure, serious people call it a quest, but considering an impressive amount of the things the knights collect go towards giving the Big-Not-So-Friendly-Giant a makeover…well….

 

To top it all off, this little, violent beyond expectation, rom-com ends with a wedding. Say what you will about what happens before but at least these two crazy kids will have some fantastic, How-I-Met-Your-Mother-esque stories to tell in the future!

 

Sooooo….How close is my wacky interpretation to the original? Have a look here and see for yourselves!

The Fisherman and the Water Maiden (rewrite)

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Author’s note: I usually don’t post rewrites of pieces I have already uploaded, but I wasn’t happy with how it originally turned out, so here’s the edited version.

The fisherman and the water maiden

In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and reefs, waiting to claim unsuspecting sailors. It was here, the stories said, that water maidens lived. It was rare one might see them, as it was said that they appeared only to those that made them curious. Nevertheless, people said they made excellent wives.

 

In the village lived a poor fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than most considered wise. One year, the young man was making the customary wine liberation ‘to appease the Old Man Sea’, as his elders taught, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher threw the comb right back in the water, not wanting to face a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who had been drawn near by the unfamiliar sweet taste of wine in the water. The following dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more when, out of the gleaming water, came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the gold of the sand on the shore and her hair the many blues of the ocean. Fascinated, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too hard.’

Still laughing, she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. At the end of the week his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

‘Your bread won’t do for me!’ she said. ‘It’s far too soft.’ With a wink she disappeared underwater again.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing this to be the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she determined to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread to offer to his faery sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a smile, he offered her the loaf and, to his delight, she accepted it.

‘My name is Awel,’ she said softly before diving once more into the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but, before he could, the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

‘Choose wisely, young human,’ said the Old Man. ‘Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.’

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her and said,

‘You are Awel.’

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

‘Know this, young human,’ Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat. ‘My daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! Should you forget she is not bound by the rules of your world three times, she and all that is hers will leave you.’

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised to accept her in every way.

 

And so the fisherman brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. And if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves, what did it matter? Everyone agreed that they took after their mother and he loved them just like that. Days turned to months, and month turned to years, and the fisherman counted himself the happiest man in his village. Then, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he chastised his wife for not having the house prepared for his return. Awel looked at her husband.

‘I cannot live all day by the hearth,’ she said. ‘Take care.’

 

The fisherman understood the warning and, loving his wife too much to lose her, paid extra care to avoid anything that might cause her departure. For a while all was well in his household once more. Then, after a terrible storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The man might be lost but he was far from dead. The fisherman, hurt by his wife’s reaction, scolded her. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

‘I know of things you cannot know,’ she said. ‘Take great care.’

 

The third and final error came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maiden and, as maidens are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried, knowing her daughter forever bound to land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman insisted she stop crying on a happy occasion. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

‘Your rules do not bind me. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.’

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s prosperity.

The fisherman and the water maiden

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In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all-. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and underwater reefs, just waiting to drown an unsuspecting sailor.

 

It was perhaps because of that, that the sailors often returned with stories of the water maidens, beautiful blond women whose songs were what caused the drownings. Despite their lethal reputation they were thought to make excellent wives for those cunning enough to entice them to the shore. In fact, many of the older families in the area boasted of having a water maiden as an ancestress.

 

Now, in the village lived a poor young fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than what most might consider prudent. One year the young man was making the customary wine liberation “to appease the Old Man Sea”, as his elders said, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher knew if the stories, so he threw the comb right back in the water, not particularly wanting to be at the receiving end of a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who, having never tasted wine before, had been drawn near the boat by the unfamiliar sweet taste overpowering that of the salt in the water. The dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more. The newly-risen sun painted the water gold and out of it came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the blue of the deep ocean and her hair the gold of the sand on the shore. Remembering the stories he had heard, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s too hard.”

With one last laugh she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. One week later his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s far too soft.” With one last wink she disappeared underwater once more.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing that this was the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she set off to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread with the instruction to offer that to his fey sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a shy smile, he offered her the loaf and –to his delight- she accepted it.

“My name is Awel,” she said softly before diving once more to the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but before he could the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

“Choose wisely young human,” said the Old Man. “Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.”

 

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her in the eyes and said,

“You are Awel.”

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

“Know this young human,” Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat, “my daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! If you strike her unnecessarily three times she, and all she has brought, will leave you.”

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised never to lay a hand on her for anything other than a caress.

 

And so the young human brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe, no matter how treacherous the water he treaded. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. So what if the floor of their house was never quite dry? They lived close to the shore, some damp was inevitable. So what if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves? There were six of them and born as closely as they were, there was always a baby to focus on.

 

Life was as perfect as could be for the fisherman until, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he lightly pulled his wife through the door. All laughter immediately stopped. Awel looked at her husband.

“This was the first strike,” she said. “Take care.”

 

The fisherman loved his wife and had no intention of losing her. For the longest time he paid extra care, fearful that he might forget himself and bring her closer to her departure. Alas the day he feared came sooner than he thought. After a particularly nasty storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the unfortunate man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The fisherman, embarrassed by his wife’s reaction and not privy to her knowledge, lightly rapped her hand. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

“This was the second strike,” she said. “Take great care.”

 

The third and final strike came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maid and, as maids are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man from their village. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried knowing her daughter forever locked in the land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman lightly struck her hand once more. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

“This was the third strike. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.”

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s preternatural luck.

Faery Queen May and the Minstrel

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Once upon a time, in a small village by a long road, there lived a young man who wanted nothing more than to become a minstrel. Day in and day out he would labour with the lute until his fingers bled. No matter. The notes fell flat and scratchy to the ears of his unfortunate neighbours. Day in and day out he would practice his singing until his throat was hoarse. No matter. The ballads of desperate lovers sounded like market gossip when he sung them. Still the would-be minstrel practised, determined to achieve fame, to one day travel to the distant capital and perform before the king and all his gold-arrayed court.

 

The young man lived with his mother and grandmother, in a small house near the long road. They had a garden in their backyard and made a living by selling fruit and vegetables to their fellow villagers. The minstrel’s mother was at her wits’ end with her daydreamer of a son.

“Thomas,” she’d say, “go and water the garden.” And Thomas would go out to the garden, but get distracted, grasping for words to describe how the sun light made the water drops gleam, and half the garden would be left dry.

“Thomas,” his mother would say, “take this basket and go to the market to sell our wares.” And Thomas would take the basket to the market, but get distracted, listening to the sounds of life and people, and half the fruit would go unsold and spoiled.

 

The grandmother was old, some said as old the long road. She moved little and spoke even less, but her eyes were sharp as hawk’s and she saw what burned her grandson. One afternoon, as Thomas sat in the garden, practicing the lute in vain, she called to him and spoke thus:

“Child, I know what ails thee and how to remedy it. And if you do exactly as I instruct you, you will become as great a minstrel as ever’s a minstrel been.”

Thomas set the lute down and swore to do exactly as she instructed. The grandmother pointed to the long road.

“Tonight,” she said, “the court of Faery Queen May will go a’revelling through this road. Mark me well. Go and sit yourself on the ground and draw an iron circle around you. Then play your lute as ill as you have ever played. They will invite you to their dance, if only to stop your music, but heed them not and stay a’playing. They will ask your name and that of your master, but heed them not and stay silent. Know this well grandson. If you speak to them, or move out th’circle they will take you with them and it will be years before you find your way home. They will tell you many things, many great secrets, and if you keep your peace and pay them heed, I guarantee, a minstrel you will be, as great a minstrel as can be.”

 

Thomas thanked his grandmother for her council and determined to do as she had ordained. And the wise old grandmother, knowing her child’s child to have more heart than reason, gave him a spoonful of pine honey to hold in his tongue before he left the house, with the instruction not to swallow until dawn broke.

 

That very night the minstrel drew a circle of iron in the middle of the long road and sat himself in. Before long Faery Queen May’s court appeared, dancing and singing their way out of the woods and into the crossroads before Thomas. He looked and saw as fair maidens as he had ever dared imagine and even more so. Their skin was white as the glow of stars, their eyes glittered like gems and their voices were as melodious as any nightingale’s. They saw Thomas and beckoned him with sweet smiles to come and join their revel. But Thomas merely picked his lute and started playing as ill as he could.

 

Before long a faery, wrapped in the greens of leaves, came and stood on the edge of his circle.

“What is you name fair youth?” she asked. “Who is your master? He is poor master indeed, to have taught you so ill. Listen to the wind as it brushes my leaves, that is how you should brush your strings.”

Thomas listened to the way the wind brushed the leaves but spoke not.

 

The moon was half-up in the sky when another faery, wrapped in the blue and crystal of the deep forest pool, came and stood on the edge of his circle.

“Where do you come from sweet one?” she asked. “Who are your parents? Your music will ne’er be sweet if you lean on your lute so heavily. Mark my light dewdrops hanging from the flowers. That is how light your body should be.”

Thomas marked the gathering dewdrops hanging from the flowers but spoke not.

 

On and on, all night long the faeries revelled in his tunes and every now and then one of them would come to stand before Thomas. They tried to get him to sing but the honey made his tongue heavy and unyielding. They tried to get him to join their dance but the circle kept him in. And as the minstrel listened to their words his fingers grew deft and swift, and as the night passed the notes came sweeter and smoother, as good as any minstrel’s of the past.

 

At last Faery Queen May stood before Thomas. She spoke not but gazed at him with sad eyes, and Thomas gazed back and saw that she was fairer, so much fairer than her companions, shining light the full moon amongst the stars. At last Faery Queen May spoke.

“Oh dearest one, your music will ever be but notes unless love touches your heart. Come with me, beloved, and let me teach you about love.”

She offered her hand and Thomas, spellbound by her beauty, swallowed the honey and sprung to his feet, but! As his hand reached through the circle dawn broke. Like a flash the faery court disappeared and Thomas was left alone on the long road, with a head full of wisdom and a heart aching for love of the Faery Queen May.

 

He picked the lute in his hands and, as he walked the long road back to his small house at the small village, he played and sung. His old grandmother heard him and wept, for she knew what it meant to have fingers as swift as the wind in the leaves, hold light as dewdrops hanging from flowers and a voice as sweet as a lover’s yearning for their love.

How March came to have more days than February

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Once upon a time, back when the world was still fresh and young, and the months barely more than children, things were a lot different than what we know now. Out of the twelve sons of the Time March was the shortest, having been born with twenty-eight days instead of thirty or thirty-one. Not that it bothered him. By the time his turn on the Wheel of the Year arrived people were more eager to prepare for his brother April’s arrival and the actual beginning of spring. March, for all his quick temper, was good-natured at heart and didn’t mind helping the people adjust from his elder brothers’ icy temperaments to the youngers’ warmth and exuberance. So he had a bad habit of dealing frosts with one hand and sunshine with the other. Who could blame him? He was stuck right in the middle!

 

Truth be told, most people didn’t mind March’s changefulness, thinking of him as the actual beginning of spring rather than the more accommodating April. There was one though, one who dislike poor March more than anyone in the world and that was Old Missy. Old Missy lived in a small house at the edge of her village with her two goats and her giant cauldron. She was cheese-maker and there was little she enjoyed more than complaining about everything and everyone around her. None, not even the months could escape her tongue-lashings and she always seemed dissatisfied with something, be it the weather, the children playing near her house too loudly or her poor goats for not giving the right amount of milk.

 

When March found out, he took it upon himself to change Old Missy’s mind. He heard her complaining about the children’s’ noise so he blew cold winds to send them back to their mothers’ hearths. Still the old woman complained.

“Ah March! Fickle March! You blow your cold winds and make my old bones ache. You send the earth back to winter’s sleep, no grass is growing and what will my goats eat?”

 

So March tried again, eager to make Missy happy. He gave her warm, sunny days so that grass would grow for her goats to eat and for her old joints no to hurt. Still the old woman complained.

“Ah March! Fickle March! You grow hot and spoil my milk before I can make cheese. Your sun makes folk and beast lazy and none will come to my house to buy my wares and how will I live with no profit?”

 

Every day for all his twenty-eight days March tried to make the old woman happy. He brought rain to cool the heat, she complained of rheumatisms. He made flowers bloom in her front yard, she moaned the colours hurt her eyes. He coaxed the birds to sing sweetly by her windows, she groaned for the noise that wouldn’t let her sleep. At last the twenty-eighth day arrived. Old Missy sat on her porch and cackled in delight.

“Ah March! Fickle March! There’s still some life left in these old bones! You tried your best but I beat you and lived through all your topsy-turvy weather!”

 

March, exhausted as he was, grew angry. He had tried everything in his power to make Missy happy and still she mocked him. He wrapped himself in a cloud of early-morning frost and off he marched to his elder brother’s icy castle. He found February tending to his snowdrops.

“Brother February, grand me a boon,” March said, as he joined his brother’s gardening efforts.

“If it is in my power, will all my heart,” February answered and another flower bloomed cautiously under his gaze.

“There is an old woman mocking my powers,” March said. “Grant me three days so that I may punish her.”

 

February nodded silently. He knew of Old Missy and of her bitterness. His bad leg had been bothering him a lot more lately. Maybe it would do him good to roam the earth less. So he chose his three coldest days and gave them to March. The younger month thanked him and, armed as he was, stood right over Missy’s house and blew the worst storm that the old woman had ever seen. For three days the wind tore and the rain fell and when April finally poked his mischievous head around the corner, he found the old woman and her goats hiding under the giant cauldron for protection, the house having been completely blown away.

 

Thus February became the shortest month, March gained three days and an old woman learnt the value of silence.