December Twitter-Splosion

Every day a different prompt, every day a different tale in a Twitter! Here is all of December’s in one shot. A wild collection of humor, morbidity, and whatever else popped into my head.

DECEMBER

It’s been a year!

cowboy bebop finger guns GIF

12/1/2019

Blue sky, an ill wind blew as I soared over the white capped waves. No gull who longed to live ignored such an #omen. I opened my beak and cried out the warning. Squall! The tall ship sailed out of the harbor. Wind tore at my feathers as I fought to warn them. Turn back!#vss365

12/2/2019

“But mama, aren’t we supposed to hoard treasure and stuff?”

In the crystal cave Drhak’raria lifted her head and smiled down at her whelp. “Some dragons do. But you can’t consume gold. Eat your #crystal, dear so you can grow up strong enough to devour other dragons.” #vss365

12/3/2019

Hail fell into the high beams, #rice from the leaden heavens. I pushed the pedal harder.

“Honey, maybe we should pull over?”

“It’s the holidays, we can’t be late!” A second later, the road skidded out from beneath us.#vss365

12/4/2019

Never mess with a kitsune. There’s a reason those vixens have nine tails, it represents their #fickle nature. One minute they lavish you with the deepest love possible. The next their claws rake sufficient to make you wish you were dead!#vss365

12/5/2019

She turned and smiled at him. Not a comforting smile, but one that sent a shiver down his spine. Frozen he could not move. “They call me the sadistic #guru. And you, my foolish trespasser, are about to learn why.” He didn’t see the strike, but he felt it in his liver.#vss365

12/6/2019

“You’re such a nerd.”

“I am a #pixel warrior! I am undefeated! SHIT!”

“Except by a power outage.”#vss365

12/7/2019

Underneath the #amber lights the world shimmered in the rain. A beautiful sheen that lent a magical quality to the city. A place that lay in stillness populated by the bones left behind of a race that failed to adapt. Fate is a cruel bitch.#vss365

12/8/2019

She pads on paws soft as #velvet, silent against the pavement. Making her way through the city no movement escapes her eyes. There is a reason not even a mouse stirs on the Eve, it is her doing. The kiss of death, Holly, the master mouser of all seasons.#vss365

12/9/2019

Save the world, like real life is based on a novel starring a plucky hero. In reality I have as much #sway as a fly landing on a suspension bridge coil while some crazy yahoo standing on the deck cuts it with a chain saw. At least in my vision I have wings. He doesn’t.#vss365

12/10/2019

Light shimmers pierced the darkness of the chamber I have inhabited for what seems an eternity. Vision, a sense I have long forgone in my solitude. Is the light real? Or merely a cruel #mirage, painful to eyes that have not seen in years? Reality seems the illusion.#vss365

12/11/2019

“Heyya, Grandma? Quick, what’s the best way to #curry favor with a demon? Asking for a friend.”

“Why you lookin’ ov’r your shoulder?”

“Ummm … well … I may have opened that trunk you told me never to touch.”

“Then you shit out a luck, child. No one befriends that ‘un.”#vss365

12/12/2019

I stared at the #serpentine stone in my hand, squiggles of bright green seeming to swim, locked in a black sea. Like magic. I focused hard, remembering the tome’s words. The rock shivered, a hundred tiny eyes opened as my minions sprang to life.#vss365

12/13/2019

I flick the blinker on and glance over into the middle lane, waiting to merge. The red Porsche pulls forward, seeing a half car length between me and the van. She wedges the nose of her can in. Blocked. She’s lucky I #vow no vehicular aggression at a hospital driveway!#vss365

12/14/2019

Visions twist and turn to my will. I had always been a #lucid dreamer, shaping to my desires behind closed eyes. What a shock it must have been to see their world change before their eyes when mine were wide open too. Welcome to my twisted reality.#vss365

12/15/2019

Light spreads a #pastel hue into the velvet sky. Another day begins washed out and empty as I wander down the hillside for a visit. The stone cold on my back. The deep cut letters say you’re here. I linger locked in silence, waiting for the comfort of night to fall.#vss365

12/16/2019

“One cannot #wring blood from stone.”

The necromancer folded his hands and smiled. “One can if one possesses the skills and said stone is fossilized bones.” He snapped his fingers and the figures unfolded from the cavern floor. “Foolish mortal.”#vss365

12/17/2019

A stitch in my side. A tiny #sliver of pain nagging, nagging, always nagging! I long to forget, but the constant stab of the thing I cannot remove has become a part of me, driving me to madness as I long to scratch an unreachable itch. A vile memory eroding my sanity.#vss365

12/18/2019

“You will not have the world, sorcerer! Because I have the magical orb!” CRASH! “Shit!”

My companion buried her face. “Real #suave, butterfingers. You do know there was only one of those.”

“Mwhaha! You just paved the way for my victory. Bravo, hero.”#vss365

12/19/2019

I close my eyes and fade away. The pain, the suffering, the bitter rivalry that is what some call the real world. It’s vulgar and empty. I embrace my #virtual world. A place built to hide from the nightmare of reality. A place of healing refuge in the eye of a storm.#vss365

12/20/2019

“Some heroes we are. Stuck in a frickin’ cave! Alright wizard, time to magic us outta here so we can save the world.”

“Hrm, I have a #profound feeling we’ve seriously fucked up.”

“Geh! That better be sarcastic.”

“We have about an hour of air left. Last words?”

“Son of a-”#vss365

12/21/2019

The embers die into a soft cheery #glow framed in the stones. I smile, warmed by the crackle-pop of the flames deep within still eating away. Feast, my friend. Well, the documents said he got the house … he can have what’s left of it. Merry Christmas, asshole!#vss365

12/22/2019

Moonlight cast it glow across the floor, tinged red in time for the holidays. I sit in the easy chair warming myself by the fire, a glass of cognac in hand. Through the broken window the sound of blood dripped down the #icicle my hit man eavesdropped on. How festive.#vss365

12/23/2019

The table creaked under the weight of the largest dish of #pudding the village had ever seen. Narka held her hands high and silence descended. “Today we celebrate our victory! No more will our enemies call us weak. No more shall they speak!” Vengeance in blood pudding.#vss365

12/24/2019

I awoke in the locked room, my arms bound to my body, the odd sound like a #jingle bell tinkling from the hallway. I dared not call out as the white clad orderly peered through the slat, a ring of keys on his belt. What a Christmas present, committed to Bedlam by Father.#vss365

12/25/2019

Curled in my arms, his fur shifted against my cheek with every breath. All the years of his life counted in each tick of the clock. My heart ached to feel his shudder. Midnight chimed, before the last #grace granted Ashenpaw mercy. The bitterest Christmas morning ever.#vss365

12/26/2019

The snow is cold beneath my paws, a sensation I welcome in this new form after the ache of life. I faded from reality and embraced death thinking it would be a numb void. Instead I rise to #find a world of deep feeling. More alive than I was in life, I spread my wings.#vss365

12/27/2019

The world below the surface of the waves, my world. Smooth scales slid by pillars of #coral flashing delicate fronds of tiny creatures, my subjects. Bubbles rose up from the intruders, landwalkers performing their last task. A death wish. Venom filled my fangs.#vss365

12/28/2019

The moon shown over the valley cutting shadows into the fresh snow. My nose caught the scent in the tracks. One of them was injured. In my throat the cry arose, piercing the heavens. Moments later the pack answered in #harmony. The wolf pack’s litany of death.#vss365

12/29/2019

Behind closed eyes everything changes. A #circus of fantastic beasts dance in colorful rings bedecked in finery fit for the highest courts. All those who had vexed me during the day met their judgment by tooth and claw. The next day, I woke to find them simply gone.#vss365

12/30/2019

I swear the moment I walked into my grandparents no one recognized me. It was as if each family member had lived in a #cocoon for the last year, ignoring the hard work I had done. “You look terrible,” grandma said, “should take better care of yourself.”#vss365

12/31/2019

“Hold my beer!” He took a running leap off the roof, poorly executed thanks to the alcohol marinade. The result? A plummet straight down missing the mattress target and striking the trashcans. We clapped as he moaned, cheering, “#Encore!” My brother is a glutton for pain.#vss365

November Twitter-splosion

The collection of Very Short Stories from the #vss365 prompts on Twitter, all in one shot! This month it’s just an array of wild off the cuff craziness. You know, normal for me.

NOVEMBER

11/1/2019

Rumor has it, I got a short #fuse. It’s funny, I guess from their perspective the shit only just hit the fan. Well, in my shoes they’d know better. They’d know the impact of every word they slung my way recklessly. Well, corpses can never hurt anyone, who’s laughing now?#vss365

11/2/2019

I asked my grandpa if our lives were predetermined. He laughed, “Oh child, life’ll try all sort of tricks to keep you inline. Fate’ll #cuff to the wheel, if you let it. Thing is, you still have your hand on the wheel in a world without roads.” Grandpa’s had 8 accidents.#vss365

11/3/2019

Sam closed her eyes. The tedious complaints of the man in line #grated on her nerves. It wasn’t like the cashier could save the world. At last, Sam stepped up to the cashier, whose eyes filled with dread. Sam just smiled, and got a smile back. They savored blessed silence.#vss365

11/4/2019

I gripped the sack tight, this was my first harvest and I didn’t want to drop anything as I climbed through the cavern. The chamber opened up lined with the #crop of crystal shards. I touched a black one, and recalled the legend just as something stole my body. I turned …#vss365

11/5/2019

Amber smiled as she stared right where here friend pointed at. Everything, the whole universe would come into focus, they all told her. Just breathe. She inhaled the smoke and resumed her search for clarity in the resulting #haze. Wasn’t much, but it sure was pretty.#vss365

11/6/2019

The man sat down in my chair and removed his hat. “Just a #trim, please.” I grinned into the reflection of my razor, already she sang to me, hungry for rubies. I placed her fine edge to his throat and gave him the closest shave he’d ever have. Within an inch of his life.#vss365

11/7/2019

Legend says to #tread lightly if you have to go through Mirewood. Of course, legends also say that there are unicorns and little folk. I don’t believe those either. Besides, I brought my rifle … what the … That a horse with a horn? No way, so swuuuucckkkk!#vss365

11/8/2019

“Did you hear, Trudy has a #crush on Dan. That’s so sweet.”

I raised my eyebrows and watched a monster truck roll by, Trudy scowled behind the wheel. “Dude, check your ears. I believe her exact words were ‘I’m going to crush Dan.’ ”#vss365

11/9/2019

Their eyes burned into me as I stood barefoot on the pyre of their scorn. An ember caught on a torch and flared to life, fed by the hunger for my death. It did not matter to them I #spoke the truth. No—it did matter. Their unjust fear delivered me to this grim fate.#vss365

 

11/10/2019

“Welcome to the first transdimensional Convention. Please step forward and pay the #troll.”

“You mean, toll. Right?”

“Oh no, I mean Groont the security troll. Have a good time!”#vss365

11/11/2019

Maximus thought himself an innovative leader able to conquer any nation on the continent. All of that proved true. That was until he decided the continental empire wasn’t large enough, and neglecting to start a navy, he ordered his army to #march over the sea.#vss365

11/12/2019

Things were quiet on that little blue ball floating in space, Loki thought to himself. Perhaps it was time to #crank up the chaos. He snapped his fingers and Fenrir’s chain broke. The gigantic wolf leapt down, his claws raked both man and earth. “That’s more like it.”#vss365

11/13/2019

The #wind speaks to me. Sometimes a whisper bearing the ghosts of the past. Sometimes it screams to me of the ravages of time eroding the world. Sometimes it’s a lover’s caress biding me to be strong in a world that no longer hears the wisdom of the ages. I alone listen.#vss365

11/14/2019

“This is just another walk in the park. You know the #drill, boys.” That’s what I said, but as the sulfur and brimstone engulfed us at the cavern entrance I white-knuckled my spear. Thankfully it wasn’t every day a dragon moved into the neighborhood. “Eviction notice!”#vss365

11/15/2019

This place is all I have ever known. Born behind bars, I’ve heard of this thing called “a lawn”. Sounds nice. The boy points into my cage, his parents drag him to another dog … a whole dog. I limp back into the corner. One day I’ll leave the #pound, if I live long enough.#vss365

11/16/2019

Anubis rubbed his chin as he examined the world. “Things are not going as planned, Sekhmet. I don’t care what Toth says, this #draft of Earth is deeply flawed. The problem is all these humans.” Sekhmet flashed her teeth, “That’s easily solved, get your scale ready.”#vss365

11/17/2019

“That boy has a lot of #pluck. Do you think he’ll save the village?”

“Are you kidding? He’s nothing but a goose for the gods to tenderize. But don’t tell him that. The gods prefer spirited sacrifices. Maybe next years crops will be better, then we can sing his praises.”#vss365

11/18/2019

There was nothing like dancing the #jive with her. The weight of her body capturing the momentum only to twist and turn. He basked in the memories, gnarled fingers stroking the piano keys. Soon now he would see her again, in each other’s arms.#vss365

11/19/2019

Jim sat on the bumper of the car. Karma really was a bitch, he reflected. The sign he’d held, California or #bust, well, he didn’t mean it to be true. The driver that picked him up was still arguing with the cop whose fault the collision was. So much for Sunset Boulevard.#vss365

11/20/2019

“How do you spell his name?”

“Oh my God, please sis, I beg of you, #play nice!”

“I am. Just need his name so I can kill him … in my novel. It lasts longer.”#vss365

11/21/2019

The field glowed beneath the pale sky blossoming with the rising sun framed by the monoliths. They stood, every breath hanging in the air frozen until at last the blackbird greeted the dawn. Her #refrain warmed every heart. No day was promised until she sang.#vss365

11/22/2019

Rod heaved a sigh as he stared at the candle, hardly any wax dripping down the perfect cylinder. Like so many others it ended early. The first #date was always the last. He turned to Annabelle and picked the doll up from the chair. “Guess it’s still just you and me.”#vss365

11/23/2019

Charity heaved a sigh. “You’re asking a lot of me, typically this type of gig isn’t my thing.”

“It’s real simple, all you gotta do is crash this schmuck’s house and scare the spirit of Christmas into him. Any ghost can do it.”

“That’s a lot to #tackle, the guy’s an atheist.”#vss365

11/24/2019

The music wound into my soul, moving me in ways no one ever should be. I don’t have wings, but I flew! All around me the dance floor vibrated with the emotional impact of countless creatures. You’ve never lived until you’ve attended an underworld #rave.#vss365

11/25/2019

“Gah! Seriously? Stop breathing on me. Your breath smells like … like … ”

“The Army of Nabrille? It should, they were tasty.”

“Then eat a #mint, even dragons should have table manners.”#vss365

11/26/2019

Back and forth she wove the shuttle on the #loom blending the threads in a vast tapestry. I stood powerless to stop her as my thread joined others, wrapped in scarlet red and ashen black, blood and death. “Take up your mantle.” Damn the Fates.#vss365

11/27/2019

Under the #lash I serve my master, doing his bidding without question. My claws sullied by the blood of his enemies. That cursed tool is my true master, now in the hands of his sister I turn my claws at her command. The end of his bloody reign is the beginning of hers.#vss365

11/28/2019

My world is locked in darkness. Black so thick it bears fur and breathes. The cave of beginnings. I inhale the void and steel myself. Against the rock I #strike a match. The flame springs to life, a faint circle of revelation. Eyes stare back. The fur no longer imaginary.#vss365

11/29/2019

Jimmy smiled, wouldn’t the family be proud of him for getting the best deal online! This would be perfect for grandpa. He opened the front door and stared in confusion. That was a rather small box. The label read “chihuahua coffin”. What a bad funeral day #slip up!#vss365

11/30/2019

“Master, what do you want me to do with this #part?”

He glanced at the nerve bundled organ in his assistant’s hands. “Crap, there’s always extra pieces. Just throw it out. Can’t be that important. Alright, let’s juice it up and bring this bad boy to life!”#vss365

Vessel and the Dying Light

Around the glades near the shire of Sruth Uaine not even the wind shifted the last leaf clinging to the ironwood branch. In the dwindling light I sat atop the ode-stone watching the perked ears of my fellow Slan as they wound silently through the deer paths. Every moment the sun journeyed closer to the horizon. Every moment hope died a little more.

I longed for that sensation beneath my paw pressed against the stone. Please, let some other Traveler sing to the stones. Let some Slan succeed, somewhere.

I spread out the toes of each footpaw. I was fleet. Perhaps if I joined in the pursuit? But no. Today, the shortest day of the year, did not belong to me nor any other of the bardic order. This day we were but witness to a ritual that belonged to the uninitiated youth. Who was I, a Traveler beyond her first life-span, to steal the honor from the fleet-pawed who had spent their seasons in practice sprints over hill and dale. My fingers caressed the stubborn stone. The magic thrummed against my pads, willing me to evoke the images of the past rituals. I nearly did before letting my ears fall. No, for I might miss the subtle song from another shire.

“Traveler?” A whisper stole my attention.

I leaned forward and stared down into the eyes of an adolescent stoat clutching a pouch on her belt. Stretched to her full height, she turned her gaze out to the filtering trees. I recalled her name from back in the shire, Dochas was a daughter of one of the druids not yet initiated into the order. She was not known for her grace. In fact her footpaws seemed to have minds of their own.

Her tail bristled and twitched as she went on. “Traveler, how … how do you know for sure today is the Solstice? I mean, could we … could we be wrong?”

“The sun speaks its truth. The path has stalled as only the eyes of those who measure know.” I smiled. “You fear that the search is for nothing.”

A tremble swept through her. “What if it was yesterday? What if we missed the opportunity? What if it is today and no one succeeds? Has that happened before?”

“Indeed, it has.” It took all my will-power not to summon the images of those pawful of harsh times. She already shook, no need to mire her fears. “Not in any age that I have born witness to, but in the distant past there have been winters where no beast of any shire has managed to locate the mighty Soitheach. And in some cases they found her in the dusk and failed to catch the wily beast.”

WinterSolsticeBoar

Her eyes searched with greater urgency.

“Without the touch of a paw and the connection to the legendary mother-boar, the harvest that followed was indeed meager. The forest ungenerous. Every shire in the land shed weight in the turn of the seasons. But don’t fret. Look to the sky. The sun’s rays still blush the horizon. So long as light remains, so too does hope.”

“Then … no one has found Soitheach?” She nearly climbed the stone pillar.

Silence reached out of the surface. No new song broke forth. I shook my head.

Dochas heaved a sigh. “How can no one find a boar that large?”

“The whole of our island is immense.” I shrugged. After all, ancient dragons filled the mountain caverns without a trace. Soitheach was indeed more massive than a normal boar, but she was no mountain.

Dochas’s ears drooped. A moment later they crept back up. A paw to rose to her lips.

I held my breath. Silence, for by now all of the young Slan had pressed away from us toward the distant stream.

Crack.

We both turned and gazed into the fiery rays piercing the wood from the distant hill. A mound moved through the bracken. A snorting shuffle carried through the forest. Dochas clung to the shadow of the stone, crouching low she slunk under a fallen truck of a tree and braced herself.

I narrowed my eyes against the blaze of the setting sun. The final fingers stretched into the sky. I sniffed, but no wind carried the scent. The stagnant air denied any hint as to the creature that came our way. Was it Soitheach’s hooves breaking a trail? Or some other immense beast?

Hold still, young one. Let this be your year. Soitheach, give this one the honor.

Yes, I am too old to believe in such a notion as to her hearing me. Or even my will calling forth a creature of legend. I know better than to assume they gave a damn about the lure of my insubstantial voice. A Traveler holds powerful magic, but the elements of nature hold to their own whims.

From the pouch on her belt, Dochas snatched out a mushroom the size of her splayed paw. Gently she blew on the cap toward the creature. Branches snapped and cracked. The ragged outline of the lumbering mound of flesh grew out of the forest. Tusks longer than a Slan’s arm arched toward the sky. Two beady eyes the color of a rippling stream glimmered beneath shaggy brows. A ridge of coarse frost-gray hair stretched along her back. In her wake the forest shivered, frost cracked the ground in her hoof prints.

Soitheach’s breath curled out of her mouth and rose into an icy fog. She turned her focus toward the tree. Dochas’s paw held the offering out like the wooden limb.

I cocked my head. What a clever little mite.

Step by frostbitten step, Soitheach wandered toward her with nostrils wide sucking in the scent. I clung to my perch. A faint finger of light speared the sky. If Dochas moved, the fleet hooves of the beast would carry her well out of range. All it would take was a flinch and the year would be of fallow fields.

Hold! Chasing now would be folly. Patience, young one!

A paw-width away. Every breath of the mighty boar stirred the fur on Dochas’s paw. Still as the steadfast oak she remained, not even blinking as Soitheach’s flanks twitched. Saliva dripped from her open mouth leaving behind a killing frost.

Soitheach lifted her head and engulfed the mushroom. A string of fluid connected paw and beast.

My heart thrummed. It wasn’t enough. Reach, slow… but reach!

Soitheach ground the fungus between her teeth, grunting with obvious pleasure. Her eyes hooded over.

Swift as lightning Dochas’s paw caressed down the muzzle.

Louder than thunder Soitheach squealed her displeasure. She reared her bulk up onto her hunches and nearly tumbled onto her bristly backside. That fate Dochas did not escape. She toppled tail over muzzle behind the tree. She narrowly missed being crushed by the hooves of the bucking boar.

The forest shattered as Soitheach plowed up the hillside leaving a breathless young stoat in her wake bathed in the final blush of the evening sun. Alarmed voices called from all around, ears bobbed in the distance. Dochas lay there gasping for breath, rooted to the spot as she stared where the legend has once stood in four frosted hoof prints.

My heart raced, the song this year … was mine to sing! I bore witness. From my neck I grasped my kenaz and willed the pendant into a fiddle. Already the prose formed in my mind.

Dochas of the shire of Sruth Uaine, you shall be ever-remembered. You, and you alone by your cleverness, have blessed the new year. Tomorrow, when the day grows longer, we may rejoice and sing your name.


A blessed holidays to you and yours, with a happy new year!

Shadow of Doubt

Shadow of Doubt

samhainsidhewyvern

I reached out and caught the leaf drifting down from the branches. A true masterpiece on a once living canvas. Red tips blazed at the end of the brilliant yellow center. The shrill cry of a sidh-wyvern caught my ear. I glanced up into the shivering autumn leaves and spied her unusual markings.

“What are you looking at, Ealaidh?” Seirm, my bard-in-training charge, flicked his stoat ears in the direction I was gazing.

I ruffled his headfur. “Tis the turning of summer to autumn. Surely you know about the lords of the seasons.”

He chuckled and flared out his short tail. “Of course I know the myth.”

“Myth?” Raising an eyebrow I cocked my head. “Surely you mean myths?”

He stared at me blankly.

“By the multitude of gods, what lazy tailed bard taught you? Oh never mind, it doesn’t matter. Sit. Learn as you should have been taught.” We settled on a fallen log dappled with lichen. The earthy scent filled my nostrils, that damp odor of deceased plants returning to the dirt that gave rise to it. Cycles.

“Seirm, my young bard—”

“I’m seventy-three.”

“My young bard.” I eyed him back into silence. “The seasons did not always turn. Ages ago, not long after the first tribes began the tell of time through Taliesin’s gift of music, Cernunnos turned to Io’s children. The earth had grown weary of supporting constant abundance. So in his great wisdom Cernunnos selected four special sidh-wyverns and gifted them with the power over the weather.”

“Yes. Everyone has heard the legends. But how can something so tiny effect the whole climate? They’re the size of hawks, that’s ridiculous.”

“You are not alone in thinking so. When first they were gifted, one of them suffered greatly under the burden of her task, even into the second year.”

The summer sun cast Muthadh’s shadow long as she stretched her scalloped wings over the hillside amongst the ghosts of shivering leaves. The hawk-sized sidh-wyvern let her translucent back frill tuck in tight as she wrapped her tail around her. Purple and orange scales hardly hid her among the ash tree’s bright green. She closed her eyes and shuddered.

“We are dragon-kin.” She swallowed, hugging the swaying branch with her clawed wings. “What a shameful jest. What am I compared to my larger cousins? A wisp to be blown on the wind?”

A distant cry shattered the air, Muthadh held her breath and spread out her wings prepared to bolt. But for what? She knew that boastful shriek, as did any who roamed the wood in the grip of summer. Luisreadh, the sidh-wyvern whose magic reigned over the season of prosperity. It was his breath that opened the flowers faces to the sun. The current of his wings that spread their pollen through the glades. His cry that summoned the heat of the blazing sun down on the earth.

Muthadh had woken. Luisreadh’s season … was supposed to be ending. Her claws gripped the branch as her eyes locked on her silhouette spilling on the ground. Thin, wiry, substanceless. She whimpered at her shadow of doubt. Green leaves buffeted her. Leaves that were her task to paint as vibrantly as Luisreadh painted the flowers. A warm breeze blew through the wood. Winds that were her task to whip into gales and strip the growth away. The sun winked through the canopy. The same sun it was her task to pull lower into the sky to let land to rest, if she could but summon the courage.

Memories of last year’s attempt paralyzed her. Last year … in what was to be the first turn of the seasons. She bowed her head and whimpered at her failure.

Autumn’s first day was today … and its bringer clung to the branch like a stubborn leaf. When she had opened her eyes on this day and seen the beauty Luisreadh had spread throughout the land, a lump grew in her throat. How could she wilt his beloved blooms? How could she rot this vibrant land? How could she possibly outshine the splendor of the sidh-wyvern of summer?

She spied him winging into the trees, Luisreadh swept through the branches screeching out his pride at his own work. His bright green scales splotched with all the colors of the blooms. Bright rows of spikes lined his back as he undulated through his domain. The spark in his eye lanced Muthadh’s heart. He wasn’t ready to relinquish. For the second time, autumn could not possibly come.

Her shadow shivered up from below, cast over Luisreadh’s masterworks. The shadow mocked her, she swore she saw it narrowing its eyes and laughing up at her. Coward! It whispered. Uninspired fool. Yours is the season of death. Who would ever embrace you? It’s no wonder that no one even missed your failed contribution last year. Crawl into a tree hollow and cry like again! It’s all that is left to you.

She tucked her head beneath a wing and stifled a sob. The gleam of bright blue sparked before her. She opened her eyes to gaze upon on will-o-wisp floating in the folds of her wing. The morpheous sprite floated down to the tree limb, brushing against the bark. “Listen …”

Muthadh bent down and pressed her ear close to the limb.

“Listen …” The wisp evaporated.

weary … rest … The limbs spoke to her in creaks and groans.

She snapped up her head. “You … you would suffer if I did not take over for Luisreadh?”

weary …

“But, you don’t understand. I would be killing you.”

sleep, not death … through winter … spring reawakens … without rest—as if to show her a leaf crisped on the twig and fell to the ground.

“Have you told Luisreadh?”

yes … he bids us to sprout eternal … we are not the evergreen …

Her frill crept up to full, flowing in the breeze between her spines. She watched the reigner of summer soaring on his breeze, oblivious to the cries echoing in the wood. He remained ignorant to the needs of the land. A snarl parted her scaly muzzle. Turning to the shadow of her doubt on the ground she glared hard at it. “Your pointless weight will not ground me. I am the reigner of autumn! This season does not come without my bidding. It is time.” She stroked the tree limb with her wing. “The land needs sleep.”

Throwing her head back, Muthadh released her harsh rasp. Her wings spread and slammed down against the warm current. A cold, crisp bite followed and enveloped her in a spinning frenzy. The skies overhead darkened, leaden with heavy rain clouds as a thunderclap echoed through the valley.

“Luisreadh! Summer has come to a close, the harbinger of autumn has awakened. Bow down and surrender.” She hovered above the tree grove, rain pelting her scales.

A brightly mottled arrow of sidh-wyvern flesh shot up from the canopy. Luisreadh led with his talons and a piercing scream. “I am not finished! I will never fall to you!”

“Spirited words.” She snapped her wing and rose out of his way. Enthusiastic as always, Luisreadh overshot and struggled to pull around and face her. “You know this is how it must be. The land calls to you, but you ignore it. Heed its cries, let it rest.”

Hotheaded Luisreadh bared his fangs. “You challenge me for the mantle? I would have thought last year when I beat you into submission you would have learned. You are not worthy!”

She cringed, the scar on her wing still tugged. But the pain had another effect. She wouldn’t let him win again. Autumn must come, even if he refused to heed the cry of the land. Rising toward him in the growing gale littered with shredding leaves she beat her wings, arching her talons. The chill in the air faded his colors. Each beat of his wings lost power as she stole the mantle from him.

His face lined with shock a moment before she collided with him, entangling him with her talons. He struggled, only to blink up at her. Muthadh carried him lower into the canopy, heading toward his favorite oak tree. “What … what are you doing?” His voice was barely a whisper in her gale.

“Laying you to rest for the turn of the seasons.” She gently nestled him into the crook of the tree, nudging his tail in.

The defeated summer sidh-wyvern’s eyes already were closing where he would sleep three seasons through. “But … why … I beat you into the hillside last year … left you broken.”

She breathed onto the oak leaves and they turned a brilliant array of reds and golds. “I already beat one opponent today. What need have I to prove to another?” A ray of sunlight broke through the clouds casting Muthadh’s shadow against the oak tree. Luisreadh’s eyes blinked back open as the shadow cringed.

Muthadh spread her wings and shot into the heavens, riding the rising gale with each pulse. Beneath her the world turned from one brilliant palette of colors to another of true beauty. The beautiful palette of change as autumn fell upon the land for the first time.

Out of the canopy Muthadh soared, wreathed in will-o-wisps.

Seirm jolted as the sidh-wyvern shot in a tight spiral over our heads and up into the leaden skies.

Placing a paw on his shoulder, I chuckled. “First time you’ve seen a myth, lad? Been around the bard camp too long. Welcome to the real world where there are creatures who truly command their surroundings. Take care to mind them. Especially the harbinger that prepares the earth for the winter sleep … she bares death on her wings.”

Passing the Mantle

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Passing the Mantle

By Taliesin’s decree, a Traveler is never supposed to linger in one place for too long. But the branches of the pine cradled my body like Cernunnos himself made them specifically for my napping. Sheltered from the blanket of snow with my weary footpaws free of the clinging frozen slush, I reclined in those swaying boughs dreaming the full cycle of a moon away … or more. I’m not precisely certain how long fate plotted to disrupt my urge for perpetual slumber.

But disrupt my sleep it did!

SCHLOOMP!

“Gah! That’s cold!” Every limb of my body thrashed as half melted slush crawled in rivulets through my fur chilling cozy warm flesh. The boughs parted, swaying violently in my startled protest. My tail spun, fighting to catch my weight as it slid precariously off my make-shift bed. Claws caught the bark and tore off strips as I swore through the list of gods for the rude wake-up. I made it to my pledged master by the time I managed to save my rump from a potentially majestic fall. “Taliesin if you have anything to do with this I’ll spin your legend with far more truth than your shining image can endure you piece of—”

My tirade faltered as two pale shadows screamed through the forest. Ahh the squeaking rage of two sidh-wyverns, discordant music to the ear. Crouched on the branches of the pine, I parted the needles and peered in the direction they had gone. By nature the tiny dragon-kin were known for feistiness, but this ceaseless chittering dialog betrayed something more.

Overhead a small body plunged and tumbled into the pine bows. I glanced up into the dappled rays of sunshine just in time for Rhew to land sprawled on his back in my lap. The winter-bringer shook the snow from his antlers, his spindly wings snapped warmth against my thigh. He bared his tiny fangs and released a full throated war cry out to the forest. His talons punched against my tunic-covered gut as he fought to right himself. Thankfully the suede held.

“Oww! Hey!” I grabbed onto his tail and held him despite his wild flapping. “Rhew, what has gotten into you?”

He turned and snapped at my paw.

I flicked his nose, leaving him to shake his head with a snarl. “Knock some sense into that rutting head of yours. Now what in the stars is going on?”

Once more he made to scramble for the open air. Rage burning in his bright eyes, he screamed again.

A scream answered. Not an echo. This pitch was higher. A tail flick later a pastel blur swooped down, talons tearing at the pine needles and flinging them. Rhew wrapped his wings around his body, ducking his head inside. Even in the brief glimpse afforded me through the gaps I had noted the bud-like horns on the top of the pink and green mottled sidh-wyvern.

“Ah, I see now.” Nodding slowly, I kept my hold on Rhew’s tail. “Cinnich’s awake now. Well, you know what that means.”

He stretched his wings and a shower of icy flakes sprang into the air.

“Now, don’t be like that. You’ve had your season. The world has slept. Now it is time for you to sleep while Cinnich wakes the earth and brings forth life again.”

Rhew hissed and clacked his teeth. His tail wriggled in my gloved paw.

Smiling at his defiance, I stroked his back until the rigid scales began to lie flat. “That’s enough from you, lord of the winter winds. If you remain in command there will be no thaw, no food. Every beast that relies on the land for harvest would starve, which is most of us who dwell in Caledonia. All that would be left would be you and your subordinate winter sidh-wyverns. The world would be a lonely place for you. It’s Cinnich’s time to paint the land in life.”

Cinnich spiraled into the branches and landed a wingspan away. Her thorned brows knit as she chattered at him. Soon both chirruped back and forth in a maddening cacophony. I held up a finger to her and snapped, “Enough! You’re not helping.”

She flared out her wings and shrieked.

Moss and lichen sprung forth on my muzzle. I stared cross-eyed at it. “You really don’t know when to stop, do you? Neither one of you.” Brushing off the odd growth before it could take root, I grumbled, “First snow in places that that haven’t felt a chill all winter, and now being treated like a rotting log. The things a Traveler must deal with. You would think that two spirits of the elements would have enough sense to manage themselves. But no. You two have to bicker about the turning.”

Rhew, still held firmly at bay by my paw, growled and flexed his talons. Cinnich behaved no better, sticker her tongue out.

“By the moss on a river stone! You two are not hatchlings. But if you insist on behaving as such, I’ll lullaby both your tails into a deep sleep and we’ll just skip your seasons for a few years!”

Both of them whipped their heads my way, eyes wide. Not one peep.

“That’s better.” I released Rhew’s tail, he clambered up onto a branch and adjusted his wings. His eyes puckered as he gazed longingly out to the sunshot day. “I know Rhew, you are a fine painter of winter. And your craft is essential. But it is brief. Now you mush rest until the land calls for you again. The earth has summoned Cinnich, it is time for warmth and renewal. Let her perform her rituals. Pass the mantle, old friend. Just for now.”

Gradually he bowed forward, scale by scale overlapped on his neck until his head dipped below the branch he perched. The light dwindled in his eyes. A single tear flowed down his cheek, trembling on the edge of a scale. Cinnich’s wings stretched out. The horn buds on her head unfurled into flowers, giving rise to the twin fern fronds uncurling. All along her pink scales mottled by moss green brindling tiny white blossoms spread their petals as her colors intensified. Beside me on the branch Rhew’s once snow white scales lost their sheen, now faded and gray as he tucked his head beneath his wing.

“Less than a year isn’t so long for an immortal. Before you know it the world will call on you again.” I gathered his already sleeping body into my arms and nestled him into the protection of my abandoned pine boughs. “Rest well, oh lord of the winter winds.”

Cinnich

Cinnich flitted out onto the warm breeze, the sun shimmering off her blossoming body. Below me the snow pack retreated, vanishing in the breath of her wing beats leaving behind a carpet of verdant green. I dropped down into the new growth grateful for spears of grass beneath my footpaws. The cheeky sidh-wyvern of rebirth swooped down and struck me with her wings. Her vibrant eye winked at me as she chirruped in delight. The forest launched into answering cries as countless bright bodied sidh-wyverns answered her call, winging into the wood and to spread her magic. Spring arrived.

My footpaws itched with the familiar tingle that had been my constant companion over these many years, too numerous for my liking to count. The wanderlust called me no lesser than the earth summoned Cinnich to wake her. Grasping my walking staff, I heaved a sigh and took the first steps into the new turn of the season … into the same old, same old.

Summer, autumn, winter, or spring, the road is ever my home.

The Legend of the First Frost

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The shadows have reached their longest. The longest night is come. And so the heart turns wistful and ponders myth and truth. Sit by the fire, friend. Sit … and ponder with me where the line between legend and truth blurs.

The Legend of the First Frost

Gorach’s claws coaxed the rollicking melody from the strings of a lute. In the midst of the Drumbeg’s great hall the shire’s whelps whirled and danced in the welcome firelight from the hearth. Many an elder slan’s footpaw tapped to the rhythm of the familiar tune as the cross-fox bard sang out the lilting verses.

gorachlute

Oh the holly she bears a berry as red as is blood,

A reflection of the depth of the holly’s vast love.

The wisdom within her branches displayed for all to see.

And the first tree within the greenwood it was the holly.

Ho-lly. Ho-ol-lly, the first tree within the greenwood it was the holly.

Oh the holly she bears a berry as green as the pine,

Linked in the spirit as yours is to mine.

The wisdom within her branches displayed for all to see.

And the first tree within the greenwood it was the holly.

Ho-lly. Ho-ol-lly, the first tree within the greenwood it was the holly.

Oh the holly she bears a berry as white as the frost,

To remind us to keep in memory all we have lost.

The wisdom within her branches displayed for all to see.

And the first tree within the greenwood it was the holly.

Ho-lly. Ho-ol-lly, the first tree within the greenwood it was the holly.

She drew the last line of the verse out, staying her paw over the strings as she watched the whelps lean forward in anticipation. Their bright eyes locked and waited for the final chord. With a sly grin, Gorach strummed and finished swiftly.

Was the holly!

The whelps giggled in a chorus.

Gorach waved her paw across the lute and released the spell. In a flicker of green light the instrument vanished and the small hematite medallion re-materialized around her neck. The mark of the Traveler, her kenaz.

otterwhelpA little otter in a bright red tunic spun in a circle, clutching her hem. “Wook! Juss wike da bewwies! An’ youw tunic is wike da bewwies too!”

She ruffled the otter whelp’s flaxen hair and grinned before remarking of her own threadbare tunic. “Green like the pine. What an observant wee one you are. And here I thought you were just dancing instead of listening to me.”

The whelp reached a paw for the necklace around the bard’s neck. “I wanna twinket wike dhat! Can it make anyt’ing you want?”

Gorach laughed and let the little one’s fingers hold it briefly. “If a kenaz were that powerful, then there would be no suffering in this world of which to sing. No, there are limits. But from this marvelous stone I can draw forth any musical instrument I have ever laid my eyes upon.”

Every whelps’ mouth hung open in awe. At last the gregarious otter blurted out, “Dida dei … dei … deity give dhat to you?”

“Yes. A god named Taliesin gave this to me. As I’m sure you have all heard from the elders of your shire, there are many deities in our world. A Traveler such as I is tasked with keeping the stories of the world and recording them for all time to the stones.” She rubbed her footpaws. “I can never tarry long anywhere. Rather a paw-weary task to keep all the threads straight. Which reminds me, today is an important day.” Gorach pulled a tidy bundle of holly branches of all colors from her scuffed leather satchel and knelt before the hearth. The whelps clung to the hem of her patchwork cloak like a gaggle of geese following their mother. She grinned as every youthful eye watched her untie the holly boughs.

She held up the green bough to the hungry flames. “To remember that rebirth shall happen again.” Tossed to the flames, the holly branch blossomed with the fire. Next she pulled out the red. “To remember that change is essential for growth.” The flames ate this branch as well. Holding up the last, the white berries, Gorach bowed her head. “And to remember that even the stoutest must rest. Rhew, come grant the land its sleep.” The last branch whistled in the fire, an echo of the wind outside the shuttered windows. The once bright colored berries turned to an indistinguishable hue of black.

The little otter tugged on Gorach’s sleeve. “Who’s Rhew?”

With a cock of her head, she sank her claws into her own long hair and scratched her perked ear. “No one has told you of Rhew? Well, now! I’ll tell you what, t’will be a long night, and for but a mug of mulled wine I will trade the story of the first frost.”

A bobcat flashed her grin and dipped the ladle into the streaming pot by the fire. He filled the mug and handed it to his son who took it in both paws. The whelp watched the level of the maroon spiced wine sloshing back and forth. By the time he reached the bard’s side nearly every slan who had come to the great hall to listen to their visitor had settled in a wide circle. Many a whelp curled in the lap of their parents. Others sat in a group at Gorach’s footpaws, leaning forward as she took a grateful gulp from the mug.

“Oh, bless the brewer. Just what a parched throat needed.” She nodded to the bobcat now seated by the hearth with an expectant grin. With a wave of her paw over the kenaz she summoned a large harp, as tall as she was seated. Her tail shifted to make room for it, avoiding the heavy instrument. She released a cascade of shimmering notes from the strings and began her tale as she always did.

Her claws danced across the strings and teased out an ominous melody. “Hearken to me. Young and old. Those who remember, those who have lived, those who have yet to live. For the telling is the power of the ages. Voices of the past call out to teach, to inspire, to warn.” The accompaniment shifted to playful. “In ages past, before the first slan roamed the land, in the time before time, it was Io’s children who ruled the world instead of sharing it with Cernunnos’s, as now. The land was very different in that age … not the seasons as we know them, but an eternal world of bloom and color. And among the dragon-kin, creatures we would know … ” As she plucked the strings, the air began to shimmer in golden strands that formed into a diminutive wyvern swooping around the room. The illusion left the whelps and elders awestruck as the image built before them in translucent golden figures. “The sidh-wyverns. The god Io’s most mischievous creation. Most are known for flitting about the forests, playing pranks on the unwary wanderer. But not all. Like our kind, some have been chosen by their god for special tasks … and this is the case with Rhew.” Her voice drifted away as they fell under her spell and entered the world of ages past.

Of all Io’s children, from the dragons to the refined geilt, the sidh-wyvern were the most colorful of all. Created from the blossoms of the trees, the tiny winged dragon-kin bore scales of the most elaborate color combinations. Deep crimson reds blended with purples rich enough to rival the violet in full bloom. Azure blue of the rippling river shimmered beside greens as lush as any valley. The vibrant little beasts prided themselves on their hues.

It was to that shame that Rhew emerged from the boughs of the holly. Stark against the viridian leaves, Rhew’s scales were a pure white, his eyes blue as the columbine. The translucent membranes of his wings, instead of smooth, bore a patterned fringe unlike any other sidh-wyvern making them appear tattered. In place of the hardened scales at the end of his tail Rhew had a tuft of shimmering white hairs. The others had no idea what to think of their colorless cousin. Because of his markings Rhew discovered it was difficult to evade their aggressive dives from the trees. Too feeble in his youth to stretch into the sky, he clung to the dark recesses of the holly branches. He ate her berries and sought her thorns for protection.

As he grew over the years in the embrace of the holly, Rhew sprouted branched antlers on his head from two patches of white hairs that matched his tail. Each year his antlers gained a new point. Around this neck a rough of thick hair wreathed his chest and shoulders. The holly’s branches still fostered him in safety, though he had grown to nearly the size of a hawk, larger than his kin.

Unlike his cousins, Rhew did not shriek or squawk. Mute, he perched in the trees and cocked his ears to listen to the forest. By the time he bore six points on each of his antlers he huddled in the holly listening to her wisdom. Weariness pervaded her whispers. She longed to rest. Rhew nuzzled her leaves, taking care to avoid her thorns. He wished for her to find the peace she sought. Beneath his touch tiny shards of white sprouted.

Rhew pulled his head back and flapped his wings, taking refuge on another branch. What had he done? Had he harmed her?

From the holly gratitude washed over him.

Whispers traveled through the greenwood from the weary forest besieged by the frolicking of Rhew’s kin in their lush branches. A great longing for respite from growth called out to the sidh-wyvern. He glanced once more at the holly and cocked his head. Wreathed in the shining crystals, she remained grateful.

The shadows grew long over the land as night descended. In the cover of the dark, while his kin slept, Rhew shot from the protection of his beloved holly. His wings carried him high into the clear night sky. Beneath his broad flight, a blanket of delicate white bloomed and sparkled in the moonlight. Rhew marveled as his wings painted the world.

The forest breathed a sigh of relief as for the first time since creation the trees and plants rested in the grip of the gathering frost.

When the sun rose to cast golden rays on Rhew’s work, the breathless sidh-wyvern collapsed into the embrace of the sleeping holly. Io crept into his dreams and massaged Rhew’s weary wings as he spoke, “Blessed one, catalyst of the world. You were made to bring peace over a boisterous land. Your gift has brought the seasons to order. There is a time of abundance, and so there shall be a time when the earth must rest. Rhew, lord of the winter skies, bringer of frost. Each year your flight will mark the time of rest when the nights grow long and the days short. Others will come. But you are my first harbinger.”

By the light of day, the bright colored sidh-wyvern clung to the frost covered trees in shock as their bright colors betrayed them. Rhew flitted from tree to tree hardly noticed in the white-hued world. Flurries of delicate snow followed in his wake until one day a pale pink and green sidh-syvern burst from the branches of a cherry tree, the snow drifts melted beneath her flight into the first spring … rhewsidhwyvernGorach let the notes hang in the air. She watched the tendrils of sidh-wyvern shaped light entwine on a spiral path to the ceiling, until they evaporated. She folded her paws on the top of the harp and rested her chin there. “Thus began the steady dance of the seasons. A reminder that new growth always begins with sacrifice and loss.”

A bear whelp, years older than the otter, smirked. “Rhew isn’t real. That’s just a silly myth.”

“Really?” Gorach waved a paw and dissolved the harp back into the simple kenaz. She took another gulp of the mulled wine and padded to the window where she unlatched the shutter. Outside, shimmering in the moonlight, the world had been draped in a blanket of fine crystals.

The bear crossed his arms and shook his head. “No puny little sidh-wyvern did that.”

She held her paw out the window and waited. A few moments passed before fine snowflakes began to tumble into her paw. A pure-white, hawk-sized sidh-wyvern swooped down and perched on her arm, holding firmly with his black-tipped talons. He bowed his antlered head to the Traveler. Gorach placed a paw to her heart. “Bless you for granting the world its rest, Rhew.”

In a flurry of snow Rhew took to the air, countless smaller white sidh-wyerns flitted in his wake.

The bear whelp stood on tip paw, flakes drifting in to settle on his nose. “He’s real!”

“For the telling is the power of ages.” Gorach nodded to the bear whelp and smiled. “You’re right. He doesn’t do it alone. Not anymore.” She found herself crowded from the window by the hoard of whelps clawing to get a better look at the spirit of winter.

The cross-fox padded to the hearth side, letting the flame’s warmth kiss her paws. Before stopping in Drumbeg for the night, she had known the day would be her last one without the cover of snow. The holly had begun to whisper.


A blessed Winter Solstice to you and yours! May the turning of the seasons bring you peace and rejuvenation.