Tag Archives: writing

It’s been a while…

I know, I know…of late my blogging has been atrocious. This week for my local writer’s group I had the task of writing a letter to a dead relative/friend. Strange subject I know…and guess who set the task ??

Yes…it was me. I am learning there are few coincidences in life. I know from writing the following piece that I had a need to say these things to a father that can no longer hear them.

But the process of taking these thoughts from my brain and placing them on paper was very good for me. I can move on. I can love with open arms and no expectations, and not be afraid.

Dear Dad,

Earlier this month I took a moment to ponder what it would have been like to still have you here. You would now be 107 years old, and I wondered if time might have made you different. Seemingly out of nowhere came a thought. Common sense tells me that of course nothing comes out of nowhere. That our thoughts are simply pulsating deep feelings that we may try to bury, yet like an earthquake they will eventually erupt and arise to the surface. My thought was this. Love and hate are very closely bonded together. I realised that when I think of you in the quiet moments I waver between the two.

I remember and love the moments we shared. It was only as I became an adult I truly appreciated how you suffered through my learning to cook, never expressing what you must have felt about some of the awful missteps in the kitchen that still made their way on to your plate. You generally ate every mouthful, and for that I loved you. I also remember you teaching me to drive, and wonder just how you made it through that period without suffering a serious heart attack. There are many of these memories that pop up. Often they surface when not expected, but they give me a sense of peace.

I also remember how you broke me in to so many pieces that 20 years later I am still finding cracks. It was not until after you died that I realised how like Pop you were. I should have seen the signs; perhaps I did but chose to ignore them.

Family was in fact a burden to you. When it came down to it, like Pop, you were not above exploiting that family for your own needs. As I reflect, one memory in particular arises again and again. It was painful at the time. It is still painful. Conceivably that is why for many decades I buried it deep inside. I was an eight year old, getting to know her mother for the first time. Using guile and guilt you tried so hard to bring me to heel. When I take that memory apart now I see a selfishness I had refused to acknowledge in you.

Put that aside…and oh how I loved you. I still do. I always will.

You left this world in 1996. You left it leaving behind your signature on some papers that would do exactly what I believe you wished for. Papers and a signature that would tear me in to little pieces. I know that you had no way of knowing what a vulnerable state I was already in, because I kept from you the news that my marriage was falling apart. So for a time…even broken as I was by your action…I did not hold you to account.

When the news came to me days after your death of your decision to cut me so completely, at first I felt nothing. I moved from room to room in my newly rented house, and often wondered how I came to be standing where I was. I dressed and fed my two children, your grandchildren, yet a part of me was disconnected from everything in my world.

One day while I was cleaning out the pantry, my disconnection, the very thing that had held me together for those few weeks, dissolved. As did I. I lay amongst the tins and packets of food on my kitchen floor and piece by tiny piece cracked open so wide that feeling the world around me became a painful thing.

A hug from my children, seeing a butterfly land on a flower, a summer shower…all those little things that had once given me such peaceful joy now caused more pain than you can imagine. It was as if any pleasurable thing that touched me wore a coat of acid.

For years the pain of living with what you did seemed simply too much. The pain of knowing my father was the cause seemed simply too much.

In the following years many things happened, and the adulthood I had so longed to postpone found its way to me. My children were a large part of my learning about the world. I learned that I could love so deeply and so unconditionally that I was in truth…nothing like you. With that revelation came some peace. With that peace came some forgiveness. Not only for you but also for me. I forgave you. I forgave myself for still loving you. You who could consciously cause a child of yours so much pain, so much sorrow. I promised myself to learn to be everything you were not.

I would love my children…with no conditions applied, with no expectations that their lives were mine to control or to exploit. Love is often a surprise to me. Having never really felt secure in love I was a prime candidate to be like you. To seek it, to demand it, to hoard it. I imagine there is more of my mother in me than I will ever know. Because I have learned that love is not to be controlled. It is only when you embrace it with loose arms so it is free to leave when it desires, that you ever truly experience the peace and the joy of it. And I wonder if you saw the part of me like Mum, and that is what drove you to wreak such destruction. In trying to punish me you were also trying to obliterate her in payback.

When it came time to write this letter to you I was surprised to find that feelings I thought of as gone, were actually just in hiding. Love and hate. The two ends of the spectrum of emotions. I hate what you did. Still. But…yes, with me there always seems to be a but, I am also thankful for it, even if I can never grasp what drove you to inflict pain of that magnitude on your own child. No matter what you perceived my guilt to be.

Asking a pregnant woman to choose between the two most important men in her life was unjust. Clutching your perceived sense of being wronged when you were the one who forced the choice in the first place was unjust. Unjust and unkind. And once again I am surprised at myself. When I take my memories out and lay them before me I see that in fact you were not a kind man unless it suited you. A kind man would never have allowed the police to hold his 18 year old daughter responsible for a car crash, when he was the driver, and drunk at that.

Perhaps I am now the one being unkind, for the possibility exists that you did not fully comprehend the fall out from your actions. Yes the possibility is there. The probability and the likelihood of that being the case, sadly is minimum. The child that still lives on me would love to latch on to that possibility and therefore be able to imagine her father as a kind man, a just man. The adult in me knows better. The parent in me is uncompromising in her revulsion of the cruelty of your action.

So there in lies the hate part.

And the love, where does that come in to play? In forgiving you, and forgiving myself for still loving such a father. Through forgiveness I have learned to love and love freely. I have learned that even if love is not returned, as we would wish, the act of loving itself is a blessing. I have learned that a love that has no expectation except to be given is the purest form of love, the one that gives the most reward.

You Dad, with your love that was wrapped in expectations, and punishment should those expectations not be met, yes you, taught me how to love without expectation of any kind.

Your lessons though oft times uncompromising and harsh, were for me, lessons I now believe I needed as I went my way in this world. You taught me how love should be, could be, and luckily for me, is.

How can I do anything else but be grateful to you for teaching me what is the most important lesson I have ever learned, for handing me a way to learn the true value of love ?

Love freely given.

Love without expectation.

Love that compromises.

Love that is unconditional.

Love that seeks no reward other than the pleasure of loving.

So there in lies the love part.

Ever your daughter,

Love Joanne.

Related Posts

And if you are new to my blog, or just haven’t read some of these…a few posts that will maybe explain the crazy existence of me..

 

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Tui

Sue Dreamwalker is quietly encouraging me to get my feet wet again with blogging by challenging me to do the Five Photos Five Stories challenge. Which could be a good thing as it may well work. I fear I have been away too long.

Tui
Tui

a song and soul on the wing,

you and I…

the music and lyrics of a spring day

as we play I spy amongst the blossoms

Well there is number 1. It may not be a consecutive daily thing. After all I am just getting my feet a bit wet in this wonderful blogging world. I have so missed you all.

I am supposed to challenge one person each time I post.

The Rules are as follows..

Here are the rules for the “Five Photos Five Stories” challenge: “Post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge.
(Sporadic posting is alright if you’re unable to post each day.)

Please fell free to ignore my challenge if you so desire. I know how time consuming these things can be…but…today I wish to challenge the ever irrepressible Gilly. Seeing as she is such a great writer and photographer…this might be something she would consider I hope.

Relevant Links:

  1. Day 2
  2. Day 3
  3. Day 4
  4. Day 5

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” —Ernest Hemingway

 

P1060701Writing for me developed from a love of reading. There were not enough books in the universe for me to devour. Winnie The Pooh, Daktari, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Rebecca, and Wuthering Heights were all beloved favourites. They taught me so much. They taught me that there are all kinds of stories to be told, in all kinds of ways.

The first thing I remember writing was a poem. I used to love writing poetry, but sadly all those pieces are gone. Everything I wrote was contained in one book, and that book is lost forever to me. Yet I still feel those stories surrounding me. Changing form perhaps, but never completely abandoning me.

Those stories were a way to escape for me. I could dive in to other places than the one I lived in. But they were only for me, at least until I met a childhood friend and for the first time trusted the stories to another. There was only one person who ever got to read anything I wrote. I wonder if that was because I had such little self worth as a child. Was I too afraid I would be mocked for what I said in those first efforts? I think so. I still sometimes feel like that today. It is very hard to put out anything I write, especially my stories.

Poetry…now that is different, and I am not sure why that is. That I can and do share, but my short stories and longer works are difficult to put out there. I try not to let that stop me writing them though. Still, like everyone else who writes, sometimes it is hard to get one word out. At those times it is as if I am wearing gloves. Those gloves cut off the flow from me to the outside world. And I can’t get then off me…no matter how hard I try.

I look in awe upon writers like JK Rowling, who have enough belief in themselves to actually not only finish their projects but to publish them for the wider world to read. I am not sure I will ever be confident enough to contemplate approaching a publisher.

In this moment I shall just put down the stories as they come to me. They come from so many places, and until I have them out and on screen, a little niggle makes itself felt. Write it down, write it down, write it down it says to me. Is it possible I have my own Jiminy Cricket sitting on my shoulder ? I should like to think it is possible, just like I believe in the fairies in my garden, who weave their lives in and out of mine.

Sometimes they come when the night is at its darkest. They push open the kitchen screen enough to scramble through before making their way to my room. From behind my closed eyelids I see their bright, shiny sparks and hear their chatter. They run amok over the covers of my bed. One has a tendency to pull the duvet back, until I shiver and sit up in search of it.

Opening my eyes sees then scatter and with their gentle laughter they leave my awake and staring in to the darkness until an idea begins to form. My slumber is lost to me, but the loss is not felt too keenly as the ideas that hovered in my dreams begin to take a more solid form, and I write them down, I write them down, I write them down.

Related Posts

 

Small Stone #6 January 2013

Slumberous I feel the hairs on my legs rise though the night’s heat has me sweating. My hand on my stomach morphs in to your hand. Turning I see the blood-red hour illuminated beside me, and I remember the wounds you left bleeding with a suitcase and a ticket elsewhere as your weapons.

eloctronic clock numbers

jan13badgesmall

Places to read other stones and post your own:

 

Dealing with doubts.

Writers. We are an odd bunch. It takes a certain degree of ego to put words on paper and EXPECT that people will not only read them but love them and ask for more. We are also peppered with so many insecurities. NaNoWriMo has highlighted a lot of those for me this month.

But I am NOT an Aussie/Kiwi sheila for nothing. So when consumed with doubt about my abilities, the plot, the characters…I listen to this song. Over and over again. And the doubts are drenched in the slow forming smile that grows. It encompasses not only the doubt but the very skin that encloses me. My head starts bobbing, my foot taps, I start singing so loudly Chevvy moves to another room. Which is a good thing…because then the dancing starts. Imagine bouncing, turning, twisting, arms punching the air – JOY !!!

Then the real magic happens and my fingers tingle, my smile hurts my cheek, and my brain bursts with my very own fireworks, right on to the computer screen.

Thank you Katy Perry !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So what ignites your fireworks ? What song makes you dance and sing whether you want to or not ??

Day thirteen and I am going a little nuts. Well a little more than usual !!!!

You might be wondering how NaNoWriMo is going ??

I would have shown you a photo of me writing…but I look a little scary these days. Too much caffeine, late nights, hating my writing and a lot of head banging will do that !!!

It has its moments. I am really struggling with not being able to edit as I go. It is a very bad habit I hope NaNoWriMo will cure me of…but I am really finding it hard.

I feel like everything coming out is crap…which I know most first drafts are. And all I want to do is work on it until it is better. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr…habits are very hard things to break.

So here is some more of Chapter I. The next excerpt will have someone going over a cliff…who will it be and will they survive is the BIG question.

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Chapter I Scenes VI & VII

Zak approaches, he is alone. “Other than the customary inhabitants, we are on our own here.”

“Evijan?”

“Our cautious friend is laying out a warning system.” he stares up at the mountain. “I want to go with you.”

“Brother…”

“Deveron. I know what you seek.”

“You do?”

“You are not the only one Father has told the stories to.” I do not tell him that they are not just stories for me.

“Then you also know what waits on the mountain. Not everyone who seeks the Phoenix comes down again.” And now I do not tell him that anyone with me when I find the Phoenix King is in even more danger.

“If I am old enough to be here, then I think I am old enough for that as well.” His eyes bore into mine, and I realise that he is now as tall as I.

“I promised Father that you would return. I intend to keep my word Zak.” I understand his eagerness for this, his first real adventure. “If I allow you this, your death will likely follow.” I hope, foolishly perhaps, to make him understand. “No-one is allowed into their realm, I must go alone.” There were only deadly mistakes from this point, how could I make him see that.

“I will not be a disappointment to you.”

“I am not worried about disappointment.” Evijan arrives at the lake as the other men set about making camp for the night. He carries with him two large water birds slung over his shoulders, and tosses them to Zak. “I speak to you no longer as your brother Zarek, but as your commander.”

“Deveron…”

“Enough. You stay behind. Speak no more of this.”

###

“We are quite alone here,” Evijan announces, as he sets about making a fire. “Time to make yourself useful,” he nods to Zak to sit by him, hoping to distract him I know. “Jareth is tracking a herd of hippus.” These small grey animals are equally at home on land or in the water. Their tough round bodies make them seem slow, but when threatened their speed makes them difficult to catch. Jareth is one of a few hunters who can boast of bringing one down. Their flesh is a delicacy, and my mouth waters in anticipation of the forthcoming meal.

Zak glares at me as he throws himself  on to a log beside Evijan. Eventually, everyone returns to the camp, Jareth, Adsel, Ryder, Cato, Gye, and Nils return, their kills hanging from poles they carry between them and we sit together in a sociable peace. Each face is a portrait of a part of myself, and I wonder how many of these bold companions will return home. Throughout the meal my brother remains silent, never looking in my direction. Evijan watches him as closely as I. When Zak is finished he nudges him slightly and smiles in Jareth’s direction.

“Did you purposely seek out the smallest of the herd? Or did they by chance hear you coming – oh grand hunter of the Opinouwi? Evijan is smiling at me as he taunts Jareth. “Lucky for those of us with hearty appetites, others were able to provide.” I watch as Jareth’s eyes narrow. “Perhaps I should…” Jareth pounces and Evijan is sent sprawling in the dirt.

“Perhaps you should keep your thoughts inside that minute brain of yours…friend.” Jareth sits atop of Evijan, their arms flailing as each tries to gain the advantage. I see Zak smile for the first time since our discussion, and silently thank both men. It troubles me that I must now force our minds back to our task.

“Quiet,” I hold up my hands to silence the men. Immediately all are still, and I began to outline my preparations. “Should I not return within eight days Evijan, you are to lead them on. Wraith will give you aid in finding another way.”

“There is no other way Deveron,” Evijan shakes his head.

“Then you shall have to make one. You cannot go into the Devil’s Den if I do not return…and you must not come seeking me. I want your word. Eight days and you all leave. “Understood?” He does not look pleased.

“If two of us were to go…” Zak begins.

“No. I go alone. Give me your word Evijan.” Zak’s eyes flash in the firelight as he lowers them.

“Arrogant fool,” he protests before walking away.

“Evijan?”

“You have my word, but I trust it will not be needed,” he reaches out grasping my arm. “He will be alright.” His hold stops me from following my brother.

“He is too impetuous,” I silently wish I had been able to sway my father from allowing him to come on this journey. “I should have made him stay behind. He is too young, too eager for adventure. He will take too many risks.”

“He reminds me of someone I used to know,” he says, lifting his brows. “I shall just have to keep my eyes on him. And use my persuasive manner. Do not worry. Zak is like a brother to me.” I stare at the hand still firmly grasping my arm.

“Leave him,” Evijan can read my thoughts almost as well as Wraith. “Allow him to master his feelings.” Zak stays just outside the firelight, and my sleep is uneasy.

###

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The Draco Stone continues…

Chapter I Scene IV

He turns immediately to the left and begins picking his way through the dim brush. We proceed single file. For many hours we trek with only the unicorns’ sight to guide us through the darkness. As we go deeper, even though the sun would be rising, it does not reach onto the forest floor. The gloom transmits itself, and I feel the weight of the task creep under my skin.

What is it you doubt Deveron?

We are but nine Wraith.

And the Sadistiens are but six.

I fear for them. I should have come alone.

Are you so absolute in your view of yourself?

No, but I am not sure that we shall be successful.

And?

My choice of them may be their death.

Arrogance. It does not suit you my friend.

Not arrogance Wraith, foreboding, and regret.

You must know that there is not one man here that you could have stopped from coming.

I did not try.

No, but it makes no difference, they each have the right, as do you, to be part of this.

If we fail, they will be needed more than ever.

Your lack of faith does them discredit Deveron. We are only just begun, and you sound worse than the bleakest doomsayer. Have faith, my friend.

Was it not you Wraith, who just warned me that some might not survive the Devil’s Den?

It is true. You should know by now Deveron, Unicorns always prepare for the worst. It is our way. It does not mean anything other than that. We are not blessed with vision. Were that so, we would not have been almost annihilated ourselves.

I’m sorry for it Wraith.

I begin to fear for you more than the others Deveron. You must not enter the Devil’s Den with so much weighing on your soul.

I shall feel better once I have spoken with the Phoenix King.

I hope so.

###

Chapter I Scene V

Wraith looks doubtful, but keeps any further thoughts to himself as he leads the way through the forest. Talking is impossible, the deeper we go the louder the noises from the inhabitants become. From deep within the underbrush to the highest canopy they call to each other of our passing. It is almost time for the sun to leave the sky when we reach Lissiom Lake. I will have to circumvent it to reach the bottom of Fire-Bird Mountain. I call a halt.

“Evijan, have a look around and make sure that we are alone here. Adsel, take Ryder…” before I finish the twins spring from their mounts and make off around the lake’s edge. Both adept hunters, we would soon have fresh food to fill our bellies.

We will leave as the sun rises? Wraith’s tone is troubled.

Before.

Deveron…

I know Wraith.

The King will not be happy to see you.

 No, but he will not kill me.

Are you so sure?

No. But I hope.

How long?

With good fortune, four days, no longer should things go well.

And if they don’t?

I shall leave Evijan with instructions to leave after eight days. You will need to help them find another way. If I do not return, they cannot travel through the Devil’s Den.

Then we must hope that you do my friend.

I look out over the lake to Fire-Bird Mountain. In the dusk, fog circles the base rising to a third of the way up. The face of it appears sheer, but I know that inside there is a single path that leads up to a secret gateway to the clandestine realm of the Phoenix people.

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Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

Well you may be asking how it is all going.

I had to take the weekend off to wizz up to Auckland…which provided lots of photo taking opportunities. It also provided a chance to get dressed up. Gilly tells me I should make the following photo my gravatar – instead of [as she very politely puts it] hiding behind the camera.

When I mentioned I didn’t like my ‘scrunched up eyes’ she let go of polite with a resounding ‘STOP IT !!!!’. We all have it though…that one feature we don’t really like about ourselves. Well, mine is my eyes. It’s hard to smile and stretch your eyes open at the same time. Believe me I know. Ah well…could be worse. I might have to tuck my boobs in to my belt…oh wait…I do !!!

Shit !!!

I even wore make-up and heels. I ate, I drank, I danced, and I met lots of fabulously fun people.

I arrived home shattered. So yesterday I got back in to it. I have some very pissed off horses at the moment. They recently told Wraith just how pissed they were about being taken in to Gryphe territory as Gryphes love horses…to eat. Wraith wasn’t to happy about it either, being a cousin of the horse.

And so…Scenes II  & III of Chapter I are here for your thoughts. And please…no matter how you think I sound when I reply to comments…I DO WANT your thoughts. If you don’t like something/don’t get it/think it’s shit…say so. I am more than happy to take on board what you say.

A wonderful tutor once told me: “If your readers aren’t getting it, it has nothing to do with them. It is all about you not writing it so that they can ‘GET IT’, so rewrite it until they do the first time they read it…or you’ve lost them forever.” Very wise man my tutor !!!

###

Read on…

“Stop,” I murmur, as we reach the first rise outside the City. Wraith halts and I turn back.

“Brother?” Zak pulls up beside me.

“Is it not a wonder?” I ask. As the gates draw close the city shimmers, moonbeams bouncing off the rooftops back into the air above.

“He does this each time we leave.” Evijan is laughing. “Your brother would have us believe that he possesses no tender traits, and yet I see a softness in his eyes every time we farewell the Elusive City.” As we watch, the city fades until there is no trace of it under the night sky.

“Evijan.” My thoughts are of the missing Stone. “Only one of the Opinouwi can open the City. Whoever took the Stone had help to enter. From one of us.”

“Runolf will discover those responsible,” Evijan replies. “And punish them, while we shall recover it and return it to the Citadel.”

“If they knew who was to track them…they would not have been so foolish,” Zak sounds younger than he looks. His pale blonde hair hangs loose about his shoulders, and his eyes, so like our mother’s, have not been marked with misfortune or sin.

# # #

Silent, I urge Wraith on. It feels good to be out of the city. With the moon out, I no longer need to rely on Wraith to pick a path, and I push him hard. His body relaxes as he hits his stride.

Hold on Deveron, he tells me. We ride hard for many miles and reach the forest before light. I call a halt when we pass the first trees.

Evijan slides to the ground immediately and begins to search. He is an accomplished seeker; I know without him we would waste valuable time. He waves to Zak to join him, and quietly begins to speak as he points to traces only he can see.

“Here,” he says to Zak kneeling beside him.

“I see nothing, old man,” Zak teases.

“Look,” Evijan runs his hand over the ground. “The dust flows back toward the clearing, something has passed over in haste.” He turns to lay his ear upon the earth, and holds up a finger to silence Zak. “There are five of them. No six, two are riding the same beast.” He looks up at me. “They ride toward the Devil’s Den.”

“Then we must prepare.”

I do not like this Deveron. The Devil’s Den can drive men to madness. Some of your men…I do not know if they can make it through.

 I know Wraith.

“Are the stories true?” Zak looks from Evijan to me.

“No brother, they do not begin to tell of the malevolence that lives there.”

“I thought they were just tales, told to scare children,” he swings back on to his mount. “What must we do then, to prepare? Deveron?”

“We shall need to hunt while we are in the forest.” I look about. “If we do not touch the food stores, perhaps we shall have enough to get us through.”

We must find the Phoenix King Deveron.

I look up at Wraith’s words. It will mean a detour that will delay us, but I know he is right. Hidden deep in the forest there rises a solitary peak.

“But first, we must make our way to Fire-Bird Mountain. Come.”

Find us a way there Wraith. The quickest way please.

###

Word Count: 8596…which means I need to catch up.

Related posts:

12.01 am

It is impossible to sleep. I have worked myself right in to this whole NaNoWriMo thing. So what the heck…I am starting right now. Well as soon as I post this I am. Not even going to look online until I have done as much as I need to. I need to get a little ahead as I am off to a wedding this weekend in Auckland. I am leaving Saturday morning and will be away until later Sunday…so I won’t get any writing done Saturday.

Just to keep you entertained…here is Scene 1 from Chapter 1. Remember this is only a first draft guys so it needs…well it needs work.

Chapter 1

 

Where there is great love, there exists great tragedy. It is the tragedy that opens the enormous capacity inside of men for devotion to another that is greater than their instinct for self preservation.

 

 

Darkness shrouds the city. The light from the Citadel window falls on the bleached skulls that pave the square below and refracts back illuminating the men and their mounts as they wait. Beside me my brother reins in his mount, both impatient to be off.

He is my mirror image, except for the eyes. Zak’s eyes are a soft clear blue, like the inside curve of a wave, our mother’s eyes. His face no longer sprouting the first soft downy hairs of youth but bristled and more defined as he enters his manhood. His eyes are bright, and his smile full and easily given. The sight of him mounted and ready to leave brings a pain to my chest.

“I’ll keep you safe brother,” I swear quietly. I shall bring you home untarnished, if I must die in doing so, I silently add. Beside him is Evijan. Our mothers had birthed us on the same day; we had played together as children. We had passed through our manhood rites together, hunted together, lain with our first woman on the same night, fought our first battle by each other’s side. After he breathed in, I would breathe out. As he ran his gaze over Zak, he nodded slightly and I knew my brother would be protected should I fall.

A young groom appears and hands me Wraith’s halter. He is out of breath and dishevelled.

“I see he has been up to his usual trickery.” Wraith’s stark white coat is broken up with slashes of black and silver, running from his backbone vertically down his legs, as well as spiralling together in his great horn. “Do not worry lad, he has bested many besides you.”  The unicorn had been a gift from my father. I had wondered many times if there was a meaning behind the gift. Wraith is the most complex of the creatures, but I trust him as I do my own limbs.

“Wraith,” I ask him, “will you carry me on this journey?” His black eyes study mine before he lowers his head. Springing on his back I feel his muscles undulate as they fit to my body. Another six men form two rows behind us, the last of them leading our pack animals.

“Why is it I am always gifted with a view of your behind?’ Jareth asks, older than I by two cycles he is the most experienced hunter amongst the party. His keen eyesight and sense of smell had often kept my belly full, and his good humour is quick to raise the dourest of spirits.

“So I do not have your incessant babble constantly in my ears.”

“Oh my friend, you wound me,” I can feel his smile.

Go,” I whisper to Wraith in my head, and he begins to fly over the ground. I let him lead, winding his way through the dark city. We make no sound and his hooves leave no imprint in the earth beneath them. Passing through the city gates I see the moon begin to rise.

# # #

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The short story that morphed in to a novel.

Tomorrow NaNoWriMo begins. As does my task of taking Deveron on his journey to retrieve the Draco Stone and return it to the Opinouwi. For now I would like to share with you the short story that started it all.

Actually it is not soooooooo short…2,967 words to be exact.

I hope you will get settled with a coffee, or a cup of tea, curl your feet under you, let the cat out, turn off the phone and read.

I really would love to hear your thoughts on this. Of all that I have done so far…this story is a defining moment for me. For it set me on a previously unimagined path. The one of trying to become a published author. If you hate it…don’t worry. It was written long ago…and I know it needs improving in many areas. I thought though that I should put it up as it was. Also, I am Australian born. We have thick skins. I have also lived in New Zealand for nearly 20 years. Kiwis don’t say much…they are very…hmmmm…stoic. It’s rubbing off on me. So feel free to let me have it either way. Just don’t stay silent. I NEED your thoughts to improve as a writer.

The Draco Stone…by Jo Bryant

Behind their green-eyed leader the troop rode in formation, rows two wide, as they entered the Elusive City. Streamers of flowers waved them along the path, floating down to lay entangled in their hair, as they made their way to the Citadel. Underneath the hooves of the unicorns the road crunched as they landed on the bones of their ancient enemy, the Sadistiens. Though worn and compacted, the outlines of their bleached skulls from a century of warfare were still visible.

Leading the march was Deveron. His hair brushed his shoulders as he rode, the streamers so thick they hung about him like a rainbow cape. Sitting tall and straight, his eyes focussed ahead, ignoring the wall of sound that surrounded them. As he passed, he noticed how the children were all pointing in his direction. This did not surprise him, he knew for many it was their first sighting of a unicorn. Wraith was enjoying the attention. The sound of Wraith’s voice inside his head startled Deveron out of his own thoughts.

‘They scream your name Deveron.’

‘Only because they do not realise…’

‘It does you no good to blame yourself.’

‘I know that your intention is good Wraith.’

‘You would rather I kept my thoughts to myself.’

‘I do not need you in my head. I must…’

‘Prepare.’

At that, the unicorn closed the connection between their minds.

Wraith’s stark white coat was broken up with great slashes of black and silver, running from his backbone vertically down to his feet. His markings were unique. He had been a gift from his father. Deveron wondered if there was a meaning behind the gift, Wraith was often the most complex of the creatures, but he trusted him as he did his own limbs.

As they approached the Citadel, he urged him into a gallop and left the deafening mass behind. Waiting on the stairs outside stood a group of Officials. Deveron grabbed a bag from his saddle, before kneeling on the stairs bowing his head. A young groom stepped forward to take Wraith’s halter.

Wraith’s ebony eyes looked over the groom with amusement.

Do not bedevil the lad Wraith,’ Deveron warned, glaring at him. The groom’s hand trembled as he took Wraith’s halter from Deveron.

“Be careful lad,” he advised. “He is likely to draw on trickery to get his way. Make sure he is settled and bedded before leaving. I should hate to have to scold you on my first day home.” The groom’s eyes widened and he quivered, Deveron smiled at him. “It’s all right lad. I’m much too weary to be stern today.” He stood up and turned his attention back to the Officials before him.

“Deveron,” the tallest one spoke holding out his hand. “It is wonderful to see you, but you look weighted, my son.”

“Thank you, Father. It is a great honour that you would welcome me publicly. I had not expected it,” he looked away from his father’s face as it searched his. Pain flitted briefly across Runolf’s eyes.

“Come,” Runolf’s voice wavered as he turned and led the way into the Citadel. “We have much to discuss.” Inside the entrance, under massive carved crevasses running vertically from floor to ceiling, stood large stone vases. Deveron and his father stared into the dim recesses, before looking to each other.

“We’ll leave you Runolf,” said one of the Officials. Bowing slightly to both men, they mounted a large stairwell. Deveron and his father waited until they were no longer visible before turning into an open doorway.

“Wait,” his father urged, closing the door. “For old men, some still have unaccountably good hearing.”

The room they entered had a window from floor to ceiling, as wide as four men – their arms stretched wide between them. The walls were white and grey marble, long slender rectangles bordered by light green. In between each panel, slits – the width of a man’s hand – ran vertically. Steam rose continuously in the panels, warming the room and refreshing the air.

“Come, sit with me,” his father sat on a divan near the large window. He waved for Deveron to sit opposite. Reaching out he took a decanter from the table between them. “A toast,” he said pouring the dark red liquid into two glasses. “To your return…and to those who did not.”  Deveron placed the saddle bag on the ground. Taking a glass he downed the liquid, sat, laid his head back, and closed his eyes. His father watched, and remained silent.

“You would like me to speak of it?” Deveron asked.

“I, yes,” Runolf paused. “I need you to speak of it.”

Keeping his eyes closed Deveron ran a hand through his thick russet hair. His chest rose as he sighed deeply.

“Then there is much to tell.” Opening his eyes he sat up. For many breaths he was silent, looking past his father, through the glass to the city spread out before him. The only sound came from the steam bubbling up through the crevasses. His father waited, and watched his son’s green eyes flicker with emotions. Deveron held out his glass and Runolf filled it. Emptying it in one movement, he set it aside and looked directly at his father.

“We journeyed for weeks after we left, with no sign of them. It seemed as if they were just an imagined thing, a delusion in the Elder’s minds. We crossed the Symian Desert and saw no tracks before us, not one grain of sand turned over and pressed down under their feet, though there was a flavour to the air that spoke of their passing.” He paused to pour more liquid into his glass then raised it to his lips. Runolf remained motionless, waiting for Deveron to resume his tale.

“We were at the Abyss Lakes before we found evidence of their passage, a patch of compacted grass, a footprint by the shore, a branch fractured or bent, slivers of hair caught between thorns. Small things; so small I wondered if I was looking too hard. We pushed forward, stopping only when night forced us to.” He paused, his eyes closing again, as if he could no longer bear to look at Runolf.

“It was on the fourth night at the lakes that we knew. The men were tired, so we stopped early. We let the unicorns loose, and as we ate the night settled around us. It was during the second watch.” He paused, and dropped his head into his hands.

“Zak was drawn away from the camp. I can only guess that some disturbance made him curious, but that it seemed minor. He roused no-one. I found him as dawn broke. He lay on his back as if asleep.” Deveron lifted his head and stared at his father.

“His sword was sheathed, and I made to rouse him. My intention was to…when I saw a thin line of red on his neck. There was so little blood, I still believed, but he was no longer a part of this world.” Both men had tears forming as he continued.

“I could not bring myself to leave him. I held his head on my lap and told him to be valiant. I spoke to him; telling him that I would make sure his crossing would be easy. I prayed for his spirit, and spoke the words of the departed for him. I was almost finished when Jareth found us. The men were fortunate that Zak’s murderers had left the area – perhaps they thought him a lone seeker – for I had spoken not one word of warning.” Deveron bowed his head.

“Forgive me Father. I have dishonoured us, and cost the life of a beloved son. My arrogance, my belief that we were indomitable, is the reason Zak is gone.”

“You are not to blame,” Runolf held up a hand to stop his son from speaking. “I should not have allowed Zak to go. My pride…is at fault. I sought glory for both my sons, selfishly. I demanded our legacy to be one of courage and honour.” He stopped, swallowing hard. “Living should have been enough.” Nodding at his son, he signalled that Deveron should continue.

“Zak’s interment delayed us. I am sorry we could not bring him home, but I did all that I could to make his journey a swift one. I swear to you Father, that I performed the proper rites. After we lay Zak to rest we began to search in earnest. Evijan found traces of their camp some two hundred luerons from the lakes.”

“Many cycles passed but finally we knew that we were closing the distance. They no longer took as much care trying to obliterate traces of their whereabouts.”

Outside, the light began to fade. As darkness crept into the room Runolf held up his palm and stood. Deveron observed that his father seemed to have shrunk in the time he had been seated.

“I shall arrange for something to eat. I feel the need for a respite.” He walked over to a large desk and pressed a button. “We shall continue with your chronicle, after,” he said, looking away from his son. “Age,” he pursed his lips outward. “It demands you take more mind of what you do.”

Within minutes a young woman glided into the room, pushing a trolley laden with food and a full decanter. She bowed deeply before leaving. Deveron made no move towards it.

“Come, eat something. I had them prepare some things you like.”

“I have little appetite these days Father,” he replied. Runolf approached his son and sat on the small table.

“Son, I share your grief, but Zak was eager to go with you. We have…lost a part of us forever.” Leaning forward he placed his palms on each side of Deveron’s face. “And yet we go on. Do not waste what you still have by letting this overwhelm you. He would not want that for you.” Taking his son’s hand he pulled him upright.

They ate in silence. When finished, the first of the three moons had risen and the city was dotted with tiny orbs of light from the dwellings of the populace. A small circle of light cocooned around them in the otherwise dark room. Deveron leant forward and began the rest of his tale.

“Evijan was convinced that they had entered the Devil’s Den. We approached the opening from the right side of Malodorous Bay,” his frame shuddered slightly.

“I’ve never seen such a place of despair. Evil emanates from every surface. Even the unicorns were affected; in the end we dismounted to guide them. Not until we were through did we find any more signs. For twenty eight cycles we kept moving. None of us wanted to rest until we were out.

The Cross Mountains are the first thing you see when you leave that foul place. They are a balm to your soul after the Devil’s Den. Evijan found traces of them and although none of us had slept, we spurred the unicorns on. As we closed the distance we could feel them, the stench from their tainted bodies left a trail as clear as a signpost. Every trace of fatigue was gone.

Far off, a spiral of smoke drew our attention. We dismounted some five luerons from it and let the unicorns loose. I sent five men to circle around the right of them, and five to the left. Jareth and Evijan came with me, as we followed their tracks.

Each group got as close as we dared, and then we waited until the second moon was high. Their sentries were disposed of quietly, one by one. I counted fifteen asleep; they were spread out around the fire. We worked as silently as possible, slowly dispatching them by slicing their throats, as they had done to Zak.” Both Deveron and his father drew a deep breath at the mention of Zak. Runolf nodded for his son to continue.

“Their leader was easy to discern, and my group approached him while the others continued sending the rest of them to hell. Jareth tapped him with his sword. It was laughable, the surprise on his fetid features when he realised what we were about. Beside the fire lay a satchel. It seemed impossible to me, that they would be so cavalier with the stone. Yet the way the leader looked, I knew that it lay inside.

As I bent to retrieve it he went mad, foul sounds poured out of his mouth, and he rushed to stop me. Jareth and Evijan held him at the point of their swords, and he began screaming. Once I had the satchel, I opened it. The stone fell out into my hand. The beast knew that it was over. I nodded to Jareth, and he drove his sword through its neck.”

“May I see it now?” Runolf asked. Deveron lifted the bag and handed it over. Gently Runolf laid the bag on his lap and reached inside. As he withdrew his hand he smiled the first real smile in hours.

“It is more beautiful than I remember.” In his hands the stone threw off a modest luminous glow. Etched into it was the figure of a dragon with a woman’s upper body. The deep lines seemed to move so that the creature swayed and her long tresses wafted around her.

“I’ve never seen the stone out of its place. Intriguing isn’t it? I did not know there was a carving of Draco on it.”

“I too was surprised by it at first,” Deveron replied. “But it seems logical, that she would not leave us… completely. That the stone would bear something, to mark it forever, as her gift to us.”

“We must return her to the chapel. It is a great thing you have done my son. You and your men have bought home the heart that beats inside our people’s essence.” Runolf stood, reverently clasping the stone. “I should like for you to be there for this,” he said. He made to leave, stopped, and turned to walk back towards Deveron. “Hold out your hands,” he commanded. As the younger man did, he placed the stone in them.

“You have risked much and have paid a high price to bring this back. To you must go the honour of putting it in its place.”

“Father?” Deveron’s brow furrowed. “Will the Elders permit this?”

“They will do as I say,” Runolf replied. Walking before his son, they made their way into the great hall. They passed through a large door and began to ascend a marble spiral staircase. On each step, a warrior stood clad in blood red armour. As the men passed they beat a single fist to their chest. Reaching the top they were greeted by a party of ten Elders, their faces masked by purple hoods.

“Runolf.” the tallest of the Elders spoke. “Welcome.” When he saw Deveron behind him, he pulled off his hood and walked closer. “Why are you not alone? Deveron is not allowed here. You know that well.” The other Elders formed a guard stopping both men from advancing.

“Adsel,” Runolf raised his body to its full height, dwarfing the other man. ‘If not for my son, we would still be without the stone. Our civilisation would suffer, wither and die wretchedly, without its heart. I should not have to ask that he be granted the status he deserves.”

“Runolf,” the Elder shook his head with displeasure, raising his hands to quiet the others who were speaking among themselves.

“I have given a son for this Adsel. This gives me the right,” Runolf interrupted. Leaning closer he bent his head. Adsel appeared to be swallowed up by his body. The little man shrunk backwards. “If needed…I will bring this matter before the Senate.” Adsel looked up, and his brow creased.

“I do not think that will be necessary,” he replied, and turned to the other Elders. Each man nodded slightly before standing back. Adsel moved to the side. “Perhaps you have a point,” he ceded. Runolf and Deveron bowed their heads at the Elders before moving on.

They made their way through two large archways and continued along the hall. They came to another stairwell, which ended in a darkened room. They crossed the room to an altar that reached three times their height. Level with their heads was a deep hole. Runolf stepped aside and waved his son on.

Deveron raised his arms and placed the stone in the hole, then stepped back. A light began to pulse out from it and the air around vibrated. They could hear a humming sound. A brilliant flash burst out from the stone, and beams of light raced through the air touching markings on each wall. The markings glowed, then bounced into the air and floated free. New markings appeared to replace them; they too quickly rebounded about the room. This process became a continuous occurrence.

“It is good to have our history returned to us,” Runolf spoke softly. “Without it, so much would be lost.” He pointed to a series of markings glowing more vibrantly than the rest.

“Already the chronicle of your deed has been added.” A face with eyes exactly like Deveron’s could be seen in the air near the symbols depicting the Stone’s return. “He shall never be forgotten,” Runolf drew his son toward him. “Into one, shall all men journey,” he said.

“And all journeys shall become one,” Deveron replied. They looked at each other for a time, and before leaving the chapel they stared around, their faces glowing under the light show. Runolf placed his arm around his son’s shoulder and squeezed.

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