#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – Cafe Terrace

At the end of last year, I was in a dilemma over the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges and what I should do. I even ran a poll with 3 options, but it left me wavering between Skaði and Sparkle as the Facebook votes balanced the ones here.

I envisaged some Skaði tales in my Viking Age Alternative History timeline. I sketched a story with Skaði and a successful Vincent Willem van Gogh. But would such a devout Christian have allowed himself to be saved by a Norse goddess? Antique Vase in the desert and Agatha Christie?

Crime never sleeps.

Anyway, it’s now the Year of the Jackdaw, so Sparkle Anwyl returns in a six-part story called ‘Custody Chain’.

Enjoy this opening, and if you wish, please comment or suggest what happens next. Many thanks for reading.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2020/02/wep-february-challenge-cafe-terrace.html

CAFÉ TERRACE

2014

Sunday, March 16th

Waves sigh up the beach as I gaze into the starry night over Cardigan Bay.

But I’m distracted.

Where is Kama? She’s late and I feel exposed in the black dress she insisted I wear for my 20th birthday meal.

Some customers at Surf’s Up have attempted pick-up lines. But saying I’m waiting for the woman of my dreams scares them off.

The bar is packed, so escaping onto the balcony was my only option. I’ve kicked off my ankle boots and when I need my glass refilled, the owner Heilyn Trevor appears.

Followed by Kama in an emerald and black Kandangi Saree.

“Sorry cariad, Ffion assigned me a new case. I pulled the files as your insight is devious. But after our meal.”

I silence her with a long kiss. “For you, I might wait.” Her excuse triggers questions. “Tempt me with a taster. Then we eat.”

We laugh.

“In brief. A collectible forgery of a Van Gogh painting was stolen last night from a connoisseur’s Llanystumdwy home. And he was savagely assaulted. The files are at home so can wait. First, our tryst at Agnelli Trattoria.”

*

I’m sated by the celebratory Italian meal – and our after-dinner exertions. But I want more. My mind switches from caresses to clues.

So far, the burglary details are minimal.

“Professionals if they breached the victim’s high-tech security.” Crime scene photos present another angle. “Vicious pros. The assault looks–”

“—excessive.” Kama paces. “The collector, Urien Cadwallader is unconscious in hospital. CCTV tapes wiped. No prints. No witnesses as the house is hidden in a wood.”

C for Collector. E for Expert. R for Replica. T for Tapes. A for Art.

TRACE

“Did the crime scene assessment produce anything to show the art’s origin?”

I lean over Kama as she opens her laptop and accesses the case on the internal North Wales Police site.

“This contract suggests our connoisseur wanted to ensure the provenance – even for a forgery.”

“A replica by a ‘reputable artist’ with the pseudonym Turbulent Sky. My tingling tattoos imply it’s relevant.”

Kama strokes my face.

“Then it is. The painting was acquired from Orme Replica Masterpieces Emporium in Llandudno six months ago.”

I groan. A dealer on West Conwy Coastal’s patch. My involvement slips away. I’m a PC with no standing outside South Gwynedd.

Kama reads my dejection. “But I’m a Detective Sergeant, so as our DCI, Ffion can authorise I interview the dealer – with my PC assistant.”

True, even if we risk questions about our relationship.

*

Monday, March 17th

Behind his glasses, Desmond Deckard’s eyes study us as we show our warrant cards.

Neatly dressed, even if the plaid flannel suit fails to hide his anxiety. Guilt or habit?

“Always happy to oblige the Heddlu,” he says in posh English. “Especially when they send such exquisite coppers. Another inspection? You’ll find everything in order.”

He grandly gestures around his gallery at familiar masterpieces and obscure art pieces. Forgeries?

“Every replica is genuine and documented as required. All legal, ladies.”

Kama leads. “By genuine you mean by artists working openly making copies.”

“Paying tribute to the Masters and making accurate replicas for art connoisseurs. Each one carries a subtle statement that it is not a forgery but an object of devotion.”

Glossy words to hide the reality? Or genuine talent? Manipulated for profit?

Kama will get to the truth. “So, all traceable. Tell us, Mr Deckard, about these artists, especially Turbulent Sky, please.”

My fingers tap studs. T for Turbulent Talent.

 “Every artist is a modern master with temperament burning from the canvas, clay, or chosen medium.”

“And Turbulent Sky. What can you tell us about them?”

Deckard shakes his head. “I’m afraid details on my artists and clients are confidential. I’m their confessor.” He grins.

“Unwise when a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night has been stolen, and its collector’s in hospital.” Kama hands him a copy of his contract. “We appreciate your assistance.”

S for Shamefaced Suspect.

“Turbulent Sky is a unique talent I’ve nurtured. Well, I encourage them all – even if some galleries are outraged by my support. Antagonism forces artists to adopt alter-egos. If I supply Turbulent Sky’s details, treat her gently, she’s had it rough.”

We promise, so he scrawls on a compliment slip.

“Anything else, ladies?”

“What’s the value of the reproduction?” asks Kama.

“Turbulent Sky’s crow sigil commands exceptional prices, as does an original Van Gogh. He died penniless – a fate never to be shared. She tries to emulate all elements, so Cadwallader paid five thousand in this instance. If this was an attempt at forgery, the work would have earned her millions.”

A for Affluent. R for Rarity. S for Sigil.  

STARS.

Van Gogh’s star-filled sky reproduced by Tesni Szarka.

In Llanystumdwy.

Llanystumdwy, with its pretty bridge across the Afon Dwyfor.
http://people.virginia.edu/~hnw/Lleyn/Lleyn3.htm

*

Tesni’s home is a barn in the same woodland as the crime scene.

“A witness we missed?” Kama points through the trees to a walled retreat. “Uniform overlooked this barn.”

“I suspect my colleagues never realised it was converted.”

I press a button beside the yellow door. An oscillating buzz echoes inside.

Cautious footsteps.

The door camera lights up, so we show our identity.

A young woman, my age, opens the door. Dark, high cheekbones, sculpted face. Riveting eyes. 5 foot 6 inches in jeans and sunflower T-shirt – Vincent’s work.

She says nothing but touches her ears and mouth.

Then, she signs. “If you understand BSL, come in. What can I do?”

I sign back, “We both know British Sign Language – my sister taught us. We’re investigating the theft of a Turbulent Sky painting. We have questions.”

She smiles, then leads us into her studio home.

The smell of paint, varnish and coffee percolate the air. Her workspace is a chemistry lab to age her art decades in days.

On the wall are Van Gogh masterpieces. All with the crow sigil.

On an easel is Café Terrace at Night.

***

Word Count 991: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual, and the following applies:

Sparkle or Skaði

My mind is already churning around the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges. There are 3 options:

  1. Standalone Stories inspired by the individual themes. Six separate spontaneous seasonal stories.
  2. Sparkle Anwyl case. Six episodes of a new Snowdon Shadows case for my Welsh detective and her partner-lover, Kama. The threads for this are scribbles with substance.
  3. Skaði, Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. More Norse mythology with a twist – and a few more kennings. Not sure why Skaði is at a cafe with my favourite artist or his sunflowers.
Skadi by Michael Jorvik
Eve Myles as Sparkle Anwyl

I could try doing a poll but comments seem better – if I get any. Tell me what you would like to read, please.

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – Footsteps

Time for the WEP+IWSG Challenge and another attempt at a change of scenery and style. DC Sparkle Anwyl is on extended leave so a character from a previous Challenge reappears.

Warning: there are several attempts at literary devices, specifically kennings. For those stumped, I’ve deciphered the head-scratchers at the foot.

Note: A kenning is a metaphorical compound phrase that replaces a single, concrete noun. A kenning employs figurative language to represent the simpler concept, such as using the phrase “battle-sweat” to refer to blood. Kennings are plentiful in Old Norse and Old English poetry and prose.

[http://www.literarydevices.com/kenning/]

For other flash pieces in the December Challenge, visit: https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2019/12/wepiwsgthe-december-challenge-is-open.html

Snowfall Spirit

Threat-cries echo in Nökkvé. The Holy Darkness stretches forever across the winter-blanket. Answering howls on the snow-breath affirm friends travel the self-same path of power.

Silver-face smiles her blessing on our journey granting light as I slide ski-swift over fresh frozen-tears.

Fur-girdled hunters silent-shadow me, protectors – even if of Fenrir’s race. Noble and wise denizens. Teeth sharp from natural prey. Flesh from those facing lights-end. Grim but just. A tooth-claw ending.

Balance. Season’s passage.

Life dies and is reborn.

Our deep-slumber Solstice whisper-sighs our presence.

Sleeping shadows stir and join our gathering. 

Tracks appear, converge. Distant specks arise on the silent-fall, become threads weaving towards our annual heart-call.

I’ve visited time-turning-age to ensure spirit-breaths re-forge the natural order.

For I am Skaði. Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist.

Size is not the issue. Speed is. The endless-revival needs sentient-life to affirm our faith.

Skadi Hunting in the Mountains(1901) by H. L. M.

Moonlight glistens on a spreading pool. I stoop. A wound-sea but no sounds of battle.

Earth Mother’s blood seeping too soon. Salt-tracks on my cheeks. Stings. My wealth-chambers reel. Is there time to save her?

Foul-howls tear the bleak-black embrace. Hounds baying. Wild shapes thunder past. Asgard-Riders with the Harrier of Hosts driving the fear-spreading soul-hunt.

Most quail and run. I remain tall. The wolf-pack crouch, baring fangs.

Hooves pound and swirl snow-dust as Oðinn wheels Sleipnir around so the spirit—swarm surrounds us.

I confront Slain Tamer, caressing his eight-legged horse. “My Breaker of Rings. What prey tonight?”

Never question the dread Huntsman of the Otherworldly Host, unless your sagas are entwined. But I ignore our wedded bliss.

He sneers and doffs his crooked head-hider. “My Snow-Stepper. You never fear even me. Why have you ceased your journey? For me?”

I shake my head as I kneel on the earth. “You? The Ruler of Treachery holds no fear.” I point to the death-stain. “But this evil does. Jörð, sister-wife bleeds. Blood-steps we need to heal with Solstice song and ceremony”

My shared-husband dismounts. His blinded eye reads the blood-runes staining the snow. “You are my Wise God-bride. This is the sweat-scent my hounds and host pursued. The Earth Mother dies from the weapon-weather man reaps. Will you ride with this harried Horse-wolf to save her? Will the wolves run with the hounds?”

I smile at his heart-bait. “Great ring-giver, you soar above the earth-coat. I will swift ski below matching your hunting pace. Will your hounds join the wolf-pack? It would torment Fenrir further.”

“The Wolf of Winter will be driven away. But healing Jörð must be soonest. Onwards.”

Together, our packs race time to reach the Gathering of the Nine Realms.

Deities and denizens mass around us.

“Welcome, Fenrir-Bane. Welcome Snow-Dancer. Do the shadow-wolves and wild-hounds hunt together tonight?”

Oðinn dips his hat to me. My heart stirs.

“Our Liege-Lord and I follow the self-same battle-sweat trail. Our Mother, Jörð is dying. Abused and abandoned by greed and ignorance within Midgard. Join our healing as we prepare a path for Sól’s return.”

The life-song rises from the Gathering. Deep chords from Oðinn’s male-band. Sky-climbing phrasings from my stepdaughter Freyja and our female searers. Wolves and hounds howl-lead the life-denizens. The voices weave, the Rite resonates, and the Nine Realms pulsate.

Our music echoes throughout Nökkvé. The Holy Darkness diminishes.

The life-bringing light returns as Sól, our golden goddess drives her chariot across the canopy. 

Jörð breathes. Death-dew dissolves from Earth Mother’s flourishing footsteps

**

Kennings Decoded

Asgard-Riders = The Wild Hunt

Battle-sweat = Blood

Bleak-black = Night

Blood-runes = Blood traces

Breaker of Rings = Oðinn

Death-dew = Blood

Death-stain = Blood

Fenrir-Bane = Oðinn

Frozen-tears = Snow

Great ring-giver = Oðinn

Harrier of Hosts = Oðinn

Head-hider = Hat

Heart-bait = Gift/Temptation

Heart-call = Rite

Horse-wolf = Oðinn

Liege-Lord = Chief, Leader, or Oðinn

Lights-end = Death

Ruler of Treachery = Oðinn

Salt-tracks = Tears

Silent-fall = Snow

Silver-face = Moon

Slain Tamer = Oðinn

Snow-breath = Winter Wind

Snow-Stepper = Skaði

Snow-Dancer = Skaði

Wealth-chambers = Mind & Heart

Weapon-weather = War

Winter-blanket = Snow

Wound-sea = Blood

See also Wikipedia’s List: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kennings

***

Word Count 675: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

#WEP/IWSG June 2019 Challenge – Caged Bird

Originally, I had planned to write a Sparkle Anwyl case for the 2019 WEP + IWSG Challenge starting in April and ending in December. I wrote the first episode in April, but then posted the next episode of Kindled Casket, last month. There is a ‘caged bird’ in the episode but not as planned – that follows in the next episode. That case will unfold over the next few months.

Hence, the attached standalone short – Fettered Air. A departure from my Welsh police procedural, so your responses will interest me.

Fettered Air

I slide ski-swift across the winter’s blanket under the Blood Wolf’s Moon. Beside me the chicken-legged hut creak-crashes through the forest.

We’re alone in the taiga.

No sign of Baba Yaga. She’s vanished as have the denizens. No howling wolves. Nor snow leopard scents. No eagle-owl hoots. Nor honking swans. No ice-crawlers corpse feeding.

For nothing breathes in the wailing wind.

Yet, Nature writhes in pain, dragon’s bile dripping on her from mortal fangs.

I am Skaði. Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Size is not the issue. Speed is.

The house is noisier, but we make a team. This hut can track her mistress better than even I, its feet scratching up clues, windows watching for signs.

Our mission came from Svetovid, seer and guardian god – and we had no choice.

“Find Baba Yaga before this world rebels.”

Why me, a giantess from Jötunheimr? Because neither Odin nor Thor will ask me ever since the marital strife with my spouse, Njörðr.

“Nobody else volunteered,” added Svetovid. “Besides those deities I posted on separate operations.”

He’s as secretive as my Vanir and Aesir brethren. Not just Loki plays with intelligence. Our trickster-thief and clown has too many imitators.

“Others are missing?” I asked, expecting evasion.

“Find Baba Yaga. That’s all.”

So, a need-to-know answer means Skaði is disposable. Nothing has changed.

Am I that terrible?

I had my reasons for smashing my husband’s sand sculptures. The whale-way was a prison with seabirds flaunting freedom.

But he called my majestic mountain retreat a dreary cell. “I’m trapped here. I can’t ski or snowboard like you.” He ranted and ripped down my hunting trophies.

“Skadi Hunting in the Mountains” (1901) by H. L. M – Foster, Mary H. 1901. Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology. Silver, Burdett and Company

Marriage dissolved.

Thus, I get the menial tasks. Unless Odin sends his ravens or wolves with heart-baits.

Not this occasion. A telepathic eagle with four heads.  

“Find Baba Yaga.” Svetovid’s orders resound in my brain.

The wilderness wrestles promethium chains. That is enough reason to pursue the quarry.

So we scour Siberia.

The creak-crashing hut spins above the earth-coat. We have the crone’s spoor. 

Calls and cries clamour on the snow-breath.

Ahead a green clearing by a lake glows bright. Invisible to vicious human eyes, but I see the torches, tents and throng bridging the veils.

Baba has parked her mortar by a host of other vehicles, one that is familiar – my stepdaughter’s pantherine-drawn chariot.

With groans and creaks, the chicken-legs spin the hut to a halt by the pestle-guarded mortar. Shutters slam shut. A fence of human bones topped with skulls encircles them.

My gaze shoots arrows at the polytheistic conclave nobody invited me to.

Goddesses gathered from the Nine Realms. They have abandoned their posts to feast. Brews flow, dice roll and deities chatter. Everyone distracted as Midgard clamours for release.

Baba knocks back vodka, cackling to another crone – Hecate, clutching a goatskin of wine. Their dice are corpse-stones, and Hel’s are soul-vessels. 

Are they oblivious to the desolation? Among the feasting, denizen envoys are airing their anxiety.  

My pounding heart settles. Mind muses past irritable white-out.

Not all the deities are wizen and wild in their attire and behaviour. Some goddesses appear serious.

Freyja, stepdaughter and party animal rises – statuesque and sober, despite her goblet of mead.

Her eyes seize mine as she silences the symposium.

“Sisters, the snow-dancer is here. The world cries, and we have battle-sweat to spill. But when shall we three score meet again?”

“When the chaos is banished, when the spear-din is won,” Hel replies.

I add my voice, realising their design. “Ere midnight. After the sleep of the blade claims those flouting our laws.” Faces flash in my head. I smile. “Nature’s justice must wield the icicle of blood against false leaders poisoning life.”

My sisters nod. Creatures yowl.

Freyja smiles and summons her champions. “I come, Durga and Adrastea. We have fangs to extract.”
Her pantherines roar in response.

We will shatter the fetters on Nature. No more will humans build cages entrapping our laughter and song.

Yes, this is my #WEP/IWSG post for June so part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG ChallengeThis a standalone short, although Skaði appears in my novel Eagle Passage, which I wrote the first draft of for NaNoWriMo 2016.

Word Count 660: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies: