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.
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.
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.
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
Today’s offering for the WEP+IWSG Challenge is the climax of the piece I wrote for August’s Red Wheelbarrow prompt – HERE. However, I’ve changed the POV, and as some people requested, we are back with Detective Sparkle Anwyl, who is a guest at the wedding. Enjoy – if I do not scare you with the gory finale of my vampire tale.
Another Horrible Harvest
Saturday 8th August 2015
The glass goblet of crimson wine looks tasty. Maybe
not summery but tempting.
Yet Mina is hesitant. Scared. Unlike the Mina Westenra
of the Goth Patrol, ready to tackle a bully or a ghoul.
A for Atypical.
Kama bites my ear, then notices my stud-tapping. “What
did the elderly guy say to her. Or is it hard to lip read from here?”
“A welcome. Something about his addiction to blood. He
freaked Mina out. Not the Goth reaction I remember. Acting has changed my
Has policing changed me? Enriched if meeting Kama is included.
“If that’s human blood, this could be a crime scene.”
“Or a vampire case. That ghost was a cold case, not outside our remit as detectives. Anyway, we’re off duty. Let’s watch and listen, cariad.”
My school friend’s behaviour jangles every nerve and
The old man? A for Ancestry. V for Victim. P for
He can’t be Owain Glyndwr, even if I’m proud to be
Welsh and await the return of our national hero.
The best man finishes reading email greetings to the
married couple, then nods to the elderly man.
“I’m cutting my speech short in favour of the wisdom
of our host and hero.”
Owain springs to his feet, belying his reputed years.
“Over the centuries, I’ve watched and waited. History
says I’ll return to set Wales free from the conquerors’ yoke. But blood is the
charm today, and we’re all here to celebrate this blessed union instead. I
could regale you with tales of battles and feuds, with horrors wrought and
deeds undertaken. But my life was nothing compared to the future ahead for Mina
With a wink towards Mina, he raises his glass of
crimson wine. “Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. This is your century. May
you and my Great Nephew have many decades of fun ahead.” Facing the gathering,
he continues, “Ladies, lords, friends, join me for a bridal toast. May you
thrive and spawn many generations, Mina and Dafydd.”
He drains his glass.
No excuse needed to drink – in
moderation. Even if us guests are served champagne – and there might be a crime
Mina smiles but doesn’t touch her
“Your actress friend is scared to
drink hers. A poisoned chalice, perhaps.”
My tattoos tingle at the scene. P
for Poison. M for Murder. R for Revenge.
“I never knew her to refuse
alcohol as a teenager.”
Mina reaches for a glass – of
Her stand-in father, Victor
Frankel leans over to Dafydd, who mouths back, ‘Your moment.’
“In the sad absence of Mina’s
late father, I’ve been proud to give her away to another special person and
talented actor. As their director, I see a fruitful partnership ahead – even under
We all laugh or clap. He pauses,
then removes a sheaf of paper from his jacket.
“I’d like to thank our host, the irrepressible Owain
Glyndwr, for making today possible. As a descendent of the last true Prince of Wales, it’s fitting
this ancestral home is where I’m announcing the next film from Oriole Productions –
cheers and foot stamps. My tattoos tingle – a pleasing sensation for once. E
for Excitement and Error.
new tale of bloody murders, duplicitous intrigue and evil disguised as good will
star our talented couple – and chill our audience. Perhaps, our usual smoke and
mirrors will garner its own harvest of honours. This will be our version of
that classic, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But transposed to
the mist shrouded but beautiful mountains of North Wales.”
evidence is in the speeches. Case resolved. Everyone plunges back into
are due the glowing couple.
and I embrace. I tease her.
the Goth you threatened to run away with. But he’s a catch.”
as a teen, I wanted attention. Just as you wanted to fight injustice. And I
guess your partner is—”
injustice warrior. Kama – the best woman and detective in my life.”
untouched glass is behind her. Tempting me to smell and taste its contents.
distracts Mina. “So, when we get married, you must both attend the
celebrations. No date yet, but we’re making plans. Not straightforward…”
my distraction distract, I step behind and take the cup.
but not sulphurous. I dip my finger in, then lick it.
for Robust and E for Energising.
to REVAMP our fears.
hand Mina the goblet. “An unusual concoction that suggests blood. But it’s not
a case for our forensic guys. Maybe special effects are responsible. Enjoy it
She sips, then smiles, and laughs.
than blood. Also, revitalising. I will get addicted.”
power of suggestion. Blend fruit juice, red wine, herbs and spices. Call it
blood. And throw in vampires.”
Once again, this is a standalone tale – or is it. There’s a subtle link to my ‘Jewel Box‘ story – if you spot it – and some characters may appear again. Plus, the setting is probably Wales or the Borders.
WARNING – there is blood, but be brave…like Mina. Remember, the dragon is red, and so is the beetroot of shame – and some wheelbarrows.
shooting had been tough.
Mina was relieved. Her life was changing, although not as planned after her
she had a few weeks off before Oriole Productions needed her and Dafydd back
for dubbing. By then she’d no longer be Mina Westenra, but Mina Glyndwr.
her lips didn’t bury her pre-nuptial nerves as the limousine pulled up outside
the grey-stone church.
can still call it off, although the family might kill you after all they’ve
shiver washed over her at Victor Frankel’s words. Her director was standing-in
for her deceased father. If only her mum hadn’t died of grief or her dad had survived the blood
swallowed and attempted bravery.
more killing – fictional or real. I’m marrying Dafydd. I just wish one parent was
never replace either in there.” Vic pointed at her heart. “They are watching
and proud. Dafydd isn’t just a fine actor – perfect for a classic remake. He’s
genuine – like the Glyndwrs.”
bloodline was as ancient as the yew tree guarding the grounds. Descended, as
Dafydd claimed, from the famous Owain Glyndwr, the last true Prince of
climbed out of the limo, then walked up the path through the graveyard. She
drew strength from the man who had guided her career.
Ahead some late comers dashed out of the rain towards the sanctuary. An
elderly man greeted them. He was about seventy from the grey hair, white beard
and old-style tweed suit and waistcoat.
Standing outside, he braved the foul weather. So much for a summer
wedding with blue sky.
man smiled at Mina and reached into the basket on his arm.
first gift on your bridal day. Our custom, since Dafydd brings us new
blood.” He handed
her a circlet of lilies, entwined with roses and sprigs of rosemary. “Gwna
dda dros ddrwg, uffern ni’th ddwg – or as the English say, Repay evil
with good, and hell will not claim you.”
Did he mean to sound so archaic, thought Mina – like the
Count in their movie. Her skin prickled and icy fingers crawled across her.
Had anyone noticed?
Vic was chatting with the old man as he took the petals the creepy
man removed from a blood-red wheelbarrow.
“You’ll be a needing these. Better than confetti for
the ground. Food for the soil so play on, as my friend Will said.”
A poet gardener not a legendary creature. She relaxed and
let Vic guide her into the packed church for this best day of her life. Marrying
the man, she loved. Witnessed by friends she valued. The family welcoming her.
Petals strewn underfoot, crushed releasing their scent,
suppressing all else.
Her glances as she was walked down the aisle showed the old
man hadn’t joined them.
Only a gardener.
Except vampires couldn’t step inside a holy place –
according to the script.
The vicar banished the misleading thought. The blissful
moments grew as the wedding service lifted her and her heart. She made her vows
committing her future. Dafydd’s lips sealed the union.
Here before her, hands cupping her face, was the dream guy
who was worth putting her BAFTA dreams aside for.
Their identical Welsh gold rings were their eternal bond. Her blood warmed her as they walked out of the church arm in arm – united forever. Into the sunshine which bathed the churchyard, banishing the last vestiges of a dead writer’s imaginings and a scriptwriter’s fantasies.
Petals showered them. Joy and warmth. Heart bursting. Congratulations
flowed as their photographer posed them.
On the edge of the graveyard, the abandoned wheelbarrow. And
the thought – vampires don’t like churches or sunlight.
She laughed – cracked and shaking.
“The photos are a formality and a memento.” Her
husband sounded reassuring but then asked, “Or did something else unnerve
She needed an excuse. “I wondered where the gardener
“The elderly guy who gave me the circlet as we arrived. He
wasn’t in the church, so I presumed—”
Dafydd laughed. “You mean Great Uncle Owain. He’s never been
inside that church. Old but not the gardener. But he likes plants, and
creatures though, bats especially. Creatures of the night and their ilk.”
He laughed again. Her head and heart churned but wedding
customs propelled her through cheering people to the limo.
Dafydd kissed her in the back seat.
“Great Uncle Owain will be at the reception – it’s in the
garden of his old ancestral home. Well, the house he’s lived in since before the
Great War. He’s a true war vet – valiant as a lion, Will said.”
Over one hundred years old. Yet she’d guessed seventy. Age
Great Uncle Owain’s house felt forgotten. Ancient. Nature
had overrun it, with ivy and Virginia creeper vying for the prime masonry.
However, the garden was more ordered.
“You asked if Great Uncle was the gardener. Well, this
is his creation – over many decades.”
“How many decades? He must be older than he
“He keeps young. The family trait – passed down the
generations. A secret like my love bites – hidden from view.”
Warmth spread across her face at the memory. She laughed,
right hand caressing her neck where the marks had been.
Her excuses for the pinpricks where he had drawn blood.
Like the Count.
She suppressed the shivers as they walked into the crowded
Tables – their white linen surfaces decorated.
Gifts on the wedding table at one side.
Flowers in green and red wheelbarrows.
Laughter. Music. Chatter.
Great Uncle Owain leaning in for a kiss. Breath on her neck.
He kissed both her cheeks.
His voice – rich and smooth. Relaxing. Hypnotic.
He raised a glass of crimson liquid.
“Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. Don’t let the rumours of my addiction to blood disturb you, my dear Mina. It’s kept me alive for generations. We all get used to its taste. You will too. Try some.”
Word Count 1000: FCA
Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:
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.
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
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
“Others are missing?” I asked, expecting evasion.
“Find Baba Yaga. That’s all.”
So, a need-to-know answer means Skaði is disposable. Nothing
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
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
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
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
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 Challenge. This 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:
I have been following and voting in WRITE CLUB 2019 and voting on the excellent final 30 entries in the Preliminary rounds. I plan to continue voting in subsequent rounds hoping my favourites win.
I submitted an entry – under a pen-name – but did not reach the standard of other entries. Re-reading my submission, I know why.
But what do you think? Should I have used this for the April WEP/IWSG Challenge, Jewel Box? All critiques and comments welcome.
by Zilarrezko Ezpata
Supercilious servants seldom deserve attention when they thrust a drab
packet into my hands. Howsoever, this maid is incessantly thus. Why her
mistress accepts her insolence vexes me. I accept the delivery but offer no acknowledgement
and send the servant on her way, back to my sister-in-law’s house on Harrison
Boulevard. My man can convey my response.
Locking out the oppressive heat behind the front door, I walk across the tiled
hallway. The package is lighter than expected. Dreary plays my brother intends
for his conjectured theater, or native artifacts I will capitalize? My throat
constricts but my mind exalts.
I discard the brown paper as I carry the tawdry ivory-inlaid box contained within
to the maple desk in my tranquil sanctuary.
Placed inside the ruby-red interior are ten jewelry cases that flush my body
in warmth. A sealed message lies on top. The wax has an imprint, but somehow blurred.
Intentional? Never. Made in haste.
My heart beat rises. Profit beckons. My stomach flutters.
Fingers caress the soft vellum envelope. I falter
at the unusual leopard-spotted variety but dismiss an irrational image. The
perfume pervading the room banishes the remembrance. I break the seal.
Only my love,
Arantxa dabs Angel’s Trumpet on her
A precious and profitable attachment.
My spirit soars on pounding beats, body burning.
I return the gifts you used to seduce
me, without success. Unlike base men such as you, I am neither a heart-cheater nor
Herewith, the moonstone pendant. You
promised a diamond as in the book, but that was beyond you. Why didn’t I take
The crude cameo locket that will never
be me. Not even an old-fashioned eye portrait. My eyes are blue not black.
The Art nouveau enameled barrette affronted
One pearl earring shed like a tear,
the other dust. You are the dream-crusher.
Did you intend the amethyst bracelet
to enslave me?
The faux emerald and sapphire choker?
Tighter than a scoundrel’s purse. My breeding detects peridot and topaz so as paltry
The rough-cut ruby brooch that drew
more than my blood. Why the deceit with a mere red garnet?
Perchance, the diamond necklace you
locked around my neck meant aught. But never was I gulled by your growing
Can a lie-weaver ever repent? No, thus
I spurned this silver band stolen from some naïve conquest.
Only overreached by the gold ring that
never engaged my soul or eyes.
I am smothered by her two-faced words.
My head whirls, and my mouth burns. Confused, I stagger to my armchair. I read
her last lines.
This blood-lined box that holds your
cheap baubles, unfit to grace this lady.
Finally, the Palouse colt. Or what
remains of him—the vellum produced from his skin.