Eblow was looking through the glass, watching his sister train the frogs on the marshy edge of the river. He saw her concentration as she picked each one up and sat them one on top of the other, stacking them four or five high before stepping back and gazing at her work for a few moments. Clap her hands and smiling with delight as they all leapt at once like a group of performing gymnasts. Eblow watched her do this for a third time before she lost interest and shooed them away into the wet tussocks and reeds. She turned full circle, arms outstretched, and yet again, before skipping back toward the house.
Anvil was a year or two younger than Eblow who was in turn younger than brother Acolyte. They had other siblings but they were much older and had struck out on their own, only occasionally popping down to visit them. The dogs barked as the hall door opened and his mother swept into the room.
“That’s enough,” her honeyed mezzo voice was pleasant enough as she approached Eblow. She patted him on the head as she stopped beside him, ” You can’t spend all day in front of the looking-glass, you need to practice something or do some good deeds outside.”
He turned his head up to her, grimacing as she continued ruffling his hair. Looking up to her large round face with twinkling big eyes and joyous smile and the hair that seemed to spray out from her scalp and was twisted into a multitude of dreadlocks. Eblow felt a little embarrassed by his mother’s affectionate nature, surely he was too old to be tousled and, “Oh, no, here it comes” he thought as she bent down further and gave him a slow, noisy kiss on his cheek. Her hair splayed round his face and the dreadlocks waved before his eyes and slipped over his ears like dozens of snake heads, one even snuck briefly down the back of his neck. He shrugged her off but felt the thrill of a younger self enjoying the sole attention of his mother.
She relented and stood up. Pulling the tapestry cloth over the front of the mirror its very presence seemed to disappear into the fine needlework of the tapestry itself and she said, “Keep an eye on your sister, please. I can see someone outside needs the ferry. Your dad is not back yet”.
With that she exited via the heavy front door leaving it wedged open for the early sunlight to peek through. Followed almost instantly by the door being flung open as Anvil charged through with the rush and draught of a small tornado and stopped just a few feet inside to eye her brother. The door, despite its weight and grandeur was pushed shut by the force spinning off from her entrance. She stood, the eye of a small storm, waiting with hands as fists knuckling onto her hips.
“What are you doing?” She stood stock still waiting for the answer, her blond tightly curled hair almost extruding from her scalp by the static electricity rippling out.
“You’re not supposed to do things through the mirror. Mummy says.”
“Mummy says, ‘No!’ Says me not to.”
“I can, but not too much. I’m older than you”. Eblow said this a little defensively.
“Show me now!” She pursed her lips and took a slightly softer line, “I’ll show you how to stack frogs or how to make the fire go out and then burn again. ”
Not the most exciting things in the world, he thought. His mother had told him to look after his sister. Maybe he could use the looking-glass to keep Anvil happy, she was always moody and annoying if she was bored. He could be grown up about it and she would do as he asked if it was fun.
He could see she was still waiting, could see her little foot tapping as she waited. His dad did that when he was getting angry.
“Okay but only for a minute or two. Mum will be back soon, we must stop before she gets to the door”.
“Let’s watch!” And she was by his side before he could move. She had undraped the mirror, the animals on the tapestry shimmered in movement as they were herded to the side of the frame.
“Show me that sea again. All those spotty little islands with their sticky-out bits.” She kneeled right in front of the mercury-glass so as to get the best view. Settled back on her heels, straight armed with her podgy hands resting flat on her thighs. “It’s a bit dark.” She turned enquiringly to her brother.
“It must be night.”
“Make it brighter.”
Stars began to pitch out of the clouds and the moon was favoured too. The islands, archipelagos scattered all around the still-dark mass of water began to be discernible.
“Closer, make it bigger, I want to see that incy-boat.”
And the waters were slapping and breaking white at the edges of the cliff. The waves rounding up into breakers that smacked and cascaded onto the base of the cliff. Anvil could see better now. Could make out the high cliffs that transformed into burnished stone of a high walled citadel with its roomed towers and high-arched windows. Out to sea, rounding the curve of the point on which the walled palace stood was a small boat, oared and with sail set to compete with the cross-currents.
Time lapsed as the children watched and the ridges of dark water turned sapphire with the rising sun’s splintered rays. The moon paled and moved on, outshone by the sun. They looked on at the boat and sail as its shadow cast out before it. Oars moving rhythmically to the ‘tamp, tamp,tamp’ of the drum needed to pace against the tides and the black sail bellying out at full stretch forty five degrees of the boat and pulling down to the frothed water.
And at the prow, a time-worn man watching as the promontory swivelled aside and the slapping waves countered the drum. Just round the headland was the quay, the grey stoned jetty awaiting his return.
Eblow and Anvil watched as the black-sailed ship put about and some crewmen scurried to change to a bright sail.
Anvil leaned forward and dipped her podgy fingers in the water. Her wrist circled twice and she removed her fingers from the small vortex she had created and leaned back.
The boat rocked at the sudden change in the current and the crew struggled to reset the black sail without time to re-rig. At the stern the tiller was leaned into as the sudden whirlpool dragged the gunnels into the furrowing water. At the prow Jason turned to check his crew were coping with the sudden upheaval and the ship was being stabilised. One side had oar blades sky-high and dripping, sun-flashed in the morning light while the other had men sitting waist deep in water, knees bobbing like islands before them. As the water calmed the boat settled upright and the routine of getting into harbour took over. Jason walked amongst the crew and laughed and talked with them. All eager to touch the homeland stones and meet again the families they had left so many years ago. Jokes from the dry rowers across to the sodden line, and back.
With wood fendered off the worn and grooved quay, the boat was finally moored. A gentle sway as the deck was lifted and lowered by the swell. The cheers and shouts from onlookers as they moved forward to the boat and crew. The black sail finally lowered, looped and tied.
Eblow and Anvil just saw the small figure falling from the now, sun-blanched turret window as their mother called out from the doorway. They looked at each other. Eblow jumped up and pulled the material over the mirror. His reflection briefly filled the glass then was gone as was the mirror, hidden by the tapestried curtain. Brother and sister jumped up to see if she had returned with presents for them, she often did.