Druis, Idris and Vidar

Druis, Idris and Vidar

“I tell you, there’s nothing here but me!”

“And I’m sure someone has taken liberties. It’s nothing particular, just something!”

Idris looked at Vidar, ” You’re always saying that!” he shook his head in resignation, ” I’ve been here all the time. Alone.   Stackin’ wood, sortin’ it for charcoal or tinder or logs.  Like you said.  And here you are, come back with the pony and you reckon someone’s been at it!  Well, it’s not me, nor anyone round here either!”

“Okay boy, keep it down. Whoever it was, I’ll find ’em.  I’ll sort it!”

“Will you load ‘im?”   Idris indicated the pony.

“No, it’s your turn.”

Idris managed to hold his tongue but compressed his lips and shook his head briefly, hoping Vidar wouldn’t notice. Luckily Vidar had already turned away, fingers raking through straggled beard as he peered once again around the coppice.

The pony was hoof-deep in the beck and picking at the cold water, the straps of the leather panniers over its back dangled down one side and drifted their free length in the current.  Vidar turned, hands on hips to watch the pony.  The birds, tight-clawed in the branches watched too.

Idris resigned himself to tying the faggots up before retrieving the now grazing pony to lash the bundles to its sides.  No easy job for one but as Vidar was prowling round looking for strangers that didn’t exist, Idris struggled with the job.

“Don’t you look at me like that!” Idris muttered as the pony’s head turned towards him, baleful eyes separated by a wide forehead covered in a fringe of mane that continued like a ragged curtain from the top of its neck almost down to hock. The rest of his body, except where flattened by the blanket then leather cloth to protect him from cuts from the branches was also covered in long horse hair, curled and coiled at his joints.   A winter coat that would soon need trimming, he hoped.

Vidar grunted a jump over the beck and rejoined Idris and lifted the other roped bundle with one hand, held it to the pony’s side while he quickly wrapped the dangling leash round it and hitched it around the two pommels at the front and repeated the action for the other two pommels, checking the carrier fitted tightly on the pony.

“Check the girth!”  Vidar said abruptly and moved to their overnight fire.  He spread the ash around as he checked it was out.

“As I always do.” Idris said very quietly under his breath.  The pony inflated his chest as Idris  bent to the girth, “You too eh?” And leaned against the pony’s side to unbalance it a little. The movement enabled him to feel the girth was tight enough to satisfy.  He stood and moved to ruffle the mane on the neck before sliding his fingers through the halter and down to where the bit fitted.

The pony twisted head, lips and jaw in an attempt to catch the fingers pressed into the side of his mouth, which Idris adroitly avoided as usual.  The bit rattled between the pony’s chewing teeth and it shook its head away again.

Vidar returned and checked the balance of the load again whilst conning around the clearing, still certain they had received an unknown visitor.  Still no obvious signs, just his feeling that the ambience of the trees and wild-life had subtly changed in his absence.

“Let’s go then.”  Vidar called to his brother who was busy collecting their belongings; bedrolls, pots and whetstones and twisting and tying them into bundles to hang from the shafts of their axes.    Vidar waited, took his axe and bundle and hooked the head over one shoulder with the bulky parcel resting on his back. Idris did similar, took the hanging rein of the pony and the trio started off.  All three of their loads swaying as they walked in step round the trees and thickets towards the track and in a hour or so, their farmstead.

“If the weather holds we can rope the logs and haul them tomorrow.”  Vidar spoke first as they stepped onto the main track.  “They’re  too big to lift onto the cart, might as well just drag them all the way.”

Vidar turned and looked back, certain he could feel eyes watching all their movement.  He saw nothing but felt a flicker between a clump of birch trees. Looked again and saw a shadow cast by the sun as it peered down on them from a break in the cloud.

If there was something there it was keeping itself secret and Vidar was fed up with chasing wisps of nymphs who should have known better.  They would be back tomorrow with the horses, maybe some spare time to find whoever it was, if they were still there.  His hackles would let him know.

Idris and the pony had continued so Vidar hurried to catch them up.  He lunged up the bank to the edge of the raised track and his foot was supposed to strike firmly onto a tussock. It failed and slid between two.  He stumbled, caught himself with one outstretched hand but lost his shoulder-load.  Swearing, he righted himself and bent to retrieve the axe and bundle.  As he did so he was sure he heard a girl’s laughter.  His hackles rose, there must be someone close. Vidar turned slowly and looked behind, breathed in through his nose to detect the slightest change in scents.

He saw nothing but the sunshine glancing off white birch.  His nose tingled slightly.  The laugh was short, joyous and young but the direction was unclear.  It was almost that he heard it in his head not through his ears.  “Mischievous nymph!”  He muttered in preference to swearing.

Vidar caught up with the swaying haunch and twitching tail of the pony as it picked its way along the uneven path . He squeezed passed the pony with its rhythmically swinging load, avoiding the waist high nettles at the side.  At the pony’s head he looked across at Idris.  Attention caught, Idris acknowledged the silent question with an exaggerated nod in the direction they were going. With a brief nod of thanks Vidar increased his pace towards their compound and his house.  He retained composure until out of sight then began to jog as fast as possible, hindered by the bundle he had to carry.  ‘Should have left it with the pony’, he muttered as it bounced uncomfortably on his shoulder.

‘Maybe you should have stayed at home!’  That voice giggled into his head again.   He felt a catch of panic. He, the calmest one in the world. Or so Vidar often convinced himself. He lived for the forest, his working with the timber, the frequent silence of the pine forest but here, in this mixture of  deciduous he was all too aware of the thrusting and fighting of the bird life amongst themselves not forgetting the creatures that paraded secretly in the undergrowth, not caring whether it was pine or beech as long as the ferns and brambles enabled them to blend.   He didn’t worry that he only caught fleeting glimpses of deer or rabbit.  Sometimes he would see a fox stock-still sniffing the air, maybe turning its head to acknowledge his presence. Then Vidar would feel the understanding of the fox at work, or ready for wasteful play. Empathy of a sort running through his own veins.  But this voice! The infectious sweet giggle was new in his head.

He pounded on.  The thump of feet on the compounded path was all he heard, his running had quieted the nearest birds.  Out of the thinned trees and for the final few yards of paddock he slowed to a walk.

Druis was kneeling in the herb garden loosening weeds and letting them collapse and dry in the sunshine.  She stood carefully, brushed her skirts clean of soil whilst watching the approaching Vidar.  Smiled, keeping her face towards him.

Vidar maintained his pace and relaxed, smiled in response to her.  His senses returning to normal as he approached the woman.  He reached the timber cabin and slipped the bundle casually from his shoulder and leaned the axe on the stoop.

Druis, bright eyed and smiling still, reached her man and took his brown hands in hers then touched his cheek and forehead as if smoothing away a crease of anxiety.  He lowered his head and felt the further relaxation of his body. Their foreheads met softly and his arm moved to her buttocks and pressed her to him.

She giggled and twisted aside. “Beer, then food. “ She said and skipped to the doorway where she stood. “But before!”  She nodded toward the edge of the trees, “ there’s Idris!”  and slid inside the house.

Vidar watched Idris and the pony walk towards the cabin on the raised pathway, offered a greeting as his brother led the pony to the stall at the side of the cabin.  He went to help unload the wide bundles of faggots from the pony’s sides and remove the saddlery and harness. Vidar was about to offer Idris food and drink when he was hugged by his brother and, ”Until tomorrow.  You need to be with that woman of yours.”  A couple of mutual shoulder slaps and Idris marched off to his family cabin at the end of the clearing.

So many times he had watched his brother walk away to the old house and had felt the pleasure of being alone again, at the edge of the forest.  For some years he had been chided for preferring his own company and the whispering of the trees as he worked.  But that had changed.  He had met the magical Druis in the forest’s grove of Lallam from where the beck leaped out of the limestone scarp.  She had brought a lightness to his life.   Entranced him, loved him that very first meeting and kept him company ever since. She kept their house, tended the garden and now carried their child.

Day by day, as her belly swelled, as the baby grew and moved, Druis would rest a little more and think of Vidar wandering, working, in their forest home.  As Druis sorted and filtered the recent memories with those of her forebears into storytelling dreams, she could almost feel her child moving in unison with those dreams, feel the gurgling laughter of her little daughter and those fluttering footsteps over the woodland trails where the stories would lead.  A secret she would love to share with Vidar.  Soon.

She waited.  Vidar pushed the door wide and heard the chuckling stream of laughter in his head before Druis beckoned him into her arms.  As her belly pushed into him she had to lean her head back slightly for their lips to meet.  She chuckled at the unbalancing position they were in and her voice mingled with the fragrant, childish laughter already in Vidar’s ears and running through their pressed bodies.

 

 

see also:  The Frinks

 

 

 

Neptune and Poseidon

Neptune looked across at Poseidon.

“It is difficult to meet on neutral territory.  It is best we meet in the forests. Here we can be seen by all and they care nothing for us.”

Poseidon looked at the old man and his long straggling beard.  “It is always good to talk, we can’t always be at cross-currents.  It is an eternal struggle, a calm is brief rest.  Why meet?”

Neptune fingered the grey beard. “There is someone new.”  He looked at Poseidon through sea-green eyes, “Have you bred her?”

“Me?” Who do you speak of?”

“Of whom!”

“Who?”

“Anvil.”

Neptune watched Poseidon check-listing his memory, grew irritated at the glazed expression as the mind worked. “No.  Nymphs, naiads, humans, well more or less, sylphs and hobbits and such  like but not one called Anvil.”  He shook his head, at a loss.  “You?”

Neptune gave his beard a tug of annoyance.  “Why ask you? Why meet in this blasted forest if it is mine?”

“Maybe you forgot? You’re not so young anymore”

Neptune felt his water pressure rising. “You’re no cub anymore!”

Poseidon smiled, “But I have plenty of cubs I can play with. The variety is quite enjoyable. The coping strategies interesting. Keeps me young. You should have been more prolific, it’s fun.”

“There are already too many of us interfering in the lives of others.  The humans believe in us, in all of us. Isn’t that enough?”

“Well, its Romans versus Greeks.  We chose our sides and its up to us how we play them.  Chess is always a long term game.  Incidentally, I am probably older than you, and I’ve still got it!”  Poseidon, clean cut and in full belief of his status as a god felt remarkably calm as he saw Neptune wavering before him.   “Maybe you should talk to Zeus, maybe Thor or trot along to Osiris.  You never know it might even be Gog or Magog trying a stunt over here.”    He looked at his hands.  “I must change, I have someone to visit.”

Neptune began to regret this meeting.  “She created a storm.” He said urgently.

“Oh well done her!” Was the sarcastic retort.  No longer interested he stood and stepped into the stream that flowed between them.   Poseidon let himself relax into it.

Neptune watched Poseidon glisten and cascade downwards into the now golden coloured water.

“She caused untold mischief!”  He shouted to the dissembling creature before him.

Poseidon raised his hands, shrugged his shoulders and plashed as a golden waterfall into the fast running shallows before rolling into a golden wave that thrust itself away from the dark forest and along to the cragged shore line and into the sea as a final white horse splashing atop a crested wave.

“Maybe Medea and that Ferryman of hers have created a new force between them.”  Neptune stood, “Here, I have no salted tears but offer to nourish!” He spoke to that around him.

The broken trees twisted forwards.  The howling knots between scarred bark were silent as branches moved and cracked.

He pressed his trident into the moss and mould and down into the soil.  Holding the trident still he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.  His exhalation produced a heavy mist that covered the stark trees around.  A second exhalation and the mist thickened, coalesced and droplets sank into the ground like a sheet of melted ice.

Neptune slipped into the stream and meandered back to his salty home, hoping he had not offended Vidar one of the  forest gods,  by allowing his vexation to settle on their lands.

see tags:  The Frinks

Riccy and Uncle Daeda

Eblow was always excited when his uncle and cousin arrived.  They would hammer on the heavy wolf’s-head knocker like Thor in anger then push their way in as someone opened the door a crack.  Daeda would call “Halloooo!” in the deepest, loudest voice you could imagine while his son RIccy would get caught up in the jolliest of moods and howl “Yahooo!” at the top of his voice till it threatened to crack the stained glass windows.  If the hound was in its basket it would often raise its heads and join the cacophony with yowls in loud appreciation of the disarray and adrenaline that had burst into the large room.

Whatever the time of year Riccy would warm his hands in front of the old log fire.  If summer and only a twist of smoke and lick of flame from a single log he would grab a poker and stir the embers until shocks of yellow and gold shot skywards like gold leaf before it disappeared.  As it did this day.

Eblow stood beaming at the welcome visitors as they bear-hugged his mother and father in turn as they entered the room from different doorways.  RIccy was bright golden-haired, a thinner copy of his father.  Both had the same elongated noses that made them look like birds from certain angles, especially when their eyes glittered with hawk-like ferocity.  The fire in their eyes was a sure sign that a scheme was ‘afoot’.  One or both would pace and sit, scratch in the sand or drag out a tablet to work on, as restless as the Lethe or Styx until ideas were resolved or just scattered to the gods as fruitless schemes.

Riccy was a good fifteen years older than  Eblow,  a man now, a worthy citizen like his balding, grey haired father but still a great playmate in Riccy’s eyes.  Eblow was even now grabbed up and swung round in circles until his eyes watered and his head turned into the whirlpool to be placed carefully on the couch and ruthlessly tickled.

If Acolyte entered then he would be treated more sedately as the elder of the brothers, a slow and studied bow and salute from RIccy followed immediately with the production of an egg from behind the boy’s ear or prod at the tunic on his chest from which would come a wriggle and a chirrup and Riccy’s hand would slip into the fold at the shoulder and out would come a small bird, a linnet or a lark to be cupped carefully and released at the door.

The entrance of Anvil, the youngest of the siblings would solemnise the whole room and all turn to watch RIccy sit on his knees to be almost eye-level with the little girl as she walked over to him. She would always tidy his long, blonde locks, move them away from his eyes and kiss him on the cheek.  Then clap her hands and with a big smile turn and jump onto his back whilst he leaned forward onto his hands and moved on all fours, bucking and neighing like a horse or a bull until he collapsed from tiredness and sore knees.

Daeda was an architect, an engineer; “a designer of great things!”  He would boom cheerily at his guests or when visiting family, even in public if he had something to say but when working he would focus on the problem and, these days, tread carefully.

“How’s business?” Asked Medea, her hair waving briskly in the draughts wafted by the visitors’ entrance.

“Ah,” said Daeda and smiled round at the children still surrounding his son and his magic tricks.  Daeda then turned aside, easing her round with an arm around her shoulders so he would not be heard or even have his lips visible as he spoke.        “I have a job, a big job. Lots of planning and even more building to do.  Minos has given me another project.”

“What!” She exclaimed in response, pushing her voice down to an incredulous whisper on an elongated word.  She bent her head down, overshadowing the balding head and looked at him sternly, scarily.  “After all this time?  After that mess you got into last time?”  She managed to keep her voice low, just.

He became slightly defensive as he spoke, ” It wasn’t my fault, you know.  I was commissioned to build it, a life-size statue.  She said it was a gift, a sort of companion.  Anyway this is for MInos, her husband the king, not Pasiphae”

“You don’t build a companion for a gift from the gods! ” She hissed, her dreadlocks now insinuating towards him. “Especially when it should be a noble sacrifice,”

“I didnt think, I….I., well it was…..a secret.”    He closed his eyes, embarrassed. “Pasi said it would be a great gift, that she felt sad for the bull. Said it was lonely.”    After so many years he was still quite proud of his unique construction.  No one in the world could ever create such a creature as realistic in every way, as he out of wood and hide.  How was he to know:  Pasi had challenged him to build it for her.  He could never resist a challenge, especially from a Queen.  And it was beautifully made, with space inside for Pasi to lie, to be close to that blessed white bull.  He never noticed how passionate she was about it, that she had saved it from sacrifice.  That she had fallen in love with it!

Such a mistake he had made. Poseidon had given the bull to Minos. Poseidon was the one who was so angered, how was he, Daeda to know that?  that..and what happened, they said……

Daeda had pondered this time and again.  He had heard of the birth to Pasi.  Heard that she had brought the child into the world and kept it hidden.  Rumours had spread the city, the state, even the circle of the world and now he knew that Poseidon had produced a sacrifice of another sort.

“But I have to accept it. He’s the king!”

Medea leaned away from him, looking sternly with her unblinking eyes.  She sighed and he saw her relax a little.  He regained himself and his confidence:

“It’s to design a complex building, and build it.  I have no time at all to do it so RIccy will assist full time.  We can have any workers we need as long as we’re fast.   It’s just near Knossos.  A Grand Design of passages and halls and alleys.  A giant maze, that’s what he wants.  Roofed and no windows. ‘For the child to play in, and have visitors’, Minos said.  He said it must be safe and secure. A massive project! and I am the man to build it,”  he said, proudly emphasising the last words.

“It’s your penance to Poseidon”, she whispered it into his face.

However, Daeda’s confidence had returned, “Maybe it’s for the pleasure of the gods!”

“Daedalus,” she continued,”  It may not be this, this…… labyrinth, for which you will be remembered.”   Medea shook her head and the long locks wraithed around her head.

“Even better, ” he responded, regaining the volume with extra confidence, “Icarus”, he called to his son,  “we have great things to do.  We must hurry along.  Say goodbye.”

RIccy stopped playing with his cousins and joined his father at the great door.  Quick goodbyes and they hurried into the sunshine.  “Hurry Icarus, we must fly!”

 

to see further stories tag; The Frinks

 

 

The Frinks: Anvil

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.

“Nothing, now.”

“You’re not supposed to do things through the mirror. Mummy says.”

“I can!”

“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.

with a twist of the wrist

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.

 

 

The Frinks: Visiting Auntie

The two boys, Acolyte and Eblow Frink, sat underneath the up-turned table.  The heavy oil-skin table cloth was laid over the feet of the table and tied to each with hairy white string and drooped down in the centre.  The brown underside skimmed the top of their heads when they lifted their chins to talk to each other so they shifted their weight onto their knees and leaned in, supported on their elbows.  Heads almost touching, they could whisper and nod almost undetected.

In their Sphinx like position they could watch the daylight fast disappear as the sun sank into the ground.   The darkness of the large room engulfed them.  The feeling of being the centre of their own universe grew as the silence weighed down on the canvas undersurface of the cloth above their heads.   It flapped gently, like a sail slapping in a false breeze.

“Now what?”  Queried Eblow.

“Let’s go somewhere.   These boards we are kneeling on, they are just like the planks of a raft.”

They could just see each other in the last glimmerings of the fire, like distant sparks of stars in the hearth.  Acolyte leaned over and took the large wooden spoons out of the cooking pot and passed one to his brother and kept the other.

“We can paddle our way to somewhere. Let’s go.”  Acolyte shifted on this knees, nudged his brother to do the same and started to use the large pot-stirring spoon as a paddle.  Eblow followed suit.

“Where are we going?  Is it far?” Asked Eblow eagerly.

The dogs, hearing the excitement in their voices roused from the hearth side and clambered aboard the raft, scrambling for a position at the prow.   Heads licking at each boy as they began to paddle.

The last of the light from sunken sun, from embered stars disappeared and the two boys raised and lowered their arms rhythmically.  Time passed and they maintained their motions.  The spoons felt heavier.  The spoons, their paddles, felt heavier; felt larger.   Their paddles surged and their rocking bodies moved as the dogs wriggled proudly and the sail-cloth filled and flapped with the draught.

In the distance they heard the sirens but they kept paddling hard and the dogs yapped and howled to blot out the noise.  The sirens passed by.

sailing

wordparc

“Look out for the whirlpool!” The boys and dogs leaned to the side and pushed the two paddles deeper into the now rushing waters. The current tried to drag them out to the raging vortex but by perspiration and desperation they managed to keep near the skirted shore of Charybdis.  And beneath them the planks eased their surging, settled into a rhythm in time with their tiring arm strokes.  The movements lessened, the dogs eased themselves away from the prow and lay along the middle boards. Long and lean grey-mustered coats over their bodies and out-thrust paws on which they rested their heads. Each of their eyes relaxed and white rolled into view but never closed. Eyes and brains always alert for danger, noses ever ready to twitch into action.

Into the calming, gently rocking arms of sleep the two boys had to rest.  Wordlessly they agreed to settle on the boards and snuggle their heads into the warming napes of the dogs. Each boy put an arm over the shoulder of their dog and sought the warming forearm of the brother. They had journeyed long and hard through the night.  Now let their bark drift as it would, onto the beach with the rising tide or into the rising sun.

……………………

The boat nudged onto the gravel beach and off and on again with the incoming tide.  The growling under the planks roused the dogs and they in turn woke the boys with their wet nosed nudges.

As they wiped their eyes and the dogslime from their cheeks, the boys could hear loud snorting and scuffling from the edge of the tall spiny grass that lined in clods along the tops of the dunes.  The dogs jumped off the flat bottomed boat and ran to the base of the high dunes and stopped suddenly, wagging their tails and buttocks excitedly.  Each boy clambered out, careful to drag the boat higher up the beach before moving off.   Before they reached the dogs the cacophony exploded into a noisy riot of grunting, squelching and snorting.  Pushing, nipping, struggling for position and shoving themselves together and around a tall figure amidst them a small herd of disgruntled pigs or rather boars, polarised  on the central woman casually walking into the view of the boys and the enthusiastic dogs.

The melee reached the hounds, the woman stopped. The circulating pigs kept up their excited motion, almost a whirlpool in themselves.  She knelt down to the dogs and favoured them with a smile and a hand on each head. The dogs sat and savoured the touch of her delicate palms and fingers as they stroked.  Acolyte and Eblow  grew nearer, their smiles getting broader as they closed the gap.

“Aunt Circe!” They both called out together.

“How are you boys?  Don’t mind these noisy things, they are only jealous.”  She looked around sternly. “Be quiet! Be Still!’  In a cold and icy voice.  They stopped. Hushed and stilled as if to stone.

“Well, it is nice to see you both. Dawn is always a beautiful time of day here.  It’s ideal strolling along the beach with the sun bursting out of the sea and warming everything. The sand just shimmers with the joy of it and each of its every crystal helps to warm me through the day.  And me with my playthings here”.   She circled her arm languorously over the heads of the pigs, their eyes watching her slightest movements,  “What more sport could I want.  Except maybe to see you two growing boys; almost men, I should say.”  She scanned them keenly, top to toe and back again, a sweet smile following her appreciative gaze.  Her breath deepened slightly and her pose adjusted as she moved a leg and cocked her hip to send a ripple through the folds of her opaque saffron shift.

The huddle of swine around her grew anxious.

“My regards to your father, and your mother, of course.” She pondered briefly.  “Perhaps you should be gone now.”

With that, and a peremptory sign of her hand, she signified goodbye, turned her gaze to the further beach and with a sigh of clothing swayed softly away from Eblow and Acolyte.  The pigs, as if awakened from a dream began their clamour around her and moved as a swarm circling nectar.

The dogs and boys watched as the woman walked casually away, not looking back or down at the noisy herd about her feet.

“She’s right. We should go.”  Eblow turned to his older brother who was still watching his aunt Circe moving along the beach.  “Acolyte!  Father will be missing the dogs. He can’t go to work without them!  We must go. Now!”  He turned his brother toward their boat, their raft. The makeshift sail once again sagging from its short masts. The dogs turned with them and boarded while the two young men pushed it into the surf and clambered aboard.  The tide, reversing itself, carried them into deeper water and the the breeze picked into the sail and pushed them along.

The sun warmed them and soon they all dozed on the boards.  Boys resting on the settled shoulders of the hounds. All eyes closed and soon all in the depths of sleep.

……………………………………………

The sun flashed into their eyes as they startled awake.  Their father was rushing round the kitchen. His form as a giant from their low position on the floor.

“Wake! Wake!  The day is here!  I need to loose the hounds to the gate.    I must hurry boys!”

He banged an upturned tableleg with his heavy staff that almost shook the whole table.  The dogs jumped up, tumbled out from the drooped edge of the tablecloth and sat at the giant’s feet waiting for the titbit of breakfast.

“Turn to you mother!”  He called over his shoulder as he collected his hooded cape from the hook behind the door and picked up his common bag with a swipe of his other hand and swept out of the front door like a force of Nature. The dogs hurtled after him.

The boys chatted with their mother. Of their visit to aunt Circe.  That they had grown so well and how graceful she looked. “Even beautiful in her saffron shift!” Said a hesitant Acolyte.  She listened to their brief adventure and pondered the vagaries of family.  At the end of the tale she spoke kindly, seriously.

“Boys. Young men that you are, it is time you stopped having these childish adventures.  Or at the very least this one.  You should never visit aunt Circe alone.  Not any more.  Only with your father or me, in his ferry.  She is a sorceress and may not be able to resist tempting even you.  Have other adventures by all means but do not become one of her playthings.”

Acolyte looked at Eblow. He returned the gaze.  They nodded assent.  Both agreed to do as their mother bid.

“Put the table back on its legs. And the table-cloth where it should be.”  As she went out into the garden to feed the geese by the riverside.

Eblow read Acolyte’s mind.  “No more childish adventures.   From now on, it’s adult adventures!”

 

 

The Frinks: Acolyte and Eblow

Acolyte Frink and his brother Eblow Frink were whiling away time on their journey home, delaying their entrance to the grand house for as long as possible.

They had sneaked out of their dormitory as soon as light gave them a little help in seeing their way down the stairs.  The corridor was short but had more twists than Medusa’s labyrinth.  No, it should have read: more twists than her snakey hair; or was that a different myth?.  Surely it was the Minotaur’s? Anyway, a dive past the Beak’s room and then the matron’s room and round the, okay, just call it twisting, corridor and down the proverbial creaking stairs to unbolt the heavy oak door. The loud snoring cut through the quiet of that dawn, emanating from matron’s room and following them right to their fumbling at the door-bolts. They had smeared some grease off the bacon rinds they had saved from supper onto the barrel of the bolts before the evening bell to ensure no noise.  Hearing the cacophony from matron’s room they were confident that even a battering ram would have gone unnoticed. Finally into the fresh air as they pulled the door closed and scampered over the flat stone path of their ‘House’ to what they called freedom and the open road away from Eton.

So now, dressed in their Eton mufti, the two lads were beginning to see their immediate future as the wide Portland stone portico began to loom towards them. The two circular lights (windows that had the bright yellow thrown out by the now electrified chandeliers) stared at them over the arched nose of the heavy roof. The steps, like a gaping lower lip forced their eyes up to the door, a black – panelled maw that was enthralling and had small vertical oblong windows in the upper half, like teeth that seemed to flicker as the boys moved forward.

They entered the shadow of the porch, like the mouth of the Oracle.  Neared the wooden panels and the teeth grew larger. Two dogs barked like wolfhounds behind the door.
‘Cerberus’ whispered one lad to the other. ‘This is Hades, it must be!’  Was the comment back.

The great door swung open soundlessly and the two hapless boys were silhouetted on the steps in the gaze of the grey skirted figure before them. ‘Cerberus, sit!’. She spoke in undertones but the demand was instantly obeyed by the Labrador, however the the red setter just skittered between the mouth of the door and the sparking log fire in the hearth.

The woman’s jaw firmed as she chose what to say. ‘Your father is just across the river taking a customer’.  No doubt he will be having a word or two with you when he returns.’

She threw a penny into the bowl on a dresser by the door and it rattled into the pile.

‘There’s a man waiting, he’s a bit iffy, don’t be rude to him. He is waiting for your father too, some sort of special request.’  She stepped aside, no longer barring their way.

Deep inside the room, sitting beside the now raging and spitting fire was a sad young man, a few years older than themselves.  He looked across at them as they approached, relaxed a little to see they were not much more than children.

‘You can’t take that. He won’t let you. No room in the boat’. Said Acolyte bluntly.
‘It’s all I have got.’
‘Lyre?’
‘No.’
‘What is it then?’
‘It’s a b-flat bass clarinet,’ the man replied, almost helplessly.
‘You might get away with a lyre’.  Said Eblow.
‘It’s not.  I haven’t got one.  It’s this’, and he raised the ebony instrument, curlicued at each end.

The boys looked at each other and back at the young man.  ‘Nah!’  They said in unison, shaking their heads.

At that moment a man rushed in depositing mud from the river bank off his boots.  His gaiters smeared with the same mud, his tweed trousers too.  His upper body was caped, a shiny seal-skin cape that hung over his shoulders and down to his shins, his arms darting out of the opening like tentacles as he grabbed his pie off the mantlepiece and took a huge mouthful.  ‘Good, still warm!’
He looked at the two boys and then at the young man.

‘Can’t take that.’  He said, nodding at the clarinet.  A chunk of pie released itself from the rest and fell on the floor.  Two dog heads were immediately scavenging around his feet.

‘But they said I could, we made a deal, I am all set.  See, I’ve got my Oracle card.  One out and two of us back.’

‘Have you paid? What’s your name?’

The young man replied plaintively, ‘They said I only need pay for me’

‘Name?’  He asked again, wiping some pie gravy on the side of his trousers.

‘Orphid’. Said the young man.

The ferryman took a deep breath whilst considering the name then shook his head firmly.
‘No. Sorry, that name isn’t for taking yet.  You got a brother called Orpheus? He’s got a special ticket.’

‘But I am sure they said I could.  I am writing an opera and I need to get back to Bray.  My father, the vicar…..’   His voice trailed away as he was hoisted to his feet, clarinet thrust into his hands and almost frogmarched to the door. The housekeeper opened the door, two dogs barked as one and the young man reluctantly walked outside. The door firmly closed behind and left him as a solitary figure walking disconsolately away.

‘Okay boys, what are your plans for this weekend?  We could go fishing but this part of the river isn’t very good, the water is all mixed up and muddy.’  He clapped his hands, opened his arms wide and ruffled each lads hair, the static electricity making their hair stand up on frizzy ends like Strawlpeter’s.