Category Archives: historical / fantasy

Beautifully Ordinary

The Queen of the Five Realms sat in her castle trying to make sense of the latest news from the far lands. A messenger had arrived less than an hour ago with grave news.

She read the parchment again and shook her head. When she was a young princess she dreamed of being the all-powerful queen of the five realms, a title and position she thought of as magical. Her father before her had always seemed such a  strong man and had carried the burden of greatness with little effort, or so it appeared to the young Anicharmé. Little had she realised at the time that with great power comes great responsibility.

Anicharmé held out her hand to her guiding counsel. “Help me of wise one of my heart. I need your counsel,” she beseeched her.

Slanor, the Queen’s Guiding Counsel, awoke on her Queen’s command and smiled dreamily. “What is it you wish of me, my sister in light, my Queen of Queens?”

“Slanor, I have had terrible news from the far lands, from Adribore. He warns of ships heading our way down the Great Sea, ships of war, ships full of men who wish to conquer our lands and make us their slaves. He is riding South to join us, but fears we will be outnumbered and overrun. Slanor, I need your counsel.” Anicharmé looked forlornly out the window over her city as she awaited Slanor’s wisdom.

“It was so written, dearest Anicharmé, that these hordes would gather and try our strength, but it also written that there is one that can save us. One so beautifully ordinary that their light shines powerfully yet without blinding. One so beautifully ordinary that they need no power, no deceptions. One so beautifully ordinary that they will always uphold the right and truth. It is now that we must find this soul, and with the grace of the gods of our fathers and mothers survive this threat.” Slanor proclaimed and returned to her slumber.

“Beautifully ordinary,” Anicharmé repeated, “What a wonderful sound that has to it, what a wonderful being this soul must be, and what a challenge I now have before me to find this soul before we are overrun.” She leaned over and rang the bell-cord beside her fire hearth. Within moments one of her chamberlains entered asking what he could do for his Queen.

“Ask Sir Azinroth and Sir Bayleàn to join me in the council chamber in five moments. We have a mission for them. a mission that must save us all.” She told her as she rose to descend to the council chamber and share her news.

16 -beautifully ordinary

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Favourite

Mark was so excited. Sunday was his favourite day of the week. Not only did they get to visit Granny Mabel on the train, but she always gave them a shilling to spend in the little shop round the corner. And with a shilling you could buy so many sweets by the time you ate them all your teeth could hurt.

As always Mark put on his Sunday best for this special day, smart shorts, a shirt and jumper and polished shoes with short socks. Once the whole family had had breakfast they cleaned their teeth and went off to the station. Mark so  loved the trains.  He had decided it was his favourite way to travel. Trains made a comforting rhythmic noises that made you feel warm and cozy inside. Most of the time he sat in the carriage watching the countryside whizzing past as they sped along to Granny Mabel’s. He loved it so much that he even wished Granny Mabel lived a little further away so the journey was longer. Sometimes he was allowed to open the window wide and stick his head out to see the smoke from the engine rising high in the sky, but that was only after they had passed through the two tunnels on the way. In the tunnels the lights in the carriage came on magically. In fact for Mark the whole journey on the train was magical.

When they got to Granny Mabel’s house she always made them some orange squash to drink, while Suki, Granny Mabel’s old Labrador dog nuzzled up to them, almost making them spill their drinks. She was a lovely old softie, and so affectionate.  Depending on the time of the year they played in the garden or in Granny Mabel’s back room.

Granny Mabel’s house on Sunday’s always smelled delicious – the roast was always cooking when they arrived giving off aromas that would haunt him for years to come.  Sitting down to lunch was always a big affair, with Grandad Ern carving the roast meat ceremoniously and grandly. These would be memories Mark would treasure for ever. But his favourite bit was after lunch when Granny Mabel reached for her purse and gave out shillings to all the grandkids that were visiting that day. Then off they’d set, en-mass, through the twitten to the little sweet shop.

Opening the door to the sweet shop was like opening the door to an Aladdin’s cave for the senses. First of all the bell above the door rang, announcing their arrival. Then the sweet smells from all the jars and boxes assaulted their noses. Mark always took a deep sniff. Looking around there were so many tempting glass jars displaying so many sweets. Mark was always quick to choose, and this day was no different. He politely asked the old lady who owned the shop for a quarter of this and and eighth of that and of course a tube of palma violets. He stepped back to allow his brother and cousins to make their choices and popped a sherbet lemon into his mouth, a favourite sweet for a favourite day.

Yes Sundays truly were his favourite day.

Sweet jars on shelves in a Scottish sweetshop. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.

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MORNING RITUAL

Crowded into the stone circle the tribe faced east and waited.  The group of musicians played a haunting tune which served as a backdrop for the tribe’s morning ritual. It was still dark but the light was gradually returning and the land would soon be warmed by the mid-summer sun.

“But, Mummy, what if it doesn’t show up?” a young boy asked his Mum worriedly.

“Shh,” she replied pulling him tightly against her. She didn’t want to risk the wrath of the tribe elders for breaking the silence, and didn’t want to answer his question, as she always had the same fear, that one day the sun king might be angry with them and not return to give the tribe light, warmth and plentiful crops.

All of a sudden a flock of black birds , also waking by the coming dawn, flew over the stone circle drawing a shared gasp from the tribe. One of the elders moved forward and waved his arms skyward to ward off the evil that could have been landed on the tribe by this occurrence  It was something that happened regularly during the tribe’s morning ritual, but each time it was seen as a portent of evil and caused consternation throughout.

As the eastern sky lightened little by little the music being played by the tribe musicians waxed and waned. The tribe could feel the music throughout their bodies and swayed with its gentle cadence. They were transfixed by the eastern horizon. On the altar at the stone circle’s centre a young couple were performing the rite of fertility. Today’s morning ritual was slightly different to the rest of the year’s. It was the height of summer and a magical time. A time when the light from the morning sun would hit the altar and the dugout of water specially created at its base creating a spectacle that could only be witnessed on this one day every year. The morning ritual was an extra special one, although it varied little from other days, but it signalled the start of a day of carnal celebration.

As the sun started to appear above the horizon the tribe were no long able to look directly east and  shielding their eyes from the brilliance that was starting turned towards the altar. The tribe’s elders started the incantation. There were five of them and their voices rose above the sound of the musicians. What they were doing could not be singing nor was it speaking, it was an act somewhere between the two. The tribe did not understand the words that were being incanted by the elders, but they understood their significance.

The shadows projected by the stones, and by the tribe within the stones, started as extra-elongated, but as the sun rose in the sky their shadows shortened. It wouldn’t be long now before the height of the ritual. The sun was almost high enough to pour between the two master stones and shine into the circle’s centre.

The elders stopped singing for just a moment, which was the signal for the tribe to move back to the edge of the circle so the magic could happen and so that they could witness it and be blessed. The couple on the altar were performing their part of the ritual with increasing enthusiasm, their sweating bodies reflecting the increasing rays of the sun. Their moans were becoming part of the incantations, and echoed by the tribe who stood around them.

As the sun started to pour through the midsummer portal some of the children pulled back afraid of what they might witness. The rest of the tribe was captivated.

Within a moment or two more the sun as at the prefect angle. Its rays hit the couple of the altar who both moaned a few more times in ecstasy before curling up in each others arms in the warmth the sun provided them. Their part in the ritual was over for now. Then all of a sudden the rays of the sun hit the pool of water and reflected all around the stones. everyone could feel the warmth of the sun. everyone could feel the sun’s power in that reflection. They all chanted the words that meant little to them, yet held so much for them and their future. The drums started low around the stone circle and gradually became louder and louder drowning out all other noises.

The tribe stared to move with the rhythm of the drums. The dance had begun. Today no work would be carried out, today was a day of celebration. The sun had returned and shone its light on the whole tribe at the exact same moment. The future was promised and secure. The dance would continue until everyone was exhausted. It would be followed by feasting and drinking. before the day was out all the tribe’s physical needs would be met and exhausted the tribe would return to their homes full of the magical spirit, and ready for another year.

02 - morning ritual

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