River Mist Tales: The Fountain

Come in, come in, the mist is rising from the river, but here you’ll find some warmth, some tales, so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

The chairs by the window give the best view, allow the best hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

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The Fountain

At the age of twenty-seven, Maxwell Cotton, tasked with creating the sculptures for the 12th District’s center fountain, became the youngest sculptor ever commissioned by the city of Praatonia, an honor traditionally, and politically, bestowed upon the senior artisans of the Praaton Sculptoriaum, particularly artisans from loyal citizen families.

Turning his back on the gossip, the demeaning speculations, the very public whispers, focusing instead on the demands of his first major public commission, desiring to bring honor to old Malvern who first accepted him, against much derision, into the Sculptoriaum, Max reached back into his own family’s traditions, his inheritance of design and language, and the blessings of the Dragon’s Breath.

More than a century ago followers of the Dragon’s Breath had become outsiders, travelers mostly, feared for their ancient knowledge, and respect, of land, air and water, feared for their melodic language, their refusal of state citizenship, feared for their protection of the last remaining dragons.

Honoring the history of his merchant neighbors, the collection of fountain sculptures Max proposed was accepted without much alteration by the Overseers, and with much relief by the merchants.

The stone was collected, carved and placed, the water system installed and tested, the fountain was on schedule for its grand unveiling, readied for use.

With the dedication two days away, Max visited the silent pristine fountain, the water reservoirs empty, the polished stone hiding underneath a covering of purple canvas, tented so none of the ornamental sculptures could give themselves away.

From his hiding place under the canvas, the young sculptor heard the comments of those passing by, their curiosity, their criticisms, voices washing upon the canvas, rising and falling like a tide against a sandy shore, fading into the day, except for one voice, having spoken from the moment the fountain’s cornerstone was placed, returning again and again, growing louder, more demanding, now commanding Max, speaking in an ancient tongue.

Invite me, the voice said with growing imperialism, invite me to live among these people who have forgotten their old neighbors.

Max looked out from his hiding place amongst his sculptures, he looked for the man whose deep fierce voice was speaking with the language of his ancestors, speaking the language of the Dragon’s Breath, but no such man could be seen, and Max trembled as the voice circled around his body, flowing through the fountain like water, bubbling from some hidden deep cavern, pushing for the response Max knew he was unable to hold back.

On the day of the dedication, under the glare of a hot high sun, the merchants with their storefronts gleaming, making last minute demands of their overwrought clerks, smiling at the groaning crowds come to witness the promised homage to commerce, finally joined the citizens filling the five avenues leading away from Praatonia’s newest fountain.

As the canvas was removed, the water rushing in its exploration of the carved basins, the crowd delighting in the curve and shape, the sheer number of the polished figurines, young Maxwell Cotton was chanting, in an ancient tongue, calling, calling, calling.

Before the first drops of water rested in their new home, Max saw the water dragon, as gray as the hand-polished marble, wrap around a column and disappear into the swirling water.

River Mist Tales: Hot Air Balloon

Come in, come in, the mist is rising from the river, but here you’ll find some warmth, some tales, so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

The chairs by the window give the best view, allow the best hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

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Hot Air Balloon

There had been much talk long into the blackest of nights.

They were coming, there was no denying it.

Everything about their arrival was shrouded in mystery, except the consequence of their arrival.

Maura had slept well, retiring early as the aunts and uncles, the cousins, the near neighbors, even her own brothers and sisters, watched the moonless sky, arguing, plotting, their voices often lamenting.

Now dawn was illuminating the world once more, bright, cheerful, oblivious to the mundane concerns, and fears, of humans as the night was laid to rest.

Reigning in her excitement, Maura dressed with care, donning her favorite frock patterned with tiny leaves printed in the reds, golds, yellows, oranges of autumn, braiding a sky blue ribbon through her golden tinged brown hair, lacing tight her leather vest.

Even though dressed for presentation, Maura took to the garden, her refuge, filled with life, not only providing vegetables and herbs for the table, but also providing the alchemical knowledge of soil, of sun, of rain, and of wind.

The embracing silence of morning was broken, the sound unfamiliar, carried to her ears by a gentle westerly breeze.

Looking around her, Maura could not see the source of the roaring rush, though it reminded her of the metal workers, their fire blasting.

Again the roar reached out, closer, stronger, again it had Maura looking around, searching the edges of the garden, the woods, until finally looking skyward, she saw.

Above her, surrounded by the endless blue sea of sky, Maura saw the balloon, round and blue and white, a bubble of fabric with what she thought was an enormous basket hanging below it, and then another upward thrust of flame followed by that surging roar of sound.

So, this is how wizards arrive Maura thought, smiling at the knowledge that the high floating balloon would be how she will leave.

River Mist Tales: The Weaver

Come in, come in, the mist is rising from the river, but here you’ll find some warmth, some tales, so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

The chairs by the window give the best view, allow the best hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

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The Weaver

She arrived with the rise of the full moon.

Soft spoken, she told the three sisters to call her Miss Fidoiri.

Meg, the youngest, followed the traveling weaver into the small sparsely furnished room behind the kitchen, admiring the intricate pattern of the weaver’s cloak, her long plaited hair.

Miss Fidoiri encouraged the younger daughters of the families she visited to follow, to ask questions, to wonder, and this season, among these sisters, the weaver knew she would find her new apprentice.

Meg was ushered from the weaver’s room, told she must allow the miss time to settle, told she must wait until the morning for her first instructions.

That night Meg dreamt of a small loom threaded with a fleeting, flickering warp as fragile as a moon beam, glowing with a silver light, creating patterns of hoof and wing on an unfamiliar forest floor.

It was midmorning before Meg was released from her chores, told she could arrange for her time with the weaver, admonished for wasting time telling tales about dreams no one was interested in hearing.

Instead of going to the weaving shed where the large loom stood waiting for a well practiced hand, with hushed step, Meg went along to the kitchen, and further, stopping at the doorway of Miss Fidoiri’s room.

Meg heard singing, soft, low, hiding inside the room, surrounding the woman sitting on the floor, who was plucking the warp of her loom as if she were playing a harp.

Miss Fidoiri, feeling the energy, the enthusiasm, the rising wonder building behind her, called to Meg, beckoning the girl close, knowing the dream spell had awakened the sleeping mind.

After taking one step, Meg stopped, through the uncurtained window she saw her two elder sisters, laughing, teasing, flirting in proscribed and accepted ways, being well-trained for their roles as wives and mothers, a path which Meg, herself, should choose to follow.

Instead, Meg sat down beside Miss Fidoiri, who, sitting before her loom, began pulling gold threads of light from the sun spilling through the tall windows, twisting them into the earthy green and brown threads shuttling across her ever changing loom.

River Mist Tales: The Woods Road

Come in, come in, the mist is rising from the river, but here you’ll find some warmth, some tales, so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

The chairs by the window give the best view, allow the best hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

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The Woods Road

It was the morning of the fifth day, Tamryn woke sluggish and her feet ached.

The outside of her sleeping bag, her hiking boots, her small hung bag of food, were all damp from the continuous assault of fog.

Luckily the canvas backpack, lined with pieces of cut tarp, kept her sweater and her socks dry.

Every step of the way the dampening fog moved along with Tamryn, gathering a few yards ahead, growing thick a few yards behind, hiding the road forward and back, gathering beside her just inside the edges of the overgrown wood running along both sides of the road.

The treeline held the fog tight, collecting diamond drops of water at the tips of the evergreen boughs.

Renewed by dry socks and dry sweater, Tamryn rolled up her sleeping bag, took inventory of her food supply, and drank the last drops of water from her canteen.

First business up, refill the canteen from the the flowing stream she could hear close by, just a few feet north of her boughed shelter.

Then returning to where she left the road, she’d eat breakfast, apple and peanut butter, and wait, wait for the road to reveal itself once more.

Tamryn never considered herself a patient woman, always hurrying along towards the next adventure, always prepared for spontaneous invitations and challenges, always facing the horizon, searching for the way leading into that other realm, the realm of faery as most called it.

Four days of solitary walking allowed Tamryn ample time for reflection, asking herself, again and again, why she was following after Josh, why should she believe Josh had found the pathway, had found that other realm, that Tamryn, since childhood, knew existed but could not find herself.

She wondered why Josh believed anything she had ever told him, no one else did, not even when she presented her bountiful evidence collected on all her wanderings.

Josh had planned this journey, every detail about what she should wear, what she should carry with her, when she should leave, how she should behave on the trail so no creature or element would be offended, pages and pages of notes, rambling words of caution followed by a challenge daring her to follow him.

Five moons, five days, Tamryn was counting time as a slow wind brushed across her cheek like a lover’s caress, teasing, beckoning, finally revealing the woods road, inviting Tamryn with the promise of clarity as the fog danced away in the rising morning light, revealing not only the road but also a small curling line of smoke from a chimney a good days walk ahead.

River Mist Tales: The White Rainbow

Come in, come in, the mist is rising from the river, but here you’ll find some warmth, some tales, so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

The chairs by the window give the best view, allow the best hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

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The White Rainbow

Tess woke with a dull pounding in her head, every limb aching, damp sand clinging to her arms, her clothes, covering her face, spilling out of her mouth.

“Paddy! Paddy!” her voice sounded unfamiliar as she called, raising her head, eyes blinking in the damp gray light.

“No need to yell, Tess. I’m here. Well most of me anyway,” came a man’s voice, scratchy and distant, as strong hands reaching down, pulled Tess to her feet. “Where might we be this time?”

“This has to be the island,” said Tess, brushing sand from her clothes, her face, hoping she was right, searching for the peregrinometer which had fallen from her hand.

“You mean you’ve finally gotten that gizmo of yours to work,” said Paddy looking out into an impenetrable fog hiding whatever lay beyond the shore, beyond the sand.

Pocketing the fallen peregrinometer, Tess stood erect, following the man’s gaze off the beach.

She smiled as her eyes focused upon the white rainbow glowing in the thick, slow moving fog.

Relaxing into her breath, Tess, turning away from the other worldly view before her, faced her companion, a Boreal who stood head and shoulders above her.

With quickening confidence, Tess said, “Time to do your job tracker, beginning with a path off this beach.”