River Mist Tales: Red Dog, Green Dog

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

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

redgreendog_cwm

Red Dog, Green Dog

Miss Plumworth sat down on the sagging couch, took our her notebook, a silver and gold pen, and said, “Tell me about the red and green dogs down the street.”

Tenny studied the woman sitting before her, the eyes looking kind, but deep, pulling, as if the woman could read her mind, as if the woman would know immediately if she told a fib or not.

The woman smiled, raised one eyebrow, tapped the pen on her notebook, just once, softly, bringing Tenny’s attention back from where it had wandered through embroidered linen falling from knees closed together, and heels too, heels supporting one green boot, one blue boot, both boots tied round with bites of patterned fabric and narrow leather belts.

Uncertain Tenny glanced back over her shoulder towards the kitchen where her mother was busy preparing iced tea and who knew what strange bite sized offering.

Miss Plumworth leaned forward, whispered low, “I know you saw him, tell me about him, Tenny.”

“No one believes me, they, they all think its just one of my stories,” said Tenny, listening for her mother’s approach.

“Well then, you had better speak quickly,” said Miss Plumworth. “Now Tenny.”

“It began with sounds of the dogs, barking, rumbling, late at night. Everyone thought someone was moving the green dog about, so he was chained, but no one was moving the dogs, the dogs were being walked, by a small man, in the night.

“I was walking home, not too far, I’d been babysitting, the dogs were missing, but I heard them barking, and a voice talking with them, bringing them back from the river.

“The man was only about three feet tall, wore a hat stuck with feathers and sticks, with a gold pocket watch stuck one side, and he had boots, full of patches, and his pants and jacket were patched and covered with twigs and leaves like he had fallen through a tree or rolled around in a pile of brush, and all of them, the man, the red dog, the green dog, passed by as if I weren’t even there.

“When I turned the dogs were back in place at the end of that driveway and the man was gone, just gone,” said Tenny leaning close to Miss Plumworth whose hand had stopped moving across the page, whose face had lifted to welcome Tenny’s mother carrying a ladened tray of tea and sandwiches.

 

River Mist Tales: The Three Caves

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

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

threecaves_cwm

The Three Caves

“It’s the three caves, well one of them, the answer has to be in there somewhere,” said Declan. “Let me read it again.”

“Okay, but I think something’s missing or misspelled or…,” said Maeve shaking her head, pushing the letter across the worn wooden table.

The letter began, “Dear N,”

“I am sorry my curiosity, my yearnings, my broken promises have brought such a terrible fate upon your head. Though I must leave you, here is everything you need, just as he promised me. The Three Sisters, solemn and dangerous as they are, each hold comfort for you, but look to one alone, for the way of truth.

“As this life flows from my body just as the tide flows from the shore, a new life will be revealed and so too, will be revealed the treasures the Sisters now hide.

“Go to them, time will not diminish nor moonlight hide the solace you will find there.

“It is with a soft voice and a slow turn, and my regretful shallow heart that I leave you at all.

“Find lay you will meet, speak his name, and he will guide and bless you with my last gift, Fearghas.”

Smiling, Declan finally understood the message, then letting out his long held breath he said, “It’s the cave with the shallow turning, and its not find, lay, but the name Findlay, and it is Findlay who will be our guide to the treasure hidden in the cave, and if we have any luck at all that treasure will be a door.”

River Mist Tales: The Ferry

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

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

ferryride_cwm

The Ferry

A timid knock brought forth a bang as a small wooden door opened, and a seated man asked, “How many for the Breasal Isle Ferry?”

“Two.”

“Round trip or one way?” asked the ticket seller keeping his eyes lowered.

“How much time, I mean is there a time limit on the round trip?”

“A year and a day in your time,” said the bowed head, repeating, “one year plus one day of mortal time. You can return by whatever ferry may be running.”

“Okay, then two round trip tickets,” said Phoebe ignoring the deep poke from Samantha who couldn’t hear what the ticket seller was saying, and repressing her own questions about mortal time and whatever ferry may be running.

After a flash of light, after a flurry of stamping and shuffling of countless pieces of what looked like paper or, maybe, various tree leaves, the ticket seller handed Phoebe two deep red sugar maple leaves, supple and full.

Holding the leaves, Phoebe, confused, unsure, her breath stuttering, wondered if she should ask anything else of the man sitting on the other side of the wall, when as abruptly as it was opened, the small wooden door was shut with a slam.

Not what I thought I’d receive Phoebe admitted to herself as she took a deep breath, made a quick self check, then turned around to face the ever doubtful, nervous, eye blinking Samantha.

“Well Sam, here we go, tickets in hand, and a full year before we must decide if we stay or return,” said Phoebe, forcing a smile of assurance.

Moving toward the small huddled group of fellow passengers silently waiting as the fog wove her spell hiding the world they all knew, Phoebe, sure of her choice, having seen the Breasal Isle Ferry before, having heard both delights and warnings from other travelers who yearned for another trip but somehow could not find their way back, smiled as Samantha asked with a loud voice so those around them would hear, “Will he meet us at the pier, the old man, will he welcome us, will he help us?”

“I’m sure he’ll meet us, yeah, he’ll meet us,” said Phoebe trying to convince herself.

 

River Mist Tales: The Shadow Collector

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

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

shadowcollect_cwm

The Shadow Collector

The day was hot, dusty, the crowd was pushing, loud and demanding.

Sloane wished she had stayed home, or a least brought a hat with her, or a bottle of water, or a big stick.

Two hours had passed since she lost sight of Brenda and Tilly, still Sloane was no closer to finding the shadow collector than she’d been for the past five weekends, and her friends, her friends were tired of looking, tired of spending their weekends walking among dust and strangers, but quitting was not an option for Sloane.

She knew Brenda and Tilly did not believe her, thought Sloane was telling another faery tale, well, not until Liam, Sloane’s younger brother, refused to step outside the house, during daylight hours, claiming his shadow had been stolen from him.

Liam had wanted a scooter, would take on any job if it paid, would sell just about anything he owned.

The scooter stood unused behind the garage, shunned by a frightened Liam who avoided windows and opened doors, and somehow Sloane knew it was her fault, knew she needed answers, needed a better deal than Liam had inadvertently negotiated.

A few stalls ahead, she caught a glimpse of Brenda and Tilly moving with the crowd, heading toward the north gate of the market, an impulsive decision turned Sloane around, headed her toward the south gate instead.

Working her way slowly, paying little attention as offers for tastes and samples were thrust at her, ignoring direct greetings, Sloane focused upon a row of brightly colored tented stalls standing along the broken fence, at the far edge of the market, disappearing into the forest.

Even the patrons mulling about the blue, yellow and green striped canvas hooded booths were unlike any of the other crowds Sloane had jostled through during the long morning.

Then Sloane saw them, the black silhouettes standing solid and straight, appearing as most folks believed, nothing more than cutouts, plywood painted black, and among the cutouts she saw the man.

There was a house on the old road, leading up the mountain, a mile out of town, the yard filled with black silhouettes of men, women, children, dogs, cats and wild creatures from the forest.

Sloane had heard the stories, wild tales told on dark nights, but there on the mountain road, and here in the popular flea market stood the man, the man who owned that old house, who collected, and sold, not black painted cutouts, no he collected, sold and traded living shadows.

River Mist Tales: The Door

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

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

door_cwm

The Door

“Grandfather, come, come, they’ve arrived,” said Sinead, leaving the heavy oak door open as she rushed outside of the weathered farmhouse, cold air sneaking in.

Rising from his chair tucked close under the thick-footed kitchen table, ignoring the cluttered remains of breakfast, Harold McEnnvard smiled, deciding he would attend upon his granddaughter with all due solemnity.

The youngest of his five grandchildren, Sinead was a whimsical creature in much need of schooling but being a brilliant mid winter day, Harold felt he should encourage her untethered imagination.

With her blood racing, Sinead moved from side to side, running ahead, turning back, she knew with a deep conviction that her plea, sent aloft during the last full moon, had been answered.

She knew even her stoic grandfather must believe the stories the river woman, as Sinead called her, had been spinning around the questions asked of her.

And now Sinead had proof.

Reassuring herself that it was still there, Sinead turned once more, looking for her grandfather, who with his familiar and long accepted aches, was making his slow progress across the dooryard towards the west side of the sagging barn.

Sinead stood tall, one eye upon her discovery, one eye upon the approach of her beloved grandfather.

As Harold took the final step bringing him close enough to see, Sinead pointed towards her discovery, without offering a word.

Another shuffling step and the crinkled faced man halted, giving his full attention to the small door high upon the side of the barn.

“That’s one fine door you built Sinead.”

“I didn’t make the door grandfather, don’t you see, they’ve come, to help, they’ve come just as I asked, so we can stay here, you’ll see,” said Sinead hoping she would soon be speaking with the house elves herself.

 

River Mist Tales: The Sign

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

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

dragonsign_cwm

The Sign

“Don’t stray far Runa, and stay on this side of the pond.”

That’s what her mother had said every morning for the past nine days, as if there was any place to stray towards, thought Runa, or any way across the great pond as it’s sheer coating of ice glistened in the sun.

Most days Runa walked the shore path, going a little further each day, daring herself, going beyond the curve in the shore where she could no longer see the rambling house, before turning back home, often retracing her own footprints on the frost covered ground.

There wasn’t much between the path and the water, mostly rocks big enough for climbing, sitting, even sleeping upon in warmer weather, listening as the water softly pushed up against rocks and overhanging tree roots.

Now the water itself was frigid, clear and unrevealing, hiding her secrets well.

All Runa ever saw on her walks were large gray granite rocks, moody water and secretive trees, and none of those things interested her at all.

Runa missed her friends, missed the constant noise and frenzy of the city, the smallness of their apartment with its fifth floor view towards other high buildings, shop signs and the occasional tree top, missed their apartment overflowing with books and objects collected from flea markets and day trips.

Here, in a house which resembled a collection of ill fitting sheds, Runa felt as if her life had emptied, so much space inside, and so much space outside, except for all these trees and all that water.

The pond appeared to go on and on and on without any reachable ending, for no matter where she stood, all Runa saw of the far shore were other rocks, other trees, other waterways.

Was it the wildness across the pond her mother warned Runa about, the wildness her mother tried keeping her daughter from venturing into, from losing herself inside of?

After nine days of walking around the close end of the pond, spying with binoculars, being quiet and then making noise with hands and voice and feet, Runa had managed not to see, or startle, or meet, any other creature.

All these conflicting thoughts, conflicting actions, kept Runa’s feet on the shore path long past her usual “only a few steps more” self command, until the path narrowed, the forest became shadows of itself and dense, hiding itself, hiding what lay ahead, stopping she noticed the pond had disappeared from view, reaching with her hand she moved aside some overhanging branches, and there Runa saw the sign, aged but still bright, giving a warning: Beyond Here There Be Dragons.

 

River Mist Tales: A Farewell

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

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

snow_dragon2_cwm

A Farewell

Lily smiled as she watched her aunt perform her morning rituals, rituals as ancient and as reassuring as the sun rising high above the far mountain ridges, watching every movement fill with appreciation for each object touched, each sip swallowed, each sun beam felt, each breath taken as if each would be the last.

“You were in my dreams again, well, that same dream, three nights in a row now,” said Lily sipping milky tea from a cracked tea cup, its rambling roses and leaves faded from years of being held by loving fingers.

“Don’t you think its time for a brighter tea cup, a stronger one with less years rubbed from it,” said Hazel as her crinkled fingers folded the soft blue linen napkin that had laid upon her bony lap, pressing flat the upturned corners, tucking it under the edge of her empty tea cup and saucer.

After draining her aging tea cup of its warming contents, Lily said, “I must tell you the dream today aunt, please, before the day ends, before this year ends, I know you can tell me what it all means.”

“Only you can determine the meaning of snow capped trees, a quiet expanse of lake, a high flying dragon, only you can go into the future child,” said the stiffly moving, gray haired woman.

“How, but,” stuttered Lily, “ did you send me the dream aunt for I know you are the woman standing on the shore, although your hair is red, your arms are strong, the voice powerful as that woman stops the snow dragon from landing?”

With a growing smile, erasing long held wrinkles upon her face, Hazel moved away from the table, stepped through the kitchen doorway, walked along the bare worn path beyond the sleeping beech and birch trees, beyond the stately spruce and pine, towards the shore of Lake Crescent, glancing backwards knowing her vibrant, if sorrowful, niece would be following.

“But in my dream you leave, you leave with the snow dragon, it all happens as the west wind gives way to her sister the east wind, as the old year ends,” said Lily her voice pleading for an explanation, for the comfort an old voice filled with the wisdom of old ways and echoes of her mother.

“The world is changing Lily, it is time for me, for those of us who practice the old ways to step aside, allowing vigor and fresh magic into the world, you must give way to your dream, nothing will be lost in this ending, and all will be made clear, as clear as the water of this lake, as sparkling as the snow upon the trees.”

“You can’t go aunt, I’m not ready, I have so many questions for you.”

“Hush child, we have this day, this last day of the year, besides you are ready, you are strong, you carry the wisdom of generations of Harlow women in your heart and your mind, and when you need us, if you need our ways, we will come, but only in support of your recreated world, of your invigorated ways.”

Leaving her aunt at the shore, Lily returned to the kitchen, eyes clouded with tears, and began her morning chores, putting away the butter and blackberry preserves, placing her aunts teacup, saucer and plate into the sink, finally, reaching for her own tea cup, her mother’s tea cup, she found the roses had turned deep red, the leaves dark green, the handle had become whole, no crack could be found, with a sense of astonishment, of fear, Lily ran out the door and into the strong and sure arms of her aunt, whose gray hair was once again swirling strands of auburn.

River Mist Tales: The Portraits

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

Please sit by the window, the warmth of the fire will reach you, and you’ll have the best view, and easy 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.

portraitssc_cwm

The Portraits

When Oak Haven, the grand old hall once inhabited by generations of Clauss, burnt to the ground, the portraits, in their simple frames, small, easily carried, were among the few items salvaged from the charred bones of that ancestral home.

The artist long forgotten, the portraits hung in various temporary rooms until finally placed into a box with miscellaneous wooden toys, moved about, inherited, finding rest in an attic full of other boxes.

Family history became family legend, tales told for amusement more than edification or family pride, tales soon ignored and forgotten.

Besides no one believed in such things as faeries, elves, wood spirits, gnomes or mortals whose blood mingled with such creatures, allowing passage between realms, and life spans of many centuries.

Or so thought Abigail as she dusted off the brittle volumes of dairies written by hands long gone and household ledgers whose pages had faded.

She knew the truth she sought, her story, her legacy, was hidden somewhere among the writings of her great great grandparents, and aunts and uncles gone for hundreds of years, among the ledgers signed by guests both common and notorious who had frequented the ancient Oak Haven.

Abigail’s search had been spurred by a letter, written in a flowing, old-fashioned hand, introducing himself as an distant cousin, a long lost connection, who would be traveling through the area in a month’s time, who asked for a visit, who asked about a pair of portraits.

Although the stony remains of Oak Haven had been reclaimed by the tenacious, forceful forest, Abigail had inherited five hundred acres of woodland, meadow, great pond and rambling home.

Most of the land was untamed, growing as it saw fit, except for thirteen acres where apple, pear and peach trees, plots of herbs and vegetables grew surrounding the newer, only a mere two hundred years old, cottage which had grown into a great house overflowing with the accumulated whims of succeeding generations.

A few of those whims sat in a box beside Abigail’s desk in the library, inviting speculation about an unknown cousin, a cousin who knew of portraits rescued from the family’s vanished past.

Glancing down at the portraits, Abigail recalled the remnants of a story, or was it from one of the journals piled around her desk, the story of a man, the son of a human and a faery, a man blessed with a woodcarver’s skill and a generous heart, a man whose mixed blood led him away from the family home for decades at a time, aging him slower than most.

As her mind wandered among childhood tales and the writings of distant relatives, a heavy knock echoed through the house rousing Abigail from her musings, and as she opened the solid oak door, her breath was taken, for there stood the portrait come to life, and he was speaking, “Good afternoon, I’m Nicholas.”