River Mist Tales: The Letter

Come in, come in. The mist has settled, you may as well sit, sip a cup of tea, read a few tales. No introductions are needed, river folk know what needs to be known.

There’s apple spice cake and cheddar if you’re hungry. Milk and sugar for the tea, unless you brought a flask of your own.

Don’t open the window if the crows tap and call, nor heed those gossiping tabbies.

I’ll be working in the far alcove if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door. Don’t want to keep her waiting.

Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales, though she’s a bit loose with the truth, too revealing with the magic.

Until you visit again may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

theletter_cwm

 The Letter

She had found the first letter quite by accident, during a game of hide and seek in the wood, waiting silently for hours, believing in her cousins who told her to hide, unknowing they would not bother to seek her out, except when it pleased the pair to steal into the secret lives of others.

Maxi had never been alone in a wood before, there was so much to explore, to hear, to spy upon and in turn, learned she was spied upon by unknown others, she liked that best of all.

The letter was in the remains of an ancient tree trunk, resting upon the softest pile of vibrant green moss as if on a velvet pillow, as if it were being presented at a royal court.

During that day of discovery, Maxi sat and watched the weather smoothed trunk, the still letter, for hours, at a distance in case someone showed up, but finally acknowledging her cousins cruelty and surrendering to her own hunger she abandoned her vigil, taking the letter home, hidden inside her jacket.

The paper was roughly textured, embedded with violet petals, covered in an indigo colored ink, a flowing cursive hand, a short introduction, a request for a response, the asking for a pen pal.

Maxi had always wanted a pen pal, someone from Scotland or Ireland or Wales, someone who lived in a castle or near a castle or within sight of a castle, or a crumbling old keep, someone living with history and magic all around.

Here was an opportunity, so she began a correspondence with an unknown writer of the wood, someone who knew the wood, who spoke with trees and foxes and owls, someone who would not reveal their name.

Maxi spend many days composing her weekly letter which she left on the moss pillow inside the old tree trunk, sharing adventures and stories, hers seeming gray and shallow, lacking excitement, knowledge, lacking magic when compared with the missives she received.

She was certain her pen pal was full of magic, for the letters revealed gossip from crows, gossip about Maxi’s cousins, and revealed transgressions voiced be the trees, the river, the meadow flowers, transgressions committed by villagers, and there were questions too, such as why horses were imprisoned by fences, some dogs chained and some cats never allowed to roam outside even though all asked for their freedom.

Maxi began to wonder too, wonder about fences, about the possibility of trees having conversations, about crows chiding, about time expanding in directions not understood and how could she learn to hear and speak to the wood and all those who lived within it.

Keeping the correspondence secret had taught Maxi how to walk softer in the world, to know the differences between the sound of paw and human footfall, the song of bird, the rustle of short and long leaf, for it was the one condition from her unnamed pen pal, no one must ever see the letters but Maxi herself.

Finding the cousins at the trunk, Maxi hid from the raucous pair, she could hear their voices rising, daring each other towards the stump, daring to pluck the letter hiding there, laughing satisfied they had discovered Maxi’s secret, stealing something belonging to her, and as Maxi watched, her heart beating quickly, her stomach growing tight, the elder cousin reached for the letter, only to have it catch fire, cinders floating away into the the tangling branches overhead, then reaching into her pocket, fingers protecting the letter hidden there, Maxi touched not her own smooth stationery but a roughly textured, violet embedded envelope.

River Mist Tales: The Beach Hut

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.

beachhut_cwm

The Beach Hut

“Are you sure we shouldn’t be bringing some gift or offering or something?”

“No, no it’s a game isn’t it, just tea on the beach by that old driftwood hut, besides she said just bring a friend, and you’re the friend,” said Bryony rushing through the deep sand.

Candace picked up her pace staying close behind her friend, wondering this time if Byrony’s imagination had finally left all realms of accessibility.

The beach was empty except for the hut, a cobbled collection of smooth driftwood stacked and leaning, piece upon piece, strange shaped, all bony looking.

“She’ll be here,” said Bryony anticipating the question forming upon the lips of the nervous Candace.

“Hello Bryony, welcome Candace, shall we go,” said a voice as melodious and sweet as bird song, coming from a fair haired wisp of a girl awash in flowing watercolor blues, walking with ease and grace across the shale, deep sand, and into the hut.

With eagerness Bryony followed her new friend pulling her old friend whose hesitation brought a pleading exchange of glances between the two girls.

Candace, wondering how anyone could walk into that dark pick-up stick opening, allowed her curiosity, and loyalty, full reign, taking a deep breath and boldly following Bryony.

One shuffling step, stooping, almost crouching upon the sand, and Bryony and Candace emerged onto another beach, in one direction caressing white sands flowed into a calm blue green sea, in another direction a vast stretch of green lawn swept away until it reached a brooding dense tree line of pine and spruce.

Their hostess was already seated at a table covered with a mint green cloth embroidered with falling red rose petals and curving vines with sharp thorns around the hem, a table whose surface was covered with ivory plates so thin you could almost see through them, with matching tea cups and saucers also decorated with roses, delicate petals and pointed thorns, and there were all sorts of tiny sandwiches filled with cucumber, pickles and cheese, smoked salmon, and tiny cakes frosted with smooth pale pink and yellow topped with sparkling roses and pansies, there were scones, fruited cake slices, sausage rolls, tiny curd tarts all sitting like jewels upon tiered and pedestaled serving dishes.

Sitting down Byrony’s thoughts turned upon warnings her mother had given, warnings following the faery tales her mother always read a bedtime, warnings about eating or drinking, something about names, well it was too late about that warning, Bryony had already revealed her name.

And it was too late for the warning about eating, for Candace was reaching for a second cucumber sandwich, smiling, speaking, but all Bryony heard was the thunderous sound of sun bleached, water smoothed logs falling, tumbling away.

River Mist Tales: The Butterflies

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.

butterflies_cwm

 The Butterflies

“Your aunt is touched,” said Sorcha.

“She’s different, and yeah, she’s visited with the other crowd,” said Devan ignoring the heavy sighs billowing around Sorcha’s head. “Besides she’s not really my aunt, as you well know.”

“Right, I thought she said a short walk in the woods. It’s been two hours, and these shoes are killing me,” said Sorcha.

“We can stop for a few minutes,” said Devan moving off the dusty woods road toward a fallen tree trunk.

Dropping her knapsack onto the ground, placing one leg on either side of the massive trunk so her feet dangled, Sorcha said, “Maybe we misunderstood the directions, I’ve never heard of a kaleidoscope of butterflies, never seen more than one at a time, well close together anyway.”

Devan smiled as he sat beside his girlfriend, a multigenerational urbanite who was proving more country girl, more of a believer, than he had hoped for.

“You’re loving all this, aren’t you?”

“Yes I am, all those stories your aunt tells, all these trees, the birds, the unknown, so much unknown, so much space, and quiet,” said Sorcha. “Except these shoes, shouldn’t have listened to your sister.”

“Look,” said Devan pointing back towards the road, “look, there’s your kaleidoscope of butterflies.”

Jumping down from her resting place, grabbing her knapsack at she stepped, Sorcha said, “Let’s go, don’t want to lose those guides.”

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 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 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.

whiterainbow_cwm

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.”

River Mist Tales: The Bottle Garden

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.

bottlegarden_cwm

The Bottle Garden

“Why won’t you just admit it, you placed them there didn’t you?”

“I didn’t do it.”

“Where did you get the bottles?”

“I’ve told you, I didn’t do it.”

“It’s brilliant you know, the bottles will act as tiny greenhouses, catching the sunlight, holding it inside, and keep the wind out. So don’t think you did something wrong.”

“I didn’t do it, even if it’s a good idea, but I think I know who did,” said Brinnon.

“Not that again, there are no such creatures as elves, or brownies, or whatever that old man told you he was,” said Miranda turning away, shaking her head.

“A helper, a gardener, anyway he called himself Old Stump, says he always helps folks with their gardening chores. Says he likes helping folks grow vegetables, flowers and especially trees.”

“Next time the old guy shows up, come get me, I want to meet him,” said Miranda stooping, pulling up a solitary tuft of weed.

“Can’t do that, he’ll decide whether or not he’ll meet you, anyway I didn’t invite him in the first place, Old Stump just showed up one morning, asked questions, then he spoke to the garden, now he’s brought the bottles,” explained Brinnon, turning, leaving his unbelieving sister alone among the bottles planted in the garden.

Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoyed this River Mist Tale.

 

 

River Mist Tales: The Dragon

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.

bigdragon_cwm

The Dragon

He is called Alastrann.

They say he is enchanted, cursed.

They say Alastrann is being punished for disobeying the last High Wizard of Raggastaad.

They say lots of thing, mostly half forgotten stories of a time vanished beyond memory.

Delaney Watson had heard the stories, the cautionary tales, the unbelieved histories evolving into mere fables.

She also heard the dragon’s voice, at night, when the street lights silenced the day, the river stole from the shore, and Delaney walked through the shadowed, abandoned city streets.

His was a deep voice, an aged voice, remembering, patient, observing.

As a child Delaney had flown with dragons, in her dreams. She spent her childhood gathering stories about dragons from books, from family, from the brightly clothed strangers traveling through her small coastal town.

As she grew, Delaney discovered she could speak in a language understood by dragons, in her dreams, and understanding, she was spellbound by Alastrann’s deep voice, followed it to Raggastaad, found not a haven for dragons, but a very modern sprawling city.

The dragon, chained to the front of a tall building, seen by most as carved stone, felt the energy of his tormentor, the last High Wizard, stirring in a young kind heart.

And the girl, the girl, slender, untempered, unaware of her gifts, her ancestry, stood watching the gray dragon as he stretched, her heart aching to set him free.

River Mist Tales: The Meadow Cat

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.

cat_trail_cwm

The Meadow Cat

Ona sat tall in the creaking wooden chair, the aging cushion flattened under her slight weight, it’s woven design of oak leaves faded to a ghostly image.

Hands on her lap, she stared at the long awaited brown envelope she had placed on the bare kitchen table.

Four years ago, at the impetuous age of fourteen, Ona had written to the ageless woman who lived deep within the Forlorn Forest, offering herself as an apprentice, a helper, listing all the wild herbs Ona had studied and harvested, listing all the tinctures created, all the languages of tree and bird and wolf studied, ending with her knowledge of moon and stars.

Ona wrote of the meadow cat, the mostly white feline, intelligent and brave, a cat who knew where the chanterelles flourished in autumn, where the birch sap flowed at end of winter, where the first cress grew beside the surging waters of spring, and where the deadly nightshades bloomed under the the moon’s embrace in summer.

The meadow cat held no human bond, answered no human voice, gave no heed of the comings and goings of villager or traveler.

It was the meadow cat, accepting the name Allta from Ona, who showed the young girl where the hidden treasures of wood and meadow grew, taught Ona how much harvest was allowed, and what gift need be left in thanksgiving.

It was the meadow cat, Allta, who visited Ona in her dreams, telling her tales, revealing secrets, whispering recipes and preservation customs, and informing Ona’s decision to approach the woods woman, reminding her to do so with patience and respect.

It was Allta who counseled when Ona felt lost or confused, unsure in which world she belonged, her parent’s world of technology with its strong steel and glinting glass, mechanical and synthetic, or the woods woman’s mysterious and mythical world with its mingling of herb and tree, feather and fur.

No longer an excitable youth, the young woman sitting tall in the well-scrubbed kitchen, hands on her lap, smiled slightly, finally moving her right hand, lifting the brown envelope from the table.

Ona had never doubted the calling would come no matter how impatiently she waited, not when her schooling ended, not when her parents insisted upon college applications being sent, not even as schoolmates rushed towards jobs, towards lovers, towards expected futures.

Savoring the moment, alone in her parent’s home, Ona opened the envelope, removed the honey colored slip of paper, read the words written, by hand, in a flourishing script: “In three days time, on the eve of the full moon, follow the meadow cat.”

Placing the the note back inside its plain, stampless envelope, Ona rose, paused, looked out the window and upon seeing the meadow cat sitting at the edge of the wood, she called to Allta, “Three days, and I follow you down your path.”

River Mist Tales: The Door

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 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.

littledoor_cwm

The Door

It appeared on his porch during her third month of employment.

Katya Slichenko, grateful, enjoying her job as an assistant to a writer, had paused, studying the tiny door, the shingles, the steps, the doorknob which had appeared overnight.

He, hair unbrushed, clothes crinkled and soft, didn’t answer Katya’s question about the door. He was working, writing in a fresh blank notepad, from the back, sideways across the smooth white pages as he always did.

H. H. Holloway, that’s how his named appeared on his published collections of short stories, mostly tales of faery, sprites, nymphs, dryads, and their homelands. He wrote about encounters with these magical creatures, and those souls seeking for the doorways, the paths, the gates into that other realm which they inhabited.

Katya typed the stories onto the computer, printed them out for him, made the notated corrections.

She also made tea, collected the mail, paid the bills, spoke with the cleaning woman, Mrs. Johnson, and with George, who mows the lawn, cares for the flower beds.

As she typed up the most recent stories, Katya noticed a recurring element, a small wooden door appearing again and again, with more detail, more life in each of the tales, opening, closing.

And then the door appeared, just as H. H. had described it in his stories.

Now handwritten pages, beginning at the back of a notepad, moving sideways across the page, appear on Katya’s desk every Thursday morning.

Missing the quiet rumpled H. H., Katya still makes tea, for one, talks with Mrs. Johnson and with George, pays the bills and types up stories, darker encounters between one man and those magical creatures beyond the little door.