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.

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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.”