No Junk Mail

Some things catch the eye when out walking the country lanes . . .

No Junk Mail

I wonder who lives here. An eccentric Norfolk recluse, maybe?

Art Decor door

 Like the door . . . Art Decor, if I’m not mistaken. Somewhat neglected, though.  Maybe if I take a step back; go for the long view . . .

(Keep scrolling. I’ve a feeling the answer lurks down there at the bottom)

Latter Day Norman Tower

A latter day Norman lord in his latter day Norman tower?

No. It’s a latter day Water Board! It’s an old water tower.

 

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Madeleine

Ep20_MadeleineContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

Next day, Madeleine, my friendly psychiatrist, graced me with another visit. First thing she asked was about my parents. Had they visited?

“Yea, my mother.”

“But still no clothes?” she said.

“Oh, she brought them,” I said. “But the doctor won’t let me have them.”

“That is . . .!” She was too professional to call him base names. “I shall have words with him before I leave here. What’s his name?”

I didn’t know. “I’ve only seen him the once—at least, while conscious—and he wasn’t wearing a name-tag. I particularly noticed.”

“Hmmff. So, he may not even have been a doctor? He could have been one of your fellow patients, playing up. No mind, I shall try to sort this before I leave.”

I had to grin. Yea, go, Penner, go! To say Madeleine Penner was displeased doesn’t begin to describe it.

“So,” she said, calm regained in record time. “First, what of the voices? Are you still hearing these thoughts?”

I scrunched my face hoping to give a kinda neither/nor impression while I gave it some thought. Despite it would have sounded crazy to most folk, Madeleine had readily accepted my theory of Arvina being a ghost who had latched onto me. But I couldn’t see her buying into the Bellinn story even if I rebranded them as elves. Yet, by now, I was pretty sure that my telepathic powers weren’t mine at all but had been given me by Arvina. As she gained an ability to express herself to me and through me, so these overheard thoughts diminished. Or perhaps it was as Gamal had said of the decapitation scene, that Arvina had been using the jumble from people’s heads to gain my attention. I suppose she couldn’t just tap on my skull and say, ‘Hey, you out there, look, I’m in here.’

“They’re lessening,” I said. Which was the truth: I hadn’t heard a peep from Madeleine’s thoughts.

“That’s good. So maybe your father was right to give you a rest away from the pressures.”

Yea, sure, like I had no pressures in here? Like, where were my clothes? And was that fella really a doctor? And if he wasn’t, then why hadn’t I been seen one? I’d seen only nurses, and those infrequently.

“So,” she said. “Guillan—”

“He’s the Lyme Bay Killer,” I said. Blurted. I’d said the same to Gamal. He’d thought it likely, though he’d not stamped it.

Madeleine barely betrayed surprise, yet I knew it was there. She’d halted a moment before nodding. “You think he, like your Arvina, is possessing a host and . . .?” That’s what Gamal had thought, too. He’d said of seeing a double signature in the Rune-world, same as with Arvina. Again, Madeleine nodded. “It has been . . . known . . . speculated. Suggested. With multiple entities. But, tell me, what makes you think this Lyme Bay Killer is Guillan?”

“M.O.,” I said. “The victims both were teenage girls. Both with red hair. Both decapitated. It’s a repeat of what he did to Arvina.”

“And how old was Arvina when . . .?”

“Ah,” I saw the crack in my theory. “Not quite that young. Though I don’t know the when, I do know it was after the White Ship Disaster. So she’d have been . . .”

“She’d have been twenty-seven in 1120,” Madeleine cut in while I was still calculating “—but let’s set that aside for now.”

She’d been quick in her calculation, not knowing the full story thus not distracted by the sudden, gut-wrenching realisation of how young Arvina had been when she ran away to Brittany with Guillan. Juvenescent—barely into her teens. And he had raped her? Okay, so there were no under-age laws then, and he’d used Bellinn coercion, not violence. Yet it amounts to the same. I hadn’t liked him before; I felt total revulsion now.

“This of the White Ship Disaster,” Madeleine said, “what makes you think Guillan survived it?”

“Arvina said,” I answered straight off, eager to be on a different subject. Though it had been Gamal, not Arvina,  who’d said of it.

“Okay,” she said. “So, let’s look at this. It was said ‘no survivors’, yet not all the bodies were found. So, yes, if he was a good swimmer, and kept his head . . . even the Titanic had its survivors. He could have reached shore away from the others. Laid up till he’d recovered. Then, for whatever reason, he could have taken another identity. He could have joined a monastery, even. So, yes, Arwen, I can see the possibility. It might even tie in with my query of him. Did you know he had a brother—and I don’t mean his younger brother Hugh who, on Guillan’s . . . assumed . . . death, inherited the Bigod estate. No, apparently he’s supposed to have an older bother. Humphrey.”

“That’s not possible!” Arvina blurted through my lips.

I couldn’t object for I agreed: it wasn’t possible. If he’d had an older brother that brother would have been a Bellinn too. And I’m sure, even if Arvina didn’t know of him, Gamal would have. Besides, if there had been an older brother, would Guillan have felt his mother’s desertion quite so keenly? Okay, I could be wrong on that, I’m not the psychiatrist. But at least one of the Bellinn would have been friendly.

Madeleine smiled benignly, as often she did. “I don’t know why such a heart-felt denial—has Arvina said something? But you’re right, at least at first glance. The dates are all ‘turvey. Humphrey Bigod became chaplain to the first King Henry. But before that he was ‘prebend to Totenhall’, from 1101. Though I confess, I don’t know how old a cleric had to be, then, to be a prebend, but I’d say probably at least 18. That would push his date of birth back to 1083. Yet it’s believed your Guillan—William Bigod—hadn’t yet reached majority when his father died in 1107. Historians point to the absence of his name in the witness lists until 1113, when he suddenly appears. The following year he was appointed Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. The year after that he appears in Normandy with the same King Henry, as Steward to the Royal Household. If they’re right, and he wasn’t twenty-one—the presumed age of majority—until 1113, then he couldn’t have been born until 1092.”

“No,” I said. “That can’t be right; it makes him too young. Puts him only a year older than Arvina, yet in 1106, when she was thirteen, he was most certainly at least sixteen. He’d recently returned from King Henry’s court, to train into his father’s business—estate management, I suppose. Or how to be a mean and nasty sheriff?”

“But whether he was born in 1092, or 1090, that still makes him younger than Humphrey.”

“And? Where’s the problem?” I could say that now cos while she’d been throwing dates around I’d come up with a plausible answer. And it was so simple. But I remembered Madeleine had a soft spot for the Bigod family, so I let her rap on.

“Primogeniture,” she said. “Although it hadn’t yet become the de rigueur principle it was later to be later, yet, as a general rule, it was adhered to. So why wasn’t Humphrey the heir? Why was it your Guillan?”

“Because first-born Humphrey was illegitimate.” There, I’d delivered the coup.

She up-slapped her head. “Of course! And here I was thinking he must have been the son of the elder William, Roger’s brother. So, solved. I thank you, Arwen. But, to return to what you were saying of Guillan, that he survived the Disaster, and that it was post-1120 when he killed your Arvina. Has she told you yet what she was doing in the interim? Between 1106 and 1120? I’m sure they weren’t married. Daughter of Gunnhild, that would have been noted by someone. Some chronicler somewhere, I’ve no doubt of it. If not for her mother’s sake then for her father’s. I don’t suppose King Harold was that soon forgotten.”

I kinda shrugged. “I’m sure they did intend to marry—at least, they eloped. Set off to sea in a little boat. But his father found them. By then she was pleased for it. Arvina didn’t much like being at sea.”

You want to know what I was doing, those years? Arvina’s voice was loud in my head. I was with Toggy.

Yea, great timing, Arvina. But at least now she’d discovered how to contact me direct perhaps there’d be no more grisly dreams of decapitation.

Even so, her words acted as prelude to another, enforced, afternoon nap. I did wish she wouldn’t do that.


Next episode, Carted, Wednesday 16th August

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In An English Country Garden

Couldn’t resist the shot. Is it the gate on the ‘huh’? Or the rusted rain-butt? Or the shed that curiously is padlocked. Or maybe it’s the overgrowth of nettles. An intriguing place; it struck me as thoroughly ‘English’. I wanted to investigate.

Gate on a huh

A thoroughly English place . . . Photo taken 7th August 2017

 

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Brittany Thwarted

EP19_Brittany_ThwartedContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

He is there as arranged, waiting by the garth-gate. Why couldn’t he come later? The day’s yet to rise. “Because of the tides,” he’d told her.

This isn’t a dream, not like a usual dream. It’s Arvina’s memories downloaded to me while I sleep.

She carries a bundle. All the things she’d taken to Felebruge with her to stay those few days, all wrapped in a linen shift. There’s another for spare, and her extra foot-wrappings; the knife given by her mother that had been her father’s; and a heel of bread and some cheese. The only thing missing is the gand-stangir, that rune-carved rod that her Uncle Nihel gave her before he died. Aye, well she knows where it is. That thieving cousin of hers, Ulfkin, has it. She regrets its leaving, yet how can she return for it now? That bundle, though light, drags her down like a log.

She can’t see what Guillan has brought with him—he said he’d bring some food, too, and some wine. She can see he’s not gowned in his usual gear. He looks more a tiller of soil, warm in a flock-cowl. Might his rich gowns be packed, along with the food, into that roll at back of him?

He tries hauling her up onto Ranger’s back. She complains, “I can’t sit like this; you’ll have to move that roll.”

But he can’t move it without first dismounting. That displeases him. “If we get caught because of this . . .”

He moves it so now it sits before him, and again hauls her up to straddle behind him.

She glances back across the garth. What is looking for? What’s she afraid of? That Ailward’s son Wulfward will see them together? That Wulfward acts the lord when his father’s away. And in looking she nigh drops that bundle. How is she to hold that while her arms are tight about him? She wedges it between them and hopes nothing hard pricks into his back.

A rich sigh escapes her. Look at her. She’s leaving the life her mother wants for her. Leaving her mother’s black-gowned past. Riding away into a new life. Face forward and gone.

Ay-yi-yi! But must he heel into his stallion; must he ride so fiercely? They’ll be far away before Beraht Kena ever shall miss her. And then Beraht will take it that she’s returned to Aldebur.

His boat is at Scipdene, up on the beach away from the sea, but not so close the cliff might fall on it. They’d first said they’d wait till summer’s end, but that’s now become difficult days to dwell. Her mother’s constant concerns for her, ever dealing her mind to it . . . and now she’s talking of marrying her daughter to some drab of a man over at Cavestun. “Loved by all,” her mother said of him. Aye, but ‘all’ weren’t to wed him. Why does her mother do to Arvina what she would have refused to be done to herself? All to keep Arvina away from Guillan.

“He loves me.”

“Aye, my child, and he tells more than the truth.”

Her mother was happy that Arvina was to stay a few days with Beraht. Away from him.

. . .

They reach the end-land, the sun keen on the sea. It blinds, winking at her. She looks to the north. There the clouds are clotted, and the day not yet advanced. Guillan lades her high with his roll and her bundle and slaps Ranger’s arse and watches to be sure that the stallion heads home. Then it’s a slither and skid down a steep sandy track, down to the shore. He stows their meagre belongings in his boat. It’s not as big as her mind’s eye has seen it.

“What, you thought I’d have an Easterling’s cog? You expect me to sail that alone? No, this keel is no mean ship and she serves me well. You know how to row? No? You’ll learn.”

“We’re to row the way to Brittany?” She doesn’t get how far that is but it’s more than crossing a river. But her words are like wind around him.

“Push,” he says. “You think the sea’ll rise up and drag the boat out?”

She doesn’t like it here on the foreshore. She’s heard how the Churchmen use it for burying those who won’t bend to their Faith. More-on, those sea-rolled stones might help the boat move, but they’re not easy under her feet. And that sea isn’t looking as blue as before. I more resembles Lifa’s kale-broth, same colour but thicker. There’s even ‘kale’-bits in it, full a’swirl as she splashes through the break of the waves.

Guillan’s first into the boat, leaving her to wait up to her waist in cold water. She reaches a hand to him. He grabs her arm and yanks her high, near pulling her arm from its socket. He’s no gentle man for all his high kin. He leaves her belly-down astride the boat’s brim, to roll herself the full way in. She slams hard into the keel’s belly.

“Ergh!”

“Stop your yowling. You’ll be wetter and fouler before we’re there.”

“How far is it? How long?” she asks him.

“A good many days longer if you don’t shut up. I need all my thoughts to set this sail. And you could lend a hand. Here, help me raise the mast.”

That mast is full heavy, wet and slippery. Her hands are wet and cold. Is this truly summer? She fears she’ll lose her fingers, already can’t feel them, so numb.

“Come on, you can do better.”

Does he say that as encouragement or to berate her?

“You wanted this,” he says.

Aye and, as she reminds herself, blizzards never do last. Soon she’ll be safely away from her mother and her unshakeable past. Though she will miss Beraht, wise lady of the nightshade eyes. But she’ll be over to Brittany, her father’s own kin and—

“And I trust they’ll be eager to take us in. I am, after all, a most valuable asset,” he says in his ever-big words. “Direct from the court of the King of England, me.” (Aye, and big throated, too.) “What better connections? Educated and trained as a count—a peer superior to your Breton, down-trodden, kin.”

Aw, let him talk, let him dream. Let him drop his words unregarded. She shall yet have her own kin’s inheritance returned to them.

With the mast now erected she slumps to the thwart-seat. Her belly doesn’t much like the sea, heaving worse than the waves that wash around them. And the cliff-fowl! Why don’t they ever cease bellowing, worse than a mad bull, they are.

“Don’t sit there,” he says. “You’re not done yet. There’s the sail to raise. You think this mast is a useless adornment?”

She tucks her hands into her armpits, hoping there to warm them enough to handle the heavy drag of the tarred woollen sheet. She fights away tears: they’ll only anger him. But, truth, she’d not realised the work she’d be doing. That’s not how he told it. Too late, she’s realising now, while he might be a delight for the eyes his promises are just so much wind.

. . .

The day’s again rising but she has lost count. Is this the third or the fourth day? They’ve no longer food. They’ve a jar of wine, is all, and that gives her an ailing pain in the head. Where is the land? Why don’t they sight it? She hadn’t realised it would take them so long. Yet he seems altogether at ease, sitting at the thwart-seat, the steer-board to his hand, leisurely guiding his keel. But guiding to where? They seem to be still heading south, as if to Frankland.

She turns her head sharpish. Something seen on the horizon. Her heart and her hopes leap. Can it be land? Any land, she no longer cares. But this is white and it’s small and . . .  nah, it’s not land. Besides, Brittany’s still a way south, while this . . . even she can see it northward of them. She watches as the distance between them closes.

“It’s a ship,” Guillan says. “Best we set course away from it.”

That full puzzles her, and yet she says nothing. His keel. His knowledge. He’s the sailor. Now the trouble of mast and sail is done, she’s just the passenger here. But he’s right, what he said of being wet and filthy. That first day out, in the heat of midday, she had stripped down to her linen. But that so excited him he left the keel to drift in circles while he drove himself into her. Since then she’s kept herself covered. But she’s wet and she’s filthy, and she doesn’t like it.

“That ship’s coming closer,” she says. “It’s flies the King’s colours.” She just can make out the pennant though it’s wildly flapping.

Without a word, Guillan again changes course.

“What’s your father’s device?” she asks now that ship is closing and she can see more.

“You know what it is. A hammer, double-headed.”

“Then I think it’s your father aboard that ship.” And by Hel’s venom-dipped fingers, she finds that she’s glad of it, for one look at the sky behind them and she can see it’s coming on dark and wet. She doesn’t want to be caught out at sea in a storm.

. . .

A high moon lit my room. I would have delighted of it except my head hurt and my stomach was queasy like I was about to upchuck. Some of Arvina’s memories I’d rather not have.

But why did she persist with him? If that had been me in that boat I’d have said, “Ta muchly, Sheriff Bigod, for the rescue,” and been gone.

I wanted my kin’s lands returned to them, she said in my head.

Well, that was something: she was now talking directly to me.

 


Next episode, Madeleine

 

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Summer . . . Fruits!

First of August . . . a country walk  . . . and I’m amazed at the fruits: how early, how abundant . . . .

Cherry Plums

Cherry-Plums (aka mirabella), only fruit in very hot summers . . .

Cherry-Plums en masse

. . . which probably explains why I came upon a lane lined with these golden fruits: nobody was aware they were there, so they remained unpicked. They taste divine, like a good English plum should, though they’re only the size of a cherry

Blackthorn Sloe

This wonderfully blue sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn (whose blossoms turn our hedgerows white in early spring). Not to be eaten. Not poisonous, just impossibly tart

Haws

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the hawthorn bear its haws so early. I’m guessing the birds will soon strip them.

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Rune-World

EP18_Rune_WorldContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

I asked the nurse the next morning, “How long must I wait for my clothes?”

“Until the doctor—”

“And when might that be?—No! I don’t need another of your chuffing injections to quieten me.” I had caught her thought. “I am reasonably and rationally annoyed.”

“I shall ask,” she said but I knew it a lie.

I wasn’t to be allowed my clothes. Though free to roam the grounds, I was to be kept close to Green Haven House. At least I wasn’t confined to quarters. I couldn’t imagine what Arvina must have suffered: incarceration, and worse, many times over as her possessed host was accused of witchcraft or insanity. But, I had arranged to meet Gamal again down by the meadow. And sure enough, he was there waiting for me.

“You could start a new fashion, that outfit,” he said in greeting.

“As could you in yours?” I returned.

“Na-na-nah.” He spread his arms. “I’ll have you know, young lady, this is a genuine ‘70’s caftan.”

I liked Gamal—Woden—whatever his name, even if he did wear a dress. I felt comfortable with him. He reminded me of Joe, one of my father’s part-time hands. I’d known Joe since forever. We’d horsed around together. And I could say anything to him, things I’d be too shy to say to the boys at school—or to those I was about to meet at college, if I ever got there. I felt more open with Joe, and now, too, with Gamal, and more confident than I did even with Donovan, though I’d known Donovan since forever as well. I tried to put an age to Gamal’s face. Perhaps about the same as Donovan, which would make him coming-on twenty-two. Except I knew he had lived for at least nine hundred years. A wise old man, eh.

“So, tell me about Guillan,” I said once we’d found an easy place to sit and while he was skinning a joint (I again waved it away. My parents smoked it but I did not.)

“Guillan, hmm? I don’t know much more than I’ve already said. Like Arvina, he was born after the Oath. We Bellinn wouldn’t have much to do with him.”

“But that’s unfair,” I said. “An unborn kid can’t stop his parents from, you know . . . begetting.” Yea, I know that sounds Biblical but I liked the word.

He looked at me like I just didn’t understand. “Has Arvina never compelled you to do what you don’t want to do?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Not as I know.”

“Okay, try it this way. I know she’s downloaded her memories on you.”

“Some,” I said.

“You notice her compelling others? Or maybe some other Bellinn compelling her?”

He passed me his spliff. Without thinking I took it. He arched an eyebrow. I thrust the weed-packed spliff back to him.

“We Bellinn have devilish powers of persuasion,” he said. “Without saying a word, we can coerce you into doing whatever we like. But most of us have what you’d call a moral conscience. Like, right now you and I could be having rampant sex, and you could be deeply enjoying it. But it wouldn’t be what you wanted. I would have stolen your will.” He shook his head, he tutted. “A good Bellinn doesn’t do that.”

I was glad about that. It hadn’t occurred to me what I could be risking by meeting him here, away from Green Haven House, where we couldn’t be seen.

“So, imagine it,” he said. “Here’s this good Bellinn, and he’s got him a woman—who may or may not be a Bellinn too—though if she is then hopefully she’s of a different Fold—na, don’t worry your head about that; maybe I’ll tell you of Folds at some other time. And this Bellinn couple, being much in love, are—how’d you say it these days? Humping? Connecting? Plugging in? Hooking up? Making out? You get what I’m saying. And though the chances are hellishly high against it, there is a meagre chance of a baby developing. And I know you know how that happens. The wonders of modern education, eh. But somewhere in the vicinity there’s a Bellinn recently dead.”

And . . .? But it seems I had to wait while he took another toke off his rapidly diminishing joint. Amazing it didn’t burn his fingers. Though I did notice the effect it had on his elvish light. Awesome. Like he was sitting at the centre of the most amazing fireworks display.

“But a Bellinn isn’t just a body,” he said. “A Bellinn is spirit, and a spirit of the highest kind—let’s not forget our divine origin. So, this spirit, compelled to continue its life in this realm, is in serious need of a Bellinn-compatible body. What does it do? It compels the couple to be its parents. Nine months later, a new Bellinn is born.”

I scrunched up my face while I thought about that. My parents had barred me from their coven. They didn’t want me to be influenced by their beliefs. They wanted me to find my own answers to the perpetual questions. I’m not saying I hadn’t thought at all about it, though I hadn’t thought much. But the one idea I had been pondering was that of reincarnation. And that’s what Gamal was talking about. And what’s the difference, human or Bellinn? I felt a kinda click in my head. A resonance maybe, an acceptance. Though it may just have been Arvina agreeing.

Having mulled on it a while, I nodded. “Yea, I can go with that.”

“So, Guillan was as much to blame as his Bellinn mother. Same with Arvina, though Gunnhild always held that she’d not taken the Oath and couldn’t be ruled by it. That’s why Arvina was accepted, while Guillan was not. Are you hungry?”

I shook my head.

“Shame. Mind if I . . .?” He pulled a snack bar from out of his pouch and munched on it noisily.

“And does he still live?” I asked. “This Guillan.”

“To my knowledge,” he said around the nuts and raisins. “No reason why not. We Bellinn are not easy to kill. Ripped apart by explosion, I’d say that’s pretty effective, though that’s only recent. Before then it was mostly decapitation.”

I pulled a face at the reminder.

“Ah, forgot,” he said. “Arvina was lopped. She’s shared that with you?”

“The first,” I said. “Since I was a child, over and over.”

“Trying to grab your attention. Hey, maybe that’s what Guillan is doing? Na-nah, better thought. Maybe he isn’t still living at all, or not as a full-blown Bellinn. Aye, that would better explain the confusing signatures he leaves in the Rune-world.”

“The . . . Rune-world? Where’s that?”

“Within, without,” he said. “It is in the vastness, in vacuous space. It’s in this place; it’s in no place. It is beyond; it is before. It’s in the glass; it’s in the grain. It’s after, always, and again.” He smiled.

“Ah. Not one of the Nine, then?”

Gamal laughed, and for a while didn’t seem able to stop. But that was okay, I was used to that with my witchity parents.

He straightened his face. “But you’ve already been there the once, brought in by Arvina. So, this time let me take you—or at least let me open the door for you.”

“Why would I want . . .?”

“Because you’re a rune seeker,” he said and almost touched the gand-stangir. I could hear Arvina growling inside me. “And better to seek the runes there than in that book back in your room.”

“If this involves drugs . . .”

He laughed, again, but not so prolonged. Then he turned serious. “Was it drugs took you there before? Nah, your hold released, Arvina snatched up her chance—or so I’m guessing. Looking for me, looking for Guillan—”

“Looking for Guillan,” I said. “She said he’d killed the old woman Beraht.”

“Ah. Well, coincidence; I was looking for her. But, nah, this isn’t an Alice In Wonderland trip. And I’d offer to hold your hand, but once there you’ll be on your own . . . except that Arvina will likely be with you.”

“Aye.” Without warning, Arvina commandeered my mouth. “For a certainty, I shall be along with her. Seeking out that bastard Guillan. Tell me, can a person be killed in your Rune-world?”

. . .

The transition is swift. One moment sitting in the meadow, in the protective fold of Gamal’s arms, he holding my hands and me thinking how much I like that when . . . the meadow, the trees, the sky and him all start to dissolve. Everything familiar . . . gone.

Now I’m alone, not even a body. And yet . . .? Not alone. I am nine rings, all spinning together like I’m part of some crazy circus act.

I know what the rings are, I’ve been reading of this. Although there are nine, they are Ethel. Ethel: the separation of the profane from the sacred. Ethel: my signature here in Rune-world. Ethel: the completion to Arvina’s rune cast from nine hundred years back, performed by Beraht Kena. Ethel: in a mundane sense, ancestral property. I am both an altar to the divine, and Failans Farm.

As if that thought calls forth my companion, a horse appears. But nebulous, made of mist, dripping water.

He’s yonder, she says looking off to her right.

I look to the left and see a low sun sparkling on water, creating a light-formed road for us to travel. And again, Lord Manawydan sends us our transport. A greeny-blue cloud-formed wagon. This time I’m not surprised by him, understanding now of the Welsh and the Norse.

Danes, Arvina corrects me. They were Danes, the same as in Brittany.

Whatever. It’s not important. Not worth losing friends over.

The green-blue cloud-formed wagon, pulled by nine ice-rimed horses, skims the sun-tracked sea. I fear it’s to take us direct into the sun. Will we burn?

But we’re through it, the sun, and now on the far side of it. Back to where our folk began.

We circle a pole that stretches up—up-up-up, high into the darkness with a hailstorm around it. I see two dragons chasing each other around that pole, each trying to catch the other’s tail. I think firstly of Yggdrasill, but it cannot be, for here there’s no eagle. Instead, there are swallows, for this is Ingavassil.

Having risen, we plunge down at great speed—like we’re slithering the length of this great pole, Ingavassil. And splash! We’re into water. Upon it, beside us, are boats, all adrift without rudders or sails.

It seems to me I hear a voice. A man’s it is, and he’s telling jokes though I can’t hear the words.

Bang! Bang! Bang! I hear and it sounds like gun shots.

What’s that? I ask my companion—who now looks like me though with a horse’s accoutrements.

I shot the bastard, she says, the sheriff’s son.

But . . . Nah, I say. A person can’t die here in Rune-world.

They can, she says, if they’re set on a stage.

I look around, feeling for Gamal/Woden—Os, the Breath—to ask him of this.

Wrong move. I’m back in the meadow, Gamal’s arms lightly holding me.


Next episode, Brittany Thwarted

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A Hailstorm in Summer

Ep17_Hailstorm_In_Summer

Continuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

“Þe! Run-frea!” The words came from my mouth yet it wasn’t me spoke them. Wasn’t even my voice. Hells, I could never shout that loud. And the language? Sounded kinda German to me, with an odd German accent. But I knew who it was. Arvina.

She had surged out of her cage at the first sight of that black befrocked Woden, waiting as promised beyond the trees. Why she’d remained quiescent earlier, when I was talking to him outside Green Haven House, I really don’t know. But I was glad that she had. Perhaps she, too, had a social horror of making a scene. Now, here in the flesh as much as she ever could be, she had taken control of my body—why had she left me my thoughts? At least those previous times she’d done this to me I’d not been aware of it, and not had to suffer this blithering frustration. I was powerless, unable to move unless she moved me; unable to speak unless she spoke for me. And why she had left me with physical feelings . . . Ouch! The bitch, having slipped out of my slippers at the edge of the meadow—should I be thankful she’d kept them on through the trees—she then ploughed heedlessly through thistles and nettles and everything else sharp and prickly.

“Arvina” Woden greeted her—me—us. “I knew it was you.”

“It was not me, it was her,” she said, same Germanic accent but now in English and with a vague wave in no direction. “I am Arvina. She is Arwen. I am daughter of Count Alan Le Roussel and his lady Gunnhild. She is child of the Elvins. We share her body. And you, Run-frea, I ought to kill. You ought, at least, to pay my kin a blood-fee—with interest accumulated down through the years. Nhh!” She finished with a definitive nod.

He held up his hands. “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi, never did Loki open such a worm-filled can! We must talk, you and I. But whether we stand, sit or walk –” he looked down at my feet (it could have been worse, this could have been winter, there could have been mud) “– I leave that to you, Lady Arvina.”

“Huh,” she snorted. “We will walk. You think I’ve not had enough of confinement—and what recompense might you give me for that?”

That wretched Woden, I did feel sorry for him. My resident ghost was blaming the wrong person. She should have been ranting at Guillan. I suddenly wondered, if Guillan hadn’t drowned in the White Ship Disaster, as Madeleine Penner had claimed, was he still alive? I couldn’t ask: I’d no voice. No effing choice either but to tramp barefoot through that meadow. We didn’t go far, just back and forth alongside that screening band of trees.

“First,” Woden said. “you might explain to me how you come to be dead. Then, you might explain why you hold me to blame. Further, how you came to be sharing this person’s body.”

Yea, I’d like to know the same. Was I right: was it because of the gand-stangir? And if so, how?

He—your obedient runester—lopped off my head. Because I turned out not to be the Torch you had promised—”

“Whoa! We’re talking of Guillan Bigod here? But I never did promise him any such thing. I don’t make promises, never. And neither was he ever my ‘runester’. Where’d you find such a word? I’ve already told Arwen about it; I cast the runes for him, that’s all.”

I could feel Arvina’s tension loosen. I hoped, now, she’d release my body. But nah.

“Ay-yi-yi,” she groaned. “Aye, I knew him . . . disturbed. Many times, I tried to turn from him. But a higher nock and . . .” she shrugged my shoulders. “Let’s sit.”

Oh, glorious relief for my feet! I’d thought them on fire.

“But if not from you,” she said, “whence his knowledge? I don’t mean the runes; I mean the Bellinn-ways. He was raised away from them, same as my mother, and she’s a nestling considering her nock. I always was stronger, I’d had Hegrea to teach me. But him? Guillan? He was stronger than me.”

Woden lifted a shoulder in a part-shrug. “So, what have you done, these past . . . nine hundred years? Is it really that long? Yet Arwen tells me so.”

She nodded my head. “Nine hundred, aye, since my first death.”

“Since . . .?” he squinted at her. And so, too, would I—had I a body that she wasn’t using.

She snorted. “Aye, and that’s another issue I’d like to take with you. Though it’s not just you, it’s all you pre-Atonement Bellinn. Whose clever idea was it to take that ridiculous Oath: Thou shalt not beget? Aye, you wait till your time comes to wither away. But that’s just the body. The Bellinn within us remains. And that Bellinn is as much Asaric as were the Asars. It seeks a new life. It’s driven, compelled, it must live. But where is the Bellinn baby it needs? There are none! So, what have we but to creep into the nearest foetus then available? You know how many times I have died? How many times I’ve had to do that? And I’m not alone. Every Bellinn that dies—every one of them, clawing at life. Yet we cannot bring our longevity with us. Cannot even bring our light.

There, Arvina had had her say. With a definitive harrumph, she aggressively slammed her arms close across her chest. Um, my arms, my chest. “So, now, you have your answers, I leave you to Arwen. Though, you think on it. I want my blood-fee, whether from you or from him. From somebody.”

. . .

First thing I did on recovering my body was to rub my feet. Just because I was born a Piscean, doesn’t mean my feet have to suffer.

“Wow,” Woden said. “That’s one angry Bellinn you’ve got in you there. Were you aware—could you hear?”

I nodded. “She’s not quite what I thought her. Not a ghost, is she. But neither is she part of my psyche.”

He nodded. “Neither. And I’ve still many questions for her.”

“Huh, you have? At least you being Bellinn you know what the frecking-heck she was on about. Like, ‘cuse me, but what’s a chuffing Asar? And what’s the Atonement? And . . .” And I’d thought I’d got it all sorted with elves.

“You want answers? Sitting comfy?” he asked. Despite his recent ear-bashing, he seemed in high mood. “Ready for a story that’ll blow your mind? But first, do you want me to skin one?” His hands went to the pouch fixed to his belt. “Do you . . .? Grass . . . weed?”

I shook my head and waved that away. I was already feeling like I’d fell down a rabbit hole.

“Mind if I . . .? No, you’re right, best not. So, once upon a time, way up in a realm beyond the rainbows—above even Asgard of the Northmen’s dreams—was the most beautiful being. Breath, she was, and with Fire she’d been born from the black abyss. Breath and Fire had already created wondrous beings of colour and song—angels, the Churchmen called them, though they’re not. But now Breath wanted to create something . . . other. Something more complex, having more form.”

“So, what, you’re saying this ‘Breath’ was a god?”

“Nah, I told you, above the gods—above even Asgard. And as she desired, so she created—she created you humans. But her colourful, sweet-singling, first-created weren’t happy at this. They were being slighted in preference to others. They turned against Breath. They rounded up all her helpers. And in one great hailstorm, they threw these accused offenders out of their realm.”

I laughed. “Yea, right. Like, Woden, this really is a ‘once upon a time’ tale. I’m not a kid, you know.”

“And my name’s not Woden. Why call me that? Ah! You think me out of my head?” He laughed, then sobered. “Nah, but don’t tell me you think me the rune-god? I’ll have you know, young lady, my name is Gamal. There,” he leaned towards me, “I’ve given part of my power to you. Gamal, son of Asny daughter of Zemowit the Asar.”

Zemo the . . . Asar? That could interest me, considerably more than his ancient myth created for kids. But how to lead him to tell me more?

“Okay,” I said. “So, this high-above goddess created we humans, for which she and her helpers were kicked out of their god-realm. And they fell, I take it, to here?” Why else the story?

The fella in the black frock—whose name was Gamal not Woden—nodded. Enthusiastically. “They were condemned to live on this Earth, amongst those they’d created, in their exact forms, for twelve thousand years. But even then they’d not be allowed to return to their realm unless some human was found, untainted by them, who’d speak well of them. And thus did Sir Guy speak and with it began the Atonement. But when the Asars returned to their realm they left us behind. Their begots, their half-breeds, their children—the Bellinn, the Brictan, we’ve been known by many a name.”

“So . . . what are you saying here? That these Asars were, like, kicked-out gods? And from them came you Bellinn—what my ancestors knew as the elves?”

“The Asars took human form,” he said. “That was their punishment. They were even begotten by human fathers upon human mothers. But they were not human. As you say, they were gods. But not just ‘gods’: they’d once been above the gods. And even now, in human form, they were immortal—though, aye, they could be killed. Yet upon their death they were, within the nine months, again born to this world. And that required a Bellinn’s child, for none but a Bellinn’s body can sustain them.”

He sat, quietly now in his faded black frock. I guess he was waiting while I absorbed it all. While my thoughts shuffled to make room and accommodate, to splice all this into my pre-existing knowledge and theories. I guess, at an unconscious level, that’s what was happening, though I wasn’t aware of it.

“So,” I said. “What was this Oath that Arvina was shouting about?” Whatever it was, it was that which necessitated her borrowing bodies. I wondered how many borrowed in nine hundred years. Though it seemed Bellinn requirements were less than Asaric. Apparently, they could survive by sharing a non-Bellinn body; just not as a separate entity. But . . . had Arvina ever thought that each of her hosts was a feeling, thinking, caring person? Did that not bother her?

Gamal sighed. “The Oath. If you had seen the pain on the faces of the Atoning Asars, that they must leave some of their number behind . . . you would not ask. With no newly-begotten Bellinn bodies, those remaining Asars who currently were Bellinn-embodied would have nothing to hold them to this world when finally freed by death. They then could join with the first Atonement. We thought it right to refrain from begetting. To allow the Asars to escape. We weren’t thinking of ourselves, we Bellinn. And now, listening to Arvina . . . what pains have we have caused our own kind? I’d say not to think upon that.”

His high mood had gone. He sat, droop-shouldered, his face now glum.

Though he’d said not to think of it, of course I did. Down through the centuries, men and women sharing their bodies with these Bellinn who were desperately clinging to life. I live in the twenty-first century, born millennia year, yet my GP had labelled me schizophrenic, my mother had thought me schizoid, my teachers thought me ADD, my father feared I might be mad like a relative of his. What hope, then, for those in the centuries before me, labelled insane and locked away? What of those who were accused as witches and condemned to the flames and the stake?


Next episode, Rune-World

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