Four Seasons: Spring

Spring

One

lone

fur

hat

melting in the snow. Long lost, but not forgotten. Waiting for something, impossible to begin.

The forest slept, week after week. Snow, piled above the hat. No tracks, no steps, it was barren. The hat was no longer a hat. Could it be without a head? The lump of fur caught each flake until it could feel

nothing.

Quiet purifies.

Silence descends.

Sound is relative.

Nothingness.

Madness.

A single drop of blood etched into the snow.

We are changed but we return. We can not be transformed from our past, before we go back. We examine the knife that flayed our skin. We check the bottle of poison for one last drop. The pain, radiates from the other side of the world. Tremors. Face the pain and melt the snow, frostbitten and wet, the fur will still be there.

Spongy soft ground. Mud, slides from snow to coat the Earth in a shell. We overflow, we soak it in. The green buds come back from the hidden places they run to in the cold before they are buried but light will never leave their faces. I exist. I am far, I am here.

I lost my hat in the woods. I came back. There was not fur. There were flowers.

De-composure is not and end to a means. Three, five, eight. Round my head. I am a queen.

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Four Seasons: Winter

Winter

I

was shot,

four bullets

four breaths

took me down.

Before my claws could rip

the flesh from the family that stood before me.

Before I could crush the bones of each child in my jaw.

I

was

knocked

down,

My blood that flowed into the first snow.

My body that was picked clean by scavengers.

My flesh that was butchered and eaten by man and beast.

My fur that was skinned and sectioned.

My back that became a rug.

The blood that flowed from my carcass

slowed

to

a drip.

A soft, hesitant

drip.

My life snuffed out to a meaningless drip

A drop of blood too small to measure.

That was my eulogy, my resting place.

There was no one to remember me

because I devoured the world

with

my

anger.

A rug, I became to keep them warm.

A hat, to cover their ears.

A meal, to feel their bodies.

I was consumed and processed

until there was nothing left but that rug,

and those hats,

and laughter from the children I once tried to crush.

They were not angry, they were loved and protected.

They cherished the hats of me, their monster.

An ever present reminder of what tried to destroy them.

They kept the last memory of me close.

I

faded

into

them

and

waited

for

something

to

happen.

I lost my hat in the woods.

Chapter 82: A Sparrow Returns to Regrets

798 AD, Ruir, Kingdom of Galway, Outside of Declan’s House

“Why would you, the Chieftain, apologize to me? I should be arrested and put through an ordeal for the way I spoke to you all.” Saoirse shook. “Please don’t do that to me. I don’t want to die that way…”

“What? No. No! That is not why I am here. Saoirse, listen to me.” Conn motioned for Saoirse to sit on the boulders next to him. “I came here with a purpose; now show me the respect I deserve and sit down.” Saoirse sat down reluctantly, arms still crossed. She picked at the skin around her cuticles till it bled. She turned in Conn’s direction but was looking beyond him.

“I chose you for a purpose but I failed to achieve that purpose.” Conn began, and Saoirse shifted her legs from crossed to bent. She pulled them up to her chest and looked past him again. “I failed by not explaining my intent and not giving you the chance to play your part. The part Seamus and I believe you are called from the Tuatha de Danaan to have.”

Saoirse shook her head. “I am not called by the Tuatha de Danaan to do anything. This is ridiculous.”

“It is, but it is also not ridiculous. I too was skeptical but the faeries and the Gods are back. They are active again. I know how this world has looked to you as you grew up in Galway. The monks that came through in the last three centuries drove the faeries back. It has been a chaotic place. What to believe? Who to serve? But they are here. The day before the sea battle against the O’Sullibheans, the Tuatha de Danaan came to me at Innis Aran. Seamus and I went with the Head Druid, Ein, to perform a ritual at the Serpent’s Lair – something remarkable and terrifying happened, Saoirse. We stepped into the pool and the water rose up and swirled around us and a voice screamed at us. I can still hear the shrieking in my ears. The voice warned that if Riagan and Ciannait were to be married, uniting Galway, Limerick and Shannon under one house, Connacht would fall into the sea. We would all be destroyed for no such forces shall unite again.”

“Why?” Saoirse asked, looking at Conn and quickly going back to her bleeding cuticle.

“I don’t know for sure, but I have some ideas.” Conn answered.

“Like what?” Saoirse asked.

“I believe the Tuatha de Danaan sense the darkness that is brewing in Limerick from the house of MacManus. I believe they can see deeper into the soul of Cahal than we can. They know my father was thirsty for a power beyond his capability. So Cahal and my father, Aedh, brought their families together through my marriage to Tearlag, to collect every clan in Connacht. They drove Shannon into the sea where by they became Innis Aran, along with some Vikinger settlers and the outlying Island clan. There are two more clans left that have not been altered by Cahal and Aedh’s quest for power and bloodshed, Breifne and the King of Connacht at Rathcroghan. Those have been untouched by considerable intervention by myself. Tearlag and Cahal have their demolishing souls set on reaching those clans soon. Why do you think Tearlag and Riagan go on so many trips? Those aren’t trade trips. They are tactics. A strategy. Take a new kingdom, butter them up, offer Brynhildr, Seamus or Riagan up for marriage and gain a new foothold. Tearlag has wished for you to leave since the day I suggested you should marry Riagan instead.” Conn said and Saoirse grimaced.

“Believe me, that was not concealed. Why does Riagan hate me?” Saoirse asked.

“I thought it would matter more to you to ask why my Tearlag does not care for you.” Conn chuckled. “Riagan does not hate you, he hates me. He resents you. You see Tearlag and I failed again many years ago. To keep Innis Aran close to us, we befriended Eban and made amends for our fathers’ actions to drive the O’Flaherty’s out of Shannon. It was a small token, I guess, if we became friends and worked together to allow both clans to prosper again. You see, the O’Flaherty’s did not suffer as much as Aedh and Cahal expected they would. Driving them from Shannon with its rich quarries and fisheries did not deter from their wealth. On the contrary, driving them to Innis Aran increased their reach in trade. They became the place to bring goods into Connacht and they became wealthier and more powerful than Limerick and Galway. They were still a threat to Aedh and Cahal and this drove them mad. It was a glaring failure, a boil on their silken legacy. It could not stand. So, my father spent the rest of his life trying to crush Innis Aran and he died doing so. That left me as a puppet of sorts for Cahal to maneuver. Tearlag and I do his bidding. I wish the crank would die already.” Conn said and pulled at his graying beard.

He was a funny looking fellow. Not very tall, was slim, but had broad shoulders and a bald head. He was not handsome but interesting looking. With a rugged face, speckled with freckles and quizzical brows. His expressions were curious, his hands always close to a notebook. He observed the world like an examiner and not a Chieftain. For him, it seemed as though this job was a mandate and not a joy. Saoirse wondered why he did not step down. A chieftain, if he kept the favor of the clan, could rule indefinitely. Without the favor and a big enough army, he could rule for a while. But, if he lost favor, he could be defeated by a duel and the best and strongest warrior could take his place. Male or female, it did not matter. Conn did not have to stay in this position and yet here he was, two decades later, waiting for the chance to stop fighting and begin exploring. Saoirse wondered if Tearlag kept him in the Chieftainship.

“If Cahal died, my family may belong to me for once.” Conn chuckled again. “Saoirse, I am sorry from the depths of my soul for the position I have created for you. I did not give you a choice and I asked you, no ordered you, to join this mess to save my pig-headed son from a union that would destroy us all. That was a burden you did not need to take on. I believed you were the right choice based on your bravery in battle and the skill with which you saved Seamus’ life. I have faith in you, even still I do.”

“I’m not going back.” Saoirse said defiantly.

“I’m not tell you to. I am asking you to consider it, as my advisor on the Brehon Court. You may serve alongside Seamus and you do not have to be Riagan’s wife. I will break the bond if you wish. You are free to love whomever you want. If you wish to live here with Declan, I will not stand in your way. I will protect you from Tearlag’s wrath.” Conn said.

“How furious is she with me?” Saoirse asked.

“Honestly, she is more furious with me. They all are for creating this mess. It has been a long fortnight, Saoirse, a very long and loud fortnight.” Conn sighed.

“I don’t have an answer.” Saoirse replied.

“I’ll come back. What a lovely place this is to think and write.” Conn opened the journal and began writing in it again. “You are dismissed.”

Saoirse looked at him quizzically. What an odd man he was. She got up off the boulder and walked back to Declan’s cottage.

Entry #12: I am so disorganized

So remember that plan I posted on New Year’s? My grand strategy for content, short stories, chapters and more? Yeah, I am behind. So behind. It’s comical.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me through the last few months. I have been cluttered, behind and sporadic in posting. Work outside of this blog is more consuming than I anticipates and I fall behind on Muirin Project. So I am giving in and getting organized. I am going to create an editorial calendar and write posts in advance which is pretty radical for me.

Everything I post on Muirin Project I post, excluding the history section. I post by pure inspiration. I write chapters of Udal Cuain as I think of them. Sometimes I open a new draft and see where my mind takes me. It is risky, but it is a challenge and therapeutic. Same with my poems, I write them on the spot. And so for the sake of losing all order and ability to write, I will pause this free flow of writing and plan this out. I will try better to stick to a schedule.

Here is what is going on lately on the site:

I have been writing some reflections in the journal section because I have been disorganized and overwhelmed. It has been a way to get my feelings out but I know it has been a little emo and I am sorry. The other way I have been getting my feelings out has been with watercolors. The watercolor painting sessions are keeping me sane and are giving me room to think. It is helping a lot with stress relief. I tend to get anxious when busy and it is hard to find an outlet to bring one out of an anxious spiral. Which, speaking of anxiety, does anyone else ever feel like your mind moves too quickly? Like when you are busy, do you feel like your mind is jumping from thought to thought like a manic Sherlock? I feel that way sometimes, like I am always a little caffeinated. It’s hard to be still and center yourself in those moments, but watercolor painting seems to slow that all down. It’s fantastic.

In other news, I have a poem series called Four Seasons. It is my journey through 2016 into 2017. The subject matter is personal but deserves explanation at a later time. I will do that after the next poems are posted.

Next, I want to consistently post two to three chapters per week again and I will try my hardest to get there. The story is at such a cool place and I can’t wait to reveal where these characters are going and what they will reveal about the past. It is going to be great.

Posting a book to a blog is not a smart idea but I wanted this story to be read somehow. It was too important to write and be unread waiting for a way to publish it. If you have not read a chapter, please give it a shot. This is my heart on a page, please explore my world with me.

Now onward to an organized tomorrow!

-M

Four Seasons: Fall

Fall

A broken soft peach lay lonely on the grass that lined the Grove of the orchard. Little, orderly trees shook when, I the bear lumbered in.

Frost on the ground.

Black fur on my back.

I the bear ate from the ground and devoured every peach from the cold September ground. I was ravenous, mad from hunger. A cold frost was coming.

I did not want to sleep.

In the cave, my den was my cage in slumber, stuck in the chains of the seasons. The rotation of the wheel. I Had things to do. Not sleep. Sleep was a drag to my soul, I would never give in. I ran back to the woods.

Rumbles and gurgles shook me to my spine.

Winter was not.

I reached the stream, empty. I walked up to the bushes of berries, wild greens. Hollow.

It was all hollow, like my insides.

The world was devoured. An egg shell without its yolk.

Red flashed. Eyes clouded and claws bared. I found a harvest. A fury, a downpour of vibrations, a growl. The effortless flutter of a flesh separating from bone. The restless rhythm of bone divided from memory.

Emotion kills.

The hollows were desolate.

No sound, but one bear hibernating in rage. The wild places were tamed by the anger of one. Who said words were just words. See where they get you when you loose control.

Feed the animals, find the Beast.

Indulge and find the end. Is your life better alone? Is your only friend the gun pointed at you aimed to kill? The hunter finds hibernation.

One

shot

blood

drops

into

the

Earth.

I became a rug.

Four Seasons: Summer

Summer

Yellow, golden, light ushering heat.

The night stands still with its back against a wall, cowering from the unyielding light, unwilling, wild to June days.

Bud became bloom.

I bloomed from the days forming my heart and mind. I waited and I learned how a flower should be.

Delicate. Ideal.

I took my time, I watched others who popped open beside me.

I took my notes.

I chose my day.

The winds and rain pelted me and shed my petals away.

A green round firmness.

Small, fresh.

New transformation from one phase to the next. The cycle turns on its wheel of life.

The sun baked my skin. I grew in size. I became ma peche. Full grown and swelling of promise.

Red, yellow, orange.

I watched the other branches and saw what we were waiting for.

A small hand.

To stretch up their arms, to the sky, choose the most beautiful of the fruit.

I bound my time. Sunburn made me desirable. My juice, my skin, the shape.

All for my goal. I was promised I would be delicious and devoured to serve something bigger than myself.

To please the others around me, to serve the bigger ones who would make something of me.

I am lovely if they choose it. I am satisfied if they will it.

I am

a

falling

rocket

soft

rotten

smashed

my skin exploded against the dirt.

The hand did not reach up.

No one caught me.

I watched them from below, the other ones they plucked. My broken skin, my juice spilled out to grass.

A feast for three legged scavengers.

I became a bear.

Chapter 81: The Sand

798 AD, Ruir, Kingdom of Galway, Declan’s House

It was afternoon, a warmer and brighter afternoon than a normal winter’s day. The snow was melting and the coolness of the melting snow floated up and into the air like the evaporating columns of steam that rise from a kettle. Saoirse was bored. Brighid and Declan left at dawn for a long hike into the woods. Brighid begged Saoirse to tag along but she refused.

The thought of seeing Tearlag or Riagan made her feel sick and it was her army. There was no way to avoid her. Saoirse considered what she could do with herself until Brighid and Declan returned. She could sleep. She could sing. She could practice her hurling swing against the cottage. She could find a bow and sword and practice her fighting style.

She could go home…she shuddered at the idea.  No! Saoirse chuckled in a sad sort of dark fashion. She knew exactly what would happen if she went back. She would be a failure. Her brothers were impressive fisherman, what would she have to say for herself? A failed marriage? An emotional outburst? No, she was staying here.

After a lot of useless thought, pacing and general time wasting, she decided to go for a run. She would run and run until her mind was less tangled. It was very tangled at the moment. Being around Brighid did not untangle it. Brighid was a great friend, but she was not warm nor was she comforting. She was like a blacksmith’s hammer.

If she disagreed with a decision Saoirse made, Brighid lost all gumption and hammered her opinion into the ground. An unconscious eye roll made its way across Saoirse’s face. What made Brighid believe she was entitled to loudly proclaim her opinions to her friends and believe that they were to take the opinions and swallow them without choking on the harsh fibers of Brighid’s words? And Brighid had to question why Saoirse ran to Declan when she had a problem. Declan was balm to the salt of Brighid’s existence.

Saoirse ran downward to the beach. She skipped around the melting snow and mud, between boulders and the rocky crags. With many a slip, her feet landed in the dense coolness of the sand. Her feet dug in and she was home. She loved this feeling. Her feet sunk in with every step and she pushed up and off, up and down, left and right. The rhythm of her stride lulled her into a happy trance. She ran up and down the beach, from the cove to the docks in front of Galway’s market. She ran and felt no shame from the large stone fortress that looked down upon her from the rocky cliff.

She raised her fists and yelled all her anger and hate at them from the beach. With the foaming vengeance of her voice, she felt alive and dead all at the same time. She was awake and asleep. Ashamed and proud. She took a breath and stopped to calm down, her heart was racing and her stride broken. Her body was sharp and knotted. Her muscles exaggerated, taut and furious with all the disappointment of the last year. A rising career as a warrior. Her first battle in service of the O’Connors. She saved Seamus, her childhood crush, and was honored by the Chieftain. Her life was going up and then it plateaued. Stagnate in a muddy water of mediocrity. She was chosen and dragged to the oldest binding ritual – marriage.

Emotion overtook her looking up at the fortress. She thought of Riagan and all the moments they spent apart. Not one night did they spend together. He rejected every part of her yet was willing to claim her as a prize to please his father and mother. To fulfill whatever duty they believed this marriage would provide for the clan. She felt sick. The emotion welled up, the exertion of running mixed with her suppressed pain and her anger came up. She was sick all over the sand. She coughed and wiped her mouth. This would not do, so she walked back to the cottage. Trudging up the rocks and the hillside was a blur, the mud a small distraction. She walked past the cottage without realizing it. She walked around the hillside until she was frightened by a site she did not want to see.

Conn sat on a rock, not far from Declan’s cottage, bent over a journal. His hand moved quickly from paint to paper, in a frenzy of thought.

“How long have you been here?” Saoirse asked. “Why are you here, Chieftain?”

“I have been waiting here each day for a fortnight. If you had left your cottage, you would have seen me.” Conn replied. He finished what he was writing and put down his brush. Saoirse scowled and crossed her arms.

“I was busy.” Saoirse said.

“Busy sulking.” Conn said. “I’m sorry, that is beyond the point of why I came here.” Conn stood up and looked at Saoirse. “I came to apologize to you.”

“Why?” Saoirse asked, her arms still crossed. She shifted her feet. This was uncomfortable and embarrassing. For the Chieftain to be here at all was too much, but to apologize to her sounded like a prank.

Chapter 80: Woe to Who?

798 AD, Ruir, Kingdom of Galway, Declan’s House

“Good morning to you.” Brighid said. Saoirse stretched and rubbed her eyes until the thought of opening became less of a debate and as easy as breathing.

The day was bright, not even the curtains could keep the sun from streaming into the small cottage on the hillside. It was a cottage identical to the one Saoirse grew up in on the other side the hill, the lower part that tumbled into rocks by the sea. Saoirse’s family came from a long line of fisherman.

The sea was their calling but it did not call her. Instead, she spent many days here, in the stone and wood cottage that stood up, away from the sea, in the quiet of a hillside. She liked to be where her vantage point was high so she could understand her landscape of existence.

“When did you get here?” Saoirse asked.

“After training was done around midnight. I heard about your spectacle in the courtyard.” Brighid said. “Everyone did.”

Saoirse swallowed with a gulp. “Did you hear any more?”

“Nope.” Brighid said. “Though I was surprised to find you here, in my brother’s bed.”

“You know it is not like that with Declan and me. I needed somewhere safe, I knew I would be here. Brighid, he’s the brother I wish I had, not the guy I want.” Saoirse said.

“Does the guy you want know you are interested?” Brighid asked.

Saoirse rolled her eyes and got out of bed. “If you want me to go, just say it.”

“I want to know why you are here.” Brighid said.

“You already know why, I needed to see Declan. But since Declan has disappeared I guess I will see him later.” Saoirse said and began to put on her shoes.

“Just stop with that, Saoirse,” Brighid said and handed her a cup of tea. “Declan is outside cutting turf. Help me make something to eat.”

“I thought you lived at the fortress now.” Saoirse said. “I didn’t think I would have to see you.”

“I don’t. Declan and I, we stick together. Always have, always will. We don’t forget who we are just because we step foot in a fortress and speak to the Chieftain.” Brighid lashed with condescension. Saoirse smacked her hand on the table in the center of the cottage. Her tea toppled over the walls of the cup holding it.

“I didn’t change. I was under extreme pressure. The Chieftainess had people watching my every move. I tried to visit but if I did, she punished me. Accuse me of stealing. Of sharing secrets with the lower clan. Of cheating on Riagan. The works.” Saoirse said. “The worst thing she accused me of was sleeping with the Chieftain to get this marriage. She said if I step out of line again she would hold a Brehon Court in my honor and, if they found me guilty, she would cut my ear off. After that I cut all ties to the world.”

“Yeah, okay.” Brighid scoffed. Saoirse frowned.

“You think I am lying?” Saoirse asked. Brighid shrugged and brought the pan from the fire. She placed a piece of green marble on the table set the pan on top of that. Porridge and eggs.

“I could see you doing that to get ahead of us all. You are ambitious—” Brighid said.

“Are you serious?” Saoirse exclaimed. “You are holding a grudge and being ridiculous. I did not do that.”

“You love Seamus, you marred Riagan, why not sleep with Conn? You could complete your collection of O’Connors.” Brighid scorned.

Saoirse picked up her cup and threw it against the wall, far to the right of Brighid. “Grow up, Saoirse.”

“No, you grow up, Brighid. How narrow is your thinking? How childish are to believe the only ambition I could have would be rooted in sex? You cheapen my affection for Seamus. You disrespect any value I have by boiling this down to a game. You should be in my place, Brighid. You would enjoy Tearlag’s games, you blithering hag. I’m done.” Saoirse said.

“Of course you are. That’s your move. ‘Life’s too hard. I’m done. Tearlag did this so I’m done. Tearlag tells me to leave my family, I’m done.’ Your mother cries her eyes out everyday—” Brighid replied.

“Is that what she tells you, Brighid? And you believe her? You know my mother doesn’t care. Maighread has never cared about anything other than success. She may be crying, but they are tears of joy that I am settled in a prominent position.” Saoirse said.

“Were.” Brighid said. “You were but you ditched it. Like everything else.” Saoirse sneered and dipped her hand into the porridge and smeared it all over Brighid’s face. Brighid looked in disbelief as porridge coated her face.

“You wretch!” Brighid screamed. “You stupid little snake. I cook for you and you do this?!” Saoirse smirked. Brighid scooped up the porridge and flung it at Saoirse, with half landing on her body. The other half landed on the face of Declan, who had just walked through the door.

“I see you guys are back to normal.” Declan said with deadpan emotion. He wiped the porridge off his face. “Saoirse, Seamus is here to see you.”

“Tell him to leave.” Saoirse said. “I’m not going back. He can take his love and his pretend devotion and shove it.” Saoirse said loud enough for Seamus to here.

“It was never pretend, Saoirse. I came here to say I’m sorry.” Seamus said from outside the door and placed a bouquet of evergreen and berry branches on the stoop. They were an unusual bouquet, like her. Seamus sighed as he walked away wondering if she would get the sentiment.

“Can you tell me why you have thrown all of our food on each other’s faces ,and mine as well?” Declan asked. “I feel like I took in two strays.”

“I live here.” Brighid corrected.

“No, you don’t.” Declan pushed his dark brown hair out of his eyes along with the porridge that was stuck to his nose. “You haven’t been here in weeks. You heard your best friend made a fool of herself at the ritual and came to lap up the blood.”

“And you, Saoirse, Seamus has been waiting out there since dawn. You could at least hear him out.” Declan turned on Saoirse.

“He’s a liar. He doesn’t stand up for me.” Saoirse crossed her arms.

“You married his brother all the while you two are infatuated with each other. I think he is going through a hard time too.” Declan said. “Now, I’m going to clean up myself and you two are going to clean this mess up while I go to the market. Make your peace or get out, that goes for you too, Brighid.”

“But you’re my brother, can’t you take my side in this?” Brighid whined.

“You called her a whore. I don’t agree with you. Why you two are fighting in the first place I don’t understand. Saoirse didn’t win some contest and Brighid isn’t living a dream life. We are just here, existing. Isn’t that good enough?” Declan grabbed his coat and slammed the door. The cottage rattled.

“Why does he like you better?” Brighid asked and sat down.

“He doesn’t.” Saoirse said and grabbed a cloth from the kitchen. She dipped it in the water jug and handed it to Brighid. Brighid nodded in gratitude and began to wipe the porridge from her face.

“He always has.” Brighid answered.

“No, you are being paranoid.” Saoirse found a wet cloth for herself and wiped the porridge from her black hair. “And insecure.” Brighid shrugged. “Where do you live if you don’t live here?” Saoirse asked.

“There’s a cottage out by the fortress. I, along with some of the other shieldmaidens, were asked to move there after you left. All the warriors live by the fortress now. It’s part of Tearlag’s new plan. She and her father, Chieftain Cahal, have their sights on a new project and they want us at their disposal.” Brighid answered. “And it’s lonely.”

“How does Declan get to stay out here?” Saoirse asked.

“Special permission from Chieftain Conn.” Brighid answered. “I’m assuming Seamus has something to do with it.” Brighid said. “Maybe he knew you would need a place to run to?”

“Heh, right.” Saoirse said.

“What are you going to do?” Brighid asked.

“I have no idea. I’m a disgrace. I can’t go home. I don’t want to go back to the fortress. I’m in a rut.” Saoirse said.

“You should talk to Seamus.” Brighid said.

“Maybe.” Saoirse answered.

“No. You should. And I’m always here for you and so is Declan. Don’t turn your back on us again.” Brighid answered. “This stuff with the O’Connors, it is not more important than us. They are our Chieftain family, but they serve us. You don’t turn your back on your people, Saoirse. You need people in your life.” Brighid said. Saoirse pondered this in silence. She knew Brighid was right, but how could this be possible if she went back to that house?

“Do you think we could both crash here?” Saoirse asked.

Brighid shrugged. “It’s not up to me.”

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