Author’ note: This is quite unlike most of my writing, written in a distant POV, almost a prose poem. It actually came almost whole-cloth out of an exercise in flow writing a while back, and since it didn’t seem to fit into any genre or market, languished on my hard drive. I thought it was too lovely to stay hidden. I hope you like it. (apologies for the indenting being wonky. WordPress and I are not getting along.)
His muse was in the mountains, in the mists on the mountain meadows, in the mournful cry of the dove. She knew this; it was the reason she always came to him, her wild mountain bard with his flute and his flights of fancy. She never asked him to come to her. All through the spring of their courtship, all through the summer of its fulfillment, not once did he come to her tame little farm in the vale with its neat ordered lines. But it was autumn now, with winter hard upon them. She would not make this journey in the bitter snows, nor could she forsake forever the stolid stone warmth of hearth and home.
And so they parted, he watching her go without a word, she leaving with tears but without regret.
Both of them knew, without saying, that she would not make the journey again in spring. She was not made for the mountains, though she loved them, was not made for a love brief and insubstantial as the mountain mists.
Through the fall she labored, harvesting, gathering storing. The air of her vale was cider-sweet with apples. The fields turned to gold and then to brown against the storm-gray skies. Always before her heart had been so full of her love for the land and its colors that she had no room for loneliness. But this year she found her eyes drawn up to the mountains in the horizon, all bright aspen and dark spruce. In the mornings the colors were softened by the mists. On sunny afternoons their brilliance broke her heart.
Sometimes she thought she heard a wisp of song on the winds that blew down from the mountains. Sometimes she whispered his name, just to hear it.
The leaves faded, fell, blew away. Her pony’s coat grew thick and soft as plush. The days grew shorter, the nights longer and dark.
On solstice eve her Yule fire burned bright, and the sweetness and spice of cider filled the farm home that she had been born in, that her parents had been born in. In the rocking chair by the fire, under the quilt she’d made with her own hands, she dozed and dreamed. The knock on the door that woke her seemed like part of the dream, and the face that met her when she opened the door to black night and swirling snow came from dreams of spring and summer and mountain meadows.
“You cannot,” she said, lying in bed that night with him warm beside her, the passion of their reunion spent. “You cannot leave your mountain.”
“And you cannot leave your vale. Not forever, not for long. But for a time. For a brief time, my muse will forgive a visit.”
“As my fields forgave mine, once.”
“Once, and maybe again?”
“Maybe,” she agreed. Not for a love as insubstantial as mountain mists. But for a love as strong as mountain stone, a love that grew and changed and grew again with the mountain’s seasons. She, a farmer, knew much of seasons, and of patience.
OK, Samhain-kitty wanted me to give away something in her honor, since her day is coming up. (Actually, I think she’s just worried that the Halloween release date for Ravensblood will steal her thunder.)
So here’s a fun little Halloween story to get everyone in the spirit of the season:
Of all the places to break down, The Bitch had to pick a lonely road across the field from an ancient pagan tomb. Danny wasn’t a superstitious bloke, but sitting in a dead truck by the side of this particular road in the dark of All Hallow’s eve gave him the willies. Across the empty fields the garish artificial lights they’d put up at Newgrange shone out in the darkness. And there was Newgrange herself, hulking in the shadow, pregnant with mystery.
Of course, his Gran always insisted that Newgrange wasn’t a tomb, even if archeologists found cremated remains inside.
“They buried people in St. Patrick’s cathedral, too,” she always argued. “Folks aren’t calling that a tomb, now, are they?”
Just what Gran thought Newgrange was, she’d never said. Likely it wasn’t something he’d want to know, out here alone on the night when ‘the veil between the worlds grows thin’.
Come to think of it, an ancient tomb was bad enough.
None of this was getting The Bitch moving. Cathy was waiting, and Danny was already running late. He could picture Cathy now, checking her watch, her pretty mouth turned down into a frown. Of course, his cell phone was dead and the cigarette lighter and the car charger weren’t on speaking terms tonight.
He cursed the truck soundly and hit the steering wheel a few times for emphasis.
Not that The Bitch would care, but it made him feel better.
Danny grabbed the electric torch from the glove compartment— The Bitch had taught him the virtue of being prepared. Hopefully, this wasn’t going to be one of those nights where she also instilled the virtue of long walks. Cathy wouldn’t forgive him if he stood her up for her brother’s Halloween party. Not after he missed her parent’s anniversary dinner last month when the rear differential went spare.
“Damn, you, Bitch, are you trying to break us up?”
Then again, maybe she was. He’d bought The Bitch from a friend of his Gran’s, and Gran didn’t care for Cathy.
The thing was, Danny did care for her. A lot. Cathy had every reason to be impatient with his unreliability. The cold shoulder Gran had giver her when he’d brought her by for tea hadn’t helped.
Still muttering a string of words that Gran would not approve of, Danny got out of the truck and zipped his jacket against the misting rain. Then he popped the hood and played the light around the truck’s cavernous engine compartment to see what he could see.
Danny was a pretty fair mechanic, but what The Bitch needed was an exorcist.
The distant hum of a motor broke the silence. Danny looked up. A single headlamp, a pinprick of light growing larger as it approached.
Oh, please, be a Good Samaritan and not a hooligan.
The motorcycle slowed on approach, then came to a stop behind The Bitch. Its rider was clearly dressed for the evening’s festivities, and Danny had to smile at the image of a faun on a motorbike. Really, the bloke should be wearing a helmet, though he supposed it’d ruin the elaborate, shaggy hair, not to mention the extremely realistic horns.
The stranger wasn’t a local, though Danny couldn’t place the accent. Still Irish. Kerry, maybe?
“Yeah. Reliable as a drunken fiddler, The Bitch is.”
“Let me see what I can do.”
The stranger reached into the truck with his furred hands. Damn, but that was a good costume. He must be in theater, or else he had a friend in the theater.
Light flashed like The Bitch was channeling Dr. Frankenstein. Danny cried out in fear for the stranger— his old truck had never done that before. He had less than a second to think about the flammability of fake fur before the engine started up and the stranger stepped back, unharmed, laughing.
“Your Gran may know about Newgrange and fairy circles,” the stranger said. “But I’d never take her advice on a car. Or a woman. Dump The Bitch and keep the girl.”
A friend of Gran’s? Danny stared at the man, trying to place him, although the costume made it difficult. His mind was still trying to process what had happened with the truck. The first explanation that popped into his mind made him question his sanity.
The stranger returned to his bike and mounted. “She was wrong about one other thing. It’s not true that my kind aren’t any good with cold iron.”
Danny drove as fast as he could on the narrow roads to reach Cathy before she could decide he had forgotten her. He would see what he could do about trading in The Bitch tomorrow.
After all, Gran always said it was dangerous to ignore the advice of the Fair Folk.
(With apologies for the formatting. WordPress does not like tabs, so I had to make do.