So here goes nothing, be gentle with me...
The stunted fauna that edged the limit of the highest tide gave nothing away to suggest that the rocks and their small pools of life filled salt water were being observed from within the sparse cover they provided. The freshening offshore breeze seemed to signal the turning of the tide and soon the rocks would once again be inaccessible to the lone observer within the wind shaped Gorse bushes that manage to stand all but the harshest of the western coast’s storms. Though the chance for gathering food from the pools below would disappear in the next few hours, Watcher made no move to leave his carefully scrapped hollow that enabled him to watch without being observed himself. Watcher knew that the tide would recede again exposing the then refreshed pools just before dusk settled and covered the land with its dark mantle. Only then, as the light began to fail would he leave his hiding place and venture onto the exposed rocks below to harvest whatever bounty the sea had left behind. But for now he was quite content just to watch the sea and the other scavengers out on the rocks whom hunger drove to risk the open landscape whilst the day was at its lightest. But the risks to the gulls, terns, crows and the vixen that scoured the rocks below did not worry Watcher, instead it was something else that kept him out of sight until the light began to fail, something that he had come across seven turns of the sun ago that brought back memories of a threat thought left far behind many turns of the seasons since. The watcher chewed upon some dried meat not tasting the smokiness of it as his thoughts drifted to a time when he was young and lacked the wisdom the passing seasons had imparted upon him, to a time when his world was crushed and he knew the true meaning of terror...
The sharp lash of Teacher’s thin willow rod left an angry red welt cross Sutherland’s exposed neck. Being awoken with such a sharp sting brought an oath from Sutherland’s lips as he snarled turning to face his attacker. Another sharp sting opened up the skin on the bridge of his nose stopped him mid launch from his stool and he fell back dazed and bloodied. The laughter from his classmates stabbed at him through his momentary confusion, hurting far more than the bite of the rod, and the realisation that he was in Teacher’s class, not fishing the sea for serpents as his dream had bade him believe brought a further oath from his lips. “Perhaps another stroke of the stick will silence your foul mouth and also remind you to pay attention in the class South boy?” Teacher’s question was spoken quietly but Sutherland knew better than to think that they did not carry the threat intended. “If you think so my teacher then it should be so” answered the boy, doing well to keep both hatred and fear from his words. Smiling to himself Teacher moved away from the boy he’d so rudely awoken and proceeded with the day’s lesson.
Later that evening as Teacher stretched his legs in front of the dying fire his mind drifted to the ‘days before’ and tears came unbidden to his grey eyes. “Why are you so hard on the boy?” the gently whispered words brought him from his grief stricken thoughts and looking up he could not help but smile as she looked down at him, the question still her eyes. “well?” she asked, trying remain stern whilst inside she just wanted to settle beside him and wipe the tears from his cheek. She knew from whence the memories came that brought those tears yet they had not spoken of that time for many years. “Because the southern boy must become a man far sooner than he should, they are returning and perhaps he may be the only one to save us”, his smile took the edge off his words yet in her heart she knew them to be true and fear gripped her soul as the memories of when the world fell flooded back. She settled by his side and gently wiped the tears away and in silence they watched the fire slowly burn to ash and thought of those days when the southerly winds brought nothing but death and despair.
The darkness brought a different feel to the forest where before squirrels scampered through the highest branches scouring for the few remaining acorns to store before the cold mantle of winter covered the land, where the call of songbirds drifted lightly through the gently swaying trees that seemed to be dancing in their autumnal coloured gowns of leaves and where if you had been quiet enough you may have glimpsed a small deer as it cautiously crossed a clearing dappled in the still warm sunlight. Indeed, the forest seemed at peace in the day and walking through it brought no thought of danger but just of wonder as the woodland seemed to embrace and welcome a traveller following the winding trail through. But the forest changed in the darkness, a traveller would find himself glancing far too often over his shoulder at noises that seemed eerie and full of dread, the once gently dancing trees now wore gowns of satin black and seemed to loom over as if trying to reach out and grasp a passing soul and where the noise of passing beasts hinted at lurking monsters with only murder upon their minds. But there was one in the forest who knew that the trees bore no malice, that the eerie sounds were not of harpies or imps but of the White Owls as they hunted for their prey and that there were no monsters lurking with fangs dripping blood made black in the moonlight, only badgers and wild boar going about their business and steering clear of tracks of men. Of course there were at times killers in the woods, but the few great bears that survived in these parts had headed back to mountain caves in the far north to prepare for their long sleep, the wolves had headed west following the herds of forest cattle that sought easier grazing on the flood plains that stayed free of all but the heaviest of snow being kept warmed by the air driven off the sea and the of great cats? None had been seen for over fifty turns of the seasons. But the one soul that stood in the dark forest did not feel the usual peace that the forest brought and in its heart knew that the southerly winds were coming once more and with them the promise of death for the land. It stood deep in thought and knowing what was needed brought something that it had not felt for many turns of the sun in its heart, fear.
The old king lent upon the cold stone wall that loomed above the valley floor. The thin clouds moved slowly over the nearly full moon casting distorted shadows across the ramparts of the crumbling castle. His mood was melancholy this evening brought on firstly be the report of the ranger from the laden isle and then from too much wine drank to keep the encroaching fear at bay. Eric always knew this time would come again, a time when the land may die for good. After the last invasion there had barely been enough defenders to finally push back what the southern winds had brought and now there were far less. The land had not been kind to those who had saved it last time and its peoples had dwindled in number with each turn of the seasons. It was only when King Eric had travelled, unaccompanied, deep into the eastern woodland on an impulse he failed to understand and then returned two seasons later with a knowledge that was to change the people’s relationship with the land for good did they begin to hold their numbers and live in a totally different way. Where the knowledge had come from King Eric had never said, and the task of convincing his peoples of the necessary changes had been long and at times bloody. Many had left instead of bending to the new ways and many would not draw breath again to challenge them. Bad times thought the King to himself, but without the changes the land would have taken them all eventually even before the southern winds would return. Ha, 'king' thought Eric, a title taken from the old world and bestowed upon him so that he could guide the people unchallenged. A title from antiquity that if the truth about it was known that it meant nothing more than tyrant in the days long before the world rose and fell in its quest to rid itself of the parasitical species that had nearly killed her. A wry smile crossed his lips ‘if the people thought the terror of the southern winds passing those many turns of the seasons ago was dire then they would have pissed themselves if they had of witnessed the ferocity of the world as she wrung the life of all but a few that once numbered billions’ thought Eric. ‘How many turns of the seasons had that been? Three, maybe four hundred?’ Eric sighed, these few that lived here in the north new only of the lands no further than ten day’s journey, what would they feel if they realised that their world was only a tiny fraction of the world that surrounded the land? He had seen sights that would make them call him insane if he spoke of them, sights that the people would call dark magic; street lights with no flame, ships that travelled above the clouds, ships as big as cities that roamed on or under the oceans and weapons that would wipe whole cities away as if they had never been. Again Eric smiled to himself ‘ships as big as cities?, the people don’t even have the word city in their language’. A cough from the archway brought the old King back to the present, “he is here my King” spoke the gate-man as he bowed. With a slight nod of acceptance, the old King dismissed him “and so it begins” he spoke with a sigh to the empty battlement.
Watcher awoke to the cries of seabirds as they harried a shoal of Greenfish that had come too close to shore and were now exposed at the surface of the turquoise sea. Dawn's first light was creeping over the land and he knew he should move from his scrapped hollow before his silhouette could be seen from the sea against the lightening sky. He looked down at his oilsac that held the late evening bounty and smiled, we will eat well today. But his smile turned to a frown as his gaze fell upon the small parcel wrapped in cloth, ‘yes they are coming’ he thought. He would travel east, taking the others with him and seek out the old King’s castle. There they may be safe, at least that is until all else is lost to the southern winds.
Like I said, very rough but feedback is appreciated. Til the next time take care all,