Culleen woke, stiff from her bed of pebbles and yews. The driftwood fire burned to embers – the circle of light barely illuminating her make-shift camp. Dawn was a mere dream upon the horizon; the faintest glow against the black of sea and sky. It had been an uneasy sleep – wraiths chased her across ashen landscapes; images of home, distorted by sea fog, whirled around her.

She threw more wood upon the fire to ward off her dreams; Vesta ever-watchful, only now, resting her head upon Culleen’s lap. Kuth perched upon her shoulder, whispered soft clacks as ravens do within their flock. She camped the night upon the beach, listening to the combers break upon the jagged rocks. Alone in this sea tang world, she had not noticed the extra shadows dancing behind her.

Her birth-right should have been magical – not the humanish woman she now was. Magic flowed strong through Clan Callawe’en, through those of the north, save her. It was her burden. As strong as she might be in ancient ways of earth and nature, she lacked the spark that wielded swords of argon, stitched tapestries and wove at looms alive not just with coloured threads. So, she left – on a quest to find her personal magic – be it talisman, charms and chants, in her heart, or beneath her skin.

With morning, decision. Follow the steep path winding cliff side, or return to collect more of her gear, stored now in a cave behind a narrow fissure. The path tempted her – to go at least another day’s journey here. To give her a sense of the land; perhaps it’s people. Without heavy pack and traverse, the climb would be possible. Granted, the three would need be eat like mice; only a bit of food remained and her water skin grew thinner. But, the beach held few resources, so she turned towards the cliff.

The path was rough; loose gravel, narrowing of the track, wash-outs made the climb difficult. But small cascades allowed her to fill her water skin, and Vesta to wet her nose and throat with the ice-clear waters. Small patches of berries seemingly growing straight out of the rock, helped with the growl in her belly. Rock mice, skillfully snatched by Kuth and grabbed by Vesta, provided bird and beast with a snack.

Once up the cliff path, looking back, Culleen watched the triptych of cliffs and shingle beach below for any movement; any shadow of what unnerved Vesta during the night. But as far as her sight could reach, there was only the movement of the waves, circling of the gulls, the dance of shore bird with tide. And the soul-deep point where sky met sea – where azure and indigo blended. The land undulated to the west. The path wound through sharp sea grass and small copses of wind-shaped trees. Here and there, a lone jack pine, it’s branches bent back upon themselves. The sun was sear above them; the three comrades took to the shade of one of the copses to rest.

Culleen awoke, startled by Vesta’s deep, throaty growl. A wraith, the ghost-woman of the beach, stared down at them, bow aimed. “No Vesta,” Cullen screamed as dog leaped and arrow flew. She was on her feet, staff swinging before another arrow could be loaded. Whack, she knocked the springy yew bow from the archer’s hands. Keeping her breathing steady, she waited for knife or sword. But, the woman turned heel, and fled through the gap in the trees. Cullen made to follow, but she was gone. Culleen knelt by Vesta, who was licking her wound. The arrow had only grazed her haunch. Cullen sat back heavily on the ground. In the easterlies, did ghost’s arrows give wounds? Were their weapons of earthly make?

Sunday Whirl 283 words: soul birth heart light heavy earth touch reach give burden (not used: cope; hope)

mlmm wordle 139 words: bed image nose sear mice collect grab ward triptych pin (not used: pupa; pleonasm (redundancy))

This is part 7 in a series of stories, built around prompts, of Culleen Callawe’en and her quest to find personal magic.

image: JW Waterhouse, Miranda (cropped)

(c) Lorraine

For Part 1 read here

For Part 2 read here

For Part 3 read here

For Part 4 read here

For Part 5 read here

For Part 6 read here