Another installment, this time more lengthy, in Cullen Callawe’en’s quest. Born humanish in the northern lands where all folks possess personal magic, she grew up wild within the forest. Learning all that nature could teach, as her forebears learned from the Ancients before magic came to her people. Keenly feeling the difference between herself and her clan, Culleen resolved to quest.
She set out to find her own personal magic, traveling first with Vesta, her wolf dog, then later joined by Kuth, a raven sent as a talisman and guide from the north. The trio experienced strange phenomenon as they journeyed across the middle, through an escarpment guarding the east, along shores and above on the cliffs of the great easterlies sea. She first encountered a wraith-woman as glimpse, gathering beach treasures thrown up by tides. Next as a shadow who followed, then attacked, her arrow grazing Vesta before Culleen whacked yew bow from her hands. In a dreamscape, she saw wraith-woman’s encampment, and wraith-woman’s bow sang a lament of longing and loss. Lost arrow imbued Culleen with some magic so, like her people, she now understood clacking raven speak. So, when moon was full and clear, she entered dreamed encampment and met her pale almost other self. In a trance, she rode with wraith-woman through moonscaped lands, back towards sea cliffs. At a stone bridge crossing an narrow inlet where inward sea met outward stream, she waited with her new friend for the tide to turn.*
After the tide had scoured fjord, it’s incoming waves as stampeding versions of their two ponies, wraith-woman, firmly holding Culleen’s hand, descended below the bridge’s stone abutments. Culleen still felt effects of her riding trance – they seemed to float down embankment and walk across water. Not possible her rational brain argued but then she had come seeking magic – not now the time, space nor place to question.
Wraith-woman drew strength from their salty trail, her paleness less opaque, her hand less ethereal. Hair shone with moon bright luster, eyes sparked dark against her pale face and day-break sky. Culleen felt small, dirty, disheveled. Off keel – her own sense of self drifting with tide’s treasures. “Soon,” wraith-woman whispered; “Soon to Spring’s waters.”
Culleen’s wary eyes scanned land beyond embankment – a different scape than she left. Gone were leagues of bending, twisting sea grass and close-knit copses of stunted yew. A true forest of fir and deciduous trees spread out, thick, dark and mysteriously inviting. Signs of people more prevalent – a cobbled road straight and level running past standing stone-like gate posts into forest’s deep green light.
Smoothed stones felt strange beneath her soft leather boots. Exhaustion and hunger of days above the great easterlies sea settled deep within her bones. She stumbled, wraith-woman catching her up as she lunged forward. “You seek magic, she noted. “Well, magic shall you find.” They entered the forest coolness, wraith-woman glowing as a lantern. Trees seemed to bow, honoured by their presence. Birdsong and zephyrs passing filled woods-scented air.
When road forked, wraith-woman moved to the left, leading Culleen to a small clearing. Seasons seemed to change within the forest for here trees blazed red and orange, fallen leaves skittling in a gentle breeze. The cobbled path stopped at a rectangular stone-enclosed space. Culleen heard murmurs, and scent of clear, fresh water invaded her senses.
“Drink.” Culleen used to obeying her other almost self companion, knelt on stones smoothed into a hollow by a thousand pairs of knees. Leaning forward, she cupped her hands and drank long of cold water, spilling out between her fingers, and rejoining waiting spring.
It tasted of sweetmeats, mushrooms, fresh wildflower perfumed air. She felt her weariness and hunger wash away with each gulp. She looked at herself in still, yet moving, renewing waters. Sea-foam green eyes returned her gaze. Messy raven hair plait falling forward over her shoulder, same high cheekbones and pursed lips. No transformative magic, she decided, but a balm for spirit and flesh. She bid her long-traveling quest companions, Kuth, northern raven sent as totem and talisman, and Vesta, her wolf dog, to drink deeply.
Sounds of hoof beats rang out on the cobbles. Their ponies, prancing with their own renewed vigor, entered the clearing. Wraith-woman whistled, then whispered in each pony’s ear. They set about munching sweet green grass springing up between spring’s stone lip. From panniers across her pony’s back, wraith-woman produced a fresh long shirt, leggings, stockings and vest, all in shades of forest green, embroidered with forest emblems. Some linen for toweling, and a cake of what she called soap.
“Spring will refresh and renew you outside as well,” wraith-woman said. “Modesty becomes you, I know. I shall be foraging within hearing. Shout should you need me.”
Finding her little used voice, Culleen asked, “And what name shall I call.”
“Call me Maaginen,” wraith-woman replied, melting into forest shade. Culleen, unsure, threw off her ragged, road-dusty clothes, and dipped her toe into spring waters. No longer cold; they felt like lake water warmed by summer sun. Steam began to rise, and Cullen slipped into a veil of mist. Her cake of soap produced countless bubbles rising, growing, popping around her. It helped sluice caked dirt off her arms, and neck. Soothed rough, scraped and scabbed knees and thighs. She un-plaited her hair, dunking down into what had appeared but a shallow pool. It’s bottom spread low for her, and she cleansed her mass of floating hair.
Feeling renewed, as if she was just about to set off on her adventure, for being wrapped in warm water, then linen toweling was pleasant. Almost as pleasurable as being wrapped in far away and long ago Darwin’s arms. She missed that first and last kiss, generated by him and full upon the lips. She sighed, wondering if she would ever return to finish what their parting seemed to start. Dressing in her new attire, cut and sewn as if meant for her, she felt a new woman. Muscles relaxed, tension and tautness eased away. She turned to the spring, expecting to see soap bubbly steam, and muddied waters. Instead, it murmured clear, still, yet flowing as she had first glimpsed it.
Maaginen materialized beside her – handing Culleen the staff fashioned from living heart wood given to her by her own forest of the north. “Are you ready now for a real adventure, a true quest?” Culleen felt Maaginen already knew her answer.
For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt #writephoto spring. (photograph: Sue Vincent)
*To learn more of Culleen’s quest:
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
For Part 7 read here
For Part 8 read here
For Part 9 read here
For Part 10 read here
© Lorraine 2017