Sleep evaded Culleen. She lay on her back watching a star blanket cover the night sky. Eastern constellations – not the familiar ones of the north. Such as Hudane and Zella she and Vesta, her wolf-dog, howled to at the turning of the seasons.
Being humanish in the north where all possessed personal magic, her quest to discover her own brought her here, to vast expanses of undulating sea grass, deep piney forests, rock-shorn cliffs above sand and shale shores washed and wracked by the great easterly sea.
The east, where land held and granted magic. Where she met her pale almost mirror of herself. Ethereal Maaginen made more whole by sea tang and breakers. Elsewhere wraith-like, almost translucent by times. Culleen was solid, raven hair plaited down her back, eyes sea foam green. Maaginen, flaxen locks tumbling, a mane like the ponies she rode wild through the waves, watching the world with her eyes of midnight blue.
Also questing, a desperate one seeking? Culleen, unsure, knew only Maaginen sought answers through understanding a message left by the Ancients. Weathered into standing stones overlooking the ragged cliffs. Being humanish, Culleen could read runes, now burned bright upon her staff of living heartwood freely given. All her knowledge, her strength, and power came from her attunement with nature and the ways of the Ancients, of a time before magic came to her people.
Eastern runes wrote differently, so that Culleen need puzzle out their meaning. Drifting back into the Ancient’s circles, listening for the touchstone word; keynote to unlock all others. Side by each, she teased out the meaning of Maaginen’s quest in their outlines.
That day, she broke the code – all came clear in ways truly beyond her ken. Ancients left last message before passing; of going back into earth, sea and sky. Their parting gift, their farewell gesture to imbue magic, traces of their knowledge and wisdom into wildflower meadows, copses of twisted yews within the sea grass, rivers tumbling towards the sea, waves turning on the tide.
Culleen sensed, then, the cost of such a gift. In their travels, they nary met another soul. As Maaginen did away from the sea, her people were fading. The east was being abandoned like the shattered middle Culleen had crossed. Shadow-time, as foretold cryptically by the last of the runes, was descending here too. When all would turn like tides, like leaves in the fall, like the moon. Magic would consume the people of the east; all fading into ethereal beings without substance.
She knew not how to help Maaginen and her kind with this secret, felt-deep-within vision of the future. As she lay that night, watching the constellations, Kuth, whose raven speak she was granted understanding by possession of Maaginen’s arrow, clacked at her. She noted, yet again, the difference between home and here. That the wood itself gave her personal magic, not the hand of the maker as in the north.
“Well then, Culleen, have you courage to match the knowledge?”
“Well then, Culleen, when will you tell Maaginen you know the message left by the Ancients upon those standing stones?”
“Well then, Culleen, how are your and her quests mirroring now? You have stepped towards that mirror and back.”
“Shush,” she warned. “These are the very questions I am pondering. Leave me be to configure the answers”
Culleen was certain Maaginen hoped the Ancient’s parting words held a different message. The answer to her kind’s fading; the mission of her quest. Perhaps there was a less bitter ending to this tale. Hidden in the play of light and shadows on the sea’s endless water. Streaming like fog up the sea cliffs. Cresting on the waves forever moving. Found in the minutiae of the stars. Culleen quested to find her magic; instead, by chance, had she found a purpose, a calling now revealed?
She and Vesta crept away from the encampment, and finding a suitable place, they howled up to the unfamiliar skyscape. A howl of despair and of hope.
© Lorraine 2017
For mlmm’s menagerie writing prompt 205: “It’s All in the Title.”
This is the 14 installment in Culleen Callawe’en’s quest. Travelling from her home in the north, she and Vesta were joined by Kuth, a raven sent to guide her. Across the abandoned middle, once with flourishing farms and well-trodden roads, now left to fall back into nature. Squeezing through a crack in the eastern wall, constructed to look like an escarpment full-stop against the flat middle, she reached a cave above the great easterly sea. There, on the shale shores, she first encountered Maaginen, who in wraith-like form, followed Culleen up the cliffs. Attacking with bow and arrow, Culleen’s prowess with her staff gained her both. It was this arrow that enabled her to hear Kuth’s clacks as language. And, the bow called her to a dream-imagined meeting with Maaginen. In her travels, at first as if caught in a waking trance, Culleen followed Maaginen from tidal river, then from hidden, magical springs, cross more of the sea grasslands, to the place of the standing stones. Since then, Maaginen, impatient and restless, moved their encampment several times as Cullen struggled to decode the runic message of the Ancients.
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
for Part 11 read here
for Part 12 read here
for Part 13 read here
© Lorraine 2017