Singing stones, remnants from the time of the ancients, struggled to remain standing in their ragged circle on the runish plain. Raised beyond general memory, it fell to great-grandmothers to inculcate what remained of the teachings of the ancients. The time of tradition allowed for this knowledge, but current plain-speak placed no value on mystical magic. Stuff of children’s tales and ruined standing stones, the carved runes barely discernable from weathering. Forgotten and not missed.

Dawn scratched the moon from the sky, and the stone circle was washed in star’s blood. A woman shakily dismounted her sea-tang pony of wild mane at the circle’s edge. The slash in her side continued to leak through layers of bandages. Mortally wounded, she returned to hear the stones sing for a last time. She reached into the leather bag slung across her body,  pulled out a thick glass vial and drank the dregs of her pain potion. It gave her enough strength to “undress” her pony of the trappings of taming. “Go as you will,” she whispered in the pony’s ear, and then straggled into the centre of the circle.

She was still of the ancients – she read runish, made herself as one with nature. She did daily encantments to the four directions honouring her ancestors. She could travel in her mind to the sacred bubbling springs, deep in a forest so old it was born with time itself. Wherever she ritually bathed, she could feel herself in those warm waters. Towering trees whispered answers and questions all around her.

She was known by many names; made her way in the world as a healer, and secretly as a scribe. Trained as an assassin, her prowess with knives was beyond that of of the most skilled swordsman with his blade. To be ancient was to believe in balance: for a death a birth. For a birth, a death. If she could take a life, then she need also be able save one.

She was not judge and jury. She took only enough ducats to fulfill each quest. Others, well qualified in the knowledge of the crimes, decreed the verdict. Guilt for crimes of cruelty, spite and vengeance that would never reach a Court or go before the King. But this last quest had cost her as it had the accused.

Guised as a boy in jerkin and leggings, raven’s hair cropped short, she could easily be “invisible” as she went about her task. Except for her mismatched eyes – one obsidian, one jade.  Eyes that held secrets, a mystical depth of spirit. Now, that spirit was waning. Falling to her knees, she called the stones by their ancient names. As each awoke, she felt the music, the varied voices vibrate within her body. Gently, caressingly, the chorus lowered her deeper and deeper into the ground. She forgave her enemies, asked for contentment for her friends, peace and calm for herself.

She did not see the ragged, grey wolf dog watching her with ancient amber eyes. Nor did she sense the animal’s companion feeling her barest heart beat and slow puff of breath. She did not realize he scooped her limp body into his arms and he carried her away from her dying bed.The stones now sang a different song of farewell.

Riffing off the mlmm tale weaver’s assignment 189: Ruins: “This week consider the notion of RUINS you can take in the singular form if you wish. It could be as the image suggests a site you visit. Your/A life in ruins. Something precious is destroyed. Go with your imagination.”

Still rusty with this creative writing stuff, like a sword and shield left on the battle field. Some characters never leave the stories I tell myself in my head, no matter how I edit them. These three were screaming to get a breath of approaching autumn air. Who am I to deny them a taste of freedom?

image: google free images