This week’s task is to weave a tale about “beginnings.” So, being a contrarian, I looked backwards. This post originally appeared on November 3, 2016 . . . and was the beginning of Culleen’s quest, and the beginning of a multi-installment tale . . .
Culleen, the Quester
As I am narrator of this tale, and the Quester, best then I tell you of myself.
My name is Culleen, of the clan Callawe’en of the North. Yes, the magical, mystical North where wizards and magicians are born, where argon is mined, and all cast spells and enchantments. Within my clan, magic flows most strong, but not in my veins. Yet I look a Callawe’en – raven’s hair and sea foam green eyes. They say we came out from the sea curious of the raven’s clacking call. And, stayed mesmerized by land’s beauty and magic.
While the other children had lessons to hone their magical skills, I, the feral child, ran the woods with my constant companion, Cressenda, a wolf-dog. Dressed in my brother’s cast-off leggings, jerkins and boots, I felt a kind of freedom that even magic could not create. My two long braids flapping against my back like raven’s wings.
Please do not think too ill of my parents, abandoning me to wolf packs and the forest. No child had ever been born without a scintilla of magic, some secret, arcane, special skill. Even the most nuanced of empaths pronounced, I had none. I remember my mother turning to crystalline tears, and my father flaring up to the ceiling. I did not yet understand the implications; for the one of the most powerful line of wizards to have a normal child was scandalous, disastrous, and deemed an evil portend. The less I was seen, the less reminder of my strangeness. That a human could be born to a woman and man of magic.
And I preferred the solitary. When you are not like the others, alone is safest. Cressenda did not judge nor mock; she loved me unconditionally, and I in return. I had my great grandmother’s amulet against spells for protection. I decided that as I was more of the earth than the mystic, I would teach myself earthly ways to guard myself.
I hung about the forge at night, when the fires where soft, and the metallurgical magic workers gone for ale, bread, cheese and stories. I would go through the cast-offs, the daggers, short & long swords broken, hacked, or slackened in magic. I need not a blade that sang, nor glowed when danger was near, or other such properties. I wanted a blade with strong hilt, reasonable tang, and weight that suited my size. I found I could not hold a magic knife for long – my brothers’ short swords made my fingers tingle, and the blade go flying from my hand out into the world.
That is how I met Darwin, an apprentice forge learning to channel his metallurgical magic skills into the the swords, shields, spear tips he made. He came upon me shifting through the cast-offs when he returned to finish a rush order on a dagger than unsheathed and sheathed itself. He knew who I was – who did not – but found me not strange but unique. A Callawe’en without magic becoming a female earthly warrior.
Darwin managed to always look more serious than he actually was. It was the set of his mouth, the blackness of his eyes. Eyes that sparked when he did smile. Eyes that blazed when angered, or glowed when happy or pleased. Like those from his part of the North, he was hair was fair – almost white – and his complexion pale. We made an odd contrast in so many ways.
He forged for me, from weapons long past magic, a short sword and shield. In exchange, I took him to the Grove of the Giving Woods that he might choose a live branch to carve a staff such as I had. I knew the secrets of the forest – not magic, just the rhythm of nature, the shift of the seasons, the rising of the moons. From feral child to young woman of the forest, I grew less Callawe’en with each passing year. That is why I knew I must quest for some magic, some spark, some talisman so that I might be Callawe’en again.
The Grove was generous; enough living wood to make a traverse for Vesta, a grown pup of Cressenda’s more wolf than dog. Lashed together with leather thongs, I altered a pair of panniers to use as storage. The rest of the wood became a frame for my pack, covered in strongly- woven wool fabric, lanolined to be waterproof, and the “rubbing” spots padded with extra soft wool. What took me sweat, pricks of my fingers, and days of my time, would have been but a conjure for my brothers.
I knew Darwin wanted to join me, but Quests are best done alone. So, on the night of the Divver’s Moon, when all attention was elsewhere, I would leave by Searcher’s Gate. “To the middle,” I’d said as we shared a mug of ale in farewell. “And then where?,” Darwin asked “Which way the magic pulls.,” I said more confidently than I felt. To go out of the North to seek magic was absurd we both knew.
We stood at the gate and I embraced him as a friend before a long journey. As I pulled back, he held my arms, and brought my face close. He kissed me full hard on my lips, and in my surprise (and I expect delight), I yielded. Thus, we stood, until I broke the embrace. “I must go. You will know when I find what I seek.”
“And will you return?,” he asked.
“Will you be interested to learn if I do?” I answered. His apprenticeship almost up, he need make choices. To stay in with the forge, venture on his own or return to his peoples.
He smiled his warmest smile; the kind that lit his eyes brightest of all, “News of you, shall always interest me.”
And with a quick kiss and a wave, Vesta and I left for The Middle, wondering if we would truly see the North again.
Since a child, I have written stories in my head. Tales of to take the bitter sting out of my life. Tales of hope and promise for myself, and then, when that died, for my characters. Tales of wonder, quests, and journeys. In a kind of mythical, mystical past – an Old Ways of here, but not here. Stories existing in air only, never written, never spoken aloud. Fractured off one another, characters morph and shift. Only slowly, through blogging, have I come to make solid these stories. Most are just drafts here and there in my weblogs; a couple are more complete, polished pieces. Some I have posted.
This story combines elements from these: a quest; a misfit (tho I just “created” Culleen as a separate character last night, so the story is unpolished with little detail, description and nuance); magic or a special skill/talent; travel; Old Ways; folk tale or stylized medieval story. Not all have a hint of romance; some are more erotic.
For Tale Weaver #92: free form free flow 3.11.16 & in honour of my paternal (HSC) and maternal (WL ) grandfathers (Nov. 4 & 6) celebrating their 127th (in 2020: 131) and 139th (2020: 143rd) birthdays, and for AM & DH also celebrating birthdays this week, but who are considerably younger.
image: JW Waterhouse, “Borealis”