Thursday, 20 November 2008

Nano Modern Myth 2.6.1

The pounding rhythms of the drums beat through the clammy air, vibrating up through the floor and setting the rib-cages of the people buzzing. The sultry summer night had finally drained the last of the daylight from the sky and the whole scene was lit by the orange glow of electricity. Tom strode down the street, head down, until he came to the entrance of a small building with the sign “Undertree” pinned to the wall. The building was set at a slant on the long, snaking cobbled street, and seemed to cling to the edge, skulking in the darkness. One wall backed onto a steep drop that fell down into the slimy green river, curling its path around the building.
“Evening,” said Tom, nodding to the bouncers, hulking in the doorframe.
The powerfully built men eyed him up warily and greeted him in reply.
“It’s quiet tonight,” one of them growled in a harsh, deep voice.
Tom nodded and passed into the club.


Chris nodded and snaked his way over to the bar. The club was beginning to get slightly busier, although there was still no real queue at the bar. He came back shortly after, carrying five bottles, which he carefully dumped on their table and handed out to their recipients. He retook his seat and picked up his bottle.
“Cheers!” he said and took a swig. The rest of the table followed suit, including Tom, who only took a small drink. As he withdrew the bottle from his mouth he looked more closely at it and frowned very slightly. There was something slightly different about this bottle, he thought. There was something not quite right.
“Everything alright?” said Chris in his deep, level voice, his eyes following Tom.
“Fine, thanks,” said Tom, quickly putting the bottle down and pushing his doubts from his mind. He would need to concentrate on this next round.
They played another couple of rounds, Tom occasionally sipping on his beer. However, the longer they played the more he began to doubt his judgement. He was losing and he was finding it harder and harder to pick out the patterns of cards to make up the hands. He rubbed his forehead with one hand and was surprised when it came away sweaty. It was always hot in this club and the air was unusually moist, but this was still odd. He felt very very thirsty. He took a longer swig on his beer.
“What do you say we up the blind?” said Chris, dealing once again. “How about twenty?”
The rest of the group nodded assent and Tom seemed to feel curiously blasé about the whole thing.
They continued to play the game until Tom realised he had nothing left in his wallet.
“I seem to be out,” he said blearily, finishing the rest of his drink and slumping forward in his chair. “I’ll check.” He ran his hands over his body, searching for elusive pockets. He began pulling out assortments of pocket-fodder, including keys and receipts.
“Tell you what,” said Chris, leaning forward conspiratorially. “I’ll give you a chance to win all your money back.”
“All my money?” said Tom, blinking and trying to focus in the strangely swirling lights.
“Yes. I’ll go ‘all in’ on this hand,” he said gesturing at the cards. “In exchange for that key.” He pointed at the car-key resting on the table.
“My key?” he said blearily. “I don’t know.”
He picked up his cards and looked at them. He had the Six of Clubs and the King of Clubs. On the table were the Jack of Clubs, the Ace of Clubs and the Jack of Diamonds.
“I’m out for this round,” said Felix conspiratorially. “Would you like my advice?”
“Ok,” said Tom, swaying slightly in his seat.
Felix leaned over his shoulder and looked at the cards.
“You might get a flush,” he whispered very quietly in his ear. “You need one more club. If the next two cards are a Queen and a Ten, you might even get a straight.”
Tom nodded enthusiastically, and said, “That’s a good thing?”
“Yes,” said Felix mildly, tilting his head lightly.
“Ok,” said Tom, “I’m in.”
“Brilliant!” said Chris, rubbing his hands together. “Let’s have the final two cards dealt out then!”
The final two cards were tossed up and shown to be a Jack of Spades and a Queen of Clubs.
“So, what do you have?” said Chris, watching Tom carefully.
He threw his cards down on the table and stared at them.
“A flush of clubs,” said Felix, rearranging them for him. “Six, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.”
“A fair hand,” said Chris with a nod. He placed his own hand down and leant back in the chair.
“Full house,” said Felix, rearranging the cards. “Jacks full of Aces.”
“You lose,” said Chris, with a smile.
Tom leant sideways in his chair and kept going, until he hit the ground with a thump.
“Oh dear,” said Chris mildly. “Perhaps our friend has had too much to drink.” He picked up Tom’s keys and pocketed them, along with all his money.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Nano Modern Myth 2.5.3

This one just starts I'm afraid. The scene is: Eurig, Eluned, Felix, Tom, Cerys and Aoife (new character) are in the sitting room. Eurig and Eluned have just arrived. Euan and Callum are upstairs in their rooms.

Eurig wraps an arm around Eluned and directs her to a sofa in the corner of the room.
“Let’s sit over here, babe,” he said soothingly.
“That’s a nice necklace,” she said pointedly, staring at Cery’s neck.
Cerys reached up protectively and touched the fine-spun, heavily jewelled necklace.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied.
“She’s always wearing that necklace,” chipped in Felix. “It’s her most prized possession.”
“It is at that,” Cerys replied with a sigh.
“Not surprising given the price she paid,” Felix sniggered wickedly.
“It was a present,” she replied admonishingly. “I don’t know what it cost.”
“But that’s not really the issue, is it?” Felix said in a sing-song voice. “It’s more a question of what it cost you.”
“Oh, shush, you,” she replied irritably. “I’m going to the loo. You can pick a fight with someone else while I’m gone.”
Cerys got up and left the room.
“Yes, that’s enough, Felix,” Tom growled from his corner.
“Fine, whatever,” Eluned said, rolling her eyes. “I was only asking. Come on, Eurig, let’s go to your room.”
Eurig blushed slightly, but got up nonetheless and the two of them headed for the doorway.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” said Felix with a leer.
“And what exactly would that be?” Tom snapped at him.
“Fair point!” Felix sniggered, rubbing his hands on his thighs.
“Maybe I should go too,” said Aoife, shifting slightly uncomfortably in her seat.
“No, don’t go on his account,” said Tom, leaning forward in his chair.
“No, do stay,” said Felix quickly, “if you go I won’t have Tom’s cow-eyed expressions to entertain myself.”
Aoife blushed, looking down at her hands.
Tom spluttered incoherently.
“So what is it with you two then?” Felix continued, quirking an eyebrow. “Just fuck-buddies or are you in a proper relationship or what?”
“That’s none of your business!” Tom managed to articulate, his face flushed red.
“So you are sleeping together!” Felix exclaimed. “That would explain it.”
“Explain what?” Aoife replied sharply, narrowing her eyes.
“Oh, everything!” said Felix loftily. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep the secret.”
He tapped the side of his nose with his hand.
“But I have to tell you guys,” he continued, shaking his head. “It’s not much of a secret. Everyone knows that something is up.”
“Well everyone else shouldn’t be poking their nose into other people’s business!” said Tom hotly, shifting restlessly in his chair.
“I’m going,” said Aoife, getting to her feet. “I’ll speak to you again sometime.”
She hastened from the room.
“You’re ever so tense,” said Felix, winking at Tom.
“Are you surprised?” said Tom fretfully. “Why do you want to go messing things up between me and Aoife?”
“Whilst she does have very beautiful blonde hair,” said Felix contemplatively, “I must admit I wouldn’t have thought she was your type.”
“What do you mean by that?” said Tom tensely, a frown crossing his brow.
“I just thought you were more the other way inclined, that’s all,” said Felix loftily, swiping imaginary dust from his top.
“Leave me alone!” snapped Tom, jumping to his feet. “In fact, you can get out of my house! You don’t live here, you know!”
“Fine,” said Felix quietly. “Seems I’ve hit a nerve.”
He stalked towards Tom, paused half-way passed him and looked back. Meeting his eyes, he smiled and then winked.
“You know, there’s an offer there, if you ever want to take it,” he muttered in a deep voice.
“Just get out,” Tom snapped back, his body tense.
Felix shrugged and left the room, bumping into Cerys in the hallway.
“There’s only Tom left in there,” he said gesturing over his shoulder. “Everyone else has abandoned ship I’m afraid.”
Cerys was about to reply when there was a knock at the door. Felix strode over and opened it to reveal a tall man with short-cropped dark brown hair framing the doorway. His dark brown eyes met Felix’s pale ones and the two paused, their postures tense.
“Do I know you?” Felix asked cautiously.
“I’m here to see Eurig,” he replied in his slow, deep voice.
Cerys sprung down the hallway and peered over Felix’s shoulder.
“Ryan!” she exclaimed happily. “Come on in!”
“You know this man?” said Felix, still defensive.
“Yes, yes,” she tutted, pushing Felix aside. “Let him in, man.”
Ryan stepped into the hallway as Felix backed off.
“I’m going now anyway,” said Felix, still eyeing up the stranger.
He pushed through the doorway and slammed it shut behind him.


Eluned sighed and rolled out of the bed. She flung on Eurig’s dressing gown and picked up her clothes. She left the room and was heading towards the bathroom when another door opened and Euan stuck his head out.
“Ah, sorry Eluned,” he said, darting his eyes away, “I thought it might be Eurig.”
“No it isn’t,” she replied boldly, staring at him.
“I just wondered who was at the door. I couldn’t catch what Cerys said,” he added, still more awkwardly.
“I think she said it was a bloke called Ryan or something,” Eluned replied, shifting the weight of her clothes in her hands.
“Ah, really?” he said with a nod. “Thanks.”
“So what have you been up to all secretive?” Eluned asked, pushing towards his door and trying to look over his shoulder.
“Just some work,” said Euan, slightly alarmed.
“Work, eh?” she said doubtfully. “What kind of work?”
“Just stuff that’s part of my English degree,” he said, backing away slightly and trying desperately not to look too closely at her barely concealed nudity.
“What’s that you’ve got on your desk?” she asked, leaning so close to look past him, that the towel of her bath-robe was brushing against Euan.
He glanced over his shoulder nervously.
“A family heirloom,” he blurted suddenly, then cursed himself inwardly. “Just a book from the library.”
“Really?” she replied. “It looks very old. Is it valuable?”
He shook his head.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

NaNoWriMo - Cymru 14

Excerpts are becoming weird, now: there's so much story going on, since I've reached the point where everything's really kicking off, but I can't include it here because I've been carefully avoiding pasting plot. Anyway, here's more inconsequential stuff.


"I'm coming with you."

Awen sighed, exasperated, running her hands through her hair.

"For the millionth time," she snapped through gritted teeth, "you are not. You are staying here and enjoying your holiday with your family. Now stop bothering me, Owain, I need to go."

The Landing Tower bustled, some stable hands trying their hardest not to overhear the two Riders shouting at each other and others trying very hard to overhear unobtrusively. Except the small boy standing in Brân's now-empty stable. He was openly staring. His mouth was even open. Brân pushed at Awen's back, impatiently.

"Whatever this is," Owain said seriously, stepping closer. "Whatever Lord Flyn has you doing in Aberystwyth, it doesn't matter. If you don't want me involved, that's fine, I won't be around for those bits. But you don't have to do this alone, Awen. I'm here for you."

"Owain," Awen said. "Either construct your own sentences when you talk to me or don't bother, but this isn't some kind of play. Stop using the most clichéd phrases this side of the Wars."

"Stop avoiding the issue," Owain countered, undaunted. "Anyway, I've already saddled up Cefin, and he'll sulk if he doesn't get to go out."

"So fly him around the city a few times," Awen said irritably; but her heart wasn't in this fight. Having come back to Casnewydd she was reminded just how much she wanted to go and collapse somewhere, so even though the situation remained laughably unresolved she'd been nonetheless profoundly disappointed to be told by Lord Flyn to go back to Aberystwyth barely three hours after Lord Gwilym and Prince Lorcan to ask Lord Gwilym directly for his help. Especially since Lord Flyn could have just done it while they were still in Casnewydd, and saved Awen a lot of bother.

At the end of this, Awen swore, she was taking a year off. Or a Half at the very least.

Having Owain around would actually be unfathomably comforting, even if she didn't want him knowing what was going on. It certainly fit the bill of him behaving naturally, anyway, especially since most of the stable hands in Casnewydd were now witness to her trying to keep Owain firmly in the City.

And Lord Flyn had a living shadow. This was rather preventing Awen from making clear decisions.

"Fine," she said wearily, rubbing the heel of her hand against her eyes. "Fine. But you are doing exactly what I say throughout, understand?"

Owain grinned, and Saluted.

"Understood, Leader," he said, and vanished in the direction of Cefin's stall. And really, Awen thought as she sprang onto Brân's back, who in the name of the gods called a meraden Cefin? It was like Owain was incapable of ever making any kind of good decision. Stable hands slunk forward and buckled her harness in place for her as she tightened her reins, Brân almost dancing on the spot, and behind her she heard Cefin's hooves clipping flatly on the floor. It was an odd sound; Awen was still used to hearing the sound of battle shoes on the merod.

She trotted to the runway, although she was aiming for a walk. Bân compromised by trotting at walking speed. As she reached the start of the runway Awen glanced down at the stable hands backing away.

"When you tell everyone you've ever spoken to in your life about this argument make sure you mention how suave and attractive I was," Awen said conversationally. They had the good grace to look embarrassed at that, and slunk away again. The second they were clear, Awen loosened her grip on the reins and allowed Brân to canter and fling himself off the edge of the runway as fast as he liked. She ignored Owain's shout behind her. If he wanted to come he could bloody well keep up.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

NaNoWriMo - Cymru 13


"Good morning, Singer!"

The voice was disturbingly cheerful for how early in the morning it was, but somehow Saeran managed not to wince. Instead, she swallowed the lump of cheese in her mouth, fixed on her brightest smile and turned to face Gwyn, his cheerful grin partially obscured by his mighty red beard.

"Good morning, Sailor," Saeran returned. "Or so I presume, anyway. I haven't been outside yet." Gwyn laughed, and sauntered over to her table.

"Not a morning person?" he asked kindly, his voice pleasantly deep. He was fully dressed in sailing gear, complete with hat and scarf, which Saeran suspected meant they were going to be sailing out soon.

"Not really," she said wryly. "It's not really conducive to my lifestyle. Entertaining people lasts into the night, and I'm a soprano. I sound dreadful in the mornings."

Gwyn laughed, the sound rich and throaty.

"Ah," he said. "While I have the opposite problem. I'm at my best in the morning, just when everyone is hungover."

"Hang on," Saeran said, her brain finally catching up with her. "You dropped me off here two days ago. I thought you were leaving as soon as you'd stocked up?"

"We would have," Gwyn agreed, scratching his beard. "Funny thing, though. The winds have been all... strange lately. We thought there were too many gusts against us on the way up, but now there's a proper north wind blowing. Not like a gale or anything," he added. His bushy eyebrows were creased in perplexity. "It's just steady. And it's odd, because I met up with a friend who was sailing in from Wrecsam today, and she said that the winds along the Northland coast are mostly easterly."

"Shouldn't we have westerly winds around here?" Saeran asked, mildly alarmed. Gwyn nodded.

"Aye," he said. "But it's like it's curving around Cymru's coast at the moment, in an arc, sort of. Just gusts at first, and nothing strong, but prevailing. And it's stronger now than a couple of days ago."

So, the energy fields were out of line and now the weather was changing. An arc, Gwyn had said, but where you got arcs nine times out of ten you got circles; in which case, Cymru was at the centre of a gathering cyclone.

"Anyway," Gwyn said, waving a hand. "We were waiting for it to die down, but it hasn't, so we're braving it today before it gets unsailable. Probably a storm coming."

"Probably," Saeran smiled weakly. "Have you asked a druid?"

"Aye," Gwyn said. "Or, well, I tried. Seems finding one to talk to nowadays is harder than navigating the Archipelago, though. A storm was the general implication, though. But we're going, anyway. Thought I'd say goodbye, or see if you needed a lift."

That druid in Aberystwyth had talked to her. What was it he'd said? He was reporting what he knew to the Urdd, then going home to... Llangors. Maybe he'd talk to her again; it was always worth a try.

"I'd love one!" Saeran said enthusiastically. "Thank you. Where are you headed?"

"Abertawe," Gwyn smiled. "I couldn't say how long it'll take, mind, not with the weather all funny, but gods willing making it to Aberdaugleddau won't even take a day with the winds like this."

"Lovely." Saeran carefully wrapped up the remainder of her bread and cheese and stored it in her rations bag. "Let's go!"

As they climbed back aboard the Manawydan Saeran could feel the strange wind, mild but steady and blowing down from the north. It wasn't strictly north, actually; it felt more like it was blowing in from Ynys Môn, which was more northeast. Her scarf moved lazily in the breeze, lifting about an inch or so off her shoulder and staying there. If nothing else, that was odd; no wind should just steadily blow without stopping, in Saeran's opinion. She settled onto the sheltered seat Gwyn directed her to uneasily, and watched the seagulls ghosting inland.

Since Aberdaron was at the very tip of the Lleyn Penninsula it was in no way sheltered from the sea currents, which meant as soon as they left the wooden jetty they were straight into the stream of the wind. Gwyn remembered his promise to her, and two minutes into the voyage he called Saeran over to the mast to teach her how to run up the sail. It was harder than it looked, in Saeran's view; the canvas was heavy, both with its own weight and the added addition of the water that covered it and the massive ropes. The ropes themselves were rough and bit into Saeran's hands, reminding her none too gently that she'd been using a hoe only a few days before and her skin still hadn't forgiven her for that. Nonetheless, with a lot of help from Gwyn and a lot of encouragement from the sailors she finally got the sail securely up, and suddenly they were flying over the waves, the strange wind gently propelling them on.

"I remember my first time with a sail," an old woman said from the prow. She was clearly a seasoned sailor, Saeran noted; either that or she'd gone to great personal lengths to appear it. She was missing one eye and a leg below the right knee, and her gnarled fingers were deftly weaving a net. Saeran clambered over to her. "I was about twelve, or thereabouts. Bolshy, I was; I insisted I could do it by myself with no help. Nearly sliced my own fingers off with the pulley."

"Really?" Saeran giggled. "I'm glad I didn't. I need my fingers."

"So you do." The woman grinned, revealing a few broken teeth. It was a nice grin, slightly cheeky but kind nonetheless. "You'll play an old woman a song as she works, won't you?"

"Don't bother her, Mam," Gwyn scolded, but Saeran shook her head.

"It's fine," she said earnestly. "It's what I'm here for. I'm Saeran, by the way," she added as she pulled the harp out. The woman nodded.

"Eirian," she said. Her fingers moved astonishingly quickly over the strands of the net. Saeran wondered if she'd ever played a harp. "Let's hear the Ballad, then, girl. You can't go wrong if you start with the Ballad."

And so they sang the Ballad of Cantre'r Gwaelod, which, typically, began with everyone just joining in on the choruses and finished with everyone singing the whole thing as they dipped fishing nets over the side, scrubbed the decks, fiddled with the sails and ultimately danced a quick jig on the cabin roof. Which was fair. You couldn't go wrong if you started with the Ballad.

As it finished Gwyn called over the applause.

"We'll have to work on our song at some point, Singer," he said, coiling ropes by the cabin door. "Lovely tune, that was."

"Ah," Eirian sighed contentedly. "I always hoped he'd be a bard, you know. I do love a song. Has he been tuning?"

"Yes, on the way up," Saeran smiled. "It was lovely. We've no words to go with it, though."

"Let's hear it," said Eirian. Obligingly, Saeran stroked the harp strings back into life, and she and Gwyn hummed their way through it. Eirian nodded slowly.

"Beautiful," she said approvingly as they finished, and Saeran saw Gwyn's small smile as he got back to the ropes. "Well done! Reminded me a bit of one we used to sing when I first joined the boats, just the rhythm."

"Really?" Saeran asked, fascinated. The rhythm had come together from the boat rocking on the journey north. She wondered if Eirian's song had. "What was it like?"

"Oh, you know," Eirian shrugged, her thin shoulders rising and falling rapidly. "It was one they used to sing to new sailors. An old one. I never much cared for the tune, though. Yours is better."

"Sing it to ours, then, Mam," Gwyn said. He would have made a good bard, Saeran thought. Music was in his blood, clearly, and he was appropriately curious about new songs. Eirian chuckled.

"Aye," she said. "I suppose I could."

"Excellent!" Saeran began the introduction again. "We'll just hum the harmonies."

Saturday, 15 November 2008

NaNoWriMo - Cymru 12

Copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste...

Also, no personality for Lorcan still. None at all. Not even a gimick, look.


“So!” Marged said brightly as she starting digging through her enormous basket of knitting. As one of the top balls of wool fell it was caught in mid-air by the most psychotic-looking alley cat Gwilym had ever seen, who proceeded to tear the wool into tiny fibres. “Your first Archwiliad coming up! How exciting! Are you looking forward to it?"

"With a feeling of barely-controlled panic, yes," Gwilym mused. "I'm fairly sure I'll say something terribly wrong and get beaten up by a Rider before drinking all the mead to console myself and trying to sleep with Lady Ienifer." He glanced down at the straggly, psychotic thing on the rug nervously. "Er, should he be doing that?"

Marged glanced down. As she saw the scarred and mental animal on the rug her face lit up, and before Gwilym could protest she bent down and scooped it up, pinning it for her mighty bosom. The cat froze, apparently in shock.

“Oh, isn’t oo a sweetie?” Marged cooed. “He’s so beautiful! Who’s beautiful? You are!”

The cat turned evil yellow eyes on Gwilym and Lorcan. It felt distinctly like a never-mention-this-again threat. Gwilym stared at the ex-ball of wool and swallowed.

“Yes, he’s fine,” said Marged affectionately as she placed the cat back on the floor and turned back to her knitting basket. It fled under the nearest sofa and vanished. “Anyway, dear, you were saying about Ienifer. She'd absolutely sleep with you, you know, she never turns down a free invitation."

Lorcan almost choked. Gwilym had expected it.

"So I hear," he said mildly. "Anyway; on the subject of the Archwiliad we'd like to ask a favour."

Marged glanced up, one eyebrow raised. Gwilym shook his head.

"Nothing like that," he said. "It's innocent. Lorcan here is visiting Cymru for a reason, you see. He and my uncle are wanting to unite Erinn in much the same way that Cymru is, so Lorcan is looking at all aspects of Cymric culture to see how they could be adapted. Obviously, though, the most important part - "

"Is the Archwiliad," Marged nodded. A pair of children's socks fell out of the basket, and Gwilym found himself bracing for the cat. "Well, I can't see you being allowed in on the big decisions, but I imagine you could sit around for the boring bits. It's the same level of interaction, just about boring things. I'd be quite happy with you there!"

"Thank you," Lorcan said, and Marged shushed him.

"No, no!" she said. "It's nothing. Really, though, if you want a working system you'll need an equivalent of the Riders. You should meet some Riders. Have you met any Riders?"

"A few," Lorcan smiled, nervously. Apparently Alaw's eyes could follow you when she wasn't even there.

"He's met some of mine," Gwilym offered. "And the odd visitor. We had the Alpha Wingleader from Casnewydd the other day."

He still couldn't quite shake the memory of her, either. Maybe it had just been the contrast between her and Alaw, but Awen had stunned him.

"Meeting full Wings is a good idea," Marged nodded. "Although they vary; the Alpha Wing in Tregwylan is a bit dreadful."

“I’ve not met them yet,” Gwilym admitted. He mentally marked them as “No Fun.”

“Hardly an experience to look forward to,” Marged sniffed disdainfully. “They’re all so… stiff, you know? They don’t smile, they don’t sit down, they don’t wear their scarves. Llangefni are usually a riot, though!”

“Yes,” Gwilym said, with feeling. “I think three of our taverns had to be redecorated the next day. They sang lots of songs about mead.”

“Those are the ones!” Marged chuckled. She pulled a single green glove out of the mass of wool and regarded it sadly before searching for its mate. “I do like Llangefni. They taught me a fascinating new way to drink mead, actually, in these tiny little glasses. At the end of the evening, though, it turned out they’d been giving me brandy! What scamps, eh?”

What scamps. It truly disturbed Gwilym that they were Llangefni’s premiere defence in the instance of war; they seemed like the reject Wing, where all the Riders who’d failed at the intelligence tests had been sent on the grounds that no one cared about Llangefni.

“Have you met the full Wing from Casnewydd?” he asked cautiously. Marged straightened for a moment, looking thoughtful. The cat’s yellow eyes reappeared under the sofa like some kind of goblin.

“Casnewydd,” Marged repeated. “Once or twice, yes. They’re a bit of a mixed bunch, actually. Or is that fair? Most of them are jolly nice. I like the girl with the bird; she showed me how to fly it and all sorts! It sat on my shoulder! I didn’t sleep for a week, Gwilym, magical it was.”

The cat leaped forwards and reclaimed the remains of the wool, dragging it back under the sofa before Marged saw.

"And their Wingleader is lovely," Marged continued. "Lovely singing voice, and she was quite happy to tell jokes with me all evening. Oh, and such beautiful hair! It's a shame Riders aren't allowed to wear more colours. Although," Marged frowned, again pausing in her knitting basket overhaul. "I met her when I was visiting Casnewydd, so I met her with Flyn. He's a bit... odd around her."

"Oh?" There was always a chance it was just Marged, of course, but that sounded slightly sinister. "How so?"

"He liked it to be clear that she was sworn to him," Marged said. "Which possibly makes sense in a way, because all of my Riders tell me she's reknowned for being really very good, and when you live constantly under threat of Saxons the last thing you want is a poor Alpha Wingleader. A matter of pride for Flyn, I think. I didn't like it, though. It was like he saw her as a scarf."

"A scarf?" Gwilym echoed.

"Mind you, I think he sees everyone as scarves," Marged said diffidently. "Odd man, Flyn."

Gwilym chose not to look at the knitting needle in Marged's hair. Everyone had their own definition of odd.

"Oh, here we are!" Marged said happily. She spun around, holding up two green fingerless gloves triumphantly. Gwilym grinned, and took them from her.

“Thank you,” he said pulling one on. “You didn’t have to.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” Marged beamed, waving a hand dismissively. “You’ll be needing them this winter.” She sank into the armchair across from Gwilym’s and leaned forward, her manner theatrically conspiratorial suddenly.“Tell you what, though,” she said, her voice attempting to be low, “I never thought much of one or two of the Casnewydd Wing. That funny boy with the fringe… There was a big dinner while I was there, and they were all dressed up formally and looking lovely except him. I mean, he’d made the effort, but he’d managed to get hold of that terrible hair jelly the fishermen use, and his fringe looked like two slugs. Disgusted, I was.”

Gwilym laughed out loud. He could just imagine Marged’s reaction. The cat, startled, fled from under the sofa towards the door, pausing half-way and looking angrily at them.

“I told him he might not want to bother next time,” Marged continued. “Got all sullen, he did, face like he’d been slapped. He spent the rest of the meal telling the others what to do. I think he’s their Deputy. I didn’t like him.”

"I'll keep an eye out for him," Gwilym grinned. Marged started digging in her knitting basket again.

"So, what have you got planned for that City of yours?" she said, pulling at some red wool. "Are you ready to make your post-Archwiliad changes?"

"No," Gwilym groaned, and Lorcan laughed the laugh of someone who wasn't yet responsible for the lives of a few thousand people and didn't care. He did care, of course, but Gwilym wasn't one to waste a good moment of bitterness on trivial details. Uncaring bastard. "I don't know. I had all of my clerks do a big review for me of exactly how much tax we get and what services we offer, but there's a discrepancy somewhere, I'm sure of it. Or maybe they just really don't like my ideas for free clinics for the poor."

"I doubt they do," Marged sniffed, pulling out a pair of red gloves and handing them to Lorcan. "No, no! Don't thank me. Anyway; clerks generally think only of profits, Gwilym. They only think of poor people as a sadly necessary burden in order to get food and things. I generally find it's best to ignore them and do as you please."

Well, yes, but Caerleuad had no economy outside of what Aberystwyth gave it.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Adventures of Freya Joy Carter

Chapter 1

On a very sunny day not far from here, a little girl called Freya Joy Carter went for a walk with her mummy and daddy.

They fed the ducks, watched the swans, and went to the beach.

Freya Joy Carter dug a hole.

She dug down all afternoon, only stopping for sandwiches and a swim in the sea.

She climbed into the hole and dug even deeper. She threw the sand out of the hole. Some of it hit daddy. Daddy didn’t mind.

Just as Freya Joy Carter was about to stop digging her hole, she saw something very shiny poking out of the ground.

It was a key!
Chapter 2

Freya Joy Carter tugged at the key.

It wouldn’t move.

She pulled harder...

and harder...

and harder...

and the key came out of the ground!

There was a little letter attached to the key. Here is what the letter said:


Freya Joy Carter climbed carefully out of the hole, and showed the key to mummy.

“It must be a magic key,” said mummy. “Are you going to see if it works?”

Freya Joy Carter reached up into the sky with the key in her hands.

Nothing happened.

Freya Joy Carter was very sad. Suddenly, daddy whisked her up onto his shoulders.

“Come here, FJC,” said daddy.

Freya Joy Carter pushed the key up into the sky again.

It worked!

Chapter 3

Freya Joy Carter unlocked the sky.

The reason we can’t all walk in the sky is because it is locked to us. The lock is about six feet above the ground - a bit taller than daddy.

Freya Joy Carter climbed bravely up into the sky, and daddy handed her a warm scarf.

“Wear this,” he said. “It gets cold in the sky.” He knew he didn’t have to tell her to be careful.

A blonde seagull wearing glasses swooped down to Freya Joy Carter.

“Hello,” it said. “My name is Andy the seagull. You must be Freya Joy Carter. Would you like to come adventuring in the sky?”

“Yes, please,” said Freya Joy Carter, very politely.

The seagull looked at mummy and daddy to make sure, and they smiled.

“Tea is at 5 o-clock,” said daddy.

“Remember to say ‘thank you,’” said mummy.

“Thank you,” said Freya Joy Carter.

Andy the seagull let out a loud shriek, but Freya Joy Carter didn’t mind, because she knew this was how seagulls talked to each other.

Sure enough, soon a whole flock of seagulls appeared in the sky. Behind them they pulled a strange device. It looked like a sledge, but instead of travelling through snow, it travelled through sky. It was a pointy shape, to make it aerodynamic and easy to pull.

Andy the seagull harnessed himself to the sky chariot and Freya Joy Carter climbed carefully in.

Chapter 4

The Sky Chariot climbed higher and higher. Freya Joy Carter sat very sensibly and held on to the rail. She wasn’t frightened but it was a long way down.

In the distance, Freya could see a huge bank of clouds. As they got closer, she could see that the clouds were really a Sky Citadel.

Andy the seagull turned to her.

“We are going to show you our city; it is called Cumulus Nimbus. We named it after the clouds.”

Freya thought the cloud city was very pretty.

“Do you like the city?” asked Andy the seagull.

“Yes, it’s very pretty,” replied Freya.

The Sky Chariot swooped down into the Citadel, pulled by the flock of seagulls.

Inside the Citadel, Freya could see castles made to look like wings, and experimental modern cloud buildings in the shape of aeroplanes.

She could see seagull shops selling free range fishes in giant fish tanks, and feather grooming kits.

She could see a giant stadium where the seagulls practiced ducking and diving and wheeling and whispering.

Andy the seagull took Freya to the seagull library where all the seagull thoughts from the whole Citadel were kept. Andy’s job was to learn about all the thoughts and teach them to other seagulls so no-one had to work everything out for themselves.

Freya spent some happy time in the seagull library, but she liked the seagull stadium best.

After a while, Andy the seagull said he thought it might be time for Freya to go on a different adventure.

“Have a look at that key,” he said.

Freya was surprised to find it had a new letter attached, and this one was written in suspiciously bird-like handwriting. It said this:


Chapter 5

Freya smiled and climbed carefully back into the Sky Chariot. With a swoosh of feathers, the flock pulled the Chariot back into the sky. Freya waved as the Citadel disappeared behind them, and the seagulls in the Citadel waved back.

The Sky Chariot shot across the earth and down and down to the sea again.

Closer and closer it came.

Andy the seagull turned to Freya one last time.

“Use the key, Freya Joy Carter,” he said.

“OK,” said Freya. “Thank you,” she added.

She waited until the Chariot was almost at sea level, then got out her key.

At that moment, a black and white streak shot up from the depths of the ocean.

It was a penguin!

“Hello,” said the penguin. “My name is Pete the Penguin. You must be Freya Joy Carter. Would you like to come adventuring in the sea?”

“Yes, please,” said Freya.

“Just a minute,” said Andy the Seagull.

He gave Freya a beautiful ball.

“This ball is very strong,” he said. It is impossible to break it. This makes it very valuable, in the right hands.”

Andy the seagull gave Freya a firm handshake, fingers to feathers.

“Come on then,” said Pete the Penguin.

Pete the Penguin showed Freya where to hold on to his water-wings, and piggy-backed her all the way down into the sea.

Freya could see...

A coral reef, with a whole school of fishes living inside, nipping between the different rooms to borrow seaweed for their garden fences, and also cuttings of sea-cucumber.

A fishy highway, with thousands of fishes shooting along in all directions, being sure to look where they were going.

A fish gallery, where all the prettiest things were kept. There were shiny tapestries made from reeds, with lots of different colours woven in, and drawings of the tides.

Freya could see a very exciting looking game.

Pete the Penguin took Freya very close to the game so that she could see clearly.

She could see...

All the tallest fishes throwing a Sea Ball around, and trying to get it into a net made of seaweed. They were all riding on sea horses.

“Would you like to play?” asked Pete the Penguin.

“Oh, yes, please!” said Freya. She especially wanted to ride on a sea horse.

Pete the Penguin piggy-backed Freya down to the game. All the fishes stopped the game, and one of the team captains came to talk to her.

The team captain was a Jelly Fish named Julia. When she wanted to score a goal, she would gather the ball up into her back, then send it shooting out again.

Julia the Jelly Fish’s team wore bright orange, because this is one of the easiest colours to see under water.

“Hello”, said Julia the Jelly Fish,” my name is Julia. You must be Freya Joy Carter. Would you like to play on my team?”

“Yes, please,” answered Freya.

Julia the Jelly Fish introduced Freya to her sea horse, who was called Mittens.

Freya climbed onto the sea horse, and the game began again!

Freya raced out onto the pitch, and the water streamed out behind her. She went as fast as she could, and the sea horse turned lots of times to make sure it was an exciting ride.

Freya caught the ball when it was thrown by a nearby eel, and raced off towards the goal.

She scored 15 goals before the referee, who was a pike fish, called half time.

“Well done, Freya Joy Carter” said Julia the Jelly Fish. I think we might win the game now you have scored 15 goals for us.

Pete the Penguin looked thoughtfully at Freya.

“Yes,” he said. “You are very good at playing Water Ball. Maybe you can help us.”

“I’ll try,” replied Freya.

She said “thank you” to Julia the Jelly Fish, and then Pete the Penguin took her to the very edge of the water city.

High up above them was a gap where the air was coming in.

“My friends the fishes can’t breathe the air that is coming in,” said Pete the Penguin. “We need to block up the gap to make sure only water can come into our city. We need something very strong to hold out the air. Air is very good at finding a way in. Can you help us?”

“I’ll try,” said Freya. “I could use my special ball from the Sky Citadel to block the hole.”

Freya concentrated very hard.

She looked very carefully at the gap, and she looked very carefully at her ball. She raised her arm, and threw the ball as hard as she could.

It hit!

There was a thunk as the ball went straight into the hole, and then a sudden silence as the air stopped rushing through.

“Well done, Freya!” said Pete the Penguin. “You have blocked the hole. I am sorry you had to use your special ball. Here is a very useful piece of stone instead.”

Pete the Penguin gave her a black stone with a sharp edge.

“It may look boring,” said Pete the Penguin, “but this is a special sort of stone. It can cut through almost anything.”

“Thank you,” said Freya, and wrapped it up carefully in her scarf.

“You’re welcome,” said Pete the Penguin, “now, have another look at that key of yours.”

Freya took out the key and was not surprised to find another note attached to it, this one in very fishy handwriting.

It said this:


Chapter 6

“Would you like to visit the earth, Freya Joy Carter?” asked Pete the Penguin.

“Yes, please,” said Freya.

“Right, then!” replied Pete the Penguin, “down we go!”

Freya climbed onto the penguin’s back and gripped tight to his water wings. Pete the Penguin zoomed down deeper into the depths of the water.

Freya could see...

All the strange, darkness-dwelling fish. They peered shyly out from the lairs where they crept along the walls and whispered to each other.

“Don’t be frightened,” said Pete the Penguin.

But Freya wasn’t frightened. She was Interested.

From the penguin’s back, Freya could see the strange pilot fish with their little tiny lights, and she could see all the other fish, the kind that don’t see with their eyes at all.

“They can see using their fins,” explained Pete the Penguin. “They can feel the vibrations of other things moving in the water.”

Freya was very interested.

Freya saw the dark, willowy plants that live at the very bottom of the ocean. Some of them were as tall as trees, and Freya stretched out her hands to touch them because she wanted to see them in the same way that the dark deep fishes see.

Eventually, when they had gone so deeply into the sea that they couldn’t see the sun at all, Pete the Penguin set Freya down.

“Time you used that key,” said Pete the Penguin.

Freya nodded, and took out her key.

At that exact moment, a mole popped her head up from the earth in the bottom of the sea. She was wearing a water-proof bubble on her head.

“Hello,” said the mole, my name is Jo the Mole, You must be Freya Joy Carter. Would you like to come adventuring in the earth?”

“Yes, please,” said Freya.

Freya turned to Pete. “Thank you for my adventure,” she said.

Pete the Penguin smiled, and shook her by the hand, wing to finger.

He winked at the mole, then shot straight up from the sea bed. Freya and Jo the Mole watched until he was out of sight.

“Come along, then,” said Jo the Mole, and disappeared quickly down the hole.

Freya took one last look at the sea, then dived bravely into the hole after the mole.

The hole was velvety on the inside, and Freya slid all the way down it and landed with a soft thwump at the bottom.

She looked up and found she was in an enormous cavern!

It was lit with glowing rocks, and stretched out for miles and miles. There were lots of moles in the cavern, and they were all working together to make it strong and collect food.

But it wasn’t just moles in the cavern. As Freya sat on the ground staring about her, a giant spider ambled past!

It stopped for a moment and turned towards her. The spider smiled vaguely and then wandered on. A few moments later, it was deep in conversation with a worm.

Just then, Jo the Mole reappeared.

“Would you like to see the work we’ve been doing?” she said.

“Yes, please,” replied Freya.

Jo the Mole took Freya across to the far edge of the cavern. On the way across the cavern, Freya saw...

A chess competition between a team of stag beetles and a badger...

A team of worms who had twisted themselves into a very tight net. Freya didn’t understand why they had done this, until she saw that it was a game!

Lots of beetles had queued up to take their turn at jumping into the worm net and being bounced up to the roof and caught again...

A group of earth worms slithering around the floor of the cavern to make it smooth.

Freya and Jo the Mole reached the far end of the cavern.

“We’re making the cavern even bigger,” said Jo the Mole. “There are lots of earth creatures living here.”

Freya could see lots of moles and badgers working very hard at one section of the wall.

“We can’t get through this bit,” Jo the Mole explained, “even though our claws are very sharp.”

Freya thought for a moment, then pulled out her scarf.

She put it on the ground and unwrapped it very carefully until she reached the sharp stone she had been given by Pete the Penguin.

“Maybe you could use this,” said Freya.

Freya took the sharp stone and pushed it into the hard stone. The hard stone cracked.

Jo the Mole beamed. “Thank you, Freya Joy Carter,” she said, “I think you might have solved our problem!”

All of the moles and badgers were so pleased they could get through the wall using Freya’s sharp stone that they decided to take the rest of the day off.

They cleared away the chess to make space, and the worms untangled themselves, and the moles and the badgers took off their hard hats and put their tools away.

They got out their underground musical instruments and played their earthy songs.

Freya danced with all the beetles and the worms and the spiders.

When she was too tired to dance any more, two of the spiders made a special web-hammock for Freya.

“Thank you,” said Freya, and she climbed in and had a nap.

After a while, Jo the Mole woke her up gently.

“Freya Joy Carter,” the mole whispered, “it’s time for you to go home now, or you’ll be late for tea.”

Freya opened her eyes and climbed out of the hammock.

“This way,” said Jo the Mole.

Freya said goodbye to all the earth creatures, and followed the mole down a long, warm tunnel.

Eventually, Jo the Mole stopped, and sniffed at the ceiling.

“This is it,” she said.

Jo the Mole dug quickly straight upwards.

Freya followed her, and found herself in the sunlight again, right in her own back garden!

Freya could see mummy and daddy cooking tea through the kitchen window.

“Look at your key,” said Jo the Mole.

Freya looked for the key, and was very surprised indeed to discover that it had turned into a beautiful necklace.

“You can keep it,” said the mole.

“Thank you,” said Freya.

Mummy and daddy waved from the window. Freya and the mole waved back.

Freya turned back to the mole. “Thank you for my adventures”, she said.

Jo the Mole smiled, and shook Freya’s hand, claws to fingers. Then she disappeared back into her hole.

Freya walked back into her house. She was very hungry after all her adventures.

Luckily, it was time for tea.

This is a children's story (I hope you can tell!) I have written for my friends' baby, who has just been born. Her name is, unsurprisingly, Freya Joy Carter. :-)

Nano Modern Myth 2.5.2

Euan left the room and shortly after they heard the front door slam.
“So, while the cat’s away, the mice’ll play,” Felix said, rubbing his hands together. “What should we do now?”
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take Euan’s seat!” Eurig exclaimed, leaping up and springing into the large armchair.
“It’s a great view from that chair,” Simon said in his soft, gentle voice. “You can see the whole city from there.”
“I know,” Felix replied with a wicked grin. “It’s a great chair for spying from.”
“I wouldn’t have thought there was much to spy on,” Simon replied, a curious expression crossing his pale green eyes.
“Ooh, you’d be surprised,” Felix replied enigmatically.
“Look!” said Eurig, sitting up in the chair, “It’s that girl again!”
Felix and Simon got up and crowded over Eurig’s shoulders.
“Which girl?” Simon asked, squinting out the window.
“Down there, coming up the road,” Eurig said, gesturing at a figure climbing up the hill, her white-blonde hair a bright guiding beacon. “I’ve seen her around before.”
“She’s a bit of alright, isn’t she?” Felix leered with a wink.
“I know her!” Simon exclaimed, to the surprise of the others. “That’s Eluned. Welsh girl, if you couldn’t guess. Does Geography with me and Tom.”
“Ooh, never!” Eurig replied, his eyes fixed on the girl climbing the hill.
“You should go ask her out,” said Felix, clapping one hand on Eurig’s shoulder. “Play up to the Welsh card.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t do that,” Eurig replied with a blush. “I don’t even know her. Besides, she might already have a boyfriend and then it would just be embarrassing.”
“I don’t think she does,” Simon replied thoughtfully, running one hand through his straggly, brownish-red hair. “I could find out if you like.”
“Could you?” Eurig replied, biting his lip and fidgeting.
“You’d better get in there quickly before someone else does,” said Felix, rolling his eyes. “I’ll go ask her if you like.”
He started walking towards the door.
“No! Not you!” Eurig exclaimed sharply, jumping to his feet. “You’ll only cause trouble, you.”
“Fine, whatever,” Felix replied with a shrug. “I was just thinking that if I start heading down the hill now, I’d be able to ‘accidentally’ bump into her.”
“I suppose I could do that,” said Simon, nodding his head. “I mean, I already sort of know her. It wouldn’t be so weird for me to stop and say ‘hi’.”
“Could you do that for me?” Eurig asked, his eyes wide.
“Yeah, I reckon so,” Simon replied with a smile. “I’d better go now though.”
He headed through the door and into the hallway.
“I owe you one!” Eurig called after him, then sat back in the chair to watch the action.


Eluned stopped and sized him up, her pale grey eyes searching over him.
“Good, thanks,” she said, flicking her white-blonde hair over her shoulder. Her voice was cold, her accent high, sharp and nasal.
“I don’t see you around in so many lectures anymore,” he said playfully, with a conspiratorial smile.
“I think we’ve taken different modules this year,” she said dismissively, with a one-shouldered shrug.
“So how’s life been treating you?” he asked expansively, concealing his sinking feeling that this was not going so well.
“Same as ever,” she replied, a slight frown crossing her clear, pale skin.
Simon reached back into the dregs of his memory and pulled up a name of whom he’d heard was an ex-boyfriend.
“Still together with Ben?” he asked lightly, putting his hands in the pockets of his hoodie.
“No,” she replied suspiciously. “We split up about a year ago.”
“Oh!” he said, putting on a show of being slightly embarrassed. “Are you seeing someone else then?”
She paused, looking him up and down with a slightly calculating look.
“I’m not,” she replied eventually. “Why are you asking?”
“Just making conversation!” he replied jovially, with a defensive hand gesture. “Although…” he trailed off, not entirely sure how to proceed with his next statement.
“Look, I’m not interested in you Simon,” she said sharply. “To save you the bother of asking.”
“It’s not me!” he said rashly, taken aback. “I mean…”
“Oh, so there is someone, is there?” she said sarcastically. “Go on then, who is it?”
Simon shifted uncomfortably on the spot.
“Well, it’s just… it’s my friend, you see,” he began awkwardly. “I’ve heard him say he likes you and I just thought that, seeing as you were passing, I might just, you know, test the waters.”
“Which friend?” she replied impatiently, quirking a finely-plucked eyebrow.
“Err… Do you know Eurig?” he asked hesitantly.
“Yes I do. There’s him and his twin sister Cerys, both of them come here to do their degrees.”
Eluned paused again, narrowing her eyes thoughtfully.
“Yes, that’s him,” Simon replied faintly.
“You know, it’s funny,” she said stridently, “I always thought he was gay.”
“Really?” he replied neutrally, shifting the weight in his feet.
“Yes. You too for that matter,” she said, with a sniff.
“Well, do you want to go out with him or not?” he said, slight irritation in his tone now.
“No denials, then?” she said with a cackle. “Ok, look. He wants to ask me out he can damn well call me himself.”
“He doesn’t have your number,” Simon replied quickly.
“God, a man who doesn’t have my number,” she said with a shake of her head, “now there’s a shocker.”
“Why not just meet up with him, say, Friday at 8? In the Union Bar?” said Simon, irritation definitely evident in his tone.
“The Union Bar? Screw that,” she replied loftily. “If I’m going on a blind date he can take me somewhere nice. And he can pay.”

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Nano Modern Myth 2.5.1

Five cool-points to whomsoever first tells me which myth this was lifted from.

Matt entered the small, narrow hallway, with its dark tiles and orangey-red walls. There were piles of papers and miscellaneous stuff stacked everywhere. It looked typically studenty. There was even a bike propped against the wall.
“It’s through in the kitchen,” Euan said, following along behind him.
Gathered around the kitchen table Felix, Callum and Cerys were sitting and chatting. They paused when Euan and Matt came in.
“This is Matt Smith,” said Euan, with a gesture, “He’s come about the boiler.”
“Ooh, good,” said Cerys with a slight shiver, “It’s getting very cold in here!”
“We wouldn’t want that,” said Matt with a smile.
Cerys shook her head and smiled.
“We’ll go through into the sitting room,” said Callum, getting up, “It’ll give you some space to work.”
The three of them got up and shuffled round to the doorway. Matt stepped back to let them pass.
“So what’s up with this boiler then?” asked Matt, going to take a look at the device.
“I’m not sure. We don’t get hot water and none of the radiators work. It’s been like this since yesterday,” said Euan thoughtfully.
“Ok, well I’ll get on and have a look at it,” said Matt with a nod.
“Ok, I’ll be in the sitting room if you need me,” said Euan and wandered away.
He found Callum, Cerys and Felix lounging around the sitting room, all of them looking fairly pale and tired.
“How’re the hangovers?” Euan asked, trailing into the room and flopping down into an empty chair.
“Sore,” replied Callum, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “That’ll teach us for trying to ‘drink ourselves warm’ yesterday.”


“Can I get you a cup of tea?” Felix asked, gesturing at the kettle.
“That’d be grand, thanks,” Matt replied with a grin.
Felix started to prepare the tea-making equipment.
“You don’t live here, do you?” Matt asked, glancing over at Felix.
“No, just visiting,” Felix replied with a shrug. “As is Cerys.”
“That’d be the blond girl?” Matt asked curiously.
“That’s the one,” said Felix with a slightly insidious smile.
“Girlfriend is she?” Matt asked with forced nonchalance.
“No, no,” said Felix seriously, “She’s single at the moment. On the look-out though.”
Matt grunted and allowed himself a small smile.
“Here’s your tea,” said Felix, handing the steaming mug to Matt.
“Don’t suppose you have her number, do you?” Matt asked, blowing the heat off the top layer of his drink.


“Made a deal with Matt to get the boiler fixed before twelve o’clock,” said Felix with a grin.
“What kind of deal?” said Euan suspiciously.
“Said I’d let him have Cerys’s number if he got the job done in time,” said Felix, with a glimmer in his eyes.
“You did what?” said Cerys, sitting bolt upright. “I can’t believe you did that! I don’t want to go out with Matt! And you can’t just go giving my number away to any old person!”
“It’s not any old person,” said Felix with a shrug. “It’s Matt. The man who fixes the boiler.”
“Look, boy,” said Cerys, standing up and putting her hands on her hips. “You go back in there and sort this mess out right now, you hear? I’m not having any blind dates with any strange men, ok?”
“Can’t do that,” said Felix. “He might not want to fix the boiler if I tell him that.”
“Then find some other way to fix it!” said Cerys. “But I repeat, you are NOT to give my number to Matt the boiler man! Ok?”


“It’s nearly five to twelve now and he’s still not back!” Cerys muttered anxiously.
Suddenly they heard the sound of running footsteps down the corridor and the front door slam. Felix meandered into the room.
“What happened?” Cerys demanded.
“Was that Matt?” asked Euan. “Has he fixed our heating?”
“Calm down, people,” said Felix, holding up his hands. “Our problem is solved.”
“What did you do?” Callum asked in wonderment.
“I told Matt that I saw a man drive off in a white van just like his one, not twenty minutes ago,” replied Felix innocently. “He’s just gone to check.”
“His van?” said Euan, widening his eyes. “You’ve not gone and done something to his van, have you?”
“I’ve relocated it to a more convenient location,” he replied loftily.
“And how on Earth did you manage that?” said Cerys loudly.
“He doesn’t lock his van and hot-wiring a piece of junk like that is child’s play.” Felix shrugged and grinned.
“Gods!” exclaimed Euan, “We’re in for it now. Please tell me he’d fixed the boiler before he left?”
“Of course not,” said Felix, shaking his head. “I had to get him out of the house before he won the bet.”
Callum groaned.
“You idiot!” said Euan. “Now what are we going to do for heat?
“You should have just left well alone,” said Cerys, shaking her head.
“Some thanks, I get,” Felix replied. “I’m off anyway. Things are starting to heat up around here. And I’m not talking about the temperature!”
With that, he swanned out of the room and they heard the front door slam.
“I can’t believe he did that,” Callum muttered.
“At least he didn’t give my number away,” said Cerys. “I’ve had enough creeps with my number, thank you very much.”
They heard a knock at the front door.
“I’ll go,” said Euan with a sigh.
He opened the front door to reveal Matt standing there, very red in the face.
“Now I don’t know who it is has been playing silly-buggers with my van,” he spat at Euan. “But I’m taking my stuff and getting the hell out of here. You can fix your own damn boiler.”

Nano Modern Myth 2.4.3

“Yes?” the clear, business-like voice of the receptionist cut across his meandering thoughts.
“I’m here to visit Michael Caswell. Could you tell me which room he’s in please?” Euan asked politely, with a pleasant smile.
The receptionist met his eyes and did an almost imperceptible double-take. It was only really noticeable if you were looking for it, or if you were expecting it, which Euan had come to. She blinked and looked away, focusing on her computer screen and started to rapidly type in the search criteria.
“Mr Caswell is in Room 4D, in the ‘Gradilsgy Wing.’ Do you need directions?” she asked promptly, her fingers hovering over the keys.
“No thank you,” said Euan, shaking his head. “I know my way around.”
He walked away from the reception and headed down the familiar corridors. The white walls, the long glaring strip lights and the squeaky smell of disinfectant, triggering hosts of memories that probed at his mind. It was very quiet in here today. He was the only one walking down this corridor and the only distinct sound was that of his feet tapping out a beat on the floor. He reached the elevators and pressed the ‘Up’ button. One of the elevators opened immediately and Euan stepped inside, turning to press the button for the fourth floor.


“Hello Mike,” he said approaching the bed in the middle of the room, without looking directly at its occupant. “It’s me, Euan.”
Mike turned his head and looked at Euan.
“Yes,” he replied, slightly sarcastically. “I can still see you know.”
“Touché,” said Euan, with a slightly twisted smile. He looked Mike in the eye, who stared straight back, unflinchingly.
“Go on, then,” said Mike, turning his head slightly, “Take a seat.”
Euan dragged a chair up close to the bed and sat down.
“So, how are things?” Mike asked. “Seen much of the others yet?”
Euan shook his head.
“No. We’re all coming down this week though. You know, getting our stuff moved in ready for the next term,” replied Euan, slightly awkwardly.
Mike nodded his head fractionally.
“Who did you get to take my place in the end?” he enquired slightly icily.
“Well, Eurig said he’d come live in our house and Penny and Cerys have found someone new for their house,” said Euan, blushing slightly. “It’s just so we can afford the rent you know.”
“I know,” he replied slightly waspishly, then sighed. “I get these moods sometimes these days. I don’t seem to have any control over them.”
Euan nodded, not sure exactly what to say.
“So, who’s moving in with Penny and Cerys? Just three in their house, wasn’t it?” Mike asked, his tone lighter.
“Do you know Aoife?” said Euan, relaxing a little.
“Not very well,” Mike replied thoughtfully, “Long blonde hair? Quite tall? Very Irish?”
“That’s the one,” Euan said with a smile.
“I bet you Tom’s pleased,” said Mike with a quirky smile, “He’s had his eyes on her for ages.”
Euan laughed.
“Yeah, he’s trying to hide it though,” he said with a grin, “But Tom is terrible at disguising or pretending.”


“They tell me it’s my fourth cervical vertebrae,” Mike continued, looking up at the ceiling.
“What does that mean?” Euan asked, after a long pause had stretched out between them.
Mike looked back across at Euan.
“It means that if I’d damaged my third cervical vertebrae, I probably wouldn’t be able to breathe. Small mercies, eh?” he said in an ironically playful tone.
“Christ!” Euan exclaimed, exhaling sharply.
“I know,” Mike said, shaking his head.
There was another protracted silence between them.
“But is there any chance, you know, of recovery?” said Euan, cutting into the silence.
“Yes, some ridiculously small odds of some sort,” Mike replied. “I may be able to have more mobility in my head some day, possibly even feel my chest or shoulders.”
“I’m sorry,” said Euan, shifting awkwardly in his seat.
“Don’t be sorry, I find arms and legs to be vastly overrated items. I’m not dead am I? I could have been dead,” said Mike, once again in a mock-playful tone.
Euan smiled and the two of them fell once again into silence.
“Isn’t there some small part of you that would rather be?” said Euan in a rush, twisting his hands in his lap and looking away. There. He’d done it. He’d asked the question.
“No,” said Mike firmly, then paused and bit his bottom lip. He then continued, “Well, probably yes. But I’ve been given free entry into next summer’s exams, so I can pick up where I left off.”
“You’re still going to do your exams?” Euan exclaimed incredulously.
“Of course! Stressful little buggers that they are,” said Mike with a smile, “I could be the next Stephen Hawking, you never know. Plus, I thought I’d better jump in with that comparison before anyone else got there before me.”
Euan laughed.
“How’s Felix doing?” Mike asked suddenly, a slight frown creasing his forehead.
Euan gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes.
“I don’t know. No-one’s talked to him since…” he broke off.
“Don’t,” said Mike firmly, trying to fix his gaze on Euan’s. “Don’t push him out and ignore him for my sake. It wasn’t his fault.”
“But if he hadn’t said what he did…” Euan began incredulously.
“I don’t care,” said Mike seriously. “Look, he played a stupid prank and there’s the end of it. If it’s going to be anyone’s fault, it’s going to be either mine, for not looking where I was going, or that van, for going through the red light.”
“I don’t know if the others will see it like that,” said Euan, shaking his head.
“Well, tell them that I don’t want them to blame him, ok?” said Mike firmly. “Tell them I’ll be very upset if I hear about them picking on him on my account.”
“I will do,” Euan replied with a shrug. “Some of them will come round. But I don’t think Tom will.”
“No, well, I don’t think Tom needs an excuse to hate Felix,” said Mike with a roll of his eyes.


“Are you still going to focus on that epic poem?” Mike asked.
“Yes. I think so. It’s really beautiful. I’ll have to read it to you sometime,” said Euan, a dreamy expression crossing his face.
“I’d like that,” said Mike with a smile. “You’ll have to come visit me in my new place.”
“New place?” said Euan curiously.
“Yes,” said Mike with a smile. “I’m moving into a care home for a while. It’s an unfortunate aspect of my condition that I need full-time care.”
Euan bowed his head and could not meet Mike’s eyes.
Mike smiled and then continued, “There’s a place called Wellsend about twenty miles from here. It’s near to my family and I’ll be looked after without having to be a burden on anyone I know.”
“I’ll definitely come visit you sometime,” said Euan, nodding his head assertively. “You’ll have to let me know the address.”
“Take the leaflet,” said Mike, his eyes pointing out a stack of paper on the bedside table. “It’s not like I can pick it up whenever I like.”
Euan stretched out a hand and picked up the leaflet. There was a picture of a long driveway, lined by silvery ash-trees, leading up to a smart old building. At the top of the leaflet was “Wellsend Community Care Home.”

Nano Modern Myth 2.4.2

Euan continued packing things into his rucksack, taking down the array of “Get Well Soon!” cards littering the surfaces of the room. The bright sunlight poured through the large double window, illuminating the white room with streaks of gold.
He picked up a small vanity mirror that had been left on the side table and looked at his reflection. He still found it strange to try and focus with only one eye. His depth perception just wasn’t what it was. He could see his face, paler now and less swollen than it had been. The scratches from the glass were now thin red lines criss-crossing his face, giving him what Penny described as a ‘raffish charm’. He looked into his good eye, which to him still looked slightly odd and blood-shot. He could not see the bad eye. The hard plastic eye cover was still taped over it, blocking any chance of vision from that side.

“So when are you getting out of here?” Tom asked, leaning against the window frame.
“Tomorrow, hopefully,” Euan replied.
“Ooh, brilliant!” said Cerys, rubbing her hands together. “The sooner the better, isn’t that right?”
“You’re right about that,” Euan replied with a smile.
“Have you seen much of Mike?” Callum asked, his earnest eyes meeting Euan’s.
“No,” Euan shook his head. “He’s still too ill to receive visitors.”
“It’s good to see you,” Penny said, pushing her way over to Euan and giving him a hug.
“Yes, and you,” he replied, hugging her back.
“You’re looking so much better from the last time we came,” said Eurig flamboyantly, jumping onto the end of Euan’s bed and crossing his legs.
“This eye is a lot better,” said Euan gesturing to the left one, “I can see so much more clearly out of it.”
“That’s good news,” Tom stated, with a firm nod.
“So, what’s been happening in the outside world?” Euan asked with a smile.
“Nothing much,” Cerys replied with a shrug.
“Just finishing up the last exams really,” said Callum, looking thoughtful.
“What are they going to do about your exams?” Tom asked, his expression concerned.
“They’re letting me take the re-sits in August, but with full credit,” said Euan. “I was surprised because I thought they were going to make me retake the entire year.”
“That’s great!” said Eurig with a broad smile.
“Yes, I’m very pleased,” said Euan with a matching smile.
“You know we haven’t seen anything of Felix since that day,” said Callum solemnly, “He’s keeping a very low profile.”
“And well he might!” exclaimed Tom fiercely.
“He’s not exactly popular at the moment,” Penny muttered.

NaNoWriMo - Cymru 11

This excerpt is very similar to the last one, methinks, but that's because the rest of this chapter is otherwise all plot-based fun and games, and I'm trying not to go giving too much plot away, especially for things I've not posted the set-up for. Anyway, though. Have some more of the same.


Night was fast approaching as Dylan finally made his way into Glyncorrwg, the river beside the road unusually swollen for this time of year with the meltwater coming down from the Bannau. It was the last outpost before the Bannau, really; the village itself was elegantly huddled into the foothills, a network of houses, taverns, schools and temple sites threaded through with roads that led between the mountains, following the valley floors. Lone farmhouses stood on the hills, and if Dylan squinted against the dusk he could just about make out a few hafod buildings up on the mountains themselves. The wind was blowing the wrong way, he realised as he passed the first few houses. It should have been blowing up the valley from Cymer and beyond, towards the Bannau; instead it blew down from the mountains to the north-east, random gusts that froze and blew the drooping leaves on the trees into a brief, ecstatic frenzy. Shutters on windows were all bolted shut here, and what could well have been every branch of every hawthorn tree had been nailed over every door and window. As Dylan passed Glyncorrwg's Twmpath Chwarae he glanced at the maypole and stopped dead, staring at it. The ribbons hung from it in tatters, blowing in the irregular gusts of wind like broken fingers, reaching desperately for something that wasn't there.

Glyncorrwg was wrong. Not in such an unyieldingly broken way as Llangors, maybe, but in a way that was almost worse, a deeply horrifying edge to everything. Dylan could almost taste the presence of something underlying the world, but he resisted the urge to try and feel for it. The way things were going at the moment it would be just his luck to make things worse than they already were, and every time he tried to use the pendant he seemed to do just that. It gave him a headache and left him with his vision swimming. He needed more information.

Inns, Dylan was quickly coming to learn, were really the central hub of any community for news, so he made a beeline for the first one he saw, a rough-hewn stone building with an ominously creaking sign over the door that screamed in the wind. Cautiously he tried the door handle. It was locked.

He was going to write it off and move on to the next one, but there was the sudden sound of a key being hastily scraped in a keyhole and then Dylan was, for the second time in his life, nose-to-tip with a crossbow bolt. This one was held by a man who could have been in his fifties but looked older, his eyes wide and staring and three days of stubble covering his chin, clothes stained and filthy. He was shaking, Dylan noted absently in the part of his brain still capable of absorbing details from the outside world. The crossbow was waving in front of Dylan's face wildly, swinging back and forth. The man's breathing was laboured, breath catching in his throat on every exhalation. He was crying, Dylan's brain saw. Well, that was fair. If he didn't lower that crossbow Dylan would be in a minute, too.

"Not..." the man said, staring. "You're not... you're..."

"I'm here to help," Dylan said, his voice sounding remarkably calm to the functioning part of his brain. "My name is Dylan; I'm a druid. I've been sent to find out what's going on, and help if I can."

Why wasn't he this eloquent the rest of the time? Although Dylan supposed he shouldn't complain. Staring death in the face was a superb situation to find hitherto unknown prolixity.

"To help," the man repeated. The crossbow waivered, lowering to the area of Dylan's stomach and groin. It wasn't much better. "You've come... to help..."

"Then get him in!" A voice snarled tightly from inside the building, and a grey-haired woman with grey eyes and a grey, faded dress shoved the man aside. "He mustn't stay out! In, Derwydd, quickly! The night is coming!"

And Dylan was hauled into the building, the door slammed and bolted behind him against the gathering winds. The inside was blazingly bright, and it took him a few seconds of rapid blinking to accustom his eyes to the light before he realised why.

About twenty people were crammed into the inn, on chairs, wooden crates and, in a few cases, the floor. Candles covered every other available space, transforming the tavern into a glittering jewel of light from every angle that illuminated every surface until there were no shadows left in there. The fire roared fiercely, but no one sat beside it; in fact the fire guard had been erected a good two metres away, and no one crossed the barrier. More hawthorn was attached to the chimney, petals wilting in the heat. Twenty pairs of eyes were staring at him.

Dylan turned back to the woman who'd pulled him in, now gently taking the crossbow from the man's hands.

"My name's Dylan," he said, hoping to set off a helpful chain reaction of introductions. Mercifully, it worked; she nodded at him, and put the crossbow aside.

"Alis," she said tightly, pushing the man onto a tall stool by the bar. "This is my son, Ianto. We run this inn."

"I know this isn't going to be easy to answer," Dylan said awkwardly, "but I need to ask -"

"What's happened to us?" Alis broke in. She walked around the bar and poured out a tankard of mead, sliding it across the bartop to him. "Aye. I'll tell you Derwydd. Sit yourself down first."

"Thank you," he said quietly. Apparently he was still the most interesting thing in the room because twenty pairs of eyes still watched him, but the novelty had already worn off for the more desperate people present if the quiet whimpering from the corner was anything to go by. Carefully he pulled out a spare stool from the bar and settled, sipping the mead. It tasted wrong.

"Where to start?" Alis murmured as she busied herself behind the bar. "Well, it was Noson Calan Mai, I suppose. We saw the ceremony in Port Talbot, Derwydd. No dead came through. Very strange. And that weather! Snow up on the Bannau. We had to bring the sheep down."

Dylan said nothing. It seemed Alis just needed to talk, so he forebore trying to steer her. And any detail could be important, of course.

"Calan Mai itself, we danced around the maypole and sang as usual except Dai and Bryn went up the hafod to bring the sheep down." Alis had found a bowl and a bread roll, and seemed to be ladling stew into it for him. "Bryn came back down. Dai didn't, and Bryn hasn't spoken since."

She put the bowl in front of him, not hearing his thanks.

"That was the start, I think. I think it was, even though it was day. And then the night came, and the shadows."

The wind howled at the shutters, making the candles flicker. A woman in the corner quietly put her hands over her ears and rocked on her chair, humming to herself. Others looked nervously at the windows.

"The shadows move now," Alis said, fixing him unnervingly with her grey gaze. "They dance by themselves, and they do things. They steal food from the kitchens, and kill the livestock and break things. Did you see the maypole, Derwydd? It was like that by the morning. They hide in the shadows, so you can't always see them. Only in bright moonlight, and the half-light between dusk and dawn."

"Tell him the rest," Inato said dully. "Tell him all of it. Tell him about Betsan, last night."

"Betsan was my grand daughter," Alis said, busy again as she tried to clean the already clean tankards and things. "She was twenty years old last night, and in labour with her first child. I was going to be a great-grandmother. It would have been such an honour..."

"What happened?" Dylan asked, horror rising in his throat. Belatedly he remembered the woman in Cymer, screaming about the children as the innkeeper had forced the flagon between her lips. In the name of the gods, what were these things doing?

"She's gone," Ianto said, his throat tight with barely-controlled hysteria. "She's gone, Derwydd, snatched by them, child and all. We'd gone out to give her rest and suddenly she was screaming, and we ran back in and Betsan wasn't Betsan anymore."

"She wasn't - ?" Dylan tried to grasp the meaning behind that. "What do you mean?"

"There was a thing in the bed instead of her," Ianto said, tears starting down his cheeks. "A thing made of flesh with her clothes, but it wasn't her. Its face was wrong, like it had been drawn on in charcoal, and it laughed and laughed and laughed - "

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

NaNoWriMo - Cymru 10


To Saeran's surprise, there was a Rider sitting at the bar, nursing a tankard of something in one hand and staring down into it, apparently lost in thought. Her face from this angle was mostly hidden behind the wall of long hair, dark auburn that glimmered gold in the candlelight and fell to her elbows, worn in the elaborately plaited style most Riders favoured. She was a Southlander, it looked like; as Saeran neared she did a double-take as she saw the insignias on her shoulders, partly hidden under her hair.

She was an Alpha Wingleader. Just casually sitting in a Northlander City inn, alone, having a drink. Saeran edged closer to check the liveries. It was Casnewydd as far as she could tell. So not just a Southlander; this Rider was a Border Southlander sitting in an inn at the opposite end of the country, as far from home as she could be without flying out to the Archipelago.

Was that what it meant? The Rider of the land? Maybe this was her. Well, Saeran reasoned, if nothing else she could make a new friend. It was lovely making new friends.

"Good evening, Rider," she said pleasantly as she slid onto the stool beside her. The Rider stirred and looked up, fixing Saeran with a pair of dark green eyes that contined the strangest expression she'd ever seen. She looked young; about Saeran's age, maybe, although you could never tell with Riders. She smiled after the briefest moment of what was probably assesment and looked back at her drink.

"Good evening, Singer," she responded, and Saeran wondered what her singing voice would be like. It was deep and fluid, rich and lilting. Her accent was Casnewydd, though, which was a shame. "Are you playing tonight?"

"I certainly hope so," Saeran laughed. "I'd be a poor bard if not. Just water, please," she added to the barman as he crossed to them.

There was a pause as Saeran accepted her water and the barman refilled the Rider's tankard before bustling away. Saeran wondered what to say next that wouldn't be too intrusive when the Rider spoke and saved her the bother.

"Where safer than by a Rider?" she smiled wryly, glancing at the instrument in its case that Saeran had automatically put between their stools. "I learned to play a harp, once. My Father was a bard before he met my Mother."

"Good for him!" Saeran said enthusiastically. "Does he still play?"

"I've no idea," the Rider confessed. "I don't see them often."

It was a curious statement, simply for the sadness inherent in it. For an Alpha Wingleader to be this far from home - especially from the Border - she had to be on leave. So why wasn't she with her family? Why was she sitting in an inn in Aberdaron?

"What did he teach you?" Saeran asked. The Rider smiled.

"Some incredibly basic chord sequences for the Ballad," she said reminiscently. "Some love song or other that was bloody depressing and no one liked. A couple of eulogies... oh, and a weird one about shadows that used to scare me as a child."

Saeran pulled the harp up and out of its bag as she spoke, carefully checking the tuning.

"Scare you?" she said. The Rider laughed.

"Yes," she said drily. "Me, a Rider, being scared. It happens, you know."

"I always rather assumed you were hewn out of the ground at some rockface somewhere," Saeran said, mock-wonder in her voice. "I'm Saeran, by the way."

The Rider looked up, and again Saeran was struck by the odd expression. It was a searching look, as though she didn't look at things so much as she watched them; a hunter waiting to see her prey move.

"Awen," she said. "It's nice to meet you, Saeran. Not many people casually try to talk to me nowadays."

"Oh, that's because you're incredibly intimidating," Saeran said, waving a hand. Awen chuckled. "To be honest, though, you look like you need cheering up."

"Ah." Awen drained the mead in her tankard. "You're right, there. What have you got?"

"A harp," Saeran said decisively. "And I know Music."

"Astounding," Awen said mildly. "It's like you're a bard or something."

"Isn't it?" Saeran grinned happily. "Show me the chords, though."

Awen snorted but took the harp gently. It was strange, Saeran thought, to see it being held so delicately by hands that were much more used to gripping swords and reins, the callouses and network of scars over Awen's flesh standing testament to her violent occupation. She held the harp correctly, though, and her long fingers bent elegantly to the strings.

The chords themselves were clever, easily-played simplified versions of the official rendition. Awen played them confidently, her sense of rhythm satisfyingly strong. Saeran found herself approving of this unnamed Father. He'd taught her very well.

As Awen finished both Saeran and the bartender clapped. She smiled and shook her head, the Rider beads in her hair swaying and clicking against the bar top as she did, and held the harp back out to Saeran.

"Easy version," she said. "And now I shall return this to you so as not to show myself up any further in a field I have no profficiency in."

"I liked it!" Saeran said enthusiastically. "It's a good version, actually. Your Father must be good."

"He certainly was once upon a time," Awen mused. "I don't know. Is it a skill that stays with you?"

"I like to think so," Saeran nodded. "What's his name? I may have heard of him."

"Rhydian ap Gwynfor," Awen said. Saeran felt her jaw drop to her knees.

"Seriously?" she asked. "He's a legend in bardic circles! The first tune I ever learned was composed by him!"

"Me too," Awen said. "Although, you know, that's more expected in my case, I suppose."

Of course, Rhydian ap Gwynfor was a legend for more than just his tuning prowess. Saeran bit her lip. What had Awen said he'd taught her? A depressing love song? Some eulogies? And a song about shadows that had scared even a Rider.

"The depressing love-song he taught you," Saeran asked as casually as she could. "I don't suppose you remember the names of the people in it?"

"Oh, gods." Awen stared into her tankard for a moment. "Now you're asking. Something monosyllabic, I think. Pedr? And... Mair. Maybe."

Saeran's mind reeled at the coincidence. Pedr and Mair? It had taken her the better part of a year to piece that one together, and here sat this Southlander Rider in an inn in Aberdaron who just casually knew the damn thing from her Father.

But that was the point, wasn't it? Rhydian ap Gwynfor was a legend. He knew exactly what he was doing. Riders weren't just given to any old families to be raised; the potential Parents had to meet strict requirements and then volunteer their services. He'd Fathered a Rider and taught her all the right songs, knowing she would come to this moment.

Awen was watching her. Saeran smiled.

"I know that one," she said weakly. "Not many do, though. What else did you say he taught you?"

"Three eulogies and a creepy song about shadows," Awen said, and stopped the barkeeper with a hand over her tankard. "Singer, might I drag you out on a walk?"

"Of course," Saeran said. It was terrifying. It wasn't like she could have said no; suddenly she was painfully aware that she'd just been pumping a Rider for information. Covert information. From a woman born and trained to hunt down potential conspirators against the country. And, lest anyone forget, to kill people.

Awen drained the tankard and stood, passing a few coins over to the barkeeper as Saeran replaced the harp in its case. Awen waited patiently as she did, and then led them both out of the inn door, her stride free of the nerves that Saeran felt. Outside the world had turned to night, the stars covering the sky like dandelion seeds over a field and a nearly-full moon illuminating the buildings around them. It was cooler now and Saeran shivered slightly, the harp nestling into her back as she hurried to keep up with Awen's much longer stride. They walked along the houses to the sea front, turning at the harbour to get down to the beach. Awen said nothing as they walked, her face hidden in the dark.

They stopped in the middle of the beach near the water's edge, where Awen turned to face Saeran and the City behind her. It was an odd position, or so Saeran thought at first; if one wanted to make sure no one could overhear she'd have thought the end of the beach by the rocks might be better, but actually the beach was exposed enough that anyone close enough to hear would be close enough to see, and Awen was watching for it.

"So," she said to Saeran conversationally. "I'm going to stand here quietly as you explain what that was about."

"That could take a while," Saeran smiled nervously. "What do you know about Cantre'r Gwaelod?"

The question apparently threw her slightly, although since she was a Rider she was thrown in a suave, warrior-like way that merely caused her to raise an eyebrow.

"Cantre'r Gwaelod?" she repeated. "The same as everyone else, I should think. It was a druidic civilisation that formed the template for modern Cymric society until it fell."

"Yes," Saeran said quietly. "It's how it fell, though."

"It flooded."

"And none of the druids stopped it."

The wind blew, mingling with the cries of the oystercatchers. Awen closed her eyes and ran one hand through her hair wearily.

"Go on," she said through gritted teeth. It probably wasn't a good sign; she didn't seem to be taking the news well.

"It was forseen," Saeran said. "I should mention here that it's all top secret, incidentally. Anyway; they saw it coming, in the final Ysbrydnos before the Sea. It, and all the things they had to do afterwards. I don't know why, yet, but they didn't stop it happening because they knew they weren't to do so."

"They just... let it happen?" Awen's eyes were wide and disbelieving in the moonlight. Saeran shook her head.

"No," she said. "They planned for it. The Archipelago exists now because of it, the Cities weren't raised before. They were flat, on the same level as the surrounding lands. As far as I can tell the people were all sent to the Cities when the storm hit, the Cities were raised up and the rest of the land drowned."

Awen seemed lost in thought for a moment, digesting that.

"So how do you know?" she asked inevitably. "If this is all secret how do you know all of this?"

"There are records," Saeran sighed. "But they're hidden. You have to look to see the patterns but they're there, hidden in all of the really old songs. And not just about what happened to Cantre'r Gwaelod." She paused, twisting her hands nervously. It was a safe bet that Awen was really going to hate this part, although potentially not as much as she would hate being kept waiting, so it was probably for the best if she just dived straight in. "About what's happening now, and what's going to happen soon. Things are happening, Awen. Things are going wrong."

Awen stared at her, expression sharp, and Saeran wondered if she believed her.

"What things?" she asked, voice low.

"Have you spoken to any druids lately?" Saeran asked. "Although they won't admit it all; the magic is failing."


"Unseasonably cold for this time of year, isn't it?" Saeran said. "Something happened on the Ysbrydnos, and now the energy fields are going haywire. I met a druid in Aberystwyth with full sensory perception who was on his way to the Urdd; they had no idea what was happening. The day before I finally managed to piece together the last lines of Pedr and Mair. They fortell the magic failing."

"How," Awen asked slowly, "is it even remotely possible I didn't know about that?"

"I couldn't say, actually," Saeran admitted. "You'd have to ask the druids. They really should have told the Union. Maybe they're trying to work it out."

Awen pinched the bridge of her nose.

"What else?" she asked. "What else is happening? Or will happen."

"You," Saeran said. "I think. You're important. And possibly me, but you more. I think you're the Rider of the land."

"The what?" Awen asked, slightly blankly.

"The Rider of the Land," Saeran repeated. "I'm not a hundred percent sure what that means, mind, but I'm going to assume you have some deep connection to the country. But, you're also the only person below seventy I've ever met who knew Pedr and Mair, and it was taught to you by a man I know saw a lot of these patterns himself once. You're important."

Awen looked away, and Saeran was uncomfortably aware that she was probably changing her relationship with her Father.

"For it to be hidden like this," Awen said eventually, "there has to be a reason. Someone it's hidden from, for example."

"Yes," Saeran agreed. "I expect so."

Awen swore, the vicious kind of word that only those who regularly risked their lives on frontlines knew. Saeran smiled wryly. It was like seeing her brothers again.

"He taught you some very specific songs, Rider," she said gently. "I doubt the others aren't significant."

"If those bloody shadows are important," Awen muttered, and sighed.

"The darkness comes before the light
Returns to darkness once again;
The circle spirals ever on
The river ever runs to rain.
The balances are ever kept,
The links ever forged anew;
Though absent light is present shadow
Light's own shadow is light too.

Beware the children who are lost
To darkness irretrieveably;
Their shadows hiss and whisper and
Writhe so inconceiveably.
Their circles have been broken down,
Their souls entombed in shadow cloaks
Whose yearning, burning hunger feeds
And forms inescapable yokes.

Beware those living shadows, who
Whisper in the darkest hours
With clever tongues and clever minds
Ideas that ever overpower.
Beware that rustling darkness, that
Watches all without need for eyes
That feasts its myriad teeth upon
Souls born and raised on lies.

Beware their spread, their corruptive reach,
Their rise to greater prominence.
Beware; they bring the country's fall to
Darkness and pestilence.
Beware the shadow fingers sinking
In, creating people magnified;
But mostly, beware their effigies
And wish, oh wish that they had died."

"Wow," Saeran breathed, absorbing the lyrics. "I can see why you didn't like it."

"It's worse if you sing it," Awen said distantly. "Really worse. It's creepy enough as a poem, but I think I was about fourteen before I stopped having nightmares about the music."

"Living shadows," Saeran said quietly. "And circles being broken."

"Yes," Awen said steadily. "Much like the magic, I expect. So? What does it mean?"

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

NaNoWriMo - Cymru 9

Ha ha, I am Mistress of passages with no clear end. And I don't care! Hahahahaha!


Tregwylan was stunningly beautiful. It was Awen's first thought as she guided Brân down towards the Landing Tower below, giving her a superb view of the City from above. The rain harvesters were gleaming in the sunlight, all gold and bronze and funnels to direct the excess water away to the choppy sea below, while the inner courtyards shone in verdant contrast to the open hydroponic tanks of growing vegetables. Almost every window sported window boxes of growing onions, many accompanied by billowing sheets left out to dry. Far below a long wooden harbour jutted out into the sea, accepting the trading vessels from the mainland bringing flour and meat. Cormorants with ringed necks swooped in and out of the fishing towers at each corner, carrying their catches back to their handlers.

At the runway Brân sort of dropped the final metre, simply folding his wings and letting them fall before they landed neatly on the carpet. He tossed his head petulantly as Awen sighed and reined him in. He was such an embarrassment.

A pair of stable hands bustled out, robes impeccable. Awen noted it instantly.

"Rider," said one, a woman with thick, wavy blonde hair that had been carefully pulled into a neat arrangement at the back of her head. "Welcome to Tregwylan! My name is Carys. May I assist you?"

"Thank you," Awen said. "My meraden thinks he's a dog. Be warned."

Carys laughed vacantly, and led her in. Brân kept trying to dance sideways as they went, and Awen let him. If she was expected, as it looked like she was, then really they should have been warned of Brân's behaviour. Also it put Awen into a distinctly uncharitable mood, and this 'Carys' had a stupid laugh.

Once inside they undid her harness for her on the top level, and Awen obligingly hopped off for Brân to be led into one of the top stables. She understood the message. She wasn't impressed. As the other stable hands clustered around Brân Carys turned to her and smiled.

"This way please, Rider," she said, and set off down the ramp without a backwards glance. Awen followed, looking around for further clues of her expected arrival. Every corner of the tower had been brushed and cleaned, but that in itself may have meant nothing this soon after a festival. There was a notable absence of the usual organised chaos of a Landing Tower, however, which definitely was out of the ordinary. At the bottom Carys pushed open the massive door to the City and led them through.

Inside Tregwylan was even more beautiful than out. The corridor-streets were wide and stone paved, supported at regular intervals by twisting pillars carved to look like waves and the walls decorated with coloured glass and enamel in greens and blues. Periodically pipes from the rain harvesters could be seen travelling down the walls, carrying the water to the lower level streets. A few shops were set off the streets, bakeries, chandleries and expensive-looking cobblers that occasionally gave way to the courtyards Awen had seen from above. Carys walke calmly through it all, not pointing out anything. She made a poor guide.

They were just turning onto a particularly elaborate corridor which Awen suspected led to the Sovereign's Residence when a Rider materialised in front of them, Deputy Alpha Wing status emblazoned across her arm and a yellow poppy behind her ear. She smiled at Awen, a genuine smile that lit up her face, and Saluted.

"Rider!" she said happily. "Welcome to Tregwylan! First time?"

Awen Saluted back. "First time," she smiled. "I don't get out much. It's beautiful, though."

"Ah, you're saying that," the Rider said, waving a hand, "but you're only looking at the rich bit. The lower levels don't look like this, I can tell you. Would you like a tour?"

"I'd love one," Awen grinned. Carys cleared her throat firmly.

"I'm afraid, Rider," she began. The Rider cut across her.

"Oh, shut up, Carys. I'll get her to wherever she needs to be, go back to the stables. I'm Talar, by the way," she added to Awen as Carys slowly backed off, given them both a deeply uncertain look. "And you're Awen, I know. Casnewydd Alpha Wingleader."

"Should I be worried?" Awen asked bluntly as Carys rounded the far corner and left them alone in the street. Talar gave her a wry smile.

"I doubt it, from what I've heard. No," she shook her head as Awen opened her mouth. "I know what you meant. Come this way."

She led them out of the street, across a courtyard through children playing and bards singing, past more shops and down a ramp that led to the next level. It didn't look so different until three levels later, when they hit the top of the poorer areas. The streets were suddenly crowded with peasants going about their lives, trading from market stalls in the middles of the corridors and darting in and out of much cheaper-looking shops. Talar led them to a harness-makers in a dark corner; inside, she nodded to the owner and slipped past a curtain into the back. Awen followed. This didn't look good. This suggested conspiracy.

Inside it was tiny and surprisingly warm. Talar perched on the small desk and motioned Awen to the room's only seat, which she took and folded her arms.

"Well?" she asked quietly. Talar smiled.

"You're right," she said. "Lady Gwenda knew four days ago to expect someone important; presumably she knew it was you, I don't know. When did you know you'd be coming?"

"Yesterday," Awen sighed. "Any idea how she knew? I ask with particular reference to either Casnewydd or Caerleuad."