The thick, oaken door swung open. A chestnut boot fell down upon the wooden floor of the establishment, soon followed by another. The candle light flickered from around the corner, and the jeers and chuckles of drunken merrymakers met the traveller’s ears. A smile crept onto his rugged face as he pulled back the mossy hood and ran a gloved hand through his hair. Warmth, at last. Striding his way into the tavern, he was met by such a wonderful smell and sight as he ever could have hoped for on his journies.
Candles burned on long wooden tables, and tankards of ale covered every other surface. Men of all ages and background cheered at the dancers and minstrels as they performed their pieces. Though he could not see the performers, if he wasn’t mistaken, someone was almost certainly playing the lute, and another the pipe and tabor. Such sweet music. He moved on, smirking at the various scenes playing out around him. A small boy, no older than twelve, sat at the edge of a table with a dog, throwing scraps of meat into the air for the it. A large, jovial, bearded man - obviously completely smashed - tried to flirt his way into the dress of a young barlady, though she took none of it and laughed it off with a glug of his mead. As he made his way through the bustling crowds of bacchants, he noticed a flight of stairs, probably leading up to the rooms the inn provided. The bar was visible at the end of the room and he waded his way towards it with determination.
His fist fell on the bar lightly, and a blonde barwoman slid her way towards him. She wore a rusted brown bodice with white sleeves and a long white skirt. She leaned onto the bar, grinning at the traveller. “What’ll it be, m’lad?” Without a moment’s hesitation, he flipped a silver coin onto the bar and he nodded at the largest keg on the rack, three letters sloppily carved into its side, spelling out the one thing that had never left his mind since he set out on his adventure. Ale. Within a few seconds a tankard landed in front of his hands, froth slopping over the side and onto the wood. One glug. Two glugs. It wasn’t the best he’d tasted, but it was certainly enough to satisfy him. He finished it with little effort, eager to get as much liquid down his throat as he could. But before he could signal for another, a bell chime echoed through the night, and the public house. The whole place stood cold, still and silent for a few seconds. Each man and woman looked at each other in alarm. Breaking the horrible silence, the child and the dog scuttled out from a table and dashed for the door. As if it were some sort of signal, the patrons of the inn all roared, grabbing their things and charging towards the exit with tremendous uproar.
2012, 5:00am, New York
Black. Everywhere. At first, he thought he’d just woken up during the night. But something was wrong. It was silent - it was never silent in this city. The night was moving, too. It wasn’t just one giant void of darkness. There were patches of grey, and even a few, blurry blotches of light. He was surrounded by smoke. He put his hands below him, trying to push himself out of bed - but he wasn’t in bed. He was sprawled out on a flat piece of what appeared to be a… wall?
He scrambled up, gasping for breath. He was just inhaling the vast, ashy black cloud. It was a mess; everything. He tripped over jagged pieces of mixed material - stone, wood, metal. Everything seemed to be coming into focus, and as he fell flat on his face, he realised he was outside. The warm tarmac almost burned his cheek, as blood slowly seeped from the wound, now specked with dirt and soot. He rubbed his eyes, and though he cleared his vision slightly, he covered his sockets in something dark and greasy. He looked up, ignoring the pain. What he saw caused him to sink back to the floor.
You fight to keep them
high, and fight you do for long.
One day you know you
will falter in the silent song.
A lullaby is
sung, by those voices deep inside.
Though charming the voice may
be, you long to be its nocturnal bride.
But ere the morning
light, you remember very little,
Except the painful
strife, though regret it, now, you do,
For though you thought it
not, the rest was surely needed,
And next time when you feel alike,
feel not the need to refrain,
for grateful will your head be,
your ever-thinking brain.
The Shadow We Abhor
A cloak of heavy ash,
Or a curtain of enveloping night.
A simple flicker of a switch,
And we are left devoid of light.
Or at the chime of the evening clock,
When the sun has left the sky.
We are left in a whole new universe,
Where the good will weep and die.
A bitterness swallows the land,
And we are left without a sound,
In the coldest world of silence,
When the light is slowly drowned.
The slightest step could be misheard
As the scraping of a knife.
The world in which we thought we knew,
Stripped of warmth and life.
It is in this bleak abyss,
We find ourselves afraid.
In every alley and every gap,
In the shadow and the shade.
There is no safe haven,
In this God forsaken plane.
It is in this hellish duration,
All bravery will meet its bane.
But when this age is over,
And the world is safe in bed,
The sun will come around again,
To mourn the hapless dead.
There is but a short amount of light,
Until it is time once more.
For the darkness will always be waiting,
The shadow we all abhor.
A Place In Mind
The clouds roll overhead,
Like flocks of careless geese,
My shirt wraps around me,
But it’s not a woolly fleese.
I’m sat here in a house,
Not a cozy wooden hut;
I’m not outdoors, but inside,
My window firmly shut.
I do not see snow-capped mountains,
But houses of pale brick.
I see the occasional tree,
Not a verdant forest, thick.
I watch the rainy clouds above,
Not the northern lights.
I do not see an eagle soar by,
But a simple, British dove.
I do not want to hear the cars,
Nor have to leave for work.
I do not want to see the shops,
The restaurants or the bars.
I do not want a town square,
Nor a market-place.
I do not want the city life,
I wish to be elsewhere.
I wish to hear the hoot of owls,
The crunching of the snow.
I wish to see a roaming bear,
Or a fragile auburn doe.
I wish to see a wild wolf,
Or maybe an arctic hare.
There’s a place I have in mind,
And I dream of going there.
Caw of the Crow
The sun rose beyond the distant hills and pastures to the west. Cows grazed on the grass, coated with dew drops of the early winter, and the soft eyes of infants fluttered open. The small village within the valley became lit by the sun, and it seemed as though it would be yet another day for all. Selling their food and clothes on the markets, farmers tending to their crops, milking the cows. The children that woke dreaded the tutoring they would receive, as per usual, and the work they would have to do on the farms or stalls. Had this been any other normal day, they might have had to experience the things they dread so. But this was not any other normal day.
Instead of the normal, beautiful chirping of the finches, the morning was announced by the caw of a crow, perched atop the home of a certain woman, and instead of the normal cheery smiling and chatter that would be exchanged between the members of the small village within the valley, all would look at each other solemnly, and exchange not even a word. An acknowledging nod, at best. Everyone took a glance towards the home of Helna and Fürin. The home of which a crow now sat atop, forcing all to hear the chilling cry that resounded from its dark throat. Fürin, the man of the household, husband of Helna, son of Bürin, and revered guardian of the small village within the valley, was not there.
It was commonly known amongst the members of the small village within the valley that when sun rose and the caw of a crow was heard, there had been a death, or there would be one. It was taught to children, and passed down through the generations. Whilst not known for sure, it appeared, to the people of the village, that the victim the crow heralded was Fürin. The night before, he had set out to personally rid of the Goblin king, whom had been threatening, pillaging, raiding, and barraging the small village within the valley. A foolish task to be done alone, in all cases. Except Fürin’s. He was an extraordinary soldier and his strength, intelligence and bravery was unrivalled. Some townsfolk even believed him to be immortal.
But it appeared that, soon after the birth of his and Helna’s daughter, his many lives had run out; and he had been slain, or had died from some unfortunate misadventure. Though nobody knew for sure as there was no body and he had not returned. Until yelling came from the watch towers. There were two towers on either side of the gate, crafted with wood of the nearby forests. Surrounding the village were many pointed wooden posts, forming the wall. Within, the small, neatly packed houses with thatched roofs filled the space, whilst countless market stalls, shoddily made with pieces of wood and draped cloth, lined the streets. The main street spiralled around the village, taking odd turns, and having a small alleyway which in turn led off into many other small alleyways between every five houses. The main street finished in the centre of the town, and there sat the great hall, belonging to the fascinating leader of the small village within the valley. His hall really was a great hall, just from the outside apparel. It had huge towering beams in the entrance porch, and large shields, spears, and horns were perched on hooks and stands around the outside walls.
The yelling came again from the watch towers, though many of the people of the village were already gathered in a crowd at the gates – which was now being heaved open by a few of the guards. As the sight of the forests emerged, and the gate was fully open, the cause of the guards yelling was apparent. A lightly armoured chestnut horse with patches of bloodstained fur was trotting painfully slowly towards the village. Its rider, however, was slumped over its neck. His, for the body’s figure was unmistakable for that of a male’s. He was adorned in chain mail; covered in a mud brown leather for the most part – his torso had the crest of the small village within the valley. He had no weapons, and was simply limp on the horse’s back.
There was no signs of life within the male’s body, and thus the villagers began whispering behind hands to their neighbour’s with rumours regarding Fürin’s corpse – indeed, as it drew closer, the body was definitely Fürin’s. The auburn hair was tucked within the lighter helmet, though stray threads had emerged and hung from his forehead over his face, drenched in dirt, sweat and blood. His eyelids were closed but he was certainly not asleep. His cheeks were dark and the creases in his skin were all lined with blood. Blood of others, as well as himself. His normally bright lips were rid of all colour, and were a snow white. Gasps came as the corpse neared, and the horse finally arrived at the gates; the body was drenched in blood, and arrows protruded from the back and front of the carcass. Women stumbled back, and many left the streets and went back to their homesteads. Fürin was their greatest fighter, and the protector of all the village. If he had died, then they would surely last little longer within the valley.
The majority stayed outside though, either from shock, or the lust to find out more. Much to their surprise, the horse did not stop as it entered the village. It kept trotting, through the crowd(whom had to quickly disperse and rearrange themselves, so as not to get hit by the horse) and up the spiralling streets. The guards and villagers followed up behind. Some sobbed whilst others simply watched and followed. The horse finally came to a halt, after a while of trotting up the spiralling road. It had come to a halt before the humble home of Helna and Fürin. As it did so, the body slid from the horse and fell onto the gravel before the door.
Villagers whispered quietly, and watched the body and the door. None dared do anything. Till finally, the door creaked open. Out stepped Helna, a well known and respected woman in the small village within the valley. She had a slender frame, and was dressed in a plain white robe that swept down to the ground. Her face was dark and her eyes were sunken – she had obviously not slept that night, and for good reason.