Tuesday, 29 October 2013

#CoffinHop Day 6: Beyond the Gloaming

For today I have a creepy little tale of the Faerie…


Beyond the Gloaming


Bran trudged wearily along the mountain path, tired, but determined. He needed to reach the hollow before dusk, or wait another year. He glanced at the ever sinking sun; his time grew short.
“A strange journey you're on, young man. Best think twice before continuing.”
Bran stopped, his path now blocked by a stooped old hag of a woman, dressed in a grey cloak and an odd looking four cornered hat. She smiled at him, an unsettling grin that made him shiver.
“Who are you and where did you come from?”
“Never you mind the answer to either question, young man. Just listen, and if you have the sense, heed my advice.” She took a step closer to him. “What you seek is not what you will find. What you had is lost, swallowed whole. Do not meddle in affairs of the Seelie Court.”
Bran balled his hands into fists, her words sparking his anger. “I will not be dissuaded. They stole from me. I will have what is mine.”
“You cannot steal what was freely given, young man, but no matter. I see you are unwavering. Be on your way.” The old woman stepped aside and allowed Bran to pass, casting parting words as he left her behind. “Don't drink their wine.”

~*~

Bran entered the hollow—a clearing nestled in the forest—with the first touch of dusk, and left the safety of the woodland path. In the gloaming he waited for them.
As silhouettes cast against the fading sunlight they appeared, one by one, laughing, shimmering, the host of Faerie, come to play in the world of mortals. Shadows danced around them, scattering light and air, the trees whispered names in the old tongue, and the sky turned cold.
“Who have we here, come to call this night, on the Seelie Court?” A tall Fae, with pale, blond hair and a crown upon his head stepped towards Bran. “Come human, state your business.”
Bran swallowed, both spit and fear. “I am Bran. I've come to retrieve what’s mine.”
The Faerie smiled. “You have spirit little human, but have a care. You address a Prince of the Faerie. And it sounds much as if you accuse the Court of thievery.”
Bran summoned his courage. He would not fail now. “I do accuse you. You stole my wife, Eva. Spirited her away with you a year ago, from this very glade. I’ve waited long enough, return her to me.”
“Ah. That puts a different spin on the matter that does.” The Prince snickered. “A husband come to fetch a wife.” He spun about to address his subjects. “Do we have a wife for him?”The Faerie Host laughed, an indifferent, harsh noise.
The Prince swiveled back to face Bran. “A brave soul you may be, but a foolish one. You can’t have her back, not as the woman you knew. She belongs to us now. See for yourself.”
With a wave of the prince’s hand, the Host parted to reveal the figure of a woman. She shimmered, a vision of beauty, her skin, pale, shining, nearly translucent, and her fair hair glowed in ethereal grace. But her eyes held a vacant, pensive stare, as if she gazed at something just beyond the edges of the world, and her smile held no kindness, only dissipation. In her hands she held a golden goblet.
Bran stared. “Eva?”
The woman gazed at him. “Yes. That’s my name. At least I think it used to be, perhaps not anymore.” She laughed, a mad, echoing sound. “Do I know you?”
“Eva, it’s Bran. Your husband.” He reached out his hand to her.
“Oh, I don't have a husband. I had one once, but I misplaced him. I don't mind though, because I’ll have a new one. Soon. Not yet, but soon.” She took a few steps forward. “Would you like to be my new husband? Join me. Have a drink.” She held out the goblet.
Bran felt a hand on his shoulder and the cold breath of Faerie in his ear. “You want to be with your love? Join with us, taste of our wine. You can leave this world and be with her in ours. Take the cup and drink.”
Bran reached out his hand, his fingers brushing against the gold. It would be so easy.
“No.” He let his hand fall. “I won’t. She’s mine, not yours.” He grabbed Eva by the wrist, turned and ran, pulling her along in his wake. The goblet dropped, spilling the wine.
He sprinted for the clearing edge, dragging Eva behind him. He raced for the woodland path, beyond their circle of power, but never reached it. The Faerie blocked his course, surrounded Bran, captured him, and snatched Eva from his grasp.
He stretched out his hands, as they pulled them apart, trying to hold on to her, to touch her. “No, stop it, let her go. Give her back to me.”
The Faerie Prince stepped between them. “You had your chance. You refused us, human. Now you lose the game and pay the forfeit.” He smiled. “But I'm not heartless. One last look, perhaps.”
The prince turned and took Eva’s hand, drawing her forward. “Do you have anything to say to our erstwhile guest, my dear?”
“Am I supposed to say kind words? I don't have any.” Eva smiled.
“Eva, please. Remember me, I'm your husband.” He struggled to break free of his captors.
“No. No husband tonight. You didn't join us. A shame, you seemed nice until you tried to run.” She turned to the prince. “Can I play with him instead?”
“Of course you can, my dear.” The prince clapped his hands. “Did you hear? Eva wants to play. Form a circle.”
Suddenly Bran was free. He watched the faerie as they moved silently, toward the edge of the glade. He stood alone with Eva, encircled by Faerie.
“What’s going on?”
Eva laughed. “They're making certain you can’t escape.” From a sheath attached to her belt, she drew a silver dagger.
Bran backed away a few steps. “Eva. What are you doing?”
She smiled. “It’s time for fun. It’s time to play. It’s time for you to bleed.” She laughed, with the Seelie Court echoing the sound.

~*~

The old hag of a woman hobbled into glade with the first rays of the morning sun. She shuffled to Bran’s corpse where it sprawled on the trampled grass. She chuckled as she took her knife from her belt and opened her bag made of hide. Then she knelt down beside the body.
“Told you she was lost, and not to meddle. Though I suppose, it was bad advice to tell you not to drink the wine. Teach you to listen to strangers.” She chuckled again.
“Leastwise you won’t go to waste.” With her blade, she cut open his stomach and torso. “Your body parts will make powerful spells, they will.” The old woman hacked out his organs and tucked the fresh meat into her sack. The last thing she did was scoop out his eyeballs. Then she closed her sack and rose.
Outside the glade the old woman could sense the animals. They were hungry. “I’m done. Come and finish the rest.” She turned and walked away, leaving Bran’s remains for carrion.


Now keep scrolling for the list of more Coffin Hoppers to visit and don't forget to enter my Rafflecopter contest.

10 comments:

Lori Parker BookwormPOV said...

That one is going to bother me as I'm trying to sleep tonight.

A. F. Stewart said...

Hopefully not.

DarcNina said...

First off, 'gloaming' is an awesome word, and far underused.

But more importantly, this is another wonderful read you've offered up! Thank you for this journey - I genuinely enjoyed it!

Sheila Deeth said...

Ow. A seriously cool, creepy tale.

A. F. Stewart said...

Gloaming has always been a favourite of mine; must be the Scottish heritage.

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks, Sheila.

Jeanette J said...

I enjoyed this little tale. Thank you.

KK Ghost Writer said...

OOOh...Deliciously disturbing!
Great post and great contest!
Happy Hopping!
-Kim K

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks, Jeanette.

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks Kim, glad I could creep you out.

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