Two ghosts, three goats,and a thane (final)

Here is the final first draft of “Two ghosts, three goats, and a thane”, a little short story set between Wales, and Ireland. The original work started as the opening poem/song to the story, everything else just morphed from there. So happy reading, and I hope it does not send you to sleep too fast.

thane

Two ghosts, three goats and a thane.

Lost in waters so strange to each their terrain,
Till all cast to sea in a coracle,
Two ghosts, three goats and a thane.

For each a ghost held a chain,
That never the same wrapped around the impassable obstacle,
Lost in waters so strange to each their terrain,

With block and now tackle, the stress and the strain,
For this, it made such a laborious spectacle,
Two ghosts, three goats and a thane.

Thoughts stop for a moment with hope in all vain,
While the three goats, they dreamed of a miracle,
Lost in waters so strange to each their terrain.

For long be the journey, as sweet as the grain,
The sacks of which came from the oracle,
Two ghosts, three goats and a thane.

For above in the sky, dwell the clouds of hard rain,
Too soon, change the small boat to a single receptacle,
Lost in waters so strange to each their terrain.

Two ghosts, three goats and a thane.

(The singing fades.)

The lost boy thane

Running, running through the darkness, is that thing still following? Run the thoughts so fast through my head. No! Stumbling face first into the ground. The impact with a fallen tree, a spinning world soon finds me looking up so difficult, the hunting tip of an arrow pressed hard against my forehead. I can feel the blood trickling down my face as it mingles with streaming sweat from a chase that has stretched on for miles.
“Boy, what do you think you are doing in this wood?”
My vision somewhat blurry, and stinging with salt from the blood and sweat, all I can make out is long dark hair, and the voice, the voice just a slur in my pounding head.
“Did you not hear me boy? Who are you and what are you doing in this wood?”
Collapsing into the sodden earth, I pass out as the dull echo of the voice fades in my subdued mind. Then in what seems like only a moment, I’m drowning, the sensation of being thrust below the water. Suddenly the realisation hits, there’s no water, I open my eyes.

There’s three goats licking the blood and sweat from my face, and a dark haired girl, half eaten carrot in hand, with a longbow slung over her shoulder and quiver at her side. She is sitting on a tree stump, all but fifteen feet away, and is laughing almost uncontrollably as I struggle to free myself from the tree that I’ve been tied too.
“Careful boy, the more you struggle, the chances are one of our good ole Irish goats there, will mistake your head for one of theirs’ and crack that skull of yours a good one. So what brings you to our wood, boy?”
“If you get these goats off of me,… I might consider telling you.”
“Clearly boy, you don’t have a grasp of your situation. I‘m here, you’re there with the goats, I’m in no rush. Though I must warn you, our Irish goats have a taste for Welsh flesh, and you came along just in time,” giggles the girl, with a big grin.

“Okay, okay, I came across from Wales in a coracle to… to steal some food; we’re in famine over there.” The goats are making life difficult for the boy thane to articulate his responses without getting a mouthful of goat tongue.

“And you don’t think we are in famine here also?”

“No you’re not, a Frank trader, forgotten his name at the moment. He told us the people of this land be a flush with much stock, food, wine and beer.”

“A Frank told you this?” snapping to her feet, the girl draws a knife from her belt, heading straight towards the Welsh boy and the goats.

“Get out of here you three, go find some clover. I must apologise, that Frank is a distant, and now disowned uncle of mine,” says the Irish girl as she sits right on the ground in front of the boy. Now you tell me the true reason why you’re here, before I decide to feed your tongue to the goats? Because, even I know, only a fool would attempt that crossing in a coracle.”

“This time, here is how I honestly came to be in this wood…..”

“Pausing for just a moment, contemplating what lyrical words to write next, the weather had previously turned sour, for all that I have, including me. All soaked by the means of some wretch, a wretch whom would have us starve. Hell no!

Having to be quick about it, to duck and then dive left, for if I had of failed to find my backside closer to the ground than usual, then the once flung wooden shield, surely might have put me on it.

The practicality of moving left, was no choice either, for my mother’s cousin sought to split my head in two, but for was it not for that moment when the heavy shield creased his forelocks, a third manoeuvre may have been fatal. That, of just previously falling over my own two feet.

“Boy thane, your father was a fool to of lead us on this ridiculous raid, we should never of believed the manipulative Frank. We are with famine in Wales, but what tempest breed of witch do the Irish possess, that they drive us back to these cursed rocks by way of a dark living sea, a sky of blackness with wings, and whirlwinds of water that tower into the sky.”

“Bryn is right, your father, the thane of our people lost his life in believing the Frank jester, he spun us a tale of great wealth and food for the taking from the Irish, but three times darkness confronted our ships. Till now all we have left, is one holed long ship from your father’s Dane friend, and a coracle, which leaks faster than one can bail almost.”

“Einion, you waste your words on this boy thane, whom be but a shadow of what his father had become, but even the best of us had been tricked by the Frank fiend. Perhaps if we all had sort council from, Renfrew, the old river chieftain, we may not of succumbed to such a letting of our own blood kins’ lives to this devastating fate at the calls of the tempest half beast.”

“It is still clear in my head.”

Some forty-three plus ships and boats of varying sizes, set out into the sea of the west to raid the land of the tribes of Eriu. In their number of some six hundred, are starving thanes, chieftains, warriors, archers, foresters, and rangers of the Welsh wild lands of the south.

Amongst their number be father and son, Wyn, a well loved thane of his people and key planner of raid across the west sea, and Bedwyn, whom for the last five years, now sixteen, has been learning the ways of forestry in the border lands to the east.

The mass of wooden vessels, some not so suited for such an extended journey across water, are spread wide, and some a little too far. When from on the horizon to the west, the sea before them begins to advance with a darkness that is rising like waves in a storm with the spray, still some distance away making flight on a wind.

Closer the riving darkness catapults at speed upon then as they realise they have been set upon by swarming eels. Millions of their eel heads, and elongated bodies, so many launching high into the air above the water, like one long dark impenetrable, squirming black liquid goo.

Sweeping through the raiders fleet, many have seen their cloth sails torn to shreds, others capsized and became beaten badly, or were thrust deep beneath the sea to sleep for eternity. Some stood their metal upon the wood of their decks, and cut deep into the wall of eel goo as it engulfed around them.

Around a third of the welsh raiding party had been demolished, or broken up, whether it was in the form of wood splintered in a million different ways, or the bodies of warriors now scattered wide upon the water.

The remaining two thirds collected those of the wounded and survivors, of whom no longer had a means to stay afloat, or required plucking from the now rancid water. But what to do now, for the raiders are to far from home now, and the coast of Eriu is but a few miles. Plus, many of the now ramshackle looking fleet are in dire need of repairs in one way or another. Laughter began to echo out across the water as the raiders’ fleet regrouped.

There stood, Wyn, on the prow of the Danes longship yelling, “Come now, be that the best you can do, tempest half breed!” Gradually the laughter turns into a roar, as more of the welsh raiders join in the challenging of their fear of what befell their kinsmen as they drink from large jugs of beer.

“Here we come, tribes and kin of Eriu!” shouts Einion, as the fleet is once again making for cloud above land on the west horizon.

Before too long the sky begins to grow dark in the distance, a storm, no, these are not clouds, for they move too fast, and the mass billows like a sail on high winds. Faster the black sail fills the sky more and more, till a night is upon the raiders from sea to sun.

The sounds driving wings force a foul wind upon the fleet as millions of bats sweep across the fleet reeking havoc on sail and raider alike. Some falling to an ill sleep and drowning beneath the waters, others fleeing in terror forgetting the sea lacks any solid substance and sinking to the depths. Still many others cut deep through the black sail of darkness, till once again light pitched hard upon the new mirth across the sea.

Once again, Welsh raiders gather up those of their kin that are living, and assemble the remaining seaworthy and those that are almost. For now but only a third of the fleet, and men remain capable of making landfall.

Wyn stands at the mast of the Dane’s longship, challenging the queen of the tempest once again, “What’s this, first you throw a wall of black goo at us, and now you think a billowing black sail of darkness can halt us from landing upon your lands of Eriu and taking what we want?” More beer is consumed at an even faster rate.

The laughter begins to rise again in the gathered remainder of the fleet, as once again they push fast to make landfall while their spirits are high on beer and not failing.

Soon the fleet is inside a mile and a half of the coastal beaches of Eriu, many of the raiders can make out thousands of human figures along the shoreline, as a sound of clashing swords and shields starts to roll out across the water. High on a headland, a dark cloud erupts above two shadowy figures, the queen of tempests and her daughter, as they call upon the storms of their ancestors.

Lightning fills the sky, as thunder erupts across the top of the sounds of the clashing swords and shields at a deafening rate. Whirlwinds begin to form on the water in front of the Welsh raiders’ fleet, lifting the sea into spirals of devastation, as one after the other cuts radical paths of chaos through the remaining third of the Welsh. Some picking up whole ships and casting then like a shower of splinters a mile back out to sea, across an ancient formation of rocks.

Wyn stands on the prow of the Dane, as he too is drawn up into the chaotic twisting water, vanishing from sight, as do many of the raiders with him.

The waterspouts of the tempest queen and her daughter show no mercy towards raider, nor their vessel, as the carnage continues until the fleet lays waste upon the surface of the water…

Or so it seems.”

“So you see, if it was not for some Irish, wretch, witch, banshee, whatever she is, and her half breed daughter, we might of made it to shore and negotiated for food rather than fighting.”

“Watch that tongue of yours, little boy thane. The woman you call a wretch, is our chieftain in this part of the land of Eriu. Be careful too as to whom you call a half breed, you look a little on the runt side yourself.”

A call from a strong female voice rings throughout the wood, “Meara, where are you, we need talk!?”

“Boy thane, I must go for a moment, but I’ll return,” with a sudden leap to her feet grabbing he quiver, and bow, Meara vanishes into the wood.

Before long, Meara stumbles into her mother, Radha, whom is flanked by two shadow cloaked figures. Questions and demands her mother soon places on Meara.

“A few of the Osraige said they tracked, and pursued one of the Welsh raiders, a boy to the forest fringe. Have you seen anyone, anyone at all?”

While the demands, and questioning continue, back at the tree the three goats have taken to gnaw through the ropes restraining Bedwyn as he strains to break free. Until he breaks the last of the rope’s fibres launching to his feet. No time to stand around, Bedwyn takes off through the forest wood, the goats trailing close behind his fleet footed ramble.

I tell you, I must of past within twenty feet of those I now know the name of, Meara, and her mother Radha, with the two black shadows. As I heard the words after them, I felt two arrows I’m sure came in flight from Meara’s bow while I turned slightly to notice the three goats whom just helped me escape, right on my heels.
I set about to quicken my pace, not keen to fall to be caught again, but I took another glance to see, both the dark cloaked figures, and Meara coming upon us fast, me and the goats. Three more arrows swept past us, then with a sudden turn of events, Radha appeared in front of us from out of nowhere. Her oversized, double-edged knife slicing through my side while I pushed past her, not stopping, or slowing in making our escape from the woodland.

Soon we came upon the sea, three fishing boats sat in the waters of high tide, almost as if waiting for us, to return us to freedom. Haha, the goats, and me I thought, at least they’ll make good food for me and my kinsmen.

Here is where everything changed, as the goats thrashed into the waters of the sea, a transformation took place. Turning from goats, into deer, and then young women gowned in foreign trade silks, and adorned by the wild flowers of river and sea.

“What, you though we were following you so you might eat us,” one says as she rolls her eyes, while we all climb into the boat.

Still not safe, we gab oar, and unfurl the ragged sail, while a flurry of arrow unleashes from Meara’s bow. The two dark shadows hit the edge of the sea, riling a wall of water towards us, like two forces meeting only to repel one another with vicious ferocity, as the cloaked faceless figures are too, also launched backwards.

Looking back as we all make haste riding the reversed wave out to sea, we see Radha step from the forest on to the shoreline. She begins to summon a storm, watching we press on faster.

In an instant a commotion erupts on the beach between Radha, and Meara, as we hear Meara yell while catapulting her mother to the sand beneath her feet, “Enough mother, let them go. They are in famine just like us, and I think it is time we let Bhearú, Fheoir, and Siúr flow to find their own course to freedom upon the seas. Just let the three sisters, and the Welsh boy thane be.”

Radha looks up at Meara, while she lays upon the sand, they smile, Radha stands. All disappear back into the forest wood. But for us, the three sisters and I, we still have a long journey ahead, and we still need to rescue my kinsmen. I can tell you this though, we do make it back to Wales, and the famine does break, even though the journey will be two long years before I see my homeland again. Many tales will come to pass, perhaps I’ll share them later.

7 responses to “Two ghosts, three goats,and a thane (final)

  1. I have to say that is to English to me, but i try and i’ll try to understand ! I know that if comes from you must be beautiful words and i cant not lost one word! Just give me a little time Poet.

    • Apologies Mirna, if I knew Brazilian Portuguese, I’d be able to send you a copy that might be easier to read. My short story writing is a little more heavy than the poetry to follow.

      Not sure if it will fall into the beautiful category, but it does come with a mix to the narrative within the story.

      Let me know if you manage to make it through to the end?

  2. Pingback: Short stories update | Sean Bidd·

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