the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Steven's Journal

September 3, 1979
I just turned ten today! When we stopped for lunch, a nice waitress brought me a piece of chocolate cake and sang Happy Birthday to me. Mom gave me this book so I could write in it. Dad said it was a diary, and they're for girls, but Mom said it was a journal, and plenty of men write in journals.

I think it's a cool idea, to have something I can write in. I want to grow up and write books some day; good books, with knights and dragons in them.

I tried to see if our waitress tonight would bring me another piece of cake, but when I looked at her and said "Guess what?", Dad grumbled and said, "Shut up, Stevey, we've got to get moving. We're already running late." So I didn't get any more cake today. And he called me Stevey, even though I already told him I wanted to be called Steven now that I'm ten. But he was in a really bad mood, so I shut up.

September 4, 1979
We're here, but we're still staying in a crummy motel. It was dark by the time we got here, and Dad said it was too late to look for our house. Mom didn't argue with him, so it really must have been too late. I hate this motel. This weird old guy runs it, and I'll bet he sneaks into the rooms and kills people whenever he gets bored. And the sheets smell bad here.

September 5, 1979
We went to an office today to look for our house. It was pretty boring. Dad talked to a lady for a while, and he got pretty annoyed, because he was getting all loud and sweaty, like he does. Then Mom talked to her, and she was trying to be nice, I could tell, but the lady didn't want to help us find our house. Finally she sent us to another office, to bother the lady there.

The second lady was really fat, but she was nice. She gave me a root beer to drink while she talked to Mom and Dad. Then she took us out to her car, and drove us to this big old square house. We all went inside, and I think Mom liked it okay, but Dad kept poking at things and grumbling and shaking his head. So we left, and the lady drove us to another house.

This one was smaller, and it was awfully dark inside. I was afraid we were going to have to live there, but Mom said she couldn't stand it, and Dad didn't even argue with her. The lady shook her head and said there wasn't anything else except a house a lot of people said was haunted. I was pretty bored, but when I heard the lady talking about a haunted house, I started to listen really careful.

Dad said he didn't care, and I almost cheered, but Mom said maybe they ought to think it over. She sounded uncomfortable when she said it. Dad argued with her a bit, but he couldn't get her to change her mind. So we went off, and we're staying in the smelly motel with the creepy guy again.

September 6, 1979
We went back to see the lady again, and she gave me another root beer. I wondered if she'd talk about the haunted house again, so I listened to the grownups talk, even though it got pretty boring. Dad said they wanted to look at the other house again, but they'd like to have somebody else look at it too. So the lady called this guy on her phone, then we drove out to the square house again.

The guy was already there, leaning on a pickup truck. He came in with us, and Dad started pointing to things and asking him questions about how much they'd cost to fix. He didn't say too much, and he kept looking at the lady who was with us and then at Dad. Finally, he just shrugged and told Dad it was going to take a lot of work.

Dad looked at Mom and said, "I told you so, Ruth. We just can't afford to fix this place up." She looked at the floor, like she does when she doesn't want Dad to see she might cry, and said, "I don't know, David. Even if it's expensive, it might be better than living with a..." she stopped and looked at me. "Well, with other problems."

Dad snorted and said, "Ruth, we're living in the nineteen seventies! You don't really mean to tell me you believe in ghosts, do you?" She shook her head. "No. But Steven might be afraid, if anyone told him about it at school." I just couldn't keep quiet, so I said "I'm not afraid of any old ghost, Mom! I think it would be cool!" So she sighed, and said we could go take a look at the haunted house.

We all got into the lady's car again, and she drove us down a long street without many houses on it. There were a lot of trees, close to the road, then all of a sudden we saw this really neat house, sitting in a little open space under a bunch of tall pine trees. It was painted yellow, with fancy little bits of wood painted brown all along the edges. It had a big porch out front, and lots of funny shaped windows.

The lady turned into the driveway and stopped, and she got out and then Dad and Mom got out and stood there. I had to remind them I was there before the lady would move enough to let me get out. She looked a bit scared, but she pulled out a big old key and walked up to the door. As soon as she got the door open, I started to run inside, but Mom called me back. "Steven! Stay here with us."

We walked all through the house. It was pretty neat, but we didn't see a single ghost. There weren't even any funny noises, or anything. Mom looked a lot happier, and Dad didn't grumble too much when he poked at things. When they were all done looking, Dad looked at Mom. She shrugged. "I guess it's not so bad. We've got to find someplace, because Steven needs to start going to school soon."

They started talking to the lady about boring things, and I'd already figured out we were going to live there, so I slipped off as soon as they were too busy to notice. I went upstairs and tried to decide which of the rooms I wanted for mine. I was standing in the hall, spinning around and peeking inside all the doors, when I saw a lady standing in the middle of one of the rooms.

"Hello", the lady said. "Uh, hello, are you the ghost?" She looked at me funny and laughed at me. "Where did you get that idea?" I felt pretty stupid, but I said "The lady who drove us here said there was a ghost in this house. I didn't see you before, so I thought you must be the ghost. It would be pretty cool to live in a house with a ghost." She looked confused. "Cool?" "Yeah, cool, neat, great, you know."

She still looked confused, but she said, "Oh." "So who are you?" "I live here." "No you don't, we're going to live here." She opened her mouth, then she shivered. She looked all around, like she was scared, then she put her hands over her face. "Where have all my...?" Before I could stop her, she walked into the wall. Only she didn't hurt herself or anything, she just walked right through the wall!

So I knew she really was the ghost, even if she said she wasn't. I ran downstairs, yelling "Dad! Mom!" "Steven? Where are you?" "Up here!" I hit the bottom stair and skidded into the room they were talking in. All of a sudden, I remembered Mom might not want to live here if she thought there was a ghost. And Dad would just say I was making it all up.

"I found this really cool room!" "That's nice, Stevey, now leave us alone." "David, you can't blame Steven for being excited. It's all right, Steven, you can show us later." I wandered off again, but I went outside, to see what the yard is like. It's nice and big, with lots of cool hiding places. It's even big enough to have a dog! I hope Mom will let me get a dog, now.

After a while, everybody else came out, and we got into the lady's car. Dad and Mom still have to do all this boring paperwork stuff, sort of like homework only worse, so we have to sleep at the crummy motel again. These sheets smell so bad I can't sleep, so I snuck into the bathroom once Dad and Mom were asleep to write about seeing the ghost.

September 7, 1979
Today was really boring. Dad and Mom were doing all sorts of stupid paperwork stuff, and we had to go to a couple of stupid offices to do it, too. Then Mom started talking about how I have to go to school. I wish Dad didn't have to take another job. Or maybe at this school I can pretend I'm not so smart, and then the other kids won't always pick on me.

September 8, 1979
Dad called the men today to bring our stuff to our new house. Most of the stuff is still in boxes, but at least we aren't sleeping in the crummy motel tonight. Mom made me help her clean, so I'm pretty tired tonight. I haven't seen the ghost again.

September 9, 1979
Dad and Mom were pulling stuff out of boxes all day. They both got really mad, then they got so tired they didn't even bother yelling at each other any more. Some of my stuff is unpacked. Dad and Mom picked the room I saw the ghost in for their room. I almost told them about the ghost, but I decided it didn't matter that much. My room is just down the hall. I'm sure the ghost can visit me if she wants.

September 10, 1979
Mom made me go down to this crummy school with her today. They sent me to a class with this really mean old teacher. All the kids were staring at me, and she told me to introduce myself. I got up and said "Hi! My name's Steven Saxon." and sat down. All the other kids laughed, but the teacher yelled at me. How was I supposed to know she wanted me to tell them stuff about me?

At recess all the kids ignored me, but at lunch one fat kid who wears glasses asked if I minded if he sat next to me. I don't want the other kids to think I'm a dweeb, but I told him it wasn't my chair. I'm not sure if I hurt his feelings or not, but he sat down. He didn't talk much, though, except to say he thought it was funny the way I introduced myself.

September 11, 1979
I saw the ghost again today! When I came home from school, she was sitting on my bed. "Hey, I didn't know ghosts could sit on things. I thought they just sort of sank through, or something." "I told you, I'm not a ghost. I'm..." All of a sudden, she looked like she was going to cry. "I'm sorry, Mrs., uh, Ma'am. I didn't mean to make you cry."

"You didn't do anything. It's just... you really wouldn't mind if I were a ghost?" "I told you, that would be cool. Besides, I know you're the ghost. You can't be a real person, or you couldn't have walked through the wall the other day." "Oh, dear. I did lose control, didn't I? I'm just so lonely... No one wants to talk to a ghost."

"Hey, I like talking to ghosts. Besides, I'm lonely, too. The kids at my school all ignore me because I'm new." "That's terrible. They ought to be trying to make you feel at home. What's your name, dear?" "Uh, I'm Steven Saxon." "Steven, I'm Audrey. I never could abide the notion of children treating adults as equals, but these are extraordinary circumstances. We're both lonely, so in a sense, we are equals!"

"You mean I can call you Audrey? Thanks!" We talked for a while, and she asked me all kinds of questions about things. I told her it was funny a grownup knew so little about things, but she said she'd been a ghost for a while, and things had changed while no one would talk to her, so I told her everything I could. After a while, she stood up and said, "Now, you don't have to go making up tales just to entertain me!"

"I'm not making anything up! There are a lot of things I don't know, but I'm telling you the truth about stuff." "Surely you don't expect me to believe..." "Wait!" I grabbed one of my school books and opened it. It didn't take me long to find the right chapter. "See, here. Read what this says." She read awfully slow, for a grownup, then she started to cry. I didn't know what to say, and she ran off, anyway.

September 12, 1979
The fat kid, Henry, has talked to me a couple more times. He's not too bad, but he spends part of the time hanging around me and part of the time trying to get the other kids to like him. So it's not like he's a real friend or anything. They give us a lot of homework at this new school, so I guess I'll only write in my journal if something really important or interesting happens.

September 14, 1979
Audrey came around again today. I asked her if I'd made her mad at me, and she said no, it was just really weird the way the world had changed so much since she died. So I asked her when she died. She got this faraway look in her eyes for a minute. "It was Christmas Eve, 1896." "Wow! You mean you lived way back then?" She laughed, a little. "It wasn't way back then, it was just then."

She looked a little afraid, but she asked me "What year is it now?" "It's September, nineteen seventy-nine." She just sat there a minute. "That's not even a hundred years! But men have really gone to the moon and come back?" "Yep. The same year I was born." "But how could the world have changed so much, so quickly?" I didn't know, so I just shrugged.

"You see, Steven, it's very strange to think the world could be so different. And to think it's all happened in such a short time!" "Didn't the world change when you were alive?" "There were some new things, but they didn't happen so quickly! I've heard of horseless carriages, but I've never seen one." "Horseless carriages? Oh, you mean cars?" "Is that what they're called, now?" "I guess so."

It made it less like she was an adult and I was just a kid, because I know so many things she doesn't. It's fun, having a friend to talk to. And it's so cool that she's a ghost!

September 17, 1979
We had to write a story in Language Arts class today. Mrs. Gisquesne said we could write about anything we wanted. She told us we could take them home and work on them some more, because tomorrow we're going to have to get up in front of the whole class and read them. I think I wrote a pretty cool story. I read it to Audrey, and she laughed, once I'd explained the bits she didn't understand to her.

"Henrietta and Ebenezer Mold lived in a mausoleum. That's like a kind of little house with shelves full of dead people. Henrietta and Ebenezer had lived there a very long time. They had their own shelf, near the very back. They almost never went out anywhere, because people got scared when they saw them.

"It was pretty boring in there with all the other dead people. After a long, long time, there was this creepy guy who started to come to the mausoleum. He was really old, and he worked in a motel. When he got bored at night, he'd sneak into the rooms. Then he'd kill people, just for fun.

"He might have been old and creepy, but he was still pretty smart. He knew if the police found a lot of dead bodies at the motel, they'd want to know how they got there. So he figured if he took them to a mausoleum and hid them there, nobody'd notice. There are supposed to be dead bodies in a mausoleum.

"He'd drive the people's cars away, and say they'd left. Then everybody would just think they'd disappeared somewhere. When he took the bodies to the mausoleum, he dragged them to the back, so anybody else who came in wouldn't just see them. He was really careful.

"Henrietta and Ebenezer watched him do this a couple of times. It gave them something to do, and the extra dead people were more company for them. But one day, Henrietta said it wasn't right to let the creepy old guy get away with killing people like that.

"Ebenezer wanted her to leave him alone, but one of the dead girls stuck up for her. She asked Ebenezer what he'd think if somebody'd killed him. Wouldn't he want that person to be stopped? He couldn't think of an answer for that, so Henrietta won. They planned what they were going to do when the creepy guy came back.

"Henrietta and Ebenezer had an easier time moving around than the other dead people. So they decided they'd take care of him. They waited and waited for the creepy guy to come back with some dead bodies. Finally one night, when it was dark and rainy, they heard the dead guy come in.

"He piled up his bodies in the front, then started dragging them back. There was a father, a mother, and a boy. Henrietta and Ebenezer climbed off their shelf and waited in the shadows until he dragged one of the bodies back beside them.

"Then they jumped out and grabbed him. He tried to fight them, but they hung on tight. He screamed; he was so afraid he didn't even care if the police heard him and came and found the bodies. Then there was a flash of lightning.

"The windows of the mausoluem were small, but the lightning made it bright enough that the creepy guy could see Ebenezer grinning at him. He yelled really loud and then he dropped dead, he was so scared. They dropped him on top of the other dead bodies, and nobody ever found him. The End."

September 18, 1979
I had to get up and read my story today in front of the class. Some of the girls squealed, and Mrs. Gascan (that's what we call her when she can't hear us) looked like she'd eaten something sour. Or she looked like she'd eaten something even more sour than what she usually eats, I mean. When I was done, she told me it was a really nasty story and she was giving me an 'F'.

I got so mad I told her I'd read the story to Audrey and she liked it! She asked me if Audrey was my sister, and I said "No, she's our ghost!". All the kids laughed. Mrs. Gascan got really red in the face and sent me to the principal. He was mad at me, too, and I had to stay after school. When I got home, I found out they'd called Mom.

I had to convince her I was just joking, because I'd heard the house was supposed to be haunted. I think she believed me. She told me I was grounded for a week. Well, that doesn't matter too much. I don't really have anyplace to go. Audrey is my only friend, and she's here. I told her what happened, and she's still laughing at me, but not like she's making fun of me. It's kind of nice. It's like having a sister or something.

September 19, 1979
When I got on the bus today, some of the kids from my class pointed at me and said, "Oooo, he lives in the haunted house! He talks to the ghost! He even reads his homework to the ghost!" I just sat there and didn't say anything. I could tell some of them thought I was making the whole thing up, and some of them were scared and trying to hide it.

I guess they've all decided I'm weird now. Even fat old Henry wouldn't talk to me today. Hey, even back at home I never had many friends, so I'm used to it. And I've got Audrey. She's cool, and she's a ghost, which is so cool! How many guys have a friend who's a ghost?

September 22, 1979
I've been talking with Audrey a lot the past few days. She told me I ought to try to make friends with some of the kids at school. She said it was best for me, that she didn't want to ruin her life. I told her I didn't know how; kids just seem to hate me because I'm smart and because I'm weird. So we talked about things, and she tried to explain how to make other kids like you. I guess she was good at it.

I promised her even if I made a lot of friends I'd still spend time talking to her. She smiled at me and told me she wished she'd had a brother who was like me. "I had two brothers, but both of them were like Father." "Your father was mean?" "He was... yes, you could call him mean. He didn't care about me at all, he only cared about what he wanted from me."

She got really weird and sad after she said that, so I told her some jokes to try and cheer her up. She didn't get a lot of them, but she said I was making her feel better. Then she told me some jokes, and I couldn't get a lot of them, either. I guess jokes have changed along with everything else.

September 25, 1979
I knew some of the things Audrey said I ought to try wouldn't work, but I tried some of the others. Things must really have changed, because all the kids think I'm even more of a dweeb now. I tried not to let Audrey know, but she asked me how things went, so I had to tell her. She felt really bad, and told me she should have thought of that. I told her I didn't think of it either, so don't worry about it.

September 27, 1979
Today I went to the library to get some books for me and Audrey to read together. I wanted to read some of the ones she told me about. The librarian wanted to give me a card for the children's books, but I told her they already gave me a regular library card at home. She asked me where I came from, and called the library to ask them, but I guess she decided it was okay, because she gave me my library card.

I took out a big pile of books, some for me and some for Audrey. I've got to turn the pages for her, but that's okay. I can prop them so the pages stay open, and just flip a page every couple of minutes. Sometimes we read them aloud to each other. Audrey didn't mind that the library didn't have all the books she told me about. She said she thought that might happen.

October 1, 1979
Today when I was in the library to drop off some books, I heard a guy talking to the librarian. He said he wanted to find out more about his grandfather, and she was explaining how to do that. I didn't know you could find out about people like that in libraries!

I thought you had to hire somebody, a private detective or something, like on TV. The librarian was pretty busy helping the guy, so I didn't get a chance to ask her about it, but I wonder if I could find out more about Audrey and what happened to her at the library?

October 4, 1979
I went back to the library today. I was afraid the librarian would be mad, but she wasn't. I told her I wanted to know how to find out more about people, and she looked a little surprised, but she asked me what I wanted to know. "Uh, I live out on Cedar Street, in the old house..." She actually smiled at me. "The haunted house! And you want to know about the ghost?" "Uh, yes, please."

"I suppose you're trying to get ready for Halloween. At least you're learning something!" I just nodded. She showed me how to use the film reader, and she got out the rolls of film for me, from a drawer. She told me to give them back to her, and she'd put them away. I thanked her, and she went back to her desk. Old newspapers were pretty hard to read, so it took me a while to find Audrey.

It was in the paper after Christmas. Audrey Warren was found dead in her father's house. They didn't say it right out, but I think she hanged herself. Noboby could figure out why, or at least if they did, they didn't say so. Her father, Joseph Warren, was a pretty important guy. He owned a factory or something. Maybe it was what she told me about him, but I got the feeling he was a real jerk.

The paper even mentioned she had an older sister who'd run away from home. It made it sound like there was something wrong with the family, like maybe they were crazy or something, but it didn't really explain anything. There were a lot of funny words, so I had to read it carefully, and even look up a couple of words in the dictionary. I even made a copy of it.

"Tragic Incident on Christmas Eve

"Mr. Joseph Warren's household was struck by tragedy just before Christmas. Miss. Audrey Warren, an unfortunate daughter of that household, was found by her mother, lifeless, having apparently succumbed to melancholia and despair. The poor victim was taken down at once, and Doctor Merton was summoned, but she had been found too late to rekindle the spark of life in her still form.

"The valiant Doctor's efforts were required, however, to sustain the nerves of Mrs. Sophie Warren, who had borne the shock of beholding her beloved daughter's horrible visage bravely, but who collapsed in a faint when told she could not be saved. Mrs. Warren has endured more than her share of tragedy, having previously lost three of her dear offspring to the onslaught of disease.

"Our readers may be aware Mrs. Warren was also called upon to bear a further burden two years ago, when Miss. Pamela Warren, then a tender fifteen year old maiden, fled the bosom of her family under cover of darkness. Although Mr. Warren, owner of the prosperous Columbia Felt and Wollens Manufactory, spared no expense in the effort to locate his daughter, she succeeded in vanishing amongst the unwashed throngs of New York City.

"Despite Mr. Warren's prominent position in this community, and his desire to avoid the harsh glare of publicity, these events have become once again the subject speculation. What curse has driven one fair and tender member of the Warren family to turn her face from life itself? Is it the same malady that so afflicted another she departed her comfortable residence to seek her own ruin in the slums of the city?

"Whatever her reasons for committing such a desperate act, Mr. Warren has rejected the pleas of Mercy on his daughter's behalf. There is to be no service held in her memory, and her mortal remains are to be denied rest in the family plot. Mr. Warren has so far refused to reveal his plans for the disposition of the poor, sad remains of one once so fair. Those gentlemen and ladies who shall undoubtedly mourn her must do so in private."

October 5, 1979
I showed Audrey the copy I made from the newspaper today. I knew it would make her sad, but I couldn't hide it from her. She wasn't as sad as I thought she'd be. She read it, then read it again, then shook her head. "So Father thought he was too good to lie down beside me in the end? Good." I couldn't figure out what she was saying. She looked at me. "I shouldn't talk like that. You're a good boy."

"I'm sorry. I just wanted to know more about you." She sighed. "There are things I can't say. I'm too ashamed, and you're too good, and too young, to know about such things. I doubt you'd believe me even if I explained them to you." "I'd believe you! You're my friend!" She smiled, a little. "Perhaps you would. Still, there are things no one should have to know about."

I felt really strange. I was curious, but Audrey was so sad that she'd done something awful to herself. Whatever made her that sad was probably something I wouldn't want to know about. "I'm sorry. I guess I shouldn't have looked." "You couldn't have known. I'm surprised the newspaper printed so much. That must have been Oscar."

"Oscar?" "Yes, Oscar Sachausen. He never said anything, but I thought he was sweet on me." She smiled a little. "He must have been, to dare anger Father like that. He even wrote about poor Pamela. Father did find her, you know." "He did? But the paper said..." "I know. No one outside the family knew. By the time he found her, she'd 'sullied the family's reputation'. So he wouldn't let her come home."

"That's awful!" "I know. I don't even think Mother knew that. I only knew because I eavesdropped on Father when he was talking with one of the Pinkerton men." "Pinkerton men? Weren't they detectives, or something?" "Yes, very famous detectives. Father only hired the best." "But he wouldn't let your sister come home?" Audrey was crying too much to talk. "I'm sorry." I left her alone after that.

October 7, 1979
Audrey came to talk to me today. I'm glad she isn't mad at me. I only wanted to know more about her and what happened to her. We talked about books, and whether Mom would ever let me get a dog. I told her I wasn't nearly as lonely since I had her to talk to. She said she'd been lonely, too, until we moved in and I made friends with her.

October 12, 1979
There's a girl at school who always sits by herself at recess and at lunch. The other kids say she's crazy, but she reminds me of Audrey a lot. She gets that same sad look sometimes. Today she looked really sad, so I went over to her. "I'm Steven." She must not have seen me coming, because she jumped, then looked at me for a minute. "I'm Linda. What do you want?"

"Uh... I'm sorry. I just... you just... looked so sad." "Yeah? What are you gonna do about it?" I didn't know what to say. "I don't need some stupid boy!" I almost ran away, but I remembered Audrey. "Look, that's not what I meant. I know this girl..." "Oooo, you know a girl. I feel so much better now!" "Look, this is important! She hurt a lot, too. She tried... uh, the thing is, she still hurts, and she's still lonely."

I didn't even know she'd slapped me until I heard it and my whole face started to sting. The other kids all laughed, and a teacher ran over and brought me to the principal's office. I guess he thought I said something mean to her. I just got a lecture, though, about leaving girls alone. I told Audrey about it later. She didn't lecture me, but she did tell me I might not be able to do anything.

"I know what she's thinking. She's wrong, but she doesn't know that. I know you want to help her, Steven, but just leave her alone." I almost cried then. "No! You didn't do anything wrong." "I didn't? But Linda thought I did, and the teacher thought I did, and you just said..." "I said to leave her alone. You tried to help her. There wasn't anything wrong with that, but she won't listen to you."

October 15, 1979
Audrey's been really nice to me. I think she feels bad about something. I tried to tell her I'm not mad at her or anything, but she still acts funny. She keeps starting to say something, then stopping. It's almost like she's afraid, but I don't know what she's afraid of. And Linda, at school, watched me all through recess and lunch. It was pretty creepy.

October 18, 1979
Linda came up to me today. "Um, Steven?" "Yeah?" "Do you really know a girl who wants to die?" "She wanted to, yeah." "Why?" "I think it was something to do with her father. She didn't want to explain too much." I thought she was going to slap me again, but she just stood there. After a minute, I saw she was crying and trying not to show it. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you."

"I'm not upset! I'm making up my mind about something." "Okay." "Listen, Steven, do you think this girl would talk to me?" "I don't know why not. She's pretty lonely." "Could you ask her?" "Sure, I'll ask her. I'll let you know what she says tomorrow." "Oh, thank you, Steven!" She ran off before I even had a chance to tell her it was okay. I really don't understand girls sometimes.

I asked Audrey tonight and she smiled at me. "Of course I'll talk to your friend. I'm glad she asked you." "You are? But you said to leave her alone." "That was so she could make up her own mind what to do. I'm glad she's decided to talk to me. Did you tell her I'm a ghost?" "Um, no. I thought it might be better to take her to meet you first, then show her." Audrey looked uncertain, but she didn't argue.

October 19, 1979
I told Linda today that Audrey said she'd talk to her. She chewed her lip, but nodded. "You can't bring her to my house. Where can I meet her?" "Do you know where I live? Can you come over to my house?" She frowned. "The old haunted house?" "Yeah." "I don't know. I couldn't come tomorrow. It would have to be Sunday afternoon." "Okay, that's fine."

When I told Audrey, she said, "I've been thinking of something. Your Mother will think it's strange if you have a girl come up to your room, won't she?" "Um, maybe." "I've been trying something. I can't go out in the sunlight, because it shines right through me, but I could meet her under the trees, where it's darker. I was out there today, making sure I could do it." "Thanks, Audrey. You make a great sister!"

October 21, 1979
Linda rode her bike over here today. She didn't look too happy, but she followed me when I led her out back under the big trees. Audrey was standing in the shadows, waiting for us. "Hi, Audrey, this is Linda. Linda, this is Audrey, the girl I told you about." "Did you really wish you could die?" "Yes, Linda, Steven told you the truth. I did wish I could die. In fact, I wanted it so badly, I made it happen myself."

Linda looked confused. "Made what happen?" Audrey smiled at her, then slowly walked through the tree trunk. "I made myself die." The scary thing is, Linda looked excited. "You did? How?" "That doesn't matter. What you need to know is that it didn't help me. I still have my memories, and I'm even more lonely than I was. Or I was lonely, until I met Steven."

"Steven said..." Audrey waited. "He said... your father..." Linda gulped. "Father was a very twisted, cruel man. He wanted things from me no father has a right to ask his daughter." Linda started crying. "Steven, could we talk alone?" I nodded, and walked off under the trees until I couldn't see or hear them any more. I wished I could spy on them, but I decided that would be mean.

They were there a long time, and I had to keep reminding myself it wouldn't be fair to Audrey or to Linda to listen to things they didn't want me hearing. Finally Linda came looking for me. "I'm sorry, Steven. Audrey said she told you there were things you shouldn't have to know. And I'm too ashamed to tell you, anyway." "Why? Audrey said the same thing. She didn't do anything! Neither did you."

Linda sat and looked at the ground for a few minutes before she said anything. "Steven, you can't understand. There are some things so terrible, even when it isn't your fault, you still feel ashamed." "But that's..." "It's awful. But that's the way it is. And that's why Audrey doesn't want you to know. Because just knowing about it would make you sick inside." "Oh."

"Steven, I've got to ask you something. Do you really want to help me?" "Sure. Why?" "Audrey told me about your story. She said it gave her an idea, how to stop my father from doing all the things her father did to her." "My story?" "The one about the dead people." "Oh, yeah. It did?" "The trouble is, Steven, we need your help." "That's okay."

Linda sighed. "No, it's really not okay. What we need you to do, if something goes wrong, you could get in trouble, or even hurt. I don't really want you to do it, but it's Audrey's idea, and she says it's the only way she can think of to help me." "Well, if Audrey says it's okay, I don't mind." "No, Steven, Audrey didn't say it was okay. She said to ask you if it was okay."

I thought a minute. "Audrey says this is the only thing she can think of." "Yes." "And if we don't do this, you'll keep on wanting to die, the way Audrey did, until maybe you kill yourself, like she did?" Linda looked at the ground. "Probably, yes." "Then I'll do it." She threw her arms around my neck and gave me a kiss before I could stop her. Well, I wouldn't tell anybody this, but it wasn't that terrible.

October 24, 1979
I've been hanging around with Linda a lot at school. The other kids tease us, but I don't care, and I don't think Linda does, either. Sometimes she gets mad at me, but Audrey's been trying to explain a little to me. Not about what's wrong. Just how it can be, when you trust somebody and they hurt you. After that, you don't know who you can trust, and you get mad at everybody. I don't blame Linda.

I've thought a lot about things, and I think maybe I can guess what hurt Audrey and Linda. Not exactly. I don't know all that much about it. But if it's what I think it is, that's sick. So sick, it's got to be crazy. I'm not even going to write it down here. It's just too crazy. I hope it's something else. Audrey tells me Linda's going to need somebody who's really her friend, who really cares about her. I'm glad she's trying to help me understand. I think I'd do something stupid and hurt Linda otherwise.

October 29, 1979
I don't know everything Audrey's got planned. But she and Linda have explained what they want me to do, and gone over it a couple of times. I just wish we could do it tonight. I want it to be over with. It's cool to be friends with a ghost, but this is different. This scares me.

October 31, 1979
I had to argue a lot with Mom before she'd let me go out trick or treating on my own. And she thinks my costume is stupid. It does look lame, but I've got to wear something I can run in, and something nobody can see far away. I'm writing this much before I go. I'll write down the rest of it when I come back.

We did it! I waited for the right time, and I walked up to Linda's door. Her creepy Dad came to the door. She pointed him out to me a couple of days ago, so I knew it was him. "Trick or treat!" When the creep bent over to stick the candy in my bag, I said really soft, "I know what you made Linda do with you." He almost got me. "Why you little...!" "I'm gonna tell everybody! I took pictures through your window!"

I waved a couple of pictures Linda'd stolen from him in the air, then stuffed them in my pants and ran harder. He really came after me then. He didn't even remember to close his door. I could hear Linda's Mom calling him, but he ignored her. Even though Audrey made me go through the woods a couple of times, in the dark it was different, and I tripped. But the creep didn't know the path at all, so it was okay.

Once we were away from his house, he was calling after me. "I'm going to kill you, you little $*!#! Give up now and I'll make it quick!" I laughed so he'd know where I was and ran away again. A couple of times I could hear him run into things, but after what he did to Linda I didn't feel bad for him at all. Whenever he got lost, I made sure he could hear where I was. It worked, too! I led him right to where Audrey told me to.

It was a little clearing near our house. I hid in the shadows and waited. I couldn't see Audrey or Linda. Then the creep ran into the moonlight. I wanted to run, but I wanted to see what Audrey would do. Sunlight might shine right through her, but moonlight only made her look spooky. She walked out in front of him. He pushed right through her, then stopped and turned around.

I'd never seen her like this before. She looked really scary, all cold and beautiful and mad. She reached out, and put her hand into his chest. "Hello, Mr. Virelli. Linda's told me all about you." He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Then he reached up and put his hand where hers was, on his chest. He grunted, and then he fell over. Linda ran out, but Audrey told her to stay back. She bent over him.

"It's okay. He's dead. Where are the pictures, Steven?" I went to hand the pictures over to her. The ones of men like Linda's dad with girls, some of them even younger than Linda, doing really gross stuff. "I can't, Steven. I'm sorry you had to be a part of this. Can you put them in his pocket?" "I guess so." I was pretty freaked out, touching a dead guy, but I slipped the gross pictures into his pocket.

Linda was crying, but Audrey said she'd be alright. I've never seen Audrey look really happy before. I was a bit scratched up when I got home, and it was late, so Mom was pretty mad. Still, it was worth it. When they find that creep in the woods, they'll see those pictures and know what kind of a creep he was. Then, nobody will want to ask too many questions about what happened to him. Besides, who's gonna believe a ten year old boy helped a ghost kill an adult, even on Halloween?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

With A Refreshed Spirit

I look back and realise I've posted much less recently than I would have liked. Although I recovered from my exhaustion after helping with the 2,996 Project, I was still tired, and spent much of my time catching up with tasks that absolutely had to be done.

When my daughter was suddenly left with no transportation (her car won't run, and her husband's failed inspection) and needed a ride to the emergency room, I did not have the reserves to handle the stress and loss of sleep. Happily, her problem was a rare but not a serious one. However, I lost quite a bit of sleep the next few days, until we could squeeze in the time to get my son-in-law's car repaired to pass inspection.

I'd fallen behind again, of course, and began struggling to catch up. I was so tired my judgement was skewed, and I slept very little each night, in an attempt to gain more time. Instead, I found myself working very slowly, and more than once my head bumped the monitor when I fell asleep while trying to work. Other times, I'd have trouble sleeping, I was so exhausted and consumed with stress.

I thank all my faithful readers; judging by your comments I was really able to do a passable job writing my story for Cathy's challenge. I didn't have time to edit and polish it as I would have liked, however, and I was unable to judge the result, since more than once I didn't even think I'd be able to post it in time. It was a real struggle.

At last, I was forced to admit that I needed to allow myself enough rest. I was trapped by now in a pattern where I was too anxious about unfinished tasks to sleep, so I decided to take a day off. This Tuesday, I slept as late as I could, then went to a nature sanctuary some distance away for some relaxation, and some much needed physical exercise. It is a place I've never visited before, but it was perfect for supplying what I needed. It is isolated, and filled with seemingly endless paths.

In fact, near the entrance there is even a sign-in sheet where you are required to list your licence number, and the number of people in your party, so rescuers can be alerted to look for you if your car remains in the little parking lot after dark. Some of this is no doubt to coddle city dwellers who have no idea how to handle themselves out of sight of "civilisation", but there are so few people about there is some justification for the concern.

It is a setting that easily allows the visitor to imagine they have slipped into some delightful fantasy world. During the whole time I was there, I didn't encounter anyone else on the trails, and the peace and the beauty of nature rested my mind and eased my spirit. I allowed myself to become carried away, and plan an ambitious trek that would let me see several noteworthy landmarks, including a glacial boulder and a giant, ancient oak. I enjoyed myself taking photos of everything that caught my imagination.

Most of the trails are so isolated no noise of traffic can be heard. At one point, while in the deep forest not far from the giant oak, I heard a rushing noise, which I first took for wind heralding a sudden storm. Quickly, I realised it was a plane, and feared it was going to crash into the trees. Instead, it turned out to be a pair of military jets flying very low. The forest grew very quiet after they passed; even the chipmunks and squirrels that ran everywhere through the leaves seemed to be sitting very still.

After about five or ten minutes, in broad daylight, a great owl broke the silence with a very clear "Who, who?". Since this was far too early for any owls to be abroad and hunting, he must have been complaining of the terrible noise which woke him up. If I imagined the planes as great dragons flying over the forest, it was a moment of pure fantasy.

The atmosphere was so peaceful and full of wonder I even calmed down and forgot my modern fears before I'd gone much further. Having watched the horror of 9-11 unfold on television, immediately following a physically and emotionally draining family crisis, my first thought upon realising military jets were racing somewhere was to wonder if there'd been another terrorist attack.

The odd thing is, that although I returned home to find nothing on the news, the next day, Wednesday, a private plane crashed into a Manhattan apartment building, and fighter jets were scrambled, some from an airfield where they would have needed to overfly the sanctuary I'd visited the day before. I don't believe there is any real significance in this, but it is one of life's odd coincidences.

I kept walking, enjoying my surroundings, and the fantasy atmosphere only deepened. The trail reached a point fairly close behind the very few private houses in the area. Someone in the back of one of those houses was chopping wood, or working on a carpentry project, because hollow booms echoed through the forest. Unlike most sounds of human occupation, they were not intrusive. Instead, they sounded like a great drum beating off in the forest. At one point, the ground even seemed to shake beneath me at the sound.

I pressed on until I came to a small pond where beaver and otter are supposed to live. None were stirring while I was there; it was just a bit too early for that. It was a nice, peaceful place, though, with the brilliant foliage of the trees on its banks reflecting off the water. Finally, I realised the sun was low enough that I really had to head back lest I find myself marooned in darkness while still in the midst of the forest.

I had no doubt I could survive the experience, and perhaps even make some progress by prodding ahead with my walking stick. Still, I was hungry and thirsty by then, and preferred to get back with as little trouble as I could. The path took me over more rock outcrops, and I had to scramble over one or two formidable stone walls, but at last I came out in the little meadow not far from the parking lot, just as the sun was setting.

I spent a few minutes enjoying the sunset in the meadow, sitting on a bench in front of a tiny frog pond. Then I walked to the parking lot, and stood admiring the other side of the sanctuary, which I hadn't had time to visit at all, as dusk fell in earnest. Although this was the time the beavers and otters were supposed to be active, I was just as glad I wasn't trying to navigate an unfamiliar trail in the rapidly fading light.

I spent the next day, and most of today, dealing with those things that really needed taking care of. Now I hope to be able to post more frequently, and to get around to adding links to the blogs that have recently linked to me. I also want to adjust my template slightly, and to put the list of entrants in my contest back on top. I do want to warn all my readers that some of the things that are happening in my life may make it difficult for me to post much from time to time. I have no intention of abandoning this blog, however, so please keep visiting.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Cathy's Writing Challenge

About two weeks ago, Cathy of Cathy's Rants and Ramblings posted a story challenge. I signed up for this, along with the other bloggers listed here. The story was to be posted on 06 October, and the only rule was that it must end with the sentence; "An innocent victim of a lie told in silence."

Before you read my story, in the post below, I would like to apologise. After I signed up for the challenge, a minor family emergency consumed all my time. I didn't even have time to get enough sleep. So on the 5th of October, I had nothing at all written, I had half forgotten any ideas I had, and I had to write a story in a hurry.

I concieved this idea, and decided it was better than the half-forgotten ones I had come up with earlier. I wanted to spend more time editing it and getting it just right. I hoped it would read more like a pure legend from ancient Ireland. Sadly, I ran out of time, and this was the best I could do. I apologise to my readers for posting a half-edited story. That seemed better than no story at all.

Mary Anne of Life in Qualicum Beach

Dr. Jordan of In My Humble Opinion (4 parts)

Wolfbaby of Dreaming and Believing (2 parts)

Moof of A Moof's Tale

Kim of Emergiblog

KT of Kt Living

Difficult Patient of Ripple of Hope

Jasmin of Shadow Writer

Empress Bee Of The High Sea of Muffin 53

PK of Pearls and Dreams

The Laundress of Dirty Laundry

Amin of Write-Now

Who Wouda Thunk It of Another Day In Paradise

Brian of Truth is Freedon

At Your Cervix (R.N.) of at your cervix

Dr. A. of Dr. Anonymous

Ipanema of Under The Canopy

May of About A Nurse

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The Tragedy of Sionn and Maeve

On the day Cathal, son of Finnean, was born, Taogh the Chief Bard waited until his mother welcomed him to the world and offered him his first meal. When she was done, he took the tiny infant in his own knobby brown arms. The child, now full and sleepy, remained silent as the old bard bore him into his father’s hall. There, he cradled him in knotted hands and raised him high, towards the smoke darkened beams that shut out the sky. “Behold, the son of Finnean!”

The warriors sprawled in various poses stood, lifted their horn cups in salute and roared their approval. Even that outcry failed to disturb the placid baby, who simply observed the firelit scene through half closed eyes. A grizzled old charioteer noted this and called out, “Aye, and a fine babe ’tis! Nary a cry did the little lad give at our shouts. Nothing frights him at all!”

Finnean beamed upon the boy from his dark carved throne, pleased by such an omen. For a moment, no one noticed Taogh’s curious golden eyes grow darker, and his features change. Then, as one man after another caught sight of the fey look that had overcome him, silence spread throughout the hall. Even the dogs stilled, as if to better heed the bard’s words which soared above the tendrils of sweet smoke from the hearth.

“A fine lad, aye, and a fine man he’ll become. But let him beware! If in carelessness, he leaves untended that fertile ground whereon treachery may spring up, its shoots shall burst forth and overwhelm him. Cathal must seek to give none cause to betray him, else their betrayal shall prove the ruin of his life!”
No one moved or spoke until a pair of hounds, snarling, began lunging at one another. Cursing, the closest warriors drove them from the hall, while the rest went back to their drinking. Taogh shook himself, handed the infant to a waiting servant, and sank into his accustomed seat beside Finnean’s throne. The bard’s strange words were mentioned no more that day, yet no man there doubted them, and most would remember them for the rest of their lives. That was always how it was when the fey mood overtook Taogh.

Four winters passed. Cathal became a great favourite of the warriors who followed his father. They would toss him apples, or slip him slivers of honeycomb. When he wrestled with other boys, they gathered to cheer him on, even when he fought their own sons. He was sturdy and strong, and usually won these contests, even against boys who had seen two or three more summers. His mother grew great with child again, and in the early autumn she died giving birth to Finnean’s second son.

The women attending her were helpless to stop the flow of blood, and she did not even have time to nourish young Sionn before drifting into the Otherworld. There was no merrymaking in the great hall, and the bard remained silent. Finnean’s grief was great, and he refused to take another wife. A girl was found to nurse the baby, who went to live with her in a smaller building near the wall of the great fort. He too grew to be brave and strong and quick. In any other clan he would have been a favourite.

Yet his father and the men who served his father could not quite rid themselves of the memory of grief that clung to him like a bitter stench. They turned away from him whenever they could find some excuse for doing so. Sionn was often lonely, until the day he learned Cathal was his brother. From that day on, he followed the older lad everywhere. Since he treated Cathal as a hero, his older brother found no complaint with his presence, and gradually he was accepted by the others. Yet still none admired him for his own skill and wit, they simply tolerated him as he lurked in the crowd.

Cathal was always stronger, faster, better at anything he set his hand to. Sionn could only follow in his footsteps. Once or twice, by dint of mighty effort, he managed to do nearly as well as Cathal. On those occasions, Cathal would set his jaw and scowl at his brother, then exert himself to outdo his own feats. The other lads and the warriors would scowl and grumble at him as well, until Cathal generously set things right. Sionn soon learned it was better not to even attempt to best his brother.

Soon they were young men. Cathal grew into a tall, lithe fellow with a surprising strength and skill, and a face that made all the maidens quiver and giggle when he passed. Sionn was very much like his brother, but not quite as tall or quite as fast. The maidens all had their eyes on Cathal, and never bothered to glance his way. Sionn still loved his brother, very much, but he began to suspect he was just a bit too proud. He didn’t even have anyone he could confide these feelings to. His foster mother had wed and moved to an outlying farmstead as soon as he was old enough to live with the other warriors in training. Cathal was such a generous and friendly man in so many ways none of their companions would hear an ill word spoken of him.

One day, at one of the great festivals where all the clans mingled, Sionn grew restless and fled his brother’s shadow. Alone, he calmed and strolled along, enjoying the scents of cooking food, the fresh breezes, and the sunshine. He let his mind wander, until with a start he realised he had nearly walked into a strange young woman. Her skin was as pale as milk, her eyes were fresher than new grass, and her hair outshone newly forged copper. Her gown was fine and she wore ornaments of copper and gold. He gulped, and felt his face grow hot.

“Uh, I’m sorry, I didn’t... uh...”

When she smiled, a layer of himself he hadn’t even known he possessed tore open, and feelings he’d never imagined flooded him. “That’s right, you didn’t. Which is just as well for you; I’d have been quite angry with you if you’d made me soil this gown.”

For a terrible moment, he suspected she was mocking him, but then he saw her eyes were gentle. “I do beg your pardon. I was too attentive to my own thoughts to notice you there.”

“If you truly wish to earn my pardon, you’ll have to do better than that.” She smiled again. “I will only pardon you if you will come with me and consent to help me gather berries.”

Sionn gulped again. “Of course I’ll help you. I would do whatever you asked. I am Sionn, son of Finnean.”

She giggled. “I am Maeve, daughter of Macrath. Would you truly do anything I asked?”

Sionn felt his face grow hot again, but he managed to speak steadily. “Yes, I would.”

She giggled again, then led him off into the hills. They spent the afternoon gathering berries, with Sionn doing most of the gathering and Maeve eating most of the tangy berries. It was dusk when they trudged back. Sionn winced inwardly when he saw Cathal striding towards them, but it was too late to hide. Cathal called out to him, then hesitated when he noticed the woman by his side. A moment later, he stepped forward, hand outstretched to clasp Sionn’s arm.

“Sionn, I’ve been seeking you for hours! Yet I see that you’ve found better company.” He bowed in Maeve’s direction. “I am Cathal, son of Finnean of Dubh Tor.”

Maeve could not help smiling at his mock formality. “I am Maeve, daughter of Macrath of Dun Cuan.”

Cathal exchanged a few more polite remarks with her, then led Sionn off to join their warrior band around a distant fire. Sionn didn’t see Maeve again until the festival was over. The servants did not begin packing as expected for the journey home. Instead, they bustled about, making mysterious preparations, while most of the warriors speculated and Cathal and a few of his friends grinned secretively. Soon, Finnean approached them in company with another man wearing a golden torc, Maeve, and a severe young man in the robes of a bard. Sionn started to rush forward, but something in Maeve’s face held him back. Before he knew it, the bard was hand-fasting Maeve to Cathal before the gathered men of both their clans. Cathal had eyes only for Maeve, so he failed to notice Sionn was unable to swallow even a bite of the feast that followed.

He listened, dismayed, while both kings agreed the wedding must take place soon. It was meant to seal an alliance which would benefit both in the constant struggles between clans. Taogh looked troubled, and once leaned over to mutter in Finnean’s ear, but the king waved him away. Sionn stared into the leaping flames and imagined luring Maeve aside, snatching her onto the back of a horse, and riding like the wind until they were safe. As the men grew drunk, an older warrior reminisced loudly about the strange fate foretold at Cathal’s birth. A few men looked uneasy, and Taogh stirred again, but Cathal rose to his feet.

“I have been forewarned. I have had time to think on it, and there is clearly only one thing I may do. Should any give sign of betraying me, I will strike off their head before I give them the chance!”

Taogh held up one hand, but he was ancient by now, and the feeble gesture went unnoticed. The warriors, who loved bold boasts, roared their approval of Cathal’s solution. They shouted, sang, and drank every drop of the mead. When Sionn slipped away from the fire, no one even noticed. He walked for over an hour, then flung himself into a dark, chilly lake and swam until he was exhausted. To his disgust, when his body felt itself sinking, instinct took over and dragged him, panting, to the shore. He lay there for a while, then walked back to the silent camp just before dawn. In his imagination, even the stars were mocking him.

When he awoke, he was consumed by a terrible fever, and remembered little of the next few months. By the time he recovered, Cathal and Maeve were wed and had grown comfortable with each other. Now and then he thought she cast an apologetic look his way, but he could never be sure. Still, she seemed happy, and he resolved to cause her no trouble. He threw himself into raiding, and spent many nights in the open with only a few picked companions beside him. Within a few years, he was given the chance to settle in a smaller fort as a lesser chieftan in Finnean’s lands, and he accepted that gratefully. Like his mother, Maeve seemed to have difficulty quickening, so his brother remained childless. Finnean lived only a few more winters before crossing to the Otherworld, and Cathal was confirmed as ruler of the clan.

Sionn still avoided him as much as possible. His heart never stopped aching at the thought of Maeve in his brother’s arms. One afternoon, eight summers after Cathal was wed, he rode up to Sionn’s gate with Maeve and a large band of warriors. They dismounted, and Cathal embraced his brother. Maeve shifted uncomfortably, but stood beside him. Since he could not do otherwise, Sionn welcomed them into his home. The few servants scurried about, preparing such a feast as Sionn’s resources would allow. Cathal did not speak of the reason for his visit until they had eaten and were sitting quietly watching the flames dance in the hearth.

Cathal sighed and glanced at Maeve. “Brother, there is war amongst the clans. I must lead most of my warriors into battle. Maeve has lately lost a child, and may not ride with us. Yet I fear she may not be safe in my fort with the few warriors I can spare.”

Sionn found he could not speak, so he simply nodded.

“I want you to bring your men, to accompany Maeve to the fort and to stay there with her, until I return.”

Maeve did not speak, but she shifted, and Sionn could see she was concerned for her own safety. His heart lurched within him. For her, he could endure even this. “I’ll tell my men tonight, and leave one or two oldsters here to tend the place. We’ll ride out with you on the morning.”

Cathal smiled. “That’s settled, then.”

Cathal and his men rode off that night, too eager to join battle with their foes to tarry. In the early morning mists, Sionn rode beside Maeve, his tiny war band surrounding them. They spoke only when necessary, but glanced at each other often. It was well past noon by the time they passed the gates of Dubh Tor. The few remaining warriors greeted them, they ate a cheerless meal, and the servants prepared a chamber where Sionn could rest. He spent all the time he could outdoors, but he still found himself alone with Maeve for the second time in his life two days later.

She did not touch him, and she kept her voice low and her gaze on the ground. “I want you to know, I never had a choice. My father told me I was to marry Cathal. I could hardly object.”

“I know. We should not be speaking of this.”

“We will only speak of it once. It is something I thought you should know. Yet he is not a bad man, and I have made my peace with him.”

“Thank you for telling me. I did hope, once, but you seemed to be happy...”

“Yes, I’ve been happy. I just wanted you to understand that I never intended to hurt you. I know why you agreed to come back here, even for a short while, and I would never have asked you, myself.”

Sionn was about to say more, but a serving woman approached with a problem only Maeve could solve. They parted silently, and Sionn kept even more to himself after that. The weeks passed, until one rainy afternoon, when he spotted a war band riding up to the gates. There were a few less men, and a few of those that returned were visibly battered, but the men were singing and seemed to be in good spirits. Sionn arrived in the dark hall just a few moments before Cathal strode in. He glanced at Maeve, standing near the doorway, then at Sionn.

“You’ve behaved youselves, then?” He kept his tone light, but his face was solemn.

Sionn hesitated. He had no desire to cause any trouble for Maeve, but it would be satisfying, just once, to watch Cathal squirm for a moment. In that moment, he saw Cathal’s face harden, and realised he had made a mistake. He opened his mouth, then shut it. Cathal snarled in rage, and it was clear that now he had raised even a slight suspicion in his brother’s mind, no reply was likely to satisfy him. He glanced helplessly at Maeve, who realised the danger a moment before he did. She whirled to flee, but stumbled.

“You’ve betrayed me!” Cathal roared as he swept out his sword. “You’ll not get the chance to ruin my life!”

Before Sionn could reach them, Cathal’s sword had sliced into Maeve’s neck, her head was rolling on the hall floor, and her blood was spouting everywhere. Sionn had his sword out, and in a blind rage, he hacked wildly at Cathal. All his pain, all his loneliness, flowed from him and into his sword arm. For that moment, he was a mightier warrior even than his brother. He stood, gazing down at the bodies of his brother and the woman he loved, sobbing wildly. He did not even trouble to wipe the blood from his face. The warriors, aghast, stood uncertainly. Once they began to comprehend what had just happened, Cathal’s men began silently drifting away.

Sionn wept until dusk, then seized his brother’s body and flung it outside, to the hounds. He gathered up Maeve’s pitiful remains and carefully wrapped them in a shroud. Then, for three days and three nights he roamed the deserted fort, howling and raging until even the owls sought more peaceful nests. At the end of that time, he set to work with his own hands. Despite the pain wracking him, he forced himself to work with care, building a proper tomb for Maeve’s rest. It took him three years, but at last he tenderly gathered up the shroud and its contents and laid it in the tomb he had prepared. With that task over, he walked, day and night, until he reached the bank of a broad river and threw himself in. He was wiser this time, and swam with the current, out to sea.

Maeve’s tomb still stands. Few can read the old language any more, but for those who can, the inscription over the doorway is still clear.

“Maeve, daughter of Macrath.
She was the fairest woman ever to grace this isle.
An innocent victim of a lie told in silence.”