Yet Another Sneak Peek — SHIREWODE
Meet the fair Maiden to the Shire Wode…
Dark hart and fiery warhorse both wait: the first patient, the second eager, barely contained.
There is a bow in her hand. The wind picks up, rustling her damp, white kirtle about her knees. She knows she must take care with this shot, must gauge well both draw and release, into that wind.
She knows that she knows how.
The arrow flames as she puts it to string: a beacon, a turning point. It flares as she draws, then spins into smoke and sparks as she looses it, an arc over the altar where two forces wait, a-tremble.
A beginning. A signal.
It looses them. Like demons from any hell ever imagined they leap forward, charge with a thunder of bare hooves and metal-shod hoofs, and they collide with the darken brilliance of angels in a war on earth for heaven and hell. It is a battle never-ending, set up, fixed from the moment two infants came into air and breath. They love each other. They hate each other.
They need each other….
Yet they are too caught in the blood-lust to know that they need. Too tangled in what-has-been/what-will-be to see what is.
She sees what is, finally. She needs them as they need each other, as they need her. She knows them. They are damh Rìgh and Capull–coille—the King Stag and the Horse of the Wode—they are her brothers, her consorts. They are the kings who would battle for the right to be her lord, her twin, her lover, her son… and suddenly she is walking toward the altar. Striding with a purpose, and one which reveals she does belong there, is merely and explicitly another player in this collision of mummers’ plays, of celestial creatures given earthly form.
Ivy. Holly. Oak. Winterking, Summerlord, Maiden….
It reverberates into the air about them, halting the battling beasts-cum-men. They turn on her; snarling and bristling.
They are both wounded. Their blood, mingling on the altar; their breath, commingling in the air.
She steps on the altar between them, and they hold.
In the way of dreams, they are no longer fae beasts in a tilt for dominance, but change: shape and form and weapons. Horse to belted knight, Stag to hooded archer; beast to demon to angel, angel to fae spirit to man to god then man. No mere pawns in a cosmic game, but Hallowed Princes of a broken Realm. Kings of a Wheel spun wildly widdershins.
She holds out her hands to them. The knight sinks to one knee, his sword point-down before him. She reaches a hand for him, strokes fingers through his copper-gilt hair and down his cheek, lifting up his face to meet hers. Eyes green as the ivy in her own cinnabar curls peer at her, cool and considering, then he hefts his sword, offers it to her. Upon it a serpent twists, an eight of electrum coils never-ending.
She kisses the serpent on its flat, smooth head; it shimmers like a bronze torc then… sinks, molding and melding, into the sword. The gilded swath coils about the knight’s hands, travels up his arms, wreathing his head and sliding back into the serpent-blade as she claims the knight with a name. “Gamelyn.”
He lowers the sword to the altar, bows his head.
Beside the silent knight, the hooded archer waits, still standing but head lowered. When she turns to him, he lifts his hands; in them he offers the arrow that she loosed. It burns, blue-white, in his palms—but it does not burn him, and as she reaches for it, it flares and disappears. In its place is a long, thin arrow forged in gold. It is fletched with the iridescent tips of peacock feathers, their eyes watching, always watching.
“So you will always see me,” the archer whispers, eyes meeting hers, ebon reflecting indigo. “Always know me, even when the hood must take my Sight.”…