Category Archives: shadow of avalon

Lyric Warm-Up Writing Day 5 – One Tree Hill

5a

Now today’s lyrics, from ‘One Tree Hill’ could have taken me a million places. It’s one of my favourite places on earth and I was wed beneath its gaze. But the Muse took me back in time and to a Shadow of Avalon. Everyone has been waiting years for more from the Arthurian kids, to meet Auta, Nyssa and the like. So today you get a little glimpse of things to come. Maybe in the third instalment of Shadow of Avalon. Enjoy a dose of feels. Oh, Myr, you sweet idiot.

See the Sun go Down in your Eyes

One Tree Hill. It had always been One Tree Hill. As the old tree began to die a new one was transplanted to grow in its place, so it had been for more generations than anyone could remember.

Her family had tended the hill for those generations. They had cared for the trees and kept the ruins from being lost. It was said this spot was where the great Goddess of the moon Diana had come when she left the shores of hot lands. It was said on this hill she had birthed the Blue Lady. Brighid was named for the Blue Lady. When her parents had passed that harsh winter, it had become Brighid’s task to tend to the tree and the ruins. And the memory of the Goddesses.

And that was what she had been doing when the riders approached.

They wore no markings to say whose men they were. They were too well armed and armoured to not be in the employ of a rich lord. That they rode without badges proved they were riding for mischief. But what reason could they have for riding up One Tree Hill? A tree and ruins and a young woman with little to her name but her faith and her healing skills.

“Are you the one known as Brighid?”

“Who asks?” Brighid was already off her knees, hands covered in dirt from weeding the flowers that circled the tree well out from its branches. Flowers to bring the bees to the hilltop. She had no weapons to take on these men. Not that it would have made a difference had she had a sword to wield or not.

The man who had spoken, clearly the leader, dismounted his horse. He was a huge man, with a ruddy face and all the marks of cruelty around him. A soldier who took pleasure in the pain he inflicted and the pain he took.

He struck her.

“When I speak, you answer. Are you Brighid?”

Brighid cradled her cheek and nodded. “I am. What do you want with me?”

“You are a means to an end.” The man replied.

The man took her to the tree and she was tied to it. Rough rope tightly bound her and no matter what she said, how she cried or screamed, she was ignored. So she grew silent to learn more. Men such as these never kept their own confidences.

“The wizard will bring the boy if he values her life. Not long now, though. Sun’s already setting.” The scrawniest of the men said, picking at his teeth with the end of a small dagger.

Brighid sighed. She knew not only who they spoke of but also that soon One Tree Hill would have no one of her family to tend to it. If her life depended on this, she was doomed.

Once Brighid had been married. She had been in love. A man who had destiny to spare and whose visions had taken him to an orphan boy, a soul reborn, a boy who might become a man to bring some peace to the lands. The Isles were a land built on war and fighting and this did not seem to be changing.

The boy could bring some peace and balance. He had been three when Dafydd had seen him. He would be eleven now. Eight years since the vision. Eight years since Dafydd had left saying that no love could take him from his duty.

The boy mattered more than any other. Dafydd would not come. Dafydd would not save her.

Brighid closed her eyes and began to make her peace. She would return, she already knew this. The cycle would continue as it always had. Just as it had in their last life where he had chosen his duty to the boy, Arthur as he had been. He would do the same now.

And she forgave him.

She died with her heart free of hate.

Dafydd watched in the flames. He was not even there to hold her as he had on the shores of the waters of Avalon. Again she had died for him and his heart broke.

Myr came out of the memory of a lifelong gone and Gwyn held him as his body shook,

“There, brother. Things are not as they once were, you need not sacrifice her this time. Go to Auta. She needs you.”

Myr looked up at Gwyn and smiled. “You are so wise and so hopeful. I fear that destiny is against us.”

“Nothing is ever so certain,” Gwyn said. “If Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere can make peace with each other, then Myrddin can keep his Niniane. And if it is not to be, then go now and be there when she needs you. Choose her now.”

“Yes, bossy boots.” Myr poked his tongue out Gwyn but he got up and said his farewells to go in search of the woman who held the soul of sweet Brighid but did not know it. He would choose her, he owed her that in this life. He owed her far more, but this was a start.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Nyssa’s Tale

So I haven’t mentioned this in quite a while and I admit I have not touched it for editing. I am still on the side of being worried about my editing skills, more so than my worry at my skills of story telling.

But I thought I would share a little piece of Nyssa’s tale. This is from the first chapter, though not from the beginning, just a little scene that gives some a taste of what the Shadows of Avalon stories have in their heart, celtic mythology, magic, and strong characters. It is the beginning of Nyssa’s Tale and there is so much to come after this little encounter. I cannot say how excited I am for the rest of the story to be read because I truly believe it is an amazing tale. And I hope you enjoy this little snippet, raw and unedited and begging me to give it attention.

**

“Aoife, Aoife, Aoife.” Tonight Nyssa did not call the words loudly, they were more of a whisper, forced from her throat as she began to get cold feet. The sun had set half an hour ago and it had taken her this long to find the courage to call the woman’s name and make her decision known.

“You have made a decision?” Aoife asked as she appeared. Though it was clear from the fact that the woman had called and the haunted look in her eyes that she had indeed made her decision and what that decision was. Aoife wondered if she had been given the choice, she did not remember and it was only an idea wondering not a passionate curiosity. She did not care one way or the other, she simply did not know the answer to the question.

“I take his death on to me and give myself to your mistress’ task.”

“The deal is made.” Aoife clapped her hands. The yard grew dark as a storm seemed to come up around it. The wind grew fierce but left the two women untouched.

Nyssa stumbled as the shrapnel exploded out of nowhere and into her body. She staggered falling hard down onto her knee, the pain of the fall inconsequential to the agony she already suffered. She lurched sideways, unable to cry out, to take it back. She had never known pain like this.

The world seemed to slow down, time ticking by so slow each moment gave her a lifetime of pain to feel and endure. Blood seemed to fill her throat and she gurgled still trying to find words to make this stop, to renege on the deal. She tried to breathe and began to drown instead as she collapsed backwards. It had taken seconds but it felt like eons had passed as she suffered.

“I forbid this.” Myrddin screamed the words into the swirling maelstrom of power that surrounded the yard. He stepped into it with no fear for himself only that he was too late. Behind him four others followed, hair and clothing whipping around them though they did not react at all. All eyes were firmly fixed on Aoife, none of them friendly looks.

“The deal has been made, the ritual begun. There is naught you can do about it.”

“The deal is forfeit, there was no full disclosure. Your mistress knows better than this. I cry foul.” Myrddin waved his palm and Nyssa froze as if he had paused her in frame and in fact that was just what he had done. “This deal is forfeit.”

“The deal is made, the payment in progress, you have no voice here.”

“I am the voice of Brighid.” Myrrdin thundered, his hand coming up to lock around Aoife’s throat. “I am the voice of truth and revelation and this deal is forfeit.”

“She still fades even with your touch brother.” Gwyn looked up feeling Nyssa’s soul wavering at war in itself; to fight or to flee. Auta moved to the ground beside Gwyn, her hands palm down moving over Nyssa’s bleeding body no more than an inch from the numerous wounds. After a moment she turned her head back up to look at Myrddin, tears in her eyes and frustration in her voice.

“I cannot heal her, the magic must be reversed.” As Auta spoke Aoife moved and threw her backwards away from the girl. A moment later Gwyn landed beside her. Aoife was not a large woman but her strength came from her mistress. It was her mistress that spoke now, Aoife’s eyes glowing a dark red as if filled with blood. Her skin had an eerie sheen of darkness to it, shadows seeming to dance across her skin.

“I have made a deal and claimed this girl as my own.” The voice which came forth from Aoife was deep with age, it had none of the frailty of the crone and all of the power and wisdom.

“We defy your claim.” Lance stepped forward to stand beside Myrddin. He was joined by Adrian and then the two women once they helped each other back to their feet.

“By what right do you think to defy me?”

“By right of power.” Myrddin called in response to the Dark One’s question. His voice echoed with his own power. “Brighid cries foul to this deal.”

“Arianrhod cries foul to this deal.” Auta slipped her hand into Myrddin’s.

“Herne of the green wood cries foul to this deal.” Lance clasped Myrddin’s hand in his own and then Gwyn’s creating a line before the Raven woman and her Mistress.

“The lord of the Hunt cries foul to this deal.” Gwyn squeezed Lance’s hand and took Adrian’s in her other.

“And Arawn cries foul to this deal. The soul of the boy is his and he will not be denied.” Adrian’s voice rumbled across the yard as the storm of power around them reached a frenzy.

“A new deal.” Auta stepped forward as her mistress spoke through her, dropping Myrddin’s hand as she moved. He almost reached for her again before he realised that the Goddess was within her. “Dark sister, a new deal then, let the girl know the truth of all things before your bargain is completed, if she still will give her soul to your keeping when she knows all then we will relent.” Auta stood toe to toe with Aoife, shoulders set strong, her face as cold and hard as the woman that she looked upon.

“You will allow me her soul if she still makes the choice, I have your word?” Aoife’s gravelly voice asked, her eyes looked to Auta first and then through to the others.

“You have my word.” Auta replied. The others added their agreement.

“Very well, show her what you wish.” Aoife stepped back away from Nyssa to the edge of the circle, her dark hair being caught up by the winds she had created and their combined power had made stronger.

Auta sagged as Arianrhod withdrew her voice once more, almost stumbled. She had never been touched by the Goddess she had pledged to before. Adrian’s arm circled her waist and kept her standing as Myrddin dropped Lance’s hand and moved to Nyssa’s side, pausing only for a moment in hesitation about going to Auta’s side. He knew how she would be feeling right now but Adrian would tend to her, Myrddin had another task. He placed his hand upon Nyssa’s brow down on one knee at her side.

“Truly I am sorry for this.” He murmured the words so she would know even if she could not hear them and truly he was very sorry for the truth he must give her as he had given painful truths to so many before her. The truth was often more painful than a lie but in the long run one hoped became the lesser of the two evils. He closed his eyes and let his spirit mingle with hers, the power of Brighid and let her see the truth of the man that she was ready to die for. He did not pick what Nyssa saw, that was not his place. But he saw the scene play out just as she did and he felt her heart break.

Wesley’s arms framed the woman’s head as he moved above her, his lips brushing against hers as she writhed beneath him, her body moving to match his thrusts. It could have been any time at all but Nyssa knew it to be recent, his arm bore the tattoo he had gotten a week before he had shipped out. A star, he said because she was his shining star to always follow home. The woman’s fingertip traced it and somehow Nyssa just knew that she had been told the same thing. They moved together as two very familiar with each other. All the illusions of love and happiness fell away. Nyssa wanted to beg for this to be a trick to stop the deal but she knew it was truth. The knowledge broke her heart, she had been willing to give everything for this man, literally give up herself to let him live. And for what so he could use more women the way he was using this woman, the way he had used Nyssa, so he could lie and cheat and the gods only knew what else.

“No deal!” Nyssa roared the words in her mind and the vision fell away. She was back in her body, the pain still real and overwhelming.

Learning, dreaming and rambling

I sent ‘A Queen’s Tale’ off to be edited today. I will be very happy to have it done and back available for download. The only negative feedback the story received so far was for the editing, and even the negative said the story was great. Self-publishing was a steep learning curve which I always knew it would be.

The moment I got my first negative review all I saw was the negative, all I felt was the feeling of being chastised and told off. I didn’t see the good comments, I didn’t see the 4 stars given. For the first day I kind of missed the point. Feedback doesn’t mean you failed. Feedback means you can do better.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. –Samuel Beckett

I know I have a lot to learn, I also know that I have the stories to tell. No matter what I do voices and their stories keep invading my mind. This is my dream and no amount of hard work can deter me.

For those who are new to the Justine show, ‘A Queen’s Tale’ is the first work in our ‘Shadows of Avalon’ series. A modern take on the concept of the tales of Arthur and his knights, and Avalon. It was an introductory teaser novella to introduce some of the characters before the release of ‘Nyssa’s Tale’ the first novel in the series. I self-published it on Smashwords. After much positive feedback but comments on the editing I took it down. One of the biggest things I learned from the experience was how different sentence structure could be between countries – namely New Zealand and the US. I was told by people who had lived in the US for a time that they basically had to relearn how to speak once they got there and again once they got back to New Zealand. This is still an on-going thing for me as I like my voice, I like my style of writing, but I also want to tackle the US market, which is one reason I set about looking for a professional editor. It’s one reason I want to get a professional agent and be professionally published for the novels I have coming forth. I am still planning to republish ‘A Queen’s Tale’ once it is edited. And I will be promoting the wonderful woman Kendra who is working with me to edit this as she is just starting to break into the business.

At the end of the day my dream was never to be an Indie Author and I am in awe of the people that are. But I am going to keep going with my dream to travel down the regular author path. Who knows where the future will take me, all I know is my dreams are calling and I am powerless to not heed the call.

Oh look, I rambled again…

Ladies of the Lake

So I wanted to do another teaser for Tuesday. We have so many stories we are working on,  and I want to share them all. So I asked Sam for a suggestion as to what I should share of ours today. She, with very little hesitation, said “Ladies of the Lake”. Now as you have probably guessed this first-draft-writing-in-progress is part of the Shadows of Avalon and is in fact a flashback to times gone by and the days of Arthur….

**

She came from the lake, water spilling from her body as the wet cloth clung to her. She glowed in the twilight as she moved towards the party, the men on horseback waiting on the shore. She knew each by face and by name though none knew her, not yet. The sun had vanished behind the clouds as it set though the hint of its light remained setting the lake and sky to a deep blue the lake rippling with dark shadows and in the water she stood there in her silver gown, the retrieved sword in her hands, though it was not the one that was promised to this man who rode at the head of the pack, his would come in time but that time was not tonight and she would not be the one to bring it to him.
This sword belonged to another who rode to join them now, he alone knew her face, though many who looked on her now knew her soul in the lives that had come before them.
“Madame, you will catch a chill.” A young knight jumped from his horse and came forward once he had tugged a cloak free of his belongings strapped to the horse. “Please, take this, we will cast our eyes away and let you change from these sodden clothes. It would not do well for you to catch your death.” The man came closer to her and noticed first the sword in her hands and then the mark on her forehead that denoted her as a priestess of the Isle. He dropped to bent knee before her and held out his cloak, head bowed in reverence. “My lady I did not know you for who you were.”
“And yet you showed me kindness and respect, your heart is ever pure Bedevere. I thank you for the gesture.”
“You know me lady?” He tilted his head and looked up at her, the others remaining silent on their horses but all looked on curious as to what was transpiring that one of their own would drop to bended knee before her.
“I know you all.” She smiled kindly at him and then as she touched a hand to his to raise him up she turned her eyes to the others. “Please, you are all welcome at the lake. You may rest here as you planned to for the night.”
Their leader jumped from his horse and strode forward, wearing his crown well for all his youthful years and short months upon the throne.
“You know us lady, but please let us give our names and greetings as if we were strangers to you, as you are to us.” He unsheathed his sword and set it into the ground before him and knelt before it. “I am Arthos, or Arthur as the people all me.”
“Be welcome Arthur, I am Niniane of the Lake and I have been sent to bring this to another of your party who lost it many years ago in an argument with a young priestess.”
“A young priestess who was ever stubborn and would not cast aside duty.” A figure broke from the darkness of the trees, leading a horse that favoured it’s front right hoof.
“A young priestess who fought with a stubborn young priest who would not cast aside his own duty either. Hello Myrddin.”
“Hello Niniane, the years have been kind to you.” Myrddin let his horse free as another knight left his own to tend to it. He moved to her side and bent his head to kiss her cheek. “I have missed you.”
“And yet you have not come to call on me.” She chided him gently though there was still accusation in her words. He had not returned to the Isle in seven years since they had argued and he had thrown the sword she had given him into the lake in his anger. He had left her then, left the island and not returned until this night when he brought the new king he had chosen over her, to find blessing with Lord and Lady of the Isle and the great Gods who blessed this place.
“I have been busy.”
“I have seen.”
“You have watched me then?”
“Often do I go to your sanctuary and let the cave of crystal show me you as you have been and are. We both submitted to our duty this does not mean my heart turned as cold as that crystal against you.” Niniane spoke with no embarrassment as she admitted that she still loved the man who now wore grey in his beard.
“It seems there are stories to be shared, but perhaps camp might be made and dinner prepared if we are to spend the night here, the light will fade soon and we are without the moon tonight.” A handsome young knight moved from his horse.
“Gwaine is right, you should all be about your business as if I did not disturb you. If you would be willing to share your meal with me I should repay by sharing a story or two.”
“It shall be as you say lady.” Gwaine bowed low in her direction and all the knights and their king followed suit, the only one who did not bow was Myrddin, he stood fixed in place his eyes moving from her face to the sword and Niniane fought to not laugh at him. Though he would have known that he might see her in this journey he clearly did not expect to find her so soon.
“Will you walk with me Myrddin?” She asked in a soft voice, still holding his sword in her hands.
“Forgive me lady.” Arthur took a step closer to them, clearly feeling he was intruding and seeming almost bashful for it.
“Yes my king?” Niniane turned her gaze to the young king from his mentor.
“You are still dressed in your wet clothes and it still stands that in this cool night air you might take a chill and become unwell and none here will allow such a thing to come to pass and rest on our conscience. Please let us give you dry clothes before you and Myrddin take your leave to continue your reunion.”
“You are quite the silver tongue my king and I will gratefully accept the lending of clothes, I was foolish in that I did not think beyond my quest to retrieve the sword from where it lay hidden to what my state would be after. The Lady would chide me for it, though it would not I believe surprise her that I would act so, especially not when this one is involved.” Niniane spoke in a low conspiratorial tone and gave Arthur a wink that caused him to look even more self-conscious. It amused her that he in such a position as he held would act in such a way. It gave her more hope for his reign after the bloodshed and destruction of his father.
Arthur was all king though as he waved his hand for others to bring to him the clothes he had offered but she did not begrudge him that, he was after all king. Bedevere came forth and offered his cloak to go with the rest and she accepted it with no hesitation. She knew their pride would not allow her to say no and she wished them to be at ease with her.
“I will change over in the trees.” She turned and began to walk only to pause at the sound of footsteps on the lake stones behind her. She turned back to face the way she had come and found Myrddin close behind her. “One might wonder where you think you are going?”
“I will not spy while you change but I will not allow you to enter the woods with no escort nearby nor will I let you too far from my sight this evening.” He gave her a smile that she had missed all too much and one she could not resist.
“Very well.” Niniane continued to walk to the trees and finding one with a trunk of suitable girth she moved behind it to shed her damp dress and change. She had to admit once she had secured the pants around her with the rope belt and pulled the cloak around her shoulders that it did feel better to be dry, the slight breeze did not seem to move through to her bones in the same fashion now. She retrieved her wet dress and undergarments from the forest floor and held them in one hand while she picked up Myrddin’s sword in the other as she came forth from behind the tree and into his sight once more.
“Do you recall the night you gave that to me?”
“I do, in vivid detail including the moment you cast it away and broke the promise between us.” Tallking of the memory brought it to mind and the feelings of that night burned as strong as the image burned bright in her mind.
“You would not come away with me.” Myrddin replied, his tone defensive.
“And you would not stay with me.” Niniane tried not to react to the tone but though years had passed the hurt still remained between them. “You had your duty and I had mine and we are hardly strangers to it being this way.”
“Your lips.”
“My lips?” Niniane blinked her eyes at his reply to her words, they were not expected.
“I would kiss them.”
“You are not free to give me the promises that your kiss has always held Myrddin, we might not either be strong enough to survive it.”
“And yet standing there all I wish for is to kiss them again, to know you again, your body and pleasure as is my right as your chosen.”
“You chose me Myrddin, claimed me but you left me and it near destroyed me, I come to make peace, not to make love.”
“You do not feel the same as you once did.” His words accused her even as his eyes turned cold and hard in anger.
“I feel as I always have, I loved you before you claimed me and I love you still, my body still stirs for yours Myrddin as it ever has, there has been no other I have lain with in ritual or in pleasure.” Niniane looked down at the sword in her hands, tears stinging at her eyes and she tried to blink them away before they could fall and betray the sadness in her heart. “I gave you this sword six moons after you claimed me as the wolf to my dragon, it was to be the gift of our betrothal and when you threw it away you threw with it my heart. I give you back your sword and give you always my heart, but I can never be yours as you cannot be mine. We have been given our tasks and will shall do them because our lives are only two compared to the many that will be blessed and the peace that will hold these lands if we do as we are tasked.”
Myrddin did not reply but took her by the arms and pulled her to him, his arms locked around her and he held her tight in his embrace. No words spoken though any watching could see from the shaking of their bodies that both wept for what they had between them, for what had been and what could be and would not.
Niniane was first to break their embrace though she did not wish to but she was not strong enough to remain in his arms and not be moved, not relent and let his lips taste hers once more. More nights than she could count had passed as she wished to kiss him again, to lie with him again and she knew that she would relent far too easily and perhaps even turn her back on her task.
“I promised the king and his companions a tale for my supper, I should pay the debt.”
“There is no debt, you have not eaten and even if you had already not one man expects anything for the gesture of hospitality.” Myrddin said and let his hand rise to wipe a tear from her cheek but his hand froze in place between them without reaching her cheek. For a moment her heart had sped up as she thought he might so tenderly touch her and she turned aside when he did not so he would not see into her eyes.
“Come let us eat supper together and let me share in the hospitality offered.” Niniane drew her eyes from the ground to look briefly at Myrddin and then handing the sword into his keeping once more she turned and made her way to the fireside, taking a place offered to her at Arthur’s right side. It was a position of honour and she accepted it with a smile keeping her eyes from seeking out Myrddin in the firelight once more.

The Lady of Shallot

For my 18th birthday I was given a wooden frame with a small picture of “The Lady of Shallot” by John William Waterhouse in it. (The picture still has a spot of pride on my hutch.) Shortly after I came across the Miss Marple tale “The mirror crack’d from side to side” which to this day remains one of my favourite Agatha Christie tales. I am not sure why I like the story of this Lady, or the art, so much. There is something beautiful in the tragedy of the story. You can’t help but feel for the poor woman and though I adore the story, I do not think I can bring myself to bring such a tortured soul into Shadows of Avalon flashbacks. But we shall see, it is still early days on writing the past lives and adventures.

Regardless this remains one of my all time favourite pieces of art.

Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.