Thursday, June 10, 2021

Skyclad by Kate MacDonald


From day to day, I carry a light within that may flicker but will not die. My strength is the armour of my ancestors. I feel the chainmail heavy across my shoulders. I need to clothe myself in their folklore and magic.


I know if I weaken, the tears held inside will slide damp and dismal to the hollow of my throat. I have made my life anew, carved a niche where both the healer and seer parts of my psyche can grow.


In my past, I was called a witch, shunned until some charm, potion or spell, was wanted. The villagers crept to my cottage. Each would whisper their requests through the crack in the ill-fitting door. Then they melted away into the darkness again.


That life ended when a stupid girl, driven mad with jealousy and despair, killed herself over a man. Beside her lay one of the bottles I used for my potions. I knew it was a harmless herbal emollient for her to rub into her skin. It softened it and smelled sweet. She had used it before with no ill effects.


Knowing the hypocritical elders of the village as I did, my mind's-eye could picture them, huddled in front of the smoky fire in the tavern, pewter pots to hand. The local brew would imbue them with the courage to decide my fate. Given their lack of education, they feared any woman who exhibited even a modicum of intelligence.


There was not much time to save myself. I had neither carriage nor horse. This limited the distance I could put between myself and the hoard of drunken, malevolent creatures hellbent on my destruction. I tried to hold back the frissons of fear that would incapacitate me if I allowed them full rein. So very difficult. Tears blurred my sight as I looked around the cottage. Generations of my family had laid down a patina of love and wisdom here. I felt it in the very fabric of the walls. Could I leave this behind?


I concocted a transportation spell. I found it in my grandmother’s Book of Shadows. I moved forward in time but not in space, to this era where Wiccan and Pagan's beliefs were tolerated and accepted. Before I left my old world, I wrote a will. I left the family cottage to the future me. All worked well, the village accepted me. That first night back in my home was truly wonderful. I faced a few hurdles. To begin with, electricity. Miraculous. My look of terror/awe/excitement almost gave me away when the solicitor dealing with my "inheritance" took me around the cottage. While he was switching on lights and appliances I barely managed to stifle my gasps. Then there was the new lexicon. My poor ears and brain could not equate the swift silver sharp phrases with the past slow, guttural conversations. Luckily, once I bought a TV and learned how to switch channels, I had a thousand voices from whom I could learn. There was no looking back once I had a laptop. It was a wonderous thing to feel free, to know my abilities and beliefs no longer had to be hidden.


It also meant I left behind Azedar, a Warlock, and an evil man.


I am following the beliefs of ages past tonight. The meadow was bathed in a torpid silver glow. I feel its touch as I walk skyclad in the moonlight. While gathering plants to be used in magic rituals or for potions ‘tis best to wait for a full moon. Nothing then should come between the skin and that soft and sensual light.


Beneath my feet, the heady scent of wild herbs drifts on the lightest breeze as each is crushed and bruised to fill me with peace. Forgotten is the quiet despair of a broken spirit. A new strength within spirals and is released, to heal as the sweet herbs do.


Jolted out of my reverie by a rumble of sullen thunder I become aware of the night sky. A sharp wind whips the light layer of clouds that had been drifting serenely overhead. All at once, I am aware of how vulnerable I am. Where there is thunder, could lightning be far behind?


I turn to go back. There stands the warlock Azedar, the evil spinner of spells, the taker of minds, the one who I had travelled to the future to escape. How had he found me?

On his face is an expression of loathing. His hate-filled gaze sears my skin. He speaks, but there is only silence. Even so, I can understand the terrible words dripping like venom from his lips.


Shuddering, feeling terror once more gripping my heart, trembling limbs threaten to give way. The life-giving breath I need feels trapped in my throat, which is closed tight with panic. I take a step back, then another.


Weirdly, Azedar does not follow me.


Something is amiss. The warlock I know would have cast a spell to paralyse me by now. There is a ripple-like effect evident in the figure in front of me. Holding my breath, I run straight through the shape, which is without material form or substance. There is no corporeal body in this world. I am safe, free.


Then I feel them, sharp, vicious talons, digging into my flesh. Azedar, destroyer of bodies and souls, has opened a rift between his century and this. Feeling myself dragged from the life I have built, filled with pain and despair, I scream in denial. No one will ever know what has happened.


I am lost forever in time.


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