The Longest Night

Winter Solstice

(Continues where Fairies Interrupted left off)

Light cut through the mist rising off River
Nirthal as the moon parted drifting clouds.
It shone down on bare branches that shiver.
Enchanted Forest sleeps and winter’s shroud
falls flesh as secrets to cover its ground.
The Nirthal’s tide washes ashore and breath
hangs in clouds that break apart without sound.
All is silent in the deep night e’en death’s
hidden abyss calms, it’s cadence quiet.
Sarn looked at the forest’s brooding profile
spreading in an untamed jumble that let
few pass unhindered as monks in a file
process ’round twin circles of standing stones,
chanting holy writ, holding glowing stones.

~ ~ ~

“Dies Irae,” they chanted, holding fast
against the darkness scrambling ‘cross meadow,
mountain-ward; its goal the fortress and cast
of colorful characters that lived there though
perhaps Sarn imagined that; perhaps the scene
pecked holes in his sanity ’till it dished
up this  montage of real and seeming; seen
that way the white-clad men probably wished
to be snug in their monk beds and brimming
with warmth not out here freezing; a wish Sarn
echoed but he hadn’t a choice and so stamping
his feet, he waited; he need not be warned;
he knew to stay out of sight lest chanting
change to stoning of his person at sight
of his eyes whose glow lit his world tonight.

~ ~ ~

Night of the Long Dark, the Winter Solstice,
following the shortest day of the year,
the worst night to stand watch for novices.
“You said someone was lost.” Last time this year,
please,  Sarn scraped a line in the snow, looked left
at his master, Nolo, who just nodded.
His silent request hung in the air felt
rather than asked; Sarn’s magic now prodded,
laughed as it let loose in half visible
hounds that combed the nameless depths of forest
seven miles out and invisible,
camouflaged from normal sight in the forest’s
deep enchantment, but a song sighed on breath
of wind, the voice of the forest, not death…

~ ~ ~

Sleep the winter sleep, sleep it deep, dreaming
of winter’s release, spring’s greening; drink deep
of winter’s sleep, sleep it deep and beaming
for spring’s release, winter’s keening; sleep deep
beneath the snow, sleep winter’s sleep, nestle
down in bed of leaf and snow; sleep winter’s
sleep, dream deep of spring’s green wreathing; wrestle
not with ice or ivy; let all in winter’s
sleep find peace, dreaming of spring’s buds breaking;
sleep the winter sleep, dream of green rising forth;
sleep deep in winter’s arms, let all bide, reeking–
ignore, sleep the winter’s sleep, go not north;
sleep the winter’s sleep, sleep it deep, winter’s
peace; while greening spring, sends its wild sprinters…

tree (c) in medias res by Melinda Kucsera

Nolo listened to the monk’s rhythmic chant.
A flash of motion dragged his eye down mount’s path
to wights flitting between boughs enchanted
in ages past, but rooted to the path
he stayed; his boots planted on the mountain’s
comforting stone shoulder, but within sight
of the night’s doings, while magic fountained
unseen from his charge; this night swallowed light,
camouflaged evil’s vapid, spinning dance.
“Have you found him?” Nolo glanced at his charge,
saw Sarn step off the path, green eyes entranced,
flicker from mountainside to meadow large,
one more jump and he’d pass the standing stones,
the monk’s chanting ward keeping out evil ones…

~ ~ ~

A translucent figure, hems flying, a wight
weeping blue fire down its dusty vessel,
its arms outstretched and beckoning the night.
Nolo chased Sarn, calling him, but muscle
alone couldn’t keep up with magic travel.
A monk intercepted Nolo, saying,
“The long night takes its sacrifice, travel
not beyond the stone circle,” praying
he chanted the Dies Irae again,
leaving the way clear but Sarn had disappeared.
Nolo left the circle’s safety gripped by
dread sparked by the monk’s haunting chant, which pared
words into a picture that terrifies.
The end of days it describes and this night
offers a glimpse of that never ending night.

~ ~ ~

Nolo searched the camouflaging dark for
Sarn’s bright gaze, dogged by fragments of that chant
as night bled itself dry, and day forbore
within the enchanted forest, whose cant
blocked the sun’s watery light; panning
those dark boles, he ran, stumbled to a halt
by demon rock, tussled with wight waning,
in morn’s first light; a scream, cut short, his fault,
the lost huntsman dying as his knife plunged
in his back; a sacrifice now given,
as the long night ended, its hunger expunged.
Sarn lay on demon rock, alive driven
out of his mind by magic not his own;
Nolo had no choice, the kid was o’erthrown.

~ ~ ~

Nolo stabbed deep, hoped this potion would stem
the magic, break its grip–he hit a vein, dripped
the potion, mixed it with blood, nothing then.
Threw Sarn’s body o’er his shoulder, he tripped,
ran through the vile thousand footer’s wood grid.
“Don’t you die on me, Kid,” and his God’s name
he invoked too as silence fell now rid
of the monk’s plain chanting but not the shame.
“You’re goin’ the wron’ way…” Sarn said, his speech slurred.
He slid to the ground, glassy eyed, fevered
but breathing, pointing at the mist blurred
landscape but at least he would recover.
Leaning against a tree he rose, they set
off, heading for home ‘neath the sun’s bright net.

~ ~ ~

The story continues in Fools and Farewells.

Follow Sarn’s Advent Journey

Inspired by the Sunday Whirl’s Wordle #223Wordle #224Wordle #225Wordle #226; Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Tale Weaver #44: Tradition and the Daily Post’s prompt “Because the Night.” This is a fearless fantasy.

27 thoughts on “The Longest Night

  1. I read it again, and will say this: You are a brilliant writer, very hypnotic in your choice of words and images, and compelling in your narrative style. I hope you will publish this entire set of poems/sonnets in a huge tome. Reading this, especially the monks’ chant (all of which I want to quote, but it will be simply too long and take up space), makes me feel slightly drunken and giddy.
    Beautiful work, my friend!
    It’s a pleasure to know you online and to comment back and forth on various poems!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 I am planning to publish the entire Christmas sequence. I wanted to make a gift of it to my mother who has not been able to read much of it because she’s been running around taking my dad to his doc and physical therapy appointments and they don’t have wi-fi. I’m hoping to get it out by Christmas Day. I will post details once I have it in the kindle store and I still have to finish the holiday sequence 🙂 no pressure right?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I sat, contemplating your incredible contribution to Tale Weaver’s Traditions, and marveled at it’s content, context, and form. You have captured that intersect between the falling and the rising; the quintessential battle between good and evil; God and god(s) brilliantly. It must have been turbulent times for those who held to the “older” religions, and those who were believers in the “new.” That tension remains, though calmed, by the blending of traditions that mark the Christmas period.
    Thank you so much for participating. I didn’t mind the dark — the light is all the much lighter for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. WOW.. is it just my impression or is this piece a bit darker than the usual ones? “night bled itself dry” – is an exquisite description!
    A journey that fits the prompt perfectly. Did you write it just for the prompted, or had you picketed the journey already?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is darker. I actually started this before I saw the prompts. But now it’s going to get lighter, a lot lighter. But that darkness will still be there because their immediate environment straddles several extremes: 1) a savage, quasi intelligent/sentient enchanted first versus the highly ordered ornate mountain fortress and 2) paganism versus a rising missionary church that espouses a version of Christianity and both religions have their own magic and God/gods who have their own power, followers and ritual mayhem. All that clashes on the solstices and equinoxes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As I was reading I could see the events taking place with great clarity. I could see this as a movie. I love how their magic defeats the evil magic. I also noted the way some of their methods are ancient and others are futuristic but then I guess that’s fantasy! In other words, wonderful tale!

    Liked by 1 person

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