Monday, March 22, 2010

January’s Anger

“The two sisters watched the raven fly away along the avenue. They viewed this bird with rather mixed feelings. If it was the girl’s familiar, that she had turned herself into a raven to play tricks on them, then whether she came back to the cottage with an autumn harvest or not, they were going beat her to death anyway. They would have their revenge. But their thoughts of retribution suddenly turned to fear. At their feet they heard the sound and felt the very ground shake with the ferocity of it.
“Mmrrowwwlll!!”
There, barring their way was a very angry looking wildcat. With its ears pressed even flatter against its head, its yellow eyes fixed them with a malevolent stare. Their blood ran cold.
A wildcat appears about twice the size of a common domestic cat. Its fur is much thicker and its tail is bushier though shorter. The paws are about the size of a large dog’s and have claws to match. Normally wildcats are very shy of human contact. Shy or not, they are not creatures to confront lightly.
“She is a witch,” said one sister, “Witches always have cat familiars.” It was the other sister who noticed the fresh bloodied carcass beside the cat and the shredded remains of a basket.
“Mmrrowwwlll!!”
That drew their attention to the fragment of bloodstained clothing hanging from the feline’s jaws. “This cat is not her,” she almost sounded relieved, “look, I think it has killed her.”
“Then good riddance I say!”
The cat backed away a little but only just enough to let the two sisters edge past. They were terrified and once past they moved much more quickly along the avenue and with many a backward glance.
The two sisters emerged into the clearing at a near run. Then stopped, bewildered. The clearing, like the one where their cottage stood was surrounded with a seeming impenetrable wall of dense forest. The avenue by which they had arrived was the only visible opening. In the centre was a fire that was all but extinguished. Around it sat twelve cowled and robed figures. All were asleep except one who sat holding a staff with a jewel mounted on one end. Summoning up her courage one of the sisters asked who these people were. The one holding the staff replied.
“We are the Watchers of the Months of the Year. Each of us takes turns to keep watch according to out time. As it is mid-winter I, January, am keeper of the watch. It is the time when the world sleeps awaiting the coming of spring brought by Brother March.” January gestured to the second figure on his left. “If you go around the circle you will find each as the month of the year each in their proper order. Now, good ladies, what is it that brings you here?”
They told January of the girl who was their servant at the cottage and how, to gain their favour she used her wicked wiles to bring flowers and fruit out of their proper season. “She told us she could find more and has come even today to try and curry our favour. But on our way here we have seen that a wild cat has killed her. So perish all who try to upset the natural order of things.”
January replied, “All things are freely given in their due season. The flowers of summer, the fruit of harvest time, all are gifts. Sister April brings the rain, Sister June the healing sun and Brother December the dark sleep of winter. But now it is the thirty-first day of my month. Tomorrow I pass the staff the Brother February. Now I shall I bring forth the final harvest of my season”
January’s visage went hard and cold like the deep green ice of a frozen lake. He rose to his feet and waved the staff three times around his head. Above him the clouds gathered, darkened and thickened. The already dying fire cooled until only the merest spark remained. It began to snow. It became very, very cold. The snow fell ever thicker and settled ever deeper. January turned his back to the centre of the circle and reaching out a claw-like hand summoned the wind from the north. Its icy breath blew the fallen snow into flurries and ever deepening drifts. The other brethren pulled their cowls ever closer, even in their sleep, as the wind’s howling voice rose to an ear-splitting crescendo. It clawed at January’s hood and snatched it back, his silver hair streamed out behind him. January turned to face the two sisters. His countenance was terrible to behold. He stuck the ground with the staff and released an enormous peel of thunder. Lightning split the sky and the brightness of cast January into sharp silhouette.
The sisters fled in terror from this wrathful apparition and rushed headlong into the avenue and blindly onwards. Flashes of lightning frequently but briefly illuminated their way. They were spared the blinding snow but the gale brought showers of broken branches and other debris crashing to the forest floor. They ran through this malestrom not know where they went. Their flight lasted on throughout the night. The storm never relented. In the pale light of February’s first dawn they had a lucky break.
They discerned the gap leading into their own clearing. They went through it and entered into a total whiteout. February had awakened and was playing with the elements, blowing the snows hither and thither. Not for nothing is he also known as “Filldyke”. The sisters were exhausted by the energy sapping winds and life stilling cold. In the whiteout could not see where the cottage was for all it may only be a few yards away. A final savage bolt of lightning struck the clearing.
to be continued...

2 comments:

Thumbelina said...

It's getting exciting now.
Watch how you type in the excitement...
"Lightning split the sky was split with the brightness of lit..." doesn't quite make sense but I know what you mean. There's a couple of these in previous episodes which I didn't bother about, but this one is a bit glaring... (excuse the pun: glaring as in lightening...!)

Norman said...

Thanks for that. Grammatical error corrected. I could have sworn I'd sorted it during the proof read, but there you go..