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QDOS
November 15th, 2011, 02:59 PM
Hi,
This short story may have closer ties to a Fairytale or Fantasy. I’ve tried to give it a different slant, a storyline for a wider audience. It was prompted by fond memories of a great aunt who passed away.

Taliesin’s Gift

Annie Jones felt the cold this January morning. Shivering, she pulled her dressing gown tight around her and slipped her feet into the warm felt slippers. She came down the stairs holding on to the stair rail, her old bones creaking at each step. It made her feel a little cross, how did she get to be so old. At the bottom, she shuffled along the passageway to the kitchen.

Her hands shaking, she managed to half fill the kettle from the tap. Some water splashed on her hands, it felt icy cold. Lifting the old kettle on to the stove nearly exhausted her. She looked again at her hands the once slim graceful fingers that were now crooked and gnarled with the arthritis.

Switching on the gas, she prayed that the auto light was still working. There was the slight smell of the gas and the hissing sound as it escaped from around the burner. The auto lighter clicked several times before she heard the plop and the flames whooshed up around the kettle. She waited for it to settle then turned the flame down a notch.

While the water heated Annie went and raised the blind to the kitchen window and looked out. It was a bright sunny day with blue skies and the garden sparkled. A heavy frost had overlaid everything with its sparkling white magic. For the moment, she forgot about the cold. Memories of another day reminded Annie of her early childhood. It was winter time, much as now and she remembered the snowdrops were out. Annie wrapped in her mother’s shawl had been sent with a list to the village shop. It was half a mile away and with the sun shining it was a pleasant enough chore for an eleven year old.


Annie was skipping along, lost in her own daydreams. She didn’t see the rider or the white horse until she was almost upon them. Coming on to the bridge, she stopped and turned to watch the horse drink from the stream. The rider was a boy, not much older than herself. He was pleasant to look at, with a fine face. What struck her as odd, were the strange clothes he wore.

“Where are you from?” Annie asked. The boy didn’t answer, just smiled up at her.

“What’s your name?” Annie called out.

“Taliesin,” the boy answered.

He leant forward to whisper something to the horse. The horse raised and shook its head, then turned and trotted up to the road. It came and stood beside Annie. Then the boy leaned over and reaching down held out his hand. He spoke again. Annie didn’t understand, the words sounding strange to her ear. However, Annie understood the gesture, he was offering her a lift. She reached out and grabbed his hand. He was strong and with little effort, he swung her up behind him.

She hadn’t told him where she was going, and he didn’t wait to be asked. He pulled back on the horses reins, making the stallion rear up on its hind legs. Then it sprang forward off the road. Next, they were racing across the meadow that followed the stream. Faster and faster they went, so fast the very scenery started to become blurred. As they travelled on Annie felt exhilarated with the wind blowing in her face. The long locks of her hair flying out behind her.

The sky was changing the sun seemingly to move more rapidly across its arc. What quickly followed was night’s darkness and then the light of day again. Sun and moon journeyed across the sky fast and faster. As fast as the second hand on a clock. Only it wasn’t going forward in its normal clockwise manner. It was running backwards. Time was running backwards. Anne in fear clung on tightly, burying her head into the boy’s back. She stayed there until she realised the horse was slowing.

At first, they were climbing up through trees, and then they came out on to an exposed hilltop. She looked around at the panoramic view. Hills stretched away to the north, east and south rolling far into the distance, and to the west was the wide expanse of the sea. Near to the top, the boy reined in the horse and stopped. He swung his leg over the horse's neck and jumped off. Annie followed, sliding down from the steeds back to join him. They wandered towards the crest of the hill. The white stallion followed at a distance, every now and then stopping to graze on a tuft of grass.

As they climbed, Annie could see that at the top of the hill was a great circle of standing stones. In the centre lay a black slab. Around it sat a group of adults conversing. They were all dressed in similar apparel to Taliesin. Clothes of finely woven fabric, their surfaces embroidered with intricate designs. Seeing Taliesin, they called him over. Annie shyly held back. One of the adults with a long beard spoke to Taliesin. Annie listened, but although the words he spoke sounded familiar, she still did not altogether comprehend them.

Then all of a sudden, she saw Taliesin leap up on the black slab. He looked about, and then he focused his attention on Annie standing at the edge of the stone circle. Holding his head back and speaking to the sky, he began to recite some verse. The words he spoke cut the air in musical tones so wonderful, that Annie had no need to translate their meaning. Each line a breath of wind, like a gentle breeze rustling leaves. The verses reminded her of the birds in the trees as they sang their sweet melodies on a summer’s day. Then she felt borne away as if floating far above. Like the red kites, she circled high, seeing the land and seascape for all its breadth and beauty. At the finish, there was a hushed silence, and then the group of adults applauded Taliesin with their praise. Jumping from the bard’s stone, he walked smiling across to Annie. Giving a wave goodbye, together they left the circle of stones.

Taliesin called the white horse to him. Taking a tight hold of the reins, he swung up in to the saddle. Reaching down he took Annie’s hand, once more he pulled her up behind him. Soft words he spoke to the stallion, and again they were riding at pace across the grass. This time they went down the far side of the hill. Down, down the steep slope raced the big white horse. The speed was like flying in the teeth of a gale. Onward and downwards they flew, until at the bottom they reached a long beach of yellow sand.

Taliesin took the stallion to prance among the lapping waves. The white horse playing tag with the foaming crests, leaping at the very last moment from their embrace. But in doing so, Taliesin and the white stallion had challenged the sea. It now began to show its anger at such arrogance. All of a sudden, the sky clouded over, and a wildness of swells came from far out, wave upon wave of them. The Sea was summoning its own relentless brigades of cavalry, and brought forward its White’s and Grey’s. They broke forth from the wave crests, and raced forward for the fight. Chaffing and chiding with each other the foaming hordes raised their battle cries. Then with all their strength, they rushed the shoreline to crash thunderously upon the beach.

Annie clung tightly to Taliesin’s back as the white horse leapt back and forth. Taliesin laughed and raised his voice in song. It was a ballad to the mistress of the sea. Annie felt the power and respect in the verse. But soon both began to tire of the game. The clouds started to clear. Then the sun beamed down on both victors and vanquished alike.

As the waves receded the horse turned and trotted away. They headed for the dunes that lay at the end of a great estuary. Getting down from the horse, they went to sit among the warm sands. Annie watched as the boy picked a few grass blades. Using great skill, he twisted and wove the strands together and fashioned them into a ring. He offered it to her, a token of friendship. Annie held out her hand for him to slip it over her finger. She felt the tickle of the fine strands of grass between her fingers. A surge of happiness seemed to swell up and engulf every fibre in her body. Exhausted and exhilarated she lay back, relaxing in the warm sun and fell into a deep sleep.


When Annie awoke, she was back home. She lay resting against the trunk of a big oak tree. It stood to one side of the bridge. The sun was low in the sky and it was late. Annie had not yet been to the village to fetch her mother’s shopping. Scolding herself for indulging in such daydreaming Annie jumped up and reached for her basket. Only it wasn’t empty. In fact, it was very full. Full of good things, some of which she wasn’t sure she’d ever seen. Fruits, vegetables and a large loaf of bread together with yes cakes. Annie hurried home holding on with both hands, struggling to carry the heavy load.

She came in the back door and swung the basket up onto the kitchen table. The look on her mother’s face was one of total surprise. Annie told her of the boy on the white horse and her adventure. At first, Annie’s mother didn’t know what to believe. What clinched it was when Annie showed her the ring. Only it wasn’t grass anymore it was finely spun gold. Then she knew for sure Annie had been blessed by one of the mystical people who in the past had inhabited the lands. The lands before time began.


The kettle boiled, and the steam whistling from its spout ended Annie’s daydream. Smiling she settled down and relaxed in her chair. Tucked behind her back the warmth from the hot-water bottle filtered through her dressing gown. At a hundred and one, she had lived a good life. Married to Tom, their love for each other had never diminished in all the years they had been together. They had been blessed with three children. Then there were seven grandchildren and now sixteen great-grandchildren, even a few great, great-grandchildren.

Annie looked down at the gold ring still on her finger. Its power was in the love that it brought and that was its secret. Only once in the last ninety years had there been a time when its power had failed to console, and that was when her beloved Tom had died. Somehow, she knew it was her time now. The ring seemed to know it too. Easily enough it slipped from her finger.


Some years later Gareth, one of Annie’s great grandsons was helping to clear the slate roofed stone cottage that had been Annie’s home. He found photographs of Annie as a child and growing up. One was of her and Tom on their wedding day. Tucked in amongst them Gareth found an envelope. Inside was a ring of dried grass. All the family had heard the story of Great Grandma Annie’s wild horse ride, and her visit to the time before time began. Even though the ink had faded a little over the years, the writing on the envelope could still be read.

“Taliesin diolch i ti am yr anrehg rhyfeddod”. (“Taliesin thank you for your wonderful gift.”)

QDOS :cool:

Note: UK Spelling

L Marrick
November 15th, 2011, 11:18 PM
This is a sweet little story, but the adventure with Taliesin isn't too exciting. What I mean is, it's a little rambling. It was like, "this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened," but there was very little congruity between the events. Maybe have a quick little plot or something where Taliesin rescues Annie from something (the sad life she could have lived before his gift? a specter of that life?) Also, watch your repetition and comma usage. Thanks for posting!

QDOS
November 16th, 2011, 09:21 PM
Hi
L. Marrick thanks for your comments. This was an early piece written some years back. I agree with your point of perhaps creating a conflict of events a contrast to give a more meaningful outcome for Taliesinís Gift.

Characterisation, Conflict and Suspense is the key pin of any storyline. Areaís Iím forever working on.

Any advice is helpful

QDOS :cool:

Holicrox
December 7th, 2011, 07:38 AM
I lived with my grandma as a child and your story reminded me of her. I remember she would do pretty much everything Annie did at start of your story. My grandma sometimes would stare off into open fields and I knew she was thinking of the days when she was still in her youth. I personally like your story because it brought a feeling of nostalgia to me.

QDOS
December 8th, 2011, 12:28 PM
Hi Holicrox
Thanks for your comment. Nostalgic was perhaps closer to my theme for this short than I might openly admit.
QDOS :wink:

Galadrielle
December 9th, 2011, 06:15 AM
Personally, I thought it a gentle, charming and nostalgic tale. Not all stories need conflict and mayhem. The descriptive prose is enough to carry it alone.
I feel it is perfect the way it is.
Galadrielle

QDOS
December 11th, 2011, 01:31 PM
Hi Galadrielle

Thank you for your comments. I quite agree dramatic content shouldnít always have to be conflict and mayhem.

QDOS :tranquillity:

Punnikin
December 12th, 2011, 01:41 AM
With the exception of a few misspellings and some punctuation errors, I enjoyed this story very much. Some may say that it wasn't very exciting, or that maybe it moved a little slowly, but I don't believe that every story has to be a dramatic, energetic non-stop romp from beginning to end. Life doesn't play out like that, and stories shouldn't have to either. It captures the imagination but doesn't overwhelm you with constantly increasing tensions or bury you in piles of useless descriptors.
In other words, it's a good read, light and imaginative. Nothing at all wrong with that.

QDOS
December 12th, 2011, 05:03 PM
Hi punnikin

Thank you for your posting, you word are encouraging. Some of my misspellings maybe due to the idiosyncrasies of writing in UK English, as to my punctuation you might like to indulge yourself in more. Tomorrow I intend to start posting another short - Devil Incarnate in serial form leading up to Christmas.

QDOS :tears_of_joy:

Punnikin
December 12th, 2011, 11:19 PM
"Fruits, vegetables and a large loaf of bread together with yes cakes."

No to be picky, but I knew I remembered something that looked a bit off. :) I'm very familiar with UK English, actually. Your fondness of the extra "u" in words such and neighbour and harbour, perhaps to hold a bit of spare tea?

I'm no stranger to the typo, I promise you, and I miss enough letters to write a book with them, but they didn't detract from the story. There are only a few, and very minor. In all, dismissable as errors, and not riddled through the story as if you had a quota to meet. I generally see something I dislike about a story, nearly all of it opinion based my own feelings, but I didn't have that here.
I dread the reviews I might get on my own writing, and wish I could come up with something like this instead of the dark, depressing morass I choose to inflict on people. :)