Saturday, September 20, 2008

The invitation

The queen had only been dead three nights when the New Wife came riding up the hill, or so my Gemma always told me. And she would know, she was there in Laysham that terrible spring.

The New Wife wore a white dress with shells on the bodice and a long veil that trailed behind her and the rump of her gaunt horse like a sail torn from the masthead. She was dressed like late snow that smothers newly planted fields. She was dressed like a bride.

The people of Laysham gathered in the muddy streets to watch her ride by, muttering and whispering of curses and the blackening of livers. Most were too afraid to speak up, because of the New Wife’s kind, not one had been seen for a hundred years.

But one man, a red-faced guardsman who had spent his sorrowleave in the gloom of the mead house, took a few steps forward, putting his meaty frame between the rider and her goal.
- What business have you with a town in mourning, he cried, drawing gasps from his fellow townspeople.

But the New Wife never spared him a glance. She let her horse push the challenger aside and continued her climb without a word. After this, the people did not try to hail her again, but they followed her like rats summoned by a flute.

It was true that Laysham was in mourning. The flagpoles carried black streamers and the fires had been put out all over town so that the dead queen’s spirit would not be hampered by the smoke when it left for the Woods. But this was no reason not to welcome a stranger.

You see, this stranger was dark of hair and dark of fingers and dark of lips and mouth, and having listened to their own Gemmas, the Layshamers knew what this meant. She was a livereater from beyond the Northwater. She was the enemy.

The town fell away beneath her, with its small orchards and pigsties and tarred houses, and she wound her way through the shadow of the cathedral, which jutted up from the mountainside like the fang of a whitecat. Only when she reached the castle gate did she halt. Her horse bowed its head, but she continued to stare straight ahead.

The men at the gate called up to her, but she did not look at them and she did not speak. Not until the gate creaked and swung open and a knight of the oak came prancing out on his fine, large destrier.
- Lady, you cannot enter here, he boomed, so that all the townspeople could hear him. - The king is grief-stricken and will not give audience.

The New Wife drew her eyes in and fixed them on the knight. It was as if she pierced his armour with hot coals, Gemma always claimed, though I’m not sure how she could know, for she stayed in the back with my mother in her arms.

But all of Laysham know the New Wife’s answer, because is it was caught by those who could hear it and spread through the crowd like a fire that to this day has not died down.
- I have waited to enter. I will enter. I have an invitation.

(This is my first Sunday Scribblings entry. Lots of fun!)


Granny Smith said...

Welcome to Sunday Scribblings! I gather from your comment on Laini's page that you are in the process of writing a book. Have you published others? I am guessing from this that it the one in the works) and any others are fantasy genre.

This was imaginative and vivid. Thank you

Anonymous said...

oh, what fun! love these lines...she was dressed like late snow that smothers newly planted fields. she was dressed like a bride. who knew the word 'bride' could sound so ominous... michel

tone almhjell said...

Hello Granny,

No, no books published, and this is not from my project, it's a scene from a story I've been nursing in my head for some time. But I write in Norwegian mainly.

Yes, fantasy.

Michel, thank you! I hope I can share the truth of the bride one day, but that seems not miles, but continents away.

Laini Taylor said...

Tone, this is so beautiful and creepy. You have such a way with words, such great evocative metaphors, and that's just in English! What's it like for you writing in English vs Norwegian? I can't imagine being able to write like this in a second language!!! No one would ever know you were not a native speaker. Like Joseph Conrad! (Only more fun.) :-)

tone almhjell said...

Thank you so much, Laini!

I'm not sure that I write any better in Norwegian, but I suspect my cheese-o-meter is better when I use my native language. I also feel more confident when playing with words. On the other side, almost everything I read is in English.

My hope is that my voice is familiar, regardless of language. I know some of you have read pieces in both Norwegian and English. What do you think?

Pam said...

What a gentle fairy tale and very well written. Did you originally write this one in Norwegian or did you just jump into the English? I am impressed.

B. Roan said...

I really enjoyed the fantasy feel to this piece. Very well written. BJ

tumblewords said...

You write beautifully!! The story is fascinating and the words are pure delight.

susan said...

Well written. Enjoyed it.

TD said...

This story left me wanting more. Of course I'm biased because I enjoy fantasy so. Good post.

Li:ne said...

Can't wait for more of these... said...

Beautifully written, I really liked it