Stories from the Regions: Echtra

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Tidal Pull
by Zander Greene

He doesn’t feel the fire.

Only the faint pull of a memory of mud and rain. And the wonder that he is dry and clean.

He doesn’t feel the waves.

Only the boat, his boat, steady and sure beneath his back. And the smell of pitch.

On the shore someone is wailing. Someone is calling out a name he almost remembers.

It is gone.

Only the song his mother sang when wolves howled at night and the scent of copper hung heavy in the air.

Did he feed the pigs? Was the gate shut? Were his people safe? Is it…

Who was speaking?

And why am I still wearing my boots? We leave behind what we do not need. And is that me on the shore, alone, pierced with iron and soaked in blood? If it be, leave it behind and say to the fish ‘here is one on me!’

Only the sea. Only the sky. Only the breath between a birth and a death in blood and agony.. I waited for the sun in vain. Lying eye of God, where were you when crops died and children starved? Did another world catch your eye in the market? Are YOU a child?

Are you a child? And do I hear you weeping? I might do more harm than good. I was never soft or kind. But are you crying? Are you lonely too?

Lonely God child, do not fear the night. For I am with thee. I do not feel the fire or the waves. Only you in my arms. Quiet now…

And on the shore, the last light fades of a boat on the water. They stand.

Bitterly defiant in their unending Autumn.

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Homecoming 
Inspired by Echtra Fantasy Faire 2016
by Aznana Shieldmaiden
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We arrive at the gates of the village at twilight.
The sky is gray. Drizzling rain greets us and the torches fail to provide warmth or light. We have journeyed from a far land, a warm land, a land of sun. We don’t feel welcome here.
A statue of a boy king stands cold and alone in the village square. Who was this child? Men commemorate those who are the best and worst among them. Was he the savior of his people or the cause of their miserable lives?
A group of us wander through the village. No laughter comes from the dwellings, no light shows from within. We find ourselves jumping at shadows and watching the hedgehogs lurking around the buildings. Hedgehogs have always been lucky. This place can’t be all bad if they scurry here.
Suddenly a large building looms into sight. There is light there, the Great Hall. Of course the people will be there. There is light and music and people who seem not at all frightening or different from ourselves.
A light comes from below and I follow it. My companions linger behind in the Hall. Tentatively, I make my way down deeper and deeper into the unknown. I can’t see where I’m going, but it is light and I am not afraid.
The shaft opens into a large cavern and I see the head of a dragon frozen within the wall. A nearby hedgehog nods toward the dragon’s head and seems to smile. I know the story now. The boy king defeated the creature of fire and though the village may be cold and gray, at its heart there burns joy and fellowship. This can be home.

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Hope & Tales
by Ishara Longstaff

Torches flicker, as the hill rises … a once worshiped prince is talked about in the blacksmith’s forge: he plunged the land into gloom they say. Listening in is the blacksmith’s daughter, Uta, listening in to what she shouldn’t.
There was anger at the prince as the land fell into fighting, and gloom descended. They took it out on statue to the prince, broken to pieces.
Only hope will light the stones … but who will do this quest?

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Snapshot_005Bring the Sun to Echtra
by Gwen Enchanted

Rain on shields and hands on drums,
Scops and singers, open-mouthed
Call the silent stones to life
Bring the sun to Echtra

Oh, for so long we chanted, in the rain. For so long we hid from the dark mountain. So many lost. So many mourned. For so long we breathed the scent of lanolin, slept with the animals for warmth, and with each other.

And on the walls, the fires burn
And on the meadow, silent stones
Stir, you sleeping granite giants
Bring the sun to Echtra

Follow the glowing footsteps, said the man with the dragon helm. And so many did, so many. And now they are lost, lost, as lost as we are, here on our barrel-raised houses, here with our scantly-filled cookpots, here and only here our children’s memories cannot hold anything but the mountain, the rain, the clouds.

In the belly of the dragon
In the rhythm of the rain
With the memory faint of music
Call the sun to Echtra

My sons are not sure, when I tell them about the sun. My daughter thinks I speak of them when I speak of it. They laugh at the notion of eating lamb: so precious now as sheep for wool and warmth and protection against the ever-present rain. And do not ask me about my husband. Do not ask.

Down below the silent longhouse
Down the secret, long-lost passage
Ran the men who beat the drums that
Brought the sun to Echtra

So here we sleep, although we trudge
Through mud and muck and rain and sludge
Waiting for the stones to wake and
Bring the sun to Echtra

I’ve lost hope. I no longer wake in the night, thinking I hear their footsteps, the departed warriors, the lost bards, the fallen scops and singers. And yet my children look sometimes to the sky. Sometimes they look. Sometimes they look to the sky.

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Gloom
by Saffia Widdershins
Hardlost homeland, hurt-filled younglings
Weep in sky-rain, wandering lonely.
Where is the home fire? Where the hunter?
Lost in silence, sadly sought.
This we think of as we wander …
Where the wise ones, walk before.
All is silence, sadness beckons
To the strong lord locked in stone.
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