Episode 4 (Butterflies in the Garden): Silk Weaver by Vivian Munnoch

Liandan’s mouth gaped in horror. How could they possibly even consider using the silk fields as bait? She felt ill.
“They can’t-.” A hot sickly chill pulsed through her and her knees could not hold her up.

Episode 4:

Butterflies In The Garden

Silk Weaver

 

The moon hung new and bright in its early ascent across the sky, waxing towards a full moon. The tangled branches of the trees’ canopy allowed only sporadic glimpses of the clear starry sky above. The dull sound of ropes and pulleys straining groaned and the branches above shivered and pressed against their restraints. Branches pulled apart to create an opening that revealed the sky above, the light of the stars and moon brightening the ground beneath the trees.

Liandan stood with hands on hips and stared up with a stern look, her lips pressed together in a tight line.

The men working did not see her. She had followed them after hearing where they were going and now watched from a distance. They were working above the silk field.

They heaved together and ropes strained, quivered, pulleys shivered and, with an impotent dull sound, a rope snapped. It lashed back suddenly, the freed branch whipping the other way. Leaves and twigs broke off and fluttered to the ground, some carried on the breeze. Larger sticks cracked and broke, falling clumsily, some getting trapped in the branches to hang perilously in danger of falling later with the wind.

Liandan watched the trajectory of three falling leaves twirling with the twig that held them together. They helicoptered down and across towards the silk field.

Éire does not have silkworms, where duine silk comes from; duine being mortal humans. Liandan’s people weave cloth from the silky protein fiber of spider webs. The silk field is a protected area that is abundant with neighboring webs, carefully managed and cultivated to keep the arachnids from killing each other too often or abandoning the area for safer ground.

Cultivating the webs is dangerous and agitated arachnids even more so. You are protein; therefore, you are food to the spiders. Fortunately, they sleep under the moon if not disturbed.

The falling twirling leaves reached the ground, their momentum dragging them. They spun through one web, destroying it completely, tore out most of two more, and continued on to leave a diminishing swatch of destruction through more webs in their path until they finally came to a stop, glued down now by the sticky webs clinging to them.

The cracking thud of a branch hitting the ground, its aftershock that trembled through the dirt and air both shuddering through Lianden, made her jump, startled. Bits of bark and twigs rained down in a weak spattering.

Her lips pursed tighter in a frown and her eyes narrowed.

“Two of our best web makers,” she muttered. “It will take them all day to spin new webs and we were to harvest them tomorrow night. So help me, if they move on because of this, if they’ve injured the web makers…”

She stopped herself before she said anything she would regret, an oath she could not keep perhaps. The newly spun webs would be too sticky to harvest. She had been looking forward to working with those particular two webs.

Shouts pulled her attention from the silk field back to the work above. Ropes strung above hung slack across branches. A dangling pulley swayed back and forth in a pendulum motion.

Two men came into view, half carrying a third between them. He sagged weakly between them. From her vantage point and distance, Liandan could not tell who he was or how badly injured.

She looked back at the swatch of ruined silk field. The anger that burned inside her and the urge to inspect the damage was tamped down by common sense. The field was motionless. Not even the twitch of a single spider leg. That did not mean they had not been left agitated and awake.

“I’ll come back later,” she muttered and turned away, stalking off back to the village.

Liandan was about to turn down the path towards the spinning hut and changed her mind, instead going the other way in search of the grandmothers retired from the council.

It did not take long to find the two of them sitting in the small garden outside the Grandmothers’ cottage sipping fermented nectar and gossiping in irritated voices that matched the scowls on their age-lined faces.

They paused and looked up when she entered the garden.

“Come for some advice?” Saorla asked with a smirk.

“Probably looking for a husband,” Doireann scowled. “She’s long past due, but with everything going on right now, do you really think this is the time?” Her glare on Liandan hardened.

Liandan shifted nervously under their stares. She tried to control the trembling that filled her whole body. They frightened her more than the king and queen and all their court. She instantly regretted coming and thought about slinking away. That was not possible, of course. Not only did they see her, but they addressed her. She was trapped.

Saorla is the most politically powerful woman in all the Glenns. Matron Queen of Faerie Glenn, she is mother to King Tuathal and widow of the former King Alvyeh. To have her grant you acknowledgement was akin to becoming the most important person in the Glenn beneath her for that brief moment.

The other old woman, Doireann, is the most irritable, sullen, and tempestuous person in the village. Even more so than elder Cian.

“Why have you come to see two useless old women?” Saorla asked.

Liandan swallowed and choked on it, her nerves making her almost vomit. That she was going to bring Ibris to see these two after her brush with death at the ugly beak of Craven felt unfathomable now.

What did I almost do to Ibris? The thought bubbled up through the fear that wrapped her like a tight strangling wraith.

“I-I came about what they are doing to repel C-Craven.”

I can’t believe I stuttered. I sound so stupid. Liandan wanted to take her own betraying tongue out.

Saorla  leaned forward with interest. Her eyes bore into Liandan.

“There are a lot of measures being taken to repel that beast. What puts such a troubled look to ruin your face?”

Liandan barely managed to avoid stumbling over the words that came out too quickly. She could not keep the tremble out of them.

“It’s the silk field. They ruined it. Maybe even injured or killed some of the silk weavers, and the night before we were to harvest the best webs.”

She looked down at the ground to avoid eye contact. Her whole body shivered with nerves and she wanted to turn and run away.

Doireann scowled even deeper, although Liandan would have thought it not possible.

“Dreadful creatures, those spiders,” Doireann said, her voice condescending and age-cracked. “We could use the cocoons of caterpillars if we have to. Much safer and they are so soft. It would make much finer cloth.”

Liandan looked at her with a knot of bland horror sitting in a lump in her chest that she dared not show. She was sure the woman said these things on purpose to bait others into being the victims of her verbal attacks. To cut the cocoon from a caterpillar felt wrong, even though they are not the same kind of creature as her people. Under the curse of the sun they are nearly indistinguishable from each other. It would be like cutting one of their own children from that which keeps them alive.

The old woman stared at her and Liandan imagined the smugness that surely must be burning behind those rheumy eyes.

Her dismay grew and with it offended indignation. She had to say something.

“The spiders repair and replace their webs continuously through the temperate months. Caterpillars must cocoon over a very short window of time. Even if we had an army of caterpillars we could not harvest enough silk from a single cocoon each.”

Doireann’s eyes gleamed with that sour haughtiness although her face did not change.

“So we cut it off when they cocoon again, and again, and again, until we have enough.” She made cutting motions with her words. “We do what we must.”

 

Saorla cut the topic off, interrupting them with a warning look at Doireann.

“There was an accident?” She stared at Liandan intently, forcing her to look away from the other old woman.

Liandan nodded and swallowed the lump in her throat. It did nothing for the hollowness burned into her by the nasty words of the other elder.

“They were opening the silk fields to the sky using ropes and pulleys to pull the branches back. A rope snapped. Leaves and twigs rained down into the silk field and larger branches broke off.”

“What in blazes are they doing that for?” Doireann muttered.

“Bait,” Saorla said simply.

They both looked at her and she only nodded to the obvious, her eyes meeting Doireann’s then settling to fixate on Liandan’s.

Liandan could not look away.

“They are setting a trap, or a warning. When the moon shines and the crow has eaten the insects, we will know he has been near. Or, he will have sprung the trap.”

Liandan’s mouth gaped in horror. How could they possibly even consider using the silk fields as bait? She felt ill.

“They can’t-.” A hot sickly chill pulsed through her and her knees could not hold her up. They buckled and she could not stop herself from slumping to the ground as darkness closed in.

Liandan felt a hard coldness. It was distant. The wet chill seeped through her. It was a chill wind or water or frozen winter ground. She was floating on air or water and she was not. Very far away was a noise that could have been a rhythmic thrumming, bud-dud, bud-dud, or the dull sound of a woodpecker on a hollow tree, or knocking on a door. It was a low dull sound and a high sharp slapping.

She felt and heard everything distantly and yet not. Liandan’s mind barely drifted on the edges of coherence, unsure if any of these things were there. Far away, a whisper, her name.

Liandan.

Liandan.

Repeated again and again.

She felt like it grew closer but did not.

An indistinct image wavered in the dark white fog of her confusion. It was like them but not. It was a woman but not. The face loomed close, staring, inspecting. It looked deep inside her, past her, through her, and at her all at once. Round and pale as the moon, surrounded by a hazy red orb that wanted to be black.

 

Liandan was paralyzed in body and mind, and yet felt the surge of her mind rush through brittle terror that recoiled and slithered around her, followed her, like a wisp of smoke rising weightlessly on motionless air that dances sinuously and follows the displacement of that air.

The cold hardness crushed against her, the dull rhythmic thrumming rushed through her ears, and sharp slapping tapped to the repeating of her name.

Liandan.

Liandan.

The world came back too cold and hard, too real and still unreal, and too quickly. She saw herself lying on the ground below with the two elder women leaning over her, nattering at each other and talking to her, before her eyes fluttered open and they came into focus above her.

Liandan blinked the fuzziness filling her eyes away and stared up at them. All else forgotten by the simple thought. How did I get here? She meant lying on the ground.

“You fainted dear,” Saorla answered the unspoken question. She rubbed Liandan’s cold cheek then took her icy hand and rubbed it between her age-gnarled paper dry hands to warm it.

“Fainted.” The world felt foreign on Liandan’s tongue. Wrong. How could she be so weak? She prided herself on being strong. She shook her head. “No,  I can’t have.”

Doireann’s eyes held suspicion.

“You were standing then fell, limp. You were gone from your body. Where did you go?”

Saorla waved her off.

“You simply fainted. Probably worrying over the silk field. If they destroy it as a decoy or lure, or even as a warning Craven was near, it will take a lot of work to rebuild. It would mean seeking webs to harvest from arachnids whose moods you do not know. The harvest would be much more dangerous.”

Liandan tried to push herself up, but her legs were weak. Her whole body was shaky and frail.

“Easy,” Saorla cautioned. She helped her up, her grip surprisingly strong for one so old.

“When you are steady we will go see what they are doing with the silk field and talk some sense into them.”

Liandan blinked and nodded gratefully at her.

“Here, sit.” Saorla motioned her towards a chair.

Liandan barely sunk into it when Saorla was pushing a cup of fermented nectar into her hands.

“Drink. You will feel better.”

Liandan looked uncertainly at the cup, up and Saorla, to Doireann’s smug grimace, and back down at the cup. She swallowed. Her throat was so dry the knot stuck in her throat and for a moment she felt she could not breathe or swallow.

Reluctantly, she brought the cup to her lips and sipped the sweet drink. It burned a little going down and had a faint syrupiness. Its heady effect made her head swoon a little the moment it hit her stomach, a purely psychological effect since it was to soon and too little to inebriate even one who has never touched a fermented drink.

She could not shake the chill that still clung to her, or the suspicion she had seen something she should not have. That she had travelled to the other side. Of what, she could not guess.

 

Episode 3 (Butterflies in the Garden): After The Council by Vivian Munnoch

“Why are you spying on the council?”
The aged voice startled Ibris. She stumbled and turned to face the elder. She never would have seen Shanawn there if he had not spoken.
“I-I,” Ibris stammered weakly. A hot flush rose in her cheeks and a sweat broke out on her skin. The sudden dampness chilled her.
She looked down, face red with shame and terrified.

Episode 3:

Butterflies In The Garden

After the Council

Photo by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash

The members of the council table watched the crowded room empty. King Tuathal’s scowl was the deepest. He glared ahead towards the door, making those who dared look behind them as they exited cringe and wonder if his anger was directed at them. They remained cautiously quiet until they breached the freedom of the night, the volume of anxious voices outside growing with the crowd moving swiftly away from the council chamber.

The chamber doors were closed on the last of them, muffling the voices outside. Hands still on the doors, Sarawn turned towards the council table and his king’s hard glare.

Queen Brionna put a steadying hand on her husband’s large fist. Her touch failed to lighten the hard knot of tense muscles clenching it as though he could punch someone and make this better.

Their sons behind them stepped forward the moment the doors were closed. They looked around with tense postures as though searching for an enemy in their midst.

Elder Cian’s age-wrinkled face crumpled into even deeper wrinkles with the scowl of distaste. He pounded his bony fist on the table.

“Why is that beady-eyed black-beaked menace back?” he demanded, his voice thin and wavering with the weakness of a great many years behind him and few remaining ahead.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Elder Shanawn said. He waved his own age-withered hand in a dismissive gesture.

Cian glared at him.

“How can you be so dismissive about this?” Alyil, one of the princes behind them, complained, anger putting a venomous edge on his voice. He strode around the table to face them head on, his brother Rioghan following steps behind.

King Tuathal stared stonily ahead, lost in his own thoughts.

“Shanawn is correct,” Queen Brionna said. Her face remained carefully passive, her voice measured and calm.

The others looked at her, except King Tuathal, who seemed oblivious she spoke, and Cian, who’s unwavering glare still bore into Shanawn as though to spike him dead with his eyes.

”There is little randomness to the world,” Queen Brionna said. “It is rare for a thing to happen without some design behind it. I have confidence you will figure out what it is.”

She rose and moved around the table.

“Morning’s light will return soon. I am tired. I’m retiring to my garden for the remaining hours of the moon. You should follow soon or you will not have time to make it before the sun rises.”

She started toward the door.

Sarawn reached for the doors again to open them for her.

“Escort your mother,” King Tuathal said.

The princes looked as though they would protest being sent away, but quickly checked themselves.

More measured in their reactions young Brassal and greying Farrell came from behind the council table to await orders.

Cian rose now, looking exhausted.

“I will take my leave too. It takes these old bones longer to travel these days.”

King Tuathal addressed the knights.

“Alyil and Rioghan, you will see your mother safely home and stay there yourselves. Farrell, accompany them.”

Farrell nodded acceptance, but the princes tried to hide their scowls. It was no secret the king did not fully trust the young princes to be capable on their own with protecting the queen.

“Brassal, escort Cian home,” King Tuathal said. Perhaps your youthful vigor will inspire his old bones to quicker movement.”

Cian scowled again and Brassal turned his face away to hide his amusement as he nodded understanding.

The three knights followed the queen out into the night. Brassal walked with patiently restrained steps to keep with Cian’s shuffled movement.

Sarawn closed the doors behind them. Only he and King Tuathal were left, Shanawn having slipped out unnoticed with the villagers. Sarawn approached the table to stand before Tuathal.

“Brother, your shoulders are heavy with the news of Craven’s return,” he said.

“That creature caused a great deal of trouble before we routed him,” Tuathal said gravely. “I thought we had seen the last of that ugly bird. He barely escaped with his wretched life. Why would he return to torment us? Revenge?”

“Crows are creatures of habit, returning to the same places to roost and nest at certain times of the year. Perhaps that is all it is.”

Tuathal shook his head slowly.

“If only. Crows have a long memory. Craven will not have forgotten. I doubt he would have returned to that same roost.”

“But it is likely he would return to his old territory.”

“Even a crow will not return to territory lost. We drove him out.” Tuathal exhaled a slow breath heavily weighted with worry. “Find out where he roosts. I will know everything that is inside his mind. Where he sleeps, hunts, scavenges. I will know why the creature returned. In the meantime we must keep the Glenn safe. He must not learn our location. The lives of everyone must be coordinated to provide safety as they go about their business.”

“Some will rebel against their every movement being controlled,” Sarawn warned. “Some will be blind to the danger.”

“If we must lock them inside in the daylight and guard them at night when they go about their business for their own good, we will do that. They do not all have the memories of what it took to survive that blight on our people, Craven. Many were blissfully unaware of what was happening beyond their tiny world. We were lucky Craven was alone, unmated and not a part of a community roost.”

“That is odd, though. Crows pair off to mate, but remain part of their community. What would cause one of them to be cast out?”

King Tuathal snorted.

“It is Craven. Perhaps he was a blight even to his own.”

“Perhaps,” Sarawn agreed thoughtfully.

“We must go,” King Tuathal said. He stood to leave, “before the queen chastises me for being too late.”

They walked out of the council chamber together, closing the doors behind them.

“By tomorrow as the moon rises we will have a plan allowing essential jobs to be performed,” King Tuathal said.

“They are all essential to the people,” Sarawn said.

“So they are. But there are levels even to what is truly essential.”

They walked away along one of the branches angled off from the low building.

The council chamber was like all their buildings, each separately built in the cradle of a tree branch where multiple branches sprout off, creating paths in different directions. It gave the community a sense of being spread out, each building squatting in peaceful solitude that was belied by the activity that swarmed around on a warm night.

The air hung heavy and still so that even sound felt muffled. There was no breeze tonight, nothing to make the branches and leaves dance. Almost as though they waited with held breath, motionless lest they bring the unwanted attention of the crow upon them.

Ibris sat on the stem of a leaf, hidden by the cool green blade against the back wall outside the council chamber.

She had made her excuses to Liandan, claiming exhaustion, so she could sneak back and listen in on the council meeting.

The crowd was leaving as she arrived and she had slipped through them nimbly. No one paid attention. They were concerned with their own thoughts. It was not the public meeting she wanted to hear.

When the door opened and closed again, Ibris started to slip from her hiding spot, but she had paused. She watched Queen Brionna and her escort leave, followed by the elder Cian and his sole guard. As she watched them go the council door thudded closed.

She was about to leave when she heard voices and instead pulled back, pressed herself against the rough wall, and listened. Her breath came heavier and she had to hold it to not drown out the muffled words coming through the wall. Her eyes widened with the talk of locking them in and a sickness sank into the pit of her stomach.

They could not, would not, do that. Would they? It was against the very nature of their beings to be so confined. They would shrivel inside and die.

When they left, Ibris moved to hurry home. She was just about to step from her hiding spot when she heard their footsteps approach and threw herself back behind the leaf.

She practically fell backwards. Ibris sat on the stem of a leaf, hidden by the cool green blade against the back wall outside the council chamber.

King Tuathal and Sarawn had not gone the same direction as the rest of the council.

Panic surged as they approached. It was a tight fist that held her breath. It increased her fear. She could not breathe. Suddenly she needed to, desperately. She had to gulp in great gasps of air or she would die. Ibris knew she was caught. She would be punished severely for spying on the king.

Dizzying weakness gripped her as they were upon her. She clenched her teeth against crying out. She gripped the stem as hard as she could against the blackness that threatened to close in on her vision and against slipping to fall limply below. She was on the verge of fainting with fear, heart thudding so loud in her chest they must hear it.

They walked past, unaware of her presence, and Ibris could only helplessly watch. Each step on they took, talking casually, brought home the realization they did not know she was there.

Once they were gone, Ibris stood shakily and leaned against the wall. She brought up a trembling hand to push a strand of hair from her face and struggled to force herself to breathe again.

After a moment to collect herself, Ibris stepped into the darkness of shadows from leaves above blocking the moon’s pale light.

“Why are you spying on the council?”

The aged voice startled Ibris. She stumbled and turned to face the elder. She never would have seen Shanawn there if he had not spoken.

“I-I,” Ibris stammered weakly. A hot flush rose in her cheeks and a sweat broke out on her skin. The sudden dampness chilled her.

She looked down, face red with shame and terrified.

“I just wanted to know we would be safe from the crow,” she mumbled, her voice shaking as much as her shivering body trembled.

Shanawn nodded.

“A little reassurance, huh?”

She nodded miserably, afraid to look at him. What might her face reveal? Her eyes?

“Just do as they say. Follow the safety precautions and do not venture beyond the Glenn during the daylight hours, and you will be fine. Off with you. The morning light is not far off now.”

Ibris almost choked. She nodded too quickly and scampered off, eager to escape.

He watched her go until she was out of sight before he started making his own way home.

Episode 2 (Butterflies in the Garden): Crow Council by Vivian Munnoch

Episode 2:

Butterflies In The Garden

Crow Council

Photo by Valentin Petkov on Unsplash

Raised voices crashed against the council chamber walls in expressions of outrage and fear. Such volume and pandemonium was cruelty to the ears. Even the softening acoustics of the crowded room could not dampen the volume.

Ibris and Liandan stood in the back, huddled in a corner. They could only catch glimpses of the council through the press of bodies in front of them. It was safer in the back. Invisible.

Sarawn’s face held the same hard anger it did earlier when they ran into him and Shanawn. Both knight and younger brother to King Tuathal, he sat next to the king at the table facing the village. Other knights of the Glenn stood behind him, his son Brassal, barely old enough to be knighted, and Farrell, the grey barely creeping into his hair.

Sarawn alone of the knights held a seat at the council table this night. The king’s own sons, both knighted, stood behind their father.

King Tuathal sat center table with Queen Brionna on his other side. Two of the four village elders flanked them on one side, the other two elder seats on the other end sitting vacant.

Ibris caught a glimpse of the elders present. She could not tell if the elder Cian’s wrinkled face held a frown that was deeper than his usual dour expression.

Shanawn stood where he should have sat behind the table, looking around the room in frustration, one arm raised seeking silence. His thin wavering aged voice was no match for the noise.

With a grunt, King Tuathal stood, silently glowering at the crowd.

That was all it took. The volume lowered, shouts and frightened complaints wavering off to sniffles and a low whimper.

He motioned to Shanawn to continue and took his seat.

Shanawn nodded thanks and addressed the room.

“As I was saying, the rumors are true.”

The crowd almost erupted again, but a stern look from King Tuathal kept them in check.

“Craven’s ugly cry has been heard,” Shanawn said. “His black shadow has been cast across our village again.”

Whispers and murmurs passed through the crowd, but they kept mostly quiet, fixed on the old man.

“Precautions will be taken,” he continued. “The skies will be patrolled. Gathering is to be done only when we have eyes on the ugly black-hearted beast and know he is well away from the village. Above all,” he paused to catch the eye of as many villagers as he could, “take caution Craven does not learn the location of the village. He knows it is in the area, but not yet where. It must stay that way.”

He kept talking, but Ibris lost interest staring at the backs of her neighbors crowded too closely together. The stuffiness off the room was building and with it her impatience to escape it.

King Tuathal’s voice rose above the crowd and she realized the elder stopped talking.

“We will reinstate the Crow Council,” he said. “Craven may be just a bird, but he is wicked and smart far above the usual crow. We drove him out before and we will drive him away again.”

Murmurs filled the room, silencing quickly.

“Craven isn’t so smart,” Liandan muttered. “He’s just a bird that sees us as food. Everything is food to a crow.”

“Or a shiny bauble,” Ibris said.

Liandan looked at her and they both had to cover their mouths with their hands to stifle a giggle. People nearby gave them irritated looks.

Still, Ibris could not shake the sick chill feeling that clung to her since the large bird nearly ate her.

“Come on,” Liandan nudged her. “We heard this all the last time. Let’s go.”

With an uneasy glance through the crowd towards the head table, Ibris followed. Liandan pulled the door open just enough to squeeze through and they slipped out of the council chamber.

The night air was refreshingly cool after the heated stuffiness of too many bodies crammed in a small room.

The council chamber was built in the cradle of a thick tree branch where multiple branches sprouted off, creating paths in different directions. They took one of these paths. The voices muffled behind the chamber walls softened as the distance behind them grew.

“Crow Council,” Liandan muttered. “They have to create a council for everything, don’t they? It is just a bird, no different than the other birds big enough to see anything smaller than them as food.”

“They just need to live too,” Ibris said. “And they don’t eat everything smaller than them. But they do eat insects.”

“And that’s all they see us as,” Liandan said, her voice pouty. “Brainless insects. They do eat anything. I bet they would eat their own kind too. They may not be able to kill everything they eat, but if it is animal, insect, or plant, they’ll eat it if they get the chance. They are just big ugly dumb eating machines with wings.”

Ibris could not help the image that came to her. Craven looming large and close, his ebony feathers gleaming dully, seemingly absorbing the daylight into his black mass. His unblinking eye bright with intelligence fixed on her.

She shuddered, trying to push the frightful image away. It will haunt her for weeks to come.

Liandan caught the pale waxy look as Ibris’s face drained of color and the frightened ill expression she tried to hide.

“It’s going to be okay,” Liandan said. She draped an arm over Ibris’s shoulders. “We just need to find a way to get the message to that butterfly brain of yours to stay out of the open where the crows and other birds can eat you.”

“You aren’t making me feel any better,” Ibris muttered.

They both laughed, but hers rang hollow in her ears.

A chill crossed Ibris’s shoulders, like a shadow passing over her. She looked up. The sky twinkled with stars in a deep blue-black that felt like it went into forever. The moon was out of sight beyond the trees, its mellow shadow still beneath the canopy of leaves above. A breeze picked up. It lifted and played with the leaves, the moon’s shadow dancing beneath them.

Still, the cold shadow of doom wrapped itself around Ibris and would not let go.

Episode 1 (Butterflies in the Garden): Danger Above by Vivian Munnoch

Episode 1:

Butterflies In The Garden

Danger Above

Photo by Jessa Crisp on Unsplash (edited by Vivian Munnoch)

The dully gleaming ebony feathers of the crow seemed to absorb the daylight into its black mass. The motionless bird stared unblinkingly at the movement below from its perch in a tree, looking more like its deceased and stuffed counterpart than a living creature.

Below him the little butterfly flitted weightlessly, bobbing on its wings over the flowers in the garden, oblivious to the danger above.

The crow blinked just once, the thin membrane moving across its cold emotionless eye a heartbeat behind the eyelid in a slightly off double motion. The bird tilted his head.

Spindly legs reaching, the little butterfly landed on a flower. Its wings moved slowly to some soundless rhythm. It tasted the air with its antennae, picking up only the sweet pollen of the flowers.

Feeling safe, the butterfly stilled its wings, letting them soak in the delightful warmth of the sun.

With a slow languid motion, the crow spread his wings and took flight, his shadow passing on the ground below.

The fleeting shade was a cooling pulse across the insect’s back, the warmth returned as quickly. Only its antennae moved in response.

Landing soundlessly on a wooden post closer to the flowers, the crow ruffled his feathers and settled to watch the little butterfly.

The insect lifted one spindly front leg and froze. It sensed danger. Its antennae twitched, feeling for the source. Nothing moved except the barest dance of the flowers in the soft breeze. The butterfly relaxed again.

The crow bided his time, watching the butterfly groom its head with its front legs.

He half spread his wings and tilted his head, coldly eying the morsel below. His wings came up and his head down, wings spreading to their full span. He pushed off the post, bringing his wings down against the air. He dove down at the garden.

Danger trembled in the little butterfly’s antennae. Its legs quivered and wings twitched as it sought the source. The shadow came down, growing, and covered it. It realized the danger too late, flapping its wings and bobbing and dodging on the air.

Faster, the crow dove straight for it, closing the gap quickly.

The insect felt the displaced air before it could flit across two flowers. Desperate to live, it tried to weave in the air. It could not move fast enough, its bumbling flight too weightless for speed.

The crow’s beak clapped closed a wing’s hair from catching and crushing the little butterfly just as it dropped below the flower heads. Twisting mid flight, the bird reached for it with the talons of one foot, catching only the velvety softness of flower petals. His claws dug into the blossom, tearing the stigma from style, anther from filament, and ruined petals free in a single violent moment that left the spoiled flower trembling with motion in its wake.

Swooping up to land on the post, the bird shook his foot to knock off the petal impaled on one claw. The torn petal fluttered to the ground. The crow ruffled his feathers in irritation at missing the snack.

The quivering butterfly clung to the bottom of a flower head beneath the watchful stare of the hungry bird above. Hours passed and neither moved. The sun crossed the sky, its light getting old and tired, and finally turned to the early gloom of dusk as it hung lower in the sky.

Lifting his beak to stare balefully at the weakening light, the crow finally gave up and took flight across the yard and over the trees towards his night roost. His ugly caws carried back on the wind.

The little butterfly was still afraid to move. It clung there in the growing darkness. The sun on the horizon made the sky burn with the colors of sunset as it slipped behind the skyline, plunging the world into night.

Rising waxy and pale, the moon cast its dull light into the night.

Moonlight reached down through the flowers and touched the wings of the little butterfly. Its wings quivered and rippled, shriveling into themselves. It trembled, its body twisting in grotesque reaction to the trauma. It fell into the full light of the moon. Its antennae withered and shriveled, its body convulsed in wretched spasms and twitched as it morphed. The lower part of its body split and pulled apart into two as its legs pulled into the body. The front legs thickened instead of withering like the rest and it shook its head in agony, legs splaying at the ends to become hands with fingers.

When at last it lay still, gasping raggedly from the pain ravaging it with the transformation, it was no longer a butterfly.

Clutching at and shaking her head, she moaned and pushed herself into a sitting position. She groaned hollowly and looked around.

She was still the size of the butterfly, but has shed all insectile appearances for human-like. Hair cut in a short bob framed her tiny face. Her appearance was almost elven, slender and diminutively angled.

Ibris stood weakly on unsteady legs, wavering a little. A gossamer gown hung off her, limp and tired. Putting an arm out, she stumbled over and leaned on the flower stalk for support as she gathered herself.

“That was close.” Her voice was rough and high with anxiety. She blinked; looking dazed, and tried to clear her thoughts.

“Craven the Crow is back. This is not good. He has killed too many of us. I should alert the village.”

Still weak from the transformation, Ibris shuddered and her gown shifted. Part of it lifted on each side, splitting apart to reveal wings so delicate they seemed they would tear on the barest breath of a breeze.

She looked up anxiously, expecting to see the ugly crow suddenly appear. She could not fly yet, so she started walking, climbing between flower stalks and blades of grass. Everything towered massively above her.

When her wings have dried, she took flight, moving more quickly. Ibris flew recklessly through the flowers, rising above them and speeding up, darting across the garden. She crossed the yard to the woods beyond and vanished into the shadows of the trees.

The village was alive with activity when Ibris reached it. The dwellings were little cottages of twigs and dry grass faded to sandy browns like logs and flat boards of wood. Tiny flowers decorated gardens, their heads hanging large and heavily.

Her legs were already pumping before she landed, her stride going easily from flight to a swift walk as her feet touch ground. She dodged through the village determinedly.

Ibris stopped at a building that was larger than the small cottage homes. The House of Counsel. She looked at the closed door uncertainly, reached a hand out to knock, and froze. Her hand fell uselessly to her side.

“I’m going to be in trouble for going to the flowers without permission.”

She turned unhappily, retreating.

“Ibris, where have you been?” The voice is soft, but with an edge of irritation, lightly scolding.

Ibris stopped and looked. Her eyes flashed warily as one caught doing something wrong might look. Liandan, the weaver of spider-silk cloth, was staring at her, waiting for an explanation.

Liandan was taller than Ibris, her arms lean and strong from hard work. She was older, but still young enough to be just starting her journey through the adult life.

Ibris took quick steps to her. She lowered her voice to a whisper.

“I know I should not have, but my butterfly brain does not always think.” She looked down guiltily. “I went to the flowers.”

“Without permission,” Liandan guessed. “You are lucky you did not get caught, or in danger.”

Ibris’s cheeks reddened.

“What happened?” Liandan asked.

“Craven.” Ibris’s voice trembled with the memory.

Liandan blanched and her face turned a sickly shade of pale. She reached for Ibris, needed to touch her and make sure her friend was safe. She felt Ibris trembling beneath her hand.

“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

Ibris shook her head. “It was close. Very close. I was sure I felt his ugly beak snapping me in half when I heard it clap closed on the air where I just was.”

She shuddered with the thought.

“But you are okay now. Promise me you won’t go back out there.”

Ibris gave Liandan a pained look.

“I didn’t mean to go,” she pleaded. “I was in the other form. My mind did not think. It has been safe for so long, I guess I forgot.”

Liandan was staring off thoughtfully.

“So, Craven has returned.” She looked at Ibris. “We have to tell the village. Craven is relentless. Ibris, we have to tell the elders.”

“No.” Ibris reached to put a restraining hand on her arm. She stared into her eyes pleadingly. “I will be punished.”

“If we don’t, someone will fall prey to him sooner or later.”

Ibris hung her head in shame.

“All right,” she said quietly.

“We don’t have to tell them everything,” Liandan said. She looked thoughtful. “Did you hear his call?”

“Yes. Ugly and loud.”

“Did you see or feel his shadow cross you?”

“Both.” Ibris shuddered and hugged herself.

Liandan nodded. “We have it then. We will tell them that and leave out where you were.”

“But that would be a lie by omission.”

“It’s only a small lie.”

“It’s a big one and they will ask where.”

“All right. We will have to tell the whole truth. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Come, we have to tell someone.”

Ibris followed her unhappily back through the village.

“We are not going to the House of Counsel?”

“No,” Liandan said. “We will find one of the grandmothers who have retired from the council. They will know best what to do.”

They came around a cottage to see a group of ahead. Sarawn, one of the knights of the Glenn and member of the council was there, looking serious and angry. Shanawn, the elderly historian was looking at him gravely. There were others too, all talking in loud anxious voices and looking concerned.

Liandan grabbed Ibris’s hand so she could not back out and dragged her along towards them.

Ibris tried to pull back, terrified of approaching them. Not just for what she had done, but because of who was there. Sarawn and Shanawn! They both terrified her. The knight of the Glenn standing tall and regal, his scowl making him even more intimidating. And the stooped historian dressed in a ragged robe more fitting a pauper traveler, who knew too much and was one of the most respected council members.

Liandan, too, hesitated. She took strength from being only one of a crowd clamoring for answers.

“What’s going on?” Liandan asked when they reached the group.

Shanawn turned to look at them. They both recoiled at the attention, expecting someone of lower status like their own to respond.

“Craven’s ugly cry has been heard,” he said, his voice thin and wavering with age. “His black shadow has been cast across our village again.”

“King Tuathal must be notified and a meeting of the council called,” Sarawn said gravely.

Shanawn nodded agreement.

Liandan and Ibris looked at each other. Ibris’s secret was safe, for now.

New Release – Madelaine & Mocha (The Wishing Stone) by Vivian Munnoch

It started with a walk in the woods and ended in kidnapping.

 

Madelaine & Mocha

The Wishing Stone series book 1

By Vivian Munnoch,

Author of dark fiction for young readers

Now available on Amazon Kindle and print on demand.

(Click to buy)

It started with a walk in the woods and ended in kidnapping.

Madelaine and her family are on a boring, no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life, camping trip that changes Madelaine and her life forever.

First, her little dog Mocha is lost in the forest. Then Madelaine vanishes from their tent without a trace in the night. Everyone assumes she snuck out to look for Mocha.

Madelaine wakes in the dark, dressed only in her nightgown, with no idea how she got where she is, locked in a small room.

While searchers comb the forest looking for her, Madelaine is trying to figure out how to escape and return to her family. But they will never look in the right place.

Only her little dog Mocha knows what really happened to Madelaine.

 

 

Madelaine thought things could not possibly get worse when her parents dragged her out on a boring, no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life, camping trip.

Then Mocha, her American Cocker Spaniel and currently her only reason for getting through each day, is lost in the forest. Their attempts to find the dog are futile and Madelaine is devastated.

A local boy, Geoffrey, joins Madelaine in her search, promising to not give up and showing her the beauty of the forest.

Then, Madelaine’s family wakes up to find her gone, vanished from the tent in the night wearing only her nightgown.

 

Madelaine wakes in the dark, locked in a small room with no idea how she got there.

The prisoner of a strange old man, Madelaine begs for escape, even in death. But she knew death once. Almost. It was not the blissful drifting off asleep she imagined it would be. It was agonizing and ugly.

The old man’s reason for kidnapping her is nothing she could have ever imagined. Madelaine keeps her hope up by wishing on a stone. Playing wishing games will not be enough to free her and escape her fate.

 

 

Author photoVivian Munnoch grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and continues to live in Manitoba with her family and rescue dogs. Vivian’s writing has always had a vein of darkness to it.

“I’ve always loved horror. I used to sneak downstairs as a kid at night to watch old killer B horror flicks. They were delightfully naughty and scary for a kid before the world evolved into the online forum it is today.”

Vivian Munnoch is working on a few other projects. The Wishing Stone series will touch on a few of young readers’ fan favourites of vampires and the like, but with a darker twist. These creatures are not romantic. The Butterflies in the Garden series is a dark fantasy. You will never see your garden in the same way.

Vivian Munnoch’s books are available on Amazon Kindle and in print on Amazon. You can also check Vivian’s Facebook author page to find out where she will be signing books in the community.

 

https://www.facebook.com/VivianMunnoch/

https://twitter.com/VivianMunnoch

https://wordpress.com/view/vivianmunnoch.wordpress.com