I’d like to apologize for my absence the last couple of weeks. As they say, life happens.
This is a short story I wrote based on the first prompt in my Irish Mythology list. I couldn’t get that scene out of my head and it turned into this flash piece. I hope you enjoy it!
Gann looked out over the battlements. The cold fog clung to his beard and beaded on his skin. The watchmen had called for him as soon as the ship was spotted. The initial sighting had caused quite a stir. No ships should be coming from the northern sea at this stormy time of year. High winds and churning waves halted all travel from that region for months, not that there was much to begin with. Beyond that, it was a style none had seen before, long and slim, possibly gray though it was hard to tell in the dimness of dusk and fog. The prow and stern both curled up and, from this distance, gave it the appearance of a leaf blowing on the waves. The large sail was silver and shimmered, but Gann decided this was a trick of the light through the spray.
Most of the gawkers had retreated by now; the ship hadn’t come any closer in well over an hour. No one saw an anchor drop but the ship managed to stay in place amid the white caps. The lack of movement may have put the others at ease, but Gann wasn’t convinced. This ship was a bad omen and one which the auguries had failed to foretell.
Finally forced inside by the cold, Gann went down to speak with the scribes hoping that perhaps there was some record of these ships, some hint of who they were and what they wanted. The master scribe, predictably, had nothing much to offer. She had apparently tried to identify the strangers immediately. There was only one vague mention of a slender ship with a silver sail arriving on a foggy night, but there was no mention of its origin or passengers. Gann was not comforted to learn this reference was from an obscure poem fragment in a collection of children’s stories and faerie tales.
When the ship made for land, Gann was informed. He gathered a group of men he trusted, men who were excellent fighters but also knew how to remain calm and follow his orders. With their short, broad swords and thick armor, they departed, entering the night, entering the fog.
Since Gann had last been outside, the fog had changed. It was now a pervasive mist, scant at first but thicker as they approached the shore through the small wood that protected the keep. The white coils billowed around Gann and his crew, beckoning them forward. Their torchlight was reflected back at them by the mist, obscuring the trees around them and eventually, Gann ordered the fires extinguished. As they neared the coast, the mist turned into a solid wall of white and silver, now dispersing the moonlight across the landscape.
Gann signaled for his men to halt just as they cleared the forest. About eighty yards from where they stood, the land made a sudden drop to the beach. He waited, wondering if the strangers would stay near their ship until dawn or search out a way to the top now. He doubted the clink of his armor could be heard above the din of the waves and without the torches their presence should not be known.
They waited. The moon traveled across the sky, moving from behind their backs to shining in their faces as though it was taking sides. The men were growing restless. Gann was debating sending one or two to the edge of the cliff when there was movement.
The white swirls near the edge of the cliff fluttered out in a circle, revealing a group of shadowed figures, appearing as if made of coalesced mist. Silhouetted against the moon, they stood, faces obscured. But Gann could tell they stared straight at him. They were tall and slender, as foreign as their ship. White-blue hair flowed on the breeze coming off the sea and intertwined with the mist. Silver moonlight glinted off serpentine daggers and long, narrow blades at their hips.
Gann couldn’t tell if it was a trick of the mist and the moon, but they seemed to glow slightly, while still remaining shadowed. Then a low hum began. He could feel it more than hear it and the very earth beneath his feet seemed to vibrate a greeting.
As the mist slowly reformed, swirling around the figures, between their legs like a friendly cat, Gann new things had changed. He knew he and his people were no longer the keepers of this land. The only question now was, how should the mantle be passed, what legacy would they leave behind? He tightened his grip on his sword and stepped forward.