Part 3 – Blood Soaked Dirt

 

I was familiar with the scent of blood, living out in the wilds we would often come across a wolf kill or boar hunting tracks… But nothing compared to the stench which halted our journey. Venturing cautiously into a sheltered clearing the scent was unbearable, large flies buzzed around our faces angry at being stirred and yet the carrion crows continued to feast undisturbed by our arrival.

Soldiers, farmers, men, women, children, babes, dogs, livestock (a few chickens, a hansom cock and goats) along with even their mounts… The whole caravan of at least two score of people and their beasts were slain.

Hara cried devastated by the carnage before her, she fell to her knees in the blood soaked dirt and wept. Our own dogs bent low on their hunches growling and snarling, alert and cautious. The soldier and I ventured forth, just a few steps, concerned that there might be the hint of a survivor or two, yet the decay was overwhelming, even with my nose and mouth covered, I gagged and withdrew back to Hara to comfort her wails, trying to hush her distress, for danger might still be lingering…

We withdrew into the thicker trees with our dogs as the soldier alone continued his search, I kept him in sight as we withdrew into the undergrowth as silent as wood sprites themselves. Concealing ourselves and watching nervously as he picked his way through bodies, seeking any life or any supplies with might aid our own flight…

I gasped, slapped my own hand over my mouth, eyes wide as I witness him alert swing into action. Sure footed and agile he turned and in one swift action drew his sword deflecting not one but two arrows which rained down upon him from behind. Blinking I watched stunned as he acted without hesitation, two throwing knives finding their targets and tumbling both archers from the tree boughs to the earth with a grunt and a moan…

He dashed over to the fallen, out of my line of sight, yet I was too afraid to break cover and clung even tighter to Hara as she trembled against me. I heard swearing, pain filled cries. Then one male voice rang clearly over the scene.

“Please stop! No! We did not do this! We’re Survivors here!”

 

 

Anne Harrison 29.09.16

 

 

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Part 2 – It Rained in the Night

 

We took turns watching over the fallen soldier, death still clung to him like a ghastly shadow and we feared the damage to his throat was irreversible, but Hara was skilled in her art with local herbs and I watched learning as she applied poultice or mixed a lotion. Gradually he could swallow without pain and finally he found his voice.

“It rained in the night, didn’t it?” His voice was broken, gruff and deep.

Hara smiled at me as I knelt by his side, turning back to her broth and allowing us time to engage properly, the first time in weeks. “It did.” I replied with a smile, checking the poultice and meeting those strange yellow eyes. The dull was gone, a bright light returned to his gaze. Death had given up his hold. “Did you hear it?” I asked.

“I got dripped on.” He chuckled. It was good to hear him laugh.

The war had encroached silently, deadly, in the years since he rescued me. Myself and Hara kept ourselves quietly hidden away in the remote cottage, but at times we could hear the fighting , lingering upon the outskirts of the forest, smoke rose into the sky as soldiers destroyed settlements… Then they started to axe down trees, edging closer to our safe haven. We would find bodies, sometimes from the branches, sometimes dragged downstream in the river. There was no escaping the fact that they might soon discover the cottage… Hara shuddered in fear of would befall us if they did…

The decision was made to leave as soon as our own soldier was strong enough to travel, supplies were packed and one crisp misty morning we headed out from the grove, deep into the wilds, heading towards the mountains with our dogs and a rough desperate plan.

Age was against Hara, she employed a cane to assist her journey and we were forced to travel at her pace. For she knew these trees like family, knew every inch of the forest, for this was her home. But it hadn’t always been her home, she was from the mountains and that was where she was determined to return. Occasionally our large soldier would carry the frail Hara, as he had with me all those years ago. It made our passage swifter and for a long while we were unhindered.

Until…

 

Anne Harrison 28.09.16

Hidden Treasure

 

Please, click on me, I’m no ‘Ring’ like curse, I’m a Hidden Secret…

I’m not a video, so you’re safe, I’m a humble PDF of noble origins, a collection of images found, discarded, forlorn… I have a new home, with a pretty artist… But before my pages were passed on, I was scanned (misspelled) and saved to share…

Please, click on me: faily-tale-scans share the beauty of my hidden secret…

 

 

Anne Harrison 26.09.16

 

 

DISCLAIMER… The True Story behind the PDF…

I found the pages (only the pages) torn or cut out of the book long ago, discovered at a vintage fair for a few quid. I rescued them from being scrapped and had no idea at the time what to do with them. The pages have now gone to an artist friend of mine, but not before I scanned them… They date from 1958 and this is obviously not the whole book, I’m unsure of copyright procedures for anything so old…but I believe such artwork should not be hidden away, not buried like a dirty secret, but shared, all the old muted colours from the past, alive again. If I am wrong,  then I apologise…  I just wanted to share their beauty Xx

 

 

Part 1 – A Short Story on a Rainy Monday Lunchtime…

“Quickly, No time to explain, you need to come with me!”

The child hesitated looking up at the dirty soldier with wide eyed confusion, he turned annoyed at her delay a scowl swiftly crossed his bloodstained face as he hoisted the girl into his arms bolting away from the carnage.

She screamed frantically, wriggling and panicking in his strong grip forcing him to slap a gloved hand over her mouth holding her even tighter. A muffled sob wracked her tiny body as she went limp in those powerful arms. Her fear became shock as she slumped against the soldier, finally allowing the large man to bear her as he ran along holding her like a floppy rag doll.

Bumped, bruised and shaken she buried her face into his chest, having no idea how long he had been running, she could hear his breath, long laboured gasps, his heart thudded wildly in his chest from adrenaline and endurance. She was cold it had started to drizzle; he paused on his marathon to bundle the child into his uniform to protect her from the stinging freezing rain. That was the first time she actually got to glance at his features the rain had streaked the muck and blood down his face the filth dripping from the stubble on his chin.

His eyes appeared golden in the pale light causing the girl to almost fancy that he was some supernatural creature, almost expecting him to change form and destroy their hunters with grace and ease. But this was no fairytale and the enemy at their heels was frighteningly real. He began to run again and she clung to his shirt, held securely within the reeking attire, the exhausted child finally slipped into an unconscious slumber.

It was dark by the time he ceased running, the rain had stopped yet the stars were concealed by thick heavy clouds which promised more rain before dawn.  By now they were in a densely wooded area still following a well worn muddy track through the old trees.

Leaving the path behind them, the lone soldier carried the sleeping child deeper into the woodland seeking some form of shelter for the reminder of the night. Crossing a shallow stream he discovered a fallen tree, not exactly ideal but at least it was an improvement on the war torn landscape they had fled from.

His own body was screaming at him to rest, so the exhausted man clambered under the thick trunk, curling up with the tiny child for warmth and safety, gathering fallen leaves around them for camouflage.

Although his body craved rest, his mind was alert and sleep was fleeting, the slightest sound may be an enemy that had tracked their path and hunted them down. The logical part of his mind argued against these irrational fears, that one deserter and a small child were hardly high on army priorities.  Besides, as soon as he found somewhere safe for the child to stay, he could return to his fellow troops and manufacturer the tale that he had become separated from them amongst the fighting.

Sleep came and went in haphazard periods throughout the dark night, but by dawn he was deeply within slumbers grip. Therefore it was the child who awoke first, blinking; she stirred in the great arms of the lone soldier and wriggled free from his slack grip.

The soft sound of the babbling brook drew her attention she followed its call to drink. It felt good to quench her thirst; splashing water upon her face she rubbed sleep from her eyes. Exploring the misty woods in the dull grey dawn, keeping the large mans’ rumbling snores in ear shot, she found a few berries on a thick bramble bush so collected some to share.

That was when the girl noticed black smoke against dark clouds, rising up through the branches. Her fear returned tenfold as she swiftly sprinted back to the slumbering soldier scattering berries as she fled.

It took no effort to rouse the soldier, who near cracked his skull on the thick trunk, as he bolted up alert in an instant. The frightened child appeared incapable of rational speech, chattering so swiftly in her panic that he barely understood the cause of her distress. Before he could calm her and ask for a clear explanation, she started away, paused, returned and tugged him by the arm. Rolling out from under the concealment of the fallen tree he followed the child asking her to explain, however she turned and hushed him sharply gesturing towards the rising smoke.

It was his turn to take the lead, his training and experience guiding his actions in what could be a positional hostile situation. He caught the child’s arm and indicated that she should climb a tree to stay out of sight while he ventured ahead to seek out the source of the dark smoke.

A small peaceful cottage set in an idyllic clearing appeared quiet and totally unscathed from the surrounding war, as though trapped in a time forgotten, a small fragment of serene humanity in a world thrown into chaos. Where conflict was the norm, this simple cottage perfectly represented the peaceful way of life that people were fighting for and dying to protect.

It was beautiful in its simplicity and for an instance the image stole his breath and a rare smile graced his grizzled features.

A soft humming alerted him to the presence of a young woman scattering grain for chickens. He froze unwilling to cause any alarm, yet when she noticed the soldier she smiled warmly and gestured for him to approach.

“Are you lost?” She asked, her accent was thick and he couldn’t place the dialect.

He shook his head, glancing back the way they had travelled, knowing he could rejoin his troops before dusk if this proved to be an ideal location to conceal the child.

The child had to be safe at any cost.

The woman tilted her head to one side as she awaited an answer.

“I seek sanctuary.”

“For yourself?”

“No, for a child.”

“A child?”

“The child”

“Of cause, she is welcome here”

A smile of relief crossed his expression.

This is was how the child found sanctuary, a peaceful haven of solitude away from the vile war. Even though she had known the large soldier for less than a day’s span, there were clear tears in her sky blue eyes as she bid him farewell later that morning.

He had accepted a humble feast of freshly baked bread, soft cheese and an apple before parting company with the rescued child.  He knelt before her and smiled sadly, only a few words were exchanged and as a parting gift, a near after thought, he handed her his knife. A sharp, well made blade, kept in fine condition, safely kept in an oiled leather sheath.

“For emergencies.” He said as a simple explanation to her confused frown.

She nodded and held it tightly, standing in the doorway to the cottage watching until he was out of sight and long after.

***

That was several years ago now and the war still raged on, the soldier still fought on, but the small child was often in his thoughts. He longed for peace, to an end to this dreadful lingering conflict. Yet he had no family to go home to, he knew nothing apart from killing and fighting, both of which he was skilled at.

However when they came under attack he was asleep, the enemy crept without effort through tired sentries standing guard, slaughtering many of them with ease along their path overwhelming the small patrol and taking any survivors hostage.

They were cruel wretched creatures, who tortured their captives for their own sport.  Starved and beaten, tormented by the enemy, facing foul punishment and cruelty daily. One by one the soldier watched his comrades die a slow agonising death as their bodies gave up against such violent maltreatment. Until he alone somehow survived, broken, famished and deprived of sleep he still managed to cling to life, placing one foot before the other in a monotonous routine, head bowed low, his mind focused on the girl he had saved years before hand and that gave him energy from deep inside.

His strength was commendable, but his captives grew bored so one sunny afternoon they dragged him roughly to a tall tree, he was bound and a rope was tied carelessly around his throat before they hoisted him by his neck from a low branch. They laughed as he kicked and struggled, but the clumsy knot, tangled in the back of his ruined uniform, prolonged unnecessary suffering. The enemy, as usual, lost interest in their torment once he became still and so they marched onwards, leaving their last captive half dead, hanging limp in blazing sunshine, simply awaiting the editable.

A flash of sharp metal caught the sunlight, the keen edge severed the rope easily and he fell heavily to the ground gasping for breath.

A desperate coughing wracked his form, his lungs begging for air through his crushed throat. Barely conscious the tortured soldier glanced up, blinking against the bright glaring sunlight, reflecting from a familiar razor edged knife as the blade severed his bonds. Finally free, yet unable to move he felt surreal drawn back from the edge of deaths grip.

Bright blue eyes shone with an inner life, they were older eyes, in a mature face, had it really been so long? She was a child no more, yet her smile was still innocent.

“For emergencies, yes?”

 

 

Anne Harrison 26.09.16

The fading remains of a non-memory

I had been crying in my sleep, I know this because I awoke with dusty eyes, itchy and glued eyelashes. The fading remains of a non-memory swiftly leading my morning mind.

I had spent my dream in deepest distress, I had lost a baby yet I was at a wedding trying to be happy for the newly weds who were expecting. I don’t know where I was, this was one of my dream realms, where I know everyone, but none exist in reality.

There was a shadow, this shape which followed me throughout my dream, guarding me, watching me, because I could not see anything beyond my crippling torment.

I felt my belly, it was empty, hollow, like a broken eggshell, the life within stolen from me, leaving me shattered and running, running and searching, seeking the lost… Like it was something outside, beyond, reachable … But totally out of my grasp…

I awoke, Casper using me as a springboard, between the window and his awaiting food. Joy stirred, glared disdainfully that her beauty sleep should be disturbed by thunder paws.

It was 10 minuets before the alarm was due to go off and I had been crying in my sleep…

 

Anne Harrison 22.19.16