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Hiraeth. At first glance, it is a simple collection of letters- perhaps an unusual collection, if the word isn’t already in your vocabulary.  Roll it around your palate; what does it sound of? Autumn seas, perhaps, the sorrowful rush and sigh of waves that, no matter how hard they try, cannot return the chalk cliffs to what they once were, land under sea. In this you would not be far wrong. Hiraeth is a Welsh word that expresses such depth of emotion that it is difficult, very difficult, to translate it into a language originally designed to tell the other Neanderthals where the ripe fruit is. Hiraeth, with all its undertones and overtones of desperation, its auditory folds as rich as a tapestry of sound, means yearning, mourning, grief for lost places; for a homeland from which you have been irrevocably banished- an unutterable cry for a place to which you cannot return and which maybe existed only as a kind of bright dream. So did the Hebrews, wandering in the desert, cry out for the Promised Land; so too cried the children of revolution, any revolution, anywhere and any when, as they sought their utopia. In a way it is the cry of the whole human race.
OK, guys. I have a confession to make. I was on hiatus. For a number of complicated reasons. And, to my shame, I forgot about dA. Like, entirely. And then I went and made another dA profile, which was under the name of AbigailWells. But then I remembered, after thinking that I was experiencing some extreme deja vu which turned out to be, you know, actual memories. So if anyone happens to see a couple of deviations floating around that look exactly like mine but are under AbigailWells- yeah, that's my other account. Soz, guys. But I am now fully back in this one. Promise.
Do not fall in love before you have learned how not to hate.

Hatred is something you will be taught. It is an easy lesson.

Do not turn yourself into a statue wrapped around with barbed wire. The rusted spikes will gouge your skin, and though you may not feel it, the marks will remain. You may have veins of gold and a heart of living rubies, but people will not see past the metal and the marble. I know. I am Medusa’s work of art.

I was magma once. But Medusa’s gaze turned me to igneous rock, sculpted in my last attitude. I was lava once, before her cold breath hardened me. Before I lost my heart once, twice, three times, then again; before I watched a child die. I was not afraid to love, once.

Hatred is an easy lesson.
The path began to slope sharply downwards and became little more than a line of bare soil amongst the pine needles. The roots of the trees projected up through the earth and made useful ridges for them to lock their feet against. Every so often, Tom turned and helped Alice down over the places where the earth had dropped away, leaving a high step.

It took a good hour and a half before they reached the low of the valley. The air was cooler and moist as the track wound around outcrops of earth and trees. It looked to Tom like there had once been a river that ran down here, long enough ago that the bed was now almost indistinguishable from the rest of the ground.

“This had better be impressive, Crowley,” Alice called, from where she was walking by Tom’s side.

Crowley, who was up ahead, half turned. Tom didn’t need to be any closer to see the look of hurt on his face.

“I promise you’ll like it,” he said, forlornly. To his dismay, Tom thought he saw a flicker of uncertainty pass across Alice’s face, and her eyes softened.

“Are we trying to walk to Scotland?” he said loudly, “There’s not much more she can take.”

Alice glanced up at him and smeared one hand across her sweaty forehead. “I’m okay,” she said breathlessly.

“No,” Tom put his hands on her shoulders and forced her to sit on a handy log. “You’ve just gotten better from a fever,” he reminded her, “or had you forgotten?”

She sighed and wiped her face on her T-shirt. “Alright.”

Crowley came back and began haranguing Tom. “You can’t make her sit down if she doesn’t want to.”

Alice turned on Crowley with all the vicious snap of a too-tight elastic band. “Oh, shut up, Crowley. He’s keeping an eye out for me.”

The goblin boy flinched back. Just for a moment, Tom had seen her mother in her, as fierce and sharp as a wolf.

They set off again after a few minutes, a strange procession wending its way along the shallow gorge. First went Crowley, long-leggity and sullen, stretching from place to place; then a good deal further back came Tom, watching everywhere with sharp eyes for the next threat; and finally, so close behind Tom that she was almost his shadow, came Alice, scrambling over the rocks and tree trunks.

Eventually, they passed back into the cool, moist shade of deciduous trees and the sides of the gorge fell away. Underfoot the soil became thicker and wetter and full of leaf mould. Crowley followed the zigzag of moist earth until they came to a thicket of ferns and low bushes. There was grass sprouting up bright and thin against the brown of the soil. Crowley pushed his way in between the branches, which whipped back and caught Tom across his chest. He held the first one aside for Alice, who ducked under his arm and waited for him before she followed Crowley.

They caught up with the goblin at the boulder lined edge of an irregularly shaped still tarn of dark water. Crowley was standing by the edge, staring down into the murk. Tom had to resist an urge to shove him in, and instead searched in the thick grass for an oval stone to skim. Just as he was about to send it spinning out over the pool, Crowley grabbed at his wrist with sudden and viper-like speed.

“Don’t disturb the water yet,” he hissed. “You’ll make the knucker angry.”

Tom lowered his arm. “The what?”

“The knucker.” Crowley gestured out over the water. “I’ll summon him.”

Crowley rapped his knuckles hard on one of the trees by the pool and a deep knocking sound issued therefrom. A short pause followed, in which Tom looked around, unimpressed. “Is that it?” he asked. Alice concealed a giggle, badly.

Crowley gave him an ugly look and pointed to the surface of the pool. Tom followed his finger, straining his eyes to see through the murk- and then there was movement and like one of those pictures that can be two things at once, the knucker suddenly became visible.

It turned out to be a kind of dragon, except it was really and truly a dragon made out of water. It slithered up onto the bank of the pool and curled sinuously up so that it was facing them from the other side of the tarn. Even coiled up, its head and neck were a good two foot taller than Tom, and the knucker fairly towered over Alice. Where the sunlight passed through, it refracted and shimmered in a way that hurt Tom’s eyes. The grass beneath the knucker bent and squashed in the same way it would if a human were to sit on it. It had odd, knobbly little horns on its head, like those of a young male deer, only visible by the way the light glinted off them.

As Tom watched, a frog leapt out of the undergrowth towards the pool and straight into the knucker. For a moment, it hung suspended in the creature’s neck, and then passed out through its chest and into the pond.

The belly of the knucker was the dark, silty green of deep water, which faded to glassy clearness along the neck and tail of the beast. As far as Tom could see it had no wings and he doubted its ability to breathe fire, but its mouth gaped a little and he could see that it had some very white and very solid looking teeth, and long, grey claws like flint.

“If you’ve quite finished staring,” the knucker said, his voice as deep as a still loch. It sounded like sunlight and wet mud.  

Alice blinked. “Sorry,” she said.

“There was a time,” the knucker said, in a voice heavy with dissatisfaction, “when the goblin kind would be too fearful to come here, and the human kind too respectful to come without the appropriate sacrifice.”

“What sacrifice?” Tom said, shooting a glance at Crowley.

The knucker extended its neck partly across the water. “A human child, of course.”

Tom stepped in front of Alice.

The knucker laughed, a deep sound like the tumble of a huge waterfall. “Not to eat. To teach. But, alas, the wild has faded along with human belief and I am now a scary story to prevent small children straying too far into the woods alone,” he sighed, “A shame. I liked to hear them playing.”

He turned his huge, pale eyes on Alice. “I have to say, I’m surprised to see you with him.”

“Who? Tom?”

“No, the goblin,” the knucker nodded towards Crowley, “your family were normally too careful to allow them through. Not that the last few generations have known about the Below and the magic.”

Crowley chose that moment to act the fool. He picked up a long stick and danced towards the knucker with it, jabbing and slashing. The tip caught the knucker’s watery hide and tore through it with a splash, although the gash closed in the same way water would over a stone. In retaliation, the knucker slammed a massive paw down near Crowley, missing him by inches, and the goblin sprang back a couple of paces. He turned to check Alice’s reaction, and slumped when he saw the look of disapproval on her face.

“I suppose I had better give you a gift, as is the ancient custom,” the knucker said, with another sigh, “though you didn’t bring me one.”

The knucker’s throat worked strangely and Tom saw that something was passing up its long gullet in a cloud of silt. The knucker gaped and extended its neck all the way across the pool. Water vomited up out of its mouth, and brought with it a pen knife and a thin band of metal.

“The ring is for the girl,” the knucker said, “and you can have the knife.”

Tom bent down and picked them up gingerly. They were wet but not slimy. “They’re not magical, are they?”

The knucker snorted fine mist from his nostrils. “Don’t be ridiculous. Maybe they would be if you’d brought me a present, but as it is…”

Tom handed the ring to Alice, who slipped it onto the fourth finger of her right hand.

“What do you think?” she said, waggling her fingers at him. There was an oval of turquoise on the metal of the ring, with two small pearls on either side.

“Very nice,” Tom said.

Crowley leant over Alice’s shoulder. “Can I see?”

She held her hand up to his face momentarily. Once more, Tom saw the sudden raw flash of anger pass across the goblin’s face.

The knucker stretched out across the pool once more, until his muzzle was within snapping distance of Alice. “I would be careful if I were you, child,” he said. “It is all very well to believe in magic, but do you really want magic to believe in you?”



Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United Kingdom
OK, guys. I have a confession to make. I was on hiatus. For a number of complicated reasons. And, to my shame, I forgot about dA. Like, entirely. And then I went and made another dA profile, which was under the name of AbigailWells. But then I remembered, after thinking that I was experiencing some extreme deja vu which turned out to be, you know, actual memories. So if anyone happens to see a couple of deviations floating around that look exactly like mine but are under AbigailWells- yeah, that's my other account. Soz, guys. But I am now fully back in this one. Promise.

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Thank you so very much for the favorite on Glacial Affairs. :heart: It means a lot to me; it's definitely the most fun I've had in quite a while writing a poem.
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