The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
It had been one of those warm, sweaty, labour intensive days. The Autumn colours had begun to cover the land but, as yet, the leaf fall was minimal. The evenings were still long. Clinging to the warmth from the sun, which was slow to set. The Dagda sat by the river, scraping and scouring his great cauldron. Everything from the fire blackened outside, to the food encrusted inside, felt the rub and scrub of his weary hands. As his body worked, his mind began to catalogue the days gathering.
The chill predawn of that morning had found him off in the woods, foraging sack in hand. The leaf greens were still easily found in this season, as were the mushrooms. The lamb lettuce, cow parsley and three cornered leek were all about. The mushrooms took a little more care, as you never wanted to pick a bad one. Still, everywhere there were edibles, when you knew where to look. He had winced at the aching in his knees from hunkering down.
The mid morning had him taking the aged from his flock. Brought to the place below his rath, they were thanked for the gifts their passing would give. Hide, flesh, blood and bone, all of use. As he’d worked the blade he’d considered his portions. Some for the smoker to replace what's already been hung. He’d made sure to snip a few cuttings from his mint herbs. He had groaned at the strain in his hands from wielding the knife.
The afternoon had found him out in the fresh air of his orchards. Basket held to his side, he had strolled among the trees, seeking out the ripening fruits. These found their place in the basket. About the hedging he had gone next, picking black berries, fresh currants, and gooseberries. Many had made their way into his mouth, delighting his senses with their sweetness or their tartness. Most of these would go into his preserve pots, assuming he could find some empty ones. He had flinched at the tightness of his back from the bending and lifting.
Late afternoon had been grinding grain, sifting the husks and bagging. Oats, wheat, barley all prepared for the long winter store when food would be needed and none would grow. He had moaned at the pain in his shoulders.
The evening had seen him rotate his stores. Greens and mushrooms bagged and bushelled. Fresh meats replace those that had cured in the smoker. The dried pieces set to hang in the larder. Fruits bagged by type, ripest at the top. Preserves brought down from the high shelves ready for use. Grain sacks moved from the back to the fore.
The Dagda finished his washing, lifting the big clean cauldron from the water. He winced again as his body complained at him for the efforts he had put it through. He had taken the extra time to label everything with his usual marking. It can be awfully annoying to be looking for something and not able to find it easy. A little effort in preparation, can save a long road of frustration, or so he always thought. His stomach grumbled at him reminding him of his hunger. He moved back to the entrance to his rath, thinking of the mutton ready for the pot. Just as he crossed the threshold he stopped. Taking a moment to turn back, he looked off towards the West were the sun moved towards its set, before heading in to his well earned supper and rest.
The moon was in her darkness as she moved. The scent of flesh and sweat hung heavy about the space, but more than that came to her nostrils. Freshly turned earth nearby. The rich green smell of crushed and cut leaf. It was the blood though which had brought her. Its heady metallic aroma carried far upon the wind and hung in her senses like an unshakable summons. Her jaw hung open, tongue lolling out in a quiet pant as the saliva flowed. Her eyes picked up the lights of the world despite the covering of cloud and dark of the moon. To her it was as easy to see in this dark as it was in the day. There was no movement beyond the flow of the wind, its soft cool caress shifting the hairs upon her form.
She had been here for most of the day, having been hooked to the scent from mid morning. She had slunk low to the ground, coming closer amidst the brush, ensuring she stayed careful of the wind so it did not carry her scent ahead of her. She had kept her ears pricked up capturing every sound she could. The human male had moved about with thunderous plodding steps, making pain noises as it went about its labours. Though its movements were slow and its mannerisms docile, her instincts told her of the threat inherent in it’s every motion. This was a predator, an alpha amongst its tribe, but not by posturing or proclamation. It was a creature of purpose and intent. Well aware was she of its abilities, not out of any fear of it, more out of cautious interest. She had moved about it throughout the day, quietly observing whilst unobserved. When it was done at the river, the human male made more of its pain noises and moved to the entrance to its den. Her ears had picked up the growl of its hunger and she’d begun to slink closer.
That was until it turned to face her. She’d frozen. Ever muscle taut yet still, jaws closed so that her breath moved silently between her pointed teeth. The human male had cast its gaze across her hiding spot without stopping, its nostrils flaring as if trying to catch a scent in the air. The wind had been behind it, carrying its earthy scent to her nostrils so she’d known there was no way it could smell her. The moment had passed as the human glanced at the setting day star and entered it’s den.
Now, with darkness at its fullest point, it was her stomach’s growl that made the most noise. Her hunger could no longer be denied. Slinking slowly from the cover of the brush, she followed the scent of fresh blood around the big human den until she came to the entrance below. The saliva dripped from her jowls as she snuffled her way up the opening, only to find it closed. The passage sealed with old wood. Scratching her nails about the bottom of the wood availed her nothing, as the earth had been covered with stone. A hunger fuelled growl of frustration escaped her lips before she caught herself and returned to silence. She suppressed her hunger so that she could think. It was too late to leave and hunt. All of the prey would have gone to ground and her hunger was too great. She needed to feed, and wondered how many days had it been since she had. Not that there hadn’t been plenty of prey to hunt, but she had been busy, about her own purpose. Her stomach betrayed her control and growled again, bringing an answering growl to her lips. It was then she recalled the other scents. The smell of green things. The aroma of sweetness and the ashen scent of burning. She dropped to her haunches and brought her thoughts to focus. This human male was smart. It knew the cold time approached. It was also large for its kind, and would require a lot of food in the cold times. It would have a store. She rose to her paws and set her nose to the ground, tracing the scents. It was the green and the sweet that she sought, snuffling her nostrils close to the ground. She followed the scents and came about the big den, only to find another door, for that is what it was, old dead wood set in a frame. Her nails raked the ground at its bottom, but again felt only stone. Behind the dead wood door there were many scents. The green and the sweet, but also the smell of meat. The hunger was fierce upon her and she could not deny her need to satisfy it. She looked upon the door and gave another soft growl. She would not be stopped by the likes of the dead wood yet she would not risk waking the human male.
Taking a step back she set herself at ease upon her feet and allowed herself to breath. Slow and deep. Moving the air in and out of her form with intent. Closing her eyes she focused her will upon the blackness that was within herself. In that still darkness within, she was only that which she chooses to be. All that was, all that is, all that will be, held at bay by her will, for there was nothing other than the moment. As the breath moved in and out of her, she chose, placing her intent fully upon her form.
There was no one to see the deed and therefore who is to say what deed was done. What no one saw was the darkness. It exists everywhere, all about us, as fully and completely as the light. Sometimes it's the dappled shade beneath a tree, sometimes it’s the deeper darkness beneath your bed. Sometimes it’s the darkness behind your eyes, and then of course there is the complete and total darkness beneath the earth. What no one saw was a lean rangy she wolf standing before a solid oak door. What no one witnessed was the darkness gather about the creature. What no one observed was the darkness settle back to its regular places and there stood a lean, rangy woman. She was not tall, nor big, but instead was a creature of lithe muscle and a killer’s grace. She straightened her naked form from its crouch, flexing her finger and hands, arching her feet up until her entire body was one big long stretch. Then she looked to the door. To her it was as easy to see in this dark as it was in the day. The door and its latching mechanism was well wrought. Practical and without ostentatious embellishment . It was a thing of simple purpose, yet solid and sturdy in its construction. Made by him, it was no true barrier to her in this form. She strode forward on her scuffy feet, moving her body into the shadow of the entrance, and with swift movements she had the door open and slipped inside.
The needs of her form where heavy upon her. The hunger and the thirst. Flesh came first. She grabbed the smoked meat from where it hung above the door and tore into it with her teeth. Ripped and rended meat made its way into her as she swallowed. The gloom within the store was no challenge to her senses. She reached out to grasp a clay jug from the table, pouring its cool clear waters into her mouth, feeling it wash down her throat and into her stomach. Next her nose told her of a green and sweet want. She moved to the sacks until she found what her hunger demanded. The apple crunched between her teeth as its sweetness rolled over her tongue. The ravenous nature of her need saw it consumed in but a few bites, and a second and third meet the same fate. All about the room she moved following her nose and taking what her needs told her to take.
Finally, as the hunger and the thirst moved off from her, she slowed her actions. How long had it been? How much time had she invested in her pursuits to the exclusion of all else? She intentionally slowed her chewing chomping of the latest apple, as she thought of the work. It had been some time since she had chosen this form. That she knew. The turning of the year drew it closer to its end. Samhain would come soon and then the dark time would follow. Was it at the last turn towards darkness that she had taken this shape? Why would she need this, of all forms?
Whether it was the strong earthy scent about the store room, or indeed the sweetness upon her tongue which triggered the memory she couldn’t be sure, but her minds eye showed her the last use of this form. The splash of the ford’s water cooling the hot touch of hands upon her body. It spread a smile across her face.
She took a deep breath inhaling the scents all about her, seeking something more familiar than the rest. It led to her to the table by the wall, and the neatly folded bundle of fabric there. It smelt of water and air form its cleansing, but beneath that it smelt of her. Taking up the clothes, her clothes, because that was what they were, she chose to garb herself against the night chill. Looking about the room she saw the ruin that her hunger and thirst had placed upon the space. With anyone else she would leave no sign of her visit, but with him she would leave this. She smiled again. He was often one to worry, but now he would know that her needs had been met. She looked about the space and taking up a large empty sack she began to select what she would need. Every bushel and bag labelled with his markings, making the efforts so much easier, preventing any frustrated searching. The time of cold and dark was coming and she would need to replenish her stores. The clink of the preserve pots in the sack reminded her that she would need to return last year’s lot. He always makes the tastiest of jams and pickles.
As she moved towards the door, hefting the sack of supplies up over her shoulder, she found another toothy smile for the room she was about to leave. He was not a small man, and had appetites not likely rivalled among the tribe. Yet his store always had more than what he himself could ever need. Even in taking all that she had, this room was still a bulging site of abundance. There would be no lack created by her activities and she often wondered if that was the truth of his labours. Taking one last look she moved through the door and out into the night.
Of course creating such a store would be an easy task for her, but why would she need to. The Morrigan settled her new supplies and set off into the night, slipping furtively away. Though he would never deny her the fulfilment of her wants and needs, sometimes the greater pleasure was in the taking, and not being caught. She just found that everything tasted that bit sweeter, when it was raided.
The next morning the big man moved to his stores, mind intent on breakfast. As the heavy wood door opened to his hands he saw the mess that had been made of the room. Smoked meat missing, bags and bushels open, askew or simply gone. There was nothing broken or damaged, just taken. He moved his eyes to the table and saw the mound of laundered clothes where no longer where he had left them. It seemed he had been on the receiving end of a raid. The Dagda smiled as he began to tidy up, checking to be sure enough supplies were no longer here, and wondering when he would receive his preserve pots back.