Maevelin knew she had to save her failing brother. He was the only family she had left since her parents had died when they were children. Even though she was only four years younger than he was, he had practically raised her, himself.

She couldn’t just allow Maedri to die.

“Maevelin, we all have a time to go.”

“Don’t talk like that. I will find help. Surely there’s something I can do,” she insisted. “The herbs and potions the healers are giving you aren’t doing anything to cure your ailment. Surely, I can find something better. Something to cure you of this mysterious illness.”

“I would be more content if you would stay, sister. Sometimes you cannot fight fate.”

“Sometimes it’s up to you to change it,” she protested. “I won’t let you die. You don’t deserve it,” she protested, tears running down her cheeks. “Wait for me, I will come back. I promise.” She thought if anyone knew how to save her brother it may have been the strange oracle that everyone avoided. (more…)

     A city of temples, home to a teeming multitude of gods and goddesses, each with a compound of courts and monasteries, with tombs of saints and sites of miracles, a holy city where religious endowments own and occupy most of the real estate, Ringdongdu might well be called the city of bells, from the constant ringing, tolling, chiming, striking, and tinkling of bells of every tone and timbre, a carillon spread over acres of urban landscape.

     Of extreme antiquity, founded by the legendary King Ringdong, who laid out the city with help from a host of industrious angels, Ringdongdu is the cosmological center of the world. Its religion lacks a name and dogma. Believers say no other exists. Like a magical loom that works on its own, their faith unravels and reweaves all other faiths, from primitive demons to the most advanced theological concepts. The people call their highest deity Lord and epithets including the Many-Layered One, which hints at a range of divine ideas, complex and contradictory. Yet serene amid this welter, they dispense a threefold blessing: “May you find peace, love and joy.”

(more…)

     Liam was jailed in the basement of Jedburgh Castle to await his execution by guillotine. He had been the housefather of Bethany Orphanage, and he was innocent of the crimes charged. He had no alibi witnesses. The reigning noble did not believe his defense.

     The guillotine would be quick and his suffering minimal. For that, Liam was thankful. But he wanted to live. Why should he die for a crime he did not commit?

     A grey man with a hollow yellow face snuck into the castle jail. He believed Liam’s story of innocence. He wanted to help. “On the day of your execution,” the man said, “I will release your ankle stocks, and loosen the wooden lunette around your neck.” Liam smiled. (more…)

     They keep asking me why I did it. Then, as soon as I start to explain, D C Grainger butts in with: ‘Was this on the morning of June 11th?’ I deal with that and then D C Singh chimes in with: ‘Did you tell anyone that was where you were going?’ I struggle past that, and then as soon as I get to the bit about the Holy Spring, I see ‘em exchanging those ‘Has he escaped from the funny farm?’ looks. A dispiriting business for a university professor accustomed to a respectful audience. So I’m setting it all down on paper. And then I’m not telling the police another bloody word.

     I live in Scotland now, but most years I manage a visit to my mother’s country, the Welsh Borders. When I was a child, I used to spend every summer holiday in the Abergavenny house of my grandparents, Harry and Gladys Cecil. The little town is surrounded by seven hills, but for a child the hill that holds the greatest glamour is the Sugar Loaf (its Welsh name is Pen y Val), which looms over the north of the town. Every summer, I would pester Grandad Cecil to re-tell the story of how Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West Show to Abergavenny in the summer of 1903. Grandad had been one of the children in the audience when Buffalo Bill vowed to his audience that he would walk up the Sugar Loaf. And that’s just what he did the next morning, accompanied by half the adults and all the children of Abergavenny.
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     “Hey, what you think? Negro, I’m talking to you.”

     Lloyd Baker, the Basket Maker, is shaking my shoulder, leaning into my face with his one-hundred and one proof rum breath jolting me out of my thoughts.

     Mildred, aka Millie, Miller Light, and Mildew, the bartender, laughs as I lurch back from Lloyd’s toxic assault. Mildred tries to get me back in the conversation. “Monroe, Planet Earth to Monroe Collins. Are you still with us, brother?” (more…)

Skull

Beside the flanks of white houses

The plants sing liquefying songs.

Their metallic voices are like

Drops of heavy paint,

Colorful molts from a dragon’s side.

When I hear them

I believe there is a festival

In the inner life of all things,

In the marrow, the deep materials.

A knot of music

That cracks open

Like a frozen skull. (more…)