Monthly Archives: December 2017


Some of the smaller children broke loose and headed out across the sand – Torik sent Cal-Den racing after them to gather them up. ‘They’ll be in the sea before you know it!’
‘Well, master Torik,’ said Anatt, ‘if we could dip them in the sea to clean them a bit it would be no bad thing.’
‘Hmm; but we must make headway on this journey, mistress Anatt. This is not a jaunt for pleasure.’
Old Gennet spoke up. ‘Never had such a thing in my life, master, as a ‘jaunt’, nor that much pleasure. Nor has my poor grandchildren, neither. If I help mistress Anatt to find what food and drink we can spare – I am not quite helpless despite my eyes, you know – maybe you could tend to the children’s bathing?’
Torik wished devoutly that Tamnet were with him to help him with his constant feeling that the world had run mad and that he might soon follow it. Bathing nine children in the sea, while the guards might catch them at any time! He sighed heavily and looked at Mor-Len.
‘Come, Torik, let us give them this small pleasure – it has been quiet for a long time now, and we shall still be moving on in less than an hour. Come.’
So while Sen-Mar lay torpid and brooding, all its remaining life in hiding and in fear, nine small voices and two deep ones could, for a while, be heard laughing and calling out upon the fringes of the West Sea, miles to the south of the city.

sue bridgwater



Raðenn had almost fallen asleep again when Mal-Den said sadly, ‘We cannot be in IssKor, there is no part of it so green and pleasant as this. But where are we? Why are we here? I still feel no hunger, I still fear that all this is illusion and that we lie near to death in our prison. Worse, I hardly ever remember that my home, my people, are in terrible danger and that I am not near to help them. What are we to do, Raðenn?’
The prince fumbled his way to a standing position, stepped away from the tree and again looked up through the foliage.
‘The stars must be there. And if we can reach a clearing or the edge of the forest we shall see them. Then we can work out from their position, where in Skorn we might be. But this does not answer your other questions. If someone or something has spirited us away from Sen-Mar when we are so badly needed there, how can they be a force for good? Can Callis work some dark magic to keep us away?’
‘I do not think so. But I begin to fear now, after all these days of quietude. How do my people fare? How can we help them? And oh! Where are we?’
Raðenn said, ‘I also wonder – when are we? Are we in our own time? If a door can lead to a far place, can it also lead to a far time?’
Before Mal-Den could answer, a sliver of silver moon appeared above the trees, and shone down on them through the flickering leaves.

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Sen-Mar lay quiet in the heavy sun of noon. Quiet in the temple, where Callis sat brooding in the room that had been Mal-Den’s, staring at the statue of Jaren and turning a knife-blade around and around so that it bored a hole into the surface of Mal-Den’s fine ancient table. Quiet in the market-places, where no stalls were offering goods for sale and where rats squeaked about the few rotting remains of food that stank in the gutters. Quiet in the streets, since all the people who had not fled the city by road or by sea were hiding in their shuttered houses. Nothing moved; no children played; all the children who had not escaped from Sen-Mar had been rounded up by the temple guard in a few raging days of slaughter and sacrifice. Children’s blood stained the floor and walls of Jaren’s sanctuary, and the last wisps of their burning still drifted faintly out of the slits in the roof.

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‘There is only one thing that I can do.’ Saranna stood in the middle of the cave, peering round at her friends in the dim lamplight.  ‘I have to go into the desert to find the people who dwell there – I know in my heart that among them I will find an answer to the sorrows and pains of this land.’

‘And I will go with you, lady.’ Mara rose from her place beside Arnett, and came to stand beside Saranna. The princess shrieked, startling the little ones into tears.

‘You cannot leave me, Mara – what shall I do without you?’

Then everyone was speaking, cutting across one another, all trying to convince Saranna and Mara that they must not, could not, go on this journey into the dry lands.  After a while, Mor-Len looked around the cave entrance and said, ‘Begging your pardon, my friends, but I must suggest you try to be quieter. If some patrol comes out along the south road, they will hear us.  Indeed, we should all be moving on, due south seems good to me but I cannot help you all to decide whether or not the lady should follow her own way.’

‘I must!’ she repeated, glaring at them all.

‘Then I must come too,’ said Mara.

‘And I.’ Arnett stood and walked to her handmaid’s side.

‘And me, lady!’ Ar-Nen scampered across the cave and grabbed Saranna’s hand.  Slowly Tamnet rose, and saying, ‘I am sorry, Torik,’ she took her place with the others.

‘Mercy,’ Gennet cried out, ‘what is to become of me and master Torik with all these little ones?’



Mal-Den stepped through the new-found door into the light. He stopped at once, so abruptly that Raðenn bumped into him.
‘What is the matter?’
‘I’m sorry, prince, I am bewildered. Look!’
Both men moved forward and saw that the light was washing down through a cloud of green leaves high above. Tall trunks as straight as spears and fat as seven fat men standing together rose up so high that neither could see as far as the leaves without craning his neck fiercely.
They looked down again, and Raðenn said, ‘Where in Skorn are we? How did we get here?’
Then Mal-Den cried, ‘The door! Raðenn, the door!’
Both ran towards the curved wall and beat upon it with their hands. The door had vanished, and as they stepped back and stared, the entire building shimmered and was gone. Where it had been were more and more of the huge trees, spread out further than their eyes could see.
‘Now what do we do?’ asked Raðenn.

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In the city, few houses now held any of their former inhabitants. Some of the poorest folk still lurked in the shadows, prowling from house to house at night in hope of finding something to eat or drink. As they found less and less for forage, they began to slip away, some to the Northgate and some to the South. Many of them escaped the guards, but many were taken. The captives were led to the temple, and herded into empty storerooms; those who had children with them fought desperately when the guards came to take the little ones away, by twos and threes until none were left. They never saw the children again. And after a time the guards began to come for them, too.

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Turning his back on the circle, Mal-Den surveyed once again the elegant chamber he and Raðenn had dwelt in for – for however long it was. His unease deepened as he struggled to accept yet further strangeness – how could he not have eaten or drunk for so long? How was the wound on his head made to vanish? Was he in fact still imprisoned with his friend and in delirium, soon to die of cold, hunger and neglect? He looked down at his own hands, and pinched one of them hard with a thumb and finger. ‘Mal-Den, why are you doing that?’ The priest jumped; Raðenn was standing beside him, looking puzzled, and also looking strong, healthy, clean and happy – as each of them now looked all the time. ‘I wondered if I would wake myself up – I cannot believe that this is not a dream.’




Ar-Nen, seated beside Torik, looked this way and that as they moved forward. If any lurking enemy should move or make a sound, Ar-Nen would spot them. Gradually they neared the wall, nearer and nearer until it loomed above them. Lowering itself down the sky to the west, the sun shone strongly on the old stones, softening their hardness to beauty. Now the gateway itself was near, and where it passed under the wall it fell soon into shadow. Ar-Nen peered ahead, trying to see beyond the patch of sunlight where the gate stood open, into the dark where danger might be. Mor-Len looked back and signalled to Torik, who hauled on the reins to slow the tired horse. The guard walked carefully forward, drawing his sword as he went. He passed under the arch of the gateway and soon vanished into the shade. In the wagon no-one moved or spoke, except that the baby girl, Karett, was weeping as quietly as she could in her grandmother’s arms. Ar-Nen was afraid to breathe.

sue bridgwater