A Donkey to the Lighthouse

On Thursday I had decided to venture to the far end of the island, and was advised to use some transport as the terrain was not the best for hiking.  I was given the name of a donkey wrangler in Gilead whose animals were reliable and gentle.

I loaded up my backpack with food and water and made sure I had my walnut shell.  I was unsure whether this would be of any use with a donkey.  I didn’t want to teleport myself and leave a donkey off in the sticks.  There might be a huge fine for that.  I didn’t know if the teleporting would include the donkey or not, but it wouldn’t hurt to take the shell with me anyway. I also packed a couple of apples and carrots as a treat for the animal, and set off for Gilead.

The donkey-man’s name was Thomas, and he brought out a pretty, little, light-grey donkey named Maria.  Seeing the look of consternation on my face, he assured me that she would carry me quite easily.  I’m no lightweight! Did I detect a look of panic in the beast’s eye??  I apologised profusely to Maria, and Thomas helped me aboard.  He threw a couple of panniers over her rump, containing feed and water; showed me how to steer, and I was on my way.

I must say that when I settled down and accepted that we were not going to travel at the speed of light, I quite enjoyed it.  I kept up a running commentary on the sights, sounds and smells for Maria, and I think we appreciated each other’s company.  She was very biddable and there was no power-struggle, making the journey very soothing.

We passed through several small settlements on our trip, and were greeted at each by groups of small children and an assortment of animals.  I didn’t have anything in mind but being able to say I’d seen the lighthouse at the westernmost point of the island.  Everything else – the people, the scenery, the sounds and the smells – was a bonus.  I was soaking it all up.  I sang a couple of songs about ‘Maria’, which made the donkey’s ears twitch and me giggle.  I don’t know if it was her name or my singing that caused the twitch.

We stopped in the late morning for something to eat and drink and I gave my trusty steed one of the apples and carrots, which she seemed to relish.  We rested for a while, so that the feeling could return to my nether regions, and then had to find a rock for me to climb onto to get back in the saddle.

We arrived at the lighthouse about an hour later and were welcomed by the keeper and his wife – Mr and Mrs Weatherspoon (Dave and Phyllis).  They invited me in for tea and sandwiches, so I tied Maria up in the shade of a tree and gave her feed and water, and went inside.

The cottage was built on the leeward side of the lighthouse to shelter it from the worst of the winter storms, and was delightfully cozy.  The furniture was of a simple design, but beautifully crafted from a light coloured, close-grained wood.  There were small carvings of flowers in the backs of the chairs.  ‘What beautiful furniture!’ I said.
‘My Dave made all this for me as a wedding gift. Almost thirty years ago, now.’
‘Aye, and’ Phyllis made all the cushions, too. And the rugs and the curtains.’ I could see that they were both immensely proud of each other, and with good cause.  Phyllis served sourdough bread with goat’s cheese and chutney – all homemade, Dave informed me – and we had a large pot of tea between us. Dave gave me instructions on the finer points of lighthouse keeping, and Phyllis advised me on goat herding and cheese making. I told them of my adventures onboard the ship and we all spent a very pleasant couple of hours together. Not many people venture out to the lighthouse, so company is always welcome.

I had a good ride in front of me, to get back to Gilead, so I climbed aboard Maria once more and thanked my hosts for a pleasant visit, and for their hospitality, and set off on my return journey. The same groups of children clapped and cheered when we reappeared in their villages. We had another small stop with the basket weavers, so that Maria could have a drink, and arrived back in Gilead at dusk. I’m sure Maria was looking forward to a good rest – I know I was.

There was no way I was going to get back to the Abbey for the evening meal, so I went to the little café that Woody and I had visited on our first night on the island. I had poached eggs on toast and a cup of their delicious coffee.

I took a very sedate stroll home – I was sure I had saddle-sores, and intended to soak in the bath for some time before retiring for the night.  I had been soaking for a few minutes before I remembered I could have saved myself the walk home by using my walnut shell.  I’m not too bright some days!

(Sue – a.k.a. Beryl scribblenpaint’s sabbatical)

G is for Grail, Q is for Quest, R is for Runes

I have spent my days at the Abbey sitting in the orchard with books I have borrowed from the vast library, sharing apples with Tinker and feeling at peace with the world. This is such a beautiful place. A stream runs through the orchard, where I bathe my feet and dip my hands and watch the minnows darting around my fingers.

fishesinthehand2

I have been rereading Arthurian legends, and I also found a couple of books about runes. Runes are fascinating. I like to make my own out of pebbles, clay, crystals – something in these ancient symbols is so mysterious and bewitching.

My favourite is Raido, which means Wagon, and to Ride, and is a general symbol for travel. If I add Raido (R) to my own name, it becomes Grail, and I am indeed a questing soul.

The cup I seek is the Cup of Creativity. Is this the true Grail, from which all things flow, the Cup which holds the secrets of creativity for all who dare to drink from it?

The runic equivalent of G is Gebo, the Gift – the Grail is the Gift, for those who seek it, your own unique gift, for we all have one. To seek the Grail is to seek your gift, your true self. The runic symbol for Gebo is a cross – a kiss, a symbol of faith? The Holy Palmer’s Kiss was exchanged between souls who knew each other as they passed.

A is Ansuz, which means God, Creativity – so as I seek my Gift, as I travel in quest of the Grail, I am seeking God – the wellspring of creative fire.

I is Isa, Ice, a cold little rune frozen in time. Isa is said to be derived from the Germanic word Isan, meaning iron – but it is also the Muslim equivalent of Jesus, and is believed to be the name of a Finnish Goddess. Wherever it came from, in the runic alphabet it means alone, standing still, frozen in time. Sometimes that is just how I feel. I know my quest is often lonely, and I have often felt cold and frightened.

But finally there is L, Laguz, water, flow, the endless flow of creativity, running like water over rocks, flowing like rivers to the boundless ocean…

So when I feel alone I go back to the source, as I have come back to the Abbey. I drink deep of the waters, feel refreshment running through my tired body and mind, listen to the voices of my companions rippling like water over river stones, and know that I am not alone anymore on my quest. As the minnows gather around my hands, I remember that others have gathered here as well, seeking the Grail, as I have done.

In my cupped hand, the water sparkles…perhaps I had the Grail all along.

Hamlets and Crafts

To the south the land slopes gently towards the sea, and is lightly wooded, with the occasional meadow clearing scattered with wild flowers – cowslips, primroses and a patch or two of tiny wild strawberries, sweet as honey.

Gilead is the town and the main trading centre, but there are several small hamlets dotted about the island too.  Each hamlet seems to be connected to a particular craft, and the crafts seem to be family concerns with the skills being passed from one generation to the next.

One of these I found by literally following my nose!  The scent of lavender and rose was on the air and it was my intention to pick flowers.  Instead, I happened upon a soap-making enterprise.  The perfume was coming from two large vats which were being stirred by two older women.  Younger women were shaking the set bars of soap from their moulds, and the children were wrapping the bars, in threes, in brightly coloured cotton squares.  They were secured with a blob of shiny, black wax and imprinted with a celtic knot – the family’s sigil.  The work was accompanied by chatter and laughter, and they were happy to show me how the soap was made.  One of the children took me to where there were boxes packed ready for the market and I bought a pack each of Lime Blossom, Rose Geranium and Sandalwood.

I hadn’t really intended to buy anything on my outing and the weight of the soap, although not very heavy, was added to the weight of my lunch and drink bottle.  I hadn’t gone very far beyond the village before I decided to lighten the load by eating my lunch and having a drink.  I hid the soaps in the fork of a tree where I could pick them up on the way back, and headed towards the beach for a paddle in the sea.

I collected one or two pretty shells and put them in my pocket – little mementoes of my visit.  Rounding a small headland I came across another track and decided to see where it went.  Another small hamlet of six cottages.  These were the basket weavers.  I had noticed the nuns using beautiful baskets for a variety of things.  This village must be where they came from.  Men and women were sitting companionably in a circle, engaged in their craft.  Dried rushes, willow canes and hazel wands were heaped inside the circle.  The men appeared to be making the utilitarian baskets, while the women were making smaller, more decorative ‘art’ baskets.  These were made from fine twigs and grasses and had small, brightly coloured bird feathers and beads woven into them.  Some looked very much like birds’ nests and were quite delicate.  I was amazed at how quickly they could produce a basket.  Their fingers were very nimble and also quite calloused.  They invited me to join them and try my hand at a small basket.  My attempts caused a great deal of good-natured merriment all round.  I ended up with something that looked as if it had been walked on, but it was a colourful disaster with the beads and the feathers.  I purchased a tiny ‘art’ basket woven with feathers of aqua and blue.  It sat neatly in the palm of my hand and weighed almost nothing. 

One of the men was loading a couple of donkeys with baskets for the marketplace and asked me if I would like to accompany him part of the way. He put my backpack onto one of the donkeys and we set off towards Gilead. I explained that I’d left my soaps in a tree and gave him a rough idea of where, and he pointed me down the right track when we got close.

I was quite tired by the time I reached the tree so I sat a while to get my strength back.  When I put the soaps into my bag I felt the walnut shell against my knuckles.  I’d heard some of the others talking about its teleporting abilities but had no idea how to operate it.  It didn’t come with a manual.  I re-examined the tiny items it enclosed but couldn’t make a connection.  I decided to hold it firmly in my hand and visualize where I wanted to be.  It worked, but it was the weirdest sensation.  I felt as if my stomach had fallen through the floor. There was a whooshing, whistling sound and again the lurch of the stomach as I stopped, but I was exactly where I had imagined I would be – back in my room at the abbey.  I can see me making interesting use of this in the future.

the arch

For how many months
did the stonemason toil at this
archway of smooth grey stone
which looms before me at
the pinnacle of irregular steps,
a sombre facade which
belies the warm and fertile
soil hiding within. A beacon
for those whose past is a tangle
of wild and untended thoughts,
weeds which struggle to find purchase
in the starved earth, gasping for nutrients.
The way ahead is lined
with ornamental cherry trees in bloom,
the path blanketed by a layer –
paper thin petals grown heavy
with the day’s drizzle of rain,
fallen. A plaque above denotes
the generosity of one devout spirit,
eternally grateful for Her
welcoming embrace and
the stained glass Virgin bestows her
beatific smile
upon those who pass beneath
the great stone construction.
A glance to the left reveals
gossamer-winged butterflies
lighting upon turnsole,
pink and blue. Salvia divinorum,
the seer’s sage clusters
about the wheel of a rusted barrow
from which fragrant culinary herbs tumble
silvery and sweet and begging to be tasted upon
the tongue of this humble servant
striding toward Salvation.

Abbey’s Secrets Revealed

I wandered slowly through the abbey grounds smelling the musky scent of the flowers and bushes as I did so, and hugging a tree here and there. The grounds would be considered by some as overgrown and untidy. True, they weren’t the manicured gardens one might expect. But they exuded a wild beauty that did justice to the abbey itself. The structure soared skyward, its spires punching holes in the fluffy white clouds that drifted slowly across the sky, their shadows following like puppy dogs on the ground.

I stepped inside and was greeted with a draft of cool air. High above, stained glass windows brought in the sun to shine as spotlights on the stone floor. It was an eerie sensation when the saints whose images were cast in the glass looked down on me from above, and up at me from their reflected images on the stone paved floor. I wandered the length of the nave. Hard, uncomfortable chairs replaced the pews I remembered from my local church back home in Wales. A scattering of the faithful kneeled with heads bowed. I felt as a stranger, probably because I had not stepped foot in a church for more years than I care to think about. I had long ago lost my faith in organized religion when I saw all the graft and greed of those so called good people around me. Men who confessed their sins every Sunday, then, on Monday, went right back to their lawless ways. I had worked for men like that. One in particular I remember. He attended mass every day but refused to treat, he was in the medical field, sick people who could not pay top dollar. When he asked me to help doctor the books come tax time, I’d had enough. “Have at it,” I said to him, and walked out of the office leaving him stranded until he hired someone else…someone who I hoped would not be intimidated by his overbearing manner and who would not be a willing participant to his less than ethical ways.

Just before the huge altar with its monstrous Christ on the cross statue, I turned to the left out of sight of the worshippers. I gazed at the stone work and wondered how in the world people managed to build such palaces of God without the heavy machinery and cranes that we would use today. I started to turn away and head back to the sunshine lit nave when I caught sight of three stone steps leading to a tiny door. I looked around for a sign that would indicate it was a restricted area. Seeing nothing that would indicate I wasn’t welcome, I tried the door. It opened, the hinges groaning as if they hadn’t worked in a long time. I was greeted with a musty, not altogether unpleasant smell, but not pleasant either. A narrow, low passage led off into the gloom. The passage was lit by oil lamps set so far apart that the light from one barely met with the light from the next one. The flames flicked slightly so I assumed there was a draft coming from somewhere, perhaps the passageway led back to the gardens. I jumped when the door slammed shut behind me. When I saw that the door could not be opened from the inside…there were no latches or door knobs, I knew I was in trouble.

Vi Jones
©March 10, 2009

Hermitage Cells on Lenore

The last week has been spent in semi-solitude.  I have been roaming the island at will, only coming into contact with the other guests at breakfast and the evening meal.  Each day I have wandered in a different direction and have covered quite a bit of the island.

To the north of the abbey, where the rocks rise up almost vertically from the sea, I discovered hermitage cells carved into the rocks.  I don’t have a head for heights, so I only ventured as far as the topmost one.  I was not aware that the cells were there, but a paved path led gently down from the cliff-top and I dared myself to see where it went.  I was very careful to keep my eyes on the rock face and not look down while I negotiated the pathway.  There was a thick, rope handrail attached to the rock, to which I clung with both hands.  It was only a distance of a few yards, but I was sweating and weak-kneed by the time I reached the cell, and I had to sit down for a good ten minutes before attempting the return trip. The view out over the ocean was magnificent, and the cave was deep enough that I couldn’t see down, so I quite enjoyed it.

There was a metal plaque on the wall of the cell:

These cells, although no longer in use, were occupied at
various times by members of the order serving a self-imposed
penance of solitude and reflection. A single meal for each
penitent was delivered daily at sunset and left, with a pitcher
of pure spring water, at the top of the pathway.
Some penitents spent a few days here; others months and, one or
two, years.

I studied the tiny cave I was in. A slightly raised slab of stone was obviously the bed and there were three niches in the back wall and a kind of shelf hewn into the rock. A small crucifix made from a couple of pieces of bleached driftwood, and bound together with hair, hung in the centre niche. The others possibly held candles or maybe some ceremonial items. Very, very basic. I wondered if the occupants of the cell found the experience uplifting or depressing, and if that was part of the penance? Did they write or pursue some other craft during their stay? I really can’t imagine it.

I sat on the ‘bed’ until my knees regained some substance and then climbed back up the pathway, clinging to the rope and keeping my eyes firmly closed. At the top I sat down again and congratulated myself on conquering my fear long enough to see the cell. I’m still afraid of heights and feel quite sick at the thoughts of walking along that path.  I suppose it was really quite stupid of me.  I was alone.  What if I froze and couldn’t get back up to the top?  No-one knew where I had gone.  At my age you’d think I’d have more sense!  Proving once again that age and wisdom don’t necessarily go hand in hand.  Sometimes age travels alone!

Sue (aka Beryl)

prayers of light and color

rose window Washington National Cathedral

rose window Washington National Cathedral

homilies of joy 

stained glass in jeweled colors pray

worshipping the light

kerry vincent (c) 2009

Spiral Staircase to the Song

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Dancing Culture- By Gumbootspearlz


For more of this adventure head to Unity’s Cabin

My hair and clothes had been smoked, smoked by the lady with the smoking leaves. She called on her Elders in the story place to the listening time in the story circle under the trees. Under the trees was the moonlight. In that moonlight were the guardians, the guardians of the stories of the messengers, of the stories of the breakers of the new dawn.

Guardians of different forms of knowledge gathered in the story circle. They were summoned by the smoke which wove itself into intricate circles and spirals in the air. The Spirals formed into the shape of shells, and the shells sang memories and prophecies. The lady with the smoking leaves had long white hair and wore a finely carved bone necklace. The necklace was so intricate and showed the craft of her son who had made it for her. Her son was a master carver of some repute. His story was already well known to the guardians. He was destined to be one of the heroes, a hero who would die by the sword of the ancients. I knew this because I had met one of the ancients as a small child as she bathed by a river pool on my island. She had summoned me from sleep to the river pool with a song of the shell. She had said “Look for the Spiral staircase, dream of the spiral stair case and when it’s time it will appear.” But here I was with the lady with the smoking leaves, wondering how she had made her way into the abbey.

She came from the place of the first stories, the place of the first moonlight, and she was far more ancient than all the women I had met at that first meeting. We were all to meet with her – not just me. We were all to be smoked, to find our own inner flame and wisdom. As she smoked me the spiral staircase appeared and she said in an ancient tongue “shival”… climb. So I climbed not knowing to where I climbed.

As I left the story circle I wondered if I would reach the moon- and fearing heights I looked down to see the bottom of the stair case had disappeared. I was somewhere between earth and heaven, somewhere between smoke and pool of water. I called out “where is there to climb to… I can’t see the end…” “Shival, shival” I heard coming from somewhere above.

A large dragon flew by and on it was Angel of Water, “Here jump on” she called… “But I am supposed to climb,” I replied. “Yes, that’s true but wouldn’t it be easier to fly,” “No I must climb, I must,” “Wise Girl we are a temptation, so goodbye,” and that which I thought was Angel of Water turned into a monster and vanished.

So I climbed even though I could not see steps and I felt fine threads under my feet and in my fingers. This stair case was an invisible one. “shival, shival…” It was almost too much to step on such light steps that might shatter into thin air.

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Then I saw white elephant he was so enormous. I was sure it was an auspicious sign. I wondered if I should leap from the ladder and go off on that elephant, surely that would be an adventure. But no I had to continue with my mountaineering into the sky. The elephant turned into the Buddhist Nun, she bowed and she too vanished. “Well done child, keep climbing, sorry to test you.” I kept climbing not worrying about what was behind me instead moving ever closer towards the beckoning moon. She seemed to have a face, a lady in the moon, that would be sight-a lady dancing on the moon, an ancient figure with a barking owl for a friend. I was becoming light headed the further and further I climbed into the sky – and then I saw a book, perched in the sky, being brought to me in the beak of the barking owl. It dropped the book into me so suddenly I thought I would fall from the staircase- and then as I touched the book the staircase became solid again. This was such a relief, I sighed.

My sighs turned into ruby red dragon flies. A swarm of them settled around the book and grasped the book. I heard little voices, “It’s the Hidden Words come down from heaven…” I wanted to open the book but I was so frightened I would fall. “Please help me dragon flies.” I whispered in a tiny voice. The dragon flies replied, “Of course child- we will take it to the abbey for you, but you must climb a little farther on the stairs. So I climbed, I was so tired, it felt truly like days I had been climbing into thin air, through mists, up to the moon.

And now the mist cleared, and in front of me was the tree, the tree from Owl Island, but no it was not, it was actually his brother. He had dark eyes deep in his trunk. He had a nightingale perched on his branches. “Here child, you can fly back to the abbey on the song of this nightingale, this is true not false, do you trust.” I was not sure whether to trust having seen a monster disguise itself as the Angel of Water.   Could I trust?

The Dragonflies might have taken the book and given it to some wizard for all I knew. Yet, as the nightingale sang I knew to trust. It’s melody was just so sweet and the high pitched tones wove around me like a guardian of my soul, like a song both ancient and modern. I knew I could trust, and as if bursting asunder from some prison I soared and soared, until I was back in the circle, covered in the smoke of the lady with the leaves, her eyes bright and her song woven with the spirit of the nightingale.  She sang..”arata, arata” motioning with her hands – dig dig…

dynamicssfx1b

© June Perkins all rights reserved

For more of this adventure head to Unity’s Cabin


At the monastery

When I arrived at the women’s quarters at Monastery on Lenore I was taken for an interview with the Abbess. She explained she liked to meet all new arrivals but the present influx of visitors meant there were many she had not had time to see. She was an imposing woman and I found myself squirming beneath her cool, grey eyed stare. As she asked me a series of pointed questions about my likes, my dislikes and what I hoped to get out of my time at the Monastery I sensed she would not be an easy woman to fool. I muttered something vague about wanting time to write and draw, about seeking to understand the deeper meanings of femininity.

I had no clear idea of what monastic life entailed. I’d rarely set foot inside a Church and knew little about organised religion. Instead, I harboured romantic visions that Monasteries were places where medieval scribes produced illuminated manuscripts like The Book of Kells. Hildegard of Binger, the German nun of the middle ages, had always fascinated me. She was reputed to a migraine sufferer as was I. Scholars wrote treatises linking her written accounts of mystical visions with the physical and mental disturbances associated with migraine. Beyond that, Hildegard’s range of accomplishments was awe inspiring. She composed music, was a skilled herbalist and wrote on the medical use of plants of plants, animals and stones as well as on religious matters. She illustrated her manuscripts with beautiful paintings that glowed with luminous reds, blues and gold. Recently I had discovered that she was quite possibly the first woman to write a description of female orgasm.

‘When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain,

which brings with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight

during the act and summons forth the emission of the man’s seed.’

Pretty raunchy for a nun I thought. Perhaps the monastic life was different back then.

With all this in mind, I had high hopes that the Monastery on Lenore might offer me a quiet place to work and eagerly followed the Abbess to my room. It proved to be quite spartan. The only furniture was an austere looking single bed, a wooden chair with a woven rush seat and a small desk. A variety of pens, inks and brushes were arranged on the desk. Golden afternoon light poured in an open window and gave the wood work a warm, honeyed glow. Despite the simple surroundings I felt immediately at ease.

For several days I stayed within my room exploring ideas of the feminine in my journal. I emerged only to use the very basic bathroom at the end of the corridor. Meals were placed on a tray outside my door at intervals and occasionally I exchanged a word or two with the young novice nuns who bought them. These girls were always very self contained and didn’t strike me as sharing Hildegard’s insight into the female organism. Sometimes I could hear the voices of other visitors from the S.S.Vulcania. Bursts of laughter and snatches of conversation reached me from the courtyard gardens I glimpsed from my window. Something about the brief flashes of vibrant clothing and wild shouts of utterly impious joy reminded me that the feminine was more than ribbons and lace, piety and sanctified notions of motherhood. Disturbed by thoughts of birthing, blood and earthy, sensual pleasures I left my room and set out to explore more the Monastery.

Rather than returning to the refined cloisters I’d been ushered through on my first day I wandered away from my room into the courtyard garden. Sweetly scented herbs bordered cobbled pathways that led me away from the main buildings. Out past trees heavy with ripening fruit I glimpsed tumbling walls of worn stone punctuated by windows of stained glass and deep niches where time worn, lichen covered statues stared with sightless eyes. As I drew closer I spied an arch where an opened door of oak provided a glimpse of shadowy passageway within. Intrigued I entered and found myself in cool silent building that appeared to have fallen into disuse. Stone flags were arranged on the floor in a labyrinthine pattern.

I walked meditatively around it then when I reached the centre I looked out across the floor to the further wall. A small door seemed to beckon me. Not wanting to break the mood I retraced my footsteps through the labyrinth then hastened to the door. It opened easily onto a narrow flight of stairs that plunged downward. I helped myself to one of the torches placed upon a shelf just beyond the door and made my way downwards. After a short descent I emerged in a crypt where stone arch ways spanned a wide open area. Along the perimeter shafts of light penetrated the space from deep fissures in the ceiling that apparently opened out to the world of daylight above me. I turned off my torch and, after my eyes had adjusted to the half light, began to explore. The arch ways spanning the central area were laid out in such a way that they created a pathway to shadowy recess curtained with a heavily embroidered cloth. Curious, I made my way towards it. The silence of the place, the dusty half light and the musty air gave the moment a profound solemnity.

It was almost with a sense of trepidation that I pushed aside the curtain and I raised my eyes to gaze upon the statue within, a black Madonna carved from stone as ancient as the earth. As I looked into the intense blackness of the stone I plunged into a state of heightened awareness. I sensed something of the way the seed is nurtured deep within the darkness to burst forth as new life. I saw the sorrows of centuries and the grieving of mothers mourning the horrors of war and the death of sons. My vision seemed to enter the blackness where I saw the endless circling rhythms of nature, the ceaseless, cyclic turnings from birth to death to rebirth. The immensity threatened to engulf me and I cast my eyes downward. Upon the stone of the floor I saw that someone had been there before me, presumably not so long ago. There, directly in front of my feet, was the word CROW scrawled in white chalk.

Overwhelmed by all I had felt I made my way back to the monastery to pack my bags. The word Crow sounded a cawing deep within me and awoke the urge to retreat alone to the interior of Isle of Lenore and continue my searching there.

by Almurta

The Abbess

I disembarked from the ferry and worked my way up the foggy trail to the front door of the Abbey. Strangely, I found that I was alone. My fellow travelers on the ferry had disappeared. After a moment of hesitation, I knocked on the heavy oak door. I heard the light patter and scuff of feet on the other side  and the jiggle of a latch. The door swung open. A teen-aged girl smiled at me but said nothing. She motioned me to come in and pointed towards an archway. I thanked her and then proceeded through the arch into a large hall. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pulsing glow. I turned towards the glow and saw a woman. I knew she had to be the Abbess.

Text and Image: L. Gloyd (c) 2009