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May 2019 Challenge: Tales of Beltane

PostPosted: May 18, 2019, 04:14:33 AM
by Wormtongue
Tell us which your favourite was of this month's entries

On the Yellow Day of Beltane...

PostPosted: May 18, 2019, 04:16:49 AM
by Wormtongue
On the Yellow Day of Beltane...

by Sergio "ente per ente" Palumbo

The air was charged with many invocations in accordance with the traditions of the period. Nudd felt inebriated, his fair-hair seemed to prance with him as he danced together with the other Britons who were assembled in the middle of the small village. During Beltane, rituals like this were performed on the first day in May to protect the cattle, the crops and the people of the Durotriges tribe. The location would later become known as Wiltshire, England. A special type of well-known poisonous fungus, highly flammable, was also used in these Celtic rituals to light the fires - and their smoke, flames and ashes were deemed to have protective powers, being of great importance to herdsmen like him.

Soon the people and their cattle would pass between those fires, the smoke protecting them from illnesses during the upcoming year. All household hearths would be doused and then re-lit with flames from the main fires of Beltane. A beverage was also made from butter and milk, brewed over the ceremonial fire itself, some of which was poured on the ground – an offering to the gods to protect the livestock.

Every door, window, byre and the herders themselves were decorated with yellowish May flowers. The fertility rituals attached to Beltane were connected with the great power of the returning sun.

Nudd was considered old in his village because he was over 40. He knew from personal experience that Beltane was even celebrated in other Gaelic lands past the sea. All these rituals were needed, as Nudd and everyone in the area knew, because that was Beltane night and it marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season, when livestock were driven out to the summer pastures. Tomorrow he and his cattle would start their journey from the south-west through to the north of the country.

As the man walked around, he noticed Ilberg, another younger herdsman whom he hated. As they exchanged looks, Nudd told him with a challenging glance “You’ll see, my rituals will prove to be better than yours! My cattle will reach their pastures safely.”

“We’ll see…” the other replied in a sneer as he moved away, speaking with his rough Common Brittonic accent.

Just to be sure, Nudd decided to add some symbols painted with yellowish color onto the coat of his cattle, to better protect them. He knew that some of the herd might be lost along the path the next day. He needed to keep them all safe for the good of his farm.

The next day, just like every other lonely herdsmen, Nudd left the village, leading his cattle for miles until he got to the end of the valleys.

The air looked heavy, as it frequently was during that season, but it wasn’t just because of the period. The man felt a sensation of uneasiness as he approached the point from where he had to go up the hill. At times terrifying things happened to a herder’s cattle while going through that area, which is why people like him tried to make the gods happy before they left the village.

Then, the night came and Nudd made camp, covering himself with a pelage and lying beside a small fire. Silence surrounded him, frequently interlaced only by the soft mooing of his cattle.

When the sun came, disaster had already occurred. The poor man couldn’t believe his eyes as he saw many dead and dissected cows all around the boulders in the distance. He immediately jumped to his feet and started counting all the heads of cattle that had died, crying and looking incredulously at the bloodless mutilations on their carcasses.

This was one of the worst incidences he had ever seen. It had happened in previous years, but today there were many more dead!

How had it happened? What had he done to get the deities so angry? He had performed all the rituals correctly, he had tried his best…so why had his herd been attacked?

Whatever the reasons, it was some great losses, a disaster for his farm, his life and his family, indeed.

Unseen by the poor herdsman, Kltkv, a member of a gray alien species, continued to arrange the organs their scientists had removed that night from the dead animals on the testing ground below them. He then placed them all in the correct boxes they kept on their starship.

They were performing experiments on this archaic world, situated in the far outskirts of their galaxy, and they would continue to collect samples until their control center told them to stop. It might require centuries to be completed, the ones who would come after them all will have to continue that…

Kltkv and his alien co-workers weren’t concerned about the problems they might cause for the Britons, anyway. Their only guideline was to be as discreet as possible, and unseen, by picking up cows here and there, mainly when large herds of cattle were being moved by the Earthlings from one place to another, like in this season. In fact, their large numbers made their losses less noticed by the locals.

Which didn’t mean they didn’t also take human samples at times, here and there. For now it wasn’t the due time yet in that area…

Though, on second thought, as Kltkv looked again upon the poor human - from his videos on the console of the hidden starship - who seemed to be so desperate, crying for the many losses in his cattle that possibly meant so much to his crummy life which was apparently with no real purpose, the alien considered that the next phase to be started only next year, about Earthlings’ samples here around, might be activated earlier. That herdsman really appeared to be too short and too skinny, maybe he didn’t eat enough…What if they decided to just put him out of his misery now? Why waiting?

This could be done at once! In the best interest of their science, of course…

Sweet Dreams

PostPosted: May 18, 2019, 04:18:18 AM
by Wormtongue
Sweet Dreams

by Michele "BottomDweller" Dutcher

Deep within the floating Temple of Zeus on Europa, the kioski busied themselves in the fields. Three feet high and similar in appearance to cupids found in ancient paintings, they flitted about over the acres of teal grass, checking everything from the blossoms on the trees to the cobblestones on the paths.

Puck and Ceres weren’t surprised when the lights blinked three times, calling them in to speak with Christopher 6, their human supervisor. Puck was the last kioski to arrive in their master’s presence, but quickly worked his way to the front, bumping a score of tiny wings who were already seated on the floor. He happily snuggled into a space at the front in the middle.

Christopher 6 smiled in spite of himself at Puck’s antics. He knew this was Puck’s favorite time of year, as it was for the rest of his crew of two dozen workers. But the theme of this year’s awakening seemed especially appropriate to Puck’s name.

“Is everyone seated comfortably?” the human asked. At over six feet in height, he towered over them, especially when they sat cross-legged in front of him like now. The kioski smiled upwards as he looked into each one of their faces, the slits of their pupils opening wider to take in the scene even better. “Then we’ll begin. As you know, our pyramid will soon be hovering over the crater Pwyll – which means we will be celebrating the awakening of our sisters – as we always do on this day. This means the Dreamers of Zeus will awaken for only one day, so everything must be perfect.”

All the kioski giggled with excitement, Puck even silently clapped his hands. Through the transparent glass of the floating pyramid, the same dimensions of the Great Pyramid on Earth, the view of Jupiter took up the entire wall, floor to ceiling. Puck liked this room and reveled in the sight of the striped planet around which they orbited, some 400,000 miles away. As Christopher 6 read down a list of what each kioski was expected to have completed by now, Puck lost himself in the swirls of gas on the planet’s surface.

“Puck! Puck!” he heard suddenly. “Have all the bumblebees been corralled and returned to their hives?” demanded Christopher 6.

“Sorry Boss, I wasn’t listening…”

“The bees, Puck – the bumblebees. Have they been put away?”

“Oh yes, Boss! All back in their hives.”

“Good! We wouldn’t want a Dreamer to step on one – it might mar her dreams for next year – and then our revenue might go down. And we wouldn’t want that now would we?” The human shook his head no, signaling all of them to answer.

“Oh no we would not!” answered all the kioski in unison.

Christopher 6 looked up quickly and a small light display panel appeared at chest level in front of him. “And since we are talking about the amount of appropriations we’ll get from our benefactors – the AIs who oversee Jupiter and the Asteroid belt- Zeus has let it be known that they were very pleased with the pleasant dreams we supplied to them this past year and we are to be given a small bonus this year.”

The kioski could hardly contain themselves, the excitement of being rewarded for a job well done was overwhelming.

“So over the next week, talk among yourselves about what you’d like to spend the extra credits on, and we’ll see what we can do.” Number 6 took a deep breath. “And now I’d like to introduce the androids we’ll be working with to be sure our sisters have especially happy dreams in the coming year.”

With that invitation and a nod, five male androids and one female android stepped into the room. They waved to the small gathering as they were each introduced by number. One by one the androids were paired with a sister-dreamer and a kioski, until there was only one android left. The stress in the room was palpable. Who would the last android be paired with?

“Puck, would you like to work with the male android Athena requested, Number Six?”
The small creature was able to control his body, but his wings flapped so rapidly that they propelled him into the air. “Yes Boss Yes!!” he answered, all his hopes seeming to have been fulfilled.

“Very good then. Be a good host - and the rest of you as well. Make certain this May Day is a pleasant, joy filled experience for all involved. Now take our guests to their appropriate sections – our dreamers will be with us shortly.”

Athena awoke, opening her eyes slowly. She looked around her to see her sisters still dreaming away in their cubicles. She pumped her feet to signal the bed she was on to raise itself to a 45 degree incline. Over the last 12 months her body had been prodded and pushed daily to make sure her muscles and organs didn’t atrophy. She stood up and noticed the sisters beside her were both awake now, beginning to also stand.

As priestesses in service to Zeus, she and her sisters had sleep as their natural state, but one day a year they needed to walk around, gathering material for their dreams. That day was today, May Day, where anything they asked for was provided.

She stepped to her door. It opened onto her section in the base floor, filled with flowers and a pole with ribbons and clouds in blue skies.

Puck flew forward joyously. “Athena! You’re awake! Did you dream about me?”

The Sister couldn’t help but laugh. “Yes, Puck, yes. I dreamed of you many times.”

And then she looked behind him to see the male android who waited for her.

Puck saw her gaze and smiled. “Athena, this is your special friend for the day, Number 6. I know we’ll have fun today. Let’s play together!”

Athena was happy. “Yes, Puck, let’s all play together.”

Beltane Traditions

PostPosted: May 18, 2019, 04:19:04 AM
by Wormtongue
Beltane Traditions

by Eddie Sullivan

Momo sat up on the hillock sipping his Starbucks looking down on the field below. The hunched form moved briar and other wood scraps slowly around the main pile on first one side then the other. He wasn’t thrilled having to be the last one here but they drew lots and he lost. If there was a true believer left then one of the Aos Si must come and attend. This withered old man was the last true son of days of your. None did the ritual properly anymore except him. The irony of him sitting watch on this event wasn’t lost on him, he spent an eternity killing and now this. It was down right embarrassing for a powerie. Nonetheless he sat and watched while the old fellow prepared the fires. When they were ready he would guide his three heifer,and once they were put away his one bull between the two fires. The man turned to look up and wave. Momo begrudgingly removed his red newsboy cap and waved it back. The old fellow saw him sitting here year after year and always waved. He must be addled by now or he would realize that his most stalwart spectator, and his only for ten years, never aged and showing up on this day. Perhaps he would die from exertion this year. That would be nice. He whacked his cap on his knee in frustration before placing on his head. Damn Mab and her oaths.

Finnegan worked an even pace long ago determining that there was nothing to gain by getting over excited. The fires would go up and the ritual would be complete. The number of times he had done it alone was well over sixty. He had helped or attended at least another thirty. Glancing up at the sky a frown came across his face. The fires must be lit or the contract was null and void. The ongoing existence was getting to him but he didn’t think he was quite ready to be done yet though. Every year for as long as he could remember he saw the dwarf, it was a description of girth or breadth than height, sitting up there watching. Each year he wondered if this was the year his watcher would realize the truth. When he walked his herd through the gap a year would be added to his life. The would be no end until the redcap’s patience gave way. Mab had seen to it. Finnegan would live forever as long as fires were lit, ritual done, and the dwarf remained patient. All the other day had left except him, but the Queen could not help but play one last prank this time on one of her own. This particular dwarf had been a stubborn pain to her and before taking her brood through the last gate had extracted a promise from him to guard the last believer. He didn’t know lots were fixed and his charge was neigh immortal.

The Lost Traveller

PostPosted: May 18, 2019, 04:19:54 AM
by Wormtongue
The Lost Traveller

by Jontrue

“It’s a perfect night for this. Better than it has been for years,” Grandfather said sweeping his hand at the sky. “Not a cloud in sight.” There was sorrow in his voice, as ephemeral as a whiff of rotten wood from an ancient log. He sat, looking up at the bruised sky in his wicker chair, the one that had been made for him with painstaking love, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. “Maybe tonight will be the night.” Even as he uttered the words his head shook in disbelief.

Ten feet away Aithne sat at a small collection of twigs and wood shavings working to start the force-fire. He had been at it for more than ten minutes, panting hard from exertion. Aithne, now fourteen was lighting the fire the way Grandfather taught him, the same way that had been tradition for as long as anyone could remember.

Beyond him, waiting in the same way mountains wait for the rain to grind them to hills, the bonfire wood stood against the skyline. Dozens of bonfires forming two parallel lines that stretched off into the distance. Each stack of wood ten feet around and twice as tall.

The people of the surrounding land had gathered, some bringing their flocks to the gathering. They waited for the starting fire to ignite and the sacred torch to be lit. Fire was a mundane part of their lives, but something this big, to touch it, to have a hand in it, imbued the day with substantive anticipation. Most people had never known a time when the gathering did not take place.

“Grandfather, why do you do this every year?” A tiny voice inquired from beside him.

He pried his eyes off the sky and looked down for a moment. Gwyneth, who was too young to know to be careful with the elderly started climbing up into his lap before he had time to react. Her matted flame red hair sharply contrasted the blinding white of Grandfather’s long white beard even in the dwindling twilight.
The old man went to brush the hair out of her face when he was reminded how gray his skin appeared next to her ruddy red cheeks. He was old, older than he actually knew although the wrinkles in his skin wouldn’t let him forget the biting passage of time that stole his youth away. “This is the best night of the year for visibility. The night when this planet turns just right so anyone watching from home would be able to see — if anyone is watching.”

“Like in Heaven?”

“You could say that.”

“You’re silly Grandfather, no one can live in the sky. You’d just fall right down.”

He smiled warmly at her childish perspective and how right she was. Like a dream fading between the waking world and sleep, the moment he fell to earth washed over him. He was young and full of potential, doing a recon mission on a remote planet when his ship malfunctioned. He tasted the bitter bile of regret and forced it back down again. “You are wise for your years, little one, but there are people up there. People that live in a land very different than this one, far away under a different sun and a different moon. My people.”
She looked astonished and hurt. Her tiny lower lip puckered out for a second and thinking she pulled it back in place, “Grandfather, we are your people, and this is your home. I don’t know what we’d do without you. Please, Grandfather, I don’t want you to go to Heaven.” Heavy tears pooled around her bright red eyelashes.

The warm crackle of fire brought an abrupt end to the conversation. By this time there were several men standing around Aithne giving advice, “Blow on the embers.”

“Don’t blow too hard!”

“Give it room to breathe,” like men often do when they want to feel they are part of a thing without actually doing any work. The orange flame quickly overtook the kindling and lept into the night looking for more to eat.

“Tonight little spark, we will indulge you. Time for you to eat until your belly grows fat,” Grandfather said to the tiny flame. “Hop up sweety, time for me to get to work.” Even in old age, he was still a large man, taller by a foot than the tallest of the men who came down into the flatlands to see the night lights. He stood her on her feet and began the process of standing himself, an act that felt slow and more tenuous with the passing years. He wrapped one liver-spotted hand around the grip of the knotted cane and took the ceremonial torch into the other.

The crowd watched in reverent silence as the man from a foreign land who had become one of the most beloved members of their community lit the first of the bonfires for the last time. “Thank you — my friends, for coming out and helping an old man with his foolish traditions. Aithne, you worked so hard for this fire. You may have the honor of lighting the rest if it makes you happy.”

Aithne eagerly took the torch and set the night ablaze as he ignited bonfire after bonfire feeling the heat and smoke radiate against his bare chest. The night was filled with excitement, food, drinking, and making love. To the locals, it marked the beginning of the warm seasons, a time of life and abundance. To Grandfather, it was a cry for help, an SOS to a land he so bitterly missed he felt his chest might collapse. He sat back down on his wicker chair and watched the people that adopted him. The fire was strong and warmed his old bones even from where he sat. Yellow-orange light roared at the sky and concealed all but the brightest stars as he scoured the void in vain. Disappointed he closed his world-weary eyes, this time forever.

Re: May 2019 Challenge: Tales of Beltane

PostPosted: May 21, 2019, 02:36:14 AM
by ente per ente
My vote is,eh

Now, waiting for the results to be available presumably when I'll be back from vacation in Czech Republic and in Prague where I and the associates of my Club will be attending an international scale model show... :D

Re: May 2019 Challenge: Tales of Beltane

PostPosted: May 22, 2019, 08:06:56 PM
by Lester Curtis
My vote is in.

Re: May 2019 Challenge: Tales of Beltane

PostPosted: May 25, 2019, 07:42:32 AM
by jontrue
Four writers and four votes in. Looks like we can wrap this one up. I voted a while back.

Re: May 2019 Challenge: Tales of Beltane

PostPosted: May 28, 2019, 08:33:52 AM
by Megawatts
Got my vote in the other day. Some I really liked!

Re: May 2019 Challenge: Tales of Beltane

PostPosted: May 28, 2019, 08:33:53 AM
by Megawatts
Got my vote in the other day. Some I really liked!