A story to be told when journeys are broken
by fall of night or by first light of day
a secret to be spoken when turnings are taken
by springs first flower or by first shower of snow
a song to be whispered to ears that will listen
for love of the red rose for love of the white rose
It is of the royal road
by may day and midwinter and summer’s end
it is of the boundaries of the world
and the other world
it is of the choice made when no choice is given
and of the weight of the horned mask on the face
by the gallows, the cradle and the bridal feast
I trace now my own features in the stone
frost white blossom, flower fire
I have craved safe avenues
and well-frequented love
some armament to raise against the cold
some grave, some mirror
not to be seen beyond
red blood runs
from the mouth of the white deer
the red-eared hounds are white
as the snow is white
lady, I am a figment
I am a blight, I am an ember
one mirror for all memory
that steals what is true
and a voice buried in my heart is crying
I am the risk and purchase of the world
carry me with you
Yeah, fuck that whole Twitter thing. This is a long story.
God, where do I start? The beginning is a bit hazy. It was short. Everything that happened after, that felt long, but the details are blurring even now.
I got away. Someone helped me. I could not have got out on my own.
Right. The start, the endless middle, the escape, the waking up, the hiding in the kitchen pantry at the tavern.
She Took My Hair.
OK, I am not a vain person. I like playing with makeup the same as the next girl, and I’m glad I can eat a bag of crisps and not gain weight, and I’ve never been one of those people with big boobs or perfect skin or big anime eyes, but I fucking love my hair. It’s like the one gift given to me by my Norwegian grandmother, my mom said. We are dark and Welsh, she said, but you are born of light. Then later, we found out I had a condition called partial albinism that made it that colour, so she stopped lying about me having a Norwegian grandmother, which was good, since my Granny is from Aberystwyth.
But yeah, all the stupid names about white eyelashes and weird albino killers in films aside, I love my hair. Loved. I loved my hair.
There has got to be someone in Jasper Cove who cuts hair. I have to find someone. It is a mess right now, because she hacked it off with a fucking hunting knife or something. She said we had to hurry, and I knew if I did not agree to whatever she asked, I would be lost there forever.
It was all greyscale, like somebody went berserk on Instagram. And it was all because I was pissed off that nobody was listening to me.
Anna. Aoibh. Fucking little kids. Aoibh asked me to pay Anna and stay to help her with the kids because there was this terrifying howling going on everywhere and who knew what that was, so I came across from the tavern to ask what the fuck was that, and I get saddled with more chores and watching little kids.
And then, Anna takes the money right enough, but when I offer to help it’s like I don’t exist. So fuck her and fuck them, and I walked out into the cold. I don’t know what I expected to find. I was just tired of being treated like that. They don’t tell me anything, they expect me to do shit for them, fuck them.
It didn’t occur to me that I’ve only been out of the village a few times since I came here, and I don’t remember how long I’ve been here now.
I got turned around. It was snowing. There was a lot of howling. I ended up at the castle, which was not exactly the place I wanted to go, and when I finally got inside because all the guards and servants were apparently hiding, the king is like, “You’re late.” Yeah? Fuck him, too.
Anyway, they were arguing with a seriously scary guy. Vedis was there, too. I don’t know much about her, but I think she is important somehow. This guy was just towering over everybody and he had this massive rack like a deer (not like boobs), and his eyes were red, and he had some kind of weird dog with him. The room was fucking freezing, and I think it was his fault, because there were fires everywhere, but I was still cold. And they were talking about something, I don’t remember what, but he got all angry and swept out, and the king screamed, “Gwyn, don’t look in his eyes!” so I didn’t. But he brushed me on the way out, or that’s what she told me. Just one touch, and I was somewhere else. When I woke up, I was in the infirmary, and I don’t know how I got there, either.
That’s when the world went black and white.
I was part of a massive pack of hounds somehow, but who I was or what I was didn’t seem to matter: only the hunt mattered. We ran and never stopped until we caught our prey. I never found out what the prey was: I was too far back in the pack, and nobody ever noticed me, and none of the dogs got close to me. When we rested, I slept on my own, on the edge of the pack, and I don’t think they even saw me. I’m not really certain I was ever there. No way it was a dream, though: dreams don’t cut your hair off.
I was getting tired, so tired, having trouble keeping up with the pack. I nearly lost them on the last hunt, and none of them even noticed. I don’t know where I would have ended up if I’d fallen so far behind I couldn’t find them.
We were resting. It could have been night or day, and the Llwyd, the Hunter, bade us stay and went away for a while. He came and went a lot.
Then, I heard a voice calling my name.
That was weird; it seemed like it had been forever since I’d heard my name. It seemed like a familiar voice at first, maybe Richard, maybe Nathaniel, but then it was a woman’s voice so it couldn’t have been either of them, and she asked me did I want to come back to Jasper Cove.
I said couldn’t I just go home, and she said she didn’t have the power to send me home and my body was in Jasper Cove and that’s where she’d have to put my spirit. She said we were in the spirit realm. I’m like whatevs, but I figured she was my only way out.
At that point I’d have done anything to get out of there, back to anything where anybody could see me, so I said yes I wanted to get out of there, even if it was back to Jasper Internetless Cove.
And she says, OK, but there is a price and the being who contracted her services expected me to pay it.
I’m like, what have I got that you want? And she says, back in Jasper Cove, in the infirmary, you have something I want.
I’m like, what is it.
And she says, your hair.
Fuck me. I said, OK, hair grows back, no big, hack it off.
She says, no, it won’t grow back after I cut it because I have to cut it with a spirit knife and there was a lot more mumbo jumbo in there, but I cut her off and said just fucking do it, because the hounds near me were starting to sniff and I knew the Llwyd would be coming back soon because they can smell him before I can.
So she makes some hacking gestures with this hunting knife she carried, and I felt like I was being pulled through a wind tunnel.
And then I’m flat on my back in the infirmary, and this lady in a hood — her face is obscured — is tucking lock after lock of my beautiful hair into a bag on her belt.
And she says I mustn’t tell anybody who she is, and I’m like, I don’t fucking know you, but you could have used spirit scissors. OK, I didn’t really say that, but I wish I had.
She says it’s important and I have to promise I won’t reveal her identity, and I promised, and then she disappeared. I mean, she winked out. And there wasn’t a trace of her, no bits of hair on the floor, no nothing.
I was glad Anna keeps a kettle on in the infirmary, because I was so thirsty. I was dizzy so I rested for a while, and then sometime in the wee hours of that morning I snuck across to the tavern, got some bread and cheese, and went up to my room. Somebody was in there. Gee, thanks, Aoibh; I can’t even get to my clothes now because you rented out my room? We are so going to have a chat. I took a blanket from the linen store and slept in the kitchen pantry.
I had to write this down before I forgot something. But, seriously, someone has got to cut hair in Jasper Cove. Please, please, let there be someone.
Really seriously — I feel different. I don’t know what happened to me. I think I need to talk to the king and figure out what happened to me. I don’t really even know what day it is or how long I was with the Hunt. She said my hair won’t grow out. Does that mean if I get it cut really short it won’t grow at all, or does that mean it won’t grow past this weird length it’s at now? It should be a small price to pay, but my hair.
My hair. Look: I used a mirror to tidy it up a bit, and it still looks like this sketch: