Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pontarfynach

This is a story of how Pontarfynach (Devil's Bridge) came to be. Anyone claiming it was the monks of Strata Florida is not telling you the whole truth. This story starts in a small cottage on the side of the Pumlumon mountain range.

Esyllt's father swung open the weakly hung door of their two roomed cottage and let forth his demand upon her, "Esyllt, one of our cows has gone missing in the hills again, can you go find her. It's almost milking time and we don't want the wolves to get her."

"Certainly," Esyllt replied obediently. She was still concerned about the argument that the two of them had had that morning. She was only too happy to have a chance to lift the dark cloud which still lingered over them.

Not knowing how long she might be gone, she picked up her brown wool shawl and wrapped it tight around her long wavy brown hair. She first of all wandered to the pen which kept their cattle to see which cow was missing. It was the one that she expected to be missing; that cow always seemed to like to go up high in the mountains. As she sighed she realised that it at least made it easier to try to find the beast. She set off up the path, following the river, knowing well that cows never stray far from fresh water.

After more distance than she really cared for, particularly as she knew her supper was awaiting her return, the path along the river became steeper. As the river cascaded down from pool to pool, the path had to wind wildly from side to side to be able to even attempt to follow the reverse path of the river. After a large sinuous series of bends to surmount a large waterfall Esyllt finally laid her eyes on her prize.

The bovine creature stood on the over side a gorge, slowly chewing the cud. Esyllt thought she felt the eyes of the cow mocking her across the bubbling white foam which separated them. She bend down as close as she dare to the harsh edge of the gorge and tried to coax the animal to move. It stood deadly still, not budging an inch closer to the edge of the gorge hanging over the ranging torrent below, but also not edging any further away. Esyllt supposed that the cow must have crossed lower down when the water was less fierce, but that a storm further up the hills had swollen the river so that it was no longer passable. The cow must have found high and dry land on the edge of this gorge.

She turned around to try to find a better location for crossing and was surprised to find an old man hunched over and enveloped by the folds of a long dark coat.

"You seem to be in some trouble?" the old man asked.

"Yes, my cow is stuck on the other side of the gorge and I fear that it is impossible to cross over such a steep gorge. To attempt would certainly be disastrous."

The old man pointed to the cart of rocks behind him, "My horse and I were traveling to a village not far from here with this stone. However I'd be happy to build a bridge for you with only one small condition for allowing you safe passage over it."

"Surely it would not be a small condition for such a grand piece of work?"

"I am old and have made more than enough money in my very long life, I would be more than happy to help such a distressed and fine young woman such as yourself."

Esyllt thought about this for a few moments. That cow was important to her father and her and it would need to be a large condition for it not to be worth making if it ensured the safe return of the cow. She made up her mind with ease. She was now interested what the condition was so asked straight out: "What condition would a crafts man place on such a feat of construction?"

"I only wish to own the soul of the first living creature to cross the bridge."

Esyllt thought over this cost and decided that it was not too great a cost to ask for being able to eat through the winter. She nodded in agreement and spoke words confirming and thanking the old man.

She felt she must excuse the man to start his work and explained as much. "I shall leave you to your hard toil and return with some food from my cottage to sate your hunger from your work."

"Thank you," he responded, "you are a most kind girl." With that Esyllt turned away and set off home.

When she arrived home she bundled a loaf of bread into a cloth and covered with her coat before setting off. As she opened the door to leave her noise roused her dog from where he had been resting by the fire and he decided that it was time to follow his mistress. He started to yap at her heels as she set off back up the path down which she had just come.

After another hour of walking she found herself turning the last corner to face the man once again. He had done as he'd said and had build a sturdy bridge across the small gorge. She walked up to the edge of the bridge and turned to the man.

"Thank you sir for your work. Your craftmanship exceeds your generosity, this must be the strongest bridge I have ever seen."

He dipped his head as he replied, "You flatter me too much, I'm just trying to help you. You should retrieve your cow before night closes in upon us."

She nodded and produced the cloth bound bread from where she'd been keeping it dry under her clothes. She tore off a chunk and threw it across the gorge so that it landed just in front of the cow. The dog sensed that a fun game of catch was just beginning and bounded across the bridge to eat the bread in one large gulp. He turned around and faced Esyllt panting, waiting for more bread to be thrown.

Esyllt did not throw any bread though and instead turned to the old man. "There you go," she said, pointing at her dog, "you may have Ceris' soul." As she said this she felt the ground start to rumble. She would have sworn that she could see steam rising from the edge of the old mans clothes.

"You know that is not what I mean," rumbled a voice from under the cloak of the old man. It sounded far lower and wholly changed from when he last had spoken.

Esyllt turned back to face Ceris and slapped her leg. "Come here Ceris," she chimed. When she looked back she saw that the bridge builder and his cart had disappeared as quickly as they have arrived. All that was left in the air was a faint smell of brimstone, confirming exactly what she had suspected all along.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

For Kirsten

By the gods I would will the whole world to be slain
  if it allowed me but one glimpse of thy beauty again.
Thoughts of thou everywhere, leaving my mind riddled,
  filled with those images that lead me to be addled.
Yet with the lucidity of a child I see the world anew
  an oxymoron of clarity and confusion from missing you.
When together all seems boundless, we revel in freedom
  from any of my fear and pain you provide a sanctum.
Inside the walls of this temple none but us can encroach
  within here all our feelings are beyond reproach.
At your altar I worship, focusing all my will through awe
  a lone gift I do place, a gift I decree never to withdraw.
A single red rose, the beauty blossom to time so brittle,
  a glowing, dying token which time doth slowly whittle.
Dew drops chasing down its stem rest on the tip of a thorn
  hanging like our tears, suspended until we suffer lovelorn.
Time framing beauty with edges only heightens every sense,
  acknowledging these limits makes all the emotions intense.
Memories try to trap the warm light of the doomed devotion;
  but only ever capture a side of the never ending emotion.
Between us we share experiences that will last for a lifetime,
  for happiness is everlasting and our moments, sublime.