Two awesome events in one! First, a free Halloween story as part of the Free Fiction Friday, and then, if you're still feeling frisky, a SPOOKTACULAR blog hop over on my "Wicked Blog Hop" page. Check it out!
by Tucker McCallahan
A man and his wife blessed with many acres of land produced bountiful harvests every season of grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The gods smiled on them further, and year after year the wife gave birth to the most beautiful daughters the country-folk had ever seen. Seven in total and named for the days of the week, the daughters were sweet-natured, kind, loving, graceful, gentle, hard-working, and very fair of face.
The man and his wife were not happy, however. Despite their many blessings, they wished for a son, a male child to inherit their lands and carry on the family name. For surely daughters were wonderful, but they would leave the household to make homes for others. A son would stay on and work the land his father worked, the land handed down from father to son in an endless line.
When they had long since given up hope, the wife became pregnant and once more they dared to dream of having an heir. The birth the long and difficult, but when the babe emerged, it was indeed a boy. Their joy was tremendous but short-lived, for the child was sickly and small. Fearing the child would die, the midwife suggested they hasten to purify, bless and name the boy, for all know bestowing a name grants power.
The father sent the eldest daughter Sunday to race to the well and fetch water for the baptism. Her six sisters ran alongside her, eager to aid their new brother, already so beloved to their parents. When they reached the well, though, an argument broke out. Each girl had an opinion about how the water should be dipped out to best insure its purity for the baptism and wiccaning. The girls squabbled amongst themselves, their bickering growing noisier and nastier. One pushed another, and the next thing they knew all seven scuffled back and forth in a vicious free-for-all of shoving, pinching, slapping and hair-pulling.
As one, the girls froze, eyes rounding in horror. They all disengaged and looked to the lip of the well where the jug had been. In their petty fighting, the only container they had that would hold water had gotten pushed or jostled or nudged or had somehow tipped over into the well. The seven sisters stared at each other in petrified terror, and rather than blame each other, each one felt guilt deep in her heart and blamed herself for failing the brother her parents wanted so badly.
Not knowing what else to do, they set off for their farm at a turtle’s pace.
When his daughters did not return as they should’ve, the father grew impatient and angry. “They’ve forgotten what they were sent for, simple girls!”
Fearing his only son would die without being baptized or named, he let his fury take over. “Their heads are always in the clouds! Useless as a flock of birds. I wish they’d all turn into ravens!”
No sooner had the words crossed his lips than he felt the shift in his heart. He pressed a hand to his chest, trying to figure out what had happened and heard the whirring flutter of a multitude of wings. As his eyes shot skyward, his jaw dropped open. Seven large, coal-black ravens flew up and away from the farm overhead.
The father couldn’t take back his curse, and no amount of praying to the gods won the parents any sort of reprieve. However devastated they were by the tragic loss of their seven daughters, they took comfort in their beloved son. Despite his difficult birth he did not perish. He was named North after the great wind that blew down from the mountain, and he grew into a tall, broad-shouldered boy with strong limbs, eyes as blue as the summer skies, and thick, jet-black hair that curled in careless ringlets about his sweetly gentle face.
For many years North didn’t know he had ever had sisters; his parents made certain they never mentioned the girls nor the circumstances surrounding his birth. One day, though, he overhead some of the country-folk talking about him. They said North was handsome enough, strong as any other young man, and brave to be sure, but in truth he was to blame for his seven sisters’ misfortune, and such ill luck would surely haunt him until the end of his days. This troubled North greatly and he confronted his parents. He demanded to know if he had ever had sisters, and if he had, what had happened to them.
No longer able to keep the secret, his parents told North the story of his birth, but spun the tale so it seemed like Fate had turned his seven sisters into ravens. That his birth might have had anything to do with such a loss ate at North’s conscience every day. Unable to work the fields, tend the gardens, or concentrate on any of his chores, North came to believe he would have to redeem his sisters or else go mad.
He had neither rest nor peace until he set forth hoping to find his sisters and set them free, regardless of the cost. He left secretly in the dead of night, knowing if his parents discovered his plan they would try to stop him, for they loved him more than anything else in the world, and he was all the offspring they had left. North was determined in his course of action, though, and set out with nothing in his pack but a loaf of bread for hunger, a flask of water for thirst, a bedroll for weariness, and his hunting blade for protection. On his right hand he wore the ring of his father, given to him when he became a man. The ring bore the symbol of their family, and his sisters, were they still alive somewhere in the world, would surely recognize such a thing.
For days and days North walked on and on – far, far to the end of the world. He realized the glowing ball of brilliant light he wandered toward was not the realm of the gods but the sun, and upon figuring this out, shielded his tender eyes. The sun’s voice filled the skies and shook the ground beneath North’s feet.
“Who approaches so near to me?”
“My name is North.”
“Come closer, little North.”
North inched closer. Flames leapt off the sun’s surface. Scorching hot, they burned everything they touched. North was so near to the sun the tips of his boots blackened. North peered at the sun through slitted eyes, his skin reddening, and swore he saw within the sun a cruelly beautiful demon.
“Come closer, little North. I hunger.”
“No, I shall not!”
North turned and fled, his boots smoking and his skin sunburnt.
He walked in the opposite direction for many days, on and on – far, far to the other end of the world. Once again he saw a glowing ball of radiant light. This time, though, the light was white, not yellow, and North knew he had walked to the moon. Every bit as bright as the sun, North once again had to shield his eyes as he approached the iridescent glory of the full moon. The moon’s voice filled up the air and pressed in on North as if it consumed all the space around him. Tingles ran along North’s skin and he shivered as the moon spoke.
“Who approaches so near to me?”
“My name is North.”
“Come closer, North.”
North inched closer. His breath formed an icy cloud, and then he felt the frigid chill emanating from the moon. Freezing cold, the wintry blasts froze everything they touched. North was so near to the moon his toes went numb. Peering at the moon through frosted eyelashes, North swore he saw within the moon a wicked lovely demon.
“Come closer, North. I hunger.”
North turned and fled, his toes stinging and his skin raw from the biting cold.
In despair, North looked heavenward. There in the sky he saw a lone raven, its wings spread wide as it rode a thermal. As North watched, it rode the wind, that very same wind he’d been named for, and disappeared from his sight into the stars.
“Then that is who I shall ask,” North thought. “The stars.”
He hurried north and came to the place where the earth met the stars. To his surprise, they were all laid out across the sky with little bedrolls just like his.
“Join us!” they called. “Put down your bed!”
So North unrolled his bedroll among the stars and laid down, resting his read for a time. They were kind and good, gentle and caring. They sang songs and taught North about the eternal chase of the sun and the moon. When he had learned all their lessons, the Morning Star came to lay beside him.
“We know where to find your sisters.”
“Oh please! Tell me!”
“I do not think the knowledge will bring you any joy.”
“But all I want in the world is to have my sisters back.”
“Even if it costs you your father’s love?”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“Believe me, North. If I tell you where to find your sisters, it will change your life forever.”
North frowned. He lay on his bedroll and quietly contemplated the morning star’s words. He watched the other stars come out, dance, twinkle and play. Stars had such carefree and easy lives. North envied them for just a moment. Then he remembered how just the knowledge of his sisters’ existence had tormented him. He wouldn’t be able to return home knowing he could’ve saved them. He turned to the morning star.
“They are in the glass mountain to the far north.”
All the stars had gone quiet and gazed at North. The morning star met his eyes.
“And they are guarded by one who hungers for the flesh of men.”
“A demon? I’ve met the sun and the moon. I know of their hungers.”
“Yes, he is a demon, but he is nothing like the sun or the moon. Their war is never-ending and their hunger is balanced. He has nothing to balance his hunger. It is all consuming.”
Though terror struck at his heart, North concealed it. He rose, packed up his bedroll and gathered his belongings, and went on his way again until he came to the glass mountain. The doors to the mountain were tremendous and as he expected, they were locked tight. His heart thudding frantically against his ribs, North raised his hand and knocked upon the door. The hollow sound reverberated throughout the glass mountain.
A shadow fell across the doorway. North stood a full six feet, yet this shadow dwarfed him. He cast him eyes to the floor and waited, dreading the voice of this new demon. The guardian of the glass mountain sounded like the rumbling of boulders cascading down the mountain.
“Who demands entrance to the glass mountain?”
“My name is North.”
“Look upon my face, North.”
Pulled by both the mesmerizing sound of his voice and his command, North’s eyes flipped up and locked on the demon’s face. His breath caught as he stared at the man. Just a man, but the single most exquisite man North had ever laid eyes upon. His face looked like it had been carved from white marble, pure and flawless, without a single imperfection. He easily stood a full foot taller than North, his body chiseled and roped with muscles. Then he smiled, and it was more dazzling than either the sun or the moon.
“My name is Cliff. I’m the guardian of the glass mountain. Before I allow you inside, I must know why you’ve come.”
It was on the tip of North’s tongue to lie. After all, he’d told the sun and the moon the truth and it had gotten him nowhere. But he’d been raised to tell the truth and he spoke honestly to Cliff.
“I’m searching for my seven sisters, cursed into the form of ravens.”
“Ah, the raven-girls. Yes, they reside here with me.” Cliff looked North over, and the longer he gazed upon the well-built farm boy, the more he liked what he saw. “I shelter and feed them, keep them safe.”
“Then I am in your debt.”
“You wish them restored to human form?”
“More than anything in the world.”
“I have the power to grant your wish and give you what you want. But you must pay the price for entry into the glass mountain, and pay for your wish as well.”
Nearly overwhelmed with success so close to hand, North found his eyes full of tears. “I have no money, nothing to pay you with. Please…”
“I want nothing so mundane as money, North,” Cliff said. He reached one large hand out and caressed North’s black curls, then his cheek, tracing the edge of his jaw until his hand fell away and landed on North’s broad expanse of chest. Cliff boldly felt the swell of his pectoral muscle, the line of his ribs, and finally curved his hand around North’s waist and drew him close.
“The price for entry is one body part. To pay for your wish, I’ll get to choose the body part, and I get to keep it… forever.”
North stared at him, the morning star’s warning ringing in his ears. So Cliff might look like a man but he was a demon. What could he possibly want? North thought about spending the rest of his life without a hand or a foot, without an arm or a knee. But what was one piece of his body compared to seven sisters? Seven females who could marry and have children? He took a deep breath and met Cliff’s amazing eyes, a shade of blue far deeper than his.
Cliff lifted North into his arms and carried him into the glass mountain. He took North first to a bathing chamber and washed away the dirt and weariness of North’s many long travels. Once North was clean and well-relaxed, Cliff carried him to the center of the mountain. Laying North out on his bed, Cliff spent long leisurely hours touching, kissing, and caressing his youthful, naked body. This was all new to North, who had up to this point only stolen a few kisses with young girls behind the barn.
Cliff wasn’t about to stop at kisses. He spent hours showing North how the male body worked and helping North learn what aroused him, what touches he liked most and how North might find release alone or with a partner. After several days in Cliff’s bed chamber, North had only to hear his lover approaching from the hallway and he would harden in anticipation of what was to come. He loved the feel of Cliff’s hands and mouth on his body and thrilled in lying beside him. Holding Cliff, North knew a contentment he’d never felt in all the days of his life.
He was so content, he almost forgot why he was in the glass mountain.
On the seventh day, however, as North lay nude and sated beneath his lover, a fluttery whirring filled the air and from high above, the seven ravens entered the glass mountain and spiraled down cawing loudly. Shocked and guilty, North sat up, tears streaming down his face.
“Why do you weep?” Cliff asked, wiping at his tears with one large thumb.
“They have waited long enough,” North said, gesturing at the seven ravens perched around the chamber. “Take the body part you wish to keep and turn them back!”
“North, my simple, foolish, beloved child,” Cliff said with a sigh. He reached down and palmed North’s perfect cock. “This is the part I wish to keep forever, and I find I have no wish to separate you from it.” He leaned down and gently kissed North’s astonished and slightly open mouth.
Rising from their bed, he called on the magic of the mountain and changed North’s sisters back into their human forms again. They crowded around the two men, weeping joyously at being reunited with their brother.
After several days of celebration, they prepared to travel home. Much to the dismay of the seven sisters, North refused to leave.
“My place is with Cliff here in the glass mountain.”
North removed the ring from his finger and gave it to them.
“Take this to our parents and tell them I have found happiness and contentment, even if it is not the life they would’ve chosen for me. Tell them I love them, and I return to them the daughters they would’ve forsaken for love of me.”
The seven sisters returned to the farm with the ring, but their father refused to hear their words. Instead he insisted to all North perished rescuing his sisters from the beast who had kept them captive all those long years. A stone grew in his heart, and the farm slowly withered and failed as the seven sisters married and left.
But as for North and Cliff, they lived together in the glass mountain sustained by their love, magic, and the north wind even as the stars climbed into their bedrolls, zippered them fully, and winked out, leaving the world in darkness.
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