Constellations

They call me the Woodwose.

But they know that I am the forest; I am the canopies and the wind and the soil underneath. I have been, ever since I inhabited its heart long ago, and settled in another still, in the heart of the Great Tree.

“I have come,” she says in a voice far too large for her frame, “to purge you, fiend!”

To that I sigh, and pay no thought to the years that the exhale holds. I have heard it a thousand times, from kings and knights and furious farmers alike. I’ve made their water and their wealth mine, and so have I their harvest and lands.

Their yield is poor this year. Not the fault of rainfall or the sun, but mine. I grow more able to bring suffering upon them, season by season.

Her father owns a nearby land, she says. Her anger is understandable, but she’s a fragile thing. A girl in her homespun skirts and flimsy limbs, with golden hair curiously chopped to her nape. Strange things they are, humans, that a fortnight of starvation could kill them, and yet they defy, and yet they dare.

She comes with a spade, and it becomes clear that no sorcery could flow from those fingertips. She fails on the first day, and she fails on the second. On the third, I ask why, thinking that it’s a redundant thing; because she’s a farmer’s daughter, and I make their crops suffer.

“To be granted knighthood.”

And my belief in the limits of foolishness disappears. It wasn’t a very strong belief to begin with, not with her futile efforts at my sides, digging at roots that recover in instants.

Being a farmer’s daughter isn’t completely irrelevant, I learn on the fourth day, because her mother died. They couldn’t provide what she’d needed; I’d taken their yield. On the fifth, she cries and I can’t distinguish tears from the sweat running down her cheeks, and it’s the bitter, furious kind because she’s miserable and a little broken. On the sixth day, she learns that I forgot the sight of the sky; and on the seventh, I learn that she can chart it.

Days pass, and she brings apples with her sometimes. When she allows herself to rest, she braids flowers into crowns. It grows, that hair, but so do my roots, back into the dirt where they belong. Soon I learn her name, and Constance watches as her efforts become vain.

She listens when I scoff and tell the tales of her predecessors. Sometimes she laughs too, at the knight who promised the heart of the tree but fled when it talked, and the old king who led his men to where the horses wouldn’t follow, and tripped into the river while he hailed his call.

When I ask if she’s searching for my weakness in their stories, “Perhaps I am,” she cheekily says. But no, and although I am incapable of emotions beyond sins, no tenderness to be offered to humans, I can see it; that earnestness in eyes that should be set on horizons.

“Find my virtues,” I tell her after months she spends visiting, the secret of uprooting the heart of the woods. Seven, scattered across lands and seas far beyond her little village. It intrigues her, and she asks where, not how. And it is a little charming how willful the weaker beings can sometimes be. At least she, whose eyes bear something I can’t read, when she’s told in which scorching desert my Patience I’d left, and in the depth of which sea my Honesty dwells, and how high the mountain that holds my Humility is.

Then they call for her and she heeds. She leaves on a ship, and the wind brings back news of her when he can. She disembarks, and she finds her first companion, a small monkey, on a strange land I must have journeyed during my old life. It wasn’t so robust then.

She spends the year away, guided by voices and the stars. My virtues are gently awakened throughout, but I can’t possess them yet. She is captured and put to suffering for stealing my Sincerity from a land that honored it far beyond its worth, then she escapes unaided. The wind tells me she finds another companion, a boy, and is taught the way of the sword. Beasts become less frightening, and her sobs more courageous and sparse.

Her laughter comes in abundance, and the freckles on the bridge of her nose become more defined by the sun. She struggles still, against mountains of snow and ice and furious skies. But Constance grows and flourishes and takes the world by a storm.

I hear her curiosity finds ways to discover me, and seas away my secrets unravel in old myths and tales of havoc. She knows that I once had the freedom she seeks, and that I exploited it. I raged and plundered; I remorselessly sinned until that heart was spoiled beyond the capacity of a body to contain.

I begin losing myself, perhaps as she finds me elsewhere. I grow weaker in the entirety of my existence. Their crops prosper and her father writes and sends birds with joy. It appears that it soon would be gone, my vision, but it doesn’t shake me, because the wind sometimes carries her voice, but never the sight of her.

She’s carrying trinkets in the palms of her hands when she returns. Seven of them; little, old things that gleam even in the dead of the night, even to eyes that could see nothing else. I’ve become too weak for the year she spent away to feel as insignificant as it should.

She cries again, and it’s a headache how much she does. “Why have you withered away,” she says, her voice barely wrapped around a sob. “We had an agreement, I was meant to purge you.”

I lie and tell her that it was because she found my virtues that I began dying, but she only weeps harder. “But I have many stories to tell,” she says, and a number of them are about me; small, lost pieces of a past. “You’re not meant to just die yet.”

But I am; because finding my virtues wouldn’t take me, but my own desire to leave would. To leave the tree that took me in when the rest of the world refused is how I am made to die.

She tells her tales as I disintegrate. The bark that kept me for centuries falls apart in the circle of her arms, and the roots that held me dissolved beneath her feet. “Stop crying, you fool,” I say, and it’s met by a mess of small laughs and sobs and persevering stories.

“You never told me your Kindness was swallowed by a Kraken. That took a whole crew of pirates to retrieve, and another band of outlaws, too. And a massive carnivorous flower was guarding your Tolerance! I almost decided you could live without it at that sight.”

The Tree vanishes along with all the sorcery that rooted the forest. I feel it in me that it remains behind unchanged, and it could recover and grow without my notoriety keeping it in place. I have lived a burden, and remorse finds its way into me unprompted by the waiting virtues now scattered around her. Her stories are rushed and desperate, and so are her breaths. She breaks a little farther when my past as a human tumbles down her lips. She tells me that she knows and she says it again, that she knows and she knows, and she never says what it is. But it resonates in my body, every piece of the past she unraveled and willfully discovered, that left me with only envy and wrath. I feel it in the form that I undertook, and whether I am a beast or the human I’d once been I don’t know. But I am weaker than I’ve ever been, and even Pride can’t hold me upright against it. My head is cradled in her lap, on the harsh fabric of her breeches. And my eyes are gone, but she shifts me so they’re looking up. Constance pours Benevolence on them, and, “Open your eyes,” she says, “Look at the sky, Woodwose, isn’t it beautiful?”

My sky is green-eyed and freckled.

“That, she is,” I say, slipping away under her tears, “That she is.”


Notes

Update that no one asked for

Hello again, everyone! I hope you’re all safe and healthy.

This is a quick update if my massive follow spree lead you here. I’m just trying to become more active on WP, and the fact that tons of the blogs I follow are no longer active was NOT helping (so I went and followed some that I thought were cool or that I could draw inspo from)

Whether a new reader or old, enjoy your stay ✨

I C A R U S

 

Speak to me

about the son of Daedalus

who tasted upon his lips

her freedom

and upon his eyelids

her warmth

Speak to me

about his wings that gave in

plunged him, watched his being

shatter as it struck sea

his delirious soul, drunk on innocence

on sin

Speak to me

about my pristine self

as my back meets the harness

and my new wings

as I stand on the edge,

as the Sun beckons

freedom

 

 

 

Life updates you don’t really need: Heroes

Hello hello!

(Contrary to the popular belief, I am actually ALIVE and well, thank you for asking.)

I hope you’re all doing well and staying safe and healthy 💫

The reason I haven’t been active here at all is that I’ve actually been working on a single project for over a month now (can you believe it? ME? not stuck in a writing block??). It is pathetically short for the amount of time I’ve spent working on it so far, but I’m honestly somewhat proud of how meticulous my efforts have been. An excerpt of it can be found on my Instagram page inkofhers .

I don’t know what kind of exceptional feelings I have towards this piece, but I think I will not be posting it publicly. Still unnamed for now, it retells the story of Hector and Andromache from the Iliad. Fleshing out characters ends up making you fall in love with them slowly (or: your version of them). I’ve always liked Hector, found him one of the few (relatively) sensible men in Greek Mythology, but while Andromache had a little role in the Iliad itself, discovering a strong woman while reading more into it is making me want to do her justice. I knew I wanted to retell this specific story since listening to a podcast about the Trojan War last year, so I’m glad I finally managed to pick it up. Little victories deserve celebrations.

On reading: I’ve mainly been listening to audiobooks lately, and happened to find my first 5-star book of the year. It’s an insanely intriguing non-fiction about Henrietta Lacks’s life and her immortal line of cells. Although it was published a decade ago, I’ve only personally heard one person talk about it in real life. Please give it a shot, it’s a story about humanity and science, and the ethics of both. Another audiobook is Heroes by Stephen Fry (you KNOW I’d sneak Greek mythology in here somewhere). Enjoyed listening to it on my way to and from work, and I’m just grateful Achilles wasn’t included as a hero. Let’s discuss: Achilles is a man-child that moped around for 10 years and– I’m honestly trying my best not to go off on a rant about him at this point. Finally, My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay was a poetic and beautifully written account of a child growing up in care, and all the horrors that come with it.

Maybe this is a tiny celebratory section for myself. I’ve been reading and writing more, finding happiness again after I couldn’t see it for a while. Sometimes I dip, but I am healing; I know I am.

Thank you if you’re still reading. Be good!

IoH is finally on insta

One of the things I’ve been trying to get myself to do (but couldn’t because I never had the energy to) is expand to other platforms. I think I’ve grown too used to WordPress, and it’s gotten stale. So I decided to start an instagram page, then I decided not to- then I forced myself to, and here we are: Inkofhers. Can this account get a quick “May your owner not abandon you,” prayer? Ameen.

 

E U R Y D I C E

Owing to the Sun’s mournful song, hearts flourish in Grief and Death, and in the other dwellers of the Underworld.

Harpies and centaurs cease their horrors. Hecate eases her burden and the Erinyes their punishments. Even Cerberus tore away with no command, and had all six of his ears lifted, alert. Old wandering souls stilled, solemn after centuries of wailing. They had been searching for meaning or purpose, a reminder of life; maybe in this mortal, they see it.

Orpheus’s is grief that touches even them— these wicked, hideous things, these feared strays. They have no empathy to speak of, no awareness nor heart, but hers had longing roots; it was one beating still. While the guest  fills their realm with the strings of his lyre, that heart breaks at music like dimmed sunlight.

She looks to her companion, finds his features tense and stern. He governs so, and it is the way things are. His subjects are empty, nothing but bones, bare and made of smoke, their ribs covering hollowness as devoid as the Underworld itself. Some were humans once, and upon their arrival they would retain their form— phantom flesh and skin, but not for long.

His ways were born from from loss and necessity. Early, he realized that only reign over this abode is one with no remorse. He has never been passive, but has honored a decision and a responsibility when he was given the Underworld, and an agreement when she gave herself to him. That responsibility he made entirely his, ruled with virtue and the weight of circumstance, and under his laws all was equal. True to his old self, he remains sober and restrained— the most disciplined of his brothers. But she knows that in part, his dispassion is an act; she knows that, under that exterior of steel and ice, he is no stranger to tender perceptions.

So, “Will you not give him a chance?” Persephone asks.

“It is unheard of,” Hades simply retorts. It is a cold, dry aggravation, not like the vicious wrath that often follows those who try to leave the Underworld. “Soon he shall fall hungry and eat from this realm,” he continues, looking at Orpheus in the distance. “Then they will become reunited for eternity.”

“She still bears the marks of the viper,” she says at length. “What a painful death that must have been.”

“And what mercy is there in sending her to live and die again?”

“She deserves a gentler death, a swift passing in old age,” Persephone presses, her palms facing upwards, gesturing at the delicate, grieving melody. “Listen! How loved she is!”

“Compassion is unbefitting to the Underworld,” he tells her, and harshly tucks what else he wants to say between his teeth. His brows are drawn together, casting a flinty shadow on his eyes. He is not angry, she realizes with delight; he is doubting. Hades is dreading that soon, he will yield.

Stifling her amusement, “is it now?” she playfully says. “Strange. I hear its Patron would ascend to earth to seek his consort if her return was delayed by so much as a single day.”

After earning an exasperated sigh, Persephone holds her hand to his chest, finding the steady thump underneath. She wonders if the Ichor running through them both will endure all the coming eternities; she considers death and its decisiveness, the finality.

“They call us immortals,” she tells him. “Do you believe we are so?”

“No,” he says, simply, his black eyes tight on Orpheus. “The desire to be brought my Father’s doom upon him.”

He was the oldest of his siblings, but is the youngest now— the last to leave the bleak shadows of their Father. Persephone muses, runs her hands through the streaks of silver in his hair. Like mortals, he is ageing, his features etched deeper with lore and conflict.

“Can you bear the thought of parting?”

His eyes then find her, and he rises from his seat. “From Demeter? I’d be elated,” he says dryly.

She laughs in surprise. “Well, I like it, the notion of the end. It would bring closure to you and me when we grow tired of ruling.” In the lines of his face she notices an old, wistful sadness. There was no trace of it when earth first split in half and she saw nothing but darkness and his figure, beckoning silently. None of that sadness adorned his face until she began disarming him, undoing that tenacious exterior and finding the truth beneath. It came with his affections, with the solemn acceptance of an inevitable conclusion. Smiling, she continues. “I hope that should Death come, it comes for us both.”

“Yes,” he says, easing.

“You will have to pass first,” she teases. “You are accustomed to waiting..” Her words are split apart by giggles when Cerberus arrives and circles her legs as she pet his heads. “Besides, I do not want you to wind up like poor Orpheus.”

He gives in to a gruff chuckle. “Are you planning my demise to become the solitary ruler of the Underworld?” He says, his voice lighter and lined with mirth, and his gaze gentler. She knows that that is his truth, finds it with an old familiarity when he claims her with the names of red gemstones.

“I could be,” she retorts, considering the unspoken proposal all that time ago. Seven pomegranate seeds that she, with thorough awareness of what they meant, ate with no hesitation. “You should let him take his wife and go,” continues Persephone afterwards, turning her back to him and letting the hound lead her back to the music. “We all know you couldn’t afford another competitor for Cerberus’s affections.”

 

 

 

 

 

(don’t) Live

Run

What from? I would

Ask my dread

But instead it pried open

my ribs, crushed this heart

and, run

it planted into it

Run from what?

Run

until your lungs can carry air no longer

That was then,

be still

Now it tells,

very still

But why?

rest your back upon earth

let her claim you again

But how?

let her vegetate and grow her

life upon you, crush you

with fear, and the weight of your sins

I see,

be still

be earth

I see,

until your lungs carry air no longer

Women of iron (excerpt)

Here’s a part from the WIP project I talked about in my last post:


 

“And truly, she is made of iron. I saw her sail, saw her wrench the authority from Captain during a storm, and command from the stern men twice her size. From the day she planted her sea legs on the deck of that ship we’d recognised her a formidable opponent, then a certain leader, honed and chiseled into discipline by years she’d spent in suffering. She then became either too unafraid to die, or too confident of her plans to overtake Captain, who later gave her his heart and his fortune, and made her his wife.

Lady Eboshi didn’t shy away– took the love and gold he granted, and his heart. I saw her standing over his body that night, when his hometown was burning to the ground. Her dagger had sliced open his jugular, and like the wild creatures she’s always condemned, she carried the stench of blood in her very being.”

Return of the life updates you don’t really need: fierce women, dreamy boys, more magic

Hello hello!

(Yes, I’ve abandoned this blog. I have. I’m gonna punch myself in the mouth for it.)

How are you guys? How’s quarantine treating you? I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.

Due to the fact that there practically are cobwebs growing all over this blog, I’ve decided to challenge myself into writing and posting something every single day. I’m thinking starting small, only a week, and seeing where that takes me. The initial purpose of inkofhers was to encourage me to write and post everyday, but I don’t think less than 50 posts in 3 years qualifies as success. (Edit from the future: Something about forcing myself to write just to post destroys the ‘quality’ of my writing. I didn’t want to post pieces I’m not happy with, so I’ll quietly quit the hell out of this. I promise I’m writing a lot more than usual, though!)

Remember how, in my last post, I described a strange need to delve into magic? I did; I watched Ghibli movies, read fantasy (unlike myself) and some more mythology (A LOT like myself), and listened to retellings of fairy tales on podcasts to put me to sleep. A writing project that I ended up prying out of that is a back story/character study of Lady Eboshi’s character (what can I say, I’m just too weak against women being kings). I’m trying to make it so that even people who haven’t watched the movie can enjoy it. It’s turning out much more extensive than I’d thought, so I really hope you guys will give it a shot if when I post it.

On reading: I’ve pushed myself into finishing 2 books in less than a week and discovered that I have, in fact, not lost my ability to read. I just need to relearn how to focus on things that are longer than a single damn tweet. Throughout, I’ve also been savouring the book “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones, the masterpiece behind my favourite movie by the same name. I’ve been enjoying the book tremendously; the characters are so different from the movie it’s just amusing. Movie Howl, the gentle prince of my heart, is a far cry from the insufferable, overdramatic moron in the book (who, in all honesty, still managed to snatch my heart and run with it). Sophie’s steadfastness is the same, and she’s a lovely character. Book Sophie unapologetically slides snarky comments to Howl all the time, and there’s so much bickering it’s had me laughing out loud several times (and I really never laugh while reading).

I’m going to wrap up this babble-turned-book review mess now. Thank you so much for reading if you’re still here. Please stay healthy and safe during these crazy times!

 

freedom in quarantine, and a hunger for magic

Over the past year, I’d been tormented by a single something that had found its way into every one of my thoughts. It had nagged and tugged, begging to be considered, calling out sometimes, and whispering in others. For a long time I ran each of my aspirations and plans through it, and it made it difficult to see what I wanted my future to look like, and what I’m willing to do to get there.

Really, it wasn’t as dreadful as I make it sound, maybe not even at all. But I know that I didn’t really want it, but I had made it an obligation and committed. I’d committed to it initially, when I hadn’t an idea what that year would bring, then it built up with the days and the months until it was unbearable. It was my turn to beg, but I couldn’t possibly pull myself out of it.

But a thought passed by my mind a couple of evenings ago; it was quick and faint and fleeting. What if that thing just undos itself, ends and crumbles before me, while I uphold my perfect, pristine sense of commitment.

I’m a terrible person to myself, so hellbent on fulfilling obligations that are often just excruciating limits I bring upon me. A sane person would at least try to remove themselves from a situation which clearly brings them distress, but me? I couldn’t, it was unthinkable. I’d committed, after all.

But then it did, it ended itself.

And God, I was so overwhelmed with a shower of complex feelings, with profound relief, and happiness twinged with disappointment. I think I was sad at the thought of parting with this thing that I’d tossed about my mind for an entire year, or maybe I was sad at the time I’d spent worrying about it, just for it to eventually vanish into thin air.

Right now I’m still trying to get used to this newfound freedom. I’d once read comparing toxic relationships to a bad toothache. My relationship with that reality was similar: painful, I didn’t want it, but I feel its absence now that it’s gone, and I continue probing that gap with my tongue, trying to make sense of it just being not there any more.

And no, it wasn’t a bad relationship, and it wasn’t something as horrid. It was a huge step into something I’m so unfamiliar with, such uncharted territory, something I was so scared of, and most importantly, something I wasn’t ready for. It’s over now, and I should probably stop giving disclaimers (lol).

Since my metaphorical shackles broke, I’ve been craving all things magical. In fiction I found myself seeking forest sprites and elves under odd mushrooms, old spirits haunting the woods, fairytales. This penchant for fantasy is very unlike me, so stern in the books I read, recently having been stuck in the “if it doesn’t benefit me or add to my knowledge, I don’t want it,” nightmare. I’m just feeling free of the harsh judgement I held towards myself; maybe it’s why I let myself want the childish magic I’d loved as a kid.

In real life I’ve been thinking of what comes next, finding it okay to have dreams and aspirations, unapologetic and unfiltered. I had taught myself to want the bare minimum just from the fear that I’ll want something and never get it. And while I’m still far from perfect, I know that I’m learning to take myself less seriously everyday, to fear rejection less, and to want more. It’s painful and scary, the thought that things I so deeply desire might not be mine. But hey, what if someday, they do?