Woodlight’s shelf

A Night Falls poem

They came to the village
Heard “Help!”
Thought there was hope, again
It was only her
Then it was day
There is
a
lot
of
time

Notes on a-mending

Going forward doesn’t always mean drastic change. Sometimes the same emotions come back round. My Change is linked to the mountains and so is the process of repair.

This Alongame saying

Never light the mountain unless red willow is carefully picked up by the witch.

Notes on an acquaintance

Hi Tilleryard,

Seems words go around fast between the worlds – I used to be amazed by how small my world is when I met people who knew people I knew, but now I know it’s also true if I say worlds, plural.

Can you guess who I met? Or maybe she told you already?

I was sitting on a bench when I saw a goat. It was chewing on the purple scarf of a girl with black hair and purple horns (I guess that’s a big hint, unless many people fit the description this in Alongame?). Taken aback, I got up and went to help her save her scarf, but it was too late, it was all drooly and messy and torn. So then I helped her bring the goat to the meadow.

She presented herself as the Herding Witch. She asked what I was doing here, so I explained to her that I was a new Shelfkeeper – Woodlight – and still getting the hang of how to connect our worlds together. She smiled then: “You wouldn’t know Tilleryard by any chance?”

According to her, you were so excited about meeting new shelfkeepers that you’d already blabbered a whole evening about me. I’m guessing you have a good relationship, since you exchange her goat milk for your veggies and I heard a great complicity in her voice as she mentioned you. She said you were going to be very jealous she got to meet me. Well, if you’re jealous, I’m jealous too – I thought she was amazing, and you get to see her everyday if you want to. She started flirting a bit, but I felt shy and I don’t know if she understood I liked her too or if she thought I was straight or not interested or what. Anyway, she said she wanted to know more about my world, and then she got an idea and ran back to the bench I was sitting on earlier.

Well it wasn’t really a bench, I hadn’t paid that much attention. It had a weird shape, more like two chairs next to each other, one facing one way, the other one facing the opposite way, but with a common armrest. The Herding Witch explained to me that it was a magical place: if I sat one way and she sat the other way next to me, I would see her world and she would see mine. She asked if I would agree to sit there for her. I was a little scared of what would happen, but I said yes.

And it was magical. I mean, I should have been seeing the meadow and the goat, but instead, when I sat and opened my eyes after blinking once, there was a small cottage with a thatch roof in the distance. The goat was lying down in the sun by the door, then got up and lied down again by the shadow of a willow tree. The Herding Witch’s home was in the middle of nowhere. It was very beautiful: not just the house but the garden too, it was the perfect dose of wildness. Like there were lots of tall grasses and wild flowers and bushes, but also a stone path free of herbs up to the door. It felt like she was taking very good care of the place, and it filled me with a longing to know her better. Not everyone cares so much and so perceptibly about their place of living.

I was a little scared of what she would think of my own space, nowhere as beautiful from outside, just a window in a narrow street; but all she really noticed were the two baby birds on my windowsill. I love that.
I wasn’t brave enough to take her hand; and when I turned around to see her, I was sitting at home. It was way too short, and I wanted to talk more with her, learn more about her, find better answers to her flirty jokes.

Instead, I’m writing to you so you’ll know about this meeting, and sending it your way through the shelf.

Notes on a development on Mirrorbird‘s map

I wasn’t there when the boatbuilders came downriver from the west with the wood we needed to build our own; I wasn’t there either when the villagers started working on the boat. I was there, though, on the evening it was pushed into the water for the first time. There were a lot of people and the nightsky was clear. We could see the stars, but most of all, we could see all the little candles on the little paper boats that we all put down on the water, keeping our eyes on them to know which ones would burn, which ones would drown, and which ones would sail across the pond. Then the real boat – the wooden one – was pushed too and everyone cheered. It was beautiful to see it there on the water among all its smaller, luminous counterparts. Someone rowed with it a while, then it was attached to the new pier so it wouldn’t be swept away. From now on, everyone would be able to borrow the boat to cross or navigate on the largest of the seven ponds.

Notes and photos of a journey taken to a point on Bookfold‘s map

I looked for a bridge to the Old Queen’s Woods on Bookfold’s map. When I came out, I saw a place called “The geese’s meadow”, so maybe I walked passed Tilleryard’s place also!

A mushroom poem (inspired by Holyviolet‘s long dozen):

Under the hail
Silence flourishes, gentle and unhindered
As we nurture the little flames to warm us through it all

A long dozen poem:

Seven ponds
Glitter far away down in the valley
Seven drops of dew shine on the grass blades by my shoe

A cairn, that tells this story:

There is a place at the summit of the mountains that is the quietest of all. No one ever goes there; no one even remembers how to climb that much up. There the birds do not sing and only the wind blows. There is one who knew how to climb up there though. A girl, small and often ill, that no one expected anything from. She spent a lot of time outside, learning about and gathering plants for healing, but also watching all the animals living around her, so much so that she learned to communicate with them. The girl had a brother. One day, she heard him whispering to his friends: he had caught a thundereagle. No one had been able to do that for generations now. The next day, he would show it to the village and be recognized as a great hunter. The girl couldn’t let that happen. When night fell, she silently opened the cage and let the legendary bird fly away. Her brother never found out it was her who betrayed him. It was years later when a weird plague came over the village: everyone slowly became more and more tired, so much so that soon no one could get up anymore. The girl as well as the other healers only knew one plant tonic enough to wake everyone up once more. Unfortunately, it only grew on the highest mountain top. The ones who were still strong enough tried to climb up; all failed. As the girl was losing hope, she thought of the eagle once again. Maybe they could help. No one expected her to return as she left for the nest. It was doomed, they all thought. Yet the thundereagle remembered her. And she remembered how to speak their language. They let her climb up their back and flew high in the sky, inspiring and amazing all who saw the giand bird and the tiny girl. She picked the needed flowerrs and was celebrated as she came back to the village. Since then, everyone has forgotten about her. We don’t even remember her name. Only the cairn, close to the mountain top where it all happened, marks her great achievement.

Conebird’s shelf

A mushroom poem (inspired by Duskrest‘s long dozen):

Open reach within
Land to hold us up, sky to cover us, vulnerable 
Clouds drifting with time, to remind us there still is some left

A long dozen poem:

The stone spire,
still visible through wisps of stinging snow:
A peak never traversed, never claimed, never beaten.

A map, with a note attached:

Avoid Cold Lake and its prodigious marshes to the west after sundown. But those heading south on the Cliff Road will know they are coming close to Hedda’s Farm when they smell the fragrant embers of the Ever-Smoking Cave.

A cairn, telling the following story:

I think I found out a few more clues regarding the origin of the tower ruins, just along the western edge of Poplar Isle. Heading north of the ruins, there’s a winding path that zig-zags its way northward, along the coast. Perhaps a quarter-mile along this path, a raised clearing with a few of the sloping northwestern coastline sports a crumbling limestone cairn: a marker for storytelling, though it seems the latter part of the tale is missing.

Apparently, some time long in the past, there was a chieftain of a tiny island village. All around him were small, unremarkable islets, each with their own settlements of discrete clans, perhaps a dozen in number. These were spread throughout what I assume was most of what makes up Polar Isle now.

I was led to this conclusion because the story told in the stones is that there was a long period of rains, lasting weeks or even months without and respite. The water rushed down the mountains, forming what we now know of as Trout River. As the rains fell, many of the islets were swallowed up by the rising waters, and this chieftain was taking in refugees into his village, already crowded with wearied loyals.

The chieftain knew this could not be a permanent solution, and there was no sign the rain would be stopping soon. He grew desperate, and the consulted the village medicine man. The medicine man promised to seek council with Others at the foot of the Indomitable Mountains to the west.

After consultation with the servants of Nature, across the river at the base of the mountains, the medicine man returned with news that he had struck a deal with the Bramble Children. All the chieftain needed to do was plant a bramble sprout at the foot of his tower, and the next day they would see the results. Fearful of his desperate bargain with the servants of Nature, the chieftain did as he was told, and the village was ensorceled by Nature magic and the villagers fell to sleep where they stood.

The next day, the chieftain awoke, somehow back in his tower chamber, a warm fire crackling with embers next to him. He rushed outside, and was shocked to find a forest of unnaturally-large thorn-bushes roiled and twisting through the rains. The medicine man knelt next to where the sprout was planted the day before, but instead of a small, fuzzy twig, it was now a broad, woody taproot easily too big for four men to reach their arms around. The rest of the villagers, and the refugees, were nowhere to be seen.

Yet, the Bramble Children fulfilled their end of the bargain. The winding brambles thirstily drank all the falling water, and their clinging branches dragged the islets together until they were all massed into a single broad island. The single river branched into two further to the north, only to rejoin once again to the south, beyond the influence of the Bramble Children.

The rest of the cairn’s tale is lost to oblivion, and we can only speculate as to the fate of the chieftain – and the medicine man. This must have happened some time ago however, since the island itself is now covered with broad-leafed trees and not brambles. Within the understory however, one just might happen upon the crumbling foundations of cobblestone houses and – oddly enough – what can only be fishing piers. Now who would have ever expected to see those in the middle of a forest?

Where Alongame started

A blog from Chloe

Alongame can be hard to describe, as a project – the vast majority of things I’m involved in often are – and sometimes the best job I’ve done is just sharing where the initial seed for the idea came from. So, a very brief story about my favourite place to walk during Winter lockdown…

In Battersea Park, there’s a small wooden bridge, near the centre of the park, where the edges of the lake come incredibly close to each other. The bridge is almost perfectly positioned to let you think, briefly, that you’re not in London. That you’re in the middle of some rural spot, far away from people.

If you go to the bridge at dusk, then – across the lake and past a variety of trees and hedges and so on – you can see yellow lights from a row of streets. Like some village or suchlike that’s far enough away that it’s not crowding you, but close enough to rest at if you needed. Of course, the moment you move, the illusion’s gone – the street’s hidden or you’re too close and you can see it’s London again.

But, standing there at the right time, it really can feel like you’re somewhere else. Somewhere quieter, oddly welcoming, and a little wild. And in lockdown I *really* needed that.

So, from discovering that spot in January, I kept wondering about some other world, that could be seen out of the corner of the eye. Which became wondering about building that world, which became wondering about lots of people independently but collectively building it, and so on. Which has ended up here.

A lot of things I’ve done have involved having faith in the creativity, ideas and generosity people bring to stories and spaces when you give them the opportunity to be involved. And I’m so excited to see where that leads with Alongame.