The Wind Takes Our Cries


My Eoin was sixteen years when they rode through. Eoin, I loved him, he was my seventh, and the others nearly killed me coming out, but not him. He slid out like a fish through a fisherman’s hands, and like a fish, he never did cry, just twisted in the goodwife’s arms. Later, when he was older, my husband and master did his part to beat a tear from Eoin’s blue eyes, but he wouldn’t cry for him either. I did the weeping for him, while I listened from the other room, and the wind took my cries away. My husband beat the others as well, but when he beat them, it was steady, methodical, rhythmic sound, like weaving, or intercourse, or raking up hay. When he beat Eoin, it was the unpredictable scrabbling of a foal standing for the first time, or the chaotic crashing of the ocean on cliffs. The beating would stop whenever Eoin stopped getting up, but Eoin never seemed to learn to stay down, any more than he learned to cry.

Eoin was like a stubborn green willow wand, he would bend but never break. I was proud of all my sons, but I was proudest of Eoin, partly because I was the only one who was. And love means more if it is hard to do.

The day they came in on their horses was summer at its end, ripe and crisp as an apple, the sort of day that makes lords long to be chasing foxes to ground and maidens to bed. There was no mistaking them. Who else had chargers like they, their coats every color of oak leaves? Who else, in this season, had brilliant caparisons draped round their horses’ shoulders and cloaks pinned on their own? Who else rode with the faerie-woman on her chestnut palfry, her face proud as a man’s?

My sons all watched the knights process along the edge of our fields, their horses pressing up against each other and then dancing away, restless with their own strength. My daughters watched them too, but like me, they were not fair of face, so I told them to keep their eyes to themselves. That the knights of the table would not want to be ogled by maidens without flowered cheeks and bee-stung lips, by my daughters with hog-chins and hair fine as an old-man’s. They paid me no mind, and all labor ceased while everyone waited for a glimpse of Arthur.

Here he came then, on a mighty dappled gray stallion draped in green, a faerie’s color, and he was more splendid than they had said. His bearing — proud! His face — kind! His mouth behind its trimmed ginger beard was set with both good humor and with the weight of responsibility, a face every mother should wear. I was in love with him at once, but everyone is. It is easy to love Arthur. Still, I flattened by skirt and pressed my hands to my girl-flushed cheeks and was glad that my husband was not about to see me undone so by the heroes.

I barely had time for this first glance when I realized they were coming this way. My son Aodhan was pelting toward the house, fast as a hound, and his voice carried well to me, full of terror and adulation. The king wants a drink. The king wants water.

My heart leapt inside me as I began to weigh the request — the king could not have water, the king needed wine, did we have wine fit for Arthur, we had the mead that the Deutscher had brought — and then, as the dapple grey horse approached, I realized with sinking heart that I could hear the uneven thunder of a beating from the house behind me. Though Eoin, as ever, didn’t cry out, my husband made up for it with grunts and bellow, insults and crowing, loud enough to hear outside the threshold. Oh! Eoin was never his son, not with eyes like that, oh, did he think that a king would want to look at him, a boy finer than a maiden, oh! a surlier son he hadn’t bred.

The shame stole my words as Arthur’s shadow fell across me and my doorstep. For a long moment there was silence, the king and I listening to the crashing inside. My husband had fallen quiet as well, and now there was only the sound of a beating in earnest.

“Lady,” Arthur said, after a space. His face was hidden in shadow, the afternoon sun a nimbus behind him and his commander beside him, tall as gods on their horses. No one had ever called me Lady. “Could I trouble you for water for our mounts?”
   
No one could say that we did not do well by him. Once I had stopped the boys’ mouths catching flies and dragged the girls out of Launcelot’s gaze, we watered those horses and we watered those men and I have to say that watching the knights drink, their hands young and unlined, their eyes grateful, I realized that they were just boys like my own.

Arthur thanked me then, but instead of giving a coin in return, he said, “I am needing someone to tend my hounds, Lady. I would ask you if you could spare one of your sons. We will be back through here, again, in good time, and I would return him again.”

And here I had given all our mead to his men, and he wanted my sons as well? What kind of deed was that in return, this king who was so known for his benevolence? I said, “I would be hard pressed to survive the harvest without my sons, my lord.”

The king’s eyes followed the vines up the side of our house, and he did not look at me as he said, “The hounds are skittish this year. They have given us trouble, staying with us as we travel.” His eyes returned to me. “I need someone quiet.”

And I understood the bargain he meant to make, the kindness he meant to offer. That is how Eoin came to join the knights that year.

Oh, I missed him. I missed him as we harvested and rolled hay. When the frost lightened the fields. When the snow covered the branches of the trees that edged the lane. When spring came and the thawed world smelled of animals rutting, flowers budding, carcasses rotting. I missed him every time I heard one of my other sons gasp in pain under my husband’s hand. I cried for him, too, and the wind took my cries and brought him back to me in summer.

There were fewer knights with Arthur this time, but they were no less splendid. His smile was magnificent in its benevolence. “Lady,” he said, as I wiped my eyes, “Did I not promise you I would return your son? I daresay he has refined his silence in our service.”

And there was Eoin, dismounting and making his way through the others towards us. He had become a willow tree rather than a wand, my Eoin, that year.

“Thank you for returning him, my lord,” I said.

Arthur merely smiled and turned his horse. Launcelot, however, remained, his horse half-turned away as he looked over his armored shoulder at Eoin. “Do not forget what I told you,” Launcelot said. And then he spat on my husband’s doorstep. “My apologies, Lady, no insult meant to you.”

Then they were gone, with nothing to prove that they had been there but this new Eoin. He was quiet as a churchman, steady as rain on the roof, and when night came, he cut my husband’s liver out at the dinner table. My husband made no sound, gutted like an animal. Eoin twisted the knife, however, and we both wept, as the wind took our cries away.
   

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Author’s Note: It was surprisingly difficult for me to write something that didn’t just turn into ArthurPorn. Huh. I surprise myself.

Image from: TimOve

63 thoughts on “The Wind Takes Our Cries

  1. >>Author’s Note: It was surprisingly difficult for me to write something that didn’t just turn into ArthurPorn. Huh. I surprise myself.

    But you succeeded magnificently.
    Cheers an smiles,
    Jean Marie

  2. Not porn, for certain, but sensual all the same, in the truest sense of the word. Your story: it has a flavor. (And a scent, and a texture.)

    It tastes of autumn and tears and smells of bonfires. It is a September kind of story on a January afternoon.

  3. My favorite thing about this is that it’s about the one person Arthurian stories are never about: the mother left at home. I love this.

  4. Beautiful and sensual, and I know my words are not unique, having seen the comments above. I really enjoyed the satisfying ending, though cutting out livers at the dinner table is perhaps an odd thing from which to derive satisfaction. Oh dear, I’ve said too much. πŸ˜›

    Also, I bought Shiver in a bookstore today.

  5. That was really lovely. πŸ™‚ You have such a turn of phrase… then again, hopefully you know that by now! πŸ˜‰

  6. What wonderfully evocative descriptions!

    However, I MUST ask, what is ArthurPorn by defintion? I must know. πŸ™‚

  7. I was completely entranced reading when my husband walked into the room, he looked at me and said “what’s wrong” I said, “its just such a great short story, kind of took my breath away”

    Thanks for sharing it!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this.
    There was a rhythm to her words, something offkilter but natural.
    A satisfying ending as well.

  9. Hee hee. Well, it’s one of those “don’t try this at home, folks” sort of satisfying ending. πŸ˜€

    I hope you enjoy SHIVER!

  10. Thank you. The first Arthur story that I wrote and scrapped for this week did NOT have lovely turn of the phrase.

  11. Heh. Well, I have a serious crush on the character of Arthur — not necessarily in the context of the round table and all that, just the whole brought into power young, takes it upon himself to carry the weight of the world, restoring order to a broken country thing going on. So I have a tendency to just sort of wallow in these themes. *coughBECKfromSHIVER* *coughSULLIVANfromBALLAD*

  12. It’s really challenging in 1st person to climb out of the voices that you know well and try to do something different. I actually redid the first paragraph in third person when I first started because I asked myself . . . can I really pull this voice off convincingly? So thanks.

  13. This was amazing! I love those old times and it would be more than awesome if you would do more King Arthur! This seriously made me sigh loudly! I woke my little bird *looks at silver cage and annoyed bird*
    HOWEVER: I would really want you to share ArthurPorn with us! The idea itself is – let me find the word – hot! And if you wrote it, could there be any chance for it to not be extra-hot?! ;o)

  14. Thanks for the explanation. I definitely feel the love for *coughSullivanfromBALLAD* too. πŸ˜‰

  15. …in a word…beautiful.

    You make me yearn to be an author – I want to move people the way you do. You might be my 2010 inspiration to finish my novel.

    …and I mean all of that in a very complimentary way, not in the scary-stalkerish way it kind of came out πŸ™‚

    toodles.

  16. What a lovely mood piece. The ending was just as quiet as the beginning, and more disturbing (and satisfying) for being so. I am in love with your Arthur, even if this wasn’t his story. Maybe because it wasn’t and he knew it.

  17. I loved the way you drew Eoin’s character so concisely in the first few paragraphs, especially “He slid out like a fish through a fisherman’s hands, and like a fish, he never did cry, just twisted in the goodwife’s arms.” I also liked the humility of the narrator as well as how you were able to have her express her deep feelings for her son without artifice. It was a beautiful story.

  18. Thank you SO much. It is so tough to be subtle, and when you actually do nail it, it’s invisible so you don’t get credit for it. I love careful, careful readers!

  19. I love the descriptive words you used in this story. How do you authors come up with these amazing ideas? Sometimes I write just to entertain myself, but I’m not sure what to write about. When I write something, I usually dislike it because it’s not what I would want when I read a book. And trust me, I read constantly! I just need to figure out what works for me I guess. But how, oh how?

  20. Here’s an unfair question you have probably been asked before: Which of your own short stories is your favorite. How about your books?

  21. More reading! The more reading you do, the more you narrow down what makes you happy as a reader. Then you write what makes you happy as a reader. πŸ™‚

  22. Oh, gosh. o.O For my hope to sleep tonight, I’m going to read that last paragraph as a metaphor.

    Um, which is to say, I liked it a LOT, but your phrases are FAR too easy to let nestle behind my eyes and watch on repeat all night.

    (I heart Eoin)

  23. It was just… wow.

    Saying anything else would seriously mess it up, because nothing I say comes out the way it’s meant to. Even this one sentence didn’t come out the way it was meant to!

  24. To pounce after a day’s lurking onto a very out of date post…

    This is exquisite. The poetry of Eoin’s mother’s speech marks her very clever, and I can’t but wonder if it’s served her in the past. You people here have just gone and made my week, and between this and more recent tales I know now that the next time I go into a bookstore it had better be with some days to spare, because I will be devouring directly everything of yours I can lay hands on in a state of manic glee.

    Why am I commenting on this comment, though? Because I’m just audacious enough to suggest something I presume a stranger might like, in case she doesn’t already know about it. The lucky juxtaposition of your “ArthurPorn” explanation and the above poster’s icon suggested the obvious – that if you should have time to burn and the machinery to run it, Dragon Age: Origins might hold some special appeal for you. That is all. ^-^

  25. A fantastic comment which I am belatedly replying too! Thank you so much and hee, I rarely have time to burn, but if I do, I know what to try. πŸ™‚ Thank you!!!

  26. I’d let you be, now, but… since Lament just came in the mail this week and I inhaled it within the day – thanks again for this and all your stories.

  27. Oooh, that makes me happy. I always like it when someone likes the stories AND the novels. Thank you!

  28. And here I am replying to another old comment . . . *grin* Sullivan is nice, because he’s legal.

    Did I just say that?

  29. Late post is late; I was looking up the release date for Linger and fell into your blog and now this community and have been reading the stories ALL DAY (though I am not complaining, it has kept me very happy).

    I love the voice of the woman left at home. As a wife being left at home while her husband is overseas, it always has struck a chord with me. It also helps that her voice is very beautiful and full of compassion.

    I also loved how strong Eoin is, despite him not being the narrator. You learn so much about his character in a few descriptive paragraphs.

    Love the work, love everything here, love the books, want to be you.. i mean, what? πŸ™‚

  30. Thank you so much — I felt so intimidated taking on her voice because her experience is NOT mine. Which normally doesn’t bother me as most of my characters’ experiences aren’t mine. But hers is a life that others HAVE lived, quite a lot, and I wanted it to ring true to them. So. . . thank you. A lot. And I’m really glad that you fell into the blog. πŸ™‚

  31. you’re welcome πŸ™‚ and me too!

    And don’t worry, you did a great job of articulating the woman at home. I love the “and the wind carried away their tears”, cause its’ so relatable. I’m living the experience and my inner dialogue mostly sounds like “whine. whine whine. i miss him. *cry cry*. whine. OMG THERES A SPIDER WHY IS HE NOT HERE TO KILL IT.”
    so sometimes experience doesn’t really help much, haha.

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