Saturday, 26 June 2010

How Does it Feel? 21.02.2009

Drawing now owned by Catherine Scriven. Was originally displayed at my How Does it Feel? Exhibition in York, 2009.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Father (First published with the Cadaverine,, in 2008)

Winter soggy feet,
on a hunt
for a Christmas tree.
Sinking in the snow
a swampland of
mute but
the landscape sighs,
And I feel good.
He is
leg to hip
And he sinks,
further into the snow
but it isn’t the steel
in his bones,
or his massive guts,
it’s the weight
of his heart.
Snow seeps through my boots,
but not through his.
They’re water-proof.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Old illustration

This illustration is from the old portfolio, originally drawn in 2002.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Kahlo (First published with The Cadaverine, in 2008)

When Frida painted dark eyes,
and bleeding souls,
I was not yet born.
But I was in the colours,
and the brush stroke.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Whore (What the Fire Gave Me) (2009).

This is a painting I displayed at my exhibition 'How Does it Feel?' (2009) in The Habit, York. It is now owned by Elizabeth Davies. Water colours on paper.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Lynx Cycle (First published 2007 in the Cadaverine Magazine:

When she was born her grandmother looked over her little pink body, dark framing eyelashes and yellow eyes and declared that her name should be Loa. Her old and fragile voice crackled in a rough Swedish, whereas her father, completely Finnish with no sole drop of the Swedish language in him, merely grunted like a dog ready to bark. Loa’s mother struggled in giving birth long enough and then her body gave in and her soul escaped in a trickle of smoke nobody else could see than the infant Loa.
Loa was raised on a farm out in the deep Finnish woods, with mighty pine and deceiving spruce enclosing the landscape, and a lake at the edge of the fields. The farmer spoke seldom to his daughter, he mainly managed sheep and cows, and crops. A girl in the house was not something he could manage, so their communication lessened until it almost only consisted by body language, comprehended by nodding or shrugging.

The house was old, red painted with white corners. Inside rested the large black stove where usually a fire crackled, bread in the making. Their television set was old, black and white and seldom used. Indeed technology was something Loa learned to fear as electricity was like the lightning in the thunderstorm and she feared the storms, hiding under the kitchen table with the dogs.
At school she found herself an outsider, but not because she was different. She faded into the background and spoke very little. Her hair was dirty blond, soft as fur, and her eyes yellow and gleaming. She had dark and long eyelashes, making her one of the prettiest girls in school, and attractive in her father’s friends’ eyes. Her skin was pure and strong and would endure falls without as much as a cut on her knee. Over her back were dark, big freckles that emerged over her shoulders on a hot summer day like growing clusters of parasites.
Loa sat on the floor fiddling with a kitten. Her father was out in the fields with the other farmers, the Scandinavian cowboys, discussing moonshine and cattle.
She heard them talk about a lynx out in the woods, a male. She could hear them far across the fields; something she had been taught in school was a matter of empty distances and the speed of sound. But she could hear them as clearly as if she would be sitting nearby with the kitten biting into her fingers. They worried about the sheep, grazing at night with a predator near, but her father corrected them, saying that a lynx will not attack livestock as long as the woods have enough deer and hares. Certainly it would move along soon; lynxes were traveling animals.
Loa grew worried over the cats on the farm; she had heard that lynxes tended to go for domestic pets. The dogs went into a barking frenzy as her grandmother came back to the yard.

In the winter her grandmother fell ill and would not recover because her age would not allow it. She was placed in a hospital, where Loa insisted her father to drive her to every day.
“I will not live through this winter, grandchild,” she said in her country Swedish. Loa’s father merely grunted.
“But you must not cry, Loa dear. I will travel to another place where my heart will be at rest and from there I shall be watching you. But I don’t want to leave this world without having you know a thing or two. Your father knows very little of children and you must not hold that against him. He is a working man, with blistered and rough hands and his heart in the fields. You are not like him Loa, your heart beats in the woods. It has been fourteen years since you blessed our lives, but you are still a child. Before I leave this world I advice you not yield for your father’s friends, they are a bunch of dirty old men. There is a man for you somewhere, Loa, and his heart; it too beats in the woods. You will be entering womanhood soon, and things will begin to change. I can already see your breasts peaking under your shirt.”
Loa shifted in her seat, embarrassed by her grandmother’s remark. She carefully turned her head in her father’s direction and was glad to see the old man’s face occupied in the latest gossip magazine, reading about a local politician’s extravaganza with some younger women.
“Womanhood will prove to be a difficult thing, my dear. Your body will begin to change. You will experience hair growth. You will experience the change of your moods and interest. And there shall be a monthly visitor, which will frighten you at first, but you will soon grow accustomed to it. But by this change the world will begin to notice you, they will smell your fertility. Be careful with what you give away, Loa dear. You might want it back. And keep away from those dirty men by the fields. Keep your heart in the woods.”

The following week, when Loa was dressed and ready to go see her grandmother her father simply shrugged.
“Why not?” she asked, frustrated.
“Grandmother died yesterday.”
“No, she didn’t.”
“Yes, she did. They rang from the hospital.” Her father helped himself to a biscuit to have with his coffee. Loa wandered outside, weeping like a child. She patted snowballs in her hands and threw them at the house. The balls banged against the wall until she could hear her father growl from inside. She ran and hid in the hay loft, trembling of hate and drowning in her grief.

The funeral was dark and cold. The snow under her heels was soft as mush, water slowly sipping into her shoes. She didn’t mind the cold. As the casket was lowered into that dark pit in the midst of snow and flowers, she dried her tears bravely.
Afterwards her father cut her a piece of chocolate cake at the reception. Her grandmother had few friends, all of which had turned up at the event to salute the old woman. But they found Loa peculiar and spoke very little with her. Her yellow eyes were abnormal, they said among each other. When she looks at you it feels as if the devil is staring right into your soul.
It was a new moon when the change arrived. Loa felt confused and distressed but calmed herself as she remembered her grandmother’s words. Out there in the woods was another heart beating, waiting for her. She stood by the hay barn looking out at the black distance. Her fingers ached as the nails started to grow. Her shoulders caved in and she fell onto her knees where the transformation prospered. Her clothes ripped, and she pulled them off because she felt them closing in on her territory, straining her of freedom. It was midwinter but she wasn’t cold. Her thick fur brushed the cold away. She pressed her claws back into the paws; there was very little pain all in all. She smelled things, rats and hares in the woods. Her ears stood up, the little tufts of fur channelling the sounds around her. One paw at a time, she made her way to the woods.
She hunted for birds, and her body was slender and strong. She caught something, a hare white in the snow, and ate it slowly with not a fear in the world. By the next morning she found a comfortable shadow to lie in, the sun felt blistering on her skin.
She hunted the woods for more nights, her bigger front paws making marks in the clear snow, her back paws shifting. She stayed away from the farm, knowing there were cats and dogs around. She didn’t want to tempt herself with flesh that would make her loathe herself if she ate it.
One evening she could feel another transformation. The fur grew thinner and she found it hard to stand on her four legs. She moved closer to the farm and stopped by the barn, now waiting.
She woke the next morning, naked in the snow, freezing. She ran back to the house. It was still early and her father would be feeding the cattle now. She could slip into the house nude, unnoticed.
“So it suits you to return now, does it?” he asked. His daughter had been missing for four days. He didn’t think much of it. She was a teenager and probably had a gang she could set hell lose with. There was probably a boy involved. Hopefully she wouldn’t come home with a child in the belly. If she did the kid would be her problem. Not his.
Loa sat in the chair, in pyjamas, warming her fingers by the stove. She said nothing and smiled into the flames.

People were noticing her. Especially boys. Her father’s friends gave her long looks on their visits. As they would get drunk after a night in the sauna they often approached her, wanting to touch and cuddle. But Loa knew her ways around the woods and could keep away. At school the boys made efforts to talk to her, and the girls started nasty rumours about her, which spread like the plague. This kept some of the boys at bay; they were in an age where reputation was gold and embarrassment death. Loa didn’t care, and her rebellious attitude gave her nothing but grief. But at the next new moon she walked out to the barn and undressed in the cold night. She slowly transformed again, fur upon skin, claws over nails, and her posture sinking. But as she transformed she didn’t whimper like the first time. She purred.
Her father was complaining about a lynx moving too close to his barn. If a lynx was approaching society it could only mean they were low on wild animals to feed upon or that they carried a disease. Loa thought how sad it was for the lynx to approach humans when dying as if wanting a touch, a speck of love before the eternal dark. Her father looked at her with silent dispute and forbid her to touch the lynx should it approach. Probably mad. Probably needs to get shot. This was a warning enough for Loa. By the next new moon she transformed inside the forest, and kept away from the farm at all times.

In March the nights were becoming very hot in lynx’s fur. She halted in the soft snow at the discovery of a new scent. She could hear something deeper in the woods, a short shout which repeated. It was like a moan, or a bark of sorts, repeating in a rhythm over the lake. It came as a heartbeat channelling through the tufts on her ears. She smiled, her bright yellow eyes blinking. She followed the scent eagerly and stopped at the sight of a man, a male, in front of her. Instantly her instincts raged, and she cowered letting a low growl rise from her throat. The male snickered, larger than she, and jumped on her and they rolled in the snow, biting each other. Her claws dug into his sides and he responded in a deep bite in her neck. The pain throbbed and she halted, whimpering. The male let go and began licking the wound. She then responded in licking his fur, matting it with her big tongue. He purred and pushed his head against her jaw, a scent transferring from his fur to hers and inside she could feel her heart jump a pace.
She and the male hunted deer together, which they feasted on in the falling evening. There after they mated, heated in animal instinct and love.

She felt strange, sitting in the house. Her stomach had had some kind of bad reaction to their dinner, she could only sit and hold it. As the month passed she knew she was expecting cubs. April came with showers and snow, and she transformed only to find her lover’s scent to have faded and him to be gone. But inside, somewhere between her growing babies she knew that he would return come next March.
Her father noticed in May how his daughter’s belly had grown and shook his head. He followed her with his eyes as she caressed the swollen stomach lovingly. There was a strange gleam in her eyes, feline. He associated this feminine attribute with evil, he began hauntingly eye every man and boy he met to see if there was a glimmer of guilt inside them. Her daughter certainly was no dog. Who the hell had disgraced her? Was it his friends and co-workers? Or someone from that gang she possibly hung out with? But the phone had never rung for her, not even teachers worrying of her increasing absence. The teachers of her school fully understood the female issues which arrived every month. They understood that it might give too much discomfort for a girl of her age to be in school. They never questioned her belly.
Loa walked out in the woods in June, at the new moon. It was still cold though summer had stubbornly melted all of the snow and planted green on the trees. Her stomach ached badly, and as her body took to the usual transforming she wept. Her stomach was heavy, and she circled the area to see it was safe. She found a place behind a large rock in the hillside and lay down. She was frightened, and wished for her lover to be present.
She gave birth to two cubs in the night, and she licked them clean. They suckled at her teats for the next four days, until she transformed back to human form. She sat, famished for she had had very little to eat, and the cubs kept suckling at her breasts. She made them a small nest of clothes, and brought more each day to cover them. At nights she made a small fire, eating chocolate with her cubs eating at her breasts.
Her father noticed the belly had gone, and was glad. Maybe his daughter had only gained weight? But his eyes still stayed suspiciously on her large breasts, and he kept wondering where the child was all days.

As the cubs wanted more on their menu than milk, Loa brought them raw meat. At the new moon she took them hunting, but found it difficult. The two little mouths were difficult to please, and always, always wept for more!
As a young mother she did all she could but when the woods emptied of most animals, she had no choice but to steer her eyes to the livestock. A sheep here or there would probably not matter. Though her grip was limited in her state, she knew how to open the gates. She hunted sheep for her cubs first for the convenience and then out of laziness.
But her father would not let this behavior pass. There was lack of meat in the pantry, and his sheep was reducing, once a month, almost by the clock. He scratched his chin as he looked in the wet soil for prints, and saw the lynx’s paw marks clearly. At first he thought it to be a dog’s, but then focused and noticed the claws had been pushed back into the paw. No dog print could show that.

Loa knew school was starting again soon. She would have to figure out a plan how to support her younglings and pass her education without arising suspicions. She stared out of the kitchen window in a hollow gaze, tasting blood from her gums. When was the last time she had brushed her teeth?
She saw her father walk across the field towards the house. She rose in a panic. The dog next to him gave a satisfied slobber. It wasn’t carrying anything. Her father didn’t have anything slung over his shoulder. But still she knew.
She ran out of the house, pass him, into the woods. He took little noticed. She forced through moist moss that would eat her shoes, and sharp twigs blinding her eyes in angry whisks. Loa stopped as she saw her babies on the ground, not breathing. They were away from the rock’s protective shadow, the rascals had wanted to go out and play.
She fell onto her knees in a despairing cry, which frightened the birds out of the trees. She sobbed and screamed and hugged her children close, the blood soiling her shirt. Their soft fur still penetrated some heat, but their small bodies were limp.
Loa didn’t notice her transformation happening. It was day and the moon had not been near a new moon in the night. But she changed in despair and grief, clenching her babies to her chest. When she rose onto four feet she gave the cubs a loving push and turned her head to the farm. There was nothing but fury in her now.
She leaped across the wooden paths, determined, smelling her cubs’ blood on her father’s fingers. He stood by the barn. The other farmers weren’t around. Loa didn’t know why. The dog barked at her when she came running. If her father had carried a gun she would have been shot. But he was without weapons and stood in shock as the lynx rushed towards him, looking strangely familiar. The dog did its efforts to protect him, but Loa’s claws needed only to scratch it once across the eyes and the dog fell back in fear, whimpering. Her father struggled to flee but Loa jumped him, tearing at his throat, taking his beatings. Her grip was strong and blood gushed over her teeth, and it tasted like poison. She was disgusted but held her grip steady. Soon his fingers stopped ripping her fur, falling limp to the ground. Loa, drenched in blood, ran across the fields back into the woods where she vanished.


There was this young band traveling, heading for Russia and then down across Europe. It would be their chance to break lose from the Northern charts, and try their luck south. Their van was packed with instruments, which served as hiding places for several drugs and drug related items in case the police should peak into the back.
They, of course, had to pick up this lonely girl in the road. She was wearing some kind of dreadful excuse for a t-shirt. They would fool around with her, maybe scare her, and in the future make a song about her. The girl looked up at them distantly, her yellow eyes estranged. She saw the young rockers with dyed black hair, tattoos and piercing in the van and didn’t think much about it before jumping in. As she did they noticed that the dirty large t-shirt was the only thing she was wearing. And she reeked of mud, crap and something strange, something like blood. She laid down to rest, and all they could do was stare.
“Is there anything we can get you?” one of them asked, handsome and pale, thinking she could probably do with vodka.
“Strawberries...” she mumbled before falling asleep, “Organic.”

Jowel, Son of Eden

The void is comfortable for someone who has spent some time in its dark embrace. Jow wonders how many years it has been since he last had seen the sun.
He gazes over the reflections on the mirror-like wall. The substance reveals memory, the same memories that he sees when he sleeps. Jow imagines the age that has passed since he had last seen a proper dream.
He is lonely, here in the dark. He cannot shut out the feelings, the thoughts, no, not anymore. He has lost that ability. He is lonely, and hungry. Jow wonders how long it has been since he last had eaten.
In the dark, nothing stirs. He leans against the wall. It is peaceful here, in the cave. Nothing comes in and nothing goes out. Jow is surprised that the air is always fresh, but then again he is not entirely sure if he truly is breathing. He sits alone in the dark, only the reflections taunting him to madness. He leans back. Jow remembers.

Jowel was ever a quiet child. He was born into a community in the midst of the northern territory where the winters were fierce and the summers mild. The place was vast and the living bore the same chill as the early winter winds. Here man and woman had roles, which they played gracefully in dim strictness. The man was the head of the family, the provider of food and shelter. The woman was the silent mother who always stood by her man, in the shadow of his pride.
Jowel was born here, and he saw his father high in value. Jowel was the child of Eden, a strong hunter and proud minister of the society. Jowel was obedient and disciplined, and Eden loved the boy greatly. He taught Jowel many things, and Jowel always listened, never questioning anything he was told. He followed the rituals promptly, and sang beautifully as his father would lead the worshippers to ritual.
He was his father’s ray of light.
Jowel learned many things at an early age. His father taught him of other races. Men, the mortal beasts were necessary, for in battle they proved magnificent bravery. Dwarves existed also because they were needed, and had the same boldness as men. This race outlived the human beings, and therefore could be of more use in battle.
“Stay away from the sea, for the water as well as the race that lingers underneath its wild surface, is a threat to our kindred,” Eden told his son. “They are the water elves, and are envious of our legs, and of our lungs.”
Jowel listened well, his eyes blinking from time to time, but otherwise motionless. There was power in his father’s voice, and this always power held him in awe.
“Keep away from the river folk, my son,” Eden explained. “They are the water fairies, foolish and deceiving. They need not be in the presence of the likes of us, for we are far more superior to withstand the likes of them.”
Jowel learned the tales of the flying fairies, which tricked the gods to preserve them immortality. He heard these things and came to hate all races, save for elves. Eden saw this and he was proud.
Yes, he taught his son many wise things. This wisdom was inherited from his father. The wisdom of old, with the tales of elves the first born dancing with the immortal horses before the wrath of men and tricks of fairies, had been told for many generations and it was Eden’s place to see to that the tales never died. And Jowel absorbed and observed his father quietly, never criticizing the ways of the old one.

Time came for Jowel to marry. He chose his bride wisely, and wedded a woman of few years and fine reputation. Jowel had chosen her for her beauty, and came to love her. She, on the other hand, didn’t care for him at all. Their marriage was cold, not unlike Eden’s marriage to Jowel’s mother. The relationship contained only of the awareness of each other’s existence, and soon Jowel’s heart turned from soaring to breaking.
But he played his role well, and acted untouched by the distance between them. After all, it was not in his place to patch their cracking love. He was the man, and the provider of meat and songs in the evening. He would not comprehend his misery, for it was something he was not allowed to feel.

There was a change in the wind. His wife provided him a joy he never thought he could experience. She gave him a daughter, and he held her precious.
He began to see the world in a more lighted view, and this view opened his ears. He began to feel things, real things, not phantoms of feelings like he had in the past. And these feelings offered him decision, an aspect he had never encountered with before. He surveyed his knowledge with a critical eye, questioning everything.
Eden was most horrified to see this manner of independence in his son. It could mean nothing but disaster, and he tried to confront Jowel many times.
“No!” said Jowel, and his father taken by surprise. “I will not submit her to the loathing of this society. She shall grow up free and happy. I will never silence her father, never!”
“Then you will be a speck of dirt in my kindred,” Eden said.
“So be it,” Jowel said. “She shall not weep in silence, father. Too many of us linger in such mist. I shall provide her honesty and I shall teach her to hunt. The roles of this place shall be broken.”
And Eden lowered his head. He loved his son too much to dismiss him. No more words were spoken, but they parted in peace. Eden would not cast Jowel away, though the younger might have turned from grace to filth.

Years passed, and Jowel was happy. The girl admired him, and he saw that even his cold wife was happy. The girl was smart, her voice was strong, and she would always speak what was on her mind. She would play games, learn life by observing and always questioning, and run across the fields with a loud song. Jowel watched her in delight and he laughed.
The rivers in his country would freeze early and not melt until the last days of spring. In the winter, when the ice was thick, the elves would skate. Jowel’s daughter was particularly fond of this. She could twirl and spin weightless over the surface, and dance in the falling snow. Jowel watched her and smiled approvingly.
But the lakes and rivers didn’t like for their peace to be disturbed. One day, when the sky was grey and shared no flakes, the ice broke. It swallowed the skaters mercilessly and their cries still haunt Jowel in the pit of the dark. He was standing by the lake as it happened, and seeing his daughter fall through the dissolving lake took away his reason.
He ran out onto the ice, only to find that the ice didn’t hold him and he as well crashed into the bitter water. He was unable to reach her. He screamed fiercely and fought off the ropes that snared him to save him. At last the elves pulled him out of the water, and his skin was dark red, burned by the cold. But Jowel felt nothing.
Many elves drowned that day, and no one ever touched the iced surface again. He lost his daughter. Thus he lost his feelings once more.

Not many months later his wife died of starvation. Her grief clenched her appetite and she ceased eating. This meant nothing for Jowel. When he had noticed that his wife was beginning to wither, he had turned away.
He didn’t follow her lead. He ate, but found no joy in eating. He ate only because of habit. When the elves dragged his dead daughter from the lake the next spring, he did nothing to support her memory. Life was irrelevant to him again, and death was meaningless.
Jowel moved into his father’s house, where he wandered in a grey mood. He would follow his father to the evening masses, he would pray in his own silence, but the prayers were empty and hollow for he had nothing left to say to the Gods and Goddesses.

Jow looks at his hands. In the dark they are blue, and they are weak. “They look mortal,” he thinks. His eyes are irritated. His kind was never meant to stay in the shadow. He wonders how many years he can survive without sunlight. He has endured the darkness for so long.

He lived in the house of Eden for many years. He saw his siblings marry, and it did nothing for him. He saw more children being born, and he felt not as much as beat of his heart. Nobody mentioned his apathy, for it was never in anyone’s place to say. Indeed it was a shame, of sort, that the elf couldn’t handle death. But at the same time, this shame was acceptable as he displayed his grief in well manners. He was silent, never complaining and never questioning. The fact that he never laughed either was only a detail, and never a flaw.
With the years another change followed. The community was invaded. The Dark soldiers crept in on the society as collected vermin, and everything burned.
Jowel watched his father go in to battle. Jowel watched his mother flee. And as he watched he stood petrified, not of fear, not of grief, but of negligence. The damned lit his house on fire. His family perished and Jowel was untouched and did not grieve. Because in reality, his family was already dead to him.
The Dark soldiers found him curious, standing in the midst of the fire alone, lacking intention to leave. They captured him, and cast him into their dark dungeons. He wept as they beat him, as the whips tore across his skin, but never said a word. The damned starved him, kept him forever hungry, in hope that someday they might be able to hear his secrets in change of food.
Jowel never yielded to such trades, only because he never had anything to say. Then there came a woman, who observed his blankness with great interest. She would enter his cell, not attempting to discuss or punish. She would enter to watch him. Her presence was insignificant to him. She was air taking form, a phantom of a person, a colourless recognition. But she saw something when she saw him. She saw might and power.
Later she would bring lackeys with her, and these would beat him horribly. He didn’t even bother with puzzling the reasons for this; he took the blows by whip or club like a dog, tired of life. One day she came, but was once again alone. Jowel barely lifted his head to greet the phantom, he knew her by smell and sound.
“Would you like something to eat?” she said.
He was quiet, but the thought of food made his mouth water.
“Do you think I shall tolerate silence from you?” she wondered. He was quiet. His clothes were shreds of bloodstained ribbons. And she left him.
She came back the next day and freed him from his manacles. He was still, not showing a hint of surprise, though inside he was wondering how he would approach to kill her. The freedom stirred in him. He urged to escape but strained the thought. The sudden emotions confused him. Yet she saw nothing different in him. He would not allow her.
“Your father was the minister,” she said. “You stayed in his house though it was burning. My soldiers saved your life. Are you not grateful?”
Jowel’s hands were cold. And he stayed silent. So she left him, abandoning his manacles on the floor.
She returned again the following day, and was glad to find Jowel more vital. His eyes once dull and cloudy were now sharp and dangerous.
“What are your meanings?” he said, and she was stunned by the power in his voice. This time it was she that was silent.
“What are your intentions? Why do you insist on taunting me like this? Have the methods of torment changed? Leave me be, you foul spider! I don’t need your fingers clawing my way!”
She smiled and dropped her head to the left. Her eyes grew large.
“Ah, but you know my intentions,” she replied.
He shook his head, not in ignorance but in distaste. The patience she saw in him was not something to waste. There was skill in his movement and she had no doubts in his capabilities. Cold and calculated hatred was not something to waste.
“Do you want water?” she wondered.
“You’re offering me water?” he said. He was already glowing, his posture holding the might of a lion.
“No,” she said. “I’m offering you vengeance.”
His eyes remained on her; he was suspicious to the bone.
“My people killed your father,” she continued. “We slew your mother. We slew everyone you knew, does it not rage you?”
Jowel was quiet, and shook his head. His wish to slay the Dark Souls was not born out of revenge. It was born out of boredom, out of endless darkness and burning lashes. He wanted to kill them because they had bothered him, not because they had ruthlessly burnt the only place in life he had known. She observed his answer tolerantly, standing far from him watching him think.
“Of course there has to be a reason for you not giving an inch of your sorrow to your kindred,” she said. “Frankly it does not concern me, the reasons of your depression. But it keeps me here, and it keeps me alert. You were angry before we came, before we entered your community. Why were you angry? Who’s to blame?”
“No one,” Jowel said and pulled away.
“Ah but yes, there is always someone to blame. Always. Do you think you control your own fate?”
Jowel stirred and looked at her with large grey eyes. What a strange question. He shook his head.
“Of course not. But you are here. And I am here. We are both alive, and one of us is well. The other… well that is only a matter of time.”
“Go away,” Jowel pleaded.
“You think we will kill you if you refuse. We won’t. We’ll break you apart, and believe me when I say that every elf, man, fairy and dwarf has his breaking point. We have all the time in the world. I am wondering how are you to spend that time. Tell me son of the minister, for that’s who you are, aren’t you, are you willing to spend all that time in darkness?”
“What do you want?” Jowel said.
“I want you to listen. I know you want answers, and I can give them.” She brushed her hand through her thick reddish hair. “We serve the Gods and Goddesses. We serve the end. The end of suffering, minister’s son!” She raised her hands, and her voice was mighty. Was she a witch? She certainly looked like one.
“You have been hurt. You feel your soul is lost, gone. What is it that keeps you going master elf? What is it that keeps you alive? Yes, life. The respect of life. We respect life, we do. That is why we are fighting against it. Life is fear, as you are frightened now, little child. Life is pain and suffering. Life is joy waning out in the end of years. You can always suffer. Joy wanes, and suffering lingers.”
Jowel watched her, and he listened intensely. There was a light around her, an illumination that almost faltered her appearance. She spoke true things. He wanted to hear more. He was a moth to her light, and he wanted to know more. She saw this, and she smiled.
“We fight for the end,” she said. She reached out her hand and he took it. He followed her out of the cell. The light on the outside was blinding at first. He had spent many months in the forsaken dungeon, and his eyes had forgotten the brightness of the sun.
His father was dead and gone but he had now a new teacher. The woman told him things he never expected to hear. And she taught him things he never expected to learn. Instead of singing songs in the twilight, he now danced with a blade. Instead of praying for mercy and blessings, he now truly served the Lords and Ladies. He fought for them, he burned the earth! He was a ruthless fighter, a fierce destroyer but more importantly, he was alive. His heart beat strongly, his lungs filled with the cold air. When the wind blew he could hear it, and as the season’s changed he could feel it. And it brought him joy.
He received a reputation as one of the greatest assassins of all times. He was quick and never wavered a kill. He led troops into victory. He flourished and the world made sense to him. Life as he saw it was a mistake. How could something so brutal be worth all the long years? And he rode into battle, destroying cities as he went. But his reputation did not end there. He was considered wise, and thoughtful. He never “played” with his victims, as was in the nature of the Dark Army. He named himself a bringer of death, one who ends suffering. His bloodstained hands were tools of mercy, an instrument of release. His stroke was quick and painless often handled in an elegant motion. Murder was his masterwork, and he was recognized an artist in the field.
He saw the most beautiful places come to an end, and he didn’t mourn them. He knew beautiful places. He grew up in an astoundingly graceful place. And he knew the truth of beauty, he was aware of what hid underneath the grace. So he didn’t mourn the pyres of the cities, the communities in ruin. He watched them fall with utter content. It was his vengeance, his retribution on the Gods and Goddesses that turned their backs on him the day his daughter drowned. And this hate for the world made him wise and strong. It made him what he was.

He gained other things as well. He got a new name, and was known as Jow, short for his real name perhaps, but it carried a different meaning. Jow was something new in him; it was the strong creature that slew the innocent without a shed of tear. Jowel was hidden inside him, the insecurity and the endless sorrow. Jow was proud, the admired leader of the damned. Jowel missed his father.
He worked like this for many years, climbing higher in respects, and it gained not only a troop but an entire army. He was always alone, but never too occupied with his solitude to ignore his soldiers’ queries. The soldiers grew to love and admire him. Jow was fair to his people, but he never saw them as anything else than his servants and that his duty depended on being a great leader. He was cold, and disciplined never loving anything but his victims. And as they died in his hands he felt nothing but exhilarated exhaustion and it was his own universe parallel to the real world. It was his rest, his freedom. And it was his alone.

Looking at his hands now he finds it hard to believe that they have slain countless of people. The skin stretches over the bone like pale leather. Dead skin. He remembers every one of his victims. He remembers the moment of each kill. Sometimes he still can smell the blood on his fingers; sometimes he can still get a taste, get a glimpse of the freedom. It’s all in his head, tempting his sanity.
And what has happened to those strong and proud hands? They are gone, lost in a dream of something that once was real. What he sees before him now is the years breaking down the structure of each finger. If he were fed, taken out in the fresh air, if he could sleep without the dreams of the past the grace might return to his fingers once more. But it would never be the same.

His reputation moved swiftly across the lands. In the north, in the mountain of visions a superior creature grew curious. He looked at the mirror images keenly, watching the pale young elf lead a great army to many victories. And from the north this superior being, Herouses, an elf of the Elastes kind, mightiest that ever walked the earth, waited.
Strange dreams started to haunt Jow’s sleep. The dreams left him with a peculiar feeling, a restlessness and agony for something, something he could not put a finger on. He was being called.
Subconsciously he led his troops north. One day two scouts from the Lair of Mirrors visited his camp, with an urge to speak with him.
“Our master bids a meeting, sire,” they said.
“A meeting?” Jow said, raising an eyebrow. “Why does he want to meet?”
“It is not in our duty to say, sire. You are invited to the mountain to discuss an offering. A business arrangement of sort, my lord. We strongly suggest you not to decline. We are not authorised to leave here without you.”
Jow watched them with deep suspect and loathing.
“I don’t appreciate the tone of your voice,” Jow said strictly. “This sounds more like a threat than an invitation.” He shook his head, and sighed, his arms crossing his chest.
“But I know of the master of Mirrorlair,” he continued. “I know he is not one to deny. The consequences could be fatal. I know he only speaks in threats for it is his way. Therefore I accept your threat, your invitation. Take me to the mountain. Take me to your master.”

Where Herouses walked a light followed. Some called this light magic. Crude and evil magic. It was said should one get caught in the light there would never be an escape. But Jow was not afraid.
Herouses was of higher kindred, the highest among the elves. His heart was as dark as his hair, his soul as damned as his touch.
Jow’s soldiers told him about the rumours and begged him not to lead them the fierce mountain. But their leader was strong in mind and action, and he refused their pleadings.
The journey north was a quiet one. They passed Thudore in a vast silence. As the mountains of Stonevalley grew larger Jow’s anticipation increased. Suddenly he felt like an animal taken to slaughter. His dreams were furious, and he ran in each dream; ran until he tasted blood from his throat, until his heart stopped. But he was not afraid.

When he was brought in front of master Herouses he stood petrified. Never in his life had he set eyes on such beauty, never in his mind could he have dreamt of such splendour!
Herouses stood quiet, enjoying Jow’s awe. He was tall, his skin bright and pure as snow. He wore a dressing that suited his might, and around his upper arms were bracelets of gold displaying his status and power. His hair was long and flowing, black as ebony stone. It rested freely over his shoulders, disciplined and unmoved. His face revealed no hint of age, but nonetheless was old and proud, his nose the crown of his features. His eyes were golden, with glittering specks and they appeared mysterious and loving. But there was something in the air about him, something disturbing. Something unnatural.
“Hail, Jowel son of Eden,” he said, his voice silken and penetrating.
Jow stepped back, eyes teary and heart confused.
“How do you know my name?” he asked. “How do you know my father?”
“I know many things,” Herouses said. “I know your past. I need only to look at you and many things are revealed.”
Jow lowered his head in shame. He felt nude in front of this being, he felt exposed and helpless. Jow was a beautiful in appearance, but next to Herouses his grace withered. There was no comparison between the two; though of the same race, they were of completely different kindred.
“You summoned me here for a reason, my lord,” Jow said.
Herouses did nothing to answer him, but merely watched the young one with hidden joy. His expression was tranquil and his gaze was wise. Jow raised his eyes and met Herouses’.
“You want my army, don’t you, sire?”
Herouses blinked and smiled warmly.
“I want your army,” he agreed.
“My soldiers have asked me not to sell them cheap,” Jow said, gathering strength and courage. But there was something about Herouses, and he could feel his heart beat faster in his chest. The elf was astoundingly beautiful, and his smile grew larger like the sun stretching over the tired landscape of morning. Jow could feel his strength surrender to that smile. Jow could feel himself surrender to the light. Herouses said nothing.
“They fear you, my lord,” Jow said.
“And you?” Herouses said, and approached Jowel. “Do you fear me?”
“Yes, I do, sire.” He was about to add to this sentence, but stayed his tongue.The other was close to him now, and he could feel the magical thrill grasp him.
Herouses moved gracefully, and took Jow’s jaw between his slender fingers. He looked at the young one, the gold in his eyes flickering violently. Jow felt his touch like a burning, a desire, a delightful spasm across his body. He broke into tears, but Herouses refused him to turn away and hide them. He held Jow steady in his grip.
“Such beauty,” Herouses whispered. His gazed wandered smoothly over Jow’s features and halted by a mole under Jow’s left eye. He smiled again.
“A dot of coal to add to the perfection,” he said. “To enhance the diamonds of grey in your eyes. My fierce angel, the one who murders with merciful quickness and loves his victims as he does it, did you know that a mole on an elf is rarer than a blue star? Thy beauty enlightens me, makes me feel like a child. Name your price and you shall have it!” With the last words, he let go of Jow’s jaw with one quick gesture.
Herouses stepped back. Jow fell quivering on his knees, drenched with tears and sobs.
“Only to love thee,” he pleaded. “Only to love thee, my lord.”
Herouses dropped his head to the side and smirked.
“Very well,” he said. “Then that is what you shall have.”
He left Jowel alone in the chamber, and walked out with proud and victorious steps. Jowel was still on his knees and his cheeks were flushing from the recent wave of emotion. He was fooled into selling his army for a silly price yes, but he had done it in good faith and he had done it out of love.

Jow soon grew accustomed to Mirrorlair and its traditions. He found himself a general over a larger army, and led immense troops to marvellous victories. His deeds brought great satisfaction to Herouses. Among the many admirers Herouses had, Jowel was certainly the bravest.
Herouses found the newcomer most peculiar, and his interest grew widely. He decided to bring the elf closer, surely closer than anyone had ever been before.
“Shut the door,” he said. Jowel obeyed. The chamber smelled damp, with a thickness of perfumed oils. There were little furniture, and one large bed with silken cushions and velvet duvets. If Herouses slept, he slept in this room. The candle flame flickered, casting a work of light and shadow over the mirror walls. Herouses sat comfortably on his bed, his skin illuminating his nudeness. Jowel stood petrified.
“Come hither,” Herouses commanded. Jowel obeyed. Herouses rose and stroked Jowel over the cheek. Jowel hid his smile, modestly. His grey eyes were glittering in the flickering light of the candle flame. Herouses untied the strings of Jow’s uniform, with gaze glistening as the bare skin underneath was revealed. Jowel was calm but could feel himself trembling slightly. The touch of Herouses was magnificent, and spread like shivers of warmth and chill across his flesh. His blood rushed in veins, his muscles swelling at the feel of Herouses’ fingertips.
“Your beauty is treacherous, a calamity to my honour. Are you trying to compete with me, son of minister?”
Jowel, aghast, shook his head.
“I cannot get the speck of coal from my mind, young one. You have bewitched me, have you not?”
“No, sire, I have no magic,” said Jowel. “And as for my beauty I have none in your presence, my lord. I beg you not to think such things.”
“And you have the authority to restrain my thoughts?”
“No, sire. I have nothing but love for you,” Jowel said. Herouses laughed.
“You have magic, little brother. Anyone who sells me an army so cheaply is not worthy of my affection. It was a shallow move, and I would have you banished or rather, killed, for such stupidity.”
“Then do as you will, my lord. Banish me, kill me. I will not stand against your wishes.”

Jowel lowers his head. He suddenly feels very cold.

“Ah! But there you see I find the magic,” Herouses said, lifting Jowel’s face gently. Herouses smiled. It was a terrifying grin.
“I cannot kill you, nor banish you. I cannot banish you from my mind son of Eden, how am I to banish you from my life? And you have demonstrated your value child. So my decision was a smart one. You are a leech in my head, Jowel. You torment me.”
“Then kill me, for I don’t wish to torment you, Master!” Jowel said.
“I don’t want you dead, Jowel. What good would it bring? A relief to my mind perhaps? I think not!”
His hands grabbed tightly around Jowel’s neck. Jowel didn’t stir. He wanted this. But Herouses’ hands did not tauten, and instead of death he provided Jowel with a gentle kiss. For a moment Jowel was convinced his feet had left the floor. Then reality smacked him cold in the face. He could not understand what had happened. His body was numb. He had moved but was still standing in place. His cheeks were burning but not from actual touch. He swallowed and gasped for air.
Herouses moved back. His face was blank, and his eyes revealed no emotion.
“You were once a singer. Your voice echoed against the forests in harmony. Sing for me, little love. Sing for me a ballad, a song, a tale.”
It had been years since Jowel had let note escape his throat, but he needed no warming and no tuning. His voice remembered. His skill had sustained.
As he sung Herouses pulled a jewelled dagger from one of the cushions. Feathers escaped in a silent blizzard. He stared at his own reflection. He placed the blade against Jowel’s skin, yet there was not a change in Jowel’s song. He was mortified but comforted as well. The blade did no harm on him. It tickled him gently and danced in circular movements, its metal reflecting his pale complexion.
Herouses drew it away from him. Suddenly he placed his hand on a table made of black wood, next to the bed. Then he thrust the blade right through his wrist. Jowel’s song broke off in a scream and he headed for the blade in intentions of drawing it out, but Herouses shoved him away in one powerful punch. Jowel crashed into the floor and it felt like his body would break, but he didn’t care.
“Please Master, stop it, stop it now!” he pleaded, crawling on the floor, weeping like an infant. Herouses stared at him with fire in his gaze, and trembled from the pain. Tears spilled over his cheeks and blood gushed over the dark table.
“On your feet!” he hissed and drew a deep breath. Jowel rose carefully. His sobs were hysterical, and his head was swooning. Herouses pulled him close with his free hand. Then he pulled out the dagger with a loud cry. Jowel cramped from the sound of Herouses flesh ripping.
Herouses raised his arm, and the blood painted his pearly skin crimson. He raised it high and trembling, and then put the wound to his mouth. Jowel was shaking like a leaf in front of him. Herouses lowered his arms and kissed Jowel with blooded lips. Jowel was weak in his embrace, and the blood soiled his perfection. But it tasted good and was flavoured with might and terror. Jowel answered the kiss hungrily, tasting every drop of the essence. Herouses pulled him away and served the wound to Jowel’s mouth. Jowel sucked the wound, his mouth filling with blood, with power and fury. He ate it like a crazed man, and it filled him like no food ever could. Hot as fire, thick as smoke it absorbed him, a little at a time, biding its time as it ruled over his intestines and rolled through his bones. It was heat, it was cold, it was eating him and he was drinking it, and it pulled him into the wound, into delirium and equilibrium, and it poured over his tongue and gashed against his lips, it was fire, it was rage, it was lightness, it was darkness, it was everything he could enjoy and everything he could suffer. The flow that escaped his mouth trickled down his chest in a path of red threads, burning his skin. He ate what he was given and during that time there was nothing else in his world. It was as if he saw the life escape all of his victims at once, exhilaratingly amplified by the force of Herouses.

Herouses pulled away, and Jowel’s legs deceived him. He bashed down on his knees, swaying back and fort. His mouth hung open with teeth bloodstained, and he let out a gasping laughter, which died out in a cackle. Then his balance gave in, and he fell to the floor. There he lay quiet, breathing carefully. He felt ill, and was overwhelmed by the enlightening sensation that pulsated through every limb. The scars from battle and torture disappeared silently as the blood worked through him. The redness over his legs from the piercingly cold water vanished. No wound would leave a scar on him again; but for the last beating he recieved before the fall of the mountain and these wounds scarred by choice. Herouses lifted him carefully and placed him one the cushioned bed. He held the arm so that Jowel could see it, and the wrist healed itself, not leaving a single trace of the mutilation. Jowel closed his eyes and breathed in. The light burned his brain, though in fact the chamber was very dimly lighted. The one candle was burning out. Herouses covered over him, and slowly with his tongue followed the paths of the escaped blood.

Jowel’s memory here fades. He cannot recall the night properly. The images have always been somewhat unreachable, but there are fragments. He remembers that they came together, at some point, during the night. But he can’t place the manner of their love making, nor can he recall how long it lasted. In his mind the sexual pleasures seemed to last for ages, but knowing better he was aware that the possibilities for this theory to sustain, were diminutive.
No laws were altered, but it was nothing like Jowel’s earlier ventures. He cannot remember anything unexpected by the event, except for the event itself. His senses were stronger, and his skin, limbs and loins were sensitive. Every touch, even the smallest breath, was experienced as electric waves that tickled his nerves delightfully, pulsating in his veins with love and lust
He can remember the sound of his heartbeat. He can remember the sweetness on his tongue. He recalls the feeling of Herouses blood rushing through him in an ecstatic rumble. But all else is dim and dark.

No nights with Herouses were the least similar to the first one. Perhaps Herouses saw it unfit to offer Jowel another glimpse of his power so intimately. But Jowel saw the might of Herouses in many other forms, and found most of the rumours about him true.
Herouses was more cruel than loving, and no prayer could heed his hand. He ravaged in the mountain, raping, hurting and slaying his own people. He did this without the slightest hint of remorse. And he didn’t spare Jowel from that cruel hand.
He would hurt Jowel, and humiliate him. Jowel remembers how his arms often broke in the crude falls, the horrible assaults made by Herouses. But the bones healed quickly, unnaturally swiftly because of the powerful blood inside him. He bore Herouses’ magic, if only a little, it was enough to help him survive his master’s hand.
But there were nights that Herouses was gentle, and these were the nights Jow lived for. He would then release all of his fears into the void, even though sometimes Herouses’ mood changed with the breeze and he could turn cruel after long moments of affection. Jow was a puppy, a pet who always came back no matter how horrible beaten. He hated Herouses for all the pain he caused, but never ceased to love him.
Often Herouses injured Jowel, just to spite him, to see how long it would take until his lover turned on him. And when he saw rage burning in Jow’s eyes and his limbs quivering of fury, he would laugh and call Jowel a coward for not fighting back. Jowel would weep, and beg him to stop taunting him. Herouses never did.

Jowel misses him greatly, and his heart aches by the very thought of him. He would give anything for one more night. Even if it would be a night of hatred and not of love. Only one more touch, cruel or kind, anything.
But all he has are his memories. He could not even find his lover’s body after the breaking of the mountain, but he knew him dead. It did not surprise him, the disappearing of Herouses' body. He was of higher kind and different value. His body was never meant to linger after death. When a light goes out it’s gone.

Jowel was the only true lover of Herouses. Yes, there were others in the master’s touch, but never in his bedchamber. He lured his victims, and sometimes willing preys, into dark corners of the lair. He didn’t cared for the victims, and never touched one twice.
Jowel knew his place, and was proud. Their relationship was secret, which was all for the good. Jow would never have wanted his soldiers to see his true status in the mountain. He was a fool of a lover, but it did not blind his wits.
“I fear, dear Jowel,” Herouses would say after a passionate night, “that someday you will bring the end of me.”
“Please no, sire, do not speak of such!” Jowel would answer. “I live only to serve thee, Master. I would never turn against you nor plan anything like it.”
Oh, how right Herouses was in the end. It was not Jowel's hand that slew the mighty one, but he had turned against him and he had failed him. He had broken his oath, and he still weeps for it and pleads for death to bring mercy into his life.

Herouses’ affection was brutal, but it did exist. In their early years Jowel found one of Herouses’ victims lying in one of the dark tunnels. He looked upon the carcass and wept in silence. The boy was young, not near manhood yet. His complexion now grey sludge, bore fragments of the lustre that used to shine in his cheeks. His blond tresses lay around his head in a petrified frenzy. His neck was twisted to the side and broken, now leaning in the most perverted way. His mouth hung open but his countenance was blank. His eyes were dull, with that glassy surface of a dead man. His genitals were torn to shreds, as if by some mad animal. And behold, what was under his dead eye, but a dot of coal, a mole of perfection!
This caused a wave of panic across Jowel’s senses, and his instinct told him to run, hide away! Obviously his mole was not a shield against the fatal hand of Herouses. He pulled back in fear and realized this was why nobody had cleaned away the carcass. It had been dead for some time, surely it should have been found earlier. Herouses had forbidden anyone to clear it away, for it served a purpose. It was a warning. Run Jowel, run from the man you love!
But then his mind cleared and he looked upon the dead body once more. And came to realize it was not a warning. It was a gift. Herouses had killed a boy that could measure up to Jowel’s beauty, to Jowel’s individuality. He was disgusted by it and hated Herouses nearly as much as he loved him.
He gently pushed the mouth shut, and closed the eyelids.
“Oh, little one,” he whispered. “Did you know at all what you were headed in for, joining the Dark Forces? What could have driven your restless soul to this madness? And now you sleep, died in vain for vanity. Did you cry when you realized you were not to survive his touch? Did you weep when you felt his hands grasp your neck to break it? Were you afraid?”
He paused and swallowed.
“Are you happy now, where you’ve fled? Are you at peace?”
He covered the body with his cloak, and carried him out of the mountain, to the other side of Stonevalley, and buried him on the moors of Thudore, where the ground was soft and moist. He never mentioned it to anyone, and soon forgot all about it.

Their love was strong, and Jowel was never again questioning its pillars. But after many years he grew afraid, for another loved enter Herouses’ thoughts. A prince from the southern parts of the northern continent. One of mighty blood and sweet innocence. ‘Mightier than any blood around’ Jowel had overheard Herouses say.
Herouses met this elf on a journey southwards, and since then could not get him off his tongue, though he knew not the name until after he heard the elf to have died in captivity, tortured to death.
Herouses refused his passing and demanded search parties. He would not rest until he had the man in his arms. And Jowel knew that his time with the master was waning, and that there would never be room for the both a general and a prince. He knew that the prince surely would see Herouses’ bedchamber. Perhaps he would even taste the mighty one’s blood as well. And he had to accept it, in quiet misery. Jowel waited to be executed, so that the new love could take his place. But Herouses never killed him. Instead he sent him away more often and grew annoyed with his company. Jowel’s heart was breaking, but he found nothing else to do than to obey, and to wait.
He would serve his master without question, until the end. He stood by this oath, and he stood with the strength of both legs. And his loyalty was beyond reckoning. Until he met Aratrambaiel the Blue.

Jowel breaks down. This all took place so many years ago, already counted as history in the world of men, but to him it was the same as yesterday. He sobs loudly, rubbing the spine of his nose as if trying to cure a headache. He is so tired, every breath causes nothing but pain. He shudders. The mountain moved. It rumbles as certain amount of times each year, but this movement was different from the rumbling. It is changing. He dries his tears and looks up.
The air turns moist. The stone howls, as if the mountain is giving birth. He calls out to the stone, and begs it to smother him, knowing that it wouldn’t.
But it turns violent, a vertical quake stretching from above into the core of the mountain. The floor is cracking but Jowel sits still. He is not afraid. The movement hurts his muscles, which have nearly rooted the rock behind him. The floor shudders from crashing boulders. For a second he truly believes that the mountain has decided to crush itself into rubble, and then the world is silent again. Dust rises from the floor.
He feels a fresh wind brushing his cheek, and knows that the wait is over. He rises stiffly and looks around. The room he has inhabited for the past five hundred years is still dark, but he can perceive the change in the low light. He doesn’t remember the air being this fresh. He breathes in, ignoring dust particles that irritate his throat.
Now he is frightened. Almost too frightened to take the first step towards the opening he can sense lies somewhere before him. But he walks knowing this is his destiny. He follows the air, and the path before grows brighter after each turn. Soon he will be out of the darkness. It is early spring on the outside.
He follows the air, the light wind and he knows exactly what he is supposed to do. Had he not been prepared for this since that faithful day all those years ago? He feels insecure of his steps, but does not falter. He has to walk this last path, the last mile of his life. He has to walk this final meander, before he can rest. Before he can finally sleep, to never wake again.