In The Distance 5 – Fairy-tale Blessings

Who doesn’t love a good fairy-tale?


Did you land in the middle? Go to Page 1 to start the story.

*Narration Change. Ciaran is no longer telling the story from first person perspective.*

The next morning Ciaran awakens to find that Áine is already out and about visiting folks and a half pot of dandelion root coffee  is on the stove, still piping hot. He pours a cup and takes in the sights and sounds. Everything seems as it should be. Perhaps today will be a good day to talk with Donnchadh, The Tinker as most people called him because of his love of gadgets, metalworking and scientific experimentation. He might have some thoughts about last night’s sighting, if you could call it that. Or should it be Eamhair, The Seer who could give some insight about it. Of course, as he and Áine agreed, it would be best not to run around telling folks:

“Oh, the stalkers are coming, the stalkers are coming!”

But it wouldn’t hurt to ask a few questions and see if anyone else might have seen something strange or have some thoughts on what sort of creature might buzz like a big bug but not quite and hover around above the tree tops at night casting a shadow that doesn’t look quite like a bird. First, and foremost though, how about going back down to the fishing spot under the big black walnut tree to see what there might be to see this morning?

A Fairy-tale Setting

On the way down to the opening in the thick growth of arrow bamboo which grows along the banks of the nearby creek there is a grouping of trees common to these parts called honey locusts. These trees have some thorns on them that are sharp, strong and come in lengths of 4 inches (10 cm) or longer. They can be very useful for making tools and putting things together but if you don’t watch where you’re going they can very easily go through a shoe or a foot. Most of the people who grew up here know to watch out for them but a few have ended up with some pretty nasty injuries to their feet over the years which has served as a reminder to themselves and others not to just wander around willy-nilly without looking where you’re stepping. Snakes, spiders, scorpions and other biting, stinging critters can also give one a bad day. Never turn a log over with the bottom towards you, always away, just in case there’s a snake underneath waiting to strike. Just one of the many things kids learn growing up in these woods. So, as Ciaran made his way past the thorny honey locusts to the grove of black walnuts he was looking closely, especially when he approached the biggest, darkest of the trees in that particular grove growing just a few steps away from the bank of Aodh Creek.

This spot has been a favorite of Ciaran’s for as long as he can remember. As a child he spent many summer days fishing for catfish, perch or crawdads for a quick and easy meal or gathering the black walnuts whose shells were hard as rock but the sweet, tasty meat inside made them worth the effort. But on this day, he saw something up in the top branches of the tree he had never seen before. Something glimmering and shiny like gossamer but in the shape of a wing but impossibly large for an insect or even a bird for that matter. “What the Hel?” he thought to himself. But it was too far up in the branches to see it very well. If he wanted to examine it, he was going to have to climb up into the top of the tree. Oh, in his younger days he had climbed this tree many times before but  he was older now and not feeling as indestructible as he once did. So the prospect of making it all the way up there where the branches became thin and the drop was probably more than 100 feet (30 meters) if he slipped  seemed daunting. But still, whatever that was up there looked like something out of….well out of a fairy-tale.

Oh sure, Ciaran believed in the fair folk. Just about everyone in this community did and some of the traders even have arrangements to exchange items and services with a group of them who live up in the Appalachian Mountains to the east. Some people with “the sight” as it’s called have even seen them around here in these woods but as everyone knows, they have a way of not being seen when they don’t want to be. So, Ciaran, like many others, believe but have never actually seen one of them. Still, a fairy-tale was no trivial matter in these parts. Could this thing up in the tree be an actual fairy wing and if so, how did it get there? Surely it must have hurt to lose it? Is the shining one still around and are they injured? Of course they’re injured, fuck, they lost a wing! Do they need help? Better tread carefully though because everyone knows that dealings with the fair folk can go either exuberantly well or horrible wrong depending on their nature and the circumstances. Not every fairy-tale has a happy ending. In fact a lot of them don’t.

You see, this group of people are descended from a loosely based collective of folks who once lived in cities to the west just as the world was going through major upheavals and changes. These people weren’t like most other citizens in the world at that time. They didn’t think like them, they didn’t act like them and they had a different set of values from the majority of mainstream society. Even their spiritual beliefs were outside of the norm. They could see the direction things were moving in and knew they didn’t want to remain in the cities as life was becoming increasingly difficult for common folks there.  They were members of a group who called themselves the Alliance of Pagan Eclectics or A.P.E. for short. To this day, members of the tribe colloquially refer to themselves and others as apes as a nod to their origins. Grandfather and the other A.P.E.s loaded up trucks full of equipment, supplies, and other necessities and, at the invitation of some friends who owned some land in the Piney Woods, moved out here to establish a permanent encampment in the forest. They brought their values, their beliefs and their ways with them. This fairy-tale is just getting started. Ciaran heads back up the path to Donnchadh The Tinker’s roundhouse to borrow a ladder.

Come On You Apes!

In The Distance 4 – Life Outside Civilization

Has there ever really been civilization?

When civilization doesn't seem so civilized.
When civilization doesn’t seem so civilized.

Did you land in the middle? Go to Page 1 to start the story.

Suddenly, I was startled back from the meandering thoughts which filled my mind.

“Eat your stew before it gets cold!” Áine admonished. “What’s on ya anyway?”

Áine is a sturdily built woman with a heart-shaped face and high cheekbones. Her curly red locks frame a face that is capable of exuding both mischievous playfulness and murderous fury in the blink of an eye. She’s been my companion for nearly two decades and we chose one another as hearth primes shortly after reaching our ages of majority within the tribe’s reckoning. In our tradition adulthood is not achieved at some fixed number of years at which some may be mature and others not. Instead, tribal elders and achievements make the decision when a person’s rite of majority shall take place and the person is considered an adult with full rights within’ the community. More on that later, on to the question at hand. Do I tell her or do I brush it off as my mind playing tricks on me?

“I saw something near the creek above the big black walnut tree. I think it might have been a stalker!” I blurt out before even realizing I had said it.

“WHAT?!” Áine gasped, eyes wide with shock at the news and it’s potential implication.

“Are you SURE mo chuid den tsaol and if you are, WHY did ya FECKING lead it HERE?!” her shock beginning to turn to anger.

“No, I’m not sure. I heard a strange buzz and saw a shadow through the tree branches that didn’t look right but it was already dark out and I had been drinking some mead. I thought it might be my imagination. I stopped by the stone circle and looked and listened but there was nothing. It might have been nothing or it would have followed me I imagine.” I stammered.

“Well, let’s hope it was just a trick of the mind then. Did you feel any sting or notice anything else? Off with yer clothes, let me look you over!” she ordered.

I did as I was told and Áine looked me over for marks, blemishes, anything that might have indicated that I could have been tagged or darted by the thing if it were a stalker. Finally, satisfied that there was nothing out of the ordinary she turns to me, pats my chest and looks into my eyes.

“Now, listen to me Ciaran” she says in her most serious tone. “Not a word of this around the tribe. If it had been something we surely would have known it by now and if nothing else out of sorts comes up there is no sense getting people worked up over nothing. However, it might do to have Griogair pass the word among the perimeter guard to be on extra alert just to be sure. The veil is thin right now and what you saw and heard could be absolutely anything but until we know for sure it was a stalker there’s no point in claiming it so.”

“I agree mo thaisce. We don’t know that it was anything other than the usual denizens of the forest at this point and it’s best to go about things calmly until we know otherwise.” I sigh.

We sit down to finish our meal with no more words as we watch the fire and listen to the distant pounding of the tribal drums, people hooping, dancing and feasting in celebration of Samhain and in honor of our ancestors. Everything sounds so, normal. Surely it was nothing I saw and not worthy of worry. I don’t mean to give the impression that our people live in constant fear of the outside world, what some might call civilization, and that we are completely cut off from what happens beyond the safety of our home “safe zone”. In fact, we have provisions brought in by traders and other contacts. We barter regularly with trusted people with whom we’ve had long established relationships. We receive news of what is happening out there and get access to needed medical and survival needs so that we can go on living free. Not like the poor folks who don’t belong to the privileged classes in the city. Although the air and water quality is improved from the time that grandfather and the others broke away, life is still very heavily controlled and difficult for common folks there if you aren’t born into the right family with the right connections. Civilization isn’t very civil for far too many people out there and we prefer the life we’ve made for ourselves here.

Civilization And Us

We enjoy more freedom and we’ve made some interesting discoveries which give us a bit of an edge. There are things the mundane world doesn’t see because they have never learned to see them or they choose not to. There are energies at work in the world that, if you learn their ways, can benefit you. Magick is real and some of our most gifted sisters and brothers can do surprising things when the conditions are right. There are others who know this too, even a tribe of descendants of the Tuatha de Danann living in the mountains to the east in the old state of Tennessee.  We sometimes trade with them in goods which we can acquire for them and services they are able to bestow upon us through intermediaries both of our tribes are familiar with.

There are others living outside the cities, as we do. Mostly one god people, monotheists as they are called. Folks who believe in a single divine entity who is in charge of everything and has no counterparts or family. ‘People of the book’, Grandfather Caol often called them. Most of them are good folks but some of them are violently opposed to us and our way of living so we tread carefully when dealing with people of that persuasion until we have a better idea of what their leanings might be when encountering ‘the other people’ (us).

Áine and I embrace by the fire, pull our blankets over us and let the soothing rhythm of the distant drums lull us off to sleep.

NEXT PAGE – Fairytale Blessings

In The Distance 3 – Grandfather’s Tales

Grandfather knew the ways of the stalkers and their masters.

The Old Gods Are Watching. Grandfather too,
The Old Gods Are Watching

Fiction by TroyCianaodh Óg” Young

Did you land in the middle? Go to Page 1 to start the story.

My grandfather’s name was Caol which means a narrow channel or strait in the Ulster and Scottish derived dialect of Gaelic my hearth prefers. He raised me from the time I was eight as my own father, his son, was taken ill by a terrible fever and convulsions which quickly took his life only a few days after an encounter with a stalker while harvesting pawpaws on the outer edge of the loblolly grove not far from my home. It wasn’t unusual for those who came within close proximity of the machines or the strange people associated with them to come down deathly ill soon afterwards. I’ve heard stories of an entire clan of hundreds who were visited by a group of people with the machines and were given food, tools, medicines and blankets as winter was approaching. According to the visitors, their actions were “charitable” in nature. But a few weeks later a wandering trader happened upon the encampment and found nary a soul left alive. Clearly a sickness took them all, every man woman and child . Quickly too! Most of the food remained untouched and people were lying in their beds, mouths agape. The trader left immediately for fear of contracting the illness and the the area is still given a wide berth by travelers to this day.

Grandfather was an elder of our tribe for a long, long time and people admired and respected him for his wisdom as well as his knowledge of the forest, the weather, and the “before times”. He taught us that food was plentiful if you knew where to look and medicine could be found in the plants that grew near by as well. I recall him speaking of a grouping of stones that his father told him about far to the east, near a vast ocean of water called…Atlantis was it? On these stones were written words about living a life in a so called “Age Of Reason” in which one of the principles called for maintaining a human population of around a half billion people world wide. That sounds like a mind numbingly large number to me, having never seen more than maybe a thousand human beings gathered in one place in my entire life. Oh, I’m sure one could see more people in the cities but I’ve never been to one of those places. Yet, Grandfather Caol said he remembered a time in which the world human population was known to be over 9 billion living folks and people the world over could speak to one another as if they were in the same place at the same time. But, even with this great power of communication, people kept to themselves a lot and stayed within their own circles of close friends often at odds with others over seemingly trivial things.

He established the perimeter guard, a group of our best archers, and marksmen to watch for passing stalkers and disable them before they can penetrate the outer defenses of the tribal lands. He warned that things with wires, the material known as plastic and other trappings of technology, while useful, could also trigger more stalkers to come to our area. They seemed to be attracted to such things. So, the use of these items has always been kept to a bare minimum within the tribe and great care is taken not to allow too many to gather in one place. “Too many artifacts together are like a beacon to them.” he told me.

He should know. Grandfather also told me that in the “before times”, as a child, he would spend hour after hour, day after day immersed in games of sight and sound in imaginary worlds produced by these devices. Video games, he called them, virtual realities sometimes too. It sounded somewhat like using your imagination, as we all have done as kids, using a stick and pretending it’s a sword, or a gun or perhaps a bow and arrow. Except, there wasn’t a stick and something else was doing the imagining for you.  I wondered, if this lack of exercise for their bodies and their imaginations as well might have led to their loss of atunement with the energies of nature and channeling. After all, you must first be able to imagine a thing before will may act on it and bring it into being. An entire civilization of billions of people who were almost completely out of touch with the cycles of life? It seemed unimaginable but Grandfather Caol never seemed prone to telling a fable unless it was well understood from the beginning that it was, in fact, a fable.

But, yes, the technology of the, for lack of a better thing to call them, masters of the stalkers, is something my grandfather was very familiar with and his link to that world was one of the greatest benefits to our people and the tradition when it came to keeping us safe from harm. “Know your enemy.”, I remember him saying time and time again. Know your enemy indeed…and what might our enemy know about me? Should I tell the others about what I heard and saw out by the largest Black Walnut tree near Aodh Creek where I often catch crawfish for a quick snack? The strange buzzing sound like a hornet but, too choppy to come from natural wings? The dark figure lurking above the canopy of the tree? It was a frightening silhouette and the sight of it reminded me of what father told grandfather he saw just before feeling a sharp sting in his neck. The spot raised up a welp and soon after, when he got home and told us what happened, he was taken with the fever, convulsions and gasping for breath. As a child, I was ushered away to be spared the experience but I already knew that dad would soon be passing through the veil.

NEXT PAGE: – Life Outside Civilization

Why We Need To Believe In Things

You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?

Hogfather - Believe
Hogfather – Believe

What an excellent philosophical point here. Well worth considering and in some ways reminds me of the observer effect which may or may not occur when things alter their behavior based on the state of mind of the observer.

Please note the words “in some ways reminds me of” are not synonymous with the words “is exactly like”.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”


“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”


“So we can believe the big ones?”


“They’re not the same at all!”


“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

In The Distance 2 – A Story Of A People

Sometimes, people do a fine job of adapting to their circumstances.

Ancestor - Old People.

Fiction by TroyCianaodh Óg” Young

Did you land in the middle? Go to Page 1 to start the story.

I sit by the fire with the woman of my hearth and heart, pour a cup of tea as she dips stew into two bowls for us. I recall a story told to me long ago by my father’s father about a great civilization which fell from misguidance and misdirection. The people and their elders had lost touch with the ways of their ancestors, lost their reverence for the old ways and the ways of Mother Earth. They had become arrogant and short sighted. Not considering the consequences of their actions not only upon themselves but the generations which would follow them.

A time of widespread disease, war and famine followed. Water from the rivers was unsafe to drink, fish unsafe to eat, even the air unsafe to breathe. In the vast cities people would go about with masks upon their faces to filter the air for them to breathe. The people would have to toil daily to afford to buy the filters to clean the air and water to make it safe to drink and breathe so that they might live. It was a time of darkness and sadness among the people and some say that to this day, in the cities, people are still living this way. Born into servitude and dying in servitude. Every move they make carefully watched and recorded by the stalkers, machines made by men to follow and control other men’s lives.

Grandfather said that in times past there were vast fields of crops and orchards of trees bearing fruits and nuts that were pollinated by swarms of honeybees. The species was nearly wiped out generations ago by a combination of pesticides, fungus and an increase in the Asian hornet population. Today the honey bee is highly prized and revered. When a hive is discovered it is usually protected constantly by members of the tribe against predator species. Diseases swept the lands which mankind had once thought he had vanquished with advanced medicines. For a time these microbes were held in check but they evolved and mutated until the medicines were no longer effective and the immunity which once protected the people was no longer a savior. The cities became filled with the sick and the dying and The Morrigan was seen flying overhead often in those days.

It was disturbing, the tales my father’s father would tell on those nights at the fireside. But here, now was a time of health, gratitude and happiness. The food forest planted generations ago among the trees in this land of the pines provided an abundance for the people who lived here. We were one of many tribes who broke away from the system put in place by men who would control other men’s lives for their own, greed filled desires. The third harvest of the season was well underway and the people were preparing to celebrate Samhain. The veil was thin and it was rumored that some had already been visited by loved ones from the other side. Lorcán McDonnell said last week that he caught a glimpse of a brownie in his brewing hut but I said ol’ Lorcán might have been sampling too much of his own stout. But, then, Lorcán’s brews have an uncanny, almost magickal quality about them. Mayhaps he has been getting a bit of help from the Aos sí? 😉 Grandmother was a particularly gifted seer and used to tell tales of seeing the fair folk dancing in the twilight outside a mound near the home where she grew up to the west. It is said that they are attached to the tribe and are never far away, even protecting us from interlopers and stalkers from the cities.

“Tell it to the bees'” she would say sometimes when we would have a grievance against one another or over life in general. I was never sure if she meant it as a dismissal. Did she consider our complaints too trivial to occupy her time and want us to go talk to the bees about it and leave her alone or did she actually consider that the bees would intervene on our behalf? I know that some consider bees and birds to be messengers of the gods who observe the activities of man and then tell the gods what they see. Spies of a sort. Like the stalkers in a way. Spies and assassins in the case of the stalkers.

These are the reasons why we are all taught from an early age, the arts of camouflage and covering our tracks. Lest something or someone follow us home and kill us and everyone we love. It has happened to others and could befall us too if just one of us are not careful to keep the perimeter safe and watch for things which don’t belong. There are sights and sounds which belong in the forest and there are others which do not. Those which do not belong must be avoided or taken care of by whatever means necessary for the good of the tribe.

I once knew a young boy of about 14 who, it is said, was tracked by a stalker and, realizing it would follow him home given the chance, instead ran out beyond the perimeter of the established “safe zone” to lead it away. He was never seen or heard from again but everyone considers his actions heroic for such a lad who was just about to begin perimeter guard training. Offerings are made each Samhain at the altar of the ancestors in his honor by all who live with us here in the thick, piney forest. His family is held in high regard and are offered the first choice in whatever cut of meat is available for the feast. Protect the forest and protect the tribe!

NEXT PAGE: – Tales From Grandfather

In The Distance – A Clearing In The Forest

The forest provides food, shelter and sometimes a place to hide.

In The Forest
In The Forest

Fiction by TroyCianaodh Óg” Young

I am in the thick forest growth among the briar vines near the old creek trail trying to find my way to….somewhere. Where I am going and where I have been are not clear to me as the effects of the mead still linger but I know that I must press on. The earthy aroma of moist soil, tree bark and the distant smokiness of a campfire fill my nostrils. Behind me I hear the sounds of drumming and people singing, laughing and celebrating but I have already been there, among my people, joining in the festivities. But now, I need to press on through the forest, to another place. The leaves rustle suddenly as a small creature is startled by my presence then a squirrel scurries up a nearby tree, stops and turns to observe me, making sure I intend it no harm. I continue my journey as twigs snap beneath my boots and my staff helps me steady myself over the uneven terrain.

What was that thing? I wonder to myself as I move as quickly as my legs, and the terrain, will allow. How did it get here, so far within the outskirts of the ‘safe  zone’ if it was what I suspected it to be? My heart was racing and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears as the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and on my arms. Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Maybe I am making a big deal out of nothing. It could have been a frog I heard and an owl passing over I saw. But, it’s awfully late in the season for frog noises and that didn’t look like an owl’s shape. I should probably talk to our seer about it or maybe pick Teutates brain over it. He is the most technically savvy person still living I know within the tribe and he might have an idea or two about what it could have been. Maybe one of the two of them will set my mind at ease. I can hope anyway. I’m not so sure though. My “gut feeling” as they say is that I saw exactly what I fear I saw and I, scratch that, the entire tribe could be in grave danger because of it. Should I even be running this direction? Perhaps the sensible thing to do is turn around and go back where I came from. “Should I stop and observe the skies for something out of sorts?

Thorns In The Forest:

No, I’ll press on. I’m probably just overthinking things. I wasn’t really all that hungry anyway so why did I bother going there? Watch out for those locust tree thorns! They can go right through the thickest soles if you don’t watch where you put your foot. They make great nails for building things though. “Yes, stop trying to run and walk sensibly before you hurt yourself.” I scold myself as I hear my mother’s voice echo in the recesses of my memories.

I come upon a small clearing in the thick forest. A gathering place with large stones arranged in a circle around a single tree. Here, deep within the perimeter, is supposed to be the safest place of all. A place where we can have such structures in the open without fear of bringing undue attention from outsiders. I can tell this tree has been touched by many hands over the years as it’s bark is worn smooth around the trunk at about waist to shoulder level for an average sized person. Hanging from it’s branches are offerings, a beaded necklace here, a feather fan there, some trinkets, ribbons, stones wrapped in cloth hanging by strings. At the base of the tree are many small statuettes, a drinking horn, some pottery. I instinctively touch the tree and a memory rushes into my consciousness.

An old medicine woman is at the tree with one hand touching the trunk as another passes a lit torch to an old man. She is chanting as she passes it to him and he in turn passes it to a younger man, the younger man passes if to a boy and says something about keeping the traditions, the old ways alive. That boy was me!

What is the message of this vision? Am I being reminded that I am responsible for the safety of the tribe as every other member who has passed through these rites of passage are? Will I bring shame and worse upon myself and my family by running home when I should have taken other measures? Will I be the one to extinguish the torch? I stop for a moment. I look and I listen but I hear nothing but the usual sounds of an early Reed Month forest. No strange buzzing and no shadows in the clear, starry sky. “You’re running from your imagination you fool!” a voice inside my head says. Well, my imagination can be one scary son of a bitch I respond. It’s true, I have imagined some pretty messed up things in my life and, thankfully, most of them have never come to pass. But there’s always a first time for everything they say.

I continue my journey for I know I am getting closer. In the distance I smell the fire and the savory scent of something cooking. Behind me I can still hear the drums. The trees again are closer together and vines grow thick along the ground and up their trunks, into their branches. Finally another break in the trees and I can see a small, simple shelter made of branches, screens of bamboo and reeds, a roof of thatch. A woman is huddled over the fire, tending a pot hanging from a tripod. In it boils a stew of potatoes, corn, carrots, onions, meat. To the side another kettle is steaming with fresh brewed tea. She looks up as I make my way into the clearing carrying my sack across my shoulder. She smiles and says. “You are home.”

NEXT PAGE – A Story Of A People


Chris - The Story Reading Ape
Pssst! Hey, do you have a story to tell too? Promote your writings with Chris – The Story Reading Ape