is an excerpt of the story
by Terofil Alexander Gizelbach
Enchantments: The Many Facets of Magic
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“Once, long ago--
I floated in green seas beneath a cloudy sky--
towering columns that shadowed my swim
and blew to me the scent of distant rain.
But that was once.
The coracle drifted in a
lake of molten gold; the dip of Bogatyr’s paddle trailed fire in the
gloaming light. Scarred, grim-faced, dusty, sweat stained his leather
jerkin as he stroked. His biceps bulged, his neck veined, his tanned
forearms rippled. He worked diligently and with purpose, sculling his
craft towards the setting sun; for a storm, he judged, would strike near
midnight, long ere he reached the port-haven of Innis-Frith.
Glancing up from his
paddling, Bogatyr searched the sky. Wide, pearlescent, touched with pink
and blue, it swept above in rainbow like an oyster’s inner shell. The
water, placid with stillness that comes only before a heavy rain, lapped
against mountains flat, gray, and backlit by the sinking sun. The air,
scented with metal and must, was cool; a freeze, hastened by a withering
of leaves, lingered just beyond. And despite his urgency, Bogatyr’s face
softened. He pulled his oar from the lake, and paused to admire the beauty
of the oncoming night. He breathed, silently and deeply filling his lungs.
A fine time to pass, he
thought, staring longingly past the golden light bands that shimmered
across the water’s surface, and into the lake’s blue-green depths beyond.
For an instant, recalling the massacre of his kinsmen, he was still. His
calm was the sky’s calm, his stillness the lake’s stillness, his thoughts
the dark blue currents flowing beneath.
Turning with a sigh, he
lowered his oar and sculled again.
She rose from the black
fathoms that lay at the lake’s heart, her face a pale lovely oval that
grew ever lovelier as she swam towards the surface. She came from the cold
quiet places—her eyes the ice-blue of the deeps, her naked skin the first
faint flush of sunset, her hair a fanning blonde wave.
Gazing from sapphire depths,
she smiled at him—almost sadly, it seemed: her lips red, enticing; eyes
gentle, beguiling. Entranced, Bogatyr sucked in his breath, forgetting in
his wonderment to exhale.
Laughing silently, she
kicked her smooth legs and flickered again for the deeps, stringing the
lake with bubbles streams that eddied in multicolored ribbons.
Bending over the water,
Bogatyr rubbed his eyes; the coracle listed dangerously close to its
surface as he strained to see. But she was gone, flashed away by a stray
dance of dying light—a gleam of fading whiteness, a spear point dropping.
Bewitched, Bogatyr peered
into the depths.
But saw only his reflection,
wavering in nightfall.
and brooding, the storm swept over Bogatyr as he plied the midnight waters
of Dannish Toon. In the flash of lightening he saw the shore, distant,
unreachable—a dark wall lashed by rain. The gale’s fury grew, wailed. The
lake trembled and heaved. Swells battered the coracle’s thin leather
strips until the reeds binding the hides creaked against the strain, and
the seams, sewn with gut, threatened to snap.
Digging his oar into the
spray, Bogatyr battled the raging crests with a savagery that equaled the
ferocity of the storm, cursing the foam-capped mountains that rose and
rolled beneath him like a serpent’s back, snapping the craft upwards then
Water, black as liquid onyx,
washed into the coracle, lapped his ankles; waves crashed nearby. The
fragile vessel, wallowing in the swells, listed sideways into a trough,
spun like a leaf in a whirlpool.
In desperation, Bogatyr
worked his paddle to turn the bow into the onrushing waves. But the
current was strong, and a second wave, huge and black, roared over him,
smashing the leather bowl into flotsam, and sweeping Bogatyr into the
Riding the water-mountains
as they flung him skyward, he shouted into the gale. Dragged into a
trough, water flooded his throat, causing him to choke. Loosened by his
struggles, his sword slipped from his scabbard. He floundered amidst the
wreckage; thrashed his limbs against his mail’s downward pull. He looked
again to the land, towards the black unattainable shoreline. Felt himself
slipping into the depths; cursed the waters as they closed over his
Then darkness, like the
THE storm’s fury faded from
Bogatyr’s mind even as it faded from the sky; the darkness that had been
cast upon him was dispelled—and, opening his eyes, he beheld her.
Water reached to the sky and
the stars; clouds floated beyond, shimmering as if reflected from a
mirror. She drifted just above like a spirit, a nymph; her blonde hair
forming halos that danced in the moonlight. And Bogatyr thought her
beautiful, naked, and wild; she of blue eyes—eyes like sea-light, flecked
with a shell’s iridescent flash.
She smiled, her teeth like
fine pearls in the half-moon beauty of her mouth. He returned her
smile—and his gaze became a stare, such that, enraptured, he forgot the
need to breathe. He floated unknowing and uncaring of the hours, entranced
and suspended in the embryonic fluid of the lake’s belly. The water
slipped in and out of his lungs easily.
So this is what it’s like to
die, he thought at last, feeling the caress, the quiet, the cold of the
lake currents upon his skin.
“Who are you?” he asked, his
voice betraying his wonder.
She laughed, and the sound,
magnified by the water, was like a bell chiming. “I am Annwyn, Queen of
the Gwraged Annwn, whom you may know as the ‘Lake People.’”
“Then I am dead... or
“Nay, Bogatyr,” she laughed
again. “You most certainly are not dead, though I cannot speak as to your
sanity. As for your presence here, ‘tis my magic that brought you, and it
will sustain you for as long as you swim the waters of Dannish-Toon. But
you must never leave; nay, here you must remain—”
“Annwyn... how is it that
you know my name?” he asked, trying to understand.
She smiled, her face
softening from a laugh, her nose wrinkling from the joy that brightened
her blue eyes. “The mortals called to you at Tannis Forth when you
launched your craft, and I’ve followed in your wake ever since.
Coracles—while sturdy, beautiful vessels—have not the strength to match
blows with a storm. I found you, took you.”
“But you spared my life.
She pursed her lips,
pretended to frown—though her eyes flashed mischievously.
“Because you please me, why
else?” She said, sighing with mock exasperation. “Now, no more questions
will I answer ‘till we reach Gwrageth Anoon—if you can keep up!”
Turning in a moonlight
flash, with a flirtatious toss of her head, she lashed her dainty feet
against the current, and slid gracefully through the water.
Pausing only long enough to
see if he followed.
“Behold Gwarageth Anoon,”
Annwyn whispered as the midnight waters deepened. “City of the Drowned,
Keep of the Damned...”
Bogatyr swam clumsily to her
side and peered below. Night spilled into fathoms, plunging against the
green-gold-white of a distant blaze. The glow, he saw, was from the moon’s
dying, a reflection of filtered rays—and it gleamed like exposed bone from
abandoned walls, silted mazes, and the turrets that had crumbled into
ooze. Flowing in the currents, moonbeams swirled the ruins, light that
lived and died on a cloud’s passing, as the city had once lived with air
and died with the coming of the waves. Kelp swayed in a watery breeze,
fronds waving over commons that in ancient times had been green with grass
and alive with throngs of men. Shelled creatures skittered on spindly legs
and gaped from blank windows. Trout schools flashed, silver rivers running
in silent, empty streets.
“Where are they? Your
people—these ‘Gwraged Annwn?’”
“Gone these many years,” she
said. “And I, but a Lady in Waiting, am now Queen of Gwarageth Anoon by
default. We sinned, you see, in the eyes of the great god, Daethath. Vexed
by our blasphemous words and deeds, he blew his stormy breath upon the
lake, rising it from its bed, swallowing the town and all who dwelled
“Yet, as part of our curse,
we lived on—until...”
She paused, shaking her
head. Her hair swirled before her face like a pale shroud, retreated again
with a flick of her hand. “But enough talk,” she said. “My tales will
wait. First, you rest, yes, and dream. Then all I will tell—”
“I would know these things
ere I slumber,” he demanded, taking her arm firmly.
“Very well,” she said,
casting an anxious glance at what Bogatyr took to be the palace, now a
ruinous pile. “Once, my people were many. They filled the streets with
their numbers like schools of fish, and Gwarageth Anoon was not the
lifeless tomb you see now. But as the years passed, a change fell over the
hearts of my people. Sickening of their endless existence beneath the
waves, they longed for sunshine, craved to feel the wind upon their faces.
At first, many tried to escape, but all who breached the surface
drowned—the life choked out of them by the very air they used to breathe.”
She turned and studied him,
worry lines wrinkling about her eyes. “So you see,” she said, “you will
die if ever you part from Dannish Toon..."
Paradise or Hell? Bogatyr is only
beginning to wonder...