JIM CARTER
MYSTES
(Excerpt)

1 Oimelc


It was in the first spring that Lindo cast the square that could grant his wish and vouch for him. The trees had then new whites for his eye that January winds would seed in spots and darts in the bounds of the valley. They dressed invisible lines the wild will take in grief outside of lawful pattern. The fox gathered the winter remains, and what grace there is in vulnerable time was afforded him.

He scratched the sign of the west in the young bark of an alder tree and turned from the wood. Where he sized the valley it was crowned with lips of oak and ash, but they thinned on rough slopes that took the waste from the road into hidden channels. The cutting you could only breach where the stream flowed wide into southern pools, or from higher fields where the course was new. From that meadow source it fell beneath the road in a tunnel only the slight could pass, and even then the further scrub would frustrate the pilgrim. The valley governed the course of his blood, and for the fox, as for a man, there was portion and cup. The skies, too, weighed him for their part, and he made good to rival the square of the champion, as his sires had done. Though his body was rising through cloud in the black north, the hills upheld for a moment the fingers of his left hand, and they seemed to the fox to close to a fist to preserve the night’s intent, though the dream was brief.

Lindo ran the fringe of the wood from west to east, at times taking to the ruts in the lane where the snow was thin. The hunt was out in unfamiliar hours but the white trees that made light of malice had spells enough to forestall the enemy, and men would stray when once beguiled by charms of green ordinance. He knew the woods had store to ease the trials of the faithful living. They worked always against gratuitous hands, and though his travail had equal share of babel and indifference, the fates not seen made intricate patterns for his kind, and the harsh night of traps and deceits did not preclude a subtle meeting. The animal opposes the man in its own way, allegiant to the moon and stars, but the forest too will be its advocate, though cedes its magic without recourse to pity.

Lindo took a line by a hedge, passing a moment through the golden lights of the still house, and he crossed to the edge of the wood. The ewe lay where the road skewed and the gully bowed through trees into eastern fields. She was on her side in the verge, her body calm but for her breathing, fast and short. Full with the first lamb, her winter fleece was blooded at the neck, the snow black in the pit of the wound. The fox stayed his errand, for it seemed to him that she beheld empires in summoned light, and though her gaze belied shock and distress, she had sight of the greenwood not once endowed dispensable lives. When he licked the cut, nuzzling the blood in a stroke from ear to chest, her breath slowed as of one receiving favour from the night and comfort by fortuitous means that are yet foreseen and in league with it's will and propriety.

Illustration by Victoria Lucy Williams

Gunshot crackled in the near wood, and he moved to draw from her until his mouth was full with a warm milk that he did not swallow. It spilled as he left the road and took a downward path on a spur of the valley. On that side where cover was sparse the god prevailed in rowan trees that were so dense that his footsteps crushed the fruit in the snow, and in black and red the prints revealed for a space the southward lip of the pen. Only once on that descent did he glimpse the frith amidst its crystal water. On lower banks the violet stems of dogwood trapped the gaze; and alder trees forestalled with flecks of green and brown the golden fires newcomers would reckon. Soon the woods would thin to a land of marsh and pools, but if in winter hours the wretched paused where the cut was deep, they would find, by virtue of rare winds, the thrumming light.