Thursday, October 27, 2011


(Cleft in the rocks at Porth y Rhaw, Pembrokeshire)

There once was a small wildhaired popkin named Jram who lived in cliffs above the sea. She had as companion a sleek beastie with fur spotted grey and green like the rocks above the surf. They dwelled in a cleft they had to enter sideways, but once inside it opened up and was quite dry, with a bluestone hearth, a tiny spring, a snug bedshelf, and room for an overstuffed chair beside the fire.

Jram and her beastie rambled several times a day over the beach and the heights above. Jram collected seaplums and queen-kelp, duneberries and butterroots. She made gravy from the butterroots to pour over her beastie's grain cakes each night. And at sunset, every sunset, Jram sang a long heart song out over the Western Waters, toward the spot where the sun was quenched by deeps.

To earn her coin, Jram relied on what the surf returned to land. Coloured bottles and exotic planks, trumpet shells and the bones of whales -- her frequent perambulations found these sometimes. More regularly it was amber, relics of ancient forests, and she was adept at spotting the tiniest grain. Sometimes her leather purse hung heavy with amber as she walked the mile to a village over the head.

In the village lived her best friend Dhas, who was a trader with a large noisy family. Dhas gave Jram gelt for her gleanings, or swapped them outright for spices, silk, and thick candles which smelled of perfume. Jram had dinner once a week with this family, whose little ones called her Auntie and crawled all over the patient beastie.

At the other end of the village lived two elves, Yar and Bor, who likewise made it their business to look after Jram. Whenever she came to town to buy butter, bread, jam and tea, she took a meal with the elves, and sat with them drinking stone wine until the moon was well risen. Yar was a weaver, and his soft multicolored blankets filled Jram's bed. Bor was a bookbinder, and his leather volumes stuffed the shelves in the seaside cleft.

When Jram returned home, she was always glad for the peace of her hideaway. Across the inside of the cleft, attached by brass grommets she had to polish against salt air, was a layered drape of oilskin and wool that kept out most of even the worst storms. A rocky overhead on one side shielded her home from direct blows by the wind. Sometimes at night a cunning wraith of cold would snake through with a whistle, trying to find a way out once it had got in. The beastie, curled in the chair, would awaken and listen with eyes that gleamed, but then tuck her nose beneath the cushion and snort back into sleep.

Jram had a savings, hidden in a pot beneath her bluestone hearth. She played pipes, allowed the beastie to hunt and devour orange crabs (though Jram would eat no animals), and counted herself rich in friends. Still, there was her need to sing to the sunset every eve.

(to be continued)

Copyright 2011 Maggie Jochild.

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