Plague pits and haunted woods (photos)

*waves quickly* I’m still alive here. I’m pushing hard to finish Resistance before I go away at the end of March, which is looking increasingly like an impossible task (I’m less than 70% done). That said, I’ve made good progress over the last few weeks. I’ve rewritten all of the chapters I chopped out a month ago and more. I’m deep into the bleakest stretches of the book which I’m increasingly realising isn’t really a romance. It’s about redemption, as much as anything and the love story is just part of that. It’s an essential part, because Iskandir has to struggle to realise that he is worthy of love again, but it’s not the main story. 

Here, just as a quick little Sunday snippet, is where he and I are right now:

The meadows where midsummer fairs had stretched out in rows of bright pavilions were gone, as was the quiet place by the river where Cezmi of Salma had met his end only a month ago, his hands cradled in his god’s. Now the ground was torn and pitted, the dark earth showing through the thin snow. The pits stretched out like the marks of vast claws, long, thin and deep. The Dual God rode with the cart to the side of one of them and watched as the dead went tumbling down into the wet depths of the earth. As soon as the last of them had fallen, another man came up, hefting a shovel and began to scatter some of the heaped soil over their tumbled bodies, sealing them below the earth.

“Are you coming back into the city, Lord?”

“Not tonight,” the Dual God said. The digger beside him was not the only one working amongst the graves. He hadn’t thought that there was a worse job than transporting the dead, but here it was. He would stay here until he had put his strength and resistance to good use.

He walked through the burial ground, picking his way between the crumbling edges of the pits and fires built between them, which offered the only dim and flickering light to move by. The air was full of ash and shadows, and the distant voices of the drivers and diggers exchanging comments seemed as thin and faraway as ghosts.

He came around the corner of a mound of excavated soil to find a lone man digging out the end of a pit, extending it further from the city. No one else was in sight, and the Dual God paused for a moment to watch him. He was moving slowly, with the loose heaviness of exhaustion, but he did not hesitate. One spadeful at a time, he dug out the heavy soil, heaving it out to add to the dark pile behind him. Only when the pit got deep enough that he needed to stoop right over did he hesitate, clutching his back as he straightened with a groan.

“Give me your spade,” the Dual God said, stepping forward.

 

I’m rather enjoying it, in a slightly grim way. Of course, it also has its disadvantages. I decided to walk home from work along the bridleways on Friday, which in retrospect was a bad idea, as I ran out of daylight miles from town. Luckily there was a beautiful bright full moon to guide me through the last stretch until I finally came out on the main road and all the subtlety of the night was lost to the glare of sodium and headlights.

There’s one short stretch of that route which is the only footpath in ten miles which ever unnerves me. It’s one of the very, very old paths we have around here, that runs along a sunken track through the pine woods above the ruined abbey. Even in the height of summer, the wind sighs through those woods. I got there later than I wanted on Friday and was just into the really creepy stretch when I blithely thought to myself, “Hey, should you really be thinking about the plague dead as you walk through the ghost woods at dusk?”

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I have never walked that stretch of path so fast in my life XD By the time I got out onto the lane at the end, the hairs on the back of my neck were on end and I didn’t have the nerve to look behind me. Even worse, the moment I stepped out onto the verge of the lane, most of the fear just seeped away. I didn’t shake off the last of the creeps until I was half a mile down the next path, up between the witch’s cave and the moonlit swamp (which was also the point when I decided to distract myself by imagining Emyr and Heilyn’s wedding instead of plague pits). I really need to write a happy story soon.

Despite that, it was a pretty walk. I put some of the earlier photos up on Facebook, but here’s a few here as well. This route home takes me 2-3 hours so it’s a Friday treat in summer, but I love it, creepiness and all.

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