The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 19: The Right Inspiration

Contrary to popular belief and perception, that what we call ‘Time’ does not actually or even remotely obey the course of a straight line. Time is a funny old business and one day in the distant future scientists will master the means to empirically substantiate that it is a property of existence composed of balletic proclivities that truly border on the voluminous and spectacular. Besides travelling ahead-ways, it can scoot up-ways, down-ways, side-ways, diagonal-ways, reverse-ways, and also, in-between-ways. Now, as human beings we are indeed constituted of rather restricted physical dimensions and that adds a veritable spanner in the works, for our perceptual faculties cannot cope with the infinite tributaries of time and thus if anyone strikes up the fancy to hop from one timeline to another they will surely come to a horrid impasse, as well as serve themselves up for ridicule from the conservative mainstream community!

A Muse is of a different matter altogether – literally!

She or he can blot out the monotonous terms and conditions always associated with the physical dimension, skipping the rule of linearity and crossing over to any timeline of their choice. They can in effect change the course of history. What I have omitted to tell You thus far is that though a Muse is destined to ignite the spark of inspiration into her Chosen One, her birth is not a spontaneous event. She did not arise from nothingness. She was inspired into creation by another Muse, and, once in a while, that Muse can take the form of a human

Rianna hurtled through space and time in the guise of a spinning ball of energy and carrying in her were the blueprints of all the adventures she had experienced with us. When she opened her eyes she found that she was no longer in the company of her four friends. Instead, an impressive beige-bricked, gothic bell tower doused in the glory of the warm autumn sunshine pealed the air with its rhythmic tolls of the bell. The tall spires of the astounding architecture around her seemed to want to touch the roof of the blue sky, and yet at the same time her attention was being amusingly diverted by the riverine flow of students cycling away through the narrow winding streets below. What a fetching chirp there was in their mutterings as they roamed to their respective Universities. She noticed groups of well-behaved students striding enthusiastically to their classes, although one or two of them indubitably shared an eccentric charisma about them and they loved to flash their hands about as they dabbled in talks on this and that! It was when she saw their attire that she was satisfied that she had arrived at the right time – in the right time! The young men were suited in fine tweeds with ties, whilst the girls wore heavy knit cardigans and long skirts, and hair that was either quite short or tied up in taut buns.

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 19: The Right Inspiration

“… When she opened her eyes she found that she was no longer in the company of her four friends. Instead, an impressive beige-bricked, gothic bell tower doused in the glory of the warm autumn sunshine pealed the air with its rhythmic tolls of the bell...”

No one seemed to notice her and she liked that. Mustering up all the fortitude she had left in her, she reassured with herself that she knew precisely where to go – an old English pub on the high street not far from where she was stood. She walked discreetly in its direction, careful not to rouse any kind of suspicion in case if that were to foster unnecessary complications in her path.

When she arrived outside the small building she was immediately swept up in the tasty and pungent aroma of fish and chips, and the fermented scent of the traditional English ale. Timidly she opened the oak door and stepped inside. The first thing she noticed was the rich dark wood, there was so much of it, timbered through the walls and beaming across the low ceilings. She felt she had entered the heart of a tree. On one side the modestly-sized counter was packed with students and professors engaged in sprightly intellectual discussions whilst downing handsome tankers of ale and the chap at the bar looked friendly enough to throw the odd cheeky comment that led to noisy uproars of laughter and claps. Rianna smiled away. She was always mesmerised by the warmth of human congeniality. She side-stepped away from the counter to observe that on the right-hand side were very tiny round wooden tables patterned with surfaces that resembled the design of a chessboard. She was intrigued and stroked the surface of one of these tables before resuming her search. She scanned each occupant of each chair but everyone appeared to be in happy spirits without a care in the world. Had she made a mistake and leapt into the wrong place, or time even?

And then she saw him.

In a dark corner, against the wall, a lonely man sat by a table. His body was hunched over and his arms were crossed down on the table so that his face was buried and hidden from the world. His grey tweed jacket was carelessly slung on the back of his chair, on the brink of tapering off the edge, and the rolled-up sleeves of his white shirt, stained on one side by ink that had not quite been washed out, indicated to her that he was suffering and that no one knew it. In front of him splayed out on the table with a sort of defeatist indifference were his notebook and fountain pen. As she came closer her heart felt a shuddering grievance to see that his notebook was completely empty. The words had deserted him and he, a heavy and companionless void, was shrinking away into the solid sands of the table. There was a spherical glass lamp above him and that too did not wish to keep company with the man. Its light was faint and faraway.

She came right beside him and knelt down so that her lips were in line with his ear. And she whispered, softly:

Hello…

He did not budge.

I hope you can hear me…”, she cleared her throat and glanced back over to the room just to ensure that no one could see her. “I want to tell you something. You see, there is a little girl – a good friend of yours – and she is not born yet and won’t be for a while, so you will not meet her in this life”.

The man fidgeted and scratched his ear. His head was still buried in the enclosure of his arms.

She will not not come from these parts. Her land of birth will be unlike the austere winters of England. Her first cries will be welcomed under the blazing orange sunshine of the bluest of skies, and in that month when she shall be born there will be the music of rain, its beats consummating with the lips of umbrellas and earth. But… “, and Rianna paused to smilingly reflect on the strange turnings of destiny, “… it is your shores in England that she will eventually come to make her home. This little friend has sent me here so that I can pass on her message to you”.

At that he slowly lifted his head from the table and stretched his eyes out before rubbing them rigorously with his hands. He was dazed and confused and began to dart his eyes all over the place because he thought he had heard someone speak to him.

He could not see Rianna.

But he felt her presence.

She looked at him with tender admiration. “I know you can hear me…

Who said that?” He was startled and gulped hard. He surveyed his cup of tea and promptly dismissed the insane idea that something so harmless could be responsible for what he deemed to be hallucinatory voices.

I am the free essence of her, the eternal aspect of her soul. I am her Spark.

He writhed a bit at first, mystified and then his breathing began to grow calmer and calmer, indeed from a distance he would have appeared to be a man immersed in the deepest of contemplative musings.

She wishes to know you better in the life that she will be born in. She wishes that you write beautiful stories and that you never shirk away from that endeavour because that is what you were meant to be. And if you so happen to desire to shake her hands in gratitude then put that in one of your stories. I am sure she will be pleased by it…

Who… what are you…?

Her form suddenly collapsed in on itself. It formed a tiny firefly of orange spark and it fluttered and swayed and dived before swimming towards the shores of his weary eyes where, with one last ecstatic brightening, she melted into them for eternity.

The round glass lamp above flickered once and then twice and then it came on, a steady and full-bodied illumination that drove out the shadows that had far too long haunted him in that cavernous corner. He picked up his fountain pen and pulled his notebook towards him. Taking a determined sip of his tea, he sat up straight and courageously soared his fountain pen over the snowy white sheet before landing the nib deep into its fine smooth flakes, and in them he scrawled the name of my Inspiration

What happened next? ♥♥♥

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 19: The Right Inspiration

“… The round glass lamp above flickered once and then twice and then it came on, a steady and full-bodied illumination that drove out the shadows that had far too long haunted him in that corner…

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Oxford | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 17: The Joy Of Reading!

Not a person in the world would have ever guessed that the ever-shrinking silhouette of the old and ruinous castle from which we were now walking away from was not long ago the site of a most extraordinary battle, a combat whose outcome came to decide the fate of human creativity.

Myself and the others did stay on a while longer to unlock the countless other cells that were tucked away in discreet corners of the subterranean catacombs scattered underneath the complex foundations of the castle, and indeed we were speechless, all of us, by what we saw in them. Muses older than Rianna herself had been brutally poached from their destined paths and flung into prisons so that their dormant sparks may later be fed upon. It was a gruesome and systematic scything of the spirit of learning, human history denied the invitation to know of minds touched by the blessed hand of inspiration.

What will they do now? Their Chosen One must have long ago perished?” I was taken aback by the scene, crowds of forlorn Muses slowly dragging their exhausted bodies out of their respective dungeons, occasionally nodding their eyes at us to convey their gratitude for saving them.

They know what to do. They will need to find others… like you…”, Rianna turned to me and once more she was in my eyes, searching, “… only your kind can sew the tears in the fabric of time…

My kind – ?” I was about to finish my sentence when Alex pushed me forward from the back so that I was propelled ahead of everyone like a wheelbarrow, comically steered by the wayward mischievousness of a very cheery young fellow!

Aunty Mazzy, look who’s here!” He was as excitable as an electrical current!

Who?!” I squinted ahead and saw her stood by a fluttering white tent and she was wearing her characteristic congenial smile, the most beamiest in the world and indeed more so than a thousand bags of the ripest tropical fruit!

It was The Crone!

She walked gracefully over to us. “I knew you could do it! The witch of the night has been defeated!” She extended her hand out and I shook it firmly before Alex slapped his hand over ours, and we chuckled out a hearty laugh, and the air filled with the pleasant and good mirth of comradery.

I should like to remind you that it was not all my doing…”, and as Sachi and Rianna now sidled next to me I smirked at them approvingly and then returned an appreciative gaze over to The Crone and said, “… our victory today was won by our trust in one another. We are a veritable fellowship!” And then I stepped back and pointing my finger at Rianna I swept it along so that everyone was pointed at, finally ending the imaginary circle with me. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’d say we are the REAL FAMOUS FIVE!” To that conclusion Alex clapped his hands and soon there was a fantastic commotion of applause and noisy cheers! In his bright happiness, Alex sprinted out and ran a few metres in the direction of the castle, for he was adamant that he was not leaving the scene without administering a legendary pose that was befit for the legend that we had made today!

Aunty Mazzy, tell the world that we rocked the pillars of hell!” I was downright confounded and tickled by the ingenuity of his wit, and I noticed that The Crone had masked her mouth with her hands because underneath she could not contain her sudden outburst of giggles!

Alex, you are one outrageously wicked child and we love you for it!” I grabbed my camera out of my carpet bag and captured my adventuresome young chap in a pose that he had most definitely and legitimately earned the right to declare to the world!

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 17: The Joy Of Reading!

Alex sprinted out and ran a few metres in the direction of the castle, for he was adamant that he was not leaving the scene without administering a legendary pose that was befit for the legend that we had made today! “Aunty Mazzy, tell the world that we rocked the pillars of hell!”

In all the hilarity I retained just enough composure and sense of mind to catch sight of The Crone lay her motherly palm on the crown of Rianna’s head. The Muse bowed her head slightly lower and holding her tears back and after a stillness that showed of her timidity, she gave in, stepped forward and embraced the wise woman. Someone had poured the syrup of a million jars of honey into the canals of my own heart, and that is how I would describe it, for there was really no other way to compare in words of the joy that waved through my veins as I witnessed their reunion sparkling with new life in the soft village breeze.

As is customary for me, particularly after a daunting adventure has been perfectly wrapped up, my tummy initiated a series of great big rumbling sounds and I was overcome with a peckish fever! If I did not stock up in the belly there was a very real likelihood that I could faint! I needed food and a cup of tea on the double! “I say we all head out to the tearooms for a spot of refreshment!

Oh Mazzy, you are always thinking with your stomach!” Sachi shook her head in a mock display of pity.

Mum! Be quiet! I agree with Aunty Mazzy! I am so hungry I could eat a whole zoo!” How marvellous that Alex had valiantly come to my rescue and defended the validity of my suggestion!

I think we could all do with something. Rianna and myself would love to join you, too – of course, nothing for us, we will just sit and talk”. The Crone was more than delighted to follow on through with my course of action! “And… I think Rianna could do with the rest.” In a very quiet and thoughtful manner, Rianna whispered ‘thank you’, and it was just hearing that tone of sweet and sincere indebtedness in her words that made each of one of us want to protect her for as long as we lived. She was the source of a great power that defined the flowering aspect of the human condition, and yet behold the inexplicable irony that she was insofar that in equal measure she was a thing of great fragility. What a fine line existed between durability and vulnerability, a contrast poetically represented in the coexistence of the rose and the thorn.

But as we jaunted towards that fine tearoom, feet back on the grey meandering cobbled streets and we once more cosily cloistered by the nostalgia of narrowband roads and tiny stone cottages, I found myself treading slower and slower until I came to a halt, unaware that my friends had paced ahead without me. Earlier in the day, before setting off on my quest, I had promised myself to purchase a book from the bookshop should I return unharmed and victorious. It was an ever so small shop whose outer façade was lovingly weaved of a patchwork of muted stones and whose low thick rounded windows resembled those that one would observe glistening in a traditional English pub, and the doorway itself could barely cater for the entry of one person, and thus, with immediate efficacy, all concerns related to food and tea vanished! I was beautifully hypnotised.

You wish to enter…” Rianna brought me back to the present. She had noticed that I had deviated from the group and had limped back to learn of what had happened to me!

Oh no, it’s nothing, let’s march on to the tearoom!” I knew how tired she was and in light of that I was rather cross with myself for slowing down our party. The others had now gathered around me and judging by their unsurprising expression I figured that they had detected exactly my reasons for putting on the brakes on my sneaker and sneaker-less feet!

You have helped me, now… let me help you…”, She took my arm and gently pulled me towards the entrance of the bookshop.

No – no! You don’t need to do this!” How awkward I felt for being so malleable to my own passions as to lead my friends astray from the paradise of gobbling scones and the slurping down of steaming brews of black tea!

She whispered into my ear, playfully, “I know of your book project…”, and then beamed a rosy smile at me.

How do you know that? How do you know so much about me?” I was in awe of how she expertly saw through me and was able to peruse the eccentric articulations of my thoughts! I had already predicted that she would not reply to my poser, it was her way of always ensuring that an air of mystery lingered about her.

No sooner had we stepped inside the shop, pronounced by the starry tingle of a bell, that we were transported into a magical cave of wonderments of the written word. Books were stacked up-ways and across-ways, and the smell of old wood and hessian bags fragranced the air with the soul of Muses and the sanctity of inspirations that they planted into their Chosen One. I do not know if anyone else took notice but I was certain that Rianna grew new colours in her cheeks and eyes as she floated and danced in this indoor forest world of masterpieces. She rubbed her hands together and I swear I saw an orange spark dart across the pupils of her eyes. “Thank you… thank you my friends for saving me from the darkness. I will never ever forget the courage… the love… the faith… that each one of you have shown me. I am a Muse, the Giver of Inspiration, so today…”, and she looked intently at me, “… I wish to bestow upon each one of you in my circle a gift – a book medal”.

I could not believe my ears!

I can see your Soul and what it yearns for, what it aspires to… and I think it would be very right of me to show you what that is.” Rianna strolled over to a shelve of books and with one graceful stroke she slid her finger across the entire length of spines, from one end to another. “And I will show you that gift of knowledge using books.” Teasingly, she shifted her head to one side and raised her eyes at me, “Do you have that magic box with you?

Yes, yes – I do!” I ducked down and slipped my camera belt over my shoulder and was ready for this scrumptious treat of the unexpected!

Very well! Wait here everyone, I will return!” She happily sped off in search of the so-called book medals whilst we jittered with anticipation, and in my own mind I was thoroughly but amusingly addled and awestruck by the change I saw in her. The new glow to her skin and the unmistakable spring in her step made all that we endured worth it!

She promptly returned with a pile of items that she hid behind her. I do not know how it happened, but the rest of us had unconsciously gathered into a sacred circle so that Rianna was able to address everyone and when need be, the person to whom she called out to, could easily step forward and accept their book medal. A momentous proceeding was to take place and I had not the foggiest idea of what this creature of Good Magic had in store for me.

Dear Sachi”, and Sachi gingerly stepped forward, “… in honour of your profound maternal Light to your son when the raven of shadows seemed their darkest and endless, I hereby gift you what you are – ‘Little Miss Sunshine’.

Sachi could not help shedding tears of joy, and as per tradition in Japanese custom, she was bowing in reverence as she held the book in her hands. Rianna patted her arm and smiled.

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 17: The Joy Of Reading!

Dear Sachi”, and Sachi gingerly stepped forward, “… in honour of your profound maternal Light to your son when the raven of shadows seemed their darkest and endless, I hereby gift you what you are – ‘Little Miss Sunshine’.

Dear Alex”, and he naturally bounced up to Rianna, “… in honour of your great and untimely sneeze, for if that were absent in our story so would the opportunity not have come for a fallen metal man to redeem himself. I hereby gift you the lesson that sometimes it is the smallest of people that can inspire deeds worthy of legends, and thus you are – ‘Little Mr Sneeze’.” Alex could not believe his eyes when he saw the book that so perfectly encompassed that pivotal moment in the chapter of this story. He was ecstatic and skipped on the spot before hugging the Muse and thanking her! She let out a laugh and pinched his freckled cheek.

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 17: The Joy Of Reading!

Dear Alex”, and he naturally bounced up to Rianna, “… in honour of your great and untimely sneeze, for if that were absent in our story so would the opportunity not have come for a fallen metal man to redeem himself. I hereby gift you the lesson that sometimes it is the smallest of people that can inspire deeds worthy of legends and thus you are – ‘Little Mr Sneeze’.

Dear Crone”, and when she said these words The Crone was startled that she had not been missed out in this impromptu award ceremony, “… in honour of your unfathomable wisdom and leadership in the face of frightening adversity I should wish that since you are old and wizened you ought not to curve your back so much when reading!” Alex burst out laughing and Sachi was quick to silence him! I could not help it either and trumpeted a giggle before realising that it was rude of me to make fun of the Muse’s words, however, The Crone herself was more than comfortable to have a joke cracked at her expense! She smiled away quite happily! “I hereby gift you…” and there was a pause impregnated with the suspense of the ages, “… a book rest!” Rianna handed over a bit of blue plastic which when folded up could be used to rest a book open, leaving the hands free to make tea and eat cake or cast spells or whatever, really! The Crone graciously accepted her gift and frisked back into the circle. My goodness, did she feel like a million pounds or what!

And then it was my turn…

What happened next? ♥♥♥

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 17: The Joy Of Reading!

Dear Crone”, and when she said these words The Crone was startled that she had not been missed out in this impromptu award ceremony, “… in honour of your unfathomable wisdom and leadership in the face of frightening adversity I should wish that since you are old and wizened you ought not to curve your back so much when reading… I hereby gift you…” and there was a pause impregnated with the suspense of the ages, “… a book rest!

 

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Blackwell’s Bookshop | Oxford | UK 2016
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 16: Eat To Beat!

I had now, with cringing certitude, come to the end of my own tether as I heard Rianna scream and keel over backwards, landing on her elbows and then using them to frantically crawl away from the mountainous hard-skinned terror that steeped before her.

Noooooooo!!!!!” Rianna cried and things turned exponentially hopeless as she spun round to catch a brief glimpse of what lay behind her, and when she saw that there was nothing but a brick wall a few metres away, her mind buckled and caved in and she began to feel giddy and sick.

Arcana swivelled her large body and was now completely facing in the direction of the fallen Muse, and I observed for the first time the hideous bulk of her tail, a beast in its own right that I surmised was invested with its own independent free will to exact malice without the need for sanction by the demonic intelligence of its master.

My forehead layered in dripping sweat and my shoeless feet bleeding from the heel, I stared at Alex and he stared back at me. We saw in the eyes of each other a mutual understanding. We had encountered the maws of death far too many times to now plead for surrender or accept resignation and quit from the duty that was placed upon us. There was only one thing for it. The idea naturally fell into place and we both locked onto it at the same time, for this power to communicate to one another using only the channel of the mind – a language unseen to the rest of the world – shimmered into force and now was the moment to put it into good employment.

Edging ever closer towards Rianna’s helpless form on the ground, Arcana moved in and the Muse saw so clearly that the eyes of the beast were wild and flickering with deranged and piercing rage. The monster had not solely suffered an injury and blow to her physical body earlier in the upstairs chamber, she had in essence received a damaging whiplash to the very egotistical nature that fuelled her desire for world domination. There was not a chance in the world that she would now let up. Each one of us was marked for death.

Alex, can you hear me?” I addressed his mind.

He smiled and nodded. “Yes, Aunty Mazzy, I can hear you.

Good. We came here to save Rianna and we are going to do that….”, and I paused and glanced at the receding footsteps of the monster as they teasingly drew closer to the Muse, “… but we can’t let her win, either.” I extended my hand and rested it on his shoulder. “I need you to do something and it won’t be easy. It isn’t easy…. because it is the right thing to do.

He puckered his lips and his eyes, now wide and motionless, trained on mine with an astronomical degree of attentiveness.

After I had explained my plan to him I ended my thoughts with four words. “Do you trust me?

He covered his hand over mine and smiled. “Always.

Sachi stood over us, perplexed and feeling like an outsider. “I don’t know what the two of you did there, but whatever it is you better do it quick! Look!

The shadow of Arcana’s figure had now totally eclipsed the fragile and sprawled figure of Rianna and with a low rumbling grunt the snout of the beast, livid in slimy gunk, descended down in a sinister and teasing manner which rendered Rianna unable to move or say anything. She was paralysed in cold terror, for her pale cheeks that moments ago saw the first hint of blossom red, was now a slab of fleshy fodder against which Arcana took a madman’s delight in abrasively rubbing her reptilian snout. Up and down, up and down, up and down. Rianna shut her eyes tight and from them a streak of tear fell. An eerie silence proceeded and there was a pause. Rianna cautiously opened her eyes and saw the beast still fixed on her, and then it moved its mighty head back and the eyes grew coal-black and the jaw expanded to reveal sharp towers of white teeth, and she was just about to bite down when something extremely unexpected jumped in her way!

Did you know that eating too many fruits can seriously rot your teeth?

Yes! In between Rianna and the beast, there stood a little boy with his arms casually crossed behind his back! Alex!

A glaze of confusion fell over the eyes of Arcana, however it soon dissipated and we could tell that this was one indignation too far for her to endure. Her breathing grew heavier and heavier, and all the mass of muscles in her legs and neck tensed taut as like a stretched out elastic band.

Meanwhile, Alex used his hands, that were hidden from Arcana’s view, to signal to Rianna that she had to hurry and move out of the way. She stumbled in her fright but managed to hobble away and join Sachi. The two ladies held on to each other. When Arcana realised that she had been duped, her pent up aggression exploded into a terrible ROAR and she pounced forward to devour Alex!

And before Arcana could even lay a single tooth on the boy, with the expertise of a seasoned discus thrower, I launched a single ORANGE into the air, my aim designed to follow the specific trajectory I had already calculated and envisioned in my mind. The orange ball spun and spun and spun in the air, a firework of the sun and all things that belonged to the phoenix world of the Light. Whisking past Arcana the orange docked neatly into the ready and open mouth of Alex and he in turn clamped down his jaws and teeth into the succulent shell of our prime weapon and in a split second a jet propulsion of rich citric juices shot out and hit straight centre the eyes, the snout and, most significantly, the mouth of the beast. Arcana screamed in writhing pain and retreated back.

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 16: Eat To Beat!

… The orange ball spun and spun and spun in the air, a firework of the sun and all things that belonged to the phoenix world of the Light. Whisking past Arcana the orange docked neatly into the ready and open mouth of Alex and he in turn clamped down his jaws and teeth into the succulent shell of our prime weapon and in a split second a jet propulsion of rich citric juices shot out…

RAAAAAAAAAAAAR!” Arcana shrieked so loud that the walls jerked and the odd bricks toppled over and crashed down. She was squirming in agony and since her forearms were too short she could not rub her eyes and wipe away the caustic acid that was now hellishly burning her from the inside. Wherever the juices of the fruit made contact with her skin it sizzled and shrivelled, thinning out to reveal the first indications of underlying bone. These were patches of solid flesh now undergoing a rapid and grim transmogrification. In the manner reminiscent of an oceanic hydrothermal vent when it spews out huge columns of heated gases, Arcana’s body was gushing out twisted spirals of smoke, the vapour trails of burning flesh.

Alex had used up all the juices contained within the orange lodged in his mouth and he spat it out. Immediately I ducked my hand back into my carpet bag and pulled out another bulbous orb of orange, and not letting it spend a second in my palm, I zeroed in to where Alex stood, who was fully prepared to catch the next launch, and with all the mechanical energy still left in me, I released such a high-voltage overarm shot that this time no one was in a position to say that they saw it spin, for it travelled at almost light-speed and anchored in seconds flat inside Alex’s mouth! He bit down hard and the squelch of squashed fruit reverberated against the ancient walls, as if a new language of goodness had been inaugurated finally into the now incapacitated brickwork of evil. This time, two sword-sharp jets of citric acid spurted out and viciously bulleted the forehead and chest of the beast, the bombardment proving to be too much to sustain and she collapsed on the ground. Oh how she squealed and howled as new lacerations split through her body, tearing and dissolving the skin, and yet with one eye she could make out the stoic frame of the little boy, and so she tried to yank at his ankles and drag him down so that even in the motions of death she could tell herself that she did not relinquish the taste for blood, nor for domination.

Alex coolly stepped back and then she saw that beside his shoes another pair of feet had joined him. This person was missing a sneaker. Alex spat out the second orange from his mouth and brushed the back of his hand against his mouth. He suddenly realised that he was still quite scared. I gently patted his head in acknowledgement and we looked at each other. Because Alex knew what I was about to do next, the cold sweat that had collected on his forehead began to glisten less and less, and he decidedly smiled at me first, and then at the heap that was Arcana .

I lifted up my carpet bag and stood determinedly above Arcana’s moaning body. Rianna and Sachi stared on, anxious as to what I had planned under my sleeve. When I looked down and saw the hapless and wretched state of our arch nemesis, enfeebled by the distress caused by the attacking juices of the fruit, I felt sorry for her. What a foul breed of shadows and darkness must blight a soul before it is subjugated by the demonic desire to pursue ultimate dominance over all others. Surely at one time she must have dreamt in favour of Light and Life. What could have mutated her piety into something so terrible and cursed?

Alex could not understand why I was stalling. He was too young to see things from both sides of the coin. I closed my eyes and prayed to my Creator in silence. “May her Soul return to the Light from whence it was once formed…”  And, thus, I opened my eyes again and I turned my unfastened carpet bag upside down, tipping out what seemed like all the oranges of the world, a shower of puckered light, and they fell with relish and stung blistering craters into her body. Stifling vents of smoke rose upwards, and with a closing judder and twitch of pain the intelligent barbarian that was Arcana was finally gone. In front of us and spread out like an ancient jigsaw of bone, the calcified remains of our foe lay in peace.

Alex hugged my waist and I laid my arm around him. “We did it, Aunty Mazzy! We did it!

Sachi, clutching onto a weak Rianna, came over and Alex sprang to her side. “Mum!

I am so so proud of you, Alex!” Sachi wept and smiled at the same time. Mother and son were locked in an embrace and I watched on in pure contentment.

Rianna bravely limped over to the bony carcass of her tormentor. She looked very bitter and not at all bearing the countenance of one who had only just been blessed with the liberation of a new and free existence. I presumed that this was natural, for she had, after all, missed her opportunity to discharge the spark within her into the heart and mind of her Chosen One.

Are you ok?” I neared her and laid my hand on her elbow.

She was silent.

Rianna?

She turned round and looked into my eyes. “Sorry… I… I am tired…

Always more than happy to cheer anyone who may have fallen foul of a solemn and sad mood, I had an idea and wished everyone to partake in it. My eyes still trained on Rianna I made an announcement that was perfectly accented with a cheeky voice of authority, “We’ve made a rather horrid mess of the place and since this is a national heritage site visited by tourists from all over the world I suggest we cover our tracks!

What do you mean, Aunty Mazzy?” Alex jumped over to me, inquisitive as ever!

What I mean is that we have a calcified jigsaw on our hands!” Everyone quickly glanced at Arcana’s frizzled remains, bemused to say the least! “I say we pin her up and write a short caption underneath. We’ll make it out that she is a rare archaeological find, the fossil of an ancient dinosaur local only to Corfe Castle!” I put my hands on my hips and surveyed what my audience had to say. There was a gleeful burst of laughter from the mother and son, and as for Rianna, she did smile. I told her emphatically, “Rianna…. you are free…

As we set down to work, I knew all too well in my gut that the Muse was not finished with me. I was enlisted with one more task, one that would see me boldly defy the rituals of the clock hand…

What happened next? ♥♥♥

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 16: Eat To Beat!

What I mean is that we have a calcified jigsaw on our hands!” Everyone quickly glanced at Arcana’s frizzled remains, bemused to say the least! “I say we pin her up and write a short caption underneath. We’ll make it out that she is a rare archaeological find, the fossil of an ancient dinosaur local only to Corfe Castle!

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Pitt River’s Museum Collection | Oxford University | Oxford | UK 2016
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 15: A Jaw-Dropping Jaw!

Rianna’s voice weathered to an almost dying whimper, she spoke with what little strength she had so that we may learn of the name of her Chosen One. She then closed her eyes and a teardrop rolled down her face. When she opened them again, there I saw swimming in those two oceanic pupils the agony of unrequited purpose, and yet, unmistakably, I detected a soft tenderness still inhabited them and which belied the earnestness in her Faith that I would someday return and free her from the shackles of an evil who was as archaic as the earth itself.

I… I don’t know him. I have never heard of that name”. I turned around and glanced behind my shoulder over to Sachi and Alex, and they too were mildly puzzled. Since none of us were acquainted with that name, nor had The Crone ever muttered it in our presence, it suddenly came over me a leaden strain of fatigue and with it a sliver of defeat that coiled its way into my gut. What was I supposed to say to her? She was relying on me and I had not a clue of how to take her to him because I simply did not know who he was.

I faced Rianna and now she was lying up, a slight flush of redness had returned to her cheeks. “I am sad to say that I really don’t know who your Chosen One is but….”, and I searched my feelings, for something was troubling my mind, “… but I feel that I ought to have known him. I can’t explain it…

It was the first time Rianna smiled. She placed her hand on my arm and said, “You would have known his name and his vision if I was allowed to fulfil my destiny. I was stopped from assimilating into him.” She paused for a while and lowered her head, gracefully, as seen in the bereavement of a mourner. “I… I know that he… is dead. He is no more.

All our eyes widened in silent shock and then our already tiresome spirits were ruthlessly tossed so deep into the pit of despair that none of us spoke a word for some time. I let out a long breath and hunched my back inwards. I had no more power left in me to fight. “So… we are too late…

Alex came over and put his arms around my neck and we were cheek to cheek. I raised my arm and placed my hand over his soft face.

No…” Rianna’s reply shook us out of her depressive stupor.

She crawled over to me and then whispered into my ear, “The Universe lives in you, remember…?”

My eyes widened and my mouth agape, I turned to face her. “How… how did you know to say that…? My father used to – 

Just then an almighty crash reverberated through the small chamber and to our horror we saw behind us the entire frame of the door had been heavily blasted away with the surrounding brick walls reduced to rubble, and there in the partial darkness rose before us the leathery black reptilian figure of Arcana.

Aaaaaaaargh!!!!!!” Alex and Sachi leapt behind me, shuddering in the wake of the return of the enemy, and furthermore in such treacherous close proximity. I stood up and though I was very frightful to the core and knew that my physical virtues were way out of league with the beast, I nevertheless extended my arms out like wings so that my friends knew that I would act as their protective shield.

Stay back and take care of Rianna!” I could hear the complying shuffle of feet behind me as Sachi and Alex each took an elbow and lifted Rianna off from the floor. Acting as like two human crutches, both my friends ensured that Rianna was well supported and they achieved this with great merit, for though their imaginations were being marred by all sorts of petrifying and nightmarish possibilities, they did not veer away and give in to their fear, instead both of them focused on the situation in hand.

Arcana did not ram herself into us like a primitive beast would have done, rather she expelled from her hellish mouth slow and calculated grunts, and all the while her clawed feet stepped purposefully towards us. Her deep-set red eyes burned brighter than before and I had the filthy privilege to read her thoughts. She told me that nothing would ever come close to creaming her black heart with pure ecstasy than to gnash into my pulse and rip my throat apart into as many fleshy morsels as there was dust on the very floor on which I and my friends stood.

I could not let her win and if I was meant to die than I would die trying, and that was that! I knew there and then that my fate had been sealed. I gulped and my eyes widened and I carefully whispered to my allies behind me, “When I say ‘run’, you must all run towards the door.

What about you, Aunty Mazzy? We can’t leave you!” I could feel Alex place his hands on my back.

No way… we are all in this together!” Sachi seconded him. I could tell she was vexed with my orders.

Now is not the time to argue…”, and I saw that Arcana was approaching closer and closer to us, “… just get Rianna out of here. DO IT!” Rianna edged forward and placed her hand on my shoulder. That was all the affirmation I needed and thus I stripped myself away from the group to the other side of the room. My friends were speechless.

What is it, Arcana? If you can’t take down a puny human like me then you have to admit that The Crone was absolutely right – you ARE a piddling amateur with no balls!” As I had predicted the grotesque beast charged at me, and with each stomp she made more of the walls shook and crumbled.

I screamed at the top of my lungs. “RUN!!!!!!

A momentary hesitation haunted them before all three of them legged it out of the chamber and down the foul and dark stairwell. Arcana flashed her eyes towards the door but I was quick to distract her once again.

Oi! I’m here! So you think you are the queen of this sick palace of yours but, alas, you forgot one teensy-weensy detail…”, and with both hands I hauled up what I had brought with me all along on this quest and gave a wild shout, “… no one is above my CREATOR!” And with those words, my hands still gripped tight on the handle, I hurtled my carpet bag in a neat arc and smashed it against her left jaw. She let out a high-pitch yelp and toppled over onto the hard floor with a loud thwack! The carpet bag once more over my arm, I ran as fast as I could, stepping over her pitiful bulk of a body and then jumping down and finally dashing out of the chamber. I skidded down the stairs with my heart on the verge of blasting out of my chest cavity! In all my hurried haste one of my sneakers slipped off my feet and I dared not to go back and retrieve it. My sight was unflappably fixed on reuniting with my friends and getting out of this stinking hellhole!

As I jumped over the last few steps I discovered to my tremendous relief that all three of them were waiting for me in the foyer area of the tower. Their faces lit up as soon as they cast their eyes on me.

AUNTY MAZZY!” Alex sprinted over to my side and I knelt down and hugged him. “I was scared… I was scared you weren’t coming back…

It’s ok… it’s ok, I am here now…”, and soon after Sachi’s arms were around me too.

Thank god, you are not hurt – and believe me, when we get back I will have a few words about that stupid risk you took up there!” She was extremely cross with me, but only the kind expected from someone who deeply cared about your welfare.

We all got back on our feet and looked at Rianna who was stood some way from us. She was smiling with affection and her eyes took a new glimmer that was not present before, and I pondered whether her life force was returning once more to her. Had she become afresh with the new hope that she found in me?

We were about to walk over to Rianna when the stone ceiling above us clashed and cracked and gave way to a ginormous hole from which spewed thick smog and dust. The air choked our lungs and we clutched to our chests, spluttering and scratching our eyes. When the blanket of irritants that hung in the air became settled and we opened our eyes once more, the worst sort of dread that could have happened at that precise time indeed chose to happen! It loomed in front of our eyes with supreme malevolence. Poised to attack the Muse we had all vowed to save, there hovered the gigantic jaws of Arcana, wide open and heaving in adamant revenge…

What happened next? ♥♥♥

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 15: Jaw-Dropping Hell

When the blanket of irritants that hung in the air became settled and we opened our eyes once more, the worst sort of dread that could have happened at that precise time indeed chose to happen! It loomed front of our eyes with supreme malevolence. Poised to attack the Muse we had all vowed to save, there hovered the gigantic jaws of Arcana, wide open and heaving in adamant revenge…

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Pitt River’s Museum | Oxford University | Oxford | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 14: The Moss Code

Darkness was a sudden and merciless spectre that enveloped the three of us and a new uncaged panic set in our guts as we clambered and tripped up that cloistered passageway that took us higher and higher up the vertical axis of the castle. It was a never-ending spiral stairwell whose walls were doused in the stench of algae-like forms dripping from the cracks and we could hear voices echoing off the walls that were not our own. I was not for a single moment gullible as to settle for the notion that Arcana was so unambitious that she restricted herself to imprison one quarry at a time. There had to be others, too – and not only Muses for that matter – who were unfortunately captured and left to rot away in the sick burrows of her stony abode. She was a master of efficient and methodical malpractice and that meant that to accomplish her evil scheme it would be wise, on her part, to nail down as many victims as time and resource would allow.

Alex latched onto my arm and I could feel that he was trembling, although you would be hard pressed to think this if you were to see his face under the dim and miserly light cast down by the conical torches attached to the sides of the walls. The boy wore a brave expression and I suppose this was yet another demonstration of his precocious consideration to ensuring he was doing everything he possibly could to upkeep the morale within the group, even if the prospect of confronting the unfamiliar adversities ahead shook the very marrow of his bones.

Mum. Aunty Mazzy. I can feel her, we are getting close!” He shot a quick smile at the both of us and then continued to grab hold of my sleeve whilst Sachi rubbed his shoulders in approval.

Yes. I can sense her too!” I was now taking double strides up the stairs and in my fury I cursed them, “When are these blasted steps going to end?!

A catastrophic ROAR bellowed from below and the resounding echoes from the footfall of the beast urged us to drive even more speed into our paces. Our legs hurt and our shoes were bleeding smoke from the incessant friction of sole against concrete, and yet the end was not in sight. The spiral spine of the castle made it very clear to us that it had no plans at all to give itself up.

Finally, the serpentine chasm of steps came to a halt! Before us lurked a door of peeling metal, a sinister artefact of an industrial graveyard picked up and installed into the stonework of the castle, an architectural chimera that brought on a nauseous impression to the throat and mind. I raced up to it and the others followed so that we were all now stood in front of that one last barricade that stood between us and the locked Muse. I began to bang against its thick wall, first in discreet taps so as not to give the beastly Arcana a cause to quicken her movements, however, after realising that there was no answer from behind I accepted the hazards and thus threw frequent and hard slams against it. Alex and Sachi joined in, too.

HELLO?! Is anyone in there?! HELLO?! RIANNA?!” I called out at the top of my lungs.

Rianna?! We’ve come to help you!” Alex was thudding away. “Aunty Mazzy, I don’t think she can hear us. What do we do now?

Sachi agreed with her son, “I think the door is too thick. She doesn’t know we are here. We have to open it, somehow.”

I don’t see a keyhole and there is no handle.” With my hands I scanned the entire surface of the door but could not find anything to work on to attempt an entry.

Another deafening roar was released from the lower level, but this time the intensity of the sound was distinctly stronger. Arcana was most definitely approaching closer and closer to us!

Please come up with something quick, Mazzy!! She’ll catch up with us soon!” Sachi was flitting her head back and forth between us, and the frightening darkness that lingered below the steps from which we had climbed.

I rubbed my forehead in exasperation, and then with my eyes in a clenching squint, I pinched their inner corners and desperately tried to think for a solution. Turning away from the door I leaned against the narrow stretch of wall beside it and took a deep breath in. That is when I pushed my head back onto a patch of dark green moss that was unusually growing out from the stone and immediately something sharp jutted out from behind me and poked me in the back.

I jumped forward. “What the heck is that?!

We turned to face the door again and inspected a most curious gadget that I had apparently inadvertently activated and which now had flipped out. It was a miniature keypad with an alphanumeric grid. Alex got up on his tip-toes and read out the instruction flashing on the LCD screen. “ENTER AUTHORISATION CODE”. We were dumbfounded and exchanged lost glances at each other.

What code? We have no code?“, Sachi cried.

A loud of clap of thunder boomed through the skies followed by the sound of torrential rain and my heart fell silent and I closed my eyes. A momentary trance came over me and I saw the music of rice as it playfully sprinkled itself onto the open arms of warm, soaking earth. A lightning spark flashed in my mind!

Sir Talbot!” I crouched down and unfastened my carpet bag. Alex already knew what I was looking for.

He can’t help us here, remember?” Sachi shook her head and put her hand over her mouth. She was beside herself.

No. He has helped us once and…,” plucking out the tiny piece of paper and raising it in the air with victorious glee, “he helps us yet again!” Sachi’s fears somewhat allayed, she strapped her arm over her chest and held her breath. “Alex, hold the paper up to me while I punch in the code”. Always pleased to be the helpful apprentice to my endeavours, Alex slapped the coded notation on his forehead so that it caught as much light as possible from the one torch that was lit just in front of us. “Well done, my boy!” Taking a deep breath in I read out the numbers and then keyed the respective button on the device.

Hurry up!” Sachi was on lookout duty into the darkness that festered at the bottom of the stairs.

I am hurrying!” Licking my dry lips to the point where I thought they no longer existed, I was finally satisfied that I had punched in all the necessary keys and looked over to the large button on the right. “And ENTER!”

The door mechanism issued forth a succession of creaking clicks before the metal slab of the door began to rise upwards. It had hardly tucked itself into the groove above that all three of us barged into the room! At first we saw nothing but a suffocating and abysmal tide of darkness.

RIANNA!!” I turned around a whole circle, calling her name over and over again but she was nowhere to be seen.

Rianna!! Rianna!!” Alex was still clutching to the both of us but he shouted out defiantly, as if by doing so he could chase the shadows away.

Rianna! We are here!” Sachi, a small lady like myself, gave a commendable round of shouts but to no avail.

In a corner of the room, blacked and vague, a figure shuffled out in slow and weary steps.

Shussh!” I told the others to be silent and reluctantly disbanding from the group I walked gently over to the corner. “Rianna…?

A pale and weary face suddenly broke free from the shadows and she looked at me, expressionless and morose. When the thought finally crossed her of who we were it was like as if the burden of hundreds and hundreds of years had unstacked themselves from her tender shoulders, and the strained sense of happiness that came from that was too much to bear. Her eyes welled up and falling on my chest she let out from her scarred heart the most plaintive and poignant sobs that I had ever heard. I held her and rubbed her back.

Her body slunk on mine, the both of us naturally knelt on the stone floor and she raised her head and stuttered, her every utterance a monument of ache and anguish, “Please….“, and she gulped her tears hard before continuing again, “please…. take me to him…

I cupped both my warm hands and lent it as a rest to her frail face. “Who is he? Who is your Chosen One….?

What happened next?  ♥♥♥          

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 14: The Moss Code

Alex, hold the paper up to me while I punch in the code”. Always pleased to be the helpful apprentice to my endeavours, Alex slapped the coded notation on his forehead so that it caught as much light as possible from the one torch that was lit just in front of us.

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 13: Good Timing Means Good Chrone-ology!

May I be permitted to interrupt? You may resume your unentertaining battle afterwards!

All three of us, the brutal beast included, snapped our heads to the right and what we saw stole our breath away and I even blinked twice hard to make sure that it was not a figment of my overactive imagination!

Behold, The Crone!

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 13: Good Timing Means Good Chrone-ology!

Behold, The Crone!

She was sat on the grassy knoll with her legs crossed, casually perusing through a book, as if all was stupendously well in the world, a time one would think most ripe for afternoon tea and fond reveries.

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 13: Good Timing Means Good Chrone-ology!

“… She was sat on the grassy knoll with her legs crossed, casually perusing through a book, as if all was stupendously well in the world, a time most ripe for afternoon tea and fond reveries...”

I was the first to burst out with gulping relief, “Oh, am I glad to see YOU!” The Crone beamed her beautiful maternal smile at us and now that she no longer had on her eyes the shield of her onyx lens I felt much more closer to her, as if it were that we had shared a long and trusted friendship, and that this sudden presence of hers ought to be treated as nothing sizeably special, simply a case of an old friend dropping by.

Hi!” Alex was excitably happy to see her too and he held up his palm and sent her a short and genial wave as a mark of recognition. He grabbed his mother’s sleeve and shook it, “Mum, this is who I was talking about. This is The Crone!” Sachi was speechless throughout. She had never seen The Crone and all that she knew of her was only that which was passed down by her son who had always spoke of the ‘bird lady’ with the highest of regard. Never a week would go by that Alex did not take delight in retelling to his mother of one of the many olden tales of heroism, stories in which The Crone and her motley crew of allies took on all manner of disfigurements of evil and drove them out of the land with legendary cunning and bravery. You must remember that Sachi had seen too much of late and her vocabulary thus was thoroughly deprived, yet she still pulled herself together and managed to nod approvingly at the smiling lady made of black night. The Crone did the same.

Meanwhile, let us not forget the emergency at hand! We had a beast of a dinosaur, the mutated fiend that was Professor Arcana, whom we were to overcome! Craning her fibrous and muscular neck back so that her red eyes were in line with the sky, the beast screamed out an ear-splitting roar of infuriated anger laced with a rabid thirst for vengeance. Slowly, the beast brought her head back down so that it stared hard at The Crone. Tiny fumes of smoke chugged out of her ugly gaping nostrils and her clawed feet turned on the spot, crushing the grass underneath into a mash, and then in steely silence she began to edge towards the sat figure of The Crone.

The Crone did not seem one little bit scared of the approaching mass of malignance that was directed her way. She was unperturbed and even dipped back into her book, turning the covers carefully by sliding her fingers underneath the leaves so as to not crumple or crease the book in any way!

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 13: Good Timing Means Good Chrone-ology!

“… She was unperturbed and even dipped back into her book, turning the covers carefully by sliding her fingers underneath the leaves so as to not crumple or crease the book in any way...”

Without tearing her gaze away from the book, The Crone spoke and the cool indifference in her voice was positively phenomenal. “Your choice of literature absolutely bores me, Arcana.” She now closed the book shut and addressed the beast eye-to-eye. Arcana was stood only a few measly metres away now. “Frankenstein, I hear. Now, there is a book for those who cannot generate their own ideas… so they steal them from others”. Arcana let out a defiant huff. The Crone continued in her unruffled poise, “Before me is not an inspired creation. You followed in the footsteps of a fictional madman and forged a killing machine, a monster. The serum, the experiments, the plots – none are of your own making. You are a COPYCAT, a pussy with no real mettle of her own!

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 13: Good Timing Means Good Chrone-ology!

Your choice of literature absolutely bores me, Arcana.” She now closed the book shut and addressed the beast eye-to-eye. Arcana was stood only a few measly metres away now. “Frankenstein, I hear. Now, there is a book for those who cannot generate their own ideas… so they steal them from others”.

Arcana let out a terrible growl. She was at the end of her tether!

The three of us came closer together, our eyes firmly fixed on the two ancient creatures and our chests now heaving erratically, we were certain that a bloody duel was imminent.

The Crone stood up and reached out into her pockets from where she pulled out her onyx lens. She gave them a shake and the straps opened up and stylishly she slid them over her eyes. “Just because you have no Muse of your own does not give you the right to annihilate the Muses that rightfully belong to others. It makes you no different from the common thief!

At that audacity of speech, Arcana opened her jaws wide and a long serpentine and forked-tongue shot out as she charged the mammoth weight of her body towards The Crone, splintering the ground and rocks into millions of smithereens.

The Crone clasped her book to her chest and crossed her arms over it and turned to face all three of us. These were no ordinary hand gestures, for both Alex and I could see that she was signalling to the title of the book. It was one of the many beloved books penned by Enid Blyton in which a group of five outgoing children were known for embarking on fantastic adventures, solving riddles along the way and, always, without fail, saving the day right at the end!  This particular book that The Crone held to her chest was entitled ‘FIVE GO TO SMUGGLER’S TOP’. Alex and I – the children of the seen and unseen worlds – saw now with our special eyes and simultaneously read the mind of The Crone. This was the opportune moment to break away from the scene and make the dash to the top of Corfe Castle and rescue Rianna! The Crone made it amply clear to us that she would tend to the business of distracting the monster. It all made perfect sense!

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 13: Good Timing Means Good Chrone-ology!

“… The Crone clasped her book to her chest and crossed her arms over it and turned to face all three of us. These were no ordinary hand gestures, for both Alex and I could see that she was signalling to the title of the book…”

I broke away from our circle and skidded across the grass, mud buttering my jeans as my sneakers knifed through the soil, to the spot where my carpet bag lay, and arcing my arm with the dexterity of an underhand bowler my hand slid through the handle before slinging it across my back. To my amazement the bag was not moist or leaking. In fact I could still make out the integrity of the shapes of the fruit inside the bag. They were unspoiled! I remembered what The Crone had said about the magical property of the bag to preserve any food that is placed into it. I was awfully glad that she had not made that part up, and with renewed spirit I sprinted back to Sachi and Alex.

This is it! We’ve got to get to the top! Let’s go!” I looked back and saw The Crone stood dauntlessly in front of the beast. She did not look at us lest she gave it away that we were poised to make a run for the castle.

Aunty Mazzy! Look – stairs!” Alex poked my arm and we all three clambered up the stony ascent as quickly as we could. Whilst trudging up the the spiral staircase, a cold funnel of strange echoes, from one of the square glassless windows a black crow flapped its wings and then flew off into the distance before finally it disappeared into the sky. The Crone could not help us anymore than she had done already.

We were now on our own, breathlessly scrambling up towards the chamber in which Rianna was held captive against her will, and gaining upon us from behind, the foreboding stomps of a bloodthirsty beast that sought only our destruction…

What happened next?  ♥♥♥

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 12: Tipping The Scales

The three of us stood in awe of the crystalline purity of her face, and noticing that her gaze was flitting about in all directions, we each knew quite well that she had felt our presence and thus a wish swelled in our hearts that it would be as like a small glimmer of triumphant glory if only she could have seen us from up there.

She has magic about her”, Alex said quietly, “but I can see sadness, too”. He was right, Rianna was as white as snow, however what stood in that tall tower was more akin to that of the material from which shadows fed to their delight. The might of her birthing light had eroded severely and the slowness of her movements was telling of the close tie her form had now shared with the lifeless stones that cocooned around her.

Now that I have seen her, with my own fleshy eyes, I can touch her pain…”, I paused to find the words, “she has suffered more longer than any of us have lived”. Watching her from the ground below, a speck of a wasting figure whose destiny to ignite a new world into the imagination of one man was terribly blighted, I was overcome with grief and from it boiled a resolve so fixed in completing the quest that I vowed that whatever obstacles threw themselves on our path, I would not endure under circumstances a fate in which this poor Muse was left to perish.

Mazzy, what now?” Sachi turned to me and Alex copied.

I rebelliously slung my carpet bag over my shoulder and without looking at either of them, eyes still transfixed on the frail figure in the distance, I replied and my words carried with them an authoritative monotony, unimpeachable, to show that it was time to do or die! “Let’s go…

We had only just stepped beyond the wooden fence and into the last grass-addled courtyard before the colossal tower when all of a sudden the ground sent out a deafening and potent tremor and the grass, like a giant serpent, rippled outwards, tearing the earth apart in places with extraordinary ease. The three of us were immediately knocked over, rolling down away from each other.

Mum! Aunty Mazzy! Help!” Alex had been sent hurtling down a particular stony corner of the ruins.

Alex, hold onto something!” I could see that if he did not cling onto an anchor of some kind he risked being smashed into the sharp and jagged patchwork of stone ahead of him. Sachi seconded my advice and urged her son to heed my words. His face lashed in grazes, Alex scrambled onto an island of spiky grey rock and perched on top of it. He grinned with relief and though he was very much struggling to catch his breath he sent out to us the same course of action.

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 12: Tipping The Scales

“… His face lashed in grazes, Alex scrambled onto an island of spiky grey rock and perched on top of it. He grinned with relief...”

Mum! Aunty Mazzy! There are big rocks behind you too, get up on them!” The situation a dire one, but our little fellow glowed with pleasure with these utterances, for he could not put an amount to his contentment whenever the opportunity rose to show off his own survival skills! Sachi and I did not hesitate a moment. We took to our orders with speedy effect and in seconds flat each one of us had taken occupancy on an individual miniature mountain of scraggy and uneven stone.

What was that, Aunty Mazzy?” It was a perfectly legitimate question from Alex. What indeed had spurned the grass to ripple like water and to force the earth to jut out such irregular monuments of stonework?

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 12: Tipping The Scales

What was that, Aunty Mazzy?” It was a perfectly legitimate question from Alex. What indeed had spurned the grass to ripple like water and to force the earth to jut out such irregular monuments of stonework?

I have not the foggiest idea, Alex.” Curiously, I examined the grassy knoll that had now appeared around us like a sea of green and there we were amid it all, anxiously hunched atop shores of stone, from whose vantage point we saw the cracked and furrowed landscape, and the mud that ought to have been underneath now leaked out like blood that had been spilled. Who or what could have been responsible for this insane vandalism against nature?

I have a bad feeling about this…” Sachi spoke in whispers, as if any louder and she might arouse the wrath of this unseen doer of wreckage to intensify its intent.

Without warning, it happened again.

Everything shuddered and this time a distinct hiss and snarl was heard and that is when the gross terror of the truth seized me.

Guys, I have some nasty news…” My two friends spun their heads round to face me from their respective mounds. “We are NOT sat on stones”. Their faces dropped as I continued. “This is bone, living bone. The scales of a large monster! Arcana!!” As soon as I had uttered those words, we leapt off the mounds and huddled together in the middle of the grassy courtyard. Panting in fright, there was some reassurance evoked as we ringed our arms around one another.

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 12: Tipping The Scales

We are NOT sat on stones”. Their faces dropped as I continued. “This is bone, living bone. The scales of a large monster! Arcana!!

The illusion was over and the stegosaurus-spikes of the huge beast drilled higher and higher through the earth so that more of its crusty plates was visible, until we were enveloped by its pressing shadows.

Hold tight!” I had Sachi and Alex close together whilst I flung my carpet bag off my shoulder and just as I was about to unfasten the top and reach in for its contents I was violently pushed forward and flew and landed a few metres in front of our protective circle.

AUNTY MAZZY!” Alex screamed and ran after me with Sachi holding his hand.

Mazzy, are you alright?” Sachi put her arms around me and picked me off the ground. I was somewhat disorientated but told her that I would be fine, however that was the least of my worries, for a tidal wave of despair lashed at me full force as I stared at the titanic size of the maniacal beast before us. A second later my two friends saw it too and we all crept closer towards each other, shivering in what was the most coldest fear we had ever known in our lives.

The vast dome of a black face cracked itself out of the ground and two deep-set eyes flickering in the embers of hell itself burned in them, and its jaw then opened wide to reveal barbaric serrations of bone – gigantic towers of teeth – eager to crush and swallow the air and us. What a loathsome cavern that moist darkness was that led down to its gullet. It produced a low growling noise as it coiled its way closer to us before rising fully from the ground to reveal four legs, each extended with curved claws of discoloured ivory.

None of us had left any power to utter any sort of words, but I did have just that tiny bit of sense in me to reach out for my carpet bag and, however implausible that I would succeed, I was determined to try and smite the beast out with my humble weaponry.

Alas, it struck me with a clenching tightness in my chest me that my carpet bag still lay exactly in the same spot that I had been sat moments earlier. It was out of my reach! We were doomed!

The monster drew closer and closer, its gargantuan fangs trickling with sick viscous fluid, and then a squish was heard followed by a prolonged bout of squelching. Our hearts and spirits were fractured in that one split second.

The beast let out a rotten, wide grin. My carpet bag had been trampled…

What happened next? ♥♥♥  

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 11: The Locked Potential

On a three-legged wooden stool, Rianna was sat with her back hunched and her face enclosed tightly inside her cupped hands. She was beginning to fade. The flicker of her birthing spark waning, as if it were a trophy diminishing in sheen with every passing of the clock hand.

The scuttling rustle of a black beetle in the corner woke her up from her sad thoughts and she sighed and leaned her head back against the decrepit, damp wall. Cold and lonely, the bustle of the beetle’s movements was a welcoming reminder that life beyond her own still existed outside this godforsaken place.

Nearly seventy and odd years had she seen of this cavernous cell, its rank corners odorous with foul stenches that wafted up from the other rooms below where Arcana kept her favourite monstrous specimens and on whose bodies she conducted the most heinous experiments and dissections. Sometimes unearthly screams could be heard from these neighbouring honeycombs of unseen evil, and on those nights for Rianna the comfort and solace of sleep was callously withheld from her.

She was a Muse which meant that food was never a concern. Indeed, she was created to feed the mind and heart of her Chosen One. Whilst lying on her makeshift bed – a mournful plateau constructed of flint – she would always fall back on thoughts about her Chosen One and the torturous emptiness that must have been inflicted on his soul throughout the course of his life, for she was the spark that never came, though he had waited and waited and waited until his last dying breath. Since their life forces were connected she knew that he no longer was a living part of this world, he had died a very long time ago and that she had failed him. She blamed herself for the tragedy because it was she that had become the gullible prey to Arcana’s false pleas for help, luring the once bright Muse to the castle and then locking her away in this boxed cell, an abyss of dark things whose door and walls were clamped down by ancient and dangerous incantations not even conquerable by The Crone and her allies.

She knew her time of end was drawing near. Sooner or later Arcana would initiate an escalation of her treacherous powers, exacting a mass holocaust of all Muses in the world and the shadow era would begin. A new world, whose mast would wave and flutter at the bidding of the grim reaper’s deathly shrieks and cries. She prayed and prayed every day and night, but it seemed that no one was there to hear her. Oh, how merciful it would be for her if someone could spare her this misery of witnessing the end of human creativity. She wished to fade away faster than she was already. Despondency had taken her completely and the huge weight of her hopelessness, tantamount to the rocks that surrounded her, was pulling her down to the centre of the earth. She slipped and fell off her stool and lay still on the dusty floor.

The scuttling beetle returned, however, and this time it came close to her and though its eyes could not be seen, Rianna felt them, and they were not mocking or devious. Instead, she was certain that this dot of an insect was trying to tell her something. Pressing down on the floor with her palms, she lifted her head and the world spun a little before she returned back to the room. The absurdity of what she did next did not perturb her, for she addressed the insect.

What is it, little one?” She spoke like the faint light of a star.

The beetle did not move at first, but then it turned around and paused. Its body was facing the miniscule window in front, the only remembrance Rianna had of the notion of day. The beetle shuffled towards the window and raised the front part of its body slightly higher, conveying to Rianna that she ought to come over and peer over. She was terribly weak, but from somewhere deep within she found that she could still muster enough strength to listen to the unspoken instructions of her multi-legged, midget friend.

Alright… I am coming”.

She got up on her feet and they wobbled a bit, so she quickly reached out her hand and placed it on the cold wall next to her to prevent herself from falling over. He throat, though parched and coarse, she swallowed hard, and there was an unusual tenseness in her gut, a feeling that she was not quite alone in all this. She had not sensed this before, only now.

She edged carefully forward. When she reached the window, her figure no less insubstantial as an apparition that had never seen the fertility of spring, and whose lamentable silhouette flanked on either side by two great sentinels of igneous dark plinths of stone mined from the roar of volcanoes that time had forgot, Rianna saw below was the teeming life of the village. But it was not somehow the same scene she had observed for all these years, for she could feel a blazing surety that there was something anew.

It was Hope.

She was more enlivened than ever and with her tired eyes she combed over the panorama of the landscape, trawling unceasingly through the fanfare of people and tents and trees for something that would vindicate her belief.

She had yet to see them but knew this much already, for everything in her told her so, assuredly, that something amazing was afoot, and that one of them had an old carpet bag – a beggar’s trinket that would change the course of history forever…

What happened next?  ♥♥♥      

 

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 11: The Locked Potential

“… She edged carefully forward. When she reached the window, her figure no less insubstantial as an apparition that had never seen the fertility of spring, and whose lamentable silhouette flanked on either side by two great sentinels of igneous dark plinths of stone mined from the roar of volcanoes that time had forgot…”

 

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 11: The Locked Potential

“… She was more enlivened than ever and with her tired eyes she combed over the panorama of the landscape, trawling unceasingly through the fanfare of people and tents and trees… She had yet to see them but knew this much already… that one of them had an old carpet bag – a beggar’s trinket that would change the course of history forever…”

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Oxford University Museum Of Natural History | Oxford University | Oxford | UK 2016
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016

 

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 10: The Knight At The End Of The Tunnel

My heart sank in fear and despair. Unconsciously, I lessened my grip on Alex and began to step away from the hole. His voice had now dimmed, he was exhausted and it was very conceivable at this point that he would sooner or later pass out from the mangling force of the ever constricting wall.

Sachi did not stop her feeble attempts to pull her son out from the gap, however, she suddenly became wary that I had tip-toed away. Disappointed by what appeared to be resignation on my part, her eyes began streaming with huge tears, and she cried and could hardly speak and yet stuttered in broken fragments.

Mazzy… why are you not helping? Why?! This is all your fault! All… your… fault.

What Sachi did not know was that I was scanning the entire wall, searching for recesses or grooves by which I could dig my fingers and toes in so that I may climb it and jump over to the other side. If I could keep Talbot distracted, it may buy us extra time for Sachi – assuming that her willpower was inexhaustible – to remain hooked in her efforts to wrench Alex out of the hole.

Sachi, you stay here and keep trying. I think I might be able to climb over. Just don’t let go of him whatever happens!” As I lurched forward towards the wall I could see from the corner of my eye that my friend wore an apologetic expression, she had not clocked into my real intentions and, knowing that now was not the moment to clear the air of misunderstandings, I did not pay attention to her and kept on track with my plan.

It was just as I had laid my fingers into the first grooves on the wall, ready to hoist myself up, that the entire façade of the bricks began shaking and waves of fine dust blew out from its crevices. I was knocked off and fell, landing on my bottom and at eye-level to Alex. There was another rumble, a more stronger one, and now the very ground began to jerk. Alex was drifting in and out of consciousness, the odd finger or two moving ever so slightly. He no longer made any sound.

What the heck is happening!?” I was out of breath. Dust was not only smothered all over my face, I think I had swallowed some of it. Spluttering it out in fitful coughs, I fast approached Alex and knelt down by his side and to my amazement I saw that the hole was changing. It was growing and growing and growing!

Oh my God, Sachi! LOOK!” I grabbed Sachi’s arm and yanked her down so that she too was beside me. The shock of watching two large metallic hands prise through the sides of the wall was too fantastical to comprehend. A chink of light appeared on the other side, and as the tunnel widened out the both of us could make out the shining helmet of Sir Talbot. I do not know where the sun had suddenly come from, for it had been grim and dull and blustery since we had left the warm auspices of the teahouse, and yet now, with fierce magnitude of spirit, the sunshine sent a shaft of glowing light which lit up the metal man’s face.

The hole had expanded much more than how we had found it, in fact, it was no longer a bricked fissure but that of a doorway. He stepped into it and picked up Alex in his arms and came forward. Sachi and I took a step back, and neither of us had a clue what to say. We had never ever bargained for this  astonishing turnaround of events.

Alex began to stir awake and Sir Talbot motioned towards Sachi.

Oh Alex!” Sachi leapt forward and took her son in her arms. “Are you alright?!” She was breathless with joy to see her son be returned to her.

Mum!” He said no more, only that he simply reached up and hugged his mother tight. “Talbot… he saved me!”

I know… I know…” Sachi, still cradling her son with weeping eyes looked up at Sir Talbot, “Thank you, thank you very much!!”.

Sir Talbot did not say anything in return. He stood there in a silence as metallic as his suit.

I walked over to Alex and ruffled his hair and pinched his cheeks before stroking them, “Welcome back, Alex…” I drew out a long breath and he placed his hand over my hand.

I had not envisaged that I would ever have the need to thank a minion of the dark forces, but it was my wise heart that said to me that things were not as they were. Something had changed and it was my duty to acknowledge that. I turned to the metal man and stepped closer. I could feel Sachi and Alex behind me, tense and uncertain as to whether my approaching him was a sensible idea. I, on the hand, knew that it was right to risk it.

Why did you help us?

A long pause ensued. Everyone held their breath. Not even the whisperings of trees could be heard in that silence, wherein time itself must have dissolved into oblivion.

I did not help you.

I was perplexed by his answer.

I helped me”.

I did not say anything, save that my eyes took a life of their own and gazed deeper into his faceless face.

I know my crimes are….. unpardonable. I broke a sacred trust that was once placed upon me.” There was confessional discomfort in his manner and voice. This was hard but harder still that he chose to tell us of the unspoken torture of living a life that was a lie at its core.“ I left the circle of my brothers and I betrayed my greatest friend… Arthur…. And for what? To live forever?” He lowered his head down to his chest. “Life without freedom is worse than death…

Arcana gave you immortality but with a condition…. that you live your days as her slave…” I softly cut in so that he may know that I was listening to his words and that his sufferings were no longer a secret. They had been released into the air.

Yes. Arthur’s soul will never forgive me. I know that. I am damned, a curse and a plague to myself. I became that very thing that I swore to defeat. And now… I am a lost cause and I cannot even end this misery of what I am”.

We were all silent and for what length of time, I cannot tell. I swallowed hard and came to him one step closer. He was crestfallen, a man desperate to atone for his sins, a man who wished to cease to be.

I stared at him hard and it was then that it dawned on me that the sunlight reflecting of his metal armour had sent a swirl of orange marble waves to ripple all across the grey walls, and if only there was a mirror I am certain we would have found ourselves beautifully splashed in the prism aura of his light. A new and brilliant realisation awoke in me and I was perfectly clear in my mind of what I had to undertake. Surprising everyone by my odd mannerisms, yet no one said anything as I walked over to my carpet bag, opened the fastening at the top and ducked my hand in, scrambling deep down into its filled but infinite cavern.

Now, where are you?” I was talking aloud my thoughts. “Ah, there you are!” And out of the bag I pulled out a long black umbrella. A proud and upright gait in my walk, I marched over to Sir Talbot and cleared my throat with the commanding countenance by which King Arthur might have once expressed when addressing his gallant knights of the round table.

Kneel”.

My friends were completely gobsmacked and the metal man in front of me dared not to move a muscle. I had spooked everyone so it seemed.

Ahem, ahem. Did you not hear me? I said kneel.

Very slowly he knelt down on one leg, the armour on his body stretching and all the while his head was cowered down to reveal the gap between his helmet and shoulder plate. I caught a glimpse of his human form dormant beneath the sheets of metal.

You are right…. I deserve to be punished and humiliated”, he whispered.

I raised my umbrella above my head and like a mighty sword it was poised to slice through the blasphemous enemy. Behind me, Sachi and Alex squinted their eyes as they held onto one another other. What no one had guessed was that in my eyes this man was no longer the man that he had been for so many countless centuries.

Down plunged the umbrella but Sir Talbot did not flinch – and nor was there any reason to. I rested the end of my umbrella first on his left shoulder and then onto his right and I kept alternating like this as I made the announcement, a re-initation into the olden ways, “We – Alex, Sachi and I – hereby acknowledge the most excellent valour and bravery and selflessness as shown by you today, Sir Talbot, and pledge that as long as we shall live we will, with inviolable constancy, hold our heads high whenever your name is passed through our lips, for you are a noble man and… our most good friend!

He did not say a word but the gentle drawing of a sigh told me that he had found peace at last.

RISE, SIR TALBOT!” I smiled at him and his head rose up, and a shard of sunshine glinted off from the grated visor of his metal helmet. “You are no one’s servant, remember that my dear Sir. And if anyone should challenge that then let them squawk, but never ever forget who or what you are.

And what am I?” His eyes were not visible but his words saw my face clearly.

You are a good man and there is much more good left for you to do in the world. We are only the beginning but let us not be your last. Promise me that”.

I promise and thank you…. for releasing me.” He looked at me with his metal face but it was abound with affection, I could sense that, discerned only by my heart.

All of us caught in the emotions of the moment, I cleared my throat once again to signal that we needed to disband. “We better be heading out again, there is someone we must save”.

I know. You will be needing this”. He searched into his belt and pulled out a small piece of paper with strange numbers printed on it. “Arcana has imprisoned the Muse in this cell, in the highest wing of the castle, and these magical inscriptions will provide you with safe passage”.

When I took the paper into my hand and read the number sequence I immediately gathered what they were. “I see, this is a password to open a door bolted down by an advanced security programme.

Sir Talbot was a little befuddled by my modern assessment, but he did not wish to compromise my praising perception of him so he simply nodded in agreement.

Thank you, Sir Talbot! Right, let’s go and save her!” I was buzzing inside, my determined sense of mission had grown exponentially in the last few minutes, and both Alex and Sachi cheered, hoisting their fists in the air!

I cannot go with you”. Sir Talbot was sorry for not accompanying us, for only the children of the seen and unseen worlds, born with the Gift of Sight, were allowed to enter those upper echelons of the castle.

You have done your part and played it well you have”. I smiled at him and he could tell in my assurance that I was not the least bit ruffled, nor my impressions of him mitigated, by his decision. He had made a sensible choice.

Alex was the first one to walk through the doorway in the crumbling façade of bricks but before he entered he spun round and with the most friendliest smile stretched out across his tiny little face he addressed Sir Talbot. “Thank you… Sir Talbot! Thank you for being nice and saving my life. You’re a really cool dude! I can’t wait to tell my friends about you! Thank you!

Sir Talbot bowed his head down and then up again. Alex mimicked his motions before disappearing through the doorway.

Sachi was to follow, and she too stopped and turned to face Sir Talbot. “Thank you for saving my son.” Her voice shook a little but she was more than willing to contend with her emotions and continued, “King Arthur would have been proud of you today”. Sir Talbot bowed his head again and she did the same, although she was close to having her head bumped against the bricks because Alex could hear how sentimental she had become and shouted out from the other side, “Oh Mum, don’t start crying now, we need to go! Hurry up!” Sachi laughed her way through the doorway, her son frenetically tugging her sleeves from the other end!

And then there was only Sir Talbot and I.

Listen…. I suggest you go out in the world with that metal gear off but make sure you wear some clothes!” I giggled uncontrollably but he did not seem to catch on to the joke and thus I returned to a more sincere tone of voice and topic. “Unfortunately the weather of the British Isles has not changed much since the medieval times, it is mostly very wet and damp, and with someone with a predisposition to metal attire, may I suggest that you accept this gift from me”. I handed him my umbrella.

He stared at it, unsure what to do.

Please, have it. It will protect you from rusting should you wish not to wear the clothes of our times.” I suddenly felt quite beside myself, embarrassed that I may have offended his traditional ways.

After a momentary hesitation he reached out and took the umbrella. “Thank you”. I wish I could have seen his face then.

I nodded and backed away. Happy in the knowledge that Arcana had one less evil creation by her side, and that we had one more warrior of light to fight for our cause. Just as I was beginning to enter the doorway he asked me a question.

Will I see you again?

I paused for thought and searched my heart.

Yes…. Yes you will. In another story…” And with those words I left him with my umbrella in his hand,  and he stood at peace with speckles of sunshine reflecting off the bright, shiny coat of his armour.

When I stepped out onto the other side, Alex was leaning against a wooden fence with his hand acting as an awning over his eyes. Sachi was stood next to him, absolutely motionless and when she saw that I was here she gestured me to quickly join them.

I ran up to them .“What is it?

What happened next?  ♥♥♥     

 

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 10: The Knight At The End Of The Tunnel

Thank you… Sir Talbot! Thank you for being nice and saving my life. You’re a really cool dude! I can’t wait to tell my friends about you! Thank you!

 

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 10: The Knight At The End Of The Tunnel

“… she was close to having her head bumped against the bricks because Alex could hear how sentimental she had become and shouted out from the other side, “Oh Mum, don’t start crying now, we need to go! Hurry up!”…”

 

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 10: The Knight At The End Of The Tunnel

“… When I stepped out onto the other side, Alex was leaning against a wooden fence with his hand acting as an awning over his eyes. Sachi was stood next to him, absolutely motionless and when she saw that I was there she gestured me to quickly join them...”

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 9: Alex Encounters A Writer’s Block!

ACHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Alex could not contain the mammoth sneeze any longer than he had endured, for otherwise certain spontaneous combustion was very much on the cards and at this stage of the quest it was important that he remain in one piece! Sachi and I both tilted our heads down to him and he, with apologetic eyes pleaded not to be reprimanded and whispered, “Sorry!

Immediately Professor Arcana and Sir Talbot came to a halt in their discussion and they peered out towards the doorway. Deadpan and piercing, Arcana’s face grew green with caustic fury, and a rumble that had begun in her throat, snaked and slithered its way to her mouth before she raised her voice so as to shudder the nearby stones to crack, “YOU!

All three of us froze on the spot despite knowing fully well that the very extremity of the situation demanded that we ought to flee!

Servant, SEIZE THEM!” Arcana rose from her seat, the book sliding off her lap with a thud on the ground as if it were never an object of consequence for her, “They know everything! They must not get away!!

Contrary to Arcana’s orders, Sir Talbot did not obey. He stayed rooted to the spot, and though his face was not visible since it lay hidden underneath his encumbering metal helmet, the three of us were beyond a doubt that he was having a hard time processing his mistress’s orders.

SERVANT!

To that fierce trumpet call, Sir Talbot unwillingly retook his position as the enslaved creature and rushed at us, a clamorous stampede of metal charging at the speed of a bull.

Breathless and scared out of our wits – after all remember that we did not possess on us any such weapon or device by which to evade or overcome a lunatic knight – we had no other option but to scream to each other to RUN!!!

I should imagine You are most probably wriggling with the question of how on earth the three of us had navigated and scaled that hill and up to the castle, and then to find ourselves stood at precisely the threshold of Arcana’s funereal chambers when we should have still been slurping down our teas?

Let us backtrack along time and to the scene of our jolly munching business at that quaint and charming teahouse!

Alex, I am terribly lost! What Kung Fu manual? You did not say anything about that in your message?” I was positively puzzled by this boy’s extraordinary fickle nature of mind!

Aunty Mazzy is right, Alex.” Sachi was greatly anxious and the smile that she had made a habit to wear under all circumstances had now but disappeared.

Alex got up cautiously from his seat and eyed the large mirror that was hung up on the wall in front of him. Then he got up fully and turned round, peering his head out through the window.

Right, he’s gone!

Who’s gone?” I was beginning to suspect that there must have been something spiked into his scone! He was not making much sense at all!

He sat back down and faced the both of us. “Sir Talbot. Arcana’s metal pet.

WHAT? He was here?!” I felt pretty daft not to have detected a sighting of him myself.

Who is Sir Talbot?” Poor Sachi had not received erudition on these matters of the strange world in as much depth as I and Alex had.

He works for Arcana and he was here, listening to us talking. I saw his reflection in the mirror. That’s why I changed the subject quickly. I did not want him to go and tell Arcana that we have our magical carpet bag filled with stuff that’ll send her stomach crazy!” Alex had suddenly grown up into a man, at least he was thinking like one!

Sachi looked mighty pleased with his quick-footedness and her face once more glowed with her lovely smile, “That was good thinking, Alex! I am proud of you!” He shook away the compliment as if it were just normal practice for him to generate superb tactics at the opportune time!

So, you created a red herring?! That is clever and devious! Now Sir Talbot will tell his mistress that we are out to get her with the art of Kung Fu, when, of course, the truth is altogether finer than that because our weapon is the only one in the world that is her ultimate ‘Achilles Heel’!” If there was one disheartening aspect to this ruse it was that I simply failed in finding the words to describe the ingenuity demonstrated by Alex. However he had clicked onto my glowing impression of him and glittered a smug smile back at me. What a fine young fellow!

Now’s our chance, let’s follow him. He will definitely lead us to her!” Alex pulled on his coat, our marching orders had been given and collecting our belongings we set off to follow the metal can man up to the lair of our arch nemesis!

The wind outside had grown chillier and we clutched our scarves tighter around our necks and stayed close to each other. Most of the folk were heading back to the village,  except for us, we were trained on the trudging figure ahead, a sheet of bright metal stomping up the grass and onwards to the forlorn walls of Corfe Castle. None of us spoke as we edged closer and closer to the ruins, for what could be worse than to be caught out now after coming this far? Occasionally Sir Talbot would freeze and you could hear him panting away and those were undeniably the trickiest part of the climb when it was crucial that you remained as still as possible lest he were to turn around!

It was not the ascent that troubled me as much as the impending sadness that cloaked the castle walls. Somewhere, in a secret and well-hidden chamber, dark and dank and protected by the most gruesome of enchantment spells, there was Rianna, cruelly shunned from fulfilling her destiny. And, likewise, somewhere in that great big world, another tortured individual must be right now lurking in the shadows of their own self-doubt because he cannot find his Muse, his Inspiration. I was the bridge to their meeting and for some reason when I thought about it in this way, aspiring in my mind the bigger picture of the story, it spurted a new zeal of courage which coursed through my heart, and I was more ready than ever to take on whatever threat should be bold enough to come my way.

We entered a stone archway and a devilish gust of wind blew in from the top, the absence of roofs let the draught in from all directions. It was less a building and more a gravestone of rocks and that is why I tussled with the conundrum of where could Arcana’s lair possibly be located if everything was blatantly exposed to the naked eye.

Even stones have secrets, so we were to discover. Sir Talbot climbed a short flight of stone steps before turning left to face a crumbling dead-end wall. He lifted his hand and pressed one of the stones inwards and suddenly the wall gave way. It rose up to reveal a secret chamber. He turned around to check that no one was there and thank goodness we were quick enough to duck behind a few bushy shrubs. He entered the chamber and quietly we tip-toed up the stairs. The door had not been closed and so with care we sneaked our heads in.

For the first time in our lives, we saw her, Professor Aracana, the deranged evil in the guise of a woman who sought to eradicate the human spark of creativity from the face of the earth. Oh how I wanted to storm into the room and bash her head with my carpet bag but we all knew collectively that now was not the time to let blind impulse to get in the way. Blending in with the jagged rocks around us, we did not move a muscle and listened.

It was when that nuisance of a wasp bounced off Alex’s noise that the first craving to sneeze wrought him down. Sachi and I laid our hands on his shoulders to urge him not to give in to his temptation to blow his noise. But it was just too much for him to bear. Arcana’s declaration of her desire to be God clinched the deal, literally, and precisely then Alex expelled what could only be fittingly described as a sonic boom out of his nostrils and mouth, and the yuckiest of gunge flew out and splattered all over the walls! Luckily Sachi and I were spared the gunky shower!

And, yes, that brings us neatly back to the present moment, and where were we?  Ah, yes, we were being chased! Cosmic creepers! Yikes!

SEIZE THEM, you fool!!” Arcana’s shrieks ripped and tore the place apart, an unseen dagger jolting the birds out from their secret alcoves in the walls.

We hardly had time for civility and instead of scuttling down those stairs, we chose to hold our breath and jump down onto the grass, and the unevenness of the terrain with its sharp and jagged rocks spliced our skins with numerous bruises and gashes. Sir Talbot was inches away from us, for we could hear the rattle of metal and the laboured puffing of a man straining to catch his breath. As we came round a corner, Sachi and I swerved as fast as we could, alas, Alex in his haste tripped over a stone and fell.

ALEX!” I saw Sir Talbot gaining upon him fast. I turned on my feet and shot back to where he lay but the resilience of the boy knew no bounds and he had already gotten up and moved off in an alternative direction. Sir Talbot doggedly followed Alex, and so did Sachi and I. We were all in this together and had from the outset made our firm pact that no one was to be left behind.

From above, on a thin precipice of rock, stood the eerily composed Arcana, and with her hands crossed in front of her chest, it was now possible to make out on of her arms the needle mark of a syringe. As she had dictated to Sir Talbot earlier, she had injected herself the serum. Under her pale and ghostly skin a beastly transmogrification was churning her cells over and over, and whilst stood high above, monitoring the chase that was unfolding below, she took great delight in seeing that Alex was headed straight for one of her most simplistically designed traps that she had inconspicuously built into the walls of the castle ruins. She had cut out a block of bricks from one of the walls, so that if anyone were to try and squeeze through it the interior would be activated to constrict the trespasser with even more formidable force. It was meant to be a satirical parody of the classic ‘Writer’s Block’ syndrome. “Oh how sweet is that, the boy is about to have his fragile lungs pulverised!” She spat as she spoke and then let out a blood-curdling laugh. “There is nothing more perfectly ecstatic than to watch innocence die before and beneath you!

Meanwhile, on ground, Alex had reached a dead-end chamber and was now nearly out of breath and his legs ached, but his hopes were raised when he caught sight of a gap in the wall whose size was just right for him to pass through, although not large enough for a grown man to enter – let alone Sir Talbot and all his overbearing armour. The little boy thought nothing more of it and dived into the hole and, with the dexterity of an underground mole, pushed and clawed his way through the passage as fast as he could, however, to his choking horror he realised that something was terribly wrong. His chest and tummy began to feel tighter. The inner walls were moving and, furthermore, they were moving inwards with crushing pressure!

Sachi and I tried to catch up with Alex but in the scramble through the labyrinthine ruins we had lost him.

ALEX!!” His mother cried out with all her might, her hands and arms flailing all over the place, for she was rightfully in a hysterical panic. She felt very guilty for listening to him and letting them come here, she should have never have given in to her son’s demands.

MUM! AUNTY MAZZY! HELP!!!” The echoes reverberated all around us and we rushed to the source, tripping over the odd stones and loose branches, before arriving at a long side wall with a tiny block of square cut out from it and inside, stuck and helpless, was Alex. He was squealing in pain, and the lacklustre hue of his face and the dullness of his eyes showed that he had no more strength in him to push out of the tight stranglehold in which he had unwittingly found himself trapped.

It’s ok, Alex. We’ll get you out of here!” I consoled him as I took hold of one his hands, whilst he mother grabbed the other and the two of us pulled as hard as we could, but Alex did not budge forward one bit. With each constriction of the nightmarish contraption, Alex yelped in unspeakable misery and I had wished that I could fall deaf so that I may be excused from hearing the gut-wrenching cries of a poor child.

When things turn horribly bad, it is often said that they tease us and become even worse and that is exactly what happened. Who could mistake that sound of the clunk of metal against metal and of that rasping breath, belonging to that creature whose blind subservience to the darkest forces on earth is a thing of great woe.

Hurry up! Please!” Alex was beginning to whimper now and I hated for my ears to have had to hear that because to me he was always the brave one. I should never have to see him like this.

Sweat beads trickling down my forehead, I looked into his eyes and I knew already.

Aunty Mazzy…. Talbot’s behind me and he’s got my legs!!

What happened next? ♥♥♥

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 9: Alex Encounters A Writer’s Block!

“… his hopes were raised when he caught sight of a gap in the wall whose size was just right for him to pass through, although not large enough for a grown man to enter…”

The Legend Of Corfe Castle Chapter 9: Alex Encounters A Writer’s Block!

Aunty Mazzy…. Talbot’s behind me and he’s got my legs!!

 

Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Corfe Castle Village | Wareham | Dorset | UK 2016