I must thank Lady Joyful for lending me the use of her picture, please go and have a look at her lovely blogs. As well as being a talented card maker, she also does the Photo A Day Challenge and we both agreed that this particular picture looked as though it had a story to tell.
So, here you are. Thank you, Lady Joyful, for lending me your picture and providing me with a haunting title…
As The Barrel Swings…
The landlord was proud of his beer and justly so. His inn was warm and welcoming, clean and restful, and the brew he served danced as lightly on the tongue as if it had been stirred by the Little Folk themselves. The landlord like his father, and grandfather before him, believed in giving a good beer to his customers and proudly hung a barrel outside his inn, directly outside his daughter’s chamber window, and as she lay in her bed, she could hear it creaking gently in the breeze – a badge of office and confirmation of the delicate beverage to be found within.
The customers came, from far and wide, to drink this beer and eat home made bread and cheese, the yeasty dough and white crumbly cheese the perfect accompaniment to the golden, summer-smelling beer.
The landlord’s reputation spread, attracting custom from all over the county, including the gentry and their friends. Sometimes the landlord’s wife and daughter would be obliged to help serve thirsty farmhands their drinks, while the sons changed barrels and cleared tables, good humoured and bluff.
And then one day, as the breeze blew, it brought something new. Something slim, dark and rapier sharp, riding on a fine grey stallion, soft of mouth and light of foot. The young man was friend to the squire’s son, but a very different being in this country of blonde men and women, apple cheeked and round limbed. No, this young man was dark and fine, delicately drawn and thin but strong, as the muscles corded and rippled through the fine cotton on his shirt.
The landlord’s daughter couldn’t take her eyes off him. Her eyes lingered admiringly on the strong young throat, shadowed darkly with sleek hair, so very different to the yellow coarseness of those around her like the stubble on the fields when the wheat was harvested.
He laughed and lowered his tankard and his eyes fell upon the landlord’s daughter. A speaking silence hung between them, dark eyes locked on blue. A brother’s shove flung thoughts of love aside and she returned to her duties.
A murmuring, a discontented mutter from the brother to the father and all eyes turned to the dark young man, slim and elegant like a shady flame.
His eyes returned again and again to the landlord’s daughter, plumply pretty and moon fair.
He watched her and waited, a sleek dark fox patiently seeking his prize. As she slipped out the back to empty the spitoon, the young man nonchalantly left to use the privy. He caught her by the stables and looked deep into her eyes. She gazed back and was lost as he raised a hand and placed it gently, oh so gently, on the soft skin of her throat. A meeting was arranged, a time was agreed; and they parted with the promise of passion to be shared.
A figure slid out of the shadows by the stables, a brother had heard and reported back all to their father, not a word left unsaid.
With fury and rage, the landlord simmered. He and his sons swore that the daughter would not stray and resolved to stop this in the country way.
Night time fell, a summer evening sweet with promise, yet anticipated chill as Autumn waited around season’s corner, the wolf of Winter not far behind. The scent of honeysuckle gilded the air as bats slipped through the sky and an owl called softly as it flew past on moth-downy wings, startling the girl who waited by the elm. Her heart beat brightly in her chest with pleasure as she waited for the one who held her love.
The slim young man set out eagerly on foot, weaving through the darkness to where his love waited, the one in whose eyes he had seen his future. His foot fell on the gravel path – at once he felt a warmth at his back and a fear at his soul. The breath left his lungs with a terrible blow.
His love stood waiting, waiting by the tree as he fought for his life and tried to struggle free.
The landlord and his sons – for it was them of course – beat the young man until he was dead. The daughter’s heart broke, piece by tender piece, as the promise of a future slowly disappeared, as the evening dew fell, as mist wreathed the tree.
Left with a body they had to hide, the man and his sons took it inside.
And into the barrel they carefully packed the fine young man from whom they had hacked, body and soul, life and limb. They emptied his life into the barrel, they sealed it with tar and hung it with care.
The barrel was replaced outside the daughter’s chamber window: she returned home, sadly and quietly, a little bit older and a world of grief wiser and retreated to her bed to cry and mourn.
She never married or looked at another man, grieving for a love so briefly held and lost, yet unawares that the man she mourned and longed for hung within touching distance.
As she aged, he decayed, united in loss; and the landlord thrived.