Artwork by Joshua Insole

As bad luck would have it, Dafyd was the first to sense the danger. With his tongue recently severed, however, his effectiveness as a communicator had been diminished.

Dali was mid-sermon; he’d assumed the role as the spiritual leader of their Three. He orated the words — drilled into them by the Father — to the other two. That Bidar was now deaf and could not hear him did not seem to deter the flow of his recital.

“Have mercy on me, O God!” he said as he tottered along the uneven forest trail with his walking stick, which thumped into the dry earth with hypnotic regularity. Overhead, the trees from either side had intertwined, the branches forming an archway above the path. The beams of light that poked at odd angles through the canopy did little to illuminate the dusty route, and — if anything — seemed to emphasize the darkness that encroached upon them.

Dafyd’s eyes darted to the blur of ink-black shadows, which writhed and boiled, concealed in the treeline just ahead. He tried to use his voice, but all that came out was an unintelligible mumble. The words tumbled out of his mouth like the drunk who stumbles through a doorway. The sound that he made deep in his throat was lost in the ferocity of Dali’s utterances.

“According to your unfailing love!” said Dali, oblivious. His stick pounded on upon the compacted soil. “According to your great compassion!” Thump. Thump.

Dafyd tapped Bidar on the shoulder, but the deaf boy slapped him away. “Gerrof!” he said. “I’ve got a headache!” His eyes were trained on the ground. Dafyd tried to grab him and shake him as a panicked whine began to emanate from his throat, but Bidar barely glanced at him. “I said gerrof!” The boy pouted and began to massage his temples. “I’m not in the mood, Dafyd.” His lower lip protruded, like a toddler’s.

“Blot out my transgressions!” said Dali, his empty hand clenched before his chest in religious fervour. Dafyd patted his arm, but he too shooed him away. “And wash—” his voice faltered “—and wash away… Not now, Dafyd! I’m communicating with Our Lord!” Dali shrugged Dafyd off and tried to continue. “And wash away all my—”

Dafyd clutched him and held him still and pointed — desperately — at the swirling shadow that lingered ahead of them. He had, in his horror, forgotten that Dali no longer had any eyes.

“Oh, what? What is it, Dafyd? What’s so important that you’d interrupt my sermon?”

The boy gestured at the amorphous blur, which had begun to move in their direction.

It had sensed them.

“I can’t see!” said Dali, voice full of frustration. “Oh, Bidar, can you tell me what he’s prattling on about? Bidar? Bidar!” Dali reached out in the direction of Bidar and swiped at the air. “Dafyd, get Bidar!” It was not a question.

Dafyd grabbed Bidar’s arm and refused to let go when the boy tried to wriggle out of his grip. “I said let go of me! What about gerrof don’t you—” His voice caught in his throat as he looked up.

The blob of nothingness — like an ink stain on the fabric of reality — had exited the cover of the treeline and broken out onto the road. The way ahead was blocked by the splotch, which began to take form.

And it was coming for them.

Bidar frowned and paused for a split-second. A confused gasp escaped his lips. And then he screamed. His cracked voice tore the air. “CEISIWR!”

Dali froze, his address forgotten. Bidar had already rushed to the trees to their right, crashing through the undergrowth. “Don’t move!” said Dali. “Don’t move!” And still, Bidar ran.

Dali grabbed Dafyd’s hands, ruined eyeballs locked with his own. The jelly of the orbs was tattered and torn, any semblance of colour or recognition long-since excised. “Dafyd. Get him.”

Dafyd hesitated and glanced at the chaotic swirl that approached. Dali sensed his reluctance and squeezed his hands. “Dafyd, look at me.” Dali’s voice was calm, even. “I’ll handle it. Go get Bidar. Save him.”

Dafyd nodded and mumbled a sound of agreement. He turned and started to follow the direction in which he thought Bidar had ran. He stopped and cast one last glance at his blind friend. Somehow, the boy watched him with his unseeing eyes. He smiled. “Don’t you worry, Dafyd. I’ll be fine.” His voice then took on the commanding tone he’d later be known for. “Now go save one of our Three.” With that, Dali began to walk towards the ceisiwr. With his one free hand he reached out, the other clutched his stick in a white-knuckle grip. Thump. Thump.

Dafyd turned and ran. He swatted at the branches that reached for him and tore at his skin. He cried out to Bidar, as he followed the trampled underbrush that marked the way the boy had fled, even though he lacked the ability to speak and Bidar lacked the capacity to listen.

Behind him, back on the road, Dali had resumed his prayer as he faced the danger alone.

“Wash away all my iniquity,” he said, in a voice that shook only slightly. His words rang out, clear and true, and Dafyd wondered if even Bidar could hear him, too. “And cleanse me from my sin.”

2nd September 2020

Written for the September 2020 #BlogBattle

Read the rest of Tales From Boddi Craig here!


10 thoughts on “Ceisiwr

  1. aebranson

    Ack! You did the same thing I did (when you read my story this month, you’ll see what I mean)! And I sure hope that, like me, you’ll wrap it up next month! 😉
    Great way of getting us more acquainted with the characters. With them still getting accustomed to their inflicted disabilities, at this point they can only prove to be a hindrance. When I think back on your earlier segment about the trio of elderly guardians, and how well they worked together, this scenario provides an illuminating contrast. As always your description of the setting and action provide vivid imagery.
    There was one matter that confused me, and perhaps you’re just using irony and I’m being thick. 🙂 Dali’s soliloquy about mercy/love/compassion doesn’t match up with the lifestyle of the community he comes from. I would have expected more of a focus on punishment/obedience/vengeance from the way these people conduct their lives. The more I think about irony, the more I think you may have handled it quite brilliantly: They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. In other words, they have ears, but they don’t hear – or more precisely, *listen*. And the boys’ (self) inflicted injuries could be a mirror of this error. This could also be a means by which the demons get the upper hand….
    Although Dali has assumed a leadership role, I suspect he’s going to learn how much he needs the others. So very much looking forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      The difficulties of the 1k word limit, eh? I look forward to reading yours! I’ve been thinking about doing a pt. II for this month… But then again, I might just wait and see where next month’s prompt takes me!

      Thank you! I really like the idea of jumping back and forth between them as old men and adolescents — how were they different? How were they the same? What have they learned in all these years, what lessons will they have to endure? I’ve got the two points, now I just need to connect the dots…

      Not being thick at all, that was very astute of you! You’re absolutely right, though, I did do it as a sort of irony — for them to prattle on with hollow words that they recite but don’t actually feel with the entirety of their heart. Well spotted! Of course, there are other prayers/recitals that will touch on the more… stony and cold elements of their religion. I’ll definitely touch on those in later prompts!

      Thanks again! I’m looking forward to writing the next instalment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. aebranson

    I have to suspect in your dot connecting those words of light will begin to have more meaning to our little trio. And I’m wondering if this month’s confrontation will be the beginning of *that* journey. What better way to repel a demon…?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gary

    You aren’t kidding about chronology swapping Joshua. Sorry I’m mega late everywhere too. Part per our discussions and part a fledgling is about to leave for uni. That’s taken an unexpected internal angst I wasn’t expecting.

    Love the flip to back story too. The old men grown young. There’s something fascinating working back to see how the character(s) you start with actually become who they are. The more I do that the more I feel know them too. Gives the writing something more in terms of depth a few words on a character sheet don’t.

    Nice tough with the empty incantation too. Something Abe saw too. Reminds me of Salem’s lot. Without true faith the cross means nothing. Is this something that might inhibit the ability to hold the demon fully in check? Is this the learning curve necessary to develop the necessary certainty of duty required? Either that or every acolyte selection is given the same names and what we see here is the loss of past in the hollow words. Hmm, there’s a thought, name continuation as boys move to chosen. That’s an eerie thought. Not just losing a sense, but also your own individuality during the ceremony. The ultimate indoctrination.

    Great writing once again and I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      I mean, it’s taken me a month and a half to get back to you — I think that’s a new record for sluggishness! Clawing my way back, tooth and nail. Read most of last month’s and this month’s BB entries.

      But yes, lots of hopping back and forth. I took this month off from BC… I’m considering using what I’ve written as a springboard, and starting a clearer narrative, instead of jumping around. Maybe next month?

      I was thinking along similar lines to Salem’s Lot. This journey to the Castell is meant to be a sort of lesson/test once the Three have suffered their impairments. But I won’t spill too much, as I do want to get into that proper. 😉 As for the same name idea — that’s a very eerie thought, I never even thought of such a notion. Very creepy, Gary, but rather a cool idea!

      Thanks for the in-depth comment, Gary — and for your patience with me, haha!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gary

        Don’t worry Joshua, of late I’ve been very slack writing wise. I’m a tad behind reading some entries too. For me the jumping around is entirely for my own benefit really. Testing things in case I ever start actually writing the epic it seems to want. Most of what’s here will probably remain as back story. That character development thing. Not that that makes it easy for folk to follow ha, ha!

        Creepy I can do 😱Take the name thing if you want. I think it adds value to the loss of self in the journey of ascension

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Beth Camp

    Fascinating tale of three boys on a journey, each with limitations, each unable to truly ‘listen’ to the other — until disaster looms. For some reason, I’m reminded of the three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). The horror and sacrifice is beautifully presented with precise, agonizing dialogue and imagery. Despite that unexpected severed tongue (!!!!) in the first para, I enjoyed reading this very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thanks, Beth! Sorry for the slow response. Yes, you’re exactly right — that was the image I wished to evoke. There’s actually quite a bit of backstory to this, which I explored in earlier BlogBattle entries. I hope to begin a more focused narrative soon(ish!). 🙂


  5. lizzie666

    Interesting. I haven’t read any of the previous story so I may be way off base but does Dali need to believe in his sanctity to defeat the darkness? There seems to be a sense of innocence in the trio despite their horrendous maiming and is the interdependence of those three senses in a single human mirrored in the interdependence of the trio? I am intrigued and must find time (I have so little spare 📥) to go back and read more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Thanks, Lizzie! (For your patience and your comment! — sorry for the slow response). A great question, one that I hope to answer/explore once I return to Boddi Craig. That’s exactly what I was aiming for, so I’m so pleased that you picked up on those themes! There’s a bit of backstory done in earlier entries — but it’s a bit scattered, hopping all over the place. I’m considering starting afresh, to give a better focus to the story.


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