The Three Roads (A Short Story)


Now he knows he’s lost. Why does it bother him? Isn’t this what he wanted? To be lost to them, forever?

He scoffs and leans on a tree, one of the hundreds that surround him. The forest is deep wherever he looks. The only thing he can do now is keep walking ahead. Try not to return.

He’s tired and hungry, so he decides to rest. He has a piece of bread with him, the only food he managed to take. He should’ve planned this better. He might find some fruit in the forest, but what if he picks something poisonous? Maybe he could hunt, but he doesn’t really know how. He has a small knife, nothing more. He bites the stale bread and sighs. Everything is better than staying there, isn’t it? Somehow he’s not that certain anymore.

Then he hears something. He hopes it’s just a rabbit, but he still draws his knife. He listens. The leaves crack. It must be something bigger than a rabbit. His eyes widen as he looks around. It’s coming closer, but he’s not sure from which direction. Then he hears a sweet laughter. A woman. But where?

“Don’t worry, I won’t harm you,” a soft voice says.

Suddenly, he sees her. A beautiful young woman, dressed in brown leather, bow and arrows hanging over her shoulder.

“Who are you?” he manages to ask, half conscious and still afraid.

“Just call me Artemis,” she shrugs.

“Artemis? Like the Greek Goddess?” he smiles. He feels more confident now.

“I look like her, don’t I?” she smiles. He nods. She really is a strange looking woman.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I just live here,” she shrugs.

“Oh…” A forest woman. Strange.

“And what are you doing here?” she asks.

“I’m just… Running away I guess.” Her smile is nice, but there’s something strange about it, almost dangerous. Her eyes seem wild. Maybe it’s all in his head.

“I can help you escape,” she says. “There’s a lot of forest to go through. You might need help.”

He looked down, at his piece of stale bread, lying on the ground.

“Well, I guess I do need help.”

“Follow me, then. Are you hungry?”

She bites at the meat, but he doesn’t feel hungry anymore. He remembers the eyes of the poor animal, the panic, the pain, the blood. So much blood.

“Is something wrong?” she asks.

Her voice is sweet, her face kind, despite her piercing eyes. Her beautiful brown hair falls over her shoulders. It almost makes him forget what she did. Still, he doesn’t touch the meat. You don’t really think about it when it served on the plate. You don’t think about the murder, the living creature before it became food.

The moon is already up when they reach a river. He drinks the cold water, his thirst finally satisfied. She’s sitting on the river bank, her feet in the water. She looks at the moon and seems peaceful. There is something different about her. She looks the same, but the expression of her face is changed. There’s no wilderness in her eyes. He sits next to her, and he feels peaceful, too. She looks at him, and she almost seems sad.

“Do you really live here?” he asks.

“For centuries,” she says.

He touches the fingers of her small hand. She draws them away.

“I just… Thank you,” he says.

“Why are you here?” she asks him.

“I just ran away. My life… I felt like I was losing control over it. I just felt like… Running. Starting fresh. I don’t want to spend my entire life in that small, boring village.”

“You seem to be on a crossroads,” she sighs. “So, that’s why we’ve met…”

She is sad. Why? The night suddenly grows darker. He looks at the sky and he doesn’t see the moon anymore. Dark clouds appeared over it.

“I hope it won’t rain,” he says and turns to her. He finds her changed again.

She stands up, her eyes wilder than ever. No, not wild. Dark. Powerful.

“What are you running away from?” her voice is different, too. It’s unnaturally clear, but not loud. He tries to get up but fails. “Are you running from responsibility? From others? From yourself?”

He wants to ask her what’s going on, but he cannot find his voice. It’s not her anymore. This is a different person. She looks almost more beautiful than before, but much more dangerous. He hears crows screeching, and he is certain he didn’t hear them before. On one side, the water rises. Little drops floating in air. On the other, leaves fly up, and form around her like dark aura.

“Who are you?” he manages to cry out.

“Three roads,” she says. “One goes back to where you started. You ask for forgiveness, and become what you were. No risk, nothing changes. The second road leads to failure. The third leads to everything you’ve wanted.”

He tries to stay calm. To think.

“How do I know which is which?”

“You’ll have to guess it.”

In that moment he wanted to go back. Forget this strange, terrifying day, be who he was before. But he’s not that man anymore. He’s made his choice, and making a choice always means change. A change within. The old is dead, and the new is born.

“Then I’ll guess,” he says. One foot after the other, he went ahead, wherever it may lead.

“In the later poets, Artemis is identified with Hecate. She is ‘the goddess with three forms,’ Selene in the sky, Artemis on earth, Hecate in the lower world and in the world above when it is wrapped in darkness.”

–  Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes

Currently Reading: Bright Air Black by Davin Vann

currently reading posts

Recently, I talked about Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, the retelling of The Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective. The book I’m currently reading is also a retelling of a Greek myth, and this time it is the myth of the Argonauts, Jason and Medea. Mostly about Medea, though, since it focuses on her point of view.


Medea is without words, without thought. She has unstrung the world, pulled some vital thread and unraveled all. Nothing to do now but hold her breath and find out whether a new world re-forms.

Bright Air Black by David Vann is bloody and brutal, as mythology often is. Medea is a sorceress, and this book shows her in all her power and ruthlessness.

She would rather be this. She would bring all together, in balance and quiet. Rule without sound, without rough movement. All held and cought and perfect. But she knows she is meant to destroy, and she knows that she is not done.

Medea is also in search of herself and her place in the world, and she is scared of failure. Despite the horrible things she does, it’s impossible not to sympathise with her, especially when some things she says sound very true.

Kings always blind. Her father not considering his daughters, believing a threat only in a son. Daughters to him no more than a tool to bind other peoples through marriage. Unwilling emissaries, their will never considered. (…) Outcast. This is what she had chosen, and it would have been chosen for her anyway. Her father an enemy later if not now, marriage not powerful enough to prevent war.

There are similarities between Bright Air Black and The Penelopiad, but so far I like this book better. I just love how Medea’s desire to rule, and be powerful and independent is weaved through every paragraph. The writing style is wonderful and poetic. It really made me want to freshen up my knowledge of Greek myths and tales, so besides Bright Air Black I’m also reading Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. Bright Air Black even inspired me to write some short stories (the one I posted recently is one of them), and I don’t think there’s a better recommendation for a book than that. So, I leave you with another quote and I hope this post will make you want to read the book.

 Why the constant desire to kill and dominate? Even in herself, relentless, a need to conquer. She would make all cower on the ground before her, every man in every land.

The Final Test

She expected a sphinx, prepared herself for a riddle that only the wisest can solve. She thought she might end up in a labyrinth, and have to fight the Minotaur. She looked around carefully, fearing the petrifying gaze of Medusa. She was taught to be brave, strong, and confident, but now she was confused.

Maybe she read too many stories.

All she knew was that she was about to face her ultimate test. And by ultimate, they certainly didn’t mean expected. Nothing that can be found in stories. No Pegasus to ride.

She had been put to sleep. That’s how the test always starts, and the only thing about it that was known to all the students. Once they opened their eyes, their challenge would look back at them. Everything was supposed to become clear then. But she woke up in a forest, alone. The grass was cold and wet from the dew. Lying on it was not pleasant, but it was real and comforting. She got up, making sure she wasn’t missing anything. No, nothing was looking back at her.

She had spent ten years in the Mansion, preparing herself for her future role. Not once in those ten years did she set foot outside. The forest smelled of rain, dirt, and was filled with the soft murmur of leaves. She breathed it all in. No human voices, no shouting, no screams. Was this how freedom feels like?

She knew now what the test was. She was all alone in the outside world. Her training will never be finished. Every day would be a new test. Now all she had to do was survive.

The Bird Watcher by Nelleke Pieters on Deviantart

Choosing to Choose

For as long as I can remember, I felt his dark eyes following me. I don’t know why I say dark, because they were pale blue and icy, but it is how they seemed to me.

His presence enveloped me every time I danced in the meadows with the others. I don’t know why we did that. It seemed as if we were having fun, but it wasn’t the reason we were doing it. We were supposed to dance, and we were expected to admire the colourful flowers. It wasn’t dancing, it was only living. We could be nothing else but happy and pretty. And even though I had often heard that I was the prettiest of them all, I never saw it. We all had flowy dresses and flowers in our hair. We were all beautiful. We all looked the same.

One day, we felt the ground shake underneath our bare feet. I heard the screams in fear of an earthquake, but I knew it was something else. I lowered myself to the ground, trying to keep my balance, grabbing the soft grass. My white dress flew around me like a cloud and the flowers from my hair threatened to fly away. Suddenly everything was still again.

I opened my eyes to see a crack in the ground, in front of me a deep, endless abyss. I noticed that I was shrouded by a dark shadow, so I looked up. I met the eyes that had haunted me. It was him.

I was scared, but more than anything I was angry. He grabbed my hands and helped me lift myself from the ground. Before I even noticed, I was falling down the abysmal pit. I never had a choice. First I was dancing, and now I was falling, and I chose none of it.

He was silent. We stood in the darkness until my eyes got used to it. Then I saw a ragged man with tangled beard and fiery eyes. He motioned to a boat and I knew I should enter it. My captor walked behind me, and took a place by my side. Suddenly, a swarm of fireflies surrounded the boat, and they flew beside it, lighting the way. The ferryman rowed carefully, obviously not used to the fireflies flying around him.

We first sailed the river of pain. I expected to hear screams of the dead, souls fighting to come back to life. Instead I encountered peace. Never have I experienced such silence, such tranquillity. Its eeriness reminded me how fragile life is.

Then we entered the river of wailing, and cold air of sorrow surrounded me. I had never felt like this before. My life was a cheerful one, life of songs and flowery meadows. But now sorrow seemed beautiful to me, because only those who had something to lose could feel it. I never did.

Next was the river of forgetfulness. I moved from the edge of the boat, scared that its water would touch me. I don’t want to forget who I am. But who am I anyway?

The fourth river is not a river at all, but a path of fire. This is where I hear the screams. Do some people really deserve to be punished so harshly? What have they done? I realized I didn’t know what to think of it. I knew nothing of evil and human crimes. I knew so little of life.

The last river was the widest one. It was peaceful and it led us to a great hall. I took a deep breath and absorbed its dark beauty.

My captor held my hand.

“You know me”, he said. It was the first time I heard him speak. His voice is husky and calm.

“I know who you are”, I responded.

“No, you know more. I know you do.”

I was not sure what he thought by it. I followed him into the hall. I felt tired. We had spent much more time on the boat than it seemed. It was hard for me to keep my eyes open. My captor led me to a room, furnished only with a huge bed covered with the softest feathers I had ever touched. I soon fell asleep.

I recall the previous day now, at the large breakfast table, filled with all kinds of colourful fruits. I’m looking into my captor’s eyes as he offers me some pomegranate seeds.

“They will come, and they have all the right to take you back, your colourful mother and my sweet brother”, he says calmly, and I feel a bitterness in his tone, a bitterness which somehow sounds familiar.

I guess I was lucky it wasn’t his brother who took an interest in me. Those young women never ended well. I feel anger again. I do not want to be so powerless, I refuse to live by the caprice of others.

“There is nothing I can do about it, but you can. You know what they say about the seeds in the Underworld. Once you eat them, you must stay.”

I look at the seeds, and then I gaze again into his eyes. Was he right? Do I really now him?

“You can choose to be my wife”, he concludes.

“I do not choose to be a wife”, I say as I pick up the seeds from his hand. “I choose to be an empress.”

He smiles a crooked smile and I know he likes my answer.

“I choose to choose”, I smile back at him.

I bite the pomegranate seeds, and I feel them melt on my tongue. They are both sweet and sour, and I know it is the best taste I have ever experienced. I am amazed that something so wonderful grows in a place so dark.

But the Underworld does not seem dark to me anymore. It seems as alive as the flowers and the green grass of my meadows. It is just the other side of the same coin. One does not exist without the other. Before coming here, I never knew what life was.

My captor points to a mirror. I look and see myself changed. My ginger hair turned auburn in the Underworld light. There are no more flowers in my hair, and my dress is not flowy or white. The dress is now black, close-fitting and sturdy, decorated with giant feathers. Instead of a nymph-like girl, I see a person of power. I see somebody who should be respected, even feared.

For the first time I see in my reflection that I truly am beautiful.

Hades and Persephone by Dulceta on Deviantart

The Story of Brighilda

the story of brighilda

I thought I’d share another snippet from my work-in-progress. This is my attempt at creating a mythology of the world from my novel, and I tried to make it sound like a real myth, not exactly realistic or completely logical. 

In the old times, the land was inhabited by trolls. They were mostly small, chubby creatures, mischievous but not evil. However, there was also a race of malicious giant trolls, who lived in the mountains, and they were so strong that even the gods feared them.

One day, a giant troll threatened the gods to destroy their land, the wonderful Meadows, unless they convince the warrior goddess Brighilda to be his bride. Brighilda did not want to submit to the troll’s request, and she said that the gods should fight the giant rolls. The gods, however, did not want to start a battle that would cost them many lives, and they ordered her to marry the giant troll. They took away her magical sword, Aiobheann, so that she could not oppose them. The only one who supported her was her brother, Aylill, the god of the rivers. Together, they came with a plan for her to escape the unwanted marriage.

On the day of the wedding, Brighilda pleaded the troll to allow her to wash her hair in the river. The troll did not allow it, but he ordered a bucket of water to be collected from the river and brought to Brighilda. He did not know that Aylill had taken Brighilda’s sword and thrown it into the river. Since the river was Aylill’s faithful servant, it made the sword invisible to the trolls, so they unknowingly collected it together with the water and brought it Brighilda. Once she had her sword, Brighilda was invincible. She slayed all the trolls, and the rest were drowned in the overflowing river. From that day on, there were no giant trolls in the entire world.

When Brighilda returned to the Meadows, the gods begged her to forgive them, and they never dared to oppose her again.

In Familiar Attire

People fear the unknown. They fear what they don’t understand. Unless it appears in nice attire.

I’ve seen them many times riding horses, ordering the dogs around, and hunting unarmed prey with their guns. That’s all they have against the nature, their guns and houses, dividing them from what they truly are. People are weak -their teeth are blunt, their skin bare. They cannot kill their prey with their hands nor can they survive the winter without their clothes to protect them.

But people can be smart. They are aware of their weaknesses and they think of ways to erase them. It makes them feel superior, not only to other animals but to nature as a whole. It the end, their biggest strength will make them weak. It is never wise to feel too safe.

I see a man on a horse, and a young woman riding behind him, his daughter. Confident they seem. He was not as confident that time when I showed up in front of his horse, only for a glimpse. The horse saw me, but the man couldn’t, blinded by his conceit. The horse decided to run away, as any wise animal would. The man couldn’t control him anymore. He pulled the reins but it only made the horse wilder. The man was lucky. He fell right away and the horse galloped away into the forest. The man broke his arm, but that was better than being trampled with steely hooves.

He feels safe again. He even lets his daughter ride. It was just an accident, and those don’t happen often. People trust horses. Animals are not as treacherous as they are.

So I appear to them as a horse. I am beautiful, white, with silky mane. I come out of the chilly, fresh river and offer them a ride. They are bewitched by me and the nature which is now more and more escaping their reach. They trust me. I carry them to the water and they feel happy. Then I drag them down, and they realize the mistake they have made, but they realize it far too late.

People trust a lovely horse. They think they possess it and that it exists just to serve them. They feel that the nature belongs to them. They are the ones who have the right to swim in lakes, eat their fish, and rest among the green trees. They fought for it with their intellect. But they are still weak.

People trust their possessions and believe they know all about them. They fear the unknown. They fear what they can’t understand. But the unknown sometimes appears in beautiful, familiar attire.

The Kelpies*, a sculpture in Scotland

*A kelpie is a water spirit from Scottish mythology, though similar creatures exists elsewhere as well.