By Stone, by Sea, by Flower, by Thorn

Edited by Julia Rios

August 2018

The bones of the earth are close to the surface here, all knobby elbows and wrinkled knees. In my childhood home, the land’s skeleton is well-fleshed with deep, rich soil, and the people are sleek and lush. Here, the folk are as bony as their land, clawing meager patches of barley and gnarled carrots from the thin ground. They live mostly on the fruits of the sea, salmon and cod and mussels, and butter and cheese from the hardy cattle that graze the sparse grasses.

I am heartily sick of fish.

When the raiders came, yowling, wrapped in fur and leather and wielding bright axes, my people hid in the deeps. Only I stayed above, exposed, alongside the few men who volunteered to guard me. They died beloved of the gods. The raiders hauled me north and north again, by land and by sea. The first man who bought me for shards of bright silver had foul breath and beat me when he wished. He died in his stocking feet, alone and in agony.

I burned his bed.

The men who followed him died too, sooner or later, and their families one after another. Now I share this sod-roofed hut with none but a cow, and sometimes a cat that wanders as she pleases. We keep each other warm enough. A few sheep with my notch in their ear roam the hills. I raise vegetables for myself and the cow, nurse a sharp-thorned climbing rose through the endless winters, tend the plants that color my wool, and harvest herbs of many and diverse kinds. I brought seeds with me, sewn into seams and tucked into unnoticed places. With my own hands I laid the wall that encircles my most precious plants, sheltering them from curious eyes and winter gales alike.

I tend them with devotion.

During the long summer days and the longer winter nights, I weave the patterns of my homeland on a cumbersome northern loom, its weights clacking as I beat the weft. The fabric grows, bit by bit, distant memories made tangible. The wool of my sheep, the dyes of my garden, the designs of my heart, combine into something rare and strange. Fleece, yarn, cloth. I spin, I measure the threads, and I cut them at the last.

I have no need for sisters.

The gods have spoken. The king foretold will be born soon. This babe is destined to unite the northlands, to bring these fierce raiders together under one banner, to conquer the world. I weave, and I tend my plants, and I polish my hate.

I am ready.

© 2018 Sarah Goslee

About the author

Sarah Goslee

Sarah Goslee writes nonfiction and fiction about all sorts of things: ecology, weaving, unicorns, agriculture. She is on the fourth of her nine lives, and hopes the remaining five take a very long time to run out.

Support Fireside

Subscribe to Fireside Quarterly, the beautiful new print edition of Fireside.