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Battle of the seasons

'Battle of the Seasons' 

(Novel / Screen Play / Short Stories) by Toby Newton.

Writer / Director / Photographer - Toby Newton

Make-up - Sarah Canlin

Hair - Radha Pethers

Behind the scenes film footage - Ed lui

Character Models:

Sondra - Abi Clayton

Leetah - Salome Ulrich

Domhildr - Jessica Witts

Hel - Sophia Andreou

Autumn - Charlotte Skyla Wells

                                                     Baufor - Daniel venoutsos

Part I: Winter's Tale.

The luscious green of the fields and forests had long since been replaced by the pale and weary image of a land stricken by Winter's frosty breath: the soil hardened by her icy chill; the trees lonely and lifeless, bereft of leaves, berries and bird song. Both were longing for the protection a blanket of snow would surely bring, but it was too cold to snow. Instead they remained exposed, lamenting the loss of the sun, as if awaiting the end of days in mournful resignation that Spring would not return to save them this time. For without the snow there was nowhere to hide from Winter's freezing winds. Winds that forced even the brave to recoil.

Mounted astride her prowling white wolf, Winter surveyed the field of battle, the taste of victory almost upon her blue lips. She was visible only to the animals and they quaked as she passed but humans too felt her presence and were wary of her wrath. Like Medusa, she could freeze men with her gaze. Huddled safely around their fires in their cosy huts, and merry with ale, the Norse people called her 'Skadi' and sang about her past. Out in the open though, the trees were not concerned with her story. For she was still ruthless after all these years, and often set upon them at night while they were sleeping, their stubborn resistance broken in the darkness after too long spent on a futile front line without rations, without hope. The streams that had been their supply lines had long since stopped in mid flow. Even the lakes and rivers were beginning to succumb to Skadi's diabolical will. The fish below could only wait in the dark, the roof of their world encrusted with ice and even the air above was now threatened with frozen stasis. Not even the mighty oak trees could properly shield the hibernating creatures hidden below their boughs. Their branches looked solemnly at each other, as if questioning who might be the first to fall to the ground in surrender and open the way for Skadi to finally claim control of the earth over which they presided.

Along came the robin. A tiny minstrel sent to stir the troops, to remind them what they were holding out for. Hopping erratically from one gnarled root to another as she sang in the face of danger, spreading joy with her splash of bright red breast in a world without colour. Her tiny frame demanded protection, and being serenaded by her cheerful voice, none of the trees could remain sullen for long. After the timely arrival of Spring's first inspirational messenger, suddenly it was less difficult to notice the other signs of life in this barren realm. The snowdrop and the crocus were as oblivious to Skadi's blight as the robin. Exhilarated, the stronger trees renewed their oaths to stand firm until their children could spring up and eventually stand alone to take their place as guardians of the vale. From frozen souls to warmed hearts, there would always be love in this place.

Then it happened. The sun emerged more strongly than it had for a hundred mornings, spreading light across the land and turning the grey into sparkling white. A solitary Norseman stumbled out into the brightness, shielding his bleary eyes and marvelling at the wonderful scene that greeted him. He swallowed; his mouth was dry and his head was pounding from the hedonism of the night before. He pulled his fur coat tightly around his neck and strode out towards the stables, then suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. But it wasn't Skadi who had frozen him, it was something far more powerful.

Part II: Spring's Tale.

That morning Dawid's eyelids flinched before gradually opening as he felt the warmth of a new sun creep its way through the open barn door and up his bare back until the cloud was completely gone and he was bathed in soft morning light. His eyes stung from the previous night and he could not lift his head, heavy as it was from the all too familiar excesses of yesterday. Still though, it weighed less upon him than the sorrow burdening his heart.

For one hundred or more nights Dawid had yearned for release from the shadows which tormented his every waking and sleeping hour. He was cut adrift in his sea of troubles with nothing but demons to keep him company. He caught fleeting glimpses in his dreams of a damsel aboard a long boat travelling north to set him free only to be crestfallen each day break with the realisation that despite his desperate attempts to manifest her, she had not arrived to rescue him from his reality. He felt sure instead that Skadi would grip him in summer too, and that her touch would be even colder then.

Yet the sun was strangely comforting that morning after a night that had felt like a century of darkness. Still lying flat upon his fur cloak, he stared at the twinkling embers and tiny wisps of campfire smoke as they spiralled and danced upwards into the dawn air. Then he heard something he had never heard before: A female voice, singing in some unknown tongue, but so softly that it melted him to his core. It was coming from down by the stables and, suddenly intrigued by something for the first time in years, he dragged himself up and forced his beleaguered body to function...but he did not get far.

Still adjusting to the brightness, Dawid was greeted by such a vision of sheer natural beauty that he feared at first that he had not woken from his dreams. But what moved before him was far too visceral to be a dream, too radiant to be of the dark, and too joyous to allow the presence of creatures of the night. Love instantly leapt from some unknown prison in his heart and rose up in him, electrifying his very soul. The pure and strange sensation pulled at him as he strained to see the sprite like figure. She danced away through the fields ahead of him as the sun glowed behind her.
Everywhere flowers were blooming as she passed, twirling her arms gently, and brushing them as she moved. She was spreading happiness over the shattered land but seemed blissfully unaware of her magic. That sombre scene he had mournfully surveyed last night before succumbing once more to the delirium of the Agaricus, was now teeming with life and vibrant colour. Three small rabbits scampered brazenly past him and the dawn chorus was growing louder than any birdsong he could ever remember.

Dawid's senses had been heightened last night as he entertained the heathen Berserkers who had forced entry to shelter in his barn before passing out after consuming all his best wine and rarest fungi. The state of mental and emotional arousal he found himself in now though was induced purely by what he was witnessing and it was incomparable to anything he had ever experienced. Surely not even Odin himself could have conjured up such a wondrous vision for a man.

The south wind ruffled her white dress as she came to a stop at the edge of the meadow, turned and smiled at him. A smile like no other. His body and soul were powerless in the face of such happiness and he stood there transfixed until that smile slowly spread to his own lips. his sorrow was washing away amid the streams of sunshine. He was remembering joy...and then she was gone.

Never seen again in the village, rumour had it that Dawid's inspiration must have been the Kyfling girl, Sondra. She was said to have travelled from the Eastern Baltic, summoned at the behest of the Goddess Freya, who had herself been trapped by Skadi and kept out of the sight of humans. Sondra was a mortal girl, sure enough, or so the legend went. Every village she had passed through had sung songs lamenting her loss and calling for her return. She was as unknowing of her destiny and her mission as she was of her own great beauty. Herself inspired by she knew not what to travel to new lands that May, what she could not possibly have known was that only her willingness to love could inspire a transformation in the rule of the Gods, replacing Skadi's vengeance with Spring's sweet caress.

She knew as he smiled back at her though, that it had surely inspired him.

Part III: Summer's Tale.

The essence of the battlefield was all about his person, like a harsh and bitter stench that had enveloped him when he was but a boy, and which refused to let him go. Instead it lingered with him even in times of relative peace. Even bathing in the clearest mountain lakes of the realm would not wash that pestilence away and cleanse his forever bloodstained hands. He could never be anything but a man of war now; to stop would only allow the memories to consume him.

Baufor's burden had left him so devoid of love that to fight with his brothers was the only way he could free himself from his solitude; to be in battle, the only way he could feel alive. No woman could make him feel that now, not even his deity, the Goddess of Summer herself. Without the fight, he was nothing.

Wondred's solemn, youngest son picked a fatty strip of venison from his jaw and flicked it towards the glowing campfire. It fell short, causing a small plume of ash and a flicker of ember to appear suddenly, then vanish into the night just as quickly.
Having ridden hard all day to Ravensbrow, Baufor stared tiredly past the glimmering flames towards the carcass of the deer he had slaughtered earlier. By this time tomorrow he would surely be nothing but carrion for the crows. Barely a semblance of dread stirred in him at that thought. Were it not for the fact he was sure Hel would not let his soul rest even in death, he would gladly have fallen on his sword long ago. To ensure he was spared from being summoned to her underworld though, he still had to seek redemption; the only quest he had ever had. As he eventually drifted off to sleep, little did he know he would see her much sooner that he could imagine.
He awoke to the sensation of steel pressed against the skin of his neck. Colder than winter. Tipped with a clear, half-congealed substance he knew could poison should he survive any swipe with her spear. He was scared to swallow. Beneath his fur blanket, his muscular torso pulsed with fear. He could not show any. Not to the demon Queen of the Valkyries.

For now, she did not attack, enjoying toying with him helpless at her feet. She showed no signs of mercy for the wounded warrior she had callously stalked then bound as he slumbered. Ultimately her steel would be stained by the blood of the Gods.

From the feel of the twine tied tightly around his ankles, Baufor knew it was too strong to tear without a blade. He suddenly recalled his dreams had been of a female voice whispering; mocking him as he slept.

'Come die with me', it had jeered repeatedly. He felt nauseous at the thought of how long she had pawed over him, her forked tongue slithering, too big for her human mouth.

Then from nowhere a powerful gust of wind swirled all around them, animating every branch and leaf. Above him the dark morning clouds were suddenly ripped asunder and dragged away, revealing a light so bright he had no choice but to turn his head and close his eyes. He felt a golden warmth upon his cheek and dared to open one eye. Hel had backed away to the edge of the clearing and was now cowering in the shadows cast by the trees. 'Summer', she hissed...

Part IV: Autumn's Tale.

Sunna reached for 'The Horn of All Tomorrow's Victories', given to her by her brother, the Moon God when they last met. It would summon those brave enough to vanquish any foe, so the legends told. Her hands trembled as she held it. Though not normally fearful of the night, she feared the coming ones, and that nobody would hear her calling. Blackness crept all around, silently infiltrating her courtyard; yearning to find her and take her away.

The Goddess of Summer felt her radiance softening, a pale hue appearing on cheeks once full of blissful colour. She touched one of them and it was cold, then coiled locks of curls around her finger as she contemplated her fate. Her hair too began to fade as she looked down, the gold draining away along with her hope. She had known Hel would not rest until she had her vengeance, she just had not expected it to come so soon.

Seemingly with each old leaf that fell from every tree had come a new tale of farmers and their cattle, devoured by some dragon or demon sent on the night winds that plagued the surrounding lands. Finally, Sunna put the ancient instrument to her soft lips and sounded her alarm. She knew she would not see out one more night if she stayed and when the morning sun finally struggled to raise itself she fled through mournful fields to her stables. She would ride for Ravensbrow, and seek out the sister she had not seen since childhood in the hope that Autumn had not already succumb to this dark magic sweeping their realm. She turned and looked back over her shoulder as she ran, a final glance at her beloved home. She knew it would be but ashes if she ever made it back.

To be continued.......

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