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In a land long forgotten by history books, a lonely nomad roamed mountains and forests, driven away from his home long ago by the cruel hand of fate. He travelled through towns, sleeping under bridges and in barbicans, for he had been driven penniless and was mistreated by the people of his town. The cruelty of those he called his fellows tore away at his generosity and amiable nature until it was as tattered as the rags he wore, his fragile armour against the winds and rain. Before long, he had lost all heart and faith in the towns and cities of men and went along his way.

The forests of the island he wandered were kinder to him. The towering oak and pine trees gave him firewood to burn and fruits to eat. The animals of the forest kept a respectful distance from him and never taunted him for his unshaven face or his tattered clothes. He was never pitied by them and he never had to dance for his food or humiliate himself for a few copper pennies. The warbling of the birds in their branches was a sweet music to his ears after the jeers and cruel laughter of the townsfolk.

But the tranquillity of the forest in its fragile autumnal temperance was soon frozen along with the rest of the world when the winter's icy breath trapped the unfortunate sojourner. He felt the frozen grip of the powerful Winter Crone and knew that he was at her mercy. Try as he might, he was deprived of her blessing when he hunted for his food. The knee-deep snow made his days tiring and the feeble fires he built made his nights abysmal.

The night fell all too soon on the winter solstice and he found himself at the banks of the lake at the centre of the woods. Despite the savagery of the winter, the lake did not completely congeal. Blocks of ice as large as islands drifted on its waters and there sat a large rock protruding out of the shallow end of the tarn. Without warning, a frantic fluttering sound resounded in the darkened sky. Turning his head in the direction of the sound, he saw a magnificent swan sink slowly towards the rock in the water. It collapsed on the stone, heaving its last breath. It was the biggest and most wonderful swan he had ever seen, with a pair of wings that could blot out the sun and a silver chain around its neck. There was something in its beak that he could not see from where he sat but he saw it fall out as it landed on its back.

It had been a long time since the traveller had a decent meal and he saw this as an omen from the goddess of the frost. Perhaps now she had decided to reward his efforts and provide him with food. He approached the swan, muttering to himself that he was doing the poor beast a favour, putting it out of its slow and painful death.

As if the bird understood his intentions, the swan kicked violently and with some effort got off its back before it lay still again. The man stood his ground, not daring to make a move lest the swan manage to fly away. Without warning, the white bird’s body began to levitate, driven up by some unseen hand. It spread its wings and beginning to sing a heart-rending song. The song that issued from its beak was the most beautiful hymn that he had ever heard. It shamed even the purest voices of the choirs that sang in the cathedral of his hometown:

My dimming eyes can still glimpse
That bridge of motley colours leading me to the Land of the Young
The earth in my body fades away and soon will be gone
But as long as I have breath and air, I implore the sovereign of Annwn
Give me leave to sing this doleful song

In an emerald realm not far from this lake,
There lived a woman gifted by Brigid
And loved by all who knew her for her potent heart

With every kiss, they revered the fair Branwen
Their union was a sacrament as ancient as the Earth
Limitless and powerful
And nought could lay it to waste, or so it seemed

But love in itself is not enough without commitment and trust
Which the maiden discovered through hardship
There lived a trickster well-versed in sorcery
And in casting and breaking illusions

Out of jealousy for her happiness or scornful pity for her innocence
She sought the maiden out
And with the dark skills passed down from the phantom Morrigan
The maiden found herself clothed in the plumage of a swan
With nought but a silver chain around her neck

For over a year she lived in three realms
As a creature of the air, the sky was her road
A water bird, the lake was her home
And on Earth, she found friendship with the creatures of the wood

But for a year, she pined for her consort
And prayed that prophecies from eons of the past
Of love's potent magic would rupture her curse
And unite her with her beloved once more

One night, her friend the owl returned to her
With a locket from her chain, a relic of treasured memories
Given to her by her prince in testament to their bond
And stolen by her tormentor, the sorceress who knew of its power
To return her once more to form of woman

As mistress of the air, the swan maiden took wing
With the locket clutched in her beak
And the memory of her loved one in her mind
And even the rain that threatened her progress obeyed her command
For she had control of the waters above as well

Upon her arrival, she struggled but succeeded
To slip her token on her chain
Whereupon she glanced at her human form once more, reflected in the pond
Near her betrothed's palace

But Fate was merciless on the night of her homecoming
For she had arrived at the scene of a wedding
She ran into the palace only to observe her prince
In the passionate embrace of another woman as fair as she
Alas, she was too late.

In agony did she weep, in sorrow did she see
That her love was not meant to be
So she flew to her prison, now her home
Death would do them part, but she would die alone

While the rain poured and mixed with her tears
Her dying body felt the weight of a thousand years
And the memories of the young woman she was
Died first in her short lived flight to the water

My breath feels heavy now; I have not long to live
But before my time is up, I have one more secret to give
I am the maiden of this woeful melody
My breath falls short; I will be gone shortly

But from you, weary traveller, I do implore
That you will keep with you my song
To keep and to share with this cruel world
From now and forever more.

As the last words fell from her lips, the bird fell forwards and landed facedown into the water. True to her word, she had finally come home to die in what was once her prison.

The drifter had endured harshness, loneliness and the wrath of the elements. He had been humiliated and deprived of shelter, food and compassion and his ordeal in the forest petrified his already hardened heart. But as he watched the resplendent creature sink to the icy waters, the indifference that had been his shield for so long was dashed to pieces.

The wanderer's eyes were so wet with heartfelt tears that his vision blurred and the image of the swan maiden slowly faded from his view. Even if he were blind, the darkness would not have prevented him from shedding his tears. The princess's heartbroken song was more than enough for him. So he waded into the water to recover the dead bird, but it was too late. The swan had vanished, as if the lake had dissolved her. He fell to his knees in the water, his hands resting on the rock where she once stood. All that was left of the swan were a handful of her feathers, hanging in the air like snowflakes, and the chain that she kept around her long neck, as well as a silver pendant that had fallen out of her beak when she landed on the rock. The ornament he held in his deadened dry hands laid his disbelief to rest. It was no dream.

He took a painful intake of breath before his voice choked into long sobs. His fingers curled around the trinket in his palm while he tried to stem the flow of his tears with his free hand. He sat back on the edge of the lake, the frigid waters numbing his legs.

"Your woeful song rings forever in my heart. And so I pledge my memory in your cause. Never will the world forget of the wickedness inflicted upon you or the loss of all you held dear. Even if my story and your chant should fall upon disbelieving ears, it will never be lost or forgotten. Until my breath falls short and I leave this world, I will be thy messenger," said the inconsolable voyager. 

His only reply was the silence of the lake that once held life and was now a watery tomb. The stillness that followed was unbearable for the unfortunate man, half frozen and completely alone in this desolate world. His congealed tear tracks were thawed once more from a fresh stream of tears as he held the necklace close to his heart. He vowed never to sell it, no matter how valuable it was or how much he could gain from it. As long as he held it close, he would never forget the heartbroken princess and her song. She might have died alone but her death would not be without witness.

All of a sudden, the air was filled with music. He lifted his bowed head and tried to find from where it had originated. It was a music that rivalled even the dying swan's song. There was no other way of explaining it, other than that it came from the Otherworld. A rainbow slowly began to rise from the water as the music swelled, and a white figure appeared out of the same spot where the enchanted bird had fallen.

Gradually, the white figure turned into the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. A golden aura surrounded her body and brightened up the obscurity of the winter sky. Her auburn hair cascaded down to her shoulders and she was clothed in a radiant white robe. The green of her eyes brought back memories of warm summers that lifted the weight off his heart and her smile banished away the cold that had infiltrated his bones. She approached him, taking his head in her hands and kissing his forehead with genuine gratitude.

"My thanks are with you, kind stranger. You have a strong heart and a beautiful soul and I know that you will honour your promise. Fare thee well," she said with a silken voice.

With that, she retreated back to the rainbow that yawned across the lake. A golden portal of light opened behind her, and she faded from his view just as easily as she had appeared. She was finally at peace. 

This is my entry to :iconladylincoln:'s Self-Improvement Contest: Spirit of Community: Self Improvement ContestAs artists, we are often looking for new, innovative ways to polish and perfect our creative works. Along the way, we oftentimes rely on our respective community to offer helpful feedback and critique. So, with this community spirit in mind, I hope to assist you in finding new ways to…
Look for Improvement
You’ve come to the right place! I am glad that you are here, because you will have a marvelous opportunity to completely revamp, improve, and perfect one of your beloved older pieces. Recently, I asked what invaluable things others have learned within their respective communities. For me, improvement with my writing was a huge factor. To this end, last year, I challenged my watchers to “go retro” and “dust off

It is a revised version of my previous original story, The Swan Song. which can be found here:

The Swan SongIn a land long forgotten by history books, a lonely nomad roamed mountains and forests, driven away from his home long time ago. He travelled through towns, sleeping under bridges and on the doorsteps of cathedrals, for he had been driven penniless and was mistreated by the people of his town.

The forests of the island he wandered were kinder to him, giving him firewood to burn and fruits to eat. The animals of the forest kept a respectful distance from him and never taunted him for his unshaven face or his tattered clothes. He was never pitied by them and he never had to dance for his food or humiliate himself for a few copper pennies. The

Here are some of the things I have changed from the original version:

1. The title The Swan Song was too generic but I struggled to find a better name for it until now. A dirge is a mournful song, piece of music, or poem which can be performed during funerals and so I changed the title.

2. In the original, I did not give much attention to characterisation or focus as much on the narrator as he was not the main focus of the story. This time, we get better insight into the hardship he goes through and the way he changes by the end of the story.

3. I was told that in the original story, there was confusion as to the change in seasons (autumn to winter). I personally did not see how they missed that, but I've done a bit more writing to make it as apparent as possible. I hope I suceeded.

4. I have done more to describe what sort of forest the man finds himself in (i.e. what kind of trees).

5. The old piece had more allusions to ancient pantheons and mythological characters, mainly from Norse and Celtic mythology with one reference to an Ancient Greek god. This time, I have limited the number of mythological allusions. Whatever gods or goddesses you see mentioned come from Ancient Celtic (mainly Irish and Welsh) mythology.

6. I have made some changes to the verses so that they read more like a free verse poem and less like a prose poem.

I hope I do well enough. I would like to offer this up for publication at some point and I really hope this is a noticeable improvement.
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DailyBreadCafe Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2014   Writer
I really like this. It reads to me a lot like a fairy tale and flows really nicely. 
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'm pleased to hear that, as that was sort of what I was going for :thanks:
DailyBreadCafe Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2014   Writer
Woop! Did well then :D
shehrozeameen Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
The changes suit this work well :)

Although the original holds a lot more raw admiration, I won't deny that this does flow well. The ambience created by this poem, truly does justice to the concerned plot and theme. All in all, a good work.
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you once again :aww:

I really do appreciate it.
shehrozeameen Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Anytime :)

merci beaucoup, mon ami. For your help in teaching me french.
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
My pleasure :)
shehrozeameen Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
khgirl153 Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2013
This is such a beautiful piece of work! I felt the swan princess's pain from the betrayal and I could feel the lone traveler's hardship as he roamed. I even almost cried at the end of the story. Don't stop writing! ^^ :rose:
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
:thanks: Wow...I don't even know what to say. Thank you. For the :+fav: and for your comment.

khgirl153 Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2013
You're welcome. ^^ :hug:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2013   Writer

I like this.

I wonder about the first sentence, though. Do you need an "a" before "long ago"?

Also, 'crimson hair' and 'emerald green eyes' have been used to describe a beautiful woman so often, they skate close to clichés.

The "swan song" is beautifully written and I hope you give as much consideration to the rest. It's very moving. :+fav:

And good luck on publication. (:

nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

Uh...where exactly is that? I can't seem to find it when I read the sentence :?

Really? How come I've never noticed? I know that golden hair and blue eyes have been used often, but I didn't think that was true of red hair and green eyes.

Thanks again, your feedback is really helpful to me :aww:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2013   Writer

Do you mean the "a" that should be in the first sentence and isn't?

Maybe that's why you can't find it.

But it's my opinion and your piece, so it's up to you.

And you're welcome.

nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Oops, I see it now! :facepalm:

Thanks for point that out. I think I might change that to "long ago"...or add the missing "a", although I'm not sure if it might be repetitive somehow.

Thanks again!
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013   Writer
You're welcome to any help I can give you.
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

Changed the sentence now. All I'm wondering now is the description of the swan woman. I can't shake off the fear of an overused expression about her hair and I even need to mention it? What if I just talked about her face and clothes instead without worrying about colour?

xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2013   Writer
I'd be more worried about "crimson hair and emerald eyes" than the repetition of "white." THAT repetition seems fine, not done to often--but "crimson hair" with "emerald eyes" is used so often by beginner writers, it's become a cliché. Any other colors would be fine. Agree?
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. That's the part that's nagging at me. 

I never realised that it was used so much by beginners though. I hear a lot about blue eyes and golden hair more frequently but maybe I just haven't noticed or paid much attention.

I do want to keep the red hair and green eyes though. If I use different words to describe the colours of her hair and eyes or if I find another way to describe them, I think that could do.
(1 Reply)
Graphix-Goddess Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Professional Writer
Wow... at first It reminded me a little of the swan princess/swan lake, but it quickly changed pace and focus into something much different. Beautiful work!! A lovely story indeed and very visual!
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you, I'm relieved to hear that! :heart:

Yeah, I know you what you mean. The idea is not really original, and yes, I must admit, I did find myself thinking a lot about The Swan Princess and Swan Lake. I love that movie and the the ballet's music as well.

But if you read my previous attempt at this story, the thing that inspired me the most was actually The Swan Song by Within Temptation. I heard it when I was in my first year of university and it made such an impact on me that I wrote this.

I was also influenced a lot by mythology, mainly Celtic, with some druidry in the mix.
Graphix-Goddess Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2013  Professional Writer

Oh, I see.. I use to be a big fan of Nightwish as well until they lost Tarja... then I felt the voice went with her :(

I also know that all stories come from some where and everything is inspired by something - even if we're not trying. ^__^ I still think it is a lovely piece and sentiment.

nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
It's not wrong of you to think of the Swan Princess and Swan Lake. Like I said, I love that movie ^_^

Yeah, I've heard Nightwish before when Tarja was the lead singer, but I haven't heard their other songs. I've heard her solo act as well, and it was quite good. Shame that they had such a horrible falling out.

"I also know that all stories come from some where and everything is inspired by something - even if we're not trying."

Absolutely. That's exactly right. I find it especially true with my writing :nod:

Thanks so much for your feedback, it really means a lot to me :thanks:
Graphix-Goddess Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Professional Writer

Same here with Nightwish. I was sort of looking them up a few years later and was like "Oh... where's Tarja??"... oh well...

And you are very very welcome, dear. It's always a pleasure to read your work!

chromeantennae Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is a fantastic piece, wonderful, wonderful job, man. :iconclapplz: 

I especially loved the song in the middle of this piece. Fantastic. 
nightshade-keyblade Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much! :thanks:

That means a lot, seriously. And thank you for the star! :iconbowplz:
chromeantennae Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
My pleasure. :)

My pleasure, brother. Keep up the fantastic work. :D
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