“….’Twas all Astonishment”

3 Dec

100 words for Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt below. And for you…


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 (Copyright Janet Webb)

“I’m afraid,” cried Samahe as saffron and rose limned the eastern sky.

“Not even time itself will stand in the way of my return,” I whispered into my wife’s thick raven hair.

How the gods must have laughed.

At daybreak I left on the Silk Road, safeguarding a caravan of Lapis-Lazuli bound for distant Seres, far beyond the Taklamakan Desert.

A month out of Samarkand, bandits fell upon us. Carrion crows stripped my bones.


I will keep my promise.


For eight-hundred years and many lifetimes I have searched for my love.

When I find her I will never leave.



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SKull in Sand

“Into this life of cruel wonder sent,
Without a word to tell us what it meant,
Sent back again without a reason why –
Birth, life, and death – ’twas all astonishment.”
― Richard Le Gallienneرباعيات خيام

74 Responses to ““….’Twas all Astonishment””

  1. kathils December 3, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Like this. A lot. It is brimming with promise.

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:44 am #

      Dear Kathils,

      Thank you. A lot.

      I appreciate you stopping by my oasis to read and leave a comment.



  2. rochellewisoff December 3, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    Dear Doug,

    Are you familiar with the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes? The feeling of your story puts me in mind of it.

    True Romance and, as I’ve learned to expect to expect from you, multilayered. Saffron and rose limned the sky…gorgeous imagery. Once more you’ve taken my breath away.



    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:48 am #

      Dear Rochelle,

      Your comment has me chopping in tall cotton. Thank you. I was not familiar with The Highwayman, but looked it up right away and found that I’d heard the refrain often throughout my life. Amazing how good writing binds itself to the fabric of life and endures.

      I appreciate you reading and commenting and all the work that you do. Madison chose well. You are a good steward and a better friend.



  3. Adam Ickes December 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    Great stuff, Doug. The gods always seem to laugh at those who deserve it the least. Wonder why that is.

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Dear Adam,

      As Robert Heinlein’s character, Lazarus Long said, “Men rarely, if ever, dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.” That about covers it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  4. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) December 3, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Some promises are hard to keep.. This reads like an ancient legend from the Silk-road… so sad and yet sweet, how love and promises will make you linger on this earth.

    • Björn Rudberg (brudberg) December 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      Love the Ruba’i you have added at the end BTW.

      • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

        Dear Bjorn,

        Thanks for the observant input in both your comments. Can you imagine what stories there are untold from that ancient and much traveled road. We have but a small fragment of some of them written down in dusty tomes and scraps here and there…

        I wonder if, while waiting in the Bardot for reassignment, whether we can lobby for reverse reincarnation?



  5. elmowrites December 3, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    First off, Doug, the overall impression of this peace is gorgeous – romantic, realistic and filled with the flavours of a distant place and time.
    Secondly, an admission, that some of the words and all of the references left me mystified. It heightened that sense of place and distance (a good thing) but also left me desperate to research everything and i’m sad that I don’t have time.
    Third, a small concrit. In line-edit terms, the writing read slightly less polished than usual. “A month out of Samarkand bandits fell upon us”, for example, would read more easily with a comma before bandits.
    I was having a conversation with someone just the other day about how a great plot will carry poor writing and great writing will carry poor grammar. You have the first two in spades and nobody would ever call your grammar poor. Tweak if you wish, but please don’t worry about my little nitpicks or ever let them stop you sharing your plot, writing and grammar with us.

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

      Dear Jennifer,

      I’ve said it before and always will in the future. I so appreciate your detailed comments. From overview to tiniest items, your thoughts and observations are deeply appreciated and welcomed with open arms. I wrote this in deep night and was still lost between worlds when the question of the comma there came to me. I answered wrong at first, but now, with your suggestion, have helped that sentence to better say what I’d hoped it would.

      It’s not November any longer. Did you finish your sprint to splendor in novel writing? Are you now going to tell us that you’re preparing for the holidays? (Haha! Enjoy them, Jennifer. My best to your family and you. Say hello to Sebastian from halfway round the world and visit when you can.)



      • elmowrites December 3, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

        Spot the comma-obsessive. And anyway, it’s always easier to see these things as a reader with ‘fresh eyes’.

        Keep an eye on the blog for various updates on noveling, holidays etc, but yes I finished (hit 50,000 words) and still have a lot to do (didn’t finish the story). But I should have a bit more time to read / comment / breathe this month. Sebastian says hi too!

  6. storydivamg December 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    OH, oh, oh, I LOVE this! It did also put me in mind of “The Highwayman” (which means that Rochelle and I are on exactly the same track today, and the entire Midwest should be put on high alert as a result–never trust two mimes at the same time). Love the history. Love the implications of reincarnation. Love the romance.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

      Dear Marie,

      I heard the sirens going off as I went to sleep this morning. Thanks for reading and commenting so kindly.



  7. Caerlynn Nash December 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    Reminds me of the novel of Marco Polo that I read several years ago: The Journeyer by Gary Jennings. Well done!

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

      Dear Caerlynn,

      Gary Jennings came to mind as I wrote this. He was a master at sweeping aside the curtain of time and revealing that which seems lost to history and time’s passage. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  8. aliciajamtaas December 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    There is such peaceful promise in this, despite the bandits! Well done, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

      Dear Alicia,

      I’d hoped you’d see that in this piece. A hundred words seems so short sometimes and the brush strokes tiny and easy to miss. I love this format, though, and I thank you for reading and offering your time and energy and insight to the process of getting things right.



  9. lingeringvisions by Dawn December 3, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    Wow, when you do romance you do it right!

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

      Dear Dawn,

      Perhaps it is just that finding a man like my protagonist before the crows get to him is almost impossible. More bandits or empty skulls in this world than seems right, isn’t there?

      As always, thank you for reading and commenting. I do appreciate it.



      • lingeringvisions by Dawn December 3, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

        I suppose it is all about perspective and you did take a little wind out of my sails with your comment…sigh… but your story made me swoon. 🙂

      • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

        Dear Dawn,

        I’m sorry about the wind and your sails, but my story is meant to inspire. Love is out there and can move people to do amazing things. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.



      • lingeringvisions by Dawn December 3, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

        It’s all well Doug. I’m pretty good at puffing myself back up. 😉

  10. siobhanmcnamara December 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    Sad but beautiful. The attack felt like an inevitability but the surprise was in the enduring purity of his love.
    I love the sentiment, love the language, love the additional artwork/images and poetry. A pleasure to read, Doug

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

      Dear Siobhan,

      Thank you for enjoying the story and additional material and for taking the time to visit and say so. Your comments are music to a writer’s ears and ink for the well.



  11. David Stewart December 3, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    This has the type of epic love story that really appeals to me. It takes a good writer to pull off a story where the narrator dies in the middle of it. 🙂
    Take care,

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

      Dear David,

      Thank you for enjoying this work. I’m glad it struck a chord for you. There is death and then there is that moment afterward when it is possible to decide, or influence what to do next. Love is an amazing thing, isn’t it?



  12. JED December 3, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    The terror of this only adds to the romance. Not easy to make those two work so well together. Thoroughly enjoyed the tale.

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:16 pm #

      Dear JED,

      Life was hard back then. So many unknowns. Do you think the bonds of love were stronger as well?
      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  13. Snow's Fissures and Fractures December 3, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    I love a touch of darkness, your crows and bandits and bones balance perfectly the eternety of love. Such a complex, exotic tale, you captured my imagination in a prison of sand and silk.

    • dmmacilroy December 3, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

      Dear Lore,

      One of the nicest comments I’ve ever received for a story. Thank you for taking the time to craft it.



  14. The Writer's Village December 4, 2014 at 2:15 am #

    Enjoyed the read, but it was way over my head.
    Not hard – considering I’m only 4’8″

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 11:37 am #

      Dear Randy,

      Over your head? I’m sorry. I did write this on a step ladder. Perhaps that’s the trouble. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  15. Danny James December 4, 2014 at 2:30 am #

    Someday I hope to be able to write like you. Someday,I hope, to be able to write, like you. Read a previous comment, so wanted to make sure I had enough commas in that sentence. 🙂


    • dmmacilroy December 4, 2014 at 2:34 am #

      Dear Danny,

      In one of those sentences, you did.

      You’re making me smile.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  16. Perry Block (@PerryBlock) December 4, 2014 at 2:49 am #

    800 years? You don’t look a day past 760. Great atmospheric story made me think a little of Marco Polo with its sense of exploration and adventure. And I’ve never seen “saffron and rose limn the eastern sky” but I want to.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      Dear Perry,

      I’ve always said that the best way to see a dawn is to stay up for one. Now I do it for a living. Strange how things work out.

      Thanks for reading the story and commenting. 760 years? Yeah, that’s about right. I’m glad I don’t live where there’s a winter to wrestle with.



  17. Lyn December 4, 2014 at 3:06 am #

    After these comments, anything I could say would be superfluous. So, I’ll just say, “thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable read, Doug.”

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      Dear Lyn,

      Your kind comment is all I need to hear. And you are welcome.

      Mahalo for reading and commenting.



  18. talesfromthemotherland December 4, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    Just gorgeous, Doug! ““I’m afraid,” cried Samahe as saffron and rose limned the eastern sky” pulled me right in. I had to look up limn, though my guess was right on. The foreign words tickled my imagination and your story carried me away. I’ve said it before, I so love it when you write romance– in the most splendid sense.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Dear Dawn,

      Your comment is an affirmation that makes me smile and helps me dip my feet in the waters of romance more often. I thank you for it with the utmost sincerity.



  19. Nan Falkner December 4, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    Dear Doug, Good and exciting story. The limned sky – so pretty! Great writing! Nan 🙂

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 11:49 am #

      Dear Nan,

      Thank you for dropping by to read and to say that you enjoyed it. I appreciate you taking the time.



  20. wildbilbo December 4, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    This was great – the ‘timelessness’ of the man’s love for his wife is a strong theme to use. But I particularly liked the great use of emotive colours – saffron, rose, raven, – even Lapis Lazuli (ground into the pigment known as Ultramarine to painters).

    I don’t know the Highwayman poem, but I know its a favourite of my mother-in-laws… I shall have to hunt it down.

    Loved it.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      Dear KT,

      You have rapidly scaled the heights of Friday Fictioneers and now sit comfortably, in my mind, in a sparsely populated camp somewhere near the top. From there, each week, you attack the summit with well conceived and written stories, so much so that I like to call them ‘dessert’ stories, which I go to last and read as a reward after a particularly tough stretch of sledding (reading) other stories. I know that you have to get dirty to find the diamonds in the rough, but man, it gets dusty sometimes. Which is why your comments have come to mean a lot to me. Thank you.

      And thanks for being one of the shiny bits.



  21. draliman December 4, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    This is a great mixture of Eastern promise, violence and eternal love!

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 11:59 am #

      Dear Draliman,

      Life sings with that music. You just have to listen in order to write a little of it down. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  22. Life in the 50's and beyond... December 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Romance and exotic locations! What a great beginning for a story.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      Dear Lit50’saB,

      Thanks for saying so. I appreciate it.



  23. babso2you December 4, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    I hope that he finds her! Good story! ^..^

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

      Dear Babso,

      He does, but that’s another story…

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  24. Honie Briggs December 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    Doug, I read and reread this. I love it every time.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

      Dear Honie,

      I like the thought of your eyes taking in my story more than once. A sweet thing to say and ink for my inkwell. Mahalo.

      And Aloha,


  25. subroto December 4, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    A love to last the ages, there is a haunting tenderness to this story.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      Dear Subroto,

      Thank you, sir. I appreciate the feedback.



  26. rgayer55 December 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Once again, you’re making the ladies swoon, MacIlroy. You have a real knack for this timeless romance stuff, but I with Perry. You don’t look a day over 760. It must be the disc golf.

    • dmmacilroy December 4, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      Admit it, you swooned a little, too. And as far as looking a day over 760, well, thanks. It’s not how you look, but how you feel….

      Okay, maybe it is a little how you look.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  27. Ellespeth December 5, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    This is spooky to me because he died and he’s telling the story. But since he’s been coming back for 800 years, maybe – unknown to him – he’s found her again many times. That’s scary, too! Worse than that, I hear it happens!
    This is a great tale, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

      Dear Ellespeth,

      A very perceptive comment and part of the much larger story. Three times at least they have returned to each other, only to be sundered again and again…

      Thanks for reading and commenting so nicely.



  28. Margaret December 5, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Lovely story – a tragedy but full of hope for a good outcome. Great mood and feelings.

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

      Dear Margaret,

      Thank you for telling me that you enjoyed my story. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.



  29. Rajlakshmi December 5, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    ohh what a haunting tale. Spooky!!

    • dmmacilroy December 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

      Dear Rajlakshmi,

      Thank you for being spooked and for commenting.



  30. patrickprinsloo December 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Great piece of poetic writing. And a prompt to explore exotic tracks and geology.

  31. joseph elon lillie December 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    What a great beginning to a story about enduring love. There are so many directions this could take. I would love to read more.

  32. hafong December 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Oh, so romantic, a bit like the Arabian Nights but also a bit like our Chinese folklore.


  33. Amy Reese December 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    Doug, I love the language in this piece. It has the touch of the exotic and romantic that lingers long after I’ve read it. Is there really a Silk Road in true life? I want to know, and want to walk on it.

    • dmmacilroy December 6, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

      Dear Amy,

      Thank you for your lovely comment for ‘Twas all Astonishment’. Yes there is a Silk Road. Type it into Wikipedia and you’re halfway to treading on it. Ever since the dawn of time men have been trading between East and West on it. I envy you discovering it for the first time.



      • Amy Reese December 7, 2014 at 12:24 am #

        My sense of history is horrible. Is it the Silk Road of Marco Polo? I will read all about it now.

  34. Alice Audrey December 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Wow. I love it!

  35. Suzanne Joshi December 8, 2014 at 7:44 am #

    Doug, Lovely piece. I used to think of the Silk Road as really exotic, but it now is to the north of us. Being a bit practical, I wonder how many never made it home what with the disease and robbers. It must have been an extremely adventurous and dangerous trip. The money for a successful conclusion no doubt made it seem desirable. Well written with great description as always. 🙂 — Susan

  36. Weltchysnotebook December 10, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    Some very good imagery going on here. Excellently written Doug.

  37. Indira December 28, 2014 at 4:56 am #

    Sad but sweet story. I loved the last two lines.

  38. Lynda January 22, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    When love is that perfect we have to believe that we will meet again.

    Been reading backward in time, Doug, and must say I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping up. Your style is never stale and always original. ~ L

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