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‘The Thin Habit of Spirits’
Thremnir’s Heugh: The Worm Ouroboros, Chapter 19, pages 253-63, by E.R. Eddison

“Of the Lord Spitfire’s besieging of the Witches in his own Castle of Owlswick; and how he did Battle against Corinius under Thremnir’s Heugh, and the Men of Witchland won the Day”

“The thin habit of spirits is beyond the force of weapons,” spake Lord Zigg to his master Spitfire as the battered demonlords gathered their few men to take back their castle in the face of a relieving force come by sea from Witchland under the formidable Corinius. He feared the sorcery of Witchland to which Spitfire railed impetuously.

Eddison paints an elemental word picture of the scene of battle:

“…while yet sunrise was red…the great rock pools that faced southward across the little bay of Owlswick. The salt air was fresh after the rain. The wind that had veered to the east blew in cold and pinching gusts. In a rift between slate-blue clouds the low sun flamed blood-red. Far to the south-east where the waters of Micklefirth open on the main, the low cliffs of Lookinghaven-ness loomed shadowy as a bank of cloud.”

In this bleak setting the cold winds would bring ships from Witchland come to relieve the brutal lord that squatted now in Spitfire’s castle and he could but fighting savage protest and be carried away wounded.

The dialogue of the battle is stilted and overdone in a very Greco-Roman literary fashion.

The drear outcome is overseen by yet another of Eddison’s excellent sketches:

“The night was still and cloudless, and the maiden moon walked high heaven, blackening the shadows of the great peaks, that were like sharks’ teeth against the night. Spitfire lay on a bed of ling and cloaks in the lee of a great boulder. Ghastly pale was his face in the silver moonlight.”

Diction Notes:

Heugh: A steep crag of cliff, Scottish

Stour: dust forming a cloud or deposited in a mass

Choke-pear: A torture device consisting of a metal body (usually pear-shaped) divided into spoon-like segments that can be spread apart by turning a screw.

Throstle-cock: a song thrush

Watchet: a light blue color

A Well of Heroes

Add Comment
Sam J.June 9, 2018 9:01 PM UTC

Off topic but I saw this picture on 8Chan and thought it was funny.