This was the first day of their public courtship.
Everything was prepared to perfection.
All the servants had been dismissed.
Perfumed fragrance filled the air.
Opening the shutters she bowed, inviting him to kneel.
Their first tea ceremony was about to begin.
Earduk looked into the mist. It was fourteen moonbirths since his father Shardan had breathed his last and departed for the land of Ancestors. His body laid to rest in the Hall of Memory under the stones.
It was time for the final ritual. This was Earduk’s personal ceremony.
Hanging from his shoulder the jute bag felt heavy as it bounced on his right thigh with each step.
He stopped in a kind of reverie, wondering how far his father was on his journey. Today would be a great help to him, Earduk was sure.
He tapped the bag at his side and with a smile remembered how hard it had been to prepare the heavy sword within. He and two of his brother’s had strained for many fire-burnings to bend the blade exactly as required preparing for when it would be called upon to fulfil the reason for it’s making. It’s spirit was now released and it was ready to work for it’s owner.
His father would be waiting to feel it in his hand once more. A sign that he had given up battles and was happy to live in peace with all the other denizens of the realm. Only then could he continue his journey to be with his wife Lucine once more. Earduk’s beloved mother who had passed into the realms of shadows many new moons past.
He could see the grove ahead wherein lay the Pool of Souls. He slowly reached into his bag. Reverently withdrawing the blade he turned it over and over in his hands. The blade flashing in the rising sun casting shafts of light onto the placid waters which acted as a mirror to the tree-lined banks.
He raised the short, plain, iron blade above his head and with a loud cry cast the offering far into the pool.
The splash caused a stir and broke the tranquil silence. He felt he could hear the sigh of the water Gods as they accepted his gift. The ripples slowly diminished and with the ritual complete Earduk turned back to the shore.
Earduk would be able to tell the elders that Shardan’s relics could now be placed in the niche under the door of the family roundhouse.
Culloden was getting tired. For forty days he had been searching for the sacred mount. The burial place of his forefathers. He had no understanding that he was the last of his race although he realised he had met none of his kind for longer than he could remember and for a giant, memories are long. He had long ago learned how to conceal himself from the eyes of men. Although he and his kind had never meant or meaningfully done harm to these strange, to his eyes, miniature replicas of himself, whenever the two races had met his people were attacked and despite friendly overtones they had been forced to flee and hide. Hiding places were becoming scarce. Men had slowly but surely started to change the lands he had known, loved, walked and cherished since time immemorial. Fires were set across the land for reasons he could not fathom. The woodlands were shrinking, there were now vast open spaces which were left as bare earth for one half of the year and in which strange plants started to grow which were soon removed by men. The only secure hiding places were in the vast caves which time, wind and water had excavated in the deep gorges in the hills or at the edges of the sea. He was scared and slowly the thought had been building in his mind that his kind were no longer necessary. After much contemplation and with a resignation born of patient, peaceful, deliberation he had decided to return to the eternal resting place of his forefathers. There he would lie down and enjoy the sleep of the blessed which comes upon all living things. He would leave this realm in the hope that those who followed would maintain the eqilibrium thus far enjoyed by Mother Earth.
After four hours of half-running, mainly stumbling, over the rough ground we allowed ourselves to rest. Karen placed her rucksack on one of the many granite rocks strewn over the hillside and started to rifle through it. Her fingers feverish, her gaze intense. The marks of recent tears etched on her soot and earth-stained cheeks. Occasionally she would look over to the West where the late evening sun had set the heavens aglow. It wasn’t the crimson streaked golden glow of the sun that worried us. It was the impetus given to the spectacle by the raging fires from which we were escaping. I wanted to put my arms around her, tell her everything was all right but we both knew it would be a lie. Everyone’s homes were in ruins, razed to the ground. Whole families erased or trapped helpless in the area of devastation. It was only by sheer luck we had managed to escape. We had seen no other persons in our flight; surmising on the possibility that we may ave been the only ones left. All we knew was that we had to keep on moving, get as far away as possible and then try to find if there were any more survivors of the catastrophic onslaught. But I only knew that if we didn’t rest now, take stock of the situation and plan our strategy there could be no tomorrow to hope for.
In spiral circles
no leader, no followers
all remain equal,
tracing each line with finger
connection of the senses
It was a long walk but it was worth it. I had followed the old drover’s road from the beach at Porlock Weir. In times past the only way that the necessities of life could be carried to the outlying small settlements on the moor was either by pack-horse or pulled on sledges, called truckles. Their way had for centuries been blocked by a fast-flowing stream which had it’s birth on the high moor till it finally plunged into the sea at Becky falls. A total length of over forty miles as the crow flies but much further with all the twists and turns as it followed the contours of the land. This old bridge was the only crossing point. Still standing after probably hundreds of years but virtually disused; having outlasted it’s reason for being, now only serving as a mystery to any hiker who happened to come upon it in their travels.
Surrounded by dappled sunlight, I decided to rest, breathe in the cool air and enjoy the idyllic scene. I stretched out, my back propped against my rucksack on the large granite rock which formed a firm foundation for the little archway, like the roof support of some parish church nave. The only sound was of the rushing stream, each ripple and wavelet jostling it’s neighbour in the race to pass through the narrow channel. In my drowsy state I imagined I heard the sound of whinnying, snorting and shouting. The use of the whip being unnecessary as the proud little Exmoor ponies would have known the direction they were heading and the path they needed to take. Back up to their homeland to discharge the sand for the farmers to mix in with with their cloying, damp, peaty soil from which to try and wrest a few reluctant crops.
The names of those who built this stout bridge are long forgotten but the moss-lined, grass-topped, faced stones remain as testimony to their skill as they helped others to carve a life from the inhospitable region they were proud to call their home.
“Take the gun.” the second’s voice barked. With trembling hands I grasped the grip and slid the pistol from the velvet and silk case. My opponent, the Right Honourable Sir James Leeson Esquire and I turned and then stood back to back, he with a condescending smile, myself a frown, not of determination but resignation at this farce. We walked fifteen paces, counted out by my friend Tom Skeene and turned to face each other. My pistol held out at arm’s length straight in front of me pointing at James Leeson’s chest. Two shots sounded. I felt no pain, he had missed. I looked at his astonished expression. His arm dropped to his side, I saw the red stain spreading over the upper arm of his frilled, white blouson. It was done, honour was settled, without the senseless waste of life that usually accompanied such events. There was no elation, only intense relief. We both returned our weapons to the seconds and while the doctor attended to Sir James I slowly walked away.
Brother Alphonso started to feel rather pleased with himself. Although it was considered a violation of the rules of the Order, a form of vanity. He found it very hard not to let a smile show on his face, just a slight upturn of the lips. He smoothed the parchment and prepared his writing tool ready to transcribe the last two lines. He had been working on the Ogham script for fourteen months. Now he was the first and only person able to read the legends as they were written. Sadly his excitement at the translation proved too much for his elderly body as he collapsed to the floor having suffered a fatal heart attack.
Before me, my destiny. Ahead, the colonnade, bestrewn with offerings of the lucky few. I stood, decorated crystal vase in hand. Within, a host of freesias and orchids, their delicate hues and subtle fragrance assailed my eyes and ears. To my left stood former suitors to the Demi-goddess within. Medusa.
I awoke with a start. Disappointed I found myself in my cramped bed-chamber but I was intoxicated with joy for I had dreamed of an encounter with the Gods. Voices from on high had echoed in my head. Inviting me to join with them in their magnificent palace in the skies. Zeus himself had called my name. He had sent a magnificent swan to stand beside my bower. I climbed upon the beautiful bird’s broad, silk-soft back and was carried up into the heavens. Faster than the wind we flew till we reached a golden castle adorned with towers and minarets. Oh, so gently the swan landed in a magnificent garden where fountains played and I was greeted by a group of hand-maidens who, laughing at my shy confusion, ushered me into a scented room. Along one wall was a carved ebony bench on which a smiling cherub sat, in his hands a lyre from which he teased a tune of infinite harmony. In the centre of the floor was a steaming pool of water on which floated many brightly coloured lotus blossoms. I was invited to bathe and afterwards. emerging from the pool was anointed with sweet perfumes. They wrapped me in silken robes and I was gently ushered into a room with white marble walls. Each covered in damask tapestries of intricate design. Dazzled by the opulence of my surroundings I was urged to recline upon an amber couch furnished with cushions of infinite softness. My feathery steed stood sentinel and held his wings above me as a canopy. I laid my head upon the pillow and immediately fell into a deep slumber. That is all I, Leda, remember of my encounter with the Gods, be it fantasy or frolic.