Gaily colored flags
festoon the arena,
chargers, knights and squires.
Battles to be joined anew
as the tournaments commence
Gaily colored flags
festoon the arena,
chargers, knights and squires.
Battles to be joined anew
as the tournaments commence
And all those gathered on the Plain of Saarkand breathed a sigh of relief as one.
For as they looked to the East, the first rays of the New Sun arose over the hill that was called The Old Maid’s breast.
The harsh days of the cold season were past until the dark days arrived once more, as ordained by the Spirits of Earth and Sky.
With the rising of the sun the dark shadow of the beast, which the more superstitious among them had perceived as Kerhaan, the Dragon of Darkness, began to fade and crumble into glowing silver clouds. Soon to fall as life-giving rain on the high mountains. The rivers would flow freely once more down to the barren plain.
So would begin the new life phase.
Encouraged by the daily, ever-rising heat of the sun and the watering of the beast’s blood the farmers could once more begin the tilling of the earth and the sowing of the seed.
The Elders would continue to offer the sacrifice to the Ancestors and if they were not displeased once more would they fill the grain stores and feed their flocks.
Life for all would be good again.
Stained marble stones hide bleached bones.
A place of sadness.
From his raised throne at the head of the hall, the Compte LaReine turned to his master chevalier.
“I’ll see them now, my three guests.”
The heavy oak doors at the end of the hall swung back and three white robed knights were invited into the long, wood-panelled hall. They had surrendered their swords and shields, distinctively marked with the red long-halted cross.
The three approached the dais and bowed low before the Count. Dubois, their spokesman started to introduce himself and his companions but was rudely interrupted by a loud, bellowing voice demanding the reason for their apparent desertion from the Templar order.
Unbeknown to them the Count was dismayed that they had not been willing to divulge the whereabouts of the legendary famed Templar treasure. He knew that the Order had lost favour and wished to curry favour with King Phillip. After secret negotiations he had agreed that the three, accused of heresy, although falsely, would be confined for two days and without trial, put to death as ordered by the King.
“Take them below,” he thundered and roughly, without ceremony, they were lead away. Two days later they were unceremoniously put to death and their bodies taken and placed in a shallow grave in the forest to be forgotten.
So they remained for the next two centuries until the Pope was persuaded to grant a pardon to all the French Templars and throughout the country, the bodies were exhumed where known and re-interred beneath marker stones in the territories where they were once revered for their piety and fighting prowess.
These stones remain a place of pilgrimage, although more often a destination for treasure hunters and the curious.
It was the first day of our guided tour. Myself and the other thirty passengers exited the luxury coach as we arrived at the forbidding wire mesh gates. I assumed that like me, all were on a personal pilgrimage.
i looked around at my fellow travellers, there was no look of expectant excitement on any of the faces. On the journey the atmosphere was subdued as everyone was visiting to bring closure to stories of their family’s fate.
Photography was allowed so I sent my drone up, instantly tears formed as it picked out the child’s toy on the roof.
I walked back down to the slipway at first light. As expected there was only one reminder of our work from the night before, at the last low tide. Of course none of us could be sure if the Gods had smiled favourably upon Ulrika and allowed her to escape ready to rejoin the world of men.
Not that she could come back into our community. The prejudice of the villagers was too great. Many of the young men would be unhappy that she had been taken from us before she had given her acceptance of a marriage proposal.
Apart from the memory of her long, flowing, red hair nothing was allowed to remain in the minds of men. Her name could not be spoken. Her supposed crime never again mentioned unless as a warning to naughty children who failed to eat their meals or refused to carry out their chores.
Elder brothers and sisters would frighten their younger siblings by telling them she was hiding under the beds, as older children do.
I was saddened for I did not believe the tales they told of her. That is why I had returned to the place of the crabs. I was not disappointed. if the Gods had not intervened then overnight the crabs and fish had done their work.
The white rock which had been so carefully placed upon her bare chest sat lonely in it’s place. No scrap of flesh or bone remained. Picked clean by snapping claws and teeth.
Ulrika was now far away, either in the hands of Gods or men and I would be the only one who would feel remorse.
The great stone edifice had been standing sentinel for over a thousand years. With it’s tower and four storeys it had served as the seat of all authority, it’s imposing presence casting fear into the hearts of some; security in the minds of others. Providing a home, and employment for the servants, the garrisoned solders and a ready market for the market-traders who had seized the opportunity to set up their stalls in the shadow of the high walls. Eventually was formed a thriving community, nourished and encouraged by the needs of the Lord of the Manor and his retinue. All unaware of the nightmare to come. On the third Sunday after the Feast of St. Joseph a travelling fair had arrived in the town. Their wagons loaded with with hawkers, jugglers, dancing bears and a hidden cargo. On their second day in the town the performers realised that they had brought a legacy that would be remembered only as swift, deadly and disastrous. The plague was relentless, reducing both the village and, despite locked gates and armed guards, the castle itself, to an empty shell. The survivors, believing the land accursed, moved away to the towns that had escaped the catastrophic events. The thatched dwellings and the limestone battlements gradually eroded, their stones carried off to build and repair houses far away. It did not take long for the tower to remain only as a home for bats, owls, spiders and beetles. In time, visitors to the district could find no-one who knew when it had been built or who had lived in the ruin on the hill. Folk memories suggested that something bad must have once happened. Hence the reputation that the old stones were haunted by some unknown entity, but despite no-one having seen or heard anything supernatural, the rumours of ghosts persisted.
Summer died that night. It was a time of celebration, the deep fire-pit, filled to the height of a man with peat, brush, bracken and branches ready to be lit. The cattle, pigs, sheep and fowl driven in to the central enclosure ready for the elders to carry out their grisly task,
The children had asked the usual questions which we had asked when we were young. The answer was always the same throughout the years. “This is the way it has always been.”
“The beasts we have nurtured lovingly throughout the year must repay our kindness. There will be feasting for everyone before the dark days come as they surely will. There is not enough goodness in the fields to keep and sustain our flocks and herds. Only the necessary few will be kept for our daily needs.”
“The offering we make now will be noted by the sky-dwellers and if pleased they will send the bright sun back to lighten our days once more when the time is right. This is as it has always been.”
As we watched the great fire was lit. Bright scarlet and yellow tongues of flame leaped into the not yet dark sky. Our animal’s eyes rolled at the sight. As each one was led through the narrow entrance between the stakes into the very heart of the village the remainder started to grow restless and were snorting, bleating and clucking wildly. We could hear the loud cries of pain from within and panic started to spread through the now terrified animals. We beat them furiously to try and stop the by then dangerous mayhem.
A greasy cloud of dark smoke hung motionless in the air above the cluster of thatched dwellings and the smell of animal fat was strong in ours and the remaining animal’s nostrils. The addition of the animal fat helped the flames to reach high above the height of the palisade for all to see.
The last beast was lead through the opening, their dark, deadly destiny assured. Gradually we heard the sound of drums performing an increasingly louder, rhythmic, hypnotic beat. It was hard to stop our feet from stamping and dancing in time to the music.
Finally the last of the sun’s rays died and only then were we able to pass through the portal to join the great feast marking the change of the seasons.
Earduk looked into the mist. It was fourteen sunrises since his father Shardan had ceased his part in the tribe.
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. 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. Only then could he continue his journey with his wife Lucine, Earduk’s beloved mother.
The mist was starting to clear. He could hear the rush of wings as the flock of geese that resided on the lake in safety overnight started to lift off from the lake to fly over to the grassy plain to start the day’s feeding.
He could see the causeway ahead and 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 dark waters lapping gently at the reed-covered banks.
Taking three paces onto the causeway he raised the u-shaped blade above his head and with a loud cry cast the offering far into the pool.
The splash caused a stir among the remaining geese and hastened them in their decision to take off. The ripples dislowly diminished and with the ritual complete Earduk turned back to the shore.
Earduk would be able to tell the elders that Shardan could now be placed in the niche near to the door of the family roundhouse. Once more armed Shardan would continue to protect his family as before.
Frozen in the land,
waves of earth in headlong flight.
Now a resting place
for old forgotten heroes,
safe in the hands of Gaia.
The stark hand carved walls,
a labour for so many,
now washing over them,
providing the peace they sought
in the green relentless tide.
What the world needs now in addition to love is wisdom. Wisdom to help us find the path to true love, peace, and joy in our lives, and our world.
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