Kellerman looked at the huge, carved head in awe. A whole gamut of questions flowed through his mind, the first and most important being who had carved the giant edifice and what did it represent? It could have been a dog, perhaps a stylised vision of it’s creators or even more intriguingly a true to life portrait. The only way to get any answers was to don his safety suit, and take a ride in the exploration module to have a much closer look. Despite some trepidation he knew that this is what they had sent him here to do, although finding evidence of other life forms had not been on the agenda.What alarmed him was the absence of any clearance from the control base. The last vicious lightning storm had closed down any possibility of microwave communication in the foreseeable future. Yet this was an opportunity that could not be missed, the thing had appeared undetected overnight and could easily disappear in the same short timespan. There was no point in waiting he thought, let’s get on with it. He walked through to the robing room and started to don his life support and survival suit, ready to embark on what could turn out to be the most momentous day in his and the whole of martiankind’s history.
where once pictures
gazed down and smiled
content in their task,
ransacked, the gospels
in the glass now gone
the sins of the world,
through the arch revealed
let in with the cold
Many people have admired the stone pillar at the side of the lane that leads to the medeival church of San Marco in Firsti but but it is only the locals who feel they know the true builders and the reason for it’s curious structure. I will tell you the story that I was told when I was just a boy.
Cardinal Cadenza smiled but it was a cold, humourless expression of his sadistic nature. Turning to the two black-robed, cringing priests he asked them to confirm that the nun Sister Dometia had really confessed to the heresy that appeared to afflict so many of the order known as the. “Poor Clares.” They showed him the scrap of parchment and pointed out the scrawl which was purported to be Sister Dometia’s mark. “That is all I need,” he thought. Pressing his fingers to his lips he thought for a moment and then the decision was made. He had been toying with a new punishment for heretics and this would be the ideal opportunity for him to show these heathen that the work of our Lord was just and transgressors could be shown mercy if they turned from their ways and repented their sins. He ordered the two priests to take the prisoner to the lower cell where the stonemason would be waiting for her. The priests left and descended to the lower dungeon where they found Sister Dometia kneeling in prayer in the corner of her cell. Clad only in a woollen blanket they led her down two flights of steps to the room where they saw the mason and his team waiting. They stood around a wooden coffin and stripping the nun naked they told her to lie down in the coffin. All were impressed that even though she knew her probable fate Sister Dometia maintained her vow of silence and stoically lay on her back, arms folded across her breast, in the coffin. The masons then started to trowel cement into the coffin until only her face was showing. When the coffin was filled with the cold, hard, liquid stone the men all left her in this nightmare situation. In the morning when they returned the cement had set and there only remained a corpse in the coffin. They smashed the wood and stood the pillar upright with the nun’s dead face set in a rictus smile looking out. The pllar was then placed at the entrance to the church as a warning to all.
Sit, stand, understand, grow, spend
I declined my host’s offer of a stool on which to squat, instead choosing to eat while reclining on one of the sofas as was the custom in my home country. My slave, as he had been trained, remained within a few paces of me. I informed Valerian that it was time that he and his people should start their insurrection against the tyranny of our hated Emperor. He found it hard to comprehend that such a favoured nobleman as I could cultivate such revolutionary thoughts. I realised he was unaware that when I was a young tribune I had chosen to pay to the assembled nobles vast amounts of my father’s wealth, a form of insurance if anything should ever happen to him. Very timely as within one year he was condemned to exile in Sardinia, leaving my mother, brother and sisters at the mercy of our political foes. Now it was time for revenge or a honourable death in the attempt.
It was the third moonrise since the elation of the first arrival. The seas had remained calm, the large shoals of fish had moved back out of the bay to continue their journeys along the Eastern coast. The return of the first three boats had brought joy but this was replaced by sadness at the realisation there may not be a fourth. There was now only sadness mixed with hope for the watchers on the shore. Women, their heads covered with woollen scarves, shawls wrapped over their shoulders, their once gaily decorated smocks replaced by the black clothes of mourning. Sadly they turned away from the falling tide, retiring to their tiny whitewashed cottages to sit in front of of the open fire in sadness and contemplation. Two with babies slung at their sides felt a worse pain for the children who would never know their fathers. Already the families had known hunger, the times when the shoals of pilchards had bypassed their small cove and other boats had been able to reap the harvest leaving little for the inhabitants of this one remote village, where crops in the field were scarce and prices in the markets high.
One young woman, childless, stayed on the beach in hope, her eyes, though salty with tears, scanning the blue, darkening horizon for any sign of the boats’ return. With no husband or parents to care for she could only wait for her fiancée, the crewman on the smack Louisa. They were betrothed but had decided that marriage could wait until he was able to be master of his own vessel. Then they could hope to move from his parents home into their own property without the expense of paying rent to the Lord of the Manor who owned all of the houses which doubled as the fish-processing works. Gathering all the driftwood and rapidly drying seaweed at the top of the beach she started to make up the fire in preparation for her lonely vigil.
Gertrude looked down upon the plain below. Her mentor and familiar perched upon her shoulder as was befitting a Prince of Utgard in earthly form. His advice had previously been freely given but the time was approaching when he would require the service he had waited for since their first meeting. Had he not given her great beauty and power beyond her youthful dreams for the past decades. By his power and guidance and his alone, armies had been vanquished, alliances formed and the wealth of nations heaped upon his charge threefold. Now time was progressing and the old ones were stirring in their slumbers. Portents of future catastrophe had invaded his dreams. Long forgotten memories had commenced their slow return. When Krandeus whispered in Gertrude’s ear all but she could only hear a loud, rasping Kerrayk. To Gertrude it was the wisdom of the ages for she heard only the friendly advice that had served her so well in all aspects of her long, successful reign. Her furrowed brow and sidewise glances were uncharacteristic and alien to her proud measure, for he had sounded cautious to a high degree. For once Krandeus had advised her against impetuosity. Doubts of the soundness of his latest counsel immediately entered her mind. She did not argue but acquiesced to his suggestion of a meeting with the mysterious band of warriors the scouts had reported encamped in the Whispering woods on the Eastern shore of the White river. She rose and stamped back to the seven horsemen who stood guard, ensuring that no man could approach her in her lone meditation. “My horse,” she demanded and as they handed her the bridle, she announced, “I will go down tomorrow, there will be no feast for you tonight, you will all accompany me.” “We depart with the dawn.”
Being a brief extract from, “Tales of Emeralds and Queens.”