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.