Monthly Archives: January 2018

Treaty Song Lyrics by Joanne Shenandoah

It seems to be that kind of a day, past, present and possible future meeting at the apex of the three-sided pyramid that is my life and little of it any of what one could call good.  I think the following lyrics express much of what I’ve been reading today.  We don’t want “fake news”?  Then this isn’t. 

Treaty song – Joanne Shenandoah

When you’ve razed all the forests… silenced all the birds

Destroyed creation that came before your words

When you’ve stamped to the ground all the things you fear

One thing to be sure of… I’ll still be here

Remember the treaty you have made with me

As long as grass grows and the sky is blue and rivers run free

Does this not mean forever?

Or did we not agree?

Will lies and broken promises be your legacy?

Who am I your Honour?

Who am I your Grace?

Who do you see standing here as you look upon my face?

Hear me Mr President…

This is Sacred Ground

You cannot own my Spirit, though you might lay me down

So take all your children… teach them your lies

Why waters are polluted… smog fills the skies

You can drain all the oceans and fill them with tears

You will never remove me…

I’ll always be here

So when you seat your Council, who will come to speak

For the Buffalo, the Eagle, the forest and the trees

The oceans and their bounty are all here nearby

And for all the children standing at our side

(Repeating refrain omitted)

Facts:  Over 100 million Native American people were genocided in the “conquest” and western expansion by white Americans.

Facts: British traders transported an estimated 3.4 million Africans to North America as slaves during the 245 years the transatlantic slave trade was active.

 

 

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part 7 – (Seven)

(please note that I’ve changed the spelling of Allay and Allaya to Alay and Alaya.  I always knew there was something ‘off’ there but didn’t clue in until today.  Also please note that as I post these segments of the story, I am deleting contents from previous entries, leaving only one or two as a means of locating for those who are just jumping in.  Any entry needed I can supply if you email me at  shatara@telus.net.  All this means is, it’s a sort of “playing it safe” as I intend to actually publish this one.  I know, I hate copyright but publishers have rules too.  So, intent is good, right?  Enjoy the adventure!)


The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part 7 – (Seven)

Despite the victory and the number of people filling the great room, the meal was a subdued affair. No one could forget that in a side room used to hang meat at butchering time were three cold bodies waiting to be taken down to the village for proper burial. As to the bodies of the attackers, as was the custom, they had been piled between small logs, branches, grass and leaves and set afire. The body remnants had been hauled out to the lower fields to be cleaned up by wolves, foxes and ravens. No one would mourn them or regret their passing. Any valuables found on the bodies, or which they had hidden in the woods before the attack, were more or less equally distributed among the defenders, a greater share going to Magruder for repairs to the barn and cottage. That was the way of things in that land, and at that time.

There would be an interim of several days after this before Nal and Lo could leave the cottage and continue their journey to the coast, not least of which would be their official wedding in Glowmere. To pass the interminable hours and days, they volunteered to search the area for any more bands of potential attackers.

At first Magruder was reluctant as he feared something could happen to his charges and he felt personally responsible for their safety. The alternative however didn’t please him either. It meant that Nal would be constantly underfoot, pestering everybody connected with the cottage, meddling in the cooking and even suggesting changes to the window layouts to prevent attackers from lobbing fire bombs or torches in. She complained about the poor quality of the defenders’ arms and to Magruder’s horror, went so far as to suggest spending money on new swords and teaching any who wanted, some of her skills. Then she had more suggestions to eliminate the danger of wolf attacks upon the sheep.  And…

“Pestilence!” Magruder said aloud.   “Three days of this, I can’t stand no more!” He took Lo aside and suggested that they should indeed go out through the woods, perhaps as far as a small fortified mansion to the south west “no more’n three days hence” to catch some news and gossip. After being severely admonished as to their personal safety, Magruder let them go, making sure they were well provided in food. Water, he said, is never a problem in these parts, t’would be foolish to burden oneself with such.

“And ye be sure and bring the lassie back safe and sound; there be a weddin’ ta perform in Glowmere kirk.”

The “lassie” smirked at those words but didn’t say a word though several retorts came to her mind, one being, “Chauvinist!”  Likely Magruder would have thought she meant his religion.

After crossing the low stone wall between field and trees, they found a trail leading deep into the dark forest. They walked on in single file silently for some time, listening to the woods talking with small animals, birds, rubbing branches from a slight afternoon breeze. Again they took off their heavy shoes and tied them to their packs, walking barefoot, feeling the earth, listening now with their feet also. The trail meandered some but mostly held to the direction they intended to go in: south east.

The day grew old and the forest darker. They began to look intently for some sort of safe and warm shelter for the night. They found a cave on the edge of a ravine and after lighting up a resin torch and walking through it without encountering anything more dangerous than a resident small owl who seemed to question their right to his place then flew off to answer the call of hunger, they made it their abode for the night. As of absolute necessity in such situations, they would have to sleep alone, taking turns on watch.

It was a long and uneventful night that finally ended with a bright orange glow above the trees in the eastern sky. Nal who had taken fourth turn on watch, woke Lo up by jumping and spreading herself on him and giving him a long and satisfactory kiss. After sharing some of their very basic supplies of travellers’ food, they resumed their journey through the forest. By noon they had gradually emerged into a rough land full of boulders scattered helter-skelter. Here they were forced to put their shoes on again for now their path became strewn with sharp broken stones and the ubiquitous gorse that threatened to shred anything without thick leather shoes and leggings with its inch long spines.

They stood on a small hillock to take stock of the landscape, particularly in the direction they were heading. There saw no sign of human life anywhere but in the far distance they could see a spreading haze of bluish smoke, indicating a wood fire, or fires. A village of wood burning chimneys? Or the results of an attack? They couldn’t know until they got closer or encountered either hunters, shepherds or fleeing villagers. They listened intently but the only sound was the soughing of the wind in the shrubbery. A lonely, empty land. Nal moved against Lo and sought the comfort of his body and both felt the great satisfaction of having each other’s company in such a desolate place.

They continued on, following a now quite distinct well-used animal path. Nal led, being the shortest and Lo had no difficulty scanning the jagged hills over the top of her head. Neither liked how the path meandered but under the circumstances there was little choice. Without the path to follow they would have been greatly slowed by the difficult and clinging colourless shrubs. At least had it been summer they could have had the pleasure of their golden flowers and scent with the additional insect and bird songs. Today, though the sun shone, they saw no song birds, only some ravens and what was probably an eagle circling high in the skies. The smoke haze didn’t seem to get any closer either. Then the path plunged down between two sharp rock faces, forming a narrow canyon. For about two hours they could see nothing but what was in front, behind, and the narrow opening to the blue sky above them. Had they been seen entering the canyon it would have made a perfect trap: no escape. Both ends could be blocked and rocks could be dropped on them from the top. Lo cursed himself for taking the easy way and whispering, urged Nal to a trot, though she felt the same eagerness to escape the canyon. They began to run.

Suddenly Nal realized she was moving much faster than she had ever done in her entire life. The canyon walls whizzed by. She turned and saw that Lo was doing the same speed, able to keep up to her dizzying velocity. While running, she found herself able to project ahead, “seeing” obstacles of fallen rocks and turns or narrowing. They ran on, jumping and dodging until the end of the canyon was reached and left behind.

They stopped and looked at each other. Both were smiling until their smiles turned to open mirth and they laughed, their laughter echoing back from the way they had just travelled.

“I’m picking up speed, Lo. I’m developing my Alaya skills already. I never ran like that before, not even at my best. I feel so hungry now, I must stop and eat.”

“These energies, or powers, the Alay possess burn much energy. In these earth bodies that can be a serious downside. We have to use them sparingly, though I fear we will not often be given that luxury. The canyon, I see now, was a self-imposed test to gauge how well we function together. We are beginning to communicate without the use of language, an important skill for what we are on the way to engage.  Now we need to do it with thought forms, or words.  Later.”

They found a comfortably flat stone and after scanning their surroundings and using their keen sense of hearing, sensing no danger, put down their packs and weapons and eagerly engaged their noon meal.

“’Water won’t be a problem, t’would be foolish to carry that burden’ said Mister Magruder. Well, I could use some now.” snorted Nal.

“Until we do find water, and we will because there is water all over in these rocks, try resetting your feelings. Think, ‘I am not thirsty’ or ‘I just drank water and I’m satisfied.’ Let’s see what that does.”

Nal continued chewing her food, but more slowly and focused on the idea. I have water, I don’t need water. For a few moments nothing changed, then it happened.

“I’m no longer thirsty, Lo! How does that work?”

“You are projecting a reality that your body accepts as fact. It has its costs, but it is very helpful in tight situations. Again, not something to overdo, or rely on too much, but something to always keep as a back-up option when there is nothing else. Let me show you something. Just watch, do nothing, say nothing.

Lo sat very still for about half a minute, then extended his arms in the direction they had come from. Suddenly a half dozen men could be seen coming down the path in single file. All were obviously soldiers and well armed, with shiny helmets and even shields. Lo made a “stop” motion and the men stopped. He bent his right arm and the men turned. Then he made a dismissive gesture and they vanished.

Nal clapped. “Amazing! We could fool people with that trick. Can these men actually do anything?”

“Not now but when we learn to telepathically combine our forces I know we can give them much more substance. We can make them yell and run, perhaps even strike blows, or make the enemy believe he’s being actually hit. We can also blend in with our imaginary troops and by striking the enemy from their ranks, add a great deal of reality to the illusion. Nah-La and I did it in our last days together. It almost… almost… saved her. Trouble was, we were not very good fighters then and Nah-La was primarily a healer. She used her bow with deadly accuracy but it made her sick; killing weakened her too much. I think sorrow more than the torture she had to endure is what killed her. And I wasn’t there… I couldn’t find her in time. She signalled me one last time as she was dying, I don’t know where that was. That was the day everything changed for me. I made a vow. Until that day I had made only one: to love Nah-La forever. That day I vowed that I would kill both of the Alay who had turned and betrayed us.

“Perhaps I should have made it clearer, but in case you are confused about this quest, that is the quest we are on. Your presence now as a new Alaya has evened the odds for me. Two on two. But there is more to this that I must share with you soon.”

Nal understood they could not stay in such an exposed place and they needed to find water soon. She got up quickly and gathered their belongings, handing Lo his pack and staff. She set off at a much brisker pace than she had used earlier. There was a strange spring to her step and she was sure she could hear farther. She heard the light gurgling sound of a tiny stream and focused on it as surely as a hawk focuses on a mouse from an impossible height.

“I’ve found water up ahead, behind that large boulder.”

Lo grabbed her and pulled her down. A well aimed arrow whizzed overhead. They crawled off the path behind some rocks and waited.

“Why didn’t I sense that, Lo?”

“You were too excited with your new-found powers and too focused on the water.”

They slowly put themselves into a position from which they could defend themselves even against three or four attackers. Nal pulled her faithful bow and prepared her arrows, all the while focusing on the direction the arrow had come. Two more arrows flew over their cover. Either this was one stupid idiot, or there were several and they didn’t mind wasting a few arrows. She tried to “see” the attackers but all she got was blurred movement and confused thoughts.

“Lo, what can you see?”

“There’s three of them. No Nal, this isn’t a game or an illusion. Sorry but these are real. We need to decoy them, I don’t want to stay here until dark. Suggestions?”

“How good’s your throwing arm?”

“You want me to throw rocks at them?”

“I’ll do it, it’s a trick.” She picked a good rock, gauged her distance, then lobbed in in a high arc. The stone flew high then losing velocity, dropped suddenly behind the rock the attackers had chosen for their attack point. There was some commotion behind the rock, some swearing. Lo grabbed another rock and did the same thing, lobbing it high so it would drop on the attackers. More swearing and this time an arm with a sling showed up beside the boulder. Nal’s arrow skewered it through the wrist and that was followed by a scream of pain.

“Now they’ll know they’re not dealing with amateurs. Should put a bit of fear in ’em.” She kept looking, hoping for more movement but except for more cries of pain, nothing ventured from behind the boulder. Lo kept on lobbing more rocks, stones, even pieces of roots until finally they heard running and a pleading voice, “Don’t leave me here!”

“Let’s rush it, Nal.” Staff ready and arrow notched, both rushed to the boulder then carefully peered behind, one from each side. All they saw was the wounded attacker running away.

“Let him go for now Nal. We’ll follow their footprints and find them, never fear. They’ll have some explaining to do then. Let’s refresh ourselves, here’s your stream.” Down among the rocks a silvery streak of running water could be seen. They followed it down until it came out into the open and flowed into a natural pool. They drank their fill, washed face and hands and returned to retrieve their packs. Nal walked around until she’d found the miss-spent arrows, checked them over to ensure they were still usable and slipped them in the same band that held her own staff. Then she carefully inspected her bow, put three arrows in her belt and kept the bow in hand as they proceeded to track their attackers.

They advanced with extreme caution. If they set a trap for them once, they could do it again. Once in a while they saw or smelled blood. The wounded bandit was obviously following his mates. Then they saw something that shocked both of them: the “mates” had killed their wounded comrade and left his body on the trail.

“This is monstrous,” said Nal. I’ve seen things, horrible things, but this to me is completely sick, inhuman. We’re dealing here with rabid animals, Lo.”

“I agree, but I think we’ve arrived at their lair. I smell something odd here. There must be a cave. I see a dark opening in the rocks.”

They approached the opening, smelling, listening, focusing. Both knew there was life inside the cave, they could sense it, but it felt wrong. A large animal perhaps?

“Watch this entrance, I’ll walk around and see if there is another exit.” Lo crept around the rock mound that he’d mistook for a cave. He saw a glimpse of the two bandits running away and disappearing in the tumble of rocks. He let them go and returned to Nal.

End Part 7 – (Seven)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part VI

 

continuing with the fantasy novel…

Lo returned to the cottage, entered quietly and barred the thick oak door. He walked up the stairs carefully and entered their bedroom. Nal was still sleeping as soundly as

___________________________________________________________

MAIN CONTENTS DELETED.

If you need this section for reference, please email me at  shatara@telus.net

_____________________________________________________________

Much later, sated and sound asleep, lost to this world, they were awakened by a loud knock on their door.

“Dinner be served. We’d be pleased if ye joined us.” They heard the woman’s footsteps leave their doorway and clack down the stairs. Time to arise and face whatever would be served next, of food and adventure, both certain to come.

End of Part VI

Walking Barefoot on the Underside of Life

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

When I was a child I wanted to walk barefoot but my parents, particularly my mother, forbade it. I believe she thought it would make us look poor in the eyes of other villagers, as if we were anything but poor and our poverty was any different than anyone else living in that forgotten place. Perhaps there were deeper reasons she would never share.

It was to be much later in life that I would find or create my own personal type of freedom.  That was when  I rediscovered the joy of walking barefoot upon the earth, a joy I am constantly rediscovering even now at 71 years of age. I walk barefoot as much as my life allows, mostly in my own yard, in sunshine, rain, snow, mud, crush, mulch among the shrubs, in the garden, and I love to kick off my sandals and drive barefoot.

It’s not just the freedom of it, or the life-long rebellion against societal mores, so many of which are not just ridiculous but downright insane and unhealthy. There is much more.

When I walk barefoot, I can feel the earth reaching through my feet all the way up to my brain. I become aware of my body touching the rest of life. I care what I step on, and how I step on it; how I stand or where I put pressure on the earth. I feel a throbbing that is blocked by the wearing of artificial soles. I can feel the earth’s joy and also her sorrow.

In unfamiliar territory, bare feet become inquisitive and protective of themselves. This brings me to look down at what is around me. I will explain why that is important but before, I must say that I wish, oh I so wish, that I had had parents and teachers who had known about the powerful healing effects of the barefoot walk and had not only encouraged me (us children) to walk thus, but had explained why we should do so. But such knowing people do not exist, certainly not in Western societies.

Now I must do the explaining, although I know quite well that it is much, much too late for this society to learn how to walk barefoot by renouncing its societal mores.

When I walk barefoot I am both, mentally empowered and physically weakened. I want to focus on the benefits of such physical weakening because it is directly conducive to developing humility, probably one of the most maligned “virtues” in these societies built on entitlement.

In this hard and harsh materialistic society, feet are dangerously vulnerable to many dangers: stubbing of toes, cutting by broken glass, broken rocks and pieces of cement; slivers from chunks of metal or wood; crushing from falling crates, bottles, tools and various kinds of implements, burning from spilled chemicals, puncturing from rusty nails protruding from a fallen fence picket hidden in grass, or a number of such impediments.

In teaching myself the art of walking barefoot I have experienced all of the above. It’s inevitable really because people are incredibly careless, lacking the empathy needed to prevent them from being crass about leaving dangerous garbage about. This is a dirty, filthy, unhealthy society. How does the barefoot person approach such a condition?

One word describes it best: humility. Indeed. There is a park behind my house where I like to go and walk, or run, barefoot. I’ve had people tell me it was a stupid thing to do because there are those “horrible” homeless people that go there at night to shoot up and who leave needles on the ground. I don’t know, I’ve never seen “needles” in the park. More to the point, there are those who walk their dogs and can’t be bothered to pick up after their animals. I have stepped in dog poo with my bare feet many times. At first I was incensed. But it forced me to walk down to the river at the bottom of the park and walk in the water, rubbing my feet in its mud, or sand, or weeds, depending where I was and feel the washing and healing action of the water. That was an amazing realization.

After a few times in the dog poo, I learned to accept it as the consequences of barefooting. Whether people despoil their public or private spaces is really none of my business. I’m a walking observer, not really much of a participant. I don’t engage most of the things people around me seem to find pleasure in doing, certainly not in drugs, and I don’t have pets. I find my pleasure in things they know nothing about, or would not find pleasurable if they had to do them. I accept that now, as part of the change process.

When I speak of “barefoot humility” I’m not thinking of being poor, unable to afford shoes, sandals or flip-flops. I’m thinking of what it means to approach this hard/harsh world with my vulnerable bare feet. I’m thinking of having to bow my head and look down; look at the ground, the floor, the sidewalk, the road, the site, and guide my feet through obstacles that could prove painful or detrimental to them. There is no room for pride here.

In this barefoot exercise, I have the choice of cursing those who ignorantly leave dangerous or filthy things in the way of others, particularly on public streets, sidewalks, parking lots or parks. Or I can accept this aspect of society, refusing to react in anger, but rather with a sadness at the overt self-destructiveness of human nature. I allow my feet to do the talking, and I listen, very carefully.

Feet, in our materialistic society are jewels encased in hard boxes or crates called shoes, never to be exposed to what lies under them. We have no idea, until we remove our shoes and relearn how to walk on the earth, how much our protective equipment we call shoes and clothes, have taken away from our identity with our world.

Encased in our various types of armour; driving our polluting and destructive machines; locked in our equally unhealthy air-conditioned/centrally heated box homes, we storm and stomp through the earth as conquerors, rapists, violators and murderers. We do not feel because we cannot feel. We live in artificial exoskeletons that deny us our natural heritage which demands that we daily touch the earth with our natural nakedness. We are denied, and we deny ourselves and we become “more machine than man” as we progress towards the ringing bells of our earth’s death knell.

There is a movement under way called “Free the Nipple” by people who believe that women should have the same right to go topless in public as men do. Perhaps we need a movement called “Free the Feet” so we can once again walk barefoot wherever we choose, including in restaurants and all other type of stores or offices.

Beautiful feet are not found inside prisons called shoes. They are found naked and free.

Totally out of context perhaps but a truly fine expression: “As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” [Isaiah 52:7]”

 

 

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff-part V

Therefore continuing on with a story I sincerely hope some of you find entertaining, perhaps even intriguing (I dare hope!) I’m introducing this part V with an interesting quote:

Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” — Flannery O’Connor

They began to climb in earnest then as the hills became steeper and lacerated with glens requiring the agility of the sheep to get in and out of. Although the sun was weak, it being winter, they were sweating in their heavy leather coats and pants. Their boots began to chafe and Nal removed hers, choosing to walk barefoot. Soon Lo imitated her and they laughed at their dusty, grimy feet. The ground was dry but not hard on their tough soles and the rocks were smooth and flat. Obviously both of them were quite comfortable walking barefoot. The sheep marched on up eagerly, sometimes braying and listening for answers. Then move on again. Obviously they sensed that the rest of their herd was in the neighbourhood.

Suddenly the sheep stopped, all ears pointing forward. As suddenly Lo and Nal armed themselves, knelt down behind the sheep, and waited also. Five men erupted from a small dip in the hillside, armed with bows strung and notched. Nal responded by pointing at one man’s heart then slightly lifting her bow to adjust for the drop. The men couldn’t shoot without hitting the sheep so tried to frighten the herd out of the way.

That’s when Lo called out to them, “We’re returning your sheep, can’t you see? We found them wandering by a creek about eight miles below. They had been chased by a pack of wild dogs. Send someone down if you want, you’ll find the dead dogs. We have no interest in your sheep, we’re seeking a pass to get to the sea and the port there. Will you let us pass?”

Meanwhile Nal had slipped down and found a convenient rock to hide behind and setting up her usual arrows, got ready to dispatch the men if they proved unwilling to give ground.

She called out, “I’ve got you sighted. I will have at least three of you dead before you can respond, and I will get the rest of you. I’m Beanna the archer, you know my name and my reputation with bow and sword. Don’t be idiots.”

“Beanna? It’s that a trick. Beanna went south for the winter three months ago. You’ll be sorry for lying to us!”

“No Cedric you fool, you’ll be the sorry one. I got married, I came back with my husband Lo here. You hurt him and you will experience the full extent of my wrath, mon. Put your weapons down and let me show myself so you’ll know it’s me. Guy? Lil’ Cos? Listen to me now, you don’t want to play this game with me.”

The bows were lowered and Nal came out from behind her rock. Lo stood up but kept his staff firmly in both hands as the shepherds or whomever they were still held onto rusty cutlasses. He felt truly sorry for them when he saw their pathetic weapons. Both he and Nal walked slowly towards the five men, who it turned out were really two men and three boys.

Finally, the weapons were discarded and both sides introduced themselves. The shepherds were the two men, Cedric and Guy, the three boys, Lil’ Cos, Giles and Roland. They wore sleeved leather jerkins and typical but non-tartan long kilts and high leather boots. Their worn and cracked sword sashes were of leather and worn over their right shoulder, bow and quiver on the back. Obviously these men, though ill armed, had received some basic guard training.

It was Cedric who first spoke, and he addressed Nal, as Beanna of course. “Married now, are ya, gal? That news is going to break the heart of a dozen hopefuls in these parts, including mine.” He looked at Lo and winked lasciviously, hinting at some understanding between men and a pretty and very desirable lass, as in, maybe we can do business?

Lo, not at all familiar with the local ways, let Nal do the talking. She spoke in a sing-song accent he found pleasurable to listen to. Obviously this was her home, or had been for some time. She talked a blue streak about certain individuals’ health; a cottage being rebuilt; a baby that hadn’t been well when she left which sadly had subsequently died; the current priest or preacher for the kirk; the clan’s movements against a growing threat from poachers; some girl’s upcoming and disputed spring marriage to a chief’s son; and things he did not understand at all.

Finally he tapped Nal on the shoulder and asked her if she could find them food and a room for the night.

“Just catching up to some news and gossip from home, Lo. I will inquire about room and board.”

This she asked in a strange dialect he understood not a word of. She gestured, pointed to a hill, laughed then turned to Lo.

“There’s a large cottage up ahead behind yonder hill that has an upstairs room we can rent. They’ll make us our meals, all for a price, not cheap. How are our funds in gold? These people don’t deal in local currencies as their value changes with the weather and invasions. It’s sheep, or gold, and we’re a bit short on sheep at the moment unless… no, wait.”

She spoke to Cedric in the same dialect, raising her voice once or twice, pointing at the sheep, and the trail they’d walked up. He recognized the word “dogs” and understood when she pulled out her sword to demonstrate. Then she turned to Lo and smiled.

“They agree, we deserve payment for saving their sheep and bringing them back. We get two ewes and we get to pick them.”

Lo looked over the herd. “Ewes, huh? How do you tell them apart? They’re all just bundles of stinky dirty wool!”

“Boy sheep, girl sheep, Lo. You don’t tell them apart by their wool; you have to check their equipment, or lack thereof.” She laughed at him.

“I was teasing you. It’s so nice to see and hear you laugh, Nal, it pleases me so much. Why do they want us to take ewes?”

“There are no spare rams; it’s winter and meat is at a premium. The rams go first except for those needed to service the ewes. So we get two ewes, one for you, one for me, for services rendered. All we need do is pick two, put a rope on them and walk them to the cottage where we will dine and sleep. Just out of curiosity, do we have any gold Lo?”

“Some but it’s another item we want to use sparingly. I’ll need two coins to melt into rings. Is there a forge around here?”

“Oh yes there is. It’s a small one, and we’ll probably have to melt the gold and forge the rings ourselves. I doubt the local blacksmith handles anything but iron. He wouldn’t know what to do with gold, probably refuse to touch it due to the liability. If he lost it he could never pay us back.”

“We’ll rent some forge time then, if the ewes will carry our credit so far. We’ll do the melting and reshaping ourselves. I’ve worked with gold and it sounds like you have also?”

“Yes I have some training in melting and re-shaping gold artifacts.”

Mocking: “Local girls’ sideline, is it?”

Ignoring his tone and seriously: “In a way. Passing raiders trust us more than the men and the boys in returning the right weight, plus we have nimbler fingers. I’ve never forged a ring though. Have you?”

“I’ve done silver rings but with the proper tools. This will be interesting.”

“Maybe I could use Allaya magic on the gold, huh?”

“That, Nal, is not something you should talk about lightly, or anywhere someone could be eavesdropping. Some places and people know about the Allay and Allaya. Remember they were once worshipped all over. Claiming to be an Allay or Allaya could be bad business, like impersonating God or the Devil. We’ve both seen people burned alive. It’s not something I care to experience, at least not because of carelessness or a loose tongue.”

“Yes, of course. I’m sorry Lo. Just a couple of days ago I was still “of the people” and such jokes were quite permissible. I accept that it no longer is. I may forget, however.”

“Yes, but try not to. You are now in process of transitioning out of your Earth roots. The faster you learn, the quicker will be your transformation and the sooner you will have access to, and control of, you new powers. You are no stranger to hard self discipline so you are ideally suited to complete whatever this is we’ve both set in motion. Remember this: in this entire world, and possibly in this entire universe, we may be the only two of our kind in existence. Sobering thought that, what do you think?”

“I don’t want to think about that side of it, it frightens me and I’m not usually easily frightened. This world, your world, well, it’s unsettling. I don’t know how to take it and when I mentally enter it, I don’t know who I am either.”

“It’s not just my world, Nal, it’s our world. It’s a world we’re creating ourselves, altogether on our own and it’s a newborn child. You must enter it as its mother and teach it, guide it, even command it. You must shape it.”

Turning her back to him and looking at the ground: “I-will-TRY!”

“I push you too hard, sorry. Let’s find our sheep and our abode, yes?” He gave her a hug and it all fell into place once again for her. They chose a couple of ewes from the herd, put Lo’s escape rope around their necks and after taking leave of the shepherds, walked on up the hill towards their destination. The large cottage was a two-story affair near a small lake. A man came out to meet them and take the sheep from them. He seemed quite gracious and happy with the payment for food and lodging. After making sure he’d get his rope back, Lo and Nal walked up to the low front door of the stone building where a woman welcomed them inside.

Only when they smelled the cooking did they realize how hungry they both were. They were shown to a second table in the large dining room and after putting pack and weapons on the floor, sat side by side on one of the rough benches and waited, just looking at each other, saying nothing. All manners of things could have been said but there were others around and beside, Nal’s mind was already reeling from overloads of information. So they took the time available to make love with their eyes.

The boys, Giles and Roland, came into the room and seeing Nal, came over and asked if they could sit at their table.

“There’s wolves about so we’re told to keep the herd in the big barn tonight. We’ll eat here, then sleep in the barn. Mind us eating with you?”

“Nal?” She nodded to Lo and replied, “No, that will be fine with us but we’re quite tired and mean to retire as soon as supper is done.”

Roland: “You don’t have a ring, Beanna?”

“Actually when I got married, I also changed my name. We didn’t think Beanna was appropriate any longer, due to my reputation. My name is Nal. The reason I don’t have my ring, and neither does my husband is, we had some hard times, we needed the gold, so we sold them. We would really like to have rings again though. If we found some gold, could we have new ones made at the forge?”

She made her story sound so believable and told it so smoothly that the two boys were completely taken in. What reason would they have not to believe her?

Giles: “Your name is Nal? That’s a strange name, that is.”

“For around here, I know, but not where we were at the time, far into the south. We heard it was the name of a princess on the continent and Lo wanted to marry a princess. So I gave him one!”

They laughed at that story, it was a good one. Still, young Giles moon-eyed Nal, not quite willing to accept that she was now lost to him and his boyish hopes.

Roland: “Won’t be easy to find any gold around here this time of year. Not many travel the highlands for fear of sudden snows and bandit raids are more common. You could try to lower village, down in Glowmere. There may be some gold for sale there or even rings.” By way of explanation he added, “Winter, many die.”

The food was served along with stout and after appropriate grace given, all attention went to eating. After the meal and both Giles and Roland had lit their pipes, a subdued conversation started again but soon waned. Nal was almost asleep when Lo nudged her, gave his regrets to the shepherd boys and they both walked up the solid wooden stairs to the upper room that would be their first bedroom as a married couple. The door was wide open. He held Nal back from entering, and after gently placing her weapons’ bundle on the floor, and likewise his pack and staff, he picked her up and carrying her to the bed, put her down slowly, carefully, as if she’d been made of fine china.

“My wife, you are the second, in time not in value, most precious bundle I have ever had the pleasure of carrying in my arms. May the joy you give me in this moment endure into eternity and may I never have to spend a single day away from you.”

“Oh darling Lo, thank you. I desire nothing else for myself either.” She snuggled into the warm bed that had been heated with hot water bottles. “Help me undress?” He did so, admiring her small by perfect female body, then turned to retrieve their belongings and put them within easy reach. When he returned to his bride, she was already sound asleep.

He smiled to himself as he covered her and as was his habit, went to the dormer window and opened the shutters to take stock of the surroundings. He noted the drive, the narrower paths to barn, smaller outbuildings and to the fields and woods below. He watched the water rippling on the small lake, noting with satisfaction that it wasn’t cold enough to have frozen it over. The reflected starlight danced on the water. He heard a wolf give one lonely cry, and an owl respond. Strange, haunting country, he thought to himself, but certainly not lacking in natural beauty. As to the people in it, he wasn’t so sure.

He reached into his pack and brought out the little orb, held it in his right hand and enclosed it with his fingers, turning his hand over. Then it all happened as before. He held his left hand, palm out in a gesture of greeting and waited. Gradually, his hand became light from the glow of the orb but this time the colour changed. It went from pale blue to a deep red. He stared at the light, waited until it changed to a white flash of opalescent rainbow colours.

Satisfied, he put the precious out-worldly gem away and pondered the answers he’d just received. One: the pale blue meant good weather and good luck, long term. Two: deep red meant they would be attacked and involved in a bloody fight, something that did not surprise him, and there would be a fire, or fires. Three: the opalescent rainbow colours told him he had once again found his soul mate. As he had suspected, Beanna was Nal’s reincarnation as an Earthian. Having died while still entrapped within the evil of earth she could not have returned home, so she opted to stay on earth and work out her cleansing somehow. Now he had his answer also to Beanna’s deadly skill with the short bow. It had been Nal’s weapon of choice then and she never missed a target. But how had she managed to find her bow again after so many years? For he knew that no one manufactured bows such as the one Beanna/Nal possessed, in these times. Did her mother find it on that distant island she came from, and bring it to the northern continent along with her sword?

He closed the shutters and went back to look upon the small sleeping woman and found himself literally shaking with a joy he could barely suppress. He wanted to shake her awake and tell her his amazing news but realized, just in time, she would not understand, not yet. Plus, if she fell asleep rather than indulge herself in sex and the loving she so desired and obviously enjoyed, she was certainly dead tired. If there was an attack that night, she’d need all the sleep and rest she could get now.

His orb could never tell him the times of events it predicted, but he suspected the attack would be soon, likely this night, and upon both the cottage and the barn. He pictured the barn with its grass roof burning, along with the shepherds and the sheep trapped inside.

With a deep sign, another look at Nal, he took his staff, balanced it carefully, then walked out of the room, closing the door silently and went down the stairs. The fireplace was almost extinguished and there was no one around. A dog or two sniffed at the outside door. He opened it slowly, passed his hand over the two pit bulls to calm them and they followed him to the barn as if they’d been house pets and had known him forever. He pounded on the heavy door, waited until Roland, covered in straw and with sleepy eyes, confronted him.

“What? Oh, it’s you sir. Is something wrong?”

“There could be. I have a feeling we are going to be attacked tonight. I would like you and Giles to take the animals down the field and hide them in the small glen there. Keep an eye on them. If we need you I’ll whistle thus,” and he gave an ear-piercing whistle that made the boy wince.

“Aye! I’ll certainly hear that right enough. But sir, there be wolves down there at night. I’ve seen their movement, times, I have.”

“Take the dogs, they can take care of the wolves. I sense the attackers will fire the barn and I don’t want any living thing trapped in it, well, barring the rats and mice. They’ll take care of themselves.”

“You have humour sir! Pleasant you are. Here’s Giles. He answers to me. We’ll do exactly as you ask sir, and thank you, even if nothing comes of it.”

“You are a true gentleman, Roland. Arm yourselves, but be safe. Now, do you think I should bring an alarm to the rest of the house?”

“Nay sir. They not be the forgiving kind. T’were to prove false, such a move could cause enmity. The cottage has survived many attacks, sir, t’will do so again. It don’t burn, being stone and slate. If you stay on watch then you can raise the alarm when the attack begins?”

“That I will, Roland. My thanks, once again.”

{End of Part V}