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Monday, July 18th, 2005, 12:42 AM
The Lay of Apollo

By Brenna

A man stood lone-lild, graft against the skies. He stood nearing the peak of a hill which rose out of the land like the great long back of a whale breaching the surface of a green sea. This stol-sun man gazed crossways to a smaller hill, where smoke was adrift in tokening of homesteads and terraces of patchworked farm fields, graduated from the arena of its flattened tump to its broad, contoured base.

The man shifted his leather knapsack from one shoulder to the other. It was filled with flint axe-heads which were some of his own creation, and some of his fellows. He was dressed in a home-spun tunic of rustic brown, girt at the waist with a leather thong. He wore leather boots shaped like stockings and laced at the front, leather armulets and a sleeveless overthrow of beaver fur on his back. He had tattoos on both of his muscular arms: one in the form of a lightning strike crossed with a single arrow; the other in the form of a sun-wheel below which was the detail of a bird of prey.

His face had a lean, hawk-like appearance; the long brown mane of hair and bristled beard lending him a leonine, animal-regal air. For this distinction of feature he had been called Ly - short for Lyone - for his wild-swept, brown locks and bristling beard gave him the same shaggy-crowned look of a lion. But for his trading name he took The Hawk, and only his folk, the company of his kith and kin, could call him Ly.

He seemed to spend a long time ruminating, standing on the grassy knoll with his leather sack of flint axe-heads. He was turning something portentuous over in his mind. Reflecting on the future and referring back to the past, as was the way of his folk so to do. Only Ly stood frozen to the spot for a good deal longer than most could countenance, and hence his special status amongst his company, and his close friendship with the oldest of the Wise Ones, Old Man Wem. Ly was a traveller and a trader who took his stock from the first Old Rovers whoever walked across the seabed in the Ice-time, and first came fetching to these shores and this blest, fair isle that Ly knew as home. Hence, there was a certain arrogance in his look and hence, the inate dignity with which he moved and bided by his work for the company.

He stared into middle distance as the sun dropped a portion lower in the sky and shifted his emphasis from the horizon to the round-shaped hill where the smoke rose, and where the ditch of the first earthwork boundaries were clearly visible. Whilst he stared, his mind went back to the past. The globe of the sun and the twirl of smoke rising up triggered a memory brought unaccountably from his fund of folk experiences. He felt at once vivified, comforted, inflicted with an unusual nostalgia and confirmed in his own belongings as he remembered the age-old tale that had been told to him ever since he was old enough to listen and understand.

He remembered sitting by the central fire in his father's lap a few days before the winter's feasting began. It had been uncommon cold, the dark and ice come early that year and a certain grimness had inflicted the company. To lift the dreariness, eld Mendion had begun to tell one of their best-loved stories.

In his rythmic and sing-song rasping voice, which held them all spellbound, he had begun to weave his tale telling the story of Apollo and how the God they worshipped had come to be. He could hear the voice of eld Mendion spinning through his mind, enthralling him, alongside the sound of the fire crackling, the flames dancing upon the season-weathered skin of his kinsman as he spoke, the smell of the smoke and the red deer they had cooked still hanging in the air. Like an indelible imprint on his mind, the story - the lay of Apollo - recounted and unwound itself as he stared at the slow settling of the sun upon the further hills behind his homestead.

"Long, long ago when the Ice-time was still enravelled 'cross thay great tide-streams n' clefts of All Land an' the age o' thay monster-lizard was cum well nigh to close bein', all but'un memory in the minds o' thay folk, thay did live 'un peoples as was stolsun n' far-going of thought next to none. Tall n' fairse thay wert, strong as thay grizzled bear, who'm did live in thane mountains where'as home o' thay folk. Na - 'twas held 'mongst this'n folk that shape-shifter gods had given thay knowing of fire-ken n' the power ovva dreaming-flight. Saa! was thay raised up before n' beyond all thay rude folks 'cross Evera Land. In thay mountain home, way above the Ice-line, thase did learn o' the fire-craft fra the shadow-hands of gods, who'ud shiftens-shape, as water forms its course 'ccording to thane contours o' the land.

Chosen thay'n were, for the brightness o' their spirits n' for the stoll-strength of their true arm n' will. But as the knowing was passed and learned, bright beings came fra thay stellar-kin'd to hunt the shape-shifter gods, to battle 'un an' vanquish 'un an' erase all thay fire-craft fra span o' human memory. But canny-like thase mountain-folk hid i' the deep caves o' thay rock n' be dint o' thay stalwart n' toughen-tree spirit, were spared the wrath o' thay Fieriiads who'm lightning-braiz'd thane skies, shattering the dark wi' a thunder-song as clept fear in of evera heart. And the shape-shifter gods did no more return'n. Except'n it was sayeth that in some special times i' the forests o' thay un-iced valleys strange-lilds could be seen. One wi' great horns bigger'un thay tines o' the greatest stag n' wi' a voice as was strange-some wooning, a voice as could freeze'n thay blood well as nigh, when wilder-ed, scowlls cumen long. Saa! do we give to thay God o' the Green, the Horned One as comes cheer in spring, as mun be reverenced on thay travel-paths of all seasons long.

Saa! did thay mountain folk, knowingfulled o' fire-craft felt in thay bones thay mun share the benivolance, thase sacred light o' flame, wi' thane folks ovva further feld. And gradual-like as thay Ice-line did melt to water'un valleys wi' trees, thase'n folks did spread their knowing wi' neighbours n' travellers as did cum near ovva nigh to afar, at thay summer o' gatherun time. Saa! did all peoples cum to know fire-craft n' to look to n' respect, full-fine, thay folk who'ud given unstintlike ovva fire-ken - clept'un golden-hawk folk, winged of thought as the bronzayed hawk who did soar highest peaks, 'cross thay alps o' thane world - the eagle folk of fire-ken who did see-es far in vision as thay mightiest hawk-claw all.

Eh na i' th' cycle of a many-fold season an' be th' swelling n' starving of'm countless moons, there was born unto thase eagle folk of fire, a childer full special n' rare. This'n special childer was birthed on a night the lik-es of which had'nay been seen not ever afore. Twert such'm night it did seem that thay gods were'n throw-ed stellar-kin dund to thane goodly earth. A night as was naither i' the memory of thane elder folks nor yet in th' tales that the wise ones'ud told. A night when it did seem as if the heavens rained fire, as if thay venerid stars'ud burst aflame n' fallen to bruise dane Modor, wi' dints n' fire-tails that 'sooth did turn folk's mindes wild. Thay was some as did say it noted a warning, showed anger of the bright ones at thay burning begun of, to helft clear a space midst the forested way. Thay was some as did say it knelled the ending of Time, naither'ud be their age gone-ap-by - n' thay was some otherus who did spake of a childer, brought to birth be the fiery helds o' the gods - a special childer, a change-bringer, he who'ud draw down the Gold One fra the skies n' woo him'us warmth for all winter's long.

Na was born to the gold-hawk folk, on this night of never-seen fire-fall, a childer wi' eyes all blue as a clear-dawn; a childer with hair like a feld of corn cum cutting-time at harvest, with hair like the leaf burnished bronze at time of autumn fall. Born of a beautisum Azanagelle, beget be thane jerntrowe Henddryn, he known saa resolute, fu' strong; this childer, named Apollid, grew more man-some stoll, more far in's sighting, more braw an' fiesty in's bearing as ever had cum to that folk, who lived in the lild of the Great Lands stretch.

This childer who clept the namen of Apollid was baith dream-like 'n muscle-willed. He did move him as quiet as thay still ones, wi' naither a whisper to show'un whence he trod. He listened fu'-tentive as thay wise ones tund-temple song, 'n he hafted his spear n' sent swift his arrow likes nain other'ud been brought to th' blood bond afore. On's name-day single-handed he wrestled dun n' killed-dead a brunnen-bear, as big n' as fierce as ony bear can be. And in time, as he grew full to his manhood, when he spoke his word-weaved ho, all on'us folk cum to listen n' be led. Til 'un was known as Apollid - he of thay wording that flowed lik-es drops of gold fra thane Bright One o' th' Dawn.

But druth fra thane bowels on thay mountain, did cum 'un monster terrible foul. Forged 'n formed nee thane belly o' The Mother, made fra magic mind-weave o' thase Fieriiads; Fieriiads as'ud cum to take fire aways fra human hand in thane aged times gone by. Thissle monster did skrake sa'unearthel-sharp, wickedfower hidyus it freez-ed the vitals on any as heard. Fixed 'un to be pluck-ed 'n torn limb fra limb, as the weasal-snake do chill 'n still the prey it do drink thase'n blood of. Thissle fowerstirk 'n terriflying baist was winged all-leathery like'us night-bat but scores beyond the size o' thase little flitters. So huge 'n so hane that when 'un swooped razor-skrakin' likes lance to'un brain that terrible cry, it did blot out the sky like'es vasty cloud fra wind-nourished storm-torrent dark. Mass-grim, dagger-toothed, flint-clawed, this'n foulsome baist roamed the mountains o' thay Great Lands spilling blood, scattering 'n renting thane flesh of many-a folk, fuelling fear where stoll nerves'ud been. Soon all 'cross the Lands 'n nigh still amidst thay valleys havoc 'n horror had set all folk aquakin' 'n all but afear-ed to travel or to hunt in the ways as'ud been kept fra before living memory.

Na thay baist did rip 'n range even to thane folk of Apollid, shrakinen to mind-numb howelin' eerie-keld, freezen folks, dead as stone, in thase tracks. Then swooping to shred their'n flesh fra thay bone, laivin' mangled carcass to terror-quake sons of stoll-men who'ud seen thay ghastly-gurgitated remains. But dour as savage as a monstersome three, did Apollid's fair brow becomen when he did see thay terrible remains - th' baist's meal made of man all twisted 'n bloodied, inside spewed full-out, gnashed-up 'n livid. Aye 'n nair did his will flinch fra the vengeance he vowed. Til the death he flint-swore his'n sinew 'n nerve. Naither to still his'n fearful quest til he'ud crushed 'n killed, ripped wing fra wing, all spilled thay horridable-innards, sundered 'n split thase most fearsome-foul jaws as did plunder the flesh o' thane folk he was sworn to.

Wi'un knowing that pierc-ed past thay gloom, cast drear in the minds of'n evera man, Apollid did leather bind his limbs, gatherun from's folk the staunchest made arrow-hafts 'n ready-flexed'us long bow moistened stoll-mort, set the sharpest cut, of his dagger-flint fixed, like a single killing tooth to thay belt that girt his 'n midriff. And aye, in his knowing he plugged his'n ears with th' fat on the aurochs so that deaf to all sound, he set out to thane high peaks where trow-na 'twas said, the baist made's nasty nest o' noxacious bones. Deaf to all sound, insistent-alone, still young as the green corn not yet boldened be sun-season, Apollid set out on's fearful quest, sharp on his wits, silent as a windless night he stole, casting his blood-keen glance hither'n an' athither'n, likes thay owl lookin' to's back, even as his handsome hale limbs, stepped froward-long, for the length of a sun 'n be the dint of a dark moon night.

And high high up Apollid did climb where the white snow topped still that aerial clime, when far down below thane fruit was swelling en mellow harvest sun. Kept warm be his bear-fur wrap 'n leather-binding, sharp-eyed's the gold hawk as do wheel in the sky, keen-drop to'us prey like a thunderbolt let fly, Apollid kept his look abound, fixed in's readiness to fearless 'n fight. Laith! The light on th' Dawn was red as th' dye fra the felled alder tree, as red as the blood berries that spring 'pon the haw 'n askrakin anhowelin' fra its bone-cave so high, baist did swoop 'n blot out thane light o' the ruddy-dawn sky. Wi' its wings whirling like a snow-storm skin-tund, its terriful monster-maw slavering all-ready to rent the flesh of man. Angered twert, be the bold of Apollid's march cum close be its nest where its dark heart did rest, straight-flew its nark apnar to mankin, desirous of scattering our'n Apollid limb fra limb, all across thase peaks o' granite grey. Aye 'n fearsome did it skrake waitin' for'issle foolish, bold son of stoll-man, to freeze 'n stop-dead, still as a stone for the claws of thane baist to reap'us hot blood.

Eh na but Apollid, wi'an hero's heart, braw in'us stance 'n grim long-held, his limb, he fixed druth baist wi'a flint cold eye nain hearen thay nefaire-cry as sought to freeze'un dead. He drew back his bow-strong, set arrow-haft to flight, pierced the breast of thay wicked baist - flaili-yed'n monster wings, likes whirl-wind cum nigh, above him i' the blood-dawn sky. Eh but thase craiture was dagg-ed fra the hell-mouth of hate 'n did tear the arrow fra its leathery hide, plummeten to death-gorge this'n troublous male of humankind. But staunch-set of will 'n brave-bent'us brow, Apollid did fast-flight from'us bow thay shafts of 'un double-spent arrow, settin' thane foul baist to cry-pluck wi' pain, afore it did wheel to turnen cum again. Aye 'n despite the sharp-skill o' thase best arrow hafts, gross baist did cast the flints fra its hide, as if thay'twerse the nagging of'un tiredsum speck o' flies.

Wi' its nasty dagger-tooths wide 'n ajar, its rip-razor claws clept outright to clutch, dowen it descended to pluck at the face of this troublesome man-child. But fierce bright contained, steadfast tay endure, rugged wi' the strength of'un storm-toss-ed mighty oak, Apollid did stand to meet's loathed enemy. Eh na in his mansome hand, leather-bound protected, did he catch 'n hold the leg on his foe, whilst wi'us flint-dagger sharp as the lion's tooth he thrust at the throat o' thay carious baist. Saa! did he bring 'un acrashin' to ground.

Thane baist wasnay dead nor defunct-gone but ripp-ed 'n flailed wi' its hidyus claws, opened its maws to crush 'n to twist, rent limb fra limb, tear head fra torso, o' this mankin ah should've squashed aright in a blink of its ghouley-viled eye. But thane will of Apollid tund immovable as thay rock of its mountain home 'n though it did scrussle 'n tear 'n tussle wi' a might as was more than five-bears strong, Apollid did grip it wi' so fierce an intent its spirit did stagger 'n crumble 'n fall. Before the bright flame of Apollid's will, the baist did cower what it couldnay surmount. Til in a surge likes swell-tide o' thay Mother, Apollid did grasp that rank 'n blood-globb-ed jaw 'n wrench-tore the maw o' thane mephitic baist, splitting its skull wi' hard muscle honed as Winteree's ice-lock unyielding - 'pon the frosted Land. And laith! did the man-rent baist fell'd down wi' a gurgling blood-frothen pain as its limbs thay did lurch-ed their'n last. And eh na was Apollid priz'd vanquisher as at last he sat bleeding 'n weakened fra the fight 'n the blood-loss of his victoree's battle. Near to thane dark lands o' death was Apollid in thay aftermath o' battle wi'ert fiercesome 'n foul-dwirten baist, forged fra the wrath o' the haters spleen. Fainting 'n gasping but heart-strong inside, given praise to the gods as he crawled to'us rest, Apollid found'us way to thay monster-louse cave, high in the snow-clept climes, close to the path of the sun. There Apollid laid'un to sleep, naither knowing past caring, if in sleep he'ud drift fra mortal'd life to the land o' thay dreamen death where thase silent ones do wait.

High in that cave-cleft of the mountain, high 'n close to thay realms of the sun Apollid did sleep him for the length of a sunrise 'n two nights of a sliver-new moon. When he wakened he found himself alive still 'n living, then too weak to travel he made'um 'n fire taught of's ancestors-learning. He gathured berries 'n spagmoss fra tinder, th' small birds 'n beastin's he could catch fra his cave-holt, thence stayed he to heal his'm near-mortal woundin's. For seven full cycles of the moon did Apollid stay aloft in's sky-close cave, recovering his'n strength for thay journey home 'n thinking 'n watchin' whiles, the irids of thay Bright Ones as sparkled constant-ever-on adrift in thane massy night sky. Apollid from'us looking saw how thase starry spears path-shifted 'cross each deep-black night moving tuthree time of'n cool moon's pace. And laith! So it happened at the entrance to'us cave there did jut, heads taller'un he, a pinnacle-prong childer-made be the alp he had climbed up to. He watched 'n he saw how the Gold One in each clear dawn would cast a diverse shadow fra thay rock-prong stoodes-tall. He watched 'n he saw thase shadows fade 'n grow; a changeful track that stretched 'n strayed wi' thay coming of winter's ice-time 'n the melting of snows in thay blossom-burst of spring. Thence his timing he came to keep 'n he sought to hold his sanity be the charting of thane golden sun.

Na 'cos th' flame of 'un's spirit, was bright as th' firetails that do flash fra the skies in a rare'n wilder dark, den Modor, The Great Mother, did send her'n spirits to speak to 'un through th' dream-world. In'us visions Apollid saw thane settlement Land be off on its own. This Land that his own golden-hawk folk traversed to, on thay seasonal swim when shallow seas became bridged of'un ice to favour thane frequenten o' this'n northerner land. Be vision, in a flash of's sun-bright mind, Apollid did see the sleepstake 'n bounty on a fairerful isle. He saw the shorning of thay tree-fells, the shaping of thane hill-scapes, the planting of great stones as'ud mark the passage of the sun 'n the heavens, just like the rock-jut afore him served'us purpose, marking thay shadow-glyphs for'n eroodighted while. Eh na in mind's bright eye did he see the building o' temples fu'chantment mayjestical that'ud grace the lild on a fair-free land, connect'um to thane myriad glow, thay flickersome lights in vasty deep skies that ever'es dark-domed 'n blue-spaced above'un. Held did he call to The Mother for blessing, to favour'us vision he'd forsoothed along. 'N na circling to the rock-jut thrust afore his mountain-high cave, swept on the curve of a seven-colour arch, came'n golden bird bigger'n likes he'd ever seen. Thane noble bird ovva golded wing did descend to perch aft that jut of rock 'n gazed on Apollid wi'un keen-rent eye. From its beak it did drop some shining clear stone, as of water that had fixed into rock, hard yet clear 'n sparkling strange in thay sunlight that glanced 'n winked fra that gift all magickal-made - fra that gift by a golden bird given, that gift of a myriad-work stone, came kernal of crystal gestaytied, bloomed mighty-worth 'n sun strowen, be he of the golden brow.

Laith did Apollid feel mighty-sun moved 'n blessed beyond fullscore 'n more. Long had he spent fra weakness to strength, dependant on fickle-will of She who governs all, grateful for the warmth of fire-flame that's kinsfolk had brought humans knowing of. And now when his strength was come nigh full-stol he did take him ready for'us journey, patch his bear-fur torn in'us battle, renewed his arrow-hafts 'n leather-kind binding. Saa, did he climb then down fra thane mountain to travel back the path of's near-death plight but now all hale 'n hero-driven he did stride with'n light in's fair-fettled heart.

But for'us kinsfolk most thought of'um dead, passed to thay dream-shores where the soul-wings do wed. Though troth did thay know Apollid'ud driven aivil monster far aways far, for naither was 'un seen drear-darkened no sky, no kinsfolk blood-spilled 'n mangled nain more. Though their fair one wi' the golden-corn hair 'n the ways wise-spoken, wi'us word-weave pure, liken dew fra first dawn, though he Apollid had naither return-ed, he'ud driven thase flesh-renting foul baist, fromert evermore. Aye'ud thay wept when their staunch 'n braw champion, the best fra the blest of their kindred came no more. And aye'ud thay wept as thay watched in dour forest 'n waited be the brook 'n the foot on thane mountain. Long'ud thay kept a light in their heart but when hard winter's hoar-frost came ice-frozen stead; they knew, they believed - alasle! alumno! - their hero, he mun be dead.

Thraist then, in honour of'n rare-braveful hero, thase thought 'ud met'us end whiles fighting for'ns kinfolk, thase sought to mark his passing in a ways special-rare, naither forgettin' the fair youth-blest fair who'd spilled of'us blood for the good on the many. All elders consulted, priestessi-considered, lead-folk's decided 'n blessed be Azanagelle who'd birthed brave Apollid, thase kindred did raise girtt finger of stone, on a stretch o' the uplands, pointing straight-touch above thay. Pointing straight-touch to the Sun in'us cloudy scapeseas. And aye, thase'all did gatherun round, to weep and to wail; to give thanks to The Mother 'n the Gold One of Day for sending Apollid to drive thay snaggerdhuun foul-baist aways. Na though the golden youth lived in their hearts 'n sang in their memory, whist the winter's home-fire, thay thought, all'us kinsfolk, naither to see their brave bronzed Apollid, nain more could he be

But mother's is knowing beyond birth's seperate-ness, 'n thane moon-ma nee Apollid, faithfu' Azanagelle unerring-steadfast, did hold at her'n heart a hope as'ud see her hale son return. And aye though she'd sanctioned the raising o' the sun-rock, she couldnay believe i' the depth of her knowing that her fair'n brave man-childer was gone 'n nain more. Saa! in the spring sun of a joy-filled day did she walk to the sun-stone placed tall to her'n hero-son. Evera day, since Apollid'd gone, her'ud cumby beseechin thay all-power gods fora grant ney on wishes 'n favour for'un son. Saa! on that day a full cycle's passing and over again since Apollid had left'un to quell-kill dwirt-baisten, she did spy in the distance a stranger's approach. And Laith! as she watched'um cum closer 'n by, 'n she saw his 'n hair full gold as the sun, she knew her Apollid'ud return-ed home-shore. Thraist! was there bounty 'n bounty full-store, blood singing veins 'n eyes wet wi' joy. Na'un the feasting went dusk fra the dawn, in praise of Apollid risen fra death's land, alive 'n full braw!

A full cycle of seasons then'ud gone by, afore'n Apollid did speak the wise of's mind's eye. He gatherun the elders, the lead-folk 'n priestesses 'n spoke in's word-weave of the seven-coloured bow. He showed'un the gift fra the eagle's beak, the jewel like water turn'd cleear into stone. He spoke of's thought-span, his charts o' the sun. He show-ed how the stone-crystal shimmeren-light did warm 'n coo' 'n picture-draawt a-mind 'n respond to thane spell-chants stell-age brought by. He told his'n kinsfolk of's dreaming song, the Magic-Wyrd beckonin' in a north-lander isle. That isle they'ud travelled to whan the ice-froze a bridge to gatherun a fruit-store, a harvest for hame. He sang-spoke'us knowing o' thane star-stirred space, the voices of the spirits that'd whispered - "Whist, begin! begin!" He spoke'us skilful, bright as lightning stroke o' fire, bolden-byautiful as thay finesung tree-bretheren. He paid homage to their braw-noble ancestors blood, who'd kept fire's light i' face o' dread foe, for the good o' thase'n all beyond their blest-kindred. He stirred up each heart for'n quest to the brave, to live in new ways, willed flint-formed into being. He spoke how their'n reverence'ud raise'm on high, raise'm to reflect the glory of thane sky 'n how in their worship they'ud match 'pon Land the praise of the Bright beings, their own fiery star, the Sun o' their'n life, brought thay into being, along'ov pale-shiftin, thay silvery moon, be skill-mancin' maeystro-ment of'un Unison-Hand. And aye be the shaping of soil 'n stone, brought-nigh fame-fu' be a crystal accord, creatin' thane temples o' rocks to the sun - thraist! ey'ud draw-up fra the Womb of All Things, destiny's deliver-ed, thane Great Holy Wyrd - for the good of thay kinsfolk froward'un time, past ken o' hunder-wealth, a thousand cycles on.

So potent-vig'rous, so forcefu'-eloquent was the speech-song of the gold-haired Apollid, so upliften vision-strong thais warrior, wise beyond the youth on's year, all'n thays folks were wooed be his word-spell 'n swayed to foller'un spark set aflame, in the mind-scapes of their high-dreamin-high. And aye when they saw the clear crystal stone like'un tear shed-shinning fra thane Mother's eye, truly were they awed be this gift full of light 'n gladly did they swear their fealty to foller'n; He, who was hero 'n harp-spun o' Wyrd, harbinging great feats to carve 'n continue thane legacy on.

Saa! thane company as pledged to Apollid ken dwirt-sturd en stell; fu' resolute n' glarn. Trow, thay did silthily move to stand be shoulder'un Apollid, shewin' allegiance wi' naither a word but be whole body-spression. Remember-red thay for all their'n elan; the worth thay proved of endeavour gegan. Thraist! Ihr namen passed fra kinkine to kinkine a hunder hunder cycles on, cumme nigh as pith en a brand o' memory:

Thern there be, helver o' thay aurochs horn n' Halwyn fox-hair wi'us flint-knappin' skill, Brynedin fleet-a-foot, Guifron the yew-sever, bow-maker deft. And 'oomankin answert did cum by azel: Enyllen flax-tress, weaver-hand 'dept, Cariadden bowl-shaper n' Temissle raven-lock, Miiaren meliflowerus, wi' songen o' skylark, meagan n' sweet, Bodianna mickle-struth n' Feoris the lithe, Leahllan bread n' brewer, Silfaen thay stitch-quick n' Nyadd o' quabberken. Along of a side thase brace o' stoll mankin: Dutlas - quiet-reeth n' Kurnay the fire-hand, sail-tund Quernis, water-wend trailer, Jonnock the hasp-pitcher, bard be the dusk, long-bearded Hergan arrow to'us mark, Yealdor birch-cleaver, wi' pipe trillern gifted n' lastlaith cum Guilam, axe-wielder grim n' corrac-lat fitcher. Thase were the company glendid n' fower who'm took it a mind to pioneer be Apollid.

All in flurry, bustle to be ready, did thase folk who'ud go, build up their'n skiff-paddles fra cut-wooden lat-frames, water-proofed tight 'ginst afrolicsome wave. Eh na thase set to in preparing their furs to keep'un in warmsome fra drear winter's dread. Thay treated 'n cut their'n countless leather-goods, their auroch-oiled footwear, body-wraps 'n breeks, their bindings 'n bast-wefts, their coverall cloaks. Thay honed up their'n axe-heads 'n gatherund their spagmoss, their'n tinder-shells 'n tree-gum, bow-strongs 'n spear-hafts, the flint-points of arrow-swifts. Thay took o' their'n leaving laith blessings o' th' elders, the chant-spell protection of their kinsfolk who'ud stay. Wished on their way be the heart-hum of moon-ma's who harnessed a favour fra the blood-cups of wombhood. And aye fu' half the company hale-set 'n stoll-brow were druth-bent 'n stalwart to foller'un mainprow well-pointed nigh; on, twert that north-lander isle. Whiles rest of the company stayed be the sun-rock, raised to a hero's challenge, planted like first seed ovva soil to bring forth fu' bounty o' barley crop, aye. And eh na in the cleaving of a goodlysome folk did doubled 'n trippled the score of'un worthcum, as thay each waved'un aft be the by of a break, nain severed no tie but bond-forged anew in the colonise-creation of a north-lander isle.

And straight-time did thay travel on the seasonal known, traded 'n talked wi' many cycles gone by. Though in a squall did the storm-clouds blew 'n the waves tossed'un fiercefu mega-drifts high, wi' Apollid's wise reasoning 'n brave spirit shining, be the grace of the Goddess the shore-tide's welcome boundary was soon within reach. Aye 'n spied thay fra the swayey-sum waves bright-fair 'n white in light o' settin' sun, thase snaw-white comel-cliffs as beckon-ed grace fra the Land thay'ud journeyed cumby

Thankfu' thase pioneering peoples led be Apollid in their alms to the gods, did give praise for the swiftness of'n journey, for the difficulties lift 'n overcome. Be the great swell-tide of the ocean, be the myriad of shimmersome stars, did Apollid's fair folk light a beacon fire high, to give grace-prayers to the gods of their new land 'n kin. Affirming their vision 'n staking a claim, swearing be the bond of their honour-word 'n blood, thay shear-ed thay each their hair tresses grown, the lark-brown, the night-black, the fox-coloured hue alongof the gold of Apollid's thay knew. There in a circle-connection, unbroken from an ageless time, thay buried deep in the sands of Albion's fair Land, the hair where their magic contained, chant-woven intent-bound, fixed forever 'n a day, the pure oath of their uttering deemed that thay'ud stay - stay 'n stay 'n stay 'n stay, immovable as'un mighty mountain-grim, changeless 'n maygical-poetic as the certain-sunrise dawn, honeyed eloquent, powerfu' compelling as the voice of the wind 'n the sea. Saa! this he saw Apollid - This! it was meant to be.

'N cum the dawn of a fresh new day, thane company did treck be Apollid's lead, up fra the mouth of' browad smooth-flowen river. And aye the land was virgin-rich, with tree-bretheren vast 'n unbound, tall as the white cliffs, coasted south-east the isle, broad as the wide-water's way. All day long did thase first pioneers travel be the watery-flow, sleep-camped 'neath stells in the dusk of nightfall living fra the lap of the land. Next sunrise Apollid did look to thane tear-crystal, consulting directions, the lie of the hills. Then followed he in to central south, mapping a way fra the dappled sun's glint, til all strange and strewed stood great giant rocks, the bones of the earth cast afar 'n afree. Thase rock-stone was older than of any they'ud known, full harder'n denser, toughest earth-bone grown. Shielded 'n shape-nar be the forested veil, buried 'n bebstocked all'cross the midriff lee, further 'n far-seamed than ever'un eye could see. Grey 'n mottled white, thase stones as stung Apollid's far-sight, echoed of chalk-cliffs that white-gleamed i' the sun as seen fra a wave-tossed sea. Special-strange thay seemed those giantish-cast stones, as contained with the spirit of a magical isle. Subtle-spoke thay ssalms to Apollid wi' silences deeper'un word-song, wi' a message that moved vibrational, resonant rock-bone to blood-bone, the melding of substance on substance, nain distinct 'n nain divide, man-kin to mountain-kin an'all fra the Earth-mother's womb. Instant-like he knew then there thay would haft'n clear, there it was thase'ud sow a seed 'n shape thane unturned Land.

So began the mighty Wyrd of'un proud 'n gracefilled folk. Many did the tree-fells spread, full cycles spent in the axe-biting active, in cutting and clearing, in building staunch homesteads, in hale-kept thane body's health be the flesh of the aurochs, be the haunch of the red deer. Be thane goodly-grace of Earth-Mother's Store were all'un provides matched 'n met. Be the richness of an untried land did the company of Apollid grow vig'rous 'n fairsome strong.

Eh na when thane sap be risen 'n gruff-call rutting stags be horn-danced thay glade, when blossom-froth bursts 'un many-fold branch 'n fresh-green decks bare-wood, lustrous, liken hair-tresses fra ripe 'oomankin's beautisome brow. Aft the ice-lock of winter's fierce 'n spring's song is joyful nigh, thraist-urge thane mansfolk looks laith to's bind-fast 'n sped-thoughts to mating whiles blood be insing. Saa! this'n season did spark our'n hero Apollid 'n the winsome Goddess did bewitchen bedazzle'us sky-bluen eye.

With all the wealth toll of timber-felling, man's time was taken and's 'oomankin did gather'un plant-till thane soil. Unaccustomed she to stol bow and arrow, the haft and the gavel of flint-point and spear. But nendrless, cum a fine and fettle-free day, Apollid did snatch some moments alonesome in a walk be the greenwood where'un pure water's flow. Cum athrustle in the greenleaf be thick on the forest and Apollid did freeze-still to spy what could be. Brazen his sight cum fair beguildy light, a birth of beauty he'ud seen but naither been struck be afore. Stood she curves swelling store, eyes akeen to the pijinene, aloft of a branch all preenin its feathers ovva pink and grey. In her hands was flexed'un stol bow, in her stance struck hunter's quiver-lance, as fra its preenin branch grey-pink pijinene did fell'd, dead fra the arrow of' 'ooman saa fair, kept secret the theft of'un faither's bow. And rare-black her hair as'un raven's wing, black as the jet-stone fra the northern shores 'n rosie-soft her downy cheek, her skin with the sheen ovva thay ramblin-rose, as soft as the petals of that flower of thay forest.

Straightsome past thought-much Apollid did appear to pick up thay pijinene her'n arrow killed aright 'n she full of blushes, uncertain-exposed at her man-be-right's task, did thank 'n beseech our'n Apollid wi' a look 'n a sigh. Wi' a sigh 'n a look fra her dewy eye, dreamy-deep as the doe of the forest, emerald aglintin glance-like of a springtide leaf, shamin' now caught at a mankin's task, she stood afore he, the hero-gold of'n all their company. "Na Temissle," quoth he, for such was it known her name," Yen be aft strappin' for a mansome craft it do seem - 'n druth! your'n aim be true to centre-mark. Na! as thane arrow be pierced this feathered breast, swear the sight of thee has smitten me too. Wi' a maid as can stretch saa straight an' saa true I'll naither me want fer'n meat on thay platter and na shall our'n fireside be warmer'n flame - if Temissle's lip-buds would pout-speak to say 'aye me will 'n tie me I to he clept Apollid let'un be' whey a brood of fair childer shall furrow ovva thee. Temissle, Temissle, lilting fair'n lovel, saa'un speak-plaisin - let 'un be."

Temissle was troth-done all quiversome, faint fra the nearness of he as did speak, he who was gold of'n hero with'un eyes of deep-songa blue, with 'un eyes saa clear as the blue of summer skies, tall 'un straight-lithe as'un sapling tree, a full head 'n taller than most mankin company. In reply wi' silence more meaning dane word-swap, she glistened her deer-dark, forest-glint ey-es and faced him wi' her'n lips ripe-red as thane berries of the mountain ash tree. And he did bend him to his kiner mark, twa lips fra he as brushed wi' she, cleavesome long together while, nain laiving off til twas clear-sealed 'n thase heart's blood did beat'un as one.

Eh na was thay company carouselled 'n well nigh did thay feasting begin, wi' dance-twirls 'n drumbeats 'n songstirs 'n merry-wealth fra dusk to dawn awhile. And eh na were thay flowers bestrewed at nay-binden circle-blessing 'n cheer-give did thay much thane company wi' smiling 'n tear-dimm-ed eye. Saa! did Apollid take to he'un moon-ma, birth of beautyful she, to warm a light inside ovva he. Saa! did Temissle bring'un full brace of fair childer, to swell strong thay blood-bonds their company nigh - laith! to swell strong the blood on thay company nigh, to marshal 'ginst the dun-gliffs and dour-stints of time. And aye will's all was worked 'pon land, seven sons 'n seven daughters beget 'n hale-brought, birthed fra the breast of the lovely Temissle, birthed fra the breast of the blest fair Temissle.

And nigh as thay company grewed on, the eld-kith did felled be, took fra life of blood and bone to invisible guard thane portals unknown, the dreaming-dhuun lands where the worthy walk sky-tall, their spirit'us vigilant protecting fer'n thay kin as still lived on. Thraist! did Apollid deem fit to mark their'n passing, in agreyment wi' full company, be the stones to the sun, as had first been begun, when his fost folk'ud thought he was dead. He remember-red aye thay great stone raised, to he when'us kin thought hell-baist'ud torn him, fra land of thane living to thate of the dead. He remember-red well wi'un keening light cum close to's breest wi' the thought. And aye did all thay company behind him cum truer'n true, wi' one mind thay thought, wi' one voice thay cheered, wi' one heart thay follered their chosen Apollid, to do as thay'ud all settin to. Cleared thay the craggy hilltops, the gentle valley lee, 'n worked thay moon cycles long, digging dirthed a drocht, a homestead harbour dwert-grund 'n lithel-loom, to keep in reygal staytus-high dane spirit'us 'n bones ovva thay who'ud passed fra life of living-brave to thay Spans of Silent-Ever On. Wi' girt unison of effort, wi' 'oomankin casting chant-spells to soil, wi' mankin all braw fra the brute of his muscle, thase mighty monumental rock was raised fer'nigh, on thay all of Time.

And in the lie of a reverent land-drift, full resonant with rich Earth-Mother's store, a sacred area was nigh set be. A praise-place to thay shimmerten-stells domed bright vast above'n. A temple to thay fire-star, thay bronze-embolden Sun, was dug wi'us sweat-toil of trey-mendous effort, wi'un fire of will 'n worth, plough-staves urrdapted, antler-picks drith-wielden, crystal-coaxed na mind-ruth, wheel-grooved 'n drey-turreted the loam ovva grist intention, hied to thay childer of'un frowarden-time. Hied to we, who momentury be, nigh in thay dance of Life.

Be the subtle sparks of crystal light, be the laying of hearts and hands, stones were chosen and stones were brought, crafted and dressed be the ray of the sun, be the flare of a fire-flame carefully crossed, be the chanting of unison minds struck and readied for'n sacred task. And mazed were all be Apollid's skill, his hands with the warming power of sun, his hands with the power of'un life-giving sun did stoke and shape thase hard stones, dense fra the mountainkin. And his spirit did spake thay words of'un wind, thane constancy 'n wisdom of water's seesey-less flow, the deep-sung spell of thay treasurefull soil, the bone of the Earth-mother's loam. Eh na liken thee tallow of animal-fat, liken thee dough of wheat-pounded flour, liken thee good clay all moulding to shape'us desire did thay stones of'un mountain kin, ne Apollid's hands become. Mystic-magic thraist! - was through thane full company be the blessing of Apollid's fire. Thraist! Did magic 'n mystery unloose be the dell of that sacred isle.

Mirror reflecting like 'un image 'pon a still waterpool did thase sacred placed stones concord with thay path of the mighty-fire sun. Mind-melded aft to mark-rise brightes-pitch autumn star, unified aligned-ap, ne the dark of the seasonal-swing. Temple-tuned the chart circle, mapping thane awefulled shadowskill be the dint of dawn to dusk. Deep and deep and deeper still, sunk thay stones lik-es jewels, lik-es tattoo skin-glyphs, in thane hide of'un Earth-mother She, Goddess fra birth til death do us all. Deep and deep and deep as the sea, cannily cleft and honed druth-ne to the arc of the special-tide solstice key, stood thay stones in a round and still ever thase stay, the first 'n the last of thay Great-Mother's kin. The first 'n the last raised fearfund mayjestical be the dint of thee mystic-light; garnerun ne godswain sun-strong fire-ray, de-meter converse-na suttle-soft thane moon. The first 'n the last of thay Great-Mother's kin raised be the far-sight of Albion's fair folk. Placed as benediction, as grandthurl design, as a ssarm 'n a song to the Mother of all, as praise-gesture strong, as chart-call 'n power-dhuun, an legacy-long to the blood and the bone, thase vision-creators of'un god-given craft, thay of the sun-golden spirit, thase first-maeston proud-full, kindred shaped beauteous, this'n fair lovely Albion isle.

Whey na wi' the building of thase rock-fortress hallowed-halls fer'n spirit-flown kindred in dhu land of thane dreaming, foo succoured was thay be their spirit-flown dead. Fortifiyed and bond-boldened be the wing-given flesh 'n the holy bones kept high foster'un might of ancestral dread. Whey na did thase Works of God frew'n wonder spread far, coast unto coast 'n all across the hinter-lands foo beyond dash 'n wave-drift of thay girthswill massy seas. And curious-like as mony folk be, did travellers and rovers cum to see, the mightisun stone-craft birthed 'n hoisted upso, rooted mountain-longtide in the depth of steep-carved clay. Werily and wondersome did all folks be, who saw thase mighty chamber-tombs, the circle stones made fast-forever, magicked and seeming soil-grown, as druth 'n adrang as the tree-bretheren kin, as marvel-meglithic as thay granite-alps of Great Lands.

And all the timber axe-sheared fra mony a seasonal shunt and turn, that Apollid and his company'ud felled in grandsumgrand desiyen, did go to make thase homesteads, thase wainsteads, thase wheel-curts and dragframes, thase settle-loons and trestle-longs, thase bows 'n hoes 'n arrow hilts, thase spoons 'n looms 'n mealie-bins, thase carryalls 'n spear hafts 'n ploughblades 'n broomstaves. But more and more and plentiful besides did there be, past needs supplanted be the druth of colossally stone. Saa! master of thay sail 'n sea, skilled in skiff 'n paddle-craft speed-sojourneyed thay, twert lands 'cross salt-briney swell, the ever-on motion-song of the vast-drift Ocean-tide. Eh na did they trade with that wealthen of wood, taking thay log-boon far-frew 'n wide, fullsooth east-west, southern crost north, 'n further'un sight or mind cun know. Whey na did their proud repute all foller'un wheresomever be thay tarried, wheresomever be thay strayed. And god-like did strangers see our'n Albion kin with their wealth of the kiner craft, with their knowledge of the wind and the sea, with their bearing proud and honour-bound, trading their timber and flint-frew for sakes of venturesome learning cum beguiled anew.

Laith! did thay 'oomankin bundance-birth thane wheatfield, thane barley stretch, a riff of poppy-flowers and flax in the meads of the Albion isle. Thraist, while thase manfolk did girden-heave famed rock-crop 'n tarry-ho fron coastlines acradling best tree-limbs for a trade- wears far-drift of seas, did 'oomankindred care-take full seemly, the druth of thee homesteades bound. In the seasonal long when the sun girt honed strong and the sky was blue-so lik-es blue as thay blue-buds in thay beech-woods of spring, thane 'oomankin'ud foster mysterycum-clay to bring-bounty crop 'n harvested store to see company fat 'n fullfed in the dree of winter's ice-dread. And saa! did thase fair 'ooman kindred belly-grow a brace of'us bloodline - childer-bairns beautifrew-hale who'm swelled thay company fra score to scores 'un hunder and hunder homesteads more was weft-worked 'n waimed fer thay good of thay folk, staunch-growed right strong. And aye were thay stol 'n graceful fair, and aye were thay noble 'n matchless of honour, born of the vision-line to sun-ravel wise, the boundary of clachan-rath, the fringe of wooded isle, to sun-ravel wise fra north to south 'n east to west all 'cross thay Earth-Mother's plentiful goodly shores.

And holding aloft lik-es tree-folks thane skies, did Apollid center pillar provide. Proven beyond all, his warriorhood stoodes tall, versed in the axe-craft 'n ways of thane wood, skilled at the wind-sail 'n tiller, mage-minded be mountainkin, magick of hand, of chant-hold full godlike, just and far-visioning beyond any's known, ken Apollid thay legend 'n champion-king full-famed throughout evera Land. Wi' his beard tresses now golded to grizzled and grey, wi' his age-cycle passing hunder'n more, his moon-ma Temissle her raven hair wintercum, as white as thay first driven snow. Their seven be seven of fair childer grown to birth 'n host of bloodkin more; the company foo proud and upright of bearing, and goodly-grown wise. Clept uncoo continents thane keepers of the singing crystal light, the mag-nifiyen-magic drawn fra rock-water buds that sang to the spirit of the Great Mother-Earth, that chant-weaved a spell to the Sun-God on high. Kept thay solemn lild-cum connection, with the moon 'n thay bright stars-celestial, hung in the black nightes sky.

Whey na did Apollid cum eld as thase eld folks, they'ud left be the foot of the great mountain stretch. That mountain-haime where Apollid was birthed on a night when thane fire-balls did rain from thee sky. And eh na doest the wheel cum nigh in full cycle, when the weather-wrinkled brow, signals grey-stuff of age. Tired was Apollid though's spirit was fire-white, wantsum of rest from fray of a charge-hand, feeling his purpose long-since achieved, he did lie on his heather-bed 'n just closed forever thane flame of's blue-burning eyes.

Of a sudden all strange-like did the sun's light grow dim, though nigh it was clear of the middle of day. And all thase folks fra that long ancient age, did look up 'n dread the sight of'us gold sun turnen black as the black as the middle of night - a midwinter's dree on a funery dirge. Black tur-ned thay gold one, the life-giving God, black tur-ned thay gold sun when Apollid's blue-ee-breet cum closed, 'n his spirit was fled to the dreamin kindred clept in thane stone chambered land. It beseemed like the great sun grew sad-drear full of woe, with the passing of Apollid's bright-flame'us spirit. The black sun did groan and silence spread the isle fra southernmost tip to 'un far northern shore. Silence did spread and day was cum night in the midst of a cloudless high summer sky. Doom-laden turned the drift of all's folk minds, fallen to knees, hands clasped and praying for return of thay lightray 'n warmsight of sun. In each heart they knew that something amiss had befallen the Albion isle.

But in a shorten space of time or an age that did petrify, the black sun was gone, like a slide of the shape of's grim-reaper twin, 'twas gone and the black sun was nain more. Hale in its place the gold one did shine and the folk did prayer-thanks to Goddess-mother give, as thase saved fra the wrath of'un untimely dark 'n dread-cold that could twist the balance of cycle-so. But in saa short span of another glint their thankful cries turned to tears of passing woe. For sad word cum carried that their head of the clan, thay great and wise man-held, their hero and champion, mage-minded light-master, gifted keeper of the crystal-tear, was gone and na departed, spirit-flown 'n shell-like left'us body's form. And aye were thay lines of solemn folk stood, in silence their tears speaking all, all the kin of the Albion folk did gatherun, gatherun mizzled with grief, mazed be the Sun-God's response up on high, as did blacken himself, in the jet raven's cloak, foo of death 'n dreathsome winterstark, grieving for Apollid's bright-flareful spirit, gathered in to the Source of thay Mother and kept now fra light of living day. This great wise 'n braw-ways command-am Apollid, gone back to the womb of thay Mother - thraist na! wet were'un faces and moanfull the air for troth it was so: the honey-song stilled of Apollid, the first of the Albion folk.

And aye was it right with thay Albion kin to bear'un greyed 'n gold-pure form to the wind and the sun and the rain, to the carrion-crow flesh-returned all, to rebirth be the belly of the Mother. Laith! 'twas a brace of tall manstrong did carry'un draped in cloth of'us hero-white. Did carry'un high with all folk in train, calm 'n dignified-accepting was Temissle ahead of all thay company-cum. High on thay grace-carved wooden altar was placed the empty soul's shell where Apollid had long-lit 'n been. And nigh as his tall form still straight as the elm, despite though'us countless cycles of age, and nigh as his spiritless dead flesh was placed on a special high platform made reverent be all of'us folk, saa did the sun dart out ravenous rays that lit's still form like fire fallen to ground.

Whey na to the mazement of all who did see, ever cum awe-struck fra the knowing was thay. For there as they stood chanting cycle-songs round, giving reverence to greatest mankin, all in a flash of lightning strike cum fra nowhere thase could see or have ken, the sun set afire Apollid's fair mansome form and a fire did flame his body to dust. In this instant that the strange fire flamed fra his form 'n conflagration burst fiery-white-hot, fra'us death-shell flesh, a golden bird did rise 'n circle 'n circle thase white flames of fire, then fly on a shine-dazzled wing as high 'n high 'n higher'un high lost in the path of the sun. Whiles down on the high ground on that special-carved place where Apollid's body'ud death-slept so brief, a white fire did steal him all of thay bones except for his thigh bones and skull. And twert wi' this strange 'n fearful passing, wi' this dread touch of the Sun-God's hands, all thase Albion kin clept "Oh!" and "oh" again, as Apollid in a magic-flash was swept fra their sight. He become to nought, the Oh of an emptied place, the Oh of the space-filled circle, the Oh of complete-contain-ed around, fra nothing come to nothing gone, to the vast void of'finity where all must birth be. Ah but he, eh na had he, Apollid the fair, risen in bird's form engoldened'us wing, grace to become, laith twas clear the new God of Fire-touch, the God of the Sun - the Apollo who'm all would cum to worship ne fear, to reverence and chant to, to seek favour from, to ask blessings of, to praise 'n go in awe of. He, Apollo, the sun-god become, giver of life and light and warmth, giver of the harvest grain, the forest green, the crystal cave, giver of all to all life he be. Apollo, Apollo - our God of the Sun."

Why Ly should think of that old tale now, and why it should unravel so from his mind that late spring eve, he could not quite fathom. Except, perhaps instinctually, he was aware of changes coming, changes that would irretrievably alter the way he and his folk lived; ripples that he knew eventually would transform their lives forever. This was unsettling, but also inevitable. Ly knew he could no more alter the influxes which were beginning to change generations old practices, than he could halt the procession of the sun in the heavens or prevent the moon from its constant waxing and waning. Perhaps it was because of this awareness that he chose to stay there, casting his mind back, delving into his myriad of memories and warming himself by reinventing them in his mind.

He thought then, on his boyhood, the tasks he was set to: watching over the cattle-kinder and the goats, sorting the wood pile tinder and best log; cutting the thatch weed under direction of Wulffdor and aiding the assembling of the new homesteads that grew up from time to time. Well at this time, when he could sneak him some lonesome moments, he would sit him by the hut-space of his Pri moon-ma's brether: Wem, of the wise ones, who charted on tablets of wood the passage of the celestial heavens, who mind-melded with the Mother spirit and spoke to the spirits gone aft over the boundary of death to the motion of All Life beyond. Most usual it would be priestesses who were Listeners in this way. But of the way of the radiant ones in the sky the wise ones came of male and female kin, showing a special quality which revealed itself in time and marked the childer out as noviciate into the chart-magic ways. Wem was a such a one as these. His hut-space was edged be a boundary, and a solitariness about him had always drawn Ly to the vicinity of Wem's dwelling, recognising something of a kindred spirit in that desire for solitude. Old Wem would never chastise Ly or show irritation at his inclination to linger be his hut-space, perhaps because Ly's pri moon-ma was Old Wem's sister. Or perhaps more simply he never minded Ly's quiet observant presence, who could sit in self-sufficiency as well as the roosting hawk upon its perch, quiet and contained in its biding time. So he had come to strike up a special relationship with Old Man Wem, which flowed quiet and deep alongside the other bonds of affection and new-stake activities that filled his time.

As he had grown something older, his mind had turned to hunting craft and times would be when he was off on the trail of small-scale game for the platter of his folk. Yes, and then before he had known it his initiation was upon him, and he was after breaching the boundary from boyhood to manhood, as all the lads must do when they came of the seven be seventh cycle of their age. There it had come finally, after all his seeming ages of chaffing and waiting; his initiation into warriorship and manhood. He could remember it as clear and stark now as if the experience had happened only two suns' gone by, not the distance of yearly cycles that stretched between the Ly of now, and the boy-come-man he had been.

He remembered moving through the forest, the men fanning out to make a net. The foliage had been dense in that part of the forest so that they walked deer tracks, a barely perceptible passage through the depth of the trees. Birds had hooted and chirrucked in the branches overhead, and every so often a blackbird lilted low through the air, calling its rising alarm call to warn other birds and beasts that threat was approaching. The men wore sleeveless leather jerkins and trousers woven from hemp. Some held long wooden spears with points made of flint, whilst others carried bows, a quiver of arrows slung across their backs, flint knives hanging from belts at their midriff.

They followed the spore of the wild boar. In his trance-dance Ly had seen the family of wild boars, a stretch of fifty meds or more from the homestead. Nearby was a river, one of the smaller, lesser frequented waterways. In the depths of the forest where virgin trees swelled to massive proportion and the woodland was left to rampant growth, there was the foraging home of the wild boar family.

It was Ly's first time of hunting wth the menfolk proper. For his name day, for the strengthening of his manhood, he sought to kill a wild boar.

Before his initiation into warriorship, he had been inclined as a boy to wander off from the others, to seek the solitude of the remotest haunts in the quest for berries and fungi, or on the small game hunting expeditions equipped with slings and stones, small bows and flint arrows of their own.

It was Ly that was wont to climb up the largest trees, hafting holds in the trunks and making his way up thus, to sit in overhanging branches, to watch and wait for whatever game might appear. Thus had Ly learned patience, and so had he become accustomed to long-ways walking, the silence of the wilderness, where the keening hawks cried in the sky. Providence had always paid these vigils with bounty to take proudly to the homestead. So even then in his youth, a reputation had grown up around him. Ly, the hawk; Ly, the rover; Ly, the loner, with the patience of the wild cat that watches and waits before committing itself to the pounce. Thus, he had begun to gather a respect even before his initiation into manhood. He had brought back small deer, hares, stoats, a badger or two, many caillie birds and pheasants. Unlike the other youths of his age he ignored the pull of the pack, the comfort of numbers, the security of a team. For him he trod a lonesome path, a way off from where other folks usually strayed. Because of his yearning desire to explore, to travel far, he grew into his role of flint weapon maker and flint tool trader. He had travelled from shore to shore of the land, and he had braved the Big Waters sailing to the Great Lands over the sea. In his youth the seeds of his adulthood had been sewn and begun to blossom.

He remembered why he had chosen to hunt the wild boar for his name day. His mind went back to one of his solitary expeditions. A time when he had climbed up a huge oak, in the heart of a wildways he had found, and crawled along a way its gigantic overhanging branch. So he had sat and so he had waited, watching the birds twittering, a squirrel leaping, a beetle crawling. And as he sat he became absorbed in this myriad tiny life. He became the creatures he observed; he seemed to think and feel with their instincts. The sun came glancing through the leaves dappling, like the fallow deer's haunch, the forest floor, bestrewed with bramble and a rash of greenery.

As Ly had sat, there had been a rustling, a movement, a snuffling, and beneath the tree a family of wild boar had come; three females and a brood of little ones, headed by a single male. Ly had waited until the little train of wild pigs had all but passed, then aiming skilfully he had shot and pierced one of the little ones through the neck. The raucous squeal of it as it toppled had an immediate effect on the other pigs. The females whirled round and circled the dying piglet, touching the rest of them protectively with their snouts, defensively herding them into a tighter clique. The male boar was snorting and looking for foes. A slight movement from Ly betrayed his position, and he inwardly cursed as the wild boar fixed him with a hating eye, beady and ferocious, wanting restitution for the felling of his flesh.

All at once the boar had lowered his head and charged the tree, gouging the base of it with its tusks, ripping the ground to shreds around it. Ly could only cling on, awed by the show of ferocity he had provoked. The piglet he had shot now lay dead. Its little body had given a final shudder and twitch before the life in it had faded and gone. The earth around it was damp with blood. Still the wild boar squealed its anger and pain, trampling and gouging around the base of the tree.

But lumbering up the bank, drawn by the smell of young pig's blood, came a large brown bear - just as much a threat to Ly as to the family of wild pigs. He froze and watched a drama begin to unfold. Two of the female pigs were nudging the rest of the little ones protectively, circling around them and keeping them together, whilst the other female mournfully nosed the dead little pig. When the bear appeared it rose up threateningly over the mother pig, who squealed and grunted back refusing to give way. The wild boar tearing up the earth around the tree stopped and turned immediately towards the bear. Now it had a target for its vengeance; a target of flesh that could give the satisfaction of blood.

The wild boar whirled and charged at the bear. The bear was not prepared for the immediacy of the attack. It tried to bat the boar away with its huge raking paw but the boar was too quick for it. The bear's paw glanced off the pig's tough hide, and the boar jabbed its tusks into the belly of the bear - thrust, rip, retreat, before the bear had chance to recover, to act. The female pigs came in a clique mock-charging the bear, that was groaning and flailing at the angry pigs. When the wild boar's tusk slashed the bear's paw, it retreated and lolloped off, growling and moaning in pain, moving with greater difficulty than when it had first come up the bank.

Snorting and trotting back and forth in the adrenalin satisfaction of vanquishing a foe, the wild boar strutted beneath the trees at the top of the rise. The family clan gathered, the females around the little ones and finally with a disconsolate nudge of the dead piglet's body, the company of pigs moved away, with the wild boar bringing up the rear.

Ly finally moved his limbs again and in relief relaxed the tension that had kept him frozen. He was very much struck by the experience. From thence onwards he had a great respect for the wild boar that roamed the forest. To be faced by that ferocity on the ground was his greatest fear. This was why he had chosen to hunt wild boar on his name day. He chose to confront his greatest fear and in conquering it he would be strengthened in his initiation.

Ly thought of Nionie, his sister, his twin. He remembered when she had come of blood. It was a day or two before his name day. He had come back from his wanderings supplied with berries and fungi, a squiver of birds to his toll. He had cast it down on the homestead table, turning to see the reaction of his sister, swelling towards his name-day pride. But there was no Nionie to savour his little gift of bounty. He had asked for her and his moon-ma had told him: she had gone to learn the gifts of blood in a place that was taboo for him. For 7 days she would be gone. And she would miss his name-day victory, the triumph that would give him the name of 'Hawk'. He had turned bitterly away and his moon-ma had come and touched a hand to his shoulder:

"Ly, Ly, it all comes of season, so the Goddess wills. So the Goddess has willed that Nionie follow her blood-rite of passing at the time when your own manhood is grown to set tall. It can only be now for you to accept what is and must be. Is your name-day come too soon? Are you to become stoll and mangrown two suns from now or not? Come Ly, come my wanderful flintsharp, blood son, look to your name-day and the task ahead, leave the lee of childer behind, na eh Ly?"

And his mother's eye had twinkled a smile as she solemnly bent her head to his and tousled his hair. Then she had turned away, and gone quickly to cut and prepare the fowls he had brought whilst he pondered his thoughts at the doorway. She had gone, Nionie, and he became a man. Nionie had gone and when she was returned she was 'ooman become. A chanter of the moon; the moon which was connected with and moved so the 'oomen of the kin. The women's moods seemed to match the changing aspects of the moon - undiluted their yearning to access the silver one on high. Theirs was the secret knowledge of the soil, the growing seasons. The earth as filtered through their blood-stained hands.

Squatting on the land they plunged their fingers into the loam and tilled it with wooden trowels, a stone-sifter, tending the fronds that swelled into plenty. Then there would be the chant-blessing of the corn-priestess come cutting time, with the menfolk gathered to wield their flint-sharp blades, graft and gather the goodness the Goddess-mothers had given. The womenfolk were their source and their inspiration; they kept the blood of their kindred whole. From whence they would be directed to quarter the boundaries; to seek and make and create when the time for questing came.

Ly understood all of this instinctively; it was not something he could objectify or analyse. It was what was, a fact of his being and his kinsfolk's being as much as the wind and the sun were incontrovertible mysterious facts of nature. When he thought of his sister he apprehended her both in an intensely personal sense and with a generalised reverence for her femaleness; the personification of the Mother Goddess that all women were. He remembered the wistfulness he had felt when she had gone, that first time, to be initiated into the mysteries of womanhood. For he knew things would never be the same again between them. Something immense and undeniable had thrust itself between them, something that inevitably seperated them and distanced them from each other. He remembered the awe and discomfort he had felt as his sister's lithe nymph's form began its subtle changes; the budding of her breasts and curving of the hips that had suddenly seemed to come from nowhere, as he himself had grown taller and broader, strengthened and made hale by his wanderings.

The night that she had gone to begin her woman's journeying, he had dreamt of her. He had dreamt that he was her. He had dreamt that he, as she, was escorted by the older women, packed and prepared for their vigil, her seven day rite of passage. Thus she and the three older women would escort her, to the cave by the river, to learn of the Goddess calling. Whence other women also in blood would join them that night.

In the river-loamed soil, he, as Nionie, plunged her fingers into, squatted and merged her blood with the soil. She cradled the loam of her creation, placed it in an earthen ware bowl, planted the seeds of the flowers; the plants that were given her for her name day gift. Then the women came all from the homestead, and the whole company of them, in a cleared worked place in the forest, wild-called at the dark of the night. They chanted their primaeval souls alive, whilst the blood dripped from between their thighs and moistened the soil into mud around them. The sound of their voices shivered eerily through the night air; like beings from a strange and other world they sounded. Beings of beauty and power, who had the facility to destroy, to ruthlessly erase, as well as to create and give life to. The sound was both exquisite and chilling; the cry of birthing and death, a trembling of the earth where the invisible Goddess glided, strewing her contradictory impulses about her as she swept through the ceaseless potency of night.

And Nionie and the women were swaying and chant-crying to crescendo now. They began to dance and stamp their feet, gyrate and undulate to the velvet night, the glitter of the moonless night where the stars looked down like winking eyes, watching and sanctioning their frenzy. And the blood dripped down and splattered in clots, the more frantic the women became. They turned and whirled and trampled in the soil, making a mulch of it, their feet sinking into and churning the earth, so that soil spattered upon them. Soil and earth and blood smeared upon their naked flesh. In a paroxysm of energy there was a pulsating final surge until they all dropped and lay panting, bathed in their own sweat and blood which mingled with the loam of the soil. This was their magical fertiliser which was bespread the fields and used to grow a harvest of einkorn and emmer, the barley and oats that gave them sustenance throughout each cycle of the seasonal turn.

The gathering of it would come later, in the dew of first light morning, but for now they bestrode 'un towards the cave and the river. The women all went down to the river to cleanse themselves, until only those who had come with Nionie remained. They had left Nionie at the cave, all blood and mud-bespattered, telling her to wait until they came for her. Laughing, exhilarated from their fervour, her moon-sisters had poured her a beaker of honey wine, telling her to sip gently while she waited for them to return. They had taken with them a leather carry-sack filled with a flagon of the honey wine, some clay cups, the brood cake that settled a dreamful sleep; an initial erotic buzz and flare that came with the velvet night.

Sabruna, one of the moon-sisters, washed clean and dressed in a simple kirtle, came to lead Nionie to the river's edge. She led Nionie to the river where the other moon-sisters waited. Sabruna had taken off her own robe and faced Nionie, so they were naked together. She had taken hold of Nionie's hands, saying: "Welcome to the Dawn of your Womanhood, may the Goddess bring your blossoming; an armful of crimson flowers, a brood of the plenty that be your making"

Then she had led Nionie into the water, making her gasp at its icy touch and gasp more as her moon-sisters doused her. They washed away the blood stains and the smears of mud. Then gently, their hands teasing at sexual expression, they had admired her youthful beauty, rubbing her buttocks, stroking her belly and breasts, plucking and sometimes sucking at the nipples like plums upon the pert mound of her woman-become. They touched her all over; overwhelmed her with their arousals. Until near swooning and sexually charged they took her back to the cave; the heather-bed spread with fine cloth and furs. They had bade her drink more honey wine and eat of the specially made brood cake. Then the playing of Nionie's body commenced by her moon-sisters, who sought to teach her what her own body could know. Thus, did they arouse her until she climaxed and orgasmed ... the after glow of bliss, the floating sensation that carried her away into the world of living sleep to dream of her brother's victorious name-day. Whilst around her, as Nionie had fallen to sleep, her moon-sisters now aroused each other, giving the gifts of sexual unity, enveloping each other with ecstasy.

So they had slept and so they had stayed sleeping, until Sabruna woke in the hour before dawn, set the fire going and boiled some herbal broth for their pre-dawn sustenance. Nionie was wakened at the sound of the fire and walked, tousled and naked, something shy of her body, to the fire. Sabruna had handed her some herbal broth and went to stir the others. Soon they were dressed and ready assembled. Other women from the homestead had joined them now. All of them, Nionie included, carried baskets hung from a pole which was set across their shoulders. They walked in a train to the small clearance and patch of worked soil in the midst of the wilderness. They scooped up the soil and began to fill their baskets - each of them carrying their share of the burden. When the baskets were filled, they bent their knees and lifted the pole and carried the baskets filled with their blood-enriched soil, back towards the homestead.

Each woman carried her own measure; carried it as something magical special. Something that could provide the growth of the harvest, provide food for future sons to grow tall. With the dew of the morning still upon the soil, they drew off a vial of moisture; a fragrant elixir, sensuous as woman's smell. Then they gathered up the loam they had created, to carry back the pride of their mystery which did make the golden fields to grew, the flower scents fill the air. By the river and by the new moon, at first dawn-light and at last-light dusk's fall, Nionie learned the chants of the Mother-Goddess, the Song Cycles of the Moon. She learned how her body could leap and shudder, become moistened in pleasure, ache for the sexual fulfil. She had learned of the Star-Source, the Moon Mystery, the women's gift to their kin; their bodies that birthed the kindred strong - kept their man-home stoll.

Nionie! Nionie! She, of the lush, dark-mane hair, the same Ly eyes looking back at him; hazel-brown, glint of green and gold in the smile of her eyes that mirrored his own. Woman become, moon-ma in the making. Whilst he proudly faced her as victor of blood-drawn chase, a hero talked amongst the menfolk, become the Hawk, near legend on his name-day; her brother grown man-some and stoll.

Nionie dreamed of her brother on her own name-day night with the women's inner sanctum, where they had kissed her and given gifts: the seeds, the pot to plant them in, a fine woven garment, the pride of all her treasures. She dreamed of him, as he dreamed of her and on the astral level they connected. There, they melted and merged the one to the other, passing their awareness with a flux of osmosis, speaking in the language of dreams - physically far away, psychically married and intertwined through the images of the dreamscape, astral world. And thus, they each knew of the other's experience even before they met, after Nionie's withdrawal into the women's sanctum, and after Ly was acclaimed champion of the feast on his name-day night.

Now Nionie was priestess of the Fire-star temple and moon-ma several times over, having birthed four hale childer and taken Dagnon as man-home, these seven cycles gone. Their paths had inevitably taken different directions ever since the name-day that had seen their entry into adulthood. It was bound to be, as the Gold One rose in the sky each day, as the waters that kept their never-ceasing flow, as the separation and distinction of their sex denoted; it was bound to be. But there was no remorse or wistful recollection in Ly's mind as he now thought of these things. It would not have occurred to him to chaff at the loosening of his filial attatchment no more than it would have occurred to him to attempt to pluck the stars from out of the night sky. These things were laid down by the Gods, by the Mother-Goddess, and all the human kindred must abide by the laws that ruled the wind, the rain, the growing time, the beasts and birds of the forest. So had Old Man Wem pointed out to him at that uncomfortable phase of passage when he had left his childer-time behind and stepped the boundary to adulthood. This Ly knew as incontravertible fact, as the reverential thread that underpinned the whole of his life.

Now, in an unaccustomed spurt of nostalgia, he remembered the afternoon before his name-day ...

Ly was taken by a group of the menfolk, Segwin leading him, Old Wem alongside of them, into the valley before the Fire-star temple; before the Temple of the Golden One, he was taken down into the valley where a single hut had been built long, long ago, that could fit a whole company. Here, he was instructed to wash himself in the river. When he came out, the men were all gathered around. Segwin spoke:

"Ly, it become nigh on the morrow your name-day of manhood, when you mun learn what it is to be a man, when you mun learn the tests of man-hood. Still boy-soft your body shall be toughened. You mun accept the pain - take it into your body and try not to shield you fra the fire-strokes we shall flay you with. An' with each stroke of the fireweed stem, with each mark of pain, your body shall'm grown towards the sun-strength of manhood. Do not fight the hurt. Let it into your mind to know and understand 'un so that when the time of battle comes, in the season of the hunt, stoll-like you shall'm take the blows, not be knocked or crushed by thane shock that pain do bring".

So saying, Segwin solemnly tied a rope around the wrists of Ly, who, naked apart from his loin cloth which covered only his genitals, was bound with his hands above his head. The rope was slung over the bough of a nearby oak tree: tree of Light, tree of the Sun, tree of the lightning strike, tree of strength and endurance; chosen of the Gods. Thus, with his arms pulled above his head and his feet still something aground, he was left exposed for the pain ceremony to commence.

There, had Old Man Wem stood to one side and commenced a humming which all the men took up. Above their humming the chant of Wem's song grew; a sound that he clung onto throughout his ordeal. The rise and fall of the song seemed to mesmerise him, resound in the hills, thrill his heart. It spoke of the hunter's skill, the warrior's glory, songs of the legend of the sun. But all the while his skin grew afire with pain, for the men began hitting him with the fireweed stalks, flaying him across his back and his shoulders - whip lashes that stung, made him want to cry out. He strove to silence his cries of pain in this test towards his manhood.

And all the while the men lashed him across his chest, his buttocks, his legs, his arms, the whole of his torso, so his skin was on fire with a pain that grew more raw and intense the longer they switched his skin with the fireweed's torturous stems. He had gritted his teeth on the agony determined not to cry out. But towards the end he could not but do so, as each time the pain bit into his flesh, its teeth grew more raw and jagged. In the extremity of sensation he felt that he would faint, choking on the cries that he tried to still. When he did cry out it was such a release he swooned and the ground bent down to submerge him ... until water splashed in his face, burning into his cuts, awakening him from his faint.

Then Segwin was soberly cutting the rope that bound Ly as he whinced in his pain and shook his head, getting up in a daze to stand. He steadied himself, feet apart on the ground. He looked into Segwin's face who was intent upon chaffing the rope with a flint knife. He wanted to read the signs of approval there, anxious lest in finally crying out he had failed, feeling womanish at his body's fainting defence. Segwin, intent on cutting the rope, did not look at him. But when Ly's hands were free and the rope dropped off, he levelled his gaze with Ly. Segwin's face showed impassive and Ly felt a sickness rise from his belly - had he failed so soon the test of his manhood?

But then Segwin's blue eyes had crinkled at the edges: "Eh na, boy become into man, let us back to the river to wash your body, salve the soreness. Then shall your dream-spin be painted on your dressed skin; the story of your awakening, the totems that define you. The symbols of light shall battle-dress your body before the dawn of your name-day comes. The sunrise of your warriorhood, the challenge to your hunter's skill and daring is come nigh. Let us away now be the river to cleanse you for the dance-chant of this night".

Segwin's eyes were warm as he spoke, though the rest of his face was a mask. But through his eyes came the glinting of pride that filled Ly's heart with gladness. Segwin's brief smile as he led the ways to the river. Ly's eyes sought the face of Wem held apart in aloofness to read what was writ there on the face of his infrequent-kine friend. Wem's furrowed face-lines looked on impassive-like. But his sharp wise brown eyes danced some and shot a spark of humour-filled exultation into those anxious eyes of his nephew. And as Ly looked into the faces of his menfolk he saw also a warmth, a pride - an admiration even - in their smiles and acknowledgements. No, he had not failed. Rather, so it seemed, he had triumphed!

In the river the men watched as Ly doused himself, whincing still in pain. But the menfolk laughed, told him he would soon be right and smiling, teasing him as they washed themselves. And soon the water became a soothing balm washing the pain away. Dripping wet then, they walked from the water and Ly was led to the hut where he was told to stretch himself out on the feather-down, fur-covered bed. His skin was treated with soothing ointment by Ragleth, who massaged the worst of the pain away with his health-giving expert hands. Then he was bid to sit up and all the men gathered round as Segwin set beakers down, which he filled with strong ale. Each of the menfolk were given a beaker of ale, until last of all, Segwin handed one to Ly too.

Segwin raised his beaker and all the menfolk followed suite. "To Ly," said Segwin in masterful simplicity.

"Aye, to Ly become warrior on th' eve of his name-day dawn"

"To Ly, the stalwart"

"To Ly, rider of the wings of pain"

"Eh na, to the silent endurer"

They smiled at him and urged him to drink down his ale. So done he, shy and pleased fra his glory, set down the beaker to unaccustomed belch, which set they all of them laughing. There was a clapping of Ly's shoulders, a-ruffling of his mane-like hair, a victory hold of his hand. Until soon Ly was smiling and floaty from the unaccustomed strong brew and the praise and attention of the menfolk.

Then Old Man Wem, with his shadows-silth presence, began putting candles around and eld Mendion story-spoke his words, spinning the tales of their ancestors as the flames flickered around. And as eld Mendion spoke Ly lay on his belly whilst Ragleth stick-painted the symbols of life upon his back. The dyes and pigments came up blue, orange, red and purple-black. A stylised tree grew down his spine and the sun spiral above it glowed in orange. On Ly's left shoulder a half-moon was hung painted in the red of blood. He was made to stay so, quick-drying whilst he heard the sound of the other men outside preparing the evening's fires. Eld Mendion continued his tale of ancestors who flew to the stars and became the Light-Gods, patterning the night sky and speaking their messages from on high.

Ly turned over then to sit propped up. His arms were given a lightning dash - the sig rune as it became - three times repeated, and on his chest appeared the head of a wild boar surrounded by runic talismen representing strength, protection, fortune, the benevolence of the Goddess, keeper in health, swiftness of passage in travel-times and so on and so forth, until Ly's chest and belly were covered with vibrant colour. The symbols of life and the enhancment of it flashed in the candlelight, filling Ly with a feeling of invincibility.

The other men had also painted themselves and each other in a known and accustomed ritual. Dressed in their leather wrap-around kirt, the men's arms and sometimes their legs were braided with circles of woven reed, stuck with feathers, pebbles and beads of clay. The ceremonial garb was donned. Ly was given food - a heavy sweet oatmeal cake. All of his kinsmen then, ate of the cake and drank a beaker more of brew.

Soon Ly was handed his leather kirt. By now it was late evening and the sun had set in the west turning the skyline gold and indigo-rare at the edges. The men now were gathered in the trance-dance arena outside of the hut. Fires had been lit and staves of flaming torches stuck in the ground to border a wide circle. Ragleth led Ly outside to where the rest of the men had now gathered, their ceremonial painted bodies flashing lurid and vivid in the firelight, the drummers waiting behind their percussive rounds. Ragleth took Ly to where Segwin, the headman, awaited him. When Ly was brought forward, Segwin put both of his hands on Ly's shoulders and looked into his eyes. A silence had infected the arena with an intensity both profound and liberating. Segwin had stood back and raised his arms aloft, addressing all of they there gathered:

"This night Ly become into man-grown
On'us name-day the boy decreed'm
to hunt the wild boar an' turn'm
tuthee man-tall as shows'us spirit strength"

Appointed members of his kinsmen then came forward to lay upon the ground beside Segwin a number of gifts symbolic of his entry into manhood. Then Segwin had spoken again:

"Company an' kindredin have gifts o' man-status engiven.
Around thee waist I fasten this'n belt complete
wi' flint-dagger wi'un handle o' horn.
Likes the Gold One mays'm Ly shine
Like the mighted oak mays'm grow tall
an' stol-like of'us bearing
Like the horned ones o' the forest
mays'm come proud an' fierce
And likes the silvered salmon wise
jump up the river 'ginst the tide
following the flow of'us source
and so learnen the skills of'us ancestors taught
growing into new learning more"

Ly had held his arms up so Segwin could fasten the leather belt around his middle, open the dagger sheath, draw forth the finely made flint-headed knife with its handle carved of stag's horn. He handed the dagger to Ly who took it and turned it reverentially in his hands. So sharp, so long, so skilfully made! By his own sun-pa father's hand no doubt. A treasure for him that might last at least ten summers! "Arnoch sol ne stol - may the fire of the ath-ra in thee flame fierce and bright," spoke Segwin blessing the weapon in sonorous tone. Then the spear was brought forth and Ly stood as Segwin addressed him once more:

"In the forest for the hunter's skill an' daring
here we'm be giving thee
staunch, the yew-bow flexus skill
spears strong an' arrows fleet
sharpened and to the mark.
Mays'm fly unto the heart o' quarry or foe
defend an' kill when needs be upon thee.
With this spear and dagger haft
with this bow and arrows swift
so shall thee vanquish the fierce wild boar
take over his spirit; his invincible store.
But for hunter to know
his quarry or foe
he must needs of tranced
into the spirit he do seek.
Before the hunter kills
he mun know his beast.
Eh na hereby I begiven the boy
dredge of bitter-bite
to turn his soul to quarry-mind
fly on the wings of trance
to the dawning of'un's manhood"

After these words he was handed the spear, which he took with both hands, holding it to see the symbols etched on the hazel-wood, to finger the feathers of the brown hawk attatched at the top by leather binding along with a string of beaded gems: some jet and rock-quartz. Its point was very sharp and it had slicing edges, thick and stoll enough to stand the shock of manysome impacts. He stood it on its end and held it in one hand - the same height as himself - like an extension of himself specialed to his name-day, so the spear seemed to him.

A yew-bow and leather quiverful of flint-headed arrows were also given to him. He slung these over his shoulder - equipped for the hunt or for battle. Then lastly, the dredgeful of bitter-brew was given to him and he understood that he was to mime his quarry; become the wild boar he must hunt on the morrow. A drink, a toast, as Ly downed the bitter-brew and was handed some ale with which to wash it down.

Then the men formed into a group at one end of the circle with Ly and Segwin still standing of centre. Segwin raised his arms and on the boundary Old Man Wem began to intone a chant; a rhythmic, stealthful chant with a steady pulsating thread. Ly stood in the other half of the circle and felt an energy, a desire to move, to dance, to stamp come over him.

The tone of Wem's chant changed. Segwin looked at Ly and lowered his head, his two hands creating tusks as he did so. Ly lowered his head and made the same gesture back. He began moving towards the rest of the men threatening them with his stance. The hint from Segwin had been enough; the desire for physical expression too strong to resist.

As he took on the symbolic pose of the wild boar, he felt himself a becoming, and as its fiesty, fearless nature took over the quiet, lonesome Ly, he moved to threaten the men headed by Segwin. He trotted and stamped as would the beast itself, whilst Wem stood to the side and continued to chant, leading the chorus of his kinsmen's voices. Then, as Ly threatened his kinsmen with his motions, they in turn, threatened Ly, as the beast, as the wild boar quarry he had become. They jabbed at him with their spears, raised their voices as if the volume of them could crush him. Ly in response, must turn to run, as the wild boar would, if there was the freedom to do it. But the men followed him and soon he was surrounded, whence dancing and leaping, snorting and crying out at times, Ly feinted with his spear. To the right, to the left, in front of him and turning swift behind him, fearless as the wild boar in the face of its foe, he whirled and stamped and jabbed about, as the men took up the rhythm of the dance and circled him - a rhythmical, ineluctable force that could crush him when it chose. The drummers picked up their pace and Old Wem's voice rolled on, leading the men forwards, and Ly himself was jabbed at from all sides, parrying each blow and whirling faster and faster, the faster the rhythm was beat.

Soon his movements became fluid. At the zenith of his ritualised performance, his flashing hands and agile movements assumed an automatic motion of their own. Fearlessly; invincible as the wild boar was known to be, he stood his ground, parrying, feinting, circling and ever circling round, so that his captors did not get chance to blood his body or graze his skin. Ly felt he could have carried on thus forever, as in a dream. His movements had become a form of poetry; a connectedness that transcended thought, kept him a blur of motion for anes upon anes. Whirling and leaping, as mercurial as the tail of a shooting star, he kept up his fluid, lightning strokes, until finally a fatigue began to show, and he felt himself grow light-headed with his exertion.

The men encroached with increased threats, and Ly began to feel he could not keep up his momentum. Like the beast, the wild boar, he was growing tired. His stamina was fading. The rhythm of the drummers and chanting was still fast and frenetic, overwhelming him with volume. He gasped to maintain his skilful parrying as the hunters closed around. But Oneth scored a flesh wound on his belly, and the shock of the flint on his skin made him swoon and fall where he lay, breathing heavily, become the spear pierced wild boar: panting and snort-squealing on the ground. There was a rousing crescendo until the drums came to a halt, and the chanting and ritual dance concluded with all the men stood around him, pointing their spears at his tumbled form. Then they too, all collapsed about and lay listening to the sudden-come silence, the sound of the fires crackling, gazing up at the celestial ones, the stars of their ancestors souls.

Ly's spirit took wing as he lay prone. He closed his eyes and imagined the beast lying as he was. His spirit turned to the feathered riders of the winds. Above the forest wilderness he flew, in his mind's eye, searching, searching for the tracks of the wild boar. There was no moon but the sky was clear; starlight showed him the way. Five hills hence in the cleft of a wooded valley his spirit found what he had besought. Once more he became the wild pig, snuffling its home in the quiet of its family group, nudging its childer down to sleep, grunting one to the other in comforting acknowledgement. Five hills hence in the cleft of the valley, saa the wild boar lived. In the dawn of his dance-trance Ly ran and snuffle-searched for food source, aggressive in encountering a fox. Now Ly was become his prey - five hills hence in the cleft of the valley, nearby a quarried cliff, his centuries-back ancestors had hewn. Ly was drifting, drifting back through the night air across the distance on the swoop of a tawny wing; be the curve of a fierced-beak hawk, now his spirit coasted home, where the husk of his body was left. Hawk-risen, boar-found and known, hawk-returned his journey.

He flew above the circle arena and dropped like a stone through the air towards where Ly could see himself, or his body, recumbant upon the ground. He plummetted through the air and the sensation of flying was gone. Ly's body jerked and twitched as if at an impact and sensation was returned to human experience. He could feel the ground beneath him, hear the dimmed conversation of the menfolk around him. He could sense the glow of flames across his face, from the fire-torches at the edges. He knew he was himself again. He opened his eyes. They flickered sensitively in the sudden light.

"Ly be come to," called Ragleth to the other men."Eh na Ly, how be thase mind space. Limbs still strong and stoll, belly hungry na?" asked Ragleth, smiling down at him. Ly tried to sit up whilst the men came and sat around him in a circle. He discovered the fleshwound on his belly had been cleaned and staunched with the day's eye flower. It was already healing well, and it was much smaller than he had imagined. Ragleth helped him to sit up and some bread-cake and meat was brought him and he was given a draft of milder ale. Ly felt ravenous as soon as he saw the food and did not speak until he had eaten and drunk the ale refreshment. The men waited patiently for him to finish, waited patiently for the wordspeak of his trance-dance to be shared.

"Whisst na Ly, tell we'm o' your'n journey - the travels that betook your'n spirit this night," spoke Segwin when Ly had eaten and drunk his fill.

Ly looked around the men-company, noting now the absence of Wem, whose solitary tithe had taken him be his hut-space of a lonesome. He knew this was to be expected and though he would've liked his oldest revered uncle to hear of'us trance-dance journey, it did not dilute his experience of the moment. With his pupils dilated and his eyes shining in the fervour of his experience, he began to speak:

"I'se fell'd'm down at the graze and I laid there as the wild boar hissel'n, tired be the chase and wounded to's death. But as I laid thus, 'm feathered wings, brown like the hawks as coast above'n trees, come by ane-me. I was flying as the hawk, watching wi'um piercing eye, flying til I spied the spore o' the wild boar. And down'n I'se plummetted to becomen the wild pig in's homestead, in's dawn foraging, in's aggressive chase o' the fox-lith that lingered roun' the edge be the little 'uns. I became thase beast and I saw the place'us spirit dwells - five hills hence in the cleft of the valley, be the quarry-hewn edge o' ancestors toil, five hills hence and a valley more. Then I be riding the night-winds, flying home to harbour'un body. Flying through the night-sky and dropping like's stone above'n me laid by form. Then its spirit-hawk left me and I was laid come by on the ground, hearing the murmur'un thee voices as the flames danced across'm closed eyelids and I become to misseln once more - Ly o' the Albion kindred".

"Na thee Ly, truely ha' you foun' the boar and thee quarry. Well has thee danced the trance-dance this night. Well the lightning dance becomen thee. Proud we'm become o' your'n stance, your'n wild boar daring, the lightning strike o' your'n impulse. Tomorrow now we'm follow the hunt to spore o' the wild boar. Now we'm all mun rest and thee 'specially mun lay to good night's sleep, to waken refreshed fer'n thee test o' the morrow".

So spoke Segwin, who urged Ly up and to the bedding chamber where, rolled in furs, they slumbered and rested til break of day. The fires had been all but quenched bar one which smouldered slowly through the night in readiness for sunrise, when eld Mendion would heat the water and brew the broth of hare and herb for the huntsmen's morning repast.

Ly had wakened with the lark that called before the rise of the sun. Battle-dressed, he squatted be fire and supped the steaming broth, chomping on the bread made special to the occasion, followed by oat-cakes spread with a layer of wild bees honey, collected by Wizen Dee, the watcher of the bees. All thoughts of Nionie were now banished from his mind, though in his dream world he had forged a strange telepathy with her. Now as he sat, the morning mist rose before the rays the unrisen sun had shed, and he did not think of Nionie. He thought of the journey ahead of them. He thought of the wild boar which that day he must seek out and kill. The beast he must cut the life-link of and thus imbibe its animal spirit to add courage to his own; the spirit of his manhood that would walk him tall on this his name-day. So he vowed, so he swore to himself and the Gold One, as it rose shedding light and sound, the poetry of nature all around.

The other men had woken and come round for a bite and a sup of the same. All carried spears and bows and arrows, a knife at the hilt of their belts. All wore the symbols of fire and life on their skin. Ly smiled at Ragleth, who tousled his hair fondly and turned to take a beaker of broth. No he had not thought of Nionie, who toiled in the muck of their making; she, his sister-spirit, who had called to the moon, given birth to mysteries inside her form - her blood-rite name-day dawn. He did not think of that. His senses twitched to the hills, horizon's breadth away from him. His spirit surged to the quest before him and he felt impatient to move, to be off, to commence their journey. He grew impatient as his elders took their time with their broth and the oat-cakes spread with honey.

But presently Segwin was arising and the menfolk carried skiffs to the river, three between them. Ly, in the headboat with Segwin, led the way forwards. Hence they rowed up the river a ways and at a known harbour vantage, pulled up the skiffs onto a shore-bank of the river, a convenient inlet that let them anchorage thereby. Then with Ly and Segwin leading the way, they carved their passage across the hills and towards the cleft of the valley Ly had spied in his trance-dance. This was fifty or sixty meds away in an area that was not much frequented, though the site of the quarry was known. The family of wild pig lived three or so meds away from that quarried edge, in the roots of a huge tree they had carved out a cave from under and padded with leaves and grasses. The family of pigs would forage for meds around that area.

With the sun at its height through the forest foliage, Ly caught the sight of the dark shape of a wild boar. The creature turned and grunted, snorting inquisitively at the faintest of rustles. Ly froze but the breeze blew from behind him and the creature snorted and grunted and trotted away from Ly calling to his pig-kin. Ly remembered Segwin, who had that instant become aware of the wild boar, holding up his hand to halt their procession, then freezing and indicating to three of the menfolk to head the group of wild pigs towards the river and the quarry.

The men had fanned out and around. They began banging and shouting, driving the wild pigs towards the area of the quarry, on guard in case the wild boar chose to wheel and fight; aggress instead of flee. But the menfolk made it sound like a hundred warrior army was thundering towards the wild boar and his family, so he did not turn to attack but turned to fleet-foot flee.

Even so as he jog-trotted in the wild pigs' wake, Ly felt part of himself become the thing he sought to hunt down. He was the wild boar, the fear of its fleeing, the adrenalin rush through its hide he felt as if it were his own. But still inexorably he chased the wild pigs down, the men closing in, like at the trance-dance of the evening before. And he understood the boar's fear and battle-anger as the men now surrounded it on all sides of the quarry, the little ones and the females squealing their consternation, their fear and threat behind him. And the wild boar wheeled and snorted, pawing the ground and bristling, standing defiantly before them, pinning Ly with its fiery eye, squealing and grunting its rage as it lowered its head to tusk-charge the boy-man who had headed the expedition.

The cornered beast had whirled and snorted, turning to fix Ly with a livid fearless eye. Without a moment's deliberation, it had squealed and charged, perhaps choosing Ly as the most vulnerable looking link in the human net that surrounded it. There was a brief moment of unreality, then a panic in his belly, until the instinct of self-defence made him lower the spear he carried. Whether it was fortune or skill that drove the point of the spear into the heart of the wild boar, Ly neither knew nor cared.

The wild boar had charged, its tusks like scimitars ready to gash and rip. There had been a frozen moment when Ly had gazed in terrible fascination at the beast, as the menfolk around him had shouted, urgeing him to action. They did not shoot, for the wild boar hunt had been Ly's choice: it was his name-day, and they would not interfere with the pattern of events. Ly stared at the violent beast charging at him, wondering at the spirit, the passion, the intensity of its fury. In mercurial panic, he lowered his spear.

Fortuitously, he put it down just before the boar crossed the range of the spear. Ly's action had been lightning swift and just in the nick of time. The point of the spear went in the boar's chest just to the side of its razor-tusked head. Ly had assumed a natural stance, instinctively feet apart, body balanced, knees slightly bent to sustain the impact. But the beast's fury was such that when the spear went into the boar, its forward momentum had assumed such a pace Ly was carried backwards through the air, only knowing whatever happened he must keep hold of the spear. As the wild boar squealed with pain and rage, Ly was flung backwards onto the bank and sprawled lilting to one side, both hands still grasping the spear. At the other end of this newly blooded weapon the boar, in red-eyed fury, was attempting to gouge, and lacerate the spear. Now with his assailant at the same level, the boar thrashed and stamped, with Ly tossed from one side to another, his hands blistering, beginning to bleed from the effort. But of a sudden the boar had faltered and dropped to the ground. It snorted and frothed its anger, before the spear-point finally served its purpose and brought the appointed end.

Then all the menfolk came crowding round, the men who had been gathered close about, arrows drawn, ready to shoot should Ly loose the spear and become defenceless. Thus Ly's reputation-name, the Hawk, was established. For truly, had said Segwin and the other men, truly had he displayed that lightning reflex which the hawk shows when it drops to kill. Truly had that lightning reflex saved the day.

Ly had been numb to the praises to begin with; still shocked by the closeness of death, the closeness he felt to the animal spirit as it raged towards him. He had almost felt sorrow that it had to be killed. He felt an empathy for the beast which gave him, like all the others of his kin, a reverence for the wild creatures and anything of the Earth. The Earth was their belonging - the bountiful Goddess with the deathly aspect. She who gave and ruthless took away. It was Her harsh and abundant dictates thay had to abide by.

After the wild boar had expired its last breath, its body shuddering a final response, the menfolk were all patting Ly, grasping his shoulder, shaking his blistered hand. They clustered around the boar and a pole was fetched as they waited for Ly to come to do his privilege. It was Ly's privilege to slit the throat, claim the head and tusks and later, to cut out the heart to be made into his name-day victory feast.

Ly got out his name-day dagger-sharp flint knife. He came and stood over the boar, gazing down into its deadened eye; the eye ferocious that had been fixed on him, intent on death. Ly lifted up his head then, and cry-howled up into the sky, proclaiming his victory; his primeaval soul seeking vibrant expression in a roar and shout - the triumph of Life over Death. Ly bent and with the strength of intent stuck the blade in the pig's neck, and drew it jagged cut acrossing. The blood poured forth, besmirching his hands, flecking onto his face. Then Segwin drew the lightning sign in wild boar blood down Ly's chest, and upon his forehead. The dead beast's feet were tied and it was attached to a pole which was slung over two of the men's shoulders. Ly led the way forwards with his bloody spear and torso, signalling his triumph over the odds of death.

Smeared be the stuff of life he came, be the wild boar's blood, and back at the homestead the childer came to awed watching, while they 'oomenkin, they moon-ma's gathered round to praise Ly, to proclaim their admiration and pleasure. Ly cut the heart out of the boar and all they folk had cheered as his moon-ma kilt forth to receive it. She, smiling pride into his eyes, same blue as Segwin's eye'n. She, accepting his offering and going by off to hasten the feast on with her food preparation. A gathering of women took the rest of the beast and Oneth went to help butcher and cut up the meat to be shared amongst the kin of the homestead. For what was for one, was for all in aplenty, wherever fortune favoured or fickled forth disaster - still'm folk was comeby to share thee in'un sorrow. But no sorrow then. Saa! The wild boar killed single-handed - rare indeed! Ly killer of the wild boar - dubbed the Hawk on his name-day stoll - come to hinter manhood in the making of his own triumph feast. Aye, and he had known his mother's mind and thoughts then for sure.

Ly! Ly! Her childer, her bairn come knee-by nine summers since. Ly, her childer grown to manhood. From her womb he had sprung and her heart sang and her fingers worked gladly and quickly, preparing the meat for her son's victory feast. Proud to furnish his victory feast be her'n labour. Proud to be by a son such as he! For sure, she could sense the admiration, the pleasure of the men, their pride in him as well. And she infilled high aglee, joyous her heart rang and her eyes shone as she dredged the herbs, crumbled the oatmeal, sliced some root crop into a tasty platter.

His stoll-some sun-pa had returned from his hafting after flint on the high of the hilltops, Corndon and Black Rhadley, camped over night the previous eve when Ly was commenced his ritual of pain. It do be ken to seperate the blood-close at testing time, so they crossed the boundary to adulthood without their closer kin. Other'uns took care of the thurl-initiation rites; whilst family of the to-be-initiated weft and waited, tension building up and infecting them. A quiet before the storm of applause and rioutous feasting could be delivered.

And Ly remembered how his sire and sun-pa had come to him as he sat at the feasting tressel waiting for the vittals to be brought and spread about. He had been companied by his youth friends, Kyfeth and Duffryn, who now he was passed into mankin lost the aloofness they had but recent took on when their own initiations made them man some several moons before they. Kyfeth was stag-tithed whilst Duffryn was hunter of the grey wolf that ranged the deeps of the forest. They had come to him admiring now at his courage for the quest to take the wild boar's spirit. All his kinsmen were sat aboun quaffing their beer-strong, and filling Ly's beaker so twert never'n emptied. Beunydd, his sun-pa, had come down from his hilltop and found his way to his son's honoured side. He stood across from him saying naught for a while, but then creasing his face to a smile: "The sun be bold-bronze in your'n spirit I'se do hear Ly, and the flint be in your'n sinew and nerve. Whey tudden! Pride have you brought to your'n blood-kin, pride and full joy. Saa! Ly may your'n stoll-strength come constant as the Gold One above us. And here's gift na, lad-lith, special made for'n thee, a talisman-protector nigh for'n as long as your chosen, the path that'll be."

So saying he had placed a piece of black stone jet shaped like an ellipse, carved with the sunwheel, hung on a leather thong, ceremonially around his neck. Then he had clapped Ly on his shoulders with both of his hard-hewing hands and pulled his son to him, giving him a brief but warm and heart-felt bear hug. All the surrounding menfolk had laughed and cheered then, as his sun-pa had tousled his hair and sat to drink of the barley beer made special to the occasion. Aye had they all lifted their clay beakers then and toasted, not just to Ly, but to each other, to their blood-bondings, to the Goddess, to the Horned God whose spirit was in the hunt. And Ly could remember well the look of quiet pride in his sun-pa's eyes as he had lifted his beaker to toast his second-born son - the sun warrior who nigh had well come of age.

But be evening-tide the kindred were all settled around the long tressel-tables which they sat cross-legged at or on one side before. There was a place for the elders, as befitted, in the middle of the table and next in honour to those participants of the hunt and chase, who sat at the head. Here Ly was centre of attention and all they beguildy glanced his direction, smiling, admiring, casting their eyes to catch a flicker from his own. He could not prevent a different feeling taking over him then; a liquid fire stirring in his belly and loins which he knew, that night, would be satisfied as it had never been satisfied before.

Opposite to the elders and down the top part of the table next to the warriors, were the wealth of the kindred, the rest of the adults, 'oomankin seated amongst the menfolk, having provided and served the feasting food. Further down the table next to the adults came the youth, and then came the childer with a few appointed grandam-moon-ma's amongst them to oversea the operation of their eating. This feasting was special time too for the childer, even though some were not five summers on in the age-wise. There had been much cheering and clapping and hallooing when Ly's moon-ma had brought forth the platter with the carefully cooked boar's heart upon it.

The head of the boar had been cleaned and placed as decoration, covering the meat and honouring the spirit of the animal he had killed. His hands betraying a tremour that was never evident when he hunted, Ly had lifted the boar's head and sung of his victory over it as all his kindred listened and applauded some more at its conclusion. Then, his moon-ma had taken the boar's head from him and he had cut the meat, eating it all with gusto, for truly his moon-ma had excelled in the preparation and cooking of the boar's heart. When he had finished all the menfolk toasted him and Segwin formally acknowledged Ly's brave hawk spirit, his birth into manhood, his coming of age, the privileges that were his as a result of this crossing of the threshold. Segwin turned them all to laughter then after the formality, by a bawdy innuendo that set all they adults to merriment whilst Ly's face was flushed half with expectation and half with embarassment.

All was then to feasting and good feelings, laughter and quaffing and banter. There was much praising of Ly the hunter, the hawk, eh na? The menfolk turned to each other and said, nodding their heads and laughing agreement. Whereas Ly, now shy and stoll-like could nay hardly soak up all the atmosphere pledged to the honour of he. In his wildest dreams he had not imagined himself so honoured, the first action of his spear so vital and speed-thrusted, the hunt so cleanly and clearly executed, the killing his, and his alone. But this only made him humble, not boasting or swaggerful but reticent in the face of their praise, feeling the gods had favoured him, grateful for that favour and no-some overblown with pride.

Aft feasting came the music and pipes; the strumming of new-frame strings. And female acolytes - neophytes - came to chant them song-spell until the menfolk warriors took over. The kelter females danced a moon-chant, beguildy swaying and merging their forms in a moon-trance. The temple-cakes were passed around and pretty soon'm mask-maiden came to take Ly from the fireside to a hut-space in the silver-dark.

By her looks, by her motions thay fair beguildy lured Ly forth from his victory feast, whiles Ly watched her with mesmerised eyes, following the moon-spell she cast and shadowing her to the way-off hut-space door. Inside the door he heard whispers and gigglings stilled at a brief sharp whisper from the maiden who led him:

"Before thee enter thaise special place, forbidden to they who'm hev not yet passed thay threshold to manhood, I mun blinfold thee here'n, to protect our'n kindred from the shame o' naming and thay untoward flarin' o' jaylous curdlin' come thay bright revailing light o' dawn. Thay moon-nymphs shall give your'n body the succour of sensation it do crave and teach thee the ways of 'oomankin's desire. Bend thee now so'm put thee blindfold cloth; as your'n sight be taken so shall'un flesh come unto thay thrusting ecstasy of life"

Ly nodded his head staring and bent forwards so she could tie the cloth around him. Satisfied it was secured, she opened the door and led him inside. And ah the smell of her as she came close to tie the cloth around his eyes - ah the smell of her! Dew-misted mornings, the fresh loam of soil, fecund like the fragrance of wild flower blooms, a faint musk of wood-smoke and the season-smell of the doe, the hind that be rarely hunted. All of these things and countless subtle more it seemed to Ly she did smell of. Her smell alone intoxicated him!

Inside he sensed two other presences, soft voices and hands that took off his belt with the flint-dagger on it. Took off the leather kirt girt around his groin, so that naked he stood and blinfolded as the maidens led him across to the fur-covered soft-bed. They massaged his flesh with aromatic oils, touched him all over til his arousal caused him to reach for thay dangly-fare that brushed his chest and his mangrown stoll. Then a moon-nymph was guiding his hands, showing him how to stroke her so and so, how to squeeze her and give her body pleasure. As now another of them sucked his member, gently sucking and pulling his cock-swain high, grasping his groin a sensation that he couldnay fettlesome to control, and he orgasmed, shooting his seed high; hinto thay maidens did scrape it off with their hands and tongues whilst he lay and gasped, his spirit spiralling up to the radiant sovereigns that glittered in the night sky outside and above them.

fms panzerfaust
Monday, July 18th, 2005, 12:44 AM
Until honey-wine was passed from tongue to tongue, temple-cakes given again. Very soon Ly's manhood returned and the moon-nymphs let thay explore'um their bodies, his mouth and fingers exploring, whilst another of the moon-nymph's overseed the ritual. Ly in frustration sort to tear the blindfold from him so he could see the beauty he was trammeling. The lead moon-nymph forbade him. But there was rustling and movements, giggling which told him they had expected and waited for this frustrated action on his'n part. Masks to hide identity were donned and Ly had his blindfold taken off so he could feast his eyes on thay dangly-fare beguildy, thay moon-maidens who'm had come to share a flesh-feast on this his name-day, manhood night.

And thay moon-maidens laid down beside Ly, curled aboon'un as he stroked'un and suckled the soft fair paradise of their'n flesh. He opened the petals of the mystery place and searched his tongue inside'un wondering at the flowing sea-tang juices, the tremour and pleasure moans of the maiden. And Ly was shown by the accompanying moon-maid how best to arouse her sister and when her pleasure come full-hold, Ly was telded to'm push his'n man's prong into that mystery womb-hole, so secret and neat, a flesh-cave of ecstasy so hidden from view. Then there were'n cries of pleasure and ecstasy burst nearly forth after a short span of thrusting animal motions; the rising erotic wave and rush of bliss in the aftermath still.

The moon-maid had lain panting while some-told later that evening Ly plied the same brave on the skin of the second moon-nymph. Whilst in the near-dawn, the overseer masked priestess came to the bed and bled the elixir of his manhood from him once more, as he devoured thay soft female flesh. Later, thankful and beamsome he bid them goodbye as they waved him off from their hut-space hidden some on high.

There were quiet days to follow then for a three day spell after Ly's name-day feast. He never knew who his initiators into the pleasures of sex were. He could guess, by a certain way of walking, a measure of fair proportions, a jut of the breast, a toss of the hair. But, as was their custom, it never was made known to him. Though he knew it was the older beguildy on the fringe of moon-ma asserting the power-mystery of their sex.

When Ly met Nionie first from her blood-rite, he was sitting alee an old willow be a little trickle of water that swelled to stream, and sometimes river in times of plentisome rain. Ly was alolling lazy-like in the old tree's bough, hafting at a wood piece, waiting for her coming. She came through the path in the woods to where Ly was beseated, her moon-sisters alongside of her carrying'un baskets that they'd blood-drenched at the dark of no-moon. Ly grinned as she came through the trees and she proud and self-conscious came into the sunlight and put down her burden some twenty steps from Ly. Her moon-sisters bid her passing goodbyes, leaving her to word-speak with her brother.

"Na Ly," said Nionie, shy-like yet provoking. "Hast thee set'n thee name-day feast and killed a boar of's own?" She asked him outright, her eyes reflecting his, shining a kin-light forth.

"Na Nionie, maybe'm so and maybe's thee on thee name-day becomen childer to 'ooman - goddess-formed and moon-ma of the making, a burdened of a magical soil - ey'us ent not so, eh na? Fech fer sure, as saa is the wild boar na?" Countered Ly, sharing his heart-speak with her, making known their connected telepathy.

"Even so, even so, my stoll blood-brother Ly - even so, we be both halves of the same kernal, na? Our'n minds do beat as one. Though now you becomen into man-some and I in thay moon-spell sung, we begowen our'n own ways, eh la, my blood-brother own? We've come seperate and different in our'n ways as the seasons in time do change, as the radiant ones above do so dictate, na? Ly the wanderer gone, Nionie, his blood-sister tied to till thay soil; ties that link her to the silver one, to the goddess that breathes through fruit, frond and stem. Ties she would no more swap than Ly would turn hisself thatcher and water-carrier be the rood. Now I be moon-maid eh? Acolyte to the temple priestesses. Our roles be clear defined eh na Ly? Stark our'n difference be droved betwixt us, likes stag fra his sister'n hind, likes she-wolf fra her'n brother kin eh? But be thee brother fair and keep me to wholesome in thee heart-space and I'll find thee fond and tithy awhile be agin."

She looked at Ly for the longest while, gazed her devotion, her pride, her admiration into his brownen e'en. In her look she spoke the unspeakables; her form pert and nymph-like, leggy like the doe-faun at its inquisitive phase of childer. The look that passed between them was deeper than passion; it spoke of the whole concordance of the universal flux. It was the drift of a timeless spell and in it was revealed the nakedness of their desire alongside the acceptance of the taboo that bound them; the sorrow of their loss, the future that took their paths seperate.

The look was a call from blood-kin unto blood-kin, an acknowledgement of umbilical belonging, an intercourse of the unity of their vision, the one for the other. A look that reduced the gulfs of space between them and brought them, not side by side but conjoined - one and the same thing; different aspects that made up one whole. Thus deep and profound, beyond passion and of passion, through an ageless kindred link of blood, that look did speak.

Then, smiling, she came towards Ly, kissed his stoll-some cheek as he bent down to hold her, to hug her before the gestures of childer mun be laid to thay side and manhood framed his reserve. Nionie, trying to brush away the traces of tears in her eyes, carried hup her burden and walked aways, her back to Ly, towards the homestead of their'n moon-ma, their'n stoll-ra faither, who hefted the flint-tool blades.

And Ly felt the shadow of melancholy, the pain of things he could not change darken his heart and burn there for a pace. He felt like calling her back - his blood-sister, Nionie, moon-nymph become to acolyte of the high priestess, moon-chant weaver, weaving a spell of growth into the soil of the Land. She, of the fecund mysteries, his sister had become and thus did their ways shew a parting.

But stoll-like in the cast of his kind, Ly could only carve and carve the piece of wood, grappling with and soothing his pain and his sorrow by the persistance of his actions. The knife in his hand became blurred for a moment, and he had to stop to brush the unaccustomed tears away, wondering at the ache in his heart and burying it together with those things that had marked him as still yet a childer.

Remembering his man-hood, his name-day hunter's status, he stopped and gazed into middle distance, recollecting, collecting himself to live be the Hawk as the name-spur he'ud been tokened. Like a man, stoll and strengthful, he would be - with the wanderlust trade in his veins. The flint-maker and hunter-warrior skills that defined him, held him self-sufficient, as wild and independent as the wolves at high forest side.

He would carve legends in the memory of his tomorrows - he would spur story-spells told by the fire be the eld folk. Aye, fech fer sure, eld Mendion'ud spin his tale of the legend of Ly, the Hawk, the lightning wild one with the courage invincible of the wild boar fierce. So Ly swore to himself as the new quarter moon crooked a silver spell in the night, remembering the fullness of the harvest moon in the slender shiver of its potential - soon to swell, as the belly of a moon-ma did when thay little'uns becryin' to besought's 'un eyes on thay world.

This was the way Ly's thoughts had drifted, and had brought him calm and accepting, steady at the thought of sister's distance. He shut the cries of his deep-down heart to the side and remembered his warrior status.

Oftimes then he would linger be off'n of Old Wem's place seeking a mite of wisdom from the mouth of one whose lips were mostly kept well shut. But the silence of Old Wem's intuition served to soothe him, and he learned to fathom solutions for himself without ever having a word past between them. Ly had thought on occasions that he was made to follow in the footsteps of Wem's wisdom, alongside of the high-moon priestesses, they communed with the flux of All Life and kept the links with the kindred alive. But in a rare moment, Wem had pierced him with his gimlet brown eye, saying:

"There be too much of the coiled dather, too much of the rover's questing about thee Ly fer yon to take to sitting at the Listeners task - even though you have the stillness in thee stark to see. It be combined with a restlessness to know, to see that'll tek you's be way off'n from cycle to cycle; aye sure like tinder in your'n veins it be planted just awaiting a spark to set a light and flame-free" - a hand on his shoulder, a rare half-smile upon the chant-elastic lips. Of course, he had been right as always. Confirmed by the gift Wem had given him after his initiation name-day, the hawk-claw clasped pouch which hung now upon his belt and where was kept the special stones marked as divinations for the trade-main of'us ways.

He had sought out Old Wem when he was still flint-knapping with his sun-pa. He had an itch in him that could not settle for the steady, plodding familiar-visited sites of the flint-founder's trade. His heart yearned to a wider horizon, and though he applied himself and learned well the art of flint-forming, he was not content and his spirit sang after the traders who came and went and returned and were off for a season and more besides. Ah, he could not help that desire quivering within him and finding the courage for his release. Without him having to speak this out in words, Old Wem seemed to know him sometimes better than he knew himself. He had sat himself outside Wem's place, savagely chipping at a piece of flint, wondering how he should broach so momentous a subject.

"Seems Ly's forgotten the delicacy of'us cuts," commented Wem dryly as he walked up from the Fire-star space to find Ly there; and when Ly could finally bring himself to speak what was constricting him, Wem gave him solution simple and to the mark: "Your'n wings be itching to be unfurled and gliding a broader range, than the home route of your'n sun-pa's trade na? Then speak to he of what's awrithing in your'n heartsore, eh me lad? Or despite your'n name-day courage yen'll be a childer-kept for all your'n adult-status!"

Aye that'd been all the encouragement he needed, and though he felt strong-fond of his sun-pa and did not want to cause him sadness, he could not keep the core of his being stunted and unleashed all his life.

Ly remembered then the first times flint-knapping with his sun-pa faither. The excitement he'd felt of trekking off together, taking vittals for a day or more if needs be. His faither had taken him to all on his prime sites thereabouts, to the hilltops and rocky crops and quarry dents and river beds where the choicest of flint material could be found. But soon the near-bound features of his activity be his sun-pa's side came to seem too dull and homely. The wander-lust in his veins craved the venture of further horizons and though he had learned well at his faither's side the itch in him bade him favour a further and further boundary. Until, given courage be the counsel of Old Wem, he had come to beg his'n faither if he could trade the flint-path accompanying the rover-deals, Dracon and Brinren, in their travels away for'n a half a cycle or more.

Ah and his'n faither had looked way off towards the mountains of the west when Ly had made his desire known to him."There be dignity and worth in the rendering of flint Ly, though trowe all things have their'n season and the travelling trade do bring many novel things of interest to our'n homestead. I would nay keep thee honing the flint lessen thee had a mind to stay, never mind but thee's a feel fer'n the art of it too. But though your'n born of me own blood, the Gods decide where your'n spirit be apt. If there's a feel in thee fer'n the far and wide I would nay tether thee to a homely radius. Thee be man-some now son, man enough to choose your'n own ways. If Dracon and Brinren have nay objection to your'n accompanying they, then I'll find none else by which to keep thee. Lad, thee've a wilderness bent in thee heart I've kent it fra the moment thee could hunt with a childer's bow and arrow. You've my blessings for whey fer sure I could nay turn a flying speddie seed to a rooted frond, even if I'd mind to, which I dunnet. Saa away wi' you Ly and take care, as the Goddess wills so be it, eh na Ly? As the Goddess wills!"

Aye, and he had smiled at his son a benediction, concealing his sadness for Ly's sake, who was at that moment too full of the zest of release and freedom to study his faither close like. It was only much later that he realised from something his moon-ma had said that he had caused his faither some'at of a heavy in the heart awhiles. But after all, he had the flint skill learned from his faither the first two cycles since his initiation into manhood. He was fast at his learning which had begun before his special name-day, when he had killed the wild boar. And since that time he had hewn flint from many a hilltop, and from the stone he had made a multitude of flint blade scrapers; small flints for delicate work and carving; flint arrow heads and spear points; axe heads and pounders. Each flint blade had its special and general uses, mainly being cutting, carving, planing, smoothing, scraping, sawing and splitting. For all these functions flint was the hardest, and as yet, most plentiful material.

As a matter of course Ly had become expert in the use of wood. The backpack he carried for long journeys was made from a frame of hazel - the pack itself being made of leather with different pockets for various items. Inside it he would carry axe helves and wooden bowls made of ash and oak. In one pocket there would be a sewing kit with an awl made of bone and limelast for sewing thread. In the main part of the backpack was a birchwood container which housed his tinder and fire-starter. Inside a mollusc shell container to prevent dampness was some tinder fungus (collected from dead or diseased beech or birch trees). There was also some pyrite. In order to start a fire, Ly would strike a flint core repeatedly against the pyrites. Sparks fell on the tinder which with blowing ignited a fire.

Ly had learned to make fire before he was even 9 cycles old. It was a familiar almost unconscious routine which provided the warmth and heat that was so necessary for him and his kinsfolk's survival. For the rest of the tinder, Ly would have a stock of reed-mace wool, hammered willow bast, juniper pith, mosses and thistledown, small feathers and twigs. He also carried birch sap which was an essential gluing agent, and birch fungus which had many beneficial medicinal uses. Thus supplied, Ly was a mobile self-sufficient unit enabling him to live in solitude or in the wilderness with his travelling companions for seasons upon end, without the necessity of returning to the homestead.

All the different uses of the forest trees he had learned well before his initiation and could cut and carve alongside of the most practiced of his kinsmen. Ly's long bow was made of yew wood and his arrow shafts came from the wood of the wayfaring tree, mixed with some dogwood shafts. All the trees were used for diverse purposes which Ly had learned well; their special qualities and spirit being known and passed down through the centuries of ancestors. He knew the uses of birch wood, ash wood, hazel and thorn, willow, beech, yew, lime and oak. The oak was sacred to the sun god and revered for its enduring quality, its hardness, its life-giving aura. Ly had helped to build wattle and daub dwellings with it, watched the skeletons of boats taking shape and made his own before very long, using the sacred oak. Furniture was crafted from this wood and it was also used for dyeing and planing.

But always the tree spirit was consulted, gifts left to appease it; only a certain number being felled each cycle, and these were storm damaged or diseased, or old. For it was thought if the oak was felled indiscriminantly, the sun god would punish them with drought, lightning strikes and storms, or with a withdrawal of that very necessary light and warmth which swelled the corn and brought them bountiful harvests. The oak was a tree which was revered and honoured as much and above nearly all the other trees in the forest by the Albion kindred. It was totem, and held a special place in the hearts of all Ly's kinsfolk for it housed them, kept them safe and secure in the storm, sped them along the waterways, padded out their lives with a beautiful and sturdy substance that they were ever mindful of. And aye was this instinct full within Ly, for a grove of oak trees always had a specially alive and listening aura, potent and fecund, as if it harboured the horned god himself, which caused him to tread quiet and reverential like whenever he were in the midst of the sun trees they thought so special.

As soon as he could walk, Ly had set to watching the world go by and playing with the bits of wood carving his faither had made for him in the lightening evenings of blossom-tide. And pretty soon he had set to and watched the world go by whilst carving his own plith of wood. He had watched Hurgin, his cycles older brother, making arrow shafts and spears and followed his suit in making his own. As he'd got older he had helped with some of the construction work, in the building of a byre to house'un cattle in winter's dregs, and new homesteads for the swelling community. He had spent long times be the river observing his kinsmen assembling the skiffs they used to paddle the waterways. Before his initiation he had cut and planed, shaped and seasoned his own boat-frame, stretching and oiling the deerskin which completed it and made it the practical and effective means of transportation it was.

He had learnt at his moon-ma's knee the names of the plants and edibles they gathered. Many a time when young had he walked with the 'oomankin, not yet old enough to let be his own. With his moon-ma he had gathered fat hen and chick weed, corn spurrey, bugle and cuckoo flower. He had harvested acorns, blackberries, thay bitter sloe, crab apples, haws and hazel nuts. He had collected elder flowers, thorn leaves and beech leaves in spring. In autumn as well as the fruits, there was a wide variety of mushrooms, the fungi to be strictly avoided, and those which could be sparingly used.

In the spring the 'oomankin fertilised the fields and planted the crops to be grown. Whilst before times, the menfolk came and prepared the small fields, ploughing them with wooden hafts, chircking the oxen to pull ho. Then before thay blossom sprung, the 'oomankin would come to spread their sacred soil which contained the blood of their wombs. The priests and priestesses would come to dance-chant whilst thay menfolk'un gathered aroun. The moon-goddess appointed Ethreal, for 7 cycles past, would bless the seeds as they'ud come to be planted. And aroun the rim, the menfolk would begin their sun-wise cycle dance with thay childer to follow in thay wake.

In this way the kindred cultivated: linseed, opium poppy, legumes, einkorn and emmer, durum, oat-ear and barley. Thus did they live by way of the richness of Nature. The food they ate so reverentially garnered, made them strong and hale. The bounty that their environment afforded them allowed them to cast their sight beyond the confines of the homestead. It was partly the cause of their outward looking spirits, their questing, desire-born souls. They came to observe their environment, not just exist in it. They came to study the moon and the sun, the drift of the stella space and this study had provoked the building of monumental temples. The stone circle temples which, like huge sculptures speckled across the land, had grown up and had produced the great connectedness that had carried thay thus far forwards.

He thought of the corn festivals they'ud had in the past, where Ethreal came to bless the harvest - give thanks to the goddess. There'n was watching and waiting whiles the menfolk cut the grain that the 'oomankin would grind and pound for the flour to laid aplatter on the mealboard. And with the wealth of the autumn harvest - thanksgiving festival did commence, where the men enacted the corn god dance, wedded be the Mother til his time of death did cant the fall. And the 'oomankin become thay goddess-nymphs dancing seductions in the firelight as'un all quaffed and made much merry. Couples disappeared to a quiet-space hut where often Ly had been taken by the moon-maidens too - since that first night of his initiation. The sacred stook of corn was the last'un kept, woven into blessing scree and made into special magic cakes eaten in mid-winter, when they all had need of cheer. Aye, there was goodly times to be had fer sure, for thay as settled in the lee of the homesteaders rhythm, thought Ly, convincing himself this was so whilst his spirit took winged flight towards the travel ways and further foreign places that had always stirred his blood so, gave him his full zest for life.

He remembered the first ever time he had travelled far down the water-ways with Dracon and Brinren, in the first great skiff he'ud ever been in. The voluminous sail and flange were holed a deck as they'd sped down the silver Severn, the main thoroughfare 'pon which the sturd-druth sailboat was moored. Cross country by a minor river, they had set out with Ly all quiet, his eyes as big as his head taking in all the landmarks they passed too shy and too full of respect for his companions to speak much at all, jumping to do their bidding almost sooner than he'd been told! That first time they had not stopped by The Holy Place which would come to be so special and awesome to Ly. The experience of The Holy Place came after that first trip away which had filled Ly's senses so to brimming. Quickly had the broad river's flow taken them south and then east, til be eventide they had stopped at a trading harbour before the Big Waters swell. All new and strange to Ly, he had quickly slept after the tasty fare cooked on an open fire beside the bustle of other strangers camps who shouted greetings to Brinren and Dracon, as fatigued from their day's travel they crouched by the fire.

The following day before the sun had risen, they were up and away and soon upon the shore of the Big Waters' swell. Ly could remember the awe he had felt when for the first time he had witnessed the expanse of the sea and heard the swooshing of the surftide upon the shingled shore. Seeing it had given him a conscious apprehension of his ancestors greatness. In his bones and switched like a light in his mind, he knew then, an immense admiration and reverence, for they who had gone before him. For they who by their trials and errors had so developed their sailing skills as to make the great saltwater expanses merely another broad river to cross, maintaining trade links that went back to the times when the first ever folk had settled these sacred isles. He felt the ancient noble spirit of his ancestors in his blood as he tasted the sea-foam, and as at last Dracon and Brinren pointed their vessel seaward and scudded her out into the swell.

And the sea-monsters that plunged past drivthning a sonorous call through watery depths, spouting thane water high. Those mountainous waves on's first journey! But Dracon and Brinren, skilled and expert at boatcraft, kept the bobbing stoll-skiff asail whiles Ly steadied himself be the hull of the water-rider, and prayed to thay gods in's lack of faith. But coasted to shoreline come they two suns after, complete, untoppled and ready to trade. Through thay Breton lands they traded, through Bayun, by the serpent Seine and all by thay neighbouring lands they took their'n wares. Through Carnac, thay myriad megalith corridors of stone, they reverent-came and traded their flints and clever-weave cloth for some new brew wine and crystal-coral. Thus did their reputation spread so they welcome received, communicating be the common store of their language, as their ancestors issued from the same root and stock.

Full two seasons had they wandered across the Great Lands, Dracon with his pipe music proclaiming their presence, diffusing any aggressive urge and signalling that they in trade'n friendship had come. In the hot southern darks they traded and be the cold climes of the north. They had forged links with thay southern-east peoples, they stoll of grist and bone where the olives and lemons grew, where islands scattered the sea before the coast of more dusty and exotic lands. The flint they traded was sharp good-rare, skilful made and sturd-druth, taking the homesteads and hev-steads be store, swamping their own packs with treasures to tell kindred come the snap of the dark-time when their sail would bow to rush before the norther winds blow.

The different shapes; new grim gods and lighter aspects that foreign folk did pledge to had intrigued Ly at first, alongside of plenty other'un. Thay red-metal rarity of an axe biting as sharp as thay flint almost. The brun bear and wolves they girt round to avoided. The star-ban boot-lan where the folk fished and ate strange pastries, honour'un the earth, tantazled be the skies, seeing but not learning the trace of the path of the celestial ones. Not understanding the pull of the greater tide as his own folk did. Advanced; superior Ly had felt - though a natural instinctive tact forbade him pressing the point with the strangers they met. There were gems they traded - pink rock and coral, special shells, bloodstone, jet and quartz, as well as new foods and strange fashioned wares to take back to thay kindred. After the harvest fall, when the air was beginning to frost, they returned after two full seasons travelling.

The folk been all quiet-like but when they came of the afternoon there was celebration and feasting called for and Ly found hisself and his companions surrounded by the pleasure on their kindred's faces. The welcome and sun-warmth they smiled from their eyes was enow to set thay heart aflame and brimful, thay spirit on a wing of joy. And aye, it had been good and lollsome wintered in with homestead kindred safe-harboured in the lee of familiar hearts and hands. All tucked up and cosied - seeing his sister, acolyte of the moon-temple grewn. They talking and walking as of old days, sate be the fire of their mutual belonging, their company being enow one for the other once more. Though on the feasting nights Ly was lured by the masked moon-maidens who set his body on fire, carved the craving for 'oomankin within him, and succoured full his physical needs.

Aye and always with his travelling betimes, Ly had kept hisself aloof from the company. Not getting close to any one beguildy-fair and not being drawn ever to the tether of man-home. He had kept himself close inside and though would smile friendly-like and dazzle'un charm fra his e'en, he would never stay long enow for intimacy much. Aloof ultimately he was - bent upon the rovers trading whiles and wanting no more ties to bind him to thay harbour of's birth.

This containment of Ly's gave him a reputation amongst the 'oomankin. Because of his battle prowess, because of the glamour of his trade and his infrequent presence, because for he was comely and stoll, adazzle and atwinkle of's e'en at times of glee, thay 'oomankin did swoonsome him and as time went on they took to pledging one to the other, each trying in their turn to bind Ly and clap him man-home and tethered. Many other'un young mensfolk stayed stoll be the hunt and the crafting; home at the homestead for many an evening. But for Ly he must let his winged soul to his freedom turned to the shoresides, the wild sides, tarrying in strangers lands, learning some more and anew. So did Ly's heart quiver like an arrow from the bow, the wanderlust steeped full within him.

Thus had Ly held himself from any intimacy with his 'oomankin. Ten, fifteen, cycles from his initiation Ly's wanderlust was joked amongst thay folk and he was renowned for a bringer of rare and unusual gifts. Precious gems, special foods and spices, reindeer hide, a copper axe head, shiny yellow embossed bowls, an ornamentation of the Great Mother. Bear he had encountered, escaped and killed. Wolves he had watched and won the pelt of; beaver and otter and hare had he trapped and killed for the meat or the hide. He had hunted auroch in plenty; red deer, roe deer and elk. He had fished salmon, trout, perch, pike, eel, crab and molluscs.

As well as his hunting skills, which were common to the kinsmen of his boundary, Ly was known as a warrior of formidable character. It was necessary he should be so, as his travels sometimes exposed him to hostility he must needs defend himself from. Four cycles from his initiation a border dispute had flared between his kindred and that of a neighbouring community. Such disputes were rare but when they flared, they flared ferocious and determined. Segwin had done all within his power to prevent the fuelling of feud but Minreeth, the headman of the neighbouring community, was puffed up as the adder and illbind to strike, assuming with his growth of numbers more, he could steal the lush stretch that had long been harvested and tilled be the company of Ly.

On the cusp of spring the battle came, the Minreeth rabble appearing massed 'ginst the skyline, a brief stride on the opposite hill. Ly could remember the tension, the fire in his belly, his prayers to the War Goddess making him immune of fear, accepting of pain and death if it should come; sure if it did he would win his place be the fireside of fame, a light in the memory of his folk, returned to the paradise of the everlasting Golden Source from which he had come and to which he would return one day, he knew. His kinsmen had not streamed, haphazard and thoughtless down the hillside, as Minreeth's foolhardy anger had spurred his mensfolk to do. Segwin advised by Onreth, suggested by Ly, had cautioned their company to split into three, two parts of their forces taking high ground and forming a kind of pincer with which to crush their assailants. But one part of their forces, the third part must needs provide the bait to draw Minreeth's forces into their well-thought trap. Ly had volunteered to be part of this "bait" force which must draw and contain the enemy until the waiting flanks of the pincer could crush the exposed opposition and vanquish them as quickly as they had come.

Ly had stood beside Kyfeth, his childhood friend, and Oneth the battle-hard and brave. As the enemy streamed towards them, Ly had opened his throat and chant-cried their blood-burning warrior's song. Upon his breast and that of those who stood with him was a skilfully woven basket tunic designed to protect them some from arrows and flailing spears. Ly's group had let fly arrows from their long bows, whilst a front line braced themselves for the onslaught. Wielding his long-shafted axe in one hand and his protective dagger in the other, Ly clashed with the enemy. Such was the ferocity with which he fought, fearless beside the seasoned Oneth, courage-giving for those of virgin battle prowess, the enemy were held and even knocked back on their heels.

Ly's movements had been so quick and so lethal none of the aggressors could get near him. So too could be said of Oneth and others alongside him. Though there were some who were felled, some who slashed and bloodied, grave wounded and gouged, must totter and fall. Their demise only spurred Ly on so that he trebled his efforts, determined to kill and wound protective of his own. His mind had been in a strangely elevated state then, the rush of adrenalin made him oblivious of the deep cut on his shoulder, oblivious of the arrow that had glanced from his thigh. All he knew was his bloodlust, the sweet satisfaction and white fire in his veins that came from cutting the enemy down and finally seeing them routed and humbled; fleeing before them, vanquished by the superior tactics Segwin had employed. Aii! And he had never felt so alive, so triumphant, so vivified, so melancholy-poignant on learning the deaths of those who had stood with him, as he had felt on that day, on the eve of their victory. Aii! he had never felt such utter sweetness, the joy of living, the sorrow of loss, as he did on that day, which came known to their folk as the battle of the Leasowe Stretch, after the piece of land that had caused the dispute.

Other times too, Ly had to defend himself, to fight in order to survive. There was the second time with Dracon and Brinren, in a dust-lush land of the east, when they'd come across a hostile folk, mistrustful and fearful of Dracon's pipe. The three of them had readied to withdraw, clear-given in their intention, but the strangers had attacked and it had taken all their sling and knife-throwing skills to keep them off and give Ly and his companions chance to escape unharmed. There was the time they had got caught up in the quarrels of a northerner folks; the time when a careless arrow had brought another battle to their homestead between they and a south-wester folk; the time when an ambush had nearly resulted in the loss of their lives but for the light sleeping and wariness of Dracon which had saved them in the nick of time. Aye there had been many tests, many escapes, many tales to savour of the telling for Ly, he who was well-known nigh on for the length of their wooded isle, as The Hawk; he of the Albion Kindred, close-named as Ly.

Standing on his hilltop, Ly reflected on all the goodness his life had held. He thought of his vantages and he thought on the sorrows that had deep-carved his being. The loss of Dracon, his early travelling companion, the death of his faither-sun, main-stoll, the bairn his moon-ma had birthed who had choked and died in the third cycle of his little life. He thought of the battles they had fought on occasions which had caused the loss of his kinsmen warriors. Aii! But life and death were all but one he knew, and the one fed into the other, so he consoled himself, philosophical and accepting, as it was the way of his folk to be. Aii! As winter followed the harvest, as snow and ice did creep against the sun, death had its timeful phase, just as in season the sap did rise and the earth gave birth to cubs and fledglings. Aye, everything had its own species of time Ly knew, as he stood pondering on his hilltop in the late afternoon sun.

He felt close to his faither-sun main-stoll up here on the tip of Corndon, for it was here that Beunyyd, his main-stoll, was buried as befitted his status and his soul-skill. The ice-time had killed him when Ly was in the far-lands. He'd been struck be cramps or some such blight, when he was part way up a rocky incline. He had been unable to stop himself falling so it seemed. His head had banged hard agin a stone, cracked'us skull, killed him fer sure. A slight encroaching weakness of age had killed him, scythed him down. His faither's bones slept in the earth now whilst his spirit made a path to the stars and his soul did cleave the two togethersome.

He remembered the shock of it on his return. His moon-ma's sagging shoulders, her red-rimmed eyes. The interrnment had already taken place, but the burial mound had not been completed. The company awaited the second son of Benyyd - Ly, he known as the Hawk - to come and share the measure of's main-stoll's death: his entry into the unity of Life, into the never-ending cycle that contained the stars, the moon, the earth, in the sun's sacred circle of light.

The company had climbed up a Corndon and stood beside as Ethreal and Old Wem led the chanting, and the sol-bearers chorused a eulogy to he of the flint-forming hand: Benyyd, with his miner's, tool-maker's skill. And the wind had whistled sharp and icy cold, like a blade against their faces, as they stacked thaise stone upon stone, and his faither's material presence was known remote and never to be more, even whiles his spirit sang to them from the soil. Ly had stood alongside his elder brother and sisters, his twin sister, Nionie, and his moon-ma, all of they teary and sorrowful, left to weep the pain away; to allow the light of the gift that was Death to chase thay gloom-shadows away.

The rest on thay company had climbed down, the temple acolytes quiet-chanting. Their company kindred went down to prepare the funeral feast, where songs and stories loved of Benyyd, the flint-knapper, rock-sturd stoll, would be sung and heard and told by all of thay gathered. The feast had been a rememberance of Benyyd, a praise of thay goodly life he had long-kind lived.

When Ly and his family had come aft away fra Corndon and down to homestead feast-hall, the company were'n all gather-red and Ly's folks were shown ways to the head-table, whereto the ale did lightensome thay's sorrow together with the kindness of the company who spoke many tales of Benyyd, stoll of the homestead kindred. The folk-songs of old were sung and his moon-ma had gone to her bed early, leaving the rest of them to listen to the songs of their ancestors, the memories and stories their faither had given'un. Ly'ud been sad-like and wearisome for days, but life went on. The pulse of it continuous, the thread of it unbroken and his faither though not evident to his eyes, he knew was part now of that Great Flow which encompassed all things.

Many times Ly'd sensed his faither be his shoulder, chiding at a bad hit, in praise at a well-flaked flint, and he would turn to find nothing but air, the wind, silence, his faither invisible now to human eye. But Ly knew his main-stoll was rich in the earth - had joined they great ancestors that had raised thay fire-star temples. Eh na! thought Ly wistful-like, that he could live and remember so well yet never touch thay dead ones that were gone from him. The barrier of death was unbreachable and yet in the dark nights, a cycle of moons before midwinter, their ceremony to the dead was enacted. Through the psychic charge on that night when all'un dead ones were called back to company to beseat and feast with'un, to bless'un and give thanks for the gifts that in life had been given; to seek their approval and blessing for new ventures undertaken - at such atimes did Ly feel his faither's close presence, and be the keening light in his moon-ma's eyes, he knew she sensed'un too. The company gather-red strength from the festival of the dead. It helped them wholesale accept what inevitably was part of life: Death - the converse equation. Death, that would claim they all in the end. The festival of the dead thus contained a deep, spiritual awe, a resonant profoundity that psychically empowered the whole company.

It was his faither's death into Universal Life that had made Ly turn his thoughts more homeward lee. His faither had died but three cycles since and his death had impressed upon Ly the fragility of human ties - the preciousness of the quantity of time allowed him.

Not only that, in the past few years there had come changes, rumours of aggressive actions, the sudden stealthily spreading novelty of the fire-metal that kirt harder and sharper than even the topmost flint. Trowe it was a wonder how the fire could soften the shiny hard stuff and make it moulded to a sharpes slicing edge he'd ever seen. In the mid Great Lands he had stood by a gathering and watched the metal crafter shape his skill. There was a rill and fervour that had gripped the folk there, and everybody who walked away from the timely demonstration knew that some great change was on the horizon.

Flint was still necessary, but Ly knew its magic was beginning to fade. He sensed this and accepted it as part of the inevitable process of life, only there was a vague melancholy in the depths of his heart that made him glad his faither was be the bones of the Earth, cradled in the womb of the Goddess, so that he was not there to experience the decline of his flint-worker status. For all'un such reasons Ly had cast his glance homeward bound much more than off, lately now.

It was Brith-na-gig who had made his mind up, clinched his thoughts and put actions to his desires and motives. Ly had held the wanderlust long, sharing the festivals of many a different homestead far and wide, in'us own land and across the Big Waters in the Great Lands. He had diddled many a dangly-faire when the festivals and fertility rites, the seasonal celebratory feasting made the allowances, gave licence to his sexual expression. In his homestead he had na clept eyes on any dangly-faire that riveted him. It was only a cycle after his faither'd died when Ly had come back from a long times journeying, trading and travelling the communication links that kept thay trade-main going. He came back just in time for the company's midwinter feastings. The joy and relief on his moon-ma's face and on that of Nionie and his other'n kindred, was starksome evident. He'd been aturn so long they'd begun to clemm that he was harmed or troubled. But no, not he, not the Hawk, he assured them, moved be the keening light that shone from many an eye.

The time for orgiastic ceremonials had come round and all thay company was dressed sharp and teasing, washed and lotioned and rubbed dry with sweet herbs for the couplings that would come later as the temple-cakes were given made from the last stook corn of the harvest - magically imbued. Ly knew that his lust, the thrust which kept life going, would be embraced and fulfilled that night. But it seemed each moment was sharpened with a new light, the pleasure more acute and made so be the long absence he'd seen away fra'us kinsfolk. He watched the festivities and participated in them as he never had done so wholly before, yet so observing-like too, outside of himself, watching the proceedings with a freshened eye, conscious of the style and aesthetic charm of the dressed festival wattle and daub hall, of the health and harmony of thay company, come kirtled in fine-woven cloth dyed in thay rich'n colours rare. After the feasting; the chanting and dancing, the magical ritualisation begun of their orgiastic energies. And company was all be-seated and the female acolytes came round with beakers of warming, intoxicant brew, distributing the temple-cakes for company's pleasure.

She had given him his beaker of mulled brew glancing quickly to his eyes and then down again, smiling and murmuring a blessing. It seemed to Ly his heart had quickened a beat as he gazed on the apparition of loveliness he'd not noticed so much but two cycles since. Now a new moon-maiden blossomed before him as soft and luscious as the golden plums given to he be his trade in the south lands. He watched her moving, bending to each of the company with a smile and a blessing. There seemed a sheen on her - as if the radiant beings had shed their twinkling luminosity upon her, surrounded her with an aura of silthful light, so it appeared to Ly's sight.

Finally she went to join the other acolytes to begin their humming chant, their ritualised dancing, whiles company began drinking of thay flesh pleasures that wrought an sexual unity, sanctioned by the high-moon priestess, embracing the urge that the Great Mother and Her God of the Green, the Horned One, had placed in them to remove all barriers for its expression. Any childer conceived on such nights and legitimised by a binding were regarded as well-favoured. If thay 'oomankin was free of acknowledged man-home, it was very rarely they would conceive. And the 'oomankin had thays secret ways for encouraging or discouraging the seed that was planted in their wombs. But no thought of faitherhood was in Ly's mind that night.

Many a masked moon-maid had come to lure Ly from the vigil of the acolytes trance-dance. But he would not be led away and ignored the body language of the masked moon-maidens. He ignored all the presences around him and only feasted his eyes on the moon-dance of the acolytes, watching she with the fiery hair, thay faire-beguildy who had caught his heart-beat in his chest of a sudden-like and dazzled his sight for long into the evening.

He had sat buzzing from the winter-wine and the temple-cakes facing the area where the acolytes were. She, his fox-coloured moon-maiden, with the form as lithsome as thay otter, as graceful as thay long-legged doe; she, absorbed the whole of his attention. She swayed and hum-chanted with the other moon-maidens. Closing her eyes to begin with she had not noticed his attentions. Then at an instant her eyes had caught his regarding her. She saw how he waved the masked moon-maiden from him so that he could watch her, bask in the sight of her!

Her eyes flashed at him as the trance-dance continued, as the moon-dance stirred their motions. Her movements were luxurious, beautifrew-sensuous, oozing the gift of her sexuality, as she breathed, as she moved, so natural, so silthful, more beautifrew-rare than any beguildy he'd set eyes on afore. She blushed at his continued focus of attention; her cheeks like rose-bloom at its soft-velvet zenith. The longer he watched her, the more her eyes were drawn back to his, the more their spirits connected, and the more her dance was exaggerated, heightened, performed for the unexpected audience instead of her own dedication to the Silver One. Her dance became ever more provocative, ever more yearning in its teasing, as if a desire for him infected her also and she danced the real, rather than the ritualised, expression of the Goddess power and sex need. Be the end on it Ly's loins were aflame with desire. He wanted thay beguildy-faire, she with the hair like autumn's leaf-fall, he wanted her as he'd never wanted an 'oomankin before.

When another masked moon-maiden came returned to try herself with Ly, he acceeded and went with her. He thrashed his love-lust out for Brith-na-gig on a moon-maid who be morning he would be untethered be. The same could not be said of she, who lived now in'us mind's eye, held in the beat of his heart. Ly did not feel untethered and free from she, as he did of the moon maid that had quenched his most immediate urge. The next day he was struck be the memory of her and took himself off to the valley where he found a piece of apple-wood to carve as a gift for'n thay beautisome Brith who had so quickened his pulse. He felt she'd infected him with a fever he'd never be free of until he had tasted the fruit of her fair form.

Later that day towards the tide of even' he clept eyes on her weaving outside the homestead of her moon-ma, Oinica. She were weaving and plaiting some rush-matting, her hair falling forwards like a sheet of silky flame in itself. He had seen her spy him from a distance and pretend an unawareness by putting her head down in apparent close concentration on her task, which Ly knew for sure was feigned. He smiled to himself his heart giving a little fillip and jump, a strange happiness surging through him. He walked over and stood right beside her until she must of necessity respond to his nearness. She had looked up at him and blushed, but nevertheless, had looked blatantly into his eyes, brazen-like and breathing quickly as if she risked danger be doing so, even though her cheeks be burning afire.

"Eh na Brith-na-gig, in trowe I've naither seen an acolyte maiden dance saa feisty and saa faire, wraithing a spell as seemed summat more'n thay reverencing of the Silver She who sheds her milky light in the night sky, na? Whey it took Ly's breath and burned him laithel-like full of fever for a stint fer sure! Thee dance was worth a favour of finest flint, a bolt o' best cloth and the rarest gems from a further shore land, whey ya right fer sure! Or my name be nether Ly nor cometimes as Hawk at all! Such silthful talent and extravagant devotion tuthee Goddess deserves some little gift or'n gesture fer sure".

Ly's eyes twinkled at her, teasing her with his words which contained a twist of sarcasm, a barb that both flattered her and revealed the fact that Ly had recognised that wayward streak in which had made her forget the duties which required her concentration on calling magic from the Goddess for sakes of the feasting and company's enjoyment. She had allowed herself to be swept along, excited by the attention of Ly and rather than losing herself in the moon-dance, she had danced to tease, to impress, to draw the blood of he who was known as the Hawk. But Ly his eyes dancing in suppressed merriment, crouched down beside her and placed on the ground before her the apple-wood carving he had spent much of the day working on.

"Mays it be happen that if Brith do accept this'n gift, if she do take it up in her'n hand to study and show liking of, maybe she should know then the price of that accepting. Fer sure Brith, I'll speak some trowe na? She, who sits all blushing and brazen afore me, has the carver's heart in the hand that she do hold his gift'un, if she's a mind to accept sa poor a gift unravelled fra a day's unreckoning na?"

Ly had squatted beside her placing on the ground before her the carved figurine of a hawk in flight. He looked into her eyes the colour of burnished beech leaves at fall-time shot with an emerald inflection - all autumn's richness of colours, her eyes, her skin, her hair. He had held her eyes with his own, and hers had sparkled their vivacity at him, astounded, delighted, devilment dancing in them intermixed with a high-strung nervousness of uncertainty. Oh how she inflamed him! Until she had turned sudden-shy like at his proximity and the intensity of his attentions, betook him her thanks, dropped her work, took up his gift and fled with it inside the enclosure of her moon-ma's homestead. Fiesty and excited she was, half-fearful too, of what the gift might portend; knowing the man, the reputation he had, the prize of many of her 'oomankin, the desire of her elder moon-sisters.

From thence onwards Ly took it to halt her with word-speak, a play of teasing words that became a tingling frisson for them both. Ly strove to be by her, to see her eyes sparkle and shine at's own, to see the luscious, lovely, curvesome birth na beauty as she was, as oft as he could engineer it. Then he left company homestead, his family and folk, to wandersome of'us trade, far and wide as it'ud always been his seasoning to tarry such-likes. But whiles he was away he held Brith in his mind like a flower, like a flame, and her image teased him and flared in his mind all the times he was by aft in the travelling line.

A summer and the game was begun again. They's took to the teasing and speaking often the one to's t'other'un, when Ly become on by. The tension between them was patent to see, and all 'oomankin watched and waited to see if Ly, the Hawk, the free bird, be tethered in manhome be Brith-na-gig come two seasons hence.

She struck out fer he. He'd never been so bedazzled be'un 'oomankin-faire before this while. He never had been so moved. She was all come seventeen - she be nineteen cycles on when Ly finally decided he mun trappple and betroth she for'us own. Ly finally decided that his heart was held fer'n home when the pull betwixt the travel and what's mun keep him be the homestead, be balanced in the latter's favour; and it were Brith-na-gig that tipped the scales in favour of'us final choice. It was she as finally decided'un, made him put up his skiff and paddle-line, his maintrade wares, fer'n the steady and season's activity tethered be a homestead aft the providesome lark for childer and a swell-bellied young'un moon-ma of'us own.

Comel a constant as opposed to a spasmodic feature of the company. Happy with'us choice yet wistful all the same, Ly dwelt upon all'n thase things that floated through'us mind-space. Be-remembered him of the past and betook him to the future-flight, settled him steady in the present at peace, at one with'un's environment, complete in hisself, only waiting for fulfilment of Brith-na-gig. It seemed she was his all 'n all to be that would put the light in the lantern of'us life, that would make'us living harvestshone-whole.

Then his mind ranged to his coming journey, and all that this last jaunt aways would mean to him.

" Feelin' that sem old fire in me veins," he thought to himself, viewing the homestead across the hilltops, sheared of trees but surrounded by wooded vales all around.

"Old Man Wem says, it will be the death of me...the return on me bones and flesh to The Mother. I say to he in turn, 'well it do got to come to all, like the coming of Ice-cold, like the drift from summer sun to Winter's rain'n dark, I says to Old Man Wem. Do got to come some time, fech for sure.

'Aye'n,' he says, in return; 'bechance it come nigh in a blinkin' tith if yon get runnin' to meet it though, stead of it comin' to thy in goodly time,' and he mutters darkly to hisself as become his way. But he do come old and crankle in his ways, though troth he is wiser and weird-like than any of ourn kin and reverenced be all'n company. Betimes he do gets to worritin some and don't let it get by yon if its clept a darksome in the skies. It be only 'cos he come fond and tithy on me that he speaks so stark.

He's afeard forn the whole on us now, he tells me when we be all on ourn lonesome abidin' distance fra the rest on company. He says our season is come to closin' time. He says winds be blowin changes that'll trammle up ourn company, cut kin fra kithin like the brown time fells leaf-flutters fra the tree-talls when the light do shrink and the cloudmass piles the sky. He says cold, cold winds of change becomin for all on us - for the Great Land 'cross the waters too, not just for this blessed island span. And he do mutter darkly to hissen,'things be worse before they cam better and a kindly light do come. Things be much'n, much'n worse before they cam better and all on us shall drop away, and the temples to The Fire-Star be old and ruinous afore the folk cam this ways agin, he do say. He's nigh on puttin the prang and felch up the whole tone on us, but fer he's wise and he keeps it close to hissen rather than mither and misery-up ourn company. And he says but little enow by troth. Its just his looks that betimes stir so darkly as if he got the keenin' light in his heart and he says not much to the rest on 'em.

Only me 'cos I stir and go and bide nowhere fer the length of a single season's span. 'Cos I be back and far'n aways agin, fra the Far Waters and The Holy Place to homestead here and up and aways sometimes before the full shift o'the moon. Cos I baint not be here all'times, he prises his husky shell and shares the heart-sore he'd never girt nor open, wi' non rest on company. He was my Pri Moon-ma's stol, so I ky girt closer by him than all the company, though he be one of The Wise Ones, with his cell all to hissen. Wey! but his heart be sight bigger than his brain, though be all his charts you could thought there'd not be a bigger.

He had his chance at the Holy Place but the nether-fare-well broght him back agin to all'n us here and my Pri Moon-ma and all them'n long anes past. Saa! I'm fond on the crankle Old Wem, forever if he's arter puttin' winds sleer through me. I knows he's all fer all our'n good - and as we work fer one, we wish it fer the all. Wey-ya rite! It all comes down'n to the Great Fire-Star, the Silver-White Moon-ma up'n above and the spirit of Erce Eorthan slumberin' deep downsides liken the Great Mother she be - wey-ya rite! It all comes down'n to that in the end and we mun give oursens up fer bad or fer glee when betimes it do come to bidin' be The Old Ones, thase Rovers as fost walked the sea-bed in seasonal times long gone by to bide be this land, this fair isle, shriftik aways from The Great Lands on a mark all its own.

Wey, its a cannily thought to me, fer the rovin' be in me blood sure as if the fost Old Rovers were me kithin and kin-come. Wey and I be arter stokin' me skiff and paddle-oar down'n the watery-ways. It's the travellin' fire neath me skin as stokes me and keeps me by off on me own'n - with no dangly-fares but the dugs o' the Great Mother to girt me when I'm coldsome and tarnish-like. She's a harsh one but she brings fair up in me the shine, the keenin' light in my heart.

Fer sure though Brith-na-gig is after stealin' that wild'n light away fra me and makin' a fire-light all her own'n there. Wey-ya but she smites me sore to heart when I catches her, fer she's a dangly-fare and a birth of beauty on her. Saa! Maybe when I comes away fra the Holy Place, maybe I's'll tether her to bide be me as my fullsworn Moon-ma and bring flesh to company as the Gold One in the skies do spring corn to swell the fields. Wey-ya rite! prater'nigh I's'll tether her be me as my fullsworn Moon-ma - though she's a feckle n' dancin' fer many I keen it in her as she holds a torch fer'n me.

'An Ly,' she says with that look in her e'en, 'Ly, thy thinks more on the starsight than fer any on yer own'n'.

Fech fer sure! Troth if I do but she be all a tops of''n any pile fer me. Sure if I won't take her birth of beauty and her soil-soothers hands, fer me own fullsworn Moon-ma come the harvest-reap when I'm home be here agin..."

He shifted in his reveries and drew a circle in the soil at his feet with his staff, and then a smaller circle joined to it as a satellite. Then he drew a larger circle round the whole with a squggly line crossing from the outside to the centre.

"Aye Brith-na-gig," he whispered aloud to himself; "come the harvest-reap I'll take yer birth of beauty and bring thy to hearth as me fullsworn Moon-ma, fech fer sure if'n I do! Thensliken we'll plant as do yer stealth-fine fingers - only the soil to be tilled'll be nont but the bounty of'n yer body!"

He smiled to himself, placed a fingertip to his lips and touched it to his heart, then to the image he had created in the soil at his feet. He got up, erased the symbols with his feet and began to make his way down the hillside, humming himself a strange old folk song, a song older than himself; one he had learned at his Pri Moon-ma's knee before he could walk.

It took him a while through the lower wooded region to get down Corndon and make his way across to Roundton, catching a hare along the way from a trap he had set earlier about. He slung the dead animal across his shoulder with a satisfied air, and strode on through the trees and up the pathwalk that led to the homestead.

Ly was a contradiction of qualities. He could maintain a stillness, a silence that emanated with the wild untamed expanses he was so accustomed to traversing. In this sense he was, and would always be, something of a loner. And yet, he also enjoyed time with the company, the merry-making and reverences that marked the seasonal turn, the movements of the constellations. He had that exuberant and questing spirit which was the defining feature of his racial kindred, a spirit which had enabled them to grasp understandings and map them out in stone, upon wood, through the virtue of their resonant voices.

And thus would they in time take those understandings to all the far-flung reaches of the globe, planting and inspiring great works which would tease the minds of all humanity in the aeons that followed. Ly held this spark within him so his dealings with all the other clan kindreds in respect to travel and trade contained a visionary zeal that the many had found irresistible in the past. He had the gypsy capacity to live for the moment whilst maintaining an animal alertness, a vigilance which had never thus far let him down. He took his meat and his company where he could, in the travel and trading times, forging an easy bond wherever he laid his bedding for the night. In the long distant past, this roving life had been a constant for his ancestors. But the spirits, the invisible ones had made themselves visible and given of their wisdom to the folk as the old legends told. So in the days Ly had been born, the skills of farming and the static homestead had been long established. This kept the many homely and to their boundaries. It had also enabled them to study the vastness of the skies and develop a lore reflective of the profoundities they strove to crystallise into thought and form.

But Ly, himself was of a certain caste of men that took it as a holy journey - the trading, the travelling - and he and his caste were the folk who kept the lines of communication going from The Holy Place, to every far corner of the isle and further across the seas. He and his caste gained expert use of the waterways, and by force of necessity they were natural masters of the paddle and the sail. Hence, they not only brought crafts and trade to a vast scope of communities, they also carried news and messages which meant they were generally eagerly received. They also performed the vital function of maintaining links and reinforcing the loose telepathic ties networked all across the land, where one community's cause or turmoil was empathised with by all to one degree or another.

It had begun with The Holy Places - places where the Great Mother gave her vibration, her energies to the soil and to the rock. Thus had sacred areas been established, decreed by the folk guided by the Wise Ones and the Listeners until temples to The Mother and The Fire-star came into being. Where Earth-energies predominated, did these temples grow aligned to significant stars, charting the pathways of the Fire-star - the gold that brought the body of the Earth alive - witnessing the growth and dwindle of the moon whose cool presence stirred magic in the hearts of the kindred.

Ly knew that from the farthest corner in the craggy North to the strange most southern tip, this influence and inspiration bound them all together, despite the diversity of clan-tribes. This was something that had transcended the old ways, elevated and close-combined the kith and kin, creating a numinosity that spread its effect globe-wide in times to come. It was also a zeal which had resided in the bones of Ly's ancestors since before the stars began, when those first Old Rovers came to claim this piece of The Mother's Glory.

Ly felt this in his bones; it was something he knew intuitively for his consciousness was still growing into the awareness of its state in relation to the whole. He was grappling towards something - grappling towards some sort of cosmic comprehension. It was there in his bones, but to crystallise it in his consciousness was still not a place he had grown to yet. He was a creature akin to his environment in the same way that the wolf throve in the forests and a cactus in the desert. Only the human predicament was filled with that contradictory chaff which has ever teased it forwards in search of the elusive, all-encompassing knowledge; the knowledge which would provide the key to the meaning of existence: the paradox of self-awareness. And this was what Ly was growing towards when he walked down from that huge hump of a hill, made rugged by the many rocky outcrops placed along its ridge. This was the source from where they took their materials to make the axes they traded as far away as Callanish and Land's End, and indeed further still.

There was a mission air about Ly as he strolled onwards along the wooded valley. He had considered his position and he had worked everything out. He had sold his Rover's soul to the birth of beauty that was Brith-na-gig with her feisty hair and comely body. Where did this feeling come from that made him want to bide by her? Why did it contradict his every stollen manly impulse? Why did it infect him with a desire always to be about her when previously the Paps of the Great Mother had been all-come his yearning. Now, though there had been many a dangly-fair savoured in by-roads, the vale-roads, the secret roads; though there had been many to bed na for a while and so it could go on, yet he had a yearning for this one lassie, this one dangly-fair who touched him at his core. Ly could no more fathom where this grand passion had sprung from, than he could fathom what made the stars flicker and change position in the deep velvet space of the night. She had just seemed to scoop him up so he had developed this need to leave all his ramblin' rovin' days, to leave the vast curves of the Great One for a mini-paradise all his own.

He was a torn man. He could not reconcile either inclination - yet he wanted both. But no, it had to be a stark choice and in his mind upon the hilltop wherein he had shaped all his earth-born, star-born desires, he had made his choice. He had decided to relinquish the wilding part of himself as if it was a fervour of his age, rather than his essence and blood as he knew it was.

Yet this Brith-na-gig she was such a lolly, such a fair dangly, as ever had the Mother of All Beauty birthed. With her dark red hair and her burnished-brown green e'en, her rosy charms and untamed bird-free soul she was liken to the perfumed flower which grew in the middle of the thorny forest, a glittering jewel in the midst of a sharp entanglement of scrathes and snaggle-traps; thus was she. And yet, did his spirit set up a resonance with hers that set him all of a tingle, matching the fire of his travelling ways.

So it had gone on until Ly had had to admit to himself he had a yen for this brazon dangly-fair; he had a keening in the heart no matter that he tried to ignore it or put it from him. As Old Man Wem had said, when there's a keening in the heart, there's as wild as ever shall betwixt and between. Ly couldn't help agreeing in sympathy. He had come to a peculiar conscious state of degree - understanding that for some strange feeling, one which came from who knows where, he was giving up his yip and his yen. He was giving up his travellin' wide and long, his taken 'venture where it's stored in the wild-ways, the green-ways, the silver-water-ways.

He was giving up the tarry and tether be tree brether, in golden sight of sun, before the swollen moon's soft glow, the swoosh and tang of the oceans and all across the moors where the starsight showed him the map of the heavens. That map caused by the tread of thay Ancients with wingwed feet, imprinting messages in the dusky blue for all the kindred to fail or to fathom. The starsight above was all their soul-source and mystery, and it was all this Ly seemed to be saying for never and a nay to. All this he was giving up to bide be Brith-na-gig, she of the fire-falling hair, the may-blossom cheeks, the eyes so vivid and flashing as green as the leaves of the summer oak trees, as coppery-shine brown as the beech-fall leaf, and that comely form which was as lithsome as an otter and as elegant as the deer that grazed midst the woody glades.

For this smiting, keening feeling in him he were to wed the shores of the land and no longer ferry for the margins as hinter wild as wing span of hawk or fleet foot of stag. Now he would bide be the homeland , sticking as he'd been bided to please 'cos as a strange spirit in him wilt to him he would. Though he was here now, all he knew was for his ancestor's roving spirit that he had strong in his veins; he would take himself off to the Holy Place, see the Great Lands once more before he bided be homeways and this Brith-na-gig that he couldna get all of at once for all but that he did.

That choice had brought him to a peculiar state of knowing. It brought him to stand outside his experience and view it from the strange position of audience to the main affair, noticing in reflective way, the little familiar actions, the sight of the Homestead, good kith and kin to bide be that warmed the vitals in the veins, like the slouch of stonsy ye'd had thrice skin-filled all on an empty belly. That too, love of the kindred and homestead, was in his blood just as was the rovin' vein, and constantly he tripped the two and could never make up his mind between the twain. Only now it seemed he had. He - the Hawk - had descended to barter skiff and trade his sail and paddle for a Moon-ma! Fech fer sure - all of it was not what he'd had in his reckoning!

But it wasn't just that he knew. It was straight and true as an arrow to its target, what Old Man Wem hinted to Ly. For Ly himself had seen the changes when the new shiny stuff from the Great Lands had come over and now a many of companies far and wide would give na to learn the hot-hard metal forged in the ath-fire, magicked into shape, rather than keep to the flint-stone that'd worked them well all til nigh. Ly was discomforted by the changes he saw taking root and enveloping the country. It was another reason for his decision. He had seen his trade lessening. Company he had come by would rather trade a tither of corn or even a best moon-ma beasten for the metal fang. They had begun discovering sources anew near their homesteads, so there had been a gradual decreasing necessity for the flint-axes he brought them. Flint axes that had been made with his instinctive feel and reverence for the substance he worked - his harmony that was a kith and kinship melding with the life of the stone.

To him the stone had spirit, as did the rock-face, and only by biding by the rules of reverence he employed did he achieve his craftsmanship. He spoke to the stone as he worked it in his gutteral ath-na-bin language. But lately, more and more of the folk were turning to this new creation that brought dim-spoke rumours of fight and fear from the Great Lands. He sensed it was a source unstoppable and much as he loved his gypsy-tangle roving ways, loved the flint he worked, he had begun to feel his years, as his reputation had ceased to spark quite the same interest in these new times they were coming to. It would have made him worrisome, but that his travelling soul could never lilt on the side of the dark and the death for long - for in his stalwart pragmatist way, he instinctively recognised to do so would serve no purpose. So he had come to his decision and the lot that life had drawn for him. He felt an impulse more and more to be with the Fire-Star Temple - a yearning for the stone infecting him as of something almost lost.

Yet as this was to be his last long travel he could not help giving himself up to the secret fire it stolled in him, the pleasant fizz of excitement in his veins with a last return to the wild old ways. He hugged the decision he had made to himself and looked for Brith-na-gig as he came into the boundary walk. The stretch of corn on either side, though not expansive, gave the impression of being so, because it was so tall, growing to the height of Ly's shoulder and shading the path from the lowered sun.

There was a rustling in the corn on his righthand side. Immediately Ly froze and turned in readiness either to spear a beast or to fend off an unknown assailant, though such a thing would be unlikely. He acted instinctively, from long habit, like a viper-come hawk, ready to trap or dispatch what lay in his path. But he relaxed when Brith-na-gig came through the corn, her hair on fire from the setting sun, taking Ly's breath away for a split second with the beauty of her.

"Did Ly think I become as assassin to smote him down a peg or two - na if Brith could fer sure she would!" The girl's husky voice intoned to him. Her voice of autumn mellow, so full and rich, like her scent, like her body, fullsome and rich.

"Fech fer sure Brith would if she'd hachna hand to - be rights!" joked Ly, accustomed to keeping his feelings inside himself, effecting ease in his ever-worldly way.

"But Ly here reckons on fettlin' a bit more yonder and ferrying out to rove whenever the mood does clept him. Not be tethered like a tottie be a bank with no wind to take him lee-side nor sound-side. Is that how Brith'd have it? Aye, fech fer sure, I bet!" Came back his jaunty cry, that brought the accustomed banter between them.

Ever since her blood had come she was as lush as a golden plum and all the menfolk's prongs had hied for a diddle, and pledged to barter when the tuppin' time came. She'd a merry in the heather lark fer now and agin but she hadna settled on either one nor all and Ly knew she was waiting fer him to come round to her. Hence the banter that had begun when she'd bloomed like the wild flowers up the folly, swellin' out in paps and rump-round, fer all the menfolk sent a grindled and a raunchy on sight of the brazer lassie. She'd tried this tack and that tack but met her match with Ly and though she were stunning lovely, that sent n' all bewilderin', and though she was more birth of beauty than any beguildy he'd seen or heard tell, Ly was a man who kept his wits. But fer his wild n' roving trade she'd never have come by to him. But fer his coaxing her to the line as he did to the fishy in the brack and many a beguildy before Brith-na-gig, but fer the silent aura that gave him a singular status amongst the company, she'd have taken an ath-ra to bine and turned moon-ma fer another this longest while. But Ly with animal confidence, knew she would wait fer him - in which besides he loved a wild cat 'ooman and he didna dither with soft dangly-fare until he'd brought her all feisty to boil.

"Ly should bide be the now, fer Brith-na-gig be gettin' weld and wankle waiting fer Ly to turn homestead bound," she looked at him from beneath her lash-dusky lids. "Ursen Horn brether be makin' me matey and urgin' to feather me a nap. Maybe Brith be tired and tenty of waitin' on Ly's time. Maybe Brith'll be a moon-ma fer Ursen be the time Ly's returned fra the Great Lands, maybe this'n time Ly'll have tarried once too long".

But Ly was too certain of himself to be disconcerted by the import of her words. He knew it was a ruse to make him decide either one way or the other, so he replied: "Brith knows that Ly be her ath-ra man-home and will bine beguildy when he's ready an' all".

But rather than passify Brith, this comment of Ly's only served to provoke her further.

"Mebe, be the time Ly's ready to bine, Brith-na-gig shall be twicefold moon-ma and taken to another fer man-home, before Ly's back or afore he's blinked again. Mebe Brith-na-gig man-home is no fettle fer Ly in his rovin' fine," she said accusingly.

Ly fer devilment sought to needle her further with an implied flaunting of the tribal taboo which was the bedrock and glue of the whole company.

"Mebe Brith will merry in the heather lark fer Ly to take her to moon-ma without a bine!"

But he discovered he'd nettled her too much and she flew at him, like a tigress spitting fire, her hair, a banner of ruddy flame. Her lithe comely body was bent on scratching or biting or kicking the man called 'The Hawk' who toyed with her feelings in this way. Although there was much unrestricted carnal activity, the beliefs of the culture were such, that 'ooman would only conceive, if she bine be a partner and proffered be the Fire-star temples, which was practical and protective at the same time. It salved any wrangling and kept the company gentlemel. For a 'ooman to conceive without a bine was deadly bad favour and was not rent be any kith and kin come far nor wide. Hence Brith's reaction.

But Ly was not called 'The Hawk' fer nothing, and with lightning responses in a moment had dispossessed her of her strength and dignity as she stood pinioned against him, glaring up at him, contained but not subdued, by the wild light of anger in her eyes. But Ly bent his lips to her and though she strove to turn hers away from him he found them and married their mouths and tongues atwain. Until she bit him, so sparked himself, he tossed her in the corn and let his hands all over her dangly-fare, pinning her arms still and lying across her so she could only be resistless. And when his mouth was on her paps and her belly and tuckled for the fathom that sent all menfolk rangy, and her body was something soft and pliant, the sap in her veins rising, like the need of spring to bud and then bring fruit. And the bucking and tenseness were all melted away so he knew she wanted him to come-fill her, he let her go.

He watched her assemble her frayed emotions, grinning, but in that momentary adjustment she tried to kick him again before running away all in a huff. It was this fire-formed spirit in her that he loved as much as the beauty that was so renowned. As she turned he was too quick fer her and corrodled her as she tried to run. He clept his hands on her round haunches trying them fer size, his lean hard arms encircling her waist and keeping her close-by him, rubbing her V with rough art.

"And how'd it be Brith-na-gig if I took you to moon-ma, now, this night, fer only the birds and the Listeners to see? How'd it be Brith-na-gig if I took you to moon-ma now and again in the harvest time on my return fra rest of kith'n company? Would that fettle your like pleasing?"

She softened to him some, but still struggled against him, knowing in her 'ooman's way that such struggle strangely pleased him, until in a sudden urge of passion Ly quieted her. His feelings had suddenly got the better of him, what he felt fer her, the fact that he was going on the rovin' trade one more time, the momentousness of the decision he'd made, reduced his usual reserve. His lips met hers most hungrily with a hitherto unknown, though long-suspected passion, that took Brith-na-gig's ready breath of inspiration away. She was melting immediately and taxing to his purpose, undulating beneath him with a fiery tingling sensation, neither she nor he could resist. Until now he had only teased her with his passion. Now with his heart on wing, her body felt like the treasure store of Earth, to be plundered, savoured, worshipped all at once.

"Brith, Brith," breathed Ly; "Brith be Ly's moon-ma now, this night, and Brith be Ly's moon-ma come harvest time, her man-home come full tethered then, if such be her choosing," he murmured into her hair, drowning his face in that richness.

She shifted beneath him and indicated with her body and lips, with her shining eyes, how she felt about that. She too had held her bounty from him but now with those words, that promise from his lips, the barriers were all but broken away. She'd never known Ly like this before and she was swept away by the strange electric feeling that roused her and infilled her - as it did him. They snook further into the corn and there, in the evening light amidst the Earth's aroma, the scent of the corn, the fragrance of wild flowers that drifted from the edges of the field, there they expressed this new feeling fer each other in animal abandon. When it was over they lay for a while stunned and warm and indolent with the knowledge of their new-expressed feeling and the bond that had only just been confirmed a certainty.

After a while of lying together so, Ly shifted. "Na Brith, let's the baith on us go ways to the Fire-star temple to make offering to thaim Gods as do bless us."

"Brith be Ly's moon-ma and she do follow'n wheresoever Ly abide, now he done tethered as bine," she smiled up at him, the keening light shining in her eyes.

They went then, the two of them, back down the hill, through the wooded valley beneath until they walked an avenue of stones towards the temple that was their destination. Soon they came to a circle of 17 tall rough-hewn stones. At the entrance, two Listeners sat weaving mats, keeping the great stones company and their flint markers ready to etch a symbol for the sun's passage on the wooden board before them. The temple was a sacred place but all of the company could go and stay by there, when they so chose. The two old women nodded their heads in greeting but did not speak, as words within the vaunted arena were counted unnecessary.

They watched though, as Ly and Brith, hand in hand threaded through the stones, as if the action of weaving thus, would prove the binding power that would keep their union strong and fruitful. Three times they circuited the stones in this manner before stopping at the largest of the stones, behind which the mass of Corndon rose up. They faced each other with both hands linked, while the megalith stood tall between them.

"Moon-ma mine, man-home become," Ly intoned.

"Man-home mine, moon-ma become," Brith replied.

"In troth, thrice bine, fra now til harvest and all'n season cycles done, we come, we come, and look to the Fire-star fer our'n favour. Bring the blessing we'm now begun," whispered Ly.

"Aye, bring the blessing we'm now begun," echoed Brith.

Then, leaning around the stone they kissed each other, first on one side of the stone, then on the other and then back again for one more time. Ly cut off the front paw of the hare he carried, whilst Brith tied a piece of corn around the bloody tip and wove some flowers she had picked along the way up the stem of the corn. They placed their offering on a specially cut shelf in the stone and gazed upon it, with a silent prayer in their hearts.

They walked back to the entrance then, where the two old women crinkled their faces in smiles and one of them, she known as Runya, spoke at last: "Be feastin' be company afore the white one shows her face eh Ly? Eh Brith? Crackin' the honey-ale early like it seems, na?"

"Fech fer sure! maissn' Runya, but full blessing time be harvest on Ly's return. Fer now, we bine be the Fire-star's favour, just the baith on us with maissn' Runya and maissn' Deesel as witness to see"

"Aye 'n may's the bright ones bless the baith on yer afore the harvest feast's begun!" twinkled the old Listener known as Deesel.

"As bounty's given so shalt it reboun, fra the heart to thinen baith," beamed Brith in her turn.

"Mellily now, aways til feastin' time this night - the keenin' light be too bright to bear fer such old'n crankle likes as we'm. Aways, aways 'n leave we'm to the dusk of the Fiery One's dimming, na!" Cautioned the bent old Runya, while Ly and Brith, thus sent upon their way, smiled some more and waved a hand as they retraced their steps through the avenue of stones.

They walked through the wooded valley and up the steepening incline towards the homestead. They talked but little as they walked and yet their closeness was apparent by their proximity. They parted with a clinging kiss just before Brith left to help with preparations for the feasting that night. They promised to meet again later, before Ly rested for his early start away the next day.

Ly walked around the perimeter of the central homestead. Inside the wooden stockade were a series of round wooden huts which made up the dwellings. There was a central fire in the arena at the centre, and some goats and rangy fowls clucking around. Close by this fire was the main hall where all the company gathered come feasting time. This was a large wooden building insulated by the accustomed wattle and daub method. A variety of activities were under way. Some young 'uns were squatting near naked by the fire playing with some sticks in the dust. An old woman sat and turned a young boar on a spit above the main fire. The boar had been caught the previous day just for this evening's feast. Men and women crouched or sat on blocks of wood, embarked upon various activities. There was weaving and spinning and sewing of leather using needles made out of bone, under way. Some of the men sat carving wood or stripping and sharpening pieces of bone and flint for practical uses. Various foods were being prepared and cooked round smaller domestic fires. The women wore simple cloth shifts tied at the waist by a belt.

Because it was warm, they wore little else, their capable fingers working their wares; pounding grain, peeling root crop, stripping herbs and flaking them into earthen ware bowls. Some kneaded a dough mixture to be baked in the clay ovens devised for just such a purpose, while others mulched a vegetable starchy mixture and shaped them into small round pieces to be cooked on a griddle above the fire. Some of the men prepared an arena for the feast that would come later; to wish Ly and the other traveller-traders well, to bring fortune to them along their way.

The feast was in their honour and there would be many a skinful of the dark strong beer they made to fire their blood for the dance and the drums. On occasions they would imbibe their choicest bitter-bite - a filtered mesh of a special plant that took them into trance and produced a shamanic effect, which Ly had first been introduced to on his initiation. In this way they sought to link with the animal spirits, whose material forms provided them with a sustenance and bounty they could not do without. During these shamanic journeys, they sought directions for their hunting, sought for new wisdoms and understandings to expand their experience of living.

They took their signs from the visions of their dreamscape and thus became travellers of the astral. Uninhibited by any limiting mind-sets, they discovered things naturally and experimented with an all-embracing interest. The bitter-bite had long been part of their culture - it gave them wings to far off places they might otherwise never have perceived or been aware of - though their resourceful and inquisitive spirits made them quest from shore to shore, learning through the Trade Main, of other lore, other customs and ideas, alongside the celestial intuitions.

Ly circled round the outer perimeter. He kept away from the main thoroughfare, moving towards a small hut set away from the other homesteads as something of an off-shoot. The entrance was concealed by a hanging of heavy cloth. Ly pushed it aside and went in. Old man Wem was at a sturdy wooden work table where he was in the process of etching symbols on a tablet of wood. It was time of full moon and as was his custom, he recorded it on such tablets along with other signs and symptoms of significance as he saw it. He was a tall lean grey haired man; his hair and beard were long and flowing and added to his air of other-wordliness. He wore a long deep-red gown over the top of a shift, and hung around his neck on a leather thong was the tooth of a bear. The tooth was etched with a black spiral.

Old man Wem looked up from his activities and grunted a response to Ly's presence, indicating he sit on the stool that was stored beneath the table. Ly pulled out the stool and sat down.

"An' how be it with the traveller then? The Hawk is to make his sojourn whatever'um in the stars to say nay - is that it?"

"Wey ya right, Old man Wem knows. Ly's strikin' out fer the Great Lands and The Holy Place one more time," Ly responded resolutely.

"One more time?" Old Man Wem looked at him keenly. "Ly's decided then," Old Man Wem said in his deep sotto voice.

That was why Ly appreciated his company so much - his very quietness taught him worlds and he would always came away thinking more clearly, feeling enriched somehow after being by Old Man Wem.

Last time, Old Man Wem had said he had seen darkness shrouding Ly's choice to remain a trader and traveller. He had urged him to take note of it. But Ly had the Old Rover blood in his veins and his spirit had risen up in him at the thought of being permanently tethered to one region - even though his company was here and he always came back anyway.

Ly had stalked out and since that night, had kept away. But he had pondered the words and ways of Old Wem, and now with the continuing allure of Brith-na-gig, he had reconciled himself to go one more time, and then to stay. This was the first Old Man Wem had heard of his decision. Typically in his way he took it quietly.

"So Ly mun go one more time afore his rovin' days be over? Ly mun needs frith the travellin' trade once more - be that it?" asked the old man.

"Wey ya right fer sure. Old Man Wem knows as much as Ly. Ly's abirthed with Old Rover in his blood and if Ly's to be tethered and taken to man-home, then Ly mun walk the wild way one more time afore he settles his nest fer steady," came Ly's explanation.

Old Man Wem sighed and put his hand over Ly's which were clasped together before him. "May it go'm well with thee Ly. May it all come fruitful as kine do thee deserve"

Ly was surprised by this unwarranted show of affection from a man who kept himself so much in reserve yet gave all the same, and somehow provided a tonic, a focus for thought. In response, he himself was moved to sit in silence. Old Man Wem's keen eyes picked up on a strand of gleaming red hair stuck to Ly's shoulder, where Brith's head had but recently rested.

"Ly's made'm choice in one ways or another then - be Brith-na-gig come moon-ma bide be harvest time fer sure?" Old Wem questioned, his sharp eyes probing Ly's own.

Even Ly - The Hawk - was astonished by Old Man Wem's perspicacity. How could he hit the haft so smartly and so adroitly on the head? Though Ly knew Old Man Wem had watched and noted his social connection with Brith and the sparky teasing between them, there had been little enough said about her between them. So now Ly was stunned that Old Wem had forseen the intimate timing of events before Ly had even spoken of it.

"Old Man Wem's as keenin'm sight as the Fire-star hisself - Ly should say. Fech fer sure an' all!" Ly said jocosely in his astonishment.

Old Man Wem smiled. "She's a plum-bloom beguildy as ever was fair - in Ly'speak - fech fer sure, Old Man Wem says so!"

Ly threw back his head and laughed. As he did so a momentary expression of dark foreboding filled Old Man Wem's face as he looked at Ly, though he immediately reflected Ly's mood when their eyes met again, so Ly had no hint of the clouds that had arisen in this enigmatic old man.

"Old Man Wem hopes all comes to boon and shine fer Ly - Ly knows. Company'll bide be harvest time and await Ly's recall - 'll be merry welcome fer The Hawk then as ath-ra to Brith-na-gig, moon-ma with the majesty of The Mother Herself"

"A bounty on the heart fer all the well-wishing but Brith and Ly be fostin' bine this day afore the Fire-star'd fell'd - though at harvest-fall we'm call fer whole company's blessing fech fer sure!" Revealed Ly for the benefit of Old Man Wem.

"Ist' even so? Ly be as swift as flint-sharp to its mark when his mind is set to target! Na? Weel, Old Wem hopes as the Gold One gives full fruit come by harvest-fall 'special fer Ly's return eh?" Responded Old Man Wem.

Ly looked into Old Man Wem's wise brown eyes and felt his eyes own to water with emotion. He held out his arm for Old Man Wem, who responded to the gesture, clasping Ly's forearm as Ly clasped his, pulling each other close in a brief hug and gesture of affection.

"Ly'll bring plenty of gleesome'n rare, plenty of booty fer'n all the company to 'aaah' at, come corn-cutting time. Something special fer the Wise One, na? Old Man Wem shall see," stated Ly with conviction.

"Ly mun just needs take care'n hisself and bide on his wile and his wit to tarry him home come harvest moon," said Old Man Wem soberly.

"Fech fer sure. The Hawk is ever on the poise. Ly watches his carcass as constant as the shine on the Gold One, Old Man Wem knows," Ly responded with instinctive arrogance.

"Goodly and gange-tines as ever Ly, surely do this old heart hope so. Just wishing thee weel and wholesun, Lyone, thee as is commonly clept The Hawk. Weel and wholesun and home-come in hervest fer feasting such as The Hawk has never known. Company'll be givin' favour to that, Ly'll see!"

Thus saying, Old Man Wem provoked a cheerful mood which equated with Ly's own elevated high spirits. His heart was revelling in the memory of Brith-na-gig and his soul was stirring with the notion of the waterways travel, the treking across the wilderness expanses. Old Man Wem rose to the occasion and did not seek to dampen Ly's mood.

"Fech fer sure - come corn-cutting time Ly'll be ready to bide be tether as ath-ra'm riches as fullsome as The Great One Herself. What'll Ly care then fer the wild-ways? But Ly's a mind to take one last look at the Holy Place afore he settles his skiff on the shore and traces the path home-bound ever more," said Ly, making clear his motives in a moment of transparency.

Old Man Wem's eyes glinted the warmth of humour back at him. He strode to some shelving at the back of the room, produced a flagon of harsh spirits, a beverage that stung the back of the throat and warmed the belly and given the name of ath-flux. Old Man Wem produced two beakers and filled them half full of the ath-flux. They both knocked a draft back in a practised rapport of ritual. Then they got talking about the words on the water-ways, the rumours of blood-shed, the considerations of the community.

But the sun had set and dusk had come, and Ly had a few things to prepare before the feasting began. So he left Old Man Wem after a long searching look and a warm grasp of the arm.

Ly walked away from Old Man Wem's boundary and towards where he and his companions had a shelter left for such travellers as they. Ly had long since left his moon-ma's domain, and though he had not bined nor been ath-ra until that very evening, he had a stead of his own because of his roving tithe. He shared this stead with the other menfolk who were also part of the Trade Main.

When he entered the hut, Frenra was plucking some strings on a round drum that kirt it an om. He was plucking and singing an old story in lilting rasping melody, so that Ly felt compelled to strike up the chord too. This was his companion - a quick dark man with lightning thoughts and tongue, who joked all the while yet who kept his quiet and could bide his time like a rar'un stoll. There was Ly, Frenra and Brinen who kept by there. Frenra and Brinen were his travelling companions on the roving while. The one, quick and dark and ready to wit with the fingering minstrel all the while. The other was large and silent and listening to all. Staying silent much of time, but adept with his hands and profound when he spoke his steady thoughts. His hair was light and his eyes were more green than brown which set him off the ordinary strain straight away. He was placid, but with a steady dark energy that only needed rousing before it took root and flamed to a life all its own. Unassailable, when he chose to be. He was larger than most folk, a giant of a man and by virtue of this was rarely challenged, but kept quiet like all his travels.

Brinen lay on his bed rattling stones in his fist and casting them down every so often to read their import, note the pattern of their fall. Frenra was plucking the strings of the drum, dark, small and mercurial, moving his hands and making a melody that made Ly want to move his feet, tap about, sway his rhythm for the last far-flung rite. Brinen nodded to Ly whilst Frenra smiled and continued his refrain. Ly grunted and set to checking the wares that he would take with him to trade and barter with. Then he too lay down on his own sleeping place, a mattress made of heather and hay, covered with animal skins and a length of fine-spun cloth, to listen to Frenra's tune and hum along to it, his thoughts dwelling on Brith-na-gig and the coming journey.

Pretty soon there was a whole hum beginning in the company. In the central hall, boards of wood rested on blocks had been brought out. On this tressel were brought all manner of vittles in readiness. The childer were chivvied midst the home-space and the adults and near adults came out to gather round the fire, set the feast and assemble the company. Elegantly crafted clay beakers in unique design were placed upon the tressel alongside flagons of beer and skins of more such brew. There were bowls of meat and platters of fresh-baked bread. There were griddle-scones and bowls of fresh greens, nuts and root-crop as well as the central boar that had been roasted on the spit for most of the day. Hanks of this were hewn to be spread amongst those gathered. All set to in the feasting, picking up the meat with their fingers, tearing the bread to sop up the juices, quaffing the brew and growing riotous all the while.

Ly found himself sat, of a sudden, be Brith-na-gig and the evening flamed into beauty beside him as it seemed all he ever wanted and all he had ever gained was contained in that moment. He, the Hawk, on his last journey hither to the mystery of the Holy Place and the Great Lands. One of the last old travellers - part of a fading line. Even then he knew it. But beside him was Brith-na-gig, with her flaming locks, her dangly-fare, so scrumptious and rich and ripe - her curving lels and soft smooth dander. The evening seemed to phosphoresce - just he and her with her laughing smile, her tempting brown-green eyes. Never a one like she thought Ly. The Holy Mother comes in every shape and size, his realism told him, but Brith-na-gig is Goddess manifold, by her beauty she is some sort treasure and the one who has, receives the sublime. Such is how Ly felt beside Brith. She had become his mini-paradise to take the place of the larger scale wilderness he travelled and felt akin to.

When the company was taken over with word-bandies and laughter, Brith and Ly conspired to slip away, for their blood was fevered and stirring and must needs have expression. They found a nook away from the noise and there coupled their souls and bodies again, as if confirming the bond that Ly had made known to Brith that day.

The river snaked before them glistening and irridescent in the early morning light. The skiff swept steadily along, flowing with the current and travelling south. For a few hours the three men, Ly, Brinen and Frenra, travelled thus, pacing themselves and continuing with an unspoken understanding before a ready made clearing on the bank evidenced a roughly made infrequently used stopping place. With a nod Ly indicated they head towards it. Near the bank they jumped out of the boat and pulled it up onto the inlet, part way out of the water. Ly fetched a cloth bag from his boat and a container of water. They sat awhile partaking of the seasoned meat and bread and swigging from the flagon in turn. Because it was late spring and unusually warm that day, there was no need for a fire; it was simply the welcome respite from moving the paddles and guiding the boats they needed.

After a short rest they set off again, continuing along their route flanked by the swell of the verdant wilderness on each side, passing from time to time the known trading posts and riverside dwellings long known to them. They did not stop though, being intent on reaching The Holy Place before dusk. A nod or a raised hand acknowledged the greetings called out to them, or confirmed the friendly disinterest of those who watched them by. Mainly, it was the burgeoning green that avenued their passage along the wide river's way. Blossom dripped from encroaching trees, the white of cow parsley and hemlock bunched from time to time upon the bank; yellow celandine sprang up, wild violets and dog roses where a web of bracken had gained a foothold. The Earth was sprung to life, bursting into the zenith of its first seasonal fullness all around them. The air was rich with its fecund aroma. Travelling along in accustomed silence Ly looked about him and appreciated the aesthetic quality of the sunlight which ravished the greenery, and highlighted the poetry of the floral displays.

And every flower was she he had left behind warming a place in his heart, and every dripping frond and blossom froth was a reminder that he would not come this way again, in such a season, at such a time. Every diverse shoal they passed, each familiar trading bank reminded him that this was the last time he would spend him in this pursuit. And it was as if because of the impending changes to his circumstances, everything had been brought fully alive, sprung into relief by his own intensity of experience.

The sun had gradually lowered in the sky having reached its zenith earlier in the day. The sounds of the forest changed to a lazy hum, the quietitude of a somnolent afternoon. Presently they rounded a bend in the river and in the distance they could see an inlet, and some yards from the bank, a tall wooden watchtower. As they approached closer a broad avenue was discernable, leading off across the terrain which had transformed to grasslands, and in the distance, to sectioned stretches of corn and wheat. A number of skiffs and larger vessels were harboured in the small but effective inlet close by the watch tower. As they drew their boat up beside the tower, some fishermen along the bank raised their hands to the newcomers and the watchman of the tower came down to greet Ly and the other two men.

fms panzerfaust
Monday, July 18th, 2005, 12:46 AM
"Swailth! How goes it rover-stoll folk? Be the Hawk, na? And Brinen the bearkith eh? And a new companion I'll be bound, least so's fer'n my poor eyes being bound fer'n a goodly while. Greetings to all'un!"

"Na Kyrren, greetings returned. This here be Frenra, whose song-charms be famed fer'n far and wide and whose fingers do struddle up a tune on the pipe or stringed drum that sure does ketch the keening light from even the heart of rock!" Joked Ly, grasping the hand of Kyrren to return the friendliness apparent. Kyrren was a squat dark-haired barrel-chested man whose duty it was to monitor the comings and goings at this well-known harbour, and relay information to the main homestead way off and further inland. Brinen followed Ly's gesture whilst Frenra, pleased and laughing at Ly's introduction of himself, nodded his head in friendly manner and let Ly make the usual arrangements as regards the mooring of their boat. This being quickly done, the three travellers took their leave of Kyrren and walked up the well worn trackway that took them inland and towards the boundary of The Holy Place. They took the scantest of provisions with them and the goods that they hoped to trade either here or across the Big Waters, and which were too precious to leave unattended in their moored vessel.

They walked the well-known route in silence, even Frenra, who was the most locquacious of the three of them was come mute and thoughtful in the approach to the special place. After a short while of walking, the famed avenue could be discerned in the distance.

Ly felt the old familiar tingling at the sight of the avenue. He always felt a sense of stillness and power reaking from the landscape when he approached The Holy Place - the temple that was a source of awe and inspiration to all peoples of this Land; an influence that spread further into the Great Lands, where their own uniqueness was respected and revered despite the ebb and flow of the warring factions. Such fighting had not been the case in Ly's country-land, on any kind of scale for a long time. There were occasional battles and clashes, as their own battle of the Leasowe stretch was testament to, but ever since the time of Vision, peace and co-operation had been the guiding principle in their dealings with each other.

The Grand Endeavour, the Great Works had brought their fore-fathers and fore-mothers together in one numinous sweeping fervour, dictating their actions thus for centuries to follow. Their legends, their oral history told them of a time of light when inspiration had been given by agents of the Earth Goddess, by messengers from the stars. The knowing of the motions of the radiant ones, of the phases of the moon and the passage of the sun had come to they, and the gathering times had been begun amidst circles crafted from tree brether. But in time the gift of stonework had come more pronounced and they honoured their dead with massy monuments to house their spirits that would still watch over them, though their flesh had come to empty shells. Having perfected their temple-charts of reverence in wood, the immutability of stone drew them into the zealous activity which had erected such elegant, grand and impressive sculptured temples all across the island. The Holy Place was the apogee, the crowning principle of all that elan which had provoked the raising of these temples of stone, demonstrating their consumate skill-mastery of that substance.

Now it was true, for the most part, they lived relatively peacefully, bartering and exchanging, integrating with and learning from each other, sharing their discoveries and their allegiances. They recognised themselves as part of the cosmos from which they had been spawned, and they observed the changes of the seasons and the stars, reading signs and forming frameworks for their understanding. The Earth was the Mother of them all, and she was scattered with guardians and spirits that tended her flame and brought it thither. The Sun was their God; their source of light and life. The stars were their magical scripts, enigmas of brilliance that stretched their senses and brought them in tune with their surrounds - enhanced a harmony of understanding that tied them together with their missions and their aspirations.

Thus before Ly's time, the whole of the communities in the surrounding area had been brought together to accomplish these feats of gravity and granduer. The very excess of the effort required, the long years of digging and preparing the area was evident in the monumental achievement of the raised immense stones. The stories had come down to Ly: the gathering of the first huge stones, the magnitude of labour, the focus of magickal energy required to achieve the renowned feats of precision. Thus had all the stones been erected, impacted and strenthened, aligned as intended. The whole of the company, island over, swelled in their hearts towards their achievement.

And so had it been from generation to generation, the stone-workers guiding their action, the Wise Ones plotting their course. The graves of their ancestors bones were monuments all around the huge temple, signifying as procreators of what had been assembled. The white chalk tops of the graves glistened in the sunlight, striking the eye with brilliance when the sun was at its height, a radiating reminder in the long afternoon, a muted gleaming presence in the softness of the moon. The whole of the company knew that the spirits of their ancestors slept in the Earth and nourished their endeavours still.

Or at least they had known up until now. Now it seemed gradually, incontrovertibly, that their influence was waning and something new, exciting and dangerous was coming to light. There was some distinction of pride taking root where the new unearthed metal, baubles of the rare gold and amber, were all the company seemed to desire. Ly had sensed this new, rapacious-like fervour stealthily growing amongst the company. Nothing obvious or extreme but there nevertheless. Ly had sensed these changes last time he came about, only this time they seemed almost tangible. Some nuance in the air infected him, some air of discontent, mingled with a sombreness that betokened a death. Ly felt troubled, but squashed the feeling down as they came now close up to the object of their destination.

But as they approached the huge pillars of the temple, the huge sarsen blocks the old ones had erected generations before, Ly felt a sense of peace and awe overcome him. The stones dwarfed them and the arena they created, an ellipse with an inner round of blue stones which Ly knew the history of even though they had been erected long before he was born. Each huge lintel crossed over, skilfully joined with a carpenter's join translated into stone, to the great sarsen standing block opposite. The fixity of it was awesome. The greatness it represented elevated his soul and sent his spirit to give thanks to those white chalk topped tombs mellowed by the sinking sun. Silently, like his companions beside him, Ly dwelt upon the old ones who had wrought this expert of beauty, this timeful eternal presence - a statement of endurance elegant in its grandness of scale and its sparsity.

There were few other folk about, but within the arena of the Holy Place there was always an unchallenged silence, unless at ceremonial times. Through the silence the wisdom and fervour was more keenly felt. The stars were their acquaintance, their source for meditation, along with the deepening sky, the limitless expanse above them. It had carved their souls, that sky. It had worked its magic and mystery upon them and still they wooed and studied it - their spiritual growth teased and inspired by the navy-blue infinity.

The sight of The Holy Place never ceased to cast its spell upon Ly, or indeed upon any who came into proximity with it. The sun had all but disappeared from view but the last strands of it glanced off and illumined the white chalk-topped mounds at the peak of the downs rising away from The Holy Place. They glistened with a magickal light and shone white in the lowering strands, setting up a field of protection and kinship with the massive temple at the centre location below them.

There were two guardians at the entrance to The Holy Place. Initially they had been sitting cross-legged but now they arose to stand, both holding the bronze tipped spears that had come to earn a place in ritual They both wore simple shifts with a leather waistcoat garment over the top. They were both sun-tanned and brown haired. The one being slightly broader, the face rounder than the other, who had a more lean and chiselled face. As the three men approached, the two guardians regarded them gravely without any sign of suspicion or tension. Visitors were plentiful to this incredible erection, and welcome, for the stilled reverence of the place was undisturbed by strangers, who were allowed to sit and study, to meditate and gain from the potency of the place.

As the holy company who tended the temple knew, there was no one who could take away or destroy what had been erected. They believed with each new visitor something of their spirit was left behind, only serving to swell the aura of The Holy Place. With pride they granted access to all, for it was a monument to themselves and their ancestors, a monument to the kith and kinship that had seen it created. A testament to their vision. Proof of their extraordinary wisdom and greatness. Unassailable, standing eternal as the island itself, indeed now a part of it, as inexorably as the cliffs that breached the seas or the hills that climbed to crags and mountains further inland.

As Ly and the others approached the two honourary guards, they bowed and then crossed their spears to the entrance. The broader one intoned the ritual words: "Do you become in faith to grant the silence that be given if'n you wilt enter herein?"

"We become in silence," Ly and his companions responded.

"Enter and receive the mystery come grace that be ourn and ourn ancestors' gift to the Great One, Mother of us all, Father to all ourn seed. Do you become in peace and carry it fra thither when the parting time be nigh."

"Blessings to the Mother and to the Fiery One," the three travellers murmured, bowing and crossing over the threshold to be greeted by the resonance of the stones, their mightiness imposing itself upon them, making them feel insignificant and powerful at one and the same time. There was an outer circle of thirty mighty sarsen blocks, each nearly twenty foot high, capped with lintels that created portals all the way around. These were set around a still more massive horse-shoe of five free-standing trilithons. Each stone had been laboriously dressed to shape, and the stones had been joined one to the other by a supremity of stone worker's art. There were smaller blue stones reworked and rearranged until they created what then existed - a free standing circle set between the sarsen ring and the trilithons with a further blue horseshoe setting placed at the centre of the temple. The blue stones seemed to glow warmly in the evening light and the mighty stone blocks glistened with a faint eldritch sheen; wise listening presences that guided their responses, made their spirits stretch to the deep blue dome of the skies. And they meditated on the waning light, its angle as it came down past the midsummer stone.

The three men seperated, each finding his own place within the outer arena to sit and meditate as so many had done before them in this same way. Ly sat cross-legged, amongst the first circle of blue stones. The silence and the vastness infilled him as he stayed with close to the blue stone, soaking up the energies and beginning to transcend himself. He was lulled into the same fixity as the stones; part of them, a feature of the wisdom they exuded, part of the infinity that had seen them born. The light was gradually fading and dusk was beginning to gather. Ly paid no heed to the passage of time - he sat waiting to gain the sight; the inspiration derived from gazing at the Radiant Beings, and reading the messages they flickered back to the earth-bound. The pin-pricks of light came more and more into force as the dusk deepened, and evening began to encroach.

To Ly, the Celestial Ones were lit with special purpose that night; they seemed to token some sort of promise - as of a richness stored up for him, as of a blessing on the decision he had made. And to his mind came Brith-na-gig as he'd seen her at their parting, her full mouth smiling, the dancing brown-green eyes misted with tears, her fiery hair unsettled by the wind. It felt right in his bones their coming together, their bond and where he was now - that felt right too. So Ly felt a sense of swollen peace and contentment he had not felt before to such a degree - like a culmination of all his efforts and desires. He had seen once again, perhaps for the last time, the Holy of Holies, the greatest temple of them all. He had yet to cross the Big Waters to the Great Lands. He would bring back precious stones, spices and other goods for his company. The traveller returned to receive his due, bearing gifts for the many with a moon-ma waiting by the fireside, a moon-ma with auburn-gold hair and a curvesome form more birth of beauty than any fair beguildy both near and far, aye! Such did Ly see in vision unfolding.

But just then the strangled screech of an animal tortured the air, coming from a distance away and dying as it pierced into force, but seeming to echo nevertheless. Ly's thoughts were jarred by the sound, and his eyes lowered and inadvertently fell on the dagger etching on one of the trilithon stones opposite him. All at once he felt a superstitious dread that as soon passed, as a cloud across the face of the sun, and as a presentience of violence. Why had his eyes dropped from the sky to the etching of the dagger, directly after the ugly scream of some creature in the jaws of death, giving vent to terror and agony? Why had he looked at the dagger - the symbol of violent retribution?

But he strove to shake such thoughts from him, brushing them away as of an irritation and nothing more. Once again he took to star-gazing and let his mind drift in those limitless spaces between the phosphorescing star-systems above him. He sat cradled within the Void for a further stretched while.

Then his senses finally came grounded. Ly's mind was all but cleared of the unsavoury screech and its portents. He was once more elevated by the majesty of the incandescent evening sky and the pillars of the temple. With unspoken agreement they shifted, touching a hand to their forehead, their lips, their chest and to the earth they stood on, in genuflection to the Mother who had formed them all, in recognition to the sky that contained the Mysteries of Beyond.

When they passed the portals of the Holy Place, the honourary guards were once more seated cross-legged. Ly, Brinen and Fenrar bowed their heads and murmured: "Blessings to the Great Ones".

They collected the sacks they had left at the entrance and struck out for the homestead that was near to being a second home to Ly. They walked in an easterly direction passing through grasslands and then through arable farmland - fields of corn and wheat lining the trackway which after a mile or so brought them to a homestead typical of the area. There was a circle enclosure marked and protected by a ditch inside of which were round wooden huts with thatched roofs and wattle and daub walls. There were look-outs posted who shouted to the company inside the protected enclosure, of their approach, and of a sudden, a group of them had gathered at the entrance.

As Ly, Brinen and Frenra approached the opening to the homestead enclosed by a wooden stockade, they halted, flung their right arm across their breast, stooped in a low bow, then standing erect again, opened the arm out in a gesture of acceptance. The group of people opposite them distinguished themselves into individuals, and were calling out a welcome in jocular familiarity. "It's the Hawk, it's the Hawk" went whispering round, the company fizzing with the knowledge, a response that never failed to gratify Ly.

"Hey na, Hawk come wingin' by agin then eh, Ly?" The ratchety voice of a tall gaunt man called out, whose eyes held a latent fire which now shone in rye humour. His beard was grisled with age yet also virile, and his hair was a shag of iron grey around a bald pate bronzed by the summer sun. He wore a long over-garment as a robe, together with a simple shift tied at his waist with a leather thong in the manner of dress familiar to that people.

"Hawk, Brinen, Frenra - healthful greetings to all! Come hither and dinnut dandle on the boundary liken lost an' lonesome!" Joked a middle-aged woman with long brown hair, greyed a little now with experience, and a round smiling face. Ly and his companions stepped towards them and there were greetings all round, Ly grasping the fore-arm of the tall gaunt man and holding briefly the hand of the woman who had spoken, while the company clamoured around and sent hither and thither to make preparations for the visitors.

After the greetings, the tall gaunt man faced them saying: "Come now let's take offer'n to bide by a little afore we gather for the evening's feastin' wi' all the company aroun."

They followed him through the settlement, nodding and smiling gestures of recognition to those that they knew as they went. They were led through the homestead to a hut slightly larger than the others. As they entered, the tall man gestured for them to sit on a long bench with a sturdy back and arms, covered with weft dyed red, padded beneath with grasses that were changed frequently. It was a little bit of welcome luxury for the three traveller-traders and they sat down appreciatively, looking around them at the place they were not unfamiliar with.

There was rush matting on the earthen floor, a large table and wooden shelving upon which were various carvings and choice pieces of earthen ware. There was a low wooden armchair with a basketwork base with several other simpler chairs set around the table. The man reached down some clay beakers, intricately patterned and beautifully glazed in cream and red. A flagon of liquor was placed on another small low table and the man called Ogrune, uncorked the container and poured some rich amber liquid into the beakers. Ogrune lifted his beaker after placing the others before the three men, who followed his gesture.

"Hale come harmony be thee blessed wi'" said Ogrune

"Returned be the gifts of the Mother, same as spoken," Ly responded.

"Aye an' besides plentisome goodly companee, a lilt o' dangly-fair 'ooman an' quaff cups filled reet as become," quipped Frenra in his accustomed jocular manner, causing Ogrune to chuckle and Ly to grin, whilst Brinen looked on, smiling a welcome at his host and raising his beaker to show his appreciation.

Frenra was younger than Ly or Brinen and still enjoying the trance of the dance with dangly-fair far and wide. He'ud not settled be any for certain but continued to enjoy, the partaking of pleasures when conquests could be made, when the feasting and ceremonial times compelled it. He was skilful in singing and playing the stringed drum instrument he'ud made himself and which he carried everywhere, strapped to his back. He was Brinen's moon-ma's brother and had joined them when their travelling ways had already been established over some five cycles.

But Frenra gave the added advantage of being a drum craftsman, which many homesteads fra far norther shores to the southern most stretch of their journeying, used and coveted. His ready wit and gallantries charmed the most company and made more eager to trade, now the wares consisted of more than axe-heads and cutters to offer, na though they'd been plentiful sought in the early days of Ly's travelling wiles for sure.

When Brinen and he had first set out with Brunwill the brave, as he'ud been known, they were keen and green and learnt from an old master rover who'ud done nothing but all his life. His frien and fettle had died and been returned to the Mother months before, from ambush bandits in the Great Lands. Brunwill had fought off the assailants with beserker frenzy and carried his companion to their skiff, returning him to the homestead of their birth, only for him to die of fever the day after arrival. Brunwill the brave himself had gone off in the frozen time, looking for the rare'n status-high snow-hare. He'ud fell'd and broke his leg and alone, without help, up on the Long Mynd, and died the death of cold.

But to Ly's mind Brunwill had sought the extinction, ketching the glint of metal on the horizon and giving himself to the old gods before it upset the fabric of his world and understanding. When that time came, Brinen and he were already established roving traders, but it did not prevent the keening light from creeping into their hearts so they silently acknowledged the instinct behind Brunwill's action. It was an empathy between them that each saw reflected in the other's eyes; a conclusion being reached, a sadness and acceptance, mingled with the knowledge that he was with the Mother, the Womb of All Birth again, back to the Seed and the Source. This they felt and knew, stirred to embrace the radiant levels in the stella-spheres of the vastless skies.

From thence on they had travelled alone, until Frenra had joined them and made merry some their while, brought a new zest to the gradual lessening of trade. Frenra had fitted into their patterns surprisingly easily. For despite his love of word swaps and joking he too liked his quiet time and bided so by himself, composing his songs and his rhythms that set all'es companies spinning.

So there the three of them were, seated in comparitive luxury in the chamber of Ogrune the South-lander.

"Na Hawk, Brinen, Frenra - tell me o' yourn companay. How be yourn wise 'uns, Old Man Wem, Ethelran High priestess, and yourn close-kin, yourn moon-ma's brether?"

"Ah fair to middlin' fine," came back Ly. "All the same an' homely-like, only young 'uns comin' curious for'n thay bronze an' sendin' prayers to the gods to help 'em find their ownen source. But harvest still be handy and water-ways wide as ever ..."

"An' all the 'ooman dangly-fair to be blissed-full far and wide, forsooth...or not? Wey ya right eh Ly?" quipped Frenra, with a twinkle in his e'en that hinted at many things - or so it appeared to Ly.

Ly felt there was a subtle innuendo in what Frenra had said which Ogrune had taken at face value, knowing Frenra for what he was. But Ly felt Frenra's sharp eyes had gathered the change in relationship between Brith-na-gig and himself and he felt a slight irritation. It was not something he wanted known. He wanted to be himself. True to his roving kin, to come and to go, as he had always come and gone; free as the wind and as fresh as the coming of the seasons, unentangled, meeting fate as openly as the deer in the forest or the eagle on wing. He did not want others guessing his plans, his momentous decision. That would simply be when the time came. There could be no ceremony of partings. And partly it was because he felt his resolution might fail if all the folk-places he was used to girt his bounty to were nigh after making a big celebration and a fond farewell for him. He did not want that.

So he pierced Frenra stonily with his eye but melted some when it was clear Ogrune was simply laughing at Frenra's usual enthusiastic embrace of the whole of 'oomankind. Ogrune did not suspect any underlying meaning, so Ly relaxed and smiled along with the other two, trusting to Frenra's sense and discretion of friendship.

When they'd quieted some, Ly took the initiative, remembering his former instinct which had sensed a sombre inflection in the air.

"What news from hence then?" asked Ly directly

Ogrune's face became instantly more serious and somewhat saddened.

"Last time Ly become by, we both on us thought on the changes, beginning wrought be the bronze and I remember there excitesome as well as some misgiving. After you become two seasons hence, fresh trade come from after the Great Lands; a whole seal of bounty for the bretheren. Leadman Rushwort from the eastern-steads had troubless with outlanders. They held them off and sent them thither, though in trowe they were'n gang for opportunists and nought to cliver the whole. Leadman Rushwort was injured some and some of the east-steaders were killed in the fray, but also when battle was over and done, the east-steaders clept themselves of treasures found be the Outlanders. Now Rushwort on's deathbed has declared a wish for singular burial! As he and his kithkinship have defended all stalwart and ever steady since folkship began. But he betaken on some great glory all his own, glory that he whist willed be passed down to's sons. He be seperating himself out as top notch, high and mighty ho for'ngetting as his'n ancestors have raised 'um be dint of mutual grist and getherness. And folks hereabouts be muttering bly, it is the end on the beginning - that the Old Ones be turning in their graves and rising up to raze us for our mischief, as to see and let this thing go by, without a word nor action to say 'em nay, and some be saying it be right and fair and follows fair on to the future, and some be taking it in their stride but keeping amsteady all the same. To speak trowe it bides not well with me, with us in general. But the East-stead be in their own patch and what we West-steaders may mutter can go lightly either way. So there'n you have it; make of it as you'n will."

Ogrune looked at the three men, acknowledging their shock and gravely patient in the face of it. Surprising enough it was Brinen's deep gruff voice that spoke first.

"Naither! To put himself away from the Old Ones, from the common kith and kinship of's ancestors? To set out singular with baubles of shiny stuff to brute the vigour? Naither! For why has he done this? Have not the Wise Ones bid talk with him?"

"Not enough. It's not been enough. The whole of the East-stead follow Rushwort leadman - he has kindled up a fondling as keen as the metal he'us craved. There'll not be a gain saying." Ogrune responded grave as ever.

"Whisst! It be strange times becoming then now - in trowe. We'll wait and see but I bide it's not likely," was Brinen's deep, gravelled response along with a grim expression that showed he'ud said his piece and could not add more.

"Laith! What becomes now?" intoned Ly, still shocked by the import of what he'd heard."This be taken from the Great Lands, na? This be from their'n map and heritage that have come to take a claim off us, na ha? Is that how it goes?"

"The Outlanders boast," said Ogrune darkly, "of their wealth in metal crafts; their skill at the blade, which sends the whole on'us company the same. Seeking the metal to increase the power of the clan-magic, to defend from fear of whelment and all the time becoming what they wouldn't."

"But has Ogrune taken any action? Have you'se na thought on taking token stoll and delegating to Leadman Rushwort, request some sense on word swap? Have you'se na thought fer this to be done and down-stayed?" asked Ly.

"Aye fer sure but folks be jitterun, for the East-steaders a' been building up reet stocks of the metal stuff and bristle with the bronze if there be tally of talking some round. It become like a fever through them and they won't wash for the old ways nor tether their high an' mighty some not even for the sakes of our'n ancestors, which hold a common root, not for the sake of our'n kith and kinsome now rested with the Mother, who's keening light helped build The Holy Place, revered in all lands across the Big Waters.

Whisst Ly! I be saying all on this and more, fech fer sure. But it become to all out war if'n I jostle 'em up too much and to speak trowe we would be company cut downen - thraist aye well an' sure! They been stoking the bronze fra first to much and more, much more'n than we West-steaders, and thase've made no bones aboun bristling it out. New trade has always come first fra the East but the sharing times that wrought the Holy Place be rifting by now it do seem. If Ly can counsel me - counsel me good, for which ever ways I've looked aroun this'n thing there be no clear and cut and dried solving on it, na? So's counsel me now, I be open and willing to take heed," Ogrune finished looking from one to another of his male companions, appealing to Ly with his hands held out palms upwards.

The men were silent. Ly pursed his lips and stared off into the distance.

"It be really so strong as that - this fever on 'em?" he said eventually.

Ogrune put his hand on Ly's shoulder. "Ly, what can we do? The only path is to trade for bronze, otherwise we become as the paltry party, the kiner runt as defenceless as the fledglings in nestin's before the kes's come snatching."

"Na, na, fech fer sure Ogrune. But be it not so as you'se could dint 'em with the brit and braw of the flint and wiley-like surpass 'em withall their'n melcher bronze. Dinnut roll over and show thasen belly before'n it be that or the void,na?" Said Ly, bristling with anger at the East-steaders obdurate stance.

Aye, aye dinnut do it, echoed the voices of Brinen and Frenra.

"Ly, Ly, me stoll brethers, there'us been such talk, but company be split and not enough hands on without no doubting for it to pull off and make that stance of difference. I will nay go agin what half the company do favour. I mun think on the whole on us and crush my'n instinct for the best way for whole on us, na?"

Ly scuffed his feet on the floor and looked down, shrugging his shoulders as if to shake a burden from him. In his heart he knew they could not stem the tide of change that would sweep the magic of flint into the void. He knew for Ogrune's sake he must be philosophical, he knew for his own peace of mind, he must be philosophical and accepting. There was no use in fighting against flow of the current, as there was no use in hurling abuse at the inclement wind. What was to be would be, as the gods decreed, and there was nothing they or Ogrune or even the Wise Ones and Old Man Wem, could do about it. So he sought to console Ogrune as best he could.

"Wey ya right - fech fer sure. 'Tis something I been seen coming for the long while. Change begot to come, take it how we wilt, change begot to come - but they bai'unt be always whole nor healthful neither."

"Thraist! That do seem trowe, and surely!" Agreed Brinen in deep echo. Ogrune and Frenra picked up their beakers in silent agreement.

"But there be little to be done aboun'es fer'n now. I was jus' thinkin' whiles to fill you'se in some, before you'se hear it fra bad nor worse exceptin' as it is," said Ogrune, anxious now to forget his troubles in favour of his guests.

"Thanks be to thee, Ogrune," Ly quickly reassured him, lifting his beaker again. "But as you'sve spoken, tis none for now to dwell on, so let's betake it now to turn to kindlier case and tell us how company be. What of Danroth and Hamtheor and the lovely Enyella? What of the folks hereabouts?"

"Aye'n so, serves no purpose to dwell, na? As the gods will or'n we forget ourn'selves, na? As for company - Danroth be all in his kilter, melding the stone-ware all the same and Hamtheor is after tilling the harvest afore its kinded be the sun as ever and Enyella...Enyella has a keening light for one who comes and goes, but is after fettlin' freely with Karum, who comes be the East-stead as messenger and trader. 'Tis said he is of Outlander blood some but Enyella's kindled to him and in trowe he can smooth-say full-fairly and gentles alot of the folk. But he come sharp of a times, as sharp as the metal he do bring."

Ly looked something troubled," And be Enyella for taking him to fare and freely?"

"Closesome. I think in her heart she's n' after a one who tarries and goes and comes hither but for shortn' whiles, if you betake my meaning Ly," said Ogrune pointedly.

"Aye fech fer sure, there's a many as is waiting be the Hawk to tarry and fare!" Burst out Frenra after having contained a silence for a while. Ly trod on his toe which made Frenra yelp and dissipated the tension in the gathering.

But Ly felt he must make his position clear regarding Enyella. "She mun set her store be me Ogrune. I come and I'll be gone as always but I would see her kindlier earned na freend, dost see?"

Ogrune looked a little saddened by this communication. "Wey ya Ly, so I be says to her but 'ooman have their own ken and there be no turning 'em fromerts or frowerts when mind's setten to vaward!"

Ly gave a small smile. "Na if'n Ogrune be reet but Ly will take his trowe to her and kindlisome share, Ly be away come sun-in to the Great Lands and thence to Shroplande, the homestead, of'n his birth. These be Ly's plans freend Ogrune, just as ever". Ly looked earnestly at Ogrune.

"Wey ya right Ly," Ogrune answered. "But I be got qualms, I be got qualms. Aiee! 'eesle n' idleway it be come to nought for what it should. So, let us toast to the Ones Who Sleep and the Mother-Goddess to us all and pray to they that providence may counsel and guide us, na? Come whisst! be there no song forert thay company Frenra? Be there no strumming and songing?" And a little banter began between Frenra and Ogrune as Ly pondered on what Ogrune had said.

He knew Ogrune had accepted his words, his plans and had never doubted he would say otherwise. But Ly was fond on Enyella, who was as sweet as the mead in spring, so silken-soft and melting sanje with her long black tresses, dark long lashes and eyes become of summer-blue. Ly had sat and danced beside this blooming-fair'un for a good few seasons betwixt and between be now. They'd be got close and cleavesome like but Ly clept no promises and bided be none on a false word though oftentimes in past recall were impassioned responses.

Passion he remembered, but he'ud made his pledge to the birth of beauty that was his Brith-na-gig and the charms of Enyella though lovesome, paled beside the 'ooman who now he was bonded to be the word-truths he'ud given her. Still he felt sorry to hear she might be in the sway of some unsavoury called Karuum. But he could not dwell for long on something that even Ogrune, who was pert of her withcome kinship, could cast off so as not to gather glooming to the company. So Ly betook it upon him to take to the merry in and sieze the moment in life to make the most of it, as all his kind before him, the old rovers who gypsied along the wild-ways had done - taking their pleasure where they found it, but with that questing spirit which had seen their many achievements born.

So the conversation took a jocular turn and they were entertained by Ogrune's stories of Hamveor and Danroth's famed rivalry of strength, in being matched for nigh on length and breadth the same. Ogrune told of the previous harvest when they both vied to bring home the most corn the quicker. When it came to it Dunroth feigned faint and badly and made Hamveor leave offin worry for'un to send fer'n the Healer moon-ma. While Hamveor be gone Dunroth set to and met Hamveor on the way to the third quarter with Healer Mermelisle. Dunroth greeted them all hasle and fettle and Hamveor all razed up and raging jumps'n wrestles'un to the ground until Dunroth's all begging for mercy and Healer Mermelisle is after cursing the baith on 'em for all their troubles but smiling like and in on the joke.

Such was the tale told to the three travellers from the West-lands whilst they quaffed of the good rich barley beer. They could've stayed full steady for a while if it weren't for Ogrune's moon-ma, Liandine - she who had greeted them at the entrance - who came to chivvy them to food and preparations afore they met the whole on'un company all on an empty belly with head full of the frisk of beer.

They were taken to their sleeping quarters, which was a small vacated hut set aside especially for visitors and traders. They were supplied with some water and left to their own devices for a little while. They stashed their trading wares and settled down to rest some. Ly was just washing from the courtesy bowl of water left for them, whilst Brinen was checking their trading items and Frenra was plucking his instrument and humming on the bedding. Ly, naked from the waist up was just drying himself on the cloths provided when a soft, lilting voice was heard outside the hanging fabric at the door.

"Hoow now - whisst! Hawk be come to ground and welcome and Brinen the bear-like be welcome too for the plenty to be had, and all the 'oomans and beguildy be after a snatch of Frenra's twang. Hey stolls - here be Enyella - leadman Ogrune's kins'ooman daughter, waiting to take you to platter. Be you decent for this beguildy's eyes na?"

Ly pulled back the hanging and gave Enyella a broad grin; she smiled shyly in return.

"Hoow now your'nself," teased Ly. "And how goes it fair beguildy fair? How doest this'n dusk-time find yous? Hale and hearty I be hoping - fech fer sure!".

Enyella smiled and nodded her head. Her dark locks were tied away from her face so that tendrils hung around it, highlighting the softness of her face, the smooth curves, the rosying of her cheek, the startling cornflower colour eyes. Ly donned his leather waistcoat with its beaver fur trimmings as Enyella responded.

"Ly's spoke with Ogrune and knows the news fra hereabouts but fer'n Enyella the days dance lightly. She been after weaving her gifts for the company and picking wild flowers in the mead for the Holy Place and those as keening on 'em. Sun become and days be always merry for this time on our season, Ly knows".

"Aye but who be making Enyella all merry and frolicsome as the young kine in the felds - na ha? Enyella's gone giddy-like on some young stoll eh - fech fer sure!" teased Ly fishing to gauge her responses.

But Enyella showed scant sign of being abashed as she replied,"Na - there b'ent no case there - who be filling your'n ears with such nowort clammer?"

The other two men had gathered beside Ly. Brinen looked silently on smiling benevolence. Frenra eager to be in on the word-swap chose his moment.

"Wey ya right - laithwhiles! When any would look in those eyes saa blue he'ud ever befall in a trance and swoon aways with a heart all lost to the keening light ever forever more, na? Enyella be beguildy fair'n fair as any stoll mun know, na?" Frenra's dark eyes glittered out their charm and appreciation of 'oomankind, who were for him part of the Great Mother's Mysteries, to be wooed and worshipped as the daily abundance that grew from the Earth and succoured Frenra.

Enyella laughed and blushed beautifully, revealing white teeth and a pink mouth. She had a daisy's freshness about her, all open and dewy-sweet, that never failed to gain a response from the menfolk.

"It be very courtsome and smarming what Frenra says and Enyella thanks him kindlisome for such honey-wordings but she be beguildy and part of the company all the same, na Frenra?"

The men smiled around her and Frenra acting as dazzled as he truely was breathed out. "Aye and some beguildy sure - some sweet dangly-fair with the sky for her eyes and the blessings of the Mother on her curvesome!"

"Sssh whisst Frenra! If yous be genin me the honey-sweet all til dusklier-dawn I'm a betwixt Ly and Brinen and never a word-swap with yous no more, neh?"

At which Frenra looked so immediately miserable and suitably dampened that Enyella had to take pity on him to let him know she was nay as mortal offended as she'd given and would carve him a banter from time to time. And so with this fair beguildy in the midst of the three brawny weathered travellers, all of them taller than she, she led them to the centre circle, where a fire had been built and where along one side, a low table had been filled with the bounty of the forests and the field. All the company were gathered with the childer lit be the homesuns with a bit of snaff and pilcher to set 'em to sleep kindlytithe when the folk be on a revel.

The older youth and the adults were gathered for their evening fare and greeted the three travellers by calling welcome and hearty from the many voices that knew them, as accustomed seasonal visitors. Enyella led Ly and the others to seat be the table at the end, where she sat on one side, and Ogrune still standing filled the other space, beckoning their visitors to be seated and rest their lols on the soft-stuff weaving supplied for the purpose. Brinen sat further along with Frenra but still close enough to Ly to word-swap. Frenra was gazing about him casting his eyes over the dangly-fair and sending out his signals before the fast was broken.

A dark-haired olive-skinned man smoothed his way into the space beside Enyella. She turned and smiled at him her sweet smile and said: "Hoow now - Karuum's snook in of a sudden as be'int he like - how hales yous, fair it be yent on hoping, na?"

"Karuum be always hale and hearty in presence of so fair beguildy-blue, Enyella knows some na?" His voice had an unusual smoothness and richness to it, like the cream atop of the kine's milkin' and dangerously pleasing. Enyella blushed half with embarassment and half with pleasure. She touched his shoulder briefly as if to placate the admonition of her tongue, telling him to still the honey-sweet and join in the toast to their traveller-trader guests, which he duly did, waiting for his moment to come.

Ogrune opened the feasting with a toast to all: "Singen and secgan miri be all and weel and wassail this eventide." Whereto everybody set on and the eating began. The platters set before them were many and varied: venison and wild boar, duck, a type of pheasant and hare, fresh bread made from the grain of the fields, butter and an assortment of greens and roots, dressed in a variety of picquant and aromatic flavours as well as honey and honey cakes. Truely was the table spread plentiful, exuding the bounty of the land.

Ogrune and Ly looked at each other busy with their hands and mouth. Instinctively, each then raised their beaker and said to the other: "Honour to the homestead and hale be the company". After which they set down their beaker with some old spirit vigour, and laughed together, a kind of defiant joy in the sound. Ogrune, determined to cast the shadows of the present from them, entered into jokingly questioning Ly about relations in his own homestead and skilfully kept the talk-jest flowing be a witty word to Wulffmar, hunter of the forest and downs, be a comment to Hamveor of the ready scythe and a compliment to Bruthnania, his scelding's moon-ma. So very soon the company were all in jolly and rousting and enjoying the moment become when spring was at the advent of summer's sun. A precursor jollisome it was to the great gathering of the following few days on at the Holy Place.

Finally when well filled and swilled, Ogrune called on all the fair beguildy to dance for the Fire-Star, the Sun God, come creating to Earth in this the season of gold. He requested Frenra to accompany the drummers with his new rippling string drum. At this point then, the tables were cleared and activity begun. The women all comely youth and mature allure, transformed their garments so they wore sleeveless short-skirted tunics with coloured scarves around their waists and hips.

The women stood in position a little distance from the men, forming an arc before them with the fire behind them. A group of men at the drums began to beat out a rhythm. The women began to swish their hips hypnotically, as if to tantalise their Sun God, to bring down magic and rain gold onto the harvest. Frenra took up the rhythm and added to it with his strumming, lilting strings. This provoked the women's movements further, rendering them ever more eloquent and seductive.

Enyella stood at the end closest to Ly and moved her lithe slim budding body in voluptuous frenzy to appease and please the Gods of their world. The sight of her and the other women stirred the men to begin clapping rhythmically and to whistle and call in strange curling ululation in appreciation of what they saw. The pace of the dance grew ever more wild, ever more extravagant, the women now shimmying their bodies and arms and undulating their forms, lifting their legs and tapping out the beat with the men, until eventually they reached a frenzied crescendo when the music stopped abruptly and the women fell down, sweating and exhausted, symbolising the conquest.

Briefly the silence, the moon now glowing pale and silvery in the clear skies adding a luminous quality to the night. Then the men's rousing applause and the women getting up, smiling and laughing and still panting some. There was a lull in the company as the women went off to bathe before they returned freshened again to the gathering.

Ogrune turned to Ly and Frenra standing near behind Brinen: "An ever a fair beguildy amongst the whole on 'em - na ha?"

"Fech fer sure, stoll, fech fer sure," responded Ly but with the promise of Brith-na-gig in his mind and none of the former dazzle in his eyes. His tenderness for Enyella was now distanced, and in trowe it had always been a warm appreciation rather than ardour. He appreciated her dainty resilience but loved the brazen beauty of Brith-na-gig, and now he'ud made up his mind - that was clear as day. Ogrune turned away again somewhat saddened, but trying not to show it.

Close by shrewd eyes were watching and noting this encounter, misinterpreting it through the filter of his own ambitions. Then a smooth, silky voice, resonant and seductful spoke across the low tressel to Ly.

"Ly become in time for the ceremony of the Sun God eh na? Yous'rn after basting a bloom of beguildy na Ly? You become to taste the fruits of the Mother, in 'oomankind, on the festival day na ha?"

Ly was irritated by the assumption of the stranger who had only met him on a nodding acquaintance that very evening.

"Ly become to reverence the Mother at the Holy Place and to give thanks to the Fire-Star, our God of the Light, be uppermost in mind Karuum na? None on yen fair beguildy, though they be birth of beauty to set eyes on fech fer sure," Ly said, controlling his tone and redirecting the conversation to focus on Karuum rather than himself. "How fer'n yous na? Be yous a settin' eyes on a baste of dangly-fair in the blaze of the fertility feasting na?"

Karuum smiled broadly. "Na and maybe-some too. Karuum hane gotten his eyes filled fer sure with some lovely lilt of dangly-fair and maybe, maybe this lovely loll will come be moon-ma be the harvest wain - if the Mother do bless me bold na ha?"

Karuum's voice had an odd effect on Ly. He was drawn to that smooth rolling tone, a little transfixed by it; but equally the man's assumption of familiarity chaffed at Ly's sensibilities, as well as his brazen manner and what Ly knew was Karuum's bid for Enyella. But this did not prevent the fascination of the voice, seducing Ly to continue the conversation rather than give the man short shrift and dismiss him more bluntly.

"Karuum be from the East-stead na?" Ly asked in seeming interest and common courtesy, now the ice be broken with the quips on dangly-fair.

"Trowe in summun but I bin gan born and brought fer the Great Lands fra first and now tekk kindlier to the East-stead of'n this land and ferry betwixt and between as message-bringer, talk-gather fra import. I be fleet as the stag, faster'un the hawk, and do the distance with me stolls in quick betime that comes na? Lately there han been some buzz na? On leadman Rushwort be bravin' the boundary and taking to the womb on the Mother nigh soon. But the bronze be girding us up and stretching us strong and we mun meet the challenge as it become na?"

Ly continued regarding Karuum in a calm, contained way and let silence reign for a short but intense moment - a monent in which Karuum instinctively sensed the strong opposition. Ly kept his instincts under control and considered his reply; but his stoniness was apparent.

"Change begot to come na? But when the haleness at the core be turning to canker, then it be time to stand and listen to the Voice of the Wind and begather to heart the messages of the Mother".

"And these be?" Questioned Karuum with an edge in his voice.

"That in death all be joined to the Mother. The greatness of the Holy Place become and grown from such a knowing. That the stones be the bones of the Mother and the bodies of our'n kith and kin be returned in wholeness of spirit, tied soil to blood back to the Womb of the Mother til the Fire God befertile Her and spirit comes through in the green growth times na? Be not this the hearthstone and kernal at base of our'n lives?" Ly said this quietly and firmly. It did not affect him directly as yet this issue. He could hardly muster force from present company nor still from his own folk further north-west. He was not about to create war, having no means to effect one. Nevertheless, his very lack of influence in that respect freed him to be able to state his mind with a continued directness that intimated at the passion beneath.

Karuum curled his lip and said: " So say'n some on the old ones na? But times become when the bronze girt us stronger than stone-know and we mun flow with'n that tide nar try to dam what musters force and shall overtek these lands wither we will or no, na?"

Ly shook his head slightly and gave a small, sad smile. "Fech fer sure, but there be bonds on blood and soil to memory on and lest we nor forget company be split and schismed and the old ways lost and gone, alonga the wise-lore that betaken fra the first folk as come and were placed be the gods on these'n fair shores. Without stone reverence, company be losing themselves to where no will and ravages become on the harvest and the Mother wilt reek her own vengeance like'n before in the Dark Times whiles I were but a secret in the Womb of the Mother. These be not just my own words but those of the Wise Ones be my own homestead. Ly only be-speaking what leesle in the heart of the many na?"

Ly had put his case plainly, but with a firmness and integrity that surpassed himself.

In contrast, Karuum had a dark look on his face that came close to being a sneer. "The Mother tekks as she gives and those as gets her vengeance, leave way for those as she chooses to give bountiful to. This be the way on the Mother, too. The bronze be girtin us strong and leading us ever into ways anew and genen us a glory past ancestors, took on in a different way. The bronze be superior to flint in ways of war and beauty - the bronze be giving out a glory as those that begets and filling souls with a girth of wonder na? Those that seek to gainsay so shall fall before'n in the season of this new sun, na? This fer sure by helve be the trowe, so does this stoll believe and hold by aye!"

Ly saw in this speech a near open gesture of hostility, and responded accordingly: "Be Karuum setting up a challenge to Ly na? The glint of the metal before'n the gout of the flint na? Be that it? If Ly be challenged, Ly fer sure will'nt turn it aboun - be that it Karuum? Yous're wanting a hand to hand between the flint and the bronze na?"

But Karuum as his voice betokened was a schemer before he was a warrior, weighing up his chances against the well-versed brawn of Ly, and sensing danger for his own position in the eyes of the West-steaders if he challenged Ly to a duel and lost. Or even if he won, for he knew Ly was known, respected and even loved by the few - the few that mattered to his ambitions he realised. Thus he took the sting out of his former bravado whilst turning over in his mind a possible plan.

"Ly misunderstood Karuum. There were'nt naither'un challenge but a view voicing a favour of bronze na? It were nay meant to be tekken to bone, na? And blighting the company as has set us both fair up well and nigh. But if Ly took it as such, why's Karuum pleads his sorry and offers up his'n spear arm to show there be nought to cliver up the twain on us fra now til sleeping times becomen eh?"

Karuum's tone was treacle-rich and soothed Ly's sensibilities despite the fact he still retained his essential distrust of the man. The arm gesture he could either ignore and cause a lasting disaffectedness between them, or clasp it and be hypocrite to his heart. Ly could not quite be false to himself thus, so he stood stalwart-grave and courteous-like replied: "Ly accepts Karuum's words and thanks him for his clearifying of his'n word-swap. The rouse-talk be over'n done on now - if Karuum's non offenden Ly belikes to silt and merry-make with his roving stolls and the fair company as becomen on return right soon, na?"

Thus saying, without taking the proffered arm, Ly gave a gravely courteous smile and reached for a jug of the apple-ale on Brinen's earlier recommendations and turned towards his travelling companion to make light on talk some'ere the carousin' .

Thus subtly slighted, Karuum was left gazing into his beaker until he turned his attentions to some that would feather him friend; all the while plotting, plotting his hatchet plan, the sting in his scorpion brain concealed behind the false brimming of his social smile.

Ly strove to master his instinctive repugnance of and rebellion against this newcomer. He thought on Brith-na-gig and felt warmed by memories of their rampant whiles where her flanks had seemed to glow with a golden sheen in the low evening light. Ly knew in his heart that change was inevitable, that the bronze would come to dominate - but it was the way that this was being done that aggrivated his sensibilities, as if the old must be shed wholesale and forgotten in this thirst for the gleaming novelty of metal.

He could not stem the tide of change he knew; so instead he thought of Brith-na-gig which made him light of heart in strangesome ways he couldn't have called to before. Now he was glad of his pledge, glad to turn his back on the fomenting present and feast his mind on his own future prospects, in place where stone was still mother-bone, with a heart so quiet and still, only the few folk could command. A place where the Fire-Star and the Mother brought their truths from messages across the skies. There in his own homestead they still kept holy the ancient wisdoms that spoke to the stone and saw in the stars a mighty wealth of possibilities.

With these thoughts and understandings filtering through his brain, and with the advent of 'oomans return, Ly chose not to dwell on the incident between he and Karuum. He pushed it from his mind to toast on kindlier matters. Enyella came beside him having passed Karuum and received some wordings of which communication Ly was ignorant. Enyella proffered Ly some sweetmeats - dough-cakes sweetened with honey and little biscuits fermented with subtle aromatic flavours. For to which now Ly lay to questioning, having a passing interest in the hearth-produce as he burnt be the fire himself so often. There was a while of banter on the food, with Enyella opening her eyes to him like a daisy of blue and making winsome merry with him as the friend and semi-secret lover she held him for. But there was a paternalness in Ly's manner that had nay hitherto been there, a distant tenderness Enyella could sense but not fathom, some subtle shift that made her feel he was not with her, appreciating her, teasing her and flirting with her, as he had done. So for a while of Ly's gentle questioning on her workings and ways, her weaving and food-lore, Enyella turned the tables about and asked Ly of his homestead. Who was keeping him fed and tending his hearth-food, where his company be kept and if any on a fair beguildy had twinkled his eyes and held to his heart-strings of late.

This question was direct and fairly put, with a quiver betraying to Ly how her feelings still held for him. Ly could nay betray her honesty with lies and did nay like the notion of her yenning for him when his heart was set on the tawny Brith-na-gig. But he did nay want to send her swift to the arms of the silky sly Karuum - he wanted to wrest her altogether away from him. So swift he turned the conversation about, directing her own question back with more force and knowledge of her affairs than she owned of his.

"What of Enyella na? Fer what I hear'n and see with mine eyes, Karuum messenger fast-far and mixed-blood brether fra the Great Lands be seeming to taking Enyella to moon-ma for such as likes na?"

Enyella caught her breath in self-defence. "Whom be saying so? I take a liking for Karuum but he baint be my main and stoll, yet be no means nor all. Karuum be easy on the ear'n and clever for the brain - he bring weaving all such tales of Great Lander folk and their'n weird'n wondersome ways. Fay, Ly! Fer'n a new-just 'ooman seen nor sight of lands across the Big Waters it be some'at as feasts for the mind and sets the spirit all soaring. Baint be no wrong in that, na? For sure Ly mun see that na?"

It was rare if ever for Ly to speak ill of someone, but out of concern for Enyella and respect for her sun-pa stoll Ogrune, he did so now.

"Aye'n maybe's the feast of tales as he spins be webs spiked with poison and nay fit fer'n a fresher whist with her new-form wings to spread na? Enyella milchien, Karuum is skilful sly, he be'en nay fit steady company somehow for saa hale and wholesome honey-fair as Enyella be. Trowe there be some'at not to be trysted nor trusted be'un na kinen? Him be on his own glory trail and biding not be the Old Ones whose wisdom has clothed ourn tomorrows nor be the claims of the Mother who brings us back again through the succour on the ripened corn and the stag and boar on the forested ways. Whisst Enyella! yous all folks knows well these sacred says - tell me not yous've 'r nay forgotten some?"

Enyella was looking down and examining her small perfect hands and looking something woe-begone. "No, and naither has Enyella forgotten thase Old Sungen but what be it to Ly if I keeps company with messenger Karuum. What does it matter much to thee?"

"Enyella knows she's a heartsun sweet-song for'n me and Ly be loyal as to kith and kin for Ogrune who be most old friend and stoll-wether to me as Enyella be herself. Thus and thraist so would Ly see Enyella with a worthier one to bind, a stoll likes thay king stag for thay forest hinds na? Not some sly back'n slider with a self to the fore for he leeth all, na?"

Enyella was moved by Ly's concern for her whilst at the same time still hurt by his brotherly tone. She realised at once without he must state it, that he would come and go as he always had but that he would never stay, and that there was no hopes for to become his moon-ma. Underneath her softness she was a sensible practical young 'ooman. She knew to court Karuum more would cause disharmony 'mongst her own kith and kin for which she still felt strong in the Old Ways despite the glamour Karuum brought to her.

"Ly can rest be sured that Enyella won't be taking Karuum to man-home nor being his moon-ma fer now nor fer never, and maybe some there be none to take'n as such til I be old and wankle with naither a kiner-bairn to call'n me own!"

"Laithwhiles! Don't talk seeding in the winds to be lost and forgotten! Enyella, be as fair a beguildy as any saa far and wide with all men'sfolk wanting come man-home for her - we knows na?"

At which Enyella smiled and put her head down half-shy and half-pleased by Ly's words, but still sore fra the knowledge that he, the Hawk, would never be man-home for her.

At that point Frenra's antics paid in good stead, for a companion of Enyella's came up to them laughing and excited, saying Frenra would only sing them one of his famed songs and strungenen his plucking drum if Enyella be there to give him inspiration. If only she gazed on him with her sky-soaring eyes then he would be moved to woo and lilt the whole on the company til Fire-Star rise and shed his light again.

So quoth the short buxom wench before Ly and Enyella, making Enyella laugh and blush and causing Ly to hail Frenra hither so that company be all gathered round thereabouts, still ready for a merry-run, and laughingly waiting for Enyella to turn her much admired eyes to gaze on Frenra, who caused then more laughter with his sighs and beautific expression. But thence he set to a strumming and a singing a song for the young beguildy taken to moon-ma, and of youthful stoll smitten to man-home and of the raunchin and runshone, the gasping and gape of 'ooman's maw best-fitted for the stoll's prong hard-turned til happiness come atrembling with the cleavesome of the twain of flesh. So went the giste of the song that caused much laughter, much scolding too, and made company livesome still, reluctant to leave the firelight on a night so clear, with the moon so soft and silvery above them.

Ogrune had come back to join them and thus they stayed until late on in the night, when folks went drifting off to their beds and finally Frenra had to leave be and follow Brinen to their night-dwelling, after making jests and promises in kind to all on the fair beguildy, and begging kisses from the many before he went his way. Ogrune sat with Ly a little longer. The tressels had been cleared and there were but few folk around now. A few of the menfolk were posted as watchers at the entrance but most of the rest were gone for the sleeptime, leaving the homestead still, with only the occasional crackle from the dying fire and a solitary owl's soft hooting to bestill the silence of the night.

"Well Ly," said Ogrune rising and yawning. "I'm be off to gen some sleeptime afore the preparations for the celebrants begin in serious-sturd. Tarry as you'm like an Ogrune'll be seeing you'm fair and fettling on the morrow's sun, na?"

"Fech fer sure, old man, I'm be pleasing and lankle-like here fer'n some while gracing with the silver moon-ma above'm afore turning in on me sleeptimes," replied Ly.

"Not on the old, yen boggart! I'm only ten cycles on fra you'm na? You'm frish-shank eh? Sleep well friend stoll, til sun-up then na?" Said Ogrune clapping Ly on the back all fond and jocose before heading off to the dwelling where his own kin were now gone. Ly smiled and lifted a hand to wave him off before sitting alone and still gazing into the dying embers of the central fire, and cogitating as he sipped the last of the apple-ale in his beaker.

From the shadows under the eaves of the stockade fence a figure crouched as if sleeping, wrapped in his cloak under pretence of being up with the first watchers at sun-rise. He had stayed thus until all but Ly stayed solitary by the fire. Now he watched and waited, biding his time til his venom could strike.

Ly pondered on the evening, and the changes afoot came back to him, disturbing him once more with their import. He thought on the clear night and revelled in its softness which contrasted well with the several seasons recent mizzling rain and dank, that in turn caused some drear spirit cast on the home-folk. Ly was troubled though he tried to cast it from him. It seemed to betoken some great change, something disruptive and dangerous he could not quantify. So he chose to walk the ways to the Holy Place to quiet his mind and lend his spirit some peace - receive the unction that always came within the vicinity of the Holy Place's granduer.

That timeless fixity soothed him, made him remember the pathways to the stars. The fact of and features of the Holy Place always uplifted his spirit; the greatness of it never surpassed - a symbol to all their futures from long before. The fervour and painstaking persistance that had seen it created, the mystical magnitude of that endeavour, that past expression culminating in what existed now. The last stones he knew were placed before he was born, in the youth of Old Man Wem, who'd told him all on it. How company from all the land gathered to pay their tribute and see last stones raised.

The Holy Place had brought them favour far and wide, and the emanations were still felt across the Great Lands in the north, where they worked their own kind of magic, and further south, where news of their temple, the messages from the gods it brought them, was renowned. Ly was for that vision, for seeing the Holy Place in solitary silence in the moonlight, perhaps for the last time and never as in that moment, when the axis of his whole life was tilting, edging him finally to man-home and the resonance of kin-placed stone.

There was a flame in his heart that he saw was his birth of beauty Brith-na-gig. Now the charms and tribulations of Enyella passed him by and all his mind and heart were hoving to Brith and her lush 'ooman's dangly-fair, all glad and sad for his decision. Yet feeling a poignant melancholy sweetness all the same at these, his last solitary wanderings come tether be home-tide in the west-lands, and rare if ever come that way again.

So he got up and drained his beaker, fetching from the hut where Brinen and Frenra now lay sleeping, his leather jerkin, a small flint axe and his staff held as ever. He strode silently as the night, used to moving with little or no noise, buoyed and determined towards the entrance of the stockade. He nodded to the watchers at the entrance to the homestead, who nodded acknowledgement in return, and didn't remark or question him for he was known and trusted throughout those parts.

As Ly walked through the fields of shoulder high corn either side of him, a figure watched him go from the shadows, near the watchers' fire. The figure became subtly more alert, more primed towards action, masking this beneath a pretence of fatigue and making some comment about seeking a blanket to keep off the dew. When the figure left the watchers he crept to a small hut beside several others and soon emerged with a bow on his shoulder and a quiver of flint-tipped arrow-heads. The moon illuminated his features as he came out of the hut.

It was Karuum. A sinister expression on his features betokening ill-will and some bitter humour twisting to intent as he lifted a bronze dagger to glint dully in the moonlight. Then he plucked from the quiver an arrow. He raised this to the light, then laughed darkly to himself, deliberately chopping the arrow-head off with a swift vicious action that stemmed from jealousy and anger at a pride that dared to equal his own. Karuum crossed the boundary ditch of the homestead and climbed the stockade fence to the fields beyond, and disappeared into the silvery shadows of the night.

The night was soft and warm, a welcome benediction after the recent wet and wind times which seemed to have lengthened and grown more severe over the past several winters. Now Ly was on the move in the midst of that balmy night, he did not dwell on such matters. Rather he was moved to note again with a heightened acuity brought on by his peculiar and unique circumstances, the silvery tone the corn took on in the moonlight, the dark of the distant forests, the rising of the downs and pasture before him.

Ly stopped abruptly as a weasal suddenly undulated swiftly across his path, when he rounded a bend in the track. His hunter's instincts were alerted at a slight noise behind him as of rustling. He turned round and scanned the track and the fields, thought he spied the corn waving gently some distance off and gradually stilling. He stayed completely motionless for a long while until he was satisfied that there was nothing untoward in his surrounds and that the movement was merely some small night predator on the prowl. Unaware of the irony of the thought, unsuspecting that any true treachery could exist, in such a place that was like a second home to him, he once more relaxed, walking on with the quiet ease and lightness of motion, as the panther in the forest, the wolves among the hills. But such creatures, kings in their domain, may even so be tricked and trapped and killed, despite the natural weapons and skills Nature had so bequeathed them.

After a while of walking he was in sight of the Holy Place and its arena. He could discern the white-capped perimeters that surrounded and partially secluded the mighty monument he sought. Ly turned dreamy mellow on sight of that feature and he felt his heart lift, his spirit expand; the way the place always made him feel, only more so now, at a time he'd never before witnessed it - in the depths of a moonlit night that promised him all the hope of harvest in his heart.

Closer and closer Ly got to that landscape until he was walking the central avenue and witnessing the bulk of the great stones against the starlit sky. And soon he came to the first great stones that marked the entrance to the arena. They towered above him gleaming faintly with moonshine. Awed, he placed a hand upon the one, almost tenderly and with a depth of reverence unknown til now. He could feel the life of the Mother Spirit in the hard rough stone; he could sense the secrets it contained and his mind and senses were taken up with unravelling those for the moment.

As yet he had encountered no one, and had remained undisturbed in his solitary sojourn. This proved to be the case as he drew near to the inner entrance formerly marked by two guards. Now they were not there and Ly was able to stand and regard the elegant symmetry of the structure, begin to discern the wisdom behind the texture and variation capturing the shifting light and charting the sky. Ly opened his hands as if to embrace the ethers that had brought the Holy Place into being, touched them to his chest and from thence to his lips, bowing his head and opening out his hands again in a gesture of obesiance. Then he walked through the inner entrance stones and into the temple itself, moving betwixt and between the massive structure, caressing and contemplating as he moved, entranced, under the spell of the stones and the soft silver light.

He saw two Watchers sitting cross-legged either side the innermost circle, leaning against the stones, gazing upwards with a flint and board to mark down the subtle shifts and changes from above. Ly moved back from the centre blue stone circle to the inner round of huge sarsen trilithons. He wanted aloneness, and fell back away from that inner boundary to the next outer one. Genuflecting, he sat down inside one of the great arches and looked up into the navy-blue night flickering and incandescent with the myriad stars above.

He thought of the tales told and passed on from old, that spoke of finding a home in the stars, that revealed they themselves had come from the stars - with the coming of the first great ones, the sky lords who came down to mate with the Mother. It was said in time, in generation beyond generation on, their kith and kin would fly to the stars and found new homes and new horizons on those flickering worlds above, from whence in legend they all had come, and where according to the old prophets, they would return when the wheel of the future had come full circle. These were the grand and profound thoughts which filled Ly's mind until he lost his wonder and opened himself up to the Divine Spirits above and below him, melting into the night sky and becoming one with his surroundings, part of the substance and tone around him. Ly floated for a while in the heavens, devoid of self, a fragment of the sky, as tiny and insignificant as a pebble on a beach, as potent and magical as the universe itself.

How long Ly stayed thus in semi-trance was unquantifiable. It seemed no time at all, and yet the moon was lower in the night sky and there was a sense of contained quiescence as if Nature were holding Her breath before a hint of dawn came, and the night activities moved gradually to ceasation before the trilling of the early birds. But when Ly came out of his trance night still ruled though its influence was beginning to wane. He murmured a thanks and benediction to the gods and the Mother as he rose finally, with the accustomed gesture to the breast, the lips, the ground.

Ly felt uplifted and calmed as he turned to leave the place, having received his succour, calmed by the decisions he'd made and the future he envisaged. The distant call of a night-jar brought to mind once more Brith-na-gig in all her beauty, and he saw her as fullsome rich as the harvest, the image of the Goddess in youth Herself. Ly's heart swelled when he remembered their last cleavesome fleshwhile on the night before he left, and his body melted and stiffened on rememberance of her touch. Soon, soon again before the season's finish he would be with her and never more, most probably, would he come that way again. Never more would he circumvent this great Holy Place as he did that night. The thought of this stirred profound depths in him, and he lingered through the inner entrance, stones turning and viewing the gargantuean granite missives standing witness to his silent worship. Finally Ly was moving on, his heart bursting within him, rendering his usual stalwart sharp self whimsical in the rareness of that night.

He reached out and touched again, for a final time, the outer entrance stones which he had come to. On a whim, Ly turned to climb the avenue bank that rose up, marking and secluding that central approaching avenue. Ly thought he would catch an aspect of the Holy Place he'd never seen before. His silhouette was outlined by the clear silvery night as he stood there gazing still upon the great temple, reluctant to leave, and seeing new missives in the shadow and soft light created by the play of moon sheen and smudges of dark from the semi-tone greys of the deep night balm.

All this the Great Old Ones had sown the seeds of. All this the kith and kin from old had planned and mapped and toiled to erect. All this signalled the Great Height in Human Endeavour, the Great Achievement of that fair land that served as a shining light, influencing and illumining the folk of the continents, all about and further. The instinct and knowledge of this moved within Ly making him humble yet proud, enriched yet melancholy with the thought of endings, glowing gold with the possibilities of an altogether different future; and still excited by the prospect of travel before he finally turned his skiff to the north-west, and stayed by the homestead for good and for all. He was a man come into the fullness of his own being, standing at a crossroads, having decided his path but still melancholysome over what he had to leave behind.

He heard a warbler call in the distance to his left where he knew the waters of a lake lay. He turned towards the sound and stood looking out across the country with the Holy Place now behind him, as if the sound of vibrant life had pulled him from the world of reflection to the world of the present, where the forward motion of life itself desired to be embraced.

Breathing deeply of the night air, Ly warmed himself with the Bounty of Beauty that formed in his mind from the shape of the mamelons in the near distance. Brith-na-gig's fleshly mounds so lush and ripe came to mind, making Ly wish for an instant, he could hold her to him and clasp that birth of beauty in his arms, ravage her flaming foxy hair and join her moon-ma to his man-home once more before he took off to the Great Lands that one last time.

With his mind filled with such thoughts in his seemingly solitary vigil, Ly did not hear the stealthy figure which appeared from behind the further entrance stone, silently placing the arrow and drawing back the bow. Ly did not hear the sudden quiver of the arrow through the air until it was too late and in his back: deeply embedded, a flint arrow-head, closely followed by another and another, severing the spinal cord and cutting off his life as speedily and quickly as the flight of the flint-tipped arrows themselves.

Ly's main emotion was surprise as he fell forward. But the image of Brith-na-gig came to his mind, holding open her arms and he felt himself slipping through her to the arms of the Mother Herself, where his trials and tribulations were ended and his soul was returned to Source.

In the moonlight a stealthy figure stole forward to see if the form fallen down the bank was lifeless. Satisfied that this was the case, the figure crept down the bank and began to dig the loam in the shadows, at the base of the rise, where the dead body of the Hawk lay severed from his death-writhe. Soon a pit had been dug, the body buried, skilfully and painstakingly concealed. Then in the stealthy darkness, a shadow of Death's scythe sped away across the country, as silent and unobserved as he had come, having spent his venom - holding a smile of poison, within his scorpion mind.

Gradually, gradually the moon fell back before the coming of the light of dawn, until the sunrise glanced off the first stones in the midst of the great arena; as glorious as ever, shining forth the gold of life regardless of the presence of death, buried in the recumbant form of the dead man, lying face down with the flint arrow-heads embedded in his back, the soil and stones compressing his flesh, in time, sifting a skeleton to bone.

Far away, further north in the Westlands, an old man was seated at his bench, gazing through his portal at the night sky and the full round moon. For an instant the black silhouette of a screech owl flew like a porten across the face of it, causing Old Man Wem to frown and turn down to his sacred bowl of water into which he had been scrying. He looked once more into the moon-filtered water and from the shadow of the fleeting bird he caught the glimpse of a form falling forwards, falling forwards and dying beneath some virulent shadow in the silver perfection of the night.

In that instant, Old Man Wem knew that Brith-na-gig would never see Ly come man-home and would never be moon-ma with him come by. With the same piercing intuition, Old Man Wem knew Brith-na-gig would seed and flower with a childer part of the Hawk himself.

Tears trickled down the old man's face, silver jewels on brown leather, tracing a path wrought from the sorrow of wisdom and more ...