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Taking leave

I’m off to Madeira for a week with my family so please all take care while I’m away!

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SELECTED SHADOWS 80

Saranna made her way out of the market-place to quieter streets of cottages and huts where the fishing families lived. Between the houses she could see the sea, tumbling onto the quiet shore of the Inner Mouth. At the very edge of the town she came to a small inn, quiet and clean, too far from the market to be crowded at this hour. Here she rested and took a light second breakfast, before setting out in earnest along the coast road. Although she walked slowly, by mid-morning she could feel the beginnings of an ache in her back. She sat down by the roadside to eat and drink a little from the well-stocked pack Darla had given her. Leaning against a tree and watching the gulls sweeping across the sparkling sea, she fell asleep in the mid-day sun.

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SELECTED SHADOWS 79

The old stone house was built of slabs of the grey mountain granite. There were stone walls around the yard, and a paddock where a donkey and a couple of draught horses grazed. In the meadow a small group of children was absorbed in a singing game.

 

‘Ak to Iror leads and then, she the heat and warmth begins,

She the heat and warmth begins,

She the heat and warmth begins.

After Iror, Skeer does bring long and sunny days to Skorn – -’

 

As they sang their hands moved in the intricate actions that go with this ancient song, and Saranna watched their serious faces as she drew slowly closer to the little circle. Suddenly the smallest child, a tiny girl with a cloud of soft golden hair, looked up and saw the stranger approaching. She let out one yell; the singing stopped, and the children froze into stillness.

Farmhouse

SELECTED SHADOWS 78

Here the path curved sharply round to the left, and Saranna edged cautiously round it; the sight that met her eyes made her cry aloud in wonder.

She was on a broad ledge, grassy and watered by a little stream that trickled down the mountainside, through a channel in the midst of the grass, and then over the edge to the lower slopes. The Twinstrack crossed this grass, passing through the stream, and at the far side descended to the south-east in a series of steep but naturally-stepped drops that took it rapidly down to gentler and greener lands. Saranna saw tree-tops below the ledge, and meadows lower still. But so amazing was the more distant view that she spent barely a minute taking in these details before turning back to it. Below Saranna the coast road wound through fertile farmlands, and golden sands were visible in coves along the rocky shore. Beyond, the sea sparkled blue in the morning sun, and white caps of waves rippled in the West Wind. Tiny white gulls and terns flashed across the water, and away beyond the stretch of empty sea where, so they said in Telan, the sea-folk lived below the waves, Saranna saw the islands.

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SELECTED SHADOWS 77

For four more days Saranna made her way slowly south, sleeping under thickets of thorn or in hollows of the rolling foothills. On the fifth day the going became more difficult. The mountains loomed higher and higher above her as the track wound more closely under their steep sides. Soon Saranna was struggling to pick out the meanderings of the track among broken rocky outcrops. The path was rising now; below, to her right, she could see over the lower land down to the distant coast, a patchwork of green fields and little houses and villages. She struggled on up the ever more precipitous path, until she was clinging desperately to the rock wall on her left for fear of falling. Night came down on her as she climbed. Saranna sat down, exhausted, and pressed her back against the rock.

‘Why did I come this way? I hate this horrible path!’ She huddled into her cloak miserably, and bowed her head. Dusk deepened around her, and the first stars peeped out. Suddenly she felt a gentle warm breeze that came out of the west and stirred her hair and the hem of her robe; she looked up and saw a great white owl sweeping on the breeze towards her, silent and majestic. As she watched, it plunged down as if hunting, then rose up into the air again and came straight towards her, carrying something in its talons. Swooping low, it dropped a large dead branch beside her, and wheeled away down towards the lower slopes again. Saranna stood up to watch in astonishment as it dived, rose, and came back to her again and again, until it had gathered a huge pile of dry wood. Then it settled on a large rock, folded its wings, and stared at her, its huge eyes reflecting the newly-risen moon.

OWL

PRAISE FOR SHADOWS OF THE TREES – FROM CLARE O’BEARA

I enjoyed this gentle and searching fantasy set in an earlier time when, as with the Fianna in Ireland, an immortal woman travels to a mortal shore, meets a man, brings him home and changes destiny. (In Finn’s day, his son Oisin went to Tir na nOg with Niamh where he never aged, but on touching the soil of Erin again after many years he became an old man.)

The tale focuses on Drewin and Saranna, the children of Iranor the Immortal and her sadly mortal lover. As demigods, the children have to choose their course, but the choice is inadvertently made and they are banished (similar to the fall from Eden) to make their way in an unfamiliar and unforgiving world. Separated, they don’t know if the other is alive or if they will ever meet again. {…}

We also meet Kor-Sen, a boy who learns to ask questions such as why doesn’t he have a father, and why can’t girls be taught to read. He later goes on to be well educated, but I thought he might have done more about seeing to it that girls could read. With a shrewd mind and occasionally finding himself among simple people, the much-travelling Kor-Sen applies himself to learning how to prosper, and finding a woman to suit him. He came across to me as self-interested which may be a product of his early life. We also meet other interesting characters.

If you’re tired of the same old heroic quests, or ever more complex magical power systems, this book Shadows Of The Trees is a refreshing change. Those who enjoy the sword and sorcery variety however will find it a slower read. The language is beautiful and the woven tale contains well-researched details about life in fishing villages, desert towns and other lands. Settings move frequently to bring us to undersea glades and towns, mountain goatherding huts, city perimeters and eerie tunnels, among others. Read and enjoy.

SARANNA STATUE

A time to mourn

I heard today that my dear cousin Tony died last night. A WW ll veteran, he was 93. I shall miss him very much.

He was a poet, and I would like to celebrate his life by sharing one of his poems:

Devon

A fertile land, a richer earth
This is where I had my birth
By the coast of Devon

A land of green, a land of light
This is what I left to fight
For the coast of Devon

A summer sun, a perfect sea
This is where I have to be
By the coast of Devon

A stormy sea, a sullen sky
This is where my parents lie
By the coast of Devon

The cattle graze, the seagulls cry
This is where I wish to die
By the coast of Devon.

[Rest in peace, Tony]

Tony in 1943

SELECTED SHADOWS 76

Two days later, in warm spring sunshine, a magnificent procession set out from the palace. All were on foot, for the King had declared that he would walk the length and breadth of his realm to show his kinship with the earth and all that grows in it. All the people gathered to cheer and to wave banners of green silk. As they reached the edge of the forest, a sudden wavering shimmer rippled across the trees, and Saranna found herself looking down the broad road that she and Willowood had travelled.

‘Oh! So it is a magic road. I wondered why it was not visible on the maps. Where does it lead?’

‘Wherever you are going,’ replied Arel. ‘It will take us to the riverbank at the point we seek.’

FOREST

SELECTED SHADOWS 75

Kor-Sen stopped abruptly and looked at Tendanta, awestruck. He fixed him with the fierce look that had often terrified students in Drelk. He flung a question at Tendanta.

‘Do you have a wooden disc on a leather thong about your neck, and does it have a rune carved on it, and is that rune ‘orth’?’

Now Tendanta was staring at Kor-Sen with a look of fear and disbelief.  ‘How do you know that? Have you been spying on me?’

Kor-Sen chuckled.  ”No, I have seen one just like it – only the rune was ‘ord’ and it was worn round the neck of a young woman.’

‘Young woman? What young woman? Where could she have found the disc?’

Kor-Sen was puzzled by Tendanta’s response.  ‘I have been right in what I have said so far? And I am right when I say that your name is not Tendanta, but begins with ‘ord’? Then who do you think this young woman is? It is your sister whose name begins with ‘orth’.

‘My sister? But she is dead. She is only a memory.’

‘Then I must be very mistaken. I am on the best of terms with the lady who wears that amulet, and when she looks on the rune her tears are real. Yes, her tears are real: I have no reason to doubt her. She does not go about under a false name.’

Tendanta became angry: he jumped up and looked as though he might strike Kor-Sen.

‘Who is this woman? Who does she pretend to be? What are you saying?’

Kor-Sen became exasperated. ‘I am saying that I have met your sister, Drewin. Your sister Saranna.’

Ord
  ORD

 

Orth
ORTH

 

SELECTED SHADOWS 74

. I have come some distance to find a man called Tendanta, known as Tendanta the wise. I wish to ask him to take me as a student. My name is Kor-Sen.’

The newcomer sat down beside the older man, poured what was left of the wine into a goblet, and took a sip.  ‘I am Tendanta, and people call me wise. But I regret that my answer to your question is no: I am not a teacher and I have no students, though I am always willing to join with others in the pursuit of wisdom, provided they are sincere and are prepared to work.’

Kor-Sen jumped up and laughed and clapped his hands.  ‘An excellent answer! The best I have heard for many years. I am sick of old grey men who declaim their truth with voices full of certainty: give me the quest, the challenge of seeking to understand.’

Drewin smiled at these words. ‘Well said. Perhaps after we have studied together for some time we will find out which of us is the teacher and which the student.’

The old runes antiqued