SELECTED SHADOWS 60

In the days that followed, Drewin helped Chafrash to build a shelter on the hilltop. While they worked he taught her the skills of shaping stone and wood that he had learnt in the Cavern; and she told him the ways of The Green, how to steer a straight path through the grass and where the animals of the plain were to be found.

The people of the plain started to come to Saracoma seeking advice on their disputes and problems. Each time they came they brought gifts of food or useful tools, so that by the time winter came Drewin’s storehouse was well supplied and his home had all the comforts that he needed.  So it was that when a group of Puchellian women came for advice about a family dispute, there was no food or tool that they could give that Drewin did not already possess.

They pondered this problem for some time, as was the way with the Puchellian, and finally decided that, instead of making a gift, they would give work. They built a device on the hilltop for lowering a pot into the river below, so that Drewin would not have to climb down to the river to get his water. It became the custom of those who came to seek the advice of Tendanta to make a gift, or to add to the comfort of Saracoma.

When the men of the Ranapalien came to Saracoma to learn how to watch the sky and predict the seasons, they built a guest house on the hill for the peoples of the plain. The Fien, who lived nearby, brought fruits in season and would bring rushes for the floors of the houses. And occasionally travellers would rest at Saracoma and give some foreign luxury in payment.

FIRST BUILDING OF SARACOMA

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SELECTED SHADOWS 59

When he awoke, the sun was high in the sky. He stood and found that he could see the whole expanse of the grasslands and the broad river curving away from his viewpoint towards the south-east. He saw the mountain range that stretched like a wall in the west, and the shimmering heat haze lying to the east.

‘Good day, sir.’

The voice was gentle, a little hesitant, but it came from just behind him and it made him jump. He turned towards the sound and saw a young woman, dressed in grey, seated on the ground in the shadow of a boulder. She was smiling, almost laughing, and seemed pleased at the effect of her words. In one fluid movement she stood up.

‘I did not mean to startle you, sir. I would not do that for all the world.’ She smiled again.

Drewin finally pulled himself together and replied.  ‘Not startled, just a bit surprised: I have been alone for some days and I hardly expected to meet another person here.’

‘Oh, I know. I know. I thought it would be fitting to greet you, once you had arrived.’

‘You knew I was coming?’

‘Oh yes. It has been the only topic of conversation across The Green for days. I daresay they are discussing it in Velar this very moment.’

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SELECTED SHADOWS 58

As the afternoon wore on, the stream became broader and slower, and led Drewin through a small wood. The shade from the trees was a relief, and as he travelled Drewin listened to the peaceful sounds of the birds’ songs and the scurrying of small animals in the undergrowth, to trees rustling in a gentle breeze and the soft burbling of the stream. While the path was level and grass was underfoot, he was often forced to push through tangled bushes and briars in order to stay near the stream. He pressed on until darkness came and he could no longer see where he was going, then he stopped, wrapped himself in his cloak, and fell into an exhausted sleep soothed by the sound of water flowing past.

The next morning he was awakened by a shaft of light slanting between the trees. Before he was fully awake he stumbled towards the light and found himself at the edge of the wood. The sun dazzled him into wakefulness and for the first time he saw what made the plain so green. The ground fell away from where he was standing then stretched into the distance, and it was covered with a vivid green grass growing shoulder high. The flatness was almost unbroken: even the river was hidden by the tall grass. Only one feature broke the monotony of the landscape: a steep-sided hill stood up from the flat land, silhouetted against the pink morning sky. Drewin had seen it from the mountain, but had thought it much smaller; now it was nearer he could see that it dominated the plain around it.

Drewin sat down where he was and ate some bread while gazing across the green expanse. ‘That will be my home.’

HILL OF SARACOMA

SELECTED SHADOWS 57

The voice echoed around the cave, high-pitched and querulous.  ‘Who’s there? Speak up, speak up. Come on. Come on. What’s your business? Healing or wisdom? I’m a busy man. Haven’t got all day.’

Only after this string of questions did the brothers see the speaker: he was sitting on a rock in a dark part of the cave, but he was grey, his hair was grey and he was so covered in grime and dust that it was difficult to see where the rock ended and he began. Vodorian spoke first.

‘Good day to you, sir. It was not our intention to disturb you, we were just passing through.’

‘Passing through? Where from? Where to? This is my cave. Has been for as long as I’ve been here. My cave. What do you mean by coming here, if not to see me? That’s no way to go on. Where from? Where to? That’s what I ask, and I expect an answer.’

Drewin took up the conversation. ‘We have come from beneath the mountain, and we are going to the world, to the light. May we pass through your cave?’

‘From beneath the mountain? No. You could not. What of Groddin?’

Drewin smiled.  ‘Yes, we met Groddin, and we did not stay to share in his meal. But who are you, to be asking so many questions?’

The grey man grinned and chuckled.  ‘Ah, I know just too much to give my name to any passing stranger. They call me the Old Man of the Ragged Mountains, but that is because they live down on the plain. My name is for me to know.’

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SELECTED SHADOWS 56

Arel cried out as his injured leg dragged behind him; but he was onto the stretcher, and they let him rest and stood up to stretch their legs and ease their backs. Saranna stayed to soothe Arel and gave him a little more wine. After a while they set off, with a stretcher party of four, four reliefs walking behind, and Gannel carrying Saranna’s pack. She kept as close as she could to Arel’s head, and tried to cheer him as they went. Nevertheless, by the time they reached the gap and stopped for their first rest, his face was grey and his lips bloodied. He shivered under his blankets.

‘Fever,’ said Gannel quietly.

The journey took all day, and Saranna’s foot began to hurt badly. She was glad of their frequent rests. Arel’s fever worsened, and he did not answer Saranna when she spoke to him. His face was burning, and his lips dry. They tried to get water into his mouth, but it was difficult as he did not help them or try to swallow. It seemed like years before the farm came into view, and Sinna came tripping along the road followed by the four kittens, calling out a protest at Saranna’s long absence. At last Arel was laid on the bed, and while the rescuers broached Saranna’s last cask of ale and found food for themselves, she did her best to make him comfortable. After the rescuers had all left she stayed at Arel’s side, wiping his face with a cool, soft cloth soaked in rose-water, holding his hand, and talking to him as calmly as she could.

GRANDY

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE POEM IN ‘THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL’?

Here is mine;

THE SEA BELL – A POEM BY J.R.R. TOLKIEN
I walked by the sea, and there came to me,
as a star-beam on the wet sand,
a white shell like a sea-bell;
trembling it lay in my wet hand.
In my fingers shaken I heard waken
a ding within, by a harbour bar
a buoy swinging, a call ringing
over endless seas, faint now and far.

Then I saw a boat silently float
on the night-tide, empty and grey.
‘It is later than late! Why do we wait?’
I leapt in and cried: ‘Bear me away!’

It bore me away, wetted with spray,
wrapped in a mist, wound in a sleep,
to a forgotten strand in a strange land.
In the twilight beyond the deep
I heard a sea-bell swing in the swell,
dinging, dinging, and the breakers roar
on the hidden teeth of a perilous reef;
and at last I came to a long shore.
White it glimmered, and the sea simmered
with star-mirrors in a silver net;
cliffs of stone pale as ruel-bone
in the moon-foam were gleaming wet.
Glittering sand slid through my hand,
Dust of pearl and jewel-grist,
Trumpets of opal, roses of coral,
Flutes of green and amethyst.
But under cliff-eaves there were glooming caves,
weed-curtained, dark and grey’
a cold air stirred in my hair,
and the light waned, as I hurried away.

Down from a hill ran a green rill;
its water I drank to my heart’s ease.
Up its fountain-stair to a country fair
of ever-eve I came, far from the seas,
climbing into meadows of fluttering shadows;
flowers lay there like fallen stars,
and on a blue pool, glassy and cool,
like floating moons the nenuphars.
Alders were sleeping, and willows weeping
by a slow river of rippling weeds;
gladdon-swords guarded the fords,
and green spears, and arrow-reeds.

There was echo of song all the evening long
down in the valley, many a thing
running to and fro: hares white as snow,
voles out of holes; moths on the wing
with lantern-eyes; in quiet surprise
brocks were staring out of dark doors.
I heard dancing there, music in the air,
feet going quick on the green floors.
But wherever I came it was ever the same:
the feet fled, and all was still;
never a greeting, only the fleeting
pipes, voices, horns on the hill.

Of river-leaves and the rush-sheaves
I made me a mantle of jewel-green,
a tall wand to hold, and a flag of gold;
my eyes shone like the star-sheen.
With flowers crowned I stood on a mound,
and shrill as a call at cock-crow?
Proudly I cried, ‘Why do you hide?
Why do none speak, wherever I go?
Here now I stand, king of this land,
with gladdon-sword and reed-mace.
Answer my call! Come forth all!
Speak to me words! Show me a face!’

Black came a cloud as a night-shroud.
Like a dark mole groping I went,
to the ground falling, on my hands crawling
with eyes blind and my back bent.
I crept to a wood: silent it stood
in its dead leaves; bare were its boughs.
There must I sit, wandering in wit,
while owls snored in their hollow house.
For a year and day there must I stay:
beetles were tapping in the rotten trees,
spiders were weaving, in the mould heaving
puffballs loomed about my knees.

At last there came light in my long night,
and I saw my hair hanging grey.
‘Bent though I be, I must find the sea!
I have lost myself, and I know not the way,
but let me be gone!’ Then I stumbled on;
like a hunting bat shadow was over me;
in my ears dinned a withering wind,
and with ragged briars I tried to cover me.
My hands were torn and my knees worn,
and years were heavy upon my back,
when the rain in my face took a salt taste,
and I smelled the smell of sea-wrack.

Birds came sailing, mewing, wailing;
I heard voices in cold caves,
seals barking, and rocks snarling,
and in spout-holes the gulping of waves.
Winter came fast; into a mist I passed,
to land’s end my years I bore;
Snow was in the air, ice in my hair,
darkness was lying on the last shore.

There still afloat waited the boat,
in the tide lifting, its prow tossing.
Wearily I lay, as it bore me away,
the waves climbing, the seas crossing,
passing old hulls clustered with gulls
and great ships laden with light,
coming to haven, dark as a raven,
silent as snow, deep in the night.

Houses were shuttered, wind round them muttered,
roads were empty. I sat by a door,
and where drizzling rain poured down a drain
I cast away all that I bore:
in my clutching hand some grains of sand,
And a sea-shell silent and dead.
Never will my ear that bell hear,
never my feet that shore tread,
never again, as in sad lane,
in blind alley and in long street
ragged I walk. To myself I talk;
for still they speak not, men that meet.

https://www.academia.edu/3168237/What…

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SELECTED SHADOWS 55

Some of the turfs near the bothy were remarkably dry. Saranna toiled up and down, bringing them all to another flat rock near where Arel lay. She covered her new stack with the remains of one of Arel’s blankets, in case more rain came. She soon had a fire going, close enough to Arel to keep him warm through the night. A thin stream of grey smoke rose above the little camp, and Arel began to look more cheerful again.

As the dusk thickened, two of the surviving sheep drew near, attracted by the glow of the turf-fire and the sound of voices. One of them came close enough to nuzzle at Arel’s neck, and Saranna tried to push it away.

‘It is all right, she won’t trample me. This is Maro, I brought her up. They know when a person is hurt or sick, she will take care.’

The ewe made funny little noises as she pushed gently at Arel; then she lay down beside him, on the side away from the fire, and began chewing contentedly.

‘There! Now I shall be cosy all night.’

FOREST

SELECTED SHADOWS 54

The journey seemed to last forever. Gannel very soon caught up with Saranna, bearing quite a sizeable bundle including bread, cheese, wine and a thick blanket from the cupboard. He shouldered this easily and also relieved her of the satchel; but they were forced to stop frequently and rest, once soaking Saranna’s foot in a cold hill-stream and binding it up with her scarf. This helped a little, but on the last steep ascent away from the sea, Saranna was leaning heavily on her neighbour.

Dusk was beginning as they came through the final gap between the rocks, and looked down on the devastation below. The green sheltered valley that had been Arel’s home was now a wasteland. A lake filled the central hollow where the pen had stood. The grass was littered with debris; fallen rocks, uprooted trees and bushes. Bedraggled white shapes lay everywhere.

Slowly they made their way down the slope towards the site of the bothy. The path had been washed away and the going was treacherous. When they had almost reached the heap of debris that marked the place where the hut had stood, they found a small sodden bundle that looked like a grey garment.

‘It’s Kirelorena, Arel’s kitten. She is dead, Gannel.’

A few yards further on the way was blocked by a fallen tree, a small twisted thorn washed down from the heights. Caught in its branches was the limp body of the brindled cat, Kirekinala. They came at last to the hut, or what was left of it. Gannel pushed his way into the wreckage and came out to report no sign of the shepherd. Saranna tried to think calmly.

‘No, Gannel, of course. He would have gone to the sheep. Arel would never hide away in the hut while he could help his sheep. Of course he is not inside.’

They began to look about them, peering down towards the lake. Gannel gave a shout.

‘I see him! I see him there, Saranna, all tumbled on the ground! Come!’

Clutching at Gannel for support, Saranna edged her way down the slope towards the still figure. She called his name over and over again, but he did not stir.

SHEEP2

SELECTED SHADOWS 53

Desperately Saranna looked around, and her eye fell on the great sturdy cupboard built against the wall; she gathered up the cats one by one and shoved them into the topmost shelf of the cupboard. Protesting and struggling, they at once tried to get down again, but Saranna slammed the door of the cupboard shut and fastened it with the bar on the outside. Loud mews of protest were added to the other hideous noises of the night.

She went out again and the wind flung her down into the thick mud of the yard. In the barn Grandy was screaming, and Saranna saw that the water was lapping against the rear wall. She got herself to her feet and back into the stall, gathered up the rest of the hens and wondered what on earth she was to do with the cow. By the time all the hens were secure, water was flowing into the barn, and Grandy’s grunting cries were pitiful to hear. Saranna set off once more across the yard. Untethering the frightened cow was dangerous and difficult; trying to persuade her to move out through the ankle-deep water that filled the barn was almost impossible. Twice Saranna slipped and fell, and once the cow trod heavily on her foot. Slowly she persuaded Grandy to plod through the flood, up the yard and out of the water. Saranna looked up at the hills, wondering whether she could let the cow go free to seek higher ground. Grandy nosed at her trustingly, and she patted the wet head.

‘No, poor old girl, you’d be swept off the hills by the wind.’

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SELECTED SHADOWS 52

When the great storm came, no-one was prepared for it. The days were shortening, but still it was summer, and many flowers still bloomed in the grasslands of the valley. Milk-cows grazed contentedly on the crofts, the birds sang each morning, and up on the hills Arel watched his flock in peace. Then late one evening, drowsing by his fire, he felt suddenly cold. Looking up, he saw that the sky was darkening, not with the clear blackness of a summer night but with the thick menace of deep, heavy clouds. The wind was rising out of the western ocean, sweeping across the waves and over the cliffs of Telan to rush down into his valley. In the pen the sheep were beginning to stir, and as Arel looked around fearfully, the two little cats awoke, sat up and sniffed the air, then bolted into the hut like rabbits down a hole. Even as he decided that he must go to the sheep, the skies flung down upon the island a mass of water almost too solid to be called rain; Arel was drenched in seconds.

clouds of change