Saturday, August 19, 2006

Storyline: The Second Ring

Dusk in the early fall of 1201, two peasents were gathering in scythed wheat from a bumpy field along the track that lead from the town of Agneash to Ballaragh on the East coast of the Isle of Man. These hearty fellows were rather non-descript save the flaming red hair which grew long down their backs and marked them of Norse stock. They were third generation Manx; their grandfather had been one of the landless high birthed who had sailed across with Loof of the Crimson Fist, but a storm in the Irish Sea had driven him ashore on Man and he was forced into servitude by the local Viking chieftain.

Their task was still far from complete when they heard the sound of a horse being driven fast and recklessly up the narrow track. Such a sound was a wonder compared to the gentler plodding of Oxen. Horses were rare in this part of the country seeing as they were far from the wealthier provinces and the cost of keeping horses was prohibitively expensive even among the chiefs. Moreover, the potted ox-cart road was no place to take a horse to a gallop, and at dusk disaster was inevitable.

Indeed it was, for no sooner had horse and beast appeared as strange silvery figures against the strangely white Eastern sky, but the horse stubled and fell in a sickening thud, throwing up straw and turf. In its agony the beast rolled over upon the rider, crushing him under its vast weight. The rider let out a horrid cry, then moaned as the horse attempted to regain itself kicked its hind legs striking him in the chest.

The two peasents were upon him in an instant. One, the taller of the two noticed the strange leather and whicker constructions strapped to the horses hooves, which had been beaten to shreds in the rapid flight of the horse. Acting bravely, he took his wooden stave and struck the beast on its head, cracking its skull and ending its life.

As the other peasent dragged the rider aside, he noticed the red cross on his breast, the well oiled leather armor and a strange reed tube, bent into a shape like a J and strapped to the riders neck.

The two peasents knew about the crusades, its successes and failures. A brother of theirs had joined one of the English crusades in the hopes of finding land for himself in distinguished service, but had died of a fever on Cyprus before he could distinguish himself. But this creature was something entirely knew to them.

In the final glistening light of that day, as the two brothers bent over him they could see dark blood welling up from the knights mouth with every pained breath. It was clear that the knight was trying to speak. The sound of other hooves now came to their ears and the knight's eyes widened with fear. Clearly this brave man was not afraid of his own death which was certain but of something else. He gestured towards the dead horse, and the tall peasent went over and saw the waterproof saddle bag. The knight nodded. The peasent brought the bag back and loosed its contents. There was some food for the journey, some coin, an extra cloak, a wineskin and a waterskin, a leather bound book (valuable whatever the contents) and a black stone set in a bronze ring. With an unworldly effort the knight managed to sit up, then stand. He grasped the book and the stone and shoved them into the arms of the smaller peasent. Then with his last effort he pushed the peasent aside, away from the track and turned to face the unknown riders.

This smaller peasent, notable only for his profoundly large lips, found himself running, driven by a fear he could not comprehend. The sound of conflict and shouts rapidly faded behind him, yet he did not stop. He ran all that night and all the next day, stopping only when he reached the monastary of St. Colm, a tiny chapel and dormitory of rock and wood in the rugged terrain surrounding Snaefell. There, he hid the book and the stone without anyone's knowledge within the wreckage of a fallen hermitage at the edge of the compound. He rested for two days under the care of the kindly Monks.

Having mastered his fear he returned to his home, a journey of some three days, but before reaching his village a relative told him that his brother, the taller of the two peasents decended of Vilek from Dagger Fjord had been found dead on the road and it was assumed that he was the murderer since he had disappeared. Quietly, Janik the shorter of the two peasents with the enormous lips, retrieved his family and moved back to the monastary of St. Colm taking up residence in the ruined hermitage.

Janik lived another 65 years after these events never saying a word about what had happened and relating this tale only on his deathbed to his son. That was in the year 1266, the year of the Treaty of Perth.

No comments: