Thursday, 23 September 2010
I have always had a great love for old books, the more well worn the better - the feel and the smell of them, the hand printed words pouring through your fingers as you flick through the brittle pages. There's something about holding these books with their smooth, worn decorated covers that you just don't feel with a modern new book... for me anyway...
So, I just acquired a little old book of Norse Legends, which has inspired me to share with you some of the other favourite old books I have on my shelf...
Here's the new one, it had a rather nice little quote on the opening page that was a nice surprise to find...
Another beautifully decorated title page from a book of Coleridge also has a nice quote...
(Click the picture to enlarge...)
Here's one of my favourite little books, my beloved Mabinogion full of the strange quirky Celtic tales of Welsh legend and of the oldest Arthur - no Victorian romantic chivalry here, but darkly chaotic tales of Kilhwch and Olwen and the Twrch Trwyth - the Otherworldly Boar, the Wild Hunt, strange manifestations, Giants, Hags, impossible quests and the birth of Taliesin the World's greatest Bard, formally the boy Gwion who shapeshifted many times fleeing the witch Ceridwen whoses cauldron of knowledge he had tended.
She eventually caught him when he shapeshifted into a grain of corn on the threshing floor and she into a black hen that swallowed him. In truly Celtic fashion she gave birth to him again nine months later, but he was so beautiful she couldn't bring herself to kill him, so set him adrift on the ocean in a leather bag to the mercy of Manawyddan of the Sea. He was washed up in the fishing weir of the unlucky Elphin where even as a babe he spouted the wisdom of all his previous incarnations... I could go on (and on!) Deserves a post all of its own really!
Here is a rather beautifully illustrated book of Siegfried the Dragon Slayer - this one was quite expensive for me at the time but the colour plates inside are more than worth it!
This is a really great leather book cover I was given as a gift by someone who knows exactly what I'm interested in!
And finally the utterly stunning Book of Kells...
This is a very large book with beautiful detail. I've had it a good ten years or so but everytime I look at it I see something new, there's just so much hidden away within the text, I absolutely love it!
I particularly love the details you can see like this stitched repair in the vellum. I would love to see the real thing one day, and perhaps the Lindesfarne Gospels and the Yellow Book of Lecan as well... long shot! I can only hope...
Anyway this was either a really interesting post or a really boring one depending on how much you love old battered books! I certainly enjoyed digging them all out anyway!
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
This is a post for Kate of Kit & Kaboodle, and Aaron-Paul of The Lost Forge of Albion who were both kind enough to say they would like to read more about my Bronze Master character Torvachyll from this previous post... Thanks for the encouragement there guys, hope you like these excerpts... I will try and get it to make sense, but it is again a bit chopped up and moved around!
Just to explain - I briefly mentioned Torvachyll became the last of his kin in the previous writing post, the exact details of which I won't go into here except to say that it was the Solar Talsiman I described being crafted in the first excerpt that blinded his enemies to him and left him (just barely) alive and alone...
Here is a brief bit following that... Looking back at it now, I may have been rather heavily influenced by certain passages of Beowulf here...!
As the red orb of the sun slowly sank to lower the world into darkness, Torvachyll carried a blazing torch to the pyres, setting it to the hoard of wood and watched the hungry flames surge into the night. The blood-smoke rose heavy with sparks to obscure the stars, a dark wind rising to a wild howling lament, whirling imperishable flame leaping higher and higher, quickening dark, a savage flame fed upon blood and perishing souls.
Torvachyll, last living of Modhrin’mos stood harsh and bright with pain upon the hillside, cast red with the funereal flame, his eyes savage with grief and fury as he uttered his heart’s oath, his voice shuddering with rage and gathering conviction.
“Terrible slaughter has carried into darkness dear Kin of mine
With dreadful stride to the shade of endless night.
Now the flames shall grow savage and the fire destroy the fair sweet forms they wore in life,
The stricken silence resounds, desolate, terrible, on shadowy wings to fan the flames.
I shall raise a wind to shake the stars
I shall be the bright arrow that burns the air
The flash of sunfire sundering the darkness.
As the lean wolf to the stag, I will stalk thee
As the Sun across the sky I will not be stayed.
Unto my life’s end,
I shall deliver retribution.”
And next a bit of an interim to carry the passages of time...
The skies turned, white mantle of winter descending the heights to cover the charred circles bleak on the ground of Modhrin’mos, where no fires any longer were raised in defiance of the pitiless night. Stars pitted the void, remote in polar frost, they fell in slow precession upon the arc of their silvered traceries, a dim etched pathway cast across the closed eye of night.
And yet life returned to the ice stricken land, and earth, blood darkened opened its umber throat to fern and tender shoot. Timid green crept wakening over the atrocity - the blood burned soil of Modhrin’mos. Blackened circles and the stumps of trees that gaped axe-severed necks to the sky remembered, a desolate ruin upon the barren hillside – tree-reft and child-reft.
In the new and unaccustomed stillness where sky reached exposed places long hoarded by the fallen woodland, saplings spindled up from the stumps of their forebears to endure in their place the frosts of autumn and the bitter life-hungering hold of winter. The sun rose and set irrefutable upon its course ever westwards into reddening flame, until the cost of four winters had scoured the land and passed silent into memory.
Ok, this next passage is the following part of the last exerpt of the previous posting and finally lets you in on what he was crafting... (I shall reitterate slightly)
....He reached for the crucible, always eager with the awe of reverence. Abandoning the steady roar of the bellows and with sweat beading from his sooted arms, running from his brow and into his eyes, he lifted the fiery vessel from the furnace. The ore-light glowed from his avid face, grim with concentration, the sweat-streaked muscles of his arms stood out, his grip steady and strong upon the antler tongs as he tipped the crucible. He began a deep chant - a dark strong timbre and sparks cascaded, motes of fire streaming over his blackened hands as the white blood of molten metals flowed into the carven stone mould before him.
The orb of the sun rose over the mountain and the flash of sunfire was blinding as the dawn rays struck the cascade of bright flowing metal. Its white-gold fury drank in the blaze and grew, impossibly brighter. The fiery heat slowly travelled up his arms, hotter and brighter as if it would blacken his bones. His muscles trembled and burned, sweat poured from him until at last he fell back, the empty crucible tumbling from his scorched grip as the dazzle of molten Sun's Blood began to fade.
Stunned and half blind, Torvachyll blinked up at the rising sun, a silent reverence stilling him in answer to its bright splendour. This would be no ordinary weapon. Soon he would see it born into the world from its dark husk of stone and discover its secrets of power, whether it would be a weapon worthy of vengeance. But by the restlessness burning within him he knew already its worth and all weariness dropped from him, he awaited in half dread the sight of it.
And when the low dusk fell upon the hillside of axe-riven trees, Torvachyll last among the clans brought his life’s work into the dimming world. Dark shroud of stone falling away, he lifted the bright weapon of Bronze, yet raw and ashen from the flames – a great triple bladed spear that caught the bloodlight of the westering sun, flashing red along the slim graceful length of its haft that glimmered with Runes and strange glyphs. He turned it in wonder and the dimming sun flashed from the triple curves of the spearhead. Its balance was perfect; it sang poised in his hand, even unfinished it begged for flight. He knew in that moment he would never again craft anything to match its like, that all else shaped by his hand would be lesser and crude when laid beside this weapon of power.
There was one further working that he would turn in his hands upon this dread-glorious weapon, a risky fusing of powers that he had considered long and fully before turning himself to such a task. He had known well cautiously of the ancient meteorite buried deep in the flank of the Black Mountain, he had seen the terrible wounds caused by those flakes and slithers washed down with the rains and miss-chanced upon by the unfortunate.
And carefully he had gathered those blue-black flakes, remembering well the affliction of Fastheach of the Na’Duaer who once long ago had taken a part of the Moonshard from the Mountain and nearly died but for the Wyrdteller’s fey wisdom. He knew well the myth – how the Moonspear had fallen miscast to strike the Mountain, and knew also the dangerous nature of its power. He had gathered only those chips and flakes of strange rock washed down from the Mountain’s flank with the rains, as in his search of the stream-beds for ores he had often in the past recognised and wisely avoided those glittering grains – no theft of the Mountain would he make.
He had ground the glittering chips of mica to powder until his hands bled in slightest contact with the Moons’ metal-ore. All his preparations were made – the time was now, into the blind unknown, whatever strangeness would come of it.
He heated the head of the mighty spear in the furnace’s charcoal embers until its tip glowed white in the twilight. Then with great care he pushed the spear tip into the glittering blue-white powder and with a violent hissing and flashing of sparks and fire, the mica fused onto the spear tip. Even as it cooled in the chill night air the white-gold elegance of the spear head showed its piercing tip bright and glinting with chill blue fire – at once deepest black and whitest light that ached and burned holes in the darkness.
And when Torvachyll looked at his work, despite his own fury for vengeance and truth upon his purpose, he shuddered with a sense of something fatal and of a path of fate set in motion that now became irrefutable, an oath never to forsake. The curving edge that he tried to focus upon shimmered black in the black air, a deadly presence screaming into the vast ancestral night, yet he closed his hand strong upon the smooth haft, welcoming its fury into his soul and binding his fate with its sudden waking power.
“I name you Vrakas – vengeance taker,
Kinsblood and Sunfire.
With your waking to the world, I arise,
As the wolf to the hunt.
My arm shall give you purpose”
Torvachyll uttered with grim fire as far above, black Modhrin’s shadow stretched cold over an unpeopled land, and the pale brindled wing of the buzzard watching there swept as a fleet shadow across the moons.
I have one more exerpt involving Torvachyll after he's left his remote ancestral lands which I am thinking of posting at some point soon-ish if anyone's still interested... Hope you liked it... I know my writing can get heavy going at times but I can't seem to help myself, its just the way I like to write - so it's all very much un-edited! Well, its been interesting revisiting these old works, hopefully at some point I'll get to work on some new works...!
Please respect my copyright of these words and writings.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
The children went back to school today, or rather Elora did and Elswyth cried because her pre-school day isn't until tomorrow and she really wanted to go...
So yesterday, being the last day of the school holidays, we went to one of my favourite places high in the winds and wide open skies - an Iron-Age Hill Fort called Cley Hill near Warminster.
I don't go as often as I'd like anymore, but I used to go there a lot years ago before children came along and its always been a very special place to me.
I used to go at all times of the year and all weathers to feel the sky and the ancient echoes of long forgotten people, and also to watch the buzzards and hawks that always circle there.
My favourite of all times to be there are the wild stormy days when the skies are racing and sun shadows surge across the land far below. Those are the days when the winds are so strong at the summit, that standing up on the main round barrow you can lean fully into the empty air over the drop and be held there, while the damp icy wind snatches the breath from you so fiercely you gasp and gulp for it.
It is a place of elements and ancestry and has always strummed a deep chord in me. I always feel so uplifted and alive there as I sit there at the summit all alone grinning stupidly to the wild wind and sky...
But anyway, yesterday was gentle weather. We saw tiny swarms of miniature sky blue butterflies and the hillside was alive with the constant swooping and skimming of swallows. Birds were everywhere, ravens dancing below us for sheer pleasure on the wind, a lone kestral hanging in the air. The children love it too, especially the place they call the upsy-downsys where the victorians quarried the ramparts for chalk.
If you look closely you can just see Elora hurtling recklessly slong a razor's edge!
This we call the Dragon's Hump, and the land falls away dramatically beneath you as you the reach the top. Quite dizzying!
It is hard to get across a sense of scale in a photo, the staggering steepnesses, the vast shoulders of it that unfold as you walk around the ramparts, and of course the sheer vastness of the sky here.
I'm not sure what my favourite aspect of Cley is, each flank has its own particualr character, but as you walk around the steepest side where the slope hurtles dizzyingly down, Little Cley emerges in its enigmatic poise.
I've often wondered what this little hill was used for, whether it was the ritual place - I wonder if its ever been dug?
Yesterday the remains of a crop circle were still visible - I think it was supposed to be a 3D one but was probebly a bit too effaced by harvesting.
Here is a picture of Little Cley from last september to try and show the steepness of the drop and the curve.
I love this place, and I can see it on the horizon on the way to my nearest town, its flanks ever changing with cloud shadows and sunlight. If any of you are passing through somerset, do take a climb and see for yourselves!
Bye for now...