Ch 26 Bonfire Dance

This episode of Bleakbourne on Heath is dedicated to Debra Hayes, who has waited so patiently for Leryn to reappear.


All over Bleakbourne on Heath, couples were preparing to dance the ritual dance, and Leryn the Bard was going to be a dancer. Tom Tailor had offered to play his crwth, which he pronounced ‘crewth,’ an old-fashioned instrument that was played with a bow, much as a viol was, and Janet had agreed to play her bodhran.

The bard loved nothing more than playing with other musicians and had spent many a congenial evening, along with other locals who had a small knack for music. But it was his wedding night and his bonfire dance, and Janet had firmly insisted he would honor the traditions and not play a note. He bowed to her wisdom, as she was knowledgeable in such things.

He was grateful for Polcock and Hannah. They had aided Leryn in his preparations as if he were their son. For the previous two weeks, Hannah had instructed him in his part with Polcock giving advice, ensuring he wouldn’t make a misstep during that most crucial part of the ritual.

Leryn’s nerves nearly got the best of him, but Polcock and Hannah reassured him.

Rosie had been involved in her part of preparing for the ritual too, staying with Lancelyn and Galahad who were acting as her brothers, to ensure she and Leryn didn’t accidentally cross paths during the three days before the wedding. The two knights had scoured the countryside looking for flowers, and their part of the night’s ritual was completed and waiting in the barley field for the bride and groom.

In all the fields around Bleakbourne, the families of the about-to-be-married couples were also looking for flowers to adorn their bowers for the most important part of the wedding night. Leryn and Rosie would lay under the stars in Polcock’s barley field, shielded by the arbor set aside for them. Lance and Galahad had set it up perfectly and decorated it, and the two knights would stand guard, at a respectful distance, of course. Farmers vied to provide a field for the connubial couples, as the fields so blessed would be fruitful for years to come.

Solstice Night had arrived, and bonfires lit the countryside. At last, dressed in his new clothes and filled with the determination to make Rosie proud of him, Leryn gathered with the other grooms in the village square.

Gazing across the square at the assembled brides, he saw Rosie, her elven beauty standing out among the others. Her unruly crimson hair had been braided and was bound by flowers. Hannah and Janet had sewn her red dress, a simple garment as compared to some of the other dresses, yet it’s simplicity made it all the more flattering to her slender figure. Unlike the other brides, she wore no jewelry. The flowers in her hair were all the decoration she wanted.

Wood was piled in the bonfire pit at one end of the market square, unlit but ready for the spark. An altar table stood in the center. The grooms stood across from the brides, both groups having entered the square from opposite sides. The crowd fell silent as, bearing both the Moonstaff and the Holy Book, Brother Henson entered the square and set the Holy Book on the altar. He stood before it, praying, then turned to the assembled townsfolk with the staff raised. In firm, ringing tones, he called, “Who among you desires to be wed beneath the moon and stars tonight? Come forth and stand before me, brides and grooms.”

The two groups crossed the square, stopping in two ranks before Brother Henson, each couple facing their intended spouse.  The good brother walked between the two rows. Stopping before the first pair and taking the left hands of each he said, “Father Sun and Mother Moon, watch over this family from tonight until death parts them. Under the stars above, I declare you bound one to the other, forever and always. Give heed to each other’s counsel, and do not go to sleep angry. Coins mean little in the fullness of time—love is the one treasure you can take with you when you depart this Earth.” Having said that he placed the bride’s hand in the groom’s and moved to the next couple, speaking the same words.

When he had linked the last pair, the five couples joined hands and formed a circle around him. Raising his arms to the starlit sky, Brother Henson declared, “Beneath the stars and before all the deities you have joined your lives. As the sun and the moon do their daily dance, so do we who live here below.”

With that, Tom Tailor touched the bow to his crwth and played the opening refrain of the Wedding Dance. The five couples moved in unison, stepping and turning, the grooms lifting the brides in time to the pounding of the bodhran. Hand in hand they danced, repeating the pattern and revolving around Brother Henson, as the watching throng cheered. The music played faster and faster, and the dancers spun and wove the dance, lifting and twirling, never faltering or losing their way. The tension in the air grew as life-magic was funneled in to Brother Henson, gathering and growing until at last the monk’s Moonstaff lit up the night. He raised it high above his head, and a shaft of brilliant white light left the staff, igniting the bonfire to the joyful roar of the crowd.

With the lighting of the bonfire, the five couples fanned out, still dancing, leaping and twirling as they wove the spell of happiness and good fortune. Other couples joined them, and the square was filled with dancers, each casting the spell of prosperity and happiness.

After the party had died down the wedding guests walked to their homes, weary but pleased with the way the Solstice fertility rites had gone. As Polcock and Hannah settled into their bed, Hannah remarked, “It was a good bonfire dance.”

Polcock agreed. “One of the best we’ve had.”

Hannah put her arms around her husband. “Are you sorry we didn’t wait until Solstice night to get married?”

“Not at all. Solstice night is the young bride and groom’s night, as they need all the blessings the deities can offer. My first wife and I were married on Solstice night, and we were very happy.”

Hannah said, “I still remember the bonfire dance when I was married the first time. I spent a month sewing my dress.”

“I’ll bet you were the prettiest bride there.” He thought for a moment. “But you have to admit, we danced well at our wedding party. We’ve been blessed, too.”

Hannah felt a surge of love for her sometimes prickly husband. “And we’ve been quite happy ever since.”

>>><<<

Lancelyn and Galahad appeared at the Ploughman’s Inn bright and early, handling Rosie’s tasks in the stable. They boarded their horses there and usually spent their evenings there as well. Galahad curried Brunhilde, Rosie’s mare, examining her closely. When he was finished, he patted her neck, whispering reassurances to her.

She was due to foal any day, and while he wasn’t unduly concerned, there was just the slightest worry in the back of his mind that the foal would have to be put down. Morgause balanced on Lancelyn’s shoulder, but she closely watched Brunhilde. Galahad observed the cat’s behavior, seeing she was calm. Her demeanor suggested there was nothing to worry about.

When he crossed over to the bench to rack the curry comb and hoof-pick, Morgause stepped lightly to Galahad’s shoulder from Lance’s, purring. He stroked her tawny fur, sending her his affection. “You don’t want me to worry.” In answer, she rubbed her cheek against his, causing him to smile. “If you say there’s nothing to worry about, I believe you.”

Lancelyn had finished mucking out, and they led the horses to the paddock. Brunhilde immediately distanced herself from the other horses, but otherwise displayed her usual placid demeanor. “I think we’ll have a foal soon,” Lance said. “She’s behaving well, but she’s avoiding the other horses. That’s one more sign pointing to it happening tonight or tomorrow.”

“I think you’re right. It’s been a normal equine pregnancy so far.” Leaning against the fence, Galahad watched the other horses, seeing them calmly grazing, tails flicking away flies. “From the way her belly looks, the foal is normal sized. She seems to be carrying it well.”

Lancelyn looked away. “What if… what if it’s….”

“A centaur?” Galahad’s words fell harshly into the soft summer morning. “We’ll do what we have to, in such a way that Brunhilde isn’t traumatized. But Morgause seems to think it will be a normal foal.”

Stepping down after giving Galahad one last caress, the cat walked along the fence rail, leaping onto Lance’s shoulder. Laying her soft cheek against his, she purred softly in his ear. “She’s trying to comfort me.”

“Morgause loves us, and she knows things. If she says there’s nothing to worry about, we should heed her.”

>>><<<

Dawn had come to Polcock’s barley field. The sky was blue, birds sang, and Leryn was utterly happy. He’d heard Lancelyn and Galahad depart from their posts, most likely to go to the Ploughman’s Inn.

He reflected on the events of previous weeks, making the orb for Bramblestein, and sealing Jason Tenneriff and his court in the space between worlds. The confrontation with the demon was drawing nearer, and he might not survive it. He knew that, but he had accomplished one thing for himself, despite the possible hitches. He’d gotten properly married the way young men and women were supposed to.

The bonfire dance had been spectacular, and while he and Rosie wouldn’t be blessed with children of their own, many children would be born to the couples who had danced that night. Besides, he and Rosie would have many years together. Who knew when an orphaned child would need a family? After everything they had been through, to have been given this chance at happiness was more than he could take, and tears stung his eyes.

Rosie filled his senses, making him feel complete as no other woman had ever done. He kissed her hair, and she stirred in his arms but drifted into a deeper sleep.

So many things had gone wrong since he’d come to Bleakbourne, a naïve journeyman looking for folk tales. He’d discovered that the line between fable and reality was sometimes blurred. Many sacrifices had been made, and more would be demanded, but Leryn had this moment and was determined to revel in it.


“Bleakbourne on Heath” © 2016-2017 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

To Read Previous Episodes of “Bleakbourne on Heath” click here:

Bleakbourne on Heath Series


Connie J. Jasperson is an author and blogger, and a regular contributing member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

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Why Catholics Built Secret Astronomical Features Into Churches to Help Save Souls | Atlas Obscura

 

“A Disc of light moves across the cathedral floor. The marble in its path lights up, revealing deeply colored swirls, rich with hues of burgundy, plum, caramel, and ochre. It is ancient rock, stained by terrestrial chemistry and by the infernal pressures of the inner Earth. Its surface is smooth and nearly reflective, testament to extraordinary craftsmanship but also to the effects of hundreds of years’ worth of penitent feet processing through the looming shadows of the church interior. The air smells of smoke and candle wax, and the occasional perfume of a passing tourist.

The source of this light is a hole punched through the roof of the church high above, elaborately accentuated by a brilliant halo of golden rays, painted to resemble the sun. The hole acts like a film projector. Daylight streams through, creating a narrow beam of illumination visible only in the presence of smoke or dust, as if something otherworldly has been forced into material form….”

Read more at the Source: Why Catholics Built Secret Astronomical Features Into Churches to Help Save Souls | Atlas Obscura

Bleakbourne on Heath: Ch 25, The Demon Gains a Point

800px-Govert_Flinck_004The sun was well up when Leryn woke, his arm across his eyes shading him from the sunlight pouring through the window. He hadn’t seen Rosie for three days, as was traditional for an engaged couple. She’d gone to stay with Lancelyn and Galahad in their little cottage at the edge of town, and wouldn’t see him until they met in the square at sunset for the wedding ceremony.

Merlin shook him again. “Wake up, fool!”

“For god’s sake, go away. I just got to sleep.”

Merlin yanked the sheet off him. “Get up now! We have an emergency.”

Leryn sat up, rubbing his eyes. “You’re aware that while you were resting after our day’s labor in your dungeon, I was in the square entertaining the masses until near dawn, right? It was Moon Song Night. And tonight we’re getting married the traditional way, under the Solstice Moon with the others.”

Merlin handed him his breeches. “I know, and I’m sorry. But there won’t be any weddings if this isn’t fixed.”

“What’s the problem?” Leryn stood up, buttoning his pants.

“Tenneriff Keep has reappeared. It’s a trap, meant to lure me, but I’m not so stupid as to set foot in there. I can resolve this from the top of the hill, but I need you to support my magic with your music. I will supply the instrument.” Merlin handed him his shirt. “Now listen to me. You will present yourself as an ordinary bard. The demon will be watching us from whatever shadow he is hiding in.”

Leryn paused, glaring at his mentor. “Watching us? I’m not walking into his parlor on my wedding day, so don’t ask it of me.”

Merlin snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous. Mordred has managed to weaken the veil concealing the keep. It hasn’t manifested completely, but while we were busy yesterday, something allowed him to create a window from his spot in Hell, allowing him to view that place. I mean to make that view of his temporary and slap his hands in the process.”

“I’m getting married tonight. I shed a lot of blood yesterday, and I need the blood I have left to hold my veins open. I can’t be unconscious, or otherwise absent. Rosie is counting on me.”

“Trust me.” Merlin put on his most persuasive smile. “You won’t have to do anything involving a blood sacrifice.”

Leryn  sighed, “What do you want from me?”

“When we get there, I will behave toward you as if you have no magic. I will question you since you were the witness when it last appeared, and he would expect that. You will answer as if you were still the naïve boy you were then.”

“I’d better not miss my wedding, or you’ll have to face Hannah’s wrath. She’s gone to a great deal of trouble for Rosie and me.” Leryn gestured to the wardrobe, which stood open. “Tom Tailor has made me a fine shirt of red linen, just like any proper groom. So don’t mess this up for me.”

>>><<<

The ride to the keep took less than half an hour. They stopped on the hill where an overgrown, rutted road went down to a valley. There, shimmering as if it were an illusion, was the massive castle Leryn remembered. They dismounted, letting the horses graze.

“It looks less solid than when I was summoned here before, sir.” Leryn’s head still ached from lack of sleep and his hands shook as if he were hung over, but his voice was calm. “I don’t want to enter it.”

“Don’t worry, bard. I won’t ask it of you.” Merlin radiated power, something Leryn had never seen him do. “Tell me what happened the first time you saw this place.”

As if he’d never told the tale before, Leryn complied. As he concluded, he said, “I don’t blame you if you disbelieve me, Sir Wizard. But I swear by all I hold holy that what I have told you is the truth.”

“And what happened after that?”

“Nothing sir, until the night of the Crypt Wind.” The bard recounted the events of that evening, again speaking as if he’d never done so. “As you can see, he is a fearsome man, sir. I’d prefer not to be involved in this.”

Merlin nodded. “I expect so, but he has involved you, and you gave him information that has harmed me. Therefore I require your services.”

“How could I have gone against him?” Genuine fear tinted Leryn’s voice. “And what can I do that you can’t? I’m a bard. I make people dance, and if needed I can sing rats away from a barn or a home. Other than that I have no skills.”

“Let’s discuss your rat singing skills. Rats and crows perhaps? In my travels, I heard you had sung away the rats at Yarrl’s Tavern.”

“Not crows sir. But rats from a barn, yes. Any apprentice bard can do that. And Yarrl would have paid an apprentice five coppers for the work, had one come by when he needed him. I did it as a favor to him as he was kind to me when the weather was bad.”

“Could you do it for me, now? I will pay you a silver for it.”

“Without my pipes? At the very least I would need an apprentice’s flute. It is the tones that drive rats away, and I don’t think one can sing the rat song effectively without the sharp tones of a flute or the pipes. At least, I’ve never tried.”

Merlin fished around in his saddle bags, handing Leryn a wooden flute. “Can you play this?”

Leryn held the flute, turning and examining it, seeing it was made of a certain wood he recognized as having come from the primal forest. Runes were inlaid in silver, and the flute itself reeked of magic. “This is a wondrous instrument, sir, one no master would be ashamed to play. What master made it?”

“I did, many years ago. Longer ago than I like to remember. Music is magic, bard, and don’t ever forget it.”

“If you say so, sir. The only magic I’ve found in music is that people like it and pay me to play it, and rats don’t like the rat song, so they leave.” He held the flute to his lips, sensing the magic within it. “This is longer than I am used to, but the song is simple, so I should be able to play it.” Knowing it would be odd if he didn’t bargain for a larger fee, he continued, “However, I would require one gold for such a task, because you’re asking a master to do an apprentice’s job. Surely you don’t require a master’s services for such a minor thing as clearing rats from this area.” Leryn stalled for time, as he tried to get a feel for the flute, mentally working out what he had to do so the melody would sound like he was an ordinary bard. “Besides, I fear to cross the demon.” There was a ring of truth to his statement.

Sensing the bard was hedging for a reason, Merlin played along. “A gold! Don’t press your luck, boy. You’re a very young master, and that master’s pin is a recent acquisition.”

Leryn held firm. “Nevertheless, the rank is mine. I may have earned it recently, but I did earn it and should be compensated accordingly.”

“I will give you two silvers because you have a master’s rank and not a copper more.”

Leryn nodded, as if reluctantly. “As you wish, sir. Two silvers.”

“Good. You will play that song, and I will cast a spell.” The wizard attempted a comforting smile, which only succeeded in looking slightly evil. “Don’t be frightened. it’s only a spell of aversion, making sure no one stumbles onto this place by accident.”

“I see.” Leryn would have to get on with it whether he was ready or not. “I’m not pleased at being involved, Sir Wizard. It seems perilous. I don’t like to court danger.”

“It’s perilous, no matter which way you go, bard. The demon chose you when he made his move, and because he did, you are involved.”  Rising to his full height and power, he said, “What makes you think I’m any kinder than the demon? Now, begin that song. I must warn you: no matter what happens, don’t deviate from the melody and don’t stop playing until I tell you to, or you will find yourself in the demon’s clutches.”

“That’s not very reassuring, sir.” Raising the flute to his lips, Leryn played the opening refrain, a simple repetitive melody that was the first song an apprentice bard learned.

At first, nothing happened. The flute had a beautiful, sweet tone, lower than most other flutes. Merlin apparently knew it well, as he sang his spell to that tune perfectly. Leryn concentrated on just playing the music, and not injecting any of his own magic into the mix.

At what must have been the tenth round of the melody, he noticed Tenneriff’s castle had become more ghostly. It was transparent, less in the world than it had been. By that time Leryn was struggling with boredom and had to force himself to keep strictly to the mindlessly simple melody. The urge to liven it up was almost overwhelming.

That urge, he reasoned, must have been the demon’s spell trying to protect itself. He concentrated harder, playing the tune exactly.

Eventually Merlin ended his spell, and gazing down on the valley, Leryn lowered the flute. All that remained was a fog bank shaped suspiciously like a large keep. Everything about it shouted “Run! Get away!” which he knew was Merlin’s ward of aversion doing its task.

Merlin turned to the bard. “It’s not perfect but will have to do. Thank you for your assistance. I believe I owe you two silver coins.”

Leryn accepted them, “Thank you, sir.” The fact that Merlin was still carrying on the charade told him it hadn’t gone as well as the wizard had hoped.

Back on the road to town, Merlin told Leryn the time was rapidly approaching when the Demon would make his move. “He has gained a point in this game. I was unable to completely seal Tenneriff Keep away from this world. I closed his window, but we have to be careful from here on out. We must avoid that place, as he may be able to hear some things spoken there if the words are what he is listening for.”

When they arrived back in Bleakbourne on Heath at the Ploughman’s Inn and parted ways, Leryn said, “I intend to take a long nap, now. I have a big night planned, and I thank you for not dropping me into some death-defying escapade we couldn’t get out of.”

Merlin looked at him. “It was death-defying. Don’t fool yourself that it wasn’t. Had he been able to lull you into improvising, it would have been a disaster. He lurks on the other side with his army at the ready, just waiting for his chance. If you had deviated from the melody, he would have had the gate into this world open, and we wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

Leryn glared at him. “That’s what I love about you. You always know how to ruin a perfectly good mood.”

The wizard smirked. “Enjoy your wedding night. I’ll be there to keep the dwarf in line. You know how much he loves his ale.”

“Hah! You mean he’ll be there keeping you from making a fool of yourself.”

Merlin’s cheeky grin faded. “I haven’t been up to much drunken foolishness, lately. But maybe after everything is resolved.”


“Bleakbourne on Heath” © 2016 – 2017 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

To Read Previous Episodes of “Bleakbourne on Heath” click here:

Bleakbourne on Heath Series

A More Accurate World Map Wins Prestigious Japanese Design Award – StumbleUpon

mapmapamp

“To design a map of the world is no easy task. Because maps represent the spherical Earth in 2D form, they cannot help but be distorted, which is why Greenland and Antarctica usually look far more gigantic than they really are, while Africa appears vastly smaller than its true size. The AuthaGraph World Map tries to correct these issues, showing the world closer to how it actually is in all its spherical glory.

Created by Hajime Narukawa at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance in Tokyo, the design…”

 

Read more at the Source: A More Accurate World Map Wins Prestigious Japanese Design Award – StumbleUpon

Exploring Mexico’s Zone of Silence, Where Radio Signals Fail and Meteorites Crash | Atlas Obscura

“There’s an area in the Chihuahuan desert in northern Mexico where radio signals don’t work, and compasses spin out of control when placed near stones on the ground. It’s called the Zone of Silence. It measures only 50 kilometers across, and it is located in the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve, a huge, mostly uninhabited expanse of almost 400,000 hectares, where the flat and desolate terrain is interspersed with lonely mountain outcrops…”

Read more at the Source: Exploring Mexico’s Zone of Silence, Where Radio Signals Fail and Meteorites Crash | Atlas Obscura

Abraham Lincoln’s Words, Maybe – The New Yorker

“The tendency to obsess over single words and phrases reflects, in part, the semi-divine status of Lincoln in American history. But it also reflects a desire to show that rhetoric and writing were as essential to his career as acts and orders and elections. In the past twenty-five years, and particularly since the publication of Garry Wills’s “Lincoln at Gettysburg” (1992), language and its uses has become a central Lincoln subject. Two prominent strains of rhetoric run through the period—the Biblical and the classical—and political ideas tend to get tinted by whichever of them the speaker uses.”

Read the entire article at the Source: Abraham Lincoln’s Words, Maybe – The New Yorker

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New species are discovered all the time. Unknown old species—extinct ones, found as fossils and then plugged into our historical understanding of the world—turn up a lot, too. But every once in a while, all we have to go on is a word. New or old, known or unknown, no one knew what a woggin was until Judith Lund, whaling historian, decided to find out…”

Read more at the Source: What’s A Woggin? A Bird, a Word, and a Linguistic Mystery | Atlas Obscura