Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Graham Donachie's Stories
A Pictish Tale


Pictland... 3rd Century AD....................

The old one sat alone in the corner. His one eye blinking with rheumy tears. His other eye an empty black hole, the result of a sword thrust from an enemy, many suns ago. He shuddered when he thought upon the pain of the losing of his eye.. He had fought many battles in his life. He had fought in constant local skirmishes amongst neighbouring families, to the pitched battles fought in frenzied madness, trampling underfoot the gore that was the dying and the dead. He remembered many victories and defeats . Always, he remembered the cloying sickly sweetness of fresh spilled blood. He had taken many enemy heads. He had killed many men.

The Giants from the lands across the Northern Sea, raiding the coast in their sleek war galleys had been the first to feel the anger and the power of the Northern People.

The Red Haired Warriors of the west spread in alarming numbers and constantly harassed the People. They too, had found no easy pickings to be had in the wild lands of the Northeast. The Ancestor Spirits who wandered in the glens of the Great Mountains had witnessed the Red Hairs many retreats from the savage slaughter inflicted upon them by the anger of the People.

And then, from the Southlands, came the new Enemy.

This was an Enemy to be very wary of. It was said that they came from a land so far away, near the edge of the world and their prowess in battle was fearsome. They built great wooden stockades and
forts in which many warriors could be housed. They ravaged all the land before them and killed any who opposed their rule. They took local women to bed either willingly or otherwise. Such was their arrogance. Such was their power. They erected a Great Wall. From the Eastern shore, it snaked away over moorland and over the hills, into the mists of the Western Lands. It was no ordinary wall. It was fortified and guarded every minute of every day and could not be attacked with ease. Many a warring
tribesman had died trying to scale these walls.

And soon....The danger came into the land of the Northern People.

Thousands of ranked and armoured warriors, with glistening spears had marched across the Land. At the end of every day they would erect small stockades for protection from any attack. And so it came to pass that on every hillock or rising, the Enemy would clear the immediate location of any scrub, build a small fortification to house the warriors and always they dug a trench round the encampment for further safety. Their presence was evident everywhere. They traded with the local tribes, but they were sorely resented and on many occasions quarrels would erupt and weapons would be drawn, but always, their Might would prevail.

The Enemy came to be known as the Eagle Standard People.....

The Old One sighed to himself as he thought on those far away warring days. Now he told his stories to members of his family and clan. At night, round the blazing fire in the great house, all would be silenced. The family would huddle closer together.....and the Old One would spin his Tales of battle and long ago deeds of honour. But always, they urged him to tell the special Tale.....the one that made even the youngest quiet....and would a mother chide an unruly quine...until only the crackle of the fire could be heard. The Old One again cast his mind back..oh so many years ago, to the tyme of his first lone hunt for the head of the Great Boar..... And in his weak and wavering voice, would the Old One begin the telling.

He had been a mere boy when he had killed his first man. On a cold and frosty morning in the Season of the Big Snows, a warrior of the Eagle Standard People had fallen victim to his spear. So long ago.....and after the killing of the man, and the severing of the head..there came to him..the Vision.

...................................................................................................................................

Morning ...at sea....  The rowers were well into their rhythmic back breaking labours. The Galley tossed and heaved in itís passage North, through the thick fog of another summer morn. The Land to the East was out of sight, but The Man of The Ship knew they were not far offshore. The cry of seabirds and the drifting flotsam gave him confidence that all was well. His prayers to the Gods had, so far, been answered and his course as yet was unhindered by any problems. His man up aloft in the rigging, was the eyes of the vessel. He was the sentinel.... A cry from above brought him to the bow of his Great Ship and he strained his eyes in an effort to pierce the swirling fog. Then...a gleam in the way ahead ...a sun streak...and they were through this haar curtain and into the rays of the warming daylight. The coast was barely visible from where they sailed. From the position of the rising sun, the Man ordered his Helmsman to steer a new course......Westward.....

The open sea gave way to the entrance of the Great Northern River, and the Galley pulsed itís way into the mix of the salt and fresh water depths. Dip.. and row.. Dip.. and row.. the muscles of the rowers flexing in perfect harmony as they powered the galley into new uncharted waters. It was not yet the
clearest of mornings and the last tendrils of mist still clouded the vision. The floating debris of a tree rich coast was evident in the water into which they sailed...He shouted for the piper to play a tune....

Pipe notes and the efforts of the rowing soon blended into one melodious rythmn. The heavily muscled drum beater also kept up a steady beat and the Great Ship ploughed Her way into the estuary of the
river........

..............................................................................................................................

The Boy cast his line into the water and gave a silent prayer to the river gods for a quick easy catch. It was still a very early summer morn and the sea haar had not yet dissipated. All around him was milky
white. The shore could not be seen.. but he was confident in his own youthful ability that when the fog cleared, he would not have far to paddle for the beaching of his small craft and the gutting and cooking of his first meal of the day.

He had traveled far from the settlement.. For three suns now, he had been alone on his hunt. His quarry lived deep in the forest of the tall trees. He had smelled and tracked the porcine family far from his own known territory into an unfamiliar landscape...But he knew they were near...and this day would bring him the Trophy...but it was a most dangerous task. He could not underestimate the ferociousness of the Tusked One...It would take all his courage to face and stand strong against the charge of this screeching demon.....But, how proud he would be and his prowess as a great hunter would be recognised, for the Killing of the Giant Boar....... But for now...his belly grumbled, and his makeshift boat took him out to where the shoals swam. His luck and the Gods were with him. He felt a tug on the line...and a meal was his reward. The fish aboard and dead now, a good size, it would make him two meals. He began his paddle back toward the beach......but the drifting tide had sucked him further from the shore than he had anticipated. So involved with his paddling, he at first was not aware of the sound....It was only when he broke from his efforts did he hear the strange melody come stealing through the curtain of mist. The sound was unlike any other the boy had ever heard...Now he became
afraid....Flashing through his mind were the Tales of river bogles and water spirits who came ashore to rob the living of their souls. He grew cold and frantic with terror....Now the sound nearer now, but this tyme it was a drum beat....He began to wet himself in his fear and was beginning to weaken from his struggles....but he could now see the shoreline...he never made it.

..................................................................

A shout from aloft brought the Man to the prow of his ship.....On the lee side he could make out the sorry sight of a lone boy in a small boat vainly paddling his way to shore....He ordered the oars to be shipped and the order was repeated on the main deck and below decks, where the second tiers of rowers glad of a respite gladly lifted the long heavy oars clear of the water. Momentum took the ship forward, gentle now, and it drew alongside the small craft. An oar was dipped and a swarthy seaman, climbed down from the deck, on to the oar and deftly, with a ham fist plucked the boy from his craft and carried him bodily back up the oar where he was dumped over onto the deck...There was much laughter now from the seamen as they jostled for a glimpse of this strange small creature..

The Man stepped forward and stood before the boy. The boy lay glaring up at his captors. Now, not so frightened he had the look of defiance on his face.....The Man looked into the eyes of this wild dirty male child and those eyes made him shudder somewhere inside....He had seen this same look in many of these tribesmen who inhabited this land. This one was a mere boy, but given a few years and he too, would develop into a dangerous foe......He wondered how old would this child be. What should he do with him. He had seen similar children put to the sword...One less barbarian to contend with later...But looking at his helpless prisoner, now in the midst of the jeering crew, being cruelly taunted and poked and manhandled he cast his first thought aside.....Giving a curt order, he turned his back on the sport and strode to his command position at the ships prow.....The boy was grabbed by two burly
seamen and taking an arm and a leg each, they swung him a few tymes back and forth, then tossed him roughly overboard. His small frame arced and then plummeted splashing feet first into the river. Below he went and then came bobbing to the surface thrashing and gasping for air, much to the delight and jeers of the crew.....The boy regained his breath and trod water....The galley was like some many armed monster wallowing in the river. The Manís head suddenly appeared over the side of the deck and looked down at the boy. For a moment the two were locked in an strange visual communion.....

The boy turned on his belly and swam easily in the direction of the shore.....

The oars were dipped, and the galley once more began itís journey up the Great River..

........................

The boy prayed to his Gods for strength and his heart beat loud in his thin frame..and his Gods answered his cries and he came at last to the sandy beach....He turned and looked back. The galley was moving steadily upriver now. He darted for the tree line and disappeared into the shelter of the Tall
Trees.

From a clearing on top of the ancient hill, the Elders looked south toward the River. They could see the ship, small from this distance, as it made its way upriver. This was not a vessel of the Horned People from across the Northern Sea..no... this was a Strange One . It did not sneak silently as the Horned People did when on their raids of murder and rape...No, this ship sailed confidently in mid river. From afar, on this hill top, where the Elders watched, could be heard the distant drumbeat as the oars dipped and rowed as the ship made its journey upriver....They watched in silence, each forming their own opinions of this new threat from the sea. Never had any such ship been seen in the river before...Could it be an ally of the Eagle Standard People.? They were ever present to the west and south and a small number of their stockades were now being built on this very northern bank of the River. Glancing to the westward...on a hilltop...just two suns journey away....was the nearest of these encampments. Word would have to be sent to the Tribes of the Mountains in the North.....Runners would be chosen and sent at once.

................................................................

The great ship anchored offshore from the slopes of the ancient hill.....Already the Man saw the advantage of such an elevated position. With that height...a vantage point could be had. From that top,
an uninterrupted view of this estuary could be had. For many leagues, in each direction, the view from the top must be spectacular. And with constant vigilance...No enemy could approach without being seen. He posted extra guards that night. Hopefully... in the days to come..several sister ships would also find their way to this anchorage.. and then a safe landing could be attempted. He did not fail to see the smoke from many fires upon these slopes.....He foresaw battles for that hill....The tribes in this land were believed to be large in numbers and fearless in battle...He sighed.. and longed for a short and
successful campaign. He thought of his family in the warm lands far across the seas, so many leagues and many long army years ago.. since his departure.

..........................................................................................................................

The Boy shivered in the night. The hunt for the wild boar had been forgotten. That could wait for another day. He skirted the forests edge and followed the line of the beach. In his mind now, there dwelt the image of another trophy...another head to be set upon his spear point.....but this one, would be a human one....He had retrieved his weapons from the shore. A small, well balanced throwing spear, made for him by his father and a smaller version of the Great war-axe, so commonly used by the marauders from beyond the Northern Sea. He ran along the shoreline until the approach of dusk. He needed all his cunning and strength for the days ahead. Finding a sheltered spot on the beach, he curled up to find some sleep....but it did not come easily to him....

He thought about the Man of the Ship...Tall he was, and strong. He had the look of a Mighty warrior.... He was dark of hair and had brown skin but he had no beard. This, the boy thought was very strange... All the adult men of his People were bearded. It was a mark of adulthood and the badge of a warrior. He would be no easy kill...But he was a stranger to this northland..... and this land held many hidden dangers.... The boy drifted off into an uneasy sleep.......He dreamed of a strange lovely woman....and a boy-child ....with fair skin and golden hair.....

He awoke cold and cramped..He could hear the gentle whisper of the morning tide as it caressed the shore in timeless embrace..He lay and shivered awhile but no more sleep would be his this morning. Arising he stretched, trying to ease the circulation back into his stiff joints...Then he relieved himself, watching as his piss disappeared into the sand, leaving only steamy tendrils which faded and left nothing to tell of his passing.

He could see the haar gradually giving way to the suns heat. Picking up his weapons he once more ran westward towards his family village..It would take him another suns journey to reach it... So intent was he on his mission that he almost ran into a camp of the enemy

Rounding a stony outcrop he was stopped short by a sight that shocked him, but also transfixed him in breathless awe. Just offshore, three more ships were moored. Many men could be seen on the decks and in the rigging, and in small boats rowing to and fro between ship and shore. There were so many warriors. All were armoured and equipped with large shields, short swords and throwing spears....There were also strange dark coloured people amongst them. They too were armoured, but he could see that they carried with them, short strong bows... and quivers, bulging with many arrows. He feared for his people in the village...He must warn them... He skirted the enemy camp and once more took the path of the forest ways. For that long day, he exhausted himself in his efforts to reach his home. But the ways of the forest trails were treacherous and his journey was not swift. He also had not eaten for two days. His belly grumbled and his head spun, dizziness mocked him, and his strength seeped away. At the fading of the days light, he stumbled once more and could not rise...He fell into a troubled and dream filled sleep.......

Fire and Blood and screaming women. Children on spear points and men mown down by enemy spears.... and many dying from the arrows unleashed from the short bows of the dark men of the Strange Ships....He tossed and cryed out in his tortured sleep..Slaughter and Blood and Weeping everywhere...and through the fog of Death....strode the Warrior Leader of the Enemy....The Man of the Ship......

Long and painful was his return to his village.......... Long before he reached it....he felt fear for
it.......... Long before he saw it ...he knew....... Long before his eyes witnessed it.........he could smell it..... His village was no longer..... The bodies lay where they fell....... The village dogs howled and fought over fresh meat in abundance.... With the night, would come the wild pigs of the forest and the wolves and the other night creatures....the bittersweet scent of fresh spilled blood was everywhere.

.................................................................

From where the Boy stood he could see the ships in the river.. He could also see the progress of the
marching men...He could now see the Standard of the Eagle. Two suns from his destroyed village....he
followed at a wary distance....The marching column of the enemy left an easy trail. At night he could hear the harsh laughter of the enemy..and the screaming and wailing of captured womenfolk....His heart was heavy...his crying wracked his thin frame with the pain born of loss ....and his Oath to the old Gods for retribution was sworn with the opening of his very flesh by the point of the knife....His life blood would bear witness to his promise of Vengeance....

Half way up a steep hill, a days journey north from the Great River, the column halted...They had sweated and laboured this day, until finally reaching a small fortified encampment. The inhabitants of
this encampment were also of the same warrior clans as the Eagle Standard People.

Many red horsetail plumes worn on war helms..and strange pipes played...and loud metal horns blown, as if to warn off any potential enemies...great bonfires lit...and small animal sacrifices ..young throats slit and blood collected and drank from wooden bowls...small stone altars erected and strange foreign Gods worshipped under the fullness of a cold Northern moon........And amidst all the terrible clamour of the blood soaked celebration...all primitive emotion gave way to the intoxication of lust and the sophisticated baseness of human vileness....... And at the very core of this orgiastic amalgam..... The Man of the Ship.......

And to the eyes of the wild boy, onlooking from the safety of the Forest embrace...the sight of The Man...hardened his heart into a furie..It would not be calmed or rested until he took revenge for his people murdered... And these violators of the children and womenfolk would be slain and their heads severed from their bodies...to forever cry out in everlasting torment... in the OtherLand of the Dark Shadows... His eyes burned in the darkness. Surely he could creep up in the undercover of helpful darkness and end one life of the enemy....He crept ever carefully forward towards the encampment..... Now a deep ditch separated him from the walls of the enemy......Not knowing quite how to overcome this obstacle, he stopped short of the ditch-edge to think upon his next move..... But he was amongst the Shadows of the Forest People..the ones who flit from tree to tree...bush to undergrowth..with only a
whispering in the wynd and a sighing in the swaying boughs....

Shivering in the cold night air....he was taken without much effort...... A hand clamped over his mouth.......he was lifted...he was too terrified to resist.... He was carried ... far from the enemy encampment....

He was surrounded...Within the circle of tall men, he related his story of the meeting with the strangers.... They questioned him for hours...He grew fearful of their intentions, but as he was of the same People..they welcomed him. They gave him praise for his courage and soon he would join them in battle....But first..he must have the Ceremony of the Painting....

The painting of the Old Circle Patterns... Blue..... from the ancient berry dyes from the bog moors of the Northlands..... The Boy Warrior stood naked within the circle of the Women........

Old, even as the Mountains.....the Women would have the Ceremony of the Painting...... The Boy had passed from a wild sapling..into a strong branch.....

And the cackling of the Women...They would have their Night of Jests....and their dances within the circle..would inflame their passions............And in the fullness of that Snow Season Moon...... The Boy became both Warrior and Man..........

...............................

The Forest..........
The Clearing...........

A thousand eyes encircled the encampment.......... They could see the two sentries who languished at their weary duty......... Another night of patrolling the boring ramparts of this outland post... Another useless patrol...Nothing ever happened in this far outpost.........

................................

The Boy smelled the Man sweat all around him.... He smiled the secret smile of the newly initiated.....
He felt the Sacred Paint upon his body.....from his forehead..the facial mask...the strong swirling patterns of the chest...to the fertile symbols on his belly and man parts.....

The night moon in his starry-bright heaven cast tell-tale warnings ....of the many hot forest breaths in his cold earthly kingdom....... But the careless sentries were without heed....

Early morning of the crystal frost on frozen grass ...and twinkling ..jewel-like.... upon hardy leaves of evergreen fir.......... A deep morn mist... dense as a milky cloud....not a arms length of vision in this strange silent tyme....... Like within an enchanted circle of Fairie.......A strange and dangerous hush....

And the careless sentries forever silenced, by the swift sweep of the blade across screamless throat..........

On that frost covered morn, the Blue Painted Warriors waged terrible War on the Strange People from the Mighty Ships.... They swarmed down and out of the protective ditches surrounding the small fort...and naked...in their ferocious love of combat... they slew all in their path....until red with the spouting blood of the fallen enemy...they took the trophy heads.......

..............................

The Boy was not a part of the attack. Being that this was no set piece battle and stealth and calm nerves were called for, his part was to observe and learn. One minute he was surrounded by the men eager for battle...the next...they faded away into the forest shadows....to reappear in ferocious and unrelenting rampage upon the fort. He walked out of the undergrowth into the clearing surrounding the fort.. The ditch was a deep defense against any attack....but the Gods had decreed that this tyme the element of surprise would win the day.... The ditch was roughly three standing men deep. This he knew by his earlier observations. In this cold morning the bottom was hidden by the thick morning mist.. A strange and foreboding feeling surrounded him.... From inside the fort could be heard the clamour of battle and the hideous cries of wounded and dying men..He ran round the perimeter of the fort in a crouching position, as if at the alert for some foeman...  A strange sensation overcame him...The sounds of the battle were somewhat diminishing....and he felt as if he were not part of the moment... and a rushing sound in his ears....and again....he was a Boy..alone...

The Man of The Ship....suddenly appeared before him.........

The man wore his war helm and was bloody from the battle....

They stood and faced each other....The Man and the Blue Painted Boy..

The sounds of war returned to the hearing of the Boy....and with it, the first encounter with the Enemy.... The blood beat in his head and he stared at the powerful figure of the Man....and a fear was within him....He stood naked armed with his spear and a war axe.... The Man was fresh from the killing and from his sword, dripped the blood of the fallen.... The Man looked at this scrawny naked Boy before him. He had no wish to harm this child and motioned with a flick of his blade that the boy should move from his path.... But the Boy stood his ground....... He left the Man no choice....Lunging at the stubborn boy with his stabbing sword, his intention was to inflict only a graze to scare the child into flight...But again...The Gods...in their perverse and contrary nature ..decided otherwise.

As he made his lunge, his leather sandal slipped on the cold frosty grass...and he stumbled to his knees...Shock was upon his face....The Boy could see it clearly in his eyes........The Boy knew his Warrior tyme had come...

Leveling his spear he drove it forward into the throat of the kneeling Man. The flat bladed spear severed both windpipe and jugular in that simple but deadly motion.........

The man tumbled backwards..struggling for breath which would not come...... and the knowing that his life blood flowed from his body......His spasms lasted only a few short moments..and then he lay still...

...............................................

In a far and distant land which lay beyond deep and turbulent Seas, away over snow capped Mountains into the far East............a lonely woman waited.... In this land of olive groves and sweet scented flowers she brushed the tears from her once beautiful face.....and thought upon the strong young Man who went off to War in a far and fearful place.............

.................................................

The Boy gazed in fear and wonder at the fallen Man.....and the savage lust of the victor overwhelmed him...Throwing back his head, he screamed a fearful War screech to the sky....Taking his war axe, he lifted the head of the fallen enemy and with all his strength, chopped at the base of the scull...The thudding of axe on flesh made the blood spurt over the boy. This only led him onwards, to more violent convulsions in his primitive savagery...... He held the head aloft...still shrouded in the war helm.....

From atop of the ramparts came the cheering of many men.... Looking upwards, he saw the blood stained warriors of the People with their own trophies....No Enemy lived to see that day........

Feeling jubilant and flushed with his first kill, the Boy turned to join the warriors who spilled from the open gates of the fort. And as he did so, something detached itself from the severed head and spun away downwards, falling into the mist shrouded bottom of the ditch...In the cold weak morning sun, it flashed gold.

The Boy stood at the ditch edge...and looked downward into the mist swirls...He could not see the object. He would have to go down into the ditch to retrieve it. A queasy frightful feeling gnawed in the pit of his stomach...He could not leave here without knowing what had fallen. Surely it might be of some considerable value....Had it not gleamed like gold when it fell.?

He leaped over the edge and slid down into the ditch........ It was as if he were in another world... The mist was thicker than he imagined..and colder..and clammy on his now cooling skin...The head was heavy in his hand now...He looked at his trophy..and shivered at the thought of what he had done...
Before him ...it lay...a shining gold chain.... He approached it cautiously...attached to the chain was a talisman of some sort..He did not touch it..only looking ...at the face of a woman carved upon the surface... Was this a Goddess of the Eagle Standard People.?

He felt alarm...perhaps the Goddess was angry at the killing of the Man. But such a prize..could not be left for some battlefield scavenger to find.....

So he stooped and stretched out his hand to pick the talisman from the ground.....

And in that simple act........would his life be forever haunted.........

Reaching forward to grasp his prize...he was quite unprepared for what happened next... Before his very eyes....out of the mist before him...appeared a small white hand....and smartly plucked the  talisman, from under his very nose... Yelling in surprised fright, he fell backwards...and looked up into the equally frightened, blue eyes, of a beautiful flaxen haired boy child.........

Both screamed their fright at the seeing of the other.....

The Boy Warriors eyes bulged in their sockets...and his heart raced in his chest...and he looked deep into the frightened eyes of blue before him.....and the panic he saw there ..in an instant..saddened him...and a strange love for this small boychild before him invaded his savage heart...and hot stinging tears welled up into his eyes......... He sobbed ...and turning from the scene....met with the concerned glares of the warriors.....

They had come looking for him....  He turned back to the boychild....but he was gone..... In the place of his appearance, now were throngs of battle scarred men.... He ran in search of the boychild.... He could not have gone far....but his search was fruitless....the men looked at him as if he were touched by the Odd Folk..He ran about in a frenzy...but no one had seen a strange flaxen haired boychild..... When the trophies of battle had been collected and the warriors had moved away from the Enemy fort....the Boy remained....

His thoughts were of the Man of the Ship...and the Goddess Talisman...and the Boychild......He sobbed his child heart away...........

In the silence of that sunny winters  morning..he cryed out loud to the Forest Spirits........but no answer came ...only the wild creatures... scurrying on their age old ways...heard his plea....

................................................................................................

The Old One finished his tale..and the family took to their rest.... He looked into the dying embers of the fire.... He thought once more on that distant morning in the Season of the Big Snows....

He had sought advice on the matter from the Women who held the Ancient Tales on the tip of their Tongues...But they could not offer any clue to the Mystery of the Vision.... He traveled far in his years as a warrior. He searched for an answer to the Vision.... He made many journeys back to the Enemy fort....but the years and the forest growth had erased much of the evidence of the structure.... He crawled into the ditch...in search of the long ago tyme....to no avail.....

In a cave on the hill overlooking the Great River....he met with the Oldest Woman seer in the Land of the People...She had the Sight ...she could look into the past...and into the future......

As a Shadow, he would have to travel long and far into the Dark OtherLand before his question could be
answered..... Her words held no meaning for him........

........................................................

The Old One pulled the furs about his shoulders and lying next to the fading fire laid his head to sleep............

Sometyme in the cold night, under the watchful moon...a final sigh escaped from the lips of the Old One lying in the warmth of the remaining fire embers....It found the way from the Village of Mortal Men into the Land of Shadows...........

In the morning, the family wept for the passing of the Old Warrior who once had a Vision..... They carried his body far from the village and buried him on the hill....overlooking the Great River...on the site of the fort, once built by the Eagle Standard People............

Pictland....1976.AD....................

A Sunday morning in December... The sun low on the eastern horizon.... The earth frozen solid. The land gripped in the Wintertyme embrace. The frost covering all the fields around. And everywhere... the beautiful crystal clear twinkling reflections of the sun.... On the north shore of the River Tay, the city awakening in a cold mist from the sea...The mist comes stealing in and engulfs the river and all the lands lying on the shores. Through the mist walked the man and two boys. They were on their way to their usual Sunday morning place.

Up early and washed and on with heavy woolen jerseys and scarves and woolly Arran tams, winter gloves and coats and hiking boots....Out the door and on their happy way... Out from the estate and across the Kingsway..Skirting the wall which surrounds Camperdown park they walked first west and then the old road takes a sharp north turn and they were climbing the ďBirkie braeĒ. They huffed and puffed up this old road. The man laughed at the efforts of his boys as they slipped and skidded on the frost covered brae. The man boasted to the boys about his cycling ability and how he could cycle from the bottom right to the top of this brae, without stopping and not even out of breath after the effort. His boys would gasp in pretended admiration and then guffaw between themselves at his boast....Back and forwards would go the bantering and the laughing and the struggling uphill.

The road rises quite dramatically after awhile and the view is something most wonderful. They rested at the junction of the wee country road to Liff village. Lifting the boys onto the dry stane dyke they could gaze south and west over three Scottish Counties. Through the mist they looked South across the Tay to where the Fife shore was hardly visible. West across Angus, and only a couple of miles away... Perthshire.. Their breaths were now coming from them in great steamy clouds...and their cheeks now burning rosy red... They could now see the gate of the park, half way up the brae. This was their destination...

They had come across this place quite by accident. On a stroll through the park one evening, they reached the north perimeter of the golf course and came across a small wooden hut...It was a tiny teahouse. The owner set up his tea and coffee and orange juice and biscuits and his specialty.... hamburgers and onions ..on hot floury baps.. He did a roaring trade with the golfers who played the course. He said he opened early every Sunday morning for the first players of the day..

So..the man appeared that next Sunday..with two his boys..and they ate and drank juice and burgers...Afterwards they would play games in the thick woods..The man would hide and the boys would search for him...and at tymes it could get quite scary.. he would lie silently in the deep cover of foliage. The lads would hunt..then he would suddenly jump up and give them a fright and off they would go screaming and shouting and laughing with the great fun of it...

The man was totally unprepared for how scary it would be...on this frosty morning.... As usual they had the eats..he blethered away to the hut owner and the boys took of into the woods for their games..He could see that there had been some excavation taking place just within the park gates. The owner remarked that activity had been going on here in the past week. Staff from Dundee museum had been around measuring and digging and marking out God knows what.... Looking at his watch , the man bade farewell to the owner and started out into the woods after the boys...He could hear them in the distance shouting to one another...  He shivered..the mist was coming up again and the woods had taken on an ethereal quality..He stopped and listened for sounds of his boys...but could hear nothing....not even birdsong could he hear...all was strangely quiet... He shouted out to them..no reply..again...and again...no reply...

So he began to hurry in the direction he thought they would go....He was on the path they always took.. going downhill towards home....He stopped again...but  could hear nothing....He cupped his hands round his mouth to call to them....when he heard the first scream...That was Jonathan..his younger son....then the answering shout from his elder son..Graham...Dad..Dad....

Taking to his heels the man tore through the bush shouting and screaming to them...then another screech from his wee boy...and he was in a fury now, cursing himself for letting them wander off like this....He crashed through shrubs and saw Graham trying to force his way through a thick growth of wild bushes. He ran to him...Graham was frantic....Jonathan had been scrambling in the undergrowth....they had been larking about....Jonthan had run into this scrub...and tumbled into a ditch...... The man shouted....Jonathan answered from somewhere below.... The man moved through the tangles with Graham behind him.. Then.. through all this strange misty greenery......they saw Jonathan lying at the bottom of a dip in the woods... Sliding down , into the ditch, the man could see the distress on the face of his son...Fearful..and tearful...he ran to his son....  The boy was surely frightened....he gabbled on about someone he saw with blood on his hands and face..... The man comforted his son the best he could..Graham hugged his brother in a show of protection...and the man left them there..to scour the immediate vicinity for ..whatever ! He saw nothing..and nobody...No
noise..nothing..in this queer misty morning... He returned to join his boys...... He watched them from afar...... The elder comforting the younger....and in the hand of the younger.......... A chain........glinting in the weak morn sunlight...

The father asked the boy about his find.....the boy resisted the question, and evaded his fathers eyes...and for the moment..the father asked no more...

The boy was still a bit upset..but with the appearance of his brother and father...he calmed down....and they scrambled together...once again ...laughing and jostling ..out of the ditch...and back onto familiar pathways.... but the father observed his boy ...occasionally... looking back over his shoulder...and holding on...for dear life...to his find...

They returned home..Jonathan straight into his room with his prize....

Now the father was no slouch when it came to the question of history.... He knew by the mere look and the weight of the chain, that it was not a carnival trinket.....it was old.... He drove to a friends house... Jim of the ancient knowledge ....That is what he called his oldest mate...They had been at the arguing over Scottish history for many years... The maps were taken from the press in the lobbie...and lo...On the Birkie brae within the Camperdown Park boundaries......was marked the site of an ancient Roman encampment..... He said nothing to his friend about what had happened that morning....

At home, the boys getting ready for school next day...The bathing and the age old preparation on a Winter Sunday night.....All shiny new...all full of the excitement of the events of the day...Huddled up with glowing cheeks and hot cups of cocoa with shortbread biscuits....Sparkly eyes and full of blethers... How was he ever going to get them to sleep this night ?.. But as it always happens...even the most rowdy bairn must close the eyes for natures call to sleep.. One on each shoulder..the man carried his boys to bed... Each to his own...teddies...and action men...railwaytracks to never never
lands..cars and boats and Spitfires...littered the bedroom of his boys.... but on a special place.... hanging in the room...pride of place now.....the chain....

The tales of old were told....the guitar was picked and strummed...and the man sang softly to his lads..the old ballads of the past....they struggled to evade the heaviness and the closing ..which their
tired eyes demanded... but gentle sleep eventually came to them........

The man took the chain for his examination....

It was old ..he thought..but bright ...but with the feel of oldness about it....not the crisp cut of the modern...but the ancient blemishes on the ancient surface.. this was no bauble.... The medallion..that was what most interested him...Female icon carved upon one surface..strange patterns on the reverse.
The owner of this chain....Who was he or she ?..... Was the woman on the medallion.. Minerva.. Diana..or  Bellona.. Roman Goddess of War ?...... He sighed to himself..He knew he should take it to the authorities..to the Museum...He was certain that it was Roman...and the Roman encampment on the Birkie brae.....he was sure... But it was not found by him...and whether it should, or not, be handed to the authorities...that decision..he would not make.. He would explain to his son his thoughts, then leave it to the lad to decide for himself what to do.. So he hung it back in the bedroom..where the boys slept on.....

In the night, the son whimpered in his troubled sleep... He dreamed of a strange, dirty, wild haired naked boy...blood on his face and blue swirls painted on his body, wild surprised eyes.

He had been hiding from his brother, when he slid down into a hidden gully..and at the bottom, through the swirl of mist and the tangle of weeds..he saw ..just lying there...a chain.......

As he reached for it....through the mist surrounding him..stretched another hand..all dirty and grubby..
In his surprise, he boldly snatched the chain quickly...then looking up...met the wide eyed stare of a wild eyed boy.... It was only an instant..but he felt a fear, knowing he was alone, and that his father and brother were not near....He screamed.........The wild boy also screamed in fright...they looked at each other..transfixed ..in a strange unknowable moment...The wild one was covered with blood...and in one hand..an axe.....and in the other....to horrible to think on...the head of a man..encased in a
helmet.. Then to his surprise..the wild ones eyes filled with tears... The boy..in shock now..watched as the wild one turned away...as if he were sobbing......... Then the appearance of his father and brother.. and the gladness in him as both hugged him ..and he could feel the love from them flowing around him....on this cold misty morning in the Season of the Big Snows...........

............................................................................................

In the cold of a Moonshine night,in a tyme not known by mortal man..a Shadow stirred in an ancient dwelling. Within the Shadow..a soul awakened...and this soul yearned to be free from the Realm of the Otherland......... The Shadow left the confines of the dwelling...and found the path to the place... where lay sleeping...... a flaxen haired boy.... And the Shadow remembered this boy from another tyme...this was the boy of the Vision....And the breath of the Shadow kissed the sleeping child...all was done... The boy shivered in his sleep...he woke...his face felt icy cold.....He got up from his bed and without wakening his brother, he slid in beside him....In a sliver of moonlight, through a gap in the curtains, he could see the chain..swinging... as if in an unfelt breeze.....

..........................................................

Somewhere...a wild boy stepped nervously from the Shadow Lands of the Forest...and into the welcoming arms of the Spirit World of his Ancestors.......and all were there to greet him.....


Read other stories from Graham Donachie

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast