Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chapter 3

Chapter 3. Northern Iran. When I awoke, the dreary rain had stopped. My head was resting against the thick fur of Laboi who was sprawled out on the ground beside me, but there was no snow. His mane was a lustrous clump of healthy fur, a thick swab of it extended over his fat tummy. The medieval world had been kind to us both but the sadness of losing Thomas lingered in my heart. Thinking of nothing else, I lifted the sword gingerly to study the intricate design of the lion rampart etched across the silver handle. Suddenly I realized that Laboi and myself had somehow been transported another thousand years into the past, this time to the plains of a hot, dry desert. The Scythian countryside was dotted with mud houses surrounded by vast desert areas leached dry by dry spells and strong winds which blew away vegetation and covered previous civilizations in one sweeping stroke. The sandy plains drove herdsmen further and further away. Old men tended the villages while nomad herdsmen followed seasonal grasses.

When Refloir's herdsmen herds men returned from pasturing, he stayed inside the a clay house intended for his comforts. Refloir was the proud descendant of Heber Scot and wealthy because of his sheep, goats, reindeer and horses. His warriors were mounted archers who rode horses, rather than camels, across the plains. They protected the tribe and pinned poachers with their iron spear-headed arrows. The punishment of invaders was always swift and brutal. The word of Refloir's personal brutality with a wide blade sword and his own brand of decapitation spread abroad and for many years Refloir's powerful reputation as a ruthless warrior preceded him. He amassed a vast collection of gold, some of it stolen from the pharaoh. As he was middle aged and refused to surrender his power to one of his sons, a daring assassination plot came from one of his own sons, Agnomon. Agnomon was dark and swarthy with a head of thick black hair. But that was not all, he had and ornery and temperamental mood which went unchecked by his peers. Outside the bed chamber, several tribesmen carrying torches and wearing long hooded robes followed Agnomon through a dark damp corridor. As always, treachery had it companions. Lefleur's son Agnomon planned to seize power and control of his treasury. The tribesman crept stealily into the king's chamber and Agnomon leaned over his bed to slit the king's throat. As easy as that. Kill the king. Seize the throne. But the plot went awry when the dastardly deed was seen by a servant who shouted into the great hall that Agnomon had tried to kill the king. Within minutes, Agnomon and his conspirators were arrested. Refloir jumped out of bed. "Me own blood son wants me dead!" he screamed while grabbing Agnomon's thick black hair by the roots and twisting him onto the floor. His uncle Caicher and Allot fell to their knees before the furious king who could swipe off their heads with his sword, but instead swore his cursed revenge. He took his foot and put it on the head of the prostrate Agnomon. "A curse on ye and ye kinder forever from standing on the blessed Scythian soil. Your black hearts shall wander the Caspian Sea, as pirates without a country. I give three ships. A toast to the sea grave of Prince Agnomon!" He said raising his cup and drinking a full dreg of ale. "How be it if ye share your bastion of sailors?" Agnomon asked, meaning slaves. Refloir spit a mouthful of ale on his head. "Pogue muh ho-in! Three ships, sailors and nothing
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more. Be gone before sun rise." Agnomon and Caicher rushed to assemble their families and select a hand-full of sailors. "What can you do?" He asked suspiciously while eyeballing my clothing. I still wore the medieval costume of breeches and socks to the calves. "Navigate," I said. "I be a navigator." "Go aboard." If Agnomon was pleased not to have been beheaded, he did not show it. Execution was final, but banishment from the home land was a daunting blow to a Scythian prince. He brooded over his lost respect and personal wealth. That morning a thick hazy covered the region. Agnomon stripped off his shirt and jumped into a spray of bubbling waves. He alone swam to where the vessels were anchored and going underwater lashed the three ships together. Then Caicher threw a rope so that Agnomon's strong muscled arms pulled himself up to the ship. The miraculous feat went unlauded. Caicher removed his cloak to cover Agnomon's bare chest, but it was as unwelcome as the fog. He choked on the sea water still in his throat. "If ye be sick the men will say weakness," Caicher warned. "If I catch the flux then I die, and what would that matter?" He answered in his mood. "Eejit!" Caicher swore under his breath. "Set the course for Baku, the port Refloir plundered. We go there first for supplies?" The Caspian sea is an endorheic basin surrounded by northern Scythia (Iran), southern Russia and western Kazakhstan. It is the world's largest salty inland of water and salty. The nearest port was Baku which lay in eastern Azerbaiijan. The plan was to purchase food supplies for the
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uncertain voyage which lay ahead. He would have to trade with the Medes and Albanians, natural enemies to the Scythians who doubtless remembered the bloody plunder and rape of Refloir when he carried off their bronze and gold. The ships would anchor in the shallows but only Agnomon, Caicher and Allot would do the trading. After gaining the supplies, they would assemble a band of thieves to raid the land. That was the plan. But as all plans go awry, so did this one make a dramatic change for the worse. Agoromon could not speak the local dialect and the face of King Refloir was recognized on his coins. A scuttle occurred in the marketplace when the coins were refused by a group of tradesmen carrying breadbaskets and fruit. He pulled his sword and slashed their throats. "Take everything," he told Caicher and Allot as he held back the mewing merchants with his sword. As a slew of Albanian arrows blew over their heads, they ran to the ship and barely escaped on the last tide. "Tis your fault," Agnomon's family said when they saw the several breadbaskets. "We ehre in this condition because of you! If ye had not been so selfish, wanting the scepter before your time." "The cruel Refloir would not know death!" He recoiled spitefully. "Aye, useless was the dagger in your hand!" On and on went the blame and the message that Agnomon was too moody to rule. The planned raid having failed and with no support from his family, Agnomon felt the brunt of the curse of having no country. He retired to his cabin and brooded. Caicher grumbled to himself. There was too much at stake, too many issues to resolve to give way to brooding. "Will the foul mood of the prince lead us into the sea?" "Refloir said it. We are outcasts. I curse Scythia. Speak no more of my blood." Warning: US and International Copyright Restrictions Apply.
"What are we then?" "We have the blood of the Pharaoh’s daughter Scota and Nel who found Scotland. We are Scota." The three conspirators, Agnomon, Caicher and Allot elected themselves chiefs of the vessels. And because Agnomon was given to brooding and indecisiveness, he appointed his son, Lamfhind, captain of his own vessel to turn it northward to the howling winds of the Abseron Peninsula. The coarse was always charted north of Baku a good distance from the homeland and the chance of being sighted by King Refloir's personal navy. Agnomon, Caicher and Allot honed their skills with the sword in spear thus establishing successful raids throughout the region. The tales of the pirate prince echoed in every port and sight of the three vessels was feared until mercenaries were hired to gun us down. Agnomon laughed hideously while steering us through the icy inlet of the Volga River. Our sailors had grown the skin of the alligator, were ruthlessly cruel and welcomed trouble. No mercenary would dare be trapped in this narrow passage. The wanderings in the sea lasted seven years. Although the grumbling against him stopped and survival on the sea had its plunder of ale and drunken celebrations, the curse still bubbled with resentment through the veins of Agnomon. He never forgot his true identity. Nightmares plagued him with dreams that Refloir was dead. "I dream that Refloir is dead. What does it mean?" he asked Caicher. "It means that the kingdom of Scythia will also die." One night while Agnomon worked his way through the repetitive nightmare, there was a violent storm which tossed the vessels into deep tunneling pits and washed food and fresh water barrels overboard. The crew thirsted and hungered for days while working their fingers to the bone tying down sails against a strong battering wind and heavy rain. The wearied and sleep-deprived Agnomon climbed to the deck and worked feverishly alongside Caicher to steady the vessel, because theirs was the lead vessel which means that it bore the rocking and tossing of the others lashed to it. Agnomon watched the rigging of the main mast unravel and ran towards it to prevent
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it from sweeping the deck but lost his footing and fell against the rigging and hit his head on the iron fittings. Caicher worked himself towards him but it was too late. A large wave swept across the deck and swallowing up Agnomon threw him into the sea. Strangely enough the dark clouds lifted and the storm quitted. Lamfhind was beside himself with grief. Caicher fell to his knees. He was a druid; he believed that the soul lived on after death and sometimes reincarnated itself, so prayed for Agnomon's return. "Sit now among the three chiefs," he said to the young Lamfhind. "We are sinking," Lamkhind moaned. The ships floated in the shallows of Makhachkala alongside a steep rock cliff leading into the Caucasus Mountains. "It is time to find Ireland," Caicher said lifting himself up and gathering his belongings. "No matter the struggle, go below deck and secure the tents. Take everything that is not under water." The wet paraphernalia was tied into bundles and carried on back over the treacherous rocks of the great promontory. The first assignment was to find fresh water. When alas we discovered a trickling spring, it tasted so much like wine that we lingered, drinking and feasting there for three days. After the tents were dried and prepared for travel, Caicher said, "Arise, we shall not rest until we reach Ireland." "What place is that Ireland?" Lamfhind asked. "Further than Scythia it is," said Caicher. "It is not ourselves who shall reach it, but our children at the end of three hundred years." A chill went down my spine; The Scots did reach Scotland and the Irish sea ca 700 A. D. I could not help myself. I spoke. "These children of the future that you speak of will be known as Scots and their country will be called Scotland". Warning: US and International Copyright Restrictions Apply.
"How do you know this?" Lamfhind asked. "I know the past as well as the future." Caicher stared at the color of my eyes. "Oddly enough, I know that you do not lie. You do not have our coloring, yet you know about us. There are many legends about our people. Since ancient days we have been telling our children about the brothers, Heber and Heremon
who went to Ireland and conquered the natives. Then divided the country between the two brothers, Heber taking the southern portion. Thus began the two great Irish clans." I drew out my sword. "What is the meaning of the engraving on the handle?" Lamfhind asked. "This is the sword of a knight born in the medieval future one thousand years hence." "Ah, this is your legend." Caicher wisely observed. "My legend is also part of the legend of Heber and Heremon." Limfhind started to object, but Caicher shushed him by placing his fingers over his lips and saying: "Perhaps it is a legend which will come to pass for my children after they have gone into Ireland." Caicher's wisdom and insight was phenomenal. "Yes, yes! That is it. I search for a key. Do you have it?" I asked. Caicher reached inside his shirt and pulled out a bronze necklace in the form of a Celtic cross. "It is said that Heber himself wore this cross." Warning: US and International Copyright Restrictions Apply.
I was disappointed. "You have not heard of a key which unlocks the door of between heaven and earth?" "What greater treasure is there than the cross? It the symbol of the sun god and moon god crossing Ireland in four directions. Heber of Celtic origin acknowledged these gods when he conquered Ireland and hammered the bronze into a necklace. And why have the Gods put me in this place except to reveal it to the only person who knows the future of Ireland? This cross is the key which ye seek." Then with tears in his eyes he reverently kissed the bronze cross and gently placed it around my neck. His words softened my heart. I could see from the expression in his eyes that he'd entrusted his greatest treasure to me. It was a sobering moment. I hugged his neck and whispered "May the Gods bless you forever." The next morning the three chiefs awoke just as the sun rose over the mountains and built an altar of rocks, then sacrificed an animal over an open flame. Caicher prayed for assistance in finding a satisfactory home for his people until the day when their children would find Ireland. After several hours a peculiar answer came from the lips of Caicher. The Scota would make their homes in the makotic marshes of the Black Sea. "But why?" Limphind asked. "When Refloir hears that we abandoned our vessels in the Sireausian Islands and have gone overland, he will send his warriors to kill us. No Scythian can endure the arctic winds of the Baltic Sea." "Aye, fate has dealt us this hand." I strapped a load onto my back and resigned myself to the treacherous journey which lay ahead in the mountainous terrain. As we climbed, a biting wind whipped around the cliffs and dark
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clouds hovered in the mountains cloaking the foot hills with a thin trailing mist. Arctic winds blew hard against our necks. Fingers and toes turned purple. The dastardly cold weather was virgin to these desert people and it knocked them down, one by one, as they stumbled in their sandal shoes through the rocky trails of the treacherous hills. The sick shivering bodies hovered over campfires fed by wet tree limbs and begged to rest. It took many weeks to cross the black Caucasious mountain range and reach the foot hills of Russia, but when we did the Scota were encouraged and captured some wild reindeer and goats roaming along the ridge. This was the beginning of their first herd. As we went along more and more animals were added so that when we finally reached the grassy valley, the families were traveling at a slowed pace. The tribesmen staked tents and built overhangs with sticks and branches. The encampment would accommodate the animals' grazing on winter grass and oats. Still, the dark clouds loomed overhead while thunder rumbled and sent bolts of lightening across the sky then poured out a heavy rain. The tribesmen worked harder to provide shelter. While they did this, Caicher dug a little trench in the soil inside one of the tents and scratched together a fire for the children to warm their hands. His head blazed hot with a fever but ignored it. But soon the unrelenting fever of his shivering body took him abed. "Are you well, Caicher?" Limb find asked as he rummaged inside his backpack for a dry blanket. "Put this around your shoulders. You have worked enough." "I rest not until the clan is safe," he insisted. "But look! The stakes are driven into the tents and the fire roars in the pit." Caicher's hugged his blanket. A cough rattled in his throat. His vision was blurred and he could not see the flames. "Aye." The fever and cough lasted for an unduly long period. Lambfind had known those who died from ailing fevers and worried that Caicher would not survive the winter. But Caicher believed that he was destined to reach the makotic marshes. His druidism taught that one does not argue with destiny; it is there, whether you like it or not. Lamfhind arrowed some Warning: US and International Copyright Restrictions Apply.
squirrels and made a liquid soup. "The drink is healing," he told him. When Caicher recovered, all of the mountain ranges were covered in a thick bed of snow and in the valley of the camp the snow banked itself high against the tents. There was a stream which flowed through camp, and Lamfhind kept it flowing by breaking through the ice with a long cane he carried over his shoulder for such purposes. If Limfhind mourned Agnomon he did not show it. He was the youngest member of the chieftains and was more concerned about survival and his thin knowledge of geography than his dead parent. "We are marooned in the bowels of hell," Caicher said, tying the blanket around his shoulders. "There is wild game but wood for the fire is far afield," Lamfhind said. "What does my brother Allot say?" "To make a sacrifice and ask the Gods if we should wait here or go further." "During my illness, I saw a magnificent beast, a lone lion wandering in the wood. We will appease the gods with his blood and make warm robes from his high mane and thick fur. But you are the skilled hunter. Take your bow and the bronze-tipped arrows." I persuaded Limfhind to let me join him in the hunt with the idea that I could prevent the kill of Laboi. Caicher had seen him, but no one else. Limfhind stalked with energized determination. He wielded the bow and arrow cunningly and tracked with a keen eye every leaf and footprint. That day he cornered and shot several squirrels between the eyes. The hunt went like this for several days before he finally noticed the even more cunning Laboi was stalking us. He shot several of the bronze tipped arrows towards him, then proceeded into the brush. Warning: US and International Copyright Restrictions Apply.
"You don't want to do that," I warned, knowing Laboi's prowess. But Limfhind moved quickly towards the brush with his bronze tipped arrow ready to fire one between Laboi's eyes. He ignored a slight movement in the leaves and worst, the silence. Suddenly Laboi leapt into the air, his large thundering paws coming down to kill Lamfhind in one blow. "No! No!" I cried. "Not him, Laboi!" The last thing that I remembered was the sight of the sharp yellow nails plunging through a prism of light just as the golden road swept us away into another dimension. "Why did you want to kill Lamkhind?" I yelled angrily as I felt myself being swirling through a pocket of air.

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