Through the foggy mist … a light filtered from a certain cavern near mountain pass. The cave was not far from a cliff. If one was not careful one might fall into the murky abyss being lost forever, even if perhaps not dead. And nearby there was a village, which few had ever seen.
Many had travelled from far and wide to unravel the secret hidden with-in the cave. Some said the light was holy, other’s demonic. There were those who were sure that is was just a natural phenomenon – like the ebb and flow of the tides … but is that really natural or isn’t it a sort of magic. However, the point is, though many had gone forth to unravel the mystery, none had returned with the solution, and eventually it fell out of the memory of humanity.
Our heroine, who didn’t know as yet that she was to be a heroine, had been gathering berries in the woods when the fog suddenly came up. This wasn’t new to her as she had found herself in the fog innumerous times before…
But now, let me tell you something about her before we go on with our tale. The village was in a far northern land ruled in peace by women. The whole country had once been ruled by women until a dark force had come up, invading the land from the south. Now many of the towns and villages and most of all the capitol had become the dominion of men and their dark passions.
Granny was the village wise woman and she, Rosamunda her apprentice. She’d been chosen the day she was born, because she had a tiny red birthmark on her bum – usually these birthmarks are strawberry shaped but hers was different, it was shaped like a star.
The mid-wife when she saw the star sent word immediately to Granny, who ran to the cottage where Goody Morghan lived and had given birth to the babe.
“Let me see! Are you sure it’s the star?” whispered avidly Granny. She’d been waiting a very long time for this sign and had begun to doubt she’d live to see the day of this special child’s birth.
“Aye, Granny … and you did well to come right away, it’s already beginning to fade already.”
Granny took the baby in her arms and then flipped her to see the birthmark. The midwife was right of course … the star was fading, which was also a sign, in these dark times, the Great Mother protected her chosen ones. She gently gave the child back to her mother, who began to nurse her.
“Her name will be Rosamunda and she will come to live with me when she is weaned.” said Granny.
Goody Morghan smiled down at her daughter who seemed to be in ecstasy.
“Rosamunda it is dearest Granny! Of course you will come often to see how she fares?”
“If it doesn’t cause problems, yes.”
And so it was that Rosamunda grew and thrived, and when she was three years old she left her mother’s house to live and learn with Granny, whom she considered to be her own grandmother. She was quick to learn the names of all the beasts of the woods and their languages, all the names of herbs and their properties and best of all the song that tames the dark passions that live inside men.
Now, many years later, Rosamunda walked through the woods in a fog that had suddenly come up without warning. It was her birthday and she’d been gathering berries for her feast meal which she and granny and her mother had been preparing for days. This birthday was a special birthday. She would be eighteenth and therefore a woman in every respects. Her own true love would be found and she would have a home of her own … and perhaps a daughter one day to carry on her line.
She saw the light filter through the woods and stopped surprised. Of course she knew where she was but had never seen the mysterious light of which the men talked as they sat around the fires in the summer evenings. She’d just thought they were fireside tales or men’s tales, she’d never thought to one day see that light herself. She also knew that this was a particularly dangerous part of the woods when the fog was up.
A blackbird began to sing: “Rosamunda, fair and brave, wise woman of the red star, gather together these juniper berries from my tree and put one in your mouth and the rest of them put in your pouch. Thus you will be safe from the noxious odours of the wayward light.”
And so, Rosamunda gathered the berries and put one in her mouth and the others in her pouch and walked onward.
A roe came walking calmly towards her and said: “Rosamunda, dearest of friends to the woods and beasts, cut a staff from this old oak under which we stand. It will protect you from the illusions of the wayward light.”
And so, Rosamunda cut a branch from the old oak tree and fashioned for herself a staff and walked onward.
A large brindled cat jumped from a large stone beside the trail and said: “Rosamunda sweetest of maids, I am Brynhildr, your familiar and ally. We will walk together and face the darkness of the wayward light.”
They followed the light up to the cavern where it flickered invitingly.
“Dearest Brynhildr, how can this be darkness? Look how warmly it glows!”
“This is an enchantment brought from the south. It seems fair but indeed it brings only death and heartache. It was a light like this that toppled the last Good Queen from her throne and threw our beloved land into the passionate love of war.”
Then they became aware that just before the mouth of the cave a young man was lying near death. Rosamunda found him very handsome in his green cambric shirt and tights and felt the warmth of love run through her. A bow abandoned by his side meant that he must be a hunter. His eyes stared into nothingness.
“Oh, Brynhildr, what is wrong with him?”
The cat went over to him and smelled him, butted him with her paw, then turned to Rosamunda and said: “He has been poisoned by the odour of the wayward light. Only one thing can save him … juniper berries.”
So, Rosamunda grabbed two berries from her pouch and crushing them put them into his mouth.
With a gasp, he sat up and his eyes focused on Rosamunda and thus fell instantly in love with her.
“Oh, loveliest of maids … you’ve brought the forest into my soul once again when I thought I would no longer walk upon this earth. My name is Adelhelm. What is your name that I may thank you and ask you to be my own true love?”
Brynhildr meowed restlessly … and then said to Rosamunda, “There is no time for courting! Now is the time to end this evil in our woods! Have the man fashion a bow from this ash tree and you fashion three arrows.”
And so Adelhelm cut a branch from the ash tree and made a strong long bow and with the strongest twigs Rosamunda fashioned three arrows.
“Now crush some of the juniper berries and rub their juice onto the arrow heads and along the shafts of the arrows.”
After Rosamunda had done this the cat said: “Now, place two new berries in both of your mouths. Do not talk nor answer any questions you may hear nor look directly at the wayward light for if you do you will be overcome by the darkness even though you walk with the staff! Enter before the archer with your oaken staff before you, it will help shield you both. Now tell him all that I’ve said and tell him to tend his bow ready to shoot whatever — no matter what it seems to be — that comes towards you with these arrows. Mind, anything at all!”
So after explaining everything to Adelhelm and placing the new berries into their mouths she rose her staff and began to walk into the cave. Adelhelm followed, his bow tended. A soft sweet voice asked who they were and they remained silent … then a roar like a lion shook the cave and demanded them to identify themselves but they ignored the request, though their hearts were now pounding with fear.
The light flared and began to come towards them. Inside the light was the image of an old man in white robes carrying a platter of fruit.
“Come, my dear guests, let us feast this new day of prosperity! I offer you wealth and fulfillment, only eat of my fruit of plenty.”
Adelhelm shot his first arrow into the vision which instantly disappeared with a rumble.
Then inside the light came the vision of a beautiful woman. She too was dressed in faultless white and she held in her arms a golden pitcher filled to the brim.
“Today is the day of redemption … drink from my pitcher of wine which will give you hope. security and happiness. Just drink of my wine and noble truth will fill your souls!”
Adelhelm shot his second arrow into the vision after a moment of hesitation. This vision too dissolved into nothingness.
Then a third vision appeared. Before them stood a mighty Warrior King dressed in golden armour, a great flaming sword in his hand and he began to loudly remonstrate them saying:
“Who are you to attack my envoys who have come offering prosperity and hope! Know now, that I am the Truth and The Way … I am the Defender of all that’s holy and the Propagator of Wealth and Happiness … I am the Light and the Mighty Leader of all men!”
Adelhelm lowered his bow, enchanted by the powerful image. Rosamunda stood with her oaken staff before her hesitating as she saw Adelhelm waver. Brynhildr realizing the peril her charge was in, she began loudly to caterwaul which shook the cavern to its roots, attracting the vision which raised its sword to strike the cat when suddenly Rosamunda began to sing the song that calms the passions of men. Adelhelm in surprise shook himself then, lifted his bow and sent off his third arrow which planted itself into the great warriors heart saving Brynhildr and dissipating the vision of the Warrior King.
Before them bloomed the horrors of the vision of war, a mountain of skulls, bloody bodies laying in row upon infinite row, motherless children being beheaded and women being raped, burning cities and towns and the marching of endless files of soldiers singing battle hymns, carrying numerous flags and robbing anything on which they could put their hands. The howling was terrible and the stench of decay would have killed it was so terrible and a huge cloud of flies and crows filled the sky.
Then the vision disappeared and the smell too leaving a burnt out candle, no larger than a seed.
Brynhildr said to Rosamunda: “Now, crush the last of the juniper berries and pour them over the seed that it might never become fecundated in this land.”
Rosamunda, Adelhelm and Brynhildr returned to the village and told all to Granny, who wrote the tale into the book of knowledge. A great feast was held for Rosamunda’s coming of age. Soon afterwards Rosamunda and Adelhelm celebrated their allegiance. Rosamunda one day became the wise woman of the village and had three lovely daughters, but without the sacred star upon them (that child would be born elsewhere and is another story) and what of Brynhildr, well Brynhildr lived for many many more years advising her ally and had many kittens of her own – three of which attached themselves to Rosamunda’s daughters.
The village still exists, you may have passed nearby it, without knowing this because it is hidden from the world of darkness and war, awaiting a time when humanity will tire of the wayward light of war and will seek peace.
© G.s.k. ‘15
The Sunday Whirl