Gun Owners and the New World Order: why getting meaningful gun control through congress before the End of the World is going to be tough.


Gun Owners and the New World Order: why getting meaningful gun control through congress before the End of the World  is going to be tough.

by Alex Call

There is a most unfortunate elephant in the room regarding the gun control issue. Perhaps the gentle elephant isn’t the correct character for our analogy; let’s call it the family member that everyone is afraid to confront, no one wants to talk about: the deranged, paranoid rage-aholic bully around whom one must tread lightly for fear he will go off.

I am speaking about the millions of U.S. citizens who are consumed, obsessed, with the notion that the U.S. Government is going to seize their guns. Why does the government want to seize the guns? So that The New World Order can be imposed on the entire world.   What is The New World Order?  The NWO is a vast historical conspiracy of Secret Societies such as the Illuminati, Freemasons, and International bankers (read: Jesus-killing Jews), serving willingly as minions of none other than Satan himself, and bent on the establishment of the totalitarian world government that will crush freedom and individualism. And make us watch soccer and drink red wine and dark beer instead of Bud lite.

The anti- NWO folks have a serious litany of events and conspiracies, and believe me, they’ve piled up masses of evidence, that the word has been led to this near-Armageddon point through manipulation of world occurrences as diverse as the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 to the Newtown , Ct., shooting of last week. These conspiracy- true- believers make a case that only be bought into if one stiffly quaffs the cool-aid. If one does so deeply imbibe, then all history from the dawn of history makes sense and it makes very logical sense that we’re all doomed to suffer a soon-to-be-realized Earthly Hell  (of course, the Elect, along with their arsenals, I presume, will be saved by the Second Coming).

It’s a feature of cool-aid drinking that even the most rational, logical refutation of cool-aid dogma dovetails perfectly right into the dogma. There’s some sort of perverse  rhetorical brilliance at work here and it has to do with the nature of faith, but I digress.

This hodge-podge of disparate historical and quasi-historical elements is intriguing and even fun to read about. You get it all : UFO’s, JFK’s assassination, the Spear of Longinus, the IMF, Unicef, Tibetan monks, Hitler, The Knights Templar, Hollow Earth, Lucifer as Venus the Morning Star, U.N. Black Helicopters, Jews, Aurora, Co., Obama, the Anti-Christ ( oh, I already said Obama, who many believe to be this fellow), dang, there’s really something for every occult or active race-or-other-reason hatred enthusiast on your “ the real story doesn’t matter” Christmas list!

Where this screws things up as far beginning to get some simple gun legislation enacted and carried out is that since it’s Good vs. Satan, what’s a law worth?  Besides, this sort of thinking is not uncommon among the U.S. population of Christians with guns. Ever watch “Doomsday Preppers” on Nat Geo?  These folks ain’t giving up their assault rifles or the other 47 guns in their arsenals. Small magazines? No, 100- round clips with armor piercing loads! After all, when Mr. Dark Knight Satan Obama the Anti-Christ comes to take their guns,  It’ll be up to them to protect you and me and Western Civilization ( well, mostly just themselves, actually). Boy, when you see them practicing with their kids firing AK47 knock-offs one gets the feeling they’re really hoping that Mr. Satan comes as persons of color as well. They’re not counting on it, but they have a hopeful hunch.

This all boils down to a simple, salient point for politicians, most of whom are trying to do well for business in their districts, so they can do better later personally when they retire, and that point is: these End of Timers and racists vote in large numbers and support the NRA, which is a powerful right-wing organization that has influence far beyond Bobby’s Saturday morning  gun -safety class at camp Winnabagel. The Republicans of the Senate and Congress have kept mum “until this Friday” when the NRA is to give its official view of the Newtown Children’s and Teacher’s Massacre. The lawmakers are in thrall as they are to Grover Norquist on the Tax issue. No major, NRA- backed Republican has spoken out this whole week about guns and the massacre of children by assault rifle. Astonishingly courageous, no? It’s all about getting reelected and therefore getting a good tee-time at the local Country Club when they go back home. One laughs a little and cries a lot at the same time.

Forgetting the pols for the moment (I will write about these coiffed hairdos another day), why we let deluded, extreme nut jobs clutching their guns have any traction is beyond me. Their beliefs are marginal, they’re focused on themselves, and they’re not worthy of being included in serious debate on important issues facing all of us. I say it’s time to stop pussyfooting around these deranged bullies and step up to the task of controlling at least future gun sales, and slowly trying to  make this a saner society over the next generation or two. This needs to start with “rational” gun owners, who like to kill harmless animals but wouldn’t engage in a government otherthrow if there’s a good football game on TV. Actually, I’m serious: gun owners across the country  need to step up and begin to do the right thing.

 Of course, the End of the World is in two days, so who cares!! (I saw it on TV). I better get cracking on getting my EOTW party supplies in before the liquor stores are destroyed by Satan’s asteroid….

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Herr Mitt and the Etch-a-Sketch


Repubs are rejoicing in Herr Mitt’s debate performance last night. However, I think it needs to be pointed out that this is the man who said he would simply etch-a-sketch his image as the election grew near.
Last night was a major etch-a-sketch moment. After talking about cutting taxes on the richest Americans ( small-business owners, such as Donald Trump) for all these past months, he turned around and dropped this passing bombshell that he would not reduce taxes on the wealthy. This is counter to his philosophy and was a debate cheap shot, as was his glib closing remark, uncontested by rule, that he would create 12 million jobs. What? In China? Trickle-down government– a nice zinger–but what does it mean? Nothing.

Mitt is from, by, and for trickle -down economics, pure and simple, ” A rising tide floats all YACHTS…er, boats”
Romney is a chameleon who will say whatever it takes to win regardless of the facts and does not, in fact, say what the specifics of his policies are. That way he is held unaccountable for his future actions. When will he reveal the specifics? He doesn’t have them, he just says he will have them someday. What a crock. Look at Ryan’s budget and what Mitt has said as he campaigned to the fringes of Birtherism and beyond and make up your mind.

Do you want some fake smile corporate guy running the country? Maybe he’ll give you five quick reason why he’s going to shut down your region and ship it overseas. After all, if it’s good for the bottom line for the rich, that’s America, right?

Not the America I care about. I like ordinary people, not grinning fat cats who think they, as successful businessmen, get to run the world as a fiefdom.

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Forward of my soon to be released Kindle book, ” Pastime, a baseball story”


The Game

Baseball, like life itself, is an immaculate web of interconnected moments. The game pulses like the coiling and releasing of an enormous hundred movement watch. First there is a slow gathering of attention, a winding made up of myriad repeating actions. The shortstop kicks small pebbles out of the infield skin in front of him. An outfielder whistles, leans over, spits between his feet, straightens up again, and taps his glove. The catcher surveys the present situation, waves his fielders into the correct positions for the next pitch, slides his mask down onto his face, and slowly squats behind the plate, looking and thinking the whole time. The umpire adjusts his chest protector and leans forward. Fans yell out from the safe anonymity of the stands: you’re a bum! Strike him out! The batter stands in, taking loose practice swings, measuring the distance across the strike zone with his bat. And lastly, the pitcher, having gotten the sign, rocks slowly into his motion, gracefully reaches his maximum moment of torque, and then slides forward as he unwinds, firing the ball in at a blinding pace. This spark sets the play ablaze; the spring uncoils violently. The batter swings and hits a hard ground ball past a diving third baseman into left. The batter runs like a man possessed for first and makes a big turn. The second baseman is already covering his bag. The shortstop has run out into left and takes the throw from the left fielder.
The wave of action, having broken on the green and brown of the field, subsides and ebbs back and gathers again. The shortstop jogs in with the ball, eyeing the runner, who nonchalantly drifts back to first, where the first baseman spits and says something no one in the park but he and the runner can hear. It must be funny, because they both laugh. The pitcher gets the ball back, and rubs it up, keeping the man on first in his peripheral vision. Then the whole sequence begins again.
A boy puts his arm around a girl. A mother worries about her children. An old man sits and remembers a favorably revised version of a story that happened so long ago that there’s no else left who might tell the other side of it. The seasons seep inexorably into each other, slowly leaching out the color of the leaves and the light until there’s only a memory of warmth, of cold. And so it goes, on and on.

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Excerpt from my book, “867-5309/jenny, the song that saved me”. About my dad and mom


The Radio.. my childhood room and my dad and mom

Wolf spiders. Wolf spiders on my blankets.
They look like scaled-down tarantulas, chopped and channeled like tarantula hot rods, but unlike their lumbering bigger cousins, wolf spiders are frantically fast. That’s part of the problem; you take your eyes off of them for a second, to get something to swat or catch them with, and they disappear. But where do they go? Under the other blanket? Back in the corner where the wooden bunk-bed frame doesn’t quite touch the wall, that place of unspeakable web-wrapped darkness? Tarantulas, of course, are gentle creatures; you can hang them on your sweater or even let them amble over your slowly moving fingers. But wolf spiders are lightning killers, even if only of other wolf spiders. Their only other known function is to act as nightmare stalkers of seven-year-old boys.
I lay in the darkness in my little basement room. Off in the distance there was the ominous deep rumbling from the new “jet” planes flying somewhere in the night. I was under the covers, drenched in a cold sweat, hiding from wolf spiders and rigid with terror that H-bombs would fall out of the sky. I was waiting every second for it to happen. That was what they’d been feeding us kids: Commies and H-bombs.
I had the blankets pulled up around my head, because besides the H-bombs and the wolf spiders, there were the mice and rats and other short-and-long-legged crawling, creeping scaries waiting to get me down in that basement room.
My dad never got around to finishing this part of the house. It was on his list, but the list was years long and filled the blue-lined pages of notebook after notebook, each entry neatly written in his crabbed writing, each notebook held closed with a rubber band. There were a great many things on that years-long list that never got done. He was a big starter but not much of a finisher, a man of many dreams, but not so many fully realized accomplishments. So I, who my dad called Charlie Owlbox, the Dog-Faced Boy, number three of four kids, ended up being stuck in this unfinished afterthought of a room. My older brother and sister lived down the hall, in finished rooms. My little sister lived upstairs with my parents.
The basement had a semi-smooth concrete floor that was supposed to be polished but wasn’t (that was a fifties thing, polished concrete, very modern (now it’s au courant again: Whole Foods floors), and there were missing acoustic tiles in my ceiling, which left holes from which mice and rats would sometimes peer down on me as I lay in my bed. I once woke up to find that a big, fat mama rat had brought her newly spawned brood to nestle in the comfy folds of my satin comforter. At first I thought they were kittens, as we had up to a dozen cats at any one time in our house, and there were kittens everywhere, but as I squinted at them in the dim morning light, I suddenly realized that these tiny squirmers were of a more feral species. I ran, I suppose yelling, from my room. My dad came to the dramatic rescue, in typical Hughes Call fashion, with his ceremonial Navy sword in one hand and our black cat in the other. He flicked back the covers with the tip of his shiny sword and tossed the cat on the rats, which scattered in all directions. Black Kitty might have caught one of them.
Right at the foot of my bed there was also a dirt- floored “alcove”, full of dusty, cobwebby cardboard boxes, that was really a crawl space that led back under the house. This creepy, dark place was home to many kinds of critters, including the black widows that my older brother and his intrepid pals sought with jars. A flimsy little curtain only partially covered this nasty gateway to a child’s night terrors.
But my room was a well-lit refuge compared to what waited beyond my pocket door with its little hook latch. Outside the door, there was a dimly lit, narrow hallway with no wall paneling, just exposed rough joists strung with Romex electric cabling and draped with dusty spider webs. Directly across from my door was the open black hole of the highly ironically named “playroom”, another unfinished space filled with partially started projects such as my dad’s “catamaran”, the one he planned to sail to Hawaii, which was never more than a few two-by-fours tacked together and leaned up against the windows, which couldn’t be seen out of for the clutter.
There were piles of cut-up sheets of plywood, stacks of boxes and old newspapers dating back to the thirties, three-legged chairs waiting forever to be re-glued, a couple of eight-inch black-and-white TV sets, an old wind-up Victrola, uncountable broken vintage electric fans and light fixtures, and God knows what else, everything covered in spider webs and a light fall of slightly smelly grime that I came to call Mummy Dust. It just had this strange indefinable odor. I’m sure Indiana Jones would be able to relate. This unkempt jumble was naturally home to myriad species of arachnids, including my unfavorites, the wolf spiders, and all the other web makers, big and small.
You see, my father was one of those people who couldn’t toss anything out, and I mean anything. Each old box full of whatnots, each partially cut piece of lumber, every hanging garment bag full of old, never-to-be-worn-again clothing (I knew there were corpses in them) had its own old memory or a future use. At its most organized, the playroom was a place of labyrinthine, box-lined trails through the piles and stacks. This only got worse over time, until the tortuous paths themselves were filled to the ceiling. Nowadays, a person who collects stuff in this fashion would be labeled a compulsive hoarder, which is quite accurate, but the old name for the compulsive hoarder is more descriptive: packrat. Actually, both names are sadly correct.
You might think from the above that I grew up out in the hills of Appalachia or in some rotting urban tenement, but this was in Mill Valley, California, one of the most urbane pieces of suburbia that ever was. And my dad wasn’t some undereducated hick from the sticks or faceless denizen of a forlorn cityscape.
What he was was quite a complicated man. His mother and father had divorced in 1919 when he was two, leaving him to be raised by his wealthy grandparents. His mother’s father, my great-grandfather, George Alexander Hughes, was the inventor of the electric stove, if you can get your mind around that. A third-generation Irish Protestant immigrant, Mr. Hughes started an electric appliance company that went on to become Hughes Electric and he was the Chairman of the Board of General Electric at some point back in the twenties and thirties. I keep telling my brother that sooner or later a few hundred old shares of GE will be found in some old pile of papers (my brother took many of my dad’s boxes with him after dad passed away) and we’ll be rich. The shares have as yet not been unearthed. When we find them, I’ll let you know. From Maui.
My dad grew up in a big house near Chicago, where he got more attention from the liveried, “colored” servants and cooks than he did from his older-generation, distant grandparents. He was shunted off at age five to a fancy, waspy school or two and then to Harvard and Harvard Business School. From this high-altitude springboard he could have bellyflopped into a cushy corporate job. All he had to do was toe the line and follow vaguely in Grandpa’s footsteps. But while serving as a young Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy in a strictly non-combatant role (no doubt through his grandfather’s political connections) as a junior adjutant and tennis partner for Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in Pearl Harbor during WWII, where in addition to his forehand my father finely honed his already considerable cocktail-party skills, my father saw Golden California. When the war was over, he turned his back on his guaranteed-to-be-boring corporate job prospects and left the Midwest for the wide-open sunny life of San Francisco.
He was, despite his blustery protestations to the contrary, a black sheep who tried for a long time in vain to wear white; a lifelong failure at business and a staunch anti-Roosevelt Republican who finally came to his senses during the Vietnam War and became a Democrat and an anti-war, civil rights advocate. Should he have been surprised to have spawned a rock musician?
As for Hughes Electric Company and the George Alexander Hughes,” Father of the Electric Range”, family fortune? My lovely grandmother, the party-loving-almost-good-enough erstwhile concert pianist, spent all the dough traveling the world on board Cunard liners while draped in minks and pearls and on entertaining Broadway’s and The New York Philharmonic’s stars at her autographed- photo- filled 57th Street apartment, right across the street from Carnegie Hall.
Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations: that’s what they say.
My dad was also an alcoholic, largely of the charming variety, who couldn’t find the time to play catch with me or teach me how to drive. He was always too busy either sleeping a big night off or winding up to become Mr. Gregarious, the guy who lived for the next wild, imaginative party coming down the pike. My parents both sang and my mother played piano; we had three of them in the house, with two back-to-back grands in the big living room, the curves matching like musical yin-yang pieces. Above the pianos was an abstract painting done by one of their artsy friends. It was an oddly stretched-out rectangle three feet high and fifteen feet long that was mounted above the Steinway and the other grand. The male cats would get up on the pianos and pee on the painting, their pee trails streaming down the walls from the swirls and splatters of the abstract painting. Life imitates art.
My folks belonged to a theater group that did Gilbert and Sullivan and other light musicals, and our house was party central for the cast. Our parties were legendary. My dad cut an eight-by-ten-foot hole in the living room floor and rigged a “stage” that could be raised with pulleys up from infamous playroom to the living room. Virtually everyone at the party, and we often had a hundred people or more at our soirees’, was required to have an act, which could be raised from the depths, the partygoers singing or doing a funny scene from a play. My father had rigged colored spotlights near the ceiling of the living room that would illuminate the performers as they rose from the depths.
As a kid, I could only watch the grownups at their play, though they trotted me out to sing a Broadway song or two. I had a good voice even as a little boy. But the world of grownups was basally off-limits to us kids. We had to go to our rooms early. In the morning I would sneak upstairs and gaze upon the detritus of the parties: glasses everywhere, many with cigarette butts stuck in white wine, the kitchen a mess. There were usually two or three snoring bodies on the couches. They must have had a grand time.
Often I would get a book or two and tiptoe back down to my room. There was a library in our dining room with floor –to- ceiling books that came down from both my mother’s and father’s childhoods. There must have been hundreds of books. I learned to read early and I loved the Greek Myths, the Arabian Nights, and anything about history. I still do. I have some of those old books today. I also loved comic books, especially Uncle Scrooge, because of the fantastic adventures, and my favorite, Superman.
Superman is a lonely character. He can’t reveal his true identity to even his closest friends. He exists to right wrongs and to save the world from Lex Luthor and Mr Mxyzptlk. Superman has a weakness, deadly Kryptonite, pieces of his home world which are poisonous to him. How true that is. The stuff that follows us around from childhood can be very toxic; it can even destroy us. He had a place where he went to recharge his batteries when he was at the end of his endurance, the Fortress of Solitude. Even Superman has his limits. I guess the creators of Superman were brilliant. I wanted desperately to be Superman. Even then I knew the world needed saving. I spent long hours wandering in the worlds of books and comics. The moral choices and the circumstances of the characters were easier to understand than the real world I saw around me.
You’d think my father could’ve taken a little of his social energy to fix my nasty room up. But he couldn’t find the time; he was the party master: he loved the ladies, he lived for the laughter; his nickname was Hugs. He had a clock that said: no drinks served until after five. The clock face was, of course, all fives.
My Father was much loved by his witty, creative, and simpatico friends, but his own early childhood abandonment by his mother no doubt left him with deep, unfaced issues. Kryptonite. His dark, wounded side found expression in the scary bowels of our house, the basement of Dorian Grey. I needed my own Fortress of Solitude.
Of course, I didn’t know any of that when I was a young boy. I only knew that everywhere there were piles of stuff too important to be tossed out, projects too far down on the ever-longer list to ever be dealt with. At night the doorless playroom was a seething black pit full of lurking horrors. The laundry area, with its single, hanging bare light bulb and the dark and creepy old blanket-draped doorway to dad’s “workroom” (where he hid his cases of cheap Tom Moore bourbon) was just as frightening. There were two more of those scary, unlit, cave-like alcoves that ran off under the old house. The stairs that went up to the main floor had only steps, no facings, since they had been built by my dad, who we now know never finished anything. I imagined bony hands reaching out of the blackness for my ankles as I ran up to my parent’s bedroom in the middle of the night when I was too terrified to stay downstairs any longer.
All this and H-Bombs and wolf spiders, too.
So, I snuck my hand out of the blankets and clicked on the green plastic Zenith radio. Wish I still that radio. It looked just like the front of a ’55 Oldsmobile, with chromish mesh over the speaker and a pea -soup green body. Two dials: volume and frequency. I turned it just on a click, didn’t turn the volume up at all. At first, there was only a very faint buzzing noise. But after a few minutes, as the tubes warmed, there was KYA coming in, too quietly for anyone to hear but me. The sound of the smooth-talking DJ was reassuring to a child who felt as if he had been abandoned to his cellar-dweller fate, and the comforting top-forty hit singles played all night.
There were songs that I loved: Don’t be Cruel, El Paso, Hello Mary Lou, Bye-Bye Love, Pretty Woman. There were many more songs I couldn’t stand: She Wore Blue Velvet, Hats Off To Mary, Tell Laura I Love Her, Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini. But good or not, each song was three minutes long: verse, b-section, and chorus. We were a musical family and I was already at a tender age a discerning critic. My older sister was a bobby soxer who had the latest 45’s on her little record player. I listened to them more than she did. I waited for the songs that had cool guitar leads, songs that sounded like a band was playing them. Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson (with James Burton on guitar), The Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley. I switched over to KEWB or the black station KDIA when Frankie Avalon, Neil Sedaka, or another one of those horrible teen idols came on. KDIA played Bobby Blue Bland (Lovelight, one of the best singles of all time), James Brown, Barret Strong, Mary Wells, Jackie Wilson, The Coasters and Drifters, and my favorite, Ray Charles. I liked the real stuff, no lush strings or oboes.
The songs were my own private musical Fortress of Solitude; if I listened hard enough, the night, the spiders, and the H-bombs went away. Eventually I would fall asleep, but the old Zenith stayed on while I dreamed. The songs sank into my consciousness.
I was terrified down in that room, but as I drifted into dreamland on the waves of the old Zenith I was unknowingly uncovering something inside of me: music, a place of refuge. And it was my own Berlitz course: Learn to write hit songs while you sleep.

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excerpt from ‘867-5309/jenny, the song that saved me’ : My mother passes away, 1969


My Mother passes away

There was a note from my father in the mailbox at 96 LaVerne early one July morning in 1969. It said: Your mother died this morning. He didn’t knock on the door or call. I stood there holding it my hand. It wasn’t like I didn’t know it was coming, but I didn’t know it would be so soon. My parents weren’t in the business of leveling with us about life’s big issues. It was always more like, if you don’t know, then I’m not going to tell you; if you do know, then I don’t need to tell you.
She had been fighting cancer for eleven years and had finally passed away at home. I had seen her just a few days before. I was on foot, carless as I was in those days. My sisters were driving her someplace. She was sitting in the back of the car wearing a print dress which was bright and cheerful, but she was skin and bones; her once graceful arms looked like pipes draped with loose, gray skin. They stopped and she rolled down the window and told me that her mother, my Grandma Nonie, had just died. I said, gee, I’m so sorry, mom. I felt a stab of guilt. I never had anything helpful to say to her in her illness, and I felt equally ineffective at that moment as well. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would ever talk to her.
She’d been sick for so long, it seemed like she would just go on. I didn’t think about her death being imminent. At least when my father died I got to tell him I loved him before he went. I have the memory of those last words to hold inside of me. But not with my mom; she hung on for only one more week. I think she willed herself to live until her mother was gone. I have now come to see the way she, and later my father, carried themselves as they approached death as having a lot of dignity, for which I am today grateful as an unspoken life-lesson. Teaching by example. That’s really the way of the parent, since kids, especially teenagers, don’t listen to advice. But we absorb the way our parents handle themselves as human beings.
But right then, I didn’t think about dignity. I was in shock. I quickly walked the mile across Homestead Valley to my parent’s house. I was afraid her body would still be there, but they had taken her away earlier. I couldn’t even bear to look into her room. I was spooked. There was a floor to ceiling mirror right at the foot of her bed, and I thought that if I looked in it, I might see her propped up on her pillows in the bed, the way she had been for almost two years. I was two months shy of my twenty-first birthday. My mother would have been fifty-two in November.
Though I had been saying to my friends for some time that it would be better when her suffering ended, when it actually came to pass, I was hit harder than I could imagine. I learned in a dizzying moment that blood is much thicker and deeper than intellectual thought. Death is visceral and ethereal at the same time, but it’s only peripherally intellectual. In the inscrutable, hard way that life works, her death pushed me into the beginning of my spiritual life-journey.
As I look back on my life, I know I’ve always been a seeker. Even as a child I would look up at the sky and wonder why I couldn’t just spread my wings, in fact where were my wings?, and leap through it into some glorious, pearly somewhere, free of all the crapola of life: hard guys, cold girls, homework, and terror of H-bombs. LSD dropped-kicked me sideways beyond the edge of reason and gave me a glimpse of a vision of great potential. But then I would come down from that high and after a while, the vision would blur, even seem ridiculous and downright frightening. But my mom’s death inexorably pulled me down the steep trail into that lonesome valley we have to walk by ourselves. I didn’t know that I was descending into that labyrinthine maze yet. I just knew that, while I got through most of the service and memorial alright, I felt suddenly a little more like an adult; one half an orphan.
My older brother Lew came down from far northern California, where he had stayed on after college, and we drove around together, even wearing sport coats and ties some of the time for the funeral and the beginning of the wake. We talked as equals for the first time. He and I had always been of almost separate generations in our house. He was a big kid and I was a little kid, because we were five years apart. Five years. It makes a difference when you’re a kid. We little kids would be up at dawn on Christmas while the big kids annoyingly slept in until seven, no longer hungering for the wish-fulfilling BB gun or box of toy soldiers under the tree. We had had all been sent off to boarding schools during high school, in the tradition of my highly educated dad and mom, so we sibs barely knew each other. But I had always looked up to Lew. He would stand up to my father’s blustery posturing at times, even having a bit of a slapping match with the old man in the TV room during dinner once when I was home from school on vacation. My poor dad, he just didn’t have his heart into being a disciplinarian, so he made a lousy, non-credible one. He failed at it in the same way he failed at many things.
Thank God, my mother’s wake was anything but a dreary affair. There must have been over a hundred people at our house, drinking, laughing, reminiscing, and playing piano and singing, just like a big cast party for one of their light opera shows. It was a grand send-off. Mom would not have looked well on a dour, whiney event. In fact, there was one person there being maudlin and she was actually shown the door by one of my mom’s friends. My parents were part of a lively crew; educated, funny, and talented, with a taste for life that has left a glamorous picture in my mind. I drank a pitcher of something with one of the grown-ups, a man who boozily confided that he had been the only one really understood my mother. I guess I didn’t know much about her myself.

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Merlin the Archer: Winter and Death- Stonehenge and Sacrifice


Winter and Death

In the late summer, when the plains were golden with the stalks of the dried grasses and the leaves beginning to get brittle and lose their green in the chill of the mornings, the sun shone through the stones marking the day of equal day and night.
Waelf said to those who still stayed in the camps, “This is the day that marks the time of harvest. Cut the barley and thresh it. Make your beer and barley wine. Put the barley in tight jars of clay and save it against the long winter. Gather the roots and nuts of the forest. Fill you baskets with the berries and dry and pound them. Catch the big trout feeding themselves fat for the winter and dry them and pound them. For this is the time when the land gives up its spirit. Soon winter will be on us, when there is nothing but the odd hare to be taken.”
The people knew this already and had been gathering the bounty of the plains and valleys. Many had gone off after the great magic of the stones, returning to their lands both far and near. Aon’s girl stayed with him. He had made his own house on the rise above the river to the east, with low stone walls in a circle, topped with chinked logs. It was fine place. The men who had moved the stones had made me a similar house nearby, but lower down, out of the winds._____ kept my hearth and eased my body’s pains with her soft hands. My hip and knee were hurting with the chill. I needed a walking stick to get around. I felt old, but figured I still had some seasons left in me. I was planning on moving more stones in the winter when the ground was frozen.
Waelf had decided his work was done with the henge.
“It’s up to you and your son, “he said, as he sat on the grassy side of his barrow-house squinting into the setting sun. “ I am please we did what we did. No man lasts forever. Few leave such monuments.” He paused as if he wanted to say something important, but then shook his head and said quietly, ‘ it’s all about nothing in the end, though.”
Waelf looked tired and cold. I built his fire up for him and pulled another sheepskin around his thin shoulders.
He stared into the fire and then shot me a sideways glance, but said nothing more. After a time, I stood up and put my hand gently on his arm and went to leave. The last weak rays of sun gave the tops of the trilithons a rosy tinge. I left and walked away across the dead grass of the plain. Leta would have a warm stew fro me at my house.

The Death came with the fist cold of the winter. At first it ws a young child, a baby or two. But children died often. We thought nthig more of it than any other natural event. But a coughing sickness began to spread among the mothers of the children, and the the fathers. Almost whole families died. Sickness was notrmal. W9nter’s frosts always brought the repaer of mankind. But this was wrose than the last three years ahd been. Three new smallvilaages had been made by the pilgrims who put upthe great stones. Two of these settlements were lef empty by thetime the sun had almost come to he midwinter stone. Poewpl became fearful and mor andmore turned to the dirtyMerlin of thelower viallge. He burend thingsand sacrificed anamals and pefror,med his ritual;s for the people, who in their fear turjed away from the hange and Waelf and me.
Aon went among them, more and more, as I was stiff with cold in my bad joint and also was growing tired of the ignorance of the common folk. Waelf and I sat at his fier and talked about the situation.
“ That man needs to be watched, ;’ said Waelf.” He is not stupid, thogh he is a greedy fool.’ He can see how to trun people and make himelf fat in the bargain.”
Leta and I kept apart. She went into the woods and gathered the now0dry herbs and other edible pants that still lingered into the winter, for it is a green land and never dies completely. She came back to our fire one afternoon with a basket of plants.
“I saw the boy,” She said, speaking of the Merlin’s young servant.” He was digging around the roots of the trees by the river, where the bad mushrooms were.”
“There are medicines in those roots, too,” I said. But I took her meaning. Leta had a clear mind, much given to observing.
The death grew. We heard that up and down the river, people were coughing themselves to death. The cough became bloody and then so heavy that some died just from the effort. I didn’t know what to do. Waelf thought we should burn the bodies of the dead, but the Merlin told people to keep them for three days without moving them, as their spirits would be turned to baleful ghosts if burned.
“The sickness lives in the blood and spittle, “said Waelf, But there were few who agreed. They were terrified of the angry ghosts and thought the restless spirits spread the illness. The Merlin collected more and more sacrifice from the scared villagers. His cook fire was always busy and he was growing fatter when everyone else was wasting away from winter hunger.
Waelf went down into the villages and tended to the sick as best he could, seeking to comfort them with kind words and thoughts of a better life beyond. For the people believed that vengeful gods and demons awaited them in the afterlife. Waelf, said, no, no; the kind and gentle gods of spring and summer waited beyond the shadow of death. He was telling them a tale he believed not.
“There is no way to know, ‘he said to me, “but from what I see of this world, it would seem that we simply fade away and become part of the earth of which we are made, anyway. When a tree gets old and falls, it simply melts after a time into the grass and leaves. Other trees grow from its seeds. Everything dies and changes. I have no fear of it.”
He looked at me with a twinkle in is eyes. “Of course, I may be wrong. Perhaps fire-breathing demons will consume us.” He laughed “Or perhaps, like the sun, we will come north again in time over and over, like the seasons, each a little different, not remembering the one past, yet bearing a similar face through the endless years. Who knows?”
He looked far off across the wide pain, past the barrow mounds and the henge. “I will know soon enough.” He said softly. “We all will”.

When Waelf began to cough, he spoke not of it, and waved me off, telling to stay away from him while he coughed. I kept my distance, and told Leta and Aon to do the same. But I feared for my old friend. I knew his long years put him in danger. He soon grew feverish and retired to his barrow. He would not let me enter, but I sat beyond the entrance and kept his fire stroked. Waelf simply lay down, wrapped in his sheepskins and fell into fever. He only spoke quietly to unseen presences from time to time. His Little People, perhaps, the wisgiegh makers. On the third morning he didn’t stir. He never made a death rattle of showed any signs of weakness of spirit. He was just gone.
I waited for the whole day until his body became stiff and cold. Then I made a big fire in the plain between the Stonehenge and the barrow. I carried his body, now tiny with age and illness and laid it atop the piled logs and gave him a hero’s cremation. Word had spread of his death and some faithful villagers came up from the river valley and watched silently as the fires took his frail body and sent it as ashes into the sky. I pulled my sheepskins from my shoulders and let the grey snow of his passing fall on my skin. It was the day before the midwinter’s day, and on the morrow, the sun would mark it’s lowest point against the shadows of the stones.
Goodbye, my friend, I said to myself. Herakul and been my companion. I had killed my brother- in- arms Mtombe. Vila and Enheduanna had taught me much. I had learned from the Achaeans, Sumerians, Akkadians, Egyptians, and from mad old Abram the prophet. But no one had surpassed the knowledge and mind of Waelf, this northern man with the far vision and clear eyes.
I felt he would always be there in the stones, watching the coming and going of the sun, moon, stars, and seasons. Long after all others had long been forgotten forever, His vision would still be here, bringing wonder to men far beyond the reckoning seas of time.

In the morning many came to witness the midwinter day. Aon lead the people. He said there should be no animals killed on this day, but that we would feast on the stored nuts, berries, pounded fish and grains of the season past, in honor of the great, true Merlin of the Stonehenge. We quietly watched the sun strike the stone furthest to the south at both dawn and sunset. At dusk, people came with offerings of food. To my surprise, even the fat, greasy Merlin of the lower village came, with his boy bearing a bowl of stew. I would not speak with him, out of respect for my dead friend. But Aon, being the better diplomat, and, truly the coming leader of the all the people of this river valley, to judge by his bearing and by the regard that the people held him, took the offering and ate the second bowl from the pot, the first having been placed on the altar stone in the center of the henge. The Merlin quickly withdrew, but his boy stayed behind. I felt sorry for the young lad, who indeed had grown into his first years of manhood. But he was unnaturally short and not good looking. A servant to the Merlin looked to be his life. But Aon looked like a king, as I had been, a poor king of a little people, but a king none the less.
The night was cold and after the offerings had been made a modest feast was eaten by the fifty or so villagers, and then everyone went off to their home fires to sleep as warmly as possible on this longest of winter’s nights.
It was late and dark when Leta woke me.
“Aon,” She hissed urgently. I could see Aon’s girl hunched over out dull fire. She was shaking with cold. Or fear.
I knew at once something was wrong. I pulled myself to my feet and followed the two women to Aon’s house. He lay on his pallet of dried grass, his sheepskins on the earthen floor. He was throwing himself from side to side. His eyes were rolling back in their sockets. He had vomited and shat himself. Leta lit a brand and in its light I could see the sweat pour off his body. I felt his skin. He was burning up. He tossed about in wild spasms. I tried to hold him still, and Leta and ___ tried to put wet rags to his face. He didn’t recognize us at all and he never spoke, but at one point he suddenly gave a great heaving from his guts and in a violent spasm he crashed into the stones of his wall and fell still.
There was no life in his eyes. The women began to keen and pull their hair. I shouted at them to be quiet and shook Aon hard over and over.
But he was dead. After my frantic shaking and calling his name did not make him stir, I put my ear to his mouth and nose, as I had done so many times to men on the battlefield. There was no breath. I listened to his chest, but heard no heartbeat. I pulled him to me and held his warm body close to mine. ___ And Leta both joined me in holding him. We all sobbed until the truth stilled me with its cold finality.

I left the women before sunrise and went to my house in the dark. Our fire was only glowing coals, but I had no need of its light nor its heat now. I found my bow and my quiver where I knew them to be, under a stack of sheepskins and baskets, hidden from the eyes of strangers. I strung the bow and felt the tightness of the hard sinew string. I plucked at it and It sang its dull, confidant note. I had only one arrow left from the far lands; one with a copper point. My magic arrow, I had called it as a joke. The flint-tipped ones worked fine, but the copper was a noble metal, made for the biggest kill. I would only need the one, but I brought others, just in case.
I found my old lion-skin tunic and my war sword. I had laid these by for years, and the tunic was a bit worn, but still showed the spots that no man wore in this land of no great cats. I bound a leather band around my head. I looked the warrior I once had been. I stepped out into the frosty dawn. Low wisps of winter fog lay the depth of a man’s chest along the river fields below. I walked down the path that led to the lower village. The bright morning star, the one the one the Akkadians call Astarte the Goddess, the Achaeans Afroda, glittered in the paling sky. All the earth was sleeping, except for a few ravens that clattered high in the raven villages in the tops of the tallest trees. A few flapped off as I strode calmly, yet with as much grace as my sore hip could muster. My sword slapped my thigh lightly as I stepped, for I made no effort at silence. I would feel no pain today. Today was my last day of war in my life. I had one last enemy to kill. And he would die publicly, before his people, with a chance to fight for his life. But he would die. If I died, too, It made little difference to me in that hour.
I saw a figure ahead of me on the path as it widened out nearing the village. The short spy scuttled off like a frightened rat. Good, I thought, let him tell his master that his fate was at hand. How could that fool think that he had done other than call down his own death on his filthy head? Did he somehow imagine the he would poison both my son and I with his mushrooms? I had fasted in honor of Waelf’s memory on the previous day. I felt young and whole again. My purpose of the last years had been of the long days, on building the stones. But this dawn found me with a warrior’s clear mind; immediate and vigorous.
I heard stirring as I passed the little huts and house on the outskirts of the village and I knew that somehow the word of my coming and purpose had already spread. As I passed, the sheep hide door coverings were parted by curious hands and I felt, more than saw, a gathering of men, growing greater with each cluster of huts and houses, coming at a close distance behind me. People feared the darkness and the power of the Merlin, but I knew that very few felt any love for him. I felt no fear of these men. They knew me and my sense of honor well.
I came to the base of the rise of Sarum hill. Above me the smoke of the Merlin’s cook-fire twisted into the still sky. By now the light had grown and the star Afroda dimmed and gave way to the great light of the coming sun. The mist was lifting a bit, though clouds of breath came from my own mouth and nostrils, and from the assembly at my back. I glanced around and saw that there were more that thirty men behind me in a wide circle. Some carried sticks and stone axes.
I turned to them. I said nothing, but raised my hand and made a sign that they should follow me. I climbed the rise, and passed through the opening in the berm. The men crowded in behind me. Across the flat space was the house of the Merlin.
I called to him.
“Your death hour has come. I am going to kill you for poisoning my son. You deserve to die like a dog, but ill let you face me in battle.’
There was no response. For a moment I was taken aback, for I expected a showy denial or a shocked lie. But there was nothing. Then I heard a noise from beyond the house and we all saw the Merlin and his boy running off over the far side of the berm.
Once again I turned to the villagers.
“Don’t let him escape. He has no power over you from this day forth.”
Some nodded. I set off, going over the berm and own the far side. When I reached the river bank, two men pointed that the Merlin and the boy had run up the path, across the footbridge of my own construction whose trail led back towards the Stonehenge. A strange way to go, I thought, but I set off as fast as I could. Some of the younger men ran ahead of me, eager now for the hunt and spectacle. Twice I felt a twinge of battle fear, and spun around, arrow nocked, but saw no one, only the men who followed with their own crude weapons.
As the chase led away from the village and towards the henge, I suddenly realized his intent and went as fast as I could. Soon I was running, for I no longer felt any pain in my leg at all. Surely, if there are gods , there was one bearing my legs up in that moment.
When I reached Aon’s house, the roof was on fire. I ran to the door, but he came out, holding his flint sacrificial knife to Leta’s throat. The boy crouched behind him in terror. The knife was bloody and I knew he had already further deepened his crime.
“I will kill her” he cried, “lower your arrow.”
I held my bow level with his swarthy, blood-stained face.
“You are the one who will die, coward.” I said.
My copper-point arrow struck him just below his right eye. The power of the shot pushed the point clean through and out the back of his head, so that only a foot of shaft protruded from his face. He clutched at the fletched shaft, dropping the bloody knife. Leta broke from him and ran back inside the door.
The Merlin turned and staggered away. By chance, the shot had not killed him yet. He ran, falling forward with each panicked step, toward the henge. He staggered through the opening in the earthen walls and made his way half blindly, by chance it seemed, toward the center stone. He turned to face me, for I had followed him, the villagers at my heels. He backed right into the altar stone.
I handed my bow to a man and pulled up my bronze sword. Forged in the far lands of the warm sea, a kingly gift from Herakul himself to me, its polished blade gleamed in the rays of the sun, which broke the horizon and poured through the trilithons and fell on the altar stone. The sword felt alive in my hands. This weapon was only to be drawn for killing.
I said calmly, but forcefully enough so all could hear, “On this morning, this once only, I will not keep my promise to Waelf, the one true Merlin, that there shall be no human sacrifice on this stone”
The Merlin cringed and raised his arms to cover his face; a coward’s gesture. The blow was swift and hard and it nearly severed his head from his shoulders. His blood spurted out from the cut and spilled across the stone. The fat, filthy fool slumped and fell on the cold ground.
I called for someone to bring water and wash the stone, and to take the corpse and throw it out on the plain where the ravens could do their work to it. There would be no burial or cremation for this foul demon of a man. Let his shade wander the dark underworld for eternity.

We made a fine burial for Aon down near the river, on a little rise where he and I had both loved to sit and watch for deer and other game. I had it in my mind that I would want to be laid there when I left this world, if there was anyone to bury me. I never had dreamed that Aon would there first. ___ recovered from her wounds, which had not been fatal after all. She became almost Leta’s own daughter after that. The Merlin’s boy took his own life, thereby earning his own eternal suffering, if we are to believe as the Sumerians believe.

For a while I suffered so deeply that I almost felt nothing at all. I merely watched the sun and stars come and go. We moved no stones that winter after all. But when the ground froze in the following year men came to me and begged me to order them back the work of further building the henge. We moved stones both big and small. There was no Merlin now, but I found that that name came to be applied to me. And I finally accepted it in the memory of my fine son Aon and my greatest friend Waelf. For four more years I did my best to guide the simple, fearful, yet fine people of the valley of the Evonna River.
At last my leg came to hurt me so badly, that Leta had to be my support. Then men had to carry me. There were good men in that valley. A handsome young man named Kumru emerged as a leader. He was quick at stone work and a good judge of the cases of men. I asked him to take over my duties and spent more and more time resting on the grassy slope of the sun-warmed side of Waelf’s old barrow.
The villagers made me a present of a fine new bow and a quiver of the best arrows the country had to offer. Kumru himself made me an archer’s wrist-guard of polished stone, one of the best I had ever owned. I promised him I would take all the gifts with me to the next world, and asked that I be laid next to Aon’s grave when the time came, which I knew was soon. Leta was always kind to me, as kind as any woman ever had been, and I knew that out hearts were bound, as mine had been with Vila.

One day a traveling man came up the river from the south, a tale-teller. He sang songs in the manner of such travelers for his food and shelter, for bir and vanna, and maybe the warmth of a young girl or widow. He sang us a long tale of a hero name Heracles, who, according to the song, had performed a number of outrageous labors for some king somewhere. I could only smile. My old companion had made a big name for himself. There were also songs of Finn Ma-Kul. There was even mention of a man named Pelops. Near enough to my old name. There was almost a hint of truth to one part of the tale, about a cart race and a king’s daughter. We feasted while he sang and afterwards I felt ill with too much food and drink. Leta wrapped me up in warm sheepskins and lay by my side as the evening grew cold.
Outside, on the wide, dark plain, the brilliant stars wheeled about the big standing stones.

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Merlin the Archer: Moving the Stones, the People: Building Stonehenge


Building Stonehenge

It felt good to moving again. After all, we were men unencumbered by women or children. We had only our three ponies, which Finn named Teti, Pepi, and Nefer-kah, in honor of our Egyptian masters. Finn took a certain enjoyment in lightly whipping the laden beasts with a reed and calling on them move faster. We had told no one of our going. Waelf said it wasn’t unusual for men to go off hunting or even to go on pilgrimages to holy places, like the ring of giant stones to which we were heading. It was just a day north. The chalk ridges were fine and grassy and the walking clear of much trouble, even for me with my limp. I had a fine staff to help me, with a carved ram’s head on the top made by my son, and a leather thong to help me hold on to it. We moved up and down the low rises, sometimes crossing clear-running streams. We saw many barrows. Waelf said they we all empty, except for the shadows of the ancients. We camped clear of them and ate well and drank from skins of honey wine and clear water. It was the height of summer, and the weather was fine, though that meant that at any time it might cloud up and rain for a moment and then be bright again. The wind blew, as it always does across the plains.
There was a track of sorts, a path worn into the white chalk earth.
“From the olden days, people have traveled along the high ridges from north to south, east, to west. There are places that have power in them, and men come seeking to be cured, or to find their future destinies. I won’t say the way is without some danger, for not all that travel these roads are good men. There are brigands and thieves, as there are everywhere.”
But we had little fear. Aon and I were both good shots, and we had made up large quivers of flint-tipped arrows, well fletched. I still carried my Akkadian recurve bow, which could cast an arrow two hundred paces with killing force. I also had my bronze sword. Aon had fashioned a stiff bow out of th yew tree, in the manner of the islanders. We carried copper battle axes in our gear, brought all the way from Egypt, along with copper stone-cutting chisels. Finn wore his bronze sword, won in a campaign far away, and also had a bronze-tipped spear longer than a tall man. Waelf carried no weapons but his wits, which were sharper than any metal or flint could ever be. We followed the trace cut by the passage of men since before time through the chalk ridges and saw no one all day.
At nightfall we came within sight of an unusual hill. It looked a bit like a rounded-off pyramid. Plainly, it was made by men, for it stood by itself, with no like hills near it. Waelf said it was king’s barrow of the ancient days. Nearby was a low, long barrow not unlike the one Waelf used as his home near Sarum. We came up slowly on the village that lay beyond the oddly shaped hill. We could see the smoke from the cook fires. Evening was settling and the locals would likely be a bit put out by the appearance of armed strangers, so we decided to make a cold camp a way across a field. The country was rolling low hills, and the tall barrow-hill stood out in the twilight.
In the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of someone talking quietly in the darkness. I slipped out from under my sheep-skins and stole into the night towards the sound. As I got closer to the talking, I could hear that it was Waelf. He seemed to be having an animated discussion with someone, but no other voice could I hear. At last Waelf sighed and walked back to our camp. I waited for some time and then slipped back under my skins.
Waelf woke us as the first light raised in the eastern sky.
“Look, “he said, pointing to the north, “the great stones of the old ones.”
There, lining a broad avenue, which, excepting the green grass that grew on it, was not unlike the processional ways that led from the Nile to the great pyramids of the Pharaoh’s Red and Black lands, were two rows of massive upright stones. They were rough, not well cut. Many of them were twisted and misshapen; some were almost square, others oval or round. Many looked a bit like crude spear or arrow points or flint knife-blades, stuck in the ground by some giant’s hand. But they were laid out in two long, if somewhat uneven, rows that reached towards a sloping hillside about a half mile ahead, where there was a great ring of the same kind of rough stones with another, smaller but still grand, ring within. The outer ring was several hundred yards across. There were gaps in it here and there. Perhaps the old ones had run out of stones. And there were oddly placed single stone scattered about the enclosure.
Waelf said, “The locals are a bit touchy about their ring. I’ve never been allowed to spend much time noting the placement of the single stones. I would guess that they mark different times of the year. If anyone here knows, they aren’t saying. When I last came here, a headman rudely told me he didn’t know what the stones meant except that they were sacred to Awe and Ock.” I have brought him some wisgiegh as an offering this time. Perhaps that will soften his tongue.”
We walked up the avenue, leading the ponies. The sun had risen and was at our backs. It was a fine day. Without breaking stride or acting outwardly concerned, Finn said, “We’ve got company on both sides.”
I glanced as casually as I could and saw them; archers with drawn bows under various trees that stood here and there. There were at least ten of them. They had us dead to rights if they chose to shoot.
Waelf raised his hand to signal us to halt.
“Aon, my boy, take the pack off our little brown horse, but leave the nose rope. “
Aon quickly untied the leather straps and the pack slid off the pony’s back. Waelf fished around in the pack bag and drew out a skin.
“More wisgiegh than I thought the old man had,” laughed Finn under his breath,” if I’d only known!”
Waelf gave us a grave but confident look and took the pony’s trace and the skin and walked ahead. Three men had come out, two with drawn bows. They stood fifty paces ahead in the middle of the avenue. The moment seemed to drag on and on, as Waelf slowly drew near the three.
Finn whispered, “If they take him out, we’ll get between the horses and back out of here.”
It would be a tough retreat. We were sure to get hit and almost certainly lose the horses and packs. I had no doubt but that Aon and I could make better shots than these men, though. We would most likely survive, though every man, woman, and child must be prepared to die at any time. Waelf faced certain death where he was, however. But I knew he was not afraid of death. He was afraid of not living, which is a very different thing.
Waelf stopped a few paces from the men. The man in the middle was either a headman or a priest. He was white haired, like Waelf. We could see they were talking, but couldn’t hear what words were exchanged. The scene was still and calm, for all the nocked arrows. A few bees hummed happily among wildflowers. We saw Waelf move forward again until he reached the men. He bowed and gave the headman the wisgiegh skin. The man tilted it up, took a long pull as one would with honey wine or beer and plainly sputtered. Finn and I fought back a laugh.
“The little people’s fire-water!” I whispered.
“Wasted on these farmers, “said Finn.
Precious moments passed. I looked around at the fine fields of barley and grasses, at the fat sheep on the hillsides. Then Waelf turned and waved us up. Even from here we could see the broad smile on his face.

The Danaates, the people of the Great Circle welcomed us to the village and pledged to help us when we moved stones for our ring. Their leader was Ruuk the Elder. He and Waelf had become fast friends over the wisgiegh. It turned out our Waelf had brought much more than one skin.
“It’s basically all I brought, “he confided at last.” One can’t have too many friends.”
We had a good laugh about our Merlin’s wisdom. Even Aon, who was so quiet and serious most of the time, thought it was the funniest thing.
“And we thought we were going to be killed!” He said, his face pulled up in a grin. It was an unusual side of him I saw that night, as we sat around the big fire in the center of the village. The boy is so thoughtful, I said to myself; he’s like me and his mother. He needed to lighten up a bit. And one of the village girls looked to be wanting to help him.
She was maybe thirteen, old enough to have children by the look of her. She brought us drink, the usual honey wine, and seemed to linger around behind Aon. I noticed, but didn’t give any sign that I did. I saw Aon glance her way a couple of times. Once, their eyes met for certain, and held for moment. The women of this land were quiet and retiring in their manners, far different from the noble women of Egypt. More like Epirus. Men ran everything here, and women stayed in the background. She wore the simple tunic and shawl of the island people. Her hair was brown with bit of red, her eyes dark.
Ruuk the Elder was the medicine man of the village; its healer and storyteller. After enough honey-wine and wisgiegh had been consumed, and the meat eaten, he told a long tale of how the giant Brud had thrown the huge stones from the distant mountains and formed the ring. It was pleasant piece of nonsense, which not even Ruuk took seriously. We all laughed when he described the Giant’s genitals in great and preposterous detail. His penis was as long as the distance from the village to the sea, and when he pissed he made the river Avonna. All the villagers had come up to listen to Ruuk go on by the fireside. Across the circle of smiling faces lit by the flames I saw a woman with long dark hair and dark eyes. She caught me looking at her and covered her face with her shawl. She seemed familiar, but then, it had been so long since I had been with woman that I put the thought down to my lustful urges, which are never far from any man’s mind. At last people drifted away from the fire. We were welcomed to camp near it, or anywhere we liked. Ruuk and Waelf stayed up late, Ruuk sipping the fire-water and exchanging tales with Waelf which made them both laugh and look somber or wistful in turn.
Aon walked up in the morning. He had not slept near us. He seemed contented. We set about readying ourselves for our westward trek. It was another fine morning. Ruuk and several other Danaates saw us off. I could still smell wisgiegh on his breath. He must gave been up all night. His eyes were bleary and happy. He promised us that we would have their help when the time came. Waelf thanked him and gave a blessing for the village. By the time we walked west, most everyone was up to see us off. I caught sight of the dark-eyed woman. She came out of a roundhouse, pushing back the hide flap, and looked at me for a moment. I thought it might be unseemly, so I looked away. Aon‘s young girl stood apart from the villagers, under a tree. He glanced at her, but she made no sign to him that I could see.
We walked through the open hills and valleys of the west country for two days. Sometimes we saw small villages, but mostly the land was empty. I thought that it was the finest land I’d ever seen. It didn’t have the excitement of the big mountains or the wilderness of Nubia, Elam, or Achaea, but it was a place that had the possibility of providing abundance for many. When I thought of the hardy people there, I thought that someday, given the right kind of kings, they might conquer even Egypt.
The road had been empty for a whole day. We came to a ridge-top and saw the western sea ahead.
“We’ll have to cross that, “said Waelf.” It’s a river further up, but still we’ll need a boat.”
We came down the ridges and drew near the slate-colored sea. The west wind blew hard off it and there were gulls and other sea-birds. The smell of salt was in the air. There was a point ahead and we made along traces towards it. We encountered no one. I began to wonder if people weren’t hiding from us.
“No doubt we’ve been seen,” said Finn.
“Or maybe fear of someone else keeps the locals hidden,” said Waelf.
There as a bit of a trace that led to a wind-blown point on the sea shore ahead. We made our way down it. I felt eyes on us. Suddenly Finn whispered,” Everyone, off the road!”
We pulled the two ponies into the bushes, which were thick right there, and lay quickly down. Aon, stroked the beasts’ muzzles with his hands to keep them from champing. I readied my bow and Finn silently drew out his bronze sword. Now we could hear voices plainly, many of them, and the clatter of arms and thick-stitched hides worn for armor. A troop of more than twenty men walked by, laughing and careless. They were a ragged, filthy crew, but strong-looking, battle tested no doubt. I could see it in the way they strode, swaggering, and by the way they were armed. I held my breath, as if that would keep us safe from such a large band. I waited for the ponies to give us away, but Aon’s sweet temper held them in check and they made no sound. The warriors had all passed when suddenly Finn jumped up and ran out into the trace, his sword flashing in the afternoon sun.
“Stop!” he shouted.
The men whirled about, drawing their weapons. They had swords and clubs, axes and spears, bows and stones. Many of them wore hide caps, the kind that would turn the flight of an ordinary arrow shot by a poor archer. What was Finn doing?
“Kullain, you dog, you’ll pay for passing me by!” he roared. But Finn’s face was spread in wide grin. The gang had stopped and spun around, to see who challenged them on this empty road. One of them, a burly man of middle height and broad chest, his dark brown hair hanging in long braids and few streaks of grey in his full beard, came strolling up out of the band and stopped. He carried a long-handled stone axe, the kind that can split a man’s skull in two with one blow. Ho put the axe head down on the trace and leaned on the handle.
His face was widened by the slow smile that crossed it.
“Why, if it ain’t old Finn, the pirate, “he said. Even I could tell his accent was that same as Finn’s.
“And what brings you here to our raiding country? Spoils of your own? These belong to us.”
Finn grinned back. He held his sword out to the side and gently slapped his other palm with the flat of the blade. “Ah, Kullain, you’d get one tenth if I was in command, you know that!” Finn laughed.
“And I suppose that’s true, “said the broad man. “ And I’d be happy to get that; for one tenth of your share would be worth more than my headman’s take!” The man tipped his chin in our direction. “Tell your men to come out. We have no quarrel with our old companion, the great Finn of the Green Isle. But tell me, what happened to your hair? It was as red as the young girl’s when last we fought together, against the Tournagh.”
“The sun of the faroes’ land burned the color out of it.” laughed Finn. “But I’ll tell you my story and you can tell me yours over honey-wine and meat, which I reckon you have.”
“Ay, “said Kullain, “that we do. I don’t imagine your ponies are empty laden either.”
“That they’re not, but I’m afraid our rations are more meant for four than for twenty-four.”
“We’ll all toss, old friend. Let’s have us a feast. Down at our ship, just down the point.” He tipped his chin in the direction of the sea. Finn and Kullain clasped hands and forearms. Aon and I saluted in the way of Achaeans and Akkadians, fist on chest. It’s understood by every warrior. They saluted back and we set off down the trace and soon reached the seashore. There was a good-sized ship with one mast, and twenty oars. Not as big as the tin-ship that brought us to Sarum’s shores, but a ship that could ride the waves, no doubt.
“And just where did a land-dog like you get such a fine ship? “Asked Finn.
“The previous owners, being dead, had no further need for it, “Kullain laughed.
Soon, the fire was roaring, the drink was being passed around – Waelf, had indeed one more skin of wisgiegh in his pack, the crafty sorcerer. Finn told many tales of our adventures, each one more outrageous than the last. And all of them basically true; well, perhaps there was a bit of exaggeration, but still, the Green islanders were wide eyed at the stories, and Finn went late into the night telling about the great pyramids and the destruction of the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah and the many sexual exploits of Herkul the giant. He also built me up quite a bit with grand descriptions so my shooting ability. One of them, Crannut, by name, was an archer of some repute. He challenged me to a friendly shooting match come morning.
“Come morning, you won’t remember you made that challenge.” Laughed Finn. Crannut was quite drunk.
“Ah, and yes I will, “And I’ll bet you our ship I can beat you!”
Kullain broke in, smiling, “Well now, Crannut, the ship’s not yours for the wagering.”
Waelf, who had kept quiet up till now, content to listen and observe, said, “I’ll make a bet for my Achaean companion. If he wins a shooting match, you’ll take us to the sacred hills across the water and help us bring back a certain stone I seek.”
“A stone?”
“Yes, a stone that will take twenty men to move and a stout ship, well captained, to bring to Sarum. Will you accept the challenge, King Pelop?”
I nodded agreement. No man had ever beaten me.
“But what do we get if Crannut wins?” asked Kullain.
Waelf leaned forward, the firelight flickering across his old face. “I’ll give you,” he whispered and paused for effect. The men leaned in to hear. “I’ll give you the secret of making wisgiegh. I got it from the little people.”
Kullain rocked back and thought. The wisgiegh had been a real treat.
“It’s a deal.” He looked at me. “We’ll see your skill in the morning. “
I bowed my head in assent.

The sea slapped against the bow of the ship. Ahead rose low headlands that tended west. Kullain held the tiller in his strong grasp. Men pulled at the long oars and slowly drove the hull through the choppy slate-grey waters. Aon and Finn sat the rowing benches. I was spared, along with Waelf, for the pain in my knee.
Kullain grinned at me, “no man can hit a gull on the wing at two hundred paces!”
I shrugged and held my palms up to say, I made a lucky shot. But I could always feel the target in my fingers, as if I could reach out and touch it. I felt sorry for the bird. But it was the challenge that had been put up by Crannut after we both hit a number of easier shots.
“We’ll go get your stone, you crafty old man, “said Kullain to Waelf.” By the gods, we’ve nothing better to do right now.” Kullain had been counting on the wisgiegh as well, I was sure. But even without the wisgiegh, it was obvious that these men held Finn and Waelf, perhaps even me, in awe. Finn had led some of them, including Kullain, in wars in past times. His courage and his mind were constantly talked about in the group. Tales were told around the fires at night of his exploits. I added my share, full of exotic Nubians and Kannaanites. As for Finn, he was back among his comrades, his spear-brothers of old. Most of these men had seen more than few seasons and campaigns. It was a formidable group, and we had nothing to now to fear from any band we might come upon.
So the gull had died by my lucky shot: I took it as an omen that we would get a big stone moved all the way back to Sarum and stand it up as the center-stone of the new ring. After that? I couldn’t say. But I knew that I usually found a way to motivate people to build things.
We coasted past a couple of tiny fishing villages. The wild men wanted to raid, but Waelf talked quietly with Finn and Kullain and we went on past. We put in a cove and Waelf went off back over a headland to one of the villages with Aon. They came back after a spell with four fat sheep and ten skins of barley-wine. I don’t know how he did it. We slaughtered the animals and the wild men lade their offerings and then we feasted. Waelf made the offering in the name of Ock and Ave’, and other gods that he and they knew, but who were strange to me. The men were satisfied. It was certain that they were coming to see Waelf as the Merlin, or whatever they called such a man.
“So, how did you get those sheep? “ I asked him later, when we were alone.
“I told them that they would be serving their god, called out here Drummand, and besides, I also told them the men were in this boat were desperate murderous raiders.” He had a twinkle in his eye.
I had to laugh. Some holy man!
The next day we rounded a wild point where the waves piled up dangerously against low cliffs and turned north. Long hills loomed inland above the coves. Waelf stood on the bow of the ship and pointed towards a rounded ridge.
“That’s it!” he shouted out, “the Hills of Penrhyn. That’s where we’ll get our stones.”
“Pull harder boys, “said Kullain, “so we can go break our backs for the wisgiegh-man!”

34 The first stone

Waelf looked back down towards the sea. It was going to be a slog, no doubt; but I knew we could do it. Aon and three men had fashioned a fine sledge from trees they hewed down in a draw. They had used their sharp battle axes and sharp -edged hand stones to plane the runners smooth and then greased them with sheep fat to make them slippery. The sledge would have slid down the hillside by itself if we hadn’t piled stones under the runners. The fashioning of the sledge had taken them two days. During that time, we had found our stone and cut it free. Truly, the stones were almost perfect the way they were. They were in a series of outcroppings on a side of the rolling ridge. The rocks had a blue-grey tint to them. They were called the bluestones. They came from a source beneath the ground that had stood them up from the soil, many on end. Quite a few had broken off like spear-points and lay scattered about some trickling springs. There were offerings among the stones and springs. Plainly this was place of worship, though there were no villages at all in the area.
“People in these islands, “said Waelf, “believe that there are lines of power between sacred places. That’s why there are traces that run for many days’ marches that go from site to site. These stones are known from the northern isles lost in the wave and storms of cold seas to the shores of the great land south across the water. They are famous for their healing properties. You see where the little marks are?” he pointed at cup-shaped carvings in the rocks. “You fill those with wine and water and then wash the body that needs to be healed. “
The wild men nodded in agreement. None had ever come here, but they knew of this place and the bluestones.
We had picked a rock that had already fallen and broken off, about ten feet in length. We had to lift it from the soil and get it on the sledge. I had the men use levers; Finn led the crew; he’d moved much bigger stones with me in the Land of Pharaoh. We levered it up and stuck small stones under it. Then we could easily turn it balanced on the small stones. Once we had it laying the right way, we simply rolled it over onto the sledge. It was a simple process, but I saw the look of amazement and joy on the wild men’s faces at their accomplishment.
“We did it, boys!” beamed Finn. We tied the stone securely as we could to the sledge and plotted our course down the hills. We knew we would have to muscle the stone up and down through some high and low spots, but we had twenty men and I knew we could do it if we were careful. We had ropes tied at all four corners of the sledge and had four men on each rope, with the rest of us ready with stout poles to use as levers or brakes. Many times as we made our way to the coast we had to stop and figure our next moves. Sometimes we had to lever up one corner or another of the sledge and lift it or keep it from sliding sideways by using stones or logs. It was hard work, and at one point, where the sledge had slidden sideways a bit towards a rill, the men began cursing the whole endeavor, but we got it moved, though it took us two days. Another one of Waelf’s miraculous wisgiegh skins appeared and made it seem worthwhile to the men, who had for the most part gotten caught up it the spirit of the endeavor.
The ship had been beached up the mouth of a deep creek that entered the fine cove. We felled four stout trees, limbed them, and laid them from the bank to the deck of the ship. We levered and muscled the sledge sideways onto the tree trunks and eased it down, sliding sideways, until it sat right before the mast, then pulled the trees out with a great effort and down it set on the deck. I worried about the weight, but we did the operation while the tide was low and the ship was grounded on the sandy creek bottom. Waelf and I were betting that the rising tide would float the ship. I had my doubts, but I kept them to myself. When the tide turned and the water rose, the ship still sat there on the tidal mud of the creek. Come on, I said to myself, float for us, now. At last it did, and our careful placement of the sledge didn’t cause the ship to founder, though it sat lower in the water. The Egyptian ships had been built very wide to hold the huge stones they floated; ours was far narrower a-beam. I had a sudden idea. We cut down four more tall trees, trimmed the branches, and lashed two straight out from the side of the ship, one at amidships and one further towards the stern. Then we lashed a log parallel to the hull on each side of the ship, so that we had counter-balancing floats. The logs were far enough out so that we could still row. This made the ship much more stable and gave me an idea for a two-hulled ship for hauling future stones. Waelf and Aon eagerly grasped this idea. We further strengthened the whole mess with cross beams across the deck of the ship as well. It was crude, but a great improvement for our safety.
By the time we had sailed all the way around the many, storm-tossed far points of the land to the mouth of the Avonna and up the river as far as we could go, and had hauled that stone on its sledge to the open plain above the river, Kullain’s men were ready for some serious feasting and drinking. Setting the stone was easy. We dug the hole just where Waelf wanted it and slid the stone up the mound of dirt that we had dug out and just tipped the bluestone butt end into the hole. We had dug a wider hole than we needed, so we used ropes and levers to get it truly upright and then filled around the base with small stones and rammed-down dirt. Our center- stone stood slightly higher then Finn’s head. All the men patted the stone, which had become both their well-cursed enemy and their good-luck charm. They were all basically believers in the power of stones. There were sacred standing stones and rings and barrows all over their homeland of the Green Isle. The whole village had come to watch the stone go up and everyone cheered when it finally stood there. The blue of the stone certainly did look special. In my mind’s eye, I saw a ring of giant thrilithons, like the Pillars of Herakul, standing around it.
But then Waelf said so that only I could hear, “Now we just need another twenty four.”
I laughed and shrugged.
Bergal the Merlin came up out of the valley, his boy with him, leading four pigs. The people drew back and quieted as he approached. He was smiling and waving a walking stick decorated with raven feathers and strings of strung shells.
“A sacrifice!” he called out. People cheered again, even our crew. A sacrifice meant a feast. A great fire was made to the east of the stone, where Waelf indicated. While everyone bustled about making the fire and admiring the bluestone, Waelf went up to Bergal and said quietly, but very seriously.”Only animals.”
Waelf stared down the dirty shaman, who looked back with insolence and cold hostility but gave no answer. The people were set on sacrifice; it was their way since the beginning of time, since the ancient past when they had crawled out of a womb-cave in the ground in the age of the hero grandfathers, or so the tales told.
Soon there was drink and roast pig, the blood from the sacrifice filled a bowl at the base of the stone. Waelf insisted on no blood on the bluestone.
“This is for healing, this stone; no blood on it.” This was Waelf’s stone, and mine as well.
I stood apart with Aon and Waelf as the others feasted. The moon had risen and the wide plains were bathed in pale light. Aon, looking away from the fires into the darkness, saw them first.
“There are torches there,” he said, pointing north. For certain he was right. Away in the distance were dancing lights, flickering like stars on a windy night. There were many of them, strung our like some Egyptian procession.
“More than fifty”, said Waelf, rubbing his bearded chin. “I wonder what this means?”
I stared out to the north. “Surely it is no raiding party; they wouldn’t light their way.”
“Yes, you’re right. But who?” said Waelf.
We waited on the high ground. The feasters were unaware of the approaching lights. I sent Aon to alert Finn and a few other men, just in case there was trouble.
The lights wound through the dells and swales as they came ever closer, twisting and winding like a starry caterpillar. Finn came up, bringing our bows and several men, though most of the hundred or so of the feasters continued eating and imbibing. The Fake Merlin was a drunken slouchy mass, sitting on a small stone, gnawing on a pink leg bone. There were nine of us waiting at the top of the rise, about a hundred lengths out from the stone.
The torches disappeared in the swale to the north and then reappeared, coming up the long slope straight towards us. We nocked arrows but didn’t draw. We could hear many mingling voices. Plainly, this group wasn’t sneaking up on us; they were almost as loud as the feasters. As the first torch came within sight, Waelf stepped forward.
“Hail, Waelf U’ Carrain!” came a shout from a deep voice. Waelf’s face spread into a wide smile.”We come to return your gift and to see the new stone!”
The big figure of white-bearded Ruuk the Elder came into view. One of his men carried a burning brand that lit his ruddy face. Behind him was a long line of people, men, women, and children. Seemingly more people than were in their whole village of the great stone ring.
Ruuk and Waelf met and clasped hands and forearms in the manner of these northern people.
“How did you know?” asked Waelf.
“Surely, you don’t think you can float a healing stone from the far hills and up the Avonna without the word spreading. By the time we left to come here, we had more than fifty other people come down to us from further north. We are pilgrims, wanting to see your new bluestone. And there it is!”
Ruuk waved his arm in the direction of the stone, which was lit both by the moonlight and the fire of the feast.
“We’ve not come empty-handed. We have animals for sacrifice and feasting, and drink, too, though not your magical brew, “Ruuk said with a wry shine in his eye.
The others surged up and around us towards the stone. Some led pigs and sheep and even two cows. One passed me and paused for a brief moment, just long enough for me to see her face in the flickering torchlight. Then she moved on.
The feasting went on though the night and the next and the next. Others came, by day and by torchlight at night, or without lights. They came from up out of the south, the west, the east. All brought what they could for sacrifice, for the fame of the Sacred Bluestone from the far hills spread like the wind from village to village, over hill and dale, field and woods, river and ridge.
“I knew they would come, “said Waelf, leaning on his staff as he watched the pilgrims make camp along the river east of the stone. “Here are our builders, our stone cutters, our haulers. Here are our cooks and hunters and farmers. They’ll make a new village by the bend, “he said, pointing to where the Avonna swept in big curve below the chalk ridges. “ And you shall show them how.”
“It is your place, “I said.
“No, my time is almost done, “he said. He looked down for moment, then back up, though he looked across the plains and not at me. Then he shot me hard glance. “I was waiting for you, you know.”
I tossed my head. Wizard’s mumbo- jumbo. Waelf liked that term. “And how did you know I would come?” I laughed. It was hard to know hen Waelf was pulling one’s leg with his medicine man’s talk.
”Oh, you know, the Little People.”
“Ah, yes, the wisgiegh chieftains in their hiding places in the earth.” Waelf knew I couldn’t possibly believe in such things.
“You’ll see, someday. They have told me many things, not all good.”
“Such as?”
“They won’t tell you the secret of making wisgiegh!” he laughed.

The word spread, hunter to hunter, village to village, herder to herder, across the green isles and beyond that a new great ring was going up at Sarum. Bands of people and individual wanderers came from all directions. Soon a camp began to form along the bend of the river below the plain where we had put up the Bluestone. Waelf asked me to help organize up the new village, so I set about it. With Aon’s mind and Finn’s outgoing personality and fame, we were able to convince the pilgrims that we needed some order in the camp. We dug a main ditch off the river and ran it around the camp, with smaller ditches feeding off of it. The big one brought water, while smaller ones carried away shit and other wastes into a settling pond in a bog away from the river. Waelf and I agreed that human and pig shit was probably the cause of many sicknesses, though the people thought it was spirits and witchcraft. Of course, our Merlin down the river in Sarum attracted some new adherents, who fell for his spells and chanting and sacrifices. We wanted to bar him from our site, but too many people believed in him, and he put on his best behavior for the most part. So we ignored him as much as we could and got on with the planning for moving more bluestones and cutting some big Sarsens for trilithons at the northern quarries. The transport of the bluestones got much more practical when a new ship came up the river from the sea. Its captain was a loud, bold character who was an old companion of Finn’s. My idea of binding two ships together to haul several stones at once became a reality. Waelf led a team west again and the ships sailed to meet them. Many men would help move the stones and then row back the ships, tied together with study spars, making a double-hulled barge, as I had seen used sometimes in Egypt. The trips were very successful and in two months we had nine more bluestones, for which Waelf had already established proper locations, marking their spots with small stones and logs. My crew, under my and Aon’s direction, stood them up in a circle, still with a few gaps. But the circle could plainly be seen. Meanwhile, Ruuk, Aon, and I went with his folk to the northern quarries where I selected three likely pieces for the first trilithon. The men there knew how to cut the rather soft stone very well, but with our copper chisels, they were able to make the stones very well formed and regular in size and shape, matching each other. The stones were far finer than those hewn by the ancient giant with the penis that reached the sea, the cutters laughed. By winter the three were ready for their icy journey over the downs and plains.
By now we had more than three hundred people in our new village, making it the single largest gathering of people anywhere in this mostly empty land of abundance. There were some shortages of food, but since the summer had been mild and the harvests good, and because many of the pilgrims brought animals with them, most survived the cold months. There were the usual deaths, mostly of infants and old people, from the rattling cough that came in winter. The strong and the lucky live; the weak and cursed die. Sometimes it’s the best people that are taken and the most evil that prosper. That is why I don’t believe in the Gods. In our new village was a communal spirit that I had never witnessed before, and a commonality of purpose. Not driven by a God-King, or by a harsh despot. Not slaves, not prisoners taken as spoils of war. The people came together to make something for the gods, for themselves. And they knew it would last many lifetimes. I knew it too.
Though they couldn’t understand why I made them dig all the ditches, they came to see that the village was cleaner and smelled less than other villages. They looked to Waelf to be their medicine man, but he didn’t really want that and tried to pass it off on others, like Ruuk and several men from distant places who were older and had experience leading groups of people. But the imposter Merlin, Bergal, down on the hill of Sarum drew more than he should have, for he was willing to put on the kind of sacrifices and shows of incantation and supposed trance-travel and other wonders which I had long seen through. It was a bit discouraging, but then again, what were we doing? The same thing but on a much bigger scale. For though Waelf, Aon, and I understood the henge would tell the movement of the sun and moon, to ordinary folk it was all magic and sorcery. They feared the gods and the spirits of the rivers and plains and clouds and ocean. They spat to ward off the evil eye, just as the Achaeans did so far away. Women collected herbs to keep away werewolves and witches and spells.
“It doesn’t matter, “said Waelf wearily one day. We had stood up the ninth stone, Five in the inner circle and four beyond, where the directions of north, south, east, and west lay according to Waelf’s observations. The whole henge was inside of a low ring of earth, made by the barrow people most likely as a sheep enclosure or a fort. Waelf had men dig the old ditch deeper, using shovels of deer antlers, and piled the earth ring higher. There was opening to the east, where the summer sun rose. One stone we placed beyond this opening. “Whether the people understand it now or not, it will help them. That is all we can do. We won’t finish the ring, anyway. Others will do that. We’re here to start it.”
“But if no one understands it, how will help people in years to come?” I asked.
“If nothing else, they will look on it and wonder. And someone with a mind will see how it works. They will know that men built this who watched the sun and moon and stars.”
I shrugged. I supposed that was enough explanation for me. I had nowhere to go anyway and I loved to raise the stones and see the ring take shape. Dark-haired Leta, for that was her name, had quietly moved to our camp and after some time, to my bed. She didn’t speak much, but she was not dumb. She would make insightful comments about the pilgrims and the villagers. It was she who said one day, “That medicine man will cause trouble yet. He’s just waiting.”
I had put him mostly out of my mind. Sarum was three miles way. We only saw Bergal once or twice a week, if that. But it was disturbing that so many sought out his chicanery. I grunted something in assent. Leta fed me and Aon. Aon had taken up with the young girl from Ruuk’s village. She was soon with child. I laughed at the notion of my being a grandfather. I had grey in my beard now, that was for sure, and though my leg was better, it would never be right again. I limped around and couldn’t take part in the lifting or moving of the stones. There was much good flint in the area and I spent long hours making fine arrow points and arrows. I also made an Akkadian-style bow. The task took almost a year, since I had to try different woods and pieces of horn and sinews from cattle, sheep and even from a bear before I found the right combination to make a powerful bow. I wondered if I’d ever need it for war again. I took it out with Aon. He had his yew longbow. We hunted to the north, across the chalk ridges and into the little wooded valleys. My bow shot true and far and I took a hart which we quartered and brought back to our fire. We had made our camp above the river-village, in a slight hollow below the winds that sweep the plains, but above the river mists. We could see in all directions from there. I had an uneasy feeling from time to time, like I was being watched by an enemy.
We brought the first three great menhirs down from Ruuk’s quarry during the winter when the ground was icy and hard. It was hard work and took almost all our men a week to bring each one. We would put them up in spring. A last load of five fine bluestones came by the twin-hulled ship and then we settled in for the cold winter months. The following year we would bring many more stones and raise them for Waelf’s great henge. Leta slept close by me and I grew to find great comfort in her arms and in her calm, quiet ways. Waelf, Aon, Finn, Ruuk, and others would gather in our warm round-house of logs and wattle and drink and tell stories while the women cooked and the children and grandchildren played by the fire in the mid-hearth. Snows came and went and sometimes the northern lights hung or raced across the night sky. Even Waelf and I had a hard time not thinking there were gods in the skies then.

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