To excuse her from the need to talk, Dannyn has introduced Julia as ‘a scholar’ [i.e. read shaman] from another, far distant, land here to learn of their ways. So, of course, everyone wants to tell their story cos that’s the way to tell of your ways. But the first story was also a warning to Julia to beware of Dannyn who, like his mother, could hold her in thrall.
episode 20 PRIORY PROJECT a sci-fi fantasy
“Men! It’s not your Ulishvregan ways this Julia Cannings comes here to learn.” Sapapla rises stiffly to her feet and starts to pace, I suppose to ease the pain in her joints (we’ve now been sitting awhile). “It’s these Alisime, granary ways she wants.”
She shoos her brother from the story-teller’s sack and with a squiggle to grind herself deeper in she settles herself there in his stead. “Now . . .
Sapapla shows herself at once to be a meanderer. Rather than to say of the Alisime ways she starts with a detour around her Ulishvregan child-days when she travelled with her father, with whom she’d come to this isle. ‘Jitkishinn’, she calls it, in scorn of the Tuädik ‘Albinnis’.
“While my brother dangled upon the strings of Luänha, my father, my brothers and I went wandering this isle—from south to north, to east to west. Ah, such wonders we saw, such people we met:—the Eskin, the Kredese, and the Kerdolan—”
I remember, Dannyn mentioned these names. What did he says? Ah yea. ‘The Alsime aren’t Eskin, Kerdolan or Krediche to be setting stones.’ But that wasn’t his only mention. He said of his cousin Murdan having chased off the Kredese (or was it the Kerdolan?) from His Indwelling, and that the Kredese then asked Eblan Hegrea to keep their granary there. So are these Kredese the matries that Ken has seen across Marlborough Downs? Yet according to Ken they’re currently there, while according to Dannyn they’ve been gone these past twenty/twenty-five years. I make a mental note: I want more information on His Indwelling.
I return my attention to Sapapla and her wanderings . . . She’s still ploughing through a list of the peoples she’s met with this side of the sea: The Himen, the Jinni Grits, Kin Mhuiris, the Wallingas and their neighbours the Feg Folk. So many different people, and there was Fliss with her ‘Oh, Alpine colouring, they must be Beakers.’ But my ears prick up as she says of the Feg Folk. The way she says it, it was probably they who settled the Orkneys. In which case they’ve some hold over Durrington Walls as well. Yet not, it seems, on Hegrea’s Isle.
“Though we wandered far—me, my father and my brothers, while he, Alsvregn, dangled upon Luänha’s strings—we eventually returned to the Ancients Land, it being our new winter-place. It was then I saw Hegrea’s Roof.”
According to Sapapla it was the Ulvregan who built the ‘roof (helped in part by the Alsime of Bisaplan’s Isle). This doesn’t surprise me. It so resembles the Ulishvregan winter-roof shown me by Dannyn in the dream, and seen again in Alsvregn’s story. But as yet, in Sapapla’s story, Hegrea’s Roof was ringed by only a fence. Murdan had yet to make his ‘Rings’.
“My father came here for the Eskit calendar, had off Aldliks Hegrea. And to trade with Arith—he was the trader then,” Sapapla says. “Next time we returned there was the granary too.”
Ah (my ears twitch) I particularly want to know of this anachronistic granary which shouldn’t exist. I ignore the guilty pang that disturbs my guts: I’m supposed to be investigating Durrington Walls. But how can I do that when Durrington Walls isn’t here? And it occurs to me, now, that neither is Woodhenge—though admittedly I didn’t particularly think to look. Woodhenge ought to be sitting outside that long tunnel of a gate. Okay, so perhaps it’s too early for the ditch and bank that eventually will define it as ‘henge’; possibly too early, too, for the stone setting, that being the lithification of an ancestral site. But there ought to have been some sign of the timber rings, even if only as the rotting hosts to trooping toadstools. I make a note to myself to check more thoroughly on our way out.
I wonder, too, of Bluestonehenge—that was another unexpected discovery of the Riverside Project. But I don’t suppose I’d see it from here. Too many trees and valleys between here and its setting close by West Amesbury. Even so, I make a note to ask Dannyn of it—though I’ve a feeling I know what he’ll say. In fact, he already has said it: The Alsime aren’t Eskin or Kredese, to be raising stones.
But, henges apart, my interest here and now is the granary.
“No one knew why Aldliks Hegrea wanted such a big place to store her grain,” Sapapla says, shuffling her over-large body as, finally, she warms to her story, “though, now, we all can see it. She had visions, that woman, and knew how to pull them into being. Not many do that. Luänha couldn’t, for all she was servant of the Ormalish field-bird Brega. As Aldliks Hegrea saw it, so it became. Same with her son Murdan. He saw his Rings, and they became real. That was the next time my father brought me here: when they were digging the Rings.”
I want to ask her to say more of the granary, but I’ve not the lingo. Maybe later I can ask her—if Dannyn will translate it. I’m surprised how much he allows me to hear. Not everything said reflects well on him and his mother.
Sapapla’s talk begins to fade as, before me, I see the scene she’s describing. Dannyn is playing his tricks again, allowing me to receive Sapapla’s memories direct. And the first thing I know is how resentful I am, looking at the great depth of that trench, and at the heaps of chalk-rock they’re hauling out of it. I look round—to find Hegrea’s eldliks Bukfesen looking at me, his brother Staëdan beside him. I can’t hear their words but I know they’re saying, talking of me. He (Staëdan) wants me to stay and to help with the digging. I want me to stay. It’s my father who’s digging his heels.
“You want me dead because of some foolish son of some foolish woman?” he snaps at me. He has seen the sign on Hegrea’s head that marks her as sister-in-grain to Luänha. He’ll take the calendar off Hegrea, he’ll trade with Arith, but he’ll do nothing to help dig that trench. “What, to fall into that Otherworld rent? Besides, I’m too old.”
In truth, I care nothing for the digging of that trench. It’s Staëdan, he’s the reason I want to stay. But how can I tell my father that when his brother Bukfesen has taken up with that grain-growing Daughter of Brega? And Staëdan wouldn’t come with us even if I dared ask. Brother of the eldliks, his duty is to devote his days to the making of Murdan’s massive creation. He is even neglecting his cattle, left with a kinsman at Bisaplan’s Isle. What does he care for them, compared to the fame of this creation. They will talk of this, and who helped make it, for ten life-spans to come. Besides, were I to stay to be with him—and he does want me here with him—to be here with a heavy belly or an infant strapped to me, to haul up the baskets . . . the soil, the rubble, and at the last the white rocks—that’s what they’re after . . . then to drag the sleds heavy with rock all the way to where the men are raising the wall . . . it would not be good with a child growing inside me. My father is right of the danger: that trench opens upon the Otherworld.
“Ah, the children that Staëdan gave me! They kept me mostly away from the digging,” Sapapla says.
It takes me a moment to realise what’s happening. Apparently I’ve missed a part of the story as Dannyn, again, separated me from Sapapla’s memories. It seems she remained at Hegrea’s Isle with Staëdan, her belly already swelling, while her father returned to his travels.
“Ten double seasons my man devoted to Murdan’s Rings, devoted because he was the eldliks’ brother. And how did we live, you ask, how did we live with him doing that? I tell you, though I dislike the admission: Aldliks Hegrea fed us. And though I had no liking of her, it was Luänha who clothed us. We did not lack, we did not want. If more should be needed then there was Arith with his trade wares to help. But this life that Staëdan gave me, it was different by far from that of an Ulishvregan woman.”
Sapapla begins to meander again, comparing the Alisime ways to her native Ulishvregan, saying of her little trespasses that would have scandalised Eldliks Bukfesen had he known. Used to hunting and trapping, as any Ulishvregan woman would, she continued to do so. And she continued to fish. She would have traded, too, but that too was denied her.
“But how can I complain of those seasons? Here I was, living at Hegrea’s Roof.”
She tended Eblan Murdan’s goats. She wanted to do that, those early years with Staëdan when he was kept from her by the digging and hauling. As she says, she needed those goats for she sorely missed her father’s herd. Besides, herding excused her from working the grain-fields with Aldliks Hegrea, Hegfelanha and Luänha. She rather would die than work in a field. And it wasn’t that she provided no food. While out with the goats she harvested the Mother-given foods. Every day she returned with baskets heavy with buds and leaves, and fruits and nuts, and all the small foods the Alsime so love; and her children came with her to help. Better that than they work in the fields!
Sapapla worked the skins too (the hides, the pelts, the furs); she worked alongside the other women. “I never shirked my share of work. I would not do that. And I learned to weave.”
Despite her dislike of ‘Brega’s Daughter’, it was Luänha and her daughter Jitjana who taught her. They taught her how to dye the fibres, too, before the weaving, and how to weave their fancy patterns. By the time her second child, the boy Butaken, was born she was producing pieces the equal of Luänha’s. But while Arith traded Luänha’s fancy woven fancy pieces, Sapapla had to wait for Alsvregn to become the trader here.
I wonder why this. Was she afraid to ask Arith to trade her pieces? But, this again of the granary-traders: first Arith, now Alsvregn. I want to ask her more about this. When it seems that every Ulishvregan, man or woman, was a trader, why Arith, and why Alsvregn, to be, particularly, the granary-trader? And what, apart from the fancy fabrics, did they trade? Moreover, to whom? But Sapapla can no more be stopped than a river in flood.
The teaching and learning (to weave to and make pots) wasn’t uni-directional. In return, Sapapla taught Luänha and her daughter and Hegfelanha how to make the Ulishvregan tight-plaited baskets. And when Aldliks Hegrea saw them she wanted them for use in her granary. How proud is Sapapla in telling of that!
The completion of Murdan’s Rings coincided with Sapapla’s sixth and last pregnancy (not all had survived). To celebrate, and to thank all who had helped, Aldliks Hegrea arranged a feast.
“And such a feast it was.” Sapapla’s eyes shine bright at the memory. “In all my years of living here at her isle never I have seen so many people gathered within the Rings. No, not even at the feasts of Winter- and Summer-Ending.”
I turn to glance at Dannyn, sitting closer than need beside me. Will he allow me to see this feast, to share her memory? His slight shake of the head I take to be no. I admit, I’m disappointed.
Everyone who had worked on the Rings came to Hegrea’s Isle to share in the feast. Ten years in the making, there was not one single family for far around who’d not lent a hand—or more likely a back. Even the Ulishvregan families, though away in the Ancients Land, had come here to help. Some were now dead. Others, who’d been but young children at the start, now were full-grown with young ones of their own.
“All came here to celebrate the completion of Eblan Murdan’s Inspired Creation. Such a joyous feast—but also a sad one. For where was the creator of these Rings, where was Eblan Murdan? He, like your Dannyn here, was away in the Wilds, living out his seven Eblan-seasons.”
I shiver. Though Dannyn hasn’t yet explained of these ‘eblan-seasons’, he has said that’s when he first met me—while he was away, living in the Eblan-wilds.
The evidence is mounting. Though I’ve not the first inkling of how Fliss controls the Destination-Date, yet she must be able to adjust it. How else to explain that meeting which, apparently, was at least twenty-five years ago?
So do I now tell Fliss, and ask her to send me back to then? But, problems times ten (to take an expression Sapapla might use): How to convince her of the need? And how to be certain of the exact year? It seems no one cares to keep tally—beyond a child’s winters; once declared ‘of age’ there is no further count—except perhaps for Aldliks Bisdata. A shame she doesn’t much like me.
Yet I know that Fliss does send me back those extra twenty-five years or so. I keep coming back to this same thing. How else could Dannyn have met me?
Next episode: At The Feast Of The Rings’ Completion