You are a passenger…
You stay under glass…
You are driven through the city’s ripped back-sides.
You leave the city’s ripped back-sides on a road which snakes through low, rough, foothills.
Far on the horizon a solitary fin-shaped peak rises into view.
The motor vehicle which carries you pulls into a lay-by,
its rubber tires scrunching on the smattering of snow and grit.
You leave the vehicle, stepping out into the cold, frosty morning.
The air is initially painful in your lungs: you expel clouds of warm steam from them
like a subdued dragon.
You are no longer under glass…
You make your way to the end of the lay-by.
Your sturdy walking boots call scrunching sounds from the tarmac with each step.
A frosted grassy-knoll rises before you.
The freezing temperatures have rendered footholds in what otherwise would be only scramble mud.
You climb its offered face without need of the silvery tussocks of grass on either side
and as you crest its rise the first panorama opens before your gaze.
The cold wind now pinches your cheeks, a reminder that you are approaching the High Moors.
To your left a huge escarpment meets its end with a stone face seemingly etched into its profile.
Its stern stare appraises your longed for destination, below its millennia old lookout,
which is yet hidden from your sight by a small wood of fern trees.
You stride forward following the line of the escarpment until it is swallowed by the trees
and you start to lose height…
…As the ferns thin out you spy a wooden stile up ahead
and descend the grassy-knoll rather too quickly for the conditions underfoot,
trotting to the stile side, precariously, and resting awhile to catch your breath.
A road runs to your right quite close to the stile with a stone bridge beyond,
under which you can hear water as it rushes and gurgles.
The thought of traffic impels you over the stile
and into what remains of the wooded slope which has taken you this far.
As you again begin to climb towards a moorland vista,
tree stumps and root systems lie exposed along either side of your path,
resembling swarthy, grinning, woodland faces,
which seem to claim a more intimate knowledge of your terrain than you can.
You continue your climb and leave the cover of the trees completely.
Again unsheltered you are met by another, now invigorating, blast of cold air.
Far to your left, the stone face watches serenely.
Far to your right the shark-fin peak
is hidden by the slopes of two hills which form a classic v-shaped valley.
Before you rises a steep sided plateaux which holds the object of your quest.
You know you can go left or right to reach the top of the plateaux
but a point mid-way along the false horizon draws your attention.
From your vantage it looks like a pointed stone
and leading up to it though the seasonally ravaged remnant of the bracken
runs something resembling a path.
You head for the rudimentary path and set off along it towards the pointed stone…
…After a longer than expected climb up the steeper than anticipated side of the plateaux,
you are finally within appraisal distance of the pointed stone.
Its presence, which now looms towards you, defining the false horizon,
seems to demand that you stop for a space, the better to take in its form,
and as you are, in any case, grateful for the pause and a breather, you do so.
‘Oh look, it’s a Raven-Stone!” you say to yourself.
Sure enough, looking right, the fault lines of the stone form a raven’s beak
and an eye, and upon closer inspection there is a small indentation in the base of the stone
which could be representative of a feathered shoulder.
As the possibility that this stone was deliberately placed
begins to sink into your consciousness you start to look for other possible images
in its apparently un-hewn surface.
Looking left there appears to be a more anthropomorphic profile
and again a vaguely unsettling ramification starts to weigh upon your consciousness,
‘Stone of the Raven-God,’ says the voice that earlier you took to be your own.
‘Bran…’ comes the response which this time could very well be yours.
As if summoned, by your inner voicing, a black-form arrows towards you
from out of the depths of the white sky and settles upon the point of the stone.
“Cru-aaach… Cru-aaach…” says Raven, preening, and hopping along the top of the stone…
Lands of Exile Volume Two
BECK ‘N’ CALL
Stuart France and Sue Vincent
Ben, fast becoming a folk hero after the apparent theft of a standing stone, now languishes in Bakewell Gaol. Don and Wen, suspected of being his accomplices, are on holiday… or ‘on the run’ if Bark Jaw-Dark and PC 963 Kraas, hot in pursuit, are to be believed.
From England to Scotland, the officers of the Law have followed the trail of the erratic couple as they visited the ancient sites of Albion. This time, though, as Don and Wen take the slow boat to Ireland, Kraas and Jaw Dark are one step ahead.
But Ireland is a land of mystery and magic, where reality intertwines with vision and standing stones are still open doors…
How long can Don and Wen continue to evade the long arm of the Law?
Who are the men who wear the Templar emblem… and what are they doing in Derbyshire?
In the shadows, a labyrinth of secrecy shrouds a mysterious figure. What is Montgomery’s interest in a small standing stone? Just how many high-level strings can he pull… and why?
And what is the dark, winged creature that is now on the loose?
Join Don and Wen as they continue their adventures in the sacred and magical landscape of Albion.
Available in Paperback and for Kindle via Amazon
(Illustrated in full colour)