Legacy of the Fallen Stars
by J. J. Roth
Chapter 3: The Bluestones
End of Stonehenge II-Beginning of Stonehenge III — 2500 BCE
At every full moon when the sky was clear, Gwaen took a large flat bowl and a pitcher of water to the magic circle. Though timber structures now stood along the sides of the circle’s bank, the center remained open to the sky. Gwaen would praise the goddess Earth and call upon the fallen stars to charge the water with their power. She would pour water into the bowl and look for patterns in the moon’s reflection as it shone upon the surface. Those patterns held signs she interpreted and told as truths.
She thought it not surprising she saw Bluestones in the bowl: a circle of Bluestones, grand but not as massive as the Sarsen giants, within the greater magic circle. For many days, Landon and Gwaen had spoken of nothing but the stones, and they were much on her mind.
What surprised her was the other image in the water. She would have dismissed the image had it not repeated several times in the bowl that night. She had heard of boats, but never seen them. Yet she knew these carved, hollowed wood vessels like giant peapods lashed together were boats. Boats carrying great Bluestones, floating down a river.
She woke Landon to tell him the truth she had scried. She had never seen him smile so wide; in an instant he was awake, pacing and planning.
“We bring the stones here,” he said. “Temenos knows boats, he can help. Aureburie can already move large stones overland. Gwaen, think how pleased our ancestors would be that we did what they could not.”
“Your scouts have not returned yet, love,” she said. “Should you not hear them first?” But he had latched onto the idea like a mutt to a shank bone, and she knew he would not let go until he chewed through to the marrow.
She was with him as he planned through to the next half moon, consulting with Temenos, the returned scouts, the builders of Aureburie, the elder Council and, with her, the High Priestess; with the seafaring folk who passed through the market and knew the coastlines as well or better than she knew the land. She was with him when he announced the enterprise to the Bluestone Clan and saw the prospect of grand adventure tear like fire through the young men.
When he announced the same to Aureburie, the young men responded the same way, but the heads of the most ancient Aureburie families did not. Landon had Bluestone Clan blood but most of his ancestry was of Aureburie. Some families questioned whether he put too much faith in Bluestones and not enough in Sarsens. Landon expertly diffused the suspicion, focusing on the project’s value in bringing visitors to the growing market.
“When the traders spread word of what we have done, more will come,” he told them. “To see the stones and the boats and hear how we moved the stones. More traders, more goods. More goods, more prosperity for all.”
When the spring planting was done, the first delegation left for the Bluestone hills, carrying only tools and supplies. They would build the boats and sledges and trade for oxen once they arrived. Many such departures would follow over the coming years. The scouts had counted more than 80 stones, uprights and lintels. Gwaen hoped Landon would live to see the last stone arrive. She dared not divine the answer. She could not have hidden it from him.
One morning as solstice neared, Gwaen walked with Eadred along the river bank, gathering healing herbs. Eadred threw small stones into the river and squealed when they went plip. Gwaen was two new moons from giving birth and felt like a Sarsen was tied to her middle. She squatted to cut some comfrey and heard Eadred laugh and clap his hands. “Mother, look!” he called. “Men riding rocks!”
Gwaen hoisted herself up. A convoy of dugout canoes came down the river, three abreast, lashed together as in Gwaen’s moon-reading. Each carried a Bluestone megalith and a team of twelve men poling down the River Avon. Eadred jumped up and down, shouting and laughing. The men shouted back and waved to Gwaen and Eadred as they passed. Gwaen counted twelve stones coming down the river.
Gwaen and Eadred followed the canoes to their landing place, in the shade of an enormous willow. Oxen already harnessed to sledges waited with some Aureburie men Gwaen recognized. Landon and Temenos were at the river bank. Temenos spoke with the men who had transported the stones while Landon examined one of the Bluestones. “Father!” Eadred shouted. He jumped into Landon’s arms.
Landon showed Eadred two holes in the stone’s underside. “My clever builder, do you see these holes? Others stones have points that fit inside so the roofs, like you made with your blocks, won’t slide off. The ancient ancestors worked these stones like wood.” The Aureburie stone movers tied ropes to the stones and drove the oxen forward.
Teams of men and women dismantled the wooden structures within the magic circle to make way for the stones. A crowd gathered: inhabitants of the settlement, visitors from Aureburie, folk from the surrounding settlements who came to the market to trade, traders from many lands. Landon had been right. The miraculous transport struck a chord with all who watched and became the stuff of tales and songs.
* * *
Many seasons later, as Gwaen looked back on the summers during which the stone flotillas paddled along the coastline from the faraway hills and poled down the River Avon until all the stones had been brought to the circle, she realized that Landon’s vision had been far more successful than even they had expected, though Landon had not lived to see it. Eadred, now High Chieftain, kept his father’s dream alive.
By Eadred’s twenty-third summer, all the stones had arrived and half already stood upright in the magic circle. The monument’s majesty made the market a favorite stop along the trade routes. Pilgrims who worshipped the god Sun came to feel the spiritual aura emanating from the stones. As word spread, immigrants flocked to the settlement speaking many tongues. The world Gwaen and Eadred inhabited had changed much since that morning when the first stone floated into view.
Gwaen, like her people, accepted and adapted to the change. Her worries centered on Eadred. The infant son she carried the day the first stones arrived was born dead. She had not conceived another. Now her line and Landon’s depended on Eadred alone. Gwaen so longed to see a small version of her special boy, to cradle the infant and watch him grow, to know him and know he would carry their people into the future when she was taken to the ancestors. It was well past time for Eadred to take a woman to wed. Gwaen felt it her duty to encourage him.
“Are there none among Aureburie or the Clan you would have?” Gwaen asked him one day. She was watching the stone movers lever a Bluestone upright within the magic circle while Eadred directed the positioning. “Fallon of Oakwood is quite striking, and she comes from one of the oldest Clan families.”
“Mother, I know you mean well,” Eadred said. “But I have too much work to do. I am High Chieftain over a growing population. And Father would have wanted me to complete the Bluestone circle as he envisioned it. I cannot trust this project to another.” The Bluestone settled into its pit. Eadred walked among the bare-chested stone movers clapping them on their well-muscled shoulders, smiling, thanking them.
“The High Chieftain must also ensure that a fit leader will succeed him,” Gwaen said. “Why do you hide from love?”
“We will have a fit leader, whatever happens,” he said. “I promise you that. For now, there is much to do. Fighting has become more frequent. Many new settlers cannot speak our tongue, and misunderstandings arise often.”
He spoke truth. She had seen men fight with fists and knives, seen them cracked on the head with axe handles when disputes escalated, before Eadred or the elders could stop them. She had seen women’s noses bloodied, their eyes blackened, and handfuls of hair pulled from their heads. These things happened sometimes wherever people lived together, and they did seem to be happening more and more.
As Gwaen and Eadred spoke, two traders came into the stone circle, breathless and dirty. One wore a fine silk cloak, shredded at the hem. The other had scratches across his face. Eadred gave them leave to speak.
“We come from the east,” said one. “Through the forest. Many yellow-haired people speaking an eastern tongue are three days from this settlement, travelling inland from the coast. They are burning settlements, stealing goods, killing the people as they go. Will you fight?”
Gwaen had never seen a battle. Even before her people left the Bluestone hills, peace existed between the people and their neighbors. In the stories she told her children, Aureburie took the Bluestone folk by surprise the morning they arrived in this land, but peace had reigned — Aureburie became their friends. Gwaen’s people had a word for battle, but they had no word for war. Neither did Aureburie, whose words had proliferated in the Clan’s language like rabbits in a vegetable garden.
She had been right about Eadred when she saw in him as a child an uncommon cleverness and an uncanny ability to see things others did not. “Yes, we will fight,” he told the traders and wasted no time. He called together the heads of the Bluestone Clan and Aureburie families and told them to be armed and ready. All of the people, the ancient families and the new immigrants alike, answered Eadred’s call to defend their homes.
The young children and their mothers he sent into the forest to the north, between Aureburie and the magic circle. He stationed groups of men along the settlement’s eastern perimeter from a distance north of Aureburie to a distance south of the Clan’s settlement, including groups south of the River Avon with swift scouts at each post. He deployed the bulk of his force along the eastern borders of the Aureburie and Bluestone settlements and the forest where the women and children hid. Then they waited.
The invaders came upon them at first light on the third day. When they saw Eadred’s waiting army, they balked. The element of surprise taken from them, they fell into disorganization. The battle was over by sundown.
The next morning, as Gwaen broke her fast with Eadred, a messenger from the yellow-hairs’ leader begged an audience. He was a servant boy who could speak only the language of the eastern people across the sea. Eadred asked his friend and advisor, Antipatros, son of Temenos, to translate.
“My master has seen you in battle,” the boy said. “Long has he searched for a leader he respects, for one he would wish to follow. He asks for peace and offers you his allegiance.”
“Where is your master? Tell him I wish to speak with him, not his boy,” Eadred said.
“He thought that might be your answer. He waits at the edge of the eastern forest with two of his guard and two advisors. He asks that you meet him there at midday and bring no more than the same number with you.”
Eadred brought Antipatros and Gwaen and two of his best fighters, armed with bows and axes, to the place the young boy had mentioned. At the forest’s edge stood two armed, dark-haired men with jewels in their eyebrows and noses and patterns inked on their bare arms. Behind them, three men had their backs to Eadred’s delegation. Two had straw-yellow hair; the third’s was night-sky black. They turned at a word from the guards.
Gwaen could not take her eyes from the black-haired man’s face. She had thought Landon handsome, but this man was beautiful. Not as a woman is beautiful, with large eyes and lips and softness about the face. As only a man can be: hard, chiseled and strong. But the man was not looking at her. He was looking at Eadred.
“Eadred Chieftain,” the man said, in the language of Aureburie and the Bluestone Clan, but with a foreign sound to the words. He held out his hand toward Eadred.
“Take his hand, hold it for only a moment,” Antipatros said to Eadred. “It is a greeting.”
Eadred held out his hand to the man, who took it in his own. “What do I call you?”
“Karanos. May I and my people be of service to you and yours.”
Gwaen looked at their hands, still clasped together longer than Antipatros had said they should. Then she looked at Karanos, his intelligent eyes locked on Eadred’s. When she looked at Eadred’s face, she knew what she would see, what was in his heart.
Her line and Landon’s would end with Eadred. But she knew that as long as she drew breath, she would help her son navigate the complexity his feelings for Karanos added to his High Chieftain’s role in a society that revered fecundity, had once called its leader Clan-Father. Such a special boy, she thought, as her son and Karanos dropped hands at last and began to discuss the terms of their peace.
Copyright © 2014 by J. J. Roth