The Little Wren’s Fire

The Little Wren and the Stolen Fire is an Eskin fable mentioned briefly in this week’s episode of Feast Fables. I’d wanted to include it in full, but couldn’t justify the break in the flow. So I’m posting it here, instead.


 

Long, long ago, before humans walked the world, Ershe the Sun had two children. The elder-born was a daughter who for her shape took the form of a Hare. The younger-born was a son. He remained ever a shape-shifter, never able to decide what to be.

At first, not long after he was born, Ershe’s son decided he’d take the shape of a Wren. Wrens could fly, which meant he could visit Ershe his mother the Sun, up in the sky.

Up-up-up Little Wren flew, high into the sky. He liked it there, so warm next to Ershe’ heart—so light. Down there on the Earth it was cold and dark.

Little Wren didn’t think, Little Wren acted. He waited until Ershe wasn’t watching. Then he stole some of her fire and flew away down with it.

When Ershe discovered the theft she grew angry. “Wait till I catch hold of you. I’ll roast you with that fire that you’ve taken from me.”

Hearing his mother’s threat, Little Wren hid himself away where Ershe never would find him.

It was early the next morning before Ershe realised she no more could see Little Wren. Where was he? She went in search of him.

She travelled from east to west. She travelled from north to south—and back again. But Ershe couldn’t find Little Wren anywhere.

She called for her elder-born daughter, the Hare, and told her that Little Wren couldn’t be found. Ershe said she was concerned for Little Wren’s safety. Would the Hare help her search for him? To which, of course, the Hare agreed.

So off went the Hare in search of Little Wren. From dawn to dusk the Hare searched for him, but nowhere could she find him. Like her mother Ershe, she was worried for her young brother’s safety—so much that she couldn’t sleep. And so, when the night came, still the Hare searched. She quartered the Earth but nowhere did she find Little Wren.

The Hare was beginning to tire. She had travelled all over the Earth, running up every hill, and down into the vales. She had searched every river—she’d even searched under the sea. But she had found no sign of him. She feared he’d been taken by the Evil One.

The Hare then came to a cave. Though it was dark, she knew the cave was there for a light shone from within it. The Hare was curious. How had her mother Ershe’s light gotten inside of there? So, of course, off she went inside to look.

And who did she find there? None other but her young brother, Little Wren.

The Hare wanted to tell her mother Ershe straight away that she’d found Little Wren, for she knew Ershe was worried for him. But before she could call out to Ershe, Old Mother Earth—whose cave it was and who had heard their voices—asked them who they were, and what they were doing in her cave.

The Hare answered saying she was elder-born daughter of Ershe the Sun, and with her was her young brother Little Wren.

Old Mother Earth was pleased that her grandchildren had come to visit her. She asked them if they had come there for a purpose.

Little Wren, seeing a way of avoiding his mother’s ire, quickly answered, “We’ve come to bring you a gift.” And he showed her the fire.

Old Mother Earth was so pleased with the gift she decided to give her grandchildren a gift each in return.

To the Hare she gave renewing life, so no matter the killing cold of winter—caused by Ershe ignoring her children and travelling south—she would be born again with every spring.

To Little Wren she gave his mother’s placenta, the copper stone, so he never would be without fire.


 

It was the call of the wren inspired the tale: it sounds exactly like two flints chipping together to make fire.

And though Little Wren steals the fire, he’s not to be mistaken with the Fire Wren (or Fire Crest). In the British Isles these are two distinct birds with different calls and different habitats, one migratory, the other resident. They’re even of different sizes. I was once called upon to rescue a Fire Wren, blown off course during migration. It was no bigger than a cotton-wool ball in my hand, its heart furiously thumping. A moment always remembered.

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Map Is Dead . . . Who Is His Successor?

In the previous episode of Feast Fables, enraged by the massive loss of her menfolk, her finger pointing at Kerrid, Brenlamhe Jitamby collapsed and died. Now Mutupthe is Brenlamhe, and the first thing she must do is to name Map’s successor as brenlunen. But how, when his every eligible heir also is dead? And will Kerrid help her, despite she is sickened by what she has done?

Next episode, The New Brenlunen, ready now.

 

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Root of Rookeri 37

Citadel Lecheni
Eshe Parlan, Femella

Week Twenty-Eight

The tailor held up the coat of rich azure blue rich. “For Iffig Hadd of Two Boars House,” she said with well deserved pride. “It has only to be bejewelled and embroidered.”

She wrapped it while Eshe tried hard to hide her interest. Would the gods smile upon her; would they offer this opening for her to sneak through? “Is it to go to Dachen the Jeweller, along Chiparin Way?”

“You know him?” the tailor asked without turning.

Of him only.” Kilda had sold some jewellery there while Eshe waited outside. “He doesn’t know me.”

The tailor turned to regard Eshe – not unkindly despite she deserved it after waving and shouting to Boddy and Jonesi like that. “You want to deliver the package for me?” she asked.

“If you’ve no more work for me today.” Eshe marvelled how she held back her grin. “I do need to stretch my legs, I’m not used to being so cooped.”

“Neither used to be wanted, I dare say.” The tailor seemed briefly to ponder the wisdom. “Aye, I’ll trust you, this once. But first you will write a note to say where you are going and that you asked to go, and if anything happens to you it will not be my fault. You agree?”

Eshe nodded and managed to voice her agreement without her grin spilling out.

But her escape was not so swiftly done. The tailor fussed that she couldn’t be seen running errands for her in that drab smock-shirt.

“Here, put this on.” It was cream cotton. How many hundreds of bolts had Otian imported of this cream. It seemed the most common colour worn in Lecheni. The shirt was embroidered across the back and front yokes in beige and brown and yellow threads—mimicking gold, she supposed.

“Here, this too.” The tailor threw a coat at Eshe which she deftly caught. “It’s getting cold out, and it will help cover your bits.”

The coat fitted where it ought and helped disguise that she was a woman. It was of no fancy silk but of hemp-and-jasckte-wool mix, dyed burnt-almond brown. Hey, listen to her, she was getting to know the fabrics now. But where a lafard’s coat would be thick with gems, this had only coloured-wood beads and coloured thread embroidery.

And still the tailor wasn’t finished with her. Eshe fretted lest the citadel gates be closed before she ever left this place. “I’ll put you some plaits. That’ll be safer than wearing that hat—if it should come off . . .”

The plaits were heavy with beads.

“That hair is a touch dark for Rothi, we should have thought and bleached it, but you’ll do for now. Now, hold still. Being married can give protection, even for a man. And don’t you lose it; it was my father’s.” The tailor fastened a ‘five strands’ marriage necklace around Eshe’s neck.

“Jasper,” Eshe remarked.

“Oh, so you know stones?”

“I know some.” Eshe wouldn’t admit to further than that; it would likely generate a whole host of questions.

“Well don’t you go chatting to that jeweller. In, deliver, instruct and out.”

“What metal are these spacers?” Eshe asked admiring the necklace. A chunky cubic box was suspended from the lowest strand, made of the same yellowish metal.

“That’ll be brass” the tailor said, “—and don’t turn up your nose. I’ve no need to know who you are to know you’re no runaway trall, so don’t be uppity with me.”

“I wasn’t being uppity, I just wanted to know. Whatever you think me it’s the truth that, except for the gold I have given you, in all of my life I never have touched it—nor yet had the desire.”

“But you know the stones,” the tailor said displaying suspicion.

“Mayhap I was a jeweller?” Eshe said now regretting she’d remarked of the jasper.

“Dah! Be gone with you—and take the parcel. Tell Dachen it’s the azure for Iffig Hadd. And keep your eyes skinned.”

“I’ll weave down the alleyways,” Eshe said.

“Aye, well don’t go dropping that parcel—and you remember, you refer to me only as ‘the Guy’. You got that?”

Yea, Eshe understood. She might not have spent years engrossed with the Good Book as Boddy had, but she did know the meaning of ‘Guy’. A guide. It was the Rothi equivalent of a Guild Master. So, that was who the tailor was and why she took such pride in her work.

~ ~ ~

Eshe waited until she was safely over Western Way, and out of sight of Strangers Gate, to where she wouldn’t draw attention to herself when she ran. The sooner to Chiparin Way and Dachen the Jeweller, the sooner the coat was delivered, the sooner she could detour back via the citadel. She was itching to know what had brought Boddy here—and she needed to warn him of Kalamite. She didn’t know how to find him, but he was in there somewhere. She’d seen him enter.

“For Iffig Hadd, Dachen Hadd,” she said as she handed over the parcel. She lowered her voice. Not so difficult, it only turned squeaky when she was excited. “It’s the azure silk for the winter.”

The jeweller regarded Eshe, his mouth tightly pursed. “You’re new.”

“The Guy is my father-in-law’s cousin,” Eshe improvised. “I had learned all I could where we were so we came here, to Lecheni.”

The jeweller nodded. “And does the Guy want you back straight away?”

“That would depend, Dachen Hadd.” What exactly did the jeweller have in mind? But it was better to seem amenable. She could always slam a verbal gate in his face if what he wanted was unacceptable.

She needn’t have worried. Dachen gestured to a parcel, three times the size of the one Eshe had brought. “That’s to go to House Eland for embroidery.”

Truly, the gods were favouring her this day. She nodded, not trusting her voice.

Dachen held up a string of citrines and topaz. They looked a good grade. “These could go to your wife. Is she pretty?”

Eshe agreed, “She’d look a mite prettier tift in those.”

“So you will run my errand? Only my boy was fighting last night and he sports a broken ankle.”

“Aye, I will take it for you,” Eshe said, now barely containing the grin. Whichever of the gods was responsible for this, she thanked them—though she doubted it was her personal god, not this far from home. She took the parcel – it was not only big, it was heavy too.

“Tell them at House Eland: Here are two coats for Rokke Seleman Hadd, and one for Garawen Hadd. They will know which is which.”

“By the colour?” Eshe spoke as if musing aloud. “Or that one is silk and two are of wool?”

“By both, now off you go,” Dachen the Jeweller shooed her.

But Eshe stood where she was, with out-held hand. She had large hands for a woman, and now with the constant heat and water they were suitably reddened. But her mute pressing wasn’t required. The jeweller slipped the string of stones into her coat’s hidden seam-pocket. His hand lingered there. Eshe stepped away. His quickly removed his hand.

“The sooner begun, the sooner done, that’s what my wife likes to say.” She made a note to herself to take the stones out of the pocket before returning the coat to the tailor.

At Strangers Gate the holden hardly looked at her—What have we here?—I have a parcel for House Eland, embroidery—and she was through.

Was something special happening here? The citadel close seemed busier than usual. She thought of seeking out the stews at the Gardens, they knew everything. Yea, and they also knew her. No, safe just to deliver the parcel.

House Eland. Eshe looked around her. Which House was that? It took her a moment to get her bearings. She was on the opposite side of the towers from the Woolpack Gardens. Yea, she needs go left, that’s where it was – to the left would be Two Bears House. But before that, this side of the Processional Way, was . . . she couldn’t remember the name of the House, if ever she’d known it. And before that—yea, that’s where House Eland sat. She should be able to see it now if she looked off to her left. Yea, that was it. She remembered asking Trefan if it had been styled after Two Boars House. But Trefan had told her no, that House Eland was the older. She headed for there.

She was about to enter the courtyard, paved in a chequer pattern in jade and jasper, when a sedan-chair drew up beside the neighbouring house. It was impolite to gawp, but for all those weeks she’d been here, first at the Gardens, and later in the town, she hadn’t once seen a sedan-chair—though Jilli had mentioned them to her.

Her heart flipped when she saw who emerged from the chair. She wanted to hurry off to him and heartily greet him. But she had learnt by now to be more discreet. First she must deliver the parcel to House Eland—though to the pits if they thought her in a hurry. She was in a hurry, her master was waiting, ho-ho. Then bold as a proper messenger, she approached the house next to House Eland.

The painted panels showed various forms of Jacobs, the most common of the marine amphibs. And one small panel brimmed with focine sporting on the shore. How true to reality had the artist made them? They looked almost human, as they were rumoured to be. Then beside the deep arch, which all but hid the door, was a unicorn. That must have been from the artist’s imagination for only the horns were ever found.

She took a deep breath. She didn’t know whose house this was or why Jonesi was there. But where Jonesi was, there ought to be Boddy.

She knocked at the door—to be suddenly faced by a man with brassy-orange hair spangled with what at first seemed to be diamonds but were probably only pale citrines. He was tall and thin and wrinkled enough around his eyes that his hair ought to have been grey. But she knew the Rothi often resorted to bleaches and dyes.

“Um,” she said and cursed herself for not rehearsing. “I thought I saw my friend enter here.”

The man snorted (was he saying ‘unlikely’?) “Describe—or has friend a name?”

It would be easiest to give his name. But what if Jonesi was here in guise. She decided best to describe.

“Yey-high.” She held her hand on a line with her jaw. “And black hair with two thingies.” She pulled at imaginary plaits from either side of her chin. “No moustache. Slender build, but wiry.”

“And you are?”

She really ought to have thought this out. What name could she give? “‘Tell him it’s, um, the awis’s daughter.”

The doorman – most likely the seleman – eyed her with suspicion.

“Born outside the warison,” she said.

With a nod of understanding he invited her in. “You may wait in the core chamber.”

Wow! The entrance hall was—well, not at all like that of Two Boars House though the floor and spiralling stairs were also of marble. But despite the prevalence of white it was overall dark. It was the black-blue and dark green swirls that broke the white expanse of floor, and the same dark coloured glazing of the tall narrow windows at every tread of the stairs. Mirrors caught and tried to reflect back the meagre light – and those mirrors totally covered the walls. Yet over them was a carved tracery of gilded wood that formed a veritable eye-feast. Mysterious archways opened all around, but whatever was beyond was hidden by heavy wool tapestries.

She heard movement above. She watched the stairway. She was expecting to see Jonesi. She wasn’t expecting this dainty young woman, her hair like a blood-red cloud around her, clothes—wow! Eshe had grown used to Trefan, and to the stews, but this . . . She looked like some toffee confection that Boddy might dress for one of his plays. Eshe remembered to close her mouth. Whoever this woman, she’d not be intimidated, she who had lain in the arms of the lafard-legere’s own brother—not that Eshe was impressed by Rothi hierarchy.

“You are Boddy’s friend Eshe, Judge Madir’s daughter?”

“I am indeed, yea, Bel Hade,” Eshe answered.

“Och, I am no bel hade, not to you. For you are heiress, too. Am I right?”

“Yea, I am if ever I escape this place. But how do you know that? How much has Jonesi told you?” Eshe felt suddenly uncomfortable.

The woman shrugged. “Jonesi tells some, Boddy tells some. Even your father told me some. But why are you here? Why now, why today? And why are you wearing men’s clothing?”

“As a disguise,” Eshe said. “Against Kalamite Runman.” She felt it safe to confide.

“Och, him again!”

“Aye, him,” Eshe agreed. “Yet even he I would risk just to find Boddy; I must warn him.”

“Warn him of Kalamite’s obsession? Alas, Eshe-friend, you are too late.”

Eshe frowned, a cold hand clutching at her innards. What did this delicate doll of a woman mean, too late? Where was Boddy? What had happened to him? Surely not much. It wasn’t that many hours since she’d seen him with Jonesi. He was still alive, he must be. Mustn’t he?

~ ~ ~

Boteras Rookeri aka Boddy

“You can thank Kalamite that you’re still intact,” the guard said and slammed the door of the Legere-Chair chamber behind him.

“Aye, he had that stew killed, so common jaw has it,” said another guard, younger. “And because of that, Mikel Lafard was busy.”

Boddy didn’t want to follow their banter, worried and sick to his guts for Eshe and Disa, but while they were taunting him with it, in front of him, beside him, behind him, he couldn’t help but listen.

“Mikel Lafard has no liking of rapists,” the first guard said.

“Aye, well,” said the guard behind him. “No one has, really.”

“Aye, but Mikel Lafard’s the hardest on them,” said the first guard, in front.

“Takes away his business,” another guard chuckled.

Hear that, Roo? At least I’m to die with my bits still hanging. But he had to ask, “What do you mean, it takes his business away?”

“Mikel Lafard, the awis. He runs the stew-house, doesn’t he,” the oldest guard said. “Don’t you know anything?”

“That’s where that Eshe Spy-woman was staying,” said the one behind him.

Natzo! Eshe was staying at a stew-house? The things that woman will do for her father—as if the run-in with bandits weren’t enough for her.

“Aye, but then she had to flee, didn’t she,” the guard to his right said. “Accused of conspiring with the folkhere ledhere—and that against his own brother.”

“She’ll be for it now,” said the guard behind him, “—now they’ve made out that you’re guilty.”

Natzo, Roo, now what have I done? Eshe condemned to death because of me? Ghats and rats, my clodding boots climbing those stairs. He wished he knew where she was, and that she was safe.

“Our Breken Lafard won’t be lenient with her,” said the first guard, the oldest.

“Nah, our Breken Lafard don’t much like women.”

The guard beside him chuckled. “Nah, he much prefers men—young ‘uns that’s pretty.”

“Like this one’s pretty.” The guard behind him prodded his pike into Boddy’s rump. Boddy refused to flinch though he felt the blood trickle.”Betcha yer get a visit tonight.”

Yeah? Well if that tift-up larded lafard came any place near him he’d soon be a dead tift-up lafard—akolded, since the guards had taken his knives.

“That Ryal was pretty too,” said the guard beside him, conversationally.

“Is it true what they’re saying, eh, pretty boy Boteras,” the oldest guard asked from in front of him, “that Ryal’s hiding away in your hamlet?”

“Raselstad isn’t a hamlet,” Boddy said.

While the guards had been taunting, Boddy had been looking about him, trying to work out where they were taking him. They had stopped at a door hidden deep in a dark alcove and waited for someone—not one of the holden—to arrive with a key to unlock it. Beyond was dark – until one of the guards lit a Mathon-torch.

They were in a passage. Boddy guessed it ran within the warison. Hadn’t Ryal said of chambers hidden in there? The yellow of the Mathon-torch was soon replaced by shivers of sunlight, white as it pierced through the outer wall. He climbed steps up, perhaps as high as the height of a chamber. He climbed back down. And down and down. Here again it was dark, and he thought he could hear someone, or something, breathing. But there were so many booted feet thumping around him, he couldn’t be sure. Then a clang of metal and a noise like someone loudly snoring advised him of an iron door opening.

The guards shoved him in roughly. He stumbled. He fell. The floor was hard and cold, the stone scantily strewn with straw. Behind him the door clanked shut. He heard a harsh grate as metal scraped metal. Thereafter, all was quiet.

“So, Roo, this is the end, hey. In here for a day and then . . . But, Ghats, Roo, I do hope that gold-dipped son of a pack-saddle doesn’t try anything, you know, like they were saying. But they can only kill me once, hey, Roo. Hey, Roo, what say you?”

You ought not to have entered that tower. It was too soon.

“Yeah, Roo, so you’ve said. And if that’s all you can say then you’d best go away.”

You don’t want my help?

Boddy said nothing. He sat on the floor, head buried into his hands. But, hey man, at least there was light—though frost leaked in with it. By every dastardly Rothi god, it was cold.

Young Boddy Felagi, don’t bury your head. It’s not part of the story, we don’t want you dead.

Boddy lifted his head. “I’ve news for you, Roo, this isn’t a story. And no good making out like you’re Jonesi, making rotten rhymes.” He again hung his head, now between his knees. He wrapped his arms over.

Listen, Boddy—

“Go away.”

But we have a plan to keep you alive—

“Alive for what? To face my death?”

Alive, to get you out.

Boddy laughed. He was in a . . .  what? He spread his arms to measure the cell (and why not, he’d nothing else urgent to do) . . . a six by six solid stone box with a solid clanking iron door. And tomorrow, when Stheino hung over the citadel . . . he couldn’t say it—he couldn’t even think it. It seemed impossible. Tomorrow, he’d be dead. And by what means? He still didn’t know. Would it be decapitation? Or a rope round his neck. Hey man, his final accolade! Or would it be by means ultra-gross. Strung to four horses and torn apart? Forced to swallow molten metal? He choked at that thought, suddenly violently nauseous. “Stop it!” he shouted at himself. “ Stop filling my head with your gruesome thoughts.”

His fingers curled around his father’s bracelet. His thoughts turned to Disa. Yeah and how she would weep for him—for as long as it took Breken to find her a husband. He ought not to have followed her. He could now be putting the chorus through their last rehearsal for the Feast of Sharma’s play. Great, yeah, right, and he’d have craved ever after to be with her. Yeah, but at least he wouldn’t be dead.

And what if they found her guilty too?

“Then we’ll be together in death.”

And if not?

“Then she can claim my body and bury it in her garden and I’ll talk with her for ever after.”

He lifted his head and breathed in the air, a smile beginning to spread.

Now Boddy Felagi is listening and thinking.

“Now Boddy Felagi is being the playwright.”

And, of course, Boddy Felagi is a consummate actor.

Boddy laughed.

~ ~ ~

Next episode: 23rd September

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Mixed Blessings Of A Winter Bug

It’s common knowledge that Christmas through New Year is mating season for viral bugs (at least in the northern hemisphere). Everyone crammed into shops and onto trains and buses; the coughs and sneezes that spread diseases while we’re busy buying presents and that ‘must-have’ Christmas party dress. So it’s no surprise this last Christmas-New Year I contracted a viral infection. (Don’t ask me its name—sneaky little bug, I don’t even remember signing the contract.)

I’m not often ill—and I laugh as write that since, as some of my readers know, some years ago I was diagnosed with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). The tiredness is the least of it. It comes with persistent pain in the limbs—and a hyperactive brain that zooms into high anxiety state at the slightest wag of a red flag. Moreover, in recent years it’s been deteriorating. Significantly. But I’m not whingeing. It has its up sides—unable to work, I’ve all the time in the world to pursue my two loves of writing, and historical research. (Alas, I’ve since discovered I love to move. There is no thrill more satisfying than the endorphin-buzz of pushing the body to the extreme.)

However, New Year’s Eve found me slumped on the sofa, appetite gone, barely able to move. Apathetic, perhaps describes it—and for me, despite the CFS, that is a rarity. This semi-comatose stage of mostly sleeping lasted three days—during which I ate one small tin of mandarin oranges in juice, and drank two small bottles of Lucozade. It took another five days to recover sufficient to pop out for much needed supplies of groceries and shopping.

I have two steps up from my living room to kitchen. I barely could make it, and that with a walking stick. It wasn’t the pain, or not only that. The virus had pumped my legs full of lead—and that on top of the CFS just wasn’t on.

I managed, with an effort, to reach the supermarket (I don’t have a car, I’m not on a bus route, but at least I live in a town). I couldn’t carry the shopping home; I used a taxi.

I then couldn’t stand long enough to prepare and cook a meal (something which had already become a problem because my back muscles have atrophied to next to nothing). So I bought ready-meals and exercised the microwave instead. Problem is, ready-meals tend to lack veggies (even the ‘be good to yourself’ variety have only 2 veg) so I snacked on fruit and drank lots of juice. All healthy stuff, yea? No, but we’ll come to that.

Another week later, and another, and still no improvement. So I thought, well, that’s it. I might as well get used to life in the snails’ lane.

This abysmal state continued through to mid May. Medication review due. Blood tests required. Off I crawled to see my GP (we share a surname but we’re not related; she married into hers). Happy with blood pressure. Awaiting results of blood tests.

Oh dear. Sugar levels up. No, not just up. Rocketed, now orbiting the Milky Way. I have type 2 diabetes.

Actually, this came as no surprise. Those blood sugar levels had been creeping up despite (before the virus) I’d been eating the recommended daily portions—you know, the food pyramid thing. But, CFS you see, insufficient exercise. Well, that’s what I thought.

Lovely lady doctor immediately prescribed Metformin. But I hate medications. I don’t want it. “It’s this, or insulin, later.” I accepted her gift.

Metformin works by sensitising cells that have previously been insulin resistant—and apparently every cell in my body had been insulin resistant.

Wow! It was like I’d given the insulin a key to unlock all that trapped energy, energy I’d not been able to access for . . . how long? (First signs of CFS 2002: that’s when I had the triggering virus.)

Now perhaps you’re thinking, as I certainly thought, that the CFS was a misdiagnosis. It’s been metabolic syndrome from the start. The symptoms are remarkably alike.

Yet, no, that’s not possible. The only diagnostic for CFS (when I was diagnosed; maybe it’s since changed) is ELIMINATION. I had something like 26 different blood tests to eliminate every ailment this could possibly be.

The most telling was the test for thyroid function. If I’d had metabolic syndrome (at that time) the blood test would have shown my thyroid function as low. But that wasn’t the case. If it had been, I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with CFS. What’s more, it had been normal all the way through to this last blood test.

Same with triglycerides and LDL Cholesterol. Normal. No problem.

I did have a problem with high blood pressure—or rather, as we’ve since discovered, I had a problem with doctors taking my blood pressure. It’s called white coat syndrome. One look at a doctor and the blood pressure’s off the dial. I’m now allowed to take my own. Three times a day for three days before the appointment. I’ve come off one bp medication. I’ll probably soon come off the other. I tell you, I hate medications. THERE ARE TOO MANY SIDE EFFECTS, and with CFS you don’t need anything more..

So, I did not have metabolic syndrome at the time of the CFS diagnosis. It was not a misdiagnosis. Yet it’s hardly surprising I’ve developed diabetes since.

It’s not that I was eating fast foods (in my entire life I’ve only had one Big Mac—I didn’t like it. And it’s years since I’ve had good old British Fish & Chips).

I wasn’t boozing (alcohol’s not a good idea with CFS).

And neither was I hitting the fizzy drinks (except, towards the end with one Lucozade a day, not exactly a mega intake).

I wasn’t eating fried foods (with the exception of the occasional chips, I never have, and since having to cook them, which with CFS I can’t, I don’t).

I wasn’t eating a diet heavy in fat (I don’t like fat, at least not fatty meats. I remember vomiting up a fatty beef dinner at school, forced to eat it by a teacher. It went all over her shoes, which serves her).

I wasn’t pigging out on cookies and cakes (my sweet tooth runs to Christmas pudding, and that’s the lot).

So what was it? Those last six months I can understand, what with guzzling fruit juice and eating ready-meals, absent a good variety of veggies. But why were the sugar levels creeping up before then?

For one thing, it was lack of exercise, a perennial problem for anyone with CFS.

Then again, it was following the recommended food pyramid with its wide base of carbohydrate-heavy grains (which incidentally Diabetes UK still recommends for diabetics never mind that you really should be on low carbs.)

It was eating too much bread (yes, I admit it, I was wheat-addicted. I’ve since kicked it).

It was insufficient quantity and quality of sleep (another ‘can’t escape’ side effect of CFS).

So. Upshot:
After just three months on said medication—and a low carb diet—I am now back to . . .

30 mins dance aerobics on days I’m not shopping

30 mins brisk walking—which neatly slots in with supermarket trip (taxis now have been kicked into touch)

20 mins resistance training alternate days (and to think, I was going ‘bin’ my weights! So glad I did not)

A weekly out-of-town walk—surrounded by greenery and bird song and sweet smells—and no traffic pollution. (Check out the photos from my Marriot Way walk.) I’m working on the endurance. I used to easily walk 15 miles, then run up a hill at the end, then go clubbing and be on the dance floor all night. Will those days ever come again?

I have another blood test due at the end of the month. What will the blood sugar levels be then? Diabetes is reversal. I’m not being as disciplined as perhaps I could, but I have discovered one or two tricks. Half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day. Fresh lemon and ginger infused water. If you must have carbs (not easy to avoid) then eat it was protein, and something acidic, like a vinaigrette dressing. Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I don’t really want to miss out on the Christmas Pudding (favourite part of Christmas!)

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Marriott Way

(See Mixed Blessings Of A Winter Bug for why this short—6 miles—walk was for me momentous and groundbreaking—wave the flags, yippee, yeah!)

Monday 8th September:
Donned trainers, packed by backpack—with a ‘ball-into-nothing type waterproof jacket (despite weather forecast predicted sunny all day), emergency med-kit, and munchable goodies and water.

8:50 am
Caught XI bus Great Yarmouth to Norwich

First Bus - X1

(No, not this one. Ours was posh purple)

 9:50 am
Caught bus Norwich to Thorpe Marriot.

10:15 am
Heading off to Marriott Way.
I wasn’t alone. My walking companion, No 2 daughter, came with me.

Marriott Way, 24½ miles long, is a footpath, bridleway and cycleway that runs between Vauxhall train station, Norwich and Aylsham (Norfolk), via a much convoluted route.

Its name, and its serpentine path, hangs on its former existence—as a railway track. It was named for William Marriott, chief engineer and manager of the Midland and Great Northern Railway—aka the Muddle and Go Nowhere Railway.

We were heading back to Norwich, which gave us a 6-and-something mile walk. I took some photos on the way. Not high quality, it’s just a basic digi-camera on my very basic phone. Also, the day being blazingly bright, not all the photos were usable.

The Walk skirts the village where I lived prior to moving to the coast, and I do admit it, I miss it. This (below) is where I used to swim with a group of friends. As young teenage girls we probably posed a distraction for the train drivers!

Swimming in Wensum

River Wensum—the trees are much grown since I swam here

Later, when I had children, Marriott Way was our favourite Sunday afternoon walk. The kids loved to splash in the river. This is the River Tud, though why call it a river when throughout its course it’s only a stream. And as you can see, the water is remarkably clean.

Tud Bridge

 River Tud—where Marriott Way crosses it.
Yes, there is water in it—ankle deep!

River Tud

River Tud—looking towards confluence with Wensum

And there is even a Costessey henge. This needs a little explanation. It has never been excavated, only identified on aerial photos. So it might be something other than a henge.

It could be a Bronze Age ‘disc barrow’—yep, not all barrows had whopping great humps in the middle.

Hey Summers Barrows

(Source Wikipedia: Round Barrows)

It could be a ditch around an Iron Age round house—the ditch was for catching the run-off from heavy rain-storms; it also kept the wildlife at bay.

Iron Age Round Houses

(Source Wikipedia: Round Houses at Castell Henllys)

However, henges are often situated at the confluence of two rivers—to the east of Norwich, Arminghall henge sits at the Tas-Yare confluence.

Arminghall Henge Plan

Plan found on The Megalithic Portal
scan of an original in ‘Circles & Standing Stones’ by Evan Hadingham, 1978, where C14 dated to 3400 BCE

The Costessey ‘henge’ sits at the Tud-Wensum confluence—which more or less confirms it as a Neolithic henge. Not that much can be seen of it, as you can see by the photo. (But then, Arminghall henge is now nothing but an empty field, too)

Costessey Henge

Costessey Henge—as close as I could get to it, there being a barbed wire fence, a water-filled ditch and a dense nettle bed in the way.

I wanted to take a photo of the confluence, but a herd of Jersey cows (a dairy breed) were quite insistent they weren’t going to allow me near . . .

Jersey Coes

(Photo source Wikipedia: Jersey Cattle)
A herd of Jersey Cows—NOT the ones I encountered.
I wasn’t going to risk having my phone knocked out of my hands and trampled. The field was somewhat muddier than this!

By now the sun was hot-hot-hot and also tiring, and a decision must be made—to cut the walk and catch a bus back into Norwich, or to continue. We continued.

Wensum at Heigham

River Wensum as it passes through Heigham

Heigham (pronounced HayUm) is the westernmost Norwich parish dating from Anglo-Saxon times. Norwich is named for the Viking Wick to the North of the Wensum, the Saxons having already colonised the southern flank of the river. Judging by the how tightly packed the early churches, their parishes were narrow strips that ran from the river, uphill to where Norwich market and the City Hall now is.

Norwich Market & City Hall

(Source: Wikipedia: Norwich)
Norwich Market and City Hall. The crenellated flint-walled building to the right is the Guildhall (see next).

Norwich Guildhall

(Source: Wikipedia: Norwich)
Norwich Guildhall—built early 1400s, this was the seat of city government until replaced by the City Hall in 1938—note the ‘modern’ extension which dates to 1534!

Colourful though the Norman’s market has turned out to be, it wasn’t the original Saxon site. The Normans moved the market here during the first years of conquest (between 1066 and 1076)—the better to enable them to keep an eye on trade from their imposing castle which towers over the market (opposite the City Hall).

Norwich Castle

(Source: Wikipedia: Norwich)
Although an early example of Norman castle, this dates only to C12th. It replaced an earlier wooden version. The first castellan here was the rebellious Breton Ralf de Gaël, Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk 1071-1075. When his rebellion failed he fled back to Brittany, leaving his newly-wed wife to hole out in the castle. That’s chivalry for you.

The original Saxon market had sat in the wide sweep of the Wensum where, in 1096, Bishop Herbert de Losinga built his cathedral. A Saxon settlement and two Saxon churches were razed to make space for it. The stones were brought from Caen in Normandy.

Norwich Cathedral from Cloisters

(Source: Wikipedia: Norwich Cathedral)
Norwich Cathedral began life as part of a Benedictine monastery—hence the cloisters.

And that’s where the walk ends—convenient for those needing a train, but we wanted a bus!

Norwich Train Station

 (Source: Wikipedia: Norwich Railway Station)


 

And now you’re wondering why, for me, this short—6 miles—walk was momentous and groundbreaking. See Mixed Blessings Of A Winter Bug .

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Aftermath

The Battle of Furalsulm River is fought, the Linershunn victory Asarically aided by Kerrid and Ardhea (and somewhat reluctantly by Mutupthe). Now it’s time for the debriefing—or rather for the finger-pointing.

This week’s episode of Feast Fables, Picking Up Pieces, ready now. 

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Roots of Rookeri 36

Citadel Lecheni
Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy

Week Twenty-Eight

The citadel guards pushed and shoved Boddy into the Legere-Chair Chamber at Two Boars House, then slung him, face down, on the grubby Jasckte-wool carpet. Unable to raise his head up, all Boddy saw were feet processing past him. He guessed the pair possessed by the possessor of the gold repoussé banded ebony staff were those of Breken Lafard-Legere. The staff was accompanied by a glittering sword-filled scabbard.

I beg your forgiveness, Hadd Leef, Boddy said in his head, trying to keep in good spirits. But I’m unable to lower my head to you on account of the floor. It is a stubborn head-barring barrier. He wanted to laugh—loud and bitter.

More feet passed by him—then halted. He assumed they were bowing. They exited, stage left and stage right.

Someone coughed. That would be the air in here, dusty and dry. Ghats, they should try being down here. Hey, Roo, what would happen if I tried to escape? He was surprised they hadn’t bound him hand and foot.

“Find a chair for the man,” a kindly voice commanded. He sounded tired, as if wearied of too often playing this part.

Yeah, right. A tiresome business this sentencing death. I wonder how they inflict the death penalty here.

You ought not to have thought of that, Boddy Rookeri, said his little god Roo.

Yeah, right, but I don’t need your telling. You hear that gurgling? That’s my guts, now turned to liquid. I guess the court can hear it, too. But, yeah zo, my little god Roo, you know I’m not really feeling so flippant.

Strong hands heaved him up to his feet and pushed him back down, this time onto a chair. He bowed his head in appreciation.

So this now before him was Breken Lafard, the Rothi equivalent of Uncle Sturan. Ghats, but he didn’t look old enough to be Mallen’s father. Perhaps he’d been young when he wed. He wore a deep indigo coat, silk by the shimmer. By cut alone it could have been Sturan’s—though Sturan would have preferred death to this drenching in gold. The gold was everywhere on it. Gold embroidery gnarled the coat’s high stand-collar and purled down its long buttoned front. It covered the shoulders. It was strewn down the sleeves to coalesce on its cuffs. But apparently the gold alone didn’t satisfy; diamonds, rubies and sapphires winked like the sun dappling a forest floor. Boddy hadn’t realised there were this many sparkling stones in the world. A red silk sash crossed Breken’s chest—to serve as baldric. The dependant sword was fancily dressed in golden filigree. And yet more rubies were studded upon it.

To Boddy, this gaudy show of excessive finery was an obscenity. And it didn’t stop at his coat and sword. Hanging in heavy ropes round Breken’s neck was a fortune in pearls. Probably his  marriage necklace. Spew on it, man, did he leave any oysters in the Sarak Sea?

Boddy’s eyes tracked down to the lafard-legere’s booted feet. Spotted-toad-skin leather—and even these hosted gems set in filigreed gold. Though, hey, his brecks were plain unadorned ruby-red silk! Boddy approved the colour. There was also a suggestion of a cloak around him, seen as a flash of white fur. Minever, the Rothi called it. It was had from their specially-bred cats. The only thing missing was a hat. But with so many stones glittering amongst his plaits it would be a shame to hide them. Those stones—again rubies and sapphires, but paler—continued into his beard.

Yeah zo, even the holden were flashily dressed, tift and trapped to the hilt. Great, yeah, fine. But what do they know of worth, these clink-a-chinks touched and tainted by Mercury’s curse? They assess it by carats when it should be assessed by what’s in a man’s heart.

“Kalamite Runman.”

Ghats! Boddy sat back as if rapped. ‘Avoid the runmen,’ Ryal had said, ‘—particularly that Kalamite, and he’s easy to recognise.’ Yeah, right, he should have realised who the malodorous maniac was. He realised it now as the red-stained man stepped forward. Ghats, but he stank. But at least he wasn’t dripping in all that glittering shit.

“You caught this man in Wood Tower, you say,” Breken Lafard said. “But why bring him to me? I have never known you runmen refer your executions to me.”

Execution, there was that ‘death’ word again. Boddy shuddered. And Ryal had said nothing of that—of wood towers and runmen and executions. Boddy tried to swallow but his throat was suddenly dry. So did this mean he’d not trespassed upon Disa’s ward-holder, but upon another? Or was Gowen Sivator a runman too? Yet Disa hadn’t said, and Boddy was sure that she would have if that were the case. As he remembered, she didn’t much rate the runmen. If they all smelled like this one, he wasn’t surprised. But whichever, whatever, it didn’t take a genius to see he was deeply enmired.

“With respect, Hadd Leef—” The malodorous Kalamite seemed less manic now. He even seemed sensible and serene “—On the second Dizpeter’s Day of the Maiden, your brother and Mikel Lafard-Awis visited me at Runman House, to ask after the events we runmen predicted. They scoffed—they laughed at me. And they issued to me a . . . an ultimatum which could only have come from you. That if the predicted event failed to occur then you would evict our Runman Order from your citadel. Although this man I captured must die—he has trespassed where none but the Order may enter—yet first I would have you bear witness to my prediction’s veracity.”

Boddy would have arched his brow in query—but Breken Lafard already had.

“But, as I remember,” Breken said, “your prediction was not that a man would enter your towers, uninvited.” His comment drew chuckles from others present. He paused, reaping the acclaim like any skilled player. Boddy found himself nodding. “Your prediction,” Breken resumed, “was that strangers from Luban would launch an attack on our citadel, and thereby attempt to kill me.”

Boddy frowned, his eyes taking in the red-stained runman, and the trapped and tift lafard-legere. OOOOO-Ghats! Now it was making some sense. Disa sent to Luban to spy?—Or were only Lorken and Kullt spies, Disa sent only as their cover? Thus Disa was innocent? Yeah, that was more likely. Disa wouldn’t spy. So her two henchmen weren’t looking for Ryal, but for evidence of an imminent attack? Ha! It was all he could do to restrain the laughter. An attack? From Luban? That was risible. But it wasn’t, for here he sat before their legere-elect, charged with that very attack.

“Hadd Leef Legere, ask the prisoner whence he hails—if you would,” Kalamite crowed. Was the man now hopping from foot to foot? It looked to Boddy that he was.

Instead of Breken Lafard himself asking Boddy his origins, he passed the requested interrogation to a young man, as gaudy with gold, who stood two steps beside and behind  him.

The young man addressed Boddy in a practiced sneer, “‘You—foisty hindling—whence come you to Rothi?”

If this had been a rehearsal Boddy would have told him to pull it back, it was a tad over-acted. However, he answered as required of him – he even included a respectful dip of his head. Hey, this was his life hanging here by a thread; if need be he’d even kiss arse. “Hadd Leef, as accused, I do hail from Luban – from Raselstad, as I’m sure you soon will be told.” He glanced at Lorken. Lorken scowled.

Breken noticed. “You two have met?”

Boddy offered a hard-stretched smile.

Breken Lafard now called upon Gowen. Boddy assumed it was Gowen Sivator, Disa’s ward-holder, the man he had hoped to impress and soften with his talk of Daabian plants. Ho-hum, how things do change. The man was old, desiccated bones packed into dry skin. His clothes—of sumptuous silk—were sombre, and carried less gold than Breken Lafard’s. Rothi society being rigidly hierarchic, Boddy assumed it was impolite to wear more.

“I have yet to hear Sifadis Lafdi’s report,” Gowen said.

What! Boddy’s mouth fell. Spew on it, man. He was glad he was sitting. So Disa was a spy after all. Oh, Roo, how I’ve been taken in!

Hush, wait! Roo replied, for Gowen still was talking.

“According to Lorken and Kullt’s report, they found no evidence of Kalamite’s predicted attack. Apparently the explosives the Raseltops’ elect-legere ordered from Mathon Lafard are intended only to aid his trade in stones. He has several quarries in the Byhen Cliff region of the Ridge.”

Natzo! Ghats and rats! Boddy groaned, he didn’t want to hear more. That raw gouging he’d seen, Uncle Sturan was doing that to the Ridge? His own uncle was tearing apart the mountains? For what? For trade? He wanted to howl like those packs of hounds that reputedly attacked unwary travellers. Oh how his eyes were being opened this day.

“However.” Gowen Sivator wasn’t yet finished, and Boddy didn’t like the tone of that word. “Kalamite’s intruder does represent a threat, and not only to my ward, Sifadis Lafdi. Lorken Holde suspected this man’s intent while in Raselstad. He was seen to follow my ward. Then, when they reached the Falls, he abducted her. Kullt and Lorken were barely in time to save her from rape.”

“Natzo, that’s a lie!”

“Quiet!” barked the young man who sat beside Breken Lafard. “Another outburst and regardless of whom you are, and what your intents, you will be decapitated without further recourse.—May I prompt Gowen Hadd to continue, Hadd Leef?”

Breken Lafard nodded consent. Gowen continued. Boddy crumpled, now feeling decidedly sick.

“I cannot imagine what he was doing in Wood Tower,” Gowen Sivator said. “Besides, it is none of our concern. But I can tell you this. This man is the nephew of the Raseltops elect-legere. Moreover, there is ill-feeling between him and his uncle. It is common-jaw in their town.”

Boddy seethed, wanting to speak. They really were stacking the shit against him. How could he possibly escape it.

“Has this some purpose, Gowen? And . . .” Breken Lafard peered into the depths of the dark cavernous court. “Where is Mikel today—Why is that man always absent? Would you say, Gowen, we have need of the awis today?”

“I believe the awis has family matters to attend, Hadd Leef,” Gowen said. “A nurse and a tutor are required for his children.”

“What children? He has no wife—he has never a wife.”

“Born out of the warison, Hadd Leef—the stew recently dead.”

“Oh,” Breken Lafard up-jutted his chin in an odd reversed nod. “Well, aye, the children must be properly attended. Continue, Gowen—but do keep it brief. This is a rather unexpected hearing.”

Gowen continued, as instructed. “Lorken is of the opinion that the captured intruder intended to insinuate himself here as Sifadis Lafdi’s . . . um, husband. Then to usurp your chair.”

Boddy gulped. Lorken’s report might have been inching uncomfortably close but—hey, man, natzo, never—he’d no intention of usurping anyone’s chair, round, square or otherwise. All he wanted was Disa for wife, and a bed.

Breken stared hard at Boddy for an overlong moment before again prompting Gowen. “And why is Lorken of that opinion?”

Boddy could hear the words in his head, even before Gowen Sivator said them.
“First, let me tell you his name. Though he is more commonly known as Boddy, his full name is Boteras Rookeri Sharmin. In Rothi jaw that is Boteras of Rookeri House, now adopted into the elect-legere’s House of Sharmin.”

“This has relevance?” Breken asked.

“Rookeri House was originally known as Royanth, from its founder, Royan. It was changed to Rookeri when the heiress Jalinti married a certain Keril, from East Rothi. This Keril was also known as Keril-og of Shore House. Aye, that Shore House, here in Citadel Lecheni. And as my ward not so long ago told me, this, um, Keril-og was heir to the legere-chair when Shore House held it. But his brother took it, and subsequently gave it to House Eland. Far away, and forgotten by his kin, Keril-og had a son, Semesh—in Raselstad. This Boteras is his sole surviving male heir.”

Boddy wasn’t the only one stunned. There wasn’t a whisper throughout the long chamber. Boddy replayed in his head what he knew. Yeah, fine, great, he knew he was heir to Shore House, but not this of the legere-chair. But Disa had known it—known it and kept it from him.

“Is there proof of this?” Breken Lafard asked.

Natzo! It all was lies. There was no proof. Without proof he’d not be a threat. Please, Roo, don’t let there be proof. It might yet save his head.

“There is this,” Gowen said and handed to Breken a wad of folded and part-mashed mace-paper – the pages torn from the Council Minutes.

“Garawen, burn it,” Breken said and handed the thick square of paper to the young man beside him. “Now there is no evidence.”

Boddy felt the relief sweep through his body. Though there was the pack that Jonesi carried, now almost empty of food yet still heavy. That pack now could hang him.

“In respects of his ability to launch an attack,” Gowen spoke into the ensuing silence. “Despite no evidence of preparations, it would be wise to note this man’s high standing in the Dragons—though he has not a command of his own—”

“With respect, Hadd Leef,” Kalamite, impatient, interrupted. “You will now admit, events have proven my prediction and you will not evict my Runman Order.”

Breken Lafard looked from Gowen to Kalamite and, with evident reluctance, he nodded.

“Despite the evidence of Gowen Hadd’s spies,” Kalamite said with a haut-nosed sneer at Gowen, “I also point a finger at the Shore woman. Not used and abused by this Boteras person, as Lorken accuses, but, rather, in league with him. I say she’s a traitor. She also should die.”

“Natzo!” Boddy surged to his feet, struggling to shrug off the armsmen who grabbed him and forced him back down. Breken Lafard scowled at him, but as yet said nothing of decapitation. He was a buffing nugget to have shouted. How, if headless, could he save Disa?

“Hadd Leef,” said Gowen. “I object to this accusation. There is no evidence for it but for this runman’s say.” By his tone, Boddy guessed Gowen’s concern for Disa was as deep as his own.

“I will have her to question tomorrow,” Breken said.

“With respect, Hadd Leef,” Gowen begged, “allow her first to report to me.”

Breken gave a sharp nod. “Now take this one away. Tomorrow at dawn he must die.”

Before Boddy could move, the holden caught his arms, yanked them behind him, pulled them up tight. Boddy yelped. They pushed him-hauled him out of the chamber.

Behind him, he heard Kalamite say, “Hadd Leef, it is not a fit offering for Heli. Better to use his death to appease the moons—you are aware of their imminent eclipse? Delay his execution till the evening, on the morrow. Stheino then will be full in blush.”

“So be it, as Stheino rises,” Breken agreed. “Make a note of it, Garawen.”

Hear that, Roo? Great, hey, yeah? Tomorrow evening, the Feast of Sharma. How apt is that.

“Nay, Hadd Leef,” said Kalamite, not yet satisfied. “As she hangs full above Wood Tower.”

“Aye,” Breken wearily agreed. “Let it be.”

“And Eshe Parlan?” Kalamite asked. “Will you now have her killed?”

Boddy spun himself out of the holden’s grasp. He looked in horror at the red-stained runman. But the holden, their hold recovered, pushed him sharply through the door which promptly slammed and removed any more words.

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 37: 16th September

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