in the castle: nivei lactis poculaWatch this thread
Yes Pelegrina ?
I have returned !
As we see child
Remind us whither you wended your way
Mama i told you
We went to the precincts of the Last Druid
To make obeisance
And to proffer the golden lance tip
To the custodian of the forest
Ah I remember child
But was not your companion with you ?
Adelia the gross ?
I forbade you to travel alone to that fell place
Mama Big A did come with me
But she no longer walks among us
How so child ?
Pray start at the beginning
Very well Mama
We set forth at noontide
And soon were at the bounds of the holly glades
Where we tarried awhile with some comely youths
Who were pruning the trees in readiness for Yule
After an hour or so in their company
I set off ahead as Adelia was otherwise engaged
With one of the holly pluckers
She promised to catch up once she had finished;
I soon lost sight of the holly glades
And followed the sea path towards the grim forest
Where the Last Druid Lughnasius the Grey kept watch
From his eyrie high in the Blasted Oak
Looking seaward through a marvellous seeing tube
Which a Phoenician sailor had traded for a prognostication
I paused awhile in a sheltered grove of Olive
Hoping that Big A would catch up
I ate the cold lamprey and peacock pie
Which cook had wrapped for me in a rush basket
And drank my fill from the pottle of heather mead
Perhaps i dozed off for a few minutes;
Suddenly i awoke with an overpowering feeling of dread;
On the opposite side of the grove stood a tiny figure
Thin as a whip and clothed in ivy
This grotesque kobbold was grinning obscenely
And making lascivious gestures with its twisted fingers
It was surely one of the forest spirits
Come to cause mischief to an innocent maiden
Abandoning the rush basket i ran out of the grove
And did not stop until i reached the forest purlieus
There i fell insensible on a bed of bracken and mast
Concealed beneath an uprooted beech tree
Some hours later it seemed to me
I was awoken by an urgent hand
And the calling of my name
It was Big A
She apologised for her tardiness
Explaining that several of the young men
Had required her assistance at the holly groves
I asked her if she had seen the sprite
Which had cruelly taunted me earlier
But she said no;
By this time it was dusk
And we needed to find the Druid
Before night fell
So we set off along the sandy path
Which led deep into the forest;
A mixture of hornbeam and beech
Soon gave way to the immemorial oaks
Which were sacred to the ancients
From time to time we could glimpse
Strange carvings high up on the trunks
And golden mommets nailed thereon
Eventually as darkness enveloped us
We stumbled into a clearing
Where stood a small osier hut
Lughnasius the Grey was tending a fire
On the ground before his dwelling;
He poured a dark liquid onto the embers
Which instanter burst into vivid flames
"Ah there you are my ladies"
"We have been expecting you"
From the depths of the hut emerged
The quaint figure I had seen at the olive grove;
"This is Miliban. He is quite harmless although somewhat odd"
The curious little figure bent forward in mock greeting
Giggling in his curiously high pitched nasal tones.
"He told me that you were on your way to visit"
"And he brought your basket along"
I was grateful to be re-united with the picnic things
And thanked the miniature servant politely
"Now you must be tired ladies. Please treat my humble abode as your own."
"Miliban has strewn fresh bedding for you. We shall talk in the morning"
Remembering my commission i retrieved the golden spear tip
From the secret place where it was hidden
And proffered it to our host
He took it and carefully held it out to the flames
Before rolling it in his gnarled palms
"Your mother is a fine woman Pelegrina. You must thank her on our behalf"
"Be assured that the wraiths and spirits in my command will not harm her"
"Or her serfs and villeins. This year her harvest will overflow the granaries"
"And her wine barrels will swell with a fine vintage"
"To seal the bargain we shall of course need to make the customary sacrifice"
Adelia and i exchanged worried glances
"Did your mother not explain child ?"
"A maiden must be given to the Old Ones of the forest before the first two moons of winter"
I interrupted the aged Druid
"When you say maiden what exactly do you mean ?"
"A fertile female who has not lain with a man"
I asked him how he could verify this
"The golden lance tip is used to determine the validity of the claim"
"I have warmed it up so it will not be uncomfortable for you"
"Drink deeply of this draught; it will help you to relax"
He passed a golden goblet of some sweet creamy potion
"It is called Bee Lees and is distilled from honeycomb"
A languorous warmth spread up from my belly
And we both began to giggle helplessly
Miliban helped us to remove our sweat-stained tunics
So that the Last Druid could test us with his golden probe;
I offered to be the first
And submitted to his requests without complaint
As he had promised it was a painless affair
Which i found strangely enjoyable
"Well young lady i am afraid that you are unacceptable to the Old Ones"
"It is clear that you have not kept yourself pure"
"Perhaps you became a slut at Uni ?"
I apologised and expressed my regret about not becoming the Chosen Maiden;
Adelia was likewise investigated, allowing the ancient and his assistant
To explore her vast corporeality;
To my surprise Lughnasius announced that Big A was indeed suitable
And congratulated her warmly;
"Your family will be honoured that you were chosen my dear."
"It is a great privilege to provide the gift to the Old Ones"
"Now you must both sleep"
"The Two Moons are tomorrow and there is much to do"
"Eat these berries"
The dark berries were somewhat bitter
But after a few minutes we both fell deeply asleep
When i awoke it was midday
I was alone in the little hut
The fire was long extinguished
And there was no sign of the others
I shouted Adelia's name without result
And sat down on the edge of the rude palliasse;
A raven with a jewelled claw hopped out from the edge of the trees
And seemed to beckon me towards a path into the forest
Clearly it wanted me to follow
So i did
The bright-eyed bird led me far across the greenwood
Until we reached the edge
The raven perched on a bramble bush and pecked at the ripe fruit
I scrambled up to the tangled briar and greedily plucked luscious blackberries
After this delicious collation i turned to thank my guide
But the bird had disappeared
Leaving its gold and ruby clasp on the highest bramble spray
In the distance i descried the olive grove
And soon i was retracing my steps;
The holly glades were deserted
With just a few curiously fashioned eelskins
To suggest that the young swains had been there recently
Well child you had a great adventure
And the Druid has been satisfied
Mama you were aware of what he was going to do
Before you sent us to the forest
But I might have been chosen for the gift to the Old Ones
Instead of poor Adelia
That was never in doubt child
What i do not understand is why Adelia passed the test
When she had been cavorting with the lusty holly pickers
That very afternoon
Well child there is more than one way of skinning a cat
And what will become of her Mama ?
The ceremonies of the Druid are secret child
But do not expect to see her again
That is all
I have brought the raven's jewel
Mayn't i keep it Mama ?
Of course child
It shall be as a reminder of your friend
And her great gift
Thank you Mama
It will make a banging piercing
Belvedere in five child
Thank you for finishing the adventure . You have a very pleasant and entertaining way with words.