A bastard’s bastard, he would never know that he carried the blood of the Templars in his veins. That was only speculated after his death; being proved, later, by the researcher who followed his short life.
He did it because he was a runner…
Hardship was the key; hardship and the words his cruel companions at the parish school carved on his leg with a blunt knife, the day he won the local race, aged seven. As he sat, crying in the shadows, he lamented the departure, that year, of his father, who might between drunken bouts, have defended him. His mother had surrendered to the bitter cold the previous winter.
The wound in the thigh, though infected, had healed, but its shadow had never entirely faded. The yellow and pink scar of three words would remain, and the pain of the memory with it.
He bettered himself, using scripture to win favours, feeling the stories in the Bible, rather than understanding them with his mind. It brought him comfort and an inner knowing that he was touching the truth. Sometimes that truth contradicted the words, like the walls of an old house falling down and revealing that it had always concealed an intact and pristine structure, behind; a structure that never faded.
The vicar, his only real friend, watched the dirty bundle of rags talking about scripture. He used to smile and shake his head as the boy’s fantasies took flight, sometimes adding songs he would make up on the spot. He was a singer, too; this runner… The wooden hut in the gulley high in the hills would sometimes ring with moonlit song far into the night. As the pupils left the scripture classes the vicar would often slip a wrapped parcel of food into the boy’s hand, winking and sealing his lips with a gesture.
The boy loved the moon – it spoke to him; calling him to run beneath the shiny blackness, especially in the Winter. Beneath its stark light, he learned things that no-one else had thought to teach him. He learned about how the land changed under the moon; learned to read a softly-lit landscape. He learned about the great darkening, which lasted from the middle of Summer to the darkest day in the Winter, and how it reversed from that point of darkness to race towards the fullness of warmth, the great brightening.
Fullness was a word he thought of often. He knew it had many meanings; and some of them spoke of the hidden house behind the crumbling ruins.
The Moon taught him about songs. Everything had a song; and beneath the moon was the special place to sing. Then, all the plants and creatures would listen to the song.
The moon always called to him at the end of the darkening. It rejoiced that the time of turning was at hand. It needed a runner to take that joy from the high rocks behind the village to the special place. It needed a flame-runner to light the Sun with the coldest of light that would transform into the warmest of days.
He felt the moonlight on his skin that night, knew it was time…
At the top of the rocks, he washed in the pool, taking off all his clothes and cleaning them as best he could. Then he laid them out in the moonlight, spread them on the high rocks to absorb the cold light, the light that would wrap his skin, making him silver, inside. He shivered with the cold as he dressed, again, but the moon comforted him, telling him he would soon be warm as he raced across the land.
And then he ran, like a silver wind runs, like a half seen bird at the edge of consciousness. And the great stones drew him across the silver land under the moon. The stones were diminished; there had been nine of them in the oldest of days, but now there were only four. But the four sang so loud as the silver boy raced across the silver land that they made up for their fallen brothers and sisters.
They made a gift of a new chant while he ran around them. The chant grew and grew in his heart and he sped from the circle with a cry of pure joy, like a stone flung from a sling, carrying the chant like an arrow to the place of the twin pinnacles on the far side of the meadow, opposite the singing stones.
The place of the twin pinnacles was the special place, the place that the Moon had shown him in the darkness, leading him with pale light until he was on top of the rocks.
Then the Moon had come out from the dark clouds and revealed the Place of the Hermit far below and along the cliff. But the Moon had always told him that the Place of the Hermit was forbidden until he was ready, until he would make that special journey to complete the run of his life.
This did not frighten him, for every time he saw the place of the twin pinnacles his heart grew, and the fullness inside him increased, and there was nothing in his world that was better than that.
As he climbed the huge boulders of the twin pinnacles, the Moon shone extra bright and showed him the hidden cube in the rocks and his heart knew where the new song had to go…
Only the boy and the Moon and the animals and plants were watching when the stones of the pinnacles came alive.
Finished with the chant the boy danced with delight up the hidden path to the very top of the rocks and gazed out on the moon which now stood before him, silent and saluting in the dark space made bright, the purpose fulfilled.
The stones were awakened, again. The cold darkness would pass to warmth, the earth would be fruitful and the plants would grow and feed the village.
The boy had never felt so much fullness. He thought that his heart would burst. In his joy he spun around on the top of the world and his foot slipped on the ice that had been water. Down the boy slid, to the very edge of the cliff and over into the blackness. No sound escaped his lips as he crashed to the rocks, below, broken but still alive.
There was enough light in the Hermit’s Cave to make out the shape carved into the wall. With arms that should not have functioned, and the help of the slippery moon, he pulled himself to where he could see the figure that the Hermit had carved in the hard rock. The crucified arms of the figure seemed to detach themselves and came forward to hold the child. The boy had thought the world could not contain more fullness… but he had been wrong.
The vicar found him in the morning, after running through the pre-dawn in the grey light. The dream had shown him where the child lay. As he approached the Hermit’s cave, seeing the small dead figure propped up against the stone wall, he began to sob. But the expression on the boy’s face contained no pain, nor spoke of death.
As he stooped to pick up the thin body in his strong arms, a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and onto the rock face. Through the torn material of the boy’s trousers, the words ‘Mock the Beggar‘ revealed their scarred existence.
The vicar spun the child around to face the rising sun, whose pale golden light bathed them both.
This is a work of fiction, but the landscape in which it is set is real. The Riddles of the Night weekend, run by Stuart France and Sue Vincent took us to Robin Hood’s Stride and the Circle of Nine Stones (which has four). The alternative name for Robin Hood’s Stride is Mock Beggar’s Hall. The origin of this name is uncertain. The Hermit’s Cave with the carved figure of Christ crucified is part of the rocks known as Robin Hood’s Stride.
End Part Three.
Other parts in this series of blogs about the Riddles of the Night weekend:
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.
His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com