I’ve always been told that a story must have three parts: A beginning, a middle and an end. I left my last post on a bit of a cliff-hanger. With Máel Coluim discovering that the man he’d rescued was quite some way from home. I left the beginning unfinished, and if you leave a part of the story unfinished then you’re just left with some words that don’t really make a whole lot of sense. Of course you can sub-divide each of these parts along the same lines. Last week I gave you the beginning of the beginning and a bit of the middle of the beginning. Today I give you the rest of the middle of the beginning and the end of the beginning.
I originally anticipated that I’d need another seven hundred or so words to finish it all off. Turns out I needed eight hundred and sixty five. And even then I think I made it a bit shorter than I was originally going to. The most shocking thing was that I wrote all of this is the space of about an hour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I think I actually spent more time trying to find somewhere on the internet that would Romanise Arabic lettering. It’s all well and good using translation programmes to nab a few words for artistic use, but they’re not much use if the words get spat out in an alphabet that leaves me wondering where one letter ends and another begins. If I wanted that I would write things by hand. (That was an oblique and moderately unfunny joke about the illegiblity of my hand writing. You may laugh now)
But I digress. I think this instalment neatly concludes the “man finds sword” section of the story. I’m going to leave the “man has badass adventures” section for another time. Giants will probably be involved, because everyone loves giants. Except perhaps for Jack, but he is well known for trespassing, theft and murder so his opinion hardly counts.
Our story continues:
Wrapped in woollen blankets with the fire stacked high, the foreigner slept for seven days and seven nights. Máel Coluim fed him honey and water with a spoon. On the morning of the eighth day the foreigner awoke. In thickly accented, lilting Gaelic he told Máel Coluim and his family that he was a Moor from far off Al’Andalus and that his name was El’Mtesherd. The huddled Scottish family stared with wonder as the Moor replaced his rings and chains. The light of the rising sun caught the edge of one of the chains and Máel Coluim saw that it was engraved with strange symbols, the likes of which he’d never seen before; strange characters which flowed together in a way that was at once beautiful and strange.
The Moor thanked the family for their help and left. Máel Coluim sat in thought for a minute or two and then burst from his home chasing after Moor. It did not take him long to catch up, for El’Mtesherd was only walking.
“What are you?” Máel Coluim asked once he had caught up with him. The Moor turned to face Máel Coluim.
“I am many things. A scholar, a wanderer, a warrior, a weaver of dreams, a purveyor of secrets. To you?” the Moor looked pensive for a moment “I am a friend. To you I owe my life. A dept that I cannot easily repay.” El’Mtesherd pulled two rings from his jewelled fingers and threw them to young Scotsman. Máel Coluim caught one but the other fell to the frozen earth. Looking at the ring he had caught Máel Coluim saw that it was a plain, simple thing. A golden band set with a small rectangle of onyx.
“Take those rings for now boy, as a sign of my gratitude and my eternal thanks.” El’Mtesherd began to turn away “Until I can bring you a reward more fitting of your deed.”
Máel Coluim knelt to pick up the ring he had failed to catch.
“Thank you, but you do not need…” Máel Coluim raised his eye and saw that the Moor was nowhere to be seen. As if he had simply vanished into the dispersing mists that rolled off the river. Looking at the ring he had just picked up, Máel Coluim saw it was much like the one he had caught, but set with an oval of onyx. Placing one on each hand Máel Coluim returned home and set about with the work of the farm.
Winter melted away into spring and spring burst into summer. The seasons rolled on into autumn and then the return of ever-hungry winter. Máel Coluim paid little heed to the Moor’s cryptic last words, but always wore the two rings upon his fingers. It was exactly one year after he had found the Moor in the river, that a great storm rolled in off the sea and hit the land with blizzard that lay snow three feet deep, and struck it with salvo, after salvo of lightning. Máel Coluim and his family did not sleep that night. It was the sort of storm you see only once every century. Together, they huddled round their meagre fire, trying to keep the chill of the wind out of their bones. A blot of lightning struck the ground just outside the door of their hovel, the bright white flash illuminating the whole room through the cracks in the door and the shutters.
As with all things, the storm eventually came to an end, shortly before dawn. With the rising of the sun Máel Coluim ventured outside to see what damage the storm had done. The mists hung thick in the air, blocking out everything more than a few feet away. As he strode forward into the snow the mists slowly began to part and Máel Coluim saw a tall shadow looming out of the greyness that surrounded him. Cautiously he edged forwards, hoping to find out who was waiting outside for him on a morning such as this. All of a sudden Máel Coluim found himself in a void in the swirling mists. No snow lay upon the ground here, in fact the ground itself seemed to be steaming. In the centre of the clearing, standing as tall as a man, was a sword; plunged blade first into the soil. The metal gleamed and rippled, like it were forged from black quicksilver. Its guard was studded with stones, but not gemstones. These looked more like stones that one would find on the bed of a river. At the centre of these, at the very base of the blade itself, was a disc of ivory and jet, bearing the shape of a crescent moon. At that moment Máel Coluim remembered the last words that El’Mtesherd had said to him, he knew that this sword was a gift from the Moor who he had saved last winter. A strand of sea-green beads fluttered from the pommel in a rapidly rising breeze. Máel Coluim reached up and grasped the sword. As his hand closed round the dark brown leather of the grip he felt something deep within his soul.
It felt like destiny.