Thursday 28 December 2017

Beginning a new series of excerpts from "The Poor Preachers", Chapter 1: "The Two Shepherds".

Master Alfred Shephard gathered in and stored his final haul of fish for the day, and straightened his aching back.  He and his colleagues chuckled as they watched the valiant but unavailing efforts of his little son, doing his best to emulate the strength of his tall, gaunt father.

‘By the Rood, William!’ called another crewman from the other side of the boat, ‘Art better with staff and crook, minding the sheep than casting forth the fisherman’s net.  Thus fated art thou in thy name.’  He gave Alfred a broad wink.

‘Heed not the jobbard’s tongue, Will.’ said the tall fisherman, gathering the embarrassed little boy in his arm, and striding homeward.  ‘Take thou pride in thy name, lad.  Forget not that thou’st the blood of King Alfred the Great a-flowing in thy veins.  Yon Nicolas sayeth sooth in that thou’t a good shepherd boy, natheless -- yea -- the best in all Dorsetshire.  Art as kind of heart as thy sweet mother and twice as canny as Father Giles if I err not.’ 
He laughed, tossed him up in the air and put him down.

Little Will turned his back on the bustling port of Bournemouth, his birthplace, and pointed excitedly up the hill.  Four sheep, nonchalantly chewing their cud, were watching them with mild interest.  One seemed to recognise him and bleated with pleasure, as though inviting him to play.
‘Lo, Fa-fa!  It be Matthew, Mark and Luke and my good co’panion John.  Prithee to greet them, Fa-fa?  Prithee?’

‘On the morrow, my son, for much toil there is still for me to do.  From whence these names o’ yon lamblings?’

‘Father Giles telleth a tale o’ them, Fa-fa, as they be the great aposseless as a-preacheth the Gossapel.  I will preach the Gossapel someday.’

His father chuckled, but said seriously ‘Many a year and much fish must be netted ere thou canst walk that road, my son.  But if that still be thine heart’s desire, thy Fa-fa shall not turn thee from it.’

He marvelled once again at the brightness and intelligence of this affectionate little lad, barely six summers.  There was something special about him, as his wife often pointed out to him.  He took delight in doing good to others in the village, young or old.  He gleefully ran messages, and particularly loved bringing gifts or good news.  He would intervene in many of his peer’s quarrels and often restored harmony.  Smaller children often followed him around, and so did his four-legged friends.  The ducks and geese would often follow him if he passed by, and his mother called him her ‘little Saint Francis of Assisi’.  Needless to say, the whole of Bournemouth doted on him.  
No.  He was not destined to be a poor fisherman.  Perhaps his mother was right, mused his father proudly.  He had a special calling from God after all.

He also had a strong scholarly bent for so young a child.
In fact, they kept small copied portions of the Anglo-Saxon scriptures in a special clay jar in a corner of their cottage. It was an heirloom, secretly and faithfully passed down from generation to generation.  Alfred claimed that these were documents that the greater Alfred himself had translated. 
Little William would often peep at these portions with a sense of awe. He was not yet able to read properly, let alone understand the strange hieroglyphics of that ancient tongue, but just to feel that link with his illustrious ancestor, and his faith, inspired him. 

He pestered the parson to teach him to read and write, as it was his ambition to read the Holy Scriptures to his friends.
‘Read Holy Writ, my son?’ Father Giles said, surprised but not displeased. ‘‘Tis surely a long road, for the Vulgate is but for the learned holy priests that are schooled in that tongue. Even I wist but little o’ that sacred tongue.’

He taught him a little of what he knew.  William showed such aptitude and intelligence that Father Giles thought he would make an excellent scholar, if only he could get him to Oxford or Cambridge Universities when he turned fourteen.  But his family barely made ends meet.  It would be a miracle if the young man ever went beyond the borders of Dorsetshire.

His scholarly potential notwithstanding, William loved people and he loved animals. Though a quiet lad, he had the knack of making friends, and many would come to him and talk out their woes. Then he would go off and tell his own sorrows to the horses in the town stables, or even to the pigs.

All this changed suddenly and tragically when William turned seven. Once again, the horror of the Black Death raised its ugly head, especially in the poorer, rat-infested quarters of the towns. Bournemouth was a busy port, and it wasn’t the first time that plagues had been born in on foreign ships.
William watched in grief as one funeral procession after another made its sombre way down the streets, destined for the burial sites reserved for the poorest folk.

One evening, when the epidemic was at its most rampant, his father staggered home coughing and bearing ugly, black sores, only to find his wife was the same, lying on her bed.

When little William came in from visiting friends at the end of town, he was faced with a horrible nightmare that scarred him for much of his life. 

‘Nay! Will, liefest! Come thou not nigh!’ his mother screamed. 

The father dragged himself from the bed to find his last remaining coins, threw the bag to William and, before collapsing, gasped, ‘Go, son! May God go with thee and bring thee better fortune than ours!’

‘Yea, go, my darling boy!’ wept his dying mother. ‘Go to thine uncle in Abbotsbury! With our last breath our prayers go with thee!’

Grieving, barefoot, hungry and frightened, he walked the many miles from Bournemouth town to find his uncle and aunt in Abbotsbury.

The couple were poor themselves and barely had enough to feed their nephew. So they took William to the local monastery, hoping the brothers would keep him amongst the other orphans. 

William was agreeable, for he had been told that holy men were meant to be like the good saints of old -- kind and compassionate. He could get the education that his soul craved for, and maybe become a holy man himself.

The rather portly and forbidding-looking brother who received them peered indifferently down at the scruffy piece of humanity looking pleadingly up at him. 
‘Nay, it cannot be done.’ he said brusquely, without any sign of compassion. ‘Stay thou with thine uncle and aunt. We have no room for dirty waifs that cannot give aid unto the abbey, in especial they that come of plague-ridden huts. Begone! Ye waste our time.’ 
With that, he stalked out of the room. He had forgotten that ten years earlier, the Black Death had laid low many of his fellows.

William was stunned, feeling rejected as though he was an abandoned child. He henceforth made a vow never to become a holy man, even if he died of hunger.
‘Come, boy.’ His uncle heaved himself to his feet and sighed as though he had expected this.

So his uncle, also a poor fisherman, and his aunt reluctantly adopted him, but seven years later, before William was fully grown, they also died in a recurrence of the plague.

The boy was then looked after by a friend of the family -- a gruff, drunken herdsman, who had noticed that young William showed some ability with animals.

William could not love the old man, but he did his best to learn as much of the trade from him as possible. He worked at it so hard that he managed to escape many of the clouts old Toothless Tom used to deal out when he was half sober.

When the old man died a few years later, poisoned by the cheap wood-ale he brewed in the forest, William began to wonder if he brought ill fortune on all those who raised him.

Eventually William became a shepherd and sty keeper for the local monastery, the Abbey of St. Bartholomew.

Although most of the brothers treated him like dirt, there were a few that helped to make his life tolerable, especially Brother Joseph. It was largely thanks to him that William obtained employment there at all, even though it was barely enough to feed him.

The Brothers had gone beyond the need to humble themselves enough to get their hands dirty, and share in the duties of mere peasants -- so said my lord abbot.  
They had ‘holier’, though unspecified, duties to attend to.
Times had changed since St. Benedict introduced the Rule, with its lofty ideals and Spartan lifestyle.

Driven to despair, William turned to wood-ale to ease the pain he felt at the state of his world, his need for acceptance and the aching emptiness he had within. A few times he had to be rescued from the ditch by his fellow labourers after a drunken rout. 

He was a personable young man, and occasionally a few of the village girls ran off with him into the woods. Having lost all sense of purpose, William was quite willing, and found a tiny degree of temporary comfort in their arms. 
But the sense of guilt that came from each of these romps drove him further into drink.

In some cases he stole food and drink from the monastery’s buttery, to help feed himself and other poor folk. The poor folk accepted him readily, a kindness which he never forgot. In his turn, William looked for ways to ease their sufferings.

It was through the hard times of those days that he learned how to survive. He and his younger friend Wilfred, another shepherd boy, became skilled in poaching, as many poor folk did, especially with the winter’s lean times. However, they never stole from the monastery’s flock, for they were his charge, and they trusted him.

Another survival skill was taught to him by old Dick Little, a soldier discharged from the army, due to a lull in the French war.
He was one of the last surviving bowmen that covered themselves in glory and won victory for the English at the battle of Grécy. But old Dick never spoke of that. His pride was in his lineage, for he claimed to be descended from John Little, the famed outlaw and right-hand man to the legendary Saxon rebel Robin of Locksley. His great grandsire had fled from the avenging arm of the law in Nottinghamshire and settled in Dorsetshire. Old Dick belligerently challenged any scoffers to a fight if they scoffed at his claim. Not many accepted his challenge because he was a giant of a man, an accurate marksman with the bow and also master of the art of quarterstaff combat.

William caught his attention when old Dick witnessed the lad stand up to a couple of poachers who were about to run off with a lamb from the monastery’s flock. They fled empty-handed when they saw old Dick Little approaching.

The big man roared with laughter, clapped the grateful William on his shoulder and wheezed out, ‘By Saint George, thou’rt a flightsome lad, then! Come thou into the wood, and we shall a-striken us a stout staff for thee to swing, so shall we.’

He then proceeded to teach William some useful strokes with the quarterstaff. The lad became so skilled at this, he was able to stand his ground against a group of bullies who had terrorised him and his friends in the past. This resulted in a few of these gentry staggering home with bruises and cracked heads. They never bothered him again.

During one long, bitterly cold winter’s night, William stood in the entrance of the sheep-pen and beat off a small pack of wolves that tried to attack the sheep. With a number of well-aimed blows, he cracked the skull of the pack leader. The others gave up and retreated. 

He cut up the beast, giving the meat to his friends, the monastery dogs, and making a fine coat of the skin.

‘Art thou not full courageous!’ cried an admiring scullery maid when he came in late that night wearing the wolf skin.
‘Nay. Say rather I be full drunken.’ he replied, his voice somewhat slurred.
She giggled and pulled him into a dark corner.

The wolf skin helped to keep him warm for many a cold night, until a generous impulse moved him to give it to a thin peasant child he found shivering, sniffling and coughing one exceptionally cold night. 
Sadly, the child died of malnutrition and consumption, but his last few nights were warmer. The child’s mother never forgot William’s kindness.

William never lost his desire to learn and would occasionally sneak in at the back of some of the orphan’s classes at St. Bartholomew’s to listen. The orphans liked him and pretended not to notice, for his sake. They even let him read some of their books.

Eventually, he found the ways and means of sneaking into the monastery archives when none but Brother Joseph was there. He would find one of the old tomes and read it in some quiet corner. Brother Joseph noticed him, but did not have the heart to expel him. So in this clandestine manner, his education progressed to a reasonably advanced state.

To be continued....

Note: I have attempted to reproduce the language of the day, but tried to balance it with readability.
If you need help with certain phrases or words, feel free to comment below and I will translate for you.
Those who purchase the complete work will receive the whole glossary.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Poetic Intermission: A Bard's Prayer

Creator God, I would draw near
Your stories and your songs to hear.
For like a child my soul would bide
And sit by Father’s fire-side.
O Lord of Stories, King of song,
Bring counsel, courage. Make me strong.

Before all time Your tale begins
Before rebellious man, he sins,
Your Word established Earth’s foundation
Angels sang in celebration.
But joy then changed to deep lament
As evil from your presence went.
But e’en when Adam made his choice,
Your sorrow did not still Your voice.

Your story of redemption speaks
From deepest seas to highest peaks.
With awe we see, as daylight dies,
Your glowing letters in the skies;

The new song of the rising sun:
The world reborn when dark is done.
Then forth from many a feathered throat
Come songs of joy You skillf’ly wrote. 

Yet few will stop, Your voice to hear
In nature’s clarion-call so clear,
Nor hearken to the Laws of life
That keep us safe and free from strife.

The greatest hist’ries ever told
Recorded now from days of old,
True tales and songs of by-gone ages
Are writ now in bible pages;
Telling me that Story True
And how we may turn back to You;
And how you sent our Saviour bold
Who many a telling story told,
Your Heav’nly Kingdom to proclaim
And find salvation in His Name.
The greatest Bard of all was He,
Who died and rose to set us free.

He sent Your Spirit to inspire
Your faithful folk with Holy fire.
Upon our hearts, Your sov’reign will
You write with Your Great Spirit’s quill;
To tell and sing redemtion’s song,
To light the darkness, right the wrong.

So, on this pilgrim’s path I tread,
Pass through this vale of dark and dread,
I write, I rhyme, I sing my lays
That some may hear, and give You praise.
My message many laugh to scorn.
I leave, disheartened, tired, forlorn.
For who, alone, can cast aside
Self-serving Self, self-centred pride?
Yet I return to see seed sown
Unwittingly, and how they’ve grown!

Encouraged, then I take the road,
Though rough the way and hard the load.
But when You’re with me, by Your might
The yolk is easy, burden’s light.

O help us, Lord, to tell Your tale!
All lies expose, let Truth prevail!
Your truth speak with the Lion’s roar,
And being gen’rous to the poor;
Yet gently, with compassion’s tear,
Speak graciously to those who hear;

Creator God, create in me
Your kind of creativity.
O give me words that heal the soul,
That brings new hope, that makes men whole;
And words of heav’nly wisdom speak
(Not somethin’ that’s way up the creek!)
In vain is that creative flame
That does not magnify Your Name.
So now, Creator God, I pray
come talk with me along the way.

Copyright © Arthur D Bardswell 2017

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Latest Excerpt from "Wings in the Wind". Chapter 3: Among the Mawharùn

 StrongHand looked up from his meal as he heard a fl urry of wings.
‘Hail, ThunderWing my brother,’ he said, bowing as to a great warrior.
‘Welcome home to our eyrie once more. You bring both shame and fame to yourself, but honour to our eyrie. Who but you would be both valiant and fool enough to challenge the realm of the Black Storm and draw him out to his doom.’

ThunderWing glanced at his brother as he landed. There appeared to be both mockery and admiration in his brother’s greeting. He, however, was not in the mood for the amiable squabbling that they used to indulge in, so he settled in his old corner and lay down.

‘Come now, little brother,’ pursued his elder, teasingly. ‘Are you still so shattered that you cannot play Mawharagh with fat brother StrongHand?’

But ThunderWing would not be drawn, so StrongHand, after looking for any signs of permanent damage to his sibling, shook his head and resumed his favourite pastime.
‘You have heard, no doubt, that NightFlyer is now…..?’

‘Yes!’ was the curt reply. ‘Indeed, all the eyries of the mountains know of his victory. I stayed only to see and hear SilverSong the Fair. But she came not, so I would not wait for the race.’

StrongHand grunted sardonically, but kept his peace and laid down.
Silence reigned for a while and ThunderWing watched the sun slowly setting behind the Western Mountains. He nibbled on some meat his brother threw to him. He saw the last of the hunters and gatherers flying home to their own eyries. A few of the solitary lesser eagles also returned to their eyries in the cliffs, tiny dots in comparison.

After a while, ThunderWing lifted his head.
‘It is said that you are the greatest of the hunters and gatherers, brother.’

StrongHand grunted, still absorbed in digesting his large meal.
‘It is of little moment to me. Perhaps it is because I feed many that it has been noticed. Had I my own war-cry, it would be: “Feed your stomach, feed the eyries.” It goes well. I build my hunger in the service of the eyries and therefore eat more. So I am content.’

A hissing laugh escaped his brother’s throat.
‘I now envy your lack of ambition, brother. Yet you are honourable in your service, little though you relish the honour.’

StrongHand looked up, surprised.
‘You are courteous! If your pride and presumption has been shattered in your fall, as it now seems, then maybe it has not been loss, but gain. Have you surrendered your dream to be Windlord of the Mawh’eyri?

‘Perhaps,’ his brother replied evasively. His vow to his love was a private matter now. ‘But for now I seek a lesser, but maybe better honour.’

StrongHand just blinked at him in bafflement.
‘I know not your meaning. What is this honour you speak of?’

‘To aid the hunters and gatherers to feed the eyries.’

This surprised the elder brother so much, he took wing and almost flipped over. The sudden movement swept the last scraps of his meal off the ledge, but he made no effort to retrieve them.
‘You, my brother! A hunter and gatherer? not all warriors despise us?’

‘Not this warrior! Nor have I ever done so, save in our banter and word-battles. But is there need for other wings? Can you use my hands in your task?’

For once, StrongHand’s enthusiasm showed, despite his outward profession of self-interest. His eyes brightened. This was his passion. He became even rhetorical.
 ‘More and more eyries are birthed in the mountains, and more and more eaglets are born to the wingfolk of the Mawh’eyri. The mothers are hard pressed to feed them at times, and there is sometimes great dearth in the season of storms, when the mountains wear the Cold White Down. The Watchers of the Marches guard the outer hills, so they cannot hunt, but must also be fed as do those in the Windlords in Council. It is hard labour and long, at times. Yet we are a merry band, we of the Mawharùn. We sing as we gather, and sing when we catch our prey. We dispatch the fruits of our labours quickly and quietly, and are fully content when we see that hungry mouths are fed. When times allow it, we feast all together and share our tales of the hunt.’

His face darkened.
‘But many more strong young eyrion think less of the eyries and more of their own glory. They choose to be warriors, and play eaglets’ games of war, feeding only their own bellies! Do we have need of more hunters? I tell you, many would starve if we, the despised Mawharùn become weary of our task!’

ThunderWing now looked at his brother with new eyes.
‘Truly, I have not given you the honour that is due. Let me come with you, then, at sun-arise next. You, elder brother, must show me the ways of the Mawharùn.’


So it was that ThunderWing joined the hunter-gatherers for the rest of the season.
He learned to respect the skill of his pragmatic but great-hearted brother. StrongHand knew the best areas for hunting and where the best berries and herbs could be found. He had developed a system of herding and culling their prey without exhausting their resources. He directed the hunters to find food in areas of plenty.

ThunderWing soon learned that speed and strength were not always helpful when hunting. He was surprised at the patience and skill StrongHand showed while stalking his prey. He watched and sensed the changing of the winds so he was rarely detected until the final moment, and it was too late. His speed at the final swoop could rival that of the fastest warrior. He was not named StrongHand the Master Hunter for nothing.

He found his fellow hunter-gatherers to be good-hearted folk. A few were surprised to find a warrior among them, and astounded when they were told it was none other than ThunderWing, formerly Swiftest in the Mountains—he who defied the Black Storm.
He showed no sign of superiority, however, so they soon accepted him into the fraternity.
Indeed, the goodwill and brotherhood of all members were something of which ThunderWing took note.
There was nothing glamorous or elegant about them. Few took the trouble to groom themselves beyond basic hygiene. They came from many eyries, often as the weaker siblings, the more fearful, the less attractive members of the family.
Many of the eagle-maids among them, the eyreira, were either too old, too disfigured, or just too plain to be considered as nest-mates by the warriors. Yet they were content to be among the fraternity.
There were no pretensions or airs about them. They took pride in their work, and carried the fruits of their labours to the farthermost mountains, without complaint.

StrongHand had a very egalitarian policy when it came to delivering their catch.
‘While I am Master of the Mawharùn,’ he said belligerently to his hunters, ‘We shall deliver our first catch to those who are in greatest need, first of all. If warriors, or even Windlords call for prey for their feasting, they must await those that are hungry and destitute—or catch their own prey. I have spoken!’

He would sometimes mutter the occasional remark about certain injustices that occurred among the Mawh’eyri.
‘Open your eyes wherever you are sent, my brother,’ he advised in an undervoice. ‘For not all is well in the mountains of Mawha.’

ThunderWing thought his brother took too pessimistic a view of the state of affairs, a reaction to the low esteem in which the Mawharùn were regarded. Nonetheless, he watched and wondered at some situations in some of the poorer eyries he visited.
He experienced the satisfaction of seeing hungry beaks fed, and the gratitude of many harassed mothers, whose nest-mate had gone to the Mawh’ree, the tournaments of the warriors in the Southern Hills, or had fallen through their attempts at the peak, or died fighting the Hrah’eyri raiders.

He had even heard of cases of domestic violence and forced marriages, where the eyreira had fled into the wild. It was a very patriarchal society. ThunderWing began to feel a little ashamed that he had spent so much of his youth at the Mawh’ree, forsaking his mother in her loneliness.

Sometimes it was a thankless task, being a hunter.
A hunter arrived at one eyrie, hardly recognizable, covered in dust and splashed with a little blood, bearing two hares and a branch of mountain berries.
The eyrie-mother was rather stressed and a little cross. She had three small wailing chicks and an aspiring young warrior-to-be to feed.
There was no sign of the father (presumably, he was at the Mawh’ree in the Southern Hills).

‘You are late, hunter!’ she snapped. ‘I cannot leave the nest and my lord is delayed. My chicks are starving!’

The hunter cast his catch before the hungry chicks and waved genially at the eldest of them, who was staring hard at him.
‘I cry pardon, eyrie-mother.’ replied the hunter, patiently. ‘There have been so many demands upon us, now the Mawh’ree trials are at their height. Prey is becoming scarce in the southern central valleys, so we have to venture beyond the outer borders. It is a long flight.’

The eyrie-mother merely grunted, tearing at the meal and carefully depositing morsels into wailing mouths.
The eldest youngster stared intently at the hunter, while munching on berry and flesh, so the hunter kindly asked him questions about his aspirations.
‘I know not if I be a hunter or a warrior, master hunter,’ the youth replied. ‘I like to be both, but cannot.’

‘Why will you not be both…?’

‘Because his father will not let him so demean himself!’ interjected the mother, irritated by the question. ‘If you have no more food to offer, pray go and leave us in peace. Do not be late next time!’

The hunter effaced himself hastily, winking at the young aspirant as he went.

‘Why you talk to him so, mother? I like him. I see him before at the Mawharhipi trials.’

‘If you are to be a warrior like your father, youngling, you do not befriend mere hunters.’

The young eagle gasped. He remembered who the hunter was.
‘Mother! It was ThunderWing, son of Windlord HighSoarer!’

The mother closed her eyes in exasperation.
‘Do not be so foolish, youngling! A champion of his stature would never join the Mawharùn! Eat your meat and berries and go to your nest!’

ThunderWing also met some of the older warriors, the Watchers and Guards of the Marches, as he brought meat and fruits to their posts on the outer crags of the outer mountains. Some had known his father, so his sons were held in high honour.

‘Hail, son of HighSoarer the great!’ said StrongEye, a battered and tattered old watcher, as ThunderWing bowed and laid his meal before him. ‘You have my thanks. Your eyrie has served me well. Your father saved me in times past in battle with the raiders. Your brother keeps me from starvation so I may keep my post. Because of you, the Black Storm is banished from the mountains, and we may live with less fear.’

He cocked his head sideways at his young visitor, who laid the meat out for him.
‘Yet this is a thing unheard of. Have you so demeaned yourself as to have joined the Mawharùn fraternity?’

‘I am a warrior still, father-warrior,’ ThunderWing replied stiffl y.
‘But I have learned that there is much honour among the Mawharùn, little though we warriors could see it. There is much I could learn from them. Proudly do I serve the eyries of the Mawh’eyri.

‘Very well, son of HighSoarer. But surely warriors are called to a higher calling. It is written upon the Stones of Judgment.’

The old warrior was still too set in the caste system of the mountain eagles to fully see ThunderWing’s viewpoint. Then he changed the subject.

‘Have you heard what has happened at the Great Peak? The news is spreading from eyrie to eyrie.’

ThunderWing’s heart sank.
‘Has NightFlyer, son of Windlord SwiftSlayer, has he attempted the Great Summit of Mawharikhan?
The old warrior snorted. ‘He has done so, and failed. But that is not the sole news.’

‘NightFlyer has failed??’
ThunderWing’s heart soared again.

‘Yes, he has failed, the arrogant young fool,’ the watcher replied with a scornful laugh. ‘And his pride will not let him forbear. But now there is a new enemy upon Mawharikhan for a warrior to conquer before he gains the summit itself.’

‘Surely it cannot be that Mawharikhn has returned! The rumour of his coming would have left a swathe of destruction in his wake! And he greatly fears the wrath of the Great Spirit-Wind!’

‘No, son of HighSoarer. Rather it is many enemies, but not so black, nor so evil, or so it seems. They are the Khriki winds of the Wailing Hills who, it is said, have heard of the banishment of the Black Storm, and have come to take residence in his place within the high black caves of Mawharikhan.’

‘The Khriki? The Raven-Winds? Do they do harm to the warriors that attempt the peak?’

‘Well…. they have less hatred in their hearts as had Mawharikhn, but they are proud. They harass you like the crows of the valleys, but are far stronger. Our folk are as playthings to them, if we wander onto their territory—or so they call it. They will not slay you, but they will buffet you with breath and wing. They will cause you to be consumed with fear so you lose heart. So it came to pass upon NightFlyer, son of Windlord SwiftSlayer, when he made his attempt, and upon LongFeather, son of StoneWing also. Their thought was that they would have an easy victory over the Great Peak, and great is their consternation.’
Both laughed aloud.

The garrulous old warrior would have chatted for quite a while, having had a long and lonely vigil, but ThunderWing had much to do and to think about. He politely extricated himself from the conversation, bidding farewell, and then facing his beak into the wind and driving rain.

‘SilverSong, my wing-love, you are safe for the moment!’ he sang to the air as he winged his way back to the hunting fields. ‘But Oh! That I may look upon you again, to hear your voice and to speak of this news! Where have they hidden you?’

He continued his work, but his head was full of these new developments at the peak, and their implications. If there was call for meat at Windlord’s Crag or at StrongFeather’s eyrie, he begged to be the one to take it. StrongHand good-naturedly allowed it a few times, but as Hunter-Master, he had to send the strongest flyers to the furthest reaches.
ThunderWing was the strongest flyer, and could carry just as much meat as StrongHand, so he was often chosen for the remotest marches.

On the occasions when he was allowed to visit StrongFeather’s eyrie, there was no sign of his beloved. On casual inquiry, he was told by a young family member that she was still in the Northern Mountains.
When he finally arrived in the Northern Mountains, bearing food, it was reported that she had flown back to her eyrie. He fretted, wondering if she had grown cold toward him.
He humbly approached her father when he visited Windlord’s Crag.
Windlord StrongFeather looked a little grim, but he took him aside and spoke to him.
‘Son of HighSoarer, my daughter is in hiding. It seems that Night- Flyer, Mawharhipi as he now is, already considers her his property. She is safe at my eyrie while I remain, but my duties often call me forth. He has been hovering, my son. Hovering as though she were his prey! I have spoken to his father, Windlord SwiftSlayer, but he is proud and will do nothing to restrain his son. They do not speak to one another, father and son, these sunflights. But I have warned his father that if NightFlyer should touch my daughter unlawfully, I will call Mawharagh upon him, as is my right. But so says Windlord SwiftSlayer: “Then may the strongest win!”’

ThunderWing was shocked.
‘Oh, that I were a champion again, that I may challenge him in your stead, O Father-of-Many!’

‘That time may come yet, my son,’ said the older eagle, prophetically. ‘I am old, and may not prevail as you may. True, you must become a champion again. Perhaps even, as Windlord? I know your mind and that of my daughter.’

He turned away and gazed at the great cloud-covered peak in the distance, disregarding ThunderWing’s embarrassment.
Mawharikhan sleeps. But the new enemies sleep not, and they are strong and unpredictable, as dark winds are.’

He turned back and stared at the strong young warrior before him, his stern eyes softening.
‘But you are stronger in many ways, I think, my son. But await the right season, for only the Great Wind-Spirit can tell when it is so. The Raven-Winds play havoc with all who come to challenge the peak, even at times with the elders at Windlord’s Crag, but they merely play and do not slay. They shall hide in the Black Caves upon the peak during the season of storms, for they fear the Warrior Storms. Go, my son, for so I shall call you. Your time shall come. But wait for it. Your wing-love, my daughter, waits for it also. She is safe for the present. May the Great Wind-Spirit bear you upward!’

There was a lump in the young eagle’s throat, so he could not reply. Bowing low, beak to stone, he departed and returned to his own eyrie.
He could not see her! But she was safe. That was all that mattered.

He returned to his work, which kept his mind occupied. If he became idle, he felt he would go mad. He sang to the Great Spirit-Wind, beseeching him that his time may be soon.

And there was enough to keep his mind occupied.
It would be unfair to say that he became as skilled as his brother, but his superior flexibility in flight proved to be a bonus at times. His strength and skill developed through this training, and his new feathers grew longer. He was becoming a formidable foe.
A few crows, competing for prey, found themselves out-flanked and out-maneuvered. Some paid with their lives if they became too pertinacious, and tried to steal the meat from under ThunderWing’s beak. They swore at him in their own uncouth tongue, but left him alone.

Respect for the brothers grew among the fraternity, but when a crisis arose, it developed into full admiration, even deference.