Morgan B

Gyldlandsaga: Prelude and Chapter 1, Book 1



The Gyldlandsaga

 

In the lands of Northern wastes,

where ice lies eternal,

came the great tribe of Hrefni,

the black-feathered one;

long trails they made from East to West,

with their beasts and oxen.

Until one day, when he, Hrefni,

though still young in years,

was summoned by spirits to a sacred place,

and willingly went.

There they slew him, those givers of knowledge, the lords of land, the earth-guardians;

cut deep his throat, pulled forth his eyes from skull-pits

and hacked him limb from limb; his feet, his hands, his head and all.

His lady, golden Gydena, found his bloody slaughtered members

and bore them to the foot of the great tree, Ashentorr, the watchman of the worlds.

And there, he, Hrefni, became a living man once more,

his severed parts made whole.

Now born anew, he climbed that tree,

the great ashen tower

to its topmost boughs,

the sky-lattice of the heavens

and he looked out, and he looked down,

upon all that could be seen.

And then by seeing everything, he knew everything,

and he spread wide his great black wings to fly around the ash,

until he settled among those cloud-branches,

the heavenly boughs,

where he made his home, glorious, eternal, heaven-roost, the raven’s court.

-from the ‘Lay of the Old-Ones’

 
 

Book I

 

Chapter I - The Rockcat

 

Listen here! We have heard that once

in former days, when wizards walked

and poets sang of brave Hardálláth,

and wyrms still flew, the wrathful ones,

there was a Rockcat* in Gyldland's fens

named Womba the Wise, a well-bred maid;

daughter of Deor, who was son of Strynd,

heroes both of the Wars of Vjal;

stout kin of the Greyfair Clan, whose

chief held sway over fen and vale

from earth-strong walls of Greyfair Hall;

'Fox-hearth', its name in Rockcat tongue.

Though small in height, her people stood

aloft in tales of war and glory.

The Wither-ones, or Karandir (in human speech),

their cruel-souled cousins, made war with men

and Rockcat alike; raiding-forces,

like midwinter storms, both fierce and hard,

swept through Gyldland's fields and fells

in times long past but still recalled; the deeds

of these outlaw tribes brought wrack and woe

to Rockcat clans, driven from ancestral halls

in Kattrheim's fells to Southern fens

and ice-wracked slopes; the fæthu so this

time was called. While men in fury

slew both alike, the Rockcat clans at length

held firm; united, strong, they won their dues.

The Karandir, bastard broods of Hlafdey,

were scattered, doomed, to Skarhall sent.

In those days, Karandir and Rockcat

were seen as one by men, and worse times came –

the Outlaw Decree, a price on Rockcat heads,

for the cruel ones were already cursed.

In these tales and more was Womba wise,

for in birth her mother died, and Deor,

called to fight for king and land,

left child with Bogi the White, his brother,

who once was bard to Greyfair's lord,

Chief Smeoru-snettru, the Fox-hearth's light,

and often sang the lays of heroes

to the bairn he brought up as his own.

Though stories stirred the cat-wife's fancy,

no shield-hall nor sturdy fort she held,

but a house-cave cut from rock aside

the Viper-Wash, the Fenlands' vein;

in and above that misty moor

did Womba, lonesome wasteland-settler,

make herself a dwelling-place

and furnished fair with sparing hand;

a door of knot-carved oak held back the cold,

spurned wind and rain; hearth heart burned well,

spiralling smoke through crag and tree,

in murk and crow-black boughs and veils.

Those stony walls were well-lit once

by now-faded threads; green moss her floor,

her bed a cot of goose-down, bedposts bitten

by runes of warding, and scars of time;

flaxen mats on floor lay proud

with writhing lines of Sli’ith speech,

swirling fronds of hymns to Hlafdey,

the Rockcat people’s queen and mother.

Womba was, as her title told,

well-read with words and use of herbs;

sooth-fast and in leechcraft steeped,

for which she was held high in esteem

by neighbour, lord and traveller alike.

To her door they drew, for aid and balm

in summer, winter, rain and snow

and at times of gravest ill, she went

to the hall of Norin, Tarndell’s lord,

the father of the Grundwithr.

She pounded poultice, brewed good draughts,

gave counsel wise to those who sought;

splinted sprains and sang of heroes,

the songs of Bogi, long remembered.

Unbound to bridal burdens, in life's midsummer,

she had no eye for others, no wish for heirs;

drank elder ale, chewed coal by moonlight;

her dinner-plate was rarely bare.

Though growing girth gave rise to pains,

still she drank and still she chewed,

content and well to treat herself

as would her guests, sparing none and caring less.

In Grundwithr's clutch, the wold of timeless wrath

her Fenlands lurked; scarred by treason,

wrought by fæthu, years of war,

from which grew songs and Greyfair's pride;

for men and Rockcats, bound as one,

had battled dread and baleful dark

when war-bands, doom-bringers, hateful hordes,

the Viltyndr they called themselves,

had harried Gyldland North to South;

flame and sword had scorched good earth,

such that Tarndell alone now stood,

the Withered Lands surviving settlement.

And so in peace, if still unease,

the village grew, and prospered proud.

Beyond the stir of trade and toil

Womba kept, content for coin

or kind for Rockcat-cunning aid;

and so she thrived, away from clan

and family hall, herself alone

among the Fenlands’ human folk.

“Ask the Cat-Wife,” they would say

when wisdom, herb or brew was want;

and as she gave, Tarndell was gifted.

As Sóli's eye dimmed under mist-veil

and cold hill, wolf-slope, tree and rock,

by hearth she nodded, ale-filled, calm

with all that winter's wrath might wring,

for Yuletide came, and festive feast;

the time of turning, the cold year's heart,

when hoary Norin, Tarndell's host,

rewarded fealty, gave gold and deeds

to those who served, and fastly sowed;

rings received and oaths well-sworn

by Tarndell's thanes, freemen and kin;

he welcomed all, bestowed his worth

upon his people. Well-loved was he,

the giver of mead; the richest wage

for Womba’s work; she earned it well.

 

*From the compound word “stancatta”

  • Author: Morgan B (Offline Offline)
  • Published: August 2nd, 2022 14:50
  • Comment from author about the poem: First passages from the 76,500 word poem which formed the core of my 2021 MFAAH exhibition. Informed by Old English literature and poetry, anthropomorphic heroines and heroes, spirits and gods clash in a distant world where the marginalized take centre stage, and 'monsters' are not all they seem.
  • Category: Fantasy
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