Pelegrino: An Historical Adventure Novel
Read an excerpt from Martin's new novel, Pelegrino, due out in the near future.
Ireland, Scotland and England
Mysteries of the Megalithic Age
The stones are great
And magic power they have
Men that are sick
Fare to that stone
And they wash that stone
And with that water bathe away their sickness
—Layamon, telling of Stonehenge,
Freezing winds blew briskly across the Irish hills, the dark night faintly illuminated by the ancient light of distant stars. Sipping hot coffee from his thermos and bundled against the winter cold, Toran considered the word ancient. Such a relative term, he thought. Ancient by whose standards? The stars above him were truly ancient, beyond any reckoning of human years, for the light from some of them had been traveling across space for millions of years before the Sun or Earth had even formed. That was a good thing to remember, he thought; it helped put things in perspective. Especially the research work he did at archaeology sites around the world.
The digital display on his watch indicated 4 AM, several hours before the time he was anticipating. The day was December 21, the time of Winter Solstice. He was waiting for the Sun to rise on the eastern horizon and shine its first rays of light deep into the enormous chambered mound of Newgrange. Millennia ago, a people which the archaeologists called the Megalithic culture, had constructed the great stone mound of Newgrange, using it to make precise observations of the movements of different celestial bodies in the night sky.
No one knew just how old Newgrange really was. During the past few decades, several teams of archaeologists had tried to determine the age of the megalithic complex by different dating methods. Analysis of organic remains found beneath the mound of stones, using the Carbon 14 technique, had given an approximate construction period of 3700 BC. But Toran also knew that other scholars, studying the spatial arrangement of the structures relative to the stars, suggested an even more ancient time for the building and use of the site.
During the past two weeks Toran had been visiting different megalithic structures scattered around the Boyne River valley, north of Dublin. Besides the well known Newgrange mound, also called a tumulus or a cairn, there were two other massive chambered mounds called Knowth and Dowth. Sipping more of his warm coffee and waiting for the sunrise, Toran considered the nearly two dozen megalithic structures he had explored and the interviews he had conducted with government sponsored archaeologists, local farmers, and tourists visiting the region. There seemed to be a number of, sometimes opposing, views concerning the function of the chambered mounds.
A few days ago he had met a young French woman, Celeste, who expressed with surprising conviction, “This entire valley is inhabited by fairies.”
“How did fairies come to be involved with these mounds?” Toran asked, “And, just what are fairies anyway?”
“Well you have to know more about the Celtic folklore of Ireland,” Celeste responded, with that pleasant way of speaking English the French had.
“According to old myths, the area of these mounds was believed to be the home of the mythical figure Oengus, the son of Dagda, and became known as the Mansion of Oengus. Dagda and his son Oengus were two of the principal members of the fabled Tuatha de Danann, which placed the mounds under the protection of fairies. Fairies continue to watch over this region to this day.”
“But I had learned that the Newgrange mound was in decay by 2500 BC and seems to have been empty since 861 AD when it was last plundered by the Vikings,” Toran interjected, “so how where these so-called fairies protecting the site?”
“Oh, but you don’t understand the ways of fairies,” Celeste laughed, “They are not much affected by the comings and goings of human beings. They have inhabited this area for long before any humans came here or built these great mounds. The fairies, which are spoken of by other people of antiquity, are as much a part of the earth as the earth itself. And they are friends of the nature spirits of the local land.”