The King and the Land are One. These old words had depth and strength. They endured; like the land. They focused and settled his mind and described his duty and his life. They had replaced the Dieu et Mon Droit, motto of the old English monarchy, and said much about the people and their ruler in the Kingdom of Wessex.The cities of old had died, and most of their civilisation with them, but the Land lived on.
King Harold III contemplated them inscribed under the flag of Wessex on the wall in front of him. They appeared thus on all courts and public buildings and on the ensigns and liveries of royal officers or state servants. This one was the one whose letters he had filled with his own blood when he had made his oath of kingship and been accepted by his people as their king. He expected that it would be buried with his body. It was not an ornament. It was not only a statement of the social political legal religious constitution of the land, it was the binding force constituting a People and a Land into a Kingdom. It was not an assertion of personal despotism, even his rival Ragnar Redbeard of Mercia, his neighbor to the north, knew that. They were a link to his predecessors and to the powers of the land, which could be a surprising source of wisdom and inspiration. The golden Wyvern or two-legged curly dragon on a blood red background had long been an emblem of Wessex, perhaps derived from a Roman cavalry standard, and had flown over the armies of the ancient Saxon kingdom of Wessex. Harold regarded it as a representation of the spiritual life force that moved within the blood of the people of the Land and united them.
Harold was alone, seated cross legged in his meditation chamber, a small stone building which was the centre of his rule, and where he expected to be buried. This style of kingship he knew was not popular with those more impressed by lavish display and whose egos demanded to be seen in the company of important people. His advisers wanted him to pay more attention to the social aspects of kingship. Harold acknowledged the practical utility of their advice and that it was an aspect of his kingly duty and political power to which he must devote more attention, even though association with coarse, grasping, cunning and selfish people whose concerns and abilities did not go beyond the physical was unpleasantly distressing to him. This he knew to be a weakness, but it could be partly compensated by
those close to him, and it had been even more important that he spent time developing his psychic and spiritual abilities. This was the aspect of royal selection and training which enabled him to be a real king somewhat in the manner of the very, very ancient sacred kings, long before the area was called 'Wessex', at one with the powers of nature and the Otherworld; so that in his person it would be literally as well as metaphorically true that the King and the Land are One.
He considered the situation of Wessex and the main problems it faced.It was King Ragnar of Mercia and Count Dieter the ambassador from His Imperial Majesty Wilhelm who occupied his thoughts at the moment, because they it was who were pressing upon the Sovereignty of Wessex, and Wessex did not like it. He knew well enough that Redbeard, a very shrewd and effective ruler in a tradition of warrior kings, despised him as an effete milksop and would gladly have split his skull. He made no secret of that. Dieter was a different matter and probably a greater danger.
Harold meditated deeply, in silent, wordless touch with the spirits of the Land. In the peace an image arose. It was of an enormous snake which coiled and writhed along. As he regarded it with alert but unemotional concentration, the King saw that the serpent had coiled around and crushed a man and was slowly swallowing him.
The King continued to contemplate the vision and noticed it change. Now there was an image of a snake which appeared to be slowly emerging from the earth, upright into the air. From it's mouth appeared the torso of a crowned man with outstretched arms.Gradually it seemed that the tail of the snake went right through the earth and grew amongst the stars. Slowly the stars seemed to be drawn into the snake and up it's body and through that of the man,which became brighter as this happened, until radiance spread from him and illuminated the surroundings. Harold knew that the vision concerned the Sovereignty of far more than Wessex.
The Lady of Avebury
Dame Sally Arbuthnot, Lady of Avebury, was Custodian of this most ancient and holy site. She was responsible for the organisation of festivals, particularly the great Midsummer Festival and Fair which was the most popular gathering and holiday in the country, as well as central to the religious and secular ceremonies which gave focus to the people's sense of identity every year. Avebury, along with Silbury Hill, West Kennett passage grave, Windmill Hill and Stonehenge - it's midwinter counterpart, and Glastonbury not so far away, provided a megalithic skeleton protecting the heart and soul of this ancient land, which once before and now again, was named as Wessex. No one knew what the very old ones who had raised these structures had called them or their land, but this no longer mattered, they had formed the basis and been subsumed into the soul of Wessex.
This secular responsibility required considerable organisational skill, as well as a certain amount of tact and diplomacy to deal with the various and sundry people and interests who and which had to be managed, cajoled and placated to ensure that events ran smoothly and activities involving other places and groups were co-ordinated with the minimum of jealousy and ruffled feathers.
In addition to her secular responsibilities she was the current chairwoman of the Green Ladies, those who had cultivated the capacity to make contact with nature spirits and were able to secure their co-operation and hear their complaints.(This involved a certain amount of weeding out of over imaginative women who fancied themselves the central figures in cosmic dramas. This was an Order of people who could perform a function, not an association of lady novelists.) In this capacity she reported to the Archmage and to the King, who wanted to know that the country was adequately covered by such contacts and to be informed of any major problems or significant information gained, such as predictions of unseasonable weather or natural disasters.In a time and place without chemical fertilizers or fuel for agricultural machinery or bulk importation of food for people or animals, or
refrigeration, this ability was important. It kept crop yields high enough to support more people and livestock through winter than would have been possible considering only their level of material technology; and beyond the gains which might be counted, the intangible gains to health and happiness and alertness, of better quality food may have been even more important in helping to produce better quality people.
The Green Ladies, in addition to their psychic work, busily promoted - and demonstrated - organic gardening and farming. (Well, there were no longer the industrial products to perform any other sort!) Findhorn had been far from Wessex, but books about it and about Viktor Schauberger had survived the winnowing of fate which had discarded so much else from the Old Times.People lacking psychic abilities were interested in these as well as in what their local Green Ladies had to say, and it may be that there were selection pressures slowly increasing the proportion of the population with such abilities, and giving incentives to develop them. Most people were happy enough to pay a small fee to a Green Lady to put in a good word for them with their local nature spirits and to leave small offerings to the spirits in appreciation of their work, as well as to protect certain trees or rocks or streams or banks or heaths that the spirits especially valued. Few were so bold as to be willing to risk the wrath of the King, his officials, the Green Ladies and a jury of their neighbours by violating such well known agreements.It was generally appreciated that in such circumstances the spirits had a taste for blood. Green Ladies could initiate prosecutions and present evidence in court on behalf of nature spirits. No appeal against conviction for offences against Nature had ever succeeded. How could it, when the King and the Land are One?
The midsummer festival was a time when people from all over the country gathered to meet friends, exchange news, make business arrangements, attend ceremonies and make merry. The Green Ladies would not be the only group meeting formally and informally. This year Dame Sally would be too busy with other matters to spend much time with her Ladies, but her deputy Maisie Higgins would see that they were well looked after and hear anything which they had to say. She would tell Dame Sally if there was anything which needed to be passed on to the King.
Ragnar Redbeard, King of Mercia, was a bad man but not a bad king.He was swift thinking and swift to act, a shrewd judge of character, an excellent warrior and an inspiring if terrifying leader. His temper was as fiery and as famous as his beard. Both were cultivated for effect.His hard gaze and harder grip let little that he considered his escape his grasp. Thus he was well served by diligent and frightened officials. He was from the mould of warrior kings, and Sovereignty, although fickle, often favours such men. His people had little love for him, but acknowledged his competence. They found his rule oppressive, but at least he tolerated no other attempts to mulct or misuse them, and his justice was as swift and harsh as his temper. Ragnar was happy to fatten the geese which laid golden eggs for him, so his realm was well organised and relatively prosperous, even if most of the prosperity found its way into the coffers of the king, and his subjects' industry and diligence were frequently stimulated by the lash.
Ragnar had served with distinction as the leader of auxiliary forces from Britain in the Imperial campaign across the Balkans, so he retained excellent contacts in the Imperial German military and bureaucracy. Berlin regarded him benignly as an exemplary client king, if handled firmly. His uncle Thomas had been king until Ragnar had returned with more glory and larger ideas than had suited the humbler place he had occupied before his departure, and which he felt it unfitting to resume. Thus, to the surprise of none who had come to know Ragnar well, his uncle soon succumbed; whether to poison or to the bite of Ragnar's sword Neckbiter, remained obscure. Suffice to say that Ragnar swiftly ascended the throne of Mercia, his cousins disappeared, and the newly crowned Ragnar started to look around for fresh fields to conquer.
His initial and freely expressed desire to take over his neighbours to north and south had met strong discouragement from Berlin, where they did not wish for trouble behind their backs whilst engaged in the great struggle against Islam, and neither had they any intention of allowing the over ambitious Ragnar, whom they knew well, to gobble up what had been Britain and become a threat to the Empire itself. He had been made aware that his function was to supply a flow of recruits for the auxiliary forces of the Empire, and to encourage the assimilation of his people into its German economy and culture. The Empire did not wish to divert the forces which would be necessary to crush him and stamp his country into mud - but if he was obstinate, that was what would happen. Ragnar fully believed this, so thereafter he had curbed his ambitions and his tongue, whilst continuing to brood over projects for the eventual extension of his rule.York was on too good terms with the Empire for him to dare to meddle with it, at least for the moment. That left Wessex, which was weaker, as yet more independent of the Empire, and which was developing in strange ways. Best of all, it was ruled by a man whom Ragnar despised, and whose head he would love to sever from his neck. Harold, so far as Ragnar could see, was a mystical milksop, who had never led warriors or even killed a man. His army was as weak as it's king, whose rule was a disgrace to the notion of kingship.His country would be far better run when Ragnar absorbed it into Mercia. Slowly he began to persuade his German contacts that it would be in Imperial interests if he were able to take over Wessex and reorganise it to make it more compliant to Imperial requirements should some swift and unfortunate fate befall Harold, and slowly their opposition lessened.
On Imperial Service
His Excellency Dieter von Born enjoyed life. He enjoyed being the ambassador from His Imperial Majesty Wilhelm IV of the Second Holy Roman Empire of the German People to the court of His Majesty Harold III King of Wessex. He enjoyed living in Wessex. This morning he derived particular enjoyment from sitting in the beautiful garden of the German embassy outside the capital, Winchester. As he sat in the sun admiring the flowers and foliage, listening to the song of the birds and the buzzing of the bees, sipping a glass of his favourite white wine from his Rhenish homeland, he glanced at the plans for his next dinner party to entertain those who were prominent in local social and economic circles. He enjoyed being the only permanent ambassador to Wessex - a measure of the preponderance of power and prestige of the German Empire in the affairs of the world of the present day, and he enjoyed the process of acquiring influence in the affairs of Wessex, just as he would enjoy making use of that influence to encourage change in directions favoured by those who ran the Empire, amongst which illustrious company he claimed a modest place.
As he relaxed in comfort he let his mind drift over the current state of the world and some of the history which had brought them to this point. He was happy that the German Empire -its full title was too cumbersome for even its officials to use on other than official occasions - was the strongest power in the world.Its double eagle might be said to soar over all the others. This was literally true since it was painted on the sides of the great airships which only the German Empire commanded. The golden images within circles of black on the white fabric were very striking and most impressive as they floated almost silently in the skies over Europe. Yes, there was another empire, that of the Russians, which also claimed the double eagle as its emblem, but although mighty, they were less so than the German Empire, and as yet had no airships. Curiously, the third empire also had a somewhat similar emblem. That was the Phoenix Empire of China. Happily all three were much in agreement, even alliance, with lucrative trade between them, linked by the Trans-Siberian Railway; they formed the bulk of the world economy. India and Pakistan had used to be moderately powerful, and extremely populous, but they had had a nuclear exchange and any survivors were probably eating or beating each other to death with bones and stones. A vague thought occurred to him that the eagles had been derived from Rome, and then that there had once been another great power which had used it as its emblem - but the Americans had long ceased to exercise influence in the world. Indeed, it was not clear whether they still existed, and no one cared to find out. It was a 'reverse Columbus' situation he mused. Everyone now knew that America was there, but no one wanted to go there. After all, everyone knew there was no gold there any more, it had all gone to China long before.
Unfortunately, the ointment of world happiness contained a rather large, angry, and aggressive fly. Islam. That brought a worrying thought to mind. He had not heard from his son Pieter for some time. He was an officer serving with the Imperial forces in the Balkans, and Dieter hoped that he was well. The campaign appeared to be progressing successfully, according to both his own sources in the High Command and the official propaganda, but casualties could be heavy. Fortunately superior German skill at arms, organisation, discipline, and technology ensured that most of them were borne by the Turks, Arabs, Albanians and assorted Islamic riff-raff who opposed them. Still, it was a worry. It brought his reverie however to one of the objectives of his embassy, to obtain more recruits to supplement the auxiliary forces of the Empire. Wessex, and the rest of Europe had their own bloody and unhappy history of Islamic aggression. They were one of the three kingdoms, named after ancient precursors , which had emerged on the island which had been Britain, from the bloodshed and chaos after the Old Times ended. Now that after so much struggle the island had overcome Islam on its own territory and had achieved some stability, the three kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and York were willing to allow recruits to join the Germans in helping to free Europe, and what had been the territory of the Roman Empire so long ago, before it had been overrun by the first outbreak of this curse on humanity. Wessex was the least militarised of these kingdoms, but it did produce some recruits. His task was to produce a lot more.
Wessex was quite a strange place in some ways. Mercia on the other hand was much easier to understand. Their king, Ragnar Redbeard, had served with distinction in leading the British contingent of auxiliaries, most of them from Mercia. His military capacities and ruthless ambition, which had led to him seizing the throne from his uncle, were well known to the German High Command. His country was efficiently administered and produced a good flow of recruits for the German forces and quite a lot of trade and investment opportunities. If he was allowed to take over Wessex, as it was known he wished to do, he would undoubtedly make it more productive, fiscally and economically as well as militarily. Nobody who knew Ragnar believed that his ambition would be sated by the acquisition of Wessex. All believed he would then make a bid to take York and unite England and even the whole of Britain, as a second Aethelstan. This prospect worried the Imperial Court and High Command because he would probably not be content to remain a loyal and reliable vassal-king, and suppressing him would be a considerable nuisance and distraction from the struggle with Islam. Hence the need to encourage the modernisation of Wessex, whether it remained independent or whether Ragnar was allowed to take it, but under some curb. Dieter' assessment of Wessex's political leadership and military forces was that they would have absolutely no chance against Ragnar; but if he could instigate sufficient change in Wessex to make it better able and willing to contribute to Imperial military and economic strength, that might inspire his own superiors to exert sufficient pressure on Ragnar to keep him in his box, before it became necessary to put him into a much smaller box.
Dieter liked the people of Wessex. He found them very 'gemutlich' and 'volkisch'. They were generally cheerful, hard working, honest and friendly.They often sang or whistled as they worked and had a vigorous culture of home made art, folk music and tale telling.They admired the Germans, in a distant way, for their successful leadership in the great fight against Islam, even though few were so dissatisfied with their own lives as to be willing to go abroad to join this historic struggle.He knew that they would be far less happy under the iron rule of Ragnar or someone like him, but sadly, Imperial omelettes could only be made by breaking heads as if they were eggs.
One of the oddities about Wessex was how lush it was and how healthy and well fed its people were, despite their lack of large scale farming and chemical fertilizers and weed killers. Plants, insects and animals seemed to thrive. He had never seen so many beautiful flowers, or so many buzzing insects and singing birds. Gardening was a passion with the local people, both to grow food and to produce flowers, and to compete with their neighbours and other villages in local contests. Anyone who took a walk or a ride in the countryside was equally struck by its beauty and the busy cheerful proliferation of nature in hedgerows along the roads and around the small fields. There were many trees and bushes and no areas of clear-cut monotonous monoculture.
Dieter thought that he and his assistant Heini Schultz had built up a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of local capabilities than the King and his Court probably possessed. In part this was because of their observation and enquiries into the economy and society of Wessex. In part it was because of what Dieter jocularly called his 'Domesday Book', derived from aerial photographs of the whole country, made from the airships as they had passed back and forth and had taken him, and the Wessex notables, even the King, on goodwill visits around the land, to show if not the flag, then certainly the Double Eagle to the admiring gaze of the local people.
Wessex had no oil of course, no electricity was generated, they imported a little coal and iron from York or Europe, but had few if any steam engines. They mined no minerals apart from a little lead. They didn't even make much use of iron, except for the most crucial parts of machines and implements. He'd even been proudly shown a wooden printing press with movable lead type with which Gutenberg himself would have felt at home! Their ploughs and spades were wooden with iron cutting edges added. They had lots of windmills and watermills, mainly for grinding corn and fulling cloth. They made colourful stained glass for lovely windows, whose small panes were held together by lead. It was almost a wooden world where carpenters and their derivatives such as cartwrights, millwrights, wheelwrights and shipwrights were common occupations and common names. Their buildings were mainly stone and wood.They had flourishing traditions of architecture and carving in wood and stone. Brick was an expensive and swanky building material. Their ancestors had not needed steel reinforcing bars or concrete or powered cranes or elevators to build the medieval cathedrals - which still stood, all the more gloriously for again being the tallest buildings around,- and they had no need for such things, nor any intention of building skyscraper temples to commerce or bureaucracy.
Their roads were terrible, muddy rutted tracks - apart from a few which seemed to have been made and maintained in imitation of the ancient Romans. Plants and animals throve astonishingly and the people were sturdy and healthy. There were of course no big cities, but many villages and market towns. Sheep were again an important part of their economy, as they had they had been in the middle ages, the green hills were dotted with them and their fleeces enabled widespread local manufacture of woolen cloth and an export trade in wool and cloth, carried by trains of pack animals to the coast and then to the continent in their small but numerous fishing boats. They produced excellent rugs, tapestries and embroideries - some almost up to the amazing standards of the medieval Opus Anglicanum, those richly decorated ecclesiastical vestments so prized by the Church. Dieter had every expectation that the introduction of silken and silver-gilt thread, brought by rail all the way across the world from China, would enable them to produce fabulous fabrics which would be sold very profitably to both Church and Court in the Empire, and indeed in all three empires. He had obtained samples for experimentation by some of the manufacturers, and he intended to participate in the eventual profits.
Militarily they were not up to much. They could make black-powder, but had only a few antiquated muskets and fowling pieces. Archery was popular, although they were hardly up for a repetition of Agincourt or Towton. A hardy people, devoted to rural pursuits including hunting, wrestling, and horse racing, many of them would make excellent light troops, especially if a bit of German discipline overcame their vague and tardy attitude to time. Few, even of the affluent, possessed clocks or watches. Sundials and stomach rumbles seemed their main guides to time - they found punctuality a foreign notion.
Dieter estimated that the population did not exceed one million. He thought that a considerably greater population could be sustained, perhaps another million, at a lower standard of living, and supporting a much stronger state. "I ask you Heini," he had said in amused amazement to his assistant as they had pored over their evaluations and assessments prior to summarising them for his despatches to Berlin, "what can you do with a people who think that ten percent of their income is more than enough to maintain a Royal Court and an efficient state! Their so-called army is little more than a palace guard." "Their king is also a little strange, don't you think, mein herr?" had asked Heini."Strange?" repeated Dieter. "He seems to be some sort of trance medium who bases his decisions on messages from the dead! I'm embarrassed to even tell Berlin in case they ask me for the news from Fairyland. I tell you Heini, with a king who's away with the fairies most of the time, I'm surprised Wessex still survives. If somebody pretty heavy in Berlin doesn't stand hard on Ragnar's toes, he'll be here in a flash."
Heini had paused in his work and asked another question. "That's something else which seems strange, doesn't it sir? What's happened to Christianity on this island? Why is it that here in the south we hardly meet any Christians. In Mercia their king thinks he's a Viking and promotes Odinism, without any obvious Christian resistance.They're not persecuted or anything, just rare somehow. Most of the people seem more devoted to a vague sort of ancestor worship combined with enthusiasm for popular seasonal festivals. There's a few mystics or druids or something, but very few people and activities which we would regard as religious. Why is that?" Dieter scowled. "Thank God the place is no longer infested with mosques! Maybe freeing themselves from the Muslims gave them more than enough of religious fanaticism. Anyway, it seems Christianity wasn't much help to them when they needed it. After the destruction of Rome and the relocation of the Papacy to Koln, our ancestors got a succession of crusader Popes who put fire in their bellies and turned them into Christian soldiers able to withstand and repulse the Muslim assaults without wasting time and effort squabbling with other varieties of Christian. Here I think the Church was too busy buggering around to do anything serious to defend itself or the country before the Muslims nearly killed them." "That could be it, sir" said Heini."It's strange to think that missionaries from the north of England did so much to bring Christianity to Germany. Will we now have to return the favour?" Dieter had pulled a face."That's not currently Imperial policy.We need to concentrate on the Muslims. That means we need to get more soldiers and more supplies from this island. We don't need to stir up any more religious trouble here, that wouldn't help. I've got a better idea."
Dieter awoke from his reverie with a start. It was time to do some more work on his 'better idea' - a railway.
We are Wessex
King Harold had had a busy morning, up since well before dawn, to take leading parts in a variety of ceremonies and initiations into several orders. It was approaching noon as his procession came into the great circle of stones at Avebury and he took his place seated in the niche within one of the major stones and flanked by the Archmage and Dame Sally standing on either side of him. In silence the King leaned back, closed his eyes, relaxed and let his consciousness merge with the stone which served as a portal through the circle and the sacred landscape to the consciousness of the Land.
In silence all waited. His officials and mages gathered in a circle closest to him. Beyond them were circles of diminishing status to the common people circling the outside of the ring of stones gathered appropriately in their own circles. As the sun reached its zenith a slight gargling noise came from the King's mouth. Immediately the Archmage, standing beside him blew a long blast on a horn.
"We are Wessex.Rejoice!" It was a loud proclamation through the mouth of the King, not his usual voice, the Land speaking through the King, or the King speaking as the Land. Taking the King's hands and each other's, the Archmage and the Lady of Avebury repeated "We are Wessex. Rejoice!" Then,leaving the King to commune with the spirits of his dead precursors and of the Land, they turned to join the first circle.
The waiting orchestra of musicians began to play a courtly dance tune as the circle of dignitaries began to perform a circle dance, holding hands and singing 'We are Wessex. Rejoice!' Turning outwards after circling the King, they dropped hands and moved to join the second circle, starting them also dancing and singing. So the music and the message spread, rippling outwards from circle to circle. Beyond the stones, as the movement and the words spread outwards through the throng, it broke up into smaller local circles with a variety of tunes and dances being performed with the aid of their own musicians, but always retaining the words of the Land and of the King, 'We are Wessex. Rejoice!'
There was a fat jolly man with shrewd eyes above his cheerful smile and ready greetings who seemed to take considerable interest and enjoyment in the proceedings, moving easily through the gathering, leaving a good impression behind him, facilitated by his memory for names, faces and the circumstances of previous meetings and details of the lives, families and concerns of the people he greeted and who were happy to greet him. This was not quite a politician in search of votes - such creatures were extinct, although obviously capable of revival. This was His Imperial Majesty's ambassador to the Kingdom of Wessex, His Excellency Dieter von Born. His Excellency, or 'Dieter' as he generally insisted in being called in the informal circumstances which he contrived and preferred, had a prodigious appetite for information, as well as for 'wine, women and song'. He made it his business as well as his pleasure to be as well informed as possible of the state of affairs in the kingdom. He certainly had a more complete and accurate picture of the numerical facts and physical capacities of the kingdom than had any of the officials of the king, and he had a very good sense of the currents of ideas and feelings and of the relations among the powerful. This, he considered, made him a very good adviser to both the Emperor and the King.
Himself a nominal Catholic, a follower of His Holiness Karl II who was happily ensconced in the Papal Palace of Koln and enjoying a cosily caesaropapal relationship with his Imperial Majesty Wilhelm IV, Dieter had been surprised to find that Germanic paganism was now much more influential in Wessex than it was in Germany. Instead of shrilly demanding crusades and conversions, missionaries and an army of occupation and extirpation, Dieter had quietly proceeded to promote interest in German kultur and history. This was actually a lot cheaper and more effective in fostering good relations, Germanophilia and gradual assimilation to the Empire. It had helped that Wilhelm was personally no more interested in religion or matters spiritual than was his ambassador, and his government were fully occupied with war against the Moslems, and the administration of conquered territories, in which they welcomed the co-operation of the remaining weak European states. Dieter and his government had been far more interested in encouraging technical and economic development, trade, education and the avoidance of distracting conflict between the three English kingdoms, Wessex, Mercia and Yorkshire. They had been pleased to secure the support of a British Division, consisting of brigades from each of the kingdoms. This had owed much to the knowledge and diplomacy of Dieter and his colleagues in the other kingdoms. Old Romans would have recognised a client kingdom. Old India hands of the British
Raj would have recognised an effective Resident in a Princely State. Shocked natives might later come to recognise just how complete could be the ascendency exercised over their rulers and their succession by the imperial power.
Dieter was again enjoying himself. Once more he was the centre of attention of an admiring throng as he hosted yet another party for the affluent and prominent in Wessex. A stranger might have been forgiven for wondering who was this affable, voluble, sociable, charming and well connected figure who seemed to be at the centre of society. If he was not himself the King, why did he behave as if he was, and where was the real King? Those were questions which had also occurred to people who knew perfectly well who he was. Here he was again, holding forth to a bibulous throng of holiday-making merchants, rich farmers and tradesmen on his favourite topic of the wealth they could all expect to make from closer ties to Europe. They'd need a railway to carry it and a bank to store it, it seemed. The holidaymakers and their families were impressed by this distinguished foreign visitor who was such a friend of Wessex, and happy to be noticed by him and to have him ply them with food and drink.
Sir Peter Conyers, friend and advisor to the King saw all this and he was much less happy about it. When Dieter and Sir Peter looked at each other, neither liked what he saw. Dieter saw a lean and hard-faced man with quick eyes, who had 'Security Service' written all over him. Sir Peter saw, if not a man-who-would-be-king, at least a would-be kingmaker.
Dieter had found that amongst the most appreciated treats which he could offer his guests was a simple cup of tea. Long ago this semi-legendary beverage had been the favoured drink of the masses, crassly adulterated with milk (and sugar, whatever that was.) Now it was a rare luxury brought by rail across the whole world from the mysterious land of the rising phoenix, to delight the vanity of the rich and the palates of snobbish connoisseurs, rather like rare but non-alcoholic wines. Dieter had been amused to discuss the tea trade with some of his guests. They had such romantic ideas for re-creating the era of the tea-clippers and tall ships racing each other to be first home from Shanghai to the English Channel seeking premium prices for the first cargoes to land! Gently he pointed out to them that the economics of transcontinental rail transport prohibited any such notions. Never mind, it just went to show the value and importance of having a railway, didn't it? Not that Wessex was short of food or drink. Quite the contrary. Dieter would die before he admitted a preference for any beverage before his beloved Rhineland wines, but he had to confess a growing fondness for the mead and even the cider of Wessex. Their abundance of orchards, flowers, bees and honey meant that here were a couple of potentially lucrative exports which could sell very well in Europe. The local beers however, were more of an acquired taste, and one moreover not likely to be acquired by a German.
The language of work, culture and bureaucracy in the German Empire was, of course, German. It was therefore necessary for those who needed to have dealings, official, military, economic or cultural with the Empire to learn to speak and write good German. One of His Excellency's concerns therefore to speed and smooth the absorption and acculturation of Wessex into the Empire, was to spread the understanding of the German language in Wessex. He had come equipped with textbooks and dictionaries and had hoped to make some progress in making things German sufficiently fashionable among the upper classes to encourage those youths of the commercial, mechanical and junior officer classes who might benefit from it, to make the effort to actually learn it. The success of his efforts was quite beyond his expectations and thoroughly delighted him. His assistants held evening classes (lit by Wessex beeswax candles), and handed out textbooks to those who were willing to learn, and Dieter himself engaged the more advanced students in conversation. He had reported his success to Berlin in fulsome terms and requested more books and more teachers, and had even suggested that as Wessex was making such promising progress in preparing to take its assigned place in the Empire it would be helpful if the Empire had more facilities for teaching, not just German, but also English! Some of his students would surely qualify for such positions and the Empire could make use of them as translators and teachers.
Heini and he had discussed something about the students which had puzzled them."They're a lot brighter than I expected, Heini," said Dieter. "They're not what I expected of farm boys and shop assistants, fairground entertainers or mercenary soldiers. If they had any academies here, I'd suspect some of them of being academics." He laughed. Heini frowned. "It's strange sir," he said. "I overheard some of them talking about something they called 'water revitalisation' with reference to German names like Steiner and Schauberger and Grander. It didn't make sense to me and it's certainly not the sort of thing one would expect to be discussed by the sort of people you mention." "Did you question them? What did they say?" "They were reluctant to say anything, until one of them explained that they were just names from some piece of Old Time fiction which had somehow survived the winnowing of time - but they couldn't show me a copy of it or even name it." "What does Berlin say?" Dieter asked suspiciously. Heini paused. "That's also strange sir" he said. "At first they couldn't place them, but eventually they found them to have been obscure cranks with weird ideas about things as commonplace as water. Not what you'd expect either farm boys or academics to discuss." Dieter thought for a while. Then he said, "They sound like friends of that beardy-weirdy who calls himself an 'Archmage'... and he's very friendly with Sir Peter." After a longer pause he added,"Old Time fiction indeed. At least we can make sure that when they get to Germany they can understand and answer the questions of the Geheime Staatspolizei in good German, and even say 'Jawohl mein herr, danke schoen' if asked to join."
King of the Birds
'Wren' or Robin Blackmore, was the King's Falconer, his 'King of the Birds'. (According to ancient lore the tiny wren had become King of the Birds by stowing away on the eagle's back until it had flown as high as it could, before itself flying higher.) When they hunted, it was sometimes more than sparrows and pigeons which were their prey. Robin was a quiet unobtrusive man in greying middle age who attracted little attention, even though he was one who had the ear of the King. A solitary taciturn man, he seemed to prefer the company of his avian charges to that of other people. Although few but the King and the Archmage knew it, he had spent many years training in Ireland with their druidical bird-men who could perform astral-traveling or out-of-body experiences and travel in vision wherever they wished. They could also identify with an actual bird and experience the world through it's senses. To see the earth from far above was a very different thing from walking or riding over it, and it gave views such as those of the White Horse of Uffington or much more spectacularly,the Nazca outlines of South America, which could not be appreciated at ground level. He often soared with his falcons and other birds, and saw and heard much that was unexpected, some of which he reported to the King.
It had been mildly interesting for 'Wren' to note the network of people who met with Count Dieter and his servants, and who met with whom when they went for walks or rides. People who behaved as if walls had ears spoke more freely when they met as if by chance in the countryside and knew that no human had followed them and no one was watching them. Most of these conversations were in English. It would be interesting to know what the ambassador and his senior staff discussed in their own language, seated in the privacy of his garden. His Excellency's laudable efforts to promote cultural understanding, including organising classes in the German language, might prove beneficial to a certain wren in the foliage of his garden, and oh to be a fly on the wall of his study when he was writing reports or reading despatches from home!
The Wessex Rail Way
So, the German ambassador and many of his backers and supporters, men of wealth and power in both Wessex and the Empire, wanted to 'open Wessex to development' by promoting a railway. Initially that idea had not been received well by the King and his advisers. They considered that 'the men of wealth and power in both Wessex and the Empire' might be getting a bit above themselves - 'tall poppies' who had developed rather too much wealth and power in their own hands, and whose further acquisitions and developments would probably not develop in the best interests of the Land and its people. Naturally it would not have been diplomatic to have bluntly told His Excellency so, but the lack of enthusiasm from those whose permission and support were required had given him a sufficient response.The failure of, not always subtle, attempts by His Excellency and his new found friends to change the attitudes of crucial people by dangling carrots of self interest before their eyes had not dissuaded them. Instead it had set them with cold determination upon the course of what had once been known as 'regime change'. Even then, that had been an old story. Subverting the political institutions of a country, suborning people who were, or who hoped to be, in positions of power, spreading discontent with the old and exaggerated hope in the new were not newly devised diplomatic activities.
Thus mused Sir Peter Conyers, friend and adviser to the King on more matters than most people were aware. He stood on the hill of Uffington, listening to the birds singing above and the breeze ruffling the grass at his feet as he gazed across the tranquil farmland below him. "That wasn't all", he said to his companion, Archmage Arthur Brown. "The basic idea of a railway to carry goods more cheaply and expeditiously to market and to speed travel was quite attractive, especially to the merchants who expected to benefit thereby. After all that had been the idea when railways had first been developed so long ago - and on this island! We don't really need the Germans to take our ancestors' ideas and sell them back to us, do we?" "Of course not", said the Archmage, "But you're now saying that there's
more to it?"
"Oh yes, Dieter's pretty shrewd, his fingers are in many pies and he hopes to pull more than one plum from this one." Sir Peter glanced at the Archmage and said, "my sources and my own inquiries tell me that the merchant community accepts that the railway would be feasible and profitable. They're naturally in favour of it. Those who won't make much use of it for their own businesses see it as an opportunity to make a nice investment. Seeing the Archmage purse his lips in distaste, Sir Peter hastily added, "No, not a revival of those 'get-rich-quick', 'pump-and-dump' paper scams from the past. They think this will be a profitable, useful, long term business, something whose value will increase over time and whose shares will be worth inheriting and passing on to one's descendants." "Not a South Seas Bubble, more like the East India Company, in a small way - but with us as the Indians" he added wryly. The Archmage shrugged. He was not concerned or impressed by commercial considerations. Sir Peter continued,"So far so good for those involved; and make no mistake, Dieter and his pals will be up to their elbows in it. Already they're making loans and buying into businesses which they expect to benefit - and taking the chance to spread the word that Wessex needs to become more Progressive, to move with the times and not let antique traditions stand in the way of making a profit."
Now concerned, and grim-faced as he looked at Sir Peter, the Archmage said, "No doubt they'd like to buy up some strategically placed land which will appreciate in value - and you did say 'will' in relation to this project, didn't you Peter? - if only they knew the route in advance." Then both men smiled.
"Now it starts to get more interesting", said Sir Peter. "I happen to know that Dieter has very good connections with the bankers of Frankfurt. They're no more than mildly interested in the prosperity of wool growers in Wessex or the tapestry weavers of Flanders, the Ruhr's increased sales of iron rails or the prospects for shipping coal to Wessex from York or Poland. No, what really interests them is the juicy prospect of issuing, underwriting and trading in large loans to governments and companies, and in extending to more moderately wealthy persons the prospects of speculating in rigged stock markets."
The Archmage stared at him. "So, it's back to Boudicca," he said. "Updated of course, but reminiscent of how Seneca and the rich of the first Roman Empire, pressed loans upon the unwary Ancient Britons, and then demanded immediate repayment once they'd squandered the money. We know what happened after that; a lost legion, three Roman cities burnt, and then no more Iceni." "No more Druids either," added Sir Peter. "That's when the King got seriously involved; it's a direct challenge to the Sovereignty of Wessex." "We were both there", said his friend, "when the Land responded through the King,'Go to the Horse, learn wisdom at it's mouth. Consult the Dragon.'"
That was what had brought them, riding the old Ridgeway along the top of the Downs, first to the village of Uffington to meet the Guardian and his coven of Horsewhisperers and then to this hill which for so long had borne the sinuously elongated and disjointed image cut through the turf and into the chalk, long known as the White Horse of Uffington. They had sat for a couple of days with the Guardian, George Jenkins, and his circle at the Horse's mouth in deep meditation to contact the genius loci and learn what they could. Then they had gone to the strange flat topped hill beneath the Horse, known as Dragon's Hill, and had done the same. They had shared and discussed the images and intuitions they and the Guardian's Circle had had. Now they knew what to do.
"It'll be a major project" said Sir Peter thoughtfully. "The Land has accepted it, and that's the main thing," replied the Archmage. "Dieter will eventually get his railway, one way or another, from Dover to Bristol via Winchester, if he and his backers keep pushing, keep intriguing and keep paying. We expected that," said Sir Peter."It's better this way. The country won't be torn apart, the Land disregarded and degraded again. It'll still take time and a lot of effort to make the preparations, and the railway enthusiasts will have to keep encountering and appearing to overcome obstacles and resistance until they think they've won, without needing a coup d'etat." "They'll get their railway," said the Archmage,"but they won't know and won't care about the Rail Way."
"I like the idea of engines looking like dragons' heads, snorting steam and flame, and pulling wagons and carriages like the body of a dragon or wyrm. An Iron Wyrm. There could be a red one and a yellow one, a green one, a black one or a blue one," remarked Sir Peter dreamily. "Perhaps we could insist on a Royal Golden one. Rail Dragons or Iron Wyrms - whatever we call them, they'll be popular, provided they preserve some romance and don't become merely and drearily utilitarian and commonplace."
"Yes," said the Archmage, "they can be colourful, useful, profitable and popular. Best of all, with the Rail Way they can avoid the socially subversive effects that would otherwise be the case, and actually help to strengthen the People and the Land." "You know Peter" he continued," a way of life used to be regarded as a spiritual path. Each craft could make it's tools and operations into symbols and meditations. The Japanese even had a Way of the Warrior. In Europe we had Freemasons and Cathedral builders as well as Chivalry. The founder of Christianity and his earthly father were supposedly carpenters. That was before the curse of materialistic modernity blighted the spiritual connection between people and their work. Now that's over we can have a Rail Way for those who use and those who work on the railway.Even better, the Land will contribute to its effectiveness."
"I've read that the early railway workers were proud of their jobs and their railways" said Sir Peter."They liked to keep their stations and workplaces and trains clean and properly looked after and tolerated no mess or misbehaviour around the railway, even from the public. Later as the moral quality of the populace declined and governments increasingly interfered in railways and all other aspects of life, everything became dirty and squalid and inefficient. It would be good if we can restore a better way of life." "It's more than that Peter," said the Archmage. "You saw and experienced the vision of the White Horse shimmering and quivering with movement, and felt it expand to cover the whole Land of Wessex. We all saw it filled with a tracery of lines of golden light appearing as fire at its feet and nostrils. That's an image of the energy-body of the Land, its life force and fire of consciousness. Remember that we saw the little dragons moving over it and strengthening the links between the parts? That shows that the Land is willing to help the Rail Way and its Iron Wyrms and those who ride in them, and that in turn their live force and movement can strengthen the flows within the Land and the connections between them."
"Yes" murmured Sir Peter. "Its the Grail Question 'Whom Serves the Grail?',isn't it? The Grail serves those who serve the Grail, and the Land helps those who help the Land, for the King and the Land are One." He laughed and said "As to Dieter and his enthusiasts, if I may misquote Milton,'They also serve who only agitate'. Without them this wouldn't be happening."
"Of course, Peter. Now the exciting thing is that with the co-operation of the Land, every rail journey can be an initiation. Wessex people already accept the dragon or wyvern as a symbol of their identity, and will be happy to board it and remain in a comfortable relaxed state as they journey through their landscape, their history - and their souls. The Land will re-arrange its energy currents a bit so one will enclose the route of the railway. Our dowsers will check that and you and I will then plan the actual route. Greedy people may hear rumours and buy in the wrong places." They both laughed."As I was saying, Peter, with the co-operation of the Land, I and some of my mages or druids will be able to summon dragon spirits and have them take the passengers into their consciousness. Iron Wyrms indeed! They'll be able to induce dreams, visions, feelings of joy or terror, nightmares or hallucinations in the minds of those appropriately prepared." Sir Peter interrupted. "Especially those who've 'quaffed the soma bright and are immortal grown' or whose 'railway tea' contains the kykeion or an infusion of magic mushrooms! The herbalists and Green Ladies should be able to advise on that." The Archmage nodded thoughtfully. "I'll speak to Sally about that."
Sir Peter said slowly, "It may not be desirable for every Tom, Dieter and Harry to delve too deeply into all the Mysteries of Wessex, and it may not be good for them. We wouldn't want their corpses to contain any evidence of what might be regarded as poison, or to show any sign of violence."
The Archmage looked slightly startled before he said, "The dragons may be a bit rough. They've Wessex of course, so foreigners will not be attuned to them. People in whom they detect ill intent towards Wessex will receive a very rough time, but it will be mental rather than physical torment." Sir Peter nodded. "A few heart attacks or cases of sudden insanity in people who were up to no good will just serve to maintain awe and respect for the Iron Wyrms of Wessex." He added "The public can be advised that they travel at their own risk. Railway travel may not suit everyone, but most people will find it interesting and enjoyable. That'll be true. I hope we can have the dragons exert a bit of emotional pressure at the railway stations, scanning passengers and idlers, frightening off those who should not be there, welcoming those who should, and putting the fear of fiery dragon's breath into layabouts or potential criminals."
Satisfied with the progress of their work, the two men mounted their horses and began their ride back to report to the King.
Only about ten miles from Uffington lay the village of Lambourn in a valley nestling into the Berkshire Downs. As might be expected from its proximity to the White Horse, this area had been famous for horse rearing for a very long time. In the Old Times it had been the centre of the British horse racing industry and the Royal horse herd were still stabled there. The 'sport of kings' continued, even if there was less money and fewer kings involved, and other people also had stables in the area where racehorses continued to be bred and trained. Nowadays however, horses were raised for more mundane purposes than racing. Unless and until a railway was built they remained the fastest and most convenient means of transport for anyone who was not obliged through poverty or circumstance to rely on 'Shanks' Pony'. Anyone with an interest in horseflesh might therefore be expected to be seen in the vicinity of Lambourn, so it attracted no special interest if Sir Peter or the Archmage were seen in the area.
On some of those occasions when one or other of them might be seen there, their interest was not in the purchase of a new horse or in the racing prospects of some favouirite, or even in reviewing the business arrangements by which the Royal herd was managed and the profits made from sales of its horses. Sometimes when they stopped in passing to greet and gossip with John Daly, one of the trainers, more than business and racing prospects were discussed. Somewhat as 'Wren' was 'King of the Birds', Daly was a 'Horseman'. He had the gift of understanding horses and quietly but firmly getting them to do what he wanted. Now, under the tutelege of the Archmage, he was developing the skill of identification with a horse and experiencing its perceptions. So were some of his apprentices, who were now on detached service in Winchester, where they were eager participants in Dieter's German
Sir Peter smiled happily when he thought about it. Wessex horses were well regarded. Closer involvement with the Empire would certainly lead to an expanded and more profitable trade in them. Some of the best would be suitable diplomatic gifts to Exalted Personages. Others would be bought by influential people. These people would go riding on horseback or in horse drawn carriages. They would meet and speak in German with other influential people about important matters, in the quiet confidence that no human could overhear them. Sir Peter laughed so much his horse wondered what had happened to him.
Cultivation in Kent
Long before, Kent had been known as the Garden of England. It was still a beautiful and highly cultivated part of Wessex. Although the road from Winchester to Dover ran through it and Dieter's messages, baggage and servants not worthy of the occasional airships used that road, he could be excused for for not appreciating the importance of some of its features. His aerial photographs had certainly identified all the old castles and stately homes and had shown the gardens and farms surrounding those that were still in use, but assessments of their current and optimal agricultural and fiscal yields, however shrewd, missed the fact that culture was itself their primary activity and that the main crops or products cultivated there were cultural.
Dieter was perfectly correct in noting that Wessex lacked academies or universities and a vast system of stultifying public education and official culture maintained at even more vast public expense. Education and culture were however thriving. There was no mass media to dull their minds so people happily cultivated their memories and their artistic and intellectual inclinations. Many of the peasantry had no need for book learning beyond the book of nature, although basic literacy and numeracy were needed in the urban trades. Individual or groups of families or sometimes local authorities paid itinerant schoolmasters to provide these needs. There was a mobile population of entertainers, rogues, singers, musicians, poets, teachers, philosophers, healers, diviners, preachers, priests, druids, mages, pilgrims, portrait painters, playwrights with companies of strolling players and sundry travellers who enlivened each others journeys and the lives of local people. There was no such thing as 'tenure' for such people. 'Peer review' meant lively public criticism from competitors for pennies from the purses of the public. Fame, or the need to keep in search of her, was a harsh but occasionally rewarding mistress, as it could lead to a temporary billet at the royal court or hospitality from wealthy households. The great houses throughout the country had once before been and now again become such places where talkers and thinkers, artists and performers could meet each other and influential people. These great houses were also libraries, maintaining copies of the literature that had survived and printing and selling further copies. Not surprisingly the influence of nature mystics, druids and Green Ladies was strong in such places. Sissinghurst had again become famous for the beauty of its flower gardens, and was now a training centre for Green Ladies in both the horticultural and psychic aspects of their art. This was not an environment in which old fashioned science and hard shelled rationalism flourished.
In Chaucer's time Canterbury cathedral had been the great destination for pilgrims traveling into Kent. It was still there, but not so many of the present day pilgrims headed there as to the remaining great houses, chief among them the moated castle and restored historic and architectural and horticultural jewel that was Hever Castle, which so long ago had been the girlhood home of Anne Boleyn.
Jason Wetherby, Master and Librarian of Hever Castle, had been requested by the King to search his books and to hold a series of discussions with invited guests and intellectual luminaries to come up with ideas which could help Wessex in it's dealings with the Empire and its neighbour Mercia. The discussants did not allow themselves to be confined to a precise agenda and happily strolled the rooms and grounds discussing and arguing about whatever took their fancy.
They had been discussing the history of science. "Eeee equals emmcee squared, that is science so I've heard. Hubble-bubble, toil and trouble, drink it all and you'll see double!" sang one of the party, scornfully expressing the popular view of science. "That's like the barbarous words of power in the old grimoires" said a budding mage. "No one knew what they meant, but it was important to repeat them exactly. Maybe they were garbled names of old gods or demons. Maybe it was just the precise sound which was important." "Hmm, perhaps it's a spell to evoke Saint Einstein, patron saint of science, to visible appearance, so he can grant a wish" said another optimist. One thing they could agree on. Bacon was no longer kosher. The Baconian Revolution had gone into reverse. Dame Sally had stopped by after a visit to Sissinghurst to tell them of developments and to fine-tune communication with the nature spirits around Hever. "The project to 'interrogate Nature with power' was over and had always been sinister and misguided," said Jason."Attempting to torture Nature or subject her to legalistic cross examination to force her to yield information which would be of practical benefit to humanity was always amazingly arrogant," he continued."It's not surprizing that in this attempt the followers of Bacon turned themselves into Circean swine. Nomen est Omen." "Well, he was Viscount St.Albans, which is in Mercia" said another wit drily. "Enough said."
"Oh, what vile monsters!" exclaimed Mary Brown, a Green-Lady-in-training who was accompanying Dame Sally. "I wonder why Nature tolerated those scientists at all? They must have been completely evil. It's no surprize they got the world into such a mess. It's amazing that Nature let them get away with so much greedy, cruel and hateful arrogance without sinking the whole world like Atlantis." "Oh," said Jason, "I think Nature and the Earth are rather tougher than we think, and may have gone through things a lot worse than our ancestors' mad scientists could inflict. Also, there's wider considerations than the whims and demands of childish humanity. Dame Nature has other offspring to look after as well." "All the same," said another thoughtfully,"they appear to have been almost willfully blind. It's hard to credit that intelligent men could believe that nature was inanimate, insensate, unconscious and consisted only of dead matter, despite having the facts of their own existence before them - and the spiritual traditions of their past. It looks as if a combination of a narrow religious over-emphasis on dominating nature, with corrosive atheism and scepticism, overcame their humanity and left them shells inhabited by demons."
"Alas," sighed a student of history,"we seem to be the ones who are out of step with most of the rest of the world, both of the past and the present. If things go too far wrong in the not so distant future, and the Empire unleashes the Church here again, we'll probably all be destroyed by a combination of Imperial power, narrow religion and atheist-materialist scientists. We don't want to go the way of the Cathars." "True investigators of Nature get better results by treating her or it with some respect and even affection for her innumerable manifestations and capability for variation. The old American plant breeder Burbank found that helpful in developing adaptations of about eight hundred plants, without the later scientific abominations such as gene splicing and genetic modification," said another gardener. "The Germans also produced some good people like Goethe and Schauberger, even though they paid more attention to the mad scientists." "I blame that nasty Frenchman, Descartes" exclaimed Mary, "always thinking himself so important." "It does seem," said the student of history, "that things went seriously wrong from the seventeenth century onwards. Once Natural Philosophy gave way to Science everything was misunderstood and perverted. Evil gained great power. It's better to be medieval than evil!"
In Wessex materialistic science (but not gnosis) was widely execrated, and denigrated in comparison with more 'spiritually correct' practices such as alchemy - although that was more practiced and at a higher level in York. In Wessex the way of water predominated, whereas in York the way of fire and of the forge had produced 'technologies' which might surprise even the Germans. From its exalted status in the Old Times when every endeavor wished to shroud itself in the white coat of science, it had by now fallen to the moral status of paedophilia.
"I think there are long term cycles in all sorts of things" said Jason. "It looks as if the Baconian tide has gone or is going out. Nature is the one with power. We are children in her schoolroom, and the lesson she is teaching has changed. She interrogates us by changing our circumstances to see how we respond. 'Fate leads the willing, but compels the unwilling'. If we learn the lesson we can avoid a caning. The previous lesson was about being extrovertedly inquisitive, discovering things for ourselves, thinking we are more grown up and independent than we really are, so we start to develop self reliance, doing experiments and finding uses for the material resources she left in the classroom of the world. Those who refused or were unable to do that, who clung to her skirts without venturing some steps on their own- they died. Those who became too arrogant also died. Death is one of Nature's favourite tools and teaching aids. The new lesson is a reprise and development of a much older lesson that our very remote ancestors encountered. It's about inner investigation of our own natures, finding Nature there and making use of the inner resources she has left there and in the inner natures of other lifeforms - and doing so in a manner which is not narrowly selfish but benefits them also. We all know that the King and the Land are One; now its becoming more than the business of the king alone. We must all participate and make it so."
After lunch they went to look at a section of the library where battered books were under repair, books which people had brought in for donation or sale were assessed, and projects to reprint books which might be vital or sell well were discussed. One of Jason's assistants displayed an old textbook on something calling itself 'mathematics'. "This has been lying around for a long time, taking up space. I wonder if it is worth keeping? I doubt it would be popular and it would certainly be infinitely laborious to print because it would require making so many special characters of type." They leafed through it in puzzlement. "It looks like a lot of chicken-scratchings," said one."I wonder what the chicken found?" "I think it was used to make predictions of things like where to aim an arrow or a musket ball so it would hit a moving target," said the assistant helpfully. They looked at him with incredulity."Any archer or hunter would develop that skill by practice," said a lover of the obvious," else he probably wouldn't survive long." "I think it may also have been used in making things like bridges and big buildings," said the assistant meekly."Why? They're not going anywhere!" they laughed."It doesn't seem to deal with arithmetic or geometry," said another. "That's what's needed for business and building."
"Perhaps they sacrificed a chicken to provide life force for the manifestation of a ghost who could advise them," said someone else,"Isn't that what Aeneas did to confer with the shades of his ancestors? Probably a chicken rather than a bull sufficed for the shade of a lesser figure like Einstein." "Hmm," said a would-be wit well versed in surviving trivia about the Old Times "perhaps they needed a McDonald who was the seventh son of a seventh son to fry the chicken in Kentucky and sleep on a bull's hide in a temple after eating it, seeking a prophetic dream. Or maybe it was like ancient Ireland, and a circle of warriors would eat the pieces and seek an omen. I wonder if they fought over who should get the Champion's Portion? 'Cuchulainn of the Chicken' doesn't sound right however.I wonder which was the Champions Portion? Let's hope it wasn't the Pope's Nose!" "Maybe they sacrificed the chicken in advance and read the omens in its dying scratchings"suggested another."This book may explain how to interpret them, although it's not clear how." "Tacitus tells us the ancient Germans would read omens in the death struggles of a sacrificed man," said the historian. Mention of the Germans sobered them.
"This stuff looks disgusting," said Mary."Didn't they use mathematics to perform their greatest evils, like splitting atoms and making bombs? I wonder if this is a grimoire of evil scientific black magic? If we understood what these horrible looking signs mean and pronounced them correctly, maybe it would cause an atomic explosion!" "Well," said another,"if it's useful for making bombs and explosions, I expect the Germans already know a lot about it."
To keep 'Mathematics' or not? A decision hung in the balance.
"It also seems to deal with the shapes of curves. There may be implications for aesthetics and the study of plants," said the assistant diffidently. They stared at him again. Jason wondered whether he should have been paying closer attention to how this assistant spent his time."Yes," said a gardener,"we know about Fibonacci and how a series of numbers reflects the distribution of leaves and branches. Considering the beauty and variety within limits of plants, perhaps someone might find a way to make mathematics wholesome and useful - if someone else doesn't first use it to destroy the world." The historian stirred again."I'd rather have something from Pythagoras, or Plato, or Iamblichus or even Aristotle, but we know the ancient Greeks were masters of beauty and were interested in plants, and had great respect for what they regarded as mathematics, including curves. Some of them might have been able to make something of this stuff." He spoke again."Back in the seventeenth century there was a dispute between Newton and his German equivalent Leibniz about some mathematical discovery or invention. Perhaps this stuff may be related to it."
Another German connection from the sinister seventeenth century? The group looked troubled and turned to Jason, who pondered for a while before speaking.
"Nature clearly makes use of something like mathematics, but not in a stopping-to-make-calculations-before-acting kind of way. Is this the right sort which might help us to understand and participate in Nature, or merely a shackle imposed on Her? Might this be helpful in later dealings with the Germans? If mathematics is a language or script, what results from it may be the responsibility of those who use it. Perhaps our successors may be able to speak and write poetry and blessings rather than curses. I think we should keep it, set aside until time has cleansed it of Baconian influences and its use may be purified." Handing the book back to his assistant he told him to keep it in repair and set safely aside for access only by students authorised by himself.
So, finely but not finally, may a decision be made. Would the seed of 'mathematics' in Wessex germinate or 'Germanate'? Would it grow into something of use or beauty? That might be interesting to know, but this tale won't tell us.
Archaiology versus Archaeology
Wessex loved its ancient sites. It was a land exceptionally rich in prehistoric and historic sites, many of them combining antiquity and sanctity. Even in the crass vulgarity of the Old Times there had been awed respect for at least the largest and most famous of them, and not entirely because of the revenue expected from tourists.
There had been a most destructive breed of investigators, however,termed 'archaeologists' who had dug up and desecrated many of these sites whilst patting themselves proudly on the back for the enlightened sensitivity with which they preserved and teased knowledge from the decayed and shattered fragments. This 'knowledge' was indeed impressive in its way, but almost entirely trivial, focusing with determination on minute material and temporal details as if to avoid and distract from the far more important investigation of what they were really for, what had been the intentions and achievements of their makers and what relevance they might still have, which these clever academics were usually unable and unwilling to perform, or dog-in-the-manger like, allow others to perform. Their expositions were relentlessly materialistic, implicitly and even explicitly denying room to the spiritual. Their whole orientation was an insult to the Land and an attempted degradation of the souls and spirits of the ancestors, especially the greatest among them.
Even late in the Old Times there had occasionally been people who protested. The vagaries of fate and the chances of preservation of information had brought down to them a story
http://spreadsitswings.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/inverted-tree.html the nub of which was this:
'Archaeology nowadays concentrates on material remnants of the past, almost ignoring what was important to and about the people of the time. Sticking your head into a ditch or dung heap doesn't put you into the best position from which to view or assess society, although it may enable you to write about drains. The very word comes from the Greek for first things or ruling principles. Indeed a couple of centuries ago, when people began to take an interest in how things began and had been different, they were concerned with matters of mind and thought of it as Archai-ology. There was a famous book in the early 19th century called Myvryian Archaiology, about medieval Welsh poetry, because that seemed to contain the first principles that had ruled the soul of the nation. The mentality of the public and more particularly it's intellectual rulers has so far deteriorated that now they're enthralled by ditch diggers with doctorates. Dung replaces divinity in the scale of public importance.'
Need we say it? Wessex would no longer tolerate such people. Now it was all about Archaiology.
Many of these sites and burials had been designed and functioned as portals or contacts between this world and the Otherworld. Many of the corpses dug up had been buried as guardians or means of speaking between the worlds or of maintaining the links between the worlds or the People and their ancestors, heritage and souls. This had been willfully destroyed and it had taken immense and dedicated effort to mend some of the damage and enable this new development of a coherent Land combining the influence of the sites into a network like nerves or blood vessels in a body and bringing conscious participation in both levels to at least a few, even if for most people it remained a strong but vague sense of patriotism and community and love of nature and acceptance of there being 'more things etc.' even if they didn't see them, and a sense of participation in historical community with its own strong identity.
The Archmage had completed a tour of visits to sacred sites and their circles of Guardians. He was strolling in his garden at Winchester, chatting to his friend. "Yes Peter," he was saying,"we're operating at two levels. It's been helpful to have so many sites across the country concentrating on a common identity. The Wyvern of Wessex is now a co-ordinated group mind or entity which identifies itself with the territory and includes all the life upon it as part of its being. Below that there's the much more ancient Otherworld or Underworld, land of the dead and the spirits, symbolised by the whiteness of bone, of the chalkland itself and the old figures cut into it. The banks around the henges were white, as was Silbury Hill and the barrows when kept free of grass, they all gleamed as manifestations of the Otherworld and portals between our world and it.The Irish had something similar, shown by the gleaming white quartz pebbles around the 'hollow hills' of the Tuatha de Danaan at Newgrange and Knowth."
Sir Peter smiled."Both aspects are impressive Arthur," he said,"but it's the former which is of most interest to the living.Just think. How could an army of invasion or occupation survive where the territory itself is hostile? Would the food and the water they consume turn to poison within their bodies? Would the air they breathe produce disease? If there's a living consciousness which can influence or even control all lifeforms and minds within it - we might as well call it a tribal or territorial deity - surely it could reject them and cause death or disease or madness to befall them? Maybe that's why people were impressed by dragons but also afraid of them once they had lost their connection to the Land."
The Archmage looked grim. "I think there's now a sufficiently strong connection between the Land and the People for the Wyvern to act to protect it,if we work to maintain it. Perhaps it may use the ways you suggest Peter."
"I'm pretty sure it will if that's what the King wants," said Sir Peter.
The Archmage nodded."It's like Excommunication," he said. "The medieval Papacy claimed the power to exclude people from any participation in society and to snuff out their hopes after death as well as to expel them from human contact while alive by excommunicating them from the Church. Now it can be even more literal if the Land rejects them."
Later they had gone to the King and discussed the matter with him. He had sought the response of the Land, which had been,'We are Wessex. Those who are not of Wessex, born and bred in blood and bone with accepted ancestral lineage, have no place here except as friendly visitors. They will not be permitted to infiltrate or subvert us. Enemies will be forcefully resisted.Traitors who deny their spiritual heritage will not be allowed to live here. This is not a pound for mongrel dogs. We are Wessex. This is who WE are and what WE do. It was a royally and democratically inclusive WE. We are not West Virginia or Western Samoa - taking alliterative names from ancient maps, without knowing or caring whether people still lived there and accepted those identities any longer. We do not prescribe for them nor do we accept any derogation from our identity by them. A few Christians and other whiners who want to be 'cosmopolitan' or 'universal' can go to another universe or cosmos and do it there, they will not be permitted to pervert Wessex - and Wessex somewhat doubted that they would experience much more 'tolerance' or 'inclusivity' in the Empire once they showed their true colours, let alone anywhere else.' (Such degenerate remnants of the evil past were now pretty universally repugnant across the globe. Fish or fowl were accepted - but not red herrings.) It was quite willing to have trade and travel and friendship with other places and even a bit of grumbling and shoving was not unusual, but everything that was worthwhile had its place and respected its own place and those of others. 'Unless you're a useful Something you have no place in Anything let alone Everything.'
They had discussed some of the people whom Sir Peter and 'Wren' had been keeping under observation because they seemed to have fallen particularly deeply under Dieter's spell. The King would keep them in the consciousness of the Land, and events would show whether the Land accepted or rejected them.
The Diplomacy of Wessex
In the normal world, governments at least of major countries, sent ambassadors to each other. The German Empire sent an ambassador to Wessex, and another to Mercia. Wessex did not do that. They did things differently there. They certainly recognised a Great Power, and wished to influence a neighbour, but they went about it differently. They knew they had as much chance of influencing Ragnar Redbeard as a henhouse of succulent chickens had of persuading a fox not to eat them, so they did not bother.
They did, however, make strenuous efforts to influence the Land of Mercia, which was easier, since there the King and the Land were not One. King to King and Land to Land, but only in Wessex were they One.
People differ and so do their Lands. Even their gross geographical features differ, despite similarities. It's not even all about humans although they're a major element, especially for matters concerning people. Its easier to understand and influence those that are close and similar to oneself than those who are distant. Wessex had a great deal in common with Mercia, including geography and population and shared history. Crucially they had in common the memory of the rulership of a single extraordinary family at an earlier time before England had been united and when they were both under threat from the Vikings. Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia and daughter of Great Alfred King of Wessex, respectively guardian aunt and grandfather of Aethelstan who had united England.
This sort of diplomacy was no easier than the mundane sort and required greater and rarer skills. An obvious difference was that these ambassadors did not travel physically. They did not even leave home. Why would they since they traveled only in mind or spirit, and their own familiar locations provided their portals into their Land?
As above, so below. In both worlds ambassadors needed valid credentials and needed to present them to the correct authorities for inspection and acceptance. Nobody wants burglars, trespassers, illegal immigrants, tricksters or nosy and noisy tourists insinuating themselves into places where they shouldn't go, and in the Underworld the punishments may be more severe.The great democracy of death accepts all, though few gain through to Asgard, Avalon or Elysium, and still fewer return unscathed with what they sought. Orpheus and Herakles can testify to that.(Only Isildur's heir could take the road that was 'made by the dead, and the dead keep it' ) It's no good wandering arond like lost souls. You need the right contacts and connections to get to the right places and make your case to the Powers That Be there. The ignorance, fear and arrogant contempt of ordinary folk for such matters actually protects them from danger.
The border between Wessex and Mercia ran in part along the lower course of the Thames. The old town of Kingston marked a bridge and old ford and had been the site of the coronation of several of the Saxon Kings of Wessex, most notably Aethelstan, who had been a bastard offshoot of the royal line of Alfred, brought up in Mercia by his aunt Aethelflaed and whose energy and ambition had brought him to the throne of Wessex. Ragnar rather admired him and intended to emulate his achievements. He thought he might even have himself crowned there.
A little to the south of Kingston upon Thames and close to the river lay Sandown Park, which had long been a noted racecourse and in recent centuries had become a regular horse fair. These races and sales attracted people from both Wessex and Mercia, so when Harold and his entourage enjoyed a visit to the races, the news that he intended to proceed to Richmond Park, the old royal deer park a few miles beyond Kingston, to spend some days in relaxation and meditation, the news soon reached Ragnar, who scented opportunity.
Ragnar would not bring down the wrath of the Empire on his head by flouting a direct and vehemently expressed order not to attack Wessex, but he thought that an indirect approach might well succeed. If the 'feeble and mentally unstable' Harold were to 'lose his head' - perhaps they'd need to look for it in Fairyland, he snickered to himself - the Germans might have a very good idea who was responsible, but if he ostentatiously avoided open military aggression, and instead pleaded with the Imperial Court to be allowed to 'restore order' in Wessex , they might well accept for lack of a better alternative. Even if they didn't, he intended to make a silver plated drinking cup out of Harold's skull, so that at last it would be useful and contain something helpful.
It was an overcast night, starting to rain and with a distant grumble of thunder, as Redbeard led his household troop of a couple of dozen of his most loyal and effective fighters, down to the river. This was good, they were less likely to be noticed, and if anything went wrong Redbeard was confident in the ability of himself and his men to out-ride and out-fight any opposition.The fools were not expecting them and he looked forward to returning with Harold's severed head tied to his saddle. Smiling happily he drew his sword and flourished it to signal his men to follow him as he urged his horse into the river.
No one afterwards could quite explain what had happened. Some speculated that the king had had a heart seizure and that his legs had convulsively gripped his horse or that he had jerked the reins. There had been a splash and a scream of pain from the horse as it lost it's footing, broke a leg, threw Redbeard and collapsed on top of him with his foot trapped in the stirrup. When his horrified men had recovered the king's body after killing the horse to end it's thrashing and it's screams, they found that he was quite dead, but whether from a heart attack or from drowning or from the way in which his sword had penetrated his neck they could not tell and did not care.They simply took the body of their king back to Tamworth for burial.
When news of this strange event and lucky escape reached King Harold and his people they were unmoved. They already knew that the King guards the Land, and the Land guards the King; for the King and the Land are One.
Some weeks later when the next airship arrived in Winchester from Berlin, it brought unexpected passengers and news and left with several other passengers. There had been a shift in the current of political favour at the Imperial Court in Berlin, quite unrelated to events in Britain. Some previously influential people had lost their positions and their replacements had naturally replaced many of their appointees to create rewards for their own supporters. It had been no reflection on the excellent service which Count Dieter had rendered His Majesty, but his successor had arrived bearing official instructions, and much to the surprise of the Count and his family, after a hasty visit to the court of King Harold to announce his recall and introduce his successor, they found themselves waving farewell to Wessex from the airship as it serenely floated on it's way back to Berlin and feeling astonished to note how alive the land appeared.
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