I pretty much have my own voice as a writer. But, from time to time, I do write manuscripts that I experiment with writing in a different style.
Usually these manuscripts are what I call “back story” projects. I don’t intend for them to be published unless as an appendix to a larger work. Such is the case with The Kidnapping of the Boy with Red Hair. This is the back story as to how one of the central, and most important, characters came to the Islands on the Edge. I wanted to make certain that I understood his back story and how he came to be a part of the narrative I am writing in such an important role.
His name is Maol Rudha. He is the boy with the red hair.
I wrote the back story in scenes. Just enough detail to give me guide posts if I ever decide to write this out as a proper short story. You can watch and listen to me reading this back story on Youtube. Simply type in “The Kidnapping of the Boy with Red Hair”. The story is recorded in six parts.
Here is the original back story as written in “scenes”:
21 March 2007
Video Recording: 1-7 November 2013
Revised manuscript: 9 November 2013
Introduction: It’s a stormy night here in the Highlands and you’ve asked me to tell you a story to pass the night, a rough, stormy night like this. I’m going to tell you a story, a very old, ancient story. It’s called “The Kidnapping of the Boy with Red Hair.”
Scene 1: Late winter. March. A large, black-bearded man, Skar Crombie, treks across the rugged Highlands. He is clad all in furs, wears a peaked fur hat, and fur boots. Strapped to his back is a large leather rucksack crammed with furs and provisions. His eyes are alert as he scans the rocky landscape. The man stops, scratches his beard, and studies the ground as if looking for something.
We change scenes…
Scene 2: A small Iron Age settlement on the edge of the sea. Primitive, smoky, and untidy. People are busy going about their daily chores. Children play in the frozen snow. One boy stands out: he is smaller than the others and has bright red hair. He seems quieter, less rowdy than the other children. His attention is focused on a small carved figure he carries in his hand, held close to his chest. The sea is close to hand and the tangy salt air permeates the settlement.
Scene 3: It is dusk. Skar Crombie stops and makes camp for the night. He builds a small fire and sits with his back against a large stone. The stone seems to protect him from the cold night. The black-bearded man prepares a simple meal of dried strips of meat, broth, and tea. He reflects back as to how he came to be on this quest to find a boy. The boy with the red hair. And bring him back to the islands—the Islands on the Edge.
So now … we go back to the people at the settlement by the sea…
Scene 4: The people at the settlement prepare their evening meals inside their primitive round huts. The animals are penned in their sturdy enclosures. Wolves howl in the rocky crags. The children are safe and snug inside the huts.
Loud rain outside. Grandfather clock strikes twelve…
Do you want to get back to the story and what’s going on with Skar Crombie?
On a stormy night like this, it’s the perfect night to tell a deep, dark story…
So, where were we? Ah… you remember that back at the settlement by the sea the wolves were howling. So now we go back to Skar Crombie’s camp…
Scene 5: Hungry wolves circle cautiously around Skar Crombie’s camp. But, something is amiss. The black-bearded man cannot be seen. Suddenly a huge black bear rears up on its hind legs and roars into the night. A large grey wolf lunges at the bear. A powerful blow from the bear’s huge paw kills the wolf instantly. The wolf drops to the ground. The other wolves stop and stare at the massive creature. They hesitate and then they turn and flee. The bear drops to all fours and circles the camp.
Scene 6: Skar Crombie has been searching for the boy with the red hair since early autumn. The Oldest Old Ones, the Atecotti, had come to him back in the islands and told him that he must undertake the near impossible quest to bring this boy back to islands. “It is the boy’s fate. It is the boy’s destiny. And the boy is needed for the very survival of the islands—the Islands on the Edge,” the Atecotti had said. But, Skar Crombie is reluctant to embark on such an impossible quest. He is an Island Bear, not a Wandering Bear. The Atecotti tell him that he is the bear that must find this boy. If he agrees to take on the quest of finding the boy with the red hair they will work their powerful magic to change the bear into a shape-shifter. He will be a bear-man. In time the bear will be able to assume whichever of the two shapes he desires to be. As a man he will have the strength of a bear. As a bear he will have the cunning of a man.
And when Skar Crombie finds the boy with the red hair he must decide then which shape he will take in order to bring the boy back to the islands.
And now we go back to the settlement by the sea…
Scene 7: The boy with the red hair collects shellfish from the shore with the women and other children. It is cold work. The boy shivers and looks around. His carved figure of a bear is tucked deep inside his tunic. He glances upwards at the steep crags that hover just over the settlement. The boy sees a strange figure. He can’t tell if it is a large man or a large animal that stands at the edge of the craggy cliff staring down at the settlement, watching. Watching. Waiting.
Scene 8: Late afternoon. Skar Crombie, in the shape of a giant, burly man, strides into the settlement. The people are alert, wary, but they sense no harm from him. The children watch the giant man from the safety of dark doorways or from behind their mothers’ skirts. The boy with the red hair is unafraid. He boldly stands in the open, tightly holding his carved bear, watching the man. Skar Crombie glances at the boy and nods. He seeks out the boy’s father. The boy’s father, Oother, invites Skar Crombie join the family for a meal. After making the customary small talk Skar Crombie tells the boy’s father the reason he has come to their settlement.
Now we come to the next part of the story…
Scene 9: Skar Crombie chooses his words carefully. His voice is deep and rumbles in his chest when he speaks. His voice is low and hypnotic. He tells the Oother that he has come for the boy with the red hair—to take him back to the Islands on the Edge. The boy’s family gasps in disbelief. Skar Crombie tells them that it is the boy’s Fate, his Destiny, as was foretold by the Oldest Old Ones. The boy with the red hair listens to the talk from the safety of his sleeping place. He is supposed to be sleeping. The boy with the red hair holds his carved bear close to his heart. Skar Crombie tells the boy’s father that if he gives him the boy he will reveal to the father a great secret. He says that this great secret is the secret that is vital for the very survival of this clan.
Now, the secret that Skar Crombie will tell the boy’s father, if he gives him the boy with the red hair, is the secret knowledge of the underground “weems”—earthhouses, deep in the stony crags and moors. It is in these earthhouses that the clan can hide in and “disappear” from the Faarlanders in times of peril. These secret tunnels lead for miles underground and anyone who knows how to find, and open, their secret entrances can be safe and get far, far away from whatever danger threatens. The boy’s father nods his head, as if in agreement. Skar Crombie tells Oother only part of the secret.
And it this part: He tells him that the Mad Marauders, the Faarlanders, will land on the beach near their settlement in a few days. These ferocious and vicious sea wolves will attack and destroy everyone and everything. He urges the Oother to pack up his family and belongings and move to higher ground in the Highlands for safety. Skar Crombie reminds the father that he must now give him the boy with the red hair if he wants to hear the rest of the secret. Because without knowing how to find the secret entrances to the earth-houses, there is no hope for the clan. The father will not agree to let him take the boy. Oother and other men refuse Skar Crombie’s counsel. The risk is too great to make the move to the higher crags. To move the settlement in late winter is too dangerous. They will stay where they are. Skar Crombie, not believing what he’s hearing, slowly shakes his head and stares into the fire and is silent. He discretely eyes the dark nook where the boy with the red hair sleeps. Skar Crombie leaves the settlement by the sea without the boy.
Introduction: Are you ready to continue the story? Let’s see where was I?
Scene 10: Three days pass since Skar Crombie’s visit to the settlement by the sea. The villagers are on edge. Restless. Uncertain. Will the Mad Marauders attack their settlement as the giant man said they would? Should they heed his warning and pack up their belongings and move to the rocky highlands?
Scene 11: On the third day after Skar Crombie had visited the settlement by the sea he works out his plan as to how to kidnap the boy with the red hair. When all the preparations are finished Skar Crombie sits quietly and waits until nightfall.
Now here’s a flashback…
Flashback: Skar Crombie had found the settlement by the sea several weeks prior to his visit to the boy’s father. He had watched the villagers unobserved, except by the boy with the red hair. Skar Crombie had built a sturdy sledge to hold his backpack, provisions, and the boy with the red hair.
Scene 12: Dusk. The villagers secure their huts and outbuildings for the evening. The sheep and cattle are safely penned in their sturdy enclosures. The children are fed and tucked into their sleeping furs. The fires burn low, the embers glow in the growing gloom. The boy’s family eats their meager evening meal. Sleepily, the boy goes to his sleeping place. He carries his carved bear to bed. The rest of his family crawl into their sleeping furs for the night. The visit from the giant man is seemingly forgotten. It has been three days since his visit and there is no sign that he will return. Nor has there been any sign of the Faarlanders, the Mad Marauders.
Scene 13: As quiet as a phantom the gigantic black bear makes his way down the snowy slope. His massive paws make no sound on the frozen ground. His breath steams from his nostrils. He shakes his huge head and sniffs the night air. There is no other way to bring the boy with the red hair to the islands other than taking him by force.
Scene 14: The giant bear stands on his two hind legs, silent as a stone, on the edge of the settlement. The black bear waits. He listens for sounds of anyone who might be stirring within the huts. Slowly, cautiously, he strides to the hut where he knows the boy with the red hair is sleeping.
Now here’s another flashback for you…
Flashback: When the Atecotti had come to Skar Crombie they had told him that once he had found the boy with the red hair he must bring the boy back to the islands, by force if necessary. They told him that the powerful Storm Hags would raise a ferocious snowstorm to aid his escape from any pursuers. But, they warned Skar Crombie that he must have everything ready, and flee with the boy with the red hair as fast as possible, if he wanted to live to see the islands again. If he is caught, he will be killed.
Scene 15: In a sudden mad rush Skar Crombie bursts into the hut! Before the boy’s family know what is happening, the bear grabs the boy with the red hair, grabs him right in his powerful jaws, and bounds out the door. The boy tightly clutches his carved bear, his eyes wide with terror, but he does not cry out. The family’s screams and shouts wake the rest of the settlement. Against the frozen whiteness the villagers see a giant black bear dragging the boy out of the settlement toward the looming snowy crags. And in that instant it begins to snow hard.
The wind howls and blows the snow in swirls of blinding whiteness. The black bear and the boy quickly disappear in the swirling snow. The men grab their weapons and pursue the bear and the boy, their cries and shouts are torn from their lips and stolen by the fierce, howling wind.
Scene 16: The swirling snow blurs Skar Crombie’s vision. The fierce snowstorm roars in his ears. He only hears the howling wind and nothing else. The bear does not pause to look back to see if he is pursued. He knows he is. The boy with the red hair struggles and beats at the bear’s face with his small fists. Skar Crombie knows he cannot escape his pursuers carrying the wee boy in his mouth. The bear stops and drops the boy to the ground. He pins him to the ground with his massive forepaws.
Skar Crombie puts his face close to the boy’s face. The boy is certain the bear is going to eat him. But, the bear does not eat the boy. He breathes his warm breath into the boy’s face. The bear’s breath calms the boy and makes him feel drowsy. In a matter of seconds the boy is fast asleep, still holding tight to his carved bear. This is the magic of the bear’s breath.
Scene 17: Skar Crombie changes his skin into that of the burly, black-bearded man. His pursuers cannot see him in the blinding snow. Skar Crombie scoops up the boy and runs faster than he could in the form of a bear carrying the boy in his jaws. The snowstorm prevents the men from following Skar Crombie’s footprints. The men are stunned and blinded by the swirling whiteness. The angry, howling wind makes them afraid. Pursuit of the giant bear is hopeless. The boy is lost to them. Forever.
Scene 18: Skar Crombie scrambles up the snowy slope to a small cave where he has hidden the sledge, his rucksack, and provisions. The boy with the red hair still sleeps. The calming sleep will not last long. Skar Crombie quickly drags the sledge out of the cave. He unpacks the fur skins from the large leather rucksack. Quickly, he makes a nest of fur skins in the sledge and tucks the boy into it. Skar Crombie wraps furs around the boy to keep him warm in the bitter cold. He picks up the boy’s carved bear and stares at it curiously. He carefully places the carved bear inside the furs next to the boy’s heart and gently covers the boy’s face with a soft fur skin so that his face is protected.
Skar Crombie stows his rucksack, extra fur skins, and provisions at the boy’s feet, in the front portion of the sledge. These will help keep the boy’s feet from freezing and provide a bit more protection from the bitter wind. The boy slowly wakes from his sleep, opens his eyes, and pulls the fur skin away from his face. He sees the giant man who had come to his father’s house. The boy looks around for the bear wonders where the huge black bear has gone. Had this man rescued him from the bear? Was he taking him back to his family?
Skar Crombie stands behind the sledge and slowly begins to push it through the deepening snow. He is strong and the runners of the sledge are slick with animal fat. The sledge glides easily through the snow.
Scene 19: Skar Crombie pushes the sledge all night through the thickly falling snow. The Storm Hags have whipped up the most ferocious snowstorms for man or beast. It is late in the winter. The milder spring weather is only a few weeks away. Skar Crombie is anxious to reach the western coast of the Highlands. From there he and the boy must make the dangerous sea crossing to the islands.
Scene 20: The boy with the red hair is wide awake. He stares around him in wonder at the violent whiteness of the snow. He cannot see more than a few feet in front of him. The man pushing the sledge seems to know exactly where he is going and he keeps the sledge moving briskly through the snow. At the edge of a steep ravine, Skar Crombie stops, just for a moment, to catch his breath. He rubs his frozen hands together in their fur mittens and glances quickly around in order to get his bearings. The sledge slowly begins to slide down the steep ravine. Before Skar Crombie can stop it, the sledge is sliding treacherously toward the snowy bottom of the ravine.
Scene 21: Skar Crombie throws back his massive head and roars in rage. He bolts after the sledge. The bear-man hurls himself over the edge of the ravine and grabs the back of the sledge and holds tight. He cannot stop the careening descent of the sledge but he can control its direction. The boy gasps and holds onto his carved bear tightly as the sledge skids, and skitters over the rocks and snow. It is a wild, frantic ride. The boy with the red hair can only hang on for dear life. He dares not look back to see what has happened to the black-bearded man.
Scene 22: The sledge plows through the snow and slams into solid rock. The boy is thrown from the sledge and disappears into the deep snow. Skar Crombie tumbles backwards as the snow swirls around him, cursing under his breath.
Scene 23: Stillness. A hushed silence. Skar Crombie stands and shakes the snow off himself and searches for the boy. He reaches into the snow and yanks the boy out by the scruff of his neck. The boy with the red hair blinks and dangles in the air. Skar Crombie growls: “We’re here.”
Scene 24: The rock that the sledge crashed into is a cromlech—the remnants of an ancient burial mound long forgotten among the stones. Three large upright stones, weighing several tons each, form the sides of the cromlech. A fourth stone serves as a roof over the structure.
Now here’s another wee flashback…
Flashback: While Skar Crombie had been searching for the boy with the red hair he had come across this cromlech and had cached a supply of dry firewood, nuts and berries. He had strewn fresh bracken on the floor and had stuffed the open cracks with thick moss. He had arranged stones in the center to serve as a fire pit. In the center of the fire pit he had placed a large flat stone on which the fire could be built.
Skar Crombie had planned to bring the boy to this cromlech so that they could rest for a few days, and gather their strength, before making the arduous trek over the rugged Highlands to the west coast. They could shelter in the cromlech while waiting for the Storm Hags to put an end to the snowstorm.
Scene 25: Skar Crombie cradles the boy in his huge arms and carries him into the cromlech. It is pitch black inside. It is deathly cold. Dank. But it is a good shelter from the snowstorm.
Skar Crombie sets the boy down on a large stone and grabs several pieces of wood and dried bracken and moss. The large man huddles over the makings of a fire. He takes out a worn piece of flint and striking stone. In a few minutes a thin spiral of smoke begins to rise. The boy can hear a faint crackling sound. He knows that the man has lit a fire. And the fire, to the boy, meant life. The boy lets out his breath. He had been holding it without realizing he was doing so.
Scene 26: In a gruff voice Skar Crombie tells the boy to stay by the fire. He brings in the rest of the fur skins and rucksack from the sledge. In a dry corner, close to the fire, Skar Crombie arranges the furs to make a sleeping place for the boy. Skar Crombie tells the boy to wrap himself in the furs and warm himself by the fire. Silently, the boy obeys.
Once Skar Crombie has the boy settled he strides out the door and upends the sledge over the entrance to the cromlech. The sledge serves as a rough door to keep out the blowing snow. Skar Crombie hangs several of the extra fur skins over the inside of the door to provide further protection from the relentless wind. The only light inside the cromlech comes from the wee fire.
Scene 27: Skar Crombie sets three of the larger sticks to form a tripod on the flat stone in the fire pit. He lashes the sticks together with strong sinew and rigs a small chain from the top of the tripod just over the fire. The black-bearded man takes out a small skin bag, blackened by many fires. He fills the bag with snow and hangs it over the fire. As long as the skin bag has liquid in it, it will not burn.
The boy watches as Skar Crombie takes out dried strips of meat and dried berries and places them carefully on a flat stone. From another skin bag he takes out dull, dried leaves. The boy can smell their fragrance as Skar Crombie crushes them in his fingers. Tea. The snow melts into water and in a short time the water begins to boil. Skar Crombie adds the tea leaves first. Once the tea is made he pours some of the hot liquid into two small horn cups. One for the boy. One for himself.
From deep within his fur coat he takes out the greatest prize of all: a sticky piece of honeycomb. Skar Crombie breaks off a small piece of the honeycomb and drops it in the boy’s bitter tea. The boy is amazed and delighted. The two drink their tea in silence. Skar Crombie then adds strips of meat and dried berries to the boiling tea in the skin bag hanging over the fire. Water is too precious to waste. The meat and berries will turn the tea into thin, watery soup. This will be their staple diet until they reach the Western Sea.
Scene 28: Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair shelter in the cromlech for five days and nights. They speak very little. The boy fondles his carved bear lovingly. On the third day, feeling a bit braver, the boy with the red hair had pointed to the bearlike man and asked: “What is your name?” Skar Crombie remains silent. When the boy asks the question several more times Skar Crombie stares hard at him and grunts: “Skar Crombie.”
Emboldened, the boy asks: “Are you taking me back to my family?” Skar Crombie growls: “No!” He is not taking the boy back to his family. For a moment the boy sits quietly, stroking his carved bear. Then the boy asks: “How long will we stay in this place?” Skar Crombie roars “Until it is time to move on,” and turns his back to the boy.
Scene 29: The snowstorm ends. Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair continue on their long journey to the Western Sea. The journey takes three weeks. The boy with the red hair no longer fears the gruff, bear-man. They leave the higher ground and begin making their way toward the sea. There is less snow and the ground becomes muddy and treacherous. There are bogs and marshes. They abandon the sledge. Once again Skar Crombie crams what provisions and furs that remain into his large rucksack. He makes a small rucksack for the boy so that he can carry his share of the burden.
Scene 30: They reach the Western Sea. Skar Crombie scouts the area from the highest cliff. He and the boy trek northwards, following the coastline. They travel for four days until they reach a sheltered cove that is littered with a great number of tumbled stones. Skar Crombie tells the boy that they will make camp here and wait. “Wait for what?” the boy asks. Skar Crombie grunts: “We wait.”
Are you ready to continue with the story?
Scene 31: They make camp. Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair gather stones and construct a small, rough beehive shaped bothy. The bothy is just large enough for the two to crawl into along with the fur skins and provisions. The boy feels safe with the large man. He trusts the black-bearded man. On the fourth night in the camp, the boy asks if the Mad Marauders attacked his family’s settlement. Skar Crombie hesitates and answers: “Aye. You are the only survivor of your clan.”
Scene 32: Every day Skar Crombie stares out to sea. He watches for something or someone. The boy watches him wondering what he is looking for. A week passes. The boy with the red hair gathers shellfish along the shoreline. Something makes him look up. He is startled when he sees a flotilla of six small skin-covered boats bobbing on the surface of the sea coming toward the shore. Are these the Mad Marauders? The boy drops his shellfish and runs to tell Skar Crombie. But Skar Crombie has already seen the boats and he is waving his arms over his head to signal them.
OK, we’ll continue on with the story…
Scene 33: Six small boats crunch onto the rocky shore. The boy stands beside Skar Crombie and stares in amazement as the people in the boats scramble out. They are men. But they are not much taller than the small boy. Skar Crombie tells the boy that these men are called “First Footers”. Their bodies are tattooed blue and brown all over. Skar Crombie tells the boy that they are clever with their hands—they are diggers and miners; forever digging for the raw materials from the earth to forge into bronze and iron. The First Footers will make the dangerous crossing to the islands with Skar Crombie and the boy. These men will help Skar Crombie build a skin-covered boat large enough to carry the giant man and the boy to the islands. Their payment will be permission to settle permanently on one of the islands.
I need to give you another flashback here…
Flashback: The Mad Marauders have killed nearly the entire clan of First Footers. These remaining few are a small handful of survivors. They seek protection from Skar Crombie and a new life. When the Atecotti sent Skar Crombie on the quest to find the boy with the red hair they had told him to seek out these diminutive men out and ask for their help. Skar Crombie had found the surviving Foot Footers hiding in the crags among the bracken and heather far to the north.
Scene 34: The First Footers are an ancient race of small statured people from the northernmost reaches of the Highlands. Later, they will be called Picts. The boy sees that the First Footers scrambling out of the skin boats are not only men, but women and children as well. The six small boats hold at least forty First Footers. Skar Crombie greets one of the First Footers by name: Elb. They seem to be friends, or at least on friendly terms.
Elb is tiny standing beside Skar Crombie. Elb and the male First Footers gather around the fire to talk with Skar Crombie while the females and children drag the skin boats onto the shore. The small boats are turned upside down and become makeshift shelters for the First Footers. The women and children gather driftwood and shellfish from the shore. Wee fires are lit by each upturned boat and small iron cauldrons are set over the fires. The boy watches the activity with great interest.
Scene 35: Skar Crombie and Elb discuss how to build a skin boat that will be large enough to carry him and the boy, all their provisions, as well as four male First Footers who will help paddle the boat. Time is pressed. Elb tells Skar Crombie that the sea will be calm enough to make the crossing in another week when the moon is full and the tide is high. Even so, the crossing will be dangerous, not only from the unpredictable sea and wild storms, but also from the constant threat of meeting the Mad Marauders…and sea monsters.
OK, now you’re wondering what’s happening with Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair…
Scene 36: Skar Crombie, Elb, and the First Footer men construct a watertight skin-covered boat that is large enough to carry the giant man, the boy, and four First Footers who will paddle and help control the boat on the open sea. The men use the giant ribs of a beached whale for the skeleton of the boat. Sealskin is used for the covering; fat is rendered so that it can be used to waterproof the boat. It will take eight days to build the boat.
Scene 37: On the fourth day, as the men and Skar Crombie work on the boat, the women and children and the boy with red hair collect seaweed, shellfish, and driftwood. They do this every day. Suddenly, one of the tiny girls screams and points out to sea. Several large, black boats are fast approaching the shore where the smoke from the fires drifts skyward signaling habitation.
Scene 38: The women and children scramble from the shore and scatter among the rocks, hiding themselves as best they can. They seem to disappear into the grey-green landscape. Skar Crombie and the men rush to meet the invaders. Mad Marauders. Faarlanders. Wolves of the Sea. Skar Crombie has no time to hide the boy before the Mad Marauders swarm from the boats onto the beach. Their shrieks and yells freeze the blood of the First Footers.
The diminutive men seem like children compared to these rough seamen and Skar Crombie. The Mad Marauders slay several First Footers within minutes of landing. Screaming in agony from the violent blows from the Mad Marauders’ axes and swords, the stout First Footers collapse to the ground writhing in agony. Their mutilated bodies thrash on the rocky shore like forgotten gutted fish. The Mad Marauders spy the boy with the red hair and scramble toward him. Skar Crombie realizes that there is only one hope if he is to save the boy.
Scene 39: The boy runs toward Skar Crombie seeking protection. As the boy reaches the spot where Skar Crombie stands, suddenly the man is no longer there. In his place is a gigantic black bear. The bear rears up on its hind legs and roars its rage at the Mad Marauders. The boy is stunned to see the bear again. Instantly, he realizes that the bear is Skar Crombie.
Scene 40: In the form of a massive black bear Skar Crombie lunges at the Mad Marauders. With swift swipes of his massive paws he slays the demented men as they try to encircle him. Emboldened by the sight of the bear the First Footers run to help the bear fight against the Mad Marauders. The small men duck and dodge the blows from huge axes and swords, and are too fast for the Mad Marauders to catch and kill. The Mad Marauders’ attention is locked onto the black bear. Its rage and throaty roars are deafening. No sword or axe can strike the large black bear. In a blind fury the bear rips off heads and arms of the Faarlanders. Their fallen bodies litter the beach. As more and more of the invaders die from the powerful blows of the bear and deep spear wounds from the First Footers, the remaining Mad Marauders turn and flee to their boats. They plunge into the icy water and scramble into their boats, bleeding and cursing, and push off from the rocky shore. Screaming with newfound courage, the First Footers shake their fists and hurl spears and curses at the retreating Faarlanders.
Skar Crombie drops to all fours, turns and faces the boy. Even on all fours the gigantic bear towers over the boy with the red hair. The boy is not afraid.
Scene 41: Skar Crombie stares at the boy. He shakes his massive head and growls. The boy does not flinch. The huge bear thrusts his face close to the boy’s face. The boy breathes in the bear’s breath and immediately is calmed. His heart stops pounding and he can breathe more easily.
Scene 42: Skar Crombie leaves the boy standing quietly alone and disappears among the huge rocks. Within moments he returns in the shape of the large, black-bearded man. The boy with the red hair runs to him and throws his thin arms around Skar Crombie’s waist. The bearlike man softly strokes the boy’s head. There is an unspoken understanding between them.
Scene 43: That night, Elb and the First Footers celebrate their victory around their meager campfires. They gathered swords and axes and other useful items from the bodies of the fallen Mad Marauders before placing all the bodies together and covering them with a huge cairn of stones. Skar Crombie is silent and stares into the fire. He and the boy sit close together sharing the evening meal. Sitting quietly by the fire Skar Crombie makes a tiny skin-covered boat for the boy’s carved bear.
Scene 44: Elb and Skar Crombie rise early the next day and stare out to sea. Elb scoops up a small handful of seawater and tastes it. He nods his head. The time has come to launch the boats and to begin the treacherous journey to the Islands on the Edge. As quickly as they had set up their camp, the women and children break down their makeshift shelters and drag the skin-covered boats to the edge of the sea. They pad the bottoms of the boats with waterproof skins and dry bracken. Water skins are filled with fresh water. The water will have to until they reach the nearest of the Outer Islands where they can refill the water skins.
Scene 45: The boats are ready. The First Footers place the women and children in the six smaller boats, covering them with soft furs and hides to protect them from the sun, wind, and icy cold water that splash into the boats. Elb chooses the four men who will travel with Skar Crombie and the boy with red hair. These men have never paddled such a large boat before. Their faces show apprehension but no fear. The boy stands silently beside Skar Crombie. His small hand reaches for the man’s strong, hairy hand. Skar Crombie squeezes the boy’s hand reassuringly. He looks down and smiles at the boy. This is the first time he has ever smiled at the boy. In his other hand the boy clutches the tiny boat and the carved figure of the bear.
Scene 46: The boats are pushed out to sea. The journey to the Islands on the Edge begins.
Scene 47: Like the smaller skin boats, Skar Crombie’s boat is lined with waterproof sealskins with bracken underneath to help keep their feet dry. The boy sits still as stone in the middle of the boat, huddled between Skar Crombie’s massive legs. He has never been in a boat before. He has never been on the Great Sea.
Two First Footers sit in the bow of the boat; two sit in the stern. Skar Crombie sits in the middle. His great weight must be kept balanced so that the boat does not capsize. The five men paddle the boat out to sea without mishap. Three small boats on either side flank the larger boat.
Scene 48: The first few days at sea are calm. They come within sight of the Outer Islands and keep them to their left. The Outer Islands lie to the west where the sun disappears each evening. The First Footers are strong boatmen. Skar Crombie keeps his eye on the distant horizon. Watching. Watching.
Scene 49: Five days after they began their journey the sky turns a leaden grey. A dark storm approaches. Skar Crombie tucks the boy under the warm fur skins and covers him with seal skins. He lashes down their provisions and braces his legs against the sides of the boat. The First Footers in the smaller boats do the same. The storm is upon them in a blinding instant. Lightning flashes. Thunder crashes overhead. The boy shivers in the bottom of the boat. He is terrified. The boats are tossed about on the waves like bladders. The skin-covered boats are sea-worthy and ride the waves easily. The boy with the red hair is violently seasick.
Scene 50: The storm ends. As all storms do. All seven boats survive. No one is lost at sea. Everyone is wet and bedraggled but will dry out soon enough. The boy with the red hair recovers from his seasickness but looks pale and wan. Skar Crombie gently holds the small boy and murmurs to him softly under his breath.
Scene 51: The boats make for the northernmost shore of the Outer Islands so that fresh water could be found. The women and children scramble out of the boats and quickly swarm over the land searching for fresh water. Several women and children frantically gather shellfish in the shallows. Fresh food is scarce. They all eat dried fish and strips of tough, dried meat. Everything is eaten cold. Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair chew the dried meat slowly, making it last.
Scene 52: The sea journey continues peacefully. Skar Crombie tells the boy that they should reach the Islands on the Edge within seven days, if all goes well. The danger of meeting the Mad Marauders on the sea looms ever present. The small boats would stand no chance against the larger boats and more experienced seamen on the open waters.
Scene 53: The day is calm. The boats skim across the endless water. Elb scans the horizon and guides the boats with his hand to keep them on course. There is no rest for the paddlers. Their arms ache. Their hands are blistered raw from the constant spray of sea water. Suddenly a hideous spiked head rises from the sea near one of the smaller boats. The women and children in the boat scream in terror. The men paddle furiously but the sea monster is too close. Its eyes blaze blood red. Its fangs drip green slime as it crashes down on the tiny boat, sinking it instantly.
Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair watch in horror as the sea monster thrashes the water with its gigantic body and tail. The First Footers are thrown into the boiling water. The sea monster seizes the flailing bodies of the men, women, and children, biting some in half and swallowing others whole.
There is nothing anyone can do except paddle away from the scene of carnage as quickly as possible. The boy with the red hair looks back over his shoulder and watches as the sea monster searches the waters for all the victims. He bows his head and grips his tiny boat and carved bear tightly, trembling uncontrollably between Skar Crombie’s powerful legs.
Scene 54: The boy is stunned. He does not move. The boy looks up at Skar Crombie, almost not recognizing him. Skar Crombie’s eyebrows, moustache, and beard are bleached white by the salt spray of the sea. His face is tanned to a leathery brown. The boy’s skin has been kept covered from the sun. His skin is too fair for the strong rays and he would fry under the blazing sun if exposed for too long.
Unexpectedly, Elb cries out: “Land!”
The six boats have reached the Islands on the Edge.
Scene 55: Skar Crombie is relieved to see his islands again. He is now in familiar waters and directs the other boats to follow. The islands are rugged but not barren. A thick white mist hovers above them. Skar Crombie tells the boy that the white mist is the last remnant of the dragons’ breath from a long forgotten time when dragons roamed the islands, imbuing them with their powerful magic and mystery.
Scene 56: The six boats make landing in a small sheltered cove on the largest island. The First Footers and Skar Crombie give thanks to Erce, the Great Mother. Skar Crombie thanks the First Footers for being such stalwart sailors and brave fighters and tells them that the Atecotti will grant them permission to settle on the easternmost island that the Oldest Old Ones have named Hylde: The Hidden Island.
The First Footers are pleased. They are eager to go to their own island and make camp before nightfall. Elb and Skar Crombie grasp forearms and bid one another farewell. Skar Crombie and the boy wave their arms in farewell to the First Footers as they make their final journey by boat to their own island, Hylde. The First Footers will never make another journey by boat again.
Scene 57: Skar Crombie and the boy stand alone on the rocky shore. The black-bearded man tells the boy that his cottage is in the northern reaches of the main island in the region that the bears call Mowdie. It will take several days to reach the cottage. The terrain is rugged and not easily crossed. The two begin their trek to Skar’s Gaard, Skar Crombie’s home. As always, the boy with the red hair carries his toy boat and carved bear close to heart.
Scene 58: Skar Crombie’s cottage sits on the edge of the great Northwoods. It is made of wood and living grass grows on the roof. The boy is delighted to see such a marvelous house. It is nothing like the primitive, leaky half sunken round hut his family lived in.
Skar Crombie’s cottage is crammed with all sorts of odds and ends that the boy has never seen before—hornets’ nests, large clay pots and bowls, large mugs, large creels, thick furs, and gigantic carved tables and chairs. There is a huge rounded stone fireplace where a large black kettle sits, as if waiting for Skar Crombie’s return. It is a comfortable home. The two settle quietly into Skar Crombie’s cottage.
Every day Skar Crombie gives the boy chores and small tasks to do in and around the cottage. The boy doesn’t mind. And he is happy to be useful. The boy plays with his skin-covered boat and carved bear and acts out wild adventures with them. One bright sunny day the boy with the red hair looks up from his play and watches Skar Crombie. The boy with the red hair asks: “Are you a man or a bear?” Skar Crombie stares out the window. He does not answer the boy’s question.
Over the weeks and months a strong bond has grown between the bear and the boy. The boy feels safe and protected with the brusque, burly bear-man.
Scene 59: In time, when the leaves turned bright red, golden yellow, and began to drift down onto the cottage, the Oldest Old Ones, the Atecotti, send a message to Skar Crombie. They tell Skar Crombie that he is to bring the boy to the standing stone circle, called The Pipers, on the tiny island-within-an-island named Eynhallow: the Hallowed Isle. The Pipers is the most powerful standing stone circles in the islands. It is has five huge standing stones—one stone for each of the five Atecotti.
“Who are the Atecotti,” the boy with the red hair asks. And much to his surprise, Skar Crombie tells him their story.
“The Atecotti are the Oldest Old Ones,” Skar Crombie says. “On a becalmed, mist-conjured day, they wandered out of the Timeless Mists onto the rugged west coast of North Island, that is now called Skrael.”
Skar Crombie rubs his black beard thoughtfully, takes a deep breath, and closes his eyes. He begins a slow, rhythmic chant:
Thence came the Atecotti
who know much,
Three from the hall beneath the stones:
The first was named Grainne (That Which Is)
The second, Nuala
(That Which Has Been).
The third was named Oona
(That Which Should Become).
Two from the hall beneath the oak:
The fourth was named Aengus (Origin),
The fifth, Gaeth (Becoming).
“The trows tell the tale that when the five Atecotti walked out of the Timeless Mists, having walked from the Land of the Midnight Sun far, far to the east, across the Widest Sea, it was the beginning of the Misty Age—the Age of the Dragons. The trows, or Skraelings, as they are sometimes called, are the descendants of these five Atecotti.”
The boy with the red hair sits silently, not moving, fascinated as he listens to the story.
“There are five Atecotti,” says Skar Crombie. “According to trow beliefs, it is the Atecotti that choose the lives for the Children of the Ages, the trows. And know the fates of men and bears. It was the Atecotti that brought their beliefs with them regarding the Mother Goddess, the Great Mother, Erce.”
Skar Crombie continues his tale:
“The trows are great lovers of stone. That is what the word ‘trow’ means—he who loves stone. The Atecotti passed on this great love of stone to the trows. When the Atecotti first arrived in the islands they erected five solitary stones throughout the islands through which they could be — aware, of the life of the islands.” Skar Crombie yawned loudly.
“You can’t stop now!” cried the boy with the red hair. Skar Crombie smiled and said:
“Well, Grainne erected her stone in the farthermost northeastern reaches of the largest island, the Ooterlands. It is called the Winter Stone. The power of this stone is greatest in the long, dark winter months.
Nuala chose Moel Terre for her stone. It is called the Summer Stone and is a powerful stone during the months of growing.
And Oona chose the northern reaches of Moel Weorpe for her stone. It is called the Autumn Stone. Its power is greatest in the changeable autumn months.
These three stones are revered most by the women in the islands.
Gaeth, one of the two males, chose Moolland, the wettest, low-lying region in the southern part of the large island. His stone is called the Spring Stone. And, of course, it is most powerful during the early springtime months.
And that leaves only Aengus. His stone is not connected to the seasons. His stone is a darker, more mysterious stone called ‘Mên Scryfa’—the Written Stone. Of these five powerful standing stones Men Scryfa is the most secret, most hidden, and perhaps the most powerful. It is said that the fates of men, trows, and bears are written on the heart of this stone. Aengus placed his stone deep in the treacherous Fens.”
The boy’s eyes are wide open as he listens to this marvelous tale.
Skar Crombie stretches his huge arms wide and smiles at the boy.
“Are these standing stones still here in the islands?” asks the boy with the red hair.
“Of course, they are,” Skar Crombie growls. “I will take you to visit each stone, if the Atecotti allow it.”
Skar Crombie finishes the story by telling the boy that it was the Atecotti who erected the powerful stone circle called the Pipers.
“Each stone in the circle is a soul-link to each of the Atecotti. Be aware when you step inside this great circle.”
The boy with the red hair holds his breath. He has never heard such a story like this one before!
Scene 60: Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair make the long trek to Eynhallow on the appointed day of the meeting with the Atecotti. The boy is nervous. Anxious. His small hand constantly seeks Skar Crombie’s hand for reassurance. The large man grabs the boy by the arms and swings him up onto his shoulders. He can walk much faster than the boy is able to keep up. At dusk they reach the water’s edge of the loch that surrounds and protects Eynhallow.
The mists hovered thickly over the water. There is a small dugout boat waiting with a sturdy boatman at the helm. The boatman will ferry them through the thick mists to Eynhallow. The Atecotti wait for the two within the protection of The Pipers.
And now we come to the very special part of the story. This is where the boy with the red hair first meets the Oldest Old Ones…
Scene 61: Meeting the Atecotti. Skar Crombie and the boy step out of dugout boat and slowly walk to the center of the small island where the magical standing stone circle stands. They see the five Atecotti, each one standing silently beside one of the five standing stones. The boy observes that each Atecotti resembles the stone by which it stands, or the stone resembles the Atecotti.
Skar Crombie and the boy with the red hair greet the strange looking figures that stand silently waiting. The Oldest Old Ones bow to Skar Crombie and the boy.
“Well-come, Skar Crombie,” says one of the females in a deep dry voice. It is Nuala.
The man bows his head before the Oldest Old Ones. The Atecotti cannot take their eyes off the boy with the red hair. The Atecotti ask Skar Crombie to tell them of his quest and trials in finding the boy with the red hair. And Skar Crombie tells them the entire story from beginning to end, barely pausing for breath.
When Skar Crombie finishes his tale the Atecotti turn to the small boy. One of the males, Aengus, leans low to the boy and it a dry, deep voice says:
“Your Fate and Destiny lie here in these ancient islands. The Orphir, the Stone of Truth, has foretold of your greatness. We will train you and guide you as best we can so that you may fulfill your life’s path. And if you are willing, Skar Crombie will be your Guardian and Protector throughout your life’s journey. He will stay by your side wherever you go, so long as you are content with his companionship. He will be with you always. At all times.”
The boy with the red hair is silent. He stares wide eyed at the Atecotti. But, he is no longer afraid. Slowly, he nods his head. He has no words for these strange creatures.
“From this day forward you will be called Maol Rudha: The Red Maol. Your totem, as it was revealed to us, is that of the secretive and hidden mole. And the wee moles that dig deep down underground will be your scuppers, your messengers in the islands. Any time you need to speak with us you only have to send a scupper. Or, come to these standing stones and send us your message to us using the power of the stones.”
As Skar Crombie had done, the boy, now called Maol Rudha, bows his head to the Atecotti.
“W have only one gift for you, Maol Rudha. It is the same gift we bestowed upon Skar Crombie. You, too, will become a shapeshifter. And will have the ability to change your shape as suits your need when necessary.”
Scene 62: You need to know that at this time the Atecotti instructed Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie to establish a settlement in the far southwest tip of the largest island on a small, rugged island protected by strong tidal waters.
“In time,” says Gaeth. “You, Maol Rudha, and your companion, Skar Crombie, will protect and keep these islands well hidden from the Outside World—especially the Faarlanders, who crave to possess the magic in these islands. More than anything else they covet The Magic and Mystery of the Three Great Sleeping Dragons.”
It is Grainne who speaks now and says:
“Maol Rudha, Skar Crombie, the two of you will found the Cymry of Maols—the Brotherhood of Mythographers. Others will come to join the Cymry—men, bears, trows, and even First Footers. Choose your companions wisely.”
Oona places her large leathery hand, with its gnarled and twisted fingers on Maol Rudha’s small shoulders.
“Your greatest life’s task will be to keep the myths and stories of the islands alive and remembered. When a story is allowed to perish, so do the people whose duty it was to keep the story remembered. When a story is forgotten, it dies. And when the story dies so do these. Never forget these words.”
The Oldest Old Ones look deeply into Maol Rudha’s and Skar Crombie’s hearts, as if to make certain that they understand the words that they are hearing.
The white mists thicken and swirl around them. The Atecotti, the Oldest Old Ones fade into its shrouded mystery. Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie are alone. They can hear, or feel, the soft breath of The Pipers around them.
Scene 63: Slowly, Skar Crombie and Maol Rudha make their way back to Skar’s Gaarde. They pack only the belongings that they will need with them to their new home. Skar Crombie softly closes the heavy door of the cottage. He places his large hand against the ancient wood as if saying good-bye to the home he has loved nearly his entire life.
Skar Crombie turns away from the door and takes Maol Rudha by the hand. Together, they make the journey by boat down the western coast of the islands. They reach the tiny island that will become their new home. Over the course of the next few months, Skar Crombie and Maol Rudha build a cluster of small bothys—for shelter and for storage. They call their new home Moolstery—the Place of Maols. In time these first bothys will become known as Old Moolstery.
Scene 64: Skar Crombie and Maol Rudha spend many months walking throughout the islands, talking to everyone they encounter and listening to their stories. The boy with the red hair, Maol Rudha, asks a thousand questions, about a thousand things the see and hear. They meet islanders of every type—crofters, fishermen, villagers, craftsmen—men, women, island bears, trows, and First Footers (who travel to the main island to barter their metal goods for other items). From time to time they visit the Atecotti and are taught to read and write by the venerable Oldest Old Ones. The Atecotti teach Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie the Great Secrets of the islands as well as the depths of their mysteries.
It is the beginning of Maol Rudha’s and Skar Crombie’s understanding of the Great Mysteries in the islands—the three dragons that lie sleeping beneath the rocky islands; the magic of the white mists—-dragon’s breath; the Mystery of the Ley Lines; the Mystery of the Mool Dykes; and the greatest mystery of all—how the standing stones breathe and communicate.
Scene 65: Many winters pass. Maol Rudha grows into a handsome young man. He and Skar Crombie share a deep and abiding love for one another. They are as one, inseparable. They will spend a lifetime together, never to be parted. And just as the Atecotti had predicted, in time, men, bears, trows, and a First Footer join them at Moolstery. More beehive bothys are built. Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie carefully choose the new maols to join the Cymry of Maols: The Brotherhood of Mythographers.
With the strength of the men, and the knowledge of the stones from the trows, Skar Crombie and Maol Rudha draw the plans for the expansion of Moolstery: the Scriptorium, where maols can collect and study books and stories, will become the heart of the settlement. Living quarters, studios, and other buildings are built surrounding the Scriptorium. All the buildings and structures are round with stone or slate roofs. Everything is built of stone.
The First Footer, Dunaddy Strongarm, calls upon his kindred to come to Moolstery in order to dig the deep Catacombs and secret tunnels that will serve the settlement for centuries to come. Only maols will be buried in the Catacombs and their stores along with them.
Scene 66: Maol Rudha becomes the Penkyrdd of the Cymry of Maols—Head of the Brotherhood of Mythographers. Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie, following the advice of the Atecotti, decide that there will be twenty-four maols that will always dwell at Moolstery. There will be twelve “moermaols”— master maols, including Maol Rudha, Skar Crombie. And twelve ‘maermaols’—steward maols. They Cymry of Maols will guard and protect the ancient standing stone circles, or ‘rigs’, that had been built by the Atecotti and the oldest trows.
In time, each of the twenty-four maols will have two apprentice maols, ‘maolts,’ who will serve them. Each maolt must undergo five initiations and will study for twelve long years at Moolstery in order to become a fully fledged maol.
Scene 67: On a dark stormy night, the Atecotti meet Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie at the Pipers on Eynhallow and tell that the white mists are thinning, fading.
The Cymry must protect the islands from being discovered and beware that the Wolves from the Faarlands who have become aware of existence and ancient magic in the islands. The Oldest Old Ones tell Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie that they must befriend the nine sacred skeely-wifes of the Cymrood of Skeely-wifes—the Sisterhood of Healers and Charmers—in order to ensure that the islands remain safely hidden.
The skeely-wifes are the only ones who are able to call down the white mists, dragons’ breath, that hide and protect the islands in times of great peril. Maol Rudha and Skar Crombie seek out the three oldest skeely-wifes—Ancrene Wisse, Ancrene Rood, and Ancrene Riwles, and ask for their help. It was these three powerful skeely-wifes that founded the Cymrood with Ancrene Wisse as it Penwryn.
Scene 68: The Cymry of Maols and the Cymrood of Skeely-Wifes join forces to protect the islands from invasions.
It was a bleak, dreary day when the Faarlanders slipped through the White Mists. The islanders fought the Mad Marauders with all their heart and strength. Skar Crombie was killed in a ferocious battle in the Fens.
Maol Rudha is heartbroken and lost with his constant companion. On Hallows Eve, Skar Crombie returned to his beloved companion as ghost. The ghost of Skar Crombie reminds Maol Rudha of the words that the Atecotti had spoken: “He will be with you always.” Even in death Skar Crombie remains faithful to the boy with red hair and protects him from all dangers.
Scene 69: During the Black Years of Invasion the islands and islanders suffer greatly. The Atecotti tell Maol Rudha that the worst years are yet to come. The Oldest Old Ones tell him that he will be needed at a “time when the islands will seem without hope.”
At this time, the Atecotti tell Maol Rudha that there is only one way that he, and he alone, will be able to protect the islands in their darkest hour—he must be placed into an enchanted sleep by the three wisest skeely-wifes—Ancrene Wisse, Ancrene Rood, and Ancrene Riwles. And he will be reawakened at the time when he is most needed.
Maol Rudha is astounded and alarmed by this news. But he agrees to let himself be placed in the enchanted sleep.
“Skar Crombie will guard and protect you during your long, long sleep,” Aengus tells him. “He will be with you always.”
Scene 70: For nearly a thousand years Maol Rudha sleeps the sleep of the dead in a tightly sealed stone cist deep in the Catacombs beneath the Scriptorium. His body is constantly guarded by the ghost of Skar Crombie, who has become known as the 13th Maol, or Old Dobby.
At the time of Maol Rudha’s re-awakening, the Atecotti are now living mummies, guarded and protected by the trows, or skraelings, on Skrael—the farthermost tiny island in the archipelago.
The Cymry of Maols has a succession of Penkrydds. And each new Penkrydd learns, and safeguards, the dark secret of Maol Rudha’s enchanted sleep.
Scene 71: It is Hennock Pyn, the Penwryn of the Cymrood, that wakes Maol Rudha from his long enchanted sleep. She is a trow-wife, ancient beyond winters. Together, Maol Rudha and Hennock Pyn become the two most powerful and revered inhabitants in the islands. They learn from the Storm Hags that the prophecy of the “a boy who will come and a boy who will leave.”
What boy will come? What boy will leave? Who is this boy?
Scene 72: Hennock Pyn consults the Skeel Peek stone in the Noorderlands, not far from her small bothy, Henwoodie, to learn who this boy is. At the Skeel Peek stone she discovers a dark, dark secret regarding the taboo marriage between a bear named Brom Powys and an island woman named Hanne Bumbry.
Hennock Pyn tells Maol Rudha: “Och, and there be more to learn. There is a wee bairn. Two wee bairns! Twins.”
Maol Rudha and Hennock Pyn stare at one another for a long moment. Then Maol Rudha says: “A boy who will come and a boy who will leave.”
Scene 72: On a cold winter’s night, Brom and Hanne Powys receive a mysterious message from Moebius Myr, the scupper mole that serves Maol Rudha. The message tells them that they must seek the ancient skeely-wife, Hennock Pyn, in the Noorderlands.
Scene 73: The Prologue begins.
Moel Eyris Studio at Henwoodie
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Note: You can read the Prologue to The Secret Book of Moolstery at my website.
Interestingly enough, a Hollywood studio contacted me after watching the videos on Youtube and wondered if I would let them read these scenes. I sent the scenes to them and they liked them so much they asked if it might be possible for me to revise them into the proper screenplay format.
I told them that I would give it a try. I bought a professional screenplay writing app and several books as to HOW to write screenplays. In addition I looked up screenplays for movies (such as Raiders of the Lost Ark) and gave the screenplay adaptation of my “scenes” a shot.
My next post will contain the first few pages of the screenplay formatted version of this back story manuscript.