Out Now - The Last Land

The Celts did not fear death, but they did fear losing their memorised doctrines and were forced to try and save them, against a massive empire and the dark forces of the underworld – a boy Druid could twist their fate.

Turlough (the leader of the Druids) knew that the most important decision ever to be faced by any Druid, rested firmly upon his shoulders. The Celts had been at war with the Romans forever, but now the Celts predominantly resided in what they called “The Last Land”. Ireland had  never been invaded by the Romans but since the Great Conspiracy of 367AD, barely a year ago now, the Druids expected Ireland to be invaded. It was for this reason that Turlough was compelled to transcribe the memorised doctrines of the Druids. He would have to ensure that they were not decipherable by foreign eyes. Little did the Druids realise that the biggest threat to their order and their secret doctrines would come from within their own ranks, nor did they know that the prophecy of the boy Druid was about to become a reality.

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a pRELUDE...

In the winter of 367 AD, the Celts by now had been pushed to Ireland and Scotland predominantly. They knew that Christianity was sweeping through mainland Europe and Britain. They had observed the power of this new faith and the wrath of Constantine’s push from thirty years beforehand, to crush paganism.

The Picts, (Celts from Scotland) joined forces with their cousins from Ireland to take advantage of the otherwise busied Roman army. They made moves on Roman garrisons in BritaIn and the Gaul, (Present day France). Starting from Hadrian’s wall, where the Roman commander and his men turned coat and joined forces with the Celts to go against the Roman army in these areas. This event became known as The Great Conspiracy.

Here in Ireland following The Great Conspiracy, Celtic priests (Druids) had foreseen the outcome during a divination ritual, held by the nine Elder Druids. They predicted the Roman Empire striking back and driving the Celts to their borders. The Druids knew the Roman empire would take back Britain and the Gaul and although they hadn’t taken Ireland, this might encourage them to take over Ireland and Scotland. If this was the case, they knew that their entire culture could be wiped out. Their people would be forced to join the new faith or die. The Druids didn’t fear death, but rather feared to lose the accumulated knowledge which had passed from generation to generation back since the beginning of the Celtic people.

The Druids had their accumulated knowledge divided into nine doctrines, and each of the Elder Druids memorised these doctrines. When the elite group of the nine Elder Druids elected a new Druid, she/he would learn the first doctrine, then move up the ranks accordingly. The most distinguished Elder Druid was the only one of the nine to know all of the nine doctrines.

Now they faced a real threat against their last remaining people, So real was this threat of a Roman invasion and Christian overhaul, that the prospects instilled fear into the hearts of the Elder Druids. They knew that they would have nowhere to go if either threat occurred. They were in what they perceived to be ‘The Last Land’ (Ireland), as there were no known lands to the west of Ireland. So they were compelled to create an alphabet for the first time, and for the sole purpose of transcribing their memorised doctrines. For if the Druids transcribed their doctrines in a secret alphabet, then they could never be lost, not even if they were taken over by an Empire or Christianity.

Hoyt, a boy Druid, was born about this time. It had long since been prophesied that a boy Druid would be the one to accomplish this feat; in the wake of the truth, it was neither the Roman army nor Christianity who were the main threat. Oh no, the main threat came from within the ranks of the Elder Druids.

A taster - the prologue: the ninth prophesy

The cock crew loudly right outside Hoyt’s home. It woke Hoyt abruptly and even Lugh was slightly disturbed, causing him to turn over and pull the cover over his head. Hoyt wiped his sleepy eyes and yawned while clenching his tiny fists and lifting his elbows to stretch. He had noticed his father turning over and getting cosy for further sleep. He then jumped onto his father, giving him a big hug and saying,

     “Good morning, father.”

     Lugh put his arms around his son and said,

     “Isn’t it a great morning to be alive?”

     “It sure is,” Hoyt said,

     “Can we do something special today father; the sun is shining and the cock crew like he was trying to tell us to get up.”

     “I’m sure he was,” Lugh said as he lifted young Hoyt into the air. “I’d better get up before I waste the day lying in bed, let’s get some breakfast and work out what we can do today. Today is your day off; you have no chores, training or learning to do today.”

     “Really? Today is my free day already?” Hoyt said,

     During breakfast Lugh told Hoyt that they would go for a long ride on the horses, they would be away all day and maybe some of tomorrow too. Hoyt was excited, and Lugh told him he couldn’t know where they were going as it was a surprise. They rode through the Boyne valley and then across the country towards the west. They stuck to the perimeters of the villages they passed on their journey to avoid contact with others and to avoid delays.   

     They had stopped and dismounted a couple of times to eat and rest, still Hoyt had no idea where they were going. He hoped it was somewhere special, like the underground magic lake. Hoyt had travelled with the Druids throughout his baby years. He had already been in most towns and villages in Ireland, even though he was too young to remember; this was different because they aimed to avoid the settlements. Whereas when they were setting the ogham stones, they stayed at all the villages on their journey. The evening fell, and they set up fire at the edge of a forest. As they ate and drank, the darkness crept around them.

     The dark moon remained in the shadows of the earth. The stars were more noticeable in the dark blue skyline, which they were facing. The sun had retired deep beyond the forest, which would give them some cover from the westerly wind. They huddled in close, and Lugh wrapped young Hoyt up in his undercoat and begun to tell him of the ninth prophecy of Lugh of the long arm. Hoyt settled in and listened eagerly; he loved nothing more than his father’s tales.

     “Well son, it was prophesied that the son of a Druid would be born on the winter solstice and would be the keeper of the sacred doctrines. During a special divination ritual held by the Elder Druids of the time, the last of nine separate prophecies delivered by Lugh of the long arm, (The Sun God) hundreds of years before, became a reality upon your birth.

     The other eight prophecies that he made during that time have all come to pass throughout the years. Only the Elder Druids have the privilege of knowing the nine predictions.

     Lugh of the long arm is a well-respected Deity. For it was he who led the Tuatha Dé Danann (the tribe of gods) into battle when they beat their foe and regained the freedom of the people of Ireland. The King of their giant

Formorian enemies, ‘Balor’ was known to dominate, he drove fear into the hearts of the people. 

     Lugh of the long arm proved his worth when he drove a stone from his sling with such dazzling power and accuracy that the stone busted through the eye and socket of Balor, still travelling and crushing through the back of his skull. Balor collapsed with a thud. The remainder of the Formorian giants were hunted and driven from Ireland into Connaught’s sea.

     And so it is that Lugh of the long arm’s ninth prophecy occurred on your birth. It is you Hoyt, who must in time bear this considerable responsibility; it rests on your shoulders. Hoyt, you must tell nobody what I am about to say to you. We are the descendants of Lugh of the long arm. We carry his bloodline and his soul-line, one day in the distant future a person born into this bloodline or soul-line, will be the one to deliver the doctrines of the Druids to the people. It is your efforts that will help to bring this about; the Elders and the gods will guide you.”

***

     They sat there just listening to the sparks from the burning logs and looking into the flames of flickering yellow and orange. Hoyt began to doze off beneath the comforting arm of his father. Soon afterwards, the horses started to get a bit fidgety and unsettled. Lugh heard a branch snap in the woods behind them, followed by some rustling and it didn’t seem too far away. He sat to attention and faced the woods; his eyes were taking longer than usual to adjust to looking into the darkness of the woods. Then came the sound of another snapping twig, much closer this time. By now, his eyes were in focus, and he wondered if he saw a few shadows in the forest. He shook Hoyt gently to wake him, and they moved to the other side of the fire. They stood there next to their horses and facing the woods. The fire threw up a subtle cluster of sparks just in front of them. Then Hoyt said,

     “There, did you see them? Like fleeting shadows, one bigger than the other.”

     “I didn’t see them Hoyt, which way did they go?”

     “Off to our right, that way,” he said as he pointed his finger.

     Lugh called out, “Is there someone there? Show yourselves, I am Lugh, an Elder Druid and I have my young son with me.”

     Lugh told Hoyt to stay in behind him and hold tightly onto his robe. He then grabbed some twigs from a pile and set them alight. He formed a semi-circle of burning twigs, using the fire as the centre. He built up his semi-circular fire with more twigs until it was blazing. They stood there behind the fire, the tree trunks were much more visible now, and the light reached into the start of the woods.

     “There they are,” Hoyt said as he shook his father’s robe.

     “Oh, I can see them now, and there are more than two of them,” Lugh said as he placed his hand on young Hoyt’s shoulder.

Hoyt stayed behind his father and only dared to peak around him.

     “Hold tight son; they are coming.”

     “Who are they? father; will we be okay?”

     The shadows gathered into a group and slowly emerged from the woods. One of them called out,

     “A Druid, is that what you are? We shall have to test you, Druid, see if this sorcery that you talk about works and if it doesn’t, well then you die, and your boy will be my slave.”

     Hoyt trembled and clutched tightly onto his father’s thigh. He could just about see over the flames, they were out of the woods, and there was about a dozen of them. They walked close together, slowly making their way towards Hoyt and his father. Hoyt shook his father’s robe again and asked,

     “What are we going to do, father?”

     Lugh pulled something from the inside of his robe and threw it onto the fire. The gang were sneering and laughing and wielding weapons. They wore their hair in spikes on top and shaved on one side. They showed bare torsos covered in tattoos, as they got closer Hoyt could see the markings on their faces, they looked terrifying. Their loud laughing and sneering sent shivers down Hoyt’s spine as he clutched even tighter to his father. The one at the front was most frightening of all; he just kept on repeating,

     “Time to test the Druid, will he live, or will he be slaughtered?” the gang

behind him shouted at the top of their voice,

     “Slaughter the Druid and take his son!”

     Just as the gang reached the other side of the fire, Lugh roared,

     “Rise! Rise! Rise!”

     Nothing happened, and the gang began to laugh louder and tried to intimidate Lugh as they poked their swords through the flames. One of them said,

     “Where is your sorcery now, Druid?”

     Lugh roared once more.

     “Rise!”

     The fire began to brighten then grew higher and became more intense; it rose to the height of the men. From the flames emerged nine Druid-like figures of light, the Druids of light walked towards the gang, who stood in disbelief, before one of them shouted,

     “Let’s get out of here!”

     The gang all turned to run away and ran as fast as their legs could carry them. But no matter how hard they tried to run, they remained in the same spot and watched in terror as the burning Druids made a circle around them, and raised their arms, gushing white flames instantly cremated the band. The burning Druids dropped to the ground and had disappeared almost as fast as they had come. Hoyt was shaking and rubbed his eyes hard, not able to believe the scene that had just unravelled before him. He grabbed tightly onto his father. Lugh picked him up, and they sat back beside the fire and huddled off to sleep.

***

     The following morning, they awoke to the song of a blackbird, it sang sweetly, the sky was still clear, and the sun was waking and casting an orange-red glow on the eastern horizon. The clouds ran in long white lines breaking through and fading into a pinkish-orange background. Lugh wiped his sleepy

eyes and rubbed Hoyt’s head, saying,

     “Good morning son isn’t it a great morning to be alive, and even better to be with you, my son. Come on; we had better get moving, the sun has woken in an angry red; so, rain will soon be here.”

     They ate and washed up at a nearby river, before saddling up and getting on their way. Not too long after leaving the river, they arrived at Uisneach and headed straight for the ‘cat stone’ and sat together. Lugh placed his hand into a crevice and told Hoyt to put his little hand on top. Then he said to Hoyt close your eyes, as he closed his own and following in a soothing voice he said,

     “Breathe deeply, son.”

     They fell silent, the only thing they could hear were the birds chattering and the gentle breeze rustling the leaves of the trees. They sat there in a state of absolute tranquillity, this was not the first time they had sat together in this state, but it was the first time they sat together at Uisneach with their hands placed into one of the crevices of the great stone. The sounds of the birds and rustling leaves were fading into oblivion as they sunk deeper into a trance. Then Hoyt squealed in an exciting wimp,

     “Can you see it, father?”

     Lugh shushed his son saying,

     “It is not for us to talk about, but to observe only. Quiet please, son.”

     After a few moments, they returned to their usual conscious selves.

     “Can we speak now, father?” Hoyt asked, almost whispering.

     “Of course, son,” Lugh said, while picking Hoyt off the ground into his arms and looking into his son’s eyes. “What is it that you would like to talk about?”

     “What just happened at that stone father? I feel different now than I did before we went down to the stone. Why?”

     “This is the hill of Druids, Hoyt. All our ancestors were here at one point in the past. Indeed, it is a place where we can come and look for the answers to life’s questions. We are blessed to have such a means of communication open to us, such a connection is only available to us Druids, as you are a

druid in the making, and as you placed your hand on mine, you were allowed to indulge.”

     “Shall I tell you what I observed father?”

     “Never tell a soul of what you observe here, what you observed is for you only. I must tell you now, that you are to revisit this stone when you are older when you have reached a point in your life, you will know you are ready to observe the truths which are for you alone.”

     “It frightens me father, I observed something, and I wish to tell you, but I am not permitted. It seems very important that you should know this.”

     “Hoyt, if you tell of your observations, you will close this vortex to yourself forever. If you do that, then you can never know the truth that is yours to know.”

     “I understand father.”

     Lugh and Hoyt loved spending time together; it was always special when it was just the two of them. They practised hunting with a slingshot, spear throwing and fencing. Hoyt’s wooden sword had weakened, and the time had come to carve a new one, and so they went in search of an oak tree to find the timber for the sword. Before his father chopped the branch from the tree, he paused. The two of them had their cloaks on, and Lugh had told Hoyt to pull up the hood of his cloak, his father pulled up his hood, and they stood in silence for a moment. The sky was a pale blue, with amber streaks running along the horizon. The views from Uisneach were astounding; the hillside rose to staggering heights. They stood there facing the dying sun, a soothing breeze blew towards them, gently rustling the leaves of the great oak tree. Then Lugh began speaking very softly, as he placed his hand on the tree and told Hoyt to follow suit. Hoyt did as his father told him and stretched his hand out and gently placed it on the tree beside his father’s much bigger hand. Then Lugh spoke.

     “Great oak, I come to ask a favour. My son Hoyt has come with me to find a suitable branch, so we can pare it down to make a sword that he will use for his training.”

     Lugh turned to his son and told him to ask the tree to leave good energy in the branch which he would select for his new weapon.

     Hoyt responded, “Yes, father.”

     He raised his little head; his long strands of flowing blond hair blew gently over his sincere little face as he began to speak.

     “Oh, great oak tree, may I take a branch to make a sword, and please leave your good energy in the branch, that I may benefit from your wisdom.”

     Hoyt’s father then lifted his son into the air so that he could choose which branch to take. Little Hoyt reached out and picked a branch. They returned to the big stone at the base of the hill, which Hoyt thought looked like a sitting cat. His father lifted him onto a part of the stone to rest while he proceeded to pare down the branch.

     “This is the centre of Ireland,” Lugh told his son. “This is the dividing point of the five provinces of our Island and known as the stone of divisions.

He took his time in carving the piece of timber, and when he finished, it made a beautiful sword for Hoyt to use in practice. He jumped down from the stone, and his father gave him the sword. He was so proud of it and wanted to show his friends when he got back home. The evening was falling in, and they decided to spend the night at Uisneach. Together they gathered some broken branches and logs to start a fire. In no time the fire was lighting, and Lugh took a salmon from his pouch. They had caught it on their journey a couple of hours earlier. They sat at the fireside turning the salmon on a spindle above the flames, it was cooking nicely, and the smell of the fish cooking filled the air, as was evident by Hoyt licking his lips and rubbing his tiny hands together. From another pouch, Lugh pulled out a half loaf of bread. They were content now and just sat there in discussion for a while. The sky was losing its luminosity and vague stars begun to speckle the night sky.

     “Pick the brightest star you can see Hoyt,” Lugh said.

     “That one there,” Hoyt said while pointing his little finger.

     “That’s your mother,” Lugh said.

     “Why is mother up there? Why is she not here with us, like my friends’ mothers’?”

     Lugh took off his cloak, then took off an under jacket he was wearing. He placed the under jacket around Hoyt’s shoulders and closed it up at the front. Hoyt snuggled in beside his father, and his father put his arm around

him and drew him closer with a gentle hug.

      “You were born on a special day Hoyt, in an extraordinary place. It was foretold that a boy would be born on the winter solstice in Newgrange and that he would be the son of a Druid. The prophecy says; the light of pure consciousness would fill the chamber of Newgrange at the moment of the birth of this child, and that child is you; a child bestowed with a mind which will hold the wisdom of consciousness and a spirit to deliver that wisdom to ordinary people. You are that child, and your mother passed her energy to you at birth. She was taken to the Otherworld, to sit among the gods in honour of her great duty, delivering you. We should be so proud of her, and it’s not everybody who gets to have such a mother, you are indeed blessed.”

     Hoyt dozed off into a deep sleep, but Lugh stayed awake, smiling at the bright shining star as he thought about his beautiful Dairine.

***

     The next morning, they woke up and went to find some berries. They ate the last of the loaf on their way. They rode along on their horses until they came to a field which was laden with berry bushes. Then Lugh told young Hoyt that they were to go to the magic lake beneath Uisneach. Hoyt’s eyes lit up, and he smiled at his father and wondered why this lake might be magical, he began to think of the possible explanations.

     Lugh spoke,

     “This lake is only visible in its full beauty to Druids, now that you are practising Druidism, it will also be visible to you. From here, you can draw upon any god or goddess to grant your wish or needs. It’s the well of consciousness, where you can ask all questions, and all answers are delivered. When we wash our eyes with the water from the lake, we can see the true beauty of the world and all that it beholds for nine days afterwards.”

     Hoyt was left wondering, then said,

     “Can any question be answered from the magic lake?”

     “Yes son, any question can be answered, but only to Druids.” 

     Lugh placed his hand on Hoyt’s shoulder and lowered down on to one knee, he looked his son in the eyes and removed a leather lace with a gold pendant from around his neck.

     “Hoyt, I am giving you this gold Celtic Trinity Knot, with an eye in the centre. It is to act as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all things. For you, it should also mean the eternal connectedness of mother, father and child. See these three loops here?” Lugh pointed to the three connected loops,

     “One is you, Hoyt; one is your mother and the other is me. On your journey through life, if you hold and focus upon this Celtic pendant, you can draw on your mother and me for strength and wisdom. This part: shaped like a crescent moon, it represents the moon changing from a crescent to a full moon and depicts the recurring cycles of all things. This part reminds you of the ever-changing circumstances that life can throw at you and tell you of the recurring sequence of our soul and the souls of all.

     Just because we have passed from this earth, that does not mean we are gone. The soul is on an eternal cycle, moving from one body to the next, all the time growing and evolving. Sparkling just like your mother in the Otherworld. We are each a capsule of light in the midst of a dark universe. Our quest is to return home to the Great Light. Each life cycle brings us closer to home, that’s why we should celebrate such an incredible passing of your mother. We should also know that we are born here and have a quest, an objective to carry out in our lifetime. We cannot step back towards the Great Light unless we have made progress towards our quest.”

     Hoyt tightly held the pendant in his hand; his father took it and put it around Hoyt’s neck. Lugh picked up Hoyt and placed him back on his horse, and without another word, they saddled up and rode away. As they plodded along, Hoyt kept getting flashbacks of his visions from the cat stone at Uisneach. He urged to tell his father so much but daren’t mention it again. His father had already told him to say nothing. So, when the flashbacks came, he blanked them and tried to forget it.

     They pulled the horse up outside what seemed like the entrance to a cave. Hoyt was sure this was the entrance to the underground magic lake. Suddenly the sky darkened above them, and a big dark grey cloud had obscured the beautiful sunshine which they had enjoyed throughout the morning. 

     “We had better get in here for shelter before that rain comes along,” Lugh said.

     “Wait here on horseback Hoyt.” He then said firmly. “I will be back in a moment. I need to check the cave for wild animals.”

     Lugh disappeared into the darkness of the cave as he had a look inside. Hoyt sat on the saddle and held the reigns tightly; he loved this horse and had many fond memories of it. His father had him riding on it for over a year now and always called it Hoyt’s horse. Hoyt could ride his horse very well. He went to see him every morning and always helped to feed and water him. At home, his father would tell the horse to kneel so Hoyt could climb on board.

     Hoyt could hear roaring coming from inside the cave, he gripped the reins firmly and was feeling frightened. Hoyt dared not to move, in fear of defying his father’s strict order. He sat tight; then another roar came from inside the cave. Hoyt could hear footsteps coming towards him; a dark shadow appeared at the entrance, stumbling a bit and reaching for a rock to balance himself. He stood there, blood pouring from his eye and running down his face. He looked at his helpless little son and shouted as firm as he could manage.

     “Go son as fast as the wind, it’s Cathasach; he’s evil.” Then he dropped to his knees and shouted. “Home horse! Bring Hoyt home safely!”

     Behind his kneeling father, Hoyt could see a dark figure emerging with a raised sword……………………

Five Years Earlier……………

The Inspiration For The Last Land

Uisneach, also known as the hill of Druids, is an ancient and sacred ceremonial site, set in the centre of Ireland. Archaeological excavations show us that people dwelled in raths (circular enclosed villages) spanning back hundreds and even thousands of years. Lugh of the long arm or The Sun God as he was named in mythology, met his mortal death at Uisneach and they called the cairn after him

Every May for millenia, a celebration is held at Uisneach, the Celts call it Bealtaine. They light a massive bonfire on the top of the hill and gather to celebrate the new season. The hill stands over 180 meters high, and on a clear day, it is possible to see most of Ireland’s counties from there.

While walking through the grounds, I could not help but notice the feeling that fell upon me, it felt special, sacred, unlike anywhere that I have been. Even the trees looked like they had been there forever, set into the backdrop of a quaint mystical landscape. I had come to see the hill of Druids and most especially the stone divisions or cat stone as it is called. This stone stands at 6 meters high and is set in the centre of Ireland. It is at this point where the provinces met and back in the day it was was the place where the Kings, Chieftains and their clans went to settle their difference.

In The Last Land, Hoyt and his father Lugh go to Uisneach, when Hoyt is just a boy. It’s without doubt, one of my favourite parts of the novel. Hoyt and his father get in touch with the otherworld. Hoyt is bestowed with pertinent information that his father forbade him to impart with.

ABOUT ME

Hi, I am from Ireland, born in Finglas, Dublin in 1966. I am a family man who loves writing and self-expression. I have been writing since I was eighteen years old when I versed my first poem. Since then, I have written hundreds of poems. More recently I published a collection of my own poetry on Amazon titled 63 Poems: Watchers of the Mind.

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