Omnem crede diem cride diluxesse supremum
(believe each day that breaks to be your last) - Enya, Pax Deorum
Music wakes me to story, evoking images and scenes within my mind. I've come to realise this gift is a form of synasthesia, but this knowledge does nothing to dispel my wonder at the beauty of my fantasies, and my sense of "travelling" to strange and wondrous places, within my own mind.
Behold below the story I envisaged when listening to Enya's beautiful "Pax Deorum". The story is strange, and heroic, and the ending mysterious. Alas - when the music ended I saw no more. But stories are never done, and perhaps one day I shall continue it.
The Song of Waking Earth
A wind calls above the School of the Lightgatherers: a cold, wet wind – a winter wind, that yet smells of coming sweet spring rain. With strong fingers of air it rakes the hair-fine needles of the plateau pines, so that the mighty trees toss their proud heads blackly against the night sky. But the high stone walls of the school stand firm, as they will for many years, and the wind spends itself wailing around the crenelated walltop, a wordless prophecy.
A time of change is indeed foretold – for the solstice of winter is past, and all growing things feel the foreboding of spring. Yet darkness still holds the land, and all life is gripped by bitter, blighting cold.
Beneath the meagre shelter of the rocky plateau upon which the School is built, huddles a village, surrounded by a few bare, frostbitten fields and a wide wilderness. Frequently, the inhabitants turn to look longingly toward the east – but the sun has not risen since Tallowtide, and since then, snowclouds have obscured the moon, so that none can measure the turning of the days save by the waning of candles, and notches on the hearth. As it happens every winter, Time itself is frozen in the village, but though they do not know it yet – this bleak time of waiting nears its end. Tonight is the ritual of Lightsummon. Soon, it begins again, in the School of the Lightgatherers.
Tonight, the courtyard of the Lightgatherers is torch-lit and crowded with moving figures; women all – old and young, of all heights, slender and thick-waisted; hooded and cloaked in black velvet. To a watcher on the ground their movements would appear casual – each woman walking, seemingly at whim throughout the courtyard, from end to end, around the perimeter; weaving in and out of the crowd. But if we were to glide on silent wings over the school, like a snow-owl, invisible in the night – the order in the chaos is revealed; an ever-shifting pattern, like a stately dance. No word is spoken, but as the snow in the courtyard is ground to slush by many feet, and the wind blows back the snow clouds, to reveal a sparkling sky of midnight-blue, a song is born.
From the throat of one neither old nor young, of middling height but a strong, wise face it begins – low, and quiet and rhythmic. But soon the song rises above the calling of the wind, for like a candle flame igniting many others, the chant is passed from woman to woman, growing in power until it contains the strength of a multitude. This is the song of Lightsummon; a song of many parts, and many voices. But just as a tapestry may be woven of many threads of varied hue, yet may reveal a glorious and cohesive pattern, so the song contained a mighty spell. They – the Lightgatherers – sang of the waiting of the world, and blowing clouds, and of the pounding heart of the earth that throbs with fiery force under the snow.
And now, from black iron sconces in the wall, the strongest and tallest among the women lift torches and carry them high, in gloved hands. The flames seem to blaze brighter and hotter for their singing, and fierce are the women’s smiles in the flickering light. The other Lightgatherers take warm censers from a brazier, and swing them on fine silver chains. From each moon-like globe emanates a fresh and woody scent that recalls the memory of green and pumping sap. As the sky is blown clear of the last snow-clouds, the heavy doors of the School swing open, and the Lightgatherers stride out into the night, moving swiftly in a double line across the plateau. The song now is powerful as a river, with the chanting of elder voices providing the depth, and the high harmonies of the maidens shifting and beautiful as the play of light on a rushing stream.
From a mighty height, the path from the plateau curves down toward the village. Steep it is, and treacherous, as it has been unevenly eroded by many storms and is covered with loose gravel. But fast and sure as meltwater they descend, the Lightgatherers, and their song is heard long ere they reach the village below.
From the cold stupor of winter the villagers awake, and the inhabitants of every house, from youngest child to wizened grandfather, stand at their windows to watch the Lightgatherers come, and in each hand they grip a scrap of unlit tallow-candle.
When the company of Lightgatherers enters the village, the women’s quick stride slows to a solemn, steady tread, and their song becomes gentler; less fierce and more hopeful. Though they look neither to the right nor left, the singers’ voices wake in the heart of every listener soft memories of sunlight and tender growing things – and the torches and swinging censers create a warm, sweet-scented illusion of spring. As the Lightgatherers pass, each villager lights their candle, so that to a watcher it would seem the singers leave a trail of light that bravely burns even as the company passes out of the village into darkness…
For leave they must, and take an arduous route into the frozen wild. No road is laid to guide their feet, but the uncovered moon reveals a sparse trail of white pebbles leading into the distance. Onward they march – their defiant song swelling again in volume – and they stride unceasing, over crackling frost that glitters in the moonlight like splintered glass, and around deep drifts of snow; up rocky hillsides tufted with dead, cold-blasted grass.
For an long and weary way, their torches are the only lights in the frozen waste, save the cold and distant sky-companions, the stars and the moon, but all at once, sinuous and iridescent flames of green and gold appear in the sky, forming a flickering trail of light. Though the Lightgatherers’ song was powerful before; now it sounds exultant, as if the women’s hearts had been further strengthened by the fire of the sky, and the steady pace increases.
Down at last they venture, following a frozen river into a dark valley, wooded with tall, forbidding pines. This is the valley of Telmoth, wherein few dare to go. The ways of its forest are torturous, of blackness unrelieved by any glimpse of sky – and villagers mutter of fell beasts that roam unchecked and ravenous.
Yet resolute still, into utter dark they march, down into the terrible wood – young and old together. Their torches blaze like embers of the sun, and their song is fierce as fire. Downward and inward is their path, and yet they smile still, for to wake the earth to light again they must pierce dark winter’s heart with voices and with torches – and to summon back the sun they must enter deepest shadow.
They enter the forest, a singing, shining company. But their light is lost between the vast trunks of trees, and their song fades with distance – till all that can be heard on the Telmoth’s lip, is the sound of wailing winds, and the roaring of the pines.