Friday, April 06, 2007

Sunset Reflection

I followed the track through the darkening forest, moving uphill at a jog. The winter has taken its toll - here and there, trees lean at crazy angles, a few stubborn roots still scrabbling for purchase, while others, exhausted, are slowly dissolving into the earth that fed them. The zig-zagging of the trail is punctuated by dark stone slabs; in them, a man is painfully climbing a very distant hill, trudging upward to his death. The cool air carries faint accents of woodsmoke - some miles to the north, the hills are burning, as they burnt last winter, as they burn every spring. They will burn next year too, I think; we have been burning this land for some time now - 5,000 years perhaps?

Overworked lungs and leaden legs give notice that this foolishness should not continue; but the gradient eases, and I clear the last of the trees, reaching the summit at a run as the sun sinks to within a single diameter of the horizon. The sky is a perfect and uninterrupted blue dome, shading to copped and gold in the west. The hilltop is not empty; the mound to the south is the tomb of the one-eyed wizard-priest Mogh Ruith; they say that 17 centuries ago, it was his magic that beat the High King and sent him back to Tara. He was well rewarded: his fee was the lands below this hill, down to the Blackwater. One hundred years or so ago, he gained a companion for his long vigil; beside him now, there hangs the man from the slabs, nailed at the hands and feet to a great stone cross.

How many sunsets will pass these sightless eyes? And who will join them, on Corrin Hill?

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