jan shirley french translator and childrens author

The Road to Stonehenge by Jan Shirley

Excerpts

‘We owe her nothing. Seven years’ care, eight, she owes us. She ought to go away from us as naked as we found her!’ It was Ensy speaking, Old Woman of the tribe, priestess. ‘But of course we shan’t do that. I’ve given her warm clothing, and food for six days. It’s all we can spare.’
‘She can travel with us to begin with, surely,’ said Hoony. He had obeyed his own mother when she was Old Woman, and he was going to obey Ensy, but it wouldn’t be easy. He could remember her as a bossy little girl and then as a nagging wife – one of Haldo’s, thanks be! not his – and he wished very much that the Stone hadn’t had to go to her. ‘She can travel with us to begin with,’ he repeated.
‘No. We are to go south, the Old Woman said so, and Krenn is to go and find this temple of hers. There’s nothing like that to the south of us, she’ll have to go east. That’s where the great temples are.’

*          *          *          *          *          *

All sorts of things were regularly given to the goddess, Krenn knew that – grain, baked cakes, blood from animals they’d killed – but people? People?  Krenn passionately hoped not.
‘Nanna, if I’ve got to go to the Lady – Nanna, how?’
‘Eh? Didn’t I say? I must be getting old! On your feet, Sparrow, on your own two feet. I saw you clearly, She showed me and I saw you, walking among huge tall stones.’
In the forest, you die.
‘Crazy!’ said a low voice close to Krenn as she sat in the firelight after the evening meal. ‘Stark staring raving crazy! Don’t you pay any attention to her, Sparrow!’
‘Jinsy! Oh how you made me jump. What do you know about it, anyway?’
‘I listened outside the house. Saw you go in, thought I’d check. Listen,Sparrow, we ought to have moved, right, and if she wants to she can stay behind when we go and turn up her toes, fine, no one’ll stop her, but to send you out like that, no! She’s gone right out of her tiny little mind.’
‘Jinsy, you’re only a boy, you don’t understand. She’s the Old Woman, for goodness’ sake! You shouldn’t even have gone near her house.’
‘Good thing I did,’ said Jinsy. ‘I’m going to tell Hoony, and he’ll – ‘
‘No, you mustn’t, he can’t! Only women talk to the Great Mother, not men, you know that. Do talk sense, Jinsy!’
‘All the same, I –‘
‘Ssh! Look!’

*          *          *          *          *          *

Krenn walked on with an odd feeling of holiday – no pigs to herd, no weeds to pull up, no squirrels to track down for their hoards of nuts, no skins to scrape and soften and work at, no pounding and pounding and pounding at little bits of corn that were never going to turn into flour – nothing to do except the absolutely impossible. Just find a great and holy temple far far away in the east of the world and offer up an offering she hadn’t got. Impossible, so why worry?

*          *          *          *          *          *

If I found them, would I like them? They put me out to die.

*          *          *          *         *          *

On and on it went. Down into the half-dug hole, hack at the chalky soil with a piece of deerhorn, scrabble and scratch and scrape, heave a full basket of rubble onto your back, up out of the hole, away through the gap, scatter the rubble, go back to the hole – fill it up, tip it out, fill it up, tip it out, slide down, scramble up -    

*          *          *          *         *          *

Huge massive ramparts shone white in the winter morning sunshine and Krenn and Jinsy stopped in their tracks and stared.
‘Chalk,’ said Jinsy, fingering the face of the wall. ‘They built these enormous walls and then finished them off with chalk.’ He licked his finger and then rubbed it against the surface; yes, chalk.
It was a vast circle, enormous, far bigger than the Great Ring of Berren. You could have put his Stones in there half a dozen times and still had room.