The Tales of Caer Alban [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Steven Chappell
eBook Category: Fantasy
eBook Description: Spend a night among the Talking Stones: Come to Carnac, a huge field of ancient standing stones in Western France and meet Cerne, master of the Tales of Caer Alban. While the stones whisper of ancient things and forgotten times, let Cerne spin the stories that change lives, the Tales from the ancient and hidden fortress of Caer Alban: the Tower of Light. Who knows what you may hear among the stones and the stories?
eBook Publisher: The Fiction Works, Published: http://www.fictionworks.com, 2004
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2004
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It was yet another full hour before dawn and the sky was just beginning to lighten. But the stars were still bright in the dark sky and a crescent moon hung above the horizon. It was the edge of autumn and here, in the thick woods of oak, birch, and ash, the air was cool and crimson was beginning to edge the leaves. Normally it was very still at this hour when the world is making its transition between night and day, but in this early morning there was movement.
The figure of a man with a staff in his hand was making its way between the trees, heading due east with firm purpose and the hint of hurry. He wore a robe such as monks might wear, but one of natural hue with flowing sleeves and a great, deep hood. Over this he had a cape of darker color. His face was kindly and yet difficult to read: it belonged to someone who kept his thoughts very much to himself until he was ready to share them. The man had silver, slightly curling hair and his mustache, though still dark, was neatly trimmed and shot with silver. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about him was that he was barefoot: a deliberate act as he wanted to be in touch with the earth beneath him. He strode along at a pretty fair clip, his staff marking his stride, and it was obvious he was on a mission of some urgency.
He was alone.
Or was he?
Every so often, flitting between the moonbeams and starlight, tiny winged figures cavorted about him, soaring and swooping. Now and again, he would speak with them.
"It is very important I be there before the sunrise. He is coming to Carnac specifically to be there for the sunrise. It's hard to explain. It's sort of a 'human thing'. If I am late, I will lose the advantage of timing and that must not be. Why? Because this one has great promise and he and I have a lot of work to do before the great light bursts upon eye and mind. Yes, yes. I realize you do not grasp this, but with humans it is the way things are: I must catch him off guard to present what I wish him to know in such a way as to make him think, 'Ah-hah! I see it!' and accept without rationalizing the message away. Oh, I know. We do think entirely too much but, well, that is just the way we were made by the Source. It's our nature, don't you know?"
While he held this running monologue with the tiny figures (I assume they spoke back in some way, but either there was nothing to be heard or their voices were just that little), others made themselves known. A unicorn moved among the shrubs, shy and glistening like starlight among the shadows, the moonlight glinting from her golden horn. Gnomes giggled and skipped just off to the side of the tall striding man. Nightingales warbled sweetly above him and the occasional cry of a regal griffin or a sweep of its body through the grasses announced its presence. These nocturnal escorts didn't faze the man at all for, in fact, they were escorts, keeping their mysterious friend company upon his quest. As he topped a rise, his goal lay before him in the fading moonlight: the stones of Carnac.
Carnac, you see, is a place on the peninsula called Brittany that juts into the great Atlantic, forming one side of the country of France. It is a vast field of huge standing stones arranged in rows: row after row that, altogether, take up miles of countryside, although they are arrayed more like big stone lines of desks or up-ended pews where they haven't fallen down. The man smiled to himself: he had made it! His "guest" would be arriving any time now, but he had made it here first. He needed to prepare himself for his arrival.
He strode into Carnac straight down the middle aisle. The griffin and the unicorn paced ahead of him, side-by-side while, behind him, walked the phantom shapes of one red and one white dragon, heads swaying and nodding gravely while their hot breath sent up small puffs of steam. Small, dimly seen people fell in behind them like a bridal procession walking the aisle while, the deeper the procession went into Carnac's heart, misty figures, robed and hooded like the man, appeared by his side, flitting in-and-out of the moonlight. All advanced to an unheard music, with solemn step and rhythmic unity of movement.
The man raised his staff above his head and, one-by-one, the assembly vanished into the shadows until he was alone. He looked about for a particular stone and then cocked his head and, instead, listened for it to speak. The voice was not long in coming and it drew him to itself. Seating himself at its base with his back straight up against its surface, he let the shadows pull him into its very appearance and disappeared from sight.
The Seeker was not long in coming.
The man was approaching his middle years, still young and yet coming into the prime years of life. He was successful and had achieved a great deal to this point. But success and possessing "toys", as he liked to call his pricey possessions, had not made him happy. There was supposed to be something more and he wanted to find what that might be. So, earlier in the summer now passing, he had embarked on a long tour of all the sacred, ancient places of Europe in an effort to connect with something that might help his make some sense out of life, which at this point was a huge mystery to him. He had been to Delphi, Newgrange, Iona, Stonehenge and, while each held a special feeling and offered a small piece of the answer he looked for, he hadn't found "it". He'd been in a Paris market when a man had thrust a leaflet into his hand about Carnac. The man hadn't spoken a word and he disappeared quickly into the milling crowd; the Seeker hadn't even caught a glimpse of his face, it had all happened so fast. But the pamphlet fueled his imagination and, following its exhortation to visit Carnac to watch the sunrise "for a genuinely moving and spiritual experience", here he was to see if this place would add to his enlightenment or just deepen his confusion.
Mist wrapped the stones. The sun was yet an hour from its full rising and stars yet sparkled while a misty moon hung like a sparkling scimitar on the eastern horizon. It was cool but pleasant and he marveled that he should be the only one here this morning if Carnac was all it was cracked up to be.
And then he realized he wasn't alone.
His eyes shifted to the base of one of the great stones where he had caught a slight movement. He was alert but not alarmed. There sat an oddly dressed man in hooded robes and a cape who all but blended in to the stone. No, no he didn't. It was just the way the light shifted ... or not ... or ... oh, never mind. His garb was impossible to place. A monk? Some retro-Hippie? A Druid perhaps? ... or a wizard of some sort? His imagination began to spin.
"Good morning," the man spoke. "My name is Cerne. I assume you, too, have come to see the sunrise here at Carnac?" He certainly sounded normal enough, the Seeker quickly decided.
"I have," the Seeker answered. His tone was cautious but he quickly relaxed, feeling no threat from this stranger. "My name is Cunningham. I've been on a tour of the major spiritual sites and stumbled on some info' about the place." He extended his hand. "I didn't quite catch your name."
"Cerne," the hooded figure replied. His accent seemed vaguely Scottish or Irish, but neither of these seemed to fit; it was impossible to place him. "I, too, am passing through but had ... business ... in the area and Carnac was on the way."
They fell rather easily into conversation. The Seeker was not aware how, after some time had passed, Cerne had let him talk on while he listened. He also didn't notice that while they spoke at some length, the sky grew no lighter. He was that "into" his story.
"So I came here," he concluded, cocking his head to one side. "I'm still trying to figure out what my life is supposed to be all about and where I go from here." He looked hard at his hooded companion. "This much I know: I can't bear the thought of going back to that boring job and small talk and the 'grind'. I have this strong feeling I'm supposed to do something major with my life which has nothing to do with board meetings, red-eye business flights, and smiling politely through small talk that's boring me to tears. He paused. "I must sound like I think I'm pretty self-important, huh? What is it with me, do you think? Early mid-life crisis?" He laughed.
"No," Cerne replied, "my feeling is that you're just looking for your mission in life- the quest that makes you unique and not just a part of the crowd. A great number of modern people feel the way you do. With all the conveniences and luxuries that life offers, we still feel something is missing. That something is what I call 'connectedness'."
The Seeker straightened up, alert and attentive. "What do you mean by that?"
"Simply put, humanity is divorced from the earth and all other life. We have, in my opinion, separated ourselves and created an artificial life defined by things that leaves us often feeling empty and our senses dull. Of course, most people try not to think about it and, by-and-large, they succeed. A few, people a good deal like yourself, make a genuine effort to find what it is that's missing in their lives- to get back to being real and in union with all life. When we are able to do that, life reopens in wonder and joy the way it was meant to be."
"Sounds right," the Seeker observed, "but just how do you go about making the jump between the life we've created and the real thing?"
"The great teachers all had their techniques," Cerne remarked. "Buddha called it enlightenment and there are many ways it can be achieved: meditation, pilgrimage, removing oneself from civilization. All involve time and commitment to mastering the process of each, but they work. Then there are the wisdom teachings, which can also be useful. One can listen and, if the heart is open, find the path intended for them. For my part, I prefer 'The Tales.'"
"The Tales?" asked the Seeker.
Cerne smiled to himself. The Seeker had walked in exactly where he had hoped he would go. "The Tales of Caer Alban", he replied. "Stories from a hidden place much like monumental Carnac here, except there is a living community there. A group of men and women known to the outside world only as the Wise and regarded as legendary. But they are real, and the Tales are their gift to the world: a collection of ancient parables. Ancient and yet ever new. The world moves forward and so do the Tales. They are meant to show people the way."
The Seeker was electric with excitement. "Do you know where I can get a copy?" he asked.
"Oh, they aren't written down anywhere," Cerne answered. "The Wise are reluctant to put anything in writing. You see, once a word is reduced to writing, its spirit becomes a bit stifled. Words are living things with an energy all their own. For its full vibrancy, its full magic to work, a tale has to be heard."
"Well, do you know any of these stories?"
The twilight grew calm and full of expectancy. The very air tingled.
"Indeed, I do," Cerne said. "But for each story which I shall share with you, there is a personal price involved for you, the listener. You must decided what meaning the story, each story, has for you personally. And each one will have a meaning for you. But it is for you decide what that meaning is and how it applies to you. Are you ready for such work?"
"Count me in!" the Seeker exclaimed, all but leaping to his feet.
The curved arc of the moon behind Cerne had come to frame his head like shining antlers. The morning star flamed into fire from behind the edge of the stones to his left. He reached up and lowered his hood.
"Then listen well, Seeker, for this night, in this place, these stories are for you and all who seek earnestly. These are The Tales of Caer Alban."
And with that, he began.