Hello all! I am cooling my heels in the middle of a smallish rowboat–if this were an actual picture of us, we’d be the ones out beyond the sailing vessels, being trailed overhead by gulls. Only there’s three of us aboard, not two (no cameras back then, sorry).
We’re headed up the mighty Verani River. A rather large, rather smelly fisherman named Dirk sits behind me, working the oars. Crispus is in the bow of the boat, talking a furlong a minute, and occasionally helping out with an oar.
We cast off from the jetty at Corwinder-by-the-Sea just before dawn. The day is mild, the water is clear and calm. A good thing, since I came away without my ginger. In case you’re wondering, I had a wonderful—though short—visit with a lovely lady at Corwinder. Young Will’s wife. If you’ve read A Gathering of Eagles, you’ll know her. If you haven’t, well, you will know her. We got along quite well.
Crispus is a Roman missionary, sent by the Apostle (tutor to Prince William) who had ministered in these parts for so many years. Crispus speaks a very proper English, as well as many other languages and dialects, including the ancient tongue. I found him very interesting for the first, oh, hour or so. After that, I have to confess—I zoned out. He does love to talk.
He’s about five-foot-nine, of medium build—just a step past wiry. He must have an amazing metabolism, because he can sure put away the fodder. His black hair is short and quite curly. He has the Roman nose, dark eyes, and a dark complexion. All in all, quite a lovable character.
Me: What first brought you to the Haven at Verani Falls?
Crispus: I crossed the Verani in route to the kingdom of Coldthwaite on a ferryboat. The ferryman directed me to go in the opposite direction, because the haven was cursed. (He shoots me a toothy grin) So of course, I must go and find out for myself. Being a man of faith, I had no fear of the curse.
Me: Did you find it to be cursed or haunted by ghosts?
Crispus: Not at all. It was as quiet as a tomb, and actually reminded me of one. A burnt-out shell of a house was what I found there, along with an overgrown herb garden, and a couple of old outbuildings.
Me: But wasn’t there something about the house that interested you?
Crispus: (His face lights up) Indeed. The runes. My first introduction to the Ancient Tongue. And the writing on the lintels I found buried beneath the ashes—Hebrew letters—unmistakable. (Rubs his hands together) Nothing excites me more. It was far north for the Hebrews so early in history. Why had they come there? My mind fairly reeled with questions.
Me: So how excited were you to meet the lady who had grown up in the Haven?
Crispus: Oh, quite. And the more I heard of the place, the more excited I became. It made me think of Jacob’s Ladder, where angels ascended and descended. Aye, the Haven held a portal of some kind. But what interested me most about the place, was the spirit of peace upon it. The same peacefulness I felt when I met Jael of Rogan for the first time. She carries it with her.
Here, he set off on a long, rather detailed lineage of the Rogan family. I dozed off at one point, but he didn’t seem to notice. He may be used to that. We passed by the village of Doler, and I perked up, because I knew the Haven was near at hand. And sure enough, there came the unmistakable sound of the great cascade, The Falls of Verani. I’m excited.
See you next week!