Dec 232010

“We will protect and enhance the city’s wildlife and biodiversity and preserve the land we manage.”

By Ahayma Dootz.

I had almost lost count of the days we had spent struggling through the overgrown wilderness of Allenvale in search of my ancestor’s tomb when D’oad returned from a scouting trip with alarming news. It seemed that this land was indeed inhabited. A few miles ahead he had spotted signs of a small village or ‘clachan’ nestled in a clearing by a small river which he assumed to be a tributary of the mighty D’ee – possibly the Holb’urn.

“The fowk seem tae be peaceful,” he said. “Ah believe they’re the people ye thocht ye saw back at Sk’inner’s gravestone. Ah heard music.”

We decided to approach cautiously, offering trade goods  – ‘tees’, baseball caps, t-shirts from Trumpistan and the like – in exchange for information and fresh supplies. Little did I suspect that this encounter would completely change the nature of my quest!

It was several days later that D’oad and I sat with the headman discussing our plans. It seemed that cousin Walter had also encountered these people. Five years earlier, a man answering Walter’s description had wandered into the village babbling about ‘lost treasures’, a ‘hidden garden’ and a ‘red spire’.

He had been well-equipped but exhausted, and half starved. While he recovered his strength he had told of how, long ago, his own people had once lived in these lands and that while searching for his ‘roots’ he had come across information concerning his family’s lost ‘birthright’. Some fabulous treasure which had mysteriously disappeared causing the time of turmoil that local legends call the ‘Hard Times’.

The headman, G’illie, shook his head.

“Oor aul’ fowk kent a bittie oboot this.”  he explained while D’oad translated ( these people were riddled with the ‘doric’.). “Afore oor fowk turnt their backs on a’ they mad gods – K’ooncil, D’ean, Ah’ksef   an’ the ithers – we kent fine that the tribute gaithered ower the years had disappeared – aye, that the treasury wis toom!”

He explained that there had always been rumours of how this wealth had somehow been hidden in a secret valley called the ‘Gairdens’ guarded by a tall tower –the ‘red spire’. It appeared that after finding Mary McWalter’s tomb, cousin Walter – always prone to obsession –  had gone off in search of these lost riches and that after his arrival here he had pressed on, heading north towards ‘T’oonhoos’.

Despite the corrosion I could make out a shield flanked by two blurred upright figures

I considered my position.  Returning home empty-handed had never been an option for me – Walter and I were family after all – but I knew the native bearers would not venture further no matter how many ‘gowfba’s’ I offered. I was delighted, however, when D’oad offered to accompany me.

G’illie allowed us to study old maps and consult with his storytellers then, supplied with fresh provisions and information,  D’oad and I prepared to follow the Holb’urn north. As we packed, I asked him why he had decided to continue this uncertain journey. Beckoning me to follow, he walked over to an ancient bench which stood outside G’illie’s hut. Looking closely, I realised that although the seat was made of wood, the frame was cast-iron! D’oad pointed to what seemed to be a coat of arms on the backrest. Despite the corrosion I could make out a shield flanked by two blurred upright figures.

“That is the auld symbol of the ‘Deen,” he said, “Div ye see thae twa craturs either side o’ the shield? They were the ancient guardians o’ the ‘Deen – some wid say they’re only myth, ithers that long, long ago, such things walked this land. There is a legend amongst my people that if ever they are seen again, then the lands o‘ Deen shall be healed –  united once again – and returned to their former glory! Noo, ah’ve heard rumours of sightings tae the north. Jist rumours, mind, but if there’s ony hope at a’ then….” , he tailed off.

“But what on earth are they?” I asked.

He told me.

“Aaaaarrrgh!!!” I screeched, “That’s disgusting!” I recoiled from the bench. ”Surely not! Not even here in this benighted land! I mean, medical science…I mean…” words failed me.

D’oad frowned, looking puzzled for a moment; then his face cleared.

“Na, na, na, ya deef gype.” He exclaimed.” Nae lepers, ya bluidy eedjit! Leopards, min, leopards! Muckle big spotty cats, ye ken?” he began to laugh uncontrollably. “Lepers!”

Sheepishly at first, I began to giggle.

Dec 102010

“Savings could be made if the council withdrew music services and sold off musical instruments.”

By Ahayma Dootz.

Occasional glimpses of the sun through the leafy canopy above suggested that it was not yet midday when our progress came to an abrupt halt .For some time, stumps of vine-strangled masonry had flanked our hard-won passage through the dense undergrowth and ahead of me now I saw the porters clustered around a particularly large example, their burdens abandoned.

As I approached, they parted to let me pass and I observed that this memorial had been kept free from the surrounding vegetation and that an offering of brightly-coloured flowers lay upon it.

“What d’you make of it?” I asked D’oad who was inspecting a badly-eroded inscription, “And who on earth has been caring for an ancient gravestone in this inhospitable place?”

“Inhospitable, mebbe, but no’ uninhabitit, clairly.” He replied. “An’ tak a scance at this.” He added, pointing to a faint carving lower down.

“Good grief! That looks like a violin.” I exclaimed.

“Aye,” he confirmed, “It’s a fiddle, richt eneuch.” His eyes took on a faraway look. “The man resting here is still spoken of with reverence amongst my people. Sk’ottsk’inner, he was called and it is said that he was the greatest fiddlin’ mannie of his time.

This was in the age before the’ Hard Times’, you unnerstan’, afore the mad god K’ooncil and his minions demanded the sacrifice of all things musical and the skills and arts became lost tae us.”  He shook his head, sadly.

“Did nothing survive?” I asked.

“Legend speaks of some who rebelled, who turned their backs on the harsh gods of that time and, with the instruments of their craft, disappeared from common view.” He paused thoughtfully. “It may be that they found refuge in the ‘baneyairds’ and that their descendants still bide here in these harsh lands. It would explain this offering.” I was touched by the man’s rough dignity.

“Well, let’s get on.” I said. D’oad conferred with the bearers then turned to me.

“We must have a F’lykup.” he announced. My heart sank.Our expedition had all too often been hampered – not to say plagued – by this ritual. Whenever the natives divined that the ‘natural harmonies’ were disturbed, they would perform this propitiatory ceremony and, in extreme cases, the F’uncipeece’ would also be invoked.

My medical kit included water-purifying tablets and my anti-doric medication

The bearers began producing small, garishly-coloured pastries to be ritually exchanged and consumed. Resigned to a long delay, I turned to D’oad. “I shall take no part in this.” I told him,” I respect your beliefs but I do not fear ‘evil spirits’.” He looked at me admiringly and shook his head.

“Yerrachube, M’in.” he said.

“A lucky accident of birth and education.”  I replied modestly as he rejoined his men.

Finding a mossy stump to rest against, I began a careful inventory of the personal belongings in my own backpack. My medical kit included water-purifying tablets and my anti-doric medication. This was an experimental drug produced by my family’s pharmaceutical company. We had been commissioned by the Trumpistani government to investigate the nature of this affliction which was endemic to the entire region. Recent outbreaks in Trumpistan had cost the empire dear in lost revenue from its massive tourist industry.

How the infection was transmitted remained unclear but it appeared to affect the speech centres of the brain resulting in a form of mostly benign (physiologically, at least) dyslexia which rendered the victims unintelligible save to fellow sufferers. I had agreed to’ field test’ the results of our latest research which, it was hoped, would provide protection not only against ‘Doric’ but also ‘Lallans’, ‘Orcadian’, ‘Shetlandic’, so-called ‘Romany Cant’ and Scots (though not Irish) Gaelic. I had been dosing myself regularly since arriving in the country and estimated that there remained enough for several more weeks.

Reclining comfortably, I gazed around at the lush tangle of exotic greenery, and inhaled the unfamiliar perfumes of strange blossoms. My eyelids grew heavy but, just before I fell into a doze, I heard (or thought I heard) wild, joyful music played upon all manner of instruments and I glimpsed (or fancied I glimpsed) figures dancing gracefully beyond the leafy walls surrounding me.

To be continued…….

Dec 032010

‘One option is that when council cemeteries are full, to stop maintenance and turn them into wildlife areas.’

By Ahayma Dootz.

That night we made camp in a small clearing. While the native bearers busied themselves with tents and cooking-fires, their headman, D’oad, explained that tomorrow we would be leaving the territory with which he was familiar – D’uthiepark and entering the almost unknown lands of Allenvale or the ‘Boneyaird’ as D’oad called it.

Here it was that my cousin had disappeared while searching for the tomb of his great-great grandmother, Mary McWalters. Family legend, backed by an ancient scrap of a map, placed her grave – plot 376 – in the heart of this wilderness and, inflamed by his obsession with genealogy, cousin Walter had plunged headlong into this savage, untamed heart of darkness to further expand our family tree. His last message had said that he was about to enter ‘the wild lands’ and hoped to return within a few weeks at most. That had been five years ago.

Dispatched by the family to discover what had happened to him, I had followed in his footsteps, paddling down the mighty D’ee, hiring bearers and D’oad, a locally famous hunter who had agreed to be my guide. Thanks to our family’s business interests in the much richer land of Trumpistan to the north, I was well supplied with ‘gowfbaws’ and ‘tees’ which were highly valued here. Indeed a bride could be had for two or three ‘gowfbaws’ and I had promised a brace to each bearer who stayed the course. Strangely, D’oad had refused these rewards and intimated that he had a purpose of his own in making this dangerous trek into the unknown.

D’oad poked a grimy, heavily-tattooed finger at a spot on a copy of my cousin’s map.

“We’re aboot here, G’adgie.” he said, respectfully. I pointed to the north-east towards where I thought Mary McWalters grave might lie.

“Tomorrow we’ll head towards this place.” I told him. D’oad turned a whiter shade of pale.

“Are ye feel, M’annie?” he inquired deferentially. Mentally translating his strange dialect I replied, “Yes, I’m sure.”

Trusting to our campfires to deter the countless ferocious wild animals hereabouts, D’oad and I joined the bearers for a meal of ‘minsantattys’ and some locally-grown ‘fitepuddin’ – a welcome break from the unleavened flatbread called ‘R’owie’ which the natives chewed unceasingly and which, though almost inedible, could sustain a man for a whole day’s march.

As we ate I considered my situation. The virtually impenetrable wilderness surrounding us had once, according to history and local legend, been a tamed, civilised land. Then had come the ‘Hard Times’. Tribal elders told of chaos, neglect and destruction – wasteful, foolish gods – K’ooncil, D’een, Ah’Kseff – who arose and laid waste to the land.

Civilisation had retreated, well-groomed parks returned to the wild and, aided by global warming, once-exotic plants safely confined within D’uthiepark had escaped and colonised vast tracts of land including the now dreaded ‘boneyairds’.

Still musing, I retired for the night hoping for a good night’s sleep before we set out in the morning.

………….to be continued…………..

The beginning of a tale by Ahayma Dootz.

Ahayma Dootz, Aberdeen, Creative, Writing, King Solomon,