And the winner of our competition to discover exactly what did happen to the tower on Torrat’s Shoal is……..
Far to the east of Port Naain, about a hundred miles as the crow flies, but closer to two hundred and fifty if you take the meandering road, is a place with no name. Of course the locals call it “Home”, but no-one else has bothered to mark it on any map and call it something else. This is probably because you only end up there in the dark or foul weather when you missed that deceptive curve on the shoulder of a hill and descended into a valley on a track that looked like the road, but wasn’t.
The landscape is less than inspiring, the mountains not quite grand or rugged enough, the valley a confused tangle of moss-draped trees and brambles. Then the now narrow path takes a right-angled turn past it a tall column, apparently metal surrounded by an angular heap of what, still discernible under a layer of moss and lichen can only be described as red bricks.
In fact, “Lost” would be an appropriate name for the cluster of cottages, tavern and forge that wouldn’t aspire to the designation of “hamlet” let alone “village”
Fortunately, should a weary traveller come upon “Lost”, the tavern is welcoming, the locals polite, if a trifle taciturn, and a comfortable bed is assured for the night and a guide provided for the morrow to set him again on the road. For a trifling sum, of course.
For a further coin or two, or a couple of rounds of drinks at the bar (the clientele will suddenly multiply from two toothless ancients to a whole host of thirsty farmers) the Landlady will regale you with the local legend.
“’Twas the night of the fearful storm” She will begin as though remembering it herself. Others at the bar will nod and murmur as if they too were there. “A long, long time ago. There were fewer people in the village then, and the mine was still open”
The traveller hadn’t realised there was any mining in the area, what did they dig from the unpromising mountains?
It is so long ago that no-one remembers.
The wind was howling around the peaks and battering down into the valley, breaking trees and ripping bushes up by the roots. People huddled round their firesides watching in trepidation as the gale blew down their chimneys, filling the cottages with smoke.
There was a pause for another round of drinks and mutterings of “Ar, terrible it were, nothing like it since,”
The dread of having the roof ripped off or a chimney pot come crashing down had driven some inhabitants out into the night. They were making their grim way toward the tavern, ostensibly a better constructed building, when a whistling sound from above made them pause to look up.
Through the dark of the tempest, arcing across the sky from the west a shooting star flew directly towards them. They could not see it clearly, but a tail of fire, blasted by the wind, roared and crackled behind it driving it at a ferocious speed straight into the side of the mountain.
The entire valley shook with the impact and the now terrified villagers fled from their cottages to the tavern and barred the door.
The storm died as quickly as it had arisen, but it was three days before the beleaguered folk ventured out.
“An’ there it were, nothin’ but a pile of bricks with that metal tube stickin’ out of it.”
The traveller remarked that if it were indeed bricks, the community could have built some fine houses for themselves, as there appeared to be little deterioration in the material, just a growth on the surface. He was rewarded by a sharp intake of breath from everyone else in the room.
“We dursn’t.” The Landlady, for all her spirited telling of the tale, became reticent, and not until another round of drinks had been procured could she continue.
“For ‘tis haunted, you see. Not even the goats will climb on it.”
She went on to describe the manner of the sinister manifestation, which gave the traveller much to think about as he stumbled up the rickety stairs to his bed, and much to puzzle over for years to come.
“’Tis a voice. A man’s voice. When the wind comes from the West, it begins with a hollow moaning, a sound like someone blowing across the top of a bottle. Then there is the laughter, sobbing, helpless laughter. And then there is the words, and we can’t understand what they mean: ‘Light the blue touch paper and stand well back’’”
It should be noted that Jheri is a person of many fine qualities, an artist,
and a writer!