Mystical Realms Newsletter for April, 2010
And welcome to my newsletter for April, 2010! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com ) or at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
If you go to my website at http://www.JefMurray.com , you will find that archival quality prints are now available again for _all_ of my Tolkien paintings! These could not be had for a couple of years, so I'm delighted that they're now back. All are exact duplicates of the originals in size. The reproductions are Giclee, archival quality, limited edition prints that are each numbered and signed.
You will also find graphite sketch images, most of which are Tolkien-themed, now displayed on my website. You can see these by clicking on the new "Graphite Sketches" gallery button. This gallery has only a few items in it at present, but in addition to Tolkien-themed sketches, it will soon feature book illustrations (from "Black & White Ogre Country", "The Magic Ring", etc.) as they become available.
The monk hurried to reach the cliff top before sunset, gusts of icy air blasting his black habit as he climbed. The stone steps were splintered and slippery, but Brother Aran hardly noticed; he had ascended them so many times over the decades that he knew every loose stone and every patch of moss.
He had come to Tintagel several days before and had spent his nights at St. Mary's Abbey in Buckfast. As a special envoy from the Abbot Primate, he was always treated by the Buckfast monks with great deference, and not a little curiosity.
"You are back for your yearly vigil?" asked the Buckfast abbot when he arrived.
"Yes, Father Abbot," replied the Brother Aran.
"And will you be with us long?"
"Only three nights, Father, unless my superior wishes to extend my stay."
"Very well, you can take your usual cell. But for the life of me I cannot understand what purpose can be served by sending you here, year after year. You'll be wanting a car?"
"Yes, father, but I brought one from the airport. Tintagel is too far to walk, as you know."
"It's a lot of expense if you ask me. But, an Abbot Primate will have things his own way, I suppose."
The monk bowed and remained silent. This abbot was more curious than those who had come before him. And Brother Aran had noticed that the order seemed less and less accepting of "odd" behavior in her members in recent years. Monasteries were run like businesses, and abbots felt more pressure to balance the books than to provide spiritual guidance or to examine the world through the lens of their faith.
But these vigils had begun over two hundred years before, just as the French Revolution had taken hold. The Abbot Primate at that time had sensed that, after nearly two hundred years of Protestant unrest, the tide had finally shifted. Men were turning their gaze away from the heavens and toward machines. They were inventing ideologies to justify their domination of the earth and of each other. And that farsighted Abbot had begun to send out his "Watchmen" to scan the stormy seas each winter.
Over the decades, different brothers had taken turns so as not to draw undue attention to themselves or to their Abbot. Aran had begun the latest watch at the dawn of the 21st century, and he had at least another 20 years left before he would be relieved by Brother Ardal. His next watch would begin again some sixty years hence, long after the current Buckfast Abbey residents, who were now in their fifties or older, had gone on to their final reward.
"But the watch will continue ." thought Brother Aran.
Now, the monk's attention was captured by the movements of wind, wave and water. The gale whipped his hood from his head as he reached craggy cliff tops. Cadmium clouds dotted the horizon as the sun sank before him, and waves crashed against the ebony cliffs below. He breathed salt air and spray. The solstice and sunset would arrive together, and within the hour. But there would still be light left for a brief time afterwards to scan scarlet seas.
"He'll arrive close to the solstice...at least, that's what all of the apocrypha tell us," Abbot Primate had reminded him again before he left. "They always used to come then, you know, even back in the earliest times, although in those days few of our people saw them land. I don't know if he'll need anything from us, but we must be there to offer aid and counsel. It has been many centuries since such a visitation, you know ."
"Centuries?" thought Aran. "More like millennia. And anything we can offer him will be less important than the very news of his arrival. That news would be devastating, like a blast from the very trumpet of God."
The golden clouds turned orange, then deep crimson. Above them, Aran could just glimpse the evening star. It glistened above the billows, growing brighter as light failed. Grey green waters churned below him, grinding against the rocks, but the star was a pool of peace in a scarlet sky. He was reminded of an ancient poem. How did it go? He cast back in his mind and its rhythm returned to him:
The waves were tall, the wind was keen,
The mast and sails set tall and fair,
And in the night a light was seen
As jewels in shadow shimmering.
The Angels' Haven glistened there
midst music of a harp unseen,
And starlight glowed on hall and stair,
And on her towers glimmering .
Aran stopped. He heard, above the roar of the waves below him, a howling that rose and echoed repeatedly from the cliffs on either side. "Like some animal," he thought, pulling his robes more tightly around him. He glanced at the rocky cliffs, gashed and pitted by salt air and tempest; black shadows showing against the purples and burgundies of the rocks. Through the salt and spray, Aran thought he saw movement in the fissures and recesses below him. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Nothing. Raising his eyes once more toward the horizon, he saw the sun's disk sink below the ruddy rim of the world. The howling came again, louder this time, and the wind seemed to take heart at the vanquishing of the day.
It was just then that the monk saw something else on the stormy sea; a speck of light that appeared and then vanished. He rubbed tired eyes and squinted. Yes, certainly, there was something out there. He pulled a pair of opera glasses from beneath his habit and tried to focus them, but the lenses clouded up instantly.
Anxious minutes passed as Brother Aran waited and watched; soon there would be too little light to track anything. But the object disappeared and reappeared ever closer to the cliffs, skipping across enormous waves like a deer bounding through running streams.
As it approached, Aran descried a small sloop flying only a rag of storm sail making for the jetty below him. He turned and hurried down the steps as quickly as he could in gathering gloom.
The crashing of waves on rock grew to a crescendo as he descended, and Brother Aran could hear nothing, not even the howling that had so startled him before. But he watched the shadows carefully as he picked his way down through the darkness. The wind and movement of waves and failing light made it difficult to be certain, but he thought he saw more movement in the caves and crevices as he reached the cliff bottom and hurried out onto the quay. He was freezing and his teeth chattered in the bitter air. But at the end of the jetty he could just see the glimmer of the storm sail as the sloop glided into the harbor.
"Throw me a line!" he yelled down to the boat as he reached it. A hooded figure stood at the wheel. An anchor had been thown aft to slow the vessel as she came through the harbor's mouth, and the sloop was already sheltered from the full force of the storm. The hooded seaman stepped away from the wheel and threw a coil of rope up to Brother Aran. He caught it and looped it several times around the stone pilings, then ran to catch the bow line. The seaman threw two more small anchors off the port side of the ship to hold her away from the jetty, looked carefully around at the deck and the tether lines, then threw a bag and a rope ladder up to Aran.
The monk tied off the ladder and reached down to help the seaman onto the quay. His grip was icy but strong as steel, and when he was ashore, the stranger towered over the monk. He slung his bag over one shoulder and motioned for Aran to lead the way. They found the steps leading back up to the cliffs, and Aran noticed that the shadowy movements he'd seen on his way down seemed to have ceased.
When they had ascended the steps, Brother Aran led the way to his car. The stranger paused as they approached it, seeming reluctant to come too close. But the monk unlocked and opened the passenger door and motioned for him to get in. The seaman placed his hand on the bonnet for a moment, then he bent down and sat in the passenger's seat. Brother Aran got in on the driver's side and pulled his door shut.
It was now pitch dark. The wind was still loud but was muffled within the car. Aran flipped on the interior light and pushed back his hood. His companion did likewise.
"Thank you for meeting me," said the stranger. His had a rich baritone voice and an accent, but one that Brother Aran could not place. He was graying and bearded, with long wavy hair swept back from his forehead. His eyes were green and his cloak, thoroughly wet, seemed made of oilcloth.
Brother Aran did not know exactly what to say. "I am Aran. My superior has sent me to seek you for many years now m' my Lord." The title seemed appropriate, although it had been ages since the monk had used the term.
The stranger gazed fixedly at Aran's face for several moments. "Do not be afraid. You are safe with me. But I will need your help to learn how things are here now in these times."
"Yes, my Lord," said Brother Aran. He could not hold the gaze of the seaman, and felt both exhilarated and frightened now that his mission had finally been fulfilled. "I I suppose we'd best return to the monastery for the night. We can speak at length there, and I will contact the Abbot Primate and let him know that you have arrived safely."
The stranger nodded and Brother Aran turned the keys in the ignition. The car did not start, but as soon as the switch engaged, their ears were filled with the same dreadful howling that Aran had heard on the cliff tops. Frightened, he turned off the switch, but the howling did not cease. And there came a foul smell of sulfur, as if something deep in the bowels of the automobile was burning.
The stranger, who seemed unperturbed, leaned forward and laid his hand on the dashboard. He muttered some words under his breath, and after a moment there was silence.
Brother Aran looked at him, startled.
The stranger returned his gaze with a smile. "They know I have come," he said.
- Volume 3 of "Silver Leaves", the journal of the White Tree Fund (http://www.whitetreefund.org/) is nearing completion! It will feature Tolkien/Fantasy Art and Artists as its theme. The issue should be available for preorder almost any time, and should prove a worthy follow-on to Volumes 1 and 2. I've not seen the final layout, but I believe it may include a short article plus a few of my painting images in addition to the work of many other artists.
- MythCon 41, the 41st annual conference of the U.S. Mythopoeic Society, will be held this July 9-12 in Dallas, and I will be attending (see http://www.mythsoc.org/mythcon/41/ ). I will present at least one paper at this year's gathering, the theme of which is War in Heaven. At my talk, I will discuss my work on Black & White Ogre Country as well as on the new illustrated edition of Fouque's The Magic Ring. It should be a great time! Why not join us?
- The next full exhibition at Moreton in Marsh, "The Edge of the Wild", will be held August 13-16th. This is a free event, and it will feature not only the latest works from Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon and myself, but also will serve as a celebration of the new Hilary Tolkien book, "Wheelbarrows at Dawn: Memories of Hilary Tolkien". In addition, copies of my own new work, an illustrated edition of "The Magic Ring" by Fouque, will also be available at the exhibit. Details and updates will be announced on the ADC Art & Books website (http://www.adcbooks.co.uk/ ), on the "Edge of the Wild" Facebook page, and on my website (www.JefMurray.com) .
- For those in or around Wales August 13-15th , please keep in mind that in addition to "Edge of the Wild", there will be a general Tolkien and fantasy-themed conference and exhibition just over the Welsh border. The Festival in the Shire (http://www.festivalintheshire.com ) looks to be a great venue for Tolkien fans and scholars. I am sorry to say that I will be unable to attend the event, but some of my artwork will be on display, and many other excellent Tolkien artists will have their work exhibited. The intent is to make this a yearly event, and with luck I hope to attend future gatherings.
- For folks interested in original paintings and sketches or prints of my work, please take a look at the ADC Art and Books online catalog at www.adcbooks.co.uk. It features Tolkien-themed works by Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, Peter Pracownik, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items (e.g. Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien) and rare books featured in the catalog and on the website.