A Glance At England’s Chalk Carvings
I lived in East Sussex for many years. A land of rolling hills covered in trees that formed part of The Weald, a vast forest that once spread from Southampton to Ashford in Kent and whose trees had seen Julius Ceasar, and later the first Saxon invaders sweep in from wintry seas beyond.
Many of those trees were mercilessly cut down during the Armada and Napoleonic Wars, but The Weald still exists in clumps and coppices throughout Southeast England. A place where castles such as Pevensey, Hastings, and Bodiam, and towns like Rye, Winchelsea, Alfriston, and Battle, hint of history long past. A quiet corner of England rapped between two lines of hills known simply as The North Downs and The South Downs.
I used to walk The South Downs a lot. Near Eastbourne, you could stroll for miles beneath blue skies with swallows swooping overhead in summers –– or else wind buffeting face and coat flapping later in the year. Magical and far from Madding Crowd. Peggy, pictured below, was a stalwart companion as we roamed for hours on Sunday afternoons.
Further west in Dreamy Dorset the Cerne (or Rude) Giant can be found, at a place called Cerne Abbas near Dorchester. Then there is the White Horse of Uffington, a carving that was once rumored to be a dragon –– the same one as slain by St George, haha.
Other white horses parade the Downs, Moors and wild hillsides of England. Some are relatively young; the Victorians were guilty of a few, and there are military badges at Fovant carved by soldiers during the early Twentieth Century. But other chalk carvings are shrouded in mystery and lost to time. The Long Man, Cerne Giant, and Uffington Horse, in particular, hint at a world of which we know little. Legend speaks of warring Giants, Gog Magog, and of Celtic deities, Rhiannon and Epona. But no one really knows. Here’s a link from Wikipedia on the subject.
The Weekly Fantasy Series
Episode Twelve: Ambush!
Skinny crows gazed down from bare branches, their beady eyes surveying the road below. Corin watched too, calmly marking the file of soldiers marching west through heavy drizzle toward the forest.
Hagan crouched by his side, spy glass held to right eye. Hagan’s nine followers were hidden in the trees behind. Among them Badger Borgil, chewing a dead blade of grass as he watched the troop emerge through the murk. Borgil grinned; this was a perfect place for an ambush.
Corin counted twenty soldiers. All clad in heavy woolen cloaks embroidered with an orange black-striped image of a snarling beast, marking them clearly as the High King’s Tigers. The elite royal guard fresh from Kella City.
Corin had had dealings with this lot before, back in the halcyon days when he served Lord Halfdan. The three regiments of Kelthaine had scant fondness for each other. The Tigers hated the Bears and the Bears loathed the Tigers. But both these despised the lower class Wolves.
Unlike the other two regiments, the Wolves allowed anyone join their ranks. That was part of the reason why Corin had enlisted. But only part of the reason.
He rubbed his hands as the bitter damp gnawed at his fingers, and then cursed as Hagan jabbed him hard in the ribs. “There it is!” Hagan shoved the spyglass in Corin’s fist and pointed through the murk.
A cart had wheeled into view pulled by two shaggy mules. A huge Tiger warrior held the reins, but the passenger behind was hidden beneath the canopy shielding him from the rain.
“Caswallon’s man?” Corin pinned the glass to his left eye but couldn’t see much. The rain was heavier now and the spyglass rendered useless as drops spattered its surface.
“Got to be,” Hagan signaled his men ready their crossbows. “Remember, Corin. No crazy stuff, I know what you’re like, and Silon wants him alive.”
Touch and go. The Tigers were sharp, and Corin could see the rest of their troop filing into range behind the cart. He counted a dozen, but they kept coming which wasn’t the best news.
“Thirty — maybe more,” Corin handed the glass back to his ally. “They look miserable and ready for a fight.”
“They’re the High King’s Tigers; they’re always miserable.” Hagan raised his hand, waiting as the closest soldiers approached the shelter of the wood. “We can’t pursue them in there. Too risky. You know the rumors about that forest?” Corin nodded. He’d heard a few. “The lads are going to struggle to get a clear shot out in this,” Hagan grumbled, and Corin nodded again.“They’d better try else we’re buggered,” Corin eased Clouter from its scabbard and readied himself for a charge. He wasn’t in the mood. Hated damp weather. Especially cold, damp weather. Too much time in the desert had thinned his blood.
Despite his lack of enthusiasm, Corin thought they were running out of time. He watched frowning and shaking his head as the nearest Tiger troops approached the cover of the trees. Still, the crossbowmen didn’t fire, though there was a lot of cranking and muttering from somewhere close behind. “Today would be good,” Corin suggested when nothing happened.
“Now!” Hagan yelled the command in Corin’s ear. Thanks… That shout was followed by a series of twangs and buzzes hinting imminent wasp invasion. Bolts flew at the column below. Three Tigers tumbled, the rest dived for cover. The crossbowmen reloaded taking two more.
“They’re crap shots!” Corin complained, launching his body into soggy motion. “Time for some wet work, methinks!” Corin sprang from the hide and made wild for the road, Hagan jogged beside him, and somewhere behind them, his crappy crossbow team hurried to stow their projectile weapons and then commenced grabbing swords and axes. It took a while. “We’re coming!” Borgil announced, leading their charge with a nasty nasal growl.
Corin was almost upon the startled front runners in the column when a horn blast echoed from the murk behind, announcing fifty new warriors emerging wet and yelling through the rain. These carried pikes and halberds, and a good few were cranking crossbows. Within minutes Corin was surrounded by a ring of steel. yet again this looked to be a winning day…
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I’ll see you next time!