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|Adventures of Vushwelt and Kachsum’or|
A Tale By Sandy Birrell
Vushwelt woke and let his eyes become accustomed to the gloom. The hotel he had slept in left a lot to be desired but the bed had been comfortable and he had slept well. He rose and crossed the room to the window, pulled back the curtains and groaned, bright sunshine flooded the room blinding him for a moment. His eyes became accustomed to the strong light and he saw the heavy clouds that were slowly drifting across the azure blue sky, it wasn’t as bad as he thought.
He washed and dressed, picking the greens and browns that he was accustomed to, not for him the gaily-coloured clothes of the other guests he knew would be at breakfast. Opening the door he passed through and slowly walked along the corridor towards the stairs to the lower level. A door to his right opened, a young lad looked out, saw him and quickly closed it again. On the stairs he passed other guests, some acknowledged his good morning, others passed without another glance.
The dining room was busy but not full. He crossed to a window seat; he liked to watch the world as he ate. Eyes turned to watch his slow steady progress across the room. He wasn’t tall, but was broad in the shoulder and carried his age well. His grey hair and beard were short, but not cropped, accentuating the ruddy complexion that showed he was accustomed to the outdoors rather than the confines of their lives. Looking round the room as he ate breakfast he saw the young couple with the two young children trying to get them fed before whatever adventure they would be going on today. The older couple in the corner, probably not much older than himself, but dressed as if they were still in the city and not here in the back of beyond, looking older than their years because that is the way they think they should look. He smiled to himself when he caught them looking critically at him, they probably thought he should be in suit, collar and tie. There were others of his type in the room but younger, noisier and excitable; they would learn his composure as they aged.
He thanked the young girl who cleared the table of his dishes; she looked startled, but smiled and thanked him. He re-crossed the room feeling the eyes of the guests that were left following his progress. He could imagine the questions that flooded their thoughts. Where was he going? What did he do? Those same thoughts he would have if he had been the observer. He crossed the main hall, out the front door and into the sunlight. He felt the warmth in the air and the fresh air felt good after the confines of the hotel; he was happiest outdoors.
The area in front of the hotel was quieter than it had been when he had arrived the previous evening, which meant his car was now at the other end all on its own. He walked to it his every step punctuated by the crunch of gravel. Stopping briefly as he reached it he looked round at the hills that surrounded him; browns and greens shone in the morning sun; yellows, greys even blues were picked out here and there; this was his environment, only people like him would understand how he felt.
Vushwelt opened the boot and reached in, took out the heavy boots, and changed them for the shoes he was wearing. Reaching in again he pulled out the heavy pack that would be his companion for the rest of the day and put it on his back. He stood looking into the boot for a few seconds before reaching in and extracting the long black tube that housed his companion at these times, Kachsum’or, who rattled as he withdrew him and, once free, throbbed in his hand with a life of his own.
Closing the boot and locking the car, Vushwelt turned and walked down the drive leading to the road, the gravel crunching under his heavy boots. The air hummed with insect life even here. He watched swallows darting here and there beneath the trees, wagtails running from place to place only pausing long enough to feed the young that followed their every step. He drew long, deep breaths, preparing himself for the task ahead. He knew it would not be easy; would Kachsum’or be up to it, would he?
Vushwelt turned onto the road, Kachsum’or hummed softly in the slight breeze, he had heard the sound many times before and he smiled softly. Cars sped by as he walked, some of their occupants waved, most never gave him a second glance caught up as they were in their own little bubble. The path he was looking for left the road to his right, passed a few houses, and then led up into the hills he enjoyed so much. It was steep but nothing he could not cope with. He stopped a few times; age was taking its toll, how many more years would he be able to do this. A golden eagle soared over the blue peak in front of him; soaring in the thermals that ran up from the valley that lay a thousand feet below. A small bird flew from the edge of the path, he fixed its position and there, tucked under the heather was the small nest with five olive speckled eggs. The eggs were tiny, save for one, much bigger than the rest although coloured the same. The Meadow Pipits would have a very big problem on their hands when the Cuckoo chick hatched. He continued up the path marvelling at the colours all round him browns, ambers, greens, blues, reds, yellows and on the top most peaks even pink, the sun painting a kaleidoscope of colour across every hill. There was no sign of another living person in the near vicinity; this was the place of goblins and faeries, the Sìdh of the old ones, who inhabited this land before the new order came. If you looked close enough you could see their passing, small rings of stone that were their dwellings, now overgrown; rocks with strange cup and ring markings, others with round hollows where the grain for the bread had been ground. Even the names of the land features that they left as there legacy tell us something about them. They gave us Schiehallion, Sìdh Chailleann, ‘Fairy Hill of the Caledonians; Dunkeld, Dùn Chaillean, ‘Fort of the Caledonians’; Lochan a’ Mhuillin, ‘Milling Loch’, all with meaning whether mystical or practical.
The path crested the hill and as his head climbed above the rim he felt the warm breeze that rushed up the hill and kept the eagle soaring high above him. Kachsum’or moved and twisted in his hand, they were close now, and it would not be long before he was unleashed on his prey. There, just to his right, the great sheet of silver shimmered in the heat, its ruffled surface only broken occasionally by the rings of its inhabitants. He had heard the stories and read about the monsters that lurked here; now he would see if he was up to the challenge. Approaching the edge cautiously he let Kachsum’or come round in front of him, he released the two pieces that he had held tightly in his hand only holding on to the handle. They swung away from him; Kachsum’or rattled and sighed at the release. He caught the first section and, with a scream and a rattle from Kachsum’or, he fitted it into the handle section. The top section followed with more screaming that seemed to echo forever around the waiting hills. Already strung and armed, Kachsum’or was ready for the task ahead. Vushwelt moved closer to the edge; Kachsum’or bobbed and weaved in the breeze; they became as one, Kachsum’or becoming an extension of Vushwelts’ arm. The arm lifted, Kachsum’or came up with a hiss; his time had come. Once, twice he screamed, the more he screamed the nearer to his prey his talons got. Then he was off, released at last his talons reaching for the monsters beneath the silvery surface in front of him. All but one pierced the surface, that one would catch the unwary. They waited, time stood still, the ripples moved out and faded from the contact point. Vushwelt moved Kachsum’or slightly to his right. The talons moved slowly through the water. Vushwelt pulled on the tether that he held in his other hand. Kachsum’or talons moved faster through the water. Vushwelt could feel the tension, it ran down Kachsum’or into his hand and up his arm; his heart was pounding and his body tingled with anticipation.
It felt like the ages of time were rolling past, although it may only have been seconds. Vushwelt could feel the heat of the sun as it warmed his skin through the thin layer of cloth that covered it. The slight breeze ruffled the surface of the silver expanse in front of him. The tether in his hand shortening all the time, Kachsum’ors’ talons crept closer to the shore at his feet. As always, it happened when he least expected it, the surface exploding in a spray of silver droplets as the talon on the surface grabbed and held its prey. Kachsum’or was the first to react bending himself into the weight that was suddenly attached to him. The tether in Vushwelts’ hand tightened and stretched and his arm came up. Kachsum’or sent waves of power down his length and into Vushwelts’ arm. Vushwelt released some of the tension on the tether so that the talon would not pull free. He was in control, they were in control, and together they would tame the monster. They did not have it all their own way. The monster pulled and bored, it threw itself into the air in showers of silver droplets and crashed back to its domain, like a rock in a pool, sending spray and ripples in all directions. Vushwelt held Kachsum’or tightly in his hand for fear of loosing him to the monster while Kachsum’or was dipping and bowing, sapping the strength of the monster and transmitting it down his length into Vushwelts’ arm; the tether shortened as Vushwelt pulled it in.
The fight was over in no time, whether it was seconds, minutes or hours Vushwelt could not tell, it did not matter. The creature was subdued, Vushwelt reached forward to catch the tether attached to Kachsum’or and the talon that had held the monster so well. He pulled it towards him. Placing Kachsum’or on the ground at his side he cupped his hand under the monster and slowly lifted its head, with his other hand he released the talon from the side of its mouth. It never ceased to amaze Vushwelt the many variations these monsters produced. This one was dark olive along its back, bronze sides fading to butter yellow at the belly, the flanks covered in large red spots surrounded in black with a golden halo. Vushwelt produced his camera, took a few pictures, then returned the creature to the depths to terrorise the inhabitants of its world, ‘til next time when it might not be so lucky, Vushwelt has to feed his body as well as his soul sometimes.
Vushwelt and Kachsum’or subdued and returned more of the monsters. The day passed quickly. The sun crossed the sky and began the downward journey reminding Vushwelt that they must do the same. Kachsum’or clicked and purred softly as Vushwelt broke him down into his three parts tightening the tether with his talons attached as he did so. They were both silent as they retraced their steps, back down the hill, along the road, and up the drive to the car, the gravel crunching under his boots the only noise. Vushwelt opened the boot of the car, placed his pack in the back and changed from his boots back into his shoes. He took Kachsum’or, now lying quietly against the car, returning him to the black carrying case. He would rest there quietly until the urge to tame the monsters of the hills came to them again and Vushwelt would release him once more to feed on their strength.
Alexander Birrell has been fly fishing for nearly thirty years, concentrating more on the wild side over the past twenty, which he says he will continue to do as long as he can climb the hills. After that he'll start on the more accessible roadside waters! Sandy ties and fishes only his own flies getting more satisfaction from doing that than with shop bought or flies tied by others. He enjoys reading old books about fishing. Sandy is also an occasional salmon and grayling angler and fishes both loch and stream.