And the Hills Replied282
And the Hills Replied282
And the Hills Replied is a story of one man's strange encounter during a 2005 vacation in Scotland to pay homage to his ancestors, where he stumbles upon a missing link in his genealogy. Sparhawk Hutchins's historical fantasy is a whirlwind adventure into the past.
A mix of Scottish mythology and history, this debut novel opens with fifty-eight-year-old Sparhawk, who is determined to find out whether he truly descended from King Robert I, and to learn more about Sir Thomas, who is the missing Middle Ages link in his genealogical history. Sparhawk comes across some letters written in 1939 by one of his relatives. In them, he finds stories about Queen of Scotland Elizabeth de Burgh and her mysterious time-traveling
Hutchins opens each chapter with poetry that gives a foretaste of what lies ahead, which is an appreciated extra touch to this captivating narrative. While Sparhawk is featured as the narrator at the beginning and end of the novel, many of the interim chapters vacillate between first-and third-person voices to describe Elizabeth's time-travel encounters. Her journeys take her from the Tower of Babel to the era of Moses and Pharaoh, then fast-forwarding to the Middle ages, and back to 1939 before the story comes full circle to 2005. Hutchins keeps his story line moving and very interesting by grouping segments within chapters, utilizing changes in narrative voice, and mixing storytelling with the richness of Scottish mythology and history.
Although Hutchins's novel centers on Scota's Stone (known over the centuries as the stone used in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland), he includes a plethora of historical characters that tie in with this epic artifact. For example, Niul, the Prince of Scythia, who marries Pharaoh's daughter Scota-the mythological founders of Ireland and Scotland, respectively-and King Edward, who captures the stone and keeps it under his throne. Hutchins also meticulously integrates apt imagery of biblical times and the Middle Ages throughout his storytelling. Whether he's describing the lush and verdant hills of Scotland, hideous battle scenes, characters' clothing, or specific character traits, Hutchins's depictions clearly portray each time period.
Hutchins has produced a novel that is not only a wonderful read for those who love historical fiction, but also a great addition to Scottish and history collections.
ANITA LOCK (October 15, 2014) Foreword Clarion Reviews.
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And The Hills Replied
By Sparhawk Hutchins
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Sparhawk Hutchins
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Great Temple of Aten, Amarna, Egypt
Near the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty
Niul his name and teaching his game, the Prince of Scythia and his charges disembarked their barges onto Pharaoh's new dock spot on the clock.
Bright colors and sweet scents greeted the Prince on first impression, hopefully rid of his nagging depression.
He put asunder his father's great blunder by teaching Pharaoh's daughter bold, a luxurious creature with burnished skin and eyes of gold.
Then the visitor came, a visionary, a prophet, a healer, and even a deliverer, one supposes, of a giant amongst them, a man named Moses.
Of the day Moses challenged Pharaoh, a fearful Niul told, a war of gods was about to unfold.
He gathered her up, and she held his hand as they played out their plan to steal her daddy's ships and exit the land.
As they wandered, he continued to teach, it was his station, but she chose another path to destiny and built a great nation.
My name is Elizabeth de Burgh de Bruys and my rank is Queen of Scotland. I'm not supposed to be here, but I am. The last thing I remember is that I'd fallen into a caldera and was burning up, but when I opened my brown eyes, I was amazed to find myself here. It's a place unknown to me, a land of scintillating bright colors and sweet scents. I touched my cheeks and was relieved to feel the familiar satiny smoothness of my skin before my fall. I also remain the radiant twenty-two-year-old at the top of her game. It's very strange indeed, but it's even more bizarre that I know who the handsome visitor standing before me is. When he moved ahead, I followed. Maybe he can tell me where I am and what time this is.
* * *
It was in the springtime, 2,222 years after the Great Flood. The Prince of Scythia disembarked at the tidy new harbor of Amarna, on the east side of the great river, midway between Memphis and Thebes. He was Niul, the twenty-three-year-old son of Fenius Farsa, King of Scythia, son of Boath, son of Magog, son of Jhaphet, son of Noah. Not being the firstborn son, he was not heir apparent to the throne of Scythia. So he had become a successful educator and schoolmaster instead. He'd traveled from othena, in the Plain of Shinar, crafted by the receding deluge between Baghdad and Nineveh, and he'd brought several of his fellow teachers with him at the invitation of Pharaoh.
Fair-skinned and blue-eyed, he stood on the dock marveling at the sparkling new city. He saw the gleaming temple and the gilded palace looming above the decorated stairway of polished stone and gilded banisters. Anxiety as to what awaited him failed to dampen his exuberance from his first sight of the wondrous land.
Pharaoh's emissaries greeted them with lavish gifts and escorted them under canopies of bright-colored umbrellas to their richly decorated and luxurious quarters in the North City, across a grand promenade between the temple and the palace.
On his way up the stairs, Niul considered his patron, Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, his name meaning Amun is pleased. He knew of his reputation as being a passionate patron of the arts. Now, he knew it was true, having seen it for himself. Although impressed, he didn't know that during his long journey from Æothena, Pharaoh had changed his religion.
Pharaoh's family god—Amun—had been a lesser wind god of Thebes in the Old Kingdom. In the Middle Kingdom, however, he'd cast aside his spouse to join with Mut, the Mother Goddess, and taken the name Amun-Mut. They and her adopted son, Khonsu, the Moon God, formed the Theban triad and grew to prominence. The iconic family had blessed Thebes for six hundred years when Amun acquired additional powers by conquering the Ram of Kush and joining with Min, the God of Fertility, becoming Amun-Min. When Thebes emerged as the political capital of a unified Egypt in the New Kingdom, Amun merged with Ra, the ever-revered Sun God. Amun-Ra then became the King of Gods.
Now Pharaoh was exploring a new religion, and the traditional worshippers of Amun were not pleased with what they saw as a love affair with a contrived solar deity called Aten. They thought Pharaoh idolized the sun—a disc in the sky without human or animal form—himself incarnate. It was one thing when he changed his name to Akhenaten—Effective Spirit of Aten—but indignation turned to outrage when he moved the Crown of Egypt from Thebes to Amarna, his new city of polished stone and glimmering mosaic. On his way out, he'd obliterated all likenesses of Amun-Ra.
Niul's procession stopped to rest on canopied benches by a fountain in the middle of a broad landing, about halfway up the temple stairs. It was decorated with gilded discs, as if in homage to the sun itself. It wasn't what he'd expected to see. He was looking for the carved stone depictions of Amun with twin vertical plumes atop his head, as the ram-headed sphinx or of the third eye. But he hadn't seen them. Neither had he seen Amun-Min as prolific—with an eternal erection—rigid in relief and ever ready. He hadn't even spotted the sun atop the falcon head of Ra upon Amun's body.
Perplexed, he looked around and spotted another set of stairs meeting at the landing—a steeper but narrower way up and down from the temple. He watched a giant of a man with a bright aura descend the steep stairs. Following him was a beautiful young woman with smoldering brown eyes. They passed before him on their way down. He'd seen them on the dock but didn't know who they were. Fellow visitors, he'd guessed.
A shadow cast gloom at his feet. He shivered, comparing this achievement with his father's abysmal failure in raising a monument to the glorification of man. He held the negative thought and lowered his head. When he did look up, he watched as the woman followed the man into a darkened alley beyond the base of the steep stairs below.
He caught up with his procession as they started up the final set of risers to the promenade. He reached the top, and then, raising his head, fires in the sky stoked by billowing clouds of incense overwhelmed his thoughts. He found a sense of peace beneath silken kites flown by bare-chested little girls dancing under an incinerating sun.
For once, he fought off his old nemesis—lack of confidence—and picked up his step as he neared his freshly minted quarters. He thought it wondrous that the entire esplanade had smooth stone walkways, interspersed with sparkling pools. But he was disappointed that he hadn't seen any depiction of Amun, only an artistic array of gilded discs.
Settling into new surroundings was uplifting, but bitter childhood memories continued to torment him. Unhappiness had followed after his father, King Fenius, dragged him from a comfortable life in Scythia to Æothena. The swamp he grew up in had diminished him, he knew, and harsh recollections of his father's slide into despondency begged to haunt him. Yet, this time, he fought off the surge of depression by considering his earlier circumstance with reason and order, not allowing himself to become self-involved in the disastrous results. After all, he reasoned, it wasn't his fault that he was the second son of a king whose monumental blunder brought eternal retribution. It was within this quagmire that Fenius had recuperated for years after his dreadful encounter with the Tower, that colossal folly meant to feed the ego of the great King of Assyria, Nimrod the Hunter.
* * *
Nimrod himself had summoned Fenius to his court in Nineveh to manage the construction of a magnificent tower that would reach the heavens. Fenius tried to beg off the massive undertaking, citing his lack of experience in the trades, but Nimrod prevailed upon him. The Assyrian king told him that he'd summoned architects from the seventy-two nations founded by the sons of Noah, and that the Scythian's sole task would be to manage them. Because of diplomacy, Fenius found no advantage in rejecting the offer of the Hunter, one generation his senior, the son of Cush, son of Ham, son of Noah. He could boast the largest army on earth, and Fenius didn't want to offend him, since they were of equal rank in neighboring nations.
The planning and construction of the massive monument proceeded on schedule as the weeks passed into months before those wondrous rivers in the broad and blooming plain. Fenius was delighted with the success of the base and the first three elevations. Nimrod visited the construction site often with his hunting parties, praising his efforts and handing him sacks of gold. That adulation led to his own self-worship, falling to greed and imagining that the tower was rising in his own glory. Little did he know that he was about to be put upon, and his jubilance faded when the nightmares began. He thought they were just bad dreams, but they were worse. He was about to be undone by Noah's God, who was displeased with Nimrod's arrogance and self-aggrandizement and, by proxy, his own.
One sweet-scented morning, he arrived for his regular briefing from the architects. He'd anticipated that it would be a productive meeting, but chaos raged when he opened the door. They were yelling at each other in seventy-two different tongues. Was he losing his hearing? The previous day and all days before, each spoke the same language, the ancient tongue of Noah himself. But this morning, what he heard staggered him! They spoke a multitude of languages, none the same as the other, so that each confounded the others by spouting unintelligible gibberish. They were in a panic, jabbering at the top of their lungs, their arms flailing in the utter futility of trying to communicate with one another, each thinking his own was the true language. Fenius was at wit's end.
Over the ensuing weeks, the frustrated builders and misinformed laborers struggled to fabricate the top tiers of the tower. The sorry products of their imprecise communications became tenons that didn't fit snug into mortises, half-lap joints that neither halved nor lapped, out-of-square linear surfaces, dados that doddered, templates that teetered, and tangents that tottered, all leading to a myriad of failed joinery in critical, load-bearing areas. Mortified, Fenius could only shudder—his whole enterprise was lost in translation. Nonetheless, his commitment to Nimrod kept him going, maddening him in the futility of trying over and again to bring order to his exasperated architects, each blaming the next. It remained thus for weeks into months, until one spectacular day when Fenius, along with his seventy-two cohorts, scattered on winds that blew out of nowhere. The gusts lashed the structure without mercy until, suddenly, the tower-to-be imploded in a thunderous racket, killing thousands of laborers. In another instant, stillness returned.
A plume of debris raced to the heavens—a graceful, but vigorous feather of human carnage and dashed spirit rising in a still, blue sky, compact inside a swirling zephyr. Fenius knew that Noah's God had made his point, and that he was damned. He spoke no more, remaining despondent and staring at nothing for over a year. His march to depravity was unabated until the day he raised his head and dedicated himself to preventing a similar catastrophe from ever happening again. He gathered seventy-two trusted and knowledgeable men and tasked them to go out into the world and collect the languages that had befuddled the builders of the tower.
When Fenius's agents returned to Æothena from their ten-year mission, he and Niul struggled to deconstruct the languages gathered by the seventy-two. Testing integration of many words into one, trial and error challenged them over and again for years, but they stayed the course to finality. Their yield was a universal sixteen-letter alphabet, each letter representing a different plant. In their dissonance, they'd created a botanical language. Believing that contrition had atoned for his sin, Fenius returned to Scythia. He told Niul that he was leaving without him.
Feeling abandoned by both parents, and left alone to drift in a sea of self-doubt, Niul felt unworthy and blamed himself. To fight off his father's gloom, he poured all his energy into the pursuit of knowledge. He'd opened a school and refined the new language before he was nineteen. Over the next several years, he'd broadened the curriculum to include arithmetic, science, and the arts, and recruited an array of intellectuals to teach and study. Artisans of diverse disciplines enriched the enlightenment of learning with the crafts imagined in the artist's view and created by skilled hands. Wealth flowed from the success of the enterprise, as those seeking knowledge flocked to Æothena under the handsome retainers of their royal fathers. Then one day, the prince and schoolmaster received Pharaoh's courier bearing a chest of gold and an invitation to teach his daughters alphabetic writing.
* * *
The royal family gathered before Niul the first day of classes. Pharaoh himself attended, sitting there fidgeting next to his elegant, royal first wife, Queen Nefertiti. The king's visage startled Niul as he scanned his disproportionate body—distended stomach, no visible neck, weak shoulders, and thin short arms mounted askew on narrow, flat buttocks and scrawny legs. Marveling at his elongated face, he fixated on his collar—a bloated and jewel-encrusted scarab with feathers coming out of its head. Was it the grotesque way his bulbous stomach tilted upward and obliterated his neck that fascinated him? Maybe, he fancied, anyone sitting next to the perfect Nefertiti, a woman rightly acclaimed to be the fairest of all, would look deformed. He too was aroused, as were all men in her presence—burnished skin and white powder, long slender neck, painted black eyelids, and high cheekbones, all crowned by silky black hair drawn back under an elegant turquoise beehive hat. His adoration of her didn't cease until the clamoring of their oldest daughter, Merytaten, brought him out of his trance. He turned to her.
She favored her mother and didn't have her father's lump of a body, he was happy to observe of the nervous and fidgety princess. He wondered how old she was. Seventeen maybe, he figured, six years younger than him. No matter though, because her eyes seduced him, and he wondered why. He studied the paints she'd applied to her lids, black on the upper and green on the lower. The contrasting tones revealed her eyes as golden in color, he fancied. Her vivid display fit her name, Merytaten—the Beloved of Aten. Indeed, she must be; he warmed to her, disarmed by her blinking glances until her younger sisters pulled her away.
The thinker was troubled to decide which of them was more beautiful, the mother or the daughter. After deliberation, he chose the one marked by flawless skin and a perfumed Nubian wig, awash in scents of rose and sandalwood. The Beloved of Aten was wearing a crisp white, sheer linen dress, baring her soft shoulders above the promise of ripened breasts. She wore golden slippers, belt, and bracelets, topped off by a dazzling emerald collar. He studied her in the near distance as she scampered about with her sisters and extended family, including her hobbled younger half brother, Tutankhaten.
Born Tutankhamun, the son of Akhenaten from Kiyra, his secondary royal wife, had his name changed by his father. Little Prince Tut, it seemed, was teasing his older half sister, and she swatted him away.
* * *
Their days in the sun passed, and Niul introduced a new world to Pharaoh's daughter. He gazed at her radiance in bright sunlight, never blinking from the burning orb above for minutes on end. It's miraculous, he thought, of her grandeur. Each day, she emerged from the shadows, glorious and awash in harmonious colors. The brightness of her ever-changing hues and matching moods fascinated him. The palm fronds above whistled in the breeze, and the sunbeams skated over the shoreline where Pharaoh's armada of ships floated idle in the tidy harbor below. It was wondrous!
Excerpted from And The Hills Replied by Sparhawk Hutchins. Copyright © 2014 Sparhawk Hutchins. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPrologue Dunfermline Abbey, Scotland: October 22, 2005, vii,
Chapter 1 Great Temple of Aten, Amarna, Egypt: Near the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty, 1,
Chapter 2 Scone Abbey, Scotland: March 27, 1306, 22,
Chapter 3 Burstwick Manor, Archdiocese of York, England: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God—1307, 39,
Chapter 4 Alnwick Castle, Northumbria: November 13, 1093, 52,
Chapter 5 Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: March 19, 1286, 73,
Chapter 6 Burstwick Manor: February 10, 1307, 91,
Chapter 7 Greyfriars Church, in the Borders: February 10, 1306, 107,
Chapter 8 Douglas Castle, Scotland: Palm Sunday—1308, 120,
Chapter 9 Bisham Manor, Berkshire, England: Saint Margaret's Feast Day—June 10, 1310, 139,
Chapter 10 Coldingham Priory, in the Borders, by the Sea: Saint Ebbe the Younger's Feast Day—April 2, 1311, 151,
Chapter 11 Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England: November 14, 1312, 168,
Chapter 12 Saint Andrews Castle, Scotland: Easter Sunday—April 7, 1314, 186,
Chapter 13 Stirling Castle, Scotland: Saint John the Baptist's Festival—June 24, 1314, 200,
Chapter 14 Paisley Abbey, Scotland: March 2, 1316, 218,
Chapter 15 The Farmhouse in Cardross Parish, Scotland: November 24, 1326, 233,
About the Author, 251,