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The Eagle by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Eagle by Rosemary Sutcliff

Author:Rosemary Sutcliff
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Published: 1954-06-14T16:00:00+00:00


XIV

The Feast of New Spears

On an evening more than a month later, Marcus and Esca reined in to breathe their tired horses, on the crest of a steep ridge above the Western Ocean. It was an evening coloured like a dove’s breast; a little wind feathered the shining water, and far out on the dreaming brightness many scattered islands seemed to float lightly as sleeping sea birds. In the safe harbourage inshore, a few trading-vessels lay at anchor, the blue sails that had brought them from Hibernia furled as though they too were asleep. And to the north, brooding over the whole scene, rose Cruachan, sombre, cloaked in shadows, crested with mist, Cruachan, the shield-boss of the world.

Mountain and islands and shining sea were all grown familiar to Marcus. For a month now he had seldom been out of sight of one or other of them, as he came and went among the mist-haunted glens where the Epidaii had their hunting grounds. It had been a heartbreaking month. So often, since he crossed the northern line, it had seemed to him that he was at last on the trail of what he sought, and always he had been wrong. There were so many holy places along the coast. Wherever the Ancient People, the little Dark People, had left their long barrows, there the Epidaii, coming after, had made a holy place at which to worship their gods; and the Ancient People had left so many barrows. Yet nowhere could Marcus hear any whisper of the lost Eagle. These people did not speak of their gods, nor of the things which had to do with their gods. And suddenly, this evening, looking out over the shining sea, Marcus was heart-sick and not far from giving up hope.

He was roused from his bleak mood by Esca’s voice beside him. “Look, we have companions on the road.” And following the direction of his friend’s back-pointing thumb, he turned to look down the deer-path by which they had come, and saw a party of hunters climbing toward them. He wheeled Vipsania, and sat waiting for them to come up. Five men in all, two of them carrying the slung carcass of a black boar; and the usual pack of wolfish hounds cantering among them. How different they were from the men of Valentia: darker and more slightly built. Maybe that was because the blood of the Dark People ran more strongly in them than in the lowland tribes; less outwardly fierce than the lowlanders too, but in the long run, Marcus thought, more dangerous.

“The hunting has been good.” He saluted them as they came up at a jog-trot.

“The hunting has been good,” agreed the leader, a young man with the twisted gold torque of a Chieftain round his neck. He looked enquiringly at Marcus, forbidden by courtesy to ask his business, but clearly wondering what this stranger, who was not one of the traders from the blue-sailed ships, was doing in his territory.

Almost without thinking, Marcus asked him the question which had become a habit with much asking.



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