The Shirt of Destiny – Part 7: Doom, Gloom and a Room

I wake, if indeed I slept at all, and I don’t feel good. There is rain in the air –  it is clear both from my lungs and from the recent advice of sages, that it is coming. Our luck with the weather has come to an end.

We stow our bundles and return to the sign of Gordon for our morning feast, the room again filled with like-minded Questors. We have decided not to climb over the Mountain of Breasts, but instead to go around about. We find a route around its northern flanks and come upon a great forest lying to the south of the highway. We like forests.

Our will to walk is weak today, and we force ourselves to make a a mere league between stops. We talk of getting the Quest over and done with – I am in no mood to linger, and it seems the desire to finish is also strong in the Moor Man. It makes little difference to our route right now though, as there is toil to be done and no shortcuts. We continue out of the forest towards a remote cabin that lies to the east of the Mountain of Breasts. A trudge through heather takes a portion off our distance for today, but at the cost of much work and time.

We climb steadily up a track to a pass below the Mountain, and as we reach the top of the pass, the rain finds us. And keeps with us as we descend into the next valley. All thoughts are now turned to finding a place to camp with as much shelter as possible. Finding none we come to a band of trees above the valley floor and cower under their arms. Here there is the illusion of shelter, and we put up our tents on a carpet of pine needles. By the time the tents are up the heavens are fully opened and we are both all but drowned. And we have yet to furnish ourselves with water. While I’m already wet, I have nothing to lose by staying out and getting the water, which I do. Oh, the relief of shutting myself back inside my tent and putting on fresh, dry vestments.

The Moor Man calls to me from his nearby shelter, to state that he has had a vision that the weather will be the same tomorrow. Joy. Thoughts turn to staying away from the hills and even walking down the valley to the highway. We both know that way leads to an early end to our Quest. But neither of us fancy walking over the hills to the Great Meeting Point tomorrow. With decisions still to be made, we lie down to sleep in the Forest of Doom.

Rain, or what feels like rain from inside, pours onto the tent near constantly. There is much sloth and prevarication today. The Moor Man is first to emerge and pronounces it “not as bad as it seemed from inside”. Much of what falls onto the shelters is simply water dripping from the branches above us, not “real” rain.

We have a new plan, put forward by the Moor Man, in which we will cut today’s walk into two, hoping to reach the Great Meeting Point tomorrow night instead of tonight. The hope is that with less to achieve today, spirits will rise accordingly, and all talk of failure be banished. We set off down through the trees and within moments arrive on the valley floor. We cross the wide valley with wild deer on the one hand, and a great lake on the other. On the other side of the valley is a cabin at the end of a narrow highway that leads to more inhabited parts. At the cabin we find little in the way of food and drink, but much in the way of privies. There are two unspoken rules on this Quest – one is never pass a tearoom unused, the second is also never to leave a privy unfilled.

We set off again climbing a narrow path alongside a stream that cuts into the bulk of the high ground in front of us. This involves much hopping from one bank to another, and the crossing of swampy land at the top. We toil through heather, and in and out of trenches in the peat. Below us lies the River of Perpetuity  whose girth is more than a man’s stride, and we must yet cross it. We walk far upstream looking for a crossing place. The deed is done and all live. We climb up through a short section of heather and peat to gain a dusty track. Sighs of relief abound – there are now “proper” paths, tracks or roads all the way to the edge of the land.

In our joy at having sure and firm ground underfoot, a surprise awaits. Close to the place where we intend to stop for the day, the track crosses a vigorous stream. Or more correctly, a vigorous stream crosses the track, the track now no more for it lies below the depths of the raging torrent. In vain we search upstream for a safe place to cross, but the only places involve much risk of slipping into the maelstrom, and neither the Moor Man nor I are sure enough of foot to take the chance. We return to the track and wade the torrent, at least calmed as it crosses our path. Somehow despite the trials of today, we have stayed dry all the way to this stream, and now almost within sight of camp, we are wet through up to the knees.

We squelch down the remainder of the track to Lee’s Horse House and there look for a place to put up our shelters near the river. Tents are festooned with gear to dry, and the sun comes out. All is good again.

Just as Day 3’s walk through the endless forest saved the Moor Man’s Quest, yesterday’s shortened walk has most likely done the same to mine. We pack up and walk down the track. The track becomes a road, and we start to see the inhabitants of these foreign parts around and about. It is a dull walk, but just after noontime we arrive at the Great Meeting Place. Much tea is drunk, bacon eaten, and best of all there are beds available. The main bulk of Questors passed this way yesterday, as would we if we had stuck to our original intent. But both the Moor Man and I prefer it this way, neither of us being one for large gatherings. We pass the rest of the day in agreeable company, take advantage of the bath-place, and eat and drink our fill.

Before us lies an easy walk to the place where the sun rises. But it is mainly road, although there are paths away from the road for those seeking softer ground underfoot. The Moor Man has different ideas, for he has seen on the parchment that there are marker stones every mile along the road, and being from the Moor where such stones are commonplace and placed for all manner of reasons, he is naturally drawn to them. So we take the road and the walk into inhabited parts becomes a game of ticking off the stones. We walk into the town the ancients call Eigill, and find a dining house, for you will remember that this is Rule One. Inside we find the Scholar, and we sit down with him. We feast and drink on the foods that we have been craving in the wilderness.

On our way again, and a long straight road leads us to a camping place, where we pass the time in more feasting and song. For tomorrow our Quest will be done.

Ahead of us lies but a short distance to the sea. We pack up with a strange mixture of keenness to be done and desire to prolong the Quest. For when the Quest is done, all becomes mundane and commonplace again. Our path today lies again along highways, and there is not much to tell of this. We walk into the environs of Celurca and divert to go and meet the sea. Our feet rest on the sand, washed by the foamy waters of the Sea Where The Sun Rises, and our Quest is done. All that is left is claiming our prize. So we turn our backs to the Sea in search of a Great Hall wherein lies the Shirt of Destiny. Laden with our Shirts and the Scroll of Achievement and divers other goods, we seek out our lodgings. That evening there is much feasting, tales of heroic deeds are recounted, drinking cups runneth over. And the Quest is Done.

2 thoughts on “The Shirt of Destiny – Part 7: Doom, Gloom and a Room

  1. Congratulations on a spellbinding saga. My ordnance survey has proved of less value in tracing you route than Puck of Pook’s Hill. Glad you had so much fine weather and coped with the inevitable rain. I enjoyed the photography too…thanks Fred Campbell


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