The Last Kingdom Season 1 – Megaliths are All!


I’ve now watched the first season of The Last Kingdom from 2015, and blogged about its fire and death. Here I turn to the megaliths of the 8 episodes.

So The Last Kingdom’s set designers have a clear way of articulating the antiquity of the British landscape in which the Anglo-Saxons and Danes are inhabiting: megaliths. Yes, it’s an age-old trick deployed since the 19th century and the birth of the novel – Saxons live in an ancient land, and megaliths – the ruins of the Celts and all that they embody – materialise this antiquity. We find it in Sir Walter Scott, they are found in Tolkien’s Barrow Downs, and we find them in the writings of Bernard Cornwell.

If there is any real-world monument that embodies this reality, it is Wayland’s Smithy: a Neolithic chambered tomb dedicated to the legend of the Germanic shaman-smith Weland (ON: Volundr).

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The Fairy Glen

Thea was yearning for home. The fairy glen of her childhood called her in a voice she could not fail to answer.

It seemed like years since she was last there, but saw it with the same clarity every night in her dreams. Every breeze that gently moved the trees seemed to whisper her name and she was transported back to the day she watched the dragonflies dancing on the shallow stream. They had basked in the sun atop the smooth flat rocks and fascinated her with their hues of peacock blue, green and gold. Darts of colour flitting here and there across her vision.

To her innocent mind they were the folk of the fairy who lived in the mound nearby, come to take a human child, and Thea would gladly have gone, except her fairy tale books had spoken of children who ate and drank with the fair folk and hadn’t returned to their homes for long years, and Thea loved her mammy and da very much.

Each time she came, she left an offering of a little cake for the fairy folk. They liked that, she’d been told. Thea went to explore, clutching the sticky cake in her hand until she found a fairy ring to leave it in. It had become a ritual of her childhood, and even when Sean, her brother had teased her, she continued doing it.

One day she had wondered off a way from her family and become lost. It had taken her a long time to find a ring to leave her cake but she still left it for them even though she was hungry and tired herself. When Thea realised she was lost, she’d started to cry quietly. After a while, she opened her eyes and saw a lady coming towards her. The lady was little and dark and wore the most beautiful dress Thea had ever seen, it was made from lace, as fine as cobwebs and was all the colours of the forest. She took Thea’s hand gently and led her silently through the woods. The lady had little bells on chains around her ankles and they rang gently as she walked, making music among the trees.

When after a while they neared the edge of the woods and Thea could see the stream again, she hugged the lady tightly to thank her for helping and turned to run to her mammy and da so they could meet the lovely lady who brought her back, but when she looked behind her, the lady was gone.

For years afterwards when she visited the glen, Thea could hear the music of her bells if she listened hard enough.

Water lily

A water lily lies calmly on the surface, all we can see is the flat green leaf and sometimes, if we are really lucky, the beautiful delicate flower opening to the sun.

Do we ever really think of what lies beneath? The struggle for survival in the undertow?

Sometimes the lily can be dragged under by the sheer weight of something pushing down on it, but it soon floats upwards, as serene as ever.

Sarah was like a water lily. She looked beautiful and fragile, but was tenacious and brave. No matter what life threw at her, she was buoyant. At least that was the impression she gave. Nobody saw the struggle beneath the surface, not even her closest friends. She was their anchor, the person they could go to for good common sense advice or a shoulder to cry on.  Her smile could light up a room and she made people feel valued and loved, even in their darkest times.

Sarah awoke, showered and dressed carefully. Today was the day she would go to her magical place. She chose her favourite floaty skirt and a green top which matched her eyes. She was dressing for a lover. She wove flowers into her wavy auburn hair and put on her jewelled sandals, painted purple toenails peeping out, and rings on her fingers and toes.

The sun warmed her through the canopy of the ancient woodland, throwing dappled light on her as she walked along the side of the stream. This could be the land of the Fae, there had always been something otherworldly about it, Sarah had sensed it from childhood and periodically it called her to return. There was a bond with this landscape that Sarah never fully understood, nor did she need to, it was enough that it was so.

The gentle lapping of the stream was hypnotic, she stopped a while to watch as the stream skipped across stones worn flat by the movement of water across time. Dragonflies in a ritual courtship of dance skirted across the surface.


‘I want you to understand my nature,’ said the visitor to my

library. ‘I am the ghost of a story yet to be written.’

I watched him warily as he sat shadowed from the meagre

candlelight that flickered from the sconce over the empty fireplace.

‘Take up your pen’ he urged. ‘You are the only one alive who can

tell my tale.’

‘Surely there are others?’ I asked from desperation. I was

frightened now beyond all measure.

Who was he? How had he entered my sanctuary? I didn’t voice those

thoughts aloud, afraid of his reaction. I was alone here, no contact

with the outside world, so to shout for help would have been futile.

‘You are the Chime Child!,’ he told me. ‘Born as the clock struck

midnight. ‘Tis a liminal time when the veils between the worlds are at

their thinnest. I need you to tell my tale.’

I’d always been uncanny as a child, at least that is what the adults

had whispered. I saw things in my peripheral vision that others

couldn’t see. It had blighted my childhood and because of that, I’d

never had a friend. I knew from an early age not to share my dreams

and secrets with anybody, so had locked them away inside me. The

walls I had built to contain them were tall and strong, they had been

impenetrable to all who had tried to reach me. I was cocooned here

within my tomb of books and had felt safe until now.

I took up my pen with my hand trembling and walked like a

sleepwalker to my desk. There was just enough light to write by, not

enough to see the stranger who sat in the chesterfield chair.

‘I’m ready.’ I said, although it felt like the words were wrenched

from my very soul. The stranger sighed, with what seemed to be

relief and began to speak.

‘I am older than you can know. I was here in the time before the moon. I

have seen empires rise and fall and cities lost to the sea!’

He gave pause for a short time to let me record his words, I did so,

although my mind refused to process what he said.

‘I have seen many Gods come and go. Some who followed the

ways of nature, woven with leafs. Living in peace with the seasons

and following the cycles of life. Then there were others who

brought strife on all who would not cede to them. They were

capricious and angry, needing the adulation of their followers to


I scribbled down his words, forgetting my fear of him as I was

spellbound by his narrative.

‘The very worst of it’ he continued, ‘were the followers of religions

who could not find it in their hearts to be tolerant of another’s

beliefs. They waged wars on their fellow man, when they should have

been living in a spirit of love. They never understood that the truth

was simple, that the answers were inside them and not in the words

of another, but in the deeds that they do themselves.’

He stopped again for a while, I could feel contemplation coming off

him in waves, as if he judged every word before he spoke it.

‘Mankind has not evolved as it should’ he sighed, ‘lessons should

have been learned. They do not see the magic woven in threads that

connect all things living and thus, are slowly killing the world on

which they tread. If they continue this journey, all that will be left will be a

well of silence in a barren world. They must look inside to find their

own answers before it is too late. Each man must walk his own path.’

He ceased speaking for what seemed the longest time, I waited

eagerly to hear more and was rewarded with his closing words.

‘We all have a flame within us, sometimes it flickers to the point of

extinction, but we all have the ability to kindle it thus!’

With those words he snapped his fingers and the candle in the

sconce flared up and threw my room into relief. I finished writing his

words and looked across to the chair. He was silent now, and I made

my way over to him with no more fear in my heart.

He was dressed in the same manner as I, all in black which looked as

dusty as my bookshelves. I knelt at his feet and looked up into his

face and saw curling brown hair, brushing down over his collar and a set of serious brown eyes.

Slowly it dawned on me, I was looking at myself. He smiled, as he

saw I had, in that moment, seen the truth, that I was him, and he was

me. He took my face in his hands, and spoke in a gentle and loving


‘Leevi, my beloved, take down the walls which you have built and tell the world our tale.’

He then faded slowly. The only traces he left, were the tracks of

tears on my face and the hope in my heart for the first time in years.

The Shaman

Her aspect had changed to take on the appearance of the crone as she crawled through the earth of the dark chamber. There were jagged stones and her legs were cut and bruised now, bleeding through their cover of dirt. The journeying was necessary for the sake of her soul, or she, who was usually groomed and poised would never have undertaken it.

As she went deeper, she ceased to hear the sounds of her tribe. She was in the liminal space now, the border between life and death.

Exhausted she paused and her hand reached to the side of the chamber wall, it brushed against bone. Even with no light she recognised it for what it was, the remains of a long dead ancestor. Her scream echoed in her own ears and for moments she thought she may be descending into madness. The minutes seemed to stretch into hours, and while she was in this place, a femur clutched into her hand, it seemed that she heard the voices of her forebears calling her to give her comfort.

‘Child’ said one, ‘Do not fear your journey’

She almost laughed. ‘I’m far from a child, my hair is growing white and my children have gone from me’.

‘You are our child, dearest one’ came another voice. ‘We are with you always’.

Their presence, real or imagined had sustained her, so she continued crawling through the narrow, dark space.

She continued forward with a renewed sense of purpose. She could hear her own heartbeat now, it was getting louder and louder and in the confined space it was reaching a level that was painful to her ears. It sounded like a shamanic drum. A pinprick of light appeared, gradually getting larger, she pulled herself towards it. As she reached it she saw welcoming arms ready to help her out of the tomb…..

Several hours later I awoke in a hospital bed. My head was thumping and I had memories of a past life I could never have known. There had been a collapse in the long barrow my team were excavating, and they told me I had been trapped for an hour while they lifted the fallen debris from my back.

The Vampyr Ball

The Vampyr Ball was an annual event at Ravenleigh. People from all over the country came, the hotels were full and every local with an Airbnb was booked for the weekend. It was one of the high spots for retailers and the hospitality industry alike, and generated almost as much income as the run up to Christmas. Ball gowns and costumes were on hire or sale in most of the clothes outlets and the town looked like Whitby on a Goth weekend as the visitors started to arrive.

Danny used the yearly ball as his own personal hunting ground. The local girls had always seen him as a bit of an arsehole, so he didn’t get much luck pulling in the Ravenleigh pubs and clubs, but whack a bit of make up on and wear some flowing black clothes and even he would usually end up taking a girl back to his bedsit at some stage of the event.

He hadn’t had a girlfriend since the incident when he was 19. There had been a stern police warning, and Ravenleigh was a small enough place that the girls knew to avoid him like the plague. He put some rohypnol into a silver hipflask and stashed it in his cape, he would make doubly sure he would get a woman, after all, it had been a whole year since his last one, so he deserved a bit of fun, didn’t he?

This year the costumes were outstanding. The photographers were out in force and the reception rooms in the town hall were decked out in Gothic luxury and looked splendid dressed as “The Vampyr Court”. Woman in low cut laced corsets and long skirts waltzed with men dressed like the Vampire Lestat in swirls of scarlet and black.

Most of the ball guests were couples, there were very few singles in the room. More men than women, and as the night got longer, the lone females dwindled in number. Very soon there was one left. Danny was almost disappointed. As costumes went, she looked like a crap vampire, she hadn’t made the effort the others had made, her black hair was straight and flat where most of the female guests had elaborate styles with beehives or curls, and she barely wore any make up, just some pale powder and a touch of red lipstick. Still, any port in a storm would do for him. It didn’t matter to him that she was the most unlikely looking vampire in the room.

He grabbed a couple of glasses of the complimentary sparkling wine and went into a dark corner to tip the contents of her flask into the one he would present her with, and then disaster struck. A dancing couple bumped his elbow and he spilled the contents onto the floor and his clothes. He almost cried with frustration but then a miracle happened. The girl was headed his way and was smiling at him. She whispered a few words into his ear and they both headed out of a side door unnoticed by the crowd and made for his bedsit. She giggled and flirted with him all the way. It was like Danny’s dreams had come true.

Danny wasn’t a patient man and was pawing her and fumbling with her clothes as soon as he had shut his door, the last thing he was ever aware of was her sharp teeth sinking into his neck.