OK, so I did this sort as a fun exercise. It has not really been edited, and it’s long and somewhat rambling. Go behind the break at your own risk.
He walked out of the inn and immediately went to the church dedicated to St. Cadoc. It was an old church, centuries old, with age that no amount of white plaster could ever truly hide. The moss that draped along its eaves added an earthly quality to its heavenly presence, almost as if Mother Earth had claimed a share of ownership over what the followers of the Father of Heaven had built. Around it was a green, a deep green of grass and moss and weeds and shadow and overgrown markers of lives that were lived.
Some markers were still readable, some almost pristine from the sharp marble that so far had resisted 249 years of wind and rain and prayers.
To enter the church, he had to walk on stone worn from those lives, each one seeking absolution, or relief, or more likely for the young and healthy, to fulfill obligations due to older relatives. Maybe even in a place that has only marginally changed its pace with technology, many came because it was a welcome diversion; a living drama highlighted by uplifting glorious songs and dangerous perils of eternal fire.
Whatever their reasons, he himself came here seeking a connection. He looked carefully at each of the stones that were legible. “B. Christopher, awaiting B. Christopher.” “B Jones lies here, as does D. Jones, as does R. Jones.” The age of the church is hardly comprehensible in some ways, but stones of people alive in the English Revolution lie here. That seems plenty old, but truthfully the time since Cromwell holds less than half of the life and absolution embodied in these stones.
He took pictures, wandering about, and was rewarded with a memory unimagined had he not actually entered the church. Painted in negative in the white plaster on the wall was a knight on his destrier, sword upraised to defend the holy. Is this an image of King Arthur? Perhaps. He’s mentioned twice in Cadoc’s vita. A saint? George probably, but could it be Cadoc himself? Perhaps. He’s always been displayed with a spear, maybe this is a High Medieval interpretation. Could it be a Norman marcher lord? Perhaps. Cadoc would not be the only early Welsh saint patronized to at least some extent by a Norman who realized that the defenses he could build against his restive neighbors need not only be built of stone. Could it be from Victorian times. Perhaps. Maybe it was even decorated for the first time during this Elizabeth’s six decades.
He didn’t stay around to ask, for there were many miles to go and there was no one there to ask. He merely signed the guestbook and left his small change as a meager thanks for the magic that age can infuse without even trying.
Outside the church, he returned back to this world, if only for a moment. Taking a bit to adjust his headphones, he looked at the two other walkers, these from the Pacific Northwest, waved and set off on the trail. He knew today would be an adventure, but no amount of preparation truly readies a person for death approaching within two feet… multiple times.
Three days. Three days of walking moving him along eight leagues or so had gotten him to this place. Three Days was also eleven minutes of brilliance that was the first thing on those headphones. He saw shadows of the morning light, remembering shadows of the evening sun, knowing he would make the shadows and the light become one on this day. He’s thinking about how men prey on each other, and the strangers he has adopted as kin. He’s hearing the song and letting it wash over him, wearing away his confusion and initial fatigue like a river of sound over suddenly rounded rocks of emotion.
The first steps on this day were, appropriately, uphill to get to the top of the churchyard, out the latched gate to where the road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Then up some stone stairs behind a school with a mere century and a half of history or so, then out into some fields along a clear, well-worn track.
To his right, a pasture rises above him. To his left, another pasture falls to a line of trees whose stream, swollen from seemingly unending rain, flows swiftly and loudly. He knows that ahead, probably a hundred yards or so, is a gate that will move him from this pasture to the next, and beyond that another gate, and still another.
Each gate is marked with the acorn on a yellow field that has been his constant companion and relief on this trail, as it marks this specific trail and no other. Why an acorn? He does not know, and may never know, but whether it’s a small disc, or a small painted sign, or even carved out of hundreds of signposts, the next one on the path signifies a small victory, a little victory from which great victories are made.
He smiles wryly as he passes many of these, for not all are put on markers that cannot be moved. At least one, he has noticed, is 90 degrees off from what it was supposed to be, so the rumors he’s heard that neighborhood teens take great joy in turning them ever so slightly is true. So far, he’s foiled their evil plot, a plot he himself finds mildly funny, unless, of course, he has to walk an extra mile or five.
For now, though, he has to focus on his footing. While the mud has dried at least somewhat, the footing is rarely smooth and easy. More important, while this may be a national trail and all that, it tends to run in active pastureland. Active pastureland implies active pasture animals. Active pasture animals mean that the squishiness is not necessarily dirt. He has become expert in spotting such mines, noting the difference between large piles from horses, the swirly leavings of cows, and the constant marble-sized glossy droppings of sheep. Each, of course, is a banquet for the flies, who fortunately prefer these easy pickings to the moving possiblity of a man.
His current path runs along the side of a hill, past a long abandoned stone house. This house could only be decades abandoned, built by a farmer prior to the war but abandoned as technology broadened farm sizes. It could be centuries old, abandoned by a family that preferred a different spot on their land, a spot they have continued to live at as generation after generation has at least one that prefers the mud and manure of farm life to the allure of greater promises, sometimes that even come true, of big city life. He’ll never know. It’s just time, sliding away and leaving its droppings.
On the next pasture the path curves down the hill towards the stream hidden by green-clad sentinels. At this point, he faces another constant hazard, the challeng of navigating the ground before these gates. Many have depressions deepened by thousands of soul’s soles. Why do people walk the Dyke? He supposes each must have at least one reason, but guesses that most have a variety as he does. In any case, they have eroded the space before each acorn-adorned gate leaving a place for rainwater to gather its forces to block the next voyager in shifting lines requiring constant tactical thought to defeat.
This particular one requires only minimal thought. He approached from the north, grabbed the post, swang himself around to achieve the first step. There, still holding onto the post, he reached over and unlatched the gate, which grudgingly allowed him passage onto the wooden bridge.
The promise of rushing water that the babbling brook had given from below was fulfilled now. He stood on the bridge, watching the water flow proud and arrogant beneath him, headed to either the Monnow or the Wye, or, he guesses, the Monnow to the Wye. Nevertheless, he stands above in his mild arrogance, taunting it from the perch built by bustling hands.
He wonders about those hands for a moment, about not the organization that created this particular trail, but the actual hands that worked to build this bridge, others like it, the gates, the signposts, and laid the gravel and stone that valiantly strives to hold off the mud. What did they think about Offa? What did they think about Mercia? Were these just names used for roads and neighborhoods? Did they look upon the Dyke as a mere obstacle, or even perhaps as convenient feature upon which to build houses for factory workers and retired postmen and lorry mechanics. Did they hope their mums would live on this earthwork? Or did they merely appreciate the opportunity to put their hands to building a bridge not for the pride of building but the ability to pay a couple of quid for a pint? He suspects that last is the real truth, but standing on that bridge, he hopes that at least someone whose sweat poured into this trail proudly claims Offa as one of his kings.
Crossing the bridge after his thoughts were carried away by the water, he turns in dismay to the next foe. Suddenly, before him stood a giant with a matching stone hammer.
This giant was something like 40 yards tall, and though adorned in green as everything else in this forest, his was a lighter green. Giants need fear nothing of course, and this giant proudly shone brilliantly from the darker greens around him, with a whitish line of trim adorning the joining of his jacket in the middle. At the top, his bushy face taunted the walker, especially taunting his fear, daring the voyager to defeat him.
Yet towards the giant the walker strode, daunted but refusing to let this tiny soul defeat him. He marched directly before the giant, and then step by step, he forced his way forward, lessening the giant with each step. Four times the giant’s stone forced him to halt. Four times he continued on until finally the giant became his own size. On the fifth time, his defeat of the giant was complete and he proceeded then onward to the next acorn. Onward to the next field of battle.
Ironically, the soundtrack of this battle was also epic. A song of a mortal man in a world of battling gods. The power of emotion and the strength of thought warred for supremacy both in song and listener. “Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty, with the heart and mind united in a single… perfect… sphere.” Twenty minutes of musical conflict for twenty minutes of silent struggle.
But passing Old Park and Great Park, he strode proudly along. He knew that this tiny giant was only a little victory, but, again, litle victories were all he hoped for. The music here, at one point a driving beat, at another a charming ballad, fed his enthusiasm. Yes, there are monsters to defeat, and challenges to overcome, but he, at least for the moment believed in the power of song. How many of these same miles had hobnailed Roman legionnaire sandals strode singing upon? Plus, at day’s end, he knew he needed not to build a route camp, merely find the luxurious accommodations waiting for him.
Here to a momentary escape from endless fields he reaches a gate to a country lane. The firm tarmac beneath his muddy shoes a bit of a relief from the constant scrutiny that muddy fields required.
Soon, however, he turned up a field towards a farm named on the map. He wondered actually how long that farm had been there. At least decades. He would be surprised had this same farmhouse not been around in the 1800s. Could the farmstead even be mentioned in the Domesday? Perhaps someday he’d check.
For now though, he passed the stone building with its satellite dish, it’s ancient Range Rover, and its sheets flapping heartily in the brisk wind on the clothesline. A light blue if you must know. He went down the farmstead’s driveway to another brief stretch of tarmac before turning back onto another field. This time, the field sloped nicely downwards to another gate.
But beyond this next gate stood a new foe, adorned in black, glaring balefully, staring patiently, calmly waiting for the swords to be drawn and the blood to flow. Behind this giant captain were a full company of myrmidons and mercenaries ready to stand at his side.
The walker strode forth to face this foe, a foe he had no idea how to defeat, a foe he had no idea how to elude, a foe that he must best as it stood athwart his path. With “you’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too” in his ears, and some trepidation in his heart, the walker stood at the gate staring his foe in the eyes, a conflict of wills that the walker eventually won. He opened the gate, staring at the foe, and calmly walked by him. The foe followed, not, perhaps, with malicious intent, but now perhaps curious to the knight that had bested him. Ahead, his troops gathered in their lines, but separated from the path and the walker strode defiantly among them. At least, if that is not how this encounter went, it is how the walker will forever remember it.
From this point, the adrenalin ebbed as he proceeded down to the major highway beneath him. The path passed in a small collection of houses with names that lacked vowels, he exchanged pleasantries with an elderly gentleman and crossed over to the base of his greatest foe of the day, though not perhaps his deadlist.
This foe towered above him, arrogant in the sunlight. “Can you, dear walker, succeed in the footsteps of thousands of others? Or shall you, like a gnat, circle around me, allowing the daggers of your mind to defeat you? I care not. I was here before your gods, and I shall be here after your works, be they ever so mighty as Ozymandias, will crumble into dust.”
Laughing the foe allowed the walker an easy start to the battle, a nice bridge over a beautiful brook that rounded its bedrock into beautiful patterns under leafy proud trees. Then, a comfortable set of stairs up to some dire signs of immediate danger, a warden of the greater foe, angrier and more spiteful and more deadly in his rhythmically periodic defense.
The walker heeded the signs. He looked and listened, careful to heed the great peril before him. Yet despite his caution, as he stepped forth the warden suddenly turned a corner and sped incredibly quickly at the invader. The walker quickly stepped forth and eluded the striking serpent with barely a foot or two to spare. The warden, in its fury, sped away, to snap at its next victim.
With a few breaths to catch, and with the wind of the attack still pulling at his hair, the walker stood in amazement at the closeness of the escape, a closeness all the more amazing given that the risk had seemed so small.
But with a moment to recover, he turned then to the next portion of the path, a steep climb up some fields to a series of lanes. Once, he had a chance to get out of the lanes and take a shortcut on a field, but the morass was more frightening than passing cars with no time to swerve so he continued onward and upward for the glory of… well… something.
Then soon he arrived at perhaps the most frustrating battle of this war, a battle led by a proud and disdainful farm cat. The cat walked carelessly before the walker, making several jumps at one point to leap from the roadway to a perch on a roof where he could glare balefully as the walker passed by. Here the road led steeply downward, a slope of many yards that seemed wasteful to the walker as he knew he must immediately regain this height starting at his next turn. Yet, this battle he never had any opportunity to win, as the path was literally set in stone, and his frustration mounted as each step took him both farther and nearer to his goal.
Eventually, the path turned to the left, to the teeth of the monster that awaited him.
Step by difficult step the walker climbed in this portion, a shady trench whose mud had regained some strength and rarely slid beneath him.
Step by tortuous step the walker climbed through the next field towards a long rock wall past smug sheep who were happily entertained by the walker as they ate.
Step by counted step the walker climbed past the wall. Ten steps here, twelve there, a whole 21 at one point, each number punctuated by a few seconds of heaving breath.
Step by angry step the walker rose to Hector’s Rise onto a plateau where he was able to catch his breath.
As the breath returned, so did comprehension. This spot, this plateau, was at least an initial reward from the great enemy who treasured the worth of his foes. This plateau was made by man who built a hillfort here thousands of years ago to protect his families and his sheep from his neighbors. Now it is merely a grass-covered series of mounds arranged to look out over the valley. Now it looks over the A465 and the town of Pandy that stretches along the motorway. Now it stands in silent watch over a peaceful land whose people continue to offer sweat, toil, and tears, but not shed their blood or the blood of their neighbors. Yet this peace asks its own questions. How many men has this vantage point seen slain? How many gallant advances? How many cowardly retreats? What has this hillfort seen in shame and pride over thousands of years and over a thousand feet of height?
But the walker can only pause to let the questions flit over his head, as he needs to head to the west of the pine trees above him and make an ascent to broad long plateau. This next portion is not the end, but not still the beginning. He’s moved from farmland to moorland, and though the trail still generally is ascending, it’s merely a rolling bit until the last set of final climbs that appear in the distance.
Those are the true enemy. Those are the ones that sit there taunting the walker as he expends his energy on lesser guardians. Those are the ones that sit there at the narrowest part, inciting the walker’s demons to greatest potency. Those are the ones that bear the greatest menace.
But for now, he has a chance to proceed at some speed, not as fast as the scurrying mountain sheep that here are simply irritated at his disturbance, but still faster than before. To his left in the distance is an old farmhouse that is not marked on the map, but is still fascinating. This house may only be 1200 feet up here, but what an odd and desolate place to live. How many miles is it to get bread or milk or beer or the occasional sweet? Is there a Tesco within an hour’s drive? How long to the Waitrose in Monmouth?
The walker’s path veers slightly right past another stone wall, this one crumbling somewhat in its age. At the base of the wall, the walker looks up to a steep climb where a misstep could mean a quick and deadly trip downward. It’s not terribly likely, of course, but it is possible, and that possibility attacks the walker with every step. Halfway in between he briefly turns around, but almost falls from the force of the downward peek. Songs play in ears, but he hears them not, simply looking downward, placing his feet precisely, shutting out the outside world, focused on a picture frame a yard to the left, a yard to the right, and perhaps three yards ahead.
Now each step is a victory.
Every time he advances his right foot, he pushes back his fatigue.
Every time he advances his left foot, he pushes back his fear.
Every few small victories he pauses for air, not looking around for that way lies madness.
Eventually, each of those victories add up. He’s now on another plateau with at least one more stern climb before him. Now he can appreciate the constant time changes of La Villa Strangiato. Now he can look back at the valley he has almost conquered, at the giant, and the orc, and the serpent below.
Yet almost is not victory and he presses on to one last great climb.
Again it’s a step.
And a step.
And a painful, agonizing breath as he reaches another plateau.
And now the enemy has, for the moment, tipped over his king to the walker, for above the walker is something white. It’s not gleaming, for the clouds are full and grey. The people who placed this stone wanted it to shine with the glory of the sun, but the walker prefers this. It stands out yes, but like the war between heaven and earth at the church that began this trek, this stone should have its roots in both. Here, in the grey of a promising storm, its whiteness is a symbol of man’s desire to reach the sky but its absence of surreality hints that its foundation is the root of this mountain.
Briefly the walker pauses at likely place to eat the sandwich made for him years ago by the welcoming hosts of the Old Rectory. A lifetime away. He accidentally rips a small bit of foil and before he can catch it, it flies in the increasing wind, and he watches it catch what light it can as it sinks yards away in deep heather.
Sighing he gathers his thoughts, turning to the goalpost a mere hundred yards away up a shallow incline.
Now it is time to accept the victory conceded to him, he thinks. His pride, however, at his success is taken away, however, because as he is within yards of his touchdown, a light cheery voice passes him saying “Hello.”
“What?” Holy cow, there’s another person here. How the heck did that happen? The two exchange greetings, and eventually pictures with the white stone, and then the walker moves on alone, as the other person merely came up to get to here and then to get back down. As she leaves, he notices that down the trail is yet another person, this time with a happy spaniel sniffing out everything he can, including the other walker returning to home.
Amazed, for the only creatures he’d seen since starting his ascent were monsters and demons and sheep, he continues on, wondering if this figment would catch up to him and the spaniel would find something interesting in his boots.
Soon enough, yes the other man caught up to the walker. The other man, who had won the entire war five times before, merely refought various battles three times a week to keep fit. He and his spaniel speed past the walker, chatting happily for a moment, blithely unconcerned about the monsters the walker has seen and yet to see.
Soon the spaniel is lost in the heather up ahead, then the walker veers around a corner and the jaunty bob of his head is gone and the walker is alone again.
But now the walker’s solitude, which had been restful, has become a moment of loneliness and desolation as for that brief moment up at the top of the enemy, there was contact.
There’s nothing to do, of course, so the walker plods doggedly ahead. He knows that there is another major rise ahead, but this is generally rolling moors and the path goes along a ridge wide enough to ease his present fears, though the future descent gnaws at him.
What he thinks is the final ascent to his maximum height for the day proves to be an illusion, a final taunting of the enemy who has merely retired momentarily from the field, not yet yielded. Then the next ascent leads to another. And another. Each one shielding the possibility of more to go.
But finally, almost unbelievably, he realizes that he has in fact made it to the last rise on this ridge. Yes, there is a rise before him, but theoretically he is to descend before that rise. Theoretically.
The walker takes stock of his situation. Music that has gone unnoticed as he plodded upwards returns to his consciousness. “The banners of the nobles swing round, the wind whips them around with a crack” seems perfect for the chilling gale in his face at this height. Dumbeks of Kashmir recognize far travels. The appeal for solitude and privacy of Limelight in a place where the walker is so alone.
He is not, however, content. He has defeated the enemy once, but this contest is not over, and he turns his attention to the next battle.
According to his map, he will soon meet a path. To his left on the west, Llanthony, with its shell of a medieval priory and symbol of wealth and hubris. The his right on the east, Longtown, with its castle and marcher fortifications. On this bleak hilltop emotions can be given free reign, and he wonders of the emotions that have crossed that path to go from east to west and west to east. Hate, of course. Fury, undoubtedly. Love, probably. Pride, lust, and greed? No doubt.
Right at that moment, however, the walker’s emotion is fear because he has yet to find that path. Everything he has informs him that the path is before the next rise, but that rise approaches quickly with each step. There’s a clearing in the heather before him, is that the path? Well, he thinks dubiously, it is neither marked nor obvious. Maybe this is not it.
There’s another clearing. Nope, not it.
Is that a cut in the hill? Nope, not it.
Glaring at the map, he looks for any hint that will tell him if he has missed the path. Any landmark. Matching the contour lines. Nothing jumps out.
So he goes up to the next likely spot. Nope not it.
He checks his map again, and the guidebook. Still, nothing jumps out and the next rise, some 250 feet above him, begins to loom as he approaches it.
The limestone gives way to sandstone, but this change merely brings him closer to the next peak.
Llanthony and Longtown each get closer, with the priory and castle both sharpening into focus.
At this point, the walker cares not, he only cares about getting off of this damned mountain in one piece.
Where is that path?
He rephrases and shouts in the wind: “Where is that fucking path!?”
Shockingly, the wind and the sheep and the stone and the great enemy do not answer, though the walker might hear the remnant of a chuckle as the wind passes.
Nothing to do but continue forward and hope for a sign.
But now the path is starting to climb again. Can this be right? Or has he completely missed the path and will he have to walk all the way to Hay-on-Wye some 10 miles ahead?
No, he will not, for hidden past a rise is a raised stone. It is, of course, shaped much like a tombstone, but it is a stone nonetheless. Wind and rain have washed away the letters but faintly he can see arrows pointing to each side, and peering closer he confirms that one goes to Llanthony and the other to Longtown.
He is, of course, overjoyed to have actually found the path.
Until, of course, he looks at it.
It starts going steeply downward until it can curve around the mountain. Rough footing, with rocks everywhere. And, of course, mud.
Beneath the beginning is a lovely view, that, of course, goes over 500 feet straight down.
In his fear, his mind starts thinking about something else. Anything else. Like the phrase “of course.” What does that really mean? “About a path?” “Relating to a way of proceeding?” How did it get to mean “of course” like we understand it to mean?
With such grammatical thoughts, he carefully takes the first step. And the second. Before he realizes it, he has made it to the first plateau, and now to follow this curving path that is merely a slight level spot on the side of the mountain. The flattened portion is about as wide as the walker is tall, but for some reason the presence of wild flowers and heather on the downhill side is reassuring. Downhill in this case is a bit of a misnomer, though, as more appropriately on the cliff side.
He takes the first step. There are IPAs, after all, waiting down the path.
Each step is slow and frightened. The wind that refreshed on the top now simply adds to the fear, as the enemy’s laughter periodically comes through.
For the most part, though, the enemy leaves the walker alone, at least as long as the walker focuses entirely on each step. Every once in a while the walker loses concentration for but a second and looks down at the sheep and horses that are only two hundred yards away, albeit two hundred yards as the photon flies.
In many places the path is something like a trench, a small little depression of ankle-turning rocks, slippery mud, and tripping roots. In some of these cases the quick route down is about two feet away over the slight rise to the right.
Frighteningly, the rise that has zero margin for error also has a trail worn by many travelers. But I am not them.
In some places, it broadens a bit to a smooth two to three yard wide pathway. However, this is muddy and slippery too, and generally angles down to the dropoff. Nevertheless, with care it’s as good as I could hope for, especially when the heather is to the right. Not that the heather could actually save me, but for some reason it helps.
In four or five places, however, the enemy has made a special challenge. Each is a narrower portion, only a yard or two wide. Each has no margin on the right. Each is a mud pit. Each took many long seconds as the walker makes every move slowly… precisely… surely.
As the walker progresses, periodically he looks down. He started 5-600 feet higher than the pastures below him. Now, he estimates he’s 400, soon it’s a still terrifying 300, then 200, then he starts seeing that he is approaching… not level terrain, never that around here, but terrain where if he trips, he merely falls 15-20 feet into a barbed wire fence. Safety, or at least a relative version.
He proceeds down the now broad muddy lane as it curves next to a cattle paddock. Never before has a cattle paddock seemed so welcoming.
He has made it off of the mountain.
But like Odysseus returning to Persephone, the journey is not complete. The walker has not been welcomed into a warm hall.
And, for the first time, the Walker is unsure. He’s come down to a lane heading north and south. Like old computer games he’s faced with “N” or “S” and he has to decide based upon obscure hints and clues. The map, in this case, provides directions, but which way is the cattle grid? The map is unclear.
Both north and south are mudpits, but the one to the south seems slighty, ever so slightly, easier to traverse.
South it is. But after a half of a mile, the path has shown no signs of being the correct one. With the laughing of the unbowed enemy in his ears, the walker slogs back in the same muddy footprints he just left.
Back to the interesection, but this time to the north.
And farther north.
Through twenty-foot wide mud puddles.
Along yards of churned mud.
Forever hoping to see the tarmacked road that his map promises him. The cattle grid that wards that entrance.
Fatigue and mud slowing his steps, he finally sees the tarmac. A small road, enclosed by the ever present hedges, with the slick bars of the cattle grid leading down the hill that is not even yet so low.
He is so tired now that whatever music is playing is washing over him, helping probably to ease the fatigue, but not at any conscious level. Not at any level he can describe.
And the road goes steeply down. Every step is still fraught with the possibility of tripping and rolling, perhaps not to the death, but certainly to the pain.
He trudges ever on, each step impacting on his already sore feet, but at least since he is going downward, the blister gained by climbing the mountain is irrelevant as his feet are pressed as far forward in his shoes as possible.
Cars pass by, contented farmers heading to their pub probably. The walker responds to their waves with the enthusiasm he can muster.
And that is little enough. There is no scale on the map, but the overall distance from the moment he took the plunge and stepped off of the mountain was a mere 1.8 miles. Surely, he’s walked more than that by this point. Yet there’s another mile, and another 300 feet of descent to go on the sturdy by painful tarmac before reaching the hall.
But there’s nothing for it, and while it is not truly a case of “walk or die,” emotionally he *must* continue. He has defeated monsters of legend along the way. He eluded the door warden to the enemy’s great hall. He defeated the enemy both climbing the mountain and descending it. And while he has no Persephone waiting for him, he has the wealth and warmth of a hall awaiting, if he can but defeat his own mind.
Finally, he is rewarded with the promised line of poplars.
He pauses for a moment to study their sharp verticality. Nine of them presumably lining the driveway of his destination.
Nine welcoming sentinels beckoning him home from hundreds of yards distance and scores of feet in height.
Those scores mean that he cannot go any quicker, though he is anxious to reach the hall. The steep road still begs for him to trip and roll and let the enemy win at the end.
Eventually the walker stands at the end of the lane to the night’s haven. The nine poplars form an honor guard of sorts. The small rise to get to the final building is but a mere nothing that even in the walker’s fatigue causes no worry.
For he has no worry now. No fear. No pain.
He is home.