It’s been a long hiatus, but a productive one, and I’m back with the news that Book II in my series is done too. It’s called The Chronicles of Iona: Peregrinatio. (That’s Latin for a “peregrination”, literally a wandering, but in this case, that is the early monastic case, a pilgrimage. In Irish Latin usage, peregrinus also denotes separation from one’s homeland rather than a spiritual journey in the strictest sense.)
Peregrinatio picks up where Book I, Exile, left off. Aedan, our hero, is exiled in Caledonia (Scotland). Columba, our other hero, labors to build his monastery on the Hebridean island of Iona .
But rather than describe it, here’s a teaser, the preface of Peregrinatio:
Iona, June, 567
“I wish you wouldn’t go, Abba. Not now. Storm’s coming.”
The shingle of the shore shifted uncertainly underfoot as Columba turned to eye the sound, awash with the first rays of a fitful sun, then back to Baithene, worriedly holding the small, leather-clad curragh which would bear Columba to the mainland. “Conall has summoned me,” he told his cousin. “You know I must go.”
“There was a time you would disobey kings gleefully. I liked you very much then.”
Columba laughed, a rich, booming sound. Aye! And look where that had got him. He shaded his eyes, studying the skies. Dawn had unveiled itself shyly, peeking over the looming mountains of the island of Meall and the mainland beyond with a mild pink blush. But now the clouds were leaking red. Storm threatened, coming from the west. He would be sailing before it. With luck, using the following winds, he might just outrun it. But the broad sea-loch in the fretted coastline which kept the king’s hillfort of Dun Ad safe was still a full-day’s sail away.
He turned back to his cousin with a sigh. “If I were to do so now, what would become of all of you?”
“Alone though? Take one of us with you, at the least.”
“No. Your brother is still out.”
“He knows what he’s doing.”
“Aye. But watch for him anyway. He may need help getting back in.”
Together, they launched the curragh into the waves. Columba sprang abroad, took an oar, then picked his way carefully through the treacherous shoals which guarded his island of Iona. The burgeoning wind beat his face and ran questing fingers through his hair. Once safely in the tide-race, he breathed in deeply of the briny air to dispel his unease. Cobthach, the monastery’s best fisherman, had not returned from Erraid yesterday as expected. The big monk was a skilled sailor: he would also have sensed the storm. Had he passed the night on the rock, amongst the seals? Or waited until the falling tide uncovered the strand linking Erraid to shore and then retreated to the safety of Meall?
Wrapping his cloak more tightly about himself, hunching into its warmth, Columba turned to look back at Iona, tiny, hardly a bump on the horizon behind him now as the island rapidly receded from view. For a moment his concern and the waves and the coming storm faded away. His island. Squinting through the grey veil of drizzle which had begun to fall, he could just make out her turquoise waters darkening as the churn of surf, the advance-guard of the storm, began to hurtle itself against the white-shell beaches. There, farther up the shore, black against the rain-haze, smoke was rising from the fire in the magna domus, the great house, lit to keep the monks warm. Huddled alongside it was Iona’s little wooden church.
His Iona. A beloved, beautiful gift. A bounty, unexpected. Here in Dal Riata of the Scots, this harsh, unwanted land of exile.
As his little boat heaved through the choppy waves, the wind inciting the swell, rain spitting into his face, a new hymn came to Columba: I beg that me, a little man, trembling and most wretched, rowing through the infinite storm of this age, Christ may draw after Him to the lofty, most beautiful haven of life.
He hummed this hymn over and over again, summoning heaven’s protection as the day lengthened and, cackling her own ditty of malice and glee, the sea rolled monstrously beneath him; as, like an insect in the curl of a leaf on a rip-tide, he sailed through the heart of the storm.
More to follow …