Let me tell you the tale of the Stone Owl on the Shore.

Many, long years ago, before Man learned to dream, a fierce battle was fought in the seas near the rock outcrop known today as Rockall.

The fighting was vicious as man, giants and other creatures long since vanished into the mists of the past, killed without mercy. Days and nights passed, and the ships sank one by one destroyed by fires that sent black curling smoke high into the sky.

At last, one ship remained, its masts broken and hull breeched many times. As it was slowly swallowed by the waves, the Captain released his lifelong companion, his owl Barethenot, who flew high and circled until the ship was lost from sight.

Barethenot, whose name means ‘Watcher of All’ in a language lost many moons ago, chose to seek land to rest. He flew south and east, facing the storms and gales that threatened to drive him far out to sea. But Barethenot pushed on and on, his wings stiffening, his body hardening under the strain.

Finally, as dawn broke, the winds calmed and he soared gently to land on a cliff top, with the green land beyond  a warm, welcoming sight. Barethenot landed, tucked his wings, thickened and stiff from the flight, into his body, and he slept.

As he slept, he dreamed. In his dreams he watched. Aeons passed, and he saw man coming to live, building crofts, tending cattle and sheep, growing crops. He watched as a brave piper strode into the Caves below to find the  treasures washed there by the tides, guarded by the last creature to crawl free from that battle many years ago.

Barethenot was found, taken to live with a family deep in the forests. He was set above the door and he watched the forests grow and the birds sing in the trees. In his dream state he was happy. If  he had been able, he would have shed a tear as he watched the sun rise, listened to the birds singing in the trees.

But a fire raged, and people were driven from the lands. At the last, Barethenot was toppled from his perch and lay in the ruins.

Despair was all around, and from an ungainly angle, he watched as a man clambered the mountain, and called out his anguish to the sky. Barethenot took pity, and as the man passed close by, Barethenot called to him. The man found the stone bird, carried him away, a companion in his loneliness.

The man planned to take Berathnot across the sound to the mainland, but the tide and the winds were too strong that day for the little boat, and Barethenot was tossed mercilessly into the cold, dark, deep waters, where he lay for uncountable years.

 

Barethenot was patient in his sleep. One morning, he realised he could feel the sun on his feathers of stone, felt the warmth seeping into his being. He realised he was resting on the shoreline after the tide receded. He heard voices: a man and a boy laughing. He felt himself being lifted by strong but gentle hands. He saw the face of a kindly father and his son full of curiosity.

Barethenot lived with the family, in pride of place on the mantelpiece. Here Barethenot heard strange tales of men flying through space to the Moon, and the hero Jim Lovell, who cared for his crew just as Barethenot’s captain cared for his. The old owl was saddened by the memory of his captain and his loss, but rejoiced in the news of Captain Lovell.

The owl relished new tales he heard tell, of ships powered only by the wind from the sun filling huge sails of gold and silver, and he heard tell of the sad loss of a story teller of wond’rous tales, who left behind many stories of humans past and humanity to come. Barethenot especially loved these stories, and vowed one day, when he was freed from his granite prison, to fly to these worlds and explore.

One winter, not long ago, Barethenot watched his family raise a conifer near the fireplace. He imagined he could smell the freshness of the pine leaves. The children covered the tree with lights and glitter, and Barethenot was entranced when, after the family retired for the night, the snow fell gently outside, and the world hushed and held its breath. Barethenot began to feel the magic loosen his stone bonds just a little.

He knew that, soon enough, the Stone Owl on the Shore was to be released. All he has to do is wait a little longer. Wait as the songs of Painted Ocean cast there spell over the world.

First, So Near Yet So Far  would emerge, followed by Forest Glades, Echoes Before, Caves of Gold, The Cry, Player of Games, When Snow Falls at Night, and finally, Sunjammer in all its glory as the whole suite of the Stone Owl on the Shore begins its dance around the planet. And the more people listen to these songs of release, the sooner would Barethenot would shake off his granite prison and be free to fly amongst the stars…