Deenagh: The Pictish Years Chapter 11 – The Quest

This is a Disabled Pagan Voices Project Submission

In the days that followed the incident with the Shamaness, Deenagh pestered The Dragon, asking him lots of questions, because the line of communication was now open. She continued to heal The Dragon, and spent as much time with him as she could without drawing suspicion from the village clans folk, but especially the Shamaness. Deenagh also realised that she could speak with The Dragon in her mind wherever she was, just like her Tree Mother, and at night Deenagh lay awake for ages in her dwelling, having conversations with him until he insisted that she get some sleep.

Deenagh was a gifted child, for it seemed that whatever she chose to do and put her mind to, she succeeded. She picked up routines easily in her Tribal Dance Troop, and had been creating new routines for many years, taking some ideas from other groups that had performed at the Clan Gatherings. She showed a natural affinity with wood, and had learned from Duira how to carve on the wood from trees, and she had shaped many little items that adorned her home and indeed many other homes in Anoc-Par. She showed an interest in learning how to make clothing from the furs and hides, but for practical use only, and wasn’t interested in making clothing look pretty, like some of the other girls in her village. Those things she had an interest in, she applied herself to, learning as much as she could to perform or make, to the best of her ability. In many ways, Deenagh was a model
pupil but she was easily distracted, with a high boredom threshold for those things that didn’t hold her attention. When she learnt something, she generally wanted to move on and learn something new.

Deenagh’s main interest, and the one that she always remained passionate about, was the woodland and mountains, and the life that grew there, the plants and trees that were used in medicine and food. To Deenagh, these plants were her friends, and she treated them with reverence and respect, as was the way of the Pictish people. Deenagh’s dwelling had branches of trees with their leaves and plants hanging to dry, with a good stock of those that she used most often. When other dwellings had used their supplies, it was to Deenagh they would come to ask for what they needed. She arranged her supplies in order of cuttings from trees to plants of medicinal qualities. This knowledge of plants, and Deenagh’s natural bond with them, was to come in very useful indeed when she healed The Dragon. But after about thirteen days of treatment, she knew that her healing plants weren’t enough, because there were injuries on The Dragon that had been caused by evil itself, and those needed powerful magic. The healing plants could only come from the Pictish Clan’s Head Shaman who lived in Croich, a village that was the heart of the land, the centre from which the other villages spread outwards to inhabit the land. It was in Croich that the magic was strongest, and it was there that the special magical healing plants were needed to be empowered by the Head Shaman, the most powerful
magic worker that Deenagh knew of at the time, and believed it to be true.

Croich was a good distance south of Anoc-Par, and it could take weeks to journey there and back on foot. But Deenagh knew she needed to help The Dragon and when she told him, he helped her hatch a cunning plan. She needed to convince the Shamaness to give her Apprentice in training permission to leave the village and go to the Head Shaman. Deenagh did this by telling the Shamaness that the Spirits had appeared to her, telling her she must get the powerful plants to bring back to her village, which Deenagh and The Dragon hoped would appeal to the ego of the Shamaness, who would then believe that she was in possession of these powerful plants, and therefore think of herself more important than she actually was. Fortune favoured the brave and the Shamaness granted permission,
on one condition that Deenagh had to go alone. Deenagh had made the journey before, but in the company of at least three other people because the journey was a perilous one, through thick forests and across mountain ranges that were home to big cats, bears and wolves. It was going to be near
impossible to survive, and so the Shamaness was smug, assuming this mere child would never make it back alive, one less thing for her to worry about. Deenagh had asked the Shamaness to spiritually contact the Head Shaman to let him know of her request to meet with him, and that she would be
reaching him as soon as she could. Of course the Shamaness did no such thing because she didn’t believe for a moment that Deenagh would make it there alive, nor did the Shamaness have such an ability.

Deenagh decided that she had to face her fears and make the journey regardless, turn it into an adventure, and believe that she could do it because that was what powerful magic was about after all, believing it to be true. Deenagh thought to herself that she wasn’t going to be alone, because she had The Dragon inside her head talking to her and he would be there to help guide her, and her Tree Mother would be there too. Therefore, Deenagh believed that she would return safely with the healing
plants and The Dragon would get better. But she always had such an optimistic outlook, seeing the world through a rainbow, and it would only be on a quest such as this that the world as she saw it, may come back into the focus of reality.

Deenagh worried about leaving The Dragon, but he assured her that he would be able to eat, drink and rest. He chose not to tell her that he would more likely be glad of the break from this girl child who could be intensely annoying at times. The Dragon understood that Deenagh had a boundless
energy for life, but her enthusiasm could become tiresome, especially to a Dragon who was trying to heal in peace.

Deenagh began to make her preparations, after she spoke to Duira who was concerned for her safety, but he supported his daughter in all she chose to do, and this was no different. The Dryad had given Deenagh her blessings for a safe trip and added that she should enjoy the adventure. Deenagh checked her supplies again and again, over and over, thinking through what she needed for the journey to ensure that she was as prepared as possible for all the eventualities she could imagine. She tried to recall her previous trips to Croich, which she had only made four times before, but Duira helped her by imprinting a visual map in her mind, as he went over it many times with her before she left. It was early morning, just as the sun was beginning to light the sky, yet before it had risen, when Deenagh
set out from Anoc-Par on a solo trip for the first time in her twelve years of life.

Deenagh visited The Dragon in the clearing, as she was passing that way, and he imparted his own blessing on her with the words “May the Ancient Ones guide and protect you in all the places you travel.” Deenagh felt the energy and power that these words held, and any lingering doubts she had
were swept away, carried in the wind that briefly rushed around her and disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. She felt her emotions out of balance as she parted from The Dragon who had become a dear friend to her, and she turned her head so he would not see the tears in her eyes. Instead, she proudly marched forward with focused determination that she would return as soon as she could.

Deenagh carried a basic hammock in her pack, one she could wrap herself tightly in at night for extra warmth if needed. Most nights she slept high in the tree canopy, but sometimes she came across the hollowed out trunks of old Oak trees, and she would climb inside to shelter, with the tree’s permission, and in the morning before she left, she would offer her blessings and thanksgiving, sometimes leaving some nuts or berries. But she had to be careful and manage her rations of food wisely because she
needed all the food she could carry for her journey. She did not know it at the time, but it would take her around fourteen days to reach the Head Shaman’s dwelling in Croich.

Deenagh felt pride in herself at the progress she was making in those early days of her journey. She had kept herself safe and out of harm’s way, and she had faced some of her fears in the dark of night, when loneliness overcame her and self doubt crept upon her, attempting to smother her in gloom. But just when panic threatened to overwhelm her, and with thoughts that she couldn’t complete this quest, she heard her Ancestors encourage her and fill her with the fighting Spirit that she needed to
stay strong.

Deenagh had assumed that she would be able to speak with The Dragon in her mind while on her journey, but their communication had become infrequent, and short when they did speak. It worried her to begin with when she couldn’t contact The Dragon after those first three days of her journey, when they had been in constant contact. But then there was no communication between them for almost two days, the longest they had been apart since they first met. Finally, The Dragon made contact and assured Deenagh that everything was fine with him, and he also explained that there would be times when they couldn’t mind speak, and that she would be on her own. The truth was that The Dragon was of course watching her, but he had to remain separate from her because this
was a quest that was testing this young human in so many ways, and an opportunity for her to learn and grow. So The Dragon had to take a back seat and let her make mistakes, if that was to be, for she would surely learn from them. However, The Dragon admitted to himself that he was very proud of Deenagh, not only for choosing to make this journey alone, but for being able to pick herself up, brush herself off, and carry on with the journey after her low moments of fear and uncertainty.

When Deenagh reached Croich and went to speak with the Head Shaman, she discovered that he was not told of her request to meet with him. She managed to hide her annoyance at the Shamaness who had given Deenagh her word, which Deenagh realised in an instant was as worthless as the Shamaness was lazy. Nevertheless, determined to be heard, Deenagh put her case to the Head Shaman, telling him of her need for the special plants that he alone could prepare to heal the wounds inflicted by evil.
Obviously Deenagh couldn’t tell him about The Dragon, and the Head Shaman wasn’t happy at being kept in the dark regarding the true reason, sensing that this child was holding back. So he thought up a plan, that she must go to The Sacred Mountain and collect the plants needed, believing that if she survived this particular journey, then she was indeed sent by the Great Spirits. He decided too that if this mere child returned alive, he would comply with her request without further questioning. When he told Deenagh what she must do, she was angry but did well not to show it, for the Head Shaman was someone who had to be respected and not questioned. However, this had never been part of the plan, but she decided that she had to continue to complete the task she had set out to achieve. So she did what she had to do, and stayed the night at Croich, ready to head off the next morning on the second stage of her journey.

The Dragon had made contact with her following the meeting with the Head Shaman and she explained what he had quested her to do. The Dragon didn’t hide his anger as well as Deenagh had done, but he managed to keep it under control, and trust in Deenagh when she told him that she had
to do it. If the quest was perilous so far, it was nothing to the danger she would be in, having to climb The Sacred Mountain and retrieve the necessary plants. But Deenagh remained optimistic, as she told herself that she had successfully made the journey to Croich alone, no mean feat, and confidently told herself that she could continue on this quest, no matter what it took, reminding herself that she was doing this for her friend, The Dragon. However, there were greater challenges ahead that she had to overcome when she came across them. In some ways Deenagh’s tendency to be an optimist and not a realist was a good thing, because if she could have for seen the trials she would face, she may not have left for The Sacred Mountain on that beautiful, sunny morning.

It took Deenagh a further seven days to reach her destination, and a number of incidents that surely tested her character. She was unfamiliar with the journey there, because she had never made the trip from Croich to The Sacred Mountain before. However, the giant rock Guardians loomed high in front of her, so at least she could use it as a focus point to head towards. She had to make her way through thick forest before reaching the base of the mountain, and then find a way to climb upwards to the
summit. It was slow progress, in both terrains, but particularly when Deenagh had to negotiate sheer cliff faces as she began her ascent, with loose stones and rocks underfoot.

Mid way up the mountain, Deenagh froze in terror as she realised that she was being tracked by a mountain cat, who was looking at her from a short distance away with hungry eyes, thinking it had come across an easy meal. Deenagh quickly regained her senses and thought hard about what she
needed to do. She realised that she somehow had to let this mountain cat believe that she was too great a risk to think of as food, and therefore she had to find a way to turn the tables and let the hunter become the hunted. But with her next thought Deenagh knew that this wasn’t going to work, because mountain cats hunted creatures like the giant elk, so a mere human child wandering alone was barely a challenge to the mountain cat. Deenagh thought hard again for an answer, asking her Ancestors for help, and in an instant her mind cleared and she decided that she was to use her cunning, believing that to be her advantage and strength, that if she could somehow trick the mountain cat, she could get out of this predicament. In the same moment her eye was drawn to a waterfall cascading down
the side of the mountain up ahead, and beyond the falling water, Deenagh could see a gap in the rocks that looked like a cave behind the flowing water. It appeared to be very dangerous, and she would fall to her death most certainly if she slipped or lost her footing. But to Deenagh it was the answer. She had to make her way upwards and get behind the waterfall, believing strongly that the mountain cat would not follow her. She also believed that by her Ancestors she was blessed, and that if she made it to the safety of the cave behind the waterfall, she could stay for as long as she needed, in which time the mountain cat would surely get bored waiting for her to come out, and hopefully would leave her alone. Her mind worked quickly and she thought to herself that she could then wash herself
under the flowing water, and cover herself in mud to disguise her scent, thus being able to continue on her journey.

By her Ancestors she was indeed blessed, because her plan worked, and she spent the night sheltered behind the waterfall on the side of The Sacred Mountain, thanking her Ancestors for their help and guidance. The Dragon also communicated with Deenagh that night, and when she told him of the
dramatic tale of the stalking mountain cat, The Dragon conveyed that he was very proud of her. This meant so much to Deenagh, because it was not only the nicest thing he had ever said to her, but it filled her with a renewed sense of confidence and belief in herself, that she complete the quest and
return as soon as possible to her Dragon friend whom she missed more than she could put into words.

The next morning Deenagh set off again on the ascent for the last time, and she made it to the summit of The Sacred Mountain. She felt a sense of achievement, and peace enveloped her as she took time to just be, because this was the first time she had ever been to The Sacred Mountain alone. It felt good to have the mountain all to herself and the feeling of inner peace calmed her body and Spirit. She decided, as the light was beginning to fade from the sky, that she was going to stay the night inside the stone built cave, after she had asked permission from the Spirits there. It was the perfect
shelter, and so she prepared a fire and made the place cosy and homely. That night Deenagh had dreams and visions as she slept, and her Mother visited her. Although Deenagh had no personal memories of Maebh, she knew it to be her Mother, and a powerful energy of love was exchanged
between them. Maebh appeared as a beautiful lady dressed in a white gown, radiating light, and she told Deenagh how proud she was of her brave daughter, and that she would always be there for her no matter where she was.

In the early light of the dawn, Deenagh awoke refreshed and rested, radiating herself with an inner happiness. With a heightened sense of purpose, she searched for the special plants which she found with ease. She briefly pondered over how easily she found the plants which she had thought would be the most difficult part of this quest. However, she accepted this gift of Nature and she thanked the Spirit of The Sacred Mountain, not only for the plants, but for making her feel welcome, and providing safe refuge inside the stone built cave.

Deenagh began the slow descent from The Sacred Mountain, but her trials weren’t over just yet, because she slipped and fell a considerable distance. Fortunately, she didn’t cause herself serious harm, but she was in a great deal of pain as her body was battered and bruised against the rocks. It
was her natural instinct to let her body go limp the moment she realised she was falling, and to allow herself to go with the flow of these turn of events, until she would have an opportunity to break her fall, which came when she grabbed some heath plants. Unfortunately, Deenagh’s back pack had come off her mid fall, and she had to climb again to retrieve it, after the shock of the tumble had worn off. When she was reunited with her belongings, Deenagh sat for a long time, telling herself that she was
alive, and that it was all going to be alright. It took awhile for her brain to accept this amid the tears of shock that came in sobs that made her body shudder. But once again, Deenagh brushed herself off and got up and on with the task at hand, and somehow managed to hobble back to Croich with the special plants.

The Head Shaman was rather surprised when he saw Deenagh return, because, just like the Shamaness, he never believed for a second that she would survive the journey alone to The Sacred Mountain. He also realised that he had to honour his promise, and part of him couldn’t shake the
feeling that he had somehow been tricked. He could see that this child had endured some significant injuries, and a small part of him took pity on her. He instructed his Apprentice to heal her wounds while he prepared the special plants in a sacred ceremony, so he could give them to this bothersome girl and send her back to her village.

Deenagh spent a further two days in Croich, waiting for the Head Shaman to give her the special plants, but at least it gave her body a chance to recover from her fall. She had spoken with The Dragon in her mind and they reassured each other that they were both fine. They took comfort in knowing that soon they could be together again, because it seemed they both had discovered how much they missed each other when apart, a novel feeling for them both.

So it was, over an entire moon cycle later that Deenagh returned to the clearing near her village, and her priority was to go to her Dragon friend, whom she was so glad to see, just as he was her. They sat together long into the night and early morning, catching up with each other, for it felt to them both that it was a lifetime that they had been apart. The Dragon could see that this quest had changed Deenagh, that she was a stronger and more self assured human being, and Deenagh too felt as though she had done alot of growing up in the weeks they were apart. The important thing to Deenagh was that they now had the special plants, empowered by the Head Shaman, so The Dragon could be fully healed.

My name is Deenagh Jackson and the process of my writing has helped me understand my own Pagan beliefs in this modern day, while also helping me to connect with my Ancestors of old.

The Deenagh series of books which I started writing almost 2 years ago are about the main character Deenagh who can remember her past lives and each book tells the story of the lifetimes she has lived and the lessons learned, with her Spiritual beliefs at the heart which are important to Deenagh.
This is the first time I have shared my stories outside my close circle of friends, but as a wise man once told me “a stranger is a friend yet to be”, so feel free to contact me by email 
Brightest Blessings, Deenagh