ABOUT THE BOOK
The Triforium: The Haunting of Westminster Abbey
by Mark Patton
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Patton
The fisherman grunted and pushed hard onto the riverbed with his pole. His punt moved up and over the reed bed that had blocked the opening to the tributary. Now he and his passenger were in clearer water, not a chocked channel, but a meander, snaking through a wetland wood of willow and alder. A gibbous moon cast silhouettes of the old trees across the river. Here and there moonlight broke through the canopy, landing on clumps of yellow flag that lined the bank. The flowers hinted color in an otherwise black and grey, silver-lit landscape. The boatman had heard nothing from his passenger since their trip began at the headwaters of the Tyburn and he did not expect to. The hooded man hunched into himself, draped in his garment at the stern of the little skiff. Smells of rotting leaf litter and mold began to give way to the pungent stink of pig. Odors from the manures of various farm animals intensified as the limbs overhead began to thin. The spaces between the trees widened and then suddenly the trees were gone, replaced by pasture. Here the river split, going both to the left and the right to circumnavigate around a small island. The island was an insignificant bend in terms of the route of the river, but not at all insignificant to the people who inhabited the river’s shore.
Seeing the island the passenger rose up and nodded to the fisherman, who then stuck his pole fast into the deep thick river muck. Small fires on the island had gone unattended and were winking out. The men who had made them had long ago fallen asleep. Some scaffolding was still about. It would be pulled down in the morning before the priests came to consecrate the site. There had been an old abbey built here long ago by King Edgar. By command of King Edward the Confessor it had been torn down and this new one built in its stead.
These two iterations of Christian piety were not the first ceremonial stages for spiritual observances upon this site. A thousand years before Thorney Island had become a monastic community it had provided space for a temple to Apollo. Apollo, the Roman god of music, poetry, prophesies, and plague was also known as Phoebus Apollo, god of the sun and light.
As the cloaked passenger had come to his feet he had felt no need to steady himself. He was comfortable with the rocking of the boat. Reaching down he lifted a closed lantern from the deck of the punt. It was lit and small seams of light escaped through ornate slits near the ring of the handle. Raising the lantern high with one hand, he unfastened the hasp to its little bronze door with the other. As he opened the lantern, a cold thick mist rose from the surface of the river. Tiny droplets of water hung in the air, fattening and shimmering in the moonlight. The mist began to spread; expanding across the riverbank till it blanketed the entire island in a thick fog. Strange blue humanlike shapes then appeared as the cloud like atmosphere pulsated with lurid incandescence. Ancient events, now not constrained by the rhythm of time, burst forth to replay scenes that once happened. Lightning flashed … but flashed silently. Armies clashed … but clashed silently.
A young red-haired queen was hoisted up in the soggy haze, stripped naked, and then hung by her hands. Roman legionaries appeared. They whipped this queen, Queen Boudicca, mercilessly and raped her daughters beneath her dangling feet. But there were no screams or cries of horror. The scene faded and gave way to Celtic tribes massing under the queen’s standard. With her daughters by her side, Queen Boudicca rode out in a royal chariot seeking vengeance. Yet her rage was inaudible. Warriors and horses crashed through the mist, colliding with a Roman legion and shattering it. The city of Londinium burned in the fog. All of this happened within seconds and as silently as a leaf settling upon the surface of the Tyburn. Strangely, while everything was being hacked, fired, or pulled down, the Roman’s temple of Apollo was left alone. The victorious Celts crept around it, and then moved on.
As the fog continued to pulsate, older things appeared. Events came into form that took place well before there had been a Christian abbey built upon the island or a Roman temple. What was now happening had happened long before the Romans had countered the Celtic revolt, long before Queen Boudicca took poison and died. Thorny Island was now just a grove of trees. But what trees! Ancient trees! Towering oaks and elms formed up within the mist. Druidic priests came into view as they suspended sacrificial victims in wicker baskets from the higher boughs. For the first time, as they set fire to the baskets, sounds could be heard. It was not the screaming of victims that could be heard but the chanting of the priests. It was barely audible, as though it was being muffled by the centuries still concealed within the mist.
"Belenus the Shining one," "Belenus the Bright One," "Belenus the God of the Sun."
The door to the cloaked man’s lantern was now fully open. Light flashed out — more light than could have been contained within a single lantern or two or a thousand lanterns. Like a burst of sunlight but containing the light of many suns, it dissolved the mist and engulfed the newly built abbey. Then, the lantern door closed.