Sunday, March 22, 2020

Memories – Dad

My father died recently from old age. He was 97 and slipped peacefully away over a period of days – an easy death.

In some ways, I’d said ‘good-bye’ to him a while ago. He had lost his hearing and had a prosthesis in one eye because of infection due to sudden onset glaucoma. He loved to read but had no longer been able to do it for some time. I enjoyed having discussions with him on many topics. That was not possible anymore. He was in a wheelchair, but still could roll it around the long-term care home where he lived. I think his memory was somewhat impaired, but it was hard to know to what extent because he no longer spoke much. Some days he seemed to recognize me, other days not. Still he seemed cheerful.

Because of Covid-19 we cancelled the funeral service and held a small graveside service in the town where we’d lived, and he and my mom still did. It was a meaningful event even though a lot of family chose not to come because of restrictions on travel and the dangers of ‘the virus.’ I respect those decisions. Perhaps we’ll be able to hold a memorial service in the future.

He’s left a legacy and many memories for all of us. I could never learn to roll my tongue lengthwise like Dad, but I know that my brothers, and other family members can. Dad taught my son to wiggle his ears. I never learned that either.

Dad loved to joke, and to laugh. Sometimes Mom said that he told the same jokes over, but he still got a chuckle out of them.

He loved to tell stories, used to make up bedtime stories on the spur of the moment. That’s probably where I got my drive to write. He loved to read, too. I remember going to libraries with him in Germany. And he had a prodigious memory for facts, whether things he’d personally experienced or had read about.

Dad was interested in the world around him, the cultures and history of other countries, in art and music. This began my own understanding that variety is indeed the spice of life, that differences are not things to be feared but celebrated, and that we can each contribute in our own ways.

My father had a long, varied and full life. I’ll be doing various things as my personal memorial to him, including posting photos, reading books he liked, and hopefully (when the pandemic ends) going to the horse races.

I will miss him.

From one of Dad’s favourite authors, Goethe:

Wanderer’s Nachtlied

Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Saga Continues

Book three of The Leather Book Tales fantasy series, Companion of Eagles, was released in January 2020, by Serimuse Books.

Written by Saskatoon, Saskatchewan author Regine Haensel, the series takes place in a mythical territory based on a realistic western North American landscape – northern forests, grasslands, deserts. mountains.  It’s a world of many cultures, and of magical beings – shape shifters, sorcerers, soothsayers, enigmatic warriors, dragons.

Four powers – fire, water, air and earth – reveal themselves in four young people, triggered and enhanced by a pair of silver bracelets. Their abilities grow as they overcome challenges and collaborate against forces that oppose and threaten them.  The young people discover that they are part of an old and tangled tale, with risks not only for themselves, but for their world and its people.

Themes of the series include family separation, a journey to find missing children, parent and child conflicts, struggles against evil, family secrets, the connection between history, mythology, the present and the future.

The books:

Queen of Fire (Book One, published in 2014, short-listed for the High Plains Book Award, Young Adult Category, in 2015)
When tragedy strikes for 15-year old Rowan she finds a magic bracelet hidden in the house, that gives her various powers. An old letter reveals that her father is alive, and she has a brother. Rowan must find the courage for a journey that will take her far from home. But is someone tracking and following her and if so, for what purpose?

Child of Dragons (Book Two, published in 2017)
Rowan is not settling in very well with her father and brother in the city of Aquila. So, when the opportunity arises, she takes on a task for the Grasslands People, to find a pair of missing children. This quest leads her to a city by a lake, a school, and a remote camp. Two young men vie for her attention and an enigmatic foreign soldier appoints himself her protector. Can she learn to trust in the silver bracelet that she’s been reluctant to use, and learn to wield power in order to save, rather than to kill?

Companion of Eagles (published January 2020)
Samel, left at home with his father in Aquila, wants his own adventure. When a cousin of their dead mother arrives looking for Rowan, 14-year old Samel decides to defy his father. He wants to visit the places where his mother grew up, to learn more about that side of his family. And yet the difficulties of the recent past are still with him, and dangers threaten. Can Samel use his own magical bracelet to protect himself and others? What secrets will Samel uncover, and how will they change him?

(Map above copyright Meshon Cantrill 2017)

For more information about the books and the author: RegineHaenselwriter

The books are currently available in Saskatoon at McNally Robinson Booksellers, and Indigo Books, as well as on line at and from Amazon.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Companion of Eagles, Book Three in The Leather Book Tales

© copyright Regine Haensel 2019
This book is newly available on Amazon. It will soon be available  from other  sources. Check for ongoing news about this and other books.

Chapter I

The last thing I remember is drifting off to the distant drumming of the Lord’s Militia signal­ling day’s end in my room in Aquila, the house Papa and I share. But now my eyes are open wide see­ing nothing but dark. No strip of moonlight through the gaps of my window shutters, no winking stars. When I press my eyelids down briefly there’s not even the weird lines and sparks of light that usually show up. I turn my head this way and that. It’s like a sand­storm at night hiding moon and stars, except there’s no stinging grit against my skin, no song of sand and wind.
I stretch out my arms; groping hands touch noth­ing, no bed covers, no wooden bed frame. A chill breeze lifts the hair from my neck. I become aware of my cold and naked feet standing on a rough sur­face. Not a wood floor, maybe cobblestones? I could be standing out in the street in front of our house. Sleep walking? I’ve never done that before. It’s un­believably quiet – no leaves hissing in a breeze, no creaking branches. No squeaky wheels of a late-night cart, no footsteps. A speck of brightness off to one side draws my eyes. I squint as it slowly grows larger; hope by this light to see the outline of my window or the walls of a familiar house, but instead, dark shapes stand against an indistinct background. None of the shapes look like anything I recognize.
A whispering voice: “Samel.”
I take a step forward. “Who’s there?”
A sudden flare obliterates everything and my eyes swim. Quick as a darting fish, my fist knuckles the wet away. I’m just seeing clear again when icy liquid gush­es over my feet, making me jump back and almost slip. But I spread my legs and get balanced. Flames blaze and steam rises as water meets fire. I flail at the mist, trying to clear it so I can see. Heat presses, wetness drips from my skin. I open and shut my eyes, take deep breaths. What is happening? Where am I?
              When I open my eyes again, early morning light fills my bedroom. Familiar, ordinary. Just another dream, I guess. My fist pounds the mattress. What am I supposed to get from this? It doesn’t make sense.
Bedding tangles around my waist and legs; my body’s slick with sweat. I push at the scratchy blanket, but it’s twisted into knots and won’t budge. I stretch a leg; my toe rips a hole in the sheet. “Talons and beaks!” My voice cracks the way it’s been doing lately. Good thing I’m not wanting to be a singer. Voice going, skin itchy. Toenails too long – almost like an eagle’s. I’m making a mess again.
In my head I can hear the other drum appren­tices snickering. Yesterday one of them muttered to another, “Clumsy as a newborn camel.” Knew they were talking about me. Turned to glare at them. Don’t know what I’d have said or done, but Tamtan, the drum master, walked in just then and we all bent to our work.
I frown at my knobby knees. They do make me think of camel legs. Except camel toes don’t look like mine. I can hear Papa now: “If you’d pay more attention, you’d notice your toenails are too long. Cut them!”
The sheets are old, too thin. That’ll be my excuse when I ask Papa for coin to buy new bedding. Still, he won’t be happy about it. It’s not like we’re poor, though. Papa’s stipend as a Lord’s musician has al­ways been enough to take good care of us. I’m sure Tamtan’s other apprentices resent me partly because of that. None of their fathers are musicians of the calibre of Papa.
I shove all the bedding away. Too hot. The dry season is usually scorching in Aquila, but this is the worst I remember. Good thing Rowan isn’t here – she’d find it harder to take than me, having lived most of her life in norther forests. Sister, where are you now? I should have defied Papal, snuck away and joined the caravan to travel with you.
Generally, I do what Papa wants, or I argue him round to my side. Man and boy, just him and me liv­ing together all my life, we don’t always agree, but sort things out. I’ve been happy enough. That changed after Rowan came. And now she’s gone again, who knows for how long? Life should be easier, but it isn’t.
The dream. Was it about Rowan? Maybe she’s in danger. I scramble out of bed, dragging the bedding to the floor and leaving it. Rummage in the wooden chest at the foot of my bed and pull out the silver bracelet of linked ivy leaves. Slip it onto my wrist. Mysterious, magical circlets that came from our par­ents, one each. I thump to the floor, struggle with my unruly legs, then settle. Close my eyes and think of my sister; picture her long hair, dark like Papa’s, her grey eyes that I’ve been told are like our mother’s. My concentration slips.
I’ll never see Mother again, can’t even remember her. Did I call her Mama? Did she ever sing to me? Maybe I got my musical abilities from her as well as Papa. I was too young when Papa and I left her and Rowan. And Mother’s been dead for over a year now.
I scratch an itchy toe. Tailfeathers! Better cut my toenails before they do more damage. Then get clothes on. The house is quiet though I can tell by the angle of the sun shining through my window that it’s still early. Papa’s either asleep or gone already to the riverbank, to the old barracks of the Lord’s Militia. They’ve been mostly empty for years, the grounds al­lowed to grow wild, but Papa and his musician friends along with other artists of Aquila are changing that. They’ve joined designers, stone masons, carpenters and labourers to turn the dilapidated buildings into an arts school.
I sneak across the landing and peek into his room. No Papa, bed made neatly, bedding stretched tight as a drumhead. It was under that bed I found my brace­let. It was Papa’s really, but had abandoned him. He wasn’t happy about that.
I rattle down the stairs. No Papa anywhere. Why didn’t he wake me this morning as he’s been doing ever since Rowan left? Drag me along as usual with him to the school when I don’t have other duties. Not that I’m sorry to be left at home. At the building site I’d just be hanging around waiting for someone to find tasks for me: carrying tools, cutting grass, cutting brush. Scut work is no fun and not that good for a musician’s hands.
I search for a note. Today is supposed to be my day for working with Papa – composing, playing the flutes, cleaning and repairing them if necessary. If he doesn’t come back for that’ll be the third lesson we’ve missed since Rowan went. The arts school is import­ant, but so am I!

To order this and other books contact:

Books by Regine Haensel

The Leather Book Tales
Queen of Fire
Child of Dragons
Companion of Eagles

Short Stories
The Other Place
A Rain of Dragonflies

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Chapters of One’s Life

I first encountered Amber Tamblyn in the short-lived TV series Joan of Arcadia. I loved the show, and all the characters, especially Ms. Tamblyn’s portrayal of Joan. I was terribly disappointed when the show was cancelled. The only other thing I saw Tamblyn in was The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, which I liked, too.

Ms. Tamblyn wasn’t recently on my radar, so I was surprised and interested when I discovered that she’d written a book called Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution.

I’m in my 70’s; Tamblyn is in her 30’s. She’s American; I’m Canadian. So, what do we have in common? She’s been in the entertainment business since she was a child, but has also written poetry, a novel and now a non-fiction book (I won’t call it a memoir because it is much more than that). I’ve worked at various jobs and have written two collections of short stories and two fantasy novels (a third in process). I think that Ms. Tamblyn and I also share at least some values and a view of the world.

I too believe that there are times in our lives when we need to re-examine and renew. This can come at any time and occur more than once. I’ve considered myself a feminist most of my life. I believe in celebrating diversity in all areas of life and know that equal opportunity for all is yet to be achieved.

Here is a quote from the first chapter of the book: ‘And my Jungian therapist, Evan, told me, “Most people in our culture would say one must apply discipline to pulling oneself out of the muck. I would say the muck is where the magic is. One must apply discipline and self-control to staying put and tolerating difficulties that come with the dark stuff, so that one can be changed and improved by it.” ‘

I am currently very much aware of starting a new chapter of my life. I’m getting older and facing challenges that I haven’t faced before.  There is arthritis, pain, less energy, a certain emotional volatility. This is the ‘muck’ of my life right now. There are things I want to achieve – another book finished, a more positive attitude to my current situation, time spent on learning watercolour painting, and the regaining of a belief that magic can still happen.

Here’s another quote I like from the book: ‘Bottom line: Until women are allowed to make mediocre works of art while still succeeding in the way that many white men get to do this every single day, we will not have the power to take our creative freedoms back.’

For those of us who are writers and artists it’s not always easy to find a way to be heard, to have our work seen or read. I agree with Ms. Tamblyn that we may have to find ways outside the ‘norm’ to do the work that is important to us. For some of us this can mean self-publishing, online distribution of our work, and sharing it in other ways.

If you are interested in American politics, you may find Ms. Tamblyn’s insights into Hilary Clinton’s bids for president eye opening. Tamblyn was involved in both campaigns and experienced the misogyny. Particularly telling are the pages in the book called ‘Requirements for a Woman to Become President of the United States.’

Tamblyn doesn’t pull any punches, whether she’s writing about the United States, ‘We are a nation that is morally backpedaling, scared of change, and stuck in the back pocket of social media’s isolation and alienation. We are a nation that not only refuses to resolve matters face-to face, we refuse to see eye-to-eye. We’re not only lost, we’re just now coming to terms with the fact that we’ve always been lost.’ Or about women’s health, ‘If we want equality and inclusivity in medicine, and if we want to see better results both for women in the field of medicine and for women who are patients, we need to see more female representation in leadership positions and in what research is being funded.’

I was moved by this book and felt that I was getting to know other dimensions of this young woman, whom I had known previously only as an actor. Now I know more about the woman, the writer, the activist, the human being.

‘Put your defenses down. Let go. Listen. And learn.’ - Amber Tamblyn

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Climate Change Deniers, and the Cigarette Smoking Connection to Lung Cancer Deniers

As a species, we humans have a history of denying facts even when they are staring us in the face.

‘Lung cancer was once a very rare disease, so rare that doctors took special notice when confronted with a case, thinking it a once-in-a-lifetime oddity. Mechanisation and mass marketing towards the end of the 19th century popularised the cigarette habit, however, causing a global lung cancer epidemic. Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s, with the confluence of studies from epidemiology, animal experiments, cellular pathology and chemical analytics. Cigarette manufacturers disputed this evidence, as part of an orchestrated conspiracy to salvage cigarette sales. Propagandising the public proved successful, judging from secret tobacco industry measurements of the impact of denialist propaganda. As late as 1960 only one-third of all US doctors believed that the case against cigarettes had been established. The cigarette is the deadliest artefact in the history of human civilisation. Cigarettes cause about 1 lung cancer death per 3 or 4 million smoked, which explains why the scale of the epidemic is so large today. Cigarettes cause about 1.5 million deaths from lung cancer per year, a number that will rise to nearly 2 million per year by the 2020s or 2030s, even if consumption rates decline in the interim. Part of the ease of cigarette manufacturing stems from the ubiquity of high-speed cigarette making machines, which crank out 20,000 cigarettes per min. Cigarette makers make about a penny in profit for every cigarette sold, which means that the value of a life to a cigarette maker is about US$10,000.’

The above is a quote from the abstract for The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll, from the History Department, Stanford University.

People still smoke; it’s a highly addictive habit, and hard to kick.

Lung cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in men and the third most commonly occurring cancer in women.’ Even though lung cancer rates have been decreasing because of the changes made to packaging and ongoing information and education about the dangers of smoking, not only to the lungs, there were still ‘2 milion new cases in 2018.’

The oil industry’s knowledge of dangerous climate change stretches back to the 1960s, with unearthed documents showing that it was warned of “serious worldwide environmental changes” more than 45 years ago.

‘The Stanford Research Institute presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1968 that warned the release of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels could carry an array of harmful consequences for the planet.

‘The emergence of this stark advice follows a series of revelations that the fossil fuel industry was aware of climate change for decades, only to publicly deny its scientific basis.

‘ “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change,” the 1968 Stanford report, found and republished by the Center for International Environmental Law, states. “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.’ From The Guardian, April 2016

For more from the Center for International Environmental Law:

Our planet still has a huge dependency on carbon-based fuels, and ‘Carbon dioxide is the main cause of human-induced climate change.’ Certainly ‘Small changes in the sun’s energy that reaches the earth can cause some climate change. But since the Industrial Revolution, adding greenhouse gases has been over 50 times more powerful than changes in the Sun's radiance. The additional greenhouse gases in earth’s atmosphere have had a strong warming effect on earth’s climate.’

‘Carbon dioxide is the main cause of human-induced global warming and associated climate change. It is a very long-lived gas, which means carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere with ongoing human emissions and remains in the atmosphere for centuries. Global warming can only be stopped by reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide from human fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes to zero, but even with zero emissions, the global temperature will remain essentially constant at its new warmer level. Emissions of other substances that warm the climate must also be substantially reduced. This indicates how difficult the challenge is.’

The quotes in the above 2 paragraphs are from the website:

We’ve heard and seen the demonstrations asking governments to pay attention to the science in regard to climate change. We’ve heard and seen the people who deny that we need to make radical changes. We’ve had the experience of denying that cigarette smoking is harmful.
How long will it take to make changes that will improve our future? What kinds of disasters will we see if we don’t?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Privilege of Voting in Canada

I’ve voted consistently in elections – federal, provincial, municipal. We are so lucky that we have the opportunity. People in some countries don’t get the chance.

In Canada there have been various restrictions on voting in the past, e.g. only property owners could vote if they were male and British, conscientious objectors couldn’t vote at times, women and Indigenous people were denied the vote. For a more detailed history of voting in Canada, check out:

Whether you are frustrated with political parties in general, or leaders, or the process, we are still fortunate to have the opportunity to have voices in choosing our government. So vote because the alternative is dictatorship!

Some choose to vote strategically in terms of which parties they think might get in. But if you never vote for the party whose policies you wholeheartedly or mostly support, and if everyone thinks like that, then how will we ever get real change?

I usually make up my mind early on, based on the record of various parties, and the policies they have supported over a period of years. I do factor in the leader and whether I support him or her, but it’s not my first criteria. And whether I like the candidate in my riding comes much further down the line. And I mostly ignore the debates and the posturing of election campaigns.

At times I even vote for a party that I know has a snowball’s chance in hell of forming the government (unless hell is a frozen wasteland rather than a hot fiery furnace), because I do support their policies and I think they need to know that there are people who support them.

I’d like to see electoral reform (e.g. proportional representation), though I’m not holding my breath on that one. For more on various electoral systems see this 2016 article in Macleans:

I’m happy to hear that there was at least a 29% increase in voter numbers at advance polls this year for the federal election from 2015. I hope the increase in number carries through into election day.

Monday, October 21Vote!! (If you haven’t already done so.)

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Legends and Loss

My old hardcover Webster’s dictionary defines a legend as:

o   a story coming down from the past, especially one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable
o   a popular myth of recent origin
o   a person or thing that inspires legends.

I intend, in this blog, to write about all three.

Most of us are familiar with Greek and Roman myths of gods, goddesses and heroes that we learned about in school. More recently comics and movies have used a few of these stories and embellished them. Other people may be familiar with African or Asian legends, or the stories that Indigenous People tell in various parts of the world. I’m not going to write about any of those legends.

I can’t remember when I first heard about George Mallory and the various expeditions he joined in attempts to climb Mount Everest (Sagarmatha or Chomolungma; this mountain did have names before Europeans ‘discovered’ it). Sadly, if he and his young climbing partner Andrew Irvine hadn’t disappeared, few would probably remember them, unless they’d managed to reach the summit.

It is believed that on the morning of June 8, 1924, Mallory and Irvine began their climb from Camp VI toward the summit. The last picture of the two was taken by Noel Odell on June 6 at Camp IV. A couple of notes were sent down later by Mallory with porters explaining that they were going to leave early for the climb. Odell was climbing toward Camp VI and watching for them, though for a while the weather was too misty for him to see much. At 12:50 the mists cleared so that Odell could see the summit ridge and final pyramid. He wrote in his diary, “Saw M & I on the ridge, nearing base of final pyramid.” He said that he had seen two moving black dots. Later his sighting was challenged by others, and he also varied his account. At any rate, no trace of Mallory and Irvine was found for many years and no one knew whether they might have reached the summit.

Seventy-five years later an expedition set out to find the climbers remains. Other climbers remains had been found at various times, and there had been rumours. In 1933 Irvine’s ice axe was found in the area of their last known route. It was identified by three notches. In 1960 a Chinese porter reported seeing the remains of “an English dead.” In May 1999 Conrad Aker discovered Mallory’s body. However, Irvine has yet to be discovered, and the camera that the two carried has never been found, so there is no proof on whether they reached the summit or not.

Wade Davis wrote an amazing book, published in 2011 ‘Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest.’ There are also lots of videos and other on-line resources if you’re interested in more on this.

You may be familiar with Stan Roger’s song ‘Northwest Passage.’ It has the words, “Ah, for just one time, I would take the Northwest Passage to find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea.” Songwriters play a part in creating legends. The search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific involved many explorers at various times, resulting in failures and claiming many lives.

One of the most famous expeditions was led by Captain Sir John Franklin. Between 1819 and 1827 Franklin was involved in overland explorations of Canada’s north, from the western shores of Hudson Bay toward Alaska. In 1845 Franklin set out to search for a northwest passage. His two ships, the Erebus (primeval god of darkness, son of Chaos) and the Terror carried 128 men. Interesting names for ships, considering what happened.

The last sighting of the ships was in late July, by British whalers, north of Baffin Island at the entrance to Lancaster sound. In 1847, when no further word had been received, search parties were sent out. For twelve years searches were conducted, but nothing was known until 1859, when Captain Francis Leopold McClintock’s expedition found skeletons and a written account through to April 25, 1948. The written account revealed that the ships became trapped in the ice. An old Inuit woman told McClintock about starving men who fell as they walked. Post-mortems conducted in the late 20th century on preserved bodies, found that botulism, scurvy, and lead poisoning may have contributed to the mental and physical decline of the crew.

In September 2014, the wreck of the Erebus was found off King William Island. Two years later the wreck of the Terror was found 100 kilometers north in Terror Bay.

Another legend that has fascinated me since I was a teenager is the loss of the Eagle of the Ninth Roman Legion. This fascination was sparked by reading Rosemary Sutcliffe’s book ‘The Eagle of the Ninth,’ published in 1954. By the way, you can order the book from Indigo.

A Roman Legion was a military unit of the Roman Empire, usually composed of about 5,000 men, though I’ve seen various numbers. Each legion carried an eagle standard.

The Romans first invaded the British Isles (though the land was not called that then) in 55 B.C. under Julius Caesar. The Roman occupation ended around 408 – 409 A.D. Various legions served in Britain, including the Legion IX Hispania. Each legion got its name through various ways. The Ninth was probably stationed in Spain during the time of Augustus.
The Ninth Legion disappeared from surviving Roman records around 120 A.D. So, what happened to it?

The various groups that lived in the British Isles did not take kindly to Roman occupation, and though there was a certain amount of integration and intermarriage, revolts did occur. You may have heard the story of Boudica of the Iceni. (A story for another time and place, and more legends. Read ‘The Eagle and the Raven’ by Canadian author Pauline Gedge.)
In 60 or 61 A.D. there was a battle at a place called Camulodunum, which resulted in the massacre of the Ninth Legion. This was in the southeastern part of England. Supposedly the Legion was not totally wiped out and was again brought up to strength and moved north.

An inscription was found at York dated from 108 A.D. that credits the Ninth Legion with rebuilding the fortress there. This appears to be the last written record of the legion.
In Rosemary Sutcliffe’s version, the Ninth Legion marched north to deal with revolts (Hadrian’s Wall area).

Sutcliffe wrote, “Sometime about the year 117 A.D. the Ninth Legion, which was stationed at Eburacum where York now stands, marched north to deal with a rising among the Caledonian tribes and was never heard of again.

“During the excavations at Silchester nearly eighteen hundred years later, there was dug up under the green fields which now cover the pavements of Calleva Atrebatum, a wingless Roman eagle, a cast of which can be seen to this day in Reading Museum. Different people have had different ideas as to how it came to be there, but no one knows, just as no one knows what happened to the Ninth Legion after it marched into the northern mists.

“It is from these two mysteries, brought together, that I have made the story of ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’.”