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Elphinstone Kist   Stories for Bairns

    by: Wheeler, Les

Lang, lang ago, here in the North-East, there bade a group o fowk fa kept themsels tae themsels an jist got on wi their daily darg nae botherin ither fowk unless the ither fowk bothert them. Thir hid been a time fan thir hid been a gweed bit o fechtin atween fowk roon aboot but that wis in the past an noo fowk kept the peace as best the could for that wis better for aa concerned. The fowk we’re spikkin aboot bade near the mooth o the River Ythan an een o the laddies that bade in thir village wis caad Hammel. Hammel bade wi the village smith- nae a blacksmith but a gowdsmith.

Although the fowk in the North-East hid stoppit fechtin wi een anither they wir still in danger fae the raiders fae across the big watter- the Vikings. Durin ae raid the fowk hidna been prepared an Hammel’s mither an faither hid baith been killed an Hammel hid been injured. This hid left him crippled an he needed a stick tae get aboot, but luckily for him, Seggat the smith, wis a gweedly man an he took Hammel in tae be his apprentice.

Noo, some fowk can be gie unkind an cruel, even fan they dinna mean tae be an the ither loons in the village, fa likit tae rin aboot an play games far they pretended tae be brave sodjers fechtin the Vikings, eesed tae lauch at Hammel an cry him names. “Hirplin Hammel!” an “The coordy-cripple” they eesed tae cry at him an even tho he’d gotten eesed tae it, deep doon inside it wis still sair fan fowk made a feel o him an he couldna help being cripple for that wis jist the wye o things. Hammel kent he wis lucky tae be alive.

Weel, it sae happened that at this time the smith hid a very important job tae dae. He wis aften awa ye see for the chiefs wid ask him tae dee things for them; mak broaches, pins, buckles, sword hunnles an things like that oot o gowd an bronze. But the job that Seggat wis daein evnoo wis the maist important that he ivver been gaen. It wis tae mak a box.

Noo further in land an further north than the village there wis a great biggin at Deer far a lot o monks bade. They were gie clivver chiels an could read an write. Only the smith could read an scrieve in the village an he wis teachin Hammel, but naebody else could. Noo the monks produced the bonniest beuks that ivver ye’d seen. Reeds, an gowds, an sillers an greens an blues - aa sorts o colours, wi the bonniest picters that ye could imagine an aa done by hand made the beuks affa, affa valuable. Nae rainbow at its finest could compare wi the beuks o the monks o the monastry.

Seggat’s job wis tae mak a really funcy box in gowd, siller an bronze tae keep the beuks o the monks an protect them. He’d been gaen special gowd an siller tae mak the box an it wis tae be a very special box for it wis said that fan he wis deen the box wi its beuk wid be gaen tae the archbishop. Hammel hid tae help the smith by preparin the metals for the smith tae use.

Inside his hut Seggat had biggit a special trap-door in the fleer tae keep the precious box safe file he wis workin on it an fan it wis closed an the earth-trap on top you’d nivver hae kent it wis there.

But danger wisna far awa! Rumours began tae spread that somewye in een o the Ythan villages thir wis a valuable gowden box an that bittie o news reached the ears o the Vikings during een o their raids fan they’d taen awa a lot o fowk tae be slaves. Hopin tae get better treatment, een o the slaves hid tellt aboot the gowden box. The Vikings wid mind that!

Ae day the men o the village hid been oot huntin an hid bin verra successful. Maist o the young loons o the village wint on the hunt, but nae Hammel, he’d hae likit till bit he couldna keep up wi the hunters nivver mind the dogs an that wis aye anither excuse for fowk tae lauch at him an cry him names.

Fan the hunters got hame they’d a gie few deer, a boar an a gweed lot o hares sae a feast wis in store for aabody. Of course, the feast wis aa washed doon wi heather ale an it wisna lang efter the sun disappeared that aabody in the village wis fest asleep, too tired tae worry aboot onything; aabody that is except Hammel an Seggat. Seggat wint tae the feast but only tae get some bits o venison for Hammel an himsel. Onywye, Hammel didna like it fan things got oot o han fan fowk drank ower muckle heather ale an it wis usually him that suffered as fowk made a feel o him.

Seggat workit quite late by the licht o the cruisie lamp but eventually even he got tired an made for his bed. “I’ll jist leave the box oot the nicht,” said Seggat. “It’ll be safe eneuch, for even the dogs are fest asleep after the hunt.”
“I’ll jist bide up a filie an practice my letters,” said Hammel an sae he did.

Hammel wis nivver able tae tell fit made him gyan ootside an look oot tae the big watter that mcht, but that’s fit he did. An jist as weel he did, for fit
did he see? A Viking ship wi its lang dragon-heided prow wis heidin for the mooth o the river an fu o men airmed wi aixes an swords primed tae attack the village!

Hammel roused Seggat an grabbed the holy box before he an Seggat raced roon the village rousin fowk fae their beds; Hammel makkin a lot o din bangin on fowks huts wi his stick. Thir wis a lot a grummles an girnin at first bit fanivver they jaloosed that the Vikings wir comin fowk wir seen oot o their beds an headin for the sanctuary o the caves in the wids that wir jist ower the hill. Some fowk jist hid time tae drive some o their beasts, the kye, sheep an goats, tae safety before the roarin, burnin, screichin hoard charged intae the village.

The villagers wir lucky. Naebody wis killed an naebody wis taen awa tae slavery. A lot o huts wir burned doon, but thir wis plenty o wid tae bigg new eens. Best o aa the box hid been saved fae the Vikings.

Eence the raiders hid skedaddled aabody wis gan up tae Seggat an makkin him oot tae be the saviour o the village, but Seggat seen pit them richt. “Na, na,” he said, “dinna thank me, thank Hammel.”
“Hammel?” fowk spiered. “Hirplin Hammel? Fit did he dae except bang on a fyow hut waas wi his stick? An the loons an quines o the village began tae lauch, but Seggat stoppit them.
“If it hidna been for Hammel we’d micht aa noo be deid or livin as slaves. He’s the een fae roused me an the rest o ye. It wis Hammel that saved us aa an even mair nor that, Hammel saved the Holy Box o the monks o Deer”

Fowk were fair bumbazed at fit Seggat said but efter that it wis nae langer “Hirplin Hammel” but “Hammel the Hero” that the fowk o the village spoke aboot an they’d ken better in future nae tae lauch an mak a feel o fowk fa in the hinner end micht be far better than themsels.

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