He did, however, detect something amiss with the landscape. Halting in his stride, he attempted to reconstruct the familiar sight in his mind’s eye.
“Ah so,” he said aloud. “Yonder tree’s gone missing.”
On a wind-swept, barren island when a tree went missing it was impossible not to take notice. Perhaps it was struck down in the night by the lightning, by Thunor’s hammer, so Cynwulf mused. But as he neared the place where the old tree had stood, gnarled and unchanged throughout the seasons of his life, he saw its roots splayed and washed clean by the heavy rain. He quickened his pace.
His first thought was of what he would do with the wood. It was sycamore wood, tough, and suitable for fine furniture for a laird’s great hall. Perhaps he could sell it on the mainland, though he sensed that it might have more value here on the island where wood was scarce. Frowning, he mused long on this. He felt he might be about to overtake and come along side some principle, that he might be near dropping his anchoring stone in the mouth of the nature of things in a bewildering world. He often felt this way. But as was usual when he did, it passed, and he returned his mind to planning out what he would do with the wood.
Circling his prize, Cynwulf nearly lost his footing on the edge of the hole where the tree’s roots had rested these many years, perhaps centuries. He was about to take his mind back to his twofold prosperity and how he might use it to win Haeddi’s hand and take her to his living place for wife, when he noticed something round and pale in the red earth beneath where the ancient tree had stood. He picked his way into the hole and fell to his knees; mud from the rainfall felt soft and cool on his feet and calves. With his hands he cleared earth away from the object.
Cynwulf had seen human remains, many times had he seen this. Pale gray bones, flaking with age, and a skull seemingly smaller than his own, yet without flesh and hair, it was difficult to tell for certain. Gently, he moved the soft earth away from the head.
“And just how is it,” he spoke conversationally as he worked, “how is it that you came to rest in the sod of this holy island?”