As my group of proofreaders and editorial helpers read through the first drafts of The Warlock , something very interesting happens: they all ask the same question.
And that question concerns the town of Long Bell, where the events of The Warlock unfold. People want to know: do places like that actually exist?
The answer… is yes.
The Drakensberg (“Dragon Mountain”) range is more than 1,000km long (600 miles), and is one of the greatest and most majestic mountain ranges in the world. In fact, to give you a sense of scale here, it’s almost twice as long as England! The range was so named because of a dragon – yes, a dragon! – that was seen there less than two hundred years ago, and has been a place of magic and mystery for centuries. In fact, it’s no surprise that people who share a kinship with the earth and the Old Ways are often found in the villages and towns that dot the mountains and surrounding countryside.
My grandfather, Granddad Vaughan, lived on a farm high up in the mists and silence of these mountains; it was here that my father was born, and it induces in me a profoundly deep stirring every single time I travel there. The natural magic of the earth, amplified by the mountains and expressed in a hundred sacred places, really is tangible: the stunning beauty, the deep silence of soul, the strange and delightful enigma of the people and spirits that inhabit these soaring peaks and brooding forests.
It’s hard to visit places like these and come away untouched. There are other places on earth that exude the same kind of raw psychic power, of course, like Machu Picchu in Peru, or Mount Kailas in the Himalayas, or Glastonbury, among dozens of others, but there is something very special and unique about the Drakensberg and its surrounds.
You see, although many other sites of sacred power are acknowledged as antiquities, the Mountains of the Dragon are intrinsically alive with vibrant energy and elemental power, and you realize this the moment you begin to interact with the people there. Find the right ones, and you’ll find a deep and gentle wisdom, a shared reverence for the very real magic that flows through the hidden communities, and a kind of warm, honest sincerity that is as pure and fresh as the oxygenated air of the mountains. Oh, and did I mention that everything is stunningly beautiful?
Rustic old roads and pathways carry you to places you couldn’t have imagined existed:
And, in the space of one afternoon, you could experience warm spring sunshine, followed by gloom and mist that hides the mountains and forests away from you like a mischievous giant, followed by utter darkness and thunderous rain – because the Dragon Mountains are also responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring lightning storms to be found anywhere in the world.
And, in contrast, this is simultaneously the home of some of the gentlest and most beautiful countryside on the planet. Colours are enhanced, vivid, the skies vast and sweeping, and the air is sweeter than you can imagine. There’s a languid, seductive quality about the earth, a warmth that you instinctively know is good for you. And when you slow down, and you find your spirit starting to synchronize with the timeless rhythm of these mountains, the primal heartbeat of the earth, something incredible happens: a sudden, surprising, heart-wrenching sensation that feels exactly as though you’re falling in love.
The Dragon Mountains are home to some very special little towns, and some very special people. The natural power radiating from the earth isn’t just confined to the mountains themselves, either: even in little towns hundreds of miles away, in the rolling hills and hidden valleys of the tranquil area known as the Midlands, there is a vast field of energy, a natural magic that is tremendously powerful. If you start to explore, and look a little closer, you’ll see some amazing things appearing out of the mist:
You might find yourself meandering through a forest, and suddenly see a very unusual signpost. Or a small alcove where some honey and milk (and perhaps fresh cake) is put out every day for the pleasure of the Little People.
And then, of course, there are the people. I’m not talking about the general populace, or the tourists: I’m talking about the ones who are a little… different.
Oh, you’d pass them on a street or at a market, and not notice anything unusual. At least not on the surface. But you might, for example, hear them greeting each other in an unusual way. “Blessed” and “Merry” are not words with which most people start a sentence when they say hello to each other.
You might also notice that these people are somehow kinder, in so many ways. It might not be immediately obvious, but if you look diligently, you’ll see them exercise a careful devotion and respect toward the earth, and all who are sustained by it. In fact, they probably won’t be calling the earth an “it”, but a she. They’re thoughtful, they’re unusually compassionate toward animals, and they actually listen to you, soul to soul, when you talk to them.
Once you learn how to feel it, you’ll immediately sense that these folk don’t exude any edginess or urban angst; they are comfortable to be around, and they have a deeply settling and reassuring presence about them. They have a very different aura. And if you’re not quite able to discern that yet, there may be other, more tangible clues: a symbol on a tree near a fence, perhaps, or a preponderance of fireflies on a farm or in a garden.
You might visit a pristine mountain picnic spot on a beautiful Saturday morning, and what seems like a day out for someone’s little one could quite possibly be an occasion that carries a far deeper and sweeter meaning for those who know what they are looking at. Or, you might just pass a country wedding, and notice that something seems just a little bit out of the ordinary.
Some nights, you may see figures around a fire, deep in the woods or on a common. And it’ll be immediately obvious that they’re not there for a barbeque. There might be chanting or singing, or just engaging in a symbolic honouring of nature – whatever they’re doing, you’ll sense a togetherness that produces such mesmerising energy, such tangible love and creative electricity, that you could be forgiven if you forget to breathe for a moment or two.
And in the midst of these people (who, by the way, are often honoured members of society), you’ll find something else that is pretty amazing: the existence of a select few, those who possess a latent power that is far deeper than you can imagine. They’re very quiet, very humble, and almost invisible. They can do things that are truly staggering, and they never talk about it or make their gifts publicly known.
These ones, the children of the Old Ones, know that there is power, great power, in silence and contemplation. They do not have to prove anything to anybody, and simply live quietly among those whom they guide and assist.
There are no photographs of them. There are no biographies. But there is immense power here, being cultivated, being harvested, being shared.
Go there, if you will. And if you have eyes to see, your world will be changed forever.
But whether you choose to see it or not, whether you choose to believe it or not, really makes no difference.
Because these are the Mountains of the Dragon. And here, in a place unlike any other, where eldritch fire dances across the hilltops, where forests whisper your name, and great power radiates from the ancient earth… magic happens.
Bright blessings, my friends!
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