The Blood stone

Underneath the glistening green turf of Bincombe Bumps the faerie folk have long made their homes, hidden away in their hollow halls, ticking the grass to keep it growing and pushing up the flowers in time for summer. Legend says that sometimes, at midday or midnight, you can hear them singing if you lie down with your ear to the hillside…

Skylarks singing
Harebells ringing
Faerie music hanging in the air.

But once upon a time, a terrible time, there was no singing at all on Bincombe Bumps. The barrows were ruled by a Faerie Queen who was wicked and mean. She hated the sound music and merry-making so she forbade any of the faerie folk to sing or dance, or go out onto the hill to celebrate May Day and Midsummer. She cast a cold cloud of sinister spells over the hill that kept it covered by a constant grey gloom. The sighs of the faeries whistled as the wind and their tears flowed down the hillside in little streams and rivulets, making the land soggy and boggy and without any wildflowers.

Any ‘big folk’ (like you or me) that tried to walk across the Bumps would be caught in the Queen’s cursed climate and get lost – befuggled by the fog. Eventually people learned to stay away from the hill. All except one… A wanderer and a warrior but old now, his bones were cold and his beard was long and grey. Inside, however, his heart was still shining – as bright as white chalk. The brightness shone out through his eyes and lit the way as he climbed up Bincombe Hill on midsummer’s morning, determined to uncover the dark secret hidden within the cold, grey mist. He rubbed his eyes with a few drops of dew from the moist grass and looked around. He saw a land of sorrow and suffering: the faerie folk bent over with pick-axes and spades digging the land in silence – mining for jewels and gems to satisfy the greed of the Faerie Queen.

Seeing all this misery the White-Hearted Warrior stamped his foot with anger and shouted out loud: “Who has brought such darkness to this blessed land?”
At the resounding sound of his stamping foot little doorways suddenly opened. Faerie soldiers came scurrying out of the hillside with sharp swords in their hands, riding on the backs of ants with vicious jaws snapping at the air. The Faerie Queen herself followed, riding on the back of a pixie pony, with its flowing mane like drifts of white snow and green eyes glowing like emeralds. The Queen muttered a magical spell and waved her elder wand, casting an enchantment upon the White-Hearted Warrior. In an instance he was frozen-still, rooted to the spot, like a stiff, stuffed scarecrow. Following the Queen’s orders the soldiers threw ropes of long, strong spider’s silk over him and pulled, toppling him like a stone statue, crashing to the ground.

“Give me a treasure,” said the fierce Faerie Queen. “Or I’ll imprison here for ever!”
“The only thing I have left to give is my heart,” replied the White-Hearted Warrior slowly.

He stared straight at the Queen, his eyes twinkling brightly as he breathed in and out gently – his last breath. In that moment his flesh crumbled into dust, leaving only his bleached bones and gleaming white Heart-Stone. His dying breath transformed into a whispering wind which began to blow around Bincombe Bumps, twisting and turning. The breeze picked up the dust of his body and swirled it into a new shape: a feathered skylark which flitted and fluttered high in the sky.

Skylark by Delphine Jones

Now the magic had a form and a face, and the magic knew what it was doing. The skylark started to sing a spell; a mellifluous, magical song that poured down from the sky like liquid gold. Immediately the dark clouds parted, the grey gloom lifted and warm sunshine bathed the green hills for the first time in a long time. Responding to the sunlight flowers suddenly began to blossom once more: yellow hawkbit, blue harebells and pink rest-harrow.

The Faerie Queen screamed in rage. Shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight, she reached forward to grab the white Heart-Stone from the grass. But as soon as she touched the stone she vanished in a sudden flash of white, leaving only a blackened scorch mark on the ground (which can still be seen to this day, some say). Now all the faerie folk, even the queen’s soldiers and guards, began to cheer with jubilation. They gathered the bare bones of the warrior and buried them under each one of the Barrows. The bright white Heart-Stone they placed on top of the biggest of Bincombe Bumps, and around it they built a shrine of feathers and flowers and pebbles. Then holding hands together they chanted words of thanks and praise for the White-Hearted Warrior:

The story says the warrior’s white Heart-Stone is still lying there somewhere on Bincombe Bumps amongst the emerald-green grass and pale-blue flowers. And at midsummer a skylark still sings high in the sky whilst deep down inside those hallowed, hollow hills the faeries are still singing as well. If you listen carefully, at the right time, you can still hear them…

Skylarks singing
Harebells ringing
Faerie music hanging in the air.

A little about our stortyteller

Martin Maudsley is a professional storyteller based in Bridport in Dorset, telling traditional tales and local legends for schools, community groups and national organisations. He has been collaborated with Dorset AONB on many projects using folk-tales and folk-songs to connect participants with nature, the seasons and a sense of place. He is also very active practically celebrating the seasons in and around his neighbourhood, including putting on Mummers Plays, Apple Days and Winter Wassails.