Twenty-eight years ago is not quite once upon a time but that is when the first glimmer of a story came to me.
On a hot, humid afternoon a stout old woman walks slowly up the slope between the fields of ripening wheat. Sweat stings her eyes. Her feet squelch in her heavy shoes.
Filled with foreboding, she feels impelled to reach the crossroads where the track up from her village intersects with the imperial highway.
She smells the smoke before she sees the tiny wisps of flame. She wonders which idiot has lit a fire among the tinder-dry trees which line the far side of the highway. Then she sees that the fire is tended by the tribal shaman.
In all the long years of their friendship she has only seen him for a few days each spring and autumn and she has never seen him alone.
Something bad is about to happen.
For the next few years I had no idea what the bad thing was.
This is one section of the image I stitched in wool onto canvas all those years ago. The shaman is invisible but now you know he’s there.