In Dragon Seer, Madoca
must travel from her home on Mainland to a nearby island, called
Ancestors Isle in the story. This island is Rousay. You can see where Rousay is by visiting this Map of Orkney.
I needed to pick an island where it seemed likely that someone would
travel to speak with the dead. In fact, there are ancient burial cairns
all over Orkney. What drew me to Rousay was one particular ancient
tomb, which I've called the Speaking Place. In real life, this tomb is called Taversoe Tuick.
It's one of the most interesting small tombs in Orkney because it's
features suggest it might have been in rituals that linked the
dead with the living. The previous link takes you
to the Taversoe Tuick page on the Orkneyjar website. Notice that there
are a number of links for other pages for this tomb near the bottom of
the menu on the right hand side. One of these pages explores the idea
that this tomb was designed for Communicating with the Dead.
Of course, the people who built this tomb lived thousands of years
before the 8th century AD, the time when Dragon Seer is set. There's no proof that the Picts had any
relationship to these ancient burial sites at all, but I have reasons
for making this connection that will be revealed as other
Here is a
photograph that shows Rousay, taken from the site of an ancient stone
settlement called the Broch of Gurness. The ruins of the Broch appear
in the foreground, and Rousay is across the water. As Madoca sails past
on her way to Ancestors Isle, she sees the remains of the stone tower
and wonders about the people who lived there. On
the site of the Broch of Gurness are the remains of a house from
Pictish times, now called "the Shamrock House" because of its shape.
When Madoca leaves Ancestors Isle, she must make a difficult crossing
in a small boat. The photo below shows the exact place where
she made this crossing. Beyond the stone walls in the foreground
this picture is a short cliff that leads down to a rough shale
landwash. A 360 degree panorama video on the Medieval North Atlantic site that shows you a bit of the beach.