Limping Eilmer

The month of March had indeed come in like a lion. The winds howled across the River Avon and gathered speed as they rushed up the gradual hillside a quarter mile towards the monastery. By the time they reached the Saxon watchtower, another 80 feet above the abbey, they shot practically straight up. Dozens of little black birds, jackdaws, circled far above at dizzying altitudes, carried along on the swirling torrents of air.

Eilmer, perched on the edge of the southeastern window, looked up at the little flying dots above him and then down towards the Avon. An intricate contraption of willow-wood and parchment was secured to his arms and legs. He held his precarious position there only with the assistance of two other men, as an occasional gust would lift him off his feet.

“Angels of Daedalus and Abbas bin Firnas, carry me to safety ...”

The monk crossed himself, leaned over the edge of the tower and fell.

The ground came careening at him.

But Eilmer held his arms steady, and miraculously, his vertical descent softened. So much in fact, that he managed to follow the contour of the slope for nearly seven hundred feet, staying airborne for fifteen seconds.

When the Abbot was informed of the human flight, he was not impressed; for when Eilmer was pulled from the marsh after crash-landing, both of his legs were horribly shattered.

His disfigurement led to a more contemplative life, observant to the point that when a comet appeared in the sky on March 20th, 1066, Eilmer of Malmesbury was one of the first to ever notice that it had appeared before:

“It is long since I saw you; but as I see you now, you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country.”

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