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Old 02-28-2008, 03:11 AM   #1
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Earth, Sky, Fire and Rain - Chapter 10

Thanks again everyone for the positive feedback!



end of chapter 9:
--------

"Goodbye." I hung up. I stared at the phone, and decided not to tell Glen about this little development. He would only worry.

And what I would never admit, even to myself, is that deep down, a tiny part of me did want to see Ed again, and find out what his dreams had shown him. The tiny part that couldn't let go of the unscientific, the preposterous. The tiny part that the rest of my mind couldn't quite drown out.



-----------
Chapter 10:
-----------

I figured I was safe to eat in the pub on my first night back in the village – Ed had said he wouldn't be there for several days yet. And I'd be camping the next few nights, anyway. There were still signs up, protesting the wind farm, and sullen glances from old Welsh people, but I really wasn't bothered any more. And I was paying yet another five quid a night more at the B&B. Heck, it wasn't as if they weren't getting any business out of me.

All through my meal, though, I couldn't stop myself from looking up every time the door opened, wondering if Ed had decided to get here early. No amount of mental reprimanding prevented me from wondering if I would decide to meet him here when he did arrive. Or what we would say. I was in literally two minds about the whole thing, and that was not fun. How could one person hold such strong yet irreconcilable thoughts and feelings about the same thing? I wondered what a psychologist would make of it, and concluded that it would probably end in medication, or a padded cell. No thanks.

I lingered over my beer for two hours, before convincing myself I had to leave and go to bed. While ambling towards the door, trying not to peer into the other booths, I noticed a map hanging on the wall. It looked old, the paper yellowed, the handwritten labels in ornate script. It showed the area around Ystradffin, and out of habit, I looked for the circle. It was there, off in a corner... and there was a name written across the surrounding valleys. "Llosgedig mhriddo", it said. I made a mental note, thinking of the Welsh dictionary I had in my room.

Once there, I looked it up. After some flipping back and forth, I decided the closest translation was something like "burned earth" or "scorched earth". I remembered those layers of ash in the soil cores, and the copy of the analysis I'd received from the university. It seemed that all the ash layers were contemporaneous, and there had indeed been a large fire there, several thousand years ago. Perhaps that had something to do with the depleted nutrients in the soil, or something.

My curiosity satisfied, I went to bed. And dreamed.


The stranger had arrived from the west, early one morning, leading his long shadow over the valley. He was stumbling with weariness, his clothes travel-worn, and carrying only a few possessions. Eleri had been teaching me, on the hill, so we saw him approaching the village. Several men had also seen him, and went to meet him. I had wanted to go too, but Eleri had been firm. My instruction was more important than some wanderer, she said, although her gaze lingered on the scene playing out in the valley for a long moment. Being young, I thought I sensed her being about to relent.

"You keep saying I have years and years to learn how to be Ritemaster. Can we not go and see who this man is?"

Eleri's grey gaze turned to me, then, and I realised I had thought wrong. "You have many years yet to go, because it will take many years to learn. No one can say when they will die, and you will be Ritemaster when I die, whether you're ready or not. I would prefer that you learn as much as you can before that happens, and not spend your time staring at men. Or is Alun not keeping you satisfied?"

I turned red then, and looked at the ground. I was a grown woman, and had been joined to Alun several months beforehand, but next to Eleri I still felt like a child. "He is," I said, feeling my face burn. I could hear Eleri's smile in her voice.

"So I've heard. Now, put that stranger out of your head. He will still be there this evening, and by then more will be known."

By that evening, everyone knew the man's name was Ewain, and he had come from a village many days away to the west. He was travelling, he claimed, and needed supplies. The elders met briefly, including Eleri, and it was agreed that he would stay for a short while and help with the harvest, in return for supplies to continue his journey.

I didn't meet him until several days later, collecting water at the stream in the evening. I don't know if I had been expecting him to look different – there were people in our village who had been born elsewhere, but this man was the first stranger we had seen for years.

"You must be Mag, the Ritemaster's acolyte," he'd said, smiling at me. He had a deep, resonant voice.

"And you must be Ewain, the mysterious stranger," I replied, smiling back.
We looked one another up and down. There was definitely something about him, although perhaps it was only the novelty. He was younger than I'd expected, perhaps only a few years older than myself. Long, dark hair, tied back from his face, hazel eyes, bold nose, sparse beard. He was taller than I, but then, most people in the village were.

"There's no mystery, really," he said.

"No? Where are you travelling to?" I asked, faintly challenging.

"I have no clear destination," he replied smoothly. "I just want to see what's out there," he added, gesturing vaguely towards the hills to the east. I got the feeling he had been questioned by the elders when he'd first arrived, and his expression seemed to have closed slightly.

"I'm surprised you weren't needed in your own village, at this time of year," I said, unable to leave the matter alone.

"There's no shortage of helping hands there," Ewain said, and I thought he closed up even more, despite continuing. "No one is worse off for my absence, you may be sure." Before I could say more, he filled his pot at the stream, and inclined his head. "I won't take up any more of your time," he said, and set off towards the village.

I watched him go. Something about the way he walked told me that he was aware of my gaze, but he didn't look back.


I stared up at the faintly visible ceiling of my bedroom, trying to figure out if I had dreamed all that, or if part of it had merged with half-waking musings. Again, the details seemed unnaturally vivid in my memory, not fading away as most dreams did.
"Hyperactive imagination," I muttered. Where was I getting all this stuff from? A mélange of forgotten movies and books, no doubt. The collective detritus of my subconscious, prodded to the surface by my surroundings.

My alarm clock went off, beeping stridently into the pre-dawn dark. It startled me, and I hit the snooze button, heart beating rather faster than usual. I'd wanted an early start – it seemed I'd just gotten a little ahead of myself.


-------------------------------------------------
"Wake up... Babe? C'mon! Wake up already! I said... Ow!"

"Oh god, no...! What... I... uuhhn."

"Damn, those pointy elbows of yours. That's gonna leave a mark."

"I'm sorry..."

"What were you dreaming about? Baby, what's wrong? You look terrified..."

"I... there was fire... it burned... my... I... I dunno. I need to check on the kids. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, the kids are fine. You weren't making that much noise. Come back to bed..."

"No, I need to see them. I'll be back in a minute."

-------------------------------------------------


As I trudged over rock-studded terrain two days later, I reflected sourly that it would have saved everyone a lot of time and effort if the Geological Survey had asked me to do this mapping the first or even the second time I'd been out here. But of course, they probably hadn't even thought of it then, and didn't know my schedule besides. A geologist for hire doesn't expect her various employers to cater to her preferences, in any case. Mapping isn't the most riveting occupation (unless you're trying to figure out some insanely complicated deformation history), and the fact that I'd been all over this area before wasn't doing much to aid my concentration. Except this time, I had to stop at every outcrop, take the strike and dip of the strata, mark them on my map, make notes, and maybe do a quick sketch, or take a photo.

"Oh look," I said facetiously to my geological compass, taking my umpteenth reading of the trip thus far. "This one's dipping north at 35 degrees as well! Who would have thought." If there was a hinge to this fold in the rock, it was a long way from where I was at that moment.

No sooner had I stood up from marking my map, than a drop of cold rain fell on my head.

"Oh, no you bloody don't!" I told the threatening sky. Except it wasn't just a threat any more. More drops fell, and I saw a sheet of falling water advancing across the hillside towards me. My car was a good 15 minutes' walk away. I sighed, resigned to a soaking – at least it made the question of whether you get wetter running or walking in the rain thoroughly redundant.

I didn't even bother trying to pitch my tent in the deluge – I just huddled in the car and did my best to get into dry clothes. It was definitely heading for the cold end of the year by now, the rain had felt distinctly icy. Two and a half more weeks, I told myself, and then I would never ever grace this part of the planet with my presence again. There can't possibly be anything else to do here.

If there's anything more boring than mapping an area that you've already walked all over twice, it's sitting in a car, with rain pouring down outside, being unable to even do said mapping. I had a novel with me, but after a few pages, I put it down, unable to concentrate. I flipped through my notes and tried to work on the map, but didn't get much further.

At the back of that notebook, I'd started to write down those dreams. The last two nights had featured more of the same, except it hadn't been exactly the same. My subconscious seemed to have woven a whole narrative around these fictitious prehistoric characters, and was playing it out in nightly instalments. Tune in tomorrow night as Mag's fascination with Ewain grows ever deeper, etc. I'd begun writing them down at first to try to get them out of my system, and then possibly with some vague thought of writing a cliché-riddled fantasy novel if some sort of plot emerged. I may not know why or how my brain was coming up with these things, but I might as well take credit for it, right?


It rained solidly for the rest of that day, and I ended up sleeping in the car. I was still working the kinks out of my back when I returned to the village a couple of days later, having completed the first section of mapping only a little behind schedule.

And each night, I'd had another dream. Ewain working like a man possessed, the village agreeing to let him stay over the winter, Eleri's stern admonishments to Mag to keep her eyes to herself (or better yet, on Alun), even as Mag became pregnant with her first child. I hoped I wouldn't have to dream the birth in vivid detail. I'd never had a baby, of course, so there was nothing to base such a dream on. That didn't seem to be any obstacle to my subconscious, though – I'd never lived in a Neolithic Welsh village, either.

Don't think that I wasn't... concerned about these dreams. I was quite aware that it was hardly normal to have some internally consistent serial running through my brain each night, leaving memories as clear as waking ones. Clearer, sometimes, after a mostly-sleepless night. At least, I'd never heard anything about this happening to other people, although if other people were like me, they wouldn't be talking about it. But everyone knows that lots of people dream about falling or flying or showing up to work naked – vivid, sequential dreams of ancient Celts were another thing entirely. All that stuff about Earth people and Fire people and such was obviously my brain indulging in my own, long-suppressed fascination with the classical elements.

But what could I do? I couldn't control the dreams, and so far, they weren't disturbing or frightening. I was sure they would stop as soon as I finished my business in the desert of Wales. I pushed away my discomfort and tried to take things as they came.

-----

I gave myself a day off after I got back from that first outing, and spent the day doing gloriously little. It was raining again, and I was more than happy to have a good long soak in a hot bath, read a book, talk to Glen on the phone, listen to music, and doze by the little wood stove. I even flicked the television on briefly, but soon gave it up, as I usually did.

Wrapped up against the cold drizzle that evening, I was two feet away from the door of the pub when I remembered.

Ed.

Shite. Would he be in there? Should I avoid the pub just because he might be? The question of cowardice decided me, and I bulled through the door, earning a glare from a local couple.

I scanned the room, the usual murmur of Welsh conversation resuming after my slightly over-dramatic entrance. I could never prove it, of course, but I wondered if they hadn't all been speaking English before I went in.
No beanies in sight, besides my own. I relaxed a trifle, claimed a booth and ordered a meal, still feeling somewhat on edge. This pub had never felt like the friendliest place to me, obviously, but tonight the dark wooden beams and equally dark furnishings seemed a trifle more ominous than usual. I fiddled with my pink beanie until my plate of stew arrived, and I ate quickly. Then lingered over the pint I had with the meal, just to prove I wasn't hurrying. Not that anyone was watching me... well, no more than usual.

Finally, I had to admit that Ed wasn't there, and he wasn't going to miraculously appear just as I was leaving. Which was a relief, I told myself firmly. I was not in the least bit disappointed.

-------------------
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Old 02-28-2008, 03:29 AM   #2
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love the dream sub plot ! thanks for another chap, more soon i hope
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Old 02-28-2008, 04:11 AM   #3
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I like how you have the little italic-y bits for when Edge is talking 'off camera', so to speak!

And has Lisa taken to wearing a beanie in tribute to him?

More, more!
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Old 02-28-2008, 04:37 AM   #4
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^ I know who you are And you know she was wearing the beanie before she met 'Ed'
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Old 02-28-2008, 04:39 AM   #5
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Aha, caught! Took you long enough!

And yes, I do know she was wearing the beanie before she met Ed. I also know what she does afterwards ..... mwahahahahaha!
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Old 02-28-2008, 04:41 AM   #6
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Old 02-28-2008, 04:43 AM   #7
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:50 AM   #8
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Ali, another fantastic chapter. You've quickly become one of my favourite writers.
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:20 AM   #9
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Once again, I love it. I can't say any more, as I am speechless
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:32 PM   #10
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but I gotta admit, the dreams ARE freaking me out a bit
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And if U2 EVER did Hawkmoon live....and the version from the Lovetown Tour, my uterus would leave my body and fling itself at Bono - for realz.
Don't worry baby, it's gonna be all right. Uncertainty can be a guiding light...
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Old 02-28-2008, 04:05 PM   #11
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I keep picturing 'Clan of the Cave Bear"

Cool chapter, though, Ali! Thanks.
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Old 03-01-2008, 06:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by zuropa_fit
I keep picturing 'Clan of the Cave Bear"
....
Just as long as it wasn't one of the sequels...

And GG... you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Thanks everyone
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Old 03-01-2008, 08:23 AM   #13
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oh really....


okay!
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And if U2 EVER did Hawkmoon live....and the version from the Lovetown Tour, my uterus would leave my body and fling itself at Bono - for realz.
Don't worry baby, it's gonna be all right. Uncertainty can be a guiding light...
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Old 03-01-2008, 06:14 PM   #14
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I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of them!

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