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Old 03-10-2008, 04:14 AM   #1
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Earth, Sky, Fire and Rain - Chapter 15 (10/3/08)

Usual disclaimer - all made-up nonsense.

With no further ado...



end of chapter 14:
--------

"We should bless this day," I told Ewain in a low voice. I tried to keep my expression serious, as a Ritemaster is supposed to be serious, but some duties will naturally be more enjoyable than others. I began loosening the ties on Ewain's tunic, and his hands roved under mine. I reached up and kissed him, losing myself.

There was a confusion of arms, and hair, and clothes, and sweat, and breathing; and flaring, consuming desire. Urgent lips, facial hair. Half-uttered words.



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Chapter 15:
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One of my fingernails caught in the zipper of Ed's jacket, and bent back painfully. I cried out, and we sprang apart, breathing hard.

There was no sound, no thought, for a very long moment.

We were both on the way to being partially undressed. If we hadn't been wearing so much winter clothing... A flood of emotions gripped me, chief among them shock, horror, and acute mortification. I saw the same feelings mirrored in Ed's face, as well as utter bewilderment. His beanie was askew. I wanted to laugh, but I knew that if I did, the next stop would be full-blown hysteria. I bit my tongue, felt the pain, and tasted blood. And suddenly, I could move again. I fled the circle as if it was a pit of vipers, and saw Ed doing the same, in the opposite direction.

I zipped everything back up again, and shouldered my backpack. Looking between the stones, I saw Ed straightening his beanie, and had to look away, biting my tongue again. I saw my own pink beanie, which had fallen a couple of feet inside the circle. I stared at it, and then I saw Ed staring at it too. Or maybe he'd been staring at me. My face burned with embarrassment. Did I dare go in there and get it?

Some remaining shred of my scientific mind forced me to walk to the edge of the stones, and then I crouched down, reached in with just my arm, and snatched the beanie back. I studied it suspiciously before putting it back on my head.

Ed was still on the other side of the circle, watching me. His expression had closed down, but his posture radiated fear and confusion. As I'm sure my own did.

The skin of my face still remembered the scratchy feeling of Ed's goatee.

I had to attempt some kind of... closure, or something. Clarification. These waters were thick and black, however, I wasn't sure how I could make them clearer. Hands jammed into pockets, I walked around, well away from those stones, and stopped a good ten feet from Ed. His green eyes had tracked my progress, but he hadn't moved.

A dozen possible sentences filled my head, most of them containing profanities, and several exclamation points or question marks. I guessed they also filled his head, and I knew neither of us could answer any of them.

"I'm married," he blurted, before I could articulate anything. "Very happily. I swear, I'm not attracted to you. I don't want to... I'm not stalking you."

I could have made a facetious comment about insults to my attractiveness, but the impulse passed almost instantly. I latched onto this mundane aspect of what had just happened like a lifeline. "I'm with someone too. Also happily. And I'm not attracted to you, either. I didn't even LIKE you when we met. I'm still not sure that's changed."

His eyes narrowed, and he nodded slowly. So far, so good. "I am so, so sorry."

"So am I, believe me."

"I egged you on, I did not know that was going to happen..."

I couldn't hold back a bark of slightly hysterical laughter. "Oh, and I did? NO ONE could have predicted that. It's..."

"Impossible," Ed finished. He looked scared. I felt scared.

"Absolutely impossible," I agreed.

There was a long silence. I was trying to think of explanations that didn't involve drugs.

"You... you saw the same thing I did, right?" Ed asked. His thoughts had clearly been following a different path. I stopped my train of thought, surprised that I hadn't even questioned that point.

"It was dawn, a day like this..."

"Just one stone."

"The first one." We both looked at it, its outline worn but recognisable.

"You were Mag."

"And you were Ewain."

"And we..."

"They. It wasn't us. They..."

"'Blessed' it."

We stared at one another, neither wanting to believe it. I felt some essential foundation in my mind crumbling.

"Have you eaten any dodgy pork or chicken lately?" I asked, feverishly clutching at a plausible theory.

"What?... No, I don't think so. Why, for god's sake?"

"Food poisoning," I babbled. "Funky bacteria... hallucinations, toxins..."

Ed just stared at me. "You don't get shared hallucinations from botulism," he said flatly.

At least he hadn't said 'visions'.

"Well, you explain it then!" I cried, frustrated. "Aside from Occam's Razor, what about Sherlock Holmes' idea – take away the impossible, and whatever's left is the truth. It's more possible that someone has followed us around and drugged our food than... than anything else I can think of."

Ed considered me, his fear abating somewhat in the face of my panicky assertions. "You can't even say it out loud, can you?" he asked. His tone was more curious than anything else.

"Say what?" Defensive.

"Even when you're denying it, you can't say the words. Go on, at least say it. You don't believe in re-incarnation. Or in people sharing dreams, or anything that can't be weighed and measured."

"Fine. I don't believe in re-incarnation. I suppose you'll tell me now that every time someone says that, a worm that used to be a Buddhist falls over dead." Snarky, and still defensive.

Ed's mouth twitched.

"I still haven't heard your brilliant theory," I snapped.

"You mentioned Occam's Razor," Ed replied. "So far, you have claimed that the simplest explanation for what's been happening is that our subconscious minds were each, independently, pulling elements from our past together with these surroundings, and fashioning a fictional world. Leaving aside the matter of all the details being identical –" I opened my mouth, but shut it again at the look on Ed's face. "Leaving that aside for the moment, we now have this... incident, to fit into the picture." He only blushed a little, to his credit. I went crimson at the reminder.

"I refuse to accept that random figments of my subconscious can have that effect," he went on. "We were both wide awake, for a start. I felt perfectly fine before, and you seemed fine too. Physically, I still feel perfectly healthy." He looked a question at me, and I had to nod. I hadn't felt remotely ill or impaired. Right up until...

"So, your alternative suggestions consist either of someone drugging our food, or our food being contaminated naturally," Ed continued. "Given the remarkably... specific nature of the, uh, episode, I find such a hypothesis lacking."

I knew where this was heading, and I shook my head, not wanting to hear it.

"So, we have all of that elaborate conjecture on one side, and on the other, we have the possibility that this is... real. Which sounds simpler to you?"

"You're forgetting one thing, Dr. Evans," I said. "Cut away the impossible. That's it's all real, is NOT possible. And how do we know what the precise effects of food poisoning or any number of drugs could be? Maybe the symptoms come and go. I read somewhere that if you take LSD once, you can get flashbacks to the trip years later, without taking anything."

"Have you ever taken LSD?"

"No! But that just means –"

"Have you ever taken any hard drugs? Or soft ones, for that matter?"

"Only alcohol. But someone could have –"

"How, Dr. Erikson? How could they have done it? Who would want to? And why?"

"I don't know! There are some crazy people out there." And up here, too, I thought.

"How do you know what's impossible, anyway?" Ed argued, changing tack. "If things were impossible just because people said they were, we'd still be living in caves and eating raw antelope."

"This is different!"

The panic was starting to creep up on me again. I was tired, after so many nights of interrupted sleep, walking all over Wales, and trying to do a decent job of the mapping. I did not need this. It was all getting to be too much. Ed seemed to be dealing with this whole situation by means of intellectual debate.

Unbidden, the thought floated up that this was typical of someone ruled by Air. Or the Sky, as Eleri had put it. But she wasn't real, and people weren't ruled by mythical elemental forces.

Those of Earth tended to stubbornness, another thought arose. I tore my attention away from my thoughts, and realised I hadn't heard anything Ed had said in the last minute. I probably hadn't missed much, but he was looking at me, waiting.

"A penny for your thoughts," he said, all calm curiosity again.

"They're not worth that much," I muttered.

"I might have an old ha'penny at home," he mused.

I made something up. "I was just wondering about the exact provenance of these stones."

"You didn't find that out on an earlier trip?"

"No, I suppose the archaeology people already know, or think they do." I grimaced. "Since they like their geologists to show initiative, maybe I should take a sample –"

"No!" Ed's exclamation coincided precisely with an internal flinch and cry from some corner of my own mind. I blinked.

"You're right," I said faintly. "No point."

Ed shook his head, as if clearing cobwebs from it. He gave the stone circle a wary glance. "Maybe we should get away from here," he said.

"Now, that is the best idea you've had all day." Shooting my own glance at the stones, I set off down the hill. Ed's horse was waiting at the bottom, tethered on a long rope to a metal stake in the ground. Well, it might have been a different horse – they all look the same to me, if they don't have some sort of distinctive colouring. The horse was munching away contentedly on the grass, blissfully unconcerned about the morning's events.

I walked past it, intending to head back to my campsite. Ed could do as he pleased, although our unfinished conversation still hung overhead. I wasn't entirely surprised to hear hoofs behind me, and I turned to see Ed leading the horse, catching me up.

"Do you mind if I accompany you?"

"As long as I get some work done today," I said. "I'm not sure about your friend with the big nose, though." My feeble attempt at humour fell on a clueless beanie.

"What? Which friend..."

"That four-legged beast behind you," I said, rolling my eyes. "Who else could I have meant?"

Ed gave a weak chuckle. "Well, some of my friends do have big noses," he said.

"Stop," I said. "Next thing you know, it'll be Monty Python quotes all day."

Ed began whistling the Lumberjack song, and I had to laugh, albeit unsteadily.

A silence stretched – not precisely companionable, the memory of that incident remained too fresh. But neither of us had run off. There were still a lot of unspoken words to be said.


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Old 03-10-2008, 04:28 AM   #2
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Old 03-10-2008, 09:11 AM   #3
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Jen said it perfectly:
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:16 AM   #4
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Hi Ali I so love this story. I love Ed... and that remark about some of his friends having big noses.. A short, stocky Irishman springs to mind (It doesn't take much for a short, stocky Irishman to spring to my mind... ) and the reference to the Lumberjack song; oh I'm a lumberjack an' I'm ok. I sleep all night an' I work all day...brilliant.

I have to confess though that I read a line wrong.

Quote: "Since they like their geologists to show initiative, maybe I should take a sample –" Unquote.

I read this as "Since they like their gynaecologists to show initiative, maybe I should take a sample." ....yes, I chuckled at my mistake..

Ok well, I always did have a dirty mind... mwahahhaa....

Anyway, eagerly awaiting the next bit...


...gynaecologists....
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Old 03-10-2008, 12:09 PM   #5
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Monty Python!!





Iiiiiiii'm a lumberjack and I'm okay... I sleep all night and I work all day...
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Old 03-10-2008, 02:28 PM   #6
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i like it.
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Old 03-10-2008, 05:05 PM   #7
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...I put on women's clothing...and hang around in bars...

sorry....I had to do that.

This is a really good story!!!
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Old 03-10-2008, 07:33 PM   #8
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Sorry, but I'd be too tempted to say "let's go back in the circle and see what happens..
In the name of posterity, history and all that .
ok I know -
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Old 03-11-2008, 12:00 AM   #9
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Ali, this is great.
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Old 03-11-2008, 04:41 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by sue4u2
Sorry, but I'd be too tempted to say "let's go back in the circle and see what happens..
In the name of posterity, history and all that .
ok I know -
good idea
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:50 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by youvedonewhat
...gynaecologists.... : lmao:
That's priceless....

Short stocky Irishmen with big noses... ...



Quote:
Originally posted by dianepm
...I put on women's clothing...and hang around in bars...
... I cut down trees, I skip and jump, I like to press wild flowers....

Monty Python.... I couldn't resist it My brain must have been in full random flight that night!

Quote:
Originally posted by sue4u2
Sorry, but I'd be too tempted to say "let's go back in the circle and see what happens..
In the name of posterity, history and all that .
ok I know - : evil:

Maybe in an alternative fic-reality....
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