Earth, Sky, Fire and Rain - Chapter 18 (18/3/08) - U2 Feedback

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Old 03-17-2008, 09:54 AM   #1
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Earth, Sky, Fire and Rain - Chapter 18 (18/3/08)

Yes, more eerie Tales from the Future... Hope I'm not going too fast
(It's all Frankie's fault anyway.)

*cough*


Disclaimer: It's all balderdash. Just because I love that word.
And there's a little bit of ickiness in this chapter... tune out now if you have an exceptionally sensitive stomach...



end of chapter 17:
--------

Glen sighed. "I don't know... I need to think about this. You sound like you could use a good night's sleep." I nearly laughed. "When do you get back?"

"Another week," I replied.

"All right. We can talk about this then, okay?"

"Okay," I sniffed. "I love you."

"You too," Glen said, and hung up.


I blinked. 'You too'? He did say that sometimes, but suddenly it took on ominous new meaning. He hadn't said he loved me, not right out. Was it really just an unthinking reflex that made him say it then, or something else? And would I have even noticed, without all this going on? God, that would be gnawing at me all week, now, too.



-----------
Chapter 18:
-----------

It was the night before the winter solstice, but the chill would be driven from the icy air by a great bonfire inside the circle on the hilltop. Ewain and I were piling the wood there now, in preparation. Torches illuminated the area dimly.

The Fire-stone was poised over its hole on the western side of the circle, propped on a pile of dirt and rubble and tied in place. The wooden post that it was replacing was one of the props. The fire would burn all night, and as the sun rose on the shortest day of the year, the stone would be slid into place, a burnt offering placed into the hole below it.

Two of the village men were checking the ropes around the stone, and I heard one voice raised in concern. I turned just in time to see one of the ropes separate with a snap, and then everything began to shift sideways, the wooden props groaning.

"Moryn!"

He seemed frozen to the ground as a wooden post splintered. By the time he tried to get out of the way, it was too late. The stone toppled, crashed, and Moryn's legs and abdomen were crushed beneath it.

I was at his side without knowing how I got there. I could barely see his face in the shadows, and in hindsight I was grateful.

"Too... hot..." he gurgled, and then the life left his eyes.

I looked up, and saw my numb shock reflected on the face of Moryn's companion, Fenwyn. My position as Ritemaster was forgotten. Ewain had come up behind me – I stood up and turned to face him, about to say something. His face was calm, the torchlight reflecting brightly from his eyes. The glance he gave me seemed to deny whatever I had been about to say.

"Moryn has been chosen by Fire," Ewain said, now looking directly at the other man. Fenwyn stared back, his eyes darting between Ewain, myself, and Moryn's corpse. Yes, that was it. I followed Ewain's example, tried to calm myself.

"He was of Fire," I added, catching Fenwyn's gaze and exerting my authority as Ritemaster. "Fire has taken him. He was a good man, he worked hard to help bring this stone here. His life burned brightly. The spirits in this stone recognised him as one of their own."

I felt Ewain's hand on my shoulder, squeezing his approval. I suppressed a flash of annoyance.

"His blood has sanctified this stone," Ewain added, his deep voice drawing Fenwyn's dazed eyes. "He has been highly honoured. His family will be blessed."

I could only nod, barely able to believe the words coming from both mine and Ewain's mouths. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. And more to the point, Fenwyn and everyone else, especially Moryn's family, would need an explanation. A reason why their mate or brother or father had died.

Fenwyn seemed to accept the reason Ewain and I had given him, and he began to nod slowly. His eyes now avoided the stone, and the body beneath it. "Yes, he was of Fire," the man agreed shakily. "He was chosen."

"Go and bring some more men," I told him gently. "We will need to move the stone back, and prepare Moryn for burial."

As Fenwyn staggered down the dark hillside, I looked at Ewain. He was looking at Moryn's body, and his face bore a strange expression.

"Poor Moryn," I breathed, now that we were alone, for the time being. I swallowed hard against the roiling of my stomach. A dark stain was spreading beneath the stone, as if the black shadows there were growing. I shuddered.

"He has been blessed," Ewain said sharply.

"He has been killed!" I replied.

"Why do you think the stone fell, Ritemaster? Why then, why him? It was as you said, he was of Fire. Fire has recognised him, chosen him to sanctify this stone."

"His fire did not consume him..."

"We are all consumed in the end!" Ewain's eyes were alight. "Whether by fire or earth or water or age or disease or injury. I told you the spirit of this stone was powerful, alive. You were right. He should be buried here, beneath the stone. Fire has claimed him for its own, in this place. Tonight."

All of my doubts about going ahead with the ceremony, about even using this stone in the circle at all, were swept away by Ewain's words, his voice, his passion. I nodded, and headed back to my hut to gather what I needed to bury Moryn.


Much later, the Fire-stone was poised over the hole again, now expanded to include Moryn's grave. He was curled inside it, body covered in red ochre and wrapped with his possessions. There were stifled sobs from the assembled villagers, shock still hanging over them palpably. The black stain on the stone faced inward, a stark and gruesome reminder to me of the price this stone had exacted.

Fire is an insatiable force, I reminded myself. It uses up the material it burns on, for the sake of its own existence. I tried to shake off the foreboding thoughts as dawn approached. Fire is also a life-giving force, I told myself. And on this day we celebrated the greatest fire of all, the sun, as the days would begin to lengthen again.

The bonfire in the centre of the circle had burned hot and fierce all night, as we had laid Moryn to rest. Now, men stood ready with ropes and levers. I took a handful of ashes, the burned heart of a ram, and sprinkled them into the hole waiting for the Fire-stone.

"With this offering, and with the life of Moryn, we give thanks to Fire for lighting the darkness, warming our homes, and cooking our food. We give thanks to the sun for warming the earth, and giving life to the green things that grow in it. We thank Fire for the spark of life in all things."

I stepped back, the words sounding hollow in my heart. The men pushed and pulled on the levers, took the tension on the ropes, and the Fire-stone slid into the hole with a dull thud. The sun rose, throwing the shadow of the Earth-stone across the scene. I stood with my head bowed as Ewain and Fenwyn filled in the soil around the stone and packed it down, covering Moryn's body as well.


I woke up. I could still feel the heat of that bonfire on my back, the gritty ashes on my hands, the grief making a lump in my throat, the uncertainty clouding my mind.

Something was going very wrong in this little narrative. I couldn't believe that anyone, even collective figments of my imagination, could have been taken in by that explanation – 'chosen by Fire'. It was ridiculous! But that was their culture, their belief structure. And it was the only explanation they had. Wasn't it easier to believe that, than accepting that random chance had robbed them of a loved one?

The only explanation they had. There were too many parallels there.

-------

Bleary-eyed and clumsy, I was packing my 4WD for the day's fieldwork, my mind paying very little attention to the task. I wasn't sure I could get anything done in these conditions, however – a steady, soaking drizzle had been falling all night, and showed no signs of letting up. Dark, tattered clouds drifted low over the hills, endlessly emptying over the sodden landscape.

I couldn't get that dream, those feelings, out of my head. The sound as that stone had fallen... I hadn't eaten any breakfast, and still felt queasy. I wanted nothing more than to finish the work and leave this place, and these dreams, far behind me.

"Lisa," came a familiar, softly accented voice.

I shoved a box into the back of the car, and turned to see Ed standing on the pavement behind me. He held a green umbrella over his black beanie. The street was deserted, but for him. I glanced up, my attention briefly caught by a curtain twitching in an upstairs window.

"I thought you would have gone home by now," I told him, unable to raise either a smile or any other sort of reaction to his presence. I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. I stayed under the shelter of the open boot of the car.

He grimaced. "This weather has shut down Cardiff AND Dublin airports, too much fog."

Ed didn't look good. The shadows under his eyes had only deepened, the lines clearer on his forehead. His stubble might as well be called a beard... and that made me think of Ewain. I flinched and looked away.

"That's a shame," I said, busying myself with the first-aid kit. I wondered if he'd called his wife, but then stopped. That was none of my business, no more than my conversation with Glen was his. Best not to bring that up, I thought. I could see the tension in his hunched shoulders; or maybe that was just the cold.

"If I could be home now, I would," Ed told me, something warning in his tone. I suppose he had taken my absent-minded platitude for some expression of doubt about his determination to get back to his wife.

"If I didn't have this job to finish, I would be home too," I assured Ed in turn, facing him again. He looked at me a moment, and gave a curt nod. Then he rubbed his face with one hand, the other being occupied with the umbrella.

Rain pattered down on the window over my head. "Would you rather get under here? Or ..."

"No, thank you," he said quickly. I nodded, understanding. Quietly relieved.

It still took him a moment to get the words out. "Last night, I... Did you... ?" He looked at me.

But I stubbornly refused to connect the dots. I made him finish the sentence, out here, in the street of a perfectly ordinary village, in the rain, with no mystical stone circles looming over us, no spine-tingling atmosphere to make it seem that little bit more plausible. I was hoping he wouldn't say it, but he did.

"Did you have the same dream I did?"

"That all depends on what yours was about," I said. He gazed at me flatly. He knew I was being obtuse, but I couldn't help it. I'd gone quite still, feeling the fragility of my grip on this whole situation. Why he persisted with this...

"The raising of the second stone, for Fire. Winter solstice, you... Mag and Ewain preparing inside the circle, a bonfire. Two men checking the ropes on the stone, perched above its hole. A rope snapped, the stone fell..."

"Stop."

"... crushed Moryn, killed him. His blood on the ground, on the stone..."

"Stop it!"

Ed stopped his numb recital, and looked at me. I'd sat on the tailgate of the car, my white-knuckled grip on its edge. "Yes," I whispered. "It was the same." That grip was slipping again.

"I can't keep doing this!" I said suddenly, standing up again. I had to duck to avoid cracking my head against the boot door. "I can't concentrate on my work if you keep coming along and throwing my... my mind into chaos! I'll be finished here in a week, and that will be the end of it. No more. I want my life back, and I want to go home."

"Don't you think I want the same thing?" Ed said, his tone sharp. "I'm not walking around in the rain, divulging my strange dreams to strange women just for the sake of winding you up. I don't plan on staying here a moment longer than I have to, either. I want this all to stop too, and I want to get home just as much as you do, if not more. But I can't just shut my eyes to what's going on; I need to understand it! I need to know that something is going on, and it's not just me."

"Shutting my eyes sounds pretty damn good," I muttered. "Except I have another bloody dream every time I do."

Ed made a noise of involuntary, but heartfelt agreement. "We really should compare these dreams in detail," he went on in a calmer tone. "We don't know if they're exactly similar, really. I mean, I've had one every night since I got here, they can't be all the same..."

"No, we really shouldn't," I interrupted. I wanted to nip that idea in the bud. "It's my opinion that this will all go away as soon as we can get out of here, and I can't wait."

"I know that's what you want to happen, and I do too," Ed said neutrally. "What if it doesn't?"

"I'll worry about that if it becomes a problem. Which it won't."

"The power of positive thought," Ed drawled, then his tone changed. "We don't always get what we want."

I knew how that song went. "So what, are you saying we NEED this? Please, no." I forced an unconvincing laugh.

"Even normal recurring dreams happen for a reason, you know," Ed said. "Because of some nagging worry, or something you have to do. Even if it's as simple as acknowledging something consciously that your unconscious is trying to tell you. Any psychologist would tell you the same. The dreams persist until whatever has prompted them is resolved."

"And what does that mean? I can resolve my dreams by getting away from here. And I won't be talking to any psychologists, let me tell you. Never mind Dr. Evans, you've become Dr. Freud."

"No thanks," Ed replied, deadpan. "The man was nuts."

I snorted. Had he really been serious, about resolving things? I wasn't going to ask. I could never be sure if he was going to come out with a joke, or some mind-bending piece of psychobabble.

"You know we're being watched," I said, raising my eyes towards the upstairs window with the twitchy curtain.

"Let them watch," Ed replied, utterly unconcerned.

"I need to get going," I told him.

"In this weather? I might as well send out a search party now."

"If it looks like clearing, I'll be out there before you can blink. And I imagine you'll be gone just as fast. So I want to be ready."

"An excellent point." Ed's expression grew serious again. "Will you think about it?"

I didn't make him elaborate this time. "It seems I can't help thinking about it. At least, when I'm not... when I don't have other things on my mind." Glen.

I saw that Ed understood.

"Good luck with your mapping," Ed told me.

"Good luck with the airports," I replied. He nodded, gave a small smile, and went on his way down the street.


The rest of the week passed in a haze of rain, rocks, mud, mapping and dreams. I didn't see Ed again. I managed to ignore the dreams while I was working, push aside all the questions. None of it mattered, I told myself, because they meant nothing and they would stop as soon as I got home.

------------------
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Old 03-17-2008, 12:32 PM   #2
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i like it.
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Old 03-17-2008, 02:01 PM   #3
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poor man!

it's getting deeper and deeper eh?
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Old 03-17-2008, 05:19 PM   #4
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Lisa is so skittish about getting into this with Ed. I wish she'd just give in already and talk to him about the dreams.
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Old 03-18-2008, 02:31 AM   #5
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yes yes stop being obtuse woman talk with ed
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Old 03-18-2008, 03:44 PM   #6
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Perfect.



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Old 03-19-2008, 07:18 AM   #7
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Lisa is incredibly stubborn... she wouldn't let me write it any other way...

(And I'm not sure I would be any different, if something like that was happening to me )
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