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Old 04-30-2008, 05:52 AM   #1
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Earth, Sky, Fire and Rain - Chapter 32 (30/4/08)

Disclaimer: Mostly made-up, anything I've borrowed from RL I have taken artistic liberties with... Not to be taken seriously (or internally).


end of chapter 31:
--------

Almost as an afterthought, I replied to Ed's email.


'Ed,
'I'm seeing a counsellor. I suggest you do the same.
- Lisa'


He could read that however he liked, I thought.



-----------
Chapter 32:
-----------

I lay awake for a long time that night, afraid to close my eyes. But inevitably, both sleep and dream came eventually.

I noted the changes time had wrought to the once-familiar interior of Alun's hut only absently. In the wake of my son's death, and that of Eleri, I had gone to Ewain for comfort... and now, having grown apart from Ewain, and feeling lost and bewildered about everything that was happening, I had gone back to Alun. And Alun, who had raised my children essentially alone, had accepted me. It was far more than I deserved, and I had wept with shame and guilt more than once. Alun had simply held me, whispering soothing murmurs.

Now, we lay together in the bed furs. I thought Alun had drifted off to sleep, and envied him that peace. My dreams had been disturbing of late, to say the least. I sighed.

"It wounds me to lay more burdens upon you," Alun began softly.

I looked at him, apprehensive. "I thought you were asleep."

"No. You must know that Ewain is turning the whole village against you."

I sighed again. "I don't want to believe it... but his words carry far more weight now than mine. Perhaps this was always so."

"Not always," Alun said, brushing hair from my forehead.

"He might as well be Ritemaster now. Perhaps I should leave..."

"He can't be Ritemaster." Alun sounded shocked. "He is of Fire, not Earth!"

And this was the centre of my fear. "There has been too much pain and death; there was too much when we were raising the stones, and too much afterwards. Blood was spilled, lives were taken, and their spirits may still be trapped there, in pain. It was not done properly, and no-one should have died at all. I have felt nothing from the Earth for many months, nothing at all." Fear shone naked in my eyes as I stared at Alun in the dim light. "I think the Earth spirits are gone from the circle, from the whole valley. I have failed as a Ritemaster. I didn't learn enough from Eleri..." Frustrated tears choked my voice.

Alun's hand caressed my damp face. "This has been Ewain's doing, not yours," he said. "I was there when Ortral was killed, in the quarry. Ewain seemed to hardly care that a man had died, he was concerned only with using the stone that had killed him. We had another half cut, but Ewain insisted we use one from the rock fall. We used the other one for the next stone, but..."

"I agreed to it, Alun! I agreed, right at the beginning, to build a stone circle on that place, that sacred site! I've destroyed it..."

"Stop it," Alun said, his tone sharper than I'd heard from him in many years. I stopped, looked at him. "You have destroyed nothing. Blaming yourself for decisions you made in the past serves no purpose now. Why don't you tell the village these things? Ewain's words stand unopposed."

"They wouldn't listen to me, you know that. You said it yourself, Ewain has turned the village against me. I should leave before they throw me out."

"Abandoning us is not the answer." He didn't say it, but I heard the 'again'.

"I told them all I would find the answer, and I have found nothing. No answers. The Earth spirits are deaf to me, or I am deaf to them. Or they are truly gone. I don't know what else to do!"

"You told me once, Eleri's last words to you," Alun said gently. "She knew that not every answer can be learned beforehand. She told you to let your heart guide you. She said you would know what to do."


For once, I woke up without waking Glen first. Alun's, and Eleri's words rang loud in my head. I felt just as lost as Mag did... and I got the sense that Mag had not taken as much comfort from those words as Alun had been hoping for. I thought of Ed's email, and his ominous portent about Ewain's motives. I thought about the appointment I'd made with a counsellor, the day after next. I hoped desperately this guy would be better than the last one.

I didn't get much more sleep that night.


Dr. Andrew Collins looked to be in his early forties, medium build and height, and had apparently decided to combat his receding hairline by getting a number-one buzz cut all over. His face fell into kindly lines, and something about him put me immediately at ease, as he showed me into his office. It was smaller than Dr. Mossman's office, but also sported armchairs and a couch. I checked – only two cushions, like those you would see on any couch. The décor was warm; wood panels and pale rust-coloured carpet. I settled into a squashy brown armchair.

I looked at Dr. Collins expectantly.

He smiled, and looked back at me. He seemed to be waiting.

I waited for him to speak, but he remained silent. A small, faintly curious sort of smile stayed on his face.

Seconds dragged. I glanced about nervously. This wasn't what I'd expected at all.

Still, he waited. Saying nothing, just looking at me. He seemed prepared to sit there for the whole fifty minutes.

"Well," I said, finally breaking the silence, "I suppose you want to know why I'm here."

His facial expression changed just enough to acknowledge that he'd heard me, but Dr. Collins still said nothing. It was all very unthreatening, but the weight of expectation grew greater by the moment.

I tried to wait him out, but that small sentence had cracked the dam of my own silence, and before I knew what was happening, words were pouring out of me. Out of order, probably partly incoherent, but everything came out. The whole sordid tale, from my first sight of the stones to the dream I'd had two nights before. Things I'd never told Ed, things I'd never told Glen, things I'd barely admitted to myself. Things I didn't want to think about, every fear for Mag, and myself.

Finally, the flood of words dwindled, and I trailed to a stop. My throat felt raw, and not just from talking for twenty minutes straight. Dr. Collins stood up, poured two glasses of water from a jug on his desk in the corner, and brought one to me. I thanked him and sipped at it while he sat down again.

"I don't think you've lost your mind, Lisa," he finally said.

"Why's that?" But for some reason, part of me felt relieved. Part of me believed him. "Everything I said sounds totally crazy."

"To you it sounds crazy," Dr. Collins said. "You were trained to think in concrete, observable, scientific terms. That's how you defined your world, to borrow a phrase. To someone who's grown up believing different things, what you've said would sound completely logical and rational. Regardless of the nature of the content of these dreams, there is still a clear pattern of action and consequence. The same people are behaving in consistent ways. There is still a fundamental connection to the laws of reality there, and that is why I know you're not insane. Your worldview may be in a state of upheaval, but you're still operating in the real world. There is something to what you said before – if you had completely lost touch with reality, you wouldn't be here now. Not on your own initiative."

I thought about that for a very long minute.

"All right. If I'm not crazy, and this is really happening... why is it happening? And how can I make these dreams stop?" The thought that this was real was still terrifying.

A somewhat rueful smile. "I'm sure you're aware that there's no guarantee that we can 'make the dreams stop' – things are rarely so simple. As for why they're happening, that is what we need to discover."

I nodded.

"You mentioned that you thought these dreams had an aspect of wish-fulfilment, earlier on. Could you tell me more about what you meant by that?"

I took another drink of water, and started talking again.

---------

"It is a very lovely plate, I'm sure, but you'll burn holes in it if you keep staring at it like that, you know."

Glen's voiced started me out of my reverie. "What? Sorry." I resumed stacking the dishwasher, shaking myself mentally.

Glen put his arms around me from behind. "You've barely said a word to me all night," he said into my neck. "Is something wrong?"

I gave an involuntary grunt of ironic amusement. "I'm sorry, love," I said. "I went to another counsellor today, I've been thinking about what we talked about."

"You did? Ah, that's good news. Was this one any good?"

"Yeah, much better than Dr. Mossman. Nary an emoti-cushion in sight!"

Glen chuckled. "I probably would have reacted the same way you did," he said, smiling.

"I don't think so," I said, mock-serious. "You would have thrown one at her."

"Yes, the 'angry' one, I think." We both laughed. "Did she have one that said, 'You're off your nut'?"

"No, I think she was saving that up to throw at me," I said, still chuckling. The amusement subsided.

"I'm not crazy, Glen," I turned around and looked at him. He was studying me.

"I am glad to hear that," he said slowly, and I could see he meant it. He'd been as afraid for my sanity as I was. "But what...?"

"We're still working on that," I interrupted gently. "I'm going back, every other day. We're going to figure it out."

Glen leaned in, and we stood for a while, just holding each other.


Ed had responded to my short reply, with a rather lengthier one of his own.

'Lisa,

'I thank you for your concern. I hope the counsellor is able to help you, but I think the answer will ultimately lie within ourselves, or elsewhere.

'I keep forgetting that there are parts of Ewain's story you might not know. I don't remember him telling Mag these things, or anyone for that matter, but I know that these dreams are not a complete record of what happened. Allow me to tell you what I know of Ewain's past.

'He arrived from the west – you told me Mag and Eleri saw him approaching the village, that first day. He was coming from his home village, which was close to that quarry. He had been an acolyte of Fire, but he couldn't stay there any more.

'Some months earlier, his mate and young son had been killed, burned to death when their hut had caught fire. I don't know quite how it happened, Ewain was away with the Ritemaster that night, conducting a ritual. At some point he realised something was wrong, but by the time he got back, it was too late. They were both dead.

'I can't even write about this without feeling what he felt... they were everything to him. He was lost, destroyed. His whole world was turned inside-out. He went mad with grief.

'He regained some sort of equilibrium after a while, but everything had changed. Inside his head, at least. The Ritemaster of Fire in that village was getting more and more worried about Ewain, the sort of questions he was asking. Eventually, Ewain couldn't stand staying there any longer; the memories of his family were everywhere he looked. At that moment, I think, he just wanted to get away from all of it. So he left, and came to Mag's village.

'You know what happened after that, although I'm not sure how much you know about what was going on in Ewain's head. His intentions were innocent enough, at first. He wanted to leave his old life behind, and although he wasn't completely truthful to Mag and the others about why he'd been travelling, he was genuine enough in wanting to make a good life in his new home. His suggestion to raise those stones was genuine, as well. He'd heard, years before, from another traveller, about other villages that were raising stones. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

'But when Moryn was killed by the Fire-stone, that set everything off. Back in his own village, he'd started to become obsessed with the idea that he could somehow bring his family back. The Ritemaster there had convinced him that it was impossible... or at least, convinced him to stop asking. The idea had never left Ewain, though; it had been stewing at the back of his mind for all those years. Poisoning him. And when he saw Moryn's lifeblood soaking into the ground, and that stone, he thought he'd found his answer. The obsession came back, and it possessed him completely.

'He'd been taught that Fire was life. The living are warm, the dead are cold. In his village, they burned their dead to lend the life of Fire to the spirits, and send them on their way. Ewain was convinced that the way back to life was through Fire, and if he could do the right things, appease the Fire spirits in the right way, his wife and son would be given back to him. He thought that Moryn being killed like that was a sign, from the Fire spirits, of what he had to do. And it was a sign, too, that he had originally talked Mag into using the stone from that particular quarry. At the time, he was only thinking what he'd said to her, that it was powerful stone... but it was powerful because it was aspected to Fire, rather than Earth. He never mentioned that, but it was important nonetheless. And I suppose it's possible that somewhere in the back of his mind, he was seeking even then to placate Fire spirits, even if he wasn't really aware of it at the time.

'So, more blood and lives went into the stone circle, and Ewain thought that when it was completed, his son and mate would return. Three lives had been given to the spirits, more than payment for the two that had been taken. And Ewain had conducted his own rituals, in private, making sure that the Fire spirits knew that he had done it all for them, to get his family back. That he was destroying a place sacred to the Earth was beneath his consideration. That it might cost more lives, as the Earth spirits were driven away, never occurred to him, and he didn't much care when it did happen. He was utterly consumed by that one delusion.

'But obviously, his family was not returned to him when the circle was completed. Ewain was furious, and thought that he hadn't done enough, the spirits must want more blood. Then it occurred to him that the three lives that had gone into the raising of the stones were of Fire, Air and Water. The circle was not complete, he realised, until a life of Earth had been given to it. And what more potent a life could there be, than the local Ritemaster of Earth? That would surely seal the demise of the Earth spirits in that place, and guarantee the supremacy of Fire.

'Those were Ewain's thoughts in the last dream I had, in any case. I know I'm not him, but it still leaves me cold, having to dream that twisted man's life and thoughts. If you find out how to stop them, do let me know, because I have no desire to live through what might happen next. But I don't think we can stop them. This is happening for a reason, and I think we will need to do something, if only for our own sakes. There are bigger reasons, though – Ewain profaned that place, whatever else might happen, and I can't help but feel responsible. I think this is related to that soil impoverishment you were investigating initially there, and I want to fix it.

'I think we will have to go back there.
- Ed.'

----------------------
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Old 04-30-2008, 06:18 AM   #2
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brilliant chapter Ali.
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:19 AM   #3
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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 04-30-2008, 12:29 PM   #4
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i like it.
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Old 04-30-2008, 06:36 PM   #5
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Maybe this counsellor will get her and Edge together at the circle to exorcise these dreams.
Ok I'm way to in to this
a writer I"m not
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Old 04-30-2008, 10:52 PM   #6
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Ewain is gonna try to kill Mag? *gears start turning*

I hope Dr Collins turns out to be much more helpful than Dr Mossman.

Amazing, Ali, as usual.
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Old 05-01-2008, 04:26 AM   #7
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I have just sat down and read continuously from Chapter 6 (where I left off thanks to life in general )

This is a phenomenal story Ali! It's so intoxicating with the vivid descriptions.......

No hurry up and post some more


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Old 05-01-2008, 02:32 PM   #8
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so cool!!!
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