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Old 05-07-2008, 11:09 AM   #1
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Earth, Sky, Fire and Rain - Chapter 34 (8/5/08)

*nearly pastes job application here instead* ... Wish me luck, folks!

There is swearing in this chapter too, and some decidedly violent/icky themes.

And the usual disclaimer: this is all fiction; good, bad, icky or otherwise. All innaccuracies and errors are solely my responsibility. And the quoted lyrics are not my own work, obviously.



end of chapter 33:
--------

"This is the most beautiful thing anyone's ever given me," I said, putting the box down carefully so I could give Glen a proper thank-you kiss. He seemed much happier after that.

"You got me a rock," I grinned afterwards. "How ever did you know?"

"Just a hunch," he winked.


-----------
Chapter 34:
-----------

Say goodbye (I don't want to)
Don't you fight (I don't want to)
Leaving your life's no easy ride
... This is the only way



I'd booked a table at a nice Japanese restaurant for dinner that night with our friends. I made the effort of getting properly dressed up for once, and as usual, Glen's reaction made it well worthwhile. I wore the necklace, and my friends' reactions were most satisfying as well.

"Is that a diamond?"

I nodded, trying not to look smug.

"Y'know Glen, they come on rings as well," Clarisse said with an air of supreme innocence.

"No, really? I had no idea!" Glen's mock surprise made me giggle, but that might have been the sake as well.

After dinner, we moved on to a (licensed) bowling alley. The wisdom of serving alcohol in a place where people are required to stagger around hurling large heavy objects may be considered dubious, but it makes for a hell of a laugh. You don't go bowling while inebriated to get a good score, in any case.

I managed to talk my way out of being flung bodily down the lane after laughing once too often at Glen missing out on a spare by one pin, and no one dropped a ball on themselves, or anyone else, so no harm was done.

My sides were aching with laughter by the time the taxi deposited Glen and I home, and we supported one another as we got into the house. It took far too long, and was far too funny, to get upstairs and into bed. Things got a little more serious there.

It was only afterwards that I realised I hadn't thought about the dreams at all since that morning. I couldn't remember how long it had been since I'd gone almost a whole day without thinking about all that. And then I was annoyed that I'd thought about it now. It had been a wonderful day, and to hell with being a step closer to forty. It's just a number, anyway.

"Fuckit," I muttered aloud. "I'm prob'ly too drunk to dream anyway."

"Mmmyesdear," Glen mumbled, more than half asleep.

I managed to free my arm that was under his shoulders, before settling my back against him. Sleep descended.


I could hear them all, outside the hut. I hadn't left it for two days; Alun and the children had brought food in, and for the first day at least, they'd managed to convince people that I was off in the forest somewhere, trying to speak to the spirits. But Ewain knew I was here, and he'd made sure everyone else did, too.

I had been ill, as well, bringing up everything I ate. At first I thought that my own fear was causing it, or perhaps that I had been struck down by some new disease, but that day I had realised another possibility.

There had been a meeting, without me. The Elders, everyone had decided. To stop the sickness in the village, to bring life back to the fields, to satisfy the angry spirits, my life was forfeit. The responsibility was mine, it was me the spirits wanted.

"Ritemaster!" Ewain bellowed from outside, his voice seeming to fill the hut. It projected his overwhelming presence, and I shivered. That title was nothing but a mockery now.

"He cannot be sure you're here," Alun whispered beside me. "Stay quiet, I'll get rid of them..."

"You won't, and he does know," I whispered back. I had tried to resign myself to my fate, but part of me never really believed it would come to this. But now, bleak despair was stealing what was left of my strength.

Ewain's voice rang out again. "You said you would find a way, but you have found nothing. We have had to find it. You said you would not flinch, whatever was required, yet you cower in your mate's hut! You know what is needed to heal the damage. Do you care nothing for the lives of your fellows?"

Suddenly I was angry. Alun tried to hold me back, but I shook him off, and stepped outside.

It was dark, and at first all I could see was fire. Dozens of torches, held aloft by the villagers. Ewain stood closest, bathed in the dancing, ruddy light.

"It is you who care nothing for them!" I shouted at him. "Just as it is you who has caused the damage. You have brought pain and death into the sacred circle where none should have been, and it is that which has damaged the Earth, and driven the spirits away. The spirits there now are hungry and twisted, just like you."

Ewain smiled, but only for my eyes. There was only a little muttering from the crowd of onlookers. "It is as I feared," he said, addressing the villagers. He managed to put regret in his voice. "The spirits of sickness have possessed her mind, and now she tries to convince us with lies."

"No! Your Fire has consumed you." I turned to the villagers. "Do you remember Eleri's mate? Ewain has the same flaw. He is consumed. He is speaking lies!"

"It is too late for that, we have seen the truth now. Perform one last act, to redeem yourself. Your life is the only thing that will restore the balance, and end these plagues. It is the only way!"

Alun appeared, and put himself between Ewain and myself.

"You are making a mistake," he said in a controlled voice. "You will not have her."

"Ewain," I said, "you know that a sacrifice is never a mother. Never a mated man or woman. You know this is wrong!"

"You've been barren for years! And Alun raised those children more than you ever did. You were never a mother, and never will be!" A voice from the back of the crowd, and muttered sounds of agreement. Guilt and regret stabbed me.

"I am carrying a child now!" I cried. My suspicions about my illness solidified in desperation. I heard Alun gasp.

"Is that true?" he said, turning to me. I nodded, just as Ewain took control of the scene again.

"More lies!" I could see he was losing patience. A barely concealed mania burned behind his eyes, frustration at some long-cherished goal being delayed. For how long had he wanted to kill me? And what had I done to earn such hatred from him?

In slow motion, it seemed, Ewain stepped forward, one arm swinging out, his fist catching Alun's face. My mate crashed to the ground, and Ewain grabbed me roughly by the arm. My daughter tried to hold me by the other, but Ewain pulled me out of her grasp. She lunged forward, but Gwenna stepped out of the crowd to hold her back. I was barely aware of my own struggles, as I watched the scene recede. Shock and horror frozen on my daughter's face.

I was utterly helpless, and that frightened me as much as anything else. My furious kicks seemed to have no effect on Ewain at all, as he dragged me grimly all the way up the hill. The stones' shadows danced crazily across the hilltop, flung out by the raging bonfire he'd lit within the circle. I became crazed, losing my sense of myself. For the sake of the child that had barely begun inside me, I fought on, biting when I had the chance, tasting blood. Even that tasted wrong. Finally, a fist struck me, and I spun into darkness.

-----

My head was reeling with pain, but pain meant life. I struggled to open my eyes, to claw my way back to consciousness.

I was bound tightly, kneeling propped over the altar stone. The fire roared a few feet away, its heat blistering my bare skin.

"Carrying... child..." was all I could say through my swollen face. I don't know if anyone even heard me. I couldn't move. I saw hints of people beyond the fire, standing still and silent, their faces carved. Ewain was behind me, in the middle of intoning a plea to the spirits. To accept my life as a sacrifice, to grant their blessings. To give what was needed.

He never specified what was needed, what blessings they would grant. Or even what spirits he was calling upon.

I was still seeing everything through a haze of pain and disbelief when Ewain finished speaking, and advanced towards me. There was absolute silence, but for the crackling voice of the fire. The light slid off the strange knife Ewain raised, pitch-black and glossy. I'd never seen any stone like it. It seemed to radiate a heat and a hunger all its own.

For a long moment, Ewain stood over me, the black knife raised, fire reflected in his eyes. There was no hatred in those eyes, I realised. No murderous rage. And no recognition of myself... I had become merely an object, a means to an end. A desperately desired end, something that meant more to him than anything else. Something that had driven him to this insanity.

"You're wrong," I rasped. A final, desperate, hopeless plea to save the life I carried.

There was no sign that he heard me. The knife flashed as it descended. A swift motion, and searing pain burned across my throat. My blood rushed out, over the altar stone and into the ground. I began to choke.

"Quickly!"

Two figures detached themselves from the group beyond the fire, and I was lifted, then thrown into the flames. My flesh began to burn; I tried to scream but could only gurgle. My hair sizzled, melting away.

Darkness pressed in around my vision, the blood pumping from my throat slowing. My frantic thrashing had been stilled by a creeping weakness, the pain too huge to fight any more.

I began to die.

And through my blood that had drenched the altar stone, for a moment my awareness expanded to encompass the whole circle. I marked everyone who was there. Alun and my children were not, and I was fleetingly grateful.

Ewain was filled with a fierce expectation, a sense of triumph. I saw, finally, what had consumed him; but there could be no undoing what had happened to his mate and son. I almost pitied him, but he had gone too far for that.

There were no Earth spirits awaiting me. If they were still here at all, they were buried too deeply for me to feel them. There were Fire spirits, but they were twisted, sick, tainted by pain and death. They just wanted more, and had no interest in Ewain's pleas. He had destroyed this sacred place, caused all this death, and for nothing at all. I felt a righteous but impotent fury.

The sensations from my body faded, and with it my awareness. The moment passed, and oblivion finally took me, blackness absolute and eternal.


My eyes were already open, but I blinked just as Glen had pulled his arm back again. He saw I was awake before another slap descended, and his hands moved more gently over my face, trembling. His face was white and terrified in the pre-dawn gloom. My throat felt as if I had been doing all the screaming that had been denied to Mag. I was shaking uncontrollably, sweating and cold.

"My god," he said, gathering me into a frantic embrace. He rocked me back and forth, as much for his own comfort as mine. I barely responded, numb and in shock. "What happened? You were screaming and screaming, your eyes were open but you weren't there. I didn't want to hurt you, but you wouldn't wake up... What happened? Can you remember?"

"Yes," I whispered at last. The memories were brutally clear. I shuddered violently, and clung to Glen. My fingers dug into his back. "But it's over. There can't be any more."

"Tell me what happened, love," Glen said, looking at me with worried eyes.

I hesitated. "He killed me. I died. He cut my throat and threw me into the fire. I felt everything, saw everything. I died." The monotone words were cut off by a tightening throat, and while Glen was trying to find something to say, racking sobs rose up from my guts. He held me tighter.

They took a long time to subside. Eventually, we decided there was no point in trying to go back to sleep, and Glen offered to make a cup of tea.

"I thought this counsellor was supposed to be helping you with those dreams," he said as we both drifted around the kitchen.

"They never stopped. I don't think anything could have stopped them, until the story was over. And now it is."

Glen opened his mouth, but the sound of a fist hammering on our front door interrupted him.

"Police! Open up!"

Glen and I stared at one another, utterly nonplussed. "I'll get it," he said. I followed, a pale wraith in my bathrobe.

Bright flashlight blinded us as Glen opened the door. I had a vague impression of two uniformed police officers. One was a woman, but her male partner was wielding the torch.

"We've had a report of a domestic disturbance at this address. Is your wife at home?"

"What? We're not married..."

"I'm here," I said, stepping forward. The bright light played over my face and body. It returned to my face, and both officers peered at my cheek.

"Did he do that?" the female officer asked. I put my hand up to my face, and realised that Glen's slap had left some sort of mark. My eyes were still puffy and red from crying, too.

"Yes, but it's not what you think," I said. I caught a glimpse of one of our neighbours peering over the fence.

"How could you think..."

"I had a night terror," I said firmly, overriding Glen's growing indignation. I squinted into the light, trying to convince the officers. "I must have been screaming in my sleep, if that's what someone heard. Glen couldn't wake me up, so he slapped me. I assure you, he has never raised a hand to me in my life."

"Is that so."

"Yes, officer, it is."

I could see suspicion and frustration on their faces, and wondered how many broken women had made up similar excuses to protect their genuinely abusive partners.

"What were you dreaming about?" the female officer asked.

"I was burning to death," I said flatly, squeezing my eyes shut against the still-fresh memory.

"Hmm." They looked a trifle less suspicious.

"Thank you for your concern, officers," I said.

The female officer gave me a penetrating stare. I looked back as evenly as I could. "Just remember, if anything does happen, you can always call for help," she said to me.

"I'll remember that, thank you."

"Good day," the male officer said, finally swinging the flashlight away, and the two of them retreated down the path.

Glen shot a venomous look over the fence before we went back inside. He shut the door rather more firmly than he needed to.

"The bloody nerve of them... as if I would ever... what if I'd been the one getting beaten up, anyway? It does happen. You used to give me a wallop when you..." Glen stopped short, realising he'd strayed into what was apparently taboo territory for him.

"When I started having those nightmares," I finished.

"Yeah."

"I don't think you would have screamed like I do, though."

"Probably not."

There was an awkward silence. Glen remembered the tea, and set the kettle to boiling again.

I tried to summon a sense of relief that the dreams had finally run their course, but all I had was grief and anger. I couldn't even be sure whose it was.

-------------------
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Old 05-07-2008, 11:20 AM   #2
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poor Mag!

and why do I have a feeling the story isn't over at all?
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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 05-07-2008, 11:55 AM   #3
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Poor Mag!

Now we know why Edge didn't want to sleep.

*awaits the next installment*


Random: Something about this makes me think of fish, and I don't know why! Lousy brain...
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Old 05-07-2008, 12:47 PM   #4
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i like it.
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Old 05-07-2008, 04:26 PM   #5
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Gob smacked... brilliant peice, Ali... but where is the Fine Edge? Are you keeping him from us? you know we'll have him in the end, don't you...
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Old 05-07-2008, 05:22 PM   #6
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Originally posted by RegularBonoFan
Poor Mag!

Now we know why Edge didn't want to sleep.
Oh my, Edge feeling everything Ewain does.
The question is Did Edge finally fall asleep?

edited to say: excellent chapter
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Old 05-08-2008, 12:37 AM   #7
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Oh this soooo isn't over.....I can feel it!

Next Please!!
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Old 05-08-2008, 04:17 AM   #8
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that was an amazing chapter honey, well done xxxxx
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Old 05-08-2008, 06:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by RegularBonoFan
Random: Something about this makes me think of fish, and I don't know why! Lousy brain...
.... .... nope, you're on your own with that one!


Yes, Edge finally fell asleep in the previous chapter... by my calculations, he's currently passed out under a pile of blankets on a couch in HQ. And there are three of his mates probably wearing grooves in the floor nearby.

Also, can you blame me wanting to hang on to him a bit longer, YDW?... ....


Thanks everyone!
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Old 05-08-2008, 09:15 AM   #10
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Aw Ali, I loved this. Is it sick and twisted that this may be my favorite chapter so far?
Gut-wrenching. Bravo.
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Old 05-10-2008, 08:48 AM   #11
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Is it sick and twisted that this may be my favorite chapter so far?
I don't think so... as long as it's not sick and twisted that I wrote the thing to start with

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Old 05-10-2008, 11:55 AM   #12
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I don't think so... as long as it's not sick and twisted that I wrote the thing to start with

It's not sick or twisted that you wrote this story. It shows that you have an active imagination which is good I'm sure I speak for us all when I say we like people with active imaginations...


Besides, fanfic life is much better then the real thing (at least sometimes - a nice BonoSnog I'm sure would be rather more interesting then writing a story...mind you, I think I'd be tempted to write about even that... Ack... I just can't seem to stop. Writing forms such a huge part of my life; I'd be lost w/o it).
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