It’s that time again.
This week’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “ring”, to be used in any way at all.
So here goes…
A breeze barely stirred the tall grass that grew either side of the track leading up to Boscawen stone circle, the August sun warm, even though it was early evening and the moon was already visible in the cloudless blue sky.
She quickened her pace as the track became steeper, knowing she didn’t have far to go, but only too aware of the need to get there as soon as she could, her pursuers couldn’t be far behind now and she still had much to do.
The track began to level out and the gate into the area surrounding the ancient monument came into sight. She paused at the gate and turned to look back down the track, listening for any sign of approaching footsteps.
When she was satisfied that the only sounds were made by birds and the occasional sheep, she adjusted the straps of her pack and resumed her climb up the rocky track, heading for the grey bulk of granite at the peak and, more importantly, the Door.
Suddenly there was the sharp, startling sound of a dog’s bark, not far below her on the slope. Without pausing for breath she immediately abandoned the rough trail, cutting across the scrubby grass of the moor in a curving route that brought her out on top of the flat rocky prominence of Creeg Tol, giving her an uninterrupted view of the entire landscape.
Straight away she saw the dogs, bounding across the tufted grass and stunted bushes with ease, picking a zigzag course round the larger boulders, all the while keeping their shining, crimson eyes locked on her, pointed ears laid flat on their heads, implacable, intent and unwavering in pursuit of their quarry.
She knew she only had moments before the dogs’ masters came loping along in their wake, insane grins fixed on those feral, rat-like faces, snuffling and sniggering as they sensed they were closing in on their prey. She wasted no time, jumping from the flat granite slab onto the lower rock platform, where she could look down onto the small ring of stones, no more than three feet across, the individual stones just over a foot tall.
She shrugged the pack from her shoulders, ripped open the leather flap and reached inside, carefully withdrawing a small green bottle, filled with an iridescent fluid.
There was a scrabbling sound above her, the first of the dogs had made it to the top of Creeg Tol, she could hear it whining as it tried to find a way down the almost sheer face of the rocky outcrop.
She ducked back under the slight overhang afforded by the ledge and quickly unstoppered the bottle, hesitated for a second, took a deep breath and tipped the contents into her mouth.
Then she stepped into the stone circle, eyes closed, lips moving silently as if in prayer, mouthing the words she’d learnt back in the Valley as a girl, hoping for all their sakes that she wasn’t too late.
– “She’s here, I can smell her!”
A snarling, clattering noise as the dogs finally found a way down from the high granite plateau and raced towards her, only pulling up short at the last moment, circling her, only inches away, sniffing the air and growling low in their throats.
– “What’s wrong with them, stupid animals?” Go on, Find her! Where is the pointy-eared little bitch? You find her, you can tear her apart, save us the trouble. Ha!”
– “She can’t be far away, she has to find the Door.”
She knew the spell wouldn’t last long, the Ring was protecting her for now, but once she called forth the door, both she and the stones would become visible and she’d have scarce seconds in which to make her escape.
– “Did she have the Words?”
– “Prob’ly, you know how they are, the Old Ones, they don’t go nowhere without a spell or two. I’ll take the dogs round the other side, you stay here, see she don’t try and get round behind me.”
She waited until he’d dragged the dogs away, the larger of the two straining at its chain, pulling back in her direction and barking madly while he cursed and kicked out at the dog.
– “Stop that damn you! Blasted animal, go on, find her!”
The other Guardian prowled around, she watched him poking at bushes with the long curved knife he carried and grumbling to himself, moving slowly away from where she crouched, until she judged it was safe for her to make her move.
She reached up and unfastened the clasp on the slim golden chain that hung around her neck, lifting the crystal out from the front of her shirt and cupping it in the palm of her hand, all the while keeping her eyes on the dark figure by the rocks.
It was time. She couldn’t afford to wait any longer.
She held the crystal in her clasped hands, the chain coiled round them in an intricate pattern and began to whisper the Words, words made from sounds no other mouth would ever speak, in a voice that sounded a great many years older than the woman who spoke them, words that had been with her her whole life and which had only been learned for this moment.
She had only one purpose, to return the precious contents of her pack to the Valley, hidden safely beyond the door, where the likes of the vicious Guardians couldn’t follow.
Only then would she think how she would live out her time in the long-dreamed-of land of her family, after she had fulfilled her destiny as the Keeper.
She felt it more than heard it at first, the rising thrum of energy, pulsing through the ground at her feet, she could see the subtle haze of colors begin to form at the edges of the ring of stones, suddenly visible again in the dying rays of sunlight and then, just when she thought she’d done something wrong, the Door appeared before her.
It looked just as she’d always imagined it would; open, welcoming, somehow radiant in the twilight.
And now, finally, she stepped into the triangle of light that flooded from the doorway out onto the grass in the centre of the small circle of stones and saw…Could it be?
– “There she is!”
– “Do I have to do everything around here? Get her, Kill!”
She turned and saw the second Guardian had returned and was struggling to release the enraged dogs from their chains, they were trying so hard to hurl themselves at her.
At the same time, the first man drew back his arm to throw the long knife and she knew now was her last chance.
Bending to pick up her pack, she took the last few steps toward the door, shimmering in the air like a mirage, swung her arm with all her might and flung the old leather bag into the golden light.
Screams of rage rose behind her as her pursuers realised they had failed and the dogs howled in fury, but she no longer cared.
Now she could rest, now her people were safe once more, another would be chosen to carry on the vigil in this strange world outside the Door and she could go home.
He reached for her as she stepped over the threshold and at that moment, as their fingers touched and she saw his smile for the first time in so many years, she felt a stab of piercing agony between her shoulder blades, fell forward into his arms and was engulfed in blackness.
On the moor, in the small, unremarkable ring of stones, the Door wavered, faded and vanished.