~ Solstice Fire ~
~ Often, Avebury was quiet, certainly compared to the more famous Stonehenge. There were always a few people walking among the stones, or sitting, meditating, singing, drumming. In the summer, busloads flowed out and back again, en-route to other landmarks on their itinerary. But it was, at other times, easy to walk around the stone circle, up to the West Kennet Long Barrow, without seeing many people but the most enthusiastic seekers of the so-called Earth energies.
Today, in June, the carpark was already packed, the Red Lion Pub spilling outside, the local accommodation booked full months before.
They ever exerted a pull, those days on the calendar thought of a ‘pagan’: Midsummer, Midwinter, Beltane, Samhain, and Edenel marked each of them at an ancient place. Not always the same ones. The previous May Day he had been at the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis, Midwinter in Brittany, at Carnac.
The people who crowded Avebury now, thought of their reverence and rites as being old; they did not know how old, or that Edenel, walking here now in dark glasses, black jeans, white hair bound up in a fist, had been among the first to celebrate these days.
After spending some time in this world, this age, he thought of what the Ithiledhil had done (still did) as when a pressure cooker lets off steam. The Quendi had always celebrated those days, even before they began counting the year, separating the seasons. After Utumno, the rites had taken on a deeper, darker meaning. The Ithiledhil had seen too much, done too much, endured too much, and such pain has to be ...unleashed.
The first time had been so primal, so savage, that it had given them pause. They had not realised or admitted how deep the pain went, or what freeing it would do to them. Was it too much, or not enough? Would anything ever be enough? Whether or no, it was also necessary.
And so they bound themselves, strapped themselves down. Only four times a year did they break from the shells of ice and control that had formed around them in Utumno (and after). More was too dangerous.
Here, he could not unleash, not unless he were with Vanimórë or Coldagnir, but he could still pay homage to the memory, to the days, to his people.
He left the Lodge, the Bed and Breakfast where he often stayed. Avebury was familiar to him after a few years of midsummer visits — and at other times, when he had made use of the Portal here. But it was too busy, now, hard to avoid being seen, so he had come by train then taxi, leaving his luggage in the room, before taking a walk around the stones. Later, he would have an evening meal at a nearby restaurant.
At dawn, he had been invited to dance by a group come up from Bristol. An eclectic bunch, hailing from Australia, the US, Denmark, South Africa, Ireland, they were Wiccan’s, Druids, pagans. There was a devotee of the Morrígan, and Rhiannon, who said she was bonded to Gwyn-ap-Nudd, king of the Fair Folk, ruler of the Welsh Otherworld.
He had first met the group three years ago, and it was Rhiannon who had approached him. At first he had declined her offer to join in their celebrations, but they were a genuinely nice crowd, free-spirited and decent, who supported themselves with an organic smallholding, and sales of incense and perfumed oils. Since Edenel liked them, he ensured that they prospered by way of purchases and anonymous donations.
But there was also more than a touch of ‘talent’ in them, an ability to see beyond the physical world, and it was better for him to avoid such people. He knew that Rhiannon could almost — almost — see through his glamour.
He could have told her that Gwyn and the Otherworld were real, as were many other mythical realms, but the cautionary tales of men and women entering them never to return, or return changed, were true enough, and cautionary for a good reason. As for Gwyn, he was not malicious, but there was more than a spark of danger there.
The landscape seemed to roll its belly up to the evening sun like a lazy cat. Fine weather had settled a week ago and was due to last. The fields were richly green, and the woods, in full leaf, deep in emerald shadows. Swallows swooped overhead, and ring-doves called from the shade.
Crowds still thronged the stones; most would be staying overnight to greet the sunrise. There were camper-vans, small and large, in the car park; other visitors would, like himself, be in B&B’s, the Red Lion or at campsites outside the village.
He crossed the road from the stones, taking the half mile walk toward West Kennet Long Barrow. The sun was still hot with only the slightest breeze to stir the long grasses. There were a few walkers, but he left the crowds behind. The enigmatic man-made mound of Silbury Hill rose on his right, keeping its secrets as it had for thousands of years.
Butterflies danced across his path, and all around was the sleepy upland smell of corn chamomile; larks rose into the air, the cascade of bright song falling back to the earth in ripples.
He crossed the A4, took the track to the barrow, the sound of traffic fading behind him. It was preferable using this portal to the stone circle itself, since one could enter the burial chamber, and who was to know or care if the man they saw coming out had not been in there previously? The barrow’s shape rose gently against the skyline, its great entrance stones facing toward the East and, as Edenel approached, he felt the prickling on his skin that he associated with every portal in every reality. Some were unexpected, buried in the heart of cities, built over. Avebury, indeed the whole of this region, proclaimed itself proudly to those who could sense such things.
There was a man sitting with his back to one of the great megaliths. The sun drowned in a crown of thick, black curls as he bent over a pad, sketching. There was a backpack beside him, a water bottle. He seemed oblivious of everything, absorbed in some inner vision until suddenly he straightened, frowning, tore the sheet free and crumpled it in his fist. After a moment, he threw it on the ground then, as if reminded of littering, bent to retrieve it, but a little sweep of wind rolled it away from him. It fetched up at Edenel’s feet.
The man looked up. He was young, and very lovely, long-lidded dark eyes under a rill of black lashes. But in the summer heat he was too pale, and the smooth skin of his face was drawn taut over emphatic bones. He rose quickly, tall, topping six feet, and wide shouldered, slim in black tee shirt and jeans.
‘Sorry.’ He spoke in a deep, pleasant accent. ‘I wasn’t going to leave that there.’
Edenel picked up the paper. ‘Don’t worry.’ He shucked his backpack and drew out water, dropping the paper in. ‘I’ll throw it away for you.’ The young man looked as if he would rather do so himself, but said nothing. Edenel drank, gestured to the entrance of the chamber.
‘Have you been inside?’
‘Já, I did. It was.’ He shrugged. ‘Pretty intense. All this place is.’ His arm rose to encompass the barrow, Silbury Hill.
Edenel’s eyes narrowed behind the shades. ‘You feel it then?’
‘I guess.’ He laughed self-deprecatingly. ‘There are places like this in Iceland too.’
‘Ah, I thought that was your accent.’ Edenel smiled, knowing perfectly well. ‘I have been there once or twice. A beautiful country.’
The dark eyes warmed a little. ‘It is. You’re not from round here yourself?’
‘No, just here for the Solstice.’
‘Right, I forgot it was midsummer. Had no idea it would be this busy.’ He gathered his things. ‘Sorry, I have to catch a bus.’
‘And I am sorry if I disturbed you.’
The man grimaced. ‘No, it’s okay. It was nothing. I have zero talent.’ He shrugged on his knapsack.
‘I am sure that is not true,’ Edenel said gently, but there was a sparkle of tears in the lustrous eyes. With a small wave of his hand, he started walking up along the track. Edenel leaned against the great menhir and watched him until he was out of sight. He reached into his backpack and drew out the crumpled piece of paper, straightening it. His brows rose.
The sketch was of the barrow, the rising sun’s rays showed a figure walking out of it. There was a legend that every midsummer dawn a white-robed Druid (perhaps) could be seen leaving the chamber with a giant red-eared dog. Such dogs were creatures of the Underworld, in mythology. But this was no robed figure; it was a man with long, flowing hair, dressed in breeches, boots and tunic, daggers at his waist. In might be just the fact that the artist had worked in pencil, but the figure’s loose hair was a cloud of white. He had not finished the face, which remained a bare oval, but the detail of everything else was precise.
Carefully, Edenel folded the drawing and tucked it away. He entered the chamber, feeling the power on his skin like a sleet of particles, glimpsing the different doorways to other times, other realities and, in the centre of them all, gleaming, emitting incredible energy, the Master Portal itself, in the Timeless Halls.
He walked back out into the evening sun, took the track back to the village.
He had booked two nights at the Lodge, although tomorrow he might move on anyway, hiking along the Ridgeway, stopping at some old village inn drowsing in a maze of lanes and farmland, even staying out under the stars. He preferred to be alone when the heat came down, rather than being around people, some of whom noticed his pheromones, his restlessness. Once or twice that had proved difficult, rather like a dog scenting when a bitch is on heat. It was nothing he could not deal with and, because he chose to spend at least one of those days at ancient sites such as Avebury, he could not avoid people entirely.
He showered in his suite, with its magnificent view over the stones, changed, then rang for a taxi.
The evening sun layered the street old-gold. Glancing up toward the pub, still busy, he saw the young man of earlier was standing outside, looking worried and rather lost. There was a noisy group of young girls at one of the tables who were clearly seeing him as a piece of fresh meat.
Edenel strode up, touched his arm. He jumped.
‘Are you OK?’
The man turned, showing the loud group his back. A wolf-whistle and a, ‘Your friend’s welcome, too!’ brought a flush to his cheeks.
‘Ah, I missed my bus.’ Again that grimace that said: Typical, I can never do anything right. ‘I’m not sure what to do, to be honest. I can’t afford to stay here, and there are no rooms even if I could. I guess I’ll have to get a taxi to the station, but it’s Friday night and—‘
‘Have you eaten?’ Edenel asked.
‘Well, this morning, but —‘
‘Can I suggest something? I’m waiting for a taxi to take me to a nearby restaurant. It would be pleasant to have company.’ And dangerous too, but Edenel could no more leave this young man stranded here than he could have left one of his own arms. That would have been the easier option.
‘That’s very kind,’ was the slow reply. ‘but—‘
‘I’m paying.’ He smiled. ‘I am afraid I yielded to temptation and looked at the sketch you were unhappy with. It’s remarkable. I’d like to buy it from you, but perhaps we could discuss the price over dinner?’
The man shuffled his feet. A girl’s voice, careless with drink said: ‘Lovely arse.’ Someone else giggled. ‘Hey come over here, and your friend, too! Aww, come on. We’ll buy you a drink.’ There was no malice in the group, no danger, but it was poorly timed.
The blush deepened. ‘Take off your glasses, please.’
Edenel did not hesitate. He wore them because most people did in a hot summer, and because his eyes, though glamoured, were still almost white as his hair, a shocking contrast to dark brows and lashes. Unlike Vanimórë and Coldagnir he could just about get away with not using contact lenses, but some people thought him blind.
The young man did look startled. Their eyes locked for a long moment, and then he said, ‘Thank you. Já, I’ll come.’
In the taxi, he sat back with a sigh, leaned his head against the rest.
‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘It’s just...’
‘It’s all right. I am only offering to buy you dinner. And your art. I am not offering to buy you. How could I?’ People like you are beyond price. He held out a hand. ‘My name is Eden. Eden Dale.’
His smile was very charming, white. ‘ No kidding? That’s a great name. I’m Sören. Sigurdsson.’
‘A pleasure to meet you, Sören.’
The Waggon and Horses, ancient, picturesque and haunted was busy, but the staff were willing to stretch Edenel’s booking for one, to two, and found them a cosy table in a corner.
‘To be honest, I am starving,’ Sören said endearingly. ‘It was a stupid idea coming here, not even realising it was the Solstice.’ Edenel handed him a menu. ‘I read about Avebury and I just needed to...get away for a bit. I thought it would be interesting to see it.’
‘I come here fairly often, from London,’ Edenel said. ‘The food is very good. Order what you like.’
‘I’m living in London too,’ Sören said.
They opted for a shared platter of fish with crostini and dip for the starter, and Edenel let Sören make inroads. He was clearly, as he had said, starving, in fact he looked as if he hadn’t eaten well in months. Next came a steak which Sören had with fries and a salad, then for pudding, thick cream poured over locally grown strawberries. They sipped Pol Roger through the meal, and had coffee to finish. Sören did not talk much, only cast him shy glances from under the thick lashes.
‘I’m going to burst,’ Sören smiled as he popped a strawberry into his mouth. ‘But it’ll be worth it. Thank you. I really mean that.’
‘The thanks are mine.’
Sören shifted in his seat. ‘Já, the art. It’s nothing. It’s not any good. My ex used to tell me I was waisting my time, and he was right.’ There was a faint challenge in the words, as if he felt the need to announce his partner had been male to gauge any possible reaction.
‘Then he was a fool,’ Edenel responded, bringing the paper out of his jacket pocket. ‘This is done in pencil but the light, the shade, the immanence of midsummer dawn, with all that it implies, the liminality of the place itself. There is power in this piece...your ex had no soul, no vision. Some people don’t.’
Sören’s eyes filled with tears. He put his head down, grabbed a napkin. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s just...’
‘I know, you have been hurt. Badly.’
Further away, late patrons finished their meals, sat over coffee, left their tables, oblivious. Cocooned in their corner, Sören’s tears fell.
‘Wait a moment, and we will go outside.’ Edenel went to pay the bill, then put a hand under Sören’s arm and drew him up.
The calm, warmth of the evening was like a balm. A few moths fluttered in the dusk. A car droned past, headlights sweeping, fading. Sören wiped his face ‘I’m so sorry.’
‘Sören, there is a myth that trauma can cause a person’s hair to turn white overnight,’ Edenel said softly. ‘Except sometimes it’s not just a myth. My hair is not bleached. It was the same colour of yours, a long time ago. I can see the hurt in you because it is familiar to me.’
Sören blinked at him. ‘I thought it was dyed.’ His voice was hoarse with the aftermath of tears. His eyes scanned Edenel’s face. ‘A long time? How old are you? twenty-five, thirty?’
‘A little older than that.’ He had to smile. ‘But believe me, I know when someone has suffered.’
Sören turned away, shook his head. ‘I’m sorry, then. But you can’t want to know about my life.’
< br />
‘I’m no-one, just a stranger.’ He shrugged, looked down to where Silbury Hill bulked against the still-luminous sky. ‘That place — is someone buried there?’
‘According to legend? A mythical warrior king and his horse.’
Sören scraped a boot on the tarmac. ‘This place is really strange. You...you saw my sketch?’
‘There is a legend of a Druid or perhaps a priest being seen emerging from the West Kennet Long Barrow, with a white hound beside him, on Midsummer Day. Did you know that?’
‘No, I...I didn’t know anything about this place at all.’ He looked up, then back down again with a strange little laugh. ‘My drawings...you’ll think this is stupid, but sometimes I don’t draw exactly what I see, I draw what I feel, what I see with a different kind of vision. I thought a warrior of some kind was more...real. As I said: stupid.’
‘The world needs more art like yours, more people who see with their mind.’
Sören glanced back at him, shyly smiling. ‘You can have it, then,’ he said. ‘I can’t sell you a crumpled bit of paper.’
Even though he has barely enough money to get back to London.
‘I’ll pay you what I think it’s worth, Sören. Now can I suggest something else? You have nowhere to stay tonight, but I have a family sized en-suite in the village. I’ll speak to the owners, but they’re kind people, and I’m sure they’ll let you share my room.’ He saw the wariness surface. ‘In any case, I’ll probably be out most of the night. Tomorrow is midsummer and the reason I came here. A lot of people will be out among the stones to welcome the sun.’
‘That’s very kind of you.’ Sören seemed to be turning words over in his mind, examining them.
‘But you don’t trust me.’
‘I don’t know you, and I don’t understand why you’d do this.’ He spread his hands.
‘Why did you ask to see my eyes?’
‘What? Oh, well, sometimes, I get feelings from people...’
‘Because you agreed to have dinner with me after.’
‘I’m not sure what I felt,’ Sören frowned. ‘But I don’t trust my intuition any more, not after—‘
The taxi pulled up, took them back to Avebury. Sören eyed the old house and showed an inclination to draw back when Edenel went in.
Denise Crabtree, the owner, was surprised when Edenel introduced Sören as an ‘old friend from Iceland,’ but showed no objection to his staying. Rather, she tutted when she heard that he couldn’t find a room, read him a homily about booking in advance when coming to Avebury at these times, and promised him a good breakfast the next day. She then spoke about the bill, as Edenel had paid over the odds for a single person in a triple occupancy room, but he waved it away and lead Sören upstairs.
‘Do you want to take a shower?’ he asked. ‘And you can have the double bed. As I say, I’ll be out most of the night and it’s wasted on me.’
The light was almost gone, now. From the window, Edenel looked out over the stones. There were lights in the field; some people would keep an all-night vigil, and Denise and her husband were used to their guests coming and going at all hours. He had to get out, and soon. The heat was rising in him, the need to unleash. It grew worse when Sören emerged from the bathroom, a towelling robe wrapped around him, his hair in damp curls. But it would be rude to simply dump him here and rush out.
‘Thanks, that feels a a lot better.’ He hovered, before sitting down on the edge of a chair. ‘Wow, this is special.’ He glanced at the big four posted bed.
‘It’s very comfortable,’ Edenel smiled reassuringly. ‘As you can probably see, there’s people in the stones even now, and will be all night. Denise gives me a back door key to come in and out, but I won’t disturb you. You need to sleep. It must have been a long day.’
‘It was.’ Sören sat back. ‘And a stupid idea. Not this place,’ he added quickly, ‘it’s amazing really, but just getting on a train, not remembering it would be busy, that it was midsummer.’ He shot a quick grin. ‘Are you really going to watch the sun come up?’
‘I’m not much of a morning person myself,’ Sören said apologetically. ‘So you...ah...believe in all this?’
‘I believe in gods, yes. I don’t worship any, however.’ Edenel paused. ‘I use these days as an act of remembrance.’
Sören’s eyes ran over him, lingered on his hair. ‘The time that turned your hair white?’
‘I’d rather forget.’ He exhaled. ‘But we can’t, can we?’
‘No, Sören, we can’t.’ He went to a table, opened his iPad. ‘Well, if you give me your bank account details, I’ll pay for your art before I go out.’
Sören drew his wallet from his jeans. It was flat, but for a couple of cards. The bank transaction would take a couple of days, with his own bank wanting to check that it was not fraudulent, so he would give some cash to tide Sören over. It would be difficult; Sören was proud and was broadcasting a definite unease, as if the room, the great bed, Edenel himself were something dangerous. Visions of being paid for sex, cash being left on the bedside table...and over all, spiking black and painful, a memory of being bound, forced, raped, begging the man to stop, panicking.
Edenel closed the iPad with a snap. ‘Look.’ Through the surge of fury, he forced his voice to calm. ‘Please don’t be worried about me, or this situation. I’ll go out in a minute, but I hope you’ll breakfast with me, and not too early.’ He smiled.
Colour struck Sören’s cheeks. ‘I’m sorry, it’s just...’
‘I know. I truly do know. It is PTSD.’
Sören put his hands over his face. ‘It wasn’t that long ago.’
‘Would you like to talk about it?’
There was a long silence. He did nothing to break it, simply waiting.
‘I...it was just the...the icing on the top of the cake of five shitty years.’ Sören shifted uncomfortably in the chair. ‘There was a guy...we were together for a few years. I was crazy about him, and more than that, we—‘ he linked his fingers together. ‘We meshed. He was a musician and I was an artist, and we really got one another, our energies...they seemed to feed off one another. It was beautiful. But anyhow, he was from a...traditional kind of family in South America and they wanted him to get married. Or so he said. I wonder if it wasn’t an excuse to leave me.’
And then...a descent into a dark pit of grief and anger. A little drug taking, a lot of meaningless sex, the loss of his art which was almost the worst. Then one night, in Reykjavik, he met an unusual man in a nightclub, a man with long black hair, tall and beautiful, who had given him something more than a quick fuck, made Sören feel as if he himself were worth more. He had suggested Sören leave Iceland, go to London, make a complete break for a while.
Sören stopped, twisting his hands. ‘You remind me of him, a little,’ he said. ‘I didn’t know him, but he cared enough to ask what was wrong.’ His eyes, which had been distant, reliving the past, grew more intent. ‘Really tall and your face...not the hair, his was black, his eyes were dark. You don’t have a ..cousin or something?’ With an attempt at joviality.
Edenel hid his smile. ‘No cousins,’ he said. ‘So you came to London?’
‘Já, and well, I did make a friend, a girl called Frankie.’ His smile became genuine, he hovered a hand in the air. ‘She’s only five feet tall or so, but fierce, you know, loyal. She’s a lesbian, so we’re not together, but we’re close. I moved in with her. I met this guy on Tindr.’ He swallowed. ‘We had nothing in common except the sex, really, but after everything...’
‘Something was better than nothing.’
A nod. And then, slowly, the drip, drip drip. You’re a crap cook. Your art’s ugly, stupid, it’ll never sell, why do you bother with it? Stop being such a useless snowflake and get a proper job. I pay for our dates, our meals...No-one else would look at you.
Then the destruction of his art. The forced sex. Taking Sören when he was asleep, without any lube to ease the way, and bondage, ignoring the safe-word agreed beforehand, making him bleed...
The room was quiet but for Sören’s breaths, struggling against tears. Edenel rose quickly, went to the chair. He touched Sören’s shoulder, felt the instinctive flinch.
‘Yes,’ he said. Remembering, remembering Melkor pounding into him, Balrogs burning, Mairon as a Fell-wolf...
As if Sören felt his empathy, or something communicated itself from Edenel’s mind, he abruptly melted toward him. Edenel took him in his arms, held him, felt the tears against his shirt. He stroked Sören’s back, his damp curls.
‘You’re not with him now.’
The head moved against his neck. ‘No. But he’s still controlling me.’
‘And yet, we have to try and live as if they do not.’
‘I guess. I mean I know, I just wish it wasn’t so hard.’
‘So do I.’
Sören disengaged himself, reaching for his backpack and drew out an asthma inhaler, lacing it in his mouth and depressing, once, breathing in and holding, then again.
‘It comes on sometimes when I’m anxious,’ he explained.
‘It’s all right, Sören.’ And better that he had moved away. Edenel’s phallus was growing stiff with blood, compassion and desire mingling to a degree that was perilous, and seasoned with rage. Sören was too tempting, and if he had been aware of who Edenel was, who he himself was...perhaps. But he was fragile now, and damaged and needed care.
‘Come on, why don’t you lay down?’ He drew back the bedcovers. ‘I have to go out, but I won’t be far, and it’s quite safe here.’
Sören settled into the bed, hair curling around his head like an angel’s dark halo. Edenel put a glass of water beside him, and the inhaler.
‘I feel really bad taking your bed.’ Sören bit his lower lip.
‘I told you, it’s wasted on me, I just needed a room, somewhere to park my gear.’ He patted Sören’s hand. ‘Just relax, and rest.’
‘Thank you. Really. I forget sometimes, that there are kind people in the world.’
I am not kind, Sören, but I understand pain. And I am hungry, and so I have to leave thee.
He passed silently down the stairs to the back door, locking it behind him. There was still sounds from the Red Lion, but quieter now, the sound of cars leaving. The trees hissed in a quiet breeze as he walked to the end of the garden, vaulted over the fence.
The main gatherings of people were where the ancient stones still stood, and privacy was impossible. But in a crowd of such people, he could almost go unnoticed. Starlight arched over the village, and the moon, just off full, was ripe and serene. Edenel saw the pale robes of people dressed as Druids, waiting out the night; there would be gods and goddesses, witches, ‘Green Men’, Papa Legba, jesters in motley...He could smell, as he passed some of the groups, the whiff of marijuana; there would be jugs of Scrumpie too, and magic mushrooms to heighten the senses. But the feeling was still joyful, reverent, rather than a hard-going ‘party’ atmosphere that could tip so easily into violence.
He crossed the road at the huge Swindon stone, into another field, still within the circle but almost denuded of menhirs, and climbed the bank. While Sören showered, he had changed into a pair of sweatpants and sleeveless t-shirt. He wore no shoes, the better to feel the connection with the earth beneath him.
There was no-one in the enclosure below; all were crowded near the stones, or had turned in to catch a few hours sleep before the early sunrise.
Edenel loosed his hair from its coil, shook it down. He felt it fall to his knees, but to an observer, it would stop at his waist.
He began to dance, although the word could not cover all the moves, martial and athletic both, seductive and violent, precise and flowing. The dance the Ithiledhil performed together had its roots in the guts of Utumno, after they became Other, had begun to think, act, fight and kill as one perfect machine. Few outsiders had ever seen it. Now, Edenel thought of his people, whom he could never truly be parted from, gathered them to him, and danced for them.
It was not the full unleashing, which was impossible here, but it was something. Yes, Sören, I understand, sometimes something is better than nothing. He was seen, as he navigated the entire embankment, the more drunk or high thinking, for a moment, that he was a ghost, others raising their voices in ululations not unlike the Ithiledhil’s own.
He passed through the line of trees, across the road, and began again. A larger crowd here: he danced past them, down to the gate that lead onto the village street, crossed it, cut down another path, jumped the wall into the last quarter of the enclosure, completing the circle back at the Swindon stone.
He dropped his hands, took a long breath, and stood for a moment. This was the beginning, but not the end, and he was still iron hard. Had he been alone in some remote place, or in the privacy of his room, he would have given himself release, but there was no privacy tonight.
But Edenel knew about control, he had learned it in Utumno. There had been other times, in war, when the Ithiledhil could not observe their practices. it was difficult, forcing them to draw on deep reserves of patience and will, but it could be done. He had, in any event, to go back to his room to change for the sunrise dance, and wanted to check on Sören.
Sören, he was glad (relieved) to see, was deeply asleep. He had shed the towelling robe and the duvet had slipped or been pushed from a smooth, bare shoulder showing a glimpse of his chest, and pierced nipples. Quickly, Edenel took his overnight bag into the bathroom where he showered again, and changed.
It had been difficult to choose a costume for the dance; the Ithiledhil went naked, he could hardly do so here. But Skye, the Morrigan devotee had said, ‘You’re the Holly King, Eden. The white ice of winter.’
He wore long dark green skirt slit to the thighs with a belt of hanging crystals, bound his hair up in a high tail, and affixed a red veil weighted with more tiny crystals that hung from nose to chin. In memory of the battle markings of the Ithiledhil, he painted his eyes with black kohl. From throat to hips, he was naked, but he would not be the only one. For now, he donned a long hooded cloak that fell from head to heel.
He was aching with unspent lust when he returned to the bedroom, and stopped to look at Sören again. Foolishly, when he was primed for sex, he lifted the veil, dropped a kiss light as a moth’s wing on the pale brow. It will be alright, my dear.
Sören stirred, said something, a name. Alejandro and the pain in it, as if he was calling for someone, was lost in the night, twisted in Edenel’s heart.
‘Shh,’ he murmured under his breath. ‘Soon.’ If all went according to plan, anyhow. There were other obstacles to overcome between now and then. But in this case, Vanimórë judged it better to let events evolve for a while.
Sören sighed, the sound arousing in itself, and his hand slipped down to his groin. Edenel, his heart dinning in his ears, slipped out of the room. He made his way across the road, and soon saw the Glastonbury group seated together as arranged. They waved, rose up to greet him.
After last year’s dance which — inevitably — was filmed, some pagan magazines had written an article about him, wondering who he was. But Edenel was peculiarly difficult to locate, and the matter had been dropped. And yet, what was there to say, but that a tall man with bleached hair had danced in a field of standing stones just like hundreds of other people?
They pressed cider and mead on him, offered a joint, which he refused because he did not need it, but they were far from stoned. Settling down again, they favoured him with an account of their lives, and the mundane mixed with magical allowed him to ground himself a little, lose the screaming hardness and desire to unleash.
More and more people began to enter the circle. Some were boisterous, just here for the jolly, carrying cans of larger, teasing, a bit self-conscious, but most were quiet. Sitting down, they waited, and the sky grew darker before the dawn. A hush fell, and people rose, turned to face the East, waiting breathlessly as the sky lightened. Then, the first hard, gold ray of light speared across the land. The stones seemed to lean toward it, the earth to open its eyes under Edenel’s feet. At that moment, all of Avebury seemed to come alive, be aware.
A hand ran teasingly across his back, fingers sifting his hair. He turned sharply to see self-luminous bronze eyes framed by a beautiful golden half-mask under a solar disk. As the man turned away, deep red hair cascaded to his waist. His slender hips moved like a dancer’s.
Oh, thou art loving this, art thou not?
He heard a rich chuckle in his mind before the Sun God vanished behind a huge menhir.
The shamanic drummers gathered, beating out time, as the sun rose, and a vast circle formed, mimicking the stones themselves. People began to walk out into the centre. Edenel dropped his cloak to the grass and joined them.
The drumming, the chanting, sank into him, took possession. He never clearly remembered the dances, after, but when he found himself facing the Sun God across the circle, a higher tension wound itself in him. Reality shifted, contracted and there was nothing except the two of them.
They came together in a performance of ice and fire, like athletes, like warriors, leaping, turning, snapping their hips, undulating like water, like flame, somersaulting, twirling, enacting a play of the eternal war between summer and winter, the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King; enemies and lovers both. Inseparable. At the end, standing breast to breast, his eyes locked hard upon those burnished ones, arms raised, wrists crossed, breast heaving with arousal rather than exertion, the drumming, the cheering was so wild, that he experienced a whole body orgasm. It drained him to the core. The Sun God’s eyes were, at that moment, wells of pure fire.
Voices whooped, shouted, and the drums thundered the signal for a general dance. Hands caught at him as he walked away. He noticed none of them when he found himself looking directly into Sören’s eyes.
They were wide, completely awake and aware for someone who had admitted not being a morning person. He excused himself to his friend, picked up his cloak.
‘You see, I did get up.’ Sören said. ‘That was...that was...’
‘You did sleep, though?’
‘I did, but I woke up and I thought, why not see the sunrise?’ His eyes snapped around the circle and came back. ‘That was worth seeing, the whole thing, but your dancing...Are you a professional performer or something?’
‘No, I just dance sometimes.’ And this is the worst possible time for you to be here.Sören’s cheeks were flushed, his eyes brilliant, and Edenel wanted. Hells, how he wanted. And it became a thousand times worse when Sören closed his eyes, inhaled through his nose and said, ‘You smell gorgeous. What scent is that?’
‘I...I’m not...wearing any.’
Sören’s nostrils flared. ‘You smell like jewels burning in a fire, and snowfall and...’ He reached out to touch the veil. ‘You look incredible.’
It was the heat of the Ithiledhil. Sören was feeling it and that was no surprise, considering who he was and how they were linked. The pupils of his eyes were blown wide despite the now-bright sunlight. He drew his fingers down over Edenel’s bare chest, pinched a nipple, which shot shards of fire straight into his groin. He bit down on a groan.
‘Sören...Please go back to the Lodge.’
‘Why? Don’t you want me...here?’ A sad look that was definitely an act, teasing. A bite of the lip, a wrinkle of the nose that was so arousing Edenel had to dig his nails into his palm.
‘It’s not that at all—‘
‘Are you single?’ Sören asked almost dreamily, but an expression in his eyes that could have drilled through granite.
‘Because you shouldn’t be—‘
Edenel took Sören’s arm and almost marched him across the field. He would have suspected Sören of being drunk or on drugs, except he wasn’t. This was worse.
The Lodge was still dim with dawn, no-one around, and once in the bedroom, Edenel tore off his veil.
‘I know you might think this sluttish,’ Sören said huskily. ‘But I really want you.’
‘I don’t think that at all,’ Edenel assured him. His face burned, and he looked down at where Sören’s cock had hardened, pushing against his jeans. His own sex swelled even more. Painful, urgent. ‘But I don’t think you really want this.’
Sören laughed a little. ‘My body seems to be very sure of what it wants. And I know I can trust you. I went to sleep in your bed, and you came back, and didn’t try anything.’ With a moue. ‘Unfortunately.’
So he had woken up. Edenel unbound his hair. ‘Sören, you’re not in a good place at the moment.’
‘And I want to be in a better place, just for a while.’
When Sören leaned up, hands running into his hair, and kissed him, Edenel broke apart. Fire touching fire, or whatever he was after Utumno. Their steps meshed across the room, to the bed, clothes stripped off. Sören’s hands on his back, as Edenel moved down to his cock, took it in his mouth. Sören arched, swearing in Icelandic, as Edenel took him down to the root, working the muscles in his throat, moving up to slide his tongue into the slit. He tasted delicious, and smelt of fire, began to gasp and moan as Edenel worked him toward orgasm, wanting to take his time, but there was no time but the now...
He came with a cry, and Edenel swallowed his seed. But it was not enough for him, or for Sören. Nothing was enough at these times.
‘Condoms,’ Sören gaped. ‘In my backpack. Please. I need you inside me. Now.
Edenel did not use condoms or need to, but there was no time to argue. There was no lubricant either, but there was skin oil in the bathroom, part of the package provided to the guests.
‘God, you beautiful fuck...’
The house was old, the walls thick, and just as well, because they made them echo with cries, snapped commands, screams. And the heat came down like a storm, burning through them both, until there was only the rack of the senses wrung dry with every orgasm only to touch alight again. And again. The sun filled the window, voices passed below in the street. The room heated with the scent of musk, earth, and a lightning scent, hot and white.
Edenel existed only in the blazing heart of lust, refined to its purest, the feel of himself moving within Sören’s body, his tongue, his cock, Sören’s mouth on him, the violent release that detonated through the both. The slam of flesh against flesh, the slide of damp skin, feverish, unassuaged. Words shattered into moans, pleas: I need this. I need it. More. He heard himself crying: ‘Fëanor!’
Even through the barrier of the condom, Sören’s passage burned like a furnace.
At some point in the morning, Sören plummeted into sleep like a shot bird, and Edenel swam up out of the blinding glory of sex. He rose, feeling weightless, bright, sated (for now), and threw back his hair.
He washed, dressed and considered. He could make Sören forget. In fact he had to. In the midst of passion he had called him by his name, spoken in Sindarin, in Quenya, just as Sören had reverted to Icelandic. It had not mattered to Sören then, but he would remember it, after.
A mistake. No, never a mistake. It had been magnificent, but the timing was all wrong.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, reached out gently to touch Sören’s brow, and let his power flood free, weaving a web of dreams, illusions over the sleeping mind, and then a long, long sleep, because Sören’s body would tell him it had been well used.
But that mind...much of it was dampened by the Doom, the curse laid upon him, but Edenel could still feel it, arcing, blazing, radiant, pushing back against his own power. Resisting it. When Sören came into his own, what he attempted now would be impossible, but until then, it would hold. Might. For a while at least.
He went down for a late breakfast, told Denise that his friend was sleeping the day out after getting up at dawn, ‘Not being a morning person.’ And moreover, that he would be leaving in the early evening. He could not risk this happening again.
Sören work just after six, hungry and rested. ‘Wow,’ he said, stretching delectably. ‘I must have been more tired than I thought.’
‘I’m not surprised.’ Edenel weighed down on the heat as if holding a steel door in place. ‘Listen, I have — yet another — suggestion.’ It was impossibly hard to look at Sören, laid out like feast on the bed, and went to the window. ‘I have to be back in London sooner than I thought, but we could share a taxi to the station. The ticket’s on me, I know how expensive they are. But you must be hungry. Let’s get something to eat, first.’
The Red Lion was still full to bursting so Edenel took them back to the restaurant, which was just opening for meals. Sören seemed to have a little difficulty walking, the occasional wince and look of puzzlement, but Edenel kept his features calm and cool as milk and his mind serene.
‘I feel really odd after sleeping that long,’ Sören remarked as he ate. ‘Strange dreams, too.’
‘I often have strange dreams when in a new place,’ Edenel said, taking a sip of wine. ‘Apparently it’s very common.’
Sören threw him a smile. ‘You’ve been so kind to me. There’s no way I can repay you but—‘
‘You already have.’
‘The picture? That’s hardly repayment.’
‘I don’t want you to say or even think anything that denigrates your art, ever again,’ Edenel said sternly. ‘I...work for someone who patrons young artists, and I can assure you that he — and I — know something remarkable when we see it.’
Sören shifted gingerly in his seat. ‘I’ll try. What do you do, then, in London?’
‘I’m...temporarily employed by a company called Apollyon Enterprises. I travel for them, meet people. I’m in London at present; I don’t live there permanently.’
‘That’s a shame, I thought maybe, if you liked, we could meet in London.’ Long lashes veiled his eyes. ‘I don’t know many people there, really.’
Edenel couldn’t resist stretching out a hand, tilting up the firm chin. ‘I’m sure we’ll meet again, Sören.’ He felt a little quiver under his hand and withdrew quickly. Too dangerous and he is too sensitive to the heat. He wanted to confront the Valar of this reality, to tear their throats out, to bind them in agony for eternity. Their malice was never-ending, their fear and hatred of Fëanor so great, even now, that they dared not risk him being reborn as an Elf, of ever knowing who he was.
Too bad. He will.
The meal finished, they waited outside for a taxi, walking up the road a little, leaning against a stone wall.
‘It’s lovely here,’ Sören said, picking a long stalk of grass and chewing it. ‘London’s an exciting city but...’ He shrugged. ‘Overwhelming at times, you know?’
‘I know, yes, I like some solitude myself, sometimes.’
As he spoke, a car came off the nearby roundabout, tyres screeching, much too fast. The driver veered into the wrong lane, not slowing down, missing a car coming in the opposite direction by not so much as a centimetre. If the driver had not kept their nerve, it would have hit.
Sören swore. The car that had escaped had come to a halt. Now it moved onward slowly, the driver turning into the little lay-by opposite, cutting the engine.
‘What an asshole,’ Sören fumed as they walked to the car. The door opened and a woman climbed out. She was young, with platinum hair in a French plait. Her face, with sweet lines and clear grey eyes, was pale with shock.
‘Are you OK?’ Sören asked. ‘We saw fucking idiot — excuse me! if you want a witness.’
‘I’ve got a dash cam,’ she said. ‘But thank you.’ A little colour flushed back into her face, but it was a blush of anger. ‘Fucking idiot is right.’ She put a hand on her chest. ‘I thought that was it. My whole life really did flash before my eyes. I thought that was just a myth.’
‘Would you like to come in?’ Edenel indicated the restaurant. ‘And rest a little while.’
‘I’d love to. I could do with a drink, but I’m driving. I’ll be fine.’ She took a breath. ‘But thank you.’
‘You ought to catch your breath for a bit, at least,’ Sören said gently. ‘I’d need to after that. There’s a car park. Oh, sorry, I’m Sören, and this is Eden. And we’re not predators, are we, Eden?’
‘I promise you that,’ Edenel smiled at her. ‘It’s up to you of course, but we’d be glad to keep you company. Or not of course, if you’d rather be on your own. But a rest wouldn’t hurt.’
She looked from one to the other, hesitating.
It is all right, dear Claire. You are perfectly safe with us. Although Edenel might have said he was not perfectly safe with them.
‘Alright,’ she said. ‘I would like to just get my breath for a while. I have to drive back to London tonight and I don’t want to feel too shaky. Do they do food? I haven’t eaten since this morning, and I was feeling a bit lightheaded. Oh, my name’s Claire, Claire James.’
‘They do great food,’ Sören assured her. ‘We’ve eaten, but we can have a drink or something, and wait. Or —‘ he looked at Edenel. ‘Do we have to catch the train soon?’
‘We can catch a train any time,’ Edenel said. ‘Don’t worry about it.’
‘I don’t think she ought to drive back tonight,’ Sören said after Claire was settled and eating. ‘She ought to chill, unwind a bit. In fact it’s a pity any of us have to go back to London. I wish we could stay for a while. But you’re giving up your room...’
Edenel glanced at Claire in the window seat; the slanting sun burned her hair back to its natural rose gold.
‘I agree she should have a rest.’ More than thou canst know. ‘But it is up to her. However...there’s more than one place to stay around here. We could get a taxi into Marlborough. It’s not far, and there are some good hotels there.’
The eager expression on Sören’s face suddenly faded into dismay. ‘I’m sorry, Eden. What am I even thinking? I don’t have money and you have to get back to work. I just have this feeling, like—‘ He gesticulated eloquently. ‘Like I want to go on vacation, and I don’t know you really, and I don’t know Claire, but— have you ever met people and you do think you know them?’
Edenel touched his shoulder. ‘Oh, yes.’
‘Maybe it’s this place, all that Earth energy, or something.’ He laughed a little. ‘A silly idea. Forget it.’
‘What I think is, we should see if Claire wants to join us after she’s eaten. And don’t worry about having no money. Apollyon Enterprises is a very understanding employer and they also pay extremely well.’
There was a little bounce in Sören’s step as they took their drinks and sat down, and Edenel was glad to see it. But one thing he knew, he had to keep away from both Sören and Claire for the next couple of days. But at least Sören’s false memories were in place.
Little bonus pics of the places mentioned in this fic.
You can see where Edenel would dance around the embankment.
West Kennet Long Barrow.
Interior of West Kennet Long Barrow.
The Lodge Bed and Breakfast at Avebury.
The Waggon and Horses, Beckhampton.
Dancer at Summer Solstice, Avebury.