Archer

Archer

A Story by Laura

As they passed the outer embankment of the temple grounds and came even with the Leaning Stone, Litha tightened her death grip on Dai’s hand and pulled him off the path, behind the Stone.  In the darkness, the steady stream of torch light continued up the wide-banked avenue from the River Avon, the steady sound of drums emanating from the temple echoed back and down the avenue, drawing them.

 

“Please, Dai, do not do this,” Litha pleaded again.

 

“You know I must, my love,” Dai stated firmly.  “The Gods demand it.”

 

“No, Dai, old jealous men demand it!  I have not heard the Gods say it so, nor have you.”

 

“I have heard the Gods, Litha,” Dai whispered as he gently laid his hand on her belly.  “For my honor, they demand it.  For the lives of those I love, they demand it.”

 

“Your honor?  Dai, you did what you must, it’s your job …” Dai placed a gentle finger on her lips to stop her, then gently shook his head.  Litha burst into tears, and he gathered her in his arms and held her tightly as she sobbed against his chest.

 

A while later, Dai kissed away her tears, then pulled her hand gently as he merged them into the people heading towards the drum beat, the constant, pulling, steady pulse that echoed off the stones.  As they walked, the tempo of the drums increased slightly, the echo deepening.

 

In the vast circle of space between the Leaning Stone and the temple, it was almost bright as day.  There were thousands of people with thousands of torch flames dancing in the air, the flames seeming to pulse and flash in sync with the rhythm of the drums.

 

This was the eve of Midwinter Day, the last feast celebration before deep winter began.  As there was little food for livestock during the winter, the majority were sacrificed for this great feast, the only time of year such a selection of fresh meat was available.  The wine and beer started earlier in the year were finally fermented and ready for drinking.

 

Sounds of laughter and celebration mingled with the always steady echoing beat of the drums.  People gathered around fire pits for warmth, as much as for the smells of roasting meat emanating from them.  They raised their cups in toast to the new season upon them, and a prayer that they would all make it through.

 

But Litha didn’t care about the feast, about the winter ahead.  Her mind raced with ways to stop this, even as she knew she couldn’t.  Dai wouldn’t stop this, he’d already made up his mind.

 

As they drew up to the northeastern entrance to the monolithic standing stone temple, Litha slowed her steps even more to prolong her contact with Dai.  The tempo of the drums increased slightly, echoing off the stones so steady and constant, her whole body resonated with the vibration of sound.  Mixed with the flashes of the torches as the sea of fire strobed to the beat, she was getting queasy.

 

Litha shook her head hard to clear it, to negate the pull.  The tempo increased slightly again, the echo resonated deeper.  She squeezed Dai’s hand until she could feel bones.  She saw more people enter the temple, all of them in a trance-like state, the pull seemingly too much to resist.

 

When Litha turned to Dai, she noticed that the sky had lightened behind him.  The look in his eyes said it was time.  He pulled her into his arms and held her tight. 

 

“Litha, I leave you my heart, which you’ve always had, and our child, whom you must protect.  I will be there for you both, always.  When the sun shines on your face, those will be my kisses, you will always feel my love.  Don’t let your heart be empty because you don’t see me, life still means all that it ever did.  Go now, my love, it’s time.”  He bent and kissed her one last time, a kiss filled with love, and sadness, then he pulled away.

 

“Go, Litha, let your thoughts be for the living now.”  Dai turned toward the temple entrance, raised his head, and walked out of sight.

 

Litha stood there, unable to move.  Though she’d promised Dai, she couldn’t leave.  She had to see, had to know, couldn’t not know.  She peeked around one of the thirty giant upright sarsen stones that stood four times her height, the stones placed in a circle, their tops joined by thirty giant lintel stones creating a ring.  A few feet inside the sarsens were a circle of thirty huge upright bluestones, standing independently.

 

Inside the bluestone ring were five sarsen structures, each created from two giant sarsen stones connected by a top lintel stone.  These structures, arranged symmetrically, were graduated in height, the middle single structure the tallest.  The next pair of structures were shorter, and the next pair even shorter, but still huge.  Just inside that sarsen arc structure stood fifteen additional bluestones shaped to match.

 

There were too many people for her to see the center, but all of the stones were visible to her except the middle stone.  She knew that at the top of the arc, right below the lintel of the tallest sarsen structure, inside the arc of bluestones, lay the Alter Stone, a green micas sandstone slab.  Dai would be there, at the Alter Stone.  There would be Archers surrounding him, readying their flint-tipped arrows.

 

With a sickness in her gut and not a little relief that she wouldn’t have to watch, Litha turned away as the sky lightened.  The drums no longer affected her, she was no longer under their spell.  She walked back down the avenue toward the River Avon with an ache in her heart and a hand to her belly.

 

As the Midwinter Day sun cast her in full shadow as it poured through the temple opening, she stopped and turned back, staring the Gods in the face.  “You are no Gods of mine,” she stated as she shook her head, turned around and walked into her shadow, her thoughts on the living.

© 2010 Laura


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Added on April 13, 2010
Last Updated on April 13, 2010
Tags: fiction

Author

Laura
Laura

Houston, TX



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