Part Three 3500 BC ‘Standing Stones’
The High King had his meeting with the Tribal Chiefs and Clan Leaders of the Kingdom of Meath. It was near the time of Alban Elfed, the fall equinox. The meet was held on the field inside the standing stones known as the Druid’s Circle, which was located behind the stronghold of Tara. The area inside the standing stones was a flat, grass covered plain over a hundred paces wide surrounded by a circle of worked stones and thick oaken logs. The stones were evenly spaced around the field and towered over twenty feet tall. Spanning across the tops of the stones lay capstones over each of the open areas. The standing stones were huge, as wide as a large man with arms outstretched and half as thick. The capstones were square, matching the thickness of the standing stones, and they were long, sitting half way on the upright stone and spanning the distance between. The construction of the stone circle was a marvel and a testament to the power of the secret magick of the ancient Druids.
The stones were notched along the top and down the sides. They were carved with runes to mark the placement of the sun, moon and stars at certain times of the turn. Placed in a square in the center of the field were four low lying rectangular stones about half the height of a man. These were for finer observance of the movements of the moon and played an important part in the Druidic ceremonies.
It was a huge celestial observatory used by the Druids. The mystic men and women of the land tracked the movements of the heavenly bodies that traveled the skies at night and during the day. Through the stones they knew when the summer solstice and winter solstice were upon them, the longest and the shortest days of the turn. They could see when the spring equinox and autumnal equinox were happening, the time of the turn when night and day were the same length and the seasons for summer and winter were beginning. They could tell when the time for planting and harvesting began. For the Druids tracked the seasons that were important to the farmers and herdsmen of the land. Festivals and holidays were planned from the observance of the skies to honor the Gods and Goddesses. The Druids could also predict eclipses and track the movements of the constellations, the planets and comets. Those without knowledge thought of the comets as fiery dragons in the night sky. Because of the stone circle the Druids were able to take some of the mysticism out of the heavens above.
The stones of the circular henge were quarried and brought in from hundreds of miles away. They were a beautiful blue stone that had been carried and pushed so far because of the musical qualities they possessed, they rang like a metal bell when struck. No one knew when the circle was constructed, but the Druids maintained it so meticulously it looked as if it had been put up yesterday. The only thing that changed on the stones were the markings the Druids made as they hit them with their hammers made of flint.
Each place on the stone made a unique tone when struck. So the Druids had made patterns and each spot made a different sound. Most of the patterns were circles within circles that had been chiseled out over the turns with the strikes of their flint hammers. Some stones had a multitude of cupped patterns as each hole made a different bell tone. It was really quite a mystical sound when the Druidic Bards lined up around the circle during ceremonies and festivals and played a tune, each striking the stones at different times.
The entrance to the circle of stones and logs faced east and then south. An exit from the Druid’s Circle was at the true north. It led to a trail that went through the bogs and marshes into the Hills of Tara. It was only used in death ceremonies when the body of a fallen Druid or Clan Chief of high esteem was to be entombed in a cairn or dolmen in the Hills of Tara.
Rounded stone boulders with flat tops at table height lined the path leading to the bogs. The only other time the Druids used the northern exit was to place offerings of milk, butter, baked goods, nuts and fruits on the stones that led through the willow trees to the water. The offerings were for the ‘Aes Sidhe,’ the Faery people who lived in the mounds, waters and the woods of the surrounding lands. At times a herdsman or a farmer would cause damage to a patch of earth or a tree that was under the protection of the Fae Folk. If they were not appeased they could be vicious pranksters causing much damage to crops, harm to the herd animals and even souring milk from the cows. So the Druids would put out the offerings at every holiday and sometimes in between to keep the Faery Folk happy. It was not a perfect relationship with the Children of the Earth but the Druids did what they could to keep them from causing too much trouble.
A grass covered berm ran all the way around the outside of the stones except where the entrance and exit paths lay. Running between the berm and the stones lay a ditch about three feet deep also going around the stones. During the eight Druidic holidays of the year, or the meetings held by the High King and the Druids, the ditch was filled with kindling and firewood. When darkness set in the wood was set on fire to provide more light within the circle, in addition to the torches that extended from the sconces on the standing oaken logs. It filled the Druid’s Circle with the light of day when the wood became fully engulfed. It also kept the cold night’s chill away making the meetings within the circle much more comfortable.
Criofan, the High King, stepped up on the wooden dais that was on the western side of the field. He stood under the banner of his Clan, a golden cloth embroidered in heavy black thread. It pictured two vicious cairn wolfhounds standing on their hind legs in battle and ready to lock jaws. The King was flanked by Arthfael’s father, the High Druid Priest Matha, on one side and his Elder advisors and the General of his army on the other. Arthfael and his four friends were sitting on the ground next to the dais on the same side as his father. As young Ovates they were observing as part of their training and to help remember the meeting, as Druids did not keep written records. The night was breezy as the High King stood and faced a field almost full of the families of men and women who led the Clans from all over Meath
“Country men! I welcome ye on this night, t’were only mine wish t’were under better times. I have been apprised of thine concern for thy missing souls from all over our land. It has been said to me of thous’t wish to search’eth these sacred Hills of Tara for thine cause. But I must have a reason valid to wander yon barrows and risk’eth angering thine spirits of our dead. Do there be any here on this night that can persuad’eth me to maketh thee endeavor,” the High King said as he looked about the crowd.
The Tribal Chief from Cnoghba of the tribe Ui Failge stood up under his banner of emerald green with a picture of golden intertwined dragons. “My King, thy evil who cause’th these crimes is reminiscent of thy time that may not be talked about. When the Druids of good battled those of thine evil black, those many hundreds of turns ago. Mostly men of import do be missing, mine own brother, a High Druid himself, be amongst the lost. Thine ancient evil began and ended in thine Hills of Tara, and it be a’feared thine evil black has’t come back to us.” He sat down as a large murmur of agreement went through the crowd.
Another Tribal Chief from Carrowmore of the tribe Dal Messin Corb stood up after the leader of Ui Failge had taken his seat and cleared her voice to talk. Her flag of ruby red adorned with a yellow oak tree draped in green mistletoe gently flapped in the breeze. “Honors, my King, thoust has’t mine thanks, and thee thanks of mine Clan, for calling this meet. Our only hope is there be a plan to find our lost whence this be done.”
The leader fro Carrowmore, a big brawny woman with many long gray braids trailing down here back, cleared her throat and continued on, “If thine were to stick a nail on Tara on a parchment map and draw’eth a circle around with stylus and string starting at Carrowmore every town and village the stylus would mark through would be a place where men and women be missed, more so than any from Tara. It would stand to reason, mine King, that here be the place, in thy Hills of Tara, where thine evil do dwell. I can’ot say what this evil is who be take’n our kin and loved ones, only that we must find it and make its end!” She thrust here spear high into the air as she finished as a loud growl of approval went through the crowd.
One more Tribal Chief from Sian Bru stood to address the King, a huge bear of a man of Clan Cholmainhe. The banner of a golden stag on a white disk with a tartan background of green and black waved angrily in the wind as he stood. It matched the man’s fury as he spoke. “I do not wish to cause anger to thy dead or thy Gods O’King but too many of my town have been taken, my wife and eldest son to be amongst the missing. Apparitions dressed as Druids have been seen and deemed responsible for thy disappearances. I say we march on thine Hills of Tara with Druid guides and find this evil before more are lost to us. If it be the evil of old that shalt not be spoken of come to haunt us they grow stronger with every soul they taketh!”
As Arthfael sat beside the dais he had turned his mind towards the High King and his father. He needed to keep these men from considering this course of action of searching the barrows. He was meeting a resistance he had never felt before and mentally told his friends to help with the compelling. All five boys had put their hoods up over their heads to hide their faces. They could not hold the spell of glamour to disguise themselves while trying to compel the High King. All efforts to see inside the mind of the King and the High Druid were failing, even with all five of the young Druids trying at the same time.
Arthfael’s sister Genovefa was sitting near him while the meeting was going on. Their father had brought her so she could experience the High King’s meeting as she would soon be of an age to start her training as a Druidess Ovate. Genovefa had spent her whole young life becoming attune with nature. She was friends with all the animals of the forest even the huge brown bears, the packs of the grey wolves and the great golden eagles. Animals flocked to her as if begging her favor. She claimed to even having a relationship with the Fae Folk of the forests, waters and earth. She said they were friendly with her, but most times treated her as a child.
According to Genovefa the relations with the Fae began when she was very young, around two summers old. One morning she came from her room wearing a wreath upon her head made from
As of late she had been noticing strange things about her brother and his four friends. She had spied them in the forest walking to and from the barrow grounds. At times they appeared blurry to her as if unformed and sometimes as if their faces were melting. She wondered at their suspicious ways and why they always seemed to be together. Much more than before the day of Arthfael’s name day celebration. Before that day she had been close to her brother, but after it seemed he did not have any time for her.
She had been watching her brother as the Tribal Chiefs were pleading their case to the High King. She noticed as he and his friends seemed to blur before they put their hoods up over their heads covering their faces. After a time, as she watched, a gust of wind came up blowing her brother’s hood back. She gasped as she looked upon a monster where her brother sat. His bald head glistened wetly in the firelight, crisscrossed with blue ropey veins in gray skin. His nose was flattened, his lips had become thick and the color of earthworms. Thick eyelids under a heavy brow covered eyes that were a pale ghostly green. He looked at her in that moment and she saw a spark in those cold green eyes, he knew that she had seen him as he truly was and it frightened her to the soul. She could not turn away as she looked upon her brother as he struggled to quickly put his hood back over his head.
Then a glimmer of understanding came to her as she turned her attention back to the meeting. A Druid Bard was reciting the names of the missing and where they were from for all to hear. She looked again to her brother and his friends, she could not believe her brother could be responsible for such a terrible thing. Genovefa loved her older brother and looked up to him. She planned on asking him about the missing people and what had happened this night the first chance that came along.
Arthfael was angry, angrier than he had ever been. Not at being ‘seen’ by his sister but because he and his friends were powerless to bend the minds of the High King or his father. They were too powerful in their own right to be swayed by the compulsion of black magick. He listened as they made plans to search the ancient grounds of the barrows. Each search party was to be led by a High Druid of the land so as not to anger the dead or the Fae Folk that called the barrows their home. Arthfael knew that it was only a matter of time until their ancient barrow was discovered. He was angry because he knew they had not reached the full potential of their powers. Many more sacrifices needed to be performed and now that was going to be interrupted.
The High King decreed that the search would take place on the day of the next full moon which was about two weeks away. That gave them time to send riders out for more men and the Druid Priests of the land to travel to Tara. Meanwhile the word must be spread throughout every town, village, hamlet and farm to be on the watch for five men posing as Druids and abducting people. Some of the larger tribes would send out bands of mounted warriors to patrol the lands around Tara and watch over the people. The meeting broke up with the Tribal Chiefs and Clan Leaders appeased by the High King’s plans.
Secretly the High King was pleased by the outcome. He had been wishing to search the barrows for his own missing son but had not been able to get the Druids to allow it, their fear of angering the dead and the Fae had been too great. But with so many missing throughout the land and many of them being Druids they were forced to agree with the High King’s plan. Now he hoped to get answers to the fate of his son.
Arthfael and his friends left the meeting and headed for the trail that led around the marshlands and towards the Hills of Tara. All of them were fuming, their powers were growing but they still had many more victims in mind before they reached their full potential. Now they saw no choice but to move the items sacred to them from the ancient barrow to another site before it was discovered, as it surely would be. They walked in silence as animals quieted around them and scurried off of the trail, feeling their evil rant. Even the Fae Folk turned away not liking the unseeable dark cloud covering the boys as they walked. It was because of this silence they were able to hear the footsteps that followed from behind. All five of the young Druids left the trail as one hiding behind trees to see who approached.
To Arthfael’s surprise it was his sister who came walking down the trail after them. He had forgotten she saw him as he truly was at the Druid’s Circle. His anger at the chance of being discovered was the only thing weighing on his mind. He and his four friends watched her from behind the trees as she made her way down the trail they had just walked. When she came upon where they were hiding they stepped out and walked towards her. She was mildly surprised when the five boys came out from the trees as she had expected them to be walking the trail ahead.
Genovefa had watched as her brother and his four friends stealthily made their way out of the stone Druids circle and out onto a trail beyond. For the last few months she felt her brother growing away from her and becoming harder to talk to. What she had seen tonight truly frightened her, but instead of telling her father about it she wanted to talk to Arthfael. She wanted to find out what was going on with him. She loved her older brother and all her life felt he could do no wrong. She knew there had to be an explanation to what she had seen.
“Arthfael, thoust frightened me!” she said as her brother walked up to her. “Where’it thou go at this dark hour? Home be’ith t’other way.”
Arthfael moved closer to her and said, “Tis not far sweet sister, come hither. We have sights to share with thee.” He compelled her and she started walking the trail with the five boys with all emotion wiped clean from her face. He walked beside her as his four friends filed in behind following.
After a while they came out of the forest and walked the back way to their ancient barrow. When they reached the entrance Genovefa hesitated a moment before going in. Arthfael gave her a little push with his mind sending her under the arch into the tunnel. The five young Druids had gained the ability to see in the dark with all of the sacrifices they performed, so they had no need of the torches to navigate the tunnels. Arthfael took his sister’s hand to guide her to the tumulus down inside the ancient cairn compelling her all the way to keep calm and trust him.
As they got closer to the cavern they could smell the stench of decomposing bodies laying about the cavern walls. There was still a body on top of the altar table with the flint knife embedded in its chest. Judoc lit the torches that were in the wall sconces around the cavern. The other boys stood around Genovefa and waited for Arthfael’s orders.
Arthfael had truly become the leader of their little group. From the knowledge he had gleaned from the sheepskin scrolls and the physical act of plunging the flint knife into their victims he had become the most powerful in the use of the black magick. More and more the four young Druids treated Arthfael as their Master and they became his acolytes, following and assisting him with the sacrifices and in anything else he demanded of them.
Arthfael pulled his hood back and looked his sister full in the face, not using the spell of glamour. She did not flinch for she was under his spell of compulsion and her mind was not her own. There was a time he had loved her and she had been precious to him but as he looked down at Genovefa none of those feelings came to surface. A voice in his head said “Sacrifice!” and a large shadow that only he could sense came up to stand behind him.
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