English Encounter: The Final Story part 4 By Anne Azel
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read if you are under age or if it is illegal to do so in your end of the swamp.
To a very special friend who traveled with me through this story.
My grateful thanks to Lisa, Inga and Susan who work as a team to see that these stories meet a high standard of accuracy.
A final word: The Encounter series loosely reflects The Rift Arc. I wanted to end this series by taking the uber characters back to where the trouble all started and see if, this time, the characters could escape their fate. I've endeavoured as much as possible to make sure that the facts and cultures described in this series are a fair and accurate portrayal. I hope you have enjoyed traveling through this series with me. Because this story interrelates with both the Encounter and Seasons series, it would be best to read those stories before reading this one.
The day was overcast and still. The air was heavy with moisture that sent a chill deep into bones. Robbie had wandered off from her family feeling moody and restless. Her on again off again relationship with her daughter had deteriorated once more into monosyllables and stiff routine. She hated it. Worse still, she hated dealing with the guilt of knowing the fault was hers. The dread washed through her again. Why couldn't she control her temper? She had thought married life had mellowed her a bit. Lately, however, she had found the rising anger within her hard to control. Nor did it have a source anymore, it was simply a violence within her needing to get out.
She wandered down the road, moodiness and restlessness going hand in hand. Then with a sudden spurt of energy she sprinted up the hill to look down on the patchwork quilt countryside of England. The modern world vanished before her eyes. It was October thirteenth, 1066. For the last three nights a great comet had filled the sky. They called it the Hairy One because it had a tail like a horse. It was, in fact, one of the first recorded sightings of Haley's Comet.
To the people then it was simply an omen. In her imagination, Robbie stood on the hill with the men of Harold Godwin. She could smell their sweat and feel the pinch of her own armor and the reassuring weight of the sword sheathed on her back. They were holding the hill for King Harold of England, who had taken the throne of the land after the death of Edward the Confessor. Harold Godwin was a true Englishman and his men, Robbie, loved him. So much so that they had fought off the Danes with him and then forced marched the length of England to be here to meet the forces of William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy.
In the director's eyes, the ghosts of a thousand years ago, lined up, drew their swords and waited for the battle to start that would change the face of history. Robbie felt the fear and exhilaration course through her veins. She was born to be here. Born to be a warrior and test her skills and strength against the best of the enemy. The price of victory, an entire country; the cost of defeat death, a cruel smile curled her lip, as she waited to give her battle cry and charge forward into battle.
Some distance away, Janet sat with her two daughters on a sunny bank. The Williams had left Dover that morning and traveled west along the coast line, past Folkestone and New Romney and on to Hastings. Janet, played with Reb helping her to make a necklace of dandelions. Her eyes were on her older daughter though, who lay moodily on the grass, shedding the yellow dandelion heads that Reb had rejected.
"You want to talk about it?" Janet probed quietly.
"About what?" responded Ryan defiantly.
"About what happened between you and your Mom back in Dover."
"Where is she any way!" Ryan snapped in frustration, evading the topic.
"She needed some space. Her demons are bothering her. She feels awful about yesterday," Janet answered honestly, knowing how restless and distracted Robbie had been last night.
"She was going to kill me! If you hadn't stopped her, Tyrannosaurus Robbie would have torn me apart because you got hurt," Ryan muttered bitterly.
"No!" Janet protested in shock. "It never occurred to me for a minute that Robbie would hurt you physically! She would never touch any of us. She loves us so much that it hurts her when we hurt. I stepped between you to stop Robbie from saying some thing she might regret. She had been terrified that something had happened to me and upset that she could do nothing to protect me. All that frustration bubbled to the surface and you were the nearest scapegoat. Robbie can be like that, impetuous and then regret it dearly later."
"Maybe," sighed the unconvinced teen. "I just think that we are getting on okay and then something happens that makes me really feel unwanted around here. I mean you got Reb and all. And I've been trouble for you and in the way."
Janet reached over and brushed Ryan's truant locks back behind her ear. "Not so, Ryan. Yes, we have Reb, but she is not you. She is never going to be. You are something else, kid, and Robbie and I are very proud of you. More than that we love you. Your Mom doesn't always show you that love in an appropriate manner. She is well out of her depth here. She comes from a really dysfunctional family and she has been a bachelor for over thirty years. She has gone from a loner living life wildly because of her fear of being incarcerated to the head of a family in just one year. It hasn't been easy for her. She has the heart but not always the coping skills."
"Seems like we are always having to forgive each other," Ryan whined.
"Of course, that is what love and friendship is all about. We come at life with all different perspectives, needs and wants. No matter how much you care for someone, you are going to jostle their reality sometimes. If the loyalty and love go really deep, however, you work through that."
"You sound just like a guidance teacher," complained Ryan.
Janet laughed. "That is because I am one!" She turned to pass Reb another flower and her heart jumped into her throat. Her three year old was gone!
Robbie stood scanning the battlefield below. She wanted to film, if possible, on location. The terrain was right but the setting lacked the wild nature of Senlac hill that would have been present at the time of Harold. She sighed, wondering if it was worth the effort to create the illusion. They could just find another place that had the elements she needed. Normally, that is what she would do, but something drew her to this place. Something called her to do battle.
Her eyes scanned right to where the road to the site cut through the green slope of grass. Her eyes widened in horror as she saw her littlest daughter running down the road with a yellow chain of dandelions in her hand. A car, hidden from Reb by a curve around the hill, was going to be right on top of her in just a few seconds.
Robbie dived down the hill, knowing as she did so that she had no chance of saving her daughter but willing to shatter her heart in trying.
Gunnul smiled happily as she looked out the window as they drove along. She had been looking forward to visiting this site. As a student of military history she knew that this battle ground stood with battles such as Marathon and Agincourt in deciding the European world's history. Hastings was a moment of destiny.
Beside her, her partner, Jamie, drove carefully down the road, her thoughts on the latest book she was reading, Stonehenge Decoded. Gunnul knew Jamie was equally excited because she was looking forward to seeing Stonehenge later today. Gunnul did not really understand this obsession Jamie had developed for Celtic culture and particularly for Stonehenge. It was after all just a pagan monument. It wasn't like Hastings, where one of the greatest battles in European history had taken place.
Gunnul's eyes widened in horror and her mind snapped into the present as she saw someone dashing down the hill directly into the path of their car once they came around the next bend. "Look out!" Gunnul warned her partner and a startled Jamie reacted turning the wheel hard to the right as she hit the brakes. Right in front of them now, they could see a small child happily trotting down the centre of the road.
Jamie brought the car out of a skid and onto the shoulder of the road. The car's wheel hit an object, caught and spun the vehicle around and up on the bank. "Are you two all right?" Gunnul asked her family, her voice shaky with fear.
"Yes," came the shocked responses. Gunnul was immediately out of the car and heading over to where the tall, dark woman now knelt, holding a little child in her arms.
"Is she all right?" the Turk asked with concern.
"Yes," responded the woman, a bit breathless after her panic stricken charge down the hill. "Thanks, for that amazing reaction. I don't know how you managed to miss her."
"I wasn't sure we had," responded Gunnul honestly, sinking to the ground, her legs not able to support her anymore. "We felt a bump. It must have been when we hit the kerb. Are you sure she is all right?"
"Yes, she's fine," Robbie stated, holding her youngest close to her wildly beating heart for reassurance. "I'm sorry. That must have scared you as much as it did me."
"Am I in tubble, Obby?" asked the frightened little child in Robbie's arms.
"Yes, you are," Robbie stated honestly, but in a voice soft and caring. "You know you are not to go off by yourself. You almost caused an accident here." Robbie looked up at the approaching women. One was a small blond, who was strikingly similar to Janet in appearance. The woman wore a brace on a slightly deformed leg and leaned heavily on a metal crutch that wrapped around her forearm. The other was a preteen, dark and clearly related to the woman who sat beside her in the grass alongside of the road.
"Is she all right?" asked the woman earnestly as she limped over.
"Yes, she is fine," Gunnul reassured her own shaken family. She turned to the beautiful woman who sat holding the pretty child so lovingly. "I am Gunnul Dedeman. This is my family, Jamie Dedeman and our daughter Christy."
Robbie stood, using the time to decide what she should respond, and then decided that she owed this woman the truth. "I am Roberta Williams. This is my youngest daughter, Rebecca the Escape Artist."
"Aahhhh, Reb! I think we have met before, at the airport last week. You had escaped then too and were going around the baggage carousel!" laughed Gunnul, reaching out to brush the soft hair of the small child. Except for the big blue eyes, Reb looked a lot like her daughter Christy had at that age. Christy had been such a beautiful baby. Gunnul wished that her partner, Jamie, had not had those years of Christy's childhood stolen from her.
Robbie raised an eyebrow and looked down at her truant daughter. "Yes, I heard about that! Reb, we gotta talk, Sweetheart, about this need you have to bolt like a young horse."
Reb's lip formed into a pout. "Ryan and Mommy talk. I bring you my daddylion necklace. I make it," Reb explained, holding up the mushed chain and trying to reach it over Robbie's neck. Robbie lowered her head so the small child could slip the necklace in place. Hell! I'm wearing dandelions and in front of people! Robbie thought, laughing at herself in surprise.
"Reb!" came a relieved exclamation, as Janet and Ryan crested the hill and came running down the other side. "Oh thank God! We've been looking all over for her. I should have realized that she would have made a bee line for you! Reb, that was very naughty of you!" scolded Janet, lifting her daughter from Robbie's arms and giving the child a hug.
"I sorry, Mommy," whispered Reb, holding on to her Mom tightly.
"May I present my family, my wife Janet and my daughters Ryan and Rebecca," Robbie said formally. "This is Gunnul and Jamie Dedeman and their daughter Christy."
Janet looked up in surprise, noting the others for the first time. "You are the lady who scooped my daughter off the baggage carousel at Heathrow."
"She is also the woman who put her car off the road to avoid hitting our daughter," cut in Robbie, looking at her youngest meaningfully.
Janet paled, knowing she would have been responsible if anything had happened. "Oh! I'm sorry! Reb, do you see what happens when you don't do as you are told? You are lucky that Ms. Dedeman was able to avoid hitting you. I think you owe the Dedemans an apology for not being good and a promise that you won't run off again."
Tears welled in Reb's eyes but her Mom steeled her heart and looked at her daughter firmly. "I sorry," said Reb. "I no be naughty again."
Ryan stood stiffly and silently, waiting for her Mom to blame her for distracting her Aunt Janet from watching Reb. Instead, Robbie pulled Ryan aside in a hug while the others talked. "Thanks for charging after Reb. Did she scare you as much as she scared me?"
"Yeah, pretty much," Ryan admitted, liking the feel of her mother's warmth.
"You mean the world to me," Robbie whispered, as she gave her oldest daughter a final hug and pulled away to look into the serious green eyes. "I don't always show you that."
Ryan smiled to let her Mom know that everything was okay again. "Neither do I," she admitted.
They turned back to the conversation of the others. Jamie and Janet were into a mutual discussion on the history of Stonehenge and Gunnul was checking Christy's bruised arm where she had hit heavily against the car door as they spun around.
"Dedeman is a very famous name. Are you related to General Dedeman of the Dazgir Pass fame?" Robbie asked. She saw a flash of pain cross the tall Turk's face and wondered if she had said something inappropriate.
It was Gunnul's daughter who answered proudly. "My Mom is General Dedeman."
Robbie beamed with delight. "General, this is an honour! I bet you are here to see Hastings. I am making a movie this year about the battle. If you have a few minutes to spare I would appreciate your insights into the battle."
Jamie looked between Robbie and Gunnul. It was pretty obvious to her that they had once again run into some of the "Others." The likeness between the two tall women could make them sisters. "Are you the director? One of the amazing Williams?" she asked.
"Yes," responded Robbie, looking embarrassed.
Janet found Robbie's funny blend of arrogance and humility charming. Among her colleages, her capacity to soak up praise knew no limits, but among strangers, she was always slightly embarrassed that she was an actor and not a scientist like her sister. Janet came to her lover's aid. "Yes, she is and we are very proud of her. Although, in the little northern Canadian town we call home, Robbie is more famous for having decked Jim Ableton during a hockey game than she is for her career!"
"Janet!" protested Robbie, going very red.
"She was protecting me because Ableton had tripped me from behind," Ryan defended proudly.
"Were you hurt?" asked Christy, entering the conversation for the first time. Ryan's blue eyes turned to look into the softest pair of moss green.
"Yeah, I got knocked out," Ryan bragged.
"Oh dear!" gasped Christy looking truly upset.
"Robbie why don't you and Gunnul see about getting the car out of the ditch and Jamie and I will walk the kids up to the coffee shop for lunch. You can meet us there."
Robbie looked at Gunnul and the Turk nodded and smiled. "This I think is a good idea. My assistant and his wife should already be there. They will be worried about what has delayed us. You are okay to walk this far, Jamie?"
Jamie nodded. "Yes, the road is flat. I'll be fine."
Robbie pulled her oldest daughter aside as Ryan moved alongside Christy. "You remember that conversation we had about dating?"
"Well, don't start experimenting with the daughter of a famous Turkish general, okay!"
Ryan snorted. "Coward!"
"No, just not suicidal," responded Robbie, raising an eyebrow and giving her daughter a significant look.
Ryan looked wide-eyed and innocent but the cheeky smile gave her away. "I'll be good, Mom."
Robbie rolled her eyes. "I hear that a lot from my family, usually just before all hell breaks loose!"
Teefo was standing at the door of the tea house waiting when the combined Dedeman and Williams family walked up. His worried face changed to one of astonishment as he looked from Jamie to Janet and back again. Then his face collapsed into worried lines again as he looked over Jamie's shoulder to where his employer should be standing.
"It is okay, Teefo, Gunnul is with Ms. Williams and they should be along any minute now. Janet, Ryan this is Teefo, our friend and personal assistant. Aah, here comes our car now. Come in and meet Peeti, she is Teefo's better half!" Jamie joked.
They all filed in and soon the remaining members joined the group to make for quite a rowdy luncheon party. Later, they walked outside to see the spot where Harold was reported to have died from an arrow through the eye although this legend was probably not true. The families trooped around as Robbie and Gunnul became more involved in the legendary battle by the minute while the others quickly grew bored.
"Robbie, Gunnul, Jamie and I have been talking. Why don't we leave you two here to review military history and we'll take the family on to Stonehenge. You can join us there later in the afternoon," Janet suggested.
The two tall women looked at the others in surprise and then had the good grace to blush. "This is a good idea. If it is acceptable to Robbie," answered the Turk.
Robbie shrugged. "Suits me."
"Teefo, you will go with my family please," Gunnul ordered. Teefo looked sharply at Robbie, decided she could be trusted with his boss and nodded.
"There won't be room for us all in the car, Gunnul. How about instead, Teefo and Peeti find some place to relax here, while you and Robbie look around. Then the four of you can drive over in the other car. We'll be fine. Don't worry," smiled Jamie, a little embarrassed by Gunnul's insistence on providing her and Christy with a babysitter. Gunnul saw the flash of annoyance in her partner's eye and wisely decided not to insist, although she would have liked to.
"I stay with Obby?" Reb asked.
"Sure you can, Monkey," Robbie agreed rubbing the head of the small child that was wrapped around one of her long legs.
The families broke up and reformed, allowing Robbie and Gunnul to continue in their reconstruction of the battle of 1066. As the morning wore on, Reb became sleepy still needing her afternoon nap. Peeti and Teefo were requited to sit under a shady chestnut tree not far off while Reb slept peacefully in Peeti's lap. Gunnul and Robbie had gradually been pulled away from their families by their love of battle. Far away now, Jamie, Janet, Christy and Ryan made their way to Stonehenge to an appointment with destiny.
The dark figure hunched moodily in a shadow. It growled angrily. They were to kill the child! The monster had planned it that way and the product of his sperm should have made it happen. Once again these humans had changed their fate by their bold and unpredictable actions. There must be a blood letting! Still there was time and now the group had broken up and reformed it would be much easier. Once again the warrior's heart had been drawn away from the one she should protect by the lust for battle.
A strong black tongue ran across jagged teeth, licking up saliva. The time was very close now. Once again the seed of true evil would be planted in this world and this time it would triumph!
Gunnul stood beside Robbie on the hillside of Hastings. She had found an easy bond of respect with the actor that she had not anticipated. Acting, in her culture, was not considered an honourable profession. Yet Gunnul sensed in this woman the true heart of a warrior. "The battle started in the early morning," Gunnul related. "On October 14th 1066. Harold Godwin had his men form up where we now stand, on Senlac Hill. All day the battle raged and Harold was able to keep pushing back the enemy. By late afternoon the forces of England could taste victory.
"William of Normandy was desperate. He knew the only way to defeat Harold was to find some way to break their line. He ordered his men to fall back in disarray. The poorly trained and inexperienced forces of King Harold thought the enemy was retreating. They broke their lines and gave chase down the hillside. Harold rode forward to call them back to regroup but they wouldn't listen. It was at this point that Harold was killed by an archer. William now had the English where he wanted them. He signaled to his cavalry to charge in from the sides. The English were slaughtered. Ironically, they might still have won over the lightly armed Norman cavalry but the English were not able to pull the riders from their horses. The Normans were using the latest weapon in battle, the stirrup."
Robbie listened intently, as Gunnul explained and pointed out the points of attack on the terrain. "You mean the English lost one of the greatest battles of history because the Normans had put stirrups on their saddles?!" she exclaimed in disbelief.
Gunnul shrugged. "Who can tell. War is not like chess where you can play again and try a different approach. Many historians believe that it was the stirrup that made all the difference. War is often won on not on military might but on simple unforeseen factors. They say the battle of Marathon was won because the Greeks were prepared to die to the last man before giving up their right to democracy to an invading force. Agincourt was won because of the superiority of the English long bow. War is full of irony."
"Like you being on the Turkish border to command a small group of defenders against a huge army," Robbie smiled.
Gunnul shrugged and looked off in the distance. "Fate is often placed in our own hands to choose. Our decisions we must live with for the rest of our lives."
The sun slipped behind a cloud and a sudden chill filled the air around them. A dread as heavy as a weight descended on them. They looked at each other, each afraid to utter their sudden fear. Gunnul's words, fate is often placed in our own hands... echoed ominously in Robbie's mind. "We've made a mistake," Robbie finally got out between lips stiff with fear.
"We must hurry," ordered Gunnul, turning to run towards the car. Robbie was right with her, leaving a startled Teefo, Peeti and a sleeping Reb behind.
Jamie and Janet drove happily from Hastings over to Stonehenge. Along the way they chatted about some of the books they had both read pertaining to the Stone Age henges and also some New Age literature.
In the back seat Christy studied Ryan's face. "So you like what you see?" Ryan asked, one eyebrow up.
"I am sorry. I didn't mean to stare, but you see I knew I would meet you here today and I am fascinated to meet you."
"What?!" Ryan asked, rather taken a back by the calm confidence of the younger girl beside her.
"Shhhh, not now. Later," Christy warned. The two children fell silent once again. Ryan stared out the window feeling suddenly chilled. A feeling of dread seeped through her. Something was going on that was for sure and she didn't have the slightest idea what it was. She needed to be on the alert.
Christy settled back in her seat, confident that this time things would work out. She smiled softly, Ryan would be no problem at all.
They motored on to Salisbury plain, the centre of old Sarum. Janet sighed, "Jamie, our partners might feel they have found the heart of England at Hastings but I think right here we have found England's soul. This area simple vibrates with the history and spirit of this island's roots!"
"I've wanted to come here ever since I was a small child and saw a picture of Stonehenge. This place calls to me!" Jamie agreed with an excited smile.
"I agree!" Janet responded wholeheartedly, as she turned off the highway to enter New Sarum. New is a relative term in England, Janet thought. In actual fact, the foundations for New Sarum were laid back in 1220 A.D. when old Sarum, some three miles down the road was abandoned. The ancient cathedral they stopped to inspect was not too structurally sound these days but it seemed a mystical piece of history to the women who looked at it. It had been built in the shape of a double cross and its bell tower was over 400 feet high, each stone cut and placed by devoted hands.
They traveled on, passing by Old Sarum on their way to Stonehenge. Old Sarum was on a windswept hill, built on the ruins of iron age tribal settlements, Roman forts, Saxon and Danish encampments and lastly Norman lands. It was now a mound raising from the plain, only the bare backbone of the old cathedral foundations, grass covered, giving any indication of the rich layers of history that lay beneath.
History was a study of the irony of fate, Jamie mused silently as she looked at the silent mound while they drove past. One historian she had read said that each generation got the Stonehenge they deserved. To the Victorians caught up in the age of Romanticism, it was a Druid temple to worship Mother Nature. To the early twentieth century caught in the Great Wars, it was a calendar marking the passing of time. The micro chip age saw it as an astronomical computer, a Stone Age monument to calculate sidereal motion. Today's materialistic generation had reduced the mysterious stone circle to no more than a prop for a Xena episode!
Jamie knew that it was in reality none of these things. Henges and circles were common and their remains are still found all through Southern Europe. It was as if those ancient people kept building them until they found the perfect spot here on Salisbury plain. Such circles were not unique to European cultures either. The Inca made them, as did many other cultures throughout the world in one form or another. The sky dominated the world of our ancestors and many cultures knew a lot about astronomy and plotted the movement of the stars and planets and recorded the passing of the seasons. Still, Stonehenge was something special. It was as if this one monument really had been constructed on the centre of the universe.
The car came to a stop in the parking lot outside the tourist building across the road from Stonehenge. For a moment the four of them sat there, quietly looking at the massive forms that silently waited in a circle. Then Janet open her door and stepped out.
At the same instant some distance away, Reb stirred in her sleep. Her bare arm, hanging from Peeti's lap, brushed against a sharp thorn of a thistle. The tender baby skin tore and a single drop of crimson blood ran like a tear down the soft white skin and fell to the earth. Black clouds rolled across the sun once more and the world turned colder. A huge dark presence groaned with relief as the smell of blood once again filled its lungs. The darkness had been summoned, the door opened, all that was left was for evil to once again enter the world.
There are only two types of people in this world: those who have experienced evil and those who have not. The latter group know of evil. It is a concept that has been taught to them from an early age. They lock their doors at night, don't talk to strangers, carry travelers cheques when they travel. They are cautious people but live in the comfortable knowledge that bad thing happen only to the bad or those who were not cautious.
The former group, through rape and/or abuse, know that evil strikes randomly, violently and without warning. They too take precautions but in their hearts they do not worry about whether evil will strike, only when it will happen again. Their physical and emotional scars are the true mark of Lucifer.
Janet was really excited. She had read a lot about this site and some how it had come to represent in her mind a turning point in her life. Marrying Robbie and being "outed" by the press, losing her job, being asked to leave her church, her battle with cancer, all of those things and more had left her wondering about who she was and what was the meaning of life. Her values and beliefs had been tested and where once she had felt secure in her concept of self now she was again trying to redefine who she was. Stonehenge had called her for a long time and although she knew there was little to be learned here, she felt that somehow the place was tied to her destiny with Robbie.
Jamie slipped from the car and wrapped her crutch around her forearm. She felt as if she was on the threshold of a new segment in her life. The last few years had been like a dream. She had gone from being a single working woman to being a mother and lover and an equal partner of a powerful, wealthy estate. She'd had to learn a new language and become part of a new culture and religion. It had been wonderful and yet the culture shock had left her emotionally drained and questioning just what she did believe in. Perhaps that was why she had recently taken a real interest in comparative religious studies and in researching the origins of European belief.. Coming here was sort of like a pilgrimage to her ethnic roots. A starting place in redefining herself.
Ryan stood looking across the street at the circle of stones. She felt grumpy and moody. She had read in one of her Mom's books that each of the stones in the ancient ring weighed about 25 tons. She had thought they would tower over them. Instead, the famous ring of stones looked rather small and insignificant. So what was the big deal? It was primarily a religious centre used to predict the winter and summer solstice, she knew. Its axis was aligned for these events so that the sun rose between the arches and cut in a shaft to the heel stone. So? You could find similar structures all over the world. Tribal people knew a lot about the sky; they lived under it continually.
Christy stood several steps behind Ryan. She could feel the strength seeping from the depths back into her being. It has been too long, my father. At last the day of reckoning is here! She too had felt the surge of energy as the single drop of innocent blood had dripped from Reb's arm. Fate had set a path for them all to follow. There was no going back. The fabric of the universe stretched and prepared to be ripped in two by the forces of good and evil.
The four bought their tickets and then took the underground passage beneath the roadway to the fenced in site. Janet and Jamie had walked ahead, talking about various books they had read on religion. They were about half way down the tunnel when Janet stopped, suddenly overcome by a feeling of unbelievable dread.
"Ryan?" she called to her teenage daughter who walked along a few steps behind. "I need you to go back to the Visitors' Centre and wait for your Mom and Ms. Dedeman."
Ryan was about to protest but then saw something in her adopted Mom's eyes that made the protest die on her lips. Fear. The same fear Ryan had seen in Aunt Janet's eyes when she had sat beside Robbie's bed at the hospital after the firestorm. If Aunt Janet was sending her back to wait, she must be concerned about her natural mother! "Okay," she answered their eyes meeting and a clear message of concern being shared by the mother and her daughter. Janet smiled weakly. Somehow she knew the danger lay ahead of them not behind. Just as she now knew that the dread she had been feeling since she had arrived in England would have a name once she stepped out the end of the tunnel.
Jamie leaned against the wall, feeling weak and afraid. She too had suddenly felt the dread. Whatever it was she sensed it lay ahead of them and it called to her in a way that she could not resist. There was no going back. For a minute she closed her eyes. When she opened them Christy was standing silently in front of her. "Ryan has been sent to safety. I need you to go too," she managed to get out, her throat dry with fear and her voice shaking with emotion.
Christy did not seem to notice. She smiled softly and gave her Mom a hug then turned and retraced her steps back along the path that Ryan had taken only minutes before. Jamie looked over to meet Janet's eyes. "What is it?"
"I don't know."
"Are you scared?"
"Yes, but I need to go anyway. Whatever is there is calling me and my destiny lies within that ring of stone. If I walk away now, I'd just have to come back another time." Jamie nodded. She felt the same. She pushed off the wall and took that first terrifying step into the unknown. Janet was right at her side.
Back at the entrance, Ryan stood in a spot where she could see down the road and over at Stonehenge. For some reason the stones seemed much bigger now. Maybe it was because clouds had rolled in bringing the sky lower and the wind had got up damp and chilly.
As she watched, the world seemed to go out of focus and then reform. The Visitor Centre with its many tourist were gone and the land around was wild and windswept. Stonehenge dominated the plain.
"Ryan?" said a soft voice behind her.
Ryan turned in shock to see a different Christy there. "Yes?"
"I've come for you."
The two women walked the remaining distance not through space alone but also time. They entered as iron age women into a stone temple. "This is not good," Janet whispered.
"No. This has got to relate to the tomb. We are back in that time and whatever trouble started here we are here to fix," murmured Jamie, as she looked around carefully.
"You seem to know a lot more than I do. I think I need an explanation."
Jamie turned to look at the woman who looked so much like herself that they could be sisters. "There is an ancient Greek grave on our estate. It contains the bodies we believe of two women; one a warrior, the other a bard, who local legends say fought for good in those troubled times.
"Over the last few years, the grave has been giving off a strange energy and the stone has been cracking. We became aware that the original two, the Host pair, have left descendants who seem to have very similar character traits. We called them the Others and they kept showing up! Somehow the grave was calling them and each time their love proved to be strong, the grave healed some more. It was like the past was using the energy of the future to bring about change. ...You don't believe me do you?"
Janet frowned. "I'm an educator. I believe in things that have some logical and proven credence to them. This...." Janet shrugged in frustration. "I don't know. It seems like madness but I am here and this all seems very real."
Jamie nodded. "At first, Gunnul and I had a very hard time accepting what was happening. We still don't know for sure what is going on. Until now, I thought it was all over but now I wonder if all the energy was focused by the grave to bring us here."
Janet looked around in concern. "Since I've been in England, I keep getting these feelings of dread. It just washes over me as if I have suddenly sensed the presence of evil waiting to bring harm to those I care about."
"Yes! I have felt that too! Gunnul is not herself either, she's more moody and quick tempered."
Janet turned to look into Jamie's eyes. "Robbie has been the same."
"Where do you think we are?" Jamie asked nervously, looking around at the domed temple that they stood in. The massive rocks of Stonehenge were now the supports that held up the stone dome over their heads. Ahead of them was a large stone table. She fought to stay calm sensing that her fate depended on her actions.
"Where and when more likely, unless this is one very big elaborate trick," responded Janet, her eyes thoughtful and filled with real concern. She shallowed her fear. Whatever was happening to them, they had to get through. She wasn't about to give up her life with Robbie and the girls.
"Is that possible? Is this a nasty trick?" Jamie asked, feeling the anger build within her.
"I don't see how it could be anything else. This is unbelievable! Impossible! And yet I don't know anyone that would do such a thing or have the time and money to pull off such a hoax!"
"Robbie would have the knowledge and the money, I should think," Jamie said quietly. "Gunnul would have the money but not the knowledge. She is not one to be involved in practical jokes."
Janet wavered between anger and doubt. "No. Robbie can be very funny but this is definitely not her style! Something like this would make her really angry."
The two women walked forward towards a large stone altar that seemed to dominate the room. Huge stone pillars supported a domed ceiling and through holes in the clear story, high above, light shone in palely. The door they had entered by had disappeared.
"Welcome," said a voice from behind them and they turned in unison to see a huge, misshapen figure standing in deep shadow between two massive standing stones.
"What's going on here?" demanded Janet, her voice surprisingly strong and confident although she was feeling anything but.
There was no answer from the figure. Instead, a roar of flame burst from behind them and they found themselves the next instant caught between long, swirling tongues of fire. With a cry, Jamie fell and a long tentacle of fire curled around her body. Janet ran to her, shocked to find, as she reached to help Jamie, that the hot flame did not seem to burn her skin. It was as if the fire was contained within a membrane and functioned like the limbs of some hideous thing!
"Get out of here! Go, Janet. I'll get out as best I can!" Jamie yelled over the deep roar of fire. "Ahhh!" she ended in terror as the flame started to drag her across the stones back towards the alter.
"Like hell I'm going to leave you," responded Janet determinedly, as she dug her heels in and wrapped her arms around Jamie, pulling against the force of the monestrous legs of flame. A new tongue of orange lashed out and wrapped around Janet and she felt suddenly dirty and violated. Jamie beside her lashed out at the coil of flame that was attacking her with her metal cane. The vice-like grip around Janet lessened for a split second and she rolled clear. Turning, she grabbed the cane from Jamie's hand and started pounding at the fire-creature. The tentacle of flame pulled back and Janet grabbed Jamie by the arms and dragged her into one of the alcoves formed by the huge standing stones.
"Sorry about the rough ride," Janet said, as she deposited Jamie and turned to hit an approaching glowing arm with a baseball swing.
"I don't think I'm in a position to complain. That thing had me in a death-grip until you started hitting it," responded Jamie, taking off her brace to use it as yet another weapon.
"I was tied up pretty tightly myself until you had the sense to stab at it with your cane, Look out over there!" yelled Janet, as she swatted at the flames reaching for them.
Jamie hit at the one that was curling around the standing stone with her brace. "We can't hold this thing off forever!"
"Yeah well, right at the moment I don't have a better idea," gasped Janet, cracking the cane down on a finger of flame reaching for her ankle.
Before they had a chance to think of anything else, the massive figure loomed out of the flames in front of them.
The distance between Hastings and Salisbury Plain was only a few hours drive but it seemed like it was taking days to Robbie and Gunnul. They did not speak to each other but occasionally Robbie swore under her breath as she drove and Gunnul fingered her prayer beads as her lips moved silently.
Robbie alternated between a feeling of incredible dread and blinding anger. If anything had happened to her family she would go mad! They were all that mattered to her. How could she had got all caught up in a battle that happened a thousand years ago and just let her family go off by themselves?
Gunnul seemed to shake herself from her meditations. "I need to give you some background information as you drive. It might be relevant to what we are feeling although I am not sure. On our estate in Turkey there is this old grave..."
Sometime later, they arrived at their destination. The car the women had used sat in the parking lot rain splatted but untouched. Gunnul sighed in relief. At least her family had got this far safely. Other tourist cars crowded the lot and their owners could be seen inside the Visitors' Centre, gathering information, buying tickets and shopping. Gunnul looked over at Stonehenge.
Everything looked normal. A few tourists wove between the massive stones. None of them were her family. Had she made a fool of herself, telling Robbie about the grave and the Others? She looked over at her new friend, who stood rigid, looking around with angry intensity. "You think I speak only fantasies?" she asked, her English deteriorating as it tended to do when she was stressed.
Robbie looked at her sharply. "It was crap. But my family IS in trouble. Where the hell are they?! Come on!" The two headed into the building and checked for their family. Yes, they had bought tickets the clerk remembered them. Weren't they still on site? Robbie and Gunnul bought tickets and headed down into the underground passage and their world changed. The smell of fire and the screams for help from their partners assailed them almost immediately. They ran forward into an inferno of swirling flame and sulphur smoke.
Janet and Jamie were trapped against a wall, exhausted and traumatized by their battle to protect themselves from the invading tongues of flame. Just as the horrible demon had stepped out of the flames in front of them and grabbed Janet by the throat, it was attacked by a second massive creature. Janet had been dropped and managed to crawl away. Before Jamie and Janet's horror-filled eyes the two monsters fought in vicious battle. Black blood ran with red and claws and teeth flashed like lightening within the firestorm.
Gunnul and Robbie entered the dome and, skirting the two monsters that fought amongst the flames, they ran to where Janet and Jamie where fighting back the arms of fire. Gunnul and Robbie were surprised as they did that the red hot flames did not burn their flesh but instead stung like bee stings. They took the makeshift weapons from the failing hands of their partners and turned to form a single wall of protection against the fiery tentacles that had grown in their power and intensity.
Stone blackened and cracked, walls shook and silhouetted forms struggled against a backdrop of hellish light. The battle of the monsters raged on, neither side giving and no gains being made. Through the fury, the four women would get hideous glimpses of two vile creatures lashing at each other in vicious battle as the women fought their own war to keep the groping flames back.
The threads of space and time curled and bent within the infinite blackness of the universe. The tiny source of life, the only awareness in the great reaches of space, flickered and wavered between the forces of good and the blackness of evil. All that was, is, and would be hung in balance on a single entity... Hope.
Sometime before, Ryan too had been pulled into another time and place. She heard Christy call her and when she turned everything was different. She realized that she was no longer a teen but a grown woman and the child she had expected to see was a beautiful adult.
"Don't be afraid, Ryan. Look into your soul, you know we were meant to be here! I need you. I need your strength and your goodness to fight off an evil that has hung over me since my father gave me life," Chirsty begged earnestly.
"What is going on? This is crazy!" Ryan said, looking around wide-eyed.
"We are caught in a rip in time," Christy explained, coming over to wrap her arms around Ryan. Ryan held the grown Christy close. "We need to make love, Ryan. We need to join as one to help them."
This was not how Ryan had expected her first time would be. The smaller body thrusting with hers was powerful, demanding and invading. She felt her barrier break with a sudden searing pain and who she was, her essence, dripped like a single drop of crimson blood from her body.
The entity entered her; pushing Ryan screaming over some high, emotionally intense wall. Beyond she was no longer who she had been. There was within her a new awareness, a new hunger. Her body was no more; now she moved with the power and confidence of a wild creature. She was no longer a single entity but part of another. Two halves of the same fiber of life now together again for a single deadly purpose.
Her life forces loomed within a massive form acutely aware of the other soul that made up her being. She stood, muscles rippling and deep red eyes focused on her goal. With a lumbering stride the creature that she had become entered the fires of hell.
Through the orange, searing world, the new creature saw its father grabbing one of the humans by the throat and lifting her off the ground like a rag doll. The other bravely hit out from where she lay among the flames on the ground. With a roar the beast attacked.
The captured woman was dropped and the surprised monster turned to see the cold eyes of betrayal. With a scream of rage he threw himself at its offspring and tore at its flesh. Locked in vicious battle, the two monstrous forms screamed their rage above the flames that engulfed them.
So engrossed were they in their violent struggle that they did not even note the arrival of Gunnul and Robbie sometime later.
At last strong, sharp teeth bit into a sinewy neck and shook, snapping the vertebra of the other. Massive, rope-like muscles strained to pick up the dead weight. Staggering through the flames the remaining monster heaved its parent up on the flaming alter and dropped the stinking flesh down into the abyss from which the fire tentacles emerged.
For a second, the victor felt the heady power of true evil soaking through its being. It could have all this. Having killed its parent, it could take its rightful place as His divine ruler on earth. Hope lay in power. Might was right! Then the other soul within reached out. No. No, true hope is not a single entity but the dreams and aspirations of those who say, "I can". The creature pulled back from the edge of oblivion, straightened and smiled. "Good riddance, Father. Your dreams are as hollow as the wish for power. My dreams are filled with the richness of love."
The walls cracked and crumbled around. The flames shot high in the sky and dissipated in black clouds of smoke. The only thing left standing of the temple was a ring of silent stones.
At last the fire seemed in retreat. Robbie turned and sank down beside her exhausted wife, who only minutes before had been held in the death grip of the monster. "Janet. Janet, Love, are you all right?" she whispered, through lips cracked and dry.
Janet stirred and rolled over, looking into the pair of eyes she loved. "I'm okay. I think. Quick, Robbie! Get back in the corner!" the teacher ordered, as dust and rock chips started to rain from the cracks opening in the dome. The four women huddled together under a massive arch. In front of them, the flames reared back and pulsated in intensity as they slowly pulled back. Again they could see the shadow forms of two massive creatures. Then the roof in front of them gave way and they were lost in a shower of debris.
When Gunnul became aware of anything again, it was to find that she sat in the grass her back to the towering standing stones. She blinked in the sunlight that shone down from a blue sky. In her arms Jamie rested, still trembling from the ordeal. "Gunnul? Is it over?"
"I think, yes." She looked around for the others. By the next stone stood Robbie, her arms curved to protect Janet from any falling debris. There wasn't any. There wasn't a thing that left evidence of what they had experienced. They were just two couples standing at the outer edges of a ring of stone.
Some distance away, Ryan woke with a terrible sense of loss. She rolled over to see the child, Christy sitting close beside her. "We are no longer one."
Christy nodded sadly. "As I promised you. Thank you, Ryan. I couldn't have resisted without your help."
Ryan scrambled to her feet. "Are they all right? Where are they?"
"They are fine. They're on the other side. Give them a few minutes. They have been through a lot and need some quiet time with each other."
"They have been through a lot!" Ryan snorted. "How about suddenly finding yourself all grown up and having to share a monster's body with another female after she'd..."
"You must never tell, Ryan. What happened is not part of this time. It never happened here. You know what we agreed.
Ryan looked down at the dark, exotic girl at her feet. She offered her hand and Christy put her own in it, allowing Ryan to pull her to her feet. "I know you said that, but I can still feel a part of you in here," Ryan said, tapping her chest.
Christy smiled and touched her own chest. "I feel you here too, Ryan. Our destinies are very different but we are now linked. We are part of the same fabric."
Ryan smiled. "Like blood brothers."
"Yes," Christy agreed hugging Ryan. "We will always have a bond that is as close as family.
"What's he like, this guy who you are waiting for?" Ryan asked.
Christy's eyes lit up with happiness. "He loves life and everything in it!
Ryan smiled back. "I'm glad. He's going to be a lucky guy!'
"I think not! He will have to face my mothers and they are both so protective in their own ways!" Christy laughed.
"Hey! It can't be any worse than my mom! She gave the poor guy who picked me up to go to the local dance the third degree. Honest, I thought he was going to pee himself!"
"Ryan! You are so bad! We should go now." Christy hesitated and reached up and kissed Ryan's lips softly. "I hope my true love is as wonderful as you."
Ryan smiled smugly and raised an eyebrow. "We Williams aim to please." Side by side they went to find their parents.
Robbie's worried eyes saw Ryan walking around the fencing that protected the circle from tourists. Christy was beside her. "Ryan," she called, running over to her daughter and giving her a big hug. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, we were worried about you. We could see everything but we weren't able to help you," Ryan explained, leaving out large sections of what really happened. It made her feel uncomfortable. She didn't like to have secrets from her Moms but she also realized there were some things that parents weren't mature enough to handle. Someday, perhaps, she would be able to share the whole story with her Moms. Janet joined them and insisted on a long hug from Ryan too.
Christy had run over to her parents and hugged each mother in turn. "We saw you but you were separated from us by the fire! It was so scary! I am so glad to see you."
Jamie looked hard at her daughter. She was such a complex blend of innocence and wisdom. She knew deep inside that Christy's relationship to the powers within the grave was far stronger than anything she and Gunnul had experienced. "Is it over now, Christy?" she asked.
Christy looked at her in surprise and then stepped close for another hug. "It's over. All is well now, then and in the future," she reassured.
Then, looking at her Moms, she worked to change the subject. "I like Ryan very much. We are going to keep in touch. She and Reb are going to be my adopted sisters! Now I have sisters and my cousins will not be able to tease me about being an only child!"
Across the ring, Janet's eyes were dancing with fire. "You left Reb!?!"
"We knew you were in trouble!"
"Gunnul said I could trust them!" Robbie protested. "I asked!"
"On the way over here?"
"Well...yeah...but it was an emergency!"
"Don't ever do that again. Reb is going to be really upset when she wakes up and finds herself with strangers!"
Robbie looked just as upset and worried as Janet now. "I didn't think. I was worried," she muttered. "Gunnul called Teefo on her phone. He should be here soon in a rented car." she cajoled.
"Never again," reinforced Janet.
Robbie nodded and Ryan smirked at her but when Janet turned at the sound of her name to see a smiling Reb in Teefo's arms, Ryan put an arm around her Mom. "It's okay, Mom. You did the right thing. If you hadn't stopped the tongues of fire from dragging them up on the altar...well, things would have been a lot worse, I think!"
Robbie smiled at her daughter. Ryan was such a complex mixture of child and adult. "Thanks kid, I needed you on my side," Robbie smiled. They walked over and joined the others where they had all gathered outside the ring, two families tied by a bond of love as old as the stones that stood behind them. The drama had come full circle.
The ring of stones stood silent. They were The Watchers, seeing all, knowing all and telling nothing.
The Watchers still wait.
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