22 June 2007, Midsummer’s Eve – Moonset

The patchwork of farms that covers Ireland, each bound in stacked stones, marches to the Atlantic Ocean. On that chessboard of darkened green squares stands a tower shaped like a rook upon a lone raised promontory; the ancient foot-slopes of a mountain long eroded by the ocean until only this slender spur remains. The waves of the Atlantic surge and crash against it, carrying off Ireland in tiny increments. Each wave grasping at the crumbling shoreline hoping to dislodge a pebble it might carried back to Poseidon as a prize.
At the foot of the rook tower, just yards from the raised cliff edge, is a ring of twelve tall slim standing stones.

The tallest stone faces the moon setting over the Atlantic. The others shrink away in tidy increments forming a tiara; the crown of the fallen queen captured by the rook in a game of chess played by titans.

At the edge of this sheltered dell is a dolmen; an ancient stone burial chamber made by mammoth hunters in the image of a popup headlight of an eighties model sports car.

As the moon sinks into the Atlantic a sheltering arm of rock around the cliff edge casts shadow across the dell up to the foot of the tower. A cleft in this raised cliff edge, catches the moonlight amplifying it into a spotlight.

The headstone; the tip of the stone tiara is chromed with white light.

Heralded by this scheduled miracle the mouth of the dolmen; a flat monolith of ten tonnes, falls inward with a deep muffled boom spilling a scarlet light into the dell. The scarlet light tinges the brilliant moonlight into a soft pearly pink; a premature dawn.

As the echo rolls away across the gentle slope of the patchwork plains of Ireland it is replaced by the tootling of flutes mixing with the muffled roar of the waves crashing at the foot of the cliff.

The flutes multiply into a chorus of merry springtime song. Refrains from ancient odes and opening stanzas of operas mingle into a chorus of impromptu ingenuity.

Upon the monolithic drawbridge appear forms; some lithe and lovely, some dark and dangerous. Some sport gossamer wings, others hairy goat legs and long pointed tails. Horns, donkey’s ears and other animalian appendages adorn forms akin to humans, but as removed as Neanderthals.

They skip and dance or solemnly pace out of the dolmen to the foot of the chrome tipped headstone.

Pale plump ladies with wings too frail to lift their Reubenesque forms dance with a simpering self-consciousness oddly immune to jeers and cheers; these Fae are as lovely as their name. Others are tiny shapes, naked but for an upturned flower for a hat; they dance with a grace impossible for their chubby infant proportions; these are the Pukels.

Tall thin wraithlike creatures with pale oval faces like Japanese kabuki masks stalk and skulk around the edges of the stone circle. Clad in rotting black garments and draped with bog weeds they do not dance, but look upon the gaiety with mournful distaste, like hired mourners lingering at a wake; these are the Sluagh.

Small stout hobbit-like creatures, dressed finely in waistcoats and tail coats with mutton chop beards. Thick wiry hair juts from sleeves and trouser legs, like a hedge in need of a trim. Possessed of good cheer and good will, they do not dance, but applaud the efforts of others, loudly greeting old friends and joining the music with fiddles and baritone voices; these are the Pooka.

Small pockets of hush in the revelling dancers form around squat strong humanoid figures in jackboots, gambesons and filthy fur cloaks. Black greasy hair balding into sharp widows peaks above faces as sharp as the knives they carry. Thin, leering and malevolent, well versed in violence and tolerated at this gathering under sufferance and in service. Immune to the good cheer; they are irked at the lack of fear at their presence, like muzzled guard dogs, they watch and wait; these are the Redcaps.

The rosy light spilling from the dolmen falters as enormous forms shoulder their way out of the mouth. Stooped like gorillas on the march, one by one they emerge and stretch to their full height of nine feet, as tall as the gilded headstone. These muscular giants have blue tinged skin, like Celtic warriors anointed with wode before battle, branded with strings of runes of a lost language. Small ears taper to points along wide squat faces, lips drawn back into snarls and smiles revealing rows of small sharp teeth framed by large canines; these are the trolls. They dance with wild joy, their great lumbering cartwheels deftly avoided by the smaller revellers.

The music quietens and intensifies, robbed of the amplification of the dolmen’s mouth, as the pipe players emerge. Goat-legged, with shaggy fur and bare chests, some with horns like scimitars, some with tiny goatling stubs; these are the satyrs. They skip and dance with a short shudder of hops into the depths of the throng.

The flutes and pipes sound a short reverential blast and the dancing peters out. The revellers form a horseshoe about the headstone facing the dolmen in a range of poses from reverential bows to grudging nods of submission as the source of the procession emerges.

A Sidhe, a shining one, as fair as the Midsummer Eve into which he has stepped, clad in robes rich enough for royalty, for that is clearly what he is. Yet in an act of deference, he leads by the hand a lady who is a worthy contender for the title ‘the fairest of them all’.

Fairer and finer than Bottecelli’s Venus, she steps forth into the reception of her people. Clad in simple white with a golden kirtle about her waist, she carries a garland of flowers in one hand. No crown sits upon her brow, yet she needs none to be known as Queen. Even the most grudging of heads bow under the firm clarity of her emerald gaze.

Side by side the royal pair stand; back-lit by the scarlet subterranean light, throwing an odd satanic cast upon the scene of sylvan reverence. With the solemnity of a priestess, the Sidhe Queen raises the garland in both hands and paces forward with even steps to the foot of the headstone.

Looking up at the crest of the stone twice as tall as she, she gives a calm flick with both hands sending the garland sailing up toward the tip of the stone. Yet the perfect arc of its trajectory is sucked short and the garland lands at the foot of the headstone.

Silence hardens into scandalised shock. An ugly rumour of horrified amazement whispers through the crowd. The fairies look around for the source of the interruption. One tiny pukel gasps and points. At the other end of the circle the shortest stone, twin to the headstone, is gone. In its place is a nasty gash in the earth, like a slowly closing gum over the site of an extracted tooth. The removed stone lies on the ground to one side.

Like an elephant unmasked, the blasphemy is compounded by surveying pegs with small pink flags marking an area of intrusion into the sacred stone circle.
The elven Queen’s fury is palpable as her eyes sweep up the rook tower. A pointless recent inclusion in the landscape of this sacred place; tolerated, but only just.
Signs of habitation ring its foot. An occupied caravan slumbers beside the timber frame of a building site abutting the tower.

The Queen’s eyes drink in this scandalous scene of industry. Desecration paused for the evening. This evening is like any other to the drowsing mortals whom she can now feel close by, but to her, this is a night of sacred duty. As her eyes scan up and up the squat rook shaped tower she sees a new addition; a stained glass window. In excruciating insult, the window depicts a Christian Saint.

Behind that window is fear. The perfect terror that only an infant can know. Of separation that might be abandonment. Of the howling hurtling wind that probes every nook and cranny. Of the pain of growing so fast.

With exaggerated care, the Queen gathers all her rage into a single gesture; she extends her arm whilst tightening her grip directly at the arch shaped window, and seizes.

Chapter 1 – Acquiring a sacred duty

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