It was not often that Elin was tempted to get up to see the sunrise but having woken when it was still dark, the village outside still sleeping quietly, she found herself easing off her blanket and, with a drive that could not be deterred, heading through the arched opening towards the lifting black.
In the farthest shadows of the cylindrical dwelling, Angharad felt the air shift with her sister’s movement and acknowledged that the day had come. Moving imperceptibly so as not to alarm, she watched Elin’s silhouette framed in the doorway as she wrapped a shawl round her shoulders, her barely discernible shape indicating that she was headed out. Once Elin was no longer distinguishable, Angharad lay back down on her straw bed and gazed at the reeded peak of the hut’s roof, an expression of contrived calm on her face.
Now, she would wait.
The coolness of the night was a like balm on Elin’s cheek as she headed out of the small cluster of huts that constituted her home village. Birds were beginning to herald the day and the sky was gaining that gauzy dark before light permeates fully. Following the well-trodden path into the woods that circled the huts, she was conscious of a need to see the sun. A deer darted in her peripheral vision and a lonely badger trundled to his sett, both rustling the forest floor. She noticed these movements with bare awareness.
Once through the trees, the path forked, left towards the high point of Carreg Tor and the rock strewn summit; right would take her towards the meadow and its golden grasses and wildflowers. Her conscious mind leaned towards the left but her compulsion, the thing that had awoken her so unexpectedly, this instinct, led her body to take the right path.
Elin normally kept away from the meadow. It was a beautiful place, full of brightness and colour and fluid motion as the winds caressed the grasses and the flowers that Nature had placed there and she recognised it as such. However, her preference was the coolness of the woods with its shaded glades, soft mosses and soothing greens, the muted smell of growth and rot intermingling to create a fecund and enveloping atmosphere. She would often search for mushrooms there in the dappled light of the day and wonder at the flutterings of creatures unseen around her. Its mystery beguiled rather than frightened her.
It was the openness of the meadow that she did not like. Despite the long grasses and their height, there was a sense that she was exposed and for some reason, she felt uneasy there, like she could be threatened in some way. She had expressed this wariness to Angharad once whose reaction had been one that she had expected.
“Are you telling me that you are scared of the meadow?” Angharad had snorted when Elin had mentioned it.
Feeling defensive, Elin had tried to explain. “It’s not fear as such, no. It’s like, I don’t know, I’m vulnerable. Like there is something that is looking for me and when I am in the meadow, it can get to me. I can feel it.” Here, Elin rubbed her neck. “It’s weird but it’s how I feel.” She shrugged with discomfort at the admission and at how odd it sounded to be said out loud. Even to her own ears, she sounded a little mad.
Once Elin had said it, she could see by the derisory way Angharad looked at her that her thoughts were similar in that she thought her sister was daft in the head, carried away by her imaginings again. But it was true: whenever she went near the meadow as sometimes she had to, she felt cold, prickly with caution and moved as quickly away from its open expanse as she could.
“The only thing threatening you in that meadow is you being alone with your thoughts. Oh, and an unseen stone which might trip you. Or, possibly, a mouse that squeaks too loudly,” Angharad said looking directly at her sister. She smirked and raised her eyebrows. “Or do you think that you are so special that there really is something that is after you?”
Elin shook her head. “I don’t think I am special, Angharad.” She looked downwards at her feet as she often did when she felt like she was being chastened by her sister.
And Angharad knew this was true as her dark-haired sister was no show-off, eager to be on her own in solitary tasks and out in the woods rather than participating in the village life and its community. She never sought out attention despite the fact that there were many people, most of them male who would love it if she turned a smile their way.
Elin lifted her eyes again to look at her sister and, in that connection, Angharad’s knowledge of Elin’s importance was confirmed as she once again saw her sister’s destiny in her mind’s eye. There was no doubting that Elin was special despite Angharad’s indications otherwise. It was her, Angharad’s duty to ensure that no-one else was able to see what she saw.
Elin must have seen a change in her sister’s expression but Angharad was a master at shielding her emotions. A mere flicker of worry, which was turned into a scowl. Angharad’s examination of Elin’s face showed that it mirrored the recognition of Angharad’s disapproval rather than the brief anxiety, and she relaxed.
She loved her sister like no other and she would do anything to protect her. Anything.
Elin sighed. “I know it’s silly. I know you’re right. I try to convince myself it’s my imagination but….” Elin paused as if to explain further but Angharad had turned away and was busying herself with cleaning the mushrooms Elin had harvested from the forest floor. ”No matter.”
Angharad knew that Elin would think that by turning away she was showing her scorn at her sister’s fears but it was her fear for Elin’s future that she needed to keep away from her. She knew that her offhand dismissal would hurt Elin but she could not let her see the shadows of emotions which she constantly struggled to keep concealed; emotions which might inadvertently reveal that there was so much more that could hurt Elin if only she was aware.
Elin recalled her remembrance of this encounter as she headed further towards the swaying, undulating grasses of the meadow. The sky was gaining the filtered appearance of pinks suffused with yellows as the sun steadily made its progress above the horizon. It was glorious, this time of day, fresh and clear, and Elin’s heart was full.
As she reached the border of the meadow, she stopped. It was strange but today, she felt no trepidation here. Her senses were calm and the palpable prickling which she usually felt when in proximity to the meadow were no longer troubling her. She gazed out beyond the plants towards the dawn. The sun was there, its warmth reaching towards her and she felt her feet move into the grass, the leaves imperceptibly parting for her as she did so, making her transit into it smooth and unhindered. She reached out her hands to run them across the tops of the blooms and seeds and leaves, and the ripples of her touch rushed across the surface like a wave towards the sun, gathering speed as they headed towards the distant horizon.
The movement suggested joy, a celebration, an injection of concentrated energy.
The light was rising and the glint on the meadow’s surface was surreal as Elin progressed. The reflection of the sun’s rays made the grasses metal in appearance, the goldenness and its perceived sheen blinding in its radiance. Elin was unaware of the effect that her touch was producing on the environment surrounding her but it was as if it had been enhanced, made more brilliant, more radiant. She felt only warmth, contentment, fulfilled.
And whilst she was unaware of the frisson that was being emitted into the environment around her, there were two individuals who were very conscious of the effects that she was causing.
In the one, it created a bolt of pain that raised her from her bed with immediacy, followed, once her heart had slowed, with steely resignation to a fate decreed when her sister was born and a sadness that this would be the last day of her life.
And in the other? As the stone cutter’s eyes sprang open, he was infused with an excitement, a desire, a dark hope that the surge in the earth’s force on this summer solstice dawn was the klaxon that heralded his rise to unprecedented otherworldly power.