Chapter 3 might be a few extra days. Being down 3 or 4 days with the stomach virus really put a notch in me.
“Royce? Royce wants your dig?” The static over the line that evening was horrific and Bronwyn strained to hear. The internet connection in this little town was next to nothing and Skyping was impossible. “Why? And who is Madoc?”
The pen was sitting on the nightstand and Bronwyn glared at it as if all the evils of the world – or at least the evils of her world – could be laid on it’s slender column. “Royce’s dig is yielding nothing and it should be coming up roses. Mine should be coughing up splintered pot shards and buried joints and yet yielded this way cool dead person who has been dead for centuries. Therefore, he wants it.” She exhaled loudly. “And Madoc is a Welsh Prince.”
“I guess swapping digs is out of the question.”
Bronwyn pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at the handheld, aghast. “You did not just sugges-“
“I’m TEASING! It was a joke!” Ashley was obviously exasperated. “Girlfriend, you are stressed!”
“And a dig normally energizes you.”
There was clicking on the other end. Ashley was obviously playing on her computer. “Oh! I’ve got an email from the head of the anthropology department. I gave him your resume.” Bronwyn inwardly groaned. “He’s quite impressed and would like to talk to you as soon as possible. He says he heard of your parents.” More tapping. “He wants your cell phone and email addy. He called the number on the resume and it went straight to your answering machine at Little Cymru. Where you’re not at, by the way.” There was more indiscernible noise in the background. “So, what excuse is Royce using to snatch your dig?”
The desire to retrieve the pen was overwhelming and Bronwyn stood up and turned her back to it. She gazed out the window of her motel room, a view consisting of the road and a single car driving slowly up the way. “My student stepping in the grave and damaging the body.”
Ashley let out a low whistle. “Oh yeah, you told me about that. That’s a pretty strong reason.”
“Yeah.” Bronwyn cradled the phone between her ear and her shoulder and watched the lone car’s taillights turn the corner. “Alfred said he doesn’t stand a chance, but he’s going to yell and I should expect more than a few people looking over my shoulder. Great, just what I need. It would be just like him to wander over and take potshots again. Or worse, send his new bride-” that was spat sarcastically, “- over to see if I need help.”
There was the crackling of paper and the low drone of swearing over the line. “I swear, school hasn’t started and I already have a ton of paperwork.” Ashley’s voice hissed. “Where did I ever get the idea that being a professor was an easy job?”
“Not a clue.”
“How is dear old Alfred?”
Bronwyn let her mind wander back to the dinner she shared earlier with the aging professor. “Funny you should ask.” Quickly, she related the odd conversation with her friend. “I don’t get it,” she concluded. “I don’t trust him, but I don’t distrust him.” She inhaled sharply through her nose. “I hate fence-sitters.”
“Yeah. You want to push them. Make up your mind already!” More tapping. “Too bad he couldn’t have said something about Royce sooner.”
“I probably wouldn’t have paid attention.”
Thousands of miles away, Ashley leaned in the phone. Bronwyn sounded distracted, distanced and not by the miles. She worried about her friend and renewed her determination to get her home and rerooted. She changed the subject. “So, tell me about Madoc. I’m looking him up and not finding a whole lot. Actually, I’m finding a whole lot of nothing!”
Bronwyn thought for a moment, trying to get her bearings. “Madoc was at one time a prince of Wales.”
“Bronwyn, there was no King Madoc of England!”
Bronwyn rolled her eyes. “Ashley…”
More tapping. “I know, I know. I’m not the walking history book you are! Refresh my memory. Geez. How big is this class anyway?” Ashley was clearly multi-tasking, something Bronwyn had a difficult time doing off the field. “I deserve a full professorship with this class load…. Bronwyn? C’mon. Quick history lesson.”
“Quick history lesson.” Bronwyn was wishing the pen was in her fingers. “Back in pre-Christian Western Europe, children, regardless of legitimacy, were created and treated equal.”
“So, it didn’t matter what side of the blanket they were born on.”
“Not only that, they all got equal shares when it came time to inherit. That’s why there is a Germany and a France. Charlemagne controlled the majority of Western Europe He had two grandsons that actually went to war over who would be king.”
“I remember that!” Ashley wasn’t tapping on her computer anymore. “The treaty… the treaty…”
“The Treaty of Verdun in 843.”
“Yeah! Dividing the territory was written in German and French for both sides!”
“Exactly.” Bronwyn turned and focused on the pen on the other side of the room. “It also didn’t matter how many women gave birth. Legit. Illegit. Didn’t matter.”
“I bet that caused problems if the King was really randy!”
“You have no idea.” Visions of Henry the First ran through Bronwyn’s mind. That boy had more acknowledged illegitimate children and still left no male heir, causing one of the bloodiest civil wars in England’s history between his daughter and nephew. She began to pace a small trail, her normally fidgeting hand carrying the old-fashioned telephone base cradled loosely in the tips of two fingers.
“There was a time or two things were tense and at this time, things were pretty tense. Owain, King of Gwynedd had several sons by several women, including several by his first wife and several by his Christian Queen, Christina… or Christiant, who some would say was quite the bitch.” Bronwyn reached the end of the trail and switched directions, still carrying the base of the phone with her. “According to legend, Madoc-“
“Who I guess wasn’t one of Queen Bitchtina’s?”
Bronwyn giggled. “No. He wasn’t and that was the problem. According to legend, he heard a rumor that one of his half brothers intended to do away with him upon his father’s death or close to so he could take Madoc’s share of inheritance. Madoc, for some unknown reason, wasn’t ready to die and didn’t seem to think what he would inherit was worth it, so he decided to relocate without leaving a forwarding address.”
Clicking started up again. “So, what’s the big conspiracy? He went underground. He went to England, France…”
“No. He didn’t go underground. According to legend, he went to America.”
“Madoc sailed with Christopher Columbus?”
Bronwyn smacked herself in the head. “No. This was in 1170. A few hundred years before Chris!”
Bronwyn could hear her friend’s mental gears clicking. “Ooooh. I get it! 1170! There’s no proof he arrived!”
“Well, there were remains of what looked like Welsh-shaped conical boats found above the mouth of the Mississippi as well as the strange fact that several tribes of Indians near the Ohio Valley have rather Welsh sounding words.”
There was silence on the other end. “Is there anything in writing? Legends?”
“Not a word. On either side.”
“Oooooooh…and right now-“
“I’m in the land of Madoc.” There was a long, drawn-out silence before Bronwyn continued. “And that dig Royce is in charge of could very well have been the departure point if legend is fact.”
“OH MY GAWD!”
Bronwyn jumped at the sudden impact against her eardrums. “Ow!”
“I’m sorry.” Ashley’s voice softened a bit. “That’s why Royce fought to keep you out of that dig!”
“That thought crossed my mind.” She winced again, changing the receiver to her other ear and rubbed the injured one.
“And I have a repeating student. Pain in the ass. Sorry. Saw the one and realized the other at the same time.”
“It’s not a problem.”
“I’ll bet…” Ashley’s voice to a conspirator’s whisper, “you’d give your eye teeth for that dig.”
Bronwyn stopped in mid-stride. “Actually, I hadn’t thought it about since we found our body.”
“Ooo yeah. You do have that. And Royce is all jealous of it. Serves him right. You go, girlfriend!”
“Ashley,” Bronwyn groaned, pacing beginning again, “Just how old are you again?”
“Same age as you,” she giggled, amid the overseas static. “29. And it looks as if I’ll get my doctorate by the end of this semester, so you have to be here for that!”
Bronwyn gasped. She had completely forgotten that Ashley had been slowly trudging away on her doctorate in American Women’s Literature. Between her marriage, the baby, working…
“Yeah yeah and I heard you gasp, meaning it slipped your mind, not that I blame you or am upset, but Bronny, we need to get you home.”
“Yes, yes, you want me to talk to the department head about a job.”
Her friend’s voice dropped to a quiet plea. “You’ve not stopped or slowed down since your parents plane went down. And you’ve had that nasty divorce and the stress with everything. I’m worried about you. You need to rest.” There was a pause. “Not only that, there’s another problem.”
Bronwyn sank into the chair, willing the conversation to end soon. “And that would be?”
“Girl, we need to get you home,” Ashley chirped. “You’re sounding just like one of those hoity toity English professors!”
Bronwyn was glad the day was sunny and fairly warm. A great day to exhume a body! All of her students – with the exception of Colin and his cronies – expressed a desire to help and watch. Charles had brought his digital video camera, as did Moire. That one was like a butterfly, flitting here and there, wearing outrageously bright colored blouses and hair feathers. No matter how bad things were, she could always make the group smile. On more than one occasion, she lifted Bronwyn even at her most morose.
Alfred was there, along with several members of the staff at the university. Bronwyn spoke to them when they arrived; she knew most of them and was on on friendly terms with them.
“Aye, Bronwyn!” Patrice, with her pale eyes, mousy hair, and plain looks hid a keen intelligence that surpassed most Bronwyn encountered. “The lads managed to get a cloth under the body. There is a bier, of all things, an’ it lifted him off the ground! We should be to hoist it with little difficulty. D’ye think your bruiser could help wit’ the lifting?” She leaned in so her whispering wouldn’t be overheard. “He’s pestering Alfred and we need to give him something to do.”
Bronwyn’s eyes searched and found Charles trying to stay out of the way, but not doing a good job. He appeared to have adhered himself to Alfred and was peppering him with questions. She grinned broadly. “Ah, leave him for awhile. It will do Alfred good.”
The morning flew by quickly, with the old Druid coming out of his grave easier than expected, with no additional damage to the body. As the old man was lifted, Bronwyn was pleasantly surprised and pleased to see other items buried with the old man. Charles was poking Alfred in the ribs. “How much y’wanna bet we find mistletoe in that pouch?” His video camera was down, thinking perhaps his work was done.
“How much y’wanna bet we shut dis joke down?” Everyone looked up to see Colin and an older, bigger version of Colin standing at the outside of the crowd. Colin Senior had a broken nose, similar to his son’s, only lying on the other side of his face. The scowls were identical and in the case of the elder, seemed permanent.
Bronwyn stepped around the crew and made her way towards the Colins. Out of the side of her eye, she saw Charles turn his video camera back on, as well as several other members of the dig, pulling out cells and tablets.
“Shut down my dig, you say?” Bronwyn was smiling. “On what grounds?”
Colin Sr. puffed up. “Why, onna grounds y’ treated m’son wif disrespect for starters.”
“I don’t suppose he told you that he desecrated a grave?”
“Wot?” Colin Jr scoffed. “That old skeleton?”
“That old skeleton might be your ancestor,” Patrice snarked.
“Not bloody likely,” Colin Jr. obviously didn’t think so.
“That’s a given,” Charles’ voice carried. “This is the grave of a wise man, something you’re definitely not!”
Bronwyn quickly spoke up wanting to diffuse the situation before it got out of hand. “Due to this unexpected find, this dig has become a rather serious archaeological site.” Bronwyn smiled insincerely and approached the Colin the Elder.
“I paid a lo’ o’ money for dis teen-aged day camp!” Colin the Elder poked Bronwyn in the sternum with a tobacco stained finger. “You can’t just go kickin’ him off!”
“I apologize that you were led to believe that this was a daycare for delinquents. Sadly, it is not.” Bronwyn’s smile became obviously forced. “Your son wasn’t paying attention, which he never does, and stepped into a grave we were excavating. He damaged the body and most likely the artifacts within. This is very serious. As I stated yesterday, he needs to grow up and grow a pair. We can no longer afford to have him on this team. Pissing off parents of delinquents is not grounds for dismissal.” She grabbed his finger. “And if you poke me again, you will regret it.”
The man bent over into her face, the stench of cigarettes and sweat over powering. “Y’ think you can take me on?” Before she could respond, he stood back up, towering over the short woman. “You might ‘s well pack your shite up. I’ve complained to your boss an’ he’s said he’s replacing you!” He grinned at the horrified group. “Said he’s sending you back overseas where you belong wifout a single reference. Takin’ over, he is. I hope,” he sneered, “you end up cleaning toilets! That would serve you right!”
Bronwyn never moved, never let on that what the man said upset her. “Alfred?” she called over her shoulder, “did you talk to this man?”
Alfred was busy cleaning his glasses. “No, I did not.” He never looked up, engrossed on his task. “Might I ask you who you spoke to?”
Colin the Elder wasn’t expecting this. Neither was his son. He snorted. “Dr. Royce Marshburn!”
Bronwyn’s jaw dropped, along with everyone else on site. Snickers were heard from the teens. “Dr. Royce Marshburn?” She motioned with her hand. “Six foot, blonde, blue-eyed-”
“I don’t know!” the man snapped. “We spoke over the phone!”
Colin the Younger was thinking hard. “Dad? I thought you spoke to his secretary.”
“It doesn’t matter!” Colin’s father gritted through his teeth.
“Actually,” Alfred put his glasses back on and peered owlishly at the two, “it does. Dr. Royce Marshburn isn’t in charge of this dig, and will not be taking over this dig. I-” he interrupted the ready to explode tirade, “am Dr. Alfred Llewellyn and I am in charge of this dig. Dr. Davidson is highly regarded in her field, certainly moreso than Dr. Marshburn and is not being replaced, least of all by him. Your son has been told not to come back to this site. I’m now extending that order to you. Please do not force me to call the authorities to have you forcibly removed, nor make it necessary for me to obtain a restraining order.” He took a deep breath and plastered a pleasant smile on his face. “As Dr. Davidson stated, we are not a paid daycare service. Considering the damage your son has done, I will inform university officials that a refund is not to be extended and we will be consulting with our legal depart as to what legal action should be taken against you and your…” he openly snarled, “spawn. You have one minute to remove your vile presence as well as your sperm recipient from this spot.”
“Last I heard, it were public property.”
“It has been declared an official archaeological site,” Alfred stopped the argument before it started. “Papers have been filed with the authorities.” His cell phone appeared out of nowhere in his hand. “You need to leave now.”
For a moment, Bronwyn feared the bully would strike out. Instead, he scowled and motioning to his son, turned and stalked off. She let out a sigh of relief. “Alfred, old bean, I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Alfred was watching the two go down the hill. “I didn’t either. You’ve been through enough with that one and I doubt it’s over.”
“Oh, no doubt.” She took a breath, aware that the rest of the crew was still mulling about, talking about the incident. “About Royce-”
“Don’t worry about Royce. I’ll take care of him.”
The remaining weeks of the dig went quickly and smoothly. Everything that could be cataloged was reported and verified. Video of the altercation with the Colins Horrible somehow was leaked to Youtube and other social media, causing a small firestorm. Bronwyn received more than one inquiry for future sites.
Royce was blessedly silent.
It was understandable that Bronwyn was in a melancholy mood those last few days. The university archaeological team came in the last week to clean up and close up the site. Plans were being discussed about further testing on the site and how to protect it until spring.
“So,” Bronwyn dug into her steak. Fuck diets! This has been a successful dig. “Am I welcome back next year, if the University wants to continue?”
Alfred was busy peppering the salad she didn’t get. He never looked up. “Of course you are. So are most of your students. Not the delinquent or his father. Several of the others have the interest and show promise. However, I hope that you see sense in taking a year and researching one of the other offers you’ve gotten. I hear,” and with this he looked up, “that there is interest stirring in Cardiff and that you’ve had a guest professorship offered to you in the States.”
Bronwyn winced. “Yeah. The professorship could quickly turn into something more. A base of sorts.” She stuck a piece of steak in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. “Pay is not bad. And you’re right. It would give me a chance to research some of the offers I’ve had.”
Alfred’s attention returned to his salad. It was obvious he was regretting his choice of dinner. “I hear one of those offers is Cantref Mawr.”
“It is probably a trash site for Hugh le Despencer.” She shuddered at the thought. “That one needs to be left buried in several places. I don’t want to find his dirty laundry!”
Alfred smiled at her joke. “So, the guest professorship has merit?”
“You do not appear to be overly excited.”
Bronwyn laid her knife down on her plate. “Royce said I should go home and never return. Become a stuffy professor. It feels like that’s what I’m doing. You know, those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
“Don’t be insulting. You know better.” Alfred’s face suddenly became quite animated. “You should not worry about what Royce thinks.” He took a stab at the last of his salad. “His ship has begun to sink. He might not know it, but it is.”
“What do you know?” Bronwyn’s voice was cajoling.
Alfred never looked up, simply continued to chew thoughtfully before swallowing and staring at his plate. “Royce stepped on a few toes claiming he was in charge of your dig and had any power whatsoever. He angered Colin’s father, although no one is listening to him.” Alfred stared at the final bite before simply laying his fork down and focusing now on Bronwyn. “Marshburn’s dig has yielded some interesting things that make it and him questionable.”
Bronwyn twirled her finger. More?
The elderly professor leaned forward. “Things that should not be found in a thousand year old site. Modern things.” He pulled back as the waiter came by and refilled his wine glass. Once the young man was out of earshot, he changed the subject. “When are you returning home?”
The wine was getting to Bronwyn. She signaled for coffee. “I’m taking the midnight train going anyyy-wherrrrrrrrrre.”
“Please don’t sing. It isn’t your forte.” It was droll, but said with rare humor.
“Well, I am. My train to London leaves at midnight and I’m flying out to Atlanta three days later. I thought I might spend a few days sight-seeing.” She smiled and toasted the man across from her, draining her glass and setting it to the side, making room for the coffee cup. “London is beautiful and I’ve not spent any real time there in years, except to change flights. I have tickets to ‘The Crucible‘. I hear the lead playing John Proctor is amazing.”
Alfred smiled wanly. “I’m glad you are joining the world, again. There is more to life than ancient dead bodies and pottery shards.”
“But, they are more interesting and don’t try to steal from me.”
Alfred’s look was… there was no describing it and it worried Bronwyn. “Bronwyn. Go home for a year. Do that guest professorship. Grieve. Research and talk to the various offers that are coming your way. Rejuvenate yourself. Don’t think of Royce or that bimbo he married. Royce’s star is no longer rising. This time next year, he will be praying for an upper levels teaching position. No one will want him on their crew. No university will want him as a professor. The bimbo – does she have a name?” Bronwyn scowled at him.
“Oh gawd,” Alfred waved his hand in dismissal. “Never mind! She will find greener pastures well enough.” The dessert tray was wheeled around and despite the desire to skip it, Bronwyn gave in to the eerie feeling that she might never see chocolate cheesecake again.
Small things were discussed, little things, here and there. As dessert was finished and Alfred slid away from the table, he looked blearily at Bronwyn.
“I am considering retiring in a few years. The Archaeological Board would jump at the chance of having a working archaeologist as a professor. One who knows and loves Wales as you do.” He stood up and grabbed the check before Bronwyn could get hers. “Take your year. You’ve earned it. You’ve proven yourself. Forget Royce. I’ll make sure the university here jumps at a chance to have you on the team.” He turned to leave, but then had a second thought. “Madoc is a legend. A beloved legend. Don’t allow him to become your Atlantis. Or Yeti.”
And he left, with Bronwyn wondering just how drunk was she?
As Bronwyn had stayed with them so long, the motel agreed to a late check out. They weren’t busy and the room wasn’t needed immediately, so she had time to go back, take a shower, and double check her bags before loading up her vehicle. The train station had a place where she could drop off her rental car and in a sense, as the town had become home, the archaeologist decided to take a final roam through the hamlet. There were a few locally crafted things she wished to purchase for Ashley and her little boy, and for herself, to be honest. She loaded the car, double checked under the bed, the shower, and the drawers. She made sure her small carry on was packed: her wallet, her kindle, MP3 player, her train and theater tickets, that damned pen. For not the first time, she studied it, at the engraved initials of her ex husband. Why would he gift her with such an expensive pen? Just to spite her? She’d have given him a cheap number 2 pencil! Bah! It was a wasted thought.
She parked on the street in the little town and went into several shops. Many of the shopkeepers knew her and over the past week, had laid aside items for her. She purchased a peasant blouse and skirt for Ashley – why she loved them was beyond Bronwyn but… and a set of hand-carved horses for Sydney. She wandered from shop to shop, killing time. For not the first time, she eyed and fingered a handmade turquoise shawl, bright and an unusual color for this area.
“Go ahead.” A familiar looking saleswoman nudged her. “20% off. On sale for you.” She lifted the shawl and draped it over her shoulder. “It’s very soft. Please.”
It was soft and beautiful but-
The woman looked around. “My son worked on your dig. He said you put Colin Spencer and his son in their place.” She shook her head. “They’ve been bullies too long.”
Bronwyn looked closely at the woman. “Charles is your son.”
She smiled, love radiating on her face. “Yes. He’s a lug, but he’s a good lug. He thinks the world of you. So do I.” She patted the shawl still on Bronwyn’s shoulder. “This color looks so good on you. On second thought, take it, as a gift from me.”
“I made it and I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” She handed it to her. “I hope we see you next year.” And with that, the woman turned and disappeared into the back of the shop.
Bronwyn blinked back tears, but she draped the shawl around her shoulders, exiting the store.
She had her car in her sights when suddenly, a crazy, screaming woman jumped in front of her and began to slap at her.
“YOU BITCH! YOU JUST HAD TO KEEP YOUR CLAWS IN!” Bronwyn stepped back, dropping her bags beside her on the sidewalk and put her arms up in a defensive position. The woman continued screaming, a crowd now drawing around them. “YOU BITCH! YOU RUINED YOUR DIG SO YOU HAD TO FUCK UP OURS! YOU JUST COULDN’T STAND HE’S HAPPY WITH ME!”
The pummeling suddenly stopped as two men pulled the woman off her, effectively holding her back. “Someone call the authorities.”
Bronwyn dropped her arms and took a look at the woman. “Faun?” Anger took over the fiery archaeologist. “What’s gotten into you? What the hell is your problem?”
“You bitch! You messed up our dig!”
Bronwyn blinked several times. Alfred had mentioned that there were irregularities on Royce’s dig, serious irregularities…
“How on God’s green earth could I mess up Royce’s dig? I’ve been here!”
Faun struggled between the two men. “Turn me loose, you arse-wipes!” With the two brawny men standing between her and Faun, Bronwyn nodded to turn her loose. Faun shook herself and straightened her cardigan. She reached into the pocket and thrust a baggie at Bronwyn. “There! See?”
Bronwyn held her hand out for the bag, trying to mask her shock.
There, in the confines, was a gold Cross pen. It looked old, ancient…
“This isn’t mine-”
“Yes, it is, you fuckin’ bitch!” Faun’s accent made it sound as ‘fookin’. “Royce’s initials are on it! It was the only one that had his initials and he gave it to you!” Bronwyn began to turn the bag this way and that, searching…
Oh my God. Royce’s initials…
Faun was bouncing on her toes. “See? See? That’s not all we found!”
Bronwyn continued to inspect the pen, trying to keep herself under control. “What else did you find?”
Faun was on a roll. “A theater ticket for a play in London tomorrow. A set of car keys. Your MP3 player and ear buds.”
“Those things could be anybody’s,” Bronwyn whispered.
“I seen you wearing ’em!” The woman was starting to froth at the mouth. “They were in a pot!
Bronwyn wasn’t listening at this point, instead concentrating on the bag. Faun was screaming, a small crowd had gathered around. A policeman finally showed up and attempted to calm Royce’s current wife down. It wasn’t working.
“I knew you’d come after us when that kid stepped in that grave! I told Royce to leave you alone, you’d retaliate! He shoulda stepped through the ribs-”
A horrid thought suddenly occurred to Bronwyn. Her eyes jerked up. “You paid Colin to destroy my dig, didn’t you?”
The smug smile on Faun’s face said it all. “He’s not done with you!”
Bronwyn’s mind began to race. She turned on her heel and pressing the baggie into the police officer’s hand, she grabbed her dropped purchases and rushed to her car.
“Miss?” One of the police officers called after her. “Are ye wishin’ to press charges?”
Bronwyn didn’t stop. “Yes! Lock her ass up!” She jumped into her vehicle, cranked the engine and honking, backed up and pulled out of the parking lot.
As she passed the crowd, she pulled out her cellphone and growled when she got the answering machine. “Alfred! Faun was just here and accused me of messing up Royce’s dig! She claimed they dug up Royce’s Cross pen among other things.” She took a breath. “She insinuated they paid or coerced Colin to sabotage my dig and he wasn’t done with me. I’m heading there now! Please send someone!”
Aelhaearn looked into the night sky, along with many of the villagers. The Areolas Borealis was very colorful that night, the colors a very unusual hue.
“The air is restless,” Meaurig whispered in the old man’s ear. “’Tis unnatural.” There was a pause. “I do not like it.”
“You dislike everything. You are worse than an old woman.” The old man tilted his head, still watching the dark sky. “There is a wanderer lost in the lower hills.”
Meaurig started to ask the old man how he knew, but the Druid knew many things. “Where?” Aelhaearn rolled his eyes. “Which way?” Meaurig amended.
The old Druid pointed to the east. “There, near the trees where the fog is.” He grabbed Meaurig before he could turn. “She is no enemy. Treat her kindly.”
Meaurig turned and scowled. “I know of no friend who comes in the night. Only those who bear bad news or ill will!” His argument was not meant for anyone’s ears but his own. He pulled his hood up and grabbed his bow and quiver.
Aelhaearn was not paying attention anyway. He was looking back up to the sky. The Northern Lights were starting to boil, the streamers whipping back and forth like slender banners in the wind. He pulled the pouch from around his neck. Tipping it, he poured a bright blue powder into the palm of his hand. Inhaling deeply, he blew them into the air, the particles catching the light of the fire. “The ribbons dance. She is coming.”
It seemed to take forever for Bronwyn to make it to the site. Driving like a crazy person, she made her way off road. At one point, she had to get out because there were traffic cones across the entrance to the dig. Sometime in the coming week, a true gate was to go up and Bronwyn was understandably miffed that it hadn’t yet.
There were three aging motor scooters parked in the middle of the road. She recognized Colin’s. Throwing her rental into park, she grabbed her iPhone from her carry all and started to jump out. For some odd reason, she reached back in, throwing the car keys into her satchel and grabbed it as well. If for no other reason, it was heavy and could be used as a swinging weapon, if necessary.
She pressed the power switch on her iPhone and turned on the video. Even if it was almost dark and a strange misty fog rising from the brush, at least it would pick up the sounds. She tucked it in her shirt pocket, camera lens out. As she neared the site, she heard sounds, giggling. There was the noise of breaking glass, the smell of marijuana.
She stepped into the clearing.
Colin and two buddies, Delwyn and Niclas, were drinking and smoking pot. Del launched an empty beer bottle at a rock, shattering it against a tree. “Good riddance.”
“Aye.” Colin was quick to agree. He took a drag from the joint. “My da sez when he finishes wif da bitch, her will never come back!”
“Yeah, ‘magine,” Niclas slurred, “a ‘Merican tellin’ us our history! Ain’t nat’ral!”
Colin was passing the joint. “Ain’t right.” He pounded Del in that arm, not realizing that his friend realized they had company, and not the good kind. “Me da sez she needs someone t’haul her into the bushes and not hurt her too bad!”
“Uhm…” Del was pointing, “Colin?”
Colin was not only ignoring his friend, he was definitely feeling the buzz from the marijuana, as well as the beer. “Me da also sez he’d be t’man fer t’job, but he reckons she a tight arse an’ would be like fukkin a dead fish!”
“And your father would know about fucking a dead fish?”
Colin dropped his beer and turned, mouth agape.
“Lookit the red light in ‘er pocket.” Del was backtracking.
Colin grin was evil. “Don’t mean nuttin’.”
“You’re live, buddy!” Bronwyn grinned, hoping the bully didn’t see through her lie. “Straight to Dr. Llewellyn and the authorities.” She patted her pocket. “I ran into Faun Marshburn back in town. She implicated you in a bit of nastiness.”
Colin looked at both of his friends before turning and crashing through the brush. Del and Niclas followed and within moments, the roar of three mopeds roared to life. Bronwyn shook her head, wishing she had taken a moment to take a picture of them to send to Alfred. She called him, frowning when she went to his voice mail. She hung up before the message finished. He knew she was heading here. He could deal with it later.
She began to walk through the site, using the small flashlight on her camera to survey the site. As expected, there was broken glass strewn about. There were cigarette butts, what looked like cigarette papers. Oh, and close to what had been the grave was the smell of…
-and something else???
Bronwyn scrunched her nose at the stench, afraid of what it might be. Turning her phone’s flashlight to the ground so she could watch her step, she continued to peruse the area.
There was a rustle in the brush.
Bronwyn turned, shining her paltry light towards the noise. “Who’s there?” She squinted but saw nothing but the reflection of her light. It was now fully dark and it dawned on her that she was in the woods alone with known enemies waiting to harm her. It now didn’t matter if she stepped in manure and she started to head back to her car. Two steps down, she stubbed her toe on something soft. She looked down quickly, shining the small beam on what she almost tripped on.
Re-situating her gym bag on her shoulder, she bent over and picked up the Druid’s pouch.
“I could have sworn-”
-this was attached to the Druid’s funerary that was sent to the University …
The fog eerily rose, tendrils whipping around her ankles and calves.
What witchery is this?
The pouch flared, turning white and then electric blue. Bronwyn peered closely at it, only for the scrap of hide to explode in her face. Blue vapor rose from it, covering her, the surrounding area, the soot and dirt flying around her face and into her nostrils. This caused her to sneeze, her free hand waving to clear the air.
She opened her eyes when she thought it was safe.
Only to find a strangely dressed tall man in a hood, standing in front of her, arrow nocked and the arrowhead within inches of her nose. He pulled the string tighter.
“Stopio ble rydych chi! Pwy ydych chi?”