fire claims all
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

The Beltane Fires
by Kristy Kerruish


The events of April 30th 1891


“We cannot continue with the excavation. Local feeling is very much against us,” Ladrian looked to Canning as if waiting for him to speak.

Canning took his pipe from his lips. “Because of the stone head?”


Canning rose from the fireside chair and walked to the window. From here he could view the hill. Nothing but bracken and gorse clung to the upper slopes of the escarpment and from where he stood the profile of ancient earthworks was visible against the sky. Ancient tools had shaped this landscape and with their excavation they were erasing a fingerprint that had lasted centuries. It was destruction but then again, how were people to learn about the past other than by investigation? The price was not too great.

“These people cling to superstitions Ladrian, you know this as well as I,” Canning turned to face Ladrian where he sat at his study desk.

“There is a solution,” Ladrian said reaching out he run his hand across the face carved into the head-sized stone lying before him. “Take it back.”

“You presume that replacing the stone will placate these people?”

“I suppose it might. This piece is revered.”

“I don't know how it can be. It has lain in the ground these past centuries and none of them knew it was there.”

“They say they knew from folklore. They say that it marked a sacred site.”

“Poppycock. We have unsettled the ancient gods? Ignorance Ladrian. The only thing we have unearthed is the stupidity of the locals here; their simple-mindedness and unwillingness to compromise or learn.”

“Still, I shall take it back. It does not serve us keeping it here.”

“What good will it do back in the ground?”

“I have drawn it, measured it and taken several photographs.” Ladrain gestured to the albumen prints lying on his desk. “I have everything I need.”

Canning gave a grimace and looked out of the window waving at Mazy as she strolled in the garden beneath the shade of her lacy parasol. “Sleep on it Ladrian. You may think differently tomorrow.”

There was enough of a moon to make Ladrian's passage up the narrow path navigable. The stone, slung in a bag over his shoulder, seemed to have increased in weight since he left the house. He was aware of the world at night breathing, the scurry of the voles in the long grasses and the moth-like silence of the owl passing over head. The sky was gradated to a rich azure towards the west marking the point the sun had been driven from the sky. Tonight was a sacred night, Beltane. It marked a time of ancient rites; it seemed fitting to Ladrian that the stone should be returned to its rightful resting point on this night.

Canning paused in surprise when he entered the study. “Mazy. You are still up?”

“Ladrian's gone to the hill.”

“I suppose he's gone to take that wretched stone back.”

“Yes, but look. The hill is alive with lights. The locals have all come out.”

“Damned superstitious lot,” Canning said lighting his pipe, his dry lips smacking against the  pipe stem as he drew in the smoke.

“What a wonderful sight. Ladrian will be pleased that they have turned up to mark the event.”

Canning was silent. He could see the rivers of light shifting, breaking and reforming as the locals climbed the hill towards the site of the excavation.

“It looks so beautiful,” Mazy laughed.

Canning looked at her face in the vague light with something close to admiration and then averted his eyes to look back to the hill. “It's not easy to be married to an archaeologist is it?”

Mazy smiled and blew out her candle which set a filament of smoke curling about her face. “We can see better now. Some have lit fires.”

“Indeed,” Canning said drawing back the curtain so he could see more clearly. The fire in the hearth spat and he turned to see if it had thrown out any embers, as he did so he saw the flames ebb and grow dark. He frowned turning back to Mazy with a sudden feeling of unease. She was still looking at the hill. The streams of lights had collected into pools on the hillside as if drawn to the larger fires that had been lit. Somewhere there was the sound of distant music. They could see figures passing in front of the flames, some of them dancing.

Mazy started when she heard the front door bang shut and ran from the room. “Ladrian, you took it back.”

“I did,” Ladrian looked at Canning who had followed Mazy into the hall. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“Apparently you were not the only one to think so,” Canning said belligerently checking his fob watch against the hall clock with his forehead puckered into a frown. Midnight had passed without it chiming.

“Really? You surprise me. I saw no one.”

“No, but there were hundreds of lights. Come, I'll show you,” Mazy said taking Ladrain's hand and leading him back into the room. “See,” she said drawing back the curtain.

“Nothing,” Ladrian replied.

Mazy let out a puzzled cry. “There is no one there.”

They looked out searching the darkness, Canning framed his hands against the glass and pressed his face to the window. “It was alive with lights. You must believe me Ladrian. We watched the people walking up the hillside and lighting their fires.”

“I see no fires.”

“It's not possible Ladrian. The fires could not have gone out. You must believe what we saw.”

“Oh, I do,” Ladrian said pouring himself a whisky. “I do believe.”




Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2017