(Gwen gets a lecture on time)
Shepherds Quake At The Sight
Gwen watched as Tosh’s fingertips weaved over the eroded surface of the stone. Her pale lips muttered something incoherent, her dark hair swinging against her face reminding her of funeral curtains on a horse drawn hearse. Gwen shuddered, the beam of her torch wavering with the movement as it cast its glow over the sunken rock. The moon had long since given way to the thickening clouds which now danced with the swirl of snow, silencing the gravestones with the muffle of their veil.
Tosh spread her own light on the stone crouching down to scour it with numb fingers, flecks of silver anointing her dark crown before they melted against her hair. “I think this is the one.” Her voice trembled with the cold chafing against the night air in a plume of breath.
She pulled the manuscript from where it was tucked under her arm, the pages bleaching the darkness as they fell open under the light from Gwen’s torch. “Yes, I think this is it,” Tosh stated, her eyes sparkling in the tapered glow.
They had found the artefact where Ianto had left it, resting against the imbued stone, its parchment summoning them with a rustle of age. Tosh had immediately picked it up feeling its ghostly pull directing her to the location of the next ancient pillar. She had looked at Gwen, her eyes holding a flicker of awareness, a duel insight taken from a mix of past and present that seemed to overwhelm the small imperfection of their colour, making them sparkle.
Gwen had stepped forward, a little uneasy but Tosh had shook the concerned hand from her shoulder and had turned in search of the next stone.
They had discovered it just as the snow began to lightly dust the churchyard, its weathered surface indistinguishable from the rest of the age worn monuments. A silence had crept upon them, waiting on the hushed breath of the wind, as the book initiated the rite with an eager lick of its heavy pages. Gwen had been rooted, her light steady, despite the waltz of flakes breaking into raw tears on her skin.
The open book had shadowed Tosh’s face with its rounded script, its luminescence bathing her features covering them with the translucent form of a majestic grey wolf. It had bayed against the darkness, calling to the moon, the overlay of its eyes holding a wisdom long forgotten in the modern world. One sliver of silver had cut through the cloud, as if the moon had answered the age old appeal, the serenity held in the dip of its beam coaxing the stone to awaken.
Tosh had spoken against the night, words that had held no meaning to Gwen but they made her skin tingle with their resonance. The stone seemed to gasp and inhale the spiralling symbols raised from the pages until the letters blazed against the rock embellishing the obelisk with its ancient baptism. Tosh had then collapsed to the frozen ground and the moon had melted behind the drifting rubble of the cloud.
Gwen looked at her, she seemed barely human in the drawn light of the torch, her face grey against its sallow beam, her dark eyes jaded and weary. She laid a hand on Tosh’s trembling shoulder; Tosh gave a small smile that struggled against the exhaustion. “Let me try,” Gwen offered, “it can’t hurt.” She placed her torch down on the stone angling the beam in her direction.
Reluctantly Tosh nodded and handed over the manuscript wiping the sweeping snow from its leather cover with her sleeve. She stepped back and pooled her light on the book waiting for it to react as Gwen opened it up.
The wind stirred biting into their bitter tableau carrying the snow across their twined beams like a swarm of insects.
Gwen picked up her torch and turned a page, its light bouncing off the empty parchment. She looked at Tosh, who moved closer. “It’s blank.” She carefully leafed through the cumbersome pages.
Tosh frowned. “No it’s not.” Her fingertips skimmed the stretched animal hide revealing the glide of ink where she touched.
Gwen looked back at the manuscript. “What..?”
Tosh shook her head, keenly watching the scratch of symbols render the page. “This is way out of my field of expertise,” she offered, narrowing her eyes in thought. “Maybe Ianto and myself act like some sort of conduit…” She paused, her eyes becoming distant. “Life, death, rebirth.”
Gwen tracked the mantra as it drifted into the depths of the night. “Tosh?”
“This needs to be done while her direction is elsewhere; we need to finish this now.” The spark Tosh’s eyes flashed once more as the tome’s ancient script began to weep from its pages.
Gwen closed the book looking to her colleague. “I know, I know, but Tosh, listen to me, whatever this, this book is doing, it’s taking something from you, using your energy to fuel itself; you’re dead on your feet.”
Tosh stopped, her face pale against the chalkboard of the night, her posture changing in a sweep of torchlight. “We mean this body no harm.” Her voice revealed several inflections that floated in the flurry of the snow. “But to wait would be costly, she has become more powerful then we imagined.”
The book slipped from Gwen’s grasp. “We?”
Tosh looked at her through unknown eyes. “We are her keepers.” She turned to the yew, dappled with snow. “We must redo what time has undone; we have slept too long waiting for repentance.”
Gwen stepped nearer; an old man ghosted Tosh. “Nodons?” Her question traced the darkness. “You remained here?”
His gaze held a profound grief. “Agroná’s corruption stained us all, her transgression became our own burden, such is the way of the collective.”
He looked at her, his eyes piercing the drawn out howl of the encumbered wind. “Our flesh became stone and we waited for time to heal our scars and give us contrition.”
“But it never came,” Gwen offered.
“No, time only fed her grief and need.” He inclined his head as if in thought.
Gwen held his gaze. “But can you stop her?”
“We will do what we can but we will not go against our nature.” His voice became firm.
“You will imprison her again?” Gwen let her stare linger over the dappled crown of the yew.
“Yes and wait for repentance.” There was an austere trace in his tone.
She inadvertently chewed her bottom lip. “You do not think it will come?” Nodons regarded her sincerely. “And yet your heart is one of compassion?”
Gwen sighed. “Her pain is still acute after all these years…”
He smiled. “You are still tied to the linear.” He held out a crumpled hand letting the snow melt on his palm. “Time is as complex and as fragile as these crystals, no two moments are the same, yet they start from the same point, share the same nuclei. You must understand that time is not a stretched thread but a prism to pass through and drift on its charity and patience.”
He looked at her. “Agroná is one with us, she shares our spectrum of light, we will find the understanding within time’s many facets to heal and guide her back into our fold.”
Nodons reached across and with a fatherly touch brushed Gwen’s fringe from her eyes. “Would you give up so easily on someone you love?”
Their eyes held a joint understanding. Nodons nodded. “Then we are of a like mind.”
Gwen studied the snowstorm. “What about the rift?”
“We too can use its energies. We were careless before, we will not be so again.” The manuscript sprang from the ground and into Nodons’ hand.
His face softened into Tosh’s own features and then bloomed into those of a youth. The young man laid a hand upon the stone. Gwen took a hesitant step forward. “My friend, Tosh…”
“We will not harm her Gwen Cooper.” His voice had a musical lilt that beckoned memories of gentle breezes and spring showers.
She nodded. “And the others, Agroná has taken them with her.”
“We will do what we can. We can make no promises.” Maponus lightly bowed his head.
The heavy tome opened spraying its light toward the stars and bathing the night in music. Its melody rose from the pages infusing the darkness with its harmony. For a fleeting moment Maponus tore his gaze away from the stone and let it dance into Gwen’s own. His voice whispered with the timbre of nature’s ambience. “Love has many faces, Gwen Cooper; embrace what you can have, do not try to snatch at a moment of desire, it is but a flicker that will consume more than just your heart.”
He turned away, leaving Gwen feeling bruised.
Copyright©RMC Feb 2018