Standing Stone

© 2003

This is a boy love romance of ancient mystery and magic. There is no connection with fact and any resemblance to actual people or places is purely in the mind of the reader and not the author. The acts of love described here can not have ever taken place as the people did not exist. If you should find yourself walking among the barrows and in the rain upon the heath, eat not from any boy you chance to meet.

I am indebted to Teglin and Ganymede for showing me the way. I pray they find a sliver of the light they shine so brightly inside this simple story. Namaste ............


Andraste – a Celtic mother goddess concerned with warriors, victory and death (Morrigan to the Irish)

Annwr – the magic underworld of Welsh mythology, similar to Tir na n-Og (the Land of Youth) to the Irish – the denizens of Annwr enjoyed eternal life and the pleasures of the hunt. They could invite mortals in to join their lives of pleasure, but mortals trying to sneak in would often meet the other inhabitants: monsters and shades of those long dead.

Arawn – the King of Annwr

Cleneth – a warrior

Gwydion – a supernatural wizard

Lochmaben, a village, and Clochmabenstane, a prehistoric stone, both in Dumfriesshire. The stone was a tribal assembly point

Love - Do not read any further if the prospect of love between a boy and man goes against your nature

Maponus – a Celtic god of youth concerned with music and poetry (Mac Oc to the Irish)

Nodens – a Celtic god of healing

Sidh – the ancient burial barrow of kings and home to faeries, pl. sidhe

Tadhg – a boy of uncertain winters, perhaps almost ten

Worms - Tread softly, there will be dragons here...

Part one - Annwr


O Time the fatal wrack of mortal things,
That draws oblivion’s curtains over kings;

Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612-1672)

"Aye, 'tis a day fit only for the crows!" Cleneth growled as he wiped the rain and mud splattered hair away from his face. "Boy! Get back to camp, get on a horse, hie ye away from here. Lad, 'tis a place here for only dead and dying."

The boy turned huge and horrified eyes from the piles of already rotting men he'd laughed with and served ale just yesterday. Struggling to hold both the man and the bronze greatsword up, he felt the sinking power as Cleneth leaned on him, then seemed to lean right through him and almost start to melt into the mud.

When he first ran to him the boy thought he must do something to help this man who had been teacher, protector and his friend among all the others. Now he knew there was nothing he could do. The water pouring down his face against the leather jerkin Cleneth had given him was less rain than tears. The sea would be nourished with the salt his body forced out through his eyes.

"See! Crows!!! Both black and flightless already claim their due!" Cleneth's arm swept the valley's arc and like he had sent Elmo's fire with his spreading fingers a crackling hiss returned against the droning chord of rain intent on turning all to mud. A shiver of tension followed the arcing hand and black crows leapt away from feast and cawed discontent before settling back to eat again. Not all the moving shapes could fly, yet the shiver hit them too, strange shuffling, rustling wraiths paused in mid crouch and looked to see what disturbed their gruesome tasks and sent the crows aloft. Then turning, hissing, not to be denied they knelt and skittered on. The crows dance up and down, the wraiths jittering progress across the field chilled the boy deeper than the rain.

Cleneth dropped to his knees and almost pulled the boy down with him. Reaching out across the almost man who lay crumpled near his side he grabbed a golden dagger and hacked three fingers from its unmoving hand. Pulling large rings from the stubs he grasped the belt and tore it away bringing purse and scabbard too. Thrusting 'neath his own shattered chest he clutched his own purse. Wiping the dagger against the inside of his thigh he ran it home in the scabbard and forced the rings inside his purse. Turning, groaning with the effort he cinched the belt around the boy and made the purses fast.

"Now get thee gone! Stay only long enough at camp to get my box, thou knows, the silver one. Take it, the horse and ride thee North, these bastards would as soon eat living flesh as dead. Give me that sword, now go!"

The boy heaved the greatsword round to stand its tip upon the mud, the earth seemed to try and swallow it as Cleneth's hand found its place around the hilt. Hearing a terrible shriek as a not-yet-dead-man upon the plain was set upon by crows, the boy loosed his bladder, shuddered sick and stumbled to the ground. The tip of Cleneth's greatsword rose from out the mud and smacked him on the shoulder. Twin cuts appeared on either side where the edges danced against his flesh as the flat of the blade woke him from his terror.

"Andraste! Spare this one today!" cried Cleneth, "Maponus needs his youth far more than ye; take my blood in his stead. Lad, run! Serve Maponus with thy poetry, I'll miss it second most, as first I'll miss the sight and taste and warmth of thee."

The blade left the shoulder of the boy and turned and changing as it curved around, the hand left hilt and caught it amid blade. The tip was centered close upon Cleneth's chest. The boy watched him falling forward, the blade tip never moving from it's stand, just swallowed by heart's home. Then shining with some trick of light and quivering at the heavens, it rose from between the great man's shoulder blades, streaked golden gleaming red and rampant, refusing to be sullied by the mud.

The boy sobbed and staggered to his feet and ran blinded toward the camp. The rain let loose as if crying with him too and soon the stench and sight of death was carried away within the gloom.

As he entered the camp he thought it deathly silent, then knew that where he'd been had now embraced all death; he'd never think again that shade silent as she came. There had been too many groans and moans and cries and screams, whispered prayers and pleadings to absent mothers: "I'm cold.", "I'm sorry.", "I can't feel thy kiss.", which he had heard, but not heard, while out upon that plain. Here this silence was not death, but dark foreboding, the bated breath of objects waiting to change owners.

He burst into the tent and threw aside the pile of blankets and of furs and found the silver box hidden in the greasy rags he used to polish Cleneth's armour. As if the box accepted him, the silence broke; a horse whinnied and jingled bridle's brass. He flew to the sound and leaped astride Cleneth's mount and rode headlong through the rain.

The horse once given head thundered Northward past the terror in his bowels. Now plodding, aimless, wandering matched the empty cloying catatonia in his head. The rain continued sheeting down pulling melancholia deeper. The boy had no thoughts, no active conscious mind. The numbing shining of the sword held quivering to the sky was the only image seared into his brain. It sat there, bold and terrible because he knew what held it so, the body of his life's blood; the man who made him whole.

He jerked awake, his body tingling at Cleneth's touch. He had slept so oft' upon this horse, held upright by Cleneth's arms. This tingling though was one of lack, one of shivering cold, one of safety gone and drizzling chill which crept down through his bones. He knew he needed to find shelter or Andraste might have him yet. But what of that? Perhaps it would be best, perhaps Cleneth waited on the other side to hold him safe upon his mount, to give him warmth? His eyes saw the shining dagger hilt and wondered if it would quiver so? If he could hold it pointing up between his shoulder blades and signal Cleneth where he'd lay? His hand touched it, his mind noticed it was warm. The cold was so deep in him now that metal had more life. He started to draw it from its scabbard when a blinding whiteness filled his eyes.

The horse shied and reared and dumped him from his perch. The breath was driven from his chest. He lay, perhaps already dead and tried to suck in air. His eyes full of spinning swirls, he gasped and gulped his way back up from blackness. He barely opened them and gasped another breath when two white figures touched each side of his heaving chest. A pure white raven with jet black and piercing eyes touched him on the right. A white dog muzzle below gleaming obsidian eyes and topped with crimson tipped white ears was touching on his left. "Cleneth! Maponus! I am done... Let them take me," he thought as he fell into utter oblivion.

The Sidh

There is sweet music here that softer falls

Than petals from blown roses on the grass,

Or night-dews on still waters between walls

Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;

Music that gentler on the spirit lies,

Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes;

Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–1892),

The warmth seeped first into his fevered brain, then the gentle soft singing. His mind held them just below the surface of conscious thought. They hovered there, the turning of the tune the only sign that time was moving once again. The warmth developing with the complexity of the song. The collapsing ice which held him, retreating before their double relentless onslaught.





Encircling from his body's ends and striving for its middle.





Entwining round his hands, his arms, his feet, his thighs. Enclosing first his head, his chest and then the center of his being. Engulfing him as Cleneth had. Filling him with the same strident pulsing fire.

"Cleneth!" he screamed, impaled upon the vision of the greatsword quivering.

The warmth and song enveloped him drawing off the terror, but not removing sorrow. He yielded to their pressure falling deep inside, not back into blackness or oblivion, but into healing sleep.

Hunger spoke inside his head, he looked it in the eye and backed it off as Cleneth had taught him in the lean of winter's storm. He held Cleneth's hand and watched the falling snow melting quickly on the horses neck and mane. "Cleneth." he moaned feeling the slap of the greatsword against his shoulder waking him from terror into a horror barely borne: Cleneth gone!

The warmth and song filled up his head and caressed him with their care. The sorrow rose a bit, some dissipating on the air. He settled into memory, into his life's love's deep embrace.

He woke smiling with the feel of Cleneth's warmth against his back. He frowned seeing only rock and glow where flickering light should have illuminated through the tent. The warmth was real but not so soft as Cleneth either. He dredged words from deep inside his brain, "... as first I'll miss the sight and taste and warmth of thee." He cried, sobbing, wracking, releasing tears sending sorrow flying from his chest. The song and warmth stood just aside and pushed sorrow well away. The glow quickly rushed inside and took its place.

When next he woke hunger stared him back refusing to abate. He lifted off the bed to sit up straight and found an apple sitting there. His mouth ravaged it quieting the anger from his abdomen. It was no sooner gone than it seemed to reappear where he had dropped the useless core. Picking this new apple up with wonderment he ate it at a more normal pace. He looked around where he was sitting and realized the rock and glow had not been all a dream. He was in a room created out of rock, yet not carved out of it he saw. This room was hundreds, perhaps thousands of rocks, many bigger than he, piled in certain clear and standing order to make a giant space. In fact he sat on rock, the bed was one huge slab.

He suddenly felt he was undressed, he sat there draped only in a shimmering yellow orange cloth like he had never seen before. It was almost slick within his fingers, yet clung to his lap where he had turned his feet aside and sat up to eat the apple. It hardly weighed upon his skin but gave him back his body's heat almost as if it were a fur.

Heat! He remembered warmth and startled to find the slab of rock was warming him from underneath. He'd surprised Cleneth one day with a sudden inspiration and grabbing rocks from beside the fire he'd juggled them onto the shield and then into their bed. Cleneth had laughed grabbing lewdly within his trousers, "What's this? Two lively rocks not enough for thee?" But then he had smiled and hugged him close when he crawled into the warm and ready bed. "Those rocks have won their place inside my heart," Cleneth had sighed as he cupped the boy's little stones, "right next to these I love on thee." It had been one of the happiest days he ever had remembered.

Remembered! Remembered with the words, "Serve Maponus with thy poetry, I'll miss it second most..." Remembered with the tears, tears now falling streaming down his cheeks. Not tears full of terror or sorrow these, just tears of loss coursing down and sliding off the strange cloth in his lap. He curled back upon the slab, drew up his knees within the cloth and cried himself back once more to sleep.

The singing pulled him next from out his sleep. His opening eyes drawn straight across the room by a flickering light. He sat up once again to find the apple there. Then taking it and hitching the cloth across his shoulders he stepped down off the bed. The floor was warm beneath his feet despite its clear creation out of stone. The light drew him like a moth, he munched his way across the room. He saw it sat on a kind of shelf, a niche built into the wall. Behind it flowed a steady stream of water coming out across the flame's ledge, falling into a bowl of stone, then running off between the walls in an ingenious stone carved trough. The flame seemed to be the very water burning. It couldn't be he thought, watching as it flowed. In fact it spewed out of the mouth of a stone carved fish, the ledge carved with dancing water flowers, the bowl shaped like a giant leaf. He'd never seen carving such as this, though Cleneth told him he'd once seen a man of stone carved right out of the rock. He'd batted at Cleneth's arm and told him not to tease. Now looking at the fish and leaf and dancing water flowers he thought maybe Cleneth had been telling him the truth. He sighed and dripped a single tear to think he'd never get to tell Cleneth he was sorry he had disbelieved.

The tear dropped into the leaf and the singing seemed to swell. He looked round the room but couldn't find the source. Then hunger quiet, thirst raised her head and he clasped the makeshift cloak round his neck between the unscathed apple in the fingers of his right hand. Making his left hand a cup he dipped it in the flowing water. As it submerged to fill itself the singing broke forth from all around. His trembling hand dripping water to his lips could hardly believe what it had felt. The song came from the very stone.

He dipped again and this time he was sure, the vibrations in the water came only from the rock. He walked amazed around the room touching first one stone, then another. Each seemed to have its own single note called forth by the touch. They called their note clearly when he touched, yet held it back in some hidden composition until he sat again upon the stone slab bed. Then all about the rocks began to sing the song he had heard throughout his tortured, then healing sleep. He sat and let it enter deep into the fabric of his soul. 'Cleneth would have beamed,' he sighed, thinking, 'that I could call more stones than his to sing.' The song swelled in happy agreement with the thought.

He lay upon the rock, legs longly flexed, his body relaxing into its warmth. "What manner of place is this? Have I reached the faerie land?" his mind asked as he drifted back to sleep.

"'Tis Not Faerie," the voice was softly telling him as the hand gently brushed his brow. "Thee have come round to Annwr."

His eyes opened and he looked directly into the deep black stones held in the face just above his head. No not stones, at least not like stones he knew before he came into this place. These were full of warmth, not cold and lifeless black. They danced with hidden then swiftly revealed and rehidden silver sparks. They laughed almost, they held compassion deep beneath their surface.

He should have jumped to find a face so close when waking from his sleep. Cleneth had given him a little knife and showed him how to hide it in the night and aim it sharp and swift should someone ever get so close as this when not invited into the bed. He'd cried to think Cleneth thought he'd ever invite anyone else inside his bed. Cleneth had held him close and kissed away the tears and made him see he didn't think that at all, but that some drunken fool might forget who belonged with whom and think to take what was not his. He had practiced hard and with a stalk of grass one day had shocked Cleneth with the fact that had he been uninvited, he would have been dead still outside the bed.

Yet these eyes, this voice, the gentle hand struck him with no fear. There was no hidden danger. The face before his eyes surely belonged here, it seemed perhaps this was its bed. He must have been the one invited in. He smiled into the silver flashes and giggled to feel his hair brushed softly aside.

"Thee maketh the stone to sing like none that's ever visited lad. What sayest thee to them in thy sleep?"

"I know not sir, yet 'tis clear they sing to me," he said and rose from off the bed. As if in harmony with his actions, the song faded to a simple note then swelled stone by stone as he walked round the room touching some in turn. Finally stopping by the leafy bowl of water, he let the cloth drop puddling at his feet and dipped a double handful of water to his lips. The room fairly rang with notes cascading like the water between his slender fingers.

He turned smiling at the man, for it was clearly man, albeit old, attached to those eyes, that face. He was returned a smile as broad and then opening arms and the boy knew to run into the offered succoring embrace. The stones rang notes as clear as bells to tell the comfort struck into his heart. He did not cry, he simply drew ever tendril of the solace deep into his fractured being.

"Tis good, they ring the changes for thee lad." The ancient man still held him close and pushed the assuagement deep. "The one that's lost, that thee cries out to, where thee with him when he fell?"

The boy nodded against the leathery neck beneath the barely white bearded chin.

"Aye, well then thee knows it's true and won't have any foolish hopes. If he was as good in life as he outfitted thee in death, thy tears do fairly tell of loss. Look thee, thy dagger and thy purse are here. Thy clothes lie drying in the other room. Nodens must have smiled on thee I think to have sent both white raven and wild hunt dog. They roused me from many deep nights' sleep to tend thee where thee lay. They circled round and kept so close I had to bring thee here. I feared no peace would ever come had I left thee there. Then the stones sang when first I brought thee but a step inside, I've not known that in many a man's age. Here! I prattle so, thee will think me but a dolt. Welcome to my sidh, the barrow mound of Llud, and welcome ye to Annwr."

"I know Annwr," the boy whispered into the aged chest, "It's where one goes when dead."

"Aye, well that part of Annwr is not for thee, thou art full alive. Annwr holds many realms and this one is for healing and the powers of the mind. I am Gwydion, I abide here for awhile. What is thy name child? I can not just call thee 'boy.'"

"Tadhg, I am Cleneth's, WAS Cleneth's boy," he sobbed into the chest.

The ancient hand smoothed again at Tadhg's hair and gently laid him once more on the bed. He flicked his hand, the cloth appeared and stretched out over the boy. Soothing brow and chest the gnarled fingers fell into the rhythm of the singing stones and lulled the boy beyond his pain and back again to sleep.

Gods and Kings

The moon shines bright. In such a night as this,

When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,

And they did make no noise

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Gwydion shuffled lightly from the singing room and walked outside the barrow. The gloaming light, not night nor day, held steady for the nonce. A large white raven fluttered down from in the ring of oaks and standing still transformed into a youth of not so many winters. Like Tadhg inside the barrow, his body yet had no hint of hair except the flowing silver from his head down on his shoulders.

Gwydion held his hands palms together against his chest and sighed, "He lives my Lord Maponus; his body healed, his heart has yet to recognize it can mend from such a break."

The oak leaves shivered on a breeze of breath, the grove rustled with his thoughts:

"Faire him well and safely friend,
his life a gift his man did send.
'Twould be a shame to hear the stones
sweet singing turn to piteous groans.
He calls them strongly from their slumber,
His skills and appetency thou must begin to number."

Then with a quake the grove did undulate and Lord Maponus flew strongly North, white wings downdraft stirring mould.

Gwydion stood still in the spot and King Arawn of Annwr materialized with the white dog. "Take him to the stone at Dumfriesshire, the Clochmabenstane, perhaps it can cure his heart. We'll also see how strong the call of Maponus runs inside the lad."

Gwydion bowed to his departing King and turned back inside the barrow. Tadhg slept to stones soft lullaby as Gwydion prayed before the water alter.

"Gwydion?" Tadhg softly called across the stones, "How doth the apple always be renewed after I taste its sweet creamy center?"

Gwydion roused himself from meditation and turned slowly to the boy. "Do'st thou not want it ripe again? Do'st think more would do thee good?"

"Yes, when I was done I thought another bite would be delicious."

"Well then, thou seeist that thy desire makes it so."

The boy turned a furrowed brow and set aside the cloth. He walked across the warm and glowing floor and dipped his left hand once again to drink. The stones sang his thirst's quiet quenching.

"Then can'st I wish Cleneth whole again? I hunger for him too?"

"No, child, the thought's fulfilling wishes will not work where breath has flown."

"I miss him so, I have a hole here in my heart." Tadhg clutched at his chest and melted into the ancient's quick embrace.

"Aye, thou has't a hole, a hole to pour out the love he gave to thee. To spread it on the ground like the sacred spring, forever flowing, ever giving, ever nourishing those about thee. When thou has't healed a bit, thou will find that love can'st not be stoppered at that hole."

"I will never heal," Tadhg sighed against the ancient, "I have but emptiness inside."

"'Tis empty now, but like thy stomach just before it found the apple, thee will find the love in memory and fill thy heart back up." Gwydion lifted the boy against his hip and taking left hand in his right, he walked from stone to stone and caused the boy to make them sing in turn.

A hundred stones, a hundred tones, a hundred steps around the room and he was rewarded with a giggling boy who wiggling down upon his feet began a mad dash flying round the room and touching stones as fast as feet and fingers followed laughter. The stones pealed out in perfect harmony as if the hands were ringing stellar changes, not choosing haphazardly.

Then laughing, flying back into his arms Tadhg nuzzled into the old man's cheek and laughing softly said, "I just thought of Cleneth's stones and how I made them sing. He'd tell me I was the best he could imagine. I'd have sucked them dry for all eternity if I could have made them sing like this!"

"See, thou has poured some love back out on me and I feel it deeply Tadhg."

They sat upon the bed content to let the ringing of the stones settle back into their gentle song.

Tadhg pulled away and looked full on those dark black flashing eyes. "He used to laugh, he was so amazed. I am so small and yet in bed I had the appetite of a lion! Then when we drifted off to sleep I could almost drive him into the night I would hog the covers so. He learned to flip me front to back just to recover some of his blanket. I'd feel the heat of him pressing onto me and know I was safe and sound. I see what thou means by memory, I already fell less empty." He hugged himself again into Gwydion's encircling arms. "What's here? Where hast thou slept while I have hogged thy bed?"

"I've had no cause to sleep these past few weeks, thou hast had the greater need."

"Weeks!" Tadhg cried, his eyes boring into the ancient's head. "I've been here but a day!"

"No child, thou hast been here long, the cold had gripped thee deeply. The singing stones have played their round full thirty nights I'd wager. The coffin's call was hard to burn from within thy bones. Then the cuts against thy shoulder needed special healing herbs. The blade that cut thee there was large or strange indeed to make such a double cut. The marks will never fade I fear."

"It was Cleneth's blade, it woke me from my terror. The crows were going man to man and Cleneth bade me run. I'll bear the marks with love for him; I'd have died but for their gift. If I had stayed ... I heard them take some others not yet dead." His body shivered against the fragile arms of Gwydion remembering the horror of that scream across the plain. "It was huge, I could barely lift it. He felt the cut more deeply cold than I, he used it at the end."

"'Twas a good swift death lad, no carrion crows to draw the soul out piecemeal with the flesh. 'Tis how a warrior wants to go if not directly by the sword of his enemy."

Tadhg shivered yet again, "I know. I saw it standing there, pointing at the sky. I thought the golden blade he gave to me could help him find me too, if I could hold it just so through my own chest. Then the horse bolted and the white dog and raven came and finally I woke up here."

"Thee asked what else is here? Can'st walk? Then good, let's find the circle."

Leading Tadhg by the hand Gwydion went to the Eastern door, how he knew the direction was East, Tadhg couldn't say, but he was sure the sun would rise from the other side of it's portal. The entry was dark and Tadhg held back a bit, fearful of leaving the singing stones. "It's dark," he whispered to Gwydion's back.

"'Tis like the apple and the singing," Gwydion said, "If thou want it, it will be there, if not, then no. Do'st want light? Just think it as thou pass the entry."

Tadhg wanted light so desperately he gasped when his foot crossed the step. The room beyond began to glow, the light now fading from the room behind. The singing followed too.

The room was even bigger than the first yet nothing stood out in the middle. No bed, no shelf, no table, no anything to break the long expanse of stone. No that wasn't right, Tadhg saw the stone floor wasn't clean, unbroken. The channel bearing the spring's efflux went dancing across the stone. He looked in awe and began to follow it first round the room in a gigantic circle. Then curling back within itself creating a trio of mirror scroll work images to East and West and South. The channel cunningly dived below itself or rose above and crossed without the mixture of a single drop. Despite the twists and turns, the flow was ever onward, ever forward, ever heading to some intended rendezvous. He saw it there, just in the center of the room. The channel ended in another bowl: this one carved as a giant acorn. The flux filled the bowl and swirled around and must have dropped out underneath. It didn't splash a drop to either side and obviously would have quickly overflowed.

The marvel of the pattern was the doves Tadhg saw it did describe within the greater circle. He dropped to his knees, Cleneth would have offered such a holy site a coin from within his purse. Tadhg could only offer it the flooding of remembrances from within his heart.

Gwydion felt the outpouring join the flowing with the spring and marveled that the circle had struck so deep within the boy. The healing he had feared would never start was now almost surely close to complete. Lord Maponus had certainly been right. The enumeration of the child's skills and proclivities would be anything but what might have been normal for a boy.

He waited, watching the hole within the heart first shrink and then enlarge as it shed pain and sorrow and then embraced the pouring out of love. He guessed the valley round about would sing with happy cries of babies some months hence as all this love made its way into hovels and woodland huts via drinking water. The sea's would doubtless team with fishes too for sometime yet to come. The gift this boy had channeled through the acorn would surge through history no doubt.

He lifted Tadhg from where he lay spent upon the singing, warming stone and carried him back along the patterns, back around the circle, back across the threshold into the Western room. He placed the naked, glowing boy upon the singing bed and drew the saffron cloth about his body. He had been right to choose its silken kiss, no other fabric would have been worthy.

Tadhg dreamed of Cleneth's morning appetite. He smiled through sleep to think of stones squeezed dry scant hours past, now filled again and urgently seeking fresh release. The sword between them standing as proud as he stood when holding Cleneth's shield. It thrust its head outside its flimsy helmet begging ritual dance within his body's scabbard. He often woke first, this urgent throbbing at his back. He'd wiggle round, Cleneth would groan, then flop over on his back. His lips would smile to see the one eyed worm questing for its vanished hole. He'd let them slip around the peeking mushroom head his tongue teasing it a bit.

It never failed to anger at the teasing and would spit a bit of nectar, never venom. Then he'd add plenty of his mouth's morning juices just beneath the helmet skin and squish it up between his fingers trapping all the liquids quick inside. He'd lift his head and then his body lying softly on Cleneth's chest. His fingers still trapping all the fluids would guide themselves toward his entrance. Then sitting back a bit and exhaling deeply, he'd let the juices pop against his hole and thrusting strongly downward with his shoulders he'd have Cleneth strike him deep inside.

The heat inside his bottom and the dancing of the muscles on the sword would always draw Cleneth from Mab's dreaming and he'd crush Tadhg first into his chest and then with hands upon his shoulders sit him up and back against his knees. He'd take Tadhg's feet from against his thighs and pull them stongly to his mouth. Sucking great toe after great toe he'd peg Tadhg so very deeply the boy would swear the snake was in his throat. Tadhg would moan and thrash about, his toes laved with indescribable waves of pleasure, the sword thrusting up against that secret place Cleneth found inside his bottom. The jolts of driving lightning up inside his body made him writhe more violently on the peg, just intensifying pleasure. Then he would scream his body's swift explosion clamping still and tight around Cleneth's fully buried manhood. His bowels would spasm fluttering against the welcome deep invader and then Cleneth would cry out to Maponus filling Tadhg to overflowing with his stones' release of seed.

Cleneth told him the morning milking of the sword inside his wildly thrashing body was like no other kind of feeling. The gentle rocking of the night time, the cuddling brush of tender lips were all excitement beyond measure, but this morning ride of passion was better medicine for battle aches and pains than Nodens could ever give.

Tadhg always sat upon the peg until it fell out from underneath him spilling seed and boyhood juices across Cleneth's stones and body. He'd then draw back his feet and plant his lips now in their place and take the kisses of his lover as promise of tonight's sweet nectar.

Then promise given, promise taken he'd slide around and drink the bodies' mingled nectars. He'd fell Cleneth lick the trailing drips from down across his little stones and while he gathered every puddled drop of seed within himself, Cleneth would make him shudder and cry out once again. The shuddering explosions in his tail would drive him near to moment's incomprehension. How could he survive the lightning's repeated strikes inside? It didn't matter how, "Maponus, make the lightning never cease," he prayed.

The smile the dream had left him and the rigid stiffness of his own pole lead him up from sleep, up to the stones deep thrumming song he had not heard before. He saw Gwydion sitting near the bed, seeming standing witness, not guard, to his dreams. He slipped from beneath the sheet and glided down into Gwydion's lap.

"Thee has't made me whole again." he sighed into the old man's opening eyes. "I would'st give thee some of my new found love, Cleneth's gift within my heart."

He reached between the ancient's legs and found the waiting snake and stones. "I would'st make thy stones to sing among the others in the sidh."

Gwydion hadn't tasted love for centuries it seemed. He leaned against the child's bright head surrendering unspeaking to the touch. His stones did sing, he heard them through his chest as Tadhg's left hand rolled them in its palm. Then wiggling down the boy tugged upon the slender leather strap keeping Gwydion's trousers close arranged. The knot came free, the folds of fabric fell away, the crimson lips beneath the child's emerald eyes pulled him from his sheath into the heat and dancing fire of tongue's gentle fleeting, then repeating touch. His head flung back, the stones sang a mighty note within his body. The dancing tongue and sucking lips pulled long dried juices from his sac. The spring bubbled in boiling exultation as his clenching groin muscles fired arrow after arrow of passion's white silky liquid bolts against the boy's quickly lapping tongue and swallowing throat.

He'd forgotten how this simple, primal sharing of body's essence rejuvenated ancient joints and muscle's pain. He'd have no need to chew on willow bark today.

The boy was humming softly in his lap, still milking nectar from his stones. The healing power of the circle had healed heart and soul for sure, it had also deepened capacity for love and compassion. This boy was truly special; Cleneth had gifted Lord Maponus with living treasure Gwydion knew.

The Water and the Stone

High above this overcrowded place

A distant blackbird glides through space,

And all he does is search for love.

Love is the oldest secret of the universe.

Sir Paul McCartney (1942 - )

Flicking fingers in an arcane sign, Gwydion called the saffron cloth across and draped it round himself and the still suckling boy. They needed not the warmth it held, the stones had long since chased any chill away. The silk brought shimmering peace, the touch of barely perceived feather. The softness matching warp for woof the smooth surface of the boy's bare shoulder marked only by the thin twin slubs where skin had twisted self together under buttered herbs above the greatsword's peremptory oblation.

Tadhg left the ersatz pap and lifted his head against the ancient's chest.

"How do'st thou bring this cloth across without moving of thy feet?" he asked in simple wonderment.

Gwydion thought the greater wonder how the lad had made the long dead stones between his legs to spew their life across the flickering tongue. He petted down the slender back beneath the cloth and cupped a tumescent cheek. "Thou can'st send it away if thou do'st want. Simply wish it back."

"No, I like it here, what kind of cloth is it Master? I have never felt such gentle fabric." Tadhg said brushing the cloth across his perfect lips.

"Ah, if I'm thy Master, then I beg thee to teach me how thy body taught this cloth to shimmer so." He held a finger to Tadhg's almost protesting lips. "Nay, 'tis called silk from distant Eastern lands, they say it's made by worms. I scarce believe that true, the worms of our land just make things as soft as thee the stuff of untimely graves. Hold! I am such a fool, I did not mean to make thee cry." He brushed a tear away from Tadhg's downturned eyes. "Cleneth gave thee far beyond the day's thee had together. Think that he would say thee or cloth was softer?"

"Cloth, I think," Tadhg laughed between his tears. "He'd often call me his sweet hard nut, he had to poke around to crack it! No, not cloth perhaps, he also said he loved my body's silken touch where ever I brushed against him. Silken! Is that this feel? Did he know this cloth before me? There is so much we had yet to say, I wish I could tell him more."

"'Tis naught to stop thee boy. The ether carries words as well as wishes. How dids't thou tell him things thought out while separated in the day?"

"I'd make him verse and poems. He'd laugh or cry or sit and hold me in the fire's glow while I'd say my poems to him. 'Serve Maponus with thy poetry, I'll miss it second most,' he said near the end."

"Well think on it then, Maponus sometimes tarries here. Thy verse could bring him sweet surcease or crying dear lament, he might send them on beyond the vale into the land of shades. Now let's find thy clothes, I have in mind a journey."

Gwydion lifted the boy from off his lap and watched astounded as the silk saffron cloth did glide across the air and of itself drape upon the bed. The child had no need of fingers aid, he had simply willed it there.

They entered back into the Eastern room and once again Tadhg marveled at the doves. He had seen a knot stitched upon a warrior's tunic by a loving wife, yet this knot so finely tied across the glowing, singing floor was of a size and incomprehensible construction that simply called him to it. He walked again the path laid out by the running waters, across the room, around the circle, along each dove's reflecting image. It lead him then inevitably to the center acorn in the floor.

The waters rushing, swirling entrance and hidden departure made him smile to think of Cleneth rushing to the acorn in his bowels and night's swirling, flooding passion. How he would hold Cleneth deep inside and night's seed would disappear into himself like these precious waters.

If the stones that held this acorn felt the fire of the flood like he would feel the fire out of Cleneth, then they had good cause to sing for all eternity. He knelt before the nut and dipped his hands into the flow. The rushing waters parted slightly at his touch and the room sang a mighty chord. He felt someone reaching up within the waters of the bowl and touching lightly on his descending fingers. The power surging between the invisible hands and his went completely through his body. He felt bones straighten, old scars across his knees just fade away, a tickle in his chest float free on his breath, and the last pain of never seeing Cleneth turn to joy that he had seen him so very often. The tingling of the power danced across his thighs, inside his sex, around the sac holding his own small stones. It flickered up inside his heart and thrust out circling round the marks upon his shoulder. Unlike the scrapes gone off his knee, these marks flared with searing whiteness, he knew now he would bear them forever as his promised mark of love.

On his left arm appeared a twisting circlet made of gold. The golden wire coursed above the muscle, then down beside, weaving a knot of intertwining circles, then below where it created a simple loop held upward on the inward side. The fingers drew him close and without a fear of falling in he brushed his lips upon the surface of the waters. Lips softer even than the silk just brushed his in return and then lips and hands withdrew. He sat back upon his knees

Gwydion fell before the lowest dove and cried to hear the stones' jubilation in the song.

Tadhg retraced the pattern walking out from inside the knot. The blazing woven circlet on his arm firing glow back at the stones. He stopped before the prostrate Gwydion and reaching down lifted him up from off the floor.

"Master? Thou talked of a journey? My clothes are ready, let me dress, where do'st thou want to go? Is my horse still near and ready?

"Thy horse is outside safely in the grove, but we have need of another kind of steed. Our journey takes us far across the earth. We go to Lochmaben, I woulds't ask Clochmabenstane about thee."

"The standing stone?" Tadhg asked with widened eyes. "It will take many days to cross such a distance. I cans't not believe the stone would know of me? Thou woulds't be best to not anger it with such a petty question."

"Wait child, thou will see things thou can'st scarce believe! But if singing stones and everlasting apples can not send thee screaming from the sidh, then magic gold and stones secret tales will hardly seem to 'maze thee."

Gwydion led the freshly dressed boy from inside the barrow, the gloaming light had not changed a candle's width in brightness, a mist shrouded all beyond the nearest ring of oaks.

Muttering an arcane benediction, Gwydion moved his hands again in some secret sign and from the mists there strode a gryphon.

"Ho! I have just the riddle for him!" Tadhg cried.

Gwydion's eyes flashed to see the boy not cowering in a heap, but dancing up and down to tell the gryphon's riddle. "Such a one as this may teach me yet to be a wizard!" the ancient smiled into himself.

"I thought this just now as we watched the waters. Gryphon, we would ride to Clochmabenstane, to consult with the Stone. If I tell thee a riddle thou cans't not guess will thee take us safely there and back?"

The gryphon stepped back and made a little bow.

"Good on ye boy, thou has thought to add both 'safely' and a return trip too! Now give him thy riddle." Gwydion smiled down at the boy against his side.

"Here 'tis:

A note so low

A note so high

A note right in the middle.

The stinging stones

Would never lie

Yet truth lies in the riddle:

When low is high

And high is in the middle,

What writhes in love

And triple stones' breath doth rekindle?"

The gryphon cocked his head and pawed the earth and shook his tufted tail. He strutted round the boy and man and came back to their front. Then bowing low he looked Tadhg full upon the face. His beady eyes connected with the emerald ones and conceded to the boy.

"Hi! 'Tis but a man and boy! One voice that's high, one voice that's low and the singing stones all in the middle." Tadhg grabbed between his legs to show exactly which stones he meant. "Then when the man's pole stands high and pokes up in the middle of the boy, the dance of love brings joy to triple stones, the two outside the man, the one deep inside the boy!"

The gryphon gave a grumbling laugh and bowed again before Tadhg and then stepping forth it knelt forward with forepaw raised for them to step upon and climb upon its back.

Tadhg first with Gwydion behind they had barely settled in when with a mighty leap the gryphon launched into the air. The rushing mists soon gave way to star filled sky and Tadhg leaned back into Gwydion's arms.

"Cleneth used to hold me so upon the horse," he sighed into the wind's passing caress.

Soon enough the gryphon spiraled in the sky and landed with a little running gait. They climbed down and found they stood upon an expanse of grass rising gently in a mound. The Great Standing Stone, Clochmabenstane, towered overhead. Tadhg sucked in his breath to see the swirling pattern of his golden circlet repeated deep within the facing of the Stone.

Gwydion chanted just beneath his breath and steered the boy around. They made a circumambulation from West to East returning still where they had started.

Tadhg saw the Stone bore the marks of ancient men beyond the circle carving.

Gwydion stepped before the Stone and muttered more than spoke. Tadhg watched the man and stone, yet could discern only one part of the conversation. He walked around again, a second circumambulation and thought he heard the rumble deep inside the earth which might be the Stone's reply. Deciding honor was held in the eyes of the watcher, he circumambulated the Stone again and offered it his love the whole time he stepped around.

Gwydion stepped away and watched as glowing fire reached out along the ground. The Stone seemed to send the fire out in two long lines from either side. The lines went beyond himself, beyond the boy and met almost where they had first stood. The loop new formed then started drawing in approaching them from behind ever closer and closer.

He feared a little for them both, no Stone had ever shown him fire.

The boy just pressed his palms together at his chest then opened them stretching arms out near his thighs. The ring of fire drew him nearer to the Stone.

Gwydion suddenly felt the Stone tell him not to fear. It wanted just to hug the boy who had honored it so dear. The triple circumambulation had not been practiced for many centuries, the act of pouring forth such love had been forgotten even longer before. Most now approached with fear and trepidation, or requesting gifts or retribution. This boy had offered in the oldest style and the Stone would touch his heart.

Tadhg seemed in perfect accord with the Stone's wishes. He stepped slowly ever forward, ever nearer, ever allied with the feelings emanating from the Stone. The fire drew him in, he never gave it a backwards glance. It was as if it wasn't there. The ring bubbled in around Gwydion and without ever breaking it left him standing in a simple fired circle of his own, the boy now wholly, solely inside the embrace offered by the Stone.

Tadhg stepped forward once again, his outstretched open palms and fingers just brushing at the fringes of the Stone. Suddenly it rang deep within its core. The words it flashed to Gwydion were a jumble in his head. Thrice round, love, ancient sobriquets, names pouring through his memory, faces flying before his eyes.

Tadhg's hands more fully pressing up against the stone, the ringing, singing, pealing euphoria driving straight into the heavens. His body pressed itself completely on the stone, his arms circling around as far as they could reach. The thundering singing in the rock must have been heard for miles around, the fire danced encircling boy and Stone complete.

Tadhg felt the Stone enter at his hands, it flowed strongly up his arms, not gentle like the spirit in the water, but thrusting, questing, pressing through every bone and sinew and muscle and vein. It boiled inside his blood. It delved down and up at the same time grabbing at this toes and raising the hair up off his head. It was like the mornings when he woke Cleneth, it possessed him absolutely. It drove up inside his center. It powerfully kissed the acorn so deeply hidden up inside that only Cleneth had ever touched him there. It brushed the walls surrounding and sent the lightning to his brain. He cried out in delirium that the Stone had claimed him so absolutely. The Stone cried out in return, it had not felt this powerful a connection with the living almost as long as it could remember.

Tadhg fell into the grass the final ringing singing notes from deep within the stone still vibrating throughout his body. Gwydion rushed to him in fear that the Stone perhaps had consumed the life within. The Stone itself rumbled its concern.

Gwydion held the boy and saw the gently breath rising in the chest: the rise and fall confirming life did still attend. The lashes fluttered flashing emerald eyes and Gwydion felt the grace held in the smile he took as they fully opened.

A nearby fluttering of white wings-beat and raven stood and then transformed. The god boy Maponus knelt beside the ancient, reaching in to brush Tadhg's glowing cheek.

The grass and ground and Stone rustled with the falling breath of thought:

Thou bring the Stones to life,

Despite thy bitter loss in strife.

Thou kiss the Faerie King

And wear his sacred Golden Ring.

Thou pour love from thy heart,

Caring not to take some for thy part,

And with help of Stone's ancient scars,

Put thy poetry among the stars.

Now rest sweet child, and settled be,

I think that I must now worship thee.

Tadhg slept dreamless peace at such a tender touch.