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

Cyfarwyddion – the traditional story-teller in Wales

Cymry – Ancient Wales

Dyfed – a Welsh peasant boy about 14 winters old

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

Nwywre - the cosmic fluid, the ether, the light and the great creative and divine Principle that linked Heaven and Earth. Its union with the other elements created life, movement and spirit. A Gallic bard sang that it is smaller than the smallest and bigger than worlds because it is subtleness and power itself. Nwywre was the thread mysteriously linking the human world to the divine.

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 two - Cymry


Mud unto mud!—Death eddies near—

Not here the appointed End, not here!

But somewhere, beyond Space and Time

Rupert Brooke (1887–1915)

"Crows! Do'st see!" the mighty hand came out of nowhere colliding with his head. The force propelling him a span before he collapsed into the mud. "Daft thee are't! Better fed to them I think. Thy mother lies dying with the whelp and thee but feeds the precious seed to crows!" The boot moved his body another half a span along and half as much deeper into the mud.

He groaned as the lightning's evil dance within his head faded but a bit. He looked through brown and loathsome mud to see his eldest brother's feet behind the hated turning stick retreating with the furrow. The hand connected to the man he could hardly stand to call his father magically held the bag of seed which he thought still his to carry. The careful dropping, one, two , three, and booted squish turning mud back in upon the earth's weeping open wound. He lifted to look behind him to see crows standing near, waiting for foot to miss the suppuration. A little bit they needed, just an inch to harvest on their own.

He saw the puckered gray and brown morass stretching strait behind. He saw the pock marks of his feet not stitched on top, but wandering, interleaved.

He dropped his head against the mud. The only grace of this o'erarching repugnant ooze was that it was cool upon the skin. The sting of hand and boot and accusation could leach into the slime.

He hated mud, he hated mud; his life was made of mud. His single tunic colored brown, then crusted with the never-ending filth. His feet stained dark above the ankles, holding brown in spite of all his scrubbing in the stream. The hut, thatched with reeds pulled from the river's mud and covered o'er with trip after trip, hod after hod, of stinking, reeking, dribbling mud from out the field.

His head was full of mud, it sucked his thoughts when he paid it little attention. The stories told by old Cyfarwyddion Kynth provided just a bit of clear dry light. But they would plague him too he knew; just now he had been thinking on the tale of Arrwn. His head betrayed his feet. His feet forsook the furrow. The furrow, as its wont, offered seed not to the ground, but to the waiting crow. Now he was stunned, his head exploding inside the bone, and he knew that soon he'd but be digging in the mud, digging graves, both long and deep. Graves to hold his mother and the littlest of his brothers.

Brown. Brown beyond all color. Brown and wet. Brown and slick. Brown and intent on filling back the hole almost as soon as he had made it. His eldest brother, brown and slow, plodding slow, hulking huge, could dig the pit in less than hours, but too important to the turning stick to waste on simple graves. Huge and slow, leading stick first up and back, then back and up, then up and back, then back and up until called in to eat: perfect lines, perfect brother, perfect brown.

The calling in to eat the action of his sister. She would mix the grain with muddy water and tell him it was food. He could not imagine it was so, but mud now coated him both inside and out. Disgusting mud, repulsive mud, all embracing mud. Mud to hold his mother and his tiny brother. Mud to coat the man, the eldest son, the two other little ones. He alone would spend an hour at the river. It didn't ever help him though, mud was perhaps what he was made of.

Hole dug, bodies rolled inside, he watched as mud devoured them, covered arms and limbs and all the other pieces. Cloth too precious to consign to mud, stripped for the others, rolled beside the hole. The mud sliding, gliding, biding but awhile before it held him too.

No muddy gruel tonight, the hand had cuffed his ears again. The stars of brain's concussion dueling with the angry cries from stomach to keep him out of sleep. The little ones huddled up against his body seeking warmth but only shedding unrelenting mud into the sacking bed.

He vowed that this would be the last. The last of mud, the last of crushing blow from hand. He turned aside from little ones and moved them with his feet. Perhaps if they held each other, they would not feel the loss as he vanished from the sacking. He listened, still; the breathing of his plodding brother, the rutting sounds, the groaning, the quiet cries as his sister found the other duties previously required of her mother.

He listened still, waiting like the mud, hanging on the precipice of action. He was holding on the brink, just paused before he flew. His father's groans and quick release within his sister's tender furrow more evidence of mud to his dissipating mind. Then snores and whimpers: now was his mud's chance. He rolled from underneath the sacking. Touching on his sister's arm, he pulled her close and guided her beside the little ones. They automatically cuddled close and he could feel her cleave to them; innocence found to innocence lost entwining.

He stumbled from the hut and blinking in the ever-present falling drizzle, he chose the uphill road. Perhaps he'd find a place above the mud's eternal slide.

He hadn't known how much the little ones had sent him warmth while coating him with mud. The drizzling cold, the dark of night, the unfamiliar road all caused him to shiver as he walked. He'd not give in he told himself, his path was set. Mud would never claim him. He walked straight up the path. He passed the hut of Kynth and thought of Arrwn. The tales had told of hunts and feasts and Kings and Faerie Princes. There had never been the slightest hint of mud. Perhaps the Faerie King had called the sun from in the sky to banish rain and mud. He smiled to think that such a thing could happen.

He walked beyond the hut beside the wood. The last place he had ever been along the road. He walked into the unknown. He had just one absolute within his head, he would be buried in stone.

Delirium confused his feet. Fever consumed his brow. The ringing in the ear which had been smashed beneath his father's crow-angered hand was drowning out the hunger in his belly. He staggered on and on holding but one hope: the road was hard beneath his feet. It didn't squish, it didn't suck, it didn't reek of mud.

His mind had been the thing that irked him most, never still, never quiet, always wriggling. Tormenting him with why this, and why not that, and what would happen if? He learned early at the cuffing hand to at least control his tongue. The wonders thought had often died wiggling in his mud filled mind. The stories though of Kynth had never been subsumed. They floated on the top of mud and danced like fires in the gasses bubbling from the mud of swamp.

Bright Arrwn, the place of everlasting youth. Once there, endless food from in the magic cauldron. The death of hunger, death of backbreaking labor, death of death foretold. Gods interested in the men they met there. Nodens gentle healing touch, Maponus more concerned with words and what was in the head than what was in the belly.

His legs betrayed the weakness of his body. The throbbing in his head denied the warming thoughts of gods. The rain now rustling in leaves instead of plopping in the mud still made him cold into his very center. A growling louder than before. He thought it first the stomach's final blast of anger, then knew it came from somewhere more beside him than within. The track now little more than ox trail through the woods, still hard, still firm, but very dark and different than the brown that told his life. His foot tripped against some stone or root, he slammed muddled head against the rocky path. He grimaced, clasped his ruptured skull and saw the red tipped ears of white dogs coming close.

"Maponus take me here!" he sighed, "This place at least lacks mud." The brain pressed whorls against the inside mud and sent him from brown into the blackness.

The Wood

Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal imprecisions ...

There springs the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.

T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot (1888–1965)

His body knew the lack of rain drops dancing on his skin. His mind still played at war with self, bumped up against his skull. It lifted once from internal ooze, but lacking strength it gave up against the viscous goo. It dropped again into the waiting black.

Then rustling leaves and snapping twigs, no squish of mud befalls. The crisp dry sounds so far removed from sodden damp and mildewed hut of sleep. The scent of clear and fragrant cedar carried on the air. The air just warmer by a breath than what his mind remembered. He opened eyes to flickering light; a fire near his side. The rain dripped quietly above on some leafy canopy. His mind jubilant to find itself wrapped in warmth and light.

He drifted in the tiny fire's warmth. His head a dull and aching throb not pounding as before. The cedar called his senses out, he felt an all pervading peace.

He woke full up against the grumbling in his belly. He sat and looked around in awe to see the den of hounds. They were two pure white hunting beasts, their ears tipped crimson red. They lay curled together in a knot barely a span away. The rain held out by leafy bower; sticks and twigs above his head. The fire dancing merrily inside a ring of stones.

He hugged himself into the cloth which covered him as he slept. He looked in fascination at the steaming bowl but a hand's distance away. He'd never seen such beauty just sitting there as if it waited for him. Not gourd, not rough hewn bark, not skin stretched in a basket: pure white and marbled stone seemed hollowed out and polished bright and holding gold inside. He gently reached across and touched the rim. He quickly glanced at dogs. Could this wondrous thing be here for him? The deep obsidian eyes, followed hand and followed face, the muzzles never moved from lying on the paws.

He risked to cup the bowl inside his hands, he dared not lift it up. The warmth inside climbed quickly up his arms and tunneled in his shoulders. His brain released a bated breath, his nose detected nectar.

He lifted bowl and brought it to his face. He sniffed ambrosia, at least that's what his mind told him Kynth would have called it. He looked inside and once again could scarce believe his eyes. Liquid gold, three single floating tendrils of green onion. He recognized them from the time he and his sister had gathered wild ones near the stream. The gold he'd never imagined could exist, a liquid crystal clear. He saw the onions floating deep inside, he looked through and saw the magic bowl beneath the golden ripples. Ripples dancing on the surface of this miraculous transparent liquor. Could such a thing exist? Would not mud in waters always cloud a potion? He'd never looked between, beneath, or through something clearly liquid.

His stomach gave his mind a little whack and whispered, "Quickly, taste it!"

It touched his lips and danced his tongue and floated in his lungs. It caressed his mouth and coaxed his weary throat to swallow. It glowed its way down to his belly and stoked the tiny fire within his chest. He sighed and drank it all and licked the inner surface of the bowl. The stone not retreating into cold, but shining as the fire light filtered through the sides.

The marvel of the things not sullied by the mud coaxed his brain and body back inside the pallet, back inside the cloth, back inside warmth, back inside healing sleep.

He heard the muttering from inside the fog of slumber, "Hail dogs, do'st watch him still? What manner do'st thou want of me? A century or two outside the cares of man, now twice within two moons thou rouseth me and make me play the nurse! Well, 'tis clear he tasted sweet ambrosia, unless thou lapped it while playing guard! Ha, not likely I be thinking. Well there's more and should he need it."

His nose told him that the voice had brought more of the healing potion. It lifted brain from remembrance of mud and brought him into conscious thought. He saw an ancient being sitting still across the fire. He shifted on the pallet to find his naked self wrapped in a thick and fulsome cloth.

He sat up quietly and looked the ancient in the eyes. Darkly black, they seemed to dance and sparkle with a trick of light from within the warming fire.

"Aye, drink thee lad, thou needest strength. Thy head was sorely beaten. I thought the swelling in thy brain might take thee to the coffin. The bruise is gone some from thy ear. Do'st feel the throbbing still?"

"No, good sir. My head is quiet," softly said the boy.

"Good! Then drink and sleep some more, Nodens' cauldron and the sleep of peace will help thee find thyself."

The boy took the offered wondrous bowl of stone and saw the crystal liquid shimmering inside. He sniffed it long and lovingly and sipped it slowly, savoring. It found the warmth the other bowl had started in his chest and took it in and nourished it and sent the strength of both coursing through his body. He felt it reach his toes, he felt it atop his head. His brain seemed to stop and count the limbs and satisfied that all the body had replied it sighed contentment to him.

He looked at the cloth enfolding him and gasped to see the color. It shone the vivid blue of robin's egg when new laid in the spring. His hands jumped away in shock. No cloth had ever been to his mind anything but brown. How could he touch this glorious thing? He snatched it from his feet. He prayed he hadn't caused the blue to shudder under brown. He gasped again to see the whiteness of his toes. He hadn't seen such shining skin except on his baby brothers. They too had quickly gone to brown with dirt and mud upon them. His tiniest brother had escaped that fate, yet yielded to the sickness. He wondered if the tales of eternal youth in Arrwn would keep his brother white.

He looked at the bowl beside him and saw it was renewed, the vapors calling once again inside his nose. He barely wondered at the how of this before his body told him, 'Drink!' He drank a long and quenching draught, the bowl seemed a moment bottomless. He tipped it right again and saw he had hardly moved the liquid downward from the rim. So settling in, he cupped the bowl and looked questions across at the ancient.

"How is this blue? What drink is this? Why did the hounds not eat me? How can my skin be white? How does the stone be a bowl? Where is this place? Have I died and now been buried? I hear the rain, it falls softly on hard things, how is the mud turned back?"

"Whoa lad!" the ancient laughed. "Wait but a moment's span. Each question here deserves an answer, no?"

He quickly sheltered bowl as he had the little ones, he steeled against the coming blow for his cursed brain and tongue.

"Softly now, I see thee tense, not harm will come thee here. Relax, abide, the fire's warm, drink again of nectar. I will try to make my ancient mind remember the last minute, perhaps thy questions are still lying now within it. Ah, I remember a thousand years ago with the clarity of Nodens' potion. This day I fear is shattered in my memories across a thousand moments. Now, let's see, 'How is this blue?' Thee meant the blanket? 'Tis dyed with finest blueberries; the linen spun across the sea in France, the dyeing done by faeries."

The boy's eyes must have grown about a hundred times. He touched the warm and gentle fabric, to think that faeries once had touched what he now held so close!

"Take it up again, wrap thee inside, the warmth will help the healing. Let see, 'What drink is this?', I told thee, Nodens' cauldron makes this gentle healing potion. 'Why do the hounds not eat thee?' Thou'rt too scrawny would be a better guess, now hold, no fear! I jest. They came to me to bring thee here and mend thy broken body. I've not known them to eat a living thing. They hunt wild at the moon, but seem to honor fox and rabbit without killing. 'How can thy skin be so white?' 'Twas not how thee was made? The skin inside can never change, thou are but what thy was."

"But I could never get the mud outside myself," the boy whispered into the fire.

"The Wood has no need of mud, it offers leaf and stone. I think it banished mud from thee when it brought thee home. I think that too answers how the mud's turned back. Well maybe not an answer, but the best this ancient one can offer. 'How does the stone be a bowl?', well what else can'st be when I fill it? 'Where is this place?', better ask 'What' than 'Where' for where is often changeable. Thou art in the Wood of Llud, near the barrow of antiquity. The Wood answered Nodens' call and led the hounds with thee astride to where this bower lies. It roused me from some important teachings to quickly come and tend thee. 'Have I died and now been buried?' No thou are quite alive, the coffin doth not want thee yet. Now, I must back to my learning, the youth who calls me Master has quite a gift for teaching. Drink thy drink and sleep thy sleep and dream of faerie dancers. I'll return again anon, my name is Gwydion child, just tell the dogs if thou do'st need me. How are thee called? I'd honor thee with thy name if thou knowest it."

"Dyfed." he barely whispered into the bower. "I am Dyfed."

"Sleep thee then Dyfed," the ancient touched his brow and made hidden incantation. Setting bowl aside, the boy curled up in bright blue linen soon enough asleep, the faeries dancing in his head.

The faerie dance was full apace when crackling twigs roused Dyfed. He heard the music he had thought was just imagination. He heard too the ringing of fell laughter. 'Could this be?' he thought, 'might faeries really dance?' He listened to the laughter. The hounds were gone, the fire much the same, the stone bowl brimming with warm potion. He took it up and drank a draught listening beyond the bower. He grasped the cloth around himself and scooted towards the entrance. Then slowly, slowly peaking forth he tried to catch the image of a faerie.

He wasn't quick enough, the light falling from the branches illuminated cowslips dripping pearls and lily of the valley. The grass trod down within a ring around the hidden bower. No faerie danced, no pixie flew, he heard no magic laughter, just echoes of the lilting song and dewdrops glistening with light captured from a sudden clouded moon. He sighed to think that grass had felt the dancing faerie feet. That he had heard the laughter of the ancient dancers. What marvels here beyond the mud, beyond the smashing hand. Within the Wood, the magic seemed both real and everlasting.

He crept back to his place within the bower's branches. He vowed that if he lived or died he was finished now with mud. The faerie call outside the shelter of the branches told deep inside his heart; he would use his mind, he would use his eyes, he would praise Nodens for sending help. He would serve Maponus ever after.

He drifted in the lilting memory of faerie song and Gwydion's incantation. He slept the sleep of childhood.

Gods and Kings

Hand in hand, with fairy grace,

Will we sing, and bless this place.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Gwydion stood just outside the faerie ring and watched Dyfed return into the bower. He smiled to see how close the boy had come to catching faeries at their dance. The cowslips moved aside, the lilies of the valley seemed to ring their many bells as faerie after faerie giggled from these hiding places and returned to dance once more. From next a great and ancient oak fern fronds did bow and make a carpet. The shining beams of moonlight captured in a hundred thousand fireflies descended from the branches. A tinkling of sweet and fragrant silver laughter signaled the re-emergence of the Faerie King.

He strode up from the fiddleheaded curls within the ferns, he seemed to float upon the fronds. The tinkling of the laughter in the air swelled round and gamboled through his long and flowing hair.

Gwydion pressed his palms together at his chest. The Faerie King approached and blessed the ancient wizard.

"Hail friend! Thy labors of this moon are not to us unknown. The lads thou care for vow to serve Maponus; the Faerie would help thee protect these special boys."

"'Tis but a trifle that I do my lord. Thy care and aegis offers more."

"Then hold them close, their journeys just begin. The one who loves and wears our ring has certain need of strength: the one with strength requires cause to love."

Gwydion bowed before the Faerie King. He felt the lightest brush of feather on his brow. His ancient bones seemed lighter at the touch. Rough aches did fall away from joints. He smiled to know he had been blest with Faerie's ancient magics.

The ring of dancing faeries blazed with light, then silent blackness sudden filled the trembling Wood. The Faerie King and all the gathered dancers gone into the night the way of faeries everywhere. First here, then gone; just memory of joy held in the air. A fragrant breeze swept cross the glade, the cowslips seemed to weep in joy a single tear of dew.

Maponus fluttered down on snow white wing, the glade and bower quivered on the breath of thought:

The hold of mud is cold upon his heart,

But strength for strength must thou to him impart.

When both they meet inside the ring of doves

Their future's told full then within their love.

The boy god in raven form sprang back into the air. Acorns tumbled earthward as he winged above the Wood.

Gwydion found the naked Dyfed not inside the bower, but walking on the reaches of the trampled grass. "I dreamed of faeries dancing in the light of fireflies! I see the grass trod down, the ferns spread out, the acorns lying in the glade. Could dreams have been true magic?" Dyfed's eyes begged the ancient to confirm.

"Faeries are tricky marvelous things," the ancient scratched his head, with just the gentlest of teasing grins he answered less than asked. "Are't thou whole this day? Do'st thy head hurt from thy beating?"

"No, Gwydion, it hurts me none today. I think it bursts to see a tiny footprint though, or catch a glimpse of faerie dew, or find the song again that once it seemed to know."

"'Tis a good bursting then, thou tries to reason out. Just know that Faerie Kingdom does not reason as would man." He reached a hand to touch the boy upon the shoulder.

Dyfed's face turned white, he cringed into himself. The flinching rapid turn of head upon his neck and shoulders told he thought a blow was coming. His tongue stammered out, "I'm sorry! I did not mean to, sir."

"Hold boy. I would but comfort thee. Wait, still, still, breathe and look at me." He made contact with the shoulder lightly cupping on the bone. Then squeezing muscle oh so gently he took the other too and turned the boy straight on. Looking comfort with his eyes, he brushed the downturned chin and tried to draw those other eyes from deep within their hurt. He clasped the shoulders strongly now and drew the boy against his chest. He soothed head and hair and back while murmuring, "Still, still, peace, Dyfed. Not harm will come thee here. 'Tis but an old man's friendly touch."

The boy was tense as stone against him; no yielding pliant mud. The muscles and the sinews were almost petrified with fright. Dyfed did breathe a sudden wracking breath, but tension was so inculcated because closeness surely meant the coming of some pain. He stood like rock within the flowing of fast water; allowing touch around the edge; yielding nothing from the center.

Gwydion petted but another moment on the boy, then cupped the chin again and looked into the eyes. He had not had the chance to see them so open and so near. They were the palest blue of morning, almost gray against the boy's white cheeks, framed by the shock of light brown hair with just a glint of gold beneath. The cheeks just touched by tiny scars of long forgotten cuts and scrapes. The mud had truly hidden beauty, Gwydion thought as he tried to pass the gate behind the pastel blue. The boy had built a wall around him though as if the touch of man had never been something to be wanted. He thought again of peace and comfort, tried to show it with his eyes. The boy stood still as stone and quickly sent the face and eyes downward as before. Gwydion released the awkward hug, but barely trailed his left hand finger tips across the shoulder as he let it go. His right hand gently brushed Dyfed's cheek sensing softness on the surface, clenched jaw of determination underneath.

The boy gave a little shiver as the fingers left his skin. He collapsed at Gwydion's feet, the tension finally at release. He whimpered more to feet than man, "I am sorry, sir. Please don't strike me, just tell what I am to do."

"Lad, do not shake and shiver. What thee are to do is rest and mend thy broken head. If thou sees the faeries dance, then count thy blessing and tell me so. They are beautiful to behold I have been told." Gwydion reached down and with strength beyond his ancient frame he gently lifted the shivering boy and carried him to the bower. Setting him upright on his feet, he motioned the way inside.

Dyfed looked up through his lashes to see if Gwydion was making jest. He'd never had a thought as daft as faeries dancing result in more than cuffs to head. Perhaps he had really heard them? He stooped and entered back within the arching leaves and branches. The dogs inside followed every move but never lifted muzzle. He fell exhausted into the linen as the final tensions of his fear melted into the blue.

The Wood was full of chirping baby birds when next he woke. It struck his mind as strange. He wrapped the cloth more tightly round his chest and saw the steaming bowl of gold. He drank again as if he'd never tasted drink before. The thirst of body long denied an adequate nourishment tried to drain the bowl of every drop within the space of seconds. He paused for breath and looked into the bowl again. He licked it clean, the warmth of stone caressing on his tongue, he set it down and watched amazed as it waited as before; full and steaming once again.

A peeping just above his head drew eyes and mind from nectar. He peered into the bowers' limbs but couldn't find the source. He quietly moved within the cloth and crossed the bower's threshold. He looked to see a nest so close he could have touched it almost with his nose. The nestlings cheeped and peeped and chirped to think he was their mother. Then she was there, landing just beside and patiently feeding one and then the other. He heard the peeps from all around and looking round the glade, he saw a brace of rabbit young and tender squirrel kits playing in the grass.

He knew it was the time of planting, his cracked head had told him that for sure. It was well past time for chicks and fawns and kits he thought, but here they frolicked everywhere. Perhaps the Wood had different times than where he had lived in mud? It didn't make much sense. The Wood was warmer than the streaming chill of rain from in the valley. Warmer should mean that babes would long be grown. The warm and light and lack of rain should make them earlier, stronger, growing faster. Yet here they were beneath his feet, beside his head. His mind now snapped his brain! Wait, what is this? The dogs inside the bower; he stood full exposed inside the glade. Yet babes and mothers did not run and hide, they showed no fear, they played across his feet. His head turned round inside itself and groaned a bit to think he might really be a shade.

"Thou ar't real enough." Gwydion's voice reached out and drew him back from madness. "These babes are but a second batch brought forth in Wood and all about. The waters of the stream have flowed now for a fortnight after the receiving of his gift. The Wood and fields and huts and stream itself are bursting with the love. But thou art real, they fear thee not because thou smells so pure. The healing draught of Nodens' cup hath washed thy soul of mud. The scent of gentle boy approaching man is all their noses catch."

"My brother and my father always smelt of man," Dyfed said into the glade. "It was not a smell that I thought nice, I can'st scare believe they would stay near it."

"Not that scent of man lad, not the stink of unwashed sweat. Not the clogged and putrous pores of skin left unwiped and unclean from elimination. Not the sickly cloying scent of rancid seed splashed matted with the residue of mud. Thou has't tried to keep thy body clean of filth. It was evident beneath thy cloak. Thou washed and scrubbed and while thee couldn't flush the brown, thy body knew the loosening of body's own disintegrating waste."

Dyfed shivered at the words. He almost smelt the stink of shit, the stench of sweat, the rotting smell of hated father's fetid breath. The memories so strong the rabbit fawns did shy a little ways away. He shook it off and brought the thought of the clear sweet scent of his smallest brother. The pure and quiet scent before the sickness came. The scent inside the little ones' sweet breath as they snuggled to his side.

His stomach churned to draw from deep inside the horrid smell of death. That smell just touched upon his mother's skin, the babe's sweet cheeks, the seeping liquids in the mud. The flies had beat the crows and mud. He'd tried to wave them off. The best he knew that he could do was let the bodies go, embraced within the all encompassing hold of ever-present mud.

Another smell assaulted him within the confines of his head. The smell against his tongue as first his father then his brother smashed their hands against his head. The smell of what he thought must be himself. The smell of fiery heat and searing pain and bitter thick and gushing blood. The smell inside his nose, blood flooding down across his chest. The smell inside his ears, blood dribbling down his neck and ringing with the smashing. The smell inside his chest as racking sobs would surely follow drawing all black inside, back within himself, back to wait another day, another blow, another white hot redly spurting wound.

The hidden smells of remembrance dropping him upon the grass. The smell of perfect lines, perfect brown, perfect brother ramming time and time again against his throat, against his tongue, against his tender bleeding lips. The slimy smell of piss and shit and sweat and unwashed seed all mixed with brother's mud and blood of self. The smell of anguished pain and ripped out hair and suffocating fullness in his throat. The smell of horrid unwashed curly hairs embedded in his teeth. The smell of caked and yellowed bits of grit and pus his tongue was forced to tease from deep inside the hooded monster. The smell of fear coming from behind him; the fear of the sheltered little ones who couldn't understand. The smell of his own fear that someday he might not be there and they would pay the price. The smell of sickening realization that he had left them far behind to surely take his place.

The smell of slimy, vile and hated juices slathering his lips; the inside of his bruised and aching cheeks. The smell of blasts of viscous milky goo exploding on his tongue, splashing against his face, burning within his eyes; rammed first a little ways inside, the monster puking whiteness up and out his nose and finally stopping air and plunging deep and held against his breath. The smell of hatred pouring down his throat and settling a little more inside the deepest place within his bursting heart. He'd almost die; his throat plugged so full he couldn't get a breath. The smell of death within himself always forcing him to fight; to punch and tear against his brother's chest until he'd know no more or, more of late it seemed, he'd tear himself up off the spitting spike of death and breathe great gasping gulps of hate and turn and cry himself to sleep.

The final smells of loathing driving him to near as death; he smelled the rancid smell of his own emerging sex. The whitened muck he tried to kill within himself, but couldn't stop the boiling and the aching in his balls. The smell of the stiff and slender index of his shame; the tiny spurts of sticky sap thrust hectic in the sacking against the little ones he held so close as if he could protect.

The smell he hated more than any other. The smell he knew would make him mad with hatred for himself. The nightmare smell that he might turn against them in his body's moments pressure and make them foul as he was foul to drink the hated fountain of his brother's loathsome pleasure.

He shriveled in upon himself seeking refuge in the mud walled sanctuary he had built around his soul. The mud laid so methodically to build a protective wall. Blow by blow and kick by kick and choking death by choking death he had sculpted out this place. The place where he would flee and cry and sob outside of pain, outside of fear, outside of life it seemed.

He writhed inside to find that Wood had cheated him within its healing grace. The mud of walls was all torn down, just a hint of final oozing mounds to show their deep foundations. He screamed to find no way to peace, no way beyond the pain, no way to pull the mud of everlasting nothingness across his wounded soul.

Gwydion watched the wracking, cringing, crying boy consume himself upon the ground. He reached out with his mind to try and center peace. He flinched and fled back from the howling, ravaging self hatred he had felt. Nothing he had ever touched had cried out in so much anguish. He shook inside his ancient skin to know that he was powerless to even touch the surface.

The pure white dogs and furry mothers all around came softly softly creeping in and ringed the boy with comfort. His wracking sobs and shuddered breaths continued in his body. The fireflies came floating down from somewhere in the branches. The singing of the Faerie song floated on the breeze. The fiddleheaded ferns released their tight curled fronds and King of Faeries stood within the glade with Arrwn's King beside him. Together each they touched the boy upon his runneled cheeks. The Faerie King smoothed Dyfed's hair as Arawn kissed his tight closed lids. The earth itself opened a crack and took the boy's quakes and shudders deep inside. It closed them in and swallowed all, the boy was resting now in quietude.

King Arawn turned towards the ancient wizard, "He needs the healing peace held close within the stone and waters. The bedding stone within the sidh may touch him more than we. The hatred learned in such a life will take another life to shed. If Tadhg feels the strength of friend the apple he might share. The coming dark within the land may claim them both I fear."

The Faerie song and Grace of Kings' fled silent on the air. The wizard lifted sleeping boy and followed dogs return inside the bower. All lay together on the pallet mingling thoughts and warmth and quiet emanations to still the demons squelched not killed within Dyfed's sundered psyche.

The Water and the Stone

Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance, and Change? To these

All things are subject but eternal Love.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

"Gwydion?" Dyfed whispered from the linen, "My heart was like to broke and I was lost inside. I could not find my way, then sudden comfort took my pain and now I lie beside thee, dogs' hearts beating at my side. What miracle did find me there and bring me from the dark?"

Gwydion looked across the tiny space to see the stunning change. The eyes still early morning blue yet shining with new light, the lips crimson against deep pink of flawless cheeks, the hair transformed along the line of Faerie King's caress: bright stunning gold across the crown and down the back and side, no brown lingering underneath where Faerie hand had touched. The other side along the ear still slightly brown with golden fire inside. The gift of Kings' freely given magic may not yet have cured the soul, the body though had been transformed.

As Gwydion sat upright gazing on the beauty the boy first stretched his arms above his shinning head, then moving linen just aside he stretched down through his pure white toes. He rolled a little coming upward with the motion. One slender leg curling up and underneath its brother's thigh the stretch of right arm strongly out, left wrapped around his head. Then lifting chest and raising face towards the upper bower the outstretched arm and leg turned inward towards their partners. The others seemed to mirror the motion in the exact opposite fashion and then the boy was stretching left where but a moments span before he had been stretching right. The legs then folding in upon themselves crossed feet resting soles upward on his thighs. His hands reached out and seeking Gwydion's opposite fingers they intertwined and with the gentlest of motions they passed the stretch into the ancient wizard.

Gwydion's joints blessed by the Faerie King accepted stretch, accepted youth, accepted joy in motion. They pressed against Dyfed's subtle unrelenting pressure. The dance of muscles on the boys' arms and chest and abdomen passed energies across the space between the fingers. Both bodies woke to tissues wakening in pleasure. The boys' slender shaft between his upturned feet stretched of its own accord. It pointed strongly at the indentation of his navel. The curling wisp of hairs around its base bright gold on right with just a touch of brown on left to match the Faerie's print upon his head. Gwydion sighed to feel so very much alive and share the presence of such beauty.

The boy suddenly aware of straining sex grasped fingers quickly back. With frantic thrashing at the linen he collapsed into a ball hiding his offending member and wishing it away; away from light, away from feeling, away from hideous unwanted perverse pleasure. He shook with putrid smells and loathsome thoughts and self hatred's unrelenting guilt.

Gwydion watched the beauty collapse so quickly all around him. His mind was torn with how to help and what to do against such demons so deeply rooted. He felt more than saw the dogs uncurl and move from by the bed. They twisted round the boy each nose to other's tail encircling him as if to ring the demons out. Gwydion hoped they did not trap it deeper now inside.

The boy woke from his stupor to pet the dog beside him. Gwydion reached out with his mind and found the demons quiet but hunger gnawing now inside. He wished the stone bowl to him and held it softly on his knees. The vapors of the steam carried on the air, the boy was drawn from fetal slumber by his questing nose. He rolled again to sit up looking across the space. He reached hands stilly forward accepting bowl from man.

Dyfed drank the healing potion, his body warming to its touch. The fires banked so close upon his soul flared a little at its touch. He smiled a weak and feeble smile into the silver flashing still black eyes across the bowls' smooth rim. The look he drank into his head was every bit as healing.

"Come lad, let's to the stream. 'Tis several days since I washed thee in thy head's cracked, tormented sleep. The waters cool and gentle kiss will strengthen too, I think." He offered a simple palm up hand and prayed the boy would not collapse into the fear of violence. His open hand and open eyes and open heart were seen for what they were and slowly, oh so slowly the boy placed his hand into the waiting palm.

Gwydion used the subtlest of pressure to draw the boy onto his feet. The shriveled stalk of earlier shame now impotent in its small fuzzy nest. The pair walked quietly across the glade and into oak where bubbling waters fall seemingly directly out of rock. The splashing laughing waters created a mist of spray, a single shaft of sunlight blazed through the oaken canopy. The light shattered in the mist creating a corona shifting slightly with the waters. Dyfed stepped away from Gwydion's hand and tried to catch the rainbow. He turned his eyes to Gwydion the blue of sparkling wonder captured in the aureole of the dancing light.

Gwydion fell upon his knees, the world spread out before him in the beauty of a boy; a shattering blinding song encircling water's falling flight, gold hair's blazing radiance, blue eye's pinpoint depthlessness and skin's luminescent white. The vision stepped into the pool but barely marred the surface. Phosphorescent ghostly arms reached from deep within the waters. They touched and kissed and bathed the skin within the shimmering light. They cupped the waters in their fingers drizzling it against his chest, across his slender shoulders, anointing the golden crown upon his head. He stood motionless his arms beside his hips, his face serene and calm as if he always had been bathed by water nymphs.

Gwydion could feel the cleansing of a part of the boy's soul. The essential scrubbing of another layer of the mud so deep inside the boy. Like the stripping of a woodland leek the sweetest layers lay inside. Dyfed had many outer tough and weathered leaves circling round his being and he had shown that deep between the layers pain and torment often lurked. The waters healing powers now were washing some away. The love held by the stream since Tadhg's gift would quickly fill the empty space Gwydion was convinced.

The nymphs withdrew, the boy rose out the pool. The sunlight stream struggled to remain attached and seemed to bend the very trees. Dyfed stepped out of the cinctured incandescent vestment back into the now inadequate light reflecting off the pool. Even that seemed to long to still caress the boy, it flowed toward him so strongly Gwydion could watch the water droplets fight against its outward mean as they tried to follow nature's path down into the pool. Dyfed seemed as dry as before he had walked into the light. A single set of golden drops flashed diamonds off his head.

Dyfed reached out his hand toward the kneeling Gwydion. The wizard took the open palm and this time he was gently guided to his feet. Before he could think of what to do he found himself encircled at the chest within a hug freely given by the boy. No tense and desperate to escape emotion met his mind, just a drawing out of comfort like the boy was starved for touch. He let his body go and sent everything he had within the circle of the arms and chest and cheek pressed against his heart.

Dyfed spoke into the chest while holding strong his deep embrace, "What manner of stream is this that the water is so pure? I thought I felt thy touch washing me, but now I find thee here and dry upon the verge. The wonders of the colors in the air befuddled me I fear."

"Thy capture of the sunlight bemused my mind I know. The stream is special to the gods and once again I watch thee blessed. The nymphs from deep within the pool did stir themselves to bathe thee. Thy beauty sure bewitched their gentle touch. Come let's see the birthing of this stream. Thee should know the inner secrets that have touched the outer boy."

The boy broke the hug but kept the left hand in his right. He turned and looked into Gwydion's smiling face. "Must we go far? I woulds't not leave the Wood! I think the world outside is not so very different from my home. I'd stay within the magic if I could."

Gwydion led the boy across the glade, "Thee are safe within the circle of the oak, we go but a little distance to the entrance to the barrow. Thou will see the like of things thy mind cans't surely never guess. But still, let's enter now and see what more magics wait inside." He held his breathe to see if at the step a change would ring. The boy stepped after him into the dim rocks glow. The silence sang as loud a song as Tadhg's singing stones.

"Thou have left the Wood, thy steps now lead inside thy home in Arrwn." Gwydion sighed into the air more than to the boy.

"I feel as if I know this place." Dyfed answered squeezing Gwydion's hand.

"The Cauldron of Nodens' healing powers has placed some knowledge in thy head. Woulds't see the stream's birth place? Or walk upon the circle?"

"The circle leads straight from the pool where I just bathed?"

"Aye the water leaves the barrow for the pool."

"Then that is where we should go first, the water's backward path. The gift of light to me must have some hidden answer there."

Gwydion thought the boy a marvel of reasoned thought. He'd not have guessed to take the path full backward leading to the source. Dyfed's simple statement that some answer might lie within the circle was prescient discernment of Lord Maponus' words about the meeting of the boys. Gwydion had not told Tadhg of Dyfed's presence or that they somehow were bound together. Nwywre would make it known when everything was right.

Gwydion stepped into the Eastern room, the rock already glowing. He knew that Tadhg must already be within the circle. Dyfed drew a sharply inhaled breath, the size of the room, the lined up stones, the slabs held overhead had taken him by surprise. The softly singing undertone, the trickling of the water led his eyes from up upon the roof to down along the floor. A single tiny oak leaf fluttered from within his golden hair. It swirled and spun and captured the movement of his eyes. He watched it floating slowly down, spinning as it fell, then dropping gently into a trough where water held it cupped upon the ever moving surface. The turning of the simple leaf, the bobbing of its progress in the flow, completely seized his mind's active occupation. He followed it, he stalked it as it moved. He watched it follow twists and turns ever moving across the deeply channeled floor. It sometimes dove beneath another branching of the stream, then it would lead him back again across the top and he would know it never branched just crossed and crossed again. It pulled him ever onward he could not tear his eyes away. He followed leaf and channel blind to all else in the room.

The leaf played with going to a center point, then backed away and led him off into another run of twists and turns and dives and climbs and ever flowing motion. It spun a moment, still almost, then dived into a bowl. He saw the oak leaf kiss the form of acorn carved out of the stone, then watched it drop into the center of the nut. It disappeared inside the stone twisting in the water as it had appeared from off his head twisting in the air. He dropped beside the bowl and tried to see where it had gone. A voice from right beside him sighed and softly whispered to the bowl, "I know not where the water goes. I know from whence it comes. It must begin a journey far beyond the barrow's wall."

Dyfed answered to the bowl just like the voice before, "I've seen the pool it graces in the wood. The faeries make it sacred within their dancing circle."

He looked up across the bowl of falling waters. He saw the boy whose voice he heard looking back at him. His soul fell deep into the emerald lakes of eyes. He knew he'd never see another thing so pure. He reached his fingers on his right hand across the waters in the bowl. A golden circled arm offered him left fingers back. They touched fingertips to fingertips and Dyfed knew that he was whole. The ache of brain and pounding fists would never strike again.

Both hands clasped fingertips, the one unto the other, and drooping slightly at the touch they gently parted water. The room was full of ringing singing notes, the joined fingers wrapped from underneath with touch so sweetly gentle that air itself seemed charged with jubilation.

Tadhg stood and pulled Dyfed to his feet; Dyfed stepped across the bowl and pulled Tadhg against his chest. The smaller boy fit just beneath the larger boy's embrace. They stood encircling one another for what might have been forever.

Tadhg lead the older boy back along the channeled path, back among the doves, along the greater circle, back across the Eastern threshold. He extinguished light from one room calling it to the other. He took Dyfed to the spouting fish and water lily bowl. He cupped his hand and offered drink to Dyfed's waiting lips. Dyfed cupped his hand too and offered drink in turn. Tadhg led him to the bedding stone. They lay together holding tight blue eyes merging into green. Tadhg thought the silk to cover them and made the stones to sing.

Dyfed felt the singing come from in the stone. He whispered, "How comes this singing in the stone?"

"I know not how it happens, I call it forth for thee. Thy heart is hurt like mine was when I came unto this place." Tadhg brushed his lips across Dyfed's close and tender mouth and placed his palm against Dyfed's slender chest. Dyfed felt the strength of stone and boy and song and love rush in to fill the void. The last of mud's remaining slime was pushed out of the way. He knew he'd never feel again the cloying sickening ooze. His head was floating now inside its split and injured case. The bone responding to the touch and sloughing off the scars, repairing tears and filling slender gaps.

Ribs cracked by brutal foot were knitting round the lines of stress. A tear within his gut was taking poisons back inside and closing on the new found love coursing through his body.

Gwydion turned inside the room and sat before the water alter. He prayed to Nodens and Maponus that Dyfed now would find some peace inside his soul.

The boys slept, Tadhg pushing love with every breath. Dyfed soaking stone's raw warmth, song's sweet caress and Tadhg's love deep within his chest. Then madness came stark raving through the air. He opened eyes to see his sex against the young boy's lips. The deep and glimmering pools of emerald green were looking up the pointed shaft and boring deep into his head, his mind saw accusation. He screamed and jerked himself from sleep and screamed again to see the slender string of slimy spiders silk stretched from the open mouth that just had brushed him with its love and now was forced to service odious pleasure. His brain exploded with the thought that he had made the purest thing that he had ever known befoul itself against his repulsive bludgeon. He screamed again and shrank against the stone. He collapsed into incoherence his mind a tormented mad thing flying through the air.

Tadhg watched the rapid disintegration of the boy that he had just touched with his lips of love. He couldn't fathom what had caused the sudden berserk fit. He hadn't crushed the stones or touched shaft with his teeth. He was far better skilled than that. He knew though that the simple act of love he tried to give the boy had somehow precipitated the screams and sudden body smashing fit. He tried to wrap the boy within his arms and offer him his love. The shrinking raving mad thing upon the stone would just scuttle like a crab and try to get away. "Maponus! Help me!" Tadhg cried. "I know not what to do."

Gwydion turned from silent contemplation at the first of Dyfed's screams. He rose within the moment but could barely get across the room when he heard Tadhg's call for help.

The room of stone seemed to shudder on its own, the air was pushed against the rock as wings beat across the threshold. The white of raven flew to near the water alter. The boy god Maponus stepped across to the bed. The singing of the stones went deep into the ground, the rumbling of the earth seemed poised upon the breath of thought:

Thy love has come too quickly for the hatred in his head.

He cries that he has wounded thee like he was wounded on a bed.

I will still mind's mad careen,

Thou must help him heal to love that's clean

Of hatred at the act when he was not at fault.

Thou must make him know the pleasure to exalt

Within the love of body's bliss

At tender lover's sweetest kiss and love's surrendered gifts.

Maponus placed one hand on Dyfed's brow and one on Tadhg too. The stillness flowing from his touch quickly vanquished raving demons. The boys were lifted by the breath back on the bedding stone. The stone began a song of ringing peace and rest. Dyfed's shattered mind recovered all its pieces. He fluttered azure eyes and sighed into the verdant orbs which captured him inside. He slept the sleep of innocents fresh rescued from the slaughter.