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                                     Ash Moon Rising

                       

                                                (When you don’t equate death with stopping)

 

                                                            By Bronwyn of Llewelynn

 

 

           

            One man’s vision becomes the other’s grave

 

The full moon rose and all who gazed up at its ashy face, believed it to be a herald for bad times. Boadecia, Queen to the Iceni Celts, rode her mount like a band of Banshees was on her tail, towards the west coast of her beloved land.  She had no time for superstition. She spurred her horse on even harder, although the animal was heavily foaming around the mouth. Cramming a three-day ride into one, through the land of the less than friendly Ordovician’s was hazardous for her health, but she pressed on.

 

Roughly half a day’s ride away from Boadecia’s location in the Black Hills, Centurion Dominic Peregrinus watched a fresh Cohort of soldiers join his beloved IXth Legion. On the shores close to Segontium, or Caernarvon as the Celts called it, the Romans assembled tents and stockades and fed the new batch of warhorses. A large number of soldiers lined up on the hills above, with their designated Centuries, and seemed to make ready for war. It was indeed war, in the eyes of Governor Paulinius. He had given Dominic a free hand in executing the last phase of dominating Britania Inferior and their order of Druids.

 

Gordian of Ravenna headed up the hill to where his commander was camped. After cleaning off some grime by swinging a few handfuls of rainwater from a barrel over his sweaty head, Gordian grinned at the guards and entered the commanding Centurion’s tent.

 

“Ave, my Liege. And a fine night it is for dying too, if you are a Druid.” The bearded Roman said, saluting his commander. He picked up a piece of cloth to dry his face and eagerly accepted the tall beaker of watered-wine, offered by a slave.

 

“Right you are, Gordian.”  Dominic looked up from a table scattered with parchments and smiled warmly at his right hand man. “It shouldn’t be much of an effort to take the Isle of Mona, and have supper together afterwards.”

 

“My conclusion exactly, my Liege,” Gordian replied, letting his stout frame drop on the only unoccupied chair. “When do we march?”

 

“ Patience, my eager warrior. The night is still young and the air tepid.” Dominic rolled up a scroll and gently placed it back in it’s casing. “Soon every Goddess fearing Celt will lie down in the fields. As during every Beltaine, they will all mate like a pack of wild bitches on heat, prostituting themselves for another good harvest this autumn.” Dominic paused, a cold expression in his eyes, and then slammed his hand flat on the table, “and that’s when we strike, my comrade.”

 

Gordian lifted his beaker and almost whispered in awe, “To your genius vision, my Liege, to Paulinus Suetonius and to the glory that is Rome.”

 

“Ave Caesar, for the expansion of his Empire,” Dominic added, laughing. “Now, go and give the first five Contuberia their orders to row to Mona. Wait for the moon to start it’s decent and then do away with the Druids. I will sound the costal attack after I see the island settlement burning.”

 

Gordian saluted and slowly walked out of the tent backwards. “May Mars smile upon us tonight,” were his last words before the dawn.

 

On the high walls of Caerdon mote, Donnal of the Iceni and his army waited to see where the Romans would strike first. Spread along the shoreline from the Street of Menai to Deva, clan kings positioned their armies as defense. Across the waters on Mona,

 

Only a few candle marks’ ride away, Boadecia watched the dark horizon begin to light up. A faint golden glow along the lower hilltops turned the black of night a deep shade of blue. Her horse dropped from under her at the small village of Colwyn Bay. There she waited impatiently for a farmer to saddle her a fresh stallion.

 

          She goes her way

 

Around an enormous blazing fire at the peak of the Tor, a foursome of blue robed women stood hand in hand, flanked by nine women standing in a half circle. The four women in front let each other’s hand go. One by one, they enclosed a knife in their left hand and drew blood.

 

Flinging the blood seeping from her palm into the fire, Xena followed the example of the Priestesses, like she was told to do.

 

Rhiannon, Vivian and Nimue resumed a meditative posture after offering their blood to the flames, while the women behind them chanted to the Goddess.

 

Xena was having a hard time concentrating and Rhiannon stopped the ritual a few times, just before the Warrior bailed on them completely.

 

Giving Xena some of the herbs the maidens in training used to help them slip onto a trance mixed with wine, Nimue helped her relax and focus. There was no more time left to lose. “We will not let you go, Xena. We become the fourth face of the Goddess together remember,” The faerie-like voice and charming smile of the youthful High Priestess got through the Warriors defenses. “No one works alone.” 

 

“I invoke thee, Mother Of All, Crone, womb of the earth and holder of all wisdom and life. Ceridwen, I invoke thee,” Vivian sang to the flames and her body started to shake.

 

“I invoke thee, Daughter Of The Moon, huntress of the skies and protector of child and animal. Rhiannon, I invoke thee,” Rhiannon called upon the moon deity and her namesake. The redhead felt like she was flying and this time no she entered the astral realm with ease.

 

Entering the astral dimension, Vivian looked at her body, motionless by the fire and beckoned her sisters, Come to me, children.

 

“I invoke thee, Maiden of The Light, bringer of dawn and creator of the seasons.

I invoke thee, Arhianrod,” Nimue’s voice cried for the third form of the Goddess, just before her body collapsed. She saw Rhiannon and Vivian essence already melting together and felt them pull her closer.

 

“I invoke thee, Lady of the Night, obstructer of life and destroyer of light. I invoke thee, I invoke thee,” Xena’s powerful voice rang over the Tor. Her frame shook like a reed in a storm before it hit the ground, as lifeless as death its self.

Resisting the pull of the other three women, Xena looked down at her body and tried to will herself back into it.

 

“Xena.” The being that was the essence of the three Priestesses called to her with a voice that touched the Warrior profoundly. She could no longer resist joining them.

 

 Xena registered every move they made, like watching from a distance and being the movement, all at the same time. It felt like flying through water, without having to worry about breathing. The closer they moved to the edge of this amazing realm, the quieter it became. A peace so profound enveloped her and all fear she might have felt, vanished like the sun at the end of a long day.

 

With the harshness of a flint and tinder striking in front of her eyes during the darkest of night, the quiet and calm changed to a roaring fire and they moved into the heart of that very fire.

 

Xena caught a glimpse of what she and the Priestesses had become. Out of the heart of the peaceful being they were, rose a dark and horrid creature- with teeth and claws of a size no mortal’s imagination could conjure. It was the fourth face of the Goddess, ready to take back what she had given.

 

[|From the Annals by Tacitus]

On the shore of the island of Mona stood the Britons and Celts akin, close embodied and prepared for action. Women were seen running through the ranks in wild disorder; their apparel funeral; their hair loose to the wind, in their hands flaming touches. Their whole appearance resembling the frantic rage of the Furies. The Druids were ranged in order, with hands uplifted, invoking the gods, and pouring forth horrible imprecations. The novelty of the fight struck the Romans with awe and terror. They stood in stupid amazement, as if their limbs were benumbed, riveted to one spot, a mark for the enemy. […]

 

And a mark they were. The dark side of the Goddess scarred the whit out of the first row of Roman soldiers.

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Feedback on an story that I'm still writing is always very welcome! bindi@planet.nl

 

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