From Lake Caerwych, Chapter Six, “Ring of Stones”
Bridget turned off the flashlight and set it and the maps on the floor. There was a little moonlight coming in from the south window, and as her eyes adjusted to the dark, Bridget could just make out the outlines of trees. She closed her eyes and felt herself drifting.
Several hours later, Bridget woke up and looked at the clock. It was 1:28 a.m. The farmhouse was completely silent and there seemed to be no reason that she was now awake. She put a robe over the shorts and t-shirt she was wearing and went to the window. The gibbous moon had moved in the sky and the night looked brighter. The Welsh countryside was beautiful even at this hour, but any urge to go outdoors right then was stifled by the unfamiliarity of the place. Leaving her robe on, she walked back to the bed and lay back down. It was chilly in the room even with blankets. Bridget fell asleep quickly again just as before.
Then she was dreaming. She had known this would happen, just like it happened on the first night, and though she welcomed it in a way it also frightened her. In her dream she was walking outside under brilliant moonlight. Very low in the sky hung a gibbous moon, just as she had seen outside her window. Bridget traveled in the general direction of Llyn Caerwych, but went by a different route. The way was more difficult and extremely boggy in places; even with the strong moonlight she had to painstakingly choose her way. When she looked down, she saw that she had put her tennis shoes over her bare feet, and a thick mud had started to cake on the bottoms. There was also mud on her legs and a few red scratches; perhaps from the shrubs she stumbled through or the several stone fences she climbed.
After so much walking, she came onto the open moorland and a vague structure appeared before her. At first she saw only jagged things like teeth, jutting upwards toward the sky, but as she neared she saw the teeth were actually slender, upright stones placed in a circle around a large cairn – a mound of stones about thirty feet across. The place had a strange, otherworldly feel to it, one that she couldn’t quite place. A light fog hung around the ring cairn which only added to the feeling. Bridget was uncertain if this was going to be a bad dream or not. It certainly looked like it was being set up to have all the makings of one. Despite her uneasiness, she continued to the nearest standing stone and looked at the rocks within. On a stream of air, she caught the scent of lake water for a moment and wondered if it was coming from Llyn Caerwych or another lake nearby; she thought it would be impossible to tell.
Bridget put her foot within the circle. Nothing happened. She stepped inside and picked her way over and around the large stones until she was standing at the center. Now isn’t this the part where something crazy is supposed to happen? she thought, recalling the terror of the cave. Well, it’s only a dream. It doesn’t matter what I do. I’m just going to sit here until something happens.
She chose a flattish stone and seated herself. There wasn’t much to see except for the ancient stones encircling her, the nearly full moon in the clear sky and the little rivers of mist. Her body felt restless and she realized she was tired. Bridget felt her eyes getting heavy and her head began to drop. Maybe in this dream I sleep all night in an ancient stone circle, she thought cynically. Big help.
Something hard and rough was in her hand; it was a rock, she realized, and she was lying on a surface too coarse and irregular to be a bed. The flat-topped stone was beneath her, another rock was under her head and a smaller one was in her palm. She had fallen asleep in her dream after all. With a jolt, her head came up and she whirled around. It was well into the morning, or even early afternoon. The scenery looked so different that she almost couldn’t believe she was in the same place. The moorland was still there with its scattered, violet-colored shrubs, and the ring cairn, but there were more standing stones now and the pile was larger. In a hasty panic, Bridget stumbled out of the circle, almost tripping as she went over the rocks in her tennis shoes – but when she looked down at her feet, it was not tennis shoes she wore, but some kind of leather shoes tied with crude cords.
Gasping, Bridget stopped short and looked at what was above the shoes. It was some kind of woolen dress, with a frayed and faded brown cloak over that. She saw tendrils of hair coming over her shoulder and held it out for quick examination. It was a darker brown than the hair she had in real life, and much, much longer. Bridget could see that the hair went well past her waist. It was dry, somewhat wavy and unwashed. Her fingernails had no polish on them, but instead had dirt underneath. The hand she held out was a different hand, not the one she had before going to sleep.
She looked back at the cairn and saw that there was actually a menhir (a tall, upright stone) standing off by itself, about ten feet away from where she had awoken. Bridget went to it but it bore no writing, only strange scratches along its edge that meant nothing to her. She slid her hand along its rough surface and it felt incredibly solid. It had so much dimension and texture.
With all her strength, she took off in a pounding run toward the inn. She clutched the woolen dress in her hands to keep from tripping. A row of round, stone huts with roofs thatched with sticks and straw quickly came into view. As she drew near, Bridget pulled herself to a halt. Outside one of the huts a man roasted a wild boar on a spit. She cautiously approached him. He wore an animal skin tunic over grey, linen trousers, had long, brown hair and a golden bracelet in the shape of a coiling serpent on one arm.
The man nodded, pointed south (not the direction of the farmhouse, Bridget noticed) and then she saw it. She saw the great, grey, stone wall encircling a village, with many huts and small houses within, cottages almost identical to that in her friend’s painting. Above the fortified wall flew a green banner bearing only a white crescent moon, its tips pointing to the right as on her pendant. Her heart fluttered and for a moment she couldn’t breath. “Caerwych!” Bridget tried to say aloud, but instead found herself saying, “Kassrikmagon!” There was the fort they had been looking for.
This is impossible, she thought. She shook her head, looked at the man who was tending his little fire, then looked back at the ring cairn. Another feeling began to grip her, something like anxiety mixed with dread. She wasn’t safe. Bridget heard the beating of many hooves on the moorland, shouting and other sounds that she couldn’t make out.
Out of some instinct, she ran back to the ring cairn and placed herself in the center. She didn’t know if it would work or not, but it was all she could think to do. With her heart racing, she stood there and spoke the year of her own time. Nothing happened. She didn’t know how to say it in Welsh. Or do I? wondered Bridget. I knew Celena’s old name.
When she opened her mouth to attempt to speak the year, what came out was not Welsh but some other, older language. The first rider appeared over a little ridge with a flaming brand, followed by another and then many more. Now she knew what the sound was – it was the hissing and crackling of fire on many oil-drenched pieces of wood. Dozens upon dozens of flaming torches were held high as they approached, leaving a trail of smoke behind them. It was too hard to tell how many there were.
The little hut village was in an uproar; they apparently did not even notice the young woman standing in the stone circle. Bridget’s nervousness turned to fear. She said the ancient word for her year, over and over, and nothing was happening. The riders were getting closer and closer to the village and the ring cairn.
When she opened her eyes, it was night again. There was the gibbous moon, illuminating the sky in the same place as before. The cairn circle was again ancient and in ruin, curls of mist ebbed at her feet and she was wearing her tennis shoes.