Shadows at Stonewylde - By Kit Berry

Slowly, silently, the moon rose over Stonewylde, flooding the land with ethereal light. Velvet shadows deepened as the hills and valleys welcomed the Bright Lady’s quicksilver kiss. Moonlight tiptoed down ancient paths, danced in fields and on hilltops, shimmered over rivers and pools. She was everywhere, bestowing her cold caress on the waiting landscape.

She sent a path of rippling silver across the sea and onto the white disc of stone at Mooncliffe. The eerie cliff-top was deserted; no moongazy maiden stood on the circle feeding her magic to the hungry snakes. At Quarrycleave, the Lady glanced over the carved pillar and peered into the canyons of stone. Her beams rustled through the ivy but her magic failed to banish the greedy shadows that lay below.

On silver feet she swept across the curves of the land and brushed the entrance to the Dolmen. The ancient gateway stood as it always had, a portal to the world of myths and dreams. A small fire smouldered at the entrance and a lone figure sat sentinel, entranced by the moon’s magic.

The Stone Circle embraced her, gathering her into the arena where the great stones stood guard around the heart of Stonewylde. She pirouetted on the soft earth floor and stroked the Altar Stone with silver fingertips, tingling as she encountered the Green Magic that eddied here.

The great megalith on top of the hill stood in lonely glory. Hares, their tawny coats bleached to dull pewter and their eyes gleaming in the moonlight, danced the sacred spirals around the single stone. Bats flickered against the starry skies and a silver-feathered barn owl glided from the woods to perch on the stone that marked the spiral’s vortex. These creatures knew the ancient power here; they instinctively understood the magical patterns of the land and this mysterious monthly alchemy. For millennia the moon-dance of Stonewylde had been honoured at this special place on the hill. Here the Bright Lady kissed her sister the Earth Goddess, enchanting her with quicksilver magic.

1

The girl slipped down the path, her cloak flaring behind her as she hurried on light feet. She clutched the wicker basket containing the precious fruits she’d gathered. Her eyes still shone with the moonlight and she wished she’d had longer in the woods under the Hunter’s Moon. She loved the Moon Fullness, the magic that thrilled all around in the crisp October night. It was so bright that even in the depths of the woods she’d had no need of her lantern. Carefully she opened the cottage back door; it was late and she should’ve been home long ago. A faint light glowed through the curtains but hopefully her mother would be asleep by now.

Golden candlelight from the lamp on the dresser dazzled her as she tiptoed into the kitchen. In the sitting room, Maizie looked up from her papers and removed her reading glasses to glare through the kitchen doorway at her daughter, still oblivious of her presence. The girl blinked in the golden brightness and quietly shut the heavy wooden back door behind her. She placed her basket on the scrubbed kitchen dresser, and shrugged off her cloak, hanging it on the peg. So far, so good.

‘Leveret! Come in here this minute!’

The sharp voice made her jump and her heart sank.

‘Where have you been, my girl? ‘Tis almost midnight! What’ve you been doing?’

Maizie’s face was pinched with anger as she glared at her daughter. This girl, her seventh child, was more trouble than the other six put together. Even in his wildest days Yul had been more obedient than she was. Although, Maizie thought ruefully, Alwyn’s reign of terror had probably been responsible for that. This girl was different – unruly, wilful and a law unto herself, and she had no father to keep her in check.

Maizie took a deep breath and gathered the papers into a tidy pile, not wanting to think of the man she’d been forced to wed all those years ago. He’d ruled his family’s lives with brutality and she wouldn’t wish that on anyone, not even this wayward daughter of hers. Alwyn had collapsed in this very room, choking and spluttering on a piece of cake whilst the petrified children gaped at their father foaming at the mouth. She remembered the terrible silence so clearly and could still picture their shocked faces, eyes round with terror – Rosie, Geoffrey, Gregory, Gefrin, Sweyn, even Yul – all frozen at the awful spectacle. Only Leveret had watched without fear and then broken the

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