Rock of Ages Past--Part 16
Copyright©1999-2000 Elaine L. Becker
All Rights Reserved

DISCLAIMER: This story is an original creation and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, real or fictional are unintentional. Any words to any songs or any poetry used in this story are attributed to their original artists in the story itself. Television and/or radio programs that are referred to in the story are not to my knowledge, real program content, but created by me solely for use in this story.
This story is about two women in love and may contain language or sexual scenes unsuitable for children or others who are easily offended by material of this nature. This is a story about same gender relationships. If you have a problem with same gender relationships, you should probably see your therapist. Hate is an illness that love can cure.
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Finian moved silently along the dark path, following the shorter, blond woman, as she led them toward the huge bonfire that she was just beginning to see glimpses of, flickering through the trees in front of them.  She felt a sense of something that she didn't quite understand.  Her first thought was that she was feeling anxious because she was about to experience her first real or at least adult celebration of the Goddess, a totally opposite belief system from the one she had been raised in and one that was looked down upon by most of society.   Her previous attempts at participating in religions different than her own had always brought a sense of wrongness to her and when she admitted it to herself, even her own Catholic religion raised the same feelings. 
     As she examined the feeling that she was now experiencing, she realized that it was not fear, but anticipation and excitement.   She had worked hard over the last few days to leave her trepidation behind on this night and was looking forward to it as a new beginning in embracing herself.  She had not wanted the old tapes to start playing and was glad when she found that her work had not been in vain.  What she felt was expectancy, not anxiety. 
     She noticed that, as they got closer to the clearing where the fire burned, her sense of expectancy increased.  She knew that she was looking forward to participating in the circle and was glad that she had found a way to be at Mystery Hill at night without having to break the law or crash a circle, but what she was beginning to feel seemed more intense or over-reactive than what she had expected. 
     A sound escaped her and she stumbled into the darkness, almost colliding with the woman in front of her, as sea-green eyes suddenly filled her vision, then quickly disappeared. 
     Marty glanced back over her shoulder at the tall, dark woman who was quickly regaining her composure.  "You doing okay?" she called softly through the now broken quiet.
     "Yeah," Finian half-whispered.  "I must have tripped over a stick or something.  No harm done.  I'm fine." 
      "Okay, just checking.  It sounded like you got hit in the stomach or something."
      'More like between the eyes,' Finian thought before she answered. "Yeah, guess I wasn't expecting it.  Hard to see where you're stepping in the dark."
     "We're just about there.  I think I can hear voices up ahead."
     Finian didn't have time to think about the eyes that had obscured her vision as they rounded a small bend in the path and the light from the bonfire spilled into the darkness, casting a yellow glow upon herself and Marty.  For a moment she felt like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights.  All the eyes from the clearing ahead were on them as they entered the small area in front of the great stone.
     Almost immediately they were surrounded by women in various modes of dress.  Some wore long robes of mostly dark, earthy colors, while others were dressed similar to the way that she and Marty were, in blue jeans and a top. 
     Finian smiled warmly as the women began to greet her before Marty even had a chance to introduce her.  Never one for physical contact, she was surprised when she found herself responding warmly to the welcoming hugs that were being bestowed upon her.   When the group of women was satisfied that the newcomer had been properly welcomed, they began to wander off toward the fire.
    Finian glanced around and saw Marty, now clothed in her forest-green robe, standing with a small group of women near the solstice stone almost directly across from where she stood.  Loreena McKennitt's "Book of Shadows" began playing softly in the night around her, prompting her to look for the source of the sound.  As her eyes adjusted from the darkness of the path to the bright yellow light from the fire and scanned the area behind her, she forgot about the source of the sound when she noticed nine sticks, each about five feet tall, placed evenly around the outside of the circle behind her. 
     Finian remembered Marty mentioning the nine sticks as being symbols of completion.  The light half of the year was ending and the dark half beginning.  Each stick was from a different sacred tree, symbolizing the blessings that the Goddess would bestow upon them.  Birch, symbolizing the feminine principal and protection, Oak, symbolizing the male principal and strength and stability, Apple for the blessing of love and immortality, Ash to be awakened to the teachings of the Goddess, Cedar to ground and keep one on the path, Fir for clarity, Pine to purify and sanctify, Willow for inspiration, Maple for good health and abundance.  Each stick was decorated with a different herb or flower whose properties closely matched that of the sticks.  The herbs symbolized the new beginning, which would follow the completion of the cycle. 
     Finian's thoughts were interrupted by movement across the circle.  Three women, clad in different colored robes, began to move toward where she was standing.  The tall woman glanced around her and saw that the other women who had been standing or sitting around the fire were all moving toward the opening in the trees from which she and Marty had entered the clearing.
     She fell into the group of women, following them through the opening, and took her place in the line that formed facing back toward the clearing and the fire.
     She watched as the three, robed women started receiving the group of women back into the clearing, one by one, anointing each brow with a mixture of sandalwood and patchouli oils and offering a blessing. 
     "Blessed Be," Finian replied softly as she returned the blessing and entered the clearing, taking a place around the fire and turning to face the outer perimeter of the circle, as she saw the other women doing.
    Marty had explained to her much of what was going to take place tonight, but the telling of it and the actual doing of the ritual, were vastly different.  Finian's limited experiences in the past had all been conducted indoors, in miniature, using candles, incense, and various other implements on a tabletop.  She felt inept and obtuse; not really knowing what she was doing or why. 
      She had read about outdoor celebrations and she did remember most of the things that she and Marty had talked about the other night, but she still didn't feel like a competent participant. 
       Finian watched as Marty, and the other two robed women, worked their way around the circle, clockwise, lighting torches at the four elemental points, north, east, south, and west, bestowing different blessings upon and asking for the blessings of that particular direction's element.  When the circle was closed and blessed for protection, the women began to move about and settle down into small groups or by themselves. 
     The tall, raven-haired woman began to move slowly toward the other side of the fire, toward the now, relatively small and broken chunk of granite that was once a majestic megalith.  The circle had been cast right up to it but not behind the stone and Finian suddenly felt a compelling urge to be near it.
     Marty spotted her as she moved around the fire and waved at her new friend to come over to where she stood and started walking to meet her.  'Ah, now I have a reason to move closer to the stone,' she thought as she quickened her step.  Suddenly, Finian remembered the quick vision she had seen on the path and the sense of anticipation she had felt and knew that it had something to do with her sudden attraction to the stone that she was getting closer to.
     "Are you doing okay?  Finding your way around?" the short, dark eyed woman asked.  "I know it's different being here than it is reading about it or hearing about it," she added, before Finian could answer.
     "Yes.  It is." Finian replied with a smile.    "But it is a little hard for me to follow and I think I'd rather just step back and watch and learn this time around, if that's okay?"
     Marty nodded her head and smiled up at the taller woman.  "Sure it's okay.  If I remember correctly, we discussed that earlier as an option."   
     "Can I just hang out over there on the other side of the stone?" she gestured to her right.
     "Yeah, any place you want to is fine.  Just don't break the circle.  If you'd feel more comfortable observing from outside the circle, I can open a temporary gate for you, but you will have to stay outside the circle for the entire ritual until the circle is opened."
     "No, that's okay, I don't want you to have to open and close the circle just for me.  As long as I stay on this side of the stone, I won't break the circle, right?"  Finian asked as she gestured toward it.
     "Right.  You'll be just fine there.  Close enough to observe and hear everything that is happening and also out of the way so you won't get stepped on."  Marty smiled.  "Next time you'll feel more comfortable and have a better idea of how the rituals are conducted.  The casting of the circle and the order of things is always the same.  The only things that really change are the cast of characters and the props.  We may invoke different Goddesses for certain occasions and certain festivals, but basically the circle is always the same.  Much like a church service is always conducted a certain way, in a certain order, but with a different sermon and sometimes different rituals such as a baptism or communion."
     Finian nodded in agreement and understanding as Marty's name was called by one of the other robed women.  "Well, looks like we're about ready to begin our farewell to Griane and our welcome to Aine.  I'll catch ya in a bit."  The brown eyed woman smiled and moved away toward the group of women that was forming to the left of the solstice stone.
     Suddenly aware of the slight pull she felt at her back, Finian turned and moved toward the now, fallen and broken solstice stone.  She slowly lowered her tall body to the ground, slipping her backpack off her shoulders as she did so, carefully avoiding the small chunks of granite that littered the ground around the larger one, which in time past, had been part of the whole.
    Settling her long legs in among the smaller stones, Finian rested her strong back against the larger stone and found herself gently enveloped by the cool, gentle humming of the large piece of granite.  Her back had found a natural hollow in the stone, which supported her very comfortably and seemed to welcome her in. 
     Aware of the low, humming that she could hear as well as feel, Finian tried to focus her attention on the scene that was playing out around the fire.  She watched as the symbolic Griane passed the last of the nine torches that had been lit from the nine sticks that she had noticed around the circle, to the Goddess, Aine.  As Griane went off to her rest, Aine, set off around the circle, blessing all who dwelt within, blessing the herbs, and blessing the symbolic animals woven from vines and various other gifts of nature, that Finian was only now noticing, standing in the shadows of the trees just inside where the circle had been cast.  Her appreciative eye, gave silent accolades to whoever had created the wreathlike animals.   
      Settling her broad shoulders further into the curve of the stone, Finian felt as if a million tiny fingers were ever so gently massaging her back.   As she watched the symbolic blessing of the earth and the giving of thanks for Her gifts to humankind, the woman hidden in the shadow of the large stone, no longer heard the words that were being spoken and sung around the fire. 
Caer slowly opened her eyes and looked around.  She was still alone, even though she had the distinct impression that someone had been talking to her.  She felt the cool, hardness of the ground that she rested upon and pushed herself up to a sitting position.  She shivered as she shook her head and reached to gather her damp mantle around her.  Echoes of beautiful music danced through her head, carrying hints of words unrecalled. 
    The small woman got slowly to her feet and gathered her belongings to her.  She gazed at the gently rippling water of the Mother's well and felt a sense of responsibility that she hadn't noticed before.  Caer acknowledged the feeling with a slight nod and turned toward the path that would lead her back to the predawn festivities.

The dark haired woman was not aware of anything except the sudden pang of fear and the sudden vision of a small, blond figure, lying in a heap upon the ground that had suddenly obscured her vision, and the intense physical pain that was beginning to radiate through her body.
    Without conscious thought, Finian reached her left hand into her pocket and gripped the group of stones she had placed there before leaving her apartment.  Her right hand tightened around the strap of her backpack, which now rested across her lap, where she had placed it after shrugging it off as she sat down. 
    Marty could only see Finian's feet and lower legs jutting out from the shadow of the stone.  She peered intently across the circle, from her position on the other side of the fire, trying to see the raven-haired woman's face, her cerulean eyes, but both were effectively hidden. 
     Just as Marty was beginning to return her attention back to the ritual that she was in the middle of, she saw a sudden movement from where her new friend sat watching the solstice celebration.  Returning her full attention back across the fire, she was surprised when she could no longer see the tall woman's feet coming from the shadow of the stone.  She got an odd feeling in her stomach as she forced her attention back to the story that she was helping to portray around the fire, knowing that she had been distracted for long enough and that any longer and she would lose her place in the scheme of things. 
     She could not, however, block the sensation that sat in the pit of her stomach.  Her rational mind said that it was the dwindling of the fire that created a larger shadow because of less light, which gave the impression that her friend had been swallowed up by the stone.   But the feeling told her otherwise as it rose from her lower body and expanded into her breast. 
     As Marty swayed to the chanting voices around her, she added hers to the foundation, which would raise the cone of power, creating a vehicle which would carry the prayers, the requests, the thanks, out into the universe to be absorbed and weighed and hopefully cause a positive effect in fulfilling the prayers for the blessings that were made here tonight.
     Marty felt her chest expanding as the pitch of her voice increased.  Her eyes closed as she reached out in her mind to the mind of the Goddess.  With her face tilted upward toward the heavens and her entwined hands and arms also lifted skyward, she asked a secret blessing for the tall, dark woman who she wasn't sure would be driving her home after the circle.
     Finian drew her hand from her pocket and raised the stones to her forehead, touching them to the spot that the Priestess had anointed as she was welcomed into the circle, trying to alleviate the pain that was gathering there, with the coolness of the stones.   
     The tall woman momentarily blacked out from the intense pounding in her head, as she was impossibly pulled backward through the stone.  The pressure nauseated her as it pushed against every square inch of her body, forcing her to struggled for consciousness.  She felt fleeting panic when she found that she could not move her arms or her legs to stop the crushing fall back, but had no time to dwell on it, as the sea of voices coming from the circle around her seemed to wash against her and push upward, carrying her with them as they built to a crescendo and pushed her further into the mass.  Finian felt herself thrust through the stone, her nausea rising as she began spiraling backward, the intense force on her body increasing as she fell. 
      Suddenly, just as she felt that her body would implode, she broke free of her heavy confinement.  Finian felt the strap of her backpack slip from her fingers as she felt herself tumbling.  There was no time to try to get her footing before she landed with a thud and felt the cold, damp ground come up to meet her.

Caer suddenly found herself lying on the ground, every bit of air in her body being expelled with the sudden weight that was thrust upon her.  She struggled to draw in a breath, but the sudden impact upon her and the weight that now threaten to flatten her, prevented even the slightest intake.  The burden upon her back was impossible for her to lift and she felt herself slipping into darkness. 

Finian lay completely still, willing the sea of nausea that roiled inside of her to calm down.  After several moments, she finally felt that the contents of her stomach would stay put and she let her returning consciousness begin to take in her surroundings.
     The first thing that the dark haired woman was aware of were the grunting and thumping sounds coming from somewhere beyond her tightly closed eyes. 
     As she forced her eyes open, Finian found her still tingling hands and placed them on the cool ground, unconsciously sounding a sigh of relief as she recognized the touch of the earth, and pushed herself to a sitting position.
    Her eyes quickly became accustomed to the predawn darkness and quickly found the source of the sounds.  It took her a second before she realized that what she was looking at was a large cow, which had fallen and was now struggling unsuccessfully at regaining it's footing and freeing itself from whatever it was that it had fallen over.
     Suddenly the large beast got its back leg free of its entanglement and with a mighty shake of her head, the frenzied cow rose to her feet and ran into the opening in the woods revealing the flaxen-haired form that lay limp and unmoving on the ground.
    She didn't have time to think.  She just reacted, scrambling quickly across the ground.  She grasped the small woman by the shoulders, pulling her gently over onto her back, supporting her head and neck as she did so.  She quickly bent over her and placed her right cheek close to Caer's face, feeling for the warm breath of life.  Feeling nothing but the cool breeze of the night air on her cheek, Finian snatched up the limp arm that lay on the damp ground and frantically felt for a pulse.  Not finding what she desperately sought, the tall woman, quickly lowered her face and covered the soft, pink lips below her, with her own, forcing her own breath into the small, seemingly lifeless form.

     As their lips connected, Finian's body was rocked with a jolt that threatened the life-giving connection.  Struggling to maintain her balance and concentration against the onslaught of shocks that were coursing through her, Finian continued to force air into the empty lungs of the prostrate woman below her.
   Fighting the urge to stop her CPR attempts and scoop the small, flaxen-haired woman into her arms, Finian reached again for the limp wrist and prayed silently to the Goddess that she would feel the throb that meant life. 
     Her prayer having gone unanswered, the raven-haired woman dropped the cool arm and quickly placed her fingers on the smaller woman's chest, feeling for the center of her breastbone.  Having found her mark, Finian placed her left hand flat against the other woman's chest and covered it with her right, straightened her elbows and began a series of compressions to the blond woman's heart.
     Still feeling no air coming from the prone woman's nostrils, Finian again pinched the small, slightly turned up nose and placed her lips tightly around the now considerably cooler and bluish lips and began sharing her breath again with her, willing the ample chest to begin moving on it's own.  After four quick, hard breaths, Finian released the small nose and forcibly broke the seal that her lips had made and turned her cheek to feel for air. 
     Blues eyes peered intently through the darkness at the shorter woman's chest.   Not seeing any movement, Finian lifted her head and reached again for the lifeless arm.  This time she thought she detected a faint pulse and quickly lowered her face and was momentarily overwhelmed when she felt the faint, but warm, breath of life that seconds before had been lost to her.
     Finian turned her head to peer down into the still unconscious face of the flaxen haired woman whose soul had traveled through centuries to find its mate. 
     "Caer," she whispered softly. 
     "Caer."  She briskly rubbed the arm that she still held in her hand; this time her voice a little more forceful, helped along by the vibration that she was beginning to feel deep within her body.
     "CAER!"  Finian heard herself scream as she suddenly felt her body being sucked backward into the crushing weight of the massive stone.   

Continued in Part 17.................

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