“So, you came back to see this old man.” Ellick smiled, and stroked his greying beard before leaning on his ash walking stick. He stood by the gate of the small field of pasture land on the slopes of the old hill. Below, the hedgeful land gradually leveled out until it met the sea, less than fifteen miles distant.
“I knew you would be back here,” Hester said, and kissed him on the side of his face.
“Will he do?”
“Maybe. There’s a long way to go.”
“But he shows promise.”
“As I am. It’s been a long wait.”
“But he can never know, from you, the complete truth.”
“One more corner until the angles of our nexion are complete,” and he gestured with his stick toward where the Sun of early morning rose into the sky of blue.
“Shall I take the next one there?”
“And the third, and last?”
“Where you met and enticed the first.”
“But it won’t really be the last, will it?”
“Only for this cycle; this nexion.” He sighed, looking at her beauty, her youth. “How I envy you.”
“I know.” And she briefly, warmly, held his hand.
“You will live to see it all.”
They stood for a long time, looking out toward the landscape of the levels that had seen much darkness and mystery, much joy and revelry, and as they stood, she rested her head on his shoulder, as a daughter might. Once, she remembered, there had been an island, there, before the straight, land-cut drains made and reclaimed the land.
“Will you see her, before the angles are complete?” he asked, interrupting the flow of her centuries of thought.
“Maybe. Do you think I should?”
“But he will meet her again when we all meet for the closing of that angle?”
“Yes, and then he may understand. At least what it is necessary for him to understand.” Then he smiled. “I hope you will choose better names, next time!”
They both sensed, and felt, the intrusion, long before the woman and her dog appeared on a footpath an hundred yards above the sloping field where lay several buried secrets.
“You should go, now,” he said, regretfully.
She looked toward where her two guards waited, under the shade of the large, old, Oak tree. “Yes,” she said, and briefly held his hand.
Then Ellick was walking away, breaking a part of the causal bond between them, and by the time he reached the field gate and the footpath beyond it, he appeared to be only what many people assumed him to be, an ageing if eccentric countryman.
“Good morning,” he said as he passed the youngish woman and her Welsh Collie dog. The woman smiled, slightly suspicious, but his smile, his eyes, re-assured her, and she returned his greeting. But he was gone, into the trees that led to the Coombe, where he sat, on the sun-warmed grass, thinking about Hester and her sister.
Suddenly, Lars understood. It was partly time itself that magick changed, the slow, causal, time of the world, of mere mortals. The ecstasy, the passion, the triumph, the exhilaration – the true magick – which he had felt since Arleen and Hester burst upon his life, were emanations of the real time which existed in the acausal, an acausal where space as he and mortals knew it, did not exist. So it was he could be here, standing atop Bredon Hill in the falling darkness looking toward the Malvern Hills, and there in that house of cavernous cellars, south-west, on the edge of another sloping hill, while also being near Black Rhadley, completing the three-fold acausal link in this particular causal time and space. He just had to open the nexion to slip into the acausal dimensions where the Dark Gods lurked, waiting.
But there was something else, something beyond even this, which he could not quite comprehend – an intimation of something far greater, far more powerful, far more evolutionary and devastating to the mundane world. But this something was insubstantial for him, in that moment, as a shadow vaguely perceived in semi-darkness.
Then, the insight was gone, as the last light of twilight faded, and Hester, with her two guards, joined him not that far from the summit of the hill. Without a word, she cast dark magick to reinforce the barriers around them, sufficient to make anyone venturing onto the hill in that hour instinctively turn away. The deep pit had been prepared, and their middle-aged and balding victim – chosen according to the guidelines for choosing such opfers – sat, bound and gagged, on the edge of his burial pit, his eyes bulging with terror, his once clean and expensive city suit crumpled and stained.
“This is your right, and duty,” she said to Lars, and he took the centuries old curved knife. Then, with the crystal tetrahedron in her hands, she began her sinister chant. “Nythra Kthunae Atazoth,” she intoned.
His first cut was not deep enough, and the man frothed blood until the second cut to his throat when he toppled over to briefly writhe in the bottom of the pit. Almost immediately, the two guards began to shovel earth over the still warm and bleeding body.
There were several hours to Dawn when they arrived, washed, refreshed, and changed into new clothes, to stop in a narrow hedgeful lane not that far from Black Rhadley. Ellick was there, dressed in his customary olive-green country clothes, standing in the field where Hester had, not that long ago, sat outside some tent; and there was a woman, standing with her back to Lars, near freshly disturbed soil. She turned to walk toward him, and he could clearly see her face in the star-lit country night. It was Arleen.
He stood, staring, while Hester rushed to embrace her. Then, the two women were kissing, passionately, as lovers might.
“This, here, as you know,” Ellick was saying to Lars, distracting his attention from the women. “Is the center, now. You must guard it well.”
The two women came toward him then, and each kissed him in turn.
“You’re going, aren’t you?” he said.
“Yes,” they replied with one voice.
“There is no child?”
“No,” they smiled, replying with one voice. “Not the kind you think!”
“When shall I see you two again?” he asked, feeling he already knew the answer.
There was a brief rushing of air behind him, and he turned around. But he was alone, standing by the hedge in the field, near the fresh earth that covered the recent burial, home as that topsoil now was to the Ash sapling which Ellick had planted, and home as the deeper soil was to a fresh male and beheaded corpse, Arleen killed. And this sudden departure of Arleen, Hester – and even Ellick – saddened him, for a moment, even though he had many reasons to rejoice. Forty, fifty, or more, years from now, who would he choose to follow him, as Ellick had chosen? Who would be tested, as Arleen had tested him? Who would know the joy, the ecstasy, the passion, the cold calmness of wyrd, the aethereal acausal beauty, that a true Mistress of Earth would bring? Who would be there to shape the changes as he would shape the evolutionary change that the dark rituals of the past months would most certainly bring?
Then he smiled, knowing that he would have to begin a search for some woman, of inner darkness, to share his deeds and his life, and knowing that around him strange, shadowy shapes were faintly hissing their sinister sibilations.