In honour of the Vernal Equinox, here is an extract from Book Two of The Fells’ Pack Series: Every Son Under the Moon.
Zoanna Marjorie’s blog proved popular among the Pagans. Nearly three hundred people gathered as the sun went down on the Vernal Equinox at the Circle of the Lost Sister. They ranged in age from infant to elderly. Their dress varied from hill walking gear to get-ups appropriate for a music festival to the anachronistic garb of a live role play event.
The circle itself was almost unrecognisable. Flowers and colourful fabrics decorated the stones. At the foot of the Lost Sister, the Pagans arranged an altar of fruits and more flowers. Jugs, bowls, flasks and random mugs of water had been placed all around the circle’s circumference. Hundreds of votive candles in a variety of glass jars illuminated the tops of each standing stone. The centre piece of the ritual site was an enormous see-saw which stretched across the space between the Lost Sister and the other stones. The pagans took turns on it, laughing uproariously as they tried to pile as many people on each end of the see-saw whilst keeping the two sides balanced.
The sun set directly behind the Lost Sister Stone and the Full Moon illuminated its face as it rose before it.
Zoanna Marjorie was a large woman dressed traditionally for the occasion in green robes. A circlet of flowers and ivy rested on her long hair streaked black and white with dye and age. She sat cross-legged in the middle of the see-saw and faced the Lost Sister. At the moment of moonrise, Zoanna Marjorie and every other Pagan at the Sister Circle raised their arms, palms open, to the night sky. The first beams of moonlight bounced off the pure white shells of the eggs resting in ninety-nine pairs of up-turned hands.
‘We hold the world between our fingers,’ Zoanna Marjorie intoned in an impressive contralto. ‘She is delicate. She is life-giving. She must be cared for. On this night, when the balance of Mother Earth is at its peak, we devote ourselves in word, deed and thought to tread her tender surface as if we walked on egg shells.’
Someone attempted—badly—to stifle a giggle. Nearby heads whipped in the direction of the offensive noise. From behind the Lost Sister stone came a far more significant sound. The sound of an egg smashing against a rock.
Swift hands retreated behind the voluminous folds of a dark cloak as sloppy yolk and bits of shell oozed down the side of the standing stone. From the gathered Pagans there were mixed responses. A few grumbled irritably at the oaf who accidentally dropped a ritual egg. The ones closest to the defiled stone knew better. They did not know who had done it but they knew it had been done deliberately.
Rowan knew it too. The moment the egg made contact she unleashed a painful shriek of a wolf howl. The Pack surrounded the edges of the fell top and closed in on the stone circle under the protection of Holly’s shield. Five sets of paws dug into the ground, crouched to spring, poised for something to happen…because something surely was about to happen. But what? The egg assassin called out in voice that vibrated with power even as it trembled with fear.
‘The shell is broken.’ Two hands reached out again from inside the cloak. Between them draped a limp mass of beautifully plumed feathers. Red hands squeezed the bird, then smeared the Lost Sister with the blood and feathers which mingled with the shell and yolk. Rowan roared as the cloaked voice spoke again. ‘Let the son come through.’
Like insignificant pebbles tumbling down an eroding cliff side, the words echoed around the moor, shook the foundations of the ancient ground and started something like a land slide on Kirk Moor. The earth quaked under the feet of the pagans and the paws of the werewolves as the land that had been stable a moment ago began tilting toward—or folding into—the epicentre of the Lost Sister stone. Zoanna Marjorie screamed.