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Haven Fire

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The earth shifted as the earth does, slowly, languid as a sleeping woman under her blanket of sea. Stars wheeled, coastlines rose and fell. A river became a swamp became a bay became an arm of the sea, a channel to another sea. And through it all, behind the granite cliffs that rose between the sand dunes, a sheltered place like a broken bowl grew green.

A great step of rock curved around most of it, a pelvic girdle for the small spring at its heart. Too small to be a valley, too spacious to be merely a hollow, it faced inland, towards the part of it that had split away in an eons-old upheaval, and behind it was a sheer drop into a bay that was wider and far deeper.

The spring was little more than a seep, but it never faltered. Its moisture kept the hollow verdant in the hottest summer, and the coldest winter could not freeze it beneath its thick carpet of moss and marran grass. The great curving shelf of granite to the seaward side protected it from the storms and the swell of the separate inland rim sheltered it from the north and east. The smaller creatures made their fragile trails to its safety.

Larger animals walked past it, travelling through the gap and down to the gentler lands. Eventually that path grew broad, and others used it; hunters, farmers, traders. And no one could guess the corrie was there, the masking gorse and briars were so thick.

Occasionally a few would need a refuge off the track, and a deep instinct would take them into the tranquil haven. Sometimes children would discover it, find an escape from chores, from careless brutality, and in latter years from the tedium of lessons.

In the years between two terrible wars, one child returned again and again, and as a woman grown, she brought her lover to show him her treasured retreat. They explored the tumbled rocks, the green bowers among the hawthorn, elder and sloe, and scrambled up on the wide shelf to gaze down at the white sea-breakers below.

Then they lay on the tussocky grass and made love, speaking marriage vows held more dear because they were exchanged in this so special place. Later, after they'd repeated those vows in the Town Hall at Barneville-Carteret, Dominique and Leon laid a more concrete claim to the place. They tracked down the man who owned much of the land roundabout and bought it: corrie, cliffs and the bay below.

They built a house born of dreams and artists' skills, built it on that borderland between earth and water, with the leading edge of the airy sea-facing terrace jutting out over the cliffs. There they loved and laughed and wept and created beauty within the sweep of living rock. The spring was fashioned into a pool, the natural bounds of the granite were redrawn with high walls and a gate, the trees and tangled undergrowth became a garden.

Emotions are energy. Love, passion, joy, laughter, fear, hate, violence: when they are concentrated in one area, they soak into the walls, the soil and rocks, and occasionally they merge with something that's already there. Something aware. Genius Loci, the Romans called it, in their need to have everything neatly labeled and pigeon-holed; Spirit of Place.

Seasons passed. After a while the house was empty, and the garden knew only the small skitterings of fur and feathers. Herons and gulls took the bright fish from the pool, and within a year, the only lives the water knew were the seasonal frogs and larvae.

Time had no meaning. There was simply being. Sentience slept.

 

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A sudden spark of wild-fire broke the dreaming. It came and went several times, glittering and hungry, its innate hostility goading, disturbing: a pebble thrown into still water.

Then there came another, with a subtlely different fire. Not hostile, but opening and spreading its own warmth, its own light.

The warmth should have a name. It was not Dominique: the quality of it was not her gentle creative candle glow, but a banked incandescence that somehow resonated with the magma-born granite of the foundations. Yet like Dominique, it felt. It knew pain and grief and loneliness, and to those, the Haven had always responded. But there was no link yet; that would take many turnings of the years to form and grow, as it had with Dominique and eventually Leon. Because there was never a conscious will, just an unstructured need for something more….

Except this time, there was more. Blood and flame combined and a name was spoken, a contact made, and with a jolt, the Haven became fully awake. This child of earth and fire reached out, and the Haven knew him. It stretched, finding the similarities, exploring the differences, touching the deep heat that was unlike anything it had felt before.

Duncan.

One more came, and again there was that indefinable difference, and a bastioned aloofness. But the Haven knew him through Duncan. Methos. Here was an offspring of earth and water, and though millennia of ice lay all about him, beneath it lay the same molten core that burned in Duncan. He was like and unlike, and also wounded. Older, but compared to the Haven's age, still no more than a newborn infant.

When Duncan joined him on the terraced shelf that overlooked the bay, the Haven knew the strength and nature of their bond, and enfolded them both in its embrace.

All too soon Duncan was gone and Methos drifted though the Haven, exploring, experiencing, some part of him peripherally aware of the Haven, because once more there was that tenuous contact.... He stopped again at the shield-carved door, retraced the shapes with grimy fingertips, and the Haven sensed a wistful amusement tempered by centuries-old experience. Then he, too, left.

But only for a while.

 

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High above the tide-washed sand, granite jutted, its reach extended by concrete and steel girders. The sun rose high, and the wings of bedroom and solarium gave shelter from the wind, allowing spring warmth to gather in the terrace and take the chill from the air. The Haven cherished it, cradled it close within its bounds, and there were those that welcomed it.

Naked, the man knelt on the small area of natural rock amid the flagstones. He faced the sea, his hands resting on his thighs, back straight, head up and eyes closed. After a while, his lover left their bed and lounged in the doorway to watch, a wry smile on his face and a deep love in his soul. Neither spoke, though each was aware of the other on several levels, despite the depth of meditation attained by one of them.

The man rose effortlessly to his feet and flowed into the first kata, each movement controlled and precise yet fluid, his bare feet all but silent on the stone, and energy rippled where he trod. The soundless harmonics that were as much a part of him as the living light became lyric and counterpoint to every subtle shift.

The Haven's terrace was more than just an intersection between land and sea, and into that timeless place where earth and air and water met, his own distinctive fire came to weave its unique multi-layered pattern. And all unknowing, a web was formed, bright and pure as the lines of growing crystal, and power grew within it.

Then his companion straightened and stretched, and strolled forward with a deceptive casualness to face him. On a sigh that spoke of contentment, he, too, drifted into the katas, and thus changed the dynamics. A second bright strand now flowed through the glittering mesh, and new forms were born while the sun wheeled across the sky and noon wore away.

Within the sphere of the Haven's sentience, quicken-fire glowed and spread. It trailed from hair, fingers, and bare feet in eldritch filaments, and printed their steps on ancient bedrock and hand-cut flags alike. Gentle lightnings flared and arced between the two and when they met it was neither in block nor thrust but in a perfect mirror image of one and one. Now there was warp and weft, and where each thread crossed, the weave was locked.

Finally cessation came with an utter stillness that resounded through the Haven, and after a timeless moment, the power that had been raised soaked slowly into its granite bones.

Long hair tangled into sweat-damp coils, breath coming deep and swift, one knelt as he had before. Not so formal or meticulous, his lover lay full-length at his side, but his gaze was hooded, introspective. Then he smiled in recognition, and spread his hand on the sun-warmed granite.

"Hello, Mother," Methos whispered, and defined her as neither Dominique nor Leon had been able to do.