Long time reader, first-time writer. Hope everyone enjoys! It's a work in progress, but once finals are over and I crawl out from my dark burrow into the sunlight once again, updates should be pretty frequent. Meanwhile, please read and review! And while I don't think I'm going to spoil anything by saying that there's going to be a happy ending, be prepared for some cynicism and skepticism concerning the goodness of human nature along the way.
Standard disclaimers apply. Will Stanton, Bran Davies, Jane Drew, and The Dark Is Rising series are the sole creations of the wonderful Susan Cooper. I am merely borrowing her ideas in order to break up the dreary monotony of countless hours of studying.
Remnants of Darkness
The mosquito knows full well, small as he is
He's a beast of prey.
But after all
He only takes his bellyfull,
He doesn't put my blood in the bank.
D.H. Lawrence, "The Mosquito Knows"
Even in those early days, when he and Brynne had roamed the empty mountainsides alone together, Peter Davies had suspected that there was something strange about himself. Something weird. Uncanny. Freaky, one might almost say.
And some did whisper it, like the other children at school and the old Tywyn villagers, whose wrinkled eyes followed him when he walked past. To them, he was that boy: the son of the even creepier Bran Davies, the mysterious orphan child Owen Davies had taken in and raised as his own, and whose vagabond mother everyone knew to have been no good.
Peter wondered about it all as he tramped over heather and bracken on long walks up Cader Idris. He would lay himself upon a large rock, warmed by the summer sun, and stare up at the impossibly blue sky while Brynne capered after butterflies and rabbits. He would wonder about it on rainy days shrouded in fog, as his mother wrapped him in a parka and opened her mouth as if she wished to forbid his leaving the old farmhouse. But his father always intervened when his mother expressed her reservations, reminding her cheerfully that childhood adventures wouldn't wait for rain to end. And so a damp Peter would trudge over fences and through the fields, thinking thinking thinking, trying to discover what it was, exactly, that made him so . . . peculiar.
He wasn't, however, a lonely boy. The neighboring Evans children (particularly the twins Davey and Gwennie, who were his own year at school) were his friends, and they passed many long summer days and cold winter nights laughing together. And summertime always brought a few of his numerous Stanton cousins. They weren't really his cousins, but the nieces and nephews of his Uncle Will, who wasn't really his uncle, but rather his father's best friend. Will's extended summer visits to the Davies family were an ancient tradition, and he always dragged two or three madcap Stanton rascals along with him. The privilege, he would say with a grin, of an eccentric bachelor uncle. The Stantons were all stout, good-natured children who accepted Peter and his . . . vagueness . . . without question. He was fond of them, and they of him.
And then Annie had been born when Peter was seven, and he had been immediately enchanted by the tiny, blue-eyed, black-haired sister who screamed so magnificently from her cradle and who grew to love her older brother so completely.
No, it was a good life, full of love and comfort and adventure. And if every now and then there were nudges and whispers when he walked by, or if conversation died suddenly upon his approach, he could push the occurrence to the back of his mind, where he alone was aware of it.
But sometimes, when walking alone in the hills, his wondering hand would reach up to brush his raven black hair, which contrasted so strangely with his father's white hair and skin, that had always been white, empty, without color from the day he was born. And sometimes, long after midnight had come and gone, he would turn on the bedside lamp and stare at himself in the small, cracked mirror, studying the way the light played on his golden, feather-fringed eyes.
But that Welsh life had lasted only until the year that he was eleven and Annie was four. By that time it was clear that the farm was dying. Every year his father had looked grimmer and grimmer come tax season, and every year their clothing had become a little more worn and stretched at the knees and elbows. The world was changing, John Rowlands had told him once, and Peter mustn't blame his father, who was the best damn sheep farmer in the country. They had been sitting on a stone wall together, sucking on grass blades, and the Evans' ancient farmhand had leaned over and spat on the ground.
"That, Peter," he had said, "is how I feel about corporations and tourists and this whole rotten economic system we've got nowadays, where a man can't earn a decent living by working with his own two hands. It's a shame, it's a bloody shame."
So the farm had been sold to the Evanses, who were still managing to hold out against the tourist industry, and could likely do so for many more years to come. His mother had then been offered a position at an American newspaper, where her reputation as a free-lance columnist had spread from her work published in the London Times. With the farm gone, the uncertainty of free-lance was dangerous, and there had been many late night discussions and heated debates between his father and his mother. But jobs were scarce in Britain, and they needed the extra money the American newspaper was offering.
There had been one last, wild, Welsh summer filled with running and laughter and Stantons and Brynne. That fall the Davies family packed their belongings and made the solitary journey across the Atlantic to the States. They left behind a mournful Brynne in the care of John Rowlands. Peter knew that she would be far happier roaming the hills with the elderly farmhand than imprisoned by a backyard fence. Still, he couldn't keep the tears from his eyes as he buried his face in her soft ruff to say farewell.
They found themselves in a small, two-story, white Victorian house with gables and green trim in a town called Wraithfell, OH. There was a town square lined with expensive specialty shops and an ice cream parlor and a park next to a river that led to the small thundering waterfall. The summers were warm and humid; the winters windy, snowy, and bitterly cold. Their street was lined with other two-story gingerbread houses, each with their own small, well-manicured yard. There was a fenced-in backyard with a tool shed and a tire swing. Peter studied it all with curious eyes, and tried to imagine the windblown wild heaths of his childhood in its place.
They fell swiftly into the established routine of their new lives. Three times a week his mother woke early and hopped into the beige sedan for the drive into work. Peter would stumble bleary-eyed into the kitchen to find her frantically stuffing a brown satchel with the day's notes, one hand sloppily pulling hair back while the other grabbed him into a swift, one-armed hug before she dropped a kiss upon his head.
The other two days she stayed at home, writing at her computer screen in jeans and a faded t-shirt, taking swigs from a water bottle perched at her right hand. Despite her growing reputation for journalism, she was forging time out of her busy schedule to work on several independent editorials, as well as a children's story that she had permitted no one to read. She refused to answer any questions about it, even when Annie locked her arms around her neck and refused to let go, hanging and begging, "Please please please pretty pretty please, Mummy? Won't you? Please please please?" Jane Davies would laugh and snag Annie around the waist, lifting her upside down in the air, waltzing her giggling and screeching daughter about the room. "Never!" she would cry grandly. "You'll never know, and I shall take it to my grave!" Annie would be plunked back down breathless on the carpet, grinning and pushing hair out of her eyes, yet pretending to pout petulantly at yet another refusal.
But Peter's mother wasn't the only one finding success in their new home.
Bran Davies and Will Stanton had been boyhood friends, and their adolescent summers had been spent alternatingly at one or the other's home. When in Buckinghamshire, Bran had discovered that he possessed the knack of Mr. Stanton's jewelry business. He had been fascinated, and took to hanging around the shop during business hours when Will was busy running errands elsewhere. Flattered by his interest, which none of his own sons seemed to display, Mr. Stanton had taken the young Bran Davies under his wing. He taught the boy how to set stones and twist silver, and the varying degrees of strength of iron and steel. By the time Bran was eighteen, he was some unique combination of jeweler-blacksmith-metallurgist, and about as competent in the area as any other man in the country. When he had then taken Jane Drews' left hand to ask her the loving question, it had been a ring of his own making that he softly slipped upon her finger.
So the money they had gotten for the farm went to establishing a quaint little shop in downtown Wraithfell, lined with glass cases that housed sparkling metals and stones on sumptuous squares of red velvet. Will Stanton, in his usual cryptic fashion, called the little store Silver on the Tree in a letter, and that was the name they fixed over the door in twisted, wrought-iron letters. There was a tiny back room that customers could enter, where Bran Davies sat with his flaming-white hair bent over a small forge as he twisted silver and gold into necklaces, bracelets, belts, and armbands, a serene expression of concentration on his strange, quiet features. Enough of these people walked away with small, tissue-wrapped packages that the venture became, to everyone's relieved surprise, a modest success. Word began to spread that while all jewelry sold at Silver on the Tree was of the highest quality, there was something . . . special . . . about the pieces made by the mysterious owner, the man without any color in him and the golden eyes. It wasn't that they were lucky, exactly, the word went, but that they were . . . warm. Some said that the pieces brought strange dreams if worn on the skin at night. A few narrow souls insisted quietly behind closed doors that they were the work of the devil.
But what with one thing and another, more and more people came to watch the newcomer work with a sort of superstitious awe that sat strangely in prosaic American eyes. And so Bran Davies found himself besieged by orders for countless items, ranging from wedding rings to graduation gifts to baby name tags. There was a waiting list a year long. He refused to design anything exactly the same twice, no matter how much the mayor's wife wanted a necklace just like the darling one Mrs. Shields had.
So between his mother's budding literary career and his father's success as a jeweler, Peter Davies knew that they were safe and settled as far as money was concerned, and for this he was grateful. He was a practical boy, and he knew that being poor wasn't comfortable and that he should resign himself to living in this strange land. But still, more often than not on winter nights, he dreamt of wild mountains and Brynne and running in the Welsh sunshine. He would wake with an aching heart and the smell of heather in his nostrils, and would roll over to bury his head in his pillow until the tight feeling of tears around his eyes went away.
There were no more long solitary walks, no interesting conversations with John Rowlands, no magical adventures with the Evanses. Not able to lose himself in hills anymore, he began to lose himself in books instead. Or he would spend afternoons working through puzzles in a book of math games, letting the complexity of numbers and symbols wash away the day's tangles and snarls.
For his school days were hard. In Tywyn Davey and Gwennie Evans had always been by his side, ready to burn away any sniggering with their twin, haughty glares. Since their family's farm was the largest in the valley, they were powerful allies. But they had been even better friends; and Peter, alone in a strange land, missed them sorely. While his strange coloring had intimidated most people in Tywyn, it exposed him to ridicule in Wraithfell. But even the teasing, he had thought to himself once, wouldn't be so bad if there was just one friend to share it with, who would laugh with him over the latest attempt to ruffle his spirits or instigate a verbal explosion.
But there was no one. Peter, having too much pride to admit his loneliness, slowly grew accustomed to moving through the world on his own. And if his answers were elusively vague when his mother carefully asked if there wasn't some friend he would like to invite over to dinner sometime, he could pretend to himself that – on the outside at least – there was no reason why anyone should pity Peter Davies.