How quickly life can turn around
In an instant
It feels so good to reunite
Within yourself and within your mind
-My Sacrifice, Creed
It was like waking up from a dream, only this dream had lasted for considerably more than a night's sleep; and this dream had been a waking dream, one that fogged their minds and clouded their memories for weeks and months and years – walking and sleeping, awake and not, ever since that day.
But now they had awoken, and broken free from the world they had lived in – the world without the Dark and the Light. And to them, the odd thing was not the sudden influx of knowledge and memories - not the sudden readjustment of priorities, so that exams that had been so important last week seemed trivial next to swords in lost cities and Midsummer trees and holy grails – it was the fact that they could have forgotten everything in the first place.
Without any communication beforehand, without any surprise at all when it did happen, they met up at Charing Cross train station on that bright fall morning. The three Drew siblings arrived first, of course, and nearly all at once – eighteen-year-old Simon, his brown hair cut neat and short, broad-shouldered but appearing lanky due to his remarkable height; seventeen-year-old Jane, looking very much like the adult lady she was destined to be, poised and elegant and lovely; and fifteen-year-old Barney, slender and relatively short (much to his annoyance), his blond hair tied in a shoulder-brushing ponytail.
Bran Davies arrived next, not as tall as Simon but nearly as broad-shouldered, his frame filled out with smoothly-round muscles. He was as colorless as ever, with his pale translucent skin and utterly white hair, and his golden eyes – the only real bits of color in his face – still hidden by sunglasses, much as they had been when he was younger. They all shook hands and exchanged small talk as they waited – but they had never really been friends, not having known each other long enough. They were comrades-in-arms, but their only real common link was through the boy named Will Stanton.
He was not the next to arrive; rather, it was the fierce old gentleman called Merriman. He had not changed at all in the years since they last saw him, walking off the edge of the earth into another world. Jane abandoned her elegance to throw herself at him, hugging him tightly. When she stepped away, Barney, who had never quite lost his boyish innocence, took his older sister's place. Simon, older and more self-aware, didn't -- but his enthusiastic handshake showed that all three of the Drews had missed their great-uncle very much.
Bran, after the first enthusiastic greetings of the Drews were done, stepped up to the eagle-featured man and offered his hand. Instead, Merriman met his gaze forthrightly and then slowly and solemnly bowed to the teenager. It was not a very deep bow, nor one especially elaborate, but it showed a measure of respect – an awareness of the importance of the white-haired boy in front of him.
"Your lord father sends his greetings and best wishes, Bran."
Bran returned the bow in kind. "Thank you."
They went on the train. Neither Bran nor any of the Drews had bought tickets, but Merriman had. They did not know where the train was bound for, but that matter was for the moment pushed aside for the bigger questions: Why were they there? Why had they remembered?
They were settled and seated in a spacious compartment by the time any of them broached the subject. Barney, characteristically blunt, asked the questions straight out. The door was locked, and the last people they had seen were two compartments down, so the others felt safe in demanding their own answers.
Merriman passed a hand over his face, as if weary; and that action, the fatigued and tired look of it, began to bring the first slivers of fear into their hearts. Before, they had been curious, and half-glad, in being given back memories of a time which had been as joyous and glorious as some parts of it were darkly terrifying. It was like being given the chance to look again at a particularly wonderful storybook which they thought had been locked away forever. Now they realized that perhaps the reason they had begun to remember was because something was wrong.
The tale Merriman related to them as the train steadily rumbled its way down the tracks was one puzzling and worrying and mysterious, with the threat of horrifying things lurking ever in the background. Somehow – he knew not how, and this brought a type of fear into them that had been absent the first time – the Dark had broken free of the bonds the High Magic placed on them. They had, so far as the Light could tell, simply vanished from sensing or knowledge.
And so, until it could be proven beyond doubt that the Dark had broken the bounds, only he was allowed back – the rest of the Old Ones, the Things of Power, the Riders of the Light, King Arthur and his forces – all lay still beyond man's reach or aid in the corridors of Untime.
They fell silent, confronted by the image of an unknown Dark somehow, impossibly, unbound by the Laws of the Universe
"But…Gumerry…you must have at least considered the Dark breaking free. I mean, you left a Guardian here for us…you left Will…" Jane said, haltingly.
Gumerry nodded. "Yes, Will…my young watchman." A faint smile touched the edges of his lips. Jane, watching, suddenly thought about what Will was to Gumerry. Merriman was the affectionate, protective great-uncle of the Drews, and he was the devoted right-hand man of Bran's father, and so each of them was linked to him irretrievably; but it was Will who he was closest to, Will whom he'd taught and guided and most relied on - Will Stanton, who shared so much of Merriman's own nature.
"Will is the Light's Guardian for the earth, you're right about that, Jane. But…we never expected something like this. If at all anything happened, which we very much doubted in the first place, we expected the Dark to return to the Earth, but by using brute force to override the Laws, the High Magic, not just to disappear – so that we could have come in with all the might of both Light and High Magic behind us. We didn't expect – didn't imagine…this. Not this, not this uncertain danger, so that we aren't sure where or even when to commit our strength. Will is Guardian …but he, by himself, cannot defend the whole world against the full Dark."
Bran spoke, then, for the first time. "Where is Will?" He leaned forward, and the lines of his body bespoke an excited sort of tension and anticipation. He missed Will, missed the only friend he had ever really had, the best friend just as close as Cafall had once been. But it was more than that – something deep in him, in the place that had sung when he drew Eirias, screamed to him that Will had to be there. That there was something missing in this puzzle of the Dark, and it had something to do with Will.
"Will is where he's always been, at home," returned Merriman placidly.
"He would have known if this Dark is here on Earth, since he's Watcher," said Bran. Jane didn't miss the new title the other seventeen-year-old put to Will, and the slight, probably unconscious, emphasis of it. Watcher…was this another of the things Bran just knew, the way he knew to pluck the Midsummer blossom and the way to wield Eirias?
Merriman didn't miss it either, and his eyes looked a little more alert as they gazed at Bran.
"And you would have called him if you were here. So why isn't he?"
"I commend your observational skills, son of Pendragon," Merriman said. "You are right; Will is Watcher, and I would have called him. Except that I cannot reach him. No, no," he hurried to reassure the stricken looks on Bran and the Drew children's faces, "It is nothing unexpected. I will not be in my full strength until tomorrow – the 'day and night' needed for someone to phase totally back into Time from the Untime. Will is quite alright."
"We're going to him, aren't we?" Jane said in a sudden flash of insight. "This train's bound for Buckinghamshire."
"Right you are, Jane," Merriman smiled at his only great-niece. "I've arranged for a rental car to await us at the station – from there we shall drive to Huntercombe, Will's village. I expect to be there by late afternoon. Now, shall we lunch? I hear the dining car is good on this line."
I love, adore, and basically worship Susan Cooper and her Dark is Rising sequence. I also like her King of Shadows, but it's her Dark is Rising that makes her the (to me) equivalent of a goddess. Will, Bran, Jane, Simon, Barney and Gumerry belong to her, as well as the idea of the Dark – basically, if you recognize it, it's probably hers.
Okay, my first DiR fic. Wow. Who woulda thought? This is, by the way, not going to be one of those fics that people say truly carry on the spirit of the original books. First of all, I can't write the way Cooper writes. All those little British-isms. I wish I could, but I can't. And the plot doesn't follow the usual plots. But still, I hope you like it.
Next chapter: We meet up with Will Stanton.
finished the revision October 23, 2003 – the day after my first set of college finals. Yay! ^_^