The Druid Playground
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The tranquil ripple of the river and the almost silent rustling of the breeze though the treetops were interrupted only by an occasional hammering of men hard at work on their village defenses.
A red-robin fluttered its unexercised wings in the darkened Neolithic forest as an aged branch snapped and fell, beginning its long transformation into decay on the forest floor. Morning ended great nature's second course - and the cycle of a new day began again.
The noise of the heavy fallen branch stirred rabbits, who, to avoid the threat of daylights radar haphazardly ran for cover. Like an infection - movement and noise amplified throughout the scrub. The commotion now disturbed larger animals that were momentarily frozen in their tracks.
With the fall of a second branch and the comparatively large movements of a particularly nervous brown fox, the woodland inhabitances were triggered into dashing for the safety of distance.
A deer tore its way through the forest undergrowth towards the Druid women who were assembled at the riverside. Some washed clothes or pots; others washed themselves or their children.
For half an hour one young Druid woman had gently sung and washing her first born by the riverside.
Startled by the large stag which leapt from the natural cover, her balance was lost and through wet hands the infant boy slipped into the river.
The women's shrieks drew the attention of the nearby group of workers who frantically tried to rescue the baby boy. The rush of the water was however too rapid and within seconds the infant plunged over the waterfall.
At the base of the cascade the tribe continued the search, but the infant boy could not be found.
A great many years ago, just as men started to explore beyond their own lands, there lived in England, a peaceful tribe of Druids.
England is a small island and in Neolithic times was an exceedingly beautiful and unspoiled place. Oak, elm and ash trees in addition to plants such as heather and ferns were in abundance across its lands.
In the time and place of this story there were fields upon fields of buttercups and the banks of the rivers were speckled with tall wild grass planted by the Druids to use as material with which to build their homes.
The Druid tribe was of a medium size for the times, having a few hundred in their clan. Like all people of the day they worked exceedingly hard to improve their dwellings, fortify their village and acquire food.
Although the Druids took occasional breaks, typically relaxing was for no longer than an hour. However one young Druid delighted in sitting on a large stone near the water's edge for as long as he could. He was to be found there most days deep in contemplation. He worked hard, so he could sit just a little longer by the river. Others Druid's kept themselves busy with the, who and what of things, but he found worth in the, if and why of things - and did so for hours at a time.
One day while he was sitting by the river profoundly in contemplation about why grass turned yellow in summer, he was distracted by a piercing noise. Looking up he saw three boys from a nearby village attacking another boy; they chased him from the forest onto the river bank.
The pursued youngster struggled to get a foothold as he ran down the steep hill towards the water. Tormented by the numerous strikes from small stones and dirt that were being thrown, he fell. Seeing the anguish in this youngster's eyes was too much for the young Druid's sense of justice.
"Stop that," he blurted out.
The boys ceased hurling their makeshift missiles and fell back astonished. They were accustomed to being ignored by the Druid's, so being reprimanded by one their own age was quite a surprise. He looked sternly at them but didn't say anything more.
Unwilling to battle with two boys the three stone throwers turned and ran back towards their own village. The fellow on the ground caught his breath before smiling and enquiring, "Why did you do that?"
The young Druid shrugged his shoulders, "They were tormenting you, and I didn't like it, I could tell immediately from their hair they are not from our village." "Well," said the youngster, "I am not from your village either. I am from their village. They didn't used to single me out, but my hair and eyes are not the same as theirs and they say that I am revolting."
"Are you sure you're from their village?" asked the young Druid. "You look like my people. The children from that village have brown hair and brown eyes."
"I don't know were I was born but nobody else cares that they tease me, not my villagers, and certainly not Druids. So it's very curious that you helped me." The boy began to clean himself up, pretending he was indifferent to the mud which currently covered what could be seen of his blond hair and clothes.
"I notice things. If I didn't, I couldn't keep out of the way of those thugs, who are always bulling me about my looks. I came here before and notice you sit by the river quite often, which makes me inquisitive about you."
The young Druid sighed. "Oh, I like that word inquisitive; I am settled and bent on being inquisitive." He rolled the sound of the word over his tongue like the tasting of a cool drink on a hot day. "I am myself inquisitive about many things. For instance, what's your name?"
"Vern" answered the boy, who did not look up as he was still preoccupied with removing the mud from his knees.
The young Druid lowered his voice as if they were co-conspirators in some dastardly plot.
"Vern, my name is Drake, and I have a question for you. I've often wondered about the clouds that dangle in the sky. I wish I were a bird so I could fly up there. Can you touch them, do you think?" Vern did not answer but looked as though he was pondering the question.
"Or what about the stars, that are very bright, and the dimmer ones that seem to sparkle. Are they made of light, like holes in a blanket? What do you think? I have thought about this for a very long time, but I still don't have an answer."
Finally Vern spoke. "It doesn't matter how high I climb up hill, they're always farther. I suspect I could walk to the top of the highest mountain and still never reach the stars." Drake was so impressed that Vern had even thought about this question that he momentarily forgot that he was talking with another boy and not an elder.
"Yes, when you sit for a long time you do notice oodles of things. Did you know there are not just other rivers and lakes like we have here, but waters so big it takes a lifetime to cross them? I've never actually seen it, but the children in the village where I live hear stories from the village elders." Drake with an air of confidence said, "It tastes salty and strange animals swim in its waters, like fish so big they could swallow a man in one mouthful."
Vern was captivated. He'd never heard of such things. He listened in rapt wonder as the other boy talked on about a creature with eight legs and an enormous head.
The boys considered why animals looked so different and if insects had a purpose. It seemed between them that they had an endless supply of information, so their conversation continued for hours interrupted only by each others questions.
The more Drake listened the more Vern related and vice versa. Until they had talked late into the afternoon and the shadows of ancient old oak trees became a little scary, and a cool gentle wind rippled the water and made them shiver.
"I have to go now," said Drake. "Me, too," said Vern. Then very reluctantly he walked back to his home in the next village.
All that week Vern sought Drake out whenever he rested on the bank. This was partly because the boys from his village left him alone when he was with Drake and partly because he was exceedingly happy to be with someone who looked and though as he did.
They would talk about whatever came to mind, which could be about some of the differences between the places where they lived, or the dangers of enemies like bears. A day was spent considering where they might end up if they walked in one direction forever, and another whole day investigating and discussing why things appear smaller the further away they get.
One morning Drake invited Vern to accompany him while he carried out his chores. Vern trotted beside his friend as he walked gracefully but powerfully along, propelling himself forward with exaggerated arm movements. When Drake scratched his head Vern copied and instead of caring about his own regular actions, his eyes followed Drake and he duplicated his every movement.
When Drake became conscious of what Vern was doing he inquired as to why. Vern explained that he had no idea why he was mimicking his friend but that it just felt good to copy. This lack of understanding intrigued both boys who decided this required much further investigation.
The young Druid's task for the day was to fetch water for the animal's watering hole. Although by the time the duo had arrived at the rivers edge their minds had again roamed and they had become sidetracked. They concluded that it would be of significant interest to see how long they could hold their breath underwater. No sooner had they considered this question than they had stripped and ran headlong into the cold stream.
Vern felt exhilarated once he had overcome the chill of the river. Like most boys of his age he was a little chubby which provided him with some natural insulation against the heat siphoning waters. Now that he didn't have to worry about other boys troubling him, he could and did enjoy himself. Secretly he had always taken pleasure in bathing and he felt relaxed in the liquid environment, but the people in his village did not like to wash. Which Vern pointed out to Drake meant most of his tribe had very unpleasant odors.
Nevertheless Vern loved to swim whenever he got the opportunity. Today the water was tepid and the smell of flowers permutated throughout the sweet warm summer air. The weather was fine and only a few distant clouds spotted an otherwise perfect blue sky. By accompanying Drake who also liked swimming, Vern felt he was participating in something important. When they completed their underwater research they dressed and decided it would be best to complete the chore Drake had been sent to do some hours before.
Again they walked alongside each other, passing other Druid's, until they had reached the watering hole which Drake had been requested to fill. A thin trickle of water just wide enough for the human eye to see exited the leather holder which Drake poured into the very large wooden tank. The transparent liquid followed a single course downwards, with the water finishing its pour before it hit the bottom, about two feet down.
Without a word both youngsters knew they had squandered a good deal of time and that the wooden hollow would need considerably more water before it would be filled.
Drake began walking very slowly back towards the river. A young adolescent, his short but powerful legs made him walk awkwardly, he was not as graceful on land as he had appeared in the river. Vern, too, did not walk as he had done before, almost certainly because he was now exclusively concerned with how many trips they would need to complete before the water feeder was full.
"I have a super idea Drake." said Vern stepping up his pace. He asked Drake to round up all the children in the Druid village and tell them that there was a game to be played.
"Pass the water."
The game was simple; all the youngsters stood in a line and passed leather satchels filled with water along the line of children as quickly as they could. This was repeated with the child pouring the water running with the empty leather container back to the beginning of the line.
Forty-four children played the game using sixteen leather skins to pass a huge amount of water. The troff was filled in less then twenty minuets, and every single child thought it was the best game they had played all week. However more specifically each and every child was now soaked.
Over the next few days a few complaints of saturated children worked their way back to Drake's father. Who for the benefit of keeping the village peace thanked them and promised that he would deal with his son. Drake's father busy with adult life forgot to reprimand his son although he did walk around the village for a week with the perplexing thought that he had forgotten to do something.
The next week Drake was given the task of finding fire wood for the village, and he was trusted with a stone axe.
With Vern in attendance the two walked over the wooden bridge which spanned the river. It creaked and groaned as the boys tested its vigor by jumping up and down. After the bridge strength ritual and a short game of hide and seek at the ancient round stones they continued on their journey. The two passed dozens of trees before stopping at a tall pine tree. Pine cones had long been used to comb village's hair but they were also suitably useful for children to join together to make shapes or representations of animals.
The two sat for a while creating a large tower of pine cones and discussed to what height buildings would one day be built. Vern suggested that with enough stone it might be possible in the future to make a building ten houses high. Drake thought this idea foolish and questioned why anyone would want to live on top of anyone else. He has similar concerns about the placements of fires on top of each other, problems associated with rising smoke and how the occupants of the tenth floor would get their animals up that high each evening.
While their discussion continued Drake picked at the bark of a tree. Suddenly recollecting that he had a chore to complete he raised the axe high into the air. But unexpectedly Vern shouted "No stop!"
"What's wrong?" Drake questioned.
Vern said passionately. "Not that tree. Look there's a nest in it."
He pointed into the high branches and Drake saw that there was indeed a nest halfway up, hidden just out of sight.
The boys acknowledged that a tree with a nest could not be chopped. They decided it was simply wrong to kill babies. Vern told Drake that before they had meet he had spent quite a lot of time studying birds and he pointed out that ground nests were much more common, but on occasion some were constructed in trees.
Vern climbed the tall inhabited tree and found three white and red speckled eggs nestling between soft brown and white feathers and the twigs of the nest. He knew that he ought not to touch the eggs, but he wondered where the parents had gone.
The nest looked warm and new feathers had just been added so he concluded that the mother had only recently left and would soon return. Vern climbed down and rejoined Drake who had already selected another tree.
Using an old stump as a stool on which he could rest after his climbing exertion; Vern sat and watched his friend at work. Drake gripped the axe and began chopping the bark from the tree; chips of wood flew as he worked so that Vern had to move several times away from the flying debris. It took only five minutes before the tree began to sway and was clearly on the verge of toppling.
With one last chop, Drake placed his axe on the ground and pushed the tree while shouting "Timber!"
The sound of the falling tree reverberated throughout the forest. Older Druids at a tribe meeting momentarily stopped their discussion as the sound reached the village at its supersonic speed.
There was always a chance that someone would be attracted by the sound of a falling tree, and true enough it wasn't long before children who had been playing at the round stone playground started to arrive.
Before ten minutes had elapsed there were fourteen children all helping to dismember the branches of the tree while Drake hacked the trunk into manageable sections.
Soon the entire trunk was chopped into pieces, each about two feet long.
When the work was completed, clutching branches the children started to stroll back towards the village. The distance was vexing and it would take each of them several trips to and from the village to transport the entire pile of freshly cut firewood.
As they moved along the river bank, back towards the village, Drake accidentally dropped a log into the rushing water. The group of youngsters watched captivated as the current carried the wood downstream. The log traveled with great speed down the liquid thoroughfare and came to rest at the village bridge, two-hundred meters down stream.
In a flash an idea was fixed. The children ferried the branches and sections of trunks to the river. There they pushed the logs into the water and again watched as thou in a trance as the fleet of logs raced each other. With incredible dexterity on the wooden flotilla was collected at a wide but shallow part of the river near the village bridge. It took all the might of the children to move a particularly large trunk section out of the water and rest it on the bank with the other dripping wood.
Occasionally other youngsters spotting the spectacle at the bridge joined the group. Before long all the lumber was heaped high in a single mound just outside the village.
Single-minded in their efforts Vern and Drake did not talk, only occasionally smiling at each other as the timber was thrown into or pulled from the water.
The lumber they cut down was en route to the depleted village woodpile, taken from the water it was however too wet to use although it soon dried in the hot summer sun.
Later when all the wood was dry, Drake tried to use his newly taught skill of how to make fire. Some of the older children had been shown how to use a bow-drill to make sparks. It required some very specific pieces of equipment. A stone with a small round indentation in its center kept in place a rotating stick, which was driven by a bow moved back and forth by its operator. The young people had cut down, and transported five trees before deciding it was time for a rest. They sat on the riverbank and watched the shapes of twig like villagers hard at work far off in the distance. "Were you born here?" asked Vern, nibbling at a biscuit he was sharing with his friend.
"Yes, I was" answered Drake, "In the small house in the center of the village." He began cleaning the stone axe he had been using to cut down and split the wood with. "How about you? You told me before that you didn't know where you were born." "That's true I don't know exactly although; I have been told that it must be within a few days' walk. The woman who looked after me said that when I was a baby, she found me floating in a stream." Vern went on to explain that he had lived with the old woman until last winter but the snow had come and she had become too cold and had stopped breathing. Vern hesitated. "So I live in the house with her husband, he is also very old and is now often sad as his wife has gone." Vern shuddered and a gulp came to his throat as his voice faded away.
Although he went on to explain that he worried a lot that the old man would soon die, and then he would have to live in the house on his own.
"Now I understand why you look so sad," said Drake sensitively. Vern pointed out that the other people in the village thought of him as an outsider. "I am like you; I have blue eyes, and light hair." They both agreed it was ridiculous to like or dislike people because of their looks.
"Does the old man look after you?" questioned Drake.
"Well, we help each other." Now I am bigger, I can help around the house but the other villagers don't want me around."
Sadness filled Vern's eyes again and Drake noticing his melancholy changed the subject. "Wolves sometimes give us anguish, but one thing they cannot do is sneak up on us in our own village. That's the reason why we are working so hard to make the village walls higher. We also need to make the fortifications larger for all the new people. More and more children are being born all the time. My aunt had two babies at the same time."
"Really," exclaimed Vern "where does she live? I haven't heard of two babies being born at the same time before." now perked up with interest.
"Oh, she brings them into the village square now and then. They are only two years old, but they will grow fast and one day will need their own homes." Drake explained that they live at the edge of the village in a very small house and that his father had pointed out that they will need to make more space in their home for the boys as they grow. "My aunt is very protective of them because she had a baby before but he died".
This time Vern thought it wise to change the subject so he pretended to be excited "Two Boys! Are they both boys? He questioned and in the same breath asked "...and what do your houses look like?" Drake informed him that when two babies are born together they are called twins. He also pointed out that it wasn't always the case that the newborns have the same gender.
Stopping his speech abruptly he exclaimed, "Oh yes, and I forgot, you have never been inside the houses in our village." Drake went on to explain that Druid homes have two levels. That the upper level is for storing food and the lower level is` where the family and animals sleep.
Would you like to see my aunts home?" asked Drake now walking towards the village.
"Oh, I couldn't disturb your aunt and her babies," said Vern. He was also mindful of the warning of his surrogate family that the Druids were not to be approached so he was a little afraid, which was expressed in his face. "Ok then what if I show you my house?" said Drake. Drake added that Vern shouldn't be concerned as he pointed out Vern looked like a Druid, and no one would wonder. Excitedly the boys walked towards the village.
However Vern didn't follow Drake to his home; he seemed oddly to already know the way and walked ahead. Once inside the smell of the house also seemed familiar to Vern although he did not know why. Vern met with Drake's mother and father who invited him to stay for lunch. The houses in the village were semi-subterranean and Drake's aunt and uncles' home was linked to Drakes by a short narrow alleyway.
The walls of the Druid homes were made of dung, bones, stones and grass. The family bed was made of bracken and heather and covered with a very large animal-skin blanket.
Recesses built into the walls were used as places to keep personal trinkets. A dresser, with stone slab legs and shelves, faced the door. It contained a selection of cooking pots and animal hides. A small fire burnt in the center of the room, the smoke from which exited from a small hole in the roof.
Drakes parents were busy and presumed that Vern was an unknown boy from their village. It was prohibited for Druids to get involved with outsiders. However as Drake had pointed out Vern looked like the other children so he went for the most part unnoticed and unquestioned.
After the two had finished eating fruit bread and drinking goat's milk they went outside to explore. "I found a tunnel the last time I was exploring here. It runs from the bottom of the village to the river, maybe twenty feet long. It's about three feet wide and three feet high." said Drake. "I don't know about going in there." Vern replied. The image of the small dark tunnel greatly unnerved him.
Seeing the apprehension in Vern's eyes Drake said "Come on, you don't need to be afraid, we will be together." The pair walked over to the opening of the tunnel. After some coaxing, Vern entered the blacked gap wearily. Creping on hands and feet, Drake lead the way into the darkness.
As with all young people, Drake and Vern were endowed with an almost extraordinary ability to get filthy on a daily basis. Boy's ears are not clean at the best of times, however after twenty seconds of crawling in the tunnel it was difficult to see where skin started and mud ended. Both boys were black from the dirt on the tunnel walls.
When they got deeper into the blackness Vern felt his heartbeat getting faster. "Drake my chest is banging." he gingerly informed his tunneling companion. "Don't worry" materialize a response from the darkness, "It just your body preparing itself to absorb any shock we might encounter. It happens to me when I get afraid or run for a long time." The word 'Shock' was not what Vern wanted to hear in this eerie tunnel. Vern was not so endowed with logic as Drake and started to imagine the worst. Soon his thoughts ran away with him, so that he projected that the tunnel ran on forever and that it was filled with monsters.
Drake became aware there was a problem long before they had reached the exit.
Almost halfway through the tunnel Vern started to panic. He sought to crawl faster but only bumped into Drake's bottom. There were some sharp twigs and stones that hindered their passageway, and moving too quickly would result in injury.
As Vern couldn't see he became disoriented, and started to shift fiercely in alarm. Sensing trouble, Drake turned and crawled back to his friend, holding his hand he guided him out of the tunnel until they were clear. On seeing the light of day Vern stopped hesitated and rushed to the stream.
After what seemed to Drake like a considerable amount of time, Vern made his way back to his friend and lay down next to him exhausted. The duo, were totally filthy, and it didn't help that Drake caught a disapproving glance from his father and uncle who were repairing the wooden bridge over the river. Drake was overwhelmed with embarrassment partly due to the adult attention and partly because he had coxed his friend into doing something he didn't want to do.
"Vern I am so sorry," he exclaimed. "I really thought it wouldn't be too much of a problem for you." "Oh," he gasped, still trying to regain his composure and breath. "I'll never do that again. Even if I was chased by a hundred stone throwing bullies, I could never ever go back into that tunnel again." "I'm so very sorry." Drake didn't know what else to say. Even after he had washed at the stream, it was clear his friend had been crying. "Its OK I know you didn't want me to become upset," Vern eased Drake with his words. "It was wrong of me; I shouldn't have assumed you would be fine" the other boy replied. Vern added "We never need to go in that horrible place again do we Drake?"
Drake confirmed that it was far too dirty a place for any further investigations. Vern didn't hold Drake responsible for this regrettable experience, and they continued to meet and talk every day.
The summer was ending and the waters of the river swelled with the autumn showers and teamed with fallen foliage.
Soon the water was so high the Druid tribe was forced to abandon some of their houses. Those homes located near the river, if only temporarily were left vacant. Drake explained to Vern that this flooding was actually a good thing because they had run out of mud to build more homes and the wells had nearly dried up in the summer. The extra water would be incredibly useful for replenishing the land.
The building of new homes could not be held back; and the more water there was the easier it would be to make a trench in the soft mud to protect them from their enemies. A trench was particularly useful as wood for the wall around the village was become scarce. Now that the trees closest to the village were all gone the villagers had to travel further away to bring back the larger trunks. Along with the increased flow of water and the abundant decaying greenery there came the promise of additional autumn vegetables.
By the start of September only the evergreens were displaying any shade of life. Except for these evergreens and the more intense tones of the winter flowers the environment looked bland and lifeless.
Drake spent more time indoors playing with his two little cousins who he thought were adorable, and seemed to be miniatures of his Uncle. It also seemed to him that Vern had the same eyes as the twins but he did not discuss this coincidence with him.
For the first time in Drakes life he had a new strange longing and was very eager to discuss it with Vern. "Do you plan on having a family one day?" he asked Vern as he watched the other boy sliding on the iced lakeside. The water in the stream had not yet frozen over but it was clearly very cold and twice he had fallen onto his back and nearly entered the river for an especially chilly bath. He was now in the process of standing back up after flipping onto his stomach.
"Yes. I do, as a matter of fact; I was considering it only yesterday." He declared while brushing the frozen particles from his chest. Drake was surprised. "You didn't tell me."
"I didn't think to. I came across a fresh mound of mud a few weeks ago near the stone circle and thought about building my own home. I had an inspirational idea of building a house with two floors so I wouldn't need to sleep with my animals."
He stretched out his arms and raised one foot, closing his eyes, he pushed off from a stone using his other foot as a ski, and with a slight push he propelled him across the frosted verge. Seconds later he was again preventing himself from falling into the cold waters.
Smiling and relishing the skating memory of seconds earlier he rubbed his foot from the sharp sting of the frozen winter floor.
Vern didn't have a clue as to why he also wanted to be a father but this new feeling seemed marvelous to him. "That's....nice. I have thought about it, too. Not the idea of building a house with two floors of course -- but of having a family. Abruptly Vern stopped and looking sadly at his friend, he told him that it was unlikely he would be a father as he was not liked by any of the girls in his village."
Drake seeing Vern's sadness decided that a distraction was in order. "Look, there's my aunt with my cousins."
Sure enough, Drake's aunt was across the stream picking berries on the far side of the village with her two children playing at her feet. The pair of toddlers started to move towards the freezing stream, but both Vern and Drake shouted 'Stop!' The older pair crossed the stream and the twins immediately abandoned their mother and began an unsteady walk towards Drake, bumping into one another as they covered the short distance. Only just gaining a passion for walking they moved unevenly and fell frequently.
"Boys, behave your-selves." the mother cautioned, although to which set of boys her words were directed was not easily discernable.
After some play, they were interrupted by Drake's aunt who informed them, "Your uncle and I need to go to visit a sick friend so the boys can not come. Drake will you watch your baby cousins for a while?" Drake's eyes glistened with the pride of being given such responsibility. He'd already seen Vern smile in agreement.
"That will be fine, aunt. Vern and I will stay here until you return." The aunt smiled at her young nephew and nodded approvingly in agreement. She didn't object to Vern helping, there was something about the boy that felt pleasant and familiar but she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.
She'd decided their friendship seemed strong, and presumed that Vern must be a boy from the village that she had not happened upon until now. She returned to the twins, kissed them both and thanked Drake, waving goodbye to her children she was very surprised to observe that they did not cry. The twins seemed content throwing pebbles into the water at the fish, with the older boys watched over them diligently.
Once his aunt could no longer be seen Drake began explaining the fine art of hand-fishing. He told his audience of three that they needed to cup their hands so as to allow the water to pass gently through. Clearly passionate about fishing he explained that sapling the water hard with a branch was sometimes effective but only if there were a large number of fish. His preference was however to get his hand under the belly of a fish and scoop it out of the water.
In these Stone Age time the seas, lakes and rivers teamed with life and in a comparatively short time it was possible to catch a fish by hand. However Drake had a new idea of fishing, which he explained to the small group. Using a stump of an old tree as a podium, he started to relate his theory which involved branches being laid side by side across surging water.
He suggested that the idea was very simply and that's why it would work so well.
The Branches would be anchored in place by the rocks, so as not to be washed away. With the web of interlaced branches acting as a net, all manner of fish can be entrapped as they swim down the fast flowing stream. Drake explained that once the branches are put in place, they must be pushed tightly together so the fish can not swim and evade capture. Pebbles, and grasses from upstream will also be washed into the net of branches, so it was important to prevent debris from building up a dam.
Vern listened with enthusiasm but being only two years old, Drake's cousins were hardly attentive. They did however perk up, at the mention of fish. "Fish, fish." they pleaded. It was what Drake had in mind.
He took them to the top of the village where there was a small wooded area and showed them a good spot collect bush. Soon the older two had armfuls of brush; the twins kept dropping the few twigs they had collected. Their short attention spans disallowing them any real valued assistance. With arms filled, Drake and Vern guided the twins back to the river, the older two considering why the younger two were predisposed to having such a lack of concentration. Back at the river the branches were placed tightly together at right angles, which acted as a barrier in a quick moving part of the stream. No sooner had the work been completed but a foot long fish came to the surface, trapped in the bush and was afforded no escape. His continued struggling pushed him deeper into the trap and any change of freedom had become unrealistic. In the same way more and more fish were trapped, and within an hour the boys had been very successful indeed. There were over thirty fish of various sizes occupying the enclosure.
Drake had suggested that fish must not be able to communicate or else fewer fish would have been captured. After some heated debate regarding the communicational abilities of animals it was decided that fish could probably communicate, in some way but not on any impressive scale.
The fish which looked too young or underdeveloped were put back into the water on the other side of the trap. The older two hurled the larger fish out of the water onto the verge. The twins were fascinated with the flapping of the aquatic catches as they were transferred into a small enclosed pool.
One after another the fish fell into the trap and the older boys relocated them into the penned area. The twins were content to stay on the bank and enjoy the spectacle, clapping as each fish was thrown out of the water. It was clear they were enjoying themselves and once in a while in unison they rolled about in laughter for no apparent reason.
Vern was impressed that two boys so young could be so well behaved. Although no sooner had he considered this than their playfulness got the better of them. One of the twins decided to put his hand in the now jam-packed landlocked pond. In the over crowded pool his finger was soon bitten. Letting out a streak of pain, both brothers began to cry even though only one had been bitten. The older two were transfixed by the phenomenon, and decided that it require a whole heap of discussion when they had more time. The cut was barely noticeable on his finger, and Drake's baby cousins eventually stopped their balling. Vern meanwhile had decided that honey and milk was required to cheer them both up and suggested a trip back to the village.
The next day the two decided to take the twins out again. They acquired permeation from Drakes aunt early in the morning. Drake's aunt having revived her two youngsters back happy and content the pervious day, although slightly sticky had agreed. She had been additionally won over that morning with a bribe of ten freshly gutted fish. Standing at the entrance to her home she waved the four off. She was puzzled how she had missed Drakes friend around the village. Something about him was extremely familiar but she couldn't quite place to which family he belonged. His presence felt right but also made her anxious, although from his conduct he seemed harmless.
The day had warmed up so at a particularly muddy part of the stone circle playground the group sat down to play. First they began beating on the mud to make shapes. Playing with mud was a very popular pastime game for boys of the day. After mud shapes, twigs were covered in mud to use as spears against imaginary enemy beasts. The morning was rounded up with a long mud fight by which time all four were well and truly coated in the brown sludge. Finally Vern had had enough. "We are covered, I can not go home like this I look like a big lump of cow dung." he said.
Nevertheless the mud war continued for a little while longer partly because Drake had jokingly said that Vern always looked like Cow dung! After which the boys exaggerated their inability to stand up and walk out of the brown goo. Excited by the two older boy's jesting the twins now stated to swim in the mud. Before long it was evident that it was time to stop. Centrally, as Drake had received a particularly large lump of mud in his mouth, from an outstandingly well aimed shot from Vern.
The twins on the other hand had no intention of ending their mud revelry, and would clearly need to be carried out of the dark slime. Looking at one of the twins swimming in mud, it occurred to Vern that exchanging this pretend bath for a real one was a particularly good idea. The twins who by now had covered every part of their bodies in dirt could not be returned to their mother in their present condition. Picking up one of the boys, although it was by now impossible to tell which one, as only his eyes were visible, he placed the infant on his shoulders. Vern then ferried the tot out of the mud towards the stream.
Subsequently Drake carried the second twin from the mud swimming pool despite his physical and verbal protests to remain. Looking absolutely filthy, or rather, insufficiently clean to return home, two walked and two were carried towards the river water.
The older boys entered the December water with reluctance and hoped to exit as soon as the twins were clean. However from the smiles on the twin's faces and their playful manner it seemed clear that the older two would be acting as diving platforms for a little longer. After five minutes the twins showed no signs of wearing down and were for all accounts having a wonderful time. Jumping off their minders into the water and repeating the procedure. Although the water was a little cold they were having too much fun to notice.
Vern did however noticed that his fingers were turning blue and insisted that he and Drake should do some experiments with cold water.
Soon other youngsters gathered at the stream attracted by the twin's howls of joy. The general murmur among the young riverside assembly was that the four boys in the water were crazy to go swimming in such cold weather. In reality every child on the bank wished they could join in the revelry.
Suddenly nearby there was a noise as loud as thunder, so loud it could be heard from miles away.
Immediately other loud noises followed. Smaller village drums now sounded the warning alarm. Those in the village reacted by running to their homes in fear leaving behind their cherished possessions. The able-bodied men of village took up arms and ran to defend the outer walls.
Meanwhile at the bank one child ran instantly to her home but the others stood still and seemed confused. Vern and Drake partly walked and partly swam towards the bank. With bone-chilling fear Vern saw...Wolves.
Three black wolves, sauntered along the other side of the river bank in the direction of the children.
Without thinking and on pure instincts Vern raised a cry as loud as his lungs would permit. "Get in the water." Half running and half pushing the water with his one free arm he ushered the children who had been standing on the riverbank into the black icy waters.
The group of children now clung together partly due to of the cold and partly because of fear. Some of the younger ones used Vern and Drake to hold themselves up. When the children were in the deepest part of the stream Vern passed the twin he had being washing to Drake and then he placed himself between the children and wolves. In the very same instant Vern had called out to the children, the wolves backtracked and raced along to the shallow part of the river in order to cross.
It's automatic that all predators attack the weakest of any group and Drake and Vern knew instinctively the twins being the smallest were the most vulnerable. Drake began shouting and moving irregularly in the cold fast moving water which was now up to his shoulders, all the while holding up both twins.
After just a few seconds his arms were throbbing with the weight of both boys and the wintry water. Vern by now had managed to dip under the water and picked up a large stone. As the largest of the wolves tentatively entered the water Vern splashed water at it and then threw the stone. On Vern's instructions other children also started to do the same. Soon the wolf which was trying to fight against the current was also being bombarded with a large number of slimy stones from the riverbed.
One of the older girls treading water with the group hit the wolf square on his nose with a sharp stone. Stunned the wolf turned and doggy paddled back to the riverbank.
Vern's plan had worked. The other wolves however couldn't resist the chance for a meal and leaped into the cold water. Water spraying everywhere, as the children splashed the two black hunters. Although out of their element the wolves were cumbersome and slow.
Now only inches away, as they opened their mouth's Vern could see fangs. In the corner of his eye he also saw the third wolf leap back into the water, for a second try at reaching his pray. More stones were thrown and soon two hard blows had the smaller of the two wolves also diving but in order to avoid hits. Harsh growling was all it could muster in its defense.
All the youngsters were now slowly moving backward up stream and the wolves were having to face the relentless current and the significant onslaught of hard objects being hurled. After four or five more direct hits the smaller wolfs gave up and returned to the forest.
The largest of the wolves was however unable to accept defeat, he continued towards the group of children. Now so close that Vern could see his tongue which drooled from the anticipation.
The beast was closing in on the group of children, but Vern had an idea, and shouted to the whole group "when I say so, everyone swim down stream". Picking up the largest rock he could from the bottom of the lake he hurled it at the wolf, which was forced to move sideways to avoid a collision. "Now" shouted Vern. All the children began swimming quickly down the current towards the village bridge. Within seconds the children had outdistanced the wolf. Finally given up the creature exited the forest, but all he had to show for his efforts was fatigue and a drenched cold coat. It wasn't long before the villagers became conscious that many of the children were swimming towards the bridge, and armed men ran out towards the stream to help the children into the village.
Half an hour later the village's residents were back doing what they'd been doing previous to the wolves' appearance. All except Drake who sat close to a small fire at the center of the village. While some children played, Drake, keeping a wary eye on the bank. Just then some of the villager's came over to him, a tall woodsman spoke first. "That was marvelous what you did." All the others assembled agreed, including his Aunt. "You two are real heroes," said another unseen person from the crowd.
Determined to remain modest, Drake dipped his head and shrugged his shoulders, "It was nothing". Droplets of water still fell from his clothes. One person in the crowd asked where the other boy had gone, and it was only then that Drake appreciated that Vern had left. "He has probably gone home to get dried." added one of the villages.
The next morning, Drake met with Vern early, half way between their villages. Their normal meeting point was the large stone monument.
"I only wish the children of your village could have seen how brave you were yesterday." said Drake
"Oh I do a lot of brave stuff, but they never care." replied Vern "Well, I still think it was marvelous," insisted Drake. "They live in packs, you know," said Vern trying genuinely but unsuccessfully to change the subject. The thought of large numbers of wolves hunting together both intrigued and terrified the young Druid who was busy climbed up onto one of the large stones. "I have never heard of that, and yesterday was the first time that I have seen a wolf." "Well, I've seen lots of beasts," Vern confided in him, while scrunching up his face to look like a beast, and pointing his finger in accusation at his friend.
Vern laughed and patted his friend playfully on the shoulder. Vern's' worldly knowledge never failed to impress Drake and after the events of the previous day he had even more respect for his friend.
The remainder of the day was spent considering the history of the stone circles. The stones had been there long before the Druids had arrived. They were there even before the Beaker people who had lived their hundreds of years before the Druids. Some of the stories of these people had remained on very old pottery. In the Druid village there were four very old pots which told a tale, the Druids called them the Beaker Pots. On each one there was an incredibly elaborate design.
The first pot explained how the Beaker tribe had travailed across an enormous river and had found the stone circles. The second showed a very detailed drawing of a long journey to fight against an enemy in the North of England. The third depicted the Beaker winning the battle and making the losing army into slaves who carried back seventy-six enormous stones.
"You will have to show me these pots some time Drake, they sound fascinating." Vern requested. Drake agreed that he would and with more insistence from Vern, Drake continued to take about the stone rings. Drake further explained that the drawings on the Beaker Pots sometimes showed the stones were moved overland and sometime by boat. The fourth pot explained how they arranged the stones. Drake went on to explain that some of the older tribe members told tails that a large shining plate glowing like the sun, had one night come out of the sky and sat upon the stone circle. They elders said when their great-grandfathers were boys; small men with gray coloured skin had come out of this sky dish. Many however thought these stories mere fantasy, being imagined while too much malt drink was consumed under a hot sun.
The boys had a heated discussion regarding the reason for the stones. After a considerable time it was decided that they would just use them like so many children before them, as a playground. Sometime in the past ladders had been made from large branches and strong vine. Children used these ladders to climb to the top of the stone pillars, where they could play. The stones were joined in a circle high up off the ground. The older children used these upper stones to play treacherous chasing games and the lower stones were used for games of hid and seek. The Druid children had used the stones as a playground for hundreds of years.
The coldness of winter changed into the vibrant days of spring, and then it seemed to the boys that in no time at all it was summer again.
Except for the occasional repair of homes, the Druid were not enthusiastic about the cutting down of anymore trees. The trees that the children had provided during the previous autumn had been enough to last the enter winter and some lumber was still left over in the spring. It was a time of abundance for the people of Cornwall. The Druids could now dine on a wide selection of produce that had been planted in the pervious year. The villagers nightly feasted on, meats, vegetables, wild mushrooms, rhubarb, fruit and malt drinks.
Close by the Druid village there were many wild berries trees where plump birds could also be found. Vern greatly enjoyed gorging himself on blackberry or blueberry which in excess frequent made him feel ill. Drake, too, welcomed the change in menu and occasionally drank with the men. The malt drink was sweet in taste and made him light headed, he too was ill after consuming only a little, much to the amusement of the older males.
The flourishing plant life around the Druid village attracted animals. It was not unusual to see deer, wild bore and even a bear or two. Although the Druid always became nervous if a bear came near by. Bears had been known to kill men and their arrival was always greeted with the 'bear-drum' which when struck created a sound that would frighten the large unwanted intruder away.
Throughout the summer Vern and Drake continued to have their unique conversations. Wherever Drake was Vern also was. To Drake, what few Druid conversations he had became dull in comparison. As for Vern, well, he had no one else to talk to and grew to favor it that way.
As the summer rolled on the light of day began to get longer and by the end of June the Druids were once again hard at work collecting produce for the winter. With increased warmth and longer days the boys appeared more often and longer at the river bank, pondering philosophical thoughts.
The youngsters would lie on their backs looking up at the sky and listening to the quacking of ducks which became more frequent as the summer days progressed.
They watched the birds for a whole month and made some suggestions about men taking to the sky. They noticed that if any one bird took flight, the others watched fascinated until it had again touched down. By August some of the birds took flight and didn't return.
By the start of September it was no longer warm and the days grew shorter. The distant hooting of geese in their "V" patterns was a clear call to all animals with migratory instincts.
The Druids now hurried to cut trees for storing as they were expecting a deep freeze this year. From top to bottom of each home, food was stored and when the shelves were filled to capacity, excess food was hidden under large stones.
As always Drake worked extra hard and with help from Vern who followed him constantly, they had more time for recreation. Both boys added in the building of two more homes at the bottom of the village.
If Drake hadn't enjoyed Vern's company so much he might have appreciate, that he was not helping in his own village. Not helping your family was very odd behavior in these ancient times, but Vern didn't seem to care about his absence at home.
Not wanting his friend to leave, timidly Drake asked why he didn't need to help at home. Vern told him that when it got too cold most of the villagers walked to the far West were the sea was warm. Consequently it was only after most of the villagers had left and Drake had finished helping his family fill their small house with supplies, he thought to question Vern again about the matter.
Drake found Vern swinging at the round stone play ground. Ropes had been tied onto most of the high stones and the children used them as swings. Vern who was by now a regular visitor to the playground had attached a strong section of thick tree branch to the bottom of the rope.
"It's much more comfortable now that I have made this addition." Vern had split the vine rope and the wood was now suspended at either end. Other children had followed suit and in those few seconds' playground swings changed forever.
Drake's chore for the day was to get mud and carefully push it into the cracks and openings of the village fortification.
Under the guidance of a master, a team of men and boys strived to cover every bit of exposed surface of the wooden village barricade.
"Vern, when are you going to leave?" Worry edged on Drakes voice. He did not want his friend to get the wrong idea and presume that he wished him to leave, although he was concerned.
Vern hesitated but responded with. "There's still time."
Drake persisted. "But all the others in your village have already left."
"That's not true. There are some others left." he added.
Drake didn't want to argue with his friend. He preferred to leave things alone, and the subject wasn't mentioned again for a week.
After a week's passed there were no more people in the village, except Vern. With even the Druids spending more time in their small houses in preparation for the winter, Drake was truly worried and determined to straighten it out one way or another.
"Vern, when are you leaving? Only you and the old man are left, everyone else has gone and you know it's past time." The boy's tone of voice was something between a plea and resignation. "I'm not going," he said. Drake couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Why ever not?" he questioned.
"I just can't." And then more sadly, "The old man died last month but I didn't want to tell you. The others won't let me join with them and I have no place else to go."
To the sensible youth this violated every tribal instinct. He could not understand why the villagers would not want to look after one of their own. Either people went to the sea for the winter or they simply stocked up with provisions and hung out until spring.
Drake was forceful. "You must leave, you can't stay. What will you eat? Where will you live? Your village will be frozen soon, and with the old man not around you have no one to protect you."
Vern refused to answer. Instead he turned his back on his friend and ran off towards the stone circles. The worried young Druid didn't know what to do but he kept an eye on Vern all the following week.
With each progressive day the now-freezing temperature began to take its effect. The mud the Druids had so carefully applied to their houses and fortifications became as hard as stone and the village began to freeze starting at the rivers edge.
These sub-zero temperatures were not a problem for the Druids who could continue as normal inside their heated homes even in a completely ice-covered village.
Drake was accustomed to committing to memory all the tribal knowledge his age group was expected to be acquainted with. He would sit among the supplies above the entrance to his small house and study. What he wasn't accustomed to was worrying about a little boy who had no family and no real protection against the elements.
As winter rolled on and with each passing day Vern looked more and more miserable. Drake thought hard about how he could help his friend. He even suggested to Vern that he move into the Druid village before it was completely frozen over so he could seek shelter near other people. This would have meant leaving his village and Drake needed only to see the trepidation in Vern's eyes to know the answer to his proposal. Both boys knew only Druids could live in the Druid village and that outsiders were unwelcome. Moreover if Vern left his house it could be claimed by anyone, and being young and alone he wouldn't be able to assert his claim.
Then one morning after it had snowed all night, there was a frantic crying which awakened Drake, who had been comfortably asleep in his small house. He went outside to find Vern had slipped on the ice. He had fallen on one of the last clear patches of water and a large peace of moving ice had trapped his foot. No matter how hard he struggled he couldn't get free and was crying out pitifully.
Without hesitation Drake began beating and scratching at the ice with his hands. In his presence Vern ceased crying and lay quietly.
While he worked on the rescue, Drake was resolved that whatever it took he would help Vern. He didn't consider it brave or foolish; he only knew that what he planned was against Druid teachings. It wasn't long before Drake had liberated Vern's leg and after pulling his friend free from the ice, he led him towards his home. Without acknowledging Vern's thanks, he walked resolutely to his small house and once inside announced to his family that he wanted Vern to stay with them.
At first, Drakes family though that he wanted a sleepover with his friend. However they were not pleased when he also told them that Vern was not from their village. The rule of the Druid was clear, and outsiders were not to stay. Drake's parents looked angrily at him and reminded him of the clan rule.
"Druid children only play with other Druid children. You know the rules, and you didn't tell us, that's not respectful." His father pointed out. His mother continued "We had no idea Vern was not a Druid, if we had of known we would never have let this friendship continue for so long."
Turning to her son, Drakes mother explained that not all people were friendly and in the past the Druids had had some dreadful difficulties with other villagers that they had tried to befriend. One year they had offered shelter to a group of travelers.
These travelers had waited until the night and stolen a considerable amount of winter supplies. On another occasion they had heard of a village two days away who were all very sick. The villagers were suffering from an illness, for which the Druids had the cure. Hoping they could assist the Druids sent messengers with medicine. When the messengers returned they told what happened after they had healed the sick villagers. The messengers told and showed the marks were they had been beaten and robbed by the villagers who they had gone to help. Each time they had forged an alliance their trust had been abused so they had now become weary. Some years back it had been decided by the Druid elders that they would keep themselves to themselves.
"Vern on sight looks like a Druid so we were deceived into thinking he was one of our own. Its not that we don't want to be friendly but other villages get jealous when they see what we have here." said his father. "Your friend has blue eyes and blond hair so we naturally though he was one of us." It was clear Drakes family did not want to be unsympathetic. "We have rules." said Drakes mother gently but unwaveringly.
The feeling of bitter cold stabbed at Drakes heart, not only could he not aid his friend, but now his family seemed single-minded in the determination to break up his comradeship.
He bit his lip until it felt like it would break open. Then with all his lung power he shouted "Its not fare! What makes a Druid anyway?" He nudged Vern forward and the shaken boy immediately felt embarrassed.
Just then the sheepskin to the passageway opened and Drakes Aunt, Uncle came in, followed by the twins. When they became aware that this small boy in their relatives house was not a Druid they were also adamant that he should leave.
Finally after several minutes of deliberation Drakes father insisted that Vern leave, and not return.
"But you didn't answer my question." said Drake. Drake's father was a kind and compassionate man but his temper flared. "What question." He said irately. Drake repeated "What makes a Druid?"
Drakes Aunt took Vern by the hand and turned him around so he faced his friend. Talking to both boys she compassionately explained. "You see Drake when a Druid is born they have blue eyes and blond hair, which you both have. We teach our children to be peaceful, respectful and to seek knowledge. It's always been this way. And although Vern has all of these qualities, unlike you he is not a Druid by birth.
All Druid children have a special mark on them when they are born. It's a secret mark." Drakes Aunt took hold of one of the twins. Brushing his hair to one side she gently moved his ear forward. "Look, see here." Drake could see a small mark on the back of the twin's ear.
"When a Druid child is born they have a small dye mark placed on them which never wears out." She took hold of Vern again and moved his ear forward.
Unlike the twin, there was no mark behind Vern's left ear. It was apparent to Vern that he could not stay so he turned and forlornly started to depart the house.
Drake inquired of his father if he could see Vern again, while Vern stood hopefully in the doorway looking towards his friend's father for an answer. When a reply to the negative came back Drake started to cry. "It will be all right," his father told him; "Vern needs to be with his own people."
"But he doesn't have a people, they have all gone and they don't want to know him, and I bet I don't even have the mark."
Drake quickly walked to bowl of water the family used as a mirror. Peering into the reflective surface he looked at his ear, seeing no dye mark, he questioned why. Vern still standing in the doorway fixing his coat looked puzzled.
"Your mark is on your right ear." Drake's uncle informed him, adding that. "The first born child always has the mark placed on their right ear." With his friend still standing in the doorway Drake used the water mirror to view his other ear. Sure enough the small blue and red dye mark was their.
Almost hoping that his friend would be missing the mark, so that they would be outcasts together, Vern had lingered at the doorway. Although on verbal confirmation of what he expected he waved a cheerless goodbye and pulled back the bear skin from the doorway to exit the house.
"Wait" Drake said sharply. "Come here Vern." Taking his friend by the arm he moved him from the doorway and again into the center of the room. Then in the glow of the home fire Drake pushed Vern's right ear back.
"Sweetheart go and find them, have them wash there hands and face and stop them from eating whatever they have found."
"Ok Mum." was the response.
With already sticky fingers a young male Druid pushed a twig into the peace of honey cone which he held and offered some more of the golden liquid to his own already filled mouth.
A second boy sat on the branch of the tree which housed the bee hive. There were several parts of bees still attached to the dripping wax comb which glistened in the light of a radiant summer day. He licked greedily at the natural syrupy which dripped like small transparent worlds from his cheeks.
As a third, but older boy arrived, the two other youngsters, sounding very cheery and holding up honey covered sticks called out together.
"Want some?" "Maybe later!" the older boy replied. He was too overcome with pride to eat any of their spoils and the last thing he had on his mind was food. After months of coaching them it seemed they had managed to tackle the bees on their own, and were now reaping the rewards. The remains of a small but very smoky green leaf fire could be seen at the foot of the tree.
He was well aware of how dearly these boys loved to learn new skills, and was enormously pleased that they had safely accomplished their goal.
"Did I ever tell you two about the tale of the bee eater?" he asked.
Both boys' eyes got wide. "Bee eater!" again they spoke in harmony.
The older boy lowered his voice. "There's a legend among Druid of a beast whom all bees fear. I've seen it. It has sharp teeth and it's more deadly than a wolf pack. It can run, swim, push trees over and will eat almost anything."
The other twin had now also climbed onto the branch of the old oak and both were listening intently from their limb summit seats.
"How awful" Exclaimed one twin through a mouth full of honey.
"That's not all. It waits most days by the river on the big stone."
"What does it look like?" inquired the second twin with even a greater quantity of honey oozing down his face.
"It walks on two legs like a bird and it can kill masses of fish in one go."
They talked on and on about the strange creature. The older boy was clearly enjoying himself, and then he stopped and spoke very softly in the hope of making the tale more thrilling. "I think I know where we can find it but you will have to stop eating honey if we are going to se it."
As they walked to the riverside he told the younger two that it was possible that the beast hadn't eaten in some time and that the scent of little boys wafting honey through the air would attract it. Relishing in his creative power he told the boys it was possible that the beast might even sniff them out and eat them as well, so it was best if they washed there hands and face. His chore now complete he crossed the sunny field home to the stone circle, it didn't take them long to arrive at large riverside rock.
Drake smelled the residue of honey on the youngster's clothes before he heard them.
"Get down!" the older boy quietly ordered the two youngsters but loud enough so the occupant of the rock could hear.
The two little boys, paralyzed with fear, shrank against a tree. Partly because they could not see the monster and partly because the only thing they could see was their cousin who must surely be the intended victim of the monster.
Drake knew some naughtiness was going on, so with a puzzled expression he looked towards the poorly hid group.
"I can not see any monster" whispered one twin. "It's over there by the rock."
The older boy pointed towards Drake and half shouting he announced. "That's the honey eating monster." Now Drake understood what was required. Using the branches he was holding and with which he intended to make a fish trap he began to beat the surface of the stream. He accompanied this splashing with suitable growling, as would be expected of some mythical bee eating monster.
It wasn't long before he was jumping around on the river bank stooping his shoulders to give the allusion he was a dangerous predator.
Moving forward, Drake gently pushed the older boy aside and shouted "dinner time" the two twins were overjoyed at this undisclosed amusement and weren't in the least bit intimidated any longer.
Only six years old but more agile they wriggled and worked through the barrier of their teenage cousin's arms and in seconds they had pulled him to the ground. The twins were now so strong that once they had a solid hold of Drakes neck he truly could not shake them off.
The pretend aggression and dreadfully fake growls of the make-believe monster made the older boy on the sidelines observing laugh. He liked it enormously when he got to play with his younger brothers and his cousin.
Once the fantasy monster was on the floor the twins turned their attention to their older brother.
Although as soon as Drake could stand again he grabbed both twins by their arms and tossed them carefully into the stream. Delighted at this newly acquired ammunition the two minors responded with a hail of water.
Now soaked, the senior boys playfully cried out for mercy, but the twins continued to splash. Although with one look at each other, the older two without an utterance formed a plan. In harmony they counted "Three, two, one!" On conclusion to the countdown both ran headlong into the water. The charge being totally unexpected, took the two juniors by surprise.
Four the next five minutes the four splashed each other until the older two had had enough of the cold and wet and wholeheartedly and unconditionally surrendered.
Victorious the twins rushed from the riverside, back to the village and their home, flapping their elbows as substitute bee wings, and doing their best to yell playfully that they had killed the bee eating monster.
The two older boys watched the younger two skip all the way back to the village and as they were both worn out they lay down on the river bank. Although their blood raced their bodies shivered.
"That waters cold," was whispered between chattering teeth. Drake laid his arms around his cousin's shoulders in a hug. "Is that better Vern?" he asked. "A little bit." He sighed.
Three winters had passed since the day Vern had trapped his leg in the ice. As Drake looked down he could see the mark behind the Vern's ear and he smiled. The truth had become clear those three years prior. Vern was the eldest son of Drakes aunt and uncle. He had fallen from his mother's arms and into the river but had been washed up in a local village, were an elderly couple had cared for him. Eventually however he had found his way back home, and for the last three years the cousins had been inseparable.
When the villagers were told that Vern was one of their own children who had been lost a large celebration was held at the stone rings. There was music, dancing and singing which went on into the night.
After this party the elders decided that it was every Druids responsibility to be kind to strangers, even if their hospitality fell on rocky ground. The stone rings were deemed to be a special place and from that point on the rock circles were used for all important occasions. The Druids in time became one of the most respected communities in England. People traveled from far and wide to hear their teachings and gain their advice and help.
Four thousand years on the stones remain and millions of people come to experience their magic. Like a sea shell, it is said if you listen very hard as the wind blows through the stones you just might hear the laughing of children.
Still wet from their water fight the two walked, arm in arm, back towards their home.
Drake peered at the sun which was setting over the stones and enquired. "How far away do you think the sun is Vern?"
Amused Vern answered. "I am not sure cousin, but we can try and walk there tomorrow."
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