When the Dark Comes Rising
by Dog Rose
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.
Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six signs the circle, and the grail gone before."
It was frankly pissing down, a nice mix of snow and frozen rain that had as yet declined to become sleet, and Bodie'd had more than enough. He had snow in his hair, snow down the back of his neck, and one expensive dress shoe full of grey city slush.
"'In the Bleak Midwinter'" he moaned to an uncaring Doyle "but not in the middle of sodding London ! Why the hell are we here?"
Here was a hush in the middle of London 's bustle; a dead garden in the middle of a walled in cloister, forgotten property of some sprawling museum or university. Doyle had entered by means of an ancient iron key, and as the ancient gate clanged shut behind them, Bodie fancied they'd left the twentieth century behind. Too bad they hadn't left the bloody weather behind.
"We could be somewhere warm" he moaned again. "Warm and dry and...warm." Bodie's tone changed on the last word, became intimate, and he whispered it into Doyle's ear.
Doyle was unimpressed. "Shut it. Cowley said we're to meet him here and pick up the package." It was dark enough that all Bodie could see of him was the elusive gleam of slanted emerald eyes and a flash of teeth in his rueful white smile. "Sorry. We'll get...warm...again later, O.K?"
"Shall hold you to that." Bodie grumbled. "Not the way I expected to spend Boxing Day, you know."
"It'll be worth it," Doyle said. "It has to be."
"What d'you mean by that? Ray?"
"Wait!" Doyle held up one hand theatrically, but there was something powerful, almost magical, about the gesture that stopped Bodie from laughing. Wizard Doyle, he thought, and smiled to himself. "He's here."
Evening had moved on while they had waited. The sky was dark grey, the garden was paler grey, even the sticks poking through the snow were grey. A slightly darker grey shadow peeled itself off a wall...a wall where, Bodie was willing to swear, there had been no shadow before.
Doyle spoke, and what he said startled Bodie.
"When the Dark comes rising..."
"Six shall turn it back," replied the stranger.
"Well met, Will Stanton, lastborn of the Old Ones."
The hair on the back of Bodie's neck rose as Doyle spoke. Deep voiced, cadenced, it was as unlike his every day voice as starry night was to day. A still small voice in the back of Bodie's head, the one that usually only turned up in the deep watches of the night while watching Doyle sleep, said 'more than meets the eye, here, my lad.' Then the shadowy figure turned, and caught what light there was.
Bodie suddenly felt like howling with laughter. A young boy, all of eleven, stood there in the grey cloister garden. God, this job was getting to him. But Doyle was still quite serious. What the hell?
"Well met, Raymond Doyle," the boy said gravely. "Are you ready?"
"Yes. Do you have it?"
"Yes. Can he be trusted not to break?"
"He's a good man," Doyle answered. "One of the best." And the look Doyle gave him then warmed Bodie's heart through and through, until the melting slush had receded to a mere nuisance. His blood came up, and he was ready for the chase, as a hound who had heard his master's voice.
"Then the Light entrusts this to you. See it safely on to the next part of its journey." The boy thrust a bundle wrapped in brown sacking at Doyle. As he did so, a huddled mass of rooks exploded from the rooftops around them, black and feathered and strangely menacing.
"Run!" Doyle shouted, and Bodie did so without question. They slid through the iron gate and out into the rushing noise of London , and as they did so Bodie caught the edge, just the edge of what he would swear later was a haunting bell-like refrain of music. Greensleeves? Maybe...
But for the moment he was too busy pelting after Doyle to have time for questions.
They ran down the streets, skidding on slush and dodging pedestrians with practiced ease. He and Doyle were two hounds coursing, turning sharp and quick and communicating without the need for words. And behind them, above them, always following, were the black shapes of the rooks.
He felt Doyle's fear like a live thing, sharp and under his breast, and did not question it. He knew, he knew deep down in the marrow of his bones, that the rooks were dangerous and that he and Doyle were being hunted by something black and terrible...something that was using the birds to drive himself and Doyle and the precious thing they carried toward itself.
Doyle stopped dead in the middle of the pavement, chest heaving and eyes over wide.
"They're ahead of us."
"Take it!" Doyle shoved the sacking wrapped bundle at him. "I'll hold them off."
"But-" everything in him protested Doyle being left to face that...thing...on his own
"You'll know who to give it to; they'll be carrying a West Indian Carnival mask-of Herne the Hunter, of course." Doyle shoved him toward the Tube station entrance.
"Go!" And Doyle's wide white grin flashed through the dark at Bodie, warming him, easing the cold clutch of fear on his heart. "Don't worry, Bodie. They won't get past me." Then Doyle turned, raising his hands and speaking in odd bell-toned syllables. There was a familiar air of cheerful menace about him the Bodie found immensely reassuring. He clasped his burden to him, and dove down into the Tube station.
The Underground was chaotic, people and shopping and luggage all in crazy post-holiday collision. Bodie ducked and wove through the crowd, searching for the right person, the only person to whom he could hand his hot potato.
Two black figures cut like sharks through the crowd, headed toward him by some unerring alchemy. Shit. They were waiting for him.
Bodie turned, and ran toward the train, hoping the exiting inundation of passengers would cut off the hounds on his trail. Bumping, jostling, shouting holiday greetings, they streamed past him. And above the noise of the crowd, Bodie heard it again...that bell-like refrain of music. Almost Greensleeves...but not quite. It caught at his heart, tugging him in what he knew was the right direction.
At the end of the platform was a tall East Indian man, and under one impossibly long arm was tucked a huge papier mache` carnival head topped with spreading stag's horns.
"I believe you have something for me." The man spoke in slow, rolling syllables, the lilt of the islands apparent in his voice.
"I may have." Bodie stopped, suddenly uncertain.
"It's all right, Bodie." Doyle appeared at his shoulder, just behind him, and Bodie jumped. "He's to have it now. Our bit's done. Go home and get warm, yeah?"
"Yeah." Bodie thrust the package into waiting hands, relieved beyond measure to be done with it at last. The East Indian took it and vanished into the crowd. The odd music sounded again, then stopped. Bodie shook his head, then turned to follow Doyle out.
"D'you know, I keep hearing Greensleeves tonight," he complained on the stairs.
"'Tis the season," said Doyle imperturbably.
"Ra-ay!" Doyle stopped on the stairs, heedless of those inconvenienced around him. Once again they were in their own private bubble of silence.
"All right. Ask."
"What the hell was that about?!"
"We had to deliver a package."
"O.K., O.K. Big picture time. Cowley's trying to buy the human race a chance at...a choice. A chance to choose for ourselves what we want, to be more than a pawn between Light and Dark. We just completed a piece of what's necessary to get us to that moment."
"Cowley's always trying to buy the human race a chance. S'what he does. Keeps "this green and pleasant land smelling of roses and lavender."
"Yeah, something like that. I didn't think you'd be so...understanding."
"Look, Ray, I might not get all the hocus-pocus that went on tonight, but I know real evil when I smell it. And that lot chasing us stank of it. Besides, that's what we do."
"Foil the bad guys." Bodie smirked and Doyle smiled reluctantly.
"Yeah. And me?"
"What about you?"
"'All that hocus-pocus.'" Doyle seemed almost...nervous. Surely the silly golly couldn't think...daft Doyle! Bodie smiled. Better reassure him.
"Oh, well, you...you're the same as you've ever been! Daft! Beautiful but daft!" And Bodie felt his grope of Doyle's arse as they left the Tube station went a long way toward reassuring Doyle that his status was very much quo, thank you. The stifled squeak alone was worth it.
"That's me all right. And beautiful with it."
"Christ, I love you."
"So take me home and warm me up!"
And Doyle did.
-- THE END --