“What did you find?” said Brudha, mantling over the pit and talking down to her. “Anything particularly ancient?”
“Well, yes, actually!” she declared. She gave the stone a few scrapes of the trowel, pulling some of the dirt from what appeared to be a notch or a stile toward her, and when she had cleared a plateau, she looked up and said, “It’s a Gods’ stone! Also called a Gods’ chair by people in the south.”
Cgnita canted his head. “You mean like the centre stone at the Wyn na Dail, the one that looks like a throne of some kind?”
“Yes! Or something like it.”
“And how can you tell it is one of those?” said Brudha, with keen interest.
“If you see here,” pointing to the top of the chair with her trowel, “the entire back of the seat is dressed—it’s all dressed really, from the top to where my foot is here. If you look at the back, you will see some decoration, though I haven’t fully exposed or cleaned it yet, and if you look here, it looks like someone has scrawled in the words Reis na Dail in Ault Fremhin right at the base.”
“Reis’ seat?” said Cgnita, leaning farther down to investigate. “And you are sure it is a Gods’ stone and not something else someone might have erected later?”
“I don’t think it could be anything else really. Look,” pointing to the edge of the pit, “here is the top soil. Here are all the layers of history between, with pieces of pottery nestled in—I pulled a piece of old Kileen redware from this level here, which dates back to about 200CU, so everything below it is older, which is the general rule: the farther down, the older something must be, and the soil here is very good and really hasn’t grown over that much since antiquity. About here,” pointing to a layer in the soil about waist high, “is where we get to 1CU, and everything lower is Before Clans United. The base of the seat is just at the level of prehistory. Since this hill fort and settlement was abandoned when Allun came to unite the clans, it was probably already partially buried, which is why no one has found it before.”
“And how did you find it?” asked Brudha.“How did you know to dig in this very spot?”
“I saw the top of the rock protruding up from the ground and thought this might be an excellent place to start, since there might have been some archaeology here. So I marked off a square and began digging, and after I found bits of pottery and some bone that looked quite old, and began digging round this stone, thinking it might be the footing of an old house or a foundation of something, and here it was! It has been here this whole time, simply waiting to be discovered! I still have not got to the bottom. I am only about half way. These stones seats usually have great decorated bases around them. Here you can see the image of Reis at the top and the cats lining the back of the seat itself. I expect I should find something similar running around the bottom.” She stopped for breath, eyeing the stone seat with doting veneration, and then went on. “The stones themselves are a wonder. The theory is that all the stones which were used to make these various seats all came from Karnwyl and were carted across the kingdom to their various destinations, where they were dressed and carved and then placed fimly into the ground, all in the hopes of having their patron God attend them and bless them in their daily lives. They believed that their efforts would warrant a visit from the Gods, and though we don’t know about prayers or daily rituals from back then, we know they did come to these stones during celebrations throughout the year. It was also believed that they would come here when they wanted to ask the gods for favours or general blessings, probably for a good crop or a healthy life. We’ve found everything around these seats, from glass beads to animal bones-- I apologize if I am rambling,” said she, laughing affectedly. “I am quite overpowered. I don’t think my mind has quite caught up with my heart. I think—“ She paused, her exhilaration beginning to diminish, “--I think I am only just realizing now the enormity of what we’ve found.”
“What you found, Miss Eilen,” Cgnita kindly reminded her. “Brudha and I are only standing here listening to you. It was you who dug this hole and did your investigation.”
“Yes…” said she, in a reverie, “but had you not suggested it, I don’t think I would have…” Her voice faltered, her gaze grew distant, and she leaned back against the wall of the pit, raising her hand to her eyes. “I think…I think I am feeling quite faint.”
Her knees bent and her body was drawn forward, but a hand was there to catch her before she fell, an arm supported her, and she hung her head as she was sat down on the partially exhumed seat of honour, panting in desperation. When she could lift her head and raise her eyes, she found Cgnita beside her, his arm around her back, his hand cuffing her wrist.
“Just breathe, Miss Elien,” the cleric purred. “I understand that you have had a little excitement, but we must take care. Lean forward slightly, that’s right, and breathe naturally.”
“I cannot believe I have found this,” Eilen continued, her chest heaving, her voice breathless. “It is really the find of a lifetime-- There are only two others like this one that we know of, one near Glaoustre and the one at Wyn Na Dail in Karnwyl-- It was always suspected that there were more, probably one for every God, or even every prehistoric settlement, but with limited research and no one willing to fund multiple expiditions—the crown is very good, and King Dorrin is very generous with his grants to the society—but doing a proper excavation—and this will require an application to the crown as a heritage site—“
“Miss Eilen,” said Cgnita, with kind solicitude, “your pulse is increasing, and you are breathing quite rapidly. Take a few deep breaths and try to calm yourself. I will administer a little sedative. This will not hurt in the least.” He placed his hand on the back of her neck, and his palm began to hum, glowing with viridescent warmth. “And inhale…”
A vibration resonated from his hand, warming all her muscles and sedating all her pulses, and Eilen felt the unmitigated excitement in her nerves gradually dissipate. The tenderness of his touch, the soothing application lulled her into a gentle sloom, her consciousness surrendering to serenity, her heart tranquilzing, her speech somniloquent. “Can’t believe I… I found a seat of the Gods… Not one in a hundred… and I never would have found…” Her eyes began to close, her head bowed, her shoulders slouched. “A Gods’ seat…” she murmured, “No one will ever believe…”
“It’s all right, Miss Eilen,” said Cgnita, in a half whisper, holding her against him. “You’ve had a bit of a shock. An exdroadinary thing has happened, and it is natural to be overcome, but you mustn’t forget to breathe. Brudha,” spying the Brother standing at the edge of the pit above, “will you please bring me some water?” but Brudha was already gone, hastening toward the church, calling out for cold water, a clean cloth, and fresh tea as soon as they could be got. “Just lean your head against me and try to calm yourself, Miss Eilen,” said Cgnita, sidling her and putting her head on his shoulder. “Brudha will be back with some water, which I want you to drink, and until then, try not to speak.”
Murmurations of discovered stones and providential fortune endured, but she soon succumbed to the cleric’s remedial touch, leaning against him as a comfortable support, her nose against his neck, her lips grazing his nape. So rapt in his clerical work was he that Cgnita had forgot to tremble at her touch, and when he did realize that her chest was pressed against his arm and her cheek was nestled against his shoulder, Cgnita was too much engaged with the study of her skin, the outline of her jaw, the lines of her neck, the curve of her collarbone to be timid and apprehensive. Well, he thought, pressing his cheek against the top of her head, this is wonderfully pleasant, despite her sudden panic. A woman is voluntarily leaning her head against me, and I am perfectly easy. Perhaps clericin’, as you say, Aoidhe, is not so bad for attaching women after all.
Savin’ her from faintin’, said a voice, with high wrought complacence. Sure is romantic and all.
Cgnita took her hand from her neck and touched her wrist. Her pulse is improving. I was worried for a moment. I thought she was going to go into histerics—and rightly so. It is really the find of a lifetime. Historians the world over would clamber the mountains in winter just to have a chance at finding something like this. She has made her career with such a find. Did you put this stone in the ground just now?
Naw, that’s been there th’while, lad. Can’t make what wasn’t there before just like that. S’ just been sittin’ there, waitin’ for what to find it. She was the one what found it. All that credit’ll go to her. Guess she’s gonna hafta stay here to do her researchin’ and such.
I might have to invite Beldynn here instead of writing to him. I daresay he would have a panic over—did you say she is going to have to stay here?
There was a shrug. Someone’s gotta dig this here stone up, lad. Can’t let a discovery like that alone. Gotta make it a monument for the kingdom. Gotta be right famous in the arch’alogical community for this.
Are there are more like these?
Aye, lad. One for each o’ us.
And you would sit here and people really used to come visit you?
‘Course they did. They’d come and talk to me about what, bringin’ roasted means and fruits and such, and we’d have a right time o’ it. The voice grew sullen. Sure loved doin’ that. Had to abandon my seat when the Aul’ Man says we had to go away.
Where was your seat, if I may know?
Had a few o’ ‘em, but my two favourite were in what you call now Tyfferim and Sethshire. Had a seat right next to Chune’s. We’d go out and bless the land, everyone’d have a celebration with singin’ and feastin’ and music, and we’d have a right ol’ hashiff in the fields. Aye, with feverish pride, those were days, lad.
You would really sit amongst the people and celebrate with them?
Sure we would, lad. Yer our children. Parents what love their wee-uns always wanna spend time with ‘em. I’m here with you now, ain’t I?
Cgnita was forced to conceded that while Aoidhe was at times inconvenient as a companion and mortifying in his vulgarities, he was certainly as attentive and as affectionate as any vigilant parent should be.