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A Gift in the Dark

Dedicated to
BarbaraCenta
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Among the Campions

The soft murmur of conversation in the Tin Miner's Arms halted as the young woman dumped her rucksack on the floor by the hat stand, a jangle of climbing equipment announcing her arrival. The pub patrons turned to assess the newcomer and, satisfied she was just another tourist rather than one of the local regulars, conversation quickly returned to a background murmur. She rearranged the rope attached to her rucksack so it wouldn't impede any other visitors to the pub, and approached the bar. The barman smiled in welcome and spread his hands in greeting.

"Welcome to the Miner's, young lady. What can I get you?"

"I'm looking for a Mr. Tregenza," she said in a soft voice.

"Arthur?"

"Yes," she confirmed. "Mr. Arthur Tregenza."

"He's over in the corner there, next to the fire."

The barman motioned to an old man who sat in an even older looking armchair, the leather complimenting his skin, both worn with age and experience. His hands rested on his walking stick, one atop the other, a nearly empty pint glass creating several watery rings on the wooden table next to his elbow. A faint half smile graced the old man's face as he stared into the flames. A terrier of indiscriminate breed dozed by his shoes, its feet twitching as it chased rabbits in its dreams.

The girl smiled and inspected the ales available on the bar. She unzipped her red and black fleece to let some of the warmth of the surroundings get to her skin and reached to her back pocket for her wallet.

The light from the central lamp momentarily dimmed; Arthur looked up to see a blond haired girl standing next to him holding two pints of real ale.

"May I join you sir?" she asked politely.

Arthur motioned to the empty chair next to him and smiled. "Of course young lady, especially if you'm bringin' me a pint."

"Please allow me to introduce myself Mr. Tregenza. My name is Jade De Lacy and I'm studying myths and legends at Cambridge."

"Arthur will do my girl," interjected the old man with a smile before De Lacy could say any more. The girl inclined her head and carried on smoothly.

"Well Arthur, I'm due to go climbing with some friends, but I arrived early and thought I'd do some research while I was here. Someone in the village shop told me you were the man to speak to about old legends and local lore."

"Oh they did, did they?" said Arthur, his eyes twinkling merrily as he supped on his pint of ale.

"Well, what they actually said was that if I wanted to hear a load of old hokum, you could talk the hind leg off a donkey, but I thought I ought to phrase it more politely."

Arthur laughed, waking up the dog by his feet who growled. Jade reached down and scratched the hound behind the ears, prompting a satisfied noise from the mutt who licked her hand and settled back down to sleep on her foot. She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a Dictaphone which she set carefully on the table, avoiding the slop rings.

"To get to the point, sir, I was wondering if you'd do me the great honour of letting me record a few old tales."

The old man sat grinning at her, and took another draught of ale.

"I'll tell ye what lass, I'll make you a deal. You keep me supplied with ale and I'll talk fer as long as you want me to. How does that strike you?"

Jade proffered a hand, smiling, and the deal was struck.

"... and they say the pizkies dance by dawn's early light amidst the sea-campions and squill. They feast and laugh in the cliff gardens, the precarious patches of green which hang on the stone, the gardens of the families who hide in nook and cranny. They hide with magic and are seldom seen by those who pass. But 'ware the traveller for he who seeks them may find himself joining the dance and never escape."

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