Chapter 10

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As Eleri and Cadno made their way through the summer camp, the druid remained wary and on edge. His discussion with Celyn had clearly made an impact and after giving his oath to the warrior, he meant to keep it.

On more than one occasion Eleri was stopped by the placement of a gentle hand on her arm as Cadno waited for those who he considered suspicious to pass by. He wasn't taking any chances.

At one point the priestess spotted the druid's hand resting on his dagger hilt. Only druids were allowed to go around the summer camp bearing arms. As learned men who dedicated their lives to the wisdom of this world and the one that followed, it was understood they would not engage in needless acts of violence. Eleri felt the need to say something anyway. Just in case.

'Cadno, I know what Celyn said, but please know he is being overly cautious.'

'If I don't know who I am supposed to be protecting you from I must suspect everyone, Eleri. I'll not have my honour called into doubt because I refused to take your tribe's champion seriously. And, it's not only Celyn I will have to worry about should something happen. Helygen is very fond of you.'

Eleri smiled. 'And I am fond of her.' She sighed. 'Let me lessen this burden somewhat by telling you the tribe behind this...consternation is the River Folk.' She didn't want to say "trouble" because Arwel was a king and to label him as a troublemaker would make things difficult for King Brenin should word spread.

'Ah, the River Folk,' Cadno said in understanding. 'I'm not surprised. Usually only their druid travels the distance to celebrate a gathering, but this time their king and a dozen men are here also. I'll not press you for any further details, Eleri, as I know you don't feel comfortable sharing them. Thank you for sharing what you have, though.'

With the discussion over, they set off once more. On reaching the edge of the summer camp, they turned north and headed up the valley. Gentle rain and plenty of warm sunshine ensured the grass and all growing things remained lush and green and flourishing, though later on in the season, as the harvest approached, the colours of the wild things would change to yellow and gold, red and orange.

They followed the bend of the vale and soon the gathering site of the tribes was behind them and out of sight. The river that had carved its way through the hills had shifted its course, choosing to meander on the other side of the flat land that lay between the escarpments. This meant it was close enough to serve as a source of water for the gathering, but not so close that the land became marshy when it rained or inflicted the encampment with midges.

Eleri knew every inch of this landscape. Whilst training as a priestess she was required to engage with all aspects of the local environment, in the hope that one of the many gods and goddesses would call her to them. A number of them did, quietly, but it was the Green Lady of the Forest who called the loudest.

A little further along, Cadno changed direction. Instead of following the river valley, they were now climbing the slope to their left. This hill stretched out both before and behind them for some distance. At the southern end of the escarpment, overlooking the summer camp, was Cylch Cerrig. The incline was steep in places, and the ground uneven, thanks to numerous rabbit holes partly concealed by the lengthening grass.

At the top, they paused briefly to get their breath back. Eleri slowly turned full circle to take in the view. To her left the hills spread out into the distance. To her right, she could see across the valley to the forest where she spent so much of her time. Behind her, small bushes gave way to a smaller woodland.

'If you wish to be at the stone circle by noon, we best carry on,' Cadno said, bringing their quick rest to its conclusion.

The druid headed north, skirting the small woods. They had perhaps travelled a mile or so when they came to a natural arch in the trees. From where they were standing, it looked like the start of a dark tunnel. By this time it was mid-morning.

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