The Broken Link

By J. Smith

"To my darling self."

With Love, J. Smith

***

Long, Long ago...

Arca sat outside of his house. The weights that secured the thach roof swayed sluggishly as he peeled potatoes for his mother. He was so distracted with the man he saw coming over the ridge that he almost cut himself. All he could discern was the dark cape the man wore, the hood was pulled up, masking his face in shadow. Arca threw the potato into the pot and went in to his mother.

"There's a strange man coming up over the ridge," he said.

"Aye," she looked out the window, "go get your da from the field."

Arca shot out the door. The man was getting closer, but he knew he could get back in time if he ran hard. Luckily, his father had seen him running, and started off across the field. They met at the edge.

"Da, " Arca was out of breath, "da, there's a man coming over the ridge to the house. Mum made me to tell you."

"Good lad," he patted his son's head. "You take it slow going back," he took off in a sprint.

Arca did take it slow. He picked daisies and lupines in the meadow for his mother. He fed the chickens, (which he was supposed to do an hour ago) and he gathered chestnuts to roast later. Once he was home, he stepped through the door and handed the flowers to his mother, "Mum, I picked these-" He stopped when he noticed the man sitting at the table with his parents.

"Son, we need to talk with you, sit down," said his father.

Arca dumped his chestnuts into his mother's clay pot. Then he sat, wide eyed and confused.

"This man is a druid," his father continued, gesturing towards the man. "He's willing to take you on as a pupil."

Arca stared hard at the man in a way only a curious child could. He had never seen a druid before. He saw a bard in town once, but not a real druid. It was funny, he always thought druids were old men. But this one before him wasn't old at all, in fact, he wasn't even middle-aged. His da told him once that to be a druid you have to study for twenty years or more. He said, without thinking, "Is he a real druid, da? He's not even old enough to be a-OW!!"

"Mind your manners, lad," said his father while cuffing him on the head. "You'll be going with him."

Arca slumped, "What do you mean, da?"

"He's willing to give you an education. The gods know we can't."

That was true enough. His father was illiterate, and his mother could write only a few words in Roman.

"I don't want to be a druid, da," the boy exclamed. Before his father could cuff him again, the druid spoke up, "You don't have to be a druid, lad, that might come later. We'll give you an education, and if you decide after being among us, that you wish to be a druid, that's your choice."

Arca blinked at him, "Oh."

"Get your things now," his father commanded, "your mother has most of it packed already. Go!"

"Oh, Bricriu, does he have to leave?" His mother pleaded with his father.

"Fiona, ye know he must. This man can do so much more for him than we can. Just thank the goddess that our son was chosen."

Arca was back with his things inside of his napsack. The adults stood and went out the door, but the boy lingered.

"Arca, come on now, "chided his mother.

"Ye be good, lad," Bricriu said to his son as gently as he could.

"Dinna forget us, love," said Fiona as she pushed him softly out the door. She called after him once he and the man started moving away, "Ye take care of him!"

Arca walked alongside the man in silence. When they crested the ridge and stopped, they could see the town in the valley below. The silver thread of the river wound its way among the trees. The man turned to him, "I think it's safe to talk now."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"Nothing, "he smiled. "We never were introduced, were we?"

"No, sir."

"Not sir. My name is Celyddon Mac Tegid. Call me Celyddon. As a druid I don't go by my father's name. Now what's yours?"

"It's Arca Mac Bricriu."

"How old are you, Arca?"

"Ten, sir-Celyddon. Are we going to town?"

"Yes, I have horses and supplies there. Why do you look so surprised?"

"Druids are magic. Why don't we just fly?" The boy was earnest.

Celyddon's eyebrows rose as he chuckled, "Magic is something I use, it's hardly something I am."

Arca, who seemed surprised, said nothing and looked at him.

"I get around like everyone else, lad. I can just make a bit more happen than most," he paused. "Come on," he gestured for the boy to follow as he walked down the ridge to the valley.

Their visit to the town was rather uneventful. Arca had been there before, and knew it well (not that it was a big town anyway). They went to the stables and got two big horses. They already had the travling supplies strapped on.

"Get on boy. We've got to make the next town before nightfall," Celyddon mounted his horse. Arca watched as he gracefully swung himself onto the animal. The boy looked at his horse. The stirrup was as high as his chest. He managed to get one foot in, but couldn't sling his leg over the saddle. Then the druid was at his side, lifting him up on his horse, "It will get easier as you get older." Celyddon moved ahead to take the lead. The journey was under way.

Neither said anything for a long while. Arca looked about as though he had never been out of the town before. In fact, he hadn't. He sucked in the sights like a sponge. After a while, though, he grew used to the scene. Having nothing else to do, the boy felt an impulse to speak. He tried to stay quiet, because he didn't want to be the one to break the silence, but he could not contain himself long. "How old are you, Celyddon?"

The druid looked at him, "Why is this?"

"Well..., " the boy was hesitant.

"Don't worry about offending me, Arca, I doubt you will."

"Um...okay...mu da told me that to be a druid you have to study for twenty years. Is that right?"

"Oh, yes. Sometimes a druid will study longer."

The boy was wide-eyed, "Did you study for twenty years?"

"Yes, a bit more."

"Then why aren't you old? If it took you twenty years, how can you be young?"

Celyddon was amused, "Not all druids are old men, though the arch druid and his council have many years. I will admit, that I, not counting the apprentices, am one of the youngest. I'm nearly thirty, Arca. I began studying when I was five. That's why I'm so young, because I started earlier than most."

That seemed explanation enough. The boy yawned, "Where are we going anyway? How long will it take?"

"Wait and see," was all the druid said.

It took them two weeks to reach their destination. It was a grove deep in a forest that seemed to go on forever. During the journey, Arca got a chance to know and look at his companion. Celyddon was tall, he could tell that from the first day. He had piercing cobalt eyes and hair that was the color of pale gold. He knew that the druid's hair was long, but he couldn't tell how long; it was always tucked down the back of his cape. Arca told himself that hair length was trivial, but he got so curious! The druid was a mystery to him, one that he felt compelled to solve.

The boy finally got a chance to quench his curosity. When the weather changed and got very hot, Celyddon took off his cape and and draped it over the saddle. His hair shone, and was like gossamer. It fell in thick layered waves to his waist. Arca had never before seen hair that long, or clean. Even his own hair was dark and dirty compaired to Celyddon's. He decided then that he wanted to be like him.

Arca's arrival at the grove was the busiest day of his life. There were men, even boys, everywhere. They wore robes of various colors. Many of the men he saw in black were older, this was because (he found out later) that only the most important members of the grove were allowed to wear black. That made him feel special because Celyddon wore black, and he was his friend. There were young men, Celyddon told him, that would take him to the spring to bathe. A boy named Fiacha, with red hair to his shoulders, and another; Sandde, with hair the color of honey. They took him to the spring and washed him until he thought he would die of cleanliness. They showed him his quarters, a small one-roomed cottage with a bed, a chest, and a desk. There were white robes on the bed, and they helped him into them, and showed him how to wear them. The boys left, and Celyddon came in. "I'll be the one giving you most of your lessons. We'll start now." And thus began the routine that would be his life for the next eight years.

Arca changed much since his first day at the grove. His hair was left to grow long and it was washed with lime until it was almost white. Being eighteen , he was almost as tall as Celyddon. He had been taught to work numbers and to write Oagham. He knew the stars and all their positions, and he was tutored in music and verse. But most of all, they kept him innocent.

Today was the eve of Samhain and Arca was excited when Celyddon told him that he was to participate in the rituals. They dressed him in ritual robes that were the color of carmine. His hair was brushed straight and a circlet of silver and onyx was at his brow. The druids preformed an elaborate ritual early in the day. Then, they had a feast that lasted until dusk. Everyone went back to their quarters except for the arch druid, his council, and Arca. Only those who were 'worthy' could particapate or even watch. Arca felt important, and stood next to Celyddon with an air of dignity. The druids all wore robes of snowy white. "You've done good to be here, Arca," said Celyddon. "The ritual is almost ready to begin."

They moved into the forest. The arch druid led the way to a grove of oaks, the most sacred tree of all. They built a large fire and gathered around and began chanting. The words were simple enough, Acra could easily keep up. But the words grew more complex and the boy was soon confused. Then the arch druid then climbed into the boughs of one of the oaks. He cut a sprig of mistletoe that was growing there. Arca was so engrossed in with watching the arch druid, he didn't realize that Celyddon was coming up behind him. Suddenly, he was grabbed from behind. He struggled as hard as he could, but no matter how he tried, he could not loosen Celyddon's grip. His hands were tied back and his feet were bound together, all the while he thrashed and screamed. The arch druid came up and Arca was forced to his knees. The druid then tied a thin cord about his neck, Arca lunged forward, trying to find release, but the effort only made the cord dig even tighter into his neck. His face grew red as he gasped for breath. Then, Celyddon was in front of him and holding the mistletoe. "You had no idea that I was the real arch druid, did you?" He gave a wicken grin. He shoved the poisonous plant into the boy's mouth, which was quickly gagged. The 'fake' arch druid came forth and held a silver chalice under Arca's throat, the cord was tightened even more. Arca's struggles were becoming weak, his jugular vein swelling and his muscles strained. Just as he was about to take his last gasp, Celyddon slit his throat with the ritual blade. A gurgling sound issued from his throat. His muscles jerked, and went limp. The others held his now lifeless body upward allowing the chalice to catch the blood as it spurted forth. Celyddon then took the chalice and drank deeply, throwing the rest in the fire. On contact, the flames hissed and crackled.

"Now, were are assured another ten years of benevolence from the gods," he said as he wiped the blood from his lips, "and more importantly....from Thorn."

Hundreds apon hundreds of years later...

Danny Strode, ten, bolted up in sleep. He was crying, and looked around sadly, "Arca?" He then looked down, and cried more. His mother, Kara, entered his bedroom and turned on the light. "Danny," she said, "are you okay? I heard..." when she saw her child crying, she immediately went to him. "Honey, what's wrong?"

Danny, with dark eyes, stared straight foreward. "I had a bad dream, mom."

"About Michael again?"

Danny shook his head.

"Well, just remember that were safe. Were far away from Haddonfield and neither me nor Tommy would let anyone hurt you."

Danny nodded, and offered his mother a small smile.

"I'm going back to sleep, honey. Goodnight."

"Night, mom." Danny smiled, and watched his mother leave, turning the light off before she shut the door quietly.

Danny looked around his darkened room a moment, then looked up at his cealing. His blonde hair lightly brushing over his eyes. He made a genuine smile, "I understand."

Alone in the livingroom of their latest house, Tommy Doyle sat on the couch and watched television. His eyes were dreary.

Danny Strode emerged from the darkened hallway, and walked quietly up to the man, who had since seen him.

"Danny, what are you doing up?"

The boy looked at Tommy with a faint smile. "I know," he simply said.

Tommy cocked his head slightly to the side, "Do you?"

Danny's head slowly shook up and down.

"And what do you plan to do about it?" Tommy said with a gleam in his eye.

Danny shrugged and he fell to his knees softly. He then withdrew his right hand and placed it over Tommy's left hand which was drooping on the couches' armrest. "I don't think my mom ever understood exactly why you helped save me from Michael. But I finally do. I'm not marked with the curse of Thorn....that wasn't the reason Wynn wanted me at all."

Tommy's pleasant face grew somewhat dim, "Danny..."

Danny began stroking Tommy's hand with his own, "But you never understood that I have an advantage over all the others..."

"The others...?"

"The other boys like me. Long dead. I'm the current version..."

Tommy's face grew dimmer. "How could you possibly..."

"It's over Tommy."

There was a moment of silence as the two stared eye-to-eye.

Danny's left hand emerged from behind his back, holding a large knife. With a swift pace, he plunged the knife into Tommy's heart.

Tommy bellowed with pain as he began coughing up blood, and it splattered out of his mouth. Before he died, his eyes once again locked onto a smiling, and angelic, Danny Strode.

Also in the livingroom, unseen by both Tommy and Danny, was Arca. He nodded with satisfaction. "Finally, the chain has been broken at the weakest link. The legacy faced by myself and thousands of others is done." He looked at Tommy and shook his head, "Celyddon, even today you were a master of betayal and trickery, but you shouldn't have underestimated this ten year old."

He then walked closer to Danny, who was staring at Tommy's corpse, "Thank you Danny, from all of us." He then evaporated, leaving Danny Strode to continue with a life that is only ahead of him now.