Ginny watched the mists drift languidly across the graves. Gently twining filmy streams of grey and white slipped through long shattered windows and door arches where once had stood solid, engraved wood. The cathedral stood watch on the promontory, though its flock had long since dwindled and slipped into the mists of time.
Making her way over the hummocks of grass, trying not to think about the gravestones crumbled to dust, the loving inscriptions eroded onto the wind, she watched the rooks. They settled in the wind-blasted limbs of an ancient birch, its bare fingers occasionally scratching at the loose masonry causing tiny avalanches of mortar. A huddle perched along the sills of soaring gothic arches, slivers of long gone stained glass sifting from beneath their grasping feet. They hunched against the chill wind, feathers ruffling, turning stern black gazes on each other if personal space was invaded. Ginny loved their sleek sheen and brightly intelligent eyes.
She paused by the sad grouping close to the building. A disordered cluster of leaning, fading markers like the unpopular kids when teams were picked in the playground. She dropped to her haunches, ran a hand over, erasing moss, and read:
Nothing else legible; perhaps the hint of a date. 16-something, 18? Too worn to tell. She walked through the grouping, wondering why these graves still stood when all the others were gone. Luck? Shelter? Purpose? How to know when all who had been involved were centuries gone. Offering up a silent prayer for those gone before, she turned to the cathedral.
A few traces of the stone path, once kept clean by an army of monks, showed through the scrubby grass and layers of moss. She followed the way as best she could, aware that she walked hallowed ground, wishing to be respectful. Though her faith differed she knew all paths lead to one end. Her task would not change dependant on belief; her role was larger than that. Such was the way when you rose above differences to become part of the whole.
Stepping across the threshold she knew the encompassing shadows of the past. She felt the awe-inspiring weight of the roof, of the soaring beams carved with a myriad of faces, human and not so. Like a video game filling in the landscape she watched the stones knit together, sensed the doors slamming into place with sonorous presence. She smiled as her body adopted a stately pace, taking her up the central aisle with grace and determination.
In her peripheral vision she caught glimpses of past glories. Every pew covered in luscious tapestry cushions, embroidered hangings on the walls, depicting spiritual scenes. Tall wooden columns held candle sconces atop, each flame bending and dancing to wisps of breeze. A faint scent, cedarwood, oils, myrrh and more assailed her with every breath, stronger the closer she got to the focus.
A pair of steps led up to an empty dais. Above, in her visions, she saw the figure who had stood in the alcove, the stance of prayer, soft smile on alabaster features, knew it had once looked out over a great stone table of locally wrought granite. She considered, musing over how and why the solid slab had been removed, leaving only a darkened rectangle on the dais. Beyond her ken and not hers to fret on now. She stepped up.
Standing in the centre of the rectangle she allowed her mind and body to still. Her awareness became heightened. She felt the slightest shifting of stone on stone, the cracks and snaps of settling wood, the sudden pops of candle flames spitting wax, and then the low hum of voices at worship. She focussed on it, sending her thoughts further and further into the history of the stones, the wood, the essence of the cathedral.
Eyes closed she watched hundreds of face slip back into the past, hooded figures barely changing but the satellite humanity about them becoming steadily simpler, less gaudy and ornamented. Until she heard something, a faint bell tolling, a constant weeping and chant of passing. She had noted thousands, reeling back over the years of vision, but this one sparked her spirit. This was the one she sought.
Opening herself fully, she slipped into the mind of a young monk, still training, undisciplined enough to wish to look around, to take in and remember the pomp and occasion. Robed figures, chanting the rite of passing, lined the central aisle of the cathedral. Six knights in ceremonial armour carried a bier upon which lay a shrouded body, tall, slender, a simple silver coronet upon his breast.
A lock of golden hair, laced with grey, had slipped from beneath the shroud. Ginny fought against an overwhelming wave of grief, of memory, her breath stuck in her throat. So long, so very long ago, but time cared not for her, only for him and her role for him. Training forced her back into the scene. Her breath shallow, tears falling unnoticed, she watched the knights bear the body to the dais. Impatient now, she forced time forward to the moment of interment and gasped aloud.
Now she understood why there was no granite table. She watched the elderly, blue-robed man at the dais raise a cone of power, heard and remembered the words he used to sink the dais through the floor until nothing remained but a faint blackened rectangle. She snapped into the present, raised her hands in supplication to her gods and reversed the words, her voice soft, clear and with only the slightest trace of longing.
For a fearful moment, there was nothing. Then she skipped backward quickly, aware of the grinding and screeching beneath her feet. The wood cracked in the centre, imploded and she had to cover her ears as the rending of centuries buried stone was elevated through the floor and into the waxing light of dawn.
She flew to the shroud, pristine as the moment it had vanished from sight all those centuries before, and pulled it off. As it puddled about her feet she laid a hand on the beloved face it revealed and called to him in a barely there whisper.
‘Come back, the land needs you.’
Blue eyes flickered open and a hand reached to touch her face in echo of her.
‘Guinevere, you waited.’
‘What else should a wife do, my king?’