He watched the flickering candle. It soothed him. Sadie was, now, undulating around the room. What was she looking for? No identity markers of the owners were about to whet her curiosity, and he had brought none with him.
“An Ogham equivalent of The Rosetta Stone exists,” she said.
“The Rosetta Stone?”
“It’s called ‘The Zambia Stone’. No-one can date it. So, there you are, it was in Africa in the far past,” she said.
More clued-up than he was in certain areas, and that was riling. Dave had also riled him with his knowledge about The Cabrach. Arrogance was a fault he, now, realized he had.
“Probably, dropped off a donkey’s saddle bag, as an ancient tourist was bumping about,” he said.
“Don’t be sarcastic. Too much left to the academics, and they mess folk up.”
“Ouch, that hurt.”
She poured him a whisky. He downed it in one go, relishing the warmth of the liquid. She poured him another.
“Glad I popped round?”
He shrugged. To encourage Sadie would be a mistake. Was she trying to get him drunk for gen as he had tried to get Henry drunk to pump him?
She pulled out a bulging green cloth from her bag, and tipped out cards.
“Stop blathering, and sit down, Alex.”
She pointed to a chair opposite her. Reluctantly, he sat down.
“First, these mainly tree cards are divided into Chieftains, Peasants, and Shrubs.”
“Sounds more a social hierarchy than divination. Typically British.”
“Druids could never be called British. Anyway, mistletoe’s a Chieftain because of its great significance to Druids. It shares a sign with ‘The Heather’.”
Saul had been born in Gemini, The Twins. Who was Saul’s twin? It, certainly, was not him. He and Saul were opposites.
“So what if it shares a sign?”
“Sometimes, strong things share with things not so sturdy. I don’t know that aspect of the cards. I doubt anybody does.”
He thought about his sharing the hand axe with Saul, on that long ago day, and his sharing the harp stone with him, now. But Saul had always been the stronger one.
“Can you hurry this up?” he said.
He had said the same to the tinker. But the tinker had only given a spiel about the Past. Perhaps Sadie’s cards could give him guidance for the Present and Future.
“Why did I say ‘yes’. This is going to be gibberish,” he said.
“You keep blathering about your disbelief. Trust in magic, Alex Gordon, even if you can only manage it for this reading.”
He felt churlish.
“Has the color of this cloth significance, Sadie?”
“It doesn’t matter what color it is, but green’s for trees, and this is my personal choice. Besides, green’s stabilizing. Hospital wards and classrooms, were, once, decorated in green.”
The black ballerina in the nightmare he had had in Meadow Cottage, had held out a red apple that had turned to green. A premonition this dame would come into his life, and steady him by offering green? Rose Muldoon being the black ballerina was a waking nightmare.
Sadie shuffled the green-backed cards.
“Fill me in before you start,” he said.
She smiled, knowing she had him semi-hooked.
“It’s an alphabet of twenty-five characters, once used for stone and wood writing in the old Celtic world. Twenty sacred trees give names to the letters of the Ogham alphabet. Some of the trees were named for the thirteen months of the Druidic calendar.”
“Have you not been listening to me? I said the cards were linked into Druids. The alphabet was used by them for a system of hand-signing.”
Druids used fingers to...”
He grabbed one of her wrists. She knew too much to be a simple dame.
“Are you a Druid?” he demanded.
Her wrist slid out of his hand, as if greased.
“Unlike you, Alex Gordon from Alexandria, Virginia, my roots aren’t just family stuff. And, although you see me as a daft woman, I’m interested in things. Of course, I’m not a Druid.”
Suddenly, he saw past her painted face, clanking jewelry, and garish clothes. She was no ‘Painted Lady’ like that butterfly in Henry’s collection. Then, in his mind’s eye, she was naked in all her glorious, untainted damehood.
“Exploring the Past was, is, and will always be my whole bag. But that bag is archaeology,” he said, trying to shake off the image of her nude body.
“Then, you don’t know the Past’s just the stepping stone to the Present and the Future. The Past, Present, and Future, are intertwined. What a man. If you only look to the Future, much will be missing,” she said.
Both she and the tinker knew something was missing from his life. He had blamed Murdy and Birdie for his trying to get away from the Past in a personal sense. But the Past was forever whispering.
She placed her chair next to his.
“We sit side by side. That way no confusion if a card’s in an upside-down position, although there are no real negatives if any one’s reversed. Aye, it differs in that way from other divination cards.”
Trying to seduce him with her nearness, or was it for the reason she had just said?
As she sat down next to him, he smelled blood. She was menstruating. It was not the stale, iron whiff of Birdie’s soiled sanitary towel that had filled him with dread of Death, nor was it the ghastly stench of Rose Muldoon’s menstruation that had filled him with a dread of Life. Birdie’s and Rosie’s smells had been contaminated through what they had been as dames.
This smell from Sadie was sweet, lush, and held the promise of generations. It was an invitation to quickening. In the candle-flickering room, its power was tall, and her lips were lavish conch shells. Saul had held up a conch shell he had found on a beach, likened it to a vagina, and ranted against dames. But these conch shell lips held a purity that took him beyond Saul’s sway.
He stared round at the four walls. This was, now, a swelling room he wanted to flee. He could see, again, the gay boy that had looked so like Saul, at twenty. It had been a re-enacting in physical form of the disembodied dialogue between Saul and Sadie. Was a battle going on between Saul and Sadie on a metaphysical level, or was it his own crazy head?
She shuffled the cards. Then, she jotted his name, time, date, and place, on a record sheet.
“Lay the cards facedown in five rows of five cards each so you form a square,” she said.
“From left to right, or vice versa?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
He laid the cards facedown from left to right.
“Now, turn five of them face up,” she said.
He did so, and she jotted more notes on her record sheet. She picked up his five cards, and laid them facedown. She altered their positions, and, then, stared into the candle.
“Fix your mind on the question you want answered,” she said.
“I’ve no question.”
“Everyone’s at least one.”
He concentrated his mind on the harp stone, mentally asking if he would succeed in finding out anything.
“Select another five,” she demanded.
In this moment, she was a sorceress, no longer brash Sadie Gow from up the track. He picked out another five, laying them facedown. She put the selected five facedown with the others.
“Again,” she said.
“Mumbo-jumbo,” he muttered, in the same way he had done to the tinker.
She looked ferocious, but said zilch. He had stepped on something precious. The tinker had been just as mad with him.
When fifteen cards had been picked, she sat back. Candlelight was melting her face, and he felt a stirring between his legs. But, suddenly, a prickling was at the nape of his neck, and his heart turned to lead. Evil was near. He had sensed it ever since he had stepped into the garden.
He looked at the heavy drapes. But the night outside was just a black line between the velvet edges. In the blackness, was The Cabrach uttering its night poem to its trees, hills, and rivers, or was it singing a night song? Was music greater than poetry? Was the harp stone playing back to The Cabrach?
“Let’s have a look at what you’ve picked,” she said.
She turned the cards over, and marked positions on three large circles.
“I’m making a connecting line between these three circles. This helps to make stronger visual links.”
Drivel, but he was not going to insult Sadie the way he had the tinker.
Sadie straightened her blouse, and her breasts rolled. Sexual desire gushed through him. But he knew it was an unconscious movement on her part. Tonight, she was celestial.
“The five positions in each circle relate to the four elements, earth, fire, water, and air, and the fifth one to the spiritual source. These are the five mythical castles that protect,” she said.
This was too much for him.
“What’s this rot about castles? Spinning me fairytales?”
“Not rot, Alex.”
“It is. Your whisky was the bribe to this sitting.”
Unfazed, she stared at the cards.
“You’ve drawn ‘The Oak’ more than once.”
“So?” he said, thinking he had, recently, visited a house surrounded by oak trees, and had found some answers there.
“In the elemental forest, the oak tree’s King. It’s often lightning-struck.”
He started, remembering his dream about a lightning struck tower with a moon high above, and a dog or wolf baying nearby. But he, still, could not remember when he had first come across it.
“The oak’s a doorway, and offers strength and refuge. It’s central to the Druids,” she said.
“You’re a real well-informed dame.”
“If I’ve to understand the cards, I’ve to know all about them. My only other skill is I type without error at ninety-five words per minute.”
“Why’s the oak tree central to the Druids?”
“They preached under it. They took its strength.”
“All righty,” he said.
He thought of how he had taken Henry’s strength of knowledge, and had always leaned on Saul’s strength of conviction. He had even leaned on Dave, a boy of twelve.
Sadie’s eyes glazed.
“I must gather knowledge through visualization.”
She sat in silence, for several minutes, as the flickering candle cast dancing shadows around the room.
“You’ve been given ‘The Sea’ in one of the circles. It means hidden depths, journeys, and links to the mother. It’s reversed, and so you’re moving in the wrong direction. Could be you’re ignoring roots.”
Hamish had said that to Murdy.
“You forget the folk from whence you came.”
Birdie had talked about her French roots, but he had had no interest because she had been a shallow dame.
“Came to The Cabrach to dig into my roots, Sadie.”
But it was, now, a lie because the harp stone had taken over.
“You’ve roots in Texas. You were born there, and your astrological chart will reflect the planets in that precise moment over it.”
The tinker had said the same.
“Don’t believe in astrology, and neither does Saul. Only Saul means something to me.”
“I’m sick of you talking about Saul, and what he believes in. You’ve got to find out what you believe in.”
She turned her head away, for a second.
“Anyway, to get back to the reading, ‘The Sea’ card’s lunar, thus, female. It’s a link between your birthplace and the lands to which you may have already journeyed on your spiritual way. It’s a quest.”
The tinker had also known he was on a quest. And he had come from America to The Cabrach. That journey had pitched him into incredible soul-searching. Dangers were around every corner. How could he dodge the lightning bolts?