by Bob Hazlett
“I’ll ‘av another pint, love,” said Lochlin McCarthy as he held his mug high for the barmaid.
“Will ya now,” teased Bonnie, enjoying the flirtatious banter with the three well-dressed young men.
“Whar ya from?” she asked, returning with a full mug of beer.
“From Bath,” Ronny Hawkins chimed in, not wanting McCarty to get ahead of him in scoring points with the attractive barmaid.
“Ahh … and I wager you’re at the university there,” said Bonnie.
“How’d ya guess?” said McCarthy, suppressing a belch.
“That’s a distance. What brings you to Salisbury?” asked Bonnie.
“We’re on a research work holiday,” slurred Kai Wells, joining the conversation for the first time. Kai was a little further into the suds than McCarthy and Hawkins.
“… a research work holiday? Don’t believe I’ve ever heard of such a thing.” Bonnie was both amused and curious.
Hawkins tried to sound worldly, learned, and sober. “We’re in Antiquity Studies at the University of Bath. We come here to visit the cathedral at Salisbury and the monument at Stonehenge.” He didn’t succeed on any of the three.
“… and the holiday part?” asked Bonnie, placing a full mug in front of Hawkins.
Hawkins tried to think of an answer, but McCarthy beat him to it. “Well, we’re here in the world-famous King’s Arms Pub, drinking the world’s best suds, served by the most beautiful barmaid I’ve ever seen. Seems like a holiday to me.”
“I guess you’ve got a pretty small world then,” said Bonnie, unimpressed. Tiring of the schoolboys, she left to tend other patrons.
The three looked at each other through bleary eyes.
Kai broke the silence before they all fell asleep. “Well, what we gonna do? The night’s still young and I need some fresh air to sober me up.”
“How ‘bout this lads,” offered Hawkins, “tonight is Halloween, and the moon is full. Let’s go out to Stonehenge and see if anything spooky happens on such a night as this.”
“I’m game,” said McCarthy, “… if I can stand up. What about you Kai?”
“Yep, I’m in,” replied Wells.
Contrary to Wells’ exclamation, the night was well past ‘young.’ It was nigh onto midnight when they arrived at Stonehenge. In late October, the chill comes early and by midnight, the Salisbury Plain was covered with frost. The clear sky hastened the cooling. The full moon set the giant stones in sharp relief and cast long shadows across the frost covered ground.
“Colder ‘n a well digger’s knee. Sobered me up right quick,” said McCarthy. He shivered as he leaned against the ‘Friar’s Heel.’
“Friar’s Heel” has been known by many names, including “Heel Stone”, and “Sun-stone”. The stone lies northeast of the sarsen circle. It is a rough stone, leaning inwards towards the stone circle.
One popular folktale attributes Stonehenge’s construction to the wizard Merlin. The fifth-century king Aurelius Ambrosius wished to erect a memorial to 3,000 nobles slain in battle against the Saxons and buried at Salisbury. At Merlin’s advice, he chose Stonehenge, then sent Merlin, Uther Pendragon (King Arthur’s father), and 15,000 knights, to move the stones from Ireland. It was Merlin’s sorcery and skill that easily dismantled the stones and sent them over to Britain, where Stonehenge was dedicated.
“You believe that rubbish about Merlin and King Arthur’s Pappy bringin all these bloody stones from Ireland?” asked Hawkins, shivering from the cold.
“I got no reason to believe or disbelieve, but it’s for sure that somebody put those damned rocks here,” said McCarthy, as he pushed himself erect.
“And put some of those big blokes atop the others. ‘Twarnt no kiddy prank, that’s fer sure,” added Wells.
McCarthy’s push caused the Friar’s Heel to move ever so slightly. A groan of stone moving on stone came from the nearest pillar in the sarsen circle. A hole in the ground opened up, and a faint light shone up from within the earth.
“You see what I think I just saw, or am I still drunk?” asked Kai.
“Maybe you’re still drunk, but then so am I. I see a hole in the ground that wasn’t there a second ago,” said McCarthy.
“I see it too,” confirmed Hawkins.
The three hastened to the brink.
Light from below revealed a steep stone staircase leading to the bottom. The faint sound of muffled voices flowed up from the depths.
“We gonna go down?” asked McCarthy, a tremor in his voice.
“I ain’t no Indiana Jones.” Wells quickly replied.
“You’re majoring in Antiquities — where you gonna find ’em — in the grocery store,” Hawkins said, ridicule plain in his voice.
“Yeah, we gotta go down — we’ll be okay if we stay together,” said McCarthy.
At the bottom, a short tunnel, barely high enough to stand, led to a large chamber. In the chamber stood about a dozen hooded, shrouded figures, talking in hushed tones.
The nearest one spotted the trio, and spoke a few words to the group. Four of them turned and walked to greet the visitors.
“So glad you could come. I’m Merlin,” the first one said.
“I told you,” Hawkins whispered.
“These are my friends, Asorin, Thotrix, and Obin,” continued Merlin, “all High Priests in the Order of Druid.”
“Oh s**t,” Wells tried to speak, but no words came out.
Obin spoke up in a raspy voice, barely audible. “Each year, we gather on Halloween to celebrate the dark night and practice our sorcery skills — just to stay in shape, so to speak.”
Thotrix spoke next. “We were discussing where we would find a few ‘volunteers from the audience,’ then you showed up.”
“Won’t you join us, please,” said Merlin, with a big smile.