On an autumn day more glorious than the inside of a cathedral, Harold Waterman wandered through Laverstone woods. His fingers, trailing across the rough bark of beeches, told of the easy summer that had tailed off with the arrival of the equinox. He breathed in the heady scent of ripened crab apples and rowan berries on the rim of the forest as the squabbles of hungry starlings echoed through the trees.
He reached the edge, the gloom fading as the trees thinned. The path that separated the forest from the rough brush and stone bluffs of the Cheviots ran south to the Royal Park and north into the hills, where it petered out into little more than a rabbit trail. His whistle brought a wolf pushing past his legs, its weight threatening to topple him into a copse of sloes. Thorns plucked at his jacket.
The trilling of a songthrush soothed Harold's concerns about his upcoming exams and his need to find a job. Before Goddess Nature, all worries evaporate with the dew. He checked his scribbled notes: yes, this must be the place. Sunbeams punctured the woodland canopy creating great colonnades of light to guide his way.
He heard voices ahead, laughter; the others must already be there, celebrating the season's change as the Gods intended. Harold quickly sloughed off his clothes. A woodmouse skittered warmly across his foot as he stepped into the clearing--his joy, perhaps, a little too pronounced--and into silence.
"Ah, um, is this the Druids' Festival?" he asked.
One of the women coughed. "No, it's the Senior Women Ramblers' Picnic," she said. She looked him up and down. "But do come join us for dessert . . . "
Opening: Rachel Green.....Continuation: Anonymous