The man paused a moment before entering one of the many taverns that lined the docks of London, took a moment of salty sea air before plunging into the darkness beyond.
The city was cool and gray, covered by its ever-mist. Gentleman and peasants and dockworkers, adventurers and soldiers and merchants all coming and going in the endless motion of one of the world’s great cities. The man was diUmbria, and he had just finished researching a painting in Antwerp while sailing his new ship, the Joy of Triton. It was a gift from Juan Garrion the Octavo, who was getting to be a very famous pirate of sorts. He plundered at will, but gave by the same impulse. For every ship he sank, it was said, he had built one to replace it. With the old captain diUmbria being somoene who had helped Juan when he was starting out, the now successful young man was kindly generous to his older friend in the gift of the fine trading carrack.
Four days later he was on the south coast of England, following a tavern keeper’s tip on the whereabouts and interest of Stonehenge, which he had heard about but never in fact seen.
The intrepid captain made his way northward from the landing area, but soon found a change had come to his mind. This countryside was so pleasant, such an open landscape of rolling green hills and stately trees, that he thought perhaps the adventure was better saved for an outing with friends.
So it was that a week or so later a group gathered in a dockside tavern, in fact the same in which he had first heard of how easy it was to go and visit Stonehenge. The gathering included himself, that now famous Juan Garrion, and a relative newcomer, a young English sailingwoman by the name of Marihelen. This would be her first true adventure away from London, and though just a short trip it would be a good way to see if she took a liking to such things.
South they sailed, but when they passed the corner near Dover Juan Garrion went one way, while diUmbria the other, with Marihelen much confused between the two of them. The Venetian captain was a near infallible navigator, well known among his peers, and soon all agreed that he was going the right way.
The Spaniard was quick to rush up to any pirates they neared, using his mighty ship to quickly destroy any of the sort of vessel that plied the English Channel. Soon they passed Portsmouth, and came to the landing area.
Marihelen, it turned out, was learning to be a navigator in much the same tradition as diUmbria, and both boldly pressed on into the wilderness with Juan Garrion close at hand, ready to fight any brigands or other villains that might appear. Some did, and were quickly shown to the ends of their lives.
Eventually the trio came to the path leading through a small pass to the hilltop where Stonehenge sat. diUmbria passed through with no problem, but each of the others was somehow kept back, and couldn’t find their ways through. At one point the three could call to each other, but still though diUmbria could freely come and go, the other two found themselves held back by some unknowable force.
Intrigued but for some reason not truly frightened in any way, it was decided by the three together that diUmbria should press on, while the others would wait, or even begin to venture back.
The old captain from the highlands of Umbria walked onward, following a thin trail that wound just a short way through some emerald meadows to the wonderful place itself.
The stones defied time, and stood as echoes of people long gone, close but unknowable. For the old man, scholar though he was, much of their meaning couldn’t be guessed at, all that was certain was that they had been placed by human hands, and in some sort of order.
diUmbria walked around the standing monoliths and circled inward along the concentric spiral to the center area. Here he stood in gathering twilight, not quite dark enough for a torch but dim enough to see the shade of the moon. Was it a trick of the light then, or what did he see, but a sort of gold light shimmering in the very center. It called to him, but when he went to it, unsure of what he saw, it vanished. He would always question, in the seconds afterward and on to the end of his days, whether it had really happened.