Ashes Under Uricon (The Change Book 1)

BOOK: Ashes Under Uricon (The Change Book 1)
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Part One - Setting Out

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Part Two - Plas Maen Heledd

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Part Three - Getting Ready

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Part Four - Final Preparations

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

ASHES UNDER URICON

by

David Kearns

Copyright © 2015 David Kearns

All rights reserved.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction.

The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are

the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to

actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is

entirely coincidental.

Cover design and artwork by thecovercollection.com

To Jo, always my inspiration

The gale, it plies the saplings double,

It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:

Today the Roman and his trouble

Are ashes under Uricon.

A E Housman

PART ONE

Setting Out

Chapter 1

The name my family gave me is Non. It’s an old Welsh girl’s name. So I was told. It’s not my Ovidian Name. You wouldn’t know me by my family name. I wouldn’t tell you.

I was fifteen. Still in Schola. Most of the time.

My grandfather, who I called ‘Taid’, using the Welsh word, my mother, and my sister, Ffion, all in the same house, thinking we were safe from the outside world.

It was not to last. We were not safe.

***

I can still recall that evening as if it happened yesterday.

We arrived at the house at around five in the afternoon. The house was closed up. There was no key and the doors and windows were locked.

“Non,” my mother said, “you take Ffion for a walk. I’ll wait here for Taid. I’m sure he won’t be long.”

“But, mam,” I moaned. I moaned a lot in those days. I don’t now. Or not so much.

My mother frowned. I turned and headed back down the short drive. Ffion eventually realised that she was supposed to come with me.

“Don’t walk so fast,” she moaned. She was like me in that way. It was about the only similarity between us.

“I’m not,” I said. “You’re walking too slowly.”

Before long we turned around and set off back the way we had come. When we reached the house the lights were on.

“Taid’s here,” Ffion shouted, running to the front door.

He must have seen us coming. The door opened as she reached it. She jumped into his outstretched arms and he swung her around.

When I reached him, he put her down and gave me a big hug. Even then I was too big for him to lift me. We went in. The house was sparsely furnished. A sofa and dining chair in one room. A table and two more chairs in the room opposite. At the back was a kitchen with an ancient cooker and an even more ancient fridge that rattled and hissed loudly. From the kitchen a set of stairs led to the upper floor. I didn’t bother to go up.

My mother was stood in front of a sink, which I hadn’t noticed. “Have you got work to do?” she said.

“S’pose,” I said.

“Your bag’s in the dining room.”

Half an hour later Taid came in with a cup of very weak tea. My workbooks were covering half of the table. He pulled the other chair out and sat down.

“How’s it going?” he asked.

“It’s going.”

“Much to do?”

“Too much.”

“Can I help?”

“Do you know Latin?”

“Bit before my time.” He laughed. “But I did do some in high school.”

I put my pencil down and looked at him. “In ‘high school’?”

“When I was your age we went to high school. After primary school, that is. From the age of eleven.”

“You went to two schools?”

He laughed again. Taid always used to laugh a lot then. “More than that,” he said. “My mam and dad moved around a lot. You could in those days. I think I went to about three primaries and four high schools. Yes, that’s about right.”

I drank my tea. Taid’s childhood had always baffled me. But that was because he was born before the Change.

“What’s your Ovidian Name, Taid?” I asked, looking at him over the mug.

“Not really sure. I’d have to look it up.”

I was shocked. Not to know your Ovidian Name was an offence. “Don’t you have it written down somewhere?”

“I’m sure I do. Not that it really matters.”

“Yes, it does.” I raised my voice. “What if they ask you for it? You can’t tell them you’ll have to look it up. You should remember it. When were you born?”

“That’s not a very nice question, is it? A long time ago.”

“What year, Taid?”

“2009. I think.”

“You think? Or you know? What month?”

“December. I do remember that. Eleven days before Christmas.”

I looked at him. He was like a relic from the past. I suppose that was because he
was
a relic from the past. All this talk about ‘December’ and ‘Christmas’.

“Do you know your Ovidian Name?” he asked me, grinning.

“Of course. Semele0442. I’m working on my Ovidian name now.”

“Is that why you asked me if I knew Latin?” He peered at the papers in front of me. “Why don’t you use your notes?”

“Not allowed. Ovidian names have to be Englished without an aid. It’s a test of our understanding.”

“Is that difficult?”

“Super difficult. Ovid is ClassLat. Most of our other work is DogLat. They’re not really the same at all.”

He smiled. “‘ClassLat’ is what we called ‘Classical Latin’ I presume. No idea what the other one is.”

“DogLat. What the Bible is written in. The teacher calls it ‘VulgarLat’ but we all call it ‘DogLat’.”

“‘With a capital D and a capital L’,” he recited. “I’ve heard Ffion singing that. I suppose ClassLat has ‘a capital C and a capital L’.” He sang the last phrase.

“Always,” I said.

I needed to get back to my work. I loved my Taid but there was so little he knew about my life and me. This had to be finished. Somehow, he seemed to sense what I was thinking. He rose, put the chair back in its place quietly, picked up my now empty mug and left, closing the door behind him.

It must have been over two hours later that my mother put her head round the door and wished me good night. I muttered “G’night” and stretched my aching arms. I needed a break. Three hours and I had managed five lines.

“Diawl, it’s difficult,” I said aloud. That was one of Taid’s words. He’d told me that it meant ‘the devil’, which meant it was a forbidden word, but I liked to use it in private if no one was listening.

I went out to the kitchen. As I passed the other room I could see Taid stretched out on the sofa, looking as if he was sound asleep. There was no sign of Ffion. She must have gone to bed with my mother.

As I was trying to make the cooker heat the kettle, without much luck, I heard a noise outside. Suddenly, Taid came into the kitchen, grabbed me by the arm and put his hand over my mouth. We both froze.

The noises came into focus. Men talking, boots crunching on the drive. With a crash loud enough to wake the dead, the front door was caved in.

Taid opened the back door and pulled me through it.

We ran. Into the almost complete darkness, we ran.

Chapter 2

“I suppose you’ll still need to finish that work you were doing,” he said. I gave him a hug. We hadn’t mentioned this but he knew I would be worrying about it.

No matter what was happening to us, or what would happen, it was important that I kept up my work for Schola. Without it I had no future. Perhaps I would have no future anyway, but I have always lived in hope.

Two days had passed since we left the house. I sat at the table. Before we had to run I had almost completed the first two paragraphs. But I had lost nearly everything. Now I would have to start again. I took one look at the single page of ClassLat that for some reason I had stuffed in my pocket and burst into tears.

“I can’t do this, Taid,” I blubbered.

“Yes, you can, cariad. You did it before. Just try to remember it.”

“I don’t mean the Ovid. I mean all this. All this running and hiding. We don’t know where Ffion and Mam are. There’s no one to ask.”

My voice had risen to a shriek. Taid put his arm around my shoulder.

“Calm down, fy nghariad. We will get through this. You
have
to. Do your work. Let me worry about everything else.”

I sat sobbing for a long time. Tears ran down my face until I could cry no more.

 
“Sleep,” Taid said. “That’s what you need.” He closed his eyes and murmured,


Stafell Cynddylan ys tywyll heno,

Heb dan, heb wely.

Wylaf wers; tawaf wedy.

I had no idea what he was saying. I do now. It still makes me sad.

I looked at him. I had to be stronger than this. I had no idea what was happening. What was coming next. Where we would be going. As Taid said, I had to get through it. Crying would not help.

***

When I woke up it was dark. For a moment I didn’t know where I was.

Taid was looking at me. “Get up,” he said. “We’re leaving.”

“Where are we going this time?”

“I’ll work something out. Just get up.”

He sounded irritated, which was unusual. I was worried now. I looked around the room where we had spent the night. It was ruined, bare. Nothing to say, ‘Welcome home’. We could leave it easily. We stepped out into the dark. Headed who knows where this time. Taid seemed to have some sort of plan, but he either wouldn’t tell me, or he couldn’t tell me. Much later, he translated his Welsh words of comfort, if you can call them that. They seem, looking back, to sum up my fears that night.


The hall of Cynddylan is dark tonight,

Without fire, without a bed.

I will weep for a while; then I will be silent.

Chapter 3

“Tell me about before the Change, Taid,” I said.

“Not tonight, cariad. I’m too tired.”

“Go on. Just a little. It helps to pass the time. What time is that boy supposed to be coming?”

“He said he would be here about two o’clock tomorrow morning. Why don’t you try to get some rest?”

I didn’t want to rest. I wanted to know. To know everything. I had the insatiable curiosity of the young adolescent. I was especially curious to know about life before the Change.

“Don’t they teach you in – what do you call it now?”

“Schola.”

“Hmm. ‘Schola’. Don’t they?”

I looked at him. Why on earth would they bother with the world as it was before the Change in Schola? There was barely enough time for DogLat and Number.

“No. Why would they?”

“It’s part of your history.” Taid yawned and closed his eyes. “Let’s not argue. Get some sleep.”

I closed my eyes, with no intention of sleeping. But I did.

A whistling sound awoke me. It was coming from somewhere out in the darkness. I sat up, my eyes sticky with sleep. The moon was shining through a broken window at the top of the wall behind me. Its beams fell on the wall opposite. There was someone hanging there. Arms outstretched, head bowed, naked except for a cloth around his middle.

I covered my eyes with my hands and screamed, scrabbling out of my sleeping bag and running to the door.

“Non? What on earth is the matter?” Taid stood just on the outside of the doorway.

“There’s a man hanging on the wall in there,” I yelled at him.

He stepped inside, looking in the direction my arm was pointing. Then he laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” I said.

“It’s a statue. That’s all. This must have been a Catholic church. I didn’t realise when we came in because it was so dark.”

This confused me even more. What was a ‘statue’? What was a ‘Catholic church’? These things meant nothing to me.

“But why is there a man hanging up there?”

“There’s no time to explain all that now. Just calm down, cariad. It’s not real. Look, the boy is here. He says he can help us.”

BOOK: Ashes Under Uricon (The Change Book 1)
2.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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