Taranis, god of thunder (retired), opened up his camping chair and pulled out his thermos flask. “It’s a cold night, but not a bad time to remember someone. And it’s quiet.”
Cerne, god of the hunt (retired), dumped his bag next to the cairn of stones. “Have you really brought tea to a memorial feast?” His great hound, Garm, sniffed at the stones and then flopped down next to them.
“It’s good to drop some of this into a hot drink,” Taranis pulled out a black, unlabelled bottle that glowed faintly in the night air.
Cerne brightened up. “That’s more like it.” His breath steamed in front of him and he rubbed his hands briskly together. “I’ll get a fire going.” He looked over to the stones. “Seems only right to remember an old friend with flames and strong drink.”
Taranis busied himself setting up a second camp chair and a small table. He caught Cerne’s eye. “The damp gets right in my bones,” he grumbled. “There’s no need to be uncomfortable.”
Cerne shrugged. “I hadn’t thought of Bran in years.” He pulled out his own contribution. “I brought venison.” He set some large Tupperware tubs on the table. Garm’s eyes followed every movement.
“I suppose you bought it from a butcher, didn’t you,” Taranis grumbled.
The former god of the hunt added some soft white bread in a box. “I’ve been busy.” He paused and looked at the cairn. “Time just slips by these days.”
“It wasn’t until I saw all the fuss in the paper that I remembered,” Taranis said. He set out two large tin mugs and a few more unlabelled bottles. “But I couldn’t let them build over the last resting place of our old friend.”
Cerne built a small fire, carefully arranging the logs and twigs for a long night of burning. He stacked up more firewood and cleared the space as Taranis set out the food and drink. Cerne nodded at the unlit wood. Taranis shrugged and a spark jumped from his fingers to light the campfire. “That’s better. I’ve got some mead and barley cakes to leave for Bran, before we start.”
Cerne nodded. “I suppose so.”
They turned around and stared at the newcomers. A red-faced middle-aged man with a battery spotlight was in front of half a dozen lads who were holding shovels and crowbars. He strode forward angrily. “This is prime development land. I had everything set up ready for some residential and a shopping centre and then you bleeding hearts turned up. I’ve paid out good money for the land, but now that it’s a ‘special archaeological site’ it’s worthless.” He looked at the lads behind him. “But with one of those unexplained incidents, and with no way of being able to find the culprits, all the archaeology is going to disappear. There’ll be nothing left for any special interest and before you know it there will be executive townhouses and some convenient shop fronts. So why don’t you coffin dodgers pack up your little picnic and bugger off before things start getting messy.”
“You’re Mr Harris the developer, aren’t you?,” Taranis said. “We’re not leaving. We’re here to pay our quiet respects to an old friend. Just leave us in peace.” There was a brief rumble of thunder. He looked over the lads behind the developer. “I know you, Darren, and you know me. You ought to know better. Now get off back home, and I won’t say anything more about it.” The young lad lost every trace of colour, dropped the shovel he was holding, turned and fled. Taranis looked over the rest of the motley bunch. “Go away.”
“You don’t want to end up with paperwork,” Cerne said to Taranis. He turned to Mr Harris. “I’m sure that there’s ways of working around this. Why don’t we talk this out tomorrow?”
“There are plenty of ways, but they all cost money,” Mr Harris shouted. “I’m not wasting any of that on some dried up bones. So I’m saying – bugger off! I don’t care how old you are, you’ll regret it if you don’t move.”
Cerne sighed and looked at the bunch in front of them before catching Taranis’ eye. “There’s only half a dozen of them. Don’t go too hard on the youngsters. I’ll set up the memorial for Bran.”
Taranis growled. Thunder rolled and a flash of lightning arced across the sky. “Get out of here,” he snarled at the men in front of him.
Garm crawled under the picnic table. He was a big dog under a small table, but he did his best. Cerne patted his head. “Don’t worry, boy. Taranis will sort it out.” He pulled out a small box. “Just stay there, that’s a good boy.”
Garm’s tail thumped on the side of the table as he watched Cerne take out some candles and arranged them on the cairn. A crowbar sailed overhead. Cerne carefully wedged the candles and glanced over to Taranis. “Remember – no paperwork!”
“Coming here to disturb our peace,” Taranis growled as he grabbed a shovel and snapped it in half, throwing the pieces to the side.
Cerne ducked as a part of the handle flew past him. “Watch out,” he said mildly as he lit the candles. He looked thoughtfully down at the stones, ignoring the screams. “Bran would have sorted them out in no time. He insisted on respect.” He picked up the small box of barley cakes. “It’s hard to get proper barley cakes these days. But Mrs Atkins down the road is always happy to help out.” He glanced over and frowned as Taranis threw a young lad across the clearing. “Take it steady, Taranis. These lads aren’t like the old days. They break a bit easier.”
“Damn them,” Taranis roared as a brave lad tried to grapple him from behind.
Cerne sighed and shook his head as he broke the cakes over the mound. “I think Mrs Atkins is a little sweet on me,” he confided to Garm. “And she is a good cook. I could do worse than visit her more often.” He grimaced at another crash and looked back at the fight. Taranis had slowed his punch down enough to let the youngster in front of him dodge and the punch broke the tree behind the lad. The branches of the sycamore bounced gently as they fell. “You’re going to be in trouble if their mums complain,” he said. “And if Gaia finds out about that tree, you’ll be sorry.” He turned back to the cairn and opened up the mead. “I’ll pour the mead out for Bran now, should I?”
“Hang on,” Taranis grunted as he shook off the lad and grabbed him by the front of his t-shirt. “Go away and don’t come back, dog breath!” He dropped the offender who crashed, struggled to his feet and ran, leaving the developer all alone. Taranis turned back to Mr Harris who turned to flee. “Not so fast!” Lightning flashed to the ground in front of the man, singeing the earth and leaving Garm whimpering. “I want words with you.” He grabbed Mr Harris by the scruff of his jacket.
“Remember the paperwork,” Cerne said. “You know you’d get in trouble if you skewer him.” Mr Harris moaned.
“If you had made a decent fire we could have roasted him,” Taranis said, his quick wink at Cerne unnoticed by the terrified man in front of him. “And Gaia will take hardcore offerings for trees at a pinch.”
“She’s gone vegan,” Cerne said. “Let Harris go. We’re here for Bran.”
“Bran would have skinned him,” Taranis grumbled. “And thrown the skin to the dogs in front of him.”
Garm tried to retreat further under the small table as Cerne hid a grin. “Bran had his bad points as well.” Cerne stood and strolled over to Taranis’ captive. “Why don’t you go home. We can talk about this tomorrow, nice and modern and without any paperwork.”
Taranis dropped him. “Don’t try and run. We’ll find you no matter where you go.”
“I’m sorry,” Mr Harris squeaked.
“I’m sure that we can set the misunderstanding straight.” Cerne said. “But tomorrow. Because we want a nice quiet evening to remember our friend, okay?”
They watched as Mr Harris nodded, stumbled backwards, turned and staggered back to his car. Taranis sighed. “He wasn’t much of a fight.” He brightened a little. “But we have the venison, and some of my special home brew.”
“And some time for a quiet remembrance,” added Cerne.