A stranger wonders into the village of three men asking to hear their fantastic tale but and air of desperation betrays some hidden motive.
Out in the lowland countryside far from the city there is a small village. Too small to warrant more than a single lane of moderate size. Most of the village’s buildings were clustered around this flint lane. There was a Barber, a Church, a General Store and most of all, the Pub that bore a large hand painter sign the capture a rather surprised looking pony in mid trot. In side this pub were three men, three friends if you will, thought their friendship was more an issue of circumstance than preference these days. Two of these men were farmers, Ennis and Grisha, and the third was the local barber and the local pharmacist and the local physician. His name was Culkin. It could be well understood why Culkin even with so many hats to wear would be free to drink away the day but as for the farmers Ennis and Grisha, let us for now only say they were of in possession of some rather uncanny skills that had made others view them with weary eye while also making them somewhat indispensable.
As they sat and drank, a stranger in simple clothing made his way up the lane with hair that had grown long during his travels, fading to a pale brown in the sun. His thick leather boots were worn soft and his shoulders pulled down by a large pack. He walked until he came to the building with the surprised looking pony and pushed his way through the unbolted door.
The lass, who had been tending the mostly empty pub, placed three pints of the tawny ale on the men’s table to a chorus of grateful chortling and as she returned to the long counter near the entrance the door opened admitting a tired look man with long hair pushed back behind his ears. All though clean, the strange had the look of a vagabond. One of the three friends who had been seated facing the door watched the stranger come is with mild interest. He watched as the man approached the counter and traded words with the lass. She smiled kindly at the stranger and then gestured to where the three men sat with their drinks.
After making his way to the where the three sat, “Pardon me gentlemen but I have heard that there were three men in this village that are said to had passed through a door of sorts and returned with what some would call an incredible tale,” he said addressing them.
“And just who wants to know?” began Grisha who’s thick black hair was cropped short and his beard grown long and wild, curling about his face like a hedge.
“That’s no way to speak no one. Think if he should speak to you like you to him.” Ennis said, admonishing the Grisha.
“Will he’s not me!” Grisha stated emphatically.
“ And thank the Lord of Heaven for it. On of you is enough for me,” Ennis responded in good humor, with a bit of sun gleaming off his mostly shiny hairless head. Then he turned to the stranger, ”Please forgive my friend; we are those you seek, though I think we are a bit sore at having our tale laughed at. However if you pledge to a round then, I am sure the lads and I wouldn’t would be more amenable to a parle.” This man was a shorter, rounder fellow. He had a kind face of the sort that has been shaped by ages of grinning and his hair was reddish-brown.
“Thank you,” the stranger said pulling a stool form another table. “Please, it’s very important I know about this door and I promise I’ve seen stranger things than you can tell,” the newcomer said with such earnest that it made the company feel slightly uncomfortable. It was somehow more personal than was proper between strangers.
“Well seems like you’ve hear most of what there is there is to tell. What did you want to know?” the round and kind faced man asked.
“I think it’s quite plain what the man wants to know,” said Culkin, speaking for the first time, pushing his spectacles up his long nose with clean, smooth, “You want to know if you can get through the door and the answer, I am sorry to tell you, is most definitely no.” Then he took a sip of his beer as if to dramatically state there was nothing else to be said and there were affirmatory nods from around the table.
The newcomer spoke again, “But how did it open in the first place? What were the folk like when you came to the other side?” as he asked unwilling to accept the bespectacled man’s resignation.
After glancing around the table, the kindly faced Ennis shrugged his shoulders, “Well it was about, say, four years ago?”
“Three years,” corrected the thin man bespectacled man.
“Yes, well three years then. We was out down by the lake's edge and we had it in mind to drink in the new year out under the stars with big warm fire. We set up a short distance from the stone door and were recanting some of the stories we hand been told when we were all shook by a sudden CRACK! And we all looked around. At first we didn’t see anything but then it was noticed that the stone door was open just the smallest bit and it breathed out a warm fragrant air smelling of spring and sandalwood. We had all thought it a simple carving up to this point, ainticaint and mysterious though it was. Needless to say there was a lot of discussion as to what we should do but finally we pulled the door wide enough to slip inside and it was a wonder I tell you. There was a great garden with the lushest greenery and the fullest fruits. There were folk there who were tall and fairer than I could have ever thought to see in me life. They all dressed in fine clothing of blue and green. They took us to a table deep in the garden, which was so vast and wild to be more like a forest, there we dined with them and thought they sever no beef, mutton, nor meat of any kind the foods were, strangely, the most delicious I have ever tasted. They played sweet music like nothing to be heard in this world of ours. We were so in awe of all these things we never thought to look up.
“When the time came to go they told us that we mustn’t breathe a word of what we saw to a sole or take even the smallest thing from their home. Then they bid us well and said that the door would open again to let us in to dine the next New Year in with them. So, of course we told not a soul and for the next two years we would pass into the door at the start of the New Year to dine and speak with them. They told us many things about how they made their plants grow so well and so full. At one point one of us, though I can’t recall who, looked up and through the bows of the trees saw there was no sky but the whole of the lake above us, though we did not realize it until we saw lake fish swimming high up in the water like birds. I tell you it was truly a wonder.
“It was the third year as we left and though I did not think of it at the time they did not say the door would open again as was their custom but they did bid us a very fond farewell. The next year we came to the door and it was shut and though we waited it did not open nor has it opened since then, as to my knowledge. Took us a bit to figure out what had happened; turned out Mr. Flowers here,” He said gesturing to the bespectacled man, “could not help himself but was compelled to collect a few of the strange blossoms that appeared only in the garden under the lake. Fat lot of good it did him, turned out they turned to water weeds in his pockets as soon as he passed the door. Course it would be wrong for me to be to mad at him as I too had forgotten the warning they had given us years before.”
After having finished his tale the whole company sat quiet and contemplative. The large dark haired man tossed the last of his beer back, “I surely miss this drink they had that was like a spicy apple wine that somehow made me think of my old mother, god rest her sole. Ah, fuck it! You want go see it lad?” he asked to stranger then without waiting for an answer stood up saying, “I need to get me out into the sun,” and started toward the door leaving money with the red haired girl tending the bar.
The stranger and the men left the pub following the largest man with who looked and move like a dark bear in the midday light. They were soon out of the small village and heading along a trail down into an open meadow with many buzzing and flying things.
It did not dawn on the stranger to ask how it was that three farmers could sit at the pub, neglecting their farms. He was too busy trying suppressing his enthusiasm. They had already told him the way was shut but his longing overpowered his normally good scents and now it was running away with him. All he had to do, he told himself, was to find away to open the door.
They pushed their way through the high weeds until they could smell the freshness of flowing water in the air, then they could hear its burble, and then they came to a great lake where it was fed by a small brook that ran down away from the mountains. They pressed on along the water’s edge as the sun was well passed its peak and soon they came to a rocky outcropping in glade of short emerald grass. The outcropping was scarily the size of a small hut where it jutted up from the earth. On one side was a tall high-arched door carved into the stone that had fine and intricate designs of interweaving lines but this was aged, chipped, and growing over with lichen. In another few years there would be little left of to distinguish the door from the rest of the rock face. It was here they stopped all standing around looking wistfully at the door as the stranger approached it.
“It had not crack nor any other blemish when last it opened, little over a year ago, “ explained someone as the stranger traced the lines of the door with his fingers brushing it clean in places as he inspected it, clearly looking for something.
There was strange hope deep in the hearts of the men that had brought them out of the village and driven out of their way. Each of the men who had been through the door in years passed had developed a fondness for the people and the things therein and without knowing it, perhaps they thought the stranger might be able to return to them what they had lost.
As he inspected the large stone door he found no latch, no key hole, nor any facet that might allow for its opening. Glancing over his shoulder he asked the men behind him, “Has anyone tried knocking?” The men looked at each other and then shook their heads. “Just maybe if we have the scents or wit to knock on the door,” Plinth said in a sort of practiced way turning back to the richly engraved stone and raised his hand bring it down three times to knock on the door, bruising his knuckles but making little sound. Even the birds seemed to hold their breath in the moment that followed but nothing happened. “Well, it is worth a try if you didn’t know any better,” he said, again as if was repeating something he had heard and he placed his hand flat on the door, lowing his head as in silence prayer. After a moment his hand slid down and off the stone, his fingers running over the etched lines as he pull away and thanked the men for their help.
There was such a sudden change in the man’s countenance that older men forget their own disappointment for their stranger now seemed distant and shadowed.
“What’s this door to you, then?”, demanded dark haired man.
“The Gwragedd Annwn, the folk I believe you spent such good time with,” the stranger started as if choke out the word, “Well, they and I have business.”
They men asked no more but knowing as old men do that young men are want to act ill advisedly at times like these they insisted he returned with them to the village and stay for the night. When he tried to decline they reminded him that he was still in their debt for the story and that nothing less than a round of beers would do, so he relented.