The Ballad of Stanton Moor

The Lord of Stanton Moor decreed
To mine its mineral wealth,
Regardless of its mystery
Or archaeological health.

The people protest to the Lord
And rulers of the land.
But no amount of eloquence
Can stay his greedy hand.

One eve I wandered on the moor
To see with my own eyes
What lies within the land up there
So many people prize.

I came across a ring of stones
At each a lady lay
Asleep in finery so grand
It took my breath away.

"What ails you, goodly gentlefolk?"
I asked them one and all.
One deigned to wake and with me spoke:
"Ah, pity our downfall."

"So many people like to see
The likes of such as we,
Their numbers cast on us a thrall
Of disability.

"Though they mean well and sought our good
And only came to save;
When here they asked to share our power
And took more than they gave.

"A few know how to give us back
The energy we keep;
But very few, and so we slip
E'er deeper into sleep.

"Our ability to aid our plight
Is gone beyond our skill;
But stay you here and dream with us
For peace we can grant still."

"It isn't peace I seek," I said
"But means to stay the law
which lets the Lord and government
bring harm to Stanton Moor."

"Then you must seek elsewhere for power,"
the gentle lady said.
And thereupon she lay back down
Upon her grassy bed.

So on I trudged, across the rise
To the second Stanton ring,
Half buried in the heather bank;
And there I met ...something.

It wasn't hob, nor elf nor sage,
But a little of all three.
And not a whit of fear I felt
For its presence was kindly.

Its circle hummed with steady power:
A focus of some sort.
"Feel free to use the source I guard"
It said, "But naught for naught."

I understood its words at once:
The ring was there for use;
But not to take without return,
For that would be abuse.

The power was reciprocal
And gift for gift required.
A principle I'd known for years
And thoroughly admired.

But night was drawing on apace
And I could give it nought;
For spending time and effort were
The major gifts it sought.

Without that strain and patience no
Reward could be obtained.
'Tis in that personal exertion
Reciprocity's sustained.

With apology I hurried on,
Wond'ring should I turn back.
But having come so far, I thought
To give up here was slack.

I carried on, in deepening dusk
Along the path to find
Ring Three, completely overgrown
And by the moor made blind.

The north wind cold, cut to the bone
The birds had stopped their call.
A stand of trees whispered unease:
Which made my chilled skin crawl.

"Turn back, turn back, you've gone too far,
the ring is far behind."
Was that some sort of guardian, or
A product of my mind?

What sought to hide from human kind
The truth of its existence?
What sort of sprite lived in this site
Deterring all persistence?

Despite the menace and the gloom
I vowed to find the spot.
And when I did, it was well hid:
An ordinary plot.

Most people would have passed it by
Without a second glance.
A small depression in the earth;
Nothing you'd find by chance.

I stood and waited, listening
For slightest indication
Of what it was that lived here, still
In excommunication.

I felt the slightest murmur, deep,
Deep under the cold ground.
And then I fled, the way I'd come,
Eager to make no sound.

I didn't want to rouse the thing.
I didn't want to know
What kind of creature made its home
Beneath the green hollow.

Beside the sleeping gentlefolk
I looked back at the sky;
That darkened as its wings unfurled
And Mars became its eye.

Indifferent to humankind
Its own purpose and might
Was all its motivation, and
Yardstick of wrong and right.

If I stood safe in Stanton Two
I might attempt to draw
This dragon to avenge the wrong
Being done to Stanton Moor.

Outside that bank of protection
My sole shield was respect
of the great Worm of Stanton Three
and so stood I erect.

We stood there thus, the Worm and I,
Its bulk the stars obscured.
And then it vanished from the night
And yet the fear endured.

And yet the fear endured because
It was beyond my ken.
That massive Worm would ne'er obey
The bidding of mere men.

But now I know it knows the plans
To quarry Stanton Moor.
But whether it will act, or when
No human can be sure.

I wonder still if with some friends
Using the power of Two
We could command the Worm of Three
To do what we would do.

So if you venture out one dusk
To roam out on the Moor,
And hear us weird-singing in Two –
Go home and lock the door.

©Alexa Duir 2004

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