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One Sun, One Moon, Two Stars

Chapter 1

The Rufus Stone

 

Who are they? Jonathan stared at the others sitting beside him on the rug. The boy had his long legs tucked under him and was eating his way through the plate of bread and butter. He glanced at the girl…Victoria… at least he’d remembered one of their names. She was quite pretty he decided, with her reddish ponytail dancing every time she moved her head. But it didn’t stop him
from wanting to know why they were here. He’d given up his annual visit to his French
grandparents to come to the New Forest with Sylvene. She’d never said anything about these two coming as well. Which is probably why he’d felt put out when the mini had driven into the farmyard and he’d seen them sitting in the back.
     Jonathan rubbed his forehead. The niggling headache he’d had last night just before the thunderstorm was bothering him again. He looked up. Was there going to be another storm? The air felt heavy and oppressive enough, yet there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Yawning, he put down the book he’d been reading, propped himself on his left elbow and studied the others again. He usually got on with everyone so why was he so cross? Why did he resent them?
      Get over it, he told himself, don’t let it spoil the holiday. Determined to be pleasant he sat up, filled two mugs with tea and held one out to Victoria.
     She smiled and put it on grass beside the rug. “Thanks,” she said and turned away to watch a family of four heading for the car park.
       Jonathan shrugged. So much for trying! Well if she didn’t want to be friendly it was okay by him. He picked up ‘The Camper’s Guide to the New Forest’ and stared blankly at the page.
      Why had Sylvene invited them?
      He looked across at her, curled up in the corner of a nearby bench sipping tea. She smiled at him then frowned. “Ben, do you want me to get some more bread?” she asked as the other boy reached for the last slice.
      Ben! Of course! That was his name Jonathan thought, glad he hadn’t had to ask.
       “Mmm… nnm… thwanks,” Ben spluttered.
      Sylvene raised her eyes skywards. “What on earth was that supposed to mean?”
      “I think – ‘no thanks’,” said Jonathan.
      “Oh… that’s a relief; but what about you two? You haven’t eaten anything. I’m pretty certain I packed a box of muesli and there’s still plenty of milk.”
      “No thanks,” they chorused; then grinned at each other self-consciously.
      “Sure?”
      Victoria nodded. “Quite sure, honestly. I’m not hungry.”
      Sylvene glanced at her wristwatch. “In that case shall we make a start? Victoria, how about helping me with the picnic? Jonathan and Ben, could you do the washing up and then tidy the tent?”
      “Where are we going for this picnic?” Ben asked sounding rather bored.
      “I thought the Rufus Stone.”
      “Oh! Do we have to go there?”
      “Why, what’s wrong with the Rufus Stone?”
      “Nothing! I’d just assumed you’d take us to the village.”
      “The vill… oh you mean East Oakhurst.” Sylvene stood up. “No, I don’t think so… at least not on our first day. But you needn’t worry, we’ll go there soon – I promise.”
      With a screech of its tyres the red mini reversed out of the parking spot scraping the next door car with its wing mirror. Jonathan fastened his seat belt and grinned at his companion in the back. “Her driving doesn’t get any better, does it?”
      Clutching the strap hanging down over the window as Sylvene drove out of the camp car park Ben shook his head. “No, worse if anything… Ouf…” he gasped and tightened his grip on the strap as the car leap-frogged the potholes pitting the mile or so of track between the campsite and the main road. It rumbled over a cattle grid and Sylvene slammed on the brakes. Wheels spinning on loose gravel the mini jerked to a stop in the entrance to the site.
      All of them stared out of the windows. Streams of cars and buses charged towards them from
Every direction along the dual-carriageway. Sylvene put her foot down hard on the accelerator. The car shot forward, turned into a tiny gap and tagged on to the tail end of a long line of vehicles. Horn blaring, a black Mercedes roared by, the driver shaking his fist.
      “Idiot!” She scowled and changed gear.
      Jonathan grabbed the edge of his seat and leaned forward. “Where are we going?”
      “Cadnam!” Sylvene wrenched at the steering wheel. The car swerved off the main road into a narrow lane. “Bother – now there’s a pony and she’s got a foal. I do wish they wouldn’t wander aimlessly around the Forest.”
      “It is their home,” said Victoria staring anxiously through the windscreen.
      “Why Cadnam?” Jonathan asked when the mare and foal had been safely overtaken.
      “Because…” Sylvene honked the horn at a small flock of sheep standing on the side of the road. They turned and ran into the scrub, tails whisking angrily. “Because it’s where we turn off for the Rufus Stone.”
      “The rufus stone?” Victoria looked at her puzzled. “You mentioned that earlier… back at the camp. What exactly is a rufus stone?”
      “Not a… the Rufus Stone,” said Ben smugly. “It’s a sort of monument. It’s supposed to be the exact spot where William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror, died. Though now-a-days some historians say it’s not. Anyway he was killed when hunting deer in the New Forest, allegedly by Sir Walter Tyrell.”
      “Oh… really!” Victoria sounded anything but interested. “I still don’t see why we’re making a special trip to see his monument.”
      “It’s the first place most people do visit when they come to the forest,” said Sylvene slowing down. “Bother! I missed the signpost. Did any of you see which way we have to go?”
      “Left!” Victoria said looking back.
      “And I thought you’d be interested,” Sylvene continued as though her train of thought hadn’t been interrupted. “It’s a fascinating period of history…”
                 “Sylvene’s such an archaeological freak, isn’t she?” whispered Ben in Jonathan’s ear.
      Jonathan stared at the back of Sylvene’s head, he’d never heard her mention archaeology.
      “What’s that, Ben? I wish you wouldn’t mumble,” she grumbled turning into a car park on the edge of a glade.
      “Nothing,” he said quickly.
      “Hmm…” Sylvene sniffed loudly and switched off the engine. “You don’t have to take my word for it. You can see people find this place intriguing. There are at least six coaches parked over there – one’s even French – and I’m not going to begin to count the cars.”
      Sylvene wasn’t exaggerating. There seemed to be hundreds of people milling around.
      “It’s a pity it’s turned into such a lovely day,” she murmured. “We could do with a good shower of rain. Nothing dampens the day-trippers’ enthusiasm like a good old English down-pour. It sends them running to the nearest tea-rooms.”
      Victoria squinted up at the clear blue sky. “Well you’re going to be out of luck! There aren’t even any clouds.”
      “Really… so what are those over there?”
      “Okay… there are a few but look how far away they are and they’re heading in the opposite direction.”
      Sylvene leaned back in her seat. “Why don’t we wait and see?”
      Jonathan sighed. Had it been such a good idea to come on this holiday? If all they were going to do was bicker and troop round to dreary monuments or boring archaeological sites, he might as well have gone to France. At least there he’d have met up with some of his cousins.
      “Here comes the rain.”
      Jonathan blinked and stared out of the window. A moment ago the sun had been shining – now it was pouring.
      As the first huge raindrops splattered the glass Sylvene looked at him in the mirror and smiled smugly. “See,” she said. “What did I say? They don’t like rain. Now we’ve got the place to ourselves.
Shall we take a closer look at the Stone?”
      “Oh – what a cheat. It’s not even a stone.” Jonathan stared indignantly at the triangular sheet of metal thrust deep into the ground.
     “That doesn’t matter.” Sylvene’s eyes glittered. “It’s the atmosphere. The history! It’s all around – in every tree, every brook, even in each blade of grass. Can’t you feel it?”
      He shook his head. “No!” he said baldly. “All I can feel is rain dripping down my neck. Can’t we go back to the car?”
      “Just a few more minutes,” said Sylvene.
      Disconsolate, Jonathan mooched up to the monument and began to read:
‘Here stood the oak tree on which an arrow shot by
Sir Walter Tyrell at a stag glanced and struck
King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the
breast of which he instantly died on the Second day
of August 1100.’
“What’s the date, Sylvene?”
      “The second of August.”
      “BEN!”
      Jonathan wheeled round. “What’s he doing?”
      Victoria pointed. “The idiot… he’s carving something on that tree. It would serve him right if he got caught. Sylvene can’t you…” her voice died away. She looked around, bewildered.
      “What is it now?”
      “Sylvene… she’s gone!”