theravenboy: (old Bran)
[personal profile] theravenboy
"A very old custom, you see," Bran explains, as he drives Will down the dark roads towards Tywyn, "all the men singing in Christmas morning. Twenty years ago, or thereabouts, the tradition was beginning to fade, and there were not enough people in all the churches and the chapels. So the churches came together, and everyone began meeting at St Cadfan's instead of spreading out. Now it is becoming fashionable again, among the younger people, and in a few years now we may all have to go off to our separate churches."

Date: 2007-12-20 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
"How many of the songs am I likely to know?"

Date: 2007-12-20 04:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
"Yes," Will says softly, and it's the Old One's quiet voice in Bran's dark car, and the Old One's long deep solemnity.

And then, after a moment, "Are Emrys and Owen Arthur in any of these choir groups, or will we all be listening together?"

Date: 2007-12-20 05:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
Will shuts the door, tucking his scarf absently into his coat, and comes around the car to walk alongside Bran. Matching his strides to his friend's these days means slowing to an old man's deliberate pace, but it's companionable all the same.

Anyone looking at them as they enter the brightly lit church will see Bran Davies, and the friend he first invited to visit several years ago: William Stantz, round-faced and brown-haired and middle-aged, and not very much at all like his poor dead friend Will Stanton, really. Even if they would be hard-pressed to pin down what precisely that difference might be.

Date: 2007-12-21 02:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owendavies.livejournal.com
The antechamber is crowded with people. They are all speaking quietly to each other, as befits the day, but there are enough people talking in the little stone room to fill the air with a buzz of conversation.

Near the door into the church proper, Owen Arthur Davies is taking candles from the verger at the doorway, in return for a few pounds' donation to the church maintenance fund. He raises a hand to Will and Bran in greeting.

Bran manages to break a path towards his son by saying something like, "Excuse me, a merry Christmas to you, and how is your wife, Mr Hughes?" to each person he and Will pass.

Date: 2007-12-21 05:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
Will trails in Bran's wake through the chatting crowd of parishioners. He knows many of the people here, at least slightly, but not all; only a few of them know William Stantz, though. So he bestows impartially amiable smiles on the people he squeezes past, and gets friendly nods in return.

"Merry Christmas, Bran," a white-haired man says, in friendly Welsh. He's older than Bran, but less frail; he's kept his health well, has Rhys Evans. "It is good to see you here, and how is Margaret? Merry Christmas to you," he adds in English to William, with a smile for the stranger.

Will smiles at his cousin, cheerful and bland. "Merry Christmas," he answers.

Date: 2007-12-21 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owendavies.livejournal.com
Owen Arthur, accepting his cue without a pause, says, "An old school friend of mine, who was traveling this way. William lives in New Zealand, if you can believe it. Good to have you here, William, we will make you a Welshman yet."

Rhys beams at the visitor. "Now, that is a long way to travel. But there is nowhere better than here to come for Christmas, and I am sure the Davies family is delighted to see you."

Date: 2007-12-21 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
"They're marvelous," William agrees.

Rhys's cousin Will is dead these several years, drowned in a boating accident off Cornwall, and there are many reasons it's better that way for everyone. So William smiles cheerfully, meeting a friendly old man for the first time, and Will carefully does not think of a laughing young man in a Land-Rover and a middle-aged man getting married.

That will be for later.

"And this valley is beautiful. It's been a wonderful Christmas."

Date: 2007-12-24 05:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owendavies.livejournal.com
"And will be better still," Rhys laughs. "You have come to our plygain, and that is something to see. And hear, too. Not many visitors have that chance."

Date: 2007-12-24 05:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
Cheerfully, "I'm looking forward to it."

Date: 2007-12-24 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owendavies.livejournal.com
"Of course," Owen Arthur answers easily, "for both of you and for Emrys and the boys too, whenever they get here. Here you are, now," he says, passing tall white candles to his father and to Will. "Good seeing you, Mr Evans, and my regards to your family."

Date: 2007-12-24 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
"And mine," Will says. His smile is bright and bland and friendly.

If he has extra reasons to mean it, Rhys will not guess them.

"Thanks," he adds to Owen Arthur, and turns away to follow Bran.

Date: 2007-12-26 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
Holly, bright-berried, to guard against the Dark. For a moment Will remembers Old George's wrinkled face and creaking voice, and his warning that came not from an aged farmhand to the neighbor's youngest boy but from Old One to Old One. Another December, long ago.

He smiles slightly, watching the candle-flame gutter and then flare into doubled light. Yes, he does not need to say.

"And the days growing longer," he says instead, lifting his candle away. "Sun and fire both, and people gathered together in this sanctuary... Lovely."

Fire shall fly, he thinks, idly, feeling the waxy white taper cool against his fingers. His mind is on the past, tonight. Perhaps it's no surprise.

Date: 2007-12-26 05:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owendavies.livejournal.com
"And the coming of the New Year for all of us," Owen Arthur adds, as he holds his own taper out to take the flame from Will. "What better way could there be to renew the year, at its darkest moment?"

He is no Old One, Owen Arthur, nor does he know what Bran Davies knows about Will Stanton, but he understands the old symbols very well.

"Here," he continues, as the three men walk up the sanctuary aisle, "fix the taper into an empty holder." There are several holders at the end of a pew near the middle of the church, and enough vacant space in the same pew for the group to sit in. Owen Arthur places his own taper in a holder and slides into the pew.

Date: 2007-12-26 05:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
"Four days back, that," Will says mildly, "but yes. You're right." It's said with half a smile, to take away any hint of correction, because the deeper truth there is what matters.

Will obeys, sliding the candle into an empty slot in the candle-ring and twisting to make certain it's secure. He lets Bran make his slow way into the pew first, to sit next to his son, and follows after.

Up front, a man is checking his harp's tuning, just to make certain.

Date: 2007-12-27 04:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owendavies.livejournal.com
The men of Tywyn (and some women, here and there) file into the pews, and when the pews are filled, people sit on extra seats pushed hastily into the back of the room, and a few stand in the aisle. (Emrys Medraut Davies and his son are among the last to arrive, and they squeeze into the back of the church.)

When all are settled, the vicar comes up to the pulpit and welcomes the company. Switching back and forth between lilting Welsh and English translation, he speaks briefly of the birth of Christ and the rebirth of the year, and of the joining of the community together in the darkness before dawn.

Then he introduces the harpist and several other elderly men of the Anglican parish to sing an introductory hymn.

Date: 2007-12-27 04:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sign-seeker.livejournal.com
The hymn is long and Welsh, and if the men's voices quaver slightly in the high range, their harmony is true. It's well done, and it fits well in this church of holly and light.

William shouldn't be able to understand the words, and so he's careful to keep his look of polite interest just bland enough for incomprehension. But an Old One can speak and understand any language of the earth if he chooses to do so. Tonight, for many reasons, Will does.

Date: 2007-12-27 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owendavies.livejournal.com
The vicar returns to the pulpit to lead the morning service, making certain liturgical compromises to accommodate the Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and even a few Catholics filling the church today. "Amen," say all the voices in the church. "Amen."

Then it is all singing: group after group of men coming up to praise God in solos and harmonies, as the candles slowly burn lower.

Emrys comes to the front with the Presbyterians for Teg Wawriodd Boreuddydd, while Bran and Owen Arthur sing Wel Dyma'r Borau Gorau i Gyd among the Methodists. Owen Arthur's voice rings through the room for the baritone solo.

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Bran Davies

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