While all these things happened, Avren was in the fields,
checking up on the wheat and killing pests he found.
He worked near the border, up near the boundary stone
which sits by the Red Stream. Some others worked nearby,
within shouting distance, but he was all alone.
Suddenly, there were men standing all around him,
closing in on all sides, arrayed in cloaks of brown
and armed with fine steel swords and staffs of polished oak,
with their faces covered. They all closed around him,
and bade him be silent. Avren started to draw,
and raise a shout to friends, but a sword-point touched his throat,
and so he stood silently, without weapon, waiting.
“You have strength to take me,” said the heron to them,
the hidden men in brown, “but that is not your thought,
or else I would be dead. You have some other plan.”
Spoke the browncloak master to Avren the heron:
“We risk life and kinship to approach you, Heron.
You’re a man of honor, and we respect your name,
for your deeds speak loudly. Yet we suspect your skills,
and have a test for them. Build here, in this meadow,
a temple to the Moon, that tracks her face and phase,
predicts the eclipses and the months of the year,
and also the Great Year, the circle of Methen.
If you should succeed here, we will make you a king.
But if you lied to us, we will pour out your blood
at a time of our choice, and grind your bones to dust,
to lay them, forgotten, in the lap of Ocean.
We will get you labor to move the many stones,
but you will design it, this circle for the Moon,
setting stakes to your plan, and giving the orders.
Can you really build it, or is this beyond you?
Speak to us truly, friend: can you build this circle?”
Avren gave them answer. “I’ll need a lot of men,
a thousand, maybe more. Sixty stones of four types,
one fair like the sunlight, the other dark as night,
one like white-gold granite, the others red as blood.
They will need to be shaped and fitted to my plan.
There needs be a roadway, up between the meadows,
running beside the stream, down to the harbor there.
A pillar will go there, in that notch between hills,
to mark the dancing moons, and a path must be made
between that notch and here, to set the circle right.
Methen’s circle is long, a wheel of many years.
Precision is vital: the building will be long,
seventeen years at least. Will you give me this time?
Must it be built at once, slipshod and lopsided?
Or can I have the years to build here properly?”
The browncloak master spoke, “We own the years that are;
time means nothing to us, Avren from oversea.
We will give you your years, seventeen from today.
But other forces work: you may not have that time,
for men grow impatient with Kembirel’s ruling
and taxes to Kemblis. Build here to last ages,
build for yourself swiftly. We will set your notch-stone
and cut you a lane here, and build the road for you.
We’ll find the stones you need, and set them by this field.
At the autumn’s balance, when light and dark are one,
things will be ready here, and you can continue.
Announce your intention to build a circle here
when you go to kawntradd; but say nothing of us.”
Then with a flash of light, the brown cloaks went away,
taking their mysteries with them into the woods.