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My breath felt like fire as it burnt a painful path through my windpipe. The urge to give up and turn back was strong but a quick glance ahead assured me I was almost there. Like an animal I clawed my way to the top grabbing handful after handful of purple heather in clutching, sweaty palms. As I pushed myself to the limit I experienced a heart stopping primal rush that was new to me and hard to explain. But this was what I wanted. I needed to feel alive again.
Finally I was there. Black dots swam in my field of vision as I took in the magnificent view. Blinking them away I reached out and touch the cold ancient stones, wanting to connect in some indefinable way.
This was the place of the fallen, the final resting place of Connacht’s bravest warriors. Men of battle forgotten by time. What were they like? I wondered feeling the pitted surface of the granite. Did their women folk climb all this way to mourn their passing? Or were their warriors buried and then forgotten?
The sacred burial ground consisted of a large group of cairns built atop a sweeping plateau. Because of its elevated position, sea breezes that were whispers in the grasses of the lower levels became almost gale force once they reached this hallowed spot.
Sitting in the lee side of the cairn nearest to me, I rested for a while to catch my breath. Scraggly gorse bushes shivered and shook in the fierce gusts and over head the clouds scurried by like tufts of lambs wool. Curiously I realised that the stone behind me felt warm to the touch; possibly warmed by the early morning sun as it had risen in the east.
It made for a comfortable resting place at any rate, so leaning back I took a long draught from my water bottle and then closed my eyes, enjoying the peace. My muscles were aching and my legs were tired, so not surprisingly it wasn’t long before I drifted into a strange and lucid sleep.
One moment it was as if I was looking down on myself from above the stone cairn and the next I was sitting against it vaguely aware of its warm surface against my back. More dozing followed, until it struck me that the stone had altered in some way. It was no longer hard and unyielding.
Frustratingly I was unable to move or turn around, but even so I felt sure that it was the warm body of a strong muscular male. At that point I must have sank into a deeper level of sleep, but every now and then I became aware of an arm around my waist or lips brushing my throat. Later I tried to brush them off as tantalising sensations invented by my subconscious, or were they?
Upon waking, I felt disoriented and it seemed as if no time at all had passed, but one look at the sinking sun told a very different story…