Little Gems - Earthfasts by William Mayne
Click here to listen to the end music (600Kb mp3)
Earthfasts adapted for television by Marilyn Fox
Keith wakes up suddenly not sure if he had dreamt it or not but
he thinks he saw a knight on a white horse. He looks out of his bedroom window.
It is misty outsider and not yet dawn. He opens the window and the thinks he
can hear men with battle armour. He brings the candle out from its cover and
places it in front of the window. The mists clear and then Keith sees hundreds
of knights and infantry men ready for battle. King Arthur's men have appeared
and are all waiting outside the house for Keith. As soon though as they had
appeared the mists then move in front again and the men vanish. Keith closes
the window as it is nearly dawn. As he turns around he sees two knights in his
bedroom. The fade into the darkness. Later that morning, Keith goes out. He
talks to his father about King Arthur and his knights. Dad tells him about the
round table and his famous sword. Keith ask about his army and what happened
to him. Keith's dad tells him that the legend sates King Arthur was wounded
in battle and that he was taken away and him and his knights, his entire army,
sleeps. When this country is in mortal danger, King Arthur and his knights will
Keith heads off for a walk to the fort where Nellie Jack John was posted. It is locked but a great wind and thunder appear and blows it open to allow Keith to enter. One of Keith's teachers is there to help Keith as he feared the lightning would take him. She takes care of him until he feels well again.
Later back in his bedroom, Keith sees another ghostly knight appear who draws a sword and points it at Keith. It is Arthur himself and as he points at the flame, he tells Keith he is the future. He then fades into the shadows. Keith then sees David's face in the flame but before he can do anything Keith;s dad bursts into his bedroom. Something is making a lot of noise outside. His dad opens the window and they look out. In front of them are hundreds of knights in full battle armour, readying their swords and spears. Keith's dad can hear some of the noise but cannot see anything. Keith though sees everything since he has looked into the flame. Keith's dad goes back to bed as he has to be up in the morning.
Keith takes the candle to the window and realises what he must do. He hears David's voice and then has a vision of where the candle used to rest. He must take the candle back to the place where Nellie Jack John found it. He leaves the house with the candle and the army follows him. He leads them back to the fort and they all follow silently. As they approach the locked gates, a thunderclap is heard and the gates burst open before them. Into the fort the whole army marches, knights on horses, men with spears.
Keith is unsure where to but this uncertainty causes the men to cry out which forces Keith to run. The army follows him but then stop. Keith turns around to see Arthur's sword pointing at him. Suddenly the fort changes and there appears a deep cave in front of him. Keith runs into the cave and meets David. David tells him to put the candle into the middle of the table. Keith is overjoyed to see David and does not instantly realise the peril he is in. Arthur attacks but David somehow manages to get the candle back where it should be. As the two boys watch, the knights fade and turn to rock. King Arthur and his knights are once again at rest. Keith though has a wounded arm but does not seem to notice it as he is so pleased to see David.
Keith asks David how long he thinks he has been in the cave. David tells him only a few minutes and that he remembers being on the moor. Keith tells him that he has been missing for weeks and that he is dead to the outside world. The two start looking for a way out. David feels an air current and helps Keith move out. As they progress through the tunnels, they hear a strange drumming. It is Nellie Jack John, pushing against time trying to get back. David realises he cannot go back as the candle is back in place. The boys catch him and they all make their way out back onto the hills. They emerge out of the hillside and it has been snowing. Something is wrong so David takes Keith and Nellie Jack John to Swang farm.
As they walk through the snow they see the standing stones have returned to normal. They reach the farm and are worried about what the time period is. Uncle Frank is not really surpised to see David or Nellie Jack John. Nellie Jack John is introduced as John Cherry and he is a bit of a traveller. Keith's aunt tells him to go upstairs and have a bath and then to change his clothes. Dr. Wix has been called. Keith realises that as he entered the cave, he too became a missing person and that he has been missing for a lot longer than David was when he first entered the cave. It is now February 1994. He has missed Christmas. Dr. Wix arrives at the farm to attend to Keith's arm. He sees David in the mirror but cannot believe his eyes. His dead son has returned to him. Dr. Wix asks Uncle Frank why he did not tell him over the telephone but Uncle Frank replies that he did not want him crashing into his new gate post. Dr. Wix goes upstairs to wash his hands and sees Nellie Jack John in the bath. Dr. Wix asks Nelly Jack John about his skin rash. Nelly Jack John does not seem to mind it. It was a real problem with men in the army in those days. Dr. Wix decides to sort out Keith first as he is injured.
Later David goes to see Keith who is in bed with his arm bandaged up. He tells Keith that the pigs (about 300 of them) have returned bang in the middle of the market place causing chaos. The boys then try to make sense of it all. David thinks that when Nellie Jack John picked up the candle, he disturbed a time that slept. Not just King Arthur, but of time before that. Times when Giants and Boggarts were on the earth. Keith is a bit miffed as he has missed Christmas but David reminds him that it could have been a lot worse. They could have missed 200 Christmas days like Nellie Jack John.
Keith then finishes off the story by telling us that Nellie Jack John stayed at Swang Farm and was happy there. The Boggart grew more and more idle until it eventually went to sleep again under the floor. This was a good thing since it had taken a fancy to cleaning the hen's eggs but everytime it washed one, it also turned it. In the end Uncle Frank had to buy a dozen or so pot eggs and make them dirty just to keep the Boggart content.
When the snow melted, Keith and David went to the standing stones again. Even though they tried, they never again found the entrance under the hill.
The Story (click on the images below to follow the drama as it unfolds)
Earthfasts - Main Page
And so ended a great piece of children's drama by the BBC. Sadly the sequel in the series called Cradelfasts (second book of the trilogy published in 1995, although odd that it was published nearly 30 years after Earthfasts - left on the back burner I suppose) never came to the big screen but remains in the book form. In this story, the adventure continues as David faces the mystery of a girl who mysteriously appears. The girl, he starts to suspect is his sister who he has just met out of the blue. David suspects something is wrong as he had been told that she died at birth but the girl is the right age and has the small toy that David had left his mother at the hospital with. David and his best friend Keith now face a very different journey, in which they both must face up to old ghosts from the past. The last book in the trilogy was called Candlefasts completed in 2000.
Earthfasts is fondly remembered by those who have requested it.
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