Raid on Anglesey {Alexander Brodie}

 

   The youngsters in my care huddled together in fear as the Roman soldiers stormed the beaches of the Isle of Anglesey. We had been in a rousing session of spell work when word reached us of their landing. Their intent was clear, annihilation. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gripped with fear for myself, which gave me the overwhelming desire to cloak myself with a spell and run. Alas, the children were left in my care and my responsibility to them outweighed my own fears. It did leave me with a few thoughts, however. If I could extend the spell to the children and they stay huddled and silent. I rolled my eyes at that thought, 14 completely terrified children stay together and silent. Who was I kidding? I had to come up with another plan, and fast. I didn’t even like children, by the gods, I should just leave them! I threw a glance back at them and one striking redhead with piercing blue eyes engaged me. Her old soul connects with mine and I see a flash of her past life. I swore right there, I would get them out, even if it cost me mine. 

    I asked Gaia to show me where the soldiers were on the island so I could plan our escape. She sent me images of several of our ritual sites and homes being burned to the ground or destroyed by other means, but that told me enough. This was my home, I knew places hidden from the unknowledgeable. I replied to her that we would need a passage to the cave system opened for us and she parted the earth in the corner next to me, a natural stone staircase forming in a curved pitch into the caverns below. I motioned to the children to remain silent and for them to begin their descent from oldest to youngest. As the children pass me, I tell them each a spell to repeat as they walk. The whispering filled the caverns as we continued through the cave system. Closing the earth back as if it had never been an opening or staircase, Gaia completed her task. The eldest child at the front was given the spell for illumination and was leading  the way through the dark cavern system to the beach at the end. 

      We meandered through the massive cave system for a while. Periodically I would ask Gaia to show me the location of the Roman’s above us and every time, it was all I could do to remain calm. My home and family were being plowed down and I was cowering in a cave! This time was a vision of Albin throwing balls of light at a row of soldiers. They fell in a bright explosion as the light hit them and expanded. The whispers from the children varied in volume as the children began to wear from the travel. After what seemed like hours, I finally saw the light ahead of us as we reached the end of the cave system. I passed the children so I could beat them to the entrance of the cave. As I arrived at the opening, I cast the invisibility spell and told the children to stay back behind the lip of the cave. I peeked my head out and looked around. The beaches were relatively empty as the soldiers had moved inland. There were a few standing guard at the boats, but half of them were huddled up talking, not paying attention. I looked for the closest boat and devised a plan to move the children. I had to get 14 little bodies across the beach and into a boat without alarming the men…I was insane. I stepped up onto the outcropping surrounding the cave to get a better look. Sighing, I stepped back down to the sand and back to the children. They huddled around me as I dropped the spell. “Well, how are we going to get away from here?” the redhead asked. Her voice was surprisingly level despite the circumstances. I caught her blues eyes and replied to the group. 

     “OK, so, you know how I gave each of you a spell to say all the way down here?” They nodded in response. “Good, can you tell me what they meant?” They nodded and again one by one they told me their spell and what they were for. Fire, Wind, Light, a wave of power typically used to knock your opponent off their feet. They all continued, some with repeating spells. “Good, now remember, you do not have the unlimited power of Gaia, yet. You must save enough energy to keep moving. Do you understand?” The fourteen heads surrounding me bobbed.”Ok, here’s the plan. There is a boat large enough for us to all fit in about 5m away. The guards are about 15m away. I will do everything in my power to make us all invisible, but I cannot guarantee I can hide everyone. I need you all two to three deep, so you are still in a smaller bunch, OK?” They nodded again.

      They lined up in rows, smaller ones behind the larger ones. I reached out to Gaia again for help. She shook the ground under the Roman’s feet and while they were distracted I pulled energy from her and sent my spell of invisibility down the line of children. It flickered but it worked better than I expected. Now, how long it would last was another story altogether. We took off from the cave entrance towards the boat at the water’s edge. My spell began to falter and the flickering grew worse, practically acting as a beacon instead of camouflage. I yelled back to the children to drop to the ground and as they complied, I dropped the spell, turning my power and attention to the soldiers. I threw the same balls of light Albin had been throwing then switched it to fire. “NOW!” I yelled and the children joined me in throwing their spells.

     “Little ones to the boat, now…go go go!” The smaller ones that would have less stamina were sent first. The middle size children were slowing down with their barrage, so I knew they were running low, too. There were only three of them so I sent them on as well. Finally, it was just me and the older three. A few of the guards slipped out of ranks, and using the ocean, flanked us. I heard a clater from the boat and the children behind me screamed. I turned to look, dropping my guard for a second before one of the older children beside me cried out as well. “Ifreann fuilteacha” I yelled as all hell seemed to break out. Both groups of children were being attacked and there was only one of me. I threw my left hand out and threw a ball of light at the soldier with his sword raised to a boy’s chest. Turning my head I threw three more light balls towards the boat, striking the men trying to climb aboard. I yelled at the older kids still on the shore to run to the boat and we took off together. We clambered into the boat and pushed off from the shoreline. Two of the older lads began rowing the boat away from the island as I kept throwing light and fire. Crying began behind me as my energy waned and the island grew out of range. I turned back towards the stern of the boat to assess the children to find bloody water sloshing at my feet. “NO! No no no no!” I stepped forward towards the huddled and crying children to find several of the smaller children had not escaped the blade of the soldiers before I got to them. I knelt in the center of the boat and checked all the children. I gently picked up and cradled each one of the children that didn’t make it. I prayed to the gods to grant them a safe passage until their new life and slipped them overboard into the water. The others continued sobbing as their friends were released and I felt no reason to interrupt them. I felt so empty and lost as I looked at each life left in my care. How would I take care of all of them alone? Where would we go? These and so many more questions filled my mind as we headed to the mainland.Then it occured to me…what if there were more soldiers on the banks of the mainland, too?

Moving Day {Alexander Brodie}

 

    Waking as the dawn crept into my window, I stretched and greeted the day. “Morning Gaia,” I said as my feet touched the cold, hard floor. A warmth filled me despite the chill in the air as Gaia communed with me. I made up my bed and took out a clean linen shirt from the old wooden chest at the foot. After the quick change from my nightshirt to the fresh one, I bent to pick up my plaid and began the process of folding and laying it out. It was a methodical, but soothing, part of my day. The pleats and folds lined up perfectly with the pattern and weave the loom created. I lay on the floor, lining my belt up with my hips, and folded the longer, flat sections of fabric over my stomach before buckling my belt to hold it in place. When I stood, the long back flap of material hung to the middle of my calf. I gathered the remnant and folded it over my shoulder, tucking it into belt at the front. Pulling aside the room dividing curtain, I made my way to the hearth and stoked the remaining embers before laying some fresh logs on, restarting yesterday’s flames. The daily routine was cathartic, but leads to complacency. Complacency, often leads to trouble. As the logs caught alight I prepared my tea for the kettle. Standing at my apothecary cabinet, I filled the thin cloth with the special mix of herbs and whispered the spell into it as I do almost every day. Immortali-tea is a special blend of herbs and spells that help my youthful appearance. It’s my time in a cup, but also leads to interesting questions that keep me moving often. 

     Today is moving day. I tied the cloth and dropped it into the kettle, swinging the iron arm over the now lapping flames. I cut off some cheese and nibbled on it as I began packing my jars and containers of herbs into a hay-filled crate. The townspeople were coming in less and less often and the whispers had begun. I knew my time here was coming to a close and it is better to move before the hate and fear sets in. I moved on to the book cabinet, pulling my key out from under my shirt where I kept it around my neck, and unlocked the cabinet. There were some dangerous and rare books in my collection so I kept it under lock and key. Druids, as a rule, do not keep a written copy of spells, rituals and histories. Such things could be very dangerous if they came into the wrong hands…even agòrach mortals playing around with them could cause irreparable damage to the balance we are sworn to uphold. Rotating the scrolls and books in each crate, I was able to both cushion the books and distribute the weight between two of them. Pouring myself a second cup of tea, I moved on to my living quarters. One of my few remaining friends were scheduled to stop by with his horses and wagon later to help me load up the massive loom that was my livelihood, so I needed to be completely ready by the time he got here. 

     Most of my things were neatly put away, so I knew the packing in here would be quick. I folded the blankets from the bed I had made earlier and set them into the same chest I had pulled my shirt out of earlier that morning, Dragging another chest out from under my bed, I folded my feather mattress into thirds and dropped it into the second chest. Next I moved on to my room dividing curtains and quickly snipped the fastening leathers I had used to attach them onto the rope hung from each end of the room. By the time I finished folding the heavy fabric and packing the rest of my wares and supplies, my friend had arrived. Looking around, memories of customers, friends and travelers that visited my shop over the years flooded my mind. Grinning, I squatted and gripped one corner of the loom, “One, two, three, LIFT,” we strained, lifted the loom and shuffled in unison to the door. Setting it down at the doorway to adjust our grip, we made small talk about the shenanigans we had gotten into over the last few years. We continued lugging the monstrous thing out to the wagon, stopping one more time before lifting it into the back. We both walked back inside and grabbed a crate or two. We took the heavy, room dividing fabric and carefully covered the loom with it, tying it down before loading the crates around it. The disassembled bed frame and fireside bench went next then the shelves and cabinets. We finished the load off with the large chests containing my clothes and bedding and lashed everything down. I pulled the door too and my friend handed me a hammer. I put the tines between the door and my sign and tugged. A sold crack rang in my ears as the nalis loosened and the sign popped off. I dropped my arms to my side as I stared at the square of darker wood on the door where the sun couldn’t reach. I took a deep breath and sighed. Another chapter closed. Turning to my friend, I handed him back his hammer and clutched my sign and we climbed into the front of the wagon together. He snapped the reigns and the wagon jostled forward.

The Weaver

 

The weaver sits in the middle of the circle of stone, the full moon beaming down on her, feeding her its power. Her task never-ending, to weave and mind, cut and start anew. Where one life ends, another begins. Does this life deserve another chance or should it end here forever? The interlocking weft was perfect as an eternity of practice would lead to.

”Ah yes, this one will be a good match for this soul, let’s interlock them here.” Another weft and another life begins. Arianrhod sighed and stretched and lightning lit up the sky. She seemed to get the most done when the moon was full. Tonight’s tapestry seemed to be perfection. Her wrinkled, old fingers moved with such grace and speed, in and out, through and through. Her silver hair whipped in the breeze as the mortal’s appearance over the horizon disrupted her work. She was caught off guard as no one ever dared approach her before. The human had a strange aura to her. And Arianrhod cocked an eyebrow. The mortal bowed as she reached the outer birth of the circle to the weaver.

“What are you and how dare you interrupt me on such an important night?” The weaver asks.

“I apologize my goddess, but I have questions and this is the only time you are on this plain.”

The goddess sighed as she knew the mortal was correct. “How can I help you? And what are you? I can see you are different.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I am a Druid, among other things, and I’d like to know about my, well, my life.”

“Excuse me? I do not share such things, I don’t care who or what you are. Your life is what you make of it, you ought to know that.”

“I beg your pardon, ma’am, but that is not true. You are responsible for the warps and loops we take. I wish to know if mine is always so… well, so knotted and tangled.”

The goddess took a deep breath, clearly annoyed. Just then, lightning ran across the sky again and the druid gulped. The mortal was pushing her luck, but she had to know. “Come here druid, let me see who you are.”

Taking a few more steps towards the goddess, the druid straightened her back and dared to look her directly in the eye. Her orange hair flourished in the wind and the moonlight reflected off the silver scar across her face by her left ear. The goddess took her in and returned her gaze.

“Fenella MacHugh, dear child. Why did I not know it was you? You would be the only mortal impudent enough to approach me.” The druid smiled, almost in pride at the statement. “I cannot tell you what you want to hear, but I can tell you your life will be long and very, very full and wondrous.” And with that, the weaver turned back to her tapestry and the druid walked away from the circle.