It was one of those beautiful spring days that would make even the most cynical person on earth have hope for the future. We were in very strange times. Perhaps many times are strange. It’s strange to hang someone on a cross, it’s strange to behead someone, it’s strange to light a fire under someone’s feet. To take a life is the strangest thing of all and yet humans do it so readily, easily, and often.
Strange how we had just emerged from the “dark ages.” But in so many ways our age was still just as dark.
But on that day, all those things seemed very far away. With nary a cloud in the sky, the sun warmed the soil, and the heather and grasses swayed gently in the breeze.
Byron politely extricated himself from Aileen’s clutches, with the help of several men from neighboring cottages who called from the dirt path in front of her cottage.
“Come, tell us of your travels.”
“What news can you share with us?”
“We have more food for you if you’re still hungry.”
They walked him to the square—it wasn’t anything formal, really, just some slabs of rock in the center of all of the cottages. It was more of a circle.
“You are most kind,” Byron said.
“To rescue you from Aileen’s clutches? Yes, we’re very kind to do that,” William chuckled, but quietly since Aileen was not too far away, following the group, obviously despondent that her food offering and allure hadn’t kept him longer.
Byron’s smile relayed that that’s exactly what he’d meant. The murmuring in the square drew the rest of the villagers from their homes, and all of the residents, from our eldest elder to the youngest babe, was in a tight circle around him. Travelers were our only source of news.
“Tell us what you know.”
“Have you heard that Queen Elizabeth—” But he’d glanced up at the hillside where Catriona and Elspeth were walking down the pathway. The royals of far-off London were instantly forgotten as our local royal was spotted. Catriona’s wall of hair shimmered in the sunshine. She was talking intently to Elspeth and had not yet noticed the entire village watching, waiting. In fact, it was Elspeth who noticed, and she nudged her sister.
It wasn’t unusual for all of us to be gathered together. Actually, we needed nary an excuse to be as one group, especially on a beautiful day. But Catriona’s eyes immediately rested upon the stranger in the center of our circle, both human and symbolic.
She actually stopped. Not much swayed this lass, not much at all. But this time she stopped.
No one moved. Nay, there was one who left: Aileen. But for the rest of us—ach, you think we were going to miss this? We didn’t have books and movies. We didn’t have many real-life romantic stories. We had wind and weather and crops and births and deaths and, aye, even weddings with dancing and singing and blushing brides and all. But we rarely had the opportunity to witness the very moments that fairy tales are written about. No, not often.
What could have been going through her mind? What was she thinking? Aye, here was a young buck far more handsome than any our village had to offer, but it was more than that. When I passed from this world to the other worlds, I knew. She’d been with him before. She’d be with him again. And at that moment, her entire being—body, mind, spirit, heart, crown, radiance—remembered him.
Ach, at the time, we even knew, too, although we didn’t know that we knew. What we did know, clearly, was that Beltane wasn’t going to wait for these two.
How did she make it past one hundred and seventy-six eyes looking at her—of course we couldn’t count her own, Elspeth’s, Aileen’s, or those of the two babes—without seeing a one of them? The only eyes she saw were his.
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