Prologue

'Summer is a good season for a long journey'

Amairgin, poet and warrior of ancient Celtic Ireland

 

A lake nestles among hills and mountains, their peaks shrouded in mist. The water is grey, still, hardly a ripple breaking its silver surface. Then a breeze raises a flutter. It becomes a wave. The wave travels across the lake until it reaches a pebbly shore. It seethes as it tumbles over the pebbles and soaks away. Another wave and yet another break the surface. They seem to appear from the centre of the lake. As if they are coming from inside the lake.
    A golden boat is moored by a rope to a tree on the shore. The boat bobs up and down with each wave.
    And the waves are carrying something with them.
    Whatever it is drifts along, lifeless, half-submerged. Just an edge is in view. It appears to be a bundle. Perhaps a mass of twigs. Or a nest. Maybe a dead animal. Waves break over it. But still it is pushed to the shore. More waves follow it, propelling it along.
    As it reaches the shore it is washed up onto the pebbles. One end, matted with black hair, is beached. Other parts, fleshy and naked, drift in the water, swaying to right and left, dragging under the waves, arising again. An arm, perhaps, or a leg. Not moving by themselves. Only being carried along by the water.
    The waves crash over the matted black hair, parting it, revealing a tiny space underneath. Skin. The water flows into the tiny space, opening it up with each new wave. A face becomes visible. A woman’s face. Drowned.
    The mist rolls down the mountainside, sweeps across the lake, claims the body.

Mist and steam.

A huge cauldron stands on an iron frame. Steam spirals above it. Below it a fire rages, crackles, blazes, sending sparks dancing up into the dark eaves. Smoke billows from under the cauldron, around the iron frame. Two figures approach, half in shadow, half in steam. They carry a heavy weight between them.

As the figures turn, the steam separates for a moment to reveal their load: a body. The drowned woman. Her body limp. Long black, curly hair is plastered to her back. Her pale arms and hands sway heavily. The figures shift the woman’s body, lean over the steaming cauldron and slip the body inside, poking it down with a wooden stick until it is completely submerged.

Steam and mist.

The woman is panting and mewing. Two women around her croon encouraging words and wipe her face with a cool cloth. The room is heavy with steam.
    The naked woman, her thick black hair glued to her head with sweat, is kneeling inside the cauldron, leaning over the edge. Under the cauldron embers glow from a tired fire.
    The water in the cauldron is warm, delicious, soothing. The woman feels another rush coming from inside her, a strong wave of energy commanding her body. She groans and leans into the edge of the cauldron as the wave opens her. She feels a surge of power, of strength. She unhooks one hand from the edge of the cauldron and feels down into the water.
    She touches her baby’s head, strokes it, cradles it. Her fingers flutter. Another wave of energy moves through her and she feels her baby’s whole body slip out of her and into her hands under the water. She gently brings her baby up to her and cradles him in her arms.

The End

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