Syrra darted through the crowds of people, arms wrapped around a bucket of water, desperately trying to avoid being crushed in the throng. Eventually, after a good deal of pushing, shoving and elbowing, she finally reached a clear space at the very edge of the square. Sharp-featured and with fierce dark eyes and scruffy red-brown hair, the neat plait already falling into disarray around her shoulders, she stood at the edge of the throng, panting and looking for a clear way through the mass.
It was Midsummer day and all through the village people were rushing around with brightly coloured baskets or lengths of cloth all ready to decorate the huge tables that had been set up at the centre of the square. Huffing in a frustrated manner, Syrra started to carefully negotiate her way around the edge of the square, keeping close to the edge of the large rectangular space. Small children darted beneath her feet and their parents bustled merrily around, all hurrying to get ready for the festivities that would follow that night. The only one who wasn't doing something was a tall, sallow man who stood beside one of the huge tables, his brown monastic habit hanging in folds off his skeletal frame and pale eyes narrowed in disapproval over his enourmous hooked nose. Syrra rolled her eyes, only Father Michael, the sullen, moody priest who had decided to set up home in the village, could possibly find anything amiss with the celebrations. Despite his attempts to convert everyone to this new religion, most of what he said went unheard. People were more than happy to stick with their old gods and cared very little for Michael's rants about eternal damnation and the staining of their soul.
Finally, after picking her way nervously through a throng of gossiping women, Syrra reached her destination. Her mother, tall and dark like Syrra, fixed her youngest child with a sharp look.
"What took you so long girl? Friyja's Teeth, I sent you for water an hour ago!"
"Sorry Mam," said Syrra apologetically, biting back her excuses and hiding them behind a look of pentinence. She had learnt long ago not to argue with her mother. Fair though she was, she had a sharp tongue and was more than willing to use it. Even Aidan, the burly blacksmith who helped catch the young stallions in the summer and the indesputably the strongest man in the village, was sure to stay out of her bad books.
After giving Syrra a firm telling off and threatening her with a smacking if she took so long again, her mother sent her off to fetch more water. Nodding obediently, Syrra grabbed another empty jug and darted back into the crowd, heading for the small river that ran through the village.
The smell of baking bread hung heavy in the air, the sounds of a thousand happy voices rang out across the square and all around there were coloured banners and garlands of lillies, symbols of summer's fertility. Darting under a vegetable cart, Syrra turned and took one last look back at the hustle and noise of the square before, taking her jug firmly in her hand, she turned and raced through the village towards the river and the peace and solace of the Upper Meadows.