Gwydion hadn't visited me since that kiss.
I thought of him day after day, as I swept my floors, as I prayed, as I put bread crumbs and apples under the fruitless apple tree. I still wondered why he had me put them there. Perhaps they were for the night animals that lived here. Maybe it was some sort of pagan ritual. It could be that the Virgin was punishing me for performing it.
I lay in bed one night after having put out the bread crumbs and apple. I couldn't fall asleep. It was two, maybe three hours past midnight. I had already read through the Bible for comfort and I still couldn't bring myself to sleep. I was fatigued - I had been harvesting crops from my garden all day and making my blue dress in the evening. I had been crying a lot too. And while my body was screaming for sleep my mind refused to rest.
Why wouldn't Gwydion visit me? Had I done something wrong? I had opened up to him and I had kissed him and talked to him and behaved toward him in ways that would make the Reverend Mother frown. Not that that made me feel bad. But it was not fair. I trusted him, and he kissed me, and disappeared. Why wouldn't he visit me?
I moaned closed my eyes. I didn't want to think like this. But sleep never came to me. So I opened my eyes again and got out of bed. I took a warm skin from my clothchest and huddled in it. I went to my window, rested my elbows on the sill and looked out.
It was a clear night. I could see thousands of stars above and the moon was full. The silver moonlight lit up the little round space, the clearing in the mountains where my hut was, almost as if it were day. I felt the urge to go outside. Since I had nothing better to do, I went. I looked up and my head started to spin from all the stars and I dropped my skin. The moon seemed to fill me with energy. I closed my eyes and stood still, listening. I felt my body was tired enough to faint, but somehow my mind was not.
Suddenly I felt troubled. I opened my eyes and looked around sharply. Nobody was there. I sighed in relief and turned my head back forward. Then I gasped. A short, very slim, very beautiful woman was standing in front of me, wearing a malicious smile on her face, her bright yellow eyes glittering. I stepped backwards and hit something, I turned around to see an equally short, slim, beautiful man, with the same smile, same glittering eyes, only his were pink. I looked around. More short people were coming at me from everywhere, their different bright coloured eyes glistening like diamonds. I could see some small faerie-like children running around collecting bread crumbs from under the tree. I started to panic.
'Who are you?' I asked, my voice quivering.
'We are her children, and we are neither beneign nor evil. We see what has passed, what passes now and what shall pass. We know,' the people all said at once, their voices melting into one.
'We have come to show you the path.'
I was feeling quite afraid now. Two crones came from my left and my right and took my hands. They pulled me forward gently, and I walked with them. We walked for some time - an hour, a week, or only an instant - and suddenly we were in a forest clearing. A bonfire that seemed to reach up to the sky was blazing in the middle and naked Children were dancing around it. I was given something sweet and strong to drink and then pulled into the dance. My nightgown was slowly ripped off me. The fire seemed to capture my whole soul. I looked up at it and it seemed that the fire was the Virgin herself. I wanted to fall to my knees and pray but I couldn't. I was in some strange sort of trance.
All of a sudden I was pulled out of the circle. The crones smeared some dark liquid over my naked body and seated me on a stone throne which had somehow risen right out of the ground. Other crones were burning herbs in the bonfire. The whole forest was instantly filled with strange smells and fumes. I could hear an amazing harmony everywhere, and it was overwhelming.
'See!' the Children chorused all at once, and I saw.