I really just liked the idea of burning your problems away. I'm such a pyromaniac.
“Words have power,” Carradoc said. Him being a Druid, I believed him.
“With words, you can do anything. You can control a man's heart, tame a beast, even change your form. A skill with words will get you what you want, but the most noble use of the silver tongue is to praise the gods and goddesses. That is why Druids use their skills to worship, and why the best speakers are Druids.”
He then proceeded to tell the tale of the children of Lir. In testament to his silver tongue, the fire through shadows on the ground to help with the telling of the story. The silhouettes of the four children writhed as they were turned into swans and when Carradoc talked of their beautiful voices the fire didn't crackle but sang sweeter than any bird. I would look back and forth between the fire and the shadow actors, trying to see the shapes in the flames, but the fire looked the same as it always did.
If anyone could help me, he could.
As the rest of the village slipped away to their homes, I crept closer to him. While several families had offered their home to him, Carradoc had refused. He said he wanted to sleep under the stars with a bed of earth.
He was stirring the embers of the fire before I spoke up. “Um, hello Druid Carradoc.”
“Hello dear.” He didn't look up, and I took the extra seconds to make sure my bruises were covered and try to tame my hair.
I shuffled closer to the fire. “I was wondering if you could help me with something.”
Carradoc looked up then, and I expected the same look in his eyes as the rest of the villagers as they look at my dirty body and ratty clothes. But his face held no such emotion and I felt as if he was seeing the me from five years ago, healthy and well taken care of.
“What do you need help with?”
“The story you told, about Lir's children from Aeb...I have a similar problem.”
“You and your twin are going to be cursed into swans by your aunt.”
“Not exactly...” How could I explain to a stranger that I was the village orphan, taken in my uncle who did all he could to see that I died without actually doing the deed? That I only ate when other families were kind enough to give me scraps, and only slept warm when nestled next to fully wooled sheep?
But maybe I didn't have to, because Carradoc seemed to understand.
“Come closer child.”
I moved into the weak light. The Druid's eyes roved over my bruises, my stringy hair, the dress straining against the seems of previously fixed holes.
“What exactly do you want to do?”
“I want to make my problems disappear.” And if that involved getting rid of my uncle, all the better.
Carradoc frowned, no doubt his power of words letting him know what I was thinking under the surface. “I will not help a young lady commit murder, but I can help you with your problems.”
He dug into the small pack he had brought with him and took out a scroll. Carradoc unrolled it, keeping it in place with small stones and then coaxed the fire to come alive again. He then stuck the end of a stick in the flames and when it was charred handed it to me.
“Write your problems. Very specific ones, but not people.”
I frowned, but then started to mark the runes on the scroll, Carradoc watching over my shoulder to make sure I followed his rules.
Hunger. Old clothes. No bed. People ignoring me. Being touched when not wanted. Lice. Being dirty all the time. Bruises.
Nodding, the Druid took the parchment and held it over the small fire which was now dying down again. “Fire, element of rebirth and destruction, gift of the life bringing Sun, destroy this past and bring a new future.” With that, he dropped it in the fire.
I watched as the flames licked at the edges of my list, and then it all lit up at once in a burst of heat. I watched my charcoal written runes return to the ashes. It was quicker than any other burning I had seen. Ten seconds and only ash was left.
“Not what?” I asked.
Carradoc smiled. “Look at your dress.”
I did. It was no longer dirty, and all my patched holes had disappeared. While I had long gotten used to the feeling of lice on my head, I could no longer feel the crawling sensation. Forgetting Carradoc was so close, I pulled up my dress to look at my thighs. No bruises. Same for my arms.
Carradoc laughed at my wonder. “I'm pretty sure that when you walk home, you'll discover a bed and a meal waiting for you.”
I took his hand in gratitude. “Thank you, thank you so much Druid Carradoc.”
He smiled down at me. “No problem. And maybe in a year or two, you can think of joining my order.”
Maybe I would. I just became a loyal follower of Bridgit.
I have quite a fondness for Celtic culture, if you couldn't tell. But the ideas behind it are so fun to play with.