(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Saoirsa was written by Diana Byrin.)
Saoirsa looked over the room and curled her waist length auburn curls around her fingers as she paced nervously. She had set a pitcher of spiced wine next to the goblets and warm sweet bread on the wooden table in front of the fireplace. She had also done her best to tidy the piles of books around the room. The shelves seemed to threaten to collapse under the weight of books, glass jars, and iron pots. She hadn’t seen her parents since becoming a priestess and working alongside the other Druidresses who cared for villages all over the Irish hills. The time spent apart made her more grateful for the iron pots and daggers her father had given her from his own shop before she embarked on her both physical and spiritual journey.
She looked out the window, noted the snow beginning to fall, and pulled the fur wrap over her shoulders a bit tighter. Her long emerald dress was thick but not nearly enough warmth on its own. She tightened the gold chain around her waist that held a ring of charms and keys as well as a pouch of herbs before opening the door to the main gathering chamber to see if her guest had arrived.
In a swirl of wind, Kelly appeared out of nowhere. She took a brief look at her surroundings but then locked eyes with her hostess and smiled. “Sorry, I didn’t feel like trekking through snow or the cold.” She approached Saoirsa with a warm smile. “I’m Kelly Blanchard. Are you Saoirsa?”
Saoirsa smiled back after nearly jumping out of her skin. She had known there was something otherworldly about the woman but was still surprised by her materializing out of thin air. “Yes, I am Saoirsa. I am glad you did not have to bear the winter on my account. Please, come sit by the fire.” She walked to the fireplace to move the logs around then, satisfied with the flames, sat at the wooden table and poured the wine into the shining gold goblets”
Following her to the table near the fireplace, Kelly took the opportunity to take in her surroundings while Saoirsa tended to the fire, and then she joined her at the table, sitting across from her. “Quite a cozy place you have here.” She smiled at Saoirsa as she folded her hands on the table. “So, tell me about yourself. I know just about nothing of you, so who are you? What is it that you do?”
Saoirsa chuckled softly. “Well, I am a priestess of Airmid, a goddess of medicine, healing, and herbs. I have been here in the home of our High Priestess for five years, since I was eleven, maybe twelve. My birthday is not known for sure but I was born in spring, the season Airmid brings back to us each year.” Saoirsa paused, not used to talking about herself or her past, and considered what to say next.
Kelly nodded as she took all this in. “And where exactly are we?” She glimpsed around once more.
Saoirsa started to respond then paused and stood, walking to a shelf and grabbing a rolled up scroll. “Here is a map. It is not very up to date but then again, no map ever truly is in these times, with all the tribes and different warrior leaders coming and going.” She set the unrolled piece of parchment on the table and pointed to a square drawn on the land in the northwest part of the island, nestled between a string of other squares labeled “villages” and the coastline labeled “cliffs”. She smiled softly as she gazed upon the map and pointed to a square a bit father south. “We are in Connaught, at the Maiden’s Keep of Airmid. I am from a small sea village south of this Keep.”
Looking at the map, Kelly was partly tempted to ask if she could keep it to add to her Muse Shop, but taking in the location, she nodded and glanced up to Soairsa with a smile. “Thank you. It helps having a visual to this new world.” She then sat back in her seat. “So you mentioned your family. Do you know them well? Or no—because you’re a priestess?”
Saoirsa begins to roll the map up as she walks back to its shelf. Sneaking a glance back at Kelly, she grinned and grabbed two smaller scrolls off the shelf. “As well as a priestess, I am also an empath. I can feel the emotions of most living beings. I do not know exactly why someone may be feeling a certain way. However, I noticed the way your eyes danced over the map, and I think anyone could have noted that excitement, so I would like to offer you a smaller version that I drew, as well as a short list of herbs I have drawn with their names and healing properties.” She set the scrolls down before Kelly, happy to be able to make a gift.
With her nature to give satisfied, Saoirsa sat down at the table and took a drink of wine. “I was blessed in many ways with my family and my spiritual path. The Head Priestess had been traveling through the villages, I do not remember why, and when she stopped in ours she noticed the abundance of herbs in my mother’s garden while I was outside tending it with my younger sister. I was a shy but inquisitive child and eager to explain everything I knew about the herbs. I had no idea who I was in the presence of!”
She chuckled at the memory. “While most of the young priestesses here are from the surrounding villages, I am one of the few from a bit farther. I miss my family but am happy I was able to spend my childhood with them. Some ladies have been here since they were babies, left on the doorstep, or are orphans – products of the wars that claim our warrior men and women.”
Taking the offered scrolled, Kelly held them carefully in her hands as she listened to what Saoirsa said, she couldn’t help but identify her with someone else. “Well, if I had known you were all into herbs, I would have brought along another healer by the name Sulayman. He’s the physician of a young king who suffers from leprosy. The two of you would have a good conversation.” Kelly knew she spoke of historical figures and not merely fictional, but that would have been an interesting meeting to observe. However, she finally lifted her gaze back to the young woman in front of her. “So, how old are you now? And do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“Oh, that does sound like a good conversation to be had.” Soars smiled at the thought of meeting with another practitioner of herbal uses. “I am seventeen, nearly eighteen. Or possibly eighteen near nineteen, but for the sake of avoiding confusion I claim a younger age in hopes to be given more time to learn all I can. This library would likely take a lifetime to study, though.” She looked around at all the books before turning her attention back to Kelly. “I have two younger sisters and one younger brother. They are still with our parents. My father forges iron for the warriors and other merchants while my mother spends her days cooking and caring for those in our village who need her help. My sisters help in the garden but we all were given fighting lessons by my father, and learned from our mother to hunt with bow and arrow .”
“And what is your fondest memory of your family?”
“I have many warm memories but I especially loved to sit late into the night while our parents told us stories of the gods and goddesses or the history of these lands. I do not know how much was true and how much was tale or legend but my parents had a mesmerizing way of telling stories and teaching their trades.” Saoirsa leaned back in her chair and looked out the window, remembering things her parents had told her. “For all they spoke of the past, my mother often spoke of my future. I do not know if they were simply dreams for her child or if she had visions, though as of late I have felt a deep sense of purpose and an urge to be prepared with knowledge.”
Kelly tilted her head and furrowed her brows curious. “And what did she say of your future?”
Saoirsa chuckled and pushed her auburn curls behind her ear. “Honestly, I am not sure it makes much sense. She spoke of time coming together and overlapping. Of a need to protect those who came before and work with those who live in centuries to come. She often lamented on the way humans seem to be determined to conquer and rule each other rather than thriving and working towards what time and nature challenge us with.”
Suddenly this made sense to Kelly. She knew what the story was about and realized this interview was taking place prior to the story. Of course she couldn’t ruin anything, so she had to tread carefully. With a slow nod, Kelly considered her next question. “As a priestess, is there any way you could influence people to work together?” She raised her brows as she locked eyes with her.
“That is my hope. Whether it is for my own path or that of something greater, I feel called to help others thrive as a whole. I have always been focused on healing the ailments of the physical body but in my dreams and meditations I sense deeper divides and wounds.”
Kelly nodded then leaned forward, setting her elbows on the table as she set her chin on top of her fist. “So, as a priestess, what exactly do you do?”
Saoirsa stood and walked to another set of shelves on the opposite side of the room. “My books contain most of my craft and work. Here, I have my herbs and the books detailing their varied uses.” She walked along the perimeter of the room, which was covered in shelving, as she continued to speak. “And here, history. Not many have kept written accounts of what has happened in our world but what is known is mostly contained here. There are also several collections of poetry and stories relative to the region.” Passing by the fireplace she pointed at the next wall of shelves on either side of the slim but tall window. “This wall is filled with guides on divination, honing our senses, communing with the gods and goddesses, and various rituals.” She walked back to the table and smiled. “So, in short, I am a healer with herbs, a keeper of history and stories, and a medium for the goddess and other realms.”
“And does the goddess communicate with you directly?” Kelly raised her brows as her eyes followed Saoirsa around the room.
“I have felt her presence and she has come to me in dreams. She seems to guide me when I most need counsel and has been a comfort when I miss my family.”
“That is nice.” Kelly smiled as she nodded. Then she tried to figure out what to ask next. Since Saoirsa didn’t know what awaited her in the near future, she had to be careful with what she said. However, she wanted to get to know this girl as an individual—not just an important priestess. “Are priestesses allowed to have any kind of relationships?” She glanced back at Saoirsa.
Saoirsa leaned forward, folding her arms as she rested them on the table. “Well, we don’t commonly become entwined with partners, at least not in the sense of marriages and lifelong bonds. Though we do view the…physical relations as a form of magick. Some priestesses prefer to be maidens or virgins as long as they live and some fall in love with patients or those who come to us for assistance.”
“And what about you?” Kelly lifted her brows. “Is there someone who’s caught your eye? Or at you completely dedicated to your craft? Which is admirable, by the way.”
Saoirsa grinned as she blushed slightly. “There is a man who comes to sell cloth and woodwork to us. He and I have spoken several times and walked the gardens together when the weather is warm. He brought me a beautiful green cloak embroidered with gold vines. I had this dress made to match it.” She sighed softly and smiled again. “I do not know what will happen, if anything, but I enjoy his company and have often thought about how a relationship between us might grow.”
This caused Kelly to smile warmly. “And what is his name?”
“Belen. He is from a large family a mile or two away from here. We have talked of me visiting though I am not sure the High Priestess is ready to grant me leave for a trip spanning more than a few hours, yet”
“Well, I hope you the very best.” Kelly smiled but then rose to her feet, bracing her hands on the table. “Unfortunately, our time together has come to an end. I really wish to continue chatting because I would love to get to know you. Perhaps next time I’ll bring Sulayman, and the two of you could talk herbs and healing. He would be relieved to talk with a likeminded individual.” She moved away from the table and smiled once more at her hostess. “Thank you again for your time.”
Saoirsa stood and smiled. “I am very happy we had the time to visit and talk. And I would love to meet again sometime as well as meet your friend. Take care and go enjoy someplace warm for me!”
“It’s quite warm where I am, and I will be thinking warm thoughts for you.” Kelly prepared to leave but then paused and turned back to Saoirsa. “You have a complex road ahead of you. I don’t know who is involved, who you will meet, but you’ll be influential in something great. I hope you don’t have to sacrifice too much for others though…” She locked eyes with her. “Because I know that is the kind of person you are. You will give of yourself without thought until there is nothing left, so I hope someone is there for you as you are there for others.” With that, she bowed her head then smiled. “Take care.” Then she vanished.
Saoirsa watched the space where Kelly vanished for a few moments, thinking about what she had said. She couldn’t help but smile in agreement before walking to the window to gaze towards the lights of the village where Belen lived and whispered, “I will give to protect but I hope we will all be protected.”
NOTE: The working title for Diana’s story is ‘Vengeance Crowned’, but it is aimed to be released this coming spring. You may follow her on the following sites for more updates!