Encroaching twilight brought a chill and she pulled her cloak into a tighter circle about her shoulders. In the cottage
they would be lighting the lamps and she could smell the stoking of the evening fire rising on the wind. She would tarry on
the cliffs a while longer to think her thoughts knowing they would understand her need for reflection. Her companion, his
fur a bushy defense against the cold, was in no hurry though he could easily have joined his brother hounds in their shaggy
pile before the hearth. He was her familiar; where she went, he went. He adjusted the position of his head on her knee and
stretched his sturdy paws.
She sighed and breathed in the winter ocean scent. Spring wanted to be late in coming this year and its visit
was always fickle. One morning the tops of the cliffside would blaze forth in rainbow glory, a painter’s box of spilled
color from the blooms of the plants hardy enough to grow in the salt-spiked air, then just as quickly the show would be over,
blossoms folding away on themselves till next year’s performance. The shortness of the season didn’t trouble her.
The bracing climate that governed most of the year was perfectly to her temperament. She supposed it suited all three of them,
sisters so alike, so different.
The pervading mist was loved by Chloe, the youngest. It fired her sense of romance and mystery and she believed
it helped her put her most imaginative efforts into the spinning of the colored threads.
The mist was her own favorite element, too. It blurred the lines of light and shadow, sky and sea. It turned
the air visible and made solid objects into phantoms. It was a between place, not quite one thing or another. Anything could
come out of the mist. From its formlessness, the mist gave shape to the stories.
The gloom on the other hand, was the fitting accompaniment to Attie’s cynical outlook. Cynicism was necessary
when it was your job to do the cutting; cynicism, but not anger. Lexie often thought how admirable it was that throughout
the eons, no matter the provocation, Attie almost never acted out of anger.
Uncharacteristically, she was the one who was angry now. No, irritated. Lexie was irritated and she must rein
in her emotions before she attempted the unraveling and certainly before she began the reweaving. Their father had always
cautioned the importance of going about their business with moderation, to ignore offense at the follies of lesser creatures.
It was an interesting insight coming from one who constantly embroiled himself in mortals’ affairs and was perhaps the
most famous tantrum thrower that had ever been.
There was no true, good reason for her present pique. She should be beyond such human-like reactions. Over time
a great many mortals had, despite the tautness of her work, made choices that were unforeseen. Sometimes a thread slipped
or popped its knot. Sometimes the bobbin missed a row, but sometimes, mortals caught her by surprise. Ages ago, she had ceased
to be shocked by their callousness. The depths of cruelty they were capable of no longer brought any feeling save resignation.
But sometimes, like now, they could still surprise her with their capacity to sacrifice all they held dear for what their
hearts told them was a greater good. It was an admirable trait, despite how often they were wrong and how little it often
Her dilemma of the moment was such a scenario, and the humans involved had done this to her before. More than
once, as it happened. She remembered the audible groan that had escaped her lips when first she noticed their particular threads
unwinding from Chloe’s distaff and moving inexorably toward the loom. Attie had waved her shears in the air at the sight.
“Best to let me snip them now and be done with it,” she’d advised. “You’ll be
sorry if you don’t.”
She’d been sorely tempted, but only for a moment. Shaking her head in surrender she’d pointed out,
“What purpose would it serve? They’d only come back again. They always come back.”
But maybe she should have allowed it. Maybe Attie had been right…The whole saga had been waiting there
on the warp: wonderful passion, terrible sadness, ultimate joy and redemption, the colors vivid and pleasing…and what
had the damned fool gone and done? Why he’d put his true love on a ship and sent her away into the void, of course.
She would die there and so would the others with her. It was not what was meant to be, not for any of them.
Lexie sighed. On previous occasions when this same mortal pair had circumvented the story line, she had not
truly minded for the tales that had come from their intertwined souls had been entertaining and, she had to admit, romantic.
Tender-hearted Chloe adored them and loved it every time they turned up. But not this time…
Last evening Chloe had gaped, open-mouthed, at the bleak chronicle weaving across the tapestry, looping through
the saga that might have been. Her distaff almost slipped from her hands. “He
didn’t,” she’d objected, even as the threads said otherwise. “He couldn’t,” she’d
argued with the silent loom. Oh, but he had.
Attie was more succinct. “Told you so,” she’d sniffed.
Lexie had nearly thrown the bobbin into the fire. With one act, one stupid, selfless act, he had mucked up the
futures of himself and his love. He’d also taken out the futures of five others, and destroyed his own line of descent.
In other times, in other places, it wouldn’t have mattered but this time he needed to be at the right place at the right
time and he needed her with him. Destiny dictated it be so.
Lexie had stared hard at the picture before her, studying, trying to see how it could be fixed. Chloe continued
to mutter in disbelief and even the wolfhounds seemed distraught.
Attie had left the weaving room and returned moments later armed with pewter pitcher and cups. “Mead anyone?”
For hours the three of them sipped and pondered, made suggestions and argued. In the end, Lexie knew there was
no way to really fix what had been done. The consequences were too sweeping. All the trials those two had endured to strengthen
them, all the incarnations they had been through to learn life lessons. All of it in preparation for this one go round…and
all extinguished by a single act.
She could have directed Attie to wield her deadly scissors and cut the whole lot right out of the pattern. But
so much else, so many other story lines already begun and headed for their diverse meeting points depended on what happened
to this traveling moon and its inhabitants. There seemed a single option. Nothing for it but to pull the warp and weft apart,
perhaps rows of it, and start again.
They had crossed the narrow stretch of sea to reach the island at dusk, a full moon already riding low in the
sky. As always, the first sight of the barbarians, painted blue and screeching like demons was shocking. The women were as
bad as the men, maybe worse, and shameless, too, in their scant coverings. These people deserved their end and he felt no
pity. Too stubborn to see the wisdom of subordinating themselves to the empire, too stupid to make peace when they had the
chance, and so ungodly they failed to keep their own women at home by the fires where they belonged.
He and his fellow soldiers had been at the battle for hours, the foreign tribe determined to fight to the last.
That he and all his comrades thought of them as foreigners served testament to the inflated Roman sense of self. It never
crossed his mind that he was the invader, come to subdue a people who died for their own lands.
Sweat poured down his body and he was covered in gore and blood, little of it his own. Before they’d landed,
a mellow breeze had carried the comforting scent of apples, the groves heavy with the waiting harvest. Now, screams of the
dying and cries of sporadic combat continued all around and all he could smell was the metallic taint of blood clotting the
air. He’d dropped his shield long ago when the struggle had reached the hand to hand stage, but he hadn’t missed
it. The tribe of British Celts they faced was desperate, but no match for a legion of the greatest army in the world.
It had come down to the search for stragglers and he paused to catch his breath before the final work of the
night. A sudden blow to the side of his head startled and momentarily unbalanced him. But the strike was light, delivered
with miscalculation and exhaustion. A flash of white and blue rushed past him, headed for the cover of the oak trees.
He pursued the fugitive to the edge of the grove, not realizing it was one of the women till he caught up to
her. She was one of the last of her people and wounded already though not by him. He cornered her in front of one of their
precious trees. Flames were beginning to rise across the island as his fellow legionnaires set fire to the fields and orchards.
The light of the fires combined with the glow of the moon left little hiding in shadow.
She was like most of her people, pale and fair and in the way of her race, wore little clothing; a loosely draped
woolen tunic scarcely covered her breasts and female parts. Blonde hair, limp with sweat and tangled with dirt and blood hung
nearly to her waist. Around her neck was a highly polished gold torc, the craftsmanship skilled. She might be the daughter
of one of these pathetic chieftains, maybe even wife, though she didn’t look old enough. The blue designs inked upon
her skin stood forth brightly. He didn’t know what the patterns meant; never had and didn’t care. But if their
symbolic purpose had been to protect in battle they had failed miserably at their job. He pressed the point of his sword to
She turned to face him, bringing the sword point to rest against her belly. He could see blood running from
a gash on her shoulder, deep and ragged, but likely not fatal. Given the chance and proper attention, it would heal in time.
Her eyes met his, squarely, with anger and disdain and boiling hatred, but no fear. He saw no fear.
With the sword in his right hand and dagger in his left, he should have finished the job someone else had begun.
This uncivilized girl meant nothing. Just one more to be dispatched and preferably before she struck him again. But he found
his arms frozen in place, arrested by her gaze. Her eyes, sea-green, the color of his beloved Mare Nostrum. He had been born
and raised by her shores and had not seen her for three years…two more to go in his conscription…and now he saw
the shade of home in this barbarian girl’s eyes.
He didn’t know what possessed him but he attempted to speak to her, still holding his sword in place,
still unmoving. She didn’t understand his words, or if she did, they held no sway. She spit on him. He lowered the dagger,
returning it to its sheath and with gentle clumsiness, tried to wipe at some of the blood spilling down her arm. She tried
to bite him.
They had no way to cross the boundary. He didn’t know how to tell her he didn’t want to hurt her
further. He didn’t want to hurt her at all.
She didn’t know why he was waiting. On another night, in another time, she might have found his blue eyes
irresistible. Even tonight, had there been time to think, she might have admitted she saw what seemed to be kindness, a desire
for peace instead of more death. Perhaps even an unexpected willingness to treat her with some respect. But there was no time,
and all she saw were the eyes of the enemy come to destroy her people. She noted his hesitation and believed it to be assessment,
assumed he was working out whether he could get away with raping her before he killed her. It was what his kind did, and he
would only be the first in line. He would start, then pass her along to other soldiers, exploiting her defeat and shame till
they tired of her. How many of them would she have to endure on top of her before this cursed night would end?
The answer in her mind was…none. She was the daughter of the chief; she would give this invader neither
the satisfaction nor the opportunity.
With sudden agile reflexes and a burst of energy he wouldn’t have thought she possessed, he watched her
clasp both hands high up around the blade of his sword. He knew what she was about, but time had slowed around him, her eyes
still held him in their immobilizing spell, and he was helpless to stop her.
Heedless of the blood that flowed thickly from her palms, she tightened her grip, knowing the wounds would make
her movements slippery and she had just this one chance. A last baleful look into his eyes to be sure he understood her loathing
for all he represented, and she yanked the sword toward her as she stepped forward into its point.
Her action stunned him and he automatically jerked the weapon from her body, wanting to free her from this self-impalement.
His reaction seemed to pull half the blood out of her in one gigantic spurt. She would not have lived regardless and he knew
it, but it horrified him to realize he’d probably just caused her even more pain. Her hands loosed their grasp of his
blade and she fell against him into his arms.
He lowered her to the ground, unaware that he screamed at her all the while, an urgent demand to know, why?
Why had she done this when he wasn’t going to hurt her?
Cradled against his chest, she was puzzled. She had no idea what he was shouting, not in words, but in his face
she understood his meaning. In his eyes she saw that he had not intended this, that he would have spared her life and tried
to save her from his fellow soldiers. What might have caused such sudden weakness in him she didn’t know, nor did it
matter, but it was an unanticipated solace as she took her last breaths. She did have time to wonder what he’d thought
he might save her for; her world was over, ending with the burning of the sacred groves. It was a Roman world now. Without
knowing why, she raised bloody fingertips to brush once across his lips, and closed her eyes.
He sat under the oak, covered in her blood, holding her for most of the night. Let the rest of them finish the
killing and burn the island right down to the sea. He’d had enough of this conflict. He moved only when the flames at
last crept near, flicking and leaping toward their tree. He left her there, in the tree’s protection, and stood back
to watch as the flames consumed them both.
He finished his last two years and rose in the ranks. He went home to his farm and made it prosperous. He married
and fathered children, and in middle age, he became a senator. He was respected and liked. He was considered wise. He lived
long and well and he was of valued service to his country and empire. But he never forgot the girl with the sea-green eyes.
In old age, back in a villa beside his beloved Mediterranean, he thought of her often as he gazed at the water, the same color
as those haunting eyes. In his last days, he had his bed moved by the window where he could view the sea, and his last memories,
when they came, were of her eyes.
Lexie smiled in spite of herself. From their first meeting, these two had not behaved according to her intent.
That particular episode was to be one of little import; two souls meeting, passing and moving on. They weren’t supposed
to notice each other in any personal way. The Roman soldier was meant to kill the Druid girl, not in malice, but because she
was there and because killing her people was his job that night. Humans killing other humans happened with reliable regularity
and in the scheme of things, was sometimes necessary. She and her sisters saw much of it. They took no pleasure from it, but
they were largely dispassionate. As Attie put it, sometimes you had to cull the herd.
So the girl had died at her allotted time on the point of the soldier’s sword, but not by his hand, and
what was plotted to be an ephemeral contact had been something else entirely. An elemental connection had been forged, one
that would allow their souls to recognize each other again and again. Though several human centuries would pass between that
first time and the next, none of the sisters was surprised when the pair reemerged.