You see there? By the bales of hay, next to the path of leaves.

The hags and crones have their own stall here; they are loved as healers, cursed as life stealers and most oft serenaded by beer-happy free-wheelers. They trade all sorts of things; if you have a song to sing then perhaps they may give you the withered member of an old donkey, a most useful charm for… Maybe later, you say? No matter, to drink and merriment that await, for workers always get market day to rest their weary feet and souls.

There will be dancing and much flirting through unto the morn. Lit by the stars and the braziers bright, until the fields do cry shear my corn. The people are at their most relaxed here, on this day in the Valley. They dress for comfort and the delight of their beau.

Perhaps a song or a tale; come sit by the brazier, let us settle a while. Keep warm for the days are hot but the nights are cool.

Beyond the throng of the dance, you see the men and women dressed in fur and in hide? They are the hunters, as one with the tribe and with She. They provide us with sustenance in the colder days, clothes and sandals for all. We provide them clothing and shelter and a place to rest. They choose not to live among the villages, preferring to travel and stay where they will.

Over there are the merchants, the scribes and the fools. They appraise, record and clown for the people. They, such as the farmers, the hunters and all others; are afforded a full belly, a warm bed and company on the long nights.

The seamstress plucks at children’s clothes, making them larger for growing young bones. The butcher, the dancers, the Sisters and we. We are all one in the glory of She. For She is Everyone and perfect in every way.

The crone walking among the old, rattling a cylinder? She sells the teeth of the young, together with the gum of the resplendent mastic tree. For the old lose their own and the young gladly offer theirs. The gum melts and the tooth is affixed. They old show appreciation by eating heartily and telling tall tales to the young.

We Sisters offer assistance on this day. We hear the malady and tend to the sick. This is an offering to She

Some moons ago, I tended a leg of an old farmer. He told me a tale in return for the deed.

“An old man had a malady that made him complain about all. His wife had tried everything to cheer his mood, but to no avail. She ended up stuffing her ears with flax, just to avoid his continuous calamity.

Recently, his village had built a grand new grain house to hold their harvests. It was far bigger than the old and would keep them fed for more than thirteen moons. They decided to celebrate the new building and came together in happiness and harmony, all except the old man.

For he grumbled and groaned, finding fault with the smallest of cracks. It would never last a cold season, he shook his head. In walking to and fro showing the faults, he came before the new grain house unawares and kicked it with his sandal’d foot.

There was a shuddering and a thunder and the grain house fell. The old man had kicked one of those cracks. The villagers were of a rage; angry insults flew and threats of violence sparked in the air. The old man’s wife, upon seeing this calamity, put her hand over her eyes, for she had seen enough.

The rest of the villagers followed her lead, placing their hands over there eyes whenever the old man was in sight; lest they lose their tempers.”

Come and rest here by the fire, as the light dies. Make yourself comfortable in those furs, fluff up the hay. Feel as your eyes become heavy; the light shines off the smoke, casting colours of greens and reds and blues and of yellow. Watch the colours blur into one, then unto the void. Rest your weary bones for tomorrow is yet a new day. Rest now, for all is quiet and safe.

To Chapter Twenty – The Festival of Fire Part I