Long before the world was laid waste in Shelter from the Winter, Brijit lived a happy life with her husband Fáelán and daughter Almaith in medieval Ireland. The appearance of the mysterious Eochaid begins a dangerous obsession that will turn her life upside down and doom her to a life in darkness. Come see how it all began…
The fog and dew of the morning had given way to a rare sunny day and Brijit was determined to make the best of it as she bounded over the green pasture, stopping here and there to pick a flower that jutted above the tall grass. The seven-year-old girl usually never strayed far from her parent’s home, but today the warm weather invited her further down the long, dusty road and the large field that bordered their small village.
She was a striking girl with long blonde hair that her mother struggled to keep tangle-free, and piercing green eyes that matched her father’s. She was the favourite of all the boys in the village and they teased her mercilessly as they all vied for her attention.
Except for Fáelán, she thought, as she found a particularly beautiful wildflower to tuck into her wind-tossed hair. He beats up the other boys who make fun of me. She giggled to herself as she thought about the boy who was two years her senior, and how she made an example of that twerp, Aidan, when he’d pulled her hair a few days past. “Served him right!” she said to the new flower in her hand before she continued to skip along through the pasture, holding her tattered dress up away from her ankles so she didn’t trip over the hem.
She sang to herself absently as she found a place to sit and sort through her flowers and was lost in thought when the shadow of a horse fell over her. With a startled gasp, she looked up into the gray eyes of a man sitting high up in his saddle, dressed in long black robes that seemed to sweep over the rear of the horse. He had hair cut short and graying at the temples, while a hawkish nose that made him look like a bird if viewed from the right angles dominated his face.
The man looked down at Brijit with a kind smile. “I’m sorry to scare you, my dear. You were quite lost in thought.”
Brijit looked up at him with some suspicion—strangers on the road usually meant bandits or the like. “Momma says I daydream too much,” she said with a slight pout. “But I don’t think—” She caught herself before she said more. Her mother had warned her against talking to strange men. This one was giving off a bad feeling that made Brijit want to turn and run, and she found herself backing away slowly.
The man merely smiled at her as if sensing her apprehension. “It’s okay, little one. I won’t harm you. I am a traveler and I’m trying to find my way to Áth Cliath. Do you know the way?”
Brijit nodded and as she pointed northward, her gaze fixed on a wooden staff secured to the horse’s flank, transfixed by the intricate carvings that adorned its surface.
The stranger followed her gaze and a lopsided smile came to his face. “Pretty, isn’t it?” he said with pride in his voice. “I made it myself…took me weeks to get the carvings right, but it’s a sight to behold!”
Brijit smiled a little at the beaming man, his enthusiasm overshadowing the bad vibes. “What is it…a walking stick?” she asked, moving forward a step to get a closer look.
“Oh, no,” said the man, shaking his head “It’s much more than just a mere walking stick. It’s a magic staff…” He trailed off with a mysterious yet giddy tone.
Brijit’s eyes went wide as she looked at the man. “It’s magic?” She gasped. “Can you do something with it?”
The man reached down and loosened the straps that held the staff in place. As he laid his hands on it, the carvings glowed a brilliant blue colour.
“Wow!” breathed Brijit as the stranger held the staff almost lovingly in his arms. “It really is magic! I’ll bet you’re a druid!”
The man laughed heartily and again shook his head. “No, my dear, I’m not a druid, though I have studied their teachings.” He hefted the staff in his hands and waved it about. “It’s not exactly magic either, I must confess. You see these symbols here? They help me concentrate and channel the energies that are all around us, in the air, in the ground, even within ourselves.”
Brijit wrinkled her nose in confusion and folded her arms across her chest. “Huh? I don’t understand. You really use a lot of big words. And what’s that red stuff on the end?”