05 – Book One – Toll – Chapter Four – Kalokaíri

As a sorceress of the Circé, life is a constant struggle of balance and guilt. Balance for all things must come about for there to be harmony; if they do not, there is discord, which must be rectified, or the discord will become worse and more severe, and will lead to some very bad things. It is the job and role of the Circé to do their best to prevent this from happening, and if it has already occurred, to rectify it to the best and nimblest of their ability.

Taking a life creates instant disharmony, no matter if you are a person grown of many years, or a child a few. This is why the teaching of the ways of the Circé are so pivotal.

When I took a human life, I was in the years of the teen, well along in my teachings, and knew the great disharmony it would cause. I could say that I was not at fault. Not to blame. But I used magic. And it killed someone.

I am a sorceress of the Circé and will accept my consequences.

[Break]

As I grew in years, in both body and mind, as well as ability with magic, Clýstra began showing me more of the world of Albion. Sometimes this would require much travel to far destinations. We would prepare sacks of supplies with food and clothes and whatever else we deemed necessary for the journey, and then walk. I was never fully aware of how remote and isolated Clýstra kept her home and her life. This was the only world I truly knew; my memories of my first years grew hazy and vague in my memories; this included what my parents looked like. So when Clýstra began her teachings of the outside world and other locations in Albion, where there were towns and people with life and activity, because I had never physically seen this reality for myself, I questioned its truth. My world consisted of Clýstra and myself and all the animals. The concept that there could be not just many other people, but hundreds congregated in one area in a collection of residences was inconceivable to me.

It was a long journey. After the second day, I began to question Clýstra’s choices and decisions, and perhaps even her sanity. It felt like we were completely lost and would perhaps be stuck out in this wilderness forever. And in a most miraculously way – so it seemed to me – the trees began to lessen until they were sparse, and a lush blue grass made itself known. There was a breeze that caused a sound from the many waving blades. I stopped, wondering what I was hearing. Clýstra kept going, having seen nothing, then she noticed my absence.

CLYSTRA: Tis just the wind running through the grass, dear.

I remained still; the answer not enough for me.

Eventually we continued on, but I stayed close to Clýstra for some time.

[Break]

It was a number of years ago that Clýstra had a conversation with me in which she sounded nervous and uncertain. I had not before, nor have ever since, heard her in this disposition. I honestly do not know why she was the least bit worried about me or having the talk about the “flowers of love” (an expression I did not learn until later). I had seen the cows, the dogs, the pigs, the geese . . . I’m almost certain I’ve paid witness to every animal copulating with the other gender of its species, and even a number with the same gender. So when I realized that this was the subject about which Clýstra wished to “educate” me about today, I kept my laughs and reactions enveloped inside as much as I could. My protective walls collapsed after less than five minutes.

The look on Clýstra’s face as I was guffawing at her was completely worth it.

I remained silent and by my look alone, she was able to understand why I was laughing at her.

She abruptly stood up and began preparing dinner, acting all huffy. But there was a small smile on her face.

She had little to teach me in this matter, so far as what I was paying witness to.

I know not why I choose to tell this short tale in this instant, but know of no other place for it to go, so here it be.

[Break]

The trees part like opening arms and there before us is the town of Sinat. There is no sign proclaiming this anywhere,  so Clýstra has told me. I take her word for it, not knowing whether it to be true or not. She could be lying to me, for all I know, but she would have no reason to . . . At least I believe this to be so. This all feels very new and strange. I am completely out of my element; the little world of the familiar is no more.

I remain close to Clýstra.

The town is abustle. I have never seen so many people in one place. It is . . . Unnerving. I glomm on to Clýstra, at times closing my eyes. It is noisy and dusty. I am . . . Scared. Very scared. Clýstra knows this. And lets me be.

I feel they are all looking at me. Staring at me. Judging me. Because I don’t belong. Because I am a . . . Stranger. But would they not be shouting at me if that were truly the case? Or staring at me in silence? But they are not. They are walking and talking and doing their everyday things. So . . . My presence is not in question. Therefore I am . . . Okay? Safe?

I force my eyes open and keep them that way. Then I get something in my eye and have to blink. But I’m watching now, taking it all in. The details. The sights. The life of the town.

It is . . . Alive.

Everyone is going somewhere. Somewhere important. They have a job to do. A quest. And they are all . . . Happy. Joyous. Big smiles on everyone’s faces. Something important is occurring.

There are flowers . . . Everywhere! A garland hanging from every door. Primroses! Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Who grew all these flowers? A lot of work went into this.

THYRA: What is going on here?

She stops and moves us to the side of the street.

CLYSTRA: What do you see?

THYRA: I see people going places. I see flowers! Lots and lots of flowers. Primroses! Primroses? Yes?

CLYSTRA: Yes.

THYRA: It means . . . It means something . . . Special. A festival perhaps?

CLYSTRA: Very good. And how do you know about those? For we have never attended one.

THYRA: You have told me about them. And I have read about them.

CLYSTRA: Good. That is good applied learning. And what do you think this festival might be?

THYRA: I see lots of happy people. I see lots of animals. Many cows. Lots and lots of cows. And we are coming towards the end of spring. It is getting warmer. Could it be something to do with summer?

CLYSTRA: Excellent! Tomorrow is Mayday. Considered the first day of summer. A celebration of the warming sun in the sky. A call for those looking to work, to tend the fields. To get the crops seeded and ready for growth and life. To move the cattle herds to new pastures. Booleying as it is so called. Traditionally women will do it in groups. Young women. Girls also. As a sign of fertility and readiness for the next stages of their lives.

THYRA [Scared]: Is . . . Is that why you brought me here?

CLYSTRA: Oh, no child. I wanted you to see some of this lovely world of ours. Have no fear. You are still too young. But don’t be surprised if you catch people looking at you with lust in their eyes. For you are very beautiful. But come, I have some people to meet in the market square.

[Break]

THYRA: They have all done so much work for this . . . May-day.

CLYSTRA: Yes. Of course! They are celebrating the complete end of winter. A banishing of the dark, cold days. A welcoming of warmth and light and life. You see there. All those people grouping together.

THYRA: Those men and women?

CLYSTRA: Yes. They are looking to work the fields, to be hired by farmers for pay and hard labor. To earn their keep, but also grow. Grow in themselves and grow what they are making. Be they crops or fledgling animals. They are playing a part in the growth of life. The great circle of life. They will work long and hard through the summer and then into the autumn. And then, come next festival. Samhain. They will celebrate the end of the summer, the approach of the dark and the cold once more. But also all the crops and food and stock they have reaped and stored.

THYRA: It’s . . . [softly] Beautiful.

CLYSTRA: Isn’t it just? And now I must talk with these women. Stay close. It is busy here. I do not want to lose you.

I held on to her skirt as she led me across the square, slicing left and right between market stalls like a great scythe. And then she reached the women, who greeted her with respect and joy. I was introduced and bowed and said my words, and then turned to focus on the thriving life going on around me.

A smile blossomed on my face. It was all so . . . Wondrous.

And then I saw the girl. Across the way. She was looking at me . . ?

Yes! I was sure.

Her eyes were focused on me, burning in my direction. The smile on her face was a lot like mine. In my heart I felt a new warmth I had not beheld before.