Refugees flooded into Avalon from the Stone Temple. Not many had survived, but the ones who had had scattered and were only now regrouping. The dormitories filled with children, and construction of new huts began immediately. Avalon had never had so many people here, not when there had been a village anyway. High Priestess Sonja had told me that there had always been people here in Avalon, even before there had been shelter for them, they lived under the stars.
"Branwen, have you seen how many are here?" Alana asked me taking my hand. We ran barefoot through the grass towards the dock where the Avalon barge was pulling in with even more refugees. We stood out of the way as a group of girls was guided off the barge. Following them was a small group of boys our age.
"Let's get a closer look," Alana said giving me a mischievous grin. I gave a nervous laugh. I had no experience with boys at all, and I was slightly afraid of these pagans from another Temple. Alana didn't wait for my answer, she tugged my arm, and I followed her.
We stood at the edge of the dock, and Alana giggled, waving at the boys as they passed. A few took notice of her and waved back, but I kept my eyes on the ground. It was polite, Alana said, to greet our age mates to Avalon in this time of hardship.
As the last boys filed off the barge, I looked up to see one final boy. He was tall, almost as tall as The Merlin, and his hair was as black as mine. His dark eyes met my gaze, and I tried to look away, but I couldn't. I felt The Goddess and God's presence within me. They were drawing me to him. I glanced away, and then looked back. He was still watching me, and I knew that he felt the Goddess and God in the moment too. He was dark skinned, like I was, a rare trait among the tribal pagans. The only other dark skinned pagan on Avalon was my sister Tori, but she did not have dark hair like me.
To my surprise, the boy began to walk over to where Alana and I stood. He gave us a dashing smile and set his things at his feet when he reached us.
"Are you the welcoming committee?" He asked.
"We are just trying to make everyone feel welcome," Alana said. She was not acting flirty with this boy like she had with the others. She seemed to sense that he and I were connected somehow.
"I'm Drone," He said to introduce himself.
"I am Alana," Alana said. "And this, this is Branwen," She said making a big deal of introducing me.
"The Goddess and God have blessed our meeting," Drone said bowing his head respectfully at me. "You are filled with her power."
"I...I'm still learning how to access it," I said slowly, not sure what else to say. Drone gave me a curious look, and I cast my eyes towards the ground again.
"Drone!" A sharp voice called from the top of the hill that overlooked the dock. We looked up to see the High Priest of the Stone Temple tribe.
"We shall meet again my dear Branwen," He said bowing to me and then gathering his thing. He left Alana and me standing there in confusion.
"The Goddess and God have just shown you your mate," Alana said taking my hand again.
"What?" I asked.
"Don't tell me you didn't feel their presence when you two saw each other, even I felt it!" She said. "He is your soul mate!"
"Alana, do you think High Priestess Tori is in her hut?" I asked changing the subject.
"At this time of day, she is probably in the gardens," Alana answered.
"I'm going to seek an audience with her," I said dropping Alana's hand. She hugged me as I bid her farewell, and I went in search of my other sister. Tori was in the gardens as Alana had predicted, and I wondered if foresight had leant a hand in Alana's thoughts. Sometimes the Goddess and God would give us such minor visions we didn't even know that was what they were, it was just a thought or feeling that we thought was our own.
"High Priestess Tori," I said to get her attention.
"Branwen, so good to see you again," She said coming to my side and hugging me, then placing a kiss on my forehead.
"It is good to see you too," I said closing my eyes when she kissed me, and I let the warmth of her love flow through me.
"What can I do for you on this beautiful afternoon?" She asked picking up a basket and sickle off the ground. She continued to walk through the gardens pruning the flowers and gathering ones she needed.
"Could you tell me about the Little People?" I asked her. She paused in her work and gave me a serious look, before starting up again.
"Sonja told me you saw one," She said. "Not many of us have, in fact I am the only other member of the Avalon tribe to have seen them. Part of me thinks it was because you were not born yet, and I was the closest of kin they could find to send the messenger to."
"I did see one, he was skinning a rabbit. He spoke to me, but I don't know what he said, the sounds he used were strange to me. And then he bowed in front of me and held his hand out for my permission. I gave it to him by running my finger across his palm." I stopped talking when Tori nearly dropped her sickle on her own foot!
"That is a powerful sign," Tori says. "The Goddess and God have indeed chosen you as their vessel and our leader."
"I can't lead," I said. "I am too frightened to lead, and I don't have the cleverness for it."
"Branwen, all will grow in time," Tori said touching my shoulder. "I will tell The Merlin what you have just told me. He may have more insight than me."
"Thank you," I said to her touching her upper arm.
"Get back to your lessons," She said slightly more sternly. I nodded and left her in the gardens. Instead of going back to find Alana, I went to the wooden chest at the end of my bed, the one I kept all my herbs and tools in. I took out the clay bowl I had tried scrying with once. I hadn't seen anything, but that had been moons ago, and I had learned so much since then. I went into the forest, far away from any curious eyes, and I cast a circle of protection with sea salt around where I would be working.
There was a small stream in the clearing I had chosen, so I dipped my bowl in the water and filled it about halfway. The clay was dark grey and made the water look black. I set the bowl at the center of my salt circle, and sat in front of it. I made myself comfortable, and then closed my eyes to meditate. My breathing became heavy and steady as I pulled air in through my nose and expelled it out my mouth. I kept breathing that way until I felt my mind open to the Goddess and God, and I could feel them all around me. They were in the earth, the trees, the water and grass, I could feel them everywhere.
"Goddess and God, grant me Sight," I whispered. I touched my fingertips of my right hand to the center of my forehead, the place known as the Third Eye where psychic power is stored. Opening my eyes, I cast them down into the black water. It was still. I continued my rhythmic breathing as I stared into the water, only blinking when I absolutely had to.
Suddenly a ripple ran across the surface of the water. I held my breath as the ripple gave way to a mirror that reflected the forest around me, perfectly. I peered deeper into the glossy mirror that was now the surface of the water, and I watched as a bonfire began to burn in the forest. It was a night of celebration, and many of my people were dancing around the fire in joyous behavior. I felt myself being consumed by the Vision until it was all around me, and it was all I could see.
The celebration was an initiation, as far as I could tell, my initiation. It would take thirteen moons and a day until I could be initiated as a priestess, and even longer before I could become a High Priestess. I had completed six moon cycles of lessons already, so this was a bit in farther in the future than I had expected.
I appeared in the vision, clad in robes and adorned with crowns of flowers and herbs. High Priestess Sonja, and The Merlin were waiting for me. I was handed a chalice of wine to drink from, and a bowl of an herb paste to eat from.
The image before me spun and began to change. Now I was standing at the entrance to one of the caves on the other side of Avalon. I was in a robe that didn't close, and I was naked underneath. In the background I could see dancing and fires. I wasn't alone. There was a man there. He was dressed as I was, only he had a stag horn crown on his head while I had a white flower crown. I couldn't see his face, but I could tell who he was by his dark hair and dark skin. He took my hand and we retreated into the cave.
I was thrust back into reality, trembling. Alana had been right, and even I had known it, Drone and I were fated to be together. I closed my circle, emptied the water back into the stream, thanks the Goddess and God, and took my bowl back to the dormitory. I wasn't sure how I felt about my new knowledge. I had felt the divine presence upon our meeting, and I knew in my very heart that the Goddess and God wanted us to be a team to lead the tribal pagans to freedom and safety. Fear was present though. I wasn't sure how I would be able to act around him, or if I could keep this secret from Alana.
"There you are, Branwen, I've been looking everywhere for you," Alana said ducking into the dormitory, as if she had sensed me thinking about her. I was still muddling over my fear when I straightened my back and turned to face my friend.
"What's wrong?" She asked.
"Nothing," I said. "I was just letting go of a fear," I said. Alana smiled.
"Good, you will need to be fearless," She said. I sighed. I wished everyone would stop treating me like some divine child meant to save everyone. I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to protect the tribe from, let alone how to protect it.
"High Priestess Sonja is hosting a feast tonight to welcome our new members," Alana said. I nodded.
"I'll need to pick out a dress," I muttered to myself.
"You know, you will be a full priestess by Beltane in the Spring," Alana said casting me a sideways glance.
"Yes, I will," I said.
"I think you will be chosen as The Maiden, and Drone as the Horned One," She said. My vision flashed back to me, Drone in antlers, myself in white flowers.
"We will know in time," I said.
"Branwen?" High Priestess Sonja asked stepping into the dormitory.
"Yes?" I asked looking up at her.
"Can I have a private word?" She asked. Alana immediately left the dormitory in respect. "You used magic today," She said. "I felt the ripples of power, and recognized them as belonging to you."
"Oh," I said looking down at the floor. "Am I in trouble?"
"Of course not!" Sonja said. "We encourage all our young priestesses to practice and find their connection to the Goddess and God."
"I was just scrying, I didn't think it would work, because it didn't the last time I tried," I said.
"Whatever you saw, don't tell me," Sonja said holding up a hand to silence me when I began to speak. "What you saw was from the Goddess and God to you alone. Just remember, there is a reason they show us what they do, you may need to find that inner meaning."
"I will," I said. "I have been meditating a lot and opening up my mind to myself."
"Good, all very good. I will see you at the feast," She added before leaving me alone again. What was the Goddess and God trying to tell me, I wondered? I didn't know, and I didn't have time to think about it at the moment. I needed to change.