Tiernan woke as the dawn light was beginning to creep in under the deerskin hanging over the door of his family's house. Of course the light was shining straight into his eyes. He always ended up in the worst sleeping spot. Tiernan blinked and rolled over to turn his back to the door. He knew he wouldn't be able to go back to sleep but he wanted to rest for just a little while longer.
He could hear the women of the house beginning to wake. His mother Rowena and his aunt Tegan were trying to be quiet as they gathered their cooking utensils and headed outside to get breakfast ready for the men before they went to work at the monument for the day.
Before long Tiernan could smell the acrid smoke from the fire the women had stoked outside and the cooking of the pottage in the bronze pot. He groaned. What he wouldn't have given for a little meat with breakfast just this once; meat was for special occasions though, and one would be coming up soon if he and the other villagers could just meet their target and get the monument up and ready for the solstice. Soon he and all his village, as well as surrounding villages, would gather at the monument and feast like never before.
"Time to get up." His father Wynn sighed as he sat up himself and gathered his woollen blankets, placing them inside a woven basket to keep the house tidy for the day ahead. He scooped up the blankets the women had left behind along with the blankets his sons Tiernan and his brother Lugh had been using. Finally all the bedding was put aside for the day.
Lugh rubbed his eyes and yawned. He hadn't long reached the age at which he was considered a man and he wasn't used to these early starts yet. Last summer he'd been able to stay with his mother and aunt helping around the house and fields, sleeping in as late as he liked, but now he was expected to start early and head off to work on the monument with the men. His work wasn't too strenuous but he hated it already.
"Come on." Wynn gentle chided his sons. "We need to eat and head out. As leaders of this village it's our job to set an example and live well. We have to get to the monument as soon as we can."
Tiernan stretched and stood from the uncomfortable packed earth floor of their house. His parents and aunt had woollen blankets beneath them when they slept but Tiernan and Lugh weren't allowed them yet. Although they were grown men they still needed to prove they were worthy of such comfort by working hard during daylight hours. A good stretch sorted out a lot of the problems from sleeping on the hard floor but he couldn't wait to earn his extra bedding none the less.
As Wynn left the house he held the deerskin curtain open to shine a little more light in on his sons, hopefully that would wake them a bit faster and get them to breakfast. He sighed and let it drop when neither of them made a move. It was always the same with men of this age, they liked to take their time because they thought it would never run out. They would see the truth when they got a little older.
"We should go eat." Tiernan urged Lugh as he ran his fingers through his dark curly hair.
Lugh huffed and stood up. He was already taller than his older brother. Tiernan and Lugh didn't look much alike, no one would really think them brothers at a glance. Lugh took after their mother; tall, dark blond hair and fairly pale skin. Tiernan on the other hand took after their father, he was shorter, stockier and darker in skin and hair than his little brother. While both had their female admirers in the village Tiernan was the more popular with everyone. There was just something a little off about Lugh but no one really put too much thought into it, he had plenty of time to bloom like his older brother. People figured he was just going through an awkward phase. It happened often when boys became men.
Tiernan moved to the door and held the deerskin aside for Lugh to go ahead of him.
Rowena smiled brightly at her sons as they finally exited their house. "Eat up, you've a big day ahead of you. Make sure you go back by the river this evening and bring some water, we're running low." she said as she handed her sons wooden bowls with the pottage in that she and her sister had been cooking.
Lugh wrinkled his nose at it and sat on a log by the fire. He didn't want to eat this any more than Tiernan but it was all they had and it was better than going without. It wasn't that their village was particularly poor but it was large and they had to ration all the good food to make sure everyone could eat properly.
"You can wash yourselves while you're at the riven too." Aunt Tegan said as she sat down to eat her own breakfast. "Rowena and I will be doing the washing today so you can change woollens when you get back."
"Thank you." Wynn smiled at his wife and sister-in-law. "We'll be glad of the change, won't we?" he said kindly to his sons.
"I hate fresh woollens." Lugh muttered. "They itch."
Tiernan took his place by Lugh on the log seat and began to eat. "It'll itch worse if we don't change them." he reminded his brother.
All Tiernan got for the trouble was a sour look from Lugh.
The family ate quickly and quietly after this exchange and soon Wynn was done and just waiting for his sons to finish their breakfast before they headed out for the day.
Rowena went back into the house as soon as she'd finished her breakfast and returned to hand her husband a large bronze vessel. "Please fill this on the way home or we won't be having any breakfast tomorrow."
"Can't have that, can we?" Lugh huffed under his breath.
"You don't have to eat my cooking if you don't like it." Rowena scolded him cheerfully. "More for the rest of us that way."
Tegan set her empty bowl aside and looked hard at Lugh. "Perhaps you should get married? Then your wife can join our household and she can cook for you."
Lugh felt his cheeks getting hot. For the longest time he'd been wanting to ask Maeve to marry him but he hadn't dared. He'd had to content himself with staring at her while she worked with the livestock or in the fields. Village feasts were the best time to admire her since he got to watch her dance. He'd never been able to dance with her himself but he would content himself with the thought that they'd dance finally at their wedding.
"Maybe we'll see a lovely young maiden on the way to the monument." Wynn pointed out. He was anxious for his sons to be finished with their breakfast and to leave for the day's work. "The maidens should be walking to the fields right about now I'd say."
Tiernan couldn't help laughing and elbowing his brother's arm as they finished their breakfast.
"See? If we hurry you can get a good look at Maeve on the way over." Tiernan teased.
"Why would I care about Maeve?" Lugh protested loudly. "She's just a silly girl like the rest of them."
Rowena took the empty bowls from her sons as they finished eating and handed them bronze vessels like their father's, though a bit smaller. "Maeve is a woman now, she's a little older than you after all." she reminded Lugh. "You could do a lot worse than Maeve."
"Come on, let's head out." Wynn said as he stood and tucked his bronze vessel under an arm. He could tell his younger son wouldn't look kindly on much more teasing, "we'll be late if we don't start now."
Tiernan climbed to his feet and grabbed his vessel as Lugh sullenly copied him.
"Have a good day." Rowena urged them as she kissed her husband and looked fondly at their sons. It had been a long time since they'd let her kiss them goodbye.
"Try not to get distracted on the way." Tegan grinned.
"Right then!" Wynn said before Lugh could even open his mouth. "We'll be back a little late but we'll have the water you wanted and we'll be bathed." he promised the women. "Have a good day." he said as he kissed his wife on the cheek.
Wynn led the way out of the village and through the large wooden gate with his sons walking behind him. The sun was getting stronger and hotter by the hour but they didn't have far to walk. The three men made their way carefully down the large hill their village sat atop and made their way across the valley at the bottom of their hill towards the next mound.
The village of Niamh Bryn stood on the tallest hill for miles and with its surrounding stone wall it was easily defensible from attack. Next to their hill rose another, slightly smaller was where the monument was being built and where the three men were headed. For generations the people of Niamh Bryn had been carving and transporting huge stones to the site. This was to be the year the stones were finally erected. This summer solstice was to be the most extravagantly celebrated in history.