Perennials

a vibrant flower
sun-showered bursting with life
collapses in dark

“And when you died, they came,” she finished.

“Yes.” Boudicca turned and looked out over the sea. “They came. My people tell my story with pride. They remember me, but they could not keep the dark forces at bay.”

“Must it be this way?” she cried. “Must we always wait for a witch with knowledge and strength enough? Is there no other way than to endure the years of darkness and tragedy while we wait for that witch, each time again?”

Boudicca turned her piercing blue eyes on her. “I don’t know, child,” she said sadly. “I only know my magic died with me.”

Tears welled in her eyes and she set her lips in a thin line. She shook her head, slowly at first and then faster, harder.

“No. It doesn’t have to be that way. I am sure of it, Boudicca.”

She looked up at the towering presence of the witch’s spirit.

“Your magic lives in me, even if you died before I ever lived. Your people revered you but put all their hope in you, and you thought that was enough to keep your magic going, to keep tragedy at bay. I don’t know yet how to keep my magic alive when I die, I don’t know yet how I can keep my magic constant without periods of waiting and darkness, but I will try. My promise to you, Boudicca – I will try.”

Boudicca kept her face turned to the sea, away from her. “You can do what I was not enough for, child.”

She lifted a hand and reached toward the face of the great witch. Hesitantly, unsure if she could touch a spirit, she laid her fingertips on Boudicca’s cheek.

Boudicca felt her touch and turned to face her.

“You were always enough,” she said softly, and her fingers were wet with Boudicca’s tears – the tears of a warrior. “I would be nothing if not for you, and your magic lives in me. And through me, your magic will be more than enough.”

Boudicca laughed, a sound filled with liquid sparkles, and her mind filled with images of glowing light refracted through shimmering streams. “Go on, then, child, and make me live again. Make me live forever.”

wilted and shrunken
the myrtle feels sunlight and
springs to her bold height

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Notes: I wrote this story when I was going through a very difficult time, scratched it quickly on a scrap of paper with a tiny bit of  pencil. I stuck that scrap of paper in a notebook and forgot about it until I found it last week, along with two haikus that I had been playing with – I had been trying to decide whether I wanted to write a poem about shriveling up without sunlight or one about becoming reborn with sunlight. Now, as I read the snippet of a story along with the two poems, it seemed so obvious: of course, I was writing a story about both, and the story needs to be preceded by one and succeeded by the other.

One of the sparks behind this story is, of course, the idea of Boudicca, a female Celtic warrior who fought – and failed – to defend her people against the invading Romans.

Another was a story I overheard from a tour guide on the Scottish island of Eigg. I spent a few days there this past summer, and one gorgeous afternoon, after I had walked the length of the island and back, I sat next to a group of hikers at the island’s cafe.

I shamelessly eavesdropped as the tour guide told the hikers the story of a pagan Scottish queen of Eigg who defended her people against the invading Christian Irish by causing an orb of light to appear: an orb which entranced the Christian Irish and caused them to mindlessly follow it – into the ocean, where they all drowned.

Of course, the tour guide concluded, eventually the Irish did conquer Eigg and the ruins of a medieval church prove that the island was not pagan for much longer after the era of this legend. 

The idea that the legend is still told, proudly, by residents of the island who may be descended from the early Eigg inhabitants or from the Irish invaders – or neither – fascinated me. Add to that my existential horror at the way history seems to repeat itself, one battle won only to have another, worse, arise – and this story happened.

I intended to write this up into a full-length story, and maybe I will. But for now, this stands on its own, just this snippet.

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