A True Calling Revealed!
Becoming the Highlands Huntress
She sat down on the log and reached over to scratch behind the great hound's ear. A motion unconscious to the both of them, yet giving comfort to each.
"How long have I been at this," she pondered. "Four hundred, five hundred years?"
When thinking of her family; her mother, father and three brothers, her home, they all seemed so distant. Like a story related to her by someone else, about someone else.
"How did this all begin? Could I have prevented or changed this outcome?"
She shifted on the log and the dog Seamus grunted his displeasure. As she resumed scratching the silly beasts ears she pondered the beginnings...
She had saved her mother from living out her days as a bear and had united her family. But that damnable, incompetent witch had forgotten to tell her the whole truth of the spell. She had wished to change her mother and change her destiny. With the hint from the witch she had managed to change her mother back to a human and her destiny had changed, but not as she had expected. Why had the witch not told her the balance of the spell or CURSE!
Her parents had changed their minds about forcing her into a marriage she wasn't ready for, but ever since that moment that spell was cast SHE had changed. Never aging a day more than she was at that point, so many years ago. As time progressed she became as proficient with riding, hunting and weapons as any man in the land. Soon there were no young men enthusiastic about to seeking her hand in marriage. She was no longer the mild, desirable, pliable young princess. Not that she really minded, she always preferred the company of her hounds and mounts anyway.
Finally, she had made the trip to the standing stones to seek answers. There had to be more to this "new" life than eternally existing. She would find a beginning... or find an end...
~ The night was dark and the stars seemed endlessly distant, her current Seamus sidled nervously and emitted low growls and whines. The scent on the air was dense with the forest musk and seemed almost damp. Ahead, could still be seen, the blueish glow of the Will-o-the-Wisp she was following. Without warning she stumbled out of the trees and into the clearing. All around her stood the great stone circle, silent and daunting. It seemed to be listening.
She stepped to the center of the stones, leaving Seamus nervously pacing outside the circle.
"Is anyone here? Does anyone listen? Why has this happened to me?" Her voice raised with each question. "What right had you to do this to me," she anguished "I did not ask for this!".
"Did you not?" Asked a low voice with the resonance of the ages in it. "Did you not ask to be changed, to be in charge of your own choices and destiny? Who now stops you? " mocked the voice.
"My very false life stops me" she spoke. "I go on and on, with no goal, no purpose, no meaning to this eternal living", her voice quieting to near whisper.
Lifting her chin in defiance she demanded, "Who are YOU to mock me or my fate!"
"I AM THE CAILLEACH BHEUR! Goddess of Winter, Mother of Mountains, Ageless Lady of Dark Places, Ancient Crone of Wisdom. The Winter brings the Spring, and in death, I am endlessly renewed, and you should have known better than to play with the DEEP MAGIC" the voice boomed and vibrated around her.
The girl fell to her knees, her mass of flaming hair tumbling over her downturned face. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she felt the shame and truth in the words of the goddess and she was humbled.
Not being one to feel sorry for herself, she sniffed deeply and straightened to a stand. She bowed her head in deference and asked quietly,
"Great Lady, what must I do to bring meaning to this ever going life that I now am living? I grow weary of the meaningless of my days."
“At last…” the phrase was sighed out like the last breath leaving a body.
Before the girl, the mist that had been building, coalesced, taking the shape of an ancient hag. The old woman reached out and clutched the girls hands with a grip that belied her appearance of great age.
“We had begun to despair of your coming to this realization, but it had to be of your choosing. The previous Hunter has gone without an heir,” continued the old woman, “Considerable changes have occurred since his passing, many with dire consequences. Particularly with no one to step in during his prolonged absence”.
Wrenching her hands free of the old woman's grip, the girl asked in confusion, “What are you talking about? What hunter? What heir? Nothing you are saying makes sense!”. She violently shook her head, as if, by clearing her mind of the fog, the hag also would disappear.
“Of course not, impatient child!” Scolded the old woman, “ I have not finished. The sacred place where you are standing, is one of many in our land. They are places of meeting where worlds divided come together. At certain times, under certain circumstances the walls between these realms soften and travel between realms becomes possible”.
The old woman continued with sorrow in her voice, “But not all travelers have good intent. Some come intending evil and some are just inherently evil. The calling of the Hunter is to track down these visitors and discover their intent.”
“That's all well and good, but what does it have to do with me?” The girl continued with impatience.
“GIRL!”, then in a quieter tone, "My dear girl… do you think I share these facts with you to no purpose? Do you still not begin to perceive?” Placing her hands gently on either side of the girls face and drawing it down close to her own, she continued. “The land has a great need for a new Hunter, and you have a growing need for objective in your life.”
The girl’s mouth shaped an “Oh” as understanding of the old woman's words began to sink in. “No, no, oh no,” she shook her head and backed away. “You cannot possibly mean me. I am no warrior, no great hunter.” She waved her hands in front of her, “I have no skills for this calling”.
“Child,” the hag continued, “we are not seeking a warrior and the skills you have will serve you well. As for the rest, we will provide helpers and tools. What we need from you is an acceptance and dedication to the calling”.
~ As she relaxed on her log in the cool of the forest’s shaded afternoon, she gazed down at the huge dog beside her, his great pink tongue lolling out and a toothy grin of pleasure on his face. She continued to recollect on the day of her awakening. How long had it taken her to accept the Great One’s calling? A day? An hour? A few moments? She honestly couldn't remember, she knew she had been of two minds. But the completeness of the calling had come to her and she had known it was the destiny that called to her. So she had accepted, and had become the next Hunter.
The old ones had been true to their word and had provided her with the tools she had needed. Including a tiny Will-o-the-Wisp companion, who resided in a small round reticule she wore on her belt. It had proven to be a proficient tracker with natural instincts to trace beings from other realms. The skills she had developed in her long years previous to becoming the Hunter had also proven true, as the old ones had promised. She had fully become and embodied her calling.
So in “polite society” she would remain the eccentric Lady Merida… but when the calling came upon her she would withdraw and become her true self… the “Highlands Huntress”.
Merida glanced down to the stirring at her side. The Will-o-the-Wisp had awoken and was seeking her attention. She and the great dog rose and stretched muscles and joints that had been still overlong. It was time to go on the hunt. Would this be a friendly meeting or one that would threaten her very existence? Smacking the hairy beast with an open hand and an exuberant smile she called to the dog, “ Let us go find out, my friend!”