A sacred hour and a simple ritual.
A Single Rose
The priestess stands alone upon the shore. The wind tugs fretfully at her long white cloak, and the grey pre-dawn light casts a ghostly air over all. Waves roll up and crash upon the rocks, sending up a spray that lashes viciously around her calves. It is freezing, she does not care.
She bows her head before the majesty of the sea.
It is difficult sometimes, although she rarely admits it. It is her duty to teach, to guide and to nurture. Her duty, and her calling. She sees the children every day, and loves them as if they were her own. In a way, they are. But sometimes it is hard to teach them and love them and comfort them when she knows that Briar will never run to her arms again.
The horizon is stained crimson now, and she watches the newborn sun spill its first fire over the receiving waves.
She always tries to convince herself that her grief is spent, but one day of every spring she comes down here at dawn with a single offering to cast upon the waves where the sea claimed its own. The rose she holds is scarlet, fresh cut, a beautiful sacrifice. She does not begrudge the gods of the deep their due, there is power there and mystery beyond her comprehension. But sometimes... it is difficult.
The young sun is almost above the horizon when the laird joins her and stands in silence beside her, as he does every year at the appointed time.
Finally, though, he speaks.
"I miss him too," he says, looking down at her with a sad smile.
She says nothing, but goes to his arms with a soft sob, and he lays his cheek against her golden hair.
"I see him every day," he continues. She loves his voice. "In the moorland fox, the osprey upon the winds, the hare in the heather."
She smiles through her tears.
"Will you come home?" he asks, brushing hair from her damp cheek.
"Yes." She sighs, suddenly rueful that the realities of life must intrude upon this sacred hour. "I must prepare myself for a further assault upon the gates of teenage stubbornness. Young Rowan would like to go to college on the mainland." She wilts once more, and glances back out to sea.
He knows what she is thinking. As his heir, Briar would have been sent away from them by now, away to live and study among the hard-faced men and women of the world they eschewed. He shakes his head, dispelling the thought and looks at her from beneath beetled brows. "The mainland is no place for a young woman."
She allows herself to be led away. "I survived," she says with just a hint of reproof.
He smiles at the mulish expression on her face. "You are strong."
She gives a little snort of amused disagreement, and suddenly she is herself again. She twists away from him, hurrying back to the tide line. With every ounce of strength she can muster, she hurls the blood red rose out into the sea where their son drowned, and watches it until it is pulled under by the hungry waves.
It is hard sometimes, but she knows that he is right. She is strong, stronger than she ever thought she could be. Although Briar will never run to her arms again, there are other children to care for, to guide and to protect. It is her calling.
The priestess laughs at the young sun and the white tipped waves. It is a joyous laugh, rich and musical. She runs back up the beach to him, and they link arms and ascend the narrow footpath to the estate grounds above. Their passing startles a fox from the tall beach grass, and the laird of Summerisle watches it lope away across the heather and smiles.