I am trying out a new approach to a story that I have been researching for a number of months. Abbéville is a real place in Picardy, France, not too distant from a town where it appears my family had its roots. Recent DNA tests highlight the Celtic roots of my ancestors. The characters below in the story are Celtic deities that would have been familiar to people in the 800s and through to relatively recent times in spite of the efforts of the Christian Church. Please, let me know what you think of this opening.
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The sun came through the branches to leave a mottled appearance to the almost invisible path through the forest. The morning was promising a hotter than normal day for early June as I made my way towards the village of Abbéville with Cernunnos, Áine, and Brigantia at my side. Abbéville wasn’t our destination, but it was the place where we would rejoin the mortal world in the guise of ordinary people. Our real destination was a village called Longuet. Our journey would have been much quicker had we walked directly to the village, but we didn’t want to appear there without establishing a normal presence in the area.
The Christian Church was always on the lookout for heathens and heretics.
Áine was like a sister to me, a younger sister. Her red hair stirred with the passing breeze. She wore a green skirt that contrasted with her hair and the gossamer wings that had been folded an made invisible as we walked, the only one amongst us to be wearing any clothing. Her horse, a roan, followed with the others as we made our way down the faintly visible trail. Unlike Brigantia, her pale skin was unmarked.
Brigantia was more like my twin sister with long blond hair.
Her body was covered in blue tattoos that were hypnotic to anyone who dared to stare. She walked holding onto her golden spear that was longer than she was tall. Though beautiful beyond imagining, seeing her left most men quivering in fear. Her horse was as black as midnight
Cernunnos was my best friend. Like me, he had dark hair, almost black. Like Brigantia, his body was covered in blue tattoos. And like her, he was fearsome in his appearance, especially when he wore his crown of antlers. His physical power evoked both awe and fear among men, and desire in women. Cernunnos was quick to take advantage of these women who wanted nothing more that to mate. Like Brigantia, he carried a weapon, a long oak staff that was stained from battles from the past. Unlike the rest of us, Cernunnos had no horse. When he shape-shifted, he took on the aspect of a stag.
We had left almost two hours earlier from an unnamed hamlet secreted in the depths of the forest. The place was warded so that strangers wouldn’t stumble upon it by accident. The power of the warding came from a krommlec’h in the form of a circle of stones surrounding a raised stone altar. The hamlet was Cernunnos’ home if it could be said that he needed a place to call home.
As we neared the first signs of other people, each of us hid our natural appearances behind clothing and a small spell that would prevent others from noticing us too much. We blended in with the typical physical appearance of others making sure we were non-descript, something that wasn’t too hard for us to do. What clothing and supplies we needed were taken from the packs on the horses before they were released to return on their own to Cernunnos’ hamlet in the forest. The magic needed was activated to disguise my sword, Áine’s spear, and Cernunnos’ staff to look like ordinary walking sticks. Readied, we slipped from the forest onto the rutted trail that led to the river crossing that would take them into Abbéville.
“Loo, I have to say that you look much better as a peasant,” laughed Cernunnos. “You might even find a toothless hag or two actually lower their standards to take you into their beds.”
“Cern, you’re a pig,” Brigantia spoke with a disgusting tone. “All you ever think about is your staff and where you can bury it.”
“Ugh!” Áine added. “Can’t you talk about anything else?”
“You’re such a prissy one,” Cernunnos laughed. “As if you don’t enjoy a good time in the sack as anyone.”
Lugh smiled at the banter that had begun to emerge, talk that made them sound like locals. They had arrived at the river crossing and found themselves in a small crowd that waited to cross the river in flat-bottomed boats that were tethered to a long rope that spanned the river. The convivial conversation of others surrounding them was just as raunchy. A few of the others frowned and shook their heads. Their threadbare brown robes proclaimed them as belonging to the Church. Lugh held out a few coins to pay for their passage to the opposite shore. Since it was a market day, the town of Abbéville was attracting quite a few, a situation that would make it even easier for Lugh and his companions to blend in.
Brigantia was barely controlling her anger when Lugh spotted her ready to strike a large oafish and overweight man who had just fondled her buttocks. Lugh gave a shake of his head in warning. The last thing they needed to do was to have her teach the oaf a lesson which would have him think twice about taking liberties with women he didn’t know. There were too many clerics around who would attribute any such retribution as a sign of witchcraft. Rather that strike the man with her walking stick, she turned and glared at him. Just enough of her fury showed in her eyes to have back away lifting his arms as if proclaiming his innocence. The incident passed and soon they found themselves walking through the market place in Abbéville.