Xyla's Quest Chapter 1 Update

Merrdyn poured Hagen some Mead and joined him in a drink next to the hearth.  The beakers were particularly fine, befitting his status as High Druid, carved from the finest horn with silver mounts which glinted in the firelight.  He passed one to his friend whose large hands dwarfed the vessal which he eagerly put it to his lips.
       Hagen used an iron rod to revive the flagging fire, sending up sparks which flitted like fireflies into the roofspace and plumes of smoke that permeated the straw thatch.
The two old friends stared at the flames transfixed by their hypnotic dance.  A loud 'crack' from a candescent log stirred Merrdyn from his trance and prompted him to speak.
        "I fear the dark days foretold in my visions are nearly upon us," said Merrdyn.  Consumed by trepidation his gaze drifted away from Hagen's face and became lost in the middle distance.  Hagen tried to bring him back with words of reassurance.  "We have heeded many bad omens and survived countless threats in the past. We will again."
        "This time is different", said Merrdyn, with a sense of defeat in his voice.  "Last night the Goddess Morrigan appeared to me and assumed the guise of a raven.  It circled the sky multiplying into a flock which blocked out the sun.  A sparrow fell from the sky and lay dead before me"
        "Then we must act to supplant our fate," ventured Hagen.
"Our fate appears sealed," replied Merrdyn.   "The message is clear.  Morrigan is the Goddess of battle.  The ravens symbolize the passage of those slain on the battlefield up to the Otherworld.  The sparrow represents centuries of ancestral knowledge.  
        We are facing a challenge not only to our tribes but to the existence of our religion"  
"What do you propose we do."?
       "I have taken steps.  But if anything should befall me, please see that Xyla is safe.  She is the last of my line.  Without her....." said Merrdyn, his voice slightly cracking with emotion, ".....all would be lost..."  As he drew breath to continue, Hagen alerted him to the sound of shuffling outside.
       Xyla paused outside the roundhouse clutching a bundle of kindling.  She coughed subtly before pushing the door aside and squeezing through.
"Evening Hagen," she said cheerily as she caught sight of her uncles weather-worn face.  By now his cheeks and bulbous nose were reddened by both over-indugence of liquor and the ambient light of the glowing embers.
       She stooped to drop the twigs in a woodstore.  On straightening up she brushed off some flecks of wood and smoothed the creases of the dress which clinged to her slender figure.   Her chestnut brown hair which tumbled in soft curls around her shoulders glowed deep red as she stood by the fire.  Her delicate features seemed immune to the harsh shadows which were less than forgiving to the two men before her.
       "Hello Xyla," replied Hagen draining the last of his drink.  "I'm afraid I'll have to love you and leave you."
"Don't leave on my account," she said.  "Please stay.  I'll get you some more mead."
       "That's very kind but I have plenty to do, thanks to your father," he said with a wink and a smile.  "High Council meetings don't arrange themselves."  
He hauled his heavy frame off his chair and bid them farewell before squeezing out the door.

The day of the High Council meeting on Anglesey had finally arrived.  It had been postponed several times due to Tribal conflicts which required their Druids to remain in their roles as mediators.  Hagen was running around like a man possessed, unnecessarily fretting over every small detail.
       The officials of the Druid College assembled inside the Sacred Grove and Hagen arranged them in order of importance.  Merrdyn as High Druid stood at the front to be the first to greet the dignitaries.  A long procession of Druids in ornately embroidered white robes made their way up the avenue.  The neatly manicured grass was courtesy of the sheep who Hagen had grazing there in the previous week.