Note to Readers
Once upon a time, Celtic tribes populated most of Europe. The tribes had different names and customs; some were more warlike and powerful than others. Over the generations, they fought with each other and with outsiders—like the upstart Romans from the south.
In this story, the village of Samarnum is just a bit east of the present city of Amiens, France. The river that runs by Samarnum is the Somme. The story moves along the Loire (or Liger) River to the French province of Brittany, around the Morbihan Bay. To date, no one has located the Veneti capital city that I call Venetona but without a doubt, there was such a place. And there were such people.
The eighth day of Elembiu
Emyn never thought before she spoke. Maybe that was why the dead had such an easy time speaking through her.
What were the ghosts saying as she stirred? The words faded, but battles had raged in her sleep. Emyn remembered seas lit with flame; men shrieked as they ran out of the water. There she stood in the middle of it all, unable to look away as waves lapped at her feet.
She heard the dead chattering over the rustle of leaves and muttered, “No one listens to you.”
The boy curled beside her, then shifted and rolled his head onto her arm. Emyn
The skull temple burned around her. Roman soldiers trampled and smashed the bones until only a circle of broken skulls remained—a sacred circle that no one could cross.
Was time a line or a circle?
Emyn jerked awake, sure that a real voice had asked the question. Gorio slept on. She stared at the stars, the only side of the world left unchanged. They shone like the year’s first snow dusting a field.
Questions raised in dreams had no answers, did they? How could time be a circle? The druids said it was, but they could argue the stars into daylight given the chance.
Time had no end and no beginning, the wise said.
That was silly; everything began somewhere. She’d been born. You philosophers, Emyn told a druid once, you are tricksters who play with words and tell lies that wouldn’t fool a child. He tried explaining time to her, but she was stubborn and didn’t want to understand.
“Our lives continue in a circle; they don’t end.”
“But when you make a circle you begin it,” Emyn had insisted. “You start somewhere. Don’t laugh . . . .”
She could almost hear his deep voice in the darkness. “Rebirth, over and over. We’re in this world or the next. We are never nowhere.”
The druids were wrong, Emyn decided. There were beginnings and endings, even to time. Her own people were gone and Rome had destroyed the last hope of the Veneti yesterday. Her death was near; she knew that as if she’d caught its scent on the breeze.
The holy places, the secret gods and stories known only to the people of Samarnum—all this existed only in her mind. No one would tell her story when she died; it seemed important to recall it now.