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Introducing Sheila R. Lamb, author of Once a Goddess.
Two tribes battle for control of ancient Ireland, and Brigid must find her place among them, trapped between the will of her people and the desires of her heart. Set in a time when myths were reality, Once A Goddess brings the legend of Ireland’s magical Túatha dé Danann to life.
I stood with my people, trembling. I was terrified. In less than a day’s time, I would live with the enemy, go into their homes, eat their food. I would be the wife of their next chieftain.
I snatched glimpses of Bres, and of the Fomorians. A dark and robust stock, they stood in regiment rows on the other side of the albino hide. Bres was no exception. They returned my open stare. Some faces seemed kind, some curious, with half-hearted smiles, others hard and angry. A flicker of blue in the tapestry of brown…one of the men, in the back of the rows, had blue eyes. I glanced again and he was gone.
My people, the Túatha dé Danann, were gathered behind me. We were the embodiment of airiness, a small, pale race, eyes of blue or green. My chameleon hair could be golden or red, depending on the light. My gown shimmered with Danann magic as it soaked up the colors reflected from the sky.
I caught Bres’s gaze and drew back, intimidated by the sharpness that pierced the air around him. His fitted tunic and knee-length boots of coarse leather and wool defined every lithe muscle he possessed.
Nuada and Elatha left the white deer hide as the divider between the tribes. Bres and I would stand on the sacred deer hide when we vowed our lives together. The Danann ritual was the only farewell my people could give. My father preformed the marriage ceremony.
Bres took my hand in his and I flinched at his grip. He steered my steps to the albino hide, where we would end the bloodshed between our tribes. His hands were solid and brown as stout tree limbs, whereas my hands mirrored the pearls found within the sea. It seemed as though I clasped a young oak.
“Danu, we thank you for your presence. As your children, we stand before you. We ask for peace.” Father diverged from the traditional mating words of magic that called upon the earth and the sky to bind us as one.
“Danann and Fomorian ask for your blessings as we share the earth.” Power should have surrounded me. It should have surrounded Bres. Instead, in the face of blank, empty words and talks of peace between tribes, I felt nothing.
My father’s incantation had ended and it was our turn to speak quietly to each other.
Danann couples spoke sacred words of magic at this point in the ceremony, words to bind them for a lifetime. Of course, I had been warned not to use those words, our secret. My promise was simple: to uphold the treaty.
Bres spoke first. “Brigid, our joining will be new to both our people and to this island. If you can’t bear the pressures that will be put on us, then you may walk away now.”
He knew I couldn’t walk away. He knew we were trapped together.
“There will be pressures,” I said. “However, the purpose of our union is peace. Not for my personal gain.” I paused. “Nor yours.”
Bres smirked at my implications and our eyes met, each daring the other to turn away first.
So, this was how it would be. I knew in that instant that I couldn’t let him catch me off guard; I would have to think carefully before I spoke and always remember that cunning motivation hid behind his words. I would protect our gifts, our knowledge of the elements that surrounded us, with my life. The Fomorians would use that information to take the earth, the source of our strength, from us. And as mine was to protect, I believed that Bres’s mission was to discover.
With sickening clarity, I understood why Father and Mother had chosen me. I, Brigid, was quiet and reserved, able to turn to stone. Stone is what they wanted to give to Bres and the Fomorians.
Bres studied my face as though looking for fractures in my expression. I would not give in to him. Instead of showing my trepidation, I smiled and touched a forelock of his black hair that escaped the tight leather band that kept its length pulled back. He grinned and brought my hand to his lips, biting lightly. His gesture sent a chill down my spine.
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