The Wisdom of the Cailleach

The flames crackled and spat forked tongues of luminescent orange and green towards the ceiling of the souterrain. A coil of smoke from a bubbling cauldron curled its way upward towards a small opening in the roof.

Brigid approached the doorway, and watched the Cailleach as she hunkered, naked over the cauldron that sat atop the flames.

‘What do you want Brigid?’ asked the Cailleach, her eyes still on the cauldron.

Brigid said nothing but her amber eyes roamed up and down the Cailleach’s body. Her skin was bright blue and covered in tattoos of swirls and patterns which seemed to dance in the flickering light. Her skin shrouded the protruding bones of her spine, making her appear half cat, half dragon.

The Cailleach turned to look at the kitten. The bells hanging from her ears tinkled.

‘Well?’ she said.

Brigid straightened herself up and placed a paw on her chest. She could feel her heart thumping in her chest and was fighting the urge to run.  

‘I want to know how to be the most powerful queen in Alba,’ she paused, ‘the world. I want you to tell me how to be the most powerful queen in the world.’

The Cailleach stood up and approached Brigid. She began to mutter under her breath and swipe at unseen birds with her arms.

Brigid took a step back; she could feel her tail fluffing in fear, but she was determined not to be scared of the cat before her.

The Cailleach stood motionless in front of her. They were nose to nose; their whiskers almost touching. Lifting her paw the Cailleach reached out and drew her claw lightly down the side of Brigid’s face, brushing her whiskers, making her jump.

‘You might want it kitten, but you can’t have it,’ whispered the Cailleach into Brigid’s ear.

 She slowly circled Brigid, her paw still on her, brushing it over her fur. Brigid hardly dared to breath, she bit down on her lip, fighting the urge to cry out.  

The Cailleach leaned in close, ‘not now. One day you will be a great leader, but only if you deserve to be one, not because you want it.’

The last words left her in a whiny, childish voice.

‘Now get out my home and leave me alone.’

She pushed Brigid out the door and as she landed with a thump on her tail the door slammed in her face.

‘You’re wrong,’ Brigid said, her voice rising, ‘you’re wrong! I will be the greatest queen the world has ever seen, and you’re not going to stop me!’

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