She lived there alone, but not lonely in her home on the hill.
It was nothing fancy, no frills adorned the door. Only the old Rowan tree that curved over it.
Her years seemed to have gone on forever and she knew that one day soon, they would, as with every other creature end. People named her the wise woman and it was not her wish. For names held power, or danger, depending on whose hands held them and whose mouths spoke them.
Few words passed old Elspeth’s lips. Morning greetings, or asking after someone’s health, an offer of a prayer for the return to health or a painless end to their life. A blessing offered for a newborn. The same as any other person in the village did.
The difference was Elspeth lived outside the village. Elspeth lived alone. Elspeth was a woman.
Her garden bloomed with flowers and vegetables , herbs and berries. She grew as much as she could because she liked it that way. Her life was a life lived for many years alone.
She had lived as a young woman and lost both child and husband in quick succession. She had dug the graves herself, being without family or friends willing to help her. Elspeth had been alone many years and was content in her own company. Safe in her solitude, she’d thought.
Only today a man in a tall hat had sat astride a horse, calling her outside in the howling wind to answer questions of a curse she’d supposedly uttered over a child.
She stood tall. Told him she’d uttered no curse over any child and had said she hoped the child was blessed.
He spat at her, saying that the child was gravely ill and he’d been called to investigate the possibility of her witchcraft. As he left he disdainfully called her Cailleach and spat in her face, hissing he’d be back for her. Sooner or later.
She went inside her home, closed the door and for the first time, bolted it. Her anger and fear made her shake.
As she went to bed she knew one thing, she had to be careful as the man wanted to come back. He was afraid of her. Fear made men act strangely.