In the following excerpt from Fiery Arrow, the second novel in the Brigid of Ireland trilogy by Sheila R. Lamb, the author uses footnotes to give insights into her writing. Lamb’s historical fiction trilogy is perfect for anyone interested in the history of Ireland before the arrival of Christianity, what happened to the druids when the (pre Saint) Patrick arrived, and how everything changed.
When we approached him in the pastures, he didn’t appear to recognize me or care at all that we were there. (1) He was supposed to help us with the Ancient Ones, to share the stories. Maybe the servants would follow our past again, instead of the Pallidans on the eastern coast. (2) Dathi told me he had prepared him for moons and had taught him the bardcraft.(1) This section is one of the biggest changes to Fiery Arrow, from the first edition. I wanted Brigid and Patrick to meet in person — not an otherworldly communication. With the help of a druid named Dathi, they do.
(2) A reminder that St. Patrick was not, historically, the first Christian in Ireland, but Palladius.
“Remember, Patrick, the Ancient Ones? I told you the stories about the Danann and the Lia Fail.”
“I remember.” He held on to his walking staff and looked beyond us to the sheep in the pasture.
“Now it’s time,” said Dathi. “You and Brigid will work together to share those stories with the people.”
Patrick looked at me and shrugged. “Fine. I’ve nothing else to do.” (3)
I looked at Dathi. “I don’t think he’s prepared for this.”
Dathi smiled. “Just wait.”
Dathi brought us together to practice meditations, to work on memories of the past, our lives before this one. (4) Patrick and I sat before him, eyes closed while he chanted ancient words and ancient verse. I felt glimmerings, vague impressions while Patrick sighed and shifted in his cross-legged seat. (5)(3) Patrick has been enslaved for several years by this point and has been told the Danann legends by Dathi. While he vaguely recognized Brigid at the Imbolc ceremony in the previous chapter, he is worn out and toughened by his experiences.
(4) I wanted to show a more realistic and less fantastical version of Brigid. She’s a young woman, a druid-in-training who has to work on these skills too.
(5) She knows they had a past together and is working on those memories. Patrick fights this process and can barely admit to himself the dreams they shared.
After several days of hiking out to the shepherd’s booley hut, I’d had enough.
“Dathi. Stop,” I said. His chants ceased. “We can’t do this on command.”
“Whatever this is,” added Patrick.
Dathi sat next to us, weary. “I have seen it. Both of you, together, help to heal this land. All you have to do is — ” (6)
“Remember,” said Patrick. He stood, stretching his long legs. He gazed into the distance, keeping track of the sheep.
I’d wondered about his negativity the first few days of the meditation practice. “Why are you doing this?” I asked earlier. “You clearly don’t want to.”
“You and Dathi came to me, remember? You handed me a lamb. As far as I’m concerned, you are someone to talk to.” (7)(6) A little bit of historical foreshadowing here. Patrick and Brigid do heal the land together, just not in the way the druid expected.
(7) Again, Patrick is unimpressed with the druid’s interest in him and less so with the old mythology. He’s not going to admit any connection with the island that has held him prisoner at this point.
I did give him the lamb at Imbolc. As the druids chanted the magic and the people danced around the bonfire, I saw him. Patrick. There, but reluctant. It was him. I’d seen him in dreams, the shepherd with his staff.
“Brigid,” Dathi asked. “Did you have any memories? Anything new today?”
“I don’t think this can be forced, Dathi. You’re trying too hard,” I said. “And Patrick could get into a lot of trouble if Milliuc found out. This is dangerous for him.” (8)
“I can handle Milliuc,” said Dathi.
“I can’t,” said Patrick bitterly. “I’m the one who gets beaten if a sheep is lost. I was locked in a lambing shed all winter. You show up after the fact.”
This is why meditations didn’t work. Too much worry. Dathi closed his eyes. He didn’t want to relinquish control of his experiment.
“I need to be alone to meditate. Maybe Patrick does too.” (9) Patrick’s eye caught mine with the slightest raised eyebrow. (10) It was the first time I’d seen any lightheartedness from him.(8) Brigid finally gets it. This is the beginning of her realizations that Patrick is not going to jump on board with the druid plan.
(9) She has a clue where Patrick is coming from. In the previous edition, she had Dathi’s job as her otherworldly self. Here, they are two young(ish) adults rolling their eyes at their class assignments.This makes a lot more sense to me.
(10) A little bit of attraction? Maybe?
“That may be best,” said Dathi. “Except he can’t be alone – he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
That earned another raised brow from Patrick. “I’ve been alone up here for years,” he said. “I haven’t experienced any amazing memories.” (11)
“Maybe not,” said Dathi. “But you perfected an entire language in a few days listening to raiders on a boat.” Patrick turned away. Dathi hadn’t told me about this. I would have to ask Patrick about it later. Dathi continued with his instructions. “You two alone here might work.” (12)(11) Another change here to a more historical rather than fantasy setting between Brigid and Patrick. There are still elements of the paranormal, as they are both descended from the Tuatha De Danann, but I much prefer showing them getting to know each other.
(12) Go ahead. Leave those two alone for awhile 🙂
Thanks again to Sheila for sharing her insights!