Bryan sat on the low hill watching but not really seeing the flock floating on the green sea of grass. He couldn’t see the shepherd, which meant the shepherd couldn’t see him. Good. Bryan tried to keep his mind occupied by imagining the fluffy balls in the field drifting to become the fluffy balls in the larger blue ocean of the sky.
It wasn’t working.
“Cedric,” he said between clenched teeth.
“Bryan” a woman’s voice said.
Bryan looked behind him.
“Dierdre,” he said. “How…”
“You know how I found you,” she said.
“Why,” he started.
“You know why I looked for you,” she answered.
Bryan looked at the ground.
“You’re in pain,” Dierdre said. “Tell me about it.”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Bryan replied.
“You’d be surprised at what I understand,” Dierdre answered.
“You don’t know what happens behind the closed door of the Lodge,” he said.
“You’d be equally surprised at what I know,” she said. “And what I feel. Tell me.”
“Cedric,” was his only answer.
“Cedric has nothing to do with this,” she said.
“Cedric has everything to do with this,” Bryan yelled, his face turning red. “He took what was mine. He took everything and they let him. It’s not fair.”
“Of course it isn’t fair,” she answered, placing a hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Life is rarely fair, yet we must play the game. The key is learning our roles.”
“What do you know about fairness?” Brian asked, violently brushing her hand off of his shoulder.
She stepped back and pulled herself up straight.
“I was born to a long line of queens,” she said. “Yes, I was born to a long line of queens, but they said I was born cursed. An unlucky sixth daughter I was given as wife to a poor shepherd. When he and our son died a year later during the Great Dying Time I was again labeled cursed. The people of the village were set to kill me but Armes told them that I had a role to play in their lives.”
Dierdre’s shoulders dropped. She looked down.
“Soon I saw the nature of my curse, as did others,” she continued. “They called me ‘Storm Crow’ and said I fed from their sorrow. My birth name was Gwenda, she who sees the light of other worlds, but the people renamed me Dierdre for the sorrow I felt. Shunned and hated I lived at the edge of the village.
“Armes promised me that I really do see the light but I couldn’t understand at the time.”
She looked right at Bryan. “Why do you think I’m here?” she asked.
“To feed off of my pain,” he answered.
“No!” she said. “There are two types that will seek you out for your pain. The first is the storm crow that feeds from your hurt. The storm crow will continue to try to make you hurt. The storm crow will kick you when you’re down so he can get as much energy from you as possible. I am different.”
Dierdre looked into the distance. “The other type I mentioned feels your pain and is pained herself. She wants to end the pain so she can be at peace.” She looked back at the young man. “Yes, I do seek you out for selfish reasons, but I really do care for you. I understand you. Since I feel your pain I know what you’re going through. I want it to stop not just for me but because I don’t want you to feel it. You deserve to feel peace.”
Bryan continued to stare at her.
“Another way to look at it,” Dierdre said, “is that Sirona heals your body when you feel physical pain while I heal your soul when you feel mental pain. I am no Armes, but I know you have a role to play. Even if you don’t feel important to the village at this time, you’re important to me. Please help me help you.”
Bryan looked into the woman’s eyes and saw understanding and compassion. He saw Queen Gwenda the Empath. He saw a friend.
Gwenda/Dierdre sat down next to Bryan and put her arm around him. He sunk his head into her chest and started crying. He could feel the pain leaving him and floating into the air like his imagined sheep turning into clouds. It would be OK.