‘May Day Celebration’
An extract from Dragonclaw, Kate’s first published book
(The Witches of Eileanan: Book 1)
One night they cantered up a steep incline to find a blaze of light and movement on the other side. A procession of torches was winding its way along the road towards her and, in a panic, Isabeau urged Lasair off the road and behind a wall, admonishing him to be quiet. In the darkness she crouched, sure the procession was angry villagers or soldiers come to capture her again. Then the cavalcade came closer and she heard laughter and jesting, and saw men and women dancing together and holding hands, crowned with leaves and flowers.
Beltane, she thought with a pang. It is Beltane already, the first of May. She had been riding for over a month.
At the head of the parade danced a tall, thin man, dressed in leafy branches from head to toe. Isabeau peered over the wall in delight. The Green Man…I have always wanted to see the Green Man…
She would have liked to follow the laughing, dancing figures and seen the end of the May Day celebrations, but with a sigh she mounted as soon as they had passed, and set her face to the south again. Later that night she saw another village in the distance and could not resist sidling close to the village square to watch the bonfire and the dancing. They had just crowned the May Queen and were tying up the maypole in honour of her. A feast was spread out on tables in the square and, overcome by a temptation she could not resist, Isabeau crept from tree to tree until the tables were tantalisingly close. She waited until all attention was on the acrobatics being performed in the centre, then dived under the cover of the white cloth. There she lay all night, putting out a dirty hand and pulling whatever her fingers encountered back into her shelter. For the first time in weeks she was able to eat to her heart’s satisfaction, watching the show from under her cover and wishing she could dance and laugh like the other girls, but feeling a chasm between them like the Great Divide.