665 A.D., Spring
In the songbirds' morning choir Yaret distinguished the sweet voice of a wren. He called up the bird with a whistle, then bound it with a simple spell. As the tiny brown ball of fluff fixed its little beady eyes on him, he sang quietly: "Wren, wren, little friend, fly to my Caireann, carry love from my heart to hers." Obeying the magical compulsion, the bird took wing heading west. Yaret followed it with his eyes: a little brown dot, fluttering in short bursts from one tree top to the next. Just as the bird was about to disappear out of sight, a grey lightning struck it mid-flight – a kestrel took off with Yaret's tiny messenger in its talons.
Yaret gasped as if punched in the stomach, and dropped his cloak. It was a horrible omen. He leapt on his horse, unsaddled as it was, and galloped for the mountains like a madman, his heart pounding in time to the violent drumming of the horse's hooves.
A single magpie was circling above the glade silently, a stark flag of alarm. Yaret scrambled off the horse and ran into the hut, but halted in the doorway. Caireann was lying peacefully in her bed, wolf skin pulled up to her chin, just like he'd left her. Her eyes were closed, and her hands folded over her stomach. The morning light was casting a rosy color on her cheeks. Quietly, so as not to disturb her, he sat at her feet; right away he felt a chill. He slid his fingers under her palm. It was cold and sticky. He pulled back his hand – his fingers were red. Instinctively, he wiped his hand against his bare chest, then threw off the wolf skin. Caireann's head powerlessly tipped to the side, as Yaret stared at the dark red flower blossoming on her chest. Blood saturating her clothes and bedding. With an anguished wail, Yaret grabbed her body, holding her head upright, looking around wildly.
The dirt floor had soaked up the blood. She had been killed as she stood in front of her own hearth by someone she let in. Someone, who had enough of a loathing to stab her through the heart, yet enough respect to arrange her in repose. Desperately trying to collect his faculties, Yaret focused his true sight: there were traces of people all over, men and women who came to Caireann for help and to pay a friendly visit. Yaret wished that the last night's rain hadn't washed away the tracks around the house. Oh, he should be reviving her instead of wasting time on sleuthing!
Desperately, he opened up and poured all of his magic into her body, repairing the tissue, replenishing the blood, then discharging a powerful bolt to restart the heart. The body in his arms jerked, but remained lifeless. He covered the cold mouth with his, breathing air into the deflated lungs, then struck at the heart again; then again and again, each time his efforts growing weaker. He was exhausted from the previous day's battle and the sleepless night. Having never recovered, he then spent all his healing power on the cow and the calf. But even if he had all his strength, there was nothing he could do. The body was cold, beyond revival. Life has long left it, and now the spirit, trapped in the dead husk, required release.
Yaret wept easily, but never with pain, so he shed no tears. It was as if the cold of the corpse had chilled him to numbness. In his mind, a single thought was circling like a wounded swan on the pond: he must send her off with the proper rite. No, his Caireann's spirit won't be imprisoned underground till the flesh rotted away. She would soar with the flames of a funeral pyre, like the queens of old.