They called her Hellebore for the season of her birth, the time when the followers of the Carpenter gave up all bright things. Her golden hair and sky-blue eyes made mock of her name, and by the time of her first blood, the Green Lady’s priestess, Mother Bet, had claimed her as a pupil.
Hellebore lived with Mother Bet in a circle of nine trees, each of one of the sacred woods. The first of their kind had planted it, when the ways of the Lady were spreading down from the north and west from the mountains. Their hut was round, with a floor built on a nine-spoked wheel set on stakes between the trees. It stood high above the ground, against spring floods. One of Hellebore’s least favorite chores was the scrubbing of the stairs, but she did it without complaint. Slime on the boards meant a painful fall and promoted rotting. “Harm none” read the plaque above their door, including any who might seek Mother Bet’s counsel.
In summer, she slept in the canopy, in a little room with halved logs for floors, canvas walls, and a well-thatched roof. In winter, all of the Lady’s devoted women crowded in together from whatever trees had lent them shelter, where they huddled for warmth around the fire, always burning in its great stone bowl in the center of the hut.