Arethu lived in the hills outside the reach of the lords on the high hall. She knew the man who ruled it was named Balra, who had taken it when his father Torgged was slain the last year. She knew there was a war somewhere, and she had watched the comings and goings of the men without much interest. She had little cause to care about these things. She lived in the forest and took care of herself, and she asked protection from no one. They called her a weirwoman, when she heard them speak of her.
She did not remember her mother very well, she only knew they had always lived in the same small house made of branches and logs and thatch up against the side of the hill, sheltered in the small cave cut into the side of it. Her mother had died ten years ago, and Arethu had been on her own since then. She did not know properly how old she was, but she thought she was perhaps twenty years. It did not really matter to her. What mattered were the seasons, and the sun, and the ways of the forest that she knew very well.
In spring she hunted deer with her bow and arrow, with slight javelins for throwing and her long knife for finishing the kill. She dug roots and gathered berries and fished in the streams and pools. In summer she hunted bird’s nests and gathered their eggs, and in autumn she hunted fat rabbits and smoked their meat for the long winters. She knew the best places to find things, and she knew paths that the men who lived in the hall could not even see.
Sometimes she saw them, walking the trails and hunting for stag, or coming to cut wood for their fires. They did not see her, but she sometimes heard them talk about her. She was like a forest spirit to them, and it amused her to know they feared her as if she were a small goddess. Sometimes they even left offerings for her, and that was amusing as well. If they left food or flowers she was glad of them. Once one had left her a knife, which she prized, and one had left her a golden spear-shape on a leather thong, and she sometimes wore it around her neck.
Once in a while a goat or a sheep would wander into the hills, lost, and she would collect it and tie it to a tree and wait to see if anyone came to look for it. If no one did, she took it as a gift and ate it, and that was something she did not have to hunt. She wondered if they thought she stole from them.