As The Winds Guide Me: Prologue

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My name is Maeryn McNiall, Wolf's Daughter. My father was a veritable giant of a man by the name of Wilhelm McNiall, also called Wolflord.

Even though I lived with my father through my early years, I never really got to know the man. It wasn't until after I took to the high seas in my eighteenth summer that I found out he had been a famed warrior on the mainland which is where he met my mother long ago.

He brought her back to our pretty little southwestern corner of Eire, what folks call Ireland nowadays. Our little village was located on the west shore of the bay that forms the inner southern edge of the hammerhead shaped piece of land at the west end of the Dingle.

I came into this world on Midsummer's Eve of the year 1759. My mother died in the birthing, leaving my father alone and forlorn.

By the time I was just seven years old, I stood as tall as four of the boys in the village, even though they were all five or six years older.

At that point, my father took to the seas again, returning to his warrior ways and I only saw him on those rare times he would return home.

About a month after I turned ten, my father left home for what would be the last time. I never saw him alive again.

I was still growing like a weed, and at that time, I stood as tall as all but the tallest man in the village, one Fergus McAirdrie by name.

To this day, I have no idea why, but Darga McTeague and her husband Celmar took me in, even though they already had three children. Their eldest was a young lass of seven at the time, the middle child a boy of five summers and the younger girl barely two years old.

Celmar was a fisherman, sometimes he would fish in the bay near the village, other times he would go out on the open sea.

Shortly after they took me in, Celmar started to teach me how to fish and how to steer a boat in all kinds of weather. The next five years or so were a mostly enjoyable time for me, barring the feelings I had over knowing my father was most likely dead somewhere.

Then, on a stormy night in early November of the year I turned fifteen, Celmar went out alone and perished in the storm which turned into a fierce gale that pounded the headland all that night. His body didn't come up on the shore until three days after the storm had ended.

For the two years that followed his death, I became the fisherman of the house, going out in almost any weather. Like Celmar before me, many times I would be lucky to bring home a few handfuls of fish; at other times, it was all I could do to lift the net out of the water.

When I managed to get a good haul, I would give some of the fish to the villagers, as a few of them provided all our wheat and corn. Perhaps three or four others kept watch on the combined flock of roughly seventy sheep owned by various folks in the village.

We each could have been greedy with our crops and such, but we had learned that it was a good thing to help others through the lean times, especially folk you had known all of your life. Because we supported each other, the village survived when others had faded away.

At that time, I was following in the footsteps of my father all too clearly, although I had no beard and my voice was still rather girlish. I now looked down on even old Fergus by at least six inches and it looked like I still had some growing to do. I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised, as I knew my father had been very tall himself, just a few inches short of reaching seven feet in height.

My mother, even though I never had the chance to know her, was also quite tall, standing a few inches over six feet when she and my father met in western France the year before I was born. What I didn't know was that she too was a warrior, perhaps not on the field of battle unless she managed to sneak out there without being noticed, but she was one of only a few who could hold their own with my father.

I suppose that was one of the things that attracted him to her. I cannot fathom the way he felt when I was born and he lost her.

Well, it was in the following winter that my body finally started to mature, except it was doing so in the feminine way, not the masculine one. In the early days of the new year of 1775, something inside me broke free and made its way through my body to a spot just under my cock.

Whatever it was, the damn thing was sharp, wickedly sharp. It pierced through the thin flap of flesh under my cock and opened it wide. That was when I received an even bigger shock; I'd been feeling rather irritable, with some nausea and I screamed when I saw blood come out.

That brought Darga from her small room in the back of the simple house at a run. She took a quick look and promptly started giggling, then decided to explain it to me. "Maeryn, child, the priests may have thought ye were a lad, but ye are a lass and this is your first blood."

I stared up at her from my bed in the corner of the main room in absolute shock. It took me a moment to understand what she had said, then I shook my head and whispered, "I'm a girl? But... I still look like a lad, albeit a very large one and the fishing has made me quite strong."

Darga laughed again, "Ye'll be growing breasts soon enough and a womanly shape to go with it. It may take a few years, though."

In the early summer after my first blood, a man came to the village from the outside world on a rather old but solid seagoing vessel. His name was Colin MacAlister, and he had been a warrior on the mainland for several years. He'd heard of my father but had never met him.

At the time, I still didn't know my father had been a fairly renowned warrior.

Anyway, there was some weaponry that my father had left behind, sized for someone his height or fairly close to it. Colin saw me eying his sword and shield one morning and bluntly asked me why I was doing it. My reply was that I wanted to learn how to protect myself and others.

So I spent the summer months, then through the fall and winter of that year and into the spring learning how to use the sword and shield. Once the seas had settled down enough to permit travel of a not so rough nature, Colin made his farewells and left the village.

It did take nearly as long as Darga had thought, I suppose, my body seemed hell bent on catching up in womanly characteristics as it had been on gaining height and strength before that. Now I not only towered over everyone else here, but I looked every inch a lass as well.

I stood there one early summer morning just before my eighteenth name day and looked in the scrap of mirror leaning against the wall on top of the simple clothes cabinet I had for my personal clothing. Old Fergus was a worker of wood and had made it to fit my height.

My breasts had filled in quite a bit since that first bleeding time, but they still looked slightly small on my very large frame. That didn't stop the young men from ogling them at every opportunity they could find or contrive. Heck, even the older men ogled them constantly.

My hips had widened a lot over the last two years or so, several women would look at me, saying things under their breath that I was just able to hear clearly, things like, "With hips like that, she'll have nae problem bearing children if she can find a man willing to bed her!"

I wasn't particularly enamoured of comments like that, but what was I going to say about it? It was easier to just ignore it all.

Since my body started changing, I had taken Darga's three children out with me and had taught them how to catch fish in the bay and outside of it as well. There was something that was calling me to go out into the wide world, and I didn't want to leave Darga's family unfed.

She must have realized what I was doing through those long months, as she confronted me last night as I readied myself to sleep.

"So ye'll be leaving us soon, then, girl? Do ye intend to follow your father and become a warrior, or just to roam the world?" Darga asked.

I'd learned to call her mam over the years that I had lived in her house. "Honestly, mam, I don't know for sure. I just have to go and soon!"

"I thought that might be the case with ye, girl," she replied. "I've seen the restlessness in ye, ye are just like your father was years ago."

"If I could stay here and not have the world out there calling to me, mam, I'd do it. But I canna stay here longer, not with the way the boys and men here all seem to think of me as a prime bitch to be taken. If I stayed, mam, one or more men would die by my hand, aye?"

"'Tis so, girl, I've seen the way they look at ye. At least ye've had some training with your father's spare gear, that will stand ye well out there."

"I sure do hope so, mam. I will miss all of ye, know that for true, but I will try to return here whenever I can get a chance to do so."

I'd spent some of my spare time over the previous winter and spring in modifying the spare fishing boat to take a mast over which I could drape one or two sails to help me as I traveled the many seas out there and in adding a rough but serviceable tiller for steering it.

And so, a few days later, on the day after my eighteenth naming day had been celebrated, I set off in my little boat to see the world.

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