You have heard me before a battle. You have heard me speak of life. Now let me speak of death and the ending thereof. You say I speak in riddles? You say I speak so that you may not understand? No, I tell thee, I speak so that you may understand. For mine is not a tale of easy understanding, after all. Mine is no simple child’s fable about a rat, after all.
The answers are always the same, after all. I tell you this story because I have to. Because I could not imagine not telling it to you.
And like all good stories, it starts with a woman…
“Go away Moll.” I think I might have actually meant that.
“You don’t have to be so insulting, chief.” She’s pouting.
“As a matter of fact,” I say, drawing up to my full height, “I do.” She pouted. She showed me her birthmark again. And she wondered why I’ve been sending her away. I walk away.
“You know, about Patrick…” I stop.
There is a moment in time when things stop along with you, I’ve found. Time is only perception, after all. We think of things as “time really flies when you,” but time doesn’t move, it’s just us moving around it. When time stops, I’m not sure if it’s me that’s stopping, or if I’m really just catching up to time.
This time, time caught up to me.
“Gaedan!” I could hear the puffing on Elara’s lips. “Gaedan! Gaedan!”
The puffing got louder.
An awen. My first, truth be told. Let every man hear!
A faceless mob. A voice in the din. A laugh, a cry, a song. A woman, full as nature itself, offering herself to me. Another cry, this one in lament. Sorrow fading, indifference fading, it’s a song that I can’t deny. I see the mob before me, their arms in the air, cheering me on. I see her at my side, urging me to fall, to jump, to crow like a rooster and sing for the crowds. A laugh and a cry, it all sounds the same when you’re on the stage. I lift my lips, I take a drink of nectar that is borne of no fruit.
And I sing.
“Oh there is no death of me!
There is only wide blue sea!
Send me off, ship me to Western Isle!
For here begins the tale of how truth may be!”
For a moment, all is right. There is nothing, no breeze, no land, just the sea. Then ground reasserts itself to me, and I fall…
And, again, I awake from a dream…
“Oh! Gaedan, you’re awake, chief.” Oh Lugh, why punish me?
“That’s enough Moll, let him be. Why not go tell his parents that he’s awake now, child.” Elara. Bless her.
I open my eyes. The awen hit me hard, but I’m still here, still in one place, in one time. When the foresight hits you, you feel like this. Strange. Alive. Even incapacitated, barely ambulatory, I never felt more alive. Elara is standing over me.
“How are you feeling,” she asks. I nod. Words aren’t comig to me yet, I’m still trying to relearn how to speak. Again. The foresight will do that to you. And it feels great.
“Gaedan,” she begins, cautious around me. As if Bards everyday just started into prophecy, into song, around her. “There was a visitor, an elven woman. She insisted that she see you, but I told her that…”
The door swings open.
And words cease to fail me.
“You!” I cry. I’ve never seen this woman before, but I knew her every detail. The golden hair pinned behind her head, her hair straight and molded, unmoveable, but short, so unlike an elf. She’s wearing armor, too, blood red scale, armor that seems to have been made for her body, so unlike an elf, so full it makes my heart ache.
She smiles, and I am lost. But I know what’s coming. The test. I am the one, after all, that she’s been seeking.
She jumps and nobody sees it. Her arms have now gained five feet of tempered steel, as she leaps towards my resting place, the small hut now resonated with that war cry of hers – a sound, again, I’ve never heard it, but from that moment on, I would never forget the harmony of her challenge.
She comes crashing down into my bed, the sword sheering where my head was, and the world is upside down and then right side up. Down feathers fly everyhere as I lunge for the sword on the wall that I’ve never used. She stands erect, now her face is hidden in shadow, and I think I prefer it that way. Her sword is held out, feathers fly around her, but her eyes are boring into me as I stand ready. She pounces and the fight is on.
We fight, we sing. My blood is pumping now, into every vein, and it’s liquid music and lust and love at once. “Oh Kelley”, I sing, “your rat had better be tough to face us!”
And like that she’s gone, fled before we can be prematurely interrupted, no doubt Elara has run for the guard thinking the woman an assassin of some sort. Oh, let them hear whatever the hell they want to her.
She has come, I think, and I am alive after all!
No doubt, it was attack, they said…
“I tell you, James, she was a banshee, one from across the veil, sent to kill us in our sleep!”
“Thats, ‘take you away in your sleep’, Fergus,” my father said. “And mark my words, she spells trouble from the elves. Even those Shar seem tame close to those creatures.” It’s the midnight council, we’re back in the trees, away from sight and habitation.
“Either way, James, it’s a grave threat to Connla! We must send word up to Howth for protection!” Fergus. At least he’s not Fagan.
“Bah, just be on yer guards and yee’l be fine. Young lad here seems to be rather quick with that blade, aye?” I nod. Old Kennedy this time. I liked that old man. “Aye, and to hear him proclaim today! Aye, lad will be a Bard in a few short years, mark my words.” He took a swig of his whiskey. “Any clue what she be after with ye, lad?” he asks. “Or who she be?”
A name. What was it that hack Merlin once said… a word is given when a word is required. Well, I hadn’t needed much help with this one…
“Roisin.” I wanted to melt then and there.
“Roisin?!” My father exploded. Short temper, but he is a Celt. “Now they take Celtic names!”
I shrug. “So how do you know this… Roisin?” I shrug again.
“I don’t. But something tells me I ought to. Something tells me,” I say, hoping to hide the hope in my voice, “something tells me, she’ll be back.”
And while the old men around the fire spoke of Elvish plots to take their land, I sat, cloak around me, already feeling the stiring of music within take a hold on my soul, and thought… this is the awakening, after all.
This is it, after all.
… to be continued …