It’s the music… it’s a blast of air, a dive into a cool lake, all of this is what it feels to be spirited away by a song. You tap a few strings, and it’s magical from the start. A vibration in the string, it causes the air to ripple, and you shiver with it. The movement creates a distortion, the distortion creates more motion, and the rules of the physical world bend to your will. To your voice. To you.
It’s the only religion I need…
“Gaedan! Heya chief, how you feelin’?”
The attack by Roisin has changed our village already. Connla now mutters darkly at the intentions of elves, and the greviances against England are forgotten for a while.
“Yeah,” I wave my hand, hoping to stave her off, but Moll, if anything, is persistant. “I’m fine.”
“Did that girl hurt you, chief?” Concern? Perhaps.
I wonder, at this point, did I dream of Roisin? I know now that she exists, haunting the empty space between memory and fantasy like the banshee Fergus claimed her to be. From beyond the veil?, I wonder…
“You don’t look hurt, chief. Let me help you catch something though?” And there is real desire in her eyes.
A choice? Does Moll really lo…
“Looks like the bard-to-be caught himself something already.” Moll gasps, but I knew already who it was. Her. Excitement is hardly the word.
Roisin takes her time approaching us, circling around Moll, who is paralyzed with fear at the moment. I could care less, though. I look at Roisin, drink in every detail, admire how well shaped she is. My crimes are not often greater than that. Roisin grimaces. “Kinda small though. I’d throw it back if I were you, Patrick.”
She turns on me. “Or does this one have her hook into you, I wonder?” she says with a wink.
Moll sputters. “Just what do you think you’re doing here, you almost hurt Gaedan here yesterday and I know you’re just looking to do it again!” Wow. I didn’t know she had it in her.
Pursed lips. I could die right now if I hadn’t just started to live. “Well, if he’ll let me, sure. Do it again and again and again and again until our limbs fall off.” She smiles. “Sound like a plan to you, Patrick?” Oh, how she teases!
“But he’s not Patrick, Patrick is…”
“I know who he is,” Roisin looks me over and picks her nose. “He’s mine.”
“Wha… what… do you mean?”
A rumbling. Not foresight, no, for Moll can feel it too. A tremor? No – it’s above ground, a force, an army? I look to the west, towards the sea, and then inland. It’s on the hill though, that I see them… oh yes, the Siabra. I have foretold your coming, you that want to be the death of me, the ghostly renegades that have defied the Elves.
I squint. They stand on the hill overlooking Connla, letting the town take them in and be afraid. A motley band, not large, 20 men perhaps, but they are desperate people, robbers and cutthroats all. The townsmen scramble – women and children into their meager huts, the menfolk grabbing what weapons they can – mostly rusty falcattas and clubs. Roisin is now missing, which worries me. I wouldn’t think her to back down from a fight. Moll is cringing behind me now, wanting me to be her protector.
Me! A Bard! Protector of only one!
I urge her into the hut nearest us. Some of the older men and boys are inside with bows ready to defend. I take rank with the men, ready to defend our village and our lives.
We bellow out our defiance. The siabra charge.
We leave Dun Ailinne
My companions are somber. Running from Druim Ligen has burned off the excess energy that the prospect of battle can bring. Now they are alert, calm, focused on the grim art of war. We move on speed lent of sound, the only noise we make is by the concerted strings of us Bards. We are upholders of battle, after all. Wise men, prophets, royal advisors, emrys and magicians all are at the heart, living songs, tied inexorably to the eternal battle of our people.
And that is what I am. A living hymn of glory, destined to live and die in battle. And it is my song that will see the day through, make no mistake about it.
It is a responsibility I gladly carry.
And I begin to tell how it may be…
The siabra rush has pulled us off balance. Lugh blind them, they are a canny lot! We recover, however, the loss is dire – Tedwig has fallen, a brave Firbolg lad. I mutter a dirge for him, but carry on with my grim work. I am no Bard yet, I tell myself.
We regroup at the north end of town. The sky is now littered with arrows, neither side wanting to step out from cover after the first rush. The siabra have underestimated us in their first attack, and it has cost them dearly. They still hold the advantage of experience, though.
The arrows stop. The men mutter. Something is coming.
And we see it, all too late. The siabra advance now with interlocked shields, mostly made of wood and lashings, but they hold and deflect our poor arrows. Several of them hold back, looking for targets to expose themselves. The siabra reach our first position, and the din is awful. Arrows seethe into every place we allow – the battle has turned.
My thoughts are frantic. I search for the words I need to turn this battle. I scream, I am a Bard! But nobody hears. Nobody can listen. And in the smoke and confusion, I see my father.
And he is going down.
Confusion clarifys. What was once chaotic has order. The siabra have stopped, their faces blank. A note…
… a song…
My song! I feel the power within surge as the music flows from me, and once again, I enter the veil between worlds.
Come summer, Come winter!
Mouths of harps and bags and pipes!
And she is here.
Roisin explodes into vision, still in her armor, sword in hand, she’s jumped off one of the huts into the fray, her blade tearing the siabra with vicious precision. Her warcry is lost in my song, as is everything at this moment. The air itself is alive with sense, the tingling vibration of my tenor has made the hairs on the back of neck stand at attention, it’s a power I never dreamt of, and it’s mine to command. With a wave of my hand, I see the ills of my people fade from sight, wounds restored as if they had never been delivered.
Yet, I cannot take my eyes of Roisin. She darts from enemy to enemy, her cuts quick and deliberate, never missing, never lingering. The remaining siabra turn to flee from our deliverer, but those that are not cut down as they turn have their lives extended only slightly as we rally.
And as if it were that simple… the siabra are defeated.
… to be continued …