Well, I told you there’d be fiction again! I figure after that doozy of a post, I should lighten stuff up. But I also want to stay on target somewhat. While thinking about what I wanted to write in the previous entry, a thought had occurred to me that I might have another outlet for expressing my anxiety, one that would also allow me to work on the well overdue The Priest of Smugglers’ Run. Of all my characters, the one that would absolutely struggle with anxiety — in fact, I think he does without me even having known about it — would be the titular priest, Protharious.Continue reading “Protharious”
There was something in the way that his shoulders slumped. Perhaps there was too much breath in his sigh, in the barely audible groan that accompanied it. His eyes, always so alive and inquisitive seemed dimmed, focused too much on the ground. Whatever it was that tipped Joanna off, she knew without Kevin saying a word that his day was too long to forget over one drink.Continue reading “sober”
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 …
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 …
The gleeman wrapped his cloak tightly around his body. I thought it was a bit overdramatic, myself. Something that a Britton would do. Still, I was only 9 years old. What could I possibly know?
“He who has ears to listen, let him hear!” the Bard proclaimed, ending his tale. A tale of glory, I guess. Of our High King. I didn’t know Ireland had a High King. I don’t think I even really knew what a High King was. Someone really important, I suppose. All I knew is that I was unimpressed. I was, after all, very young. But listening to the Bard, seeing the manufactored looks of intrest on the faces of my people, I think I began realize something that day. Listening to this man, this Merlin, I think I understood why the grownups often talked in hushed voices, why so many of them had looked so sad. It wasn’t until much later that I fully comprehended this thought, but I was, after all, very young.
Perhaps he spoiled me. Perhaps I thought all Bards were as puffed up and arrogent as Merlin Embries. I didn’t even want to be a Bard myself. It was all her doing, after all. After she came into my life, I couldn’t not sing – it was as if I was besotten or perhaps gaesed like the heroes of old, trapped by an elven woman with a Celtic name. Ironic that, since I’m a Celt with an Elvish name. Perhaps we were meant for each other. Perhaps, in the end, I’ll just find that I ask too many questions.
Well, they say wisdom comes to us all. Eventually.
“Gaedan! Gaedan!” Nothing happened. “Gaedan, hey, what are you doing, Gaedan?” As I recall, it was a nice day – the Shannon was deep blue and smell of salt was faint.
I looked up. “Fishing, I guess.” She frowned.
“You don’t have any bait, chief.” Say what you want about Moll, she always sees to the heart of things. Whether she means to or not.
“I guess I’m just thinking, then.”
She squatted next to me, hands on her knees. “About what, chief?”
“Things. Life. Nothing in general. Just letting my thoughts wander along with the fish, I suppose. Why?”
She looked at me for a while. I had my suspicions about Moll. I think maybe she knew more than she said. “I was hoping… I could help you catch you something.” Then she fell on me and kissed me.
“Why don’t you change your name?” she asked later.
“Why, you think I should?” I guess there was a little edge in my voice.
“Ya, chief. You could be ‘Patrick’. I think you might be a ‘Patrick’.”
“Tell me chief, don’t you want a different name?”
I was 9 again. The golden-eyed Bard held my face in his hand, measuring me for all I was worth, I guess. Try as I might, though, I couldn’t hold his gaze for that long. Not many men could, I’m told. Still… “He has the way of a Bard about him.” Perhaps if he didn’t say that, I might have felt better about the whole thing. But no. Spoiled from the start. “I could, if you like, find fostering for him over in Brittan. My academy always could use a student with his gifts.”
Yeah. Whatever. Go away, Merlin.
“Yes, young Gaedan is rather gifted, Lord Embries.” Fagan. Oh, he was a viper back then as well.
“Gaedan?” Merlin seemed a bit taken aback by that. I’ve heard Merlin had some Celt in him. Maybe he felt a little pecular about Irish names. No doubt Fagan struck the wrong chord in him. Lugh knows he strikes the wrong chord in everyone else. “Tell me boy, don’t you want a different name?” Had I a dagger, I’d have gone for him.
That’s not what he said, of course. But it’s what I heard. And it’s what I’ve heard ever since. Perhaps she didn’t even say it. Maybe she said, “Oh, yes, Patrick is a fine name,” as if she wasn’t talking about someone else while we lay together. Whatever.
I heard what I heard. Let every man with ears hear his own damn thing, it’s what you make of the music that matters, not what the music makes of you.
“… it’s a strong name, or maybe Tedwig, though that’s a Firbolg name, or perhaps … ”
Moll, as you can tell, had a healthy appetite.
It’s the eve of battle.
Tomorrow my warriors and I will defend our lands in this never ending war. We’ll kill them all, or we’ll be killed, and every night it’s like this. Lugh prevent the day when we ever feel this alive again.
And yet we are alive. Look, see, there is Lexinthis, his laugh drowning out the hall, and Kayitlen at his side, holding close to him, sharing with his glee! See how they hold each other, how they live like today is their last. And how all our brave company gathers. I was maybe born for this night, I think. And I smile. There is more sing, after all, and I am not the only Bard that’s lived.
And look! There is Nauc, the unusally boisterous Sylvaan, being taunted by Sonderac, who is teasing him with a torch.
Tomorrow we’ll fight, some of us will die, some of us will live, and we’ll go back to being seperate, the Elves in their lands and us Celts in ours. I’ll probably go back to see my parents in Connla. At times, I envy those that will die tomorrow – they will pass with this night fresh in thier minds.
And since this is the eve of the battle, and since I am a Bard, I am asked to sing…
And sing I did…
As I begin to tune my harp, I wonder, how did I get here? How is it that I was once one of the living dead and now alive, facing death with a smile on my lips?
Ah yes. Her. Well, that is not the story I will tell tonight. Here it begins, however…
“There was, I am told, a family of little means in Connla. It is true, since many families in Connla are of little means. Connla is of little means. This particular family was one of a man named Kelley, and the Kelleys had a problem.
“One day, as they sat to break fast, a rat, one of the largest rats they had ever laid eyes upon entered their house and jumped on their table. The family backed away, as they were in awe of such a large rat, but also scared out of their wits! No sooner had the rat entered and jumped on their table, did it eat all their food and then leave.
“Dinner came and after a hard day of work did Kelley come home and find the rat had just came and left, leaving his family without food for the night. The children’s stomachs grumbled and his wife was near to tears, but all that was cooked and edible was eaten, and the only full belly belonged to the rat.
“‘Lugh help us!’ cried Kelley. ‘We will surely starve to death!’
“The following day, Kelley bought a cat that was known to the people of Connla to be good at catching rats, and took the feline home with him. The cat was of an odd manner, as all cats really are, and it simply sat down by the fire and fell asleep. That night, when dinner was laid out, the rat returned, and finding the newest addition to the family, bristled its back, but made to speak with the cat to see what this curious creature would do.
“‘How goes, friend,’ said the rat in an easy manner. The cat made no reply.
“The rat tried again. ‘I say, how does a curiousity like yourself find itself in this place of all places?’ Still, no answer, but Kelley gave the rat an ominous look as if to warn the rodent of what the cat would do should it not leave.
“Nervous now, the rat backed up from the dozing cat and after a moment of consultation with itself, struck out at the cat, hoping to slay it while it dozed. However, the cat was quick and light of foot, and it dodged the initial attack. The fight was on, and a furious fight it was. However, the cat was beaten by the larger rat, and it slinked off back into Connla to lick his wounds. Woe was the family of Kelley as the rat jumped back on the table and devoured the dinner that had been laid out.
“‘We’re finished now,’ lamented Kelley, ‘That theiving old rat will eat all of our stores and leave us to starve!’
“For three days and nights, the rat returned and claimed the food it felt was owed to him, and yet, there was no sign of the cat. On the fourth morning, however, the cat appeared, and in tow was the largest cat the Kelley family had seen. The first cat resumed its position back by the hearth, but the larger cat settled into a chair back along the shadows. They were fed milk as a token gesture, and the Kelley family prayed mightily that they might be able to stop the rat.
“Breakfast was served, and no sooner did Kelley raise his fork to his mouth did the rat appear, and in seeing the cat back at its place, snickered, and fell in to attack whom it had so easily bested.
“However, when the rat struck, so did the large cat pounce, and the fight was joined yet again, this time with large cat against the rat. The fight lasted all day and into the night, and when the sun set, the large cat finally killed the rat.
“Both cats were given their share of milk for their efforts, they spent the night warm by the hearth, but when morning came, they were gone, never to be seen again.
“Let every man with ears to listen, let him hear!” I have sang and will sing no more tonight before this crowd of warriors. “Tomorrow is a day of battle and no more will be said for tonight!”
… to be continued …