Saturday, 11 March 2017

For Lands lost and Gained


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The ships burned.

Orange and yellow flames licking and dancing all about, consuming the ships that had brought them safely to this Place.

Hard it had been to bring fire to bite, in this wet land with cloud close down and rain falling.

The seers had spoken true and now the Dagda stood upon new ground with all of the work ahead of him and the Tuatha de Dannan standing behind.

He had felt the heavy frightened gaze of the People upon him as he struck again and again with his tools and hands to bring the spark to flame and the flame to take hold.

His eyes left the flames to their dancing to roam those gathered all about, the hardy, the wilful, the survivors. Gathered together from the ships, brought from the four great cities, these people became as one.

Again his eye was distracted for a moment by the shadow. It had come from one of the other ships, from one of the other cities, and fluttered here and about like a crow above battle field. None saw it or if they did, none reacted to it, and so neither did he, though careful watch he kept of it. Keenly he felt it's Will and it's curiosity, not least of all when it's attention fell upon himself.

Still, there was work to be done as he came full about to regard  Nuada where he stood before the folk, tall and strong and perfect of form.  

Thinking on that he looked down at himself, broad and craggy, heavyset and weather beaten, scarred and stained from the work. Finally his eyes came down beyond his girth and found the cauldron set upon the ground at his feet.

Vast and round, its metal gleaming, yet scoured, scraped and  fire scorched from use, it was indeed a mighty vessel. Not pretty, but practical. They made a fine pair so it would seem.

He remembered the day before the departing, chieftains of the people summoned to the seat of the Four who Saw.

He had stood to the back of that gathering, his clann was small and though he had right to be here he knew many of the others by reputation and made way for them, fair Lardanel, Nuada, Morfis, Beothach and many more besides.

A hush had fallen upon these chieftains, these leaders of the people, as they waited the correct moment.

It had arrived soon after and into that silence came the Four.

Fessus of Failias, Esrus known as 'lofty' out of Gorias, Uscias of Findias and Semias of Murias.

As one they spoke of the journey to come, the lands that the people would find and some of the trials that must be overcome.

"Destiny calls and Destiny is where you are bound." said Fessus.
"The land is to be carved as four provinces" said Esrus.
"Everyone shall stand as One with honour to defend their home" said Uscais
"All who reside therein shall abide by hospitality's law" said Semais

"To see this done, these items will you take to the new land." said the Four.

With that they produced four great treasures, one from each city.

The Stone of Failias, proclaimer of Kings.
The Sword of Goirias, from which none may escape.
The Spear of Findias, against which no one may conquer.
The Cauldron of Murias, from which no one ever left unsatisfied.

He had watched in curious wonder as the Four began to move about the gathering, each bearing the treasure and seeking the hand that would carry it.

His eyes moved to the commotion to one side as the Sword was presented by Esrus then seconds later to the other side, as the Spear left Uscias's hand.

Straightening up from his habitual slouch he had tried to see whom now held these wondrous and dangerous items.

He was interrupted a moment later by a polite cough and looked down into a pair of smiling grey eyes.
I'm his haste to see, he must have stepped in the way and so thinking he apologised hurriedly and stepped back from Semias.

The Seer was small and slight but easily held a vast round cooking cauldron in their arms.
For each step back though, Semias took one towards him, until his back was to the wall and the Cauldron held before him.

"Welcome chieftain, may I present to you the Cauldron of the Dagda."

It was, as his mind raced in that moment that he had first seen the shadow, and felt it's curiosity fall upon him. What are you? it seemed to whisper in the recesses of his mind.

He answered to Semias.

"I am but leader of a small family community near Murias. I am no champion of great deed,  nor hero of great renown. I am not one worthy to be the Dagda. I wouldn't even know how. Surely you must look elsewhere."

Semias' smile broadened taking in their entire face this time.

"I have seen what you have built with those tough scraped hands of yours. I have seen the people fed and well rested, kept safe in your home. I have seen the songs of joy and sadness in your hall and have seen the peaceful rest found there after."

Semias placed the cauldron down at his feet, and raising their voice spoke so all could hear, turning slow about in place so all would have recognition.

"Champion you are and so named by me in front of one and all here. Champion of the heart, Champion of the helpless, Champion of the hungry, and by your noble strength are the spectres of despair kept at bay."

Coming back about their eyes met once more, no one but he saw the wink nor heard the whisper.

"Just be you, for all of you is all that is needed."

All eyes had fallen on him and in that moment he made the choice.

Crouching down he gathered the mighty vessel into his arms and with a heave he straightened his legs and stood.

"I am The Dagda.
I accept this vessel as my own and of me. Let any who come seeking be made welcome, let any who go hungry be filled, let any who require rest find safety in my care.
I bind myself to this path by my Word and by my Will, now and forever.
I am The Dagda."

As the cheer rose up all about, he felt again that shadow presence near about him, close this time, that cold curiosity chilling his warm skin. What are you?

In his distraction, he felt the weight of the cauldron shift, seeming to increase, and adjusted his grip. Turning about he saw no one close to him. The gathering made space for the Dagda, and he strode forward to join the two chieftains bearing the sword and spear.

The gathering looked to Fessus and saw that their hands were empty,  no sign of the stone and no fourth Chieftain stepped forward.

"There must be a King!" a voice shouted.
"Yeh, who will rule?" Another cried.
"Bring forth the stone, make it choose!" Yelled a third.

Soon the hall was all a clamour with raised voices, claiming and decrying each other's right to rule.

Fessus stood with the Four and said no word.

The noise began to grow too much for the Dagda and just as he thought to leave them to their bickering, the cauldron seemed to shift of its own accord as if something heavy moved within it.

Thinking fast he knew what he had to do.

With a big callused hand he struck the side of the cauldron and caused an echoing note to reverberate around the space.

For the second time silence fell and all eyes came drawn to him.

"What kind of ruler would you crown without a land to acknowledge them?"

The Dagda set his stern gaze upon the room and gave Will to his words.

"Three there are and three shall lead. What decisions need made shall be by majority of three, and when we set foot upon this Land it shall be with her consent and her choice that one shall rule.

Let the stone remain as is and travel with us by the Will of the Four who have gifted it. Upon the land alone can it name a King.

What say you?"

With his last words he looked to his fellow champions, Nuada, and Lugh known as 'Long Arm'.

Each took a moment of thought and with a glance to the other gave their assent.

Lugh raised his voice and in sweet tones he said

"Our Dagda speaks fair and with just purpose. Let each who will travel prepare and hone their skills for taming a new land will not be easy".

Nuada nodded and spoke then.

"Conflict and challenge has always been our way, but as four cities we have come together to safeguard our future. From this moment on let us unite and be as One people. The Tuatha De Dannan!"

The cheers of this moment brought him back from the cheers of memory. Nuada stood again before the people, tall and strong, perfect of form, an aspiration to follow. No doubt some inspiring words or easy comradeship had brought the People to roar their approval of him. 

Heaving out his breath, the Dagda crouched and wrapped his muck and soot scorched hands about the Cauldron.
Heaving upright, again he felt that subtle shift of the item hidden deep within it.

Setting his legs under him he struck out alone, off across this new land on paths that as yet did not exist. There was a place he had to find. A place for Kings. A place for the People. A place where it can all be brought together as One.

He had a date with Destiny, and didn't want to be late.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Westward Wings

 Blue.

Part of my brain knows it's caused by the diffusion of light entering our atmosphere. The molecules which make up our planet's air slightly inhibit the passage of one particular wave length of light as it moves through.
This slows it enough so the human eye can register the wavelength as a distinct input known as colour and defined as blue.

That part is useful for the knowing of things, but it can't measure, quantify or completely express the beauty of the sky's azure mantle as I gaze up at it.

Eire is known for its greenery, the emerald isle and such. What they don't tell you is that all that green is well watered by the regular rolling presence of cloud and rain. Thing is, no plant can grow without light.

At times the clouds are peeled back and reveal the open expanse of the heavens in all their blue swathed glory, the bright sun streams down upon the land and every time I'm compelled to stop, and take a moment to appreciate the sky.

I shared this quiet moment with one other, away from the city and its bustle, its people moving to and fro, eyes set on the destination and missing the beauty of the scenery on the journey.

"I will be up there again soon."

It was the first words spoken in this meeting. I had arrived with a request to his Rath and found him atop the mound stretched out on the green grass, arms folded up and behind, with big hands cradling his head. I had watched the rise and fall of his broad chest, slow and steady, his eyes open and gazing without focus at the sky.

I did what anyone should, I joined him for a while.

Simple relaxed unfocused, breathing slowly and deeply. Synchronized breath, sharing the space and not needing to fill it with anything more than the ever present beauty which surrounded us.

I can't say how long we lay on the green grass, beneath the blue sky, warmed by the yellow sun, but I had purpose here and so came the words.

"I don't think I'm built for the sky. Too much of the heavy footed land stomping to me."

I had no need to shift my gaze, I knew I had his attention, though he gave no outward indication. Trust me, when Dagda's attention is upon you, you Will Know.

"America. near enough the other side of the world. My Love is going to do the work there and I'm her roadie, tech support, and coffin full of dirt."

The basso rumbling chuckle was the first noise he had made, knowing the joke for what it was.

How does one connect to your land when far from home after all. No Bram Stoker in this one, no tale of vampire, more a need to be buried in your own land, feel its touch beneath hand or foot, even if you could never make it back. Such is the prized possession of Land to the Irish heart. Such as I am, I'm humbled to be so for Her.

A few more slow breaths to settle the moment, blue of the sky above me, warmth of the sun upon my face, cool of the grass beneath my form, the scent of green life filling my nose.

"Will you come with me?"

There it was. The Ask.

His big chest rose and fell, steady and paced, relaxed yet somehow still powerfully implacable.

"I have been to this place before and its full of amazing, passionate people. They gather around this time of year to share knowledge, stories, food and drink. There is hospitality in abundance and community in all its range of colour and flavour."

The moment stretched out, and I found myself counting the breaths.

"I'm pretty sure you will like it there. There are some folk you would definitely get on very well with."

 The vast expanse of the blue sky filled my vision, my mind slipping into it, beginning to lose itself in its wide open emptiness. The knowing part of the brain started to volunteer more interesting yet irrelevant factoids, stuff about sub zero temperatures, explosive decompression, terminal velocity. I lost my focus and the synchronicity of the moment went with it.

"Ease yourself lad."

The words were but a soft whisper, but the willl behind that rumble stilled my mind.

"I have been asked to invite you. Not just for me but for them. They know you and call to you. Now I have been asked to help in their space and call you and frankly I'm perplexed as much as I'm honored. I don't know what to say or if you would even hear me over there."

The anxiety in my voice was grating to my own ears, yet it brought a compassionate chuckle from my companion. His words rolled out softly, chiding me gently for my apprehension.

"Do you think I haven't been there before?  Do you think I have not heard my name called in all the years they have honoured it? Do you think I wouldn't respond where honest community gathers and hospitality offered?"

Slow and steady breath lead to another rumbled chuckle from his broad chest.

"I have always been where I am invited to be, and grateful I am to each of them who hold a place open for me."

"What do I say when they ask me to invite you in to the space they keep for you? How do I give honour to them who ask this of me and respect to you for the asking?"

His sigh was one of a patient teacher, taking a moment to explain what should already have been obvious.

"Answer me this, how comfortable was it to sit in the space they set aside for me last year? How did you know the drumming of the cauldron? How did you know the words to ease the lost who did visit? How did you have an answer for John when he asked of you the ways of a Dagda devotional?"

My memories of these activities arose and I was warmed by the fondness of them.

"You were there already anyway."

The realization came like weight dropping from my shoulders. I recalled again each moment and looked for that which had been there but I had overlooked. The voice that had spoken but had, at that time, been unheard. The big broad hand that had rested casually upon my shoulder.

Tears started to roll from my eyes and I did not wipe them away. I let them fall down my face and water the earth beneath me. The words didn't matter. What words could? The intent of one's heart was more significant than the noises used to shape it.

I understood, yet still a small part of me held its anxiousness.

"What if I'm just crazy and this is all in my head? Who am I to speak of or for deity?"

His words came and I could hear the broad smile of them without looking over. I knew the shape and lines of his face, the curl of his hair and beard, the creased curves around his deep compassionate eyes.

"If your crazy drives you to be a better person, more caring and compassionate, more giving of hospitality and support for community, more intent on bringing smiles and joy where you can, then I say more people should be as crazy as you."

The blue sky was scored by the trail of a plane as it slid its way westward, metal wings causing condensation clouds to stream out in its wake.

"Oh, and make sure your passport is still in date."

His chuckle followed me as I leapt up cursing myself and rushed off down the hill.



Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Hunger


"Right there folks, Lets go now! Move it on there now folks!"

The loud drawl of the security man calling time is a thing often heard. Even in Ireland bars do have to close at some point.

I downed the last of my pint and rose to don my coat. My companion slipped nimbly to his broad feet despite his large size, the full pint still in his meaty fist.

"You right there Big D? Need to leave that one behind do you?"

His dark eyes met mine with just as much mischief.

" You know me better than that, never leave a good one standing alone."

So saying he raised the pint to his lips and with a tilt of his head an opening of his mouth he poured it down in one go, leaning back near fit to fall.

As the he stood straight again he placed the now empty pint glass down with but the smallest of wobbles to his balance.

"Right lads, finish up there now!" called the security man as he purposefully strode past.

"Right you are sir, on the way there now!" replied my companion matching the mans tone and volume exactly, so much so, that the security man broke stride to shoot us a quick glare.

Shaking my head with a chuckle I moved my companion on towards the door and out into the cold winter January night.

"Chipper?" I queried pointing over my shoulder to the nearest take out joint.

"Sure. I will have a battered fish. I don't pay for any of that slave food."

My eyebrows must have shot up to show my confusion at his remark.

"What?"

I found no reply as He trundled on past me in his rolling gait.

We entered the chipper, out of the cold into the fryer scented warmth, my glasses steaming up in an instant, and placed our orders. Smoked Cod for him and a Large chips for me, heavy on the salt an vinegar.

Stepping back outside, with hot food in hand we took a lean against a nearby store front to eat. I tried to wait patiently knowing that he had heard my question, but at times patience is not my strongest virtue.

" Are you going to explain that last remark or what?" my tone indicating that no dissembling would cut it this time.

His dark eyes met mine as he chewed through his current bite off fish under the street light. With a swallow his eyes fell on the brown paper bag in my hand.

"That. Potato. Slave food."

I felt my brows furrow as I tried to think my way around the few pints we had shared to a logical comprehension, eyes looking down in the bag, nose full of the tasty scent, one long chip hung suspended between the bag and my mouth.

"Oh come on now lad, find the Why, no more than 6 pints in you an you're stumped? Slave food. That vegetable was the near death and destruction of our people.

Not native to the island is was brought from the Americas and introduced here by the conquers. Cheap and hardy so it was, growing in almost any patch of dirt it can and as such a stable item to feed the folk of the land, when the more valuable bounties, grown here of the land by its people, were taken to line the pockets of the conquers"

His tone hard with a controlled anger, he looked off into the night, not seeing the cars rolling past, nor the tall buildings around him.

"Over a million taken by an Gorta Mór and another million of the folk scattered all around the world. The land bereft of her people, the strong blood of her, sent out to risk the trials of travel, clutching to naught but hope and the strength of their own Will to survive.

Food there was. Food enough here on the island, but not for her people was it. Oh no. Taken to the conquers land, their laws protecting the wealthy and strangling the prices so a the working folk could not afford to feed their starving wee ones." 

His big eyes blinked quickly as his gaze returned to the now. 

"The Fate of the land was forever changed  by as small a thing as a fungus, and the greed and ignorance of humans.

1 in 4 survived the Big Hunger. The Tough. The Wilful. The Smart. Those with heart enough to fight for life."

He looked to me then, the anger cooling in his gaze.

"I don't know what would have been, but I tell myself that maybe, just maybe, the world is better because that Heart, the beating battling blood of the people can now be found all over. Standing tough and Willfully. Not bowing nor broken nor conquered. Fighters and survivors."

He looked at me, those deep dark eyes seeing down into me.

"Always know where you come from and why you choose to do a thing. You will always be accountable to your own Heart no matter what any other may think."

I looked down at that one chip, suspended between the bag and my mouth. Appetite leaving me I dropped it back amongst the rest of the hot salted potato.

"I don't think I can finish these now."

So saying I began to turn toward the nearest trash bin, when like lightning his big hand snapped out, snagging the bag.

By the time I spun on him he had already stuffed four or five chips into his mouth.

"What?" He mumbled around a mouthful of delicious salted potato.

"I said I wouldn't pay, not that they weren't tasty."

He accepted the punch in the arm I gave him and his laughter followed me as I trundled back to the chipper to buy some fish.

I guess at least I now knew the Why...


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Across the Ninth Wave

Nine.

The salt spray moistened his face as the storm's wind whipped the wave tips to froth. 
Thunder bellowed across the sea sky and rumbled its way toward the land.

The Dagda stood upon the shore, the wash of the waves rolling up across his broad feet. 
He had stood so since his arrival at this place. The place she had said he should wait.
As the waves receded, the Dagda started the count again.

One.

More than a week before the storm, the Dagda had sought her out. 
The foreboding was upon him.
A prickle of intent seemed directed towards the land of Eire and though he was confident of its security, the Will behind that intent could not be disregarded.

From his Rath he had journeyed the long walk across the isle. Those who saw him noted the set of his shoulder, the thoughtful furrow of his brow and left the Dagda to his own devices.
He arrived as the moon reached its full and stood before the pool; where in its silver radiance was reflected in full beauty.

He did not have to wait long.

"Speak o Chieftain of the thoughts you carry. Ask your question, but be warned of the answer.
Truth is ever changed by those who look upon it. "

The Dagda's ears, even one scarred as it was, picked out the source of the sound, and allowing his eyes to relax he saw the Shadow amongst the shadows. 

"What Will is this that sets its intent so firmly upon this isle? "

The Shadow moved slightly and with a faint sound of something breaking the water, the moon's reflection danced to the rippled waves that moved outward in rings.

"Know you this, Chieftain of the Dennan. The Will is that of 'One eye' and that he sets his gaze firmly upon this isle. A challenge I see. A battle. The outcome shrouded in Fate's weave. 
Go, to the Giant’s rocks on the top of the isle. 
Go, and bring no other with you. 
Go, and take but your Will and your club to meet your Fate. "

As her voice faded to silence, the last ripple reached the pools edge and the moon’s reflection was once again still.
Her words set a worry upon the Dagda's already thoughtful demeanour.

Balor Bale-Eye, had been slain. He had witnessed the feat himself as he battled that bloody day. Lugh had borne the burden of his lineage and succeeded in meeting his Fate as prophecy had declared he would.
There could be no surviving the blow that had been dealt, nor the beheading that followed.
He once again looked toward the Shadow, but found that she had slipped away.

There could be but one question.
Those who could not phrase their need as such, had not thought long enough to be worthy of an answer.

Gazing at the moon’s reflection, the Dagda stayed in the spot and thought, until the sun's light turned the pool to gold.


North she said and north he had come. 
The days of walking had given him much time to muse.
To question the message given for its truth was pointless, to look deeper to its meaning was not.

A Will to rival his own.
A challenge and a battle, meant conflict the likes of which could test him.
The outcome of Fate undecided meant that as yet his Fate lay in his own hands, with his Will and club and no other.

Reassured to this the Dagda had come to the place on the coast to the far north and east.
 The land was a broken stretch of rocky steps, thrusting up from the earth.
A place both beautiful and bleak; where pools of water collected upon the stones surface.

The Dagda's eyes remained fixed upon the waves, the steady count continuing.

 The fomorian foe had come from the sea and so it was he kept his gaze upon the tumultuous water. 
Feet firm upon the earth, he waited.

Nine.

As the ninth wave lashed itself to foam upon the land, the sky was torn by a deafening peal of thunder, and rent with a flash of lightning.

 The Dagda's eyes were pulled upwards as the Lightning ripped itself again from the storm and this time struck the land off to his right.
The Dagda set his Will, forced his muscles to relax and the energy to pass up his sturdy legs then down his steady arms, through his club and back to the earth.

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute.

The ninth wave was torn open by the beast. 
Raising its long neck above the waters, it's head a snarling gruesome visage of horn and teeth, mouth set wide and tongue protruding. 
Coming toward the land, moving with such speed as to fly across the waves,  it raced to the beach. 

The monster bore down on him and with a great grinding roar it drove its body up onto the shingle.

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute.

Two black forms arose from the back of the beast and with raucous cries set to wing about the area.
The Ravens flew about the beach and swooped down towards the De Danann warrior.

Their course was abruptly altered and hesitation took them as their call was answered from further back inland.
The two corvus seemed to hang uncertain between the ship and the land, but with a renewed call to them, they set off with black wings all a flutter. 

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute. 

Next from the back of the beast came two massive wolves, One grey, one White. These predators leaping with great agility to the shingle, instantly dropped into a hunched hunting posture, hackles rising and throats growling. Fixing their bright avaricious eyes on the Dagda, their jowls slavering they began to stalk forward.

Just as the pair moved within range to pounce they hesitated. The Dagda allowed them to sense his threat and without even a glance he set his Will upon them. 

The wolves ceased to prowl and lowering their bodies to the beach they averted their gaze with the smallest of whimpers.

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute.

Then came the giant.

Leaping from the beast’s back to land feet spread upon the shore of Eire. 
He stood head and shoulders taller that the Dagda, though not as broad.

Clothed in furred boots with trous of linen on his long legs. His big torso wrapped about in mail and hung with burnished plates.
The spear held in his right hand stood as tall as the Warrior, its blade long and wide with markings etched into its bright metal, a round wooden shield hung casually on his left.

A burnished and winged helm sat atop long flowing white hair that joined a white beard.
The face was lined with age, but still filled with a healthy colour.

When the warrior lifted his gaze from the cowering wolves, the Dagda was stuck by a Will much like his own. It rolled across the distance between them with push and probe, seeking to dominate all in its path. 

The voice, when it came, was strong and rich in timber and though the words and accents were odd to him the Dagda knew them for their purpose.

‘Ho! I , Lord of the Aesir, Bragi of the North’s men, come upon this land. Turn and address me!”

The one steel grey eye of the warrior fixed itself on the figure standing amidst the waves, facing away from him. 

The Dagda remained unmoved and resolute. 

A heavy breath filled the Dagda’s big chest and his reply was given with much resignation for his measure of the man’s arrival would not allow for a withdrawal. Still he had to try. 

“Leave. Board your beast and be gone beyond the wave, else conflict and challenge you will find upon the land of Eire.”

So saying the Dagda counted the ninth and felt it wash across his feet.

“Turn and address me stranger or your disrespect will my ire raise to your folly.”

The reply from the Bragi was sharp with his anger, as he forced his Will upon the words.

A Challenge I see.

The Dagda turned to face the warrior and allowed that steely gaze to take its measure of him. From unruly hair and beard tumbling in curls from his head, to broad shoulders tight with muscle. Down arms wide around and thick from labouring. Over a waist whose girth spoke of prosperity and plenty, to legs round, strong, and steady.

“ A fair warning you have received and no other will you have of me. Heed it and leave, or face me and fall.”

The Dagda set forth his Will and drove it hard home across the words to his foe, seeing a tightening of that one eye, as the face took on a scowl.

The attack came fast. 

With a long legged lunge the Bragi closed the distance, spear leading the way. Broad bladed death rode swift upon his arm, surely a thrust which had settled doom upon many.

The Dagda moved. 

The shift of his body and twist of his hips carried him all but clear of the strikes course. 

All but.

Fire and pain scored itself across his bicep as first blood was spilt. Rich redness flowed and with it the Rage took him.

Whirling about, carrying his momentum to its full, Dagda spun, strong arm lifting his club to crash, crush and split the other warriors shield. 

Banded wood and metal flew asunder as the Bragi recoiled saving his arm from the same fate. 

In that stroke the battle began in truth. Move and counter. Blow and strike. All merged into the flow of combat.

 Battle

The Bragi was the faster and had a longer reach. The Dagda was stronger and intractable.

That spear did taste Dagda’s flesh and blood with many a smart positioning and push, but the stranger did not have all the advantage. Crushing bruises and near breaks were raught upon him in reply. 

Knowledge and skill each displayed a plenty as they adjusted and twisted the battle to seek an advantage. 

Lost in the waves they crashed again and again. Stamina driving them now where skill could find no advantage. 

The Dagda, covered in his Red, was near a horror to the stranger. Never had he encountered a being such as this in all the realms of his experience. 

The Bragi was indeed a challenge and an equal, yet the land of Eire required much of her Chieftain, and he was not to be found wanting. 

Bringing his crushing club around on the warriors blinded side the Dagda  met again the readied defense as strong as every time he had tested it. No advantage could a weapon find in that quarter, and again he took another shallow wound for  his effort. 

Around and again they came and that steely gaze followed the club as it arced in presenting that strong block, and as the weapon was turned, finding his opponent a flesh. 

The Dagda took the pain adding it with all the rest as the club moved up and around again.

Steel eye followed the deathshead weapon as the Bragi prepared his block, feeling in full the threat of the woods killing touch. The wood struck his spear shaft block, muscles braced to push hard against it and clear him from its touch.

The one eyed warrior staggered, his gaze following the club as it spun away from him, free of any hand to hold it. 

Overbalanced he stumbled forward, muscles braced to resist, finding nothing to hold against 
His gaze flicked up just in time to catch a glimpse of dripping red doom, in the shape of a broad muscled fist.

Thunder roared in his ears, lightning sparked him his eye, and darkness took him.

Nine.

The wave brought the tall warrior back to himself as its surf washed over his face, cold and salted.

As his stunned and reeling mind took in its surroundings it could not but latch to the Big man standing over him, bleeding from many wounds, the worst of which gushed red down his muscled right arm, broad fists clenched, threat in every aspect of him.

The voice when it can was steady. Will rolled in every sound, intractable, irresistible.

“Speak your Name true, or find your end here as promised.” 

The demand could not be denied and before his brain had registered in full his lips supplied the answer.

“Odin, Alföðr, Asagrim!”

The Dagda heard the true Name spoken and in that moment took power over the fallen.

Releasing a slow steadying breath, he opened his fists and offered his hand.

“Dagda, Ollathair, Dé Danann.”

Surprise registered in Odin’s eye as he heard the true Name spoken and realised the balance that had been freely given.

Reaching up an aching arm he gripped the wrist of the bloodied Chieftan before him and allowed himself he lifted from the water by his mighty strength. 

As he righted himself a wave of dizziness took him and his questing fingers found a lump raised upon his temple and a paining ache to his jaw. 

Looking down at the easy stance of his broad companion he caught again the flash of a fist coming in as a Club sailed away through the air. 

“You gave up the advantage of your weapon.” 

Odin’s voice carried his question unsaid, for well he read the threat of endings on that weapon. 

“Against you and that spear it was no advantage.” 

Rumbled the Dagda’s voice as the Bragi saw him wince for the first time, big hand moving to clamp closed on the deep cut across his right bicep. 

“Tell me, did you bring anything to drink on that big curragh of yours?
I think our fight is done, don't you?” 

The words came to Odin with an easy camaraderie he had not expected following the fierceness of the fight. 

He found himself smiling at the Big man with his easy demeanour. The reply could not but contain a chuckle.

“The mead of Asgard is strong stuff and not for those of mild constitution.”

The Dagda’s face sported a broad grin to hear the challenge behind the words. A new battle about to begin.

“Well I hope it also comes in large quantities for I have a thirst upon me you could not possibly rival.” 

When, hours later, in a flurry of beak and black feather, Huginn and Muninn, returned to Her where she sat feeding the wolves Geri and Freki with meat from her table, they spoke of growth from a challenge, the pleasure of friendship, the loudness of men, and the foolishness of drink.

Her toothy smile lit the darkness as if the full moon had risen. 

Fate decided by ones own hand, and what good hands He had indeed.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

In Darkest Night

by_burzinski-d3b8ts4
The days were now nearing their shortest. Less light, less warmth.
More darkness.

It was always a tricky time for his peoples, for when darkness is late to leave and early to return, what work can be done in between?

The land was cold to her core and with no light and warmth, nothing  would grow.

Still once the winter solstice passes the land would warm anew and the cycle begin again. This he knew for he had carried the knowledge to this land upon the ships of old.

He sat in a grand hall, warmed by fire well fed from a dry store, the scent of wood smoke mingled with that of the many bodies of those who shared in the warmth and light.

Meals were made upon those fires and all had a share given them, for all were part of the people and all had offered some labour of one sort or another through out the year.

After the cold would come the thaw. As the rains wet the earth, the toil of the body would begin. Fixing that which the cold had damaged and preparing the land for the time of growth.

Growth would see the work maintained, as the light and heat turned seed to grain, flocks and herds to full. This time, the warmth of the world filling all with heat, would see the most challenge of raid and conflict as that heat would raise the blood of the warriors.

Next would be harvest. The gathering in and storing of all the other seasons labours. Reaping the rewards for the effort, and taking, at last, a rest for the body's toil.

Once again, as it was now, the time of darkness would return. With no light to see and no warmth to the land, the toil of the body is not needed. What then can a person set their will to?

All of the peoples gather close and hold tight to their meals and memories of the harvest warmth and plenty. Warriors blood cools and the rule of darkness extends.

Outside the hall, a wolf did howl, a crow did cry, an owl did screech. All noises made by the creatures of the night.

Outside in the darkness She held sway, bringing to the people fit reminder of fear, recalling to them that all days end in darkness, all lives lead to the black.

She held sway in the darkness.

He, held balance in the light.

What toil indeed can a person set their Will to?

The toil of the Self.

When the world brings us to a state of in action, When we reach a place where there is no immediate next step, the all of Life's routine comes to a halt, there, in that space are we given time to toil on that which is Ourself.

He looked about the grand hall with its fires and its people, and raising his Harp he began to play, plucking at the strings of heart and memory, strong sure fingers leading the melody of emotion.

In the stillness, surrounded by the dark, feeling the fear, huddled to the fire, the people looked inwards.

With no toil of labour to distract them, with no hot blooded raid to take them, each had to face their true challenge, the honest gaze of the self in the silence of their own heart and mind.

The melody moved about the hall, drowning out the calls of the darkness and the night outside, his eyes roamed about touching upon each as they saw the truth of themselves.

Private and intimate none but each of them could know it's depth. He saw some faces wet with tears, some hang with shame, yet all did, in time, grow firm with acceptance as the music moved about.

When the toil of Knowing yourself was done, when all had made peace with their darkness within and balanced it against the darkness without, when the last of the work was done, his fingers stopped, the strings of his harp hung their vibrating tone in the moment, allowing the space, giving the pause it's own short life.

A smile arose on the Dagda's face as the eyes of one and all eventually found him.

"Enough of that now, how about a tune to raise the spirit?

His thick fingers moved at pace along the strings and skipping the third he did set the hearts a beating and the smiles a gleaming.

"And speaking of spirits, someone pass me a drink!"

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The World from a Snug


The loose leaves hustled in passed the doorman without showing their ID.
Gambolling about gaily on the gusts of an autumn wind, they set to a spin in the open area of the pub's entrance, a riot of orange and yellow.

I gave a nod to the guy standing wrapped up against the oncoming winter chill and followed the leaves in. 

The pub was quite busy for the afternoon. Regulars propped up in spaces almost fit solely to them, families enjoying the social space and food menus, couples leaning in to one another ignoring the rest of the world about them. 


At the bar I called for two pints and once in hand began moving through the people in the place, looking for the seat I knew would be reserved for me. 

Stepping in and around any crowd you pass through a lot of conversations. I slipped in and around the people as I moved between the spaces in attention.

"Are they sure the numbers are right? I mean there was that thing a few years back..."

"That doesn't make sense though. Surely democracy is based on a majority ruling?...

"I just can believe it. Like, my brain can't process this..."

"I hope my family over there are doing ok. I'm sure there are a lot of people really upset right now..."

The emotions in the conversations were easily read for anyone to see. Uncertainty, Confusion, Incredulity, concern all there on the face or carried on the voice.

Under it all though was something deeper, something a lot more powerful and dangerous.

Fear. 

I came out of the crowd into the snug, that comfortable quiet space kept aside in some pubs. 
The empty seat was set beside its twin, a slope backed little tub chair, designed for easy comfort.

I placed one pint on the dark wood table in front of the filled seat beside one which was near its empty, took a sip from mine, then spilling out of my over coat, settled into my chair. 

The silence was the easy comfortable sort as I relaxed into the seat and he finished his pint. Placing the empty down his big hand closed around the fresh glass. Cold condensation running down the glass into the lines and over the work calluses, that hand raised the pint up to his bearded mouth for a first sip. 

A sigh followed as the pint returned to the table.

"You arrived just in time, I have a thirst on me today."

I glanced at the six empty glasses already in situ.

"Well you know me. I'm like a wizard. Neither early nor late and arriving exactly when I mean to." 

My smile matched his as our eyes meet for the first time in a few days. The deep brown of them showing the humour within, but to a familiar gaze such as mine, I noted a redness around that earthy colour. He looked tired and sore.

"Good story that. A long one for sure and leaning heavily upon tales of my people, but still, a good one.
The movies did it fair justice."

My concern did not shift but neither did my smile. 

"We're drinking then? Am I on catch up?"

So saying I downed the two thirds which remained in one long pull and placed the empty on the table.

"Your round old man."

Dagda's smile was warm and eyes a sparkle as he waved to the server and called for more pints. 

We sat in silent companionship sipping pints and watching the people as the existed within the space. It was busy in the pub.

"It's noisy in here."

His rumbling voice came out soft and sad, for my ears alone, and I understood the 'noise' he was referring to.  

All people generate a certain amount of energy or presence and at times this can be coloured by their emotions and felt by anyone one with an awareness to it.

The 'noise' he mentioned was how we referred to a dissonance in someone's state of mind or emotion when they are in pain or fear of some sort. When gathered and shared the individual may ease their own burden but it's spread further to those who share in the moment, which of course can improve the situation or, should many already share a similar state, be made many times worse in a collective.

"Is that why we're drinking? You doing ok?"

His eyes rolled up to the nearby tv screen which showed a country divided red against blue, peoples split asunder by fear turned to hate.

 "There's the cause. People the world over are uncertain of tomorrow, so they gather close with each other and try figure it out."

I glanced around the room and recalled the snippets of conversations I had over heard. I had to say it had triggered some questions and specific worries but less so for me given my own privileges than for friends and community.

"There will always be another Bres. Those who love of power, position or influence. They always  trumpet on about various policies or promises. Yet when it comes time to serving the needs of the entire community fairly and justly, you never see them with shovel in hand digging the drainage, or hands in the river scouring the pot."

I look down from the screen to see Dagda gazing at his callused worn hands. It looked to me that they had fresh marks and even small sections of torn skin recently scabbed over. Working hands. His knuckles popped as he made fists. 

"So, tell me how we fight."

His eyes came up to meet mine and darkened to see the angry frown upon my features.

"Not like that lad."

He exhaled slowly, unclenched his hands, and reached for his pint again.

"You can't fight hate with more hate. Aggression would only be read as a justification to those who have chosen to view their world from a position of divisiveness."

He took a long pull from the pint as I tried to wrangle with the problem.

"So I'm supposed to love those who hate me? Plead to their better nature or some such? That's very Christian alright, turn the other cheek so I can be slapped again and trust to hope that they will get bored of kicking me eventually?"

The words came out with an angry snarl. Dagda locked his earth brown eyes on mine and without a word I realised I had overstepped. The anger abated and I recognized my own fear, riding just below the surface of conscious thought. Still words said are hard to take back. 

"We are a brutal species, driven by base instinct. We think we have come so very far and achieved so much, but given any excuse we would still cave each other's heads in with rocks."

The anger was replaced by a deep heart aching sadness which seemed my constant companion, and though my gaze fell to my pint, I still felt his eyes locked on me, seeing through me. 

"I know you feel it Oakheart, it's what I have always felt since the start. Take it from me, don't let it harden you over much. We need to be tough enough to get on with the work despite the pain, but remain soft enough so that we can care enough for others. Not an easy challenge."

I raised my now wet eyes to his and saw there a deep compassion, not just for me but I knew for everyone of the people in the pub and even more then for those of this land and the others. 

"You know my ways lad. When I'm moved to fight, I Kill. No quarter, no restraint. That is not what's needed here. I Know that much."

"Then how do we fight this? How do we raise the change that's needed?"

He glanced again at the tv screen, seeing the victory of fear over love.

"I don't know."

My surprise must have been written plain on my face when he turned to look at me again.

"What? I'm known as the flame of all wisdom, not all knowledge. You of all should know the difference."

His single raised eyebrow on that stern broad face told me the joke for what it was and I could feel the smile stretch my cheeks. 

His answering smile arrived a split second later.

"If you want to know about change then go talk to Her."

His eyes became distant for a moment as if he gazed out through the pubs walls and into a place I could not see.

"I dare say She saw this coming. Mayhaps that's why She has been recruiting all this time. Gathering the strong, the smart, the wilful to Her. Those who are brave and willing to Stand and be seen. To drive the change right there upon the very edge of the challenge. That is her Way." 

His eyes came back to the room with a slight shake of his head, as if to clear it of distraction, and he lifted his glass for another drink.

"So what do we do? What's your Way?"

He glanced at me, then rolled his gaze about the room, taking in the regulars, the families and the couples. 

"Me? I do the work. I look out for what they need. Protect them, feed them. 

Help them feel their sadness and cry, remind them of joy and song, and when all that is done, help them find a restful sleep.
Maybe if our community comes together, supported in these things, sharing in love and kindness, we can set a better example of acceptance for everyone. 

Maybe that way love can defeat hate, community can overcome division, and the aching heart of our people can be healed."

 He looked back to me, those deep brown eyes meeting my now tear filled ones, and I could feel the warmth of his hope  for the future. 

His gaze fell to the near full pint in my hand, then across to the drained empty one in his. 

When his gaze came back up it was all a mischief as usual. 

"Drink up. Sure isn't it your round? I hope you were well paid recently for I have a thirst upon me." 

The smirk on his broad warm face brought a bellow of laughter from me in an instant and I waved to the server for their attention.