Tuesday, 30 January 2018

To walk the Mountain Tops

The mountain air was cold as it passed my lips, sending it searing chill deep into my lungs. 

I exhale faster than my natural rhythm just to get the air out of me before the cold can catch to my lungs and freeze me.

The views around the area are grand and sweeping, all rolling glacially crafted curves covered in years of rich brown soil upon which the green of the island’s grass is grown.

My eyes do not see them as they fall to the hard frozen ground in front of me. My heavy feet move forward one step at a time as I watch for the next rock or dip upon which I might stumble.

So it was that the upright stone crept up and surprised me. It’s looming rock form manifesting out of the ground in front of me, splitting the trail I had been following with its erect solidity. It’s grey sloped sides carved flat so it’s squared form rose to the height of me. The markings scored on its corners took my attention and not for the first time regret arose for not knowing the ways of ogham.

With my journey stopped by this odd pillar I finally looked up from my feet at the land all about me. Cold and cloud heavy for the season of it, there was still great beauty in the roll of the mountains, the green brown patchwork of fields and the gorse.

Again it was the unexpected that drew my attention. The broad figure labouring two fields away, digging and hauling, arms bare in just a loose t-shirt despite the December chill upon the heights.

Turning my back to the pillar stone I made my way across the fields, navigating the walls, hedges and watchful gazes of sheep.

The closer I got the more sure I became about the identity of the labourer until I stood just behind and to the right of Him. Close enough to see the breath clouding the air about and smell the sweat adorning him.

I waited. It’s never good to sneak up on someone like him despite his playful friendly demeanour, then again I’m not sure sneaking up on hims is really possible. A thought which seemed to be answered almost as soon as it occurred.

“Pass me that rock there will you?”

The thick fingered hand was dirt covered when it gestures out to the rock in question. Knowing him as I do and my own nature, there was only correct action.

Do the work.

My fingers were cold to the point of near numbness but the scrape of the rocks craggy surface and the weight of its bulk as I stood to raise it, was still enough to draw a growl of effort from me.

A few steps over and I was placing the stone amongst some others in a pit he had dug in the field.

So it was that I spent the next time, shifting soil and hefting rocks until the cold was banished from me, the sweat slick upon me and my arms too, bared in but a t-shirt upon a December mountain top.

When he stepped back I stood to see what it was our labour had produced. A circular stone ringed fire pit set next to a long stone lined trough, surrounded by the banked up earth from the pit.

He passed me a bottle of water and I sipped of it slowly, rehydrating my body as the sweat steam rose from my shoulders.

“Light a fire whilst I fetch the waters.”

I stride about the edges and hedges of the field gathering what fuels I could and returned to set them in the fire pit and begin the work of calling fire. Setting the kindling and tinder then applying spark and breath to feed its growth.

All the time my companion trudged across the field to the spring and back hauling water and splashing it into the trough.

The blaze was crackling merrily heating the area around us, protected from the wind by the banked earth, by the time the trough was full and my companion finally stopped to sit with me at the hearth.

Fulacht fiadh.

I had remembered ancient stories about these sites dotted around the island. It seemed that they were for boiling meat in a trough of water heated by rocks from a fire.

It seemed like a lot of effort to go through for just a spot to cook, especially if the peoples were so nomadic at the time.

It shouldn’t really surprise me when he answers my thoughts, but it still does and I wonder what gives me away every time.

“It is a lot of effort to build the likes of this, but not so much when you consider that it’s more than just a cook pot. How did you find your way here?”

“I was trudging across the mountains when I came to that pillar stone across the way. From there I saw yourself at work down here. What’s with the pillar and the markings on it? Why is it there?”

“It’s there to do exactly as it did, point those walking the hills to this place. Quite cold up here isn’t it? That is when you don’t have the labours warmth upon you.”

The mention of the cold brought the chill thoughts back and despite the warmth of the fire in front of me I couldn’t suppress a shiver. I glanced up to see his gaze turned out beyond the fires light. Taking in the land and as the clouds began to darken towards night.

“There were a lot of the peoples up in these hills back then. Peoples moving around above the dark wet swamps of glacier melt in the lowlands, but beneath the cold open peaks where a body could still freeze in the nights chill.”

His voice was almost as distant as his eyes as he looked into a time long before today.

“Fulacht fiadh was more than just a cooking spot, more than just a temporary campsite. It was the beginnings of community. It was a place to which any could come, everyone was welcome, food prepared and the care of those struck by the cold could be cured.”

His eyes came back to mine as we gazed across the fire.

“Do you know you can die from hypothermia? Do you know that unless you can raise the person's body temperature enough they may go mad, strip off their clothes and then have their heart stop?”

I knew some things from my days in the scouts but never that it could go that far. His eyes told me truth as ever, and the sadness there told me that those eyes had seen it first hand.

“Sitting by a fire will do some good but it takes a long time for the heat to reach one's heart. Placed in a trough where fire burnt rocks heat the water a person can soon be warmed through.”

His eyes fell to the fire where it danced and crackled its usual hearth song and I saw a sad smile creep on to his face. I kept to my silence and left him to his for a time as the fire danced between us.

"The people need those of us who can to do the works so that lives may not be lost to circumstance."

As ever there is more to any one thing than the histories can tell us and what knowledge is lost when the labours cease and the conversations quiet?

Eventually the Dagda’s head came up and his smile broadened and his big hand came to rest on my shoulder whilst I had kept to my silence and just smiled at him.

“Thanks for helping me do the work.”

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Saturday, 30 December 2017

Winter Working


 It was quiet as he approached the forge. Understandable and to be expected given the lateness of the hour.

The sleigh he pulled made little noise as it slid across the hard frozen ground. He had been out since the days ending doing his habitual rounds for the season, dropping off whatever he had that could be of use to those who had need of it.

Stopping a moment to allow his legs a rest he took deep lungfuls of air and watched his breath cloud in the cold as he exhaled slowly, dark eyes following the puffs until they dissipated in the night.

A last stop then home to a welcoming hearth and a stiff drink to warm the body off its chill.

Taking his time to place careful feet upon the icy ground he stepped over to the sleigh and began to unpack the logs he had brought. Shifting them a few pieces as at time he neatly stacked them up by the door, within easy reach so a person need not step out to the chill to retrieve them.

He knew the occupant of this house very well and their habit of working the metals throughout the cold season. Almost the only time they were not hammering and crafting was when their other skills were needed elsewhere.

Reaching into the bottom of the sleigh he brought out a small sack and with it in hand stepped through into the house.

The home was well laid out with the forge set in the centre to radiate its heat through out the  space. Along the wall right by the door was a crafts table strewn with small pots, cups, pestle and mortars. Bushels of herbs hung drying above it.

A quick glance to the empty hook by the door told him the occupant was out.  The bulging satchel which normally hung there being missing could mean only one thing. A proud smile stretched his face even as the fires warmth began to banish the chill from his skin.

Stepping carefully so as not to disturb anything with his big shape he moved over towards the back section only to come to a stop as he approached the smithing bench and  anvil.

Tools of the metalworkers trade festooned the counter top in a haphazard scattering.  A quick glance told him that there were at least three projects on the go from the selection and variety available. It seems that all of them were receiving regular progress, but the tools themselves were not getting time for care and maintenance.

Popping the little bundle on the counter he stepped around and began to pick up each tool in turn, checking for wear, damage, scrapes and scuffs. What needed tightening he tightened, what needed oiling he oiled, and what needed sharpening, he sharpened.

It didn’t take him too long as his hands moved with practiced ease from one to the next, seeing to its care and returning it to its place upon the tools rack mounted on the counter top. He smiled to himself thinking of the other person who, like this, gets focused on the project and often forgets about the care of the tools themselves.

The job done he stepped back around and took a glance towards the back where a bed and side table sat. That table had been his initial goal but given that the bed had not been slept in and the condition of the smith counter it seems that the work was taking a priority.

Leaving the bundle in the centre of the counter top his big think fingers untied the binding a let the cloth fall open. A fresh loaf of bread from his own oven. A block of linen wrapped butter from his most recent churning. A wax sealed pot of this seasons honey for his Lil B.

Stepping outside into the cold he close the door securely behind him and inhaled sharply as the cold once again took the heat of him.

As the Dagda set to and pulled his sleigh off on the way home he chuckled to himself. Always busy buzzing around and working hard so she is. Just like her old man.  
 
It was quiet as he approached the forge. Understandable and to be expected given the lateness of the hour.

The sleigh he pulled made little noise as it slid across the hard frozen ground. He had been out since the days ending doing his habitual rounds for the season, dropping off whatever he had that could be of use to those who had need of it.

Stopping a moment to allow his legs a rest he took deep lungfuls of air and watched his breath cloud in the cold as he exhaled slowly, dark eyes following the puffs until they dissipated in the night.

A last stop then home to a welcoming hearth and a stiff drink to warm the body off its chill.

Taking his time to place careful feet upon the icy ground he stepped over to the sleigh and began to unpack the logs he had brought. Shifting them a few pieces as at time he neatly stacked them up by the door, within easy reach so a person need not step out to the chill to retrieve them.

He knew the occupant of this house very well and their habit of working the metals throughout the cold season. Almost the only time they were not hammering and crafting was when their other skills were needed elsewhere.

Reaching into the bottom of the sleigh he brought out a small sack and with it in hand stepped through into the house.

The home was well laid out with the forge set in the centre to radiate its heat through out the  space. Along the wall right by the door was a crafts table strewn with small pots, cups, pestle and mortars. Bushels of herbs hung drying above it.

A quick glance to the empty hook by the door told him the occupant was out.  The bulging satchel which normally hung there being missing could mean only one thing. A proud smile stretched his face even as the fires warmth began to banish the chill from his skin.

Stepping carefully so as not to disturb anything with his big shape he moved over towards the back section only to come to a stop as he approached the smithing bench and  anvil.

Tools of the metalworkers trade festooned the counter top in a haphazard scattering.  A quick glance told him that there were at least three projects on the go from the selection and variety available. It seems that all of them were receiving regular progress, but the tools themselves were not getting time for care and maintenance.

Popping the little bundle on the counter he stepped around and began to pick up each tool in turn, checking for wear, damage, scrapes and scuffs. What needed tightening he tightened, what needed oiling he oiled, and what needed sharpening, he sharpened.

It didn’t take him too long as his hands moved with practiced ease from one to the next, seeing to its care and returning it to its place upon the tools rack mounted on the counter top. He smiled to himself thinking of the other person who, like this, gets focused on the project and often forgets about the care of the tools themselves.

The job done he stepped back around and took a glance towards the back where a bed and side table sat. That table had been his initial goal but given that the bed had not been slept in and the condition of the smith counter it seems that the work was taking a priority.

Leaving the bundle in the centre of the counter top his big think fingers untied the binding a let the cloth fall open. A fresh loaf of bread from his own oven. A block of linen wrapped butter from his most recent churning. A wax sealed pot of this seasons honey for his Lil B.

Stepping outside into the cold he close the door securely behind him and inhaled sharply as the cold once again took the heat of him.

As the Dagda set to and pulled his sleigh off on the way home he chuckled to himself. Always busy buzzing around and working hard so she is. Just like her old man. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Two Chairs



The space was filled with silence.

There are many kinds of silence.

The type that comes once a person passes out of a space of extreme noise.

The terrified silence of prey when they sense the presence of a predator.

The near maddening silence of sensory deprivation.

The silence of the grave, all encompassing and definitive.

The kind of silence that exists comfortably between old friends who do not need to fill the space.

This silence was none of those, and in the odd ways of things, all of them.

The room was bright but comfortably spartan. The cold brightness of fluorescent lighting, not the warm brightness of a fire.

What items there were each filled a very specific purpose and had a very specific space, from the sheathed blades hanging by the door, the stack of cards upon a side table, to the dustpan and brush stacked neatly in the corner.

Two big arm chairs sat one beside the other their occupants gazing straight ahead each looking at that which only they could see.

Between them stood a sturdy handmade oak table on which rested two goblets of red wine beside the open bottle. Neither glass has yet been touched as both occupants knew that it was best to let red warm to the environment and ‘breath’ as the term would have it.

“Do you think it’s going to make a difference?”

The voice which entered the silence, almost as if it were truly part of it, was deep and resonant, thickly accented from the regions surrounding the Nile in the African continent. Soft and soothing to the ear there was no harsh or hardness to the sound of it.

As smoothly as it arrived it passed and the silence slipped back close around them again.

Though the question had been asked neither party was in a rush for the answer. Time was something they were both very keenly aware of, and at this point time was in abundance for them.

The reply when it came slipped like a shadowed whisper into the silence, though easily heard for the closeness of the two chairs.

“It’s time to change or die.”

Both parties never turned to look, each keeping watch over that which only they could perceive. Two hands extended to retrieve the goblets. One slim long fingered and pale skinned, the other broad thick fingered and ebony skinned.

All of a sudden the silence was shattered as surely as the door was. Both sent to splinters across the space as a huge shape barrelled in and reeled about.

“Wife! Beloved! Ye fine vixen ye, I’m home!”

The bellow was such that the silence fled from it like a startled hare.

The massive figure staggered around, reeling unsteadily, moving its broad head about bleary eyed searchingly.

“Ah. There you are an drinkin no less. Sure I’m glad I’m not the only one to be in their cups tonight.”

The bellowed laughter spooked the silence from where it had crept close to the door, sending it bounding away again.

“Who is the company ye have beloved?”

The figure reeled over to stand before the two chairs. Their smile became a might broader to see the occupant of the second chair.

The Big man brought one of his think fingers to his lips and gave an overly exaggerated wink implying he was about to engage in some unsubtle mischief.

“Lil Ani? Is that you? My goodness you’ve grown.”

Once the line was delivered the big man again spooked the silence by descending into a fit of tittering, which for a man his size was impressive indeed.

“No need to get up Lovermine, you see to your guest an I will away to our bed to await your pleasure.”

With a reeling spin that was part bow, part over balanced stumble the figure trundled away across the room. That is of course until they reached the detritus which had once been a door.

“Ah what’s this? What happened to the door? Don’t worry my love I will make you a new one and have it hung in the mornin.”

The figure looked back over their shoulder and suggestively grasped their crotch.

“Speaking of ‘hung’, I hope you won’t be too long away”

The tittering began again as the figure strode through another door and into a back room.

“Tee hee ‘long’ hee hee.”

The silence crept back into the room, slowly, nervously checking everywhere for the Big scary noisy.

The Morrigan smiled a small smile to herself and with a sigh gave a slight shake of her head.

“Was that some movie quote? I can never keep up with his pop culture references.”

Anubis gave a deep throated chuckle.

“Star Wars. One of the prequels. I know because it was almost the death of the franchise.”

The timid silence gave a start as both began to laugh heartily. It considered its options given its favor for the two in the chairs.

It eventually gave up and left as the Dagda began to snore from the back bedroom.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Fomorian Supper


http://www.zastavki.com/pictures/originals/2014/Nature___Sundown_Starry_sky_at_sunset_082927_.jpg
**Content warning pertaining  to Non Consensual physical interaction. My apologies if it upsets  anyone. It most definitely upset me. ** 
 
War.
It's all they seemed to want to talk about. The gathering of chieftains had been in session since the days dawning and now it approached its dusk.

Word had come from the Fomorians offering hospitality and so the chieftains had been called to have their say, and what say there was had spoke of warriors, weapons, battles and glory.

He had sat for the full day in quiet watching his people, listening to their words and reading the truth of their hearts.

The truth which made the sadness come heavy upon him.

Intolerance laced with fear and pride, it brings out the very worst in us.

A voice rose above the rest.

"We should just end every life among those tribes, whether they stand against us or not. They are not of the people and are little more than animals."

The wooden table shook to the thunderous blow laid upon it, cracks lacing out from where the big fist had struck.
All noise ceased and all attention was given to Him.

Dagda had moved.

In contrast to the loud impact which shattered the conversation to silence, his voice when it came was quiet.

"You would dishonour us all by making such murder upon those who share this land, and worse prove us to be the worst of peoples. All life is sacred."

"Strange words from one who carries true death in his paw. We all know that many fall before your might, and yet you simper and quail before the glory of more battle?"

Lugh had answered the Dagda's statement, knowing full well the details of his power.

"It's true I bear the burden of life and death in my hand, but doing so makes me responsible for each life I end, each of which I carry in my heart knowing their story will not continue."

Dagda cast his gaze about the assembly.

"You gather here and for a full days light you talk and plan and plot for war, never considering any other thoughts.

We have not received a declaration of war, we have received an invitation to peace."

Once again it was Lugh, wise to the ways of his lineage who answered.

"Surely you are not blind to their intent despite their invitation? The Fomorian’s seek only a reason to come to battle, going to them as requested is a trap which none could escape and it would be war before even the greetings were given. So we prepare for war which will surely come."

Dagda's sadness rolled up upon him again as gaze fell to the floor..

"I am not blind to their intent. I read full well the hearts of people."

His eyes came up to lock each Chieftain with his gaze.

"A heart turned to war and conflict becomes a malicious thing, small, closed, twisted against love and joy. Such things if not challenged can taint a people forever."

He allowed the moment to sit upon them and then spoke again.

"Full ware I am that the Fomorian invitation may be more trap than nought, but for the sake of a chance at peace, I offer myself as equal to their hospitality. No war will there be with the Tuatha De Danann to blame for its starting."

And with the words of him finished the Dagda stepped out and strode off across the lands to meet Fomorian hospitality.

Through day and night he walked to reach the place that had been spoken of, moving with his rolling, land eating gait so that he arrived upon the day and at the hour as requested.

The Fomorian people had gathered in what could only be described as numbers fit for battle and into their midst the Dagda lumbered, slow and shuffling. Sweat and road dust covered him, hair lank and loose hanging down over his face.

"Welcome Chieftain of the Danann folk to our humble camp."

Indech, King of the Fomorian peoples stood tall and proud, head raised above that of all others around him. Decked out in the finest of cloth, torcs and bracelets of richest metals and set with precious stones he looked upon the sweat and filth stained traveller with open disgust. He had heard one such warrior existed amongst the Tuatha De Danann, a sloven, an oaf, glutinous and lecherous by nature.

So this was the emissary they sent to him? As much insult as could be found in their midst. Still their pride would see them undone, and all the sooner looking at the wretch they had sent to him.

"I see you have travelled far to be with us, and I offer you what hospitality we may in a humble camp such as this."

Indech turned a slow twist, arms out wide as a grand performer would. His gesture encompassing the whole of the grand gathering, a multitude of finely dressed warriors standing amidst large bright tents with splendor to see at every angle.

"Alas you arrive later than agreed my honoured guest and as such our meal has all been passed, but in regard of one such as you a meal has been kept to honour the rule and law of hospitality, such as can be found in this poor excuse for a camp."

The Fomorian king's face split in a toothed smile, mimicked by all around, as he gestured toward a trench dug deep into the soil. With the kings waved hand the awaiting warriors tipped massive cauldrons over on their sides, spilling their contents into the rift in the soil itself.

Dagda watched from under his lowered brow and saw a porridge of oats slide onto the ground, but mixed within it he noted the boiled offal and innards of some swine, sheep and goat, no doubt butchered for the Fomorian feasting. A nausea inducing scent filled the air as the cold gruel finally came to its fill.

Indech turned to face the emissary again, a triumphant smile upon his face. Poor hospitality it may be to offer such a meal, but who would believe the words of an oaf when compared to those of a King.
Once this emissary publicly rejected the meal, crafted specifically to honour them, then indeed the King could hold the peoples of Danú to fault in breaching freely offered hospitality. And here at last he would have his just reason for insult and war.

The Dagda was not one to be lightly dismissed though, and knowing full well the trap before him he did what would not be expected.

Fixing his face to its most vacant expression and loosening his jaw so as to hang his mouth open, the Dagda bowed.
His words when they came were slow and slurred, but still carried wide around the camp to the ears of all.

"Yer a gracious one, O King to offer a humble one such as I so large n fine a meal."

And with that he lumbered over to the trench. Producing a large spoon from amidst his soiled leine, Dagda slumped to the ground with a loud thud, and set to consuming the gruel.

Spoon after spoon of it rose to his mouth. Cold and slimy the bites of it slid down his throat. Chunk after vile chunk of the offal was consumed until the Dagda's body was bowed, his gut distended, his breath laboured and even the gravel from the trench was scraped clean of the meal his hosts had set for him.

What noise and jeers had accompanied the start of the meal had long since slipped to stunned silence, as the sun had slipped beyond its mid.
All that could be heard now were the huffs and puffs of the Chieftain as he rolled to his side, then over atop his stretched gut, followed by the groans and moans as he slowly got his legs under him and rose to his feet.

Dagda stood, hunched and huffing for breath and met the incensed gaze of Indech.

The Fomorian Kings face was near the purple of his cloak, jaw clenched, lips pressed tight together so as not to offer an inhospitable statement to the grossly swollen figure before Him.

The De Danann warrior let out a belch which resounded as thunder amidst the silence.

"Truly a grand meal o King, I apologise for not leaving any fer you n yours to share in it. I'll be off now and you have me gratitude and that o me people."

So saying the Dagda bowed forward as much as his distended gut would allow, then lumbering about he shuffled and shambled his way out of the camp.

Though many were the deaths promised in the eyes of the Fomorian warriors, none would move against him for one who comes in hospitality is protected by it so long as they do not break with the honour of it.

Yet Indech was not so easily thwarted, nor conflict avoided, so he set forth his daughter to again ensnare the emissary of the De Danann and secure him his war.

Shuffling feet and lumbering movements carried the Dagda onwards, the burden in his gut heavy and sickening, so it was that he did not see the woman until he was all but upon her.

"I said, what state is this to greet a woman of noble stature?"

Her sharp voice cracked Dagda's head up and shook some of the malaise from his senses. Without straightening or giving any overt sign Dagda roamed his dark eyes around the area and then the woman herself.

Tall and shapely with pale skin and dark hair she stood beside the track, draped in a fine gúna and cloak, clasped to her shoulder with a broach of precious metals and stones.

"Sorry lady for I did not see you there, I will step around ."

"You will step nowhere without me upon your back! I am the daughter of Indech and by his request as a good host to you, my transport and safety are yours to ensure."

So here it was. The second trap of Indech and one he did bait with his own child.

With a heavy sigh Dagda put his mind to work, for the state of his body was such as to leave him near crippled.

He slumped heavily to the ground, groans and gases escaping him as he hung his head, eyes  half closed, to observe her through his dishevelled mane without being noticed

"Apologies for my rude greeting Princess. I had not thought to find such a worthy person as yourself alone and so far from her people. Might I know your name?"

The disdain never left her face nor voice and her reply came sharp as if bladed.

"One such as you has no need of my name. The name of my father and my kinship to him is enough to warrant your obedience, now get up and carry me upon your back!"

The next sigh to escape him was one of pity for her. His eyes had told him more than her words could. She was tense, poised upon the balls of her feet, ready to flee should he pose any threat or even any insult to her.
This was not the will of the woman before him, but that of her father, speaking through her, tempting insult or injury upon the flesh of his child therefore ensuring him his War.
Dagda had naught but pity in him for her, but still he must tread carefully.

"Alas princess I am bound by a geis on me not to carry any upon my back unless they know the naming of me."

"Well give up your name then for to refuse me would be great insult to my father!"

"I will not refuse you lass, but I doubt I will be of any use to you. That  and I would ensure no insult to one such as you."

"Give up your name and I shall judge what use a disgusting swollen filthy wretch such as you may be to me."

"One such as I is so far below a beauty and bearing the likes of you that I must by virtue of my appearance alone be a slight to you. Surely letting me on my way will allow for a more fitting person to serve your needs."

The shift in his words did not go unnoticed. Her frown shifted and she sought any insult in his terms, but finding nothing to take to her father she persisted.

"A third time I must ask you and let it be the last, for you are the one here and this is the here In which I must be. What is your name!"

"If such is how you would have it lady then hear the naming of me."

Dagda straightened from his hunched slump, set his big hands upon his thighs, yet made no move to rise. Meeting her gaze for the first time he saw her shift slightly, body leaning away like a doe about to leap up and sprint.

He let his voice come soft and slow then, rolling the words out one after the next in a soothing rumble, his eyes fixed to hers so as to show clear the absence of any threat or intent to Him.

"Fer Benn Bruach Brogaill Broumide Cerbad Caic Rolaig Builc Labair Cerrce Di Brig Oldathair Boith Athgen mBethai Brightere Tri Carboid Roth Rimaire Riog Scotbe Obthe Olaithbe"

When the naming was complete a moment of stillness existed between them and the Dagda was the first to break the gaze and lower his eyes.

"Many names for one of such poor stature. Now with the naming, you will carry me upon your back."

The words were meant to insult, to create a slur of his form and rise any kind of ire from him, but as his ears listened beyond the words he heard the sharpness of her tongue had dulled. He knew sure then that it was her father's will which rode her, as she was expected to ride him.
Alas he knew that more would be needed and so once again his body became forfeit.

Letting out a sigh as much for show as for himself Dagda slumped to his side upon the earth, massive stomach stretched out, and breath coming heavily to his lungs.

"I would gladly be of service to you Princess but full I am of your father's fine meal. If you would but press gently upon my stomach mayhaps I can shift this burden and we can me off."

Seeing this gross obese creature slumped so upon the soil, seeking her gentle aid, the daughter of Indech took opportunity to add injury to her insult. Why her father put such stock by this so called Chieftain she did not know. Surely any man would not take to harm without defending themselves and as soon as he struck out at her, she could flee and appease her father's anger.

So it was that stepping forward she began to lay about the Chieftain of the Danann with swift strong kicks to his gut, all the while layering her insult on him for his gross obesity.  She stood close watching and waiting for the first sign of his retaliation, but none came.

Instead, as the bruises began to form the Dagda rolled to his fore and purged the 'meal' from both his stomach and bowel. Indech's daughter leapt back from him, disgust rising as the filth left him in amounts more than could be believed.

Spasms continued to wrack the chieftains body as that which he had consumed to prevented war was now expelled to prevent war. Twitching and retching, wiping the remains of the filth from his form using the grass and leaves about him, he at last began to rise.

The Fomorian princess stood at safe distance, watching this massive man move. Waiting for the first sign of aggression towards her, but none came.

Instead the broad Chieftain, gut now shrunk to a moderate midriff, bent himself to a knee presenting his big back and wide shoulders to her. His voice when it came was torn from the retching and weak.

"Thank you for your gentle ministrations. I'm ready now to carry you."

Indech's daughter stood, her shock showing plain on a face he could not see. What was this man? To take such insult and injury and not be moved to anger or reprisal. What Will was this to drive a man to accept such punishment?

The ponderings of the daughter were soon overruled by memory of the words of her father.

"Go to the path along the ways and wait. A Chieftain of the Danann peoples will come by that way and you are to place demand, insult and injury upon him until he does to you some harm or slight. Then we will have our war."

"Father, what of my safety? What of my virtue? What of the harms that may be done upon me to be alone with our enemy?"

"All the better that harm to you or your virtue happen for then my rights to their lands through means of battle are assured. Be not a waste to me daughter and go!"

Indech's daughter looked upon this kneeling Chieftain and found her hatred cooled, her disgust abated, yet still her father's will drove her.

"I care not by which name you would be called, oh gross one, but a soiled leine is not fit for me to climb upon. Strip! Remove your rags and use them to wipe your filthy self."

Dagda sighed heavily. What a sight he must seem to her. A fair Fomorian princess sent out to ensnare a filthy, gorged mass of dirt and sweat. Insult and injury she placed upon him and now with his service secured she demanded more in order to demean him further.

With slow movements he pulled the soiled leine from off his back leaving him naked to her gaze. Using the fabric as best he could Dagda wiped and cleansed his body of the filth, muck and sweat, standing before her as she gazed upon his bared body.

He saw her eyes follow the line of his shoulders, the movements of his muscled arms, down across his now shrunken stomach, across the groin of him and where his penis hung limp between his massive muscled legs.

He noted her fear to see his big form so laid bare from beneath his loose rough spun leine, so maintains the slow steady movements until once again he knelt to the ground, broad back and shoulders presented to her.

Without a word he heard her close on him, with no flinch he felt her icy hands slide across the shoulders of him and without groan nor complaint he stood, lifting the form of her gently upon his back.

So arranged this Chieftain of the Danu’s people moved off, setting a gentle trundling gait so as not to jostle the princess.  Across the land they went, her cold hands guiding him at times so that their progress would be noted by the Fomorian peoples. So they would see the humbled hero of the Tuatha De Danann carrying their princess. So they in turn could note his naked form and hurl their jeers and insults upon him, but still the Dagda moved on with no reprisal.

Eventually they arrived at the fording of a river and here the princess commanded he stop and lower her down. Tired and sweating again the Dagda slumped to the ground.

Many hours had she ridden him and much land had they covered, yet for all of that, no bruise was there upon her skin from his hand, no chaffing nor scraping, no marks upon her flesh for which she could claim harm.

As she stepped down to the water’s edge Indech's daughter began to despair. Her father would be furious with her should she fail to secure some harm for him to use as slight.

The will of this strange man had seen him accept gross mistreatment. Of hospitality, of his bodily form, of his naming and pride. Shaming him in near all the ways one can be shamed and for all that, she had not one scuff, nor one slight with which to hold against him.

As the sun began its dip towards darkness she had but one thing left to her, one last thing with which to secure harm or slight, her virtue as a maiden.

Standing in the shallows she slipped her guna from her shoulders and allowed the sun's light to bath her naked form. Shapely and muscled with fine curve to her thigh, hip and breast, she had long known the lascivious gaze of men, had endured their leering, pawing, harassments all to ensure no insult for her father, and now here she was set to experience the worst of things, exposed to the appetites of a stranger, so as to secure insult from him and bring about her father’s war.

She turned slowly about gathering her courage to face yet another leering gaze, more exposed than ever before, and found him sitting, eyes cast down averted from her.

All time seemed to stop in that hung moment, the sun spilling liquid fire across the waters flow where it ran above the earth of the ford, the air hung close and still.

"Lass, there is no need for that now. I have read the truth of your eyes, heard the will of your father in your words, and felt the flutter of your heart against my back.

This is not by your consent to be here in this place and be as you are and so you will have no harm of thought, word, nor deed from me.

I would for the very life of me do you no insult or injury, for though conflict may yet come between our folk, I would not have it come from any harm done by me and mine."

His words rolled out upon her, heavy with sadness which she knew was solely for her, but her father's will still drove down upon her, and rage filled her to see so humble a man show true care. Who was this stranger to care so much for her, where her own kin would not. So the moment broke as she descended upon him.

Grabbing, clawing, biting, she took him. All aggression and anger, her fear spilling out and over this strange man. All she needed was some mark, some reprisal, some moment of broken concentration in which his strength was let loose upon her.
She forced her mouth to his, biting his lip til blood flowed, raked her nails across his chest opening crimson wounds so that his heart began to thump and so engorge his limp member. With his penis stiff and turgid from blood flow she mounted him, impaling herself forcefully down upon him, a scream of pain and rage escaping her and there astride him she finally looked down to meet his gaze.

Big dark eyes met hers. Filled with such deep sadness pity and pain that they had overflowed to tears. Salted water streamed steadily from him, down his broad cheeks, passed blooded lip, and into sweat soaked beard. All else of which was silence and stillness from him.

The woman atop the man saw the harm and injury she had caused, not just the physical but also the mental and emotional. She saw in that moment the great extent of a will set to do no harm, a heart burdened by hurt and pain, yet no anger rushed to retaliate.

She saw him. So big, so strong, so powerful, so compassionate. Yet all of that was as if nothing compared to an immovable Will, set now to do no insult or injury no matter the personal cost to him.

Her people had provided the worst of filth and he had sacrificed his honour to consume it.

She had beaten and berated him, stripping him of dignity and he had sacrificed his pride to allow it.

She had taken him, with harm and hurt, without consent, and he had sacrificed his body to endure it.

The depths of those dark eyes took her and in them she saw the truth. The world as it could be. A world where the highest ideals were met as all values were shared equally. Where there were no disparate tribes, but where all were as One people. Where diversity enriched the whole, instead of differences dividing it. She saw hope.

The steady slow rhythm of his heart returned her to herself. She had not known when it had happened but she lay upon his broad chest, face against his skin, rising and falling with his slow breath. Her body was warm despite the darkness of the night around them, cradled gently in a pair of massive muscled arms.

"I saw it."

Her words came as a whisper into the silence and she felt more than heard his acknowledging grunt.

"It can't exist. It's not possible."

Again her only answer was that same grunt.

"My father will not stop until he has his war. He and all the peoples of the land are bound to their hungers, their needs for wealth, power and dominance."

His lungs filled and the breath was released with as much a sigh as an exhale.

"I know lass. I know the ways of hearts and minds. I know the truth of the Worlds.

They no longer struggle to survive, to fight and scrape to have enough food. With work there is enough for all so that hunger need not be a foe.

So now they struggle for that which they think enriches them, land, wealth, precious metals, adoring subservient followers, all the while not knowing what true satisfaction is.

I know that an ideal world cannot exist because we don't all share and live to the same ideals. Until we can come together over common values, to acknowledge the baseline basic truths that apply to one and all, there can be no true satisfaction for all and so no true peace."

His words, so softly spoken in that still space, hung heavily upon reality.

"Come away with me then, let's leave them to their wars and hatred. Let's you and me make a place of peace for us."

Her words were spoken but she knew the answer before she had even started them. She had seen his eyes, she had seen the depth of his hope.

His chest rose and fell a few times, that slow steady drumming of his heart in her ears.

"You know the answer to that lass, but I'm grateful for the asking.

An ideal world might never exist, but who would I be if I stopped trying to make it so.

What hope is there for the rest if there is not at least one who is willing to sacrifice all that they are to show that ideals and values have a rightful place in the truth of our world."

This time she found it was her eyes which were wet with tears.

"I fear the price may always be too high. War will come but it will not be from this day’s events. I will do all I can to delay my people but when it does dawn, know that that day I stand with you, for the sake of your ideal world."

So saying, Indech's daughter, princess of the Fomorians, slipped from his big arms, shivered in the cold, gathered her guna, and disappeared into the night.

Dagda lay there gazing up at the starry heavens and allowed his tears to flow until they joined the rivers swell and rolled away across the lands.

"An ideal world might never exist, but who would I be if I stopped trying to make it so."


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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Wooden Heart

The Rath was filled with its usual comforting peace, the only sound in the space given by the hearths fire, where the wood was consumed with faint crackling noises.

The chieftain sat in his big seat, eyes lost to the dance and flicker of the flames, basking in their heat, grateful again for the warmth the wood gave.

 He sat a long while, at his ease, turning something over and over in his big hands. It was a round of wood, looking to be cut from some tree, dried and smooth. His rough fingers traced the lines of the rings upon the trees heartwood. Solid and strong, the drying of the wood had not split nor cracked it.

With a last caress, he picked up the sharpened blade, and with a smile began to slowly whittle away peels from the wood. Allowing his mind to drift, he left it to his hands to free the shape within.

He remembered the day it had come to him. From the storm fallen bole of great tree which could no longer cling to life, he had found it. The tree he had taken to support the work of the smith, in his service to the peoples. The labour of cutting, carrying, sawing and stacking, his gift to his brother. 

The island home was covered in trees, tall and green, strong and broad, old before a time his people's feet touched this soil. He had come to know and love them, these ancient creatures. Beings which merge all the elements into one form. Nourished by Earth fire and water, creating a form pulled from the Air itself, they stand bridging the Land and Sky, born of Water and the suns Fire.

He always seemed to breath more easily and deeply when surrounded by their bulk and beneath their leafy boughs. Many a deep restful sleep he had found seated amidst the large roots of some tree and grateful for their care he was.

Have you ever heard the trees sing? People always think its the wind that makes the trees rustle and hum their tunes, but He often wondered if it were not the trees rustle and song which made the wind. A gust here a breeze there, all to carrying their slow creaking groaning greetings one to the next. 

Careful he was of these grand creatures, aware of their song, their vitality, and of the centuries they had stood witness to, he always took that which the tree had already given up, or the fallen form of one whose long watch had already ended. 

So it had been with that giant oak, storm fallen and done. He made his peace with the heart of it and brought it forth to fuel the fires, yet as he had sawn the lumber, shearing the blade through the wood, the rasp and hiss of each cut, he had heard an echo of the heart song of it.

So it was, He had taken this one piece for himself.

The scrape of the whittling blade made a quiet complement to the fires crackle, as the curls of wood drifted down about his feet.

The tree’s heart. The core of it. Grown outward year after year. Strengthened and hardened layer after layer. He allowed himself to imagine the passage of those, years decades, centuries as the tree had held to the earth with its roots, branches raised high into the air.

Drawing in the water and nutrients from the earth. Absorbing the heat and energy of the suns fire. Exhaling its breath and sending its song along the wind. 

Struggling from a small green fragile thing. Doing all it could day by day to grow and change. Taking on the elements and the wildlife of its environment as its grew.

Stretching and changing day after day by the smallest of measurements, by the barely perceptible increments, doing at least a little bit so that each effort builds upon the last. Until weeks, became months, became years, became decades, and every days effort became the next day's success.

Trees grow from the heart outwards.

The chieftain’s smile was a subtle thing, given as it was for himself and the fire alone.

One’s heart. No more crucial than many other parts of a body to make sure it functioned, but it always seems that there was more significance given to it than any other.

Follow your heart's desire. Listen to your hearts wants. Heed the hearts hammering. 
Be brave and bold of heart. Keep an open heart.

No one ever said, listen to the wind of your lungs, or follow your kidneys.

He brushed some shavings from the top of his stomach where they had some to rest on his paunch. True they said trust your gut, but what was that when compared to the multitudes of sayings and meanings attributed to the heart. 

He turned the wood over and began working to unlock the details of the piece. The shape was there now, almost distinguishable for its form. 

Trees grow from the heart outwards.

He often wondered if people didn't do the same. True growth, real change growing from the core of each and everyone of us. From a place of happiness and comfort where ones heart is so full and fit to burst that the growth and change just spontaneously surges up? Or oft times from the pained and broken heart, where the growth and change must happen if one is to get to a place where the heart may heal. 

Precious things these hearts. 

Not to be handled lightly or given too freely for the hurt which can be done by them, but assuredly  not to be locked away from others or ourselves for how else will we find growth.  

He looked down at the figure in his hands, rubbing his thick thumbs along its lines and form. It was a person. Blocky and broad, with a wide easy stance, arms bent and hands on its hips, the head tilted back as if the person were laughing joyfully. The Heart of the Oak.
 
Be brave and bold of heart.
Keep an open patient heart. 
Stand strong around your heart 

Trees grow from the heart outwards. 
Maybe we should be more like trees.

The Dagda smiled a broad happy smile and placed this figure on his high shelf with the others. He brushed the shavings into the flames where the fire happy took to munching upon them.

Maybe people also grow from their stomach he thought, as his rumbled hungrily at him.


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Saturday, 19 August 2017

House Guest and the tales Hands Tell


"Show me your hands lad."

Perplexed  I did as requested and held my hands up. I had come out of the house to  meet him at his arrival and as ever his ways are often a mystery to me,  that is until he explains them. 

"Now turn them over, palms up."

His eyes gave the smile a mischief twist I was well familiar with these days. 

"What's the story today Big D? Some magic trick?"

That smile is his broadened a slight bit. 

"I have told you already lad, what is magic if not a skill you just don't understand."

My smile answered and I gave a resigned shake of my head.
"Go on then."

Opening his big paw like hands he cupped both of my hands one in each and stared intently at my palms.

"So  what do you know of the art of palmistry? No no don't answer, I think I  can see it here. Yes skepticism but with a curiosity yes."

He  began to inspect my hands, tracing the lines of my palms and taking  hold of my fingers at various times all the while, hmming  and hawing to  himself. 

"So, what do you see old man?"
Curiosity finally getting the better of me. 

His eyes remained fixed to my skin.
"I  see, I see, strength and yet fragility. I see purpose and yet pain. I  see affection and endurance. I see hands of a music maker, hands of  builder, hands of hospitality."

He stepped back and gazed at me with those deep eyes of his as a knowing smile crept its way into his face.
I gazed at my hands and wondered, recalling all I know of palmistry from the sources I had encountered.

"All that?"
My moment of contemplation was shattered to hear his guffaw of laughter followed by a deep rumbling chuckle.

"What? What's funny?"
His chuckle passed and with a deep breath he looked to me.

"You are, the look on your face."
My frown came down heavy and annoyed.

"Alright then, what's the trick?"
His eyes sparkled and his voice took on that tone of the knowledgeable teacher.

"As with any magic trick, the key is in the misdirection. What do you know of palmistry?"
As I began to marshal my thoughts to prepare an answer he interrupted and carried.

"It doesn't matter. That's the misdirection!"

"But how did you know the things you did then? I haven't touched that saxophone in years!"

"Alright lad, here is the key to the true skill of it."
As  usual, he paused, big smile on his broad features, allowing his  audience to await the big reveal like the very best of show men.

"I observed."

"You what? You're telling my you just looked and my hands?"
"No. Looking is just a passive state of awareness. What I did was observation or detailed active awareness.

Let's break it down shall we? 

Strength  and fragility was first. Feeling your hands and fingers showed me the  strength there, but observing your nails, bitten not clipped told me  you're nervous and biting them, so a certain about of anxiousness or  fragility in a sense. 

Purpose and yet pain. Well look at your hands and the slices healing on your skin.
You  have been working at some maintenance job or other. The multiple  directions of the cuts and locations around your index finger and thumb  showed that it was twisting for turning something, loosening a valve or a  bolt, one with sharp edges. The depth of them and the colour of the  healing skin shows that you bled but the repeated cross cuts showed that  you didn't stop and carried on. Purpose despite the pain.

Affection  and endurance is easy. The cats are quite playful and you enjoy their  company, but they do bite and scrape a lot and you seem to endure the  marks to your skin for the sake of the affection given with it."

"Ok  I get it. So it's paying attention to the details, but that's still  doesn't explain the rest. How can anything you would see tell you about  music? That saxophone hasn't been out of its case in years."

His  eyes took on a gleam of the mentor finding the gap in their pupils  thought process and savouring the moment prior to revelation. 

"You're forgetting that observation is not solely a function of the eye.
You're  hands smell very faintly of oil used to lubricate the functions on musical  instruments."

I looked at him in blank amazement at his explanation. 

"The nose knows" said Dagda as he tapped the side of his nostril with a large callused finger, and gave a conspiratorial wink. 

"Hold on....you missed one. What about hospitality?"

His smile broadened again to show teeth this time and I knew at that moment I had fallen into his trap.

"Well you're going to invite me in to your new home and make me a sandwich aren't you?"

His renewed guffaw followed me as I muttered my way into the kitchen to look after my guest

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Friday, 28 July 2017

Passage unto Death.


Who are you to stand so in state?
Who are you to gaze upon the departed?
Who are you to mourn their leaving?

It had been the spirit watch for a day and nights passing and they did not wake. No stirring of form of passage of breath did the body make. No hunger or thirst came upon it to cause a motion. No movement of any kind.

They did not wake.

He had stood so near unblinking for the spirits watch. Ensuring that the allotted time had passed and the spirit had not returned to the form, nor any other spirit take up residence.

Watching for a wake was a trial in itself. Enduring patiently so that the fallen was not alone. Abstaining food and drink so that the hunger or thirst upon you may somehow trigger it upon them. Watching closely so as not to miss a detail in case they were but sleeping or spirit traveling.

Old Donall had strode the land with the Dagda for many years and many were the challenges and adventures they had shared and endured. Donall was well aware of the Dagda's heart and knew the burdens set upon it by bearing the responsibility for life and death in that length of club wood. A great power true, but weighty with great responsibility.

It was he who had spoken of it, one night at revel, but indeed made mention of it in sincerity when the light of the next day was upon them.

"I don't want bringing back."

The Dagda had looked at him, surprised and confused, and moved to speak, but Donall hushed him and carried on.

" I seen the greatness of you and that death touch wood, an all this time together I thought to meself, Donall, ne'er be on the receivin end of that ending.

Wise words no doubt and no chore it was me for your friendship has been of great joy and no enemy of you would I be.

So the years have come and old I am, the strength and vigour leaves me and my wisdom and council is not much more needed.

So then I thought, what of that other end? What of carrying on with our adventures forever? That's when I realised it.

I'm not for stayin Old Donall forever and who knows what's for seein once my ending comes.

I know it's a sorrow I be puttin on ye Big Man, but I would not have the carrying me on that club forever.

Carry instead fond memories of me in your heart so that ye smile thinkin o me."

So that was that. Donall now called 'Old' once called 'Bold' died a quiet death. No battles harm upon him, no pain of illness to touch him, just a soft goodbye as dreams slipped over him and his breath left him at rest.

Dagda stood where only Kin could. Dagda stood dark eyes witnessing the passage onto death. Dagda stood, recalling to mind each tale of Donall's life and finding more smiles than tears upon him.

Dagda stood where Donall would have him stand, watching for a wake they both knew would not come.

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