Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Battles due

They had carried him inside as quick and as full of care as they could. Outside the Battle continued despite the fall of their King. It would be no easy feat to carry the day given the blow struck against the People. Their bid for land on which to live may end this very night.

The draoi were already waiting and chief amongst them was Dian Cecht, the most knowledgeable and skilled of the Tuatha De Danann in the ways of healing and surgery. With this life to save none raised questions and all worked diligently.

Nuada lay on the table, covered in his heart's blood. Scored and scraped, the most grievous wound of all was the loss of his arm. In his moments of consciousness, there was one he called for, one whom he needed to hear from. One who could tell him the truth of what happened.

The Dagda was soon at his side.

                                            **************************

The Plains of Pillars had seen Battle for three long hard days. The hosts had gathered as agreed. Bres had seen to the exchange of spear for javelin and both peoples had looked to thier production and training so that the day would be carried by those of skill and courage instead of some imbalanced technical advantage.

The conflict had carried back and forward each day, one side or the other taking some ground but neither finding full dominion over the other so that as the sun set each night, both forces would retire, rest, heal and plan the next days battle.

It was in such a meet that the King, Nuada, called together his chieftains and champions and set forward his idea.

“Long and hard have you all fought, and carried each a heroic burden of battle so that you stand tall with honour upon you, but pained by your wounds. Tomorrow we must try something new.”

The King looked to one and all and drew forth the sword which he had carried from Findias.

“I will take the vanguard role tomorrow and call out their King and inflict mortal wounds upon him. With their King fallen, their resolve will break and we can at last claim a victory.”

Every eye in the rath was held by that sword and the strong arm which wielded it. All knew of their King’s prowess in battle and it was said that once the fight was upon him, and that sword in hand, none could stand against the wounds he would bring upon them.

Still there was one chieftain who held a doubt in his big heart and as the warriors and leaders left to rest and plan the next day’s victory, He remained behind.

“What is it my big friend? I know that look on your face as well as if it were carved upon my own.”

The Dagda shook his head and moved over to his friend and King.

“This isn't wise Nuada. The extent of our foe’s skill and strength has not been fully tested. True there is much to gain by pushing for a victory, but the risk to you is as equally great. The loss of our King may do more harm than you have considered.”

Nuada was known as a fair and strong king, having lead the People to Eire, but as with many who rely heavily on their own talent he could often be blinded to the possibility, and indeed the price, of failure.

“Now now friend, there is no need for such thoughts. What day of conflict has there ever dawned, that I did not carry it with the edge of my blade and with the swing of my arm? We have seen what these Fir Bolg can muster and mighty as they are to stand against us so long, they have not faced the cut of my skill. They are little more than savage brawlers”

Dagda shook his head to see his friend so blinded by his own pride and so he tried again to bring some balance.

“You do them wrong, Nuada. They are honourable and fierce and they fight for that which they too see as their birthright, Eire. To dismiss them as you have is not wise, it’s false pride and could lead to disaster. I say again, reconsider.”

At this Nuada was rankled to be so questioned and even rebuked. He was King here and the swing of his arm and this blade was death and doom. None could stand against him, so who was the Dagda to question him on his decisions and speak so of a failure that could not exist. The Big Chieftain spoke of pride and it was pride which he had wounded in his King.

“I see the toll of this battle has been heavy upon you Chieftain, if it has taken your confidence in your King and your friend. My decision is made and you had best come to terms with your unfounded fears or they may do you harm come the morrow. Once this sword is in my hand none can stand against me, this is the truth that will bring us victory tomorrow.”

Dagda met the steely grey eyes of his friend and King and knew that his words had not been heard and so his heart remained heavy with doubt. For the third time he spoke.

“I can see that your mind is set and your pride is wounded to my words, at least let me stand by your side the morrow so that my fears can be set to rest and your safety assured should they by some chance come to pass.”

Nuada’s temper flared, grey eyes flashing to heat and face filling with angers rush.

“I am no child in need of coddling and can look to my own protection, Chieftain! You will take the lead of our left flank tomorrow, alone. Maybe there you can find your courage and be of use. This is the order of your King and you will follow them by the oaths you swore to me.
Last words. Leave!”

The Dagda straightened to his fullest height, His own anger stoked by the words of his friend and King, but honour bound and oath sworn he was, and with that he left.

The next day the Dagda’s rage had not cooled. He had spent the night pacing a ditch into the earth about his camp and as the battles call came he was already covered in muck as sweat.

His King had given him an order and called upon his oath to enforce it, instead of his friend taking on advice and asking him to fulfill a role.

Some might argue that there was little difference once the job was done, but to the Big man from Murias the manner in which a person acts defines the person that they are irrespective of the results they achieve.

The Dagda was ever an amiable and compassionate companion, but none would doubt the strength of him nor the courage of his heart. Until now. Careful of himself and his anger, he had stayed away from the rest and revels of the night not wanting his hurt and rage to spill on to others with some ill conceived thought or word.

Snatching up his weapons he strode off towards the left of the Plain striding to the fullest extent of his big legs so that he out paced all others and arrived to stand in the lead so that the lines formed up about him.

As the warriors gathered they glanced in a hurried worried manner to the big Chieftain at their centre. Today brought no quips nor jokes from the Dagda. No reassuring remarks nor boisterous blather. The large form stood unmoving and silent, the waves of his anger rolling out from him so as to bring all about to silent stillness.

Across the Plain the Fir Bolg gathered, and as they had in days past they called and jeered and cheered to the forces arrayed against them. This was how each day had begun, with each force’s warriors and heroes raising their voice to tell of their deeds the previous day and raise new threats for the greater achievements in the battle to come.

This day, the Tuatha De Dannan forces remained silent and unmoving, wrapped as if in some spell by the big man at their centre.

The Fir bolg forces grew steadily louder and more colourfully irate in their cries and jeering seeing the steady silence as a weakness or fear in the force arrayed before them.

Still the Tuatha De stood, waiting for word from their leader and following the example he set.

Finally the Fir Bolg chieftain could stand no more of this, seeing the silence now as an insult, that these foes deemed themselves to proud to engage in the sport before the battle. So it was that he ordered his Warriors forward and into the charge.

The forces of the Tuatha De watched as with a great cry the warriors of the Fir bolg broke into a staggered rolling charge that soon had their whole host bearing down upon them. Every eye was on the Dagda, waiting, yet still he stood.

The noise of the descending horde increased as they closed the distance, soon it was possible to make out particular figures in the mass, waving their weapons high and screaming insults and threats.

Just as it seemed they would be washed under by the wave of warriors, The Dagda moved.

Without word or gesture, the Big man charged.

So sudden was the shift that not only were his own forces wrong footed but so too were the Fir Bolg facing him. They staggered a step in their rush and that was all the Champion needed. In the passing of a breath it seemed, the Dagda was among them bowling the first warriors over with his bulk alone, then setting his arms to swing, bringing death to those who came within reach.

The Dagda released his rage, setting it upon the Fir Bolg and with a thunderous bellow began cleaving hard into their ranks so that more than a hundred had fallen before the first blows dropped on any other of the Tuatha De Danann. With the release of their Chieftain the voice, the People found theirs and descended upon the now staggered Fir Bolg.

This days fighting was fierce, as all about many warriors fell on both sides. The Dagda waded deepest among the foe, laying harm and mortal wounds within the range of his broad arms and here it was that word reached him.

The King, hard pressed in battle, which none would say he could stand against. The Fir bolg had revealed a large warrior and this Chieftain of theirs was equal if not more than the King’s skill.

All seemed to stop around the big man. Heart hammering thunder blood in his ears, he could not believe that they had heard correctly. Nuada hard pressed and likely to fall? His King, his friend battling and set to be bested? If he could not believe his ears, He could believe his heart.

It had told him, warned him, whispered to him that there was yet some threat unseen to the Fir Bolg. They were descended of the first great tribes such as he and the People were. Why would they not possess equal courage and skill?

His heart had warned him, and he had failed to warn his friend. A friend now hard pressed and failing.

The moment broke, and the Dagda moved.

                                   ***********************************

Nuada had entered this days battle with his mind set to the plan. By the strength and skill of his arm, the sharp swift strokes of his sword, would the conflict be won and the ascendancy of his People assured. This was what a King should be, an example of fierce power and pride, set to carve their place in the stories by their skill and their courage.

What did that big fool know of such things? Lumbering about in easy companionship with the People. Ditch digging, wood chopping and food gathering. A King should be above these things so that the People had someone to look up to, to aspire to, a leader.

The battle began this day as it had many others, both forces gathered facing one another, yelling, cheering and jeering so as to raise the blood and inspire the fight frenzy. As Nuada stood loosening the muscles of his arms with easy swings he couldn’t help the drift of his gaze towards the left. There was no way to see his big friend given the expanse of the battle formation but it struck him as odd the see that section of the host stand in silence.

With a shake of his head he dismissed the thoughts and made ready to win this day upon the edge of his blade.

The clash, crush and clamour of conflict took the morning and made it noon, and always Nuada moved where the battle was fiercest, committing himself and his guards to the hardest harshest sections of the embattled forces. Many a mortal wound feel from the strong swing of his sword, cleaving and cutting the Fir bolg down wherever they stood before him.

So it was that the King pressed forwards fastest and farthest of his forces, pushing the foe back time and again. That is until the canny Fir bolg sprung their trap.

Nuada and his guard pursued another rabble of warriors as they fled from his might, only to have them stop abruptly and form a tight group before them, the spears they had built from the sharing of knowledge presented forwards in a spiked wall of death.

It was then that the King realised the error of his pursuit. Glancing about he saw that other groups had formed similar spear walls to either side and even as the thoughts of flights began to him another group cut in behind, long spears pointing both inwards and outwards, closing off any aid from reaching the now surrounded Tuatha de Danann.

Completing the circuit the king looked back to see a small opening in the spear wall through which a tall muscled form stepped.

“Pride and hubris are poor traits for a King to rule by, but I guess this lesson may come too late for the likes of you Nuada King. Today your rule ends and with it the conflict for Eire as no Peoples can stand without a worthy King.”

At this a rain of javailn descended in upon the group, expertly thrown by those most proficient in their use. Nuada remained without harm, but now stood alone facing this foe.

“Come then King of the Danann Peoples. Know me, for I am Sreng, lets see your worth.”

So saying the tall figure charged, sword and shield setting a momentum of slash and stymie that Nuada was instantly pressed back and working furiously to prevent wounds upon himself. He held for a while, keeping clear of harm, but the toll of the days conflict was heavy upon him and already his arm was weakening.

The skill and strength of this warrior was unlike any that Nuada had seen from the Fir Bolg. It was in this moment that the words of caution resurfaced in his mind, this time clear for their concern of him and not as question to his skill. He had been warned but took no notice of the warning having missed its intent by being caught on the words.

Pain unlike any he had felt burned its way across his consciousness sending him staggering and stumbling until the ground took him. He looked to the side and saw that magnificent sword of his, clutched in the strong grip of his swift arm, an arm that was no longer attached to him.

A mortal wound done upon him, Nuada’s gaze turned up to the sky seeing the swift passage of clouds the same grey of his eyes. The view was then blocked by the large warrior, standing tall over him, a spear, de Danann people had taught him to make, held firm in his strong arms.

“Time to die, knowing you have failed your People.”

Nuada’s gaze came down to the tip of that spear, seeing its sharp point so skillfully crafted. At least he would die swiftly upon a well made weapon. Nuada closed his eyes.

It was then, that thunder struck.

With an almighty crash the spear wall to the left was shattered, bodies thrown all about in disarray as something massive and powerful exploded through them. Sreng glanced up from his death blow to have his vision filled with a massive worn, muck and blood covered fist.

The crash of impact set an echoing deafening noise all about the Fir bolg’s senses leaving him staggered and dazed. The large warrior stumbled back towards his people and recovered, head still ringing, his eyes cleared to see a massive figure standing over the prone form of the de Dannan King.

Bulky and broad, heavy with muscle, with some girth around his mid, the figure was covered in muck sweat and foe blood, breathing vasts gasps of air, feet planted solidly, rooted to the spot.

Yet this warrior too was alone and despite their entrance Sreng could see that the day weighed heavily upon them.

“You have arrived in time to die with your King brave warrior, but the day is done and it is our victory. No peoples may stand without their King,”

The Big warrior took a moment to catch his breath and despite Sreng’s words none of the fir bolg seemed eager to engage him.

“This battle you have won, Warrior of the Fir Bolg, but the day is lost. The Left side of field is already broken and fled and I would not be long expecting our northern friend Aengaba to be upon you from the right. Might be best you walk away from this one.”

Sreng had long served as champion among his people yet he had never met a warrior such as this. Broad and powerful, even covered in war blood, the man spoke softly and with a firm confidence sought to end the conflict. Yet Sreng was not to be stirred, his people had fought long and hard these past days and with Nuada King fallen, there was much to be gained in ending him and calling the war done in the act.

“By the strike of my hand this day, I could end blood shed for all the next days for both our Peoples. I cannot withdraw and will grant you the honour of dying with your King. Fare you well, Rolaig Builc.”

With those words Sreng gestured and closed with this men upon the great warrior with the the belly, and the fallen maimed King.

The Big man made no move and only released his breath in a heavy sigh and prepared to defend his fallen friend. It was often this way on the hard days, when words fail and all about is conflict and aggression. He was no better than any other but he knew at least that he should be.

The Dagda stood, giving no step back and denying all the chance to strike at his friend.

                              *******************************************

“That’s the truth of it Nuada king. My warriors broke through and I had them carry you away. Aengaba did arrive but found his match in Sreng and has fallen this day.”

Nuada sat propped up and pale from the loss of life's blood. The stump of his arm ending in a sutured and sealed state even as Dian Cecht hovered close at hand observing.

“King I am not for I am no longer fit, by form and by deed. I am just Nuada now.”

His voice was weak and strained and Dagda could see that the sadness was heavy upon him. Behind the crippled warriors shoulder Dian Cecht made a gesture of concern which the Big Chieftain knew well. Dagda the draoi knew the harm that a sadness left unchecked can do on a person.

“King you may no longer be, but well loved chieftain and champion of our Peoples you will Always be.”

Dagda’s words were soft and gentle but with that firmness that brooked no arguments.

Nuada’s grey eyes met the warm earthy brown of the big man’s and Dagda saw that, though clouds remained there was still light behind that look.

“I would foresake all that too, if only I could be still called friend by you.”

The Dagda found his smile and shared it fondly upon Nuada, allowing the warmth he felt show clearly upon his face.

“Sure I am, and always will be your friend. Trough strife and revel, labour and rest, you can be assured of me by your side. This is truth.

The Dagda’s smile turned more grin seeing his friend’s humour raised.

“Last Word.”

Sunday, 1 April 2018

A Cold Stroll

It had been a quite some time since I had walked the mountains but it seemed the memory of that cold invasive chill was enough to set me to shivering all over again.

Winter, it seemed, was doing its level best to hold on to the island as more days than naught I was required to clear ice from the windshield before starting the car, or snow from its bonnet.

The thing with Ireland is that if its cold there is ice, if its warm there is rain. I don’t normally mind much at all. I'm built for my climate it seems. I am one of those ‘warm people’. You know, the kind whose handshake on a cold day is invariably remarked on for its temperature. Yeh that’s me.

This day though, the wind chill cut me right through and my ambient heat was stolen away by this blustery gusting. The car had been warm, heaters set to maximum thurst, forcefully driving engine heated air across my toes and up, but that pleasant memory was left with the vehicle parked as it was a few feet away.

I gazed longingly at it, wondering if I could nip back there and wait until my companion arrived, when I heard a heavy foot step and a shuddering exhalation behind me.

“Jaysus it’s cold out here today isn’t it?”

I turned to see a broad figure standing just beside me, his shape made bulkier than usual by the addition of a long heavy overcoat, a thick wooly scarf, and a woolen beanie hat pulled low over his ears.

I have known Him quite some time now and feel like I’m getting the handle on some of the things, but his ability to turn up in that split second when your attention shifts still bothers me at times. I consider myself to be an attentive person, especially when standing outside or in a place I am not familiar with, both criteria being met today.

Yet still I had not seen him approach from either direction. It's almost as if he moved between the gaps in people's attention, and for a person of his size that seemed highly implausible. Still that is the best description I had for it and he never disagreed. At least he was remembering to make his last steps audible to me and give a little cough or something. Honestly, I can't count the number of times he made me near leap right out of my skin. We had to have a stern talk about this, and by a stern talk I mean that I gave out to him and he just smiled and laughed. Thankfully he isn't an asshole and took it on board. He still does it sometimes but I know it’s only in good humour and have learned to laugh along.

Of course all of this flashes through my brain at the speed of thought so that he is not left wanting of an acknowledgement.

“Its fierce alright. Can’t say I’m too chuffed with the location D. Why are we out here anyway?”

I glanced passed him to where the sea thundered into the shore, shattering itself in breaking waves of froth against the strand, the grey swell of it mimicking the heavy blanket of cloud overhead.

“It’s spring now that Imbolc has been and gone. It’s time to shake of the grasp of winter’s chill and get out again. To be alive and active as the world returns from its little death.”

I watched as he rubbed his hands together and stamped his feet against the pervasive cold.

“I’m shaking alright but it’s because of the winter chill. Maybe we should call it off until the sun gets its ass in gear and turns up the heat?”

My glance strayed wistfully towards the car again.

“Ah come now! Once we get the legs going and the heart pumping you will warm up quick enough.”

With that he turned and set off in his rolling gait, part stroll part stride and awkward as all fuck to try match, but I hurried to keep pace as well as I could.

The walk along the strand took us clear of the car park pretty quick and it wasn’t long after that the signs of humanity were lost behind the rising dunes.

I enjoy the feeling of warm sand beneath my bare feet in the heat of summer, but trying to stride along on the soft shifting mess of it in the cold of winter is a hell all in itself. All the while the thunder of the surf and the incessant face freezing slap of the wind stole any opportunity for discussion.

This was the way of things. At times there was no need for talk be it a lecture or a joke or whatever. Sometimes it was just companionship. Simple as. Just sharing space with no need or requirements, work, or in today's case, words.

I’m not sure exactly when we turned about and began the return journey having kept my face down cast for much of the “stroll”, keeping it away from the worst of the wind. We climbed the steps up from the strand and were back once more at the car.

The shiver was deep inside me now, skin wet from surf spray carried inland on the wind. Its salty taste heavy on my lips. I worked hard to stop my teeth from chattering and looked over at my companion.

He wasn’t shivering or stamping his feet now, he was just looking at me appraisingly.

“Right, so maybe it’s still a little rough outside for the likes of yourself. It’s hard for me to tell you know?”

I felt my face contort in what I’m sure was a frown despite the numbness. The shiver had its icy touch upon me so my words came out all a stammer.

“What ...do..you..mean? You...were...shivering..earlier..?”

He had the good grace to look a little abashed at this, even shuffling his feet a little, though not with the cold I could see.

“The thing is, I learned this trick from the sun a long time ago and since then I have never really felt cold at all.”

He looked up and met my incredulous gaze, the shiver having taken up residence in my tongue and preventing any exclamation.

“It’s true. Thing is people are very sensitive at times and the mind is a fiend for short cutting to strange presumptions when presented with something even a little outside their regular expectation.”

He loosened the scarf and opened the buttons of his long coat down the front. Looking at this seemed to make me feel even colder.

“From your perspective it’s cold. That has certain meaning to you and your brain then fills in the expected indicators for reactions to cold. The shivering of the body, stamping of the feet, the rubbing of hands. Even the wearing of additional layers of clothes.”

At this the hat came off and was stashed in the deep pockets of the coat.

“A savvy person can read these expectations and use them to blend in when they would normally stand out, riding along these brain short cuts as it were. It takes a good bit of skill and attention to the details but it can really help when your trying to connect with someone, or avoid their attention even.”

Some deep controlled breathes had banished the shiver from my tongue.

“So your saying that some people only see what they expect to see, or even ignore what they expect to see, paying attention to that which is different.”

He nodded.

“A good example is on a day like today. You won't remember how many people you saw with their hat and scarf on, but you will remember that one person wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Here mind this for me will you?”

At this he slipped his coat off and handed it to me, standing there in just a loose tshirt and a pair of garishly bright bermuda shorts.

Just looking at him made the shiver rise again, creeping gooseflesh all up my skin. The surprise of it contorted my face to incredulous again, as the words leapt from my lips.

“You have to teach me this trick!”

Dagda chuckled and turned to embrace the gusting blustery wind, arms spread wide so that it flapped against his clothes and hair. Already we were drawing furtive glances from the passers by.

“One day maybe. Now I’m off for a quick jog and to see how many people I can scandalise.”

He waved a big hand and turned away, trundling along into the wind, the sound of his laughing carrying clearly back to me.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

A Long day and a Tough night

It had been one long day.
He couldn't recall a longer one in all his years, still he would never say that it hadn’t been worth it, nor that he hadn’t enjoyed it.

As the sun began its descent at long last,  night’s darkness crept slowly towards the places it had long been denied. His rolling gait took him by the roads away from the Rath of Eclmar and on across the country towards the West.

In the crook of his great arm rested the bundle, and swaddled within it the child. Such a small pudgy thing, all pale skin and softness. As he looked down where it slept, held close to his bodies heat, he saw the face scrunch up in momentary discomfort. The returned warmth of the fart was accompanied a smell of mothers milk, pungent in the Dagda’s nostrils.

“That’s my boy.”

The Big Chieftain always kept his best smiles for his children, for they always seemed to bring forward the best in Him, yet this time the smile slipped as the memories came.

**********************************************************************************

The Rath was warmed with hearth fire and the comfort of private intimacy. The table was set and the pieces had seen many moves, some decisive and swift others thoughtful and measured. Once again it seemed that the play had come to a stalemate, but the pieces had been long forgotten now as both sat considering the last words spoken in the space.

“Are you sure it’s necessary?”

His rumbling words came as softly and measured as his moves had been.

“You know as well as I that the ways of fate are fraught with changing winds, dear heart, but in this there is surety. The child will bring much to our tribe and in time come to your aid where no other could. They will be a unique force of unequaled vigor. There is only one choice.”

Her words delivered with as much softness as there ever was to her, she picked up a piece from the board and sat back in her chair, caressing it almost absent mindedly.

“There must be concessions.”

Her eyebrow rose at this but reading his tone she remained silent.

“First, there must be unswayed consent. On this there can be no ambiguity or hesitancy.”

Her smile was genuine and pleased as once again her husband’s first considerations did him credit, though He never could understand how rare that was.

“Agreed.”

He nodded reflexively as if his motions were absent his mind’s awareness, such was the focus of his thoughts.

“Second, the matter is to be completed in one day. The sun will stay its course to allow the natural growth and birth of the child within the womb of Boann, but no others outside will know of the deed for the safety of her body and her honour.”

Her brows lowered at this demand. Though the ability was not beyond them, the impact to the great cycle, not to mention her own plans, could be significant and far reaching. Her sharp eyes watched him closely to read his intent. So much concern for this other woman.

“Agreed, but on the condition that the impact is yours to manage and that the same boon be offered me should I call upon it.”

This time his nod was mind full as his dark eyed gaze met hers, accepting the responsibility.

“Now I have a concession of my own before the matter is closed.”

He kept his gaze locked to hers and waited patiently.

“The child is to be brought to me as the sun renews its course and moves to set. There I shall trace the paths of fate again so we may know the best course.”

The Chieftain took in a deep breath to speak but she interrupted Him with a raised finger.

“What the weave of fate decrees, you will abide by.”

She knew his heart, knew it as intimately as her own. Knew how big, broad and giving it is, and knew exactly what pains would be caused should her current view of the fate not alter by their next meeting. For all that he was a great and wise chieftain, a knowledgeable druid and powerful practitioner, for all of his grand strength and skill, his love of family was both his greatest power and yet his biggest weakness.

His brow furrowed and his gaze sharpened upon her but she was not one to be quelled even by the likes of Him. She remained impassive and resolute.

“Agreed.”

The intent of his gaze told her well that he was suspicious, and of course he would be as he was no fool, but the rumble tone of his voice gave his binding word to the matter.

The agreement struck and set, the matter was put aside as easily as a gust of smoke caught in a high wind. Both their eyes fell to the board and its pieces. The Morrigan sat forward returning the missing piece to its place as they both began to contemplate the stalemate again.

“You know, even though it’s going to pass in but a day, it will be almost a year long absence from my embrace and our bed. Did you really want to spend what time we have playing games?”

Her gaze fell upon him like a predator on her favoured prey and her eyebrow rose with the suggestion.

His rumbling chuckle was the only reply she received to her question as he moved to take her in his big arms and carry her off to bed, but definitely not to sleep.

*******************************

A few days later Eclmar journeyed out of his rath and off to the waters he tended. Every seven day before the rise of the sun he would set out and draw forth the wisdom of the well as the first rays of light touched its surface. Yet for all that wisdom may offer, on this day it was a lack of knowledge which would see the changes wrought within his house.

Boann had received the Dagda’s approach with enthusiastic consent and so she awaited him in her chambers as soon as her husband had departed.

As the sun's light first touched the island The Dagda called forth his power and with all the Will and authority which was his, he slowed the flow of light across the land.

Throughout this the longest day, Dagda stayed with Boann sharing a 9 month of partnered relationship. They spoke on every topic, shared and challenged ideals, swapped crafts and skills and engaged in many enthusiastic encounters not just between bed sheets, but in all other places imaginable.

Once the motherly changes were wrought upon her body as the child grew within her, Dagda stayed ever close to hand, nursing, caring and nurturing Boann, sharing in all of the trials as much as he was able and easing her burdens in whatever manner he could.

The child was born healthy and strong, with thankfully little discomfort to Boann. It seemed the the infant was possessed of a force of wilful intent as he arrived sooner than expected. Dagda was thankful for this as it gave time for Boann to nurse and know the child before the parting which they both knew would come at the end of their day.

And so the Dagda bid farewell to his wife of the 9 month day and taking the bundle safe and warm in hand set forth towards the setting sun.

*********************************************

Without prior agreement he knew where to find her. There were many places which they called theirs but there was only one for business such as this. The rush and gurgle of the river caught his ears long before his eyes fell upon it. Tucking the blanket close around the child against the river Unshin’s chill, the Dagda arrived at the ford.

With the sun in his face and night’s darkness following close behind him, he came to her where she stood across the waters, light surrounding her in its red gold flames.

She stood in robes of red flowing to the ground just above her bare white feet. Hair undone, mane stirring faintly with the breeze above the water, face marked with the colourings of her paint, not set for war, but set for great works none the less.

He had missed her there could be no doubt about that, but as he looked upon her here, arrayed as she was, he couldn't help recall their last meeting, a 9 month day ago. What had she not told him? What had she held back? It seemed now was the time of revelation.

Not missing a beat they both stepped forward, one foot at a time, matched stride and synchronicity until the waters of the ford washed about both their legs and they stood without touch in the middle of this space between.

“With earth and water below, fire and air above, I greet you husband.”

“In this space between where elements meet, I greet you wife.”

She had missed him, there could be no doubt about that. Though the day had continued for the rest of the world, She had known the passing of each true minute for what it was and though change had been slowed, it could never be stopped. Many things had been adjusted and altered in the passing of the longest day, but now she stood upon the moment she had foreseen and could not help but hope for the fate to have changed.

She held out her arm towards him.

“As agreed in days gone passed, I will look upon the child and see to their fate.”

Her eyes came up to meet those dark orbs of the Dagda looking to read in him his mood and intent. For all of her abilities to glimpse the weaves of fate’s design, his was the one thread she could never see clearly, the one force which she could not with any assurance predict. He was the most interesting, attractive and yet frustrating thing she had ever encountered.


She saw his brow furrow into a frown yet his gaze never left hers. There it was, the oh so subtle threat. That power coupled with the mystery of him ensured that he was the most dangerous thing in existence to her, as she was to him. A perfect balance of beloved nemesis.

She kept her breathing slow and steady refusing to draw her power about her in any visible way. This was his heart. The strength of the love he held for the child of his own flesh and the will to destroy any who would attempt harm upon those he considered His. She was His as well in the same way that he was hers, but she was under no illusions about his stance when it came to his children.

His arms came forward and present the bundle to her, oh so gentle for all of his huge muscled strength. She took the swaddled infant and turned it up to look upon its face. Round and with the pudgy jowls of a newborn, it’s eyes were yet to fully open to the world about it.

Easing her mind she looked to See the child for the first time in person.

Dagda stood as the waters about his legs began to lose the days heat. He watched closely as the Morrigan looked to See the fate of his child. No force in creation could move him from this spot. The time of truths was here.

Dearly he loved his partner, this mate, his equal, but he was no fool and also knew she was his greatest threat, the one against whom he could find no effective defence, even if he had wanted to. The power of endings.

Within his mind he replayed the conversation they had shared.

They will be a unique force of unequaled vigor. There is only one choice.

There I shall trace the paths of fate again so we may know the best course.

What the weave of fate decrees, you will abide by.

He waited as the sun at last disappeared and the day ended.

The Morrigan shuddered and closed her eyes, Dagda noted that her arms closed around the child and held him closer to her. He did not move. He waited.

She opened her eyes and and raised their green orbs to his.

“Chieftain of the tribes do you remember your oath given to me concerning this moment?”

Dagda’s mind raced along the paths of what could be considering the possible fate of his son. True his word was given and he would not break with that for honour sake, but what was honour when compared to the safety and well being of family? He couldn't help note the absence of the little bundle from the cradle of his arms and his eyes fell to where it rested in hers.

“Recall I do the words of my oath.”

“The child will grow in force and vigour and in time will aid you when no one else can. Yet the fate of his parentage must, for now, remain secret and so he is to be raised in fosterage within the house of Midir and as no child of yours may you claim him.”

Within his great broad chest the Dagda’s heart skipped and sank low within him. This child of his, this son, not to be his in name or in the raising. His shoulders slumped and face fell to look to the river and within three breaths the wetness of tears adorned his face. The Morrigan’s voice came to him softly and he knew she spoke to him from her own heart not the weave of fate.

“I’m sorry beloved dear heart, I know how this must pain you. I had hoped that the passage of the longest day might change this fate, but for the child to grow and become whom they must, then they need to be parted from father in the same manner as they are parted from mother. This is the balance of fate.”

Dagda’s tears joined the waters of the Unshin but he knew the words for truth. She had held back information from him, but now he saw that it was for the love she bore him that it had been done.

“Name the child, Chieftain.”

Raising his head, tears still flowing from his eyes, he looked into the Morrigan's now  blue orbs.

“You did that bit already my love.”

Dagda took a deep steadying breath and into the world about him he sent the name of his child.

“His name is Oengus Mac ind Og”

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.”

***For early Access to more stories, recording and other features please connect with me on Patreon
Patreon Dagda Bard






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."


******************************************************************************************************************************
For more stories and exclusive content please considering supporting me on Patreon