Sunday, 24 January 2016

A Bard's Work

With a resounding crack, Skol's fist connected with Leif's jaw and bowled him over on his back. 

A roar of approval rang in the victors' ears accompanied by the staccato of mugs slammed on tables. 

The raiders had reaped a bounty on their last endeavour and no one was in a hurry to return to the ships, and the long voyage to colder lands. 

This island seemed ripe for pillage, with their weak men, unprotected communities and their One God.

Skol bellowed to the continued approval of his men.

"Where is the wrath of their One God? Where? When we reap the treasures of his faithful and slaughter them like the sheep they are?"

Skol turned, grabbing up a mug and downing its content to grand applause. 

The only thing of any worth in this wet place, beyond the loot of the God sworn men in their robes, seemed to be the old bard.

The raiders had come across him on their return to camp and brought him along to entertain, either with his skill should he have any or with his screams should he not. Old, grey haired and stooped, the bard had sat in the corner of the tent and started with tales as the feasting began.

Skol recalled tales of forest and river, hill and dale. Of older times and wilder ways. The bard's voice, resonant and deep, tolled a story of the power of words and how woe would fall on any man who would harm a teller of tales.

At this Freya, ever a sharp blade, called out of what fate could a woman expect for doing such a deed as by the tale spinners own words this woe would fall upon 'man'.

Not caught wanting for words the old man did chuckle, a basso rumble of a noise, and to the approval of the shield maid, he said that woman generally had more sense than men when being lead by their bloodier instinct. 

Skol couldn't be sure but he would swear the old man winked at Freya and a sly smile creaked his aged lips. 

Her smile back was of greater surprise.

The drink did flow from there and the bard produced a round wood hoop with sheep skin stretched across its frame. With this he set about a drumming and his voice filled the space with the language of the islanders, but in some way different. 

The words were unknown to the raiders, but not their tone, and soon the tables and every clear space were filled with stamping reeling bodies as the urge to dance overtook all but the most stoic warrior.

It was here that Leif's carelessness with his drink earned him a nap in the dirt. 

With gasping breaths from the dancers the drumming stopped and as the raiders found their seats, Skol caught sight of the bard readying his next instrument.

The harp was finely wrought of smooth pale wood with strings that seemed to sparkle as the thick fingers of the bard set them to their first humming tone. 

As Skol slumped into a seat with a yawn, he promised himself he would steal the harp in the morning, and damn the old fool's tales or warning. 

The humming strumming rose and fell as a silence swept in and across the tables. All eyes were turned to the bard. All ears attentive to his tune.

"To lands of green and soil of brown,
We cross the waves and risk to drown.
For loot and spoil we wage our war,
Yet this has all been done before.

The  sun does set on foreign lands,
And where are we but far from hands
Of loved ones dear we don't have near 
Our hearts do ache and our eyes do tear.

So fly you home cross waves and sea,
For there is a place you long to be.
That place from which your journeys start,
The house, the home of your true heart."

As the last note settled into the awaiting appreciative silence, the bard looked about. All heads were at rest upon table, or arms, or floor or companion, many faces wet with tears as their owners slumbered.  

Patting his harp as he put it away the bard stood upright and tall, the stoop leaving his broad shoulders.

 Rolling out his arms he settled his ragged robes more squarely across his large frame. 

 A good show that, thought The Dagda with a smile, as he walked out into the darkness. 

The next morning there were no long boats to be seen on that coast.

Ireland was once again Her own.

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