Friday, 29 January 2016

Appetites

The Roordahuizum drinking horn, 16th century by Albert Jacobs Canter
Two days and three nights.

A long enough period to strain the stamina of many.

Muscles all a fire and heads all a spin, this was no place for the faint of heart, or weak if constitution. 


The music kept its frantic pace as the dancers reeled and sprang about to its beats and rests. 

He had to give it to those godsmen for one thing at least, they made a fine beverage.

Lacking the spirit of the more traditional alcohols, these frothy brews allowed for a large quantity of consumption.

The flavors set to tickle even the most refined pallet, though in saying that there were many who never thought of him as refined in any context.

The conceit tickled him and a burbling chuckle became a full throated bellow of laughter.  

The dancers cheered in their revel to see him so entertained, presuming much to see him so far in his cups.

Then again, with many an empty cask strewn about him he couldn't say they presumed overly much. 

His humorous outburst returned to a pleasurable warmth in his mind, but something was different.

With a sharpening of senses, though no outward sign of wariness, he moved his eyes across the hall. 

The main floor space was taken up by the dancers.
30 strong, lithe forms flowing like water in the river of the music. Stamping feet and twirling bodies mingled and dispersed only to mingle again.
Smiling faces and clasping hands moving the revelers to the tunes of songs long held dear for this joy they brought.

This was not what he was looking for. 

The 15 bards set the flow with pipe, horn, bodhrán and his preference, harp.
The magic they wove spilling a joy of motion across the space. Tempo, pitch, cadence, melody, harmony. These were the tools of this most powerful craft.
The notes weaving amidst one another, merging and yet distinct to the ear that could hear them. 
Emotion embodied in sound. 

This was not what he was looking for. 

Opposite the bards, thankfully, the drinks were flowing without end and the foods bringing delight and sustenance to one and all.
Roasted meat by the platter, fruits and cheeses, warm fresh breads, and pies of many sweet or savoury fillings. A heady aroma filled the air, fit to bring any mouth to moistness in anticipation of fantastic flavor. 

This was not what he was looking for. 

As his eyes rolled back towards to dance they caught what his senses had told him was there.

A shadow among the shadows. A darkness in between the lights.
Some feat indeed given the multitude of torches and candles that lit the space.

Downing his drink he drew himself another, feigning ignorance as the shadow moved about.

It flitted and floated, passing between the gaps in attention. 

This was what he had been looking for, and his smile grew broad upon his flushed face. 

As it ghosted past him, nought but a blur in the peripherals of his vision, nothing more that a wisp of a shade, his hand shot out like a lightning bolt, grasping a well muscled arm and spinning the owner into his broad lap.

A surprised indignant yelp was his reward, that and a resounding teeth-rattling slap across his jaw. 

In an instant the space stopped. A cold steely Will wrapping the second in ice and freezing it solid. 

She was all a fury to have been so interrupted.

Her hair spilled about her shoulders in a cascade, her gown of finest fabric fitting tight to her warrior's form, a shape that did not go unnoticed to his appreciative gaze.

His eyes roamed slowly back up to her face, severe and beautiful; high cheek bones and sharp jawline in complete complement to her lithe shape. 

His eyes met hers. Warm earthy brown gazed into eyes as grey as a storm cloud. 
Thunder would not be long away, he thought. 

That thought spread the smile on his face a good bit broader, which made puckering his lips for a kiss all the harder. 

In the literal blink of an eye the storm clouds passed and an azure blue of a fresh spring sky took its place.

Sharp nails raked his arm as her face moved towards his, her breath coming hot against his skin.

At the last moment she dipped past his face and sunk her teeth into his neck.
The bite was hard yet she did not break skin.

 Her lips sealed around the bite to suck against his flesh as a small gasp escaped him. 

Mind your appetites my love. Remember we are not at the ford. 

A chuckle rolled out of his chest as the next second finally arrived and the Morrigan was gone from sight.

With a wince at the mark on his neck, the Dagda refilled his cup anew and settled back to enjoy the revels. 

Blackness Falls

The body was battered and bruised but life still resided within it. 
A vital energy force that burned and beat despite its vessel's damaged state. 

With a sigh he ran his thick fingers across the skin, still smeared with some traces of blood where he had cleansed it. 

Multiple lacerations. 

The sharp blades having sliced skin to varying depths, but none reaching anything vital. 
These will heal easily enough. 

The body released a wince as his fingers probed its ribs. One, two,  three?
No. Only two broken and one fractured. 
These will take time to knit. 

The greatest concern was the swelling on the body's head.

The blow had been overhand and strong. 

Surely this would have caved in the skull had not the warrior turned aside, taking a scraping blow down the side of its face and damaging one ear. 

This too would heal in time, though that ear will be forever marked for the damage. 

Another sigh passed his lips as sadness settled upon him. 

So much hurt. So much pain.  

They say pain is a great teacher. 

Some claim that it teaches them to be smarter, quicker, stronger, wiser. 
Some claim that it gifts them a clarity of purpose and a glimpse of destiny.

For him it only ever taught him how to take more pain. 

His eyes strayed to the Club resting against the wall. 
Its killing end in the dirt, its healing end at rest against the door frame.

It could never work for him, and in a way it shouldn't. 
Someone needs to bear the pain, and who better than the one with the biggest shoulders?

With another wince the Dagda lay down to rest his broken body. 
His head beginning to pound, as he could no longer keep the pain at bay. 

A wistful chuckle escaped his lips just before blackness took him.

She is going to give me hell over this ear. 

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.

Home is where the Hearth is


The Third String, a blog by The Dagda



She stopped outside her home and dropped her shield and spear upon the ground.  Tired aching pained muscles shirked the pack from her shoulders.

Walking into the welcoming darkness of her home she moved towards the back and froze.

She was not alone.

Her eyes roamed the space as her hand drifted towards the blade at her hip, warrior instinct triggering a primal warning in the recesses of her brain.

There.

The fire had been banked before she left for the Battle. Now it danced merrily in logs that must have been burning for hours, her cauldron strung over the heat, yet no scent of cooking filled the space.

Inhaling deeply she picked up a smell from the second alcove of the cave, where the spring filled the pool. The movement of the water and the damp earthy aroma almost masked the scent, one that was strangely more earthy than the very rock and clay around it. 

Moving forward confidently now, she entered the back of the cave knowing full well who was there. 
The hulking broad figure was silhouetted by the candles at play about the pools edge and she heard a strange noise as something, blocked from her sight, dropped into the water's depths.

How is it that you come so freely into this space?

Her voice cracked the silence wide open with its demand. Her Will driven into the words, a Will that commanded armies and made the very air freeze, and time cease its march.

The figure stood slowly, turning towards her.

As His eyes fell upon Her, the primal part of her brain shuddered and a need to fight or flee skittered its way toward her thoughts only to be crushed mercilessly by her Will.

She was the better of most and the equal of only one, She would dictate her path.
She alone. 

Her eyes fell to his hands. Broad and strong, with skin creased from work, they were held palms up, out towards her. 
In the darkness, she could barely see his face but the smile he wore was as plain as the dawn and almost as bright.

Silence, warm and comfortable rolled itself back into the space. 
Stepping forward she spread her arms out wide. They had played this game before. 
With gentle hands, he pulled the léine from her shoulders and the trews from off her legs.

With vestments of war left in a bloody pile on the rock, he lead her to the pool. As her foot touched the water she could not suppress her hiss of surprise.

The water, normally cool and refreshing, was warm as steam rose from its surface.

Her eyes locked on his as her brain worked rapidly. Her exhalation had not gone unnoticed and a soft chuckle rumbled from his chest.

Rocks. Heated on the fire and placed in the water. 

It was a statement of a truth discovered with quick thinking and perception, and though there was no question to it, he nodded in answer. 

Stepping down into the rock pool She turned to see if he would follow. Surprised again, she took pause to watch as the game changed further, he sat upon the pool's edge and lifted a comb into his hands. 

Turning her back to him She settled into the water, then felt his big gentle hands undoing her war braids one at a time, lifting water cupped in his palm to wash and work the blood and viscera from her mane.

As the last braid was cleansed the heat had soaked its way into her, relieving her war weary muscles of their aches.  With her hair fanned out about her she felt the comb enter her tresses.

Welcome home my love.

The basso voice slipped softly through the silence, and as the rumbling relaxing song began on his lips, the Dagda began to comb the Morrigan's hair. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Seventh Day




The sounds of battle had rocked the land for days and nights without end. 

On the fourth day Creidhne took to task the finely crafted weapons to repair and replace so the folk could reap a toll of war.

On the fifth day Goibhniú unleashed his fires to burn the foe and set the land alight. 

On the sixth day Brighid spoke before the assembled horde and called for an end to the fever fire, but her words fell on ears made deaf by hatred.

On the seventh day, She came.

Out of the darkness and across the lands through flame. She came.

War chariot thrumming as She drove it hard across the earth. She Came.

Braids of war set to writhe in the air about her head. Wreck and ruin her intent, laid bare in the brandished blades and shrieks for blood. She Came.

Followed by her war host, her Furies, her harpies, all eager to begin the slaughter.

She came. 

Rocketing into camp She gathered the gaze of all who stood. The hurt and the tired.

Leaping to the ground She spun a dancers pirouette, Her blades coming unsheathed in her hands, bare feet resting but a moment in any one place. All eyes followed her. All attention hers by right, if not by adoration. 

What host is this? What force of arms is held so in respite?
Tis but a short breath of life in any of you. A spark to keep for an age, or to build a blaze today and see it burn brightest, if for only the now.

Rise up!
Rise up and join my charge to deaths door and oblivion!

A ragged roar arose from the folk as they began to form groups and prepare for death.


NO!


One voice shattered the clamour to a silence that went beyond deafening.
One word thundered  across the war hosts' lines and broke all movement to a stand still.
One command and all was made to cease as if even time itself would not defy the Will behind its utterance. 

He returned.

Having not been seen, neither day nor night since the first blows were struck upon that first day.  He returned.
Moving with a killers steady grace, dragging his deaths head club across the battle churned earth.  He returned.
Flesh laid bare for all to see his hulking form, broad of shoulder and torso, legs defined by muscled shape, arms fit to break the worlds.
He returned.
Covered head to toe in the 'Dagda's Red', the foe blood, crimson gore, matting his hair and beard, layered across his scarred skin.
He returned. 

All were stunned to see, and for many it was truly a new vision of horror forever to be recalled in their darkness hours. 

She turned to him and in an instant their gazes locked. Her Will, likened to the lashing fury of the storms of ending, threw itself against his, yet found no weakness. 

As her eyes narrowed, all her intent focused in a single moment. 


Give me the order. Set me loose and I will bring you ruin.


The ruin you would bring this day would be to the very end of us all and that I will not abide. 
Today is not the day of endings.

An accord has been struck and by my word, by my Will and by my club it will be upheld.

All who stood in attendance stayed within a frozen breath awaiting the outcome. The wrath of endings poised against the patience of beginnings. 

The Dagda planted his club's killing end in the soil, which began to greedily drink the blood from its surface, as the Morrigan held his gaze.

With a slow silent bow of her head, the Morrigan withdrew. Her host returning across the land and back into the darkness.

She withdrew. 

As her chariot left sight the Dagda dropped to a knee, supported only by his club. In the passing of but a second, the stillness of the horde was released and his Warriors were around him encouraging him to rest. 

With a sigh that blew away the battle field smoke, the Dagda hauled himself to his feet.


Take me to the wounded.
Work yet remains to be done.

Baking Bread

The Third String, a blog by The Dagda
His shoulder flexed as his arm came down and around, again and again, moving with a well practiced fluidity. 

Smoke filled the space and sweat adorned his brow as his muscles flexed to his task.

A deep basso rumble was just audible above the squelch and slosh as his left arm withdrew the stirring spoon from the mix, and the right raised the jug to pour more water among the flour and egg mixture. As the left returned to its mixing the right regularly rotated the bowl.

If anyone could see him at this moment they would see a sweat soaked brow with broad bluff features, his normally unruly hair pulled back, showing a face where lines of care chased lines of laughter across his skin.

This beard was tight cropped and circled a mouth that was currently smiling as the basso rumble of the tune hummed passed his lips.

The spoon was careful placed aside and the big hands moved into the bowl to rub and squeeze and knead the dough together, preparing it for the hot stone oven from where the wood smoke wafted its scent.

With practiced ease, he portioned the dough into loaves, moving and shifting their shape with his wide callused fingers and finally pulling a line across each centre with his little finger. The loaves found their place in the oven and he moved the cover over the front.

The smile departed and his eyes became distant, the rumbling hum dying on his lips, as his gaze fell into the flames. Warriors dashed and danced around one another, some rising up, others falling to ash as their form was forever dashed apart on blades of fire.

Time was up. They would be waiting.

Sluicing his hands in a water bucket, he wiped them on the front of his, until then, clean léine. Pulling the leather thong from its binding, his hair resorted to its unruly habits, made more so as his big fingers were drawn through it.

Appearances had to be maintained after all.

Applying his best smirk he picked up the handle of his club and, dragging its killing end in the dirt behind him, he went out to face his war host.

At least there will be fresh bread when this is all over, thought The Dagda, as the days battle began.