The darkness broken by the dawn
Brings within its glow a promise
Of warmth and life, burning within
The bosom of the earth
Rising up to wrap in its protective
Force the life, which grows upon its back.
The rain had finally stopped; it had been raining for seven days straight, with very little time between the storms. That had been battering the coast, it was however a relief, the year had provided very little moisture. The whole forest was a tinderbox waiting for a spark. The animals were starting to come out of their hiding places to soak up the sun, and revel in the ready supply of water.
A stag cautiously approached a stream running in the bottom of a shallow valley. The tree line stopped several hundred yards above the stream, and the stag waited and watched the area for a long time before leaving the cover of the trees. He took one more look around before dipping his head down into the stream to quickly and deeply drink his fill. The Stags ear twitched and his head began to rise as he heard a slight whistle sound in the air, but it was too late the hunter’s arrow had hit its mark and the stag fell.
Thirty paces upstream on the opposite side of the stream two hunters stood. One was very tall, his muscles bulged and strained with every breath as if his skin were full to bursting. His long blonde hair tied back with a string of leather to keep it from his eyes, seemed to glow in the morning sun. His cheek bones were high, and well defined, while his nose wide, yet fitting to his broad face seemed to be picking every scent from the air. At his left hip were a quiver of arrows, and a knife. On his right a sword hung freely, looking ready to leap into his hand at any moment. His leather apron was soft buckskin, well worked, to provide free movement, and silence. The apron was colored to match the forest that surrounded the area. He wore no shirt, so his broad chest and shoulders soaked up the sun that had given them the bronze hue that blended his skin to the color of the wood his bow was created from, as it was slung over his shoulder. A smile played across his face and into his crystal blue eyes as he turned to his companion who was slighter in stature and height, yet his muscles spoke with the same strength as his own. The matching colors of their clothes made them appear brothers with the other features that they shared. The only difference in their appearance height aside was that this mans sword hung on the left and his bow was in his hand. “Well?” the taller man said “Well What Fer?” The smaller man said. Laughing Fer said “ Well who is going to carry him back to the village?” “Perhaps” said the smaller man boisterously. “ We should call the Shelg to do it since hunting is their job!” They both laughed as the smaller man slung his bow and they both approached the slain stag. Fer turned to the smaller man as they crossed the stream to their kill and said in a very proper tone. “Prechan Desai may I have the honor of cleaning and preparing your kill for the trip home?” The smile that was playing across his eyes was the only clue to the sarcasm that set them both to laughing. Prechan gathered water in his cupped hands and poured it into the stag’s mouth as he thanked him for giving his life so that the village could use his flesh to provide sustenance to its children. Then he turned to Fer and said. “Fer’Coadee Desai, you may now prepare the harvest for transport.” And laughed as he sat and watched his friend clean the deer. Once they had dressed the deer, Fer picked it up and they set off to the east and north at a trot. They were a league from the village; when they had happened upon the stag. The morning sun had just begun to heat the day; it was barely to the high point when they arrived at the ridge over looking the village from the south.
The village was constructed in a natural bowl, and surrounded by rocky ridges all the way around. The forest stopped a good mile from these ridges so it was a very defendable place if attacked. When they arrived the smoke from cook fires and the Armeyders forges were visible only by the distortion the heat trails created in the air. As they topped the southeastern ridge, the Shelg came trotting up and took the kill off their hands and down the hill to be prepared and cured for winter use.
As they stood on the crest surveying the village, an arrow came whistling between them to strike the ground with a firm thunk. Both men had their blades blurring into action as they turned to face the direction of the attack another arrow came whistling at them Prechan’s blade continued its blurred arch, a slight twist to the side from his body, and the sword met the arrow mid air. The arrow fell into harmless splinters on the ground. “You Dog!” a female voice shouted. The air before them shimmered 75 paces off, and a fair-faced woman appeared. Her long flaming mane tied back with a thong of black leather beaded in the ogham fashion denoting Te Saoi. A female member of the warrior class. Her fair features were twisted into an angry knot as she stomped across the space between them.
The light blue, dark green, Crimson red and orange colors woven into her clothing denoted that she was of the Desai Clan, but the men still stood ready for combat watching her approach warily. Without a glance at each other they made slight movements that put them into a good position for a fight without harming each other. Her war spear was held in her right hand tilted across her body in position to ward off a sword strike without effort. She had slung her bow as she crossed the space between them and her left hand now rode on the hilt of her Claiomh still sheathed but could be tasting of someone’s blood in the time it took their heart to strike a beat. “That was one of my best arrows you wasted!” She hissed at Prechan. She was standing half the length of her spear from the men, when Prechan retorted. “The shot was off its mark, and would have hit me if I had not defended myself.” He said calmly and with a slight hint of humor in his eyes and voice. If the Te Saoi woman had been angry before, now the fire in her eyes should have burnt the Caislen and everything within three leagues of where Prechan was standing. Even Fer’Coadee was incredulous when he glanced over at Prechan. Fer took a few small steps away from Prechan, knowing that he had just made a statement that had stripped honor from the young warrior before them. The woman’s lips stretched thin and tightened until they turned white, her skin began to creak against the fire hardened oak shaft of her spear as she stared death at Prechan. The Long wide tip of her war spear with the red oak leaf emblazoned on the blade turned its edge towards Prechan. The red colored dye on the blade of the spear made it appear to already be covered in blood. The spear suddenly flew forward and lashed out towards Prechan’s face narrowly missing its mark as his sword leapt up to meet it. As his Claiomh met her spear his body appeared to crumple as he slid to the ground, and knocked her feet from under her. Having fallen to her left she was unable to draw her blade before hitting the ground and pinning it beneath her body. Having maneuvered below her spear Prechan had simply to spin his body around and land straddling her. His hunting knife had found its way into the fray and now rested below her chin. A thin red line began to ooze across her throat where he had very lightly ran the blade across.” Te Saoi you are now Bondagh, I give you your life to spend in service for the allowed time of four seasons.” Prechan told her in a very serious tone. Meanwhile Fer’Coadee had dropped to his knees holding his stomach laughing. “Prechan” Chuckled Fer’Coadee ”If you let Maith up anytime soon she is going to place your head on her spear and you know it.” Her eyes hardened further as she struggled to free herself “ Skeayll ort rass as cass!” She growled at Prechan “Maith Sleean” he began “I will release you from Bondagh, and retract my dishonoring statement on the condition that you do not harm me when I release you.” He almost didn’t contain the laugh that had worked its way out, knowing that she would agree and yet still inflict pain on him.
With her voice forcing words past a restrained growl, Maith began to utter a labored assent. Prechan smoothly rolled to his left up onto his feet sheathing his Claiomh as he rose to standing. As Maith rose slowly, yet gracefully to her feet, Fer’Coadee allowed a small laugh to pass his lips. Before the laugh fully passed his lips the shaft of Maith’s spear hit home along his ribs.
While he didn’t noticeably flinch or even seem to notice the strike, his eyes began to water more then they had a moment before. With a satisfied tone to her voice she turned to Prechan set her feet, and spat “ I kept my word and you were not harmed!” Then she stalked down the path to the village. Prechan went and stood beside Fer’Coadee and watched her go. “I owe you some pain.” Fer’Coadee squeezed out between his clenched teeth. A smile began to grow on Prechan’s face, and he stated flatly “I know.”
The smile on Prechan’s face was not for his friend beside him, but for the one marching hotly away. She had been an enigma to him since they started to be aware of their differences. She was always trying to best him, and getting more and more angry when she was beaten. It was only now that he began to notice how well he liked her attacks, and the excuse for physical contact with her. “NO!” he screamed at himself, she has never even shown you so much as a hint that she would become your life mate, or even a lover. As he shook his head at the thoughts that were running wildly through his head he realized that Fer’Coadee was speaking to him. “What was that?” he asked absently. Fer’Coadee turned and looked at him oddly, before going on. “I said, there is some activity in the grove.” He said with an irritated edge to his voice.
As Prechan peered towards the grove of red oak trees at the center of the bowl, He too could see that preparations were being made for some kind of ceremony. The oil lamps that surrounded the grove were being filled, and cleaned, the stone slab at the center was also being cleaned, and the alter setup. The Sagarts were supervising their novices, and the accepted were preparing the instruments of the ceremony while the Master Sagarts looked on. The Draois appeared as busy ants from this distance, moving about furiously in preparation for some big event. The Cliar had surrounded the grove and were singing the magical songs of cleansing and renewal, so it was obvious that what was to happen would be a large and important ceremony.
As the scene before him unfolded, Prechan nodded to Fer’Coadee and they started off down the path to the village below at a trot. “Oh by the way my friend..” Fer’Coadee said after only a few steps. Just as the last word hit home to Prechan; he felt the hook on his friends bow catch his ankle. His face planted firmly in the hard soil of the trodden path, and he slid for a few feet further before coming to a stop. As he lay there, evaluating the damage and the pain, he turned over to get up and found himself face to face with Fer’Coadee, “Now, we are even my friend.” He said with a slightly malicious undertone.
Fer’Coadee offered his hand to Prechan and helped him to his feet. “You know I had to pay you for the pain that Maith inflicted on me.” Fer’Coadee said with a smile. Prechan nodded his assent wiped the trickle of blood from his nose, and they returned to their trip down into the village. As they approached the Armeyders of which there were ten, all in a circle around the outside of the main village they noticed that Maith was in talking with others of the Te Saoi while the smith was doing some work for them. As the two men approached, the women went quiet and watched them cautiously as they passed, almost as if suspicious of their motives for passing so close to them. Prechan and Fer’Coadee without a look at each other quickened their pace so they could move into the arenas where warriors both male and female were learning the Clans fighting techniques. The two began to notice that here too people were stopping whatever they were doing and eyeing them as they came near.
This helped them decide that they should hurry onto to the clan hall. Everywhere they passed in the village they received the same treatment, from the market place to the village homes at the center of the village surrounding the clan hall. As they passed through the portal to the large building that had been built at the very center of the Caislen. They began to wonder why the village was built around the stronghold, and wished they had been able to duck inside a door rather then pass in front of every set of eyes on the south side of the village.
Once they were inside they stopped at the large stone basin by the door and washed their hands and faces, then they passed to a table in the section of the room reserved for those who had not yet been accepted as warriors. Before they sat down they removed their weapons and clothing. Hanging their belongings carefully on the hooks provided, they placed everything so that their weapons were more easily accessed then their clothing as it was with the few others that were in the room. The others in the room were watching them with an intensity that neither had experienced before, usually those who had not gone through the acceptance rituals were not really recognized as existing in this place.
The Sagart taught that a nude person could hide nothing, and therefore whenever you entered the great hall of Caislen Desai, you were to bare your soul, and speak truth. In order to ensure this was the case it was forbidden to seat yourself amongst the clan leaders while clothed. The serving girl who approached them, was also nude save for the apron she wore to protect her thighs from the splatters of hot grease that could jump from the spit and burn her. The hundreds of tables in the great hall were all centered on the grand fire pit in the center where there was always a young bull roasting. The barrels of milljog where stacked neatly around the room. Halfway up the wall the stack stopped. Above them hung the breastplate and Claiomh of the chief’s of the Desai back to the beginning of the clan. They requested a plate of meat, bread, and two bowls of milljog. The serving girl informed them that she had been forbidden from serving them the milljog, and that she could offer only water, or milk. They grudgingly accepted the milk and both sat quietly sizing up the people watching them, and trying to determine their future. They ate quickly without words, and hurriedly dressed to leave. They were still tying down their blades when they exited into the dim light of dusk. Both men stopped suddenly upon the threshold, as the scents of their surroundings hit them. There was one scent strong on the light ocean breeze that overpowered the salty scent of the sea that was a league and ten miles from them. Suddenly it registered in their minds, and they look at each excitedly and exclaimed as one “Horses!” They now hurried to see what people had arrived that would be riding horses. As they reached the field where horses would be penned for guests they saw the colors of Conn of the Hundred Battles, and The Fianna. Fin and Conn in the same place, was just short of a world altering event. Conn of the Hundred Battles King of Tara was here; whatever was being concocted in the grove must be great indeed, to have him here for the event. Finn and the Fianna being in the same place as Conn and it was not even their annual meeting at Tara. Where they are honored and paid tribute for protecting the Kingdom from invaders. These thoughts and a thousand others were running through the heads of the boys as they sought out anyone who might know what was happening. They turned the corner to edge around the last arena between them and the armeyders were they had last seen Maith. When everything turned to complete darkness and quiet.
Maith laughed loudly as everyone else as the old Te Saoi sat before them spinning tales of hunts and practices gone wrong when she was an active warrior for the clan. Her thoughts however were churning with guilt over not having warned her friends about what was coming for them today. Her fury over not being able to defeat someone in mock combat, who was not even a warrior yet. Being beaten by a boy who had yet to go through his manhood ceremonies was almost insulting to her, an accepted warrior who had went through her coming of age ceremonies, and been on many raids. Though it had provided her with a valuable insight about Prechan that she had been able to pass on to the Draoi leading the rituals tonight. That had regained some of her honor for her. She was also bothered by the presence of Finn, Conn and the five Merlins from the islands of the north. Many men had undergone this ritual as had many women, but none before in her memory had received this kind of honor for it.
It was a few more moments before she realized that someone was speaking to her. “Maith is something bothering you?” The old warrior asked her. “Well Faoilid, I was wondering why Prechan, and Fer’Coadee were receiving so much honor for their manhood ceremonies?” Answered Maith. “Aaah That is a very good question.” Responded Faoilid with a hint of amusement in her voice. “the answer is actually very simple, however I am forbidden to speak of it until after the ceremony.” Irritated Maith asked “ Well then perhaps you can speak about why they are here?” Her accent on they made it known that she was speaking of the Merlins from the north. Faoilid thought on this for a while, and just as Maith was about to burst she responded slowly, as if in deep thought. “They are here because we as Desai are not like the other Clans. We come from another line a cross between Eirinn and the sith.” This being common knowledge to everyone on the island, it was not an answer that put Maith at ease. She chose to sit silently and take solace in the fact that tomorrow the boy that had beaten her would be a man, and she could live with losing to him then. Of course part of her was always happy to allow him to land on her. Any excuse to get him that close was something she strove to find. She shook it off, and went back to listening to the other Te Saoi as they told stories to each other.
The five men in Hooded robes that hid their faces carried the unconscious boys through the village. Their robes were of a color that did not exist in the nature men knew, it was not quite a color and yet it was filled with them. Sometimes it sparkled in the firelights they passed other times it swallowed the light as if they were of the deepest shadow. As the passed by one of the darkened buildings One could faintly be heard asking “Why are we doing this, the Desai have always served us well?” The answer went unheard by the man inside the door. It was enough however that as the square jawed warrior stepped out into the open his yellow beard faint in the firelight, made his frown appear deeper then it was. His eyes followed the robed men, for a moment, before he went to the pen and retrieved his horse. He had decided that for the moment being as far away from the northern part of the island as he could get might be the best place for a while. So he turned south and rode hard.
The Fianna had camped close by the horse pen, they were settled and eating their meal when a woodsman came running up to Finn. “M’ Liege,” The Woodsman began once in front of Finn. “I saw Cuchulainn riding hard to the south, as if he had heard his own home were under attack.” This news disturbed Finn, Cuchulainn was a great warrior and his role in the coming ceremony was a very great honor. What ever made him ride off in such haste must be something great enough to disturb Finn, leader of the greatest army Eirinn could offer. He absently told the woodsman to keep his scouts alert and watchful over everything they could get close to for as long as they were camped in the Desai Caislen. Meanwhile Finn himself was lost in thought puzzling over the mystery of this news.
Cuchulainn was two leagues and 4 miles away before he stopped and made camp for the night. He had just settled down with his back to a tree and wrapped his cloak close around him for the night when his small fire suddenly exploded into a tower of flames taller then he. Out of this column of fire stepped a beautiful woman, so much more beautiful then any other woman he had ever laid eyes on. As she stepped out of the fire it died back down into the fire he had built, almost as if it had never been the column that this dream of a woman had used as a doorway between worlds. She looked around at the forest in which Cuchulainn had chosen for his nights rest. “Oak, Ash, and Thorn growing three by three and three again.” She said in a voice sweeter then any milljog he drank, more melodic then any Cliar could hope to compose. “You had to know the meaning of this. You, the son of lugh. Must know where a sith may appear.” His trance suddenly broken, Cuchulainn jumped to his feet, spear at ready eyes darting about the woods for any sign of the sith riders. “Morrigan” He hissed “What have I done to irritate the gods enough that they would allow you near me?”
As she approached the beairic, Maith thought again of the boys, wondering where they were now. She wished she had time to go look for them and offer them assurances, but she was already running a little late. She hurried inside, and discarded her clothing onto her sleeping pallet as she passed by to her cuil, where her meager possessions resided when not in use. First she took up her breastplate and strapped it into place then she wrapped her cadadh around in the style of the Te Saoi. Fastened on her left shoulder with a small brooch shaped as a harp with a sword through it. Now that she was dressed again she strapped on her Claiomh, then on her left side she strapped her knife. Her quiver was arranged just behind her knife, and her bow was slung over her shoulders. She then looked sky word and and asked Brigid and Danu for guidance and protection this night. With that she picked up her small shield, no bigger then a plate used to serve food and strapped it onto her right arm over the elbow. Picking up her spear she trotted out the door headed for the grove.
From the Grave rise
The heroes of old as
If phoenixes rising from the
Flames of time, past and present
No more then mere ideas floating
In the chaos of nothing.
Fuzzy vision greeted Prechan as the throbbing in his head beat a tune of monotonous marching men in iron boots across his mind. As his vision cleared, he found he was in the grove surrounded by people, he knew he was stripped of his clothing, and could feel the flames of the fires beneath him. The robed arm of a Merlin landed lightly on his shoulder and a voice from behind him whispered do not worry the potion’s antidote will give your body fully back to you in a few more minutes. The female voice was so familiar, it took a few more seconds before he realized that it was the serving girls voice from the great house. He soon heard the same voice whispering off to his right, and with great will was able to turn his head enough to see that Fer’Coadee was to his right. He looked as bad as Prechan felt, except that he could see that Fer’Coadee was lashed to two poles, spread eagle, and stripped naked. It didn’t take long before the antidote began to truly take affect and when it started to loose the poison from his system. He could feel that he too was bound ankle and wrist as Fer’Coadee.
Under each of his feet he could feel that there were two narrow platforms just big enough for his feet to rest on fully. He could feel the heat on his feet from the fire pit just in front of him, and he was beginning to perspire due to the discomfort.
Draoi, Sagart, and Cliar were arranged around him in the position of the sacred flower. The Drums were a slow throbbing beat, which seemed to control the pounding in his head.
As he looked around the room he could see his mother and father were in their prospective places. His father, a teacher of Cliar, and a Master of ceremony was stoic and yet attentive to the gathering of novices behind him. His mother, a great hero, and teacher amongst the Te Saoi was with her young women. All of them eager to be were he was. Gathered in grand displays were the warriors of legend amongst all young ones training to be warriors. Conn of the hundred battles and six of his best were gathered to watch the ceremony. Beside his group was Finn and 6 of his captains. There were four Merlins at the center of everything, and a fifth coaching Prechan and Fer’Coadee through the proceedings.
One of the Merlins moved to the center of the grove his back to Prechan and Fer’Coadee. Prechan almost laughed when he thought of what was probably passing through Fer’Coadee’s mind at that sight. Then he began in a booming voice like thunder that seemed to echo around the Grove “The boys that you all knew and loved are Dead!” He paused allowing his words time to sink in, He began again in a voice that was kinder, but no less loud. “These you see before you are Men reborn from the bodies of the dead boys. These Men must now endure challenges, that will display their readiness for life as warriors.” After a short pause while he gazed around to see that he had everyone’s complete attention. He began again this time in an officious voice. “Who hear will cast the spears that these men will live and die by?” To the shock and honor of the two hanging precariously above a pit filled with stakes of wood, and a fire just beyond that. Those that stepped forward were none other then Finn and the Six captains of the Fianna. The Merlin behind them then whispered again to them. “I am going to release your bonds, after that it is up to you not to fall.” With that said she quickly cut their bonds and they suddenly found themselves working to maintain their balance and avoid the pains that awaited them if they were to fall.
The seven warriors formed a battle line in front of the two clinging precariously to theirs stands. Lifting their spears they heft seven rods of death towards Prechan. All seven passed so close to him that he could feel the wind they created. The line then shifted and Fer’Coadee received the same. Neither Prechan nor Fer’Coadee so much as flinched as the spears passed narrowly by them. The Merlin stepped back into his place as the Fianna returned to their place in the audience. “These men have bravely and without harm passed through the rods of death. They may now proceed to facing the winds of death.” With that stern statement complete, now Conn and his six stepped forward with bows ready and arrows notched. This time Fer’Coadee took the first volley. Arrows struck home in the planks of his stand, missing him by less then a hairs breadth. Again both men took the test with bravery and without harm. For the third time, the Merlin stepped forward and his thunderous speech filled the grove. “Faoilid and Maith Sleean Step forward and give the final test.” His order issued the Merlin stepped aside once again and Prechan saw his mother and his friend step forward. Claiomhs drawn and they stood ready seven paces in front of the fire pits. Much to Prechan’s relief his mother had taken a place in front of Fer’Coadee. Though he did feel pity for him, he was yet unsure as to what would come next as those who had not been through the ceremony were not allowed to know of what it contains.
Suddenly the female Merlin was back, and whispered to them. “When you are called you must make your way to the Te Saoi in front of you.” Then she was gone again.
It struck Prechan as odd that he and Fer’Coadee should receive so much honor, to not only have Conn, Fer’Coadee’s father present. The thing that really through him off was the Merlins and the Fianna. Before he could finish the thought though Maith called him forth. “Prechan son of Faoilid and Fireun of the clan Desai Come forward to your rebirth!” Her tone was officious and commanding, yet soft and inviting. Prechan glanced down. He would have to launch himself two paces to clear the pit of sharp sticks below him, and another three paces to clear the fire pit. In between the two there was a small ledge barely the length of a Claiomh. His legs were fatigued from the poison, and having to balance himself on the pegs just big enough for his feet to perch on. His course decided he leaned forward bent his knees and launched himself upward and forward, a small flip and he was landing in a crouch on the ledge between the two pits. The heat from the fire was incredible here. His skin felt pinched from the exposure to the fire. He was hardly a heartbeat on the ledge before a short run towards Fer’Coadee, and launched himself sideways over the fire. He landed so in a headlong roll that ended him on his feet a pace in front of Maith Sleean. His Mother repeated the words for Fer’Coadee, and soon his friend was facing off against Prechan’s mother, standing side by side as they had always planned. At this point one of the Merlins stepped between the Te Saoi and stood in front of the men. It was the previous speaker, and his voice this time made their heads spin from its loudness. “The Te Saoi are your Ceremonial Mothers, they will now birth you, and watch over you during your first season as warriors.
With that the women attacked them, then once they had taken them to the ground, they wrapped them in cloaks. Now the ceremony was over for the men. They were led outside and too the great hall for feasting.
As they entered the great hall they noticed the Fennian made the cloaks they were wearing. They were true woodsman cloaks that blended perfectly into their surroundings. A high honor for some who did not belong to the Fianna. The Te Saoi lead them to a table inside the section reserved for warriors. All members of the little party, removed their clothing, the women being the only ones bearing arms, left their weapons so that both they and their charges had ready access to them. The Clan chief was seated on the north side of the room in the center, both his wives were present and seated on either side of him. The chief had a rare marriage; while it was common to have a second wife it was rare that both would be Te Saoi. The usual second wife chosen by the first was someone of a lesser caste, to do the first wife’s menial chores. The chief was called Cruth Na Ceo, for he had a special gift, his name was actually Olkyssagh. However no one had called him by that since his first battle. When his talents became apparent. Cruth Na Ceo was the Maker of Mist, he of all the Desai, had been given the greatest fairy ability all. The ability to call the mist to cover the battlefield.
To the right side of his second wife sat one of his oldest and most trusted friends, and warriors, Amsach. Amsach was an interesting grizzled old warrior. He was still strong and lithe as he was 14 seasons ago. However he showed signs of his mind beginning to fail people had reported that he could be often overheard muttering to himself, but put a spear and a sword in his hands, and an enemy before him, and he was all there.
Now Amsach sat and watched the boys intently, his mind reeling with the hatred he felt for them. The disbelief of how much honor such new men were receiving was eating away at his heart. He had faithfully, and honorably served the Desai for 80 seasons, and had never once received half the honor of these whelps. The bitterness in his heart was not lessoned one bit by the sweet taste of the milljog he was downing as if he had gone without water for a month. His meeting with the Merlins earlier brought a little relief, but it did nothing to alleviate his current discomfort with how his life had turned out.
While he was the head advisor for the chief, he felt like largely the rest of the tribe ignored him. As if every deed he had done, was already forgotten. The Cliar had created songs about the chief, and even those whelps, yet not one poem had been created to honor him. He was happy with his meeting last moon with the Merlins on the northern isles. Everything would be set right, and that was his only consolation as he watched the great heroes enter the hall to celebrate the children some more.
Prechan, was very drunken by this time, and had taken to leaning his head against Maith’s chest as she held him upright in his stupor. Maith’s eyes were on his golden head with the strands of hair stuck onto her skin with her sweat. The longing to have him in her embrace was almost a reality, but not in a way that offered more then a spark of satisfaction. The milljog in her blood, made her mind dance to dreams of the sweet day when she managed to take Prechan right after he began to have his male stirrings. The heather in the glen along the river had filled her senses as much as his manly scent had. The whole scene replaying in her mind almost sent her to the same chasm of pleasure she had fallen into that day. At the high point she could have sworn their souls touched, and merged for an instant. She knew she had felt every animal within a thousand paces of them when she reached her summit, but she was still confused as to how Prechan felt then or now. With a sigh she picked up her bowl and took a deep drink of the sweet drink and closed her eyes and allowed her mind to truly experience the sensations of it coursing through her veins.
She awoke with a start, realizing that she was no longer in the warmth of the great hall, but resting on her small pallet with someone almost on top of her. The scent told her it was Prechan, though how they had arrived back in her bunk was a mystery to her. As it was still dark she took advantage, and snuggled up to the man beside her and drifted happily back to sleep.
Prechan’s eyes opened slowly, the light seeping through from outside, was causing intense pain in his head. His senses were reeling, as his head and stomach spun as if the drink he had last night were exacting a revenge on him for consuming it. It took a few more seconds before he was aware that the pillow beneath his cheek was of firm, yet soft warm flesh. So smooth, that his budding beard felt course against it. As his head lifted he recognized that it was Maith’s breast that had supported his sleeping head. He was uncomfortable with the way he had found into her bed, yet part of him wanted to stay forever. Slowly, as the world was still uneven, he made his way out of her arms and onto his feet, and wobbled out of the barracks putting his cloak on mainly to protect his eyes from the bright summer sun that shone down on him when he exited the building.
Fer’Coadee awoke, on a bears fur, lying on the smooth wooden planks of a very familiar house. It took him a few minutes to gets his head to stop spinning enough to identify his surroundings, once his head slowed from a spin to a twirl he realized he was in Prechan’s childhood home.
After locating his cloak he stumbled outside in search of his friend.
Fer’Coadee met up with Prechan at the village center, and the two went and found their clothes and weapons. They then headed North out of the village at a trot.
The female Merlin watched from the side of the great Hall peering out from under her deep hood watching them go. They are good men, and the Desai are good people. She thought to herself. With that she uttered an incantation “Le Dagda ailleas ce gyn-fakin!”
With that she disappeared. She followed the two men she had been watching, as they headed towards the cliffs over looking the sea. They were due north of the village by a league when they came to a stop on the edge of the cliffs. The Fennian cloaks the men were wearing, made it difficult for her to keep track of them at times, even now against the sea rocks they seemed to blend right in. “Curse the Sith magic that created those cloaks.” She thought to herself. Now she sat down amongst the tall blades of grass and watched the boys watching the people fishing below. Their nets being cast out into the surf seemed to have captured the boys attention as much as the fish they hauled flopping back onto the beach.
“The Desai clan must at the very least be driven back behind the veil.” One of the hooded Ravens said to the other four huddled together in the grove, and protected by a muting spell. They were in the midst of a very in depth and heated discussion regarding the clan whose grove they currently occupied. “Niamh is off following the Conn’s son, and his friend Prechan. While we sit here and determine how best to rid ourselves of the last of the old ones, before the coming of the new.” He looked around at the others, lowered his voice for effect, and continued. “While she risks her lives, following two predestined heroes, intent on doing them harm. We must decide how to separate them without Conn losing his hostage son. If anything befalls Fer’Coadee and Conn finds out that we sent his son out to the Desai as a hostage, then we will find all of the clans aligned against us.”
Maith continued to lay in her bed, drawing up the mental sensations of Prechan pressed against her. Her body ached for his return, though she had tried to deny it for so long, she now knew the she loved him.
The full moons warm and cool
Embrace gently wraps
The soul in a motherly blanket
Of comfort, shielding the
Body from troubled waters,
Unseen in the shadows of the night
Niamh watched the young men from her hidden spot as they made there way back to the village. Their slow steady pace was filled with the comfort that comes from living in peace their whole lives. She knew that soon that would be ending and that these young men with whom she was becoming entranced with would have their lives ripped apart. Their world would be turned upside down all because the future held no place for them.
“I am telling you I can feel eyes on us.” Prechan said under his breath to Fer’Coadee. “You, my friend are suffering the after affects of too much milljog.” Responded Fer’Coadee. They both laughed, as they continued towards the great house and the meal that awaited them. Prechan’s eyes continued to scan their surroundings though, looking for whatever he sensed was watching them.
Once they had seated themselves at their table, it wasn’t long before Maith slunk in and quietly joined them without a word. She appeared more interested in the contents of her bowl of hot cider then the men at her table. The warriors of the clan male and female had begun to arrive. It did not take long for them to all present themselves for the morning meal.
Once everyone had seated themselves and quieted Cruth Na Ceo stood and addressed all those who had congregated. “ Tonight” He began “The newest warriors shall choose 11 others to attend a cattle raid on the Connaughts.” There was a cheer amongst those present, and many eyes were suddenly on Prechan and Fer’Coadee as they smiled proudly. This was a great honor, which made both swell with pride, it was also the first cattle raid in many seasons.
When their meal was complete the two friends quickly found a quiet place to sun themselves while they chose who would be with them during their raid this coming night. “First of course we must include Maith Sleann or she will never forgive us.” Fer’Coadee said to Prechan. “I agree, and for experience I think we should invite Amsach.” Once they chose these two the others seemed so obvious, that the list was complete and presented to Cruth Na Ceo before long. Then they made their way back to their sunny spot to nap in preparation for tonight’s activities.
The Evening meal passed rowdily into night, as boasts were made about the upcoming raid. As well as tails of great deeds done on raids in the past. Amsach quietly smiled to himself drinking sparingly of the milljog. He knew that tonight would mark the end of the Desai Clan that had provided him shelter, with a cost to his ego that had been unacceptable. He was hardly able to stifle the laughter that leapt to his throat when he imagined the look on his friends face when the sun rose and shone its revealing light down on the events that were to unfold this night. His blades were sharpened, and he had ferreted away two arrows one of Prechan’s and one of Maith’s. They were to be the ones held responsible for his actions. As the Merlins had instructed him.
They had turned out to be interesting allies, once he had gotten past their walls of distrust he was easily able to slip dreaming charms into a few pallets to allow the ones coming to implant dreams of prophecy. Before he had found himself alone and at the mercy of strange peoples he had lived across the sea to the east, and had belonged to a great clan that had been defeated by these strange newcomers. They fought under the standard of an Eagle, and seemed innumerous. By sheer numbers they had defeated Amsachs’ Clan. It had been a bitter defeat made worse by his enslavement to the newcomers. Tears were near his eyes as he thought of the humiliation he suffered at their hands, and the many betrayels that had come since. He had infiltrated many clans and lead them to their downfall and the hands of the people of the eagle. An Daoine na an’iolar as they would be called here.
Soon these peoples would also fear them as Amsach himself did. He thought to himself with more then a little apprehension. His wife and children gone these many years, but he can still hear her screams as those men brutally forced her to mate with every able man amongst them until she died from their brutalty. Finding himself on the verge of once again wishing he had gotten himself killed in her defense was souring his mood. He quickly quieted her screams and pushed them back down into the darkest parts of his mind, and brought his attention back to the task at hand. The destruction of the peace between the clans that would have made it improbable for a successful invasion.