Manchan's Tale - Part 3

Previously

Manchan's beloved Brigid has succumbed to the fever. The christening snow has claimed her life, and now Manchan has been claimed by the same. His hunt for survival has begun.

. . . The sin-bearer - the burden of carrying Brigid's sin to the underworld fell to the last one to touch her dead body during the fall of the christening snow, The burden fell on Manchan. He remembered touching her cheek just moments after she left him. The gods would surely tell the priests. Everyone far and near would know that Manchan was Brigid's sin-bearer.

The Christening  Snow
The Christening Snow

Continuing

The curse of the christening snow continued, for who it was that put an arrow through the heart of the sin-bearer would also reap an eternal, youthful life in Mag Mell. Manchan would be hunted until at last he would face death and go to his place of solitude. The christening snow also allowed for the sin-bearer to achieve Mag Mell if he could avoid death for one year. There was not a chance of that happening since all would be taking part in the hunt. Manchan's days were numbered.

Manchan Begins His Task

Manchan rose before dawn. The storm from the night before had passed, and he had business to attend to. He quickly made his way to the stable and fed the horses. Then he moved to the last stall where he kept his prize sheepskins. He picked out three of the finest from his collection. They would surely bring a good price at the market, but these were of far more importance. He would use them to wrap Brigid's body in preparation for burial.

He carefully spread the skins on the stable floor of dirt and hay. Ever so gently Manchan lifted the body of Brigid and laid her on the sheepskins. He then began to wrap her in the warmth of the skins. She was cold to the touch. Securing the skins with three pieces of strong rope, he laid her in the carriage. This was to be their last ride together.

Cráibdech, Manchan's faithful horse was bridled and ready to go. The trip would end at the great oak atop the small rise behind Manchan's mountain farm. Together he and Brigid planted the oak on the first of their 16 anniversaries of marriage.

Like Manchan, the tree had weathered many a storm and still stood tall. Now, Manchan's emotions were in turmoil and presented a storm of a different kind. He could only hope he would be as strong as at other times. Life was about to take a turn, and he wasn't sure where that turn might lead. He would have to travel down the new road one day at a time.

In his mind's eye, he could see as they traveled, the green buds of spring shooting forth from the tree's powerful limbs. Many a summer afternoon was spent under the shade of its branches. But the autumn - Brigid always loved the autumn. Autumn's golden robe would forever replace spring's greenery. That's how Manchan chose to remember it - and her.

Arriving at his destination, he tethered Cráibdech to a nearby tree while he went about preparing Brigid's final resting place. He brushed away the dry, powdery snow from under the tree and began to dig. He knew it would take some time to hollow out the section of ground he needed. The earth was hard and resisted his best efforts.

By this time, the sun was splashing colorful hues across the landscape. The snow glistened on the fields in the valley below, and the mountain on the other side shimmered in the morning's first light. A gorgeous blue pasted itself behind the scene. More memories flooded Manchan's mind. With every scoop of dirt, a tear fell from his eyes to water the dust to which Brigid would return.

His chore of digging Brigid's grave finished, Manchan sat beneath the mighty oak to rest. He knew what he needed to do next. He was just waiting for the strength and courage to do it. His rest was short lived. The sooner he completed his task, the better.

Walking over to the carriage, he removed the body of his beloved. Carefully, he placed her in her bed of earth, and scoop by scoop began to blanket her with dirt and tears. Manchan's early morning work was finally finished after many hours, and he was ready to return home.

Manchan's Task is Finished

As he walked slowly to the carriage, he became aware of the wind's strength building. The blue had turned to gray, and storm clouds were once again gathering. This was highly unlikely in the Emerald Isle - two storms in two days. Was this a coincidence or an omen?

The wind rustled through the valley, rattling shutters, and doors. As quickly as it came, it stopped. No storm - just a powerful, all-telling wind that whispered in the ears of Déaglán, the Druid priest. The wind breathed but a name and a short description - "Manchan - the sin-bearer."

Déaglán immediately began to spread the word. He called for his thirteen advisors to begin the hunt. Manchan must be eliminated as soon as possible, and to the one whose arrow splits Manchan's heart, Déaglán would award the entrance into Mag Mell.

Exhausted from the morning's activities, Manchan lay on a sheepskin by the fire. It was still burning from the night before. He was physically spent and emotionally drained. The crackling of the fire and the softness of the skin lulled him to sleep in seconds. In his dreams, he revisited the meadow where he first saw Brigid dancing among the wildflowers. He could see again the many times they spent under the cover of the oak that now sheltered her grave. He remembered how they conquered life together and what it was like long ago to face life alone. With the last crackle of the fire, reality set in. He would again have to face life alone.

He awoke to the cold. The fire, at last, had burned out. Did it really matter now? Brigid was not there. There was nothing left for Manchan except to preserve his life for as long as possible before being exiled to that place of solitude in the underworld - a place where he would pay for his sin as well as Brigid's. He rose gingerly to get more kindling from the sheepcote.

The wind now stopped, was replaced with an eerie silence as Manchan headed for the door. When he opened the door, he could see, in the distance, warhorses approaching. He knew what was next, but they were too close for him to run. He quickly closed and bolted the door, He pushed the heavy, oak table in front of the door for added protection, then went about securing the shutters to the three small windows as best he could. All he could do now was to wait.

He could hear the hoofbeats of the horses as they made their way across the nearly frozen ground that led to Manchan's farm. Finally, all was still again. Manchan waIted a moment. Then Findcath, the leader of the thirteen, spoke.

"Manchan, we know you're inside. We followed your carriage tracks from the great oak to your barn. We know too, you are the sin-bearer. Déaglán has sent us to remove you to your place of everlasting contempt. By order of the priest, come out now."

© 2016 William Kovacic

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Comments 8 comments

always exploring profile image

always exploring 10 days ago from Southern Illinois

Oh, this was a sad and chilling read. I was able to feel Manchan's tears as they fell on the grave of his only love. Here's hoping that somehow he escapes the promised demise that awaits him. I love this story! Thank you.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 10 days ago from The Beautiful South

Great photos and even more through your words that twist our hearts even knowing they are fiction. Had fun with the camp fire too. That could put me to sleep.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 10 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

The video of the fire is good to fall asleep to. I think I may put it on in a few minutes. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jackie.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 9 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi Ruby,

Not sure how I missed your comment, but glad to have found it. You're always quick to get here, and I appreciate that. Hopefully, you won't be disappointed as we go. Thanks for coming by!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA

I read a lot of fiction, Bill, and I gotta tell ya, the first paragraph is superb. The tale is a sad one, and leaves me watching the shadows for sinister movement, but that first paragraph is writing at its best.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 9 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Thanks, Mr. Holland. So do I get an A on the paper?


lambservant profile image

lambservant 5 days ago from Pacific Northwest

Bill, I'll give you an A+. This is the best writing you've ever published. The story is gripping, haunting and sad, the love for Brigid sweet. I once read a book by Francine Rivers calling d The Last Sin Eater which had a similar theme as the sin bearer. On to chapter 4.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Thanks for the A+, Lori. I guess there are some similarities between the two, although I believe the sin-eater got paid for his services. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

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