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Manchan's Tale - Part 13

Updated on February 5, 2017

From Part 12

After destroying Déaglán's army, we last left Manchan in the presence of Déaglán himself. Threats of evil and torment were given. Manchan is waiting for it to begin.

Even though the clouds were gathering in darkness, pale shadows could still be seen. Manchan looked to his left. A shadow stood behind him. He turned quickly - to find no one. A shadow loomed behind him to his right. Again, he pivoted full-circle to see nothing. The whipping wind forced Manchan to lay close to the ground. As he lay there, he began to feel a pressure pressing on his back. Gradually, the weight grew heavier. He tried to stand but couldn't move.

In an instant, the weight was lifted and Manchan stood only to come face to face with the shadow - Déaglán.

"The Whispering Wind told me I'd find you here, my good Manchan. Oh, did I say good? We both know sin-bearers are never good, don't we? You have destroyed the army of the gods. I have come to set the record straight."

The wind continued to blow. "What have you done with Maewyn, you nasty devil?"

"Oh, my. We are a little testy, are we not?" I've not anything with your parson. Are you a convert to his perverted religion? It seems you're awfully fond of him.

"In any case, I don't have time for foolishness of this kind"

"I and my thirteen will enjoy toying with you until the time is right. At the right moment, you will go to your secluded place in the underworld. Until then, we will torment you here. Expect the thirteen spirits to return soon. They have an interesting game for you to play."

With a wave of his hand, Déaglán was gone.

Manchan stirred, and as he looked down, he saw Brigid standing before him. "Oh, my Brigid! I've missed you so. Will you stay this time?"


What could Brigid possibly have meant when she said, "It's safe to return now." It was anything but safe. Manchan's life was once again in danger from the deceased thirteen and Déaglán himself, who had risen to both priest and king of Manchan's Druid society.

Overcoming Fear

Shaken from his meeting with Déaglán, Manchan climbed up on his faithful horse and hugged her neck. Running his fingers through her mane, both man and beast were comforted, at least for a time. He began to think.

He let his mind wander back to where all his troubles began. He could hardly believe it had been less than a week since he took on the role of the sin-bearer - less than a week since he planted Brigid's body beneath the Great Oak. It had been less than a week since he was forced from his home and made to roam the moors and hills to save his life; to avoid the sin-bearer's guilt of the abyss that was now his future. It had been less than a week since he saw the destruction of Déaglán's army. Yet,he was alive and in health. "How much more could a mortal take?" That was his last thought before he was overcome with exhaustion as he rested on Cráibdech's back.

How long he had been sleeping wasn't clear, but he awoke to a whisper in his ear. "Manchan, Manchan. Wake up, my beloved. I've come to be with you for a short time. Wake up."

Manchan stirred, and as he looked down, he saw Brigid standing before him. "Oh, my Brigid! I've missed you so. Will you stay this time?"

"No, my Beloved. I must return, but I longed to see you once again, and I was given leave."

"Have you a word from Maewyn? Déaglán has eliminated him. You said he had a message for me."

"Oh, I do, my love. But first, will you hold me in your arms, only for a moment?"

Manchan lighted off Cráibdech and walked over to where Brigid was standing. He gazed hopefully into her eyes and held her close. Her form quickly changed and took on the form of Déaglán. Manchan was repulsed as he leaped back from his grasp.

Déaglán roared with laughter. "Oh, you're such a fool, sin-bearer. I could have put my sword through your heart in a second. The game isn't over yet. It brings me too much pleasure to end it so soon. You may have set Brigid free in Mag Mell, but you - you still face the abyss. Oh, and Brigid can never return to this plane. She will forever be separated from you, sin-bearer." In a flash, just like before, Déaglán was gone. Manchan was overcome and fell to his knees weeping uncontrollably.

In a few hours, the night would be upon him. He didn't relish the idea of another night in the dark woods alone. He could sense the forces of evil all around him, and he knew it would only be a matter of time until those forces manifested themselves. Every tree was a possible hiding place for the spirits. Any overgrown bush might be the home of an evil entity, ready to pounce on him. If he should meet a mortal in his travels, he could no longer be sure who was mortal and who was Déaglán. Déaglán's impersonation of Brigid proved that.

The method of his destruction was working perfectly. Manchan was slowly being destroyed from within and from without - by what he could see and by what he couldn't see. His physical ability was of no use against the spirits. A knife simply wouldn't penetrate a spirit body. Likewise, Cráibdech would be of no help as she was before.The battle was of a spiritual nature, and the battlefield had been determined. The battle must be fought in Manchan's mind and spirit. The sooner he would come to that realization, the sooner the battle would be over. Still, he wasn't guaranteed victory.

Shades of night were falling fast. Manchan and Cráibdech walked the woods searching for the right place to set up camp. Several deer stood grazing in a clearing down in the meadow. In Manchan's tired, confused thinking, that would be the best place to camp for the night. In reality, it was a good choice. There would be more visibility with fewer distractions.

Yet, visibility didn't matter. The spirits could appear out of nothingness if that's what was required of them. Distractions - the spirits could certainly create their own. There was no need for Manchan to hide in the woods. The spirits would find him wherever he chose to be. Yes, the battlefield was set, and a long night was approaching.

Manchan began gathering brush for bedding and kindling for a fire. Cráibdech pawed the frozen earth begging for another barley cake. Then she meandered down to a small brook and began to drink. Manchan was close behind her. A last sip from the stream and he would be ready for his sheepskins. Finally, he could settle back and try to get some much-needed rest, although he knew that was not really an option. He would have to sleep with one closed and the other opened. Every sound would be amplified. Every movement of nature would be magnified. The thing he needed so badly had been taken away from him - the ability to sleep.

© 2017 William Kovacic


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