Manchan's Tale - Part 12
- Manchan's Tale - Part 11
5th century Ireland is the place not to be if you are the sin-bearer.
From Part 11
Manchan last saw the remaining eight of thirteen disappear beneath the freezing waters of the river. Findcath speaks his final words, and Brigid offers hope to Manchan.
Manchan stood on the shore. The turbulence seemed to calm as the hungry river devoured the last warrior. Findcath could be heard to say, "Long live the gods of Déaglán. Sin-bearer, you will join us soon."
From behind, Manchan heard another voice speak, yet he saw no one. "You have fought and done well, my Beloved. You have destroyed the king's army."
Brigid. Brigid. Is that you? Where are you?"
Slowly Brigid stepped out from behind a fat oak. "I cannot stay, my beloved Manchan, but I do bring a message - a message of hope. You must return to Maewyn in the morning. He is in need of your help, and he has words he must share with you. Manchan, do not fear. It's safe to return now."
In the blink of an eye, Brigid was gone. Manchan tried to shake himself back to reality as he did before, but he couldn't. The vision seemed too real. Exhausted, he sat under the same fat oak where Brigid first appeared. He breathed in deeply. He was surrounded by a familiar aroma. It was Brigid's scent of lavender.
At peace with himself and the world, Manchan went about setting up camp for the night. After several days of running, he was ready for a good night's sleep. The overwhelming peace that he felt was comforting, but that would all change in the morning.
The morning light was just starting to rise above the hills. The christening snow had melted but was replaced with an icy layer of moisture that glistened in the new light. Manchan wiped his eyes trying to adjust. The night was frigid as was the newly arrived dawn. The fire was nearly out, and Cráibdech began her impatient prancing. Manchan rekindled the fire and pulled out two barley cakes - one for himself and one for Cráibdech. He led his trusted friend down to the river where they both drank of the cold refreshment, then headed back to the fire for some warmth before beginning their trek back to Maewyn.
Sitting under the same oak where Brigid appeared the night before, Manchan began to drift off to sleep. Cráibdech gently nudged him back to alertness. She sensed something in the area that didn't seem right. Then she began to wildly buck and rear. She could see them.
Celtic Battle Anthem
Manchan focused his attention on the surroundings. Then he too saw them - thirteen spirits, all on thirteen spirit-horses. The circle was complete with Manchan and Cráibdech in the center. There was nowhere to run, nor was there anywhere to hide. Manchan could look into, but yet through the eyes of Aengus, Eoin, Ronan, Cronan, Aidan, Findcath, and the other seven.
Without speaking a word, the spirits spoke volumes. They were out for revenge, and nothing would stop them. But the time was not now. One by one they faded away. Fear enveloped Manchan. This was a different kind of enemy - one that wasn't easily seen. For several minutes he sat under the tree, unable to move, paralyzed by what he had just seen. Then he remembered the words of Brigid, "Manchan, do not fear. It's safe to return now."
Manchan knew he needed to get to Maewyn's cottage as soon as he possibly could. He and Cráibdech were off following the river until they came to the low water crossing. Both man and beast were anxious to get on their way back to the safety Brigid had promised.
Within a few hours, Manchan arrived back in familiar territory. He could see the hill country that was once his home, He headed up through the woods to share his latest experiences with the parson. As he guided Cráibdech around the bend, he couldn't believe what he saw.
No cottage existed. The small home had been burned to the ground. Maewyn was nowhere in sight, Manchan began to study the area. He thought back to one of the traditional tales of the Celts; how the gods unleashed a single, solitary strike against an enemy. Nothing was touched save the parson's cottage.There was no damage to the trees or shrubs. The gods of earth protected them. The gods of wind stilled the air so as not to disrupt nature. The gods of fire shot their fire as to only burn the target.
No doubt, Maewyn never knew what happened. A single blast from the gods and he was gone. Maewyn was the enemy of the gods as he preached about this strange Jesus. The gods finally had enough and eliminated him. Manchan felt the gods were justified in their actions, but he had to admit, he liked the old man. A single tear fell to the blackened ground where Maewyn's cottage once stood.
Wind Storms in Ireland
An eerie silence came over the land. Clouds were thickening, and the wind began to blow. Cráibdech nuzzled close to Manchan. There was more than chill from the wind in the air. There was a chill of expectant evil. It was more than storm clouds moving in.It was a storm of supernatural wickedness that was making its way through the hills. Manchan waited for the thirteen to appear again, but that was not to be the case.
The near noonday sun hid its face behind the clouds. The birds settled deep into their winter nests. The forest animals scurried about finding their own refuge. Manchan - Manchan had no place to go. He needed to find shelter, not from the impending storm, but from the impending doom about to fall.
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's Tale - Part 13
5th century Ireland is the place not to be if you are the sin-bearer.
© 2017 William Kovacic