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Manchan's Tale - Part 15
- Manchan's Tale - Part 14
5th century Ireland is the place not to be if you are the sin-bearer.
From Part 14
We last left Manchan prepared to meet his end at the hands of the resurrected thirteen.
The smell of Brigid's lavender was replaced with a stench in the air. Unexplained flashes of light were occasionally seen streaking across the meadow, but not a sound was heard. The air thickened as the gods set themselves for battle. The demonic thirteen were in their place. This was indeed to be the final battle. The wind began to blow wildly as the campfire nearly went out. Flames danced in the night with each breath of wind. Lightning flashed in the winter's night sky - very unusual.
Hideous voices shrieked in the night as the thirteen prepared to launch their final attack. Cráibdech pranced and reared in nervous anticipation. The time was drawing near. It could not be delayed forever. Still, Manchan sat petrified with fear, unable to react in any way.
In an instant, silence replaced the confusion and commotion of the thirteen. Manchan heard a tree branch crack fifteen yards behind him. Someone or something was on the move. He refused to turn around but kept staring straight ahead into the fire that was once again glowing brightly.
He could hear the shuffle of the being as it made its approach through the scattered brush on the meadow floor. .He could hear its course but labored breathing as it inched closer. An agitated Cráibdech continued her prancing. Manchan jumped but remained seated as he felt a head resting on his shoulder. He could smell its putrid breath as it breathed on his neck. He felt hot saliva as it dripped from its lips. Manchan waited for the end.
Somehow the fear was replaced with a strange peace. Manchan had resigned himself to his fate. At that moment of resignation, it seemed as if the spirits of the thirteen faded away - one by one. The head lifted from Manchan's shoulder and the figure proceeded to confront him face to face.
"Liadan, my poor lost sheep!" In a second of time, Manchan's extreme sadness turned to radiant joy. "How did you find me, my precious lamb?"
Liadan somehow became separated from the flock the day Findcath scattered the sheep on Manchan's farm. It was Liadan and Liadan alone who found her way back to the shepherd. The poor lamb suffered from parasites, a lack of food, and the uncommon cold of the Irish winter. With no one to care for her, she faithfully found her way back to where she knew she would be safe.
She stood between Manchan and the fire, looking as sad as a sheep could look. He studied her. Her lambish fat withered away from starvation and was replaced by bone covered with a thin layer of skin. Her sunken eyes revealed the stress of fighting to survive one more day. She traveled many miles to die in his arms. Manchan saw in her a reflection of himself. Both had been worn down by the evil that existed in their midst.
He gently picked her up in his arms and held her close. "You shall not perish, my little one. I will take care of you, just as before. Never fear. You will be safe with me for as long as I am here." He knew that might not be long at all.
The food supply had dwindled to almost nothing during the past days of running from the spirits. Manchan opened the pouch of rations and found the last barley cake. He looked sorrowfully at Cráibdech. "My beauty, little Liadan must have this. She is near death, much more than we. We will trust the gods to meet our needs. You understand, don't you?" Cráibdech nodded in agreement.
Liadan snuggled close as he held her tight attempting to bring warmth to both of them. Thus, they fell asleep. LIadan and Manchan wrapped in sheepskins looking up at so many stars.
It was the sharp point of a spear pressing into Manchan's forehead that woke him. Déaglán stared down as he slowly pushed the spear deeper.
"It is time, sin-bearer.Your little lamb forced my thirteen away. They could not stand in the presence of innocence - but I can. I hate your filthy lamb. I hate you, filthy shepherd. you have no value to me any longer. In the name of the gods of earth, air, and fire I send you to the netherworld to bear your sin and that of your Brigid."
Déaglán raised the spear and focused. He thrust it wickedly into his target - the heart of Manchan. Blood poured through the sheepskin. Manchan's eyes closed. He was perfectly still, and Déaglán was gone with another wave of his hand.
All was silent once again as Cráibdech gently nudged Manchan's body. He sat up and pulled off the bloodied sheepskin. In his arms was Liadan, smitten to death. The blood still washed over his body.
'Cráibdech, as I must go to the abyss, I vow to take Déaglán with me. He must pay for his viciousness against the innocent. The gods are with me for he thinks I am dead. I shall take him when he is not attentive to his surroundings." Once again, the hunted became the hunter.
"My precious Liadan, you are no more.You shall have your peace. No more discomfort, no more pain of living for you. Yet I remain with both. The death of Déaglán is the only thing that will satisfy. And I shall be satisfied.
"I promised you safety. I did not protect you, but you are safe for sure. You will never suffer again, my little one.
"Up, Cráibdech! We will travel by the light of the moon. Let it be known that the ghost of Manchan will haunt Déaglán until at last he is eliminated. Who knows, Cráibdech!? Maybe I will even haunt him in the afterlife. I will be at his every turn. He will run until he can run no longer. Then we'll see who is at the end of a spear. Up, Cráibdech, for we must travel by the light of the moon - now!."
Leaving the blood stained meadow behind, The two traveled slowly through the dark hill country. Fear no longer dwelt in Manchan's heart. Fear was replaced at the first drop of the lamb's shed blood with anger and hatred. Manchan reached the end of his resignation. It was replaced with determination - determination to rid the wicked Druid priest from the earth.
He could only run so long. He could only accept the indignities so long. He could only allow the injustices so long. It was time. It was Manchan's time. As one condemned to the abyss, he had nothing to lose. This was not a time to be safe, to hide, to avoid. It was a time to seek out the enemy and remove him at all cost.
It didn't matter how powerful Déaglán was. It was of no concern his status as king and priest. What mattered was his elimination, and Manchan was committed to the task. For all that he suffered at the hands of the townspeople, the thirteen, and Déaglán himself, he would be avenged.
War had been declared in his heart, and war it would be. The two armies of one would fight to the death. There was no turning back.
- Manchan's Tale - Part 16
5th century Ireland is the place not to be if you are the sin-bearer.
© 2017 William Kovacic