Manchan's Tale - Part 8
- Manchan's Tale - Part 7
5th century Ireland is the place not to be if you are the sin-bearer.
From Part 7
In chapter seven, we left Manchan desiring death. Had he finally reached the end?
It seemed to match Manchan's heart. He saw no reason for anything. Life no longer made sense as his world continued to spin out of control. The pressures, the stresses mounted and pressed heavily upon him. In an instant, his world was changed, and he would never be the same. Dark forces grabbed at him from without, from within.
In his mind's eye, he stood on the edge of a dark abyss looking down. The bottom couldn't be seen, but Manchan instinctively knew there was no end to it. It seemed to call his name drawing him closer, daring him to face what was there. Should he jump? Or should he allow Findcath to push him?
He tried to shake himself back to reality, just as he did when he imagined Brigid dancing across the moors. But then, this was his reality. He knew the abyss was waiting for him. He knew it was just a matter of time before it would claim him for eternity. This was his lot in life and in death. The voices continued to call. The voices continued to taunt.
There was only one thing left to do. In the quiet and the still of the young night, Manchan stood to his feet and screamed across the valley. "Findcath, the sin-bearer waits for you! Take me now before I see the light of another day for I may change my mind/"
The sound of Manchan's voice echoing in the night startled Findcath. He waited. Manchan repeated his request, and immediately Findcath and his men started for the other side of the valley. "Manchan, you will die. There is no escaping now. We will have you surrounded in a matter of minutes. The Abyss awaits your arrival."
Unmoved by Findcath's threats, Manchan sat down under the ash tree and awaited his end. Torches could be seen crossing the expanse below as one by one the warhorses made their approach up the narrow path leading to Manchan.
Indeed, in minutes, he was surrounded. All hope was gone. All purpose had long ago left. Manchan slouched under the old, weathered tree waiting to be led to his death as a sheep is led to the slaughter. His end in the netherworld seemed to be a welcomed option. His focus was on the here and now, not what awaited him in his lonely abode to come.
Findcath spoke. "Your end is not yet, my friend." Findcath chuckled with a good measure of delight and sarcasm. "We will return you to Déaglán. He will have the pleasure of sending you away."
A cry could be heard from down in the valley - ever so softly but growing louder with each passing second. it was Déaglán's servant riding hard through the night, searching for Findcath. Seeing the torches flicker in the night from below, he made an abrupt turn and headed up the hill to where the men were gathered.
"Findcath! Findcath! Déaglán demands your return right now. Immediately, if not sooner!"
"What seems to be the trouble, my boy? We are about to bring in Manchan. Just give us a few minutes."
"No, my lord. It's imperative you return immediately. Déaglán must see you - now!"
"Ronan, you stay here. Guard the prisoner. We will be back shortly."
The men and their sure-footed beasts made their way through the woods and down the hill. Once out on the plain, they exploded into a full gallop. Déaglán's cottage would soon be in view.
Déaglán could be kind when it suited his purpose. Most of the time he was just plain ugly. His temperament wavered from anger to hate. From deceit to vengeance. From hostility to manipulation. In other words, Déaglán was full of all kinds of evil thoughts, attitudes, and motives.
He ruled the people by causing fear. The fear enveloped and reigned in Déaglán's small, yet powerful kingdom. As soon as his cottage was in sight, that fear came over Findcath and the rest of his men. They rode up slowly.
Déaglán met them at the door. "Well, my good Findcath, have we the sin-bearer?"
"We do. At this very moment, Ronan is holding the sin-bearer captive across the valley. As soon as our business is finished here, we will return and bring him to you."
"My good Findcath, your group seems rather small. Tell me, kind sir, where is Aengus?"
"Aengus is in the woods watching Manchan from another vantage point to be sure our sin-bearer will not escape," Findcath lied.
"Ahh, I see, and It seems that Eoim is not present as well. Where might he be?"
Findcath could feel the sweat beginning to form on his brow. "He also is with Aengus keeping a close watch on the situation while we, your servants, have returned at your bidding."
Déaglán looked down at the ground, then looked up into a cloudless night sky. He looked left, He looked right, as if trying to keep a secret. "You men, come with me."
The single line procession followed Déaglán around to the back of his cottage. The night was washed away by the light of the torches of the ten remaining men. It was that light that fell on the lifeless bodies of Aengus and Eoim.
Déaglán roared - "What have you done? What has happened to these good men?" No answer was forthcoming. Déaglán spoke yet again. "II'll tell you what has happened. The Whispering Wind has told me. They have met their death at the hands of the sin-bearer. Get you back to Ronan lest he also meets the same fate. BRING ME MANCHAN!".
The despair of Manchan was soon replaced with hope as Cráibdech began to prance. Her encouragement gave Manchan a desire to carry on once more. He addressed Ronan.
"Does it not seem strange to you, Ronan, that you've been left here alone? Findcath wants the glory for himself. He is allowing his men to be removed one by one. You know of Aengus and Eoin."
"You shepherds are so stupid. That's why you lead stupid sheep. We are all Déaglán's men. We share in the spoil. Aengus is following you from behind. He no doubt sees us right now. Eoin is guarding your property waiting for you to return to care for those miserable sheep."
"Aengus is dead. Eoin is dead - their life has been taken by the sin-bearer, and now Findcath has set you for the same fate.."
"Impossible, you filthy shepherd. You don't even have a weapon."
Cráibdech reared on her hind legs, coming down just inches from Ronan's feet. The surprised Ronan jumped, watching the powerful animal the whole time.The distraction allowed Manchan to pull his knife from its hiding place. Manchan did indeed have a weapon!
He remained still with the knife carefully placed under his right leg. "Actually, you know, Ronan, we shepherds need to be quite intelligent to lead a flock of stupid sheep. We need to protect them from wild animals, lead them to pasture, make sure the parasites stay away. It's really quite complicated and detailed work.
"Shortly you will meet your end, Ronan.Will it be Mag Mell, or will you be joining me in the abyss?"
Cráibdech snorted loud in Ronan's ear. In the split second that passed, Manchan threw the knife point-first into Ronan's heart. He fell backward. Spurt by spurt, his life drained from him. Cráibdech began to paw the earth. She could sense Findcath's horses on the move.
"Come, my friend, Cráibdech. We must hurry." The light of approaching torches could be seen in the shadows of the night.
- Manchan's Tale - Part 9
The trials of life encircle and surround Manchan. Time and choices are running out.
© 2016 William Kovacic