Geamhain, Night 625, Galway Bay (823 A.D.)
Waves crashed on the surface, smacking the stones that kept each wave from floating on into the blue. The endless blue that faded into the sky, becoming the night. The blue of possibility, stretching and reaching each corner of every cove and cliff, uniting them all in a path of uncertain ground. A blue to float on, to sail and navigate with power. A blue to swallow them up and spit out their bones, washed clean from their organs, to deposit on the sea as the dead who make up the sand. That’s what Conn always said.
Their ancestors, mariners and explorers, become a layer of sand. After their bodies are pushed out to sea, they are returned back as the small specks of dust that line the beaches. An armor to protect the islands. Their spirits remain, he said, that is why you can hear in the shells a faint whisper. In between the crashes of the breakers, you can hear them calling to you. Blessing you or cursing your journeys. Fiachra could hear the voices. Not a whisper, but a shout. He heard them, many voices speaking languages he could not understand. Some were low, melodic and others were frantic, unpleasant. Fiachra shivered.
He was alone in a torrential bubble of water. The figure who met them on the dock was outside his watery capsule. They rode the waves driving the current, pulling them to their will. The water melted and pulled like honey. With a touch of the figure’s hand, the ocean obeyed its master. It bowed down and rose up with a flick of the wrist. The figure grabbed Fiachra’s hand and pulled them into the ocean, on top of a wave the figure had pulled up from the breakers. With a clap and a grunt, the water circled around Fiachra, wrapping him like a package. He was covered in water yet it did not consume him. He could breathe, his clothes were dry. In this air pocket he stood, bracing himself against the speed by which they carved through the water. Head above the waves, the figure glided. The hood billowed with the wake they left but the figure did not look at him. The figure remained locked, like a standing stone against the movement around them. Steady, they stared in the direction of east. They were going east, back to the mainland.
Kinvara was certain this was the right move. She begged him to go and leave her behind to fight her own way. She had a plan to help his parents, an insane one. Saoirse and Riagan were as good as dead where they sat in the dungeons of Innis Aran. Her optimism annoyed him. There are times to be hopeful and times to be wise, his grandmother Tearlag used to say as she sneered at Conn. Fools were the hopeful, the wise knew how to get what they wanted. They never wished, they only succeeded. Fiachra was always the fool, wishing for something more he could not have.
Wishing for different parents, a new family, to be rid of Biorn, to not cringe after every public argument his parents had, and now he wished for the chance to earn his birth right as the chieftain of Galway. Tearlag argued that was how it should be. No one was destined to be a king, they must earn it, and it would be most honorable if you suffered for it, like she did for her dual chieftainships. Was his grandmother ever happy? He questioned this at night when in his bed his mind would wander the bad memories locked away in the far reaches of his subconscious. She discussed at length her sorrows and her pain. She relished in the pain she achieved for the admiration of her father. She was long-suffering for them all. The discomfort they lived and were sustained by her loss. What a funny way to live, he mused.
His grandfather Conn seemed happy and successful. He was a content soul. Peaceful. Fiachra was not peaceful. Neither was Riagan. Success was not supposed to be peaceful. Was his grandfather a failure? Would Fiachra be a failure if he wished for a life removed from chaos? This orb was peaceful. It was lovely to be out of control. To ride the waves removed from their risk, to float like a bird, skimming the danger with just a sip. He was the raven, the Fiachra. In that moment he was free. He looked back at the islands, a distant speck now to his view. Something fell off the cliff. His heart was in his throat. He smacked his hand against the water wall and yelled. They needed to go back, he screamed. The figure flicked his wrist and Fiachra fell into the sea.