Chapter 30: Inishmaan

Day 375, Aodhain, Galway Bay (822 AD)


The winds rose and Vidar yanked the sails back into place while the ropes creaked and the waves moaned as they shoved them parallel to the shore. The barrier island, Inishmaan, was in sight.  They needed more strength to get there. A wave smashed over the side, drenching them all. Vidar yelled out at the four to grab the oars. He had never been in a storm like this and he hoped to Lir and Odin that one of them would keep him safe. He was shaking and full of adrenaline, his muscles clenched, keeping the sails forward and the boat on course. They had to land, there was no other way. Carrick and Brighid had overshot the main island, Inishmore and it’s safe harbor by miles.

“You should have let me navigate in the first place, we could be at Dun Aonghasa already.” Vidar yelled over the wind.

“I’ve been this way many times, it’s not hard in good weather.” Carrick yelled back.

“But it hasn’t been good weather. The weather has been shit and you don’t know what you are doing. You’re a great warrior, not a sailor!” Vidar replied, “You should have let me navigate, like Riagan did.”

“How were we supposed to know you could navigate?!” Carrick yelled back. “You lived with Tearlag, not with Hrokr and Brynhildr.”

“Yes, but their blood runs in my veins. I was born to do this.” Vidar said with contempt. He hated remembering that he was left behind at Tearlag’s, away from his family and their many voyages.  He never felt like he was an O’Connor, not fully anyway. He spent the first fourteen years at Limerick, and then when he began to show skill as a warrior and could be useful, he was kept at Galway. His Mum and Da went home and left him.

They landed into the sand bar with a thud. Carrick, Brighid and Vidar jumped out a few yards from shore and pushed the boat up on to the beach. Aoibheann and Biorn stayed aboard, useless.

“Oy, Aoibheann get your weapons ready! You are here to be my eyes, scan those cliff lines.” Brighid yelled from the water.

Aoibheann scowled and turned away from Biorn. They raised their bows to the shore line. Looking at every shadow, every movement. Aoibheann thought she saw something. She yanked back her string and thwap, it smacked her in the forearm, her fingers wrecked by the slap. She tried to pull it back, but again, thwap and a burning snap on her arm again.

“What’s wrong with you!” Brighid yelled, “Bow at the ready!”

“I can’t pull it!” Aoibheann said with tears in her eyes. “I’m not strong enough.” Brighid’s eyes zeroed in on her daughter and rage and disappointment filling her face.

“Grab a spear then, what a waste it was to bring you. I thought you wanted be a warrior not some man’s trophy. You will stay to the back behind us all for the rest of the trip.”

“Mum, no! I’ll practice! I promise.” Aoibheann pleaded, cheeks reddening in embarrassment in front of Biorn and Vidar.

“You’ve had nothing but time.” Brighid said. “Who shot the deer for you?”

“Fiachra did.” Vidar said, tired of all of them. “She swore us all to say that she did it.”

Aoibheann glared at him. “You’re just on Kinvara’s side.”

Vidar smirked. “I don’t have a side, I just want to go home. You masquerading as some warrior is not cute anymore, you’re going to get us all killed.”

Brighid and Carrick were furious. Furious through unloading the boat with their meager packs and weapons; through carrying the boat to dry land; through clearing the area for danger, and moving into the abandoned stone beehive huts of the monks. They split into two groups. Biorn and Vidar in one, and Aoibheann, Carrick and Brighid in another.

“What have you been doing in your spare time, Aoibheann?” Brighid asked, relentless in her quest for answers. Aoibheann was terrified of her mother when she reached this mood, no nonsense was tolerated, and all Aoibheann had was nonsense.

“I’ve been practicing with the boys and fishing, and…” Aoibheann thought of more excuses.

“Practicing what with the boys, my dear?” Carrick asked. “Because it was certainly not how to use any of the weapons. You have been lying to us for months, I thought you wanted to be like us. Why else would we have brought you here, and put you in danger?” Carrick was beside himself. “This was not a free trip to snuggle up to Biorn and get away from Searbh.  You came to do work. I knew we should have brought Kinvara.”

“You like her better than me.” Aoibheann said with tears, she was so angry for being caught and filled with rage. She hated being compared to Kinvara, because she never measured up.

“No, I do not. I love you both equally.” Carrick said.

“Can I at least go to the other hut?” Aoibheann asked. Brighid and Carrick adamantly refused, so Aoibheann slumped to her makeshift bed on the floor and waited. They had to fall asleep sometime.

Carrick and Brighid walked to the door opening and looked out at the dark horizon, in the distance they could see Inishmore. It’s cliffs towered above the sea, without knowing the terrain, it looked impenetrable.

“Are you still glad we took this journey?” Carrick asked. He held Brighid close, it was cold in the monastic beehive hut, even with the fire.

“I don’t know. I feel overwhelmed by the waves and wind. What if we don’t make it to Inishmore, and I can’t get Saoirse the help she needs?” Brighid said.

“Then we will go back and think of another way. A way with Kinvara this time. We were wrong to leave her behind.” Carrick said.

“She is strong, she will be fine. I’m more worried about Aoibheann now. What a sorry shadow of a soul she is, a reflection of what Biorn sees her to be. I never wanted that for her. We must separate them.” Brighid said.

“I agree.” Carrick said. “Biorn needs Riagan and Saoirse to love him, not our daughter. He has no idea how to be a person. He just sits and waits for others to make him who he is. For someone to make his life happen. You can’t let life take you where it drags you.”