Chapter 67: Waiting in the Silence

Night 433, Isle of Searbh

Biorn put the journal down. “My mother is the Morrigan? Am I immortal?!” Biorn asked with pride, he had that smug smile striping his face.

“No you moron.” Fiachra said, “Keep reading.” Fiachra was irritated, it had been an hour and nothing had happened. They were still being kept in Conn’s study. What was going on? What did Murtagh want with his parents? Just kill them already or let them go. He feared they would be tortured. Or kept in a dungeon, in a dark damp hole until they died from the poisonous gases that welled up from the depths of the Earth. He was staring down the consequences of what the faeries had asked and he felt sick. Kinvara looked pale.

“I didn’t think Murtagh would take my parents too.” Kinvara whispered. “What have we done to them?”

“What we had to do. Once your fate is revealed you cannot change it. At least that’s what my Grandda said.” Fiachra said.

“I think it can be changed.” Kinvara said, “We will what we want from the world, if only we have the courage to try. We were cowards.”

Fiachra bristled at her mutiny. “Well then lets change it. How do we get out of this?”

“And how do you explain why my Mum didn’t marry our dad? Why is your Mum the Chieftainness of Galway, while my Mum is dead? Why is Murtagh, a lowly clansmen, the Chieftain?” Biorn rambled on.

“Just keep reading!” Aoibheann tumbled over her words, though she said them with gusto. Half the bottle was gone, and she was going for more. She got up and stumbled over to Biorn. “Let me see it.” She pulled it from his hands. “I’ll read it to you.” She sat down next to him.

“I don’t need you to read to me. You’re too self absorbed to understand any of this!” Biorn said.

“Yes I will!” Aoibheann insisted.

“Why do you care anyway? I thought you weren’t .” Biorn said.

“Don’t judge me!” Aoibheann slammed the book. “You take the easy way out on everything. Take your stupid book back. I’m going to look for Aonghus.”

“You mean my brother?” Biorn asked. Beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together. “Keeping it in the family, Aoibheann?” Biorn smirked.

Aoibheann dropped the journal on his toes. “You’re not as great as you think you are. One day, you realize that, and you won’t be able to handle it.” Fiachra and Kinvara looked at them awkwardly.


Hours passed and the moon climbed high into the sky, and then it began its descent. Aoibheann collapsed into the chair behind the desk and fell asleep, the pleasant stupor a drunken mess. Biorn fell asleep reading Conn’s Journal, he snored softly. Kinvara and Fiachra stared at the walls, waiting.

The door burst open. “Time to go.” Aonghus said.

“What about our stuff?” Kinvara asked.

“Pack a bag, make it quick.” Aonghus barked, he ignored Aoibheann’s attempts to engage him.

The four rose to their feet disoriented. They stumbled to their rooms followed by Aonghus’ guards. Quickly clothes, shoes, bows, books, anything of value were stuffed into their bags and they filed down the stairs. Past the Great Hall where they could see their parents, hands bound, sitting against the walls. Kinvara looked away, and whispered a prayer of protection for them all. Even awful Riagan and Saoirse. How was it possible that she would be separated from her parents once again, unable to say goodbye? Would they ever be reunited and remain this way? Or was this world built on separation and loneliness?

She followed the guards to the docks and on to the boats under the starlit night sky. The air was crisp and frost covered the island in a crystal shell of pretend beauty. But it was not beautiful. Nothing about this day was alright. She had betrayed her parents. They had many faults but they did not deserve to be bound and under the arrest of Chieftain Murtagh. The sense of hope and purpose she felt the day the faerie reach out to her was a false joy. No purpose was worth harming another. No fate a prize if she carried out a deed that destroyed a piece of her own humanity, her love for others.

Her mind was swirling. For over a year she wished for this moment. To leave the island where she was forced to stay. To be free to roam where she wanted to. Never did she think the moment would be as bitter as this. She was leaving, but no to go home but to go even farther away. She sailed in the opposite direction of her Eamon. Far away she guessed from where Vidar was. The pieces of her heart were scattered in so many places and now another piece was breaking off, to remain on Searbh’s shores. As long as her parents were here, her heart would be.

“Did you hear where we are going?” Fiachra whispered. Kinvara shook her head no. “To Innis Aran and then to Asger’s camp. Along the Shannon River.”

“Vidar.” Kinvara whispered.

“Maybe, just maybe we will meet up with him.” Fiachra smiled. “It’s going to be okay. You have me and I have you, nothing will change. Our friendship is bonded by fate.”


Eamon stood over the fire, at the shrine in the little cottage of Bricriu. He put small handfuls of ground up powder into the flames and watched the flames glow in hues of the rainbow.

“What are you doing?” Aoife asked, quietly. She walked from her bed and came to sit down next to him.

“I had a vision in my dream. She is leaving, taken by someone. But she is not on the island anymore. She was on the island of Searbh this whole time and now she is gone.” Eamon said. “So I’m offering to the flames. To see if they will give me more. I need to know where she is and if she is safe. I can’t relax Aoife, until I know she is safe.” Eamon’s chin quivered in the pain of love unable to be sustained. He knew he was losing Kinvara. The longer she was in exile, the harder it would be to pick up their engagement, the more they would be strangers when they met again.

“Then go after her Eamon. There is nothing stopping you.” Aoife said, frustrated at his constant melancholy.

“How? If I leave Bricriu will know why and alert the Chieftain and the Dowager Chieftainness.” Eamon replied.

“Bricriu is not in their corner, Eamon. He doesn’t believe in the exile nor does he accept Tearlag and her reign. He never did. You forget that Conn and Tearlag were not the happiest, even at their best. Their marriage was a union of Kingdoms, but their love fizzled at the first hardship and it was Bricriu and Seamus that became the hands of the King.”

 

 

 

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Chapter 66: The Raven Appears

797 AD (26 Years Ago), Mouth of the Shannon River

Brynhildr looked up from Hrokr’s wounds and smiled back at him until she heard a yell. More arrows fired, raining down upon the deck with one finding its target in Riagan’s arm. Another embedded itself in Murtagh’s armor. Brynhildr grabbed knives from her belt and threw them, two of them connecting with enemy warriors. One was hit in the chest and the other in the neck. Satisfied, she turned back to Hrokr while twirling her long ponytail in her hand. It was a nervous tick she had. She was nervous around this guy, his gaze was so intense that she desperately wanted to impress him.

“You bastards! I will the cut the limbs from your bodies!” It was a familiar voice that spewed threats across the water to the O’Suillebhean invaders. It was a warrior, with a face painted gray with soot. A hood atop adorned the head but the same impish smile remained. “Riagan! I’m coming for you!” Ciannait yelled from Murtagh’s boat.

She leaped over the side of the boat and onto the deck of Tearlag’s boat. She ducked behind the the sidewalk of the boat as another wave of arrows came.

“Ciannait! Your shield!” Murtagh yelled and tossed Ciannait’s shield over the side to her. But it was too late. Even with the shield, they needed more. Brynhildr and Hrokr grabbed their weapons and ran to the front. They ducked behind their shields.

“What do they want?” Brynhildr yelled over the sound of arrows pelting their shields.

“Revenge for the border war. We took their harbor in the north last summer.” Hrokr said.

“How many do they have?” Ciannait snuck into their conversation.

“I’d say three more lines. I counted 15 boats.” Hrokr said. “Do we have any more nets?”

Brynhildr shook her head.

“If we go to the coastline, we can drop rocks from the quarry onto their heads.” Brynhildr said.

“Right. Brilliant!” Hrokr said. “Except how do we do that? We don’t have the manpower?”

“You stay here and lead the attack with the others. I have an idea.” Ciannait said. “Brynhildr, come with me.”

Ciannait crawled over to Riagan and touched his shoulder. The arrow popped out. Tearlag watched this from afar, behind the mast where she braced for cover. “Ciannait has the power of the Morrigan,” Tearlag said to herself.

“Come on, we have to hurry!” Brynhildr said and stopped. “Did you just pull the arrows out of him? What are you crazy?” She asked Ciannait.

“It’s fine, he’s healed. Now let’s go!” Ciannait ordered.

Brynhildr scowled, “Nah. I’m good. Saoirse! Take over for me. Ciannait has a special project she needs your help with.”

“I’ll do it!” Riagan yelled. “I’ve got it. I’ll go.” Riagan hobbled up and over to where they were standing. The blood once running from his shoulder was dry, the hole closing up.

“Fine.” Brynhildr shrugged, “Saoirse, never mind. Tell me where to stand for the final attack.” Brynhildr picked up her axe and found a spear. She was ready to draw blood.

“What’s going on?” Saoirse asked Brynhildr once in formation, waiting behind their shields as the archers reloaded and the boats began their final approach. There was a look in the eyes of the warriors waiting for the next attack from the O’Suillebhean invaders. It was pleading look of prayer for Cahal’s boats to come and save them. They had lost too many to fight this battle to the end.

“Ciannait’s got some scheme to throw rocks off the cliff at the enemy. She is not mortal.” Brynhildr said with eyes wide.

“So what, she is a valkyrie?” Hrokr whispered and Brynhildr frowned at his interruption.

“I thought you were staying over there to help Murtagh?” Brynhildr asked.

“He’s grand. I thought you could use my finely tuned Nordic skills. I did conquer your grandfather’s land you k.” Hrokr bragged and Saoirse laughed.

“We don’t have valkyries. She must be a faerie.” Brynhildr said.

“You are both wrong.” Tearlag mocked. “She is indwelled with the power of the Morrigan,” motioning to where Ciannait and Riagan were climbing the sheer cliff face.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Riagan’s hands were screaming, from the roughness and sharp edges of the rock face. It reminded him of his mother. “How are you doing this?” He asked Ciannait.

“I am the one who was called to do this.” Ciannait said. Her hair was glowing purple at the ends. Her face was otherworldly and intrigued Riagan.

“Then teach me how to climb.” Riagan complained. She just laughed a cutting laugh.

Once they reached the top of the cliff, everything was clear. Cahal was not coming. He was stuck at the mouth of the river. His ships were tangled up and half his army was fighting with the other half. Chaos was rampant and spreading.

The final boats were closing in on the line of Galway boats. “We have to act now!” Riagan ordered.

“Wait, they need to get nice and close.” Ciannait said. “Like this.” She wrapped herself around Riagan and kissed his ear. “The closer they are the more impact we will have.” She enunciated her words carefully. “Now.”

Quickly Ciannait turned around and and ran towards the rocks. She skipped across three pieces, then tucked and rolled. The pieces broke off from the cliff face. In one movement, she jumped off the cliff, flipped and dove into the water with great speed. Before the rocks hit the water, three waves rose up from the water and drove a tsunami carrying the rocks towards the line of O’Suillebhean boats. Riagan ran to the cliff edge and watched as the waves of water drove to the decks of the enemy boats, cresting and dropping the boulders on the boats. The force broke them in half and washed the remnants out to sea and into the blue depths.

Riagan was astonished. How was she doing this? He looked for Ciannait. He couldn’t see her. He panicked. His heart was racing. Where was she? He scanned the boats. The water. Finally he looked below and floating under the cliffs was Ciannait. Her hair had  returned to its natural black, the soot was washed from her face and she looked lifeless. Filled with the ache of a heart fearing the loss of a loved one, he scurried down the cliff face. He felt complete disregard for his hands or his life for that matter. He needed to save her. He was not complete without her.

“Ciannait! Stay with me! Ciannait!” Riagan cried. Impatiently, he dove into the water, falling a long way and crashing into the water with force. He stripped off his heavy armor and cloak and swam as fast as he could. He had drawn a commotion. Other warriors, including Murtagh, jumped into the water to save her. Both he and Riagan reached her body at the same time.

“Is she alive?” Murtagh asked.

“I don’t know.” Riagan said, choking on the impending pain his heart was bracing for. “Let’s get her on the boat. Is it over?”

“Yes.” Murtagh said. “She defeated them.”

“Good.” Riagan said.

“I knew it would work.” Ciannait mumbled with a smile.

“You’re alive, oh thank you, Danu.” Riagan exhaled. He was shaking but together the three swam to the boats.

____________________________________________________

“Have you ever seen anything like it? She has the powers of the Morrigan, Conn! She healed Riagan and threw rocks from the cliffs onto the ships below. Ciannait is what we are waiting for! We will be unstoppable with her powers on our side. Maybe they can be transferred to us? Oh, who cares, she and Riagan are getting married! The powers are as good as ours.” Tearlag gushed. She was obsessed and had been since they sailed back to Innis Aran. Even now, late in the Great Hall and circled around a fire after hours of celebration, Tearlag was playing it through her mind. “We should push up their wedding and…secure a marriage between Brynhildr and the O’Suillebhean’s son to stop this ridiculous war.”

“Are you serious?” Conn scoffed. “How would that solve anything? After we slaughtered them today? They will take her and kill her. No, she will marry for love.”

“Why should she get to marry for love?” Tearlag asked.

“Because we did. Anything less is not worth it.” Conn stumbled on his words and in that moment he realized the hypocrisy of it. Riagan was desperately in love with Ciannait yet the Gods were demanding they be separated. How did any of this make sense?

Chapter 65: Blood on the Boats

797 AD (26 Years Ago), Atlantic Ocean of the Coast of Limerick

It was a symphony of metal slicing skin, swords slamming their blades off of shields. Conn’s boats flanked to the North while Cahal’s boats sealed off the mouth of the river. It was a tangled mess. Minutes before Conn’s boats emerged on the horizon, Cahal deployed his long net under his boats. Built to ensnare any of the O’Suillebhean boats before they could attack. It was a trick the Viking settlers had used against Cahal and now with a satisfied smile, Cahal watched his enemy flounder in the same trickery that befell him.

Once the enemy ships were caught in the net, Cahal and his army climbed aboard. Hrokr followed behind Cahal, gutting anyone who came too close. With every move forward, Hrokr struck, like a coiled snake. With sword and axe in each of his hands, blood splattered his shirt.

The plan was to take out each line of boats, starting with the first line trapped in the net. They were to leave a section of Cahal’s warriors at the back to protect the Limerick ships and the rest would push forward. The first line was reduced to a few injured men and women collapsed on the hull, holding their wounds while the dead lay where they fell, impaired, dismembered, or skulls smashed in. Cahal prided himself on the speed and accuracy of his army and now with these Nordic warriors filled with a fervor for Valhalla, his blended clan army was as quick as a rising tide. He was particularly impressed by Hrokr’s speed as he took out three warriors while another Limerick soldier faced off with one.

Through another line of boats, Cahal’s men were still. They waited for the next line to come. From afar Cahal could see Conn’s boats lined up in a small barricade. It was not going well.

The O’Suillebhean army was far greater than the four boats Conn had mustered. The enemy was smart and saw a way to infiltrate.

“Hrokr, go. Take this boat and save my daughter. Conn is no Aedh. He will not make it out of this unless we intervene. Take six warriors with you and this boat. Wreak havoc.” Cahal said to young Hrokr. Hrokr nodded. Two women and four men followed him onto the O’Suillebhean boat. They tossed the dead from its deck and broke free from the line, towards the open ocean and to Conn’s boats.

____________________________________________________

“Hold the side there. Don’t give them an inch!” Tearlag screamed at her warriors. It was a bloodbath, aready down three of her warriors from her own boat and cut badly on her arm. Her rage was rising. Riagan was being too cavalier. He was showing off. Brynhildr was forced to fight beside him, fixing his mistakes. The only gem saving her boat from being a chopped up mess were Saoirse and Brighid. Had it really come to this?

All the time she spent grooming her children for battle was lost because Riagan could not get out of his own way. Rubbish.

“Saoirse! Help!” Brighid yelled as another arrow shot over her head. She was bridging the gap between Tearlag’s boat and Conn’s. An enemy shieldmaiden from O’Suillebhean’s ranks shot another arrow which cut into the side of Brighid’s leg. She cried out in pain. Grimacing with all she could muster, Brighid lined up her bow and took her shot before collapsing in agony. Her arrow connected with the shieldmaiden’s face.

Saoirse saw her friend collapse and lept from Tearlag’s boat towards the enemy. She yelled and Seamus, with his warriors and Carrick, followed. Conn yelled orders from his ship, watching the horizon for more enemies and holding his harpoon at the ready to kill anyone who came close enough. His face was covered in blood and sweat. Lined with worry, he watched his son, Seamus, caught in a battle with a large warrior. Conn offered a silent prayer of protection to the Morrigan and to Lugh.

Another warrior surprised Seamus. He was overwhelmed, Conn could see that. The large warrior was primed to attack with his sword raised and Conn lunged forward. His son would not die! He lunged and Saoirse, noticing Conn’s movement, dove forward, leading with her spear. She ran the large warrior through just as he was about to strike. With a groan, the large warrior fell and Seamus put his battle into check and with a blade to his opponent’s throat, he looked behind him. “Thank you.” He paused, not knowing her name. ;

“Saoirse. My pleasure to serve you and the Chieftain.” Saoirse smiled and looked at Conn. He raised his hand in salute. In his heart he knew this was a sign. “She is the one.” He whispered.

“More are coming!” Carrick yelled. “Ready yourselves!” He climbed to the front of the ship and grabbed two swords from the dead bodies at his feet. “Saoirse, take over for Brighid.”  Carrick handed her a sword.

A line of five boats came, one boat veering off to the right, heading straight for Tearlag and her crew. “Ready yourselves! They’ve come for us!” Brynhildr yelled with swift movements. Riagan, not willing to be outdone by his older sister, grabbed his bow and began to shoot at them. Not looking, but only shooting with overjoyed waves of violence pouring from the string of his bow. Snap. Connect. Snap. Connect. Each arrow embedded itself in something: wood, water, shields and flesh. He shot at all the boats and beamed in his brilliance. “I am magnificent! If only my love was here to see!” Riagan yelled and in his celebration was knocked to the ground by a tall redheaded man wearing the garb of a Limerick warrior. He had the dragging cut of an arrow carved into his cheek.

“I’m here to save you, you moron!” Hrokr growled “and now I have this?” Hrokr pointed to his cheek, “And an arrow in my leg? I ought to hang you from the keel!” Hrokr yelled.

“Ahem!” Tearlag said. “While I might share your sentiment over my disappointment of a son, there is a war going on behind us, so get on with it!” Tearlag screamed at him. “Or I will tell my father to hang YOU from the keel!”

“Yes, Chieftainness.” Hrokr said, embarrassed. He looked up and saw Brynhildr was laughing so hard that she almost fell off of her perch. Hrokr smirked at her and she jumped down.

“You deserve that. And so does he.” Brynhildr said.

“Who are you?” Hrokr asked, nervous to say another offensive thing.

“Chieftain Conn’s daughter.” Brynhildr said. “Come, I’ll pull the arrow out.” Hrokr followed, unsure of what he volunteered for. There was a weird dynamic on this boat. Chieftain Conn was fighting separated from Tearlag. Tearlag’s children were strange but the daughter was beautiful. Another wave of ships was coming,and he prayed to Odin not to kill him in this battle. Having Brynhildr pull out his arrow, her hand on his leg was more intoxicating than any feast he could imagine in the afterlife. What would it be like without the pain?

Chapter 64: The Mind is a Storm Brewing

797 AD (26 Years Ago), Innis Aran of Chieftain Eban of the O’Flahertys

Conn and Seamus sat on the rock ledge above the Serpent’s Lair, soaking in the sunshine that burned the fog away. They were silent and overwhelmed by the outburst of nature that came from the water and swirled around their heads. The Gods were speaking and it was terrifying.

“What are you going to do, Da?” Seamus asked.

“I don’t know. Your grandfathers worked until blood poured from the veins of their enemies to make this union be. Their goal was to possess all the Kingdoms of Connacht under one clan and one Chieftain. And what am I supposed to do? Am I to stop now? My destiny in my clan and my alliances has been to produce an heir to finish what Aedh and Cahal started. I sacrificed my own research. My plans for my Chieftain reign I did not choose, and instead I followed to complete my father’s fate.” Conn said.

“Maybe the Gods are giving you another chance to be the Chieftain you want to be, Da. You have never believed in the Kingdoms being united–” Seamus was interrupted.

Brighid, the lead warrior in Conn’s personal army, came running from Dun Aonghasa. “Sir, we must leave. A ship sailing north from Limerick has landed. Munster is on the attack. O’Suillebhean ships have been spotted on the horizon. They could seal off the Shannon River.” Brighid said.

“Or worse, make it into the Bay.” Seamus said.

“Alright. I guess my fate will wait another day. Ein, take your son and stay in Dun Aonghasa until it is over. And before you argue, it is not worth it to me to risk losing you. I need your guidance more than ever.” Conn said.

“I will consult the Gods while you are in battle and plead for their favor.” Ein answered and Conn nodded in thanks.

“We must go.” Brighid peppered. Her hand on her sword, she was restless. This was first big battle since the Viking uprising in 792. A battle where she had been stabbed in the arm, her skin still bearing the scar. Her heart was heavy for her sister had died that day. She had been axed to death by a shieldmaiden only moments into the battle on the banks of the Shannon River. It had shook Brighid to the core. And now this time she would be fighting with her surrogate sister, Saoirse. She was a wildcard. Could Saoirse even be trusted to follow through on this one or would she go rogue in battle to prove her worth? Either way the approaching ships filled her veins with adrenaline. She ran back to the fortress with the Chieftain and his son.


 

The fleet of three took off from Dun Aonghasa, one ship carrying Conn, Seamus, Brighid, and Carrick among other warriors. Tearlag took the helm of another with an army of Saoirse and warriors. Riagan and Brynhildr took another ship, on board was Murtagh, who volunteered with a small group of O’Flaherty clansmen against Eban’s orders. Eban stayed behind as did Ciannait. Eban claimed this was not their battle to fight. This did not sit well with Conn. Something was not right. The night before Eban was cordial and united. But his eyes were shifty as Conn asked for his help. Tearlag was seething with anger as she boarded her boat. “How dare that coward not send a single regimen with us? He has twenty ships! Conn! Listen to me, we go with my plan!”

“Tearlag, it won’t work. We don’t have the man power. We must hold our ground, my love!” Conn said.

Tearlag rolled her eyes. “Why must you always be so timid in battle? We must attack bloody and quick. We need to board their ships!”

“Yes, yes.” Conn said, beginning to tune her out. His mind was spinning. The message from the Gods. Now Eban was backing away. The O’Suillebheans, the strongest clan in the south was attacking before Beltaine? What were the Gods trying to tell him? Why were his thoughts blaring in his mind. He was at a loss. His fate felt like a shadow melting into the darkness of twilight, never to be found again.

“It will all be okay.” Carrick told Brighid as she shivered in anticipation.

Brighid glared at him. “What do you know?! I’m fine.” It would be a naval battle with three ships racing to the mouth of the Shannon River where they planned to meet up with a fleet of MacManus boats.

But on the horizon she could see a cloud of darkness. The O’Suillebhean were much closer than they were told. At least ten boats she counted. “Chieftain, what do we do?”


 

“Row faster!” Cahal yelled. “We do not have time for mediocrity! Now move! Row! Row! Row like your lives count on it…because they do!” Cahal’s boat was plowing forward with the current down the Shannon River. They were miles from the Delta into the Ocean. Intel had come in the morning from the quarry at Shannon. A trader had informed that the O’Suillebhean’s were on the move north. Where to, the man did not say. The man took his load of stone and marble and carried on to Innis Aran, where Cahal hoped Tearlag and Conn remained. He was going to need all the help he could get. He had the fastest ships in the west thanks to his Viking clansmen, but his army was not unified. There were two fighting styles. Two different tactics. It could be a bloodbath if they did not listen.

“Earl,” A young Hrokr said.

“Chieftain.” Cahal corrected.

“Chieftain, what should we do once we get there?” Hrokr asked.

“Spread the net across the boats, we will trap them and attack on to their boats. It will be swift. Are you ready for this?” Cahal asked.

“Yes, sir.” Hrokr answered.

“Good man.” Cahal said. “If you fight anything like your father, you could be a real asset to me, Hrokr.

Hrokr went back to his place and waited. He would fight to the death for his place in Valhalla like his ancestors before him in Scandinavia. He prayed to Odin for protection and soon a chorus of prayers to Odin echoed up from the boats.

Cahal frowned. “I will hear prayers to the Morrigan or nothing else! Get back to work!”

 

 

 

Chapter 63: The Serpent’s Lair

797 AD (26 Years Ago), Innis Aran of Chieftain Eban of the O’Flahertys

Conn walked along the cliff line with his son, Seamus, his trusted adviser, Ein, and Ein’s teenage son, Bricriu. Inishmore was an island that jutted out of the water like a tower. Unlike the coast of Galway that gently tumbled to the sea, Inishmore roared upward, cutting free from the sea. If you tripped on this walk, you fell to your death. It was a foggy dawn, the cold and warm air swirled together as the day decided what it wanted to be that day.

Conn wanted to visit the last sacred site he had missed on many trips, the Serpent’s Lair. A strange geyser, a perfectly cut rectangular hole in the rock bed that extended out from the cliffs into the sea. When the tide came in, water rushed into the hole and propelled water upward. The Druids believed this was a portal to the Tuatha de Danaan. A place where they would travel between worlds and would test the the immortals if a hero dared to climb in the Serpent’s Lair and see if they could survive the incoming tide. With the late morning tide, Conn knew Chieftain Eban’s priests would be at the sacred place to read the energy of the tide. Conn had a heavy feeling on his chest of an impending dread.

But why?

Everything was going to plan, the marriage alliance was secure. His father, Aedh, would have been proud. His father-in-law, Cahal, would get off his back, his marriage could focus on something other than pleasing the rulers that came before him. His job would be done. Secure. Tearlag would be delighted. They could finally relax into a life of peace and prosperity. No more battles to wage. No more worries to obsess over. Galway would have a steady trade market to sell their agricultural production and textiles in. Limerick would continue to quarry and sell to Innis Aran. All three would benefit and grow. Conn smiled at the thought. He could study and preserve the legends which were almost wiped from the books by the monasteries. He could dig deeper into the Tuatha de Danaan’s world. He could record the customs and language of the Norse settlers in Limerick and Innis Aran. He could welcome them into Galway.

“It will be after this stone wall.” Conn said to Ein. Bricriu followed close behind, taking the sights in. He had never been to Inishmore before. The island was covered in ruins from the tribes that had come and gone: from Spain, from Scotti, from the North. The land was a patchwork of cultures, living and dead, clinging to their space in history with every crumbling rock and wall.

“How do you know about this place, Chieftain Conn?” Bricriu asked.

“My father, Chieftain Aedh, came here often. Before the O’Flahertys even ruled here. He felt a deep connection to the Gods on this island and this portal. Can you feel it?” Conn asked. “The Gods are near. The air is sweeter. There are these pleasant vibrations that flow from the sea and air into our bodies when they are near. I feel peace because they are watching over us.”

“As long as we have their favor.” Druid Priest Ein said. “They protect and destroy us. If we have their favor, not even fate can harm us if they want us to prosper.”

———————————————————————————-

Around the Serpent’s Lair, three figures stood. Two females and one male. They had blue on their face and in their hair. Blue was the sacred color. They chanted a prayer asking for something from the Gods. One of the female figures beat a tempo on a bodhran drum while the others danced. With each wave that crested and entered the Serpent’s Lair cave, they yelled in excitement. With the approaching footsteps, they stopped. The male figure stretched his arms out wide and the two female forms faded out of view.

“Faeries.” Conn whispered.

“Hello.” Conn said. “For the Gods.” Conn gave the mysterious Druid Priest a bottle of poitin from Galway.  The Priest opened it and sniffed it. He lifted it up to the sky and chanted again. With a rising voice he sang and waited for the next wave to come. The waves were building taller and taller until the perfect wave came and crashed over the cave. The geyser burst forth into the sky and the Druid Priest poured out the offering on the sacred water.

The priest then stepped down onto the ledge and listened. He placed his ear close to the cave opening and listened to the vibrations of the ground. He frowned and stood up. Back onto the cliff, he pointed to Conn and Seamus. “Step forth into the cave.”

Seamus and Conn nodded with trepidation. Onto the ledge they stepped and took a deep breath. The Serpent’s Lair was filled with water. This could be dangerous. Conn worried for his son, what if he drowned? What if the Gods did not bestow favor on him and they battered his body against the rock? No. He couldn’t think of that now. This was the portal, the way to learn why there was a weight on his chest and his mind was not content. Into the water they stepped. The water was chest deep. Not a good sign. They waited for a wave to come and cover them in water.

The Druid chanted again in a language they could not understand. “To Lugh, what you may.” Was the only phrase Conn could perceive. The water illuminated and glowed a light blue around them. It changed to purple and swirled up around their heads. A sound came from the water. “The marriage will not be. The Kingdoms will not be three. For in bloodshed you have forged. Cahal will be ignored. The work of your fathers will be avenged, beware of what you have called to be. The Morrigan is here. You will be destroyed.” The swirl then cackled and screamed as the swirl spun faster and faster around their bodies. The swirls picked them up and dropped them back on the cliff.

“Go home, Conn. And take your sons and daughter with you if you want them to live!” The Druid said and disappeared.

Shaken, Conn looked at Seamus. What would he do now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 62: Ciannait of Innis Aran

797 AD (26 years ago), Innis Aran of Chieftain Eban of the O’Flahertys

A week before Beltaine.

“Right this way, sir.” Saoirse said. She stood at the edge of the boat with Carrick in full armor. Brighid was already off the boat tying up to the dock. Saoirse stood and waited for the O’Connors and their advisers to get off the ship.

It was an official visit to Innis Aran, and it would be a long trip for the newly minted warrior, Saoirse, and the rest of the travelling warriors that served Chieftain Conn and Chieftainness Tearlag. There were thirty warriors in all with two accompanying boats. It was the last of many visits to Innis Aran to strengthen the bonds between the three kingdoms – Limerick, Galway and Innis Aran. This would culminate in the final tying bond, Riagan and Ciannait’s marriage. The golden son would be married off in a finer deal than his older sister, Brynhildr. Brynhildr was engaged to be married to the Cahal’s finest warrior, Hrokr. The spear of the west, driving O’Sullibhean invaders back to Munster.

The union of Ciannait and Riagan would give Galway access to every trade route in the North Atlantic. The Kingdom of Shannon would be under Galway’s thumb again. First Chieftain Aedh and Chieftain Cahal drove Chieftain Eban and his father, Conal, from the mainland to the barren islands of the coast. But the kingdom of the Islands welcomed the Shannon exiles in and they grew their wealth. They became traders with Ulster, Munster and the Vikings. Instead of a crushed, weak, malleable clan, they returned from the ashes a clan worth more than any other in Connacht.

As Tearlag walked off the boat she knew this was the marriage alliance she needed. Her father, Chieftain Cahal, was insistent that this had to be secured by Galway and Limerick. Tearlag’s mind was sharpened, focused solely on this goal. She was Cahal’s only daughter to be successful. She held the legacy together. And she would finish this! Before he died he would see that Tearlag completed the dream of her father and Conn’s father, Aedh. Yes, this would be her crowning moment. The warmth of her pride brought her elation through the grand welcome at the gates to Dun Aonghasa. Chieftain Eban lavished them with a large feast and parade into the inner courtyard of the fortress and into the Great Hall. The Great Hall was transformed into a banquet hall, lined with tables, filled with clansmen, musicians, and a large group of warriors from Galway and Innis Aran.

________________________________

Riagan walked into the Great Hall and his breath caught in his chest. There she was, Ciannait. Her platinum blonde hair sparkled in the lantern light, a smile broke across her face and Riagan’s heart was bouncing in his chest. Ciannait was perfect. She was smart, beautiful, and slender. Her laugh danced through the air, her warmth pulled people in. She was fascinating. How was he so lucky? He would be married to her by the end of the week.

“Darling, I’ve missed you.” Riagan said. Ciannait’s face glowed, she kissed him and settled into his arms.

“I’ve missed you too.” Ciannait sighed. “Come with me.”

“Why?” Riagan asked. His stomach growled. It was a long journey to Innis Aran, the four hour trip had stretched to six with a bad head wind.

“I have to show you something.” Ciannait smiled.

“Oh really?” Riagan flirted. His eyes were mischievous.

“Not that, for now…” Ciannait said with knowing eyes. “Come, we have to hurry before they take them away.” Ciannait pulled on Riagan’s arm and they snuck out of the Great Hall to the large staircase, winding around the fortress. With each flight, a window greeted them with a view overlooking the cerulean water and rocky cliffs the water beat against in a relentless wail.

“Where are we going?” Riagan asked.

“To my father’s study.” Ciannait said. The door opened to a large room filled with strange books and artifacts from the many clans and traders that passed through the islands. Ciannait guided Riagan to the table. Spread out before them were many sheets of thin paper covered in official wax seals and intricate knot work.

“This is our marriage contract. Look at the titles.” Ciannait said. She pointed to the bottom of the page.

“Chieftainness Ciannait and Chieftain Riagan of Innis Aran. Heirs of the High Chieftainship of the Three Kingdoms.” Riagan read aloud.

“We will be the most powerful people of all Connacht! Can you believe it? At nineteen, I will rule these waters and every Kingdom insight.” Ciannait said and she kissed Riagan deeply. His legs became weak. “Can you believe what good fortune the Gods have given us?!”

“I will be the heir to everything.” Riagan repeated again. “I will be more powerful than Brynhildr and Seamus combined! Oh that will be good.” Riagan smiled. No one will ever tell him what to do again, especially his controlling mother, Tearlag. He would be free from her clutches, far away at Innis Aran. And above her, as her own High Chieftain, subject to his rule. What a delicious moment this was. He kissed Ciannait again, wrapping his arms around her. He never wanted to let her go. This was the girl he had loved since he was a boy. Every trip to Innis Aran he jumped at, only to see her from afar. She had enchanted him in those years with her wit and passion.

An only child of the O’Flaherty line, she was destined to inherit everything from her father. The ties to both Shannon and this new clan formed at Innis Aran. From the islands he could spread his influence into the waters up and down the coast. He could wage any battle with Galway and Limerick under his thumb. He would be as powerful as the great heroes that came before him. A Cuchulain for his time, he would be unstoppable. He and Ciannait would build an unstoppable clan and crush the O’Connors and MacManus with their weakness. Yes, he would be a legend. All Hail High Chieftain Riagan! Soon to be High Chieftain of Ireland, Riagan of Tara! Then the Gods would see his magnificent power and bring him into their Tribe of Gods. He would become immortal!

“Riagan?” Ciannait pulled him from his day dream.

“Yes my love?” Riagan asked.

“We should get back to the Hall before they notice we’re gone.” Ciannait said.

“Yes, right.” Riagan said, his mind unwilling to leave his daydream. All he had been doing the journey here was dreaming of Ciannait and now his dreams were expanding. His fate was intoxicating. His mind was drunk on love and possibility. He looked into Ciannait’s eyes again and let her lead him back to reality.

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“It is a fine day.  To see two people so in love with one another.” Chieftain Eban said. His dirty blonde hair was speckled with white. “I have fought many battles, some with the souls in this room and some alongside them.  My hope is that we will never fight again. My people have known great suffering from the wars of our fathers.” Eban looked at Tearlag and Conn, “But we have also know the generosity of those who have taken us in from our struggle and made us their family. Loyal to the end.” Chieftain Eban spoke to Bannon, Murtagh’s father. Bannon was the former Chieftain of the Eilean Clan, a lead Brehon judge on the new Innis Aran court and leader of the fleet of Innis Aran, along side Eban.

“To the new bonds that tie us together, may they always be made of love and friendship. Slainte.” Eban toasted. “Slainte” echoed through the hall.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 61: Bittersweet

Night 433, Isle of Searbh

Riagan opened the door and his worst fear stood before him. Murtagh, Chieftain of Innis Aran, the friend he had betrayed. He was either here to kill Riagan now or turn him over to his brother, Seamus. Riagan took a deep breath, the air tasted sweet. Was it always this sweet? Why had he never noticed that? Why didn’t he kiss Saoirse tonight? Or hugged Fiachra…ever? He took another breath and looked Murtagh. His fate was sealed now. “Hello, Murtagh. What brings you to my island?” Riagan asked.

Murtagh said nothing. He raised his hand and the warriors behind him seized Riagan, Saoirse, Brighid and Carrick without a fight. Their bodies immobilized by an invisible force. Riagan could neither move arm nor leg, he was stuck to his spot and was forced to watch Murtagh’s warrior tie his hands. Only then, after being bound, was he able to move and be led to the Great Hall. “You have killed my mother, I will take pleasure in watching you die.” The young warrior addressed him. Riagan knew who it was, Aonghus. He looked just like his mother, Ciannait. He looked just like Biorn, it made Riagan’s stomach turn. They knew. How could they not know? Biorn would be gone. His last connection to Ciannait would be pulled away forever.

“Are you going to kill me? Or is Seamus going to do the deed?” Riagan asked.

“Chieftain Seamus.” Aonghus correct. “He has replaced you and will probably kill you.”

“Well that was expected unless he pissed away that chance too.” Riagan said and was slammed against a wall.

“Enough.” Aonghus said and Riagan was frozen in place next to Saoirse, Brighid and Carrick. Something strange was happening. They were more powerful than any warrior he had ever encountered before. Were the Gods conspiring against him? His fate was spiraling down. The only question was how far would he fall?

___________________________________________________

Fiachra watched his Murtagh’s warriors seize his parents and felt like he was going to be sick. His guilt was welling up in his throat. He looked at Kinvara, tears were spilling down her cheeks. Murtagh’s warriors separated Kinvara, Fiachra, Aoibheann and Biorn. Up to Conn’s study they were lead and shut in. They heard the steps of the warriors travel down the stairs. They were alone. All chaos erupted.

Kinvara’s tears, no longer able to be held back, exploded into a full sob. Wailing unintelligible noises about her guilt to Fiachra, who was pacing, muttering, and cracking his knuckles in a terrible nervous tick.

Aoibheann sat down in Riagan’s chair and smiled. “He’s here.”

“Who?” Biorn said. His face was pale, his hands were sweaty.

“Aonghus.” Aoibheann answered, dreamily.

Biorn looked at her like she was an idiot.

“The guy who looks like you.” Aoibheann said sharply, annoyed at Biorn.

Biorn sat down across from her. “So I’m not imagining that? That is my brother?”

“Yes.” Fiachra answered, his brows knit together. His shoulders were tense. He stopped pacing and led Kinvara and himself to the cushions in front of the fire. “Aoibheann. Get the bottles. In the cabinet to your left.”

“How do you know that? And why are you both acting so weird? You look like you are drowning in guilt.” Aoibheann snapped.

“Because I read it in this.” Fiachra answered and pulled the journal from his coat pocket.

“Norse Mythology told you?” Aoibheann scoffed.

“Fiachra, this is serious. Is he my brother or not?” Biorn said, curtly. He was shaky. He was not in the mood for any jokes.

“This is not about Norse Mythology. This is GrandDa Conn’s journal.” Fiachra said. “He wrote in here that Aonghus is your brother. They are not here to arrest my Mum and Da for the crimes against Galway. They are here because of your mother Biorn. Ciannait, she was murdered. There are pages and pages of secrets in here.”

“I have a brother.” Biorn smiled.

“Why do you look guilty then?” Aoibheann snapped.

“We can’t say.” Kinvara said, wiping tears off her cheeks.

“Yes you will or I will throw this bottle out the window!” Aoibheann threatened. “And the stupid journal too.” She raced towards Fiachra and knocked the journal from his hands.

“Stop it!” Kinvara demanded. “You’re going to draw them up here and they are inclined to kill. If you don’t calm yourself down, I will shove every book down your throat!”

“Kinvara, you are out your mind! Go sit down.” Fiachra ordered. “Aoibheann, the day we rescued you from the waterfall pool, you were in a faeries’ ransom. We all were. The faeries threatened us to either bring Murtagh here or let us all die.” Fiachra said. “Now you know, so you can stop making a scene and we can get back to the task at hand. We need to read this. Especially you, Biorn. You deserve to know where you came from.” Fiachra handed Biorn the journal.

Fiachra took the bottle from Aoibheann and passed it around. Aoibheann went back to Riagan’s chair and sulked. If only Aonghus could guard her. Then this night would be fun.

“You want me to read this?” Biorn asked.

“Yes.” Kinvara said. “You need to know the truth.”

Chapter 60: Ghosts We Wait For

Day 433, Limerick of the MacManus

Vidar sat on the dock, his boots dangling over the edge. Hovering so close, they were barely kissing the surface of the river and its depths. He was a different man from the boy who ran away from Inishmore. His arm bore the image of his journey from captive to exile and to spy for Limerick – a boat, nine waves of the Tuatha de Danaan and Odin’s raven. A perfect marriage of the two worlds he existed in. He rolled his shoulders back and stretched. He was stuck in the hunch of stress, his shoulders were riddled with knots. Eamon had betrayed them, Vidar knew it, but they did not come. Not a single ship from Galway came to moor in Limerick’s harbor. Nor a horse and rider came to tear up their fields. The silence was disturbing. Didn’t it matter that they came to Galway? Why had Eamon been so strange? He thought of Kinvara. He pictured her scowl as Aoibheann inevitably was dramatic. His mind painted her brown wavy hair, unruly and frizzy, spilling out of her bun on top of her head. Her eyes squinting as she laughed. Her terrible attempt to guard the goal posts from the opposite team. Her tiny fists shaking as she groaned right after another silotar flew past her stick.

Vidar thought of his cousins, his aunt and uncle — would Riagan and Saoirse ever be okay? His whole life they had clawed at each other with their words, drawing blood every day like penance for being alive. They may be tall and broad-shouldered, but at night their shadows were wiry. Vidar’s parents enjoyed each other’s company, they relished each night spent at a fire or around the table. But Riagan and Saoirse did not. Each longed for something different, someone else they never found to fill their nights. Even grandparents, Conn and Tearlag, loved each other for a while, until one Samhain it stopped and they became two souls divided by a darkness. They had loved each other so deeply when he was a small boy. They had ruled as one heart, one mind – harmonizing their thoughts into one bard’s song.

“Hello!” Iona called from across the docks, her long red hair fluttering in the breeze. Vidar turned to his left and waved back with a smile.

Iona and her brother, Barra, tied the sails back and Gyda sighed, she was not in the mood to talk to anyone. She tied the boat to a post and stomped off the boat. Vidar stood up and hurried after to her.

“Gyda! What’s wrong?” Vidar called.

Gyda frowned and kept going. “Not now, Vidar, everything is ruined. Everything!” she shouted.

“There was a boat at the quarry in Shannon. A fleet from Galway, Innis Aran and Uppsala.” Iona said.

“Uppsala?” Vidar asked in disbelief. “That’s where our people are from. I thought we were the colony to supply Uppsala on the west and that was it. No more raids. I thought King Ragnar was satisfied?”

“I don’t think he is. Earl Asger was there with Chieftains Murtagh and Seamus. We came back to summon Brynhildr and Hrokr.” Iona said. “Gyda seems to think this is your fault, why would she think that, Vidar? What kind of terrible magic did you summon at the Samhain ritual, when you should have been here asking the Elves for protection?” Iona asked with a sneer.

“I didn’t do anything of the sort. Gyda is overreacting.” Vidar said. “I’ll go tell my parents the news, stay with the boat or calm Gyda down. Either one, I don’t care.” Vidar said, annoyed and went to find Hrokr and Brynhildr in the long house. Limerick had two structures of power, a large stone fortress and a large wooden house for the Earl and Chieftainness to handle day -to-day matters. They slept in the fortress and held court in the house, a perfect marriage of Norse and Irish blended into one. The seer and the Druids worked side-by-side arguing in the court and the Fili and the judges worked with clans to decide matters of the people. It was a complicated system, yet it was balanced, a harmony of minds and gods. It was nothing like Galway and Vidar relished that beautiful truth.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Day 437, Isle of Searbh

Saoirse woke with a start. She heard the slam again. Something was hitting the walls. Her heart was racing. What if it’s Tearlag coming to kill them? The day had come, the day to kill her wretched tormentor once and for all. “Riagan!” She screeched and shook him. He was in a drunk stupor, only stumbling to bed a few hours ago.

“Riagan, now! Your mother is here.” Saoirse urged.

“Ciannait, what are you talking about? Tearlag’s not on this island, just come back to bed. I need you–” Riagan mumbled.

Saoirse pulled the blankets off of him and pulled him up by his shirt. “For the love of all that is sacred, wake up, you cheating bastard! I am not Ciannait and will never be. Now either wake up and or I’ll let Tearlag murder you in bed while you cry for your mistress another night!”

“Tearlag is here?” Riagan wailed, his face pale and sick.

“Yes. Get dressed.” Saoirse handed him a sword and axe. “Kill or be killed, love.” The wall shook again, another thud echoed.

“It is time to face it, Riagan, but we can do it together.” Saoirse said. She reached for his hand and grasped it tightly. Together they opened the door and walked down the stairs, Brighid and Carrick followed behind, bows ready for whatever lay behind the door.

Riagan opened it. With a creak it revealed their fate. “Hello, Murtagh.” Riagan sighed.

Chapter 59: Strangers in the Hall

Night 433, Galway of the O’Connors

It was three weeks since he became Chieftain and everything had changed for the worse. Seamus spun the ring on his finger, his father’s ring that had been passed down from GrandDa Aedh. It was the ring of the clan, bearing their emblem. It was a ring he had wished for all his life. He had admired it on Conn’s hand, and grimaced when Riagan had taken it from his father’s dead hand and put it on. Now it was his, and the weight of all he inherited filled him with dread. This was not the Kingdom he dreamed of leading, the O’Connors had changed.

In the time since Conn’s death, the Brehon Court was stripped of Conn’s advisers and a new series of warriors and merchants sat in the chairs of the wise, the priests and the judges, who were supposed to lead. An obsession with a tri-kingdom was whispered throughout the meetings. But today was much worse.

Seamus and Roisin entered the daily Brehon Court held in the Great Hall with the normal frustration. It would be a dauy filled with arguing with Tearlag from her Dowager chair with her circle of warriors and merchants backing her up. Only Bricriu and a lone Fili philosopher, Roisin’s father, would support Chieftain Seamus and his ideas. But when they walked through the large archway, a strange tongue greeted them. It was the language of the Northmen, as a horde of Vikings stood in Seamus’s fortress.

“Can I help you?” Seamus asked.

“Let me introduce you,” Tearlag swooped in, “This is Earl Asger of the Swedes, from Uppsala. He has raided in Scotland and has landed in Ulster. Murtagh and Aonghus met him on their way back from Tara.”

“Oh? Are they back from Tara? How lovely.” Seamus groaned. “Did you enjoy your time at the sacred hill?”

“We paid our respects and have been blessed with the protection of the faeries to do our impending work.” Murtagh said as he patted Seamus on the back. “Asger, this man is the Grandson of two great Earls in our own land. Aedh of the O’Connors doubled the size of his Kingdom by driving Shannon out of their lands and into my Kingdom, the Innis Aran. Cahal of Limerick made peace with your Viking people, a group from Jutland, and gave them half of his land. Together the new MacManus clan has never been conquered nor has their prosperity waned. We are all friends of Odin in this room.” Murtagh said and Tearlag raised her glass. Seamus laughed uncomfortably.

“I hate to interrrupt, Chieftain Murtagh, but were you part of the Shannon clan that was displaced by my GrandDa?” Seamus treaded lightly.

“No, you are thinking of my late wife, Ciannait. She came from the Shannon clan. I am from the original Eilean clan, island dwellers that traded up and down the coast. We became Innis Aran after Shannon fled to our islands. I feel no ill will, for it only made us stronger.” Murtagh answered. “It’s funny that you ask, Chieftain Seamus. A Shannon boat appeared in my harbor two weeks before Samhain. It inspired me to push my Tara visit up early and see what the lands around the Bay were up to. I thought it may be your shit for brains brother looking to hide on my islands, but Tearlag has reassured me that this is not the case. She has told me you own the Shannon lands in conjunction with Earl Hrokr, so my worries are put to ease. I have been shut away on the islands for too long, I have realized. After Ciannait and my son died, I lost myself to my grief. But learning from your messengers that Riagan is in exile and will pay for his crimes has brought me back to the light of hope. You have done a great service to me, Seamus, and when you kill your brother, you will be my eternal friend.” Murtagh said.

“What has your brother done, Chieftain?” Earl Asger asked Seamus. Before he could answer, Tearlag, the ever present mouth piece, jumped to answer.

“Riagan murdered Chieftainness Ciannait and Murtagh’s son. He then murdered his father to become the Chieftain of our clan. When I learned that my son killed my husband, Conn, to gain this throne, I was a wreck. I could not lift a fork, let alone a sword to drive him out. Seamus, my true and loyal son, drove his brother out of this land and soon he will finish the job. Slainte!” Tearlag raised her glass to Seamus and the rest.

“Skol,” Earl Asger said.

“But Riagan didn’t murder Conn–” Roisin complained to Seamus. “Shhh.” Seamus was quick to stop her. This was not the time. Tearlag was treating him as an equal and was elevating him to true Chieftain status with her praise. He felt the same relaxed warmth fill his body, like that of reaching the bottom of a bottle. She was not changing his plans to distribute the harvest. She was not changing his pieces on the map of Galway to fit her military agendas. He was not being berated, nagged or embarrassed in front of his peers. Tearlag was pulling him into her inner circle, just like she promised the night before Riagan was driven out.

“What can we do for you, Earl Asger?” Seamus asked.

“I want to bring my people here. Have you heard of the settlements at Lindisfarne and Northumbria?” Seamus nodded. He had heard of the great raids and felt a pit in his stomach.

“My clan is starving in Scandinavia. We’d like farmland in exchange for your cooperation and help. We will come either way, by our spears or by your friendship. I think you will make a wise choice though if you are anything like your ancestors.” Asger joked but Seamus was not laughing. Where were his people going to go?

“You want to settle Galway?” Seamus asked.

“Galway, Limerick, Innis Aran and eventually the lands above Breifne and Ulster. We will be one Kingdom, all of us. We will share our gold and you will share your land. Together we can raid and gain more wealth, like I am sure you are used to with your connection to Limerick.” Asger said.

“They have become traders not raiders.” Seamus said.

“Good for them.” Asger said with a smile.

“They are just as successful as Murtagh is at Innis Aran. Together the three of us could be unstoppable: agriculture, trade, and raids. We will be the wealthiest clan of Connacht.”

“We will own all of Connacht.” Seamus said.  Tearlag and Murtagh cheered. Seamus looked at Roisin.

“I would feel a lot more comfortable with this if it was you, Hrokr and Aonghus at the helm. But Tearlag taints everything with her erratic greed.” Roisin whispered to Seamus. “And I don’t trust Murtagh.”

“No, neither do I.” Seamus said.

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