Geneology of Characters

Aedh of the O’Connors Born: 737 AD Died: 778 AD
Cahal of the MacManus Born: 740 AD Died: 801 AD
Annag of the MacManus Born: 739 AD Died: 769 AD
Conn of the O’Connors Born: 760 AD Died: 820 AD
Tearlag of the MacManus/O’Connors Born: 759 AD
Eban of the O’Flahertys Born 757 AD Died: 800 AD
Riagan of the O’Connors Born: 778 AD
Brynhildr of the O’Connors/MacManus Born: 778 AD
Seamus of the O’Connors Born: 780 AD
Saoirse of Galway Born: 780 AD
Ciannait of the O’Flahertys Born: 779 AD Died: 806 AD
Murtagh of the O’Flahertys Born: 776 AD
Brighid of Galway Born: 781 AD
Carrick of Galway Born: 777 AD
Declan of Galway Born: 776 AD
Ein the Druid Born: 755 AD Died: 792 AD
Bricriu the Druid Born: 772 AD
Hrokr of the MacManus Born: 775 AD
Aonghus of the O’Flaherty’s Born 799 AD
Biorn Born: 806 AD
Fiachra Born: 804 AD
Vidar Born: 802 AD
Kinvara Born: 804 AD
Aoibheann Born: 805 AD
Roisin of Galway Born: 784 AD
Luiseach Born: 822 AD
Eamon of Galway Born: 803 AD
Aoife of Galway Born: 799 AD
Asger of Scandinavia Born: 769 AD
Aisling of the MacManus Born: 817 AD
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Chapter 79: Even Branches Break in a Breeze

798 AD, Uarain, Kingdom of Galway

Saoirse searched through the manuscripts. The table was covered in papers. Harvest charts, grain stocks, livestock tallies, garden inventory, weapons stores, trade income, etc. This was the only good thing to come of her marriage to Riagan. It was like a promotion from field soldier to strategist. She had deadlines now and responsibilities to her clan. Conn scooped her up out of the depression that had crept over her as she lived as an unwanted guest in Galway’s fortress.

It had been a slow process. Not days, but weeks, she lived in a shell of solitude, not a part of Tearlag’s family. Saoirse no longer a normal member of the O’Connor clan. She was stuck in a bubble. She and Riagan slept in separate rooms for the first six months. Tearlag took every cheap shot she could think of; Saoirse’s room became a revolving storage room – for barrels of Mead and poitin, a place for meat to dry age, an overflow room for servants to sleep. It was a place for the sheep to be sheared and a drying room for laundry. Saoirse took to sleeping where she could find a quiet place, sometimes in Brynhildr’s room and sometimes in Seamus’ bed. She clung to any friendship she could until she realized she was being watched. Tearlag had her followed to her family’s house and Brighid’s cottage where Saoirse was caught and dragged back to the fortress. Tearlag cut her meals in half. Saoirse was made to stand for hours in the Brehon court all day without food or water. Tearlag took away the firewood for Saoirse’s room and gave her flea infested blankets. Anything to make her break. Saoirse wasn’t sure why Tearlag hated her with such gusto, but it was aggressive. She was hated with every cell in Tearlag’s body without cause. Tearlag belittled her, in front of Riagan, Brynhildr, the court, and the servants. After 6 months Saoirse could take no more.


 

798 AD, Riur, Kingdom of Galway

It happened after a particularly long festival, where Tearlag ordered her to stand in a snowstorm with no cloak and no gloves, holding a bronze disk to the sun. She was ordered to stand in the center of the circle for the entire Winter Solstice in respect for the Gods. But Saoirse knew better. It was another way to inflict psychological warfare. Another boundary to cross until Saoirse had nothing left. No food, no water, no sleep and no human connection. She had nothing and she began to sob and shake, her spirit could take no more of this pointless game. Forget the Gods if they wanted to destroy Galway and Ireland. Let them do it. They were wrong, she did not belong here. Her whole life was ahead of her and she did not have to stay here and be a toy waiting to be smashed in the childish rage of a grown woman who did not get her way. A woman who did not get the next piece in her quest to grab all the puzzle pieces needed for total domination. On that day, Saoirse grew a backbone and so did Conn.

Conn, in the first time Seamus heard his father raise his voice, lost his temper. He walked to the center of the courtyard and into the center of the circle carved in the snow. He took the frozen disk from Saoirse’s hands and threw it at Tearlag.

“This is not how we honor our Gods. You will honor the sacrifice of our clansmen’s daughter! She is saving us all!” Conn ordered with a thundering voice. “And you, get your head out of your ass and live as a husband with your wife. Stop being a slug drowning in your own slime.” Conn said and shoved Riagan backward. “Be an adult! So you didn’t get your way. So what that is life! Do you think she wants to be married to you?! Do you think I want to be married to a woman who only loves me if I give in to her way? Do you think I wanted to be a Chieftain who runs his kingdom in the shadow of two other men? Grow up, Riagan, or leave and be with your precious Ciannait and watch us all be swallowed into the sea from your adulterous bed. See if you will be satisfied after a thousand lives end to make your dreams come true. Will you feel like a man then? Will you, Tearlag, finally feel like you have won your father’s approval? Will you feel loved and validated for once in your life? You are free, Saoirse. Leave us to our destruction. I am sorry for the scars I have added to your heart. I only meant the best for our clan.”

Seamus took off his cloak and gave it to Saoirse. He took her place in the circle and held out the disk, raising it to the sun. Brynhildr walked with Saoirse back into the fortress. “I will tell the servants to move your things into Riagan’s room.” Brynhildr said.

Saoirse heard what she said but shook her head. “I will not live with him. I’m leaving. I want to go back to my home. I need to see my family.” Saoirse cried. Her cottage was only an hour’s walk, yet it felt like it was on the other side of the world. “I don’t need your help! Just step back unless you really care. I’m done with all of you. Tearlag, shoot me down now, but you are the most pathetic ruler my people have ever had. You curse the ground we have cultivated and the Gods will take it back.” Saoirse spat at Tearlag’s feet and ran from the courtyard.

“You are a speck and you will always be a speck. Never will you have success. You are a mite. You have no value to our clan. You are dismissed permanently from my army. Get out. Get out!” Tearlag unsheathed her sword and held it out, ready to strike as Saoirse moved past her. Saoirse looked back at Seamus just once and her heart ached.

Seamus was not bad at all. He was spineless, but she never doubted the care in his eyes. She never would. She walked out and ran off. Lost in her depression, she wandered to Declan’s cottage. She let herself in and made herself at home. She bathed and washed away the stench of six months wasted. She clothed herself in Declan’s clothes and collapsed onto her friend’s bed and fell into a restful, deep sleep.

She spent many weeks stuck in a tangle of unbridled disgust and without cause. A petty mess of anger unleashed on her as Tearlag’s target. No torture had been inflicted, no physical harm done, but her insides felt broken. Her mind was hurt. Her heart lonely and brittle. She felt all the love her parents instilled in her had leaked out of her pores and now she was empty. She was not okay and she couldn’t go home. She couldn’t face her parents as a failure. Her Da and Mum had been so happy – she, their eldest daughter, was chosen to marry the Chieftain’s son. She was honored above all the eligible girls of the clan. She was special and would save them all from destruction. It was all a lie. She had been an edifice to be burned. Her time was wasted and so she would hide until she had answers.

How would she explain all the moments she didn’t understand? Would Declan let her stay? She gave it all up to the Gods and her dreams. Her body floated away as her breath became steady. Sleep wrapped her in a balm of comfort. In this world, she made sense. She could hide away.

Many hours later, Declan came home to find Saoirse asleep. He crawled in beside her and slept above the blankets, laying next to her as she slept. He didn’t wake her up. He didn’t get too close, but just stayed. He didn’t ask any questions. He knew why she was here. His sister, Brighid, told him all. She shared most of her secrets with him and he had anticipated this day. He knew Saoirse was under attack and needed a family more than ever. She needed someone to be on her side. She needed freedom again.

Entry #11: Where Do I Want to Live?

This journal could sound like a first world problem whine — but it’s not! I am so excited to have this dilemma. It is a huge blessing to have the opportunity to move wherever I want to and feel the freedom that comes with a freelance existence. That being said, making the decision of where I want to live is much more complicated than I expected. It is hard to pinpoint what the priorities are of what I want out of a future hometown. Unexpectedly, this has challenged me to consider what experiences, culture and lifestyle I want for my future self. Because I am really bored with the life I have right now, also feel out of place. What do I mean by that? I don’t know where my home is anymore.

It sounds more depressing than it actually is. I don’t know where my home is because my hometown doesn’t feel familiar. I am drawn to so many places, little pieces of my heart are scattered in Georgia, Nashville, Maine, Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Asia, Europe, Canada. The list goes on and on. There are so many places I want to be. This has left me in a desert of indecision. A no man’s land.

To be brutally honest, I’m anxious and completely overwhelmed. I have been this way for months. It’s terrible. I miss the feeling of being content and comfortable in the place I am existing. I don’t want to go anywhere because I hate my current location so much a temporary trip anywhere puts me into a spin. I feel a heaviness, a deep questioning of why I live here. And will I ever get out of here?

Anxiety is a ruthless enemy. It can and will chain you to one spot and taunt you that you are weak. It will run you into the ground. Anxiety about moving has owned my body and mind for a year. It steals the clarity of decision. It pushes me away from my friends and family. Anxiety will manifest in fear, in sadness and the worst – in rage. I don’t trust my emotions, they have betrayed me for a year and have run my relationships into disarray. They wreak havoc on my marriage. Disgrace my reputation and ruin my ability to be a steadfast friend.

I want to move but I don’t want to move with myself and all my flaws. I say I don’t want to move because I’m scared to move and do not trust that my husband and I won’t fight to death, but truly I’m concerned I’ll move and feel just as trapped within my flaws that oppress me here. I’m afraid nothing inside me will change and I will never grow out of these insecurities holding me back. I don’t want to take the baggage of all the mistakes I have made in my hometown with me. I’ve made a mess of everything – what if I do it again? What if I am a restless animal deep at my core that devours everything good I have? Self-destruction is my vice. I feel it every time I smell a cigarette drag. I want to smoke and make myself sick from the poisons in the paper.

Deep down, I punish myself to make all my flaws learn a lesson. In a twisted way, I hope it will heal them. But it doesn’t.

Where should I live? Will I feel better if I put a thousand miles between me and my hometown where I have bad memories? I hope so. Being stuck in an anxious anger and boredom that melts into sadness is futile. Nothing good will come out of this, it is just a waste of time. I don’t want to be a waste of time. I want adventure and I want a meaningful life. I need a balm of nature, the distraction of a lovely wilderness to get lost in. I need a culture to tame my bad decisions and distract me, bring me back to searching for good and for knowledge. I quest to become better. If I do not find that place, I know I will regret moving more than if I stay.

It is a big decision, a frustrating blessing to have so much freedom to go where I am called. I know that I must keep this in perspective when I get down because anxiety is swallowing up my mind. It could be much worse than it is. Perspective and patience are the hardest things to keep.

What do you need out of the place you live? Is your present existence meeting all of your needs? How do you cope if you are stuck in a place that feels futile? Why do we feel this drive for everything to have meaning? Does anyone know?

-M

Chapter 78: Burning to Ashes Unknown

Day 493,  Riur, Kingdom of Innis Aran (823 AD)

Aoibheann laid her head on Kinvara’s shoulder and looked out on the horizon, the sun had dipped below the water, the earth, from where they sat, was covered in dusk. Fiachra sat next to them. In a line they sat above the serpent’s lair. Aoibheann yawned.

“This is what Conn’s journal said. ‘Here at the Serpent’s Lair, the faeries have a portal…’ So, where are they? It’s sunset, the most active time of the day-” Fiachra said.

“Aside from dawn.” Kinvara interjected. Fiachra frowned. She always did that. Why did she speak without regard for his thoughts, his full, complete thoughts?

“Yes, aside from dawn.” Fiachra repeated. “Do you want to come back at dawn?”

“No.” Aoibheann answered before Kinvara could agree. “We are not coming back at dawn. Guys, these faeries are not coming back. They used you to imprison our parents. Your part is done, can we please get on with life?”

“You don’t have to wait with us. Go back to the fortress. Eat dinner. Find Aonghus, Biorn and Murtagh.” Fiachra said and waved her off. Aoibheann sat up and looked at Fiachra with a bitter cold focus.

“I am not spending time with a murderer!” Aoibheann exclaimed.

“Lower you voice!” Fiachra ordered, he looked to see if they were alone. “You don’t know that your parents are dead. You only know they aren’t here and in a dungeon like my parents. The people who were Biorn’s parents until a month ago. Now he doesn’t care if they live or die! He doesn’t have to leave me alone to deal with this.”

“You’re not alone, Fiachra.” Kinvara said.

“We are all facing something dark,” Aoibheann said “Biorn is in denial of his soul. He wants something that is not human, to live without consequence and pain. Pain shows us what matters.”

“And where we need to heal.” Kinvara said. “I don’t believe Murtagh will kill Saoirse and Riagan, they are too valuable to Tearlag and Murtagh to be tossed out with the trash. I hope the same is true for our parents.” Kinvara choked back a tear. “I’ve spent a year burning in anger at my Mum and Da, but now I think it’s burning me from the inside. This anger is making me sick. How do I stop the fire in my heart before it burns me to ashes and I’m unrecognizable?”

“Should we go to Limerick?” Fiachra asked. His words, to which no one answered, hung in the air.

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

797 AD, Aodhain, Interior of Ireland

Riagan followed his mother on horseback through the mud covered forest road. Brynhildr rode beside him, along with a pack of warriors from Limerick. They rode away from the sun, eastward into kingdoms Riagan and Brynhildr had never seen before. It was a crisp Spring morning, with tiny flowers peeking out of the grasses, trees and bushes. Green overflowed in a spectrum of verdant grandeur over hills and fields. Nothing was bare, all the land Riagan could see was alive and mystical with a story unknown to the world of the mortals. The presence of faeries could be felt in the air, not by any logical consideration could you know why an effervescent magic floated through the forest groves.

“Take the fork in the road left, we will pass through Rathcroghan by high noon. Be prepared to pay your respects to the High King of Connacht.” Tearlag ordered. “Brynhildr, keep up.” Tearlag looked at her daughter smiling at Hrokr.

Tearlag sighed. This was not the match she hoped for Brynhildr. A daughter was a priced commodity, she would bridge the gap of their larger enemies. The O’Suillebhean’s. The Briefne’s clan. Maybe even the Roscommon’s of Rathcroghan. Anything but her father’s viking subject, a warrior with no claim to land or an army of his own. If Brynhildr did not land a big fortune, this would be futile! All Tearlag’s future would then rest on Seamus, and he had no interest in any of the matches she found him.

He was secretive, stubborn. A spoiled brat! The vast amount of Seamus’ failings cut him out of all her expeditions, like this one. He could not be trusted! Conn was the only solution to her biggest failure. Conn could contain Seamus and his ire to destroy. Tearlag washed her hands of Seamus when he was but ten years old. He would never be who she wanted him to be and therefore he was of no use to her. But Riagan and Brynhildr, they were the malleable clay she prayed for. They were the pawns she needed to further her father’s kingdom and they would help her on this expedition to visit the powerful beings she needed on her side – Rathcroghan, all the power of Tara, and the Vikings that waited in the shadows of the east.

Tearlag lost her train of thought and sighed with earth quaking frustration. It was Brynhildr again, laughing and flirting with the young warriors of Limerick. “Why do you place every obstacle in my path?” Tearlag whispered to the horizon.

Tearlag was not content. She was unable to be happy. Ciannait and the promise of the Morrigan had whet her appetite for power – her appetite would be satisfied! Each day since Conn demolished the perfectly planned marriage Tearlag built from the ground up. From the days of Riagan’s childhood, Tearlag began to lay the foundation for this love. She remembered those early trips, Ciannait had always been a beauty, a child that drew you in with her wonder at the world. Ciannait was intelligent. As a seven year old girl, she understood why her father, Eban, and mother, Maighread, moved the chess pieces across the board. Or how a kingdom should be managed. It was magnificent, no other child in Tearlag’s kingdom was as intelligent as this little girl. Ciannait led Riagan, she pushed him to be better. Ciannait gave Riagan something to work towards, a standard to reach for, a friend who made him a better son.

Alas, with Ciannait sent far away on the morning of Riagan’s wedding, all hope for Riagan was gone. Now he was a disappointed and dilapidated shell of his former glory. Saoirse could never please nor could she ever make him the prized son he once was. Tearlag’s only hope for Riagan’s redemption in value was to keep him as far away from Saoirse as possible. To distract him with the possibility of more. She would find him a new wife on one of these trips, she would do this until she died. To see Riagan achieve what Tearlag needed him to. His life was created to finish what she started and fix Cahal’s legacy among the greatest Chieftains of the west. The High King of Connacht must write ballads about them. The mighty O’Connors and the mighty MacManus forged in fire and burned until gold melted from their veins.

“Mum–” Riagan said.

“Chieftainness.” Tearlag corrected.

“Chieftainness. Where are we going?” Riagan asked.

“To find a better future and bring it back. You must never be satisfied with what you have, Riagan. Chase the power you hunger for. Only then can I be proud of you, and only then will you have the blessing of your grandfather Cahal and the mighty ancestors before you.” Tearlag said.

Riagan nodded and focused on the road ahead. He was never satisfied unless he was with Ciannait. What could this journey to the middle of the island give him but the joy of time passing? He thought of Saoirse and felt a small pang of guilt. She wasn’t so bad. Although she was not Ciannait, Saoirse had this warming care that radiated from her face when she spoke to him. She was not as clever as Ciannait but she was somehow wise. Saoirse noticed the smallest cracks in his world and it was terrifying. Every crack opened up the possibility that his life was not his own but chosen for him. The only piece of his life he owned for himself was the love he felt for Ciannait. If he let that go, what freedom would he have? It was impossible to consider, even after five shots of poitin. He rode on and did not ask another question, for he did not want to know where he was going. At least Brynhildr was happy, he thought. One of them deserved to be for a moment.

Chapter 77: No Ties to Bind

797 AD, Eacha, Kingdom of Galway

Saoirse woke up to an abrupt sigh next to her. It was Riagan. Dawn light streamed in from the corner of the windows. “Riagan, what’s going on?” Saoirse said, barely awake from her deep dreaming sleep. Riagan ignored her and changed his clothes. He stripped off the guise of the night and wrapped himself in a new shirt and pants, items for the road. “Riagan?”

“I’ve got to hurry, Saoirse.” Riagan said, “We leave at sunrise.” Riagan threw more clothes in his pack. He was distracted, whether by the heaviness of sleep or by something else, Saoirse couldn’t figure out what was up with him.

“Fine.” Saoirse said and rolled over, away from him. She listened to the sounds of his hands packing clothing into a bag. His feet walking from the bed, to the table, to the trunk. Her mind began to connect the dots to what was going on, that this was not a dream but she was awake and he was leaving…again.

“Did you come to bed last night?” Saoirse asked. She sat up and actively watched him.

“No, I fell asleep in front of the fire in the Great Hall. Declan, Carrick, Seamus and I got into a game of hurling and lost all time until we won. I’ll make sure I come to bed when I get back.” Riagan told her with little enthusiasm.

“Or you could find your own room at this rate.” Saoirse said.

“If only I could.” Riagan said. “See you later.” Riagan said with a smirk. Saoirse glared and threw her pillow at his head as he walked through the threshold and out the door.


Saoirse walked around the courtyard and watched the sunrise turn from a golden light to full day break. Her mind never went back to rest after Riagan left that morning. She followed her urges, her need to burn off the building anger bubbling up and out of her pores and spilling out of her ears, and left the fortress. She needed fresh air. Some quiet far away from the echoing halls of the fortress. It was not going well, her first months as an O’Connor was less than fulfilling. She felt like a gnat looking for a place to fly and swatted down for existing.

“Saoirse!” A female voice called to her. Saoirse readied herself for an attack. Her heart rate rose, her breath a little shallow, her hands balled into fists and her arms became taut.

“What!” Saoirse replied. “Oh, hi Brighid. What are you doing here?”

“We were out training in the courtyard now, at sunrise. Would you like to join us for old times’ sake?” Brighid offered to her old friend.

“Why would I do that?” Saoirse scoffed, “I’m not a warrior anymore.”

“You will always be one of us.” Brighid said, “I’m still here for you. Is it going any better with Riagan?”

“No, no it’s not. He won’t even sleep in our bed. He won’t kiss me. He despises me for not being her.” Saoirse complained.

“Well you knew what you were getting into that night. You knew he was with her the night before the wedding. He told you he was in love with Ciannait and always would be. Why did you go through with it?” Brighid asked.

“Are you seriously standing here, with your whole life ahead of you, asking me why I listened to the command of my Chieftain? You serve in his army and I serve in his family. And if you want to stay in his good graces as a warrior of rank, you will never interrogate me again. We may have grown up together, but we are not equals now. You are not there for me, you serve me.” Saoirse said and took Brighid’s sword.

She walked from the middle of the courtyard to the wall that overlooked the ocean below. Saoirse raised the sword over her hand and dropped it into the blue below and smiled at Brighid’s bewildered and embarrassed face. “I think I will join you, after you retrieve your sword. Take care, dear.” Saoirse sneered and walked away, filled with a venom of bitterness. Of all people, she believed Brighid would understand and would show her sympathy.

“Don’t tell me to take care when you threw my most expensive possession in the sea!” Brighid yelled. “Who are you?”

“I am the unwanted scraps. The crumbs of despair. I am wanted by no one and unable to be loved the way I wish I could be. I am stuck in a cage of expectation and failure. I am not Saoirse, I am sadness in a body. My old self died when my hands were bound to Riagan’s.” Saoirse moped.

“Be loved then. Find your way to happiness. Run away. Leave him!” Brighid yelled.

“I can’t.” Saoirse cried. “I have to go.” Saoirse shuttered and ran away. Brighid was confused, she turned around and saw a silhouette standing in a window above them – the Chieftainness was watching.

Brighid walked slowly back to the lines of warriors training with swords, carrying huge jugs of water on their shoulders, lifting large stones. Running, jumping, it was chaotic to her heavy heart. She walked over to the familiar group of friends, the people she and Saoirse used to flock to. Brighid was lonely too without her best friend. Saoirse could only think of herself and what she lost – but what about Brighid? She was alone now, left to figure out her place in the world among strangers. The clan was huge and they brought representatives from all the regions to serve in this army. No one else she knew as deeply or could trust as easily with her life, like she could with Saoirse. Brighid, only seventeen, was standing among twenty and thirty year old men and women. She was adrift at sea in a current moving quickly in a direction. She wanted Saoirse to come back and do this together, to travel together. But they were separated now. Brighid exhaled, it was time she accepted it and moved on with her life.

Pastel & Water

While I wait to buy new art supplies, I decided to experiment and practice techniques. To find a subject and style to focus on. This is where my sketches took me.

Feelings Wash Over Me

IMG_20180123_183452_436IMG_20180123_174835_849

I’m running out of art supplies, so I looked at what I have left. Chalk Pastels, brushes, water, etc. I made gestures of pastel on the page and I washed it with water. I drug my wet brush across the pigment and created a watercolor effect? I don’t know what I should call this. Experimenting I guess.

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