05December2019

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An Irish Story

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...for all you kiddies. lol.

 

 

In olden days, before the coming of the saints to Eire, that island knew an Age of Heroes. The Celtic peoples made their heroes into gods and gods into heroes. However, sometimes a very important (and entertaining) part of their culture has oft been overlooked in the ages since then...the women.

 

Poets were renowned on par with the adventurers, their wit and musical ability unsurpassed. So, too, were their ethics raised just as high, along with the morals of their priestly Druids and impartial Judges. But, being only human, they at times had failings. Take for instance, Bricriu of the Poison Tongue, aptly named for his abuse of his masterful arts. His satires broke peoples reputations, and likely as not, livelihoods, and his dry, cruel sense of humor much feared across the land of Erin.

 

What was his saving grace was his sparkling wit and the fact that he was tremendously, fabulously wealthy. He entertained lavish get-togethers and he announced the biggest feast of the year to be held at a special stronghold built just for the occasion. It was fit for a High King when completed, and the gathering was expected to be the talk of the region for some time to come. Absolutely everyone was invited and they determined to go, Poison Tongue or no.

 

The Irish just can't pass up free food and ale, after all.

 

The Ulster champions in particular were warned by Fergus MacRiogh, who had a good head on his shoulders, that to attend would end in some mischief, and like as not would be fatal to those boisterous lads. He wasn't listened to.

 

Remember, free food and beer.

 

The famous Cuchullain, who fought in more wars than he could count years on earth, attended with his equally impressive wife, Emer, she of the Six Womanly Gifts: music, physical beauty, the gift of song, embroidery, the gift of wisdom, and of modesty. Conal Cearnath's wife was with him, Lendabair the Fair, whose golden hair shone like spun silk in the sun. Fedelm the Ever-blooming travelled there as well with her champion husband Laoghaire Buadach, and her voice was like that of birds on a warm summer day.

 

All were impressed as they entered Bricriu's house with it's open, airy spaces and massive pillars. When the feast was begun the halls rang with their loud merriment and good fellowship was felt by all. Bricriu, playing the indulgent host, saw an opportunity to express his twisted humor. He struck up a conversation with Fedelm, who came of an old, royal family, and made a point to tell her so. He complimented her quite ample curves undaunted by the layers of fine brocade swathing her voluptuous frame. Smiling while eating the roasted wild boar she simpered and preened, pleased that someone had noticed her among all these fine champions and ladies. "It has been given unto me in a vision," he went on, smooth as butter, in the High Old Gaelic, "that it should be after thy heels that the whole band of the women should come. To-night, the first lady to enter the banqueting hall shalt be queen over all the other women, indeed over all the people of Ulster."

 

Exercising one of the maidenly virtues of modesty Fedelm said nothing and merely lowered her eyes.

 

Bricriu repeated his praise and 'vision' to the other ladies present, and none of them forgot.

 

That evening the ladies with their myriad attendants strolled to take the air in the troublemaking poet's magnificent lawn, each minding what the serpent had said. The women enjoyed conversing with each other about their families, children, poetry, and many had battle-training which they discussed, do you like better the sword, or the spear, or the bow? After a time it was apparent that the evening was wearing on and they should return.

 

Over the first rise the women and their servants walked, neither walking faster than the others. They walked with dignity and grace, fair heads held high. Then they reached the second ridge and their pace quickened, each one glancing at the other to see their progress. After the third rise one after another broke into a run, startling the attendants who clambered to keep up. Catching up their skirts they tucked them into their girdles for easier running, and they dashed full-out. Cascades of hair streamed behind them, blonde and red and brown hair flowing in the breeze.

 

The last few hundred yards to the house was a blur of expensive cloth and long, white, supple legs pumping furiously. Screaming war-cries and nostrils flaring announced the tumultuous approach to the feasting-hall as they put on a last burst of speed, leaving the servants in the dust wondering what in the Underworld was happening. All the ladies could think of was Queen! Me! Queen!

 

Lean and lithe Emer reached the door-hole first but had her head yanked back by the sturdier and feistier Lendabair. Yes, she of the golden hair who had a handful of Emer's red-gold locks and screaming like a ban-sidhe. The other women running like the winds couldn't stop and slammed against the pair, slapping them all against the outer walls, too tight to fit into the door. One man later said that it was the noise like the rush of fifty chariots and whole kingly house shook with the impact.

 

In fact it was so loud and sudden that the champions took up their arms which they'd relinquished when entering the hall, thinking that the whole place was under attack or that the women had been ambushed. Clanging sword and spear against their shields they rushed out to see the huge pile of women in front of the door, still fighting amongst each other over who gets to be High Queen, silks, linens, jewelry and hair flying hither and thither and yon. And laughing so hard tears streaming down his cheeks was the well-dressed starter of troubles, Bricriu of the Poison Tongue.

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