A few Chapters from my new Druids novel, Enjoy

A Druids’ Tale

Chapter One: The Druidic Order

During the winter of 367 AD the Celts, by now pushed to Ireland and Scotland predominantly, knew that Christianity was sweeping throughout mainland Europe and Britain. The Celts had observed the power of this new faith and the wrath of Constantine’s push, to crush paganism, for the past thirty years. The Picts, Celts from Scotland, joined forces with their brothers from Ireland, Britain and Europe to take advantage of the otherwise busied Roman Empire. They made moves on Roman garrisons in the Gaul and Britain, starting from Hadrian’s Wall, where the Roman commander and his men turned coat and joined forces with the Celts to go against the Roman army in these areas. The Celtic priests (Druids) had foreseen the outcome during a divination ritual, which was held by the nine elder druids. They had foreseen the Roman Empire striking back and driving the Celts and their allies to their borders. The druids knew that the Roman Empire would take back Britain and the Gaul, and although they had not yet taken over Ireland, this might encourage them to, and to take with it Scotland. If this was the case, they knew that their culture would cease to exist, and their people would be forced to join the new faith or die. It was not death they feared but rather the prospect of losing the accumulation of knowledge which had passed from generation to generation, back since the first words of their forefathers. The druids had memorised the doctrines. When a new druid was elected to join this elite group of nine elders, he/she would learn the first doctrine. Then when an elder druid left the group or died, the new druid would be taught the second doctrine and they would not learn the third doctrine until another elder left the group. The elders were protected by the high king and everyone was expected to, if necessary, give their life to save that of an elder druid. The druids were treated with the utmost respect, and nobody dared to speak an untruth to them. The basis of their doctrines was truth, truth formed the foundation of all their teachings and was the ultimate quest for all druids. They knew that if a person walked forward with truth, then they would give no grounds for imposters of the mind, the heart or the soul. Only such people could be graced with the gift of spiritual consciousness. The nine elders lived together in one community with their families, and were guarded by fierce warriors. All their needs were met by the high king and the provincial kings, they were never left without.

Chapter Two: The Sacred Band

Turlough was the ninth of the elder druids, and knew all nine of the doctrines. It had only been a year since Sean, the eldest druid, had passed away. Sean had worn a band on his wrist, it was known as the sacred band, only when you knew all the doctrines and were the highest rank of the elders, would you become the wearer of the sacred band. Last year, before Sean had died, he had warned the elder druids on his death bed to make a record of the doctrines and keep them safe or they would be lost when a new upcoming faith would take over. Sean had to choose who would become the keeper of the sacred band after his passing, he had to choose between Turlough and Cathasach, who knew seven and eight doctrines respectively. It was expected that Cathasach would take the band and it had surprised everyone when Turlough received the sacred band. Sean had then pulled Turlough close to him and quietly whispered that he had had a vision the evening before and was directed to give the band to him. He went on to tell Turlough to be vigilant of Cathasach. Turlough and Sean had spent a lot of time together over his last few weeks and in this time Turlough had been taught the last two doctrines by Sean.

Following Seans’ passing, Turlough had become the leader of the elder druids. Cathasach felt he had been robbed of what he had earned, but had no choice but to abide by Sean’s decision, as he only knew eight doctrines and the band was now in Turlough’s possession. Turlough made the decision that he would also teach the doctrines in secret to another elder called Lugh. Lugh and Turlough met in secret and went on walks through caves and forests where he would teach Lugh the doctrines he had yet to learn. Turlough had been guided in meditation to appoint Lugh as the secret keeper of the doctrines and no-one else was to know of the arrangement. Cathasach did not like their closeness and always questioned Lugh and Turlough on what they were talking about, but they would say that they talked about philosophy, astronomy and other such subjects of interest. Cathasach had an intimidating nature and it had become increasingly more evident, with how he had dealt with Sean’s decision. Lugh and Turlough often talked about Cathasach, and Turlough had even told Lugh about the warning from Sean, before he had died. Lugh had supported Turlough as the rightful holder of the sacred band and Cathasach became increasingly more erratic. In a temper, Cathasach grabbed his drinking skull and fired it at Lugh and caught him on the side of the face, the blood trickled slowly at first and then a stream came from the inch long gash on his forehead. A half dozen young druids instantly jumped from their seats and pinned Cathasach to the ground, holding him there until he eventually calmed down. They were all dumbfounded.

When the room silenced Turlough spoke;

“Cathasach, do you wish to have a duel of sorcery and then you can decide if you think I am rightfully the owner of the sacred band?”

“Yes, outside now.” Replied Cathasach bitterly. “But, you must remove the band, and the winner become the rightful owner.”

Turlough couldn’t agree, so made a compromise. That he would be the keeper of the band no matter what, but if Cathasach’s sorcery prevailed and beat his that he would become joint leader with him, in which case, together they would lead the druidic order. Cathasach agreed.

“It is much too late into the eve for such an event to take place now, one week after the festival of Beltane, we shall meet at the magic underground lake.”

There were still three months to Beltane and Cathasach’s confidence seemed to grow in strength each day. Each day he would attempt to intimidate Turlough and the other druids, by impressing the younger druids with his sorcery. Lugh could feel the pressure on Turlough and feared Cathasach becoming joint leader. He had been with Turlough on several occasions when Turlough declared himself somewhat weakened by Cathasach’s antics and had proclaimed on more than one occasion that he wished he had never agreed to the contest. Turlough knew Cathasach had something planned, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. Lugh had been watching Cathasach closely, and speaking to the younger druids who Cathasach had been showing off to. The day of the duel drew imminently closer, and Cathasach’s confidence continued to grow, he told the younger druids of plans to change certain doctrines and how he soon would rule the druidic order.

 

Chapter Three: The Two Girls

Turlough and Lugh were walking back towards the village, Lugh had finally just finished learning the third doctrine that he had been struggling with, they were startled by the silence of the usually lively village. They upped their pace and reached the village quickly, all the round houses were empty and there was no-one to fill the usually busied paths. The fires, usually great and glowing, were almost out. A gust of wind sent a shiver down Turlough’s spine. They walked deeper into the village and suddenly heard the conferring of voices, the atmosphere was heavy with an unwelcoming vibe. The usually upbeat atmosphere had been replaced with this colder, uninviting one. When they reached Turlough’s house, they were greeted by his daughter Caoimhe, who advised them to prepare themselves, she told them how two young girls from the village had been assaulted and one, so badly, that she died as a result a few hours later. The other girl was still in critical condition. The whole village was in shock and the perpetrator remained unidentified. Turlough went outside and called for the villagers to gather around, the whole community gathered in moments. They gathered at the communal area of the village, everyone was clearly distressed, especially the families involved. Turlough apologized deeply, and offered his condolences to the girls’ families and assured them and the remainder of the community that all measures would be taken to ensure the perpetrator would be prosecuted. He told them that he would visit each house and would be looking for any information that might lead to the arrest and punishment of the one responsible for this crime. He told everyone to tell him exactly what they knew of the incident, and the matter would be resolved quickly. He then ordered that everyone return to their respective houses and he would be around shortly.

Turlough and Lugh went back to Turlough’s round house, Caoimhe had prepared a meal of bannocks, salmon and honey for them. They sat down and she told them exactly what had happened;

“I was standing in the kitchen and I heard commotion outside, when I looked out I saw a crowd of people forming and everyone was shouting different things it was hard to understand. I stepped out and people were whispering about an outsider who had attacked the girls, apparently a young man in his early twenties. The young girl could not describe him other than being tall and rough looking, according to the family of the young girl. The fathers of the girls were so distressed that they pulled every young lad fitting the description out of their homes and beat them to try to find out the truth. Some of the other men in the village brought the fathers’ to a calm and stopped them. After that everyone just started going different ways and people were still screaming and crying, that’s all I know.”

With that, Turlough and Lugh got up and began to go from house to house asking the same questions: “Where were you when the attack took place?” “Did you see anything else happen?” “Did you see anything suspicious before the attack?” The families of the girls had little new information to offer than what they had already heard, and the young girl was not in a fit condition to give any information. Many assumed Cathasach’s son to be responsible, and he seemed to fit the description. The last house to be visited was Cathasach’s. When they arrived and called out his name, there was no answer. Turlough and Lugh entered through the dark opening, they were immediately pushed back, overwhelmed by the smell inside. Beyond the stench, of what they could only assume to be rotting flesh which had been there far too long, they sensed something dark, deep inside. Turlough lifted his arm with the band on it, the emerald in the centre immediately lit, and slowly the inside of the dark hut could be seen. Upturned tables and messy fur rugs covered the ground and the walls dripped wetting the soiled floors. The wooden bowls seemed to be thrown onto the floor, the contents spilled everywhere. Turlough walked further into the hut, on a small table he found several divination sticks, they were stacked on top of a soiled cloth. Turlough tried to read what was engraved on the sticks, he could make out some of them, they were from a yew tree and they were used to summon dark spirits from the underworld.

“Show yourselves, if you dare!” Turlough screeched.

“Show yourselves, that I may burn you with the light from my sacred band, so you shall harm no more.”

The sound of feet dragging on the floorboards broke the silence, and startled the pair. They turned and saw a woman, whose unkempt appearance matched that of the house, scream;

“Get out! Leave my home at once.”

She raised a short, shaking arm, which led down to her over-grown, dirtied nails. She reached out and clutched Turlough’s robe in her hand, she began shaking vigorously. The smell of rotten flesh seemed to be coming from her, Turlough backed away immediately.

“Where are Cathasach and your son, Sach, at this time?”

“That’s not for you to know, now get out!” she cackled.

Turlough left with Lugh and on the way out, he turned and faced her telling her that there accusations that Sach was responsible for the incidence today. She cackled and walked away.

Sach was well known in the village, he was in his early twenties and had been accused on a number of occasions in recent years, but somehow escaped prosecution time after time. Cathasach always stood up for his son, as would any father, however people naturally feared them, it was said that they dealt in the dark side and parents warned their children about them, not to talk or deal with them. Sach, could never be proven to be guilty, as none of the allegations had stood.

Turlough returned home and Lugh joined him for a late drink and to deliberate on their findings. They sat around the orange glow of the fire until late into the night. They were drinking mead and discussing the events of the day, in particular Cathasach and his son. If they could prove his son guilty, they could then question the viability of Cathasach as a part of the druidic order. They decided to attempt a ritual, to call the spirits and draw the truth of the attack from them. They wished to find the perpetrator so they could burn him at the stake, and thereby cleanse their soul.

The following morning, Turlough woke with a certainty that it was Cathasach’s son. He threw his cloak over his shoulders, and went straight to Lugh’s home and together they went to Cathasach’s home. When they got there they could hear shouting coming from inside, it sounded like Cathasach, there was no mistaken his voice, it was coarse and distinct. Turlough called through the opening passage and Cathasach came grunting;

“What?!” he shouted “What is it you want!”

His brow was furrowed in anger, Turlough and Lugh didn’t like to talk to him when he was like this.

“Where is your son?!” Turlough asked emphatically.

“What do you want with him?” Cathasach inquired less intimidatingly than before, Turlough brought his voice down to an equivalent level and said,

“He has to be questioned about the assault of two girls, and the murder of one of them.”

“When did this occur?”

“Yesterday.”

“Well then it definitely wasn’t my son, because he was at Uisneach with me since the day before.”

“Can you prove that?” Turlough asked.

“Of course, I was with him, wasn’t I?” he said smirking.

“There is nothing to be smug about here, Cathasach. There are two families devastated here in this village this morning and one of them has lost there little child. It has been said, that Sach, done this evil deed. The children were physically and sexually assaulted and we need to get to the bottom of this right now!” Turlough roared. “If you are covering up for that son of yours Cathasach, I assure you that you will both pay harshly for it and I will go through any means necessary to get to the bottom of this. You are dealing with dark spirits Cathasach, and I will have no mercy on you at this duel. I will send you to the underworld, to be devoured by evil, along with that beast you call a son.”

“How dare you make such an accusation! It is you who has delivered darkness to this village by accepting that sacred band, when you knew it was meant for me. You and Lugh are the ones responsible for what happened yesterday. Did you call the evil spirits to do your dirty work while you went walking?” He shouted, loud enough for all to hear.

By now most of the people had gathered outside into the open to see what was going on. The mothers of the two girls were surrounded by the other women, who were trying to comfort them. They all looked at Turlough to see how he would react to this allegation. Turlough called the elder druids to inspect Cathasach’s home, so he could show them the divination sticks and that they might feel the evil presence as he had felt the evening before. Cathasach stepped aside and the elder druids went in to his home. His wife was kneeling down sweeping up a small pile of dust. She stood up and turned towards them sweetly asking if they would like a refreshing drink. Turlough shook his head in disbelief. The shaggy woman from yesterday had been replaced by the clean, well dressed woman before them now. The place was reasonably tidy and the air was circulating, the stench and atmosphere from the previous night seemed to have left. The divination sticks were gone the house was tidy, Turlough pleaded with the elders to believe him as Cathasach came back in, looking somewhat rejected and said,

“See, he wants to blame me and my family on everything and he brought you in here to show me up, well it didn’t work, they don’t believe you, Turlough. You are an imposter here and are not deserved of that sacred band on your wrist. I wait for my turn, the challenge is only a few weeks away and I will prove to everybody that I am the rightful keeper of the doctrines.”

Turlough looked around and some of the druids were looking at him confused, he knew Cathasach had turned them around

“Cathasach, where is your son now?”

“I have already told you, that I was with my son at Uisneach for the whole day yesterday.”

A little boy from the midst of the accumulating crowd said,

“I saw your son, yes.” at that point the little boy caught Cathasach’s leering glance and quietened down.

Turlough turned around quickly;

“Who said that?”

The crowd dispersed slightly leaving the little boy in the middle, standing behind his mother and clutching on to her thigh with both his arms. Some of the younger children from the crowd started pointing at the little boy in the middle. Turlough approached him and knelt down so that he could talk eye to eye, with the boy;

“What were you saying young lad?”

The boy, terrified by now peeked around his mother’s hip at Turlough, trembling with fear, and was about to speak, when Cathasach walked towards them and shouted;

“Yes what is it, that you are saying?” He stared the boy out of it, and the boy cowered in behind his mother and broke down crying.

“That’s quite enough now!” A loud voice called out, as a man broke through the crowd. It was the boy’s father and he went over to the child and took him by the hand and then led him away from the crowd saying,

“He’s too young to know anything.” His wife followed him and they returned to their home.

Turlough stood up and turned around. Right behind him stood, Cathasach as brazen as ever, looking straight into Turlough’s eyes and saying,

“My day is coming soon, the day when these people and these druids and all the druids will know that you are an imposter, who is not worthy of the title ‘Keeper of the doctrines.”

Turlough looked at him and was about to respond, when a roar came from a few out of the crowd,

“Take him down now Cathasach, take down the imposter now. Have the duel now and get rid of this imposter, who is so bold as to wear the sacred band.”

Cathasach turned to Turlough;

“Do you want to do it now? Let’s do this duel now.”

Turlough turned and said,

“Right now the only thing that’s important is to find the perpetrator of these crimes and bring harmony to the people of this community. What do you, the people, think?” He called out in a loud voice.

The crowd erupted and the answer was not evident;

“All in favour of this duel to take place now step to this side all others stay where you are.”

Only a half dozen young druids stepped to the side along with Cathasach and his wife.

“Well that’s that settled, can we focus on catching the culprit?” Turlough said, then the crowd cheered and dispersed.

For the remainder of that day, the village was silent. Children were kept inside and people remained in fear, the fathers were on night watch over the village. On the morning of the fourth day, the orange glow of sunrise lit up the darkest corners of the village, a group of men went from round house to round house, checking the homes. The men could see someone approaching from the opposite direction to the sun. It was hard to make out who the figures were from the distance, the men all joined together to meet these people at the entrance to the village. As they approached the entrance, it became evident that they were chariots and charioteers. The horses pulled up to the entrance of the village and came to a halt. The golden chariots glistened in the rising sun, a man stepped out dressed in fine silk;

“We are to inquire about the whereabouts of Turlough, we are messengers sent from the High King himself.”

The men let them through and led the way. Turlough resided in the largest of the small round homes, he had a site for himself with two smaller round homes on it. One was a barn and the other was for six slaves who the high king had appointed to carry out duties for the keeper of the doctrines and the other elders. When the charioteers pulled up outside Turlough’s home they were met by the slaves. The slaves brought water in buckets to the horses and some hay. The charioteers disembarked from their chariots and were met by Turlough’s daughter, Caoimhe. She invited them in, Turlough walked up behind Caoimhe and extended his hand;

“Good morning!” He warmly greeted “I’ve been expecting you.”

“Good morning to you Turlough.” Replied the main messenger, “The high king has summoned the elder druids to Tara to talk about the recent happenings in your village.”

“When are we to leave?”

“We are to leave here at midday to arrive at Tara by evening.” The speaker said.

Turlough’s daughter welcomed them to take a place at the table and ordered the slave girls to deliver food to the men and her father. The elder druids were all informed of what was happening, and at midday they boarded the chariots and headed off to Tara. Cathasach seemed a bit surprised that the high king would call the druids together for a meeting with him on an occasion like this and wondered how he had heard. Turlough, Cathasach and Lugh were in the first chariot. They were in order of their hierarchy. Turlough because he was the keeper of the doctrines and knew all nine of them, Cathasach because he was next in line and knew eight of the doctrines and Lugh because as far as everyone was concerned knew seven of the doctrines and was next in the hierarchy.

When they reached Tara, they were invited to dine, before meeting with the high king. They were brought to the king’s enclosure and they sat around a table where the high king sat at the top. He stood up and begun speaking.

“You are called here today so that we can relinquish the fear instilled by one of our own in your community. The word is spreading quickly to every corner of Ireland, my land. This behaviour is utterly intolerable and I have made it my personal quest to see to it that these families are brought to justice. We will draw conclusion by this evening, as to what way we will pursue the perpetrator. Turlough can you tell us what you know so far?”

Turlough stood and told the congregation what had happened, and the subsequent events of that day. The king asked Cathasach where his son was and Cathasach told him that his son was with him at Uisneach on the day that the murder occurred. The king asked him could he prove what he said was true, and Cathasach could not prove it.

“Your son shall be summoned to Tara for questioning, Cathasach.” Said the high king.

“I…I don’t know where he is right now.”

Everyone turned their attention to Cathasach who failed to remove his gaze from the floor.

“I am putting an immediate warrant out for the arrest of Sach, tell all the villagers they will be rewarded greatly for his safe arrest.”

The meeting drew to a close and the druids were returned to their village near Newgrange, and so it was that everyone in the land waited to hear of the arrest of Cathasach’s son.

Cathasach was not to be seen for the weeks following the warrant for his sons’ arrest. The word was that he was residing at Uisneach. His son was still at large and everyone assumed the two were meeting from time to time. There were only ten days left to Beltane and it seemed as though the duel would not take place after all, since his disappearance no-one seemed to think much of Cathasach anymore. The young druids who had befriended Cathasach in the preceding months begun to tell tales of what he was up to. One of them told how Cathasach brought him to Uisneach, and the magic underground lake.

“While we were there, Cathasach cast many curses, especially on Turlough and Lugh. His envy over the sacred band poisoned his mind and brought him to a seriously dark place. We stayed there for six days and nights, waiting for the full moon. On the last night, the sky was clear, dark blue and only the stars shun until the moon rose in full, illuminating the land. We prepared a fire, then sat down as he took some items from a satchel. He begun to spread them out on the floor in front of him. He had branches from the yew tree, like twigs with markings on them and some black stones and a black piece of cloth. He spread the cloth out flat on the surface and placed the twigs at one side and the stones at the other. When I asked him what he was doing he told me to stay quiet, and observe. After that he went into silence, with his hood up over his head and placed one hand on the stones while placing the other on the twigs. Then he begun to mutter a foreign language, some of the words sounded like some of the Latin words I have learned, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying until he mentioned Turlough and Lugh. A couple of minutes later he took the twigs and sprinkled them onto the cloth, then did the same with the stones and then sat back in silence, examining the way the stones and twigs had landed. Suddenly he burst into laughter, jumped up from his tree trunk seat, took a potion from his pocket and swallowed it. I sat there watching him as he begun to do a frenzied dance, screaming in laughter, then he stopped and stared at me, his eyes were different colours, one was yellow and the other grey. I jumped to attention when he started speaking that different language again, but this time his voice had changed. He seemed to be separate from his physical body, his head turned and a shiver ran down my spine. He kept staring and talking and his voice grew in anger. Then he grabbed a burning branch from the fire and threw it at me, I dodged it and ran for cover. I watched him from the edge of the small forest at the base of Uisneach. He remained at the fire and never came after me. As I watched I could not believe what happened next.”

Just then screams for help could be heard from one of the neighbours’ homes and a woman and three children came running from their home.

“Help it’s him, he’s back, please help!” She shouted as they ran towards the group of druids, who were seated in the circular area in the middle of the village, around a blazing fire. The druids all jumped to attention and Lugh got in first and asked,

“Who’s back?”

As the woman reached them, in total panic she shouted;

“Sach is back!”

“Where, where is he?” Turlough interrupted.

“He was outside my home just now!”

“Calm down.” Turlough said, as he placed his arm on the woman’s shoulder. The warriors and the remainder of the druids, except Lugh, ran to the woman’s house to search the area. Turlough brought the woman and children to his home and called his daughter. They sat around and when they came to a calm, Turlough asked the woman what had happened and the woman said;

“We were all asleep, as you know my husband is fighting for the king. My husband set a kind of trap, so that once anyone tugs the drape on the open passage a big pot will fall and make a racket. Well it fell alright, it must have hit him on the way down because it was his groan that woke me, as the pot hardly made too much noise. I lay there, thinking it was one of the neighbours outside, but when I looked over to my little girl the bastard had her, he had her in his arms and his hand over her little mouth! She was just waking up and started kicking hopelessly.” The woman broke down into tears again, “I jumped up and smacked him around the head with a stone, which I hold beside my sleeping space for safety. He fell to the side and dropped my girl, I told her to run and grabbed my babies, that was when we shouted out and you saw us.”

Turlough assured her it was alright now and they would catch him.

Some time had passed and the druids and warriors returned, he wasn’t to be seen anywhere. Turlough told the druids to call to each household and if nobody answers, go in and ask the fathers to help guard the village. They did as he asked and the whole village was awoken. They gathered outside, around the big fire in the centre, they were all there, everybody was safe, the only one who didn’t turn out was Cathasach’s wife, as was expected. The fathers, druids and warriors searched the whole village and its perimeters, to no avail. Turlough approached Cathasach’s home with two young druids, the one who was telling the story and his friend. They stopped at the opening and called Cathasach’s wife, no answer, so they called again, still no answer. The young druid who was telling the story around the fire was terrified. Turlough started walking into the house and the two young druids were directly behind him, when they stepped through, the little decrepit woman ran towards them with a broom, and begun to whack Turlough with it. As Turlough raised his arms to protect his head, he felt something wrap around his band and quickly retreat, he looked at his wrist and the sacred band was gone;

“I have it da, I have the band!”

At the same time someone else pulled Turlough to one side, and held a knife to his throat and roared,

“Stay back or I will kill him!” the young druid recognised the voice and shouted,

“Over here, it’s Cathasach!”

All the fathers and druids rushed to Cathasach’s home and surrounded it. Turlough was pushed towards the entrance by the man who still held the knife to his throat. The two young druids were told to retreat and to tell the crowd outside to let them through. The two young druids did as they were asked and the crowd opened up. Turlough was pushed through the opening, a man had one arm around Turlough’s neck and the other holding the point of a knife to Turlough’s jugular vein. His accomplice held tightly to one of Turlough’s arms and held his knife to the centre of Turlough’s throat. The three of them walked through the crowd, the two men had their hoods covering their faces and their heads faced down their faces could not be seen. They walked towards the big fire. Lugh assumed command and told everybody to part and allow them through. When they got close to the fire one of them lifted his head and pulled the hood to his forehead. He roared into the face of the mother of the young druid who had been telling the story. His face was greyish on one side and the reflection from the fire cast an orange glow on the other side, his eyes were bloodshot, one yellow the other matching the colour of his face, a pallid grey. The woman began screaming in terror. The whole crowd instantly backed off. He let out an inhuman roar, and the crowd stepped backwards. The other figure threw back his hood, and revealed himself as Sach. They stood at the fire and the crowd of women and children were ushered away to a safe distance. The druids, the fathers and every man from the village was standing back with weapons of all descriptions. They wielded axes, hammers, swords, spears, knives and stones.

Cathasach roared in a gnarling groan;

“We are going to leave now and if anyone follows us we will kill Turlough, then the ninth doctrine will be lost and gone for ever. However, he shall not be harmed if you all comply. I am the rightful keeper of the doctrines and I will learn the last doctrine from Turlough. Then I will take my rightful place, as the keeper of the doctrines. I will prove my sons innocence and return to take my place amongst you as the leader of the elder druids. As you already know only those who know all nine doctrines can summon the good spirits. That is what I will do here in front of you, so they can prove my sons’ innocence to you all.”

With that a woman shouted from the silenced crowd;

“Murderer, murderer!”

Cathasach released his grip on Turlough’s child throat and told his son to keep his knife to Turlough’s neck and begun walking towards the women and children, roaring;

“Who shouted that? Which one of you shouted that? Step forward now!” He marched towards them fuming in a rage and again he roared, this time even louder;

“Who was that, who shouted?”

He grabbed a little boy from the clutches of his mother, held him under his arm and put his knife to the boys heart and roared once more;

“Who shouted murderer, let yourself be known or I’ll kill this boy, then another and another until you step forward.”

The father of the child broke from the crowd, but the rest of the men restrained him. The child’s mother was screaming and crying frantically, while the other women huddled around her to try to calm her. Cathasach held the knife in a tight grip and assured them that he would plunge the knife into the child’s chest on the count of five. The child’s mother burst out;

“It was her, she shouted it, she shouted murderer!”

While pointing her finger at a women who was cowering in behind a group of women and children.

“Come forward.” He called to the mother, as he put the boy back on the ground. The boy scrambled into his mother’s arms, she wrapped her arms around her little boy with tears of joy. Then she realised what she had just done. Cathasach grabbed the woman by the arm and led her from the group of women and children. The mother of the boy cried out;

“Sorry, I’m really sorry Mags, I had to save my son!”

Mags husband and brothers made a dash from the crowd of men and were restrained once again, her husband shouted at Cathasach;

“Take me you coward, take me instead of her!”

Cathasach sniggered;

“Then I wouldn’t be doing justice, I would be doing what you are all trying to do to my son, blaming him when someone else committed the crime!”

He took the woman to the centre, where his son was holding Turlough. He grabbed her by the back of her hair as if holding her on display and said;

“This is an example of what happens when people get an idea into their heads, they talk about it and spread that word to those around them, and they spread that word to even more and more, and then next thing you know, everyone is of that belief. Here is where that stops, right here tonight we will stop this. If it were not for all that idle gossip we would be all searching for the real perpetrator, the one who did those bad deeds to those girls. My son is innocent but he will be deemed guilty because of people like this woman. People who build beliefs from assumptions.”

He told the woman to kneel in front of the fire, the orange and red sparks flickered before her face, and he asked her, while holding her tightly by her hair;

“Do you know for sure that my son did this crime?”

The woman shook her head, in a ‘no’ gesture, the tears dropped from her face and sizzled on the open fire;

“Speak up woman!” he shouted, “shout out the answer.”

She shouted out, “No, I…I don’t know for certain!”

He held the long blade in his hand and glided the cold metal over her cheek bone, the woman dropped her face ready for what was to come. Her husband screamed from the crowd;

“Noooooo! Do not do this Cathasach!”

Cathasach laughed and grabbed her long brown ponytail, raised the knife high above her head and in one quick motion, sliced clean through her hair and she fell to the floor screaming.

“Now go back to your family and do not speak ill of my son again, he deserves a chance to prove his innocence. Let this short haired woman be a constant reminder not to speak that of which you do not know!”

The woman stumbled to her feet, and fell into the crowd of women and children. Cathasach turned to the men and looked at the woman’s husband straight in the face and roared,

“You still want to stand in for your woman? Do you think my Sach is the murderer of that girl, do you?”

The man was about to answer when one of the druids put his hand over the man’s mouth and spoke instead of him;

“We don’t know for certain, Cathasach, only the real murderer knows for certain. We need to ascertain that your son was not involved and we cannot do that because he has been in hiding since. Let him be questioned by the high king and prove his innocence and we can look for the real culprit.”

Cathasach stopped for a moment and thought, he put his hand on his chin and screwed his face up. His eyes moved separately to each other, the yellow eye seemed to look around the crowd, while the grey remained fixated on the druid;

“Do you think that Sach is innocent or guilty, now do not lie to me and the rest of you druids, do you think he is guilty or innocent.”

The druid paused and silence befell as the crowds awaited his response;

“It looks like he has something to hide and because of that we are of the opinion that he could be guilty. If your son can prove his innocence I, for one, would vote you as the keeper of the doctrines. As I see it Cathasach, we all know you and your son, and have no proof that you have ever done any wrong. Even tonight I look at you, and you are trying to get a fair hearing for your son. We can plainly see that you are very angry, I would be too if I were you, you have not done any more than cut that woman’s hair, threaten a few people and hold Turlough hostage. If you let him go free, and have your son turn himself into the high king, he will be seen as facing those allegations, surely that would stand to his case, would it not? It would be plain to see that he had nothing to hide and we will support you both. The king is heavily relying upon our word, our statements, more than anyone else. We know the both of you better than anyone else and I’m sure he would agree with our words.”

With that the druid turned to the crowd and asked;

“Does anybody here know for certain that Sach was the perpetrator of the assault of the two girls?”

Nobody answered, and he turned back to face Cathasach and said;

“Nobody knows for certain, not even you, Cathasach.”

As Cathasach stood in front of them his face slowly began to return to its usual pale colour, and his eyes to their emerald green;

“That is true, nobody knows, the high king can’t convict him if nobody knows for certain.”

He began walking back towards Turlough and his son scratching his head, when he reached them he asked his son what he thought. His son said,

“You can’t do that da, he’ll have my head for sure. He will find me guilty, one way or another, especially if he hears about tonight and these lovely friends of ours, who are here tonight, will sell me out.”

Cathasach spoke up;

“No, they can’t sell you out if they don’t know for certain, how can they?”

“So, do you think the king will find me guilty, father.” Sach asked, earnestly.

“I can’t see how son, nobody, not even the high king, can say for certain that you are guilty. On those grounds you cannot be convicted.”

Sach finally agreed and they decided to release Turlough, Turlough asked them to return his band and Cathasach disagreed saying;

“I will hold the band until the hearing and when Sach is found innocent then we will have a vote amongst the druids to see who will be the keeper of the band.”

Turlough reminded him,

“The high king often asks, while in the company of the elder druids, to wear the band for a short time. If Sach was facing the high king, then we will all be summoned to Tara. The king may ask to borrow the band and if it is in your possession then who is going to pass it to him? If you pass it to him what will he be saying?”

Cathasach thought for a moment, then agreed to give the sacred band back to Turlough. Sach stood there listening, then held his arm up in the air and said;

“I think you are all forgetting something. I am the one holding this precious band you are referring to, and it’s my head that will be rolling if the king decides, so nobody gets the band. I also have no intention of speaking with the high king.”

All the men charged at Sach and Cathasach, they grabbed them, disarmed them and returned the band to Turlough. They tied them up and held them captive. A lot of the men wanted to slay the pair, while they had them captured. Turlough sent word, by his messenger, to the king and the following day the chariots arrived from Tara to take the prisoners and the elder druids to the high king. When they reached Tara, the prisoners were taken to a secure area and the hearing was set for the following day. The word had spread of the capturing and thousands headed to Tara to hear the outcome. The proceedings begun and unwillingly Sach faced the king and his council.

 

 

Chapter Four: The Court Summoning

 

As the druids sought to find the truth of the happenings regarding the two young girls, their mothers were called forth to give accounts of the injuries their daughters had sustained and the condition of the girls after the assault.

The crowded house broke into eruptions. Word quickly spread throughout the land, and men from all over gathered in an attempt to attack Sach. The king’s guards were forced to intervene and restrain some of the men as they sneered and attempted futile attacks. Íde, the six year old victim came forth, the pressure of the event was overwhelming. She clutched her mother tightly and her eyes did not leave the ground. The high king solemnly approached the mother and child and knelt to meet the girl:

“Do not fear the truths you speak, there is none in this land who can or will harm you further, that is a king’s promise to you young lady. Two of my finest warriors trained in the finest ways of this land have been chosen to lead thy family home and remain there as your ever-watching protectors. I wish for thee to recount the events of the dreadful night in question, if ye would”

The king’s personal counsellor Cáit, stood forward she firmly greeted the young girl’s family. She questioned the girl about the night of the attack. Silence befell the kingdom as the young girls trembling voice began to recollect the horrific events. There were whispers in the crowd, the king raised his hand and sternly hushed them.

“There is to be no interruptions, or there shall be prosecutions”

“Sáil and I were playing along the forest edge, we were playing dolls which mum had carved that morning for us. I made a long daisy chain and when I went to find more daisies, I saw someone in a hooded cape walking over to Sáil, I dropped my things and ran to her. He grabbed us by our arms and we could not get free. We were screaming and he hit Sáil hard and laughed. I began to cry and he mocked me. He dragged us deep into the woods further than mummy let us ever go. I told him it was dangerous and he smacked me. He pushed me to the ground and grabbed Sáil and told me I had better keep quiet. I couldn’t see our village, and my head hurt so much from being hit. He told me to keep quiet or he would ‘Finish us off’. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want him to hurt us more. He pulled Sáil further and further away, I could hear her scream but if I moved he would kill both of us. She stopped screaming after a while, and I thought maybe she got away. But suddenly he dragged her back, there was blood everywhere all over her dress, I think he tried to cut off her legs, he hurt her badly and she fell down. There was a big cut down her face and she looked so tired. Then he grabbed our hands and tied us together and said we were to tell nobody. He hit my head hard against hers and laughed again, and kicked us hard before finally letting us go.”

Sáils’ parents let out a roar of anguish as her mother fell to the ground crying. She lay there wailing, the king lifted his hand and they were escorted out of the room and sat down outside.

“I was in so much pain were he kicked me in the side that I could hardly walk and Sáil said she could not see properly, I don’t know why though. I couldn’t understand her slurred speech too well. I put my arm around her shoulder and she put her arm around mine and we walked back towards our village. Sáil said no more when we got to the opening of the forest.”

Íde broke down and finally allowed the tears to leave her over-filled eyes. Her father pulled her onto his knee and her mother weakly joined in and they remained together in front of the court in tears.

A cry came from the crowd:

“Burn the murdering, child rapist, bastard!”

The crowds’ voice gradually built up in tempo until everybody joined in and chanted with a unified voice of anger,

“Burn the beast, burn the beast, burn the beast!”

The king stood upright, he slowly walked towards Íde. He placed his hand on her shoulder and whispered “I deeply regret this happening” with his head down.

The crowd came to a calm and the council called Cathasach to be questioned. The crowd roared angrily,

“Truth, truth, truth!”

“Cathasach,” The counsellor said,

“Did your son murder Sáil and assault these girls?”

He answered “No.”

“Where was your son on the day in question?”

“At Uisneach with me.”

“Are there witnesses to verify this?”

“Yes, there are two”

“And may I ask where these ‘witnesses’ are now?”

“They are here.” He said, pointing his finger at two men close by. The two men were called to the stand and asked if they could clarify what Cathasach just said. They both agreed that Cathasach and his son ate breakfast with them and other men at Uisneach on the morning in question. They were then asked;

“What events took place after the meal?”

They said they left Uisneach after breakfast, as the two of them were travelling west and Cathasach and his son were still there when they left. When asked did they see them afterwards that day they replied that they had not.

Cathasach was then asked if he was with his son all day and he replied that he began drinking after breakfast and didn’t remember much of the day after that, but during the night he woke up to go to the toilet and he was sleeping beside him. Sach was then sent for, the guards took him from a hut nearby where he was detained until it was his turn to be questioned. The king’s guards formed a path either side of him and he was safely lead to the court. The crowd bellowed abuse and threw small rocks and other items from the ground at him. Some of the fathers went berserk, the father of the murdered girl pulled out a sword and shouted for everyone to get out of his way. He swung the sword ferociously around him shouting,

“He has to die, and I will be the one to kill this dirty bastard!”

Two of the kings swords men stood in his way with a sword in hand to protect themselves, while asking him to calm down. He wouldn’t calm down and in a rage charged at the guards. The guards defended themselves shouting;

“Ye had better calm down before we are forced to take action.”

The crowd pushed back forming a circle around them. The house was in chaos and the king stood, slowly raising one arm. The room was silenced.

The king called; “Proceed!”

Sach stood, chained, surrounded by guards, he held his head low. The crowd began whispering, and words such as ‘rapist’ and ‘murderer’ were to be heard as the volume steadily increased.

“Silence.” Bellowed the king.

The council then proceeded to question Sach.

“Where were you on the day the two girls were attacked?”

“With my father and some other men at Uisneach.” Sach replied, without taking his eyed from the floor.

“Were you there all day?”

“Yes.”

“Were you with your father all that day?”

“Not all day, I went fishing for dinner.”

“Did you leave after breakfast?”
“I stayed for a while after breakfast and when my father started drinking I went fishing.”

“How long were you gone and who did you go with?”

“I went on my own, and returned in the afternoon.”

“Who seen you returning?”
“Some men who were there with my father.”

“Where was your father?”

“He was sleeping, he’d been up half the night before drinking.”

“Did you awaken him?”

“No, are you joking, wake my father from sleep when he has been drinking, and he will fight you. I made that mistake once before.”

“Who are the other men who seen you coming back to Uisneach that afternoon?”

“They were two warriors who had left a Dubhlinn Chieftain, because their chief and his people converted to Christianity. They spoke of becoming druids, and they said that my father would introduce them to Turlough, to ask him if they could join the druidic order.”

“Do you know where they are now? Or their names?

“Their names have evaded me, however I do recall them saying they were to travel to Ulster or Connaught. They left Uisneach that evening”

“And who remained with thee?”

“Just my father.”

“We have established that the horrendous assault carried out on these two young girls took place soon after their lunch, just after midday. From what we have heard from you and the less than convincing tale of your father, you could have made it from Uisneach to the girls and back. You had enough time just about.”

“I caused no harm to those children, helpless little girls. Only an animal would do so.”

“Well that’s true.” The council said. “Only an animal could be heartless enough to harm such innocence without remorse.”

A man was being ushered through the crowd by a couple of guards, when another man stood and shouted,

“He tried to abduct my daughter the other night, ask him what he was doing then.”

The council turned to Sach,

“Is this true?”

“I did no such thing. I by no means tried to abduct this man’s daughter, instead, I was using her as a shield so they wouldn’t attack myself and my father, so I could have the chance to tell them the truth that it wasn’t me who carried out the attack.”

The guards lead the man up to the stand and presented him to the king.

“This man says he has evidence to give to the house.” One of the guards said to the king.

“Let him be heard.” The king said, in a stern voice.

The king’s voice was more fatigued than before, and he was obviously vexed by the day’s events and the ability of Sach to openly deny all accusations.

“Be seated.” The council said to the old man. The man limped onto the stage. The king asked if he was alright and the old man said,

“I have just walked most of the way from Uisneach, to give my evidence. Could I please have a drink of water, I’m on the verge of collapse.”

The king ordered two slaves to bring the old man food and water, he then told the old man to compose himself relax and eat and drink, that he could come back to the stand and tell his evidence after he had finished. The old man graciously bowed and thanked the king.

As he walked past Sach, he bent his head close to Sach’s face and stared at him for a moment. Sach covered his face with his hood. The old man limped away saying in a low voice repetitively,

“Evil, evil, evil.”

The old man stumbled away, looking back only once in disgust at the hooded figure.

The king looked bemused and called to Turlough to ask what happened in his village the other night, when Sach tried to abduct the little girl. Turlough told the house, exactly as the mother of the child had told him on the night. Then Turlough continued and told the king and the house how Cathasach and his son behaved that night.

The king was disgusted that anyone should dare to attack the keeper of the doctrines and steal the sacred band.

The old man returned to the stand after a short while, and began to tell the house his evidence.

He told the house that he lives at Uisneach and on the day in question he had seen and briefly spoken to Cathasach and his son;

“They were together that morning, I ate with them and the other men. This much is true. Sach did not return to Uisneach until dark, when he arrived he lit a fire and woke his father to eat with him. Cathasach was angry when he woke up, so I thought it best not to approach them, something seemed different about their appearances from that morning. When Cathasach got some more drink in him they had a row. Cathasach had roared at Sach asking him ‘What have you done that for?’ At the time it had made no sense. Sach told his father it was because she was related to Turlough, and Cathasach had angrily sneered at his son that ‘She is only a little child’”

The house gasped, realizing for the first time it was now a truth. The old man continued:

“Cathasach took a log of wood and begun beating his son with it and shouting that he would ‘burn in the fires of the underworld for this horrific deed’ and that ‘his soul had been taken by dark spirits’ He screamed at Sach how they were not to touch children, and he was disgusted by what he had reared before telling him to leave his sight and he no longer wanted to be near him.”

Sach’s face twisted under his hood, and Cathasach was becoming readily more agitated amongst the onlookers.

“Sach was already on his toes, he got on his horse and rode away. At the time I didn’t know what had happened, I only learned what really happened a couple of days ago and I only heard a while ago that he was being questioned for it. I got a ride on the back of a horse with my friend and walked the rest of the way so I could say what I heard.”

The crowd broke into an angry rage and repeatedly chanted,

“Burn the beast!”

The king turned to Sach and asked him if he had anything to say about these allegations.

Sach shouted out at the top of his voice;

“Those are lies, rotten lies, the old man doesn’t like me and would like to see me dead! He’s twisted I tell ye, I tell ye all. How do we know it was not him, who carried out this heinous crime?”

The king turned to Cathasach and asked him if what the old man said was true.

Cathasach shook his head in disbelief, shrugged his shoulders and replied;

“I really don’t know, I was too drunk to remember. Sach is my son.” And he turned his face to the ground, gripping his fist tight.

The king turned to the council and whispered in his ear, he is guilty. Then asked him to pass judgement. The council stood and heavily banged the table to bring order to the angry crowd, then he spoke,

“We have heard the evidence in this case and find Sach to be guilty. He will be put to death at Beltane and the family of the victims will decide as of how his death will be orchestrated.”

Sach jumped from his seat and swung his fists erratically at the guards trying to make his way towards the exit. The guards surrounded him and shielded against his rage until one guard stepped forward, he was quickly removed from the courthouse and taken away by several guards to be held captive. Cathasach pleaded innocent to not knowing what his son had done but the king ordered his immediate exile from the druidic order. It was announced illegal for him to attempt to partake in any rituals, ceremonies or festivals. He was disowned and his rank as elder druid withdrawn. The king asked that Cathasach be taken far away from Uisneach that evening and the elders agreed. A charioteer was ordered and the elders gathered and watched as Cathasach was removed immediately, to a location that was left unknown.

Please give some feedback.

I will be publishing the novel later this year.

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