So time for some more fiction. I’ve been thinking and working on this for a while now and there’s probably more to it than there is on this page. (As in I can feel a further story coming up!) But I need to confirm here at the start: this is NOT historically accurate, this is chock full of UPG, it is not not not real or Brig’s thoughts or anything like that. This is my version of this story and should not be used as lore or the basis of a practice!!
Of course I married him willingly! You’ve met my Da right? Do you think he’d force me into something?
I mean, ok, love wasn’t exactly foremost in my mind. He was Formorian, we thought, as a nation, as a people, we thought it might help ease some of the burdens we were dealing with. If they were dealing with one of their own, maybe they’d look at things differently. It didn’t work out that way though.
Oh he was fine to look at, but sure they all look the same in the dark. Still, I had the children to make up for the disappointment in their making. Yes, children. Ruadhán might be the most famous, but there were others. Look, it’s best I start at the beginning here, otherwise you’re going to have the story as tangled and confused as everyone else.
It was a fine spring day when I first saw him. Doubtless, I’d seen him before, there aren’t that many people around, but that was the first time I’d noticed him. Da had warned me he was coming and said he wouldn’t oppose it, if I chose to marry him. Of course, with his rank, and mine, it would need to be a full marriage. You can’t half-marry a land. Full or nothing with a land. He needed me to be king, and he knew it. It poisoned the match in ways I didn’t realise until much later, but at the start, he was courteous, he was well-mannered, he carried himself well. In the circumstances, there was no reason not to.
It wasn’t as if there was a line of suitors looking for my hand. Between Ma, and Da, and myself, we’d managed to scare them off pretty well. Anyway, like I said, he wasn’t offensive and some good came of it all in the end….
We married at Bealtaine. Bright, sunny, warm. People were happy, it was a grand feast all the same. Da laid on a good spread. (Well he kinda had to really, with being who he is). He called the sun, spoke to the moon and the stars, he called the cattle, called the pigs, called the fruits and the green things. All in all, it was a grand feast. Oh, yes, there was wine. And ale. Plenty of both. The big man wouldn’t have guests without feeding and wetting them. There were bards, and file, and harps, and songs, dancing and fighting, contests and wagers. People had a time of it.
That night, I got the first taste. He was fairly domineering. Now, I was no shy virgin, but sure why would I be? It appeared he thought I might be and was disappointed. That’s what he said. He’s lucky I was reared as well as I was – any timid woman being greeted like that might have shook in her shoes. I, on the other hand… well he learned a few things that night himself. In public, he managed to keep himself in check and he was never violent towards me – he knew better. Sure I was better with a spear than he was! I made the things, he merely used them!
But I saw how he treated the land, and it was as he treated me. Poor judgement? Oh yes, Da played him well that time, good advice he got there, but my poor land was suffering under him, no more than her people were. I saw it all, watched and remembered.
The children arrived, as children do. They spent time with their grandparents on both sides, it was important to me that they knew all that they were. My Ruadhán was the eldest, and ended up being the most famous, bad cess to them that persuaded him to that course of action. But my girls, oh my girls, were my joy. Their father didn’t think much to them, at least not until he thought they were marriageable. And thankfully by that stage, he was occupied with other things.
Boy or girl, I taught them as I’d been taught: courtesy and manners, words first, fists as a last resort, how to hunt, how to grow, how to tend the land and its people. As a young boy, Ruadhán loved to spend time with us, his Ma and his sisters. We could wander as we liked near to home, since the little ones’ legs didn’t take them too far really and I couldn’t carry all 5 of them together! I did remember the tricks Da used to use on us as children though and the folds in the land got a bit shorter sometimes for tired legs on the way home. “There’s no point in completely discouraging the children, pet”, he’d say to me, “They might as well grow thinking they’re capable of more than they are, that way it’ll be harder to persuade them otherwise.”
I mean, he was right, telling my daughters they couldn’t do something is still a sure fire way to ensure they will do it, regardless of cost. I sometimes worry about that, maybe we should’ve given them a bit more sense of what’s possible rather than giving them the assumption they can do anything. They’re happy though, and fierce fighters, although mostly with words, thankfully, rather than weapons, one child lost to violence is enough for any parent. I’ve lost track of the genealogy now of course, but there are folk in the modern world I’d like to think are related to them. They certainly show some of the same traits…
I spent my days split between teaching the children and working in the forge when they were small. Even Ruadhán loved to spend time in the forge, so many bright colours, and let’s face it, on a dreary, miserable day, only in the forge could we get warm. Bres was always on at me to turn my mind to more feminine pursuits. The first time he suggested it, I laughed in his face. Not the most diplomatic of moves, I have to admit, but I honestly thought he was joking. I worked in the dairy, I worked with the cattle, I kept the hearth fires going – how much more feminine could I be? But of course, he meant giving up the forge. I told him eventually it would mean giving up life to give up the forge.
I don’t think he ever understood how true that was. Fire is in my blood, same as water, but it’s not always the tame fire and the tame water. The forge heats a part of my soul he never touched, so he couldn’t understand it. He only knew that once again, I defied his wishes. We were a marriage of equals though – he had no right to rule over me. In fact without me, he was no king.
On the day of the battle, I was working with the wounded in the back. The three older girls were with me, the youngest one was with her grandmother with the herds. I think we had to bribe her with a new boar pup to get her to stay behind! When Da saw that, he did some muttering I can tell you. Da and boars never really got on…
Still, if I had known what was happening, I would’ve spoken to my son, spoken to him about the course of action and the likely outcomes. But I didn’t. He was growing away from me then, seeing the superiority of his father’s people, seeing the advantages of moving to that side of the conflict. He was too young yet to make the choice, but we could all see the way he was leaning. Still a child though, which was why he could move between the camps so easily. I heard the commotion, and heard my boy’s cry as the spear entered his body. I ran of course, but we were all too late. Goibhniú was devastated – killing a child is no small thing – but nothing could reach me that day. They say I invented keening and the whistle. I don’t know what I did, all I knew was the pain inside me had to come out.
He was my Ruadhán, my bright and shining boy. He couldn’t speak and I held his head as the light faded from his eyes. A part of me went with him. It was like a giant hand clutched my heart and squeezed and the pain had to come out – sound was the only way. The girls were there with me, screaming with me – people forget that, that they saw their brother die. After, I was so glad I’d sent the youngest away.
No, their names are their own and not for me to share. If they wish it, they will make them known to people.
To lose any child is a tragedy; to lose one still not grown is worse, I think. Although, what parent ever 100% thinks their child is grown? (I know Da surely doesn’t!)
Well after that, I wasn’t going to stay there. One child lost to that war was enough. I picked up the girls and got back home. Da knew, Ma knew, they understood. They were parents too, even if we were all grown at that stage. I got all my girls home. Oh, some of his men may have tried to stop me, but my own people got me through. No deaths on that score, but it was a struggle. Some rubbish about supporting my husband as I should. Christianity didn’t invent misogyny y’know.
We got home, I was in a panic, I wanted to run, fast and far as I could, but wiser heads than mine prevailed over me. We had some horses, we packed up food and clothes and things we needed to bring with us. There were a number of dolls included in the essentials as I recall, but they were important too. The girls and I left the war, left the conflict behind us. Da had long ago made sure there were places I could bring them that were easily defended and protected. Even with the small band of my own people we could spare from the fight, we had enough and loyal warriors all. Plus, enough women in the group to ensure my girls grew up thinking of hunting and fighting as they did cleaning and cooking – something that was needful, with varying regularity, part of life.
They were well-trained in the end and popped up all over the place when they were needed. They knew their father, knew their history, but most importantly they survived and they grew. And in the end, what else does a mother need.
But this is meant to be my story, is it? Well, the marriage was over – eventually. It was definitely over by the time he was ended, but by then, I’d say he’d forgotten about it anyway, having been dethroned so to speak. Me? Well, I had the girls of course and I didn’t turn into a Christian nun for many centuries afterwards, sure. I lived my life. I suggest you do the same.