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Cadeyrn's Tale - Part 1

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Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental

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From the Author

I invite you to come along with me as we observe the life of Cadeyrn, a 5th-century shepherd turned king in Celtic Ireland. For those of you familiar with the Bible, you will see similarities in the upbringing and the life of Cadeyrn.

The time of Celtic Ireland was quite different than the times we know today. The beauty of the land is stunning today, but even more so then. Tranquility not known in today's world was mixed with kings battling to possess that beautiful land.

The moors lay bare except for the occasional rush of chariot wheels to battle. A peaceful land, but yet an embattled land. The greenery of the mountains contrasted sharply with the blood upon the moors.

Come along with me on this journey. I could tell you his story, but I'll let Cadeyrn do it himself.

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If I had known then what I know now, maybe things would be different. But I did not and they are not. My life has been a result of every choice I made. All of life is a choice. We live, and yes, we die by our choices.

The air is different tonight. A strange scent wafts on the breeze - not the smell of victory, nor the smell of defeat. Tomorrow we will set the battle in array. The village will be mine, just like the many others I have taken. Yet there is a loneliness that rides on the breeze gently stirring the ash trees on the hill. The hill - I will come to that, but I remember the night it all began.

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The day was long and I called the few sheep to follow me home. My family was poor, but somehow we were always cared for. The trip from the grazing land back to the farm took many hours, and by the time I returned home, I was fairly exhausted. A quiet breeze floated through the valley, much like tonight. Perhaps that is what I smell in the breeze now - a reminder of home, a sense of new beginnings, an anticipation of the rewards of battle. Perhaps the wind reminds of where I have begun, where I have been, and where I have arrived. Something mysterious rides on the wind.

I slowly made my way up the path leading to the sheepcote with all twelve sheep following close behind. The scent of the breeze now changed to that of lamb stew. I was tired but much more was I hungry. I quickly settled the sheep for the night and ran to the table. Mother met me at the door.

"Son, we have been waiting for you. Why have you been so long today?"

"A red fox startled the sheep. I thought I would never be able to settle them again."

With a knowing smile, she asked, "And what was the fate of the fox, my son?" I pulled the carcass from behind my back for my mother to see.

"Wonderful, my child! It shall be our meal tomorrow. Now shall we eat?"

I sat at the large, oak table surrounded by the rest of my family - my six brothers and three sisters, Mother and Father. I fairly put the spoon to my mouth when there was a knock at the door. Cellach, my eldest brother excused himself and walked to the door. Upon opening the door, he discovered the king's messenger.

"I am here on business of the king. The king requests Cadeyrn to appear before him immediately."

My first thought was that of surprise. Why would the king be calling for me? Then fear crept in. My meal of stew would have to wait. When the king or his Druid priests spoke, swift and complete obedience is expected. The king's order was urgent, and I immediately followed on through the night. By daybreak, the castle was in view.

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Bran, the king's messenger, led me to the throne room. There before King Fergus, I prostrated myself. The king spoke. "Arise, my servant, There is no need for formality. Cadeyrn, this time tomorrow, you shall lead my men into battle. You will take the village and plunder it, and extend my rule."

"Oh, my lord, how shall I do this? I am but a poor shepherd of the moors. I know nothing of battle. I know nothing of leading men. Surely, my lord, there is a better choice."

The king smiled. I could not tell if it was a smile of ridicule and disdain or a smile of secret confidence I knew nothing of. My concerns were soon answered.

"I have seen you leading your flock on the moors. I have seen how you single-handedly destroyed that red fox and gathered your sheep once again. Cadeyrn, men are much like sheep. You do know how to battle, and you do know how to lead. You are the one I have chosen to lead my men into battle - and when you return, the victor shall be rewarded with much of the spoil, and you shall marry my daughter, Cathail, and you shall become son-in-law to the king.

"Retire to the sleeping chamber. The men are already in the field. But you, the new commander, must get a restful night of sleep. You will leave at daybreak."

How was I to get a restful night of sleep? I prayed to the gods for help. No help was forthcoming as I lay awake through the night waiting for dawn.

Bran came to rouse me. It was time to charge the village as they slept. The king's own priest blessed me before we left on this dangerous mission. I knew the Druid gods would be with me. Lugh was all-powerful and worth every effort of war to honor him. He would grant the victory to bring glory to his name.

The battle was planned to be fought and victory secured just before the Feast of Lughnasa. The feast ushers in the autumn, and if Lugh is pleased, he will allow a great crop to be gathered. Victory was imperative, and every fighting soul trusted in the name of Lugh to bring the victory. We knew as we set out that we would return as conquering men.

The footmen began their march toward the village. Many villages were interspersed amongst the hill country. We had our eye on only one. The march up the hill would be a most difficult task, but we knew Lugh would strengthen us.

Following the footmen, the chariots rumbled on. The horses neighed as they drew the heavy chariots of iron. The hill presented an even more difficult obstacle for the chariots. As we approached the village, the footmen parted left and right, and the chariots plowed through charging the sleeping village. The footmen then followed close behind to assure no one would escape. The rattling carriages awoke some of the citizens, but it was too late. We pillaged the town and took the best of everything. We burned the rest.

Returning to the village was much faster than the ascent even though the chariots were filled with the wealth of the village. Some held gold and silver. Others were filled with precious jewels. Still, others carried goodly garments of the finest material.

With the chariots leading the way, the captives followed close behind. Most of the men were lost in battle, but we spared the village king and his priest. They would now serve King Fergus. The women and children would become slaves of my master.

We returned to the castle and to a throng of shouting people. All were praising the great Lugh - and me, Cadeyrn. My life had changed in one day, overnight, in an instant, from a poor peasant boy to a hero of the land - from a taste of innocence to the taste of blood.

The king stepped from the crowd and walked toward me, his daughter Cathail on his right arm. "As promised, my wonderful Cadeyrn, here is the reward of your effort. I give you my daughter to wife." The king placed the hand of Cathail in mine.

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I first looked the king in his eyes. Then I bowed. "My, lord, may I have leave of you so that I may enjoy your generous gift. We shall retire to the forest and make a home in the deep wood."

"Yes," he answered. But you must return in three days. There are more villages to take and more rewards to claim. You may go with my blessing."

We dreamed of the days ahead. We dreamed of little ones dancing around the evening fire. We dreamed of befriending the fairies and the wee folk of the forest. We enjoyed making plans of the time to come. We imagined ourselves settling into later years together. I would not always be the king's warrior but would return to the simple life of shepherd of the open field. We would raise our own food, plant our own crops, 'fend for ourselves against the bears and other wild beasts of the field.

A stream running through the trees traced its way through the woods. This would be the perfect place for us to dwell. All the cool water we could drink. All the fresh fish we could eat. Sheltered by the trees, we would be protected from the storms that so often crept in unaware. In time, we would clear a parcel of land for the sheep.

But dreams are shaken too easily. it was time to return to do the king's bidding.

We would not know what we were returning to until we returned. A feeling of grief and guilt covered me. If I had been here, this would not have happened.

© 2019 William Kovacic

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