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.
From Part 9
We last left Cadeyrn surrounded by the army of Edmund of Wales. With no way to escape, Edmund makes Cadeyrn a generous offer, but it didn't work out the way Cadeyrn had hoped. Here's a short excerpt from Part 9 before we jump into Part 10.
"Surrender" was the command that Edmund gave. I could only laugh. Surely this imbecile from across the sea knew I would never surrender. Surrender was not something I would ever consider. At my laugh, one of his soldiers struck me hard on the top of the head. I fell to the ground.
Edmund repeated his directive to which I replied the simple word, "Never." He then suggested I send him my best warrior. He would send forth his finest. The two would fight until only one remained with life in him. The victor would then take the opposing army captive and work them as slaves in the fields surrounding the ringfort.
It would seem a fair offer. Although I knew of Edmund's persistence and cunning, I knew my man would rule his. Edmund may have appeared to be a great leader, but his men were poorly trained, I chose my best, Suibhne. He was excellent with the sword. He could remove a man's head with one stroke. But the spear - the spear would surely take his opponent before he got close enough to kill with the sword.
A clap of thunder and streaking lightning in the far distance startled all. A storm was brewing and heading our way. The two men went to the fight. Suibhne quickly and skillfully removed the spear from his opponent leaving him with a sword only. Still, Suibhne's enemy fought valiantly. The storm was fast approaching.
The two continued as a heavy rain began to fall. Within a short time, the grass became slick and slippery mud swept in where the warrior's steps had claimed the grass. Suibhne fell on the wet sod and his opponent not so gently pushed the point of his sword into Suibhne's throat. Suibhne could not move. Something had gone terribly wrong.
Edmund's man stood tall gathering praise of the troop before he would plunge Suibhne through with the sword. He momentarily lifted his sword high in victory. A thunderous crack and a flash of great light sent Edmund's men to the ground. Suibhne's opponent? The lightning flowed so swiftly through his sword to his hand. It did not take more than the flash itself to eliminate him. Suibhne rose to claim the victory. Although the enemy was already dead, Suibhne plunged him through with his spear.
Edmund's men turned and ran - and ran. We ran faster. The battle became very difficult as the men ran for the deep wood and the hill-country. Every tree became a threat. As we passed, there may be someone on the other side to attack us. Or perhaps they would be hiding high in the tree, covered by lush, green leaves waiting to pounce on us as we traveled through. The large rocks made great places of hiding and protection for his men. The fight was on but not in a way we anticipated.
My men were exhausted from effort and fear, and night would cover the forest soon. Still, the battle raged on. It seemed that for every man we eliminated, two of ours were taken down. There would be no turning back this time. If it needed to be, we would fight to the death until no one remained.
The rain had stopped, and the sun began to shine through just before setting. Once again, Lugh smiled on me. The breaking clouds and the face of Lugh gave us the confidence we needed to press on. And press on, we did. With our new invigoration, we overtook the enemy and drove them into the ground - all but Edmund. He would be mine.
We came face to face in a small clearing. I instructed my army that if I should die, they were not to kill Edmund but take him captive that he should live out the rest of his days as their prisoner. Of course, I had no thoughts of dying. Lugh had brought me through this to be the victor. I would surely pierce through Edmund to the ground.
I was weary from the fight. My arms and shoulders ached. My legs felt like water. As I approached Edmund, I fell to the ground. My body was weak, but my mind was strong. I lay still upon the wet grass. Edmund drew closer, ready to put an end to me with his spear. I waited.
Closer and closer he came. At the right moment, I surprised him by taking my spear and striking him hard at the ankles. He quickly fell to the sod as I arose and plunged my spear deep into his heart. I fell back to the ground in weakness, but again, Lugh strengthened me to defeat the enemy.
It took many hours to return to the ringfort. We would lodge there for a few days to nurse our wounds, then make our way back north. I was indeed looking forward to some much-needed rest and healing.
As we marched on, we came to the deep wood Cathail and myself claimed for our own. I sent the men on telling them I would return in three days. I would spend my recovery with Cathail.
The men continued on and I made my way into the forest seeking refuge with Cathail at our special place. Although I wanted her to remain with me in the northern kingdom, I was sure I would find her near the stream we claimed as our own years before.
I came to the stream. She was not there. She no doubt was picking berries deeper in the wood. I traveled on. I could not find her. I called for her. My voice filled the forest air. No answer came forth. I looked for signs of her dwelling there. There were none. I realized she was not here, nor had she been. So where was the wife of my youth? Where was the reward of my effort that king Fergus gave to me?
The other men were already almost home, going back to their wives and families. Me - I was left alone in the deep wood, wounded and weary. It became needful for me to find my Cathail, but I didn't know where to look. I decided to set out for the hill-country.
My battle wounds were quite painful. I wished for Cathail to ease them. One thought would not leave my mind. What if Cathail had met with unfortunate circumstances? What if she had passed over to Mag Mell? All these thoughts tormented my mind and the wounds tormented my body.
The night was beginning to fall. I knew my search would needs be delayed until the morning light. I felt safe knowing Edmund had been done away with. I had spent many a night alone in the hill-country and the deep wood. Still, I sensed something I had sensed before - once before.
A strange feeling of fear overtook my being. There was something in the air - something dangerous. Something threatening. Something I couldn't see with my eyes.
Every sound was magnified. Was someone creeping? Were wild beasts searching out a prey? Were bandits hiding nearby waiting for the opportune moment to steal what little I had on my person? Were they of the murderous kind?
I listened through the night. Every good soldier is alert and pays attention to his surroundings. The more I listened, the more I became frightful. I only laid still and quiet, barely breathing lest I make a sound and give myself away.
© 2019 William Kovacic