Cadeyrn's Tale - Part 5
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.
- Cadeyrn's Tale - Part 4
The good fortune of Cadeyrn is running out. With nowhere to turn, what will his end be?
From Part 4
We last left Cadeyrn hunting the enemy, Aedan, to avenge him for the harm he brought to Cathail. Cadeyrn and his men are left in the hill country as a fire burns toward them with no escape in sight.
The mist of the morning left his heavy footprints in the dampened ground. We followed on. Perhaps it was the Druid power. Perhaps it was our own carelessness. Perhaps it was his cunning. But after a few hours of time, we realized we were being led in circles. We had crossed this path before. Our many footprints erased the steps of Aedan. Yes, we had been tricked - somehow. But we would be denied. We would find and eliminate the enemy at all cost.
We stopped for a moment to reassess our position. In the quiet of the moment, we felt a tremor beneath our feet. The earth was quaking gently, not violently as at other times. Then it stopped. A wind began to blow through the trees and seemingly refreshed us. But then we noticed below us flames of fire. We stared in horror. The flames were moving upward toward us. We were trapped for the only place to go was up. We could not retreat.
We continued up the hill in the deep wood hoping that somehow Lugh would extinguish the fire. The gods of earth, wind, and fire were against us. The earth gave her warning. The wind, we mistakenly took as a blessing, all the while stirring the flames of fire to more activity. Aedan was nowhere in sight.
We prayed to Lugh as the glaring brightness of his sun beamed down upon us. Our desire was that if we must die in this traveling inferno, that Aedan would also meet the same fate.
From far below, I believe amidst the flames, I heard a voice shouting. It was the voice of Aedan. "You have not won this battle, Cadeyrn. I will have the last word."
We continued climbing upward, hoping against hope the fire would not reach us. My ears did deceive me for stepping from behind a willow, perhaps 30 cubits ahead, stood my adversary. I ordered the men to stand back. This was the moment I had waited for. It would be just me and Aedan, and I would surely pierce him through with my spear.
A very large man, I would use his great size against him. I was quicker and more agile. Surely, this war would be over soon. We continued for quite some time to battle each other. All the while, the flames were growing closer. I shouted to the men to move on lest they be consumed in the rapidly approaching inferno. Aedan and I would fight to the end. Perhaps the fire would overtake both of us. If not, only one would stand the victor. I uttered a silent prayer to Lugh.
I was growing tired, my arms heavy from wielding the spear and sword. The fire as it neared begged me to fight on. I lunged at Aedan with all my might, but before I was able to cut him deep, he fell - dead. From behind an arrow had entered his back. I commanded my men that I, and I alone, would take down Aedan. There was to be no interference. The question was, who disobeyed my orders? I could not believe it.
From within the shadows stepped Cathail. "Cathal, what are you doing here? You should be safe behind our castle walls. You have put yourself in grave danger. Aedan may have killed you. Still, the fire rages on. We must hurry."
Her blue warpaint smeared as she brushed tears from her eyes. "If you will not be my protector at the castle, I will fight with you side by side. We are one."
"No, you must remain behind. I will have it no other way. I will fight for both of us, but you must remain safe behind the palace walls."
Smoke began to fill the air as the fire raged closer. We whispered another prayer to Lugh as we hurried up through the deep wood of the hill country. Time was fast passing, and the flames were beginning to overtake us. Speed was necessary. Smoke covered the sky in thick billows. It seemed as if the sun of Lugh had disappeared and the night was upon us. We hurried on.
We made it to the top and prepared to make the descent down the other side. As I looked down I could see a ring of fire beginning to burn at the bottom of the hill. It only took a moment for me to realize we were surrounded. There was no way to escape.
Then what I heard chilled me to the bone. I heard the voices of my men screaming in pain. The screaming faded as one by one they succumbed to the flames. All was silent except for the roar of the fire.
The tongues of fire licked the ground behind and afore. There was no higher ground to claim. The flames behind us were chasing us into the flames below. This was not the way I envisioned my life ending. I would have rather died a brave warrior at the hand of Aedan. It appeared the god of fire would have us.
Then I began to think. If the god of fire was against us, maybe the gods of the earth would protect us. If I could but dig a trench deep enough for Cathail and myself, perhaps the fire would pass over. I began to dig furiously in the dirt. I realized two things. One, the fire was approaching much too fast, and secondly, the underbrush would have to be cleared first. There simply wasn't enough time.
Maybe the gods of the wind would answer and send the flames in another direction that would allow our escape. But the truth was, the wind seemed to be acting in tandem with the fire. The wind was causing the fire to chase us even faster.
Then a miracle, I believe it was from Lugh. I noticed wetness falling from the sky. It had begun to rain and within minutes we were in the middle of a huge deluge. I had never seen the rain fall with such ferociousness. In little time we were standing in water up to our ankles. The waters ran down the hillside in torrents causing the flames to be put to rest. We danced and praised the great Lugh, god of the sun, for hiding his face and bringing the rain for our salvation.
We carefully walked down the other side. The bodies of six of my men lay charred and still in the ash and mud. My prayer was that Lugh had rescued the other men. We gave them a proper burial in that same ash and mud where they so bravely gave their life.
Cathail and I made our way back to the castle. It took days. Our energy and strength were much depleted. We collapsed inside the town gate, and what a wonderful surprise! We were carried to the castle by the rest of my men. They had made it safely home, all but the six. Aedan had been eliminated. Perhaps now I could rest.
That was not to be the case. Caiside, my most reliable soldier, came to me privately. "Oh, King! The land north of Munster is ready to be taken. The king has taken ill and there is no one to lead them into battle. We must leave tonight."
"Yes, tonight," I said. Make ready. We shall leave at dusk. The moon will light our way."
I, the great Cadeyrn, had taken much land, but there was more to take, and it was there for the taking. This would be an easy battle, a quick battle. My Cathail did not see it that way. She wanted to retire to our place in the deep wood by the stream.
I thought back to our first days together in the wood. That stream - so blue and refreshing curving its way through the hillside. The freshest of fresh water, for bathing, for swimming, for fishing. The deep greens of the forest throwing shade over our parcel. The sunlight flitting in and out as a gentle breeze moved the leaves on the ash trees with ease. The quiet, the solitude. It was a gift from the gods.
Truly, this was a place to retire when the body ached from battle. A place where wounds could heal. A place to forget the blood that dripped from my hands. It seemed inviting, but we needed to take advantage of the situation. Yes, We shall leave at dusk. The moon will light our way.
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© 2019 William Kovacic