Clang! A mountain of falling goblets and dirty silver platters pierces my ear drums and I instantly wake. As the pungent odor of boar wafts through the air and my eye catches a beam of the mid-morning sun, I realize that I failed to return from the mead hall. That could prove to be a costly mistake. “This isn’t an inn. Cathasach,” said Judoc, my friend, the hall’s keeper and, fortunately, Amoorhi’s finest chef. “Have clemency, brother! || am still weary from last evening’s battle against the Mac Feltin. ”
“Ha! ” he retorted. You fought no harder than I did, and I left the hall with my sling just as our victory horns sounded. ” Little did he know that my role in battle and the events that caused it lay at the very core. Gwytheyrn’s workshop is where it all began just the night before. Having been under his mentorship since before I could remember, Gwytheyrn was practically my father. A burly, stoic figure, his hair was but a few wisps of silver reaching in various directions, like stomping on ash. From behind those beady eyes he seemed to know everything: what was the problem or what was the truth.
Above everything else that characterized Gwytheyrn, however, was his unrivaled talent and passion as a blacksmith, both bestowed upon him by the gods. As I was assisting him forge a shield, he heaved a loud breath and turned towards the window. “Cathasach, I’m growing older now,” he sighed. I replied, “That’s been the case for quite some time. ” I got a hearty laugh out of him, but it was short-lived. “I believe you have been training to the fullest extent. I know of no skills, tools, or methods that you have yet to learn, no smithing feats we have not both accomplished on our own.
And for that, I could not have asked for a better student. As a reward, which you have proven worthy of twice over, I wish to hand over the shop to you. ” I was left utterly speechless. My teacher and role model just presented everything I toiled so hard for and desired right at my feet. As a rare smile crept across his grizzled face, finally returned to reality and gleefully accepted. “Excellent. ” Gwytheyrn said. “Let us go! Ask Judoc to prepare a feast for all of Amoorhi to celebrate his momentous day. Have Aedh come and-“The Mac Feltin’s harrowing war cry interrupted the planning.
A few of the sentry cus then raced by ferociously barking, their heavy leather leashes leaving a trail lit only by the moon. Gwytheyrn and I grabbed our swords and followed the trail to scour the tuath for intruders. It wasn’t until we met and joined a search party led by Aedh that someone saw a mysterious silhouette behind a home. “If you wish to return home alive, you will not move,” Gwytheyrn stated in a tone nearly shaking with rage. The rival warrior slowly turned to face us. A sinister grin was fixed upon her face, yet she gripped her sword so that her knuckles turned white. I’m sorry. Is this not the house of my brother? He’s a kind fellow. About yea high-. ” Aedh lost his temper. “Enough of your lies! For what reason do you actually cross enemy boundaries,” he roared. “We are simply here to appropriate our tribal belongings. What is crafted by Mac Feltin is solely for Mac Feltin. ” She glanced over to our general direction. While this happened, my mentor swung me around and looked at me squarely. “Finish the shield. ” Gwytheyrn whispered franticly. “Take a hound. Run to the shop. The shield must be completed. I will distract them.
Go, great student. ” “Who is ‘we’, stranger? There is but one hopeless wanderer that I see. ” Aedh replied to the warrior. At that moment, Gwytheyrn pushed me aside, drew his weapon, and lunged towards the woman. The two traded a few unsuccessful blows before the Mac Feltin menace let out another raucous shriek. That shriek brought a resonance of many more from behind the hill that divided the Amoorhi and Mac Feltin clans, coupled with a thundering pack of footsteps and noisy armor. We were in the epicenter of a brutal ambush. The battle had commenced.
Thad yet to move from the pure shock of both my father’s actions and Morrigan’s merciless appetite for war this evening. The search party darted into an impromptu defense strategy before I came to my senses, attached a sentry’s leash to my belt and bolted for my forgery. Dodging men and women for whose side I could not tell, I finally reached our unfinished project. The shield was lying on the table, lacking the handling straps and decoration. The gold finish gleamed as I lit a torch to closely examine what had yet to be done. Gwytheyrn had appended two knobs on either side, a rare feature for an Amoorhi shield.
As I scrawled my untidy signature down the center, I listened to the furious battle take place outside and hastened my work. Usually my mentor would add battle designs befitting of each warrior, but I could not conceive for myself. Inspiration struck when I saw that my only hope for protection was resting beside the door. After painting the ferocious heads of four cus and handles, my first project as Amoorhi’s blacksmith was finished. I picked the shield up and sprinted to find Gwytheyrn. Turning a corner, I ran into an enemy warrior wielding a bow. Quicker than the wind he pulled an arrow from his quiver, drew it back, and fired.
I was too slow to react. I flinched and prayed that he missed until I heard the thump of the arrow hitting my shield. || slowly opened my eyes and, to his and my astonishment, I was completely unharmed. I certainly didn’t fall into defensive stance in time, and he couldn’t have missed. I took advantage of my second chance and dealt him a quick blow, dropping him to the ground. Finally, I caught the familiar sight of where the conflict began earlier in the evening. The main fight must have moved farther into the village, as nobody was around save one or two unlucky corpses.
I turned to go until a large, maimed figure painfully grunted out my name. I kneeled closer to the lump and recognized the silver locks tainted by a deep crimson. “Gwytheyrn,” I cried, “how did this happen? Why has this night been cursed by death and warfare? ” His voice was hoarse and pushed my effortful breaths. “The diversion could not have come without a price. It is of no matter now. What is vital is that you must keep that shield. ” “For what reason do the Mac Feltin have to attack us? The intruder claimed that a Mac Feltin belonging lay here, but that is untrue.
We haven’t ransacked their colony in weeks. ” I looked into his beady eyes, and for once I was able to see what was inside. It was guilt. “In a way, the Mac Feltin maiden speaks the truth. I have not been training you, but raising you. You are my son, and your mother and I were once part of the Mac Feltin tribe. That is, until one fateful day. We were locked in battle, back when the hatred between the two tribes was peaked. A wild arrow struck your mother, leaving her severely wounded. I stopped and tried desperately to get help for her, but no one from our tribe was willing.
She was a lost cause, they claimed. Fortunately, an Amoorhi warrior came to our aid. He looked over your mother’s injury, and promised that while she may not survive, he could help sustain her. We would have to come to his home, however. Seeing no other way, we accepted his help. You were not but a wee child then. The four of us crept back to the Amoorhi village, where he cleaned your mother’s cut. Sadly, the arrow pierced her too deeply, and she died the next day. I was angry and resentful at the ruthless people that were once my neighbors and brothers, so we never returned.
Aedh, who had just became the bretwalda then, agreed to let me stay so long as | could assist the tribe. I was a good blacksmith, so I was able to keep the compromise. The Mac Feltins have found us, and seek vengeance. But do not allow it, Cathasach. Use this shield, and you will never be struck. ” I would be taken aback, like I had so many times on that tragic, confusing day, but I couldn’t afford to pause. “Father.. I have to get you help! ” | said between sobs. “I will be fine, boy. Thave a safe haven now that the battle rages elsewhere. We cannot lose more innocent villagers. Go! ” he replied sternly.