A Celtic tale of love and loss, deception and deceit. Part IV.
Kurithir has had a series of dreams or visions. So clear are these to him that he felt compelled to return. What will he find?
Into the deep harbour of the cliffs he sailed on a fair morning and men with shields and spears watched him as he climbed the heights. Flann was first with the greeting.
“The Norseman raiders of Lochlan came down the coast to wreck and plunder,” he said. “No roof is left of Castle Dearg; we drove them off and sunk half their fleet but much evil was done by them. Our host and his people are dead and Donal of Dun Conchinn is dead and many other good men have gone the Way.”
“It was to the fort of Donal I was going.” ”It is a late day to be going; death has been there, and veiled women are there.”
The heart of Kurithir went cold with fear to ask a question. He did not ask it but walked silent beside his friend until they stood under the tower where all now was blackened ruin from fire and stress.
He looked up to the window mounting the stone steps to the chamber where once she had slept. Flann in silence followed for their hearts had been close-knit.
The furnishings were gone and it was a desolate place.
“Come away,” said Flann. “There is no profit to a man in seeking empty cages when the singer has flown.”
But under the carved stone seat by the window, where no fire could touch it, there was a little harp with the strings broken. Kurithir knew that harp and every broken strand from the nights on the seas to the south.
Flann took it up and looked at the frame where “Liadan” was set in silver wires deep in the dark wood; he scratched it until it shone bright.
“It is true,” he said, “I thought it was a woman’s lie to mock me but it is true.” “Who was the woman?” asked Kurithir.
“It was Aevil,” said Flann, “and now with this before us and Sun and Day and Earth and Wind, to witness, I will speak you the truth. When you sailed south and gave no farewell to Liadan, who turned her eyes from you in parting, I rode to the fort of Donal and made offers for her as a wife. My promise to look another way was broke when you two parted and no pledge between broke.”
THERE was silence for a while and only the eyes of Kurithir spoke.
“It was all no use,” said Flann. “She would not say the word for all Donal’s anger. I know not what his words were to her, God knows! He was regretful for the words when dying and said it to me. But before that day he offered me Aevil instead and ordered Liadan to the veiled women (Nuns). Aevil was a star of beauty and was willing. I took her.”
“And what was the lie of this?” asked Kurithir, holding close the harp.
“It was no lie. It was the truth. The harp was broke by Liadan that no love song should ever be made on it after her tryst song to you–and you walking away from it.”
“There was no tryst song to me. The woman Moria carried Liadan from tryst with another and mocked me that I was yet sick at heart for her love.”
“There are dark things in this somewhere and there are false things somewhere,” said Flann. “Aillain, the boy, is dead, and dark Moria is dead. It is late for the sifting of the wheat from the chaff.”
“When were the deaths?”
“He in the first raid but she, sabbath a week since, together with Donal, before our bowmen reached his fort for succor.”
Kurithir remembered that day. Flann would have gone on with speech of the fighting and the retreat of the raiders to their ships but he held up his hand for silence.
“That was the night she came to me on the sea, Flann,” he said, “and that is why I am here listening. Darkness is on my mind, a darkness and a fog but this is true as the Sun: the way of these broken strings was never told to me, yet I knew that her harp was broken, for at the sabbath twilight a week since, Liadan sat at the prow of the boat with the broken harp in her hands, and the smell of the hawthorn was there following, ay, and the song of the thrush in the nights!”
Flann peered at Kurithir in awe and a swift chill touched him. When he spoke again it was with the soft gentleness as to a child.
“And where was this happening, Kurithir?” he asked. “It was off the south coast, and I have been sailing straight to find her, night and day since that twilight,” said Kurithir. “Never was there such a sailing for the wind was ever with us. I had but to close my eyes to feel her near and to smell hawthorn and May roses.”
Flann looked down into the garden where ashes and a fallen wall covered the rose vines.
“The roses of May linger not for anyone through the harvest time,” he said. “Come Kurithir, what I can I will do to bring you to her in time.”
Kurithir followed after and carried the broken harp and said over to himself words of her tryst song which he knew now was meant only for him.
“It will be in time,” he said. “No human thing can part us now, for our coming together on the sea had no mortal touch to it, yet we were as one soul. Since she lives nothing can change that. She is the soul of me.”
“She lives,” said Flann.
More than that he had no heart to say, but while food, and horse, and servant were made ready for the journey through the wilderness, Flann spoke apart to Ronan, his cleric and confessor, who had been with the men through the battles and shrived them as they went the last Way.
“Is it madness of the mind is on him, or is it some spell of magic that makes for him a vision far out at sea of that which is true on land?” asked Flann. “Is it evil, or is it good?”
“It has been both. The words of druids and the words of saints are witness. It comes between a man and a maid. It comes not of earthly marriage but rather of separation of the mortal body. It comes of great strength and of much weakness. You have a kinsman in sanctuary who has the right to tell you more than I have right to know. The spells of druids and power of saints have one likeness to the eyes of the unlearned. Yet is there a difference? The mother of Liadan was of the race of Dana. She went the Way at the birthing. Her child came into life with the sign on her of secret knowings. It is a thing of grief that she was bred in the fort of that dark woman of Slieve Mis (County Kerry) who could use arts of her own on a child of secret vision.”
“You mean dark Moria, the nurse?”
“I mean Moria, the concubine of Donal, who went into death beside him. It is an old story and strange. The Fort of Donal is far enough in the wilderness to hide many secret things.”
“You know that I have taken his daughter Aevil to wife,” said Flann darkly.
“I do. You were swift about it, else I might have spoke caution. But the two are dead and God send that her evil died with her, and that your children live by God’s grace. Judge you not Kurithir with harshness because of his own words. The darkness is on his mind concerning this matter. Few of us see as God means us all to see in His own good time.”
“God be with us till the Day,” said Flann. “By the Elements, the Father and Son,” said Ronan.
So it would appear that Donal (Liadan and Aevil’s father) had a somewhat close relationship with the Dark Woman, Moria. Aevil seems to be the original, Ugly Step-sister!
What is also very interesting is that Liadan is said to be a direct descendent of the race of Dana or those of the Goddess Danu. The story clearly has a spiritual aspect through Liadan and Kurithir’s love. However, much more than that it links into the Irish Folklore and Mythologies of Celtic Irish history at a time when ‘the new’ christianity and ‘the old ways’ formed a clear part of people’s lives.
Kurithir’s statement, “No human thing can part us now, for our coming together on the sea had no mortal touch to it, yet we were as one soul. Since she lives nothing can change that. She is the soul of me.” is very poignant, made more so by the fact that this IS a very old tale and therefore not just a modern concept. Due to his close Earthly friendship with Kurithir, Flann had no qualms in believing and helping his friend.
I was left pondering. What is the strength of souls magic on our lives? Can souls, past and present, really play an active part in our decisions, the decisions that effect the deep parts of our lives with the loves we live amongst and the friends that we trust?
You may have some thought about this? Please let me know and comment.
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I found this story on the Sacred Texts site. Visit the site for the full version of the story together with a fantastic selection of texts and tales from around the world.