Authors: Wade McMahan
Tags: #Historical Fiction
Waves in the Wind
By Wade McMahan
Copyright 2014 by Wade McMahan
Cover Copyright 2014 by Untreed Reads Publishing
Cover Design by J.D.Netto, JD Netto
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, dialogue and events in this book are wholly fictional, and any resemblance to companies and actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Also by Wade McMahan and Untreed Reads Publishing
The Complete Richard Dick Mysteries
Waves in the Wind
Wade J. McMahan
In memory of that gentle Irishman, Michael D. Mitchell of Belfast, who provided much of the inspiration for this novel.
“I am convinced that the terrestrial paradise is in the Island of Saint Brendan, which none can reach save by the Will of God.” Christopher Columbus
Our thanks to Beatrix Färber, Project Manager for CELT (Corpus of Electronic Texts), University College Cork, Ireland, for generously granting use of a reference from the mysterious, ancient Irish manuscript, “Annals of the Four Masters.”
Eire. 516 A.D.
The Morrigan came to me today, an old gray crow squatting in the field of stones outside my cave mouth. Behind her, the vast emptiness of the wave-tossed western sea swept the horizon.
“Ossian,” she croaked. “What a poor thing you are, a king of stones and rotting fish.
Your wounds are healed, your father will not rise from the dead, nor will your sisters. Your gods are fading, Ossian, old gods fall before the new, as I will. But not yet, though the followers of the Risen One grow stronger every day.”
Now, it is a poor thing to be mocked by your gods when you have tried to keep faith with them. Where was she when the Corcu Duibne came, my family slaughtered and our village put to fire? I had only the chance to strike one blow before a rider knocked me senseless and left me in the fields for dead. A simple kirtle to cover my nakedness and the serpent ring but all I carried here—here in my solitude these many months by the western sea.
Firelight danced upon the cave walls as I rose to face her. “Why do you come here to scoff at me now, My Queen? I have nothing, nothing! Why do you come to me now when there is naught more I can do for you?”
“Naught more?” she cackled. “Naught more you can do for me? I expect nothing and need less from you, Ossian, for you not only have nothing, you have become nothing. We had great hopes for you during the short years you stood beside us, but no more. Now you choose to cower within this lowly cave where you endure hunger and shiver from the cold. What a miserable being you’ve become, little man.”
“My Queen, I…”
“Silence!” she shrieked. “You will soon die here in this wretchedness of your own choosing. Oh yes, you will die unless once again you desire to wear the mantle of a man.” Her hoary wings spread wide. “The choice is yours, though the Lordly Ones care little either way.”
Her wings flapped once as she took flight into the murky, midday sky, and she was soon gone from view. The Lordly Ones little cared whether I lived or died, she had said. In that, they shared my own view of myself.
I threw myself upon my simple bracken bed as thoughts battled within my head. A thousand times I had prayed to the Lordly Ones that they might direct me from what I had been toward what I might become. A thousand times they ignored my pleas. Now, they sent their goddess, the Morrigan, but to what purpose? To warn me that I faced death? Yes, I might very well die here, and with no thanks due any of the gods for their beneficence.
It had not always been so for me. Was I not of the Eoghanachts of the Cork region, son of Ciann Mehigan, son of Gicrode? Was I not highly educated and trained in the ways of the Druids?
Augh! Of what measure were such thoughts, such remembrances when they offered no consolation and merely compounded my torment? Perhaps they weren’t even true. Perhaps an evil fairy planted false memories in my mind as a means to taunt me. Even so, the past came flooding back from a time before the skies grew dark…
* * *
My father sat upon a stone in the Sacred Grove. His face revealed no emotion as he spoke. “Ossian, I received word today through a messenger that my petition to have you placed in the school at Dún Ailinne has been accepted.”
Boyish excitement flooded through me, though I stood silent, respectful before him. I knew Dún Ailinne well. Had I not accompanied my father there more than once for the annual Beltane celebration?
High above us, interlacing gnarled branches of towering oaks created a magical bower of dark green foliage. Dappled sunlight illuminated my father as he sat there, an image I had seen countless times.
The hood of his immaculate white robe framed his face, a sharp contrast against his shoulder-length red hair and carefully groomed beard. He continued. “You have reached twelve years; it is time for your formal education to begin. We may only pray the many lessons I have taught you here within this Sacred Grove will serve you well. Now, I place you in the hands of the Master at Dún Ailinne, who shall further your education that many years from today you may carry the sacred staff of the Druids as I do, and as did my father before me.”
Gentleness flowed from his blue eyes as was often the case when he spoke with me. It was a characteristic he held closely within him, one he rarely, if ever, displayed beyond the intimacy of our immediate family. I knew what he was seeing as I stood there, a boyish image of himself, a rather tall boy, skinny in the way of many lads at that age, my red hair flaming in the sun.
He nodded. “Now, you may speak.”
In my young eyes, my father was the wisest of all men, for he was Druid and chief advisor to King Domhnall. A proper response was expected. It was with the thought of pleasing him that I chose my words. “Thank you, father. I shall endeavor with all my heart and mind to honor you, our family, and our King. If it is the will of the gods, I shall succeed.”
“Hmm. Yes, I see the truth in it, Ossian, though it is not your heart that I entrust to the Master, only your mind. I know you will do your best, but do not place over much reliance in the Lordly Ones; they can be a capricious lot. Always remember, to be accorded the order of Druid is not a birthright, nor is it founded upon prominence or political favor. You must follow a long, difficult path to wisdom, to at last be measured on your merits alone.”
He rose, gestured for me to follow and we walked from the Grove to our village, Rath Raithleann, a thatch-roofed community of nine hundred souls. Already, news of my selection for the school at Dún Ailinne had swept through the folk there. The men were working their fields, but the women and children greeted my father with great reverence, and to me they offered encouraging smiles and words.
That night following our evening meal within my father’s spacious roundhouse, my sisters Ceara and Aine badgered me with questions. Ceara was two years my elder, with dark hair and eyes. Within a year or two she would catch the eye of her future husband. Where Ceara was dark, Aine, at eight years, was sparkle and light with flashing blue eyes and long auburn hair.
“Oh Ossian!” Aine chattered. “You are going away to school at Dún Ailinne? Oh how glorious that will be. How I wish I were a boy and could go to school too.”
“No,” I smiled to her, “you must stay here and learn the ways of women from Fainche. Your fingers are still far too clumsy for the weaving of linen.”
“Humph, that is not true! Well, not very true anyway. Fainche says I am learning quickly. Tell me, when you come home from school, will you teach me the powers of necromancy?”
“Of course I shall do no such thing! You must learn to mind your tongue girl, for you might be overheard. It is dangerous to speak of the dead. Now, be away with you. I have much thinking to do before I leave.”
I could never be angry with Aine. Was she to blame that her birth was ill omened? Our mother died during Aine’s birthing, a family tragedy preordained by the gods. Soon afterwards, our father found Fainche, an older, generously proportioned widow who came to help with our raising. She was a kind woman who saw to our needs with caring hands.
Later, I lay in my bed, my mind busy with thoughts of the school at Dún Ailinne. At some point I drifted off to sleep, and for the first time in many years my mother entered my dreams, her shrouded face a gray shadow against a dark sky. She turned and gestured behind her. In the far distance, spanning the black horizon, the world was on fire…