Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by DanMcCollum, May 30, 2011.
I've previously mentioned Valas as a term for a nonGothic Roman
First of all - I'm glad you are caught up and have been enjoying the ride so far! Honestly, when I started this timeline as a reboot of For Want of a Son (from the SHWI days), I never expected that it would still be going strong this many years later or that it would have become as detailed as it has (albeit, it might have been done sooner if I could update on a more steady schedule; and, as for detail, I still possess a fear that its not detailed enough!). Your comments and insight are very welcome; as I've said a number of times, I have no real background in linguistics, and so I'm somewhat reliant on my readers who do have it. But, I'm always more than happy to incorporate some of the work of my readers into the timeline proper.
Now, as to the last point: I'm a bit confused and there isn't Gothic settlement in Britain in this timeline. There was some Frankish settlement after a group of Frankish mercenaries overthrow the Kingdom of East Anglia and created the Kingdom of Norfransk, however. And, come to think of it, we are going to have to touch base with Sexland once the Caoimhe Cycle is completed and we get a few chapters dealing with the non-mythic Gaels. I'm hoping to touch base with a number of regions before we gear ourselves up to the Ruination chapters that will be coming.
And,in relation to the Arian Church - I'm looking forward to exploring that topic in more detail myself. I'm trying to find sources on how the Arians were organized in the Visigothic and Ostrogothic Kingdoms in OTL and then build off of that. I've got a fair idea of how I think the structure should work, but I don't want to commit anything to paper yet
Ah, hmm! I saw some grey on a map the same color as the continental grey and assumed that was Goths travelling to *England. Alas, no Gothlish in this TL then
Afraid not But you DO get pagan Frankish parts of England
Just a quick update to let you know that I'm currently outlining the next chapter and hopefully will get a chance to write it this weekend. I apologize for the wait but, well, school and research proposals and all that!
On a side note, I'm going to leave you with a video that I think MIGHT be Caoimhe's theme song, if such a thing exists Please excuse my odd 90's post-Grunge love
Okay guys, just to give you an update: I started the most recent chapter tonight and, in a fit of over confidence, I really thought I would get it done. However, as I've learned over the past several months, Caoimhe is a powerful character and any part of her story seems to grow in the telling. I'm about six pages in and have just hit the first major plot point of the chapter. So, yeah, this may take a bit. I'm hoping to have it done and posted Wednesday night, but I also don't want promise too much
On a side note, I suspect that the Caoimhe chapters are possibly one of the mot detailed and longest 'mythic' cycles done on alternatehistory.com in some time! I hadn't intended that when I started them; I really figured the entire tale would take maybe three or four normal sized posts when I first started. Ha!
Anyway, thanks your everyone's patience and I promise to have this up in the next few days!
I understand, I started a little side arc to explain a character and have now written about fifty pages.
I read the other day that Bronn from ASOIF started as a background character and only wasn't killed off due to a flip of a coin between him and the other random guy introduced with him. Bronn was then given a cool line just because GRRM liked the sound of it, now hes a main character and a fan favorite.
It's funny how a good story can just evolve organically. It's one of the reasons I always like to start with a rough outline to give some structure and to layout tue major plot points. But as to how one reaches those plot points can evolve and change as the story dictates.
Also, it allows for foreshadowing - and I'm sure you've all noticed how much i enjoy throwing in off handed references to future events
Chapter 75 Part 1
The Fall of Rome and the Breaking of the Second Geis
”Sadhbh Nic Coimhe Presented to Feardorcha Mac Tier” by Deidre Nic Tadgh, 15th century
Though Caoimhe reigned in peace for many years, the vanquished Bisho Honorius did not rest easy in his grave. For it was said that due to his treachery he was been barred from heaven, but because he was a bishop, he was not welcome in Hell. Because of this, he was cursed to walk the lands of his birth, driven on only by his hatred for Caoimhe and the Gaels who now made Baetica their home. His shade was said to stalk the lands of Dal Caoimhe, prophesying a great calamity which should shake the world to its core, and draining the blood from the herds of great nobles and commoners alike.
At first, Caoimhe ignored these tales, believing them to be idol gossip at best. However, one day while traveling from Esphailleas, Caoimhe’s nephew Fion Mac Faoláin came upon the spectre. The ghost of the false bishop took him by the head and screamed “You share the blood of the whore-Queen! Tell her my words – that her own clan shall turn upon her in the end and she shall commit an act so grievous that her name shall be cursed for all eternity!” This so badly shook the young man that he fled back to his aunt’s palace and did as he was told. However, when he took off his helmet, everyone gasped for his once long locks of red hair had turned snow white. And for this, he was forever then called Fion Sean-Og, which meant “The Old Youth.”
Caoimhe knew that her nephew was as true as his father had once been false – the young man’s service in her court was an attempt by the once-king of Dal Raida to make amends for his past sins against her. And so, she knew immediately that the spectre was indeed real and was stalking her lands. She sent at once for Bishop Colm and asked that he confront the ghost of his predecessor. “For,” she said, “I see now that as long as he refuses to rest, my lands shall be unquiet.”
Bishop Colm bowed his head deeply, “You speak great wisdom, my Queen. I shall set out at once to send him from this world to the next.”
That night, Colm and twelve priests went to Honorius’ grave, which they sprinkled with holy water and called upon the shade to emerge. This Honorius did and, at the sight of him, several the priests turned as if to flee, but Colm held them back and reminded them of their duty to God and the crown. Then he turned to the spirit of his predecessor and said, “Bishop, why do you haunt these lands and not go to your rest? You have been slain and surely God has given you his judgment.”
“That he has,” Honorius responded. “I have been locked out of both heaven and hell and have no where to go. And so here I remain for all eternity, speaking out against the sinner who now sits upon the throne.”
At this the bishop and the twelve priests made a circle around the grave so that the spirit of Honorius could not escape. Then Colm spoke and, as he did so, his voice grew strong and powerful. “Unclean ghost,” he cried. “If neither God nor the Devil will have you, then neither shall we! Your time upon this earth has ended, and it is time to move on. If heaven or hell cannot be your home, then I send you amongst the Faerie, and you shall make your home amongst them! Now go and trouble the living no more.”
The spirit seemed to shrink back from the Bishop’s words, for he perceived within them the dictates of God himself. He looked as if to make his escape, but seeing that all avenues of escape were closed, he bowed his head. “Very well,” he finally said, “I shall make my way to the lands of the Faerie. But I shall leave you with these words, my final prophecy! Know this – Caoimhe shall commit a crime so great that she will be damned for all eternity by all Romans and Civilized men. She shall lose two of those closest to her and shall die in a saddened rage. And, one day, I shall meet her again – in this world or the next.” [FN1]
And with those words the spectre of Honorius was gone. Wasting no time, Colm turned to the priests and said, “Quickly! We must dig up his body, cut off the head and burn it. Only then will his connection to this realm be finally broken and then he shall trouble us no more.”
This they immediately did and, when the deed was done, Bishop Colm returned to Caoimhe’s palace and there he told of their success as well as of the final words of the spectre before its departure. The Queen sat, deep in thought and finally said, “It is known that the dead often prophecy truly, but their words are often riddles meant to ensnare the listener. I cannot think of what sin I am capable of committing to win me such infamy. But I fear that attempting to prevent such an event might only make it more likely to occur. And, as for losing those close to me, that is already assured, for all men must eventually pass from this realm to the next. The spirit may be immortal, but the body is not.” [FN2]
“You speak wisely, my Queen, “Bishop Colm said, “let us hope that bishop Honorius’ finally finds the peace he needs but, at the very least, he can no longer bring misfortune to you or the realm.”
Now, at this time, a new King had come to reign in Hispania. His name was Sisenand and he was the son of old king Sisebut who had first agreed to grant the lands of Baetica to Caoimhe. For years now, many of those nobles and churchmen who had survived the ending of Bishop Honorius’ rebellion had fled to the court of King Sisenand and there they captured his ear and turned his heart against the Gaelic Queen, spreading stories of her brutality, of pagan ceremonies held in the hills, and her immoral lifestyle.
Still, Sisenand was a cautious man at heart and was loath to make a move against the Queen for, as he said, “She has overcome every obstable that God has placed before her, and yet she perseveres and rules. I shall not risk being the next foe to fall at her storied sword, Saol ó Bhás, until we have received a sign that it is the bidding of the Lord.”
When tales of Honorius’ ghost began to reach the Court of Hispania, man of the former nobles and churchmen got together and went to King Sisenand and said “Have you heard not the stories of our former leader, the Godly Honorius, who has now appeared amongst the people of Baetica? There he tells them that the end of Caoimhe’s reign is at hand, if but one will just be bold enough to strike! Surly, he is a Saint and comes now with the backing of Heaven behind him to encourage us to liberate the land that he loved more than life itself!”
When Sisenand heard this, his heart was moved. And yet, his hand yet hovered over the hilt of his sword, for he was a just man, though he listened then to the counsel of liars and tyrants. “Your words have moved me,” he said, “and yet it is only right that the Queen be given the right to defend herself from your accusations. Should you speak the truth, then her guilt will be evident when she arrives. However, if you speak falsely, know this – you shall find no shelter within the lands of my kingdom, and you shall be hunted like the stag fleeing a pack of hounds. Do you understand?”
The nobles and churchmen grumbled at this but felt that they had no option but to agree; for if they did not, then their guilt would be clear to all. Also, some hoped that the Queen might incriminate herself or grow so wrathful at the accusations that she might strike at the King himself. Either way, they would get their war and would then be able to reclaim their homes and drive the hated Gaels back to the sea from wence they came.
“Very well,” King Sisenand said, “I shall send messengers immediately demanding that Queen Caoimhe appear in my presence, and then we shall know the truth of these accusations once and for all.”
The messengers went out the next morning and, after several days, they arrived in the city of Esphailleas and from there they came to the fortress of Cashel Beanna where Caoimhe held her court. There they were greeted, treated with great civility, and were ushered into the throne room. [FN3]
“Why have you fine men traveled so many miles with such haste from the court of King Sisenand,” Caoimhe asked. “Please, do tell me what that King wishes of me, and then let us sit and sup together, where I shall show you the richness of this land and the generosity of its Queen.”
The messengers looked nervously between one another and finally the bravest of them stepped forth. He bowed deeply and said, “My Queen. King Sisenand has heard many rumors in the past years of great sins being perpetuated within your realm. He asks that you come to see him so that you may give account of your reign and either confirm or deny these tales.”
Then Caoimhe stood up, and her face began to contort in rage. “You come to my home, and make such baseless accusations of me?” She seemed to grow in size before their very eyes, and her hand grasped the hilt of her legendary sword.
All the messengers stepped back and began to cower, save for the man who had spoken. “My Queen, we meant no disrespect and ask your mercy, for we are but messengers and protected under the laws of all civilized people. My King is a good and wise man, but he has fallen under the sway of a group of villains. These are the nobles and churchmen who rose up against your legitimate authority and now, having lost, they seek to enlist his aid to bring them home.”
“They hope that you will act rashly, either in attacking us, or our king, and therefore give them the reason to war with you. If I may be so bold; I would counsol you to go to our king and make your case plain. For they are the liars and thieves and when confronted with the justness of your case, they shall reveal themselves once and for all, and then we can root them out. I love my King and I hate to see him led astray by ones such as they.”
Caoimhe stared at the man deeply; and the man felt that she was reading his soul – for was it not said that the red lenses she wore before her eyes could see into one’s innermost heart? Then she suddenly laughed, and the laugh was deep and rich. “I have fought battles throughout the world and have sank my sword Saol ó Bhás into the hearts of many men. I have seen close comrades struck down by foes both honorable and dishonorable. And yet, I feel, I have never met a man so brave as you! Tell me, messenger, what is your name?”
“Eugenius,” the messenger said.
“Very well, Eugenius,” she said, “for your bravery and honesty, once we return from your King’s court, I shall grant you many lands within my realm and these shall be held by your family until the wind stops blowing and mountains crumble into the sea.” And she was good on her word, for the descendents of Eugenius became one of the greatest clans in all of Dal Caoimhe and are known today as the Mac Eoghan. [FN4]
Then Caoimhe drew her closest advisors and guards together and said, “Tonight we shall feast as I promised you, and tomorrow we shall set out for your King and there we shall meet and show him the true nature of the falsehood speakers which he has surrounded himself with.
The next day they departed as promised, having left Bishop Colm in charge of the realm. Traveling with her were three of her sons: Ceallach and Ciaran, known as the Battle-Born, and Domhnall Mac Cogadh – the son of Lugh and her youngest child. They traveled with high spirits and made a show of their mirth, for Caoimhe said, “only the guilty would travel, wrapped in a somber cloud.”
When word reached the court of King Sisenand of Caoimhe’s party and their jovial disposition, the deposed nobles and priests began to greatly fear. They had hoped the Caoimhe would travel in a rage and, in doing so, incriminate herself in the eyes of the King. But they saw now that this was not the case. They whispered amongst themselves and began to hatch a new scheme: they knew that Caoimhe’s son Ciaran was of a wild disposition and possessed his Mother’s temper. Therefore, they decided amongst themselves that they would attempt to provoke the young man and, in doing so, drive a wedge between King Sisenand and the Queen.
And so, when the Queen’s party arrived at Sisenand’s Court there was great fanfare. Sisenand himself went to Caoimhe and kissed her hand, saying “Welcome to my home! I hereby welcome you as a guest and a friend. I thank you for traveling all this way to put a rest to those unsettling stories which I have heard spoken of you. We shall deal with that in the morrow but, come, tonight you and your party shall feast with us in great honor!”
Caoimhe and her men were then escorted into the great hall and asked to seat themselves. Yet, when they went to their seats, Ciaran found that there was no seat for him. “I apologize,” a courtier said, “we had not expected your Mother to bring so many with her to prove her innocence. Come, we shall seat you with the servants so that you may at least eat.”
Ciaran, who possessed the long black hair, grey eyes, and temper of his Mother, grew sour at this, for he knew that he was being disrespected. However, before arriving, his Mother had suspected that some treachery might be metted out upon her supporters so as to sow the seeds of conflict. Because of this, she had warned her sons to maintain their calm and not break the peace of the King’s court. And so, he held his tongue and simply smiled, saying nothing.
When the food was served, many courses were laid out for Caoimhe and her followers. And yet, when the servers came to Ciaran, a man said “I offer my apologees, noble sir, but we had not expected your Mother to bring as many with her to protest her innocence. I’m afraid that we do not have much to feed you.” And then the servant put before him a bowl of the plainest porridge and the burnt scraps of a chicken.
And yet, despite this, Ciaran held his temper. He simple smiled, and yet said nothing once again.
As the feast progressed, Ciaran’s silence was noticed by all. One of the guests – a former Roman noble who had lost his lands after Bishop Honorius’ rebellion – came up to the man and said “truly, it is said that the Gaels are men of wit. But one would not know it by watching you. Are you so weak as to cowed by the words of your Mother, a weak and uncouth woman? Or, perhaps, your tongue was sliced out as a child so that she would not have to hear your incessant, mewling, cries?”
At this, Ciaran could hold his tongue no longer, and he brought his fists down so hard upon the table that it splintered and broke into pieces. “A great wit am I,” he said, “so great indeed, that I know your secret, good sir; how you as a man were so desperate to find a mate – for no woman would have you – that you were found in the pasture of a neighboring farmer, trying to court a sheep!”
The man let out a scream of rage and charged Ciaran, but the young man brought up a splintered board from the shatterd table and swung it so that it struck the man along the side of his head with such force that one of his eyes burst forth from its socket and hung limply upon his cheek. And then, throwing the cudgel away, Ciaran wrapped his hands around the man’s throat and began to strangle him with such force that the bones of his neck shattered, and he died.
King Sisenand then rose from his bench in a great rage, for he had not seen the way in which Ciaran had been provoked. “I have invited you into my home as guests, I have sought to disbelieve the rumors and stories which have reached my ears. And yet you dishonor me, by striking down one of my own men before me?”
Ciaran began to speak, but Caoimhe rose from her seat before he could work his lips, “My King! It is not we who dishonor you, but your courtiers who seek to do ill and blacken our name! My son was sat with the servants, he was given but porridge and burnt meat to eat, and through that all he did my will by not voicing his anger at this dishonor to his name. And then one of your men came to him and mocked him for his strength of mind. I still seek to clear my name, but I will also not allow my own sons to be treated in such a way by the craven dogs who cower beneath your sight!”
“Be that as it may, it was your son who broke the peace of my realm, and I shall have him held in chains until I can determine the truth.”
“You shall do no such thing! Though I have heard that you are a just and goodly King, I shall no more allow you lay a hand upon the flesh of my womb, than I will allow you to chain me.”
And so a great sandoff emerged within the hall of King Sisenand, and it looked as if war would breakout between the two camps, when suddenly a great booming knock was head at the gates.
The knock was repeated again and again, until the King roared “Let whomever it is in, but he had best be a man of great nobility to disturb my court at a time such as this.”
The gate was thrown open and in strode a bedraggled figure in a ragged and mud stained cloak. Behind him was a party of men who were equally disheveled in their appearance as he. All were heavily armed, but the cloaked figure and in a voice of kingly command called out “We shall not break the peace of this great hall. Leave your weapons at the gate” and his followers did as they were told.
King Sisenand saw this and crossed himself, feeling that the Lord of Hunt was paying his hall a visit. Immediately the growing conflict in the Hall stopped as everyone turned their attention to the strangly clad newcomer. “My Lord,” the King said, “I kindly ask you, can you tell us your name and what brings you to our humble hall?”
The figure stepped forward and threw hback is cowl, revealing a man’s face covered in a long and matted beard, unkept hair fell down to his shoulder, and his face appeared to be smeared with mud and dried blood.
“My name,” the man said, “is Feardorcha Mac Tier, rightful Emperor of Goths and Romans. And you are my servant, Sisenand, King of Hispania.”
A great murmur went through the assembly at these words, for all knew the name of Feardorcha Mac Tier. Years earlier his father Tier had ruled over the Goths and Romans as a just and godly Emperor. However, he had been driven from his throne by the treacherous Lachtna, King of Rome. The Roman King had seduced the Emperor’s wife and induced her to poison her husband so that he might might stage a coup. [FN5]
Young Feardorcha had fled Ravenna and taken to the hills where he raided and fought against the usurper for years, building up around him a great host of followers who sought to liberate the realm from the cruel rule of Rome.
“My Emperor,” Caoimhe said and she knelt before the dirty figure, “my name is Caoimhe and I would happily give my sword to help you fight in your noble quest against the usurper Lachtna.”
Feardorcha smiled then and, despite the dirst on his face, his teeth were white and strong. “Caoimhe, the She-Wolf of the Seas. She who sought to end of the life of King Lachtna in open battle, who battled the usurper of Carthage, destroyed the Berber invaders of Baetia and crushed the immoral Bishop Honorius. I know your name well and shall happily accept your sword and fealty.”
“My Emperor,” King Sisenand said, and he too rushed forward to bow before the disheaviled sovereign. “I also offer you my sword and allegiance. We have long waited for the chance to drive Lachtna from Ravenna and slay the immoral usurper. But, pray tell us, what brings you to this hall?”
“That is a long tale, and a sad one, I fear,” Feardorcha said. “As you know, I was but a child when my mother was seduced by the treacherous Lachtna and made to kill her husband, my father, with poison. Though I was young, I knew then that I did not have time to grieve for, as the heir of my Mother, surely Lachtna would seek to rid himself of me next. I fled first to the court of my cousin, the King of Burgundy and he hid me there until I was of age to exact my engeance against the Tyrant of Rome.”
“However, as my cousin was amassing an army to deliver my patrimony to me, Lachtna’s agents discovered that I lived. He marched a large army against my cousin and, in a terrific battle, he slew my relatives in a great slaughter. I was wounded, but able to escape with my life. I had about me only a small, but loyal, band of friends and we vowed then that we would none of us rest until Lachtna had been killed, and the realm had been freed of him once and for all.”
“Where did you go,” Caoimhe asked, for she was intrigued by this tale and sensed a growing admiration for the man before her, despite his appearance and uncouth ways.
“We went first to Jaille. That province was being being overrun by Franks, Bretons and Gaels who all sensed weaknes with my Father gone.” His words betrayed no hostility, but he did look thoughtfully at her as he spoke the word Gaels. “Though we were few, we took to warring with the raiders and bandits – ambushing them when possible. Eventually, word of our exploits spread throughout the land, and we began to attract many others who had been dispossessed by the strife. However, though it pained me to do so, I did not then reveal my true name to anyone but my closest friends, for I did not wish to strike openly against Lachtna until I was ready. Instead, I told all that my name was Leanaí Cogaidh – the Child of War.” [FN6]
“The King of Jaille was then, as now, a weak man,” he continued. “At one point, a great Frankish band fell upon him and carried him away, hoping to ransom him in order to get land and wealth for themselves. But, we, my Brotherhood of the Wild, heard about this and fell upon the invaders, killing many and we able to free the king. With this, our renown grew great, and the King was forced to offer us protection in his court. However, he also came to fear us, for we were far more capable than he. One night, he invited us to a great feast, but there was treachery in his heart, and his men attacked us. May the Lord strike down false friends who would betray a man at a feast of friendship!”
At this, there was murmer throughout the entire crowd and one of the conspirators who had antagonized Ciaran let out a mournful wail and threw himself down upon the floor in front of the Emperor. “My Liege,” he cried, “I have done just as you described! I have sought to encourage strife between the men of my King and those of his guest, Queen Caoimhe. Lord, have pity on me please. I have done wrong and see that now.”
Horrified, many of the man’s comrads tried to rush towards him and silence his tongue, but it was too late. The Emperor looked down and said, “Know this. Since you have confessed your sin to me and sought to rectify the damage you have done, I shall spare you. But, for your comrades, there shall be no mercy given. I shall judge each of them and if found guilty of this crime, I shall create a great pyre upon which their bodies will be burnt! For violence and vice now seeps through the Empire, while a false-king sits upon its throne; but I shall bring peace, justice and stability to my Empire!”
The confessed man began to weep in gratitude at these words, but his comrades grew ashen faced, and many fainted away in shock. And in doing so, they gave themselves up, and their guilt was plain to all. Others drew weapons and threatened to fight, but they were quickly subdued by the Emperor’s men and delivered to King Sisenand’s jail.
After the commotion had ceased, Caoimhe turned back to the Emperor and said, “So, you escaped from the Hall of the King of Jaille? What happened next, and how did you come to us here?”
“Yes,” Feardorcha said, “we escaped, but it was a long and hard fight. I personally slew the King upon my own blade and, with him dead, I felt I had no choice but to finally declare my true identity. Then I installed amongst the Court of Jaille one of my own followers to rule as King. But, the mismanagement of the previous ruler had been great, and Jaille is now a poor realm and could not possibly support an army strong enough to take on King Lachtna. And so, I have been forced to come South with my closest followers and beseech you, King Sidenand for support. For all know of the prosperity of Hispania, which was hard fought for by your father and your guest, Queen Caoimhe.
When the Emperor spoke these words, King Sisenand felt great shame, for he knew the truth of them – the prosperity and peace within Hispania had been purchased by the alliance between his Father and the Gaelic Queen, and he had proven a dishonest Lord by trusting the words of his ill-speaking advisors. Stepping forward, he bowed before Feardorcha and said, “It would be the honor of my life to fight at your side and see the rightful Emperor sitting upon his Father’s throne in Ravenna!”
Feardorcha smiled, and many in the court recoiled, for his grin reminded them of nothing less than the smile of a ravenous wolf. “That is god, King Sisenand, and I thank you for your support.” Then he turned to Caoimhe and said, “And what of you? I shall not force this war upon you, but if you serve faithfully at my side, I shall give your people many lands, and shall promise that you shall be safe in your new home for as long as the Amalings rule the Goths!”
Caoimhe stood tall, for she considered it disgraceful to bow to any man who was not of the Church, but she spoke and said, “Even without those promises, I would dedicate myself to your cause, for I wish nothing else but to gain my vengeance on King Lachtna the Worm-Tongued!”
“Good,” Feardorcha said, “with you both at my side, I know of no foe who can stand against us.” But he had noticed Caoimhe’s lack of a bow, and he smiled again that frightful smile, for this pleased and intrigued him – he had never met a woman like her in all of his life, and he found himself drawn to the strong Gaelic woman like no other before her.
The next month saw Caoimhe and Sisenand assemble their forces at Toledo for the campaign. Feardorcha and Sisenand reached out to friends and allies along amongst the Western Goths and these lords also joined them and promised them safe passage. Soon a magnificent force had been gathered that numbered over a hundred thousand men. At the center, were the forces of Queen Caoimhe and her Gaels – these were broken into four, with Ceallach, Ciaran, Domhnall each gaining a command, and the rest under the Queen, herself.[FN7]
Once the soldiers had been assembled and were prepared to march, Feardorcha stood before them. Although he had cleaned himself, he appeared no less of a striking and intimidating figure than he had the night he first arrived at the court of King Sisenand. He wore upon his brow a crown that was wrought of iron and bone, and though he was dressed in the finest of armor, he wore upon his back a ragged cloak made of wolf skins. As he spoke, he smiled, and there were many hardened soldier who fell back in fear of that devilish grin. “My friends,” he said, “I have spent most of my life in the woods and fields. Battle came naturally to me and I fear I had little time to learn the fine words of court. So, I shall be brief. My Father’s blood stains the fingers of the usurper King Lachtna. Follow me, and we shall shower in his blood, and will retake the throne he stole. The curse of Rome shall no longer hang over this great land. For I am Feardorcha Mac Tier, Rightful Emperor of the Goths and Romans!”
And at this, a great cheer rose up from the multitude for they sensed that here was a man who knew the ways of war and the travails of campaigns. But, there were also many who feared this Emperor who sometimes seemed to be less of a man, and more of a force of nature itself. But Caoimhe did not fear him; instead she saw in him much of herself – for here was a man who would stand at nothing to retake the throne that was rightfully his, and who would look over his flock like a stern shepard.
The forces of King Feardorcha began marching that day, they headed towards the seaport of Valentia and from there, they sailed north to Massalbaurgs where they met with those men from Jaille and Eastern Gothland who were loyal to the Emperor. Then, turning East, they prepared to face their great foe. And standing at the side of the Emperor was Queen Caoimhe, and she smiled, for she smelled the blood of King Lachtna in the air – and no one would stand between her and her vengeance.
[FN1] In Medieval Irish lore, Faeries were often though to be those angles who, during Lucifer’s War against Heaven, remained neutral. God cast them out along with the demons but, since they were not evil, he could not them them down into the lake of fire with the rebels. Instead, they were exiled to an inbetween state. Also, in the lore, there is a strange intersection between the Faeries and the Dead, so that the Faeries were sometimes thought to be the spirits of the dead. And so, I suspect there is no reason for similar ideas to not develop this this ATL and be present within the story.
[FN2] I’ve always wanted to write a mythic character who is wise enough to realize that most prophecies are traps and that as you fight them, you bring them about. So, yes, Caoimhe gets it
[FN3] Cashel Beanna is the great Ring Fort which Caoimhe builds outside of the captiol of Esphailleas. The fort was burned during the Bishop’s War but has since been rebuilt. Within this story, it is sometimes depicted as a great castle or fortress (and occasionally the fort and the city are conflated). However this is an anachronism, and the fort during the reign of Caoimhe would have been a standard Gaelic Cashel in design.
[FN4] Great mythic cycles like this are often used by prominent families to help explain their own ancestry and to tie their family history into a grand national epic. I thought it would be fun to include such a reference in here
[FN5] Mac Teir means “The Wolf” in Gaelic. This might sound familiar to longtime readers. The term Mac Teir began as a nickname for the Gothic Emperor, but as the people of Dal Caoimhe came to adopt a form of the Latin word for Wolf, the nickname lost its signifance in the stories. As a result, it began to be assumed that he was the Son of Teir (which means Wild in Gaelic). Suffice to say, in history and the earlier versions of the story, Teir was NOT his Father’s name
[FN6] This depiction of Feardorcha MacTier’s exploits bears remembering. We shall eventually see how close the historical version lives up to his mythic representation.
[FN7] Its safe to assume that this number is a gross exaggeration. An Empire which has been torn apart of civil war for decades, along with raids, is unlikely to be able to support this many soldiers.
Okay, confession time: although I have a very good idea of what needs to be covered in this chapter, the entire thing was growing far too long for a single update. Therefore, I was forced to split the contents in two parts. I apologize for the long break between updates; this last semester proved far more difficult than I had intended (school work, coupled with a health scare by my Da who is, thank god, okay, and then I've also been working on my research proposal for PhD applications). I can't promise that I'm going to be any more present during this coming semester, but I will try! In any case, I wanted to post this to convince everyone I was still alive, and will try to complete the second part of the chapter before school begins in two weeks. Honestly, I'm looking forward to completing the Caoimhe cycle (which I've LOVED writing - she's becoming one of my favorite character I've ever created) and turning my attention to *historical Ireland and then setting the stage for the Ruination which these chapters touch upon in their own unique way.
I love this Timeline !!!!!
Thank you!!!! I really appreciate it, and its great to have a new reader And to answer the inevitable, but so far unsaid, next question - this timeline is very much alive. It just went on one of its hiatuses while I finished up my current degree and worked on PhD applications. Now that its summer, it should hopefully be back relatively soon; possible in a few weeks after I take care of a few RL commitments
I don't know if you're totally caught up - but I hope you enjoy some of the exciting events that are to occur next
New update today. At long last, I be back
Chapter 75 Part 2
The Fall of Rome and the Breaking of the Second Geis
Artistic depiction of the Fall of Rome by 17th century Sicilian Poet and Artist, Christophe Florakis
Now, when word of of Feardorcha MacTier’ march reached King Lachtna in Rome, that tyrant felt great fear, for it was told that he had gained as an ally Queen Caoimhe. For years, Lachtna had slept uneasy, knowing that the Queen still lived. He often told his closest advisors that “She may be little more than an animal, but there is little more dangerous than a wild beast which has merely been blooded.” Being a cowardly man at heart, he had sought to undermine her whenever possible – supporting bishop Honorius in his rebellion and paying for Berbers to ravage her lands – but all these efforts had amounted to nought. And, to make matters worse, he knew that there were those in Rome who remembered his last encounter with the warrior queen and nursed in their heart a certain loyalty and love for the Gaelic woman.
“If only of Feardorcha MacTier had marched upon me alone, victory would be assured, for I fear no man,” Lachtna said, “but that woman is a Devil made flesh and she shall surely drive me into the sea.”
Now Lachtna had a habit of surrounding himself with unscrupulous men – spies, wizards and heretics all – who matched their Lord in immorality and depravity. Of these, the one who most had Lachtna’s ear was a curl by the name of Francach; a reaver who had caught the attention of the King when he attempted to abduct his sister. Rather than be offended, Lachtna was taken by the rogue’s gall and offered him a positon in court as well as his sister’s hand in marriage [FN1]
Francach stepped forward and smiled like the rodent which had given him his name. “My King,” he said, “You are right in so far you will be unable to stand against the combined forces of Feardorcha MacTier and Queen Caoimhe. But, what if they were to begin warring between themselves? We know that the Gaels are a race of warriors who will never hesitate to punish a preeived slight. And Feardorcha is little better than an animal himself, unaccustomed to the higher forms of thought of we civilized men. Would it not be easy to turn then against one another?”
At this Lachtna began to stroke his chin, “What do you suggest, my beloved brother-in-law?”
“This. That as their army nears, I shall dress in the manner of Feardorcha MacTier’s leal followers and make my way to Queen Caoimhe’s camp. There, I will plant evidence that Caoimhe plans to mak herself Empress following your defeat, if given the chance. Then I shall go to Feardorcha himself and tell him that I have heard rumors of such a plot. He will investigate, find the evidence, and they shall soon be tearing one another intwain. All you must do then, is to fall upon them both at this time and drive them from the field.”
“This,” Lachtna said, “is truly a plot worthy of my court. If your plan succeeds, surely there shall be no wealth within my realm that you can not have at but a request. Now go, prepare the evidence – I must ready my armies, for we shall march upon Ravenna and meet them there before Feardorcha MacTier can reclaim the ancient capitol of the Goths. [FN2]
The arrival of Feardorcha MacTier and Queen Caoimhe in Massalbaurgs was marked by great fanfare. Never before had the people of the city seen such a grand army, consisting of men from Jaille, Seubiland, Spania and, of course, the Gaels of Dal Caoimhe. It was these later men and, especially, their warrior Queen, which excited the people the most. Never missing an opportunity to help the poor, Caoimhe declared that much of her own personal wealth should be distributed to the needy of the city, and soon her popularity grew to rival that of Feardorcha himself.
This displeased the Emperor, but he held his tongue for he did not wish to sow discontent between himself and the Gaels. But even more so, it was because he had begun to grow enamored with the strange Queen of the South. “Surely she is beautiful,” he said to himself one night, “but if that were all, it would be easy to put her from my mind, for have I not known countless beautiful women throughout my life? So it is not her beauty alone which moves my heart, no. Instead, it is she that she is far more clever than myself, and as cold and merciless in battle as a northern storm. God help me, I have been smitten.”
For her part, Caoimhe herself had grown enamored with the Gothic Emperor. Speaking to her eldest son Ciaran, she said, “He reminds me so much of my husband Eterscel, your father, for he is not one for court life and feels most alive in the wilds, and he fights with the ferocity and instinct of the wolf itself.”
But Ciaran said, “Be that as it may, I do not fully trust him. Do not allow yourself to be led astray by Kings and Emperors – if was just that which originally led you into ambush by King Lachtna in the first place and the deaths of so many of your brotherhood.”
At this Caoimhe grew wroth and said, “You are my son and I value your counsel, but do not forget that a tongue can be as sharp as a sword and do more damage when swung around absently.”
“I do not wag my tongue wildly Mother, for I love you, but I would remind you of your own past mistakes so that you do not repeat them. And truthfully, I do not trust our new ally – for what is to stop him from turning on us once we have won him his throne? Is that not the same situation we found ourselves in with King Sisebut? It seems evident to me that the Gaels are hated by both Goths and Romans – both of whom are willing to use the strength of our arms to their own purposes, and to then slip a blade in our backs once they are done. We would be better off driving them from our path as mighty river does the stones and sticks in its way.” And with those words, he turned and left his Mother’s presence, and she was disturbed for he did not lie.
Disquieted, Caoimhe left her tent and began to walk the camp, which was then outside the walls of the Mssalbaurgs. Walking, she found herself moving towards the rise of a hill as if drawn to the highest point in camp. Although a few sentries wandered the knoll, they ignored her and she ignored them. Instead, she stretched out her arms towards the heavens and felt the oceanbreeze blow through their long hair, which was the color of the night itself.
“Beautiful,” a voice said behind her.
Caoimhe reacted like a pouncing cat – her hand fell to her sword and drew it with a speed that was faster than the eye, as she spun around to find herself facing Emperor Feardorcha.
“Do you often sneak up upon lone women and comment on their appearance, my Emperor,” she said, her voice low and deadly.
Feardorcha smiled, “I as commenting on the stars, I assure you,” he said calmly. “I did not mean to scare or offend you, and I apologize.”
“You did not scare me,” Caoimhe said, “I who have grappled with gods, and faced overwhelming odds, and yet still stand here before you today. I am beyond fear.”
“No man or woman is beyond fear, my Queen,” Feardorcha said. “Least of all myself. For now I feel the frigid hand of fear upon my very heart. Not because of the sword you aim at my throat, but rather due to the fact that I have offended you twice over now. Please, I beg your forgiveness, for in the coming days we shall find battle and our survival is not assured. I would not regret dying in my quest for vengeance, but I can think of no greater sadness than dying knowing that I have fallen from your graces.”
Caoimhe lowered her sword but did not return it to its hilt. “No, it is I who should apologize to you. Just tonight I lectured my son on the sharpness of his tongue, and now I have committed the same error. Please, forgive me for my accusations.”
“You have no need to seek my forgiveness my Queen but, very well, if it will ease your mind, I absolve you, as long as you do the same for me.”
Silence fell between the two and their eyes drifted back to the stars, both feeling the force of the moment. Finally, it was Feardorcha who spoke thedesires of his heart, “Along I have only met you during these past few weeks, I have heard tales of your bravery and deeds for years. I have to admit that I was afeared that those tales were exaggerations and that I would be disappointed upon meeting you.”
At this Caoimhe said, “I am afraid that I had not heard your tales, so consumed I was in forging my kingdom and keeping it safe.”
Feardocha let out a barking laugh.
“But I now see I was much the poorer for my ignorance. You are a mighty Emperor and I believe you shall chase Lachtna from the field of battle, and shall bring peace, justice and stability to your Empire.”
Feardocha turned Caoimhe, and there was a great hunger in his eyes which reflected yellow in the starlight. “Join me,” he said suddenly, “and you could rule this empire by my side. Imagine the dynasty that we could produce between the us with the union of the Raven and the Crow – none would be able to stand before us.”
Caoimhe sighed and placed her hand upon his shoulder “You wish to seal our alliance with a marriage?”
“Very well,” she said. “I will become your wife once this war is won and the whole world shall tremble at our union. For, though a geis was placed upon me that stated I could not turn down the truly given love of a man, I find that I would not even wish to do so, even if that rule had not been placed upon my brow.”
And so it was decided, but both parties agreed to keep the engagement secret, lest it distract all from the coming war.
As the army of Feardocha and Caoimhe traveled east, they were horrified to see the condition of the land, for then a great sickness and famine lay upon the land of the Goths. Everywhere thy found villages populated only by beggars and corpses. Caoimhe tried to alleviate the suffering as best she could but could only do so much as armies needed food to survive as well, and little could be spared.
Distressed, Caoimhe sent for Father Aidan – a priest who had agreed to travel with her on this campaign – and asked him what could be done. Aiden thought and said “I believe the only cure for this land is for King Lachtna to be defeated once and for all. It is will known that God shows his displeasure upon false kings and usurpers by plunging the land into famine and pestilence. For a land can not propser without the favor of God, and God will not bestow his favor upon a bad king. I believe that, no sooner than King Lachtna breaths his last, the waters of life shall spring forth from the clouds and once again begin to nourish this benighted land.”
And upon hearing this, Caoimhe became even more determined to king Lachtna and destroy him. His sins against her were great indeed, but now she felt that his errors were even greater for allowing this to happen to the innocent people of this land.
They traveled long hours each day, until all of them men and horses were tired, hungry and thirsty. It was feared that if they did not arrive in Ravenna soon and confront Lachtna then much of the army would melt away. It had been expected that Lachtna would seek to engage them in battle before arriving in Ravenna, but day after day the scouts returned with no information about the whereabouts of their rival. King Lachtna, it seemed, as in no hurry to pursue battle.
Finally, after many weeks, they arrived within a day’s march of the capitol of the Goths, and that night the scouts returned and reported that Lachtna was camped beyond the next ridge. But there was treachery afoot, for one of the scouts was not who he seemed – he was, in fact, Francach. Lachta’s loyalist had treacherously slew one of the scouts and using a powerful magic had taken on the form of his victim.
Now, welcomed into the Camp of Feardocha and Caoime, he planned to put his plans into motion. Slipping into Caoimhe’s command tent with the skill of a great theif and reaver, he placed a forged document into the Queen’s possessions. This document was full of lies, stating that the Gaels hoped to use Feardocha to kill Lachtna and then to have him marry Caoimhe. Then, on the wedding night, Caoihme would kill her husband with poison and her men would fall upon all of the Goths and slay then in their sleep and, in doing so, Caoihme would become Empress of the Goths and Romans.
Having planted the evidence, Francach then went to the command tent of Emperor Feardocha and he protrated himself before the Empire. “My Liege,” he said, “I come to you will foul news and whispers that I have heard upon the wind.”
“What is the meaning of this,” Feardocha said, “What news could be so terrible that you have come to disturb me the night before battle?”
“My Emperor, I have heard the Gaels speaking treason against your person.”
Feardocha rose, powerful emotions contorting his face, “This can not be! Queen Caoihme is my ally and would never betray me, especially for Lachtna – for she hates him for his sins as much I do.”
Seeing the rage of the Gothic Emperor, Francach quivered in fear and thought “Surely what they say of him is truth – for he seems more animal than man!” But he did not say these words outloud. Instead he said, “You misunderstand, my Emperor. She does not wish to betray you to Lachta but, instead, to use you to kill her foe. Then she plans to wed you and, upon your wedding night, to slay you with poison while her men fall upon your followers. Then she will declare herself Empress of the Goths and Romans and rule alone.”
Feardocha Mac Teir roared in rage at these words and it would only through the greatest of efforts that he did not fall upon Francach and tear out the liar’s throat with his bare hands. Instead, teeth clenched in rage, he said “My friend, you have fought by my side since the very beginning. We have seen much battle together and never before have you spoken falsely. And so, I will say to you this: these claims you make are grievous indeed, and such claims had better be backed with evidence and not the idle chatter of camp followers and soldiers. Produce for me this evidence and you shall be rewarded with lands and great favor. But if you have lied to me, then know this, I shall kill you by my own hands and teeth, and your death will not be swift.” He spoke this way, because Francach had taken on the likeness of a scout who had long served Feardocha and the Emperor believed he was speaking to his old friend. [FN3]
“My Emperor,” Francach said, “I was told that the Gaels put their plan into words on a page, and that these may be found in the command tent of Queen Caoimhe herself.
Feardocha roarded again and summoned his guards. Grabbing Francach, he said “Then come, and we shall determine the truth of these claims.” Francach, having accomplished his mission, would have liked to have slipped off into shadows and return to his master, but the grip of the Emperor was so strong, that he could not free himself and was forced along.
Feardocha and his guards stormed across the camp until they came to Caoimhe’s command tent. There they were met by Caoimhe’s guards who saw the Emperor and his men brandishing iron and refused to allow them to enter. Soon angry words were exchanged and a battle seemed imminent.
“What is the meaning of this,” Caoimhe called and she strode from her tent to see her guards and Feardocha’s men about to exchange blows. “Can you not see that this is our ally the Emperor? Why have you sought to keep him from entering and meeting with me?”
“The Emperor came brandishing his sword and throwing out threats against us and your person, my Queen,” said one of her guards.
“That is absurd,” Caoimhe said before turning and looking at Feardocha herself. And there she saw the rage in his face and the wildness in his eyes, and she believed the words of her guards. “Feardocha,” she said, “why have you come here like a ragging bull, stung by too many arrows?”
“I have been told,” Feardocha said, “that you have been plotting treason against me. That you wished to poison me upon our wedding night and rule the Empire alone – extinguishing the line of Amalings and replacing it with your own.”
Caoimhe was taken aback at this charge, and said “But, no, I would never do such a thing. I have come to love you Ferdocha as you know; and even if I did not, I have always lived by my word. Should I wish to kill a man, I shall do it with my blade. I do not sully my hands with the dishonor of poison. Come. Search my tent, you will find no evidence, for none exists.”
At this Feardocha ordered his men into the tent and to search it from top to bottom. Francach entered too and pretended to search, for he did not want to cause suspicion by immediately finding the document. But, after several minutes he felt the time was right and he made his way to sachal where he had hidden it. “Look,” he cried out, “See here! This document spells out the exact plot that I have heard about.”
Francach handed it to Feardocha and, as he read it, the Emperor’s face grew so wroth that many felt that he would soon take on the semblance of a wolf. He turned to Caoimhe, and he smiled so wide that one could see all of his teeth – and they had grown in size and grew very sharp indeed. “Traitor,” he cried, “you sought to beguile me and steal my birthright for yourself. I gave my heart to you and now I shall tear your’s from your chest!”
In the tent that night were all of Caoimhe’s sons, including Ceallach and Ciaran – the Battle-Born sons of Eterscel – and Domhnal the son of Lugh. All drew their weapons and Ciaran stepped forward and said “You attempt to lay one paw upon our Mother and I shall drive my sword through your rotten heart, o false-king.”
And Feardocha licked his lips with a long tongue and said “Then I shall bath in the blood of all the Ui’Caoimhe tonight and extinguish your filthy bloodline from the Earth this day.”
Then it was Caoimhe’s turn to speak, for she had already drew the silver blade Saol ó Bhás “Any man who wishes to harm the pups shall feel the teeth of the she-wolf upon their necks!”
Civil War would have likely broken out that day, had it not been for one soldier within Feardocha’s guard. For God often works his ways not through Kings and princes, but through the noble hearts of the common folk. This man had joined Feardocha’s forces as they marched through Gothland, and had once been a magician and poet who plied his trade in Ravenna. During that time, years ago, he had been known King Lachtna and his court, though he had little love for them and longed to see the true Emperor restored.
Now this soldier moved closer to Francach and let out a gasp of surprise. “My Emperor,” he cried out, “This man is not your friend at all! Can you not see through his disguise? He is Francach, the brother-in-law to King Lachtna himself!”
Francach quivered in fear, but kept his mind about it and said, “My Emperor! This man has joined our cause so recently, how do we not know he is not a follower of King Lachtna and seeks to sow divisions between us?”
“Easily,” the Guard said, for now that he knew it was Francach, he was able to piece together what had happened. “Send a rider out to follow the path that your friend took scouting together. Upon that trail, you shall find a freshly dug grave and within it you shall friend the body of your friend. This rat killed him and took on his form to deceive us and make us doubt our allies.”
Emperor Feardocha pointed to the guard and said “It shall be done. But if you prove false, you shall die by my hand tonight along with the traitorous Queen.”
And it was done. As both parties stood at the verge of violence, a trusted Goth and Gael went out and did as they were told. And it was just as the guard had said it would be, for they found the fresh grave and within it the body of Feardocha’s follower.
When they strode into the tent with the body, Feardocha immediately knew the Francach had been false and that he was an ally of King Lachtna. Without saying a word, he let out a scream and lunged at Francach and ripped the false man’s throat out with his own feeth. [FN4]
He then turned towards Caoimhe and the Gaels and said “I have sinned greatly tonight by believing the story of this treacherous man, and I have injured your honor and name in the process. I can only apologize.”
But where there had once been love, Caoimhe’s heart turned cold – for her betrothed had been willing to believe the worst about her and to threaten her life and the lives of her children. This was a grievance that she could never truly forgive. Her words bit like ice as she said “Your sins are great indeed this night, Emperor. I professed my innocence to you and yet, you chose to believe the worst in me. I fear that the love I once had for you is now gone.”
At this words, Feardocha let out a wail of grief. But Caoimhe continued “However, I have bound myself to your cause because it is right. We remain allies and shall still fight together against our foes tomorrow. But, until then, I demand you leave my tent – for my children and I have much to discuss.”
And with his head hanging low, and tears streaming from his eyes, the Emperor did as he was bidden.
The next day, a rider named Diarmuid came into the camp of King Lachtna and demanded to speak to the false king. He carried with him the head of Francach which he threw at the King’s feet. Seeing the decapitated and mangled head – which seemed to have been chewed off from its neck – King Lachtna knew immediately that his plans had failed and that he would soon meet the combined forces of Queen Caoimhe and Emperor Feardocha in battle. He also knew fear and rage. Turning to his men he ordered them to slay the messenger, breaking the divine rules which protected couriers since time immemorial. Although Dairmuid fought bravely and even came close to lunging at Lachta and ending his reign, he could not fight off the entirety of the King’s Guard and he he soon fell dead upon a pile of his attackers’ bodies.
Then Lachtna ordered that Dairmuid’s body be descecrated and strung up before the soldiers and to use it as a standard in the coming battle. He wished to send a message to the Gaels and Goths of what mercy they could expect from Lachtna and the Romans.
When Caoimhe and Feardocha’s army crested the hill and saw the body of their messenger strung up before the forces of King Lachtna, they were in a great rage. Already agreived by the tactics of Fracach the night before, the discipline of the Gaels broke and they surged against Lachtna in a fury. This would be known as the Battle of Lucus and in it many a galliant Gael and Goth were felled. Despite their lack of organization, they pushed againt King Lachtna’s forces and forced them from the field. However, despite there was no discipline, Lachtna was able to hold his army together and made an organized retreat, hoping to fall back towards Rome where his support was greater.
That night, Caoimhe and Feardocha met together to discuss the day’s battle and plan their next move. Although they dined together, there was little warmth to their conversation, as Feardocha’s guilt stayed his tongue, and Caoimhe’s cold wrath burned unabatted. Caoimhe refused to speak to her ally and instead had her son Domhnal carry her messages and speak to the Emperor. The Emperor himself relied upon King Sisebut to be his messenger. This proved ungainly, but eventually it was decided to to forsake Ravenna for the time being and to continue their pursuit of Lachtna and catch him before he reached Rome. It was also during this exchange that Domhnal and King Sisebut would form the bonds of friendship which would last for the rest of their lives and so influence both their Kingdoms.
Two days later, the army of Caoimhe and Feardocha began to march after the forces of Lachtna. However, there was still no love lost between between Caoimhe and the Emperor and this meant that the army moved slowly, for it had two heads that could not communicate with one another. Finally, having had enough, it fell upon Domhnal to confront his Mother.
“Mother, it has long been said that your rage runs cold, and now I fear that it could freeze the entirety of Gothland.”
“Perhaps it would be best if it did,” Caoimhe responded. “The Goths are a wicked and suspicious folk. Where once I thought I sensed in them the spirit of our own race, I see that I was deceived. No Gael would have responded to an accusation in the way of our Emperor.”
“Be that as it may, Feardocha is our Emperor, and we are united in a common purpose – the killing of that faithless King, Lachtna. The King who slew so many of our men in the years before my birth, men who were close friends of our family. And now that cause is being undermined. Mother, what matters more to you, our vengeance or your pride?”
Caoimhe cast her eyes down to the ground – not out of shame, but because she often did this while mulling options over.
“The Emperor feels great shame for what he did. I know this, because it is written across his face. His love for you has not abatted; in fact it has grown stronger and seems entwined with his shame.”
“His shame is at least deserved. Was my shame deserved when he accused me of such a crime?”
“Of course not,” Domhnal said. “But he was caust in the web of Lachtna’s lies. You of all people should understand – for did Lachtna once not do the very same to you? The trap took a different form, true, but it was a trap all the same. That man seems to sense the weakness in every foe about him, and exploit it with treachery and trickery. If even you were once beguiled by his lies, can you truly hold it against another man who fell as well? Especially when your rage, deserved though it may be, now works in the King’s favor?”
Now it was Caoimhe’s turn to feel great shame. “You inherited from your Father a mastery of words, I see,” she said finally. “You speak the truth, I cannot deny it. But I can no longer marry that man after his actions – no matter if it breaks my geis or not.”
“Mother, I do not ask you to wed him – but for the sake of all of our peoples, can you not forgive him?”
Caoimhe was silent for some time and then she nodded her head, “Yes. I have searched my heart and I believe that I can forgive him at least.”
And then without saying another word she rode over to Feardocha who was then preparing his soldiers to move. When he saw her, her back was to the sun and she seemed to step out of the light itself, which cast a bright halo around her.
“My Queen,” Feardocha said, and then his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth. He had so many words to speak and knew not where to start.
Caoimhe sighed, “You do not need to speak, my Emperor. Your case has been made to me far better than you could, by my son Domhnal. You were beguiled by the lies of King Lachtna. I too once found myself in the same position, and a great many men died that day. Friends and brothers of mine, because I was too foolish to see what Lachtna was doing, despite being told.”
“I should have come to you, not as an avenging Emperor, but as a lover,” Feardocha said. “Then we could have uncovered the treachery together. And then our love might have been saved.”
“Yes. Yes you should have. And I should have listened to my friends and brothers when they told me that Lachtna was seeking trap me. But I did not.”
“That doesn’t mitigate my sin, though. As Emperor I should have seen through the lies.”
“No, it doesn’t. But it does mean I can forgive you, just as my men had to forgive me for my own errors. Know this, I cannot marry you after your actions; I can forgive, but my pride is too great.”
Feardocha bowed his head at this words, but said nothing.
“But an alliance between our houses is important to destroying Lachtna and bring peace to the Empire. Therefore, I instead offer you the hand of my daughter: Sadhbh. If you will accept, that is – I cannot and will not force you.” [FN5]
Feardocha, “I believe that one of the first lessons any ruler must learn is there comes a time to place his or her own pleasure and dreams aside for the good of their realm. Though I would prefer to be taking your hand when this war is over, I see that this cannot be. Therefore, for the good of both of our peoples, I accept your invitation to wed your daughter Sadhbh.”
Caoimhe merely nodded and said “Good.” And with that, pece between the two camps was restored and the army began to march as one, again.
The next day they came upon King Lachtna’s forces, camping along the banks of the River Reno. Lachtna had hoped to ferry his forces across the river but could find no ferryman willing to take his coin. It was said, that Lachtna had once cheated a ferryman named Aiden out of his coin and when the man complained, the King had also taken the man’s tongue. As a result of this, no ferrymen could be found willing to work for him. And so, his army was trapped with the river to its back and their foes before them.
When Caoimhe and Feardoch saw their enemy, a great excitement built in their breasts and they sent out for their commanders. It was decided to attack immediately, before Lachtna had a chance to entrench himself any further, and possibly catch him by surprise. However, this would be an ordered attack which would not show the lack od discipline which had marred their side during the Battle of Lucus. Each of Caoimhe’s sons were given a force to command, along with a number of Feardocha’s own most loyal followers. The Gaels would attack from the right flank, while the Goths from the left. Caoimhe and Feardoch would hold the center with a force combined from elements of both people as well as the Spanian forces of King Sisebut.
Soon the horns of battle cut though the air, and the Goths and Gaels surged onto the battlefield. The slaughter was great on both sides, but Lachtna could not withstand the full fury of his foes. Soon his lines began to collapse and many men threw themselves into the Reno, hoping to escape. Caoimhe cut through foe after foe, her silver blade stained red – where ever the blood from its edge fell, green life began to sprout from the yellow-withered ground.
But Caoimhe did not notice this miracle, for she was so intent on finding Lachtna and bringing an end to his wretched life. Finally, she caught sight of him and charged, slicing through three of his most talented guards in the process. Seeing this, the King’s face grew white and he knew that death was approaching him – none of his tricks would work any longer.
“Face me,” Caoimhe screamed at her foe. But Lachtna had grown cowardly in his age and seeing an angel of death approaching, he did the only thing he could do: he dropped his sword and fled towards the River Reno. With Caoimhe close behind, he dove into the red-stained waters and attempted to swim to shore.
What happened next is a mystery. Some day that, as he swam, an arrow found its mark and buried itself in his back. Others claim that the weight fo his bejeweled crown was so great that is weighed him down, and Lachtna was so greedy that he refused to be parted with it, even at the cost of his own life. The crown and armor drug him down into the depths where he drowned. Still others say that the River itself was so offended by his presence that is swept him away in her current, pulling him down to his death. Whatever the case, King Lachtna slipped below the waters and was never seen again.
After the battle, Emperor Feardocha ordered that the Goth and Gael dead be buried with honors, but that Lachtna’s dead should be left exposed as a warning. This pleased Caoimhe greatly, for she knew that her Mother would eat well for days.
As the Army was preparing to leave for Ravenna the next day, the scouts noticed another mass of people arriving on the Reno’s South side. Fearing another attack, he hurried to find Feardocha and Caoimhe.
“My Emperor and Queen, there are more people arriving from the South.”
Feardocha wanted to immediately draw up battlelines and prepare for the worst, but Caoimhe shook her head. She had a feeling she knew who these people might be, for she remembered how much support she had once had in Rome during her first engagement with Lachtna. She turned to the Scout and said “Go out again, stay out of sight, and spy on these people. If they are an rmy, then come back to us and we shall meet them in battle. But if they were not, as I suspect, find their leader and bring him too me, do you understand?”
The Scout did as he was told and an hour later he returned with a wizened old man riding behind him. The old man was the Pope who had once interceded to help save Caoimhe when she was trapped in Rome. Seeing the Holy Father, Caoimhe embraced him as an old friend and bade him tell her what brought him to the camp.
“I fear,” the Pope said, “I bring ill tidings. The Senate in Rome remains loyal to Lachtna and has raised his son – a man as wicked as his father was false – to the purple. They knew that many people still support Caoimhe and that we would open the gates to allow Feardocha, our one true Emperor, into the city. And so they forced everyone to come to the Forum and pledge their loyalty to Lachtna’s son by bowing. Those who wouldn’t were beheaded. Then they went through the city and killed anyone else whose loyalty was suspect. Thousands died. We are those who were lucky enough to survive. I fear that there are no longer any loyal men in Rome; the city is now the home only of evil and wicked men.” [FN5]
At this, Caoimhe began to rage – for she remembered the assistance of the good folk of Rome against Lachtna and she felt a great love for them. The death of each and every one of them cut her as strongly as losing a close friend. She turned to Feardocha and said “If your claims of your love for me are true, I demand that we march on Rome immediately. We shall uproot this nest of venomous snakes and cut off the heads of every last one of them!”
Feardocha had no other recourse but to give in to her demands, for he still remained deeply in love with her, and he was also loath to leave a pretender alive. “Very well, we shall give what assistance we can to these refugees and tomorrow we shall march upon Rome itself and put an end of Lachtna’s line once and for all.”
“God be praised,” the Holy Father said. “Every loss of life is a tragedy, yes, but these men have corrupted the heart of Rome so that it no longer is the eternal city favored by God.”
At this Caoimhe said “Yes. We shall cleanse that sacred city with fire and iron and cast down the demons who infest it!”
When the army of Queen Caoimhe and Emperor Feardocha arrived at Rome, they were horrified by what they saw. A forest of the dead seemed to have sprouted from the once holy soil of the Eternal City. The Senate and the False Emperor had impaled every citizen they found who would not pledge loyalty or whose loyalty was suspect. The air smelled of the cloy sweetness of death, and clouds of flies drifted and buzzed, choking the air.
Upon seeing this desecration, it was decided that no surrender would be requested and no quarter given. The army fell upon the city and battered down its seven gates, and then flooded into the streets and alleys. The city had been so weakened by the slaughter of its honorable citizens that there were so few left to actually defend the walls. Eventually the army made its way to the Curia where the Senate was in session. Realizing that the day was lost, the Senator’s attempted to assage Feardocha and Caoimhe was throwing Lachtna’s son down to the stones below from the Curia roof and pledging loyalty.
But Caoimhe said “There can be no quarter given to traitors such as you. You should raise up a false Emperor and slaughter any innocent who refuses to bow. And then, when faced with defeat, you could cast down your own abomination in order to save your skins. You make a mockery of goodness and justice, and your have forfeited your own lives.!”
And on her order the soldiers barred the Curia’s doors and set the building aflame with the tracherour Senators locked inside. They screamed and begged mercy, but as the fire light reflected in Caoimhe’s eyes, they found none.
Then God sent down a cleansing wind, and the fire of the Curia spread to nearby buildings and soon the entire city was in flames. Marble cracked in the heat and crumbled to the ground below. By the next morning, the Enternal City had been clensed by flame and left a city of ash – no buildings were left standing save for God’s churches. And when she looked upon upon charr, Caoimhe wept and laughed.
Next Chapter: The Breaking of the Final Geis!
[FN1] If it hasn’t been clear before, Lachtna is not viewed favorably in the Caoimhe Cycle of tales; where he is often depicted as a liar, coward, and a depraved trickster. He – or, rather, his real-life counterpart (whose name is different, though it has been given in previous updates) – is viewed far different in Roman/Latin historiography. It remains to be seen how the Goths view this enigmatic figure.
[FN2] Lachtna is the King of the Romans and, though he currently rules over the entirety of the Empire, he maintains his capitol in Rome itself; at least according to the legendary tradition.
[FN3] There is some evidence here of earlier layers of these myths and cycles. Some scholars believe that the inclusion of Francach is a later addition to the stories and that, in their original version, the plot was the work of a scout who feared the alliance between the Gaels and the Emperor and wished to disrupt it. Faithless counselors causing tensions between allies are a longstanding theme in the Caoimhe cycle and reappear in regularity. If this theory is correct, then Francach was introduced to blame the rift between the two parties on Lachtna – passing the guilt onto the villain of the story and also giving him a stronger presence in the process.
[FN4] You may be getting some werewolf imagery from Emperor Feardocha here. Scolars question if this was originally part of the story cycle or if it was a borrowing from Geranic stories revolving around Feardocha’s Gothic counterpart. In any case, the imagery is often subdued in the Gaelic stories and rarely stated explicitly. This is not the case in the Gothic stories were Feardocha’s status as a werewolf is an important part of his character (think Sigurd and Sinfjolte in the Volsung Saga)
[FN5] You might believe this is high hypocrisy. Caoimhe, a woman who started her career by refusing to be married against her will, is now forcing her daughter into an unwilling marriage. Yes. Yes it is – and there will be repercussions as a result.
[FN6] It shouldn’t need to be stated, but this is an invention of the mythic stories and does not resemble the real life events that lead to the Fall of Rome in the ATL.
Okay! Wow, that was a long one, and Im afraid that it got a little rushed towards the end (I really didn't want to have to break the Fall of Rome into a third chapter.) I apologize for that and hoped that everything which happened is eternally consistent with the legends of Caoimhe as have been laid out so far. Now, although this really does point to some of the 'real' history that will be coming up once we reach the Ruination, its important to remember that the Legend and Real Life are two different things. You can ascertain that there is a conflict between Feardocha and Lachtna (though, you might notice that those are Gaelic names and that their real life ones will be different) for the Empire and that Rome Falls. However how closely the real events stick to the legend still remains to be scene.
I hope you all enjoyed this and now that its summer, I expect to be back to updating semi-regularly!
All My Children, or, The Breaking of the Final Geis
Artistic Depiction of the “Death of Caoimhe by Angmar Thorson. Note the artist’s decision to break convention and depict Caoimhe with blond, rather than black, hair. Thorson based his depiction of Caoimhe upon his own recently deceased Mother who had been blonde in her youth.
“Although traditionally depicted in such a way as to highlight her masculine traits and virtues, there can be no doubt that the mythical Caoimhe’s greatest strength comes from that quintessential feminine role of Motherhood. For it was in her role of Mother - of not just her own children but, indeed, the entire nation of Dal Caoimhe – that she would find her greatest victories and pay the ultimate price.” – Dr. Edgbert Athalwolfson
Following the Fall of Rome, Emperor Feardorcha wasted little time, for he wished to return to Ravenna and officially be crowned and take the throne of his Father, the late Emperor Teir. But he also burned with a different desire – to be wed, for since his victory, Caoimhe and others had wasted little time in filling his ears with tales of the virtues of Sadhbh, his bride to be. He was told how she possessed the great beauty and passion of her Mother, had been educated by the greatest Bishops of the realm and came to exceed them in both knowledge and virtue. Surely, no other girl in all the realm was better suited to wed an Emperor and sit by his side?
Only one member of Caoimhe’s entourage did not encourage the Emperor, and this was her son Ciaran. Ciaran had long distrusted Emperor Feardocha and victory over Lachtna and his Roman allies had done little to ease the young man’s concerns. Even worse; of all of Caoimhe’s children, no one knew Sadhbh’s heart as did her older brother – though she was younger than he, the two had been inseparable in childhood and grew to be close friends. They often roamed the field and hills of their home together, hunting, fishing and telling stories. Sadhbh was particularly in touch with their homeland and seemed to know every valley, frield and stream, and some even said that she could speak to the birds themselves.
On these jaunts, Ciaran was Sadhbh’s dutiful protector, his sword arm ready at a moment’s notice to end any threat to his beloved sister. Once, while walking through the wood, they were set upon by a Mother bear. Ciaran subdued the beast and was ready to end its life, when Sadnbh begged him to stop – the bear had cubs, she said, and couldn’t bare to see them orphaned. Ciaran has long been famous for his fantastic temper, but it was said that he only once was overcome with it in the presence of his sister – to his own and others’ great sorrow. And so he had spared the she-bear as his sister beseeched.
“I know my sister’s heart, and she would not wish to marry that brute of a man,” Ciaran told his Mother one day as they rode back to Ravenna along with the rest of Emperor Feardorcha’s host.
“Be that at it may, we all have a duty to perform,” Caoimhe said, “and hers is to be wed. It is for the good of not only our people, but the Goths as well.”
“Mother, when you were her age, did you not set your blade deep into the hearts of all of your potential suitors because you did not wish to marry?”
“You know the answer to that question Ciaran, just as well as you know that Sadhbh is not me. I was meant for the battlefield, to found an Empire, and for that I needed to wait to find a man worthy of me. Your sister is different – she is wise, yes, and witty – far more than I am; for my tongue is often like a club swung by a giant – but she is no warrior, set for the life of raiding and fighting. She is not like you or your brothers. Emperor Feardocha will make her happy, he will protect her, and she will give him many heirs that will tie our people together. Her battlefield will be the royal bedroom. Now, enough – your sister has already been sent for and will be awaiting us in Ravenna. I shall hear no more of this, do you understand.” [FN1]
And hearing this, a white-hot rage flashed upon Ciaran’s face, but he held his tongue and simply nodded before riding off. But when he was far away from his Mother, he let out such a scream of anger that the hills themselves shook; and some say that travelers can still hear it echoing amongst the cliffs of Monte Falterona.
Feardocha and Caoimhe’s host traveled for many days, and every time they came to a village or town, the Gothic people rushed out to meet them, so happy were they that the tyranny of King Lachtna and the Romans had finally been ended. This slowed down the travel, as many towns insisted on throwing great feasts for the heroes. At these feasts, the warriors and their leaders supped and made merry – all save Ciaran who feel deeper and deeper into a sullen and dark mood. He kept his eyes always on Emperor Feardocha, keen to observe any behavior which he felt was unbecoming of a suitor of his sister. And the Emperor did not disappoint in this regard, for he was known as a man of great appetites – for food, for wine, and also for women – and many a night ended with the Emperor escoting a beautiful daughter of the village back to his own personal tent. All of this Ciaran saw, and all of this Caoimhe turned a blind eye to. [FN2]
Finally, after many weeks, they arrived in Ravenna – the city’s gates had been thrown open and the people rushed out to celebrate the true Emperor of the Goths. Feardocha, unwilling to disappoint, staged a grand procession where he and his allies marched through the city, throwing coins and wealth to the population. As they arrived at the Imperial Palace, Feadorcha was raised upon his shield and Ravenna’s bishop emerged to concecrate the new Emperor. Standing upon the steps of the imperial palace, Feardocha turned to the crowd and announced a week’s worth of games and celebrations to mark his coronation, and this to be followed by his marriage to Queen Coaimhe’s daughter Sadhbh. At this news, the crowds began to cheer and it was only with the upmost effort of the city guard that a celebratory riot did not break out. [FN3]
Sadhbh arrived in the capitol along with an escort of Gaelic warriors the following day. The travel had been hard on her and left her shaken, yet she was still the picture of beauty. When the people of Ravenna saw her entering the city gates and make her way to the palace, their revelry stopped as they were taken by her otherworldliness, and to the man, all knelt to the ground and bowed to her. Seeing this display, and moved by it, she smiled to the crowd and this caused nearly everyone to burst into tears for they felt that they had just gazed upon a goddess or a saint.
Upon her arrival at the palace, Sadhbh was immediately taken to see her Mother. Although Emperor Feardocha was anxious to finally meet his bride, he wastold that she and her Mother had important matters to discuss and that it would reflect badly upon the union for him to override Caoimhe’s wishes. To this, he begrudgingly agreed, though not without some rumblings of his famous temper. But he had witnessed far too much of Caoimhe’s own rages – as well as those of her sons – and had no desire to instigate a war over the matter.
Indeed, the reason Caoimhe wished to speak to her daughter was that she had taken Ciaran’s words to heart. Not that she had any intention of allowing Sadhbh to back out of the wedding, but she recognized that her daughter might possess trepedations at the thought of the marriage an she wished to steel the girl’s spine.
Due to Caoimhe’s rank and esteem amongst Emperor Feardochas allies, she had been granted a small hall to hold court in during her stay in the capital, and it was to this hall that Sadhbh was brought. As the door opened, the girl cast her eyes upon her Mother, Brothers and many countless friends for the first time in months, and she was overcome with happiness. She ran to her Mother and threw her arms around Caoimhe, and then turned to Ciaran and did the same.
“Mother, Ciaran, brothers – I’ve missed you so much, and it fills my heart with gladness to see that you are all right, for I dread every time you march off to war that I will never lay my eyes upon your again.”
“Such is our duty,” Caoimhe said to her daughter, “ours is to fight and, possibly, die for our people. IT is not something that we do lightly, but it is something that we do happily. Do you understand?”
“No,” Sadhbh said truthfully, “I cannot hope to understand, for I am not made for war as you and my brothers are. Instead, were the choice my own, I would choose to spend my life contemplating the mysteries of God and work to better the lives of his people.”
At this Caoimhe frowned deeply, and all of the joy went out of her face. “But it is not for you to decide, I fear, my daughter. Because you too have a duty to perform for our people, and it is a very important one as well. For though our brothers and I go to war, you shall be thebringer of peace. With your marriage, you shall tie our House to the Amalings and secure our people peace and freedom. Can you understand this?”
“Yes, that I can understand,” Sadhbh said. “And I wish nothing more than to bring peace to the world after years of bloodshed. If that is what God is calling me to do, then I will accept it happily. But, Mother, can you promise me one thing?”
“And what is that, my Daughter? For I would give you the heavens and the Earth themselves, if you only asked.”
“I do not wish the heavens nor the Earth, Mother – even if those were your’s to grant, which they are not. I wish only a promise. Can you promise me that Emperor Feardocha is a good and true man? For many tales have come to me of his hungers and lusts and I fear that he will never hold himself true to me alone.”
Caoimhe smiled at this, yet inside she trembled for she knew the nature of the Emperor. She had not been as blinded to his weaknesses as she had pretended. “My daughter, I can promise you that he is a good man, and he will love you, and you alone, as a wife and Mother to his children. Do not trouble yourself with rumors and stories, for they often contain nothing but lies and half-truths.”
As these words passed Caoimhe’s lips she knew that she had made a grievous mistake, for she had lied to her daughter in front of her sons and closest friends – and understood also that they knew what she had just done.
Indeed, no sooner had she uttered these words than Ciaran lept his feet. “Liar,” he cried! “Liar! You have dishonored yourself, Mother. You know our Emperor’s lusts as well as we all do. I have seen him take numerous village girls to his bed and know them as a man does his wife, and so have you. So have we all. And now you lie to my sister and tell her that these things which you have seen with your own eyes are not true? Shame! You have brought shame upon yourself and shame upon us all.”
Caoimhe turned to her son in shock. She knew well Ciaran’s character, his tempers and passions, and he had often spoken loosely to her, but never before had he challenged her openly before her own court. “Sit down,” she ordered, “and hold your tongue. You are my son and I love you deeply, for you are the very image of your Father who I loved before anyone else. But you are challenging your Mother and Queen, and I shall not abide this.”
“Do Mothers not strive to protect their children,” Ciaran asked? “Do Queens not speak truthfully and honestly to their subjects? You do neither! With your own words, you damn yourself as a false-Queen and a false-Mother.”
Hearing these words, Caoimhe paled and her eyes widened, “Son, please, hold your tongue and speak no more ill of me. You do not know what you are saying, nor where these words are leading.”
Sadhbh herself turned to her brothers, her face a mix of sorrow and horror, “Brother, please. Do not follow the currents of your thoughts. It is all right. Now I know the truth and though Mother was wrong to hide it from me, I still accept my fate willingly. It is my duty and I shall embrace it as you do your’s when called to war.”
In the past, Sadhbh’s words had always been able to calm her brother, but not today. “No, sister, I will not hold my tongue. You are sweet, and pious, and I know you would happily take this fate if it means bringing peace to our peoples. But it is not right. Our Mother condemns you to that very fate which she once fled. And why? Because she cannot bring herself to overcome her own pride? To acknowledge her own mistakes? And you, my beautiful sister, are the one who must pay the price for her folly. No. It is wrong!”
Then it wasDomhnal’s turn to stand – the youngest son of Caoimhe. He turned to his Ciaran and said, “Brother, we all admit the mistakes of our Mother – her words were ill conceived, but they stem from a desire to do what is best for us and our people. Please, sheath your tongue, and do not bring strife upon this hall.”
But Ciaran was beyond listening to reason, all of th resentment which had been building upon this campaign came forward like the explosion of a volcano. “Sit down, whelp! You may be my brother, but none even know who your father is – yet you have risen so high in her esteem. Our Mother condemns our sister to be married, yet she knows little of marriage and its confinements, insteading laying with whatever man catches her attention.” And with that he struck his brother in the face, sending Domhnal to the floor.
“You have an ill tongue,” Domhnal said as he collected himself, “but I will not respond to angry words or slaps in kind, for we are family. You dishonor yourself more than our Mother has with your actions.”
But Ciaran had already turned his attention back to his Caoimhe and drawn his sword. “Since you are no longer worthy of our respect as either a Mother nor a Queen,” he said.
“Ciaran,” Caoimhe begged, “do not do what you are thinking of doing.” And inside to her horror, she felt that the old battle rage building, coursing inside of her like a raging inferno, but she bit down on her tongue so hard that she nearly severed it and held it back with all of her strength.
“Then I challenge you for leadership and the right to hold that sacred silver blade, Saol ó Bhás,” Ciaran finished
And with these words, Caoimhe’s heart was rent in twain. For she had just been challenged and it was her geis – the final one which had never been broken – that she could not turn down a challenge freely given. But so too, she could never bring herself to strike down her own son, one of the children of her first true love. And, faced with this crisis, she could say only one thing: “No.”
Ciaran stared at her, his eyes wild with frenzy and anger, “What? You willingly turn down my challenge, before all of your host? You would show such weakness?”
Her voice trembling, Caoimhe replied, “No, I will not fight you. But know that this is not weakness, for I have never fled from a fight. But if we were to fight, then you would die, and I would have the blood of my beloved son upon my own hands. This decision comes from love, not fear – for you know that a gies was placed upon me that I could never turn down a freely given challenge. I have broken my other geis, but that one was the last, the one which kept me safe from death. But, no, I would rather die than fight my own child who I once held to my own breast. If that is weakness, then so be it, but my own life is not so precious that I would protect it at the cost of yours, or any of my children.”
Ciaran, hearing his Mother’s reply, let out a great and angry shout and stormed from the hall, and a third of Caoimhe’s host followed him out, for they felt that he had been in the right and that their Queen had forsaken herself. From these men, Ciaran would fashion a strong army and go out to raid and reave as his Mother and Father had done before him. In time, he would conquer the isle of Oileán Mór and from there become one of the greatest pirate lords of the Mhuirmhór. Many tales are written of his daring adventures, but none relate directly to our tale and so, for the time being Ciaran Fitheach Mara [The Sea Raven] passes from our narrative. [FN4]
As Ciaran retreated from the Hall, Domhnall and his other brothers rushed to their Mother’s side, but she waved them off. In shock and pale, consumed by rage and sorrow, she made her way to her own chambers and collapsed upon the floor, letting our a mournful, keeing wail. This wail was heard throughout the city and all who heard it were struck into a stupor of deep sadness.
Caoimhe lay upon the stone floor of her chambers, weeping for hours, before she felt a gentle caress upon her shoulder. “Why do you cry, my daughter,” a voice said.
Drying her tears, the Queen looked up to see the figure of her own Mother, the Goddess Badb, standing before her. “Mother,” she said, “I have doomed myself. I have broken the last of my geis and know now that I will die.”
The Badb reached down and stroked Caoimhe’s hair – once black but now streaked with whisps of grey -
“Yes, you will die. But why does that fill you with sorrow? Do we all not die? Your death was assured before you broke a single Geis, because you are mortal, and all mortals must pass from this realm to the next. Such is the way of life. It matters not that you will die – what matters is how you choose to face it.”
“Did I do right,” Caoimhe asked. “I could not drive Saol ó Bhás into the heart of my own son. Even if it meant by own death at that moment, I could never bring myself to do such a foul deed.”
“There are many heroes, such as the Hound of Cullan himself” Badb said, “who when faced with that choice, would have acted otherwise. But that does not make them stronger than you, and maybe they are to be pitied in the end. But do not regret your actions – my Grandson still has a part to play and he will birth a line that will be strong indeed. You have set in motion your own death, this is true, but you have lived a glorious life, and there will still be more to come your way.”
“So then,” Caoimhe said, “my death will not occur this moment?”
“Steel yourself,” the Babd said, “and think not of such things. Your death will come when it will come. Now sleep, and let your sorrow pass away, knowing that Ciaran and all of your sons shall leave behind many sons of their own, and you have created a people who shall never die away as long as the wind does blow over the ocean. You will still have one last important role to play, this I promise you, and when it is done we shall meet again.”
And with these words, so vague and mysterious that Caoimhe could ot fully understand them, her Mother faded away and she fell into a deep sleep which lasted for three days.
Caoimhe awoke from her sleep, surrounded by her daughter and her sons – save Ciaran. Although the betrayal of Ciaran still rested heavy upon her heart, the words of Mother and the long sleep, had strengthened her resolve and cleared her mind. Looking up at Sadhbh she said “My daughter, I see now that I acted rashly when I promised you to Emperor Feardocha – in this your brother was right. Although I still see the marriage as the best chance to cement friendship between our people and the Goths, I cannot force you into a marriage that you do not want. Therefore, the decision is yours and yours alone – should you decline, I am sure that the Emperor and I can still find some accord.”
But Sadhbh shook her head, “No Mother, it is you who were right – though it pleases me that you have seen fit to give me a choice. My duty is to our family and people, just as it is yours, though my role is different. Knowing the full truth, the last gift that my Brother was able to give me, I will still accept the marriage. Though I fear it may be an unhappy one, for though I believe that Feardocha may come to love me I do not believe he will ever be faithful, I shall accept that burden.”
Then Caoimhe turned to her remaining sons and said, “I do not wish you to have any hatred in your heart towards your brother Ciaran. What he did was rash and fills me with great sadness, but it does not diminish my love for him. I hope and pray yet that, in whatever time I have left, that I may still be able to reconcile with him. And if not, should the embers of my life flicker out before that time, I hope that you wil be able to accept him once again as a brother.”
At this Domhnal, who Ciaran had struck, frowned – for his eldest brotehr’s words had cut deep and bruised him far worse than Ciaran’s fists. Although known for possessing the wisdom of his father, the God Lugh, his pride had been savaged and he found it hard to forgive the slight. But he spoke to his mother said, “Though it is difficult for me, I shall honor your wish, and strive to do my best to forgive him and welcome him back into my esteem.”
“That is all that I can ask,” Caoimhe said. “Now leave me, for though I have much recovered I feel a great weariness coming once again. I shall sleep for another day and then, I feel, I shall be ready to once again face the world.” And it was just as she said, for she soon fell back asleep and dreamt of her beloved Eterscél and in her dream they were both young again and filled with love for one another. He embraced her and said that they would see one another again soon and promised that their twin sons would both make him proud, through in different manners. And when it was time to wake again, she begged Eterscél not to go, but he kissed her passionately and faded away in her arms.
Three days after she awoke from her heartsickness, the wedding between Sadhbh and Emperor Feardocha took place. It was a glorious affair and the Emperor spent greatly to make it so – all of the guests praised the new Queen for her beauty and charm, and all of this praise paled im comparison to those given to her by the Emperor himself. But many noticed the look of disquiet upon the bride’s face, as if she knew that she was taking on some heavy burden, and though she felt joy there was beneath that a sort of secret sorrow which was rooted into her heart as well. And this sorrow was well placed for, though Feardocha came to love his wife deeply, he was unable to be fully true to her, and he would bring to his side other wives – as was the custom of the Goths – and many other women besides. Though Sadhbh would bear him three children, the efforts left her weakened and physically frail. But the greatest sadness she felt was her grief in causing the Ciaran’s row with their mother, and his flight from the court. Although taking joy in her children, Sadhbh would strive to reconcile her brother and mother, but her efforts were always in vain, because her brother’s pride would not allow himself to forgive or be forgiven.
Following the wedding, Caoimhe, her remaining sons, and their warriors would return home to Esphallis. There they would take to their lands to rule – all of her sons would marry upon their return, and many began to draw to them hosts of young men seeking adventure and wealth, and would set out upon great expeditions of plunder and trade, much as Caoimhe had in her youth. Their names were soon feared and respect throughout the Mhuirmhór and beyond, and this brought the Queen great pride and joy.
These were years of peace and plenty for the Kingdom of Dal Caoimhe. Caoimhe herself ruled wisely and fairly, and there was never a year where the crops failed. Monks and scholars came from Gaelia and established monasteries and churches throughout the realm, improving lands as well as the minds and souls. Countless warriors made their way to Caoimhe’s court or those of her sons and grew rich, so that there was never a lack of warriors to help defend the land. So prosperous was this time, that many forgot about the breaking of the last geis and the inevitability of the Queen’s demise. Yet Caoimhe herself never forgot and, knowing that her death was certain, she chose to dedicate her remaining time towards the realm she had purchased through blood and steel.
Now, at this time, across Carraig Mor, in the lands of the Berbers, there reigned a great King by the name of Warmaksan. Warmaksan was the youngest son of King Ibiger who Caoimhe had defeated when she first came to rule the lands of Esphallis. A young boy when his father had gone ot war, Warmaksan had been left behind in the care of his Mother who was known as a great sorcerer. Before leaving for war, Ibiger had gone to his wife and asked her to prophecy his success. She replied, “You shall gain much wealth in your endeavor and gain your reward. But these shall pale before the glory that your son shall win for himself, for he will kill a great warrior which you will be unable to overcome.” By reward, she meant that he would gain his eternal reward and be killed, though Iblis did not understand this.
Following Iblis’ death, Tiblis fell into civil war. Since Warmaksan was still a minor, he was unable to rule in his own name and so his Uncles, each more wicked than the last, sought to steal his birthright for themselves. Fearing for her son’s life, and trusting in her own powers of foresight, Warmaksan’s Mother fled with her son deep into the desert. There they lived together for many years; though his pained her to do so, she humbled herself and married a herder who offered to protect her and her son.
As Warmaksan grew up, his Mother taught him the wayers of her sorcery, because she knew that he would need it if he was ever to take back the throne which was rightfully his. She also encouraged her husband, who had once been a soldier before retiring to herd, to train her son in the arts of war. Warmaksan excelled in both pursuits and soon he had gathered to his side a group of local boys and men to raid the pastures of rival villages and tribes. He was never defeated and, in such a way, he gathered to his side a mighty host and won for himself great prestige and recognition.
Soon word reached the current King of TIblis, Meddur, of the remarkable young man. Meddur, Warmaksan’s uncle, was a wicked man who had slain his remaining brothers to help take the throne. Because of this, he was not popular and had grown to see threatens everywhere. Despite this, he was very clever, and he saw in this young man not only a threat, but also an opportunity. Popular leaders were always dangerous to tyrants, but if they could be turned and made loyal, they could also be a boon. Not realizing that Warmaksan was his nephew and the rightful King, he invited him to the court in Tiblis with a goal of either winning his loyalty and aid or killing him.
Warmaksan had never forgotten that the thone should be his, and he leapt at the opportunity to meet his Uncle. Turning to his Mother, she told him to never trust his Uncle and to appear to play along until the time was ready to strike. And so Warmarksan traveled to Tiblis with but a fraction of his men, for he wished to appear weaker than he really was. While in the city, he presented himself a country rube, awed by the size of Tiblis and its great wealth. When Meddur heard this, he laughed, for the boy might be a great war leader, but it seemed as if he still had much to learn about the world.
Finally, the time had come for Warmaksan to meet his Uncle. He arrived at the palace of his birth and was ushered into the courtroom where Meddur sat with glorious golden robes; at each side stoof three women, each more beautiful than the last. Meddur smiled and offered the young man any of the women he wished for a wife as well as however much wealth he could carry, if only he would pledge himself a loyal general.
At this, Warmaksan laughed and said “Why limit myself to only one wife, or only as much wealth as I can carry? I strive to have all that was taken from me, and much more besides, Uncle. Do you not recognize the face of your own nephew and rightful King? I have long been told that I share the look of my father Ibiger.”
Then Meddur realized how grave of a mistake that he had made, but it was too late. For as he rose from his throne, his nephew began a chant, and soon a great sleep fell upon all of those present in the court room, except for Meddur and Warmaksan himself. Meddur fell upon his knees and begged forgiveness, saying that he had thought his nephew dead and had planned only to rule the kingdom as regent. But Warmaksan was unphased by his Uncle’s lies and began a second incantation. Soon a great host of serpents slithered into the room and surrounded the King. As he begged mercy, they struck, biting him time and time again, until he fell dead, frothing at the mouth and swelling from the poison. As he died, the rest of the court awoke in horror to find their King dead, and Meddur sitting upon the throne.
Having slain his faithless Uncle, Warmaksan vowed to restore Tiblis to its position of power and wealth as well as to finally get revenge upon the witch who had slain his Father. Although many expected him to strike at Caoimhe immediately, he preferred patience, and to strike when the time was right. Instead, he subdued the tribes to the South and west of himself, returning Tiblis to its role as the greatest power in western Libya and he made peace with the Vandal Kings of Africa. Only once his Kingdom was secure, did he begin to plot his revenge against Caoimhe and the Gaels.
By this time, Ciaran had become one of the greatest Sea-Kings in all of the Mhuirmhór. Although he had many enemies – seeming to enjoy raiding the lands of Italy and Gothland especially as the Empire’s navy remained weak – none could defeat him in battle. He was like a man possessed, driven by his anger to prove himself the equal of his famous Mother and Father. As such, he became greatly respected and feared and the sight of his fleet was enough to fill most men with dread.
Warmaksan had followed the stories of Ciaran Fitheach Mara with great interest for years and knew about the feud between Caoimhe and her son. Wishing to test the man, he sent word to the Pirate King that he wished to hire him for a campaign and requested a meeting. Due to the bad blood between their families, he offered to meet in a neutral location upon the isle of Formentera which was to the south west of Ciaran’s island kingdom. Ciaran was leary, but he also sensed an opportunity for great wealth and glory, and so agreed to the meeting.
Warmaksan and Ciaran both arrived on the island, as agreed, with a small host of men. Feeling confident due to the presence of his men and nearness to his own kingdom, Ciaran spoke first and said, “So, you are Warmaksan, the son of the man who slayed my Father?”
“Yes,” Warmaksan replied, “And you are Ciaran Fitheach Mara, the son of the woman who slayed my own Father.”
“I am,” Ciaran replied, “and what would you have of me that caused you to come so far into dangerous waters?”
Warmaksan laughed, and his laugh disquieted Ciaran in ways he could not hope to describe for it seemed otherworldly and contained the hiss of snakes and the skuttering of insects. “Oh, I am not worried about that. But, come, let us speak, for I have an opportunity for you, should you be so willing. You see, I know of the feud between your Mother and you and know also that she lied and disgraced herself in the court of Emperor Feardocha. And so I wish to make you an offer – I too feud with your mother for reasons that are evident and wish nothing less than to see that witch chastised. So, will you not join your strength to mine in a great attack upon her? We can drive her back to the sea and, when we are done, it shall be you who shall rule her Kingdom and it always should have been.”
With these words, Ciaran felt his heart drop into his belly. Long had he dreamed of the day of his return to Esphallis and to see his Mother beg for mercy for her sins. But, now that it has being offered, he could only feel loathing – both for Warmaksan but, more over, for himself. Finally, after many minutes, he spoke and said “I fear that you have come all this way for nothing, friend. Although your offer is good, the sons of Caoimhe do not turn against one another.”
“Ah,” Warmaksan said, “and so is that the reason that you struck your own brother in your mother’s court?”
A deep shame filled Ciaran with these words, but with that shame also came anger, for he knew that he was being mocked. “Best to sheath your tongue, oh King – for kingdoms have been lost by words alone. And you will find that I am as much of a warrior as my Mother and Father before me.”
Warmaksan began to laugh then, and there was both merriment and menace contained within. “Oh, yes, that I do not doubt. But your mistake is that you see me as a warrior like my Father. I am much more than that for, like you, I also take after my Mother.” And then he began to chant and a great sleep fell over all of Ciaran’s men, leaving the Pirate King the only one awake.
“What trickery is this,” he cried, “you fight with magic and not steel, like a coward!”
“No,” Warmaksan replied, “I fight with both. Which is why I will win.” He gave the signal and his men descended upon Ciaran and found him tightly and, after he was bound, they killed all of his men who lay slumbering upon the beach. And that beach is still known today as Leaba na Marbh – the Bed of the Dead. Then they took Ciaran back to their ship and sailed back to Tiblis.
Some time later, a messenger arrived at Caoimhe’s court in Esphallis. Having been granted entry he fell to his knees and said, “Oh Great Queen Caoimhe, Slayer of Ibiger, I come with a message to you from Warmaksan, Son of Ibiger, Great King of Tiblis. Your son, the rebel Ciaran, has been captured while raiding deep within our lands. To show that his highness shows no ill-will to your family and seeks forgiveness for the deeds of his own Father, our King offers to ransom your son back to your care where you may do with him as you like. He asks only that you both meet a place of your choosing, so that negotiations can commense and peace may be made between our peoples for generations to come.”
Hearing of her son’s capture, Caoimhe leaned forward in her throne. “Tell me, is my son safe and well kept?”
“He is, my Queen,” the messenger said, “no harm has come to him, for we recognize his worth to you.”
“Very well,” Caoimhe said, ”go back to your master and tell him that we shall meet in person at Carrick Mor in one month’s time. If what you say is true and there is no treachery within his heart, your King shall have won peace between our peoples for, despite the ill-deeds of his Father, I am willing to see us move forward as friends.”
The Messenger bowed his head and left the Court to carry this news back to Warmaksan. After he had left, Domhnal turned to his Mother and said, “Is this wise, Mother? There is every chance that this is a trap, and stories tell us that Warmaksan is a powerful wizard. Why risk your life simply to save that of Ciaran who betrayed us?”
“Oh Domhnal, I have every expectation that this is a trap, though my heart hopes that it is not – the deeds of Ibiger were dark indeed, but peace must be made between our peoples eventually. But, even if it is a trap, I would gladly walk into it to save your brother. Have you not forgotten my words in Ravenna? I know you still burn at the dishonor your Brother did to you, but his true target was me and not you. The time has come for peace between you and he as well.”
“Be that as it may, Mother, this is still not wise.”
“I know that, you stubborn son,” Caoimhe said, “but I have been living in the shadow of my death since I refused your brother’s challenge. If it is fated that this is the time for me to face it, so be it. None of us can live forever, and I would gladly risk my death to see my son one last time.”
And knowing that she could not be persuaded, Domhnal bowed his head. “Very well. I shall call our men so at least you have an army at your back, and I shall fight by your side as well all of your sons.”
“I would ask for nothing less,” the Queen replied. “And sent word to my old friend Coire Ceol Dóiteáin, the greatest poet I have ever known. For I will need his help once again, I fear.” [FN5]
True to his word, Warmaksan arrived with a great host at Carrick Mor a month later to the day. There he found Caoimhe’s forces drawn up behind her. Seeing the Berber King, she walked forward and said “Great King Warmaksan, I thank you for honoring your offer. Let none doubt your true parentage, for I can see much of your father in your face.”
“Indeed, “Warmaksan said, “it is said that of all of his sons, I am the most like him in form and substance.”
“Let us hope that you possess more wisdom than he,” Caoimhe said. [FN6]
Warmaksan raised his hand and motioned for Ciaran to be brought forward, still bound but otherwise healthy. “As promised, I have brought your son. Now let us discuss how best we can settle the debts between us.”
Caoimhe nodded, uneasy. Her warrior instincts, undulled by all of these years, screamed that she was being led into a trap. “And what can that payment be?”
“Mother,” Ciaran said, seeing her for the first time in years. “Mother, I’m sorry for what I did.”
“Hush,” Caoimhe called back, “It is I who am sorry – you were right about me and I was too blind to see it, and I will regret not listening to you until my last breath.”
Hearing the two, Warmaksan laughed and, once again, his laugh was full of the hissing of snakes and scuttering of insects. “You asked what payment would settle the debts of our people?”
“Mother,” Ciaran scried, “listen to me. It’s a trap! He plans to kill you all.”
“Blood,” Warmaksan finished. And then drawing his sword he sent it slicing down through Ciaran’s stout neck, sending the man’s head rolling to the sand. Then picking it up, he hurled the head at Caoimhe feet “As you did to my brother,” he laughed, “Now I do to your son. And I shall have my revenge for all that was taken from me!” And then he began to chant, and a great weariness came over all of Caoimhe’s forces.
But no sooner had it begun, then another chant echoed forth from Caoimhe’s lines. It was the poet-wizard Coire Ceol Dóiteáin and though he too would fall asleep, he used his powers and cast the same spell over Warmaksan’s army so that they too fell into a deep slumber. And so it was that only Warmaksan and Caoimhe remained awake and aware.
Seeing her son’s head land at her feet, Caoimhe felt the greatest rage she ever possessed seize her. There was no holding it back, nor did she wish too. Her jaw fell open so that all could stare down her gullet, her face turned first red then black as one eye bulged from its sock and the other feel inwards. She seemed to double, then triple in size, and her hair stoof straight on end so that her head seemed covered in needles three feet in length.
At this Warmaksan felt the first stirrings of real fear in all his life – for he looked upon the woman who killed his father and saw not a moral but the very spirit of vengeance and rage itself. But conquering his fear, he drew his own blade and threw himself at his enemy.
The two fought for hours, so evenly matched where they. But, in the end, it was Warmaksan who gained the upper hand, for he was still younger and more powerful. Finding an opening. He drove his sword deep into Caoimhe’s breast, piercing her heart. She let out a loud piercing scream and fell to the ground. As she did so, the men of both armies began to awake and when they saw Warmaksan standing over Caoimhe’s bleeding body, a great roar erupted from both forces – one of joy for the Berbers, while the Gaels wailed in horror and rage.
“See your Witch-Queen,” Warmaksan laughed, “bested by my spells and my steel! She murdered my Father, but he was right in that the mightiest of his sons would avenge him some day.” Then, placing his hands beneath Caoimhe's chin and neck, he began to strain until all of his muscles bulged, his teeth clenched with effort and his eyes grew wide, for was attempting to rip her head clear from her neck.
But his boasting was his downfall, Caoimhe was not yet dead, though she was mortally wounded. Using the last of her strength, her hand tightened upon the hilt of Saol ó Bhás and she thrust it upwards deep into Warmaksan’s heart. The Berber King let out a terrible shriek as the silver blade cut through his flesh and bone and buried itself within his chest. And there were those who saw a great blue and wicked flame issue forth from his dying throat. Warmaksan's blood flowed from the wound, and down the blade where is spattered upon Caoimhe’s arms. Then, he fell backwards, dead. And the two lay with with one anothers swords jutting forth from each other’s still hearts.
Then, seeing this, the Gaels threw themselves forward in a frenzy and they cut down any of Warmaksan’s forces they could find. It was a dreadful slaughter and only a small handful made it back to their boats to return to Tiblis and share the news of Caoihe and Warmaksan’s death. It is said that the Gaels did not lose a single man during that battle, so great was their grief and rage over the death of their Queen.
That night, as the Gaels were burning and burying the dead, Domhnall stood over the form of his Mother, weeping. Warmaksan’s body had already been hacked into pieces and burned so that its evil could not poison the ground where he lay. As the tears flowed from his eyes, he noticed a woman walking towards him with pale white skin and hair as black as the night. With her was a wizened old man with a silver hand, and a young man with blond hair and eyes which twinkled with cleverness. These three led a small procession of hooded figures, which trailed behind them.
“Who are you," Domhnall demanded as a sense of awe and fear washed over him
“You already know the answer to that question,” the dark-haired woman replied. “Why do you cry? Today is a day of great victory, Domhnall Mac Caoimhe.”
“Aye, a great victory indeed,” Domhnall replied, “but at what a cost? I weep tonight for the death of my Mother as well as a brother who I had thought lost.”
“Ah, but your Mother is not dead,” the woman responded. “She simply sleeps. Did you forget the name of her sword? Saol ó Bhás – Life from Death. When the blood of Warmaksan flowed down its blade and landed upon her, it sent her into a deep and healing sleep. We will take her now, to an isle far to the West where she may slumber and heal. She was not your Mother alone, but the Mother of a great nation. And she shall come again when her children need her most – sailing from the West with a fleet to liberate and restore. This I promise you.”
And as she spoke these words, her attendants placed the body of Caoimhe upon a great shield, with Saol ó Bhás across her chest. And in the flickering light of the corpse-flames, Domhnall swore he could see the years melt away from his Mother and her chest began to rise and fall with shallow breaths. “Wait,” he cried as they began to carry Caoimhe back towards the sea, “will I ever see her again?”
“Perhaps,” the Woman who he now knew to be Grandmother said, “for our blood flows in your veins as well. You shall make a great King yourself, Domhnal an Cliste. Though the youngest, your family will find you most fit to rule. And you shall grow your Mother’s kingdom and make it great, strong and prosperous. When the storm comes from the North to wash over the Gaels, Goths and Germans, your Kingdom shall stand tall and its light shall push back the darkness. And then your people shall find new lands to call their own and shall build the Empire which was promised to your Mother and her descendants. But that will come many years later, I fear and it shall be your descendants and not you who face that storm, and the promise which comes after. But when your rule is done and you grow tired and weary of this world, we may come for you too – and then you shall see your Mother again in the lands of the West.”
And then a heavy slumber fall over Domhnall and he slept until he was found the next moring. When he told his brothers of the incredible vision he had had, they looked at him in wonder, for all could plainly see that the body of their Mother was gone. And everything was as his grandmother said it would be – Domhnall was elected King and he would end the threat of Tiblis forever and make Dal Caoimhe a great and proud nation. His descendants would play a hand in the liberation of the Gaels from the Theut, and afterwards they, along with their Gaelic cousins, would take to the seas in exploration and found great Empires to the West. And who knows, maybe he and his Mother still wait in the West, ready for their time to come again and light their people’s darkest hour. Or, maybe that is just a story we tell to children. [FN7]
[FN1] Why is Caoimhe being so tone deaf and unsympathetic here? After all, her own story would seem to suggest she would be sympathetic to the plight of her daughter. My best guess is that Caoimhe has grown into her role as a ruler and her main goal has become the protecting of her realm at all costs – especially now that her grudge match against Lachtna has been settled. She is also older and has grown distant from the passions and desires of youth. Finally, its fairly typical in mythology to see elder heroic figures become obstinant; thereby provoking the heroic exploits of their children.
[FN2] Of course, Feardocha was not the only one. A particularly bawdy rendition of the Caoimhe myth, preserved mainly in ballads but also in some prose texts, recounts that Feardocha and Caoimhe were involved in a contest to see how many lovers they could take prior to their arriving in Ravenna. Caoimhe won, not only in number, but also by explaining that each victory was worth more due to her age. Naturally, as this account is aimed more at children, this part of the tale has been left out.
[FN3] Much of this account seems to be inspired by coronations within the Roman Empire. Just what traditions marked a Gothic coronation have yet to be established.
[FN4] Mhuirmhór translates as Great Sea and is the Gaelic term for Mediterranean in this universe. Oileán Mór is OTL Majorca. At some point, the Belaric Islands come to be conquered by Dal Caoimhe, and the kingdom of Ciaran is used to help lay claim to them – although how and when this occurs has not yet been established in the timeline. However, the islands do end up gaining the name of Talamh Ciaran (or Ciaran’s Land) in the ATL.
[FN5] Coire Ceol Dóiteáin was last seen helping Caoimhe in war on Carthage. A mysterious figure in the legendarium, he wanders in and our of the narrative, suggesting that he might have been a legendary figure himself whose stories merged with those of Caoimhe. Sadly, save for some fragments here and there, most of the independent tales of him have been lost.
[FN6] This is interesting because, although in this story the two are meeting to potentially seal peace between their people, this dialog instead resembles the ritual taunting that often occurs between warriors and kings in mythology. This may reflect an earlier version of the meeting which was initially more antagonistic and which has now been lost.
[FN7] One final note, of some sadness. After hearing of her brother and mother’s death, Sadhbh threw herself from the tower of the Imperial Palace to the ground and died. This event has become rather popular in art and she is viewed as a tragic figure not only in Dal Caoimhe but throughout Europe. However, I was unable to find the proper place to put this information in. Considering it out author leaving out some of the more disturbing details of the story as it is aimed primarily at children. Finally, I've tried to indicate that Domnal Mac Caoimhe is more of a semi-historical king in the description of his accomplishments - that is, there are still a great deal of mythic tales swirling about him, but there are also concrete accounts of his achievements as well. No one is going to be walking about in the ATL arguing that Domhnal doesn't exist.
And, oh my god, its finished! I started the mythic cycle of Caoimhe No Beard largely on a lark. I had been creating this semi-mythic history for the character in my head for some time (in fact, even since before Caoimhe existed. My original intention was to have her be named Domhnal and be a male warlord. As the story developed, I realized it would be far more exciting for her to be a woman, and it would also give me a chance to comment on views of gender in this TL in general and in Gaelic society in particular) and had also hit some writer's block in my main narrative. I felt writing a one-off chapter describing her myths would be a fun and might well help me break through said block. One chapter became two, became six. Now, almost a year later, and one hundred pages on (I kid you not! The Caoimhe Cycle is literally over a fifth of the length of this entire timeline), it has finally come to an end.
I don't usually comment on the emotional side of this - after all, this is a all a fun timeline - but having spent a year with Caoimhe firmly lodged in my head, this last chapter was both satisfying and sad to write. I hope I did her justice with her death(or is it?) scene and that I depicted her as a three dimensional character with strengths and flaws throughout. I'm not sure a timeline such as this can ever have literary pretensions, but I like to think that I wove certain themes throughout her life, and that the breaking of her geis flowed into one another so that the ending became inevitable once that point was reached.
In any case, I hope you'd all enjoyed this side story that turned into a 100+ epic We shall now, at long last, turn back to the historical narrative as promised. I wish to stick with the current theme and do a post or two following the development of the Gaels and Gaelic culture - only 'historically' this time - and then we shall turn our attention back to the continent. I know the Franks and Saxons deserve some attention and they will be getting it sooner than later; though I also wish to begin moving through the 7th century for the Goths as well. After all, we have the Ruination and the Fall of Rome to be building towards; and they shall be as dramatic and glorious as Caoimhe's myth makes them sound; although expect some of the events to be quite different as depicted here.
As always, comments and conquests are not only requested, I kinda demand them
What is happening in the Rhoman empire at the same time?
That's a good question! The Caoimhe Cycle jumped us ahead in the timeline a fair bit, and so we will now be moving backwards to the mid 7th century again. This is an Era where the Rhomans are still recovering from the last great Rhoman-Sassanian War and then dealing with the new political situation which has arisen within its wake (the fall of Mesopotamia to the Arabic Manichaens, and the rise of a Nestorian Persian state). They are probably the strongest of the three powers in the region, but the war took a heavy toll on them and it will likely be decades before they fully recover.
Now, if you mean what are they doing during the events depicted at the end of the Caoimhe Cycle? Although they don't get much mention in these mythic tales, one can est assured that they will be involved and impacted by the events - the Fall of Rome, especially, is likely to not go over well with the GOth's Eastern Brothers.
Well, this was powerful. You almost made me weep.
Oh my god, that is high praise indeed. Thank you so much! I won't lie - I definitely got emotional while writing it; one of the side effects, I think, of working with mythic themes as well as having lived with a character for so long. I'm glad that I apparently hit the emotions that I was shooting for - I wanted the final battle with Warmaksan to be brutal and, for the first time, to really show Caoimhe on the weaker side in a physical fight (she'd been defeated before, but never in personal battle). And, really, in the end it all had to come back to her feud with the Berbers and family, because that's where it had all really started.
I suspect there will be some epic dirges written about that final battle in this timeline - if I could find some good sources about the form and structure of Medieval Irish verse I'd even try my hand at writing one or two. My only problem with the chapter as it stands, and I may go back and change this, is that I think the final battle needs to be more costly; currently it states that the Gaels didn't lose anyone, so great was their rage. But the more I think about it, it would make more sense and fit into the mythic tradition of the Battle of Camlann and the Battle of Etzel's Hall, if it wiped away the last of Caoimhe's generation of warriors.
The Arthurian vibe already runs strong here, so a parallel to Camlann makes sense.
(By the way, reading this prompted me to read more stuff about Germanic legends and, it turned out that my high school textbook was horribly, catastrophically wrong about the dating of the Nibelungenlied; which I kept thinking until know to be almost half a millenium older than it is).
Separate names with a comma.