A Medieval Saga
Slow through dark mist fades the cold glowing ember,
His consort, pearl-ringed, rides low over the hill.
Mournful the cry of the Shrike in the marshes,
Frost whitened pasture stands empty and still.
In the midst of the tarn are the Halls of the Chieftain,
Girded and guarded by black depths of lake.
Held by the spears of lean-visaged clansmen,
Muffled in skins 'gainst the cold winter's ache.
Where shadows creep deep in the gloom of the mountain,
Spring red sparks of fire that eddy and soar.
Whispered tight mouthed by grey beard and warrior,
"Be still, the Small People are hunting the Boar."
In the greatest of halls the feasting is over,
Rush strewn and be-decked, with torches aflame.
The war hounds low rumble as each tears his portion,
Steel muscled, savage, with scarlet hued mane.
Tell us a tale, begs a child of the Oldster,
Yea, tell us of days when humans were new.
When the breadth of green Eire was ruled by Small People.
None recalls that so well as old Uncle Llew.
The old man gazed deep in his horn of pale wine,
Hiding the mourn in his eyes.
Such artless prattle was silver and gold
As the song of the Lark in the skies.
Yea, I'll tell you a tale, quoth the white moustached Oldster,
He stirred up the peat with a sigh.
Of days that I knew, which have truly been
And of days to come, not yet seen, only by such as I.
His grey eyes grew cloudy as mist in the sea wind,
Adults grew nearer, his small kin affright.
Son of Seventh son, last of seven brothers,
Blessed with fore-knowledge as a king in his might.
I'll tell you a tale of a brave son of Erin,
Heir to the Munster of Brian Boru.
Who wandered afar from the land he was born in,
A possessor of courage, Lord Odin's due.
Once there was a daughter, delicate and fair,
Beloved of Lord Stefan, the kings true son and heir.
Far and afar they oftimes rode, hunting fur or feather.
Sweet Karnic's Sire, hawk eyed and grim, rode close as blade to leather.
In the gloom of the green riverbank, skirted by nettle bed, sage and rank,
on the edge fringe of my Lords domain,
Turned their wishes to home again,
when from the thorns burst a red-eyed boar,
grunting as the turf he tore,
with yellowed tusks, two hands or more,
with beastly rage insane.
Karnic, taken unaware,
lost her seat on her white-eyed mare,
And fell to the forest floor,
Under the tusks of the slavering boar.
Lord Stefan sprang between,
A hero's deed for a lad sixteen,
Armed with the knife he wore.
From the dark of the glade rang the bowstrings song
That bloodied the boar upon the sword, with a feathered fletch a cloth yard long.
But from the Archer not a word,
Nor sight, nor sound was heard.
The sky took on a deeper blue,
Where brambles were strange flowers grew,
Strange in form, of stranger hue,
Rose red were they and drenched with dew,
And the forms of children fade
As smoke, in that enchanted glade.
Though cast aside I raised a hand,
To save my child from that faerie land,
And as I touched her fingers fair,
'twas if I clasped on empty air,
or held to running sand.
Silence fell in that timbered hall,
The old man's tale held all in thrall.
"A wondrous tale, by Odin's tooth,
but where's the tale and where's the truth?
Tell us uncle Llew."
He slow unlaced his leathern cloak
and shewd an arm as a riven Oak,
Blasted and burned from wrist to yoke
as if it were brushed by a lightning stroke.
"Fore God's, his tale is true!"
The old one bowed his grizzled head
to hide the tears long years unshed,
Whilst through the room a fragrance spread,
A fragrance no man knew.
At his side stood children fair,
Attired in garments strange and rare,
with rose red flowers in their hair,
flowers drenched with dew.
A maid as fair as man would see,
laid her head upon the old man's knee,
"Dear Father we return, to heal thine arm and heal thine heart,
For we three never more shall part.
This boon is pledged to me."
Clasped he his child in fierce embrace,
tears ran unheeded down his face,
Vanished the lines upon his brow, vanished the scars upon his arm,
Melted the frost on a broken heart with his child's compassion sweet and warm.
They walked the floor with arms entwined, through the throng To the Oak barred door.
Burst the locks and brake the bars and no man saw them ever more.
And in his corner, freshly strew, were rose red petals drenched with dew.