Hey! Did another week go by already? Seriously?
Yeah, that’s how it goes anymore. I lose track of time like I do dust bunnies under the couch. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone, least of all me. But a week will come and go and I find myself standing in the wake of the dust going, “Wait! What?”
At any rate, I’m back here in Cyper City (AKA “Online”) to let you know I’ve not spent the past week twiddling my thumbs. No sir! This gal’s been busy.
*Side note, Grammar Freaks, chill! I know that apostrophe “s” doesn’t stand for a contraction. I’m just cutting loose here – trying to find my rhythm.
Anyway, you may recall that earlier I faced a dilemma – to epilogue or not to epilogue. Well, you’ll be happy to know that I decided for the epilogue. The rough draft is now complete. And I’m über excited!
Now, some people have expressed a desire to see samples of my writing. I apologize that I’ve been remiss in that. It’s just that since most my work is still in the editing stages, I felt as though I wouldn’t be putting my best foot forward by displaying rough draft material. However, it’s not fair to get loyal readers going, then dash their hopes on the rocks either.
So, since you twisted my arm, I’ll post the epilogue for you in all its rough draft glory. Feel free to comment and even critique if you wish. Just remember to be nice.
Tale of the Clans: Rise of Betrayal
Torchlight illumined the antechamber of Cashel’s hall. The waning daylight slowly succumbed to darkness and Connor O’Dea initially thought it a better time to linger under the hospitality of the local hostel, enjoying his mug of beer. Instead, his drink remained at the board growing cold while he departed to answer some mysterious summons from Brian – a message revealing nothing more than an urgent ‘Hasten yourself to the king’s hall.’
A parched throat did little to ease Connor’s ire, but he resolved that this strange turn might provide him opportunity to mention his desire to obtain his share of Luimnech’s spoils and leave for Thomond. Damach awaited him there – as did Tylana.
Brian mac Cennedi approached as the great timber doors creaked shut behind Connor. A broad grin spread beneath Brian’s ruddy beard, affirming nothing amiss. “I’m pleased you answered the summons so quickly.”
“How else?” Connor replied, noting no tension in Brian’s voice. “You requested my haste. I thought perhaps there might be trouble.”
“None.” Brian drew Connor further into the room. “Only business requiring your singular talents.”
Brian’s ready smile emboldened Connor. Perhaps this would be the prime time to make his request known. Best to do so while his lord’s humor remained favorable. “If it means a venture to Thomond, I’ll do so readily. I’ve meant to inquire of my share in the spoils taken from Inis Sibhtonn. Father isn’t the only one among my kin who would benefit from the treasure we acquired in Ivar’s fortress.”
“In due time.” Brian lagged to a halt at the antechamber’s center where a red deer hide graced the stone floor. “There are matters more pressing to tend at present. It may be upwards of a month before we see Thomond again.”
Connor sighed, feeling his jaw tighten under the frustration of suffering a swift defeat. Crestfallen, he resolved to keep silent. Better that this sour business be over and done before his disappointment gained the upper hand and he spoke words he would later regret.
Brian’s eyes widened with compassion. “A messenger from the Ui Caisin arrived today. Lord Ailill brings my wife and children to Cashel’s keep. I would have you join the welcoming party at the River Suir’s crossing. You may send word back to your family – let them know of your well-being.”
Connor nodded. It was not the result he hoped for, though at the least, he could have the Ui Caisin messenger bring word to Damach en route to his own clansmen.
The hall doors parted, drawing Connor’s attention away from his musings. By the saints! Connor blinked, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. The local hosteler exited Ri Mahon’s hall with an attractive girl in tow, bound by the wrists. The glint of an iron slave’s torque shown beneath her reddish blond locks. She could be no older than fifteen or sixteen summers.
As they passed him by, her gaze locked with Connor’s, the amber torchlight reflecting the not-so subtle green of her irises. She seemed very familiar.
“One from among Luimnech’s hostages.” Brian spoke out after slave and master left the antechamber. My brother garners much favor from the Cashel Owenacht by giving the local lords first pick from the hostages. Which is why he asked me to send for you.”
These happenings grew more puzzling by the moment. Connor brought his attention back to Brian. “The summons came from Ri Mahon?”
Brian nodded and strode for the open hall doors.
Within the brightly illumined hall, Ri Mahon stood at the base of his high seat conversing with two men. As Connor drew near, he could make out the unmistakable brawn of Cathal, the king champion of Delvin Mor. His sun-browned arms protruding beneath a voluminous, ornamental brat. Opposite him stood a figure dressed in black, the stark corn-silk locks bespoke the man’s identity long before he turned to visually confirm Connor’s assumption.
Anlúan mac Ilbrecc nodded his greeting once Connor drew up beside him. Seeing all present in the hall, Ri Mahon’s gaze fell to Brian and Connor in turn. “Thank you for joining us here tonight. Please forgive the late hour of this meet, but I require the minds of my best warriors at present.”
Mahon turned from them and stretched his palm out over the arm rest of his high seat. He drummed his fingers against the curved wood. “It is the business of a king to claim hostages from his enemies as surety to enforce their allegiance. The results of Luimnech’s burning have proven me remiss in this duty.” Mahon faced Connor. “These nobelemen,” he nodded at Cathal and Anlúan, “have brought tidings of uprising against my rule.”
“Our sources tell us Ivar has fled to seek support from the Waterfjord Danes.” Lord Anlúan addressed Connor. The straight set of his brow gave no indication of emotion as usual – a trait Connor found damnably vexing. “Even if Waterfjord’s king backs Ivar with his warband, their threat can be diminished by denying them accessible ports to mobilize their men. They would dare not choose land travel when longboats offer them a safer and swifter transport. Donovan and Mael Muadh mac Bron are the greater threat. They would offer the foreigners means to mobilize their forces if it would benefit the Ui Cairbre and Desmond.” Anlúan leveled his heavy gaze on Ri Mahon. “Take hostages from those kings foremost, my lord. Do so and you cut off any immediate rebellion.”
“Strategically, Ri Mahon, you are not in a position to do this.” Cathal interjected. “The lands of Aine lie between here and Luimnech. The Ui Enna who control them are sympathizers with your enemies. How can you mobilize warbands against these clans when the men of Cashel and Thomond are divided one from another? The Ui Enna have control over the church lands of Imlech, a secure supply source for their clan. I think it best to make raid upon the Ui Enna and strengthen your position before all else.”
Mahon nodded. “Both arguments are valid. I’m loth to choose one over the other. Either way, we may lose valuable ground.”
Connor cleared his throat. “My lord, the decision seems simple. Only from a position of strength can we gain leverage. As Lord Cathal says, our men are divided by miles of territory under Ui Enna dominion. We waist resources securing the movement of our men between here and Thomond. If you force the Ui Enna under subjugation, than any ground lost to the south can easily be regained. If we secure our borders and roads, we secure our men.”
“My thoughts, exactly, brother.” Brian lent his voice to Connors. “Secure the roads to Thomond and Luimnech and you grant our war bands ease of movement. In this wise we retain control of the River Shannon. We must deny our enemies any foothold on that waterway.”
Anlúan mac Ilbrecc cast his gaze to the stone pavement beneath their feet. For the first time Connor noticed the man appear ill at ease. Lord Anlúan shifted upon his feet, his eyes darkening as they gazed off into the empty recesses of the hall.
“This troubles you, Lord Anlúan?” Ri Mahon spoke out.
Anlúan’s eyes snapped back to their king. “I will follow whatever order you give, my lord. My only fear is that my kinsmen may remain too long exposed to Ri Donovan’s vindictive ways if we tarry in suppressing the Ui Cairbre. They have already seen to the slaying of my uncle. Now my father holds our hereditary throne.”
“If you guarantee the forces of Ui Conaill Guara in a raid against the Ui Enna,” Mahon offered, “then I will offer you the protection of Thomond’s warband. My brother, Brian, will see that your lands remain safe until we obtain hostages from the Ui Cairbre. On that day, I will give your father one of Ri Donovan’s men as leverage against him. It will serve as recompense for the loss of your uncle and surety against further Ui Cairbre raids. When Donovan sees you have my favor, he will not risk harming the lands of his sister clan.”
Anlúan’s shoulders slackened as though a strain had been lifted from them. “That is a reasonable request, my lord. I will ready our men through the winter months.”
“Good.” Mahon’s gaze fell to Brian and Connor. “You have a month to mobilize the men of Thomond. See that they begin supplying themselves now. By spring we’ll make raid on the lands of Aine.”