Clarity

Last week Deirdre’s warnings were repeatedly ignored…

The palace loomed up in front of us by midday. We were greeted by the king’s steward and shown to our quarters to rest. It was about mid-afternoon when Naoise got out the chessboard that was there and asked me to play a game with him.

“I’m sorry for how I spoke to you,” he murmured as he laid out the pieces. I just smiled slightly and dropped my gaze to the board.

Naoise had captured my horse when there was a rap on the door, and a tall, middle-aged woman slipped in hastily. My heart felt a brief flash of joy as I jumped up, “Lebharcham!”

Lebharcham embraced me warmly, “Deirdre, my dear child. I’m both sad and glad to see you.” She put me aside gently but firmly and turned to the others, deadly serious, “Greetings everyone, but you should not be playing chess now! Conchobar has sent me to see if Deirdre is still as beautiful as she was six years ago. Come and look out of this window, all of you!”

We peered out, and saw a strange group of yellow-haired, long-legged warriors. “Who are those?” Naoise asked, a little warily.

“Why, they are Vikings the king has hired from England,” Lebharcham explained dryly. “And if I’m not mistaken, the king has hired them to kill you all. He wants revenge. And you as his wife, Deirdre.”

There was complete silence in the little room. Numb, I raised hollow eyes to Lebharcham’s face, “I knew it. I tried to warn them.”

The die was cast.

“Then why on earth didn’t you listen, all of you?” Lebharcham cried in horror. “It was obvious to me before Deirdre went away with you that she has the gift of prophecy. And if you don’t believe her then you may take my word for everything; the word of a woman who is highly regarded by the king for her foretellings and prudent advice.”

The men stared at her, open-mouthed. Naoise’s bishop slipped from his hand.

“So put on your armour quickly,” she urged them. “Prepare to fight. I will tell the king that you are ugly, Deirdre. But be ready! Fight bravely!” With tears choking her voice, she whirled out the door.