Last week the small party landed in Ireland, but Fergus was immediately forced to leave them…
We journeyed on towards Emain Macha, and with every step my companions’ hearts lightened. But mine was weighted with lead.
“I will give you good advice, if you will hear it,” I remarked to the others when we stopped for dinner.
“What is that, my sweet wife?” Naoise asked. My wonderful husband had been trying to cheer me up all day.
“Turn back and wait for Fergus,” I answered. “Then Fergus won’t have to break his geis, and you will all live a little longer.”
Naoise knelt in front of me, “Deirdre, how many times do I have to assure you that we will be careful? We are home. Let’s enjoy it!”
“Upon my word, lady, you don’t think much of our fighting skills!” snapped Fergus’s eldest. “Besides, our father has given his word that you will all be safe.”
I glared him right back, “He shouldn’t have left us then. Your father is too trusting.”
“Let’s be moving on,” Naoise intervened before any more harsh words could be said. We silently extinguished the fire.
“Don’t speak hastily, Deirdre, Fergus would never have come for us if Conchobar intended to kill us,” Naoise whispered. I said nothing.
The gorse and heather scratched our feet as we climbed up into a low range of hills. The setting sun streamed out round the horizon like a banner, silhouetting the landscape.
On top of the pass I stopped, suddenly overwhelmed by sluggishness. It swept down like the tide, consuming me, as I watched the men descending the other side. I tried to pull a foot from the ground, but it seemed as heavy as a sack of flour. I must rest…
“Deirdre!” Someone was shaking my arm. I sat up with a jerk and screamed.
“Deirdre!” Naoise grabbed my arms. “It’s me!”
My pounding heart slowed as I tried to concentrate on Naoise’s voice.
“What made you stay behind and go to sleep?” he demanded. “Do you know how worried we were?”
“I couldn’t help it,” I assured him, still shaking. “It was all so sudden. I just couldn’t move another step. It wasn’t normal, Naoise. I was meant to fall asleep. I saw Fergus’s sons. The eldest one had betrayed us, and was alive, but the younger one was dead.”
Naoise helped me to my feet as I gabbled on. “You were all dead, you and Ainlle and Ardan as well!”
Naoise hugged me, but this couldn’t make up for the words that came from his lips, “Deirdre, you can be sad if you want, but don’t make the rest of us sad too, when we are so happy to be home. How many more times do I have to tell you we are being careful?”
I felt like an arrow had shot me in the heart, and walked by his side in silence until we rejoined the others.
We camped for the night very close to the royal palace, and in the morning we woke to a cloudy, swirling sky. It was not as cloudy as my own mind, though, which was swirling with a fresh dream.
But as we walked the last few miles Naoise couldn’t stop grinning. “Look,” he called to his brothers, “That’s where we killed the white stag! And look, Ainlle, that’s where you kissed the king of Leinster’s daughter!” The boys laughed, joining in with his reminiscences.
“Last night I dreamt of a cloud of blood over Emain Macha.” I said abruptly as soon as there was an opening in the vociferous laughing and teasing. “My advice is that we all go to Dun Dealgan and seek Cuchulainn’s protection, as a precaution against any treachery.”
There was a general outcry among Fergus’s sons and my own brothers, “Are you suggesting we are scared?” Ardan demanded, furiously glaring at me.
I pressed my lips together and glanced at Naoise, who looked annoyed himself. “Since we aren’t afraid, we will not follow that advice. Conchobar is our uncle! How can you go against our knowledge of him? Nothing’s going to happen!”
“We’ve rarely disagreed until now, Naoise,” was all I said.
But we continued to walk.