An Invitation

Last week Naoise and Deirdre had to run away once again…

Glen Etive was bright and beautiful on that spring morning, when we stood on the beach together.  Then we saw three birds coming over the sea to us from Ireland.  Large, glowing birds they were, coming onward with a rush as their feet just brushed the tops of the waves, casting up tiny fountains.  They landed on the sand in front of us, and in their mouths were three drops of honey, one each.

They gave them to the three boys, and took one drop of blood from each in return.  Then they spread their graceful wings and flew away, back to Ireland.

The dream hung on me for the rest of the morning.  I hung the washing out to dry and then Naoise, who was in a curiously jolly mood, challenged me to a game of chess.

We took our seats, the board between us, and Gaiar crept up to my shoulder to watch.  The game progressed.

And then we heard it.  A shout, coming from the beach.  My heart sunk like a stone.  I knew immediately who it was.

Naoise was suddenly alert, his eyes sparkling.  “That is the cry of an Irishman, Deirdre.”

“No!” I said, trying to be calm.  “It’s the cry of an Scotsman.  Let’s carry on playing.”

Naoise frowned, but turned his attention back to his next move.  He took a bishop and the play grew more intense.  But I could see, with growing fear, that his attention wasn’t engaged.

Finally the shout came again.  “That is definitely an Irishman,” cried Naoise as he jumped up.  “Ardan!”

The boys came into the room, brushing the sawdust off their hands.  “Naoise, there’s an Irishman coming.”

“I know,” grinned Naoise.  “Ardan, can you go and meet him?”

Ardan nodded and sped off before I could get a word in.

“Naoise,” I cried, as soon as I could get his attention, “How could you let Ardan go unarmed? We don’t know if he is an enemy or not!”

“Don’t worry,” he reassured me, “I recognise the voice.  It’s Fergus mac Roich.”  He could hardly keep still.

If he knew that, there was no point trying to dissuade him any longer.  “I knew from the beginning it was Fergus,” I admitted.

Naoise raised his eyebrows, justifiably offended, “Why did you lie to me about someone you knew I would want to see?”

“Because of the dream I had last night!” Surely he would guess that I had had a dream, if I was afraid about something.

His face softened instantly, “And what did you dream?”

So I related the dream to him, and Naoise asked for my interpretation.

“He is coming to us with some sort of message.”  I stated firmly, “But it is a lie.”

There was a pause.  Naoise’s face creased as he fought conflicting emotions.  “Deirdre, I see we must be careful.  But your dream doesn’t tell us to not see him.  I know Fergus well.  He would never lie to anyone.”  He turned away to prepare refreshments.

He’s always trusted my dreams before his own judgement up to now, I thought, as I filled the largest caldron with water.  My anxiety grew, like a weight pressing on my head.

Presently voices drifted across the yard, laughing and chatting.  The men stepped inside the house.  Three tall warriors, golden haired and straight, but one had a more mature look than the others, with a few lines coursing down his face.  This must be Fergus, I thought, looking at him with suspicion.  I had heard many stories about him.

Naoise and Ainlle whooped and leapt forwards, while the stranger’s faces lit up in delight.  There was much hugging and back slapping while I stood in my corner with the children, waiting to be remembered.

Then Naoise extended his hand, and a brilliant smile to me, “Deirdre, I’m sorry for forgetting you!  Fergus, this is Deirdre, my wife.”

Fergus took my hand and greeted me, and then he introduced me to the other men, his sons.

“And these,” said Naoise, gently guiding the children out from behind my back, “are Gaiar and Aebgreine, our children.”

Fergus’s mouth dropped open, “Well,” he laughed, “Your life has certainly changed!”

“And I embrace the change,” said Naoise, sending me a loving glance.  “But come, sit down.  Eat and drink!  Tell us all the news!”

“Well,” said Fergus, “The biggest news is that Conchobar has sent me to invite you home to Ireland.  He swears by the earth, and the moon, and the sun, that he would love to see all of you.  He says that you may come in peace.”