Last week Deirdre slipped out and got a peek at the king. She now turns her attention to her other task…
Where could I find this young man? I had no idea. I slowly began to make a circle of the fort. I would check thoroughly before making enquires.
I had gone halfway round, when faint singing floated to my ear. I stopped to listen as a smile gradually spread across my face. Such singing! A wonderful, three-part harmony that seemed to warm me up from the inside out. The music became a marching beat for me as I stepped out more brightly, strangely filled with hope.
I rounded the back of the fort. There was only the one voice now, but it still filled me with the same happiness.
And there he was, standing on the rampart. Naoise, the son of Usnach.
I knew him immediately. Hair as black as the raven, cheeks like blood, and skin like snow. My feet stopped dead. Exactly like my dream, he was even more handsome in real life. I drank my fill of him, like sweet wine, as something flowed from my heart out to his.
Instinctively I bent down and scrubbed my face clean with a handful of snow. The shawl fell off my head as I walked towards him. As I got closer, his features grew more distinct, and my face began to heat. The puzzle was finally clear.
I like him, and we are also linked. But my liking is the link. We are meant for each other. I was stupid not to see it before.
I had no idea how I knew this, but I felt it deep in my bones. Sometimes the truest notions are feelings.
He is my fate. But one I choose.
My pace quickened over the crunching snow. The melody stopped abruptly as I grew level with him. I smiled. He had noticed.
His feet thumped as he jumped off the edge. “Well,” his honey-coated voice called to me playfully, “I think I see a fine heifer walking past me.”
It wasn’t an insult. Cows are prized by us.
I looked up and met his dark eyes with an equally saucy glance. “Well, the young heifers are great, in a place where bulls are sparse.”
Something rushed through me like a sudden breeze, leaving me giddy and exhilarated at this totally new kind of talk.
Some kind of shadow crossed his face, “Well, you have the chief bull of the province as your bull, even King Conchobar.”
He knew who I was. But I wouldn’t give up that easy!
“I would choose between the two of you,” I said, “and I would choose a younger bull like you.”
He was serious now, “No, for I fear Cathbad’s prophecy.”
One of the king’s advisors? What did he have to do with it? I frowned, “What prophecy? All we do is run away. They will not bother to catch us in another country.”
“No, you don’t understand.” He turned away, visibly torn and distressed. Why would he be upset? Could it be that he felt something for me as well? I tried the emotional appeal.
“Naoise, I had a vivid dream about you. In my opinion, you are linked to me. You are mine. How do you see it?”
He ran a hand through his hair, “Deirdre, I also had a dream about you,” he admitted, “I understand what you are saying, I have also felt a link, maybe. But there are problems. You are betrothed to my uncle.”
The image of the hard, powerful, elderly king was vividly brought to mind once more, “I’m not going to marry him even if you refuse me. I’m going to run away, today.”
“Where will you go?”
“I don’t know.”
He looked hard at me, and for the first time I could feel an answering feeling that met mine in mid-air. “That is foolish. You must have a plan.”
“I only know that I don’t want to marry him. I can’t. What kind of life would I have with the king? I’d just be like a painted doll for a little girl.” I tried to speak calmly but my voice shook.
He squeezed his eyes shut as I waited, chest tight with suspense. Finally he opened them. “No, in spite of everything, surely it would be a disaster?”
He has less faith than I have in the future, obviously. Well, all things considered…We like each other; we are linked by that. He is the best way of escape for me. And when I told him I was going to run away he nearly agreed.
Did I dare?
I leapt forwards and grabbed him by the ears. His mouth dropped open. I looked straight into his eyes. “If you don’t take me away with you now I will curse you, like a poet would, and abide by the consequences of being untrained.”
He looked into my eyes and read the finality there. There was a pause. Finally his eyes sunk, not without a small smile, as if I had perhaps forced him into what he really wanted all along.
“My wife, release me.”