Last week Conchobar decided Deirdre should spend some time with Naoise’s killer…
I fought hard this time, kicking and biting, as I was carried to Conchobar’s chariot, but to no avail. Eoghan joined us there, as we would all travel back to his house.
We set off. The clouds hung heavy over the hills that winter day. Every damp leaf and every blade of grass sagged downwards. The world was tired.
We came to The Old Woman, a great rock that marked halfway between the palace and the sea where Eoghan’s house was. As we passed it Conchobar glanced at me and laughed coarsely.
“Really, Deirdre, you look like a sheep in a field, caught between two rams.” Eoghan slapped his thigh and joined in the joke. Their guffaws echoed all around me, in and out the hills, dancing and mocking.
A wildness sprang up inside. I couldn’t bear this any more! I had to get out!
I jumped from the chariot.
My eyes opened. It was bright, very bright. I put my hand up. “Where am I?”
“Lady Deirdre,” a voice sounded from behind me.
Gasping in astonishment, I scrambled up and bowed low, “Lord Manannan!”
“I have had you brought here, Deirdre,” he said. But all my attention was on the two little figures behind him. “My children!”
I held out my arms as I fell to my knees, tears streaming down my face at last. They clung to me. “Mama, we missed you!” Aebgreine cried, kissing me all over my face.
As soon as it was released, I raised it to Manannan’s own, “But how -”
“You are in my country now, Deirdre,” he intoned, yet with an odd cough that made me giggle inside. Fairies aren’t immune to getting emotional at humans.
I held my children in my arms a little longer before Manannan shooed them away. “Your mother is tired,” he told them. “You can see her again soon.”
I watched them walk away, turning their little faces back to me. “Do you mean it? I can see them again soon?”
“Yes, I do mean it,” he smiled at me, the first real smile I had ever seen from him. “But right now, you are exhausted. Sleep now, Deirdre. Lay your burdens down. Let yourself rest.”
His words gently worked their way into my mind and stuck there. He was right. I needed this. I would sleep and then see my children again.
I lay down and closed my eyes, and peace flooded my soul.