“Naoise,” I sat bolt upright, shivering, trying to rub away the dream fog. “Naoise!”
My husband stirred beside me, “Deirdre, what is it? What’s wrong?”
“I had a dream,” I was still shaking. This had come on like no other. It was there the moment my eyes closed, immense, vivid, and real.
In a moment Naoise had wrapped his arms around me and was drawing me back into his embrace. “Tell me your dream, my love, and together we’ll try and see what it means.”
I snuggled back down, reassured. His arms held me tightly, and would hold me forever.
“There was a man, speaking to me,” I began. “A great, strong man, with a big red beard. I don’t know what he was saying, but I was refusing him. Then he went down on his knees to me. I still refused and then he went away, looking back a long time at me over his shoulder. It was so real!”
I was full of foreboding. The man didn’t threaten me in any way, but I couldn’t shake off the terrible fear that had laid hold of me.
From my description, Naoise recognised the man as the king of Scotland’s steward. Could it be that he had heard of me and was curious? Naoise had never mentioned me at the king’s court. We pondered over the matter in the dark for a long while, but couldn’t come to any conclusions.
But before Naoise went to hunt with his brothers the next day, he placed his sword into my hands. I went about the day’s tasks, gloom clouding the still air of the hut.
And then there came a loud battering on the front door. Grasping the sword in both hands, I peered out the window a little way along the wall.
It was the man from my dream. His great thick beard stood out like a prickle bush. However, his expression wasn’t violent. It was actually quite calm as he stood there.
“Can I help you?” I called from the window.
The big man turned, a smile growing. “Good morning! You must be Naoise’s lovely wife.”
I drew back, “You can’t have decided before now that I am lovely, sir, but I am Naoise’s wife.”
He laughed, “Your wit is delightful, lady. Is your husband at home?”
“No,” I replied, “He should be home soon, though.”
“Well, do you think I could come in and wait for him?”
“I suppose,” I went to the door and let him in. A dream in the night was no excuse for lack of hospitality.
He sat down on a pile of furs and sighed, “Oh, that is much better, Deirdre, I believe your name is. My thanks.”
“How do you know my name, sir?” I asked as I poured him a cup of wine.
He laughed, “Oh, by ways and means, lady, ways and means.”
We made ponderous conversation for the next few minutes. Gradually I relaxed somewhat, although not enough to put the sword away. Finally he drained his cup with a flourish and set it down.
“Now to business, lady. I actually came here to see you.”
“To see me?” The cold fingers of dread came needling back, and I reached for a stone one of the children had been playing with earlier.
“Yes. To put it bluntly, Deirdre, the king of Scotland has heard of your beauty, and is pining for you. Will you come away with me to his side? At least have pity on our great ruler.”