The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The corpse was bloated and discoloured. Gut, throat and face grossly swollen so that its eyes and tongue protruded far beyond the skull which should have contained them. The stench of it’s putrid emissions filled the hall, leaving many an occupier gagging and the rest taking but the shallowest of breaths.
The King of Ireland sat his place, as fair and fine a form as ever, despite the palor of his features and the anger writ clear across his brow.
“There will be justice for this villainous act and my judgement I will place upon you for your crime.”
The words lashed out from Bres as his straightening posture took his nose further from the dead body at his feet, without giving ground nor seeking its removal.
“By the rightness of words and the fair process of our way, I have grounds to speak before judgement is placed against me.”
The Dagda’s words were softly spoken but carried such a weight of rightness that none could deny him their truth. None it was but one.
“I will not hear of it! The proof his here, Crindenbel, fili of the fomorians. Slain by you, in your own home. No doubt poisoned for all to see by the look of him. You must be judged and punished.”
The Dagda had not moved from the place where he stood. Having entered the King’s hall to raise just suit before the ruler of the land, he had instead met with derision, accusation, and threats.
“Bres, I ask once more for the rightness of my words to be heard.”
The chieftain stood, feet wide, stance steady and still, his big arms folded across his chest. It was not his place to force the matter, but the rightness of justice demanded that proper judgement be given, once all words have been heard.
“No! You are a murderer, and for the life you have taken I place judgment upon you that your life is forfeit in kind. He was of ‘My People’ and not for the likes of you, ‘ditch digger’, to harm.”
A tumultuous murmur erupted within the hall, many voices speaking in shocked tones caused a jumble tumble of sound which stole all sense of the words, but gave clear indication of the roiling emotions the judgment had caused.
A sudden thunderous clap rang the space to abrupt silence and shifted the face of Bres from satisfaction to shock.
The Dagda lowered his hands to fold across his chest again and all could see the heavy anger about his brow.
“You have given false judgment against me, the decision of a princling child and not one fit for a kingly place. Hear me now Bres and know you may make your rule as false and failed.”
The Dagda rolled his gaze about the hall, pulling in the attention of everyone present so that all may bear witness.
“If you will have me as condemned then I have right to my last words and even one such as you could not deny a person that.”
The dark eyed gaze fell back upon Bres, who had attempted to rally his courage and retake control of the matter.
“Our people spoke in the aftermath of war and you, Bres son of Eri, Delbaeth's daughter, were raised to the seat you now sit.”
The Dagda raised his arm and pointed one of his massive fingers at the man upon the high seat.
“Yet what of your people? Are not ALL peoples of any land to be considered 'the people' of its ruler? Yet here you sit before us, and claim your father’s people as favoured above the rest.”
Bres, moved as if to speak but the weighty gaze of the Good God was upon him so the words caught and choked in his mouth.
“By your request was I made ‘ditch digger’ for your home should have security. By your request is my brother made to labour in wood gathering so that your home may have warmth. By your request are all the champions set to labour in this manner.”
The Dagda turned a slow circuit, arms wide apart to gesture at all the people about the space. Secure in its comfort, warmed by its great fires.
“No one should shirk from honest labour. No one should deny the needs of their people. All people. No one should deny the rightness of truth and the importance of a just judgment.”
The Dagda’s gaze returned to Bres, once again seizing upon him with his Will so as to stifle any interruption.
“These labours are justly undertaken, not for you and your high seat, but for the people whom that seat is set to serve.”
Dagda gave a moment's pause so that no one could mistake the import of his words, and such were they that even Bres did not seize upon the moment to interject.
“An honest days labour, for honest proportionate reward. That is our way, that is the manner in which all are served best.”
Dagda’s eyes fell then to the wretched form of Crendinbel.
“For no just labour, did this ‘lampoon’ claim the three best portions of my meal. Day after day, upon the arrival of that days rest, he would say onto me: "O Dagda! Of thy honor let the three best bits of thy ration be given to me!" and by laying claim against my hospitality with this veiled threat to my honour, was I stripped of my just recompense for my daily labours.”
Dagda stood tall, planting his feet and squarely facing Bres.
“On the evening that was to be his last Crendinbel did claim once more the three best portions of my meal and they were given to him in fulfilment of my hospitality and in keeping with my honour.
Yet on this day my house held hospitality for more than just this ‘lampoon’. My son Midir and his foster boy Oengus had joined us for the meal; and as a surprise gift to me they did place within my ration three coins of gold.
These were within the three best portions and by his claim upon me were they given to Crendinbel.”
Dagda took a moment for his breath and noted that Bres eyes flickered briefly to gaze upon Crendinbel.
“By the his own appetites and his hunger was Crendinbel slain for in consuming the portions without care, he did consume the three gold coins instead of retrieving them to his benefit.”
The Dagda, settled back big arms once again folding across his massive chest.
“I raised no hand in harm against this person, but offered only the best of my hospitality in keeping with my honour and service to my people. For this, Bres, you have placed a false judgment of death upon me.”
The tale came to a close and silence settled upon the hall. No one moved and all eyes fell upon the King.
No one could sit in that place and not feel the weighty burden of so many stares. Bres was sometimes a fool, but not even he could ignore the expectant gaze of his people. Still, the King made attempts to secure his judgment and prove his rightness.
“We have heard your words Chieftain, and though you weave a believable tale, all they are is words with no proof to attest to them.”
The Dagda let out his breath in a sigh and shook his head, shoulders slumping as the sadness settled upon him. The health of the land is tied to the rightness of its ruler. All knew this.
Should the rule of the land be fair and just then the land and the peoples would thrive and prosper.
Yet should the rule of the land be proved false, that there was no rightness to judgement, then the land would sicken, its people go hungry and diminish.
To prove the king bereft of rightness could lead to poor times for the land and her peoples.
The Dagda straightened once more, the decision was made already. There was no rightness to this rule and to pretend otherwise, regardless of the expense to himself, would not see true and right prosperity for the land nor its people.
Hard times may follow, but he would see them through and set the land to rights, even if it should cause him his life. For now, the rightness of judgment demanded it not cost him his life.
“There is your body of evidence. Within the stomach of Crendinbel will you find the coins and with it proof that your judgement is false and you have laid unjust words upon me this day.”
All eyes followed the Dagda’s broad finger to point at the corpse upon the mat. Bres no longer had grounds upon which to demand the Dagda’s life without first pursuing the investigation.
“So be it! Let the stomach of Crendinbel be opened and should these coins not be found then the death of my judgment will swiftly follow.”
Bres raised his arm to summon the leach to task as the Dagda’s words followed and froze him.
“...and should they be present, as spoken of in right testimony, then your judgment will be proved as false, Bres son of Elotha.”
The Dagda strode out into the daylight, leaving the putrid stench of the king’s hall. The body had been opened for the proof to be seen by all, and as the foulness of its fluids and gases were released, so too was the shine to three gold coins.
Stepping clear the Dagda drew deeply the breathes through his nose and mouth to clear himself not only of the rancid stench of the corpse, but also of the frustrations and fears of the event. The folly of Bres would not end here. The rightness of his rule had been exposed as lacking, the Dagda only hoped that the harm to follow would not be too great.
Shaking his head to shed the worries of tomorrow, he set his stride to work the ramparts, for completing them was the work of the day.
As he approached the earthen works he came upon the sight of the young lad, sitting as he had been the other day, on the mound of muck, digging out stones with a stick and throwing them as far as he could to test his strength.
“Ho there Dagda. You’re late to work today? Would the King not be mad at you for that?”
The lads voice held the high pitch of youth but the words and smile gave more insight to the mind at play behind his eyes, eyes as blue as his mothers.
“Not to worry young Oengus. I have just been to see the king to clear up a little misunderstanding of sorts. I’m sure everything will work out well eventually”
With a broad smile the Big man slid down on his rump into the ditch, retrieved his tools and begin the days labours. Without looking up from the toil he addressed the youth.
“I’m afraid I couldn’t retrieve those gold coins you gave me.”
The Dagda shoveled the earth as he awaited the boy’s reply, interested in what answer he may come up with.
“Oh?...but they weren’t yours to retrieve were they. They fairly belonged to that loud annoying man. What he chose to do with them was his own business, though I’m surprised eating them was his choice. Did he not know they could kill him? I guess some people are just funny in their ways”.
The Dagda smiled broadly into his work as he began to find his rhythm. A few moments passed as his ears picked up the noise of the youth digging up rocks from the mound of fresh turned soil.
“So, do you think you will be finished soon?”
“Yes lad, not much more to go now.”
“What do you think you will ask for in payment for all this work you have done?”
The Dagda allowed his thoughts to be still as his body laboured. There it was again. That sense of things he had gotten when the youth had turned up at his door with Midir and he had first spoken to them of his trouble with Crendinbel. It was an oddness in the words that spoke to something far greater, something that may have great import.
Dagda carried on with the work and smiled to himself again.
Some son this one.
“Oh I don’t know, what do you think I should ask for?”
“Em I don't know….do you like cows?”
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An Scéalaí Beag