The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
Trees and trees as far as the eye could see, covering the land down to the plains of the midland. The leafy boughs shading the land from the most of the summer’s heat, and the worst of the summer rains.
He liked it here.
Lost among the growth of decades it was a place to loose time in all of the best ways one can lose it. Inhaling deep and slowly the Dagda took in the heady scents of the woods all about, the leaf and loam, and the rich earth beneath.
Twice to three times the height of a tall warrior these plants had seen the turning of many seasons and with it the passing of many generations. His feet inevitably took him along familiar trails, moving easily through the brush in some places, or across the expansive clearings kept beneath the tallest and broadest of trees.
This was a pleasure that not many seemed to appreciate. People seemed to spend too much time with their eyes fixed on the destination, rushing to meet at some place and time without allowing space to appreciate the trip in the middle. The Dagda's eyes fell on the trail in front of him and he took a moment to squat down and really look at what the earth was telling him.
Deep brown and firm, the soil told him that the rains had been through here no more than a day or so before. The roots of the nearby trees found their way to the surface here and there, reminding the traveler of their hold upon the earth, and to watch their step.
Slight scuffs in the dirt indicated that he was not the only creature to recently use this trail. His eyes roamed forward but were denied a clear print, until they came to rest on some hair captured in the embrace of earth. With another deep inhalation the Dagda mentally sorted what he was smelling until he found it. Deer.
Luckily he was here for a different prey. With a smile on his broad craggy face he sauntered off down the track pondering what he smelt like to the deer as he passed its hiding place in the brush to the far left.
Within a long slow hour he came upon his prey. Large and broad it lay on its side. Almost as wide around as he was, limbs splayed out at odd angles. Approaching slowly he saw how it had died. The earth was tossed about at its foot and showed where its grip on life had failed.
The storm's wrath was played out all around the fallen tree.
The Dadga moved to it and placed his broad hands upon its rough bark. Closing his eyes he tried to imagine the years it had seen. Though not as old or as big as its brothers it still would have held many stories. Listen hard enough and you will hear even the echo of the land's birth, he thought. Shaking his head with a smile at his own conceit, he opened his eyes and patted the fallen tree.
"Time to go little one. Don’t worry, I will find the heart of you and keep it safe."
With that the Dagda set to work, with axe and saw he stripped the roots and branches, stacking the limbs to dry beneath a near chestnut. He often left little stores of drying wood for travelers who may come upon them, or indeed himself should he need it on a dark night.
With the trunk stripped and the area tidied, he took the last tool from the bindle, its chains ends clanking. Setting the wood hooks firmly in the tree, he settled the leather covered section square across his shoulders. Time to make a new trail.
The Dagda chuckled to himself and settling his wide shoulders to their burden, leaning his broad back forward, he planted his feet and set the strain against his big round thighs. At first the battle went to the earth, as it jealously tried to hold to the tree, but the Dagda could not be stayed once set to task.
With a groan from the wood, the earth finally gave up its stubborn resolve, in the face of one which out stripped it.
The Dagda's legs began to push on, and within moments they were pumping back and forth with a steady rhythm, the tree willingly moved to follow the man.
As the day found its afternoon the Dagda came to stop at his destination.
The building was broad and tall, walled with stones fit snug to one another to keep out drafts, and the roof set to a high apex built around a wide opening so that the thick smoke could escape. Set carefully about the edge of the building where various tools of trade. Right now the plume rose high and dark in to the sky. Work was being done.
With a deep breath the Dagda shucked the chain off and allowed his burden come to rest.
Stretching out his arms and rolling the ache from his shoulders he strolled to the trough of water kept right beside the door. A musical rhythm came from beyond the leather covering and the Dagda did not enter.
Instead he dunked his head and shoulders in the cold water, then stood and let the water find its own path down his skin.
Returning to the log he removed the chains and again allowed his fingers rest on the bark stroking thoughtfully. With a glance to the sky, one last shoulder roll and a nod to himself, squatted down by the middle of the logs span. Feet set flat and wide he pushed his hands in under the log and with a grunt of effort, he straightened, his powerful legs locking, his back straight.
Once again the earth could not hold its embrace of the log, and gave in to the Dagda's strength. With a dead lift, the wood rose in to the air cradled in his big arms.
With a few steps the wood was placed upon the logging horse and retrieving the saw he set the blade to bark. With one last caress on the tree the Dagda pulled the blades teeth through the wood. With his feet planted wide and shoulders set he pushed the blade back sending saw dust to fly. Finding his rhythm in the hammering clangour coming from the building the Dagda set muscles to work and found himself humming along tunefully.
After the sawing would come the axe, the rise and fall to crack and split. The pleasant reassuring rhythm of a job the body can do whilst the mind wanders the paths of thought and dream.
Still the Dagda eye didn’t stray from the wood rounds as they fell one after another.
He had a promise to keep.
The forge fire burned hot and hungry.
It's persistent ravenous need something that any who laboured with this force needed to understand intimately. Standing over it, the light shining upon his muscled labourers form, it's heat setting a sheen of sweat to mix with the ash and soot upon his skin, Goibhniú smiled.
He knew this kind of hunger very well indeed. The fire would need a large feed tomorrow but for today at least the labour was done. With a sigh the smith, battled his gaze away from the fire and looked to the wood stock in the forge. This was the last of it, with nothing set by. He would need to leave his fires tomorrow.
Turning from the heat Goibhniú pushed the leather curtain back and stepped out into the late evening’s cool air. Blinking in the poor light of the sun’s set he saw that he had a guest.
"Dagda, What brings you to my door this late?"
The smith saw the chieftain seated in the dirt by the water trough, turning something over and over in his big hands. Looking closer with a squint he saw it was a round of wood, a section looking to be fresh cut from some tree.
That was when his nostrils, so used to ash and the burn of metal, picked up the scent of fresh cut timber. Turning about to follow his nose Goibhniú stopped to take in an unexpected sight. Stacked against the wall of his home, set up to its very height, the smith saw logged lumber, cut and ready for burning.
"It stormed about three days ago but this tree’s heart was kept warm and dry. It's lumber should set a nice fire for your work. Would you have anything to drink; I have quite a thirst upon me."
The Dagda’s voice was quiet as he rose ponderously to his feet. Goibhniú looked back and saw him stash that little round of heart wood in his satchel.
The smith stood, knowing the surprise on his face must look comical indeed but he couldn’t shift it. There was at least another few weeks worth of fuel for his labours, suddenly stacked neatly right by his door. The smith layered the pieces of the process together in his mind trying to fuse his thoughts into a whole which he could grasp.
The wood alone was a great gift. The effort required to bring, break, and stack it was more than he could expect. True, Dagda would not leave him wanting for the asking, but that was it, he hadn’t asked. The whole piece came together for Goibhniú and there was but one word needed.
The Dagda looked at the smith, with his deep dark eyes.
"Because this is where the work is;"
His gaze slipped to the neatly stacked wood, and came back with that usual smile of his.
"Was. Now about that drink?"
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An Scéalaí Beag