Noch eine knappe dreiviertelstunde, dann ist das Jahr vorüber. Für mich persönlich war es von Höhen und Tiefen durchsetzt wie kaum ein anderes. Familienangehörige sind schwerst erkrankt, ein Familienangehöriger entpuppte sich als die größte und gefährlichste Enttäuschung meines Lebens, doch meine Schwester hat es härter getroffen. Sie muss mit den Konsequenzen seines Handelns leben – und mit Schlaganfällen lebt es sich so gar nicht gut.
Große Sorgen um die große Nichte. Große Sorgen um die anderen erkrankten. Und das wird sich auch in 2015 nicht ändern.
Das meine Spülmaschine so kurz vor knapp den Geist aufgegeben hat: Pfft. Peanuts. Spül ich halt mit der Hand. Ich konnte das ja mal.
Zum Abschied möchte ich euch nicht ganz ohne Story lassen. „A life gifted“ spielt in *meiner* Version der Kelten. Wie sie vielleicht waren – oder vielleicht auch nicht. Leider in Englisch, tut mir ehrlich leid für die, die das nicht lesen konnten, aber ich konnte das nicht auch noch übersetzen. Versuchts, in Google reinzuknallen. 😉
Die Story war Teil einer Anthologie: Perfect Timing. Michelle Rae macht hier einen tollen Job – sie stellt Geschichten zusammen und bringt so gleichgeschlechtliche Stories näher an die Normalität. Wo sie eigentlich auch hingehören. „A life gifted“ ist übrigens keine Romanze. Sondern pures Abenteuer.
Mit zwei schwulen Hauptcharakteren. 😉
A life gifted
Once upon a time there were the celts. A fierce nation of born warriors. Not ashamed to cry if they felt weak but those were the days where tears were not considered “unmanly”. But in a battle, those warriors were fierce and feared by their enemies. They were reckless, unforgiven but loyal to the core to those they considered family: The Fine, their extended core family. The Clan, the group of Fines working together. And the gods. Even the Clanleader only had power over his own Clan. There was never a Clanleader who ruled over all Clans.
Every victory was a victory of the Fine, every disgrace disgraced the Fine. And so the Fines in one Clan were in constant competition to gain reputation and honor and this benefited the Clan as a whole.
There was only one thing they hated with a passion: Treachery and dishonor. As a warrior you had to face your fate without regret. And those who tricked a Clan member couldn’t expect mercy. Tricking foreigners or members of other Clans on the other hand was Fine.
Nor do those who acted against the gods: Taranis, Teutates and Esus. Harsh gods of a harsh world.
But even the harshest world knew kindness. And sometimes in unexpected situations.
Let me tell you about the story of a group of warriors. And how they fought against treachery and a powerhungry druid.
The tension of the crowd gathering the Thing was thick. The Thane and the Druid stood tall and proud in front of them, judging over those who failed.
But this was an unsual case. The small, slender man kneeling in front of the leaders was one of the warriors of their tribe. Despite his efforts to seem calm, he was shaking visibly.
Baird, the Thane, cleared his throat. He didn’t believe Aodhfin did something so stupid. Nor let himself get caught.
“Explain yourself,” he bellowed to the young man, who was barely beyond youth. His initiation as a warrior was only last summer. His beard wasn’t even the one of a man and his hair still showed the shavings of the minors.
Aodhfin was a younger son. Bairds younger son to be exact. Seeing that the heritage was only for the eldest to keep, his way was signed at birth. He was entering the way of the warriors of his Clan. No marriage, no children; those were for the heirs. Every now and then, when a warrior gained enough honor or wealth he was allowed to take a wife and found a family. But they were never allowed to gain land. Warriors were born to fight.
So homosexual relationships between warriors were common and accepted. And the comrade of a warrior was his friend for life, almost like a marriage. But there was one big exception: The moment, a warrior reached adulthood and went through the first initiation he was a man. And a man didn’t lay with a man like a woman did. That was for minors and women only.
Every adult man who allowed another man to lie with him like he would lie with a woman was not considered a man. But he wasn’t a woman also – he couldn’t procreate. So treating him as a woman was out of question. Those men lost their status almost immediately. And men who were no warriors and no heirs were for no use for the Clan.
And if you are useless for the Clan you have to die.
And this is why Aodhfin was now standing in front of the Thing. Because he allowed Eochaid, his partner and comrade, to lay with him him like only a man and a woman should do. It wasn’t the first time they did it and normally they were pretty careful to not get caught. But this time they weren’t careful enough. They forgot reality until the druid pried Eochaid harshly off of Aodhfin.
There was no denying, not with the merciless druid as a witness. Eochaid was still considered a man, his reputation not even stained. But Aodhfins fate was set, it was just the question how the punishment was carried out.
And so Eochaid stood there, stoic, not moving a muscle, the picture of a proud and strong warrior. The other warriors stood like a wall behind him, supporting him while he watched helpless the verdict of the druid. Most of them were guilty of the same crime, to them it was bad luck that Aodhfin and Eochaid got caught.
Aodhfin looked to his father, his lips trembling. He was barely holding back his tears when he shook his head. There was nothing to explain nothing to deny and Aodhfin knew it. He tried to preseve as much dignity as possible and steel himself for his fate he already knew was coming.
Baird looked at his son, his heart was bleeding when he nodded to the druid, who stood smugly beside him. He was a vicious man who loved to sacrifice humans to his god. And this was almost too good to be true. The son of the Thane, the Clan Leader, caught in the most disgusting crime, leaving him in the everlasting battle for power with the upper hand, and he was dead set to use it to his advantage. With a little bit of luck he could gain enough power so that his very private dreams of power finally could come true.
He stood tall and proud, the picture of the god he represented. He threw the bones to the floor and looked at them for a long time before he finally looked up again. “This creature who was once Aodhfin Bairdson, warrior of the Clan, is no longer. This body contains no soul, no honor. To prevent Aodhfin Bairdsons soul from suffering in the afterlife we need to send his body to Taranis.
“At Beltane his body will follow his soul. Taranis spoke through the bones and this is his wish.”
With those words he left the young man, who collapsed on the ground. Aodhfin couldn’t hold himself together, he cried like there was nothing left. And it wasn’t, his punishment couldn’t get any harsher or more cruel. On Beltane the druid would cage him into the big straw man, the wicker man, and then he would get burned alive.
“I need to see him,” Eochaid was desperate.
He sat in the darkness of the main hall and clung to the jar, filled with met like a lifeline. “Where is he? I need to go,” he tried to get up but got wordlessly held back by two other warriors, Fhionn and Kieran. There was nothing left to say. They all knew how cruel this punishment was and that it has nothing to do with Taranis wishes but only with the wishes of the druid, who knew very well about Aodhfins deep fear of fire. Ever since he fell into the main fire and burned his upper torso badly. It was a close call that he would survive and the boy was sick for many days.
Aodhfin still carried the scars of this wound, and Eochaid knew it hurts him ever since. He learned to fight despite his pain, but he would never be as strong as Eochaid or the others. And in the nights there were often dreams of him burning in a merciless fire without being able to get out, which haunted him. The druid knew this and took this to his cruel adavantage.
Suddenly, a small shadow darkened the dim light even further. Kieran looked up and saw one of the youngsters who just recently joined the Fine of the warriors standing in the entrance, looking to him urgently but didn’t dare to enter the hall, who was for the adults only. Kieran got up and looked over to Fhionn and then to Eochaid. His love nodded, he would take care of their friend.
When he reached the youngling the child tugged at his hand. “I need to tell you something, but it is for you only.” Kieran would’ve denied the request by the youngling if not for his obvious mix of fear and disgust. He followed him to the houses where the warriors were normally sleeping. Once he reached them, the boy entered, closed the door firmly and then told Kieran in a quiet, hushed voice the reason for his strange behaviour. Kieran felt his eyes getting bigger. “Are you sure, child?” and the boy nodded fiercely. The warriors mind went almost crazy, he needed his love at his side, he was the more level headed man of them both. “Child, listen and listen carefully. Don’t tell anybody else what you told me.”
The boy shook his head with the same fierce determination he showed before. “Pack your bundle and take the bed beside Fhionn and me. You are moving in with us and we are now responsible for your training.” The boys eyes lit up like the fires on Beltane when he ran away like a flash. After all Fhionn and Kieran belonged to the most respected warriors in the Clan and living under their wings was a huge honor.
The warrior strutted back to the hall in the slow pace of somebody who had no care in the world although inside him everything was screaming to hurry up. But the last thing he needs was to gain any attention now. When he reached the main table he snatched Eochaids met jar and emptied it on the floor. “We need to go hunting. He needs to get out of here to clear his mind.” Fhionn opened his mouth to say something but when he saw something in the eyes of his comrade he closed the mouth and silently he tried to get up Eochaid. Together they lifted the intoxicated warrior and dragged him to the little river which provides the valley with fresh water.
One splash and a whole scream of bloody murder later Eochaid was sober enough so he was able to hold his sword without accidentally beheading himself and the three went into the forest, obviously to hunt down some game.
When they were gone a few miles and Eochaid was responding a bit more, Kieran told both men what the youngling told him. It was all a setup of the druid to gain more power. And he deliberately aimed for Aodhfin, as he was the youngest son of Baird, the Clanleader. Getting caught with such a crime it would weaken the power of the Clanleader for a long time, if not forever. A crime, especially a crime like that where the criminal left the ways of a man to become a woman without being able to bear children, was disgracing the Fine for generations.
The youngling also told Kieran that Feargus, another young warrior from Aodhfins Fine who was showing jealousy towards Aodhfin, was also involved. Eochaid never had any interest in that man, he was too happy with his comrade. But it seems like Feargus had different ideas. And so he spied on them and informed the druid the first chance he got to get rid of Aodhfin.
What Feargus did was inexcusable. He spied on his comrades and ratted them out. Worse of all: He did that behind their backs. Traitors had the worst reputation ever. It was worse than the crime Aodhfin comitted. The Fines and the Clan relied on trust and Feargus betrayed this trust badly.
Eochaid listened to everything very carefully and then stated: “The day Aodhfin dies I am killing Feargus in front of his eyes. And then I will die beside him. I don’t want to stay on this earth without him.” Fhionn sighed deeply and slapped the back of his head. “Killing Feargus is a very good idea, but don’t you dare and leave Aodhfin to the flames.” Eochaid glared at him. “I am not doing anything like that. My arrow will…” another slap.
“Doing nothing. I think we can save you both. But you have to leave for good then.” Eochaid narrowed his eyes. “Fhionn what are you up to?” The other man grinnes smugly. “Stealing a bone out of the druids oracle and showing him the mercy of his god.” Kieran and Eochaid looked at him, mouth agape.
“Say what?” But a little spark of hope blossomed in this chest. His friend was reckless, but he was also very very smart. Perhaps he really was able to save his comrade?
Aodhfin looked out of the small window. The druid was cruel enough to place him right at the only place where he had to see constantly the growing wicker man. He tried to remain as calm as possible but his deep fear of fire and getting burnt alive was constantly nagging at him. His demenour seemed calm but he felt fear constantly shaking him to the core.
The door opened and Feargus strutted in with an arrogant stance. Aodhfins hands were tied to the wall behind him, making him an easy target for the jealous man. He lifted his chin. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction to beg. But it was hard. Feargus was somebody who really enjoyed giving pain to others. He didn’t care that his face didn’t even resemble that of a human anymore. He was dead meat walking and Feargus knew that and didn’t restrain himself any longer.
Aodhfin tried to brace himself when the first kick in his guts let him spill everything what was left inside. And then he felt the beatings follow one after another. He felt his mind slipping away, somewhat happy. His last thoughts before everything went dark was directed to Eochaid. “Farewell, comrade. I’m so sorry I failed you.”
He didn’t hear the loud roar of some very angry men. And he didn’t get the satisfaction seeing Feargus getting the beating of a lifetime from his own father who came to say a last farewell to his lost son.
Feargus showed his whole flawed character by beating Aodhfin within an inch of his life. The young warrior wasn’t able to defend himself. Beating him up and enjoying it like that was a dishonor and disgrace to everything the Clan believed. And Baird, who finally found out that it was Feargus who snitched behind his back to the druid about Aodhfin’s crimes didn’t hold back himself.
The guards didn’t do anything to help Feargus. Everybody in the village loved Aodhfin. He was a happy man, willing to help, kind and caring. Feargus didn’t realized it yet, nor did the druid: Aiming for the gentle Aodhfin and punishing him with this cruelty wouldn’t get the druid nowhere near the power he was craving so badly. The village was simmering and Aodhfin’s Fine was not ashamed but silently enraged about the unfair trial.
Baird was close to beating Feargus to death when Fhionn fell in his arm, holding him back. The Clan leader looked at the warrior in disbelief. “He is the one guilty of Aodhfin’s punishment. He deserved his death.”
Fhionns handsome face split into a wicked smile: “But not yet.”
He looked at both men and nudged Feargus with his foot.
Fhionn looked at them as he would be in deep thought. “They really have family resemblance. Same hair color. Same beard style. A pity that Aodhfin is the more handsome and has to die.” He looked to Baird, his smile got even broader when he saw the eyes of his Clanleader widen when understanding dawned.
“But…” Fhionn shook his head, his eyes wandering to the waiting guards and Baird understood.
He turned around and right when he was about to step out of the room the tall man heard his guard saying, “Well, I really can’t say who is who anymore. Do you?”
Baird whirled around, seeing the other guard deep in thought.
“No, not really. They are both beaten badly. I can’t say who is Aodhfin and who Feargus, but hold on a second,” he knelt down, lifted the unconscious head of Feargus at his Ponytail. “I think this one here is Aodhfin.”
Baird looked at them, “Aodhfin never had a ponytail.”
The guard took out his knife and cut off Feargus’ ponytail. He looked at his clanleader and asked in all seriousness, “Ponytail? I don’t see a Ponytail.”
The guard grinned before sobering up. “What’s on your mind, Fhionn? If there is any chance I won’t let get Aodhfin killed by our druid.”
Fhionn hesitated a brief moment before closing the door to the prison and going away from the window as far as possible. He knew Kieran took care nobody was within hearing range, but he didn’t want to risk anything. Fhionn looked at Feargus in deep thought, then turned to the guards. “Take him away from here. Out of hearing range.”
The guards didn’t hesitate and grabbed the unconscious warrior, tossing him in the next room. When the door was closed and secured they returned to Aodhfin’s prison.
Fhionn gathered the men together. “My first idea was to pull Aodhfin out of the wicker man as late as possible, Kieran aiming with an arrow to kill him without suffering when we were too slow. But Baird just added what we needed. We’ll exchange Aodhfin with that traitor. But the timeframe we can do that is very small and we need a perfect timing to do so, otherwise Feargus will be able to talk himself out of this.”
Fhionn paused briefly, looking to Baird. “And we need to make sure that Eochaid and Aodhfin can leave the village for good. They need horses, medication and supplies to survive. And their weapons. Once Feargus is dead, Aodhfin can’t stay here anymore and I doubt that Eochaid would leave him alone.”
Eochaid, cradling his unconscious comrade at his chest, shook his head fiercely. “I’d rather burn in the wicker man together with him.”
Fhionn smiled thinly. “One word. This has to be kept between us. Aodhfin is no actor. He has his heart on his sleeve. He will act differently if he knows about our plan.”
Eochaid looked worried. “He is out of his mind with fear. I would like to lessen his burden.” Fhionn looked at Eochaid, becoming very serious. “Eochaid, my brother. I know how you feel. But a few days in fear will save his life. The druid will know what we are up to. And then there is no way to save him. Aodhfin will give himself away. You know this as good as I know. Please, listen to my words, Eochaid. Please don’t say anything to him.”
Eochaid was tense as he pondered Fhionns words. They were sincere. Aodhfin wasn’t able to lie to save his life. One of the traits he loved so much in his comrade, but now it was endangering them. With a stiff nod he agreed into Fhionns plan. His friend sighed in relief.
Baird looked a long time at the couple on the floor before he finally spoke. “Leave. Now. I need a few words with Eochaid.” With a curt nod they left the small room, the guards positioned themselves outside the hut.
The Clan Leader left the hut a few minutes later. His guards followed him suit. On his way to the main hall the druid crossed his way. “I heard that Eochaid was with the dead man?” he asked the Clan leader, grinning smugly.
Baird looked at him grimly. “And he still is, Druid.”
The thin man grinned without joy. “So he is contaminated by the shallowness. And will share his fate.”
Baird looked at the Druid. “If I were you, holy man,” Baird paused briefly after emphasizing the holy, “If I were you, I would not overstrain the chances. The Fines won’t follow a man who is on a killing spree in his own family.”
The druid grinned smugly. Baird admitted he had more power over the people and that he was the coming Clan Leader, something which seems like music in his ears.
“Oh, I just had a inspiration from Taranis. He is fine with only one sacrifice. Eochaid will not be necessary to calm his anger towards his people.”
Baird bowed his head in an abrupt manner. “Whatever you say, holy man.” Again he stressed the “holy” in the word.
The Druid didn’t mind. He had already his plans in store for Baird the second he was overturned as the Clan Leader. It was something no one ever heard. There were always two leaders. The druid as the spiritual leader to guide and the ruler of the Clan, the Clan Leader. One seeking power over bothwas never heard of. And never a good thing. How could a ruler rule without guidance? And how could a spiritual leader rule? But the Druid was dead set to proof that he could do both.
In his fiercest dreams he could see the Clans united under his leadership. A power similar to the Roman’s who once occupied vast areas of former tribal land. The druid envied their efficency and their power and he wanted to have this for himself.
He farewelled the Clan Leader with a short nod and strutted away, returning to his hut.
Eochaid rocked his comrade gently in his arms. He looked bad, his face bruised and Eochaid worried about the bruises on his torso. They looked even worse. Feargus really did a number on him. There was a rustling at the door and when it opened he saw Aodhfin’s mother, Luigsech, entering the small cell. She had obviously been crying, but she also was one of the best healers of the Clan and did wonders to those who where almost dead. And she was a determinded little spitfire who would protect her children with all her might.
The wife of the Clan leader didn’t hesitate and rushed to her son, her basket with herbs, lint and other remedies firmly tucked at her side. Luigsech felt for the body heat and sighed in relief when she developed no fever. She looked at Eochaid. “I will teach you what to do. Listen carefully. The life of my son might depends on your hand.”
Eochaid didn’t ask why she knew what they were up to, she was known as a smart and strong woman. So he just nodded and gave her his full attention.
Luigsech explained in a quiet voice the usage of the herbs, like willow bark against pain and belladonna for the strength of the heart.
“But be very careful with the belladonna. It is also a strong poison. The dosage is making the difference here. Use too much and you can easily kill a man twice his weight.”
The healer showed him the amount he declared as safe for Aodhfin.
“This is enough to give him the strength he will need. But not enough to make him strange.” Other remedies followed and Eochaid tried to remember everything.
Finally Aodhfins bruises were treated and a cut at his forehead stitched up with a fine needle made from bones. “I’m leaving now. Let him sleep. If he has pain give him the tea made out of willow bark. Keep him warm and don’t let him get up. Remember the pain medication. His scars as well as his wounds will hurt badly.”
She raised from her kneeling position. “And take good care of him. He is my son, my pride. He deserves better than you did.”
Eochaid bowed his head in shame, knowing he indeed was in the wrong and that without him Aodhfin wouldn’t be in this horrible situation.
A few minutes later he heard a loud groan from the other cell Feargus were held in. Well, Luigsech might be the best Clan healer. But for sure she wasn’t always gentle. With a small smile, Eochaid tucket his comrade into the blankets, patiently watching over his sleep.
It was the day of Beltane. The people in the village were tense. This Beltane wouldn’t be a day of celebration. The druid didn’t care, he was one step away to seeing his plan finally falling into place and so he strutted through the village with a confidence and smugness which teared at the nerves of the Fines, especially Aodhfin’s Fine.
The holy man looked at the wicker man in satisfaction. Big enough to keep the shell of a man away from the eyes of the people, but not burning fast enough to give him a fast death. The night before he made sure that the wicker man would burn slower than expected. He needed the screams of the burning man to remind the people later, what to expect if he would ever dare to antagonize him. Especially the warriors who should know their new Clan Leader by then.
Baird left the hall and looked at the druid. The man was dangerous. The more he didn’t recognize of the man, the more he lost all respect. He wasn’t the spiritual leader anymore, he became something darker and vicious. He needed to stop this man before he did serious damage. He was delusional if he thought any of the Fines would follow him. He was the one to lead, not the one to rule. That was the way of the gods and life was good this way. Baird felt a hand patting his arm and he looked at his wife. He wrapped her in his arms and both stood in the entrance of the big hall, looking at the prison their son was held into.
Kieran and Fhionn did an extraordinary job in keeping Feargus as silent as possible. And last night they exchanged Aodhfin and Feargus. The younger warrior was still unconscious and his mother came every night to treat his injuries. Eochaid was out of his mind of worry after Aodhfin developed a fever.
The traitor on the other hand now had the same hair style, a moustache instead of a full beard he once had and the same bruises and Fhionn made sure that those bruises were not gone too much to reveal the true nature of this prisoner. It was a measly disguise and they really needed to keep his trap shut somehow.
Feargus glared at Fhionn in hatred and fear. Finally the whole plan clicked in place and he knew he was doomed if he wasn’t able to give the whole plan away. He didn’t plan to play along. The last thing he wanted, was to burn into the fire.
Finally the sun was gone and darkness fell over the village. The way from the prison to the wicker man was covered in flickering torches and a huge fire enlightened the main place, giving an eerie feeling to all of them. The day was covered in clouds but there wasn’t any breeze. Everyone could feel the energy in the air building up, it would finally leading into a thunderstorm. And for the feels of it in a bad one.
The outside of the main place was a lingering darkness, almost unnatural. No natural light was seen anymore and the first breezes of the upcoming storm were present.
The druid didn’t mind. The storm would only help him to overturn the Clan Leader. He had his plan in place. When the screams finally stop, he would kill the distraught leader and claim his place for himself. It would have been the will of Taranis. He couldn’t fail. The only one who knew about his plan was Feargus and the little traitor for some reason fled his presence like the plague. The druid was already plotting his punishment when he finally got a hold on him.
A flash enlightened the scene with an eerie light before the darkness took place again. Fhionn and Kieran approached with a struggling Aodhfin between them. The young man was gagged and his terrified gaze loomed over the wicker man. He fought with all his might and it took Fhionns and Kierans whole strenght to keep him in check. The whole time he yelled something but thanks to the gag nobody understood him. Aodhfin looked at the druid with an intense gaze, but the man only smiled cruelly and pointed towards the wicker man with his ceremonial dagger.
Both warriors dragged the now panicking man into the wicker man. A small cage was built into the belly of the giant straw man. They shoved him into the cage and closed the door. Kieran took the chains and secured the cage for good. The storm was making an approach rapidly and the winds got louder so nobody could hear that what he was saying to the crying and shaking man inside the wicker man.
The lock was in place and Kieran stepped back. Together with Fhionn, with haunted features, returned to the group of warriors. Aodhfin was now hidden away from the gaze of the people.
The druid started to speak his chants, pointing to the four windcorners with the holy dagger. He took his sweet time, knowing that the man inside the wicker man had to be out of his mind of fear.
Suddenly a lightning almost blinded him. He took too long for his prayers and now the thunderstorm was in full strength right over the village. It was a strange storm, with no rain. Only the dry thunder was almost deafening the people while the lightning struck with a speed which terrified the Fines.
The druid took the torch and intensified his prayers to Taranis. The second he threw the burning torch into the strawman he saw Eochaid running to him, his sword high over his head, his mouth open in a fierce battle cry. The druid lifted his dagger high above the head to throw it to the approaching angry warrior when another lightning suddenly struck.
Right in the iron dagger the druid held firmly.
The wicked man stood a few seconds, his skin blackening where the lightning worked his way through his body before he fell to the ground with a thud.
And that was, when finally the sky opened his doors and drowned the village with a flood, almost immediately erasing the fire of the wicker man.
The Fines fled into their homes for security and away from the wrath of their gods. Only one man, Eochaid, dared to approach the heavily smoking wicker man. He looked into the cage, Feargus was still alive, he managed to get rid of his gag, but no words were coming out of his mouth, which was open in a silent scream. One gaze into the eyes, which were looking into nothingness, told Eochaid Feargus left the shores of sanity, maybe for good.
He tried to get him out of the wicker man, but another lightning struck nearby, splitting an age old oak in two. Eochaid got the message, greeted Taranis and his brothers with a salute to the skies before he fled into the security of the little prison cell and in the arms of his comrade.
Finally the storm was over. The corpse of the druid laid besides the big fire, the big wicker man destroyed by the elements, the straw, some parts burned, shattered over the village. The stamped earth of the paths between the huts was a muddy lake. The damage was big, but the Clan survived and they didn’t lost anyone besides the druid.
Baird personally opened the cage which held Feargus still captive. The insanity left his gaze, but the shame didn’t. Finally, he realized that he failed his Fine and Clan in every way possible. And there was no one left to blame but himself. The stormy night of Beltane changed Feargus. Gone was the jealous and overly proud traitor and replaced by something he didn’t even realize now. But Baird saw the difference and that’s why he kept him alive.
Eochaid and Aodhfin left the little prison and walked slowly to the place Feargus and Baird stood together in quiet conversation. Feargus tensed but then he did something, nobody expected ever to see from him. He knelt in front of Aodhfin, took his foot and set him right in his neck, the ultimative gesture of submission.
“With this day I pledge my life to you. You may be my master and if you please you can take my life. This is what I owe to you.”
Aodhfine looked at him and his expression softened at the sight of the devastated warrior. He took his foot away from his neck and picked him up again. “Our Fine and our Clan needs you more than I will ever do. Serve me by serving both, because I won’t be here much longer,” he said, gazing at the other warrior and acknowledging him for the first time as equal.
Feargus started to speak, but Aodhfin shook his head. “If you want, take this as your punishment. Take care of the Fine and the Clan when we can’t, Feargus.”
The other man hesitated a bit but then nodded and stepped aside.
Eochaid didn’t say anything, he just had the back of his comrade. Both went to Baird and Luigsech, who accompanied her husband. Both parents heard the words of her son and their heart broke. Baird felt tears running down his cheeks, but he also knew that his son made the right decision. After all the things that happened, the Clan needed to settle down. And with both, Eochaid and Aodhfin, still being together in the hall, there would be no settling. The first time Baird felt like the duties as a Clan leader tore him in two.
When Aodhfin reached them, he looked at his father questioningly and Baid just nodded. He stretched his arms and Aodhfin fled into his fathers arms for the last time, to hide from the cruel world. His mother sobbed and hugged both men tightly.
The little family stood together for a long time, indulging in the bittersweet last goodbye. Eochaid left them alone, he was bidding his goodbye to the warriors, especially Kieran and Fhionn who were his best friends.
He came back with two horses, saddled and another horse with supplies worth a few weeks. Luigsech gave her son a little but heavy bag. When he took it he could felt the coins clinging together.
Luigsech shook her head. “I don’t have any use for this. But you might have. Keep it hidden, people kill for this coins. But this might help you in places where you can’t hunt, my son.”
With those words she hugged him a last time, kissed his forehead and scurried back to the main hall. Baird took his own sword. It was made out of iron instead of copper and was in the family for many years.
“You will need this in the world outside, my son.”
Aodhfin swallowed back the tears which threatened to well up again. He took his own copper sword and replaced it with the iron sword of his father. “I will take good care of it.”
Baird smiled a faint smile, “I know. I taught you how.”
Aodhfin smiled back, “And you did good.” With those words he climbed on his horse. Baird stopped them a last time. “Where do you go?”
With that Aodhfin’s smile went broad and bright as the sun. “Does it matter, father? The world is so big. I want to see everything.”
Aodhfin and Eochaid turned their horses and left the village as fast as possible, their last battle cry lingering in the cool morning breeze.
And this was the last time their Clan ever saw them.
History and fiction
Due to this story I read a lot about the Celts and their ways. And I reached the point where I realized that I couldn’t write the story I wanted to write if I got along like a slave with the history – as far as we know it. The celts hadn’t any written evidence. All we know we have to assume from roman scripture and this was often biased.
So I decided: Scratch the history. And so the Celts in my story have only slight similarities to the irish Celts of the 1st Century BC – the time I settled the story in.
It was a rough time. The roman empire was slowly decreasing. One big blow was the loss of three legions in the such called “battle of Varus”. Arminius, Leader of the Cheruskian tribes wiped out this high skilled warriors with a few men. It was the eighth part of the whole roman army which got killed in that battle.
“Varus, give me back my legions” – the desperate cry of the roman emperor Tiberius is legend – at least here in Germany (after all this was the last war the Germans ever won…).
In this rough time I placed the story of Eochaid and Aodhfin. But besides the historical inconsistencies I found one very interesting point. And that was the gay part. Literally.
Homophobia is a rather new concept in the human society. Homosexuality was always accepted. Not especially supported, because that wasn’t necessary. It was normal to be in a gay relationship. At least as a man. Almost nobody cared what women did as long as they got married and children.
But all the polytheistic religions with their many gods, alway supported the idea of gay relationships. The mentor system in the old Greece provided the young men with a teacher who introduced them to others so that they were able to gain the connections to make a living. They also provided the young men with knowledge, experience and very often money. The relationships in this mentor system often led to lifelong friendships.
The Samurai in ancient Japan had a rather similar system: Education and connections paid with a sexual relationship. Here the young Samurai approached his mentor. Not the other way around like in ancient Greece. China, Sumeria – you name it.
Look at almost any high culture with polytheistic religion and you had a society which accepted gay relationships, at least: As far as we know now. There are too many hints to ignore them.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu in ancient Sumeria were not only comrades. They were lovers. As the friendship of David and Jonathan was more than just friendship. They also were lovers. To me there is no other interpretation of his words:
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of woman.
With the rise of the monotheistic religions like Christianity and Islam the concept of homophobia, which was led directly out of the book “Leviticus”, came with the package. Leviticus is calling gay relationships as a “abomination” and Judaism carried out capital punishment for gays for a long time.
Isn’t it almost laughable that the two religions who detest Judaism that much that they almost wiped out the jews from the world, are relying on the same religion they abhorr so much to justify their own homophobia? And isn’t it even more laughable that some of the strongest supporters of gays are now jews? And those who are detesting gays the most are calling themselves christians and muslims?
Societies are not carved in stone. A society is in a constant flow, redefining itself. Same is for a religion. The Islam we know today is not the Islam 200 years ago. And the Christianity got a long way from the catacombs of the roman theatres where christians got killed for heresy to the religion we know and recognize nowadays. Societies are developing when new ideas get introduced to them. They need this new ideas to thrive off them and stay lively and healthy. A society where new ideas are forbidden or considered “unholy” is a dying society.
So let’s take our beliefs and let them clash together with the existing dogmas. Let’s all stick up for those who just wanted to live their lifes, who want to be a normal family – who only consists out of two Dads or two Moms.
Just the way Aodhfin and Eochaid wanted to do.