Excerpt Two from The King’s Daughter…
The King of Connacht took pause at a bench and flung his cloak behind him before he sat down. His movements were quick and sure.
“Good wishes to the King of Munster,” he called out. “Come near.”
Bascogne left his daughter’s side, took a place on the bench beside Borda and began talking in a low voice. As the King of Munster spoke, Borda looked at him and after a short while, lifted his head to look upon the small party from Cashel fortress.
When Magaith felt the warrior king’s gaze upon her, heat burned at her cheeks and she willed her hands still at her sides.
Borda motioned to his first knight and still watching her, imparted words to the man. The knight came to Magaith.
“I am known as Mael, in service to Borda, King of Connacht.” The knight bowed and then said, “The king desires to meet his betrothed.”
She replied, “As the king wishes,” while smoothing the folds of her tunic.
The knight, Mael, led the way to Borda and took position at the side of his king.
She was close to her new husband and could see his eyes were of the darkest blue, brightly gleaming.
Forthright, he stared back at her with a calm bearing and an inner strength that would stead him well in challenge.
When he arose from his seat, the King of Connacht offered a slight bow of his head. “Daughter to Bascogne.” His voice was deep, strong. “It pleases me to meet you.”
She fully lowered her head, a deed unknown to her. As daughter to a king, there had been no need to show reverence among her clan. How changed her life was and how further changed it would become. She lifted her head and saw the heavy draperies across the sleeping chamber. For a second time, a shiver took her body.
“You are cold.” Borda turned to the knight next to him. “See the fire is lighted. And have the tables laden with mead and food. Mael, go now.” He looked again upon her.
She forced herself to speak in her discomfort and fear. “I be obliged to you.”
“It be my desire to care for you,” the warrior king said and then added, “We shall talk of this at a later time. If you be willing.”
“If it be your wish.” Magaith felt the quickening beat of her heart.
Borda took a step toward her. “Moreover, I hope it be your wish.”
He was so close, she could feel the strength of his limbs although they remained at his side. She searched his face, the brightness in his dark blue eyes revealed he was pleased in her. The curl of a smile formed upon his lips and she sensed his desire to give her surety. He seemed a fitting counterpart in wedlock and her fears lessened.
“Truth, it be my wish also,” she said and fully lowered her head once more.
“You are a king’s daughter and shall be a king’s wife. Forever more, you shall bow to no man, not even this king.”
Feeling his tenderness, she looked up to meet his gaze. As he smiled, he did seem a man of honor, worthy of the title, king. And he possessed a pleasing appearance, fit and strong, virile. She smiled from her heart, perhaps she could be content and bear him many precious sons.
And so, the wedding was arranged for the first day of the month of Duir, as wed vows were banned in the month of Uath. There were a few days for preparations to be made ready. Many hundred pounds of honey must be collected for cakes and mead, cows and sheep slaughtered for
spit roasting, goats milked and cheeses made, oats and barley milled and baked into breads.
During this time, the betrothed pair engaged in walks and spoke of their future. Of herself, Magaith spoke freely to Borda as she found him a receptive, lively man with a ready smile and thoughtful attentions. He did not seem a warrior but then, she was not his enemy. Since the agreement for the wedlock, their clans had been united.
From dusk to dawn, Sygtryg was at her door but she would not look upon him. As she passed him on sentry, the tight lump in her chest almost burst with bitter anger. He possessed no affection for her and had slighted her love. She kept her words in check, for she was about
to embrace a new life. She would aim to be happy in her husband and upcoming marriage
Moreover, her father was pleased with her, telling her often of his affection and his pride. On occasion, he spoke mournfully of the time he was to depart after the wed vow. She was assured of his affection and her rightful duty for Munster.
Meanwhile, gaming parties took place with knights and noblemen collecting many wild fowl for the wedding feast. Clan artisans made drinking vessels and bowls of wood, and some platters of bronze for the noblemen’s tables. Scores of cauldrons were set over fires to brew beer and prepare mead. Musicians, storytellers and balladeers from all over Eire gathered at Castlestrange to perform at the wedding feast.
In these days, Imagael stayed hidden in her cloak and sought out the malcontent known through her dreaming. She stopped at the homes of the villagers and listened to their tales and chatter. On the eve before the wedding day, she proceeded to the large wood shelter of Mael, first knight to Borda. And there she found him at supper with his wife, known as Gormfla.
Mael lifted a cup of mead and drank it down. As he set the goblet on the table, he said to his wife, “I did gain favor with our king as he looked upon me with my sword and shield against other men. I stand by Borda to protect him and go to battle for him. My life I give as my king does desire.”
“He is a worthy king. You do well, my husband.”
Mael poured mead into his cup and again, drank it down before setting it to the table. He spoke in a low voice. “I should not speak further.”
“It is the wed vow to Bascogne’s daughter that brings you to speak thusly.”
He leaned toward his wife, whispering, “Borda takes Bascogne’s daughter for his wife, in a pact of clan peace. This be not seemly for a warrior king.”
Gormfla whispered back, “I know of what you speak, husband. There be no bravery in this pact. It is no longer warrior by which our king shall be known.”
Shaking his head from side to side, Mael wailed, “What is to be done?”
“To remedy all, I know a way.” Gormfla leaned in closer to her husband. “And this wed vow shall be ended.”
“He is happy in his wife. How can this be done without loss of Borda’s favor?”
Gormfla spoke softly. “I shall brew the berries of Yew, Hellebore and Devil’s Bit. At the wedding table, you slip the potion into the maiden’s cup.”
“You be a pleasing wife to me, Gormfla.” His face turned dark. “And if this plot be found out? We shall be sent to the otherworld by Borda’s command.”
“There will be much celebration with music and dancing, you shall know when to slip the potion without notice.”
“And her passage to the otherworld will be swift?”
“Swift as an arrow that pierces the heart.”
“Then it shall be so.”
Imagael departed the house of Mael, making her way to her sleeping place in the copse where she left her herbs and roots in the linen bundle. She must make a remedy for the poison, lest her eye not be keen and the potion be sipped.
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