They call me Son of Light because Lugh, the God of light and the sun, is said to be my father. Most say it with respect. Those who do not believe say it with a sneer, but never to my face, not since the winter solstice celebrations in Tara. Not even Conor Mac Nessa, king of the Ulaid, who sneers at everyone except his druid, Cathbadh.
I hear you, though. How can a demigod be half dead and tied to a rock, your silence screams? You think I do not know the truth of it? I know. It was a ruse of Conor. Now with the proximity of Badh, the raven of death, obvious to me because my father had been a bent-backed farmer and the only thing light about him had been his respect for my mother and his courage. I was not born on the plain of Murthemney, son of the king’s absent sister, Deichtine and Lugh. I was born in the Chualann mountains, get of a drunken wife beater. My mother was Gránna, not related to king Conor. She was a dowdy farmer’s wife who regretted everything about her life except me.
Hanging here, I not only mourn my loss of divinity. My sight is blurred by pain, but still I see Laeg, lying where he fell, after you cowards jumped out from behind your bushes and your rocks and pierced us with your javelins. Laeg was a man I loved. A man who followed the code and died because of it. A man who was more than a brother to me, more than a retainer, more than a friend. There lies a man of courage with a javelin in his side and a dagger in his eye. He waits for me in the mound of Donn and, I do not doubt, wonders at my delay.
He is sure to think my tardiness is caused by cowardice. I will tell him when I arrive, the cowardice was not mine, but was of you so-called warriors of Connacht, sitting there with your swords across your knees, afraid to approach a mortally wounded man who is tied to a rock. True, my reputation is fearsome, but now the night approaches and the ravens prepare for the feast, I cannot lift my shield arm, much less parry a lance thrust. I am so weak, wearied and pained, I long for the night. I long for that never-ending sleep.
Does that give you courage? No. Still you sit there and watch, waiting for my end. I can see now why you serve the witch. She too does not have the courage demanded by her station. Pah. What Warrior Queen? A woman who sends girls trained in witchcraft to do her deeds and hides behind bushes and rocks when killing is required. But then, small wonder, because she is married to a sot; the drunk who was once a king, once your king.
What, not even insults to your king and queen will cause your ire to rise? You are more than just cowards. You are turds, as well. You squat there, behind your fires, quaking and I would wager most of you do not know why. I would wager your knowledge comes from the bards who could not tell the truth if their lives depended on it. Those who claimed Dond Desa had arse cheeks like two rounds of cheese and killed a hundred men with one stroke of his war hammer. Pah. Those who claimed Ingcél, when he landed his war fleet, made so much noise the Five Kingdoms shook. Those who claimed Mac Cecht’s knees were so hairy they looked like bowed heads and he killed six hundred with the first stroke of his sword. Those who say I killed the sons of Nechtan when I had seen but seven festivals of Lughnasad and the only way to bring me down from the warp-spasm was giving me the teats of Emain Macha’s mothers to suckle on. Pah. When I was seven, I could barely lift a camán, let alone break a man’s skull with an iron ball loosed from my sling.
You do not need to grovel in the face of your ignorance, though. If you have the courage to listen, I will tell you the truth of it on this, my dying day. What am I saying? I do not care if you Fomorian spawned turds have the courage. I will tell you anyway. And you will listen, because the only thing that scares you more than a half-dead hero, is the wrath of your ill-gotten warrior queen. She has ordered you to see me dead, so sit and wait and watch you will. But you will also listen. You will not be able to prevent yourselves.
I see it in my mind as though it were yesterday. It seems strange, but now I can hear the flapping of Badh’s wings, everything that had become misty through time, I see with clarity. Although my eyes are dulled by pain, my mind is sharp as a boar spear. Yes, yes, your impatience is obvious in your fidgeting. I will tell all, but it will be in my own time. You can wait for my death but not for my story? But then you are waiting, aren’t you? You fear her too much to leave, and you fear me too much to act, I warrant.
So, to my tale.
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