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Ierne: Celtic FATE

March 17, 2010 26 comments

Happy Ireland day to all. It seems like the perfect day for me to finally talk about Ierne, don’t you think?

Ierne: Celtic FATE

For a few weeks now I have been writing these little vignettes set in a land called Ierne, each showing a small glimpse of ongoing events before moving on to the next tale. I have also been dropping vague statements about my plans for Ierne as well as some hints as to what I’ve had in mind right from the start. Astute readers as well as customers of my Bardic Lore products for Highmoon Games (and also anyone who read my last Ierne tale) may have figured out that Ierne has been showing up for a few years now; this is a world that has been brewing in my mind, in one form or another, for over a decade, and I think it’s time to move from brewing to serving (stretching the beer analogy to its limits there). So, let me tell you about Ierne…

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Ierne: The Riastradh

February 24, 2010 3 comments

Heading back to Ierne for another glimpse.

It was a terrible sight to behold, and I could not turn away. Fomorian heads and limbs flew in every direction, making me doubt those creatures had the same number of extremities as I did. Blood pooled at the feet of the giant a few feet away from me; hacked carcasses littered the field around us as far as I could throw a stone, yet the Fomorians did not relent. In groups of twos and threes they approached, frothing mad, evil incarnate, wicked blades flashing – only to be annihilated by the thing that only I knew to be my foster brother Bran.

I knew the stories of Cúchulainn, I knew about the ríastradh—the warp spasm—but I had never witnessed it myself. When, after fending the devils off for an hour, a Fomorian spear pierced my leg, Bran’s rage surged unchecked. His mouth foamed as he tore the shirt from his back, and as he rushed forward to meet the mass of Sea Devils attacking us, he started to grow, taller than a house, wider than three bulls. His skin bubbled from within like tar bursting from the earth, and his muscles stretched into shapes unnatural to humans. His right arm grew to the size of a thick oak tree trunk, and with every swing of the sword which now seemed like a toy in his mutated hand he slashed three Fomori in half. His hair stood on end like a halo of spikes, and from each tip burst a mist of blood and pure rage that choked any who came too close to him. His legs twisted around in their sockets, his knees now at the back, and he was able to leap high into the air and rain death as he came down. And just like the hero Cúchulainn, one eye sunk deep into his head, while the other almost popped out of its socket, and it was the last thing a Fomorian saw before being shred to pieces.

One hundred Fomorian died that afternoon at the hands of Bran, the warped one, hero of An Daingean, and I was never able to look at my foster brother the same way again.

—From the journal of Amergin Ó Míl

Ok, so I cheated a little here. This was originally published back in 2006 as the introduction to Bardic Lore: Ristradh, my D&D 3.5-compatible product introducing the warp spasms of Celtic myth. I did revise the above version, cleaned it up a bit, but it is essentially the same scene. The reason I brought it into the present, and into this Ierne series of vignettes, is that I need the warp spasm to be present in what I’m planning to do with Ierne in its early stages, and I saw no reason to write another scene when that one was very much to my liking.

To address something that came up in the comments to Ierne: The Gate, these little vignettes are not really meant to be interconnected. Imagine you’re flying over Ierne and every so often you zoom down to ground level and get a small glimpse of what’s going on with a few people, then you fly back up and go somewhere else on the island. I’m not saying they couldn’t be interconnected–some have already suggested ways in which they are–but I’m leaving that to you.

By the way, I promise I won’t tease forever on what Ierne is to be. Astute readers will have picked up the few clues I’ve left in previous posts or seen the one outright mention of it I made earlier in January. So I’ll come clean, but not just yet.

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Ierne: The Gate

January 26, 2010 11 comments

Another tale of Ierne:

Photo by Yvonne McNamara.

He held her arm as she took her first step up the hill towards the gate. “You can’t go there,” he whispered.

She looked at him with a curious look. “Why’r ye whisperin? And why I cannae go? Tis jus’ a ruin, tha’s all.”

She was beautiful, he found himself thinking. Her auburn hair spilled like an unruly cascade down her back and framed her plump face as she turned to look at him in a way that just made his heart ache. She was so beautiful. And she knew it. Used it to get her way many times. Used to make him do things he did not want to, used to do things he wanted to but felt too shy to do, used let her do things that she shouldn’t, things like going up the hill to the ruined gate. But she couldn’t. “I whisper because we are not alone in these woods. And you simply cannot go up the hill. And no, it is more than just a ruin.”

She gave him that practiced look of hers: full smile revealing only a sliver of her teeth, rosy cheeks pushed up making her eyes small and sparkly. Like every other time he melted inside. She was so beautiful. But he must stand firm.

“That there is a gate from another time, brought here by the Otherworld. The fili says the Tuatha travel through all places and times of Ierne, and sometimes things get dragged behind them. Like this gate. My grandfather’s grandfather saw it appear one day when in the woods training, I’m told. The fili also says we should not go up to it, lest we be pulled into the Otherworld. So no, you cannot go up.”

“Ye don’ wan’ me going to the Otherworld?” she teased.

“No,” he said smiling, blushing. “I want you here, with me.”

She looked at the ruined gate, its dark stones in stark contrast with the snow all around them. She looked at her young warrior-in-training, his strong hand still holding her arm. Gate. Him. Gate. “Let’s go back,” she said as she slid moved his hand from her forearm to her own hand.

They walked through the snowy forest, the cool air stilling everything around them except the sound of their feet on the dry ground. He put his arm around her shoulder, holding her to him, feeling her warmth, basking in the scent of her hair. She was a handful, but she was so beautiful. And maybe one day. One day…

She tripped him.

It was a simple movement of her foot, something he should have been able to recover from and turn into an offense, something his trainer would be ashamed to see him fall prey to. And fall he did, on his face. He managed to get up fairly quickly, but by then she was gone. He could hear her giggling ahead, running through the crackling underbrush, heading towards the gate. He called to her, asked her to stop, pleaded. She kept running, laughing. It was a game to her. It was horror to him.

He reached the foot of the small hill panting, but could not hear anything anymore. No laughing, no giggling, no sound of a young woman running, walking. Nothing. He looked down and saw her tracks headed up the hill, to the gate. Taking a deep breath, filling his lungs with cold courage, he ascended the hill as well. One step at a time. Matching her tracks. Left. Right. Almost there. Left. Right. Now at the gate. Left.

Nothing.

He stood with his right foot in the air, looking around for the next track. Nothing. The next one would be inside the threshold of the gate. He thought about it. He made a most minuscule move, almost a step. Almost.

He stepped back. All the way down the hill. She was gone. Into the Otherworld. Where he could not go. She’d be fine there, he thought, fighting back tears. She was so beautiful.

I found this photo linked from a post at the Irish Fireside Blog & Podcast about the recent freeze in Ireland. It caught my attention immediately, and I wanted to know what its story was. I guess now I know.

I also know what Ierne will be. But I’ll leave that for a post all its own.

Photo by Yvonne McNamara. Used with permission.

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Ierne: The Raid

January 20, 2010 3 comments

A new vignette from Ierne:

From Thúr Rí they sailed, ten black small ships each carrying three soldiers. Three giant soldiers. Three giant Fomori soldiers.

The ships moved independently, pulled by some dark magic over the rough seas on their approach to mainland Ierne. On each mutated hand, each demon held a wicked blade as sharp as hatred, a blade that could tear a horse in half, a bull in quarters, a man in shreds. With these cruel instruments they tore into the sleeping seaside village, wasting no time to unleash death. Into thatched roofs they stabbed, through lime-covered walls they broke, spilling warm blood from warm bodies onto cold earth. Stomping over the village, towering over the sluggish defenders, they slashed at the small and slow targets as if they were little more than chickens in a pen come dinnertime. For dinnertime had arrived.

When it was all over, twenty-nine Fomori dined on the crudely-cooked corpses of sixty-four men, women and children. Sated, they capped the feast with the one fallen giant, fuel for more chaotic mutations, its strength absorbed into the rest.

On their own one or two feet, or in the bellies of the others, all thirty Fomori would reach the walls of Dún nan Gall and recover the stolen eye.

So did Balor command. So it would be done.

What I want to do with this is becoming clearer in my head. I still need to figure out some Aspects of the whole, see how they fit within the greater Fate of Ierne, but maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to tell you something more concrete.

Photo CC Licensed by Liam Moloney.

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Ierne: The Warning

January 5, 2010 8 comments

The chariot rolled down the meadow at breakneck speed, threatening to fall apart in pieces with every rock, hole and bump it hit, yet never straying from the imaginary path it was following toward the fort. The charioteer’s arms, thick tree-trunks covered in sinews and swirling blue tattoos, held the reins deftly, guiding the two wild horses as they gave their all at his behest. His face was deep set in concentration, scanning the ground ahead for obstacles to avoid, oblivious to all but the single act of driving the chariot to its destination. Next to him, strapped to his right leg, was the leather-wrapped bundle that absolutely had to be delivered, no matter the cost.

On and on did Cormac ride, pushing the horses to their very limits, ready to jump off and run should the beasts falter and fall. But they did not falter, nor did they fall, and at last, with the last rays of the setting sun shinning behind him, the walls of the dun appeared in the horizon. With no recollection of how he made it into the dun, aware only of the bundle now in his hand, Cormac the Swift (as he was called by those that saw his approach), stumbled into the the thick of people, one word on his parched, dry, cracked lips: Amergin.

The name spread like flames on dry twigs: Amergin, Amergin, Amergin, until it reached the ears of he to whom the name belonged. He jumped to his feet and briskly made his way to the panting charioteer. People moved out of the way as he walked; hushed murmurs followed, marking where he’d been. Trepidation increased as the leather-wrapped bundle was placed on Amergin’s hand by Cormac. “I have done my part,” the charioteer said and then collapsed.

Amergin opened the bundle; took a look inside; closed it – it was all one motion. His heart sank, for he knew what it meant.

“I am Amergin O’Mill, Ard Fili of Ierne, and the same mouth that once calmed the fury of the nature’s wrath when the Milesians arrived at these shores now tells you to summon your fury and courage, to call up your friends and brothers, to take spear and sword and be ready to follow me.” He lifted the bundle high and let it unroll so all could see the severed grotesque finger the size of a grown man’s arm within.

“The Fomori are coming.”

I’ve been in the process of writing this for about three days. It first sprung into my mind on Sunday, and while I wanted to sit down and write it yesterday, it wasn’t until today that the final shape emerged, the words falling into place, the scene becoming clear enough to be more than just a frozen snapshot, a tease.

Don’t ask me what it is beyond what you see before you: a short narrative establishing a situation set in a Celtic/Irish-like place called Ierne.

No, I lie. Don’t ask me what it is beyond what you see before you, because I have an idea of what it could also be but it isn’t the time to reveal it yet. There are Aspects of it that need to solidify more in my head.

The tale of Ierne will continue.

Photo CC Licensed by Joe Forjette.

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