A Day in the Life of Orlagh ~
A 12th Century Irish Seer.
By Christy Nicholas
My latest historical fantasy novel is set in 12th century Ireland amid the toil and strife of the Norman Invasion of Ulster. The book, Misfortune of Vision, is book #4 in The Druid’s Brooch Series, but it works well enough as a stand-alone novel that you don’t need to read the previous novels to follow the narrative.
Misfortune of Vision follows Orlagh, a 65-year old Seer to the Chief of the Ulaidh, the Gaelic tribe that rules an area of northeast Ireland. Between an Ostman (Viking) settlement on the coast and an approaching Norman army, as well as a scheming bishop, there is no dearth of excitement in the background. However, Orlagh’s quest is more personal. She needs to find an heir worthy of a family legacy, a magical brooch that has been handed down for centuries. This brooch gives a magical talent to each holder, and each talent is different. For Orlagh, it allows her the gift of prophecy, a mixed blessing to be certain.
Ireland at this time was a turbulent place, even without Normans swooping down for a midnight siege. The different Gaelic tribes participated in constant struggles between each other, from simple cattle raids to full on army onslaughts. The territory of the Ulaidh had been nibbled away for years at this point by the Ui Neill tribe, and would eventually have been completely subsumed.
While there were no stone castles as we imagine today, wooden palisades around huge hillforts served as the administrative and martial seat of any given clan, or túath. A chieftain’s strength relied on both his warriors and his reputation, and a weak chieftain could easily lose both. Sometimes, if a chief was particularly weak, their derbhfine (those relatives that share a common great-grandfather) would replace the chief with someone more suitable. The chiefdom didn’t necessarily pass from father to son, but from leader to leader among eligible close-kin.
Within the hillforts and across the countryside, round thatched buildings were preferred over the square or rectangular buildings the Ostmen and Normans preferred. The walls were often made with either turf or wattle and daub, woven wicker walls stuffed with mud and hay (among other things) for insulation. Sometimes they were built on a man-made island on a lake with a single causeway for higher defensibility, called a crannog. Some roundhouses were large, two-storied affairs with enough room for a hundred men. Others were intimate, small family quarters. While the trend was shifting in the 12th century, most structures built of stone were the abbeys and monasteries being erected across the land.
The story opens in Dún Dá Lethglas, known today as Downpatrick, in a large hillfort ruled by the chief of the Ulaidh, An Duinn Shleibhe. Orlagh’s own quarters, which served as both home for her and her ward, Clodagh, as well as her apothecary, was near the stables. She preferred the privacy of not being near the main hall, despite the cold and often windy walk to the kitchens. She was snug and happy until her prophecies of an impending attack forced her to travel.
Travel took longer than we are used to, of course. The most common mode was by foot, but if you were wealthy enough, a horse was a boon. It might not actually be any faster in the long run unless you were galloping, but you would be less tired when you arrived!
Orlagh traveled both by foot and by horse at various times, often cursing the fact that traveling in the winter woods, among the ice and slush, was no fit occupation for a grandmother. Still, despite her cursing and occasional dangerous slips, she reached her destinations eventually. Whether it was an ancient stone circle, an Ostman village, or a small fishing village, she arrived safe and mostly sound.
At least, until she encountered an insane Fae lord bent upon a twisted quest of his own…
Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, is an author, artist and accountant. After she failed to become an airline pilot, she quit her ceaseless pursuit of careers that begin with ‘A’, and decided to concentrate on her writing. Since she has Project Completion Disorder, she is one of the few authors she knows with NO unfinished novels.
Christy has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she’s a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were.
She wants to expose the incredible beauty in this world, hidden beneath the everyday grime of familiarity and habit, and share it with others. She uses characters out of time and places infused with magic and myth.
Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.
Misfortune of Vision
Druid's Brooch Series, #4
Prophecy can be dangerous
In 12th century Ireland, Orlagh has been Seer to her king for forty years. He doesn’t want to hear her prophecies of war and destruction, and dismisses her efforts to warn him. Therefore, she is determined to fulfill her own quest: to find a worthy heir for her magical brooch.
In the course of events, she must pass judgment on a thief, escape a Norman war camp, and battle wits with a Fae lord. She receives some prophecy of her own and enlists the help of a grizzled old warrior, who happens to be a long–time friend.
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