By Micheál Cladáin
By Micheál Cladáin
Publication Date: 30th September 2021
Page Length: 370 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
The battle of Gáirech is over; the armies of Connachta, Lagin, and Mumu are destroyed! Survivors are ravaging The Five Kingdoms of Ireland!
While working to resolve the Kingdoms’ issues and bring peace, Cathbadh is murdered, dying in his son Genonn’s arms. Genonn vows to avenge the death of his father.
For his revenge to work, he needs Conall Cernach and the Red Branch warriors of Ulster. But Conall is gone, searching for the head of Cú Chulainn. Genonn sets out to find him, aided by the beautiful Fedelm, the capricious Lee Fliath and the stalwart Bradán.
Bernard Cornwell meets Ellis Peters in this historical murder mystery.
Genonn gazed out over the bay at the emerald-green sea. He did not recall it ever being so green nor so vibrant. Seabirds shrieked their happiness at life, gliding on the updrafts before diving and climbing with wriggling silver in their beaks. And not just the sea. The forest, too, was alive in a way he had not seen before. The smells of recent rains were thick in the air, together with the salty tang blown up the rise by the gusting wind. He fancied he could hear an abundance of forest animals crashing or tiptoeing through the undergrowth, life-affirming noises and smells, a facade of contentment and tranquillity.
But that is all it was. A facade.
The battle two days before had been a bloody affair. Thousands were mouldering on the plains of Gáirech. Those not dead were rampaging through the kingdoms, seeking a replacement for the riches they were promised. Hungry. Hurting. Vengeful. Warriors with a perceived grievance and no fundamental understanding of whom to blame.
‘What do you think?’ Cathbadh asked, pulling him back onto the clifftop.
Genonn did not respond immediately. He just watched Longas retreating down the hill path. If his claims were true, then Cathbadh’s life was in danger. Finally, he turned to his father and said, ‘If he killed Fergus, he will need to kill you, too. He cannot allow that information free rein.’ He would be shunned by warriors throughout the kingdoms of Ireland. Perhaps even beyond Ireland.
‘You saw his face. Heard his words. Do you think he lied?’
‘No. There was glee in it. He was proud of himself.’
‘Yes. I saw it, too. Proud of stabbing a man in the back. I have little understanding of what is happening in the Five Kingdoms. Since when would an Irish warrior feel pride in such a cowardly act?’
Genonn shook his head and once more turned to stare over the bay. If he were honest, he would tell his father he did not understand any of the recent events. The heroes and heroines of Ireland hacking ribbons out of each other on the hill of Gáirech was nonsense at best.
‘If he talks to the Cailleach, she will also send killers after you. If any of this came to light, they would not make her execution a quick affair.’
‘I want to hire a guard, but do not know who I can trust.’
You can trust me, Father, Genonn wanted to snap but kept it to himself. ‘There are plenty of warriors seeking work.’ Warriors who would kill their mother for the adulation of their caste.
‘I know. I know. It is just understanding the best course.’
‘What will we do about him?’ Genonn asked, nodding at the back of the man walking down the hill. It was his father’s turn to peer over the bay, causing Genonn’s frown to deepen. Longas had killed Fergus, and he needed to pay. It was the code Genonn lived by. The code all warriors lived by.
‘We have more pressing business.’
‘There is no business more urgent for me. I shall get after Longas,’ Genonn scoffed. Cathbadh took hold of his wrist and shook his head. ‘He murdered Fergus, Father. A debt is owed.’
‘I agree. However, Longas is a born killer. You are not.’
Genonn turned back to the waves as he asked, ‘What is that supposed to mean?’
Cathbadh raised his eyebrows and said, ‘If you confront him, he will kill you. We will deal with Longas in good time.’
Genonn said nothing but remained on the knoll, watching the confessed killer pass through the gates of Indber Colptha and probably out of his reach. ‘Why am I here?’ As ever, you have no faith in me and yet wonder why I have chosen a different life.
‘I need you to come with me to Dún Dealgan,’ Cathbadh said with an air of indifference, as though Genonn should have known.
‘And what brought Longas here?’
‘I hinted that I knew his secret, so I think he came to kill me.’
‘And yet you live. How can that be?’
‘By distraction and using his failings against him. Getting him to talk of his achievement. He thinks the murder to be a great act of bravery and would boast about it until his jaw broke if he could.’
‘It is monstrous. I never liked him, but he is more vile than I realised,’ Genonn said, shaking his head. ‘How did you know?’
‘I found Medb’s wailing covered in blood all a little too melodramatic. I watched her cut Mac Roth’s throat. There was none of the same emotion. Nothing but cold. And then when I saw Longas slip into camp after we found Fergus, I had my suspicions.’ Cathbadh paused, seeking a high impact, no doubt. Genonn felt his usual irritation start to bubble under what he knew was an outward appearance of calm. Nothing was ever straightforward where his father was concerned.
‘He might have been returning from a call of the wild,’ Genonn offered.
‘No, he was too furtive. I admit, some find natural function embarrassing. I would wager Longas is not the type.’ Cathbadh took hold of his sword hilt and stared up at the screaming seabirds. He seemed to be distracted before turning back to Genonn and saying, ‘I suspected. I needed confirmation, which is why I lured him here.’
‘You took an awful risk.’
‘Not really,’ Cathbadh said, patting the hilt of his sword. ‘He remembered my reputation when he saw I was armed.’
So, I will die if I confront him, but you will be fine. Genonn could not believe the arrogance of his father, which age had failed to dampen. Gaining time, he listened to the still shrieking seabirds. Warriors were rampaging through Ireland, seeking a replacement for the wealth they were promised and killing to get it. He would not do what they were doing but did that make him less of a warrior? Not to his mind. He trained with Scáthach on the Shadowy Isle. How many of those at the battle could say the same?
‘Do you really think sight of your sword deterred him?’
Cathbadh shook his head and shrugged. Genonn realised his father did not have any idea why Longas did not kill him. Patting his hilt and implying his sword was the reason had just been his usual bluff.
‘So, are you coming with me to Dún Dealgan?’
Genonn nodded. He owed Fergus a debt, and attending the funeral would not go even a little way to repaying it.
‘We can hire horses in Indber Colptha,’ he said as he started down the hill, not bothering to check if Cathbadh was following.
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Micheál Cladáin studied the classics and developed a love of ancient civilizations during those studies. Learning about ancient Roman and Greek cultures was augmented by a combined sixteen years living in those societies, albeit the modern versions, in Cyprus and Italy. As such, Micheál decided to write historical fiction, trying to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. Because of his Irish roots, he chose pre-Christian Ireland as his setting, rather than ancient Italy or Greece.
Micheál is a full-time writer, who lives in the wilds of Wexford with his wife and their border terriers, Ruby and Maisy.