Excerpt of Bardic Exercise 1 - The Heroic Tale
by Caillean ap Gwynedd
Tales are woven of love and sorrow, magic and adventure, a little truth and a little laughter. Many are the tales which are told, and many of them true, and many which have so grown in the telling that none may say which is which.
In the early morning's light a young couple walked slowly towards the edge of their village, holding hands for warmth (she would say) or perhaps for love (he would say). Close by a pale golden field they paused to wonder at a dark figure racing furiously along the forest's edge where grain gave way to woods. The figure tripped, tumbled and scrambled backwards on heels and hands to avoid being trampled by the cattle which rumbled down the path after him. The young couple released their hands to cover the smiles which shaped their mouths. It looked for all the world as if the cattle had at long last discovered the joys of people raiding.
With this unlikely cocks crow, the village slowly awakened. It was the height of summer, and the fast-growing heat already began to sap the speed from hands, legs and urgent thoughts. It would also prove near disastrous for the Celts before the day was done.
Conchobar (Connor to his friends) had been two days away from home on a foot chase for the impertinent stag which, so far, had eluded his every attempt at capture. Swearing the first of five oaths to be sworn that day, Connor watched as the stag again disappeared into the woodland shadows. He was in no hurry any longer to return home and face the inevitable taunts of his friends. Flinging sweat from his fingertips, he stalked over to the banks of a small stream chuckling around the roots and rocks of the forest. There he stayed for most of the day with his own boasts loud in his ears, rehearsing his excuses, dangling his feet in the cool running water.
Twilight found him but two hill ridges from his village, sitting by a small fire of twigs and leaves. He had, beyond any hope, discovered the spoor of another stag and, with the wild hope that it might be a twin to the one he sought, Connor prepared for a night time hunt. As he put a last polish to the edge of his spear, a large patch of darkness tore loose from the tree shadows and fluttered down with a rustle of feathers to land right beside him. Connor leaped backwards with an oath, then another as he dropped his spear and began to beat at the flames which smoked along the hem of his cloak. A fourth oath and he quickly grabbed up his spear where it lay, ready finally to confront whatever had invaded his camp....
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