Laoch Láidir, a travelling storyteller is not one you would name a hero, despite his name. Yet when he is suddenly thrust into the midst of a conspiracy, and the threat of war becomes very real, how will Laoch cope?
Laoch Láidir slumped forward on the saddle of his mare, one hand clutching the reins, the other wrapped around her neck to prevent himself from falling off. The wounds dealt to him by the party of vagabond thieves had left him weak. They had ambushed him as he had passed through the Coill Dubh, The Blackwood. Their knives had cut deep, and they had stolen much of his gold.
As they crested a hill, Laoch urged his mare into a trot with a slight jerk of his heels. An Chathair Solais, The City of Light, lay spread below them. With the sun beginning its descent, it was likely the gates would soon close for the night. Laoch had to make it inside to have his wounds treated, or it was likely he would not survive.
Within ten minutes, they had reached the path leading to the gate. Mustering strength from within, Laoch held himself up in the saddle as they approached the two sentinels on duty outside. Each was clad in a bright red armour, and each carried a pike.
“What brings you to An Chathair Solais at this late hour good sir?” the man on the right asked from behind his visor.
“I am a travelling storyteller, come to entertain the citizens of your city. As for my late arrival, it is due to the thieves which roam the Coill Dubh”.
The guard nodded. “They have caused many a traveller trouble in recent weeks. They appear to become restless. Have a nice stay sir”. He stood back in position and allowed Laoch entry through the large gates.
Once inside the city walls, Laoch cast his gaze about for the nearest Poitigeir,chemist.Spotting the sign for one, he clambered off his mare’s back and tethered her to a pole outside. Leaning on his quarterstaff for support, he shuffled to the door and rapped loudly twice. Rain began to fall as he waited, dripping from the end of his pointed nose.
Soon after, the door swung inward and a plump lady stood before him. At her questioning look, he explained his wounds to her. She gestured for him to enter. The interior was small and dimly lit. It appeared to serve as both a home and a workplace. On one side, there was a kitchen and living area. On the other, various cabinets and the healer’s table.
The lady guided him to a seat near the table, and then waddled over to the stairs and shouted up.
“Ahren, there is a man here in need of your aid”. A moment’s paused followed, and then came the sound of footsteps as someone descended. A man appeared at the bottom. He was of average height and build, and had a crop of short cut black hair. He walked over to Laoch.
“Good evening sir, my name is Ahren, and I see you have already met my wife Belnine? What be your name?”
“I am Laoch Láidir, a travelling storyteller hailing from the village of Carraige Báine, Whiterock.”
“Laoch Láidir? Is that a Gaelic name?”
Laoch nodded. “It translates as strong hero. But I prefer the Gaelic version as there are not many who know the language anymore”.
“That is true, I know very little of it myself excepting the place-names of our land. Belnine, would you put on a pot of tea?” he asked of his wife, and then turned back to Laoch. “Now, what is the problem?”
Laoch recounted the tale of his encounter with the thieves, pointing out each wound as he told of it. He could feel his strength waning as he spoke, and wished Ahren would hurry up and heal him.
Once he had finished his tale, Laoch sat in silence. Ahren rose and went to one of the cabinets. When he returned, he had a paste in one hand, and bandages in the other. He set to applying the paste to Laoch’s wounds, which delivered and odd, yet satisfying tingling sensation. He wrapped the wounds in bandages and then sat back, his work complete. Belnine wandered over then, and presented each man with a mug of tea. Laoch drank gratefully from his- his mouth had suddenly become rather dry.
“You will not be able to leave here until your wounds have fully healed. I need to monitor them to ensure they don’t open again. That could prove catastrophic”.
Laoch looked up, and then nodded his acquiescence. The other man knew what was best, and Laoch would happily take the offered accommodation, if only for a short while. Besides, he needed time to recuperate from his long journey, regardless of attacks, before performing his stories.
“It might be interesting having a storyteller stay” Ahren observed.