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Pen Your Pride

Bloodlust

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"They're toying with us! Na tuilín seo!" roared Diarmuid above the others in the council, a far-away sounding boom of thunder punctuating the silence around the small room inside An Droichead Buí. "We'll not see them again until we've given up watching for 'em, I tell you. And then they'll be back, for more than the skin of a few women, I can tell you that! Níl aon cuilleog orthu!" He said, barely able to contain the rage that coloured his face.

"Síocháin!" cried Sinéad over the other angry voices as she rose from her seat at the council table. She brushed a lock of long brown hair out of her eyes as she stared at Diarmuid with a piercing gaze. "Peace, Diarmuid, we'll get nowhere with your yelling. Now sit down and calm yourself, 'tis cool heads we need among us now, not the angry amadáini who provoked the Trolls in the first place. That storm may have moved on, but I have no qualms about dunking you in a barrel of cold rainwater if I must to cool that head of yours." She gave him a firm look and eventually, his mouth flapping as he struggled for a response, he gave up and sat down with a discontented grunt.

"Go raibh maith agat, a Dhiarmuid, my thanks. Now, do any of us have any good ideas as to how we proceed?" asked Sinéad, taking her seat again.

From his hiding place outside the window of the tavern, Colm could hear the other members of the Comhairle na Seanóir, the Elder Council, arguing amongst themselves about what to do about the Trolls who had been plaguing their holdings for the past few cycles. Just last week the Council were discussing returning to our outlying farms once more since the Trolls hadn't been seen for almost a full season, he thought to himself. Two nights ago, however, the Trolls had showed everyone in Teac Báin that, if they had any say in the matter, they were not going to be going anywhere, for a very long time.

Colm's vision blurred, and the tears came once more as he sat with his back against the wall of the tavern, wincing at the pain in his ribs, and tried to stop his mind from replaying those tragic events. He was unsuccessful, and it bitterly rent his already aching heart to remember what had happened.

It had been while he was in the hills with the flock of sheep that he heard the first shouts of alarm from the town. Fear stiffened his back as he heard the town bell being rung. No, it can't be! Even from his place on the hills two miles from Teac Báin he could hear the screams of women and children running from whatever threat was approaching the town. Though Colm knew well what the threat would be, he did not want to admit it to himself. Even as he rushed around the flock securing them with tethers and hammering the pegs into the ground to keep them from straying too far, he kept telling himself No, it must be wolves or something else. It must be! He knew well that wolves refused to come anywhere near settlements, but this did not stop him from telling himself otherwise.

Once he had finished securing the sheep he leapt to his feet and bounded down the hill as fast as he could. Struggling with the scabbard tied to his leather belt, he tried to draw his short sword from it's sheath as he ran, however, he was so intent on getting the sword out that he failed to notice the pair of rocks in his path, and as the blade slide free of the sheath, he tripped over one of the rocks with his foot, flung the sword in front of him and ended up cart-wheeling down the rest of the hill.

Having reached the bottom of the hill with minimal bruises and scratches, Colm lay on his back for a time, trying to catch his breath, and cursing his foolishness. Well done Colm, a fine Gaelic warrior you'll make! Secure the sheep and then fall down some blasted hill while the town gets attacked by Trolls, óinseach thú! He sat up with a shock. The Trolls! Getting to his feet, shaking off the dizziness, he cast about for his short sword. Finding it embedded blade-first in the ground a few feet from him, he snatched it up and bounded away towards the town, this time alert for things to trip over.

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