Pride and Patience, a tale of Celtic Destiny – Chapter 1

Born the year of our Lord 1039, Patraic was from a minor merchant family in Dublin. Not much is known about his early years, as few records exists concerning those not in the castle. All we do know is what was passed down from the man himself and those arround him, but considering what he accomplished and what he began, we should not so quickly dismiss these narratives.

A clever boy, and hardy, his father hoped to steer him towards taking over the family trade, namely the shipping of wool to the rest of the isles from the Dublin ports. Patraic enjoyed his time on the Irish Sea, but his friends suggest that was only because it kept him away from his father’s belt. After one particular voyage in his 14th year, Patraic met with Mael-Ossa Ruarc, a captain in the Fianna band of warriors in service to the lord of Dublin, and decided to abandon his father and family and seek his fortune as a mercenary. It is at this time that Patraic took a new name to divorce himself even more from his father: Crovan.

Patraic Crovan grew into a fine man under the wing of Mael-Ossa. Already a learned, clever and likeable Irishman, he became a fine warrior in Mael-Ossa’s band. Patraic himself became a commander in his own right in his early 20s and fought many a battle in his homeland, against Saxon incursions, and even some ill-fated forays into Scotland. He continually found success and salvation in one of his defining characteristics, his patience.

Patience was very important to Patraic, he often spoke how patience was the one virture his father had ensured was passed on to his son. Patience was essential in knowing when and where to his enemies on the battlefield, in choosing which contracts his band would take and how much pay to take, and in husbanding and conserving his resources so that he would always emerge unscathed if not triumphant. Patience also inspired Patraic to temper and tame his impulses, for not only was he a careful, measured commander and leader, he was a proud Irishman.

Patraic knew that his homeland was one of the last “unoccupied” lands of the Celtic peoples, having thrown out the last Norse lords not long ago, and felt a painful pride and longing for the Irish to come together with the other Celts and Gaels. He always encouraged Gaelic songs in his band as they went to battle, and stories of the giants Finn MacCumhail and Cu Chulain abounded at his camps. While not an overly pious man, Patraic knew some latin but preferred to hear the Word from local monastaries and missions, from Irish monks who were versed in the arts of Illumination over the strict bishops who learned on the continent.

So Patraic Crovan, this former merchant’s son, now seasoned commander, found himself at a pitoval moment in his late 20s. In the Year of our Lord 1066, rumours and dispatches came scross the Irish Sea about the upheavel in England. Edward the Confessor, the great Saxon King, had died, and Harold Godwinson of Godwin had claimed the throne, in defiance of his promise to Willam of Normandy. Now, the Norman Bastard had raised an army and was preparing an invasion with Papal backing onto the island. And beyond even that, Harald Hardrade of Norway was also landing on the Eastern Shores of Britain.

The inhabitants of the isles all knew that this conflict had deep repercussions. The Welsh and Britons of Western Britain had long resented the Saxon lords, but knew the Norman French and Norse Conquerors would be little better. The Gaels and Scots in the North were still embroiled in their own confilcts with the Norse, and many of the lords and chiefs argued fiercely about whether this was the perfect time to strike to reclaim their lands, or if they should bide their time and wait for the Hardrade to bloody his nose and his armies on English shores, rather than Scottish.

Patraic, meanwhile, knew only fear and rage. The Irish were too divided, too meak and squabbling to be able to hold against any of these titans should they decide to look West, hungry for further conquest. Patraic brought his lieutenants together to try to draft plans to sabotage any attempt a landing in the future, when he received an urgent summons from Murchad Ua Chenselaig, the Lord of Ath Cliath castle, Earl of Dublin.

For one brief moment, Patraic’s hopes were raised. Perhaps the Earl was of a similar mind as he, seeking unity for the island as a bulwark against the invaders. Perhaps the time had come for Ireland to have another High King. The Ua Brians, heirs of the last great High King, Brian Boru were content in the southern lands of Ireland in Munster to take his mantle back up, so maybe it was time for Dublin to lead! All these thoughts and more churned in Patraic’s mind as he and his lieutenants raced to the castle. A page present at the meeting never forgot the conversation that occurred in Murchad’s throne room that night.

The Earl rose, smiling to clasp Patraic’s arm as the latter approached. “My good Patraic! It has been too long since I last saw you! I have a contract for you and your band, we may yet get to fight side by side again,” said Murchad. While not a formidable warrior, he was brave and daring enough to hold his own at least. “I’m certain you have heard of the news across the channel?”

“Of course, my Lord!” Patraic’s smile was just as wide as the Earl’s. “My men and I are ready to secure the county and further as far as we are needed,” Patraic gestured to his lieutenants with him. “We all came upon your summons, my band waits just outside the gate!”

“Excellent! Then coordinate with my marshall, prepare your men to depart across the channel at once!” declared Murchad, confusing Patraic. “My Lord, we go on the attack? Surely we haven’t the numbers on our own to claim anything in Britain in comparison to William or Harald? Shouldn’t we focus on our own palisades and walls?”

“I have already negotiated our survival, don’t worry,” snorted the Earl, dismissively, “William the Bastard has guaranteed our security in return for our fealty and service.”

The colour drained from Patraic’s face. His jaw dropped and he seemed on the verge of fainting. This….WORM who called himself the Earl of Dublin planned to become a vassal of the Norman invaders! Patraic felt an immense sense of destiny wash over him. Of fate. NOW, his soul screamed at him, THIS IS THE MOMENT YOU HAVE WAITED FOR.

“My Lord, we cannot assist you in this endeavour,” said Patraic, his face now a cruel sneer. He seemed to grow a foot taller, looking to all those in the room like the giant Finn MacCumhail. Patience brought Patraic to this moment, but it was pride that ruled his hand this night.

“You defy me? You are a mere mercenary! I am the LORD of this land!” Murchad tried to rise to Patraic’s challenge, but his voice was trembling and squeaking.

“I am sorry, Murchad, but no Irishman would so readily give up his land for a pat on the head! Think on your ancestors with your last breath!” Patraic rushed at Murchad while drawing his sword, calling to arms his men.

Not much else is known of that night in the throne room, as the page had fled only Patraic emerged alive. As he raised the head of the former Earl, his men began to rush into the castle, slaying the guards. Before dawn, the castle was his.

When Patraic Crovan was able to, he took a moment to sit at the window in Murchad’s former throne room. He looked over the city of Dublin, the ports where he grew up. Like many men raised by the water, his nose was attuned to the weather. He smelled a storm. A storm of blood, of glory, of a people returned to prominence. He remembered what he read, long ago, about the Gauls and Celts, tribes pushed back and subjugated again and again. By Rome, by Franks, Vikings, Saxons and more.

Patraic looked to the dawning sun and stood. His armour still wet with blood, the Earl’s head still tight in his fist. “By God! In the name of the LORD! I shall see the Celts returned! Let the armies of lesser, more fearful peoples tremble at our might!” He screamed out, his voice carrying to the whole castle and surroundings. Just then, a small detachment of his men entered his room.

“My Captain!” said one, then catching himself, continued “I mean… my Lord. What shall we do next?”

Patraic looked into Murchad’s lifeless eyes one more time, and threw the head to one of his men. “Stick that on a pike at the gates, and being a cleanup of the castle. Find scribes and barristers, we have much work to do.”

As they rushed to obey, Patraic took out his sword one more time and carved a phrase into the throne. The personal motto that became the family motto for the Crovan family since: Bród agus Foighne. Pride and Patience.

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