Pride & Patience: Chapter 3

“My Lord, you must have patience!”

Patraic let the irony of the comment pass with only a smile, but it faded again as his steward, Gilla-Patraic continued.

“The laws are clear: no war may be pressed unless we have a claim to the land. This law keeps Christendom from descending back into the chaos when Rome fell. His Holiness has upheld this law, and has threatened us with excommunication if we wage war on the island without a proper cause.”

“Pox on the Pope!” Patraic cried, “6 years have passed since I made my ultimatum. I am no closer to being King of Ireland than I am to being Sultan of Egypt!”

“I know, my Lord, and no one more than I wishes to see your ambitions realized,” the steward continued. Gilla-Patraic, among others had been invited to the court of Patraic Crovan with the promise of land and titles after victory. Many were now at work in court, or training with the levies, but Gilla’s talents for administration convinced the Earl to hire him on as steward. “Even now scholars search the libraries and archives of both Ath Cliath castle and elsewhere in search of legal claims.”

“And what have you found claims for so far, good steward? Farms? Crumbling monasteries?” Patraic paced up and down the length of his throne room. Even now, years after his usurpation, the castle was sparsely decorated. Simple banners, fires and straw beds were all the Earl afforded until the war treasury was filled and ready to supply the levies. “Wealth comes from land, glory comes from land. Until we are united in our allegiance, we will be poor in both. Have you learned nothing from your time in England?”

GIlla knew the Earl still worried about invasions from England. It was ever present in his speeches and insistences. Yet England had become a shadow, a Kingdom wrecked by civil war. While the brothers of Hwicce failed to install their own as King, Harold of Godwin had recently died and his weak son was a poor substitute. Even now, pretenders vied and fought for control.

Gilla, however, had other worries. The Lady Gwenllian had asked him to confer with the spymasters, to send out messengers and inquiries to seek out other threats in Europe. What happened on the continent would surely have ramifications on the islands as well. He had yet to hear back, though many reports were overdue.

“My Lord, we know why this must be done, and that is why I came to your court and why I now toil to see that you win. All that you accomplish by raging is becoming angry.”

“I’ll thank you not to patronize me, steward. I shall expect better news at your next report.” At this, Patraic noticed his wife entering the throne room, Coirpre walking beside her and his mood brightened. “Leave me for now, Gilla-Patraic, I have other duties to attend to.”

Gilla bowed, and offered a bow to the Lady Gwen as he passed, as well as a wink to the young boy, who looked much like a younger, soft version of his father.

“You are too harsh on your council, my Lord,” tutted Gwen. “They serve your will, you have an excellent eye for talent. Do not let your pride taint your patience.”

“Pride & patience, papa!” Squealed Coirpre. The boy was learning fast, inheriting his father’s cautious nature and had a talent for saying the right words. “Ma says you are worried, are you worried about me?”

“Never, my son. You are the best thing to ever happen to me,” said Patraic as he tussled his son’s hair. “What have you learned today?”

“Wharfs are cold, pa!” Only now did Patraic notice the saltwater scent to his sons clothes.

“Our son got away from me and went on an adventure in the Dublin docks. Only a nearby fisherman saved him from a watery demise when he fell in.”

Patraic’s eyes widened, but Coirpre seemed no worse for wear, still wearing the mischievous smile he always wore. “They are indeed cold, Coirpre, and that is why I shall have to teach you how to swim!”

The boy’s eyes lit up and then he ran off before either mother or father could catch him, making what he thought were swimming motions and sounds. “I’m gonna be a fish!”

“Patraic, that’s what I wanted to discuss with you. Tis not enough for you to just correct him anymore, leaving all to me to handle. He is at the age where he will need you to be his mentor. How should he learn to rule in your absence if you do not show him the right way?” Gwen had other duties as well, having been charged with handling the secrets of the castle and beyond, so this request served dual purposes. “And this will be good for you, to have a worthwhile distraction from the waiting.”

“I knew there was a reason I loved you, Gwen.” Patraic knew his wife was right, it was high time to teach his son how to embrace his destiny. He kept a wry tone in his voice as he embraced her. “Your eye for talent is very keen itself. Perhaps I can be of use to you as well?”

Gwen laughed, but kissed her husband deeply. “I knew you were in there somewhere, Patraic. Don’t worry, you are a good father, and a good ruler. I know for certain that you will achieve all you set out to do.”

“Ah, but ambition is tiring, let us to bed for now. Perhaps good news comes in the morning.” Patraic took his wife’s arm in his and led her out of the throne room, off to their bed chambers.

“A fine idea, my love.”

—————–

Gilla-Patraic knocked lightly on the chamber doors, for it was not yet dawn and he knew the Earl rose early. The door opened and Patraic stepped out, closing the door softly so as to not wake his wife, his son son having just been given his own room.

“I trust you have good news, steward? I have not yet broken fast and am in no mood for frivolity.”

“Oh, it is good news, my Lord,” said Gilla as he handed the Earl some documents. “These we’re handed to me not 1 hour ago.”

“These are genuine?” Patraic read the old, frayed parchments, getting more and more excited, “there can be no mistake, by God, no forgeries lest we all be excommunicated for our troubles.”

“I checked myself, my Lord, before I brought these to your attention. Do you have orders?”

Patraic handed back the documents, fire in his eyes. He walked over to a nearby window and gazed out. Gilla thought it a trick of the pre-dawn light, but the Earl seemed to have grown in height. Finally Patraic turned to his steward and took a deep breath.

“Assemble the council, have the kitchens bring breakfast to the chambers. Alert the mayor and the bishops, and sound out the call for the levies. Dublin goes to war.”

Gilla-Patraic smiled and bowed, “it will be done, my Lord. I will meet you in the council room,” and he left in a run.

‘The Earl of Dublin, Lord of Ath Cliath castle has claim to the lands belonging to the Kingdom of Leinster’ read the parchment. It was an old claim, it was weak, and it was for only a quarter of the island, but it was enough to get started.

Patraic re-entered his room and proceeded to get dressed. He was tying off his belt when Gwen stirred, grumbling at the early hour. “Come back to bed, my love.”

“I cannot, Gwen,” said Patraic as he gave his wife a kiss, “it has begun.”

Pride & Patience, Chapter 2

It was the Year of Our Lord 1071, November, when Patraic was in the middle of preparations. His first son had just been born, and all the nobility and merchants were invited to a lavish feast to celebrate. Patraic had never before seen the purpose of these wasteful feasts, but he had matured into his new role as the Earl of Dublin. No longer a mercenary captain, he had responsibilities for all under his care. Generosity was expected of him, and he intended to deliver.

He felt additional cause for celebration in the fact that his worst nightmare had not come to pass. England remained in Saxon hands. Both the Hardrade and the Bastard had broken themselves on the shores, Harold of Godwin managing a miracle of defence against such vast armies. And even upon the eve of the mighty victory, the brothers of Hwicce, Dukes of York and Mercia declared their own civil war for the throne.

It was on the evening before the feast that Patraic visited his wife Gwenllian and their new son Coirpre. A marriage to seal an alliance as well as an old friendship, Gwen was the daughter of the Duke of Gwenyed, a powerful Welsh duke and old customer of Patraic. A marriage blossomed into love, and now that love and given them a son. A Crovan son. Patraic looked deep into Coirpre’s eyes and knew that one day this boy would grow to become a King.

“Pride and Patience, my son. I will teach you well. You will be the Green King, I will have it no other way, by God! All I am will give you all you can be,” Patraic conferred. Coirpre then proceeded to fall asleep in his father’s arms, oblivious to the vast destiny being placed upon him.

“Let the boy rest, my Pat,” said Gwen, from her bed, “He is not yet even a boy, he is too young for such burdens. You’ve been reading the castle library again, haven’t you?”

“You know me too well, my love,” Patraic smiled. He had indeed been spending much of his time with the old books in the Ath Cliath library, old records of the High Kings of Ireland, Gaelic poetry and legal writings. Patraic had a bad habit of letting his pride get to his head from all this history. “It’s time, though. I will announce at the feast.”

Gwen sat up from her bed, “You’re sure? This can only end in blood, you know that.”

“Blood is all the world knows. This island was the sanctuary of Christendom while the barbarian Germans sacked Rome, and all we get for our thanks is threats and disunity. It is time.”

“Then it is time, but that is tomorrow. Tonight, promise me you will come to bed.”

—-

The night of feast, all who came were greeted in person by the Earl of Dublin, Patraic Crovan and his wife Gwenllian in all their splendour. The Earl, with his wild red hair and beard, wore a simple tunic of green with fine leather belts and leggings. He looked more the warrior from his old days than the lord he was now, but none could mistake the look in his eyes, the air of commanding in his presence. His wife, by contrast, had donned her best finery; a long copper dress from home with green highlights, coupled with a delicate silver necklace that reflected in her raven hair.

Patraic had spared little expense in this feast, as courses of wild boar, stag, fish were washed down with barrels of ale. The bishop of Christchurch even offered some casks of wine the priests had recovered and saved from a mission in northern France.

As the meal came to a close, Patraic rose from his chair at the head table to thunderous applause and cheers. He lifted his hands, thanking the gathered for their praise but asking for their attention. He then gestured to his wife, who also rose, carrying their son in her arms.

“My fellows, my thanks to you for your kindness and fealty, my gratitude for joining me to celebrate the birth of my son, here now for all to see. Here is named: Coirpre mac Patraic, my first born son of the Crovan family!” Patraic again had to call for silence as a loud cheer went up, spooking the child.

“It is not all happy news this evening, though,” said Patraic to some confusion, “this will be the last such feast Dublin will see for a long time. Harsh years are ahead of us.”

“Many of you know that I was not born to this station, that I usurped control from Murchad Ua Chenselaig.” More confusion went through the room, hisses and murmurs, had the Earl gone mad?

“I took this burden upon myself to keep Dublin and Ireland herself out of the hand of foreign conquerors. I can only thank The Lord that neither the Normans, nor their Norse cousins gained a foothold into our isles. But do you think that makes us safe?”

At this, the mayor of Dublin city spoke up, clearly concerned, “My Lord, what is this trouble you speak of? Are not the Saxons busy quarrelling among themselves now that they no longer fear invasion?”

“You hit the nail on the head exactly, my Lord Mayor, for can we not say the same of we Irish?” Patraic challenged, to more angry murmurs. “How many years has it been since Brian Boru was High King? Long have the Celtic peoples been pushed to the periphery of Europe, first by the Romans, then the Franks, then the Norse, then the German tribes. Once we ruled all of the west, now we cling to a few islands and outposts.”

“But now, I make a vow, I swear to God Almighty, that in the name of our people, of The Lord, that Ireland will become one! I will not rest, nor shall my sons or their sons, until the Crovan family sits with the Green Crown of Thorns upon its head! We go to war until the whole of Eire is united in fealty and purpose!”

At this, a deafening roar went up among the feast, cheers of joy, calls to glory, songs and pipes droning on into the night. The revelry went so loud, the spirits went so high, that folk across the Hibernian island all heard it.

They did not notice, however, that Patraic and his wife slipped away after the announcement. Coirpre was tired, and Patraic knew he needed to see as much of his wife and son as he could, while there was still time. Patraic had just announced his intention to war against the whole of the island. Only God knew if he would still stand when the blood dried on the fields.

But then Gwenllian kissed him, and he knew all would be well.