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.