A silent smoke rose from the smoldering ash, dispersing high in the air and meeting the grey dawn. Brian and The Dalcassians had returned to Kincora under the cloak of darkness. Brian pulled on the reins bringing his steed to a halt. Looking on, his face was grim, his eyes black with rage, like pools of boiling tar waiting to explode. “Another village burned to ash.” he said through clenched teeth as Conal and Angus rode in beside him.
He looked to Aodhan, Mathghamain’s trusted scout. “Is this what Mathghamain calls peace?” Aodhan swallowed hard fearing to meet Brians eyes. “The Danes grow brave Brian, for every attack your Dalcassians make on them they meet it with one of their own.” Brian cut across, he had heard enough. “With innocent people? Does Mathghamain not protect these lands? Is it not his duty to his people?” Aodhan made no reply, the shame on his face was evident as The Dalcassians pierced holes in him with their stares.
His horse kicked up small red sounders as Brian moved on he observed skulls and bones submerging from the mounds of ash, smoke bellowing from shared and scorched eye sockets. Nothing remained of the small farming village. What was once green and full of life was now a dark hellish land poisoned to the very core. He welcomed the rain when it began to fall for it took the foul stench from the air, he closed his eyes and tilted his head back for a moment and allowed the rain to wash over his face. Too long had he watched this savagery, too long had he witnessed friends and Kin die at the Mercy of Danes and greedy Irish clans. The rain felt cold, it ran along new formed lines on his face he had brought back from the Burren. He was removed from his moment of solitude with a roar from one of Mathghamain’s men. “Movement beyond the trees!” Brian raced up the small hill from which the man looked down. His keen eyes scoured the terrain below, there was at least thirty men on horseback . Brian could not make out if they were Danes or Clans people but they were leaving in a hurry. Brian’s commands were direct and strong.
“Conal, Angus, Fergus, Cahal and Phelan ride as swift as you can, flank left along the trees by the river when you pass the riders, wait with Bows on the ready. The rest of you with me.” Brian charged without a seconds haste, a dozen men followed with hooves pounding like rolls of thunder. They cut through the trees winching as branches and twigs lashed their skin, adrenaline surged through their bodies, their blood was up from the scene they had just witnessed and if the men they pursued were responsible they would pay a hard price. Brian knew these woods as did the men who rode with him, they did not use the road through the forest for time was of the essence.
The steep path they paved proved fatal for a Dalcassian as his horse lost its footing, crashing, tumbling and crushing the rider beneath it. The Dalcassians pressed on pushing their steeds to their limits. Brian was the first to emerge from the trees, he clenched his Tuagh Chatha (Battle Axe) with his right hand, the warriors eyes were fierce and glistening with rage, his tangled hair blew in the wind with his teeth pressed together and his snarl distorting his face. His men followed closely, they had seen that berserk look before and knew it’s reciprocator’s fate. Brian galloped on as they dashed up the road, tearing mud and stone in their wake. They came over the hill and Brian felt his heart beat harder, faster as the riders they tracked came into view.
It came as no surprise to him when he seen the riders slow and turn to face them.The Dalcassins were outnumbered two to one, they had faced far greater odds than this before and if the hunted riders thought of slowing their pursuers down through intimidation, they were very wrong. It only added speed to a furious gallop. the final stretch of roadway was all that stood between them. Brian’s suspicions were confirmed on approach as he observed two wagons with Iron cages each holding children and women imprisoned within. The Dalcassians broke off into two separate parties each flanking on either side of the enemy and cutting as they rode. Brian stretched out and let the cruelty of his Tuagh Chatha be felt. His strike was swift and accurate, he knew the look of his Danish enemy, he watched the life leave his prey, it was not his first time to see this nor would it be his last.
Brian now a tried warrior and a fierce adversary, one that these Danes would never have encountered before. Five Danes fell as the Dalcassians passed. Brian turned to make another charge but the enemy was on him, swords flashing , eyes peering through black iron helmets. Two Danes rushed Brian, he tried to pull his horse back but a Danish longsword cut its mark along his ribs, his horse threw him in the commotion. His landing was soft as he rolled through the wet mud, he stood recovering quickly, found his target and let his Tuagh Chatha fly finding the same Dane who had just cut him. Now drawing both Cloidheamhs (Short Swords) in each hand, he gave the next charging Dane a sinister smile. Covered in blood and mud, his teeth and eyes the only part of him untouched by the wet muck. Conal’s band of men had arrived at the edge of the tree-line, they positioned themselves and each picked a target. Conal paused for a second as he watched Brian cut a Dane from his horse. He reminded Conal of the stories the old Seanchaithe had told of the warriors of the Fianna, how a beserker rage would distort and transform them on the battlefield into demonic warriors.
Brian looked ferocious, the remaining Danes approached cautiously with fear and uncertainty, giving power and strength to the Dalcassians. Conal gave the order and five arrows loosed from the trees with four of them finding their targets. Danish numbers were diminishing and odds began to even for the Dalcassians. The battle did not last for long. Brian and his men were merciless, allowing none of the Danes to survive. There was no glory to be had with the loss of two Dalcassians and three of Mathghamain’s men, including Aodhan, there was only room for sorrow.
The rain became heavier after the battle. Brian looked to the prisoner’s and called for his men to release them. Their faces held despair and anguish, their freedom would not relieve their pain or heartbreak. Brian felt their grief, he looked to his war torn party of men, they were haggard, bloody and weary from battle yet still a fire burned in their eyes. The trees creaked and groaned with the elevated wind, the rain blew in every direction. A strong storm was brewing.