It is a rare occurrence that I, Lamathrath of the Nexus, experience anything remotely resembling physical emotions, such as happiness, sadness or anger. However, even I must smile ever so slightly as I consider the joy and battle fury of the kilt-wearing elves of the Alf-Anon Plains in the land of Pallanon on the world of Unterheofa. And none of those merry, war-making fair folk have shown with more joy from my Lord then this one, this daughter of clan Braegan. Thus do I record her tale, as told by a mother of clan Braegan.
The Tale of Shona Bladefoot
Sit down, me child and I’ll weave ye a tale of the days of Auld Lang Syne. Now, in the early days of our clan, the clan MacBraegan, there was a mighty chieftain named Ardenn. He was as big as the great-wolves he fought, and he had fought many in his day for he was reared during the time of the Tain Cuana. No one could wield sword and axe like him. Often he would wade into the midst of the Wolf demons, twirling his huge bearded axe as if it were a little more than a willow wand. “That’s rrright, ye sniveling jackal jobbies, back to Helheim with ye, for I’m a raven-haired son of clan Braegan!”
And he would return to his wife, the redhaired Maire, and her loving arms. “Aye, mo chroi,” chided the Queen. “I fear ye’re becomin’ far too battle-bodied an’ battle-minded for the likes o’ me. Maybe sommat will soften your heart someday.”
She knew not the wisdom with which she spoke. For within a year the Queen took a child to womb. And fortunately, as is quite rare, both mother and babe were healthy. The child was a beautiful lass, whom they named Shona, which, as ye well know, means “joy”. In features, heart and demeanor, she resembled her mother, with long fiery red hair captivating eyes. Yet it was her passion to follow after her father’s ilk, to learn of blade craft and riding. But the one thing that pleased the Queen about her bairn was her legs, or that is to say, the way she used them. She put a new fiery spin to all the jigs and reels. Often on the days of the Elven Festival she would dance long after the moon disappeared from the sky. As she began to grow older, and blossoming into the flower of her youth, both parents knew that God had blessed them with the future clan leader, their proud heir. Until the day everything changed.
One winter’s night Ardenn decided to take Shona a’riding. So he saddled her pony and his great highland horse. When they were about 12 miles agone from the rath, they were by a rocky crag, when the chieftain heard a mysterious howl. There had not been a great-wolf sighted in those lands for nearly a 12-month. Ardenn did not want to alarm his daughter. Nevertheless, he shifted one massive hand to rest on the hilt of his claymore.
A hellish snarling sound grew in the distance and the chieftain was about to spur his horse to gallop back to the rath, but then, out of the heather-shrouded shadows, loomed two devilish eyes. The Helheim canine seemed to materialize out of the midnight mist. Ardenn could fill the demon breath as hot as forge fire. The great-wolf’s maw frothed a viscous yellow as the pit-spume ran trickling down its fangs. Ardenn could feel little Shona trembling, and he croon softly in the tongue the Highlands to assuage her fear. “Bring yair worst, ye cu o’ hell!” the elven giant spat, brandishing his hunting spear. He knew not the irony of his challenge, for the great-wolf pounced, knocking both riders to the ground. Before the Elven chieftain could recover, he heard a sound that nearly wrenched his heart from his breast, screams of anguished pain in a voice he knew all too well. The demon dog had Shona by the leg and was thrashing her around like a rag doll.
I m-must strike the devil in the hairt, Ardenn thought, his mind ablaze with wrath and grief. He prayed a silent prayer of invocation, took careful aim and let the shaft fly. The weapon sailed through the air and the night sky was rent with another cry of pain, this one demonic and raging. The Wolf dropped the poor lassie to the ground and fell over dead. The chieftain rushed to his daughter’s side and cradled her in his arms. Though the poor girl had passed out cold from shock she was still shivering, a terrible sign. If the poison from the great-wolf’s fangs reached her heart, that would be the terrible end. And her leg was already scarred and mutilated beyond repair. Many tears blint Ardenn’s eye as he made a torch from the heather and reached for his axe.
Shona NicBraegan lay in a dreamless sleep for three weeks after her father carried her home. The shock of the Wolf attack had nearly been too great. Her mother sat constantly by her bedside changing the dressing on the stump and dampening her feverish head with cool cloths.
“Oh, me lassie. God, Aithar ar Neamh, give me back my bairn. And YOU, oh enemy of God, ye canne take my daughter, she is spirit of my spirit, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. The Laird brought her to this life from my womb, and you willne have her.” Then mysteriously she began to pray in wosen magical speech, which no one knows save the Spirit of God.
And so, God heard the prayer of Queen Maire’s heart. The young elfess lived. But the proud hopes that big Ardenn had held, dreams of a strong clan chieftainess, were gone. So too it seemed were Shona’s days of merrymaking in the dance. But that did not stop her, for she tried with all the rhiastrad and strength she could muster. The first time she tried to dance upon the wooden leg her father had made, she fell flat on her pudennum. Her father shook his head and said ”It be but a lost cause, mo gaol, I know how much it meant to you, but you’ll just end up skelpin’ yerself.” And yet she tried long after her father had gone to bed every night.
It was about that time that Ardenn and some other chieftains formed a massive army to go fight the foul folk near the forest of Trillven to the South. Ardenn decided to take every able-bodied warrior on the campaign, as there had been no sign of the foul folk on the plains for some time. Little did he know that Agaldrog, a general of the half trolls was circumventing the outlying villages of Clan Braegan, to strike at the heart of McBraegan lands.
One night, long after her father and the men had gone, Shona, just come into full womanhood, was sleeping on her bed of black bear fur. In her dreams she saw Braegan Proudbanner, founder of clan MacBraegan. A great knot-worked axe was in his hand, the symbol of the clan, and he was a clothed in a tartan-marked brigandine, the metal shining like fire.
“Tack this axe child. Foul folk be comin’.” You are the only one what’s fit tae fight.”
“But I canne fight. I’ve only got one leg.”
“Take the axe. Take it and you shall dance again. Take it, and dance ’em tae dee. God is with ye.”
Young Shona bolted up in bed, full of the Spirit of God. She put on the socket of her leg, took up her crutch and ran to the armory. She removed the great axe of Braegan Proudbanner from its hallowed place on the wall of the armory, shoved it into the wooden socket, and rushed out of the fortress eager for battle and even more eager to dance. She met a full cohort of foul folk, most of them half trolls, on the plane before the rath. Many of the foul folk were stupidly astonished at the appearance of an elf girl with an axe for a leg. “Let’s have some sport with you before we eatses you!” hissed one as he rushed her, war club upraised. But then she twirled in place as in a Highland dance and the gnarly head fell to the ground. At first the other trollish warriors did not know what to think (as is most often the case with their kind). Then they decided to attack en masse. For them it was a mistake but for Shona it was craic and glory. She twirled and kicked in a graceful yet furious dance of death. The Highland bagpipes, chanters, bodhrans, and lutes were playing warrior ballads in her head and through her dance for the glory of God flowed the favor of God and high above Pallanon God was pleased. Finally though, she seemed to meet her match for Agaldrog at last waded into the fight. But through the whirring of their steel, the very voice of God seemed to drive into Agaldrog’s ears, echoing the voice of Queen Maire and her declaration years ago. “You canne have my daughter!” At last with a cry of “Smishe nic clan Braegannach.” (Alfanonian elvish: I am a daughter of clan Braegan!) Shona, daughter of Ardenn, whirled one last time and the ax blade clove the half-troll general’s head from his shoulders. She stood there for several minutes, surveying her work but not comprehending what she had done as the Highland battle fury faded from her eyes.
Only then did she turn and see her father, the leaders of the other clans and their armies, staring at her. For a moment the huge elf chieftain could not speak and his mouth hung open in shock. But then he dismounted from his horse and ran toward her. Holding her face in his massive hands he said, choking on the words. “You are the bravest, most beautiful, most glorious elfling I or any other chieftain of the Alf-anon Plains have ever sired. Do know what you’ve done, girl? You saved the whole clan. Bless you, lassie!”
He turned to his fellow chieftains, and raised his daughter’s hand in his. “Now hear me. This is Shona Nic Braegan, my daughter. Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, spirit of my spirit. If any jobbied man among thinks a young woman with one leg canne be clan chieftain, he will have to answer to me or to me daughter, Shona Bladefoot. I proclaim her as my heir. May she lead the clan well when I have come to the time to meet my God face to face. What say ye to that?” Everyone in the assembly cheered. And that is how a one-legged, fiery-tressed elf girl named Shona became the greatest hero to come from the line of clan Braegan.
Excellent tale, Lamathrath of the Nexus. It was really gripping. Can’t wait for more 🙂