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The Tragedy of Deirdre

Irish Legend

Long ago in Ireland King Connacher of the family of Ulster held a feast just before Samhain. The king's proud knights known as the Knights of the Red Branch were there ,in a most festive mood, when a scream arose so loud veteran knights leapt up to fight whatever was the cause. The only person not dismayed was the king's own druid Cathbad who, the whole night ,had been alone in a archway lost in his own thoughts.

Cathbad walked over to the King's harper Malcolm and his wife Elva who was with child and said "It is the child who cried out for this is no ordinary child she will be blessed with great beauty and her name will be Deirdre , however her beauty will cause the Red Branch to divide causing war and strife and Ulster will suffer greatly."

"Kill the child!" some knights called out for all knew Cathbad's predictions to always be true yet King Connacher was curious to see just how beautiful she would indeed be so immediately he declared that "This child will be born and when she comes of age i shall marry her.It is not good to kill a child and i do not wish to bring sorrow to my guests."

Connacher devised a plan to have Deirdre raised in seclusion his own personal storyteller and scribe Levarcham ,a young woman who had been raised in the King's own household, was given the job of raising her.Dierdre was taught the science of nature and skill in music her voice was like honey on the wind and true to prophecy her beauty was astounding.Deirdre had smooth skin and conveyed deep emotion with her eyes to look upon them was to be drawn into them.Her hair was crimson her skin aglow and her demeanor was patient and kind.She gave beauty to all she touched.

When she was 15 years of age she was told she was to wed the King the next year but she had dreams and visions of a man with dark hair and bright eyes who would be her true husband.

The next season after Deirdre was picking flowers when she became detatched from Levarchen and in the woods heard a song she followed the sound and came across a hunter, when she saw him it seemed as though sunlight shone forth from the ground he stood upon and a force compelled her to come to him she at once kissed him and said "My kiss is against the wishes of the king i am Deirdre i will love you as in the days of old and at the new moon i will be taken away to marry the king.You must take me away from here."

"I am Naois the eldest of the sons of Uisnach." the hunter proclaimed and he knew full well of the prophecy and bade her to return to the king for fear of her safety, yet Deirdre remained adamant "I value this one moment more than ten lifetimes with Connacher." she said to him and then he decided to take her with him.The pair met with Naois' brethern Allen and Arden and left immediately for Alba (Scotland) making a home near Loch Etive they called "Grainian Deirdre" which meant Deirdre's Sunny Home and they lived there happily for some time.
Connacher back in Ireland had defeated his foes or made peace with them yet he was saddened that three of his finest warriors the three brothers now with Deirdre were away "just because of a woman" so he hatched a plan to send the trusted Fergus Mac Roigh to issue unto them his pardon and invite them all to Ehmain Macha for a celebration.

Naois was elated but Deirdre was worried and justly so for  the night previous to the voyage from Alba to Ireland she had a most frightening dream.
Deirdre dreamed she saw three ravens come to her with drops of honey in their beaks but as they flew away the honey turned to blood she told Naois but  he dismissed it and the next day they sailed for Ireland with Fergus.
Upon reaching the north cliffs of Ireland Fergus rode ahead so that the King would know of their arrival, however Connacher was not prepared and asked Fergus to have them all stay as his guests at the Inn of the Red Branch on the Great Plain until the morrow.

Fergus did as he was told but King Connacher was still curious about Deirdre's beauty and fetched the warrior Gelban Grednach and gave him a secret mission."Go to the inn where Deirdre sleeps and tell me if she has kept her beauty." the King commanded.

That night Gelban crept to the window of Deirdre's room and gazed inward where upon seeing her he gasped and gave his position away.Naois angered at his privacy being violated hurled some dice at the window and one hit Gelban in the eye with such force it began to bleed.

In pain Gelban escaped and made his way to the King to tell him what he saw."How does she appear?" asked Connacher to which Gelban replied"If i could i would have wished to gaze upon her for the rest of my life."Connacher became insane with jealousy and sent for 100 of his finest soldiers.
"Go to the inn and kill the strangers bring me Deirdre alive or i will have you all put to death!" was the king's decree to these men and they all rode to do battle except for one.Levercham who had been Deirdre's caretaker through youth was in the throng and rode ahead to warn Naois and his brothers.
Naois heard the news and rather than flee back to Alba decided to stay and fight they prepared for combat and met with Connacher's army in the great plain near the inn.

The three brothers were highly outnumbered and lightly armed however they were the Sons of Uisnach and they could not flee they had to fight.The combat was furious and quickly over and when the last warrior fell it was not one of the brothers it was Connacher's men for the three brothers had defeated all one hundred.Immediately they fled for Alba but Connacher would not allow them despite their honor and courage to escape and turned to his Druid Cathbad and demanded by threat of exile that the mage kill them all except for Deirdre.
Cathbad summoned a forest to rise suddenly from the earth and it's branches  and weeds were as thick as any on earth but to the fleeing brothers it was nothing.Cathbad became worried and summoned a icy gale to chill the brothers to death  but the brothers stripped their shirts from their backs and Deirdre climed upon Naois' shoulders as they waded across the flooding plain but then Cathbad transformed the water that had by now reached up to the brother's waists and turned it to stone the brothers were ripped to pieces and Deirdre since she was upon Naois' shoulders was unharmed.The plain turned once more to it's normal state and Cathbad merely walked away.

King Connacher had Deirdre placed in a chariot and taken to his castle to be held in a tower so that the wedding could be planned but on the way there she flung herself from the speeding chariot and her head was split open on the rocky ground below.Deirdre was dead.Connacher never having wed left no heir to the throne and the battle caused the Red Branch to divide.The prophecy was fulfilled.

The King decided to have Deirdre buried where she lived in Ireland but in the night a band of people moved her body to be near Naois' grave where they placed stakes made from yew trees.Two years later the yews even though they were six feet apart each had intertwined branches and they trees remain to this day.

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