As Yule comes to an end, Ostara is on the horizon……
Deep within the Connacht halls…
The great canvas of the map made the war table creak under its weight, the serfs unfurling it so the known world was revealed to Queen Medb and her generals. Their beady eyes quickly glanced across the surface and then hands, scarred from numerous battles, pushed symbols onto the map; each token representing the Queen’s armies.
“We’ve suppressed the uprising to the south my Queen, the leaders have been strung up by their gizzards as an example to others who might question your rule.”
“Good”, came the dusty response, her voice infected with evil, “and what of Dal Riata. They should pay for denying me as their Queen.”
General Corrus shuffled nervously, knowing the news he would bring his leader might see him fed – quite literally – to the dogs, when a messenger entered. He approached Corrus, whispering in his ear, and the warchief turned back to his Queen with a leering grin.
“Ah, your majesty”, he said in glee, “I have heard that The Great Hunt is afoot within the lands of Dal Riata and Herne’s Hunters seek aid to catch the prey that carry golden marks.”
Queen Medb leaned forward into the candle light and raised an eyebrow, her face calloused and grey thin lips pursed together.
Corrus continued, stammering, “Those g-golden marks… is it not t-true our mages can use them to summon ancient evils to do our bidding?”
She rose from the throne to her full height, her shadow dwarfing those who served and threw her arms out wide.
“Yes”, she cried, “Oh yes! Call forth the Eirinn Dragons and my knights. We shall make our enemies in Dal Riata pay.”
Within the sunrise…
She had the dream again. The mythic Wyldwood, verdant and green, the fresh smell of spring and the mighty white stag. The passion of the hunt and that feeling of nervous excitement as the arrow leased from her bow to find its mark. It was a blessing from Herne himself.
As Seda awoke her mouth curled into a smile and rolling from her bedding she grabbed her hunting horn, ripping open the flaps of the tent and stepping into the spring dawn, the last snows of Yule melting about her. As the carved horn met her lips she blew gently and a resplendently clear note sung out into the crisp air; the song carried over leagues and repeated by others woken by its note. The chorus celebrating the start of the Ostara and with it The Great Hunt.
Herne’s Hunters gathered quickly and with each passing night the dreams became more vivid, the forests and mountains becoming more familiar until they all saw the castle, Farcrag. The Great Hunt would begin there.
Waiting for one more night, so those who had travelled from far could join them, they slept safe amongst their fellow hunters, yet that night the dream changed. Seda woke with a jolt, her clothing damp with sweat, her breathing heavy and her brow furrowed in concern. As this time when her arrow was leased at the stag, something else hove into view, a Knight of Queen Medb’s Dark Orders… the Connacht.