Concubar the king and his friend and weapon-master Fergus were sitting together over a game of Fidchell, “Fergus, what can you tell me of the skill at arms of the little fellow, Curuada,” Concubar glanced around to make certain they were alone before adding in a whisper, “my son?”
“Not hard to tell,” said Fergus as he pondered the board, “His strikings are vigorous, he plies his shield with success, his counter-striking is without flaw, his spear throw is ever true and he has mastered the catching feat, the dance of the three spears, and the casting and catching feat, and none is more skilled at the salmon leap than is Curuada.”
“What is the season? false Summer, hmmm see here, I entrench my footman.” The king made his move and then looking over at Fergus he asked “What of his skill with the chariot?”
Fergus scowled at the board considering. “Easy to tell, oh king,” said Fergus, “he has mastered all the throws from the chariot, he is proficient in the tongue feat and the horse back feat, his turnings are sharp, he knows the use of the scythes, he drives with great vigor so that none can fault his rein work, why, Curuada already can execute the wheel feat. He is without peer oh king.”
“What is your move then Fergus?” asked Concubar smiling to himself with fatherly pride.
“Do not rush me. Patience is wisdom and a piece moved in hurry is a piece soon lost. I have several moves in mind, I but choose the best of many brethern.”
“Have you taught him the use of the long-sword, oh my master-of-arms?”
“Of course, he is a prince after all. Know oh king, I have schooled him in long-sword slashings and parryings, all the whelming blows and the cutting strikes he knows well. Though the weapon should be difficult for one so small, he plies it with ease.” Fergus reached to the board and moved a mercenary closer to Concubar’s province. “He saw Cormac achieve the shield leaping reverse grip whelming feat and did what Cormac has labored for three years to perfect. This was on his first attempt mind you.” Fergus scooped up the die and cast. “5 days,” he counted the marker along the board edge. “HAH! it is full summer and I have advantage.” Fergus rubbed his hands together and moved the same mercenary to capture the king’s most advanced chariot.
Concubar leaned over the board and scanned it, but without much interest. “I could have used that chariot. . .” Fergus smiled to himself, pleased with the game.
“I have never trained a lad so canny. He is by far my best work.” Said Fergus.
“In truth he was my work, remember?” said Concubar.
“As you say,” began Fergus, “Cathbad is not so very pleased that you got him on that Faery woman. I have seen him watching my training of the boy.”
Concubar cursed under his breath, “Don’t speak to me of that druid, he won’t leave off badgering me about how bad it is to mix with the fae folk. And yet, here is the boy who excels in all things. How is that bad?”
Fergus shrugged but said no more.
Concubar moved a javelineer behind his entrenched footman and gathered up the die. “He sees trouble where there is none, and more trouble where there should be pleasantness. Do you know he pesters me now about finding a bride?”
Fergus shrugged again, but almost spoke before he thought better of it.
Concubar made his cast. “Two only,” he moved the marker and said, “still Summer and you to move. With all of this of the boy, is this really the time to seek a bride? I ask you.”
Fergus looked to his king and decided the question was rhetorical.
“I have no idea where I might find a proper wife. You are right to say that a quick move in Fidchell brings loss. You should tell that to Cathbad, how much worse to charge off to find a woman because of a boy?”
Fergus nodded supportively and kept his eyes on the board.
“If I was to go a hunting, I’ll tell you it would not be for a wife.” Concubar leaned close to Fergus and whispered conspiratorially, “I find the comfort I need without difficulty, it is easy to find a woman.”
Fergus moved a charioteer out farther on the flank, “I know a girl that would be perfect for you.”
“Truly? Who is she?”
Fergus smiled, “Emer, the daughter of the hostler. Well formed though delicate, she has all the womanly virtues so that no woman is her equal in face, or in voice, in sweet speech, or in grace, nor any as skilled with needle and thread.”
“Emer you say? The daughter of the Hostler at the fording of the Red River on the South Road?”
“Aye, that is he.” Fergus steepled his fingers and pondered, “How long, oh king, has it been since you travelled this your realm and saw to your subjects? Perhaps it is time you did.”
“I could take CuRuada hunting and test his skills in that regard as well, might I not?”
Fergus grinned, “Who knows? There might even be the sort of action that a hero might find to hand. Perhaps a neighbor’s cows might find there way to our own possession?”
Concubar frowned, “That would be merry sport, so I guarantee that spoil stew Cathbad will be against it. Of what possible good is it to be king if I must always dance to every finger snap of the Chief Druid?”
Fergus reverted to his standard non-commital shrug in lue of a real answer.
“Well, he can’t complain about hunting. That at least I can still do. Fergus, what say we plan a long day of hunting, CuRuada included, and then perhaps this fellow at the ford, the hostler, will feast us so I can have a look at his daughter. What was her name?”
“Emer, to be sure.”
“Emer, right.” Concubar clapped his hands, “Oh Fergus, this is just the thing, killing two birds with one stone, three really, a bit of hunting with my son, a bit of pleasure while I see to a wife, and best of all, Cathbad won’t be in any of it. See to preparations.”
“I fear it can not be for a week or so, the funerary games of Macha are set for Bright’s fullness, and there is an opportune conjunction of the Stranger as well. Then too, it is the time for a few of the lads to take up their arms.”
“hmmm, then we simply must have a cattle raid on our hunt afterward, the boys can test their mettle, and I can bring my potential new good father some wealth on the hoof.” Concubar winked, “Never a bad thing to give a gift that costs someone else”
Fergus laughed along with the king, “Aye, and he will likely be freer with the wine if we bring him good beef, eh?”
“Even so.” The king smiled expansively. Concubar grew serious, “Say nothing of this to Cathbad, he would only spoil our fun.”
“Ah, here he comes now” Fergus whispered and both men turned to study their game. “um, who’s turn was it?”