The outline of the hills can just be seen against the night sky. Invisible trees, stirred by a fresh breeze, rustle in the distance. Underfoot the long grass is soft and damp. The glow of distant flame lights a nearby hilltop.
The Devil's Chair
"What's that glow in the distance, Maebh?"
Patrick is walking over the hills as he returns to Slieve Miss from the Vanishing Lake.
"It must be a clan meeting. That's where King Miliucc has his throne; the Devil's Chair."
"Let's go and investigate, Maebh," says Patrick. "Oh, should we. It'll be very dangerous to spy on them."
"Come on Maebh. Lets see what they are up to."
Patrick and Maebh climb the hill in darkness. As they climb towards the hilltop they see a meeting of the lords and noblemen of D l Riaghada.
"Quick Meabh let's crouch down behind this rock."
As they gaze out over the rock into the darkness they see King Miliucc sitting in a hollow the shape of a chair cut out of bare rock.
"That's the Devil's Chair," whispers Maebh.
King Miliucc is giving a speech to the assembled gathering. Behind King Miliucc stand a line of warriors, each holding a yellow torch flame that flickers in the freezing wind. The gold on the noblemen's cloaks is sparkling in the yellow torchlight. Hunting dogs crouch at the noblemen's feet, their eyes picked out by the shimmering flame.
Patrick and Maebh listen in silence to King Miliucc's speech.
"Some slaves do not realise how lucky they are to have such a lenient Master. They have defied me. They do not work hard. They do not show respect. One even refused to swear allegiance to me."
"That's you Pat," whispers Maebh.
"From now on we are going to show these slaves who their real master is," King Miliucc continued, "I am making a decree that from today, if any slave is found away from the farm where he works, he will be killed instantly. There will be no exceptions. Do I make myself understood?"
The noblemen all nod in agreement. Patrick and Maebh look at one another in disbelief, then turn and creep down the hillside.
Both Maebh and Patrick continue on their way to Slieve Miss, a solemn silence between them. Then Meabh breaks the quiet, her voice trembling with fear,
"I'm really angry at King Miliucc. He's a real brute. Now all the slaves have virtually no freedoms left, and what about you Pat. It's going to be even more difficult to escape."
Patrick eases Maebh's nervousness. He has a tone to his voice that surprises and reassures.
"Everything will work out, Maebh."
She notices that Patrick exudes a deep peace she had never seen in anyone else. This is because despite the dangers, Patrick feels a strong sense of protection. As they walk they feel the wind grow colder and colder. They decide to ask the children to help Patrick escape the next day.
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