The wavy waters whisper as they wander through the glade. The river is swollen to a torrent. Dark water winds its way between the river's brown banks. Under hanging trees, just before the bend, recently formed rapids bubble in the morning sunlight. The little, wooden, slatted bridge presents the only safe crossing. Its still presence contrasts with the fast flowing waters.
Learning To Love
Patrick has penned his sheep to protect them from the storm and is wandering along the banks of the swollen Br ad River into the woods when, in the distance, from behind some hawthorn bushes, he hears sobbing. He walks ahead to investigate. As he rounds the bushes he sees a young girl kneeling at the edge of the riverbank crying. He gently approaches the girl to comfort her.
"Why are you crying little one," he says softly.
The girl stops sobbing and looks up. Her freckled face is stained with tears.
"My uncle, who looks after me, has chased me from the house. I accidentally dropped his meal and he spurned me saying that all young women are stupid."
The young girl bursts into tears once more as she recalls the painful moment. She looks again at Patrick, her pale face searching for words of comfort and reassurance.
"I don't think you are stupid," says Patrick, "I think you are very beautiful."
"Do you really think so?" she enquires, her face softening as she senses Patrick's willingness to acknowledge her own deep need to be assured of her attractiveness.
"Of course I do," he replies.
"Then why can my uncle not see it?" she questions with a playful huffiness.
"Far away across the sea I have an uncle like that," Patrick affirms. "Do you know in all the years I knew him he never had a kind word for me."
"Why was that?" the girl enquired.
"I don't know. For years I thought I was stupid, then one day I realised that my uncle was like that with everyone he met and that there was nothing wrong with me."
"I think my uncle might be like yours," she replies, "Families can be difficult."
"Indeed they can," replies Patrick. "But they can be a refuge of love and understanding as well but unfortunately I've lost my family."
"How can you lose your family?" she asked.
"My father, Calpernius, was a Briton and a deacon. My mother, Concess, was a Frank and a close relative of Saint Martin of Tours. However I suspect that my parents and sister were killed when I was captured. I was taken to D l Riaghada on a ship and sold as a slave to King Miliucc. I work as a shepherd on Slieve Miss looking after Conchubhar's herd of sheep."
"Oh, you poor thing." the young girl sighs, "I am sorry to hear that."She then hesitates and introduces herself, "I am called Maebh," and she gives Patrick an attractive open smile.
"Look," Patrick, changes the subject, "I bet I could beat you in a leaf race down river."
Patrick and Maebh each pick up a leaf from the forest floor and throw it into the fast flowing waters, then both of them run down river to see whose leaf will reach the bend first.
"I won, I won," shouts Maebh as her leaf is carried around the bend ahead of Patrick's.
"Just good fortune," murmurs Patrick as he leans against a tree.
"Where does the Br ad River come from Maebh?" he enquires after recovering his breath.
"I'll show you," she exclaims with a glint in her eye. "Follow me," and she spins round and walks upriver into the forest.
Together Maebh and Patrick follow the river higher and higher into the hills. As they climb, the river turns into a stream and then into a gurgling brook. Just as Patrick is beginning to feel as if he has climbed far enough, he hears Maebh say,
Patrick stops. As he listens he can hear the sound of a small waterfall ahead.
"We're nearly there," says Maebh and she runs ahead to where the waterfall flows.
Patrick passes her and scrambles up the steep slope to discover a serene silent lake, enfolded in soft willow trees. The lake is so still and silent that it feels sacred.
"This is the secret Vanishing Lake," Maebh whispers.
Patrick is surprised and recalls Conchubhar's mythical poem.
"Is this the lake where everything begins and ends, the place where a youth will one day be crowned king?" he whispers.
"Yes ," she replies reverently.
They stare at the still blue water and watch the clouds reflect in the smooth surface. Then silently, smoothly a pure white swan glides out from behind a willow tree. As Patrick watches the swan he is overcome with a feeling of peace and wonder. He begins to sense the pull of his destiny and starts to cry.
"What's the matter Patrick," Maebh asks gently.
"I feel I have a great mission to accomplish but I don't know what it is or how to start," he sobs. "I do not know how I can have these feelings when I am living the life of a slave with no way of seeing how I can attain my freedom."
Patrick breaks down completely, sits on the lakeshore and cries bitterly.
"Do you hate your captors?" Maebh asks gently.
Before he answers the swan glides closer to the lakeshore where he sits. "No," he sobs, "I don't hate my captors but sometimes I wonder if my life is ever going to change and my mission become true. I know I must learn to love my captors and to trust that my dreams will come to pass, but it is hard, very hard."
Maebh sits down beside Patrick, puts her arms around him and whispers,
"You need to speak to Mythendical the Druid."
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