One day while marching East, a scout returned with some rapidly-uttered words to say.
At once a crown of fragrant flowers was placed on Mac Crieche's head. He was deposited in an open sedan chair and lifted high on the shoulders of the soldiers like the guest of honor. The guest of honor, that is, only thoroughly tied up.
It was done with such haste that it could only mean one thing. War had come.
A drum was beat and the battle-scarred and savage army fanned out like the seasoned fighters they were. Once the commander was happy with the formation, he gave the musician a wave and the tempo changed into a good marching beat.
On they went, Mac Criechie's head bumping right along with marching feet of those who carried him.
Color drained from his face, as, from his high vantage point, he was the first to see the enemy appearing over the boulder-lined crest of the hill. What he saw made his jaw drop. Fur-lined barbarians clamored over the hill, so snarling and brutal looking that they made the heathen Illicrian horde look like Saints on parade.
As soon as the one army caught sight of the other, they ran toward one another at full tilt, shouting their snarling war cries all the while. They flowed past Mac Crieche and his bearers like an angry tide, which was all the better for him, he thought.
At once they clashed and the brutal, limb-rending, spectacle of ancient warfare unfolded itself before his eyes. Blood flowed freely.
He was so very nearly ill from what he could see, that he wished and prayed that the bearers would bring him no nearer the action.
One stray arrow swished past his ear before a second granted his wish. One of the standard bearers, fell fatally wounded, causing the entire Sedan to topple over and land partially upside-down in a muddy brook.
He felt one of the other three men tugging on the sedan's pole. The other two shouted at him and together they all ran to join in the battle.
The top of Mac Crieche's shaven head was quite cold, being pressed nearly eyebrows-deep into the black mud. Water trickling in from above splashed into his eyes and nose, and, bound as he was, he could do nothing about it.
For many hours the unseen battle raged on around him. At first, he hoped that yet another wayward arrow would not strike him dead. After a long time inverted and under extreme pressure, his neck began to grow stiff and scream for such a relief.
Dusk had fallen by the time only one army was left on the field and the other, either dead or fled.
Soldiers, and a surprising number of non-combatants combed the field. The pagans treated each fallen alike. Whether friend or foe, the bodies were stripped of their weapons and valuables and then left for the wolves.
Mac Crieche was so out-of-sorts that by the time the sedan was righted, he didn't know what was going on. Chilled to near hypothermia by the icy stream, and brain jumbled with blood from being upside-down all afternoon, he could do naught but stare as the strange, dirty, pagans came to inspect him one by one.
One very hairy individual with a wild, unkempt beard got all up in his face. He looked behind him for some sort of confirmation, then turned back.
He jabbed Mac Crieche's ribs with the handle of his battle axe and then shrugged and turned away.
Several other men looked him over as well, but it was clear that none had any idea what to do with him.
At last a maiden came up. She was filthy dirty in her plain smock, with hair just as wild as the others. Yet her strange pale blue eyes seemed to have a latent wisdom behind them.
She scrutinized Mac Crieche just as the others had done, even turning her head sideways to try and see if he would make sense from a different angle.
The men laughed.
"Turrú!" she turned and shouted at them. Then she launched into a tirade in whatever language that was.
Of the body of men leaning on their weapons, the biggest and hairiest spoke up. Whatever he said was so insulting that she turned away. "Baaah!" she spat, waving the group off. Her plain one-piece dress shuddering with the angry footsteps as she stamped off.
The hairy barbarian smiled and jerked his head in a "let's go", gesture to his comrades.
Though Mac Crieche was certainly not "all there", the thought somehow got through to his brain that he didn't know where he was. Only that he was in the wilderness, in barbarian territory, with no supplies, night settling in, and, no doubt, wolves being drawn in by the scent of blood.
All at once being alone didn't seem like such a good idea.
He looked up to Heaven for guidance. He was surprised to see his goose there. For some reason he was always surprised when he saw it. This time, he saw which direction it was headed and steeled his nerves.
As the barbarians slowly drifted off, he trailed behind them.
NEXT CHAPTER ... COMING SOON!