After the wedding of King Conleach and Queen Aine, in the fullness of time, Queen Aine gave birth to a healthy son. They decided to give him the name Chulain.There had been a brother by that name.He would have been king instead of Conleach had he not succumbed to an early childhood disease.When the queen had recovered from the birth they had the official court to present the new Crown Prince.Prince Cirroc, youngest brother of the king, attended of course.He noticed that a new family coat of arms had been created.Now the Sword and Harp of King Conleach’s family impaled the tall pointed green tree of the family of Queen Aine, as it should.
One of the ceremonies involved the welcoming of the new prince by the Father of Gods and the Mother of Gods. The ceremony would take place in the temple of Calleach. This would be in the morning of the thirtieth day of the Prince’s life.It was customary, at that time, for the subjects of the king to bring offerings to the temple. They would be given to the High Priestess there, but the King would note their size, amount, fineness, beauty, etc.The gifts had two purposes, one to placate the mother of gods so that she would be pleased with her children and the other to show the King how much his people prized his son to make him more kindly towards them. Gold and Silver might be given, bolts of cloth, the meat from whole animals, etc. Prince Cirroc found himself thinking,
irreverently, that the priestesses were happily filling their store -rooms with the best the kingdom had to offer. No doubt the Priests of the Father of Gods would have their share by morning. One merchant of cloth brought a fine bolt of Cressili cloth, the kind that they got from traders from the east. This was blue with silver swirl patterns in it.
It was also noted that Caracticus’s ambassador was there with his senior wife. He brought gifts suitable for his master’s grandson. Though people doubled that word of the gift would get back to the fearsome grandsire.
This was in the morning. The official court began in the afternoon. Lords and Ladies from all over the kingdom came to swear fealty to the King and to the young prince. Only the King was able to accept their pledges and answer them. All those who were there that day oh-h-ed and ah-h-ed over the child.But they all remarked that the boy’s maternal grandfather was not there.That was a concern since he was probably off making war on someone.He was determined that all his sons be kings of equal rank.Those kings who married his daughters, as King Conleach had done, often thought that the marriage but brought them a little time.
The nurse was allowed to come and go as the needs of the baby demanded. The Queen remained beside her husband and kept her eyes on him at all times. The official court continued the next day with the same situation. But in the evening there was another duty for the King to perform.
It was traditional that the King approve all marriages of the nobility before they were solemnized in the Temple of Coinn, the Father of Gods. He did approve the proposed marriages of some of the nobles of the kingdom, but none for any of the royal dukes. His brother Conner, immediately younger then he was, wanted to take the Lady Moira Kierkaballen for wife.She was the daughter of the Lord Kierkaballen who had so recently wanted to take the King’s throne and his life with it.All he said to Conner is “I will take the matter under advisement. ”The couple thought it better not to push thematter now and retired.
In a few days the rest of the brothers and sisters and their entourages had arrived. Then it was thought a good omen for having the ceremonies for young Prince Chulain in the Temple of Calleach, the Mother of Gods and giver of children.Quarters in the castle would have been very cramped had they not also the house of the Gran Visir to use.Princess Cathleen was glad to play hostess to some of her brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law.Her husband was Lord Finn, the Gran Visir.Cirroc hoped that he did not plot against the king as Lord Kierkaballen, the previous Gran Vizier had done.
One of the ceremonies was the first cutting of the infant’s hair. The locks that were removed were supposed to be something of a good luck charm to those who received them. It was decided to give one to each of the King’s sisters. They were also to keep them safe, since some people believed that they could be used to create a magic potion to bring harm on the baby.
That night the family was to dine in the palace with the King and Queen. Before that occurred, the King called Cirroc into a private audience. He was beginning to value the advice of his youngest brother and wanted it now .“There is a problem,” the King said. “I think I might have acted to hastily in killing Lord Kierkaballan as I did. I know that he plotted with some of the other Lords to take my crown and my life. But I do not know which ones. Now I have reason to believe that some of them are plotting against me again. Nor can I completely rule out all our brothers.Conner wishes to marry Lord Kierkaballan’s daughter Moira.This would add his lands to hers.Our brother would be a very rich man.”
“If he is loyal, this should be no problem,” Cirroc responded.
“But what if he is not?” the King asked. “You are the one that I know I can trust. I am asking you to talk to our brothers. Inform me if any seem to you to be particularly disloyal.”
“I will do so,” Cirroc said. “But I can’t guarantee when the opportunity will present itself.”
At supper that day, the ceremonies to come the next few days were discussed. “Brother,” the Princess Edain said to her brother Prince Cirroc. “I’d like you to come with me tomorrow to the bazaar. My husband is terrible when it comes to shopping and I don’t have anything near suitable to put Chulain’s locks in.”
“Of course, I shall be pleased to accompany you,” Cirroc said.
That evening after supper Prince Cirroc opted to take a cooling walk in the gardens of the palace. He was not the only one. Cathleen and Lord Finn were in one corner near the outer entrance. Queen Aine was along the inner wall just under the Queen’s walk.
At first Cirroc did not notice that she was there.
In the garden there were several large privet bushes with benches near them. The Queen choose to sit on one of them. Unknown to her Cirroc was admiring the other side of the same bush with some flowers called Love-lies-bleeding and Queen’s delight growing around it. That was until one of the guards spoke to the Queen.“Your highness,” he said. “It is getting late.Will you come in.”
“You may go in,” the Queen said. “I will take a little more air before I come in.”
Cirroc drew a short sharp breath. The Queen was just there. He had thought so many times about her since their meeting a year ago now. She had been a princess then, on her way to meet and marry his brother. They had had a lovely few days together and neither of them had quite forgotten it.
The Queen leaned back into the bush and called out softly and sweetly, “Cirroc.”
It was dangerous for him to say anything. She was the wife of his brother and his queen. But neither could he remain silent. His heart just wouldn’t allow it. “I’m here,” he said.
She spoke words almost too dangerous to think of, “I love you,” she said.
“And I you,” Cirroc whispered. They had done it now. If they were discovered they could be accused of treason and Conleach would be within his rights to demand both their lives. “But I also love my brother,” he had to also admit.
“I know,” Aine said. “He is so like you, but he is not you. I try for your sake to love him, but I cannot.”
“I know,” Cirroc said. He worked his way around the bush to keep an eye on the torches burning on the Queen’s Gallery. But they were too bright for him to move any closer. “I think of you all the time,” he said. “But you are his now.”
“Meet me in the garden tomorrow night,” she said. “Meet me in the garden whenever you can.By this bush.”
“I will,” Cirroc said. “But now we must part.”He moved off then.He looked as some of the other bushes. Then he went by a separate door into the castle and up to the room he had lived in as a child. The king was allowing Rudag to take quarters somewhere else so he did not have a roommate now. When he fell asleep he dreamt of the Queen’s long silky black curls and soft voice.
Queen Aine, for her part, waited a moment and then followed her guards into the castle and on to the royal bed chamber which she shared with her husband. Her infant son was already in a room next door with his nurse. She looked in on him for a moment and then went to her bed. Conleach came in a few minutes later and joined her. They were both soon asleep.