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THE TORC


“The king is dead!” Brian Boru – Brian Boroihme – Ireland’s powerful warrior-king, scion of the family of Prince Moylurg, lay staring, but sightless, at the sky, the body of his slain son beside him.

They would bear them back to Clare, his stronghold, and mourn him long and deep. He had attained his goal – the defeat of the hated Norsemen, “The Vikings”, who had long overrun southern Ireland; they and their allies, the men of Leinster, had been fairly routed at Clontarf, near Dublin.

The Torc tells the story of his nephew, Liam Boru, who was made to wed Small Breagh, who’d been captured in a punitive raid to the north. But he shares a deep love with her, until he himself is killed when their son is an infant. The family is traced down through the ages: the invaders, famines, and migrations, to the twentieth century and the descendant, Liam Borra.

The Torc, a small wooden box containing a rough gold brooch and the beloved harp, bind the descendants together in a powerful saga.

In Store Price: $33.00 
Online Price:   $32.00

ISBN:1-9210-0556-4
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 465
Genre: Fiction


 

 

Author: Elizabeth Volkman 
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books  
Date Published:  2005
Language: English


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THE AUTHOR  

The history of our ancestors has always fascinated Elizabeth, especially the early Celtic races.   

The story of these people, their origins, migration patterns and evolving lifestyles to the present day, makes wonderful reading. 

The lives of many historical characters would fill a book, none more so than the people of Ireland. 

Elizabeth lives on a small property, inland from Cairns.  Her other interests, apart from reading and writing, are the animals of our beautiful bushland.

PART ONE

 CHAPTER ONE (part sample) 

 

     They ate babies, so it was said.  First, they would crush their heads with their blackthorn clubs; whether they cooked them wasn’t known.  Except for the odd crash of a burning dwelling falling in ruins, an eerie quiet hung like a palpable thing, chill and terrifying, after this sudden raid.

They huddled together, twelve survivors, trembling as if with the ague, from such terror as they’d never known, in a pitifully small shelter, such as a tiny wood offered, scarce daring to breathe.  Had they gone? One or two prayed for that, in whispers.

Clodagh, who was a wrinkled walnut, with strands of white hair hanging about her shoulders, pinched her granddaughter’s arm, then shook her.  “Hush! Or I’ll knock ye!” At which Breagh tried to stifle her shudders and sobs as best she could.  Her mother, two brothers, and, she thought, her father had been slaughtered. They’d grabbed them, shouting, pulling them into their midst, this raiding, retaliating band.

Now, all the dead of their village lay in a pile of bloodied, grotesquely twined bodies, in front of their smouldering village, clubbed to death.

Clodagh now had assumed the leadership, in place of her dead son, and had hurried them to this small trysting place.  But no more trysting would take place here, for the moment, if ever.  The king of Ireland was waging war, to bring subversive, petty chieftains into line.  Clodagh’s old husband had ever been such, when he lived, long years ago, followed by her son.

Brian Boru’s retaliations were sharp and swift: he was the king of kings, who could sweep, from Derry to Cashel, to enforce his dominance.  Unity, to his mind, was their saving power in view of the savage Norsemen, who’d occupied Dublin as their stronghold, centuries before this.  They’d named the sea between England and Ireland as “The Norse”: they would periodically roam the entire eastern coast, taking all before them.  The men of Eire called them “The Danes” with hatred. 

           ……………. 

     The little group were thirsty, but not one dared to venture out: no young lad was game to volunteer, lest they were still about, to cudgel him to death, until Clodagh pushed Sian, Breagh’s spoken for husband, in the back.  “Look ye! Go to the first trees and see if they’ve left; we may be able to salvage something.  Go, you coward!”  Sian was a coward; that he well knew.  He’d been quivering with fright, from the start of the sudden, punitive raid, but comforted himself with the excuse that he had one leg shorter than the other since an infant.  But now he didn’t dare to disobey Clodagh, who had assumed the fierce role of the matriarch: Clodagh, the fierce old widow of a fierce old rebelling warrior, who always defied and denied Brian Boru’s powerful rule.    

     Sian crept, quivering and limping, to Ensel, and peered through the leaves, then scuttled back, his face greenish with terror.  “No!- they still –” and stopped, listening.  Some were coming – he could hear them.  They must have seen the movement as he parted the leaves to look about.    

     They would flush them out, and kill them all, Clodagh wrongly thought.  Brian Boru’s men killed only those who had shaken weapons at him, men and women alike.  The women, he’d noticed often, were usually more belligerent than their men.  Women of fierce spirit.  But they were wrong – he only desired to hold them all together; that way there was more power, to unite against the common enemy, the Danes.  None were to be above him. 

……………

      There was only one thing to save them, Clodagh thought – a sacrifice!  Rather like throwing a lamb to the lions – “Go ye! Go out!”  She pushed Breagh violently in the back, until the girl stumbled, her face awry with terror – “Why, no! no!” – but to no avail,  she realised.  Her grandmother would consider her to be expendable, in offering her, a young maiden, to be made sport of, in order to save them.  So ran Clodagh’s thoughts.  Perhaps they would kill her afterwards?  Better one than all of them, though.  Two of the young women of this small group were heavy with child, their husbands dead.  Children were precious, with so many of the village killed.  A single girl wasn’t worth so much, after all. 

     “Go!” Clodagh shoved her, pushing her through the tangle.  “They’ll think there’s only ye – go!”  The voices were closer – “Go! Or I’ll strangle ye!”  Breagh stumbled out. 

     Sian sat on the cold, wet ground, his head hanging.  He felt sick – what could he do?  What would they do with her?  He should have gone himself, but of course, he was too terrified.  Soon, the shrieks of Breagh, barely sixteen, would fill him with horror. 

     There were none. 

     Breagh was dragged by her arm and shoulder, to be flung on the ground, before two huge bare legs; the legs of a giant.  She was near fainting with terror.  But he let her lie there, ignoring such a morsel.  He was listening to one of his captains, with care, nodding from time to time, with a brief reply, once or twice. 

     His voice was strong, sure and deep.  Finally, he stood, looking at this offering, then lifted her up.  Breagh’s pretty light brown hair was matted and tangled, caught up with bits of twig and leaves, her face ashen and quivering.  Brian Boru put two of his large fingers under her chin, and forced her to look up at him. 

     Him, the king of Eire, whose fame and power was legend, whose rule was force.  Brian Boroihme, Brian Boru.  His hair and beard were dark, glowing red, his eyes a steely dark grey.  That Breagh had thought him to be a giant wasn’t to be wondered at, for he was two inches or more above six feet, and stalwart.  Physical might gave him added power, all conceded.  A big strong man was always admired, for many men and women of Eire were short in stature.  His ancestors had entered this country thousands of years ago – wild fierce big red-haired Caledonians, from the north-east, when the land was one.  They’d flourished in various districts, intermarrying, close knit, clannish, so the strain was safe. 

     Something else, though, gave Brian Boru the strength to rule over the other petty kings: he was a man of intellect, deep thought, and a respect of women, unless they defied his sovereignty – that was a different matter.  His wife had given him several sons and daughters, all he would observe with satisfaction, the “dye and stamp” of himself.  He honoured her, his queen. 

     “What’s your name?” for such a wild, fierce looking man, he spoke to Breagh gently.  “Ah, Breagh – are ye alone?”  She nodded, dumb again with terror.  What if the men decided to thrash through the little wood, and find the others?  Maybe, though, they’d crept away, as quietly as they could.  Certainly, they’d kill them, and her for being a liar.  She felt sick. 

    “Here.” Brian Boru was handed a soibe – a horn cup, of brown ale, but he passed it to her.  “Drink, d’ye want meat?”  Without waiting for a reply, he signalled for some to be given to her.  “Eat!” one word from Brian Boru was a command that no one dared disobey. 

     Breagh tried; she could sense his power.  When would he ravish her?  She crossed herself, with a silent prayer, jumbled and meaningless.  Tonight? And shuddered at the thought.  But he stood, looking around, thinking of other matters entirely.

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