Bronwyn

Browyn of the Dicini. Witch and warrior, chief to the peoples of the northwest sea. Through savagery to her enemies and devotion to Anu and her people she knitted the clans together to stave off the advances of the Picti to the south and the Fomor from the North Sea.

Stories of these times past are sketchy but tell of a warrior maid who would with one hand flay her enemies and hang their skins from trees whilst with the other giving the last of her water to thirsty babe. In veneration to Anu, Bronwyn brought together the three aspects of the mother Goddess. Fierce, caring and wise she ruled from the isle of the northwest to the outskirts of the Great Forest of what would one day become Caledonia.

It said that her wisdom was gleaned from the sea wind whilst her strength was given from the bonds between herself and the land. Her healing from the love her folk felt for her. She brought peace to the isles for a while, fending of the advances of many enemies from all around who would take the savage garden which she had created and put it to the torch for nothing more than jealousy.

Of all her enemies it is said that one vexed her the most. A Drune Lord by the name of Slough Romach who had plagued the isles since before her mother thrice removed had been born. While as a carrier of the blessings of Anu she could commune with the spirits and to lay the souls of the restless into the earth. Such was the power of the Drune Lord that coming from the Forest with branches of the tree of death embedded in his skull he walked the grave mounds of the early Bears raising their dead to make war against them.

It was in these quiet times which Bronwyn took a husband, history does not recall what his name was but what is known is that she fell pregnant many times during those years. Five turns to the day after the birth of her first child smoke was seen on the horizon above the forest. Ravens flew to take news for they are the most cunning of birds and will fight through where others will not manage. Of the flocks sent only one returned. Bloody parchment tied to its leg spoke of the dead marching from the barrows of the forest with a creature of flesh and wood, more alive than dead at the center of the host.

Many were slain as the legion of the damned made its unrelenting procession northward. They aimed straight as a spear for the isle of Sour Ivist, a place of which ill omens had been spoken since the tribes moved to the isles. As the number of dead grew so did the hoard with even Bronwyn’s powers unable to stop the mortal remains of her warriors being raised by the will of Slough Romach.

It was on a dark night which spirits crept into the halls of the Dicini. Wraithlike figures with fingers as cold as the ice on the north wind stole into the rooms of Bronwyn’s bairns. They plucked them from their cribs with not so much as a sound yet when by chance their wet-nurse entered a terrible shriek began to rise from them. Hardy though the woman was this sound pierced straight through her soul and killed her with fear. The Bain Sidhe of from the land of the dead had come to take the living and, riding on the wind they spirited away the children of Bronwyn.

Her anger was boundless, forsaking her gentler nature she called the tribes to war. And come they did, all the men and women folk of the clans within two days ride gathered on the base of Balor’s hill. From here they watched dead men walk from the sea, there bodies bloated with water as they trudged forward, their weapons held up in a mockery of the marshal prowess they had shown in life. Alongside them marched the ancients from the barrows, raised up and hungering for war.

The fell fought with the fair all that day from one tip of the isle walking corpses were hewn apart whilst to the other the flesh was torn from the bones of the living. The wails of the Sidhe chilled warriors of thirty summers to the bone, weakening their resolve and pushing back the line. The cry of the charge was everywhere, berserks fighting with the fury of the Morrigan inside them they wailed and hewed at their foes as they ran down the face of the hill. All day and all night the battle ragged with no quarter given or asked but as the moon came up no-one was to see the shadows moving across the sky.

For the Drune Lord had plans within plans. To put a nation to war was a simple thing and but a diversion to his greater scheme. In the arms of his minions lay the unconscious forms of Bronwyn’s children. Slough Romach knew that their blood was pure and strong and that they would grant him power over the spirits of even those passed beyond into grace. With the moon riding higher into the sky he began the invocation which would bring him dominion over the realms of living and dead.

Bright in the darkness were the words he spoke for he carved them in fire in the chests of the babe’s who lay in front of him. He started with the youngest, weakest and least powerful of the blood. Soon they were spent, their lifeless husk turning to ashes in the cold cavern beneath the tower. Again and again his finger slashed across the chests of the children, their plaintive cries feeble against the rumble of his chant. The fingernails of his hand were made of Rowan and as he carved the runes they smoldered, the pain written on his grizzled features. He had made a pact with death itself for eternal life but at such a price as not to be human any longer.

He came to the final child, now a boy of five, this the eldest of Bronwyn’s brood and his name was Gregor. Tall for his age Gregor had always been a fighter. It took two of the Drune Lord's minions to hold him down and he had not strayed into unconsciousness as his siblings had. As the Drune Lord approached he struggled all the more but, try as he might he could not break the vice-like grip of the wights which held him. It was just then when the Fianna broke through the cordon of dead things which the Rowan priest had strung around the entrance to the cave. For although she had broken her link with the spirit of the Cerridwen in her rage she was still wily in the ways of war. She knew that they would not head for this wyrd isle to force an attack on her people.

Full of fury did the Fianna fell upon their foes but they were held back by the press of numbers of dead things and the dread runes which they carried their blades. These were the kings of the barrows from the greatwood, raised through fell magics these warriors of old were a match for the Fianna, chosen warriors of Bronwyn. In the dead of night in the dark of the cave under Balor’s hill did the final fight began between Slough Romach’s minions and the vengeful warrior’s of Bronwyn. In the heart of the battle did Bronwyn strike out with the power of the Morrigan in her felling her foes with ease. Her fury drove her toward her child like and arrow.

Slough Romach new that his time was short, hearing the press and din of battle approaching him he came to complete the ritual which would grant him dominion over these people who had sought to stop him. As he began his incantation once more the words of power he spoke formed in the air under lighting his face with an unearthly glow. The runes engraved in his nails pulsed in time with the rhythm of his chanting, slowly glowing in brightness. With one swift cut he sliced at Gregor’s belly, hoping to spill entrails across the floor. But it was not to be, Gregor freed one of his hands from the guards which held him and caught the Drune Lord's finger as it slashed toward him.

There was a pause in the fighting. All the fell things from under the ground held their blows as an unearthly shriek pierced the air. This was all the opening the Fianna needed as their blows felled all that stood before them. All that stood between Bronwyn and her son now were two risen kings of men. These were the strongest of the Drune Lord’s minions. Once they wielded great authority and were clad in the finest artifice of their tribes. Now their raiment was rotted but still held all of its power. To the one which still held Gergor’s arm she motioned with her free hand and with that it fell to dust. In the other had was her war spear. She beckoned forth the second guard, it came shambling and bringing the stench of decay with it. Its sword was raised, ready to strike her down but as it fell she deftly moved aside and plunged her blade through the joints in the side of its armor. The light of Anu’s rage pulsed through its body and with her light shining from every joint and socket the dead thing perished a second time.

The room was quiet. All that could be heard was the low pitiful wailing of pain from Slough Romach. As his finger had descended the boy had caught it and snapped it in two which had broken his hold over both his creations and the powers he was drawing. When the guards were finished Gregor stood on the alter his siblings had been slaughtered on. As the Drune Lord stumbled past, oblivious to what was happening in his pain Gregor reached out with his mighty fists and seized the antlers of Rowan which sprung from Slough Romach’s head. His mother nodded and, with some unspoken knowledge he knew what he must do. He heaved his arms wide, pulling the embedded branches from his nemesis’s head. Slough Romach was no more.

Outside the battle had raged with no one side gaining the upper hand. As the Drune Lord was laid low, so all of his creations fell apart with the dissipation of his will. All that was left were piles of bone, skin and the wailing of the Bain Sidhe on the northern wind.

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