Deirdre of Ireland

Once upon a time in the wealthy kingdom of Ireland, there was a family in which the last-born daughter was named Deirdre (*broken heart in Gaelic).

One day as she walked with her parents to the capital for a market, Deirdre spotted a bird. She squinted her eyes and tears slipped from her eyelids. The bird came closer. The little girl, blinded by her tears, reached out an arm toward the bird. It turned into a reseda. Deirdre grabbed the tree branch. Still blind, she held the reseda up to the earth in front of her parents. A lake appeared before the family, a lake as beautiful as the March sun.

Her parents were afraid. Maybe because they loved the girl less than her brothers, maybe because they wanted to become rich merchants without problems. They embraced her and asked her forgiveness. Then they locked her up in a turret of their townhouse.

The little girl grew up like that for some time. Sometimes she would bring a harp into her little room. She would play it, dreaming of her mother opening the door and taking her in her arms.
From the turret window, Deirdre watched her father ride back and forth in his carriage loaded with weapons.

But one day, a turtledove landed on her windowsill. « Little bird, I’ll take care of you, » said Deirdre, who saw that the animal’s leg was broken. She tended to the dove until it could fly again. « Can you take a message to my father to tell him to release me? » asked Deirdre to her companion whom she had trained to fly again.

The turtledove left immediately.

But that night a violent storm broke out in the kingdom of Ireland. The unfortunate turtle-dove was blown by contrary winds to the borders of the kingdom. There, in the neighboring kingdom of England, a young prince, Ryan (*son of a king), saw the bird as a golden dot in the sky. He detached the message that was not meant for him. As he was the only son of the king and bored, in this beautiful but miserable country, he answered to Deirdre.

He asked her to become his friend. A drop of blood slipped on the letter, but the little girl was moved and deciphered the missive without any problem, as Ryan wrote with a beautiful pen. Ryan had been raised by the best tutors, and his handwriting was a testament to his keen intelligence and aristocratic education.

Every day from that moment on, the two children, the fairy and the prince, sent messages back and forth across two kingdoms. No one knew about their bond, which grew stronger every day. They told each other their lives. Deirdre wrote shyly at first.

But she began to take an interest in England and to learn Ryan’s mother tongue, another language, even less known than the old English in which the two children exchanged. Ryan was the son of a king, but his mother had taught him an ancient form of Gaelic as a child, Eirann, still spoken in a remote corner of the world. And Ryan kept telling her about Riocht Eirann, the land of the men who spoke Eirann.

Deirdre began to decipher the Eirann alphabet to impress Ryan. She dreamed of meeting her friend from the other side of the world. But she was a prisoner, even though their letters opened a window to the world. Ryan kept complimenting her and giving her confidence. Deirdre watched her doves fly to her friend, and prayed for him. Ryan, who knew of Deirdre’s tragic situation, prayed for his friend.

But one day, Ryan’s father died. Ryan became king. He forgot his friend the fairy Deirdre and went to war in the nearby kingdoms. He quickly won one victory, then two, then three. He became the king of a unified kingdom, but far from Deirdre’s. Ryan’s mother had grown old, and Ryan still thought of the people of Riocht Eirann in the evenings, when he came home in his muddy clothes from a campaign. But he no longer had time for Deirdre or his mother.

The new kingdom, founded by King Ryan, surpassed all other kingdoms in power and glory. Ryan had abandoned his language, Eirann, for English. As for Deirdre, one day she was freed from her glass tower. She tried to continue her life away from Ryan, helping the people. Several times she met men of great stature, but the wizards eventually bored her. She practiced her magic while dreaming of saving the land of Riocht Eirann that Ryan had once made her dream of as a child. For she knew that behind the golden clouds of her country, men and women were living the last moments of Riocht Eirann. As the younger Ryan had told her, her mother’s homeland was in great danger. The danger of being overwhelmed by the black waves that hell was sending from the darkness. Ryan wrote as a child to Deirdre that only the alliance of a fairy and a king could save Riocht Eirann, the land at the edge of the world, abandoned to the black waters. But Ryan seemed to have forgotten Deirdre, Riocht Eirann and his promise.

Deirdre tried for many years to attach a message for Ryan to the leg of her turtledove. But always the bird came back soaked by the rains of Ireland, without answer. And the hour was grave. Deirdre felt that the kingdom of Riocht Eirann was dying silently. So she left the house she shared with a man. She swore to herself that she would do everything in her power to restore the alliance between the fairy and the king of Ireland and England. To save an insignificant kingdom from hell. For if hell destroyed Riocht Eirann, it would be the door to the destruction of the whole world, thought Deirdre, playing her harp. And she stroked her turtledove, thinking of Ryan’s face, which she had never met, but which she imagined to be the most beautiful and pure in the world.

When her turtledove died, she trained a thousand others to send her messages, but she rarely received a reply. Sometimes Ryan would send her cold, cordial, distant greetings from his palace.

And in his kingdom of England or Ireland, people didn’t really believe in magic anymore, they preferred to admire from afar the glittering conquests of King Ryan, who was said to be handsome and powerful. One day, Deirdre heard about Ryan from a young man named Finley who had known him. She sent one last bird to Ryan’s palace. The latter ended up answering her a long letter which inflamed Deirdre’s heart.

She, who was wasting away because no one believed in magic anymore, woke up one morning. She sent the thousand turtledoves to Ryan to confess her passion for him since childhood. She told him about their letters, about Riocht Eirann. But he did not answer her anymore. Feverishly, the fairy began to perfect her learning of the language of Riocht Eirann. Every day she spoke to Finley, who had known King Ryan in person when he was young, and asked him what he was like, what he ate, how he liked to dress, and so on.

Ryan did not deign to send a message back. He was too busy earning glory in battle. Deirdre, mad with grief, went half mad. She often had a fever and was delirious. She no longer liked to play the harp.

She ended up spitting out snakes that went after Ryan’s horse in the middle of the battle; the horse cut their necks.

Deirdre went to sleep for several months. When she woke up, she sent a last turtle-dove to Ryan’s spellbound palace. She wanted to meet him in person. But Ryan saw the white bird, galloped away and killed it with a sword blow in the heart without reading the missive.

Deirdre, at the moment of the blow, woke up sweating in her bed. She looked at her hands. The fairy had become a ghost.

She returned to the lake. As a child, she tried to make a geyser of fire appear in the lake of ice. But she only managed to create a whirlpool of dark energy in the heart of the deep water. What would become of Riocht Eirann if the alliance between the fairy and the king was never realized? She was desperate. All she could think about was the indifference of the man who had once been her best friend.

So, Deirdre covered herself with a white veil and set out to travel the roads of the world. When she met a bourgeois or a beggar, she always asked the same question: « Do you know King Ryan? » and her interlocutor told her about the latest glory of the king. She witnessed from afar all his victories, she heard that he had married, had a daughter, was happy.

Deirdre eventually found the road that led steeply to Riocht Eirann. There, she tried to ward off the influence of hell. But without Ryan, her heart beat weakly, she was unable to contain the black waves that sucked the land and its inhabitants away from King Ryan’s gleaming, impeccable palace, away from Ireland and England. Deirdre knew she was failing. She walked back to Ireland with only a walking stick and a white bird for companions.

Magic was in Ireland and England a dimension of the past. It was a long time before Deirdre used her powers again.

One day, she learned that King Ryan was very ill. He had lost a battle against the lord of the underworld. The latter was unleashing cataclysms on his kingdom after having destroyed Riocht Eirann. Ryan began to regret the loss of Riocht Eirann. He saw the accusing ghost of his mother in his dreams. He often cried thinking that he had forgotten his mother tongue to become a great king.

As for Deirdre… She remembered the turtledove killed because the snakes and the bird had disturbed the king. But she decided to forgive him. Kneeling down, she drew magic characters on the ground.

A thousand verses written in fire ink that told of her passion for King Ryan. These characters, which showed the bravery of the king and the cowardice of the lord of hell, gave courage to all the people of Ireland and England. And the martyred kingdom of Riocht Eirann became the pretext to win the war against Hell.

Ryan, after having led this war, without knowing who had helped him, was getting better every day. He was happy that his people were once again finding faith in the future.

One day, he opened the window of his room. A turtledove brought him a message in his mother’s language. He had not spoken it for years, but he understood the words on the letter. They were the last words he had sent to Deirdre in that language decades ago before he forgot the fairy: « I love you.

He understood then that the fairy Deirdre had chased the lord of hell for all those years by his side without him ever thinking for a moment about her, busy as he was with politics. He tore the letter, but the pieces of paper, falling on the ground, formed a pool of blood.

At that moment, Deirdre, who had never met Ryan, expired and harp music was heard in the valleys of England and Ireland.

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