The Midnight Cattle Raid

by Maredudd Cymysglyd ap Cynan, Pencenedl, Ty Bondu
(A story written during reign of and for Thier Royal Majesties,
regory Ahearn and Maisie of Dunbarton)
©1997, Eric C. Smith

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In celebration of his crowning as the new Ardrigh Trimaris, and as was the custom among his clan, Gregory Ahearn announced that on the night of the next full moon, after the sun had set and the moon was high in the heavens, he would lead his new band of warriors upon a great cattle raid against their enemies across the western gulf. In this way he could show his people with what courage he would lead them into battle, with what prowess he would bring the land of Trimaris to greatness. The people of Trimaris rejoiced, for though they were a peaceful people, they knew the fields of their neighbors were full of Trimarian cattle, they having been taken recently in raids against Trimaris. It was time now for the Trimarians to reclaim their own.

Word of the coming raid spread far and wide so that people from across Trimaris gathered. Of these, the greatest were the Aire Echta, the Lords of Vengeance and Slaughter, who were the first to answer the call to battle. There were Llewelyn and Bytor, the Fennid of the Crown, both Lords of great skill who served as champions for the Ardrigh and Bantiardrigh. These warriors would easily account for one hundred men each when the battle was done, each one of their opponents great Lords in their own right. Then there came Baldar from the north and Solomon from the south, both striking fear into the hearts of their foes as all knew that these two alone would slay three hundred men between them before they blunted their swords, and still the killing would continue. Next came Cadwyd, who single-handedly would wrestle any foe to the ground, taking the prize of their cattle from them and, throwing it across his shoulders, would bared it back to Trimaris. In this way would he slay a hundred men before his back would break beneath the load of so many cattle. Word of the raid spread so far that even Edmund, King of the lands in between answered Gregory's call to arms, and he would have it no other way save that he would fight beside the Trimarians in honor of the Ardrigh Trimaris. It was said that Edmund stood so tall that while standing at the border of the Trimarian lands, he could see beyond the western gulf and into the heart of the enemies lands. Others there were of the Aire Echta who answered Gregory's call along with many lesser warriors. Indeed, too many gathered to tell of in so small a space as I have here, so it shall be left for later to tell of these warriors.

In this way did the warriors of Trimaris prepare to serve their King. All swords were polished and spears reshafted. The chariots were refitted with new wheels with the strongest stallions outfitted with harness. The people gathered together and competed against one another in games to show their physical prowess and their skills on the field of battle. Wrestling, tossing of the hammer, stone, and caber, and races to see who were the fleetest on foot. All these skills would serve the people well when the cattle raid came. The Aire Echta then gathered together their companions and, discussing the best strategies, practiced the arts of war, honing their skills until even the least of their number would slay ten of the enemy by himself.

On the appointed night, as the sun sunk below the horizon, a great feast was held in honor of the Ardrigh, Gregory Ahearn. Much food and many great bowls of mead were consumed as the people of Trimaris celebrated the coming raid. Finally, as the the moon rose towards its zenith, with the warriors of Trimaris spreading out across the land, Gregory led his new companions in search of their enemies herds.

Many are the stories that could be told of that night but they shall have to wait until a later time, for there is only one tale of which I will now speak. One warrior whose tale I will tell, and this warrior not of the Aire Echta. I speak here of the Ardrigh's Naidm, Bairn MacFearghuis.

Among the Ardrigh's companions, Bairn was the enforcer of the peace. When the laws were broken, it was Bairn who would see that the judgment of the King and his brehon were carried out. It was also Bairn who would visit the Ardrigh's vassals and collect those tributes due to the king. It is in these two tasks that Bairn did shine on that night when Trimaris went raiding for her cattle, for there are none who did serve the King better on this raid, either in arresting the enemy, or in the collection of cattle. Ten great beasts did he retrieve on his first foray into the enemies lands, all ten carried back to Trimaris draped across his shoulders. Sometimes eluding the opposing warriors, and at other times defeating them in combat, but always did he return with more beasts for the Ardrigh's herd. Bairn returned for more cattle until, by his efforts, Gregorys herd had been increased fourteen fold.

Upon seeing this feat Gregory proclaimed, "From this day forward let my Naidm, Bairn MacFearghuis, be know as the Aire Bo, my 'Lord of Cattle'."

To this Bairn replied. "My Dread Lord, forgive me for saying so, but I have a name and would prefer its use, and that name is Bairn MacFearghuis."

"Not so," spoke the Ardrigh, "for if my fields are full of cattle on the 'morrow, it is because of you and your skill at collecting that which is due the king, for in truth, you have, on this night, been as enthusiastic in your collections from our enemy across the great western gulf as you have ever been in collecting tribute from my vassals. Therefore the title of Aire Bo is a title of great renown and all shall know of your prowess by it utterance"

"As you say my Dread Lord." spoke Bairn.

It is for this reason that Bairn MacFearghuis, among the Ardrigh's companions, is to this day called the Aire Bo, or the Lord of Cattle.

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