Based on Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Oscar, characters from the Fenian Cycle of the Irish mythology
Rating : T
Genre : Friendship
Characters : Diarmuid, Oscar
Preview : It took place years ago, before Diarmuid’s legendary flight with Grainne, and of course, before his painful death by the jealous hand of his trusted leader, the encounter that marked the friendship between two boys who later grew up to be two mighty warriors of the Fianna.
When his grandfather, his mighty, honorable grandfather brought a young boy to the Fianna, Oscar was in perplexity. Judging by his look, the boy could very well be younger than Oscar himself. And Oscar was the youngest in the Fianna. Since he was son of Oisín and grandson of Fion, he found his place in the Fianna at such a young age. But lineage was not what mattered here; it was skills and valor that did. Oscar’s feet were strong and quick and his javelin rarely missed its aims. But for his fighting prowess which proved to be a real challenge even for accomplished warriors, Oscar would not stand amongst the proud warriors battling under his grandfather’s name.
That was the reason for Oscar’s perplexity. The Fianna would normally accept adolescents and above to their rank and even those who got in had had to overcome a series of seemingly impossible trials, which he was certain, a frail- looking boy like this one could not pass in a hundred years.
Oscar began to eye the boy from head to toe with an air of superiority. Oscar was older; therefore he was bigger in build. Because of all the harsh training he received day after day, he was in better shape. Fine muscles rippled on his long limbs and his skin sported a healthy bronze. The boy, on the other hand, was shorter and lean. His complexion was fair as a girl and on a careless glance, he could very well be mistaken as one.
“Why did you bring him here?”. He voiced out his untamed thought, questioning the wisdom of his grandfather.
Noises immediately broke out after him. Some would agree with Oscar; some would protest while others openly displayed their defiance toward Fion’s decision. Oscar took a glance at the boy and was surprised to see him standing unfazed. It was as if all the objections to his entrance did not concern him, the boy said not a word. He simply stood there, wearing an expressionless mask on his pretty countenance and waited for Fion’s order. His serenity, whether fake or genuine, impressed Oscar and the older boy found an odd admiration toward the younger one.
Fion’s voice bellowed, putting the crowd to silence. Everyone, including Oscar, turned to their trusted leader.
“This young man is Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, son of Donn and foster son of the great Aengus*. However, origin does not matter as a Fian found his place with his courage and strength. To accept the challenge to become a warrior of ours is his reason to stand here.”
His hawk eyes scanned the group, searching for signs of protest. When none was found, the leader of the Fianna announced:
“Let the trials begin tomorrow!”
Despite the shouts around him, the boy, Diarmuid was his name, remained quiet as a statue.
He was sitting alone by the fire he made, roasting some sort of rabbit when Oscar found him. Since he had yet to acquire membership, he was not allowed a seat at the grand campfire where the warriors sat together, enjoying a feast of finely spiced meat and exotic wine. Compared to the liveliness of the crowd, his lean shadow on the boulder seemed too lonely.
In curiosity, Oscar came to the boy’s side.
“I’m Oscar. Mind if I sat here?”
The boy sat aside, making place for Oscar.
“Seems tasty. Can I have some?”
The boy handed him a steamy fresh slab which he took a bite.
“It’s good. You have talent.”
Oscar rarely complimented a male’s cooking, thinking it would be kind of embarrassing. But tonight, he did, with genuine praise.
The boy only nodded slightly, saying not a word.
“You haven’t said anything since you came here. Are you, by any chance, mute?”
“No, I’m not.”
A voice that still bordered on childishness replied. It was soft and rather pleasant to the ear; still, it did not lack the solitary.
“Then why don’t you speak?”
“I’m not into conversations.”
The flat-out remark just declined any attempt of conversion from Oscar. Still, as the grandson of Fion, he was not so easily discouraged.
“What are you into then?”
“You’re quite confident in overcoming the trials, aren’t you? Not to dispirit you but they’re probably harsher than you think.”
The boy remained silent but Oscar swore he noticed a flame flare up in his golden irises. Suddenly Oscar no longer saw a frail looking adolescent as he appeared but a young man of firm determination.
“Well then, may the gods bless you.”
Intrigued by this surprised discovery, Oscar lost his interest in being loquacious. He stood up and returned to his own position at the grand campfire.
Before leaving, he turned back and caught a glimpse at the boy’s shadow on the old trunk.
Orange fire flickered and the shape became twisted as if a dark creature threatened to devour the lone fellow, foreshadowing an ominous future looming over his head.
The boy passed the first two trials with ease, much to everyone’s astonishment. Everyone except Oscar. Others had not had a chance to peek at his soul; Oscar had. Therefore it did not strike him as a surprise to see the boy pass his trials easily.
The last trial was also the most severe which had failed many testers in the past. To be accepted as a Fian, it was the most important that one survived this challenge.
The testee began with having his body buried half-way under the ground for three days. All limbs were paralyzed saved for one arm. Food and water were not provided; he had to fight back his thirst and hunger while coping with dangers from outside, mostly from wild animals. In case he wished to forfeit the trail, a horn was placed within his reach; its sound was loud enough for the warriors to hear.
The first day went fast and Oscar occasionally sneaked out during his breaks to check on the boy. Fatigue had begun to creep up his beautiful countenance and his golden eyes had lost their brilliance. Still, he showed no signs of giving up. That, Oscar was certain.
He could only watch and pray to Lugh*.
On the second day, Oscar sneaked out to the boy’s site. As Oscar had feared, the boy was in terrible shape. Hunger and thirst had sapped his vitality and he was one step away from a corpse. Nevertheless, the horn still lied in its place, not moved even by an inch. Oscar was happy that the boy had not given up yet; still, it pained his inside to watch him suffer. He could easily pass the guards to give him a piece of bread or two; they should be able to rejuvenate a portion of his strength. The fire he had seen that day in the boy’s eyes restrained him from doing so.
Oscar kept telling himself that was normal comradeship he was harboring toward the boy. But since when he started worrying about someone so much that he was willing to go against his grandfather’s rules?
He could only watch and hope for the last day to pass quickly.
The third day he went out to check the boy, Oscar witnessed a remarkable event. It was already late in the night when he sneaked out, concealed by the darkness of a moonless night. Hiding behind a boulder, he watched the boy in silence. Sometime during the night, the boy had fallen into a deep slumber. Weariness was obvious on his profile, yet, somehow, under the pale orange of the torch, its beauty was preserved. He was a pretty boy, perhaps too pretty for his own good. His unusual pulchritude was enhanced by a small beauty mark under his right eye. A small tear as if he was crying. Fair as it was, that fabled tear was an omen of misfortune. The fairer the face, the uglier the fate, how many times had he heard the old sages said that? He did not want to believe it; still, his parents’ fates were the clearest examples. His mother was a great beauty but she had passed away at the apex of her youth, plagued by an incurable ailment. His father, a man whose face was fairer than a number of men, was also a man of misery. Since he was conscious of the world around him, Oscar had not seen his father smile a true smile. Though he constantly wore a faint smile on his lips, in his eyes only sorrows prevailed. Looking back at his parents, Oscar could almost foresee the boy’s fate. For that he could only hope he was wrong, terribly wrong.
There was a rustle of dry leaves. Accompanying the wind was a foul stench of rotten flesh. Much to his horror, what revealed itself under the light of the torch was a grey wolf. Mouth drooling, the wolf approached its prey with impatience. He wanted to alarm the boy but waking up the soldiers was not a wise idea. His hand found a small rock and quickly, he hurled it the boy’s side, dragging him back from his sleep. He eyed the landscape with slow, weary eyes and saw the impending danger. Oscar had half a heart to inform the guards but he stopped himself, fearing that he would send the boy’s effort of three days into nothing.
Could he just watch as the boy struggle against his fate?
That was a starving wolf. However great the desire to devour his prey was, he lacked the significant strength. As if contemplating his odds, the wolf, though close in distance, had yet to attack. The boy, on the other hand, stared at the beast’s predatory eyes with his bloodshot ones and a fearless expression.
Mesmerized by the wonder of a silent battle between human and beast, Oscar stood behind the boulder holding his breath. Silence held its reign and Oscar could even hear the sounds of his heart thumping against his ribcage. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead; his nerves tensed and his eyes strained. He had witnessed men versus beasts before but a bizarre fight like this he had not seen yet. He knew not whether he was looking at a fight between a human and a beast or a fight between two beasts.
The staring battle dragged on until the first streak of dawn appeared. Morning had arrived and the soldiers also woke up. It was time to get back to his tent before his night endeavors got discovered. Before leaving, Oscar looked back to see the wolf had been driven back to the woods by the loud footsteps. The boy, won over by tension and fatigue, had fallen unconscious.
It took several days for him to recover. The boy was, after all, not as tough as he tried to be.
He was settled to rest in Oscar’s tent, their tent from now on, as Fion had decided to leave the duty to take care of the newly recruited member in his grandson’s hand.
Once they were all by themselves and after the medic had finished his job, the boy turned to Oscar.
“I thank you for not having interfered with my trials.”
Oscar was immediately alert.
“You mean… “
In a coarse, weary voice he replied.
“If you had informed others about the wolf, the trials would have been over. For that, I thank you.”
“You saw me?”
A comical smile spread across his face.
“I’m pretty confident in the lightness of my feet. Even the warriors could not discover me.”
“Your confidence may backfire you sometimes.”
“Hey, isn’t there someone whose confidence had put himself at risk?”
“I had good reason to stay confident.”
“And what good reasons to guarantee that the wolf would not have torn you apart?”
Oscar exulted, thinking he had landed a finishing blow.
“We were having a debate about what consequences he would face if he ate me.”
That was totally unexpected.
“You talked to that wolf?”
“In a way, yes. But not in the way humans communicate.”
“Wait! You can communicate with animals?”
“Aengus lives in the forest of spirits, where animals are free to communicate with no restrains. Let’s say I learned something there.”
Since his foster father was a god, the boy was likely to have visited the afterworld. Oscar wondered if he had ever met Lugh.
“Was it a nice place?”
“It’s heaven for humans.”
“Then why did you leave such nice place?”
“I want to live the present life before entering the afterlife.”
So that was the root of his odd tranquility and awkward loneliness Oscar had seen in his first days.
“Life in the forest of spirits was plain. Too peaceful, I must say. Aengus would get angry if I tried even the simplest thing like hunting.”
Oscar could sympathize with him. Born a son of a warrior, fighting was in his blood. Sooner or later, he would take up his spear and fight. If it was his destiny to perish on the battlefield, then so be it.
“You still like hunting even when you can talk with animals? Have you ever heard any words of resentment?”
“Unlike humans, animals don’t know hatred. If a rabbit is to be eaten by a wolf, it will peacefully accept its fate.”
‘That’s why you roast rabbits?”
“I did promise them I would make it painless as possible.”
Oscar gave him a comical look.
“To talk with your food, you’re one strange boy.”
Anger flashed the boy’s profile, giving him nothing but a childish look. Oscar tried to suppress his laughter and muttered an apology.
“From now on, you and I are gonna share this tent. I’m called Oscar, son of Oisín.”
With a tad hesitance, the black haired boy took the redhead’s held out hand.
“My name’s Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, son of Donn.”
“Let us be brothers from this day onward!”
With a strong shake of hands, the boys sealed their budding friendship.
*Aengus: the God of Love in Irish Mythology. He was believed to be a very beautiful young man. Aengus adopted the young Diarmuid after he was abandoned by his parents. During Diarmuid’s flight with Grainne, he was helped many times by his foster father. Later, after Diarmuid’s death, Aengus took his body and soul with him to the afterworld.
*Lugh: Chief God in Irish Mythology. He was believed to father the greatest Irish hero Cú Chulainn.