READ EXCERPT - Riona
MAIRE by Linda Williams
Fires of Gleannmara Series Book Two
by: Linda Windsor
Multnomah Publishers Inc.
A Foreword, from the Heart of Erin...
I greet you a free soul, good friend! Sure, it’s been a long time and ye’re a joyful sight for these sore eyes. All the while I’ve been collectin’ me memories of me sixth century after the death of our Lord Jesus, and the second hundred years of my children’s enlightenment of God’s Word. My heart leaps like a mountain spring over a fall with excitement and pride, for them seeds of knowledge the good Lord planted the century before took root and grew beyond the ken of the angels themselves.
I am none other than Erin--the blessed Green Isle to the North of history and legend alike; Thomas Cahill’s savior of civilization; motherland to warriors and bards, kings and saints, magic and miracle. Ye read as much, did ye not, in the first of me series of stories, Maire, Fires of Gleannmara? Aye, ‘twas there ye saw the first flame of Christianity kindled in me heart.
Now, in the wake of Patrick and his likes, a new Erin emerges, where secular and clerical schools have grown to quench me children’s thirst for knowledge, while churches multiply to nourish their souls. I’m proud to say that public education began right here on me shores.
But what would ye expect in a place where literacy was near a religion in itself? Why in one generation, me children mastered Greek, Latin, and some Hebrew. And their own Irish was so pure there was no dialect, no matter where ’twas spoken. When they weren’t mastering a language, they was inventin’ one, like that secret one, Hisperica Famina, made up as it were of bits o’ Latin. And books, my heart, they were turnin’ ‘em out the likes of which was unheard of. Sure, I lay claim to bein’ the world’s first publisher. What with libraries fallin’ to barbarian flames all over the continent and in Rome itself, there were me priests and druidic bards preservin’ history and culture alike on pages for all time. And, I might add, fit as I am to bust me britches, that in the process of savin’ such masterpieces of the past, their whimsical doodles and witty commentaries jotted in the margins come to be admired as an art form in itself.
Alls I can say is, it’s time, well enough, for the world to recognize me Celtic forefathers as far more civilized than their asterperious Greek and Roman counterparts gave ‘em credit for. No culture copycats among us! Our poems and tales, preserved by word of mouth, are purely our own dear Irish--a delight to the eye as well as the ear.
Plagiarism was not tolerated, as demonstrated when our precocious, but no less dear, Saint Columcille, copied a rare and coveted psalter that his teacher, Ninian of Moville, had just brought back from Rome. High King Diarmott decreed “to each cow, it’s own calf,” and the disgruntled student had to give back his copy. By me mother’s own milk, ’tis true!
Meanwhile, me feisty lads o’ the cloth made a few o’ their own rules, like confession. Ye see, Rome would have a body confess his transgressions afore all, public-like. Instead me saints adopted their ancestral custom o’ sharing a soul’s innermost fears and secrets with an anmchara or soul friend. In Patrick’s time and afore, ’twas said, “Anyone without a soul friend is like a body without a head.” Me children looked for the likes of wisdom, holiness, generosity, loyalty and courage in an anmchara, and in Columcille’s time, me saints took to this private confession like fleas to a plump, hairy hound.
Aye, lads and lasses, whilst the rest of Europe was plunged in darkness by the barbaric hordes, I glowed like a lamp to the world, drawing seekers of truth from black-hearted throes of destruction. Offerin’ men and women alike refuge from oppression. I was an America o’ the Dark Ages, there to share mercy and light, both within and beyond me shores.
Unlike elsewhere in the world, me daughters held social, political, and spiritual sway as queens, entrepreneurs, and abbesses. Me saintly sons gave up their greatest earthly love–the love of their mother country and people--to take God’s Light and Word into the barbarous blackness beyond me surroundin’ waters. Evidence o’ their travels as far away as Iceland and the Americas exists to this day. Just take a gander at St. Brendan and the Milesians in the back o’ this book if ye’ve a notion so see their wonderful accounts. Blessed so, how on God’s green earth could I not turn out more missionaries for Christ than any other nation in time? Shame on the soul who takes such a gift as the Gospel and doesn’t use it to the Glory of Him that gave it.
Yet, for all their best intentions and piety, my children were still troubled by temptation. They took the bounty for granted, no different than God’s chosen in Scripture. If something went awry, like spoilt prodigals, they blamed God for their failin’ faith, not themselves. Greed for power and wealth turned clan against clan and, sad to say, clergy against clergy at times. Such, ye see, is the power of worldly corruption. Aye, me children have their faith, thanks to the fifth-century saints, but hanging on to it will require all their courage and stubbornness, heart and spirit. Thankfully, among the Irish, there’s no lack of such virtues.
So against this illustrious settin’, I give ye me second Gleannmara story, that of Kieran, the great-great grandson of Queen Maire and King Rowan , whose faith has fallen more on his sword than his God, and of the gentle Riona O’Cuillin of Dromin, the lady he’s sworn a blood oath to protect.
So, I pray ye, sit back and savor each word as a tempting morsel of a grand feast for yer heart, yer mind, and yer soul.
May the good Lord take a likin’ to ye.