BOOK I – QUEEN MAEVE TRILOGY
The tribes of Ireland are no longer led by the mother-line. The bards do not sing of Queen Maeve’s glory.
Instead, the songs favor the boy-child who fought her, Cuchulain, and call him hero. The tales admire Maeve’s enemies, and call them good kings, rightful rulers. Queen Maeve is a villain in the memory of her own people.
But Breide the healer remembers Maeve’s true story.
Come, grandchild, to this place between the worlds, between your time and mine. Sit by my fire, fragrant with meadowsweet and sage. Breathe deep.
You have heard the name of Queen Maeve, but your bards no longer sing of her glory. Their songs favor the boy-child who fought her, call him hero. You admire our enemies and call them good kings, rightful rulers. You call them Christian princes, though they never heard of such a thing. My queen is a villain in a tale we never lived.
But why should you listen to the stories of a hearth-woman, a slave? Because I can tell you the truth behind the songs. I remember Maeve’s sobs in the night, her laughter in the morning. I knew which pillow was hers by the smell and how warm she liked her mead. More than servant or friend, I was the sister of her heart. Though we women who tended her hearth were called cumal, we were her family. Her choice of a lover, her plans for war— all passed first between us.
But this is not only the story of Maeve. It is the story of the tuath—the people and their land. In our time, the queen was the sacred tie that bound the people to the earth, with her very blood, if the gods called for it.
In your time, you are sundered from the land, and so you have no tuath. Perhaps you need to hear this tale, as I yearn to speak it.
Listen to the story of Queen Maeve, grandchild, and be made whole.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
— William Butler Yeats, The Stolen Child
“All stories spring from the land. See Ériu, our island of fog and soft grass. See the cattle that graze her body. They are small and black and their milk is abundant. It is our very life.
When the ancestors came across the sea long ago, the gods blessed them and their herds grew. The clans multiplied as the milk flowed, sweet with cream. If you listen carefully in the hollows and dells, you can still hear the ancestors singing. They live forever beneath the earth.
Sometimes, the tribes of Ériu forget that they have the same forebears. They curse themselves and steal from other clans, and the cattle-struggles soak the earth with blood…”