Story Archaeology

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The Story of Nuada

The Labby Rock in County Sligo: the traditional burial site of Nuada

Nuada stared into a palm of silver, a cupped pool reflecting a refracted and shattered image of his frowning face. He held the hand up before him, flexed his fingers and five silver rays flared like a crown around his image. So it worked to his will then. It was more than a magnificent glove.

Beads of moisture misting the new hand made it almost seem that his reflection was weeping. Shrugging, Nuada balled his stiff fingers into a fist, dismissing the mirror.

He hoped that he could still wield his sword.

Silver mists and mirrored skies, sharp-bowed ships like blades through the waves leading his people into a new world, netting this land for them; new opportunities for their crafting. This had been his work.

A silver sword of deadly power, brought, treasured, from Findias, hidden city of the North. This he had warded, wielded, protecting his people. This had been his work.

It was a fine land he had found for them, fruitful and free. It had broad plains like green grass lakes and wide fishful lakes like bright mirrors. This had been his work.

It was a fine land, but not empty. There were the Fomoire, the mysterious outsiders who, some said, had come from under the sea. But they too, like the Dé Danaan, were strangers in the land and, maybe, there could be an understanding between them – at least, for a time.

The Fir Bolg were different.

They would do battle for the land; and it had come to battle at the last.

Yes, there had been a time of testing, a ceremony of sharing when weapons had been measured and compared. But it had come to battle at the last. Nuada was a warrior and battle was his work.

Now his work was over. Oh, yes, the battle was won, his people safe; Eochaid Mac Eirc, the Fir Bolg leader, dead and the place of his people secured. Oh yes, the battle was won. But he, Nuada, had reached out for victory and failed in his grasping. For, in the press of battle, Sreng, the Fir Bolg champion, had taken his sword-arm. Now he was a blemished man, incomplete, and no blemished man could be king.

Dían Cécht, the great Dé Danann healer, had pitied his distress and, working with Crédne the brazier, had forged from the magic of word and fire, herb and flowing silver, a living metal hand. It was beautiful, but it was still a blemish.

And he could no longer lead his people.

The silver hand moved, almost without his conscious thought, following the familiar path to his sword-belt. It gripped the sword hilt firmly, and Nuada drew his sword, lifted it above his head.

If he could not be king, he could still fight with his people.

If he could not lead he could still follow.

As he raised his eyes to his sword, the sun caught the blade, and it flowed with golden light. For a moment, he seemed to see the face of a young man, golden and eager.

Nuada smiled grimly. The silver of the hand melded with the sun’s yellow rays.

He was Nuada Láim Argait, but he dreamed of gold.

Chris Thompson, Sept. ’12

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