by Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International
This story is in two parts. The fictional character, Sean, is a brave, young boy who carries out a daring assignment and, in the process, meets one of really lived. When you discover this man’s name, why not put it into your favorite search engine and see if you can discover at least ten facts about his life and accomplishments? Now, settle back, way back to centuries ago and follow…
A Story from Old Ireland
“Take your baby brother to your uncle!” the boy’s mother ordered. “Hurry! Uncle will hide you both.” Speaking as she worked, the frantic woman thrust the baby into the young boy’s arms.
Sean scowled. The last lamb is finally in the sheepfold, and I’ve had a long day, he thought. He was tired and hungry, and just a little afraid of the dark woods where he knew he’d soon be traveling.
“But, Mother, why? It’s nearly dark and I’ve been out with the sheep all day. I don’t want to go now,” Sean complained. Red marks rubbed by his sandals still hurt, and his arm burned from a recent bee sting.
“You must do as I say, Sean. Your father left this morning to find the druid priest. I fear he’ll agree to make a sacrifice at the worship fires tonight. You know our crops are doing poorly. Perhaps,” she looked over her shoulder, “perhaps the priest will ask us to put your brother on the altar.”
Mother’s low voice was urgent as her words tumbled over each other.
Baby Tim had just nursed and slept soundly. Sean wrapped him in the delicate wool blanket his mother had once made for him. Mother put bread and meat chunks into a large sling-like bag to hang over his shoulder.
“Don’t stop to eat until you’re at the creek deep in the forest,” Mother instructed. “The moon will be up and full by then. It will help you find the way to Comber.”
“Yes, Mother,” he replied. “And how will I find Uncle’s cottage?”
Sean shifted his baby brother to a comfortable position as his mother replied, “Ah, true, you haven’t been there since you were a wee lad, but remember my instructions and you won’t get lost.”
Mother continued, “After you cross the stream, follow the path the moon makes to the town. Near the Comber outskirts, rest until dawn breaks and then ask some farmer woman where your uncle’s cottage lies.”
Seems like very poor directions, Sean thought while he picked his way carefully under low lying branches. Every tree might hold some evil spirit, he feared.
An owl swooped low hunting small prey. Sean trudged slowly, steadily even after his muscles began to ache and his sandals rubbed new raw places on his feet. His brother slept soundly; for that he was grateful.
Finally he could hear the merry gurgling of the narrow stream his mother had spoken of. Wolves howled far off. Sean shuddered and tried to walk a little faster.
At last, he slid down beside the creek and unfastened his sandals, lowering his burning feet into the icy water. He could rest a little, he knew, and eat the food his mother had sent with him.
“At least I’ll take part of it,” he muttered to himself. “No telling what welcome I’ll find with uncle. He already has many children.”
A huge, round moon topped the tall trees across the small clearing where Sean sat.
“Welcome, Lady Moon,” Sean saluted the bright sphere. “I used to worship you each new rising. Now Mother tells me you were formed by the only true God, the One Who made everything, even the Warrior Sun you always follow.
“Father says she’s growing mad. But I’ve heard others in the village speak of a great, Creator God, like none other. Certainly not like the fearful druid priest, I hope,” Sean finished with a whisper.
The moon’s welcome light made it much easier to see a path through the forest ahead. It also made it hard to hide.
Sean strapped on his sandals and sat down a little way from the stream with his back against a large old oak. He dozed off until he heard crackling sounds from the undergrowth. Something was pushing through the forest and coming nearer.
Had his father sent someone to catch up with him? Or worse yet, had the high priest not believed mother’s story and come to get him? Sean groaned softly. He had seen the punishment that fell on those who angered the priests. Silently he begged the moon to cast a lucky spell.
Adjusting his sleeping brother’s weight in his arms, Sean rose, ready to hurry across the stream and be off.
Who do you suppose is making his way to the clearing? Will Sean’s worst fears come true? Find out next time when we finish the story and introduce you to one of history’s finest heroes.