The Battle of Magh Tuireadh

Inspired by stories of the Tuatha de Danann, and encouraged by Niamh.

There were no clouds that day. Not a single stroke of rain held back the clear and still sky from breaking through, in grim contrast with the chaos below.  Within the forest, each tree filled with the King’s presence, each patch of earth responding to his footfall with quiet bursts of light. He wore no crown, but gazed down at his arm of silver as it glinted in the sunlight. Soon, nothing would be left of these woods.

The Fomorians had brought unspeakable ruin, scorching the land with black flame and poisoning what remained on their way to this place. Ancient shadows crept from underground, unshaken by the sunlight and growing even bolder as they gathered in number. With serpentine tongues lolling from their toothy jaws, they charged through and set up messy ranks in the valley below, gathering under the banner of traitorous Bres.

Nuada spat at the thought; his resolve cracking only slightly as he took in the sight of impending battle. It was not easy to forget the tyranny of Bres, nor the starvation and misery suffered by the clans under his rule. Battle had claimed one limb already, but the great chieftain was more willing than ever to fight for peace once again. From his point on the hill, he felt the weight of responsibility and doubt, shrugging off weakness in favour of courage. This land was theirs; fought through storm and sky when they first landed on Irish shores in great ships of mist. The Fomorians were just another obstacle to overcome. Drawing his sword, and a solemn breath, Nuada stepped forward into shadow.

The Tuatha De Danaan were eager to fight, and assaulted their enemy with a furious charge. It was as if you could hear the sound echo through the mountains themselves, cracking stone as both armies met with a thunderous smashing of shield and spear. The Fomorians left smaller creatures to the back, those  twisted hounds that vaulted across to dig their teeth into the necks of anyone they could find. Bolts of unspeakable magic conjured from mere whispers flew overhead, while elsewhere giants hurled boulders with an inhuman force. The Tuatha carried their anger and their thirst for vengeance with them; splintering the masses and forcing a path towards their former King Bres, the half-cast monster. He watched the war with a callous grin, hidden behind waves of creatures too foul to mention, but none were worse than Balor of the evil eye.

It felt good to take back his rightful place as King, to lead his men to righteous battle, Nuada thought through gritted his teeth as another monster fell to his sword. He would set things right after this, he would end this war and change things for the better. The wave of soldiers stormed ever onward, confidence rising in their chests until they caught sight of the enormous, hooded shadow on the horizon. “BALOR!” A shrill voice called from the distance. “Burn every last one of them” Bres pointed a crooked finger and watched as the bloated titan pulled at his mask.

The giant’s face was covered by steel and cloth, like some crude blindfold that went on for layer after layer of fabric. He peeled away until one terrible eye was revealed, and the charge of the Tuatha De Danaan ceased. “Hold…” Nuada ordered, uncertain of what was ahead. A mortal chill ran down his spine, his breath pausing. Some had heard stories of what Balor had done, but no man could have predicted the instant dread that filled them as soon as they caught sight of that singular eye slowly opening. Balor looked down upon them, and the screaming began.

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