Macha of the Red Braids exudes the essence of female power. Defying and fighting two kings, she takes her father’s place on the throne. With one goal in mind, she uses magic, battles, disguises, and skills of seduction to take the crown as sole ruler, the only woman listed as a High King of Ireland. She builds the famed kingdom of Emain Macha, marking off the borders with the pin of her cloak brooch. Yet a Champion, from the wilds of Connaught, throws the powerful battle queen off-guard when he comes to claim her heart. Has Macha met her match with Nath of Connaught? Will he pass the three trails she has set before him?
It was night, her element. For as there were the dark gods of the moon and the sea, so there were the bright ones of the sun. She was dark. Her gaze fell onto the distant plain where she had raced with Nath earlier in the day. Though clouded in darkness now, she thought of the lush green grass that blanketed the earth. The deep, dark soil, firm and solid, sure, constant, dependable. She turned and gasped. Nath had come upon her, silently. He stood there at her side.
“I did not mean to startle you, my queen.”
His nearness was overwhelming. She cleared her throat, pretending not to be affected. “Not at all.”
But she couldn’t tear her gaze from him. Fiery sun, bright and hot, big and bold. Everyone wanted him to shine on them.
“The druid thought you would be out here.”
“The druid knows me well.”
When the rays of the sun touched the rich earth, they created the lush peaceful green pasture. She needed him, the sun for her earth. They completed, they belonged together, dark and light, earth and sun, Nath and Macha. The druid knew it, and druids were never wrong.
He looked up and her gaze followed his. The pearl moon gleamed, smooth and perfect against a clear, ebony sky, twinkling with countless stars.
“Dark, sparkling, vast and enchanting,” Nath rasped.
“Yes, the night sky is lovely.”
“I did not mean the sky, my queen.”
A twinkle of moonlight caught her eye as she gazed at him. His eyes alone could set her ablaze. Fire danced in her. “I need to speak with you.”
“Yes, your majesty.” He leaned closer to her.
“Nath, what is it you want of me?”
Dearest reader, it’s hard to believe this tale survived, passed down by oral tradition alone, for over a thousand years before it was ever put to paper. Then again, it’s an exciting story. I wanted to let the wonderful readers, who may not be familiar with this legend, know what I kept from the original tale, and what I chose to change and add, and why.
Listed as Milesian High Kings, Macha Mong Ruad, Cimbaeth, Dithorba, and Aed the Red remained constant from time out of mind. In spinning my version, I named the other characters. In the triumvirate of Aed the Red, Dithorba, and Cimbaeth each reigned for seven years in turn. Though usually referred to as brothers or cousins, I made them friends only. When Áed died, his daughter Macha came forward to claim his reign. Cimbaeth and Dithorba opposed her, so she went to war against them. It has been told, she slew Dithorba in that battle, but I thought it best he didn’t die by her hand. I also added a handsome, brawn charioteer, to drool over.
I endowed Macha with the power to shape shift to a crow, adding even more of a morrigan aspect to her. In all versions of the tale, she married Cimbaeth. Then, Dithorba's sons tried to overthrow Macha. Disguised as a leper, she seduced and enslaved them. I slipped a crone and a cauldron of plenty in there, again to emphasize Macha’s morrigan traits. With the pin from her brooch, she drew the boundaries of Emain Macha and then forced Dithorba’s sons to build it. The names and descriptions of the three halls also come from the legend. After Cimbaeth died, she ruled alone, the only female sovereign listed in the High Kings of Ireland.
The second part of Queen of Kings is all my doing. In Nath, I created the great love of Macha’s life, to flesh out her bigger than life character. Making her more approachable to the modern reader, while still remaining goddess like, especially like the goddess morrigan, whom I see as the essence of female power.
I can only hope to one day be as great a writer as the ancient story teller, who over two thousand years ago, sat crouched around a flickering amber peat fire and gazed into the eyes of their tribesman, who held their breath with awe, listening to the first telling of this story. How I envy them. May the legend of Macha Mong Ruad live on for a thousand times a thousand years more. I hope you enjoyed my version.