So there I was minding my own business… No wait that’s not my story to tell, yet.
This is the tale of The Great Sword of the Ui Niall. Also known as the day Duncan Mac Aoidh almost lost both of his ghillies to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
On a hot, muggy May day, just after the midday meal was served and thusly devoured, it was discovered that the Great sword of the Ui Niall had gone missing. There were many theories thrashed about as to where the sword had gotten off to. Quite a few suspects were brought to the lord’s attention but none who were brought before the Ui Niall would claim they had the weapon in their possession. Searches were made of several suspect camps to no avail. The sword looked to of grown legs and walked from the lord’s camp on its own volition.
Finally, after hours and hours of laborious searching and questioning of miscreants, it came to the attention of the lord that the newly appointed Harbor Master for Portsmouth was claiming to have possession of a Great Sword that bore a striking resemblance to the sword that had gone missing.
The Lord Ui Niall sent for his ghillie, Duncan Ui Niall-Mac Aoidh. He ordered him to recover the sword at any and all costs. Duncan in turn sent forth his ghillies Aidan Ui Niall and Pádraig Ui Niall to visit the Harbor Master and catch a look at the Great sword the man claimed to have at his disposal. They were also ordered to obtain said sword if it proved the proper weight and markings of the one belonging to the Lord Ui Niall. As a safe guard, and to ensure all parties acted as gentlemen Duncan also sent forth his wife Siobhan Ui Niall-Mac Aoidh to oversee the conference.
The three Irish set forth quickly making their way through the maze of ships to the camp of the suspected thief. All the while musing over how the Harbor Master came in possession of such a weapon. Surely the Spaniard had no use for a sword that grand. There was no doubt in their minds that this was indeed the lord’s missing sword and they were determined to recover it.
The Harbor Master was a sneaky, conniving man. As he saw the Irish trio approaching he decided that he would use his great skill in oral persuasion to distract them from their given task. With open and seemingly kind arms he welcomed them into his camp, offered them a shady spot to sit and his women to keep them company. He then set forth to tell the trio a wondrous tale.
“So there I was minding my own business…” The tale began, but as he would progress in his story the Harbor Master would feign distraction and begin his tale all over again.
For quite some time, hours it seemed to Siobhan, the Harbor Master attempted to tell his story. Then in what must have been a blessing from God, the Grand Pryor appeared from the camp of St. John’s. Seeing the three very devout Catholics in obvious dismay, he came to their aid. It took him no time at all to see that they had made little if no progress with the tricky Harbor Master.
In a brilliant sweep of his arm, he took the Harbor Master aside and in hushed tones reminded him kindly that as the Grand Pryor he was in possession of a letter of excommunication. Also suggesting to the Spaniard that if the Great Sword were not returned to the Irish, the Harbor Master would quickly find his name upon the writ.
In a sudden change of heart, the now trembling Harbor Master gave the two Irish lads permission to view the Great sword he was in possession of to see if it bore the mark of the Ui Niall upon the blade. The sword was cleverly hidden behind the archer’s target. Mighty hard to get to since the Spaniard’s archers were even then taking up their bows to practice their skill. Aidan and Pádraig leapt to their feet eager to leave the Harbor master and his incessant tale. They jumped the gate to fetch the Great Sword.
As the two were walking calmly across the yard, the Harbor Master turned to his archers and called for them to pick up their arrows. Swiftly the archers armed themselves, each of the three bringing an arrow to rest against the taut string of their bows. Pádraig and Aidan heard the order and began to run in earnest. Their legs moved as pale blurs; their leines flapped in the wind behind them.
In great haste the men dove behind an enormous stack of hay bales and landed right on top of the Great Sword of the Ui Niall. For a few dreadful moments Siobhan held her breath and prayed to God that her husband’s men would be given the gift of speed to dodge the archer’s arrows. Not a second later they emerged in triumph from behind the mountain of hay. Seeing that he was caught, the Harbor Master called on his archer’s to drop their bows and attack the lads. There was a great uproar. Clouds of dust kicked into the air, blocking the fighters and the prized sword from the lady’s sigh. Aidan emerged from the dust, sword in hand, a smile on his face. Right behind him came Pádraig. Siobhan gave a great sigh of relief that neither of the men had been shot, for sure her husband would hold her accountable for the injuries.
They came to stand before Siobhan and the Grand Pryor, grins plastered upon their faces despite the great heaving breaths both took from their exertions. With an amused look and an arched eyebrow, the Grand Pryor inquired about the warrant box that had gone missing from the Magistrate’s table that morning. It had been divulged by a wee bird that the Harbor Master, who had now taken his leave and sought a great glass of mead to settle his nerves, had taken the box that very morning.
Aidan and Pádraig looked at each other in dismay and dropped their heads. Neither had thought to look for the box and as they looked up, the archers were still standing on the field, bows in hand once again. Pádraig passed the Great Sword to Aidan and again gave a great leap over the gate and onto the field. As quick as he could he rushed behind the stack of hay bales and searched for the warrant box.
The archers gave a loud cry of alarm and rushed to stop him. Pádraig heard the two men and woman coming and ran from behind the hay, clutching a leather purse he knew belonged to the Harbor Master. As he crossed the field one of the archers grasped his long sleeve and tried to drag him down. Just as Siobhan and Aidan were sure he had slipped their grasp, the female archer rushed at the men and took the lot of them arse over teakettle. The tangle of bodies wrestled around for the purse for some time before Aidan could jump onto the field and help his fallen friend.
Without looking Pádraig tossed the purse to Aidan who in turn ran back out of the field and handed the purse to the Grand Pryor. The leather purse, which seemed to be nothing of great importance, actually held the Chain of Office that had been bestowed upon the Harbor Master. The Grand Pryor gave a great smile and proclaimed that the contents of the purse were of such importance that he could hold it over the Harbor Master until the Magistrate’s warrant box was returned.
The three Irish were pleased with this news and made moves to return to their camp. However, before Siobhan could rise from her seat Pádraig bent over and picked up the female archer, deciding that he was to take her captive. Siobhan gave a shake of her head; unable to tell the lad what a fool he was as it was not her place to do so. She followed Aidan, who carried the Great Sword and Pádraig, who was burdened with the shrieking female.
The Harbor Master saw that one of his archers had been taken and gave a great cry to one of his men to fetch the Magistrate’s warrant box. He attempted to bargain with the men for the females return, but they would not accept the offer, knowing that the Grand Pryor would much rather prefer to have the box in his possession.
In defeat the Harbor Master hung his head and walked to the camp of St. John’s. All the while thinking of ways to escape from Port Royal. None of his plans were feasible for his ship was in desperate need of repairs. The bothersome Spaniard went to his judgment with his head hung so low it was a wonder he didn’t kick it as he knelt before the Grand Pryor.
Inside the Irish camp there was much rejoicing. A ceilí was held in celebration of the return. For, lets be honest, the Irish will look to any occasion to dance and be merry, especially in the midst of such turbulent times.
The Great Sword had been returned to its proper owners and for the moment all was well within the camp of the Ui Niall.
(This is a dressed up version of something that happened two years ago at the Queen Bess renaissance faire.)