XXII. Accusation, Accident and Feud
Someone stood in anger — afterwards no one knew
Exactly who said it or which side they stood on —
but many witnesses on that terrible day
recall those words of rage. “Kembirel has done this!
He has caused this sorrow!” The master tried to speak,
Tried resolving with words this sudden rebellion
By the kith of Alba. Yet whatever he said
Went unheard in that din, the furious tumult
Of the men of Alba. They all got to their feet,
Shouting and clamoring, demanding to be heard.
The black cloak called for calm, but the hour was past,
Long past for only talk. Alba’s women were wronged,
For some dreadful purpose; someone had to answer
For all these many ills. Kembirel would do fine;
As lord Garman’s factor, he should have stopped it all.
Who could have held them back, the free men of Alba,
When they learned of these wrongs not only to themselves
And their whole families, not only to women
Dwelling in their households, but even to the land,
Across the whole island? Rare the house without woe,
Some daughter dishonored, scarred or somehow ruined.
Many drew their weapons, even at the kawntradd
That most sacred of grounds, where naked sharpened steel
Ought never to be shown. All across the hillside
Swords snicked out of scabbards, glittering in sunlight.
“Desist,” cried the black cloak, giving proper warning
and opening his staff, both at the same moment.
He went in among them, giving up his station,
To separate the men brawling on the hillside.
Swinging his staff around, he drove men back.
No one could hold them back, not the men of Alba
Stirred from peace to action, not even a black cloak.
His intention was good. It was to be fatal.
Gaskil, of Wellan’s house, half-brother by marriage,
Gave a loud shout of rage, a beserker’s bellow.
Swinging his sword, enraged, at Kembirel’s man, Tharm,
He wounded the brehon across his cheek and neck.
Some say he planned it thus; others call it error.
He wounded the black cloak, and brought him very low.
His stone has fallen down, his cloak is torn to shreds,
He died in Law’s service, fulfilling his duty.
His staff has been broken, his sword marks his barrow.
He fulfilled his duty, his cloak is torn to shreds.
Though nameless, we mourn him, and regret his passing:
His sword marks his barrow, his stone has fallen down.
A terrible silence fell on the kawntradd hill,
When men saw the black cloak fallen on the greensward,
And for just a moment, they stood in mortal fear,
Wondering what horror would recompense this crime.
Gaskil stood beside him, the slayer by the slain,
And men backed away from him, fearing divine judgement,
Some terrible violence for such a dreadful deed.
Then Kembirel’s brother, Kembrun who wore the Jade,
Drew out his long dagger, and flung it at Gaskil
Catching him in the throat. His second long dagger,
Hidden within a sleeve, hit his heart and slew him.
Gaskil staggered and fell, to die by the black cloak.
Kembrun started to speak, but Kaylen slipped his sword
Between the Jade’s rib-bones, and drew a second blade.
Kaylen cut Kembrun’s throat; then all mayhem began.