Barbara Longley interviews the third-century hero from her new release, Tangled in Time

24 Oct 2017

“Thank you both for agreeing to meet with me today, Mr. and Mrs. O’Boyle. My readers are eager to learn from the source what it took to join the ranks of Fionn MacCumhail’s elite third-century Irish army. We’re also interested in hearing more about ghost whispering from you, Regan so let’s get started. I’ll begin the interview with you, Fáelán. Tell us about the trials you faced and passed in order to be ordained into the Fianna.”

“’Tis glad I am to set the record straight. For centuries, academics have claimed the legendary Fianna were naught but myth and legend. I’m here to tell ye nothing could be further from the truth. My da served in the Fianna for may years, as did I.”

“Exactly.” This man has such a charismatic presence. He bears the physique and carriage of a seasoned warrior, combined with an unpretentious boyish charm, all wrapped together in one hell of an attractive package. It’s easy to understand why the fae princess set out to seduce him. Unfortunately, his rejection of her is what led to his cursed sate. “Let’s begin with the trials a man had to pass to become a Fiann. What can you tell us about the tests you faced, Fáelán?”

The proud Fiann shifted in his seat and reached for his wife’s hand. Since the moment the two walked into my office, I couldn’t help but notice his constant need to touch Regan in some small way. Knowing what the two had gone through to be together, I understood completely. It had taken Fáelán nearly eighteen hundred years to find his “wee miracle,” as he so fondly called her.

“Aye, ten agreements had to be met afore a laddie was accepted into Fionn’s army. The first had to do with codes of behavior, ethics and such, and I’ll not bore ye with those. The second through the tenth are far more interesting.”

Regan smiled at her husband. “This is the part he loves best, bragging about his prowess.”

“And why should I not, love?”

“Oh, you should.” Regan’s eyes filled with loving pride, and she placed her hand of her obvious baby bump. “Go on, oh boasty one,” she teased, and turned to me. “I get a kick out of  hearing him brag, because it cracks me up when my strong, brave warrior husband encounters a spider in our bathroom.” She laughed.

“The beasties have eight fecking legs, love.” He shuddered. “I’ll admit, my wife deals with spiders, but when it comes to my becoming a Fiann, ’tis not bragging, but simple fact.”

“All right, we’ll skip the first requirement,” I said, hoping to get the couple back on track.

“Aye, the second requirement involved proving I possessed poetical genius.”

“What does poetry have to do with being a warrior?” My fingers raced over the keyboard to capture every single word either of them uttered.

“There’s far more to defeatin’ a foe than brute strength and skill with a sword or spear.” Fáelán’s brow rose. “Cleverness and a certain sharpness of wit are every bit as important as the sharpness of a man’s sword.” He tapped his temple. “A Fian had to prove he was able to outthink his opponent, ye see. To be counted amongst the Fianna, a man had to prove he possessed the strength of mind to rise above his own doubts and fears, aye?”

One side of his mouth quirked up, giving me a glimpse of that self-deprecation that made him so unique.

“Do ye want to know the truth? Fionn MacCumhail had a great love for storytellin’ and the recitation of poetry. He also loved music. If a laddie must prove the superiority of his mind, may as well make the test enjoyable for our commander.”

“All right. That makes sense. On to requirement number three.”

“The third had to do with mastery of weapons. After proving myself with sword, bow and lance, I was placed in the center of a field of sedge taller than my knees. I had only a shield and a lance made of hazel, and I had to remain within a designated space. Nine experienced soldiers were stationed in the hills surrounding me. All nine threw their javelins at me at once. Had I been wounded, had I not been able to deflect and shield myself from every last one of their spears, I would have been rejected.”

“Oh.” Regan said. “That’s what you were referring to when you told me you’d defeated nine warriors at once?”

“Aye.” He nodded. “The fourth trial involved running full out through a forest, whilst defending myself from attack the entire way. If I had been overtaken or wounded, that would’ve been the end for me. The fifth was no challenge at all. I had to hold my sword and shield at the ready for a length of time without the slightest tremble.” He shrugged. “My da had me practicin’ for that test since the year I’d turned four.”

“All right, so that brings us to the sixth.” I typed away at the treasure trove of information I was being given.

“Aye, the sixth.” He nudged his wife. “The one having to do attention to detail, as I’ve explained to my doubting wife.”

Regan snorted and rolled her eyes. “The hair thing?”

“Aye the hair thing.” He winked at me before continuing. “I had to braid and bind my hair. Then, I was chased through a wood by the swiftest of Fionn’s warriors. At the end of that gauntlet, if any of my hair had come undone—and mind, the Fianna chasing me did their best to reach me and tug it loose—I would have been disqualified. Fleetness of foot, ye see, and attention to detail were what mattered.”

“This is the first I’ve heard you were chased during that test,” Regan said, her eyes wide.

Fáelán grinned. “And now that ye know, are ye properly impressed by your man’s worthiness?”

That elicited another eye roll from his wife. I needed to bring the couple back on track again. “So, the seventh test?”

“ Aye. For the seventh I had to stand atop a rotten stick and not break it, proving my nimblesness and agility. For the eighth, I leaped over a tree as high as my forehead with no difficulty, and worked my way under another that was lower in height than my knee.”

“That brings us to nine and ten.” Who would believe the amazing glimpse into ancient history I was being given. How could I prove my source was genuine without exposing the incredible journey these two had gone through? No one believe me or them, of that I was certain.

“The ninth was another trial involving running. I had to run a barefoot with a thorn in my foot. If I could remove the thorn without breaking stride, I passed.” Fáelán sat a little straighter then. “The tenth was the most important requirement of all, for I had to swear an oath of allegiance to be ordained into the Fianna. I swore fealty to my commanding officer and to our king, vowing to be faithful and obedient only to them.” He glanced askance at his wife. “Fionn freed me from my vow, or I would not have come through time to be with my wee miracle.”

“Wow.” I sighed as I finished typing. “Thank you, Fáelán. So now that you are a permanent resident in the twenty-first century, what are your future plans?”

“I plan to be the best husband and father I can be.” He brought Regan’s hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “I’m also working on my PhD in archaeology. I mean to prove to the world once and for all that Fionn and his army were not myths. We existed. We protected Ireland from invading armies and kept the peace throughout the land. Who better than I to prove we were real. I know where to look for the proof.” He winked again.

“So, onto you, Regan. What—”

“I’m afraid we’re out of time,” she said. “If you want, we can reschedule my part of the interview, or we can skip it. We have an appointment we can’t miss.” Regan rose from the couch.

I knew how sensitive Regan was about being a ghost whisperer, and how important her privacy was to her, especially with a little one coming. I wouldn’t push.  “The decision is entirely yours. Just let me know.”

“Aye, we must be off. Today we’re having a . . .” Fáelán looked to his wife. “What’s it called again, love?”

“An ultrasound.”

“That’s exciting.” I walked with them to the door. “Are you going to learn the sex of your baby today?”

“Nay.” The third century warrior beamed with pride and placed his hand at the small of his wife’s back. “We wish to be surprised.” He helped Regan into her coat before slipping his arms into his leather biker jacket.

“Thank you so much for granting me this interview. I hope it won’t be the last, and I look forward to hearing all about your success in the field of archaeology. Please let me know when your baby is born.”

“We’ll be in touch. Thank you as well.” Fáelán wrapped his arm around his wife’s shoulders and guided her out into the overcast chilly dampness that was so much a part of Ireland’s autumn landscape.

I watched as Fáelán helped Regan into their shiny, new Land Rover, and then they drove away. Would they really keep in touch? I hoped so, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I had to swear an oath just to get this interview. Their identity had to be kept secret, which rendered the entire undertaking pointless. Did I care? Not really. My interest, though I hadn’t shared this with either of them, was purely and selfishly . . . academic.

Barbara Longley is the author of the new book Tangled in Time. 

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