It was raining the evening that Grebble MacRabh stumbled into the Mead Hall of Wurley, the seat of Clan Macrabh. No amount of rain would wash away the sting warts that pocked his back and thighs, or soften his bitter mood. Never had a few days journey been such a miserable month of suffering, or so Macrabh thought to himself when he was deep in his cups feeling sorry for himself.
A few lasses tried to comfort him with winks and kisses. One reminded him that he still had all his fingers and toes and the boils would hardly scar at all. He sent her running under a hail of wooden tankards and foam.
A young Eiranach man came and sat across from him and drank without speaking for a while. After a horn or two of mead he addressed Grebble, “You wouldn’t be the MacRabh bard I’ve heard tell of, would ye?”
Grebble didn’t look up, “You know I am, so don’t play coy. What are you doing so far from home?”
The man smiled, “I’ve come to fetch something back that belongs to the Bards of Eiranach, and maybe to get a bit of vengeance on the man who took it, but that’s my story. I’m asking about yours?”
Grebble grimaced, “My story is that my balls are on fire, I’m tired, thirsty, and have a terrible headache, because my last few days on the road were pure misery. I think I was had for a joke, and if I find out who was responsible, I’ll probably end his childbearing days.”
That got a laugh out of the Eiranach man which rubbed Grebble the wrong way, though even he was beginning to see the humor of his situation. The stranger replied, “That’s a tragedy fit for a Bretonach ballad! I’ll leave you to drink away your pain,” and began to rise.
“Wait,” Grebble interrupted, “You’re just one man in unfamiliar territory, how do you hope to find what you’re after?”
“I’ve had some good fortune. I’ve found a sponsor in these parts. It’s what I wanted to talk to you about. My sponsor’s very generous and might be able to help you reverse some of that bad luck you’ve been having.”
“Heh.” Grebble laughed and took a deep drink of his mead. “No one round here either rich or powerful enough to fix my being a fool. Who’s your sponsor anyway? Some Thane or other?”
“A Queen actually. And she’s looking for more smart men like you.”