• The Dark Room

Sheila Eggenberger

Location: A book-infested garret somewhere on the Cimbric Chersonese.

Bio

A writer obsessed with history, art and literature in all its forms, currently pursuing a degree in education as a teacher of literature, history and geography. I’ve written extensively about perfume since 2011 as The Alembicated Genie, published my first novel Quantum Demonology in 2013, and when not submerged in textbooks, I am busy editing and rewriting a novel set in Roman Britain and ancient pagan Ireland in the early third century CE.

Current project

My current work in progress is rewriting and editing a novel set in the early third century CE which begins in Roman Britain and Ireland. It tells the story of a Roman senior tribune who is sent to Ireland to rid the Romans of a certain marauding Irish pest. But the Emperor Severus’ son and his agents are hot on his trail, and meanwhile, the Irish are not at all what he expected, but far more dangerous – especially to a Roman trying to pass himself off – as Irish.

Writing sample

Contentment was one emotion Orlaith ben Tigernach never indulged. Contentment led to complacency, complacency led to a lack of vigilance, and for all her life, Orlaith never let her attention to life and the people around her lead her anywhere but straight back to her own self-interest. She grew to womanhood convinced she was chosen by the Gods for better, bigger, momentous events and things, only to be bitterly disappointed by both her choices and her lot.
The lot of Orlaith was not a bad one. As the younger daughter of a tribal king in southern Laighin, she was given the right to choose her husband for herself, so at Lughnasa fair at Dun Aillin ten summers ago, she was seduced by the easy manner and luxurious mustache of Tigernan mac Ciarán, who ran a large and popular inn in the south of Laighin near the border with Moma. His prospects were secure, and his inn, a hostel of well over two hundred beds, was supported by several of the neighboring kings and even the king of Laighin. Tigernan, she soon discovered, was a considerate and loving husband, but he was also a man who detested conflict. Not for nothing had his inn become so popular among tribal kings of Laighin and Moma. He had a unique ability to soothe frayed tempers and smooth over injured pride and fancied insults, and all who left the inn of Tigernan felt somehow better in mind and body than when they arrived.
Three strapping, healthy sons Orlaith gave Tigernan in four short years, joined a short while later by a meek and timid daughter, who quickly learned to avoid her mother when she could and to follow her adoring father instead. But a challenge, an argument – indeed any kind of fight that would soothe Orlaith’s worries and put her in her good and proper place – this, Tigernan refused her. The moment she began yet another inventory of her grievances and worries as detailed and ornate as any bard’s, Tigernan simply vanished in search of more agreeable company, and Orlaith was left spoiling for fight, seething with rage, marking yet another complaint against her husband, still another slight against her.
Her fingers slipped, she dropped the thread she spun, and spindle and distaff crashed to the floor as she remembered, which brought her back to the present with a start. Today, on this day gold with sunshine, warm with the scent of ripening apples, today Tigernan dared to insult her with this…
She bent down and retrieved her spinning. Tigernan had enough of Orlaith and her constant complaints. He had decided to attend Samhain Assembly at Tara, to bring five barrels of his best mead for the brehon, and to arrange that he and Orlaith would be divorced. Their sons were in fosterage, and would remain so. Their daughter, that timid little scrap of a child so unlike Orlaith she could scarce believe her to be her own, would remain with the father who loved her.
As for Orlaith, she would return to her father’s dun, and hopefully, if she knew her father, another marriage. Yet another man who could not rid himself of her fast enough. But Samhain Assembly at Tara…when all the kings of Erin congregated, surely that meant possibilities, even for the likes of Orlaith?
Up and down the spindle bobbed, collecting thread along its way. If only, she reflected, she had been ten years younger. She knew she had been considered pretty once, with a fine head of lustrous dark brown hair, large and luminous gray eyes, and a succulent mouth that begged to be kissed. So Tigernan said when he yet said such things. That, however, lay ten years and four children in her past, and those children had taken their own toll on her form. She had thickened in ten years, but perhaps there was a man or two who might prefer a woman with experience and some meat on her bones?
Three large balls of thread were enough to twist for her loom. As she attached them to a larger spindle and began to twist them together, she realized what her anger had made her forget.
She would be free again. Free again, with all the kings of Erin congregating at Tara. And nothing at all in two large trunks of clothes, she thought with a start, suitable for Samhain Assembly.

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