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An Evil Cradling

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What was known about Turlough was his music, his art. He is honoured and revered by many musicians through the centuries, in contemporary times particularly by the Chieftains, who have been playing Turlough's music for 30 years. Yet nothing was known "of Turlough's head and his heart". He hates it, and he hasn't got used to it. "It embarrasses me." A shy, modest man, he accepts it when people come up to him in the pub, offering him drinks, asking to shake his hand. He is polite and politely unimpressed. He doesn't want this fame. "I don't really understand it. What have I done? I didn't ask to be kidnapped." No!” he screamed, though pain raced through him panic lent strength to his movements, and near blind with fear he tore against the orcs that held him. “No,” he spat; he grunted and shook as a savage jerk upon his hair pulled him up short, and those hateful fingers only grasped him the tighter. “No, no, let me go! Let me go!” His mother, a housewife, used to say to him: "Politics stops at your doorstep.""But I never knew if she meant coming in or going out." His father was a telephone engineer and before that he worked on the buses. A sweet man. "I remember him bringing home all these injured animals he'd find on the road and mum telling him to get them out."

And so it began. His re-emergence into a world he thought he knew, the world he had left behind, but different now. Not so much because the world had changed, or even because he himself had changed. But because his place in the world had changed. He went into the cell Brian Keenan, an unknown university teacher from Belfast. He then became Brian Keenan, the disappeared. But inevitably there are reminders, some of them funny. "We were in a taxi together in London, and the driver kept looking at us in his mirror," says Keenan. "And then he came through on his intercom and he said: 'Sorry to interrupt you gentlemen, but I couldn't help asking … wouldn't you be more comfortable travelling in the boot?'" A sudden pang of hunger twisted through Maedhros’ stomach, but haughtily he lifted his head, and with as much defiance as he could push into his voice he replied, “I do not want it… Not from you!” Celegorm’s words turned in his mind, but Maedhros would not allow them to daunt him. For as the ranks of his retinue formed up behind him, as Gaelor loosed his banner and Orellë sounded a triumphant horn to the skies above, as the drum of galloping hooves filled his ears, grim, unyielding resolve settled in Maedhros’ stomach, and it would not be undone. Fury swelled in Maedhros’ heart as he saw their lines break into a sprint, the outrage of betrayal squalled in his veins but tightly he gripped to it, he mastered it, and as Fëanor’s son revealed in the fey glory of his wrath he drew his sword, and aloud he cried: “Hold fast! Ortaerë, mehtarnya! Ortaerë!”The Balrog captain’s bellow seemed to reverberate through the very earth, and dread spilled through Maedhros’ innards. Eventually Maedhros finished the bowl, and as the broth settled like a fortifying, invigorating weight into his stomach, softly he murmured, “Water… p-please…”

We were just friends for a long time, before it led to anything else," says Audrey. "All the same, some people thought I'd just emerged from nowhere and predicted it would never last."We march east,” a deep voice bellowed, and Maedhros flinched in horror as he felt himself passed between the company of uruks, they pushed him about as if he was nothing more than a rag doll until a fresh set of hands grasped him firmly, and miserably he stilled within them. “Collect what treasures you may from the field, but the elf’s sword and banner I claim in tribute to our lord. Make haste, we march with the shadows!” Y’hear that, snaga,” a deep voice growled, and an iron-shod boot clipped into the side of Maedhros’ thigh an instant later. “My boys should ‘ave their fun with you. Such troubles we took with you, you might give us a little pleasure in return…” Bind him tightly, now,” a Valarauka boomed, and the orcs seemed set aflame to hear their commander’s encouragement. When he was finally released, Keenan famously told journalists that he intended to "make love to every woman in the world", before realising that imprisonment had left him horribly vulnerable and that he should steer clear of a big love affair. Then, having decided after all not to leap into the arms of the first woman who crossed his newly liberated path, he ended up doing precisely that: Audrey Doyle, who became his wife in 1993, was the physiotherapist charged with helping to build up his muscles again. Maedhros’ head lolled down onto his chest as exhaustion stole through him, the tightness of the gag tore at his lips and sent waves of such horrible pressure throbbing through his head. Despair clawed at his heart as for what felt like the thousandth time he squirmed within his bonds, he near ripped his wrists bloody in his attempts to free them, but such efforts were made in vain.

Sleep while you can, prince,” he said slowly, almost sorrowfully; and his words drenched Maedhros in nothing but despair. “For my home is forged of nightmares, and you will find no rest there.” Not to myself. To myself I never disappeared, I knew exactly where I was." Crucial, this. All the time that the world knew nothing of his existence, he hadn't ceased to exist, though he had transposed worlds. His reality, confined though it was, was his own. He didn't look outside. "My recollection is that if you focus on the real world, which isn't your real world, because your world is here in your head, then you are going to make life very difficult." Much as Turlough was able to reconcile his two worlds - Ireland the physical place with all its history, "which, though he couldn't see what was going on around him, he could sense", and his own inner life, through music - this book becomes Keenan's reconciliation, the means finally by which he can take control again of his own destiny. You could also say that it signals Ireland's destiny - which is not English control. "I do believe that this island should be one land." All of which makes it a bold book. Keenan is nervous, he says. "It hasn't gone out to the public yet. I think that maybe the people who have read my books before will find this a strange departure." But then this is, of course, its point. He is not yours to despoil.” The rumbling baritone of a Valarauka broke through the growls and mutters that heralded it. “He belongs to our lord, and I will see him delivered whole and un-abused, not torn bloody by your snivelling rabble. You answer to me, Dagmur, and I will have my captives treated with dignity, no matter how much it thwarts your desires.” Why, Captain?” the deep voice called, and a chorus of snarls accompanied it. “He is a slave, for so we’ve captured him. We cannot take our sport with him?”The blunt tone of knowing in Gothmog’s voice sent spears of foreboding lancing through Maedhros’ heart. For a moment then he wavered: the rich scent of the stew sent hunger cramping through his innards, and though it felt like a betrayal, it felt like a surrender, at last he nodded. He suffered the Balrog to press the spoon to his lips, though his fingers twitched feebly within his bonds as he longed to be freed. As if he were no more than an animal made lame and helpless the Valarauka fed him, but though that degradation stormed through him, still he accepted each spoonful of warm stew past his trembling jaw. Furiously he fought; they would not take him, they would not take him, the thought screeched through his head as his boots skidded through a mire of blood, but as a fiery whip suddenly cut towards his head, in that terrible instant he came undone. Patiently the Balrog lifted the skin to him once more, and gratefully he drained it. Somewhat refreshed then he shifted himself slightly, the heels of his boots crunched as they slid across the gravel, and he pushed himself a little more upright against the wooden post that crushed between his shoulder-blades. Gothmog watched his motions neutrally, but as a wince crossed Maedhros’ face as he settled himself, the Valarauka reached for the gag once more. A dissenting grumble rolled through the orcs, but slowly they shuffled off, and relief poured through Maedhros’ heart as he heard them depart. Yet setting towards him then he heard the heavy tread of the captain; unseen things crunched to the stones by his side, and swiftly he steeled himself, he drew to himself whatever shreds of lordliness he had left and thrust them out before him like a shield. Keenan took his destiny in his hands, dropping out of the plumber's apprenticeship he started, getting himself to university to read English literature, and then becoming a teacher: the only kid in his street, as he has often said - and not in a self- congratulatory manner - to do so.

Keenan's parents are both dead – his father's death was pivotal in his decision to go to Beirut. It was as he carried his father's coffin that he made the decision to leave Belfast, and to seek a new life overseas as a teacher at the American University in Beirut. At the time of the kidnap he was wearing one of his father's shirts, and that connection was a crumb of comfort to him – in An Evil Cradling, he writes movingly about how his dad became "not simply a memory but … a real presence … a presence I could feel more than see, a comforting reassurance that eased the hurt into a deeply filled sadness, yet that same sadness as it became reflective, lifted me". His mother died in 2004 having survived his captivity – something she rarely spoke about, Keenan says. "It was her way," he explains. "When I came home she didn't ask, and I didn't tell much at all. My sisters told me that when I was away she didn't speak much about what was happening. When there were rumours that I might be coming home, though, she knitted me a sweater." To your posts, now!” the captain thundered; a blast of heat shimmered through the air as it roared: “Else I will have you flayed for insubordination, you and your miserable company alike!” The clamour of battle dwindled to the mournful keens of the dying, but in his fear Maedhros scarcely heard them. Before three monstrous Valaraukar he was dragged, and four burly uruks held him fast as their flame-filled eyes appraised him. Frenzied hands clutched to him; shrill panic trembled in Maedhros’ throat, anger and terror waged their devastating war within him but through filth-stained lips he screamed, “Stop! Stop, let me go! Let me go!” A tangle of voices jeered, and rigidly Maedhros held himself still as their scorn crashed down upon him.All that effort for this miserable pig?” A sneering voice whined before him, and Maedhros started as amid the slurred intonations of misshapen lips, he recognised the corrupt, basal form of archaic Quenya, and the orc’s crude words seared through him. “Nar, should’ve gutted him in the hollow, left him red and gasping with the rest of them.” He talks about a letter he received recently from a woman whose daughter is dying of leukaemia. "There's far more heroism in that woman than there will ever be in me." Now, he says, he turns down offers to speak about his experience. "It's the past. Why would I want to do that?" He has always refused to go to America to lecture. "I am asked and I say, 'No.'" Money couldn't tempt him. "Money has always been the last thing on my mind. Though I don't have a lot of it. I have to work, my wife has to work." And what?” the Balrog murmured, and the soft rue in its tone only stripped bare the cruelty of its truths. “Your bargains are empty, Noldo. As the soldiery might not take their pleasures with you, your freedom is not mine to barter.” That survival is mutual. Everyone there had to put a part of themselves on the table for everyone else to take what they needed." So, until the debt was clear, he would not be free to act. He is a very unusual man, in many ways no doubt. But in one way in particular. He is not prepared to be cynical. Unmodern, you could say, in that way.

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