Irial was not exactly sad to be leaving. He'd never really enjoyed farming as his brothers did and was not obligated to the land as his father was. Well, none of Ireland held much obligation to the land at the moment. It was the spring of 1740 and the entire countryside was on its knees. The longest, hardest winter in anyone's living memory had been expected to break months ago. Instead, it had merely seemed to crack, spilling a small vestige of warmth that was quickly swept away in the north winds. The crops had failed, the rich were safe in there houses with their stores, and the people were starving. His family had made it through the winter, barely, but the crops had frozen then rotted in the dirt. Their livelihood was gone. They had enough to make it through summer and could replant, but they wouldn't survive another winter. And thus, he was leaving. He'd be traveling to Dublin and finding crossing there. Once on English soil, he'd make his way to London in whatever way he could. He hoped to find a job and lodgings in the city.
The current morning found him on the back of one of their old cobs, a black and white sway-backed mare with a Gypsy dam and a workhorse sire. He was dressed for the road in a plain shirt and a dark pants. A rough linen cowl formed a hood over his head and draped nearly to his knees. His longbow and quiver were held diagonally across his back and crisscrossed a leather satchel on his right hip. A thin iron chain and a worn farthing coin strung on a cord circled his neck. He kept his tooled leather guard on his left forearm and held his mare's reins in the left. The mare, called Tola, chewed thoughtfully at her bit, surveying the stream running near her unshod hooves. Irial urged her forward but was only rewarded with an irritated flick of her tail.
"I should have taken Cian instead," he muttered. Cian was his family's other horse, a heavy, unrideable draught they used to plow the fields. Tola snorted at the name and took a moment to get her bulk moving. She plodded through the water, and Irial smiled sadly. He'd be selling her as soon as he reached Dublin to pay for his passage to England. "That's my girl, Tola."
That night, he camped against a small rise in the ground. After crossing earlier that day, Irial and Tola had gone east towards the coast. Midday found them above the crashing white waves. They would follow along the coastline until they hit Dublin. He didn't bother to hobble Tola; she wouldn't stray too far. He lit no fire and instead unraveled his hood to double as a blanket. He fell asleep shivering.
He woke to Tola's shrill whinny and the light of flames. His mind jumped. Had he forgotten to put out the fire? But there had been no fire. He scrambled backwards against the overhanging hill. There were two men with torches standing with their backs to Irial. One was huge and broad shouldered while the other was about Irial's size. Each had a rope in his hands and each rope was tied to Tola. Irial reached for his bow and cursed. He'd left his belongings farther down the stream hidden by a grassy knoll just in case something like this was to happen. Irial stayed silent, weaponless, as Tola was roped and gentled in the least gentle way possible. He watched as the men got her under control, swapped the bit in her mouth for one of twisted iron, and led her protesting away.
He cursed again, loudly now that the men were gone. He went back for his possessions and waited for first light.