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|I simply began typing, with a vague idea of a plot idea that I wanted to get out of my head (I've been doin' lots of that lately) and so, I'm tossing this out there, to see how it goes. Obviously, it's unfinished.||
In the midst of the Highlands lay a lonely grave, lain in that place for its solitude and beauty. Few knew of its existence and the only relative who knew its whereabouts was dead, having asked Death to take her to her loved ones in the afterlife.
Now, it was the midnight hour when the veil thinned between worlds and those who knew better remained by their warm hearths and the comfort of their beds. Strange beings were about and by the side of the lonely Highlands grave was a figure shrouded in darkness; not even the weak light of the flickering candle could penetrate the shadows surrounding the figure’s face.
The figure moved, a shuffling shadow as the cloak was wrapped tightly about its body; it was cold and this was the hour when winter would move into spring. Fire appeared on cold fingertips as candles were lit and placed in a circle about the grave. More shuffling occurred as the figure moved back to its original place and chanting began in a low monotone thrum.
This chant tampered with the forces of nature. As the Cailleach Bheur was about to strike her hammer and retire into the shape of a boulder, the hag felt the spell beginning. It reached forth into the midnight hour, piercing the veil and travelling into the Underworld, into Death’s domain. Snatches of the spell came to her on the wind and a howl of utter fury tore through the Highlands and down into the Lowlands, scouring the land as the black North Wind sought the one who would desecrate a grave. Vengeance would be had by the Hag of Winter against the one who dared violate the laws of nature.
The brutal wind found its target and tore through the cloak, penetrating its warmth and soul-stealing cold annihilated the candles, showering wax about the graveside. The figure ignored the hot wax and the wind; its gestures continued, as did the chanting which rose steadily to greet the stars and the north wind whipped the flapping tatters of the cloak into a dark frenzy as its screaming became high-pitched and blood dribbled from the figure’s ears.
The fury of the Cailleach Bheur came to the attention of Brighid; it was rare for the Hag of Winter to be so furious and such fury had not been seen for millennia, not since Brighid had married the Hag’s son and spring had been born. It was with care that she followed the trail of the north wind, its ebony trail clear to see even in this midnight hour. It was then, as she stepped foot on mortal soil near a rocky ford, that she heard the chanting carried upon the wind and understood the Hag’s fury; such violation of nature needed to be stopped or spring would be indefinitely delayed.
With such powerful magicks stirring the witching hour in this isolated burial ground, the spell began to take effect. Gifts previously buried were reawakened. The chanting rose, higher and higher, reaching fever-pitch heights of ecstasy as the spell wove its net around the body buried in the grave, its thorns piercing the body which briefly jerked within the confines of the coffin and began to glow brightly silver and sapphire.
The wind screamed its fury and indignation at the continuing spell and as the veil further thinned, the body within the coffin jerked and shuddered as the spell’s thorns took a firm grasp and began to take root. The chanting rose, higher and higher into the night and the figure’s eyes glowed with an amber fire as they Saw into the world that came closer and closer. Fading moonlight flashed upon a blade that sliced expertly along an exposed arm; bright red blood spurted and splashed over the grave and the chanting became ecstatic screaming.
Wizened hands trembled from anger the Cailleach Bheur was beginning to restrain but the fury of the north wind tore through her body, as the palpable raven fury of air became concentrated on this single clearing in the Highlands. Ancient eyes closed and she surrendered to the fury, to the power of the wind and the hammer remained raised in the furious sky.
Clouds desperately flung themselves like a worn dress over the purifying light of the moon, hiding it from mortal eyes. Brighid felt the moon’s pull, the land’s aching desire to turn away from the hibernation of winter into the rebirth of spring. Brilliant emerald eyes widened as she felt the tremulous awakening of an old spirit, a creature that had not walked the earth for centuries, not since the time-before-times and she hastened her passage along the trail.
The reawakening gifts, the ancient magicks spoken in words not heard in the world since the time-before-times began to form a key, a key that began to turn slowly in the lock of the creature’s mind. It was little more than spirit now, having been sleeping for so long within the heart of the Otherworld – it was the last of its kind – but its curiosity was piqued by the happenings in the mortal realms, the Mirror-Realms that laboriously crept closer to meeting the Underworld for those few brief moments.
More blood spilled. Clods of earth and grass thudded against the flesh of the shrouded figure; darkness was absolute within the clearing. A whirling dervish of wind, earth, wax and grass surrounded the figure, the key turned, the lock fell in twain and the silver light contained within the coffin became flames. Those flames fully awakened the creature, enticed it to venture forth from its sleeping place in the heart of the Otherworld, drawn by that eerie silver-sapphire fire.
The hammer trembled, Brighid halted, the wind howled, the chanting reached heights previously unknown to the figure whose shroud was flapping uselessly in the wind. Eyeless sockets opened, darklight poured into the grave from the Underworld that collided into the Mirror-Realms with a shuddering crash, the collision following the passage of the creature whose passing caused the inhabitants of the Mirror-Realms and the Middle Kingdom to remain tightly snug in their homes.
The earth rumbled, trembled as blinding quicksilver exploded from the grave and a woman’s shriek erupted from the figure whose body melted within the radiance, ashes fluttering to the ground from the rags of her cloak. The wind screamed once then died.
And then, there was silence.
Brilliant with captured sunlight, the emerald-dark eyes studied the man before her. They were seated around a demure campfire and his sword, she was content to note, remained on top of his bedroll and no longer pointed at her throat. Her hands were clasped about an knee, her head tilted and in this thoughtful pose, with her russet curls gathered at the nape of her neck with a velvet green ribbon, she appeared to be nothing more than a young woman enjoying a leisurely stroll.
Breandan, however, knew better.
Perhaps it had been the calm she had exhibited when confronted with a sword at her throat after he’d walked out of the shadows that gathered closely together at the edge of his camp. Perhaps it had been the way she’d announced she was there to have a talk with him, in the middle of the Highlands miles from anywhere and no one knew where he was. No one, at least, until this young woman had arrived and announced her desire to ‘chat’.
He rubbed the back of his neck as he leaned forward to idly poke the flames. That self-possessed gaze followed his movements. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled free a bandana and began to fold it in triangular halves on his knee as his cool blue gaze settled upon his visitor. He, too, was master of the self-possessed glance and thoughtful study; it was partially why he was still alive.
Silence settled comfortably between them, curling itself around her shoulders like a warm mantle and it perched itself upon his knee. It was a silence occasionally startled by the snapping pop-hiss of the campfire and at those times, it would clamber onto his shoulders and peer from over his shoulder at the fire. Blue on emerald, the intensity only broken as he wrapped his bandana around his head and tied it as protection against the chill in the spring night.
"Breandan Caier, I need help."
That caught his attention. What help would this Seelie affiliated young woman need from him, a Fiaina rogue? There was definitely more to this woman than obviously met the eye and he rubbed his bloodied palms together at the thought. It was rare that someone needed him, outside of the errands he ran for the Fiaina Court, and his spider-senses were on full alert. "I’m listening."
Generously expressive lips pursed momentarily, taking a breath and seeming to plunge into her following words without regard for what she was actually saying but, before the onslaught of words began, she seemed to catch herself and he arched a brow at the performance. "There’s a girl I’d like you to keep an eye on for me." Even words in a calm tone; the performance had been left behind. "Take care of her."
He suppressed a laugh and shook his head. The silence that had settled so comfortably had vanished swiftly into the night. "I’m not exactly the right person for that job." His lips quirked into a faint lopsided smile, amusement glimmering behind the usually taciturn expression. "Perhaps ‘t’would be best if you found someone else for this role." He tossed his stick into the fire, watching the burnt amber flames flare briefly.
Gentle laughter fell like spring rain into the space between them. "Protection will be needed as well as someone to care for her Breandan Caier and you can provide that as well."
His gaze remained steady upon her and the amusement fell away as quickly as it had appeared. "You speak my name very freely, miss, but I’m afraid I don’t know your own." He’d recognised the pattern she’d been subtly weaving in the conversation, the tapestry of Three and his name; although it was his speaking name, it could still bind. "It might be nice if I knew with whom I was speaking." His time in the Seelie Court had been useful, despite less than pleasant memories of that time. "And please, start at the beginning of your tale so I might be able to determine my depth of involvement."
"I commend you, Breandan." Only one other had seen through her favourite ploy and then, it had been too late for the young woman. "And please, forgive my lack of manners." A smile, warm and genuine, was freely given to him as she extended a slender hand. "Brighid."
He recognised the name and he suppressed a sigh. Why on earth had she chosen him, of all people, a bastard born to a Seelie noble who’d been raped by his Unseelie Ly Erg father? He’d endured the stigma of his father’s misdeeds and mother’s shame for the majority of his childhood; he’d seen his father hang in the courtyard of the Seelie hold where he’d been raised. "Pleased to make your acquaintance Brighid and, again, I’ll make my request of you. Why do you wish me to care for this girl, to protect her?"
Emerald eyes darkened to pitch darkness and firelight caressed her smooth creamy skin. "I never said to protect her." No hint of a smile curved those sweetly generous lips. "Or," her tone twisted thoughtfully, "perhaps you will need to protect her." Her gaze grew distant, as though studying something beyond him, beyond this circle of firelight. He couldn’t suppress a faint shiver at that distant look, as though she was no longer in her body but the moment was dispelled by her sudden smile. "Breandan, the night is young. Why don’t we talk….?"
|facing a remembered past||once to crash, twice to burn: part II|
|Cat Amongst the Unseelie||once to crash, twice to burn Part III|
|The Binding||once to crash, twice to burn: Part I|