The Sagas of the Laigin:  The Battle Begins—Chapter the Second

When Cursed…

There is naught to do but muster on

And pass the time with courage.

For in a curse is always hope

But twice cursed is  disparaged.

“….one thread connects all here in fair Laigin.”    Laveden, a Spinner of the Night.

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“There is naught to do, Mother,” Tara said as she continued to dig up the orange lilies.   “But pull them all and cast them to Earth.  His black and orange can well keep him company as he sits as a High King on his throne,” she snickered, “and shits what is left of the Fae in him, out.”

“It is a fine color, daughter,” Lady Wife replied as she picked up the bulb with the plant still attached.  “It captures and holds the light along with the flutter-by as well.

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“You take his side, you think I am wrong?” Tara stopped her digging and regarded her mother.

“I take no side,” she replied, “only that of nature.  Labraid has brought a new shade into the garden.  It is most delightful.    It compliments your skin tones.”

The red-headed beauty put down her shovel. “So did the pink, Lady Wife, so did the pink.”

“Yes,” her mother smiled as she went back to digging up bulbs and tossing them into the wagon.

“Labraid’s thousand years draws to a close,” Tara smiled.  “Soon, he shall be cast away from us.  And from his Eire that he loves more than his home here.”

In her mother’s silence there was much said.

“You approve of him,” Tara laughed.  “Your own child you think spoiled and  indulged and yet, he who mocks all that I stand for, you approve of him.”

“Child,” Lady Wife stood and caught her eyes.  “You have embraced your curse of being virgin  and turned a negative into a  very depressing positive.  I can understand why you have no followers all though the women enjoy the unicorn when he comes to visit you.

And you do know he comes not because you are virgin,  but to eat the orange and black lilies that he can find no where else.”

Tara blinked back tears.  “But he said my purity called him to my side.”

“He is a male, Tara,” Lady Wife threw up her hands and cried to the heavens, “he tells you what you want to hear so that he might get what he wants.”

Sitting down heavily in the dirt, Tara cried, her tears watering the ground, causing another lily to grow and bud.  “So, I am made a fool by Labraid, still.”

“No, not by Labraid,” her mother soothed her curls, “but by your own experiences, stubbornness, selfishness, trust, and because you are Cian’s and Lady Wife’s daughter.  You are the best and worst of both.”

Wiping the tears with her now muddy hand, she pulled her knees up to her chest and put her arms around them.

Lady Wife watched her daughter and thought about what should and should not be said.  Perhaps it was time to counsel her.  “Do not be like me, child, learn to control your tongue and your thoughts.  Be more like your father.”

Tara started to laugh.  “He takes more delight in shitting than he does in his own family.“

“It is the quiet that he delights in, Tara…and perhaps the shitting as well,” she added with a small grin.

“How can I be like you?” her voice was serious.  “I do not even know your name?  Lady Wife  and Mother  are all I know.”

Sorrow flowed from the woman who sat down next to her.

“You do have a name?” Tara asked quietly.

“One that is never again to be spoken, by order of The King of the Fae,” she smiled.

“What?” Tara sputtered.  “Surely you jest?”

“Child,” she put her hand on her daughter’s cheek.  “Be at peace.  He did that for me, because of what I had done.”

“What,” Tara asked, her voice soft, “what had you done?”

“I was,” she smiled, “caring your spirit in my body.  We had been blessed with the promise of a child.

Like you, a human female came knocking on the stump door.  With a babe, of course, that looked like your father.

I had given him my consent  to pilfer the curls of a human female, but…” she blinked back the tears, “never did I think he would while I carried his child within me.

I gave the babe the blessings of our kin and a kiss and gold and a fae godmother to help see to its needs, and sent the mother on her way.

With great anger, I went looking for your father with fire in my heart and a curse on my lips.  I found him in the Throne Room and I chased him with all the hatred I could muster across our land.

Drexious was a dragon and his friend.  Cian thought to make good his escape on the back of his friend.  In my haste, my curse missed Cian and hit Drexious, instead.”  Tears rolled down her cheeks.  “What was left of Drexious was a fireball that fell from the sky and crashed through the woods, splintering trees and rock and my heart, perhaps.

Your father managed to pull himself free of the carnage before I and others, arrived.  But we did arrive in time to see Cian weeping, his heart breaking as Drexious begged him for his ending.  Drawing his sword, your father gave his friend release from the horribleness that I had cursed him with.

All of Fae was called to court.  ‘From this time forward,’ he said, ‘my mate’s name is forgotten to the wind and the histories.  From this time forward, she is to be called Lady Wife.’”

“Why would he do that?” Tara asked, confusion on her face and in her voice.

“Because of his love for me.  He did not want my name associated with such a horrible act.  We still mourn the passing of Drexious, but my name is not attached to the evil  deed that I cast.  I am not known as the Friend Killer Witch.

The Ribbon Tree came to be at that time.  We had planted the tree  when we knew of your coming.  When Drexious plummeted to earth, the wind disturbance caused by his falling shattered the tree and then when he was impaled upon it, it shattered his spine.  Because of my curse, he could not heal.

Because of Drexious’  blood, part of the tree grew back.  Because of his death, it will never grow bigger than what it is.

Your father honors your life’s beginning  and the death of his friend with that tree.”

“So Father will forgive me, no matter what I do?” she asked.

“Tara, listen to your words,” Lady Wife said, her eyes once more focused on those of her daughter.  “Do not push him.  He is a kind soul.   But he is also the High King.  We both learned our lesson that day.

He is about justice.

I now seek the company of nature where I am not tempted to open my mouth and right what I think is a wrong that does not involve me.

Learn from this,” she stressed.

“Now, help me finish loading the wagon.  I shall rumble across the skies with it and bring the lightning and rain.  This shall loosen the soil on Earth and I shall plant these lilies, there.”

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Labraid was a good and fair High King with a thousand years only left to him to be  on his beloved isle.

Cian’s words had never spoken truer.  He wanted not to waste a single moment of beholding and learning about  his beloved Eire.  The green of the grass sparkled like emeralds. The water was as blue as sapphires.  The breeze was sweet to smell and human shit did not stink nearly as badly as it did in Fae.

Looking up from his forging, he grinned at Grid, the dragon who kept his fire,  stoked.

“’Tis a good day to make chain mail,” Grid grinned as he watched the High King spin out the thread of metal that would make the rings.

“’Tis  a good day, Grid,” Labraid smiled as the thread cooled and he began wrapping it around the metal jig that would hold the coil.

The dragon watched as the High King continued to work.

“Speak friend,” Labraid said, “what weighs on you?”

“Your thousand years is almost to a close,” he fluttered over and they were face to face.

“I have learned all that I can to help myself along,” Labraid smiled at him.  “I can farm, sew, spin, metal work,  hunt, make weapons and fish hooks.  Mend sails and boat wright be,”    he winked.  “Flash copper and bend gold to my will.  I can brew and drink and make the casks so that I can do both.   I have learned all that I can and will acquire all other skills that I can between now and then.

I leave no babe, all my children are grown adults.  No wife to miss me as I depart for the great unknown of the seas.

I think I have been a good father, a good friend, a good king.  I think,” he looked with love on the small dragon, “I think I am ready.”

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“I wanted something new to wear to see him off,” Tara said as she eyed the thread.  “Something  different and does not speak of human hands.  Something that says Fae.  Something not orange and black.”

‘These past years,” Old Sue, the weaver shook her head, “all we have had  from your  soil is black and orange to spin.  I can re-work one of your gowns…I will not touch that which is grown by humans.  So decide, Tara, black and orange or a re-work.”

Biting her tongue, she felt the tears roll down her cheeks as the universe conspired to plot against, her.

“The orange and black…” Tara began.  “You know the reason that is so is because he cursed the ground to his standard colors.”

“Child,” the oldest weaver of the Fae pursued her lips.  “He only cursed your garden.  I could harvest from mine to make for you but it would never fit right and you would find it raw and uncomfortable.

The orange and black would be lovely on you.  I always did think he was waiting for you to regain your reason and  come wearing his colors and  sit on the High King’s throne beside him.  He named his castle for you.”

Making a face Tara held fast to her outward calm focus.

“And he did this, because you think he loves me?”  she snickered.  “I think he did it to mock me.   To name for me the place where he shits and fornicates.”

Sue rolled her eyes and went back to her spinning.  “Before too long you will need to make the decision. By nightfall, I will need to know.  If you decided on the orange and black, I will need to be there to harvest the plants as the blue moons rise.  The dust will add a nice sheen to it.”

“Do as you will,” Tara said, moderating her voice.  “If the black and  orange require a sheen, pick them as the moons rise.  And make it modest.  Not one hint of my perfect pink  nipples is he to see. Not one glance of the swell of my breast.  Cover me from head to foot.”

“That I can do,” Old Sue said as she went back to her spinning.

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The High King of Eire admired the stars and the brilliant orange moon.

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The evening was lovely.  The moon and dragon  smiled down on them as Labraid stood on the dock and watched the boat as it bobbed upon the water.

“I believe everything is tidy on board, my King,” Seth said with a bow of his head.    “Your human companions have arrived and their gear stowed, as well.”

“Thank you, friend,”  Labraid clasped his arm.   “In the morning when the tide runs, we shall be gone.”

Seth stepped in closer. “Take me with,” his voice and eyes pleaded.  “Grid and I, take us.”

“You know I can not,” he smiled and hugged his friend.  “I am to be exiled with a human crew.  Humans are to be my companions the rest of my days.  But I know how to look with my once upon a time Fae eyes.   I will see you as a shadow in the brightest of sunlight. And when I get to my new home, after my travels, look me up,” he smiled, “and we shall talk.”

“I hate this,” Seth’s tears poured down his cheeks.  “I hate every bloody, fucking thing about it.”

“It can not be undone by me,” Labraid wiped his own eyes.  “And I will not endanger you. The curse stands.

Cian will be here in the morning to wish us well.  That has to count for  something,” he managed a smile.  “Thank you for being a friend and a brother.  Return home,” he stroked his cheek.   “I know how much you have missed it.”

“How will you pass this evening?”  Seth asked.

“I am learning The Runes,” he smiled.  “I have one more aetta to master.   I can not teach it to others if I do not thoroughly understand it, myself.   That should take me to the tide’s turning.”

“Study well, then, this evening,” Seth hugged him and held him close.

“Until the tide,”  Labraid felt the tears run down his cheeks as they walked back to the castle.

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The dawn was pushing at the shore line along with the tide.  The smell of the earth, the press of the dew, the salt tang to the air and the very rocks that he stepped upon all wept and sorrowed at his departure.

The harps plaid and the pipes sang sweet and low as the women echoed the refrain in a hushed whisper and threw the orange and black lilies   for their king to walk upon as he passed.

“Thank you,” was all Labraid could say in a tear choked voice  as he stood at the bottom of the gangplank. “All my countrymen, be blessed.”

The first ray of light caressed the water followed by another as the women began to weep and the men, as well.

“Bless you,  our High King,” they all shouted.  “Bless you…”

“Yes, Labraid,” her voice cut through the sorrowing.  There stood Tara, dressed in a cape of black, her orange dress billowing out around her.  “Bless you,” she smiled.

With her appearance, there was no hope in his eyes.  She had so believed in her heart that when she appeared that joy would spread across his features in the  belief  that she was going to lift the curse. That he would get to stay on his beloved Isle.

But there was no joy on his face.  Only acceptance.  So he had guessed her plan and was prepared to disappoint her as his final act of defiance.

“Bless you to  keep your children close at hand.  I see several here, that bear your markings and the resemblance is quite uncanny on one or two.

Your family,” she smiled, “left alone and without you to guide them, they are free to run wild,” her smile deepened,   “and shall changeling be.  Those with the orange eyes, so like your own, shall turn to wolf and devour sheep and kith and kin.

That takes care of those with  the orange eyes.  What about those with the black curls that all women long to caress about their fingers?   Well that does pose a problem.   Well, perhaps I shall take a lesson from the Boogey Man.  Long fangs to drink the life essence from those humans  that they encounter.

Bless you on your journey,” she smiled, “for you can never return here and the humans will remember their good High King Labraid until they must hunt these terrors and send them back into the dirt.”

Labraid stood, his heart breaking.  “My children Tara,” he sobbed as he felt his heart rip from him.  “This was between you and I, not the innocence of my blood.”

“From this day on your blood is not innocent,” she said.  “And soon, instead of blessing your name, these good folk of Eire, they shall  curse it.  But those curses shall not be by me,” she smiled.  “This is my farewell to you and so I take my adieu.”

Cian stepped forward.  “I shall take your word at that daughter, that you are through here for this day,” the King of the Fae said.  His eyes rested on the grieving male.  “I can not undo this Labraid,” he continued to walk down to his beloved friend, where misery spilled from him  out upon the ground.  “But, your children of the orange eyes, they shall shift only on the night of the full moon.

The wisdom for dealing with them shall live on.  All shall be prepared.

For those that walk with fang, only at night.  Our people shall pass on the instructions on how to deal with them, as well.  In generations to come, all will  know to bar the door and not invite  strangers in once night has fallen.

And this curse  shall  not take hold in Eire, not without you here to guide their path.  When your first kin leaves our fair Isle, then, and only then,  shall the curse take hold.”

“Thank you Cian,” he sobbed, “thank you.”

“Seth,  Grid, sound the word and cast the spell to call our kindred home.  Without their High King, there is none here to rule those of the Fae.”

“Daughter, walk with me,” he said and held out his hand.

Tara heard the hurt in her father’s voice and his love for Labraid as well.  Perhaps she had stepped to far but she would not turn back.  She would use her father’s love to make him see that this was right.

“I was to have his child, Father.  I have none to call my own. His is gathered on the shore today to see him off.  Where is my child?  Your grandchild?”

Cian kep this voice even.  “You would pit a human against something unnatural to this world who is part Fae?  Why Tara, did you do this thing?”

“Mother said you were all about justice and that I should be more like you.  I  thought that was justice.”  Her tears fell.  “I have no child, he killed my dreams.  Murdered those that never took hold in my womb.   He should have to murder his own, as well.”

Cian wept at the words of his daughter.   “You shall not return to Earth.  Our Realm is now your home.  And the colors that you wore to bestow him misery, these you shall wear, the rest of your days.”

Shock rippled through her.  What?  To stay in The Realm and not roam the Earth.  Not to watch as Labraid suffered.  “But, but…no…you forgave Mother for killing your friend, you can forgive me for this.”

“Tara,  Lady Wife was angry at me…at me…when she put forth her curse.  Her heart broke when she realized what it was she had done.

This, that you have accomplished here today, this  was done in spite and there is no remorse  or sorrow in you.

But much good shall come of this.  Labraid shall take all of our knowledge and teach the humans without any interference from you.  When the times come for his children to leave Eire, he shall be in Scotland, and he shall be prepared to deal with them.  You have cursed him to end his own blood, Tara.  Shame upon you.

Your days here are done, daughter.  Now, let us be gone.”

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Lady Wife said nothing when her husband and daughter walked into their castle.  “It is done,” he gave her a smile,  “Labraid is on his way.  His sailing shall be smooth and he shall teach the humans, much.

I leave Tara in your capable hands, Lady Wife,” he said with a slight nod of his head.

“Come child,” she took Tara’s hand.  “Let us walk.

I am glad your Father headed my counsel and let you finish talking before he stepped across.  You have done Labraid and all mankind a grave mis-justice.  It would have been graver if your Father had not been there to push back the consequences of your words.”

“Father has told me I can not return to Earth.”

“You have done enough damage,” her mother sighed.  “And already, you are called The Spiteful Old Crone that cursed Labraid.  Your name and dress shall be recorded as evil and many will believe it to be true.”

“What?” she cried,  “they believe me evil?”  Weeping, she wiped her sleeve against her eyes.  “Father can right this.  They are not to think that I am evil.

I sorrow for what I did and gladly I accept my punishment.  Father cursed me to my manner of dress.  I am to wear this shapeless  orange and black all my days.”  Tears welled up and fell upon her face.  The sky did not open and cry with her.

“I only wanted justice,” she sobbed.

“And justice you have received,” her mother said as they arrived at The Ribbon Tree.

“Lady Wife,” the crow bowed his head to her.  “Our King was here, this morning, early.  Never have I seen so many blood drenched ribbons on my tree.  He has cast himself to the winds and the dirt and the tree has absorbed his blood, as well.  I might even had tasted it,” he chuckled.

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“I understand that  vampires and were wolves shall one day roam amongst the fragile humans.  These un-natural creatures  shall have a bit of fae blood to give them gifts and speed.

Poor humans…”  he sighed.  “I planted flowers at the base of my tree for their plight.

Spiteful Old Crone,” his eyes danced with merriment as he bowed his head to Tara.

“No,” she sobbed.  “No, Mother, no, please.”

“It is done, daughter.  The name Tara shall always be the name of the High King of Eire’s home.  A place of joy, laughter, knowledge, learning…and justice.  This name shall live forevermore and all shall bless it.

For now and evermore, on Earth and in our Realm, you are The Spiteful Old Crone that cursed Labraid.

And you shall wear the colors of his house and honor him in this way while you live among our people.

You are no longer Witch.  As you walked the Earth with your father, it drained from you and out into their world.  There shall be women who are worthy to be called Witch and they shall use those gifts, wisely.  You shall just be Spiteful Old Crone.”

Tara’s tears fell as the crow watched and knew more ribbons would be added to his tree to guard.

“In the ages to come, man shall fear that which they do not understand. They shall hunt all those with The Fae,” Lady Wife continued on.  “Not just Labraid’s children.  But your human brothers and sisters with gifts, as well.

Those Wise Old Crones of the village, they shall be swept up in the hunt and their knowledge of plants and living shall be lost.   All those with a bit of The Fae, they shall all be hunted and put to death.”

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Labraid, who knew nothing of the world, except for what he had experience in Eire, saw the misery that the rest, endured.  He taught the skills he knew and brought grace to places that had none.

His new life now belonged to the ship.   No matter what else was said or done, his ship was always at the ready to set sail.

When teaching,  he and his crew would settle among the people for days, weeks, years.  He no longer counted time that way by the passing of the sun.

With a heavy heart, he now counted by the fullness of the moon, and with each rising, wondering if this would be the time that he would be called to Scotland and he would have to begin the curse of destroying his own family.

As each full moon passed, he raised his voice to the winds and gave thanks, that he had been spared for yet another cycle.

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Labraid smiled as he watched the dolphins play upon the water.  It had been a good day.  The sun was sinking behind him and a new moon was rising above the ocean.

Carrying his tankard, his beer was heavy with the hops that had taken root and was now growing here.

Hearing his name, he turned his head and called to Rory, his first mate.

“I brought another pint, for you,” Rory smiled as he approached and then stopped.  “What the fuck..?” he said as his eyes were staring at the ocean.

“What?” Labraid said, “The moon is rising is all and cast its  glow upon the water,” as he took the mug and then turned back to the ocean.

“What the fuck?” he echoed.  “Where did that storm blow in from?”  As lightning struck the water and angry clouds billowed above the horizon.

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“Labraid,” a voice  boomed along with the lightning, “the time has come.  Scotland is now to be your home.”