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He Moved Thro' the Fair

Ireland in the Mist of Time

The hulking brute gasped once and tumbled into the inky depths.

The golden man stared from the rippling water to the blood-drenched sword clutched in his fist.

The blade had sliced clean.

His tormenter was dead.

His heart pounded a suffocating rhythm, the smell of fresh blood choking him. His ears sang, momentarily drowning out birdsong and lake water and the incessant buzzing of the bees. His breath jerked in his throat, cold trembling assailed his limbs. His head swam, and he swayed and almost fell.

He squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to remain upright. Think! The Beast was alone…never mind why…seize yer chance. Make yer escape!

Disoriented, he glanced around frantically, fighting for breath. A boat. He had to have come in a boat—the crannóg was in the middle of the lake. He’d heard the vessel bump against the dwelling when the Beast had arrived.

Sacred Nature, could he finally escape?

A sob burst from his lungs as desperate exhilaration thrummed through his veins. Could he do it? Was he strong enough? He’d defeated the beast only because he’d taken him by surprise, distracted him, seizing his sword and slashing his throat.

The sword with his golden hilt.

But for the last three years—by all the gods of Nature, has it really been that long? A grim glance at the row of notches he’d scratched on the wall confirmed it—he’d lived on the brink of starvation, denied nourishment if he dared to defy his captors, driven by the lash.

Could his body sustain the effort of rowing to shore? Of running for the very life of him—where? He’d no idea where he was. Could he forage for food until he reached home?

He clenched his teeth until his jaw threatened to snap.  Get away. Seize the chance. Even if I wander forever lost, even if I starve to death and me bones turn white beneath the summer sun, ‘tis better than bein’ a slave.

He gazed down at the sword still clutched in his hand. Its solid gold hilt—the hilt he’d created—glittered up at him. Determination swelled his heart, and his trembling ceased. With a grimace of distaste, he wiped the sword on his tattered breeches, swallowing the bile lodged in his throat.

For the first time in three years, he stepped into the light.

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