The blast hammered at my shield like a molten hammer. This was starting to become way too familiar. It was the third time in a month that something had ambushed me. This time it was a demon. Last time it was an elemental, and the time before that it was a trio of dark hounds. The demon that I watched through the yellow tint of my shield, resembled nothing else, so much as a goat headed monkey. A goat headed monkey the size of a professional linebacker. Being the clever and perceptive individual that I am, several details stood out in extremely sharp detail, almost instantly. The first thing was the god-awful stench; think wet-dog and rotten meat, flavored ever so slightly with sulfur and stagnant swamp water. Next were the psychic waves of rage and hate that rolled from the creature. It was broadcasting its hate for all things good and wholesome; and it simply wanted to consume or burn anything that stood in the light. It was an enemy to the natural order, and in particular, it had a real jones on for killing yours truly. Last, but definitely not least of the details that were screaming for the lion’s share of my attention was the truly alarming quantity of claws and teeth, gleaming like wet obsidian, that filled the beasts maw and terminated the end of each extremity. Overall, the only word that came to mind looking back on it was “prodigious”. However, that doesn’t quite seem an adequate word. Looking back, I’m not sure there is an adequate word in the English language for what I was witnessing. Perhaps if you used a series of anecdotal descriptions, you might be able to form an idea. But without referencing an Aliens movie, I’m not sure the horror can be accurately described.
With just a bit of time I could probably trace this monster back to its entry rift and permanently close the hole. Demons tended to leave a foul psychic stench while they were on our plane, but it tended to dissipate quickly once you killed or banished them. Unfortunately, as the next three molten blasts pounded in, it became apparent that it wasn’t going to give me that chance. “Fine let’s play!” I growled. With a gentle effort, I switched my perception from the mortal plane to that of the spirit plane. Lines and patterns of force in every color of the spectrum replaced the objects normally visible. A psychedelic display of color that should have rendered me senseless instead resolved themselves in my mind into patterns; patterns of power that my mind translated into objects. My mind understood these objects to the point that I was aware of everything in my immediate area, both animate and inanimate, regardless of size. I knew where everything was, small animals, rocks, bugs, and the huge black mass of “wrongness” that was the demon. Lines of black energy streamed from all directions into the monster’s hand like darkly tinted heat haze, as it prepared another attack.
Look, I use different forms of magic. I can do complex spells that rely on ritual circles and constructed magic, which are perfect for summoning, location spells, and other complex magics. On the other hand, I can also do fast little low power cantrips to perform minor chores, and they don’t require foci or words to accomplish. However, for this encounter I needed something fast, simple and powerful. So, on my waist, wrist, and chest I wear different colored crystals. Each crystal focuses my energy for different purposes. The purpose is controlled by the size, cut, and type of gemstone. The larger the gem the more power you can focus through it. And of course, the cut of the stone determines its focus and effectiveness. The red crystal on my right wrist is for offense, and is used to focus and control my attack spells so that I can produce only the effects I need without power leaking out and damaging things unintentionally. On my belt, a large yellow crystal helped me to maintain my defenses against physical attacks and a smaller clear one protected my mind from intrusion. Focusing on the blue crystal set in a leather holder centered on my chest would allow me to heal minor wounds over time or help to keep more severe wounds from incapacitating me for short periods. Depending on the damage and the amount of intervention required that gem could be extremely taxing and really didn’t allow for any real fighting while it was being used. The artisans that made these gems were fifteen centuries dead and buried; luckily my master had several sets, like these, left from Adepts long dead.
Timing was going to be crucial in defeating the demon. I had to wait until my shield had completely absorbed and dissipated the attack and return fire before the beast had the time to attack again. According to the old books, senior Adepts could maintain power to three and four gems at a time. Some of the most senior Adepts, those that made up the Star Council, like Amairgen, who was and is still my Master could split their energy and attention to as many as twelve active spells and gems. But for me, one at a time is as much as I can achieve with any confidence of success. And all but my master were at least five hundred years dead.
Again the demon’s attack bashed at my defense and the yellow of the shield showed small cracks as the strain of the continued pounding was finally showing an affect. If I allowed the attacks to continue, the cracks would get worse and worse until the shield failed altogether. The effects of one of those strikes on my person wasn’t something I was in a hurry to investigate. So, as soon as the strain was gone, I dropped the shield and slammed all the energy I could pull from my reserves through the spell that I had been holding in my mind and with a shouted command of “Reoigh Buille!” pushed the spell through the crystal on my wrist. Liquid cold power rushed from my hand leaving a coating of frost on my nails and a weakness in my body. I threw everything I had in as tight and powerful a strike as I could manage. The result was a shaft of absolute cold as wide as three fingers and a yard long. The demon saw it coming and tried to raise a defense but all of its attention had been on building a new attack and it couldn’t switch mental and magical gears fast enough. As the shaft of cold energy slammed into the demon just above and to the right of where I assume its heart would be, it screamed. I can’t think of any other word. The demon threw back its goat horned head with its mouth lined in razor-sharp teeth in the movement of a scream, but instead of the ear splitting high pitched sound I was expecting, the sound, though loud, dropped octave after octave, until I could feel it in my chest but could no longer hear it. When I was a kid, I remember hearing a bull elephant’s subsonic calls. I could feel it in the ground around me and in my chest, even if I couldn’t hear it. This was the same, but the elephant would have to be the size of Godzilla to create the effects this one had. Rocks and sticks were vibrating and rattling around on the ground, like we were in the epicenter of a small earthquake, and it kept going on, right up to the end.
As the black ice spread across the demon’s body, the hate and bile that it had been broadcasting gradually changed to fear. Finally, as its head was completely encased, the air and ground fell blessedly silent. Apparently, even the bugs were too scared to make noise during our contest, and for the bugs in Oklahoma to be quiet for any length of time, something really nasty has to be happening. I knew that my spell wouldn’t hold the beast for long, so I ran up the hill to the rock that the demon had been hiding behind when it had ambushed me. Once there, I began laying out a circle in the dirt using a buffalo horn that I had found farther down the hill. As I finished my circle, I invested a bit of my life force, into the circle and closed it around the demon. I could feel his rage and fear spike as the circle rose around it with an almost palpable snap.
I closed my eyes to better focus my remaining energy. As I did, I took a moment to take stock of my energy levels and to judge my energy levels compared to my unwelcome friend. What I found was not encouraging, at all. In fact, it was debatable whether I was even going to be able to work a binding on the beast, let alone first a binding and then a banishment spell. On the other hand, it wasn’t as if I had much choice, I couldn’t hold the beast in the circle, forever. Spell circles were great but if the life force that powered them became too weak, they could be broken. Therefore, if this thing used every drop of magical power it had to break the circle it wouldn’t make much difference in the end, if it used a spell or just used its natural weapons on me. The outcome would be the same either way. I’d be dead and it’d be free to wreak havoc on the good people of Pawhuska. That’s when I noticed something that I wasn’t aware of before. There was a Power here. A Power with a capital “p”, as in a spirit of magic. I knew that this was the Osage nation’s seat and that they had burial lands here, as well as their festivals and powwows. However, I had no idea that their shamans had done so much work as to raise this kind of spirit here. And the spirit had noticed my conflict. In fact, it had not only taken notice of my conflict, it had apparently decided to take sides. Raw life, a braid of all four primordial powers: earth, air, fire, and water, was rising towards me; and I couldn’t have stopped it if I had wanted to. All of my energy was going into holding the circle and preparing the binding and banishment spell. Whether the spirit’s intention was to help the demon, or me I couldn’t say. Rationally, I knew that the spirit and the demon were likely NOT friendly to each other. The Osage spirit was of the land, and would be a Guardian of Balance. The demon was a warrior of Chaos and would try to destroy or disperse the spirit if it had the chance. I knew all of this is my rational mind. However, the fight weakened me, which was a nerve-wracking position to be in when a spirit being of rather impressive supernatural muscle is bearing down on you with unknown intentions. And so, I did what anyone else in my situation might have done. I cursed. But instead of any of a number of things that I felt it could have done to remove one tired and overworked Adept from the topology of the hillside, (and in my fatigued state, my imagination was really at the top of its game) the rushing energy instead, slowed and tapered in a very tentative manner.
This obviously non-threatening gesture succeeded in lowering my fear levels to the point that I decided that whatever happened, it couldn’t be worse than what was in store so I relaxed my defenses. Peace and rock solid determination flowed into me as I dropped my remaining barriers. The spirit was giving me its aid. My power and stamina was being restored as more of the power from the land spirit flowed into me. It felt like sunlight bathed my face, cold mountain water washed the weakness and fatigue from my body, and cool wind whispered ancient songs of courage and power in my ears. Oh, but that wasn’t all of it; I could feel the thoughts and emotions of the Guardian, too. It wasn’t precisely thrilled with my presence but it was a minor thing compared to the emotions that the demon evoked. The hatred that boiled from the demon was like a festering puss, and the spirit returned the feeling, in spades. But where the demon’s was a hatred of the natural order, foul and black like a rotten ink sack from a long dead octopus, the hatred from the spirit was bright and hot like a lightning strike, implacable as an avalanche, and as inexorable as the tide. It wanted desperately to burn this blight from its domain to restore nature’s balance, and on some level, though its thoughts were alien to me, it knew that I had the same goal in mind, and so it aided me.
Power flowed through me and into the spell’s construct in my mind. In the ten years, since my introduction to the world of the Adept I had never felt so much power. The spirit flowed into me like water into a balloon. Something in me, and at the time I had no idea what it was, … stretched. It felt almost painful, but that sensation faded. Normally, running two spells at one time would leave me weakened and the chance that one of the spells might fail would just about be even money. Not this time, though. The added reinforcement of the land spirit pushed all fatigue aside and locked itself into the spells with adamantine force. All of the pressure, from the demon, had been reduced to that of a whining of an animal that knows its fate is set.
With a sense of wonder I began the binding, “Ceangail Diabhal. Ceangail Diabhal. Ceangail Diabhal!” Each time I said the words of binding I put more and more of my will and power into it. On the third repetition, I felt it slip into the demon and lock in place. Now, it was safe to finish the banishment. The binding, once set, kept the demon from using its power to work against me. Additionally, even if it could somehow break free of the circle, it wouldn’t be allowed to harm anyone without my release. Not likely. So I prepared myself to banish the beast back behind the veil, but before I could start, the ugly thing threw one last curve ball at me. It spoke. I expected a voice from some horror movie. What I got was a rumbling smooth basso that was nearly a tiger’s purr. “You have beaten me, pup. However, I am the least of your worries now. My master is near already, and you shall know his rage soon. Revel in this victory. It will not last!” I’m not sure how it pulled off a sneer with a goat’s face, but it did. “I will feast on you yet!” With that, and before I could start the opening of the banishment, the demon fled on his own back to hell.
As the portal to the demon realms closed, the spirit started to pull away with a peculiar feeling of satisfaction. Its work completed, it went back to its rest, the human already forgotten. As it left me, a wave of weariness washed over me and I suddenly found myself kneeling before the large rock, and trying to keep the blackness that was creeping in at the edges of my vision from claiming me entirely. However, the human body only has so much it can store as reserves and mine were completely empty. I started to slide and had just enough time to wonder why I hadn’t hit the rocky ground when a voice in my head purred, “BE AT EASE, LORD SABAN. OUR MASTER SENDS HIS REGARDS!” With those rumbling words and a last glimpse of the most horribly outsized canine fangs smiling down at me, I lapsed into a dreamless void.
County Wicklow, Ireland
I could not help thinking that perhaps investigating the sacred dolmens in Ireland on the eve of Samhuinn wasn’t the best idea. I had thought that coming to Ireland during the fall would be a great idea, as it was out of the normal season for tourists and the price was almost half the price of a trip earlier in the summer. Moreover, to be fair it was turning out to be a very wonderful trip. Several of the dolmen sites that I had been to were in better shape than I had thought they would be. In fact, many of the locals took it as a sacred duty to protect and preserve the ancient mounds. I had been a fan of Celtic legends since I was a child. My mother’s family was descendants from the first Irish settlers that came to America and their lore and histories were the stuff of my bedtime stories as long as I could remember. It did my heart good to know that the Irish folk were still holding to their traditions and maintaining the old places.
I had never intended to be out here, in the back end of nowhere, on this night, but the call I received from a local man had my curiosity completely running wild. The locals knew him as Dru Vid. Had I known the ancient Celtic language I might have been put on my guard, as ‘Dru Vid’ is the old term for the more modern ‘druid‘. However, I was, at the time, uneducated as to many of the true legends of Ireland so I was completely at the mercy of powers that I had no inkling were even in existence. Let alone aware that they had been guiding my steps and taking a great interest in me and my family.
I met the old man about a half hour drive from the small village where I was staying. The area that he took me to was extremely unusual for Ireland. Heavily wooded land is rare on the emerald isle. Most, if not all, of the old growth trees had been cut down for farm space, long ago. However, a few places had been protected from the axe and saw. This was one such place. Immediately, the ambiance of the location struck me. It was as if the place was too real and the surrounding land was washed out or faded by comparison. All around me were stands of ancient oak trees. These huge monsters had seen the fall of the ancient Irish kings and the raids by Norse raiders. Some of the trees had to have been at least twelve feet thick at their base with canopies that covered acres worth of ground in their shade. The feel of the air as I ventured onto the path as I had been instructed was the same as I had felt, as a young man in the Army, during a vacation trip that I had taken to Rome. Walking the grounds of the Vatican and feeling the age and gravity of the great Cathedrals, you feel that anything more than whispering is an act of disrespect just short of blasphemy. As I entered the path of worn stones, each one placed perfectly into the ground and worn smooth by countless years of foot traffic, I felt that same hushed reverence. This place was Holy. I am not a hugely religious person. I have no idea, for the most part, which religious dogma is most correct about the nature of the universe and our origins, but I am absolutely sure that faith, regardless of your beliefs is powerful all by itself.
As I walked deeper into the ancient oak grove, I began to catch flashes of light at the periphery of my vision. However, each time I turned to see the source, I saw no sign of the cause. I began to put the sightings down to my increasing unease and a subconscious nervousness that I supposed was due to it being Oct. 31. I have always been the type to enjoy the spookier side of Halloween and I’ve never given much thought to how it was celebrated as a pagan holiday. However, here in this primordial forest, the name Halloween was not the name that came to mind. Samhuinn was the night when this world and the next lie closest together and the barriers that keep them apart are paper-thin. It was believed that in certain places during The Feast of Samhuinn a person might walk right through the border into the realm of the Sidhe. There to be dazzled and ensorcelled, and either enslaved, made insane, or if the whim took them, released unmolested back into the world of men. You just never knew what the Children of Danu might do.
That was the world that I walked into. Each step pushed me down farther into my racial memories. Fears not felt in my family for hundreds of years were inexplicably pushing up out of the depths of my mind. Somehow, I knew that if I ever got a good look at the lights in the darkness, my world would never be the same again. I focused my attention on the path ahead. Even as my trepidation grew, the thought of stopping never occurred to me. Something was waiting for me. That something was a Truth. A truth that had been forgotten, or rejected by my kin. Each step excited me and terrified me. I tried to convince myself that I was merely being a hysterical fool. That my coming to Ireland, the place where all of my families tales and folk lore had been born, and then coming out here, at night no less, on Halloween even, was just unhinging my reason for a romantic desire to connect with my family’s past.
Despite every attempt to rationalize my feelings and the sensations that continued to assault my mind and senses, I couldn’t quite convince myself that things were as benign as I would like to believe. Then just as I had convinced myself that the next step would truly be a bad idea, I stepped from the path into a clearing in the forest perhaps five acres across. In the middle of the green expanse was a hill the size of a softball diamond. Nearly fifteen feet at its zenith the dolmen was, as near as I could tell, perfectly formed into a half dome that gently sloped into the earth. Directly in front of me was an opening fully eight feet high and nearly six feet wide. The opening was flanked by rectangular stone pillars with a cap made from precisely the same type of stone. As I got closer, I could see that the stone appeared to be brand new. No sign of weathering or wearing away due to age and climate could be seen. Just as this was sinking in, I realized that an old man was standing in front of the entrance. Why hadn’t I seen him before? I must have just been hyper focused on the oddity of a newly built dolmen.
The man was surely odd enough that I should have noticed him, regardless. He was wearing a robe of white and had a small beard and mustache. And he was tall. I’m no slouch but this guy was pushing 6’6” and had a build that supported the robe in a manner that suggested that grey hair definitely didn’t mean feeble. As I approached the man, I offered him my hand and said, “Hello. My name is…” “I know perfectly well who YE be. Ye’re very nearly late. Come wi’ me, young master. Wha’ yer lookin’ fer ye’ll find inside.” At the end of this cryptic statement he turned without ceremony and walked into the darkness of the mound, disappearing from view immediately. “Step lively, lad! Time’s a wastin’!”
I looked down at the hand that was still extended and decided that it was probably just a strange idiosyncrasy that the man didn’t shake hands. Ok, well that wouldn’t really be a problem. I was there for the sacred mound, not to make new drinking buddies. As I walked into the darkness I became aware of the fact that although there were no sources of light, the deeper I went the less dark that it seemed to be. Just as this was becoming a curiosity that I was becoming obsessed with solving, I entered the central chamber of the dolmen and all thoughts of light sources fled from my mind. There in the dead center of the room was a stone table. It looked to hold a stylized statue of an ancient man lying in state. The dirt that covered the statue showed all the age that the exterior of the mound seemed to hold at bay. A full inch of dust covered the statue, crusty and hard from long years of humidity and dust collection. I was just starting to make my way to the table when I noticed a slight movement from the figure. It’s a trick; a bit of animatronics to fool the American tourist. Just that quick I went from surprise to anger. I whirled to confront the man from outside and noticed two very startling bits of information. First, without passing me or slipping down a side passage, (there were none) the man was just gone. And as hard as that was to accept, the fact that the entrance that I had just came through was just as thoroughly gone, was a shock that left me feeling like I had been hit in the head.
Stumbling back I turned this way and that, sure that a door had to be there somewhere. At each turn I was greeted with cold stone and ancient wooden beams. I’m sure that I mumbled something, though I have no recollection as to what I said. Finally, I turned back to the mechanized form and found that it was near to sitting up. But it didn’t do so with the slow deliberation of an automaton. Rather it had rolled to its side and propped itself up on one elbow while swinging its robed legs over the side. During all this process, the dirt was cracking and falling away. When the body took a ragged breath and coughed, huge chunks of dirt and debris fell from his body. With a pass of his hand, the dirt and grime covering the body of the man started pouring from his body as if it were quicksilver. Every mote of dust regardless of how deep it was in his beard (which was quite long), or how embedded in his clothing, floated to the surface and ran down to make a puddle on the floor. It then returned to a powdery form and looked, for all the world, as though it had been lying in that spot since the table was first placed. The shock of realizing what I was seeing sent a jagged spike of paralysis inducing, bladder voiding terror, shooting up and down my spine to finally explode in my brain. “Oh, crap!” was the last thought I had before reality and consciousness chased each other down the rabbit hole.
Coming back from the blackness wasn’t even a bit like fun. Before I could open my eyes pain jumped in line and pounded across the back of my head. Apparently, falling bonelessly to the floor of a cave doesn’t allow a person to properly protect his head during a fall. Thankfully, it appeared that all I got was a nasty bump and a short reboot to the noggin. As I opened my eyes and rolled over the body on the table had just finished levering itself upright and had begun to brush at its face, hair, and clothes with some vigor. With a sigh and a muttered word, I saw a flash somewhere along his belt and more dirt started falling from him like mud on a greasy water slide. In moments the man (IT WAS A MAN!) was completely clean and standing more or less no worse for wear. He leaned back heavily on the table though and I could tell he was parched. His lips were dry and he didn’t appear to be able to talk.
Cautiously, I got to my feet and crossed over to him. I reached up and took the camel pack, which I habitually carried on my outings, from my shoulders and poured a bit of water into my hand to show him what it was and handed it over to him. With a profound look of thanks he fell on the water. With each sip I could see his strength returning. After a hard-drunk two minutes he handed my much depleted water pack back and moved towards me. I wasn’t sure what this guy was up to but a feeling that I had never had before came screaming to the front of my brain. This guy was dangerous. I don’t mean dangerous like a thug in a dark alley kind of dangerous. This was more like the feeling you might get if you made a wrong turn and found yourself pulling into a bunker full of active nuclear missiles, type of dangerous. There was a weight to his eyes as he peered at me, as if he could read my thoughts, both conscious and subconscious. I felt, in that brief moment, as if I had been weighed, measured, and my soul lay bare before him like an open book. In the span of, maybe, two full breaths he knew all my failures, successes, and possibilities and there was no way to know what his opinion was. Anyhow, that’s the way it felt. Later, I found that was almost exactly what had transpired, although more figuratively than literally.
He saw the level of wariness in my eyes as he had moved towards me though. That much was plain because he checked his forward movement and raised his hands in a calming motion, palms out towards me. He smiled encouragingly and motioned like he was just going to lay one hand on his own head, and then pointed at me. He said something then in a rich, deep, mellow voice, though I couldn’t catch any meaning. Having spent some two weeks in Ireland, I had come to recognize Gaelic but this was different. The cadence was different, as was the way the words were pronounced. Gaelic is a very musical language and this had a similar rhythm. If I had to guess, and really that’s all I could do, I’d say that the difference would be similar to having conversations with someone from, say, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and someone from Hoboken, New Jersey. They might say the same sentence, but it wouldn’t sound the same.
He kept his hands out palm open to me to show me that he wasn’t armed or intending me harm and eased his hand towards my head. After a moment, I nodded. For all I knew he just wanted to make sure I was real too. I know for a fact that I was having trouble with that question, where he was concerned. As he saw the nod, a weight seemed to ease from him and he smiled again. Then, he laid two fingers above my eyebrows, dead center on my forehead and less than a heartbeat later, a light exploded behind my eyes. Flashes of memory and moments I hadn’t remembered in years blew through my mind’s eye, in a slideshow moving with the speed and shock of an Oklahoma tornado. As the tidal wave of sensations and emotions that accompanied the slide show started to fade, I felt the awareness of my body start to kick back in. I was on my knees. I opened my eyes and saw that I was kneeling before the odd man who was just removing his fingers from my head and opening his own eyes. As he did, I thought I saw a light dimming in those eyes, a pale blue light that shown not just from his pupil and iris but from the whites as well.
Shocked, I struggled back to my feet, and once again, I felt a realization that I was in the same room with a nuclear weapon. “What in the name of God did you do to me?” “I’m very sorry.” That same rich voice I heard earlier said. “I gave you my name a minute ago, and you didn’t recognize my speech, and what little I heard from you seemed like rambling from a madman.” Smiling, he added, “The verdict on whether you are mad is still pending. I used a bit of power to read your mind and pick up a few skills. I have been asleep for a very, very, very long time and you were the only source I had available. You are not harmed, I trust?”
His English was perfect. Oh there was a definite hint of the Irish brogue on his tongue, but it was the brogue of a man that had spent most of his life in America. “No. I’m not hurt, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. What do you mean asleep? You were covered in dirt so thick that it would have taken hundreds of years to accumulate.” He sighed and continued, “I’ve slept here for the better part of 1500 years, my young friend.” My first impulse was to laugh at the obviously ridiculous statement, but looking into his eyes, the laughter died as I said, “You aren’t joking, are you? You’re serious?” With a sad smile, he said, “I believe the saying goes, ‘As serious as a heart attack.’” Damn it. The sharp pain in my posterior informed my seriously shocked mind that I was once again on the floor.
I felt like I had just stepped into a twilight zone episode and was waiting for the director to yell that the joke was over and that it was time to get the set ready for the REAL scene. The old man knelt down in front of me and asked in a very sincere sounding voice, “Are ye well, my boy? I don’t think a mind link like that has ever damaged anyone but I suppose you might be different enough that it might have done.” “Nah, I don’t think you hurt me. I guess it’s just shock. A minute ago, if you’d have asked I’d have said that the things you’ve done were impossible. I feel like you just proved to me that my assumption that the earth was flat were wrong.” “By the Oak! Surely, that nonsense isn’t still being bandied about after all this time? No, by your memories I can tell it isn’t. Ah, a metaphor. I understand now. Quite an apt one too. We’ve got a bit of time before the spell that seals this place drops so, why don’t ye ask a few questions and let’s see if we can shed a bit of light into the darkness?”
Actually, that sounded great. The more I sat there and looked at the old man, the more at ease my mind became with his reality. I looked around to verify that there was, still, no way to leave and then closed my eyes. Questions… The right questions could serve me very well. “First,” I said, ”How long have you been here?” The man smiled as if he had known what the question would be. “I have been here since the last of the Sidhe, fairies lad, locked themselves away from the eyes of men. As I said, it has been some 1500 years or more since I came here at the behest of the Tuatha De Danaan. That translates, roughly, as “Children of Danu”. Specifically, Lugh asked me to create this place. He was their most wise and powerful warrior. His name has all but been forgotten now. Once, Lugh-Chromain was renowned as a mighty eternal warrior. He foretold how knowledge of all the Sidhe would wane and that they would all be forgotten. Even Lugh’s name has been bastardized. The once wise and powerful Sidhe is now relegated to that of a stooped short trickster known only as Leprechaun.” The tears in his eyes for the loss of knowledge as well as the loss of those he respected, the Sidhe, were entirely real. I couldn’t help but be drawn in. “What is your name, sir?” I had to know. “I’ve been known by many names and I’ve done many things. Understand, I’m not intentionally being cryptic. But even as with Lugh, known once as Lugh the Long Hand, what we are now may not be what we once were. For instance, just before I took the journey that placed me in this hill, I lived in a Christian monastery and went by the name, Urmonek. But I took a name that was older still during that quest, Drustaus or Drustanus, depending on where I was. The Greeks and Romans liked to muck with names as often as they could. If you trace that name, you’d likely find it tied in with some other tales about a knight named Tristan. That was me also, though I certainly wouldn’t have called myself a fan of Arthur, let alone a follower. Before you ask, I’m very old. In fact, I’m not sure I can tell you precisely how old as they didn’t have a good calendar the year I was born. But all of that does little good in answering your question. You asked for my name. I take now the name I used when once I was a mortal lad. Before my discovery and before my training, I was known as Amairgen. And that is what I shall go by now.”
Questions raced through my mind, one after another after another. I could scarcely focus enough to bring them in line when one just popped up into my mind like one of those balls in a lottery machine. “Amairgen, what woke you? Why did you come back?” “Now that, my boy, cuts right to the heart of the matter. Either the Sidhe or the Fomorii have returned. There are events that are coming in line and I set up this place so that I would be here to insure that there would always be someone to serve as Guardian. That takes care of the ‘why’ I was revived. As to the how… You did it, lad. Your entrance here set off the wards that sealed this place as well as the wards that woke me.”
“Wow. I am sorry about that, but I find it amazing that a spell that would activate if anyone came in here has let you sleep for, you said fifteen hundred years, right? I mean, surely someone has found this place in the past fifteen centuries.” Smiling, the old man sat down and crossed his legs in a near lotus position. “You mistake my meaning. Not just anyone could have entered this place and set off my spells. To be frank, most couldn’t have found the path through the ancient grove. This was and is a protected place. The trees have been fed by a well of power that flows from this place and they do not let people come here. Most of the elder trees aren’t really trees anymore. They’ve grown into Treants, nature elementals. They protect the boundaries and would dissuade men from coming here. Of those few that do make it in fewer still would have been allowed to enter the hill. You were chosen to come here. There was a man that showed you this place, yes?” I had nearly forgotten about the man who led me here, “Yes! He said his name was Dru, Dru Vid. I haven’t seen him since he led me in here. Couldn’t he be the one that set off your wards?”
The smile, this time, was one of mirth. “Dru Vid? The old way of saying ’druid’. So, the priests have gained a sense of humor since I started my slumber. That’s good! They always took themselves way too seriously. The man you perceived wasn’t actually here at all, lad. It was a sending; a seeming, not really a man at all, rather an image that he projected here. Had you not been the right type of individual you wouldn’t have been able to see it, let alone enter this place. You see, this hill isn’t exactly where you think it is. Yes, it is in Eire. Pardon me, Ireland, but it is also in another place and time. Specifically, the entrance can only be reached by entering the Fey lands, themselves. Fey, Sidhe, fairies, it all means the same. The Fey lands, known also as the Shadow Lands or World of Dreams was a place between our world and the spirit world. They were set up by the Sidhe to serve as a home; a refuge where they could teach and interact in other ways with mortals. Most of the Fey Lands are still closed. A small part was left to me to serve as a demesne; a place where I could marshal my strength and train those that would be needed. Of which, by the way, you are the first. Only by entering the Fey lands could anyone find the entrance to this, my tomb. The fact that you could do so on the eve of Samhuinn says that you have Power, untapped and untrained, but there all the same. That was the other reason for the mind link. I had to be certain that you were the one that I was waiting for, and not a servant of the Fomorii.” “Wait. Wait. Wait just a freaking minute. What did you just say? That you were waiting for me? Why? Power? What power? And you say I’m not on earth any more? You’re right; my sanity is still in question because this has all got to be some kind of mental break.” The rate that the words were spilling from my mouth as I tried to gain my feet had to sound like rapid fire drivel but I just couldn’t get my mouth to stop. And the whole time that my mouth was running on auto-pilot, my mind had a conversation of its own going on. First there was the typical ‘This is insane. This isn’t happening. Magic isn’t real.’ Then that was followed by, ‘It’s true, Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Wait, I have power?!? Where was that when my ex was divorcing me?’ These arguments were running circles around in my head but the acceptance was slowly winning out. There was just too much physical proof. I couldn’t convince myself that it wasn’t happening.
As I looked up at Amairgen I saw a look of pure pity in his eyes. He knew exactly what I was feeling. He’d been there. “It’s been a long time since I was made an apprentice Adept. But I have trained many men and seen similar reactions on nearly every one of them.” He looked up at the roof as if he could see through it and into the sky, as if judging where the full moon was in the sky. “The witching hour is upon us. The entrance will be available to you shortly and you must decide.” “Decide? Decide what?” “Decide whether you will become my apprentice, to accept me as your Master with all that entails. To leave most of your mortal concerns behind and follow the path of the Fey.” “Leave…. Yeah, see there we have a problem. I have two sons, and there is nothing on the planet that would convince me to leave them.” “Two…? You have two sons? How old are they?” In his shock, the brogue was creeping back into his speech. “It’s because ye’ve lived without training to be sure. Adepts as a rule can’t have children. It is the balance to the power and long lives that we’re given. Ye have two..? By the old gods, that is grand! By no means are ye going to be leaving them. How old are they, if I might ask?” The change in him was so sudden and unexpected it caught me by complete surprise. It was as if something as immovable and unchangeable as an oak tree suddenly turned itself into a young willow sapling. It was as if he had been told that he were going to be a grandfather after years of thinking it wasn’t possible. I had to smile. “Jacob is my oldest. He is six. His brother Isaac is three. They are my heart beat and the reason I do anything that I do. They are the reasons I live.” “Well and good! No chance that they are in Eire is there? No, I didn’t think so. Ah, well. They’re too young to test, regardless. Let me set you at ease on this one thing. If you become my student, your children will not want for their father.” “What is it to be an apprentice to an… Adept, I believe you called yourself?” “That is a good question. Best to make decisions based on the facts. Ok, to be an apprentice means that you will work for and learn from me. My rules are absolute, but not without cause. You will be learning to use powers that make up the life and substance of everything on this planet. It is not to be trifled with. Mistakes can destroy or kill. In return for your service and for binding oaths at the end of your training, you will learn to see the world in a vastly different way. You will be changed in ways that will be wonderful and terrible. I can only promise that you will always be challenged and perform a service that literally no one else can do in your place.” “Ok. That all sounds wonderful, literally magical. So, you must understand that every mental alarm I own is raising holy hell with me that there is a huge downside to what you offer. What’s the catch?” Approval entered his eyes and he nodded along as I spoke. “Of course you are right. One of the largest benefits of doing what we do is a vastly increased life span. For all intents and purposes, you will become immortal. Disease will not touch you and you will be able to survive all but the most heinous wounds. Sounds like an extremely positive thing, yes? But the largest downside is that you will have to watch every living friend and relative die. You will move through the world but in many ways you will be apart from it, an outsider looking in. As I said before, once your training has progressed, you will not be able to father children. Lucky and blessed you are that you have already fathered two. But understand, when and if you choose to test them, they may not be able to use the powers you can. In that event, they too will grow old and die. That is the catch, as you say.”
That’s one hell of a catch. Great upsides, but the loneliness, looking back into those ancient eyes I could see the toll that they had taken. I guess there must be a rock solid will there to have kept it from destroying him. A couple of other items in his litany pushed their way to the front of my ruminations. “Wait, you mentioned ‘binding oaths’. Exactly what are you talking about? I took one oath and it nearly got me killed for political reasons and I won’t be a party to that again.” A look of concentration came over Amairgen’s face and his eyes flicked back and forth as if he were looking through a pile of pictures. After a minute, his eyes cleared and he focused on me with a nod of understanding. “Yes, you were a warrior for your nation. A… soldier, I believe. Yes, I saw many things about your life when I took this language, and I understand your meaning. You were in a fight that you believed in, and were withdrawn before you could finish the task you were given. Many of your friends died as a result. Listen to me and heed my words. I will not promise that you or those you love or come to love will not die because of your choosing this course. Nor can you promise that they will stay safe if you turn away. Many things are left to fickle fate, lad.
“However, I will tell you that the fight I am asking you to take up is not one of politics. It is a fight for survival and dominance for the lives of men. I offer you the chance to fight so that all those that have no power will have the chance to live their lives without another’s will being forced on them. You will fight, live, love, or die with that fight in mind. What say you, Karl Saban? Will you serve and learn from me? Will you become an Adept?”
I don’t know where the idea came from, as an American the idea of what I did next was alien, but as I reached a decision I found myself on my knees before the old man, head bowed. “ I will serve thee. I will learn from thee. I will take your fight as my own. I will give you as much of my time and life as you ask of me. Even to the end. This I swear.”