The Sword of Paracelsus: Baile Daoine Sidhe, Part 1

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In an instant Morgan was off the horse, on the ground, and running for all he was worth.

“Eny!” he cried, pushing past a tall Danaan man in an embroidered blue tunic and a dark-haired woman carrying a small child.  “You are here!”

She turned at the sound of his voice.  Oblivious to the stares he was attracting, Morgan shoved through the crowd, elbowed his way straight up to her, and took her by the hand.  “Something told me you would be!  I didn’t know for sure, but I kept thinking—”

Gently Eny drew back and studied him at arm’s length.

“Morgan!” she said softly, a troubled look in her eyes.  “How in world—?”  Then, frowning as she caught sight of Baxter, “And what’s he doing here?”

“Don’t worry.  It’s all right.  I’ve made it at last!  You won’t believe what we’ve been through, Eny!  It was just like you said!  We were out on La Punta Lira, and there was this old elevator, and—”

But before he could get another word out, someone seized him from behind, bound his hands tightly, and began dragging him away.  In the same instant a cry rang out, and Morgan, twisting in his bonds, looked round to see one of the Danaan soldiers yanking Baxter to the ground and lashing his arms to his sides with a thin silver cord.

“What are you doing?” cried Eny, running up and grasping the warrior by one of his flowing scarlet sleeves.

“Pardon, young mistress,” answered a grim voice at Morgan’s ear—the voice of the horseman who had carried him into the Baile.  “We found them among the Fomor.  They must give account of themselves before the Ard-Fer.”

“There’s no need!” she said.  “I know them!”

The horseman cast a doubtful sidewise glance at Morgan.

“This one’s my best friend,” Eny explained.  “And the other—well, he went to school with me.”

The rider regarded her with a raised eyebrow.

“In the Overworld,” she explained.

The Danaan bowed.  Without any further questions he signaled to his comrade to release Baxter.  “Forgive me, young master,” he said as he untied Morgan’s hands.  “A friend of Eithne cannot be without honor among the Tuatha De Danann.”

Chafing his wrists, Morgan looked up tentatively into the man’s face and nodded meek assent.  The warrior reminded him strongly of Simon Brach—or Ollamh Folla—as he had appeared in his transformed state.  The long chin, the noble nose, the steely blue eyes, the flaxen hair under a cap of burnished bronze:  every detail carried his thoughts back to that night of nights when the old janitor stood transfigured before them on the stairs of St. Halistan’s tower.  The very memory of so much light and glory caused him to drop his gaze and avert his face.  If only Simon were with us now, he thought.

“I’ll take them to the Tellach,” Eny offered as the horseman’s companion approached with Baxter.  “You can send someone to look after their needs.  But first—”

“First,” said Baxter’s solemn attendant, lifting a hand for silence, “we will stand to hear the keening.  Not without cost have these two been snatched from the field of death.”

Even as he spoke the great gates of Baile Daoine Sidhe swung open a second time.  Three white horses, caparisoned in scarlet and silver, cantered in beneath the battlements.

The horse on the right carried a tall warrior in red with a round white shield and a red spear that glinted like fire in the sun.  The steed on the left bore a second horseman robed in blue and holding a naked sword in his right hand.  But the horse in the middle had no living rider.  Instead, a long bronze shield lay along its back from neck to rump, and upon the shield was stretched an unmoving shape wrapped in a black shroud.

Slowly the riders proceeded to the center of the open common, the crowd drawing back as they advanced.  Dismounting, they dropped their weapons, lifted the shield and its silent burden from the horse’s back, and laid it upon the ground.  Immediately a woman burst forth from the crowd and flung herself upon the body, her long red hair falling across the black shape in a coppery mass.  At that, a shrill, unearthly wail went up from the gathered people.  Morgan felt the skin crawl on the back of his neck.

“What’s happening?” he said, gripping Eny by the arm.

“One of the riders has fallen,” she answered.  Then, quietly, she added, “While saving you and Baxter from the Fomorians.”

Morgan winced.  As he watched, the red-haired woman rose up on her knees and tore her outer garment to shreds.  Then she raised her hands, lifted her voice, and chanted a lament in high, shrill tones that cut him to the heart:


    Grief it is to me, fair-haired Iolladh,

    You to be slain by the Fomor! 

    A pity to all the Baile,

    You to be dead!

    A good fight you made

     By the banks of the bright stream.


    Fair of body and stout of heart 

    Was my husband, my brother, my spouse.   

    My life, my heart, now fallen in the dust. 

    Me have they killed killing you. 


The voice ceased.  The wails of the crowd tapered off and fell still.  The red-haired woman slumped over the body of her husband, her back heaving with sobs, until the two horsemen raised her gently and led her aside.  Then others lifted the shrouded form and carried it away.

A long silence followed as the crowd dispersed.  After a while Eny touched Morgan’s arm and inclined her head towards a grand, steeply roofed wooden building on the far side of the grassy square.  “Follow me,” she said.  “You can rest and get something to eat over there.”

“Finally!” exclaimed Baxter, licking his lips and rubbing his hands.  But as Eny led the way across the common, he bent close to Morgan’s ear and whispered, “Where the heck are we, Izaak?  And what’s your girlfriend doing here?”

“Shut up, Baxter,” said Morgan.  “She’s not my girlfriend.”

(To be continued …)


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