The Sword of Paracelsus: Eny’s Story, Part 3

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She paused and took another deep breath.

“Heard what?” said Morgan.

“The same sound I had heard outside my bedroom window.  The sound of somebody hissing at me.  ‘Hsst!  Young Miss!” it said, and “Psst!  Over here!’”

“Eochy again?”

Eny nodded.  “Somehow or other he had got there ahead of me!  He was leaning out from behind a big round boulder, holding my fiddle in one hand and beckoning to me with the other.  I knew him at once, so I didn’t stop to ask questions.  I ran up the slope, and he led me behind the rock and into a cave in the cliffside.

“Nothing could have prepared me for what I found there.  The door was small, but the cavern into which it opened was deep and roomy and filled with all kinds of Fir Bolgian implements and supplies.  There were flint-tipped spears and bows and arrows, copper knives and daggers, bell-shaped pots and urns, and lots of the miraculous leather bags the little people carry at their waists.  There were blankets and fleeces and skeins of wool, spindles and looms and coils of rope, barrels of wine, sheaves of grain, and baskets of dried fruit.  From spikes driven into the stone walls dangled bundles of the slings I had taught them to use, and next to the slings hung leather pouches bulging with smooth, round sling-stones.  It was an incredible hoard, and I wondered how it had ended up there.  But amazed as I was to see it, the most amazing part was yet to come.

“As soon as my eyes adjusted to the light I saw that there were people in the cave.  The Fir Bolg!  Anust and Liber, Rury and Semeon, Crucha and Genann, and a handful of others.  They were squatting in the shadows behind that big pile of stuff, back against the rear wall of the cave.  When I recognized them I cried out for joy, because I had never expected to see their dear faces again.

“Liber came over to me and hugged my neck.  I buried my face in her hair and held her tightly.  She stroked my forehead and said, ‘It’s safe you are now, child.’  It was so good to hear her voice again!”

“Did you feel safe?” asked Morgan.

“It’s hard to say exactly what I felt.  I was confused.  I didn’t know what was happening or why I was there.  For a minute it was like I couldn’t breathe.  I pulled away from Liber and stood in the middle of the cave with the Fir Bolg all around me.  I said, ‘What do you mean, ‘safe’?  What are you all hiding from?  What’s become of the dun?’”

“And what did they say?”

“Can’t you guess?  Somehow I knew the answer before I even asked.”

“The Morrigu!” breathed Morgan.

“Yes.  They told me they’d been expecting her to attack ever since the night of the Battle for the Stone.  That’s why they had stocked the cave with food and supplies.  They had barely finished when the Fomorians arrived.  The giants burned their huts and fields, destroyed their flocks, and killed many of their people.  While they told me about it, the women wept and wailed.  It was awful, Morgan.  Really awful.”

“But why them?  They’re no big threat to her!”

“It was payback.  The Fir Bolg had sided with us and the Danaans.  They tried to stop her from getting Lia Fail.  And she’s not one to let her enemies go unpunished.  No matter who they are.”

Morgan shivered at the thought, but held his tongue.

“But that wasn’t even the worst of it.  Not for me.  Because in the next minute it dawned on me that this was all my fault!  I was under geis!  Rury had made me promise that I’d do everything I could to keep the Stone of Destiny from falling into the Morrigu’s hands!  And I failed!”

A tear slid down her cheek as she said this.  Seeing it, Morgan reached over and touched her hand.  “Don’t say that, Eny!” he said.  “There was nothing you could do to stop her.  Not even Simon Brach could.  We all did our best.  Nobody can do more.”

“I know that now,” she said, wiping her cheek.  “Most of the Fir Bolg told me the same thing.  But Semeon said something more.  He said that the geis was null and void because the promise should never have been made.  He said Lia Fail travels the path foretold, no matter what we say or do:  the Stone takes the road of its own choosing.  Then he reminded me that the Morrigu can’t access its power anyway.  She has it locked up in her tower, he said, but it’s of no use to her—at least for the time being.  I guess he thought that would make me feel better.”

“Did it?”

Her eyes flashed fiercely.  “Of course not!  Don’t you see, Morgan?  That’s the whole point!  That’s what makes this situation as bad as it can possibly be!  I’m the only thing she lacks now!  I’m the ‘maiden of perfect purity’—or at least that’s what she thinks!  That’s why my mom took me away from Santa Piedra in the first place—to keep her from finding me!  That’s why I told you that I would never ever come back to the Sidhe!  Not as long as I lived!  And now—here I am!”

Morgan could think of nothing to say.

“No,” she continued.  “Semeon’s words did not make me feel better.  They made me angry.  They made me afraid.  As I stood there in front of the Fir Bolg, I started shaking from head to toe.  The next thing I knew, I was yelling at poor Eochy.  I turned on him and said, ‘Why in the world did you bring me here, you foolish little man?  Don’t you see what a terrible mistake you’ve made?  You might as well drop me off right on her doorstep!  It’s all over, and she’s won!’”

(To be continued …)

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