The Sword of Paracelsus: The Feth Fiada, Part 2

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With that, Brighid handed the cloak to Eny. Then she turned and walked on towards the stony ridge on the far side of Mag Tuiread.

“But what am I supposed to do with it?” said Eny, running to catch up to her. “Why give it to me now?”

“That is for you to answer. But I know what is in your heart, and I believe the Feth Fiada can help you, whatever you choose to do. Do you wish to escape the Morrigu by returning to the Overworld? If so, the cloak will take you there.”

Eny looked away. “I don’t know. I’d say yes, but I can’t do that to Morgan. He’s been trying to find his dad for as long as I can remember. And now it turns out that his dad is here and the Morrigu is offering to set him free in exchange for me! I don’t think I really have a choice.”

Brighid looked at her intently. “I understand. But what about Lia Fail?”

“You told me yourself that the Morrigu can’t access the Stone’s power without ‘The Third Angle.’ Whatever that is. So I figure she’ll be no further ahead even if I do hand myself over to her.”

“Not quite. Your courage is admirable. But she will be one step closer to her goal.”

“Even if I did go home,” Eny pondered, sensing somehow that she was arguing with herself, “she’d probably catch me anyway. At least that’s what Eochy and Simon seem to think.”

“I believe they’re right. And so, if you do choose to remain—and to pursue your purpose—I think there is another way in which the Feth Fiada may be of use to you.”

“What’s that?”

“It will enable you to cross over to Tory and slip into the tower of Tur Morraigu unseen.”

“But why should I do that? My idea is to go there openly. To turn myself in. I have nothing to hide.”

“Of course. But you may not get that far unless you keep out of sight until the very last moment. The Fomorians will not expect you—the Maiden of Perfect Purity—to be wandering alone in this part of the Sidhe. Their heads are thick and their wits dull. If they mistake you for one of the Danaoi, they may strike first and ask questions later. And remember, my people are searching for you too. In their flying ships.”

“I forgot about that.” Eny stole a sidewise glance at her companion. “You still haven’t explained why you’re helping me instead of them.”

Brighid smiled. “Though we should move heaven and earth to stop it, yet the Stone must pass on to the place of its final destiny. And for that to happen, the Maiden must be present. Out of love for you I would hold you back—if I could—for I do not know what awaits you inside Tur Morraigu. Yet I dare not stand opposed to the prophecy. The Maid, the Stone, and the Third Angle—all three must join and be joined before the end.”

“But what does that mean? I’m supposed to be this ‘Maiden of Perfect Purity,’ but I don’t know how! I don’t understand the first thing about the ‘Third Angle!’ I’m only trying to help my friend find his dad! What if the Morrigu orders me to unlock the power of Lia Fail? What do I do then?”

“You don’t need to know that now.”

Eny looked up at the darkening sky. “And tonight?”

“Tonight we will lie concealed among the rocks,” said Brighid as they came to the edge of the plain and began to labor up the stony terraces at the foot of the upland. “In the morning we will turn and take a path around the forest. From there you must go straight north to the seashore, skirt the Strand of Eochaill, and cross over the water to Tory.”

“But I was thinking of going through the forest. To Rury’s old dun. That’s the road I followed with the Fir Bolg the first time I was in the Sidhe. Wouldn’t that be more direct?”

“No,” said Brighid. “That way is closed to you now. Eba Eochaid has fallen under the power of the Fomor and traitorous Fir Bolg. But here—this seems as good a place as any to make our camp.”

They had reached the summit of the ridge and were standing on a round open hilltop covered with broken boulders, patches of gorse and heather, and a few leafless lilac bushes. Over their heads brooded the bare autumn branches of Croc Cuille, the Wood-on-the-Hill. The wind had dropped to a whisper and the first stars were blinking tentatively through the dusky air above the black lacework of the forest’s lofty canopy.

Eny nodded. Unhitching her bolg from her belt, she unlaced its wide mouth, removed her gear and supplies, and laid everything carefully on the ground. This done, she began to unfold the bag itself. Layer after layer, the soft leather opened out and expanded, growing miraculously beneath her deftly working fingers until at last the bolg was no longer a bag at all but a tent large enough for two. Together they propped it up with a couple of dead branches from the forest, secured the edges with heavy stones, and spread two woolen blankets on the rocky floor. Then, after lighting a candle and inviting her companion to share in a supper of oatcakes and raisins, Eny took out her fiddle, rosined the bow, and stepped out under the blazing stars.

“Is it safe, do you think?” she said, looking back over her shoulder at Brighid, who sat hugging her knees just within the shelter of the tent.

“There is the risk of being heard,” smiled Brighid. “But risks must sometimes be taken. And they always have to be weighed against benefits. Music is power. A power for good. So play if your heart bids you.”

Eny touched bow to string. A moment later the wild, sad strains of The Dark Woman of the Glen were sailing up through the naked trees on the hill and out among the stars in the marbled sky.

A hush fell on the night and even the rocks seemed to hold their breath to listen.

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