The Sword of Paracelsus: The Maiden and the Stone, Part Three

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How can that be possible?

Eny gulped, sucked down a mouthful of air, and looked again.  Yes, it was Morgan’s face all right.  It had his pointy nose and his pale blue eyes.  It had his unruly straw-colored hair.  It even had his freckles and braces.  But it was definitely not Morgan.  There was no life, no breath, no spirit in it.  The eyes were hollow and vacant.  The features were dead and blank.  As she stood there gazing at it, its mouth began to work, but no sound emerged from the papery lips.  She felt she was going to retch.

Fighting to control herself, she spun around and glared at the Morrigu.

“I had hoped your young man might join us in person,” the enchantress sighed.  “When you interfered, I was forced to explore other options.  What do you think of my homunculus?”

Homunculus?”  Eny rubbed her eyes and stared.

“A man-shape.  Of my own manufacture.  Animated with an energy distilled from the essences of the four elements.  Not quite alive, but alive enough for our purposes.”  She turned and addressed the two girls with the silver knives.  “Seal the marriage,” she said.

As if in response, the homunculus bowed its head and stumped up the steps to the marble pedestal.  Gripping Eny by the elbow, Falor compelled her to follow.  She squealed and shut her eyes; and when she opened them again, she was standing on the dais with the palm of her left hand stretched out upon the cold surface of the Stone of Destiny.  Beside it lay the right hand of the homunculus, twitching as if infused with an electrical charge.  As she watched, the creature turned its blank eyes upon her and puckered up its lips.

“No!” she screamed.  But even as she tried to pull away, one of the black-haired maidens stepped forward, grabbed her wrist, and deftly slit the tip of her middle finger with the silver blade.  The dark blood welled up in the wound and three large drops fell upon the Stone.  Then the second maiden approached, seized the hand of the homunculus, and performed the same operation upon it.  Eny was not surprised when its finger did not bleed.

Now the Morrigu herself drew near.  Dropping to her knees between Eny and the homunculus, she joined their hands between her own and pressed them down upon Lia Fail with all her weight.  In a low, plaintive voice she began to chant:


     That which is above is as that which is below,

     And that which is below is as that which is above. 


Soon the maidens were chanting with her.  They started in low, but it was not long before the Great Hall rang from end to end with the sound of their voices.  Then the Fomorians began to grunt in time with the rhythm of their song, pounding the pavement with the staffs of their halberds.

When this chorus had reached its height, the Morrigu rose and lifted her arms above her head.

“The Mystical Marriage is accomplished!” she cried.  “Now behold the power of Lia Fail restored!”

She dropped her hands in a grand dramatic gesture.  A terrible hush fell over the Great Hall.  The candles guttered.  The golden stars twinkled.  The silver harp-strings shimmered.  The Fomorian guards stood at attention and the sixteen maidens bent their heads.  Everyone held their breath.

Nothing happened.

There was a long moment of silence.  Then the Morrigu turned on Eny with green fire in her eyes.

“Something is not right!” she hissed.

Eny trembled before her.  “It’s not my fault.”

“Someone has been keeping the truth from me!  Is it you?”

“No!  I don’t know anything about it,” said Eny.  “But now that it’s all over, will you please keep your promise?  Will you let Morgan’s father go free?”

“No!” screamed the Morrigu, shaking with rage.  “A thousand curses on you, no!  There’s a missing piece!  A hidden key!  And I won’t be finished with you until I find it!  Falor!  Take her away and throw her in the dungeon!”

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