The creature doomed to live
The veil of night was lifting, a ghostly quietus fell at the mouth of the river Boyne. A rustling of the hazel trees sent shock waves into the quivering still born dawn. A woman, beautiful, her naked skin white as alabaster, her hair a dark earthy autumn hazel, like the trees that birthed the river.
She walked into the river slowly, she walked until the water was up to her ankles, her hips, her chest and until she was gone.
“Princess! Princess!” A whispered voice said. “He means to start without you! You must awake”
“Airmed, is that you?” Ernmas said groggily.
“Yes Princess, you have to hurry, I couldn’t stop stall him any longer.”
“But the sun is not even risen”
“Miach cares not for the position of the sun m’lady, only his own vainglory!” Airmed caught herself “I shouldn’t say that about my own brother I know but he is a fool and his eagerness will land us all in Bres’ keep one day.” The more fulsome maid helped the delicate Princess out of her borrowed bed. And into a robe more befitting witnessing the unveiling of the unknown. “Come now, we have little time to jabber.”
“Alright” Ernmas said faintly as Airmed lead her out of her room and into the strange hallway it felt like she was in only moments ago in the dead of night. She had hoped it would seem like a dream now but it was fresh in her mind. A part of her dreaded what she might witness at the top of that spiral staircase in the lab of Airmed’s brother Miach, son of Dian Cecht.
In her waking stupor lead by Airmed, it seemed like she closed her eyes and opened them once more in that fetid observatory that Miach had made his lab.
It was no different from the first she had laid eyes on it, the complete disarray that struck it was the chaos of a busy mind far beyond her own. But there too was an uncomfortable disquiet that hung in the air. As if a rot was nestled away in some darkened corner not yet to make itself known.
Ogma was there already, stern and solemn but also sad. He unfolded his large arms as the princes entered and made a slight bow. But said nothing and only stared at the centre of the room, where Miach tittered like an excited child.
Miach was lost in his own thoughts mumbling something to himself as he tinkered with unseen hands. Failing to notice or not caring when his sister and Ernmas entered the observatory.
“Ah marvelous, you’re just in time” He said when he made the effort to acknowledge their existence.
“Just in time for what?” The princess asked softly.
“Behold” Miach said as he directed Ernmas to the tank in the centre of the room with the opaque milky liquid in it. “We’re almost ready now, the solution has already been applied.”
“Solution?” Ernmas asked faintly.
“Yes” Miach said as he approached the stone table closest to the tank. One which had been cleared. He returned holding a strange pointed device made of glass and metal. The liquid contained within looked like water but shimmered with a dull putrescence of grey and blue as if it were petulant miasmal clouds. “My own creation, it uses the sacred waters that my father might have used during the great war but refined through my own processes.”
“See for yourself” Miach smirked faintly as he directed her to the tank Ernmas was trying to avert her gaze from.
She approached it gingerly as if it were some kind of unpredictable beast or piteous retch. Slowly it came into focus. Beyond the milky liquid, pale bilferous limbs appeared, bobbing rhythmically in and out of the queer substance. As she reached the rim of the open top tank she could see it more clearly. The vaguest approximation of what was her father lay naked in the tank, it’s skin slick and squamous.
The body was motionless but for the slight undulating of the liquid. She looked at the face of her father and more closely at his neck as she could see that it was indeed the head she had brought with her. Attached by a means of some kind of metallic string. For a moment it was not Nuada’s face she saw floating in the liquid. But it was her own staring back at her with hideous stygian eyes that filled her with an unnameable terror.
It’s loathsome hand reached out and gripped her tightly by the wrist. The blasphemous thing pulled her closer to the tank. It’s hideous mouth opening filling her lungs with the foetid stench of death and decay. It uttered an accursed ullulating sound as foul black ichor poured from it’s mouth and filled the princess with darkness.
“FIRBOLG!” A woman’s voice shouted in his ears, a woman with red hair the smell of birch wood, he knew without seeing, but it enlivened him once more. His lover and goddess Tailtiu called to him from beyond the stars and time and space and death itself.
“Look, above him!” It was Tuan’s voice again.
But then there it was, dancing in the firelight, only for a moment, like a tongue flicking across a cats lips in the dark. Something fibrous and slimy, a silvery tenebrous appendage almost invisible to the eye.
Before thought could take him, or doubt could cloud him. The barbarian snatched at the tendril like a jealous lover snatches for a whore’s hand and bit it in twain with his savage jaws. An explosion of blood and puss erupted from the before invisible tentacle which now cast a hideous shadow. Spraying a viscous green and black ichor as it recoiled as if into the wall of the castle itself. And as if it was in a dream it was gone.
Tuan swore he could feel the castle shake slightly and hear a distant low moan from deep under the castle. That could have been thunder but he feared that was not so.
As if a puppet with it’s string cut, the masked man stopped for a moment and lost all impulse. His arms dropping by his sides, relinquishing his strange swords. The mask slipped from it’s face revealing not a face at all but an unspeakable maw of teeth and feelers. It had no eyes, it was not even a sentient thing at all, moreover some kind of appendage a sea creature might have. Tuan watched in horror imagining the size of such a creature. His mind casting back to that blackened pit, the unnerving sounds and smells.
Cur had no such thoughts or fears. He merely cackled in triumph as he watched the beast fall to the ground and curl up into a dry dead thing before it too dissolved into nothingness.
The barbarian wiped a strange seafoam green liquid from his grinning wicked chops and pulled the odd sword or tusk from his chest.
“Dawn approaches” Said the child still standing in the doorway. His eyes hollow and staring at a spot on the wall as if he could see through it and into the starry sky and space above. “We must finish this quickly.”
Ernmas was awakened from a dreamless sleep by the grim sound of a spade gouging cold earth. She opened her eyes and saw Ogma digging with his broad back to her, steam rising from his shoulders in the cold mountain air as he laboured.
Ernmas looked about herself, she was lying on a knitted quilt on the ground in Airmed’s herb garden which doubled as a grave yard.
“Princess, you’re awake” Airmed’s voice came from out of her field of view. The girl rushed over to her side.
“Why am I here? What happened?” She asked faintly.
“I brought you out here, I thought the fresh air might do you good.” Airmed cooed.
“What happened, why am I lying here?” The princess asked breathilly.
Airmed looked searching for a moment as if they words fell out of her head. “Miach’s experiment was a failure, he was too hasty, he claims Nuada’s head was not fresh enough, it reacted badly to the solution”.
“Where is Miach now?”
“He has locked himself in his observatory and he’s refusing to come out even to eat, I fear he will go mad.” Airmed sighed more out of irritation than worry.
The princess froze for a moment, the light from her eyes dimming as she realized what it meant when she looked on Ogma digging a grave.
“No, it can’t be, father.” She whimpered.
“I’m sorry Princess, we tried, still we must have faith in Miach, if anyone can restore your father to the throne it’s him.” Airmed spouted unerringly trying to renew some shred of hope.
“No” She said. “That was our only hope, all is lost now.”
The wind blew and echoed through her words, punctuated by the cold chop of the shovel through earth, leaving them on that mountain alone.
Balor’s face distorted as if something writhed under the slimy masklike skin, the child’s mouth bulged unnaturally like the mouth of a toad. The demon with the face of a child opened it’s mouth wide. The rest of it’s face peeled backward like a loose hood revealing an enormous grotesque purple eye in it’s mouth.
The eye was foul and evil, corrupted with vile magic. The whites the color of rotten egg and flesh, the iris looking almost like teeth or broken purple crystal and split in two unevenly. The eye looked fractured and wicked but almost newly formed, with horrendous veins irregular speckling of some form of blood and puss.
Cur could feel the eye on him, feel it’s evil hatred, it’s power of death, the weight of it’s sheer need to succour on life itself. It was a void of unlife, a vicious poison projected as will. More powerful this time, so much more powerful. He could feel his skin straining, his lungs squeezed, his heart tightening in his chest. The blood in his veins felt like it was boiling and freezing under that eye. The sword in his arm of flesh fell by his side with an inaudible clanking, the sound could not rise above the ringing in his ears.
The silver arm screamed at him, the magic burning in it, the pain rising, his breathing hoarse. The silver arm felt ten times heavier, he struggled to raise it, but raise it he did. The arm shook as it felt the evil magic coursing into it. Cur could feel it buckling, hear it cry out, taste the death it swallowed and the barbarian grinned as he held desolation in his hand. He laughed that evil laugh as he approached the child.
“Come here boy!” He cried laughing his wicked laugh as he pushed forward, pressed by sheer will, their two wills bucking like two rams, but only one gaining ground.
His evil cackling rising to a crescendo as he clutched the eye in the boys mouth with his silver hand. His exultation reached crescendo as he visciously squeezed the abominable thing in his clenched fist. It burst with a gut-wrenching sound like a boil popping over broken glass. The boy howled with a thousand voices making a sound no human could. There was no doubt this time that the castle walls shook and down below them there was a terrible sound like no mortal had heard before now.
The Firbolg feared nothing, his grin growing wider and toothier as he ripped the strange appendage from the child’s back like he did with the masked one. Laughing as he threw the lifeless boys body down the stairs. It’s limp carcass made no sound over that of the echos of the barbarians pitiless cackle.
“Firbolg!” Tuan called Cur back from his righteous revelry, his voice furtive and pleading from inside the flower mausoleum.
“What now shapeshifter?” The Firbolg turned back to the hall and by the fire light. Standing still as tailors dummies were seven more masked men. In between them another child-like Balor staring unfeeling with those dead glassy eyes.
The barbarian couldn’t help it, he felt his grin pulled by hooks across his face and he laughed.