She's still suffering
Outside Ethniu’s window in her tower on the dreaded Tory isle, a storm brew over the horizon. But her body was too weak for her to lift her head.
A cool white hand touched the Fomorian princess’s forehead above her one beautiful eye as she lay in her bed.
“You’re temperature” Birog said. Her hand slowly and gently snaked under the princess’ silken bed linen and came to rest under them on her mounded belly. Soft it was to the touch, but also firm with child. The belly hummed with an energy Birog had felt only in her dreams. She drew her hand away and said nothing. She turned to a small basin next to the princess’s bed where a sea sponge rested, soaking up the pure luke warm water in the bowel.
Birog wrung the sponge out and began to gently dab the princess’ forehead.
“The quickening draws near” She whispered.
“But my father” The girl gasped “When he finds out-!”
“Your father will never know until it is too late, I have seen it” Birog said coldly, certainly, as she dabbed the the girl’s worried brow. “He cannot see that hiding you in this tower also hides you from his sight. He believes you are ill as I have lead him to do so and thus I can care for you and hide the child of prophecy from him, my part in all this.”
The girl had been slightly prone and tense and now with some disagreeableness she lay down. Still awkwardly staring out the window at the churning clouds, feeling them as if they were in her belly not in the sky at all. “What will become of me seer? What is my part after the prophecy? Will I be free?”
“Your destiny is not written my dear, no one can say, not even I”
Time seemed frozen on that doomed vessel, crewed by the damned. It was black all the way through but not made of a wood. At times, part of it seemed like it had been strung together from pieces of sunken vessels from centuries past. And in others it seemed almost grown or formed by natural processes Bres could not hope to understand. He felt almost ill to touch the walls as they seemed to give off a strange pulse as if they were alive or close to it.
The crew were boggle eyed monstrosities, they stood upright but were distinctly batrachian in aspect. Large wide mouths that spoke little of his native tongue. And what few words they did speak were garbled and made grotesque by their inhuman gullets. There was no one of them that stood out as a captain, they all seemed very singular in purpose and worked mindlessly as if they were worker bee drones.
Bres looked out at the dark depths of the ocean spread out before him, above and below. He remembered his terror as the ship dove for the first time and he was sure it was a mistake, that he would drown or be swept away with a great current. But he was shocked all the more when he found he did not. That his feet clung to the deck of the ship and his lungs did not drown. Instead a new set of lungs that had been atrophy until now coughed and spluttered into life and he could breathe like one of the crew themselves.
In some strange and horrible way Bres was one of them. He shuddered at that thought as he watched the ugly little things waddle about awkwardly as if their bodies hated them so. He struggled to fathom what connection he could have with them but he was sure to find out where he was going. To the kingdom of the deep ones, his ancestors, the Fomor.
The air was cool and crisp as it was most of the time atop the devils ladder, when it wasn’t a biting and cruel wind. Princess Ernmas was frozen in thought for a moment, startled by her own sigh as she heard it eek out like a mouse’s squeak upon that silent cold mountain.
She lay some herbs from Airmed’s garden on top of the grave, not that her father would’ve cared for such trifles. Nor was the mangled thing that lay in that frigid dirt really her father. But some ungodly amalgam of twisted flesh, with just a spark of him still clinging on in that desiccated husk.
The princess stood awkwardly, losing her balance, her knees were numb from kneeling in the snow. Losing track of time, losing herself in her thoughts.
Ogma caught her gently by her elbow and helped her to her feet. Ogma once known as the silver tongued, now a tuatha of few words. Her grim and stalwart sworn protector and guardian, his duty to guard the daughter of the king he failed.
“It’s alright Ogma” The princess said softly “Just a little light headed”.
“You should retire my lady.” Ogma whispered coarsely. “I’ll see to it there’s some hot tea for in your bed chamber”.
“What are we still doing here Ogma?” She sighed bitterly staring off into the distance. The slate grey clouds that met her eye line twisting and parting and becoming a pure white empty canvas before her eyes. She seemed to shake from her daydream yet again and continued. “-thank you” she said.
“We’re safe here” He said almost as if he believed it.
Suddenly a hoarse shrieking sound carried over the hill, a sound like a beaten nag that made the Princess’s hair stand on end “Airmed!”
Ogma chased out of the garden following the sound and princess Ernmas followed gingerly behind him, afraid to leave his side.
She traipsed after him trudging through the snow lifting her dress, her breath instantly burning in her lungs.
“Everyone get inside!” Airmed’s gruff little voice carried over the hill from the devils ladder. “Trouble is coming!”
Ernmas felt her legs pulled out from under, she tripped over the hem of her dress sodden with the snow. Looking up she could see Airmed stumbling up the mountain, ragged with fear almost on her hands and knees crawling through the snow.
Then the princess saw it, what Airmed was running from. A shadow loomed over her, as big as the mountains peak. A ghastly twisted shadow of malice and pure unbridled hatred, blacker than any storm cloud or pirate sail. A monster in human shape, larger than any tuatha, cloaked in evil.
Airmed stopped dead as a wolf crossed her path, baring it’s fangs and snarling at her.
“I told you not to run girl” Cur hissed. His huge body appearing out of the aether moving faster than it had any right to. The back of his hand meeting the girls ruddy red cheeks sending her reeling backward into the snow.
“Stop there!” A woman’s courtly voice shouted.
Cur grinned viciously, his breath rising like the smoke from a funeral pyre as he laughed his wicked low cackle.
“You!- it can’t be!” Ogma gasped as the light hit the Firbolg’s face. “I thought you were dead”
“I am dead” Cur grinned as he threw his cloak over his shoulder, unsheathing the magical silver arm that burned him with its tuatha magic. The pain reminding him he still existed.
Cur lifted Airmed by the collar of her cape and bellowed “I come for the one known as Miach Cecht, you all might live if he is brought before me to face his death!”
Airmed wriggled in his grasp turning with her feet off the ground. A puff of some dust burst from her hand like a pixie, the barbarian loosened his grip as the powder invaded his eyes.
“Whore!” He snarled as he could feel the numbing cold now, the biting wind, a voice calling him, a crows wings flapping above him and then blackness.
The sound of monotonous squamous chomping woke him from his daze, as he dozed barely seeing anything from his lidded eyes. A cloak over his head, his body felt alien to him, he felt small and shrivelled and wretched as he listened to those sounds all about him. Looking around was stiff and almost impossible as if his pale and slender neck were replaced with pure cartilage and could barely move.
He was shrunken into himself somehow, the sounds continuing either side of him and in front of him. His eyes straining to see in the pitch darkness, too dazed or drunk to feel fear he dozed in and out of a zomnambulist sleep. The sounds both lulling him and waking him intermittently.
He strained to turn what he perceived was a bulbous and unwieldy head to examine the room he found himself in a detached spectre. He was in some sort of cave or low ceilinged room with no light but the dull glow of luminous rocks or cracks in the cave wall.
He sat on a stool or bench and beside him was a figure hunched over a long table he too was sat. The figure was squat and covered head to toe in a black robe, whatever it was appeared to be praying, or was it eating?
The figure was adamantly consuming something in the pitch darkness. It became more clear as his eyes adjusted to the impenetrable gloom of the cave. A shining scaled malformed hand darted out quickly to clutch at some morsel from a strange stone or shell plate in front of it. And then whatever it was was swallowed up by the brim of the cloak. And then came that grotesque squelching chomping sound as the gluttonous figure avarously gorged on whatever it was.
He watched on in a dazed stunned horror for a moment before he realized that he too had a place set and a meal in front of him. On a crude shell plate lay some indistinguishable piece of white flesh.
He looked up at the table and in the dim gloom of the cave. He made out a strange but hauntingly familiar creature lying outstretched from which they carved the meat. It’s pale skin shimmered in the gloom, almost blue. Unable to look away, clutched by some unnameable terror. Drawn to the creatures face staring into the darkness, the dull and lifeless face of Bres the once beautiful.
Bres awakened from his nightmare cold but not in a sweat all need for sweat was gone under the crushing black waves. One of the strange squat figures that made up the crew of the damned vessel lay it’s flabby strange appendages on his shoulder in an attempt to rouse him.
“pH-ere pH-ome” It sputtered with its bulbous lips in it’s attempt at the tuathan dialect. And then it said a word presumably in its own tongue he couldn’t hope to recognize. “R’lyeh”.
The once and future king rose from the squalid bedchambers they had made for him in the cramped under chambers of the unusual ship. Little more than a cot made of what appeared to be whalebone but of no whalebone he had ever seen, the bedding was simply silken seaweed of some sort. Not as comfortable as he bed in Dun Bresse but not far from it.
The strange squat fish man continued to gibber in his own alien language, gesticulating that Bres was to follow him.
Bres had become accustomed to the sea now, his body regulating his heat in a different way, as if a whole new circulatory system had been awakened. He had no need for clothes other than to protect his modesty. He wore only a loin clothe and girdle to hook a sword. The rest of his skin was exposed to the water, breathing it in almost. His skin shining like the scales of a fish, the blue of the markings on his skin almost luminous now. Perhaps he was home after all.
On deck the crew were jabbering some weird right or rally crying “Ia ia ia” they repeated as the ship glided into the darkness of the bottom of the ocean. Naught to be seen even a foot in front of the ship but evidently they could see something.
And then at once he could see it too, a spire. It pierced the grim dark of the ocean floor, who knows how deep they were now, was this the very bottom?
Then more unveiled as if the ocean darkness were a morbid sheet pulled from a desiccated corpse. It was a bizarre city under the waves with a castle and a spire at the top. It was like no city he’d seen even in the books he’d studied in the floating cities. It was aeons old and the architecture made by no tuathan hands. It was blasphemous and alien in aspect. Its non-euclidian geometry stretched into grotesque shapes. It that seemed like they’d been formed from the bones of some never before seen creature. The creature having died in twisted agony and the people living amongst it some vicious parasite.
Although the shapes were hideous and brutal and almost suggestive and guttural, they also felt familiar. He wondered for a moment if his mother had been to this tormented city, or if she’d ever seen it at all, even in her dreams.
The squat figure that had awoken him waddled beside the former king, he pointed at the top of the spire and spat “Dr-eaming, pHe waitsss”