Pain; the words lights up his brain like a falling star. Pain; the one thing that kept him alive, kept him clinging on, reminded him what he had to do, who he was doing it for, all the pain, the endless pain.
Pain. Gone. Pain. Gone.
The pain was gone.
Cur awoke from his dreamless sleep, feeling nothing. Not cold nor heat, the pain was gone. The pain he had become accustomed to, the pain that was so familiar, the pain that had become his friend and only ally, the reason he woke, the reason he slept. His constant companion reminding him that there was still life in him. Still love, somewhere buried deep down under all the pain, all the scars, the broken bones and blood.
But it was gone.
“Awake, marvelous” a voice above him cooed, and as he spoke the sound of metal implements jossling excitedly could be heard just out of sight. “So this is the one that made Ogma the silver tongued so pretty” The voice laughed mockingly “And shortened that silver tongue no less”.
There was a silence, the sound of a blade scraping against metal. Cur opened his eyes but could only look up and all he saw was a cold flat stone. The room was dark, it was night time perhaps. He could feel a slight chill coming from a crack or window.
“You came to kill me, did my father send you?”
Cur strained and grunted as he felt his bonds tightened at his wrists and ankles and neck. His wrists.
A strange feeling, a phantom hand reaching out for nothing. He cast his gaze down and to his confused horror an arm of flesh and bone replaced what once was silver and filled with pain. He felt dreamlike and painless and almost giddy.
“What did that whore give me?”
“She tried to kill you but it seems death has no sway, it doesn’t want you. And that whore is my sister”.
“Then you are already dead” Cur cackled. His booming laugh filling the dark low ceilinged dungeon.
“I’ve had some time to examine this weapon of yours.” He said as he walked around the table Cur was strapped to. In his hands he held the silver arm, a small lantern dangled from his hip and was the only source of light.
Cur strained to follow his path with his fierce feral stare, like a caged animal waiting for moment to strike. The walls were damp, almost dripping, stained red with rust or blood and he could see the tuathan’s breath hanging in the air. The barbarian saw out of the corner of his eye a table next to his head full of bladed tools and implements. He could feel air but from his limited vantage could see no windows.
“Funny isn’t it? That I would use the technique I planned to use on Nuada on the very man that took his arm and his throne and started all of this.”
“I also took his head” Cur laughed wickedly.
Miach swallowed that bitterly but tried to hide his disgust. He regarded the arm clinically as one might a piece of art or some kind of experimental device. “Still it is rather elegant” He looked at the giant laid out on the operating table “Far too elegant for something like you”
Cur strained against his bonds but his new arm was atrophied, it was weak and had little feeling in it.
“I think I’ll keep it, as a trophy” Miach said as his footsteps echoed out of the dark dingy room taking the only light source with him. Leaving Cur alone to painless black slumber.
The cyclopean city beneath the waves undulated with unspeakable forms of life. Both batrachian and anthropoid. They were scarcely humanoid but some vile reflection of man lingered or perhaps originated.
The black ship docked or more so landed, settled on a crack that seemed to form naturally from the bone like rock of the sea floor. It fell with a great low rumble and shudder which could be felt throughout the whole ship, a ghastly white bone dust held in the air.
The city itself loomed over them like naturally formed reefs or under water mountains. It also seemed to fade into the background under a shroud of mist. As if it was there but also somewhere else, trapped between two planes of existence, resting always in the periphery but never being focused on. The former king daunted not on this for he feared his mind would fray thinking too deeply on subjects of that matter. Leave it to druids or some such scholar to ponder it.
The city hummed with power. A low evil resonance of ancient dread coming from deep below the earth filled his bones for a moment. Then passed as the small squat frog like creatures poked and prodded at him guiding him to the ramp off the ship.
The former king protested in irritable grunts they could understand. Their ill formed appendages handled him clumsily, pushing and shoving him to the edge of the ship.
Bres shook off their slimey webbed paws but they were forceful and they more or less tossed him from the side of the ship. For a moment he was shocked and angry expecting the ocean floor to rush up to catch him. But as he floated down slowly he remembered he was not in his home anymore. Or maybe he was in fact home at last, his true home.
The still darkness of the underkeep was almost deafening. The hum of the night pulsing endlessly like the vicious waves that savaged tory isle.
“You have it?” Cur’s scarred voice croaked.
“The moment he took his eyes off it” A familiar voice whispered. Into a slim beam of moonlight Tuan walked; his eyes glinting like that of a wolf’s or rat’s. In his hand was the silver arm glinting also, mockingly at it’s never master, it’s thief and current owner. A pair forced together by necessity and destiny. “But it appears we have a slight problem” Tuan laughed as he looked upon the changes to his travelling companion.
Cur snorted irritably “Unshackle these bonds”.
Tuan did as his companion requested, and the barbarian sat on the cold slab looking down at the strange new appendage attached to him. He regarded it as if it was some sort of parasite or a large wart.
“You are whole again once more brother” Tuan remarked laughing.
Cur said nothing.
Tuan scanned the dungeon with his inhuman eyes. He spied the crude surgical instruments laid out by the barbarians restraints.
“Leave me” Cur croaked.
Tuan hesitated for a moment “As you wish, I’ll be within earshot if you need my aid.”
Cur said nothing as the shapeshifter disappeared into the darkness on bat wings.
Cur reached over clumsily to the tray of implements not caring of the noise it made in the deep bowels of the castle and he took a saw in his large clumsy hand.
In the dark he whispered to himself harshly over and over as if summoning some dark entity into himself, he chanted; “Pain”.
“I had another dream” The princess said wistfully as if dreaming now.
“About your mother?” Miach said not looking at her, his nose in one of his journals reviewing his notes.
He sat at his desk where he slept most nights in his dimly lit and cluttered observatory. The princess stood talking to the top of his head but her eyes were empty and fixed on nothing. The large vat of magical acid behind her now empty.
“The same dream I’ve had since I arrived, she gives herself to the river, her body becomes one with it, gives it new life.”
“It’s just a dream, nothing more” He said idly.
“And that creature that came to kill you and the other one, is that just a dream?”
“How I wish it were” Miach sighed and paused looking up from his journal “What other creature?”
“The one in the woods, Airmed told me about it but I already knew. I knew his grave was empty, you tried to hide it from me but I am not a fool. I wonder how many more there are out there, more of your failed experiments.” She said with a hint of disdain under breath.
“What is it you ask of me Princess?” Miach said exasperated, he was frayed for a moment. Both of them were, something static hung in the air, the barbarian a harbinger of some doom looming on the horizon. A sharp pit fall at an unexpected turn of the road about to plunge them both into oblivion.
“I ask only to be made whole”
“What does that mean?”
“You can rebuild the body but the spirit eludes, let me be that spirit.” She said clasping at her bosom as if a child asking a star for a wish.
“What could you possibly mean?” Miach asked puzzled.
“In my dream, a message, she becomes one with the river, her body, her spirit.”
“You know not what you ask for, you ask me to kill you, why not just lead his people yourself, become his legacy.”
“They need more than a scared little girl, they need their king. The true king of the tuatha to return and lead them against their enemies and reclaim their home.”
“You wish to make a monster of me out of your own cowardice.” He snapped.
“I fear you’ve done that to yourself already” She hissed back.
“You know nothing of sacrifice, I have done everything, given everything!”
“Then allow me to do the same!”
“And what of Ogma and Airmed? What would they think of me?”
“They will understand, in time.” She said, her words trailing off at the end wistfully.
Her ears pricked up suddenly as a disconcerting sound filled the air, like a cry of an animal but far away but also right there in the room. A few panicked seconds as the two tried to decide where the noise was coming from, as their minds tried to place the sound.
“A horn?” Miach said.
“Coming from outside?” The princess said as she went over to a small window closed by a shutter and barred by a mound of books. The princess tossed the books aside carelessly and flung the heavy ramshackle shutters open. A cold wind blew through Miach’s lab and chilled them both to the bone. The entire room touched by the icy fingers of the mountain, pages of books and papers sent fluttering, a whole world in disarray.
“He’s come for us!”
“Who?” Miach questioned defiantly “No one can find this castle unless they know where to look!”
“He’s been here before” She said coldly, her voice sounded hollow and toneless.
“What are you talking about?” Miach said as he pushed past the slight girl and stared out at the clear night. “Oh Goddess”.
Outside the castle wall; torches burned, a small army amassed. Some were soldiers, some seemed to just be riled peasantry. At the head was a man who sat awkwardly on horseback, a man with a ghoulish white face that seemed inhuman somehow, stiff and unliving. A flaming sword raised above his head.
The princess whispered to herself dreamily “He comes for us all.”