“Is that all?” Cur cackled wickedly as he dragged Ogma’s sword through the mud, slowly walking over to Tethra as he lay face down in a puddle. “No singing sword to defend you” Cur laughed.
Tethra laughed and dragged himself up to a sitting position against a rock. Black blood mixing with rain leaked from nose and mouth. “Oh it does much more than just sing” He grinned with a few too many teeth for a human and reached out. “This is just the beginning” suddenly the singing sword jumped from the ground and into the fomorian’s hand.
Cur pounced and struck with all his might. Ogma’s blade came down hard like a hammer sparking an anvil as it hit the stone the fomorian sat against. The blade exploding with sparks as violent as a lightning bolt, shattering into a thousand pieces. Tethra had vanished the moment the sword had been in his grasp.
Cur was alone suddenly, only the sounds of the rain. He looked down at what was left of Ogma’s sword, just the hilt and tiny sliver of blade and he discarded it into the mud.
For a moment the rain carried a tinny evil laughter.
Cur spun around “Show yourself coward!”
“Your prophecy is it?” Balor said icily as he stood over the twin children of prophecy.
“You can’t-!” Birog was cut short. Pinned to the wall by Balor’s outstretched arm which became as one of the masked men’s strange conical swords piercing her through her shoulder. She writhed in sudden agony as she held onto to the implement that lifted her a foot off the ground against the castle wall.
“Surely you knew there was nothing you could hide from me for long in these walls.”
The child monster turned his strange mask like face to the druidess as she struggled like an insect under glass.
“You could not see until it was too late.” Birog strained.
“You did well up to now, letting that barbarian have his way with my daughter and keeping this secret from me. Your prophecy was almost complete.” Balor walked over to his daughter, she was weak near death, he lifted her sheets and saw blood. “You let me believe it was my idea to bring him here for your prophecy.”
“Please, have mercy!” Birog cried.
Ethniu was barely conscious, in a catatonic state her body and mind near broken all for nought. Tears streamed from her eye as she watched her father swallow the children into his hideous maw before they even let out a cry they were gone.
“No!” Birog said softly, defeated, dying, her prophecy in tatters.
“And now, you may die” Balor said softly. His eyes glowing with purple effulgence radiating pure evil. His mouth opening to reveal the evil eye. A flash of lightning outside and flash of death shot from the eye and turned Birog into ash.
Tethras high pitched tittering laughter was all around Cur now, carried by the rain. “I am everywhere, can’t you see me? No? What about now?” He laughed mockingly.
In an instant Cur was no longer on the hill of Tara under the curtain of rain. He was completely dry, everything was changed. The sounds, the time of day, the light, the smell, that smell he could never forget, putrid death, decay, disease.
“Do you recognise it?” Tethra laughed.
The firbolg turned around and around in disbelief, he was in a town, made of stone and daub round houses not unlike that of the tuatha but somehow familiar. The stones larger and more ancient.
“You should recognise it, it is your home after all”
“Tailtin” Cur whispered.
“Or it was” Tethra laughed sadistically. “The sword records everything, your hopes and fears, your triumphs and your greatest failures”
Cur looked at the streets of tailtin, his capital. They were barren and dirty and silent as the grave. Smoke rose from houses but only ashes remained. The sky was red as blood and crows cawed and watched and picked at skinny corpses and bones.
“Your once great city is now a graveyard.” Tethra laughed “Where had you been I wonder, magmell perhaps? Why did you return? Too late to save them, any of them.”
“No!” Cur shouted.
Then as if out of nowhere the sound of hooves on cobblestone. Cur turned only with time enough to see the barbed blade of the black swordsman, the dullahan claim his head. That fateful day he returned to his home.
“What a waste” Balor sighed as he regarded what was left of the seer. His eyes narrowed as he looked upon her remains. For it was not ash as he had assumed. “Leaves?” the child hissed.
Birog raced through the secret passages she had spent years mapping. She was bleeding from her shoulder, barely able to keep her legs moving and stop herself from falling in the near darkness of the passage.
She dragged herself along. Her injured shoulder hitting the wall every other step sending bolts of pain through her entire body keeping her from passing out.
She raced frantically until stopped by an apparition. Her breath caught in her lungs, heart frozen.
A tall figure in rags blocked her path in the dark tunnel.
“Have no fear child.” The hissing whispering voice through crooked teeth said.
“Cethlain?” Birog gasped. “Www-what are you doing here?”
Cethlain let out a small laugh or a sigh behind her black veil “I just wanted to see, I wanted to see my grandchild”
Cur awoke as if from a dream clutching his neck, but his head was still attached. He studied his surrounding but it was not familiar at all.
He was still not on the hill of Tara nor was he in his home.
The barbarian appeared to be in nameless void devoid of light or sound. In fact the only sensation he could feel was that he waded in some thick liquid up to his ankles and the ground he trod soft and uneven.
There was no direct light but that of an odd yellow moon that hung unmoving in the sky, there was no wind, no bird chirped or dog barked.
But then a slight sound made all the more distinct by the ghostly quietus of the nameless void.
It was some kind of whimpering, a woman was on her knees crying over something the firbolg could not see.
He approached her and leaning over her he said “Why do you cry woman?”
The woman continued to whimper but said nothing, refusing to acknowledge Cur’s presence.
“I said, why do you cry?” he said taking her firmly by the shoulder.
“I cry for the dead” She said as she slowly turned. “Like you!” she suddenly hissed spinning around quickly with a curved knife slashing Cur’s throat. Her face a distorted and poxed amalgum of Tethra’s own.
Cur doubled back, his red blood escaping from his neck.
It was then that he noticed what it was he walked on and he laughed that low evil scarred laugh. The river was blood and he walked on corpses as if it were the earth.
Cur laughed. “Is this meant to scare me?”
“You walk upon the dead, they have become your path.”
“Then this river should be as milk for all the tuatha I have slane and will slay and then black for your kind too!” he laughed. “I will make this whole island a grave!”
Cur laughed and span around “Come fight me coward! Let me add you to the pile”
“Let me see the child” the woman said behind her black veil. Her words cracked and withered but knowing.
Birog swallowed the spittle in her mouth, the burning pain in her shoulder radiating through her whole body. Only the will to survive keeping her on her feet. She hesitated for a moment.
“I beg of you” the old woman said.
Birog was shaking but slowly she unwrapped something hidden, nestled in the crook of her good arm.
The old woman in the black veil approached slowly as she watched as it was unwrapped.
And as it was a light seemed to shine in the darkness and light up her dark veil. The light revealing for a moment a once beautiful face that resembled Ethniu herself. A face ruined by age but with hideously monstrous crooked teeth of a fomorian.
“So there was a third after all.” the old woman said. “beautiful” she said after a moment she covered the quiet child back up. She looked up at the shaken druidess “Come, a boat is waiting, you must leave this island.”
“The slayer of slaghtaverty proudly stands on the bones of children he slew” Tethra laugh was all around him in this moonless void.
“FACE ME COWARD!” Cur roared.
“The swords song has you now, you only see what it lets you see, hear what it lets you hear!” Tethra laughed.
“You die- WHEN IT LETS YOU DIE!”
Cur felt the kiss of the singing blade slicing the flesh across his broad back. He turned to face his attacker and saw only blackness, he heard no footsteps or even the movement of the blade slicing the air. He only felt the cold steel across his skin and Tethra’s mocking laugh all around him.
It came again slicing his leg close to the groin. Again there was no sound, no sensation except the caress of the blade and the warm blood trickling down his thigh.
Cur stood, coiled waiting for the next attack so he could act. But again the blade came with shallow mocking cuts and Tethra’s insipid laughter all around.
“I wonder how long this can go on, an eternity perhaps, will you bleed to death I wonder, or will I have to slice you into tiny slivers?” Tethra chuckled.
Another and another and another until the shallow cuts were too numerous to count.
Cur was soaked in his own red blood, cuts all over his body and face. He started to feel weak but his cursed body could not be afforded the mercy of death.
“Finish it coward!” Cur called out, his strength sapped. Cur’s mail shirt was torn and tattered, he ripped it from his body exposing his bare chest and broad shoulders. “Kill me!” he said opening his arms wide and pushing his chest out. “KILL ME!” He screamed beating his chest, his booming voicing ringing out through the void “KILL ME!”