The sound of waves crashing, heavy limbs, rain beating, the spray of the sea. Suddenly the room is the deck of a ship and the sea is churning it, tearing it apart like it was made of kindling, the sound it sets teeth to chattering. The terrible sound rivalled only by the sounds of the screams. An unnameable shapeless mass rears up from beneath the black waves. With one stroke of it’s barbed tendril snaps the mast and pulls the ship into black oblivion.
“Wake up Firbolg, you’ve been sleeping too long – Inish Alga needs you.” A honeyed familiar voice said, the smell of blackberries, the touch of soft skin.
“That old name, – no one and nothing needs me for anything but shedding blood”
“Then so be it” The woman said. “Awaken Firbolg, embrace your destiny.”
The Firbolg opened in his eyes in who knows how long, his vision was blurred and he saw a blackened shape hovering over him.
A delicate white hand reached out to him and without thought he snatched it and pulled the figure closer.
“Who are you?” Cur snarled putting emphasis on each word.
The woman yanked her hand from his grasp and Cur grinned as she recoiled in shock. Her hood falling back off her head revealing a young elven girl with raven hair and pale skin.
Cur laughed, bearing his teeth and boiling off into a low cackle.
“The spurned druidess” He laughed falling back into the makeshift bed the fisherman had fashioned for him. The bed consisting of furs and old fish nets.
The girl that stood before him twisted her pretty white face and took a deep breath tucking her dark hair behind her pointed ears. She finally spoke. “It is I, the little Druidess, here to save your miserable life yet again” Birog hissed.
“How did you know I was here?” The firbolg asked.
“I saw it in a dream” Birog said.
Cur grinned and laughed that mocking laugh.
The dog bounded towards Cur sticking his snout too close for his liking, the Firbolg pushed the dogs snout away. “Away beast”
The dog whimpered.
Cur stared at the fisherman and asked “Who rules Inish Alga?” in his low croaking voice almost as if it was rhetorical or a threat.
“I haven’t heard that name in a long time” Manannan said puzzled. “Oh, still it is Bres but no one has seen him for a long time, ever since the rituals on samhain began.”
Cur looked at the Druiddess and she sighed deeply.
“Every year” She said. “Every year they take two thirds of the corn and the milk-.”
“And the children” Cur finished her sentence stonily.
“Yes” She seemed to shiver as she said it, clutching her arms around herself. “Ever since Bres went into hiding we have returned to the taxes our ancestors suffered under the Fomorians.”
She continued slowly, breathing deeply as if it pained her to say it. “Every year, the children are lead to the hill of Tara and taken down into the catacombs and never seen again.”
“It is punishment” Cur said.
“There is a new king, same as the old king- a shadow ruler, he rules but nobody knows it, he’s ruled all this time using Bres as his puppet. The power behind the throne, the unseen hand.”
“What is his name?” Cur croaked.
“He is called Balor of the baleful eye, a powerful king of the Fomor.”
“Preposterous, the Fomor are a myth” Manannan who had been leaning quietly with his arms folded against the wall of his shack suddenly chipped in. “A story to keep children from swimming in deep waters, like the kelpie.” He scoffed.
“Is that right?” Birog smirked. “They are here and they have always been here and now finally they dane to show themselves in this new tax.” She hummed to herself for a moment and walked over the silver arm that was resting on Manannan’s table.
Manannan reached for his prize instinctively. “Now wait a minute, I found that, it’s mine!” He protested.
“This doesn’t belong to you” She said then turning to Cur “It doesn’t belong to either of you”
Cur grinned broadly “The previous owner has no further use for it” He chuckled in his deep scarred voice.
“Can you stand?” Birog prodded.
Cur sneered and glanced at the fisherman and his dog before looking back at her. He pressed his one hand against the dirty wooden floor of the fisherman’s shack and rose slowly and stiffly to his feet.
He stood with some difficulty at his full height towering above both elves. He moved as if he’d forgotten how to use his limbs.
Manannan sighed seeing his difficulty “Take this ya bloody fool” He said as he handed him a stick.
Cur glared at the fisherman and reluctantly took the stick and put it under his arm to take his weight.
Birog smiled as she regarded him, running her fingers along the intricate lines of the silver arm with it’s strange magical symbols.
“Walk with me Firbolg” She smiled and walked out the door of the small scruffy fishing shack.
Cur followed his silver appendage, limping like a cripple but still with a vicious quickness to his step. His footfalls hard and angry as if he hated the ground he walked on for betraying him.
He pushed the door open.
“We meet again ‘slayer of Slaghtaverty’” Said a familiar and sickly mocking voice.
The voice came from a strange robed figure. On eitherside of him were similar non-descript and ominous comrades holding long and queer barbed weapons. The smell of seaspray and rotten fish and seaweed rose above them like a dense fog.
“Perhaps you prefer ‘Slaughterer of Slaghtaverty’, I myself think ‘slayer’ rolls off the tongue. You don’t recognize me?” The one in the centre said as he took back his hood revealing a cocky but bonnie young man, grinning with sharp barbed teeth. “Perhaps you recognize this” He said as he held up a weird and familiar sword. He smiled and tapped the edge, the sound it made was painful to the ears a singing in an esoteric and guttural language that Cur had heard before.
“Tethra!” Cur spat as he felt his scar burning with the magic of the sword.
“So your memory didn’t suffer as the crabs fed on you” He laughed.
“Who are you, get off my property!” Manannan followed after shouting at the strange oddly shaped robed figures.
“Silence! Who is this peasant?” Tethra asked turning back beyond the curtain of robed figures.
“He is no one my lord” Birog said as she passed through the crowd, the silver arm resting in the crux of her arm like a lamb being carried to slaughter. “He is of no consequence.”
“Very well” he said turning back, the corners of his mouth turning up like a snake’s to smirk at the firbolg. “You will come with us Firbolg or we will flay your friend where he stands.”
Cur looked at Manannan and grinned broadly. Manannan’s blood froze in his veins as he felt he had just sired a scorpion on his back.
Cur laughed, a wicked cackling laugh and he said. “Do whatever pleases you – ‘my lord’” He said as he dropped the grin from his and stared stonily at the traitor Druiddess.
“He is weak” Birog stated with a cold shrill glee in her voice. “He can barely stand and without this” She said stroking the strange silver arm “He cannot hope to escape.”
“King Balor wishes an audience with you last of the Firbolg, will you deny him?” Tethra said sharply with an indignant tone to his voice.
“If you knew he was here why didn’t you take him while he slept?” Manannan asked.
Birog grinned and said “I wanted to see the look on his face.”
“I will meet your king” The firbolg croaked and grinned wickedly.
“Very good” Tethra smirked and made a small gesture with his hand. As he did so one of the robed figures carrying a long pike with a curved strangely shaped blade on the end awkwardly shuffled forward to take Cur by the arm.
Cur grimaced and pushed back against the odd creature.
“Calm yourself, we mean you no harm” Tethra said.
Cur laughed his bellowing cackling devil laugh as the strange robed figure pulled at him and he pulled back laughing like a mad man.
The robed figure pulled with all his might but suddenly the barbarian relented. The robed figure doubled back losing his balance for a second, but a second was all the barbarian needed.
His movements were deft and volatile, pure muscle memory fueled by a vile burning hatred. He reached up and gripped the shaft of the strange lance and snapped it. Without a moments thought stabbed it viciously into the neck of the robed figure savagely and repeatedly. The figure was dumbstruck for a moment his eyes bulging still clinging to Cur meaning to wrestle life back from the brink.
A disgusting sound billowed out like gas escaping a mudhole and a slick greeny blue liquid vomited forth from the creatures neck and wide mouth. As the creature fell back the Firbolg sliced him across the throat with his own blade laughing like a demon.
The robed figures hood flew back over his head and revealed a grotesque face. Half man and half fish, one face that of tuatha and the other bulbous and misshapen and green with uneven scales that looked slimey to the touch. It’s head parting but for one flap of skin falling back over it’s neck and into a heap in front of the fisherman’s shack.
“I will meet your king as I meet you, on the field of battle” Cur said as he pointed the tip of the blade at Tethra who’s eyes boiled with bile. “And I will make him kneel before me.”
“Impudent fool!” Tethra cursed as he withdrew his magical sword once more.
Cur pounced at his quarry the blue and green blood still clinging to his make shift blade. A devilish grin plastered on his face laughing like a madman drunk on battle after going without for so long.
But even the swiftness and furosity of the wild animal Firbolg could not compete with the speed at which Tethra could draw his sword. The esoteric magic song flowed from it and burned Cur’s scar and ears to hear it’s.
Cur could feel it pulsing through his body and he could do nothing but double over as all his muscles tensed at once. The weakness of his knees buckled under him. The stick fell from him and he fell after it.
“I didn’t kill you when we first met because it seemed trivial to me, why sully my blade with your vile red blood?” He sighed as he let the magical blade fall by his side. “But now I could kill you here, Alas Balor wants you alive, for what purpose I do not know – take him”
A large inhuman foot came down on the barbarians head but the firbolg did not succumb to unconsciousness. His mouth flowing with the red blood of the firbolg and his nose leaking also. He laughed a vile wet evil laugh through the blood and they continued to beat him all while he laughed.
Manannan watched and although he wanted to look away at these indescribable beasts and their brutality he feared to take his eyes off them.
Eventually the demoniac laughing stopped and the beaten body of the barbarian lay bloodied on the ground. The ground that was green grass now stomped into a thick reddish mud.
Four of the robed fish men picked his lifeless and dirty body up by its limbs two on eitherside. They hoisted the barbarian up on their shoulders as if her were a huge fish or wild game. Manannan watched the Druiddess’ face as her mask appeared to slip for a moment and her vindictive smile seemed to sag and her eyes sunk.
“Good day to you fisherman” Tethra smirked as he sheathed his sword and gave Manannan a knowing glance.
Manannan was frozen on the spot, his mind reeling for some sense of meaning and finding nothing satisfactory. So many questions bandied about his head he thought he might go mad on the spot as he watched them drag his body to the shore. Then as if they were never there the mist seemed to swallow them up and they were gone.
The fisherman shook himself out of his daze and feeling the chill of the morning he ducked back into his cabin mumbling and muttering to himself. He locked and barricaded the door with whatever he could find.
He looked about himself for any cracks and crevices that would betray him. He was then startled by the sound of breathing turning in his relief to see the dog waiting for him. Sitting at the fisherman’s small work table.
He sighed with relief and patted the dog’s head “We’re all right laddie, they’re gone now.”
Manannan turned to look at the door and felt foolish for his haste and fear. Feeling as though he were a child succumbing to simpering notions of ghouls and goblins when he saw it with his own eyes. They were mortal men, if so they claimed to be the dreaded fomor, they could die as any man could. This gave him some comfort as he felt his own sword hanging loosely from his waist. As he did so he was reminded of his days on the open seas and he wondered during those day why he had not encountered them or if he had and not known it at the time. Such superstitions he thought he had put behind him came rushing back in an instant. He recalled at once all the stories he had been told by his fellow sailors. Encountering strange men on ships that seemed to disappear below the waves.
“They’ll be back, they always come back” A strange new voice said.
The hairs on the back of the fisherman’s neck rose in terror as he heard a voice coming from within his house or worse, from within his own head. He turned slowly, stilted by fear as before him sat a man at his own table where before sat a dog.
Fearing for the mutt the fisherman gripped the hilt of his sword and scanned the small cabin, the horse kneyed but the dog was gone.
“I fear I have a lot of explaining to do” The man who sat as his table said.