Vipoig’s kingdom was fortified and strong. Cailleach noticed over the last six lunar cycles how well his land and its people prospered under his protection. She admired how her king took care of his people and how they took care of him in return. The village flourished in this symbiotic relationship. The dwellings were a mixture of roundhouses, built with stone and wood of varied size. The main house was the most substantial structure in the stronghold, boasting three stories and luxurious furnishings. They built fortifications to protect themselves against the Romans. The high walls and lookout towers rose above the beauty within the stone fortress. The gardens were her favorite place to spend time. She walked among the blooming flowers and lush vegetation every day.
Vipoig’s feelings for the goddess intensified the more time they spent together. Cailleach shared who she was and her desire to live and experience life as mortals do. He’d done his best to show her all that life with him had to offer. He gave her everything, even though he feared she’d decide one day it wasn’t enough. He knew to lose her would kill him, but he pushed those thoughts aside for another day. He resigned to love her completely in the time he had, no matter how long or little that may be.
He followed Cailleach and admired her as she glided along the path in the gown he had made for her. It was royal blue, the perfect color against her fair skin and fiery hair. He grinned with satisfaction, determined to steal a few moments alone with her. She loved his gardens as much as he did.
He slid his hand over her hips, pulled her close, and buried his face in her russet locks. The lavender and vanilla scents she loved to use invaded his senses.
“Hello, lass,” he whispered low and sultry in her ear as he slid his hands around her waist. He pulled her tighter against him and gently nipped at the flesh of her ear. The feel of her curvy hips beneath his hands and her plump backside sent shock waves through him.
Cailleach grinned as she turned around in his arms. His hands rocked her body in waves that tingled through her and straight to where her thighs met. “Hello, my king.” She snaked her arms up his chest, behind his neck, and brought him to her. She lightly grazed her lips across his and slipped the tip of her tongue to lick where his parted.
Vipoig made a guttural sound in the back of his throat and deepened the kiss. He felt her hands roam across his shoulder, his ribs, down his back and felt her grab his arse with firm appreciation.
He pulled his lips from hers, “Now lass, behave,” he said with a wicked smile, not wanting her to stop.
She closed her eyes and shook her head. “This human preoccupation with waiting is so silly. Why must you torture yourselves instead of delight in the carnal adventures these bodies have to offer?”
“Aye lass, the flesh’s adventures are carnal, but I’ll not be taking ya til you’re true and properly mine.”
“I already am, and you are mine, so there’s no more need to wait,” Cailleach said. Her fingers drifted down his defined stomach and caressed the hardness she caused.
“Christ, woman, you’re going to kill me,” Vipoig pulled away and grasped her hands to keep them at a safe distance. “Aren’t you the one that wanted to experience all the human things? I do recall ya telling me that. Insisting on it even.”
She slumped her hands down at her side and puffed hair from her eyes in frustration. “Of course, but this one is so…”
“Aye, it tis but will make the loving even more wonderful once we’ve said our vows. I will have you as my wife before I bed ya love.” He guided her hand and tucked it beneath his elbow and continued down the gravel path.
Arawn watched her from afar as she strolled along the garden path away from the keep. He admired her mortal form, and it’s as gorgeous as her other forms. Arawn assumed a new skin she’d never seen before. One with a tall frame, angular features, broad shoulders, and sculpted chest. His dark bristly beard framed his chiseled jawline and offset his charcoal rimmed silver eyes and sandy blonde hair. The look was striking, yet he didn’t bother to shroud his essence from her. He didn’t need to. She’d figured him out by now.
He leaned against a tree trunk in the distance and watched a tall, dark-haired man grab her from behind. She whirled around; her rusty hair shimmered in the sunlight, her face beamed. She smiled up at the mortal, and revulsion rolled through him as he watched the two embrace in a passionate kiss. He watched her love that mortal the way she should love him. She radiated joy as he’d never seen before. He saw it in her eyes. She chose the mortal over him. Molten anger and jealous rage quicken Arawn’s blood into a frenzy as his shape lost its mass.
“Hello, Cailleach,” Arawn said as he materialized before them.
“Arawn, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come for you, my sweet. I will always come for you.”
“You need to leave now. You’re not welcome here.”
“Not without you, my queen.”
“I am not your queen, nor will I be,” Cailleach hissed.
“You choose a mortal over me?” Arawn eyed the lesser being with disdain.
“I choose love over you.”
“I see.” Arawn hitched a brow, his control hanging on by a thread. “My love is not enough, but this mortal is?”
“You have never known love as mortals know love Arawn.”
Arawn scoffed, “mortals know love better than we do? Cailleach, you have been around these tiny humans far too long.”
“You dare mock me? You unmitigated fool, you know nothing of love. For you, love is self-serving. You choose those who will add to your power. Your love is all about you and has nothing to do with anyone else. I serve a purpose for you. The power you wish to have is mine. Power is what you love, not me, and my power is the only reason you want me. I have no wish for your pale imitation of love. Be gone.”
Cailleach moved to position herself between Arawn and Vipoig. Vipoig grabbed her waist and pushed her behind him, shielding her with his body, ready to defend her. The man didn’t look like anything he hadn’t handled before. He was confident in his ability to dispatch the unwelcome stranger.
“Ya need ta go now, stranger. She made her choice now get off my lands before I have ya removed,” Vipoig crossed his arms across his broad chest. The man was leaving, one way or another.
Arawn scoffed at the mortal’s brazen affront. The mortal put himself between him and Cailleach, unaware of how much danger he was in. Part of him respected the human for it, a small part.
“I’ll be going as soon as I have what I came for human.”
“And the lady said she’ll no have you. Go now,” Vipoig ordered.
Arawn made a move around Vipoig, and he grabbed the man by his arm.
A silver fire ignited in Arawn’s eyes, and he lifted the mortal king in the air with the flick of a wrist.
Vipoig clawed at the invisible force. It felt like a rope around his neck that pulled tighter by the second. The unseen noose blocked his windpipe, and his lungs screamed. His feet kicked in every direction. His attempts to touch the ground were fruitless. The creature held him suspended in midair.
“Release him now!” She would not lose this life, this love. She would kill the mad god first.
“Oh no, my sweet. Once this mortal’s gone, you’ll be mine,” Arawn said as he watched her struggle with what to do. “It’s best this way. You will learn to love me. I have patience. I can wait for eons, my love, but not if he lives. I see his hold on you is too great.”
Vipoig’s strangled breaths grew louder, his lips turned blue, and his eyes rolled into his head. Cailleach’s skin pulsated with radiant heat. Her eyes glowed in an icy inferno. She ripped the veil to another realm, and light danced at the portal’s borders. Cailleach flew at Arawn, grabbed him by the neck, and pushed him through the void.
The light pierced Vipoig’s eyes as he felt the invisible noose around his neck disappear. His weightless suspense ended, and he crashed to the ground. Charging to his feet, he rushed for the portal and tried to scream. He chocked and sputtered over his words. Gasped and struggled to fill his lungs as the light faded away, the portal gone, and he was alone in the garden.
“Cailleach!” he roared as he searched the area for her. They were gone.
To be continued…
This short story is also published through Coffee House Writers
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