The taste of Cailleach’s potion still lingered on his lips and churned in his stomach. He felt the celestial elements attaching themselves to him on a cellular level. They bound him. Kept him prisoner. He’d sent his legion out to the underworld’s far reaches, but they were trapped right along with him. He stretched his being in all directions and tested his prison walls for any signs of weakness. Nothing worked! The more he tried and failed, the more his love turned to anger. And that anger festered into hatred.
Arawn sat on his throne. The chamber was dark, and the cold bit the air with razor-sharp teeth. Her magic was all around him. The underworld was a vast place, but to a god who could move through space with the flick of a finger or the slightest thought, this inability to traverse the realms was claustrophobic torture, unlike anything he’d experienced. His freedom stripped, he was helpless, and that only served to piss him off more. Her spell became his obsession. He tried to puzzle it out, but the bloody curse was an enigma! She used magic he’d never seen before. Her words echoed in his mind over and over like a sadistic nursery rhyme hell-bent on driving him mad. Her triune voice vibrated in his ears and off the walls of the chamber.
I banish you, wretched King of the Unseelie,
I banish you from the mortal realm, the otherworld, and all realms between,
I banish you to Dubnos, you and your Unseelie horde,
No more shall you rip the veil of my domain,
So it is, so it was, so it shall ever be,
So mote it be.
He couldn’t escape the spell, but he didn’t want to. There had to be a way around her curse, and he would find it. His eyes glowed with a crazed need for revenge. His obsession grew into madness as his mind worked into a psychotic frenzy. He lived for one desire. To be free, and when he made his escape, she would pay.
“She’ll pay!” he said as he paced the space for the millionth time. “This is not the end for them. Oh no, this is not the end.”
She was right. There was no real way to kill a god, but there were worse things than death. While she might not die, that mortal she loved wasn’t so blessed. The man would die, and it would be by his hand—no one else’s. Cailleach would know who did it. Immortals didn’t belong with these lesser beings, these humans. Choosing them over immortals was a slap in the face to their kind. He would not stand for this or any sort of half-breed monstrosity that came from their union.
“No, they don’t belong. A child from their union is an abomination!” he said more to himself than anyone in the room. “I’ll find a way out, and when I do, they’re all dead!” Arawn’s eyes glowed in amber hues, and his thoughts turned to revenge. “They’ll all die by my hand. No matter how long it takes… they’ll all die.” This new purpose consumed him. It was all he thought about day and night, night, and day. He worked her spell over and over, again and again. Nothing else mattered to him. Nothing.
Vipoig sat in the gardens as he did every night since the bastard ripped her from him. For the past six months, he’d been unbearable to live with. He refused to eat. He drank himself into a daily stupor to drown his misery. Drowning in mead, he stomped the grounds, growled at everyone, and generally made life hell. She was gone. There was no word, nothing at all to know if she was dead or alive. There was no foe to fight, no trail to track, no man to kill. It ripped him apart. His inability to hunt for her drove him mad, caused him to drink, pushed him to the training fields.
The fear and uncertainty had him training his men longer and harder than ever. If the faceless enemy came back, he’d be ready for him. He’d rip the man’s insides out and search the ends of the earth for her. During one training session, he lost himself in the fight. His pain consumed him. He took all his hate, anger, anguish, and loss out on his men. His rage consumed him as he hammered away on one of his men in a fit, unlike anyone ever saw before. It took four of his men to pull him off the lad. He almost killed him. After that, he swore off mead and locked himself away in his chamber during the day. He would only come out at night after everyone went to sleep.
He walked the gardens this night like he did every night since her disappearance. The sky danced with colors akin to an artist’s palette. The emerald, lavender, and magenta bands danced and swirled in the night’s expanse, fading and shining bright, as if doing battle. But tonight, the atmosphere was quiet, dark, and speckled with stars on a black canvas. Tonight the sky was peaceful. The night was quiet. Not even the silent whisper of the wind or the cricket’s serenade invaded the tranquil darkness that surrounded him.
Vipoig fell to his knees and gazed up at the sky. “Where are ye?” He screamed into the night and pounded his fists into the ground. “Cailleach!” he said, “please come back ta me. I cannae live without ye,” he whispered to the wind and put his face in his hands.
A sapphire light shimmered in the inky darkness. Cailleach stepped through the portal, and the cool grass chilled her toes. She was back in Vipoig’s garden, the night still and silent, the air crisp on her skin. On the other side of the main path, she saw a figure, on his knees and fists stretched into the air. She watched as he pled for her to return. She admired her handsome mortal. Her heart warmed, and her stomach flipped. She felt the anguish and sorrow her absence caused him. Her bare feet, gliding through the grass toward him, stirred the silence around them.
Vipoig heard something stir close by. He whipped his head around to see where the noise came from. There she was, walking toward him in all her radiant glory. Her russet hair shimmered in the moon’s light, and that alluring smirk she always gave him was there once more. It was too good to be true. He blinked hard and blinked once more. He couldn’t trust his eyes. They’d tricked him on more than one drunken night. But he hadn’t touched the stuff in a fortnight. He tried to speak, but his voice wouldn’t work. His hands shook as he ran them through his hair and tried again.
“Tis you?” Vipoig asked. He hoped to the gods it wasn’t an apparition this time.
Cailleach smiled at the massive man kneeling in the grass. His bewilderment amused her. “Yes, my love, it is,” she said as she caressed his cheek with her fingertips.
Vipoig jerked back. He didn’t trust his own senses. He shook his head, stunned with disbelief. He reached for her wrist and wrapped his fingers around it. It felt solid. He brought her fingers to his mouth and felt their warmth against his cold lips. Was it too good to be true? Was she back in his life as fast as that bastard ripped her from it? He scrambled to his feet, rushed toward her, whisked her into his arms, and kissed her with all the pain, longing, and fear he’d felt. He gave it all to her in that kiss. His hands roamed over her supple curves. He pulled her back, took all of her in again, and kissed her once more. He couldn’t get enough. He had to have her. Not willing to wait, he picked her up, ran back to the castle, and up to his chamber as she laughed. He kicked the door open and set her down. He pulled her close, ran his fingers through her luscious curls, and bent to kiss her, but hesitated.
“What’s in yer hair lass?” he asked.
Cailleach grabbed a lock of her russet curls and saw the celestial ruminants intertwined with her strands of hair that made them give off a soft glow.
“Oh, that?” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “It’s nothing really, just a few drops of Jupiter.” She grinned at him and moved further into his chamber.
“Drops of Jupiter?” Vipoig said with a raised brow. He had no idea what that was, but it didn’t matter. She was back, she was with him, and she was all his. “You’ll have ta tell me all about it, lass. After,” he said as he kicked the door closed with a wicked grin on his face and desire in his eyes.
To be continued…