The Dark One's Cry’, Barbora P.

Artwork by Christina Cartwright © 2006.

On that day, the worlds collided. Samhain was the only time of year when mortals could hope to glimpse that which was never meant to be seen. Hopeful lovers wished upon fairy mounds for good fortune and grieving women called out to their lost husbands, hoping to see them once more.

 [ The dark one: image © 2006 Christina Cartwright ] Lucan had watched them all day long, inwardly laughing at their pathetic chants. Arrogant fool that he was, he scoffed at the idea of spirits and the Fae. As their laird, however, it would have been unseemly to discourage them.

There was only one kind of magic, and he was the one to wield it.

His eyes scanned the crowd, searching for the face of his intended. He found her at once. Taller than the rest of the women, her hair shining golden in the sunlight, she stood an angel among hags. Her eyes were sad as she gazed upon the grave of her father, lost to a raid this summer past.

Her grief only added to her beauty.

Lucan moved his hand in the air before him, tracing a pattern and watching light follow his movements. When he finished, the glowing symbol dissolved and streaked across the distance to her—his woman.

Her reverie interrupted, she looked up and met his gaze. Lucan grinned at her, in that way he so often did. The way that bespoke his intentions clearly.

She did not return his smile. Gazing once more at the grave, she breathed a sigh and murmured her farewell. Her offering remained when she retreated. On the morrow, they would see if the spirit of her Da chose to visit them. If aught came of it, it would be on this night.

Lucan met her as she walked past, matching her stride easily "Lovely Meggie, pretty Meggie, won't you give me a charm this day?"

"Off with you, Lucan," she replied softly, her beautiful eyes downcast. "I've no patience for your games today."

He scowled. "What would you have me say, then?"

Meggie stopped and faced him. Her green eyes glistened with tears, but she would not let them fall. She was strong—a fair quality in a wife. "I would have you say 'I love you, Meggie,' or even 'tis sorry I am, for your Da.' Life is grand when all you need worry about is your fine shirt."

When she flipped her hand against his shoulder, it was not a touch he cared for. There was disdain in her voice. Why? Lucan never understood—nor cared to—the workings of a female heart. "You're to be my wife, lassie," he said tightly. "Such words are for naught."

"For you, aye," she agreed dryly. "Tis no human heart that beats within that chest. If there was aught in you worth praise, if but a spark of goodness shone behind that fair face of yours, I'd already be your wife."

"What say you?" he demanded in an offended huff.

Meggie backed away a step, then gave him her back. "Tis but a daughter's grief speaking, my lord, naught more."

Her answer did not mollify him in the least. "Face me," he said softly, a dangerous tone to his voice.

Meggie obeyed.

"Lovely or not, fair or not," he told her. "Mark my words, lass, I can make you mourn your own fate as you mourn your Da's." Never had a lass spoken to him so! She would submit to his word. For his word was law.

She met his gaze once more, a smile that was not a smile at all pulling on her lush lips. "I already do. My lord."

Lucan watched her go, his vision misting red with rage. How dare she speak so to him!

An angry thought was met by angry action.

As the sun lowered to the hills, Lucan stomped out of town, away from the bonfires and revelry. He rushed through the forest, heedless of the branches lashing at his body. He followed no path, cared not where he went, only that he continued moving.

At last, he stopped before a towering jagged cliff. Words of power whispered through his mind and he gave them voice, feeling the magic pour into his hands like sand. He let it take over him, fill him, guide him.

The rock groaned under the weight of his command. He clapped his hands once, thunder crashing in the sky as he did so. A second time he clapped, and a third, until the rock before him opened.

"Who dares disturb my sleep?" a voice hissed from deep within.

"Lucan, son of David the Hunter. I summon thee forth, spirit, to grant me my wish."

The spirit in the cave hissed again, this time a laugh that hurt Lucan's ears. "A fool's wish," it said.

"I am no fool," Lucan replied through gritted teeth. "And you will do my bidding."

The spirit laughed again and a small light appeared far in the back of the cave. "Cast thy spell, on my stone faced well. Speak your dreams, however it seems. But mark this now, to me you will bow, for a thousand years, despite the tears, if your words cut smart into an innocent's heart."

The rules were spoken.

Lucan took a breath. "I wish for my intended's love."

"Thus shall it be, thus we will see, if the maiden's love is meant from above. Three moons is your stretch, to have the poor wretch, for her will is her own, down from heaven blown. If she'll not have you three moons hence ... I will."

The rock face groaned again and closed of its own will.

Only then did the whimsical rhymes sink in to Lucan's mind. No power on earth could command love! A fool's wish indeed. "No!" he roared at the rock, bending his will to opening it again. It would not budge.

Three months he had to do with Meggie what he would. She would obey his word and love him as she should. But at the end of that time, if she didn't love him of her own will, he belonged to the rock spirit for a thousand years.

For the first time in his life, fear gripped his insides like a cold fist.

He ran back home, determined to make her love him.

For three long moons he lived with Meggie at his side, basking in her smiles and enjoying her delight. He showed her a world beyond the one in which they lived. He opened her mind to wonders from afar and delights she would only find in his arms. Lucan watched her eyes grow wide in amazement, felt her heart beat quicken, and for a short moment each time, he felt safe.

Yet he knew her smiles were not her own. He knew it each time he looked into her eyes and saw the emptiness within. 'Twas the same emptiness that loomed constantly over him; plaguing his dreams when he wished only to see his beautiful wife in them. It taunted him with what was sure to come, no matter how hard he tried to prevent it.

He failed.

The morn when her eyes opened to the truth was his to cherish for all eternity. Sweet Meggie, lovely Meggie, her belly slightly rounded with his babe. She awoke in his arms and smiled before her eyes opened. But once they did, Lucan saw naught of what he’d expected in them.

At first there was confusion as she moved away from him, refusing his touch. Then fear when she looked about her and beheld the big soft bed, the many silks draped everywhere, the sheep skins before the hearth – all the things he’d bought for her in hopes that they would soften her heart.

When she beheld him, her eyes condemned him not with anger, but with betrayal. She never said a word. Not a single word. A tear slid silently down her pale cheek and her anguish tore his soul asunder. Meggie, dear Meggie, his beloved wife turned her face away, renouncing him.

He closed his eyes to escape the sight and opened them to darkness.

 [ The rock face: image © 2006 Christina Cartwright ] A thousand years...

Twelve thousand moons to think on what he'd done; to go mad and recover his senses, then go mad again.

Endless hours to sit in complete emptiness, in a world that had no beginning and no end. There was naught in this hell. No hunger, thirst, pain, or even sleep. He felt naught a man should feel, numb but for his anguish.

The floor was smooth, cold stone, with never a chink or scratch to trace. He could walk for miles and never reach a wall. Lucan, once a powerful laird with lands as vast as the sky and as rich as his own keep, found himself in a world where nothing existed, not even an echo of his voice. And, och, how many times he screamed and shouted himself hoarse in hopes of hearing any sound in return.

It never came.

There was only one thing he had in this place that was not a place at all: the memory of Meggie and all he’d done to her.

"Rise," the voice of the spirit hissed. "Your price has been paid."

There was a rumbling noise, like thunder, and then a shaft of light blinded him as the rock face opened to grant him passage.

Lucan closed his eyes and walked out. He kept walking until he was out of his prison. The enchanted door closed once more behind him, abandoning him with no knowledge of this new world he found himself in.

It mattered not.

Lucan climbed the rock face, flexing his strength, rather than his magic, to reach the top. His hands were raw and his arms aching when he got there and lifted his weary face up to the moon. Below him an unknown land stretched far and wide.

"Forgive me," he whispered to the winds, hoping they would bring the two words to the one he had wronged so terribly.

Then he came to the edge of the cliff and stepped forward into thin air.

© 2006 Barbora P.

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