Image for the poem Otherworldly Memories Part IV: The Evil Eye

Otherworldly Memories Part IV: The Evil Eye

- Otherworldly Memories Part IV: The Evil Eye -

  So it came to pass, that after my marriage to the duchess Kar'mila Crom-Cruach, known to me more intimately as Kaitlin, was officiated and celebrated across all of the lands that belonged to us... we did set out with much ceremony and with a mighty host at our side for the island of Eriu, which was of old the ancestral seat of Kaitlin's people. They ruled there from a great city that had once been but a hill fort in the earliest of days, and the name of that city was Tara... the same as the great hill upon which it lay. Many peoples had come and gone in the halls of Tara, even before Kaitlin's kin had come to rule there, and history would show that many more would pass through it even after our time had become regarded as an era of myth and legend. Most of my people decided to join us and move to Eriu in order to share in the joy of my union with Kaitlin. But the indigenous Fir Bolg peoples did not see it as joyful! They saw it as the beginning of an invasion, and upon seeing the great force of arms that accompanied us in all of its' glory... they were in their own minds perhaps right to be fearful. For among us were many of the ancient fallen Elves known as the Ur'kril, who had emerged from their hidden domains and the vast underground sanctuaries that kept their sensitive eyes from being bothered too much by the light of the day, and they brought with them their surface allies who were known for once having been deadly sea raiders and pirates. The two were allied, and swore further oaths of alliance to myself and the duchess Kaitlin, seeing the two of us as great architects of unification and seeing the prospect of starting over in the land of Eriu as something desirable indeed. Not any of them, nor us, intended any harm to the folk of the Fir Bolg tribes, but by the time we reached the shores of the isle... the forces of the Fir Bolg had arrayed themselves to meet us as soon as our feet reached the sands of the beaches at which our ships had arrived. They did not know what to make of us, and feared that Kaitlin had decided to betray them. She had long been on peaceful terms with them, but at the time it was just her and her kin. Now, there were strange peoples accompanying her, and the chieftain of the Fir Bolg did not like the look of this at all... especially the Ur'kril who had a reputation for savagery and barbarism, though they had become a more peaceful sort in the years since leading up to this great exodus of theirs. The seeing them closely in the company of the cruel pirates who had done great harm on their behalf in past times...  it was not a promising sight in the least. The duchess strode forward to meet with the chieftain of the Fir Bolg, and the two of them spoke at great length of many things. I stayed near the ships, with my old companion and lover, Deirdre, and we waited with the others who remained there. No one moved an inch, no one wished to provoke a war that was unwanted and unnecessary. All was well, until a druid of the Fir Bolg noticed my right hand, and he pointed to it and said something excitedly and fearfully in his tongue... a language I could not understand. He then ran over to the chieftain and told the great warrior lord what he had seen. The chieftain was mightily built, powerfully built, and looked like a mountain of a man... with thick muscles, a great bushy brown beard shot through with gray, to match his wild hair. He was clad in thick furs, as were all the Fir Bolg warriors, and he carried a great war ax in his hands, though all his other people carried only spears. Their druids were unarmed. The chieftain was alarmed by what the druid had said to him, and he cried out in a tongue we could understand: “The Black Hand! It is the omen from our prophecies of the end... when the Black Hand comes, then all the Fir Bolg shall be free no longer, but we shall become slaves of the Black Hand and the Evil One's peoples.” He glared harshly at Kaitlin, who backed away instinctively, and he proclaimed: “You have betrayed us, woman! You in your blindness have brought the Evil One to our shores. So, will you be standing with them, or will you remain steadfast in your alliance to us?” The duchess ran back to the ships to stand at my side, and said as loudly as she could: “I stand with the one I love! Alliances come and go, but love is eternal.” Which made the chieftain spit upon the ground and declare: “Then for love, you have chosen evil! And we all know what this evil shall bring... we will not stand for it. Prepare for war!” and they attacked us with a great host, with more and more of them emerging from the woods that lined the shoreline. It was chaos!

   Our combined soldiers had not only superior numbers, but we also had superior arms and armor. The Ur'kril were the first to charge the Fir Bolg, along with their sea rover allies, and I had never before in all my days seen a people fight with such relish and zeal as did the bold Ur'kril. Their elite warriors had their faces ritualistically scarred, and their teeth were all filed to pointed fangs. Their ears were pointed, for once they had been Elves of the noblest bloodlines, only now... they were tribal, fierce, and proud of their individuality. I had a great adoration for their kind, for I had seen in them something noble still, as well as a penchant for grasping technologies that were beyond the understanding of other races. I knew many Ur'kril scientists who would have been called sorcerers elsewhere in the world, and I respected the intelligence they possessed. These were not the simple, barbarian folk that others took them for! It was a marvel to see how given over to berserk fury their warriors could be in the heat of battle... for as smart and wise as their scientists and scholars could be, they were at heart still a warrior people. On the day we fought the Fir Bolg at the beaches far from the sight of Tara, I had never before witnessed such valor in a folk so demonized by others. For to most outsiders, the Ur'kril were considered demons. The bloodshed was horrific though, and the sea rovers fought with just as great a fury as did their allies. All the hosts of the Fir Bolg seemed to pour forth from the woodlands, and though they fell upon us not one of us thus far had been slain. But countless Fir Bolg fell before our swords, axes and spears. Everyone in all our lands had great respect for the skilled and bold archers of the high Elven courts... and all those employed by the duchess Kaitlin were lined up on the decks of the ships, firing upon the foe. Each of their arrows found its' mark, and yet still, even still did the Fir Bolg come. I was on the battlefield, in person, fighting bravely at the side of the Ur'kril warriors, wearing the black and crimson armor that I had previously only reserved for the most solemnly ceremonial of all occasions... though it was light, serviceable and perfect for combat. With haste, I threw my helmet upon my head, stylized as it was in the shape of a dragon's face and topped with an iron crown, two horns, and a scarlet horse hair plume. In my hands was a curved sword of Ur'kril design, and with it slew Fir Bolg by the dozens. Blood and gore piled up all about me, and I and my comrades were spattered with it as he hacked our foes to bits, trying to avoid their deadly spears, clubs, and axes. And the rocks hurled at us by their slings. For now their spear men were joined by all their other warriors, for they seemed to be giving this battle all they had to give. When last I spotted the duchess, she had gone back to the ships, even as Deirdre scrambled to find her armor and grab a weapon in order to join the fight. “There seems to be no end to them!” I cried out to the Ur'kril commander who fought at my side. His name was Bor'dosh, and he fought with the strength of many men. He exclaimed in reply to what I had said: “That would be the whole problem here, wouldn't it! It's not like they can take us on and win... but they won't stop trying, no matter how many of them we kill. But we'll keep on killing them all the same if we have to! Fear not.” and we did keep on killing them, until soon many of our own warriors began to fall as well, though nowhere near in numbers to match the countless Fir Bolg who were slaughtered on that day. I could hear Deirdre as she let loose a shrill battle cry and waded into the sea of death that the battlefield had become, armed with a sickle-like blade in one hand and a barbed spear in the other. She was attired in gilded armor of the highest quality, a gift to her from the duchess... and one that she was proud to receive. The girl had grown into a mighty warrior woman indeed, as well as a shrewd businesswoman with an eye for trade and a mind for great cunning. The dusky lass brought an end to countless Fir Bolg ere long, as her spear found its' mark over and over again, even as she slashed limbs here and there with her sharp blade. The boy Var'lan was with us as well, his kill with weapons and feats of arms surprising me greatly given his youth and what I assumed to be his inexperience with actual combat. Everyone I knew and cared for, all of them were present on that day, and we fought together to defeat the Fir Bolg, who had become little more than wild beasts in their attempt to drive us from what they deemed to be their shores. “I think the foe will keep on coming, so long as their chieftain is alive! Where is he? I plan to end him.” I shouted.

   And Bor'dosh pointed to a raised rocky part of the shore where the Fir Bolg chieftain stood watching the battle as it played out all around him, his ax bloody from all the sea rovers who had charged him in an attempt to bring him down, only to realize they had underestimated him greatly. I was afraid of him, to be honest, but I knew he had to be slain if this was to stop. He kept letting out war cries, and as he did so more and more of his people came charging out of the forests to fight us. His body was pierced by many arrows, but he stood where he did defiantly, challenging anyone who dared to fight him. I did cry out to him, attempting to get his attention. He noticed me, but was not impressed. “Black Hand! I defy you, wicked demon. You and your Fomor shall not drive us from our lands as our druids warned us would happen. It will be my pleasure to kill you personally!” and he leapt down from his perch and came charging towards me, smashing even his own men out of the way to get to me. I noticed all of his swings were wild, and he was heedless of his own wounds, some of which appeared grievous indeed as the blood poured and trickled down from the lot of them. Fomor, he called us... a term that meant pretty much “The Great Underworld Ones”. I was familiar with that name, and in the past it had been applied to the Ur'kril in particular by many primitive peoples like the Fir Bolg. Clearly, they believed that like the Ur'kril we all must have come from hidden places beneath the ground. We were all demons in their eyes, and there was no point in trying to change the Fir Bolg's superstitious mind about any of it. There would be no peace for as long as this chieftain and his fear mongering druids lived... but to deal with the druids, we would need to deal with the chieftain first and put a stop to all this violence on their part. “Are you ready, little Fomor, to die for your sins?” he asked, as he bounded at me, his large ax raised above his head. I knew he meant to strike downward... his momentum ensured he could not change the direction of his strike at this point even if he wanted to. I dodged quickly out of the way, and his ax did bury itself into the ground where I had been standing previously. The great bear of a man struggled as he tried to uproot his ax, and I seized the moment and slashed at his neck with my sword, putting all of my weight and speed into that single strike. I felt the blade bite deep, and I pulled it with two hands so that it sliced through the chieftain's neck bone and then severed his head from his body. Blood gushed and poured forth from the place where his head had been, and I grabbed the head by the hair, running back to the ship with it. I climbed up unto the deck and I lifted the head high, protected by the archers that kept on firing volleys of arrows into the still war-hungry Fir Bolg. I cried out loudly: “I have slain your chieftain, people of the Fir Bolg! I, the Black Hand, have done this deed. You know that you will not be able to stop your prophecy from coming to pass, for it has been fated. Will you die, rather than submit to the will of fate as decreed by your very own gods?” And they all stopped fighting at once, all of them dropping their weapons where they stood. The druid who had caused all of this carnage strode forth into their midst and yelled back at me: “It is not the chieftain who holds power in our clan, but I who make that claim. A druid, in this land, shall always hold more power than any king or ruler! And I do speak your language, as you can see. Quite fluently! We are not as brutish and foolish as you might take us for, Black Hand of the Fomor.” he then yelled out to the Fir Bolg warriors: “Go on, men! Pick up your weapons and fight on... the demons cannot hold out  against us forever.” But not one of them did as the druid ordered. “What is wrong with you people? Do as I command you, I am by the laws of our gods, your High Druid!” But no one obeyed him. In anger, the druid picked up a sling, put a stone into it, and hurled it at me with such speed and accuracy that I had no time to defend myself. I felt the impact of the stone striking my left eye, blinding me in it. The stone was wedged in my eye socket, and I was doubled over in agony, screaming loudly, shrieking miserably as the duchess emerged from her cabin on the ship to take me away. She whispered to me: “Oh my gods! We have to get the stone out, and see to that wound right away... you are lucky it did not penetrate deeper, else it would have killed you.” Blood was pouring down my face, and was covering my hands. My blood now, not the blood of the Fir Bolg or their chieftain. I was not present, for the carnage that ensued following my wounding.

   I passed out from the blood loss, and did not awaken until nightfall. All was deathly quiet, and at my side faithfully as I lay in the bed of the ship's cabin was the duchess Kaitlin. My wife. She was holding a wet cloth over my left eye... where the eye had been and was no longer. I had only one eye now, my good right eye. “What happened, my love! Are we still fighting the Fir Bolg?” I said weakly, my voice shaking from the pain I was still in. I had a tremendous headache on top of my entire body being sore. She was so beautiful to me, looking much like an angel gazing down on me, her face sad and mournful though it appeared to be. She was full figured, with large breasts, wide hips, and a round, cherubic face that in brighter times always seemed to have a playful expression upon it. Her hair was long, wavy, and a fiery red color... her skin was well tanned, and her eyes a pleasing shade of hazel. I was happy that I still had at least one eye left to behold her beauty with! She wore a long silk gown that was sea green in color, belted at the waist with a golden sash tied at her right side with a neat bow. It was not attire that was fit for the battlefield, so I assumed the fighting had ended by now. “My love, please tell me; do not fall into silence now! What... happened?” and she began to cry bitterly, sobbing uncontrollably as she buried her face in the blankets on the bed, at my lap. I felt her tears soaking into the covers. I stroked her hair softly, caressed her face gently, as I asked one more time: “Darling... what... happened?” And she broke her silence, telling me at last. Her words broke my heart. “After the druid felled you with his sling, the Fir Bolg found their courage and fought on... I told our commanders you were not dead, so we did not lose our morale as we defended ourselves. But Deirdre... she did not get the message right away and before anyone could tell her, she charged out thinking you slain, and attempted to avenge you. I had never seen... ever, not in all my long years... ever seen a warrior fight like she did. Not even the savage Ur'kril were akin to her in fury and wrath! She became death itself for a time, and her courage rallied us to the point where victory was within sight. She hacked the druid to pieces mercilessly, and drank of the dead man's blood in your name, dedicating the kill to your memory. She became something... terrible... after that, and I have never, oh gods, never seen a person lose their mind so utterly to battle rage. Not like she did! And she slew all of their druids who were present, and countless of their warriors too, as did all of our combined folk who fought at her side. The Fir Bolg were routed, and retreated at last to their homes in the woods and forests. But not before, they mortally wounded poor mad Deirdre. We did carry her forth from the battlefield, and tried to save her. When I was not working my healing arts with you, I was working them upon her. For I knew you loved her, Balor. I knew! I, always knew... that you loved her more than you loved me. And I did not mind that, I could never mind that. Because I saw in her so much that was akin to things I myself loved about you. And so, in the brief time I knew her, I too have grown fond of her. You two were truly soulmates... and that is why my heart is broken. She died in the end, of her wounds, crying out for you as I told her that you still lived and that the battle was now won and over with. She did not regret her actions, saying at last: 'I did the right thing, Kaitlin, didn't I? I mean.... what would you have done, if you thought your beloved was dead!' and I knew she was right. I would have charged out just like she did, seeking my own death in order to punish those who were fully responsible for yours. But you did not die, Balor! And she did not need to die like she did. Had she but waited a single moment, we could have told her that you were still alive. But she did not wait, and truly it was her haste and anger that claimed her life as much as any of the blades and spears of the Fir Bolg. So... we won, my love, but at the most terrible of costs.” I gave myself up to grief, even more so I think than the duchess herself had. For many days after that, I would not leave the ship to set foot on the soil of Eriu. I ate only enough to stay alive, drank only water, refusing any wine or mead, and I saw only the duchess, refusing all other company. I was waiting until the day when Deirdre was to be cremated, and I was there on the shore for the building of her funeral pyre. I was there, when they laid her upon it with all of her weapons and precious valuables... and I was there, when they set it alight with torches. I could only stand and watch, with one eye, as she was burned to ashes and bits of bone. My beloved Deridre!

   I was mad with grief, and collapsed unto the sands of the beach as her spirit departed from her pyre to meet the gods of our ancestors, the true gods who were above the petty beings who had dared to use the title of gods in the days before the downfall of Atlantis. As her spirit fled heavenward with the smoke of her pyre, a part of my own spirit went with her, and I was greatly changed after that. I became cynical and removed from the affairs of my people... and only the duchess who was my wife could get through to me at all. We moved to Tara, to her royal court, and I should have been happy there but I was not. I wanted revenge upon the Fir Bolg for taking Deirdre from me, and I launched a war of vengeance upon them that saw them utterly subjugated as a people. Their leaders... what remained of them... bowed low, touching their faces to the floor before my throne at Tara. They had a new name for me now. They took to calling me “Balor of the Evil Eye” for it was said of me that wheresoever I did cast my gaze, death would follow. Following their subjugation at my hands, the Fir Bolg became our allies and even fought for us on the battlefield against other, pettier enemies from time to time. My revenge was complete, but it felt hollow at best. For it could never bring Deirdre back... she would never grow into her full height as I had always imagined she one day would. She never lived to see her new home in Tara. Her ashes, her remains, were cast into the sea following her cremation. I had only one thing remaining to recall her memory by... her golden nose ring, which I kept enshrined in a gilded jewelry box within a small chapel I had created at Tara in order to honor her memory. I became gloomy, unable to be cheered, and in time Kaitlin began to fear for my sanity. “You have changed, my love... but I still love you, even if you are now, something more terrible than previously.” she remarked one day, as I was lost in my thoughts. I was touring the High Queen's gardens and thinking about how the duchess had yet to accept that as her rightful title, though it was hers ever since I declared myself to be High King of all Eriu. I asked her of this, and she answered as follows: “Balor, beloved... the moment I accept my title, is the moment that I must also accept that we have both of us changed. I want us to be able to go back, to be able to be who we both used to be once again. To turn back time, or to halt its' flow utterly.” and I reminded her about our adventure on that island with the Kalaborean survivors, who had themselves succeeded in halting the flow of time, to their everlasting damnation. “Time must go one, darling.” I cautioned her. “Else, we both will be claimed by the grief and loss that awaits us both the moment that we look back for too long.” and following that, she did in public declare before a great gathering of our united peoples and our new Fir Bolg allies that she was at last ready to accept her lawful title, that of High Queen. Peace, in that moment, had come upon the lands of Eriu, and it would last up until the arrival of the Tuatha de Danann to the shores of the green isle many, many years later. In the meantime, however, I had several personal demons to face... and my combat with them, would be far more difficult than any past battles.

   On the far northern coasts of the great green isle, there lay a small little island that in those days was reachable by way of a great wooden bridge, which during the wars against the Tuatha de Danann would end up being destroyed. Upon that island, I commanded the Fir Bolg to work with the Ur'kril in order to construct a mighty tower. The base of it was created with stone overlaid with metal, and the whole of it from those foundations upward was constructed from metal, and other materials as well, so that when it was finished the entire fortress was an imposing sight indeed. It had great paneled windows of glass, so that in sight the tower was not unlike a modern day skyscraper... only this was during a time when such technology was not known to humans, and used but sparingly by other races. Using the advanced means and methods of construction employed by the Ur'kril, the tower was completed in only a few years and I was well pleased with it when all was done. This tower became my personal retreat from the world, and within it could be found every comfort desirable to one of my kind. The Ur'kril saw the tower as their crowning achievement, and they decided to make it their primary domain in the lands of Eriu. Beneath it they constructed deep dungeons, chasms, and underground dwellings that were much to their liking.

   The island on which the tower sat was thereafter named Ynys Gwydr, which meant “Island of Glass”, and the great height upon which the tower was built, the highest point on that island, came to be called by the name Tor Uchel, which meant “The High Tower”. The Fir Bolg looked at it as a sacred place, a place to be avoided and feared, for though they helped in the tower's creation... they had a sense that it was a thing unnatural and not wholly of this world.  Even I, upon the first night I spent touring its' halls, chambers, and rooms found it almost haunting in how the feel of it was. We had tapped into something not quite right when we created the building, and there was a darkness within its' very walls. But I knew whence that darkness came, for it was a manifestation of my own growing darkness. I looked oft in the mirror and found my face grotesque when I was not wearing my eye patch, for the skin around where my eye had been, was scarred from the damage the rough and sharp edges of that stone had done to it when it struck me years before. Now, seemingly, a lifetime ago! I longed for my sight to be restored... but I did not know how it could be. I consulted all of the most brilliant minds of the Ur'kril as well as the druids of Kaitlin's people, and they all said that there was only one possibility. A renowned smith, who dwelt as a highly reclusive hermit in the wild forests of a region known in those days as Adhmaid Dorcha... a name that meant quite literally “Dark Wood”... was said to posses the skill to fashion body parts made from metal, and to be have the medical skills necessary to affix them into place and set the new parts to function as well if not better than the old. This was something far beyond even the ability of the Ur'kril, and so not only would this be a quest to get my eyesight fully restored... it would also, if the procedure worked, allow the Ur'kril to gain new knowledge of a branch of science that was beyond their current level of understanding. I realize now of course that this was not actually a blacksmith, but a scientist and a doctor in the modern sense. But back then, I had no understanding of such things in the same way as I do now... and so I saw this as miraculous and set forth immediately, alone, to seek out this smith. His name was, supposedly, Cichol, and rumor abounded that he was the oldest man in all the land, and that he had been dwelling in Eriu since before the great cataclysm that followed after Atlantis' destruction. That meant he likely possessed lost knowledge from those ancient times, and would likely be the sort to guard his secrets well. However, at least one contradicting tale said he died in a battle that took place during the early days of the land's settlement. He was also, if he still lived, an ancestor of my wife Kaitlin, whose people owed much of their prestige in Eriu to his legacy. For once, in a bygone era, he had been their chieftain. Or so the legends said, for these were legends rather than history that I was being regaled with, when setting out to seek this ancient man. I kissed Kaitlin passionately... and with love in my heart for her... before setting out by a horse-drawn chariot for the region wherein that dark woodland was said to be. It was at the break of dawn when I set forth, for I wished to waste no hours.

   It was late afternoon when I arrived in the part of the land that I had been directed to. I asked many times over for directions from some of the native Fir Bolg, who had by then learned my language well enough to be able to communicate with me, with no great difficulty. Everyone knew the place I sought, but they all told me it was a foolish errand, and that I should turn back now and not waste my time. No one gave me a straight answer as to whether the old smith still lived or not. I eventually reached those forest lands I sought, and entered Adhmaid Dorcha's confines nervously. The woods were beautiful, not at all what I was expecting given the terrible name of the place and the way everyone had warned me against going therein. It was midsummer, nearing nightfall, and the air was pleasant with a calm sort of breeze blowing through the treetops. There were green bushes and wildflowers, and patches of rather tall grass here and there, and clovers amid the rich brown soil of the forest floor. Gray rocks littered a bit of the ground in places, and all was wild, with no trails or roads. I had to leave my chariot behind, and I tied the horses to one of the trees prior to going any further. There was nothing for it now but to brave this wild place... and see if anyone still remained here who could assist me in this time of need.

   I cut a path before me with my sword, the same blade I had used back in that bloody battle against the Fir Bolg, the day I lost not just my eye but my mind as well. It seemed appropriate somehow, that I did make use of it in the same way that Deirdre once used her own blades when blazing trails during those days in which she was a ranger by trade. My heart still ached from her death, and in my solitude as I did made my way through that forest I was nearly overcome at times with sorrow. She would have liked to be here at my side, leading the way even. As the hours passed in this gloomy way, night fell and in the heavens I could soon see the moon and the stars, in between the breaks in the forest canopy above. The night birds and insects could be heard, and for some mad reason I did not attempt to take a break for a while... instead, I forced myself to keep going. I heard wild animals in the woods, and was fearful what might befall me should a hungry beast fall upon me when I was unawares. I had to find that smith, but what if he had never existed at all? What if his entire legend was invented! I needed to know for certain though, and so I kept pressing on. Heedless of the real danger posed by a journey like this in the dark of night. I could smell, very faintly, every so often the pleasant scent of wood burning. Like when wood is being burned in a fireplace or upon a campfire. I tried to find what direction it was coming from, and I at last seemed to be heading in that exact direction. If there was a fire, then there likely would have to be the home of the great smith I reasoned. But then I heard the growling of a large animal, though in the darkness I could not see it clearly. I slashed at the shape with my sword, and charged forward, but that creature, whatever it may have been, was fast and moved aside as I found myself falling into a pit that was concealed on the forest floor. Both of my legs were broken by the fall, and it was a very great and long fall indeed. I thought to myself as I lay there, losing consciousness as darkness engulfed me: “All of this, for vanity! Did I really need my eye back badly enough to die for it?” For I was certain that I was dying, or would be dead very soon. My eye closed, and my breathing was difficult as I surrendered to the oblivion of unconsciousness. I dreamed after that, and in my dreams I was chasing Deirdre as she ran through those woods, her bright spirit illuminating the shadows. “Follow me, sweet leaf!” she said, calling me by her nickname for me. Tears filled my eyes... for in my dream I still had two eyes... and I cried out for her, screaming: “I am coming, Deirdre! Wait up for me, I am on my way.” and the further I chased after her, the darker the shadows around me became, until soon I was surrounded by darkness and shadows again. No one had called me by that name in a very long time... it was our thing, just ours, between us. I had to be in Hell, I reasoned... and I needed to find her spirit again, to find my way to the paradise in which she awaited me. “Where are you, Deirdre?” I called, and her voice echoed from in my breast as she cried out from inside my heart: “I am here, sweet leaf! I will always be here, for you.” and my heart broke anew, as I clutched my chest and fell willingly into the shadows, allowing them to win.

   I awoke form that dream to find myself in a small rounded stone cottage with a thatched roof. I was upon a metal bed that was covered in sterile white sheets, and my legs were covered with a blanket. I could not move them, nor could I move my arms, and I still had only one eye to see with. All around me were strange looking machines that were actually medical equipment, and there were tubes going into and out of my body. Tubes, wires, and other devices that I could not guess the purpose of. I had tubes inserted into my nose, and I was breathing with the aid of a bellows-like machine that kept air flowing through my lungs. There were tables with surgical implements upon them, which I thought at first were weapons. And there was a fire burning in the hearth, where a tall man of the Elvish race was sterilizing a scalpel. He was ancient looking, with a short white beard, a bald head, and pointed ears. He wore a white robe and a white cloak, and I knew at once that this was the smith I was searching for. I called out to him, my voice weak and trembling: “Cichol... is that you? My name is Balor, and I am of the people now known as the Fomor. I have lost my eye in battle, and wondered if...” and the doctor, for that is what he was, said: “You were wondering if I could make you a new one. Oh my goodness!”

   His voice was kind, and his manner pleasant, but his words were hardly reassuring as he told me: “I think you will need more than just a new eye, Balor! You will need new arms and legs as well. But we can still save your hands and reattach them to the new arms easily enough. And the rest of you is in as good of shape as before, though I intend to reinforce your spine and give you a new more durable one in its' place. I will have to put you under, for the whole operation. And so for your being of the Fomor, then that is good since it means we are kin. My people were called by that name of old, and I think they yet rule in Tara even now. I can only assume you came here from Tara. My full name, in case that really matters to you after all, is Cichol Grincenchos. I first arrived in this land a long, long time ago. In the company of two hundred men, six hundred women, and all of us survived by fishing and fowling for so long that it seemed we were the only ones here. And back then, maybe we were! Three hundred or more years following the great cataclysm that rocked this world, and the floods and disasters that transpired during that turbulent time in which it occurred, a man named Partholon arrived and he and I just did not quite see eye to eye. Sorry to mention eyes, given your current disability! But in any case, we had been living in Eriu for two hundred years by that point. We had no intention of letting Patholon had the run of the place... and so we fought against him. We had all been warriors before taking on more peaceful roles, and many of us were sorcerers as well. Scientists, actually, but you probably call it sorcery now. Anyway, the battle lasted about a week, and in that time I had to replace a lot of missing limbs for my people. An arm here, a leg there! And this gave us the advantage. But we got tired of fighting, and due to our weariness we lost. We lost, and about four hundred of my people were killed. I have no idea, to be honest, what happened to crazy Partholon. Maybe plague took him and his folk in the end! But... he did introduce us to a lot of very important things before he turned on us. Things like farming, cooking, brewing and building. Aside from our usual modest ways, like how we used to just grill our fish on the campfire and call it a day. However, we had other skills! And those other skills are what allowed us to survive following that defeat. And, eventually, my people became masters of this land. Well, our people actually, since you did say you're also Fomor after all.” He then walked over to me and pulled aside all of the coverings that were over my entire body. I closed my eye, afraid to look at the wreck I knew that my arms and legs had become. He said: “I have noticed that you're some kind of hermaphrodite, but that certain parts are in fully working order... so you will be happy to know that down there, you are going to still be okay once all is said and done. I am going to need to lengthen your torso and chest a bit though, since when I am all finished here you're going to be a lot taller than you used to be. I intend to augment and enhance you as much as possible with designs I have been dying to try out for ages now. This is going to be a messy operation, I won't lie to you about that! But when I am through with you... you are going to be the pinnacle of my career. And proof that my ideas were not insane after all!” I had not the desire to question him, though I found his manner strange and his words even stranger. But they seemed familiar to me too, the sorts of things he spoke of. I knew that in lives long past, perhaps on other worlds than Earth, I had been familiar with this science of which he was speaking. Science was not an alien thing to my understanding even back then, but this variety of it was something else. Yet, I knew I had encountered things like it of old, and I was ready to embrace whatever awaited me. I nodded my head in agreement and said to Cichol: “I understand all that you have told me, as best as I am able to comprehend things... do what you must, but make me whole once again I beg of you.” and  he said to me with a smile upon his face: “Just what the doctor ordered!” as he inserted a strange needle into my arm, which pumped some kind of fluid into me that caused me to enter into a deep, dreamless slumber. There was an infinite blackness after that, and there were flashes of intense pain for many hours, with the pain coming and going intermittently. Whatever the old man was doing to me, it was horrid enough that even under such a spell as he had placed me I could still feel something of the pain of it. I was not able to think, and there was no concept of time whilst in that oblivious state. And yet, time marched on.

   I awoke from the darkness and found myself upon my feet, and standing across the room from a tall mirror in which I could see my reflection. I was now eight feet tall, and my legs were fully mechanical and encased in a metal skin that gleamed like armor. My arms appeared likewise, and my hands were larger than they had been. The skin on my right hand was still pitch black, however. My torso and all of my upper body, abdomen and genitalia were still fully flesh, and the only alterations were that my upper body now matched my increased height in a proportional way. I turned to the side, and saw that all up and down my spine from the base of my neck to my tailbone... there was now, a ridged exo-spine that was also mechanical and metallic in nature. There were flashing lights upon it that were off when I was not active, but when I moved they lit up red. Various exo-strips now ran horizontally along all of my ribs on the outside of my body as well, but those were more flush with the skin and merely appeared to be mismatched from my skin in terms of the color, with the rib enhancements being metal now. I was able to breath normally, and my face was perfect, my head untouched, my hair fully intact. Best of all, I had three eyes now instead of only one! All of my eyes appeared to be mechanical looking, but they all functioned exactly the same as my former fleshly ones had. The third eye was in the very middle of my forehead, in the place where one's spiritual third eye is known to exist. If I concentrated enough, I found that I could use my new enhanced third eye to physically look into the spiritual plane of the other world. And then, I could simply flash back to this plane as if on mental command. “Remarkable!”I exclaimed. “I am totally remade... and yet, still myself.” I sighed, content with the results of the operation. I flexed my mechanical toes, and there was pseudo-fleshly sensations running through my arms, legs, toes, and pretty much all of my body. I marveled at my now longer fingers, which instead of feeling strange with the new size, felt as natural as ever. The doctor handed me a long scarlet colored gown, fit for a noble man or woman, and some soft undergarments to put on. “Your old clothes will not fit you anymore, so I am afraid you will have to get some new ones... and maybe employ a good tailor just to be sure the new ones will fit you right. Also... watch your strength now, just in case you have a bad temper! You are a lot stronger now, and could probably kill someone very easily with those hands. So if you get into any fistfights, remember to pull your punches and watch yourself. The power source I used is tiny, about the size of a small coin, and it is deeply embedded inside your body... I had to use a needle to insert it just right, and it is connected without any wires to a micro control chip that I implanted in the correct part of your brain to allow for your being able to flawlessly control your limbs and access the new ranges of vision that your eyes can now access. You can see normally, or you can go into infrared with it, or use your eyes to scan for things a greater distance away than before... plus, you can use the third eye to see into other planes, basically the ones nearest to this one. So no seeing off into space literally or anything insane like that! Just the other world, and maybe a couple of other nearby dimensions like that one. Of course, I had to shave part of your head before putting that chip in it... but I was able to replace the hair I had to shave off easily enough by using a growth stimulation device to grow it back before you woke back up from the anesthesia. Lastly, the power source if good for one thousand years. I figure, since you will not be living that long... heck most folks won't be living that long anymore... it won't matter if it all goes belly up once you are dead anyway. So, are we good, any questions?” I had none to ask him, and I think I may even have partially understood most of what he was trying to tell me about my new body. “Thank you very much, master Cichol! Can I interest you in a position as chief scientist back at Tara, or working for me personally at my tower on Ynys Gwydr, in the north?” I so offered, but he was adamant about declining that position and stated about it: “Absolutely not! Tell them I died and the gods did all of this to you instead. I have heard some bad things about you, Balor, mostly from the locals, and it is my sincere hope that you will use this second chance at life to change your ways and become the ruler this land deserves, not just the one it happens to have right now. Make this world a better place, not a worse one! And remember me kindly.” I asked him then: “And will you do this kind of work again?”

   To which he inquired what I meant by that. I elaborated, saying: “It stands to reason... that since this operation of yours was successful... you will do this now, for others, which means I will have rivals in terms of strength and power. Some of those rivals, should they become violent, might be a problem not just for me... but for the land's peace. And you do want me to bring peace to this land, correct?” and he agreed with that he said, but argued: “Sure, that could happen... as you say! But what if the people I do this kind of work on are good and grateful, and chose to use their gifts wisely? We could change all that it is to be alive, all that it is to be mortal! We could even, in time, perhaps come to reverse the condition that makes people age, wither and perish like they do now. The gods got to me too, you know! It just took them longer to find me... but now I am getting older with each passing year, and sooner or later I am going to die, and all of my research and knowledge is going to die with me. Do you want that? Or would you prefer that I live, so that we can use science to become like unto gods ourselves once again!” and there was such arrogance and egotism in his words, that I knew this man was deeply corrupt in his motivations. He only wanted peace in order to pursue his own agenda... and that agenda was a path to eventual immortality. And what then? If the gods who remained learned of this, they would surely be moved to punish the world anew, and this time there would be no survivors. I could not risk that. And so I grabbed the old man by the neck and lifted him up off of his feet. He was so much smaller than I was now, after all. “What do I want, old man?” I asked, stating with a viciousness that surprised even me: “I want to save the world, and I will start with doing so by purging it of your menace!” and before he could attempt to break free of my grasp, I snapped his neck with a twist and dropped him to the floor of his cottage like a bag of bones. I destroyed all of his machines, flipped over all of the tables so that the instruments they contained were scattered, and then I used a broom for a makeshift torch, setting it ablaze in the hearth's fire before using that to set the cottage's thatch roof to burning. I made certain to wait and watch, ensuring that the fire I set spread as I wished for it to. Soon enough, the roof of the old cottage was burning fast and well, and soon it all caved inward as the entire house burned. After some time, only rubble remained... especially once the fire hit the chemicals stored in the doctor's beakers and flasks, which caused a massive explosion that I turned and ran away a good distance to get far enough from so that I would be unharmed by it. Even the stones of the dwellings foundations were cracked and broken asunder by the force of that blast. It was good that such dangerous chemicals did not fall into the hands of those who might turn such things into weapons... it would have upset the balance of power in the land of Eriu, and eventually in the world, to a mad degree. In seeking after immortality, the old man was inadvertently creating weapons without meaning to. Weapons that were now no more. I walked on back to the tree where my chariot was tied, and using the infrared spectrum I was able to find the horses without too much difficulty. This also aided me in finding my way back through the woods, for it was night once again even though with all the hours that had passed I had been in that cottage for at least a full day and night previously. It was a testament to the doctor's skill, that I needed no recovery period after that operation, and that he was able to work so quickly in so short a time, with such results as this. He had been a genius, if nothing else! I had spent enough time in slumber, and rode my chariot back to Tara. When I announced myself at the gates, my face was immediately recognized, but the ways both it and I had been altered so alarmed the guards at those gates very much. My wife, Kaitlin, was pleased to see me, but frightened by how my body looked beneath my gown, when I showed it to her later on that evening, some time prior to dawn. “You are whole again, my beloved, and stronger than before it does seem to me, but at what cost! This kind of transformation, it is a dark sort of magic I think. I pray that it does not consume you wholly in the end.” and I gave her my word that it would not. When I did at last fall asleep, with my wife securely in my remade arms that morning... for it was dawn before I found it possible to consider sleep... I dreamed of Deirdre again, and she was smiling and seemed to be happy for me that I was still alive. “Do not forget me, sweet leaf!” she called, and I knew that I never would.
Written by Kou_Indigo (Kara L. Pythiana-Ashton)
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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