Maponos was a bit dreamy and clumsy. But he was eager to enjoy an adventure. Bran, on the other hand, was pretending he was tired of adventuring and content to be a dog. Yet hope still stirred within him (mainly that somehow, he would undo his enchantment so he could fall in love again.)
In any case, the two had become very good friends. Maponos did not know that Bran was enchanted and thought he was just a friendly dog like any other, or perhaps more intelligent than any other, since Bran looked at him with eyes that seemed to know a great deal. He would bark in acknowledgement and lead Maponos on all sorts of interesting trips away from the camp. Maponos never felt a twinge of fear or concern when they were together. Maponos would talk for hours as they walked—of his hopes, dreams and his yearning for adventure.
Bran appeared patient but, in fact, he was intently aware of the human population that he knew was close to where they’d landed. He thought it astounding that they had not already encountered human beings, since they were so close. Bran had known the humans before magical people left for Tír na nÓg. He’d always been very curious about them. He sighed, scratched his face with his foot and cleaned his thick black paws with his tongue. Some of their women were very beautiful, he recalled. There was one in particular he’d loved. While she was shapely enough, it was not this aspect that Bran had found so appealing. It was something about her lovely spirit that attracted him. She was overflowing with curiosity and appreciation for the world. He’d lost her when he’d been enchanted. His eyes watered at the thought.
Bran led Maponos out of the forest and onto a dirt road. He sat down, lost in his own thoughts, thinking of the human woman, her thick brown hair and golden eyes and skin. As a mortal, she had never seen, and would never know, the force of transformation, the pain of time travel or the monotony of eternity. He missed her. He sighed, waiting for Maponos to decide which way to go next.
Maponos stood with his hands on his hips looking down the long winding road. “Well! What’s this?” I’ve heard about the roads made by humans but never seen one!” He rushed to Bran and scratched him behind the ears. Though it was a patronizing gesture, Bran didn’t mind. It shook him from his dream of the girl. He stood and stretched, looking so pleased with that accomplishment he might just take the rest of the day off.
“Shall we travel this human road, my friend?” Thinking Bran would never answer, Maponos set off as if to begin his journey. Then, after a second thought, he rubbed his chin and scrunched his eyebrows together in a perplexed uneasiness. “Or shall we go back and tell the others?”
Maponos looked as though he decided the better of it and set off down the road. “There might be all sorts of adventures awaiting us, you see….” He turned. Then his eyebrows bunched again and strained with worry. “Then again, there might be adventures we are not prepared to see…. “ Maponos turned back around.
And so it went for some time with Maponos pacing up and down the road unable to decide whether to go forward or back. Bran lay down, putting his head in his paws, wondering if this would take all day.
After a time, Bran decided to play a trick on his friend Maponos. He imagined the kinds of things that would frighten Maponos and cause him to turn one direction or the other. Then he threw the pictures into the young boy’s mind. Maponos had just mustered his courage and was marching down the road happily when the images hit him square in the face. He nearly jumped through his skin. There might be monsters uglier than Fomorian! There might be beings of such size and ferocity he’d never survive alone! It wasn’t just a few humans, he could certainly conquer a few, but this could be an entire army! He’d be outnumbered!
Maponos turned to Bran resolutely. “We need to tell the others! And fast! Come on Bran!” and they ran back to the camp the way they had come.
Lugh lay on the beach, his arms crossed behind his head, feeling the sun drip warmth across his face and the cool wind blow across his chest, lifting his tunic. It caressed his legs, chilling his toes. He began dreaming again; only this time the dream was more detailed. He saw the girl, her long brown hair flowing behind her as she turned to him from afar.
In his dream, Lugh arrived in a place where huge gray buildings shot up into the sky. The earth was covered in gray matter and flowers stood in small gray patches, catching the sunlight. Lugh awoke and rubbed his eyes in wonder. Perhaps this was some other planet and he was meant to travel in time to some other location. He wondered if his skills in time travel were strong enough to take him so far away.
He took off his sandals and stuck his feet into the sand that felt so warm on the top and cool down below. A group of deer crossed to the shore to greet him. A doe nuzzled his arm asking him to come and play. “I would love to.” Lugh stood and began petting the doe on the nose and scratching her behind the ears. She allowed him to hold her face and look into her yes. Something about her was so familiar. “She is my kin, just as every living creature here are children of my mother. We are all the same, of Elven blood, aren’t we?” And of course the doe looked up to him with wisdom in here eyes. She knew too – they were brother and sister, just as day and night; just as what can be seen and what is unseen live side by side. He asked her if she’d like to join him in a run along the shore, but she didn’t show much interest. She gracefully turned and walked away.
He set off along the coastline, running backward for a moment, to wave at the doe, then he turned and kept on going. He ran for a long while, stomping his left foot to lift him up for a short jump-flight over the larger rocks and boulders. Elven feet are so light not even the rocky beach mattered. He ran as if he were floating over the rocks and he lit upon the sea. High up on the wave she surfed, enjoying the spray and the sun on his skin. It wasn’t flying – but it was darn close, he thought.
Far beneath the soaring waves a mermaid called Nerrissa, daughter of the sea, played with her school of fishes, wishing a dolphin tribe might drop by on this bright and lovely day. Hearing a rider above, they certainly wanted to see who it was – and maybe have a little fun, too. Nerissa lifted her head and fluttered her fin to get a better view. Indeed, it was someone riding the waves… and her heart began to flutter, too.
While a man had never heard her she’d always wished it to be so and maybe this time, it could be. She swam toward him. As she drew closer, she saw him more clearly. And she knew in a moment, he was not a man at all. He rode the waves barefooted, barely touching the tops, as if he were flying! She came ever closer, rising and falling in the waves watching him taste the sunshine and airy spray of the ocean. It was Lugh! It must be! Indeed it was and she shuddered with excitement. For centuries, maybe longer, certainly as far back as she’d ever heard stories – she’d heard the tale of Lugh, the Shining One. The lore of the Mer people; children of the sea, told of the Elven who had been on Earth in ages past and would return one day riding upon the sea.
He must have been riding the waves for the better part of the afternoon because soon the sun looked pink as if it was ready to rest for the evening as it lowered in the sky. He felt a presence with him and turned to see Nerrissa as she bobbed in the glint of the sun, waving her hand to greet him. Just at that moment, the dolphin arrived, ready for play and began their jumping dance with Nerrissa, thus distracted, lost sight of him for a moment. She was eager to show her friends what she’d seen and to make sure she’d not just imagined things. She climbed the back of her dearest dolphin friend and they jumped so high. Lugh watched the dolphin dance that was so beautiful he forgot to ride and fell tumbling into the waves.
Lugh washed to the shore and looked around him. He noticed something felt different in this place. He looked around and saw some white bits of paper and footprints in the sand. His heart began to race. He looked at the trail of footprints that went up along a narrow path up a tiny hill and into the woods.
While he was contemplating whether he should go back to tell the others, he saw someone walking down the path toward the ocean. She came near to the shore, found a stone and sat on it, pulling her knees up toward her chest. Her long, dark hair danced in the wind as she gazed out at the sea thoughtfully.
There was no question in Lugh’s mind that he should meet and speak with this woman. Knowing that he might frighten her if he appeared too suddenly, he tumbled some stones, so that she might be aware of his presence before he was too close.
She turned and caught his eye, then returned her gaze to the ocean. He came closer, carefully disturbing the locations of some stones on his way. She did not seem concerned.
Since he hadn’t a clue what to say or what she might understand, he was grateful that she spoke first. “Hello. I saw you surfing out there! Isn’t this a wonderful place?”
“Yes, yes, it is.” Lugh’s voice was soft since it could hardly escape from his throat.
“I love it so much here, I walk along this way to take a break from my work. I think this is the most heavenly place in the whole world.” She turned her face to his and smiled, pushing back the hair that had blown into her eyes. “Hey, what happened to your surf board? You look a little washed over, did you have a spill out there? Are you OK?”
Lugh was stunned. Her presence simply overwhelmed him. She had bright blue eyes, the color of the sky on a cloudless spring day that shone under long, soft brown lashes. Her lips were very wide with a smile that seemed to fill her entire face. Her hair was rich and dark brown.
Lugh’s feet were frozen. He had to force himself to move in closer, which he did in a stiff sort of way. He could not think of anything to say. He had no idea what she was talking about; in fact he could barely hear her speaking because he was so mesmerized by her. He knew she was human and felt self-conscious about his Elven nature. Would she notice his differences? He had a fleeting thought he should shrink himself so he wouldn’t be so tall.
But he held onto his wits. Her warmth was overpowering. It was not only impossible to have a concern in her presence but she was like a magnet drawing him near. “May I sit with you?”
“Oh, yes, this spot is wonderful” and she indicated with a nod that he should sit beside her on the large stone. He climbed up and sat down. Uncertain what to do with his limbs, his eyes or hands, he just looked out to the sea and hoped she would say something.
A moment passed before she spoke again. “The sunset is especially pretty today, don’t you think? The purple, pink and orange—even though I understand all of the science behind it all, it never ceases to amaze me how nature can make anything this beautiful.”
Lugh had no idea what science had to do with a sunset. But he turned to her and smiled. His blonde curls circled his angular face and rested upon his shoulders. When he looked at her it was as if his eyes were pouring over her soul. She felt her knees and chest ache as if they were a thin bubble full of butterflies about to burst.
“My name is Maria. What’s yours?”
“Oh, yes, sorry, my name is, uh, Lugh,” he apologized. He was so entirely distracted in any case, he just wanted to take her hand and hold it to his face. He just stared. And smiled.
“Oh, hello, Lugh. Do you live near here?”
“Yes, uh, yes.” Lugh cleared his throat and pointed toward the camp. “Down that way.” Another brief moment passed. Lugh realized he had better say something sensible or she would become too curious. Or think he was an idiot. “We, uh, have a place not too far from here. Perhaps you can meet my friends….” He trailed off.
Fortunately, this girl loved to talk. Her voice was smooth and rich, rising and falling with emphasis, like the love songs Angus played on his lyre. Lugh thought he could listen for hours. Though he wasn’t paying too much attention to what she was saying exactly, she went on as the sun fell into the horizon. All he could think of was taking a hold of her hand and longed to feel it inside of his, so soft and warm, and to put his arms around her.
She went on and Lugh realized he had been lost in his thoughts of her and she had been talking for some time, “…I am on summer break from college. I am majoring in archeology but what I am really interested in is ecology, you know, the study of how to maintain the ecosystems. This is the most beautiful environment I have ever seen I would hate to see it destroyed by mistreatment.
“Did you know the major cause of decline and fall of civilizations is the deforestation of their trees? It contributed to the fall of the ancient Mayan, and others. The effects of the destruction of the rainforests, even as far away as the Amazon, are causing weather changes and other problems.”
Her words finally started to register in his mind. The importance of what she was saying began to dawn on him. “Do you mean they cut down trees such as these great trees here in this forest?”
“No, oh no, well, much of the redwood forest is protected by private owners and some of it is owned outright by the government. I don’t think they will cut down these trees. Well, at least I hope not, these are the largest trees in the world. But the Amazon rainforest will be gone by the time we are grandparents, if we keep on going at this rate.”
Lugh thought of how old his grandparents would be and this was a very, very long time. But then he recalled that humans have a short lifespan of some 80 or 100 years. He hazily understood this would be a very short time from now and realized why she was so deeply concerned.
“While these trees are not in danger today, they are in danger in that mankind does not understand the importance of trees to his survival….”
Mankind. They called themselves Mankind. He listened more carefully, realizing how much she could teach him. He longed to introduce her to his friends but he could just see it now, the Elven men, falling all over her, teasing her and doing magic that would frighten her. He could not think of what to say and was silent for some time.
“But if you are part of the human race, you can do something…” He said cautiously.
She laughed and he felt ridiculous, but he kept his gaze on her so she would not know he felt so stupid.
“There are some eight billion people in the world, Lugh, and I am just one. What can I do?”
Lugh looked at her and ached some more. He was afraid if he stayed next to her one more moment he would surely kiss her on the lips. He jumped off the stone.
“Eight billion! Why then the world must be a very large place, for there is no one else here to see us now.” He looked up longingly at her. He reached out for her hand to help her down. As she touched his hand, firelight flew through his body.
He had to think of something to say. “How many is eight billion?”
She laughed. “Eight billion is too many to count, Lugh. It is more than… why it is more than the grains of sand you can hold in your hand.”
Lugh kept a hold of her hand and with this other hand, reached down to pick up a handful of sand. He contemplated this number in earnest. “Many more than the grains of sand in my hand just now….”
“Well, yes, I think so.”
“Why is it, do you think, that nothing has been done to change things if it means the destruction of the whole planet on which you live?”
She looked at him with her head tilted to one side. “On which we live, Lugh, You are here, too! You must have thought of these things before, haven’t you?”
“Yes, yes of course…sure…I have,” he didn’t want to lie to her. He wished he could explain everything: his friends, the banishment and his abilities. His abilities; they were far beyond anything a mortal could imagine. He wondered how she would respond to this and what he could do in the human world to change the way things were going.
“I will help you.”
“Great! What will you do?”
“I am not sure yet.” He said earnestly. He stood in front of her and looked down into her eyes. She looked up at him and the moonlight shone upon her face. “Can you show me? Show me what you need so I can help you.”
She felt a bit puzzled by this; he was very different. Maybe this was too strange. He seemed so—strong. How could a man such as he was, help to change the world? She’d been to school for many years, she hoped to write a book…or perhaps continue to law school… then she…she’d have the power to enact legislation, she’d… she’d…. She realized she herself did not know what to do either. “To be honest Lugh, I do not know.”
She looked down at the sand and her lashes made shadows across flushed cheeks. Lugh lifted her chin tenderly with this hand so she could see his eyes and feel the honesty of his words, “But you will let me help you?”
“OK, well, yes.” She rushed her words, excitedly rambling and a bit nervous trying to make conversation. “Maybe I can show you some of the projects I am working on now, you … you might have an idea….” She thought of inviting him to visit her cottage and to read her book and talk.
Lugh was so overtaken by her that he knew he could not stay in the same place with her much longer. “I must go now.”
“Oh.” She sighed. Of course, he had to go. He was too good to be true. He’d leave and she would not see him again. Perhaps he was really a dream and she’d just imagined him. A dream, of course; it must be a dream. He was so handsome in fact, yes, how silly of her, it must’ve been the glow of the moon to make her see things that weren’t even there….
He looked at her and could sense her uneasiness, “Will you meet me here tomorrow? At this stone on this shore?” He put his head down a bit to meet her gaze. “I promise… I will be here.” He smiled and the concerns she had washed away. She was filled with his friendship and warmth. And she was amazed by it.
“Oh, yes, I will. Oh, I remember that tomorrow I am going to the city tomorrow to deliver some papers. If you’d like you can come with me.”
“I would like that very much.”
“OK.” She was cheery again. “Meet me tomorrow here at dawn. We need to leave early.” She smiled.
Lugh smiled back then turned to head back home. He felt so jubilant, he was certain he would begin to fly despite his attempt to remain on the ground while she could still see him. He turned back to see her and she was walking away in the opposite direction.
“See you then!” He called out. She turned and smiled, her dark hair flying in the evening wind. She was undoubtedly the woman he’d seen in his dreams.