“Thank you for coming with me.” Áine looked up at Lugh and smiled.
He bent down to kiss the top of her head.
He took her tiny hand in his and they looked up. They had traveled in time and space to a new dimension. They stood on rose-colored road beneath a green sky with twin suns setting in pink and yellow. The stream that flowed parallel to the stony path was foaming purple as it tumbled over rocks and sprayed up over the bank onto flowers and foliage of orange and blue.
They walked for a long while before speaking, admiring the surroundings. Animals such as Lugh had never seen peppered the fields and sky. What looked somewhat like a combination between a deer and a giraffe with two heads at the end of a very long neck, nibbled at the orange grass. Its speckled body and wide, swishing tail caught the pink light of the sun. It‑‑whatever it was—opened its mouth widely to breathe in the fragrant air. Others of them sipped from the stream.
Lugh knelt down to meet his daughter face-to-face.
“You won’t have to do that much longer, I am growing up.”
“Of course you are.”
“But first I want to tell you something.” Her blue eyes met his, wisely.
“I will help you now in your search for the source and cause of the evil in this world. It is not the Fomorian, the Council, or even the humans. Well, not really the humans.”
Lugh was surprised to hear her speak so forthrightly, like a grown woman. “What do you mean? Is it some other race from some other planet?”
“No, it is right here.” She held out her arms to demonstrate that it was where they were standing.
Lugh looked perplexed and then stood and turned away from her. He viewed the panorama where they found themselves. “Here?”
Áine did not answer. She began to grow. She grew and changed, turning from a small girl to a young woman. At last, she spoke, “We are here, at a point in creation and death. A place where souls are trapped.”
Her voice had changed so much that Lugh whirled around to see what had happened. He stood silently staring at her for several moments. Needless to say, she was as beautiful as any Fae, perhaps more so in her own individual way. She wore a light colored tunic embroidered at the collarbone and at the tips of the long sleeves. Her belt was of braided linen studded with precious stones. Her leggings were light brown and her delicate sandals had lacings all the way up to her knees.
He’d seen this kind of changing among the Fae but only now realized his daughter had developed these skills.
He realized then that she knew things he didn’t know, and, he had to admit, might never know. He’d always loved her but now he loved her in a new way—with respect for who she really was and who she had become. His eyes filled with tears of pride.
She smiled. She did not bask in the admiration but kept her poise as they continued down the rose-colored road. Huge fields of multi-colored flowers on either side seemed to go on endlessly. The flowers’ round centers were like tiny faces nodding in the gentle wind.
In the distance, they spotted the tall spires of a castle made of bright-green stone. A black speck appeared above it and grew larger and larger as it approached them. Finally, it was overhead, cawing loudly. The monster’s appearance, with its long black beak and shiny black feathers, pointed ears and flat face, confirmed the sickening feeling they had about this place.
Finally they approached the door of the castle. It opened softly.
Their faces lit up at the sparkling splendor inside. Floors of white marble, carved walls of intricate detail that lead to a canopy of laced golden panels. Immense vases holding decorative arrays of flowers and a wide fountain flowing sparkling purple water, all drew their attention. The light from outdoors reflecting off the precious objects was so bright it nearly blinded them. Áine relaxed at bit when she saw white birds with gold tipped wings. They landed on the shoulder of a tall man—if you could call him a man—who stood before them, atop the marble stairs.
He was dressed in long white robes with red trim and gold embroidery. His face was long and thin—almost gaunt. His dark, sunken eyes bored into them. ”Come, let me show you around.”
Áine felt a pulling in her stomach and glanced at her father, taking his hand as if the warmth between them might somehow protect her.
“Do not be afraid, Young One.” he spoke. “This is the place where men come to fulfill their dreams. All they have hoped for in life is fulfilled here eternally or until they change their fate… which is not very often the case….” He added under his breath. He smiled at them, showing his extremely white teeth including several gold plated ones.
Lugh heard a low-pitched constant noise that began the moment they entered the castle. It was distracting. It seemed that he was the only one who heard the droning sound. He spoke over it with a kind of a forced voice, “Yes, uh—what is your name?”
“Oh, I am sorry. I am Donn, the overseer of this place… where men’s souls travel after death…when they wish to…” his smile grew too wide for him to continue speaking.
Though the surroundings were beautiful, the walls, the floors and even the ceiling seemed they would explode with a pained, tearful vibration. It made Áine shiver.
Donn looked pleased with himself. “This palace is much larger than it appears—there are an infinite number of rooms. We are continually expanding, creating new rooms for new guests. Most of our arriving guests stay quite awhile.” He flashed his enormous smile once again.
Donn did not walk but floated toward the long dimly lit hallway. Áine and Lugh found themselves lifted up off the ground slightly, traveling behind him. Regardless of their will, they followed him through the grim stone passageway for which there seemed no end.
Donn opened a door and lead them into a room. As they stepped in, they were standing on thin air in a wide universe of planets and stars. “Magic, as you know, Lugh, is based on the fact that there are an infinite number of possibilities in the universe. In this continual stream of possibilities, choices are made. From these, one experiences what he knows as Reality. You have known this from a very young age. It is the secret to creation. What you choose to see—is.”
Donn looked at Lugh condescendingly, as if he were giving a lesson to an errant child. “In this world, I have given souls or spirits the chance to accomplish their dreams. I have made it possible for these souls to live out their wishes.”
The droning sound that had been going on since they arrived became louder. Lugh felt his stomach tighten. His limbs felt thick. It was an effort to speak. His voice seemed to echo inside his head as he spoke stiffly, “Magic is a matter of choice.”
“Indeed,” Donn replied as he opened the door and they stepped back into the gray stone hallway. “What you will see here are souls who have made their choice.”