Áine’s heart was heavy as they approached the threshold of a new door. It was hard to resist Donn’s constant pressure. It felt as if she were being swallowed slowly.
The droning sound had so overwhelmed Lugh he was not in the presence of his senses; he was in pain and so very tired.
Áine wished for nothing more than to pull out her sword and shove it clear through the old man. But his death would mean nothing, he was king of the damned, not just in this life, but eternally, he could not die. She wondered briefly if he even existed, or was rather created from nothing by thoughtless and cruel desires. How could this be? How could such cruelties exist?
Donn read her mind and sharply answered. “You are wondering if this is all real?” The glint from his teeth captured the dim light, “I did not create this. You did. Each one creates all that they see.” Again, Donn whisked them down the long corridor to an open door. What was inside looked something like the vision in Lugh’s dreams and the world of suffering behind the façade of perfection and fulfilled desires that Áine had seen – beyond the Ferris wheels and happy faces. Covering the horizon was black smoke that poured from tall buildings. There was a river, black as soot. The trees around it had died. A raven dropped down to pick upon the muddy earth. Human beings rushed through the dirty streets, their heads hung low. The droning noise came from the picture of this spent and dark world and it seeped into each crevice of his body and wrenched it tight. Áine held onto his arm to brace him so he could balance. “That’s the way you want to see our world. It’s not my choice; it would never been my choice. Why do you try to convince me that I have no choice about what I see, Donn?”
Donn held out his bony arms, ”I only want to help you. What you see here is your beloved Earth, your fear of what may happen; your fear, not mine. I can help you change things, make your word much better, more beautiful, make your dream real. Let me help you save this world. You just have to let me help you,” he sopped pitifully.
The lonely bird cried out. The wind blew sharply. Áine longed to comfort the people there and bring light and life to the scene. She knew she could change things; she knew she could restore things to harmony. It could not be that hard. She started for the door. Her father’s hand reached out to her. “No, Áine. It’s not your vision. Looking at it and believing its real, makes it real. He is black magic, putting before you fears in disguise. He wants to trap you with what is best in you—your love. His promise of making a better world is simply a lie, a web from which you will not escape if you enter. It is a trap.”
Áine squeezed her father’s hand.
Lugh found some strength. “If what we see is a matter of choice, Donn, then you have led these souls to total blindness. You have given them no chance; you take only, promising only lies.”
Donn’s face continued to hold its fake smile but a tic fluttered in his frightful black eyes and his soul seemed to shatter ever so slightly. His voice was hollow. Ignoring Lugh, he grasped Áine’s hand, “I will show you more. Come now.”
Again, Áine and Lugh struggled but found themselves pushed toward another open door. Inside, the silence was so great they could hear themselves breathing. The room was completely barren. Only the dim light from the doorway shone upon a woman huddled in the middle of the floor.
Áine pursed her lips, so angry she could barely speak. She wasn’t sure exactly how, but she was determined she would make Donn pay for what he had done to the lost souls.
Donn read her mind, again. “I can get you revenge, if you’d like…” he said coolly. “I have many of those opportunities….”
Áine looked up and suddenly saw him for what he was. A frightened man who hated himself; A man who owned everything, who commanded inestimable power and who felt nothing.
Yet he was right. She could have eternal revenge if that was what she wished. She wondered what it would be like: Every day forevermore filled with anger, desire to hurt or kill another, eternally boiling over at the thought of some past betrayal—even if it was Donn’s betrayal. Donn would turn her every wish into false sludge.
Áine pulled away from her father and looked beyond Donn to the woman quietly moaning in the room. “Wha—What did she wish for?”
“She lost her love.” Donn said smugly as if it somehow pleased him. “She wished never to love again.”
Áine knelt down before the woman and touched her face. She brushed the hair from her eyes and smoothed the rags covering her withering body. The woman looked at her through eyes that did not see. Áine took her hand in a loving gesture. The woman cocked her head and stared off into space.
Áine looked up at Donn, tears streaming from her eyes. “Why did you bring us here?”
He spoke with such profound hatred it lunged like a dagger toward her heart. “Your mother will lose you one day, she is mortal. She will suffer.”
Áine’s heart turned black. “My mother would never, ever come here, Donn. She would never find herself in your presence. A mortal body but an immortal soul, you cannot trap.”
Donn smiled, “How do you know? How do you know her one wish is not to be blind to the sufferings of love? To escape death? How do you know she would not want you to be here with her? Upon her wishes, you would come.”
Áine shuttered. Such a wish from her mother, such a lie believed; such a lie could end their freedom.
Lugh forced himself to speak, “You do not have that kind of power, Donn, no one does. You cannot trap souls mortal or immortal.”
“Are you to say these souls here are free to leave? I think not. They are bound by their wishes, which I have delivered. I have done my part. I simply give what is asked for, what is wished for, that’s all.”
“You mean hell?” Lugh responded. He stood, blinded with pain.
“Call it what you like. There is no power greater than a wish. It is magic, Lugh, right?” Donn mimicked him smugly.
“You cannot entrap us with your twisted lies.” The sword of light throbbed beside his leg. Lugh grasped it with a firm hand.
“Do not bother to threaten me.”
“Why not?” In one swift motion, Lugh drew the Sword of Light and laid its sharp tip against Donn’s throat. “Perhaps your death would free these souls to make their own choice.”
Donn did not flinch. “That sound you hear is the sound of time moving onward; inevitable time, Oh Shining One.” Donn smiled his handsome, haughty smile. “Time which makes mortals grow old. Time that makes you weak; Time that passes by and convinces you that I am, ultimately, right. Let me help you choose.”
“I—will—not.” Lugh managed, struggling to utter every word.
“And I will not fight against your tiny sword!” Donn’s eyes lit up and he blew with such electric force, that Lugh was thrown back against the stony wall.