Lugh regained his strength when the droning sound stopped. He took Áine’s hand and together they ran through the castle hallways opening all of the doors announcing to each of the souls who had been entrapped within, “You’re free!” You’re free!”
Some took longer than others to open their eyes or regain their natural strength. The children awoke and ran through the halls laughing. The woman who had been entranced stood. Light filled her eyes, turning them from black to blue. Her rags changed to a flowing gown of pink then violet. Her long thick hair turned from grey to a rich golden hue. As she saw the children rushing by, she smiled and followed. Color and light filled the gray hallways as they all rushed out into to the great hall.
Rays of sunlight shone through the ceiling windows brilliantly lighting golden panels and reflecting on the delicately carved marble walls.
Several arrived with instruments and fantastic music began: drums and harps and fiddles and guitars strummed and beat and echoed. Dancing and celebration filled the space turning the darkness that had seeped into every crevice of the old castle, into joyous light and laughter.
Suddenly surprised to remember he had not thought of it before, Lugh realized he should call his Elven and Faery friends. “Forgive me for being so late.” Lugh whispered under his breath. He rubbed his ring.
The Elven and Fae appeared one after the next in full array.
First, appeared BéChuille and Ogme who arrived atop the marble staircase, standing like royalty. They were adorned in red tunics and capes that fell to the floor. Their brooches shone with the luster of rich, red rubies. They wore circlets of sparkling gold.
Next, came Nantosuetta who arrived with Angus in what seemed to be a ball of light. She stood, radiant in a gown of gold and pink that fell all the way to the floor. She looked like the springtime with a crown of blooming pink flowers and dazzling pink garnet jewelry. Each of her three daughters from the smallest to the tallest stood beside her, wearing matching tunics. Their hair was braided with multicolored flowers and opal jewels.
Angus’ four sons were each tall and slender. They looked around, and, seeing no enemy, began to energetic dance that showed off their great strength—with a great deal of stomping, clapping and jumping through the air. Angus joined with the other musicians playing music that lifted their spirits so high, it seemed the castle would lift off the ground and fly.
Then, Dermott, Scota and their five children appeared. They flew in from above as white doves, slowly glittering in the sunrays as they materialized. Their yellow garments and long silken mantles fluttered in the breeze as they landed on the staircase. Their jewels of yellow topaz shed sparkling rays through the entire room. The children, three boys and two girls, danced for everyone; jumping through hoops and flying through the air in a performance so spectacular, it made the audience gasp in amazement.
Nematona and Eocho followed with their twins—a boy and a girl—atop pure white horses. They were all dressed in a spectrum of green hues with sparkling emerald jewels that shed a dancing green light on everyone. The long red tresses of Nematona and her daughter were fashioned with vine leaves that fell down their backs gracefully. Their horses pranced down the stairway across the room and to the musical fanfare. The crowds cheered.
Flidais appeared next, shimmering and capturing the light in her sea-green gown trimmed with bright blue sapphires. She stood with Fionn, whose face was shining with pride. Their two children—a boy and a girl—appeared and began a skillful dance with lifts and leaps and joyous whirling.
Nehalennia and Segomo and their five children arrived, floating on carpets of flowing blue silk, their tunics waving behind them and jewels of bright blue lapis lazuli capturing the amazement of all. The children began to sing, a song so harmonious and melodic, that every heart in the room was inspired with love.
At last, Mider and Airmid appeared in the sky and floated down gently to the top of the staircase, their violet robes dancing in the wind. Airmid’s tresses were fashioned with tiny purple flowers and dressed with jewels of amethyst. Each of them carried a bag tied to their waist belts that was filled with potions for healing ailments and wounds. As soon as they realized all was well and they had no one to tend to, they too, joined in the revelry.
Lugh rushed up to greet all of his friends, full of love and pride for the children. He kissed BéChuille on either side of her face.
“Thank you for coming. There is no danger now. But there was.”
“Might I ask—where are we?” BéChuille asked.
“Oh, I am sorry… you have arrived, uh, welcome—to the Castle of the Lost Souls—though we’ll have to give it a new name because all of these souls have been freed! Donn, Lord of the castle has been conquered—at least for the time being. But for now, we are safe. Áine is …” Lugh scanned the room looking for Áine. “Well, she’ll be here soon….”
“Oh! No wonder they are so happy—you might have called us before.” BéChuille smiled.
“I know, I know.” Lugh looked a bit chagrined. But the warmth of the celebration had enveloped him and he would waste no moment feeling embarrassed or trying to explain. He’d only one thought on his mind. “Where is Maria—you brought her with you…?”
“Of course,” BéChuille and Ogme stepped aside like parting curtains to reveal Maria. Lugh beheld her in amazement. She looked more beautiful than he’d remembered. Her tunic was white as snow. Tiny white flowers and diamonds settled in amongst tresses of her dark hair. Her white feather cloak fell to the floor.
Lugh was so captivated, he could not move for several moments. Finally, realizing she was his wife, he came to her and kissed her on the lips. Then he took her hand and led her down the stairs to the celebration.
They danced and played, listening to song after song of love and freedom that brought them to tears. Each song they sang more loudly than they had ever done in their lives.
Bran arrived with the others but much more discreetly, simply appearing among the crowd. He knew there was some reason he should come, though he wasn’t quite sure what it was. Then he saw her through the crowds. She was throwing her head back in laughter, her golden hair falling from her face, her blue eyes filled with joy, her figure luxurious in her lovely violet gown.
Bran’s heart was filled with so much admiration that tears swelled in his eyes. He knew she was the girl he’d met before, the girl he had been dreaming of for so long. He pulled himself through the crowd toward her. When at last he was close enough to touch her, his heart fell to his knees. She continued to dance until she felt his eyes so intent upon her that she dropped her gaze to the floor, cautiously looking up to see who caught her attention. When at last their eyes met, they could not be parted.
And so it was that Bran approached the girl who has been so long asleep, so long denied any joy or hope, took her hand and held it to his face, closing his eyes for a moment just to feel her presence. Then, as if time or circumstance had never come between then, these two began to dance, stepping and whirling, Bran holding her by the waist, twirling her through the air and embracing her in his arms.
There was so much celebration that no one had thought of what would become of the lost souls now that they were found. Would they travel back to Earth? Would they join the Elven and Faery people? Would they fly up to the heavens? Would they stay in this strange dimension?
Encouraged to do so, Lugh stood to make a speech. All who had been freed were also free to choose their future existence; with body or without, in the heavens, on Earth or in any dimension. He did not dare say it, but as he spoke, Lugh wondered if this might be the miracle that would make the world safe for magical people. Could it be that everything had been restored to its rightful place?
“You have each regained the one thing more precious than your body, more precious than magic or even immortality. You have regained your power to choose and the wisdom to choose love. It is up to you now, whether you stay or go; whether you live in heaven, on Earth or any dimension….”
At the moment Lugh lifted his glass in a toast, the earth began to tremble. The rumble became deafening as the castle shook, breaking glass and marble. All present stood in awe as black smoke poured in from the corners of the room and one towering cloud of smoke filled the marble stairs. As it cleared they saw the face of Medb, Queen of Intoxication, as an apparition floating high in her chariot drawn by catlike creatures. The oily wings of her black raven glistened as he viewed the crowd from his perch atop her shoulder.
Lugh knew her; he had seen her on the battlefield, wicked and waiting. He also knew that in present company, she was just that: a frightening apparition. “What is it you want, Medb?” Lugh asked her boldly, sounding impatient at being interrupted.
“Yooourrrrr life.” Medb materialized, assuming her complete form. She wore silver neck rings and a black tunic and cloak that danced in the wind. Her long dark hair blew wildly around her face.
Lugh pulled the Sword of Light and jumped upon the table, moving toward her slowly. “You cannot take my life away, Medb. Why don’t you become one of us? You have nothing to lose. We consider you our enemy only because you consider yourself so.”
She spat at him, her voice trembling, “You have taken Donn and my life. You have destroyed all that was mine, all that was here is gone.”
“Donn is not gone, he is an immortal being. He will return. We have taken nothing that belonged to him. These souls are freed.”
Medb pulled out her silver bow and drew her silver arrow. The arrow was perfectly formed to cut deep. Its ribs made it impossible to remove once embedded in the body of man, woman or animal.
“Our world, you fool. You have destroyed our world. You will pay for this. You will feel differently when you lose your one true love.” She let the arrow fly. Lugh knew he would jump above its path. But the arrow did not aim toward him. It flew to Maria and directly into her heart.
Medb smiled keenly, “I am sure now you will understand how I feeeeeelllllllll.” Her raven’s voice echo’d through the smoke and they disappeared into the darkness.
Lugh ran toward Maria. The poison was so strong that her life was rushing away quickly. She closed her eyes, and held his hand. She whispered. “Don’t worry my beloved… I would stay with you if I could…I love you…forever….”
“No! No! Don’t go!”
Maria looked into his eyes and smiled “My beloved…I love you forever….”
“No! NO!” Lugh cried out. He broke the stint of the arrow from her chest, took the Sword of Light, and holding out his left arm cut himself at the shoulder. He made a deep enough gash to cause himself to bleed to death before too long. He laid himself upon her with his head next to hers and waited to die.
There was utter silence in the room, despite the enormous crowd. Elven and Faery formed a circle around them, but no one spoke a single word. There was no amazement, no awe, no pity; only appreciation for their love.
Mider and Airmid ran through the crowd to reach them and stave their wounds. They stopped before Lugh who lay upon Maria. It was as if their love had shed a light that now filled the space around them forming a circle above their heads. There was only peace as they lay dying.
BéChuille and Ogme approached Mider and Airmid. They spoke quietly amongst themselves.
“What can we do? “ BéChuille asked.
“We cannot restore him, he has taken his own life, there is no answer for this.” Mider replied. “Yet their blood has been mingled together.”
“You must restore them!”
Airmid knelt beside them to examine the wounds more closely. “I have never repaired wounds as deep as these. I am not sure what I can do. It may be possible for him but not for her. She is mortal and I have nothing here to repair a mortal body.”
“Try!” BéChuille’s eyes filled with tears.
Ogme spoke, “According to the great legends, the only thing that could bring immortal life to her would be if their child would bond in love with an immortal being. This would close the circle and bring her to immortal life to her mother.”
BéChuille ignored him. “Try!” she demanded.
Mider bent down to Lugh hoping to repair the arteries that had been cut open so wide. They all knew that once his blood had been spilt completely, there was no hope to restore life to him.
Lugh and Maria held each other. Mider looked up, “I cannot undo their embrace.”