Lugh’s head felt crushed. He grappled for his face and legs but caught nothing except empty space. He was spinning and whirling in a wind of travel through space and time.
At last he seemed to stop moving. The white mists and fog began to clear and he could see down, down, down the side of a sheer cliff below him. He was so high there was no earth visible below. He had landed on the edge of the precipice. He turned slowly. What should have been there—the mountain face and its trees and foliage—were engulfed in a heavenly white mist. Finally, the mist cleared and a thin path appeared that lead over the deep gorge to a dark cave opening. He walked the narrow way and then stood for a moment grasping the cave’s edge, thankful to touch something of substance.
“Hello… hello…” he called inside.
A golden woman appeared through the darkness. It was the goddess Danu, his mother. She was more beautiful than he’d ever seen her. A feeling of warmth enveloped him. He longed for her to hold him, to feel her face against his and comfort him like a child. But when he came closer, he could see through her. She was only an apparition; nothing he could hold onto, perhaps nothing more than a dream. He pulled away, hiding his disappointment.
Her eyes picked up the tiny light from the entranceway and shone brightly. She seemed to understand what he wanted to say despite that he had not spoken. “I appear to you as an apparition because you have been exiled, Lugh.” She smiled, her eyes wide with adoration and regard for her beloved son. “This will be the last time you will see me until you return, except in your dreams. So learn now, before you begin your journey; discover the world that you will face.”
Lugh still felt the overpowering desire to run to her and let her comfort him, but it was useless. “Is this a dream?” He rubbed his head as if he might be able to wipe the dream from his eyes. “I don’t even know where I am going…. I don’t even know where I am now.”
“All right,” she said comfortingly. “Come with me… I will guide you.” The long train of her gown of light appeared beneath his feet. He rode on it and they floated over the darkness, approaching a warm firelight.
The cavern walls were aglow. The stone had formed a natural cathedral reaching a pinnacle far, far above their heads. A speck of light shone through at the top. Lugh wondered if they were on Earth or some other place. He’d never seen anything like this, not even in Tír na nÓg.
As they approached the hearth, Lugh saw Manannan, God of the Seas and Lugh’s stepfather, sitting quietly on a smooth stone bench. His left hand clutched his walking stick. He’d looked like a child. His blue and white robes sat in a puddle on the floor and his feet dangled before the dancing fire. The soft silver fur of his collar matched his hair and beard, just as it always had, and he was aglow with warmth and light.
Lugh’s stomach began to ache as he thought of how disappointed his stepfather might be and began apologizing, “I confess to you, I should not have fought the Fomorian, rushing to the upper world. I was foolish but I did not know what to do. Please forgive me.”
It was hard to read the motionlessness of Manannan’s face. “It would not have been foolish if the Fomorian were our enemy.” His voice was deep and full, though he was so small. His eyes caught the firelight like glistening stones tucked quietly within the folds of his ancient skin.
Lugh wondered if Manannan could still ride the sea in his chariot above the stormy waves. At the moment of his thought, Manannan grinned; of course he’d ride if he had the chance, he answered in thought. But nothing could hide the sadness in his eyes.
Lugh’s heart ached to know what had happened to make Manannan lose hope and stature. Who had done this to him? With every fiber of his being Lugh felt the weight of duty—to his father, to his friends and family. He wanted to tear across the meadows and conquer the enemy who dared to harm everything he held so dear. He spoke aloud, “If the enemy can be vanquished, I will do it, and return us to our lives as before…”
“If the enemy can be found….” Manannan interrupted, still grinning mischievously. “Lighten your heart. I am not sure if our lives could ever return to the way they were, no matter what you do.”
Lugh protested. “There must be a magical spell that keeps us hidden and losing the power of our kingdom. If it is a spell, it can be broken.”
“It is not a spell of the Fomorian; as wicked as they are.” Manannan sighed.
Lugh regarded him. The God of the Sea had grown tired. Too tired to pursue the search for answers. Lugh knew there was no point in asking any further questions. Manannan would teach him to undo the spell, if he knew how.
Manannan warmed his hands at the fire. “I do know this: your children will help you find the answer. My grandchild will know. I hope you will return to Ireland one day with your children, Lugh—children of Father Sea and Mother Earth.
“Until then, keep the Sword of Light,” which at that moment appeared in Lugh’s right hand, at first blazing and then settling to a soft blue-white light.
Lugh spoke without thinking, revealing the anxiety and fear that rose in his throat, “Oh, how will I need it? I do not know where I am going. I do not know how it will be of any use to me.”
Manannan looked at Lugh firmly to quiet his chattering mind. “That remains to be seen, Lugh. Keep it.”
Lugh felt so lost. He wished again he could at least touch his parents and let their embrace comfort him. But Manannan was an apparition, just like his mother. And he knew that after this moment, he may never see them again. Lugh rubbed his eyes to keep his tears from falling and turned his face to the fire
There he saw a shape taking form in the flames—of all things, it was a woman—and she was laughing! The fire lifted up and twisted in a sort of a golden dance. The woman stepped out of the hearth and onto the black rock, snickering and brushing herself off. She stood so tall that she towered over Manannan. Her green eyes danced in the firelight. Her dress, red velvet plaits embroidered with gold, matched her auburn hair that fell loosely about her. Her large bosom, thick arms and ample hips filled her dress and made her seem very solid. She gestured with long-fingered hands and welcomed herself into the room.
“Well, how nice to see you all. Positively marvelous! Manannan, I haven’t see you in a thousand years. My how you have changed! Why, you’ve become… one of the little people…” She stopped herself and turned to Danu.
“Sweet Danu, mother of all we hold dear,” She lovingly embraced Danu, kissing her face. “Positively marvelous century—isn’t it? Mankind has finally started to change his ways. There’s so much to look forward to….
And as for you, Lugh, my goodness! What adventures you have in store. Let’s have a look, shall we?”
Danu was taken aback as if such levity had no place in this solemn moment. “Brigit—your optimism is a bit misplaced…”
“Optimism is never misplaced, great mother spirit. There is a much that can be done and much that will be done. Let me work with the human, I know their ways because I know the violence that lies within them; I can fight fire with fire, so to speak. In this time, great mother, it is I who will protect you.”
She turned and looked at Lugh affectionately. “Thank goodness you have arrived, Lugh, we have been waiting for a hero.”
“Oh, let him be. His destiny will not change no matter your protests. Let him enjoy the certainty of his native future.”
“He will create his own future! And he must be able to confront the forces of evil. Too much pride and assuming everything will turn out all right is not going to help him!”
“Oh, there’s plenty of room for creativity. The future has plenty of holes…unwoven threads…whatever…” Brigit waved her hands dismissively and turned toward the fire, confident her sister and goddess of all the earth, would attend and have faith in her ability to bring answers that had been hidden for so long.
The fire assumed the shape of a bowl on its side turning itself toward them, like a concave, fiery screen. Pictures began to form in the flames. There were pictures of Lugh cooing and laughing as a baby, of Lugh as a boy walking across Tara Hill, and as a young man who was thoughtfully looking up at the stars.
Brigit brought up more pictures of Lugh as a young man learning the various crafts; carpentry, blacksmithing and scenes of him caring for the horses. He looked particularly handsome.
“Oh, all right!” She mumbled under her breath. The flames changed shape again to show Tír na nÓg with its great caverns of multicolored rock, rivers of bright flowing lava and underground streams feeding vast gardens of bright red, yellow and purple flowers.
“The Land of Youth was created for you as a Kingdom. It was a safe home,” Danu remarked proudly, lifting her chest and pursing her lips in frustration with Brigit’s flippancy toward all things permanent.
“Respectfully, great mother, was it really our choice? Or was it an escape from someone or something else?” Lugh held back his growing resentment. “This is a world without sunlight. Where we cannot even fly…We need to return to our world great mother, the Upper World. I must face and battle this source of the evil, whether it is Fomorian, mankind or some other force bringing death and darkness and now, consuming the magic from our people in Tír na nÓg .”
The pictures metamorphosed into images of Lugh standing atop Tara, looking out over the bright green hills of Ireland, the Warriors of Right standing by his side.
“Even if I am a leader,” Lugh protested. “I do not want to lead in a world where we can no longer ride the seas, no longer view the stars at our will and no longer fly. What kind of a world is that? Mother, I will not let you be enslaved nor Mananann to be broken down…I must do something.”
Danu’s eyes opened wide in surprise; never before had he spoken a word of disagreement in her presence. She opened her mouth to speak.
“He’s right, mother, it is our turn to protect you now…” Brigit interrupted followed by a wide, welcoming smile, “But there is much more to show you, so let’s not argue.”
She turned to Lugh. “The fire will not show everything in your future. Only what is known at this time. Keep in mind the prophecy—I mean, the future—whether in detail or in great strokes, is still painted by you in every moment of now. You are the author of the story of your life. I can only show you what you have already chosen. You see, it is a reflection of decisions you have already made. It may give you greater purpose and understanding of yourself to view this. But what you perceive as the future belongs to you and is created by you in each moment.”
Lugh nodded in acknowledgement. Brigit was undoubtedly the most potent of the faery mothers and held her own even with Danu, Goddess of all the Earth. She had not lost herself nor become smaller. Lugh did not recall seeing her in Tír na nÓg.
“Perhaps she likes mankind,” Lugh surmised. He looked upon her large bosom rising and falling. As the Goddess of Fire, she had provided men with tools that had formed their civilization. Rather than regretting it, she seemed to look forward with uncanny optimism.
“The trick is to see what decisions you have already made, my dear.” She pointed to the fiery crystal which transformed into a vision of Lugh walking amongst very tall trees that were a hundred times the size of a man with thick, red bark. Lugh looked peaceful as he walked out of the forest onto a cliff overlooking a breathtaking view of the ocean. Waves crashed to the shore and white foam and spray flew high into the air.
The crystal then changed scenes. It showed a view of a river from far above as if from the eyes of a soaring eagle. This river was black as soot, and the trees around it had died.
“Where is it?”
There was a silence in response. Finally, Brigit spoke, “I can only show you a few moments in time…so look!”
A woman with long brown hair appeared—she turned and smiled. And the crystal turned back to flames.
“Let me see her again.”
“No, you may not.” Brigit said playfully. “I told you I have only a few moments. Now, look again.”
The tender face of girl child appeared. A father’s arms held her up to the sun that spilled out around her.
“Alright. Time’s up!”
“No, Brigit. You must show him the rest.” Danu was angry. “You must show him the prophecy. He must know what is there, what evil he will have to confront. Show him!”
“OK, well give me a moment, then!”
The crystal flames went black.
“I said, show him what he needs to see, Brigit. The other side!”
“As you like!”
As the picture in the fire began to form, the earth in the cavern began to tremble. Large rocks moved from the very core of the planet. The cavern walls began to break open from the bottom to the top and lava came seeping through the cracks. The shake became a roar—louder and louder. The ground beneath them began to move violently. Rocks fell; heavily crashing to the floor of the cavern and putting out the fire.
Lugh looked around though in darkness. There was no light from the fire and no longer any glow from his stepfather or his mother.
He felt the weight of the sword in his hand. He felt a soft, warm touch upon his cheek, like a kiss. Then the crushing darkness enveloped him. He was traveling through time and space once more.