by Kiera in Dark Ages
Kiera sat near the river on a ragged old blanket. She pushed her golden orange hair out of her face, tying it in a ribbon at the nape of her neck. Crossing her legs she lay her hands, face up on her knees and closed her eyes. After a few careful breaths, she felt the gentle mist around her. Slowly the sounds of nature, which surrounded her, became louder, clearer: the bubbling of the river, the wind through the trees, the soft chirping of songbirds. Everything became a song floating through the young girl’s head.
And soon she, too, was floating. The harsh confines of her mortal form seemed to melt away and she felt herself floating in the air. Timidly, she opened her eyes. A smile formed on her spiritual-lips as she looked around. She was hovering amongst the ancient trees that lined the riverbed. And in this astral state of being, she could see the beautiful auras, which surrounded them, and indeed, every living thing. Slowly looking around, she could see shimmering mists of light and energy around every creature and plant. It created a dance so beautiful Kiera could not keep herself from joining it.
Nearly by will alone she found herself dancing with the long grass, the chipmunks and squirrels, and finally high in the air with the ancient and regal trees. Suddenly a soft voice, nothing more than a whisper, called her to stop. She floated there, near one of the eldest trees, and felt it reach out to her, encompassing her with it’s warmth. It spoke to her, but not with words that she understood. She could gather certain glimpses, a few subtle meanings, but could not fully understand what the Nas/as sine was trying to tell her. Frustrated by this lack of comprehension, Kiera found herself pulled viciously back into her body, with such suddenness that she felt nauseated and topple over onto her back. ‘Ah,’ she thought to herself, ‘Will I never understand my dear friend’s words?’
With a start, she realized the sun was starting to set. Her father would be very upset if she did not return home soon. Scrambling to regain her composure, she scooped up her blanket and ran back to her village.
Brandubh stepped out from his secluded spot near the river. He watched in silence as the young girl ran back to Piet. A smile crossed his lips. She was young, and yet her simple beauty had caught his eye, while her secrets had grasped his soul. He knew he had spied something no one else knew of this girl. Her ability to leave the mortal coil to commune with the spiritual realm was uncommon amongst simple peasants. No, this child of eleven years was most definitely an Aisling.
The stranger shook off his travelling cloak, brushing off the leaves that had affixed themselves to it. He threw back his hood and ran a hand through his thick, black hair. He, himself, was only of his sixteenth year, but even at this tender age he had seen and learned more than most.
Turning towards the darkening sky, he took off his cloak to reveal the darkly dyed galuchat coat he wore beneath it. Dark stitching around the base of the coat declared his name, as well as some ancient words, much like incantations. Around his neck hung a dark green necklace, while each hand bore delicately crafted amethyst rings. Simple coral earrings dotted his ears.
He reached his hands upward towards the now star-dotted sky. Chanting a few soft words a light began to glow around his palms. As the light began to grow in intensity, he began to speak aloud: "Oran creacar…" These ancient words rolled off his tongue with a melodic ease and seemed to fill the air. With a sudden flash of light, he clapped his hands, and it was over. The strange glowing was replaced by the still darkness of the night, and at his feet lay four neatly rolled scrolls.
He gathered them up gently, almost reverently, and gently placed all but one in his sack. The one he kept out he unrolled carefully and read over. After a moment, he touched his finger gently to the top of it. A small spark of light lit the area, and the words ‘Rucesion Song’ could be seen boldly along the top line of the scroll. Smiling, he read the scroll again, this time aloud and in a melodious chant. With a flash of light and an echoing musical tone, he vanished from the spot, without a trace.
Kiera slipped into her cottage to find her father standing near the entrance, hands on hips. She gasped in surprise, then lowered her head. She was late. She could see her little sister, Nixie, lying asleep in her crib. She was the baby of the family, only a year of age. Kiera’s little brother Donall sat next to the fire with their mother. He was four years of age, and he grinned impishly at his older sister.
"Where have you been?" Tiernan, their father, asked coldly. "Do you realize what the time is, young lady?"
"Aye, father." Kiera answered softly. "I am sorry. I was at the river…"
"Enough with your excuses, child. You spend far too much time alone! You should be here with your family. In the time you spent daydreaming, you could have been learning from your mother!"
Suddenly Moira, Kiera’s mother, was at her husband's side. She seemed to move with the agility and quietness of a deer, and startled both Tiernan and Kiera. "My love," she whispered, laying a hand on her husband’s arm. "I feel we must discuss these instances with the village Elders."
Tiernan turned and stared at his wife, fear mixed with a touch of anger in his eyes. "And you, my dear. You suggest this?" He seemed to want to say more, and yet he did not. He simply lowered his eyes and nodded. "Aye. Tomorrow we shall travel to the main village."
Kiera watched as her father walked away and sat down at his worktable, then turned to her mother with a questioning look in her eyes. Moira shook her head, the smallest touch of a smile on her lips. "Tomorrow, dear." she whispered, and for the first time Kiera noticed a small spark in her mother’s eyes. The young girl was overwhelmed with a sudden realization – the spark was an old one, yet a withdrawn one.
Kiera lay awake in her bed, listening to her brother’s soft breathing. Her mother was an Aisling! And yet, she had never pursued it! How horrible, to go through life knowing there is more for you, and yet denying yourself. How could she do it? Kiera could not understand. She had been told stories of the Aislings: wondrous stories of exploration, knowledge.
Softly Kiera fell asleep, her mind filled with thoughts of grand and powerful Aislings in their regal robes.
Brandubh sat alone in the dark, stone room. Two dim torches shed some light as the young man knelt and whispered words of prayer. He continued his praying until suddenly he was enveloped in a green misty light. He cried out, partly in pain, partly in ecstasy. His whole body was enveloped by this mist, and his head was filled with a blinding darkness.
In this darkness, archaic words filled his mind. He called out, but his voice was lost in the back of his throat. The words became louder, insistent, and his head pounded from their assault. Just as they became as loud as he could bear, he understood a strong command: "Bring her power to the darkness". And in a sudden flash the darkness dissipated and Brandubh found himself lying on his back in the cold stone room. His whole body ached, and yet felt revived. A headache pounded inside, but a quick murmur of an incantation sent that nuisance on its’ way. Slowly, he sat up, rubbing the back of his head, which he had hit hard when he fell backwards. Yet, a smile adorned his face as he gathered up his cloak and sack. His Lord and Master had a goal for him, and he would not let him down.
Kiera sat nervously outside the tavern. She held Nixie in her arms, even though the energetic youngster wished to be set free. Donall was amusing himself nearby with a caterpillar. Inside the tavern were her parents, as well as the Elders of Piet: Saskia, Innkeeper; Jilt and Leo, shopkeepers; Narve, Fae Priestess; and Appie, Wizard philosopher. The group sat together as Bella served them drinks.
"What is the cause of this meeting?" Appie asked, a little distraught at having been called away from his studies.
"Our daughter, Kiera," Tiernan informed the assemblage. "We are worried about her,"
"Ah me," Moira laughed gently, a sparkle in her eyes. "Nay, but it is not worry for me. I wish to address all of you on the matter of our daughter’s coming of age." Tiernan threw his wife a warning look, but Appie waved it away, nodding to Moira.
"Aye Moira. Certainly Kiera is of that ripe young age which we must decide what is best for her as the village is concerned." Saskia smiled, knowingly. She had seen many young women grow in Piet, and knew how this time was hard for the parents.
"There is one other thing to mention before we discuss this," Moira announced. "I believe our Kiera has the spark of an Aisling." The room fell silent, and the people assembled exchanged glances. The silence was heavy until Narve spoke up.
"Then she must be allowed to learn of the Aisling arts and choose her path." the Priestess suggested.
"Aye it comes as no surprise to me!" Saskia grinned. "Young Kiera has long visited my Inn, speaking with the passing travelers about their homes and adventures. Many an Aisling has shared their tale with her, surely helping to spark her own destiny."
"This is outrageous." Tiernan grumbled. "We all know that she is more needed here than out romping around the world getting into dangerous situations!" Silence filled the room again, followed by a slight ‘humph’ from Appie.
"Tiernan you know very well the value of the Aislings." Appie reprimanded. "And we all know your wife made a great sacrifice for her love for you. Do not ask your daughter to do the same. The Aislings are our protectors, our strength. Aye, it is a danger-filled life, but it is one that is a destiny set forth by the Gods, and is not to be taken lightly."
Murmurs of agreement acknowledged Appie’s little speech. Tiernan sighed and grasped Moira’s hand tightly, wishing to show her he had not forgotten what she had given up for him. "Then let it be written that as of spring, Danaan 3290, Kiera Daedre will begin her studies as an Aisling. Upon satisfactory education in Piet, she will be sent to Mileth to follow her path." Appie announced as Saskia wrote it in the village scrolls.
Kiera stood quickly as her parents stepped out of the tavern. Donall came running to her side, gripping her hand and gazing at their parents. Nixie squealed and reached for her mother, who took her lovingly into her arms. Kiera stared at her parents, wide-eyed and expectant. Moira smiled softly. She took Donall’s hand and led him away from Kiera and Tiernan.
Tiernan looked at his daughter in silence for a moment. Her hair sparkled, reflecting the light of the sun, as her emerald green eyes stared at him, a light shining beneath. He felt a lump in his throat, knowing that from this day forward his beloved daughter was on her way away from her family.
He gently put his arm around her shoulders and held her close. "Kiera, it has been decided. You shall study the various paths of the Aisling until it is announced that you may travel to Mileth to follow your destiny."
Kiera stared at her father in surprise. She had expected perhaps a chaperone, extra village chores, something designed to keep her busy and out of trouble. Instead, she found herself given a great gift! She cried out and threw her arms around her father’s neck, hugging him tight. "Oh athair!" she sighed. "Thank you, thank you!"
Brandubh stood behind a nearby tree, smiling to himself. Young Kiera was considered an Aisling. What a wonderful thing! He had known it, but it was nice to see the mundanes accepting it. He sighed as he watched her walk happily with her father. Again he felt himself struck by her beauty. He watched until they were no longer visible, then leaned back against the tree. Somehow he needed to get to know her better. Nodding to himself he decided to take a risk and call upon her.
Kiera looked up from her book, as there was a knock on the cottage door. A visitor! How unusual! She smiled and watched excitedly as her father walked to the door. When he opened it, revealing the stranger beyond it, Kiera felt as though the world had paused. Dark hazel eyes looked directly at her, into her. The young man’s hair was long and black as the night sky, falling gently around his face. And his face! The very image sent thoughts of gentleness, and yet hidden darkness through Kiera’s mind.
She didn’t hear the words of greeting that were passed between her father and this man, and she didn’t hear when her father bid her to come forward.
"Kiera!" her father barked, shaking her out of her reverie. Jumping, she put down her book and scrambled to her father’s side.
"Aye, father?" she asked, staring at the stranger. He smiled softly, and she felt his eyes capture hers again.
"This young man claims he knows you? Is this so?" Tiernan asked, eyeing the stranger cautiously.
Before Kiera could answer, she heard a strange whisper in her mind: ‘My sweet, say you do, tell him I am a cousin of the innkeeper. I promise I shall not harm you.’
Surprised by the intrusion, and nearly unable to deny it, she nodded to her father. "Aye, he is Saskia’s cousin. May I go speak with him?"
Tiernan studied his daughter’s face, then nodded slowly. "You may. But be home before dark, or I shall not be as lenient this time!"
Brandubh led Kiera down to the riverside where he had first spied her. He sat down on a fallen log and bid her to sit near him. She was watching him constantly, and he nearly felt a chill at her constant stare. He smiled softly and looked away, turning his gaze to the trees around them.
"Who are you?" Kiera asked finally, softly. "How did you bewitch me so to lie to my father?"
"Ah, for that I am sorry," he replied. "My name is Brandubh."
"Greetings Brandubh," Kiera said cautiously. "My name is Kiera Daedre."
"Aye, that which I knew." he smiled. "I’m sorry if I frightened you, that was not my intentions." He turned to look at her, and smiled softly. A rush of joy filled him as she returned the smile, her reservations lifting. "I spoke to you earlier by use of cagair. It is the Aisling way of speaking in private."
"Aisling?" Kiera asked, surprised. He nodded and slipped off his cloak, revealing his clothing, which were of the traditional Aisling style. Kiera stared, then smiled softly. "An Aisling Priest."
"Ah, you’ve studied the various clothing!" Brandubh exclaimed. "Very good."
"And yet, why have you chosen to speak with me?" Kiera asked.
"I was drawn to you, my dear Kiera. Your beauty, your energy. I knew you would be an Aisling the moment I saw you. I wish to know you better, would you grant me this?"
Kiera giggled softly, charmed by the young man’s courting. Never before had any boys paid attention to her, and she found she liked it. Looking at him again, she felt an attraction to this dark, handsome man. He intrigued her, and she felt drawn to him. She nodded and smiled. "Aye, I think I’d quite like that."
Kiera lay in a bed of sweet grass, staring at the trees above as they swayed in the breeze, dancing. Brandubh sat nearby, munching on a honey treat they had been given by the Fae priestess. Kiera lazily looked over and smiled at him, and he returned the smile. Seasons had passed, and it was again the time of warmth, summer. Kiera had spent the morning in studies, and now relished the freedom to just sit with Brandubh.
The two had grown close over the seasons, and now were considered courting by most of the population. Kiera’s own father was wary of this young man, but at his wife’s insistence, he did not act upon his suspicions. Kiera sighed as she closed her eyes. After only a moment, she felt herself slip into that familiar state where she could hear and feel every thing of nature far better than usual.
Brandubh slowly crawled over to Kiera’s still form. His intention to surprise her was quickly discovered, though, and her eyes flashed open with a mischievous giggle. Brandubh laughed and sat beside her, running his hand over her face gently.
"My love, one can never surprise you! What is your secret?" he asked, dipping down to kiss her nose softly.
"'Tis not a secret," she grinned. "'Tis a skill."
"Ah me," he laughed. "Won’t you teach me this skill of yours?"
"I wouldn’t know how," Kiera frowned, sitting up. "I've always been able to. I become one with nature, I know naught a better way to say it."
"No matter, sweet. I’ve something to show you." Brandubh stood, reaching for Kiera’s hands to help her up. He held her close as they walked out of the woods, towards a strange cave on the outskirts of town. He sighed under his breath, but resolved himself to remain strong. His Master had instructed that now was the time. He did not wish do obey now, but it was too late for that. Kiera shivered when she saw it.
"What is this place?" Kiera asked.
"Simply a cave, my dear. But it’s full of power." He led her into the first chamber and turned to face her. Kiera stared into his eyes, searching. Something didn’t feel right about this place, but what could happen so long as her love was here? His dark eyes seemed to envelope her, and she didn’t notice when he began chanting softly.
"Cluinn mo seun, cinn mo mael." Brandubh held his arms out, stepping back from Kiera. His eyes suddenly seemed mixed with sadness, and Kiera tried to take a step towards him, but couldn’t.
"Bran-," she started, trying to call to him, but her words were taken from her. Suddenly she couldn’t move, and her vision became blurred. A mist seemed to envelope her, and she just barely heard his voice through the darkness.
"I’m sorry my love,"
Kiera opened her eyes to find herself kneeling on cold stone, naked. Shocked, she crumpled into a ball, hugging her legs to her body. The air was thick with darkness, and very cold. She could see nothing but misty grey clouds around her. After what seemed like endless moments of complete silence, she heard the echoing of footsteps coming towards her. She turned towards the sound, and watched as a tall, dark figure stepped out of the clouds and into view.
He was hidden in a black hooded cloak. Only his eyes could be seen, and they seemed to glow with a life of their own. Kiera shivered as his gaze seared right through her. She knew instantly he was Evil. Darkness lingered on and around him, and she could see it and feel it, as she could sense auras when in her spirit form.
The figure raised a hand and as he did, she felt herself stand against her will. She was powerless to stop it, and stood naked before him as he continued to stare at her. A realization struck her -–she was in her spirit form. She had left her body, but did not remember doing so. A smile seemed to appear from the darkness of the hood.
"Aye, child. You are perceptive." the man praised, his voice a mixture of darkness, yet gentleness.
"Who are you?" Kiera demanded. "How do you know my thoughts? What do you want of me?"
"Hush your tongue," he commanded. "Do not question me, you know naught what you face. Do you realize the power within you, just waiting to come out? Nay, of course you do not. It matters little. You will become a great Aisling. Your strength will vanquish many foes, until the day when your own power will vanquish yourself."
His laughter seemed like a wisp, wrapping itself around Kiera. She felt strange pricks all over her body until suddenly she felt the agonizing grasp of a cold hand. It seemed to wrap around her whole body, squeezing tightly. She screamed, and heard her own voice echo infinitely through her head, louder and louder. The darkness seemed to enter her, fill her very soul.
Brandubh sat near Kiera’s motionless form, head in his hands. He was torn – he knew he must obey his Master, but it killed him inside to harm Kiera. Sighing, he pulled her body into his lap, cradling her head. Soon she would return to him. She’d have no memories of the experience, this he had been promised. She would not know of it until it was too late.