“Stop!” Áine cried out, “Stop!” She ran to Donn, pleading with him.
Lugh stood slowly, swallowing a pain that tore at him. He no longer cared if he lived or died. He lived for one reason only: to free Áine.
Though Lugh was weak, the Sword of Light had its own sense. Lugh brandished it, and it moved close enough to glitter in Donn’s eyes.
Donn’s harnessed his immense power and metamorphosed into a grotesque and hideous creature. His luminescent colors dripped thick and glistening from his transparent skin that glowed with electrical energy. Visible was his resource of electric force deep in the gorge of his belly and the blackness of his blood and heart. As always, his enormous teeth glinted as he lifted his long neck, writhed and twisted and filled the entire room, towering above them. He looked down and smiled smugly, feeling satisfied with himself. He’d never thought conquering the Shining One would be so easy. “I hope you’re feeling better now, Lugh,” he hissed.
Electric fire flew from the Sword of Light high enough to scorch Donn’s face. The monster slapped it away like it was the sting of a tiny insect. He issued an lightening gaze at Lugh that was so powerful it sent him flying—up and then hard down against the cold, stone floor.
Lugh’s pain pierced his veins like thorns ripping into his heart and lungs. Slowly, he lifted his body and approached Donn again. The Sword of Light clung to its master’s remaining courage. Lugh issued a fiery blast. It fell like tiny fireworks beneath the knees of a giant. Donn laughed his wicked tooth filled laugh.
Mercilessly, Donn lifted Lugh into the air with his force and dropped him letting his tortured body crash to the floor. Lugh lay on the grey stone immobile, his mouth bleeding, the Sword of Light still pulsing in his hand.
Cruelly, once again, the Lord of the Lost Souls blew with a gust of electric wind that lifted Lugh’s lifeless body high above the ground and held him. The Sword of Light fell from Lugh’s hand.
Swollen with hate and resentment, Donn spat at the broken warrior, “Do not counter me, Elven man. I have gathered such power from those you have seen here. They gave it to me. You can do nothing.”
The electric force dissipated and Lugh fell one last time. His eyes were closed, his bones broken. Blood dripped down his temples and over the cheeks of his silent face. Áine ran to him.
Donn turned to Áine, his hollow voice echoing through the room. “Come with me now.”
Áine grabbed the Sword of Light and whirled to face Donn. She was shaking, “No. NO!” she cried out, uncertain whether to try to defend their position or to run. Anger rose within her like a flame engulfing her heart. Then suddenly she stopped. Some wisdom withheld her from action and filled her with courage; her compassion for the souls so tormented overcame her and brought her silence complete. Time stood still as she felt the sensations of her body, the vibrations in the room and confronted the essence emanating from this hideous beast. Just standing before him took great courage. There was no way to escape him; he was too powerful; he was too evil; and he could crush her in an instant. Even the sword of light would fail against the massive power he had stolen for himself.
She had to face him and she had to hold a position Donn could not attack. She had to find relief from his crushing pressure. She could feel his mind imposing on her, wanting to speak to her, wanting to guide her; to be his. She scrambled for thoughts that were entirely hers: her own memories, her loves, all that she wished for and enjoyed. She gathered her thoughts close: pictures of her childhood, the Elven men and Fae, her cousins and friends. She thought of the beauty of the earth, sea and sky, of Bran and his enchantment, of the forest deer, small animals and birds, of her mother and her patience and learning magic. Her mother, a mortal woman so full of admiration that she herself was magic. Then she realized. There is nothing he can do, his wickedness is entirely that given by the souls to him. Perhaps it had been given in earnest and he had used it in his cruelly, but they had given him their power and now, it was his.
But now, they will take it back. He was a just a fake. He was an illusion. He was a falsehood born of lies. Just as he had consumed the power of the lost souls, she would restore it … she would find a way.
Suddenly she blurt out, “I wish freedom for the lost souls! They should learn how and what you really are and escape from your trap forever. I wish you knew that you have succumbed — you have given in to hate and lies. You have selfishly ruled their lives with cruelty. Behind their back, pretending, pretending. Just for your show! These are immortals and you have entrapped them with your lies. I wish …I wish you…I wish you were…”
Thoughts crowed in—of all of the vicious things Donn had done: children who had wished their parents dead, those entrapped in betrayal, hatred and greed, the woman estranged and alone in the room without love, of her father and his pain. She wondered if she should wish all these things upon Donn. She could. Would that be revenge? Wishing revenge upon Donn would only bring it upon herself; every day feeling the rage against his hatred boil in her. It would entrap her forever in this world of the lost and lonely. Perhaps that was exactly what he wanted. He wanted her to focus her attention on what he wanted, giving him power, giving him her soul.
“Come now, Áine. You know it can only be you and I; your mother and father cannot give you want you really need. I can. Let me show you what you really want and how happy you can be…Come on, now, we must move quickly to make your dreams come true at once, otherwise you are in danger.” Donn’s voice sounded more and more sickeningly sweet the greater his hatred swelled and his smile became wider as he lied and lied.
Aine did not move. She remembered in that very moment the very first lesson of the magical arts: First, all is illusion, any reality can be changed and two: love is your greatest weapon in any battle. The souls had given him the power of their illusion, the energy of their illusion, without love. The moment they agreed to him, love had slipped away, the motion of their creation flipped and turned it back upon them, holding the force in place perpetually, like magnets snapping into a place. Changing the essential vibration of either side, would end his power over anyone. Suddenly, she knew what to do.
She stood, a tiny figure before Donn’s fantastic presence. “It’s true, magic is wishing for something. What you wish for is your choice. Your response in the face of evil such as yours, Donn, is your choice. And I choose to keep living. Not to stay in one place in your eternal spell, but to live, and to love.
“You are right Lord of the lost souls, you are reflection of their desire; you give them exactly what they wished for and in that moment of passing thoughts you have captured them, enslaving them to these wishes eternally, taking their power and life force. Perhaps your greed and loneliness have overcome you, Donn, but these are just garments you wear, they are not you.
“I wish this for you Donn, lord over so many. I wish you could see what is right and good and pure in you because I know you have within you light. You have decided and you can un-decide. That’s what I really wish, for you to decide, to change, to move forward in time. I wish you would see this now, be overcome by love and let them go.” Áine was crying. She did not have to pretend to love him, because she understood him now, she understood his confusion, his stupidity, his hatred and fear and she could overpower these forces with her love. Her heart filled in earnest with compassion for his opposition, for his force of evil without which she would not have understood her own strength, and her love wished so tenderly for the souls to be free.
Lugh’s consciousness returned and he struggled to move. The light of her compassion was so great, it filled the room, healing and soothing him. He sat up slowly.
Áine continued yelling at the enormous figure, “Look at your golden castle, your marble gates. You cannot tell a lie without the truth, Donn. Your greed has not harmed them, it has opened a world of possibilities to them, a world to which they cannot be made slave. You are only hurting yourself Donn, holding on to your greed. Now, let it go, let them go.”
Now, it was Donn whose eyes shown fear. “I cannot. I will die. I have helped no one. I wish to help no one. I will keep all I have gained.”
“You have all the power Donn, but now they know you. They know you are illusion, Donn. You have helped them know they have a choice. Give it back to them.”
Donn began shaking, “But I never meant to help anyone. I have given nothing.” The facade of evil was falling; his body shown as his blackened heart turned blue.
Áine shook her head, “You are lying. You are pretending to be evil when you are not, Donn, deep inside you. It is not possible for one soul, no matter how small, to have been born without love. You intended to help these souls and you have whether you call it good or evil. You do not have the power to entrap them—not now, or ever. The only power you took was their agreement with your illusion. You have taken nothing.”
Donn’s face began to shimmer and his body to diminish in size. “I cannot let them go now, they will escape.”
Áine approached him as if she were calming a wild animal. “How can they escape when they were never trapped to begin with? You do not need them, you have your own power.”
“No, I need them…their life force…keeps me alive…”
“No, Donn, their life force keeps alive energy of hate. You have chosen this way and despite all of your attempts to bar love from the walls of your castle, you have found love. You let them go, now. You have, by your very existence you have given them the choice of love or hate. They now know hate is a trap and love is freedom. Let them go.”
Donn’s image became blurry as if light were dissipating through his body and making him disappear. “To their doom, I have helped them with a curse; to their doom only. You have seen.”
“No, Donn, your gift is now they can choose love because they have known hatred. When they are freed from their spell they may curse you. But some will understand and they will forgive you. Some will thank you. That is for them to decide. I know that you have helped me. You have made me strong in love.” She approached him.
“I did not want to help you. I wanted only to destroy you.” His voice was disappearing. He looked up to her, his black eyes pleading as they faded into the light that seemed to engulf his body.
His body began to contract, becoming smaller and smaller as each moment passed, fading into light, dissipating and as he did, the room filled with light. It was as if the sun had started shining in he room. Áine continued, “And so I have become stronger. You have helped me in countless ways: to see the power of my own wishes, to be free of my own revenge. You cannot kill Elven or Fae—you know this, Donn. But you have taught me about living, whether you wanted to or not.”
“No. Nooooooooooooooooooo….” His voice drifted.
Áine’s whispered to him gently as his body dissipated into light, “Even these souls, how else would they learn of their own power and immortality? Haven’t you taught them a lesson greater than any other?”
At last, Áine heard his tiny voice hissing, “Theeey aaaaare freeeeeeeeeee.”
Next Chapter – Chapter 22 – Freedom
“Stop!” Áine cried out, “Stop!” She ran to Donn, pleading with him.