GLANCING THROUGH the GLIMMER
Finvarra, the King of the Connaught Fairies, longs to dance with a mortal woman.
His fairy ladies dance well enough, but the mortals have more grip to them,
and Finvarra likes his gripping.
His trusty Fairy Witch has found an ideal candidate.
In the land the mortals called the Emerald Isle, even the rocks were green. At least they were in Connemara, a wild, remote district of western Galway touched on three sides by the mighty Atlantic Ocean. For thousands of years, both mortals and gods had quarried the marble found in the hills there. The diversity of greenish hues in the 600-million-year-old stone matched the countless tones in Ireland’s scenery: the forests and carpets of moss, the checkerboard pastures and bogs, the mountains and grasslands and glens.
Mortal men may have hewn the fine-grained marble into goods ranging from spearheads to jewelry, but the Tuatha Dé Danann, the divine tribe to which Finvarra belonged, got the best of the stone. They could reach depths the mortals couldn’t, accessing wondrous places beneath the earth where the marble’s colors were more intense and the stone retained more of the land’s vital energy. The Dananns transformed that energy into powerful magic.
The enchanted stone in Finvarra’s private chamber had been part of Oona’s dowry, bestowed upon her by the Goddess Danu herself. The seven-foot slab helped keep Finvarra in touch with his Danann kin and provided an eye to Out There.
He hadn’t always needed the eye. The Dananns had lived Out There themselves, before the mighty Celts had landed on Ireland’s shores nearly three thousand mortal years ago.
Finvarra recalled the day the forebears of the modern Irish sailed in from Danu knows where and claimed the bountiful island. Equally determined to defend their homeland, the Dananns engaged the invaders in combat.
Both sides suffered heavy losses in battles fraught with sorcery. Their leaders wisely called for a truce and agreed to divide Ireland between them. The Celts would dwell above the ground, the Dananns below.
Those Dananns displeased by the treaty left Ireland. Finvarra and several others opted to stay. They became known as the Daoine Sídhe (Deena Shee), the People of the Mounds. The sídhe promised to dwell in their underground world and behave themselves.
For the most part, they’d honored the bargain.
The marble slab hummed. Finvarra had been in the banquet hall winning a game of chess when the stone’s tingling energy summoned him. Standing before it now, he admired the fine beaten gold adorning its edges. Black veins of dolomite threaded the deep sea-green of its polished surface. Specks of mica glinted in mottled shadows of gray and brown that usually slumbered within the stone. The veins and shadows rippled now, pulsing to life to bring Finvarra a message.
About time, he thought, watching the swirl of light expand until Becula’s wiry gray hair and hideous face appeared in the marble. Accustomed to her bulbous nose, rheumy eyes, and broken teeth, he eyed her in a detached and businesslike manner. The hags had their uses.
“You have news for me, Becula?”
A shrewish cackle nickered from the stone. At her end, she’d be gazing into a basin of water, seeing Finvarra’s face as clearly as he saw hers. “I do, sire. I’ve found a perfect dancing partner for you. Something new. An American girl.”
“American? Oh, the Yanks. Will I have difficulty understanding her?”
“Not at all, sire. She’s perfect for our purposes. Comely and blithe, and she wishes to learn to dance.” Becula cackled again. “She wished it on my bridling necklace, she did. Tried it on with the dress she’s going to wear to the mortal king’s ball.”
King Brian had invited an uncivilized Yank to his ball and spurned the sídhe? Finvarra scowled at the marble stone. The girl would attend a ball, all right, but not Brian’s. “Well done, Becula. Show her to me.”
The smiling face of a lovely young blonde with even features and bright blue eyes replaced Becula’s misshapen visage. Enticingly innocent, the girl gazed around her in wonder. Finvarra smiled. He’d teach her to dance all right—and he’d teach the mortals to slight the King of the Fairies. Oona’s reminder to give the girl back sprang to mind, but Finvarra thought he might keep her. He could dance gazing into such a face for ages.
“What is her name, Becula?”
“She calls herself Janet.”
The hag’s face returned, supplanting that of the winsome young lady whose name Finvarra mouthed as if he were tasting a delicate morsel of pastry. He wanted her image back, and now. A sudden urge to dance with her nearly overwhelmed him.
“Where is she?” he asked. “How soon can we obtain her?”
“Tomorrow, perhaps. She’s in Dublin. Met a boy who wants to take her walking.”
“Oh?” No mortal youth would take her from Finvarra. She was his. “Walking where?”
“I don’t know yet, sire.”
He would lead his troop to County Dublin, a tricky feat. The Dublin fairies, not to mention Manannan MacLir, the King of the Sea, weren’t fond of Finvarra and his Connaught fairies. He couldn’t recall exactly why. Something about a faction fight that had started as great sport and ended with Finvarra’s troop trouncing the Dublin fairies. Oh yes, he remembered now. He’d stolen someone’s wife. How was he to know she turned back into a mermaid every third day?
Manannan MacLir had taken the side of the Dublin fairies. He’d not only made Finvarra give the woman back, he’d forbidden the Connaught troop to return to Dublin until Danu’s Comet reappeared. Threatened to launch a raid on Knock Ma if they dared to come near. No sense of humor! But Dublin’s grudges mattered not. Finvarra knew of several outposts around County Dublin where he and his troop could not only camp undetected, they could hold an impromptu party. MacLir would never know they were there. All they required was glimmer.
“Let me know the instant you learn where she’s going,” Finvarra said. “I’ll rouse an eastbound wind and order the troop to prepare to ride.”
“As you wish, sire.” Cackling softly, Becula faded away.