An abandoned audience seats. Empty stage of a theater. Nobody could be found inside the golden palace. It had been left completely alone. Only thing that moved around were the balls of dust that had began to gather around the Christmas decorations, and the staged set of a loving, American-dream Christmas evening. Yes, there was nobody there.
Not at the moment.
----------------- That would change.
“Hey! Let us get this Christmas started!” yelled the owner of the golden palace. And in that moment…
The place burst into life!
Out of nowhere, lights appeared to illuminate even the deepest part of the palace. Greatest spotlights were thrown straight to the stage, in order to celebrate the two who had made this special Christmas party possible. And from the backstage they strode in with long, festive steps, holding each others’ hands. Both dressed up in their best for Christmas, red and golden, colors fit for both.
Gilgamesh and Nero walked in with dancing steps, to the rockabilly-beat of the Christmas that resonated in Domus Aurea.
“Merrrrrrrryyyyyy Christmaaaaaaaaas~”, Nero shouted, throwing her arms open, as if embracing the whole audience.
“And happy new yeaaaaaaaaaar!!” Gilgamesh continued, twisting to the music.
To answer that, the audience that had suddenly appeared burst into applauds. Every seat had been taken, and the people who stared at the duo were all familiar. From canon and fanon, from original stories and from fanfiction, each and every single character sat there somewhere, clapping their hands for yet another get-together for Christmas. And for the orchestrators of this year’s Christmas party. That is, Nero and Gilgamesh.
The NEKO Spirits climbed quickly to their places up in the balcony, from where they could direct the lights and the stage itself. With the help of Babbles, the curtains around the stage were thrown open, revealing behind them even more Christmas decorations and tables, as if the whole stage was about to be turned into one huge Christmas party for everyone. And, most likely, it was, remembering what had been happening last year.
And as if to answer that question, suddenly, a line of maids strode in, carrying trays of food in their hands. First came, moving to the music like she had been possessed. She was followed by Hisui, balancing two huge plates full of plum sandwiches. Then came Sakura, dressed in a maid uniform and with a huge smile on her face. Leysritt came after, dancing to the music with impassive face. Sella followed her sister with a grumpy expression, though her feet seemed to slightly move in the rhythm of the music, no matter if she tried to hide it. After Sella came Lacey, carrying two enormous trays of cookies, and her Caster who, for some reason, had also been dressed into maid uniform.
This line of maids pranced to the tables and began arranging the food on them neatly. And after they had placed down what they came in with, they ran back to the backstage to get some more food. As the audience watched in awe, the dozens and dozens of tables were filled with the greatest Christmas foods one could imagine, enough to wet anyone’s tongue just by looking at them. In fact, Saber had already passed out in the audience, knowing that she would soon get to eat all that. Shirou was desperately trying to wake her up.
While this continued, so did the entertainment at the front of the stage. A collection of golden instruments, from tubas to contrabasses and saxophones, appeared with a snap of Gilgamesh’s fingers, as they all came from inside the Gate of Babylon. All the instruments were original ones, the most powerful ones. And as if that had been their cue, the Assassins of the Fourth Grail War ran to the stage, all wearing santa-hats and fake beards. And they all took one instrument each, beginning to play background music for Gilgamesh and Nero. Truly the Assassins had been turned into a proper Big Band.
“Now let’s hear it for The Old Big Band of the Mountain~!” Nero exclaimed and pointed at the group of Assassins. The audience cheered to them, and encouraged by this, the Assassins began jam unlike any other.
And as if they had been the leaders of the said band, Nero and Gilgamesh continued to dance to the Christmas beat
“Well then, dear~”, Nero purred and put her arms around Gilgamesh, who seemed slightly embarrassed. “How about announcing it, once more? What we are about to experience?”
“A-alright!” Gilgamesh said and grinned widely. He snapped his fingers, and in that moment, the Gate of Babylon.
For a moment, everyone prepared for a volley of Noble Phantasms. But what appeared instead was an array of huge golden letters that stayed there, up in there air, forming a title that was recognizable from the last year. Sure, last year, it had happened on a different site, but it was not as if that was going to stop them this year.
Yes. This year. The next year, and the year after that. And every year from here on out, as long as the author lived…
During Christmas, it would be time for….!
Verg Avesta Christmas Special
Just from Me to All of You
As Tohno Shiki finally arrived to the stage, the fast-paced atmosphere from the before had quieted down considerably. Mostly it was because the Old Big Band of the Mountain had moved to more slow-paced, intimate song. At the moment, they were doing their own version of the classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, with Gilgamesh and Nero singing the lyrics. For some reason, Gilgamesh was singing the parts which were usually sung by the woman, and vice-versa. Some of the people were dancing to the relaxed tune, which was a good change to the before.
“Ah, Shiki-san”, Kohaku chimed as she saw him approaching. Shiki smiled to the red-haired girl and greeted her with a kiss. “S-stop it, I’m supposed to be working right now…”
There was a bright blush on Kohaku’s cheeks. Shiki grinned.
“Well, they laid some foundations for us in that short story, so why not build upon them?” he asked, and was rewarded with the bright laughter of Kohaku.
“Well, I wouldn’t mind it, Shiki-san”, she said with mischievous look and took Shiki’s jacket. “But unfortunately, I’m on duty today. Maybe, in the after-party, the two of us could…?”
Hisui appeared from out of nowhere with a dangerous look in her eyes. Kohaku gave a strange meep of surprise and turned around to see her sister.
“H-Hisui-chan…! Don’t scare me like that…”
“Nee-san, we are supposed to work tonight, not flirt”, Hisui said with a stern tone and caught of Kohaku’s neck. “Let’s go.”
“N-nooooo, Hisui-chaaan~! You’re ruining my chances~!” Kohaku complained as she was dragged away from Shiki. He could simply smile after the two maids, and then move to the actual stage, where the party was going on.
As Shiki moved closer to the tables to get some food for himself, he was greeted by the pleasant sight of seeing all the people chatting and having fun times with each other. For example, one of the smaller tables was occupied by Tai Fu, who had put up a competition of arm-wrestling. Extra’s Servants, Lu Bu and Li Shuwen, were already sobbing in the corner, having lost, and now the challenger was Liu Long Mei. Behind her Li Hong kept staring daggers at the other china-girl, while Arima Miyako (the older one) mimicked a cheerleader with Wang Dao-Ming. Wang Fang-Hua also sat on that table, reading a book and eating the Christmas turkey. She sometimes gave deadly glares over her glasses at the rowdy people on the other side of the table.
Seeing how that table was occupied to the brim, Shiki moved to the next table that wasn’t at full. From there, he was able to get a plate, and started putting some of the gorgeous food to his plate. As he was doing that, someone else came to the same table, and after seeing Shiki, he grinned.
“Oh, if it isn’t Mr. Murderer”, Archer snickered. “Well, how are you doing this Christmas day?”
“Surprisingly well”, Shiki chuckled. “A little problem with the women, but being a protagonist in Type-Moon game, that is not a surprise. In fact, I guess it is in the job-description.”
“True, true”, Archer admitted and sighed. “Unfortunately, those days are long gone for me. And it doesn’t look like the author is going to write about my adventures of youth any time soon.”
“Shame”, Shiki sympathized with him. “By the way, who cooked this octopus? It’s delicious.”
Archer shrugged and pointed at the kitchen.
“Gilles and Ryuunosuke are doing their parts as chefs, so I guess it’s their handiwork?” he answered. Shiki’s face turned green.
------------ He quietly got rid of all the squid on his plate.
“T-that aside, I’m afraid I’ll have to get moving. I need to attend the annual “Protagonist Meeting” with the others, so I don’t have that much time to enjoy the party itself…” Shiki informed Archer.
And so, Shiki and Archer bid each other goodbye. Shiki made his way through the stage, watching the people celebrate in merriment, completely intoxicated by the Christmas atmosphere. Over there was Thunusakurn Kaeo and Fifth War’s Lancer, having a drinking contest with Iskander. The latter seemed to be trying to recruit Kaeo into his Ionian Hetairoi. And over there was Four, chasing after Jacques de Florence and TATARI. The vampire*-girl was waving a huge harisen around, apparently trying to smack both of the Dead Apostles with it. On the more relaxed side, there was Sasaki Kojirou and Tsunemoto Tsubasa, who seemed to be discussing about the finer points of swordsmanship. In addition, it looked like Tsubasa was trying to get Kojirou to teach her Tsubame Gaeshi.
“Hooh? So you were here, after all?” Shiki heard a voice from near him, and for a moment, he thought someone was speaking to him. But as he turned around, he saw two people, both dressed in the clothing of Church, glaring at each other.
“Got a problem with that, Kyrie?” Caren Ortensia said with a smile that beheld hatred. “I was the one who started this tradition. Of course I have the right to be here.”
“So in other words, you admit that you’re just some dusty relic of the past, which nobody should pay attention to?” The woman named Kyrie said with an expression that was almost reflection of that of Caren’s.
“Care to repeat that?” Caren growled, and revealed her Holy Cloth. In that instant, Kyrie drew four Black Keys.
“Bring it on, Judas Priest!” she hissed.
“Aah, stop that, stop that!” Riesbyfe cried and ran between the two, trying to defuse the situation. She was soon helped by Ciel, who also had realized that soon these two young women would have been at each other’s throats.
----------- Seeing that he had no place in that discussion, Shiki continued towards the other end of the stage.
There he found a table upon which the strangest of groups had gathered. It consisted of Nrvqsr, Kotomine Kirei, Araya Souren, the Singing Taxi Driver and the Man with a mirror, who was Invoker’s servant. They were playing cards while eating some Christmas cake that had been set upon the table. And for some reason, each of them was wearing a most uncomfortable expression.
“Something……..is wrong with this”, Araya Souren muttered. The Taxi Driver nodded sternly.
“Yes. For some reason, it feels almost like….almost like….”
Kotomine smiled darkly.
“It’s as if I were talking with myself.”
Waaah, what are you doing, Jouji? Shiki wondered in his head, and quickly continued walking.
And so Shiki continued to watch the Christmas party, smiling at how each and everyone seemed to, one way or another, get along. Emiya Shirou, for example, was trying to get Tomoe Karin to eat the food he had prepared as a sign of friendship, but the girl kept escaping with fearful look on her face. Or how about how Roy found himself being hit on by Francis Drake, and because Octavia was discussing with Saber seriously, he had no one to bail out of the situation? Even Little Red Riding Hood was playing with Alice and her Caster, since they had gotten a ball-and-stick-game from the feminine Enkidu. Not to mention how Rina was trying to stop Seven from giving any alcohol to Lin-Lin, or else the small detective would probably destroy the stage with one punch.
“Oi oi! What’re ya talkin’ ‘bout!? We’re gonna be the next fic, ya know!?” an angry, uncouth yelled near Shiki, drawing his attention.
“Huh? We’ve been thought out lot more, so wouldn’t that automatically that we’re going to be next in line?” another voice, a little more civilized this time, answered.
Before Shiki’s eyes, two groups were facing each other with angry expression. Judging from the clothes of the other group, they were some sort of Idol-group, consisting of ten girls and their female manager. Confronting them was a group of delinquents and Yankees, all girls. It seemed that if something was not done soon, they would engage in a rather brutal fight. Luckily…
“Shut up. All of you”, the Caster of Somnium Summer said. And even though Caster’s frame was small, the look in the pair of blue eyes was enough to give all the girls shivers. “I’m trying to enjoy my Christmas. You’re disturbing me.”
“Sorry-ssu…” one of the delinquents whispered, and thus, the both groups quieted down.
Not far from there, a strange scene was unfolding. Both Arcueid and Altrouge were sitting around a single table, and on the other side sat Arkueina, more commonly known as Invoker. The latter seemed completely obvious to the murderous glares that Froste kept throwing at her from the nearby table, where she sat with Kazu, Firo and Tatsumi. The three Brunestuds were eating together like it had been a family Christmas, but something was wrong. Very wrong. Both Arcueid and Altrouge looked like they wanted to get out as soon as possible, but the atmosphere around Invoker did not allow them to take even a step.
“Mmm, good, isn’t it?” Invoker asked. “This turkey that I cooked. It’s space turkey, you know?”
“Y-yeah…..it’s very good, Ane-ue”, Altrouge said and ate a portion of her turkey. However, Arcueid stood her ground and refused to put a piece of turkey in her mouth.
“I’m…….I’m not hungry”, she told straight to her older sister.
A moment of silence.
--------------------- Then, a smile that would have made Prelati’s Monster shiver in fear.
“Eat it, my little sister.”
“Y-yes!” Arcueid made a strange meep, and started tearing through the ham like her ham had depended on it.
I’m…..gonna escape from here before she notices me. Shiki thought and picked up his pace.
Finally Shiki got to the gathering of the protagonists, which was being held on the table on the other side of the stage. Both Roy and Shirou had gotten out of the situations they were in, and they were already there waiting for Shiki. Along with those two, there was Enkidu from Somnium Summer, Leon with his ever-orange sunglasses, Wolf who looked more tired than ever, Mikiya with a stuffed parrot on his shoulder and Soujuurou who looked like he had come to wrong place. Even Gilgamesh himself was there, as Nero was known singing solo. The red marks on his neck, however, told that it had not been an easy escape. In any event, Shiki joined the other protagonists on the table, and they welcomed him with cheery expression.
“Oh, great to see you, Shiki”, Leon grinned at him. “It seems you got some action in this author’s fics this Christmas. Feeling a bit better than last year?”
“Well, I can’t complain”, Shiki shrugged. “Getting married to Kohaku is not a bad idea, I admit.”
“Marriage, huh…?” Wolf groaned. “I wonder if I should get married too, just so I could get away from all those crazy girls who keep forcing themselves into my life. I wonder if that Shizuku girl of OLYMPUS would be free? She seems pretty decent and normal one.”
“I….wouldn’t bet on it”, Enkidu snickered. “Don’t you know? The more normal they seem, the more crazy they end up being, or something. I mean, last year we had that Francesca girl, right? In the original Somnium Summer. She was a total nutjob.”
“By the way, how’s that going for you?” Shiki asked. “The Redux version, I mean. From what I looked, there were lot of characters that had not made their appearance the previous time. Like my little sister was there, along with Tsukihime-san.”
“Well, it’s certainly refreshing”, Enkidu admitted. “And that Karin is certainly more assertive this time. But, still…….there are six or more heroines I can end up with! Isn’t that a bit dangerous?? Especially if some of them are Servants……I’m not the type of person who wants a harem. I just want to bring peace through these fists of mine.”
Shirou leaned towards Shiki and whispered.
“Don’t mind him…..his personality has changed a bit from the last time, it seems”, he said, and Shiki nodded with understanding expression.
“Hey, mongrel? Who were you again?” Gilgamesh asked, having finished his wine. Seeing that the glass was empty, he turned to Leysritt and yelled. “Hey, maid! Get me some more wine!”
“I am sorry, Gilgamesh-sama”, Liz informed him. “But the barrel of wine that Iskander-sama brought is right now being used by Tokiomi-sama and Risei-sama.”
“Huh….?” Gilgamesh was a bit curious, and looked at one empty corner of the stage.
There, like some strange game of merry-go-round, both Tohsaka Tokiomi and Kotomine Risei were circling around the barrel of wine, while sipping their wines. And they circled and circled and circled and circled and circled and...
“Aaagh! I can’t look anymore!” Gilgamesh yelled and tore his eyes away from the sight. He turned to Roy. “So, as I was saying………who are you?”
“Oh, I’m the newest protagonist of the author, for the original story he writes in the academy”, Roy introduced himself. “I am the warrior of love and peace, the one who will guard the flower of feelings, even though it may bloom on a battlefield!”
There was a long silence in the table of the protagonists, until Shirou broke it by yelling…
“T-That is wonderful goal and aspiration, Roy-san!!” he exclaimed. “Allow me to be your comrade in arms! Together, we shall be Allies of Justice! And not ones that will fail miserably, like my father!!”
Nearby, Kiritsugu cried bitter tears, hearing his son’s judgment.
“Excuse me, excuse me…”
Suddenly, a voice echoed through the stage. People started noticing that the music had ended, and now Nero was standing on the podium alone, gathering everyone’s attention. It looked like the main attraction of the night was starting.
“Now that I have gotten the attention of all of you, I would like to present the magnificent work of art I have prepared for tonight~” Nero said with a flurry of grandiose movement. “It is a tale of love and betrayal, sacrifice and grief, a true-“
“Could you just get to the point? I would not like to see my mouth say such silly words”, Saber Lily asked from the audience.
“Same to you…” the original Saber groaned.
Alter was not paying attention. The mountain of hamburgers was enough to keep her interest.
“W-well, anyhow, here it is. The Christmas Special of this year….! An all new story of a story we have only seen glimpses of…!” Nero shouted, and at the same time, the huge silver screen was rolled out for everyone to watch.
There was drum roll. There was anticipation. There was excitement to see what had been prepared.
And finally, the title was revealed on the screen.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Here it is! The Christmas story of this year! The pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainné!!”
The pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainné
The mists rose high above the ground, covering the green hills like a grey veil. It was a sight to truly behold, a sight which was unlike any other in the world. Truly, the early morning at the hills of Almu, in the Leinster country, was a wonderful one. Neither man nor beast wanted to disrupt the serene calmness and tranquility that was like remnant of the days of the fey-folk. Yet there they were. Three pairs of footsteps, slowly echoing in the endless plains of green.
The huge cape, green of color and with white fur linings, covered the equally colossal wearer from the cold. The white-haired woman, clad in bronze and silver, climbed on top of the tallest hill, intending to view the country down below. Her tall form did not lose to any man, and indeed, she made her two companions seem almost meaningless in their stature. This woman’s red eyes were surveying the mist, as if waiting for something to appear.
She was Fionn mac Cumhaill, the leader of the Fianna. The famous hero that roamed the land. Lady of Arms, as they called her.
The two men following her could not have been any more different from her. The other was stoic and calm, yet his eyes beheld a wit unlike that of any other. He was dressed in brown leather armor, and carried the green cloak of Fianna like his partner. This man with chiseled features was named Diorruing, and he was the son of Dobar O’Baoiscne. His partner was a man who seemed to mimic their tall leader. While Fionn was masculine for a woman, this man was feminine for a man. His fair features and almost frail figure were strikingly different from the one in the front.
Yet this man called Fionn his mother. For he was Oisin, son of Fionn mac Cumhaill.
A gentle yet surprisingly strong frown marred Oisin’s face. He was worried, for his mother had, for the past few days, risen from the bed unnaturally early, only to come here, to the hills, to stare at the morning sun amidst the mist. And today, he had finally decided to inquire for a reason. He did so as they finally reached the top of the hill, and stopped.
“Mother………could you tell me the reason for the lack of sleep you’ve suffered for some time now?” he asked, clearly worried. “It pains me to see your expression each morning, as you climb to this hill.
“Oisin. It seems that I have caused you to suffer in my stead because of my actions”, Fionn gave him a tepid smile. “Worry not. This sleeplessness is due to my own mind. After my last spouse, Maignes, died, I have been without a life-companion. And sometimes, for those who have to go on without someone at their side, sleep is something deprived of them. As is in my case.”
“But why? Why you, the strongest of us all, mother?” Oisin asked, sounding slightly agitated. “There is not a man or a woman on this emerald island whom would refuse to be your mate! We, the Fianna, your family, would bring anyone you’d ask in front of you, no matter the opposition! Then why are you so troubled by such a fact??”
“Bwahahahaha!” Fionn laughed and caught Oisin under her arm. The much smaller man was squeezed in the huge hug of the woman. “Oh, my son. You do not know how happy those words make me. There is not a mother who would not want to have a son like you! But, alas…….things are not so simple. For is there anyone who you know, and who could stand at my side, as my equal?”
And it was not as if the candidates were only men. Because all Fianna knew that Fionn, their leader, did not differentiate between loving a man and loving a woman. Those kinds of things did not matter to her. For she loved the individual, not his or her gender.
“Leader, if I may…?” Diorruing suddenly spoke up. “I think I might just know the one you are looking for. A woman who might be thy equal.”
“And who is this lass?” Fionn asked, clearly interested.
“Her name is Grainné, and she is the daughter of Cormac mac Airt, the son of Conn of the Hundred Battles”, Diorruing spoke. “And it is said that she is the most beautiful and elegant woman in the entire world.”
There was a moment of pause as Fionn gave somewhat angry look to Diorruing, who, with a grin, hurried to add.
“…..After our Leader, of course.”
Fionn grinned in return and nodded, but as she looked at him again, her face grew more serious. It was an expression of memories not yet forgotten.
“Oh, Diorruing. Cormac, that one-eyed fool, still holds his grudges against me. There is no love lost between us two, and even you should know that. The Fianna have never bowed down to him, though king he may be. And thus, he dislikes me greatly”, Fionn spoke. “If you truly think that this Grainné lass is fitting for me, then could I ask you two to venture to Cormac’s castle and ask Grainné’s hand in marriage for me? For if I go there, Cormac will surely refuse to wed me and her daughter, if only because he dislikes women being greater warriors than he is.”
“Of course, mother”, Oisin smiled. “Though us two will gain no profit, we will do this for you. After all, from the time we both were small, you have watched over us. But let no one else know of our journey before we return, so that no ill rumors are spread.”
“Agreed”, Fionn said, and before both could react, he caught the just-released Oisin and Diorruing in her bear-hug. “Oisin. Diorruing. You two are a part of my family. And there is no better family that I could hope for. Always remember that I will be forever thankful of you both.”
With embarrassed smiles, both Oisin and Diorruing answered.
“”Of course, mother.””
No more was said. The trio that had gathered to the hilltop eventually descended to the castle of Fionn. In utmost secrecy, both Oisin and Diorruing prepared their horses, and after saying their last goodbyes to Fionn, they went on their journey, with no one else but their beloved leader knowing.
Many days and many nights went past as the two rode towards Tara, where the High King of all Ireland, Cormac mac Airt, held his court. But the horses of the two heroes were as tireless as the heroes themselves, and so, they eventually reached the castle, having ridden less than a week. It was a feat that neither ordinary man nor horse could have achieved. But it was for that very reason that they were members of the Fianna. For they were the fastest and strongest men in all Ireland.
On the evening that the two of them reached Tara, they came upon a gathering of nobles and chieftains from all over Ireland, settled upon the great plains of Tara. It was like the whole green sea had been set on fire, as bright tents and blazing bonfires extended as far as their eyes could see. It was like watching the festivals of the Fianna themselves, only with room enough for ten Fiannas. Both Oisin and Diorruing grinned as they saw the huge festivities, both momentarily forgetting their original task.
“This looks truly like a grand mustering, eh brother?” Oisin asked. “Now, shall we join them in their merriment?”
“Oisin, you truly speak words of wisdom”, Diorruing laughed. “I agree to your proposal.”
As the two heroes rode to the sea of bonfires, they were met with shouts of praise and glory. For every chieftain and noble recognized the two fabled warriors, and in their mood of festivities, they wanted to offer the two a drink from their tables. Oisin and Diorruing had not managed to get far, and yet they both were having hard time staying on their horses. The alcohol had started to take its effect. It was during this drunken stupor that Oisin finally remembered the important mission given to them by her mother, and in shame of his conduct, he jumped head-first into a barrel of ice-cold water, straight from the sea. The drunken nobles laughed, thinking it was some sort of game, and started jumping on other barrels on their own.
Oisin, however, climbed out of the barrel, now with completely clear mind.
“Diorruing. We shall go meet the High King, for that is the reason we have come here”, he spoke. “You stay behind and watch the horses. I shall do the talking.”
And thus, the two made their way to the High King, Cormac mac Airt himself. Oisin refused any further drinks, knowing that he had to be well-behaved in front of the king. And not much time did pass when the two of them were standing right in front of the tent of the High King. Cormac mac Airt, the one-eyed king who carried the feared spear Crimall, and the feared shield Croda. He, seeing that the two heroes even he recognized approached, spoke to the other nobles and dismissed them immediately. Most likely, he expected some important and pressing matters, when the members of Fianna were involved.
“High King Cormac mac Airt. I am warrior of Fianna, Oisin. I have come here in the name of my lady, Fionn mac Cumhaill”, Oisin spoke and bowed before the king. “Our leader, Fionn mac Cumhaill, desires the hand of thy daughter, Grainné, in marriage. We have come here in her behalf, to ask your daughter to be wed to our leader, oh great King.”
Oisin, the bard of the Fianna, knew well the power of words. But sad was the expression of Cormac as he answered to the warrior.
“There has been no son of a king, nor that of a great prince, no hero nor a champion in all of Ireland whom my daughter would not have refused to marry. And to my shame, it is all my fault, for it is I who raised her and gave her such fiery determination”, he spoke. “I will not give you any formal decision until you two introduce yourselves to my daughter, for it is better that she will hear with her own ears the words you speak for Fionn mac Cumhaill.”
The two, Oisin and Diorruing, were taken to the dwelling of the women after that. A huge tent filled with the sweet fragrance of flowers, where every wife and consort and daughter of the chieftains and nobles took refuse during the time that the men themselves discussed the state of their lands with the High King. Oisin could not help but to feel disgust, for these women were but mere shadows when compared to her mother, a true hero.
Cormac sat on one of the couches, where laid a beautiful maiden with fair brown hair and eyes like the sea. She raised her head as she saw the man, and simply whispered “father” with a low and calm voice. It was truly a voice of a dignified woman, however young she might have been.
“Grainné, here are two people that have come to you in the name of Fionn mac Cumhaill. They have come here to ask you as a wife and as a mate for the leader of Fianna, for Fionn has declared you as a worthy spouse. What is your answer to them?” he asked. Grainné simply lowered her head.
“If you see Fionn mac Cumhaill as a fitting son-in-law, then why should he be not a fitting husband and mate for me?”
Those words were a source of great joy amongst the people of the meeting. Even Cormac himself felt proud of his daughter, for the first time in her life, she had accepted a proposal. A great banquet was held that night, to honor the coming wedding between the leader of Fianna, and the daughter of the High King. It was a marriage that would bind the two greatest forces of Ireland together. And while sharing the mead with Oisin and Diorruing, Cormac made a truce between them, the Fianna, and himself. From that night forward, the two forces would no longer oppose each other.
Afterwards, both Oisin and Diorruing arrived back at Almu, where they immediately went to meet Fionn, and told her everything that had happened. Rejoicing from the news, Fionn gathered all the seven battalions of the Fianna from every corner of Leinster. Together, the troops marched to Tara, with the leader, Fionn mac Cumhaill herself, in the lead. And though large was their numbers, the troops of Fianna crossed the distance in just little over a week. For they were the fastest and strongest in all Ireland.
Upon seeing the leader of Fianna and her retinue, Cormac mac Airt was overjoyed, for his daughter was finally to be wed. For that moment, the gathering of the chieftains and nobles was turned into a wedding celebration, and soon both the men of Fianna, and those of Cormac, were all raising their mugs together in the name of the newlyweds. Such merriment had not be seen since the times of Cu Chulainn and Knights of the Red Branch.
The leaders themselves, and their most trusted warriors, went to the king’s mirthful house called Midcuart. There, the king sat at the center, drinking and talking with his wife, Eitche, at his left side, and Fionn at his right. Grainné herself sat at the left side of Eitche, while Oisin sat at the right side of Fionn. Thus was set the accordance of the ranks, and thus did the warriors and nobles sit on the tables, as set by the king and Fionn.
And it was during that time that the king, Cormac mac Airt, gave his announcement.
“Fionn mac Cumhaill, the slayer of Aillen and leader of the Fianna, and my daughter, Grainné, formally announce their engagement!” Cormac’s voice boomed across the hall of Midcuart. “Everyone, I want you to celebrate tonight!”
And so, in the honor of the widely grinning Fionn, and the shy-looking Grainné, the heroes and nobles raised their mugs and rejoiced.
It was during this merriment that Grainné became to know the other bard of Fianna, a woman known as Daire Duanach mac Morna, the eternal rival of Oisin in the ways of the songs. The two young women soon found themselves in a mutual discourse and gentle talk. It was in her that Grainné finally confined in, as she had been long confused by the state of affairs.
“Daire…” Grainné spoke. “What is the true reason that Fionn has come to this place tonight?”
“Do you not know it, princess?” Daire asked, clearly surprised. “Surely you jest.”
“No, I speak the truth. I have no knowledge about her true reasons.”
“Then allow me to tell you”, Daire spoke. “She has come here for the exact reason that has been told. She has come here to wed you, and to take you as her wife and her mate. For that simple reason, dear Grainné. After all, your beauty has truly captured the leader of Fianna.”
“Such a surprise and marvel”, whispered Grainné. Desperately, she looked up at Daire. “But why is she not marrying me for her son, Oisin, but to herself? Would he be not more fitting, for, after all……..Fionn, the Lady of Arms, is a women like I am? Is such marriage truly acceptable?”
“Do not speak those words, dear Grainné”, Daire hushed her. “The leader of the Fianna, Fionn mac Cumhaill, is one who has long since abandoned what it means to be a man or to be a woman. She is a person with the largest of heart, capable of loving anyone despite who they are. She is larger than the life itself, and thus, be you man or a woman, if she loves you, then the gender does not bother her. That is her way of living.”
“I see……..” Grainné answered with a downcast expression. For a few moments her eyes gazed at the crowd of drinking and shouting warriors, until she finally stopped.
For she saw something she could not take her eyes of.
“Who is that man with a mole under his eye, the one with sweet words and curling dusky-black hair?” Grainné asked with a voice that not much more than a whisper. Daire, with a gentle tone, answered.
“That man is Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, the grandson of Duibhne. He is the best love of women and of maidens that is in the whole world.”
Those words, and that name, were etched into Grainné’s memory in that instant. She knew that as long as she lived, she would not ever forget those golden eyes, nor that gentle smile that he held when he looked at the newlyweds. From that smile, she could see his love for his leader, and the vastness of the love that man held inside him.
And Grainné, too, wanted to be looked at such way – no! She wanted him to look at her like he would look at wife, like he would look at lover.
Before even she herself realized it, Grainné had fallen in love.
And so, through the whole night as the men of Fionn and Cormac drank themselves to sleep, Grainné waited. She patiently stayed on her seat, gazing upon the one man she could not take her eyes off from. One by one, the warriors and the nobles all began to fall asleep. First the High King, then his wife, then the warriors of Fianna and the nobles of Cormac. And finally, the tallest in the room, Fionn herself, succumbed to the sleep of alcohol after caressing Grainné’s cheek with her strong hand.
And now, no one else but Diarmuid and Grainné were awake in the main hall of Midcuart. Grainné, unable to contain her feelings, rose from her seat and walked up to Diarmuid, who, in confusion, stared back at her. Grainné bowed her head at the knight and spoke.
“I marvel at the nerve of Fionn mac Cumhaill, that she should seek such a wife as I, for it would be fitter for me to be given someone to fulfill me than a woman just like me.
“Do not say those words, Grainné”, warned Diarmuid. “For if my lady would hear you, she would not take you. She, who holds more love in her heart than anyone else. And neither would anyone else take you, after that, for they would know they could not compete with Fionn in the amount of love they can give.”
“………….Diarmuid……Ua…Duibhne….” Grainné whispered. “Speak not of her. My heart…does not belong to the leader of Fianna, no matter how great of a hero she is. My heart, from the moment I saw him, has belonged to a single man…”
And with that, Grainné extended her hands, tied herself to the neck of Diarmuid, and pressed her lips against his. It was a long, deep kiss of pure passion, one that rose from the truest feelings of the one giving it. Truly, a kiss of love. It was for that very reason that Diarmuid felt so shocked, so scared, when Grainné separated her lips from his. To think that she loved him to this extent as opposed to his lady………
………Such a thing was inexcusable.
But not only that. For because of that kiss, Diarmuid, for the first time, felt love towards anyone else but his lady. That love was what scared him so much. The kind of love he could not control. The kind of love that he knew would force him to be separated from the one he served, in a way most painful. Yes, Diarmuid knew that after this single kiss, he would not be able to go back. Not after tasting the sensation of pure, unrequited love. In his mind, had he dismissed coldly such a fragile thing………
………It would have been inexcusable.
“Will thou receive courtship from me, Diarmuid?” Grainné asked, her voice accompanied by her heavy breathing.
“I…I will n-not”, spoke Diarmuid, hesitant. “For whatever woman is betrothed to Fionn, my lady, I would not meddle with her.”
Flash of anger passed in Grainné’s eyes.
“Then”, she said. “I will put you under the geas of danger and of destruction, Diarmuid. That is, under the geas of the druidism. Take me with you and run! If you do not, nor Finn nor my father shall arise from their deep sleep. That is my the clause of the geas made by my magic.”
Diarmuid’s teeth grinded together, and he looked away from Grainné’s desperate gaze.
“Evil bonds have you laid upon me, Grainné. Ones asking me to betray my lady”, he spoke. “But why…in the hall of Midcuart, where all the sons of kings and heroes have gathered, have you come to me, the one that is least worthy of a woman’s love?”
“Do you not remember?” Grainné asked. “On that day when the seven battalions of Fianna visited us last…..on the day of that great goaling match. It was just when the things were looking grim for the son of Lugaid that you came to his rescued and won over the goal three times. That day, I was watching from my bower, having a clear view to the field. And although from afar, when I saw you that day, I knew that I could not love any other man. And today, when I finally met you again and learned your name……I wanted to convey my feelings to you.”
“I cannot fathom why would you give me this love instead of Fionn”, Diarmuid said with a sad tone. “For it is known that there is no one with lover deeper than her. Oisin, son of Fionn…what shall I do with this geas that has been laid upon me?”
To Grainné’s surprise, Diarmuid directed his words at the shadows in the corners of the hall, and from there emerged the shape of the fair son of Fionn mac Cumhaill, Oisin. He looked upon his friend’s troubled form with sorrowful eyes, and answered with a truth in his words.
“Diarmuid, you are not guilty of the geas laid upon thee”, said Oisin. “Follow Grainné, for hers is a love that is true. But beware of my mother and her anger, for she will surely fly into great rage when she learns of what has transpired.”
“And why would that be?” Grainné asked. “Does she truly think so much of me that she would be angered by my escape?”
“It is not because of you that she will feel rage, but because of what you will take from her”, Oisin said with his eyes at Diarmuid. “But know this, Diarmuid……I have seen that your death will be the result of this, and for that reason, I already grieve for you. For there is but a single right thing to do, and that will lead you to your doom.”
“I thank you for your counsel, Oisin. And I hope that someday I might return and prove your words wrong”, Diarmuid said and hugged his friend. Oisin returned that hug with tears in his eyes.
“As do I, my friend. As do I.”
Into the depths of the night, the two escaped. Out of Tara, and into the plains below. They journeyed through woods and forests, through plains and hills, to reach a place where they would be safe from the rage of Fionn. In the darkness of that night, Diarmuid stole two horses and a chariot to ease their journey. And sped by the their fear of Fionn, the two young lovers rode into the night.
In that chariot, Diarmuid finally spoke to Grainné.
“This is a curse which you laid upon me, Grainné”, Diarmuid said with a sad tone. “You would have been better as the wife of Fionn mac Cumhaill than as a lover of a one such as myself. For I know not a place in all of Ireland where I could take you now, and to return again to my home, without Fionn learning what the two of us have done.”
“What is certain, is that I will not return”, said Grainné. “And that I will not part from you, my Diarmuid, until the death separates us.”
And with a weary sigh and tired heart, Diarmuid spoke the following words.
“Then onward, Grainné.”
They rode onwards, the escape from the terrible wrath of Fionn mac Cumhaill. Only in Beul Atha Luain did they feel safe enough to stop for a moment. It was there that Diarmuid and Grainné made a decision to leave the horses behind, as tracks of a chariot would be far easier for the men of Fionn to follow. After leaving the horses, the two of them continued westward by foot, eventually reaching Doire Da Both.
It was there that Diarmuid made a closure with seven slender doors to it, in where he made a bed for Grainné to sleep in. And there, they rested after their escape.
As for Fionn mac Cumhaill, her awakening was most unpleasant. As the warriors and nobles woke up in Tara, it soon became apparent that both Diarmuid and Grainné were missing amongst them. In that moment, Fionn understood what had happened, and how both her most loyal warrior and her wife had escaped together. And such was the burning rage in her that nobody had ever witnessed such. Long gone was the generous and big-hearted woman that stood in the frontline, directing the forces of Fianna.
Now, what was left was only anger and hatred in those red eyes.
“Traitor”, spoke Fionn and crushed the goblet in her hand. “You will pay for this, Diarmuid.”
Such was the power in her words, that it immediately assembled all the seven battalions under her command.
And with Fionn in charge, the might of the Fianna, accompanied by the trackers of Clan Neamuin, chased after both Diarmuid and Grainné. The troops were tireless, thanks to the fiery figure in front of them, chasing after the two who had betrayed her. Across the plains and hills, through the woods and forest, Fionn and her men gave chase to the two, all the way to the Doire Da Both. And although they were hindered by the cleverness of Diarmuid, eventually, they caught up to him.
At the same time, Diarmuid’s foster father, Angus of the Brug, came to him by riding the northern wind. He woke him from his sleep, warning him that the troops of Fionn were just outside, and that escape with Grainné would be impossible. It was there that Diarmuid struck a deal with Angus. The latter would carry Grainné out of the closure and to safety, but Diarmuid would stay here and confront Fionn. With heavy heart, Angus agreed to this, and took away Grainné in the border of his mantle.
This was how Diarmuid, alone, confronted the troops of Fionn while preparing himself inside the closure. He prepared all his four mystical weapons and waited, searching for all sounds. And one-by-one, he realized that the seven narrow doors of the closure were being surrounded. But none of them had behind the one he was searching for. Yes, Diarmuid was waiting for that one sound of footsteps, the one which he had followed for so long.
And eventually, it arrived. Behind the door right in front of him.
“My lady………is is you, is it not?” Diarmuid asked with a choked voice. “Tell me it is you.”
A moment of silence, until the all-too familiar voice answered Diarmuid.
“Here stands Fionn mac Cumhaill, the daughter of Aft, the daughter of Trenmor O’Baoiscne. Alone and waiting. She holds no love for you, traitor, and if you wouldst choose to come out from this door, I shall cleave thy bones asunder.”
Hearing those words, Diarmuid could not to smile. Smile amidst his tears.
“I pledge my word, my lady”, he spoke. “That the door which I shall go through, o’Fionn, is the very door behind which you stand at the moment.”
And as if to answer Diarmuid’s words, and is to hide his shameful tears from his leader, the rain started to pour down from the high sky. First as a few drops, then as a pour that seemingly had no end. And all this time, in the middle of that rain, Diarmuid kept on waiting for the answer of his lady, the answer of Fionn mac Cumhaill.
It eventually came.
“Then so be it.”
In that instant, both Fionn and Diarmuid charged.
Great was the speed with which Diarmuid tore through the narrow door of the closure. He was like a hurricane of green inside that rain that wanted to tear the earth apart. But even to that hurricane, Fionn mac Cumhaill was a mountain it could not erode, that it could not move. The tall woman stood her ground, extended her hand towards the air, and caught hold of a handle that Diarmuid had seen so many times. It was the sword that was the symbol of Fionn, the leader of Fianna.
Mac an Lúin ~Sword of the Raging Heavens~
Seeing the sword extending to its rightful form, Diarmuid cursed and duck as low as he could. And for a reason. The four and half meters long monster blade was swung horizontally, cleaving out many trees of the forest around them. The blade then went for an immediate, lightning-fast, strike that was about to cleave Diarmuid in half. He dodged it just barely by throwing himself towards the next tree he saw and running up it’s wooden surface.
Yes. The sword of a giant. This was the symbol of the leader of Fianna.
It was because of what that sword stood for that Diarmuid did not dare to hit it with his Gae Dearg. Had he done so, a massive gale force would have been let loose in the forest, one that would have, no doubt, rend all the trees in the area to the ground, not to speak of Diarmuid himself. That was why he was forced to flung the red spear back to his back and draw his golden, smaller sword. It was the special skill of that sword that he would need right now.
Reaching the top of the tree, Diarmuid jumped. His amazing leap landed him straight to the flat of Fionn’s sword, who looked surprised. Utilizing his blinding speed, Diarmuid charged forward, his sword in position. And from there, he launched an attack, after coming close enough.
“Begallta!” Diarmuid shouted the true name of the sword, and aimed the attack at Fionn’s neck.
Begallta ~Small Anger of Reversion~
The moment Fionn saw the attack, it was too late. The power of Begallta was a tricky one, for every attack it made, it would actually make from the opposing direction. So, the attack that Fionn saw approaching from the front, came actually from behind her, aiming to her neck. It was the power that had caught many villains off-guard, and earned the famous reputation of the sword.
“Sgiath Gailbhinn!” Fionn shouted, and in that instant, a thunderous roar filled the clearing in the forest.
Sgiath Gailbhinn ~Roaring Lightning Field~
Diarmuid’s strike was stopped by what seemed like a field of thunder. The instant Begallta was about to touch the neck of Fionn, bolt of lightning struck it and send the sword almost hurling away. Diarmuid gritted his teeth together as he was thrown back by the force. But he persevered. Without a stop, he used both Gae Buidhe and Begallta to send a flurry of strikes against Fionn, who returned them all with her shield of lightning. And at the same time, she swung around her huge sword, one that would have cleft Diarmuid in twain had it hit him.
For a single instant, the two of them formed a storm of their own in the middle of the rain. A storm that no one dared to approach.
Sudden burst of lightning, more powerful than the ones before. Diarmuid cursed as the bolt of lightning hit him, putting him out of balance. He fell to the ground, rolled around, and prepared to dodge yet another attack from Fionn’s giant sword. But it never came.
Instead, what came was like an array of thunderclaps, each shot coming that much closer.
“Eh…!?” Diarmuid looked up, and saw the impossible.
Fionn was running in air. No, that was not right. Each time she took a step, lightning struck where her feet landed, and thus, she was literally running on lightning. And that lightning allowed her to move in the air as she saw fit, even attacking Diarmuid straight from above like now. The huge monster sword was prepared for a thrust, one that would cleave Diarmuid in half.
“Diarmuiiiiiid!!!” Fionn roared, her voice wavering with bitterness.
Diarmuid looked up at his lady, his leader. He had devoted his whole life to her, and now….
Thanks to the love of one single woman, it had all been taken away.
Gae Dearg ~Crimson Rose of Exorcism~
With a voice of determination, Diarmuid took the red spear from his back and hurled it towards Fionn. The spear hit the monstrous sword straight on, and in their collision, a huge amount of energy and prana was released. It was like watching a tornado let loose in a single instant. The amount of wind and storm released tore the forest down from a radius of many miles, sending Fionn’s troops to the ground with the sheer force.
Yet single man prevailed. Diarmuid, using this as his chance, escaped from the scene without being seen by Fionn. He was hidden by the rain and the wind, and no one knew how to move silently better than him. Even when few stray knights of Fianna stood in his way, he simple readied both of his spears and killed them without hesitation. He was driven by his geas, and new-found ambition he did not understand that clear yet.
But it was that determination that allowed him to kill his former comrades-in-arms.
With heavy shadow in his heart, Diarmuid escaped from the scene of battle. Even though he heard the voice of Fionn shout after him, he kept running. He kept running to the direction where his heart took him, to the direction where his foster-father had disappeared with Grainné. To the place where he wanted to be. It might have been the geas, or it might have been something else, but at that moment, Diarmuid could admit it.
---------- He wanted to be where Grainné was.
That feeling eventually led him to Ros Da Soileach, a place where Fionn had not followed him.
Diarmuid found Angus and Grainné in a well-lit and warm hut, where they both had been waiting for him. And on the moment that Diarmuid stepped in, Grainné flew into his arms, crying as if she had thought him dead. And so it seemed. So terrible were the wounds of the hero, that he truly did seem like dead when he stood there.
For days and nights, the three stayed in the hut while Angus treated his foster-son’s wounds. And eventually, after they had healed properly, he bid him goodbye and left, leaving the two alone in the hut. And it was not long after that that Grainné and Diarmuid too left the hut behind them, starting, once again, their long journey to evade the pursuing Fionn. For Diarmuid had seen from the eyes of his lady that she would not give up.
It was during the following journey that Diarmuid did many of his famous feats. He encountered his loyal follower, Muadan, who vowed to serve him to the death, and thus became the first vassal of Diarmuid and Grainné. Diarmuid also met with the three clans of the Sea of Wights, who had come to Fionn’s aid in the pursue of Diarmuid. But with his wit, Diarmuid was able to kill fifty warriors on the first day, fifty warriors on the second day, and fifty warriors on the third day. It was not until the fourth day that the clans recognized who he was, and on that day, he killed over fifteen hundred. Last, on the fifth day, he wrestled into submission the three leaders of the clans, and bound them with shackles that only his most trusted friends in Fianna could open.
This was his sign to Fionn.
A sign to say “I am still merciful”. It was just like the uncooked fish he left on his path, which conveyed another message. The message of his and Grainné’s chastity.
Diarmuid defeated the three hounds which no weapon could harm. He defeated the two half-fey warriors of Clan Morna. He defeated the hideous giant which guarded the quickening tree. He defeated the Nine Garbs that climbed the quickening tree after him and Grainné, all bound to revenge. He defeated the army of Alba, whom had become Fionn’s allies. He defeated the nurse of Fionn, the mighty sorceress of the fairyland. Great was the devastation that Diarmuid dealt in his wake, slaughtering the soldiers of Fionn and his allies. And as they continued, the mournful Fionn had no choice but to bury those comrades of hers that Diarmuid had killed. But every single body of her family that was buried only strengthened the resolve in her to capture Diarmuid. The sorrow only fed the fires of vengeance in her heart, the desire to make Diarmuid pay for every single bit of sadness he caused to both her and the Fianna.
She desired to make him pay. To see how he had wounded her. How Grainné had wounded her.
Only after Diarmuid’s disappearance did she realize just what she had lost.
And it was that realization that made Fionn realize just how long had she chased after Diarmuid and Grainné. How many lives had been lost in the quest to satisfy her own anger and jealousy. She had been driven to near madness by the thought of Grainné taking him away, and had fervently chased after the two, intending to slay them in her rage. But the more she thought about it, gazing at the starry sky above her and her army, the more she started to realize how foolish it had all been.
It was during that very moment that Angus, the foster-father of Diarmuid, appeared to Diarmuid in form of a bird. He spoke with reverence.
“Fionn…….isn’t it time? Hasn’t it been going long enough?” he asked. “Should you not forgive those two already? For many years have you chased after them……but you should realize that his heart belongs to another.”
Long was the silence after those words. Fionn gave a wavering sigh and leaned against a tree that was behind her. She gazed at the moon.
“………………True, that may be”, Fionn whispered. “Maybe……I should learn to give up. Angus, old friend……go to Diarmuid. Ask what it takes for him to forgive me.”
There was smile behind Angus’ words.
“That I shall do.”
And with the news of joy Angus traveled the distance between Fionn, Cormac mac Airt and Diarmuid, allowing them to discuss the details of their peace treaty. Diarmuid claimed the lands of his father as free lands, but in exchange, gave both Fionn and Cormac the best lands he owned, to apologize for what had transpired. And both Fionn and Cormac agreed. Only once the peace had been realized did Diarmuid run to where his lover was waiting.
Grainné sat alone in the shed, waiting for news that her lover would bring her. She stared at the single butterfly that sat on her finger, almost as if it too was waiting to be free. So many years had their journey taken, and for her, there was still no end in sight. It was only because of her love to Diarmuid that she had managed to come so far. It was only because she firmly believed in what they were doing that she was able to continue the journey.
But never had she thought that the end of their journey would come so suddenly. Or with such a happy voice.
“Rejoice, Grainné!” Diarmuid said as he opened the door of the shed, shining light to Grainné’s pale face. “Fionn has recognized our marriage.”
It was the end of a long, long journey.
In the following years, Diarmuid and Grainné settled in the Rath Grainne, as far away from both Fionn and Cormac as they could. During their lives there, Grainné bore Diarmuid four children. One daughter and three sons. The daughter was given, when old enough, the district of Benn Damuis to rule. And so, the years went by, and the old wounds began slowly healing. Fionn did not contact Diarmuid again, only every once in a while did he hear about her latest heroic feats she performed across the land. And during those times, he remembered with bittersweet emotions those times that he used to stand beside her, the times they shared in the battle, both watching out for each others’ backs. It was those times that he missed, the times when he had been part of the family around Fionn, and when his loyalty was rewarded in kind.
In short, Diarmuid desired to go back to those old times.
It was a warm summer morning when Grainné came to talk to Diarmuid. He was sitting on the battlements of their castle, staring down at the lands below. The river that ran there was as blue as the sky, and the forests were as green as the whole island itself. He knew that there were many boars in those forests, for Diarmuid himself had hunted them from time to time. As he was contemplating about arranging another hunt, he could feel the small arms of Grainné wrap around him, and how her cheek suddenly touched his.
“Love? I’ve seen the way you look into the sky, into your past, and because of that, I know what bothers you so”, she whispered. “You miss her, and the times you spent together as a family, do you not? Is it truly alright for you to hold such hatred in your heart? If you feel that you should do something, then do so, my love. I know that there is at least one thing I have in common with her, and for that reason, I know that she will not harm you anymore. So, if you feel like there’s something for you to do……do so, my love.”
With those words, she left Diarmuid.
And it was in the morning mist of the next day that Diarmuid left the castle, carrying nothing but Begallta and Gae Buidhe, despite the warnings of his wife.
The mists rose high above the ground, covering the green hills like a grey veil. A sight that he had seen somewhere in the past, in the lands that he no longer called home. Truly, the early morning at the hills of Rath Grainne reminded him of the past that he had cast aside. Neither man nor beast wanted to disrupt the serene calmness and tranquility that was like remnant of the days of the fey-folk. Yet he was there. A single, endless sound of footsteps climbing up that hill.
His green armor glistened in the faint light of the morning sun. The silent wind slowly caressed his black hair. With agile steps, he continued to climb up the hill, with the strange feeling in his heart growing with every step. Diarmuid Ua Duibhne made his way to the top of the hill as if possessed, knowing full well what was on top of it, yet not knowing what to expect at all.
It was Fionn mac Cumhaill. She was dressed differently than usually. Gone was her huge cloak, gone was most of her armor. She was standing there, dressed almost like she had been but a woman despite her huge stature. A combination of armor and cloth, something that seemed so ordinary covering her body. Diarmuid had never seen her lady in such attire, and thus, he was struck speechless for a moment, and even buckled backwards, hitting the ground.
“Fion…….” he whispered, looking at the tower-like woman ahead of him.
And to that, Fionn simply grinned and extended her hand.
“Get up. It is not fitting of you to stay like that on the ground”, she spoke.
---------- For the first time in a long while, a genuine smile crossed Diarmuid’s face. He took the hand that was offered, and allowed Fionn to pull him up.
“What is it that you are doing here, Fionn?” he asked with joy. Fionn smiled and looked over at the forest.
“I am in a middle of a boar-hunt. The creature has been evading all my hunt-dogs for quite a while now, so I came here today, alone, in order to catch it”, she spoke. “But even so, I have not been able to best the beast. It is truly a fearsome one.”
“Then allow me to help, Fionn!” Diarmuid said and put his hand to where his heart was. “For the sake of our past, I shall help you vanquish this beast!”
“Well said, Diarmuid!” Fionn laughed.
That was what they had planned.
Then why was it…………………….?
Why was it that everything had gone wrong? So wrong. Why had it been that he had not seen the boar coming? Why had not his hunting hound attacked the boar, but fled instead? Why had Gae Buidhe been deflected by the thick skin of the monstrous boar that charged in his direction? Why had Begallta shattered into two pieces the moment it had met with the boar’s furious charge? Why had the huge tusks so easily penetrated his flesh, and carried him along with the boar across the forest?
Why had the boar finally gotten him off at the bottom of the waterfall, and then proceeded to tear his stomach open?
Diarmuid knew not the answer to those questions. He had not expected it at all. The fragile peace he had acquired with Grainné had been torn apart by such a trivial thing. He had survived the chase of Fionn just to be killed by a boar in a forest? It sounded so absurd it would have been funny. And he would have laughed, had it been possible for him. But alas, it was not.
No, the only thing Diarmuid could do was to watch the sky slowly color itself red in his eyes.
He heard a frantic voice near him. Somebody came running. Heavy footfalls. That meant it had to be her lady. Fionn. She had come for him at the end of his journey, just like he had thought she would. And before Diarmuid realized it, his head was lifted, and in his field of vision came the face of the one he had followed till that day.
But it was wrong. It was all wrong. That face was not one of the strong leader he remembered. No, this face belonged to a tear-eyed woman who was crying on his behalf.
Only at the moment of his death did he ever saw his leader as a woman.
“Diarmuid….!! Hold on!! I will bring you water from the pond!” Fionn sobbed. “I-It should cure you! I know that I can do it with my powers, so just…..hold on!!”
Having said that, she gently laid him back to the grass and ran off. Diarmuid could hear the waterfall faintly in the distance, along with the footsteps of Fionn. First they went away, and then, just as quickly, they came back. Tall shadow was cast over him and he soon saw Fionn’s face again. She was cupping her strong hands so that the water she carried would not spill. And it was then that Diarmuid remembered. That water…….with Fionn’s powers, she could surely cure him, even from the brink of the death he was on.
But, before she let Diarmuid have that water, Fionn suddenly asked a question.
“Diarmuid…….I ask this as your leader. For what reason did you choose Grainné over me?”
Diarmuid smiled bitterly, and when he spoke, there was no regret in his words. He had already made up his mind about the answer, and for him, it was the utter truth.
“For Grainné placed geas upon me, ones that would make me remain by her side. And even for all the gold in the world I break my geas, as you know, my lady”, he answered.
Hearing that answer, Fionn’s hands shivered, and in that instant, the water they had been holding fell to the ground. Cursing, she ran back to the pond under the waterfall, and cupped her hands again to take some more water. She brought this water over to Diarmuid once more, and leaned over to him, emotions racing in her red eyes.
“Diarmuid…….I ask this as your comrade. For what reason did you choose Grainné over me?”
Diarmuid repeated the smile he had had before, and looked Fionn straight in the eyes. It was clear that even though the question had slightly changed, the answer would not. Such was the truth of Diarmuid.
“For Grainné placed geas upon me, ones that would make me remain by her side. And even for all the gold in the world I break my geas, as you know, my lady”, he answered.
When she heard that answer, the whole body of Fionn shook with sadness, and the water was once again spilled to the ground. With tears in her eyes, Fionn stood up and ran to the pond for one more time, quickly taking some water into her hands and running back. When she came back, she saw that Diarmuid was on his last breaths.
But still, she had to ask once more.
“Diarmuid…….I ask this as the woman who loved you. For what reason did you choose Grainné over me?”
She nearly sobbed the last question.
And to that question, Diarmuid stayed silent. He smiled a smile that he had never before showed Fionn, and placed his hand upon hers. The warmth in that hand would have fooled anyone to think he was still alive, but Fionn knew that it was simply the warmth of his emotions, not of his body. With a gentle gaze, Diarmuid finally answered the final question.
“…………….For I knew in my heart, that I was a man too small for the amount of love you could offer. And the amount of love I would have been able give to you would have never made you justice. The only thing I could offer was my….loyalty”, he whispered. “I am sorry, Fionn………….what I am trying to say is………I was afraid to love you. You were shining too brightly. You were so full………of love…….that the shine scared me. And Grainné’s love…….was just enough for me. When facing her radiant smile, I was not afraid……..that I would………..burn……………to………….”
It was already too late……
For the water.
There. In the bed of grass that had been dyed red. Cradled in the arms of the wailing Fionn mac Cumhaill. Remembered only by her wife who, due to the scar that was suddenly drawn across her heart, realized his death.
There, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, died.
Such was the end of the hero……..his dreams of loyalty and love unfulfilled….with only one dream left. To serve a lord, this time, without a fail. This time, without allowing love for a women to cloud his judgment. This time, without dying……….
…………..Because the fact that his lord, or lady, was just a human, in the end.
~Hope still remains~
The sound of Oscar’s yells came from somewhere behind her. Fionn, her eyes dried out, stood up from the spot where she had been standing. She turned around, her back facing the corpse that was still lying on the ground. The corpse that would be soon discovered by the rest of the Fianna. Most likely, they would blame her. They would accuse her for being the reason that Diarmuid died.
And it was alright with her. In the end, it had been her fault that the one she loved, died.
“Mother……………….what have you done…?” Oisin whispered with rage, seeing the scene. His eyes turned towards her, expecting to meet equal anger….
But he was surprised to see only sorrow and, strangely enough, small hint of being content. When meeting a face like that, even Oisin’s anger washed away, and he could simply watch his mother, unable to speak up. He did not know what had transpired. Just what kind of words had been changed between the one who had lived and the one who had died? It was the type of mystery one would never know. In the later days, the bards would probably tell their own version of the story. It might end as a an epic, showing his mother as a irredeemable villain, or it might end up as a tragedy, showing that everything
Whatever the case, what he knew was that it had finally ended.
The story of all these people.
But, even after the story was over, one thing remained unchanged. Somewhere, somehow…
Their legacy would remain alive. And that, more than everything else, was what everyone wanted.
The ones who failed at revenge, the ones who failed at their goals, the ones who fell short in their aspirations, the ones who fell to their emotions…
The ones that lost, that died, that rotted away before everyone else…
The ones that, even though they gave it their all and although they sacrificed everything, just found that in the end, nothing they did had any result whatsoever, thus becoming just unattained dreams that nobody could reach.
The ones who gave faces to this tragedy, and in the end, were simply cast away since the threads of their fates had been severed…
Maybe, just maybe, somewhere far in the future, these people would meet again under the stars of a dream-like reality, their hopes having come true. Most of all…
The three around whom this story revolved…
Diarmuid, still searching for the way to prove his loyalty, even after death…
Grainné, standing at the entrance of her home, gazing at the approaching figure…
Fionn, confronting her rival and telling her just how she, in the end, felt towards the one she loved…
It was thanks to those three that this story of jealousy, love and feelings came true. And it was thanks to the efforts of those three that the story also came to an end.
And thus, at this point, where we still have hope for the future, this story…
“The pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainné.”
…Shall quietly lower its curtain here.
There was a long, long silence.
A silence deep enough that you could have cut it with Excalibur.
And then, a clap. And another. And yet another. One by one, the audience that had been watching started clapping, if only because they wanted to express good manners. There was slightly complicated expression on the face of many, as the story had not exactly been something that really fit with the general atmosphere of Christmas.
Or maybe it had been.
As the people discussed afterwards, they came to realize that the central theme of the story, love, was pretty much what Christmas was all about. It was about caring about one another, about loving one another, about holding one another dear. It was about all those beautiful feelings that made the bonds between people so strong. Even though from other continuities, even though from other stories, or even from completely other works………..For this single day, all of them were able to form such bonds, under the protection of Christmas.
For most, it is not even about religious reasons. And who would say it’s a bad thing? And even if it is connected to Christmas, it does not take away the same message. The message that the one man who had supposedly arrived to this world on this day tried to convey, was exactly the same. Love. Caring about another person.
------------ Yes. If, for just one day, to forget the negative feelings, and share all the good and kind that you have with those close to you.
And it was perhaps the exact reason why Nero had chosen such a story to be presented on this very special day. To show people this message. Not to hurt them or make them sad, but to make them understand the importance of the feelings of love and caring that could be passed on this way only during this one day.
It was because of that one idea that Nero was able to smile so contently as she quietly left the part, to gaze the starry skies above from the balcony. It was because of that one feeling that she did not turn around, and only smiled, when she heard the sound of the golden-haired man arriving to the same balcony. And it was because of that love that he, Gilgamesh, embraced Nero from behind and rested his chin on top of her head.
It was because of love that this day existed.
So maybe, for at least this one day, we should do like Gilgamesh and Nero did? Forget about the negative feelings, and just enjoy this time that has been given to us. This time that has been granted to us to show our feelings.
We could all have a very pleasing Christmas. Perhaps.
And that is why I say:
Just from Me.
To all of You.
“Hey. Aren’t you forgetting something, bastard?”
Avesta Productions, 2012
”Don’t fuck with me, idiot. The opponent you are facing is none other than Angra Mainyu himself.”
The final chapter of the Asha Continuum is finally here. This is the moment, the story, in which everything ends, and the loose end that is this world is tied back to the original one. This is the outcome of everything that has happened so far….and everything that has yet to happen.
It shall span for 13 chapters.
A woman too lithe to be a serious opponent. Yet that hand of hers that reaches out for me is something even I am afraid of. It is a one-hit kill weapon that would leave my head in pieces if it were to touch me.
First Chapter – Haurvatat
”To be honest, my father is a prick, and my brother………I thought him dead. That I had killed him.”
We charged towards each other with blinding speed. Or, at least her speed blinded me. I have never seen anything move so fast, man or a monster. Even by tearing my muscles apart with my movement, I was only able to catch up to a fraction of her agility.
“The class Avenger…….the weakest of all Servant classes. It is fitting that you would be my Servant. And ironic.”
ASSASSIN VS AVENGER
“Such a fool. What in the world did you think you could do with such a feeble power? I shall now proceed to take your head.”
”I might not have any power…..but that does not mean I will not tear your entrails out and feed on them!!!”
“The Breaking of Time….? …………That sounds like such a bother.”
The twelve divine sparks left to this world, and the only pillars that can bring back the world from the brink of destruction. After the time has been eroded into dust, it is up to those twelve sparks of divinity to restore the order and close of the trails of time that intertwine in a way that has not been seen. Those who have been forgotten and those who are yet known now gather, in a contest to save and shape the world to their liking!
So seek out the Twelve Divine Sparks that will turn the Tides of Destiny.
”Huh. I guess you misunderstood me. The only reason I am doing this, is because I love you, you little fucker. So get used to the idea.”
The weakest of all Servants, Avenger!
”Onii-chan, remember this. Whatever happens, your body is mine. And I decide what will be done with that body. If I am to say that nothing will harm it……….Then so be it!!”
The weakest of all Masters, Illyavenger!
….Set forth to save the reality!!!