Another tale of Ierne:
He held her arm as she took her first step up the hill towards the gate. “You can’t go there,” he whispered.
She looked at him with a curious look. “Why’r ye whisperin? And why I cannae go? Tis jus’ a ruin, tha’s all.”
She was beautiful, he found himself thinking. Her auburn hair spilled like an unruly cascade down her back and framed her plump face as she turned to look at him in a way that just made his heart ache. She was so beautiful. And she knew it. Used it to get her way many times. Used to make him do things he did not want to, used to do things he wanted to but felt too shy to do, used let her do things that she shouldn’t, things like going up the hill to the ruined gate. But she couldn’t. “I whisper because we are not alone in these woods. And you simply cannot go up the hill. And no, it is more than just a ruin.”
She gave him that practiced look of hers: full smile revealing only a sliver of her teeth, rosy cheeks pushed up making her eyes small and sparkly. Like every other time he melted inside. She was so beautiful. But he must stand firm.
“That there is a gate from another time, brought here by the Otherworld. The fili says the Tuatha travel through all places and times of Ierne, and sometimes things get dragged behind them. Like this gate. My grandfather’s grandfather saw it appear one day when in the woods training, I’m told. The fili also says we should not go up to it, lest we be pulled into the Otherworld. So no, you cannot go up.”
“Ye don’ wan’ me going to the Otherworld?” she teased.
“No,” he said smiling, blushing. “I want you here, with me.”
She looked at the ruined gate, its dark stones in stark contrast with the snow all around them. She looked at her young warrior-in-training, his strong hand still holding her arm. Gate. Him. Gate. “Let’s go back,” she said as she slid moved his hand from her forearm to her own hand.
They walked through the snowy forest, the cool air stilling everything around them except the sound of their feet on the dry ground. He put his arm around her shoulder, holding her to him, feeling her warmth, basking in the scent of her hair. She was a handful, but she was so beautiful. And maybe one day. One day…
She tripped him.
It was a simple movement of her foot, something he should have been able to recover from and turn into an offense, something his trainer would be ashamed to see him fall prey to. And fall he did, on his face. He managed to get up fairly quickly, but by then she was gone. He could hear her giggling ahead, running through the crackling underbrush, heading towards the gate. He called to her, asked her to stop, pleaded. She kept running, laughing. It was a game to her. It was horror to him.
He reached the foot of the small hill panting, but could not hear anything anymore. No laughing, no giggling, no sound of a young woman running, walking. Nothing. He looked down and saw her tracks headed up the hill, to the gate. Taking a deep breath, filling his lungs with cold courage, he ascended the hill as well. One step at a time. Matching her tracks. Left. Right. Almost there. Left. Right. Now at the gate. Left.
He stood with his right foot in the air, looking around for the next track. Nothing. The next one would be inside the threshold of the gate. He thought about it. He made a most minuscule move, almost a step. Almost.
He stepped back. All the way down the hill. She was gone. Into the Otherworld. Where he could not go. She’d be fine there, he thought, fighting back tears. She was so beautiful.
I found this photo linked from a post at the Irish Fireside Blog & Podcast about the recent freeze in Ireland. It caught my attention immediately, and I wanted to know what its story was. I guess now I know.
I also know what Ierne will be. But I’ll leave that for a post all its own.
Photo by Yvonne McNamara. Used with permission.