The last rose fell gently to the ground.
Silently a man slid out from the trees. His bright green eyes followed the descending rose.
‘It is midsummer,’ he said, ‘you should not have died… unless.’
He remembered the promise she had made so long ago.
‘Cahailn!’ he shouted, and a giant winged horse emerged from the trees. Not a single black hair infected its pure white coat.
‘Yes master,’ the horse said.
‘It has happened, she has done it!’
‘Done what master?’
‘She has broken her promise, the promise has died along with the rose bush, and her soul will follow soon after! Take me now Cahailn to where she lay.’
Cahailn obediently bowed its head as the man jumped gracefully on.
The horse unfurled his massive wings and pushed off.
Faster than an arrow the pair pressed onward. The sun set in shades of pink and blue, and still they rushed over the landscape. It was midnight before they stopped.
The most beautiful woman ever to exist sat in the clearing alone in the light of the full moon.
Cahailn stepped lightly down, and his master jumped off.
‘I knew you would come for me,’ said the girl.
‘Ah Aithne, you wanted to die?’
‘Yes for a long time. Had I understood the nature of my promise, I would never have made it.’
‘Then I shall let you live.’
Aithne turned to him sorrow etched in her face. ‘Please, no more, my husband has died but I will live forever. Please no more. Please Cathan do not make me suffer.’
Cathan thought on this before striding over and pulling Aithne to her feet.
‘How does it advantage me to kill you?’
‘I told a lie, in spite of the promise that I would never lie but I have, and so you must kill me.’
‘You broke your promise and so I shall break mine,’ said Cathan.
Aithne collapsed at his feet, ‘please no, just kill me!’
Cathan smiled evilly at her. ‘You sold your soul to me to save your husband, with that you promised never to lie, or you and your husband would both die. You have broken that promise, but your lover is already dead, so I can not kill him. What can I use to my advantage? I could use you. I have given you eternal youth so long as words of deceit do not leave your mouth. I retract now, you have eternal youth so long as I choose, and I choose for you to live with me.’
‘No! Please, show mercy; let me be with my beloved
‘I need a woman servant in my palace, and you would be perfect,’ laughed Cathan.
She turned her face away. He grabbed her chin and flicked her face back to him.
Inspecting her features closely he said ‘as beautiful as the day we met… so sad Aithne, so sad. You could have let your husband die and you would not be here with me today, but I prefer it this way.’ He kissed her on her lips. She could not pull away, he held her fast. When they did break apart she spat in his face. He wiped it away with a flick of his hand.
‘You are disgusting, why I ever made that promise? I do not know.’
‘Be happy in the knowledge you bought your husband years of happiness.’
‘You are sick. Get your filthy paws off me,’ spat Aithne.
Cathan laughed cruelly, ‘you bought yourself eternal youth as well.’
‘I do not want it! I want to die, I want to grow ugly so that you might kill me, I hate you!’
‘Tsk, tsk Aithne,’ he said in mock disproval, ‘do you really think that if you had been ugly that I might have helped you in the first place?’
Tears welled in Aithne’s eyes, ‘I just want to see my beloved
‘You may see him,’ consented Cathan.
He snapped his fingers and a tree cracked in half. Out fell the corpse of a man.
‘There he is,’ laughed Cathan.
Aithne broke away from him and collapsed next to the corpse. She was sobbing, ‘Lachlan, oh my poor
‘Long enough reunion,’ said Cathan snapping his fingers again and the corpse sunk back into the ground.
Aithne stumbled to her feet and turned to Cathan, ‘you sick evil bastard,’ she spat. She took out a knife and charged towards him.’
Cathan made no move to get out of her way, and the knife sank into his chest to the hilt.
Aithne stepped back in shock.
Cathan looked down at the knife and pulled it out. The blood on it dripped from the end but the hole in his chest was gone.
‘You forget Aithne, I am immortal. You can not kill me.’
He licked the blood from the knife, ‘you really think you can do something to escape?’
Aithne swallowed, he had read her mind, she was going to try to get away.
‘Aithne, if you attempt to run I will hunt you down, you cannot escape me. Now come, be happy with me. My palace shall be more beautiful than your old hut; you shall have what ever you desire.’
‘My only desire is to die!’ shouted Aithne.
‘Almost any desire,’ Cathan corrected himself.
‘And what shall you do with me when I have lost any entertainment value? When you have grown board with me? What then?’ screamed Aithne.
‘We must hope such a day never comes. And how could I grow bored with you? You are more beautiful and more cunning then any human I have ever seen, and if a day comes and you cease to entertain, then nothing could entertain me anyway.’
‘Leave me be!’ pleaded Aithne, ‘even if you do not kill me leave me be!’
‘What use is that? No you are still more beautiful than anything I have ever seen; even the Goddess Elfleda does not compare to your beauty.’
Aithne turned to him, ‘what are you? What sort of sick evil thing do you have to be to do something like this?’
‘I am not torturing you, not with hooks or wires, whips or knives. What must I do to win your favor? Give you my fattest pig?’ he joked.
‘I have seen enough of your face to last,’ spat Aithne, ‘when I next need a sow I need only to recall your face!’
Cathan raised his eyebrows.
Aithne turned and ran.
She knew escape was not possible, but she could not go willingly to Cathan’s palace.
She tripped on a root, but pushed herself up again. When she tried to run, the root twisted around her foot and she tripped again. The trees folded around her like a cage. She could not escape.
There was the soft beating of horses hooves and one of the trees melted away to permit Cathan.
He smiled at her, and sat down.
‘Aithne, you only make this more difficult for yourself.’
He slid closer and Aithne tried to back away but the root still caught around her foot. She fell again, then quickly sat up.
Cathan slid right next to her and whispered in her ear, ‘why won’t you come willingly? You shall live a palace by the sea made of only the most precious stones, have all you desire. And you shall have me. Am I really that bad? I have only given you what you have asked for, and I shall give you more.’
He took her hand and she felt something cool fall into it. Aithne looked at it, it was a diamond more beautiful then any she had seen.
Cathan leaned even closer held her jaw and kissed her again.
When he sat back he smiled, ‘poor Aithne, poor, poor Aithne.’
‘I will run away,’ she spat, ‘I will find a way to kill you and then I will at least be free from you.’
‘Oh Aithne you foolish girl, you can’t kill me, you are trapped, you can’t escape me.’
Aithne swallowed, then remembering one last seed of hope….
‘What about your wife? What shall happen to her?’
Cathan waved a hand dismissively ‘She is not as beautiful as you. She can be a maid, or a slave.’
‘Then the same will happen to me one day.’
‘I doubt it, in fact Elfleda Goddess of beauty has stated that you are to be the most beautiful woman that ever walked the earth.’
Aithne turned away, ‘why don’t you just kill me?’
‘Have I not told you? You are of more use to me this way.’
Cathan stood and snapped his fingers, the trees sprang back to there original position.
‘Cahailn!’ commanded Cathan, Cahailn trotted gracefully to his master’s side.
Cathan snapped his fingers; the root that had twisted around Aithne’s foot retreated back into the ground.
He offered his hand to help her up. She refused and stood up herself. Cathan grabbed her around the waist and pulled her so that she was pressed up against him he kissed her for a long time after he whispered, ‘aren’t you happy, I am happy. And we shall live together forever. Do not think of your beloved
‘All you have ever thought of is your own happiness!’
Cathan just smiled wickedly at her.
He helped her onto the horse and said, ‘to make sure you don’t jump off,’ and he waved his hand over her and she fell asleep.
Tags: story chain
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