This is for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.
They told him sorrow would find him if he took his faithful hounds to look for his lost love. They were old and not up to a long hunt. But Fionn had never been one to listen to advice. After days of fruitless searching, Fionn sent out the dogs one last time to find the scent of his love. The old hounds could barely walk, but they found a scent and though their youth returned briefly, Sceolan began to tire. Bran tried to encourage her, but she sank to the ground, and laid her long head on her paws with a sigh.
Bran reluctantly left her behind and followed the deer to a crag overlooking a lake. The deer leapt, and Bran, with a last glance back at his master, followed. Fionn gathered up Sceolan in his arms, but when he reached the lake, there was nothing of either Bran or the deer to be seen. Sceolan waded into the lake and howled, and would have joined Bran if Fionn had not called her back. Sorrowfully, he carried the old dog back to the fort.
Fionn never did find his love and never found happiness. Years later, when Sceolan died, Fionn was overcome with grief. Nobody knew where he took his faithful companion to bury her, not until the lake beneath the crag ran away and two stone hounds were revealed, leaning fondly one against the other as they had in life.
Last episode, appropriately enough, the ninth.
“No closer, Fionn,” the druid called from the boat where the Fianna were crowded with sullen faces. “I have brought you back to your time, but I cannot bring you back to your place. The Isles of Bliss must be your home forever.”
Fionn watched as the currach disappeared through a wall of mist. The chief of the Fianna would no more lead his men into battle or hunt the white stag. As he turned from the strand the druid’s voice floated to him across the waves.
“When we have need of you, Fionn, we will call, and you will answer.” He knew the meaning of the words. When the world of the otherworld woman met his, the final battle would begin. Fionn would be ready, and he was satisfied.
Almost finished, promise.
The Fianna were already fading across the bridge, carried home on the waves of the druid’s enchantment when Fionn snatched up his harp and he and the hounds bounded into its dispersing mists.
The clinging oily smell of the town lay in the folds of Fionn’s cloak and the dogs shook themselves to rid their coats of it.
Green grass was beneath his feet, pure sky above his head, and waves rolled onto a white strand. Fionn shouted for joy.
Towns were unnatural places at the best of times, but this town, in this strange corner of time and place was a nightmare of howling monsters. Witchlight sent strange shadows scurrying as Fionn tried to find his way back to the bridge over the dry river where he had left his harp.
Then he remembered his hounds. They would find him even if his kinsmen lost his track. He raised his fingers to his mouth and whistled. Bran raised his head and sniffed; Sceólan raised her ears and listened. Fionn was calling.
Shadows along the bare walls shifted and milled about Fionn’s legs in silent affection when the hounds found him.
The Isles of Bliss were not what Fionn had been led to expect—the dwellings hard and harsh, full of crude, dead fabrics and witchlight to see by.
He looked at the woman as she lay sleeping, at the gentle, soft curves of her, beneath the veiled light of the moon and sighed. One woman is, after all, much like another in sleep.
No man could deceive the fairy folk and live, that was known by all, but if he didn’t understand the words of the enchantment, did that not mean it had no hold upon him? There was only one way to find out.
Fionn sat in the seat next to the laughing woman and let her drive her invisible horses where she would.
Her words had no meaning to him, but her smile spoke a language he understood.
When the chariot finally stopped, Fionn hesitated, but the woman’s face, her perfume, filled his senses, and he stepped out onto the soil of the Isles of Bliss, knowing that he would never see his home again.
Fiachra spied Fionn the instant before he was swallowed by a shining, silver beast, drawn in the wake of a golden woman.
Was it Naimh, he wondered, come back to entice him to the Isles of Bliss?
The shining beast slid away in a rumble and a gassy stink, and Fiachra sighed. The fairy people had ever taken what they wanted.
“Hey! Where’s the party?” A young woman tossed the words at him with an admiring smile.
He licked his lips, not understanding, his eyes drawn to her strange attire. Tight and uncomfortable-looking, the breeches emphasised the line of her hips. The woman giggled. “Where’d you leave the long ship and the rest of the boys?”
His fear dissipated in her laughter and he smiled back, deciding to follow where the enchanted woman led.
Next three lines.
Fionn was lost. It was inevitable—there were no landmarks just walls, and he couldn’t even see the sun in the sky.
Beyond, where the wall shadow ended he saw a ribbon of sunlight and rapid movement—the stone river was a highway, but the roaring was not from warhorses.
The beasts that glinted as they sped past were bloodless and angry. Sweat pricked on his face and the beginnings of fear.