Maewyn returned to Ireland in the dead of night, but few would recognize him as the slave he had once been. He came on a mission, but not one of revenge. His mission was more important than exacting vengeance on the pirates who ripped him from his home as a youth. He would have to put that behind him now, if he was to succeed.
In the darkness, the rocks rising up from the shore could have been terrifying beasts. Yet Maewyn’s purpose kept the fear away like a fire warding off wolves. He had a long way to travel before dawn could reveal his presence.
At last, Maewyn came upon a cave where he could rest up before the task ahead. He was laying his cloak upon the ground when a familiar silence settled over him, like being underwater. The darkness at the back of the cave began to swirl and churn, revealing a vision.
Fire crackled and consumed everything, all of Ireland. With the sight of the raging flames, a harsh heat stung his cheeks. The fire extinguished in a blink. The vision was now swirling smoke, ash, and death.
Maewyn fell to his knees as the vision receded. He had seen it before; it was why he had come. He was meant to stop this future from coming to pass.
Maewyn stepped out of the cave during the harshest part of the afternoon. The sun beat down, signaling the arrival of summer, not a day too soon. Likely the festivities had already begun, but that didn’t concern Maewyn. He just had to make his move at sundown.
He knew the druids would be looking for him, for though none knew him for the slave Maewyn, many had heard tales of his latest deeds. And the druids didn’t take kindly to threats to their power.
Maewyn walked as far as he dared. He called upon the power of féth fíada, giving himself the aspect of a deer. The druid’s weren’t the only ones who could wield the veil, but they wouldn’t expect it from him.
He still stayed to the outskirts of the festivities, but he was able to fool the druids that he did encounter along the way to his destination. Once Maewyn was safely in the woods, he gathered as many branches as he could find, snapping low-hanging limbs with the weight of his body. As light began to fade, he dragged the wood to the crest of the Hill of Slane. And then he waited.
The moment the sun dipped below the horizon, Maewyn held out his hands and called forth the flames. A twin fire roared to life on the neighboring hill, but he was sure that the elder druids would notice his. For on Bealtaine, there could only be one fire to light them all.
The common folk didn’t seem to notice anything amiss. Their cheers drowned out the crackling bonfires for a moment. They twirled to the beating drums in a mesmerizing dance. Men sought to prove their prowess by leaping across the edges of the flames. Maewyn knew by the end of the night the common folk would have to choose one fire, and that choice would determine their fate.
A group broke away from the fire on the other hill, and stalked toward Maewyn. He could tell that they were druids by their white robes and white wooden staffs. The crowd began to take notice of Maewyn’s bonfire, and some followed behind the druids, just as he hoped they would.
Upon their arrival, the druids demanded that Maewyn put out his fire, but he refused. They gathered pails of water, but that didn’t quench the fire. They returned shortly with their buckets now full of sand, but this couldn’t put out the flames. Finally, the druids circled the fire and raised their staffs, calling upon their own magic to put out the enchanted fire.
Maewyn raised his hands and fueled the flames with his inner fire. The druids were no match for him. After three attempts, the druids knew they were not meant to stop the bonfire from burning. They turned to the Arch-Druid, clothed in gold, to await his command. That’s when Maewyn finally spoke.
“The Bealtaine festival is meant to celebrate the triumph over dark powers, but darkness hides among you.”
Maewyn pointed a finger at the Arch-Druid. The crowd began to murmur, as the Arch-Druid glared red-faced at Maewyn.
“Their magic was not as strong because it is self-serving and meant to deceive. I came to help you, and that is why they cannot put out the light that burns for all of Ireland. You must make a choice now: light your torches from the flames that bring about death, or the ones that bring life,” Maewyn said.
The people were amazed by Maewyn’s triumph over the druids, and many lowered their torches into his bonfire. Seeing that the battle was nearly won, Maewyn turned to the druids and raised his hands once more. Those who held selfishness or evil in their hearts were transformed into serpents and chased into the sea. Those that remained took up their torches, lit them in Maewyn’s fire, and vowed to do good from thence on.
This short story was based around the legends of a real historical figure. Do you know who that person is? What did you think of the story? Let me know in the comments!
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