(Just a taste of yet another story from yet another milieu…. Ancient Irish Mythology and Folklore… of sorts….)
The dream was always the same–at least in its basic elements. The same four measures repeated each night like stanzas in a dirge: flame, scream, sweat, and tears. The flame reminded him of Fire; the keening screams, Wind; the rancid stinking odor of the murderers sweat, Earth; and his mother’s tears as she consoled him after the attack reminded him of Water: pure water cleansing her pure soul–streaming down to wash away his transgressions, too. The dream contained within itself all four of the Elements of the Creation–of Magick. The Ancient Lore of Balance. And the thick, palpable, unbearable, crushing darkness that hide all light. Impenetrable. Unknowable. Occult.
In the twilight when he lay awake curled into fetal position under the bed after the dream woke him, she would somehow know. She would call softly to him–call him out from his hiding spot and console him. In the daylight he considered the awesome power contained within the elements: and contemplated how he would exact their revenge. But not at night.
Chulainn did not hide under the bed because he felt safe there: he didn’t. Rather he felt accused. Convicted. Scorned. And he felt he deserved all of those piled high on his young head. That was the exact spot he had hidden when the Orc Chieftain had brutally raped his mother on that bed. When he brutally murdered his entire family–exterminated his entire clan–except for a few who were absent on official business. While Chulainn hid his family and friends died. Were slaughtered. And he did nothing. But hide under his mother’s bed and cover his eyes and ears.
He had viewed the Orc Chieftain’s spear as he broke down the door and strode into his mother’s room. The huge black spear began to glow ever more brilliantly with each ruthless stroke; each time the chieftain lovingly and gently stroked the shaft and polished the black iron blade with elven blood–the blood of Chulainn’s family and friends. Those he was sworn and legally bound to protect from these very Orc predations. When he was finished with Chulainn’s mother, and was done polishing his spear tauntingly in front of her eyes, he grunted loudly: a grunt that contained a significant squeal of satisfaction.
Rising from the bed of his foe to leave, he suddenly sniffed and leisurely dropped to one knee at the edge of the bed with a quizzical look etched on his face–searching…. Cooley sprang from where she had lain with her legs akimbo–her energy totally spent from resisting her attacker immediately before–and suddenly lunged to her knees and slapped the Orc Chieftain flat across his snout with savage fury; her visage was pure unadulterated hatred, not fear.
Her face never betrayed her son’s hiding place. Neither did he. The Orc Chieftain sniffed sharply, then smiled sardonically, rose and left, squealing to his cohort with a palpable air of nonchalant superiority. She didn’t need to betray her son. He was satiated. He snorted with disdain as he casually threw his snout over his shoulder towards the bed, and his brutal tribe laughed derisively at his joke. They had slain all of the elves and raped the human, but they had left the tainted blood of the young half-elven child to suffer a different, crueler fate. A fate worse than death: A life of self-scorn.
Chulainn was not his real name, but rather a variation of his mother’s maiden name and the one she still preferred to be called–Cooley. Chulainn was the name his mother called him because she was human and had a very difficult time picking up the subtleties of pronunciation of the Elvish tongue. Most of the other elves called him Cú Chulainn: The Hound of Cooley. Or just plain Cú. But they spoke that moniker derisively, like the Orcs when they referred to him. When they spat those words at him they meant: “Cooley’s little dog.” Or simply “dog”. Worthless mongrel. They seemed to imply they somehow deserved their fate.
Elven society was maternalistic: one’s stature in life was determined by one’s mother’s rank modified by the social standing of one’s spouse. So the fact that Chulainn’s mother was the daughter of the High King of Eriu and a direct descendant of Bodica, the last Warrior Queen of the Black Rose… Róisín Dubh… carried very little status with rank and file elves–because she was human. Humans were and had long been allies of elves, but they had never reached the point where they were considered equal in social status amongst the elves. Higher than orcs or goblins or hobgoblins or kobolds or bugbears certainly. On par with hobbits and dwarves and gnomes and pixies most assuredly. Even above dark elves and potentially even their less civilized cousins, the wood elves and grey elves. But no where close to as sophisticated as High Elves–the apex of the elven social strata. Of course, humans naturally felt superior to elves as well. Though Christians would rather interact with elves than Druids, and Druids avoided Christians as though they carried plagues that could not be rid by Fire–not even burning the putrid, pestilent-filled beast in the Wicker Man.
Fire purified everything. Cleansed all evil and wickedness. But even Fire could not wash away and purify Christianity in the eyes of the Druids because the disturbance of the balance was simply too great. Just as great as the brutal orcs and their ruthless kin. Or demons. Christians were certainly no worse than orcs or demons in the eyes of the Druids, but they were also no better. And often more difficult to bring to terms.
Generally, Cooley was scorned amongst the elves. The reasons primarily boiled down to one really: jealousy. Chulainn’s father was the youngest son of the Elven Royal family, and a decorated and wildly popular war hero know by his nom-de-guerre “The Orc Reaper”, which not coincidentally was the name of his ancient yew longbow. The two were inseparable, and he often looked as though he were conversing with the gnarled knock or handle; though that was clearly impossible. He was also ravishingly handsome and extraordinarily well spoken–in a rakish way.