Part Two 3500 BC
Arthfael looked down at the terrified boy on the table. For one brief, fleeting second he wondered why he was doing this. He felt sorry for young Cynwrig thinking it was not right to instill such terror on him. Suddenly the second was over as he sensed a truly evil presence move into his mind and look out from behind his eyes. He forgot any feelings of compassion and from this point on, and for the rest of his life, would never have them again. With a renewed sense of purpose Arthfael continued the chant along with the four other young Druids.
Along with the chant that could be heard throughout the cavern a deep humming started. It seemed to be coming from everywhere but that was not the case. It was coming from the table along with a vibration that was growing in strength with every passing minute. Arthfael could feel the table calling to the knife he held in his hand. He looked at the knife and could see the runes burning with the same ghostly green glow as the runes along the edge of the table. He still could not understand the words to the chant but he knew it was the table along with the knife calling for blood. It was an incantation calling for a death for what reason he could not yet tell.
Cynwrig had all but stopped his crying and yelling. He was falling into a trance of some kind probably because of the vibration coming from the table. He seemed to be losing control of his body as his muscles relaxed but there was still a look of terror on his face. As Arthfael watched, the boy stopped struggling and actually started whispering the chant himself.
He lifted his hand that held the knife high into the air. He was holding it so tight his knuckles were turning white. Keeping his other hand on the boys head he brought the knife down in an arch straight into the boys chest. It happened so suddenly and his arm came down with such speed and strength it surprised everyone in the room, especially Arthfael. It felt to him like a huge dark shadow was behind him, guiding him like an adult holds and guides a child from behind when riding a pony for the first time. The knife entered the boys chest smashing through bone and cutting through sinew with ease going all the way down to make contact with the table. The shadow behind Arthfael guided him to bring the knife back up and drive it down again and again cutting all around the heart in the boys chest.
Once Arthfael had chopped all around the heart he left the knife sticking out of the chest and reached his hand into the cavity he had made. It all seemed like a dream as he moved directed by some unseen force behind him. The second he touched the heart in the chest what seemed like a lightning strike passed from the unmoving body of Cynwrig and out into the five boys that were holding him. All five tensed from the brief pain but then let out a long slow breath as a feeling of euphoria spread through them. The feeling did not last long but it was so intense it was all they could think about for a while after.
Arthfael pulled the heart from the chest and brought it up to his mouth and took a bite from it. After he did so he passed it to the boy to his right. The heart was consumed fully as it made its way around with every boy getting a bite. The blood in Cynwrig’s body drained from the holes in his back where the knife had pierced all the way through. It ran down a slope that went to the center of the table and then emptied through the hole in the middle into the stone cauldron below. Somehow the boys knew the blood was not for them. Arthfael suspected it was for the unknown discarnate that roamed the tunnels and cavern of the barrow.
The five young Druids felt energized and powerful. Their senses improved, they could see more clearly and colors were more vibrant. Their sense of smell became much stronger and they could hear every sound throughout the chamber, even the pattering of little mouse feet far off in the tunnel. Their tunics felt tighter across the shoulders and the sleeves did not come down as far as they had before the sacrifice. Their breeches were shorter and tighter around the waist not by much but it was noticeable. They looked at each other in wonder at the changes in their bodies.
But the most amazing transformation was the change they felt in their minds. They were almost able to cypher the meaning of the runes on the table and the walls. The chant they had been saying was now becoming clear to them. “Thy life begins, thy life ends, in me thy life grows a new.” The most unbelievable thing that started to happen was the ability to tell what the other was thinking without saying a word. They could hear whispers in their heads coming from the boy next to them.
Because of his place at the table Arthfael received more of the life spirit from young Cynwrig than the others making him the most powerful. They did not know it yet but it was also because Cynwrig had been the son of a king and would probably have been a king himself someday. The boys had each received a higher quality of the life spirit than they would have from a regular human. They would have to perform many more sacrifices to receive as much life force as they had from young Cynwrig.
All the boys stepped away from the table at the same time. Arthfael looked around the chamber with his improved eyesight able to see in much more detail. Along one wall half buried under a dusty pile of bones he spied a bronze tube laying next to some rune covered urns. He pulled it out of the bones and opened it up finding two rune covered sheepskin scrolls inside. The runes on the well preserved sheepskins matched the ones that were carved into the table and written on the walls. He tied a piece of rope to each end of the tube and slung it over his shoulder so he could take them home and study them later.
“Wilt that we leave now and return to thy celebration,” he said. “We must cover our tracks beforeth we go, Cynwrig will be missed and I doth not want him discovered in thy barrow.”
So Judoc went around snuffing out all the torches along the walls leaving five burning, one for each boy. They left going back through the long tunnel returning the way they had come. They left the body of Cynwrig tied to the table with the knife sticking out of his chest just as they had found the first body.
They walked out of the entrance expecting to see the sky turning light in the East with the rising sun. But time did not move the same under the tumulus as it did in the outside world. To their surprise they found the full moon had barely moved in the sky, maybe about an hours time. It was hard to fathom how so little time went by because of all the time they had spent underground. The night was silent and still when they walked outside. The only sound they heard was the hooting of an owl on the hunt in the far off distance.
While the four boys began wiping out any trace that they had been there Arthfael looked up at the runes that were carved into the capstone over the entrance. He was just able to understand them as he read “All ye who enter this place leave thine soul at thy door!” At the time the inscription did not register with Arthfael, and later when he understood the warning, he would not care.
Fortunately and to the relief of the five young Druids the Will O’the Wisp returned after they finished sweeping their footprints away at the entrance and the ground leading up to it. The cold green flame of the Wisp seemed to be burning brighter and it moved livelier as it floated above the ground. In no time the boys were led back to the bog where they could clean the blood off of their faces, hands and clothes. They walked out of the marsh and around the celebration that was still taking place so Arthfael could bury the bronze tube he had found by the road leading to the High King’s stronghold. Then they walked back to the sound of merriment and music without a thought of remorse about what had happened that night.
During the following months the boys returned to the old disheveled barrow often. They found a back way to the barrow that went around the marshlands and through the hills of Tara so they could avoid going by the High King’s stronghold. They performed many more sacrifices in that time gaining more power with each one and littering the corners of the cavern with fresh bodies laid over the old dusty bones. In between the trips to the barrow they lived their lives as if nothing had happened and continued their studies as Ovates of the first stages of the Druidic priesthood.
The High King and Queen had gone mad with grief over their missing son. All of his guards, soldiers and men from surrounding villages scoured the bogs and countryside looking for the missing boy. Fortunately for the five young Druids no one could remember seeing him steal off with them on the night of the celebration. Their secret was safe for the time being.
War had almost come to Tara as the High King started to blame rival Clans who were unhappy with his rule for abducting the boy. The High King had marshaled forces to enter the lands of the enemy Clans to conduct searches of their holds. Arthfael’s father had to step in as High Druid Priest to calm the threat of war as his words carried more weight than even that of the King over the matters of men. To subdue the High King he persuaded the Clans to allow the King’s men to search their lands. To appease the Clans if nothing was found the High King would grant them food from the Kingdom’s food stores.
Through his studies and the knowledge he gained from the life force of the sacrifices Arthfael learned how to decipher the ancient runes that were written on the old sheepskin scrolls. The scrolls were covered with spells and incantations from days long past and mentioned a history of a dark time that had all but been forgotten about by the people of his day. The full history of that time had been carved and painted on the walls of the tunnels and cavern of the barrow. Arthfael realized the spells he read from the sheepskins were black magick and discovered all knowledge of the magick had been almost completely destroyed centuries ago when the armies of good had defeated a large sect of evil Black Druids and their followers. The Black Druids and their followers were destroyed utterly by the good Druids of the land and their warriors and also with the aid of white magick that they had gleaned from the Mother Goddess that had proven to be much stronger than the black. Only one Black Druid had survived the final battle and with a small band of followers stole away to hide in the ancient disheveled barrow. He had been fatally wounded during the last battle and would eventually die in the barrow as his brethren had died all around him in the hills of Tara. The attempts he made to heal his horrible wounds by using black incantations and sacrificing his followers failed. Because he was a creature of evil he could not defeat the white magick that had caused the wounds and was running throughout his body. The sacrifices of all but one of his followers kept him alive long enough to write down everything he knew about the dark arts on the sheepskin scrolls and the walls of the barrow before he died.
The name of the Black Druid had been Lugubelenus. In a final act of desperation he had his last surviving follower tie him to the table and perform the ritual sacrifice on his dying body. He had hoped to regenerate into the body of his entranced follower but because of the white magick that had wounded him his spirit would not transmigrate into another living soul. He became a discarnate, a spirit without a body, that remained trapped to wander only the tunnels and cavern of the barrow to this day. Over the centuries that he was confined the only way he discovered freedom from the barrow was to take on the shape of a ghostly green flame. He could float about the countryside but had no power or influence over anything, most people could not even see him in this form and when they did they mistakenly thought him a Wisp. Only those with the potential of the darkest of hearts could see him and that is where Arthfael and his young friends came in.
Arthfael learned much from the runes on the scrolls and the runes that covered the walls of the barrow. He and his friends learned the more sacrifices they performed the more powerful they would become both physically and mentally. The higher the standing a sacrifice had, such as a learned Druid or Elder or especially a King versus a regular villager, the stronger the life spirit would be. They found that it was not just the spell they chanted during the sacrifice or the evil spirit of Lugubelenus that gave them their power, they only played a small part in the magick of the ceremony. The oaken altar table and the flint knife had the greatest influence over the transfer of a life force from the dying to the living.
They learned that the most important power they acquired from receiving the life spirit of their victims was the power to compel others to do their will. As they grew stronger it became easier for them to control others around them. At first it was by word and suggestion but later they only had to think it. The first several sacrifices they would have to bring their victims bound and gagged to the barrow, usually by cart and with much secrecy. But as they grew more powerful and gained more control they could will a person to walk to the sacrifice under their compulsion. The victim would go willingly thinking it was their own idea to walk among the barrows and Cairns of the dead.
The powers and strength they gained from the sacrifices did not come without a price. They would slightly age every time Arthfael plunged the knife and they received the life spirit of their victim. They were growing larger and stronger but they were also growing more wrinkled with bulging veins close to the surface of their skin. They started losing their hair, their skin started to gray and their teeth yellowed as if they were liken to old men on the outside while still being young and strong men on the inside. The changes were gradual but people were starting to notice, especially those closest to them. More and more they wore their woolen brown robes everywhere even on the hottest of summer days with their hoods drawn up to cover their heads.
Arthfael found a spell of glamour within the scrolls that would compel those around them to see them as they had been. Once the spell was executed those around them would see them as the boys they had been and not the ugly things they were becoming. If they did not perform the spell just right they would look fuzzy and unformed which was almost as bad as people seeing them as they actually were. Until they perfected the spell several people in the town that they lived in had to go missing because they became too inquisitive about the appearance of the young Druids.
The boys had been careful not to harvest too many people for their sacrifices from the town they lived in so as not to raise suspicion. They traveled to outlying villages and towns to find their victims, preferably Druid Priests, Elders or high ranking soldiers and warriors. But because of the amount of time they had to spend with their Druid teachers or on their studies the boys could not travel as far from their town as they would have liked. It was only a matter of time before people sensed something was wrong and complaints were made to the High King and Arthfael’s father to do something about the growing number of missing people. A meeting was called to be attended by all of the Druid Priests, Elders and Clan Chiefs from all over the County of Meath and for any beyond who wanted to attend. An evil had come to the land and all would meet at Tara to form a plan to fight it.
Arthfael and his friends planned on attending the meeting in the hopes they could compel it to go their way. But all of the young Druids sensed that their lives here in Tara were going to change. They just had no idea how much time they had left before that happened.
Thanks for reading Part Two of Druids-Bane, I hope you enjoyed it. Please vote or leave a comment (good or bad) so I can make it better. It would help me out a bunch. Thanks!