[This post is technically from Marin’s point of view, but the whole thing is a flashback to another life.]
It was like looking at a darker reflection of myself, like looking through a silver mirror covered in dark tarnish. The spear in her hands dripped the blood of something I didn’t have any desire to identify, her leathers black as the night to come. Tarnished silver trinkets were woven into hair an even darker red than my own and her pale green eyes had narrowed into thin crescents as she regarded me with suspicion—and hate.
I supposed that I had earned both.
She stared at me in silence, her knuckles white around the haft of her spear, held in front of her, parallel to the ground as she stared back at me.
My voice came steadily. “This needs to end,” I said quietly. “You cannot stay here. This island isn’t big enough for the two of us.”
“I have made this place my home the same as you,” she said, her chin lifting. “You and yours have never ceased to threaten me and yet I have persisted. I have remained. I and my army.”
“Yes,” I said, planting the butt of my spear into the dirt next to my foot. “You and your army, sold to every threat this isle has ever known. I will not stand for it a moment longer. We will have peace on this isle no matter what the cost.”
“You speak of this place as if it is your own land, as if the whole of the island is yours to command, to claim.” She shook her head slowly. “You know it is not, Chieftain. This place belongs to the people and you do not speak for all of them.”
“I speak for enough of them,” I said, my voice growing quiet even as my stomach roiled. I had not wanted it to come to this. There had been so many chances granted, so many times when she could have turned from this course, when she could have stood with us instead of against us. “And as the Áes Dana move to depart from this sacred isle, it is up to those of us who bear their blood to protect it from those who would do her harm. I speak for the Imbolg, the Fianna, the Dáire. I speak for our allies and the people who have been scattered by the wars we have fought and the wars that you have helped perpetuate. I am Brighíd iníon Dúbhshláine, Chieftain of the Imbolg, Speaker for the Tribes of Eíre, and I tell you now that you are no longer welcome here. Leave, or face the consequences. We will give you two weeks to gather your army and depart these shores peacefully and you will face no reprisals from us if you do as we ask. If you do not take our offer, all will be forfeit.”
Cyhyraeth stared at me for a few long moments. For a second, I dared to believe she might take my offer, at least for the sake of men and women who had flocked to her banner across the sea.
Her chin lifted as she stared into my eyes and all of my hopes came crashing down, dashed like glass against stone.
“No,” she said simply.
A moment later, she charged.