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The Celtic heart
The warriors path
It was night and Osmond Goodfellow lay sprawled in front of the burning fire. High above, the stars looked down on him and he could hear them whisper with the singing of the wind. He scratched his large cranium and wondered what it was all about. His boots were dry now after his accidental excursion in the lake during the evenings battle with the fire breathing dragon and he had no idea where the damsel in distress had gotten to. What was it with people these days? You saved them, practically died in the process and then without so much as a thank you, they would bugger off and leave you standing there, almost bleeding to death. The Hero business definitely was not what it used to be. Maybe it was time for a career change. Maybe he should jack it all in and become a highway bandit, or better still, maybe an evil necromancer. Them feller's seemed to have a better life. Always laughing and wearing expensive jewellery. They didn't have to take no guff from ungrateful 'victims' or children calling him names because he wouldn't buy them any cake. It really was starting to get him very down. Was this a mid-life crisis, he wondered? It was hard to tell, but he knew one thing. The more he saw of the world, the less he knew.
He stared into the flames and something strange happened.
He looked deep into the fire and something began to move. It began with colours. Red. orange and green dancing and flickering into the night. As the heat intensified, he could see his reflection amongst the flames. He looked old and weather worn, his grey hair and beard matted and caked with dirt and mud. His face shaped like leather and his eyes dark with the misfortunes of time. He grimaced and he felt his belly ache. It was the same feeling you get when you eat raw meat and wished you hadn't. There was no ale here in the cold, dark night to wash away the pain. He smiled. Who was he kidding? It wasn't that cold. He had the heat of the fire, his companion, his nocturnal friend. As for age? He wasn't that old. Not when you scale it against the age of the cosmos. There would always be someone older, a spirit beyond him in years, or a power more aged and wise then he could ever fathom.
Slowly, a shape began to form in the fire. Something new. Something he had not seen there before. Amazed he watched as a mouth began to form in the flames and slowly within the light a face began to form. It was a happy face, a naughty face, childish and ancient, bellowing in the flames.
There was a rumble and the fire spoke to him.
"Greetings my friend", said the fire, "We have been watching you for some time now." Osmond was uncertain what to say to this, so he said nothing. That was always the wise thing to do. He moved his hand to his side. Patience may have been a virtue, but logic dictated that when strange faces in fires started talking to you, it was always best to keep your hand close to your trusty battle axe, just in case.
"Fear not", said the fire, "You shall come to no harm tonight. I have a message to relate to you from a soul beyond this world who has watched over you since the day that you were born. If you will hear my words, great things shall come your way."
Osmond thought deeply about this. "What happens if I don't listen to your fiery words?" he said.
The fire laughed and as it did so flames flickered outwards. Osmond moved back slightly, to avoid getting his beard singed.
"It is up to you whether you listen or not, Osmond," said the fire, "but either way I shall speak my piece, so you might as well listen. If you don't, I will follow you every where you go until you do."
"Even to the toilet?" asked Osmond."
"Yes." said the fire. "Even in your sacred poo-poo chamber where the air is rank with your daily expulsions."
Osmond could picture the sight in his minds eye and he didn't like it. The idea of having a talking fire in his bathroom watching him and talking as he did his business was both very embarrassing and probably dangerous.
"Very well." Said Osmond. "Have your say."
"I shall." said the fire, his voice softening, "and when I am done, there will be no more night for you and there will be a great clarity in the wind."
"There is nothing wrong with my wind." said Osmond, but the fire ignored him.
"Imagine this." said the fire. "Imagine a land where there is no right or wrong. Imagine a land where there is no king, a land where there is no light or dark. Imagine yourself walking along the ice ridges at the end of the world. Imagine yourself standing in the pit of a fiery tomb with a raging hurricane outside and the sound of the ocean violently beating against the gates. Imagine the centre of all things where the elements meet. Imagine all these things. Imagine the woman you just saved drowning in the sea. Imagine if you had never crossed paths. Imagine her soul lost in the sands of time where all the forgotten children scream through the night. Imagine all these things."
The fire paused. Osmond imagined all these things. The fire smiled.
"Now," said the fire, "I want you to imagine one word. I want you to close your eyes and I want you to see it."
"What word might that be?" said Osmond, confused.
"The word is destiny." said the fire, "And I want you to look at it. I want you to see it. Please close your eyes. You will like what you see. I promise you that you shall."
Osmond shook his head, uncertain. "If you insist," he said, "Although I do not see what good it will do. I'm sick of the hero business and am thinking of retirement."
"Just do it." said the fire. His tone was so authoritative that Osmond was forced to comply and quickly closed his eyes.
That was when the vision came.
Through time and space he flew, the air around him ripping and the sky above singing deep within his soul. He could see far below, as the land beneath his feet began to dissolve. The rocks were replaced with a liquid, a silver plasma that bubbled below. The air around him began to change and slowly the sky diminished. A small window began to form before him and he moved towards it. He could see its frame open and the glass dissolved as he peered inside. Slowly he flew beyond this place and found himself in the dark night of space, high above the earth looking towards the golden heavens. In the sky, ice began to form and he could see mountains, white and ancient, looming down towards his head. This was the upside down land where there were no rules and reality had been well and truly thrown out the window. Here the stars shone brightly and the cosmos gave birth to many electrical rivers simultaneously, hundreds of them being born every second, with all the colours of the rainbow inside.
He floated along. The silver ocean beneath him bobbed up and down and the mountains above steadied them selves.
In the distance, a woman's face began to form. She was old and wise and made from the same fabric of the stars. She smiled and when she did this, he felt as if he was home. Never before had he known such calm. Somehow, he knew that this was where everything had begun for him. This was the birth of the cosmos. This was the beginning of his soul. This was where everything had started and this was where he had been heading for all his life.
The woman spoke and her words were soft and calming, deep inside his mind, deep inside his Celtic heart.
"Osmond", she said, "You are the finest soul we ever created. You are the one. I know that times are difficult for you and I know that you have lost your way, but believe me when I tell you that you have a purpose. Believe me, I know everything that there is to know about you and your path, because I am always there with you and you are never alone. We will always have a bond that can never be broken."
Osmond did not fully understand what was happening, but deep down he knew that he really did. This was his destiny, right here, high above the earth in the far away land of magic.
"There is not much time," said the woman, "You must be strong and not break from your path. You must continue as you have done for great things are about to take shape. You must return and you must fight like you never have. You must do all these things and you must do it for love. I will always be there and we will always be together."
He opened his mouth. He had so many questions.
In the distance a fire began to grow from nothing. The woman looked with concern at it. "There is no time." she said. "Why is there never any time?" She smiled. "Be strong and defend yourself. I shall be watching." She was almost crying now. Osmond tried to speak, but there was no time left.
Everything went white and the vision was gone.
Osmond opened his eyes.
He was back at the fire now, exactly where he had been when he had shut them tight, only now everything was very different. The fire looked up at him. All humour was gone from his burning eyes and he seemed to be looking at something behind Osmond. What ever he was looking at was deadly serious. Instinctively, Osmond grabbed hold of his blood soaked axe and turned.
"Dark times ahead." said the fire.
Osmond looked. Before him were many men all dressed in black and bearing swords and spears. There must have been well over a hundred of them. In front of them was a dark looking man. His eyes were glowing with a strange green light and his face was riddled with hate. He knew this man. He did not know from where, but he knew that they were rivals. He did not know how. He just knew.
The dark man slowly moved forward.
Osmond looked at the fire. "What the hell is going on?" he barked. "I demand that you tell me everything!"
The fire laughed. "If I told you what was going on, where would be the fun in that?"
Osmond looked at the dark man, who looked back with hatred.
"This cannot be." said Osmond, clutching his axe tightly. "This will not be how it ends."
The dark man was getting closer.
Osmond raised his axe over his head. Inside his mind, he could hear the woman whispering softly.
"This is not the end. This is the beginning."
The Dark Man seemed nervous. He looked at his men.
There were many things in life that Osmond did not understand. There were many things that confused him. Like most men, he had many doubts. He was often frightened and insecure. Now, how ever things were different. He understood something. Who ever these strange men were, what ever reason they opposed him for, he was sure of one thing. It was his destiny to make a stand. He was a fighter. He was a good man. There were powers at work that he did not understand. He was nothing. Only a pawn. He was an arrow of destiny. He was the beginning of something magical.
The fire was smiling.
The Dark Man was nervous.
Osmond raised his axe and screamed.
"Prepare to die!" he shouted as he ran forward into the thick of battle, his axe arcing through the air, slicing the wind in two.
It was going to be a very long night.......