The remains of his body are scattered and lost,
But his name shall be remembered forever:
Morgath the False.
Morgath the Destroyer.
Morgath the Eater of Spirits.
His deeds shall be cursed by gods and men,
And his fate, the fate of all who subvert the laws of nature.
He was flying. Not the dizzying whirl of
emerging from a trance or the effortless drifting of dreams. He was flying
with the eagle.
Keirith wanted to laugh, to
shout with the joy of it, but he was voiceless now. His body still sat on
the boulder. He could see it far below, face upturned to the sky, eyes
closed, hands resting lightly on his knees. He could even feel the
sun-warmed rock under his thighs and the breeze that stirred his hair. The
core of his being still rested there while his spirit reached skyward, a
spider’s spinneret that connected him to the eagle.
soared over Eagles Mount, great wings scarcely moving despite the cool
gusts of air that ruffled the tips of their dark feathers. Below them,
shadowed by the overhanging shelf of rock, the female perched on her nest
of sticks and bracken. As long as Keirith could remember, the pair had
nested on this crag. The tribe regarded them with awe; most eagles
preferred the open moors of the north to the dense forest that surrounded
They rode the air currents up,
banking around the circle of huts. Each was the size of a man’s fist
from this height, and the lake looked small enough to jump across. Their
eyes – keen enough to pick out the blossoms on a gorse bush – swept
over the glistening thread of the river as they searched for prey. With
their hooked talons and muscled legs, they could easily carry off one of
the newborn lambs frolicking on the rocky slopes of Eagles Mount, but the
shepherds and their dogs would be watching. Aye, there was Conn, one hand
raised to shade his face from the sun as he followed their flight.
yearned to call out a greeting to his milk-brother. Surrendering to his
eagerness, the eagle gave a soft chirrup, a silly, weak sound for such a
A wolf howls. Even a hawk
screams. You should have a cry the whole world can hear.
As if the thought were his own, he
heard the eagle’s response: <Your mate hears your cry during
courtship. Why warn your prey when you hunt?>
May I hunt with you?
Disappointment shadowed the joy of the
flight, but he knew the eagle was wise; the experience of flying together
was still too new for them.
He had always
loved the eagles. During his vision quest last spring, he had climbed far
up Eagles Mount, to the special place he had discovered as a child. All
night, he had sat there, shivering with cold. As dawn approached, he’d
watched the sky lighten to a deep blue and Bel’s first rays paint the
At first, all he could make
out was a faint shadow against the sky. He knew at once it was not a real
eagle for the outspread wings flapped with otherworldly slowness as the
bird descended. His heart slammed against his ribs at the thought of
finding his vision mate so quickly; his father had waited three days and
nights in the forest before he heard the she-wolf’s howl.
when the eagle swooped lower did he see the wriggling serpent in its
curved talons. The adder’s head reared back. Red-brown eyes gazed down
into his. A tongue flicked out and a voice, dry and rasping as autumn
leaves rubbing together, whispered his name.
adder’s choice had shocked him. He’d been so certain his power was
leading him along the shaman’s path and every shaman in the tribe’s
history had found a bird during his vision quest, a bird that became his
guide to the spirit world. When Tree-Father Gortin agreed to take him as
an apprentice anyway, he had been relieved and thrilled, but he could not
resist the urge to seek communion with a real eagle.
moons ago, the male had permitted his touch, such a fleeting brush of
spirits he had wondered if he’d imagined it. Since then, they had
touched many times, but only today had the eagle allowed them to fly
And already, it was time to
separate; Keirith could feel his weariness mingling with the eagle’s
Thank you, brother, for
allowing me to fly with you.
<We will fly again,
Slowly, carefully, he began the process
of returning to his body. The separation must be done gently lest he
injure his host, the energy furling as gently as the morningstar closed
its blossoms at twilight.
voice startled them both. His spirit tore free. For one terrifying moment,
he was lost between bodies, falling helplessly through space. And then his
spirit hurtled back into his body with a jolt that left him gasping.
he came to himself, he was lying on the ground, looking up into the
Tree-Father’s worried face. The Tree-Father was speaking in a low,
urgent voice, but it took Keirith a moment to understand the words. When
he did, he whispered his name three times to seal his spirit’s return.
Then he ran his hands over his body to reestablish the boundaries of his
physical self. But when he tried to sit up, the Tree-Father pressed him
“Just lie still and breathe.”
closed his eyes, allowing the dreamy lassitude to relax his body and mind.
were you doing out here by yourself?” the Tree-Father scolded in his
mild way. “You should know better than to attempt a vision on your
“It wasn’t a vision. I was
the eagle. I touched his spirit. And we flew together.” His triumph
faded when he opened his eyes and saw the Tree-Father’s expression.
“What is it?”
“You touched his
Keirith nodded, still trying to
understand why the Tree-Father looked so horrified. When he realized the
truth, relief left him breathless. “I was careful. I never hurt him. Not
even the first time.”
“How many times
have you done this?”
“How many? Twice? Three
“I can’t remember. Please.
Tell me what’s wrong?”
gods.” The Tree-Father stumbled away, rubbing the empty socket of his
left eye. He drew a trembling breath as he turned to face him. “To
subvert or subjugate the spirit of any creature is a violation of our
laws. Worse, it is an abomination in the sight of the gods.”
scrambled to his feet. “But I didn’t subvert his spirit. He welcomed
me. And next time—”
“There will be no
next time! You must never do this again.”
why? You touch the spirit of every person in the tribe. You touched mine
when I came back from my vision quest. Tree-Father Struath touched the
spirit of the Holly-Lord himself.”
shaman spends years honing his power and understanding its limits. When we
touch a human spirit, we receive permission first. Animals cannot offer
Guilt filled Keirith when he
recalled how long it had taken him to overcome the eagle’s panic.
there’s another reason why riding the spirits of animals is forbidden.
That was how Morgath began.”
think…” Keirith could hardly force himself to speak the words. “You
think I’m like Morgath?”
Tree-Father’s expression softened. “Nay. But what you did was wrong.
Perhaps Morgath began in innocence as well, but in time, he used his power
to cast out the spirits of the animals he touched. For that, his body was
sacrificed to appease the gods and his spirit consigned to Chaos.”
the Tree-Father knew how many times he had touched the eagle, he would
condemn him as surely as the elders of the Oak and Holly Tribes had
condemned Morgath. His chest would be cut open and his still-beating heart
ripped out. His body would hang from the lowest branches of the heart-oak
to be devoured by scavengers. His bones would be scattered in the forest,
never to lie in the ancestral cairn. That was Morgath’s fate – and his
if he flew with the eagle again.
forbidden. It was an abomination. He was an abomination.
power is dangerous. You must swear never to use it. Or I shall be forced
to call you before the council of elders.”
to fly with the eagle again. Never to share that terrifying, giddy
exhilaration of flight. But what choice did he have? Helpless, Keirith
“I must have your spoken oath.”
swear. I will never fly with the eagle again.”
is not enough. Swear that you will never touch the spirit of any bird or
sank down on the rock, numbed by the sacrilege he had unwittingly
committed and the loss of his link with the majestic bird that soared
overhead. The Tree-Father’s hand came up as if to pat his shoulder, but
fell back to his side.
For who would want
to touch an abomination?
Keirith. I’d hoped that one day…” The Tree-Father shook his head
impatiently. “I’ll speak to your parents tonight.”
we just keep this a secret? Between you and me?”
must offer some sort of explanation for releasing you from your
Keirith could feel his
mouth working, but no words emerged.
thought you understood. I cannot permit you to continue with your
Gortin had been his guide and
teacher for nearly nine moons. In the space of a few moments – hardly
longer than his flight with the eagle – he had severed him from both his
gift and his life-path.
“It’s my fault.
I should never have accepted you as my apprentice. But you had such a
desire. And since the eagle appeared during your vision quest as well as
the adder, I thought…” The Tree-Father sighed, his face sorrowful.
“I was wrong. Forgive me.”
I was wrong to take you as an apprentice, I would be more at fault for
instructing you further in the mysteries.”
went down on his knees. He seized the Tree-Father’s hand and pressed his
lips to the tattooed acorn.
Get up.” The Tree-Father yanked his hand free. “I’m sorry. Truly.
And I will tell your parents that when I speak to them.”
I’ll tell them.” He didn’t know why it was important to him to have
that much control over his future, but it was. “At least, let me do
The stones bit into his knees while
he waited for the Tree-Father’s decision. Finally, he said, “Very
Fingers brushed the top of his head
in blessing. Then the Tree-Father left, taking Keirith’s hopes for the
future with him...