The Tale of the Mountain King and His Sky Bride

by O.R. Melling

Imdha toir torudh abla,
Imdha airne cen cesa,
Imdha dairbre ardmhesa.

Plentiful in the east the apple fruits,
Plentiful the luxuriant sloes,
Plentiful the noble acorn–bearing oaks.

Fado, fado

Once upon a time, long, long ago. . .

. . .there was a Mountain Kingdom that curved like a chain on the blue throat of the sea. It was a place of dark forests and windy peaks, of sunny glens and rushing rivers. The lakes and streams brimmed with trout and silver salmon. The trees rang with the song of bright birds.

The King of the Mountain, the King of the Woods, was tall and broad–shouldered, of courteous speech and gentle manner. He did not care for war or battle. His chief delight was to roam the hills in the company of wild creatures, great and small. In the light of day, his peals of laughter rolled over the highlands like summer thunder.In the shadows of the evening, he swam in cool waters under the moon. Oh, how tranquil was his world! How green its valleys!How sweet the air and clear the waters!

And when springtime thawed the white frost of winter and everything living bridled with new joy, the Mountain King’s people would call out to him.

"Will you not marry?" chirmed the birds.

"Will you not take a wife?" hummed the bees.

It was a question they always asked and one to which his answer never wavered.

"I am waiting."

Then falling silent, he would gaze upward into the glimmering night, and hope would dim his eyes till he was almost blind.

* * * * *

She tumbled from the sky like a falling star, trailing fiery dust behind her. Old as the world, young and beautiful as the day, she was one of that tribe who herd the shining spheres across the heavens. Spéirbhean. Sky–Woman. As she fell to the earth, she clutched her light in her hands.

When she landed by the bonfire on the mountain she stared around her, dazed. She had journeyed far to reach him, through paths of light and shadow, suffering much upon the way.

"Are you the King of Evening?" she say’d.

"If you are the Queen of Night," he replied.

"Are you the Morning Lord?" she bade.

"If you be the Lady of the Day," he sighed.

"Will we dance all summer long?"

"We would pass the time in pleasure."

"Will your love hold true and strong?"

"You would be my treasure."

Oh how different they were! He was as brown as the amber rivers that flowed through the mountains; as steadfast as the ancient rock. She was as pale and glimmering as the moonlight that played upon the foam of the sea. His eyes were green like the hills in springtime;his hair black as the peat in the deepest bogs. Her eyes were a starry cerulean blue, and her hair flowed around her like living flame.

She was a daughter of Slua na h’Aeir. The Fairy Host of the Air. One of the Sídhe na Spéire. The People of the Sky. He was a son of Na Daoine Uaisle Na Gnoic. The Gentry of the Hills. One of the Sídhe Slua na Sliabh.The Fairy Host of the Mountain.

There were those of his Court who proclaimed their union doomed to fail, yet he would not hear it. He knew she was more than a dream of love, and the one for whom he had yearned since time began.

Three gifts did the Mountain King offer to woo his Sky Bride.
A crystal crown carved in the shape of doves’ wings.
A pendant of blue light gathered from a mountain lake in the morning.
A golden ring fashioned in the image of two swans entwined.

And when the Mountain King asked would she consent to marry him and be his wife forevermore, this is the answer the Sky–Woman gave him.

I do.

* * * * *

The Mountain King wed his Sky Bride in the autumn, on the Feast of Samhain, when the New Year began for the Sídhe–Folk and all those who followed the Celtic calendar.

The fallen leaves of the forest made a red and gold carpet for the nuptial procession, as it wound through the hills. The King’s subjects cheered and sang, waving boughs clustered with bright berries.

He wore the colors of his kingdom: a dark–green tunic, a purple mantle pinned with a white brooch, bronze sandals on his feet, and a chaplet of oak leaves upon his head. She was dressed in a gown of lucent blue with silver scintillas sewn into the soft folds. Taming her fiery hair was the winged crown he had gifted her.

He brought her to his palace on the grassy summit of Lugnaquillia. Fashioned of crystal, it turned throughout the day to face the sun, like a gigantic flower. When the first light of morning struck the glassy casements, they would coruscate with rainbow colors. If the sky was cloudy, the walls gleamed a milky blue, opaque as a robin’s egg.In the westering sun of evening, beneath crimson skies, the towers blazed like burning jewels. Then would come the fall of night, and the coolingof the castle to black obsidian spangled with starlight.

"Is this my home?" she murmured as he led her across the threshold.

"Forever and a day," was his reply.

And the celebrations began.

There was music and dancing and feasts galore. Banquets were served on cloths of pure linen and lustrous salvers, offering all the dainties of the kingdom: candied quince and apples, mint curds and berry pies, wild fruit jellies, honeyed syrups tincted with cinnamon, sweet nutcakes and seedcakes, huge vats of chamomile wine and fraughan beer.

Following that marriage, in the sacred rite of hierogamos, all things that were bright grew brighter still. It was a time of splendor and delight, a Golden Age, and every creature, great and small, sang with joy: the hawk that swooped like a falling stone, the fish that leaped in shining flashes, the barking otter, the spear–beaked birds.

Never had two lived so well together. Forever young, forever beautiful, they danced on the summer lawns of Lugnaquillia. They rode the cold currents of the winter winds. They swam in the seas by their lands on the Murrough. And any who chanced to overhear their laughter would feel their hearts lift.

He would hold her close and touch her as he would a precious harp, singing to her sweet ballads of love.

Were every brown leaf in the wood turned to gold,
Were the gray stone of the peaks, the purest silver,
I would give it all away,
For you,
a stór,
I would give it all away,
For you, my treasure.

One evening they lay together in the warm grasses to watch the stars fall.

"Tell me of your Home," he said to her.

Her laughter was light, yet a veil dimmed her eyes.

"Do not seek to know too much about me. You are of the earth and I, the sky, and we have met in your realm, not mine.Accept what is and do not delve. For I have forgotten much, and perhaps that is best for our happiness together."

Did he suffer a moment of disquiet, just then? Did he feel the darkness of the shadow cast by events to come? Did he sense the approach of the stranger and the pain that lay in wait for him?

* * * * *

Long were the seasons of their love in the green and gold regions of the world. Little did they dream of the blood–dimmed tide of Fate that would loose itself upon them. For who can plumb the river where flows the waters of existence?Who can glimpse the shadow behind the sunshine of the day? All things contain their opposite. Eloquence is born of dumbness, blindness of vision, and darkness may lie hidden inside that which shines. It is said the Singer of Tales and the Lord of Misrule are one and the same.

One day she vanished.

Without sign or word or warning, the Sky Bride vanished!

At first some thought it a game of hide–and–seek, as the Queen was merry and loved to play tricks. But the King knew by the stillness of his heart that she was gone. Stern and silent, he set out to search the heavens for her. Through zaarahs of darkness and deserts of light he journeyed,under the architraves of immense constellations, past rushing planets and the blazing of suns. Across black starry seas and eternities of twilight he voyaged into realms still unrevealed and newly quickening to the Voice that was older than all. Out beyond height and width and depth, he plunged over the abyss,into brighter boroughs even more mysterious which swam in dark oceanslike glittering sea serpents swallowing their own tails.

He did not find her.

* * * * *