A Princess of Ireland

A Princess of Ireland

You might think it ironic that a man would travel thousands of miles to find a potential cure for cancer only to wind up lost in the Irish wilderness, likely to die six months earlier than expected due to nothing other than sheer stupidity. Yet, here I am, lost, sitting in a windblown, cold, wet, and desolate part of northwestern Ireland. The foggy, misty weather was rolling in and the temperature was dropping fast. I had no food with me, and I was certainly not dressed for an overnight stay in this exposed and frigid landscape. There was not even a dry place to sit and the moisture laden moss-covered rocks offered little comfort.

A little over two weeks ago I received my confirmatory diagnosis that my cancer had spread to all parts of my body. The doctors had given me little hope I would survive even six months. They ruled out treatment of any kind due to the rapid spread of the disease and my advanced age of seventy-six. Six months is a short time to do everything I had on my bucket list, but I'd be dammed if I was going to sit around and watch myself decompose. I'd lived a full life with not many regrets. It was not an easy life, but also not a bad life. I survived two deployments to Vietnam, earning me a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. I had lost my wife, Mabel, about twelve years ago due to a Hodgkin's disease. We had no children so I had no worries about anyone being overly concerned about my passing. This time, these six months, was all the time I had left to enjoy myself.

Believe me when I say I was not giving up. I still had some hope that I might find some cure. Thus, my bucket list was emptied out and I added new items to it. I purchased an around the world airline ticket and mapped out all the places I wanted to see. Each place I had scheduled a stop held some very remote chance that I might find a cure along the way. I was planning on visiting bubbling mud pits in New Zealand, swimming in a cenote in Central America, feasting on rare tropical edibles in Thailand, and many other stops and adventures that suggested some form of curative healing properties. If one of them worked, then great, otherwise, I would visit places I always wanted to see.

So why, I am sure you are asking, am I lost in the middle of the Irish wilderness? As it turns out, I had always wanted to see Ireland. It was part of my ancestry. The added benefit of coming here is that in the Irish county of Co Cavan, it is said that there is a lake for every day of the year. These mythical lakes were supposedly created by water filling them from the Otherworld. Drinking and bathing in some of these lakes are purported to have magical healing properties. So, I traipsed into the Irish wilderness to find one lake in particular. As you can imagine, one hill and one tree and one lake all look surprisingly like another after a while. After four hours of hiking from place to place the clouds rolled in and covered the tops of the hills making it difficult to find my bearings and, thus, I became utterly lost.

As I sat with the wet, cold moss soaking my pants, I finally deduced a course of action. I would follow the clouds as they usually traveled from west to east. Eventually I would come to a road if I could just keep moving in the same direction. I stood and picked a point of reference, which I assumed was due east, and started walking. After maybe thirty minutes, I came to a large depression in the bottom of a valley. It appeared to be a place where a lake used to be. Actually, Ireland is known for transient lakes in some places, where lakes appear one day then disappear the next. Geologists explain this has something to do with rapidly changing water levels and the porous limestone in the area. Regardless of whether this was a transient lake area or not, I needed to get to the other side, so I started straight through the depression.

I was perhaps halfway across when the weather really took a turn for the worse. It was supposed to be warm, being August, but the temperature dropped about twenty degrees and it started sleeting heavily. I really needed some kind of shelter or I would freeze to death. As it was, I was already soaked and shivering. Along with the sleet, the clouds dropped into the valley and obscured just about everything I could see with the exception of a ten foot radius. It was then that I saw her, or at least I thought I saw her. She appeared briefly in the fog, not too far from where I was standing. A young, absolutely stunning woman dressed in what appeared to be almost translucent clothing. I noted that she had a silver bracelet and ring on her left hand. Funny the things we focus on. I had never seen anyone so beautiful. She beckoned me towards her, and then vanished. One moment she was there, the next she was gone. I moved in the direction I thought she was when I stumbled upon a large stone outcropping. Within the stones there appeared to be an entryway for a natural cave which, if there had been a lake here, would have been well underwater. I did not hesitate as I needed to get myself out of the weather and under cover.

I squeezed through the opening and into the cave. I just happened to have a flashlight with me for a just-in-case type of situation. Funny how I thought to bring a flashlight but not food. I turned on the flashlight and scanned the cave. The cave had opened up inside and I could easily stand and walk around in it. At the back of the cave there appeared to be a man-made door. This was a very strange place to put a door. The door was heavy, made of metal, and surprisingly ornate. It looked very old. My curiosity getting the best of me, I looked for a way to open the door, but I could find no handle or any place to hook an object in to pull the door open. I was about to give up when I spotted a Gaelic design on a stone beside the door. It had been partially covered in roots so it had been difficult to see. When I put my hand on it, I could feel the stone slide into the cave wall. I heard a metallic click from within the stone wall and the door swung open.

Throwing caution to the wind, for I was already dying from cancer, and the weather outside would kill me anyways, I decided to forge ahead. I stepped through the doorway and into a hallway that descended deeper into the earth. Feeling a little like Indiana Jones, I started to whistle the theme song and walked boldly ahead. That was until I heard another click and the door slammed behind me. This time I saw no way to open the door. My boldness ebbed a little, but I reminded myself it really did not matter, so I started down the long hallway.

I descended for several minutes before the hallway leveled off and then started to climb. By now I figured I must have been on the other side of the depression and heading up into the hillside. The hallway continued to rise until I must have been well above any water level that might settle here. As it was I could tell the ground was much less moist. The hallway leveled out again then turned and another doorway stood in my path. This time I saw the Gaelic stone on the wall and pushed it. I heard the click and the doorway swung inward.

I stepped into the room beyond only to see the door close quickly behind me. Again, there was no door switch I could find. I was locked in so I decided to explore the room more thoroughly. The air smelled musty, but at least it was dry. The room I was in was very large. Gaelic paintings were still clear and visible on the walls of the room. They depicted scenes of war and heroines fighting both man and beast. I did not spend a lot of time looking at them as I was focused on trying to find a way out, which, only appeared to be the way I came in. Being entombed was not what I had planned on doing with my final days and this turn of events made things look rather desperate for me now. It certainly was not on my new bucket list. Using my flashlight I scanned the center of the room to find what appeared to be a sarcophagus. I moved over to it and looked down to see the carved face of a beautiful woman. The stone's carved hands held a large, rusted broadsword. In a reverential way, I reached out and touched the sword. The room darkened as my flashlight flickered and blinked out. I felt nauseous and very dizzy, as if the room itself had begun to spin. Still touching the sword, I had dropped to my knees in the darkness as the wave of dizziness slowly began to ease.

The light suddenly came back on in the room, but it was not from my flashlight. Torches along the walls burst into flames. I had not noticed they were there before. I heard a click and the door opened leading back into the hallway. Not wanting to take any more chances, I got up, grabbed a torch, and exited the room. I rushed as fast as I could back through the long hallway. Upon reaching the other doorway I was relieved to find it open as well. I quickly found the cave entrance and noted that while I was in the cave the sun had returned. I also noted that the depression was quickly filling with water. I had just squeezed out of the cave entrance when the water started to lap at my ankles and was rising at a rapid pace. Within moments the water had risen up to my waist as I tried to make it to the far edge of the depression. I had to swim the last hundred yards or so before I climbed out onto shore. Looking back at where I had come from, the stone outcropping was no longer visible, buried beneath forty feet of water.

I lay on the side of the newly formed lake trying to recover my breath. My heart rate was dangerously high. The sun was warming me but I was still soaked through. As I caught my breath and let my heart rate slow, I looked around to see a thick forest. Certainly this was not there before but with all the cloud and sleet it could have been easy to have not seen it. The real confusion came when I looked to the far side of the lake where I saw even more trees and forest. That had definitely not been there a few hours ago. At first I thought I must have exited the cave at a different place from where I went in, but there were no changes to the doors, hallway, or the cave entrance. It was all very perplexing. I took off my shirt and pants and wrung them out as best I could. At seventy-six years old I had no fear that if anyone saw me butt naked they would think I am some kind of threat. I lost my modesty a long time ago when I realized I was not much to look at anymore. I needed to take advantage of the remaining daylight and so I put them back on hoping they would dry out quickly. I started walking away from the lake and into the thick forest and, hopefully, towards my car.

I had not gone far when I saw and old woman in front of me. She was breathing heavily while sitting on a log. It was clear she was distressed. "Is something wrong, Ma'am?"

She turned to look up at me. While her face and body appeared to be very old, there was something about her eyes that spoke of ageless wisdom and youth. "I need water. Would you go down to the lake to get me some?" She pointed to an old wooden bucket on the ground next to her.

"Certainly. Perhaps you could help me find my way back to my car?"

"Water first, then I'll see if I can help you."

"I'll be right back, Ma'am." I was no spring chicken anymore and I was not looking forward to walking all the way back to the lake and then lugging that bucket of water, but it looked like she could use some help, and I never turned anyone down that needed help. I walked back to the lake and filled up the bucket with water then retraced my steps back to the old woman. "Here you go, Ma'am."

"Thank you, sir. You see the trail? Follow that trail and it will lead you to your 'car'." I turned to look at the trail verifying it was indeed there and when I looked back to thank the old lady she was gone.

I shrugged and began following the trail she had pointed out. I turned a corner and saw a campfire and an old man sitting in front of it. As with the woman, his eyes seemed ageless, yet full of youthful vitality. It was a little disconcerting. "Sir, I have no energy left to gather food for supper. Would you look around in the woods to see if you could catch me dinner? I'm very hungry." I was about to say no, but something in his eyes made me believe him. I began scouting the area to look for some form of wildlife. In a few minutes I spotted a pheasant that appeared to be wounded and lying on the forest floor. I moved closer so that I could catch it, but when I did, I looked into it's eye and felt a deep connection to the bird. I just could not kill it. I found a nook in a tree and carefully placed in there hoping it would heal before the next predator came along. When I went back to the fire and the old man, both were gone.

Sighing, I started to wonder if perhaps I was still in the cave and I was simply dreaming or hallucinating. I continued down the trail until I came across a girl that was alone and crying. "My mother sent me to collect flowers for dinner but I got distracted. Now I don’t have time to collect them all. Will you help me pick and gather some?" Again, I was torn between getting to my car and helping the poor girl out. My heart got the better of me and she led me to a clearing in the forest where a spectacular field of flowers existed. I spent a few minutes picking some of the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen, but when I went to give them to the girl, she too had vanished. I started noticing a trend here.

Back on the trail I was determined to have no more stops when I heard a woman's scream. I rushed towards the sound to see a beautiful young woman with her back pressed against a tree. A wolf with barred fangs was stealthily creeping towards her. Looking around, I found a branch and rushed forward swinging the branch at the wolf. The wolf turned on me and jumped straight for my chest knocking me down, but I still managed to get the branch up in time and hit it on its head. The wolf yelped and ran off into the forest.

Shaken, but not hurt, I got my aching, disease riddled, aging body up and dusted myself off. I looked around for the young woman, but, like the others, I could not find her anywhere. I continued down the trail until I came into another clearing. Within the clearing were four large standing stones. In front of each of the standing stones stood the old woman, old man, young girl, and young woman. I approached them slowly. I was confused. The young woman began to speak. "We welcome you, James McKesson."

"How do you know my name?"

"We are of this world, and not of this world. We have been watching you since this morning. We know all who enter our land."

"Who are you?"

"We are the Aos Si, or, more commonly known to you as the Sidhe, or, the Fairy Folk."

"The Sidhe are mythical godlike beings from Celtic history. How can I believe this is who you are?"

The four of them shimmered and changed before my eyes. They all became beautiful young women and all of them appeared ethereal and partially transparent. "Maybe this will help you believe. These are our natural forms."

I began to wonder if I was indeed dreaming, or even dead. "You are not dreaming, and you are not dead. As I said, we have been watching you since you came into our land. You were seeking a place that no longer exists. The lake you were looking for vanished over six hundred years ago. Which is why we brought you here."

"What do you mean, brought me here? I've been here all along."

"Perhaps my choice of words were not well selected. You are correct that you are still 'here', it is more of a when that we brought you to. Our magic barely exists in the present. When you touched Muirisc's sword in her tomb, a tangible, magical connection formed between us and you so that we could bring you through time to us now. A time when our strength is still strong. We have tested you here to see if you are worthy."

"I'm sorry, but when is this and why were you testing me?"

"The when is approximately one thousand years before you were born. We tested you to see if you were worthy to help us. In your time the forests have been ravaged and the lakes spoiled. Our magic and our lives are almost gone. We've been looking for a hero to come back through time to aid us. By fulfilling a series of quests you will restore our magic to your present time. If you agree to help us, then we can also help you be free of your disease."

"I'm an old and dying man. Unless this quest could be completed in a few days and involves sitting in a recliner, then I'm not the right person for the job. I'm sorry."

"As I said, I believe we can help you based upon how your chose to help each of us."

I sighed resignedly. "Tell me about the quests."

"When you touched Muirisc's sword we were able to create a connection with you since the sword is of this time and retains some of its magical properties. The four of us each have an item in this time that needs to be recovered. I, Cliona, need water from the spring that is the source of water for the Loch Síodh Linn, or Lake of the Fairy Pool."

The second Sidhe woman then spoke, "I, Moira, need the bark of the willow tree in the middle of the forest of Lessiter."

The third Sidhe woman spoke, "I, Neala, need Yohand's Horn from his tomb."

The last Sidhe woman spoke, "And I, Blinne, need the pearl encrusted conch shell from the bay of Celista."

Cliona spoke again, "Each of these items must be brought to Muirisc's tomb on the fall equinox, four weeks from today. When you bring them there they will then become available to us in your present time. By having those objects in your time, we can re-establish our magical connections and begin healing the land and restoring our power in the present. I must warn you that each of these objects is protected, and you will need all of your strength and courage to gain them."

"This sounds all well and good, but look at me. I'm seventy-six years old and I am dying of cancer. I cannot be of much help to you when I grow weaker by the day. Believe me in that I would help you if I could."

"If you truly wish to help us, then we can each grant you gifts that will give you the ability to accomplish that which we ask of you. I warn you that these gifts would alter your life forevermore, but that you would be fit, youthful, and strong again, with no disease."

It was a no brainer. I had nothing to lose, and if they could do for me what they said, then I would be free of the cancer. "I choose to help you."

"Then please stand on the mana stone before us." I moved forward until I stood on a large round flat stone with Gaelic symbols on it.

Cliona spoke again, "For your willingness to aid me against the wolf, when you were weak and dying, I grant you the courage of the Aod Si, strength beyond mortal man, skill with sword, dagger, and bow, the agility of the lion, and health in every cell of your body."

Moira then spoke, "For your willingness to aid a young girl by taking time to pick flowers, I grant you immeasurable beauty, beyond what any flower could compare, and beyond that of any mortal."

Neala spoke next, "For your willingness to aid an old man in his quest for food and yet having the heart to protect the pheasant, I grant you the ability to heal yourself and others, and the knowledge of the land, no matter what land you find yourself in."

Finally Blinne spoke, "For your willingness to aid an old woman and bring her water, I grant you purity of heart, more pure than any water from its source. I also grant you grace and fluidity of motion, just as the water has as it flows around objects. Finally I grant you the song of the water, as listening to the water as it flows brings peace, so your voice and song will bring restoration and peace to all who hear it."

"We rename you Aine Kearney. Aine means brightness and glory and Kearney means warrior." The women all spoke together. Light began streaming upwards from the mana stone and tendrils of light wrapped itself around me. The brightness grew and I felt myself floating a few feet off the ground. There was no pain as the light penetrated my innermost being. The cells of my body transformed. The light became so bright that I could no longer see myself. In a few moments, I felt myself being lowered to the ground and my bare feet made contact with the cold of the stone. I no longer had any clothing on me. The light began to diminish and I was starting to see again. I felt a weight on my chest and light, feathery touches down my back. When the light vanished I looked upon myself. My hands were small and delicate looking. My fingernails were long. Long, auburn and gold colored hair with a hint of curl to it floated in front of my eyes with the passing breeze. I looked down to see two perfectly formed breasts protruding from my hairless light colored skin.

I looked to the women in front of me. "You made me a woman?"

"Yes, Aine. Our magic, the magic of the Aos Si, is feminine magic. What we granted you transformed you into our likeness, and yet you are a mortal human. Let me show you." She waved her hand and a mirror of water formed in front of me. I stared in awe at the young woman reflected back at me. My eyes are what captivated me first. Large, brilliant green eyes that sparkled with life and energy. They set a beautiful contrast against my coppery-gold and lightly wavy colored hair. Hair that fell all the way to my lower back. If the face of Helen of Troy could have launched a thousand ships, then my face could launch a hundred thousand, as it was far more beautiful than any female face I had ever seen. My body was flawless. Large, but not too large breasts, topped a perfectly hourglass figure. Wide, but definitely not fat hips were accentuated by a narrow waist. A perfectly flat stomach ended in a short close-cropped golden triangle of hair framing my new womanhood. Long, athletic legs, shapelier than any runway model's completed the glory of my new body.

I stood naked and unashamed in front of the Sidhe women. I felt strong, confident, and fit, yet at the same time, emotionally vulnerable. The water mirror vanished.

"Why is my mind not rebelling at being turned into a woman?"

"While you will remember who you were, our magic transformed you completely, as if you have always been a woman. You are very young by our Aos Si standards, and today, August 21, is your eighteenth birthday. You will need clothing befitting a Celtic heroine of this age." She waved her hand and I was now clothed in an extremely fine gossamer silk dress skirt with leggings, a buttoned top that showed an enticing amount of cleavage, belt, and knee-length leather boots. On my left forearm was a leather bow guard. It was all beautiful and extremely functional at the same time, yet it accentuated my beauty and hugged my form closely. "You will also need some weapons, some supplies, and a horse." A bow and quiver of arrows appeared on my back, a dagger appeared on my right hip and a fine, silver, longsword with a black leather wrapped hilt appeared on my left hip. A magnificent black stallion appeared behind me with saddle and pack of additional belongings. Finally a map appeared in my belt to show me the way to each of the quest items.

"As you approach each quest item we will appear to you to give you more information. We cannot get these items ourselves as a great evil that has tried to rid the world of the Aos Si took them from us and put them in places we cannot go. We rely on you to help us regain these items and our strength. The world of the present time, while they may not know it, needs us as well. We have provided you with food and gold as you will need for your journey. Beware, as our enemy will recognize you, as you are marked by us; but also know that you will meet companions that will aid you. Remember, you have four weeks and must be at Muirisc's tomb by the fall equinox. May you be blessed, Aine." With that, they vanished.

I stood in the middle of the clearing. My horse waited obediently nearby. I brought my hand to my face and touched the delicate smooth skin. I brushed my full lips with my fingertips feeling their sensitivity. My hands went to my breasts and squeezed them gently through the fabric that covered them. My nipples grew hard at the touch. The slightest touch anywhere on my body set my passions and body ablaze. I pressed my hand to the area between my legs. No longer did I have my 'bits' dangling there. Although I wanted and needed to explore my body, I also knew I needed to get moving.

I looked to the sky and noted where the sun was starting to set to get my bearings. I felt confident in my surroundings and knowledge welled up within me about the land and everything within it. The transformation seemed to have made me tired and I was looking forward to a good rest. I pulled out the map and plotted my course towards the Loch Síodh Linn. The map also indicated that a short distance away was an Inn, the Icky Deer. I'd head there on my first leg of the quests. Grabbing the saddle horn I easily hopped up with new youthful strength and energy onto the back of the horse. "I think I am going to have to give you a name." I rubbed the horse's neck and he looked back at me. "You look very regal. How about Ahern, lord of horses?" The horse neighed its approval. I recognized I was speaking Gaelic. "Let's go find ourselves a place to stay for the night then."

As I rode towards the Icky Deer, I was acutely aware of how my body was moving with the rhythm of the horse. My glorious and shiny, long hair floated behind me and gently tickled my neck. Every movement made me more and more aware of the sensitivity of my new body. I started to realize why women loved horses so much, as each movement in the saddle pressed lightly against my vagina, enticing me more and more and building very pleasurable feelings.

The sun had begun to set and I tried to focus on things other than my body and what it was wanting from me. Within the darkening forest I spotted flowers, animals, and trees, all of which I seemed to innately know what purpose they had or could be used for. Ahern and I had traveled for several hours. Just as darkness settled I spotted the light of a lantern outside of the Inn. I jumped down from my horse and was surprised that I was not stiff or sore in the least. A stable boy, upon hearing my arrival, came out to take Ahern to provide him shelter and food for the night. I thanked the young boy who seemed absolutely smitten by me and gave him a copper piece for his efforts. The knowledge of the land also seemed to include wisdom on what things and services were worth. This provided a comfort to me.

I opened the door to the Icky Deer and walked inside. The smell is what hit me first. A combination of smoke from the roaring fire in the corner, roasting meat, steaming soups, and the heady smell of ale assaulted my nose. The Inn was sparsely lit, and the wood walls were dark from years of smoke. A cacophony of sounds met my ears. Men and women sat at large wooden tables. Some sang, others were drinking dark ale, and more were eating and simply being boisterous. It seemed like a warm and inviting place. At least it did until people started noticing me standing at the door.

The room went silent, and all of the men turned to openly gawk at me. In all my years, I've never really been noticed before, but tonight it felt like I was the first female flesh men had seen in twenty years. Women slugged what I gathered were their male partners who openly ravaged my body with their eyes. I looked back over my shoulder making sure it was actually me they were staring at. It was then that I was rescued by a tall, sensual young beauty with luscious, thick black hair. She was wearing a tight-fitting red bodice with black, shiny leather pants that hugged every curve of her voluptuous, yet lean body. She grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the Innkeeper. I noted that I was several inches shorter than her as I looked up into her eyes. "My name's Maeven, sweetheart. You look a little lost standing there, and I'd hate for any of the male riff raff around here to give you a hard time. What's your name?"

I almost said James but then Aine came to mind and I told her. "I'm Aine. Aine Kearney. I'm just looking for some food and a place to sleep for the night."

"Well, Aine. You've come to the right place. This is Stenhy, the Innkeeper of the Icky Deer. Feel free to sit with me when you are settled." Maeven gave me a light smack on my bottom and a wink before taking her seat again at a nearby table.

"Stenhy! Stop staring at the girl and ask her what she needs."

"Y-Yes, Molly." Stenhy was a portly, aging man, but appeared to have a warm and friendly disposition. "So, uh, Aine is it? How can we service you tonight? I mean are you looking for a room or food?"

"Both actually, and perhaps a mug of your ale."

"The cost is two silvers for the room, food, and ale. If you want a hot bath, that'll be another silver."

I thought about that for a moment handed him four silvers. "I'll definitely have the bath. The extra silver is a tip knowing I will be well taken care of tonight."

"Thank you, miss." The term 'miss' being used for me caused me to pause. There was something endearing about the sound of it and I found I enjoyed it.

I wandered over to Maeven and sat beside her. The men were still looking at me like I was a piece of fresh meat, ready to be devoured. I dropped my eyes a little as to avoid eye contact with any of them. I had not ever realized just how disconcerting it could be to be a beautiful young woman in a world of strong men who mostly thought with their organs rather than their brains. As I waited for my dinner to arrive Maeven started up a conversation. "So what brings a pretty young lass like yourself to this neck of the woods? Perhaps you are escaping a marriage proposal, or maybe even here to find one? You are obviously new here as I would remember you, even if I was half unconscious from ale."

I could feel myself blush a little. "Definitely new here and just passing through. Not escaping any marriage proposals and not really looking for one either."

"You don't look at all like the normal folk around here. You are far too beautiful to have come from any of the breeding stock in these woods. Maybe you are a succubus sent here to lure unsuspecting men and women into your bed so you can feed on them? You have the look of the fair folk about you."

I looked at her incredulously, seeing that she actually believed what she was saying could be true. "I'm just passing through on my way to Loch Síodh Linn."

Maeven raised an eyebrow and a few other people at the table stopped talking. "I gather you are not familiar with that area?"

"Not really. Never been there."

"Aside from roaming bandits and a monster that lives near the water there, why in the world would you be going there?"

"I understand that water from the lake source has magical properties, and I've been sent to retrieve some. I was not aware of the other things. I imagined there would be some challenges, but I still feel compelled to go."

"Listen, Aine. That is not a place to trifle with. You are all of what, seventeen, maybe? You will need training and experience to go there, let alone a small army. I'm only saying this because I do not want to see that pretty face of yours face down in a bog somewhere, or worse. Believe me when I say there are many things out there that could be worse than death."

"Thank you for your concern, Maeven. This is something I must do. I've got a knife, sword, and bow. I think I can handle myself. Besides, I'm eighteen today, not seventeen."

Maeven smiled at me. "I'll tell you what, sweetheart. We can go outside right now and if you can beat me in a fight with a knife, I'll personally lay my blade at your feet and go with you. If you can't beat me, you give up on this ridiculous idea."

A man from across the table interjected, "You can’t be serious, Maeven. There is not a man for a hundred miles that could beat you in a knife fight, maybe not in all of Ireland."

"I'm willing to try. I'm sure having company along for the ride would be nice if I won, and, if not, then I know I am not fit to go anyways." The man just shook his head.

"Let's go then, Aine. This is nothing serious. We will not try to hurt each other. Stenhy, hold up on Aine's food for a few minutes. We will be right back." Maeven led me outside with no small number of people following. This was exciting entertainment for them. Once outside the people formed a large ring around Maeven and me. Maeven reached behind her and drew her knife and I drew mine. I was a little more than nervous, but felt strong and confident as I hefted the blade in my hand. "I'll go easy on you, sweety."

"Please don't. I need to know if I am good enough or not. If you go easy I will always question my abilities."

"Okay, love."

Maeven began circling to my left. I felt my feet moving in perfect rhythm with hers. She lunged forward with incredible speed but I was faster. I dodged to my right letting her arm and knife slide harmlessly between my body and my left arm. I brought my left arm up and around, pinning her arm against me. I quickly closed the distance between us so I was face to face with her, my blade under her chin. A cheer arose from the crowd and Maeven looked at me like I was something totally unnatural. "Lucky move, Aine. Let's try again." I let her go and we began circling again. This time Maeven faked a lunge, tossed the blade to her left hand and started to attack. Somehow I was able to see what she was planning to do before she moved. I met every attack with a block of my own. We fought back and forth for several minutes. I could see the frustration and concentration on her face and she tried move after move to trip me up or to find a hole in my defense. I could feel the strength in me and my incredible agility. I was moving so quickly and effortlessly that Maeven could not get a blow landed. After a series of quick attacks I saw an opportunity to get inside Maeven's defense. I ducked backwards letting her blade swish the air a mere fraction of an inch in front of me. I brought my arm up to continue to push her arm in the direction it was going and using her momentum and body weight, I slipped my leg behind her and pushed myself into her. The move was flawless. Maeven collapsed down on the ground with her arm pinned and me laying on top of her with my knife once again at her throat.

Maeven locked her beautiful, piercing blue eyes on mine and smiled. I could feel myself getting very excited with my breasts pressed against hers and my thigh between her legs. My hair had fallen over our faces shielding us from the crowd. Maeven lifted her head slightly and brushed her lips against my neck. "I guess I am yours to command." She whispered.

"I beg to differ. I think you could ask me to do anything and I would do it for you." The crowd was cheering and our brief moment ended. I stood up and offered my hand to Maeven's. We were both flushed but I don’t think anyone really knew what was going on.

Maeven acknowledged my win and laid her blade at my feet. People clapped me on the back. "I've never seen anyone so fast and nimble on their feet before. I was a novice in your hands and you could have taken me down at any moment. There is only one thing I can say, and it is that you very much remind me of the tales of Ireland's greatest heroine, Muirisc. Perhaps, finally, Ireland will see a new heroine. As promised, my blade and my service are yours." She spoke not to me but to the entire crowd.

She took my arm and dragged me back to our seats inside. "Stenhy! Ale for everyone. Tonight we raise a glass to the only person who has ever bested me in a knife fight! To Aine!" A loud chorus of cheers erupted from the crowd. It was a rather emotional moment for me and also somewhat overwhelming. I drank the dark, heady ale and could feel it burn into my empty stomach. Stenhy arrived with my food and I quickly and gratefully ate the roasted meat, barley, and bread. As I ate, animated conversation was happening all around me. I could feel Maeven's leg pressed against mine. We had space so I knew it was deliberate. I did not mind in the least and the touch sent warm excitement coursing through my body.

"I meant what I said, Aine. I'll go with you to Loch Síodh Linn. Even though you can handle yourself, you cannot be everywhere at once and when confronted with a host of bandits, having an extra pair of hands and eyes will be needed."

"It would be my honor if you would join me, but I will never command you. You are to be my partner and companion, my equal on this journey and free to leave whenever you so choose." I reached over and grabbed her hand and felt a tangible connection. I could see the heat rising in her and felt it rising in me. I deliberately let go and rose from the table, grateful that, at that moment, I was not a man that would be embarrassed by his trousers. "I'll see you in the morning then. I have a bath and bed awaiting me yet tonight." She nodded and let me go, for which I was both grateful and saddened. It had been twelve years since I had intimate relations with someone and the thought of holding someone and being held was an irresistible intoxication to me.

I made my way upstairs feeling the warm tingling throughout my body. This body seemed to be so sensitive to every touch and movement. I noticed the room Stenhy had indicated and went inside. I latched the door behind me providing some level of privacy. The room was rustic, but clean and comfortable. A large wooden tub had already been filled with steamy, hot water. I unbuckled my belt and placed that and my weapons on a nightstand by the bed. I unbuttoned my top and unwrapped a cloth band around my chest that doubled as a bra. My skirt had buttons down one side that I released and let fall to the floor. I unstrapped and stepped out of my boots and slipped off my leggings to find myself naked once more.

The air was slightly cool and my nipples hardened and became extra sensitive so I stepped quickly into the wooden tub and water. The water felt so different as a woman. The unique female distribution of muscle and fat caused my breasts to float in the water and the extra padding I had on my butt caused me to be more buoyant than before. I laid my head back and let my hands drift casually across my body. I thought of Maeven, with her perfect body and the warmth of her breath against my neck. I imagined her sucking on my breast and I moved my hand to one and lightly squeezed its nipple. A moan escaped my lips. It was almost as if I could feel her in the tub with me as I fantasized about her thigh pressing between my legs. I slipped my fingers between my wet lips and found my clitoris. Slowly and deliberately I stroked it. I continued my ministrations and my imagination ran wild. With a sudden rush of heat and convulsions, my body exploded in ecstasy. It felt like I came for minutes and it was definitely the most powerful orgasm I had ever had. I continued to soak in my post-orgasmic bliss and determined that life as a woman could be very pleasant.

Well satisfied and clean I climbed out of the tub and used some rough cloths set aside for drying to dab myself dry. They were too harsh on my sensitive skin to drag across like I used to. I wrapped my long hair up in a large cloth to dry and found a comb with which I could remove any tangles. I was entirely grateful at that moment to feel like I knew what I had to do to take care of my mass of hair. After about thirty minutes my hair was dry and tangle free. I looked at a mirror and could see the slightly red but mostly golden colored hair shining brightly. The woman in the mirror was so beautiful. I placed my hands on my face again to feel the smooth skin under my fingertips. I could get used to this. I smiled at myself then crawled into bed.

The morning sun streaming in my window woke me. I was slightly disoriented at first. Waking in a strange place, in a strange time, and in the body of a breathtakingly beautiful woman would do that to most people. I could feel the smoothness of my legs under the sheet and how the slightest brush of my nipples would cause them to grow erect and become more sensitive. I thought about the intense pleasure from the night before and knew this body was ready to go again for more. First and foremost though, I needed to attend to my morning libations. I walked over to the privy and sat down, recognizing my days of freewheeling by standing up to go to the bathroom were over. It really did not bother me much, as it was a small sacrifice to be young, fit, and healthy again. I'd gained almost sixty years of my life back.

Although I wanted to spend more time getting used to my new body, I decided I should get some breakfast, meet Maeven, and get going. I headed downstairs to find Maeven waiting for me. She looked delectable in her tight fitting clothing and her blue eyes with her long black hair. I bit my lower lip and thought about my fantasy from last night as I looked her over. I was quite positive she was giving me a similar look to the one that I was giving her. "Good morning, sleepyhead. Have any trouble sleeping?" The flirtatious lilt in her voice was turning me on.

"I was a little cold last night. It would have been nice to have someone stoke my fire." I flirted back.

"Really? I'm sure Stenhy would not have minded servicing you in that way."

"I think I might have just lost my appetite." We both laughed.

Within a half hour we were astride our horses and moving away from the Icky Deer. "You know, Maeven, you do not have to go with me."

"That was our bet and I honor my word. Besides, you want me."

The rocking back and forth in the saddle, the lovely beauty next to me, and the flirting were all almost enough to want me to turn us back to the Inn. I decided to change the subject. "Tell me, Maeven. Where are you from and why would you want to go through a bandit infested area and help me fight some mythical monster by the lake?"

"I was orphaned as a young girl and grew up on the streets. I was a thief, and a very good one. Being a young girl, in that situation, made me very self-reliant. It is how I learned to protect myself so well with knives. I soon graduated from being a thief to being an assassin. As my fame grew, so did my income. I did what I had to do to survive, but I am not proud of any of it. When I saw you last night I saw something I thought I had lost long ago in me."

"What was that?"

"Innocence and a sense of purpose. There is something about you, Aine, which compels me to strive to do something worthwhile. When I am near you I feel a sense of goodness and peace that pervades my very being. It is something I need in my life."

It was at that moment that Cliona, the first Sidhe woman, stepped out from behind a tree and appeared before us. "Hello, Aine. I see that you have gained your first companion for your quests. Well done." Cliona nodded towards Maeven. "Today you will face your first obstacle on your way to Loch Síodh Linn. I can only give you this advice. Watch the trees. May you be blessed, Aine." With that she disappeared.

Maeven looked towards me. "That was one of the Aos Si. Before we go any further I need to know how you came to be involved with them." I could not explain my entire story to Maeven. That I had been a dying, seventy-six your old man from a thousand years in the future a day ago, and that had been transformed by the Sidhe. Nope, that would not elicit confidence in her. I decided upon a condensed version of the truth.

"Yesterday, I was lost in the woods and trying to find my way home when I came across four people needing help. An old woman needed water from the lake, an old man needing me to hunt for food, a young girl needing help to pick flowers, and a young woman being attacked by a wolf. Even though I had been concerned for myself and was very tired, I did my best to help these people. Every time I helped them, they vanished. A little later I came across a field with standing stones. The four people were there. They said they had been looking for someone like me and needed my help once again. I had explained to them that I was dying and weak and that, while I wanted to help them, I could barely help myself. You see, I had a disease and did not have much time left to live. They transformed themselves into what you saw a moment ago, ethereal, beautiful, young women, and told me they were the Aos Si, the Sidhe. That because I chose to help them, even though I was dying and weak, they would help me. They asked me to collect four items, the first of which is the water from the source of Loch Síodh Linn. Once all items are collected I am to bring them to Muirisc's tomb. Although they warned me of the dangers, I felt compelled to aid them in these quests. They restored my health, renewed my body, and granted me skills to help me complete the quests."

"I know how this must sound to you and I release you from your obligation to join me. You did not have the whole story."

I got down from my horse and Maeven did the same. She came close to me and ran her fingers through my hair as she stared into my eyes. "Now I understand. Your extreme beauty, your skill with the knife, your strength, and agility came from the Aos Si. The Aos Si do not choose mortals lightly. It is what I sensed in you from the beginning. You showed them true depth of character and empathy by being willing to aid them, even when you were dying. You are exactly what I have been looking for. I need to be with you." Her fingers moved to lightly caress my cheek. "I've never seen anyone so beautiful before. You are truly Aos Si touched." A blush bloomed on my face and I could tell she wanted more but she turned and mounted her horse. "Let's go, Aine Kearney, Aos Si heroine." Stymied and flustered I mounted Ahern and rode after Maeven.

It was about midday when I began to notice movement and sounds within the forest. I motioned to Maeven to be at the ready, but I saw she already was. A short time later we were quickly surrounded by ten men with swords drawn. "You will both kindly get off your horses and lay down your weapons." Being on foot in a sword fight would be preferable, so we both dismounted. "Men, will you look at these two? Have you ever seen two such beautiful young lasses? We are going to have fun tonight!" Their leader turned back to us, his brazen confidence showing. "Now, I told you both to remove your weapons. Do as I tell you, and I'll only let the men have one go at you apiece tonight rather than multiple times."

I took a step forward and made it look like I was removing my bow to put on the ground. As I did so, I recalled Cliona and her warning about the trees. I looked up and I spotted two men that had their bows trained on us. "You have two choices." I spoke clearly for all of them to hear. "You surrender now and be free to leave unharmed, or you can choose to fight us and many, if not all of you, will die."

"Well, darling, we are not surrendering to two young women."

"I'm sorry that has to be your decision." Within the span of five seconds I had drawn two arrows and shot both men out of the trees. I had a third arrow now trained on their leader. "Last chance."

"Get them!" He yelled.

I shot the leader before he took a step then drew my sword. Maeven had drawn two long knives as the rest of the men closed in on us.

I perceived a man rushing me from my right side and I parried his blow and spun around to cut him down just as another man ran straight towards me. I managed to duck under his swing and lunge forward to thrust my sword into his chest. I glanced at Maeven who was holding her own against a pair of attackers. Her ability to get in close and cut and slash was truly inspiring. She had one down and two others under control. Then I heard it. A whistling sound. I barely managed to spin out of the way when an arrow grazed my throat. Several of the men had backed off to draw their bows. My throat stung and I could tell I was bleeding. I shouted a warning at Maeven as another arrow let loose and was flying towards her back. I dove as I watched her turn at my warning. I reached for the arrow and caught it mid-flight, mere inches from her chest, but I was too late to save her from the sword that tore through her side. I grabbed my bow and with two quick shots dispatched the men that had been shooting at us.

Maeven sunk to the ground holding onto her side. Grabbing my dagger I threw it into the chest of the man that had stabbed Maeven. I took up my sword and stood protectively over her. Three men remained and all were closing in on me. I felt Maeven move behind me and I saw one of the men drop with a knife in his chest. She was bleeding heavily but spoke, "I couldn't let you have all the fun. Just take out those last two and we should be good to party tonight." Maeven coughed. It was not looking good for her. I rushed the two men, parrying one attack and then the other. I fought them back until they stood close to one of their fallen comrades. With an extra push they both tripped over the body and while trying to regain their balance I finished them off. I looked around to see no threats remaining and I ran back to Maeven. I placed my hand on her side and willed her to heal. Tendrils of light came up from the ground and wrapped around my hand and her body. Maeven gasped a breath as her side knitted back together. The tendrils of light infused her body with renewed energy.

When I knew Maeven was safe I pressed my hand to my neck but I was surprised to see that I had already healed. Maeven looked up at me with incredulous eyes. She reached up and placed her hand on my cheek. "You saved me. You truly are a heroine born of the Sidhe of the caliber of Muirisc."

I pulled her to me in a hug. "I thought I lost you. I'm so sorry I got you into this."

Maeven pulled back and smiled. "I would not want to be anywhere else but at your side. It is where I belong."

"You rest here. I'll grab our things and whatever we can use from the bandits."

"I'm fine. Whatever you did to me is making me feel amazing." Maeven, who had been laying on the ground, grabbed my wrist and pulled me down on top of her. Another quick move had me pinned underneath her. She moved my hair away from my face and traced where the arrow had cut me with her fingertips. "I've never been so attracted to anyone before in my life. I hope this is not a mistake." I was about to say something when Maeven kissed me. She pulled back and looked into my eyes as if to make sure I was ok. My lips were on fire and my breath came in heated gasps. My breasts were heaving with each breath and I was so wet. I wanted her touch. I wanted her completely. I could barely speak.

"Don't stop." Was all I could muster. I felt Maeven's lips against mine again. This time there was so much more emotion and feeling. My lips parted and I let her tongue entwine with mine. I could have come right then and there with one touch, but Maeven, smiling like a Cheshire cat, rolled off of me, leaving me panting on the ground.

"My only desire is to take you to bed right now, Aine. However, I want our first time together to be in a place that is not littered with a dozen dead men. We also don’t want to be interrupted in case more of them come by. Besides, I don't give myself to anyone lightly, and I want you to make sure you want me just as much." She reached down and pulled me to my feet. I fell into her and let her arms encircle me. She was taller than I was. I realized for the first time how much smaller I was than before. The feeling of being held and protected was truly wondrous.

"You sure now is not a good time?" I pleaded.

She placed her hands on my face and kissed me deeply. "Don't tempt me, my love. Have you seen what we are standing in the middle of?" I looked around at the devastation I had created. A dozen bodies bleeding out all around us. I leaned in and nuzzled her neck, feeling completely grateful to have been given this chance to live a life from another gender's perspective. I had already fallen into the role of wanting to be protected and desiring to be cuddled. As a man, I was not given the choice. It was expected of me to be the provider and protector. Years fulfilling that role, not allowing myself to feel vulnerable, had worn on me. I nodded my acceptance and turned to collect our things. Maeven reached and grabbed my hand before I could go too far. She pulled me to her once again and kissed me. "Don't ever think I do not want to be with you, now, or always. I want to touch you and to be at your side, even now as we do what we have to do." Her words warmed my heart.

We quickly gathered knives, swords, arrows, and anything of value we could find and were on our way. Maeven expressed the need to go to an Inn. The closest one to us was aptly named the Needy Huntress. It was all I could do to not put the horse to a gallop. Dusk had fallen when we reached the Inn. Two young boys collected our horses and took them away to be fed, brushed down, and given water for the night. The Needy Huntress was much like the last Inn. Maeven introduced me to the innkeeper and ordered the first round of ale for us both. Even though there was lots of space I practically sat on her lap, preferring to have some part of us touching each other. The men were more than eager to introduce themselves to us and Maeven was more than eager to let them know we were not interested. After a hot and hearty dinner and several mugs of ale that made me a little tipsy, Maeven spied a musical instrument in the corner and decided to play us all a few songs. As she sang, I found I was able to recognize the tunes. I even sang along a few times which caused Maeven to hesitate during her playing. "You never told me you can sing so well. Why don’t you grace us all with your lovely voice, Aine?"

I was immediately nervous as I never had a singing voice throughout my life. "I'm not even sure I know a song."

Suddenly a brawl burst out a few tables over and the place went crazy. People were throwing mugs and plates, food was flying, and worst of all, knives were drawn. The innkeeper came over to Maeven, "Quickly, play something to see it will calm everyone down. They are tearing this place apart!"

Maeven looked at me. "You have to sing, love." She started to play and the music filled my body. The words came to mind. I closed my eyes to focus on the music, tune out the clamor, and started to sing. Within the first few words the fighting began to stop. I poured out my heart into the song feeling like the magic of the Sidhe flowed through me as I sang. Within a minute the place was dead silent and everyone sat with wrapt attention. At the end of the song everyone cheered and clapped and shouted they wanted more. Some came up saying they had never heard anything so beautiful. The innkeeper came by and told us he changed our room to the best room in the place and that our stay, ale, and food were on the house. He was very appreciative of what we did for him.

At long last the evening had come to a close. Maeven led me upstairs to our room. With the door latched behind us I stood nervous as a bride on her wedding day. We both knew what we wanted but I was slightly frightened and did not know what to expect. After all, twelve years of not having intimate relations with someone, and now being in the body of a young woman, made this very much like a first time experience for me.

Maeven, sensing my pensiveness, pulled me to her. "I would never force myself on you, love."

"I want you, Maeven, more than anything. This is my first time." It was not really a lie as much as a statement of my current condition.

Maeven brushed my hair back from my face with her fingers and let her lips ever so gently brush mine. The touch of her lips on mine was as if someone had connected me to electricity. I wanted more. I needed more. I went to kiss her back and she held me at bay. "I want to savor every second with you. Let me treat you like the beautiful princess you are." I wanted to touch her but at the same time letting her initiate and lead was such a welcome treat to me. Maeven began kissing me lightly then moved to my neck to nibble on my ears. She kissed the nape of my neck as she pressed her body against mine. I felt her hand slide to the small of my back to pull me closer to her. She pressed her thigh between my legs and slowly rocked back and forth. I was in heaven and every touch by Maeven seemed to drive my passions higher and higher.

Slowly, one by one, she unbuttoned my top and kissed her way down my chest, my top dropped to the floor exposing my arms and shoulders. Her fingers traced up and down my arms. Wherever she touched me my skin tingled. I've never experienced anything like this before in my life. It was the height of love making. Slow and deliberate with each moment eliciting new pleasures. I was breathing heavily, my hands caressing Maeven's hair and back. I felt Maeven's fingers begin to unwrap and expose my breasts. As the binding cloth fell to the floor my nipples seemed to grow even more with the cool air. She moved one of her hands to my breast. Her hand softly caressed it. She let her fingers brush my nipple while she kissed down my neck to my breasts. She pressed herself against me, I could feel her thigh rubbing back and forth between my legs. I was so wet. When her lips closed in on my nippled I gasped and came. I squeezed her to me as my body shook and convulsed.

Maeven moaned with me as I came, my orgasm making her even more excited. Yet, she still continued to make love to me slowly. I felt like a treasure being handled by an expert curator. Maeven knew just what to touch and kiss to make me keep my passions high. She moved back up to kiss me, letting her tongue press past my lips. It was the most passionate kiss I had ever experienced. I could feel the depth of her passion and emotion as she kissed me. I felt her hands slide down my back to my side as she began to unbutton my skirt. Moments later it fell to the floor as Maeven kissed her way back down my body. She kissed my breasts, and my flat stomach. I could smell my sweet juices that lubricated my vagina. The smell continued to enhance my arousal.

Maeven slowly pulled my leggings down, making me now totally naked in front of her. She stood back for a moment, her temporary lack of touching me suddenly made me yearn for her embrace. She looked at me like I was the most beautiful thing she had ever set her eyes on. "Aine, you are absolutely perfect. You are so beautiful I feel I am almost unworthy to touch you."

"Maeven, please touch me. I need your touch. I want your body next to mine."

Maeven placed her hands on my face and kissed me again before scooping me up and laying me on the bed. She still had all her clothes on which I tried hard to remove. "We've got all the time in the world, my love. Let me touch every part of you first." She laid down next to me letting her hands lightly touch and roam my body. She kissed back to my breasts, taking time to suck on each nipple. I was moaning loudly again. I felt her hand slide over the flat of my stomach, her fingers brushing my hair there. I waited with anticipation the first touch on my womanhood.

Maeven continued to suck on my breasts as her fingers grazed over my vagina. I pushed my hips towards her hand and spread my legs a little wider. I wanted to feel her finger inside me. Sensing what I needed, she slipped her finger between my wet lips. I gasped as she moved her finger back and forth exploring in and around my swollen clitoris. I was already close to coming again and Maeven knew it. She sucked harder on my breasts and pushed her finger deeper inside me with each stroke. I thrust my hips involuntarily in time with her finger until, with a sudden rush of warmth and pleasure I had my second orgasm. My thighs clamped down on her hand as I gasped for air and moaned. As the waves of pleasure ebbed, I pulled Maven up to my face and covered her in kisses. I could tell she was in need of release herself, her hips rocking and pressed against my thigh. We sat up in the bed as I continued to kiss her. I slid my thigh between her legs and I began unbuttoning her bodice. I knew she was close to coming but I, like her, wanted to savor the time and the moment.

I pressed my hand against her breast, noting that they seemed to be larger than mine. I stroked her breast through her bodice. I could feel her back arch as the continued to rub herself against my thigh. Slowly I completed unbuttoning her bodice and slid it off her shoulders. She wore no breast wrap so her breasts were fully exposed to me. They were glorious, with large dark areola and nipples. I teased her nipples with my fingers as I caressed her breasts. As I knelt in front of Maeven, I pulled her up so that her legs straddled my thigh and her breasts were within easy access of my lips. I moved my arms around her so that I could help her move her hips, increasing her range of motion against my thigh. I sucked on her breast, enjoying the intimate embrace. Maeven slid her arms around my head. Hugging me to her breasts and chest as we rocked back and forth. With a little scream of ecstasy, Maeven had her first orgasm. I slowed our rocking and held her tightly as she shook with her waves of pleasure.

When her orgasm subsided, she smiled and kissed me. "That was the most amazing orgasm I've ever had."

"Mmmm. You are so gorgeous, Maeven! I'm not done with you yet." I pushed her back on the bed with me falling on top of her. Our breasts pressing into each other's. I kissed my way down her body and unbuttoned her pants. I peeled them back, leaving her completely naked. Her musky and sweet scent was driving me wild. I slid myself back over her, enjoying the sensations of our fully naked bodies touching each other. We slid our thighs between each other's legs and I could feel her wetness against my skin. I was amazed how after two powerful orgasms I felt myself getting turned on yet again. We rolled back and forth, kissing and feeling each other's bodies. I wanted to taste Maeven so I moved slowly down her body, kissing her breasts and stomach.

I kissed her thighs and legs working my way towards her moist vagina. When my tongue touched her lips, she gasped and arched her back. One of her hands moved to massage her breast while the other reached down to stroke my hair. I pushed my tongue deeper into her, finding her clitoris. She tasted so sweet, it was as if I could not get enough of this dark-haired beauty. I continued to move my tongue in and around her clitoris. As she tensed for another orgasm, I gently held her clitoris in my lips. She moaned loudly and pressed my head harder into her. Her back arched as she shook.

I climbed back up her body and wrapped her in my arms. She kissed me passionately, tasting herself on my lips and tongue. "You are an amazing lover, Maeven."

"Aine, that was the best love making I've ever had. Nothing else in my life has ever come close." She held me close and we both drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to a light kiss on my neck and my body enfolded in Maeven's arms. It was a truly glorious feeling. "If I could stay like this forever, I'd be happy. Good morning, my lover."

Maeven rolled me towards her so we could kiss. "I'm not sure how you have captivated me so, Aine. Don't ever leave me, for I don't think I could live without you. It has not even been two days since I met you, and I can't imagine how I lived before you."

I snuggled further into her arms and stroked her face before kissing her. "Perhaps this is some Sidhe magic, but I want nothing more than to be with you for the rest of my life."

Maeven smiled. "Even though you can kick my butt, Aine, I have this strong desire to provide and protect you." With that she pulled me even closer, if that was even possible. If a human could purr that is exactly what I was doing. I no longer held onto the need to be the provider or protector. I didn't feel any desire to be macho. I felt everything more deeply than ever before. I had been given a second chance at life. I would never have to give up my experience and love from my prior life, but I would use it as a reminder that every day is a gift to live to its fullest.

We managed to extricate ourselves and get back on the trail to Loch Síodh Linn. It was mid-morning when Cliona appeared before us again. "Hello, Aine and Maeven. The Aos Si are pleased with your joining of hearts, minds, and bodies. You will need each other in the days and weeks ahead. Not far from here lies the source spring of the Loch Síodh Linn. It is protected by a bear-like creature. It will give you no quarter or mercy. We will be with you in spirit. Be blessed, Aine and Maeven."

I looked at Maeven and smiled. "It is a little disconcerting the Aos Si know what we did last night."

Maeven laughed. "Let them know and be jealous that I was the one to capture your heart and made glorious love to the most beautiful woman in the world. We should leave the horses here and travel by foot, as we would not want anything to happen to them."

We dismounted and tied our horses to the trees. I moved over to Maeven and wrapped my arms around her neck and kissed her deeply. "Just making sure I get to do that one more time in case anything happens to either of us."

Maeven held me close and kissed me back. "There is nothing that will come between us. I won't let anything happen to you. You ready?" I nodded and nocked an arrow into my bow.

We walked through the forest for some time until the trees began to thin and we caught glimpses of the lake beyond. When we stepped out of the forest I was surprised at how quiet and still everything was. To our right was the lake and to our left was a spring with water flowing out of a rock. I double-checked to make sure I had the flask to put the water in and took a step towards the spring.

The lake water began to stir and a strong wind came forth. I stopped in place and watched the water bulge and lift before a massive furred shoulder broke the surface. I had pictured a bear in my mind's eye, not what continued to rise before us. Was it a bear? Only in its shape. This was not like any bear I had ever seen. It stood nearly fifteen feet at the top of the shoulder with powerful, muscled legs. Gigantic paws, as large as a giant platter were capped by razor sharp, twelve inch long claws. The face did not look bear-like, rather, it resembled a furred piranha face with rows of teeth. It continued to rise up. When it spotted us, it began running our direction.

Maeven and I split up and ran opposite directions. I put arrow after arrow into the beast's body and it only seemed to make it stronger and more agitated. I ran out of arrows at twenty, tossed my bow to the side, and drew my sword. It seemed more interested in me at the moment so I tried to lure it away from Maeven. Maeven kept hacking at its backside every time it turned away from her.

Over what seemed to be many minutes, the creature began to slow with multiple wounds. It was limping noticeably from its hind quarters where Maeven was focusing her attacks. I tried to maintain the beast's focus on me but suddenly the beast turned and swatted Maeven aside. Luckily the beast had hit her with the back of its massive paw and the claws did not cut her. As it was, she flew at least ten feet and was clearly stunned by the blow. The beast raised a paw to finish her off but I was there in a heartbeat standing between Maeven and the snapping jaws and claws. Maeven tried to tell me to go, but I could not leave her to a certain death. The beast swung downward, its twelve-inch claws prepared to cleave Maeven in two. I grabbed my sword with both hands and met the paw straight on. The shock of the blow nearly knocked me over and my arms shook from the violence of the hit. At my feet was the entire paw sheared off from the beast. The great beast reared up with a ferocious scream. I jumped towards it, grabbing its matted fur and clung on to its neck. I somehow managed to pull myself up onto its massive shoulders and with both hands plunged my sword into the back of its skull.

As the beast screamed and sank towards the ground, in a final death throw it reached up with its remaining front paw and tore me from its neck. I recall the blow and the tearing of my side, then nothing more than being enveloped in gray darkness. When I opened my eyes I wondered if I was alive or not. Filaments of light flitted over my body. My head was cradled in Maven's lap and it was clear she was crying. It took me a moment to speak and even that caused severe pain from my side. "Maven. Are you all right?"

Maeven smiled and smothered my face in kisses. "You are asking me if I am all right, and here I thought you were dead. Do you know what it is like to finally believe you met your soulmate one day to believe they died the next?"

"I can only imagine. When you were knocked to the ground and I saw the beast raise its paw to hit you, my only thought was that I could not live without you. I had to try something."

"That was the stupidest and most courageous thing I had ever seen anyone do."

I looked down at my side and my clothes were torn and covered in blood. My body had repaired itself but it still hurt like hell. "Can you help me to my feet?"

Maven carefully supported me and I winced in pain. It felt like my insides were torn to shreds and I was weakened from loss of blood. The great beast lay twenty feet away, my sword still embedded in the back of its skull. We walked together over to the spring and I put my head in the fresh water and drank deeply. The cold water helped to refresh my energy a little. I filled the flask and Maeven helped me to stand again. We stood with our arms wrapped around each other when Cliona appeared. "How dare you show yourself now? Aine was almost killed."

"It's all right, Maeven. If it were not for her we would have never met."

"Blessings, Aine and Maeven. I understand why you may not feel you can trust me Maeven. I can sense the bond you have formed with Aine and you are correct. Aine was and will be put in harm's way by all of the Aos Si. Know that we believe that she alone, with her companions, is capable of helping us at this time. Her courage is her own and her willingness to aid us comes straight from her heart. The Aos Si have not been able to place a foot in this land for more than one hundred years. The death of the beast broke the spell that kept us from this sacred place. Aine, your body will heal completely but it will take several days to repair all the damage. You will need additional rest." The woman walked over to the beast and knelt down, blocking their view momentarily. She returned a minute later carrying two jeweled daggers fashioned from the claws of the beast.

"Maeven, your willingness to stand by Aine's side to aide the Aos Si has not gone unnoticed. I present these daggers to you as a special gift from us. Made from the claws of the great beast, they will never dull or rust and are stronger than any steel. Aine, for restoring this sacred place and killing the beast the Aos Si are forever indebted to you." She waved her hand and my torn clothing was repaired and restored. My top changed from normal cloth to a curve hugging silvery, blue fabric bodice that shone with an iridescent glow. "That new bodice will protect you from any arrow or blade. I've also made modifications to your bow, creating the bow itself from the rib bone of the beast and string from its sinew. Arrows will fly more accurately, faster, and will penetrate deeper than any normal mortal bow. I've taken the liberty of bringing your horses here so you can travel back to the Inn. Make sure you get your rest Aine. Blessings on you both." With that she disappeared.

"You hold interesting company, Aine. We've got a long ride ahead of us back to the Inn before I can get you back to bed. You do realize that new bodice is making me drool? It is even more revealing that what you last wore." She moved her arms around me and kissed me passionately. We gathered our weapons and scattered belongings and rode back towards the Inn. It was late when we arrived but the Needy Huntress was loud and boisterous. The innkeeper welcomed us back and suggested if we sing again he would give us our accommodations and food for free. Maeven smiled and told him she had a new song she was working on.

I was wiped out and still in a lot of pain. I sat back as Maeven began to sing. She sang a new song about an Irish heroine that stole the singer's heart; her brave deeds, and her incredible strength and beauty. I must have been really out of it, as when she finished everyone cheered and I asked her who that song was about. When she said it was me I laughed at first, but she gave my hand a squeeze and I realized she really had written it about me. Maeven stood up on a bench and wove the tale for everyone. How single handedly I had bested dozen men, killed the beast of Loch Síodh Linn, and was gifted by the Aos Si. People looked at me and laughed until she produced the new daggers made from the beast's claws. She pulled me up next to her and told them all, "How could you deny that her beauty rivals even that of the Fair Folk, or her voice heaven sent? For those that question my tale, go to the Loch Síodh Linn and see for yourself."

"What singing? She needs to sing us a song before we might believe it."

An hour later people were still encouraging us to keep playing and singing but I grabbed Maven's hand and led her to our room. I was exhausted and in pain and as soon as we closed the door I fell into her arms and drifted off to sleep.

I awoke late the next morning and found I was still in my clothes. Maeven must have removed my boots and put me in the bed. I could not see her in the room and I started to panic. I needed her in my life. Perhaps it was female hormones, but I felt vulnerable without her. I was still sore but felt much better, so I put my boots on and headed to the door hoping against hope that she had not left me. As I reached for the handle the door opened and Maeven was there with flowers in her hand. A look of concern flickered across her face, seeing me up and about. She closed the door behind her and ushered me back to the bed. She forced me to lie down and sat on the bed next to me. "These are for you. I was so concerned about you."

"If I did not know any better, I'd think you were trying to woo me. It's really not necessary." Maeven looked pensive. "I mean, it is not necessary for you to woo me, as you already have my heart. I'd put my life at risk to save yours. You are worth more to me than anything in this world. When I woke up and you were not here I felt totally lost. You now, I've never received flowers before. It makes me feel very special. Thank you."

Maeven smiled and threw her arms around me. "I was so worried about you. You saved my life, multiple times now. I have no intention to ever leave you. How are you feeling?"

Although I know I still needed rest and I was still in some pain, I pulled Maeven down to me. "Let me show you how I am feeling."

Several days later we set off for the Lessiter Forest. I had healed completely and enjoyed a few days recuperating in Maven's welcome arms. I kept thinking back to my prior life and my wife, Mabel. Was I being dishonoring of her by sleeping with Maeven, or so willingly giving my heart? I struggled with the guilt of being happy and content. I had also started to become more familiar with my body. Even though the feelings were becoming more familiar, I still enjoyed the feeling of my breasts swaying, my hips sashaying, the way the breeze washed over my leggings, and the feel of the hem of my skirt sliding across my thighs.

We had traveled a day and were now at the edge of the Lessiter forest. Stopping for the night, we pulled our bedrolls from our horses and built a fire. Maeven sat back against a log and opened her arms to me. I snuggled into her arms and we talked late into the night. The next morning the second Sidhe woman, Moira, appeared to us. "Blessings, Aine and Maeven. Today only Aine will be able to travel into the forest, for it is haunted by vengeful spirits."

"I will not leave her. I must go with her!"

"I am sorry, Maeven, but Aine has been strengthened to withstand the tormenting spirits that lie within. You would surely perish. You need to remain here and keep the fire going brightly so that Aine can return to you. This is imperative for her survival. Aine, you must let go in order to move forward or you will be torn apart. Look for the light of the fire to safely return. Cover your eyes with a thin fabric and stick cloth in your ears to block the sounds. If you can sing, that will keep the spirits somewhat at bay." With that she vanished leaving Maeven visibly upset.

"I don't want you to go, Aine. I love you. You owe nothing to the Sidhe."

"You said you love me?" I kissed Maeven letting my lips linger on hers for a long time. "I don't want to leave you either. But, I have made a commitment to the Aos Si to aid them. You need to know that I am a woman of my word. You have my heart, Maeven. I will always return to you; that is my commitment to you."

"Damn, Aine! I can't lose you. If you do not come back to me, I'll personally go in there myself to find you."

I stood on the edge of the haunted forest with a thin gauze covering my eyes and more stuffed into my ears. I looked back at Maeven and had a strong desire to stay with her. I ran back to her for one more hug and kiss then turned and walked boldly forward. Within moments the darkness of the forest encapsulated me. I turned around to see the light from our fire, but nothing else was visible. I continued onwards and could feel eyes upon me. It was very disconcerting. I began to sing softly and my own voice brought me additional strength and peace as I moved deeper and deeper into the forest.

I had walked about thirty minutes when things became much worse. Flashes of light moved before me from tree to tree, and these lights screamed as they flew by. The sound was deafening. I felt like I was being pushed and bumped from all sides. One of the lights stopped in front of my eyes and a hideous face formed from within the light. It opened its mouth and screamed, distorting the misshapen face even more. The further I went into the forest, the lights transformed more and more into ghost-like creatures with short arms that had talons on their fingers. I tried to continue singing but it was so hard to hear myself over the screams and screeching.

Ahead I could make out a small clearing with a giant willow tree in the middle. Sunlight streamed down upon the tree making it appear to be an island of peaceful respite. Just as I went to step into the clearing a thorny vine wrapped itself around my throat. As it tightened the thorns cut into my flesh and my singing abruptly stopped. I grabbed my dagger and wildly cut at the vine as panic set in. It became harder and harder to breathe. I dropped to my knees and continued to cut, finally freeing myself from the vine and gaining my breath again. I tried to sing, but my voice was gone. I got up and ran for the tree.

It was so peaceful standing under the giant willow branches, but I knew I could not stay long. Using my knife I cut away several large strips of bark from the tree and placed them securely in my pack. I tried to sing again but my throat was so sore that nothing would come out. I looked back upon the forest with fear and trepidation. The trip in had been horrifying. What would happen if I could not sing? How much worse would it be? 'This is going to be bad,' I thought to myself.

I needed to get back, and I certainly did not want to be stuck in this horrid forest after dark, so I forged ahead and plunged back into the forest. The screaming had greatly intensified and these spirits were no longer just bumping into me. I felt my leggings getting torn and sharp scratching against my arms and legs. Luckily I was healing fast, but I was still losing blood. I started to run in an effort to get out of the forest as fast as I could. It felt like I should have been out by now, but the forest seemed to continue on forever. It was darker and the spirits more and more agitated than ever.

I stopped for a moment to get my bearings when a spirit stopped in front of my eyes and screamed at me. The spirit morphed into my late wife, Mabel. "Jaaaaammmmeees..." It moaned. "Mabel?" My voice cracked. I reached out my hand towards her. "Whyyyy? You should be with meeeee. Why are you making me wait so longgggg?" My mind knew this could not be real but my heart did not. I fell to my knees and sobbed. I was broken. All the guilt, shame, and loss came to me at once. I curled into a ball, my tears streaming from my eyes. I shook with wracking, heart wrenching pain. Slowly my brain managed to speak to my heart. 'Mabel would never do this to me. She would want me to be happy again. I did not love anyone or be with anyone for twelve years as I mourned her. This spirit is not Mabel. I need to let her go, to be free to love again, fully and unconditionally. Mabel would have wanted that for me.'

These thoughts ran through my brain and I began to draw strength from them. I spoke aloud in a sore and raspy voice, "Mabel, I do love you. I always will. But I have a chance to be young, strong, and fit; to be loved and love again." Deep in my heart I felt a release, as if Mabel had just told me I was free.

I stood up and the 'Mabel' spirit transformed into a hideous creature. It screeched and screamed and began tearing at my body with its talons. I tried to fight it off but my hands merely passed through it. I ran and ran. Finally I saw the light of our fire. It guided me. The screams increased and the spirits lunged at me from all sides. I broke free of the forest and ran straight into Maeven's arms. Tears streamed from my face. "I love you!" Was all I could say. Not knowing what she could do, she did the only thing I needed. She held me close and let me cry on her shoulder. At some point she actually lifted me up and brought me to the fire. She wrapped a blanket over us and I curled into her arms and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I was in the same position as before. Maeven had not moved. She kept me in her arms all night. My cuts and throat had healed and my voice recovered. Maeven stroked my long hair and was kissing the top of my head. I stretched my hand to her cheek and pulled her down into a kiss. "I meant what I said, Maeven. I will always return to you. I do love you."

Tears fell from her eyes as she continued to cradle me. "I've always been a loner and never felt I could give my heart to anyone. There is something so unique and special about you, that it is as if I had no choice in the matter. I love you, Aine, with all my heart. However, my legs are asleep and I've needed to go pee for hours. Do you think we can get up?"

"Only if I have to." I teased.

As we prepared to leave, Moira appeared again. Maeven was visibly upset to see her. The Sidhe woman put her hand up towards Maeven to acknowledge her anger. "Blessings on you, Maeven." This was the first time they had addressed her directly. "The Aos Si recognize your anger at us for putting Aine in danger. Know that we would never have chosen her if she was not capable. Beyond the gifts we have given her, she had a depth to her courage beyond normal mortals. She also has the ability to love more deeply and with more conviction and loyalty than others as well. She needs you. Never forget that." The woman approached Maeven and spoke to her in whispers that I could not hear. I saw Maeven look towards me several times, nod towards the woman, and hold out her hand. The Sidhe woman placed something in her hand and bowed to Maeven before turning back to me. "Blessings on you, Aine Kearney, friend of the Aos Si. No one will ever understand the great peril and pain you went through to retrieve the bark of the sacred willow tree. You are the only mortal to ever return from this forest. I see your skirt and leggings have need of being replaced." She waved her hand and my skirt was transformed into the same shimmering iridescent blue as my top. The length was a little longer, down to my mid thigh. My leggings had become almost totally transparent, somewhat akin to pantyhose. "Your skirt and leggings are now made of the same material as your bodice. They will moderate your temperature yet protect you from harm. We have also modified your dagger. When in your hand, and while willing yourself to hide, the dagger will make you invisible for a short time. You will need that in the days to come. I also added some additional clothing for you in your pack. That should come in handy tonight." The Sidhe woman smiled, then vanished.

Maeven was looking at me with a mixture of love and wanting to tear my clothes off. "If they change any more of your clothes, I won't be able to control myself. Seeing your legs through your leggings and the length of your skirt are so enticing. God, you are beautiful, Aine."

I sidled up next to Maeven and wrapped my hands around her neck. I looked up into her eyes and using all my feminine charms began kissing her neck. Her hands slid over my butt and under my skirt. I moaned softly at her touch. "Maybe you would like to take me to bed? I see there is another Inn, the Innocent Rapier, a short distance away. I will need to make sure I am presentable to you tonight so I would also like a bath."

"How far away did you say it was?"

We arrived at the Inn a few hours later. Maeven suggested we stay a couple of days to make sure we were well prepared and rested for the next quest. I was in no hurry to leave a comfortable bed, good food, ale, and a bath. We had some dinner and a few mugs of ale and I whispered in Maeven's ear to come up to bed in an hour. I could tell she was eager and I had been wet all day thinking about tonight. When I got to the room I went through my pack to find a sheer, black nightgown. It was the most beautiful piece of clothing I had ever seen. I laid it on the bed and climbed into the hot bath. I still had sticks and leaves in my hair from the forest and dirt on my face. I washed myself and my hair until I was squeaky clean. While my hair dried I lit some candles I had found to make the room have a romantic feel. I combed out my hair until it shone brightly and cascaded smoothly down my back. I put the nightgown on and walked over to the mirror.

What I saw reflecting back at me would have made any man drool with lust. The nightgown oozed sensuality, and how it hugged every curve of my body left little to the imagination. I pulled some of my hair over the front of my shoulder to complete the look. I admitted to myself that I never again wanted to be a man. I loved the feel of being beautiful and desired. The nightgown slid smoothly over my skin in a silky way, making me even more excited. On the way to the Inn I had found a perfect red rose which I picked for this moment. I stood waiting for Maeven, knowing she would be coming soon.

I did not have to wait long before the door to our room opened. It was clear from Maeven's expression when she saw me that I had done the right things to get the desired effect on her. I walked up to her and gave her the rose. "A perfect rose for my perfect love. Let me remove your weapons. I don’t think you will need them tonight." I pulled off her belt that held her knives and put them, then moved back to Maeven who was standing awestruck. I moved my hands to the back of her neck and started to dance slowly with her.

"Aine, you are the most glorious, wonderful, exciting woman in the world. There is nothing I desire more than you."

"Maybe we should make you more comfortable then?"

I pulled her to me and nuzzled her neck. I kissed the sensitive spot below her ear and whispered my love to her. I rubbed my cheek against hers and gently pushed her back against a wall. After seventy-six years of never having an impact on another woman, with the exception of my wife when she so deemed it, I relished the ability I now had to use my looks and touch to elicit strong sexual desire in Maeven. I unbuttoned her bodice and tossed it to the side. She was eager and ready and I took advantage of that. She could not keep her hands off of me, which was perfect. I sucked her breasts while to unbuttoned her pants enough to get my hand in. Maeven was breathing hard. I slipped my hand into the front of her pants and could feel how wet she was. My finger found her moist slit and I stroked her clitoris gently. Her hips pushed against my hand. I began kissing Maeven passionately, probing her mouth with my tongue. One hand massaging her breast and the other sliding deeper and deeper into her vagina.

Maeven began moaning as we kissed. It was not long before she grabbed my butt and pulled me tight against her. As she came I continued to stroke her clitoris very gently, extending her orgasm for as long as I could. It was an intense moment of pleasure for us both. Maeven smiled, appreciative of my aggressiveness this night. I took a step back and did my best at giving her the look that I needed her badly. I brought my finger that was covered in her juices to my mouth and teased her with a soft moan.

Maeven quickly removed the rest of her clothing and became the aggressor. She crushed me to her in a passionate kiss then pulled the nightgown straps over my shoulders, letting the gown slide to the floor. She picked me up and placed me on the bed. She laid down on top of me and kissed her way down my body. When she slid her tongue over my vaginal lips I almost came right then and there. Maeven began sliding her tongue over my clitoris as I massaged my breasts. The feeling of her tongue sliding over me and my hands on my breasts was so erotic. As she swirled her tongue around my clitoris she slid first one finger then another into my vagina. She moved her fingers back and forth inside me, filling me. For a second I wondered if this was what it must feel like when a man enters a woman. I held off for several minutes, absorbed in the wonderful pleasure Maeven was giving my body. When I could hold off no longer, I squeezed my nipples, and let out a loud moan that I was sure could have been heard downstairs. I could feel my vaginal muscles clamping down on her fingers. Maeven crawled back up next to me and we fell asleep in each other's arms.

That night I had my first sexual dream. I was with Maeven and we were making love. I was so wet and ready, when a highly muscled naked man came into the room. Maeven was underneath me and as we were kissing, I could feel the man's hands on my hips. His erect penis pressed against my wet vagina. I was frightened until he pushed his penis deep inside me. He must have been massive as I felt my vagina stretch to its limit. He slowly moved back and forth and his shaft rubbed against my clitoris. Maeven started sucking on my breast. I had several orgasms before I felt the man tense and my vagina become filled with his sperm.

I awoke briefly after the dream. My legs were wet with my own juices. I rolled over and lay my head on Maeven's chest and draped a leg over hers. She moved and cradled me in her arms. I felt secure and safe and drifted back off to sleep.

We slept in late the next day, and slowly worked our way down into the main part of the Inn. It never ceased to amaze me that every time we made an appearance where there was a group of people, we caused the room to go silent and the men to gawk at us like teenage boys. Of course, I have to admit there were probably no two finer looking women anywhere else in Ireland, and in their shoes, I might do the same. Today was no different with the exception that the room was filled with many very large, musclebound, fit, excited mercenaries. At all of five foot six and maybe one hundred fifteen pounds, I felt pretty small compared to these men that averaged six foot four and two hundred fifty pounds. They carried large, heavy swords. Maeven felt comfortable around men like these, having grown up with them. At five foot nine and one hundred and thirty pounds, I was surprised how well she handled herself.

As we squeezed through the aisle between the tables, one man grabbed my butt. Maeven's knife was at his throat faster than I could figure out what had happened. The man laughed at her like she was an insignificant fly. "You will mind your manners or you will find yourself missing some teeth!" Maeven was clearly mad.

The man smiled showing he was already missing quite a few teeth. "Teeth are teeth missy. You might get a lucky shot in, but in the end you and your little girlfriend would wind up unconscious and in my bed for me to take advantage of, over and over again." The men at the table roared with laughter.

Undetered, Maeven showed the man her dagger. "Do you know what kind of blade this is? It is made from claw of the great beast that guarded the waters of Loch Síodh Linn. That beast stood over fifteen feet tall at the shoulder. These claws are sharper than steel. That little girl you are talking about killed that beast on her own. I suggest you show some respect. That is Aine Kearney, chosen heroine of Ireland by the Aos Si themselves."

"Ohhh. I had no idea I was in the presence of such a distinguished young woman. I apologize profusely."

It was said sarcastically and we all knew it. I touched Maeven's arm lightly. "There's more space further down." Maeven glanced into my eyes and moved the dagger away from the man. We continued on but I knew this was not over. As soon as Maeven turned the man tried to grab my butt again but this time I was expecting it. I caught his wrist with my hand, a wrist so thick that my fingers could barely grip. I twisted his wrist and bent his arm behind his back. He was in obvious pain. With my other hand I slammed his head down onto the table rendering him unconscious.

One of his buddies stood and drew his knife looking ready to attack me, but as he was about to swing a strong hand held back the man's arm. "The ladies asked politely. Horen had that coming. If she really is chosen by the Sidhe, do you really want to mess with her?" The man with the knife looked at me then at Horen who was still unconscious. He put his knife away and sat down. "Wise man."

"Let me introduce myself. I am Garen, and if I heard clearly, you are Aine?" He stretched out his hand. I took his hand in mine and shook it, noticing how small my hand was in his. Maeven led us all to an empty corner where we could find seats. "I could not help but overhear and I admit I am intrigued by the two of you. I did not catch your name." Garen looked towards Maeven.

"Maeven." I could see she was tense and hesitant to open up. She reached protectively around my waist to pull me closer to her. I enjoyed the feeling of her arm around me like that.

"It is an honor to meet you both. Let me put your minds at ease. Normally, had someone wove a tale like what Maeven told Horen, I would have simply laughed and walked away. These things simply do not happen anymore where the Fair Folk would lower themselves to speak to mortals. However, yesterday, on my way through the forest, a Sidhe woman appeared to me and told me to look for a fair young woman that was touched by the Aos Si. She then disappeared and I went along my way not thinking anything of it, until just now. Having seen how you handled Horen, and your incredible beauty, I believe you are the one I was told to look for." Maeven gave him a nasty look and pulled me even closer.

Sensing Maeven's tension, Garen put his hands up. "I may be a mercenary, but I am an honorable one. I am not here to steal either of your virtues, rather, I am curious as to why I was contacted by the Aos Si." I could feel Maeven relax a little. I shared my story as best I could and that we still needed to complete two quests to collect Yohand's Horn, and a pearl encrusted conch shell from the Bay of Celista. Garen took out his dagger and laid it in front of us on the table. "I am offering my blade to your service. I have been to the Bay of Celista and have seen the creature that protects the shell you are talking about. It killed my father many years ago, when he wanted to claim the shell for the riches it could bring. I want nothing of riches, for I have seen what that does to people. If you have indeed killed the beast at Loch Síodh Linn and traveled through the Lessiter Forest, then I would want to be at your side to take my final revenge against the beast from the Bay of Celista."

Maeven's eyes softened a little. "I have little trust of men, as I have had my fair share of their lying ways. The first time I saw one of the Aos Si, they told Aine that she had met the first of her companions. I took that to believe at least one more person would be joining us at some point. We ride out for Yohand's tomb in the morning. Be ready and be warned. I'll be watching you closely. You will need to earn my trust."

"I will earn your trust. Perhaps it is just the Aos Si playing with me, but I feel compelled to help you both on these quests. I will see you both in the morning. Good day to you." With that, Garen rose and left.

We both watched him leave. He had to be six foot five, and two hundred and sixty pounds of pure, lean, muscle. I found myself thinking he was handsome. "I've always found the good looking ones are the ones to watch out for the most."

"You think he is good looking?" I teased.

"I saw you looking at him as he left. Don't tell me you did not find him attractive."

"I've never been with a man before and I am more than a little frightened about what that would be like. But it does not matter as I belong to someone else. I gave my heart to you and that is where it will always be until you want me no more." I looked down, suddenly emotional. I felt Maeven's light touch under my chin as she lifted my face to meet her gaze.

"You are adorable, my love. You have such a loyal heart. You have my heart and I will never leave you. It is, however, not unheard of in this modern age we live, for two joined women to take the odd man into their bed with them. There are things that only a man can do for us. If we, you and me, ever choose to do that, know it would never change my love for you or our relationship." I had to laugh when Maeven mentioned the modern age we were living in. However, I began to understand why two women were not such a big deal in this time. In this age when women were treated as sex objects, I could see many women becoming partners for mutual support and to protect each other.

The next day Maeven and I met Garen at the stables and we headed onward towards Yohand's tomb. It would take several days to reach the site, and there were no Inns along the way. We'd be camping out under the stars. With the extra person along I found it a challenge to feel comfortable enough to make love with Maeven, but we continued to snuggle throughout the night. As we traveled we got to know Garen a little and learn more about his life. For all our concerns, he proved to be a man of his word, and did not seem to mind that Maeven and I were involved with each other.

Garen was strong and, I admit, he was handsome. His arms and legs were solid muscle and the brief glimpses we got of his chest and abs showed me how chiseled they were. Garen carried an extra long sword that combined with his strength could easily cleave someone in two.

When we finally approached the tomb, Neala, the third Sidhe woman appeared to us. "Blessings, Aine and Maeven. The Aos Si are pleased you have found Garen to join your party as a companion. Aine, you will need to retrieve Yohand's Horn yourself. Neither Maeven nor Garen should attempt this. They will not be idle and should be prepared for battle. Until you retrieve the horn they will be in danger and you will not be able to assist them." With that she vanished leaving Garen a little starstruck.

Maeven nudged me and smiled. "If he did not believe before, I bet he does now."

Garen turned towards us. "Until recently I'd only heard the legends of the Aos Si. Truly, Aine, you are their chosen one."

"Just be ready for anything, Garen. Their words may be a little cryptic, but they have been true every time. You and Maeven will be in danger until I retrieve the horn. I admit I am tempted to turn around now as I do not want either of you harmed." I grabbed Maeven's hand. "We can't stop now, Aine."

We hitched our horses to some trees and proceeded the short distance to the tomb on foot. I had drawn my bow and Garen had his sword drawn. Maeven was ready with her daggers. The tomb stood before us. It appeared as a moss covered hill with a large open doorway. Torchlight could be seen casting a flickering, orange, eerie glow inside. We had learned enough about each other that I gave Garen a hug then held Maven close and kissed her. "Please be safe, both of you."

"Says the woman that walks headlong into something that could easily kill you. I dread each of these moments, Aine. I cannot lose you." I hung onto Maeven for another minute then took a step towards the entry of the tomb. As I did so, four extremely large wolfhounds came from around the backside of the tomb. They looked emaciated with their fur patchy and matted. Their eyes glowed as if demonically possessed.

Garen shouted, "Run, Aine! Get the horn. These creatures will not die like normal animals."

I ran for the tomb as the wolves lunged at Garen and Maeven. I saw Garen cleave the leg from one of the hounds only to see a new leg spawn in its place. If I did not get the horn, these hounds would tear them to pieces. I ran through the entryway and into Yohand's tomb. Before me was a large, well-lit room. The space was empty of anything but a stone slab with, what I assumed, was Yohand's desicated body. In his hands a large, two-handed sword, and on his belt was a bronze horn. I approached quickly but warily. I was within twenty feet when Yohand's corpse rose from the stone slab. I did not hesitate but put two arrows into its head. The corpse simply yelled and pulled out the arrows. I tossed my bow to the side knowing it would be useless against him. I drew my sword and ran forward. Yohand moved his sword swiftly, and it took all my strength to block his attacks. I waited for the right moment and let his sword swing close enough to allow me access to his exposed leg. I slashed down on his thigh cutting clean through the rotting flesh, but Yohand's corpse regathered the leg back to himself a second later.

I had opened myself up to a counter attack, as I had expected severing a limb would at least slow him down, but it did not in the least. His backswing caught me off guard and hit my right hip. My skirt and leggings kept me from being cut, but it did nothing to stop the bones and muscles from receiving damage. The force of the blow threw me to the side of the chamber. I heard Maeven's yell from outside for me to hurry. It was going badly for them. I had to do something. It was then I recalled any number of zombie movies I had seen in my previous life. They always cut the head off the zombies to kill them, but how in the world would I get that chance? I tried to stand and my right leg almost gave out. My hand went to my right hip to where the pain was and I touched the hilt of my dagger. 'My dagger!' I thought to myself. Yohand was closing in as I gripped my dagger and willed myself to hide. I saw myself disappear and Yohand's corpse screamed and started slashing wildly. I hobbled my way around the back of the stone slab as quietly as I could. As I gained my footing on the slab my invisibility eroded and Yohand turned to face me. With the added height on the slab, and Yohand still turning, I had a perfect shot at his exposed neck. With all my might I swung my sword severing his head from his body. The light from his eyes dimmed as his head fell to the floor. His body collapsed into a heap of rotted flesh. I gingerly stepped down to the floor but my leg could no longer hold me. I almost fell over into Yohand's body, something I really did not want to do. I stretched out my hand and grabbed the horn and tore it from him. I heard the hounds wail and they were gone.

I collapsed on the ground as Maeven and Garen rushed in. They had many cuts that were bleeding heavily, but they were otherwise unharmed. I waved them to my side and I grabbed both of their hands, willing healing to them. Garen stared as filaments of light rose from the ground and began wrapping around his body. Before his eyes he saw his and Maeven's cuts knit together and heal. In a few moments the light had faded and they were both restored. Maeven and Garen helped me to my feet. My hip hurt like hell, but I could tell it was beginning to heal. "Yohand was not really fully dead. He hits really hard too."

Maeven crushed me to her and covered me in kisses. "Garen was so brave, Aine. You should have seen him. He saved my life."

I went over to Garen and kissed him on his cheek and hugged him tight. "I'm glad you were here." He actually blushed. "Let's get out of here."

Neala was waiting for us as we left the tomb. "Blessings, Aine, Maeven, and Garen. The final and ultimate death of Yohand is a huge victory for the Aos Si. The forest around here has been desolate of life for hundreds of years. With Yohand's death we can begin restoring the life here. Garen, for your bravery, the Aos Si give you Yohand's sword. It has been reforged by the Aos Si and imbued with our magic to give it strength beyond any mortal steel and to be half the normal weight." Garen bowed deeply towards Neala. "Maeven, for your service to the Aos Si, we grant you the Rider's Outfit." With a wave of her hand Maeven was dressed in a bodice with a skirt and leggings. The bodice was shimmering red and the skirt made of the same material. Her leggings were black and looked like they could have been painted on her. I could not take my eyes from Maeven, and I could see Maeven enjoyed the extra attention Garen and I were giving her.

"Aine, once again you have proven yourself to the Aos Si. For your service and your friendship to us, we grant you the Boots of the Sidhe and the Circlet of Perception." She waved her hand towards me and my boots changed from regular leather riding boots to boots that went just above my knees. The boots matched my iridescent clothing but remained opaque. They had a slight heel to them and were incredibly sexy, showing every part of my shapely calves. A silver circlet appeared on my forehead. I took it off to look at it. It was extremely delicate, beautiful, and ornate. "The boots will enhance your speed, strength, and agility, and the circlet will grant you advance perception of impending danger. May you all be blessed." With that she vanished.

"Maeven, you look absolutely delectable. I think we need to find an Inn." I looked at Maeven with a combination of lust and love.

"And you look like a sexy Celtic princess that needs to be ravished."

Garen coughed. "I admit that you both are the most beautiful women I've ever seen, and it would be best if you found a room somewhere soon, if for nothing else than removing you both from my sight so that I don't fall to temptation." He sighed and turned away from us clearly not wanting us to see the noticeable bulge in his pants.

"My map shows an Inn, the Dire Tusk, is not too far from here and it is on the way to the Bay of Celista. I'm still rather sore, can you both help me to my horse?" Maeven wrapped her arm around my waist and Garen moved to the other side of me. When we got to my horse, Garen lifted me up to my saddle as if I weighed nothing.

Several hours of riding brought us to the Dire Tusk. It was a small, but quaint Inn located near the ocean. The place was packed with people, and we all ordered ale and food. As usual, the sight of Maeven and me raised many eyebrows, and the men were quick to gather around us. One brute of a man, possibly close to three hundred pounds, made some rude comments about Maeven and me. Garen was the first to get in the man's face letting him know that his behavior was unacceptable. The man fumed and looked ready to punch Garen. I squeezed in between the two of them and looked up at the massive man. "Sir, you do not want to mess with Garen. He is favored by the Sidhe and he carries Yohand's sword, an object no mere mortal could retrieve. Why don't we have a wager?" "What kind of wager?"

"If you can beat me in an arm wrestle, you can have Maeven and me together for one night. If not, you buy us all as much ale as we can drink tonight."

"So you want to give yourself to me tonight?" Maeven looked worried. "Hey guys! I'm going to have some prime female flesh tonight!"

Garen then stepped forward. He looked upset. "You would arm wrestle him to sleep with both of you and not me?"

I moved to Maeven's side and whispered in her ear. She smiled and nodded. "If I beat him, I'll give you the same chance."

Garen looked confused and the brute roared with delight. "Clear a table and prepare the best bed in the house!"

I sat down across from the brute who had arms thicker than both my thighs together. He gripped my hand in his and my hand was so tiny in comparison. "Is now a good time to tell you that I am pretty strong?"

"I'll just wait until you want to start pushing, lass."

The entire Inn was surrounding us. "Here goes..." I pushed a little bit and made a show out of looking like I was pushing hard. The brute laughed and started pushing back, but for every little bit of effort he put in I pushed back that much harder keeping his arm from moving. Soon he was trying with all his strength. He was strong, probably stronger than most men, but with my Aos Si strength there was no way he was strong enough. I made a big show of it, then pushed harder moving his arm towards the table. With a final push I pressed his knuckles to the table surface to win the arm wrestle.

"Looks like you owe us some ale."

"What kind of sorcery is this? There is no way you could beat me!"

"Not even if Aine is the new Aos Si chosen heroine of Ireland?" Maeven chimed in. "Have you ever seen anyone so beautiful before? She is obviously favored by the Fair Folk. Only another touched by the Aos Si could possibly beat her. Garen, would you care to try?" It was clear Garen knew he could not win and he hesitated, but the promise of going to bed with me and Maeven was enough to make any man try. He sat across from me and Maeven whispered in my ear. "I think we owe it to Garen to grace our bed tonight. He saved my life and has been nothing but honorable."

"I'm tantalized by the thought, but I'm still a little frightened. I don't want anything to get in the way of our relationship." I whispered back.

"It is always your choice and nothing will ever change my love for you. I'll prove it to you tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?"

"Yes, love. Now show him what you've got." She kissed my neck.

I grabbed Garen's hand. Many thoughts were running through my head. I pushed a little and could see him push back. He was probably stronger than the brute but I could have won easily. Instead, I looked into his steely eyes, examined his lean, muscular body, and remembered my dream. I made a big show of it, but let him win. Garen smiled broadly and yelled for ale to celebrate.

We had much ale that night, and a slightly tipsy Maeven and I led Garen upstairs to our bedroom. I was very nervous, even with the ale in me. Maeven began kissing passionately and I was responding in kind, even forgetting that Garen was also in the room with us. Maeven led me over to Garen and put my hand on his arm. I could feel his taught muscles and I started to wonder just what it would feel like to have his penis thrust inside me. Maeven began taking off Garen's shirt. Garen's hands went to Maeven's and my waist. I could feel the strength in his hands as he slid his hand over my butt. I closed my eyes to focus on the touch. It was different than Maeven's, more powerful, but it lacked the love and passion. Soon Maeven had Garen standing naked before us. He truly was well built and handsome. His penis seemed massive to me, at least ten inches long and as thick as my wrist. It was very much erect.

Maeven knelt before him and slid his penis into her mouth. Her hand found its way under my skirt as she rubbed my vagina. Garen was moaning and clearly very excited. He pulled me closer to him and he started to unbutton my bodice. Again I closed my eyes. I pushed the feelings of vulnerability aside, knowing that I was not vulnerable in any physical way. I was however vulnerable in an emotional way. Soon, however, Maeven's rubbing and Garen's hands on my breasts started to have their effect on me. I was getting very turned on. Maeven looked up at me and smiled. She stood up and removed her clothing to come and hug me from behind. Her hands roamed over my breasts as she kissed the back of my neck. Garen bent down and removed my boots and began taking off my skirt and leggings.

I was now naked in front of a man over twice my size. Maeven purred in my ear and still behind me, slid her finger between my wet lips. I moaned and turned to face her so I could kiss her. She led me to the bed and had me lie down on my back. She laid on her side and sucked my breast and fingered my clitoris. I saw Garen move behind Maeven and press his massive penis against her vagina from behind. As he pushed inside her I could see Maeven's eyes grow wide. She was definitely enjoying the feeling and I felt a pang of jealousy. I wanted to please her. I did not want her to be pleasured by someone else.

These feelings were momentary as Maeven renewed her focus on me. I watched her breasts rock back and forth with the rhythm of Garen's thrusts. I closed my eyes again to focus on Maeven's touch. Soon, with my hand entwined in her hair, her lips on my breast, and her finger stroking my clitoris, I came. My orgasm was like a trigger for Maeven as she came at the same time. I kissed Maeven as Garen withdrew from her, his sights now on me. Maeven warned Garen I was a virgin and he needed to be very gentle. They had me lie on my back and Maeven massaged my breasts and kissed me as Garen pressed the head of his penis against my vagina. I was so wet from my last orgasm that there was a lot of lubrication. Garen carefully pushed inside me. I could feel my vagina expanding to accommodate him. I admit the feeling was intense. He pushed deeper and I could feel him press against my hymen. I prepared myself for a lot of pain, but when he pushed harder, the pain was brief. As he pushed in and out he was able to go deeper and deeper inside of me causing more and more rubbing on my clitoris. I could feel my breasts rock back and forth and my hips thrust in time with him. Maeven had been right that sometimes a man could do something for a woman that was unique.

It was not long until I came for my second time. I gripped his penis with my vaginal muscles as he continued to thrust in and out. I was amazed how power my orgasm was and how long it continued. Somehow Garen managed to maintain his composure and not explode inside me. The next thing I knew, Garen had pulled out of me making me feel a little empty. Maven laid on her back and Garen actually lifted me up on top of her. Face to face with my love, I began kissing her as our breasts pressed into each other's. I slid my hand down between her legs and started fingering her clitoris. She moaned. I loved her so much. I felt Garen's hands on my hips, and like my dream he pressed his penis against my vagina from behind.

This time he was less gentle and thrust the full length of himself into me. I gasped as the head of his penis pushed up against my cervix. The feeling was so different than the other position. Maeven was squirming underneath me, ready to come. She took one hand and began stroking my clitoris as Garen thrust in and out. The feeling of being filled by Garen's massive penis, Maeven's finger stroking me, our breasts pressed into each other, and Maeven kissing me passionately pushed me over the edge. As I came I moaned allowed. Maeven came as well and we both collapsed into each other's arms.

Maeven, wanting to make sure Garen was taken care of, grabbed his penis and began licking and sucking it. It was not long before Garen erupted in a massive orgasm. Maeven could not swallow all of his cum and it dripped down her chin. Garen pretty much fell onto the bed and went right to sleep. Maeven and I cleaned ourselves up and slept in each other's arms.

The next morning Maeven woke me early and asked that we go out for a walk. I was eager to get her alone again. Even though last night had been amazing, I was not eager to share Maeven very often, if ever again. I only hoped she felt the same way. We walked out to a bluff that looked out over the crashing waves of the ocean. We stood facing each other. Maeven brushed my hair from my face and kissed me. "Aine, ever since I met you, you have been all I can think about. I want to be with you every moment of the day. Last night I realized that I did not like sharing you with anyone. I hope you don’t mind, but I want you all to myself."

"I am so grateful you feel that way. I feel the same way about you. I won't deny that it was an amazing experience last night, but, to be honest, I crave you and your body and what you can do to me. I was jealous seeing you pleasured by someone else. I've fallen in love with you, Maeven, and every moment I am with you makes that love grow stronger and stronger."

Maeven took both of my hands in hers. "Would you, Aine Kearney, take me for your partner for life? To become truly joined to each other in heart, mind, and body?"

A tear ran down my face. I had always wondered what a woman must feel like when proposed to. I felt a warmth all over, and a deep and profound sense of purpose and joy. "I do, and with all my heart."

Maeven and I kissed deeply and passionately. "I have a gift for you, Aine, a symbol of our relationship with each other." She produced a stunning silver ring and wrist chain. The ring would go on my finger and a fine chain connected it to a bracelet that wrapped around my wrist. It was embedded with blue crystals that appeared to match my Sidhe clothing.

"It's so beautiful, Maeven. Is it from the Aos Si?"

"Yes. You may recall that after the Lessiter Forest I spoke privately with Moira. She told me that she could see how your heart was connected to mine and that, if I had a desire for you and I to join together the Aos Si would bless our union." I told her it was everything I could ever want. "She gave me this ring and bracelet for the day I ever got the courage to ask you."

"Maeven, I would have said yes to you the first day I laid my eyes on you. If you had not asked me, then I would have asked you."

"Then it is settled, my love. When we complete the quests we will ask the Aos Si to oversee our union."

"You've made me the happiest woman in all of Ireland!"

"That's not possible, Aine, for you have made me the happiest woman in the world."

We kissed and held each other for a long time. "I will always wear this proudly, for as long as we are joined."

When we returned to the Inn we found Garen already gone from the room. We packed our things we found him with the horses. He spotted my ring and congratulated us both. I placed my hand on his arm and thanked him for last night. "Garen, you were my first, and will be my only man. It was something I would have only considered with a man of honor, like yourself. But, from now on, I will only ever be for Maeven. I want you to know this has nothing to do with you, but, rather that I have found my soulmate."

"Aine, what man on earth would not have wished for the chance that I had last night. I know you let me win the arm wrestle. It is an honor for me to be with you both on these quests. If I survive the beast at the Bay of Celista, I have already decided to return to my father's land and leave my life as a mercenary. While I never expected the gift you both gave me, and I will never forget that gift, I am too much a man of honor to want more from either of you."

Maeven and I kissed him on the cheek. "You will always have a place in our hearts, Garen."

It was a long ways to the Bay of Celista. Four days of riding and camping. On the morning of the fifth day, Blinne appeared to us. "Blessings, Aine, Maeven, and Garen. The Aos Si are very pleased with your choice to be joined together, Aine and Maeven. It brings us great joy. Before you lies the Bay of Celista. It is a small, shallow bay, and in the middle of the bay lies a stone outcropping. The pearl encrusted conch shell rests there. Garen has already seen the beast before, but know it will challenge you all. Garen has not seen the entire beast. It will take the combined efforts of all of you, working in cooperation with each other to kill the beast. I can say no more." Blinne walked over to me and placed something in my hands. I looked down to see an identical ring and chain bracelet. When I looked up, she was gone.

I sensed I needed to keep the ring set hidden for now. It would be used on our special union day sometime in the future. That is assuming we all did not die today. As always, we tethered our horses to the trees, and I wrapped my arms around Maeven and gave her a long and sensual kiss. I held her head next to mine as I whispered through her hair, "I love you, Maeven, with every cell of my being." I gave Garen a fierce hug. "Are we all ready?"

Together we walked down into the bay. When our feet hit the rocky beach the water stirred. A large, horse-like head with fangs came up out of the water and looked down on us. "Who dares to defile my domain?"

I was stunned that it spoke. I stepped forward. "It is I, Aine Kearney, favored of the Aos Si. I've come to retrieve their conch shell." As I said that, it all sounded rather melodramatic in my ears.

"So you are the one I've been hearing about." The beast's voice was low and raspy. "You killed the beast at Loch Síodh Linn. You survived the spirits in the Lessiter Forest. You destroyed Yohand and took his horn. And now, you are here to steal my shell. Do you think I am afraid of you?"

He lowered his head within inches of me. I could smell the fetid breath and could see seaweed caught within the fangs. The head was large, at least my size and the neck was three feet across. "I could not say if you should be afraid of me or not. You could simply allow me to take the shell and no one would be hurt."

The beast screamed, "The shell is mine!"

The great head pulled back and two more heads rose next to it. Garen shouted, "I only saw one head before."

It rose up out of the water, its massive body dwarfing us. Two huge, scaled legs with long, sharp claws supported the creature as it moved forward. Behind it, a long, scaled tail stirred the water causing large waves to crash on the shores of the bay. "I can smell your fear!" All of the heads said together. I notched an arrow and aimed it at one of the heads.

"You do not have to die!" I shouted.

"It is not I that shall die today!" One of the heads lunged towards Garen. I let loose the arrow and it sailed true, piercing the head through the eye. The beast's heads screamed in unison, and the one with the arrow thrashed wildly. I was able to put three more arrows into the head before it fell to the ground with a resounding thud.

The beast advanced more warily now, dragging the other head with it. Both heads lunged at once. Garen hacking at one head and Maeven diving to the side. I was too close, and the beast moving to quickly for me to continue with the bow. I tossed it aside and drew my sword. Maeven moved closer to me so that we fought one of the heads together. She told me when the head makes another strike, for me to toss her towards it. At first I said no, then I remember Blinne's words that we needed to work together. I dropped my sword at my feet and cupped my hands together. Maeven ran and stepped into my hand and I tossed her up over the beast's snout. I saw her use her momentum and with a blade in both hands, plunged her daggers into both eyes of the beast. The beast flung its head back flipping Maeven twenty feet to the hard stone beach. She was not moving. The beast thrashed about as I picked up my sword. I started to run towards Maeven but I felt a tingling from my circlet, and I instantly fell prone on the beach just as a huge clawed leg swung where I had just been. The head with Maeven's daggers in its eyes was flailing wildly. I needed to dispatch it and yet I needed to get to Maeven. I got back up and ran straight for the blinded head. It snapped at me but I managed to duck underneath its chin. I thrust upwards burying my sword to its hilt. Blood and ichor fell from the beast's head making me lose my grip on my sword. As the head died, my sword was ripped from my hands.

I heard Garen yell. He pointed to the first killed head. It was regenerating and starting to move again. I realized the only way to kill the beast would be to stop its heart. "Throw me your sword!" I yelled to Garen. He looked puzzled for a moment then nodded his head. He took one last swing at the massive head attacking him, and tossed his sword end over end towards me. I caught the sword with by the hilt, and stood facing the beast on my own. Garen had run over to Maeven to check on her and pull her to safety. The first head was becoming more alive by the moment. The beast reared and charged me. As I ran towards the beast’s chest I felt the tingle again and quickly dove to the side. I could hear the massive jaws slam shut just a foot from me. I was back on my feet and running again. The chest looming before me. With a massive leap, I pulled the sword back and with both hands plunged the sword into the chest of the beast. The beast reared again and I was wrenched and thrown from the blade. I felt the tingle of my circlet, but there was nothing for me to do as I was in the air. A huge clawed leg slammed into me. I felt my bones break before I crashed to the rocky beach.

When I came to, my first thought was for Maeven. I tried to get up but struggled. "Easy, sweetheart." It was Maeven! My eyes took a moment to focus. When they did I saw Maeven kneeling beside me. She was gently stroking my hair. Garen was there too. He looked anxious.

"I was so worried about you, Maeven. I thought you were dead, and I could not get to you. I'm so sorry. I failed you."

"Aine, my love. Do not be worrying about me as I am more resilient than I may look. Garen told me how you killed the beast. You are the most courageous person I've ever met." She bent down and covered me in kisses.

"I think I can get up now, but I'm sure my ribs are broken. Do either of you need healing?"

"We are both surprisingly well. I was just knocked unconscious but not harmed otherwise."

They helped me to my feet. Breathing was hard and painful. The beast lay on its side with two swords, two daggers, and several arrows in it. "Let's get the shell."

We waded out to the rocky outcropping and found the pearl encrusted shell. I was surprised that it did not look special at all. We went to gather our weapons. Garen had to pull with all his might to extract his sword. Maeven's daggers were fine. My sword was shattered and broken at the hilt. "I sort of liked that sword." I said sadly.

Back on the beach, Blinne reappeared to us. "Blessings, Aine, Slayer of Beasts, friend of the Aos Si, bride to be of Maeven." I blushed at the last part. "Blessings, Maeven and Garen. The Aos Si are forever grateful to you all. Garen, you have said you need no riches, but you will not be able to live your life on your father's land without some treasure. The Aos Si would like to give you this small token of our appreciation." She handed Garen a small pouch that contained twenty-five perfect pearls, more than enough to take care of Garen for the rest of his life. "If you ever need the favor of the Aos Si, you just need to call upon us."

"I am very grateful for the gift." Garen bowed low.

"For Maeven, who would be willing to sacrifice everything she owned, including her own life, for her loved ones, we give to you the House of Maeven. It is a home built for you by the Aos Si on the shores of the Loch Síodh Linn, that lake you helped return to the Aos Si. We have updated Aine's map with its location. And for you, Aine, who was willing to aid the Aos Si, who was put into danger every step of your journey, who killed the Bay of Celista's beast, the Aos Si give to you the Sword of the Sidhe. Unlike your old blade, this one will never break. It is the greatest gift we could give any mortal."

"I am honored and humbled, Blinne. The Aos Si have been very gracious to me. I beg to differ on one thing though. The greatest gift the Aos Si gave me was this chance to live and be healthy, without which I would not have met my soulmate, Maeven, and my best of friends, Garen. It is I who thank the Aos Si." Blinne bowed to me then disappeared.

Maeven was practically jumping up and down for joy. "We have a home!"

I pulled out my new sword that had materialized on my left hip. It felt so light. Jewels were embedded throughout the hilt, and the blade gleamed with an almost supernatural glow. I put it back and looked at Maeven and Garen and started to cry. I fell on my knees and wept for joy. I had been given a second chance at life. I'd once again fallen in love, and was betrothed to the most wonderful and beautiful woman I had ever met. I loved Garen with a deep friendship. I felt loved and healthy. I was so grateful for becoming a young woman. I enjoyed every aspect of my new life. I had everything in the world to be thankful for. Garen and Maeven were unsure why I was crying. "I'm so happy. I have everything any woman would ever want."

Garen left us and went his own way that day. He promised to stay in touch and made us promise if we were to go on any more 'quests' he would like to come along. Maeven and I rode slowly towards the first lake that I had arrived at where Muirisc's tomb lay. We had several days to reach it on time. We took our time, made love under the stars, and I allowed myself some time to fully heal. It was relaxing and a wonderful time for both of us. We arrived at the lake on September 21. The water had drained and in the center of the depression was the stone outcropping. We left the horses in the forest, and I led Maeven, hand in hand, to Muirisc's tomb. When we arrived deep inside the mountain, I placed the four objects we had collected in a small hidden alcove in the tomb. I tried not to ponder whether they were there or not when I first arrived in the tomb. We did not speak, as we both realized the place we stood was hallowed ground. On a whim, I reached out and stroked the beautiful carved face of Muirisc and whispered my thanks. I did not dare touch the sword for fear of being transported back to the future.

I turned to Maeven and hugged her tightly. The lights in the tomb flickered and went dark. We held onto each other, not wanting to move. Suddenly the sun was shining brightly upon us. We were standing upon the edge of the lake, our horses nearby in the forest. The lake had refilled. Somehow, the Aos Si must have transported us back here and resealed the tomb.

"Blessings Aine and Maeven." We turned to see all four of the Aos Si standing close to us. "You have completed all four quests and brought the items back to Muirisc's tomb. Already, these items are strengthening us. We could not be more grateful to you both. If you would indulge us, we would like to oversee your wedding."

I looked at Maeven and she nodded her consent. "Yes, we would like that very much."

"Then I will stay with you, Aine, while the others take Maeven to the clearing with our sacred stones."

I grabbed Maeven's hand and pulled her to me for a kiss. "See you soon, my love." She reached out and cupped my cheek with her hand and vanished.

Cliona remained with me. "Aine, you have come a long way from when we first met you four weeks ago. I believe I already know your answer, but I must ask. Do you want to stay here, in this time, with Maeven, as the young woman that you now are, or, would you prefer to go back to your time?"

"I have nothing for me there. It is as if this was the life I was always meant to live. In this time and in this place. I would change nothing. It is perfect." I thought for a moment and needed to add something else. "I still grieve for my late wife. She will always be a part of me. I am, however, free from guilt of loving someone else. I need the Aos Si to know, with the exception of youth, health, and my now being a woman, I did not choose to help you for the gifts that you all bestowed upon me. You could take them all away and I would still be forever grateful."

"You are a rare and wondrous person, Aine. So few people would ever willingly give up that which we gave them, but because you are willing, is the reason we must allow you to keep them."

"My sisters tell me Maeven is ready. Alas, you need to wear something more befitting of the beautiful bride you are. Do not worry as your clothing and weapons will be placed in Maeven's home for you to retrieve later." She waved her hand and my clothing was transformed. I wore a shimmering gown that had a long train but left my legs bare from mid-thigh down. Across my chest, pearls formed the bodice of the gown. Upon my feet were beautiful white shoes. I was adorned with glittering jewels. I felt flowers in my hair.

"I feel like a princess." I was beaming in my new femininity.

"You are a princess, Aine. Since you have no family in this time, and for what you have done for us, the Aos Si have chosen to adopt you as one of our own. You are the first princess of the Aos Si, and we could not be more proud of you."

"May I hug you, Cliona?"

"Of course, my daughter!" I pulled Cliona close and held her tight.

I saw Cliona wipe a tear. "You humans are so emotional. Are you ready to be forever joined to Maeven?"

"Oh yes!"

I was transported to the edge of the clearing, still hidden from Maeven, who was standing on the mana stone where I was originally transformed. The Aos Si were all standing in their places in front of the standing stones. The clearing was filled with wild flowers and tree petals were floating gently through the air. It was like something from a fairy tale. I stepped forward into the clearing. I could hear Maeven gasp as she saw me. I walked slowly towards her, relishing and committing to memory every second and every step. Maeven was dressed in a full-length, body hugging gown. She looked absolutely gorgeous. When I placed my foot upon the stone Maeven reached for me, unable to restrain herself. "You are so beautiful!" I said to Maeven.

"And you, Aine. You look like a goddess princess!"

I smiled, "If you only knew the half of it."

Cliona spoke, "Aos Si. We are gathered here today to bless the union of Aine and Maeven. Aine, do you have the ring and chain bracelet for Maeven?"

It had appeared in my hand. "Yes!"

"Then please place it on Maeven's hand."

I got down on my knees and held Maeven's hand in mine and placed the ring and bracelet on her. "Maeven, I am humbled and honored to be here with you today. You would do me a great honor to accept my love and heart, to be with me always, forever more."

Maeven was crying, matching my own tears of joy. "It is me that should be kneeling to you, Aine, for I would do anything for you." She pulled me up to my feet and we remained holding each other's hands. Our eyes were locked on each other's.

I whispered an 'I love you' to Maeven.

"Maeven, it is our right to give Aine to you, as we have adopted Aine as one of our very own. Aine is the first Aos Si princess the world has ever known. With that knowledge, do you, Maeven, take Aine to be your bride? That you will love her and protect her all the days of your life, however long that may be?"

"Yes, with all my heart."

"Then by the magic of the Aos Si, and your declarations to each other, you are forever so joined." Maevan pulled me to her, our breasts pressing together, our lips and tongues entwined. We held that pose for a very long time.

"Maeven, welcome to the Aos Si family. We have one more gift for you both. We grant you long life and beauty. For as long as you live, you will never grow older or less beautiful. While you are still considered mortal, there is no reason you both could not outlive all of Ireland itself." It was then I thought back to the start of this whole adventure. The beautiful young woman with the ring and bracelet that beckoned me forward; could that have been me? I smiled at the thought thinking that if it was me, I was still wearing the ring and bracelet.

Maeven led us to our new home. She even carried me across the threshold and straight to our bed. We made love all night long.

----

Today, if you were to walk the land of Ireland you would still feel the magic of the Aos Si as strong as ever. You would not see mythical beasts of legend because Maeven, Garen, and Aine rid the world of them many years ago. You might, however, find yourself lost in the wilderness and a young woman of unsurpassed beauty might show you the way to your new life. One can only hope...



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