A Foul Storm in a Fair Land

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It wasn’t supposed to storm in Hy-Brasil. Hy-Brasil was a fairy country, a country of eternal spring. When it did rain, it was warm and gentle and the fair folk would joyously dance skyclad in it.

This was not the kind of rain they were accustomed to. It was ice-cold and fierce, pelting down on them like a volley of liquid arrows. The storm clouds were as dark as the smoke from the mortals’ vile factories, blocking out any hint of starlight or moonlight. The only natural light was from the random but frequent bolts of lightning, blinding flashes in the blind darkness, followed by deafening claps of thunder, booming like war drums.

Within the Throne Room of the Royal Palace, the courtiers of the Tuatha Dé Danann court all cowered like children before the horrid sound.

“It’s a monster! A monster 60 fathoms tall rising from the sea! It’s broken through the wards and is coming to destroy us all!” one of the courtesans screamed, causing a chorus of screams to echo through the room.

“It is nothing of the kind!” High King Nuada Airgetlám the VII assured them. Though he maintained his usual cocky façade, he was in truth as scared as any of them by the storm. “I realize this is less clement weather than we’re accustomed to, but you’ve all surely at least heard of thunderstorms, have you not? It is still only rain, and will pass in time.”

“Hy-Brasil is a Blessed Land, no storm can ever cross our borders!” one of the Elders shouted. “Even if it is a mere storm, that means the wards are broken and we are vulnerable!”

“The wards have held without fail for 520 years. Why would they suddenly fail now?” the King demanded.

“Why? Our people fled to this isle for sanctuary from the cruel mortals. Your Great Grandfather sacrificed more than you could ever imagine creating those wards! For nearly three and a half centuries we lived in blessed peace until you decided that your coffers weren’t full enough! You opened this isle to their kind, to their black magic and unholy machines that are anathema to our very being! How can this still be a fairy country when mortals outnumber the Fey! The magic of this land has been failing bit by bit, and now it is too weak to even hold back a simple thunderstorm! You’ve betrayed your Forefather! You’ve betrayed all of us!”

King Airgetlám backhanded the elder so hard she fell to the floor, the rest of the court gasping in shock.

“Do not think that a little bad weather suddenly excuses treason,” he said coldly. “I have ruled for 177 years now, and my reign has brought nothing but prosperity. We’ve known no war, no famine, no plague, only ever-growing mountains of coin from our trade with outsiders, and you were all perfectly happy to pretend to be tolerant and cosmopolitan then, weren’t you? Is it not a testament to the greatness of my rule that a thunderstorm qualifies as an unprecedented disaster?”

“But the wards!”

“If the wards have failed, it is for no other reason than that they were old. I shall replace them with new and better wards with the knowledge and powers we have gained under my system of free trade. And if the storm is for some other reason, our mortal partners will gladly help us with their science to determine the cause and find a solution. As your king, I ask that you not scapegoat this minor inconvenience on myself or our allies, as neither of us has ever been anything but good to you.”

The courtiers seemed to calm down and accept his explanation, aside from the courtesan from earlier who still would not cease weeping.

“Diarmuid, it is only -”

“It’s not the storm! It is a beast!” he screamed hysterically. “I can see it in my mind!”

“You’re letting your imagination get -”

“Look out the window! Please!”

The King rolled his eyes and went to the window to peer out into the black storm. At first, he could see nothing, but then a flash of lightning revealed what the boy was speaking about.

It was a dread behemoth, sixty fathoms tall, more or less. The rain pelted down its scaly and leathery hide, gleaming in the electric blue glow of the lightning. It pulled itself onto the beach with five enormous tentacles, each one shaking the earth as they struck the ground. A hydra-like stalk grew from the base, with five bizarre arms sprouting from the top, each sporting five fingers in the shape of a starfish.

Oddest of all, the creature had a reptilian head like a crocodile’s, with a long maw filled with glistening teeth and an arc of five yellow eyes along its skull. When it roared, the sound rose over the thunder effortlessly.

“Open a Way to Fata Morgana,” the King commanded, backing away from the window as calmly as he could.

“Your Majesty?”

“Open a Way to Fata Morgana, we’re evacuating!” the King ordered. Before anyone could question the order, the palace was struck by a devastating blast of the behemoth’s spellfire breath, reducing it to rubble in an instant.

The cold rain on his face was enough to revive the King for one brief and final moment. He was pinned under a mound of debris, with no hope of freeing himself. He couldn’t even call for help, and even if he could it was unlikely there was anyone alive close enough to hear him, especially over the cacophony of the ongoing disaster.

As his lungs filled with his own blood, he could see the behemoth towering over him, its monstrous roar reverberating the marble he was buried under. It was not content with his palace. It had set itself upon his glorious city, the city he had spent all his life enriching. The spires that had grown over his reign were felled in minutes, knocked down by the callous creature’s rampage.

The beast screeched in pain as missiles and beams of powerful magic stuck against its hide. Amidst the chaos, King Airgetlám was able to discern that the Book Burners had engaged the beast, but that brought him no comfort.

When the attack was finished, there would be nothing left. Hy-Brasil would never recover. Everything that he, his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and all his people had ever built was now ruined. This was the end of a beautiful and magical Fey country, and like many such lands before it, it would perish in a single day of unmitigated catastrophe. Airgetlám didn’t know if his policies had brought on Hy-Brasil’s demise or not, but in the end, it made no difference. Fortune had been kind to his country for centuries, and now Misfortune had decided to make up for its long absence all at once, ensuring his Blessed Land would never be blessed again.

These were King Airgetlám’s final thoughts as he closed his eyes for the last time, on that dark and stormy night.

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