This excerpt from my novel-in-progress ‘In the Deep’ moves back to the dreams of the boy (Vindos/Gwyn) as he falls into the Abyss. Here he dreams of the death of his Dragon Mother, Anrhuna, and the maiming of his father, Nodens, at the hands of Lugus and the Children of Don.
This episode combines elements of the Mesopotamian ‘Enuma Elish’, where the dragon Goddess Tiamat is slain by the storm God, Marduk, and of the Irish ‘Battle of Moytura’ where the Irish Gods battle the otherworldly Fir Bolg and Formorians. You will notice that Nodens, unlike his Irish cognate, Nuada, fights on the side of the Otherworld rather than with his kin.
The boy dreamt of his father asleep in the arms of his mother, in goddess form, watching his chest rise and fall. There was tension in the peaceful scene. Every so often she looked up pensively with eyes with pupils black as the Abyss to where the stars burned unusually bright and held him tighter.
Slowly, Nodens awoke and stretched against her, blinking. “Is it my eyes or are the stars shining brighter than before?”
“It is not your eyes. Your kin have lit the Forges of the Stars.”
“Is it my eyes or are the stars falling from the Heavens?”
“It is not your eyes. Your kin are coming to bring our end.”
“I fear I have brought this fate upon us,” lamented Nodens. “I am afraid, not so much for us, but for our unborn children.”
Anrhuna put her hand to her pregnant belly and spoke fiercely, “I will be able to protect them better in dragon form.”
Nodens nodded, they stood, kissed and embraced, before she shifted back into a nine-headed dragon. “I will rally my children.” The trumpeting call of her nine heads shivered through the air and resounded from the rock faces summoning the dragons from across the land, rising from the seas, spiralling from the skies, to assemble in a kaleidoscopic gathering of starlit scales.
My brothers and sisters – all the colours of my mother’s jewels.
Nodens donned his silver armour and took up his silver sword. The boy recalled an earlier dream of his father flying on the back of a dark blue dragon to his fortress in his constellation to retrieve his armaments. The dragon had gifted him the two dark blue jewels affixed in his sword hilt.
His father stood, a small determined silver speck, at the forefront of the dragons, who massed around his mother.
The boy locked this memory in a place untouchable by fire or sword.
The stars fell.
“No, no, no!” the boy cried out in his sleep on the abyssal winds.
At the head of the army of bright gods and brighter fire giants was a shining boy-god in golden armour, with a halo of fair hair, illumined by his inner light, brandishing his golden spear. “Victory will be mine!” He declared. “Nodens, for your treachery, my skilful hand will replace your sword arm!”
“Who are you,” Nodens demanded, “to claim my kingship?”
“Lugus the Many-Skilled. The prophecied god who has now come!”
The mouth of Nodens fell open. “But the fulfilment of that prophecy should have been impossible…”
“Yet here I am!”
“Then my blade will test your credibility.”
As Nodens stepped forward to attack the spear of Lugus met his first blow. Thus began their battle – a silver whirlwind and a golden dance too fast for the eye to follow. All around them the bright gods and fire giants stepped down from the skies to oppose the dragons rising on wide wings. The swordsmanship of Nodens was superior, but the spear of Lugus seemed to have a life of its own, meeting every blow, jabbing, cutting, slashing. To the boy’s dismay, it cut through his father’s defences, through his armour, drew blood. Red, although my father is blue, still he bleeds red blood.
The battle raged, the dragons fought fiercely, but they were outnumbered by the army from the stars. A swift orange female snatched up a god and bit his head off before she was encircled by gods with spears and stabbed down. Maddened, blinded dragons spun, helpless victims of burning swords. How dare they come here with their unbearable light?
Sadness and fury choked the boy as he saw the gods were winning. His father, armour hanging from him, bled from countless wounds whilst Lugus was still unscathed, golden, shining. Only a few dragons remained in the distance, defending his mother. On the edges winged serpents had joined the battle, attacking in packs, picking off bright gods, dragging them into their holes. A wingless serpent had choked on a star. His long, coiling body was being hacked to pieces by a trail of swords.
The helm of Nodens was askew. Blood matted his silver hair. Teeth clenched, breath gasping, he summoned his last strength, swept aside the spear, dented Lugus’s breastplate, knocked the wind from him, the smile from his face. Heedless, displaying its magic, the cursed spear fought on. It’s not fair. He would be no match for father without it.
Lugus recovered, with his next blow knocked the sword from the hand of Nodens. The boy hoped, momentarily, he would show mercy. Instead, to his horror, Lugus stepped in, with a single sweep severed his father’s sword arm at the elbow. Unbearable his scream, the blood spurting from his stump, his expression of agony as he collapsed into the red pool.
The boy tossed, turned in a dream become a nightmare, as his Dragon Mother fought against the heavenly army alone, nine heads snapping, biting, defying all but the shining boy-god’s spear. Nine times nine deadly blows she smote him, but still he did not die, dancing around her in a blur of blinding light, stabbing, jabbing, opening an awful pattern of jagged wounds.
Tiring from her exertions and loss of blood, Anrhuna lunged with her red-jewelled head and Lugus cut it off with a swing. The boy gaped as it fell, blood spurting from the neck, releasing from within his mother a gushing fountain of fire. From it were born a dozen blazing red dragons, finding their wings, flying upwards, into the Heavens. He watched appalled as Lugus cut off the head with the light blue jewel and a cascade of ice bridged the skies birthing a group of icy pale blue dragons. From the head with the grey jewel, an upward avalanche of stone, grey dragons… tumbling earth and greens… gushing magma and oranges… So much water from the head with the dark blue jewel it might have drowned the battlefield if it had not spouted into the Heavens with the dark blue dragons. Spindly yellow dragons rose on the thinnest of air from the head with the yellow jewel and on a mighty blast of wind the purples took flight from the purple-jewelled head. Sad thing, only one head left, the last with the white jewel like mine. As it fell a rush of mist and taking form from it a pack of white dragons, fading into the starless night, beautiful, evanescent, lost to him.
Tears blurred his eyes as their myriad colours vanished above, the life departed his mother’s eyes, the light from her jewels. Then his enemy hefted his golden spear and pierced her swollen belly. Her body fell with no heads to scream. Blood poured from her wound to join the blood of her children.
“Victory!” declared Lugus to the applause of his shining army.
An insurmountable fury filled the boy as he watched his foe tear his sister from the womb with one golden gauntlet, him with the other – a tiny dark-haired girl and a white-haired boy.
“Behold!” cried Lugus. “The girl who will bring life I will keep and the boy who will bring death I will cast into the Abyss!”