by Kelli Lowry
It had been his hope, his prayer, a litany deeply contained within his soul; a wish hidden so far beneath the surface of his mind, he dared not speak it until now and the words were carried away on the wind – “I desire a glimpse of the Underworld.”
Putting the thought aside, he lay in the lush grass beneath the oak. Watching the clouds float by in the gentle breeze, his eyes closed as he drowsed off.
Following a whisper on the breeze, she came upon a lone figure and stood watching him in the beautiful repose of sleep. The corners of her mouth turned up and she blew a small kiss in his direction. She had been lonely and to find such a delightful man pleased her. At the stirring of his hair, he turned his head in her direction. She spoke again. “Thomas, awaken.”
Slowly, he opened his eyes and stared at the woman in front of him. “Who are you?”
“I am that which you seek, and a queen.” Smiling, she leaned over, offering her hand.
He was afraid to touch her, only to learn he was dreaming, but still more afraid of offending her if he did not take her hand. The woman was ethereal, her skin was flawless and almost glowing. Her hair was very long and straight, a dark red-brown, and her eyes were a brilliant blue. His thumb brushed the back of her long green sleeve as he stood. The deep forest green of her dress embraced her body lovingly, as he wanted to. “I will be your servant.”
“Will you come with me, Thomas?”
He noticed a large, white horse waiting patiently beneath a tree. The long mane and tail of the horse were interwoven with colorful ribbons and the tack was of ornately carved leather. Without hesitation, he turned to her and put his hands on her waist. Lifting, he put her atop the horse.
For a split second, his father’s words came to his mind about never accepting things as they appeared, for much more could hide beneath the surface. Looking up at the beautiful woman before him, he put the warning to the back of his mind. “To where do we journey?”
“To my lands, though they are far. Would you still go, Thomas?”
“Come, then.” He nodded and began walking alongside the horse. The farther they went, the more the countryside started to look different. Bright and contrasting, it looked almost eerie and unearthly.
She captivated him and Thomas felt his thoughts becoming more difficult to control as confusion clouded his mind.
Reaching out, she put her hand on his shoulder an smiled to reassure him. “You desired to see something of the Underworld. Here I am.”
At her touch, he felt as if the ground were no longer beneath him and nodded. “You hesitate before me? Why, Thomas?”
“I—I’m not certain, Queen. I had not thought to see anything of the sort.”
“Be careful what you wish, for you may receive it and what, then?” She pulled the horse to a stop.
Putting his hands up, he allowed her to lean into them. He set her on the ground gently. “I never believed this could happen. Please, tell me your name.”
A demure smile graced her features. “Morrigan.”
“That is a beautiful name, Queen Morrigan.” He found himself unable or unwilling to remove his hands from her waist. Leaning over, he kissed her. It progressed from a gentle, slow kiss to an inquisitive touch, as if he were seeking her blessing. When she didn’t resist, he held her to him.
A slight sigh escaped her as she ended the touch of his mouth upon hers, wishing she could allow it to linger. “Since you kissed me of your own free will, I shall allow you to choose which you would do. Will you continue to journey along with me? Or will you return to your world?”
He could faintly hear someone calling his name.
Looking at Queen Morrigan, he saw a subtle change within her face. An impression of hate gleamed in her eyes and her features sharpened into a shadow of something non-human. Heat seared through him and he shook his head quickly to dispel the illusion. “I would return, Queen.”
“You have chosen, so it shall be. Return whence we came and you shall reach your world soon enough.”
At her words, unexplainable relief washed over him. “Thank you. Before I go, might I ask, where is your domain, Queen?”
Turning the horse to ride away, the beautiful woman spoke, knowing the words would make his blood run cold. “Not where, Thomas; rather, what. I am the Phantom Queen, my domain is Death.” She smiled coldly at him, disappointed he had chosen to return and not remain.
He turned and walked away, understanding he was fortunate, indeed.