Eithne drew back her head.

Eithne drew back her head and said, “I get bored.”

Cian’s eyes flew open and his flushed cheeks turned pale with dismay.

“Not when I’m kissing you, lad,” she giggled. “When I’ve nothing to do and a lot of time. I’ve been wondering what you meant me to say.”

“Ach! Is that what you were thinking just now?” he sighed.

She sat up and held him firmly at arm’s length. As much as she would have liked to have pretended he was simply her old Cian, she had to know what he had done to be cast out of Heaven. Perhaps he had committed murder, or some other grave sin.

“You promised you would be telling me your story if I let you come sit beside me,” she reminded him gravely. “And I even let you kiss me.”

'And I even let you kiss me.'

He pushed a long curl back from her face, though it seemed to her an excuse to turn his eyes away from her eyes.

“‘Bored’ was what I was thinking,” he admitted.

“Was the Lord getting bored in Heaven?” Eithne whispered fearfully, for perhaps the mere idea was sacrilege.

“The Holy Spirit was.”

Finally he sat back and settled her comfortably before him, making a little nest for her between his legs, as if he was determined to make a proper speech.

Finally he sat back and settled her comfortably before him.

“And worse than that,” he said, “she was envious.”

“The Holy Spirit is a girl?” Eithne squeaked.

“Whisht! She was envious, because God the Father had created time, and all the angels that were then, and perhaps her own self as well, for she wasn’t remembering a time when God was not – ”

“Were you one of the angels that were then?” Eithne interrupted.

“Is this still supposed to be bedtime story practice?” he sighed.

“No,” she giggled. “It was not supposed to be, but it could have been…

“No, I was not one of the angels then. If you will listen, I shall tell you how I came to be.”

Eithne clamped her lips together and nodded. This was the story she had wanted to hear for so long, all while being too afraid to ask.

“Thus she too wanted to create something all alone. So she went away alone and tried… but all she could do was split off parts of her own self: her dark self, and her bright self, and she named them Night and Day.”

“Oh!” Eithne breathed. “Is that how the day and the night were made?”

'Is that how the day and the night were made?'

“Not the night and day you know, Eithne. Now listen. She had not created something new, but she could not hide that she had tried, for Day was very bright. And God saw what she had done and was wroth. But Day and Night were beautiful, too, and He loved them, and that is how we were made. The angels of the night, such as I, and the angels of the day – Araphel and Amarel and their brothers.”

“Ach! They’re not the same?”

“Let us say we are cousins and not brothers. Their father was God the Son, and mine God the Most High. And their mother was the Day, and mine the Night.”

Eithne’s mouth and eyes were wide with wonder. It was too impossible to be anything but a fairy tale – and yet a fairy was what she was, with her magic – and she had seen him with his wings.

“And that is why you are black and batty!”

“You see,” he whispered, “it is not so dreadful.”

She lifted a hand to caress his fair cheek and his neck, trying to remember the dark face of the monster who had come to her once.

She lifted a hand to caress his fair cheek and his neck.

She could not; she could recall only her horror, and yet for the first time, instead of the memory of the monster polluting her love for Cian, her love for her husband made her feel a faint, pitying affection for the monster. He had known no more of maidens than of small children, perhaps, and had tried to love her in his awkward, overwhelming way.

“And because God was not only our creator but also our Father,” he murmured, “we had our part of godliness in us, and we could think and do for our own selves, unlike the cherubim and seraphim who can only praise Him forever. And yet we who could choose loved Him more than they,” he sighed. “My brothers and I best of all.”

“So why did He send you away?”

“Be patient, little one. I did nothing in those times but love Him. But the Holy Spirit soon went away again to sin against Him by trying to create alone. Still she only shed off parts of herself – Heaven and Earth and so forth, but not the ones you know. Each was less godlike and less beautiful than the last, but they were still herself and nothing new. And they were not as bright as Day, so God did not see.”

“Did He love them and make more angels with them?” she asked.

“Be patient, Eithne.”

“Were you a little baby angel at that time?” she giggled, interrupting him as he was about to speak again. “Or a wee laddie angel with little stumpy wings?”

He winced as if he had bit his tongue. “I was always as you saw me,” he whispered. “May I continue?”

“Aye,” she peeped. “I’m only wondering…”

'I'm only wondering...'

She had been at the point of believing that she might manage to love her babies even if they were born black and batty, but his reaction cast her trouble back over her like a pall.

“At last,” he said, “she thought to try to create something like God the Father, so that it would not be a shade of herself. And at last she succeeded in creating something new. But it was an abomination, Eithne,” he whispered, as if the very words were blasphemy. “An unholy Beast. Everything that was like God, this Beast was the opposite. If God is like a man with a face like the face of a lion, so was this Beast a lion with the face of a man.”

'So was this Beast a lion with the face of a man.'

“Did you see it?”

“Whisht! And the Holy Spirit was frightened, and she wanted to hide the Beast so God would not know what she had done. She took it as far away from His throne as she could take it, and she locked it up in darkness, where even the Light of God had never shone.”

“Poor Beastie,” she pouted.


“He never asked to be created!”

“Ach!” He leaned his forehead against hers and spoke with his cold breath over her face.

He leaned his forehead against hers.

“It is like the loving heart of you to pity a monster,” he sighed. “It is the hope and the salvation of me.” He lifted his head and said, “But the ‘poor Beastie’ was alone there in the darkness, and he had no little wife to love him. And he never knew that there was anything besides his own self in all the universe – he thought his prison was everything that was.”

“Poor Beast.”

Cian lifted a finger to her lips to silence her, but then he seemed to remember how he loved them, and he stroked them gently with his fingertips as he spoke to her.

“He believed he was God, and he wanted to create. So, on the first day, he created light to lift his darkness, and that is the night and day that you know. And on the second day, he separated the firmament from the waters, and that is the sky that you know.”

'That is the sky that you know.'

“That is what it tells in the Bible!”

“Whisht! Pretend you’re not knowing, for you only know in part. On the third he made the earth to come up from the water, and that is the land and the sea that you know. On the fourth he made your sun and moon and stars, and on the fifth the fish and dumb animals.”

“And on the sixth he made man…”

“No, he did not. On the sixth day he made the nine animals I have already told you.”

“Cats and wolves and bats and so forth?” she asked.

“Aye, love. He created them on the sixth day, and gave them minds to think and do, so that they would keep him company. But on the seventh day he rested, and did not see what they were doing.”

“This sounds like trouble,” she giggled.

Cian groaned, “Eithne!”


“Story practice,” she whispered. “Be going on with you.”

Cian sighed wearily, but he went on. “The nine of them were talking together on that day, and the raven wondered, what is beneath the sea? So the bear caught a fish, and the fish told them that at the bottom of the sea there is only the earth. The other animals were content, but next the raven was a-​​wondering, what is above the sky? None could say, so she decided to fly up and up and see. And she flew so high that she went beyond the stars and followed the Light of God to His very throne. She perched her on the back of His seat, saucy as you please, and asked Him, ‘What are you?’”

Eithne laughed. “If you’re keeping yourself to animal stories, you’ve a knack for bedtime tales after all.”

Cian pretended to scowl, but his cheeks lit up with pink. “And God saw that this creature was not of His creation, and He was very wroth. And He followed the raven back down, and He brought the Holy Spirit with Him, and all the angels who answered His call on that day.”

“Were you there on that day?” Eithne asked softly, hoping that his crime was no worse than missing that call.

'Were you there on that day?'

“Aye, love, I was. But Araphel and Amarel were not, nor some of their brothers, for the angels of the day were often away playing somewhere,” he sighed, “plucking the feathers of the poor Seraphim, or I know not what mischief.”

“Oh…” She smiled, but somehow the thought made her sad.

“There God saw all that had been done out of His sight, and He was exceedingly wroth. And when the Beast saw the beauty of Almighty God, he despaired at his own ugliness and the ugliness of all he had made, and he tried to destroy it in shame. But God would not allow it and trapped him outside of time.”

“Poor Beast…”

“You won’t be saying so in the last days,” Cian grumbled, “when God will be freeing him at last, and he destroys all he has made.”


“And God took a handful of clay, and He shaped it into His own image, and He breathed life into it, and it was the first man. And He stood it up and said, ‘Here is the new god you wanted! Here is your god of clay! Bow down before him!’ And He made the Holy Spirit and all her forms bow before him, with their faces in the dirt. And the eldest of the angels of the day, who is called Michael, hastened to kneel himself down, before any of my brothers could kneel, for he was always jealous of us and wanted to be the first. And all his brothers who were there did likewise.”

“Did you kneel?” Eithne asked, hoping this forced idolatry had been his only crime.

'No, I did not, Eithne.'

“No, I did not, Eithne,” he said gravely. “I, and my eldest brother, and some few of us did not. I loved Him so, I was thinking it better to disobey Him than to bow down before any god but Him.”

“Was He angry?”

“Perhaps He would not have been,” he sighed and tapped his finger against the spots where her dimples hid when she was not smiling, so well must he have learned them. “Perhaps He had only meant the Holy Spirit to kneel. But then Michael was very afraid, fearing God would be pleased with us and angry at him who was first to kneel to a false god. So he said aloud, ‘They think themselves so mighty they need not kneel to any other being in creation! They think themselves so mighty they need not obey God! Soon they will be building a throne higher than His!’”

“And the Lord believed him?”

“And God said, ‘You who think yourselves higher than the Most High, I set you lower than the most low,’ and He bound us beneath the very earth – beneath even the earth that was at the bottom of the sea.”

“Didn’t He believe you?” she whimpered.

“If He could believe that of us, who had always loved Him better than anyone loved Him, there was nothing more to say. We went to our prison without a word. And that was the last time I ever saw my father,” he concluded hastily, smirking like a man who mocks a lost love to hide his pain.

“That’s all?” she squeaked. “That’s all you did?”

'That's all?'

“Pride is the greatest sin, Eithne,” he said coldly. “Whether we are prideful for thinking ourselves like Him, or like Him in being prideful, it is what He cannot bear. Now, it’s little enough I’m knowing about rearing up wee children, but I’m thinking the rule of bedtime tales is that they are immediately and without further palaver followed by bed.”

“But, Cian…”

He slid her off his lap and stood. “I shall get the knives off the bed, and you shall get the bread and cheese. And you,” he said, pointing menacingly at Sweetdew, “shall get the rats that come to eat the crumbs.”

The back he turned to her was so grimly forbidding.

Sweetdew mewed and hastened to pretend to inspect the blankets for rodents, but Cian did not translate, and the back he turned to her was so grimly forbidding Eithne dared not ask. He looked again like the cold, unloving man who had ridden with her this past day.

He was gentle with her as he tucked her into bed beside him, but her day-​​long fear that he would slip his hand beneath her cloak and gown at the first opportunity was replaced by her worry at his failure to even try.

He was gentle with her as he tucked her into bed beside him.

She knew he was not merely too tired. He waited a while, but soon he lifted his head and peered down at her face, holding his cold breath so he would not wake her as he looked to see whether she slept.

Then he sat up, careful not to untuck the blankets from around her cheeks, but he did not rise and go out. For as long as she could manage to only pretend to sleep, he sat beside her, breathing carefully through his mouth, tossing back his head, rubbing his eyes, only pretending not to cry.

For as long as she could manage to only pretend to sleep, he sat beside her.