Nor had she given him fair warning, for the choice was not a gift.
In exchange she’d own his soul, he’d lose himself, but more:
whatever he selected would be charged against his people,
who would lack as long as he would live. And the hidden trick,
Fey’s risk, if he declined to choose, would open all her secrets.
Knowing none of this, he paused a second – and that saved him.
She held out the prizes she had summoned up, visible in air,
to tempt him further on – and they were taken from her!
The dark wind and chill that travelled with her master
whipped them away; then her, entire, with a single cry of dread.
The naive young sprite now faced her punishment thrice over,
having revealed herself and then consorted with a mortal,
she’d offered him a fatal choice, which was not hers to give.
Stripped of her gifts, her ragged wings, torn while barely dry,
she was driven into exile – but without mortality’s cold mercy.
Now the man was truly shaken. His homing instinct took him
to his village, quest unfulfilled, desire for it quenched;
his skin broken, open wounds infected by the Other,
dazed, confused, distracted, lacking will and energy
he stumbled into the gate-fire, that cauterised his flesh.
So Con the heedless lived on, in long prosperity, but mocked:
for the lameness in his right leg and his scar, his new mark,
a flaring livid crimson slash, all down his side, the sinister,
from ear and jaw down chest and arm to groin and thigh.
Rooted in the soil, the kelpie’s words forgotten, the haunted man remained.