The high king of Alba had everything a mortal man could aspire to. His land was united. His neighbors were allies. His wife was beautiful, and he had four wonderful sons.
Still, Aeda was worried. He was growing old, he was ill with a disease of consumption, and he needed to pick an heir. His oldest son Agar was the natural choice. And for a lesser position, the boy would have been fine. But the kid simply wasn’t that bright. He was handsome with flowing blonde hair, and incredibly strong, but not clever.
So the king worried. It would take someone quick witted and insightful to manage this kingdom.
His second son was agile like an acrobat. But Talias was silly and flighty. He would rather traipse through the woods than talk politics and strategy.
The third son had made a name for himself in battle in spite of being short and stocky. Rory was brave beyond reason. But he was seldom around. He spent all his time excavating caverns in the hills looking for precious metals.
Finally there was Gregor. He was possibly the best choice of the family, in spite of being the youngest.
He was extremely clever, even insightful. It was rumored that he had the second sight. But the other sons would never consent to being usurped.
So the king was worried. What hope would there be once he was gone?
It happened that deep in the castle dungeon there was a witch. At least everyone thought she was a witch. She had lived long in the land as long as anyone could remember. The king himself as a boy had heard of her, and ordered her jailed for her evil incantations. Surprisingly she didn’t resist when the guards came. She had already set her shack in order, and sat waiting in front of the locked door. She came willingly to the keep, and passed from memory of most of the people.
But now the king did remember. He knew that having traffic with such a creature would have a high cost, but he could think of no other solution to preserve the kingdom. He sent for her, and waited. Fearful that she wouldn’t be able to help, and terrified that she would.
The old crone walked into the throne room as if she were the queen, and the king were her servant. Without bowing, she walked up to the foot of the throne, and looked the old man in the eye. Unsolicited she said “I can cast a spell. It will give a measure of strength, agility, fierce nerves, and insight to each of your sons. But you must marry me, and make me queen, to rule by your side until your natural death.”
The king was terrified and repulsed. But as he looked at her, he realized she wasn’t as old and decrepit as he had first thought. In fact, they seemed about the same age. He briefly wondered if the woman that he had heard of before had been her mother, and maybe he had wrongly jailed a young woman all along.
So he agreed. Even as he did though, he had misgivings. No matter her age, if this creature could do as she said, then she was something dark and dangerous. And he had second thoughts. Still, he had spoken, and he decided to let her attempt what she had agreed to.
A few days later came the first night of the new moon. The woman had locked herself away unseen since the day of the meeting with the king. She emerged, and told the page to have the king and his sons meet her in the courtyard at midnight.
They did. And she produced a bottle with a strange green liquid. As she un-stoppered it, she stepped up and bid the oldest drink. He looked fearfully at his father, but the boy realized he wasn’t smart. If his father felt this was best, he would agree. So he drank.
As did the second, and the third son. But the youngest was insightful. He knew somehow that this was a bad idea. He paused, and asked his father to relent from this deal. But the king saw the first son smiling and looking alright. The second son also seemed fine. As did the third. So he ordered his youngest to drink. And in obeyance to his father, and to his king, the boy put the chalice to his lips, barely wetting them with the vile draught.
As they stood there, the witch turned to the king, and said “So now there is to be a wedding?” And the king replied “When I see that your brew is true.” He turned and walked away. Leaving his sons confused, and the witch angry.
The next day it seemed as if the king’s highest hopes had been reached. All four sons seemed cut from a perfect cloth. They all were strong, agile, fierce, and clever. The king knew he owed a debt to the witch. But he also feared letting that evil beast near the thrown of Alba. He kept replaying her words in his head. She would rule by his side until his death. So the king made a hard decision.
He arranged the wedding, but on the day it was to commence, he took out a bottle of the medicine his physician had prepared for the pain. He had been warned to take only a sip at a time. The king slipped the full bottle into his robes, and went to be wed.
As soon as the priest said “Man and Wife”, the king turned towards the witch, and drank the whole bottle. He fell to the ground, dead.
The witch was enraged. She screamed “You cheated!!! They will not accept me without a corronation ceremony! You didn’t have me crowned! Oh you fool!!! I said until your NATURAL DEATH!!!” And as she screamed, the woman grew taller. Her robes, already fine for the wedding become etheral and glowed with an inner light. She looked down at the corpse still maddened “You could have lived forever at MY side you pitiful fool!!!” Her robes turned black, a flock of crows flew into the room and swirled around her until she disappeared completely. Then they flew as a mass, and seemed to flow out of the open windows like a stream.
The kingdom was in chaos. The king was dead, the queen to be had disappeared magically. So Agar declared for the thrown. His younger brothers did not argue. They only hoped for the good of the kingdom. His coronation was scheduled for the morning after the winter solstice.
That night, something happened. Agar awoke, hearing an old woman’s voice. She said “You already were strong, and I gave you a measure of all four. The others will fall away, and you will have only your strength.” No one knows what happened to Agar, but there was a hole in his wall, and the tracks led away to the woods. Trackers lost his trail a cave where they encountered a troll with blonde hair.
The other sons were not passed by that night. Talias awoke hearing the voice talking about his agility, and his love of the woods. She told him “so all else will fall away, and you will become a creature of the wood.” Guards remembered a creature running and leaping from the battlements. They said it headed to the darkwood where no human could abide.
Rory awoke with rage in his eyes. He had never gone full beserk in battle, but it was upon him now. He barely heard the woman’s voice, but he knew he had to leave the land of men or he would kill them all. So he charged into the wild, eventually going to the caves he had explored before in happier times.
Finally there was Gregor. He had barely let his lips touch the liquid, but he had still been part of his father’s horrid contract. He awoke to the woman’s voice, and his gift kicked in. He knew instantly that this was the Morrigan, and she was no mortal witch.
As he lay there, a glow in the corner of his room started to get bigger and bigger. Eventually it seemed that the woman was walking towards him down a long hallway. When she had arrived she spoke to him, “You did not drink. But I still bestowed the attributes upon you.”
He replied “Yes. Now what?”
She asked him “You know what your father did. What do you think of his actions?”
Gregor answered her “His actions in making deals with a witch? Or his action in betraying you? I will answer both in full. I wish he had never heard of you. I wish he had never imprisoned you, or asked for your help. But since he did, he should have honored his deal.”
“So tell me, what would you do if you were king? Would you make me queen?” She enquired.
“No Maab. I would have no dealings with you. He was wrong not to honor the deal, but he was wrong to make it. I would not engage you at all. Now, may I live?” he asked.
She answered, “Oh, you will live. But you must carry some part of the curse your father bought with his misdealing. So you will keep your abilities. And you will pay the price. Your seed will all have the ability of second sight. And as they use it, eventually it will drive them insane………………. Long live the king.”
And she disappeared.
History records the rest. Gregor became king. His descendants ruled for generations. And as must happen their reign came to an end. The whole time they kept a secret. They had a gift and a curse upon them.
Years later, it is known that the Clan Gregor fell out of favor and was declared outlaw. Men had to renounce their family name or face death. Many refused. Others fled to new lands. Some hid their name. But no matter where they went, or what they called themselves, they could not escape the heritage of their dealings with the Morrigan.