Skye Makes a Bargain
by Kat Beyer
Cuhulain learnt the salmon’s leap from her; great Aife fought her. She pitched her camp on an island off of Alba, giving it her name: Skye. When the women came, crying, “Teach us!” she taught.
One evening she stood on the headland with her back to the School of Battles. She heard the wings behind her, then smelled the stink. She didn’t turn around. Even goddesses ought to have manners, not just show up.
“A bargain, Skye,” croaked the goddess, so she turned.
“Good evening, your Ladyship,” she said. The Lady of Battles engulfed the school behind her in shadow.
“A bargain, Skye.”
“I have already made our bargain, your Ruthlessness,” she said, “when first I stuck a sword in a gut. To you I go in the end, serving a life for each life taken. I know it.”
“Not that bargain. One for your students, each one who picks up a sword under your eye, and those that will call your name in times to come.”
Skye knew that the Lady of Battles had the Light of Foresight and often forgot whether she saw today, yesterday, or the hundred thousandth tomorrow.
“They’ll remember you, they will,” said the Lady of Battles. “And my hand guides your sword, my wing stretches over your students. A bargain, Skye!” she crowed.
‘Always bargains,’ thought Skye. ‘Gods can never say, here, have limitless power, or endless life, or a good poop, whatever, and leave it.’
“What bargain, your Stinkiness?”
“A girl dedicated to me every generation!”
‘No need to screech,’ thought Skye. ‘Screeching, always.’
“And if I don’t agree?”
“Your school to wither, your teachings to fail those taught!”
And that, thought Skye, was the heart of it—gods don’t really bargain at all. Give up teaching? Give up showing women the strength in their sword arm? She thought how always one girl stood fiercer, more ruthless than the rest, not afraid to summon the terrible carrion Lady by saying her real name three times.
The sun had set on Alba.
“I’ll make the bargain,” sighed Skye. “You’ll know her. In each generation taught on this land, one will go to you, your Ravenity.”
Nowadays the School has only one stone arch and a name, the Fortress of Shadows. They say a girl still finds herself there, sometimes. They say Joan of Arc came once, and Queen Elizabeth. They say many things, whatever.