Nonetheless, he came back when the bracken was brown again, and again the year after that, and one more after that—three times he came back, and each time she was more beautiful and more loving, and three times he felt it more deeply. When he went away, he felt something in his chest he had never felt before; he did not know that this was longing, but only that it was because of her. Each time, he was angrier that this could happen to him, and the third time, he was in a rage, because he knew he loved her and yet could never touch her, and he thought he could not keep from her if he came again, so fierce was his longing now to stay with her and watch her and listen to her voice. So he went out with his staff in his hand, and he poured his rage out on the world.
Men said it was the worst time they had ever known. There were wars, and famines, and plagues. People died by tens, by hundreds, by thousands. Death went everywhere, spilling his anger on them, and there were so many dead in some places that there were not enough left alive to bury them; in other places, great fires were set to burn the dead, and the smoke went up and turned the sky black, and everywhere came the scavengers, the great vultures first that always wheeled above him, his birds, and so it went until Death had rid himself of his rage and was calm again.
Then he had reason to come back to Mull. Two brothers, sons of the same father but different mothers, were fighting. One, with an axe, split his brother’s head from the crown to the chin; the other, with a sword, pierced his brother’s chest right through to the backbone. Death caught them both and laid them down, and when he straightened again he saw where he was, and he looked up a long slope and saw far off the shape of the hill where the fort had been.
“I will go see her once more,” he said, “for now I can bear to look at her and to hear her voice and not be angry.”
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