I’ve chosen to make queer the Celtic tale ‘The Horned Woman’ . . .
. . . When I thought about stories, this one leapt out at me, which may mean it’s obvious. I tried to ignore it and work from others but my thoughts kept coming back to ‘The Horned Woman’ and my story kept telling itself in my head. Believing in inspiration and spiritual guidance, I submitted to this insistence and wrote ‘The Horned Man’.
Imbolc to me is a celebration of light over dark, the sun over night, life over death. My story, like the tale it’s based on, takes place in one night and the morning after. I have added love over lust because it is parallel to the others, and what’s a queer story without both? My own life has had this struggle. It takes time to come out of the darkness into the light and I want others still struggling to have the knowledge and its hope.
The Horned Man
A young man sat reading by a comfortable fire late one winter night while his father and mother and younger brothers slept fast away upstairs in their fine house made of stone. A loud knock, urgently struck, brought up him from his chair. Thinking it must be a neighbor and not wanting his family to wake, the young man moved quickly to the stout oaken door and undid the heavy iron latch.
When the door was wide open, he immediately saw a handsome stranger with coal black eyes and coal black hair and a body wondrously wrought. The body was naked except for black hair again at his chest and crotch and down his forearms and legs but, even more remarkable, the man had one horn on the right of his brow, which shown white in the darkness.
“Who are you?” the young man asked, both startled and drawn.
“The Devil With One Horn,” the handsome man replied. “May I come in?”
Without a thought why not, the young man let him cross the threshold, standing aside to make the way open. The devil brushed against him in a casual way as he strode in and took a chair, spreading his muscular thighs. He smiled up at the young man, whose name was Ruairi.
“Bring me some beer, young Ruairi,” he said with a smile.
The young man jumped at the soft sound of the devil’s voice on his name. “How do you know me?”
“I know a great many things,” the devil replied, spreading his legs wider so Ruairi could see for certain what he was meant to see. “You are well named,” the devil noted, his eyes on Ruairi’s flame red hair and down his body as if he could see the pale skin beneath the clothes. “And well made,” the devil added, with a smile. He put a hand up to Ruairi’s chin. “What about that beer, my love?”
“Of course, sir,” Ruairi said, waking from his dream and leaving the room for the kitchen. There he quickly took up two tankards and dipped them in his father’s cask. He hurried back to the Devil With One Horn waiting in the parlor.
In that room, to his surprise, there were now two devils, the handsome one with a single horn and a second not quite so handsome but bigger in body and wearing two horns, one on either side of his forehead. The devils were sprawled across the floor, having congress with one another, both their cocks erect and huge. They stopped their play and took the two tankards from the boy.
“More beer, Ruairi!” the second devil cried before pushing the first devil back upon the floor. Ruairi took up the two tankards from where they sat and hurried back to his father’s barrel, returning to the parlor with three sloshing pints and his own erection.
On the floor of the parlor three devils were now thrashing, two fucking the first front and back. The devil in front was bigger still but a hair less good looking than those before. He had a third horn, smack in the middle of his forehead. Still, he was handsome in Ruairi’s eyes and the young man began to remove his shirt.
The three devils noticed Ruairi, their strange dark eyes appreciating his own muscular chest, but they did not invite him to join them on the parlor floor. They grabbed and drank the three pints and when they were done the third devil hissed “More beer, Ruairi!” as he put his great cock back into the first devil’s mouth.
This went on until Ruairi was naked and there were twelve devils filling the parlor, all having every kind of sex with one another on every bit of furniture and floor but none with Ruairi. Each time he came back with more beer, another devil had appeared, larger and uglier than the rest, with one more horn than the last. Ruairi grew more frustrated each time he returned, unable to join the devils in their frenzy. All they wanted from him was more beer, and all they allowed was a look.
When the twelfth devil with twelve horns demanded more beer, Ruairi flung back with all his frustration, “There’s none left! You’ve drunk the barrel!”
“Then, bring us water for we have a great thirst,” the Devil With Twelve Horns declared, stepping close to Ruairi, the heat and strength of his body making the young man almost faint. But he gathered himself and said in a firm voice that he would not. There was nothing for him in any of this and he wanted them gone. It would soon be light and his family up. What would they think, and what would they say?
The Devil With One Horn, completely disheveled and more handsome than ever, rose from his place at the bottom of the heap and stood between the twelfth devil and Ruairi so their naked bodies all touched and rubbed all three. In a cooing voice, he whispered, his hands reaching around for the young man’s fine ass, “Sure now, Ruairi, you’ll do this for me? I’ll be here for you when you come back. You may have from me all that you wish.” And then the Devil With One Horn fondled Ruairi’s chest and held his cock until it grew taut again. He smiled at Ruairi as it swelled against his own and gave the young man a deep kiss with his long pointed tongue.
Ruairi gasped and agreed, “Yes then, I will.”
The Devil With One Horn smiled again and pushed him towards the kitchen, then went back to his tribe. Ruairi, dazed but excited, ran quick for his clothes and hurried to the village well, rolling the empty beer barrel ahead of him. He uncovered the well and lowered its bucket to pull great draughts from its depth.
A voice came up from the water, making Ruairi peer down. The face of a man neither young nor old looked back at him from the gloom.
“What are you up to, lad, so early on a morning?” the Spirit of the Well asked in a deep voice.
“I’ve come to raise water for the twelve demons having congress in the parlor of my father’s house,” he said quickly, thinking of the handsome devil with one horn who would be waiting for him. The Spirit of the Well could see he was excited and breathing hard.
“This is evil work, young Ruairi,” he said after a moment. “While you are here, they are killing your family.”
The red-haired young man looked back where he came and asked in great agitation, “But why? I have done everything they asked.”
“They mean to live in your father’s house and sleep all day and have sex all together each night, with you as their servant,” the spirit answered before he paused and asked, “Is sex with these devils worth the death of your family?”
“No,” Ruairi firmly said and began to pull away.
“Wait!” the spirit cried, calling him back. “Do this I’m telling you. At your father’s house, stand at the north angle and cry loudly three times, “The mountain of the Fenian men and the sky above it are all afire!”
Ruairi repeated the words and again pulled away.
“Wait!” the spirit cried a second time. “Take a bucket of my holy water back with you.”
“But why?” Ruairi asked, nonetheless untying the bucket from its rope and filling it to the brim from the water already in the barrel.
“Go!” the spirit commanded with no explanation and Ruairi flew, wanting to save his family.
When he came to his father’s house, he stood at the north angle of it and cried aloud three times, just as the spirit told, “The mountain of the Fenian men and the sky above it are all afire!”
At that, all twelve devils stormed out of the house and stomped off for Slievenamon, which was their home, their heavily muscled legs and huge bodies making deep impressions of their wide feet as they ran, the marks of which can still be seen today.
As soon as the last one vanished, Ruairi ran fast into the house and up the stairs. There was his family, all bloody and dead, as the Spirit of the Well had foretold. In anguish the young man wailed, “Spirit, Spirit, what have I done?”
A deep voice from somewhere replied in soft words, “Hush, young Ruairi. Tis not what you have done but what you must do. Take the holy water from my well and bathe each body head to toe, then dry each of them from foot to face with its own fresh cloth.”
Ruairi leapt to do all that the spirit had instructed, carefully and with great tenderness cleaning each of his loved ones of the blood shed by the twelve devils, until their deathly pallor was like ivory in the dim dawning light.
“Now, Spirit,” Ruairi asked, “Please, please, what should I do?”
“Wait,” the spirit’s voice answered him and just then each body took a new breath, slowly as in sleeping, which they all were.
Ruairi raised his arms high, crying in happiness, and whispered, “Thank you, oh, thank you, Spirit of the Well!” He dropped to his knees but the spirit raised him up and guided him from the upper rooms with a soft breeze up his body, down the stairs, into the parlor, where havoc was shown. Every table and chair was overturned, his mother’s knickknacks tossed, candles broken. Ruairi began setting everything to right but the Spirit of the Well interrupted with more urgent tasks.
“They will return, I am afraid, once they see there is neither fire on their mountain nor in the sky above it, so you must hurry, young Ruairi. Take my holy water, which you used to waken your family and sprinkle it across the threshold of the door. They cannot cross my water colored with the blood of your family, blood which they themselves have shed.”
Ruairi did as he was told and then barred the door with a heavy beam. Not a second later came a pounding which shook the house. “Open!” the twelve devils said loudly together, but Ruairi kept silent, no matter how they pounded and yelled.
“Open, door!” they demanded but the door replied it could not.
“I am locked tight and strong and a heavy beam is jammed across me. I cannot move.”
“Open, blood!” the devils shouted.
“I cannot,” the blood answered. “Since I am mixed with holy water from the well I cannot do your biding.”
“Open, water!” the mad voices screamed together in a clap of thunder and fall of rain.
“I cannot,” said the water, “For you have brought the rain and it carries me now down to the lough.”
At last it was quiet except for one soft voice which said in an insinuating way, “Open for me, young Ruairi, and I will keep my promise.”
At the seductive sound, Ruairi did open the door, though the Spirit of the Well warned against it in whispers. There on the doorstep, all by himself, was the handsome Devil With One Horn. He smiled at Ruairi and his cock rose thick and broad headed. Ruairi’s also grew to its full and straining length, and the devil smiled to see it.
He held out a beckoning arm and hand, spreading his legs and arching his back as if making ready to receive Ruairi’s long cock. “I cannot cross the threshold but you can,” he said with a leer, “So come, Ruairi. Come to me now. I want you in me.”
The Spirit of the Well speaking against it in his ear, Ruairi watched and debated. The devil was more handsome than any man he had ever seen, and the memory of his muscled ass and the other devils pounding into it made his breath come short. But the more the devil entreated, the more the Spirit of the Well spoke against it until at last Ruairi sighed and closed the door. He set the heavy beam back in its place and listened until he heard the devil take his leave. Only then did he open the door once again. There was no one waiting.
“But they will be back!” he said in alarm to the air and could not be sure if he thought that was good or bad.
“The dark night is over, the sun has returned, and you have defeated the demons of darkness,” the Spirit told him. “Be proud of yourself.”
“But night comes again and I am just one man, a human, against all of them.”
The Spirit of the Well settled close round the skin of Ruairi, making it tingle with delight. “I will share all I know with you, my young hero. You will defeat them. My love will show you how.” And in the tingling of his skin and the brush of the breeze against it, Ruairi felt himself loved and made love to and joined with the Spirit of the Well in their own congress on the floor of the parlor.
The sun in its travel had reached quarter sky before they were done. Ruairi now knew the twin mysteries of love and of sex and was eager for more but the spirit said, “Be patient, my love. I must leave now, but I will return. That is my promise and it is a better one than that given you before.”
“When?” Ruairi yelped, hearing only the word leave and afraid to lose all that he had gained.
“Whenever you want me,” the spirit answered, withdrawing.
“How?” Ruairi asked, clutching at the air around him.
“Just come to my well,” the spirit replied in a disappearing voice.
Ruairi heard his family rising so dressed himself to hide his lust. He stirred the hearth embers and added a log, sitting back in his chair and taking up his book once again. He smiled with the knowledge he had gained that night and day, sure there would be all the more that he wanted.
writes and lives in San Francisco. He is Irish on his mother’s side and Scottish from his father. Irish stories and celebration were important to him early on. He learned the Scottish later on. Both inform who he is now.