You’re walking near the Crane Marsh, idly tossing your all-purpose dagger, the one you’ve had as long as you can remember, from hand to hand. A horrible metallic clacking sound startles you and you drop your dagger in the water. Frightened birds fly low over your head, ruffling your hair. You kneel down and reach in to retrieve the dagger. As your hand closes around the handle you see the reflection of a face behind you. A face with a sharp metal beak. You stay perfectly still as it becomes three faces, then one again. You turn around quickly and briefly see the outline of a large bird, sunlight glinting off its sharp metallic feathers and heavy brass claws. Then it changes into a warrior in blood-red armor.
You stammer, “that sound…”
She shakes her head at your implied question and says, “I believe you call him Hercules.”
“Why is he making that awful racket?”
“He thinks he does a heroic thing by clearing the marsh of birds. We are particularly sensitive to loud noises.”
She says, “I came to ask for your help to stop him. Now though I see…”
You stare at her; she seems to be blurring around the edges.
“…you shall defeat me four times, though I know not how.”
She has become a large eel.
You ask, “who are you?”
“A goddess of war,” the eel says, “and of death on the battlefield.”
The Morrigan disappears into the water.
In the Field of Echoes, Cuchulainn, hero of Homare-jima, finishes building a cairn to the ronins he’d defeated that day. He hears a footstep behind him and is instantly on his feet, his barbed spear in his hands, and his short body perfectly balanced for defense. He quickly sizes-up the large scruffy man in the red kilt and skull armor.
“I would know your name, laddie,” Cuchulainn says.
“Hercules, a great hero of Britannia!”
“Aye, then we shall compete to see which of us is the greater hero.”
Hercules opens his mouth for more bluster, but his self-preservation instinct stops him. Instead he slowly lays down his club and takes a flask out of his pocket.
“In Brit, we drink to each other’s health first.”
Cuchulainn says, “arra, I will honor your custom.” He sticks his spear points upwards in the ground and walks over to Hercules.
Hercules hands Cuchulainn a portable shot glass of whiskey, then pours some for himself into the large cap of the flask.