Ethelfrith beheld Bethoc the Beautiful; and the songs that he had heard in her praise were as an idle tale, for her loveliness exceeded the power of song. The soul of the fierce king melted within him. It was subdued by the sorcery of her charms. "Give me," said he unto her father and commandments ever fell from his lips "give me Bethoc to be my wife; for she is more lovely than the morning star.
Queen Bethoc, the daughter of Gormack, knew that men said she was less beautiful than Agitha, the daughter of the king. When they walked by the clear fountains or the crystal brooks together, the fountains and the brooks whispered to her the words which men spoke "Agitha is the most lovely." Therefore did the queen hate Agitha with a great and deadly hatred.
Again the voice of the enchantress came forth from the cave, saying "In seven days come unto me again bring with thee the Princess Agitha; and Elgiva, the enchantress, will do towards her as Bethoc, the daughter of the weird thane, hath requested." Thus did the queen, while Ethelfrith, her lord, was making war against a strange king in a far country.
The bards lifted up their voice; they styled her the fairest of women. "Fair is the wife of the king," replied an aged thane, "but fairer is Agitha, his daughter! Bethoc, the queen, is a bright star, but Agitha is the star of the morning fairest of the heavens!" Queen Bethoc heard the words of the aged thane, and she hated Agitha because of them.
Her breast swelled with exultation. Pride flashed from her eyes, as the sun bursting from a cloud dazzleth the eye of the gazer. The king gazed upon her beauty as a dreamer upon a fair vision. Now, the beauty of Bethoc was sin made lovely. Her bosom was as a hill where the vine and the cedar grew, and where flowers shed forth perfume; but beneath which a volcano slept.
"The queen," answered Bethoc, "the wife of the mighty Ethelfrith, she calleth thee, she invoketh thine aid. The strongest spirits obey thee the spirits of the earth, of the air, and of the sea. Then help me, thou that art more powerful than the kings of the earth, that art stronger than the fate of the stars; help rid me of mine enemy whom I hate, even of Agitha, the daughter of the king.
"Come forth, my daughter!" cried the enchantress. Agitha sprang from her disguise of skins. She sank on the breast of her hero. The people beheld her from afar. Their shout of joy rang across the sea. It was echoed among the hills. A scream rose from the tower of Ida. From the highest turret Bethoc the queen had sprung. In pieces was her body scattered at the foot of the great cliff.
It was told that the reptiles, the owls, and the raven, were objects of her enchantment warriors, and the daughters of warriors, transformed by the waving of her wand. Now, when Bethoc could find no rest because of the greatness of her hatred for Agitha, and, moreover, as she herself had communed with impure spirits, she overcame the terror which the name of Elgiva spread. She sought her aid.
Agitha, whose face was as the face of heaven when its glories appear as the face of the earth when its flowers give forth their fragrance Agitha is not!" And because she was not, the people mourned. Queen Bethoc alone rejoiced, and was silent.
Agitha would have shrunk back, but the queen grasped her hand. The swords of the men of the Pictish race waved over her. They dragged her forward. They stood before the cave of the potent Elgiva. "Elgiva! worker of wonders!" exclaimed the queen; "Bethoc, thy servant, is come. The victim also is here Agitha, the morning-star.