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Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Toast To His Lady

         
        Beckett ignored her, instead loading a canvas bag with the wooden swords, poles and other training equipment, and throwing them with such force that the sound of splintered wood shattered the deep silence of the clearing.

         "I am quite sure you have questions that trouble you.  Proceed to ask them."  The Queen sat ramrod straight on the branch, her silver gown hanging down like frosted icicles in a winter scene, hands folded primly in her lap.

          "I've got nothing to say, Lady.  Except that I'm done here. Finished.  I've wasted too much time listening to your bullshit lies as it is.  I'm packing this place up, and heading home.  You take care of your... dysfunctional family... on your own, and just leave me the hell out of it."

           "Really, Sir Knight.  You sound increasingly like a spoiled toddler.  Let us discuss this like reasonable mature beings.  There is much I need to explain."

            He grabbed the canvas bag and turning his back, began to make his way toward the cabin.  Without turning around he added, "Then tell it to someone who cares, because it isn't me."  He took two steps forward only to find himself unable to move in any direction, blocked securely as if  he were imprisoned in a solid box.  Beckett let loose with a long line of obscenities, kicking at invisible walls with his feet and fists, eventually using the wooden swords, but finding himself stubbornly trapped.  He thought about using the Glock, but worried about a possible ricochet effect, and stuck the pistol back into his waistband, flopping to the ground in utter frustration.  "This changes nothing, Maeve.  Do your worse.  You've already revealed you can't harm a Mortal.  Unless, of course, that was a lie too."

               The Fairy Queen fluttered to the ground, and before his eyes, changed size to match his own.  It always gave him pause when she did that.  It was one thing, seeing her six inches tall, sitting on a tree limb, and quite another facing her when she was nearly six feet and looking him squarely in the eye.  There was nothing demur or sweet about her.  She was inhumanly beautiful, and just as deadly, reminding him very much of a cobra before it strikes.  She pressed a hand to the invisible wall, and it melted around him.  "You misunderstand, Mortal.  I said I can not take your life.  Nor can I take your Free Will.  That is forbidden by the Laws of our Creator.  But like you, I can make make my own choices, and there are no rules that prohibit me from making your life miserable.  We both know there are worse things than death."

                The Black Knight stood up and took a step forward, standing so close their noses almost touched.  "Then go ahead, Your Majesty.  Do your worst to me.  But leave the rest of them out of this. It's me you need to do this thing.  Not the others.  Let them go.  But know this... I will not continue to be your personal executioner, and under my Free Will, you can not make me do so."

                  She sighed, so long and so deep, that a hazy cloud began to develop around the two of them.  She brushed it away with a wave of your hand, and then snapping her fingers, made two chairs appear on the spot.  "Sit, Ridre Dubh, so we can talk of things that need to be said.  I grow weary of all this nonsense.  We will speak of the truth."

                   He thought about walking away, but a bone deep sense of fatigue floated over him, and he found himself unable to take a single step.  He knew she would not let him leave alone unless she had her say, and so he reluctantly dropped into the chair beside her, confident he had made up his mind. She snapped again, and this time, a table appeared in front of them, holding two glasses of ruby liquid  and a plate of small pastries.  She offered him a glass, and he shook his head, declining the offer while needing a clear head for the game of words that would shortly follow.

                   She Who Was All helped herself to a long drink, and bit into one of the pastries, brushing away the crumbs with a graceful hand, before continuing.  "I understand your confusion, Sir Knight.  Owen did not paint an appealing picture.  But there is much he left out.  Much you do not know.  I am certain once you hear the truth, things will be good between us."

                   "Your 'truth' seems to be very subjective, Lady Queen.  As I said before, I no longer wish to be your judge, jury and executioner.  And if what you say about Free Will is the truth you base your life on, then you can not force me to do so."

             She narrowed her eyes at him, again the cobra image coming to mind.  "As Queen, the Creator's Laws are mine to uphold, Sir Knight.  I have sworn my allegiance to them.  You are correct.  Free Will gives you the choice to decline.  But you will not do so.  Not because of anything I can do to force you, but rather because you owe me.  A great debt that you will pay because you too have your own sense of misguided honor."

            "I hope you're not talking about that ridiculous contract you made me sign.  We both know the damn thing was bogus.  You could have reversed the time travel spell anytime you wished.  You didn't need me to rescue Maureen at all, and knowing what I know now, about she being the last of your line...there was no way you would have left her in someone else's body.  So there is no real debt there to be paid.  In fact, your little charade almost cost Roxanne her life.  Don't think I've forgotten about that whole mess."

              She waved his argument off with a toss of her hand.  "But the Mortal woman did not die, Ridre Dubh.  She sits in yonder cabin burning with the joy of lust.  Her trip through time was part of her own destiny, and the scar she carries a reminder of just how fleeting the beauty of life really is.  She is better for the experience.  This I know."

               "Still, I don't see that as my debt to pay, Your Majesty."

               "Foolish, Knight.  Your commitment has nothing to do with the time travel.  Nothing at all.  Your debt to me occurred several months earlier."

                 Beckett thought for a moment, and then went still.  The ugly incident floated into memory, and he suddenly felt queasy, his mouth dry and cottony.

                The Fairy Queen nodded.  "Yes.  A terrible burden indeed.  I saw it coming, but could do little to stop it.  The accident that took the life of your son was meant to take the life of your Lady as well.  And though it is difficult to remember, the blame for all that happened rests heavy on your shoulders, Sir Knight.  Your unwillingness to share your dark secrets with your Lady, to fully open yourself to her love, led to the events that bring us to this day.  To your debt to me."

                  He felt sick, the bile rising in his throat, and it took his total concentration not to humiliate himself by being physically sick in front of her.  His mind fought against believing what she was saying, but the guilt pushed in at him hard.  "Are you saying that she was supposed to...to die?  Because of the accident?"  It was nearly impossible to say the words, and his tongue felt heavy and wooden in his mouth.

           The Fairy nodded, her face a solemn mask.  "Her life force was nearly gone.  Barely a whisper.  She had a foot already in the Here After...when I did what I did."

            "You?  You saved her life?  How?  The doctors...they said..."

            "It will be difficult for you to understand.  This I know, Mortals being so attached to their physical presence.  But are we are all children of the Creator, and thus spiritual beings, composed of His natural energy.  Though the Fay are not subject to your natural order, we have a life span, same as you, though ours is much longer.  I gave your Lady some of my own energy, saving her life, but shortening my own."

            His head pounded, and though he tried to shove away the awful memories of those moments in the emergency room, he could not.  He remembered the pitiful glances of the nurses and doctors,
remembered Kevin lost lost in prayer, and his overwhelming sense of guilt and shame, the desperate feeling of helplessness.  He fought to gain some sense of logic, a reasonable thought process amongst a battle of emotions.  "You tell me you can't take a human life, but you can bring one back from the edges of death?  This is all too much for me to believe.  Especially when I know your end game, Lady Queen.  You want me to believe I am indebted to you for the life of my wife.  Then let me ask you this...why didn't you save the life of the baby as well, especially if you have this desperate need for your line to continue?"

             She tisked, and took a long sip from her glass before answering.  "As expected, you have faith in nothing, Mortal Knight, and you understand so little.  I can not transfer energy to ordinary mortals.  It would do nothing but harm them physically, as well as mentally.  But Fay blood runs through your Lady's veins.  The blood of my line.  It is for that reason alone she lives.  The child... your son...was not of the Fay.  It happens.  There are no guarantees.  I could not save him as well."

             There was another flash of memory.  A tiny body, cold and pale, tufts of dark hair, the same color as his.  Grief so profound it cut through him like a knife, and in anger he responded.  "And you just expect me to believe all this.  Take you on your word when you've been a lying, conniving bitch from the very start.  You didn't save her for me.  You saved her for your own selfish needs, and hooked me in the process."

             It might have been the anger behind his words, or maybe the deep sense of loss, but she blanched at the words and was very still, the glass raised mid-air.  With another deep sigh she lowered it, and stared at the man next to her in silence.  "I do not expect you take my word at face value, Mortal Knight.  Nor do I expect you to understand the ways of my kind.  But know this, our destinies have been linked for a very, very long time.  It has all been written in the prophesies of my people a millennium before either of us came to be.  I knew of your love for your Lady before you had even the smallest hint of it yourself, your lives intertwined in ways you can not even begin to imagine."

                 "You can speak to me of prophesies all you wish.  But I am a man who likes solid proof.  How can I be sure that what you say is true?  That Maureen is alive now because of you."

               "I knew you would not take me on my word, Ridre Dubh.  It is your greatest failing, your inability to let your inner soul guide you.  So, I left proof...physical proof...of the energy I transferred to your Lady."

               "What kind of proof?"

               "There is a star shaped mark on her left shoulder.  One that was not there before the accident, and for which she has no explanation.  I know you have seen it yourself.  Traced it with your own finger.  I left that mark there for you, Black Knight.  So you could have the proof you so desperately seem to need when this time came.  And now...here we sit.  At the point where we can no longer argue about what is owed.  If Owen is not stopped...by you, Ridre Dubh...my people face a time of great turmoil.  My time on this Earth, as ruler of my people, is destined to end, the time shortened in trade for your Lady's life.  I can not leave my people to Owen's rule, and you can not leave your Lady to Owen's seed."

___________________________

                  It took several minutes for Beckett to compose himself after her latest piece of information.  The idea of Owen being with Maureen, his Maureen, built a rage inside himself that he found he could not reign in.  He knew part of problem was the Fairy Queen's close proximity to him, and he went back to the lecture he gave the others earlier that day, explaining how they needed to work at controlling the intense feelings battling inside of them.  He bloodied and bruised his knuckles pounding away at an army of tree trunks.  When the anger was spent, he flopped back into the chair next to She Who Was All, who waited patiently for him to come to terms with his own emotions.

               "I'll fucking split him in two, that fucking bastard.  He isn't getting anywhere near her, do you understand me?  I'll carve him into a hundred separate pieces.  You hear me?"

                "I hear you quite well, Sir Knight, as you are sitting right next to me.  But a hundred pieces is not necessary.  You only must remove his head from his shoulders.  With Caladborg.  That will do just fine."

              "Tell me about him.  Owen.  How did he get to this point?  And what about his mother?  Your sister?  How did she end up dead?  Who killed her?"

               She Who Was All frowned, her face suddenly not nearly as scary as it had been a few minutes before, looking if anything, quite miserable.  She handed him the cup she'd offered him earlier.  "It is truly a sad story, Ridre Dubh, one that makes me feel empty to my most inner core.  Before I explain, share with me a toast.   To your Lady, Sir Knight.  Our true reason for working together."

                He hesitated a moment, then willingly took the cup.  "To my Lady...my everything."  Tossing back the wine, he thought of his wife, waiting patiently for him back at the cabin, his alone,  and failing to see the smile that played on the Queen's lips behind the goblet.

 

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved


                 

             






           

 



         

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Owen and Omens

                       
     
       He swung the wooden sword in an arc across his left shoulder, countering the flat of his opponent's weapon and heaving it away, only to have the man double up and swing at him from the opposite side.  The tip of the warrior's longsword caught Ian across the forearm, a searing pain that shot to his brain like a sharpened arrow.

       "Look alive, boy.  Your poor form is apt to get your head severed from your body.  Begin the Armatura again...from the start...and this time take make your focus be on defending your position and not on the stirrings of your cock."

         The anger and the embarrassment swallowed him all at once, and he took a volatile step toward the Lord Warrior, brandishing the wooden sword above his head.  But the Legend had already turned his back, dismissing the young man, and moving on to bully Kevin, who for a man of the cloth, seemed to have extraordinary skill with the Medieval weapon.  Ian wiped his sweaty face on his sleeve and looked over to where the women were sitting under the shade of a large oak, heads bent together in earnest conversation.  The heavy branch above them was empty this morning, the hellish Fairy Queen apparently taking no interest in today's training.

           Though she was not looking his way, he wondered if Roxanne could feel his eyes on her. Did she know exactly what it was he was thinking as easily as the Irish legend just had?  This morning, after breakfast, the Sheriff had called them together and explained, as best he could, the raging emotions each one of them was battling.  The table had sat in embarrassed silence, no one willing to comment on the truth that was clearly exposed the night before.  His Roxie had sat there staring into her cup of yogurt, face the color of June strawberries, and lips tightly pursed in a grimace.  He had tried to speak to her afterward, but she pushed him away, saying little, and then abruptly heading back to her room on the second floor.

            Still, he wasn't surprised when she and Mrs. Beckett took their customary place under the oak tree.  The Sheriff had insisted they stay together, forbidding them from wandering off on their own.  If it wasn't obvious before, it was now made perfectly clear that the group was not a democracy, and that while they were here together, the Ridre Dubh would call all the shots.  Not for the first time, Ian questioned the Fates that had brought him to this point.  Why here?  Why now?  It wasn't as if he missed his past life.  He'd left England for a chance at something better, though his time in the New Colony had been less than productive.  But never in his wildest dreams could he had ever imagined the strange turn his life had taken.  Time travel?  Fairies? They were children's fantasies. But his feelings for the lovely Roxanne were as true as anything he had ever felt.

          As if she could read his mind, Roxanne caught his eye and smiled, blushing as well.  He felt his pulse race a bit, the rest of his body following suit.  He did his best to hide his feelings, to shut down any desire he had for this 21st Century woman, lest someone else in the group pick up on what he was thinking.  But it was obviously too late.  The Lord Warrior called a halt to the exercises he was conducting with Fr. Kevin.  He spat on the ground, then stomped toward Ian, swinging his heavy practice sword as if it weighed nothing at all.

            "It seems as if you are lost in your own world, Boy.  Shall we bring you back to ours?"

____________________________

           The morning training was intense, and all three mortals were near exhaustion by the time Cu-Chulainn called for a short break.  The Warrior himself showed little weariness, but there was a definite look of concern in his expression.  She Who Was All silently appeared on her favorite branch, today dressed all in silver, a thin band of wire encrusted with sapphires circling her head in crown like fashion.  She shooed the two women away, calling for the Ridre Dubh to attend to her words.  Before the conversation could take place, a large plume of smoke appeared in the clearing, similar to the one that had brought Cu-Chulainn a day earlier.  The spider instantly made its way to the Queen's side, followed by the Lord Warrior, each standing guard at her left and right.

             The shaft grew larger and larger, until it slowly filtered away, leaving a misty figure in its place.  Beckett reached for the Glock tucked in the waistband of his fatigues, but the Fairy Queen called for him to stop.

               "That will do no good, Black Knight.  As we have discussed before, only Caladbolg can cut him down.  Now is not the time.  What you see before you is only an image.  Owen is not physically here among us."

                "It's a hologram?"

                She thought for a moment, and answered.  "Yes...in your world it is much the same.  He sends us his image via the forces of energy, while he remains safely hidden away.  It is as I expected,  but the fact that he sends us his image now means he is fully aware of our plans.  Things will move quicker than I had hoped."

                   The figure was covered from head to toe in a long cloak, its face completely hidden by a large cowl and hood.  For several moments it was silent, the image fading in and out like a bad picture tube in an old fashioned television set, finally settling itself into what seemed a very solid form.  The voice that came out from the figure was surprisingly normal, both young and male.

                  "Good day, Your Majesty.  You look radiantly well."

                  "Why do you seek me out, Owen?  I do not recall sending for you."

                  "Surely you are not surprised to see me, Dear Auntie.  Should not family keep in touch?"

                   The Black Knight looked up at the Queen, and then at the cloaked figure, caution etched on his face.  He opened his mouth to speak, but then quickly closed it, opting to keep his questions to himself.

                    Sensing his confusion, the figure spoke.  "So, it appears I meet the the new Ridre Dubh.
Poor soul.  My aunt has not been entirely honest with you, mortal friend, but that is so like her.  She does tend to...bend the truth, shall we say?"

                    "You cross too many boundaries, Wizard.  I am She Who Is All...Queen of the Fay. You best remember who it is you address."

                     "How can any of us forget, Your Majesty.  You have done all you can to rule with an iron fist.  Unjustly, I may add."

                     "Your tongue speaks lies, nephew.  And if you were truly present, I would show you why it is the will of the Creator that I have been chosen to guide our people."

                 "There is no will of the Creator, Auntie. Just your vanity.  And if you believe that I can be stopped by the likes of one angry mortal, than time has addled your mind."  He laughed, a bitter, sarcastic sound.   "Now...had you said I would face the Lord Cu-Chulainn, it might give me pause.  But we both know that with the blood of my mortal father running through my veins, no Fay can bring about my demise.  That would be breaking the very rule you set in place, my Queen.  No...you are quite at a disadvantage, Auntie.  I will be all my mother intended, and there is little you can do to stop me."

                  "You will die, Owen, just like your mother.  It will be as the prophesies have written."

                   He sighed deeply.  "No. Maeve.  It shall not be.  I will not be held to some ancient scraps of tattered paper.  Not in this time or place.  You fear me, as rightfully you should.  What I seek is close at hand, and there is little you can do to stop me."  The figure turned its hooded head toward the five mortals, who stood tightly together under the tree.  "Are those two yours, Auntie?"  He pointed a sleeved arm in the direction of Kevin and Maureen.  "The last of your line?  Quite pitiful, if truth be told.  Shanty Irish, at best, with not a clue to their heritage.  I think I will do them a huge favor and end their meager existence."

                     At his words, Beckett darted forward.  "That's gonna happen over my fucking cold, dead body, you bast..."  He suddenly found himself frozen in place, the words stuck in his mouth like chunks of ice.

                      The wizard laughed again, this time heartily.  "Oh my, Auntie.  Aren't you the clever one?  She is the Ridre Dubh's mate, this female of yours.  Well played, I'll admit, but surely not enough to stop what will happen.  I think I may keep her for myself...once I dispose of your knight.
Can you imagine the child we could produce, she and I?  It is worth considering."

                    "Leave us now, Wizard, before I forget may own rules and destroy you where you stand."

                   "Another empty threat, Maeve, and we both know it. But you are right.  Time moves forward, and I need to prepare."  He made a low bow in the direction of the frozen Black Knight. "Until we meet again, Sir Knight.  I look forward to taking all that is yours."   The wizard raised his hands and the image slowly faded away leaving a pile of ash in its place.

                     With a cry of alarm, Maureen rushed to her husband's sides, and at her touch, the icy armor that held him in place disappeared.  Before she could speak a word, the Fairy Queen interrupted.

                     "Lord Cu-Chulainn, take the others to the cabin.  I will speak to the Ridre Dubh alone.

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Of Magic and Mayhem

                                   
           The whole damn dinner was a disaster.  No. Not a disaster.  Worse than that.  More like a debacle.  Maureen scraped most of a perfect chocolate souffle into the garbage, and set the dirty dish into some soapy water to soak.  She eyed the tower of packaged leftovers, and shook her head in disgust. A total waste of time and effort.

           It should have worked. It always had at home. Whenever her brothers had been at each other's throats, her father in one of his stormy moods, she and her mother would spend hours in the kitchen orchestrating a culinary feast.  And when her mother's mind began to slide, she had taken over, soothing their ruffled feathers with full bellies and jovial conversation, not to mention an abundance of liquid libation.  She couldn't remember a time when that hadn't done its job.  Until tonight.

          Worse yet, she couldn't pin it on any one thing.  It was as if each one of them were hanging on the edge of some emotional cliff, ready to fall off without a bit of warning, and not having the slightest clue as to how they should save themselves.  There was a strange tension in the air, and if she had been thinking clearly, she would have changed her plans for a nice cordial dinner the moment she'd laid eyes on her husband.  Ted had seemingly come out of no where, strolling down the stairs from the Master Suite with a controlled air of indifference.  His hair was still damp, and he was dressed in a pair of faded fatigues, a snug white t-shirt, and some type of worn military style boots, a combo she'd never seen him in before.

              When or how he'd returned back to the cabin was unclear, but it certainly hadn't been through the front door.  That said, it was clear there was some other hidden entrance and exit to the cabin, a fact he hadn't bothered to share with her despite his big lecture the night before on the need for honesty between them.  It made her feel less guilty about keeping her new found ability a secret, especially after witnessing how Kevin had gone off the deep end about the whole thing.  Still, had she been thinking clearly, she would have seen her husband's GI Joe fashion statement for what it was...a bona fide call to battle.

              Though his face was a calm mask, the Ridre Dubh was obviously not thrilled to see the Lord Warrior, Cu-Chulainn, sitting comfortably on his sofa, an arm casually draped across its back and much too close to Roxanne's shoulder.  His expression appeared benign, but Maureen had noticed the prominent little vein on his right temple, a "tell" she'd learned in their short relationship signaled he was more than a bit perturbed.  From his position on the sofa, the Irish legend was genial enough, but his eyes held a steely sense of reserve, also assessing Ted's choice of attire for what it was.

                  Beckett stuck out a hand, a thin smile that didn't meet his chilly eyes.  "I see you will be joining us for dinner, Lord Warrior.  I officially welcome you to my home...and my hospitality."

                 His choice of words were not lost on Maureen, or the warrior himself.  Among the Fay, an offer and acceptance of hospitality meant that no harm or injury could be brought to any party under the roof.  It was a call for truce, and once accepted, an unbreakable oath.  Cu-Chulainn returned a similar smile and stood, gripping Beckett's hand in his.  "I accept your offer of hospitality, Sir Knight.  May peace reign in your lodgings."

                  That should have been enough to prevent any further problems, but the testosterone level in the room seemed to rise along with the conversation.  Maureen inwardly groaned when Ian, who was barely holding his temper, suggested a game of cards to wile away the time until dinner.  She knew from general knowledge of Celtic mythology that the Lord Warrior loved nothing more than an opportunity to gamble, and a game of poker had disaster written all over it.  Before she could politely put a stop to it, the beautiful table she had set for dinner was quickly dismantled, the four men grimly gathered around it for some serious card playing.

                     The Ridre Dubh's Lady had hoped for some female support from Roxanne, but her friend seemed bogged down with issues of her own.  Rox had arrived several minutes earlier, flushed and shaky, unable to string more than a few words together.  She had not been invited to participate in the game, yet was quite content to sit on the sofa, mesmerized by the action at the table, her eyes darting back and forth between the players like an affection starved puppy.  It was all very strange, and had she not been distracted by both dinner and the trouble brewing at the card game, she might have figured it all out before the whole thing blew up.

                     It wasn't long before Ted pulled out his Jameson Special Reserve, making an already violate situation worse.  Though dinner was ready to be served, none of the card players seemed the least bit interested in breaking up the game, and at the Ridre Dubh's request, she found herself making up individual plates of food that the four men shoveled into their mouths in between hands.  Roxie had passed on the meal entirely.  She had pulled up a chair to the end of the table, her head in her hands, totally oblivious to anything but the game and players in front of her.  Somewhere after  the pasta course and before dessert,  Cu-Chulaiin made the inappropriate suggestion to up the ante, offering the zombie like Roxanne as the prize.  It was at that point she expected her husband, or at least Kevin, to call for reason and stop the whole damn thing, and when that didn't happen, she knew something was terribly, terribly wrong.

                 She opened her mouth to speak, but caught a look from her husband that clearly indicated he wanted her to remain silent.  And if Kevin understood the implications of the situation, he wasn't giving her any indication of it, being totally engrossed in the hand he was dealt.  It wasn't until Ian put down a Royal Straight Flush that all hell broke loose.  Both the Lord Warrior and Fr. Kevin jumped from their chairs, calling Ian a cheat, and sweeping away the cards.  Ian took obvious issue to the claim, screaming that he had won Roxanne fair and square, and swinging wildly at both men.  It took Beckett shooting a round from his Glock into the cathedral ceiling of the cabin to get anyone's attention, and the melee suddenly ended as quickly as it had started.

                   Cu-Chulaiin swayed on his feet, the effects of too much Jameson and an overdose of adrenaline.  He gruffly made his apologies to the host, and then disappeared into a cloud of smoke, leaving behind an embarrassed Ian and a mortified Fr. Kevin.  With the Lord Warrior gone, Roxanne seemed to gain back some of her own self cognizance, blinking several times, and then retiring to her room.  She was quickly followed by her two admirers, both of whom had expressed feeling strangely fatigued and most odd.  Maureen stood speechless, waiting for an opportunity to discuss the whole crazy evening with her husband, who had no intention of doing any such thing.  Tucking the Glock back into the waistband of his fatigues, he headed out the front door, claiming the need for some fresh air, and suggesting she not wait up for him.

__________________________________

              He figured he'd been walking nearly two hours, having made two full sweeps of the perimeters of his property.  As usual, the woods seemed darker than he remembered, more overgrown and...alive, for lack of a better word.  The time alone outdoors had helped.  He felt calmer, more centered than he had since his ass whopping earlier in the day.  The sting of embarrassment was still there in tiny increments, but had been mainly replaced with rational thought.  Beckett climbed the stairs to his cabin, and instead of heading inside, took a seat in one of the Adirondack chairs on the porch, bracing his feet against the railing.

               There was the now familiar clicking from the brush to the left of him, and out scuttled the large spider, heading right toward the stairs.  He moved his hand slowly toward the Glock, and whispered, "Come on, you hairy bastard...I'm not afraid of you."

                "Such falsehood, Sir Knight...when we both know that statement is untrue."

                 The voice came from the arm of the chair next to him, the Fairy Queen sitting on the edge of it with her feet dangling down.  Beckett grunted. "Well, well...look who's finally decided to show up. Come to gloat, have we?"

                   She reached out a tiny hand and gave the fleshy part of his arm a sharp pinch.  "You are most disagreeable, Mortal.  Is there ever a time when you are not sullen?  Your disrespect and constant whining is quite tiresome.  Why are you out here pouting and not with your Lady?"

                    "My Lady is none of your concern, Your Majesty.  And I'm not pouting."

                     She sighed, and continued.  "No...I guess you are not.  It is quite encouraging to see that you have moved on from your shaming this morning.  It is a good sign that your training can now begin in earnest.  I am glad to see that you have progressed to this point so quickly, as time grows short."

                    "Well...not that it matters what you think, but yes...I do feel a sense of focus I lacked up until now.  I presume it is your doing?"

                      "My doing, Sir Knight?  How do you mean?  Your emotions are your own entirely."

                      "Don't try to con a con, Your Majesty.  I'm well aware that all the craziness going on around here is your work."

                       "Craziness?  I do not understand what it is you describe, Ridre Dubh."

                       "So you haven't noticed the strange behavior exhibited by the five of us?  I don't believe that for a second.  Everyone's emotions have spiraled out of control.  My wife and her brother aren't even speaking, which if you know them is totally out of character.  They finish each other's sentences, for Christ sake.  Ian, who we normally can't get to shut up, can't seem to string three coherent words together, and Roxanne, whose gotta be the most together woman I've ever met, well...she's like some kind of stray cat in heat.  This is your doing, isn't it?  Some kind of fairy spell
for your own personal amusement."

                    The Queen stood up, and flew over to the railing in front of him. "Understand this, Sir Knight.   I have placed no spell on you or your companions.  On that you have my word."

                 "Then it must be that jar head asshole you brought here with you."

                 "I'd be careful on how you address the Lord Warrior, my Knight.  You have tasted his sword, and he will only shrug off so much of your disrespect before he loses patience.  He understands fully what it is we face, and he would no more endanger our objective than cut off his own head.  He is not the cause of your discomfort."

                  "Then who is behind this nonsense, if not the two of you?  Is this coming from Owen as a way to keep us from moving forward."

                  "Creator be praised, Mortal!  You are sometimes so stupid, I shudder to think that our Fate is in your hands.  You understand nothing!  When Owen comes, he will not fight with spells that confuse.  No, my idiotic Knight...he will seek only to destroy you, and our way of life as well.  Your emotional problems are yours alone."

                    "Ours?  How so?  I can't believe all of this is our doing."

                    "And yet it is.  Our presence here... Fay energy of any kind...works to magnify all that you already possess.  The things you are feeling...the secret desires of your soul...are yours alone.  We act as a transmitter for them, making them more obvious then your human mind will allow."

                    "Are you telling me that this will continue as long as you are here?"

                     The Queen shrugged, a strangely human gesture on one so very not human.  "I'm afraid that is correct, Sir Knight."

                      "Can't you turn this ...this energy thing off.  At least while you're here?"

                     "That is quite impossible.  We can not turn off our aura anymore than you can stop breathing.  It is who...what...we are."

                      "So things...all of us...are going to to be just like we were tonight."

                       She nodded, and then added.  "But as we spend more time together, your human brain will learn to adjust for our presence.  Or at least I believe it will.  It may take a bit more time for things to...reinvent themselves."

                        The Ridre Dubh thought for a moment, recalling the behavior he witnessed over the past few hours, and mumbled under his breath.  "Well, isn't this just fuckn' dandy.  It'll be like high school all over again."

___________________________

                    Dr. Owen Ryan unlocked the door of his home, agitated and out of breath.  A message from his apprentice, unannounced and unexpected, couldn't mean anything good.  And the timing was more than lousy.  He was close.  Of that he was sure.  A few more trials and he'd finally accomplish what none before him had been able.

                He walked through the dark house, not stopping to turn on any lights, but seeing as clearly as if every bulb blazed.  It was one of the side effects that came as a bonus, a recessive gene that he had been lucky enough to stumble upon.  Below him, he could feel the energy of life growing in the line of petrie dishes and test tubes, proof enough that all he wanted was nearly in his grasp.

                The raven was perched on a shelf behind the incubator, an envelope in his beak.  With all the technology available, it annoyed him he was forced to resort to this type of communication,  but with the monitoring of the digital world by every government organization in the world, he couldn't risk even the slightest chance of discovery.  Not when he was so close.

                  He tore open the envelope and read the note inside, streaming a long line of obscenities as he did. Then with a shudder of rage, he tossed the note in the air where it disappeared in a flash of flame and smoke, and hurried back up the stairs, cursing with every step.


Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved




                 

               

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Of Love...and Other Diseases


         The immense size of Beckett's property made solitude easy, though Fr. Kevin knew that if She Who Was All required him, he'd be found in an instant.  Still, his flight gave him some level of privacy, and a chance for his beleaguered mind to slow down and contemplate the sure lunacy of the past few days.  The sword was hidden somewhere near the house, and the further away he moved, the less influence it seemed to have over him.  His head felt less fuzzy, and for the first time in nearly a week, he could actually think about something other than its divine presence.

         He'd left with the excuse that he was looking for his sister who had fled in to the woods in search of her husband.  They'd both been gone for more than four hours, and the level of concern about their whereabouts was beginning to rise.  Or not.  Frankly, it was only he that seemed worried about the safety of both Becketts, his counter parts duly lost in their own affairs.  Strangely enough, Roxanne had taken an immediate shine to the ancient Irish legend, laughing and blushing over ridiculous stories that couldn't possibly be true. Cu-Chulainn fawned and fussed over her to the point of nausea, though in truth, it was Roxie's obvious attraction to him that made Kevin the most uneasy.  And he wasn't alone in his feelings.  Ian had become a "third wheel" in the conversation, and it was clear the young man was less than happy about losing Roxanne's attention.

          Reason spoke to his staying and monitoring the situation to assure that the two men didn't come to blows, as there was no doubt that poor Ian would come out on the losing end.  But at the moment, he had no inclination to play the role of mediator in their little love triangle, and so without much explanation, he'd left the cabin for a search of the property, knowing that if he could find his sister, at least one of his worries would be put to rest.

          The late afternoon sun made only a dappled appearance through the canopy of trees, making the woods cooler and darker than what one might expect in late August.  It was eerily quiet, the only sounds coming from the rustling of leaves in the wind, and an occasional bird flying from one branch to another.  It was less scary than he thought, and in many ways, rather peaceful.  With his head clear of the sword, he worked his way through one decade of the rosary, and then another, pleased with the total sense of normalcy.  He was winding down the last Joyful Mystery when he heard a low humming sound coming from a spot a few yards in front of him, interrupting both his prayers and his peace of mind.

         Fr. Kevin hesitated a moment, and then quietly made his way toward the direction of the sound, deciding it might be best not to give away his presence if that were possible.  Up ahead was a small clearing, disguised by low hanging branches giving it the appearance of a small tepee.  As quietly as he could, he parted the leaves and peered in, and what he saw left him with his mouth hanging open.  In the center of the clearing was his sister, cross legged on the ground, with two gray squirrels curled up asleep in her lap.  On her shoulder sat a magnificent blue jay, its black bead eyes focused on four tennis balls hovering on their own in front of his sister, which apparently was cause of the hum he heard.  Maureen, a crown of woven leaves on her head, had her eyes closed tight, her lower lip bit in serious concentration.

          If there had been instead a three headed dog shooting rays of flame, Fr. Kevin would have not been more surprised.  His baby sister looked like something out of a Disney cartoon, an enchanted forest nymph, and not the woman who cussed like a sailor, and left gobs of toothpaste in the sink every morning. He battled in his mind as to whether he should say something, or just turn around and pretend he was never there, and the sensible side of him, the years of being an older brother, won out. "Maureen?"

            Startled, she opened her eyes and turned in the direction of the voice, the four tennis balls immediately dropping to the ground and rolling away in different directions.  The squirrels sat up in her lap, and then scampered off, the blue jay following suit and winging toward one of the taller trees.
There was a blush of pink around her neck, a sign of embarrassment at being caught off guard. "Kevin...what are you doing here?"

           "I could ask you the same question."  He waved his hand in the direction of the clearing, and pointed at one of the neon green tennis balls.  "What's going on?  What's with the...floating balls?  And the squirrels?  Squirrels have rabies, you know."

           She sighed.  "It's...complicated, Kev."

           "How 'bout you try un-complicating it, and explain."

            The tone in his voice made her narrow her eyes.  "Don't you pull that Big Brother shit with me, Kevin O'Kenney.  I am a grown adult.  A married woman.  I don't answer to you...or Patrick, or any of the others any more.  I make my own decisions."

              He pushed aside the branches and entering the clearing, plopped down beside her.  "Come on, Mo.  You know I don't deserve that.  We've been like two peas in a pod our whole lives.  Why are you shutting me out now?"

             "Because you won't understand."

             "Try me.  We could always tell each other everything.  Why is this different?"

              She looked away, then went to retrieve the four tennis balls.  When she had gathered them up, she sat back down next to her brother, taking his hands in hers.  "Ok...so you understand about the Fairy Queen, right?  That we...you and I...are the last in a long line of her descendants."

             "Yeah.  You've explained that.  I still find the whole thing...well...weird. Unbelievable, frankly.  We're two of eight children.  Why just us, and not the rest of them?"

              "Luck of the genetic draw, Kev.  That's how it works.  For the same reason that some of us look like Ma's side, and a few of us look like Dad's family, even though we all have the same parents.  Everyone always said how I resembled Granny when she was younger.  It's just how the gene pool shakes out.  Out of the eight of us, only you and I have red hair and the same green cat eyes like Granny did.  That apparently is from the Fay blood line."

             "You're telling me that you believe all this...fairy talk?  You believe that you're...part Fay? Come on, Mo!  We've had a perfectly normal life until the last few weeks.  Granted, I can't explain any of it, but it doesn't change who we are.  Maureen and Kevin O'Kenney.  Human beings."

               She pulled her hands from his, and folded them across her chest.  "I knew you wouldn't understand.  I'm just wasting my time here."

               "Please, Maureen.  I'm trying to hear what you're saying.  It just doesn't add up.  And what does this all have to do with you sitting out here with rabid animals in your lap?  And that whole creepy thing with the tennis balls?"

                "I'm trying to find out who I am, Kev.  You of all people should understand that."

                "You already know who you are.  Maureen Margaret O'Kenney Beckett...wife, daughter, sister.  You're beautiful, smart, creative and kind.  Why isn't that enough?  Why do you need to go searching for something else that isn't there?"

                 She was angry now, and near tears.  She stood up, the tennis balls in her hand.  "Damn you, Kevin! Because there is something else there, and you're too frightened...too close minded...to admit it."   She closed her eyes, and tossed the balls in the air,  They hung in a neat line between the two of them, and biting her lip again in concentration, she reversed their position from horizontal to vertical, and then back again.  She opened her eyes and let them drop to the ground.  "I can do these kind of things, Kevin.  Maeve is showing me how."

                He picked up one of the balls that had rolled near his feet, and flung it as hard as he could into the woods.  "So that's what this is all about.  She's filling your head with nonsense about magic.  You know it's pagan, right?  This whole magic crap she's selling you.  It's a sin.  What happened to your faith, Maureen?"

               She reached down, and lobbed one of the balls at him, catching him at the side of the head.
He flinched at the contact, but didn't say a word, the expression on his face telling her all she needed to know.  "Don't you go worrying about my faith, Fr. Kevin.  My faith is MY business, and it's just fine.  There's no such thing as "magic".  All I'm doing is manipulating energy and matter, something science and manufacturing does every damn day.  And if you believe it's so evil, so contrary to our faith, then what the hell are you doing here?  Explain to me how you time-traveled?  How I managed to be stuck in revolutionary Boston?  And while you're at it, tell me why that damn sword has such a hold on you?  Because...lets be honest here... whenever you're near it, you're like some moon-eyed zombie!"

              He sat on the ground, silent.  She was right...and wrong...about so many things, but in truth, he didn't have the answers to any of her questions.  She must have sensed that she hadn't changed his mind, the knowledge coming from years as loving siblings rather than from any source of magic.  They were at polar opposites of opinion for the very first time in their lives, and that realization cut both of them deeply.

             She brushed off the seat of her pants, and offered him a hand up.  When he wouldn't take it, she dropped it back at her side.  "I guess we've said it all then, Kev.  Go ahead and judge me if that's what you want to do.  I can't change who I am, any more than you can change who you were born to be.  We'll just leave it at that, but I want you to know I still love you as much as I always have."  Then she turned and headed back to the cabin, the neon tennis balls following in a line behind her.

_________________________

             Maureen went ahead and started dinner as planned, despite the fact that no one had seen her husband since the early part of the day.  She returned to the cabin tense and red-eyed, followed shortly by her brother, who appeared as if he had swallowed a large boulder and was now physically ill.  Roxanne thought about trying to speak to either one of them, and then changed her mind.  She was the last person on Earth who should expound on damaged relationships, her track record on the subject soundly dismal.  Whatever had gone down between the two was their business, and knowing both of them as she did, she was sure they'd fix it before the night was over.

             Instead, she had chosen to escape to her room, now standing in front of the mirror coaxing her chopped up hair into some kind of style.  That alone should have been proof that she had lost her mind entirely.  Here they were, in the middle of the woods, preparing for some cosmic battle between good and evil, and she was worried about how her hair looked.  Worse yet, she'd tried on several blouses and a variety of t-shirts in search of something that covered the bandages on her chest, and didn't leave her looking bulky, yet another sign there was something deeply wrong with her.

             She was surprised, and secretly pleased if the truth be admitted, when Cu-Chulainn accepted Maureen's invitation to stay for the evening meal.  She wasn't even sure what the whole Fay protocol was regarding things like eating and drinking, and... other unsaid habits of human kind.  She pushed aside the thought, her insides doing a strange little flip, much like when the legend had pressed his lips to her hand before they departed, or when Ian kissed her cheek before she headed upstairs to change for dinner.  Damn it!  What the hell was wrong with her?  She hadn't even cared that Kevin was so distressed, and obviously in need of a shoulder to cry on.

            Settling on a red top with a low scooped neckline, she pulled her hair back in a short pony tail at the back of her head, letting a few tendrils escape around her face to soften the look.  A thought jumped out of nowhere to the front of her brain, an idea that a ribbon or hair band might add some color to what she considered a sallow complexion.  Maybe even a dab of blush and maybe some lipstick, neither of which she'd ever considered packing.  Her brain, however, would not be deterred, and she realized that Maureen was sure to have brought an abundance of both accessories and make-up, as was her way, and perhaps she could discreetly borrow some.

            She considered going down and asking her permission, but then dismissed the idea.  Going all the way downstairs where both men probably were already waiting, then back up again to finish dressing, seemed silly.  She decided she'd just sneak upstairs, grab what she needed, and tell Mo about it later.  Her friend never seemed the stingy type, and she doubted this occasion wouldn't be any different.

            The hall in front of the Master Suite was deserted, the French doors not fully closed.  She paused a second, then pushed them open and made her way across the room to the large antique dresser in the corner.  The top was littered with an array of costume jewelry, and hair ornaments, and picking through them, she found exactly what she needed.  To her disappointment, there was no make-up in sight, logic being they were probably on the vanity in the bathroom. Common sense suggested she do without it, but the fact that she was not thinking clearly had already been established.  She made a quick dash to the the suite's bathroom, turning her head to keep an eye on the open French doors, and then running smack into something hard. And wet.

          Startled, she looked up into Sheriff Beckett's piercing blue eyes, his dark hair plastered across his forehead.  The Ridre Dubh, was wet and almost completely undressed except for the short towel he held around his waist with his left hand, and the Glock in his right  For a second, she was completely paralyzed, pressed against his chest, and locked onto his face. Her stomach flipped again, and no words would leave her mouth.

            He looked at her, and frowned.  "Can I help you find something, Deputy?"

            She turned several shades of red, and try as she might, she could not tear her eyes away.  They seemed frozen on the drops of water that slipped from his hair and traveled down his freshly shaved cheek.  She stepped back, hoping that would break the trance, but instead it put her eye level to his chest, the small scratch from the morning's debacle a thin red line from clavicle to shoulder.  She had an overwhelming need to trace it with her finger.  No.  Not her finger.  Her tongue.

              He laid the Glock down on a nearby chair, and put a hand on her arm, still holding up the towel with the other.  "Roxanne...are you alright?"

              The physical contact was enough to break the spell, or whatever the hell was wrong with her.
Embarrassed, she stepped several feet back, her face, as well as the rest of her, sweaty and much too warm.  "I'm fine, Sir.  I...I came in here to borrow some..."  The correct words wouldn't come, shriveling up and evaporating like rain drops on a hot summer day.  She felt ill, mortified, confused.
Aroused.  She turned away, afraid he'd see all those feelings in her face, and headed out the door and down the stairs to the second floor.  She raced into her room, and slammed the door shut, locking it behind her.  She tugged at the clean clothes she'd just put on, dropping them in a heap on the floor, and fled to the bathroom, reaching for the knob in the shower, and stepping under the icy stream of cold water.


Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved









         

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Black Knight is Schooled


     The Lord Warrior finished his conversation with the Fairy Queen, then turned to face both women, gifting them with his finest smile. Bowing low at the waist, he reached out and took Maureen's hand in his.  This time he spoke in modern English, though the words were heavy with brogue. "The Fates have been kind to drop me in the presence of such beauty. Surely you both be roses among these thorns."  He began to raise her hand to his lips, when a hand fell heavy on his shoulder.

      "I suggest removing your hand from my wife's if you ever plan on using it again."

     Cu-Chulainn let Mo's hand slip from his, and pivoted to face Beckett.  Though the Sheriff was nearly 6' 2, and by no description small boned, he appeared dwarfed by the legend in front of him.  "You have something to say to say to me, Mortal?"

      Before Beckett could respond, the Queen shifted to the end of the branch so that she was hanging directly between the two men, a wide grin dressing her tiny, pointed face.   "Lord Warrior...I'd like for you to meet the Fay's Ridre Dubh."  She paused for a moment, a giggle escaping her lips, then added,  "Sir Knight...may I present Lord Cu-Chulainn...Ireland's greatest champion."

        Cu-Chulainn looked from Beckett to Maureen, his face registering obvious displeasure. "This woman with the hair like flames...she is your mate, Black Knight?"

           Beckett nodded, fists clenched at his side. "Entirely."

        The Lord Warrior spit on the ground.  "You do not play fair, Your Majesty."

         Across from him, the Black Knight agreed.  "No.  She does not."

         The Fairy clapped her hands, and laughed again.  "Such sour faces. Is it difficult for you to admit you have been bested?"

           Cu-Chulainn frowned, looking less handsome, and more like the grim warrior he was.  "I admit no such thing, Lady Queen.  Things will stand as we have determined...and I will be a much wealthier... and satisfied... man in the end."  He looked over his shoulder, and gave Roxanne a wink.

           Beckett pushed his way past the Warrior to stand next to his wife.  "What's this all about Ma..." He considered addressing her in the familiar, and then seeing her narrowed eyes, changed his mind. Pointing a thumb at the legend, he corrected himself. "Your Majesty...why is Cu-Chulainn here?  There is much work to be done, and all this extra nonsense is unnecessary."

          The sunlight around them seem to grow dim, and the temperature strangely dropped several degrees.  Any amusement on the Fairy Queen's face was gone, and her voice was low and solemn.  "What you face is beyond your mortal comprehension, Sir Knight.  Cu-Chulainn is our greatest warrior.  There is no one who can compare.  He has agreed to train you for your destiny.  Learn from him what you can."

          "That's fucking out of the question.  I don't need any help from some fairy tale character. and I'm perfectly capable of doing what needs to be done.  All he's going to be is a distraction."

           The Lord Warrior stepped closer to Beckett, his face only inches away.  "I hear insult in your voice, Mortal Knight.  Tread carefully.  I accept disrespect from no creature on Earth."

           The Fairy sighed, and then slipping off the branch, came to rest on Beckett's shoulder, speaking to him in a tone reserved for petulant children in need of a nap.  Patting his cheek, she whispered quietly into his ear.  "You are a proud man, Ridre Dubh.  Your destiny has brought you to this purpose.  But what will come is greater than any enemy you have seen in your life time.  The Cu-Chulainn can teach you things no one else can...and you will be better for it."

            "Then you don't think I'm capable."

             She tisked, then gave his ear lobe a sharp pinch.  "You mightly try my patience, Sir Knight. For one so intelligent, you often behave as a stubborn child.  I think you more than capable...in your mortal reign.  But amongst our people, there is much you do not know."  She pointed to Maureen, who watched them wide eyed with fear.  "If you wish to share a life with your lady, and not leave her a grieving widow, then you must accept the Lord Warrior's help."

               Beckett flinched at her words, and then went deadly still.  "Are you threatening me, Lady Queen?"

               "I do not waste my time with idle threats, Mortal.  I speak the truth, as you know I must. Your victory is an absolute necessity for my people, but it will not come to us by Fate alone.  The ending is not yet written.  Even I have no way of knowing how it will ultimately end.  That belongs to the Creator Himself.  I must do all I can to achieve to ensure our success, and the Lord Cu-Chulainn is a tool we must use."

                "Well if you believe he's the better man for the job, then why aren't you sending him after this Owen?"

                "Despite the power he commands, Owen is mortal.  Cu-Chulainn is not, and therefore forbidden to take his life.  It would mean the loss of his eternal soul.  I will not...can not... ask him to make that sacrifice."

               "Are you saying that you...the Fay...are unable to take a human life?"

               "We are more than able, Sir Knight.  Of that, make no mistake.  The power of our lowest creation exceeds that of any mortal.  We all have the ability to shift energy and matter, something that puts us at a great advantage.  But like mortals, the Creator has set us a code to live by.  It is the greatest of evils to snuff out the flame of His creation, the punishment too horrible to risk."

               "So you need mortals to do your dirty work for you."

                "Dare you judge, Sir Knight?  How many lives have you taken to assure the safety of your own kind?  It is the very reason you have been chosen to defend our people.  As I have told you before, your destiny has been long set before your arrival into this world.  The Creator has seen fit to put you in our midst.  Surely your claiming of Caladbolg is proof of that?"

              "We are puppets then?  Just a means to an end?"

              "What a stupid man you are, Sir Knight!  We are all part of His plan, one needing the other.  I have no time to debate the philosophy of the Universe with you while the Fate of my people hangs on your whims.  You have promised your help in our defense. It is your destiny and you will see it through."

               "I never agreed to interference from...old legends.  If I prove myself, do I have your promise to send him back to... where ever he came from?"

              The Fairy Queen shook her head and sighed, floating off his shoulder and back to her spot on the branch.  Once seated, she waved a hand in his direction.  "Very well, Ridre Dubh. Do as you wish. I have tried to save your pride in front of your lady, but you are as stubborn as a goat.  Face the Lord Warrior if that is your desire.  If you are the victor, I will relieve him of his duty to you."

              The Lord Warrior threw his head back and laughed.  "You wish me to fight the mortal one on one, Your Majesty?"

              "Yes, Cu-Chulainn.  Show him what he soon faces, but keep his injuries to a minimum.  We can ill afford a long recovery time."

              "Aye, my Lady Queen.  I shall go easy on him in this first round."

              "Fuck you both. I don't need any of your condescending bullshit.  Let's see what you got, Fairy Man."

              The Warrior bowed his head in genial agreement.  "As you wish, Mortal Knight."

              Walking to the fence, Cu-Chulainn lifted several of the wooden training swords, testing their weight in his hand.  It was Beckett's turn to chuckle, no humor at all in the sound.  "Really, Fairy Man?  Wooden swords?"  He picked up a fencing sword with a metal blade, removing the rubber safety tip.  "Let's have a real contest."

                The Lord Warrior looked to the Fairy Queen, who nodded her head slightly.  "Remember, my Champion.  No serious injury."

               "As you desire, Lady Queen.  Only his pride will be wounded."  Then, turning to Roxanne, he bent on one knee.  "Fair Beauty, I ask a token to take into battle."

                 Her mouth went dry as she stared into the legend's sea green eyes.  "A token?"

                 Next to her, Maureen whispered, "He wants you to give him something to carry with him when he fights Ted."

                 "But I'm on Ted's side.  I want him to win."

                 "I know...but it's sorta rude to say no when you've been asked.  At least that's what I've read.  Ted knows you support him.  Go ahead. Give this guy something so we can just get this over with."

                  Roxanne thought for a moment, inventorying what she had on her that might do.  She reached back to the base of her neck, and pulled off the red scrunchie that was keeping her hair in a tiny pony, handing it over to Cu-Chulainn.

                   The Warrior put the hair band first to his lips, and then to his nose.  "It carries my Lady's sweet scent.  I shall wear it with pride, and bring to you a victory."  He gathered her hand in his, and pressed it to his lips. "Wish me well, Lovely One."

                   Roxie could only nod, and glancing across the compound, caught Ian's eye.  He frowned, and looked away, suddenly finding detailed interest in the handle of his pocket knife.  Then, bowing to the Fairy Queen, and then to the two ladies, Cu-Chulainn crossed the space to come stand in front of Beckett, wearing Roxanne's scrunch on his left wrist.

                   He nodded to the Ridre Dubh.  "I admire your confidence, Sir Knight, and regret that our first meeting has come to this."

                   Beckett smiled, the expression not meeting his eyes, and curled his fingers in a motion to come forward.  Under the tree, Maureen sucked in a breath, her face suddenly a shade paler than it had been a minute before.  The Fairy Queen snapped her fingers, and both women found themselves in possession of a crystal goblet of amber liquid.

                   "Fear not, Ladies.  This promises to be most delicious entertainment.  The Ridre Dubh will suffer no permanent injury, albeit to his ego.  It cannot be helped.  We might as well enjoy this male spectacle."

                    The first several minutes consisted of a private dance between the men.  On would step backwards, and the other would follow, one to the right, his partner in mirror image.  Words seemed to be exchanged, but Roxie and Maureen could not make them them from their spots on the bench, though above them, the Fairy Queen would giggle, proof that she could hear what they could not.

                    Beckett was the first to engage, lunging forward, his back leg stationary while the front closed the distance between them. It was answered with a quick parry by the Irish warrior, and the pace suddenly picked up speed, Cu-Chulainn countering with a riposte, and the Ridre Dubh barely blocking the attack.  Both men were sweating heavily, the humidity causing the Warrior's pants to stick to every part of him.  Modesty was not even a remote thought to either man, and with only the short kilt for clothing, very little of the Black Knight's anatomy was left to imagination.

                   Roxanne knew she should probably turn her head away in polite indifference, but found she could not, the naked drama unfolding in front of her absolutely riveting.  The Fairy Queen had taken to fanning herself with a large leaf, muttering the words, "My, my" every so often under her breath, and next to her, Maureen swallowed whatever was in the cup in a single nervous gulp.

           It was over quickly.  Cu-Chulainn moved faster and faster, some of his motions barely a blur. At one point, he caught the tip of his blade across the Ridre Dubh's shoulder, and a thin line of
red spread from the man's collar bone to his chest, but he did not stop, deciding again to counter with a stop-thrust.  The ground beneath the men grew slick with sweat and constant friction, and as he moved forward, breathing heavily, Beckett over-compensated the space between them, losing his footing and falling hard on his back side. Before he could move, Cu-Chulainn's blade was at his throat, pinning him down.

            There was no gloating from the Warrior, who steadily held his ground.  "I have my blade at your throat, Ridre Dubh.  You have skill, of that I am certain.  But against what waits, you have much to learn.  I am willing to aid you in your quest, but you must first admit to your weaknesses, and give up any notions as to your foolish pride."

            His answer was a string of obscenities, and then silence, a sound that  weighed heavily across the compound like a thick woolen blanket. Even the Queen leaned forward, in wait of the Black Knight's response.

              Beckett looked at the man above him, the words like bitter sawdust in his mouth as he spit them out between clenched teeth.  "I...concede, Lord Warrior.  Teach me what you can."

              There was an audible sigh of relief from the tree, as Cu-Chulainn put a hand out to offer the Ridre Dubh a boost up.  Beckett ignored the offer, rolling over and pushing himself off the ground. Without another word, he turned and walked toward a bank of trees and into the darkened woods.
Maureen stood up to follow him, but was stopped by an invisible hand in her chest.

               "Let him go, Child.  He will be poor company for several hours.  You are the last person he wants to see right now."

                "But he's injured!  I need to..."

                "He is fine.  That scratch will heal a lot quicker than the damage to his pride.  Let him lick his wounds in private.  To do otherwise would be a mistake."

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved

         


               

               

           


       

       

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Contract...And A Wager

                               
Cu-Chulainn's reputation
                  The Queen waved her hand, and the strange man lifted off his one knee, coming to stand in front of the tree she was perched on.  He seemed larger than he had when he appeared out of the mist, the span of his shoulders larger than most modern line backers, his neck thick and corded with muscle.  He stood silently for a moment, eyeing Roxanne and Maureen, giving them each a salacious wink, then turning his attention back to the Fairy Queen, speaking in a strange barrage of words and syllables.

                  "It has been too long, Lady Maeve.  You remain as beautiful as ever."

                  "As do you, young warrior.  I see the centuries have not cooled your blood."

                  "Nay, your Majesty.  Until this blood is no more, I live to fight... and love." He glanced at both women, adding a lecherous grin to the wink.

                   The Queen laughed, the light tinkling sound echoing in the open space.  "Tis surely not why I have summoned thee, though so goes the spoils of war.  But I dare say, the Ridre Dubh will have something to say about that."

                    The man grew serious.  "The Ridre Dubh?  Then it has truly come to pass."

                    Maeve leaned forward, also now somber, the goblet disappearing from her hand. "Aye.  Just as the prophesy has foretold.  One has risen from our blood, powerful and perverse.  He can no longer be contained, and his evil threatens all that is sacred...in our world and that of the Mortals."

                      There was a deep and long sigh from the man, a sense of weariness settling on his handsome features.  "And what of Caladbolg?  Has it reappeared?"

                      "It has returned... and been duly claimed.  Have no doubt, my Great Warrior.  What we have feared for many Earth cycles has finally become the way of things. There is no course but the one that waits ahead.  That is why I have summoned thee."

                    "Then I go to my destiny, Lady Queen.  I surrender my arm to the defeat of this spawn of bad seed."

                      "I have no doubt as to your honor, Lord Cu-Chulainn.  You have proved yourself a loyal and courageous defender of the Fay.  But you know as well as I the tenets of the prophesy, and as such, the rules that govern our kind.  For eons, it has been forbidden to take the life of a mortal.  To do so puts our very souls at risk.  It is also written that the Ridre Dubh must be the one to...extinguish...this flame of evil.  We can no better change our destiny than we can change the shifting of night to day.  It will be as it will be."

                       "Then you frustrate me on all counts, my Queen.  What is it you wish from me?"

                        "The Ridre Dubh is talented on many levels.  He does not hesitate to do what must be done.  But he is inexperienced in the ways of our kind, and more stupidly stubborn than the roots of the oldest trees.  He will need your help in preparing for the destiny he faces.  Life as we know it depends on he being the victor.  If he fails...we fail...and I dare not think of the future."

                         "You wish me to act as...teacher?  Nursemaid? To a mortal?  What you ask is great, Lady Maeve, and in many ways shaming to my title and position. "

                         Her calm demeanor shifted, and the tips of her pointed ears pulsed with a crackle of energy.  "Have you not heard a single word I have said, Cu-Chulainn?  All of our destiny hangs here on this quest.  There is no time...no room... for petty vanity.  Owen must be defeated at all costs.  You dare to turn your back on your kind?  On your destiny?  The Ridre Dubh must be ready for what he will face, and you WILL be the one to see to that reality."

                 Cu-Chulainn leaned on his spear, turning to look at Beckett and the two other men  standing in the open space behind him.  Frowning, he uttered a string of mumbled profanity.  "I see you leave me no room to argue, Your Majesty.  I will do as you ask.  I will ready the Black Knight for his destiny.  But I ask for a boon in return... as tradition allows."

                   "I expected no less, Lord Warrior.  What do you require as payment?"

                    He pointed to Maureen and Roxanne.  "I will accept these two as payment.  They will surrender their love... and their bodies... to me."

                    Again her ears crackled, and her voice was low and angry.  "You try my patience, son of Lugh.  You know very well that mortals have been given the gift of free will.  It has been my law for three hundred years that potions or spells of love not be used on them at the demand of the Creator.  I will...can not... hand them over to you like simple puppet lambs."

                    "I have no need of magic, my Queen, as you yourself are well aware.  I request only that you do not hinder in any way my goal of seduction.  I have been without that particular challenge for  many moons.  I would enjoy the game very much."

                      Maeve thought for a moment, her tiny mouth curling into the vaguest of smiles.  She snapped her fingers, and the goblet once again appeared in her hand.  "Very well. Lord Warrior.  I will grant you what you wish.  You will have access to both women.  Seduce them if you can."  She took a deep drink from her cup, then added,  "Though I believe you will fail."

                      It was the man's turn to feign anger.  "Fail?  At the seduction of mortal women?  Surely you jest, Lady Queen?  You know of my charms...and my reputation."

                      "You are every bit a delight, Cu-Chulainn.  But I still think you will fail in this circumstance.  Their hearts and their desire are already spoken for."

                       He shook his head, again mumbling a string of old Gaelic obscenities.  "Against mortal men there is no contest.  But if you truly believe otherwise, my Lady, then perhaps a small wager?"

                       This time her laugh was hardy.  "You do bring a sense of merriment to the blackest of days, Lord Warrior.  I accept your bet."  She undid the clasp of the blue sapphire necklace she wore around her slender neck, and tossed it to the spider who still stood guard next to the tree. "I wager these jewels on my account.  As you are aware, they have been worn by every Queen before me for  nearly a millennium, and are one of my most prized possessions. If you succeed in seducing either one of them, without the use of magic, then they are yours."

                       "A very generous wager, Lady Maeve.  I expect that you will demand something equally precious."

                      "Aye.  That I will.  If you fail in your attempt, then I keep my necklace, and you will relinquish your service to me for an additional two hundred years."

                       "Then we must not hesitate any longer, Oh Gracious Lady.  I accept your proposition...and your wager.  I will train the Ridre Dubh, and his proxy, in the ways of Fay battle, and in return you will allow me unhindered access to these mortal women.  When I am successful in winning their love, as I surely will be, I will also take possession of your finest jewels.  It seems as if this is the luckiest of days for me."

                        "Then consider this a binding contract between us, Cu-Chulainn.  Your word will suffice."

                     The Warrior bent at the waist in a low bow.  "As will yours, Your Majesty.  Thus it stands.  I will direct the Black Knight's training, Creator be with us!"

__________________________________

              It was as if all time had stopped.  The trees did not sway to any breeze, the chirping of birds, a symphony of noisy proportions only seconds before, had suddenly gone silent.  Across the way, Beckett, Kevin and Ian seemed frozen to their spots, confusion written on startled faces.  The man who had stepped out of the mists approached the tree where She Who Was All had taken repose, and the two were engaged in serious conversation, not a word of which Roxanne could understand.

              He stood directly in front of them, and with the light of the day filtering through the sheer pants, not a whole lot was left to her imagination.  She tried not to stare, but it was hard to draw her eyes away, and it took a direct command from her brain to her eye balls to instead look across the way at Ian, whose face reddened with anger.  Next to her Maureen, strained to make out the words between the Fairy Queen and the porn star stranger.  Her eyes darted back and forth between her husband and the man in front of her, and if she was affected by the fact his near naked package was only inches from her face, there seemed no acknowledgement on her part.

          Across the compound, Beckett stood ram rod straight, his arms at his side, his fists clenched.  The Black Knight's face was a blank mask, no expression at all except for his eyes, which burned very dark and very cold.  Kevin seemed the calmest of the bunch.  He leaned against the fence, eyes closed, lips moving in what she guessed might be prayer.  In that moment, Roxie envied him his faith, pondering how wonderful it might be to have something to hang onto when everything else seemed lost, a gift she'd never possessed.

            When the two immortals finished their conversation, the atmosphere changed around them.  She could feel the warmth of the day again, a sense of the normal creeping back in.  The stranger turned around and walked over to where the swords were leaning across the fence, the light shifting, and now giving her a detailed view of his very toned ass.   Again she shook the thought from her brain.  Why did she keep thinking in that damn direction?  It wasn't as he she hadn't seen a naked man before.  Lord knows, she'd seen plenty, though none as...well...perfect as this one.

              Her tongue seemed to have loosened up, and when the man was out of ear shot, she whispered to Maureen.  "Could you make out any of what they were saying?  It didn't make a shred of sense to me, though the look that guy gave us was...like...I don't know...some kind of 'come on'.  That type of look I saw plenty of when I was dancing at the club."

               "They were speaking in some very old form of Gaelic.  I could make out a few words, but they were talking so fast, it was hard for me to keep up.  He IS, apparently, Cu-Chulainn, though I find that very hard to accept.  I always thought he was a mythical figure.  Just a make-believe character in some ancient fairy tale.  By now, you'd think I'd know better.  Anyway, he's in Maeve's service, and she wants him to help Ted get ready to take on this Owen character.  He didn't seem very keen on the idea, but I guess they worked out some kind of deal.  I missed a huge chunk of the conversation, so I can't be sure what the terms were, but they both seemed pretty satisfied."

             "Whatever it was, it can't be very good for us."

             "Maeve won't let anything bad happen to us, Rox.  She gave me her word. But I'm guessing Ted's not going to be happy he's here.  You know what he's like.  He wants things to go his way, and if this really IS Cu-Chulainn, then I expect he'll want to be the one who takes charge.  I'm worried the two of them won't see eye to eye on anything."

              "And I think that's an understatement..."
A royal wager


Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved