Sunday, August 9, 2015
"An Idir Eatathu"
The forked tongue slithered out again, this time marking a sticky path from his chin to his temple, with the lizard's bulbous eyes staring straight into his own. If she expected a reaction, she'd be left disappointed. He'd faced worse. Much worse. Plus, there was little chance she would do him actual harm. At least not until he finished what she wanted. The aftermath was always the most dangerous part of any mission, their being the chance that once the objective was met, you yourself might be targeted as a loose end.
In many ways, She Who Was All was no different than the Powers he regularly took orders from. She had a specific end game in mind, and didn't hold the needs of others in very high regard. He was as much a commodity to her, as he was to his government, and to think otherwise, to add sentimental attachment or emotion to the mix, was probably a mistake.
Beckett wiped the slime from his cheek. "I'm not really understanding the purpose in discussing business with a lizard, Your Majesty. I'd rather you just cut to the chase and tell me what it is you want me to do so I can get on with it. I think we'd both be much happier."
The tongue snapped out out, capturing a strange orange bug on a nearby leaf. It tucked the prey between it's razor sharp teeth, and chewed contentedly with its mouth wide open, giving the Knight a close view as it masticated its prey. Swallowing, she answered. "I do not care a mite for your happiness, Ridre Dubh, though I must admit to being disappointed at your lack of imagination." In an instant, the lizard was gone off his lap, and the Fairy Queen shimmered gold and lilac in a branch above his head.
She settled in against the bark, then made a face. Snapping her fingers, a large purple cushion materialized under her like smoke. Now comfortable, she propped her chin on her folded hands, and addressed him. "There is a certain worker of the Arts. A human. who like your female, carries a line of Fay blood. It is a line that needs to end, and I want you to eliminate it."
He had been at it for nearly three hours, and was by now, very hot, tired and cranky. The sun had shifted over the church steeple, and was beating down on the back of his head and neck, causing the skin around his collar to feel more than a bit toasty. Fr. Kevin leaned his back against the church's wood siding, and pulled his knees to his chest. It was a lost cause. Brian was a no show, still harboring a grudge from their last conversation, and any chance he had on gathering information about Beckett's whereabouts rested with the wee clurichaun.
It wasn't like he hadn't tried to apologize. Because he had. Several times. In hindsight, he realized he might have over reacted to being left behind on the mission to rescue Maureen. Probably said some things that might have been construed as unkind, especially to a sensitive Fay sort. But in his defense, he had been feeling overwhelmingly guilty and stressed about his sister's disappearance, and at the moment, Beckett and Roxanne's decision to cut him out appeared as a breach in loyalty, and not the sacrifice it actually was. He had left a note saying these very things, along with a nice assortment of acceptable peace offerings, and though the note and gifts disappeared, he hadn't heard a word in return.
The pile of chocolate marshmallow cookies had melted to a puddle on the plate, and the few drops of Jameson in the doll's tea cup had nearly evaporated, with no sight of his grumpy friend anywhere. Across the lawn, he could see Maureen and Ian moving boxes from the rooms over the garage, hear them laughing, and it made him feel worse. She was off on another project, making things work for their new visitor, secure in the knowledge that her brother was doing his part. He had promised her that he'd get information about her husband, and it seemed like once again, he'd end up letting her down. With a sigh, he tilted the little cup, pouring what was left of the whiskey into the dirt.
His actions were immediately met with an outcry. "Saints blood, man! Dunna you be wasting
good whiskey like that! Tis a sin, it is!" Brian poked his head among the foliage, his hands cupped and holding the poured liquid. With a large slurp, he sucked the Jameson's from his palm, wiping both hands in his pants only after being assured there wasn't a speck left. He dipped a stubby finger into the plate of melted cookies, and popped the digit in his mouth, licking every trace of chocolate and marshmallow creme before commenting again. "Aye. Tasty indeed. A morsel fit for the Queen herself."
The little man pulled a large leaf off the bed of hostas, and tied each end to some hedge branches. He gave it a few punches to test for weight, then hopped into the make shift hammock, giving it a push to make it swing. Only then did he resume his conversation with Fr. Kevin. "So,
lad...ya appear to have been looking for me. What is it ya be wantn'?"
"I'm glad to see you again, Brian. Really I am. I feel awful about the way we left things the last time we talked."
"Ya aught to feel bad, laddie. Ya were one proper ass, ya were. I find myself shaken' my head over the promise I made to your granny. She was might fond of ya, boy. Tis the only reason I'm here."
There was no use making excuses, or wasting his effort on small talk. Brian would do as he pleased, and if he had any information he was willing to share, now was the time to ask. "I need your help, Brian. Beckett's gone missing, and my sister is frantic with worry."
"There be no sense in worry. It solves little. The Ridre Dubh is where he belongs...serving his Queen."
"Okay...and where would that be?"
The clurichaun removed his acorn hat, and scratched his head. "Saints blood, lad! Dunno ya remember anything that dear woman spoke to ya? I know for fact she schooled you in our lore. A bubble head you surely are! Listen to me straight... if the Queen came for him, then most surely he's an idir eatathu."
The priest did a mental search, seeking the English words to match the Gaelic. The translation eventually came to him, but didn't make sense. "In between? I don't understand."
"What's there to understand? If he is not here, he's gone to An Idir Eatathu. To the homeland. It is where he should be if he serves the Queen."
"So The In between is... an actual place?"
"Aye. That it is. Through time, humans have had many names for it. Middle Earth, Otherworld...Avalon. But to us, it is simply home."
"And Beckett is there, you say? How? According to legend, mortals can't pass into Fay land."
"Most can not. But there be exceptions for every rule, laddie. Surely you know that. As the Ridre Dubh, your sister's mate can move as needed in his loyalty to our Queen. If he is there, then she must have need of him, and there is little mortals can do to change that."
"But he's okay...right? She Who Is All will see to his safety?"
The wee man shrugged, and sat upright in his leaf hammock. "It is not for me to say, laddie. It is no small thing to be Ridre Dubh. If She Who Is All has called him to service, then there be something dreadful about. I can not recall a recent time when there was need for such dire protection. But what is about, I can not say for certain. I will, for thee sake, keep my ears open. Perhaps I will know more in the future." He slipped off his seat, and grabbing the acorn off his head, scrapped the remains of the melted cookie mess into its bowl shape. Picking up the doll cup, he raised it toward Kevin. "I'd be much grateful for another bit of refreshment, lad. Perhaps the fine whiskey will open my ears further."
Maybe it was his imagination. Maybe it was not. But at the word eliminate, the woods around him took on an eery silence, as if they were suddenly sitting in a vacuum of sound. The wind ceased to blow through the leaves, and the humming of insects, a symphony of background music only seconds before, simply stopped. It made his entire being go on high alert, and he choose his next words carefully.
"Eliminate? I'm not sure what you are alluding to, your Majesty."
"Do not play coy with me, Ridre Dubh. You know perfectly well what I expect. It is what you do. What you have done many times before. This is no different!"
She was right of course. He had taken lives in the name of national security. Disposed of those who were deemed threats to life and liberty. But the Fairy Queen was asking something entirely different. She as talking about taking out an innocent civilian. Flat out murder, pure and simple.
"It is entirely different, your Majesty. What I do for my country, I do for the greater good. There are people who wish to do our citizens great harm. I do what I can to prevent that."
"And you will do the same for me, Ridre Dubh, and for my kind, because you have sworn to do as I have asked." She stared right through him, seeking signs of commitment to the cause. When there was none, she continued. "I see you have set your will against mine, Black Knight. It both saddens and angers me that you take your promises so lightly. I did as you asked. Sent you back to find your lost love. There should be no wavering in your loyalty to me, yet I see stubborn hesitation in your soul."
The Fairy Queen flew down from the branch, and perched herself on Beckett's shoulder so that she could speak directly into his ear. Her breathe was icy cold on his flesh, her words steely. "If your vow means so little, Ridre Dubh, then let me speak of the future directly. This evil that upsets the natural order of things here in An Idir Eatathu...it will make its ugly way to your doorstep as well. Your bloodline, and that of your female, will be forever tainted."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved