Sunday, September 6, 2015
The Queen Delivers
At the Queen's words, the forest around them seemed to stand still, as if every living thing waited on his response. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a strange variety of butterfly, its wings blinking in glimmering shades of blue and yellow. It hovered to the right of him, hanging in animated suspense, tiny head bent in his direction. Even the leaves on the foliage stopped moving in the breeze, instead curling toward the direction of their conversation. Though he could see no one, he had the feeling that hundreds of tiny eyes and ears were centered on him, a sensation that was more than a bit disconcerting and unlike anything he'd ever experienced on any mission before this one.
Beckett drained the ale in his cup despite the notion that he might be drugging himself. It was a ploy to gain a few more seconds to think before answering. Half of his brain was screaming out over the absolute absurdity of the moment. Fairies and wizards? Stuff from fantasy tales by Tolkien and Lewis. Not real. Couldn't be. Went against every logical notion he'd ever entertained. Yet, there was no denying he was where he was. It wasn't a dream or hallucination. And the whole time travel mission to retrieve Maureen was proof there were possibilities in the universe he'd never considered. But what she was asking was cold blooded murder without the guise of patriotism he'd come to rely on.
He put the cup on the ground, presenting the blandest expression he could muster. "And if I refuse?"
There was a physical ripple of energy at his question, but She Who Was All jut smiled in turn. "You are Ridre Dubh. You will not refuse."
Her confidence irked him, and he fired back. "I will not be threatened, You Majesty. It's not how I work."
"I need no threats, Black Knight. You are many things. Some that darken the soul. But you are honorable when it comes to your promises. You freely signed the contract I presented. There was no fairy magic, no falsehood in our deal. I made it possible for you to retrieve your mate from a time that was not her own, which I will add, was no simple feat. In return, you vowed to act as my champion. To serve as needed. Owen Kelly must be stopped, for the good of the Fey, as well as the destiny of your mortal world. If he succeeds in his goal, there will be little that will stop him. His control would have no boundaries... in our world and yours. It is your quest to stop that from happening, and you will complete it because you are the Ridre Dubh."
She was right of course. He always paid his debts. His wife was back where she belonged, safe and no worse for the experience. She Who Was All had made that possible, and now he owed her his assistance. And it wasn't like this Owen bastard was a gift to humanity. What he was doing went beyond theft. Beyond rape. It was a crime against humanity itself. He had taken other lives for less.
"Let's say I agree to do this. I get to handle it my way, correct? No interference from you as to the methods I use?"
The Fairy rose and fluttered to a place on his forearm. "As Ridre Dubh, that is your right. Handle your quest as you see fit, though I must insist that you move as quickly as possible. Owen has amassed a large selection of...possibilities. It is only a matter of time before he finds a way to succeed."
"How do you know he'll ever be successful? You said yourself it might never work."
She looked away before continuing, a signal to him that she was not being entirely forthright. "It has been prophesied that one such as Owen might appear in this century, but the details as to whether he would be successful are vague. We can not risk it. Not with what is at stake. You must complete this quest, Black Knight. It must be done. Here and now."
Beckett was sure there was something she was leaving out. Some piece of the puzzle yet out of his reach. Whatever it was, he'd damn well discover it, a coup he might be able to use to his own advantage. He put his hand out, and the Fairy set herself on his palm. Her colors flashed with a brilliance that was difficult to watch with human eyes, and he had to force himself not to look away.
"I accept your challenge, my Queen. I will seek out this Owen Kelly and do as you ask."
She clapped her hands in pleasure, and around them, there was the distinct sound of excited humming. "Well done, Ridre Dubh! As I knew you would! The Fey Kingdom rejoices in your commitment to our well being." She snapped her fingers, and two large parchment scrolls appeared in his lap. "Here is all we know of Owen and his abominations. Use it to your...advantage, Sir Knight."
Her stress of the word "advantage" gave him pause, as if she could have possibly read his own mental intentions moments before. He shook off any concern, and smiled back. "Parchment, your Majesty? This is the 21st Century. We now have extensive venues for research and tracking."
She Who was All folded her arms, and narrowed her eyes at him. "That is all well and good,
Mortal, and I realize that Owen will also have use of your modern technology. But what you must understand is that your prey is a formible enemy with skills you can not begin to possess. He has trained in the old ways, and his Fey bloodline allows for ability you can never hope to match. What you bring in cunning, strength and sheer determination, he will counter with magic. To defeat him, you must realize what you are up against. Owen Kelly is a full wizard, one of only a few left in this century. He is brilliant, resourceful and without honor of any kind. To underestimate him would be a fatal mistake."
It was Beckett's turn to narrow his eyes. "It sounds as if you believe him invincible."
"He is powerful, but not invincible. I offer to you a tool that evens up the sides more than a bit." She jumped from his palm, wings fluttering to soften her landing. She turned and wandered a few steps away, stopping in front of a large oak tree of ancient heritage. Its trunk was equal to the size of a small car, gnarled roots pushing up from the ground in front of it. As the fairy Queen crept closer, the tree seemed to feel her presence, the lines on its bark twisting in rotating patterns, the branches bending low in what seemed a bow.
She placed her palms on the front of the tree, and with closed eyes, began chanting in a high pitched keen. His brain on overload, the Ridre Dubh, fought to look away, but found he could not. His brain kept repeating the same word over and over again..."impossible, impossible, impossible", but the eyes on his face told another story. The center of the tree struggled to split open with a creaking sound similar to a crow bar on an old frozen door It began as a small fissure that grew in size as the chanting continued, separating bit by bit, until two sides of the tree swung open revealing a bright light in the center. It's dazzling whiteness blinded him for a moment, and he was forced to close his eyes. When he opened them again, the tree stood exposed, the split now a gaping wound in the middle of its trunk, devoid of the light that was there a second before.
She Who Was All Stood at his feet with a long iron sword in her hand, and though it looked heavy in weight, she showed no stress holding in holding it up. The grip was gold in color, and in the pommel sat a large stone that sparkled like a diamond, but surly could not have been. The cross guard was worked in a series of runes, its lines, dashes and circular symbols a language he could not begin to understand. The blade was white hot metal, with a point sharper than he had ever seen on similar weapons, and as she stood there, he thought he could hear the damn thing whispering his name.
" Ridre Dubh, I present to you Caladbolg. Use it to defend the Fey, as those who gone before you have done."
She lay the weapon in his hands, which reached out to receive it by no power that was his own. The sword was heavier than it appeared, and he wondered how the Fairy, a whisper in size, could have held it herself. He lifted it point up, feeling the power of the thing surge through his arm, when suddenly the white stone in the pommel changed with a flash to the color of deepest blue, with flickering overtones of regal purple. Seeing this, the Queen squealed in delight, clapping her hands in celebration. "You have been deemed worthy of the Merlin stone! More than we could have ever hoped for. Far superior to the red or green. It is truly an auspicious omen for success."
Overwhelmed by the moment, it took Beckett a few seconds to register the word "Merlin", and a quick mental search for the translation of Caladbolg brought him to disbelief. "Hell...are you trying to tell me this...this sword is Excalibur? THE Excalibur? Like in Arthur and the Round Table Excalibur? Not fucking possible!"
She raised her eyebrows at him, and made a face. "Do not get caught up in your mortal tales, Knight. The sword is ancient, known throughout centuries under many names, though we have been told and do believe it was originally created by one of the Creator's own messengers. You may know him as Michael, but he also is known under various titles throughout history. Legends have surrounded the sword's use for centuries, and it is not to be called upon for anything but the most serious of battles. Its presence here in your hands signifies that Owen is a force to be reckoned with. Do not forget that."
"Am I to understand that you expect me to...to execute this man with sword? In the year 2015?"
"Aye, Ridre Dubh. It is the only way. You must remove his head from his body by means of Caladbolg. Any other attempt to end his life will fail."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
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