The front security gate was not the only part of the property that appeared to have suffered the effects of...dare they say it...enchantment. All of the foliage seemed to have taken on a life of its own, growing to enormous proportions, making the cabin a small bastion at war with the elements of nature and surely losing. The hedges that had once neatly lined the front porch had now completely taken over, covering the wood spindles in a dense coat of shiny, green leaves, its vine like tentacles wrapping themselves around the two main columns that supported the overhang. Rose bushes that originally sat on each side of the walkway were the height and length of small cars, the blooms as round as dinner plates with a scent strong enough to make one woozy. The few fruit trees Beckett had planted a few years back had tripled in circumference, and though it was only the middle of August, the apples hung fully ripe, large as softballs.
The inside of the cabin was as Fr. Kevin remembered it. Front door leading directly into the great room, cathedral ceiling lending an open airiness to the space despite a heavy stone fireplace covering the entire west wall. To the right was a wide staircase leading to the second and third floor bedroom suites, with a huge kitchen, library/study and a powder room towards the back of the building. Though there were windows everywhere, the interior seemed darker. He wondered if it might be his imagination, the after effect of bad memories, but then realized the cause was of a more mundane nature. The pines that sat around the house had grown to enormous proportions, covering the roof like a giant umbrella and blocking out most of the natural light. It took a forceful push to his mind to view the gloomy interior as "cozy" rather than scary, and he secretly wished it wouldn't seem ridiculous to light a roaring fire in the middle of a warm, August afternoon.
To his credit, Beckett had made a heart felt attempt to have his guests feel welcome. The second floor boasted four bedroom suites, complete with sitting areas and full baths. Furniture in his room included a long, oak trestle table covered in fine linen, a pair of antique pewter candlesticks at each end. It touched him that his brother-in-law, a man who had scoffed at his vocation more times than he could count, had remembered his need to say Mass each morning, and had provided a more than adequate altar. The others found special touches to their own rooms as well in an array of carefully chosen reading material, special toiletries in the bath, and a font of favorite snacks and treats, reminding them that the Ridre Dubh was someone who knew them well.
It was, however, his sister's reaction that warmed his heart the most, and made him appreciate the softer side of Beckett's personae, at least where Maureen was concerned. The Master Suite was situated on the third floor, a large section of building that jutted out, with a private balcony that overlooked the property. On their last visit, Beckett had given them a tour of the entire building, and he had been awarded a sneak peek of the man's inner sanctum. At that time, he'd found the Master Suite to be cold and impersonal, the modern modular furniture and dark colors an odd contrast to the warmth of the log walls. He was aware that Maureen herself was apprehensive about spending time in that room, though her anxiety was related more to who had shared it, rather than how it was decorated. Apparently, her husband was also aware of this dilemma, and had taken care of the problem in his usual efficient, but secretive, manner.
The Master Suite had been completely redone, the chrome and glass replaced with antique pieces that were undoubtedly the real thing. The large brass bed was piled thick with handmade quilts and lace pillows, the highboy dresser topped with vintage hat boxes, and the small dining table dressed with fine lace and set with a delicate china tea service. In addition, there was an intricately carved vanity and mirror, skirted in vintage chintz, complete with a collection of crystal and glass perfume bottles, as well as a lovely old rocker and needle pointed foot stool. The room was a picture of feminine tranquility, a postcard photo of expensive shabby chic, and so not Ted Beckett, it was hard not to grin. But the interior had surely been designed with his sister in mind, and her squeal of joy upon entering the suite was proof enough that the man understood his wife's needs completely.
The rest of the afternoon was spent unpacking and getting acclimated to the new surroundings, and dinner was a simple affair of a few steaks thrown on the grill, enjoyed on the deck outside the kitchen's French doors. Conversation was kept to light subjects, everyone carefully avoiding the reasons they were gathered together, and no one professing any desire to spend time wandering about the eery property in the fading light of day. The pines not only covered the cabin, but the surrounding land as well, making it appear darker than average twilight, and the group seemed content to relax all evening in the safety of indoors.
While she had been recuperating from her injuries, Roxanne had taught Ian a number of card games to pass the time, and he had developed a burning passion for both gin rummy and pinochle. Not a single deck could be located anywhere in the cabin, though Beckett thought he might have one in the car's glove compartment. He offered to retrieve it, but Ian, not wishing to burden his host, insisted he'd be quite able to find it on his own. He'd only been gone a minute or two, when he raced back through the front door, slamming it hard and fumbling for the locks. He was out of breath, his skin pale and his eyes wide with fear.
Beckett jumped from the sofa, his hand immediately on the pistol he wore stuck in his waistband. "Ian...what's wrong? What is it?"
The young Patriot bent from the waist, obviously trying to catch his breath. When he looked up his face was a contortion of terror and disbelief. "Out there...near the car. Spi...Spider."
The Ridre Dubh made a face, and shoved the gun back in its original position. "Of course, there are spiders, Ian. We're in the woods."
He knew it was rude to poke fun at some one's fear, but Fr. Kevin couldn't help adding, "What's the matter, Ian? 'Fraid of a little 'ole spider."
Ian jerked is head back and forth, his tongue tripping on the words. "No...no ordinary spider. Huge..."
Kevin pushed himself out of the recliner. "Oh for Pete's sake...I'll get the cards for you."
He made his way toward the front door, but he was stopped by the trembling young man.
"Please Reverend...don't go out there. You don't understand! It's a really... big spider."
"We get it, Ian. Your afraid of spiders. I'm not." He pushed his way passed Ian, unlocked the door and stepped out on to the porch. The night was inky black, the trees hiding the moonlight as well as they did the sun. It took his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the complete darkness, and he was surprised to find that he could see as well as he did. He took a a few steps off the porch, then stopped, listening to a rustling sound coming from a stand of trees a few feet to his left. There was a clicking sound, similar to the tapping of knitting needles against one another. Straining, he peered toward the direction of the sound, when suddenly something scuttled from behind the trees and into the clearing. It took a nano second for his mind to register what his eyes were seeing, and he took two steps backward, tripping over the bottom step and falling flat on his ass.
Ian was right. It was a big spider. A very big spider. Big like Honda Civc big. The wretched thing moved closer, continuing to make that clicking noise, all four eyes seemingly focused on him. Kevin screamed at the top of his lungs, "Holy Mother of God, someone help..."
The door flew open, Beckett and Ian stumbling through, the Sheriff's gun pointed at the huge insect, while Maureen and Roxie stood stunned in the doorway. Ian grabbed for Fr. Kevin, and pulled him up the three remaining steps to the porch just as the spider made its way to the very spot he'd been lying. Close up, with the light from the great room filtering to the porch, the beast looked even more hideous, it's jaws gaping open from a mess of bristly hair, all the while clicking away. The Ridre Dubh pointed his weapon to take aim, but before he could get off a round, Maureen grabbed his arm.
"Don't Ted! Don't shoot it! It doesn't mean us any harm!"
"Damn it, Maureen. Go back inside! All of you! Right now!"
"Ted...you don't understand! It's here with... a message. For us."
He frowned, but didn't take his eyes off the spider, who had now positioned itself on the bottom step. "Message? What kind of message? How do you know this."
She looked away for a second, and then back at him. "I...I can understand it. I know what its saying with all those clicks. Let me talk to it."
"No fucking way are you getting anywhere near that thing!"
"Seriously, Ted. It's not going to harm me. It belongs to Maeve. She won't hurt me."
"You're not making any damn sense! Who the hell is Maeve, and why would she send us this giant fucking bug as a messenger?"
"I'll...I'll explain all that later. For now, let me talk to it. I'm sure what ever it has to say, it's important."
He hesitated for a moment, weighing his options, and then nodded. "Okay, you can talk with it, but I'm going to be right next to you the whole time. If it so much as blinks one of those creepy ass eyes the wrong way, I'm blasting the shit out of it. Are we clear?"
She nodded back. "Fine. But you'll see. It has no reason to harm us."
Maureen stepped down to where the spider had made itself comfortable. "Good Evening, kind Sir. You have a message for me?"
The four eyes looked up at her, and then began clicking in earnest. The rest of them watched as Maureen nodded her understanding, and listened as she asked the insect questions that seemed to make little sense. When she was done, she patted the spider's hairy head, an action that caused Kevin's stomach to roll in response. With that, the beast turned and scuttled away on its eight legs until they lost sight of it in the darkness behind the trees.
Maureen could feel the eyes of the group on her, her husband's staring directly at her with a look that made her uneasy. "Let's all go back inside. I'll explain everything."
When they were all settled in the great room, she shared what she knew. "His name is Drago Aranues. He's a royal messenger from She Who Was All. She welcomes us to our quest, and warns us that the darkness is aware of our presence here. Thus, the added protection of the trees.. and such. She says she will join us shortly. To monitor our progress, and to offer advice. That's about it. He didn't have anything else to say, except to mention that...well...he was sorry that he was warned against harming any of us, as the blond fellow looked especially tasty."
From his position on the sofa, Ian blanched, and Kevin could feel his stomach clench as well. He forced down the bile in his throat, and addressed his sister. "But how, Mo? How were you able to understand the spider's message?"
She looked down at her feet, her cheeks flushing a slight pink. "It's...it's...well...
complicated, Kev. Kind of a long story."
Beckett rose from the sofa, and took Maureen by the hand. "If you'll all excuse us, I do believe my wife and I need to have a long chat. Privately." With that, he turned and made his way towards the stairs, a pale Maureen in tow.
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved