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