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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 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 we sit.  At the point where we can no longer argue about what is owed.  If Owen is not you, Ridre 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 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






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