He swung the wooden sword in an arc across his left shoulder, countering the flat of his opponent's weapon and heaving it away, only to have the man double up and swing at him from the opposite side. The tip of the warrior's longsword caught Ian across the forearm, a searing pain that shot to his brain like a sharpened arrow.
"Look alive, boy. Your poor form is apt to get your head severed from your body. Begin the Armatura again...from the start...and this time take make your focus be on defending your position and not on the stirrings of your cock."
The anger and the embarrassment swallowed him all at once, and he took a volatile step toward the Lord Warrior, brandishing the wooden sword above his head. But the Legend had already turned his back, dismissing the young man, and moving on to bully Kevin, who for a man of the cloth, seemed to have extraordinary skill with the Medieval weapon. Ian wiped his sweaty face on his sleeve and looked over to where the women were sitting under the shade of a large oak, heads bent together in earnest conversation. The heavy branch above them was empty this morning, the hellish Fairy Queen apparently taking no interest in today's training.
Though she was not looking his way, he wondered if Roxanne could feel his eyes on her. Did she know exactly what it was he was thinking as easily as the Irish legend just had? This morning, after breakfast, the Sheriff had called them together and explained, as best he could, the raging emotions each one of them was battling. The table had sat in embarrassed silence, no one willing to comment on the truth that was clearly exposed the night before. His Roxie had sat there staring into her cup of yogurt, face the color of June strawberries, and lips tightly pursed in a grimace. He had tried to speak to her afterward, but she pushed him away, saying little, and then abruptly heading back to her room on the second floor.
Still, he wasn't surprised when she and Mrs. Beckett took their customary place under the oak tree. The Sheriff had insisted they stay together, forbidding them from wandering off on their own. If it wasn't obvious before, it was now made perfectly clear that the group was not a democracy, and that while they were here together, the Ridre Dubh would call all the shots. Not for the first time, Ian questioned the Fates that had brought him to this point. Why here? Why now? It wasn't as if he missed his past life. He'd left England for a chance at something better, though his time in the New Colony had been less than productive. But never in his wildest dreams could he had ever imagined the strange turn his life had taken. Time travel? Fairies? They were children's fantasies. But his feelings for the lovely Roxanne were as true as anything he had ever felt.
As if she could read his mind, Roxanne caught his eye and smiled, blushing as well. He felt his pulse race a bit, the rest of his body following suit. He did his best to hide his feelings, to shut down any desire he had for this 21st Century woman, lest someone else in the group pick up on what he was thinking. But it was obviously too late. The Lord Warrior called a halt to the exercises he was conducting with Fr. Kevin. He spat on the ground, then stomped toward Ian, swinging his heavy practice sword as if it weighed nothing at all.
"It seems as if you are lost in your own world, Boy. Shall we bring you back to ours?"
The morning training was intense, and all three mortals were near exhaustion by the time Cu-Chulainn called for a short break. The Warrior himself showed little weariness, but there was a definite look of concern in his expression. She Who Was All silently appeared on her favorite branch, today dressed all in silver, a thin band of wire encrusted with sapphires circling her head in crown like fashion. She shooed the two women away, calling for the Ridre Dubh to attend to her words. Before the conversation could take place, a large plume of smoke appeared in the clearing, similar to the one that had brought Cu-Chulainn a day earlier. The spider instantly made its way to the Queen's side, followed by the Lord Warrior, each standing guard at her left and right.
The shaft grew larger and larger, until it slowly filtered away, leaving a misty figure in its place. Beckett reached for the Glock tucked in the waistband of his fatigues, but the Fairy Queen called for him to stop.
"That will do no good, Black Knight. As we have discussed before, only Caladbolg can cut him down. Now is not the time. What you see before you is only an image. Owen is not physically here among us."
"It's a hologram?"
She thought for a moment, and answered. "Yes...in your world it is much the same. He sends us his image via the forces of energy, while he remains safely hidden away. It is as I expected, but the fact that he sends us his image now means he is fully aware of our plans. Things will move quicker than I had hoped."
The figure was covered from head to toe in a long cloak, its face completely hidden by a large cowl and hood. For several moments it was silent, the image fading in and out like a bad picture tube in an old fashioned television set, finally settling itself into what seemed a very solid form. The voice that came out from the figure was surprisingly normal, both young and male.
"Good day, Your Majesty. You look radiantly well."
"Why do you seek me out, Owen? I do not recall sending for you."
"Surely you are not surprised to see me, Dear Auntie. Should not family keep in touch?"
The Black Knight looked up at the Queen, and then at the cloaked figure, caution etched on his face. He opened his mouth to speak, but then quickly closed it, opting to keep his questions to himself.
Sensing his confusion, the figure spoke. "So, it appears I meet the the new Ridre Dubh.
Poor soul. My aunt has not been entirely honest with you, mortal friend, but that is so like her. She does tend to...bend the truth, shall we say?"
"You cross too many boundaries, Wizard. I am She Who Is All...Queen of the Fay. You best remember who it is you address."
"How can any of us forget, Your Majesty. You have done all you can to rule with an iron fist. Unjustly, I may add."
"Your tongue speaks lies, nephew. And if you were truly present, I would show you why it is the will of the Creator that I have been chosen to guide our people."
"There is no will of the Creator, Auntie. Just your vanity. And if you believe that I can be stopped by the likes of one angry mortal, than time has addled your mind." He laughed, a bitter, sarcastic sound. "Now...had you said I would face the Lord Cu-Chulainn, it might give me pause. But we both know that with the blood of my mortal father running through my veins, no Fay can bring about my demise. That would be breaking the very rule you set in place, my Queen. No...you are quite at a disadvantage, Auntie. I will be all my mother intended, and there is little you can do to stop me."
"You will die, Owen, just like your mother. It will be as the prophesies have written."
He sighed deeply. "No. Maeve. It shall not be. I will not be held to some ancient scraps of tattered paper. Not in this time or place. You fear me, as rightfully you should. What I seek is close at hand, and there is little you can do to stop me." The figure turned its hooded head toward the five mortals, who stood tightly together under the tree. "Are those two yours, Auntie?" He pointed a sleeved arm in the direction of Kevin and Maureen. "The last of your line? Quite pitiful, if truth be told. Shanty Irish, at best, with not a clue to their heritage. I think I will do them a huge favor and end their meager existence."
At his words, Beckett darted forward. "That's gonna happen over my fucking cold, dead body, you bast..." He suddenly found himself frozen in place, the words stuck in his mouth like chunks of ice.
The wizard laughed again, this time heartily. "Oh my, Auntie. Aren't you the clever one? She is the Ridre Dubh's mate, this female of yours. Well played, I'll admit, but surely not enough to stop what will happen. I think I may keep her for myself...once I dispose of your knight.
Can you imagine the child we could produce, she and I? It is worth considering."
"Leave us now, Wizard, before I forget may own rules and destroy you where you stand."
"Another empty threat, Maeve, and we both know it. But you are right. Time moves forward, and I need to prepare." He made a low bow in the direction of the frozen Black Knight. "Until we meet again, Sir Knight. I look forward to taking all that is yours." The wizard raised his hands and the image slowly faded away leaving a pile of ash in its place.
With a cry of alarm, Maureen rushed to her husband's sides, and at her touch, the icy armor that held him in place disappeared. Before she could speak a word, the Fairy Queen interrupted.
"Lord Cu-Chulainn, take the others to the cabin. I will speak to the Ridre Dubh alone.
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