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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ridre Dubh's Quest


       At the mention of Maureen, his mood changed from annoyed to angry.  Beckett turned his head so he was looking directly at the tiny creature.  "I don't take well to idle threats, Your Majesty, so I suggest you employ another tactic."

      She reached up and gave his ear lobe a sharp pinch.  "You be as stubborn as an old mule, Ridre Dubh, and if these were not such dire times, I'd change you into one as a lesson learned.  Alas, we have no time to play games in the traditional manner.  What I say to you is of great importance. To us both."  She flew from his shoulder, settling herself on his ankle and using the bridge of his foot as a workable chaise.  Once comfortable, she continued.  "What know you of your wife's bloodline?"

         "Until a few days ago, I assumed my wife was the eighth child of Irish immigrants, a pretty common occurrence in the Boston area.  This whole idea that she and her brother were in any way different than what they appeared is a new concept...one that I haven't had time to...accept."

           She tisked, and gave his ankle a poke with the heel of her shoe.  "Accept, or not accept.  It matters little.  Things be as they are.  There are currently 140 million humans world wide who carry traces of Fay blood.  They are noted by their red hair."   Beckett opened his mouth to speak,  and she raised her hand to stop him.  "Do not ask me to explain our entire history to you, Ridre Dubh.  It would take more time then we have at the moment, and much will be made clear to you as you complete your quest.  It is enough to say that in the majority of them, the blood line is very weak.  They go about their mortal lives unaware of the history they pass to their offspring."

        She Who Is All snapped her fingers, and a gold goblet appeared in both of their hands, his obviously much larger than hers.  Inside the cup, he could see a golden liquid that smelled curiously like beer.  Seeing his hesitation, she giggled, then explained.  "Drink up!  Tis only honey ale, Knight. I would be mightily foolish poisoning my own property so early in the game."

        Beckett took a sip, and finding it quite good, added a larger gulp.  Satisfied, the Queen took her own sip, and continued.  "Of those 140 million, only 407 carry the Royal line, a much purer connection to those of our kind.  The blood line appears much stronger in females, your mate being one of them, but there are a few males who have shown great ability.  Your prey is one of them."

       "And because of that ability, you want him dead.  He's a threat to your reign."

        The Fairy Queen turned pale, and in obvious anger, threw her cup at him, sloshing drops of ale all over his clothes, the goblet hitting him on the chin. "You understand nothing, Ridre Dubh!  You are a pea brained mortal, incapable of contemplating the whole of things.  That is surely what your people might do.  What we face is a bigger challenge that reaches far beyond my own person.  Can you even contemplate that?"

            "I apologize if I have offended you, Your Majesty.  Please continue."

              She looked at him through narrowed eyes, and then slightly appeased, continued her story, though it was clear that speaking of it was difficult for her.  "The Fay are spirit beings.  Though we are blessed with physical bodies, and can interact in a physical world, we do not share all the gifts of our mortal brothers and sisters.   Our spirits are immortal, though our physical bodies are not.  When we return to the Creator, we leave nothing of our physical self behind."

               "I'm not in any way a religious man, my Queen, but I do believe many mortals hold to the same truth.  The body dies, but the spirit moves on."

                "Aye, Ridre Dubh, so it does.  But humans are capable of leaving some of their physical presence behind in their offspring."  She looked away, and a sense of profound sadness seemed to hang in the air, one he could feel like rain on his skin.  "Our females are incapable of bringing forth children, though we desire nothing as profoundly.  Surely you have heard the old tales of the Fay stealing human infants?  Leaving a challenging in their place?  It was an awful time, and why our males sought out human women.  It was a chance for the Fay to leave their mark upon the world.  For a time, the Creator allowed it as such.  But it has been over a millennium since such a coupling has brought forth a child, and now we must protect the blood line that remains if we are to exist in the physical world.  Our kind are shedding their physical bodies and returning home to the Creator at an alarming rate.  Soon, there may nothing left of us here except the bloodline."
     
     "I understand the need to protect your heritage, my Queen.  Why then do you wish for me to eliminate someone who has such strong biological ties to the Fay?  It doesn't make sense."

        "As a boy, he showed so much promise.  It was obvious that he would be exceptional.  Handsome, brilliant and charming, he was a boon to both the Fay and Mortal worlds.  In addition, he seemed to favor his Fay side, and took to magic at a very early age."

         The Ridre Dubh made a face, and the skepticism was hard to hide in his tone.  "Magic, Your Majesty?  Really?"

          She shook a finger back at him.  "You sit here speaking to me...you've traveled to time in the past, and yet you draw the line at the concept of magic?  You are truly an ass, Knight. I would have hoped for better in one who serves me.  Magic is nothing more than the control of energy.  It is not an impossible feat, even for regular mortals, though few in this time show enough mental capacity for it.  And for those with Fay blood, it is quite easy with proper training.  Though for Owen, training in magic became his life's purpose."

        "Owen?"

        "Aye.  Owen Michael Kelly.  Your prey."

        "So...this Owen character has become too powerful for mortal existence?"

         "That is not it at all, Ridre Dubh.  It is what he does with his power...what he intends to do...that has caused us such concern.  He seeks a mate with a bloodline as strong as his to create a child.  A child that is more Fay than human."  She snapped her fingers again, a second cup of ale appearing in her hands.  She took a long drink as if to steel herself for what needed to be said.  "As I have spoken, there are 407 humans currently alive that carry the Royal bloodline.  Of that number, 203 are females, with 148 being of child bearing age, your wife among them."

         It took a few minutes for her words to sink in.   "Wait...are you saying that this asshole...this Owen character... plans on...is attempting to...have a kid with my wife?  Because that's not gonna happen.  Ever. "

         "I am glad to see that I now have your full attention, Ridre Dubh.  And if these two were to produce a child during their loving union, the Fay would celebrate, as such a thing has never been done before.  A few attempts have been made throughout history, but no surviving child has ever been produced, most being lost in the first three months.  We are not sure it can even be done.  But that does not matter."

         "Well, it sure as hell matters to me.  There's no fucking way that this prick is getting anywhere near Maureen.  No way. No how.  I'll make sure of that."

         "I need you to do more than that, Knight.  Owen needs to be stopped.  Completely and permanently.  What he is...what he does...is an abomination.  His ability with magic is stronger than any mortal we know of.  But he works the dark magic.  There is no good in it.  No peace or joy in the spells he casts.  They are for his personal gain alone..."  She stopped and finished the ale in her cup, while he found his cup suddenly filled to the brim again.  The expression on her face was grim, and the colors of her being had dimmed to the palest shades.  "I have not told you the worst of it, Ridre Dubh.  I can barely speak the words aloud.  Owen does not seek a physical union with your wife, or any of the others.  He seeks only their ability to create a new life. He desires the sacred eggs they carry in their womb.  He does not welcome the new life he wants to create, nor does he plan on the existence of a child.  He wants only the..the essence of the poor thing he will create, not by the plan of the Creator, but in some sterile place, in the bottom of some tube."

       At first his head seemed fuzzy, and he wondered if he hadn't been drugged by the honey ale after all.  Her words swam in his head like small fish in an aquarium, going back and forth, darting from any type of grasp, and hiding amongst mental boulders. Then, the clarity hit him with such force that he jumped to his feet knocking the wee Queen from his foot, and causing her to tumble to the ground.

       "Wait a second!  Are you saying that this Owen is stealing the eggs from their ovaries?  That he has some crazy idea to create a test tube baby?"

         She dusted herself off, not bothering to scold him for her abrupt upheaval.  Looking up at him, she nodded, the weight of her sadness a physical presence around them.  "Aye, Ridre Dubh. That is what I am saying."

         "But you said yourself, no child was ever brought to term.  What makes him think it will work for him?"

         "He does not desire the child.  Not at all.  The life he creates is meaningless to him except for its essence.  Once he has what he desires, he will destroy the wee creation.  If he is successful, he will only need the poor thing to live 7 days.  Then he will have what he wants."

          "Essence?"  He stopped a moment, and then the thoughts fell into place.  "Holy Hell!  He needs the embryonic stem cells.  He's after the combined DNA!"

           "Aye, Ridre Dubh.  It is an abomination, and he must be stopped."

________________________________

               She had convinced the nurse that she was in need a light snack for the simple purpose of escape.  She was thoroughly sick of being trapped in bed, and if a white lie helped her stretch her legs a bit, she was willing to choke down whatever healthy menagerie the woman returned with.  With wobbly steps, Roxanne made her way to the window overlooking the church grounds.  From this vantage point, she could see Kevin sitting in the bushes next to the church, seemingly having an animated conversation with himself.  She hoped no one else saw what she was seeing, as they surely would have thought the Pastor had gone around the bend, though on her end, after what she'd been through since moving to Dollywood, she knew better.

             Here was hoping that Kevin had made contact with his little pal.  Maybe the wee man could shed some light on the Sheriff's whereabouts.  Not that she was worried about Beckett.  He had proven time and time again that he was more than capable of tackling whatever was thrown his way.  Still, it would offer Maureen some piece of mind, a gift she was sorely lacking.  Across the yard, she could see her friend tossing empty boxes from the rooms over the garage, and could hear laughter coming from inside.  Male laughter.  Ian's laughter.

            Thinking about Ian made her feel more wobbly.  How in the hell was she supposed to process all of this?  The whole time travel thing had been weird enough, but to now find herself with a 250 year old boyfriend was more than the average woman was meant to handle.  A boyfriend, who apparently, in this time and space, was a few...no make that several...years younger than she was.  When Ian had revealed his supposed age, she was shocked.  She had never guessed him to be that young.  Maybe people in Colonial times just looked older.  Never the less, here in 2015, she felt like a cougar after the companionship of a young man barely out of his teens.

          She pushed that thought out of her head.  There was no way she was ready to think about any permanent relationship with Ian Sawyer, but she certainly couldn't just leave him to fend for himself. It was her fault he was stuck here in the 21st Century.  Away from everyone and everything he had ever known.  The least she could do was offer the poor guy some companionship and support, right?

          Who was she kidding!  She was already a 100% sucked in.  The minute he stepped into the room, her temperature rose a few degrees.  Yesterday's day nurse had even joked abut it.  And when he touched her, held her hand, patted her arm, kissed the top of her head, she could feel her heart beat so frantically in her chest, she was sure the monitors she was attached to would give her secret away.

          From the window, she could see Ian make his way down the long flight of stairs.  Somehow, he must have sensed she was looking, because he turned toward the rectory and waved, his smile wide and beaming across the expanse of lawn.  She waved back, and then pulled away from the window, flushed and sweaty.  This was crazy.  Like something from a frickin' Disney movie, or one of those sappy shows you find on cable TV.  Storybook romance didn't happen to girls like her.  Not girls whose fathers went to prison.  Whose mothers lost themselves inside a bottle.  No.  There were no Prince Charmings for girls who made their living taking off their clothes for strange men.  This was all well and good for now.  But when Ian got to know the real Roxanne Spinelli, he'd hightail it and run for the hills.  And who could blame him.  Men like Ian weren't meant for girls like her.


Copyright  Victoria T. Rocus  2015
All Rights Reserved

             

       


       

   

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"An Idir Eatathu"



           The forked tongue slithered out again, this time marking a sticky path from his chin to his temple, with the lizard's bulbous eyes staring straight into his  own.   If she expected a reaction, she'd be left disappointed.  He'd faced worse. Much worse.  Plus, there was little chance she would do him actual harm.  At least not until he finished what she wanted.  The aftermath was always the most dangerous part of any mission, their being the chance that once the objective was met, you yourself might be targeted as a loose end.

          In many ways, She Who Was All was no different than the Powers he regularly took orders from. She had a specific end game in mind, and didn't hold the needs of others in very high regard.  He was as much a commodity to her, as he was to his government, and to think otherwise, to add sentimental attachment or emotion to the mix, was probably a mistake.

        Beckett wiped the slime from his cheek.  "I'm not really understanding the purpose in discussing business with a lizard, Your Majesty.  I'd rather you just cut to the chase and tell me what it is you want me to do so I can get on with it.  I think we'd both be much happier."

         The tongue snapped out out, capturing a strange orange bug on a nearby leaf.  It tucked the prey between it's razor sharp teeth, and chewed contentedly with its mouth wide open, giving the Knight a close view as it masticated its prey.  Swallowing, she answered.  "I do not care a mite for your happiness, Ridre Dubh, though I must admit to being disappointed at your lack of imagination."  In an instant, the lizard was gone off his lap, and the Fairy Queen shimmered gold and lilac in a branch above his head.

          She settled in against the bark, then made a face.  Snapping her fingers, a large purple cushion materialized under her like smoke.  Now comfortable, she propped her chin on her folded hands, and addressed him.  "There is a certain worker of the Arts. A human. who like your female, carries a line of Fay blood.  It is a line that needs to end, and I want you to eliminate it."

_________________________________________

           He had been at it for nearly three hours, and was by now, very hot, tired and cranky.  The sun had shifted over the church steeple, and was beating down on the back of his head and neck, causing the skin around his collar to feel more than a bit toasty.  Fr. Kevin leaned his back against the church's wood siding, and pulled his knees to his chest.  It was a lost cause.  Brian was a no show, still harboring a grudge from their last conversation, and any chance he had on gathering information about Beckett's whereabouts rested with the wee clurichaun.

           It wasn't like he hadn't tried to apologize.  Because he had.  Several times.  In hindsight, he realized he might have over reacted to being left behind on the mission to rescue Maureen.  Probably said some things that might have been construed as unkind, especially to a sensitive Fay sort.  But in his defense, he had been feeling overwhelmingly guilty and stressed about his sister's disappearance, and at the moment, Beckett and Roxanne's decision to cut him out appeared as a breach in loyalty, and not the sacrifice it actually was.  He had left a note saying these very things, along with a nice assortment of acceptable peace offerings, and though the note and gifts disappeared, he hadn't heard a word in return.

           The pile of chocolate marshmallow cookies had melted to a puddle on the plate, and the few drops of Jameson in the doll's tea cup had nearly evaporated, with no sight of his grumpy friend anywhere.  Across the lawn, he could see Maureen and Ian moving boxes from the rooms over the garage, hear them laughing, and it made him feel worse. She was off on another project, making things work for their new visitor, secure in the knowledge that her brother was doing his part. He had promised her that he'd get information about her husband, and it seemed like once again, he'd end up letting her down.  With a sigh, he tilted the little cup, pouring what was left of the whiskey into the dirt.

            His actions were immediately met with an outcry.  "Saints blood, man!  Dunna you be wasting
good whiskey like that!  Tis a sin, it is!"  Brian poked his head among the foliage, his hands cupped and holding the poured liquid.  With a large slurp, he sucked the Jameson's from his palm, wiping both hands in his pants only after being assured there wasn't a speck left.  He dipped a stubby finger into the plate of melted cookies, and popped the digit in his mouth, licking every trace of chocolate and marshmallow creme before commenting again.  "Aye.  Tasty indeed.  A morsel fit for the Queen herself."

           The little man pulled a large leaf off the bed of hostas, and tied each end to some hedge branches.  He gave it a few punches to test for weight, then hopped into the make shift hammock, giving it a push to make it swing.  Only then did he resume his conversation with Fr. Kevin. "So,
lad...ya appear to have been looking for me.  What is it ya be wantn'?"

         "I'm glad to see you again, Brian.  Really I am.   I feel awful about the way we left things the last time we talked."

          "Ya aught to feel bad, laddie.  Ya were one proper ass, ya were.  I find myself shaken' my head over the promise I made to your granny.  She was might fond of ya, boy. Tis the only reason I'm here."

            There was no use making excuses, or wasting his effort on small talk.  Brian would do as he pleased, and if he had any information he was willing to share, now was the time to ask.  "I need your help, Brian.  Beckett's gone missing, and my sister is frantic with worry."

            "There be no sense in worry.  It solves little.  The Ridre Dubh is where he belongs...serving his Queen."

              "Okay...and where would that be?"

               The clurichaun removed his acorn hat, and scratched his head.  "Saints blood, lad!  Dunno ya remember anything that dear woman spoke to ya? I know for fact she schooled you in our lore.  A bubble head you surely are!  Listen to me straight... if the Queen came for him, then most surely he's an idir eatathu."

                The priest did a mental search, seeking the English words to match the Gaelic.  The translation eventually came to him, but didn't make sense.  "In between?  I don't understand."

                "What's there to understand?  If he is not here, he's gone to An Idir Eatathu. To the homeland. It is where he should be if he serves the Queen."

                "So The In between is... an actual place?"

               "Aye.  That it is.  Through time, humans have had many names for it.  Middle Earth, Otherworld...Avalon.  But to us, it is simply home."

               "And Beckett is there, you say?  How?  According to legend, mortals can't pass into Fay land."

               "Most can not.   But there be exceptions for every rule, laddie.  Surely you know that.  As the Ridre Dubh, your sister's mate can move as needed in his loyalty to our Queen.  If he is there, then she must have need of him, and there is little mortals can do to change that."

               "But he's okay...right?  She Who Is All will see to his safety?"

                The wee man shrugged, and sat upright in his leaf hammock.  "It is not for me to say, laddie.  It is no small thing to be Ridre Dubh.  If She Who Is All has called him to service, then there be something dreadful about.  I can not recall a recent time when there was need for such dire protection.  But what is about, I can not say for certain.  I will, for thee sake, keep my ears open.  Perhaps I will know more in the future."  He slipped off his seat, and grabbing the acorn off his head, scrapped the remains of the melted cookie mess into its bowl shape.  Picking up the doll cup, he raised it toward Kevin.  "I'd be much grateful for another bit of refreshment, lad.  Perhaps the fine whiskey will open my ears further."

_____________________________________

                 Maybe it was his imagination.  Maybe it was not.  But at the word eliminate, the woods around him took on an eery silence, as if they were suddenly sitting in a vacuum of sound.  The wind ceased to blow through the leaves, and the humming of insects, a symphony of background music only seconds before, simply stopped.  It made his entire being go on high alert, and he choose his next words carefully.

                "Eliminate?  I'm not sure what you are alluding to, your Majesty."

                 "Do not play coy with me, Ridre Dubh.  You know perfectly well what I expect.   It is what you do.  What you have done many times before.  This is no different!"

                  She was right of course.  He had taken lives in the name of national security.  Disposed of those who were deemed threats to life and liberty.  But the Fairy Queen was asking something entirely different.  She as talking about taking out an innocent civilian.  Flat out murder, pure and simple.

                 "It is entirely different, your Majesty.  What I do for my country, I do for the greater good.  There are people who wish to do our citizens great harm.   I do what I can to prevent that."

                 "And you will do the same for me, Ridre Dubh, and for my kind, because you have sworn to do as I have asked."  She stared right through him, seeking signs of commitment to the cause.  When there was none, she continued.  "I see you have set your will against mine, Black Knight.  It both saddens and angers me that you take your promises so lightly.  I did as you asked.  Sent you back to find your lost love.  There should be no wavering in your loyalty to me, yet I see stubborn hesitation in your soul."

                  The Fairy Queen flew down from the branch, and perched herself on Beckett's shoulder so that she could speak directly into his ear.  Her breathe was icy cold on his flesh, her words steely.  "If your vow means so little, Ridre Dubh, then let me speak of the future directly.  This evil that upsets the natural order of things here in An Idir Eatathu...it will make its ugly way to your doorstep as well.  Your bloodline, and that of your female, will be forever tainted."

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved

               

     

             

                 

       

       

 


       

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lost In Between

The rectory garage
         Four mouths hung open, staring at the empty space where seconds ago, Beckett had been leaning with his chair resting against the bedroom wall.  The metal folding chair was still oddly balanced on its back two legs, while the plate with the remains of his dinner was perched on the end of the bed in the exact spot he had just left it.   It was as if the seated guest had simply disappeared into thin air, which, for lack of an alternative explanation...he had.

         "Oh, hell!  What just happened here?"  Maureen popped out of her own chair on the other side of the room, rushing to the spot where she had last seen her husband.  Looking to Kevin, she asked, "Do you have any idea where they might have went?"

         "Me?  Why would I know?"

         "It's obvious you have a better handle on this fairy shit than the rest of us, Kev.  You've had more day to day contact with that little friend of yours.  You know...that little leprechaun guy Ted told me about.   I can't remember his damn name."

        "Do you mean Brian?  He's a clurichaun, by the way.  Not a leprechaun.  There's a difference."

        In her frustration, she gave him a sock to the arm.  "I don't care if he's a freakn' sock monkey, Kevin!  You locate him pronto, and find out where my husband went!"  To no one in particular, she added, "This is absolutely unbelievable.  I know they say the first year of marriage is difficult, but this goes way above and beyond ridiculous."  Suddenly teary, she continued, "Please, Kev.  I don't know where to begin.  You gotta do what you can."

        Kevin pulled his sister close, and hugged her.  "Don't worry, Mo.  I'll find Brian and see what he knows.  I'm sure Beckett is okay."

        She sniffled again, wiping the corner of her eyes with a napkin.  "How can you be so sure?  She seems...well...pretty unpredictable."

       In all honesty, he wasn't very sure about anything.  For all he knew, Beckett could be lost to the human world forever.  There were old Celtic myths about such things.  But it wasn't what his sister needed to hear, and so he tried to be logical about the situation, even if the very nature of it held not one shred of science.  "There are two reasons I'm sure he's fine.  Number One...the Fay hold contracts in the highest regard.  Ted is bound to her service for the duration of the terms.  I doubt she'd risk her investment so early in the game.  Secondly, it's obvious she regards you as a high commodity.  Your happiness and well being, as well as your off spring, are of great importance to her.  As she said, you and Ted were destined to be together.  The Fay take such things very seriously.  I don't think she'd do anything to upset what's meant to be."

        His words seem to have a calming effect on her.  She nodded along, and the panic seemed to lose its hold.  "You're right, Kev.  She said I carried Fay blood.  We both do.  We're part of them.  She has to know how much that man means to me.  Surely she'd wouldn't do anything to cause him harm, right? Especially if she wants to see us have children.  Thanks, Kevin.  You make perfect sense.  Still, I'd feel better if you could scout out some information from the Fay themselves.  Maybe your friend has some answers?"

       Fr. Kevin was non-commtal.  Despite his sister's confidence in him, he couldn't be sure they hadn't just seen the last of one Theodore Henning Beckett, III.  She Who Was All would do anything she damn well wanted, and there was little they could do about it.  What he hadn't mentioned to his sister was that the Fay were notoriously moody, volatile and petty.  They perceived slight in the smallest infraction, and doled out punishment harshly, though he had always found the wee clurichaun to be forgiving of his ignorance as a human.  Maybe Brian would have the answers they were seeking.  The problem was, would he want to share them?  They had parted in a less than cordial terms after Kevin had been left behind in their rescue of Maureen. But that was his problem, and he'd do what ever was necessary to help Maureen.  Truthfully, he too was concerned over his brother-in-law's well-being.

      "Sure, Mo.  I'll see what I can do to contact Brian.  I can't say for certain he'll be of any help, but it won't hurt to ask."  Changing the subject, he pointed at Ian.  "In the meantime, what are we gonna do with him? At some point, someone is going to see him and start asking questions."

       Roxanne sat up, tucking several pillow behind her back.  Though still recovering from her surgery, she intended to be forefront in any discussion regarding the time traveling young man.  "Kevin's right.  We don't know how long Sheriff Beckett is going to be gone."  Seeing Maureen's stricken face, she quickly added, "I'm sorry, Mo.  But we have to be sensible and keep things moving along.  You know that's what he'd want us to do."

         Maureen bit her lip and nodded in agreement.  "You're right.  He'd hate it if we all just sat around hand wringing and worrying.  But Ted was the one who was going to see to Ian's formal identity.  We'll have to work around that now."

         "You're correct about that.  Without a Social Security number, and some background information, it will be impossible for him to get a job anywhere."

           It was Ian's turn to be indignant about being discussed as if he weren't in the room.  "Good people...I am quite healthy and able-bodied.  Very capable of hard work.  It should not be difficult to find employment in your time.  Surely, people are still in need of labor.  I will give a fair day's work for a fair day's pay."

           Roxanne reached for his hand.  "Oh, Ian.  I know you will.  It's just that...well...working in the 21st Century is rather complicated.  There's all kind of laws about who can work, how much they're paid, what type of benefits you get for your work.  And of course, the government will take their share of your pay in taxes."

          He started to spit, then remembering he was indoors, abruptly ended his colorful response.  "Aye, taxes!  The bane of the common man!  As you stated earlier, we no longer answer to the Crown.  One would hope that taxes in this time are addressed in a more equitable fashion."

           Roxie laughed.  "That would depend on who you ask, Ian.  But yes, they are more fairly regulated today, at least in essence.  Still, without all the necessary paperwork the Sheriff promised to provide, finding employment for you will be nearly impossible.  Until he returns, you'll have to keep your existence low key.  I'm sure between the three of us, we can help you until then. "

          Ian crossed his arms over his chest, his pride wounded.  "I shall not rest on charity, Mistress.  I shall provide for my own keep, lest you think I am not worthy of your affection."

          "Oh, Ian.  I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.  It's just...well...you're settling in here is rather complicated.  You're gonna need to be patient while we work things out."

          There was an uncomfortable, awkward silence, and while Fr. Kevin found himself realizing how much they depended on Beckett's calm, take charge leadership, Maureen snapped her fingers.
"I got it!  The perfect plan until Ted gets back and fixes things for Ian's citizenship."

           She waited until she had their complete attention.  "Kevin...you have been complaining bitterly how much maintenance work there is around the parish, and how you can't get to all of it.  You've been on your own since that poor man was murdered two years ago."  Roxanne and Ian looked at her, shock framing their expressions, and she answered them with a wave of her hand.  "It's a long story. Kevin was even shot himself.  I'll tell you about it another time.  Anyways...since then, Kev's had to do everything himself, and frankly, there's too much work for one person.  Ian, you said you were handy with tools.  You'd be the perfect replacement."

           Kevin could feel the angst grow in his chest.  This all was getting completely out of control.  If the young man made himself comfortable in a job, it would be harder to convince everyone he belonged back in his own place and time.  He stammered out the first excuse he could think of.  "I know you're just trying to be helpful, Maureen, but the reason I haven't hired anyone before now is that there's no extra money in the parish budget for such a luxury.  The economy being what it is, the weekly donations have been down for a few years running.  Holy Family just can't afford a full time maintenance man."

        "Oh for Pete's sake, Kevin!  Ted has offered to gift the church multiple times, and you always turn him down.  He's not here, and now I'm the one offering.  I'm your sister, as well as a member of the parish council, and if I want to donate a huge chunk of change to my church, then there is no way, in good faith, you can deny me the option to tithe.  I will write a check large enough to cover Ian's salary for at least 3 months.  That will give him a chance to get settled, and look for other work until Ted gets his paperwork in order"

          He was quickly losing control of the whole situation, and one look at Roxanne and Ian's hopeful faces told him he was fighting a losing battle.  He tried again, this time playing Devil's advocate.  "That's all fine and good, Mo.  But how am I legally going to pay him?  What about with holding for taxes.  He doesn't have a Social Security number, remember?  This is way more difficult then you're making it out to be."

        "Geez, Kevin, don't be such a party poop.  I already thought of that.  We'll tell people Ian is a distant cousin of Ted's.  Visiting from England, and just helping you out while he's here.  Nobody has to know you're "paying" him.  Your parishioners think Ted walks on water, they won't question anything they think he's involved with.  As a bonus, you'll get a lot of stuff done around here that desperately needs doing."

        Ian rushed to the priest's side, and began pumping his hand.  "You won't be sorry, Reverend!  I'll give you my best effort, I will.  I also see you have some empty land near the back of the property.  Would you mind if I planted a small patch?  Squash, I'm thinking.  No offense, but I find your ale lacking, and would dearly like to brew my own.  Mind you, you'd have your fair share to do with as you wish."

         Things were now completely out of hand.  The man was talking about planting things, staying long term.  Kevin could feel his stomach churn in general protest.  "Look, I  don't want to be the bad guy here, but you people aren't thinking clearly.  For Pete's sake, where is he even going to stay?  No offense, but I'm really not interested in long term house guest."

        It was the wrong thing to say.  Roxanne looked hurt, and his sister made one of her you-are-really-a jerk-faces, usually reserved for their brother Patrick.  Ian jumped in with a solution.

       "I don't wish to be a burden, Reverend.  You have been kind enough .I can sleep out back.  Make a small lean to.  The weather seems mild enough.  I'm not used to luxury.  That will do me fine."

        Ian's humility and gratitude worked to make him look more the ogre than ever.  He felt guilty at his lack compassion, his conscience eating at him like a small worm.  Before he could talk himself out of it, he offered another solution.  "Don't be ridiculous, Ian.  I can't have you sleeping on the rectory grounds.  There is another alternative.  There are rooms above the garage. They were set up years ago for the care taker when the parish was more solvent.  We've been using them for storage, but I suppose we could take a look and see if they might work?"

         Maureen clapped her hands.  "That's an awesome idea.  I forgot all about those rooms.  I'm sure we could fix them up enough to make a cozy little apartment for Ian.  I mean, look what we did with my flat!  Remember, Kev...it was awful when I found it.  And now, well, it's just the cutest damn thing."  She leaned over to Ian.  "Don't you worry, Ian.  We'll have you settled in no time!"

          The three of them huddled together, Maureen sketching her thoughts on best placement of furniture on his used napkin.  He watched in dismay as life the way he knew it slipped from his fingers, and wondered if, in truth, Ted hadn't been the luckier one.

______________________________________

         One moment, he had been sitting in the rectory bedroom, holding his cell phone in his hand, and in the next, he was here, sitting amongst a jungle of greenery, a riotous tangle of leaves, vines and flowering plants.  His body felt odd, the limbs heavier than normal, as though they were anchors  locking him to the ground.  He shook his head, trying to dispel the fuzzy, foggy feeling, not unlike the aftermath of his time travel.  Training kicked in, and he did a visual reconnaissance of the area, though he found it physically impossible to move.  His eyes suggested he was alone, but something else insisted he was not.  Beckett felt as if he were being watched from several different vantage points, and he could not dispel what sounded like high pitched giggles floating on the breeze.  It was disconcerting, but strangely enough, he felt little threat.

        Above his head, a tall plant, more like a tree, shook with sudden movement.  From it's top, a flurry of green floated down, positioning itself on a large rock few feet in front of him.  The giggles deepened, turning into a sing song laugh, and slowly the form of She Who Was All visualized in front of him.

         "Welcome, Ridre Dubh.  I suppose it is rude to laugh at your discomfort and confusion, but the look on your face is far too precious to leave unengaged."

            Beckett used all the strength he could muster to try and stand, but his attempt was lacking, and he slid with an embarrassing thump back to the ground."  His frustration mounting, he let out a string of obscenities, which were met with another round of giggles.  He heard them all around him, but could see no one, and his radar went on high alert."

           She Who Was All waved her hand.  "That will be enough, little ones.  Our Black Knight wishes to acclimate himself without your prying observation.  Disperse for now.  I will call you when needed."

             There was a low hum, and from the tops of the greenery, tiny clouds of light floated upward and moved out of his sight.  The Fairy Queen waited until they had all disappeared before continuing her conversation.  "So, my Ridre Dubh, what think you?"

             "What think I?  I think I am thoroughly pissed you just zap me around like some kind of puppet.  So much for your big lecture on free will."

              The Queen reached down, and lifted a small pebble throwing it at the side of his head.  The tiny stone caught him at his temple, and while he braced for its impact, was instead surprised when it felt more like a caress than an assault.  The tiny woman narrowed her eyes, and smiled, looking incredibly alluring and scary at the same time.  "You have much to learn, my Knight.  Things here are not what they seem, and illusion is as powerful as reality."

                "Why am I here?  Wherever here may be."

                 She ignored his question, instead slipping off the rock, and positioning herself across his immobile knees.  "You are quite the enigma, Ridre Dubh.  Surely a contradiction of emotions.  I feel I have struck a most beneficial bargain."  She lowered her lashes, looking at him through them.  "Do you find me desirable , Ridre Dubh?"

                  He knew from his experience with females, Fay or otherwise, hers was a loaded question.  "I would be lying if I said, otherwise, Your Majesty.  You are very beautiful.  In a green sort of way."

                 She looked at him curiously, and pouted.  "You don't care for green?"  With a snap of her fingers, she changed colors, now appearing in shades of daintiest pink.  "Is this more agreeable to you, Knight?"

                 Before he could respond, she shifted her color palette again, this time in shimmering lines of blue and silver, then lilac and gold, and finally returning to the traditional fairy look he had first witnessed before the time travel.  She sighed, and shook her head.  "No, Ridre Dubh, it seems you only have eyes for this."  She shifted again, and he sat staring at the image of his wife, nude except for a green ribbon holding up red curls at the top of his head.  It was an image he had often fantasied painting, and not a vision he intended to share with anyone else.

                 It startled and angered him at the same time.  She was playing with him, a cat with its mouse trapped in a mental corner, tossing his mind back and forth.  He shut his eyes refusing to look, causing her to giggle again at his response.  "So be it, Ridre Dubh.  I will torture you no longer.  Open your eyes and we will talk."

                 He opened them, only to find a large lizard in his lap, albeit one with the Queen's piercing green eyes.  It's long red tongue slithered in and out, and Beckett worked not to flinch at its nearness to his face.  The lizard smiled, showing a row of tiny razor sharp teeth.  "As I have said before, my Black Night, I am in need of your assistance. You will do this for me, and if you succeed, you may return to those you love.  That is...if you still wish to do so when all is said and done."
             
She Who Was All
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved

More Dollhouse Chit Chat...

     So, I have once again added to my dollhouse collection at the generosity of my dear friend and teaching partner.  Donna and I enjoyed a short visit to Shipshawanee, Indiana, a quaint Amish town in the central part of the state, to enjoy the mega flea market and antique mall.

Donna and I at the Flea Market

    During our travels, we came across this wonderful vintage Renwal piece from the mid 1940s, and my dear friend insisted on purchasing it for me as, she explained, an early birthday and Christmas gift.  It is a wonderful find, amazingly in mint condition for a being made of card board 65 years ago.  It came complete with all the pieces.  The teacher's desk and chair, six student desks, and of course, 4 little students.  The original box was also part of the deal.

It is too cute, and being that we are both teachers, especially relevant.

Renwal School House

    Thank you, Miss Donna!  I will always treasure it, and think of your kindness when ever I see it among my collection!





                         
The outside