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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 to...to 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 now...here we sit.  At the point where we can no longer argue about what is owed.  If Owen is not stopped...by you, Ridre Dubh...my 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 Lady...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


                 

             






           

 



         

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Owen and Omens

                       
     
       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.

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Of Magic and Mayhem

                                   
           The whole damn dinner was a disaster.  No. Not a disaster.  Worse than that.  More like a debacle.  Maureen scraped most of a perfect chocolate souffle into the garbage, and set the dirty dish into some soapy water to soak.  She eyed the tower of packaged leftovers, and shook her head in disgust. A total waste of time and effort.

           It should have worked. It always had at home. Whenever her brothers had been at each other's throats, her father in one of his stormy moods, she and her mother would spend hours in the kitchen orchestrating a culinary feast.  And when her mother's mind began to slide, she had taken over, soothing their ruffled feathers with full bellies and jovial conversation, not to mention an abundance of liquid libation.  She couldn't remember a time when that hadn't done its job.  Until tonight.

          Worse yet, she couldn't pin it on any one thing.  It was as if each one of them were hanging on the edge of some emotional cliff, ready to fall off without a bit of warning, and not having the slightest clue as to how they should save themselves.  There was a strange tension in the air, and if she had been thinking clearly, she would have changed her plans for a nice cordial dinner the moment she'd laid eyes on her husband.  Ted had seemingly come out of no where, strolling down the stairs from the Master Suite with a controlled air of indifference.  His hair was still damp, and he was dressed in a pair of faded fatigues, a snug white t-shirt, and some type of worn military style boots, a combo she'd never seen him in before.

              When or how he'd returned back to the cabin was unclear, but it certainly hadn't been through the front door.  That said, it was clear there was some other hidden entrance and exit to the cabin, a fact he hadn't bothered to share with her despite his big lecture the night before on the need for honesty between them.  It made her feel less guilty about keeping her new found ability a secret, especially after witnessing how Kevin had gone off the deep end about the whole thing.  Still, had she been thinking clearly, she would have seen her husband's GI Joe fashion statement for what it was...a bona fide call to battle.

              Though his face was a calm mask, the Ridre Dubh was obviously not thrilled to see the Lord Warrior, Cu-Chulainn, sitting comfortably on his sofa, an arm casually draped across its back and much too close to Roxanne's shoulder.  His expression appeared benign, but Maureen had noticed the prominent little vein on his right temple, a "tell" she'd learned in their short relationship signaled he was more than a bit perturbed.  From his position on the sofa, the Irish legend was genial enough, but his eyes held a steely sense of reserve, also assessing Ted's choice of attire for what it was.

                  Beckett stuck out a hand, a thin smile that didn't meet his chilly eyes.  "I see you will be joining us for dinner, Lord Warrior.  I officially welcome you to my home...and my hospitality."

                 His choice of words were not lost on Maureen, or the warrior himself.  Among the Fay, an offer and acceptance of hospitality meant that no harm or injury could be brought to any party under the roof.  It was a call for truce, and once accepted, an unbreakable oath.  Cu-Chulainn returned a similar smile and stood, gripping Beckett's hand in his.  "I accept your offer of hospitality, Sir Knight.  May peace reign in your lodgings."

                  That should have been enough to prevent any further problems, but the testosterone level in the room seemed to rise along with the conversation.  Maureen inwardly groaned when Ian, who was barely holding his temper, suggested a game of cards to wile away the time until dinner.  She knew from general knowledge of Celtic mythology that the Lord Warrior loved nothing more than an opportunity to gamble, and a game of poker had disaster written all over it.  Before she could politely put a stop to it, the beautiful table she had set for dinner was quickly dismantled, the four men grimly gathered around it for some serious card playing.

                     The Ridre Dubh's Lady had hoped for some female support from Roxanne, but her friend seemed bogged down with issues of her own.  Rox had arrived several minutes earlier, flushed and shaky, unable to string more than a few words together.  She had not been invited to participate in the game, yet was quite content to sit on the sofa, mesmerized by the action at the table, her eyes darting back and forth between the players like an affection starved puppy.  It was all very strange, and had she not been distracted by both dinner and the trouble brewing at the card game, she might have figured it all out before the whole thing blew up.

                     It wasn't long before Ted pulled out his Jameson Special Reserve, making an already violate situation worse.  Though dinner was ready to be served, none of the card players seemed the least bit interested in breaking up the game, and at the Ridre Dubh's request, she found herself making up individual plates of food that the four men shoveled into their mouths in between hands.  Roxie had passed on the meal entirely.  She had pulled up a chair to the end of the table, her head in her hands, totally oblivious to anything but the game and players in front of her.  Somewhere after  the pasta course and before dessert,  Cu-Chulaiin made the inappropriate suggestion to up the ante, offering the zombie like Roxanne as the prize.  It was at that point she expected her husband, or at least Kevin, to call for reason and stop the whole damn thing, and when that didn't happen, she knew something was terribly, terribly wrong.

                 She opened her mouth to speak, but caught a look from her husband that clearly indicated he wanted her to remain silent.  And if Kevin understood the implications of the situation, he wasn't giving her any indication of it, being totally engrossed in the hand he was dealt.  It wasn't until Ian put down a Royal Straight Flush that all hell broke loose.  Both the Lord Warrior and Fr. Kevin jumped from their chairs, calling Ian a cheat, and sweeping away the cards.  Ian took obvious issue to the claim, screaming that he had won Roxanne fair and square, and swinging wildly at both men.  It took Beckett shooting a round from his Glock into the cathedral ceiling of the cabin to get anyone's attention, and the melee suddenly ended as quickly as it had started.

                   Cu-Chulaiin swayed on his feet, the effects of too much Jameson and an overdose of adrenaline.  He gruffly made his apologies to the host, and then disappeared into a cloud of smoke, leaving behind an embarrassed Ian and a mortified Fr. Kevin.  With the Lord Warrior gone, Roxanne seemed to gain back some of her own self cognizance, blinking several times, and then retiring to her room.  She was quickly followed by her two admirers, both of whom had expressed feeling strangely fatigued and most odd.  Maureen stood speechless, waiting for an opportunity to discuss the whole crazy evening with her husband, who had no intention of doing any such thing.  Tucking the Glock back into the waistband of his fatigues, he headed out the front door, claiming the need for some fresh air, and suggesting she not wait up for him.

__________________________________

              He figured he'd been walking nearly two hours, having made two full sweeps of the perimeters of his property.  As usual, the woods seemed darker than he remembered, more overgrown and...alive, for lack of a better word.  The time alone outdoors had helped.  He felt calmer, more centered than he had since his ass whopping earlier in the day.  The sting of embarrassment was still there in tiny increments, but had been mainly replaced with rational thought.  Beckett climbed the stairs to his cabin, and instead of heading inside, took a seat in one of the Adirondack chairs on the porch, bracing his feet against the railing.

               There was the now familiar clicking from the brush to the left of him, and out scuttled the large spider, heading right toward the stairs.  He moved his hand slowly toward the Glock, and whispered, "Come on, you hairy bastard...I'm not afraid of you."

                "Such falsehood, Sir Knight...when we both know that statement is untrue."

                 The voice came from the arm of the chair next to him, the Fairy Queen sitting on the edge of it with her feet dangling down.  Beckett grunted. "Well, well...look who's finally decided to show up. Come to gloat, have we?"

                   She reached out a tiny hand and gave the fleshy part of his arm a sharp pinch.  "You are most disagreeable, Mortal.  Is there ever a time when you are not sullen?  Your disrespect and constant whining is quite tiresome.  Why are you out here pouting and not with your Lady?"

                    "My Lady is none of your concern, Your Majesty.  And I'm not pouting."

                     She sighed, and continued.  "No...I guess you are not.  It is quite encouraging to see that you have moved on from your shaming this morning.  It is a good sign that your training can now begin in earnest.  I am glad to see that you have progressed to this point so quickly, as time grows short."

                    "Well...not that it matters what you think, but yes...I do feel a sense of focus I lacked up until now.  I presume it is your doing?"

                      "My doing, Sir Knight?  How do you mean?  Your emotions are your own entirely."

                      "Don't try to con a con, Your Majesty.  I'm well aware that all the craziness going on around here is your work."

                       "Craziness?  I do not understand what it is you describe, Ridre Dubh."

                       "So you haven't noticed the strange behavior exhibited by the five of us?  I don't believe that for a second.  Everyone's emotions have spiraled out of control.  My wife and her brother aren't even speaking, which if you know them is totally out of character.  They finish each other's sentences, for Christ sake.  Ian, who we normally can't get to shut up, can't seem to string three coherent words together, and Roxanne, whose gotta be the most together woman I've ever met, well...she's like some kind of stray cat in heat.  This is your doing, isn't it?  Some kind of fairy spell
for your own personal amusement."

                    The Queen stood up, and flew over to the railing in front of him. "Understand this, Sir Knight.   I have placed no spell on you or your companions.  On that you have my word."

                 "Then it must be that jar head asshole you brought here with you."

                 "I'd be careful on how you address the Lord Warrior, my Knight.  You have tasted his sword, and he will only shrug off so much of your disrespect before he loses patience.  He understands fully what it is we face, and he would no more endanger our objective than cut off his own head.  He is not the cause of your discomfort."

                  "Then who is behind this nonsense, if not the two of you?  Is this coming from Owen as a way to keep us from moving forward."

                  "Creator be praised, Mortal!  You are sometimes so stupid, I shudder to think that our Fate is in your hands.  You understand nothing!  When Owen comes, he will not fight with spells that confuse.  No, my idiotic Knight...he will seek only to destroy you, and our way of life as well.  Your emotional problems are yours alone."

                    "Ours?  How so?  I can't believe all of this is our doing."

                    "And yet it is.  Our presence here... Fay energy of any kind...works to magnify all that you already possess.  The things you are feeling...the secret desires of your soul...are yours alone.  We act as a transmitter for them, making them more obvious then your human mind will allow."

                    "Are you telling me that this will continue as long as you are here?"

                     The Queen shrugged, a strangely human gesture on one so very not human.  "I'm afraid that is correct, Sir Knight."

                      "Can't you turn this ...this energy thing off.  At least while you're here?"

                     "That is quite impossible.  We can not turn off our aura anymore than you can stop breathing.  It is who...what...we are."

                      "So things...all of us...are going to to be just like we were tonight."

                       She nodded, and then added.  "But as we spend more time together, your human brain will learn to adjust for our presence.  Or at least I believe it will.  It may take a bit more time for things to...reinvent themselves."

                        The Ridre Dubh thought for a moment, recalling the behavior he witnessed over the past few hours, and mumbled under his breath.  "Well, isn't this just fuckn' dandy.  It'll be like high school all over again."

___________________________

                    Dr. Owen Ryan unlocked the door of his home, agitated and out of breath.  A message from his apprentice, unannounced and unexpected, couldn't mean anything good.  And the timing was more than lousy.  He was close.  Of that he was sure.  A few more trials and he'd finally accomplish what none before him had been able.

                He walked through the dark house, not stopping to turn on any lights, but seeing as clearly as if every bulb blazed.  It was one of the side effects that came as a bonus, a recessive gene that he had been lucky enough to stumble upon.  Below him, he could feel the energy of life growing in the line of petrie dishes and test tubes, proof enough that all he wanted was nearly in his grasp.

                The raven was perched on a shelf behind the incubator, an envelope in his beak.  With all the technology available, it annoyed him he was forced to resort to this type of communication,  but with the monitoring of the digital world by every government organization in the world, he couldn't risk even the slightest chance of discovery.  Not when he was so close.

                  He tore open the envelope and read the note inside, streaming a long line of obscenities as he did. Then with a shudder of rage, he tossed the note in the air where it disappeared in a flash of flame and smoke, and hurried back up the stairs, cursing with every step.


Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved




                 

               

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Of Love...and Other Diseases


         The immense size of Beckett's property made solitude easy, though Fr. Kevin knew that if She Who Was All required him, he'd be found in an instant.  Still, his flight gave him some level of privacy, and a chance for his beleaguered mind to slow down and contemplate the sure lunacy of the past few days.  The sword was hidden somewhere near the house, and the further away he moved, the less influence it seemed to have over him.  His head felt less fuzzy, and for the first time in nearly a week, he could actually think about something other than its divine presence.

         He'd left with the excuse that he was looking for his sister who had fled in to the woods in search of her husband.  They'd both been gone for more than four hours, and the level of concern about their whereabouts was beginning to rise.  Or not.  Frankly, it was only he that seemed worried about the safety of both Becketts, his counter parts duly lost in their own affairs.  Strangely enough, Roxanne had taken an immediate shine to the ancient Irish legend, laughing and blushing over ridiculous stories that couldn't possibly be true. Cu-Chulainn fawned and fussed over her to the point of nausea, though in truth, it was Roxie's obvious attraction to him that made Kevin the most uneasy.  And he wasn't alone in his feelings.  Ian had become a "third wheel" in the conversation, and it was clear the young man was less than happy about losing Roxanne's attention.

          Reason spoke to his staying and monitoring the situation to assure that the two men didn't come to blows, as there was no doubt that poor Ian would come out on the losing end.  But at the moment, he had no inclination to play the role of mediator in their little love triangle, and so without much explanation, he'd left the cabin for a search of the property, knowing that if he could find his sister, at least one of his worries would be put to rest.

          The late afternoon sun made only a dappled appearance through the canopy of trees, making the woods cooler and darker than what one might expect in late August.  It was eerily quiet, the only sounds coming from the rustling of leaves in the wind, and an occasional bird flying from one branch to another.  It was less scary than he thought, and in many ways, rather peaceful.  With his head clear of the sword, he worked his way through one decade of the rosary, and then another, pleased with the total sense of normalcy.  He was winding down the last Joyful Mystery when he heard a low humming sound coming from a spot a few yards in front of him, interrupting both his prayers and his peace of mind.

         Fr. Kevin hesitated a moment, and then quietly made his way toward the direction of the sound, deciding it might be best not to give away his presence if that were possible.  Up ahead was a small clearing, disguised by low hanging branches giving it the appearance of a small tepee.  As quietly as he could, he parted the leaves and peered in, and what he saw left him with his mouth hanging open.  In the center of the clearing was his sister, cross legged on the ground, with two gray squirrels curled up asleep in her lap.  On her shoulder sat a magnificent blue jay, its black bead eyes focused on four tennis balls hovering on their own in front of his sister, which apparently was cause of the hum he heard.  Maureen, a crown of woven leaves on her head, had her eyes closed tight, her lower lip bit in serious concentration.

          If there had been instead a three headed dog shooting rays of flame, Fr. Kevin would have not been more surprised.  His baby sister looked like something out of a Disney cartoon, an enchanted forest nymph, and not the woman who cussed like a sailor, and left gobs of toothpaste in the sink every morning. He battled in his mind as to whether he should say something, or just turn around and pretend he was never there, and the sensible side of him, the years of being an older brother, won out. "Maureen?"

            Startled, she opened her eyes and turned in the direction of the voice, the four tennis balls immediately dropping to the ground and rolling away in different directions.  The squirrels sat up in her lap, and then scampered off, the blue jay following suit and winging toward one of the taller trees.
There was a blush of pink around her neck, a sign of embarrassment at being caught off guard. "Kevin...what are you doing here?"

           "I could ask you the same question."  He waved his hand in the direction of the clearing, and pointed at one of the neon green tennis balls.  "What's going on?  What's with the...floating balls?  And the squirrels?  Squirrels have rabies, you know."

           She sighed.  "It's...complicated, Kev."

           "How 'bout you try un-complicating it, and explain."

            The tone in his voice made her narrow her eyes.  "Don't you pull that Big Brother shit with me, Kevin O'Kenney.  I am a grown adult.  A married woman.  I don't answer to you...or Patrick, or any of the others any more.  I make my own decisions."

              He pushed aside the branches and entering the clearing, plopped down beside her.  "Come on, Mo.  You know I don't deserve that.  We've been like two peas in a pod our whole lives.  Why are you shutting me out now?"

             "Because you won't understand."

             "Try me.  We could always tell each other everything.  Why is this different?"

              She looked away, then went to retrieve the four tennis balls.  When she had gathered them up, she sat back down next to her brother, taking his hands in hers.  "Ok...so you understand about the Fairy Queen, right?  That we...you and I...are the last in a long line of her descendants."

             "Yeah.  You've explained that.  I still find the whole thing...well...weird. Unbelievable, frankly.  We're two of eight children.  Why just us, and not the rest of them?"

              "Luck of the genetic draw, Kev.  That's how it works.  For the same reason that some of us look like Ma's side, and a few of us look like Dad's family, even though we all have the same parents.  Everyone always said how I resembled Granny when she was younger.  It's just how the gene pool shakes out.  Out of the eight of us, only you and I have red hair and the same green cat eyes like Granny did.  That apparently is from the Fay blood line."

             "You're telling me that you believe all this...fairy talk?  You believe that you're...part Fay? Come on, Mo!  We've had a perfectly normal life until the last few weeks.  Granted, I can't explain any of it, but it doesn't change who we are.  Maureen and Kevin O'Kenney.  Human beings."

               She pulled her hands from his, and folded them across her chest.  "I knew you wouldn't understand.  I'm just wasting my time here."

               "Please, Maureen.  I'm trying to hear what you're saying.  It just doesn't add up.  And what does this all have to do with you sitting out here with rabid animals in your lap?  And that whole creepy thing with the tennis balls?"

                "I'm trying to find out who I am, Kev.  You of all people should understand that."

                "You already know who you are.  Maureen Margaret O'Kenney Beckett...wife, daughter, sister.  You're beautiful, smart, creative and kind.  Why isn't that enough?  Why do you need to go searching for something else that isn't there?"

                 She was angry now, and near tears.  She stood up, the tennis balls in her hand.  "Damn you, Kevin! Because there is something else there, and you're too frightened...too close minded...to admit it."   She closed her eyes, and tossed the balls in the air,  They hung in a neat line between the two of them, and biting her lip again in concentration, she reversed their position from horizontal to vertical, and then back again.  She opened her eyes and let them drop to the ground.  "I can do these kind of things, Kevin.  Maeve is showing me how."

                He picked up one of the balls that had rolled near his feet, and flung it as hard as he could into the woods.  "So that's what this is all about.  She's filling your head with nonsense about magic.  You know it's pagan, right?  This whole magic crap she's selling you.  It's a sin.  What happened to your faith, Maureen?"

               She reached down, and lobbed one of the balls at him, catching him at the side of the head.
He flinched at the contact, but didn't say a word, the expression on his face telling her all she needed to know.  "Don't you go worrying about my faith, Fr. Kevin.  My faith is MY business, and it's just fine.  There's no such thing as "magic".  All I'm doing is manipulating energy and matter, something science and manufacturing does every damn day.  And if you believe it's so evil, so contrary to our faith, then what the hell are you doing here?  Explain to me how you time-traveled?  How I managed to be stuck in revolutionary Boston?  And while you're at it, tell me why that damn sword has such a hold on you?  Because...lets be honest here... whenever you're near it, you're like some moon-eyed zombie!"

              He sat on the ground, silent.  She was right...and wrong...about so many things, but in truth, he didn't have the answers to any of her questions.  She must have sensed that she hadn't changed his mind, the knowledge coming from years as loving siblings rather than from any source of magic.  They were at polar opposites of opinion for the very first time in their lives, and that realization cut both of them deeply.

             She brushed off the seat of her pants, and offered him a hand up.  When he wouldn't take it, she dropped it back at her side.  "I guess we've said it all then, Kev.  Go ahead and judge me if that's what you want to do.  I can't change who I am, any more than you can change who you were born to be.  We'll just leave it at that, but I want you to know I still love you as much as I always have."  Then she turned and headed back to the cabin, the neon tennis balls following in a line behind her.

_________________________

             Maureen went ahead and started dinner as planned, despite the fact that no one had seen her husband since the early part of the day.  She returned to the cabin tense and red-eyed, followed shortly by her brother, who appeared as if he had swallowed a large boulder and was now physically ill.  Roxanne thought about trying to speak to either one of them, and then changed her mind.  She was the last person on Earth who should expound on damaged relationships, her track record on the subject soundly dismal.  Whatever had gone down between the two was their business, and knowing both of them as she did, she was sure they'd fix it before the night was over.

             Instead, she had chosen to escape to her room, now standing in front of the mirror coaxing her chopped up hair into some kind of style.  That alone should have been proof that she had lost her mind entirely.  Here they were, in the middle of the woods, preparing for some cosmic battle between good and evil, and she was worried about how her hair looked.  Worse yet, she'd tried on several blouses and a variety of t-shirts in search of something that covered the bandages on her chest, and didn't leave her looking bulky, yet another sign there was something deeply wrong with her.

             She was surprised, and secretly pleased if the truth be admitted, when Cu-Chulainn accepted Maureen's invitation to stay for the evening meal.  She wasn't even sure what the whole Fay protocol was regarding things like eating and drinking, and... other unsaid habits of human kind.  She pushed aside the thought, her insides doing a strange little flip, much like when the legend had pressed his lips to her hand before they departed, or when Ian kissed her cheek before she headed upstairs to change for dinner.  Damn it!  What the hell was wrong with her?  She hadn't even cared that Kevin was so distressed, and obviously in need of a shoulder to cry on.

            Settling on a red top with a low scooped neckline, she pulled her hair back in a short pony tail at the back of her head, letting a few tendrils escape around her face to soften the look.  A thought jumped out of nowhere to the front of her brain, an idea that a ribbon or hair band might add some color to what she considered a sallow complexion.  Maybe even a dab of blush and maybe some lipstick, neither of which she'd ever considered packing.  Her brain, however, would not be deterred, and she realized that Maureen was sure to have brought an abundance of both accessories and make-up, as was her way, and perhaps she could discreetly borrow some.

            She considered going down and asking her permission, but then dismissed the idea.  Going all the way downstairs where both men probably were already waiting, then back up again to finish dressing, seemed silly.  She decided she'd just sneak upstairs, grab what she needed, and tell Mo about it later.  Her friend never seemed the stingy type, and she doubted this occasion wouldn't be any different.

            The hall in front of the Master Suite was deserted, the French doors not fully closed.  She paused a second, then pushed them open and made her way across the room to the large antique dresser in the corner.  The top was littered with an array of costume jewelry, and hair ornaments, and picking through them, she found exactly what she needed.  To her disappointment, there was no make-up in sight, logic being they were probably on the vanity in the bathroom. Common sense suggested she do without it, but the fact that she was not thinking clearly had already been established.  She made a quick dash to the the suite's bathroom, turning her head to keep an eye on the open French doors, and then running smack into something hard. And wet.

          Startled, she looked up into Sheriff Beckett's piercing blue eyes, his dark hair plastered across his forehead.  The Ridre Dubh, was wet and almost completely undressed except for the short towel he held around his waist with his left hand, and the Glock in his right  For a second, she was completely paralyzed, pressed against his chest, and locked onto his face. Her stomach flipped again, and no words would leave her mouth.

            He looked at her, and frowned.  "Can I help you find something, Deputy?"

            She turned several shades of red, and try as she might, she could not tear her eyes away.  They seemed frozen on the drops of water that slipped from his hair and traveled down his freshly shaved cheek.  She stepped back, hoping that would break the trance, but instead it put her eye level to his chest, the small scratch from the morning's debacle a thin red line from clavicle to shoulder.  She had an overwhelming need to trace it with her finger.  No.  Not her finger.  Her tongue.

              He laid the Glock down on a nearby chair, and put a hand on her arm, still holding up the towel with the other.  "Roxanne...are you alright?"

              The physical contact was enough to break the spell, or whatever the hell was wrong with her.
Embarrassed, she stepped several feet back, her face, as well as the rest of her, sweaty and much too warm.  "I'm fine, Sir.  I...I came in here to borrow some..."  The correct words wouldn't come, shriveling up and evaporating like rain drops on a hot summer day.  She felt ill, mortified, confused.
Aroused.  She turned away, afraid he'd see all those feelings in her face, and headed out the door and down the stairs to the second floor.  She raced into her room, and slammed the door shut, locking it behind her.  She tugged at the clean clothes she'd just put on, dropping them in a heap on the floor, and fled to the bathroom, reaching for the knob in the shower, and stepping under the icy stream of cold water.


Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved