Saturday, January 16, 2016
The 'Hook' of Revelations
The Lord Warrior was the only one who returned from lunch in anything resembling good humor. Fr. Kevin held himself stiffly off to the left side of the training area, cleaning the blades of the practice swords, and not engaging in any conversation. Ian stayed on the opposite side, working thrust moves in front of the sawdust target, and occasionally throwing mournful looks of desperation at Roxanne, who was in a snit over being ordered to stay with the group by her less than sympathetic boss. And in the center, the Ridre Dubh went through his series of stretches, all the time wondering how the hell he had ended up in this position.
He couldn't exactly remember when he'd lost control of his life. He considered maybe it was when Maureen had gone missing in her time travel adventure, but dismissed that thought completely. He was sucked in long before that. Maybe even before he laid eyes on her. It was her brother that had screwed up his perfect existence. The very same brother who was no longer speaking to him. What he needed right now was a mission. A run of the mill, get in-get out job where the outcome was guaranteed from the start. Instead, he was here, stuck in the middle of a fucking Harry Potter nightmare.
Cu-Chulainn sauntered across towards him, looking much too smug for Beckett's taste. "Thee looks a mite distracted, Sir Knight, and full of foul temperament. Me thinks you did not take proper advantage of your mid-day respite. Tis a pity, as it is doubtful you will be in any shape to enjoy it later."
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Did you get tired of beating up on the kid, and now ya want to take on somebody who actually poses a challenge?"
"It is good to see you have not lost your venom, Black Knight. It will serve you well this afternoon. The boy is of little consequence. It is your training...and yours alone... that matters in all of this. Today we finish with the play of bairns, and move to what is worthy of your title." He pointed to Ian and Kevin. "You...and you. Remove yourself from this arena. I will work with the Ridre Dubh alone."
Both men looked at him, waiting for some kind of counter command. "Take a break, gentlemen. I will deal with the Lord Warrior myself."
For the next 30 minutes, legend and knight went through the routine of moves they had practiced for the last several days. Occasionally, the Lord Warrior would challenge with an extra maneuver, all of which he easily matched. Despite an increase in speed, Beckett kept pace, feeling confident in the ability he'd gained with the long sword.
"Well done, Sir Knight. You are more than ready for the next step in your training." He snapped his fingers, and Kevin, Ian and Roxanne dropped off into a deep slumber, their heads falling to their chest or lolling on the back of the chair. "There is no need for your companions to risk their well being. Better they dream of pleasanter things."
From her chair under the tree, Maureen's eyes got large and round, obvious to the fact that she was still awake while the others slept. She began to rise from her seat, until the Fairy Queen floated down and rested on her shoulder, an assurance meant to convey peace of mind. With a nod from his Queen, the Lord Warrior waved a hand over Beckett's eyes, and the bright, sunny afternoon went black in an instant.
For a second, panic lodged in his throat. He blinked rapidly and rubbed a fist to both eyes, but still remained steadfastly blind. He took deep breaths, and concentrated on taking control of his fear, of making it work for him instead of against. Gripping the hilt of his sword, he brought it to chest level.
"Excellent, Sir Knight. Work at controlling your fright. You still retain your weapon, and are yet in possession of your skills. It is time you learned to use your inner eye. The one that sees more than the physical world."
"I don't have a fucking clue about any inner eye, Asshole. But know this...I'm going to slice you in half the first chance I get."
"Your anger is a distraction. Focus on your ability to see the world without your mortal eyes. You can do it. I have no doubts." Then taking his sword, he placed the point in the Ridre Dubh's back, hard enough to push him forward.
Beckett spun around, sword held aloft, but unable to see where his opponent had moved. He strained to listen for footsteps, but heard nothing but the swaying of trees and his own heart beating. He sniffed the air, hoping that he might catch a whiff of the other man who had worked up a sweat during their earlier routine. But there was nothing to smell but warm, rich earth. In anger and frustration, he swung the sword in multiple directions.
"You waste precious energy, Black Knight. Do as I say...use your inner eye."
"Fuck you! There is no inner eye! Human beings don't have them." He could hear the legend sigh, and turned in that direction.
"You are most stubborn, Ridre Dubh. As was he who came before you. You leave me no choice but to force the issue."
There was a deep rumbling noise, the sound of groaning and snapping, and he began to feel the ground beneath him vibrate. To his right, there came the crashing and tearing of tree branches, and the then the overwhelming odor of earth and leaves. He placed himself in a defensive position, trying to feel where the thing was by the movement it made.
"Do not feel it, Mortal! See it!"
Overwhelmed, he strained his mind in the direction of the vibration, and suddenly could make out a hazy form 30 yards in front of him. The image was large. Very large. But he could not tell what it was, or what danger it posed besides its size. His head pounded with the effort it took to keep the visual in front of him, and he gritted his teeth in pain to keep it from fading.
"Yes, Mortal. You have found it. Keep at it, man."
He thought his head would explode, a searing stab to his temple, until the pain blotted out the vision. Queasy and weak, he fought against the need to vomit where he stood. To lie down in the dirt and sleep for days on end.
"You must work harder, Sir Knight. Maybe this will give you the need incentive."
He heard the thing stomp closer to him, smelt the green of the forest as it passed him by. For a mere second, he was confused as to why the thing had not taken a shot at him, defenseless and weak as he was. And then he heard her scream. It shattered the calm of the August afternoon, piercing the air, and cutting through his fog of pain and nausea. Whatever it was, it had his wife.
He was dreaming, of course. This he somehow knew, the images in his brain scrambled like a movie spliced in all the wrong places. He and Roxanne stood on the shores of the ocean, a boat bobbing in the water, attached by a long rope to a wooden column. She looked up at him and smiled, and he thought he'd never felt anything so wonderful. Then, giving his hand a squeeze, she walked down to the water's edge, and took a seat in the small boat. With a grin, she gestured for him to join her, patting the seat next to her. And in this dream, he found himself rooted to the spot, unable to move. To even wave in response. Her signals became more frantic, and when he did not respond, she took a large pair of golden scissors from her pocket and cut the rope that was holding the boat to the shore. He stood and watched while the boat floated away, getting smaller and smaller until it was just a tiny spot on the horizon. Then he sat on the shore and waited for the tide to come in and swallow him up.
Maureen screamed again and it cut right through him, breaking down the walls of pain and darkness. The image grew clearer in his head, and he could see the thing that held her several feet off the ground. His mind had a difficult time accepting what it was he was viewing. The beast was at least 8 feet tall, humanoid in shape, but composed of twisted tree limbs, scaly leaves and thick crawling moss. It's eyes were dark hollow holes, and its mouth a gaping crack with oozing sap. It dangled her from one trunk sized arm, while the other poked at her with thorny fingers. He could see her face, a mask of sheer terror, and she called out for him in a high pitched voice.
His companions were stretched out in the same chairs, crazily still sound asleep, offering no help whatsoever, while the Lord Warrior and the Fairy Queen seemed to have disappeared from the premises. Maureen's life rested solely on his shoulders, blind and running on empty as he was. Using the stabbing pain in his temples as motivation, he breathed deep and brought an even clearer image of the beast into view. It seemed to move on two thick trunks, its roots like long jointed toes on narrow feet. If he could sever its legs, he might have a chance to bring it down. Once on the ground, he'd be able to get a closer shot at its head...or whatever served as the thinking part of its body.
Movement was like slogging through quicksand. He needed to keep the inner eye up and open, while the other parts of his brain worked at moving the rest of his body. In that moment, he regretted not having Caladbolg here with him, knowing that the sword would have the power to take the damned thing down with one swoop fell. Instead, it would take several hits with the practice sword before he could mobilize the fucking thing, and safely remove Maureen from it.
The beast saw him coming, and dangled his wife out to him like a treat to a hungry dog, first shaking her at at him, then pulling her back out of his reach. He could feel his anger taking control, and the image began to blur. Deep breaths calmed him, thus sharpening his sight. He formulated a quick plan of action, deciding to move in a weaving motion to make himself less of an easy target.
When he got close enough, he'd chop through the left trunk leg first, and then the left, toppling the monster to the ground.
He was almost near enough to use the sword when the thing roared up in anger, and with its free arm, swung at him with full force. He dodged to his right, somehow anticipating the move, and before the beast could counter, swung the long sword against the left trunk, cutting all the way through. The tree monster wobbled and howled in pain, flinging Maureen away from itself. Beckett watched in horror as she flew through the air in direct line to hit a stand of pine trees. Before she could make contact, her movement slowed, and miraculously, she somehow floated down to the ground, landing softly on her feet.
Once he knew she was safe, he charged at the beast with a fury he didn't know he had. He had killed things before. Many times. But it had always been with a cool, detached lack of emotion.
Killing was part of his job, and he had always gone into it with the knowledge that the end justified the means This time it was personal. He hacked through the right leg, cutting through the gnarled trunk with inhuman force. The monster cried and writhed in pain, then fell to the ground, it's thorny branches whipping at him, cutting his skin in a multitude of places.
As it lay shaking in agony, Beckett tried to determine where its head might be located, realizing that he had forgotten that he was seeing completely with his inner eye. Somewhere in his need to assure Maureen's safety, he had completely forgotten that his natural eyes were blinded, and that he was functioning on total use of what the Lord Warrior had called his "inner sight". He had no time to dwell on what that all meant. The tree beast was still alive, it's tree trunk legs already starting to regenerate themselves. He thought about a job he'd once had, when he and the target had ended up in hand to hand combat, a rarity in his line of work. He had pinned the subject down, but was without the necessary weapon to cut his throat. Instead, he had used the small dagger he kept in his boot, killing the man by shoving the blade into the man's eye and thus into his brain, dropping him on the spot. He wondered if the same idea might work with the beast.
While the tree rolled back and forth trying to dislodge the Knight from its body, the Ridre Dubh raised the practice sword, and jabbed it directly into one of the hollow holes that seemed to serve as the beast's eyes. It shuddered and groaned, then turned to nothing but ash, dropping Beckett to the ground in an unceremonious thud.
Supper that evening was a silent and solemn affair, with all five of the Mortals picking at the food on their plates with disinterested appetites. The three others had eventually awakened, having no awareness of what had gone on around them. They listened with alarm at the story their host and hostess told, a growing sense of apprehension filling the great room of the cabin. Up until this point, the trip had been some crazy adventure. Yes, the giant spider had been scary, but once they were satisfied it meant them no harm, they had forgotten that there were things among the trees that might want them gone. Even Owen's appearance in a hologram had done little to cause them any lingering fear. They had assumed that the presence of the Fairy Queen and her Lord Warrior meant they were safe.
Now it was clear that they had grossly underestimated the situation they had gotten themselves into. The two Immortals had left Beckett and Maureen to their own devices, seemingly not caring about their welfare, and using Mo as bait to push the Black Knight into discovering his hidden ability. Maureen was also forced into revealing that she too seemed to be in possession of some talents that came with her being part Fay, her safe landing after being thrown by the tree monster a testament to what she could do. The fact that she had been keeping this knowledge a secret had not sat well with her husband, who was as sullen as the group had ever seen him.
It was amidst this atmosphere of discontent that the Fairy Queen made her grand entrance, appearing in the center of the room in her full human size of six feet. Today her hair was a normal shade of brown, if the deepest chestnut color could be construed as anything remotely human. She wore a long form fitting gown of vintage lace, a large red rose pinned to her left shoulder that matched perfectly the color of her lips, a choker at her neck adorned with small pearls and carved ivory roses. She looked every bit royal, and it was hard not to sit up a tad straighter when you were in her presence.
Beckett looked up from his plate. "Get out. You're not welcome here."
She seemed not in the least bit offended by his comment. "My, my, Sir Knight, we are more surly than usual this evening."
"I said get out. This is my home. You and the other bastard are not welcome in its confines. I know the rules. You can't enter with out my permission."
"That might be true for the Lord Warrior, but not for your Queen. As per the signed contract, you have pledged your service to me. That means what is yours is also mine. I do not need permission to enter what is mine, though I find your behavior rude and childish."
He pushed away from the table, rising so quickly, the chair he was sitting on fell backwards to the floor with a loud bang. "Rude?" Childish? You fucking try to kill the two of us, and then you have the balls to come in here and scold me about my behavior. You can kiss my mortal ass, Queenie. I'm done...ya hear me? Finished. Take all your damn nonsense and get out of my life for good."
Again his comments did little to anger her. Instead, she laughed, pushing Ian from his chair and taking a place directly across from him at the table. "First of all, Sir Knight, you know perfectly well I have no balls, though you can check first hand if it makes you happy." She winked at him, and giggled. "I understand you are angry, maybe justifiably so, but I needed to be sure of things before I reveal what must be said. What I say here tonight is of the greatest importance to my people. I needed to be sure I was right in my search. And it seems that you are everything I believe you to be."
"Just go away, before we both regret tonight. I want nothing to do with you, even if you threaten my very life, though I'll fight you with my last breath. Just leave us alone. All of us. We want our lives back."
"I'm afraid that is quite impossible, Ridre Dubh, at least for you and your lady. Your destinies has long been written before my discovery of them. But if the others wish to bow out, then I can arrange that. But they must decide here and now. Once I reveal my words tonight, there is no turning back for any of you. You will be bonded in things bigger than time until your very last breath. Tell me now. I will send you back home this very instant, with no memory of anything that has happened in the last few days."
Beckett looked at the three of them, and spoke in a low tone. "Here's your chance, people. Take the deal and leave now. I won't think any less of you. Hell...I'd do it myself if I were in your place."
Ian was the first to respond. "If it be alright with you, Constable, I'd rather stay. I was sent here for some purpose that is not of my understanding. I'd like to play the scene out if I can."
Roxanne chimed in, "You guys are my family. There's no one else in my life I'd rather spend time with, no matter how little that might be. I'm in for sure."
The group looked at Kevin, who hadn't said a word yet. He folded his arms across his chest, and gave his brother-in-law a cold stare before answering. "There's no way in hell I'm leaving without my sister. Besides, I promised I'd be your Second...and we both know I stick to my vows."
The Queen fidgeted in her chair, impatient to move the conversation along. "Very well. It seems they have made their choices of their own free will. What you will hear at this table remains a solemn oath of secrecy. To do otherwise would cause immense harm to the Fay world, as well as your Mortal one." She snapped her fingers, and a large velvet bag appeared on the table in front of her. She opened the tie, and removed a parchment scroll from it, laying the ancient writings in her lap. "These are the histories of my people. All that is the Fay is written in here. What was...and what will be. We believe these writings to be a gift from the Creator. They are our life blood."
She began to unroll them, the markings on them no language Beckett had ever seen. "Okay...so you have your history. I'm not sure what any of this has to do with us. You've already said that Maureen and Kevin are descended from your line. Even if I do believe that...and I'm not saying I do...the fact remains...they're still mortal. Not Fay. Even if my wife exhibits some minor talent that aren't quite...normal, she's still a human being. Nothing can change that."
"I do not come on your wife's account, Sir Knight. I come on yours."
"Mine? Don't be absurd. If you're gonna try and tell me I'm descended from faeries too, I'm gonna give you the boot right now. Don't try to bullshit me, Maeve. I'm on to your deceitful games."
She narrowed her eyes at him, the blood red lips pursed tight. "I will forgive your insolence, Ridre Dubh, because this has been a most trying day for you. But my patience for your disrespect grows thin. Close your rude mouth, and let me have my say."
He opened his mouth to say something, and then thought better. "Alright...tell us your big secret, Your Majesty. I'm listening."
"It is not my secret, Sir Knight. It is yours." She leaned across the table, her hands folded under her chin, the scroll still in her lap. "Perhaps you have heard of Myrddin Emrys? In your studies, per chance?"
Beckett thought a moment, calling to mind a literature class he took in college. "Myrddin? Are you speaking of Merlin? The sorcerer from Arthurian legend?'
"Aye. That be the one. Though you silly Mortals have trumped up the story most unnaturally."
"What about him? He's a just a legend."
"That is where you are incorrect, my Knight. He is no more a legend than the Lord Warrior you took a sword to this very afternoon. He was indeed the greatest of his kind."
"So he's real. Whatever. That has nothing to do with me."
"But it most certainly does, clueless Mortal. It does because... you are his last surviving heir."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2016
All Rights Reserved