Saturday, February 27, 2016
Of Endings and Beginnings
She was right of course. They all did feel much better the following morning. Physically.
Fairy magic could do little to dispel the haunting images their brains played over and over again in their heads like a security camera video on loop. Beckett assumed it had something to do with the whole "free will" theory, though by the look on several faces, he secretly wished he could offer them some kind of mystical reset button.
In truth, he was more than a bit amazed himself at how well he felt compared to his condition the night before. Except for some general tenderness around the area, the wound in his chest was entirely healed leaving no visible scar. There was zero trace of the soreness across his shoulders and back that only a few hours before had made shifting in bed a painful experience, and the stiffness in his hands from the tight grip of the sword's pommel was now a thing of the past. Altogether, he felt completely rested, fully rejuvenated, and the thought came to him that a morning run might be just the thing to get his day started. But when he mentioned this plan, the others in the group looked at him with horrified expressions, making him recall that a run was exactly how the whole nightmare had begun the day before.
He supposed he could hardly blame them their fearful reaction. After all, he'd taken another human being's head off with a large sword before their very eyes, and then they'd watched him practically bleed to death in his front yard. It couldn't have been a very pleasant experience, and though he wished he could find some way to commiserate with them, he found he could not. From his stand point, Owen had gotten what he deserved, Biblical justice if you believed in all that religious drama. To him, the young sorcerer had simply been another mission, taken out for the greater good with little regret. This hadn't been his first kill. Not by a long shot. And realistically, he doubted it would be his last. Somehow he'd always known he wasn't "like" other people, and he wondered now if that had anything to do with the crazy story the Fairy Queen had tried to feed him about being Merlin's heir. He hadn't begun to deal with that insane bullshit. But there was no way he was going to share any of what he was feeling with the four other people who sat around his kitchen table. If they knew what was inside his head, they'd see him as some kind of inhumane monster. He was pretty sure Kevin already thought that about him. Nope. He wasn't sharing. Not today. Maybe he'd discuss it with Maureen. Someday. But not today.
Maureen tapped the egg against the metal mixing bowl, the sound of the shell cracking making her strangely queasy. She tried not to think about it. Any of it. Not the sound the blade made as it sliced across the young man's neck. Not the gurgling noises he'd made right before his head fell completely off his shoulders, hitting the ground with the thump that reminded her of a dropped bowling ball. She shook it off with a mental dance, then grabbed the wire whisk and began to beat the eggs with a punishing force reserved for someone else.
It was stupid to attempt a complicated souffle on this of all mornings. Besides, from the looks of those around her, it didn't even appear like any of them had much of an appetite anyway. But cooking always calmed her down. It was the way the equation of a recipe met a finished result that was proof the universe still worked the way it was supposed to. So she cracked and she whisked, keeping her mind off the framed mental photo of her husband laying still and gray in a pool of his own blood.
Every so often, she'd look up from what she was doing, and sneak a glance at him, needing reassurance that he was perfectly fine and still with them in the land of the living. He seemed pensive, thoughtful, but not nearly as upset or confused as the others. He looked, in fact, pretty damn good. If he had suffered any ill effects from his ordeal the day before, he was giving an Academy Award performance to hide it. His color was normal, and he didn't seem to move with any type of pain or hesitation, which considering all that had happened, was hard to believe. Once or twice, he'd catch her staring at him, and he'd give her a wink, a gesture that never failed to make her blush and go weak in the knees.
No. Ted seemed fine. Better than fine. And that in itself seemed...well...weird. She thought she'd drop the whole carton of eggs on the floor when he suggested that he was considering a morning run, and he must have read the faces of everyone else, because he quickly gave up the thought and plopped himself in a chair at the kitchen table. It was pretty apparent that her husband was moving on from everything that had happened, and she secretly envied him that ability.
It was certainly not working out that way for her brother. Kevin looked positively morose, his normally ruddy complexion pale and gray, his expression woefully grim. She'd tried to join him for Mass, but the door to his suite was locked, and he'd refused to allow her admittance. Any attempts at conversation were met with polite and distant dismissal, and so she left him alone, confident that when he was ready, they would have it out. She knew she had forced him into doing something that went against everything he believed, and she was suffering from more than a little guilt. But seeing Ted sitting there, healthy and breathing and whole, she knew she'd do it all over again. In an instant.
He was sick. Horribly. Like all his insides had turned to sludge, and the only thing holding him together was a thin brittle shell that wasn't even familiar. He had woken before dawn, without a single ache or pain, and a glance in the mirror over the bathroom sink showed his face free of the bruises and cuts from the day before. He knew this type of healing was naturally impossible, surely the product of some kind of pagan magic, and his first reaction was to lean over the toilet and retch until he couldn't even bring up bile.
Fr. Kevin pulled out the sacramentals for Mass, but couldn't bring himself to continue. He'd heard Maureen rapping on his door, and ignored her whispers to let him in. He knew they'd have to talk, but there was no way it was going to be today. Today was for doubt. For self-loathing and guilt.
For prayer and penitence.
Because she had gone through so much trouble, the group felt compelled to make a half-hearted attempt to consume the gourmet breakfast Maureen had spent the better part of the morning preparing. There was very little actual eating, and even less conversation, each of them making a good show of moving the food around the plate, with lots of head nods about the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the cook.
None of them wanted to be the first to bring up the events of the day before, and the 600b gorilla in the room turned into an entire family. It was the Ridre Dubh who finally started the conversation, taking the lead, and thanking everyone for their sacrifices, as well as apologizing for dragging them into this awful experience.
In bits and pieces, the four of them recalled and commented, discussed and debated, and in the case of the Black Knight's Lady, shed a storm of tears over all that had happened in the past 24 hours. All but the Ridre Dubh's second, who sat ramrod straight in his chair and refused to utter a single word, despite the worried prodding of the people who loved him best. When they could speak no more, Beckett made the decision to head back home to Dollyville, there seemingly being no viable reason to stay on at the cabin any longer, and all five of them headed off to gather their belongings.
In their desire for a quick get away from a load of unpleasant memories, they were packed and ready to leave in less than an hour. The cabin and the surrounding forest seemed to remain under some sort of enchantment, the foliage still thick and over grown, the roses as large as dinner plates and in full bloom fragrance. But none of the five were in any mood to notice the extra dose of natural beauty, bent only on loading up and getting the hell out. The vine covered gates opened on their own to let them pass, and once they were through, closed again, completely covering themselves until they once again blended into the woods around them. Not a single passenger in the departing car turned around to watch it happen.
From her perch high above the entry gate, she watched them go, weaving a quick ward around the car to ensure safe passage, and smiled from the inside out. All was as it should be. She offered a quick song of gratitude to the Creator, and her sweet voice carried through the woods, attracting a bevy of woodland friends that surrounded the Fairy Queen.
She considered calling for the Lord Warrior, but selfishly decided to keep the glorious news to herself for awhile longer. He would surely point out, once again, all the flaws in her plans. It was how he was, and she could no better change him then stop the birds from building their nests. No. Telling him could wait, though she was fairly bursting with excitement. Needing company, Maeve snapped her fingers, and two small dragon nymphs appeared on the branch next to her.
"You called, my Lady?" asked a tiny beauty with lavender scales.
"I have, Mariah. I fancy company this fine morning. And a song. Something sweet and pretty."
The other, impishly petite with scales the color of tree moss, began to work the Queen's dark red hair into an intricate braid, tucking small red roses into the weave. "My Lady seems especially cheerful this day. Are we celebrating?"
Maeve thought a moment, and smiled at them. "Aye, my little ones. We celebrate."
They looked at her, eyes wide with unasked questions, so she continued. "Can you both keep a secret?"
The little dragons nodded, scaly heads bobbing in unison. "Most surely, my Lady! Quick tell us. What be it we celebrate?"
The Fairy Queen opened her hands to the sky, and sighed with pure contentment. "Blest be the Creator! Giver of all life! The Black Knight's Lady carries. The Fay will have a new line to the throne...after one thousand years... born of the houses of Morgan and Merlin."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2016
All Rights Reserved