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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Messenger



           The Fairy Queen's departure left them with lots to think about, and very little to say.  Ian had tried to get them all interested in a game of gin rummy, but it was obvious that minds were lost in contemplation over the strange details they'd seen and heard.  The named heir of Merlin seemed especially surly, staring off into space with a look that warned against any attempt at conversation, while his Lady fled to the kitchen, minus any fairy wings, with the excuse of prepping things for tomorrow's breakfast.  This being the general mood, it was no surprise when the group decided to call it an early evening and headed off to bed.

          Several hours later, Beckett found himself still wide awake despite every attempt to reach exhaustion.  Next to him, Maureen was nearly comatose, snoring in those breathy little puffs that came only when she had totally abandoned herself over to sleep, and when he slipped out of bed,
she shifted positions but never woke.  He pulled on a pair of pants, and after checking security, closed the door behind him and headed down the stairs with no real purpose in mind.

            The second floor was quiet, though as he passed Roxanne's suite, he could hear two whispering voices behind the closed door. He smiled to himself, glad that they both had kept their fun and games in the house where things were safer and decidedly more comfortable. Across the hall, a small sliver of light came from under the door to Kevin's room, and for a second, he considered checking if the priest might be up for some conversation and Irish whiskey, but then changed his mind mid knock. He already knew what his brother-in-law thought about all of this, and if he was looking for some kind of approval, it wasn't going to come from Fr. Kevin.

             Instead, he continued down the stairs, ending up in the great room they had vacated three hours before.  Even with sweeping skylights, the room was dark and gloomy, the foliage that had grown around the house getting thicker everyday, and blocking any moonlight the windows might have offered.  It made him feel closed in, so tucking his Glock into the waistband of his running shorts, he grabbed a glass and the decanter of Jamesons from the liquor cabinet, and headed out to the porch that ran the entire front of the cabin.

             Outside, there were breaks in the trees, and small slices of moonlight filtered through the branches giving the clearing in front of him an almost unearthly glow.  He heard the flapping of wings, and looking up, noticed a large raven had settled itself in the huge pine tree next to the porch. He wondered if it was just a regular bird...or something else, and then shook his head in disgust. It had all gotten to the point where moonlight wasn't just moonlight any more, and birds couldn't just be fucking birds.  Pouring a shot of whiskey, then making it a double, he was was about to toss it back when she appeared on the railing in front of him.  Annoyed, he tisked loudly, swallowed the contents of the glass, then added.  "Don't you ever fucking sleep?"

             "I could ask the same of you, Sir Knight.  Your Lady slumbers peacefully.  You should do the same."   She snapped her fingers, and a small crystal glass the size of a thimble appeared in her hand. She pushed it out in front of him, implying he should pour.

             Beckett measured out a drop or two, the refilled his own tumbler. "It wasn't for lack of trying."

             She giggled, then sipped at the tiny glass in her hand.  "Yes, you most surely put your Lady through her paces."

              "You know...that's really sick. I hate when you act like some kind of damn cosmic Peeping Tom."

              The Fairy Queen leaned against the railing post and smiled.  "That is a lie you don't believe, but a conversation best suited for another time."  She took another small sip before adding, "What keeps you from sleep, Ridre Dubh?"

               "You need to ask?  After that shit bomb of information you dropped tonight?"

               "I realize it is much to take to heart, but surely you can not be entirely shocked."  When he didn't answer, she continued.  "You have had your doubts about your parentage since before you were in your teens.  And your gifted life?  You think it was left to chance?  I do not believe you are so naive."

               "I don't know what you mean."

               "Of course you do, Mortal Prince.  You are just too stubborn and hard headed to see it.  Do you think that your gifts and talents were simply a matter of random luck?  All the prizes and awards?  The opportunities that opened themselves to you...left to normal human ability?  What a ridiculous notion!  Even as a child you were smarter...faster...better at games.  You never suffered the awkward phase of adolescence, even having your first joust at love before a single hair grew on your chin. Women are drawn to you like moths to a flickering candle.  And you believe this is the natural way of things?  Even you can not be so stupid."

               He wanted to protest, accuse her of pandering to his ego, but what she said hit a raw nerve.  There had been countless times his good fortune had shocked even him.  It had caused his brothers to hate him out of sheer jealousy, and despite his very best attempts to please his father, the bastard never once acknowledged his effort.  It never made a bit of sense to him.  Until now.

            "Then I am correct, Mortal Prince.  You have had your suspicions for some time.  Move forward toward your destiny, and give up any childish notions that life as you knew it will remain the same."

            "I told you before.  I don't want to communicate this way."

            "And I will not be forced to speak as mere mortal.  I am Queen.  You are still my Knight."

            He remained silent for awhile, working to keep any cognitive thoughts out of his head so she could not read them, then gave up at the absurdity of the idea, the Jamesons making him far more open then he wished. "My father...the biological one...do you know who he is?"

               "Aye.  But that is a journey for you to make.  To tell all now would rob you of the chance
to grow in knowledge."

               "So...you're not going to tell me?"

               "No.  It is for your own good, Ridre Dubh.  Your roots are yours to dig through.  I will not keep you from that experience.  Besides...your focus now must remain on defeating Owen.  He will come at you using white and dark magic, and you must understand that he is skilled at both."

                "I thought you said the Fay centered themselves on white magic.  Why is he using dark?"

                She looked away, then stuck out the cup for him to fill a second time, and he wondered if alcohol had the same effect on the Fay as it did for mortals. Her face took on an air of sadness, and it was clear that whatever she was about to say, made her very unhappy.

              "I am to blame for Owen's dark magic.  It was I who taught him."

              "You?  You use dark magic? The Fay's own Queen?"

               Leaning forward, she pointed a delicate finger at him.  "Do not judge me, Knight.  You know very well that I can use both white and dark magic.  It was my dark magic that sent you back in time to retrieve your Lady."

                "So the Fay can do both?"

                "No.  Very few of them can.  My mother could, and from her, I inherited the ability.  My sister could not, but Owen, because he is my nephew, showed some promise.  It was prideful of me, I know.  But none of my descendants to date have shown the same ability, and so I thought no harm would come.  It was a huge error on my part, one that has caused me much angst. He has taken a hateful turn, and with the power he has, is a huge threat.  It is for that reason I must see this dilemma  to its bitter end."

                "And Maureen?  Can she do both?"

               She shook her head slowly.  "No, it does not appear that she can.  With time and proper training, she can become most proficient at using white magic, but she shows no skill with the dark."  A shy smile grew across her face, her mood suddenly lifting. "But I have great hope for your offspring, Mortal Prince.  With Merlin's heir as father, and royal Fay blood running in the mother's veins, a child of this union would be quite special indeed."

              The idea of another child, his and Maureen's, sucked the breath from his chest, and his mind took a dark turn.  IF there were another child.  To date, any attempt to conceive had been met with no success, his wife's monthly sadness worn like a sweater she put on and off according to her cycle. He tried pushing the thought from his head before she could read it, the guilt something he intended to carry alone.

              But it was too late.  "Your guilt serves no purpose, Sir Knight.  It is a distraction that is not needed at this time.  Have heart, for I am certain your union will be bear fruit.  The prophesy has promised as much, and my people and I eagerly await that joyous date."

                 Beckett fought against the need to ask, but with several shots of booze under his belt, his mind was like an open book, and she easily saw what he wanted to know.

                   "No.  The child lost bore only your gift for dark magic. The Fay blood was almost non-existent in him.  But there is time, and your self hatred only keeps you from using your abilities."

                   "Abilities?  Hell!  I don't know what the fuck you're talking about.  Until this afternoon, all my training was in the real world.  The here and now.  But this magic shit is something entirely different.  I don't have the first clue as to what I'm doing!  How the hell am I going to figure all this out?"

                 She leaned forward again, and floated over to perch on his knee.  "You will need to apprentice with a seasoned sorcerer, though I dare say, there are few suitable ones left.  But once the word is out about who you are, there will be no need to search for them.  They will seek you out on their own, all wishing to have a part in the training of Merlin's heir.  But that is for the future   The time of conflict draws near.  Owen comes soon."

                   "Then what the hell do you expect me to do?  Besides the inner eye thing, and the mind chatter, what else is there?  I'm sure that neither of those are gonna help me put down Owen."

                     The Fairy Queen stood and reached up to pat his cheek.  "I'm so glad you asked, Mortal Prince.  Let me give you a few quick lessons."

_______________________________

                   Daylight was beginning to break when Beckett finally pulled himself away, and headed off to bed.  His head spun with rituals and techniques that until this night seemed like something from a kid's storybook, albeit a very odd and dark one.  He had finally reached the point of exhaustion he had sought five hours earlier, but was strangely content in a way he could not explain.

                     Maeve watched him go, pleased with the progress they had made in only a few short hours.  There was no mistake.  Her Ridre Dubh was the real thing.  A branch from a very impressive tree. She stood and stretched, the effects of the long night taking their toil on her diminutive body.
She raised a hand, and the large raven flew down to the railing across from her.

                    "You have heard all, Mia?"

                     The bird bobbed its jet black head.

                    "Well done, my little one.  I want you to take this information to your Master.  Tell him all you have seen and heard, but down play the Ridre Dubh's talent.  And be sure he knows about the guilt the Knight holds over his lost child.  I want Owen to believe he can use it against our Mortal Prince."

                    The raven bobbed again, and then with open wings, flew off into the lightening sky.


Copyright  Victoria T. Rocus  2016
All Rights Reserved

   





           

     

         

       

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Of Fathers and Fruitful Union


              Five pairs of eyes stared at him, waiting for some kind of reaction.  Were they kidding? What did they expect him to say about a notion so fucking ridiculous, it didn't deserve a response?  Even more amazing was the fact the damn woman...fairy...demon...whatever the hell she was...thought him stupid enough to blindly swallow the pile of shit she was dishing out.  Head resting on her hands, she looked at him with a mixture of calm amusement, the tilt of her head and the turning up of the corner of her mouth proof she thought the whole thing a huge source of entertainment.

             As if she could read his mind, she shook her head.  "You are most wrong, Dark Knight.  I take no joy in your confusion, though I find the look on your face priceless.   Revelations of this magnitude should be met with celebration and peace of mind, not anger and fear.  Alas, I am afraid the situation does not allow for such luxury."

              The concept that she had known exactly what he was thinking, disturbed him even more.  He could feel a rage born of helplessness creep into his head, and in his lap, his hands curled into tight fists.  She reached out and laid a hand on his arm.

              "Deep breaths, Mortal Prince.  Your anger serves no purpose.  I am not the enemy...only the messenger.  Once all is revealed, you will understand... and believe."  She pulled her hand back and folded her arms across her chest, her eyes never leaving his stare.

               Beckett fought the overwhelming desire to grab her hand back.  The physical contact had filled him with a rush of euphoric pleasure that rivaled a line of purest opium, and he found that he could now hear her thoughts without them being spoken aloud.

             "It is quite the experience, is it not, my Knight?"

             "Spin it anyway you like, Maeve. It's mind rape, nothing less.  Get the fuck out of my head!"

             "Always you are filled with anger.  It consumes your soul, and keeps the truth from you.  There is no rape, Ridre Dubh.  We speak this way because we can, open to each other in a way that exceeds Mortal boundaries.  My thoughts are not available to simple mortals.  Watch and believe."

                She leaned in toward Ian who sat beside her at the table, and placed her palm on his cheek.
The young man gasped, and then sighed, his face taking on a sloppy grin.  She giggled, and then asked him.  "How fare thee, young mortal?  Are thee well?"

              He nodded, his head bobbing in a relaxed stupor. "I fare well, my Lady.  Quite well, indeed."

              "What am I thinking, boy?"

              "What do you mean, Your Majesty?  I do not understand the question?"

              "Can you read my thoughts?"

                He looked at her, confusion winning over the lingering pleasure.  "Surely not, my Lady.  Can you read mine?"

                She laughed and gave his cheek a soft pat  "You truly have a sweet heart, boy."  Turning to her left, the Fairy Queen gave Roxanne a scolding glance.  "Your lady is a fool to question such devotion."  She leaned back in her chair, her hands resting on the scrolls in her lap. "As I have said, 
my Knight...you hear my thoughts and I yours simply because of who you are.  Surely, by this point in your life you have realized that you are...different from those around you?"

                    Up popped a flashback from his childhood, and it was shoved from his mind with an imaginary fist.  Some things were best left in the past.  He nodded in the direction of Maureen.  "Can she do it as well?  Read our thoughts?"

                   The Queen shrugged, a decidedly human gesture that appeared strange on her.  "In time, I believe she will have the ability.  She fights within herself, unsure that what she is...the things she can do ...are according to the Creator's  wishes.  It is difficult to shake years of learned dogma, especially when her brother pushes at her. You, on the other hand, lack any faith in church based tenets, so it does not hinder your ability.  But your Lady shows great promise...much talent, in truth...and I will see that she fulfills her potential...including this silent communication."  She leaned in toward him, a grin that spoke to mischief.  "And once that happens, my dear Knight, your days of hiding yourself from her will come to an end.  I imagine it will provide endless merriment."

                    He waved her off, realizing the other mortals at the table were lost as to what was going on.  He sat upright in his chair, a symbolic gesture to convey the idea he was taking back control of the situation.  "I'd prefer that we speak as human beings, one on one and out loud.  Say what you came to say, and then get the hell out of my cabin."

                     "Very well, Ridre Dubh.  I will not push you to embrace reality until you have seen the truth with your own eyes."  She placed the parchment scrolls on the table, and began unrolling them.  "As I have said, these are the ancient writings of my people, our past, present and future."

                       Maureen put a hand out to touch them, then quickly pulled it back, beginning to understand the power that seemingly flowed through all things Fay.  "Lady Queen...who wrote it?"

                       She ran a hand over the paper to smooth it out, not bothering to hide her reverence.  "No earthly hand has ever touched these scrolls, dear Lady.  The words and drawings just appeared at the beginning of our time, wrought by the very hand of the Creator.  That is what we believe.  It is not unlike the Holy Books mortals here claim as their own, though ours are surely older and without the stain of human error."

                Maureen looked over to Kevin, seeking some kind of verification that what she was saying was true, but he looked hesitant and confused, unsure as to whether he should be protecting himself from some inherent evil, or kneeling in adoration before something purely divine.  All he could manage was a tentative shrug of his shoulders, leaving the others to make their own personal judgements.

               The Queen shuffled through the pages until she came to a specific one featuring a drawing done in aged, muted colors, then flipped the scroll around so that it was facing Beckett and Maureen.  "Look closely, and tell me what you see."

               They both peered down at the sketch, trying to make sense of what they saw in front of them.  It was a beautiful drawing showing a robed man and a fairy woman holding hands, roots springing from their feet, tree limbs and leaves growing upward from their opposite hands.  As she looked closer, Maureen let out a tiny gasp, and looked at her husband, who stared at the page in something akin to horror.

                   Seeing their reaction, Ian came around to the other side of the table to allow for a better look.  He bent over Maureen's shoulder and stared at the page, his mouth hanging impolitely open.
"Lordy!  Those people in the drawing...they look like you and your Lady, Constable!  Except for the wings on the woman, and the beard on the man, it could surely be a sketch of the two of you!"

                   Beckett pushed away from the table.  "What is this?  Some kind of ploy to convince us we're part of your crazy little plan?  I don't believe for a minute that this is anything more than a scam you created to get what you want."

                    At his words, the Fairy Queen went very still, and all the color seemed to fade from her being until her hair, skin, clothing...all of her...was a ghastly, pale white.  Her words were low and measured.  "I do not deny, Dark Knight, that I would do most anything for the safety and peace of my people.  But even I would not dare to use the Sacred Writings for my own purpose, even if such a purpose was the greater good.  This drawing came into creation over a thousand years ago, a prophesy allowing us a window into the Creator's plans.  Believe or reject...I can not change that.  But do not ever again accuse me of blaspheming our Sacred Writings, or I shall bring down my wrath upon you and yours."

                      Ever the peace maker, Maureen took her husband's hand in hers, stammering out an attempt at an apology.  "Please forgive my husband, Lady Queen.  As you know, he takes very little on faith alone.  I'm sure you truly believe that the people in this drawing are the two of us, but you must realize...it's a little difficult for us to accept such a thing.  What does it mean?  Why do these two have our faces?"

                        The color began to filter back into her presence, though it did not seem as vibrant as it had been at the start of the conversation.  If anything, the Fairy Queen looked strangely tired, as if the moment had taken more energy than she'd admit.  "I understand your reluctance to accept what you see here.  It is surely mind shaking to see yourself as part of something much larger than you could possibly fathom.  But I assure you both, the man and woman in the drawing are, in fact, the two of you.  I have spent more than three centuries researching this very prophesy, and wager my people's entire future on the belief that I am correct."

                        Beckett pulled his chair back to the table and stared at the scroll as if it were a cobra ready to strike.  "Explain what this all means.  I already know you want me to execute Owen, and truth is, the fucker deserves to go down just on the fact that he's a crazy sonofabitch who's breaking laws on several levels. Not to mention he's made threats against me and mine"  He pointed a finger at the Queen, "Which is something you might want to keep in mind, Your Majesty."  She scowled in return, but let him continue to expound.  "What I don't understand is how this has anything more to do with Maureen or myself.  Once Owen is dead, we're done with all this magic nonsense.  We go back to Dollyville and lead perfectly normal lives as best we can."

                 "You have never led a perfectly normal life, Sir Knight.  And you never will.  It is a fact that you will simply have to accept."

                 "And why is that?  I've managed it so far.  That is, before you dropped into our lives and made a mess of things."

                 "You have managed nothing, Mortal Prince.  You have filled the void in your life with
risky ventures and a string of empty relationships.  I offer you the opportunity to face the truth about who you are and where you come from.  About the true purpose to your life."

              "What?  That I'm some kind of descendant of a storybook wizard.  Gimme a break, lady.  It's all bullshit, and we both know it.  I can see through your smoke and mirrors for the gimmicks they are.  That drawing is a coincidence.  Some weird cosmic joke. I know exactly who I am...Theodore Beckett...ordinary human being.  I already said I'd take care of Owen.  What's the point in keeping all this nonsense about Merlin up.  What's in it for you?"

                "Because you are not Theodore Beckett...ordinary human being. Something you have felt for a long time, but are unwilling to admit."

                "Look, if you met my family...my father...my brothers...you'd know you were dead wrong.  They're about as mundane, as ordinary as it gets. Not a wizard among them.  I'll agree...we don't get along, and its obvious they don't think much of me, but it doesn't change the fact that we're related in the same stupid, common way."

                Across the table, the Fairy Queen sighed, then snapped her fingers, a goblet suddenly appearing in her right hand.  "You drive me to drink, Dark Knight.  Your blustering and whining is
most annoying.  Let us face the facts, for I grow weary of playing your game.  The man you call 'father' is surely not yours, as you have suspected for quite some time.  And your brothers are only your half brothers, which knowing how you feel about all of them, should come as a relief.  The Merlin line runs through your biological father, not the man that raised you, and he has no other heirs."

               He wanted to be shocked.  Wanted to rail away and call her a liar.  But in truth, she only verbalized what he had felt for more years than he could remember, and he fought to stamp out the waves of hurt and rejection that bubbled up from the past.  Next to him, Maureen squeezed his hand, and it made the whole thing seem more painful.

                "It is time to let it go, Mortal Prince.  Face the past, and look toward the future.  I can help you fulfill your destiny."

               "You can start by getting out of my damned head!  I already told you...I'm not communicating this way."

                Maureen still clung to his right hand, and with her free one, pointed a tentative finger at the drawing in the scroll.  "Your Majesty...what does this picture mean?  Is it supposed to be us?  Ted and I?  Because it does seem to look like me.  Except maybe for the wing part.  And I could swear that's Ted next to me...if he had a beard.  Why do we have roots coming out of our feet, and tree limbs out of our hands?  It'd be great if you could kinda explain some of this.  Why we're even in your Sacred Writings in the first place?"

                   "This drawing appears in the writings regarding prophesies.  It suggests that two great houses, two important family lines, will join together to usher in a new generation amongst our peoples, both Mortal and Fay.  Through years of research and discovery, I have come to believe that you and the Ridre Dubh are the man and woman depicted in the drawing, you representing the Fay white magic side, and your husband the dark magic side of the Sorcerers.  The branches off your hands represent future generations that will come through your fruitful union."

                     At this news, Fr. Kevin finally interjected.  "By dark magic, I hope you don't mean black magic?  Satanic worship...or anything of that nature?  Because if that's the case, we're done now.  I can't speak for the others, but Maureen and I walk."

                    "Creator be praised, I surely do not, though your confusion, Man of Faith, is understandable.  The writings of mortals have mucked up the truth of things from the start.  White magic or dark magic is not magic at all...not in the sense that you understand the word. Both are entirely centered on the pure energy of the universe, and is not at all based on morality.  White magic can be used for good, as can dark, and both can be used for evil as well, depending on the free will of the person wielding it.  The difference is in how the energy is worked.  The Fay are centered in white magic.  We use the natural flow of energy to achieve our goals, using our minds to shape what we will to happen.  Dark magic uses the very same flow of energy, but bends it to direction by using out of mind sources, such as incantations, amulets and circles.  And to put your mind at rest, neither type has anything to do with the Evil One, who is hated equally by both sides."

                 In an attempt at bravery, Maureen placed a single finger on the scroll, and when nothing more than a shiver went through her, she traced the roots and the branches on the drawing.  "Let me see then if I understand this correctly.  You're saying that the woman in the sketch is really me, and I have wings because I descend from your line, the Fay white magic side?"  The Fairy Queen's nod encouraged her, and so she continued.  "And the man with the beard is Ted, and he is descended from the Sorcerer's dark magic side.  Okay...so then, according to the drawing, when we married last year, we began to fulfill the prophesy shown here?"

                    "You are most correct, Dear One.  Your joining together has been part of your destiny...as well as ours... for nearly a thousand years, and we expect a most fruitful union."

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2016
All Rights Reserved

                 

                


           

                 

             

               



             

             

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



                 

                       

                 


           

 

               


         

         

       

     

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fools For Love



             He was in that foggy, heavy-limbed, post-coital twilight when he heard it.  A rustle here.  A snapped twig there.  In any other time and place, it might have been mistaken for the wind winding through the heavy foliage, or perhaps, the nocturnal activities of the local wildlife.  But this wasn't just "any" place.  And it sure as hell wasn't any ordinary time.  Beckett froze and strained to hear the sounds drifting through the open window, one arm reaching behind the headboard for his Glock.  He normally preferred to to keep it tucked under his pillow with the safety on, but Maureen called it a "mood killer" and so he had reluctantly moved it out of their bed, a decision he now felt inclined to rethink.

           There was no logical reason for letting his guard down.  He was trained better than that. No excuses, though in his defense, there was something about his wife that defied very ounce of common sense he'd ever possessed.  It had been that way from the moment he'd met her, hair pulled back in a riot of curls, spatula in hand, looking like sugar spun sin.  Not his type.  Not his universe. But unbelievably drawn to her in ways he couldn't begin to understand. He looked over to where she was sleeping, hand tucked under the pillow, still trailing the satin ribbon from her wrist. She'd be relatively safe here, at least from things that could die in the usual way.

                He slipped into a pair of sweats and t-shirt, both black, slinging a shoulder holster over his left arm, and tucking a knife into his boot. She stirred on the bed, but didn't wake, making things a whole lot easier. The last thing he needed was for Maureen to insist on coming along.  For sure she had made progress with the basic skills, and her ability on the gun range showed mild talent, but there was no way she was ready for anything that might be waiting out there in the dark, and he wasn't taking any chances with her welfare.

             The Ridre Dubh maneuvered through the room to the closet on the opposite wall, and stepping inside, thumbed a latch hidden by an over-sized shoe rack.  The back panel of the closet slid away, revealing a set of stairs that led to the first floor and out to the back of the property.  It was one of several hidden escape routes out of the house, and he made a mental note to give the others a quick tutorial should the need for a quick exit arise.

          At the end of the tunnel, he found himself standing on the east side of the cabin, the night so dark it was almost suffocating.  He blinked away spots from the dim light in the stairway, hand resting on the revolver, when behind him he felt the brush of air.  He pivoted, the barrel of his revolver meeting the metal of blade.

           "Stand down, Sir Knight.  I mean no threat."  The voice was low, and no more than a whisper

           Beckett responded in suite.  "Fuck! That's a good way of getting yourself shot! I don't advise sneaking up on people like that.  At least not in this century."

              "Worry not, Mortal.  I trust the speed of my blade over any such weapon, though I do regret startling you.  I wished not to give away my position.  We appear to have company of sorts."  Cu-Chulainn pointed the tip of his sword toward a large crop of low lying bushes.  "Out yonder way."

               "You heard it too, then?"

               "More felt than heard. A large joining of energy.  It feels mortal, but I can not be sure.  Owen is much skilled in the nature of deceit."

              "Then between the two of us, I'd say we're covered weapon wise."  He waved the Lord Warrior forward, not waiting to see if he followed, and headed in the direction of the noise. The blackness seemed even thicker as they moved from the open area around the cabin and ventured deeper into the woods, stopping at a tangled lump of overgrown branches that seemed to move of their own accord.

                Cu-Chulainn raised his sword, intent on randomly slashing away at whatever lie within.  But the Ridre Dubh put a hand up to stop him, suddenly feeling the situation more odd then dangerous.  Glock cocked, he pointed the barrel at the spot, which now had suddenly stopped moving.

               "Whoever you are...I want you to come out with your hands on top of your hand where I can see them.  Hesitate...and I'm gonna empty my entire round. "

                  There was a loud gasp and a collection of frantic rustling before a sheepish voice murmured from within.  "Please don't shoot, Sheriff. We'll need a moment or so."

                   "Damn it, Ian!  Is that you?"  The exasperation he felt was mixed with an overwhelming sense of relief.

                    "Aye, Sir.  Me...and Miss Roxanne."

                     Beside him, the Lord Warrior swore in Gaelic, sheathing his sword with more force than necessary.  The young man stumbled out of the brush, barefooted with shirt and pants both unbuttoned, covered in bits of mud and dried leaves, and hands shoved into his pockets.

                      "We meant no trouble, Sheriff.  It's just...well...we...Miss Roxanne and I...we wanted to be alone together."

                      "And you couldn't find any space... in the entire cabin...to pursue that objective?"

                      "Privacy is an issue, Sir.  My room...as well as Miss Roxanne's...well, Sir...as you are  aware...they are directly across from the Reverend's quarters.  And he has made the comment, several times, in fact, that he is a most light sleeper when he's away from his own bed.  We did not wish for him...for he... to be disturbed.  We didn't want to disturb anyone in the house.  So we thought we might... well...take a walk."

            Cu-Chulainn put a hand on the hilt of his sword. "Bullocks and nonsense, boy!  It is grandly apparent you were intent on more than just walking."  He spit loudly on the ground before continuing his tirade.  "I'd like nothing more than to split your head in two, you insolent pup!"

        A flash of fear filtered across the Patriot's face, but he held his own.  "You would try, Lord Warrior, but I'd put up more than an easy fight, though I am willing to give it a go, Sir."

         Beckett had an overwhelming urge to burst out laughing, and strangely might have done so, had he not managed to reign in some kind of self control.  The Irish legend looked obviously "put out", while the kid from Revolutionary history worked at hiding his embarrassment with false bravado.  It was absolutely ludicrous, reminding him of a scene from some romantic time-travel farce instead of the perilous situation it might have been.  He cleared his throat to hide the weird little giggles that seemed to be brewing somewhere in his head.  "Gentlemen...this is surely not the time or place to be having this discussion.  May I suggest we save this disagreement for the light of day, and return to the cabin for some much needed rest?"

          Both men glared at each other, then nodded their agreement.  The Ridre Dubh then spoke to the crop of bushes.  "Roxanne...can you please come out so we can head back?"

          A small voice came from within.  "I'd rather not, Sir."

          "Then I'm going to make that an order, Deputy."

            There was a long sigh, and then she added, "Yes, Sir."  There was a bit more rustling, and Roxanne sprinted by, barefoot, with her shirt inside out, and a bird's nest of twigs and leaves stuck in her hair. She practically ran back to the cabin with both men in hot pursuit, the Black Knight following while swearing under his breath about being made the camp counselor.

__________________________

       While Roxanne's penance for the previous night was soul-reaching embarrassment, Ian's was more in the physical realm.  Not a word was said about the adventures in the forest, but the Lord Warrior took a largely increased notice into the daily training exercises of the young man.  They had only been at it for an hour, but Ian was already red-faced and sweating, his arms covered with several small cuts and bruises where the Legend's practice sword had "accidentally" met flesh.

         Beckett had to give the kid credit.  He was surely taking a beating, entirely exhausted and over-matched. But each time he was knocked flat on his ass, he'd get right up and take a stand, sword proudly held in proper form.  The more he got to know the young man, the more he liked what he saw.  Despite his youthful exuberance, he was solid in his thinking, and more responsible than most of his counter parts in the 21st Century.  He found himself hoping that things worked out for the kid, now that he had made this monumental decision to stay in a time and place that wasn't his own.  The timing of that thought was ironic, as the major impediment toward that happening walked directly towards him.

          Fr. Kevin plopped down on the bench, and handed him a bottle of water.  "What's up with the Irish guy and Ian?  I've never seen him work anybody this hard...even you."

            The Black Knight looked at him sideways and shrugged, wondering how much his brother-in-law knew.  "The Lord Warrior does seem to be a tad aggressive today."

         "A tad?!  He's beating the crap out of the kid!  One of us should probably say something."  He waited, it being obvious he wanted the Ridre Dubh to be the one doing the saying.

           Beckett shook his head.  "No.  I think we should just let them have at it.  Ian is holding his own.  If it turns to anything more than that, well...then I'll step in.  But for now, I think we should mind our own business."

           "If that's what you think best.  You know I'm not a huge Ian fan, but I'd hate to see him get hurt.  Can't figure out what set the Legend off like this. Up until now, he's pretty much ignored the kid."

            He weighed his words carefully, not wanting to add fuel to an already touchy situation.  "I'm guessing it has something to do with jealousy."

            "Jealousy?  That's weird. About what?"

            "You really don't now then?  Maureen didn't say anything to you?"

            "Say what to me?"

            He gave some thought to how he might put it delicately as to not offend, and then pushed that notion aside.  Best Kevin heard it from him, blunt and honest.  "There was some kind of noise coming from the woods last night.  Cu-Chulainn and I went to investigate.  We thought it might have something to do with Owen.  Turns out it was just Ian and Roxanne, going at it in the bushes.  The Lord Warrior was not happy about the whole thing."

            The red began to creep up around Kevin's ears, and for a minute or two he said nothing.  Beckett could physically see the minute when the light bulb went off in the priest's head.  "So...you're saying that Ian and Roxanne are...officially a couple?  But what does that have to do with the Lord Warrior?  What difference does it make to him."

          "Apparently, Cu-Chulainn had ideas he might get to Roxanne first.  He was pretty angry that Ian beat him to it."

           "The Lord Warrior and Roxanne?  Like...together?"  His embarrassment turned to indignation. "That's just ridiculous.  Out of the question.  He's a...a...he's not even human!  That's just...well...gross!"

             "I don't profess to know the ways of the Fay, Kev, but if a guy's got a dick, he's gonna want to use it.  And it's pretty obvious to me that the Fairy kind don't mind hooking up with Mortals.  It's the reason we're in this mess to begin with."

             "Aren't you going to do something about all of this?  You're the Ridre Dubh, for Pete's sake!  It's your responsibility!"

              "What goes on between consenting adults...Mortal or otherwise... is none of my business. They'll figure it out on their own."

               Kevin looked over to where the women were sitting, Roxanne with her head buried in a book ignoring the training, and his sister working on some kind of needlework, unusually quiet.
"Well, if you're not gong to say something, then I guess I'll have to do it.  I need to talk to Rox myself."

              Beckett put a hand on his arm to stop him.  "Don't."

              "Don't, what?"

              "Don't talk to Roxanne.  Leave it be, Kev."

              "I can't just ignore this, Ted!  She's my friend.  I don't want to see her screw up her life."

              "Look, Kevin...if you care about her like you say, then you'll let her move on and be happy.  You gotta let her go.  It's time.  Unless you plan on leaving the church, you have nothing to offer her. Don't make her feel guilty for moving on first."

               The priest angrily shook off Beckett's hand.  "You don't know what you're talking about.  We're just good friends.  Best friends, maybe."

               "And maybe it's time you were just old friends.  Leave the past in the past, O'Kenney.  She deserves to be with someone who can make her happy, for however long that might be.  If it's Ian..so be it.  If it's someone else...then that's her decision.  You're keeping her from following her own path, even though you freely followed yours."

                "Look, Beckett.  You may be married to my sister, but that doesn't give you the right to tell me what I should do.  If I feel I need to discuss this Roxanne, then I'll do just that."

                "Then I'm not asking you, O'Kenney.  I'm telling you... as the Ridre Dubh.  Do not discuss last night, or anything connected to it, with that woman."

                "That has nothing to do with anything!"

                "But it does.  You took an oath as my Second.  Freely... in the presence of Caladbolg.  As my Second, you are responsible for following any and all orders I see fit to give.  It works the same as in the military."

                 "That's utterly ridiculous!  This has nothing to do with our Quest...or Caladbolg.  This is a personal thing...between me and a friend."

                 "No, Kevin.  That's not true.  You're interference with Roxanne causes additional drama, and thus takes your focus and attention away from the real reason we're here.  I need 100% of your physical and emotional fortitude put toward defeating Owen.  You can't do that if you're busy poking your nose into shit that's none of your business.  I expect your obedience.  You owe it to me."

                "But what about Ian...you giving him the same lecture?"

                "No.  Ian isn't my chosen Second.  Or my brother.  You are.  The kid is here simply because he took a chance and helped me rescue Maureen. The same goes for Roxanne.  She jumped at the chance to help.  Took your place so you wouldn't have to risk everything you put so much stock in, and ended up seriously injured.   I owe them both.  Big time.  As do you.  You need to come to terms with that."

                 His Second refused to look at him, his mouth firmly clamped shut, his arms folded across his chest in defiance.  He knew the man was fighting a battle in his head, but it couldn't be helped.  This was all too important to let it hinge on personal emotions.  The sooner Kevin realized it, the better for them all.  "So, O'Kenney...will you follow orders, and leave that girl alone?"

                 Kevin looked at him, grim-faced and pale. "I'll follow them, Beckett.  But when this...Quest...is finished...you and I...we're done.  I'm asking for a transfer back to Boston.  Then you can do whatever the hell it is you want, and I don't have to be around to see it."

______________________________

                The group had called for a break, and headed to the cabin for lunch.  The Lord Cu-Chulainn remained back, taking his anger out on a cloth dummy.  He didn't stop to address the laughter until nothing was left of the target expect a few shredded pieces.

                 "I do not appreciate your merriment, my Lady.  It is quite impolite to gloat, especially since you have yet won nothing."

                 The Fairy Queen leaned forward, the branch bending at her will, until she found herself seated on the same seat Roxane had just vacated.  "Come now, my Lord Warrior.  I understand your embarrassment.  You have been bested.  By a mortal.  And just a boy at that.  But that is no reason to be a sore loser.  I have come to collect on my bet."

               "As we both can recall, Your Majesty...nothing was said about my being the only one to plow that field.  The bet was only that I would be able to seduce one of the ladies. It is too early to call a winner, don't you think?"

                "You would be willing to follow the Mortal's tracks?"

                "It hinders me not, your Majesty.  There have been plenty of times I have made love to a Mortal woman shortly after they have left their husband's bed.  In this case, I will consider it an even more satisfying victory.  I believe our bet still stands."

                 "Then you have no qualms about upping the ante?"

                 "What have you in mind, Lady Queen?"

                 "If you do not bed the woman before this quest is complete, you will offer me four hundred years of service instead of two."

                  "And if I should be victorious?"

                  "Then I will give you Argos for your own, as well as the necklace."

                 "That is quite an offer, Your Majesty.  I accept.  I hope you will not be angered when Argos serves me instead of you."

                  "So sure am I that you will fail, Lord Warrior, that I will not lose one wink of sleep over this bet."

                  "Then we are agreed, Lady Queen.  I will take double pleasure in having this mortal female.  There is no way she will able to resist my charms."

                 "Remember, Lord Cu-Chulainn, their free will prevents you from using magic to achieve your goal.  You must woo her on your own, otherwise it is cheating."

                  "I am insulted that you feel the need to remind me of our laws, Lady Maeve.  You know that I would willingly die to uphold them."

                 "I am just teasing, my dear Lord.  No one is more committed to our ways than you.  Rest assured, I hold you in the highest regard...and deepest affection."

                 "Is that an offer, my Lady?"

                 "If you see fit, my dearest.  They will not return for at least an hour or two. No need for us to be bored while we wait."

____________________________

                   It took a great deal of patience for him to finally get her alone, and when he did, the words tumbled out of his mouth like water over rocks.  "My lovely Roxanne, I feel as if you've been avoiding me all day.  I've been trying to talk to you since this morning.  How fare you?"

                   "I'm fine, Ian.  Just fine.  But I think we should kinda cool it for awhile.  Every time I look at the Sheriff, I'm mortified."

                   "Yes, it was a might embarrassing, but The Sheriff is a fine man.  And in love with his lady as well.  That I am sure of.  He knows of our need to be together."

                  "Damn it, Ian!  You don't understand!  The guy is my boss!  When this is all over, I am going to have to go back to working for him.  It'll be...well...awkward."

                   "No worries, my Lady.  We will be married as soon as the good Reverend can arrange it.  Then, I will provide for the both of us. You needn't worry about taking on work. I realize I am without much funds, but I am a hard worker, and not without skill.  I can surely find some type of employment."

                  "Whoa...slow down, cowboy!  No one's talking about marriage!"

                  "Cowboy?  That is certainly a strange term of endearment, my love.  I hope I do not resemble a cow?"

                   "No, Ian.  It's just a figure of speech.  It's not an endearment at all."

                   "I am thankful for that. Cows are stupid and homely beasts.  I am glad you do not see me in that light, but yet you confuse me.  I will not leave you a shamed woman, Roxanne.  I love you, and you will be my wife.  After last night, there can be nothing less."

                    "I'm not marrying you, Ian.  We barely know each other.  I'm...like several years older than you. I have plans for my future.  It just wouldn't work out.  Last night was great.  Awesome, in fact...expect for the part where we were publicly humiliated, that is.  But neither one of us is ready to make that kind of commitment.  Not for marriage."

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved




                   




             

           

   

           

           

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Family Ties and Outright Lies


        She leaned back against the tree branch, showing no sign of the relief she felt at his departure.  The subterfuge had grown tiresome.  Complicated.  It was the way of things with Mortals, an inherent  stubborn streak that caused them to believe they alone controlled their destiny.  Maeve shook her head in annoyance, and drained the last few drops in her cup.  The Ridre Dubh had proved himself to be everything the prophesy had predicted, though the writings had failed to mention his obvious emotional flaws, of which she'd discovered he had many.

          Behind her, there was a rustling in the foliage, and Lord Cu-Chulainn pushed his way through the leaves into the clearing.  "Do you think it wise to goad him as you do, Lady Queen?  There is no mention of Owen taking his lady as mate in the prophesy."

         "It is much beneath your station to stand among the trees and lend an ear to private conversation, Lord Warrior.   Besides, I believe I did instruct you to keep watch over the others while I spoke to him alone. Why do you not attend to your business?"

           "The Mortals slumber peacefully, and Argos stands guard.  There is no need of me there.  I was most curious to hear the Black Knight's response to your tales of woe.  Think you, he is convinced?"

            "His belief suffices...for now, though he is a most ornery soul.  Please tell me his training progresses on course."

              "Aye, my Queen.  He shows an inborn, natural skill with weapons, and a true courageous nature, though he stubbornly refuses my attempts to teach him to see beyond his eyes. There is little he accepts on faith alone. Are you quite sure he is the one you seek?  There is much dark within him."

              The Fairy Queen flushed an angry pink, flinging the gold cup in the direction of the Warrior's head.  "Think you I would make such a careless mistake?  With something of such magnitude?  No, Lord Warrior, I hold no reservations.  I have studied the writings for five hundred years. Checked and rechecked the genealogies.  I have made no errors.  My line and his...joined for the first time in nearly a millennium.  It will be as it was written."

                Cu-Chulainn bent low at the waist, his sword crossed over his chest.  "I mean no disrespect, Lady Queen.  I understand the importance of what you seek for our people. The Mortal is surely talented beyond the norm, but in all other respects, he seems tainted with the indifference of modern man.  It is just that I expected...imagined...His descendant would stand above the nonsense of these times.  Your Ridre Dubh is special, of that I am certain, but I am not yet convinced he is who you believe him to be."

                She frowned at him, and narrowed her eyes.  "I do not need you to believe it, Lord Warrior. You will do as I say because I have said it.  That should surely be enough for you.  You have not yet seen him with Caladbolg in hand, but when you do, rest assured, you will have no doubts.  He owns that stone like no other could.  I have made no mistake."

             The Warrior rose, and sheathed his sword.  "As you say, my Queen.  I know this been your true passion for more generations than I can count.  And now, only Owen stands in your way.  I will do my best to prepare the Black Knight for this monumental quest."  He hesitated a moment, unwilling to risk angering her again, then somberly tossed the question at her.  "Will you tell him?  And his lady as well?  The whole truth."

            She brought her knees up, and placed her chin on top.  "I will tell them both.  When the time is right.  My Lady is just beginning to discover her Fay self, and her husband denies any connection to his family.  They are not ready to hear the truth.  It would only be a distraction now."

           "As you think best, Your Majesty.  It will not be an easy task...getting the Ridre Dubh to believe."

           "You leave the Black Knight to me, Lord Warrior.  He will come to see things as they are, one way or the other.  And when I am finished, he will not be able to deny the truth of who he is, nor his destiny."

________________________________

          Strangely enough, he felt as if he had made some genuine head way in getting to the truth.  As Beckett made his way back to the cabin, he replayed the conversation with the Queen in his mind.  Granted, the whole fairy thing cast a crazy storybook quality to her explanation, but a passion for a personal agenda, the need for power, was something he could understand.  Though he could easily relate to Owen's vendetta against his aunt for the death of his mother, he was still in total agreement with the Fairy Queen's need to execute her own sibling according to the law.  Rules kept order, and order was necessary for the common good.  In a strange way, he respected the Queen's commitment to doing what was best for her people.  It was the backbone behind why he did what he had done for the past eight years.  There was no changing people when they had a soul solid objective.  It was easier...and more righteous... to just end their existence.

           A few days ago, he would have found the giant spider's presence on his porch a threat, but now he found it profoundly reassuring.  Nobody was getting past that thing without a fight, and considering the closest thing he had to family was inside, it gave him a sense peace to see it stationed in front of the door.  As he hit the first step, the spider politely scuttled to the side to let him pass, all its eyes following his every move.  Beckett nodded his head in acknowledgement toward the huge arachnid, a salute of sorts, and the beast clicked it's response in turn.  It was like a scene from some B-grade sci-fi movie that felt strangely normal, and he briefly wondered if perhaps he was losing his mind.

         The cabin was peacefully quiet, its occupants comfortably stretched out on various pieces of great room furniture, snoozing away in complete oblivion.  Maureen was curled up on the settee, her knees tucked under her, red curls like a flaming halo around her face.  He bent down to kiss the top of her head, and her eyes fluttered open immediately.

           "Ted! You're back!  I was so worried!"  She looked around at her sleeping comrades, then at the indent in the pillow her head had made, and blushed.  "Sorry...we really were concerned about your well being.  One minute we were all discussing what we should do next, and then it was like we couldn't keep our eyes open no matter how hard we tried."

             He kissed her again, this time on the lips, and fought an overwhelming desire to lift her off the settee and drag her upstairs to their suite.  When it came to his wife, he was as bad as the rest of them about reigning in his emotions, and he worked at thinking about something other than his growing libido.  He forced himself to consider Owen's hologram in the clearing out back, and his mind cleared to the point he could again think logically.

           "No worries, Love.  I'm guessing your need to sleep was beyond your control.  Much easier to guard targets that are not moving around."

            "What did she tell you, Ted?  About that awful man.  I know he wasn't really there, but even his image scared the crap out of me.  He sounds so...angry.  Bitter.  He hates her, you know.  It's all he thinks about.  Destroying her."

             "Yeah...I get that.  I suppose he has reason, all things considered.  But she's right.  He's got to go.  He's a serious threat to the Fay, and if I believe what she's telling me, Mortals as well.  He'll never be convinced to believe anything different.  I know that type.  He's willing to die for his cause.  There's no dealing with that."

             She grabbed his hands and pulled him down next to her.  "So...will you do it?"  It was too hard to say the words, and she fumbled with what to say next.  "What the Queen wants you to do?"

            He didn't want her to know that in his mind, executing Owen for the greater good was no big deal.  She who took in stray animals and fought for the underdog would never understand his cold, efficient thinking regarding what it was he did for a living.  She knew of course.  He'd told her before he married her, though granted, he didn't go into a lot of detail.  But she was fully aware that the jobs he did for the government sometimes meant another human being had to die, and if she was appalled by that side of him, she never let on.  Here and now, the last thing he wanted for her to realize, is that he'd kill the bastard just for the threat he made against his Desert Rose.  It made him sound like a cold-blooded murderer. Which of course, if he were being completely honest, might be what he truly was.

                "I don't see anyway of avoiding it, of moving on from here.  Somehow, we have ourselves all caught up in this mess.  I'm not even sure the how or why of it all. I just know that if Owen continues to do what he plans, things will go bad on a grand scale."

                "Is she really his 'Aunt'?  I mean... by blood.  Or is he some long lost descendent, like me?"

                "That's where the story gets really weird.  He's her nephew.  First generation.  His mother was Maeve's sister, Siobhan.  Apparently, there's been bad blood between the two for a very long time.  Siobhan was the older of the two, and she expected to inherit the throne from their mother when her time came.  But the sister had some issues with making poor choices, and their mother handed Maeve the crown instead.  In addition, Maeve had a half mortal child, your ancestor, Liam, which was quite a coup among the fairy folk and made her legendary among her people.  Despite several dalliances among mortal men through several generations, Siobhan never conceived, something that put her envy of Maeve over the top."

           "So...this all came about because of sibling rivalry?  It sounds crazy, but I can almost believe it.  My brothers would come to blows over who they thought was Dad's favorite.  And we were just an ordinary large family.  I'd bet it would get really testy if royalty was involved.  History is full of stories like that."  She got up and began to pace the floor.  "But if Siobhan couldn't conceive a mortal child, then where did Owen come from?  He doesn't look much older than me."

            "According to the Queen, Siobhan began to practice the ancient Black Arts, something forbidden by Fay law.  She began an affair with with a mortal of dubious integrity, some guy with supposed mob connections, and through some dark 'magic'...for lack of a better word...Owen was conceived.  At first, the mortal father was in alignment with the conditions of his role, but then, he got demanding about custody of his son.  He threatened to take the child from her, unless she helped him use the magic for his own benefit.  There was no way Siobhan was willing to do either.  The man was nothing more to her than a willing sperm donor with a lack of conscience.  He wound up dead somewhere in a shallow grave, his tongue cut out and his eyes removed by Fairy hand.  Because of his mob connections, the authorities just assumed he'd been hit by his own kind."

             "So what happened to Siobhan...and Owen?  How did his mother end up dead?"

              "Her sister had broken two supreme Fay laws.  First, she had used the Black Arts for her personal gain, and secondly she had murdered a mortal in cold blood.  Maeve had no choice but to declare her sister an enemy of the Fay.  She had her hunted down and finally executed when Owen was eight years old.  He witnessed his mother's punishment."

             "How awful for him!  I almost feel sorry for the guy.  No matter how horrible, your mother is still your mother.  How was she executed?  Was it another Ridre Dubh?"

             "There was no permanent knight available, so Cu-Chulainn was asked to preform the role.  That's his connection to Maeve.   He was required to cut her head from her body. Just like I'm supposed to do to Owen."

              " Gross! What happened to Owen after his mother's death?  I'm sure the whole experience was something hard to get over.  Ya kinda can't blame him for his anger."

              "Maeve took him in with the Fay, and tried to raise him as one of them.  But he was fighting all kinds of marks against him.  His genetics, the matter of his birth, the violent death of both of his parents.  It didn't work out, and so she saw to his adoption by a wealthy mortal family, and kept an eye on him as he grew.  He seemed to settle down for awhile.  Was the perfect child.  Smart, obedient, athletic and good-looking.  Brilliant, actually.  He went to Harvard Medical School, and then graduated top of his class, specializing in Human Reproduction, at age 22.  Somewhere around that time, his adopted parents were found dead in what was called a ritual murder and suicide.  Maeve believes Owen murdered them himself, basically for the inheritance.  He's been dabbling ever since in stem cell research, tracking down the few female Fay descendants, so that he can steal their eggs and create test tube fetuses.  He then takes their stem cells to inject into himself.  He believes this will make him more fully Fay, and in that way, he can destroy Maeve."

               Despite the 80 degree temperature, Maureen felt a shiver come over her. "He means to use me for that purpose, doesn't he?"

              Beckett nodded, his face stone cold. "Because you're a royal descendant, it would be quite a prize for him.  Your 'Fairy Godmother' has insisted she's been able to keep you hidden until now.  She's concerned you are his next target."  He took her face between his hands.  "You know I won't let that happen, right?  He won't ever get that near to you.  I swear it with every cell in my body.  I'll do whatever needs to be done to stop the bastard."  He kissed her softly, and added,  "Any babies you create will be ours alone, Love."

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2016
All Rights Reserved