CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and EIGHT
The exertion from moving the last sandstone rock took the last of Jacob’s energy. He dropped back to the floor of the chamber.
The fairy queens, Abi, Liban, and Mari crept up to the hole and looked inside.
Jacob wasn’t sure what happened next because when he woke, the fairies were standing in a circle around him. Mari was on her knees near his head. Liban was crouched next to him and was holding his right hand. Abee held his left hand as she sat cross legged on his left. Queen Fand leaned over his head while Queen Áthas and Queen Shanti stood near his feet.
“He’s coming around,” Mari said, in a soft tone.
Jacob sucked in a breath.
“What is it?” Jacob asked. “What’s happened?”
Because Mari was near his head, his eyes flicked to her first. She gave him a slight shake of her head.
She couldn’t tell him.
He looked at Liban who looked to her sister, Queen Fand, and then to her mother, Queen Shanti.
Liban couldn’t tell him.
He raised an eyebrow in Abi’s direction and she grinned at him. Just a grin and he knew that the Queens had pitched a fit on who would explain the situation to him.
“Patience,” Abi said in his head.
Jacob leaned up. Abi and Liban helped him to sitting. Liban gave him some clean water, and Abi held out a golden apple. Seeing the apple, the symbol of Hedone the Goddess of Love, he ate the apple in four bites. He felt instantly better, as he usually did when he ate Hedone’s magic apples. He raised an eyebrow to Abi and she gave him another golden apple. He ate it quickly and finished the water.
“Let’s help him up,” Liban said.
Liban held out a hand, but he jumped up. Liban gave him a fond smile while Mari laughed. The fairy queens made an appropriate “ooh.”
Jacob walked around the small chamber for a few minutes while the apples did the trick. To the fairy queens’ surprise, he jumped up and down to get his blood moving. After a few minutes, he nodded to the group.
He was back.
“What’s in there?” Jacob gestured to the hole that they believed the fourth fairy queen was held captive.
“Well, that’s the thing …” Queen Fand started.
He turned to look at her. Clearly, they’d decided that Fand would be the spokesperson for the group. Once he faced her, she blushed and looked down.
“Yes?” Jacob asked.
“Maybe Jacob should just look for himself,” Abi suggested.
“Yes, yes,” Queen Fand said, her distinctive Isle of Man accent thick. “Please, my dear, would you mind looking for yourself?”
“You six can’t …” Jacob asked, looking at each of them.
Abi shook her head while Mari had a smirk on her face. Jacob gave them a quick nod. He went to the edge of the hole and looked in. Sneering at what he saw, he looked back at the fairies. They gave him encouraging nods. He sighed and dropped to his knees for a better look.
“You may have any tool you require,” Queen Áthas said.
“Well, gee, thanks,” Jacob said, sarcastically.
He threw her an irritated look. She laughed.
“Fairies,” Jacob said under his breath, which caused Mari to laugh.
He leaned over the hole again and then looked at the fairies.
“I need my dad,” Jacob said.
“Why would that possibly be?” Queen Shanti asked. “According to the legends and songs, you’ve solved all manner of riddles by yourself.”
“Songs?” Jacob asked. His eyes shot to Abi, who was laughing quietly.
“Your father is just above us,” Liban said.
“With Delphie?” Jacob asked.
“That’s correct,” Liban said.
“We can bring there here in a moment,” Queen Fand said.
“That would be an incredible shock,” Abi said. “Dephie’s heart is not strong.”
“It would be my honor to get them,” Liban said.
“Would you mind if Mari went?” Jacob asked. “They are more familiar with her. They know you but they’ve spent more time with Mari.”
“As you wish,” Mari said, humbly.
She disappeared. Time passed — one minute dragged into two or three. As if he could figure out the delay, Jacob looked up at the ceiling. After a moment, Delphie, Sam, and Mari returned. Abi began the introductions and Mari came over to Jacob. She gave him a bag of food.
“They insisted on getting you something to eat,” Mari said. “I told them about the apples but they don’t know about Hedone’s golden apples. Anyway, there were some boys there who are related to you in some human way. They sent us to a sandwich shop they own, or that is what they said it was called. You can trust me, though. There were zero witches. None. I would never put your father and the Oracle in that kind of danger. Witches are unpredictable and can be quite mad.”
“Good to know,” Jacob said with a smile.
“I checked for witches before I allowed them to enter this shop,” Mari said.
Jacob gave Mari a soft smile. The fairy had been stuck in Queen Fand’s Queendom on the Isle of Man for many thousands of years. She still wasn’t quite used to the modern world.
“There wasn’t any sand either,” Mari said. “There was bread and meat and … Your father made you this sand-witch without witches or sand.”
“Thank you,” Jacob said.
He kissed her cheek, and she seemed delighted. She gestured for him to sit down. He glanced at his father and Delphie. They were laughing and talking with the fairy queens. The fairy queens acted as if Delphie was a movie star. Abi had her hand on his father’s arm, so Sam knew they were safe. Jacob sat down, and Mari joined him.
“I told your father and the Oracle about my visit with the mother that Sissy is living with,” Mari said.
“Claire?” Jacob asked.
He poked around at his sandwich — turkey, provolone, mayonnaise, lettuce on sourdough. One of his favorites. His stomach turned over in hunger. He started eating.
“Yes!” Mari looked delighted. “That was her name. I liked her. I think our Sissy is going to be safe, learn a lot, and even have fun.”
“How is Ivan?” Jacob asked.
“Oh,” Mari shrugged. “He is Russian. That’s what Otis says. ‘For Russians, suffering is good. Better than happiness. Happiness makes anxiety. When will suffering start again?’”
Mari grinned at him. Jacob nodded that he understood.
“He’s miserable, but he won’t admit it,” Mari said. “He ‘wishes Sissy much success’ or so he says. Nadia thinks he’ll move to Paris by the end of the year.”
Mari smiled. Taking his last bite of his sandwich, Jacob nodded in agreement. He looked at Mari and sighed.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Mari asked in a low voice.
Jacob shook his head.
“Courage,” Mari said. She put her hand on Jacob’s arm. “That’s what Abi always says before battle.”
Jacob grinned at Mari. He got up and went to where his father was standing. Sam turned to look at Jacob. Sam’s eyes scanned his son for a moment before Sam grabbed his son’s shoulder and hugged him tight.
“Would you mind taking a look at this?” Jacob asked.
The men walked to the hole and looked in. Standing up, Sam looked inside the hole. He looked at his son, and Jacob nodded. Sam bent at the waist to look inside the hole. He glanced at Jacob again before dropping to a knee for a closer look. Jacob waited for Sam to take a good look. His father looked up at him before moving to standing again.
“I can see why you wanted my help,” Sam said.
“I can’t,” Liban said, impatiently. “Why don’t you just …”
Sam tipped his head to Liban in a kind of a nod. The fairy fell silent.
“Have you tried to get it out?” Sam asked.
Jacob gave a slight nod before adding, “Wedged in there tight. Plus, that’s sandstone.”
“Yes,” Sam said. “The fairies?”
“The fairies aren’t able to use their magic on this problem,” Jacob said. “Abi, either. This whole thing seems to have been set up by some ancient ancestor of Mom’s, likely in trying to get whatever is there out.”
“Got stuck.” Sam nodded. “Yes, I bet that’s it.”
“Do we need Valerie’s help?” Sam asked.
“I don’t think so,” Jacob said. “I mostly was hoping you could help walk me through what has to happen.”
“Like the last time,” Sam said.
“Last two times,” Jacob said with a grin.
Sam smiled at Jacob and clapped him on the shoulder. They looked up to see the fairy queens, Abi, Liban, and Delphie staring at them. Mari was looking into the hole. Feeling the silence, Mari looked up.
“Would you explain it to us?” Queen Áthas asked, in her thick Irish accented English.
“What did you say?” Sam asked, confused by her accent.
“Queen Áthas is asking if you might go over the problem with them,” Abi said, deferentially to Queen Áthas.
Sam scowled at Abi. Sam and Abi spent some part of every Sunday together either hunting, working, repairing things, or generally hanging out together. Sam knew that Abi’s power and strength was far beyond the scope of these silly fairy queens. He was never really sure why she put up with them. Sam said all of that in his scowl.
Abi gave him a slight smile and a nod to acknowledge his complaint. She tipped her head to the side to indicate that her question was still valid. He nodded.
“There’s some kind of creature stuck in this shaft,” Sam said. “While I don’t know anything about magic, Jacob tells me that he cannot raise the creature with his psychokinetic power. He also says that fairy magic doesn’t work.”
“And that means?” Liban asked, impatiently.
“It means a few things,” Sam said. “The first thing you should know is that Jacob and I have seen this very situation before.”
Jacob held up two fingers and Sam said, “Three times.” Jacob thought for a moment before nodding.
That got the fairies attention.
“We own an underground utility company,” Jacob said. “Over the years, we’ve had a few guys who go down into a hole before we’re able to assess it.”
“And get stuck,” Sam said.
“I would appreciate it if you would explain why we are not able to retrieve our sister and get on with it,” Queen Fand said.
“Your sister …” Sam said.
Sam raised his eyebrows and looked at Delphie. She nodded.
“Well, I’ll be,” Sam said.
While Sam went back to look in the hole, Jacob felt compelled to explain.
“There’s a magnetic field that runs through the surface of the earth here,” Jacob said. “It’s not uncommon, particularly in Colorado. Your magic and my abilities are either absorbed into the field or repelled. Did you try it?”
“Our efforts,” Mari said. She pointed to scorch marks on the wall.
“I see,” Jacob said. “The problem is that the hard rock of this cave is only a few feet thick. The rock is strong enough to hold the cavern together. However, the rock underneath is soft and unstable. This looks like a vent connected with the core of the earth.”
“The Fires of Hells are vents to the core,” Abi said.
“The vent hole — this tunnel to the core — is made stable by this rock and a regular blast of fire,” Jacob said. “Your sister must be immune to the fire and heat.”
“We don’t know anything about her,” Liban said. “This is our first meeting.”
“What is it that we can do?” Queen Shanti asked.
“I’m not sure,” Jacob said. “Dad and I need to go over our options — what we’ve seen work and what is practical. This is a tiny space for us to build out the structure we used the last time.”
“And the fire?” Delphie asked.
“That’s a question, right?” Sam asked. “Someone went to a lot of trouble to cap off this vent hole. It could be because of the blasts of heat or the vapors, like you were talking about Delphie.”
“Do you feel anything?” Jacob asked Delphie.
Delphie gave a vague nod. Jacob raised his hand and pointed at a large rock at the top of the pile of rubble. A rock jerked and shimmied a few times before slowly rolling off the pile. They could see the sky above them. Cold, clean fresh air rushed into the cavern. For a moment, no one did anything but breathe in the fresh air.
Delphie nodded her thanks. Sam clapped Jacob on the back again.
“What do we need to do?” Abi asked.
Sam nodded at Abi’s question and looked at Jacob.
“I remind you that we are able to acquire anything you may need,” Queen Shanti said.
Sam and Jacob turned to look at her. They looked at each other for a moment, then in unison turned back to her and nodded. Jacob raised an eyebrow to Mari.
“How about some tea and scones?” Jacob asked in a low tone. He gestured with his eyes toward the fairy queens. “Place to sit. A few servants. You know what I mean?”
“Absolutely,” Mari said.
Mari closed her large eyes with their impossible eyelashes. When she opened her eyes, there was a lovely round table with comfortable chairs. Three male fairy attendants stood to the side ready to do their queens’ bidding.
“Oh, can I have …?” Delphie started.
Mari grinned at her and gestured to Delphie’s hand. Delphie was holding her favorite tarot deck. A long couch covered in velvet appeared near the end of the cavern. Sandy’s cat Cleo was sitting on the end.
“Is it you?” Queen Shanti asked. She rushed over to the cat. “I thought she was killed by those horrible Charities!”
“She was saved by Hedone,” Abi said, mildly. “She lives at the will and in the service of Hedone.”
She raised an eyebrow at the cat. The cat flicked her tail at Abi. Queen Shanti picked up the cat and held her in front of her face. The big, fat tears ran down Queen Shanti’s face as she greeted her old friend. Cleo rubbed her cheek against the Queen’s.
An attendant of Queen Fand’s and another of Queen Áthas led the fairy queens to the table. The attendants poured them tea and waited for the queens’ approval before serving the scones. Delphie sat down across from the queens. She shuffled her tarot deck to be ready for their questions.
Sam nudged Jacob’s arm. Jacob leaned nearer to his father.
“Did you know about Cleo?” Sam asked. “That’s Rachel Ann’s cat!”
“Sandy’s had the cat since she was ten years old,” Jacob said, mildly. “She was an adult cat when Heather gave her to Sandy.”
“Oh, yes, well, it does make sense now that you say it,” Sam said. Grinning from ear to ear, he glanced at Jacob and nodded, “I wish your Mom had lived long enough to meet all of these magical people.”
“Me, too,” Jacob said.
Liban cleared her throat. Jacob and Sam looked up.
“What’s next?” Abi asked.
“We need supplies,” Sam said. He held out his hands to click off a list. “Wood, rope, hammers …”
“Cordless drills and screws,” Jacob said. “We don’t want to leave the structure here.”
“Good point,” Sam said. “At some point, we need someone smaller than Jake or me to climb down there, but I don’t think you magical folk can do it.”
“Katy and Paddie are home ‘sick’ today,” Mari said, mildly.
Mari looked at Jacob. A bat of her eyes asked him for explanation.
“We agreed they could stay home sometimes when they were feeling like they needed an adventure,” Jacob said. “After the last time, you know where they instigated the saving of Tink’s brother.”
Abi grinned at Katy’s gumption, and Mari nodded that she understood.
“I’d rather use an adult,” Sam said. “If the earth lets loose a blast of hot air, it could burn the person to death.”
“Katy’s mother would never let her down there,” Liban said.
“Nor would Katy’s father,” Jacob said.
“Or grandfather,” Sam said. “And I don’t want to have to deal with Paddie’s grandfather if we send him down there.”
“Or his Paddie’s father,” Jacob said. “You can make people smaller, right?”
Jacob raised an eyebrow to Mari, who shrugged. Liban looked worried and Abi nodded.
“Of course,” Abi said.
“You’ll return him to full size, right?” Sam asked.
“Of course,” Abi said. “It’s actually a good idea. Jacob can see where his ancestor failed.”
“Can magic be used below the surface?” Liban asked. “I would happily into the vent to rescue my mothers’ sister.”
“It’s a good question,” Jacob said. “We’d have to test it.”
“I am expendable,” Liban said. “Please. Let me go.”
“If expendability is at issue, I am supposed to die in the next war,” Mari said.
“No, don’t say that,” Sam said. “Neither of you are expendable. Not to me. You are both loved by so many people. I refused to hear any more talk of this.”
“Why don’t we go together?” Jacob asked. “We can watch each other’s back.”
“Me, too?” Mari asked.
“Why don’t you take my dad shopping?” Jacob asked. “Your task is to make sure that he gets everything we need. We don’t have anything here, so make sure he’s thorough.”
“I can do that,” Mari said, smiling at the idea that she could help Sam.
Sam nodded in agreement.
“When you and Dad are done, bring everything here,” Jacob said. “He and I will put it together. We’ll leave Abi and my dad up here to direct us and the three of us — Liban, Mari, and I— will head down.”
He nodded to everyone in turn.
“Does that work?” Jacob asked.
“Sounds great,” Abi said.
She smiled and the other fairies nodded.
“Sam?” Mari asked.
Mari put her hand on Sam’s arm and they disappeared.
“What will we do in the meantime?” Liban asked.
“Abi, I need you to help the queens,” Jacob said. “We cannot have them interfere, not matter what. I don’t know if that means building them some place out of the way to watch or …”
“I’ll take care of it,” Abi said with a nod. She walked over to where the queens and Delphie were sitting drinking tea.
“And me?” Liban asked.
“You were considered to be the world best military strategist,” Jacob said. “Would you mind helping me think through what we need to do? Or better yet, make a plan that might work?”
Liban looked at Jacob for a long moment.
“You don’t mind taking orders from a woman?” Liban asked.
“My mother was a strong, smart woman who was also incredibly bossy,” Jacob said. “I cannot promise to agree to do everything you direct me to do …”
“Fair enough,” Liban said.
“Or always agree with you,” Jacob said.
“That is to be expected,” Liban said.
“But I will follow, if you will lead,” Jacob said. “I’m also happy to do it together.”
“Good,” Liban said.
“Any ideas?” Jacob said.
Liban dropped to her knees to look down the vent again. After a moment, she looked back at Jacob.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Liban said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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