CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-NINE
Thursday early-morning — 5:14 a.m.
“Nash,” Bernie whispered over the couch Nash was asleep on.
When Nash didn’t move, Bernie touched the boy’s shoulders. For a very old man, he had a surprisingly tight grip. Nash’s eyes popped open. Nash grabbed Bernie’s hand and put it into a pin. Bernie easily shook it off.
“I need to speak to you,” Bernie said. Looking up to see Noelle and Teddy looking at him, he added, “In private.”
Nash sat up. He rubbed his head and stood up.
“Back to sleep,” Bernie ordered Noelle and Teddy.
They lay back down. Bernie took Nash’s arm and led him toward the large dining room. The light was grey outside the mullioned windows. The dining room table gleamed. The air of the room smelled vaguely like great food and, if at all possible, laughter. Nash pulled out the chair on the end for Bernie and pulled the one out beside it for himself. They sat down.
For a moment, neither said anything. Bernie scanned Nash’s face.
“What can I do for you?” Nash asked. Realizing he might have been impolite, he added, “I’m sorry. It’s early.”
Bernie grinned at Nash.
“Son, I’ve seen a lot of early mornings,” Bernie said. “No offense taken. And you’re right —what is it that I want at this God-forsaken hour?”
Bernie grinned. He leaned forward. Still half-asleep, Nash marveled at how Bernie never smelled like an old man. He didn’t look as old as he was either.
“I wanted to talk to you about Nadia,” Bernie said.
Instantly wide awake, Nash sucked in a breath.
“Whaa…” Nash said.
Bernie put his hand over Nash’s arm. Nash looked up at him.
“I’ve known Nadia for a very long time,” Bernie said. “Since she was a toddler. I knew her father, of course, and her mother. I’m not surprised that she’s a doctor or that she runs the entire show at her Dad’s old business.”
“But me?” Nash asked.
Bernie smiled at the young man.
“You, my boy, make the most sense of all,” Bernie said with a smile. “She and I shared a plane back from Poland.”
“Why was Nadia in Poland?” Nash asked.
“She took an overnight trip to look at the loot from the salt mine,” Bernie said with a nod. “Like her father before her, she is very hands on. She wanted to check everything before most of it is sent back to the heirs.”
Bernie nodded to Nash.
“A good portion of it is coming here,” Bernie said.
“To this house?” Nash asked.
“Why?” Nash asked.
“It belongs to Sandy,” Bernie said.
“That is not why I wanted to talk with you,” Bernie said.
“Okay,” Nash said.
“We talked about you,” Bernie said. “For a long time.”
“Oh?” Nash asked.
“She is very taken by you,” Bernie said. “In a way that I’ve never seen. But she’s embarrassed because…”
“I’m just a stupid kid,” Nash said.
“Young,” Bernie said. “No one in their right mind would think that you were stupid.”
“She’s not sure what to do about you,” Bernie said. “If you were a woman, and she a man, you’d just move in with her. Like her mother did.”
“But I’m not female,” Nash said. “She is not a man.”
“You’re sixteen?” Bernie asked.
“Two years until you’re legal?” Bernie asked.
“Age of consent in Poland is 15 years old,” Bernie said.
“I don’t live in Poland,” Nash said. He sucked in a breath and Bernie raised his eyebrows. “Plus, it’s not like I just want to screw her and that’s that. I want…”
Nash let out a breath.
“I wanted you to know that’s she’s very serious about you,” Bernie said. “She said that you’ve been pulling away. She said that her last conversation with you was that you were going to take some time away from her until you were old enough.”
Nash dropped his head into his hands.
“You don’t have to do that, Nash,” Bernie said. “In fact, you don’t have to stay away at all.”
Nash shook his head.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Nash said. “I feel like I’m living in two worlds — one when she’s around and the other of a stupid high school kid. I feel crazy. I can’t. I just can’t.”
“I knew you’d say that,” Bernie said with a grin.
“And?” Nash asked.
“I came up with a plan,” Bernie said. “I wanted to speak with you first before I speak with your parents.”
“I can’t move there,” Nash said. “My family needs me here for now.”
“That’s not my plan,” Bernie said with a grin.
“What’s your plan for my life?” Nash asked.
“Why is that funny?” Nash asked.
“I remember being a young man,” Bernie said. “I remember what it was like to wish and want to be older. Now that I’m old, I can tell you that it’s only with great luck that you are able to get older. But that doesn’t help when you want to be grown up.”
Nash dropped his head onto the table. For a moment, they sat there in silence.
“My plan is this,” Bernie said. “Stop the daily calls. That’s too hard.”
Nash nodded his head against the table.
“Set up times you get together,” Bernie said. “Weekends once a month or every other month. That’s doable. It wouldn’t work for you to go to New York. Too many eyes on her. It wouldn’t work for her to come here. Too many eyes on you.”
Nash lifted his head from the table.
“So you pick a place in between,” Bernie said. “Buy a cabin or a house or get someone who loves you …” The elderly man gestured to himself. “ … to buy a house in his name so that it cannot be traced back to either of you.”
“Then what?” Nash asked.
“Then you spend a little quiet time together,” Bernie said. “Talk. Go for walks. Eat great food. Enjoy each other’s company.”
“What about sex?” Nash asked.
“What about it?” Bernie asked. “Love is not just sexual contact. You both need time to evaluate for yourselves what’s going on — inside you. Sex might be a part of that, but it might not. If you were to enter her world, you would do a lot more than just be her bed partner. You’d have to listen to her. Talk to her. Go to functions with her. Be at her side when she needs you. You will be under a lot of pressure. More than one man has felt too overwhelmed to keep up. Now’s a time to see if you want to do that.”
Nash’s head dropped to the table with a thump.
“My parents will never agree,” Nash said into the table.
“First we have to decide if that’s something you want,” Bernie said.
Nash groaned. Outside of the room, they heard Maresol get up to start breakfast.
“You’ll let me know,” Bernie said.
Before Nash could respond, the elderly man was gone. Maresol came in the room to get something from the cabinet.
“Oh, Nash,” Maresol said. “Are you okay?”
Nash nodded and went back to the couch. He had at least another half hour before he had to get up. Staring at the ceiling, he wondered what he should “do” about Nadia.
Thursday early-morning — 5:31 a.m.
“Katy’s in her bed,” Jill said to Julie Hargreaves, Paddie’s mother.
“Paddie’s here too,” Julie said.
“So nothing’s happened?” Jill asked, her voice lifting with hope.
“Not that I can tell,” Julie said.
“I’m going to wake her,” Jill said.
“Okay, I’ll wake Paddie,” Julie said.
Jill heard Julie talk to Paddie in the background of their phone conversation. Jill sat down on Katy’s bed. Katy shifted and opened her eyes.
“We’re okay, Mommy,” Katy said. “Does Paddie still have his sword?”
“Katy wants to know if Paddie has his sword,” Jill said to Julie.
“He does,” Julie said.
“That’s good,” Katy said. “They didn’t take it yet.”
In the way of six year old girls, Katy jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom.
“So I guess everything is okay?” Julie asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Jill said.
The women shared a worried moment of silence.
“We’re heading up to the cabin tomorrow night,” Jill said. “Would Paddie like to come with us?”
“Good thinking,” Julie said. “I’ll ask him.”
Julie talked to Paddie. After a moment, Julie told Jill that Paddie would come on the trip to the mountains. The women hung up.
Jill went to the bathroom to check on Katy.
Katy was gone. She looked at her phone to dial Julie back only to notice that Julie was calling.
“He’s gone,” Julie said without greeting. “What now?”
“I wish I knew,” Jill said. Julie began to cry. “I want to tell you that I’m sorry, that Katy gets Paddie into all of this and…”
“That’s just not true,” Julie said. “Paddie loves Katy. She is the light of his life. If they weren’t friends, he wouldn’t be my Paddie. It’s just…”
“Yeah,” Jill’s voice hardened.
“At least we’re in this together,” Julie said.
“We are that,” Jill said. “I will call you when I know anything.
“I’ll do the same,” Julie said. “They’ve always come home.”
Julie hung up.
“They’ve always come home,” Jill repeated into the dead phone.
Wondering if she should call Jacob, Jill looked at the phone for a long moment. She shook her head. Jacob would want to know what Delphie had to say this morning. With a sigh, she went to get her sons ready for their day. She would just have to catch Delphie at breakfast.
Author’s note: You might find the next section confusing, and possibly rightly so.
If that’s the case, I’d encourage you to refer to Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-eight of the Denver Cereal.
Hopefully, that helps.
“Where are we?” Paddie whispered.
“I don’ know,” Katy whispered back.
Paddie moved closer to Katy. They were standing in a very dark and cold place. Katy shivered as the wet cold penetrated her flannel just-like-Daddy pajamas. The children looked at each other. As if they couldn’t stop themselves, they repeated what they’d said before.
“Smells moldy here,” Paddie whispered.
“Dead.” Katy wrinkled her nose. “There are dead things here.”
Unable to stop themselves, they repeated what they’d done the first time they’d been here. Their surroundings became clearer as their eyes started to adjust to the deep black. They were in a kind of long tunnel carved out of stone. There was a stream of water running through the gutter carved into the middle of the path. They could make out semicircular arches cut into either side of the tunnel.
Paddie looked at Katy, and she nodded. They walked to the semicircular space nearest to them. This time they didn’t have to look inside the space.
They were looking at a human skeleton. The skeleton was resting on a metal grate, and there were stacks of bones under the grate. Katy made a small sound and began to shiver. Paddie put his arm around her to comfort her.
Katy looked at Paddie. She felt as if she was in two places at once — six year old Katy was standing here with six year old Paddie and they were here before when they were younger, smaller, when Katy’s mommy was having her brothers. Katy could tell by Paddie’s look that he felt the same way.
One thing was sure — Edie wouldn’t be here to help them this time.
They heard footsteps.
Paddie began to shake in terror at the idea that the horrible man, who’d they’d met before, would appear. Katy nodded to the crypt in front of them. Paddie easily climbed into the crypt. Because Katy was smaller than Paddie now, he helped her into the crypt.
Paddie and Katy gasped.
The Sword of Truth was lying in this crypt along with a smaller blade. Paddie picked up the Sword of Truth. As if the blade was greeting Paddie, a spark of lightning emitted from the blade. Paddie tucked it into the wooden scabbard he always wore. There the sword disappeared.
Paddie gestured for Katy to pick up the other blade. Katy had never had a sword before. When they were here last, the Sword of Truth didn’t have a companion. Katy’s hand reached toward the blade. As her hand neared the small sword, white lightning emanated from the grip. The sword levitated into her hand.
“It’s yours,” Paddie said with a nod. “Now we both have a shiny sword!”
Katy gave Paddie a broad smile. The children leaned back into the crypt. The creepy old man that they’d met before — Kirk Maughold — shuffled past them. After a moment, he came back to the crypt and peered at them. His eyes were the banana peel brown rather than the white unseeing eyes he’d had before.
“Hello Katy and Paddie,” the elderly man said.
“Keenan!” Katy said.
Keenan was the name of Kirk Maughold when he was returned to child form to grow up free of the pain and suffering he’d endured as Maughold.
“’Tis I,” Maughold said.
He gave them a formal bow.
“But how …?” Katy asked.
“How is it that you were drawn back here?” Maughold asked. “We are all replaying something that happened a long time ago.”
“But we’re older!” Paddie said.
“We are,” Maughold said. “Now, do you have the sword?”
Paddie and Katy nodded.
“Good,” Maughold said. He opened his mouth to say something else.
Katy and Paddie were back in their beds in Denver. Their moms were talking on the phone to each other as they woke them. Katy got up and went to the bathroom.
“You’ll meet your death here, little fairyling,” Maughold said. “I will send you and your friend to the abyss.”
Keenan blinked and looked at Paddie and Katy. He shrugged.
“I don’t know why we have to replay this, but I guess we do,” Keenan as Maughold said.
Maughol hung the children by the backs of their collars on a rack bolted to the wall. There was a noise above them and he looked up.
“Good timing,” he said.
“Do you have the sword?” Katy whispered to Paddie.
Paddie shook his head.
“Hold out your hand and call it to you,” Katy whispered.
The Sword of Truth appeared in Paddie’s hand. The other sword hovered over Katy’s. She grabbed the sword.
“What now?” Paddie whispered.
“I don’t know I think we’ll …” Katy started to say.
She was back in her bed. Her Mommy came in the room while talking on the phone.
“Mommy?” Katy asked.
“Yes, Katy-baby,” Jill said.
Katy was back in the tunnel with the rotten corpses.
This time she was alone.
She couldn’t help but shiver.
“Paddie?” Katy whispered.
“I’m here!” Paddie said from somewhere in the crypt.
She looked up to see the small sword zooming through the air toward her. After years of training with Fin, she instinctively plucked the sword from the air. She heard the bell sound the Sword of Truth made when Paddie put the sword into the scabbard.
“What’s happening?” Paddie’s voice was laced with something between fear and awe.
“I think they’re trying to steal the Sword of Truth,” Katy said.
“Who are?” Paddie asked.
“Fairies,” Maughold said from behind Katy.
Katy spun around. Keenan was Maughold again. She smiled at him, and he gave her a slight nod.
“The Sword of Truth is said to make the difference in the last fairy war,” Keenan as Maughold said. “That sword …”
Maughold nodded to the sword in Katy’s hand.
“That’s actually the more powerful sword,” Maughold said. “I have the sense that I wanted to give it to you before, but you — and I — were rescued before I had the chance.”
Maughold nodded to the sword. Paddie appeared at the end of the row in the dark crypt. Katy hugged him in greeting.
“What’s Katy’s sword?” Paddie asked.
They looked down at the small sword. The sword was ornately detailed in gold and silver at the hilt. Because Katy was not very tall, the blade nearly reached the ground.
“The Vanquisher,” Maughold said. He gave Paddie a nod. “Technically, it’s a large knife. Or I should say, it’s the partner to the Sword of Truth.”
“Vanquisher?” Katy asked, tipping her head to the side.
“It means to conquer,” Maughold said. “Win.”
Looking at the sword, Katy and Paddie nodded.
“Every truth holds power but power must hear truth,” Katy said.
“That’s what my daddy says,” Paddie said.
The children nodded.
“It may have another name,”Maughold said. “We’ll find out from your Templar friend.”
“Should Paddie have them both?” Katy asked. She held the knife out to him.
“No,” Maughold said. “These swords chose you.”
“You gave the sword to me when you had white eyes!” Paddie said.
“I only followed the request of the sword,” Maughold said. “I am the keeper of these remains, these artifacts, and this place. When I was … unwell, I treated this crypt as a safe place from those who I feared pursued me. I realize now that I was hiding from myself, my own nature.”
Maughold put a hand on Katy’s cheek and another on Paddie’s cheek.
“You taught me that I could be anything,” Maughold said. He smiled. “That’s why I am here now.”
“Why are we here?” Katy asked.
“Áthas’s fairies want the Sword of Truth,” Maughold said.
“And Katy’s sword?” Paddie asked.
“They have no idea it’s here,” Maughold said.
Much to Katy and Paddie’s surprise, they saw madness, similar to what they’d seen those years ago, flash across Maughold’s face.
“Here we go again,” Maughold said.
Katy’s mommy was waking her for the morning.
“Mommy, the fairies have me in a time loop,” Katy spit out.
Katy arrived back in the crypt.
This time she was face to face with a fairy warrior. Katy took a step back. She opened her hand and her new knife appeared in her hand.
“Leave me alone!” Katy said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.