CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-ONE
Monday evening — 8:40 p.m.
“You guys okay here?” Tanesha asked.
She was standing at the door to the basement room they used as a study room. Charlie, Tink, Nash, Teddy, and Noelle had picked their favorite spots. Ivy slid in under Tanesha’s arm and took her usual place next to Noelle.
“We’re fine,” Nash said in a bored tone.
“We need to finish this up,” Teddy said more brightly.
Not a fool, Tanesha knew that there was something going on. Her suspicions were confirmed when Katy slid into the room with her big chapter book. Tanesha scowled at Katy.
“I have to finish my reading,” Katy said.
She held up her book and gave Tanesha a big grin. Charlie slid over on the couch, and Katy went to sit next to him.
“Are you coming?” Fin’s irritated voice came from the meditation room next door.
Tanesha scowled in his direction.
“I can feel it when you scowl,” Fin said. “You can always use your magic for this.”
“I need to go,” Tanesha said. She pointed at the teenagers. “Whatever you’re up to, just know that I know that you’re up to something. And!”
“We’re just studying!” Noelle said. “Gaah! We go to school. You know that we go to school. We have work to do in school!”
Tanesha took a breath and then sighed.
“If you run into trouble, we’re just next door,” Tanesha said.
She grinned at the children and closed the door. She stood at the door for a moment to hear if they started to talk. Remembering that Katy was there, she shook her head and went into the meditation room. Fin was sprawled out on the meditation mat. The electric kettle clicked off. Tanesha made tea in mugs. She gave him his Irish Breakfast, seven sugar cubes, and sat cross legged next to him.
“You ready?” Tanesha asked taking out her flash cards.
“How do you get those made so fast?” Fin asked.
“I did them this afternoon while you were playing Prince and looking for sweets on campus,” Tanesha said. “Applying yourself to the task — you should try it.”
“Then when would I play Prince?” Fin said.
Tanesha grinned at him. He glanced over at her and gave a big laugh.
“Did you figure out what they were up to?” Fin asked.
“No,” Tanesha said. She shook her head and sighed, “I guess I have to trust that they are good kids and …”
“Trust?” Fin asked. “Bah. Why not use your magic to listen in?”
Tanesha held up the flash cards.
“Well, I already have,” Fin said.
“You already have what?” Tanesha asked.
“Listened in,” Fin said.
“How?” Tanesha asked. “You’re not a time walker.”
“This is true,” Fin said. “They spoke of it as soon as you left from behind the door.”
“What are they doing?” Tanesha asked.
“They are wrapping up final details for that military team to go Poland,” Fin said.
He wiggled his eyebrows.
“Fun!” Fin said. “Why aren’t we going?”
“Because …” Tanesha held up her thick stack of cards.
Fin snapped his fingers and sparks flew.
“You’re funny,” Tanesha said. “There you’re going to be, standing in front of one of your precious children, and they are dying. You’re going to be like — what was that thing I should know but I cheated?”
Tanesha gave him a hard look, and he acquiesced.
“I am a role model for my people,” Fin said.
“Sure,” Tanesha said with a grin.
Their heads turned to the wall when they heard the teenagers next door laugh.
“Should we …?” Fin asked.
“Nah, let’s leave them to their secrets,” Tanesha said.
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Fin said.
“Okay,” Tanesha said. “Statistics for Scientists …”
“Oh God, this class is going to kill me,” Fin said.
“Why?” Tanesha asked.
“Numbers?” Fin asked. “Fairies don’t do numbers?”
“Because you’re cheaters,” Tanesha said in a chiding tone. “And anyway, we found out about the cooking thing. No one taught you to cook, so you don’t know how.”
Tanesha waved her cards in his face.
“Here’s some teaching for you,” Tanesha said. “You can learn.”
He pointed at her.
“Exactly right,” Fin said with a laugh. “I will learn.”
“Be the wanna-be-King we know you to be,” Tanesha said.
Fin groaned and lay back to stare at the ceiling. Tanesha started going through her cards by herself. After a few minutes, he sat up.
“You’re right,” he said.
“I know I’m right,” Tanesha said. She gave him half of the pack of cards, “Here you quiz me.”
He picked up a card and read one side. He turned it over to see the back.
“What is a percentage?” Fin asked.
Pretending to be him, Tanesha groaned, put the back of her hand to her forehead, and fell back.
“This will kill me,” Tanesha said. “Numbers — why are you so mean to me?”
Fin snorted a laugh. The more she hammed it up, the more he laughed.
“Ah fuck it,” Tanesha said.
“Yes, my dear, let’s get to work,” Fin said.
He made a whip with a lightning bolt of magic.
“That better not be for me,” Tanesha said.
Fin laughed. Tanesha shook her head.
“I cannot believe that I actually missed you this summer,” Tanesha said.
“I am thoroughly charming, aren’t I?” Fin asked.
Tanesha laughed which caused him to laugh. When their laughter died down, they just looked at each other.
“I am so lucky to have a granddaughter who is leading our people into the modern world,” Fin said. “Many fairies are jealous of this assistance.”
“And my cookies,” Tanesha said, wryly.
“That goes without saying,” Fin asked. “Say, how is it that no other fairies besides myself and my siblings can enter the Castle or the Castle grounds?”
“The house got sick of them being around,” Tanesha said.
“The house?” Fin asked raising his eyebrows.
“That is what I was told,” Tanesha said.
“By whom?” Fin asked.
“Delphie, the home’s owner,” Tanesha said.
“Huh,” Fin said. “She’d know. Why can Abi and I come here?”
“Abi can go where she likes,” Tanesha said. “You should know that. Gilfand, as well.”
“Me? Edie?” Fin asked.
“You are considered family,” Tanesha said. “Your sisters, as well. Mari will be here tomorrow.”
“Good,” Fin said. “That is very good. No more annoying fairy envoys.”
“Vying for your cakes and cookies,” Tanesha added to his statement.
“Very true,” Fin said. “I make no measure to hide that. Now …”
He nodded to the flashcards.
“Carry on,” Tanesha said.
They settled down to work.
Monday evening — 8:45 p.m.
“Finally,” Noelle said when Tanesha closed the door.
The kids laughed.
“What are you doing here, freak?” Nash asked.
“You need my help, jerk-face,” Katy said.
“Whoa,” Teddy said. “When did you start called Katy ‘freak’ and she calling you ‘jerk-face’?”
Nash and Katy turned to look at him.
“He started it,” Katy said.
“That is not very nice,” Teddy said to Nash.
Nash shook his head.
“He’s just mad because Nadia lives so far away,” Noelle said.
The kids looked at Nash, and he shrugged.
“Leave me alone,” Nash said with a sneer.
Katy ran across the room and hugged him. The other kids got up to hug him as well. They stayed up for a few minutes before falling over. They laughed.
When Nash finally got free, he pointed to Katy.
“Why are you here?” Nash asked.
“You can’t make a plan without me,” Katy said.
“I can too,” Nash said with a sneer.
“You need me to tell you where the booby traps are,” Katy said very slowly as if she were talking to her younger brothers.
Nash swallowed hard. He sneered at Katy.
“You know, Nadia misses you too,” Katy said. “You could say that it’s harder for her because she’s so beautiful. There are lots of men who want to be her beloved. She wants you.”
Nash blinked at the six year old girl.
“Sometimes, you really freak me out,” Nash said.
“Good,” Katy said with a grin. “Now, let’s get to work.”
Tink pulled the country map from her backpack. Nash and Teddy set up their computers. Charlie got out the topographical map for the region.
“Don’t we think that Auntie Alex will have all this worked out?” Ivy asked.
“She doesn’t have me,” Katy said with a nod. She pointed to Ivy. “Or you.”
Ivy’s hand instinctively went to her chest in a gesture of “Me?”
“Are you ready to stop pretending?” Katy asked.
The other kids watched in the interaction with intense interest. Ivy looked terrified. She looked around the room.
“It’s just us, Ivy,” Charlie said. “Why would you be afraid to be yourself around us?”
Ivy looked at him for a long moment.
“Okay, Pan,” Ivy said.
“Come sit by me,” Tink said.
Ivy crossed the room. Tink made space on the couch for the small girl.
“Ready now?” Nash said with a return of his irritability.
“Go through it,” Charlie said. “Start at the beginning.”
Nash nodded to Teddy. He got up and went to the board to explain the plane. For the next half hour, no one said anything. When Teddy stopped talking, he looked at Katy.
“Well?” Teddy asked.
“Let’s get to work,” Katy said.
“She scares the fuck out of me,” Nash said under his breath.
Katy grinned at him.
Tuesday afternoon — 3:45 p.m.
“So, you’ll never believe what Zeus said!” Ares said.
Nelson looked up from Mari’s sword the “Princess Blade.” Nelson had been working on the blade when Ares showed up. Nelson was standing next to his wide work table under the big hood.
“He did not believe that we could travel so far in such a short time,” Ares said.
“He was in the Sea of Amber for a few centuries,” Nelson said, looking back down at the blade.
Ares tipped his head back and laughed. He looked around the shop.
“This is amazing,” Ares said. “In my day, smithies were brutal disgusting places.”
He took a breath.
“How do you keep is so clear of gasses and dust?” Ares asked.
“That’s a vent hood,” Nelson said pointing to the black hood over his work table. “It draws air from the room and through the hood. There’s a dedicated chimney over the forge but this one takes care of the rest. It has heavy environmental pads on it to cover the smell of the smithy inside and outside. I get the pads cleaned every month or so, depending on how much I use it. There’s an air monitor system in the corner that I check once a month to make sure the particulates aren’t too high.”
“Vent hood,” Ares said the words and shook his head.
The God of War looked up at the large black metal hood that took up most of the center of the garage’s ceiling.
“Put your hand under it,” Nelson asked.
Ares gave him a distrusting look but complied.
“I can feel the air flow!” Ares giggled with glee.
Nelson grinned. Ares gave him a saucy look.
“No. I’ve told you this before,” Nelson said. “I’m not going to have sex with my new partner’s wife’s grandfather. That would be just wrong.”
“But I am Ares the God of War,” he said.
“You’re a nut case,” Nelson said under his breath. He gestured to the sword. “Now if you don’t mind …”
“What is wrong with the blade?” Ares asked.
“The sword itself is true to form and holds a point,” Nelson said. “So technically there is nothing ‘wrong’ with the blade.”
“Then what?” Ares asked.
“This jewel keeps falling off,” Nelson said. “I’ve done everything I can think of to reattach it. It says for a while and then falls off.”
“Have you cleared the magic from it?” Ares asked. “It is a fairy blade. It’s possible that the magic is crimped at that location.”
“I’ve done what I can, so far,” Nelson said. “In the middle of the night, I realized that I hadn’t checked the leveling at this spot. That’s what I’m checking right now. What would you do to clear off the magic?”
As if to keep safe, the Great Ares pulled his hands into himself and lifted a corner of his lip.
“It is a fairy blade,” Ares said with a sniff. “Ask them.”
Nelson chuckled. He set the blade down and went to a metal cabinet. His head was in the cabinet when he heard someone open the door to the garage. He scowled at Ares, who regularly forgot to close or lock doors. Nelson grabbed a soft cloth from the stack of them and his smallest level.
When he turned, a woman he’d never seen before was moving into the smithy. Ares was looking at the newcomer in the way a lion looks at a lamb ready for the slaughter. His clear delight at having a new human to destroy was written all over his face.
“Is there something I can do for you?” Nelson asked.
“Guy?” the woman asked, in heavily accented French. “You must be Guy because you look …”
“I go by Nelson,” he said. “Who are you?”
“I am your aunt,” the woman said. “Your father’s sister, Martine. Your aunt.”
Remembering that someone relative from the order was due in Denver, Nelson raised an eyebrow at her. He gauged her to be a few years older than his father. Her hair was cut short. She was a few inches shorter than Nelson but had a strong, wiry look. Her eyes were ice blue.
“What can I do for you?” Nelson asked.
He picked up the sword. She opened her mouth and then gasped.
“Is that?” Martine asked. “The ‘Fairy Princess.’”
Nelson looked down at the blade.
“And if it is?” Nelson asked.
“It’s … legendary,” Martine’s strong hand went to her chest. “I … It’s so beautiful. Incredible detailing. My god, the “Fairy Princess’ actually exists!”
As if she couldn’t stop herself, she reached out for the sword.
“Don’t touch!” Nelson said, quickly rotating the blade away from her.
Her hand brushed the hilt of the sword, and Nelson groaned.
Mari appeared. She was wearing her modern full fairy armor. She held a traditional long bow with an arrow ready and pointed at Martine’s head.
“You touched my sword,” Mari said.
Martine gasped and jumped back. Mari checked the room for intruders. When she got to him, Ares gave her a little wave. She shook her head at him and stashed her bow. She sneered at Martine and went to Nelson.
“Is this human bothering you?” Mari asked.
“She appears to be a relative,” Nelson said with a shrug.
Mari whipped a long curved blade from her belt.
“I’ll gut her for you,” Mari said.
“Whoa, Mari!” Nelson said. “Take it down a few notches.”
Mari mouthed the words and looked at him in confusion.
“We’ve talked about this,” Nelson said.
“Sorry, I forgot,” Mari said, and tucked the blade away.
She held her hand out.
“Princess Marigold of Queen Fand’s Queendom,” Mari said. “Isle of Man.”
“A fairy?” Martine gasped and stepped back.
“Oh now, you have to let me gut her,” Mari said.
Nelson tapped the blade against the table. A high pitched bell-like sound rang from the blade. Martine stopped moving. Ares started laughing hysterically. Mari looked at Nelson.
“I have no idea why she’s here,” Nelson said.
With her knife out, Mari walked around the woman.
“She wishes to kill you,” Mari said. “Some business about the ‘order.’ Why don’t you let me …?”
“No,” Nelson said.
“You are no fun,” Mari said.
“Says one who doesn’t every clean up her messes,” Nelson said.
Mari looked at little guilty but nodded.
Nelson pointed to Ares, and demanded, “Stop it.”
“The little fairy is hilarious!” Ares said.
Mari sniffed at the God. Nelson stopped the blade from ringing. Mari was putting her blade back when Martine took a breath.
“What just happened?” Martine said.
“Nothing,” Nelson said.
“You consort with fairies?” Martine asked.
Ares stepped forward and held out his hand in the manner in which Blane and Nelson had taught him.
“Hi,” he said. “I am Ares.”
Martine looked at the God’s hand and looked terrified. Nelson scowled at this Martine.
“You may as well shake his hand,” Nelson said. “He won’t eat you.”
“Not yet,” Ares said.
“He’s just learning his modern social cues,” Nelson said. He punched Ares in the shoulder to get him to stop laughing. “Just shake his hand.”
To her credit, Martine shook Ares’ hand.
“Why are you here?” Nelson asked. He set the Fairy Princess on the table. He nodded to Mari. “Princess Mari says that you are here to kill me.”
Martine took a step back.
“Why would you wish to kill a total stranger?” Nelson asked. “A relative, no less.”
“It’s the order,” Martine said mildly. “It must continue.”
Ares and Mari groaned in unison. Nelson raised an eyebrow to them.
“You really should …” Mari started.
“No,” Nelson said.
“What does the tiny fairy wish to do?” Martine said with a sniff.
“Don’t antagonize her,” Nelson said. “She’s ruthless by nature.”
Martine gave Mari an assessing look and fell silent. Nelson went back to look at the blade. Martine nodded to the sword.
“That yours?” Martine asked.
“I am a fairy princess,” Mari said. “Use your keen mind to work that out?”
“It’s said to have mythic properties,” Martine said.
“That sword?” Ares asked.
He walked over to the sword and looked at it. He shook his head.
“There are a lot stronger blades,” Ares said.
“Oh, and I guess you’re an expert,” Martine said.
“He’s the Greek God of War,” Nelson said, mildly.
Martine’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. She instinctively took a step backward.
“He had seen and reviewed every sword and weapon, at least once,” Nelson said. “How does this blade compare to others?”
Nelson held up the sword.
“It’s powerful but …” Ares said with an appraising nod. “Woman’s blade and …”
Nelson gave the sword to Mari. Her hand went on the grip. The sword emanated a bright, hot light. The air became stifling. Nelson’s clothing started to smoke. The overhead vent increased a notch for the increase in noxious chemicals released by the light.
Nelson grabbed the sword back from Mari. The light ended and the room descended into dark. It took everyone a moment to adjust.
“Well, that’s a different matter,” Ares said. “Isn’t it? Is that a property of the blade?”
“It was made for Princess Mari by our family on contract for a semi-deity,” Nelson said. “She’s not sure that he even knew that he had that gift. Although, we’ve looked up the record and it appears he was fairly ruthless.”
Nelson looked at Martine.
“He was killed by Shiva before they could wed,” Nelson said.
Martine blinked at Nelson.
“Yes, that Shiva,” Nelson said. “Now, you’re here to kill me? How were you planning to do that?”
Mari and Ares started laughing.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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