CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and FIVE
Tuesday early morning — 3:55 a.m.
When Claire Martins went to bed last night, she could have sworn that she didn’t have anyone scheduled for a fitting this morning. Thank God she’d checked her phone this morning. A new client would arrive four in the morning. Grateful that she was used to the early hour, Claire got dressed, made coffee, and opened her studio. There was a knock on the door at four o’clock on the dot.
Claire opened the door to find a medium tall woman. Her eyes were wide and large. The strangest thing was that her eyelashes were at least an inch long. The woman’s mouth was full and her nose small. She had waist length hair that was perfectly curled. This woman had the distinct smell of sweet spices, like Chai. She was wearing a maroon silk suit and matching heels. The woman seemed fit, almost too muscular, and still she had wide hips and large breasts. Claire blinked.
The woman looked like a doll. Claire’s eyes scanned the woman’s flawless dark skin to see if she could pick up plastic surgery scars.
Unsure of what to say, Claire stepped back and the woman entered her studio. The woman strode into the studio and started looking around.
“I’m Claire,” she said near the door.
“Yes,” the woman said.
“How did you …” Claire started. Uncomfortable with the woman’s cool review of her space, she added, “Where …?”
The woman spun in place and grabbed Claire’s wrist. The woman turned it over to show Claire’s tattoo of a five fingered pawprint.
“You are marked by a dragon.” The woman’s French was fluent but had an accent that Claire could not place.
“She … I mean, I …” Claire started. “My husband’s …”
The woman gave Claire such an intense look that Claire felt like she was receiving some kind of medical scan. The woman blinked.
“Who are you?” Claire asked.
“I am Princess Mari,” the woman said.
“Princess,” Claire said and curtsied.
Claire looked up to find Mari appraising her. As if she were a wet dog, Claire instinctively shook herself. Mari grinned, and Claire’s mouth dropped open in surprised.
“That accent!” Claire said. “It’s from the Isle of Mann.”
“I was born and bred there,” Mari said.
“You are a fairy!” Claire said. She instinctively touched the braid down her back. “I’ve never met a fairy.”
“Daughter of Queen Fand and Manannán,” Mari said.
“Manannán.” Claire raised an eyebrow at his name.
“You know my father?” Mari asked.
“Stories, legends,” Claire said with a nod. “Why are you here? What can I do for you Princess Mari?”
“I am extremely fond of Mitzi Delgado,” Mari said.
“Sissy,” Claire whispered.
Mari gave Claire a nod.
“I hadn’t left my mother’s Queendom in more than a thousand human years,” Mari said.
Mari’s eyes flicked to Claire. The seamstress nodded.
“Sissy has been helping me with …” Mari waved her hands to indicate the world outside. “I didn’t think I would miss her so much, but … She has been very selfless in her assistance. She’s never asked for anything except my friendship.”
“I had to be certain that she was safe,” Mari said. “She is my friend.”
Mari looked around the room.
“Possibly my only friend,” Mari said, softly.
The idea that Mari would have only one friend was so abhorrent to Claire that the seamstress forgot her fear. Claire hugged the fairy close.
“Now you have two,” Claire said with a kiss on Mari’s cheek.
“The fairy Queendoms are preparing for war,” Mari said. “I am the youngest adult child of Queen Fand. My brother, Finegal, is the heir to the throne. I am expendable.”
“Expendable?” Claire asked. “Surely, not to your mother.”
“It is simply unlikely that I will survive,” Mari said. “I needed to be sure that my friend will be safe, even if I don’t … return.”
“I understand,” Claire said.
The women looked at each other for a moment.
“You do know that I’ve designed clothing with body armor in it,” Claire said. “A lot, actually. Formal wear for royalty and their guards. Military wear for my husband’s children. They are in the military.”
Mari blinked at her.
“I don’t know if it will help with your war, but I also don’t know that it won’t,” Claire said with a lift of her shoulder.
Mari gave Claire a genuinely warm look. Claire tucked her arm through Mari’s and steered her toward a table filled with catalogs and magazines.
“Let’s have some coffee and talk about what you need,” Claire said. “My husband does our cooking so we don’t have …”
“I can get us anything we want,” Mari said. “What would you like?”
“I don’t wish to steal from my neighbors,” Claire said. “Like myself, they are trying to make a go in this world.”
“When a fairy takes something, she leaves something in return. It is the law,” Mari said. “What does the baker on the corner want most?”
Claire thought for a moment.
“A grandchild,” Claire said, with a nod.
Mari nodded. With her nod, warm chocolate croissants appeared in front of them. Claire clapped her hands together.
“Would you like some café?” Claire asked. “Or maybe some chai?”
“Chai?” Mari grimaced. “Never drink the stuff. Espresso is great.”
Claire nodded. She quickly made them each an espresso. When she returned to the table, she set one down in front of Mari.
“Is Mari your full name?” Claire asked.
“Marigold is my full name,” Mari said. “After my father’s first human wife. She died before he met my mother. I don’t have a second name.”
“Most royalty don’t.” Claire nodded.
Mari nodded and took a sip of her espresso.
“And your body,” Claire said.
“You mean why is it so …?” Mari fluffed up her breasts with her hands. She leaned in and smiled. “Have you met my sister, Edie?”
“Edie is a fairy too?” Claire asked.
“I had no idea,” Claire said. “She helped us with our children when we were visiting my husband’s eldest children. I have met her brother, Finegal, as well. He is very …”
Claire cupped a hand and put it on her arms to indicate that Fin was very muscular.
“He is heir to the throne?” Claire asked.
“And Edie?” Claire asked.
“Forgotten,” Mari said, with a shrug. “Pushed aside because she is powerful.”
“Forgotten,” Claire said, softly taking a drink of her espresso.
“We are what we are,” Mari said, picking up the thread of the conversation. “Although, Fin is a little taller here than he is at home. He wanted to look more American.”
“And you?” Claire asked.
“Do I look American?” Mari asked.
Laughing, Claire shook her head and took a sip of her café. Mari smiled.
“I can manipulate how I look. I can grow larger or smaller. But I cannot change my basic shape,” Mari said. “I am shaped this way so that I can be married off to another powerful monarchy. Basically, I’m royal property to be traded to the highest bidder.”
Claire’s eyes echoed her compassion for Mari’s position. Mari’s eyes were focused on her cup. If she noticed Claire’s caring, she did react in anyway.
“It hasn’t happened yet because mom was … not well for a while,” Mari sighed. “I didn’t leave the Queendom for a long time because I was afraid of … Well, I don’t know what. I have a boyfriend now. Completely inappropriate. My mother doesn’t know, and … She would kill me or him. More likely him. Maybe.”
Mari nodded to her cup.
“I will die before I am properly wed. That’s probably a good thing,” Mari said. She sighed. Looking up, Mari continued with Claire’s question. “My brother is muscular, now he’s taller.”
“Why do you ask?” Mari asked.
“You were talking about war,” Claire said. “I wondered if you could make your body into some kind of armor.”
Mari tipped her head to the side and thought about it.
“What?” Claire asked.
“That’s a good idea,” Mari said. “We could all do that.”
“You could,” Claire said. “But won’t the other fairies too?”
Mari gave an acquiescing nod.
“Let’s find something you can wear that will be useful and beautiful,” Claire said. “We will make it together. If you decide to make your skin impermeable, then this will be additional help.”
Mari looked at Claire for a long time before nodding. They spent the next hour or so looking through clothing catalogs and laughing. When Sissy came down for school, Mari was long gone. Sissy smelled the air.
“Was my friend, Mari, here?” Sissy asked, brightly.
Claire nodded and smiled.
“Was she okay?” Sissy asked. “She can be kind of a jerk when she feels insecure. She’s really very sweet. Her mother is crazy and …”
“Tell me everything!” Sissy said.
Tuesday early morning — 5:55 a.m.
“I am sorry,” Edie said in a soft voice to Jill. “You have no idea how much I’d rather stay here and …”
Edie’s voice caught. Jill put her hand on Edie’s arm. They walked down the long stairwell from the attic loft to the kitchen. Stepping into the kitchen, they came upon Fin swinging a broad sword in swooping circles.
Edie nodded her head to Fin.
“Would you mind taking that outside?” Jill asked. “Remember, no weapons in the house?”
Fin gave her a vaguely amused look and kept swinging his sword. Edie snapped her fingers and he was gone.
“He’s not going to be happy with …” Jill started.
“You know, I don’t think that’s …” Fin said as he came through the back door.
“Brother, you’re being very rude,” Edie said.
“I am Prince Finegal!” Fin said.
Edie and Jill stopped moving and stared at him. He swung his sword a few times to prove his prince-ness.
“You get so weird when Abi’s gone,” Edie said, finally. “You don’t have to pretend with us.”
Shocked, Fin looked at Edie for a long moment, before nodding.
“I do,” Fin said, with a sigh.
The sword disappeared. Fin dropped down into a chair at the kitchen table. He looked miserable. Edie put her arm on his shoulder.
“We have been recalled to the Queendom,” Edie said.
Fin dropped his forehead to the table. His head hit with a thunk.
“For war?” Jill asked, her face reflecting her disbelief.
Fin nodded his head against the table.
“There’s a tension between the realms,” Edie said. “It erupts into warfare every few million years or so. We go to war. Fairies die for no real reason. We haven’t had a war in a long time.”
“What does it mean when the fairies go to war?” Jill asked.
“The last time, one of the Queen’s pulled an asteroid from space,” Edie said.
“Killed the dinosaurs,” Fin said.
“Oh, I see,” Jill said. “Why is war an option now?”
“Mother’s not cursed anymore,” Fin said into the table. “That’s why this is happening.”
“Making up for lost time,” Edie said.
It sounded like Fin was crying. Edie went to put her hand on his shoulder.
“Fin had been ordered to disown Abi and kill their children,” Edie said with a nod. She leaned down to Fin’s level. “We’ve already decided not to do that, right?”
The only sound was Fin’s sobbing.
“He’s distraught,” Edie said.
“Why would Fin have to kill his children?” Jill asked. “Disown Abi?”
“Oh,” Edie sighed. “It’s a long story. Abi and I have been working with the other Fairy Queens to insure peace. Our mother believes that Abi has betrayed her.”
“Again.” Fin’s miserable voice came from the table.
“Again,” Edie said.
“I see,” Jill said.
“I can’t see anything but stupidity and hopelessness,” Fin said. He sat up. “I have no idea what to do.”
“Your mother was cursed for a long time,” Jill said.
“The fairy Queendoms were peaceful for thousands of years,” Edie said.
“Now, she’s back together again and she wants her war,” Jill said.
“We are her children,” Fin said, miserably. “We must comply with her wishes.”
“So you plan to kill Zoe?” Jill asked about Fin’s infant daughter.
“Zaidy, too,” Fin said.
“The Queen no longer remembers that Zaidy is her child,” Edie said.
“Ah,” Jill said.
“Ah?” Fin asked.
The fairies turned to look at Jill.
“Your mother’s lost her mind,” Jill said. “If you leave Zoe and Zaidy here, she will never know.”
“Yes, she will,” Fin said. “She just has to smell them!”
“Fairies can tell other fairies by their smell,” Edie said conspiratorially.
“Why would you mother ever come here?” Jill asked. “She’ll be busy playing politics. She’ll never know that Zoe, Zaidy, Yvonne, and Tanesha live here.”
Fin and Edie gave Jill their full attention. Edie started to nod first.
“Send Ne Ne here,” Jill said. “We can use the babysitting help. She and Tanesha need to sort some issues out. The Queen won’t miss her.”
“What about Mari?” Fin asked.
“What about Mari?” Jill repeated the question.
“No war is complete unless the queens each lose a child,” Edie said. “Mari is the designated child this time.”
Jill snorted in disgust. Edie and Fin nodded at her distaste.
“We have to figure out a way to not let that happen,” Jill said.
“How?” Fin asked. His voice reflected his misery.
“I don’t know,” Jill said, with a shrug. “Does Queen Fand always get what she wants?”
Fin and Edie nodded.
“Mommy!” Katy called from the loft upstairs.
“Always?” Jill asked.
Fin and Edie looked at each other. They shook their head.
“There you go,” Jill said. “We just have to figure out how to stop Queen Fand’s war. Has it happened before?”
“Sure,” Edie said. “The fairy queens hate each other. They always want to destroy each other.”
“Mommy!” Katy called, again.
“I have to go,” Jill said. “I’d encourage you two to think long and hard about this. War is always the wrong thing to do. Your sister’s life is too important for her mother to throw it away for no real reason. If you can stop this, it is your duty to do so.”
Jill moved toward the stairwell.
“Think,” Jill said, before she disappeared up the stairs.
Edie looked at Fin for a long moment.
“Come on,” Edie said. “Let’s go to your apartment and talk.”
Nodding, Fin slunk after her.
Hedone stood in front of a wide wooden front door. The house beyond was beautiful and modern. She had come here often when she was a child. The owner had loved her completely, no matter what anyone said about her. She’d often hidden here when she couldn’t handle her life anymore. This man had loved her through many dark days.
Even though she had a key, she knocked on the door. This was the first time she was visiting as a Goddess. The door was opened by a servant. The woman bowed deeply and stepped back.
Hedone heard arguing from the living room. She pointed in the direction of a loud male voice followed by a female response.
“Lord Perses,” the servant said in a soft tone. “Athena.”
“Apollo?” Hedone asked. “Artemis?”
“Drinking,” the servant said, slyly. “Not yet drunk.”
“Hera’s not here?” Hedone asked.
“She’s in the garden with Orion,” the servant said. “Shall I tell her you are here?”
Hedone scowled when the servant bowed again. As Heather, she would never have put up with it. As Hedone, it set her teeth on edge. Not so long ago, she was a low level “half-breed.” All of this fawning started after her father screwed up.
“Ma’am,” the servant asked from a bowed position.
“Please do,” Hedone said. “I’ll see myself in.”
“Watch your six, ma’am,” the servant said. “Lord Perses is in rare form.”
Hedone chuckled. She walked down a hallway and into the living room. For a moment, they didn’t see her. Perses was standing against the wall. He was so agitated that he shifted back and forth as if he was going to attack or flee at any moment. Athena held an open book in one hand. Her other hand’s index finger punctuated each point she made as she read out loud to Perses.
Apollo and Artemis were slumped on couches set at right angles. Apollo was throwing an apple in the air in rhythm to Athena’s pointed finger. Artemis was laughing at her twin. In spite of the servant’s warning, the twins didn’t seem nearly as drunk as they usually were at these event. Her host was standing with his back to the room as he poured water into a hand blown glass. He spun in place to respond to Athena when he saw Hedone.
“Hedone!” Ares, the God of War, exclaimed.
Hedone flushed in equal parts of joy and embarrassment. Her grandfather rushed to her and held her tight. She never felt more loved than when this horribly complex God wrapped himself around her. He kissed both cheeks before looking deep into her face.
“How is Blane?” Ares asked. “Wyn and Mac? Tink?”
“Fine, good, everyone is good,” Hedone said. “They are looking forward to seeing you again in the spring.”
“I was sorry to hear about Chet,” Ares said. “The war within …”
“ … is oft not won, no matter the courage of the one who fights it,” Hedone finished his often stated opinion.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.