CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and SEVEN
Tuesday mid-morning — 10:15 a.m.
Edie stood in the Castle’s backyard with two fairies. The envoy from Queen Shanti’s queendom looked as if she was from South Asia, likely India. She had gleaming olive colored skin and straight black hair to her waist. She was wearing the black technical outfit Mari had helped to create. The envoy from Queen Áthas had long bright red hair that looked like something out of a fairy tale. Her light skin looked all the more pale next to a similar black outfit. Edie was dressed in a similar outfit with her long hair tucked back in a braid down her back.
The women were testing their new outfits before giving them to their fairy corps. They’d met so many times in the last year that they were as close to friends as fairies from other queendoms could possibly be.
Edie was the most powerful of the three. But Edie being Edie, she never went out of her way to show off. While they were clearly working, they were having a great time.
The other children at school, Jill brought her twins and Abi’s “twins” to the deck to watch the women practice sparring. Katy and Paddie were taking a “sick” day. Katy and Paddie wanted to play so Edie gave them similar outfits. Paddie Hargreaves had completely charmed the envoy from Queen Áthas. Whenever she had a chance, the envoy carried him on her hip while she fought Edie or the other envoy. Paddie thought that was hilarious.
The envoy from Queen Shanti’s queendom reached out to pick up Katy. But Katy was too excited by the sparring. Katy fought the envoy. Surprised, the envoy looked at Edie.
“She is no human child,” Edie said.
Katy zapped the envoy again. The envoy laughed with pure joy. The envoy’s laugh brought Fin out onto the deck.
“Katy will kick your ass,” Fin said.
“You’d know,” Edie said.
Fin laughed. With his laugh, Katy used her martial arts training to trip the envoy. The envoy fell onto her back. After a moment, the envoy was laughing and talking to Katy in some language Katy didn’t recognize. Intimidated, Katy ran back to Jill, who picked her up.
Paddie squirmed out of Queen Áthas’s envoy’s arms and ran to Jill. Jill picked him up too. The children buried their heads in Jill’s shoulders.
Edie held out her hand to help the envoy up. The envoy took her hand and was up off the ground.
“She is more than she looks,” the envoy pointed to Jill.
“She’s just a little girl,” Jill said.
The envoy looked at Edie, and Edie nodded. The fairies laughed again. Impulsively, Queen Shanti’s envoy hugged Edie. The envoy from Queen Áthas joined their hug.
“They seem really fond of each other,” Jill said.
“Shall we have tea?” Edie asked the other two.
“Sounds lovely,” the envoy from Queen Shanti said. The envoy from Queen Áthas nodded. Her red hair bounced up and down like a giant red ball on her back.
“We have cookies,” Jill said to the fairies. She kissed Paddie’s head and set him down. She kissed Katy’s head and set her down. Having spent time with a lot of fairies, Jill added, “Real human made cookies.”
“Oh yum,” the envoy from Queen Áthas said. “You are so lucky to live with all of these humans, Edie.”
“Don’t I know it,” Edie said with a grin.
With one arm on the shoulder of the envoy from Queen Áthas and another on the shoulder of the envoy from Queen Shanti, Edie guided the envoys up to the deck. Fin went inside to make tea and Jill, Katy, and Paddie went inside to get the cookies. When they came out, the fairy envoys were sitting together at the picnic table. Katy set down a tin of chocolate chip cookies and Paddie put down a tin filled with the special caramel-chocolate-chip-pecan cookies that were Fin’s favorite. Jill carried a tin with Edie’s favorite shortbread cookies inside. Fin returned with two pots of English tea, cream, and sugar.
For the next few minutes, the fairies sat in the sun, ate cookies, which they called “biscuits”, and drank their tea. They laughed at each other’s jokes and chatted about nothing. It was hard to believe that these fairy leaders were one the verge of war. Jill did her best to be pleasant and cheerful.
After a while, Edie cleared her throat.
“We must get down to business,” Edie said.
Jill went to get up, but Edie shook her head.
“I apologize but we need humans here to keep the energy level,” Edie said.
“It’s a terrible way to use you after you’ve been so kind, but we would appreciate your help,” said the envoy from Queen Áthas.
“If I can help,” Jill said with a nod.
Her twins were sound asleep in their outside play area. Katy scooted closer to Jill, and Paddie moved closer to Katy. Jill put her arm around the children.
Edie gave Jill a grateful smile before her face turned more neutral.
“Paddie?” Edie asked. “Would you mind if we used your sword?”
“I can’t give it to you,” Paddie said.
“That’s why we need your help,” Edie said evenly.
“Happy to help,” Paddie said.
“So adorable,” the envoys whispered to each other.
He hopped up from the picnic table bench. Standing a few feet away, he pulled out his wooden sword to reveal the Sword of Truth.
The envoys stiffened.
“That’s …” the envoy from Queen Shanti started.
“Where did you get that?” the envoy from Queen Áthas whispered.
The envoy from Queen Áthas’s reached out to the sword and a jolt of blue electricity jumped from the sword to her hand. She yelped and jerked her hand back. Her red hair stood on end until she caught her breath.
“Sorry,” Paddie said. “You can’t have it. It’s mine.”
“Where did he get the Sword of Truth?” the envoy from Queen Shanti said in a wary voice.
“Maughold,” Edie said.
“Maughold?” the envoy from Queen Áthas whispered. “Maughold had the Sword of Truth?”
“Who knew?” Edie asked.
The envoys nodded in agreement.
“Paddie returned from the Isle of Mann with the sword,” Jill said. “It took us a while to figure out what exactly he had.”
“I bet!” the envoy from Queen Áthas said.
“He thought it was just a shiny sword,” Jill said.
“Turns out Maughold is my mother’s youngest son,” Edie said. She sighed. “It’s a very long story. Maughold gave the sword to Paddie. Perses saw the sword, checked it for curses, and locked the sword to the child. No one can take it from him, likely until long after his death. It’s possible that the sword will be passed to Paddie’s children, but we don’t know that for certain. Suffice it to say, the sword picked her champion. Maughold was just the messenger.”
The envoys slowly nodded their heads.
“We need it now so that we may speak truthfully,” Edie said.
“We’re listening,” the envoy from Queen Shanti said.
“If anyone lies …”
“Including you?” the envoy from Queen Shanti asked.
“If anyone lies,” Edie started over, “including me, they will receive a shock.”
“That’s how the sword works,” the envoy from Queen Áthas said. “Incredible find, young man.”
“It’s my shiny sword,” Paddie said. He gave her a broad smile.
“Paddie has used it to help us in a number of occasions,” Edie said. “It’s saved a lot of lives.”
“And the wooden sword?” the envoy from Queen Áthas asked.
“It’s something Perses came up with,” Edie said.
“Then it is unbreakable,” the envoy from Queen Áthas said with a nod.
“Until Perses is older,” Jill said. “Perses is my father. It’s not like he’s going anywhere.”
The envoys gave another slow nod.
“What is it that you need to ask you that has you bringing out a Sword of Power?” the envoy from Queen Shanti asked.
“I want to know if you are ready for war,” Edie said.
“We are,” the envoy from Queen Shanti said. “We’ve been preparing since Queen Fand was returned to whole. Queen Shanti knew that Fand would want a war. We are prepared to take the entire queendom, if we have to.”
“We have plans to do just that,” the envoy from Queen Áthas said with finality. “I can assure you, Edie, your siblings, and the court, that we will incorporate you into our queendoms. We’re looking forward to Fin sharing his knowledge of the modern world to enrich our queendom.”
Fin snorted indignantly.
“And our fairies?” Fin asked.
“The worthy will be incorporated,” the envoy from Queen Áthas said.
“And the rest?” Jill asked.
The fairies looked at Jill as if she were a child. Jill’s face soured. She moved to get up when Edie put her hand on Jill’s thigh.
“There is always talk like this,” Edie said. “It’s not any different than your countries ‘war games.’ They tell us how many they will kill because they know that we will do the same.”
“Have done the same,” Fin said.
Jill’s eyes jerked to him in surprise. He nodded.
“We usually win these wars,” Fin said, with a shrug.
“You did not win the last one,” the envoy from Queen Áthas said.
“Only because your bat-shit-crazy-win-at-all-costs Queen pulled an asteroid down from the universe,” Fin said between clenched teeth. “If Abi and Gilfand hadn’t been there, the entire planet would have been destroyed. Is that what you want? A dead planet for no one to inhabit? Why don’t you move to Venus!”
Fin and the envoy from Queen Áthas locked eyes.
“We all lost that day,” the envoy from Queen Shanti said, mildly.
She nudged the envoy from Queen Áthas with her shoulder
The envoy from Queen Athas looked away from Fin. Sighing, she nodded her head and said, “Fair point.”
“There’s still a chance,” Edie said, softly. “We are envoys from three great nations. We can keep the peace. We have for all of this time!”
“My queen is the Queen of Peace,” the envoy from Queen Shanti said. “There is always a chance for peace.”
“There’s still a chance,” the envoy from the Queen of Áthas mumbled.
“Good,” Edie said. “That’s very good. We’ve had decades of peace and prosperity. There’s no reason for this not to continue.”
“Except that our Queens want a war,” the envoy from Queen Áthas said.
Unable to deny that fact, Edie raised an eyebrow and nodded.
“Right now, my husband is working with Abi to keep peace,” Jill said. “The Goddess of Love, Hedone, my father, and Gilfand are right now arguing for peace in Olympia. Let’s not jump the gun. We must put our faith in that process.”
The fairy envoys gave Jill a dejected look and leaned their heads on their hands. Jill smiled at Edie and she shrugged.
“Have a cookie,” Jill suggested, knowing the effects of human cookies on fairies. “You’ll feel better.”
“We may as well enjoy these moments while you still have them,” said the envoy from Queen Shanti.
“Jill is right,” Edie said. “There is nothing we can do now but wait.”
Nodding, the fairies each picked up a cookie. After a few moments of eating cookies and drinking tea, they were talking like old friends again.
“Paddie, you can put the sword away,” Jill said. She gave him a hug after he’d put the Sword of Truth away. “Thank you.”
“Can we go and watch cartoons?” Katy asked.
“I’ll take them,” Blane said, appearing at the door.
“Thanks!” Jill waved.
When she looked back, the fairies had nearly emptied the tin of cookies and seemed happy.
“What is that?” the envoy from Queen Áthas asked pointing to the hot tub.
“It’s a human thing,” Fin said. “It’s a tub of warm water, like a hot spring.”
“Is it nice?” the envoy from Queen Shanti asked, giving the hot tub a suspicious look.
“It’s lovely,” Fin said.
“Can we?” the envoy from Queen Áthas said.
“We just ask that you don’t go in naked,” Jill said. “For the neighbors, really. Otherwise, you are welcome to it.”
A moment after the words left her lips, the envoys were getting in the hot tub with ridiculously frilly swimsuits. Edie changed into her standard swimming suit. In a flash, the other adopted what Edie was wearing.
Jill grinned. With the babies asleep, Jill took out her book and went back to studying.
At the Altar of Life
Deep in the Marlowe Mine
Tired, dirty, and irritated, Jacob looked up at the ceiling of the chamber. He felt like he might never get out of this mine. The fairies had stopped speaking English some time ago. They were now arguing in some kind of gibberish.
He’d been around enough women to know that these fairy queens were no longer arguing about issues, but rather busy making fun of each other. Each woman was angry and vicious. Jacob felt like these rulers only allowed themselves the luxury of this craziness because they knew Abi was there to keep them from doing real harm.
Tired of the whole thing, Jacob decided to free the baby inside the Altar of Life.
While the fairies were busy putting each other down, Jacob began to use his psychokinetic power to lift the sandstone slabs that covered the entrance. He had moved three of the slabs before anyone realized what he was doing.
The queens began to bellow in whatever foreign language. At the same time, Abi spoke to Jacob inside his head.
“When the last one is moved, I’ll put a barrier around the queens,” Abi said. “You and I will need to help the child while they watch.”
“They aren’t going to like that,” Jacob said.
Inside his mind, he distinctly heard Abi sigh.
“They would never behave this way if Gilfand was here,” Abi said.
“Where’s Liban?” Jacob asked. “She has a stabilizing effect on the queen.”
Jacob’s eyes flicked to Abi and she appeared to nod. The last red sandstone piece seemed to be stuck to the floor with some kind of mortar. Jacob dropped down to his stomach to look at the mortar. He felt a presence near him and looked up to see Princess Liban. The queens were arguing so loudly now that he was sure it wasn’t one of them.
“What do you need?” Liban said, in his mind.
Jacob had learned from the fairy of South Asia, Queen Shanti, that she was Queen Shanti’s child. Abi and Gilfand had raised her as Queen Fand’s twin. Liban had the arresting beauty of Cleopatra. One drunken night, her nephew, Prince Fin, had told Jacob that Liban had been Cleopatra. That was why they’d never found the beloved queen’s remains.
He always stopped short when he saw her. Knowing the effect of her looks, she always gave him a soft smile. Liban and his wife, Jill, were fast friends after Liban had helped Jill “fix” a few things after his twins were born.
“Crowbar,” Jacob said, making an effort to speak in her mind.
He knew that he’d been successful when a crowbar appeared next to his hand. He felt another presence standing next to him and looked up to see Mari. The fairy had changed out of her usual five inch heels and silk to blue jeans and a work shirt. Her long hair was held back in a simple ponytail. Even though she looked like some kind of fairy Betty Boop, Jacob knew Mari to be tough and smart; trustworthy, which was more than he could say for any of the fairy queens. He smiled at Mari and she grinned back. She set a pair of work gloves next to Jacob’s hand. He nodded to her and put on the gloves.
Jacob pointed to two spots around the altar. Liban and her crowbar took one spot and Mari with another crowbar took the second spot.
Jacob held up his hand with three fingers showing. Three, two, one.
They pressed with all of their might. They pressed and pressed until finally this mortar cracked. They were able to lift the final sandstone two inches off the ground.
A flood of human spirits poured from the space under the sandstone piece knocking Jacob, Liban, and Mari onto their rears with a thud. The slab dropped back into place. The fairy queens gasped in horror. The fairies turned their faces away from the spirits.
The first to recover, Jacob hopped to his feet. He planted his feet into the earth and began sending the spirits to the other side of the veil. The room was almost cleared when a new flood of spirits came from under the sandstone slab. Surprised, Jacob looked to find Liban, Mari, and Abi using the crowbars to hold up the stone.
Jacob set to work.
He pressed, pushed, argued with, and bullied the souls to the other side where the souls were greeted with love. He focused his entire attention his task at hand. The fairy queens watched with open fascination. Jacob was dripping with sweat from the effort when the last soul came from the hole.
Exhausted, Jacob dropped to his knees. Abi appeared by his side. She gave him a bottle of clean water, which he drank hungrily. He fell back onto the cold stone floor for a few moments.
The fairy queens moved toward the hole where Abi, Mari, and Liban held open with their crowbars. In turn, the fairy queens attempted to move the stone with their magic. The sandstone didn’t budge.
“It has to be you,” Abi said to Jacob.
Nodding, Jacob leaned up onto one elbow. He wrenched the sandstone slab away from the hole. The stone clattered against the wall of the chamber. The exertion of the task took the last of his energy. He dropped back to the floor.
The fairy queens, Abi, Liban, and Mari crept up to the hole and looked inside.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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