CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and THIRTEEN
Sam stood in the Evergreen Cemetery next to the Fire of Hell vent. He watched Delphie introduce herself to his brother’s children. Maresol and the boys had stayed here while he and Delphie were taken into the Altar of Life cavern. The boys were laughing and smiling at Delphie. They seemed no worse for the time they’d spent sitting here.
“Do we need to stay?” Maresol asked.
“I …” Sam shook his head.
He was so overwhelmed by what had happened to his son that he could barely speak. He’d reached out to touch his son, his Jacob, the baby boy who’d almost killed his beloved wife, his friend, his colleague … He’d reached out to touch his son, and Jacob had crumbled to ash. His form had held together, but he was dust inside. His beautiful son was now cremation remains. Sam screamed or at least he thought he’d screamed.
When he blinked, Jacob — or what was left of him — was gone. He’d screamed out loud then. He knew that for certain. Something or another happened next, he would never remember what, and then he and Delphie were here.
Sam heaved a sigh. Maresol put a steadying hand on Sam’s arm. She caught Delphie’s eye.
“I think we should go home,” Maresol said.
“You can come to our house,” the eldest boy said.
Sam looked at Maresol and then at Delphie.
“No,” Sam said. “I don’t know how to say it but …”
Maresol looked into Sam’s eyes.
“If I go home,” Sam said in a near whisper, “I’ll never see my son again.”
“Then we stay,” Maresol said. “Boys?”
“I can stay,” the youngest said. “We’re on spring break.”
“I’ll stay,” the middle son said with a nod. He jerked a thumb to the eldest boy. “He has to go to work at noon.”
“I’d just have to leave a little before to shower and stuff,” the eldest boy said.
“What about your mother?” Maresol asked. “Won’t she worry.”
“I called her before we came,” the eldest boy said.
“She’s working,” the middle boy said. “She won’t think of us again until tonight.”
“Will we be done by tonight?” the youngest boy asked.
“I hope so,” Sam said.
Maresol and Delphie helped Sam to his spot. He sat down on the ground and crossed his legs. Delphie sat next to him and Maresol took up her seat on the other side of the circle.
“Why don’t I lead us in a little meditation?” Delphie asked. She glanced at Sam. When he didn’t respond, she continued. “Settle into a comfortable position. Breathe in. Hold your breath for a count of three and let it out.”
Delphie glanced at Sam. She saw tears running down his face. His shock was fading leaving only sorrow in its place.
“Let’s take another,” Delphie said.
Sam opened his eyes. Seeing her warm eyes on him, he gave her a soft smile and closed his eyes again.
He was immediately transported to a white room. The white was so white that it gleamed blindingly bright. He had the feeling that something moved around him. He caught a scent — some kind of vanilla. His mind transported to when he had stuck his nose into crevice in an old sequoia. Vanilla, old, earthy, real and full of life.
“Dad?” Sam heard Jacob’s voice. “I can feel my father.”
“He is here,” a man’s voice said. “He cannot see you or those that work on you. I’m not sure that he can see me.”
Out of the glare, a male form stepped forward. Sam’s eyes blinked and then blinked again, trying to resolve the image. The white of the room was simply too bright. Sam had the sense that this male creature was tall, heavy set without being fat. Sam could make out a full bushy beard and long curls. The man looked like something from Olympia. Sam dropped to a knee.
“Not with me, Master Samuel, never with me,” the man said.
Sam felt a thick arm help him to his feet.
“My son,” Sam said. “I heard my Jacob’s voice. Am I dead?”
“No, dear Samuel,” the man said. “You are very much alive. I am Asclepius. For lack of better words, I am your son’s doctor.”
Sam saw a flash of white teeth.
“Good Lord, you are a wonderfully human,” Asclepius said with a hearty laugh. “The woman you call ‘Abi’ told me that you were her favorite human. That is why you are here. It’s a real pleasure to make your acquaintance, Samuel Lipson.”
“You will have to come by the house some time,” Sam said. “We have bar-be-ques. Perses is a friend. Heather, I mean Hedone, is living with us now.”
“I will accept your invitation, sir,” Asclepius said. “Such a great honor.”
“Is my son dead?” Sam blurted out. “Am I in heaven?”
“You are not dead,” Asclepius said again. “Jacob is not dead. You are not in Heaven.”
“Where …?” Sam asked.
“Let’s call it Olympia,” Asclepius said.
Sam gave Asclepius a vague nod.
“Sir?” Asclepius asked.
“It doesn’t look like the others have said,” Sam said. “No grass or a playground or …”
Asclepius gave a hearty laugh.
“We don’t need those disguises with you, dear Samuel,” Asclepius said.
“My son?” Sam asked. “Jacob?”
“He is being rewoven,” Asclepius said.
“What do we think that means?” Sam asked.
Asclepius laughed so hard that Sam grinned.
“It means that Jacob is loved,” Asclepius said. “He will return to you in the form he had. For now, he is between the stage when you found him and where he will be.”
Something about Asclepius’s word made Sam gasp. The horror of seeing Jacob fall apart played out before his eyes. Sam dropped to his knees. Asclepius knelt down to be with Sam while he relived this horror.
“It’s my fault,” Sam whispered.
“It’s no one’s fault,” Asclepius said. “It is what happens to heroes, Sam. They experience great peril and because of their bravery, they call to them those who can give back to them what they’ve lost.”
Sam gave a vague nod.
“Can I see him?” Sam asked.
“Not yet,” Asclepius said. “I promise you this, Samuel Lipson, by the time the fairies are rewoven, you will have your Jacob back — physical whole and mentally well. Strong as ever.”
Sam gave a brave nod. Asclepius helped Sam to his feet again.
“Now, I called you here to help answer a few questions,” Asclepius said.
“Now, I called you here to help answer a few questions,” Asclepius said. “There is evidence of a tattoo — some kind of animal with a stick? It is scared into lower layers of the skin, but not visible on the surface. Should we put that back?”
“No,” Sam said. “He had it removed.”
“Very well,” Asclepius said. “He has something he calls a ‘pace maker’ in his heart. His heart can either be whole or returned to the state it was in.”
“Oh, I see,” Sam said. “Can you make it so that he won’t need the pace maker anymore?”
“Of course,” Asclepius said. “Is the device important?”
“Not if he doesn’t need it,” Sam said. “If he can live without it, please don’t put it back.”
“As you wish,” Asclepius said. “His shoulder?”
“It was a brutal injury,” Sam said.
“I see that,” Asclepius said. “Does he need it?”
“For what?” Sam asked.
“To prove himself?” Asclepius asked.
“No,” Sam said. “He doesn’t need it or the tear in his knee.”
“Ah, yes,” Asclepius said. “Those screws look brutal.”
“He tore it in high school,” Sam said. “I know that he would love to have it whole again.”
“Consider it done,” Asclepius said. “I believe that is the last of it.”
“Can I see him now?” Sam asked.
“I am afraid not. Yet.” Asclepius said. “Soon. You will see him soon. When he arrives, he will have a mark. It will look like a birth mark. It will reside on his neck, just at the hairline.”
“What is it?” Sam asked.
“It’s a talisman of sorts,” Asclepius said. “A mark of his re-creator.”
“Is there anything else I should know?” Sam asked.
“Be of good cheer, dear Sam,” Asclepius said. “Your son will return to you soon.”
“Thank you,” Sam said. “How do I thank those that are … Well I don’t know what they are doing.”
“You can thank them by being kind to the creature you call ‘Abi,’” Asclepius said.
“Oh, well, that’s pretty easy,” Sam said. “She’s a member of our household.”
“Then you have already done the work,” Asclepius said with a smile.
Asclepius put his hand on Sam’s shoulder.
“Before you go, would ask the Oracle who my mother is?” Asclepius asked. “I will go myself, but this way she has some time to think about it.”
“I will,” Sam said. He was in the middle of saying “Thank you” when he awoke with a start. He was sitting in the circle around the Fire of Hell.
“What is it?” Delphie asked.
“Jacob is fine,” Sam said with a nod. “I don’t really understand it but he is being re-created.”
“What does that mean?” Maresol asked.
“No idea,” Delphie said.
“I met a guy called ‘Asclepius’,” Sam said. “He asked me to ask Delphie who his mother was. He said he’d be here in a while with Jacob and hoped you could tell him.”
Delphie smiled at Sam and nodded.
“Who is Asclepius?” Maresol asked.
“He is the God of Medicine,” the middle boy said. “He’s the son of Apollo. Master healer and all round good guy.”
Delphie nodded in agreement.
“He’s expected to have been a real person,” the boy continued. “We had to pick a favorite Greek God in school. He was mine because I want to be a doctor like Mom.”
“I like Perses,” the youngest boy said. “He’s the God of Destruction. He’s a Titan too.”
Sam, Delphie, and Maresol grinned at the young boy.
“We should probably get back to meditating,” the eldest boy said.
“It will be over soon,” Delphie said.
The boys looked at Delphie and she smiled. She led them on another meditation and soon they were each praying for peace.
Wednesday morning — 6:15 a.m.
Tanesha came down the stairs from Jill’s loft. They were on the final weeks before school starting. She came down to wake up Fin. She needed to get him to ignore all of the fairy drama so that they could go buy books. She was about halfway down the stairs when she heard a woman’s laugh followed by the low murmur of Fin’s voice.
Tanesha stopped walking. She scowled when another woman giggled. Tanesha was pretty sure that she didn’t know either woman. She looked at her watch.
Had Fin entertained these women last night?
He was such a spoiled prince that she wouldn’t put him past him. After all, Abi was just out there fighting to save the world. Tanesha shook her head and continued down the steps and into the kitchen.
She flipped on the electric kettle at the end of the counter and rounded the corner to where the kitchen table was located. She stopped short of the table to assess what was going on.
She’d managed to sneak up on four fairies. Fin was sitting facing the kitchen and the fairies were sitting around him. The fairies were decked out for war. They were wearing skintight black outfits that clung to their curves. Right now, they were laughing at the beautiful and charming Prince Finegal.
Tanesha cleared her throat.
Surprised the fairies looked up at her. Fin gave her his cocky grin.
“Say hello to my granddaughter Tanesha,” Fin said.
Uncomfortable, Tanesha raised a hand in hello. The fairies were shockingly beautiful. Clearly high ranking soldiers, they were fit and strong looking. Their wide fairy eyes looked more intelligent than most of the fairies she’d met.
“Should I bring your children down?” Tanesha gave him a pointed look.
As if she’d accused him outright, he put his hand to his chest in a “Me?” gesture. Tanesha scowled.
“Tanesha thinks we had a carnal night last night,” Fin said to the group of women.
“We did!” the woman sitting at the end of the table said.
Fin gestured to the tins of cookies on the table. Empty gallon sized freeze bags littered the table. The plate Sandy used for cake was empty, as were the foil wrapped extra cakes Sandy kept tucked away in the freezer for special occasions. Tanesha groaned. The fairies had eaten every sweet thing they’d prepared and frozen. Given that Sandy loved to bake, that was no small feat.
The female fairies grinned at Tanesha. High on sugar, their big wide eyes made them look like some kind of bizarre owl.
“Wow,” was about all Tanesha could manage.
“We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to be here,” the fairies said.
“Fairies don’t eat actual food,” Fin said. “Only humans can make food.”
“What do fairies eat?” Tanesha asked. “The dreams of other humans?”
The fairies laughed like it was the funniest thing anyone had every said.
“I’ve seen you eat,” Tanesha said. “I’ve eaten food you’ve made!”
“I am the eldest,” Fin said. “My father was human when I was conceived. He was converted before I was born, which makes me a full-blooded fairy.”
“But you’re human enough to cook?” Tanesha asked.
“I can cook on the grill,” Fin said. Looking at the fairies, he added, “The box of fire on the porch. We had hamburgers last night.”
The fairies visibly started licking their lips. Even mildly grossed out, Tanesha couldn’t help but grin.
“You went to gourmet cooking school,” Tanesha said.
“You have never seen me bake anything,” Fin said.
“That’s because S …” Tanesha started. She scowled. “You’re saying you cannot bake?”
“I cannot.” Fin shook his head.
“This isn’t one of your excuses to cover up how lazy you are,” Tanesha asked.
The fairies gasped at Tanesha’s rudeness. Fin shook his head at them.
“We are honest with each other,” Fin said. “Tanesha and I do not stand on formality.”
“I’m your great-granddaughter, by the way,” Tanesha blurted out.
The fairies nodded their heads as if it mattered.
“I can put food together,” Fin said. “I cannot do alchemy without magic.”
“Magical food is awful,” the fairy on the end said with a pout.
The other two fairies nodded.
“This was wonderful,” the fairy sitting across from Fin said.
“We were up all night to see if the fairy Queendoms were going to war,” Fin said.
“Any idea if the world is going to end today?” Tanesha asked.
“Abi has managed to quell rage of the Fairy Queens,” Fin said.
“So no war,” Tanesha said.
The fairies nodded in near unison.
“What will you do with yourselves now?” Tanesha asked.
“Good question,” Fin said. “We were just talking about the fairies joining us at school or learning about computing. We must be ready to enter the modern world.”
Unable to think of a response, Tanesha simply blinked at Fin.
“I was being sarcastic,” Tanesha said after a moment.
“Oh!” the fairy nearest Tanesha said. “I’ve heard of sarcasm. How does it work?”
Tanesha simply shook her head while Fin laughed.
“Where is Edie?” Tanesha said.
“She is speaking with the fairy armies,” Fin said. He glanced at Tanesha. “She volunteered.”
“She gets to eat like this all the time,” the fairy sitting nearest to Tanesha said.
Tanesha gave the fairy a vague nod and turned her attention back to Fin.
“We need to get books,” Tanesha said. “They ran out last year because you thought we had enough time.”
She mouthed “lazy.”
“The store doesn’t open until 9 am,” Fin said. “We have time to eat breakfast.”
Tanesha gave him a side-ways look.
“You mean, we have time for me to make you breakfast,” Tanesha said.
“Oh, would you mind?” Fin asked.
“Seriously?” Tanesha asked.
“Another great use of sarcasm,” Fin said.
Tanesha shook her head a bit and raised her shoulders at Fin.
“My great-granddaughter is wondering ‘what the hell I am doing?’” He said the question in an imitation of Tanesha’s voice. “Dear great-granddaughter, the fairy queens have decided to run their queendoms as a sisterhood. We …” He gestured to the other fairies at the table. “ … are no longer enemies.”
“How will you be a Prince then?” Tanesha asked.
“Male children are rare in the fairy world,” the fairy sitting on the end explained. “Only Queen Fand has been able to have any.”
“Gilfand is around,” the fairy nearest Tanesha said.
“He has sons,” Tanesha said.
The female fairies nodded.
“We usually breed with humans,” the fairy sitting across from Fin said. “Your mother’s mother is the only one who has bred with an archangel.”
“Not for lack of trying,” the fairy across from Fin said. The other fairies laughed.
Tanesha held up her hands.
“You know what?” Tanesha asked. “I don’t want to know. Not that you’re not fascinating, but if I’m going to get to school while they still have books, and make your breakfast, I can’t stand here listening to your interesting stories.”
The fairies fell silent.
“Pancakes?” Tanesha asked.
“What are those?” the fairy on the end asked.
“Are they like those cakes?” the fairy across from Fin asked.
“Cakes were my favorite,” the fairy nearest Tanesha said.
Tanesha glanced at Fin.
“Pancakes would be lovely,” Fin said. “With bananas? Blueberrys?”
“Sure,” Tanesha said.
Shaking her head, Tanesha went into the kitchen and started making breakfast. Over her movements, she heard the fairies peppering Fin with questions. If she hadn’t felt so pressured by the upcoming start of school, she would have found them quite charming.
Behind her, she heard the fairies gasp. Tanesha turned around to see Honey roll into the room with Maggie on her lap.
“What are they?” the fairy on the end asked.
Tanesha was about to step in when Honey spoke up. Off the hook as human entertainment, Tanesha focused in on making breakfast. After a few minutes, she felt more than saw Honey come in to kitchen and make a pot of coffee. They sent each other humorous glances before Honey zoomed off after Maggie.
“At least there won’t be a world war,” Tanesha said softly.
She glanced at the fairies and started cooking the pancakes.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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