CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and TWELVE
“Where’s my mother?” Jacob felt the question rise inside his very soul.
He jerked awake and tried to sit up. He was held in place. He tried to fight it for a moment before remembering that Hedone had told him to lie still.
She had also told him that he was blindfolded. Opening his eyes, he could see light through what seemed to be loose fabric covering his eyes. He tried to put his hand to his eyes but was unable.
What felt like a small hand slipped into his. The hand was warm, felt kind, yet he heard no sound.
Hedone had told him that he was being attended by cherubim. He tried to remember what he knew of cherubim and came up with nothing.
“Hello?” Jacob tried to say. “Are you there?”
He felt his mouth move. He felt his tongue shift inside his mouth. He couldn’t hear anything.
Had he said anything?
Had he lost his hearing?
“I know that you are here,” Jacob said. “I am wondering why my mother hasn’t come to see me. Not here or in the cave. Where is my mother? She is usually here. She is usually with me. She is …”
Jacob had the feeling that he was underwater or maybe in water.
His mind shifted to one of those science fiction movies where people were kept in solution so that electricity could be harvested off their bodies.
He panicked and started to move.
Were his organs going to be harvested?
Was he stuck inside some video game reality?
The more he struggled, the more stuck he felt.
Where was Hedone? Where was his mother?
He felt a cold hand on his toes. The hand lightly touched his knee. The hand grabbed his hand and held it tight. This hand was big and strong.
“Your mother cannot be here, young Jacob,” a man said.
The man’s voice was familiar. Jacob was certain he’d heard it before in some feverish dream or hallucination.
Jacob tried to see if he could pick up the smell of the man. Nothing.
Was the man real?
The man squeezed his hand again.
“Who are you?” Jacob dared to whisper.
“I am Asclepius,” the man said. His hand let go of Jacob’s. “My father is Apollo. My mother is not spoken of, even I don’t know why. Hedone has promised me that she will ask an Oracle she knows. She says that the Oracle lives with you?
“Delphie,” Jacob said.
“I love that she took this name,” Asclepius said. “I remember the original Oracle at Delphi. She was an incredible woman. Most who followed after her were charlatans. I am excited to meet this descendent.”
“Are you a God?” Jacob asked.
“I am the God of Healing and Medicine or so they say,” Asclepius said. “All I can tell you is that, as the son of such a great and loved God, I was given every advantage. I saw a lot of suffering and wished to ease this suffering. I was able to use my position to learn about healing and create the field of medicine. My privilege opened doors for me that were available to very few. I made every effort to use them to heal.”
“Why?” The moment Jacob said the word pain shot through him.
The hand grabbed Jacob’s again.
“Steady,” Asclepius whispered. “Breathe.”
“Talk to me,” Jacob said. “It helps with the pain.”
“Yes,” Asclepius said. He was silent for a moment before sighing. “Why do anything, young Jacob Marlowe? You know this more than most.”
“Not …” Jacob panted through his pain. “ …an …”
He was unable to finish.
“You’re right,” Asclepius said with what sounded like a laugh. “It is not an answer. I’m not sure why, I guess. It is who I am. How can a God of War have a God of Healing as a son? I don’t know. But it is what happened.”
“I will tell you that I saw a need,” Asclepius said. “I saw what I could do. I saw no reason not to do it. And so I did.”
Jacob didn’t say anything for fear that if he opened his mouth, he would scream in pain.
“We are not so different, you and me,” Asclepius said.
“You … old,” Jacob said, trying to make a joke.
To his credit, Asclepius laughed heartily.
“Please,” Jacob grunted, “talk.”
“Let’s see,” Asclepius said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been around humans. I forget how to make this kind of conversation and how enjoyable they are. So let me see …”
“My daughter, Hygieia, has been friends with Hedone since a day or so after they were both born,” Asclepius said. “They were friends with the Charities. You’ve probably heard about them.”
“Bitches,” Jacob said.
“Female dogs?” Asclepius asked, his voice rising with confusion.
“Mean,” Jacob grunted.
“There’s truth there,” Asclepius said. “Bitches … huh. I’d forgotten that this was something humans said.”
Jacob felt a hand on his shoulder.
“I am surprised that I like you as much as Hedone said,” Asclepius said.
“What … expect?” Jacob struggled to say.
“Good question,” Asclepius said. “More ego, I guess. More ‘I’m the King of the Mountain.’ For one who has accomplished so much, you are remarkably interesting and enjoyable to be around.”
Jacob laughed and then screamed in pain.
“Easy,” Asclepius said in a soft, nurturing voice. “Easy.”
The pain eased and Jacob closed his mouth.
“Shall I put you out?” Asclepius asked.
“No,” Jacob asked. “Please. My … mother?”
“Celia?” Asclepius asked. “Hedone told me about her.”
“She cannot be here because she cannot,” Asclepius said. “She could not go in the cave.”
“Why?” Jacob asked.
“You know the Mother of the Earth?” Asclepius asked. “Hedone said that you call her ‘Abi’?”
“Your mother cannot be around this creature,” Asclepius said.
“Why?” Jacob asked.
His body seized with pain. His mouth opened and he bellowed with pain. When the pain eased, Asclepius helped him drink some water and lie back.
“I will answer one more question and then I am putting you to sleep,” Asclepius said. “What would you like to know?”
Jacob thought for a long moment.
“Cherubim,” Jacob said. “Why can’t I …”
Jacob pointed to his ears and his mouth.
“Just the way it is, my son,” Asclepius said. He put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “They are here at the request of this ‘Abi.’ They are of the constructors of this planet and all that is upon it and within it. They made all life on this planet and beyond. They’ve made you once and will make you again.”
“But …” Jacob started to ask. He fell sound asleep.
Deep in the Marlowe Mine
Altar of Life
After taking Sam and Delphie to the surface, Liban and Mari migrated to the vent in which the fourth fairy queen came from. Before them, Abi was talking to the four fairy queens.
Abi had been talking since before Sam had asked to go to the surface.
Abi had been talking since long after they’d returned from the surface.
In fact, Abi had been talking a long, long time.
As if it were some fascinating drama, Mari and Liban couldn’t take their eyes off the fairies and Abi.
Mari had never seen her mother sit still for so long. In fact, Mari had never seen her mother let anyone talk for this long. Not wanting to take her eyes off the strange sight, she quickly glanced at Liban.
“Do you speak ancient fairy?” Mari asked in a low voice as to not interrupt. Mari raised her eyebrows.
“Of course,” Liban said. “Don’t you?”
Mari nodded. They watched in silence for another long moment.
“Do you understand what’s being said?” Mari asked.
Liban gave Mari a searching look. After a moment, Liban shook her head. Catching the movement out of the corner of her eye, Mari turned to look at Liban.
“Not a word,” Liban said, slowly.
“Oh good,” Mari said. “Me, neither.”
They both laughed nervously. Falling silent, they kept watch on this strange sight.
“So …” Mari glanced at Liban again. “You think it’s a spell?”
Liban didn’t say anything for a moment. Mari looked at her.
“If that’s not a spell, I don’t know what is,” Liban said.
Mari grinned at Liban.
“Maybe not a spell, per se …” Mari said.
They watched for another long while in silence.
“No,” Liban said, turning her attention to Mari. “That’s a spell.”
“A weaving spell,” Mari said. “At least that’s what I thought.”
“A reweaving,” Liban said.
“Right,” Mari said. “That’s exactly right.”
Liban nodded. After a moment, Liban touched Mari’s arm.
“Shall we leave them to it?” Liban asked.
“What did you have in mind?” Mari asked.
Liban grinned. She took Mari’s arm and they left the Altar of Life, Abi, and the fairy queens.
Wednesday morning — 5:15 a.m.
“They’re already awake!” Paddie said.
Paddie pointed to the light that was on in the window of his room under the house eaves. He was perched in Ares’s arms. They were standing on the sidewalk outside of the house.
“How come we didn’t come back when we left?” Katy asked. She was sitting in her grandfather’s arms. “You said no one would know!”
“Good question,” Perses said. “Let’s try again.”
They were in Olympia for second before they returned to the sidewalk outside the house.
“Are there charms on the house?” Ares asked Perses.
“Of course there are charms on the house,” Perses said with a snort. “What do you think I’m doing here?”
“I meant no offense,” Ares said.
Perses muttered a few words and a blue puff of steam came off the house. Perses cursed.
“What matter of madness is that?” Ares asked.
“Blue fairy,” Perses said.
“The what?” Ares asked.
“She’s really blue,” Katy said. “I thought maybe she might be just kind of blue, but she’s about as blue as you could get.”
Katy nodded. Ares furrowed his brow.
“She’s obsessed with my Uncle John,” Paddie said. “Auntie Alex and Uncle Max too. Ob-sessed.”
“You think your Uncles or Aunt might be in the house?” Perses asked Paddie.
“I don’t know,” Paddie said. “Daddy’s in Africa. We talked to him last night before bed. Auntie Alex, too.”
Katy nodded but when Perses groaned. They turned to look at him.
“You said you wanted to meet them,” Perses said, under his breath.
Perses snapped his fingers and his comfortable Olympian clothing changed to jeans, a T-shirt, and a leather jacket. He nodded to Ares and the God of War was dressed in a similar outfit.
“Let me do the talking,” Perses said. He turned to Paddie, “Who are he?”
“He’s your friend from Olympia,” Paddie said with a blink of his big eyes.
“We don’t tell people about Olympia, Paddie,” Katy said in a low voice.
“Oh,” Paddie said quickly. “Then who are you?”
“He’s my friend,” Perses said. “You called me last night, and I picked you up. I didn’t want to wake Paddie’s mom, so you came with us.”
“They will believe this?” Ares asked.
“Not this one,” Perses said.
“Why not tell him the truth?” Ares asked.
Perses sighed and walked up the pathway. They were halfway down the path when Paddie said, “Wait!”
Perses stopped walking.
“It’s cold out,” Paddie said. “We’re in our bedclothes.”
Perses cursed again.
“Salty,” Ares said and raised his eyebrows.
Perses nodded to Paddie and then to Katy. They were dressed now in boots with thick socks, and thick hand knit sweaters.
“Anything else?” Perses asked.
Paddie shook his head. They made it the rest of the way to the door. Perses raised his hand to knock and the door flung open.
“You’ve got one hell of a nerve,” Patrick Hargreaves said from the doorway.
Patrick took a step toward Perses before seeing Ares. Patrick stopped short. Sizing each other up, men gave each other the long, assessing glare of warriors.
“Paddie?” Dr. John Drayson asked, slipping past Patrick to the boy. In a rush of language, he said, “An bhfuil tú ceart go leor? Cad atá á dhéanamh agat?”
In the way of worried adults, he asked if the child was okay, and what he was doing at the same time. John lifted Paddie from Ares arms and hugged him tight.
“We’re okay,” Paddie said, giggling at the attention.
John looked at Paddie for a moment, and then shook his head at Perses. He shifted Paddie to his hip. Without saying another word, John grabbed Katy from Perses’s arms. He strode across the lawn the house next door and went inside. John closed the door on Patrick, Ares, and Perses.
“Who are you?” Patrick Hargreaves said.
“I am Ares,” the man said. “And you?”
“Ares …” Patrick said. He squinted at Perses for a moment. Perses lifted his eyebrows and nodded. “Have we met before?”
“I can’t be certain,” Ares managed after a moment.
“You look like …” Patrick’s voice faded out.
Patrick turned to squint at Perses.
“You gave us quite a fright,” Patrick said. “Colin and Alex are gone. Julie told us that Paddie was likely on an adventure with Katy. She even said that Paddie and Katy were feeling adventurous yesterday so they stayed home from school. They played all day in the backyard with the crew at the Castle.”
His eyes flicked to Ares before turning back to Perses.
“She said that since that wooden sword was gone, he had to be on an adventure,” Patrick said. “What kind of business could you possibly have with a six year old?”
“You must know that he is not an ordinary child,” Ares said, mildly.
Not knowing who he was, Patrick sneered at powerful Ares. The God of War grinned at the man.
“I tried to set them back,” Perses said. He nodded his head toward the house next door. “The doctor is coated in an energy that blocked us.”
“You will tell me about the wooden sword,” Patrick demanded. For emphasis, he pointed his finger to the earth. “Now.”
Ares blinked at Patrick to keep from laughing out loud. Perses shrugged.
“It’s a wooden sword,” Perses said, with a nonchalant shrug.
Ares burst out laughing. Perses scowled at the God of War.
“Who are you?” Patrick asked.
“I am Ares,” the God said.
“Hey!” Cian Kelly yelled from the door of the house next door.
Patrick whipped around to look at the man.
“If you want breakie, you’d best get inside before these banshees eat it all,” Cian said, in a thick Belfast accent. “Kiss and make up. There’s no fighting at my table.”
“Who is that?” Ares asked Perses.
“Cian Kelly,” Patrick Hargreaves answered.
“Dangerous man,” Ares said.
“He’s a cook,” Patrick shrugged. “Owns a bakery. He was in the IRA, but that’s in the past.”
“Sure,” Ares said. He patted Patrick’s shoulder. “Now, I never miss an invitation to a table. If it’s all the same to you, shall we go?”
Ares gestured toward Cian’s back as the man turned to head into the house. Perses and Ares took a step toward the house. Patrick didn’t move for a moment. Shaking his head, he went around the men to block the door.
“Whoever you are, this is a human residence,” Patrick said. “They are not up for any hijinks.”
“If you say so,” Ares said with a nod.
“Any bullshit and …” Patrick said.
“Do not threaten him,” Perses ordered. “You won’t like what happens.”
Patrick looked from Perses to Ares. The God of War raised his eyebrows in a silent dare.
“I will promise that we will be on our best behavior,” Perses said.
He punched Ares hard in the shoulder. Ares jerked forward. Grinning, the God of War nodded.
Patrick bowed his head slightly. Perses and Ares went into the residence. As Patrick closed and locked the door, Perses and Ares went down a long hallway. The hallway was covered floor to ceiling with pictures of family members of the residence. Perses stopped short and pointed to one near the ceiling.
The face staring out was the spitting image of Ares. The God of War gave a slight nod.
“Cian was right,” Eoin Mac Kinney said, in a Belfast accent that matched Cian’s. “You do share his look.”
Ares whipped around to see the red haired man standing in front of him. The air crackled with intensity before the red haired man laughed.
“You’re intense like him, too,” Eoin said with a laugh. “You’re like to be some kind of a relative. Come, eat. Meet your family.”
Laughing, Eoin spun in place and walked down the hallway. Ares followed Eoin, but Patrick grabbed Perses’s arm.
“You will tell me about that sword,” Patrick ordered.
“I will,” Perses said with a nod. “Have you asked Paddie?”
“He won’t say what it is,” Patrick said. “Just that it’s his for the rest of his life and that of his children. A wooden sword? Why would that be?”
“Because of who he is,” Perses said with a shrug. “Ancestrally.”
Perses pressed passed Patrick. He turned back to the man.
“If it’s any consolation, he has a matching dagger now,” Perses said with a grin.
Rather than wait for Patrick to respond, Perses turned left to enter the dining room. He went immediately to Paddie’s mother. Paddie was sitting on his mother’s lap letting her fuss over him. Perses knelt to one knee.
“I apologize for causing you such concern,” Perses said.
“Oh Lord Perses,” Julie said with a sigh. She gave him a kind look. “I know that our lives are yours for the taking, but could you at least leave a note next time?”
“As you wish,” Perses said.
“Lord Perses,” Eoin laughed. “So, you’re a Titan, now? What’s that make you?”
Eoin took a bite of a warm buttered biscuit. He nodded to Ares.
“You’d like to be the God of War,” Eoin said with a laugh.
“And if I am?” Ares asked.
Still standing, Patrick’s brow furrowed.
“I’d like to know why you had so many children?” Eoin asked with a laugh. “I’ve got two bairn …” He gestured to two red headed girls sharing a seat next to him. “I can hardly keep up with them.”
Ares opened his mouth to respond, but Cian beat him to it.
“Many women,” Cian said. “The ladies care for the bairn while he’s out playing war.”
“Do tell us how you manage that!” Eoin said with a laugh. “One woman is more than enough for me.”
“Watch yourself, Eoin Mac Kinney,” said a redhaired young woman sitting near the end of the table. Her accent was distinctly American. “Don’t go getting any ideas.”
The two men looked at each other and laughed heartily. John brought a chair and squeezed it next to Katy and Perses sat down. Patrick sat at the head of the table.
“Do eat,” John said to Perses and Ares. “Thank you for bringing the children home in one piece.”
John nodded to Patrick. Rather than respond, Patrick filled his cup from the pitcher of coffee in front of him.
“Thank you,” Julie said. “Perses, Ares, Katy.”
Before they could respond, another woman came in carrying two young girls. They squeezed into the table a second before two adolescent boys arrived. The adolescent boys stopped short at Ares and Perses. Over the din of everyone talking and laughing, the boys introduced themselves in fluent Greek. They pushed the other children aside so that they could sit next to the God of Warm. After a moment, they were talking in Greek with Ares.
Over their heads, Ares caught Perses eye. Ares nodded that he understood, and Perses smiled.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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