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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SEVEN
Wednesday night — 11:24 p.m.
When Delphie came into the main Castle living room carrying a ceramic pot filled with chamomile tea, Jacob hopped up from the armchair of the couch to retrieve the matching cups. He returned with the cups. He held them up to Delphie and she nodded to the women in the room. He gave a cup to Jill, one to Sandy, and another to Tanesha. He held up the empty cup. Tanesha took it from him for Heather.
Jacob returned to the armchair of the couch next to where Jill was sitting. Katy and Paddie lay on either side of Jill with their heads in her lap. Delphie poured tea for Jill, Sandy, and Tanesha before pouring a cup for herself. Aden and Sam came in from the kitchen carrying mugs of tea. Aden gave Jacob the glass of water he’d requested.
No one spoke. Their eyes and minds seemed to be on their tea. After a few minutes, Jeraine came in with a baby monitor. Tanesha looked up.
“He’s asleep in the nursery,” Jeraine said. He gave the monitor to Tanesha. “Heather was just getting there when I came down here.”
Sandy and Jill looked up at the mention of Heather. They shared a look with Tanesha and went back to staring at their tea. The atmosphere in the living room held an undercurrent of doom. Aden sat next to Sandy on the loveseat. Sam gestured for Delphie to sit in the armchair. She smiled and shook her head. Delphie walked over to stand near the fire.
Over the baby monitor, they listened to Heather settle Mack in one of the cribs in Jill and Jacob’s nursery. Tink said something that no one could make out. Heather encouraged her to stay with Ivy. Tink insisted on staying with the babies, and Ivy agreed with her. Heather’s voice, heavy with exhaustion, seemed to not have the energy to argue about it. A few minutes later, the door to the loft closed and they heard Heather heft herself down the long stairwell to the kitchen.
Jill looked up at Jacob and he nodded. He got up to help Heather into the room. Heather stood in the doorway for a moment. She looked at each of them. Jacob gestured toward the couch. Heather came over, lifted Katy’s feet, and took a seat. She set Katy’s feet on her knees as her lap was full. Heather glanced at the people in the room. Tanesha got up to give Heather her cup of tea. Heather smiled her thanks and Tanesha went back to sit down.
“We grew the chamomile.” Facing the fire with her back to the room, Delphie responded to someone’s silent question. “It grows wild here in Colorado so is very easy. The tea was made by a tea master specifically for us. Can you taste the lavender? There’s borage flowers in there, too.”
Everyone nodded, but no one dared break the silence. Delphie had to turn around to see the response to her question.
“It’s my favorite,” Delphie said. “It’s great for inflammation, pain, and…”
Delphie stopped talking. The very air seemed to absorb her words. She scowled. The room became thick with unsaid words and anxious thoughts.
“Where do we start?” Delphie asked.
No one replied.
“I guess I’m not…” Aden said at the same time Jacob started, “Are we sure…?” A breath behind them, Sam said, “Well, I for one…” and Jeraine piped up with, “What…?”
The men stopped talking and looked at each other.
“How are we…?” Jacob started at the same time Jeraine said, “I don’t think…”
Sam and Aden just looked at each other. The women laughed.
“I’m cold,” Delphie said, and everyone stopped laughing. They turned their attention to her. “I wonder if I’ll ever feel warm again or if the sea of amber has taken that away from me.”
“I can turn up the heat.” Jacob got to his feet.
“Are you cold, Jacob?” Delphie asked.
“I’m…” Jacob stopped talking. He glanced at Jill and then said, “I understand what you mean.”
“Where do we start?” Tanesha gave voice to their thoughts. “We each feel as if we need to go back to the sea of amber, go back to fight the serpents, but we have no idea …”
Tanesha’s shoulders went up in a shrug to finish her sentence.
“And the fairies,” Sandy said. “Edie said …”
Sandy gestured toward Jill and Jacob. Jill cleared her throat.
“Edie said that the King, Fin, and Abie were on the Isle of Man,” Jill said. “They are not fighting the serpents. Edie had no idea what I was talking about.”
“For now,” Heather said.
“What does that mean?” Aden asked.
“We have … well, it’s Tanesha’s idea,” Sandy said.
“We’re wondering about time,” Tanesha looked at Aden. “When Jake and Delphie were in the sea of amber, where they also in this time frame, you know, now?”
“Because the sea of amber became so small,” Aden said.
“Exactly,” Tanesha said. “Or was that the future?”
“How does all of this relate to that creepy financier?” Jill asked.
“Financier?” Jeraine asked.
“The one behind the website that sold the child porn videos and the ones from the rape trial,” Tanesha said.
“You mean, the one our moms helped catch?” Jeraine asked.
Tanesha nodded. Jeraine turned to Jill.
“Why do you think it does?” Jeraine asked.
“It’s just something that seems to fit,” Sandy said. “I don’t know if anyone actually said it or …”
Everyone fell silent again. For a few minutes, the only sound in the room was the crackle of the fire.
“Why us?” Heather asked in such a low voice that everyone’s heads came up to see if she’d actually spoken. “Delphie?”
“I don’t know,” Delphie said.
“You must know something,” Heather said. “They wouldn’t have taken you otherwise.”
“I know what you know — the serpents are fighting for their survival,” Delphie said. “They hoped to take over the fairy world by infiltrating Queen Fand’s court. They wanted to control us. But …”
Delphie stopped talking. Even in her silence, or possibly because of it, she held their rapt attention.
“Why us?” Heather asked again, this time in a louder, more insistent voice.
As if to say, “You’re right, that’s the question,” Delphie nodded.
“Okay,” Jacob said. “We don’t know why. What do we know?”
As if he’d held a match to dry kindling, everyone started talking at once. They talked without stopping or even noticing that anyone else was talking. It was as if all of the unsaid words needed to be said at that very moment. Jacob held his hands up, palms facing them, to get them to stop. No one stopped talking. They continued talking all at once until they were done. The room fell back into a heavy silence.
“We know that …” Delphie started. She looked around the room and smiled. “We know that we have each other.”
“Is it enough?” Sandy asked.
“It’s more than enough,” Delphie said.
“Are they calling Sandy and the others back to them to destroy them?” Aden asked.
“No,” Delphie said. “I’d be surprised if the serpents have given them much thought.”
“Then why do we feel this way?” Jill asked.
“Because you do,” Delphie said. “If your friends at Pete’s had been at the sea of amber and seen all of those people freed, they might feel the same way.”
“So they feel like they have to fix things because they were there?” Jeraine asked.
“No,” Tanesha shook her head. “We feel this way because …”
“We killed those serpents,” Jill said.
Heather and Sandy nodded. Jill’s words held such finality to them that the men’s heads moved up and down in an unconscious nod.
“You’re going to destroy the serpents,” Aden’s voice rose as if he was asking a question but his face indicated he was stating a fact.
“No,” Heather said. “We are not going to destroy them.”
The room fell silent and everyone turned to look at her. She gave a slight smile and looked at each of her friends.
“We are not going to destroy an entire species,” Heather said.
“We’re not?” Jill asked.
“No,” Heather shook her head.
“I thought we were …” Tanesha started. “You’re sure?”
“Then what the fuck are we doing?” Jill’s voice rose with frustration. She immediately shook her head. “I’m sorry. The boys are babies and Katy and Paddie and … I can’t … I just …”
“Alex Hargreaves said that the serpents hold grudges,” Heather said. “Remember?”
Sandy, Tanesha, and Jill nodded.
“We’re going to end the grudge,” Heather said. “For us and for Alex. She and her people have done so much for us. If we do this for anyone, we should do it for them.”
“But how?” Tanesha said. “If we capture them, we’d have to guard them. I don’t want to spend my life guarding some dumbass serpents! I have med school to finish.”
“If you destroy them, you run the risk of the loss of them tearing the fabric of the world,” Delphie said.
“Fabric of the world?” Jeraine asked. “Aren’t we getting a little out there in hippie land?”
“We’re way past hippie land,” Aden said under his breath. Jeraine nodded.
“We know they’ve tried to take over Queen Fand’s world,” Jacob said. “They could have done that with thousands of other people or countries all over the world.”
“We don’t know,” Delphie said.
“Then how …?” Aden asked.
“I don’t know,” Delphie said.
“Then why should they go? Should you go?” Sam asked.
“Because we have to,” Jill said.
“What is it that we know?” Jacob asked. “Because it doesn’t sound like a hell of a whole lot.”
“No,” Delphie shook her head. “That’s not true.”
Everyone looked at Delphie.
“What?” Jeraine asked.
“If we knew nothing, they wouldn’t have taken me, taken Jake,” Delphie said. “We know something. We just don’t know that we know it.”
“Hera said she was trading Heather for Zeus,” Jill said.
“To destroy all the love in the world,” Heather said with a nod.
Delphie started to laugh.
“What?” Aden’s voice was so irritated that Sam stood up and went to Delphie.
“We have love,” Delphie said. “That’s why I laughed.”
“And that means …?” Tanesha asked.
“It means that all of this — everything from taking me, Jake, and Keenan to capturing Rodney — all of this is about love,” Delphie said. “How did we save the fairies?”
“Jake put the bones back together and …” Aden said.
“With love,” Jacob said. “We saved the fairies by loving them — and their love cascaded throughout the world.
“Why did the woman and children fight against Saint Jude and the serpents?” Delphie asked.
“Love,” Sandy said with a nod.
“And that means?” Jill scowled at Delphie.
“Heather’s going to have her baby,” Delphie said.
“What?” Heather got to her feet.
“Tanesha is right about timing,” Delphie said.
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“The serpents are dead,” Delphie said. “They’ve probably been gone for a millennia.”
“But what about Saint Jude?” Jill asked.
“Exactly,” Delphie said.
More accustomed to Delphie’s oddities, Jacob got up. He gestured for Heather to sit back down and she did. Sam stopped his progress across the room. Jacob smiled at his father and Sam went back to his seat. Jacob put his hands on Delphie’s shoulders.
“We don’t understand,” Jacob said. “Can you help us to understand?”
Delphie looked into his eyes for a moment before she nodded.
“Are you saying Blane and Heather’s son is a serpent?” Jacob asked.
“No!” Delphie laughed. “Why ever did you think that?”
“You said …” Jacob started.
“What do the serpents need us to do?” Heather asked. “That’s what you’re saying, right? They were destroyed sometime in the long ago past. We thwarted their efforts to survive by killing the breeding pair when we killed Saint Jude. We just released everyone from the sea of amber thus finishing the last reason for them to linger in time. We’ve also stopped them from taking over the fairy court.”
“We returned the fairy court to its rightful order,” Jill said.
“How long was Queen Fand in pieces?” Delphie asked.
“Thousands of years,” Jacob said.
“Celeste could have been infected all those years ago,” Sandy said.
“When the court was weakened by the loss of Queen Fand and Manannàn,” Jill nodded.
“Right,” Heather nodded in agreement.
“Celeste and Saint Jude were infected in the last days of the serpent,” Delphie said. “One last attempt to continue the species.”
“We ended that,” Jill said.
“What do we need to do?” Sandy asked.
Everyone turned to look at Heather. Heather, who loved lingering in the background, was now the center of attention. Heather, who rarely drew attention to herself, was now the focus of everything. And, in this moment, she looked every bit like a Goddess.
“They need you to …”
As if the wind picked up inside the Castle living room, there was a whirling sound. Before anyone could respond, the women were swept out of the room. Aden, Jacob, Jeraine, and Sam screamed and tried to grab them, but they were too late. The women sped through the world. In a blink of an eye, they were tossed onto the amber sand inside the volcano bowl which used to hold the sea of amber. They rolled in the sand and came to a stop against a sandy cliff.
The smallest of them, Sandy was the first on her feet. She ran to where Tanesha had landed and helped her up. They went to Jill and helped her to her feet. Delphie had cracked her head on a rock upon landing. She was sitting with her head in her hands.
“Where’s Heather?” Tanesha asked.
Sandy pointed. She and Tanesha left Jill with Delphie and ran to Heather. They pulled Heather to her feet.
“Look!” Jill yelled.
On the other side of the bowl, Jill appeared in the amber sand. Her father seemed to fall on top of her. Perses looked up and Jill felt their eyes meet across the sand. He turned his attention back to the Jill in front of him. Heather and Hera landed gracefully on the sand, and Sandy landed beside them.
“Is that us?” Tanesha asked.
“It’s playing out right now!” Heather said.
The military helicopter appeared overhead and Alex’s team brought Paddie and Katy. Fin and Abi arrived around the time Paddie and Katy hit the sand. The serpent appeared. They could see the serpent’s mouth move but they couldn’t hear his words. As they watched, King Manannàn appeared from the cavalry’s ranks.
“It’s fascinating, isn’t it Oracle?” a low voice came from behind them.
Delphie turned to find an ancient serpent towering over her. The dark olive green serpent was viciously scarred. The blue and red tartan pattern on its sides showed signs of being burned. His snout was now filled with broken teeth. Only one of his eyes remained. A deep white slash of a scar covered where his eye should have been.
“That’s the same serpent,” Sandy said in a low tone.
“What has happened to you?” Delphie asked.
“Our end came,” the serpent said. “You must know that, Oracle.”
“Guessed it,” Delphie said.
“We had hoped to avoid the end, to change the course of things, but…”
The serpent nodded his chin toward what they had done before. There was a rousing cheer from the military helicopter. The serpents were frozen by the combination of Sandy’s mother’s symphony and the Sword of Truth.
“Did the fairies do this to you?” Delphie asked.
“Watch.” The serpent commanded.
They saw their doubles disappear while Fin, Abi, King Manannàn, and the fairy army got ready to engage the serpents. The single serpent was surrounded by a great host of serpents. King Manannàn raised his sword to order the cavalry to respond and the earth began to shake. The sand around them slipped away and they were standing on a volcanic rock shelf. A small entrance to a cave appeared in the rock wall.
“Hold on!” Tanesha yelled.
“Get back!” Jill said.
Moving as fast as the trembling earth would allow, they stumbled their way into the mouth of the cave. The volcano erupted. From the safe location, they watched the destruction. Fairies and serpents flew into the air. The fairies disappeared in a flash, while the serpents bore the brunt of the volcano’s fury.
“How could this happen?” Delphie asked.
“No idea.” The ancient serpent shook his head. “Do you?”
“I…” Delphie started.
Heather screamed and dropped to her knees. Sandy ran to her side. Jill and Tanesha took off their jackets to make a blanket for Heather to lie on. Sandy helped her lie down.
“Her water broke,” Sandy yelled to Delphie.
“You will not take the child,” Delphie said.
“No,” the ancient serpent said. “We no longer desire to inhabit humankind. We wish only for a peaceful end.”
“And the child?”
“The mother holds all of her father’s power,” the ancient serpent said.
Delphie scowled with distaste and disgust.
“We are as loathsome to you as you are to us,” the ancient serpent said. “And yet…”
“You will have to ask her,” Delphie said.
“Ask what?” Jill asked.
“There will be a great release of power when the baby is born,” Delphie said. “The serpents would like to harness this power to rest in peace.”
“That’s what they want?” Tanesha’s doubtfilled voice came from her position at Heather’s bent knees.
“As payment for the debt of killing a breeding pair of serpents,” the ancient serpent said.
“What about the financier?’ Sandy asked.
“I know nothing of this,” the ancient serpent said. “Do we have a deal?”
“Only if you no longer resent Alex and her team!” Jill said.
“Or us,” Sandy said.
“Done,” the ancient serpent said.
“Heather?” Delphie yelled to Heather.
“Get guaranteed safe passage home,” Heather said. “Be specific.”
“Safe passage for myself, Heather, the child, Tanesha, Jill, and Sandy,” Delphie said. “No harm will come to us, the military people, the children, or anyone associated with us. You will return us back to Denver in our timeline.”
“Done,” the ancient serpent said.
“And you will leave this world forever?” Delphie asked.
“We already have,” the ancient serpent said. “We will finally be at peace.”
“Ladies?” Delphie asked.
The women looked over at her.
“May love heal your wounds so that you may rest in peace.” Heather’s words came out in grunts.
“Go ahead,” Tanesha yelled.
“It will be done,” Delphie said.
Heather yelled with pain.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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