Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Fifty-Eight : In the Irish Sea

Chapter Two Hundred and Fifty-eight

“Where is the kingdom of Marle?” Jacob asked.

“On the Isle of Man,” Seth said.

“What?” Jacob asked.

“Where?” Sam asked.

“The Isle of Man,” Seth said.

“Yes, we heard you,” Jacob said. “I guess we’re not sure if that’s in another dimension, or on some planet or astral plane, or . . .”

Seth laughed. Jacob scowled.

“I sometimes forget that I’m talking to Delphie’s nephew,” Seth said. “The Isle of Man is an island in the Irish Sea that is equidistant from modern England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.”

“Ok.” Jacob shrugged. Sam shook his head.

“I was going to ask what you know about the Isle of Man, but, from the sound of it, I guess that would be . . .”

“Absolutely nothing,” Sam laughed.

“I’ll keep to the important facts,” Seth said. “First, you should know that the Isle of Man was not always an island. It became an island in 8000 BC when melting glaciers caused the water level to rise. The Isle of Man was originally inhabited around 6500 BC.”

“How do you know all of this?” Jacob asked.

“I’m reading Wikipedia on my phone,” Seth laughed.

Jacob and Sam laughed.

“Ava made me get one of these things,” Seth said. “There’s evidence that the island had early inhabitants before it was an island. During the Neolithic Era, large communities lived and farmed on the island.”

“Cave men?” Sam asked.

“Our ancestors,” Seth said. “They were like us but not as sophisticated.”

Jacob and Seth nodded.

“These early inhabitants were killed off, probably all at once, by an invading force,” Seth said. “There’s evidence of a great battle near the south end of the island around the time of the Celtic invasion.”

“Like the kingdom of Marle,” Jacob said.

“Yes,” Seth said. “The Celts took to the island around 3000 BC.”

“But . . .” Jacob started.

“The Celts were supposed to have killed everyone in the kingdom of Marle,” Seth said. “The Isle of Man was the last country to join the Celtic kingdoms.”

“Okay,” Jacob said. “What makes you think it’s the kingdom of Marle?”

“The manner in which the queen of Marle was able to keep the island hidden,” Seth said. “You know, in the story . . . uh . . . the king and queen used their skills to keep the kingdom free of intruding eyes.”

“And we think that means?” Jacob asked.

“There’s a sea god, a Manannán mac Lir,” Seth said. “He’s a Celtic god, but old, probably at least as old as the island. He’s the Man in Isle of Man.”

“You think he’s my ancestor?” Jacob asked.

“The king of Marle,” Seth said. “Yes, I think he might be. His specialty is to hide the island in the sea mist. Prior to the Celts, the island was never invaded, not even by the Romans. Most people just left the island and her inhabitants alone. The Vikings eventually took over the island in the eighth century.”

“If we don’t know who exactly created the curse, do we have a chance at breaking it?” Jacob asked.

“Sure,” Seth said. “It only sort of matters who created the curse.”

“Why only sort of?” Jacob asked.

“The only reason we need to figure out who created the curse is to figure out why they did it,” Seth said. “Once we figure out why this individual put the curse on your family, we can determine how to make amends — set things right, if you will — in order to appease the curse. Only then do we stand a chance of breaking the curse.”

“Good to know,” Jacob said. “And you know this because . . .?”

“Mitch,” Seth said. “He loved ancient curses, old gods, fairies, mysterious places, stuff like that. He adored Delphie.”

Jacob smiled.

“So we have Manannán as the king of Marle from your story,” Seth said. “One thing you should know about the Isle of Man is that it’s considered to be the ‘fairy island.’”

“Fairy island?” Sam asked.

“Manannán was married to an extremely powerful fairy queen named Fand,” Seth asked. “The result is that the Isle of Man has fairies. There’s even Fairy Bridge, where it’s a matter of course to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon,’ or engender bad luck.”

“Wikipedia?” Jacob asked.

“No,” Seth said. “I’ve been there.”

“Why are the fairies important?” Sam asked.

“Gargoyles seem to me to be a type of fairy,” Seth said.

“The gargoyles are . . . what?” Jacob asked.

“Don’t they seem like fairies?” Seth asked. “They certainly are small. They have wings and can manifest magic that affects the world.”

“But . . .?” Jacob started.

“They don’t seem like fairies to you,” Sam said, “because they don’t have long legs, little skirts, and large breasts, like Disney fairies.”

“Sure,” Jacob said.

“Fairies are traditionally fairly frightening creatures,” Seth said. “The Irish are terrified of them. You won’t find an Irish person visiting a Fairy Bridge. Maybe an Irish-American, but not someone from the island. Ask John Drayson or his brothers. They don’t trust fairies at all. And you know what?”

“What?” Jacob asked.

“The Irish consider ancient burial grounds, like the burial grounds of the people we’re talking about, to be dangerous. They call all ancient ruins, even those buried in mounds, ‘fairy forts.’ To this day, there’s a belief that if you disturb a fairy fort, you’ll experience fairy revenge. In fact, it’s believed the downfall of Seán Quinn was due to fairy revenge.”

“Seán Quinn?” Jacob asked.

“He went from being the richest person in Ireland in 2008 to declaring bankruptcy in 2011. Lost over 4.7 billion pounds,” Seth said. “You know what he did between 2008 and 2011?”

“Should I?” Jacob asked.

“He moved a fairy fort on his property,” Seth said. “That’s widely believed to be the cause of his bad luck.”

“And this fits with the story . . . how?” Sam asked.

“If Manannán is the king of Marle in your story,” Seth said. “Then the queen of Marle is . . .”

“Fand, the fairy queen,” Jacob said. “That means the gargoyles are her subjects, which is why she was so close with them.”

“Exactly,” Seth said. “It also means, at the very least, that the Isle of Man was inhabited by fairy people. The island’s motto is in Latin — Quocunque Jeceris Stabit — Whithersoever way you throw it, it will stand. That’s a reference to the triskelion Manannán turned into to repel an invader.”

“And that means . . .?” Sam asked.

“No idea,” Seth laughed. “But it might explain why the gargoyles speak Latin.”

“What about the curse!” Jacob felt a wave of hopeless impotency. “How is any of this helping to break the curse?”

“We’re getting there,” Sam said. He put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “We have to understand the landscape of the story first.”

Jacob hugged his father. They held each other for a moment before Sam said, “You can go ahead, Seth.”

“Everything okay?” Seth asked.

“It’s hard to be stuck here,” Sam said. “We’re active people. It feels like there’s nothing we can do — for ourselves and those who are dying above us.”

“I know how you feel,” Seth said.

“Yes, I knew you would,” Sam said. “Go ahead.”

“Now, I’ll have to check, but I think Manannán was supposed to be the first ruler of the Isle of Man,” Seth said.

“And that means?” Jacob didn’t try to keep his frustration from his voice.

“His queen may still be on the island,” Seth said.

“What?” Jacob and Sam asked at the same time.

Just then, the earth around them began to shake.

“Hang on,” Sam yelled to Jacob.

Jacob dropped to a crouch. The earth shook so violently that the ancient speaker phone fell off the wall.

“What’s happening?” Seth’s voice came from the speaker.

“Earthquake,” Sam yelled.

After a few minutes, the rumble began to die down.

“We’re okay,” Jacob said.

“Jake, look,” Sam said.

Daylight peeked through one of the sewer lines.

“What was that?” Jacob asked.

Probably the Isle of Man,” Seth said. “See anyone familiar?”

Jacob was about to say no when he saw the outline of a woman in the daylight coming from the sewer. He squinted.

“Valerie?” Jacob peered forward. “How . . .?”

“No time, Jake,” Valerie said. “We’ve got a curse to fix.”

She held out her arms and hugged Sam.

“What’s next?” Jacob asked.

“Time for you to go to the castle,” Seth said.

“But . . .” Jacob started.

“Not your castle,” Seth laughed. “In Denver, young King Marlowe lives in a Castle with his Queen Jillian.”

Jacob scowled while Seth laughed for a while.

“We should . . .”

“You should check the castles first,” Seth said. “There are six on the island, but I bet you’ll find what you’re looking for in Castle Rushen.”

“Castle what?” Sam asked.

“Castle Rushen,” Seth said.

“Why there?” Jacob asked.

“There’s a female ghost said to be Fand,” Seth said. “Like the queen of Marle, she had four boys. The ghost is supposed to be as old as the island. She inhabits Castle Rushen because it was built on the spot where her beloved was killed.”

“This Manannán,” Jacob said.

“The king of Marle,” Seth said.

“Are you ready?” Valerie asked.

“Almost,” Jacob said.

“The ghost is a mess,” Seth said. “Completely unpredictable.”

“How . . .?” Jacob asked.

“Mitch,” Seth said. “Long before it was popular, we went around debunking ghost stories.”

“And this one?” Jacob asked.

“There’s a female ghost in that hall,” Seth said. “I’m going to call a friend who lives on the island. If he’s on the island, and has time, I’ll ask him to meet you at Castle Rushen. He works for the government, so he’ll be able to get you in anywhere you want to go.”

“How will I know him?” Jacob asked.

“He looks like James Bond,” Seth laughed.

“Come on, Jake, let’s go!” Valerie said.

“Hold on,” Jacob said. “Why are you so impatient?”

“I want to be done with this,” Valerie said. “I’m pissed that my life is affected by some ancestor’s unresolved business.”

Jacob held out his arms, and she let him hug her.

“Let’s go,” Valerie said.

“We need to know what we’re getting into,” Sam said.

Valerie gave a grudging nod.

“Call me and tell me what she says,” Seth said. “Or what you find.”

“I will,” Jacob said.

“Good luck,” Seth said.

Jacob looked at the phone. Unable to think of what to say, he just hung up.

“Ready, son?” Sam asked.

“One more thing,” Jacob said.

Sam and Valerie turned to look at him.

“MOM!” Jacob yelled. “Mom, I need you!”

Celia’s ghost appeared. Able only to feel her presence, Sam smiled his hello.

“Mom!” Valerie squealed with delight. “I can see you! Mom!”

Valerie held out her hands; Celia touched the palms of her hands, but her eyes were on Sam. He stood there smiling and looking around the room.

“Delphie’s teaching a class in psychic immersion. She needs my help,” Celia said. “What’s going on?”

“I need to break the curse on the Marlowe males,” Jacob said.

“Right now?” Celia asked. “Does this have to do with my grandsons’ birth?”

“Yes,” Jacob said.

“By all means, let’s get going,” Celia said.

~~~~~~~~

Friday night — 8:25 p.m. MST

Jill waited until she knew Katy was sound asleep before she pulled the door nearly closed. Katy had made Jill promise to wake Katy when she went into labor. Jill put a hand on her belly. It didn’t seem like the boys were coming anytime soon.

Jill looked up across the loft. The girlfriends were standing in the kitchen talking with Yvonne. The kids were playing video games in a corner of the loft. Her mother, grandfather, and Bruno were talking on the couch near the gas fireplace. She glanced over at the girlfriends. Sandy made her “get going” gesture. Heather and Tanesha nodded. Jill gathered her resolve and went to the bookcase that held her old books. She took out a photo album and went to where her mother was sitting.

“Jillian,” Anjelika looked up at her. “How are you feeling?”

“Good,” Jill nodded. “While we have a moment . . .”

“Sit down.” Anjelika stood up and gestured for Jill to sit down in the chair across from them.

“I’d rather stand, thanks,” Jill said. Her throat pinched with nervousness and her mouth was suddenly parched. “Um . . .”

“You look nervous,” Bruno said. “Something you need?”

Jill shook her head. Scooter jumped onto the armchair behind her.

“I know you’re wondering why I asked you here,” Jill said so quickly that her mother and grandfather looked confused.

“Jillian, darling, what are you saying?” Otis asked.

“You said . . . and then I didn’t know. I mean, how could I know? And really, someone should have told me, but . . .” Jill swallowed hard. She raised her index finger as if to point. “No one ever asked me.”

She glanced at her mother and Otis. They had no idea what she was saying.

“But then, Mike said . . .” Jill nodded as if she had made her point. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew they were totally lost. “So here.”

She pushed the photo album toward her mother. Anjelika looked at the album and then at Jill.

“What is it?” Otis asked in Russian. His confusion was so clear that even Jill knew what he was saying.

“It’s my ex-husband’s photo album,” Anjelika said. “He never went anywhere without it. He even brought it when . . .”

Anjelika’s right hand stroked the top of the album.

“What is this?” Anjelika asked. “You brought this back from Costa Rica when you were a child.”

“Yes. I mean, you said . . . I . . .” Jill gave them a frustrated glare.

Jill yanked the book from her mother and turned it around. She flipped to the middle of the book and began yanking photos off one page. Six-by-eight glossy pictures flew in the air and landed on the floor. Once the page was clear of photos, Jill pushed the album back at Anjelika and Otis.

Anjelika gasped. Stunned, Otis clutched his heart. Bruno stood from the couch. He gave Jill a wary look and took the photo album from her.

“Many bearer bonds,” Bruno said. “Where you get?”

“My father gave them to me,” Jill said.

“Roper?” Otis asked.

“No, Perses,” Jill said. “He gave me the album and told me to take it home with me. You were there. You saw him do it.”

“He wanted you to have the pictures,” Anjelika reached down and picked up an old photo. “They would remind you of your life. You were so traumatized. You could barely speak.”

“You mean you didn’t know those . . . things were there?” Jill asked.

Anjelika shook her head.

“I thought you knew,” Jill said. “I thought you wanted me to bring these home, you know with General Hargreaves. I’ve just . . . kept them . . . all this time.”

Jill looked from her mother’s confused face to Otis’s pinched features. Her grandfather was counting the pages of the photo album.

“Why do you think he always kept this with him?” Jill asked.

“I thought he wanted to remember happier times,” Anjelika said. “There are pictures of him and my brother in there, you kids, I . . .”

Anjelika shrugged.

“I guess I needed to believe that he cherished something more than . . .,” Anjelika took a breath. For a moment, she held her breath. When she sighed, she looked heartbroken. “ . . .revenge.”

Jill kneeled down and hugged her mother. When she heard Otis say something to Bruno, she looked up at them. Otis touched Anjelika’s shoulder. She looked up at her father, and he said something in Russian. She shook her head and repeated the words he’d said. For the first time since Jill had met him, Otis’s face showed real human emotion. He looked crushed.

Anjelika let go of Jill and hugged her father. They were crying and talking at the same time. Jill sat down on the edge of the armchair where Scooter was sitting. She watched as the walls created by decades of mistrust and deception crumbled between them. Leaning back, she snuggled Scooter and looked away to give them privacy. After a few minutes, her mother laughed.

“He thought, even now, that I had these bearer bonds, used them,” Anjelika’s wet face smiled at Jill. “He forgave me even though he thought I had . . . I had betrayed him . . . and ”

“I am a fool,” Otis said. “So much suffering because of . . .”

Otis waved his hand over the photo album and Jill nodded. He wiped his wet face with his aged hands and looked at Bruno. His life-long bodyguard smiled at him.

“Is good,” Bruno said. “Is very good.”

Otis reached out and hugged Bruno.

“Do you still need to pay this back to . . . them?” Jill asked.

Otis nodded.

“Debt like this is never forgiven,” Bruno said. “Only accepted; never forgiven.”

“What will you do?” Anjelika asked.

“I will think for a while,” Otis said. “I have much to make up to my Angel.”

Anjelika leaned forward, and they hugged again. Jill smiled. Bruno tugged on the photo album, and Otis let it slip from his hands.

“I go make safe. I’ll be back in no time.” Bruno emphasized the American saying. Jill smiled.

With the album tucked under his arm, Bruno left the loft. Otis cast a worried eye after him, and then turned back to Anjelika. Smiling, Jill stood to go to the kitchen. She was halfway across the loft when Bruno rushed in the door. The yellow lab, Sarah, and the ugly dog, Buster, zoomed in after him. He slammed the door and leaned against it.

Otis said something in quick Russian.

“Men,” Bruno said in broken English. “With guns. In house.”

“What?” Sandy’s voice was heard over the others.

Jill took another step and whoosh, her water broke. Jill gasped and grabbed her belly. The girlfriends and Yvonne ran to her.

“They are here for the babies,” the smallest gargoyle said in clipped British English.

“Why is he speaking English?” Tanesha asked.

The gargoyle smirked. Tanesha got to Jill first. She put her arm around Jill to hold her up. Jill crumpled forward with a contraction.

“Who is here?” Heather asked. Sandy went to the other side of Jill.

“The Celts,” the smallest gargoyle said. “They have come for the children.”

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