Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Seventy-One : What one man can do

Chapter Two Hundred and Seventy-one

“What is this?” Delphie asked Edie the fairy.

Edie took a breath.

“Wait, can you make yourself bigger?” James asked. “I can’t deal with hearing wisdom from a fly.”

“Oh, sure,” Edie said. She waved her wand and grew to the size of a normal human.

“And the taffeta?” Valerie asked.

“I know. It’s ridiculous,” Edie said. “Uniforms. The wand, too. It’s a huge honor to be on the fairy corps. What are you going to do? I don’t wear the uniform or the tiny size unless I’m working.”

“What do you wear at home?” Sam asked.

They turned to look at Sam.

“She looks like she’s wearing some sexy Halloween costume,” Sam asked. “It’s demeaning.”

They nodded. When they turned back, Edie was wearing a pair of denim jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a thick, hand-knit cardigan. Her hair was in a long black braid down her back. Her skin was fair with a tint of something else. Her eyes were large and green, flecked with brown. She had a pert mouth and a sharp nose.

“Wait, I know you,” James said.

Edie blushed.

“You’re at the coffee shop by my house on the weekends,” James said. “You drink Earl Grey tea with milk and . . . and . . . you knit sweaters on a near-continuous basis. I stop there every weekend I’m in town.”

James blushed and cleared his throat. Edie clasped her hands behind her back and looked down. Sam raised his eyebrows at them and grinned.

“Hi, my name is James Kelly, man of mystery; I’m from Northern Ireland,” Valerie said. “Hi, my name is Edith the fairy; I grew up here on the Isle of Man. Nice to meet you Edith. Oh, you can call me Edie, everybody does. Well, Edie, I’d like to get to know you better, but I’m in the middle of a crisis right now.”

James and Edie looked at Valerie. She gestured around them.

“Oh, yes, sorry, ” Edie said. “This is the Place of Confusion. Usually people get here when they are confused. We are here because Maughold is confused. You can see that each entity is compartmentalized, and thus kept separate from each other. Katy and Paddie are separate from the women over there, who are separate from us. Because there’s no synergy, everything is stuck. We can see each other because someone, probably a great healer given the task at hand, turned on the lights. But we can only see this part of the confusion. The field is vast, huge even.”

“You mean this is like a depression,” Valerie said. “Each thing is walled off from the next so it feels like there’s a lot of nothingness, when really it’s a lot of fullnesses all separated from each other.”

Edie nodded.

“How do we heal the separations?” Sam asked.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?” Edie asked.

“Jill,” Delphie said.

“Who’s Jill?” Edie asked.

“The woman in labor over there,” Valerie said. “My sister in law. She’s a great healer.”

“I’ll go see,” Edie said. She shrank to her usual size, changed back into uniform, and tried to cross the confusion. She was back in an instant, transformed in to her larger form. “I can’t get there. Usually, fairies can move from section to section.”

“This confusion is Maughold’s,” Delphie said. “Only non-fairy-kind can get between the sections.”

“It looks like Jill is trying to get to Katy,” Valerie said.

They watched Jill kneel down to Katy and try to hold her.

“She has to heal the confusion,” Edie said.

“What does that?” James asked.

“Love, of course,” Edie said. “Your Jill must have a tremendous capacity to love.”

Sam looked at Edie for a moment. He glanced at Valerie and then at Delphie. Without saying a word, he stepped off into the fog.

“Sam!” Delphie screamed.

He was afraid that if he turned back he would lose his nerve. As far as he was concerned, his family was threatened, and that was all he needed to know. He saw only horrifying wispy clouds and the air pockets containing Jill and her friends, Katy and Paddie, and the one he’d just left. He kept his focus on Katy and Paddie because looking down was simply too terrifying. Step by step, he moved closer to the children. Somewhere to his right, he saw Jacob look up at him.

“I’m going to get Manannán,” Jacob said. “I’ll bring the army back with me.”

Sam nodded that he understood, but he didn’t stop walking.

“I’m proud of you, Dad,” Jacob said.

Sam felt tears come to his eyes. The best thing about the last few years was getting to see the man Jacob was becoming. Sam remembered the recent events in the park and at the site. Nothing was better than seeing the tiny baby he’d held in his arms become a man he wanted to call “friend.”

And he was there. He kneeled down.

“Katy,” Sam said.

“Granddaddy!”

Katy threw herself in the direction of his voice. Sam caught her in his arms. She was shivering and weeping in his arms. At the same moment, Paddie woke up.

“Katy?” Paddie asked. He looked up at Sam. “Mr. Sam, why is Katy crying?”

“She can’t see you, son,” Sam said. “She’s been here all alone.”

“’Cuz she’s a fairy and we’re not?” Paddie nodded.

“I think so,” Sam said.

“Katy hates to be alone.”

“I know,” Sam said. “You have to break through the wall between you.”

Paddie screwed up his face with determination. He leaned over and touched Katy’s back.

“Katy?” Paddie asked. “You can’t see me, but I’m right here.”

“P-P-P-Paddie?” Katy’s lip vibrated with fear and sorrow.

Sam took her hand and put it on Paddie’s chest. Undeterred by any convention, Paddie mashed himself against Katy’s back. And then the great knight Padeen and the regular old Sam held on while the fairy princess Katy cried. When she seemed through the worst of it, Sam picked her up. The little girl pressed her face into his neck.

“We have to bridge these gaps, son,” Sam said. “Take my hand and whatever happens, don’t let go.”

Paddie made the same determined face. He grabbed onto Sam’s hand. Sam looked down at the little boy and nodded.

“Here we go,” Sam said.

He took a step forward. Jill seemed to be right there, less than a foot ahead of him. But each step brought him only inches toward her. Sam was determined to not give up.

“We’re not getting very far,” Paddie said.

“Yes,” Sam said. “But we are getting there. Are you ready to give up?”

“Never!” Paddie said. “It’s just . . .”

Paddie tightened his grip on Sam’s hand, and Sam smiled. This white fog was not for the meek of heart. Step by step, in this crazy fog, they were getting closer. Or so Sam thought.

“We haven’t moved,” Paddie said.

Sam realized that, for all their walking, they were still in the pocket where he’d found Katy and Paddie. Dazed by her experience, Katy wasn’t talking. Paddie was starting to get scared.

What had Sam done that had brought him to Katy? He replayed those moments. He was looking at Jacob and thinking about all he’d become when, wham, he was there. Sam snorted a laugh.

He’d thought he’d gotten to his son’s daughter by his skilled and powerful walking.

Of course, it was his heart had done the work.

He thought about Jill.

He remembered the first time he realized Jacob was in love with her. They were having breakfast at Pete’s Kitchen, and his son couldn’t take his eyes off this pregnant woman. Sam had worried that she was pregnant with Jacob’s baby, which of course she was. As Jacob’s only living parent, Sam wasn’t sure what he’d do about his son having a baby out of wedlock with a married girl. Sam snorted at himself.

“They just got closer,” Paddie whispered. “Keep doing it.”

“What?” Sam asked.

“Whatever you’re doing,” Paddie said.

He remembered Jill at the engagement party. His entire life had been a complete mess. He would wander in a daze from work to home. On good days, he stayed at the Castle and prayed for Celia to take him. If he’d had the energy, he would have killed himself. Most days, he lived with Tiffanie, his ex-secretary, and her four daughters. Sam let out a sigh.

Then one day, out of the blue, Jill showed up and everything changed. She’d looked like a warrior in those big leather boots. Her back was straight. Her jaw was set with determination. He’d seen the vultures moving in. He tried to get across the room to her before his nasty step-daughter sliced her open with her bare claws.

Jacob got there first, and their lives had changed. Sam took a step forward.

Jill was still kneeling trying to get to Katy. Tanesha was holding her up.

“Sam!” Sandy said. “Jill, it’s Sam! Tanesha!”

“He has Katy!” Tanesha said.

“She’s in my arms,” Sam said.

Jill popped to her feet and grabbed her daughter from Sam.

“Mommy?” Katy started to cry again. Jill felt a contraction and they crumpled down together. Jill moved Katy’s soggy hair from her face and kissed her cheeks. She clasped her daughter close.

“She can’t see us,” Sandy said.

“Is she blind?” Tanesha asked.

“I don’t think so,” Sam said.

“She just can’t see us non-fairies,” Paddie said.

“Paddie!” Sandy picked up the little boy and hugged him tight. “Tanesha, look! It’s Paddie!”

Tanesha looked up at Sandy and shook her head.

“These babies are coming,” Tanesha said.

~~~~~~~~

Jacob stood on the steep slope of Meayll Hill. In his near-human form, Gilfand stood to his left. Standing stones made out of enormous blocks of crude stone stood in an open circle in front of him. Jacob looked through the larger opening to the sea. It was a gorgeous sight.

“Are you sure I don’t get a sword?” Jacob asked.

“No sword,” Gilfand said.

“Something cool?” Jacob asked. “How ’bout an ancestral dagger? A staff of power?”

“You don’t need them,” Gilfand said. “You are Manannán’s living heir. You only need to claim your place and the army will appear.”

Jacob scowled. They always had a sword in the movies. He thought back to every historical war movie he’d ever seen.

“Maybe a horse?” Jacob asked. “How ’bout some blue face paint?”

“You’re not Scottish,” Gilfand said. “Stop stalling.”

“What if . . .?”

“Won’t know if you never try,” Gilfand said. “And frankly, I’m freezing my balls off here.”

“It is cold,” Jacob said.

“Maybe we could finish this and get out of the wind?” Gilfand suggested.

Jacob chuckled. He looked out to the sea for a moment and then closed his eyes.

“Hands cupped at your solar plexus.” Gilfand helpfully went through the steps he’d taught Jacob.

“Give me a minute,” Jacob said.

“You’ve had a whole lifetime of minutes,” Gilfand said. “Stop being such a wuss. Your daughter would have been done with this and sipping tea by now.”

Katy. His sons. Jacob remembered the reasons he was standing on this hill in the early morning dark.

Jill. He smiled at just the thought of her name.

He gave Gilfand a nod. He closed his eyes, cupped his hands at his solar plexus, and took a breath. He felt dizzy with the power that surged through him from the island. He opened his eyes.

“Army of Manannán! It is time to awaken!” Jacob yelled at the top of his lungs.

Nothing happened. He was pretty sure the heroes in those guy movies had done a better job.

“Army of Manannán! I demand you appear before me, the rightful heir to the throne of Manannán!”

Nothing happened. Jacob strained his ears and heard only the crash of waves on the beach.

“Are you sure they’re here?” Jacob asked.

“Patience!” Gilfand said. “This isn’t a video game or a movie. You’re waking creatures that have been asleep for more than a thousand years.”

Jacob scowled and wondered when he’d eaten last.

“Hold the energy,” Gilfand said. “You’re letting it fade.”

“But I did it,” Jacob said. “I called them.”

“And when you call the dog, and she doesn’t appear?” Gilfand asked. “Do you give up and have breakfast?”

“No but I love her,” Jacob said.

“Well, there is that,” Gilfand said.

That love thing again. Jacob scowled. He focused on a memory of Katy digging up potatoes while Jill watched. And his sons were due today!

“Army of Manannán! It is time to awaken! It is time to retrieve your king! Rise now!” Jacob said.

He let out a little yelp when a ghost on an enormous horse appeared in front of him.

“Who are you?” the ghost asked. “Why do you call us on this day?”

“Queen Fand has been returned,” Gilfand said.

“It is time to retrieve Manannán,” Jacob said.

“How do I know you are flesh of Manannán?” the ghost asked.

“See, I need a sword,” Jacob said under his breath.

“No sword,” Gilfand said. “Show him who you are.”

Jacob clapped his hands together, and the standing stones rose from the ground.

“Fairy tricks. Fairy magic,” the ghost said.

“Who are you, Jacob Marlowe?” Gilfand asked.

“I am a carpenter.” The words just popped out. They were his usual answer to the question.

“Prove it,” the ghost said.

“What?” Jacob asked. “Who are you to ask me to prove that I’m a carpenter? You’re a ghost. Why would I waste my precious time on this planet proving myself to a ghost?”

The ghost grinned.

“You have him in you,” the ghost said. “Prove that you are a carpenter like my king, and I will raise Manannán’s army.”

The ghost held out a trumpet like instrument.

“Oh, you’re a herald,” Jacob said.

The ghost gave him a sour look.

“Fine,” Jacob said.

He clapped his hands. Meayll Hill disappeared, and they were standing in the Castle’s main living room in Denver. The building was silent and empty. Jacob nodded, and then they were standing in the building Celia had originally bought for Delphie. More like a tenement than a Castle at that point, there were holes in the floor and ceiling where the fire had burned through. The wood paneling was blackened and rotting. In places, the wood flooring had been peeled up for kindling. The majestic marble fireplace had seen the better end of a ball-pein hammer. Snow fell through the roof to the dirt.

Jacob crossed his arms, and the building’s history rolled forward. In fast motion, they watched Jacob rebuild the home to its original glory. Sometimes he had help, and every once in a while he used his fairy gifts. But most of the work was done by a man wielding a hammer and fresh wood. Less than a minute later, they were standing again on Meayll Hill.

“Speak!” Jacob ordered.

The ghost blew his horn to the north. He turned in place and blew his horn to the south. He finished by blowing his horn to the west and east.

Nothing happened.

“Give it a minute,” Gilfand said.

Jacob blinked. When his eyes opened again, he was standing in front of a great army. There were men on foot carrying long wooden staffs with points on the end. The men on horses held sabers. They wore bright, shining armor. The army snapped to attention and then parted to create a path down the center.

A man on horseback came down the center of the army. He rode to where Jacob stood and hopped off the horse. He was smaller, more tightly compact, and had darker skin than Jacob, but the two men could have passed for brothers.

“Who are you?” Jacob demanded.

The man sized up Jacob before standing in front of him. The man threw a ball of energy at Jacob, which he easily deflected. The man snapped his fingers, and the ground rumbled. Jacob stood his ground. The man squinted.

“Why did you wake us?” the man asked.

“The Queen has been restored,” Jacob said. “It’s time to retrieve your king.”

“My king . . .” The man said. “You mean my father? He lost his queen and lost his mind. My brother threw in with the invaders and cursed me into an unnatural rest. My father is lost.”

“You are here because of Maughold?” Jacob asked.

“His grandfather,” the man said. “I am Prince Finegal, heir to Manannán’s throne.”

“You are the son of Queen Fand,” Jacob said.

“I am my father’s son,” Prince Finegal said.

“As am I,” Jacob said. “And yet . . .”

“We are fairies,” Prince Finegal said.

Gilfand stepped forward to greet Prince Finegal. The ghost of Prince Finegal hugged Gilfand. Genuine affection passed between the two.

“I see you’ve met my mother’s rat,” Prince Finegal said. “Where is my mother?”

“She will be here,” Gilfand said.

“Visiting her fairies?” Prince Finegal asked.

Gilfand nodded.

“Where did you find . . .?” Prince Finegal gestured to Jacob.

“It’s a long story,” Gilfand said. “We must retrieve your father and finish our task.”

“Where is he?” Prince Finegal asked.

“Manannán circles the island,” Jacob said. “He is bound in chains held to . . . something—maybe a boat or a magical buoy. He has spent millennia walking around the island, just past the shoreline.”

“Who would sentence my father to this torture?” Prince Finegal asked.

“Your brother’s grandson.” Gilfand nodded.

Prince Finegal flushed with rage.

“You will retrieve him?” Prince Finegal asked Jacob.

“I need you and your men to ride out into the surf,” Jacob said. “The king is almost here.”

“And my mother?”

“Queen Fand will be here to greet her king,” Gilfand said.

Prince Finegal whistled and gestured. The men and horses rode down the hill and out into the surf. While they stood there, a set of twenty light, hand-hewn skiffs appeared with female fairies aboard. A hundred gargoyles flew just above the surf. They waited.

“He is here!” Jacob screamed.

The fairies looked down into the dark water.

“We see him!” a gargoyle said.

The gargoyle pointed to five others of his kind, who dove into the water. They reappeared with the end of Manannán’s chain. Gargoyles dove in to grab the chain. The chain was passed from boat to boat until every skiff had one enormous link. The fairies took to their oars.

“Pull!” they chanted, and the boats moved an inch. Inch by inch the chain moved toward the shore until it reached the first of the horsemen. Like the fairies, they each took a link of the chain and began to ride. The ghost human’s on horses and the fairies, in boats and in the air, dragged the enormous chain out of the water until Jacob could see a man with a deep complexion wearing a simple linen robe stumble from the sea.

“Father!” Prince Finegal screamed.

The army cheered. The fairies screamed. The gargoyles swooped up and down in the surf.

And the man who was Manannán fell into the surf. Jacob ran as fast as he could until he was up to his knees in water. He reached down and grabbed Manannán’s shoulders.

Jacob pulled with all his might and the man reappeared.

“It’s the chain!” Prince Finegal said.

“Remove the chain!” the army chanted.

Jacob flicked his hand, and the chain shattered. Gilfand joined him in the water. Jacob took one shoulder and Gilfand the other. They dragged, carried, and marched Manannán out of the water. He slipped from Jacob’s grasp and fell on all fours to the ground. Dripping wet, Jacob tried to catch his breath.

The earth restored Manannán before Jacob’s eyes. His linen dried. His strength returned. He leaned back on his heels and looked at Jacob.

“Thank you, son,” Manannán said in a deep voice. “Will you help me to my feet?”

Jacob put his shoulder under Manannán’s arm and helped him stand. Manannán wobbled and pitched but managed to stay upright. They heard a sound and looked up the hill.

Manannán’s face shifted to a look of wonder. He smiled.

“My queen,” Manannán said and ran into Queen Fand’s arms.

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