Chapter Two Hundred and Seventy-three
“It’s time,” said Liban, Queen Fand’s twin sister. She appeared in the small air gap in the fog at the precise moment Jacob stopped everything in the meadow.
“What do you mean, it’s time?” Tanesha asked. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Jill nodded and started to get up. Heather pushed Jill back to lying down.
“I’m sorry,” Sandy said. “Who are you?”
“It’s okay,” Jill said. “I’m going to go with her for a while.”
“What?” Tanesha asked. “Babies wait for no one! They . . .”
Liban leaned over Jill and put her hand on her belly .
“There, there, little ones,” Liban said. She gave Tanesha a strong look and said to Jill, “Feel better.”
“I’ll explain everything later,” Jill said. “I promise.”
“You’ll explain everything now,” Tanesha demanded. “Starting with why is this fairy here? We just got rid of one scheming maggot.”
“Liban is the sister of the queen of the fairies, Queen Fand,” Jill said. “Fand is the queen of Marle, from the story. When we were at home and knocked out, Liban came to me and asked if I would help her set things right.”
“In return, I promised her the long life and safety of herself, my nephew Jacob, and their children, as well as assistance removing the curse,” Liban said. “We must leave now. If we delay at all, we will miss our small window.”
“Katy still can’t see me.” Jill hugged Katy.
Liban leaned over and touched Katy’s eyes. Katy whispered, “Mommy?”
Jill kissed her cheeks and held her close.
“I need you to do this for me,” Liban said. “Jimmy, Sam, you too.”
Jimmy and Sam stepped over to where Tanesha, Heather, and Sandy were standing.
“No matter who comes for these children,” Liban said. “Do not let them go.”
Liban looked from face to face as if she were making a pact with them.
“I don’t care if you think you see their mother or father,” Liban said. “Do not let them touch Katherine or Padeen. Do I have your word?”
She looked around as each of them nodded.
“You, Sam, you have authority of blood over Katherine because you are her biological grandfather,” Liban said. “Let no one tell you otherwise.”
“Jimmy,” Liban said.
“James,” he said.
She gave him a charming Cleopatra smile and he blushed.
“Jimmy, you have authority of Padeen by sacred marriage,” Liban said. “This bond is more powerful than fairy magic. Let no one tell you otherwise.”
“Women-friends,” Liban said. “You have the authority of love over Katherine.”
“And Paddie,” Sandy said.
“We love Paddie,” Heather said.
“Good,” Liban said. “Let no one tell you that your authority is invalid. You must not let the children go.”
“Why?” Heather asked.
“Because the entire fairy world, and thus your world, will be cast into darkness if we are not successful and the children are taken,” Liban said.
She knelt down to Paddie.
“You recognize me,” Liban said to the boy.
“You’re Cleopatra,” Paddie said.
“I’ve been called that,” Liban said. “You are a truth teller, Padeen. You will know if the person who comes is actually who they say they are. Will you speak?”
“Will it keep the fairies from taking Katy?” Paddie asked.
“I hope so,” Liban said.
“I won’t let Paddie go,” Katy said, and grabbed his hand. Paddie smiled.
“You.” Liban pointed to Sandy. She looked horrified and pointed to herself. “You know people deeply. Do you know how to determine who is Jillian and who is not?”
Sandy scowled and bit her lip. After a moment, she nodded.
“Good,” Liban said. “Can you the same with Jacob? Valerie?”
“Val’s right there,” Sandy said.
“She’s coming with us,” Liban said.
“I am?” Valerie looked confused.
“Yes.” Sandy nodded. “I will.”
“Listen to the boy, Sandra,” Liban said. “Ask him. Whatever you do, do not let the children go.”
“Jillian?” Liban asked.
Jill kissed Katy’s forehead one last time, and looked up. Jill, Valerie, and Liban disappeared.
“That was weird,” Tanesha said.
“I like you,” James laughed.
“Why?” Tanesha scowled.
“You speak what you experience,” James said. “Most people report what they want to see or what they think they see.”
“Sounds like we’ll need all the help we can get,” Sam said.
Instinctively, the adults surrounded the children. They didn’t have to wait long.
“Hey!” Jacob said, as he stepped out of the fog.
Jacob walked past the frozen fairies and touched Delphie’s sleeve. She let out a little yelp and jumped back.
“You startled me,” Delphie said. “How did you get over here so fast?”
Jacob stepped back. She looked around at everyone frozen in time. She nodded her head, and he gave a partial shrug.
“I wouldn’t have guessed this.” Delphie nodded.
“I asked Gilfand about freezing time earlier today,” Jacob said. “He said it’s something only a very few can do. Prince Finegal can. Queen Fand asked me about it earlier.”
“How long will it hold the fairies?” Delphie asked.
“Not long,” Jacob said. “No more than ten minutes. Gilfand was very specific. Then, he said, expect them to come out fighting. What do we do now?”
“We get our family and go home,” Delphie said.
“What about resolving this thing?” Jacob asked.
“You see these people,” Delphie said. “They are too selfish and stupid to solve their own problems. Why should we help them?”
“Because they will come after us,” Jacob said. “Jill, Katy, the boys, and their children will never be safe.”
“Then we strike at the root,” Delphie said.
“Which is . . .?” Jacob asked.
“No idea,” Delphie said.
Liban, Valerie, and Jill appeared in front of Jacob.
“Jill!” Jacob rushed to hold her, but Liban stepped in front of him.
“We have no time,” Liban said. “Where is Gilfand?”
Jacob pointed. Liban snapped her fingers and spoke a word in another language. Gilfand was unfrozen. He looked around him and saw her.
“How long has it been?” Gilfand asked.
“Only a few minutes,” Jacob said.
“Too long,” Gilfand said. He turned to Jill. “Will you start with my queen?”
Jill gave a slight nod. Gilfand took her arm.
“What?” Jacob asked. “What the hell are you doing?”
He took a step, but Liban held him in place.
“Don’t make me bind you,” Liban said under her breath.
Gilfand escorted Jill to the queen. Delphie jogged to Jill’s other side. Jill looked at the beautiful woman.
“Why, she’s broken into pieces,” Jill said. Her voice was filled with wonder. “I’ve never seen anything like this. You think I . . .”
“Only your kind,” Gilfand said. “Your grandfather is too ill, too old. Your mother does not have your strength or power.”
“What about my brother?” Jill asked.
Gilfand looked at Jacob and laughed.
“You are two peas in one untrained, cynical pod,” Gilfand said to Jacob. Turning back to Jill, he said, “Please try.”
Jill gave a fast nod. Standing on her tip toes, she put her hands around Queen Fand’s still face. She closed her eyes and shook her head.
“She needs salt water,” Jacob said.
“Why?” Liban asked.
“I don’t know why,” Jacob said. “It grounds her and . . .”
Liban snapped her fingers, and they, the still frozen fairies and ghost-men around them, were standing in the surf up to their knees just off of Meayll Hill, where Jacob had found and rescued Manannán.
“Thanks,” Jill said. “That’s better. Let’s see . . .”
She put her hand on the top of Queen Fand’s head.
“Mother, why are you broken into pieces?” Jill whispered.
“My heart is broken, my kind rejected, my body torn.” The words came out of Queen Fand’s still and passive face.
“Yes,” Jill said.
She touched each of the places where Queen Fand’s human skeleton had been torn apart. At each junction, bright white light flashed, sparked, and then became still. Jill touched Queen Fand’s face again before moving to her heart.
“My children,” Queen Fand’s words seeped out of her still mouth. “My children.”
Jill put a hand on Queen Fand’s chest and one on her back. She closed her eyes and called to her own sons for help. Together, in a mighty pulse, they put the pieces of Queen Fand’s heart back together again.
“You must love, Mother,” Jill whispered.
“It’s who you are.” Jill put her hands around Queen Fand’s head. She looked at Jacob. “Her mind is broken. I’m not sure why. Jake, can you . . .”
She reached a hand out to him. He slogged through the surf to her and took her hand. She guided it to Queen Fand’s forehead and put his other hand on the back of her head.
“I see what you mean,” Jacob said. “Lonely. Angry.”
Liban began to sing:
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.
She had sung one verse when Gilfand joined in. Jacob joined the simple tune as they started again.
“Okay, let go,” Jill said to Jacob.
He moved his hands and stepped back.
“Peace, Mother,” Jill said. “Be at peace.”
Queen Fand’s face shifted to a soft smile. Gilfand took Jill’s arm and guided her through the water to Manannán. Jacob and Delphie followed. Liban gestured for Valerie to stand in front of Queen Fand.
“If my sister wakes before Jillian is done, keep her here,” Liban said.
Valerie nodded that she understood.
“He’s here and not here,” Jill said. “I’ve seen this before . . . trauma . . . What happened to this man?”
She glanced at Gilfand.
“He was forced to walk in a circle around the island just past the shore,” Jacob said.
“Did he lose his mind?” Jill asked.
“Yes,” Prince Finegal said from where he stood. They gasped and turned to him. “Sorry, those time stops never work on me. They probably don’t work on you either, Jacob. Are you healing them?”
“I’m doing what I can,” Jill said.
“He lost his mind when he lost his queen,” Prince Finegal repeated what he’d said before. “I say that but . . . He struggled with the transition to living a fairy life. I’m not sure humans can really do it.”
“Mmm.” Jill gave him a soft smile and focused on Manannán.
She stood on her tiptoes to put her hands around his face, and then shook her head. She scowled.
“What is it?” Delphie asked.
“His soul isn’t here,” Jill said. “It’s . . .”
Jill pointed above his head.
“Trauma . . .” Jill said, almost to herself. She started to hum.
Kneeling down, she put her hands on Manannán’s lower back near his sacrum.
“Come back, Father,” Jill whispered. “Come back . . .”
“Left too much,” Manannán’s words came from his still face. “Left my mother, my father, my home to build a new life . . . family, babies . . .”
“He’s talking about his life before he met my mother,” Prince Finegal said. “He doesn’t speak of it much. I think he was happy then.”
Manannán’s face broke into a broad smile.
“Come back, Father,” Jill whispered. She put a hand just below his rib cage and on his back at the same height. “Come home.”
“My love,” Manannán’s word came out in a gust of air across his silent lips.
“Be whole,” Jill whispered. “Be whole.”
“My problem to solve,” Manannán said as he opened his eyes. “Yes, daughter, I will solve this problem.”
Manannán hugged Jill.
“Katy, don’t you know me?” Someone who looked very much like Celia appeared in their space.
They had already dismissed a fake Jacob and Jill. A phony Valerie didn’t fool them at all. But the fake Scooter made Katy cry, and that made Paddie mad. Sandy had to pick him up to keep him from chasing the dog-like being into the fog.
“You’re not my grandmother,” Katy said. “Go away.”
“But Katy . . .” The Celia-look alike reached out to Katy. James blocked her movement. She sneered. “Be gone, half-breed.”
Sam and James pushed the Celia-look alike back into the fog.
“Something’s happening,” Tanesha said. “The fog is getting deeper.”
“War is coming.” Katy nodded.
“What?” Heather asked.
“It’s just something I know,” Katy said. “It’ll start soon.”
“Are we safe here?” Tanesha asked.
“I don’t know,” Katy said.
Sam picked up Katy to ease his worry. They all looked out into the darkening fog.
Queen Fand returned to the present the moment Manannán hugged Jill. She scowled at Liban and Valerie, and looked at Manannán.
“What is this?” Queen Fand asked. “Why are you touching my Manannán?”
Queen Fand’s brow furrowed. It didn’t take a great Oracle to know that Jill was in trouble. Delphie tried to grab Queen Fand’s arm, but she slipped out of Delphie’s grip. Valerie tried to stop the queen as she advanced toward Jill, but Queen Fand knocked Valerie into the surf. Jacob ran to help her up.
“Sister,” Liban said and put her hand on Queen Fand’s arm.
“I’ll deal with you and your betrayal in a moment,” Queen Fand said.
She walked to where Manannán had let go of Jill.
“Leave her,” Prince Finegal said when Jacob moved to block the queen’s motion.
Queen Fand knocked Jacob out of the way. He landed in the surf nearby. Gilfand went to help him up. Queen Fand towered over Jill.
“I know you,” Queen Fand said.
“That’s good, because I know you,” Jill said.
“You know me . . .” Queen Fand imitated Jill. “How dare you speak to me?”
“This is what you do,” Jill said. “This is why you struggle.”
Queen Fand dismissed Jill with a swipe of her hand intended to knock Jill over. When Jill didn’t fall, Queen Fand tried again.
“I left you with this,” Jill said. “So that you could make the choice — not your sister or your child, but you must choose to be rid of this compulsion to demean and control.”
The queen gasped and leaned away from Jill.
“You were not this way before you were split apart,” Jill said. “Before your children rejected you, before you were heartbroken, were you?”
“I . . . I . . .” Queen Fand’s eyes went vague for a moment before the anger returned. “Who are you to question me as your familiar?”
“I am your daughter, your sister, your aunt. I am you,” Jill said. “As you, I ask, ‘Have I always been so angry? So cruel?’”
Queen Fand tipped her head to the side. Prince Finegal moved toward to his mother, but was stopped by Manannán.
“Do not let other people’s cruelty and confusion become you and your legacy,” Jill whispered.
Queen Fand’s head went up and down in a slow nod. Jill smiled. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed Queen Fand’s forehead. The queen fell backward. Manannán and Prince Finegal ran forward, but Queen Fand was caught by her sister. Queen Fand’s momentum knocked them both backward, and they fell into the water. They came up laughing. On their knees, the sisters held each other. Manannán and Prince Finegal went to them. Queen Fand and Liban pulled the prince and his father down into the surf. The men went down.
Jacob went to Jill’s side and kissed her cheek. Jill smiled.
“I hate to break this up,” Delphie said. “But we need to find Maughold and his grandfather.”
“His grandfather, my brother, is gone,” Prince Finegal said. “My sons and I spent years looking for him.”
“Where is Maughold?” Valerie asked.
“Who cares where he is?” Queen Fand smiled. Gilfand helped her to her feet. She snapped her fingers.
An elderly man wearing a heavy grey wool robe appeared on the shore in front of them.
“Maughold?” Queen Fand asked.
“Who wants to know?” the man asked.
“That’s not him,” Jill said. “Katy said he’s a boy, not much older than she is, maybe six or seven. They killed his mother and tried to kill him because he was half-fairy.”
Queen Fand turned to look at Jill.
“That’s not him,” Jill said. “You must call to him as his grandmother, his family.”
“I will,” Manannán said. “This is my confusion, my struggle to choose, though choosing wasn’t actually necessary.”
He gave Jill a wink and a grin. Jill smiled.
“And now?” Delphie scowled.
“I don’t have to choose between being a man and being a fairy,” Manannán said. “I can be everything I am.”
“Of course,” Queen Fand laughed. He smiled and hugged her.
Jill felt a contraction rip through her.
“We need to hurry,” Manannán said. “Our daughter will have her sons soon.”
Manannán nodded to Prince Finegal, and the prince got the army’s attention.
“I call to my side the boy, Kirk Maughold, also known as Machaoi,” Manannán said. “By grandfather’s rights, I call thee here.”
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