Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-Eight: White quartz

Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-eight

White quartz

“Where are we?” Paddie whispered.

“I don’ know,” Katy whispered back.

Paddie moved closer to Katy. They were standing in a very dark and cold place. Katy shivered as the wet cold penetrated her flannel just-like-Daddy pajamas.

“Where’s the fairy?” Paddie asked. “The little blue one.”

“I thought you were asleep,” Katy whispered.

Paddie tipped his head down while his blue eyes looked up at her. She smiled.

“Smells moldy here,” Paddie whispered.

“Dead.” Katy wrinkled her nose. “There are dead things here.”

Their surroundings became clearer as their eyes started to adjust to the deep black. They were in a kind of long tunnel carved out of rock. There was a stream of water running through the gutter carved into the middle of the path. They could make out semicircular arches cut into either side of the tunnel.

Paddie looked at Katy and she nodded. They walked to the semicircular space nearest to them. They had to stand on their tiptoes to look inside the space.

They were looking at a human skeleton. The skeleton was resting on a metal grate, and there were stacks of bones under the grate. Katy made a small sound and began to shiver. Paddie put his arm around her to comfort her.

“Look.” Paddie pointed past the skeleton to the very back of the crypt. A dot of a tiny blue light shone.

“Edie?” Katy’s whisper made the light shine brighter. The blue light flew at them.

“Shh!” Edie waved her wand. Katy and Paddie flew up and over the skeleton to a small space in the back of the crypt. “Be very quiet. Someone’s coming.”

Katy, Paddie, and Edie hunkered down behind the skeleton in the back of the tomb. Footsteps echoed along the tunnel.

~~~~~~~~

Jacob caught up with Valerie, and they ran to catch up with Sam and Delphie. James came to his side. Gilfand and Brigid flew just ahead of them. They were making good progress through the forest.

“We’re almost there,” Delphie said.

“There’s nothing up there,” James said.

Delphie gave him a patronizing smile and continued marching through the forest.

“There’s a path,” Jacob said.

He pointed to an ancient seam cut in the forest floor. Sam kneeled down to touch the footpath.

“This is an old road,” Sam said. “Not as old as some of the places we’ve been, but old.”

“Looks like Roman construction.” Jacob kneeled down next to his father. Experienced road builders, Jacob and Sam looked at the plane of the road and the set of the stones. “It’s well built.”

“No wonder it’s lasted.” Sam nodded.

“The Romans never landed on this island,” James said.

“Any thoughts?” Sam looked up at Gilfand.

“I’d say it was nearly two thousand human years ago,” Gilfand said. “A little less. Not Roman, but around the time of the Romans, maybe a little later.”

“Where does that fit on the timeline?” Valerie asked. “Was this here when Queen Fand’s human remains were separated?”

Gilfand paused for a moment before giving a thoughtful nod.

“Just after,” Gilfand said.

“After Christ’s death, not before.” Delphie nodded. “We’re looking for a church.”

“I’ve been all over this tree plantation,” James said. “There’s no church here.”

“Not now,” Delphie said. She turned in place and started along the footpath. “Come on! We’re almost there.”

The footpath was not easy going. They had to slow their pace to manage the brush and the climb the hill. They stopped for a moment by a pool of water.

“When she said church . . .” James started, as if to himself. He was looking at the tops of the trees. Valerie put her hand on his arm.

“Yes?” Valerie asked.

James glanced at her and then noticed everyone was looking at him. He blushed.

“It may be nothing,” James said.

“Tell us your nothing, and we’ll decide,” Gilfand ordered in an authoritative tone. James sneered at him.

“It would mean a great deal to us if you would share your knowledge,” Valerie said. “Delphie seems sure, but Jake and I, we feel pretty lost. Anything you know might help.”

James gave a slight nod and a shrug.

“You’ve heard of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, right?” James asked.

“He tortured and killed millions of healers, herbalists, and midwives,” Delphie sniffed. “It’s sanitized as ‘killing the snakes.’”

“The druids identified themselves with snake tattoos on their arms,” James said.

“There were never snakes on the island of Ireland,” Gilfand sniffed. “The entire story is absurd.”

“Let him speak,” Brigid said. “He can help.”

Gilfand looked at James’s mother, and she smiled. He gave a curt nod. Brigid smiled at James.

“Most people believe that all those stories about Saint Patrick were really about at least two different Patricks, quite possible more than that,” James continued. “One came to Ireland from Rome as a slave. One was born in Scotland. Those two we’re fairly certain about. All of the Patricks joined the church, either by force or by choice, and they became priests, monks, and at least one was a bishop of Ireland.”

“It would make sense,” Delphie said. “People would refer to the church leader by one name, even if the person changed.”

“Right,” James said. “The Patricks were chartered by Rome with breaking the back of the royalty of Ireland, destroying the druids, and taking control of the island from the people who lived there.”

“Fairy-humankind,” Valerie said. “Queen Fand and Manannán’s descendants.”

“I’d never thought of it, but yes,” James said.

“Almost everyone on the island at that time was fairy-humankind,” Gilfand said.

James looked off into the trees. They heard a noise and watched as a deer came up to the pond for a drink of water.

“Why isn’t he afraid?” Valerie whispered.

“Because we’re not really here,” Jacob said. “We’re here and not here. We’re out of sync with our time.”

Gilfand nodded.

“We should keep moving,” Sam said.

They pushed themselves to their weary feet and started along the footpath.

“Sorry, James, please go on,” Valerie said. “How do these Patricks have anything to do with the Isle of Man?”

“An Irish prince ran afoul with one of the Patricks,” James said. “Legend says that he attempted to trick Patrick by asking him to heal a man who wasn’t ill. But in the North, we believe Patrick was like every other invader. He wanted to steal our land by destroying the aristocracy and killing the druids. He had the church and the church’s army at his disposal. And you know, that history is written by those who win wars.”

James sniffed with anger.

“Jimmy.” His mother gave him a soft smile, and he shrugged.

“I’d tell you that we Kellys are pretty pissed about invaders to our land, but you know Cian,” James said.

They chuckled.

“What does Patrick have to do with the Isle of Man?” Valerie repeated.

“Yes,” James nodded. “The prince’s name was Machaoi. The English call him Kirk Maughold. Patrick summarily dumped him into a skiff and pushed him into the Irish Sea. No water, no food, no oars. Somehow, he managed to survive the journey and wash up here.”

“He was fairy-humankind.” Valerie nodded.

“Must have been, otherwise how could he have gotten here?” James nodded. “Legend says that Patrick punished Maughold for his deception by casting him into the Irish Sea. When Maughold got here, he said Patrick sent him to the Isle of Man to succeed a couple of Patrick’s disciples.”

“That’s odd,” Sam said.

“It’s a little muddled, but most things are from this time period,” James said. “We’re talking about more than a thousand years ago, in a time when regular people didn’t read or write well. And, as you know, there have been one and fifty invasions since then.”

They walked along in silence for a while.

“What made you think of this?” Valerie asked.

“Delphie mentioned the church,” James said. “The oldest church on the island was supposed to have been created by this Kirk Maughold. He was a hermit here for a long time before taking over as bishop. He spent most of his time making stone Celtic crosses. The church isn’t far from Cronk Surmark, the Celtic fort where we found the second set of bones. There are hundreds of stone crosses at the church. You should see it. It’s wild, and the region of Maughold is mountainous. It’s not well explored. There could easily be thousands of crosses throughout the region.”

“So I’d guess if we’re looking for a church on the Isle of Man, it’s got to have something to do with Kirk Maughold,” James said.

“You think he’s the one who split up the bones?” Gilfand asked.

“Quite possibly,” James said. “Think about it. He’s an Irish prince. What if these Patricks held his family ransom unless he destroyed fairydom? Maybe Maughold was a willing participant and wanted to bring the power and magic of the fairies to the Celtic church. There are thousands of possibilities.”

“I wonder if he’s the queen of Marle’s grandson,” Sam said. “You know, from the book?”

“The timing seems right,” Delphie said. “Yes, there’s a Celtic cross on those images Seth relayed me.”

“Like I said . . .” James started.

They could see the end of the road up ahead where it opened out into a wide clearing.

“If it’s got something to do with the church and the Isle of Man, it’s got something to do with Kirk Maughold.”

~~~~~~~~

The footsteps in the tunnel brought the terrible smell of burning tallow. Katy and Paddie had to put their hands over their mouths to keep from throwing up. Edie turned her light down and flew in front of them. A man’s voice was singing off key in some weird language.

The footsteps and the torch stopped right in front of their crypt. Paddie and Katy squeezed their eyes closed with fear.

“I know you’re there,” the man said. “I can smell you.”

Edie’s wand flashed. The man caught the blast with his hand and laughed. He wiped his hand against the rough linen robe he was wearing. The sleeve of his robe lifted and they could see the head of a snake tattooed on his forearm.

“Fairies,” the man sniffed. “Devil’s creatures sent to dement honest people. Get out of there.”

The man moved his hand, and Edie flew out of the crypt. She bashed against the tunnel wall and dropped to the ground. The man raised his foot to stomp on her. Katy moved Edie into the gutter in the middle of the floor just before the man’s foot mashed on the ground.

“Stamp them out like bugs,” the man sniggered.

Katy saw Edie’s little head poke out of the gutter. She put her index finger over her lips to tell Katy and Paddie to be quiet. Paddie shivered with fear. Katy put her arm through his elbow and they shivered together. Katy squeezed her eyes shut and tried to transport back to her mommy. But no matter how she tried, they didn’t move.

“White quartz, little fairyling,” the man sneered. “You can’t leave. Now get out here.”

He moved his hand. Katy and Paddie flew from their hiding place behind the skeleton out into the tunnel. He looked them over.

“Who are you and what do you want from us?” Paddie pushed Katy behind him. “We don’t even know you.”

The man sniffed.

“You’re no fairy,” the man said.

“I’m Paddie Hargreaves,” Paddie said. “Katy and I want to go home. My grand-daddy is a powerful man who will kill you with his bare hands when he finds out you stole us.”

“Big words from such a tiny princeling,” the man sniffed.

“You’d better remember my name, old man,” Paddie said. “Because I’m never going to forget you. I will make sure you pay for hurting Katy or me.”

Paddie’s blond head bobbed in a nod. He stepped back to stand close to Katy.

“Why do you hate fairies, anyway?” Katy asked. “You’re one.”

The man recoiled as if he’d been hit. He threw his torch into a channel of oil that ran along the edge of the tunnel. The tunnel lit up with fire and smoke. He grabbed Katy by the collar in one hand and Paddie in the other and carried them from through the tunnel.

Paddie kicked him over and over again in the knee. Katy pinched his side. But the man didn’t let go. He carried the small children into a chamber.

“You’ll meet your death here, little fairyling,” the man said. “I will send you and your friend to the abyss.”

He hung the children by the backs of their collars on a rack bolted to the wall. There was a noise above them and he looked up.

“Good timing,” he said.

He started his awful song and left the room. Edie arrived a few minutes later and helped them down from their perch. They huddled together while the man moved away from them through the underground chamber.

“Who is that guy?” Paddie asked.

“Kirk Maughold,” Edie said. “Fairy king who betrayed us and our queen.”

“Is he the king of Marle?” Katy asked.

“Grandson of Manannán’s . . .uh . . . the king of Marle,” Edie said.

“The grandson who got lost?” Paddie asked.

“The grandson who was born after the prince killed himself,” Edie said. “The one Queen Fand saved.”

“What does he want with us?” Katy asked.

“Nothing nice,” Edie said. “Let’s see if we can find a way out of here. We’re not far from my home. If we get out, we can go there and hide until the danger is over.”

“When will that be?” Katy asked. “When do I get to go home?”

“Soon?” Paddie asked.

Edie gave the children a kind smile but didn’t answer.

“This way,” she said brightly.

Katy and Paddie ran after Edie into the catacombs.

~~~~~~~~

Jacob and Valerie joined Sam and Delphie on the edge of the clearing. Gilfand transformed into his mostly human form. Brigid and James stood next to them. They lined up in a row on the edge. No one dared to move forward.

“Notice anything?” Jacob asked in a low tone.

“Nothing moves here,” Gilfand said.

“No birds, no animals, silence,” Valerie said.

“It’s not even raining here,” Jacob said. “Not a drop.”

“Or wind.” Valerie pointed to the still grass ahead and the rustling trees overhead.

“There’s a darkness here. Very old,” Delphie said.

“Magic,” Gilfand said. “Fairy magic.”

“Oh, hell,” Jacob said. “Here goes . . .”

A phone rang and Jacob stopped moving. Sam chuckled. A 1950s wall phone was hanging on a tree on his side of the clearing.

“What is that?” Delphie asked.

“It’s Seth,” Jacob said. He went and picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Oh good,” Seth said. “I’m glad I caught you.”

The sound of the wind and ocean came through in the background.

“How’s the beach?” Jacob asked.

“Nice,” Seth said. “Listen, I don’t mean to alarm you, and maybe it’s nothing, but . . .”

“What’s going on?” Jacob asked.

“Katy is missing,” Seth said.

“Did you check the cupboard in the birthing room?” Jacob asked.

“She’s not there,” Seth said. “She was there, but she’s not now.”

“She’s probably at Paddie’s house,” Jacob said.

“Julie called to ask if they knew where Paddie is,” Seth said. “I’m sure you know that a missing Hargreaves is a national emergency.”

“And Katy?” Jacob’s voice caught. “A missing Katy is . . .?”

“Jill thinks she was taken because of this fairy stuff,” Seth said. “She’s in full labor, hysterical . . . Bumpy and Camille are with her.”

“Their plan worked?” Jacob let out a sigh of relief.

“Yes,” Seth said. “Bumpy said that it seemed like someone stole Katy from her hiding place.”

“Stole my daughter?” Jacob asked.

He didn’t bother to ask why someone would steal his daughter. He had the reasons in the form of the bones sticking out of his pockets.

“They think she has a fairy with her,” Seth said. “One of the little ones. Blue.”

“That’s got to be good,” Jacob said.

“I know you’re busy,” Seth said. “But I wanted you to know. And . . .”

“What?”

“In the book?” There was a rustling of pages in the background. “Just a second.”

Jacob turned around. Unwilling to meet his family’s eyes, he looked into the clearing. For the first time, he noticed something. He set the phone down and climbed the tree. A large, white quartz Celtic cross lay on its side in the direct center of the clearing. He heard Seth’s voice and climbed down the tree.

“Sorry, I was looking at something.”

“It’s okay,” Seth said. “It took me a minute to find it. On those pages between the hardback binding and the actual story, in the back, you know?”

“Sure.”

“There’s an image of a little girl—who looks like the queen of Marle, I might add—trapped under a . . .”

“White quartz Celtic cross.”

“How’d you know?” Seth asked.

“I’m looking at it,” Jacob said. “I have to go.”

Jacob hung up the phone and walked back to where his family waited.

“They’ve taken Katy,” Jacob said. “Paddie too, most likely because he was with her.”

“That’s impossible,” Gilfand said. “She had our best, most resourceful fairy with her.”

“She’s gone,” Jacob said. “And according to the book, she’s under the cross right there.”

He pointed into the clearing. The news hit the group like a ton of bricks. Delphie began to cry against Sam’s shoulder. Valerie scowled in a rare, wrinkle-causing way. James put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder for support. Brigid and Gilfand disappeared for a moment, and Gilfand reappeared.

“She is with a young boy and Edie, the fairy, in the catacombs,” Gilfand said. “Edie sent me an image of her and the boy. We cannot go there because of the white quartz, so Brigid went to inform Queen Fand. Katy and her friend are safe for now because he doesn’t know they slipped away from him.”

“He?” James asked.

“You were correct,” Gilfand said to James. “She was taken by Kirk Maughold, my queen’s grandchild.”

“There is only one thing to do,” Jacob said. “You go and annoy whoever took Katy. Gilfand and I will grab the last set of bones, free Queen Fand, find her love, and return with the army.”

Jacob gave a nod.

“He will want to trade Katy for Queen Fand’s remains,” Delphie said. “Replace what we’ve undone.”

“This is a family fight,” Jacob said. “We need to get them together to fight it out amongst themselves. The rest of us have suffered enough for their family dysfunction.”

“But Jake.” Valerie touched his arm and he turned to look at her. “This is Katy we’re talking about. Not some abstract.”

Jacob winced with pain and anxiety.

“If I don’t get rid of these bones, he will take them,” Jacob said. “We will have wasted this chance. Jill will die. You will never have a son, nor will Jackie. And Katy won’t . . . I have to. I have to . . .”

“He’s right,” Sam said. Sam hugged Jacob. “I’m with you, son.”

“Save her,” Jacob whispered.

“I will,” Sam said.

Sam pushed Jacob back and looked at Gilfand.

“Go.”

From the edge of the clearing, Jacob clapped his hands and demanded the remaining bones come to him. The ground rumbled, and the bones shifted under the ground. A foot in front of him, the bones pierced the earth and flew into his hand. Gilfand gave a nod and they disappeared.

“Come on,” Delphie said. “Let’s go save Katy and Paddie.”

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