Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty
In a family way
“I want to know how to break the curse.” Jacob gave a frustrated shake of his head.
“What curse?” Fand gave a slight smile.
Jacob scowled. He knew that smile. Katy made that smile every time she was trying to pull something over on Jill. His eyes flicked to Valerie.
“Queen Fand.” Valerie kneeled before her. Using her skill to manipulate people with her words, she continued, “Will you share your wisdom with us?”
“Of course, my dear.” Fand held out her hand, and Valerie kissed it. “How can I help?”
“We’d like you to tell us how your family line became cursed.” Valerie’s words echoed with her power. “I’m sure it’s a story you’d long to share with us.”
“Anything for you.” Fand gave her a placid smile.
“Well, hallo,” James said as he entered the room.
Surprised by his voice, Jacob turned to look at him. Valerie gave him a sweet smile.
“You’ve picked up one,” James said. “Delphinium, the beekeeper. Nice to see you, ma’am.”
“Hi, Jimmy,” Delphie said.
“How did you . . .?” Jacob asked.
“I walked. It wasn’t far,” James said. “Turns out the rat’s magic doesn’t work on Celts. Something to keep in mind.”
James put his hands on his hips and looked around the room.
“What did I interrupt?” James asked.
“Fand was just going to tell us about the curse,” Valerie purred.
“That woman is not going to tell you anything,” James said.
Fand hissed at him.
“Jay-sus, she looks just like Katy.” James looked at Jacob. Jacob gave a slight nod.
“You’re a liar,” James said to the queen. “They came all this way to sort out your business, and you can’t help them.”
“How do you know?” Valerie asked.
“I know a lie and a liar when I see them,” James said.
When Fand attempted to leave her seat, Jacob forced her to remain sitting. She began to writhe against Jacob’s hold. In protest, she let out a high-pitched screech. The sound forced them all to their knees.
“Cover your ears!” Delphie screamed.
“Don’t you dare let her up!” James yelled.
“Jake!” Valerie squealed.
The castle began to rumble around them.
“Oh good Lord.” Celia became more solid. “You’d really bring the entire castle down rather than answer a few questions? Some queen.”
“How dare you speak to Queen Fand?” Gilfand asked. “Away with you, spirit!”
In near-solid form, Celia walked toward the writhing queen.
“Really, what is wrong with you?” Celia asked Fand. “Why are you so weak?”
A cold wind nearly blew them off their feet as it whipped through the hall.
“Parlor tricks,” Celia said.
Queen Fand’s wrath turned on Celia, who shook her head at the queen’s drama.
“Do you know how many women have lost their lives trying to give birth to your progeny?” Celia asked. “My mother, my grandmother, her mother . . . I barely survived. Jake barely survived. And what did I get for it? Raging cancer that ripped me from my loved ones when they needed me the most.
“You and your petty problems have wrought generations of suffering,” Celia said. “We stand before you in an attempt to clean up your business, and you act like a petulant child.”
“Jacob,” Celia commanded. “Let her up.”
“No!” James yelled. “She’ll kill us all.”
“She wants you to think that,” Celia said. “She is too weak to do anything more than pedestrian magic tricks. She is not worth our time.”
Celia turned her back on Queen Fand, and the queen stopped screeching. Sam got to his feet and helped Valerie and Delphie up. Jacob and James stood. Celia nodded to Delphie. Valerie and Delphie turned their backs to the queen.
“It’s got to be you, Jake.” Jacob heard Delphie’s voice in his mind. “You must be the king of Marle.”
“On my signal,” his mother’s voice whispered in his head.
Sam turned away from the queen. James looked at Sam and Valerie. He tipped his head to the side, and turned away from Queen Fand.
“How dare you treat my queen with such contempt?” Gilfand yelled.
Fand’s eyes flicked from person to person. She locked eyes with Jacob. He took a deep breath and let it out. He cast psychic roots deep within the earth and found the Isle of Man reaching up to him. He stood a little straighter.
“You can do it, son,” Sam said. Jacob’s eyes flicked to his father. Sam gave him a proud smile.
“When you’re ready,” Celia whispered in Jacob’s mind. “Remember, she can withstand any force, but . . .”
“Love.” Jacob’s eyes flicked to Celia.
Celia gave him a broad smile, and he released Queen Fand. The queen didn’t move from her seat. Jacob walked toward her.
“I am an invader of your land,” Jacob said.
Fand’s head tipped to the side.
“You have no reason to help me,” Jacob smiled.
Fand lowered her chin.
“In the name of my grandfather, Manannán, your love, and your life,” Jacob’s voice boomed throughout the hall. “I demand that Queen Fand share her secrets.”
Jacob felt power surge through him from the island itself. He felt the entire land echo in his words.
“I don’t know,” Fand said in a small voice.
“Truth,” James said in a low voice.
“You don’t know what?” Jacob’s voice boomed.
“I don’t know why we’re cursed.” Fand gave a self-conscious nod. “I wish I did. I do. But . . .”
She lifted a shoulder in a shrug.
“Tell me how this came to be,” Jacob demanded.
Queen Fand raised her head to look at him. Her eyes scanned his face.
“Now,” Jacob demanded.
“The whole thing?” Fand asked. “You want to hear the whole thing?”
“Yes,” Delphie’s voice said in Jacob’s head. “We need to hear the whole thing?”
“Tell us the entire story,” Jacob said.
Fand glanced at Gilfand. He gave a regal bow.
“May I first see this child? The one who looks like me?” Fand asked. “My fairies tell me she is the first female child of Man.”
“When you have told us the entire story,” Jacob said. “But be warned, she is a powerful combination of Manannán and Fand. She’s a young child, but she will not hesitate to send you on if you bring your mischief into her life, and I will bend heaven and earth if you harm her in anyway.”
For the first time, Fand gave him a real smile. Her dress changed from a dowdy, black mourning dress to a regal, deep burgundy velvet. The small East Tower room transformed into a luxurious queen’s greeting hall. Fand’s wooden chair became a high-backed throne befitting a queen. Comfortable furniture appeared before the throne. Fand stood.
“Please,” Fand said. “Make yourselves comfortable.”
Jacob was sure that if he moved, he would break the spell. He stood rooted in place while Sam, Valerie, and James sat down on the plush furnishings. Delphie touched his arm and sat next to where Celia was standing.
“I’ll stand,” Jacob said.
“Suit yourself,” Fand said. “Where shall I begin?”
She looked at Gilfand.
“At the beginning,” Jacob demanded.
“Too long ago,” Fand said.
“We have lived in this place since time began,” Gilfand the gargoyle said.
“You’re stalling,” Jacob said.
“I am,” Fand smiled and nodded in acquiescence.
When she sat on her throne, the room began to fill with fairy-kind from every corner of the world. A younger gargoyle appeared on the top left of the chair. Gilfand took off to land on the top right of Queen Fand’s chair. A host of tiny fairy like creatures appeared around the room. They gave the room a sparkling light blue and pink cast. A chorus of long-legged, dark-skinned goddesses wrapped in pale muslin dresses appeared behind the queen. Three sisters with long dreadlocks skipped and laughed their way into the hall. Wood nymphs dressed in the leaves and bark of trees appeared along the walls as if they’d been growing there all along.
Tan-skinned women, wrapped in gorgeous silk scarves that covered all but their large, dark eyes, took cushions near the end of the hall. Five or six sturdy women dressed entirely in thick fur arrived to stand guard at the door. A few pale-skinned, red-haired women dressed in tartan joined a group of women wrapped in flowing green dresses and carrying bagpipes, as they floated near the center of the hall. As if they’d arrived from work in a Disney movie, five large-breasted, long-legged fairies flew over Jacob’s head before landing just behind the gargoyles.
“We have assembled,” a fairy who looked like Cleopatra said.
She gave Queen Fand a low bow. Queen Fand nodded to release her.
“There was a time when this world was fire and stone,” Queen Fand said. “We were few and the world was dark. I will not speak of that time. We came from the great oceans.”
Fand’s eyes held the vague look of memory. She smiled.
“I don’t have a mother,” Queen Fand said. “So I don’t know your sorrow and loss for your mother, Celia. I have always been Fand, just Fand.”
“The queen of the fairies,” Gilfand said. “You have always been our queen.”
Fairies big and small clapped or cheered in agreement. Queen Fand glanced at Gilfand and smiled.
“We moved from ocean to land,” Queen Fand said. “We lived on every land, in every bush, and in the deep grass, and . . . The fire came, and we rebuilt. Fairy nations coincided with the towering lizards. And the fire came again. We watched the continents move, the skies change, and the fire come and go. Until humans arrived. Humans . . . they are . . .”
She gave a soft smile.
“ . . . destructive,” Queen Fand said. “We moved ahead of them, across the continent of Asia and Europe, until we lived only in the British Isles.”
“Not in the Americas?” Jacob asked.
“The Irish brought fairies with them on their journey across the water,” a fair-skinned fairy wrapped in flowing green said. She gestured to the Disney fairies, who giggled.
“That’s correct,” Queen Fand said. “We moved across the British Isles to make this place our home. When the water came, we were separated from the human horde. We thrived in peace and safety until . . . Until . . .”
Queen Fand dropped her head into her hands and sobbed.
Friday night — 9:15 p.m. MST
Construction site near airport
“How is it?” Aden yelled over the wind.
Standing on a mound of dirt, Rodney looked across the earthquake-torn construction site and shrugged. Bone tired, he could only manage the most minimal of gestures. He glanced at Aden’s worn face before pointing to a Lipson employee hanging by a wire over a crevice. For a moment, they watched the young man grab the wet, cold arms of a young woman. She hopped, and they hung over the empty space. The wench whined at her weight but held. Slowly, the young man and his catch rose from the cold muck.
“Ready for a break?” Aden yelled.
“People are still trapped down there,” Rodney yelled. “Temperature’s dropping. They won’t last the night.”
“The National Guard is here.” Aden pointed to the personnel trucks.
“You think those creatures are gonna talk to them?” Rodney pointed to a gargoyle flying over the young woman on her flight to safety. The young man whistled and a medic ran across the muck to them.
Aden lifted his chin in a kind of nod.
“We have an hour, maybe two, before . . .” Rodney nodded.
“The frost sets in,” Aden said.
There was a shout. A police officer with a cadaver dog ran in front of them.
“Blane?” Rodney asked.
“I think he’s in the tent, but I’m not sure,” Aden nodded. “Your guys, Pete, DeShawn, and Jason, are . . .”
“They’re good young men,” Rodney nodded.
“They’ve been able to help keep track of every body,” Aden said. “Amazing. You hear they have been able to identify all of them?”
“That is amazing,” Rodney nodded. “How’s Honey holding up?”
“She’s working with MJ,” Aden said. “Bambi and Colin too. These military guys, they’re . . .”
“Unbelievable what we can do,” Rodney nodded.
Aden clapped him on the back in a gesture of agreement.
“What can I bring you?” Aden asked.
“Warm bed and a gorgeous wife,” Rodney said.
“I think you have that covered,” Aden said.
“You too,” Rodney said.
“It’s going to be a while before we see them tonight,” Aden said.
“But we will,” Rodney smiled. “We are lucky men.”
“Yes,” Aden said.
“We’re set!” Erik Le Monde whistled.
Aden touched Rodney’s arm and ran to Wanda’s father. Rodney watched them start to install the initial supports to start work in a new area. A gargoyle flew to him. He squinted.
“There are eleven breathing, waiting to be found,” the gargoyle said.
“Where?” Rodney asked.
The gargoyle pointed toward an area straight in front of him.
“They took over the project from your company,” the gargoyle said. “Senior management was meeting to delegate responsibilities. The entire structure crumbled.”
Rodney whistled to get his team’s attention from where they were taking a short break. He waved to his team.
“You should know,” the gargoyle said.
Rodney’s eyes flicked to the gargoyle.
“They hate you,” the gargoyle said.
Rodney touched his chest. He and Aden were the only ones who could see the gargoyles. He didn’t want to get caught speaking to the air.
“Not you, Rodney Smith,” the gargoyle said. “Your company. Your freedom. They will say Lipson Construction left them to die because you’re angry that they took over the job.”
“Where to, boss?” his foreman ran to him.
Rodney pointed to the area the gargoyle indicated.
“Jeez, that’s where the other teams kept their trailers,” his foreman said. “I thought they’d checked them.”
“Must have missed one,” Rodney said. “Crumbled into the muck.”
The foreman didn’t respond. They’d saved too many people to question Rodney’s direction.
“Let’s get it done, then,” the foreman said. He waved to their team and the men began the slow walk across the old construction site.
“Going to be a blood bath,” the gargoyle said.
Rodney nodded. He jerked his shovel from the mud and followed his team.
Friday night — 9:15 p.m. MST
“Nash!” Noelle whispered.
They were crouched just inside the basement room that served as the shared old clothing closet. Nash shook his head. The man they’d lured down to the basement rushed past them on his way into the open gym. Glass crashed from the far end of the room they were in. The kids hopped to their feet to be at the ready. The clothing on hangers rocked. The room was silent. Teddy poked his head out from under the clothing. Noelle beamed at him and Nash waved.
“You didn’t answer my text,” Teddy whispered to Nash. “I thought you might be in trouble.”
“Some guys are trying to steal Mrs. Jill’s babies,” Noelle whispered.
“Heard something,” the man said into his walkie-talkie. “Copy that.”
The kids ducked down. The man ran into the room. He surveyed the hanging clothing and left the room. They waited a few minutes before anyone dared to breathe. He was long gone before they moved to a corner of the room where they could whisper without risk of him hearing them.
“Why would anyone want to steal Mrs. Jill’s babies?” Teddy asked.
“Some genetics thing,” Nash said. “We’re not sure of the details, just that we have to keep them running around the Castle until . . .”
Teddy’s face went white.
“What?” Nash asked.
Teddy pointed behind Nash. The man they had been avoiding had his arm around Noelle’s neck. His elbow was set to crush her throat. He pointed a handgun at her head.
“Takes a big man to beat up a little girl,” Nash sneered at the man.
“Scum,” Teddy said.
“Where are the babies?” the man asked.
The man gasped. His eyes crossed and he crumpled in place. A gargoyle stood in the doorway. Noelle coughed and leaned forward. Teddy rushed to her side. The gargoyle nodded to the kids and disappeared.
“How come you never told me you had gargoyles?” Teddy whispered.
Noelle and Nash looked at Teddy. They looked at each other and laughed. Teddy smiled.
“Can I have a gargoyle?” Teddy asked.
“They’re male fairies,” Noelle said.
“What?” Teddy asked.
“Don’t ask,” Nash said. “We have to tie this guy up and go find the others.”
“Thanks for coming to my rescue,” Noelle said.
Noelle leaned forward and gave him a peck on the lips. Teddy looked so surprised that he couldn’t speak. Nash looked at his best friend and laughed.
“There you are,” Charlie said, as he rushed into the room. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
Charlie looked at Teddy, and then saw the man on the floor.
“Well done,” Charlie said. “Teddy, grab his feet. Nash, help me.”
Teddy jumped to get the man’s feet. Nash and Charlie grabbed him by the shoulders. They dragged the man into the room’s closet. Noelle put a chair against the doorknob.
“Come on,” Charlie said. “We have to help the others.”
Nash ran after Charlie. Teddy held out his hand and Noelle took it. They followed Charlie and Nash up the stairs.
Friday night — 9:15 p.m. MST
“And what are you supposed to be?” Jeraine asked the gargoyle sitting in front of the outer door to the Castle’s medical offices. He had parked in the alley and come through the garden. He was standing on the deck Jake had built.
The gargoyle hissed at him.
“Are those spikes on your wings?” Jeraine asked. “That’s just . . . wicked. Are you a vampire?”
“They call me a gargoyle,” the creature said in Spanish.
“How fancy,” Jeraine replied in Spanish. “Will you get the fuck out of my way? Now.”
The gargoyle extended his wings and floated in front of the door.
“Is this supposed to impress me?” Jeraine asked. “I’m a drug addict. I’ve seen a lot worse things than you.”
He set down his bags.
“You’d better get out of my way,” Jeraine said.
“Never,” the gargoyle said.
“You see this?” Jeraine pointed to the bags he was carrying. “This is sustenance for my wife and her friends. The kids ate all their cake. Have you seen those women when they’re hungry? They make you look like . . . a fuzzy bunny.”
In spite of himself, the gargoyle chuckled.
“Why are you in my way?” Jeraine asked.
“You have Celt blood,” the gargoyle said.
“Whoopee,” Jeraine said. “Look at the color of my skin. I have all kinds of blood running through my veins.”
The gargoyle sneered and flew at Jeraine. He stepped back.
“All right,” Jeraine said. “Why is this Celt thing such a big deal?”
“It will take over,” the gargoyle said. “And you will have the overpowering desire to kill the children.”
“Right now, I have the overwhelming desire to kill you,” Jeraine said. “But I’m not killing anyone.”
“Why is that?” the gargoyle hissed.
“I’ve been to prison, that’s why,” Jeraine said. “I spent many, many days in solitary confinement. I’ve seen creatures like you and . . . and . . .”
Memories from that horrible time in his life flooded back, Jeraine began to sweat. The gargoyle squinted at Jeraine.
“And anyway, my Tanesha’s there,” Jeraine said. “She is my life blood, the very pulse of my heart. I would never do anything that would hurt her friends or she . . . or she . . . and I . . .”
Jeraine’s voice croaked. He cleared his throat. The gargoyle continued his squinting stare.
“Who the fuck are you, anyway?” Jeraine asked.
“I will let you in on one condition,” the gargoyle said.
“Okay,” Jeraine said.
“I will be with you at all times,” the gargoyle said.
“Deal,” Jeraine said. “What’s your name?”
“Tlaloc,” the gargoyle said.
“Aztec name,” Jeraine nodded. “I’m Jeraine.”
“Does that make Tanesha, Miss T?” Tlaloc asked.
“It does,” Jeraine said. “How’d you know?”
The door opened and another gargoyle appeared. Jeraine and Tlaloc went into the hall.
“Did you bring your guitar?” the gargoyle asked.
“It’s in the car,” Jeraine said. “Miss T asked me to play for Jill.”
“I’ll get it,” the gargoyle said.
“Thanks,” Jeraine said.
“I’m a big fan,” Tlaloc said.
“I won’t forget what you did here,” Jeraine said.
“I’ll kill you if you hurt the mother or the babies,” Tlaloc said.
“Fair enough,” Jeraine said. “You let me know if you want to hear a particular song.”
“How about ‘Anything for Miss T’?” the gargoyle asked.
They entered the medical offices’ waiting room.
“Miss T?” Jeraine called to her in a loud voice.
Tanesha ran out of the exam room and threw her arms around him. Terrified by all that was being asked of her, she shivered in his arms. He held on tight. When she was breathing easy, he kissed her neck.
“Cake?” he asked.
Tanesha stepped back. She gave him a long look before seeing the gargoyle, Tlaloc.
“Celt,” Tlaloc said.
“Thank you for letting him in,” Tanesha said.
“He’s going to play for us,” Tlaloc said.
“I have fans,” Jeraine shrugged.
“Do you have chocolate cake?” Tanesha asked. “We’re desperate for it.”
Nodding, Jeraine smiled and followed her into the exam room.
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