Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-Nine: Act first

Chapter Two Hundred and Sixty-nine

Act first

“Are we ready?” Sam asked.

Delphie looked from Sam to Valerie, and then at James. She turned her gaze to the silent meadow in front of them.

“What’s our plan?” James asked.

“Go in there and kick ass?” Sam grinned at how ridiculous that sounded.

“Yes.” James smiled. “While that sounds brilliant, it might behoove us to have an actual plan.”

“Like what?” Valerie asked.

“First, we gather intel,” James said. He turned to Delphie. “Ma’am, what can you tell us?”

“My senses are a little confused,” Delphie said. “Muddled.”

“Have you felt that before?” Valerie put her hand on Delphie’s arm. She looked at James. “She had a stroke and . . .”

“No,” Delphie said. “It’s not the stroke. It’s something else that I’ve felt before . . . I know I’ve felt it before . . . I felt it . . .”

Her eyes flicked to Valerie and then to Sam.

“We were somewhere,” Delphie said to Sam. He smiled at her vague statement. “You, me, and Celia, we were . . . young, not kids, but young . . .”

“In Leadville?” Sam asked.

“Maybe?” Delphie asked.

“How old were you?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know, because I was . . .”

“Close your eyes and look at me,” Sam said. “Look at Celia. How old are we?”

“Young. Maybe Nash’s age,” Delphie said. “I was still living with Levi.”

“You never liked going to the Marlowe Mine,” Sam said.

“Marlowe Mine?” Delphie shook her head. “That’s just because I don’t like being underground. It was somewhere else . . . nearby . . .”

“I know.” Sam nodded and smiled. He glanced at Valerie, and James. “There’s a geothermal spring in a cave on the Marlowe Mine property. Gorgeous place, with crystal stalactites on the ceiling and deep in the hole.”

“There is?” Valerie’s voice was indignant. “Does Jake know?”

“Of course.” Sam gave a slight nod.

“Stinker,” Valerie said.

James scowled at Valerie and turned to Sam.

“Why is this key?” James asked.

“Because the spring is famous for its high concentration of arsenic,” Sam said. “Fabulous for arthritis when it’s in the water, but deadly when it’s vaporized.”

“She’s saying that the field in front of us is filled with arsenic vapors?” James asked.

“That’s what she’s saying,” Sam said.

“Good to know. We need gas masks or oxygen tanks.” James looked around. “There’s never a fairy when you need one.”

Valerie squeaked when the leaves in front of them moved. James scowled and knelt down. He held out his hand, and a tiny, leaf-like creature stepped onto it.

“It’s talking, but I can’t hear it,” James said.

He held it out to Sam, who shook his head.

“I can hear it,” Valerie said. “I’m just not sure what it’s saying. Delphie?”

Valerie touched Delphie’s shoulder, and she turned to look at James’s hand. She smiled at the talking leaf.

“He’s not talking,” Delphie said. “That’s why you can’t hear him.”

“I hear something,” James said.

“Me too,” Valerie said.

“You never practice.” Delphie scowled at Valerie. She flicked James’s forehead.

“Ow!” James said. “Was that necessary?”

“Yes. He’s a forest fairy,” Delphie said. “All fairies have been instructed to help us. He’s willing to get us what we need.”

Delphie looked at James. He put his hand over his forehead.

“What do we need?” Delphie asked.

“Gas masks with oxygen tanks,” James said. They appeared on the ground nearby.

“Sledgehammers,” Sam said.

“Why?” James asked.

“I think we should just knock on his door,” Sam grinned.

“I like that,” James said. “We need two . . .”

“Three,” Valerie said.

“Three sledgehammers,” James said. Two long-handled, heavy sledgehammers and a smaller, lighter one were neatly propped, head down, against a rock.

“Anything else?” James asked.

“I’d love a cup of green tea,” Delphie said.

“Breakfast when we’re done?” James glanced at Delphie, who was holding a white teacup and dunking a tea bag. She smiled at him and took a sip of her tea. “Are we ready?”

“Gloves?” Valerie asked. A pair of lambskin gloves appeared on her hands. She picked up the smaller sledgehammer and hoisted it to her shoulder.

“I wouldn’t mind . . .” Sam started, and gloves appeared on his hands. He picked up his sledgehammer.

James held out his hands and gloves appeared.

“Gas masks?” Delphie pointed to the masks.

They had to put down their sledgehammers and take off their gloves to put on their masks.

Delphie set her cup down, pulled on her mask, and stepped forward. She felt as if she’d run into a kind of membrane or bubble. For a moment, she was stuck, and then she pressed through. She was going to say something to Sam when she realized Sam wasn’t with her. She turned around.

Sam, Valerie, and James couldn’t get through the membrane. They were hitting the energetic membrane with their sledgehammers trying to let her out. The little leaf fairy was jumping up and down on her side of the membrane.

“What . . . what happened?” Delphie whispered.

Delphie tried not to panic.

“They can’t get through,” the leaf fairy said.

“Why?” Delphie said. She put her hand over her heart to try to quell her rising panic.

“The magic is set against them,” the leaf fairy said.

“Why did I . . .?” Delphie asked.

“You weren’t expected,” the leaf fairy said. “I mean, really, who would expect a true human Oracle?

“Expected?”

“We’re learning that the fairy who made the prophecy left a few things out. We think he did it on purpose to give us an advantage.”

“Expected?” Delphie repeated.

“The book?” The leaf fairy shook his head. “It’s a prophecy.”

Delphie nodded. She looked across the membrane at Valerie and Sam. Valerie was pummeling the membrane with her sledgehammer. Sam’s face was cut with despair. He stood with his palms against the membrane.

“You have to do this,” the leaf fairy said.

“Me?” Delphie asked.

Delphie looked at the ground for a moment. She nodded to herself and stepped out of the membrane. Valerie threw herself onto Delphie. Sam touched her back, and James gave her a worried look. Delphie pulled off her gas mask.

“It has to be me,” Delphie said. “The leaf fairy says the book is a prophecy like we thought. But they see now that the prophesier left things out to give us an advantage.”

“Who made the prophecy?” James’s voice rose with anger. He turned in place and shouted at the trees. “Whose prophecy is it?”

Brigid appeared in front of her son.

“It was Machaoi,” Brigid said. “He made this prophecy while he was being tortured by that Patrick.”

“The guy we’re going up against made this prophecy?” James asked. “When were you going to tell us?”

“When were you going to ask?” Brigid stated her question as if it were an adequate reply.

“Goddamned fairies. Everything has a twist.” James stomped off to calm down.

“What is this about?” Sam asked. He put his arm around Delphie’s shoulder. “I will not allow Delphie to attempt this task until you tell us everything.”

“No.” Delphie shook her head. “We don’t have time. I have to do this.”

Delphie held Valerie close and then took Valerie’s arms from her neck. Still crying, Valerie hugged herself.

“Katy’s life is in the balance here,” Delphie said. “It doesn’t matter why. You taught me that, Sam. Act first, figure out why later when you have time. That’s your motto, Sam.”

“But . . .” Sam said.

“Jake said this was a family feud,” Delphie said. “It clearly is our family feud, because it involves our Katy.”

Delphie turned to Brigid.

“You will tell us everything,” Delphie said.

“Of course,” Brigid said. “It’s never been a secret. You never asked.”

“We didn’t.” Delphie nodded. “Get ready. You’ll still need your masks when the membrane breaks. We have to destroy the cross and reduce the power he has over Katy and Paddie.”

Delphie smiled and kissed Sam’s lips. He grabbed her and lifted her off the ground. They whispered back and forth. He kissed her forehead and set her down. She hugged Valerie. She walked over to where James was standing and hugged him. She kissed his cheek.

“You’re a good man, Jimmy,” Delphie said. He smiled.

She walked back to the edge of the clearing.

“I need . . .” Delphie said.

Lambskin gloves appeared on her hands and a small sledgehammer at her feet.

“Use your knees,” Sam said.

“It’s funny, you know,” Delphie said. “I never get to be the hero in our adventures. I guess it’s my turn to be brave.”

Delphie put on her mask, picked up her sledgehammer, and stepped through the membrane. She walked with purpose to the white quartz Celtic cross. Using her knees, she lifted the sledgehammer and slammed it down on the cross.

In her mind’s ear, she heard a man’s voice below her say, “I’m coming to kill you.”

She lifted the sledgehammer again and slammed it down. A tiny crack appeared in the cross. Delphie slammed the sledgehammer on the fissure again and again. She could hear the man moving toward her underground, and she smiled.

She hefted the sledgehammer one last time, and the white quartz cross cracked in half with a mighty pop. The membrane around the field broke. Sam fell forward into the clearing and ran to her side. He smashed one half of the white quartz Celtic cross with his sledgehammer. Valerie and James worked on the other piece. Delphie took a chunk at the top. In a matter of minutes, they had crushed the cross to bits. The ground began to shake.

“Wait!” James yelled.

They stopped hammering and waited for the ground to stop shaking. A white quartz stairwell appeared. Sam gestured down the stairwell. James looked at him and started down the stairs. Valerie followed close behind. Delphie looked at Sam and pulled off her mask. Sam did the same.

“I can’t convince you to . . .” Sam started.

“Not a chance,” Delphie said.

Sam nodded and pulled his mask on, and helped Delphie with hers. She started down the stairwell. Sam looked around the clearing. He picked up the leaf fairy for good luck and headed down into the catacombs.

~~~~~~~~

Jacob suddenly found himself in a dark place. Gilfand tugged at his sleeve, but Jacob resisted.

“I can’t see a thing,” Jacob said.

“Use your senses,” Gilfand said. “Really, Jacob, you have tremendous power and almost no skill. You know almost nothing about how to use your capacities. How can you expect to save your daughter when you’ve never practiced?”

Jacob gritted his teeth at the familiar rant. Gilfand looked at his face and chuckled.

“Delphie?” Gilfand asked.

Jacob nodded.

“We all hate practice,” Gilfand said. “Do you meditate?”

Jacob raised his eyebrows.

“Don’t quote me, but most men don’t,” Gilfand said. “I will teach you what I can as we go. Can you see now?”

“Yes, thanks,” Jacob said. He was standing in some kind of cave with two stone walls and two dirt walls. He could hear the ocean roll against the walls of the cave.

“It’s this way,” Gilfand said. He pointed down a thin dirt path. “You can always tell the fairypath by the tiny glimmer.”

Gilfand pointed to the faint sparks along the edge of the path.

“Only fairy-kind can see them,” Gilfand said.

“What about this Kirk Maughold?” Jacob asked.

“He was fairy-kind,” Gilfand said. “He should be able to see them.”

“Can you hide them from him?”

Gilfand looked at Jacob, and then gave a thoughtful nod.

“Where are we?” Jacob asked.

“We are under Castle Rushen, inside the structure they created to house Manannán’s body. My queen left her body here.”

“We’re inside a monolith?”

Jacob felt oddly excited. Gilfand looked at him and shook his head.

“Where I come from, everything is new,” Jacob said. “The country is only a couple hundred years old. The oldest thing on the continent is only a thousand years old. There’s nothing like any of this. This structure was created without machines or fuel or really much of anything. And here we are, ten thousand years later, and it’s still standing. Fabulous.”

Gilfand transformed into his gargoyle form and flew ahead. Jacob followed close behind. They climbed down a long dirt trail to the bottom of the monolith. Jacob smiled.

“Hi, Mom,” Jacob said. “I wondered where you went.”

“I thought someone should keep an eye on the bones,” Celia said.

“Did you get everything?” Liban, the queen’s sister, asked.

“We believe so.” Gilfand gave a little bow and stepped aside for Jacob.

Jacob walked into the pit, where a full skeleton was laid out like a king. The skeleton had fragments of ornate clothing and a thin gold crown around his skull. There were gold, silver, and iron objects laid around him.

“My sister’s human body was here.” Liban pointed to the ground next to the king.

“Can I just give them to you and you can place them?”

“No,” Liban said. “It’s a human body. A human must lay it out. It is why we’ve never been able to do this ourselves.”

“You’re doing us an enormous service, Jacob Marlowe.” Brigid, James’s mother, appeared in front of him.

“I’ll help,” Celia said.

Jacob didn’t really care what he had to do, he only cared about getting it done and saving his family. He moved into the bottom of the pit. He was about to place the bones he was carrying when he realized that if he let go of the bones, he let go of his leverage over the fairies.

“If I do this for you, you will help me get my daughter back and help with the construction site and help Jill have our sons,” Jacob said.

Liban appeared right in front of him. She moved so fast that he startled.

“If you do, we will owe you a debt that cannot be repaid over one hundred human lifetimes,” Liban said. “We will help you now, tomorrow, and any other day you need us. Your name will be written in fairy history as one of the greatest of our heroes.”

Jacob blushed and glanced at Gilfand.

“She’s right,” he said.

“Mom, can fairies lie?” Jacob asked.

“No,” Celia said. “They can bend words and situations to their own agenda, but they cannot lie.”

Jacob looked around the space for the largest section from their original find at the Viking ship. He used his psychokinetic capacity to move her skull, spine, shoulders, arms, and half of her rib cage next to the ornately decorated male skeleton. He set the ribs he’d found at Cronk Surmark next. As if they longed to be there, the cremated femurs, taken from under the White Lady, fell into place. He dug around in his front pockets for her knee caps. Jacob set her feet and ankles, found in the white quartz box at Devil’s Elbow, into place and stepped back.

He set out in front of him the hodge-podge of bones he’d taken from under the white quartz Celtic cross. He had her collarbone, the bones of her calves, a few vertebrae, and her hands. He set the collarbone on the left side. Her tibias and fibulas flew out of his hand and to their proper place between the ankles and knees. The bones vibrated with the desire to be closer to each other. He placed her hands on either side of her body.

“The other way,” Celia said.

Looking up at his mother, he noticed a crowd of fairies watching him. The walls were filled with every kind of fairy. All of fairydom had come to watch. He reversed the hands. He placed the vertebrae, the sternum, and two small bones in the feet. As far as he could tell, the skeleton was complete.

Nothing happened.

“Check your pockets, Jake,” Celia said. “You must have missed something.”

“Can you tell what?” Jacob asked.

Celia shook her head. He didn’t know if she knew what was missing and couldn’t tell him, or if she simply didn’t know. He thought for a moment and turned his pockets inside out. No bones. He took off his shoes and found nothing. He shook out his jacket and found nothing.

“I must have left something somewhere,” Jacob said.

“You would have known,” Celia said. “You have it.”

Jacob undid the top button of his jeans, and a tiny toe bone fell out from between his work shirt and undershirt. He fastened his jeans and placed the bone. The fairies gave a collective sigh.

The bones began to vibrate. The skeleton seemed surrounded by multicolored light. The skeleton wearing the crown reached out for her and Queen Fand’s human skeleton nestled up against him.

The fairies cheered! Jacob turned to look at them, and suddenly they were silent.

Queen Fand appeared in the monolith.

She had been beautiful when he’d seen her in the castle, but she was breathtaking now. Smiling from ear to ear, she held out her arms and hugged Jacob. She kissed each of his cheeks. Before he could say or do anything else, she kneeled down before him. The fairies dropped to their knees. She took his hands.

“Thank you,” Queen Fand said. “I am free for the first time in a very long time. I can leave that dusty castle and . . .”

She gave Jacob a big smile.

“Where is my Manannán?” Queen Fand asked.

~~~~~~~~

Katy ran as fast as she could; Paddie was a lot faster than she was. He stopped up ahead to wait for her. He grabbed her hand, and they ran after Edie together.

“Who are all these dead people?” Paddie asked.

“Parishioners,” Edie said. “They were people who went to this church and believed in killing fairies. But Maughold doesn’t know that Queen Fand’s sister Liban tricked him into burying a few fairies here, as well. He thought the fairies were destroyed, but Liban had other ideas.”

Edie stopped short, and Paddie ran into her.

“Ow.” Paddie rubbed his forehead.

“Sorry,” Edie said. She pointed to the crypt on her left. “Here.”

She flew over the skeleton. They stood on their tiptoes to see what she was doing. Edie was humming to herself and waving her wand around. Blue sparks bounced around the back of the crypt.

“Okay,” Edie said. She waved her wand. Paddie and Katy flew over the body and into a wide compartment in the back. “It was made for one small girl, not a small girl and a little boy .”

She looked at Paddie. He gave her the “deal-with-it” look he had seen his daddy give to his Auntie Alex. Katy giggled. Edie smiled at him.

“How did you know I’d be here?” Katy whispered.

“It was foretold,” Edie said. “You would come, rescue the queen, and save our people.”

“But I’m only here because Mommy’s having my brothers,” Katy said.

At the mention of her mother, Katy felt really homesick. She looked down and tried not to cry.

“Yes.” Edie nodded.

“That was foretold too?” Paddie asked. He leaned into Katy and whispered, “What does foretold mean?”

“I don’t know,” Katy whispered back.

“It doesn’t sound good,” Paddie whispered.

“A long time ago, someone told us that all of these things would happen,” Edie said.

“Like a dream?” Paddie asked. “Katy has dreams about stuff that comes true.”

“Like a dream.” Edie nodded.

“But I wasn’t in the dream?” Paddie asked.

“We missed it,” Edie said.

“Katy, I wasn’t in the dream,” Paddie said. “Maybe I’m messing everything up.”

“No, that’s not true.” Katy reached out to hold his hand. She turned to Edie and asked, “Is it?”

“Of course not,” Edie said. “The knight Padeen had to be here to champion his Katherine. We just missed it. And, it was a long, long time ago, when children weren’t so . . . knightly.”

Edie shrugged and gave them a bright smile. They heard something pound on the ground somewhere far above them. Paddie and Katy stared at the ceiling of the vault.

“Lie down so he can’t see you,” Edie said. “He won’t be able to sense you here. We should be safe.”

“I don’t think he can see at all,” Katy said.

“He’s blind?” Edie scowled.

“His eyes are all white,” Paddie said.

“Huh,” Edie said. “That’s good to know. Now hush. I’m going to put you to sleep so you won’t be scared.”

Katy and Paddie nodded. Edie waved her wand, and they were asleep.

Edie flew to the middle of the crypt and turned off her light. He wouldn’t get the better of her this time!

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